Washington Redskins: Tyler Polumbus

Morgan Moses knew what he had to do shortly after arriving in Washington. And the point was driven home whenever he faced the veterans.

The 6-foot-8 Moses needs to play smaller. Or, at least, lower.

[+] EnlargeMorgan Moses
AP Photo/ Evan VucciMorgan Moses, right, will continue to work on his blocking technique before training camp opens.
“It’s very hard,” Moses said. “The one thing that I opened my eyes to is that a lot of things I got away with in college because I was so much stronger and bigger than everybody, you’re not going to get away with here. So being able to work on those techniques and staying low every day, working three times harder at your craft is something that will allow me to get better.”

Moses was projected by some as a potential first-round pick. But his college tape showed enough flaws in his game that he lasted until the Redskins selected him in the third round. One of those issues: staying low. Moses too often would bend at the waist. His long arms bailed him out of trouble, but if he had to move his feet to recover it was difficult. That was evident throughout the spring, though he cut down the number of times this occurred.

“His length saved him in college,” Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster said. “He relied on his long arms and being high didn’t matter as much. Now he’s playing guys who have just as much or more athleticism, just as much strength and speed so he has to be exact in his technique. Morgan’s not alone in that.”

Moses said he tried to focus staying low in everything he did, whether it was while working in the weight room or during individual drills.

During minicamp, Moses said, “I find myself getting lower. It might not be extremely low, but if I can work a notch down than I was yesterday I’m getting better.”

These lessons will continue when training camp opens next month in Richmond. If Moses wants to someday supplant Tyler Polumbus at right tackle, he’ll have to keep improving. The 6-foot-8 Polumbus has had to undergo the same transition.

But if Moses keeps bending at the waist he’ll keep getting in trouble.

“When you bend at the waist, your feet don’t move as well. So in trying to get lower sometimes they don’t bend, they lean,” Foerster said, “and when they lean the feet don’t move. When your weight is out too far over your knees, it’s physics. Your feet don’t move as well.”

The key for Moses will be limiting how often that happens. If he can, he has a chance to become a quality starter someday.

Redskins starting lineup: Offense

June, 25, 2014
Jun 25
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The Washington Redskins changed head coaches and, at least in the passing game, philosophies. But they didn't do a whole lot to the lineup with only two new starters (and one changed starter). But new coach Jay Gruden inherited an offensive lineup that already had key parts in place, almost all of whom were young. However, if the offense doesn't do better than the 20.9 points per game it averaged in 2013 (ranked 23rd; they were ninth in yards per game; points matter a lot more) there will be more changes.

Here is a look at their starting offensive unit after the offseason workouts (I'll look at the starting defense Thursday):

Offense

Quarterback: Robert Griffin III
Running back: Alfred Morris
Wide receiver: DeSean Jackson
Wide receiver: Pierre Garcon
Tight end: Jordan Reed
Tight end: Logan Paulsen
Left tackle: Trent Williams
Left guard: Shawn Lauvao
Center: Kory Lichtensteiger
Right guard: Chris Chester
Right tackle: Tyler Polumbus
Change from 2013: Lauvao and Jackson are the only new starters. Lichtensteiger shifted from left guard to center.

Note: I did not include a starting fullback because they will likely use two-tight-end sets more often, but obviously Darrel Young is their fullback. Last season in Cincinnati, then-offensive coordinator Gruden used two tight ends more than any other formation on first down (229 times; next highest was three receivers and one tight end at 112 times). Also last season, Cincinnati’s fullback played 63 snaps -- but received 206 snaps in 2012. Young is better than what the Bengals had, and his blocking was a key element in the Redskins’ run game, which will stay about the same. Still, I would not put him as a heavy participant and, therefore, not a starter. As for position battles, the one to watch for me is right guard. Also, I think Lichtensteiger is well suited for center, but if he struggles then Mike McGlynn has experience there as well -- and by all accounts performed much better at this position than at guard.

Spring standout: Jackson. When healthy, that is. But it was clear the sort of difference he could make because of his speed. The coaches definitely came away thinking he is for real, not that they were surprised considering his past.

Average age at start of camp: 27.09

Combined Pro Bowls: 7. Jackson (three), Williams (two), Morris (one), Griffin (one).

Starters 30 or older: 1 (Chester).

Something to prove: Tyler Polumbus

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
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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: Right tackle Tyler Polumbus.

Polumbus
Why he has something to prove: Because Polumbus is in the final year of his contract and will be under heavy scrutiny all season, with a potential replacement behind him in rookie Morgan Moses. Keep in mind that Moses did not look close to being ready this spring -- even at the end -- and likely will take a year or so to be ready for a starting job. It’ll be interesting to see how far along third-year Tom Compton is as well; coach Jay Gruden praised him unprompted in a news conference last week. So the Redskins might -- I stress might -- have alternatives if Polumbus struggles. However, Polumbus improved in 2013 over '12, getting better at using his hands (keeping them tighter to better control linemen). Many fans have his 2012 season too etched in their memories. There's no doubt he needs to improve and opinions on him were split at Redskins Park this offseason. But he was better this past fall than the previous year (when he was bad). But he's playing for a new contract, whether with Washington or someone else.

What he needs to do: Redskins offensive line coach Chris Foerster said, “Some things that were glaring weaknesses in '12 he fixed a lot of them in '13. I'll never say he fixed it completely, but hand placement was something he did improve. ... He made a huge jump... It helped him a lot. [Attacking] their counter is the next step. ...I don't want to tell anyone what his problems are. But he did fix the problem. The next step is, 'OK, so now I'm doing this, these are the things that come along with that.' Tyler is very aware."

In other words: He has to get better. He didn't always play with strength and would allow defenders into his chest. He's not a long-armed tackle who can still block rushers with his arms wide. If he allows them into his chest, he’s in trouble. That’s one area he cut down on, but needs to keep doing so. Polumbus was also beaten wide on a few occasions. Just know that in re-watching the sacks on Robert Griffin III from this past season, I saw left tackle Trent Williams responsible for as many issues as Polumbus. That's not to say the latter played better, but that he was not the issue many say. Still, he needs to improve. It will impact his ability to hold onto the starting job as well as earn a new contract.

Projection: Starting right tackle. Unless Compton looks ready, and it's impossible to say that after not having seen him in game action since last summer, then Polumbus will be the guy.

Analyzing the Redskins' salary cap

June, 16, 2014
Jun 16
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Not a lot going on, so it's a good time to catch up on some salary-cap numbers and scenarios. All numbers are from ESPN Stats & Information:

Cap space available: The Redskins have $2,551,306 left against the salary cap. Only three teams have less room against the cap (Detroit, New Orleans and San Diego). The Giants have $6.9 million available, but both Dallas ($10.2 million) and Philadelphia ($20.2 million) are in strong shape. Don’t forget, teams can carry cap space into next season. Also, as of now only the top 51 players count against the cap in the offseason.

[+] EnlargeStephen Bowen
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins would save $5.5 million against the cap if they cut Stephen Bowen after this season.
Cap savings: If the Redskins really wanted to save a few extra dollars, they could always look at right guard Chris Chester. If they cut him, it would save $2.7 million against the cap. But, again, someone has to beat him out. If they felt that confident about someone else they likely would have made a move by now. But they do have some young options here between rookie Spencer Long and third-year players Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis. However, while Long obviously has never played, the other two have limited experience. Tyler Polumbus' release would save $1.5 million, but that means that either rookie Morgan Moses or third-year Tom Compton is ready to start. It’s hard to imagine Moses being at that point and Compton was not there at the end of last season.

Another place that will be interesting is the defensive line. The Redskins kept six at this spot each of the past three seasons. If they only keep that many this year, it means a veteran could be in trouble. They clearly aren’t going to cut Barry Cofield, Jason Hatcher or Chris Baker. Also, as long as Stephen Bowen is healthy he’ll stick around.

Yes, the Redskins could have re-worked his deal (which counts $7.02 million against the cap) but they have wisely been reluctant to spread money into the future for players who may only be around another year or so. That’s the case with Bowen. He has one year left on his contract and is coming off microfracture surgery. I don’t care how optimistic you are about him, can you trust he’ll be around and playing at a solid level in two years? No. The way they’ve done things in the past they could ask him to take a pay cut, but they typically did that before this point. Just so you know: Bowen would save $5.5 million against the cap if cut after this season.

So if Bowen sticks, that gives the Redskins four. If they keep six again, that means they’d have room for two among Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golston and Clifton Geathers. Here’s the savings for each player: Geathers ($600,000), Golston ($1,005,000), Jenkins ($1,027,184). Nose tackle Chris Neild also would be in trouble. His savings would be $645,000.

Highest paid: Brian Orakpo ($11,455,000) followed by Trent Williams ($10,980,393). By the way, both players will count more against the cap than all the players at five other positions: safeties ($5.1 million), tight ends ($4 million), running backs $5.6 million), quarterback ($7.1 million) and cornerback ($8.6 million).

Lowest-paid starters: Running back Alfred Morris will count $600,775 against the salary cap. Next up: safety Ryan Clark ($635,000) and tight end Jordan Reed ($642,778). Clark’s base salary is $955,000, but he counts less because of the veteran minimum cap benefit.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

June, 7, 2014
Jun 7
10:00
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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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Some leftover thoughts and observations from Washington Redskins OTAs and this week:
  1. There's little doubt that Robert Griffin III likes receiving attention. But he wants it to be for his performance and not for his knee, his relationship with the coach or bad play. So it's no surprise that he likes the fact that he's just one of the storylines this offseason and not the only one. That was the case last season, not to mention two years ago as well (in a much more positive way).
  2. But, while he no doubt likes this, his teammates have to be thrilled. They clearly were tired of the questions surrounding his knee and whether he'd be ready and then whether he was himself. It lasted a loooong time and a number of players were worn down by all the questions. It's a little thing, but having Griffin out of the constant spotlight allows him to be more of a normal teammate. He will always command a certain level of attention because of the position he plays (and for who he is).
  3. It'll also be different this year because Griffin will be more available than in the past. The Redskins protected him quite heavily the first two years, wanting to limit how long he spoke and preventing 1-on-1 interviews -- except for perhaps during the bye week. He spoke after games and on Wednesdays only. It led to a feeling of him being off-limits; it was different than for any player I'd ever covered. Now? It's normal. He'll be available throughout the week. I don't think it will necessarily lead to more stories on him, either.
  4. There just aren't the storylines surrounding him to be that way. But it makes him like any other player. In fairness, the first two years there were many requests for his time. But some in the organization, who are no longer here, went overboard.
  5. I forgot to include this yesterday, but tight end Niles Paul has now gotten into two near scrapes in the OTAs open to the media. Last week you could blame Chase Minnifield's feistiness for Paul being upset. Wednesday, Paul was upset with linebacker Adam Hayward (a fellow special teamer) after a play. I didn't see what happened, but heard a lot of players yelling to, 'Stay up! Stay on your feet!' I think Paul tripped over Hayward. The two jawed at one another for a second or so before fullback Darrel Young pulled Paul away. Paul broke free from him. Nothing more happened (but when Hayward joined other linebackers on the sidelines, they slapped hands with him).
  6. I don't know what the Redskins will look like on Sundays under Jay Gruden. At this point they're still just installing plays; have no idea which ones they like or ultimately will use. But safe to say they have the talent to spread teams out and then hit them with draws. It's what rookie running back Lache Seastrunk was used to doing at Baylor. No idea yet if he can play in the NFL, but it makes sense why they drafted him.
  7. Defensive end Clifton Geathers is a tall man. At 6-foot-8, safe to say he's taller than the average end. In fact, there are only two players currently on an NFL roster taller than Geathers (there are three others who are 6-foot-8). It's difficult to play with leverage at such a height and Geathers has to work hard to stay low (tough to do). The same is true of 6-foot-8 offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus.
  8. I did not put this in Wednesday's notes, either, but just for clarification's sake: Last week it appeared Bashaud Breeland was beaten by Pierre Garcon on a double move. Turns out he was supposed to have safety help, so it wasn't his fault. Looked like Breeland did a nice job in the session we could watch this week (they did not do 1-on-1 drills with the receivers, but in fairness those are designed for the offense to have more success).

Redskins sign Morgan Moses

May, 29, 2014
May 29
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The Washington Redskins have no more rookies left to sign. Offensive tackle Morgan Moses signed his contract Thursday morning, becoming the eighth and final Redskins rookie to do so in the past two weeks.

Washington had signed seven of its eight draft picks before this week; Moses completes the group. His contract will be comparable to what Oakland linebacker Sio Moore received as the 66th pick in 2013: four years and $3.05 million. Moore's signing bonus was $690,832, so Moses' will be similar to that as well.

Moses started at left tackle in 2013 for Virginia, but will play on the right side for Washington. The Redskins already have Tyler Polumbus at that position, but he's entering the final year of his deal. If Moses does not unseat him this year, they'd clearly like to have him ready to start in 2015. Moses is participating in spring workouts, which continue Thursday and last for the next two weeks before the mandatory minicamp.

Here's a scouting report on Moses -- and another on how he might fit in now and in the future.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

May, 17, 2014
May 17
10:00
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For Part 2 of the Redskins mailbag, we're talking Robert Griffin III and the Hall of Fame (what!?), which offensive alignments the Redskins might favor, defensive sets against Philadelphia, the offensive line and more. Enjoy.
video The pick: Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia

My take: Had the Washington Redskins selected Moses at No. 34, or maybe even 47, I don't think I would have liked the move. At 34, you need to get a player close to being a starter, whether from Day 1 or not. But, certainly, at some point in their rookie year they need to be a key contributor, especially as a right tackle.

After watching Moses' games, however, he did not seem like a player close to being ready to start. There was too much inconsistency. He did fare well against some good pass-rushers, but he also struggled to play with his knees bent and that led to problems.

In the third round, he's excellent value. If Moses takes to NFL coaching, then the Redskins possibly have talented bookends at tackle.

But if not? They'll be back in this spot again in a couple of years.

New line: The Redskins did not view their line as the problem everyone else did after last season. Or so some in the organization said. However, they clearly weren't content, either. In reality, it was as bad as they thought considering 60 percent of their starting five might change from last season.

Drafting Moses serves as more evidence that they wanted a lot more from their front five.

If Moses develops and ends up starting this season, then there would be new players at two positions with a third playing a new spot. The only players in their same spot from last year are left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Chris Chester.

For now, Tyler Polumbus will remain the starting right tackle, as he probably should. It's hard to imagine Moses progressing fast enough to bump him right away. But Polumbus is unsigned after this season. The Redskins perhaps didn't see the line as a huge issue, but it's clear something had to change.

What's next: The Redskins own another pick in the third round, the 78th overall. They had been actively trying to trade, perhaps to add more picks. They still need to add depth at corner, safety, tight end and running back (a pass catcher).
Taking a look at the ways the Washington Redskins could go not only in the second round Friday, but beyond -- and why.

Right tackle

The case for: Tyler Polumbus is not the long-term answer and, in fact, his contract is up after this season. Though he improved last season, it's clear the organization would like an upgrade. They could find a future starter -- whether Day 1 or not remains to be seen -- at 34. Or they could find a guy who might take a year or so after the second round.

The case against: Tough to make a case against drafting a right tackle, especially because there are some good ones available at that spot. That, combined with a need for the position -- even if Polumbus starts they need his eventual replacement.

Names to watch: Cyrus Kouandjio. The main reason he's available is because of questions surrounding his knees. But he was also inconsistent in pass protection (much better against the run), another reason he fell. Some teams have definitely been scared off because of his knees -- he has a degenerative issue with his knees, according to ESPN's Stephanie Bell. But he's also had no problems since his 2011 ACL surgery and, in fact, never missed a practice, had pain or swelling. So there's a risk-reward here and some positive signs mixed with concerns. And the Redskins' relationship with Dr. James Andrews, whose office performed the surgery on Kouandjio, is important and helpful here. If he can't play tackle, Nevada's Joel Bitonio, could move easily to guard. They also showed interest in Jack Mewhort, Morgan Moses and Antonio Richardson. I would not draft Mewhort or Richardson at 34; Moses' ability suggests he should go the highest of these three. We'll see.

Receiver

The case for: The Redskins need depth with Leonard Hankerson still uncertain following ACL surgery. Aldrick Robinson is entering the last year of his contract, too. Both have shown flashes but for one reason or another (yes, injuries a part) haven't put it together. Also, if the receiver they pick can return punts and kicks, that's even better.

The case against: They have three starting receivers -- and all are under contract for the next three seasons. Whoever they get, barring injuries, would end up being a No. 3 at best.

Names to watch: Marqise Lee is still available. But this is a deep draft at receiver so finding one after the second round is a distinct possibility. They also expressed interest in receiver Cody Latimer before the draft. He's an interesting player, faster than realized given how he was used at Indiana and because of injuries.

Tight end

The case for: Washington can use another pass catcher opposite Jordan Reed. Logan Paulsen is a blocker and an occasional pass threat, but they could use more given Reed's durability issues. Niles Paul remains on the roster, but is a free agent after this season.

The case against: Tough to make a strong case against adding another one at some point. At 34? Seems a big stretch considering Reed would still be the primary target if healthy. But in the third or fourth round? Sure.

Name to watch: Jace Amaro. More of a guy who would line up wide, but has definite receiving skills.

Running back

The case for: They clearly would like another pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Alfred Morris is set as the full-time ballcarrier, but Roy Helu is not set as the third-down back.

The case against: The second round is too high for this position given the needs elsewhere. But if they pick up another third? Then this spot becomes one worth watching (though the fourth round is fine here as well).

Names to watch: De'Anthony Thomas, Dri Archer, Charles Sims, George Atkinson III.

Guard

The case for: Though the Redskins signed Shawn Lauvao, they still have questions inside. Chris Chester, who struggled last year, returns. The Redskins could opt to draft another player here and plug them in immediately. Chester would then be in jeopardy of losing his job (releasing him would save the Redskins $2.7 million against the salary cap.

The case against: They did invest inside during free agency and still need a right tackle. For them to take a guard in the second round, it would have to be someone who was head and shoulders above.

Names to watch: Xavier Su'a-Filo. The UCLA guard is No. 1 on Mel Kiper's list at this position. Some tackles, such as Bitonio, might eventually end up at guard. Cyril Richardson has the size to play tackle, but his game might translate more to guard. He's a third-round guy.
It wouldn’t be a so-called sexy pick; it would be one that pleases a lot of Redskins fans apparently. According to our poll this week, the Redskins need to target one position ahead of all others in the second round: right tackle.

In the poll of 3,172 fans (as of 7 a.m. Thursday), 51 percent of those responding said the Redskins should draft a right tackle with the 34th pick overall. Washington does not draft until Friday’s second round begins.

Though the Redskins could go in a number of ways with this selection, the poll was limited to four areas: right tackle, safety, inside linebacker and pass-rusher (which could be an outside linebacker or a down lineman). There was no trade button because the intent was to see which area you most wanted them to address.

There’s a chance they could end up addressing another position with that pick. But these are the four we picked. Of the other three positions, safety received 27 percent of the vote; inside linebacker garnered 12 percent and pass-rusher only 10 percent.

The Redskins visited with a number of right tackles in the pre-draft process, as well as pass-rushers. It would not stun me to see them select a pass-rusher at 34; they do like a number of them. But it also will depend on who falls to this spot.

As for right tackle, the Redskins could use an upgrade (though Tyler Polumbus was better last season than in 2012 and the bulk of the issues were inside). But it’s not a guarantee that a new tackle will start from Day 1, so Polumbus could still be the guy when the season opens.

Here are what some voters had to say (I pulled these from the comments section):
Chris Jackson: “I say draft a DE if he falls or CB. Safety is weak this year and OT is deep find a good 3rd rounder.”

Ray A. Sanders: “They have to go OL, protect RGIII. He has all these weapons but it does him no good running for his life if he’s hurt.”

Phil Adams: “They need a pass rusher. I think there is enough talent on offense for the Redskins to put up a lot of points. They actually put up decent numbers last year, but the D gave up nearly 30 points per game… They need to put pressure on opposing QBs so they don’t continue to tee off on our defense every week.”

A.E. Eckert: “Unless an early 1st round talent at CB, Safety, or ILB falls that far you really want that right tackle. Looking for a Jon Jansen type of player (without the injuries) who can be steady there for a while. Give RG3 the time and he has enough weapons to score points.”

Jason Martin: “I’d grab either a safety or a tackle, but based on BPA first. As long as we pick a good player who can contribute early and don’t reach, I’m happy.”
I'm taking a look at selected players leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8. The reports are based on watching multiple games on draftbreakdown.com; I'll let you know when there is an opinion other than my own. I'm not a fan of having to only watch them off a TV feed -- you don't always get the best angle, or see all the players -- but it's the best I can do now and it helps provide a snapshot. The draft analysts -- especially those from ESPN.com, NFL.com and CBSSports.com -- help fill in the gap, especially in terms of where they are projected.

Kouandjio
Player: Cyrus Kouandjio

School: Alabama

Position: Offensive tackle

College production: Started 26 games the past two years after playing as a reserve during his redshirt freshman season of 2011.

How he’d fit: Kouandjio would eventually become the starting right tackle. How soon? Tough to say, but if he’s picked at 34 it probably wouldn’t be too long before he'd replace Tyler Polumbus. He appeared to be athletic enough to play in a zone system and would give the Redskins a potentially athletic tandem, paired with left tackle Trent Williams.

What I liked: His run blocking. Kouandjio did an excellent job getting his feet in position and then locking on his man. You rarely saw him lose control of his opponent and, in the LSU game this past year, a number of big runs went through his gap and were helped greatly by his blocking. Again, the positioning was good and he also kept his feet moving once he locked onto his man. (He was a soccer player as a kid; I like that if only because it helps with the footwork.) He definitely had some attitude. Saw on a couple screens/draws against Auburn where Kouandjio allowed his man to slip past only to swat him hard to the ground with his right hand. Against LSU I saw him block hard to the whistle -- and then some. Saw it in other games, too, as he showed flashes of an attitude coaches like. He’s athletic and was able to reach linebackers on blocks and even defensive backs. Seemed to have good strength and saw some spin moves fail in part because he knocked his man off stride and had no problems stopping him. Anchored well, especially when balanced and seemed to have strong hands. His athleticism seems to flash more in run blocking than pass protection. But he was mostly fine in pass protection (wish Auburn’s Dee Ford had gone against him). He does have good length, which helps in protection (and saw him use it to his advantage). That plus the fact he is capable of better footwork should lead to more consistency in protection.

What I didn’t: Inconsistent balance, which would get him in trouble in pass protection occasionally. Though he got his feet around on some blocks, his footwork in protection was inconsistent. He could recover at times against lesser competition in college, but it would be an issue to fix in the NFL. At times he blocked hard to the whistle; other times I didn’t see that as much. Against Auburn, I didn’t think he went as hard to the whistle as in other games; also didn’t see him look for someone else to block if he was done with his initial block. He allowed two sacks against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, one coming because he was too flat against a defender who pretty much only attacked wide. Kouandjio at times would block too bent at the waist and with his head down. Again, he compensated with other skills like strength, but in the NFL this will hurt him. Many project him as a right tackle and I could see him having some issues at left tackle with speed rushers just because of his inconsistencies; did see him cross his feet on one pass set, which is a no-no. He’s rather slow, too, (only ran a 5.63 in the 40-yard dash at the combine).

Projection: Late first, early-to-mid second round. Kouandjio left school a year early; he would have been helped in terms of draft stock returning for another year. He also has some medical issues (tore an ACL and MCL in his left knee) that could impact where he goes.

Other players examined:

Kyle Van Noy

Jimmie Ward

Morgan Moses

Demarcus Lawrence

Chris Borland

Charles Sims

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
1:45
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Yes, the draft is (finally) drawing close. And I can tell that by the mailbag questions as most of the queries involve some form of what the Redskins would do in the draft -- or about the pre-draft visits. We'll get three more weeks of draft questions. Can you handle that? Regardless, enjoy.
On the fourth day, it's time to take a look at the Redskins' offensive line and whether it's a spot that's been fixed. I took a look at safety, the pass rush and receiver earlier this week.

What they’ve done: Signed G Shawn Lauvao, G/C Mike McGlynn, released C Will Montgomery, moved Kory Lichtensteiger from LG to C.

Lauvao
McGlynn
Projected starters: LT Trent Williams, LG Lauvao, C Lichtensteiger, RG Chris Chester, RT Tyler Polumbus.

Problem solved: Can’t say that yet. The potential is there, but so are the questions. While there are things to like about Lauvao, he was inconsistent in Cleveland. And, while I’ve long thought Lichtensteiger was best suited for center, we still don’t know how he’ll fare. Keep in mind, too, that it could take time for them to mesh. McGlynn was part of a bad line in Indianapolis; he was better at center than guard. Washington looked at a potential new right tackle in Donald Penn, but did not sign him. The interior struggled more than anywhere last season and that, at least, was addressed. But Chester did not have a good season and, as of now, will return.

What needs to happen: Lauvao needs to become a consistent starter. In watching his games at Cleveland, a couple things jump out. One, he does play with some attitude. Lauvao stuck with pass plays longer than most, so when the quarterback extended a play he stayed with his man. Too often that wasn’t always the case here last season. Lauvao liked the hard shove at the end of a block, almost a punctuation point, and always looked for someone to hit. He also probably led the Browns in helping ball carriers off the ground. Lauvao has longer arms, which always helps. But he sometimes would get too upright and defenders would get into his chest too fast. Lauvao seemed to move well, which should make him a good fit in the outside zone game (as Cleveland coaches felt he would be). He will provide more power at left guard than Lichtensteiger could at 280-285 pounds.

Work also needs to be done at center and right guard. Lichtensteiger’s quickness and smarts should help at center, but he still needs to add 10-15 pounds and show that he can handle snapping and blocking in the pistol. It’s a tough transition for some. And it’s not like blocking out of regular shotgun formation because that’s usually a pass set or draw. You’re not firing off the ball as you need to in pistol. Finally, the right guard spot needs more consistency. If it’s not Chester, then one of the young guards needs to finally show they’re worthy. That means Josh LeRibeus needs a strong offseason; he’s off to a good start by weighing only 317 pounds but now he must sustain and improve his play. Can you trust he’ll be that disciplined each offseason? No, there’s proof to the contrary (college, 2013). Adam Gettis continues to get stronger and that will help. He improved as a run-blocker. Maurice Hurt? I like the other two better, but we’ll see where Hurt is at after losing 2013 to a knee injury. It’s not as if they’re playing behind Pro Bowlers so it will speak volumes if all are backups again. Here’s how it should work: A team drafts players, develops them and when there’s a need one becomes a starter, saving the team from either having to spend for a free agent or to keep a player around at a higher cap figure. That’s not how it’s worked here – yet. Still time. But it's tough to know where these players are at (except for the coaches) because they haven't played substantially since last preseason.

Address in the draft: Yes. The Redskins clearly are not satisfied with Polumbus at right tackle. It’s why they courted Penn and it’s why they’ve held some private pre-draft workouts with, among others, Morgan Moses. That’s smart; the Redskins absolutely need to see if they can upgrade here. Polumbus’ play definitely improved in 2013 and he was clearly not the cause of the offensive issues. Could he have played better? Of course. But to think they’ll suddenly take off as an offense with a new right tackle is silly. If they can’t succeed with the weapons they have added offensively – and with a quarterback once selected No. 2 overall -- then they have far bigger issues than right tackle. Having said all that, if there’s a right tackle they like at No. 34, they should take him. If they added a young athletic talent it would give them quite the bookends. But just remember it will take time for that player to learn. Is Tom Compton in the mix? I think we’ll find out more after the draft, based on what the Redskins do – or don’t do.

The last word: As was evident in 2013, the line struggled in one-on-one pass-rush matchups. It was not a strength. And too often quarterback Robert Griffin III couldn't step into throws because of a tight pocket. But, while giving the quarterback time is a key, no quarterback will ever have all the time he wants. You still have to make plays. The Colts had a horrible line last season, yet still made the playoffs and Andrew Luck still threw 23 touchdowns to only nine interceptions. Russell Wilson was sacked 44 times; he had an excellent season. Heck, two years ago Griffin played behind the same line he did in 2013 and the offense flourished – his impact had a tremendous trickle-down effect. But the reality is, last year he needed more help – both because of physical limitations and where he was at as a pocket passer, facing different coverages and looks and having no offseason to improve -- and certain areas of the line were exposed. He will always need more time than some quarterbacks just because of his ability to extend plays, which is a great asset. (Wilson uses this as well.) It also needs to be pointed out that the run game was productive with this group the past two years; there are other factors involved in that success, just as pass-protection issues are not just the fault of the front five. The line needs to improve, but it'll need help, too, whether from the scheme, game situations or Griffin's growth as a quarterback.
The flurry of signings has slowed to a crawl. So that provides us a chance to take another look at the Redskins’ salary-cap breakdown by position. For the record, Washington has approximately $2.8 million of salary-cap space remaining.

We’re also still in the period of the Rule of 51, where only the top 51 players on a roster count toward the salary cap.

Anyway, here’s an offensive positional rundown on the Redskins’ salary cap. It provides a look at how the Redskins are spending compared to the NFL average -- yes, more than most at receiver, but not at every position. I’ll take a look at the defensive breakdown on Thursday:

Quarterbacks

Number on roster: 3
Total percentage of cap space: 5.49
Total cap value: $7,082,926
NFL average: $11,815,172
Biggest cap hit: Robert Griffin III ($5,759,754)
Underpaid: Tough to say anyone is at this point, but if Griffin plays at a high level this season then it will be him. Eighteen quarterbacks have a higher cap figure than Griffin (No. 1 on the list: Eli Manning at $20.4 million). But that will be a short-term issue.
Looking to the future: The Redskins will have to decide next spring whether to extend Griffin’s contract by one more year. Cousins has two more years left on his rookie deal. McCoy signed a one-year contract.

Running backs

Number on roster: 5
Total percentage of cap space: 3.64
Total cap value: $4,695,484
NFL average: $7,828,161
Biggest cap hit: Roy Helu ($1,548,563)
Underpaid: Obviously Alfred Morris, who will count only $600,775 against the cap this season. He's a bargain: 92 running backs have higher cap numbers than Morris in 2014.
Looking to the future: Morris has two more years on his rookie contract and would require a solid raise. Nobody else really presents an issue, though Helu and Evan Royster both are in the final year of their contracts.

Receivers

Number on roster: 8
Total percentage of cap space: 14.96
Total cap value: $19,282,219
NFL average: $13,283,803
Biggest cap hit: Pierre Garcon ($9.7 million)
Underpaid: Believe it or not, DeSean Jackson. He only counts $4.25 million against the cap this year. There are 30 receivers who have a higher cap figure this season. This is the result of concerns over his work ethic, etc. But as far as on the field, Jackson represents value.
Looking to the future: Garcon has three years left on his contract, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him want an extension before it’s over. Both Garcon and Jackson’s contracts end in 2016. Leonard Hankerson’s rookie deal ends after this season. He has a lot to prove.

Tight ends

Number on roster: 3
Total percentage of cap space: 2.77
Total cap value: $3,569,357
NFL average: $6,254,518
Biggest cap hit: Logan Paulsen ($2,236,666)
Underpaid: Jordan Reed. But the second-year pro has to prove he’s durable. But he’ll count only $642,278 against the cap, a low sum for a guy who should catch 60 passes – even with the addition of receiver Jackson. That is, if Reed stays healthy.
Looking to the future: Niles Paul’s contract is up after this season. We know he’s a quality special- teams player, but he needs to produce more at tight end. Paulsen’s contract is up after next season.

Offensive line

Number on roster: 12
Total percentage of cap space: 22.98
Total cap value: $29,629,967
NFL average: $21,145,119
Biggest cap hit: Left tackle Trent Williams ($10,980,393)
Underpaid: Tough to say anyone in this group is. But if one of the young linemen ascend to the starting lineup, be it Adam Gettis, Josh LeRibeus or Tom Compton, then they would qualify. That is, if they play well. None of them count more than $765,000 against the cap.
Looking to the future: Williams’ contract is up in two years, though his cap hit in 2015 is $13.73 million. That’s a hefty sum and, for all the bellyaching about Brian Orakpo, it’s quite a bit to pay him. Williams already counts as one of the five highest paid linemen in the game, based on his cap figure. He’s a terrific lineman and can do things others can’t, but he’s capable of bad games. I’d like to see more consistency at that sum. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus and guard Maurice Hurt both are in the last year of their contracts. Chris Chester has two years left on his deal. If they cut him this year, it would save $2.7 million against the salary cap. In 2015, it would save them $3.95 million.

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