Washington Redskins: Santana Moss
Jay Gruden only had two quarterbacks in each of his three seasons with Cincinnati, but Griffin still needs to prove his durability. If something happened to him, they woulld still be in good shape with Cousins and McCoy. If they go with two then McCoy gets left off.
Running backs (4)
The Redskins could also stash Chris Thompson on the practice squad as further insurance. Thompson can easily bump himself onto the roster with a good summer; he’s a good fit in Gruden’s offense and the new coach liked Thompson coming out of college. But durability is an issue. By keeping four here, the Redskins can go with an extra player at another spot. This means Evan Royster is on the outs, but he doesn’t give the Redskins anything they don’t have in better players. He is insurance only.
I am not cutting Leonard Hankerson, rather I’m just not sold that he will be on the active roster at the start of the season. If he shows this summer that he can play, then, yes, I would have him on the 53-man roster. But the Redskins were not sure what to expect from him and when he might be healthy. Therefore, I can see him taking a little longer to return. Gruden likes Moss and they drafted Grant. Robinson needs to take a step.
Tight ends (3)
Rookie tight end Ted Bolser would head to the practice squad, where he can develop. He didn’t look close to a roster spot just based on how he looked this spring. Reed is firmly entrenched as the starter with Paulsen their top blocker and Paul a special teams ace.
Offensive line (10)
- Trent Williams
- Shawn Lauvao
- Kory Lichtensteiger
- Chris Chester
- Tyler Polumbus
- Morgan Moses
- Spencer Long
- Josh LeRibeus
- Tom Compton
- Mike McGlynn
In reality, I could see them keeping only nine offensive linemen. It all depends on how Long and/or LeRibeus looks at guard. They love Long -- Gruden has said he could compete immediately -- so if he shows he can play, then they could cut Chester (which I don't think will happen; I think he'll start). Compton is a little surprise, but they like him as well. This position will be fluid and I’m not sold on the 10 I have listed.
Defensive line (6)
This one is fluid as well because it depends in part on Bowen’s health. I like Chris Neild and so do they, but can they keep him? Golston is more versatile and a key player on special teams, but he’s also 30 and they must get younger at some point. But he still helps in too many ways.
- Ryan Kerrigan
- Brian Orakpo
- Perry Riley
- Keenan Robinson
- Trent Murphy
- Darryl Sharpton
- Adam Hayward
- Brandon Jenkins
- Akeem Jordan
As of now I’d have Rob Jackson out, especially if Jenkins develops as a pass-rusher. But this will be a close race. And I have them keeping an extra guy inside in Hayward because of his special teams ability.
Chase Minnifield remains eligible for the practice squad. Richard Crawford is coming off a knee injury and it’s hard to place him on here without seeing him play. The one benefit for Crawford is that he can play in the slot; they need depth at that spot.
I really don’t feel good about this position and am not confident that I have this one right, at least for that final spot. Robinson’s special teams ability gives him the edge over Bacarri Rambo, who must have a strong camp. Akeem Davis can help on special teams, but with no NFL experience he will be stashed on the practice squad.
The Forbath selection is based on never having seen rookie Zach Hocker kick in an NFL game. If Hocker is consistent this summer and shows a strong leg, then he can win the job.
Date: Jan. 30, 1983. Site: The Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
From the moment this project was announced, and before I tweeted a word on it, there was only one play in my mind that deserved top billing. When a team hasn't won an NFL title in more than 40 years ... and it trails by four points in the ultimate game ... and it's fourth-and-1 ... and the running back goes the distance? How exactly do you top that?
Fortunately and wisely, the fans agreed with my take. Which is why John Riggins' touchdown run against Miami in Super Bowl XVII was the runaway choice for the top spot. Riggins' run received 76 percent of the more than 30,000 votes and was solidly ahead shortly after the choices appeared on the blog.
But the right three were on the board. A Hall of Famer in Darrell Green making one of the biggest plays of a 20-year career. That garnered 16 percent of the vote. A clinching touchdown on an unlikely play -- an interception return by defensive tackle Darryl Grant -- to win the NFC Championship Game at home, providing a moment that likely still brings chills to those in attendance. But it wasn't big enough, receiving just 8 percent of the votes.
Riggins' run happened in the ultimate game. It happened on a fourth down. It gave Washington the lead. Shall I keep going? Based on the votes, the answer is no. You got it. And you got it right.
@john_keim These are great memories, but the list is (1) 70 Chip with John Riggins in Super Bowl and (2) everything else :)— Dave Scarangella (@DullesDistrict) July 10, 2014
John Keim: Great question. Man, it'll be tough to have a greater impact than Moss did in 2005 when he caught 84 passes for 1,483 yards and nine touchdowns. He averaged 17.7 yards per catch. I can't see Jackson matching that total simply because he'll have much more receiving talent around him. Moss had tight end Chris Cooley, but those two combined for 155 of the team's 278 receptions. No other player came within 40 of Cooley's total (71). Moss made the offense; Jackson will complete this one. He will have a big impact, but without Moss the Redskins had no passing game. Without Jackson the Redskins could still be fine. They're just better with him and he gives them the same level of playmaker Moss was in '05.
Keim: They hosted Owen Daniels early in free agency, but that was about it (and he eventually signed with Baltimore). But the drop-off from Reed to Paulsen is only when it comes to pass-catching. They like, and need, Paulsen as a blocker as Reed still needs to show he could handle that role consistently. Ted Bolser hasn't impressed me a whole lot this spring, but I always viewed him as a guy to groom for a year or two down the road. Not much of a blocker and his hands were too inconsistent this spring.
Keim: I assume you mean if whichever one doesn't start because there's no way all three will considering each plays on the inside. But the answer is yes ... probably. Hayward is a career backup, with 13 starts in his seven seasons. He's a special-teamer and was not brought in to start. Sharpton and Jordan both can help on special teams as well and have more starting experience. The decision will likely come down to this: Do you keep a fifth outside linebacker (Brandon Jenkins and/or Rob Jackson) or a fifth inside linebacker? The guys inside are stronger on special teams.
Keim: I have my doubts too, especially if you want significant improvement. There is reason to believe they'll be better because of the new pass-rushers, giving them a more diverse attack. With new outside linebackers coach Brian Baker, there is an added emphasis on an aggressive rush. Too often in the past the outside linebackers rushed contain, as they had been taught. Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti will have a key role in the game planning (like Bob Slowik did last year; I trust Olivadotti a lot more). Just remember: Everything sounds good in the spring. We have to see it on the field. But the defense is aging and will remain in transition for another year. There's a lot of age up front, too -- and guys coming off injuries. It's a tough mix. They'll be helped, however, by improved special-teams play and fewer turnovers by the offense.
Keim: You are right, he dropped too many passes last season. I don't think he's a lock, but the head coach certainly likes what he adds. Two weeks ago he talked about how Moss was going to help the team. In my experience, coaches don't talk about the season that way for players they don't think will make the roster. Moss also has looked good this spring. But the other reason is this: Who will beat him out? After the three starters, there's not a whole lot of proven talent. Leonard Hankerson might not be ready to open the season; Aldrick Robinson is still Aldrick Robinson and while they like Nick Williams, is he really better than Moss? No. Besides, Williams has practice-squad eligibility. Ryan Grant will be there too but he's only a rookie. Moss provides insurance and proven depth and Jay Gruden likes him around for his leadership.
Keim: He had a good enough rookie minicamp to earn a contract. He's long, which always helps, but he has a ways to go before he can think about making the roster. Bridget has a number of players ahead of him.When training camp starts, and they start doing more one-on-ones with receivers, etc., then I'll get a better feel for him. During the spring I need to focus on the returning players, impact guys and newcomers of note. So... ask again in August.
Keim: Have not heard that, no. It's too expensive to change based on what team you have; could change on a yearly basis. They will be fast offensively on any surface. Keep in mind, too, that the defense is not considered fast.
1. Still no idea when Hankerson will return. And I doubt there will be a better idea next week.
Meanwhile, Hankerson said, “I'm feeling pretty good right now, out here moving around a whole lot more. Probably got a couple months to go. Should be good by training camp, but you never know.”
The Redskins don't need Hankerson to rush back after tearing his ACL and LCL last season. It's not just about the starters, but they at least have experienced backups in Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson.
Hankerson looked to be running better than he did two weeks ago. This past week he was able to run some routes off to the side. But he was certainly not running them at 100 percent speed (nor should he be). This is a big year for Hankerson, who will be a free agent next offseason. The first thing he must do to get any sort of deal is prove he's healthy.
2. Meanwhile, Cofield, who underwent hernia surgery, participated more this week than a week ago. He was still held out of full-team drills, but he did work before that point. During the team drills, he performed some agility work off to the side. Cofield won't be a full participant until training camp.
Cofield shares that thinking.
“I'm just playing it smart,” Cofield said. “It was a wear-and-tear type of injury. It's all connected so you get nagging injuries here and there and it manifests with the surgery. It's an easy recovery. I feel good.”
The good news for Cofield is that he might not be needed on quite as many plays as the past couple of years with the increased depth on the line. Not just the addition of Jason Hatcher, but the continued improvement of Chris Baker.
That depth is important for an aging line, with potentially four players this season being at least 30 years old: Cofield, Hatcher, Stephen Bowen and Kedric Golston. Two of them will be coming off surgery, too. (Bowen had microfracture surgery on his knee.) They could use more production from Jarvis Jenkins.
- DeSean Jackson returned to practice and did get open deep on a couple occasions. The first time, on a deep cross, he got behind the secondary and had enough time to haul in an underthrown pass from Robert Griffin III. Brandon Meriweather was about five or seven yards behind him.
- Later, Jackson narrowly beat Bashaud Breeland on a deep ball down the left side. But Breeland deserves credit for good coverage. He was a couple inches from making a deflection; Griffin stuck it in a tight window. He and Jackson celebrated with a chest bump.
- Receiver Leonard Hankerson again worked off to the side as he recovers from his torn ACL. Coach Jay Gruden still has no idea when he'll be ready. On Wednesday he ran short routes -- hitches, slants -- at around half-speed and looked fine doing it.
- During individual drills, the quarterbacks worked on throwing over a defender and at other times they worked on looking off their primary targets and then throwing the other way. Good reinforcement. And during a special teams drill, Griffin worked off to the side with offensive coordinator Sean McVay on sprint rollouts and bootlegs, making sure to get the proper depth after his play fake.
- I liked the way Trent Murphy was able to come up under control against the returner in a special teams drill. Not bad for a big guy.
- Your punt returners Wednesday: Andre Roberts, Nick Williams, Rashad Ross, Lache Seastrunk, Santana Moss and Chris Thompson. I like Williams as a slot guy, but still think he'll have a tough time making it barring injuries.
- Griffin worked on some hard counts Wednesday, drawing the defense offsides on a handful of occasions. He was not always sharp on the intermediate throws, though there were a couple of big connections deep. One of his best throws was to rookie receiver Ryan Grant down the middle; corner Blake Sailors was there, but the pass was perfect. Not exactly the combo that will be on the field this fall, but it was a good throw nonetheless. Griffin did miss an open Jordan Reed on one deep crosser and Roberts on another. But Griffin is still doing a better job keeping the ball high, leading to less wind-ups -- and a quicker release than last season.
- Safety Ryan Clark helped force an incompletion to Reed by playing insid, with linebacker Perry Riley playing him man to man. Griffin had to throw it to the outside and Reed didn't have a chance. After the play, Clark yelled to Riley, "Tell them you're a cover linebacker!" Clark is non-stop with his talking (more on that in a future post).
- Gruden is confident that he'll find this year's punter out of Robert Malone and Blake Clingan. If Malone shows any consistency, something he has not done in the past, then he'll be interesting. He gets a lot of hang time on his punts in practice (last year with the New York Jets, though, he'd have some excellent hangtime followed by low liners).
- Jason Hatcher doesn't play too upright, but he does have a high stance. At 6-foot-6, it's understandable, but he definitely is higher before the snap than the others. But he's able to play with good leverage inside.
- Saw Hatcher get a nice spin move inside Shawn Lauvao and, another time, got his hands in the guard's chest and drove him back, forcing Griffin to hop out of the way. Hatcher also got outside Lauvao and would have sacked Griffin if it had been a game. Instead he pulled up and Griffin connected with tight end Jordan Reed downfield. They celebrated a long gain, but Hatcher was right there.
- After working at left guard last week, Josh LeRibeus spent Wednesday on the right side. Tough to say how he looks other than he's in much better shape than a year ago. That will help. Entering last offseason there was optimism about his future, until he showed up out of shape.
- Another change: Morgan Moses was back at right tackle, after playing on the left side last week. Tom Compton worked on the left side Wednesday. By the way, and I'll have more on this later, but Moses is well aware of his need to stay low. Definitely something he's focused on. Moses' head is still on a swivel and you can tell at times how much learning is still going on; led to a missed block on linebacker Adam Hayward on one run (as one coach was yelling for Moses to ‘Get there! Get there!').
- Did see Moses push linebacker Brandon Jenkins to the ground on one rush outside. Jenkins had earlier beaten Maurice Hurt to the inside on another rush. Jenkins is going to have a much tougher time making the team this season.
- Corner DeAngelo Hall was not at practice after cutting his chin during Tuesday's workout. He was also headed to Atlanta.
- Linebacker Akeem Jordan had good coverage on a pass down the middle that quarterback Colt McCoy underthrew. Jordan's back was to the pass, but he still managed to break it up. He was typically removed in passing situations with Kansas City last season.
- Nose tackle Barry Cofield participated in individual drills, something he did not do the first two weeks we saw. With Cofield still sidelined during team drills, Chris Baker worked as the No. 1 nose tackle with Jarvis Jenkins and Hatcher as the ends. Cofield said he will be 100 percent for training camp.
- Meanwhile, Adam Gettis also worked at right guard, his more natural spot. But it's important for these backups to be able to show they can play more than one spot.
It’s a lesson almost every receiver learns upon coming to the NFL.
“The most important thing I take away is slowing down,” Grant said. “At the college level it’s go, go, go, go. But here you have to be patient and slow down and pay attention to detail.”
In a best-case scenario for the Redskins – and Grant – he’ll be able to develop while waiting his turn. The Redskins don’t need him to make an immediate impact at receiver, perhaps not even for a couple years. If he does anything right away it’ll be to help special teams. Grant has been working as a gunner on punt coverage and a jammer on punts.
But in order to develop he’ll have to get stronger -- to get off jams and help as a blocker -- and learn to run routes against NFL defenders. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last month that Grant, “plays like a 10-year veteran already.”
Because Grant won’t threaten a defender deep, allowing them to play tighter, he has to be precise in other aspects of his game. He did not create great separation in college, even at a lower Division I level, but helped himself with smooth routes (he'll still need to get sharper here) and good hands.
“There’s a lot you can do with different angles and techniques to throw a defender off,” Grant said.
He still wants to play fast, but needs to slow down his routes to be in sync with the quarterback. Santana Moss often talks about how he had to learn not to always run his fastest. It’s also a lesson receiver Aldrick Robinson was still learning last season, when he’d arrive at a spot before the quarterback was ready to throw. He might have been open when he got there, but it was too soon.
“It’s about studying the defender and your craft,” Grant said.
Last week, Moss said he didn’t worry about where he stood. This week, Redskins coach Jay Gruden gushed about Moss after Wednesday’s OTA workout, saying he’s had an excellent offseason.
Then he dropped a (strong?) hint as to Moss’ future: “He’s another one that’s going to help this team out.”
No reason to say that if you don’t think the guy will make the roster. Still, I would never call Moss a lock at this point; the Redskins would only be on the hook for $65,000 against the salary cap if he’s cut. His age works against him. He did drop too many passes last season (a drop rate of 8.9 percent according to ESPN Stats & Information). But he has looked spry out there (he's at the age where the word spry gets used more); he's a professional route runner and good to have around.
Here is a quick look at the receivers:
Pierre Garcon: A lock. Next.
DeSean Jackson: Ditto. But perhaps you keep a guy like Moss around to serve as a mentor of sorts for Jackson.
Andre Roberts: Lock.
Leonard Hankerson: Health is an issue. The Redskins still don’t know if he will be ready for the season opener. If that’s the case, then it would be good to have veteran insurance with a guy like Moss.
Aldrick Robinson: He can play all three spots, though has primarily focused on the X receiver spot in the past (where Garcon starts). He improved last season, but we’re still talking about a guy who has 29 career receptions in two full seasons. He doesn’t help much on special teams either.
Nick Williams: Unless he’s a returner, you can’t keep him over a veteran such as Moss unless Williams shows a heck of a lot this summer.
Ryan Grant: The rookie fifth-round pick runs good routes and is a likely a slot receiver in the NFL. But he has a lot to learn and must get stronger. It’s tough to see him being much of a help on special teams or from scrimmage as a rookie. But the coaches like him, and you always favor guys you drafted over those from a previous regime (unless there is a dramatic difference). Moss is far better now, of course. But if Hankerson returns and Robinson shows improvement, you are keeping Grant on the roster for what you think he can do beyond this season. Still, the Redskins could go with seven and keep them all, including Moss.
There are also a number of undrafted free agents on the roster, but it’s tougher to analyze them. They are all considered longshots, or more so players to develop on the practice squad, and that won’t change until the games begin.
You can keep a guy like Moss around as valuable insurance; Roberts’ ability to play more than just the slot means if something happens to one of the starters, you can move him around and plug in Moss. He still has value, even if it’s not as high as it used to be.
And there’s even more talent now.
“It’s fun to be around all these guys,” Moss said, “now that I’m much older. But there’s no age. When you’re out there you’re out there so it’s fun to have different targets.”
The question is, however: Will Moss benefit from those targets in games this fall? Or will he struggle to make the roster? Moss turns 35 on Sunday and is coming off a season that featured 42 catches, but he also dropped seven passes. His drop rate of 8.9 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information, was better than only six of 145 players listed.
If he makes the team he’d no longer be the Redskins’ starting slot receiver. Not after they signed Andre Roberts (and then added DeSean Jackson). More likely, Moss is an insurance policy in case Leonard Hankerson isn’t ready to open the season. Or in case rookie Ryan Grant will take a couple of years to develop. Moss signed a one-year contract with a signing bonus of only $65,000, making him easy to cut if necessary.
"I don't have any decision made right now," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said, "as far as our starting two, three, four wide receivers or five wide receivers."
Regardless, Moss, who has caught 571 passes in his Redskins’ career, can’t be bothered by any of this.
“I let you guys do all the worrying,” Moss said. “I don’t worry myself. I put stuff on tape and at the end of the day I make it undeniable for a coach to have to question me. That’s all I do, man. I’ve never been a negative guy so therefore I think positive and as long as I think positive and do what I do, what I know how to do …”
He cut off his sentence and pointed out that he looked sharp in practice. Indeed: Moss looked the same, even catching one deep ball down the left seam. What does it mean? It’s only May, after all. To Moss, though, it means something.
“If you’re watching out there,” he said, “you can see ain’t too much changed.”
Coach Jay Gruden said the Redskins' free-agency signings should allow the rookies to develop without needing to start immediately. I'll take a look at how the rookies fit in and when they might be needed to play bigger roles.
Player: WR Ryan Grant
Why they don’t need him as a starter: They have three rather good receivers in DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon. Plus Leonard Hankerson adds more depth -- if healthy. There’s also Aldrick Robinson and Santana Moss among the veterans. Washington needs more bodies at this position, but it does not need anyone who must contribute immediately.
Future role: Backup/slot receiver. The Redskins like Grant because he offers some versatility, able to run routes from outside or inside. But his ability to break quickly and catch in traffic will give him a chance inside. He’s not a big-play threat on the outside. But he is a savvy route runner against zone coverages, understanding where to settle. He’s also competitive, which always helps.
When he might need to be ready: 2016-17. The Redskins’ top three receivers all are signed through 2016 so, barring injuries, Grant has time to develop. Injuries always happen at this position, so they could use him to be at least effective before this point. Still, if Hankerson is healthy and Robinson shows any improvement, then Grant can be brought along slowly this season. He has time and will need it.
What he must work on: Strength. Grant is an excellent route runner -- smooth, fluid -- but he’s not a strong player. Being able to defeat press man coverage will be a challenge, though if he’s in the slot he can at least buy himself a little more space to try and win the route. His lack of speed hurts him here, too, as corners won’t be afraid to play him tight. The lack of strength also will hurt his blocking. Despite his route-running ability, he did not always create great separation because of his speed (this was definitely an issue for teams). He dropped too many passes during our one day watching him in the rookie minicamp, but has shown the ability to make excellent catches.
RB Chris Thompson: A year ago he was the flashy new running back who could provide a different dynamic for the offense. Now it’s sixth-round pick Lache Seastrunk. Though Thompson’s college film also was electric, he’s smaller than Seastrunk and more fragile. Thompson will have to show improvement as a returner and that he can stay healthy if he wants to stick around.
RB Evan Royster: He was veteran insurance last season, but it’s hard to imagine him sticking around. Roy Helu is a more dynamic player than Royster and now they added Seastrunk. Of course, it could end up that Royster is, once again, in the same role if they want to keep four running backs (plus fullback Darrel Young).
OG Chris Chester: He did not play as well last year and the Redskins could save $2.7 million in cap space by releasing him. The problem is, his replacement is not clear. McGlynn is probably best suited for center while everyone else remains unproven. Chester will have to be beaten out.
PK Kai Forbath: Anytime a team drafts a kicker (Zach Hocker), that’s never a good sign for the incumbent. Sure, Jay Gruden said he could see the team keeping a kickoff specialist. But teams are always reluctant to give two spots when one almost always should suffice. Hocker must prove he not only has a strong leg, but an accurate one. After all, Forbath has made 35 of 40 field goals the past two seasons, but he doesn’t have a big leg on kickoffs (32nd in the NFL last season with 14 touchbacks). And: They drafted a kicker.
OLBs Rob Jackson and Brandon Jenkins: There’s a chance both can make the roster – it’s not far-fetched to see them keeping five at this position, especially if they want a proven veteran backup and if Jenkins shows improvement. They won’t just toss them aside. But there’s no way they’ll keep five inside linebackers and five outside linebackers. And, inside, they have Perry Riley, Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan, Keenan Robinson and Adam Hayward among others. So the linebacker position in general will be interesting to watch. Someone who can help a team will be released.
OT Tom Compton: He’s made steady progress, but will it be enough. The Redskins drafted Morgan Moses and if he doesn’t supplant Tyler Polumbus, he will definitely be on the roster. They won’t keep three players who only play tackle, so Compton has a lot to prove. Offensive line in general will be a crowded competition.
CBs Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford: The Redskins can keep six corners so even though they’ve added Bashaud Breeland, it’s not a death sentence for both of these players. But the Redskins now have five corners probably ahead of them: DeAngelo Hall, Tracy Porter, David Amerson, E.J. Biggers and now Breeland. But to keep six corners means one fewer safety. So both Minnifield and Crawford could be in more direct competition with one of the backup safeties. Special-teams play will dictate this spot – and Crawford must show his knee isn’t an issue.
TE Niles Paul: He’ll have to be beaten out by seventh-round pick Ted Bolser. But the latter was drafted by the new coach and Paul was drafted by the previous one. Advantage: Bolser. But Paul’s special-teams play has been stellar. But a late-round selection always has to show a lot, otherwise it’s easy to stash them on the practice squad. Had they drafted a tight end in the middle rounds, then Paul’s job would be more in jeopardy.
WR Santana Moss: He was going to have a tough time making the roster anyway, considering they have a slot receiver ahead of him already in Andre Roberts. Now the Redskins added another potential slot receiver in fifth-round pick Ryan Grant. He has experience all over, but his quickness makes him a good fit inside. If he shows he can help, there’s no room for Moss. The Redskins also have Leonard Hankerson, who can play inside (but health will be an issue) and Aldrick Robinson. Nick Williams plays inside, but it’ll be tough for him to win a job. As for Moss, he received only a $65,000 bonus to re-sign, so if he ends up being cut it wouldn’t be a surprise. But it would be a tough ending for a player who did an excellent job for a long time in Washington.
The new Washington Redskins receiver didn't catch as many passes as he would have liked last season. But he did show good hands when the ball came his way. Roberts dropped three passes in 2013, according to ESPN Stats & Information. His drop percentage was 3.9; the league average was 4.3 percent.
What Roberts showed, however, was a wider catch radius -- something Garcon has as well. Perhaps the biggest one on the team belongs to tight end Jordan Reed. But this should give quarterback Robert Griffin III more ability to complete passes if he's a little off. A quarterback can make receivers look great; but a receiver needs to chip in to help the quarterback, and that means sometimes grabbing passes that aren't perfect.
“I've had a knack with that,” Roberts said. “My arms are longer than what most people think, but I do have a wider catch radius. I can catch any ball from low to high, to spinning to diving and over the top. I can better with that. I definitely have that catch radius so I can go get everything.
“I don't shy away from the ball. Anytime the ball is in the air I try to get it. I don’t care where it’s at. I don’t care if I’m between the linebackers and safeties or outside competing with the corner.”
Roberts also was good at creating separation at the top of his routes, almost the way a basketball player does when going into a defender and then popping out. It made him effective on comebacks and hitches. His blocking was OK -- coach Jay Gruden said at the owners meetings last month that “he’s blocked safeties from time to time; not very physically, but he’s blocking.”
But Roberts said he considers himself a physical player.
“I play bigger than I am,” he said. “They think I’m a slot guy, but I can play inside and outside. I fight for the ball. I’m a tough guy. If you don’t think so, just watch me on the field.”
Perhaps that stems from playing at The Citadel, then entering the NFL as a third-round draft choice by Arizona. He may even be more that way in Washington just to make sure he gets the kind of chances he anticipated when he signed here -- and before Jackson did.
Gruden said they liked Roberts because he could run routes inside or outside. That gives Washington three top receivers who can run routes from a variety of spots.
“Very versatile. You can tell he’s a smart player because he lines up everywhere. He’s run every type of route,” Gruden said of Roberts.
Whatever his role, Roberts knows he'll bring the same mentality.
“I’m not scared to go across the middle and I’m not scared to hit anybody,” Roberts said. “It’s a mentality you have to have as a receiver and being able to play that role going across the middle and playing inside where the bigger bodies are. You will get hit anyway so you might as well catch the ball. It sounds easy to say, but it’s a little harder to do it on the field. That’s the way I try to see it.”
September will be when we’ll start to see which way the Redskins go. But, for now, we’ll just take a look at their players who are at least 30 years old. Washington is tied for eighth in the NFL with nine such players, according to ESPN's Field Yates. Oakland leads the way with 13, and you never want to be in Oakland’s company, but among the other teams ahead of Washington: San Francisco (12), New Orleans (11) and San Diego (10). All made the postseason. Arizona (10) went 10-6; Chicago (12) and Pittsburgh (10) both went 8-8.
But at the other end: Super Bowl champion Seattle has three such players while AFC champion Denver has six.
So what does it mean? Your players over 30 had better produce. Seven of their nine thirtysomethings play defense; four play along the line. Is it good that a defense coming off a tough season has that many older players? The Redskins appear to have taken a win-now approach with the hope of finding young guys in the draft to groom. That’s fine, but it had better work, otherwise they’ll just be old and slow.
Another note: The Redskins have four players who are 29 (three on offense, all linemen). Their offensive nucleus is young and can help now and in the future. But elsewhere the roster will be in transition for a couple years.
Anyway, here’s the Redskins' thirtysomethings:
S Ryan Clark (34): Pittsburgh felt he had lost a step and opted for a younger player in Mike Mitchell. The Redskins did not want to overpay at this position and valued Clark's experience. He’ll be the defensive leader, or should be. And if the younger players pay attention, they’ll improve.
DL Jason Hatcher (31): Coming off his best season and expected to help the pass rush. He did not look like a player slowing down last season. The Redskins worked his contract so that he could be cut after two years and they’d gain cap relief. A wise move. But he should help.
G Chris Chester (31): Not coming off his best season, but in 2012 he was steady and viewed as a smart player. The Redskins wanted to upgrade their interior and he’s still around, at a higher cap figure, too, so they still value him. But he must play better this season. They have young backup guards; are any ready to challenge him? After three years, one of them should be ready. If not ...
CB DeAngelo Hall (30): Did play well last season, earning a new contract, and has matured. Played better in press coverage. When corners start to go downhill, it can happen fast. It’s hard to see that happening this year.
DL Kedric Golston (30): Valuable and inexpensive backup; prepares and works hard. Good special-teamer, too. Tough to let guys like that go. At some point you need young legs coming off the bench, especially with an experienced (aging) group of starters. But Golston can still help.
DL Stephen Bowen (30): It’s tough for players when they hit this age and are coming off microfracture surgery. Heck, it’s tough for any player coming off that surgery. He’s still in their plans, but his cap number ($7.02 million) makes him a candidate for some sort of restructuring – or a release and re-sign. I have not heard they’re going to do so, but it’s logical to wonder. Just like it’s logical to wonder what he’ll be able to do. When healthy he can still help against the run, but he has not provided the needed pass rush since 2011.
1. The gang affiliation angle, originally outlined in an NJ.com report, never gave me great pause when it came to Jackson. Before I'd even heard about the gang questions, I'd heard other things that gave me more pause -- about his professional conduct. Clearly they weren't enough to stop the Redskins from signing him. But the point on the gang stuff, which many have made, is that enough players come from tough situations who have similar ties. To judge Jackson based on his friendships would be difficult. Jackson has never been accused of any wrongdoing here, just guilt by association and appearing in some questionable photos.
3. The part that jumped out to me in this story: The words of Jackson's mom and brother. They do not sound like enablers who would claim Jackson is just misunderstood or always in the right. No. His mother, Gayle Jackson, clearly has spoken with him about perceptions and more. She told Babb, "DeSean is one of the most loyal people. Too loyal for me." His brother, Byron Jackson, called Jackson's gestures in the picture that appeared in the NJ.com story -- whether gang symbols or not-- "immature." And his mom said he shouldn't have posed for the picture. “When I look at it, it doesn't look like a gang sign to me. But it's questionable, and anything that's questionable, in my mind, don't do it.”
4. Players need to wean themselves from their past at their own pace, with definite nudges along the way. Read this Andrew Brandt piece on The MMQB as an example. You don't have to divorce yourself from it, but you need to surround yourself with good influences from that past. Not everyone from that past is a gang member. Plenty of good people rise up from tough situations. I have no idea about how Jackson is in this regard. But Babb spoke to one long-time Jackson friend, Khalid Rahim, who did say, “Everybody had to stop; certain people had to quit hanging around.” To survive long-term in the NFL, this is a must.
5. The real issue to me always has been his conduct within the team structure: work ethic, practice habits, etc. This is where Jackson must excel if he wants his career to last longer and be as productive as 2013. Most coaches I've been around love using players in their 30s as examples of how to achieve a good career. They've had to work a certain way to reach that level. I don't think everyone comes in working that way; it must be learned and processed and developed. If Jackson matures here, then he has a chance to be productive for several more years. If not, then his career will go a different way. Always does. It's up to him.