Washington Redskins: Trent Murphy

Examining the Washington Redskins' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)

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.

Receivers (6)

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)

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.

Linebackers (9)

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.

Cornerbacks (5)
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.

Safeties (4)

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.

Specialists (3)

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.
A little this and that for a Tuesday:

Orakpo’s status: Jay Gruden made it clear at the owners meetings in March that he’s content letting Brian Orakpo play out this season on a one-year deal courtesy of the franchise tag. And, barring Orakpo signing an extension by Tuesday’s deadline, it appears that will be the case. Again, given Gruden’s comments, this is not a surprise. There was a split opinion in the organization as to whether they should even give Orakpo the franchise tag. Orakpo doesn’t appear worried over his situation. He’s always been confident in who he is as a player and the interest he’d command on the market. Still, the Redskins would like to see more big plays from him – a few more sacks, game-changing turnovers. They added more pass-rush help and have better coaching in this area, moves that Orakpo loves. It’s set up for him to play better. And if he does, the Redskins will have to find a way to keep him. They spent the offseason focused on improving the pass rush. If it finally generates heat, you don’t change things. When they drafted Trent Murphy, one member of the organization said it was not a foregone conclusion that he would replace Orakpo in 2015, that there was a way they would keep all three together (including Ryan Kerrigan).

Nickname poll: The Redskins’ nickname remains popular in New Mexico, according to a poll conducted by the Albuquerque Journal. In the poll, 71 percent of the respondents said they favored the team keeping the nickname with 18 percent in favor of them changing it and 11 percent undecided. The poll was conducted on July 10 of 557 registered voters throughout the state. Apparently the breakdown didn’t change much among Hispanics, Anglos or Native Americans.

Peterson defends stance: A day after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on ABC’s “This Week,” that the nickname should be changed, Fairfax State Sen. Chap Peterson (D) defended his stance in a series of emails with Washington Post reporter Tom Jackman. Why do it? Peterson told Jackman, “ I’m trying to bring some balance to the debate, especially in light of the one-sided portrayal of this issue in the media.”

Safety talk: The Redskins still haven’t signed another safety after losing Tanard Jackson to a suspension, but that, too, is not a surprise. The Washington Post’s Mike Jones tweeted they wouldn’t necessarily add one. They’re intrigued by some of their young safeties, including Akeem Davis (an undrafted player in 2013 who was not on anyone’s roster last year). I'm not sure if Davis makes it, but they at least are anxious to see more. Even before Jackson returned, the word was that they felt better about their safety position than many others did. The question is: Do they have five safeties who will end up worthy of a roster spot? We’ll start to learn that answer next week, but I’m skeptical on this one. Of course, they could always go with four safeties and keep one on the practice squad to develop just in case.

What to expect: Redskins' rookies

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
8:10
AM ET
Taking a look at various aspects concerning the Redskins heading into training camp. Today, I take a look at their rookie class:

LB Trent Murphy: He entered as the No. 3 linebacker and was used in multiple ways throughout the spring. That will obviously continue. Murphy is not an explosive player so you won’t be wowed by speed off the edge. But he knows how to use his hands on the rush and he’s adept at the details of the position. He’ll be the third linebacker in their nickel package. In the spring, they rushed him from over the guards, through the middle and on both edges.

OT Morgan Moses: Just don’t see any way he unseats Tyler Polumbus based off college tape and his performance in the spring. He’s still inconsistent and bends at the waist too often. He cut down on this in the spring – he knows it’s an issue – but it’s still a problem. It forces him to rely on his long arms; that’s OK in college but in the NFL it’s about the arms and the feet.

G Spencer Long: They loved him coming in and nothing has changed. That does not mean they think he’ll beat out Chris Chester, certainly not right away. But they like what they have in Long. Unlike the past couple years, the Redskins have worked their rookie linemen on both sides. Typically they stuck them on one side and let them get comfortable. But there’s too much competition to bring them along slowly.

CB Bashaud Breeland: He’ll help on special teams and if the others stay healthy, he’ll be a No. 4 corner at best. Breeland looked good for the most part in the spring, though I’ll be curious to see in training camp how much he still grabs and holds. But he’s a physical player and has a good mindset.

WR Ryan Grant: Another guy the coaches really like, but I have a hard time seeing him do a whole lot given his size and lack of strength. It’ll be tough for him to get off jams or to even block. But it’s not like he must contribute immediately. My guess is he’d be a fifth or sixth receiver right now – it’ll depend on Leonard Hankerson’s availability and Aldrick Robinson’s improvement. Grant is a good route runner and worth developing.

RB Lache Seastrunk: He’s a good fit for Jay Gruden’s offense, especially when they want to run the ball out of a shotgun spread formation. It’s what he did at Baylor. Seastrunk will be a spot player on offense. It’s hard to see him emerging as a third-down back, at least early in the season. It’s not just about catching the ball, it’s about recognizing blitzes and running routes. It’s not easy. The Redskins also have Chris Thompson in this role and, while Gruden likes him, his durability is an issue. Plus, Thompson has practice-squad eligibility.

TE Ted Bolser: Didn’t see anything this spring that suggested he warranted a roster spot. He dropped too many passes – and he’s supposed to be a pass-catching tight end. Bolser blocked better in space than he did on the line in college – much better – but that won’t be enough. Entering camp he looks like a practice-squad player unless the Redskins keep four tight ends.

K Zach Hocker: Looked good during practices with his field goals. Will be curious to see his leg strength on kickoffs and his accuracy during games. Practices matter, but the games count. Consider that practices are like quizzes and the games are tests. Kai Forbath has been an accurate kicker so Hocker is no gimme. But they drafted him for a reason (leg strength/kickoffs). It’ll be an interesting competition.

Something to prove: Brian Orakpo

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
8:45
AM ET
We will be featuring a different Washington Redskins player each day on this list, staying away from rookies or some second-year players still finding their way. This will focus primarily on veterans at or near a career crossroads. Today: linebacker Brian Orakpo.

[+] EnlargeBrian Orakpo
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins are letting Brian Orakpo play under the franchise tag tender for $11.45 million this season.
Why he has something to prove: He's on a one-year contract and will need a big season to get the sort of deal he wants. Orakpo said at his golf tournament this spring that he felt he didn't have anything to prove. And, yes, what he's done over the course of his career has been solid. But he also hasn't had a monster season when it comes to sacks and that would help him get paid. A lot. Coach Jay Gruden has said he's content on Orakpo riding out the season on a one-year deal and why wouldn't he be? It provides more motivation for his best pass-rusher. It could be a win-win. Not everyone in the building thought Orakpo would even receive the franchise tag offer from the Redskins, so there are others waiting for that season as well. Orakpo contends he is an elite linebacker and it's true that he has more responsibilities than others at his position, especially in terms of dropping into coverage (as does Ryan Kerrigan of course; other linebackers in this style of 3-4 also have this job). But the big-money guys post the big totals. Orakpo's all-around game has developed, but if he makes more game-changing plays and gets a few more sacks, he'll cash in.

What he must do: Take advantage of his surroundings, as in coaching and talent. The Redskins added an interior pass-rusher in Jason Hatcher and drafted Trent Murphy to add another dimension as a third outside linebacker in their fast nickel package. That means Orakpo (and Kerrigan) have more around to help. In the past, teams mostly worried about those two as the defensive line posted paltry sack totals (8.5 sacks the past two years combined). Both Orakpo and Kerrigan should benefit if the inside can pinch the passer more; in 2011 the pass rush was much better in part because of how well Orakpo worked with end Stephen Bowen. Also, the Redskins' outside linebackers are being taught more techniques this offseason. It's not just about adding moves, it's about using their hands better and taking stronger angles off the ball. Under the previous linebackers coaches, it was more about responsibilities. Now it's about technique. Orakpo is considered a momentum rusher, going as much by feel. There are counters he can add (spin move) that would make this tactic more effective. There's also a heavy focus on sack/fumbles -- Orakpo has caused just six fumbles in his career. He needs several such plays this season -- and then some.

Projection: Obviously he'll start outside. Orakpo has developed as a linebacker and is a solid all-around player; the Redskins wisely retained him this offseason (though I was not in favor of a deal worth $11 million per year. Not yet.) He works hard and plays with passion. And when he's on his game, he not only pressures the passer he sets up teammates to do the same. Just because the Redskins drafted Murphy does not mean they view him as Orakpo's replacement after this year (Orakpo does not see it that way, either). If Orakpo has a really good year, and the pass rush overall is strong, why wouldn't you re-sign him? The Redskins have helped him out by some of their moves this offseason; Orakpo will need to produce.
1. I've mentioned Washington Redskins outside linebackers coach Brian Baker a number of times and wanted to give you more of a feel for him as a coach, just by listening to him during practice with his players. A few things I noticed: He's constantly teaching and reminding players when what they've done is right or wrong. It's constant. He even chastised one player (wasn't quite sure who) for not having his eyes on him when he was speaking.

2. During pass-rush drills, he reminded the players, “don't let them control your body! Keep your elbows tight!” It's a point of emphasis. At one point, he told rookie Trent Murphy, “Give me one good one 93; I need one good one before we move on!” Murphy gave it to him. Baker worked with players on where their hands should be on the blocker at the snap (obviously not low, but he worked on getting the hands right before the snap, too). Baker: “You can't let him get into your chest. The closer you are the higher you put your hands.”

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Nick WassJay Gruden had his coaches concentrating on special teams during the Redskins' minicamp.
3. And, finally, I like that Baker does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to pass rushing. He worked with Brandon Jenkins on his footwork off the snap when positioned at right outside linebacker. It's a little different than on the right side and he wanted to make sure he stayed on the right path from the get-go. But he also told Jenkins, “You can't get it to look like everyone else. You've just got to get it right. Make it work for you.” He also worked with Jenkins on accelerating at the top of the rush -- it's where you win.

4. I don't know what sort of difference one outside linebackers coach can make, but I also know it can't be overlooked. He's a legit coach.

5. Redskins coach Jay Gruden incorporated more of his coaches in special teams drills. It's not as if other coaches in past years did nothing here, but it was noticeable this past week. Secondary coach Raheem Morris worked with the flyers in punt coverage while receivers coach Ike Hilliard showed them how to get off a jam. Baker helped with the tackling drills. Gruden said it enables special teams coach Ben Kotwica to get more out of his allotted 10-15 minutes. There is a definite increased emphasis on special teams, starting from early in the offseason.

6. The Redskins now know they'll face quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the season opener against Houston. Not sure it's a big surprise and not sure it really matters. Fitzpatrick was 9-5 as a starter from Nov. 14, 2010 to Oct. 30, 2011 -- that includes the 23-0 shutout of Washington. Since then, Fitzpatrick is 10-23 as a starter. Of course, his first NFL start came against Washington, a 24-9 loss while with Cincinnati in 2005. Fitzpatrick has thrown 106 touchdown passes to 93 interceptions in his career.

7. Three months later DeSean Jackson remains a big topic in Philadelphia. It started, again, with running back LeSean McCoy saying Jackson's release caught everyone's attention. It let them know if you don't buy in, you will be cut. Kelly refuted that notion. “I don't send messages to other players by how I deal with other players,” Kelly told Eagles reporters. “And how LeSean McCoy interprets things … LeSean has a beautiful mind. Sometimes trying to analyze that mind I don't wrap myself around that too much. Or bother myself too much with that. However LeSean interprets things is how LeSean interprets things.” The Eagles do think they have enough speedminus Jackson to still thrive.

8. There was a big to-do over the Patriots having a Jets playbook and that led to a discussion over whether it made a difference. Some who have covered the NFL a long time insist it means nothing; others who have covered it a long time insist it does. With players switching teams all the time, I doubt it's a big secret what's in various playbooks and coaches study so much tape that there shouldn't be many surprises. The bigger issue is when you know another coach's tendencies. I say that because some coaches here in the past felt that part of the success they had against Giants quarterback Eli Manning stemmed from having their playbook. But it also helped that they felt offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn't change a whole lot. Tendencies mattered more.

9. One player who must have a strong year for Dallas: cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys traded up to get him with the sixth overall pick in 2012, but his impact has been poor. Claiborne has picked off two passes, has battled nagging injuries and lost his starting job last year. This is the time of year for player optimism and Claiborne is no different. Everyone is saying the right things about Claiborne, as you would expect. But they like that he's competing. One nugget: Claiborne pulled a rookie corner off the field in order to face receiver Dez Bryant in practice. "Me and him talked about it before we even started up that we want to be the best and we want to go against each other," Claiborne said. "We feel like we both compete at a high level. I get good work when I go against him and it's vice versa. When I'm not up there, he's telling me to come. We're trying to help each other so we can be the best for our team."

10. The Redskins nearly had Antrel Rolle in the 2005 draft, but he went one pick ahead of them at No. 8 to Arizona, so they drafted Carlos Rogers instead. Rolle, a corner when he came out, continues to improve at safety. Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt said of Rolle, “Before, as far as formations, he didn't see formations. He didn't really see the route concepts. Now, the last two years, it's all coming together for him and he's feeling more comfortable. So with Antrel's ability to continue to learn and grow, he hasn't really scratched his ability as a safety yet. Last year was a glimpse of what Antrel could actually become."
  1. Ryan Kerrigan did not practice Wednesday because he was a “little sore” according to coach Jay Gruden. He said they’ve liked what Kerrigan has done in the weight room and on the field and just wanted to give him a day off. Meanwhile, Brian Orakpo returned to practice after missing Tuesday because of an illness.
  2. OK, Brian Baker is not only good to watch and effective with his players, but he also provides terrific insight into what he’s doing. It’s the same reason I liked Kirk Olivadotti when he was here the first time. If they’re able to communicate this well with the media, then chances are they do so with their players -- and it enables them to learn. I’ll have more from Baker over the next few weeks.
  3. One little nugget from Baker: He called second-year linebacker Brandon Jenkins one of the more improved players this spring. Baker has gotten on Jenkins quite a bit and there’s little doubt that he needed to improve in a few ways. He’s still not a lock to be on the roster, but if he continues to improve then he’s in a good spot.
  4. Jenkins beat rookie Morgan Moses to the inside on one rush. Moses could not recover to stop Jenkins’ counter. It is an issue right now for Moses and something he’ll have to work on in order to become a starter. Also saw Jenkins get around right tackle Maurice Hurt later in the practice during a hurry-up drill.
  5. Play of the day: Corner DeAngelo Hall made a terrific diving interception on a Robert Griffin III pass intended for receiver DeSean Jackson, cutting to the outside. Hall read it perfectly and made the diving pick as he headed out of bounds. He bounced up, his helmet popped off and he threw the ball in the air as linebacker Adam Hayward led the charge over to him. Yes, it was just a play in a spring practice but certain plays get them fired up no matter when they occur.
  6. At 6-foot-5, Trent Murphy is tall for a pass rusher, but he does a good job of staying low -- and trying to get lower. It hasn’t always resulted in pressure, like Wednesday when he went against Trent Williams. The left tackle stopped him initially, but Murphy tried to get lower and did so. Williams still won, but Murphy seems comfortable staying low. It’s one reason he can use the spin move.
  7. Phillip Thomas picked off a Kirk Cousins’ pass that skipped off Andre Roberts’ hands.
  8. This is when you know it’s time to get to training camp, when you write this line: Quarterback Colt McCoy hit receiver Cody Hoffman on a deep ball down the right side. Hoffman beat corner Blake Sailors on the play.
  9. Saw safety Ryan Clark up at the line of scrimmage in coverage; did a nice job staying with Roberts on a short out route.
  10. Receiver Pierre Garcon beat corner David Amerson to the inside; Amerson was on his hip, but did not react quick enough and the pass was completed, prompting secondary coach Raheem Morris to yell to him, “Come on! That’s a dream throw!” Amerson did a nice job later in the practice covering a double move by DeSean Jackson. Griffin looked their way, but because Amerson played it properly he had to eat the ball and would have been sacked by linebacker Brian Orakpo. Too much pressure allowed Wednesday.
  11. Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland showed good patience on a couple routes. First, in off coverage against Aldrick Robinson he did not fall for a fake and was in good position (Robinson then fell as he cut inside). Later, rookie receiver Ryan Grant stepped back at the line as if he were about to get a screen pass. Breeland did not bite. Grant then took off downfield, but Breeland’s patience meant he had him covered and the ball was thrown away.
  12. I’m setting the over-under on number of scuffles involving Chase Minnifield this summer at three. He did not get in one Wednesday, but the way he plays aggravates the offense. He’s feisty and aggressive with his hands. Wednesday, tight end Logan Paulsen blocked him on a run to the other side and Minnifield was trying to somehow shed a man who outweighs him by about 75 pounds. At one point Minnifield grabbed Paulsen’s facemask.
  13. More on Clark’s value: He quickly recognized a zone read look and called it out before the play happened. The defense stopped the play. As I’ve said before, there’s just a big difference with him back deep and anyone else when it comes to communicating. Thomas was praised after one play for his pre-snap communication.
  14. The defense was just stronger overall against the offense Wednesday. Several tipped passes resulted in a couple interceptions. Also, linebacker Perry Riley made a nice tip on a Griffin pass in zone coverage. Griffin was trying to hit Paulsen and Riley barely got a piece of it, but it was enough. Sometimes the difference between a tipped pass and a perfect one is just a few inches -- and this was an example.
  15. Spencer Long worked at right guard, it’s where he’s most comfortable. In the past, the offensive linemen were worked at one spot only, allowing them to get comfortable before expanding their roles. But that will change a bit this season. The Redskins have enough competition among the young linemen that they all have to show they can help at multiple spots.
  16. Rookie tight end Ted Bolser struggled to block outside linebacker Gabe Miller on a couple plays, allowing him to shoot inside on one play and then pinch the running back inside on another. Miller had a good day, but obviously is a longshot to make the roster. Bolser will need to block better.
  17. Don’t always see strong leg drive from Clifton Geathers; he gets upright and loses his strength. But he did drive guard Adam Gettis back on one rush.

Redskins minicamp observations

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
4:15
PM ET
Thoughts and observations after watching the Washington Redskins practice Tuesday:

1. David Amerson looks bigger and, indeed, he said he's added about six or seven pounds of muscle. Amerson does appear to have more toned arms. That will help when he plays press coverage and in run support. I'll have more on Amerson later this summer, but know this: He's had a good spring. Saw him stick with Pierre Garcon in a couple one-on-one occasions. Also, more importantly, saw him use his eyes better and more consistently. It was an issue last year.

[+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRedskins CB David Amerson appears to have gained some muscle weight this offseason.
2. Did see Garcon get him on one crossing route. Amerson tried to jam him, putting his right hand onto Garcon's outside shoulder. But Garcon's strength helped him here as he wasn't knocked off stride and created separation running across the middle.

3. Saw this for the first time: a receiver doing a spin move at the line to get away from press coverage. Garcon tried that against Amerson, but it didn't work. Amerson stayed patient and, partly because he didn't try to jam Garcon, was not fooled by the move.

4. Garcon dunked a ball after a catch in the end zone. The Redskins had college officials at practice and one immediately threw a flag. Players can no longer dunk over the goal posts.

5. The offensive players were convinced Amerson should have been called for holding on a back-shoulder attempt to tight end Jordan Reed in the end zone. I was just finishing up an interview with Amerson after practice when Reed walked past with a smile and asked, "Did he tell you he held me?"

6. Rookie receiver Ryan Grant had a few nice grabs Tuesday, mostly on underneath routes against zone coverage. He's good at driving the defender off and then cutting. Did it a couple times Tuesday. I don't know when he'll be able to really help because he has to get stronger and, ultimately, prove he can beat press coverage.

7. One coach I will enjoy listening and paying attention to this summer: outside linebackers coach Brian Baker. Yes, I know, I've mentioned him a few times, but after watching him work with the players I'm even more convinced of his impact. Just a detailed coach. I'll have more on that later this week. But he is good and isn't afraid to chastise anyone. Heard him ping rookie Trent Murphy during a drill Tuesday morning.

8. Murphy was juked out by Reed on one route. He can ask other veteran linebackers how that feels because that's what happened last year. Once more, Reed was among the last off the field after working more on his game. Nothing has changed since last year in that regard.

9. Reed also had a nice block on Murphy, getting his hands into the rookie's chest and pushing him to the ground.

10. With linebacker Brian Orakpo out (sickness), this was a good chance for Murphy to work against veterans. He also went against left tackle Trent Williams a few times. Murphy's spin move worked well against Moses, but Williams was able to stop it on the one time I saw it tried. The coaches like what they've seen from Murphy overall, especially off the field in terms of work ethic.

11. Rookie running back Lache Seastrunk, who lost the ball on a handoff in practice, stayed afterward to work on handoffs with fullback Darrel Young playing the part of the quarterback.

12. Kedric Golston worked at nose tackle with the first defensive line. He's done that in previous workouts this spring with Barry Cofield sidelined. And if he shows it's a spot he can help at during the summer, then it'll be tough to cut him. Golston adds experience and toughness up front, two qualities that should be welcomed. Add a little versatility and it makes him even more valuable, and it also makes it tough for Chris Neild to make the roster.

13. The quarterbacks worked on slant passes during drills with receivers. The quarterbacks dropped back, looked down the middle and then turned toward the receiver running the slant. It's a little thing, but I point it out for this reason: Robert Griffin III's last interception in 2013 came on a slant route. He eyed the receiver the whole way, who then got a good break to make the pick. Sometimes you have to eye the receiver off the line because the pass is coming right away. But in this case it led to the pick.

14. Wasn't able to spend a lot of time watching rookie right tackle Morgan Moses, but did see him get beat by second-year Brandon Jenkins to the outside on one occasion. Moses was too upright and a bit slow with his feet.

15. Jenkins failed to use the proper technique on an inside run, staying too wide and creating a gap inside. The coaches, um, reminded him of the mistake.

16. Said it last week and will continue to point out how much more energy there is during these practices. Some of that could just be because change brings a new energy. But some of it is the style of coaches they now have on staff. Raheem Morris was always vocal under Mike Shanahan, so his ribbing of players and coaches is nothing new. But things were just more lively Tuesday, with trash talking and banter.

17. The field goal kickers attempted three kicks apiece (from 39, 44 and 50 yards) at the narrow goal posts (about half the width of regular ones). Rookie Zach Hocker made all three attempts -- the ball jumped off his foot on the 50-yarder. Kai Forbath missed two of three but on regular goal posts he would have made each attempt.

18. Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a nice bullet to receiver Aldrick Robinson; the pass arrived just before safety Bacarri Rambo for a touchdown.
The Washington Redskins enter their final week of offseason work with a three-day minicamp. It'll look a lot like their OTA practices, but the difference is that this week is mandatory. With temperatures expected in the 90s, or near them, over the next three days, it'll be good preparation for Richmond later this summer.

Here are some things -- but certainly not all -- that I'll be looking for over the next three days:

Griffin
Robert Griffin III's finish: It’s tough when you watch someone just once a week to accurately gauge their progress. Griffin has had some good moments and not-so-good ones, but watching over three days will reveal more about where he’s at in terms of his passing. Has he remained consistent with his fundamentals? Is the accuracy more consistent? What we still won’t see until games begin is the ability to extend plays, which is a huge part of his game. But a good week for Griffin would propel him into the final month before camp with a lot of momentum, capping what has been a productive offseason for him. Don't know what that will mean for the season, but he'll exit this offseason feeling much, much different than he did a year ago at this time for a variety of reasons.

Offensive design: During the OTAs, we saw a lot of situational football – red zone, third downs, two minutes, etc. Hoping we get to see even more, to get a better sense of who the Redskins might be this season. Thus far, Griffin has operated a lot under center and in shotgun during certain situations. Coach Jay Gruden sounds intent on developing him, so this helps. (Not that the other staff didn’t want to develop him; it had Griffin as a rookie and then with no offseason. Tough to develop a player who can’t practice. How it would have handled it I don’t know.)

Rookie improvement: Rookie tackle Morgan Moses knows the issue he has with staying low and has worked on it since the OTAs started. Over three days, how much improvement will he show? How about Trent Murphy? His spin move has been terrific (mostly against young players); how much else will he show? Bashaud Breeland seems to have improved and, with Tracy Porter’s durability an issue, he could be a plus for the Redskins. But is he still grabbing too much? It’s hard with the running backs to tell a whole lot, so Lache Seastrunk’s true impact won’t be known until the games start. Thus far he hasn’t stood out. Is guard Spencer Long looking more comfortable?

Hatcher
Hatcher
Defensive looks: How are they using their personnel? Will they really be doing a lot of different things this season? Or is it just offseason chatter? Won’t know for a while on that, but we’ll get to see more of what they plan to do. In some cases it’s not about having different looks, it’s about – they hope – having better rushers with the addition of Murphy and Jason Hatcher.

Offensive line: There will be an interesting battle along the line this summer, even if it’s just for one of the backup positions (especially at guard). If the Redskins keep nine offensive linemen, that means two players from this group might not make it: Mike McGlynn, Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus, Maurice Hurt and Tom Compton. This assumes Chris Chester keeps his job (not a lock). And they’re not going to cut Long or Moses. Remember, they signed McGlynn in free agency and his ability to play center helps. The others have some work to do.

David Amerson’s progression: He’s had a quiet camp and I mean that in a good way. It’s not like he’s messing up or getting beat and looks lost. Does that continue this week? Amerson’s continued improvement (plus a lack of cap room) is among the reasons the Redskins are not one of the teams who have inquired about recently released corner Brandon Flowers, according to a source.

DeSean Jackson: Needs to make sure he exits these three days with a good hamstring. If he’s fully recovered, it’s always impressive to watch his speed. He’s not the fastest player I’ve ever covered (Darrell Green), but he is explosive.

Coordinator chatter: We should get our first chance to interview special teams coach Ben Kotwica this week, as well as defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Will be nice to finally hear more of what they think about their groups after the spring workouts end.
The Redskins will work out veteran outside linebacker Quentin Groves on Thursday, one day after he visited with New England, according to multiple sources.

While it's always good to work out certain players just in case down the road something occurs, you don't bring in just-released veterans at this time unless you're interested in possibly bringing them to training camp. Or think they could make your roster.

A lot has to happen before leapfrogging to what it means for certain players. Groves has to be signed, for instance. The Redskins could decide he's not better than their current options at outside linebacker.

Groves is a journeyman linebacker, having played with four teams in six years (Jacksonville, Oakland, Arizona, Cleveland). He lasted just one season in his past two stops (Cardinals and Browns). And he has 8.5 career sacks.

The Redskins are set with their top three outside linebackers in Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy. It's possible they'll keep just one more outside linebacker and, right now, the choice would be between Rob Jackson and Brandon Jenkins. The second-year Jenkins still has a ways to go and is far from a lock to make the roster. The Redskins would likely keep nine linebackers at the most, so there's a chance they'd go with four on the outside and five inside.

Groves was a special teams captain with Cleveland last season. Jenkins did not play well on special teams as a rookie, one big reason he was not on the active roster more often for games. The Redskins have made bolstering special teams a priority this offseason.

A severely sprained ankle limited Groves to five games in 2013. He needed offseason surgery, but had been practicing with the Browns in the offseason.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

June, 7, 2014
Jun 7
10:00
AM ET
In Round 2, the questions again range all over the place from Robert Griffin III's next contract to the right tackle situation. Enjoy.
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Redskins mailbag: Part 1

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
2:20
PM ET
The Washington Redskins' special teams were a disaster (in case you had forgotten) last season. What is different? That is one question I answer in the Friday mailbag, along with ones about coaching linebackers, Trent Murphy, and who I would rather hang out with and talk football: Johnn Manziel or Matthew McConaughey? Yes, that was a question. Enjoy
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ASHBURN, Va. -- One addition could lead to better individual play. The other could be seen as insurance for his potential departure. Both could help Brian Orakpo in the short term, and that's all he's worried about.

In fact, Orakpo said he never viewed rookie Trent Murphy as anything other than a guy who could help now. He said he did not wonder if Murphy was drafted to be his eventual replacement.

[+] EnlargeWashington's Brian Orakpo
AP Photo/Michael PerezBrian Orakpo views the additions of rookie Trent Murphy and outside linebackers coach Brian Baker as a sign that better days are in the immediate future for the Redskins' pass rush.
"That's the last thing I'm thinking of," Orakpo said. "That's the first time I even thought about that to be honest with you."

Orakpo said Murphy's addition was necessary. So, too, was outside linebackers coach Brian Baker's. And Orakpo said both can help him -- and Ryan Kerrigan -- have more of an impact this season.

First, Baker. Here's the list of pass rushers he's worked with in the past: Charles Johnson, Julius Peppers, DeMarcus Ware and La'Roi Glover. How much did he mold their games? Tough to say, but clearly Baker can pass along tips he picked up working with those players onto the Redskins' linebackers.

"Just pass-rush concepts, man," Orakpo said. "Not just being an athlete. All kinds of different stuff he learned coaching guys throughout his years. Hand usage. Hand placement. I'm a momentum type of pass rusher. Now he's trying to teach a guy like myself proper hand placement and not being so wild at times when I'm rushing.

"We've been doing a lot of techniques. Any time we got a break, me and Baker are going at it doing different techniques, working different hand placements, working half of the offensive tackle or the tight end. Just trying to get better."

It's different.

"I haven't done this before," Orakpo said. "This is brand new for me. I'm excited. It will get all of us better and get all of us to another level. It comes with years of experience, always trying to incorporate something new in your game. I'm excited Baker is here and also that [Kirk Olivadotti] is here because he's teaching the inside linebackers a lot of new things as well that we were accustomed to my first year. Those guys are huge assets."

That's how Orakpo views Murphy, chosen in the second round last month. Orakpo said one word came to mind when they picked him: Depth.

While many will debate whether Murphy was the right choice, the bottom line is the Redskins needed another pass rusher. Just adding Jason Hatcher in the offseason would not provide enough of a boost, or depth, in this area.

"It's all about getting another guy to come in and create havoc," Orakpo said. "Depth is huge. You need three or four pass rushers that can go. This team has relied on me and Ryan doing the dirty work. But every other team has three to four guys ready to rock and roll. You saw what Seattle did bringing three or four guys, moving my boy Michael Bennett around. Cliff Avril on one side, Chris Clemons one side. Just moving guys all over the place. ... We finally got the big picture and got someone in here."

It's no secret what the Redskins want to do: tap into the three linebackers' versatility. That's evident in practice as each of them has lined up all over the place. The goal: pressure with four or, at most, five. You can be aggressive without always having to blitz. Washington blitzed more in 2012 in part because it lost Orakpo and Adam Carriker to injuries. But it left a weak secondary susceptible.

"If you pressure with four guys, you have a much better chance," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "You saw the success Seattle had -- they very seldom blitz. We have the ability with four, five guys that we have being able to rush the passer, keeping them fresh -- that we can get pressure."

If that's the case, then Orakpo likely would receive the sort of long-term contract he desires from Washington. He made it clear a long time ago he'd still like a long-term deal and that not having one wouldn't impact his approach, or desire to attend workouts. He'd still like one before the season, but Gruden said long ago he's fine with letting him play the season out on the franchise tag. Other members of the organization said it's conceivable the Redskins will keep all three pass rushers beyond this season.

For now, Orakpo's concern is 2014.

"Don't look into the one-year-left-rookie-drafted [storyline]," Orakpo said. "We have to look at this year and trying to get to that Super Bowl. Forget about the future. That's just business. Business will take care of itself. We're trying to make noise this year."
They wanted more versatility, giving them the ability to fool the quarterback or at least make him wonder. And that would give the rush an extra second, they hope, to make a difference.

"As you know, great quarterbacks," Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said last week, "if you're vanilla, they will kill you. So we have to be exotic a little bit here and there. But also sound in what we do."

[+] EnlargeWashington's Brian Orakpo
AP Photo/Michael PerezCan Brian Orakpo & Co. give coordinator Jim Haslett a bevy of options to work with in the coming season?
The latter part has been an issue for a while. The ability to be exotic will help coordinator Jim Haslett, but it won't cure all. Still, is the Redskins' defense more versatile?

Let's take a look:

The Redskins do have some versatility up front. Chris Baker can line up at either end or nose tackle and can play in the nickel. Barry Cofield plays nose, but can rush in nickel. Jason Hatcher can play end and serve as a legitimate interior rusher.

Stephen Bowen's effectiveness as a rusher decreased the past two years and he's now coming off an injury. So it's tough to include him with the others for now. Jarvis Jenkins can play either end, but has yet to prove he's a quality pass-rusher.

Still, they do have more versatility along the front with an improved Baker and the addition of Hatcher. Is it enough?

They also have it at outside linebacker where they now have three players who can line up in a variety of ways to rush the passer with Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and now Trent Murphy. All three are fine rushing with their hand down or standing up; from both sides or even through the middle. Now, whether Murphy will be effective in doing so, it's impossible to say without having seen him in a game. But, in theory, it provides options for Haslett and the ability to use different looks and a better variety of blitzes.

But what that group offers is not just the ability to move around, but to provide different looks for a tackle (or even a guard). After blocking Orakpo much of the game, a left tackle might not be prepared for, say, Murphy's spin move. They can throw a curve at a player just by sending someone different at the right time. At least that's what the Redskins hope. Everything always sounds good at this time of the year.

I'm not sold yet that Brandon Jenkins is at this point; need to see more proof of his versatility. Rob Jackson can help, but he's not as versatile as the others.

They do have some versatility at corner with a couple players having the ability to line up at safety. Both DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers have done so in the past, though there's a difference between lining up there and being effective in this role. Neither is really a great option back there to defend the run, but in providing a different look in coverage? Sure. It's also about being able to play different coverages and they'll have to prove they can; too many teams picked them apart last season and it wasn't just because of the rush.

Also, one reason they wanted to draft corner David Amerson was his ability to perhaps do the same thing. He did not do this as a rookie. He has the skills to be more versatile, but I'd worry about the eye discipline among other things needed to handle this role. But it's a next logical step for him. Rookie Bashaud Breeland could develop here, but he needs to learn corner first -- and how to play it without being too grabby.

However, they don't have the versatility at safety. They lack a starting player who can cover man to man (we have no idea yet what Tanard Jackson still has left, let alone if he'll even start or can handle such a role). Brandon Meriweather did enable them to sometimes run different coverages because he had the speed others did not to get to vacated areas -- like when they want to blitz a corner from the outside, not just the slot. But he's far removed from his Pro Bowl days, so mistakes are made and tackles are missed.

Ryan Clark's strength was always in being in the right place at the right time, dissuading the quarterback from challenging his area. He's lasted this long because he's smart. If he does that again, the Redskins would be happy. But occasionally covering man-to-man? That's different. And if the Redskins want to grow the defense the next step is finding someone who can. The more versatile the secondary is, the more you can throw off a quarterback with various looks.
 

Thoughts and observations from the Redskins OTA session Thursday (taking a look at big picture things here rather than practice plays made in the spring):

  1. Robert Griffin III worked on being more consistent with his mechanics in the offseason and there was a difference. The past two years his base was wider as the Redskins wanted to shorten the stride. He also got into a habit of holding the ball lower, leading to a longer windup when he threw.
  2. But in practice Thursday, Griffin held the ball higher – at the top of the numbers. He also threw with a more narrow base. He likes doing this because he feels more free, giving him the ability to bounce the pocket a little better. Not every quarterback throws with the same base, much like not every hitter uses the same stance at the plate.
  3. [+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
    AP Photo/Richard LipskiRobert Griffin III showed off his new throwing mechanics during practice on Thursday.
    Griffin also was throwing more over the top; less windup. So the ball came out a little quicker. He was not always accurate, but he was not off as much as he was, say, last summer when coming back in training camp. And keep in mind that even as a rookie in practice Griffin would have off days throwing the ball.
  4. Regardless, Griffin’s fundamentals were more consistent than they were during the season. The key will be transferring it to the season when it gets chaotic in the pocket.
  5. His weight transfer was different as well; much more quiet but a definite transfer. Saw it on a deep ball to receiver DeSean Jackson.
  6. Griffin escaped the pocket on one play and looked like he was going to tuck and run. But he pulled up before he crossed the line and hit Pierre Garcon along the sidelines.
  7. Keenan Robinson lined up next to Perry Riley with the No. 1 defense. It’s only May, but it’s still telling when considering that he missed all of last season and part of his rookie year. They also signed Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan, who worked with the second team. Adam Hayward also worked some with the second team at inside linebacker.
  8. The linebackers’ versatility will be a huge part of the defense this season, as you would expect. The key is that they now have three outside linebackers – Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy -- who are comfortable with their hands in the dirt, rushing from a two-point stance or dropping into coverage.
  9. Murphy beat Tom Compton during 11-on-11 work with a quick spin move to the inside. For a tall guy, Murphy does a nice job staying low on his spin.
  10. Second-year linebacker Brandon Jenkins was mostly limited to rushing the passer last season, but saw him in coverage some Thursday.
  11. Here are the players I saw returning kicks Thursday: Lache Seastrunk, Chris Thompson, Nick Williams, Andre Roberts and Rashad Ross.
  12. Chris Baker lined up at left end with the starting defense (keep in mind Stephen Bowen can’t work). Chris Neild was in the middle with Barry Cofield sidelined (hernia surgery) and Jason Hatcher was on the right side.
  13. Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland still needs to be less grabby. Saw him tugging Santana Moss’ jersey downfield before the veteran caught the ball. Saw Breeland tugging other jerseys as they broke on a route (after the allotted five yards of contact). Not sure all the receivers quite appreciated his hands.
  14. Breeland was beaten on a double move by receiver Pierre Garcon. One thing Breeland said he needed to do was to keep his eyes on his man. He lost him this time, peeking too long into the backfield and awaiting a throw that wasn’t coming. Instead, it turned into an easy deep completion.
  15. Maurice Hurt worked at right tackle with the third unit. Josh LeRibeus worked at left guard with the second unit.
  16. Jackson’s speed was evident, especially on an end around. He was in traffic as he ran around the end, on the side opposite the media so it was hard to tell who it was at first. But he was moving at a different speed, which was the first clue as to who it was.
  17. Corner Chase Minnifield will get into a lot of tussles this camp – a safe prediction. He nearly got into one with tight end Niles Paul Thursday. Minnifield is physical and feisty and that will never please those running routes in practice. This time, Minnifield was grabbing Paul on the entire route and at the end Paul shoved him. Minnifield bounced up and shoved him back. It didn’t escalate.
  18. Minnifield did pick off a Kirk Cousins pass in zone coverage. Minnifield sank deep on the route and grabbed a pass that was intended for Williams.
  19. It was tough to see running back Chris Thompson’s speed last season, whether in spring, summer or before he was shut down during the season. He was coming off a knee injury. But he’s a year removed from that injury and the speed was more evident. Still worry about his durability, but he looked fast after running with a pass in the open field (during a spring practice).
  20. Safety Tanard Jackson ran with the third defense.
  21. Corner David Amerson looks more comfortable in press coverage and is using his long arms to his advantage when jamming receivers. Saw him do this a couple times, showing good technique and not getting beat in this look. It’s something he needed to work on as a rookie and I’m sure the learning curve will continue. But with his length and speed it’s a necessary tactic for him to learn.

 
A little this and that for a Thursday morning:
  • In case you missed it, here are the rookies I took a look at in terms of how they fit with Washington now and in the future: Trent Murphy, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long, Bashaud Breeland, Ryan Grant, Lache Seastrunk and Ted Bolser.
  • The one rookie I did not go over in-depth is kicker Zach Hocker. It’s simple: He might not be needed now because they already have a place-kicker in Kai Forbath. It’s not like you typically groom kickers to replace a guy when he becomes a free agent. Yes, coach Jay Gruden said he’d consider keeping two kickers, but that means cutting from another position. So it’s usually simple in these situations: If Hocker outperforms Forbath, he’ll win the job. Practice will matter -- if a guy looks as bad as Shayne Graham did in practice a few years ago, they'll matter quite a bit -- but the games count more. Every single coach I've covered has looked at it that way.
  • I’d be more concerned about the punting situation considering the Redskins lack a proven punter. It’s an issue. Robert Malone has experience (157 punts), but was sporadic; too many line drive returnable punts that offset booming ones. For a team desperate to fix special teams, the lack of action here has been curious.
  • With the media allowed to watch our first OTA session today, here’s a primer I wrote on what I’ll be looking for. It’s a long list, so it’s really something to watch over the course of the next few weeks and in minicamp. My main focus Thursday: Robert Griffin III. His progress is sort of important to the season, don’t you think?
  • Another area to watch: inside linebacker. If Keenan Robinson is healthy and knows the defense, he’s definitely a strong candidate to start. Teammates and coaches have always praised his talent, but those torn pecs keep sidelining him. However, he can move and if he proves he can play the run well, then they have an every-down linebacker.
  • If Perry Riley doesn’t rebound with a better season, the Redskins do have more options between Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan. But if the Redskins didn’t value Riley, they wouldn’t have signed him to a decent contract. (He’ll count $3 million against the cap this season; not prohibitive, but the most expensive inside linebacker they have.) They should not make decisions on starters based on contracts, but it is an indication of their thoughts on a player (not to mention the market). But there’s no doubt they want more from him than he delivered last season.
  • One name I left off the list the other day: safety Tanard Jackson. It’s really hard to measure a safety until the games begin, but it’ll be interesting to see how he’s moving around after two seasons away from the game. ESPN980’s Chris Russell tweeted last night that a source told him that Jackson has been “awesome.”
  • Veterans, if they’re trying hard, should stand out at this time of the year. (I always go back to receiver James Thrash; used to look great in the spring and then in training camp and we’d hear about a possible big role. Then he’d go back to his usual role.)
  • The point is, we need to see the safeties come up against the run and tackle; see their recognition at game speed. But if Jackson moves around well, that’s a good start. Jackson was starting to play well when suspended in 2012. It would still be hard to rely on him, but if he gets close to what he was then if nothing else he’s a better backup than what they currently have.
  • Another point to make: For all that will be written and said during the spring, nothing really matters until August and they’re in full pads. But this is also the time of year when players are optimistic, having worked on some aspect of their game in the offseason that provides them – and the team – some level of hope.
  • Off topic, but it’s noteworthy because it involves an NFC East rival. Sean Lee has missed a lot of time for the Cowboys – a combined 15 games the past two seasons. So they’re used to playing without him. However, I wonder if they needed to rely on him more this season because of what else they lost. Here’s a look at their situation.

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