On The Clock NFL Mock Draft from Fanspeak.com

Thoughts and Observations: Redskins vs Jaguars

September 15, 2014 in Washington Redskins Post Game Recap

Note: I will talk about Robert Griffin III's injury plenty in the coming days, but will just talk about it in general terms here

1. Injuries are piling up:

-It's extremely impressive that the Redskins were able to put up 41 points in this game and their defense was able to dominate as they did. Sure the Jaguars aren't exactly a great team, but the Redskins were dealing with a number of injuries on both sides of the ball, and that can lead to your team having some bad games. The Redskins though responded to the injuries and played their most complete game in years. They won in ever facet of the game and just flat out controlled this game from start to finish.

This game did cost the Redskins though as they saw 5 key offensive players go down with some sort of injury. Third down back Roy Helu Jr. suffered a quad strain, starting LG Shawn Lauvao suffered a mild knee sprain, and fullback Darrel Young suffered a back sprain. All three injuries right now appear to be minor and if they do force the players to miss any time it will be pretty brief. The two more significant injuries were WR DeSean Jackson who suffered an AC joint sprain and QB Robert Griffin III who suffered a dislocated ankle. Those two injuries both are far more serious, not only because the players are more talented, but because they could both miss significant time. Jackson is very likely to miss this next game versus Philly and it's possible that it could be a 2-4 week type of injury, even if it is a lower grade sprain. RGIII's injury is even worse and at the bare minimum looks to be a 6-8 week issue, and at the worse could have Griffin out until next summer. This will be clarified today, but we are talking about an injury that is going to play a significant role on Griffin's future. Even if he can come back this year, his mobility will likely be compromised.

Unfortunately those aren't the only injuries the Redskins are dealing with as they already have starting TE Jordan Reed, starting NT Barry Cofield, 3rd corner Tracy Porter, back-up DE Kedric Golston and back-up LB Akeem Jordan all on the injury report. Some of those players may be back soon (possibly this week), but Cofield won't be able to return until after the bye. The Redskins were a relatively healthy team last year, particularly in the first half of the season, but right now their depth is being seriously tested.

2. The Pass Rush could be very good this year:

-Yes it was against the Jaguars offensive line, which is young, unproven and without a lot of really high ceiling guys, but the Redskins pass rush just dominated the game against the Jaguars. Brian Orakpo, Jason Hatcher, and Ryan Kerrigan all played extremely well and were living in the Jaguars backfield. If they weren't getting the sack they were putting pressure on Chad Henne and forcing some really bad throws. It wasn't just the big three pass rushers that got into the mix, as the Redskins were bringing pressure from everywhere and completely disrupting the Jacksonville game plan.

3. Better offensive and defensive game plan this week:

-Speaking of game plans, the Redskins game plans were close to perfect. On defense Jim Haslett was doing a great job stopping the run early and getting penetration in the backfield on most plays. This led to a number of 2nd and 3rd and long situations that allowed him to dial up blitzes and unleash the hounds on the Jaguars offense. The Redskins Defense dictated the game when they were on the field and it led to them having more sacks (10) than the Jaguars had first downs (8). That also led to the offense having just fantastic field position all game.

The offensive game plan was also much better than it was a week ago. Last week with the run game dominating the Redskins ignored it and tried to throw short passes all game. This week the Redskins were committed to the run early, but when Jacksonville started bottling it up some, it opened up some things down the field that the Redskins were able to take advantage of. After a week where the Redskins more or less avoided challenging down the field and using any read option, it was clear that both of those were in the game plan at the start of the game (though the read option changed significantly with Griffin out). They had the Jaguars on their heels all game, with their offensive game plan, and when Jacksonville stopped one thing the Redskins responded by beating them elsewhere.

4. Redskins depth stepping up:

-Kirk Cousins, Andre Roberts, Niles Paul and Ryan Grant all stepped up in a big way on offense. Cousins came in and was just brilliant for the rest of the first half, and led the Redskins to jump out to a big lead. His play wasn't as good in the 2nd half, but he still played good football and didn't make any costly mistakes. What Cousins did was pick the Jaguars apart by throwing to three somewhat unheralded players. Andre Roberts is the Redskins slot receiver so he's not exactly an unknown, but after the Redskins signed DeSean Jackson this offseason, it appeared that Roberts would be somewhat of an afterthought in this offense, and well behind Pierre Garcon, Reed and Jackson. Roberts came up big though for the Redskins making 4 catches for 57 yards and adding an end around for another 19 yards. Rookie Ryan Grant stepped up as well and added 57 yards on a couple pretty impressive catches. The big unsung hero was TE Niles Paul. After fumbling a week ago inside the 10 yard line, Paul made up for it with an eight catch 99 yard and 1 TD performance. In a game where DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon combined for just 2 catches, the Redskins offense didn't miss a beat because of these guys.

5. Questions in coverage?:

-Overall the defense played great, but there were some question marks on the backend of the defense. The Jaguars lone TD came on a blown coverage from safety Bacarri Rambo, but he wasn't the only defensive back who made some mistakes. On the Jaguars first drive they could have had a TD if rookie Allen Hurns doesn't drop the ball after blowing past DeAngelo Hall. Hall was victimized a couple other times in the game as well. Overall it didn't matter much given how well the rest of the Redskins looked, but this could be an issue to watch going forward. What happens when the Redskins are facing more top end QB's and better receiver corps? Those types of mistakes can be exploited big time, so the coverage really needs to tighten up.

6. Offensive line still a work in progress:

-The biggest concern on the offense (outside of the injuries) was the play of the offensive line. Both Tyler Polumbus and Shawn Lauvao were pushed around and victimized for much of the game. The Redskins again gave up 3 sacks in this game, and saw more penetration in the backfield than they'd like to see. Penalties were also an issue for the offensive line as they committed a combined 5 penalties. This week those things didn't cost the Redskins, but in other games that might not be the case.

7. Penalties an issue:

-The offensive line was a big part of the problem with penalties, but they weren't the only ones at fault. Overall the Redskins committed a combined 12 penalties (3 were either offset or declined), including 5 on offense, 2 on defense and 5 on special teams. That is a really bad number and something that will come back to bite you in closer games. The special teams penalties were perhaps the most troubling, given just how few special teams plays there were to commit so many fouls. Special teams penalties were a big issue last year and it bears watching to see if this becomes a trend.

8. Final Thoughts:

-This was a great game to watch or be at as a Redskins fan as we saw this team come together and dominate from start to finish. That hasn't happened too often in recent years so this was a fun game overall, but obviously the injury issues loom large over this game and the rest of the season. Also for as great as this team looked yesterday, there is still the matter of sample size and the strength of the opponent. There are definitely reasons to temper overall expectations, but this game did show the potential of this team when they get everything clicking.

Redskins vs Jaguars: Keys to the Game

September 13, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

1. Run the Football:

-Last week Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. ran all over the Texans in their 18 combined opportunities. The Redskins need to get them in the 30-35 carry range this week as this is clearly the strength of the Redskins offense right now. This has to be a bigger part of the Redskins game plan this week and if they can keep moving the ball on the ground versus the Jaguars front, it could open up some things in the passing game.

2. Protect RGIII:

-Last week Robert Griffin III was under a fair amount of pressure (some of it self-created), and the Jaguars are a team that likes to get after the QB (and are pretty good at it). The Redskins need to do a better job protecting Griffin and giving him more time in the pocket. For the Jaguars Defense to function they need to get after the quarterback, so this will be a key battle that could determine the outcome of the game.

3. Challenge the Jaguars Secondary:

-The Jaguars have some good solid corners, but their safeties are young and inexperienced. Last week there were some break downs in coverage that can be take advantage of if the Redskins are willing to take some shots down the field. Not only were there some big plays that the coverage broke down for the Jaguars, but there were some opportunities in the intermediate (15-20 yards) area as well. The Redskins need to have more success in this area and need to rely on their talented receivers to make some plays here.

4. Eliminate the Turnovers:

-Not counting the blocked punt, the Redskins had two big turnovers last week. Though much of the focus is on those turnovers being inside the Red Zone, the biggest issues is that they happened in general. The Redskins averaged just over 2 turnovers a game last year, and were among the league's worst teams last season. Turnovers were a big contributing factor to the Redskins 3-13 season a year ago, so they have to eliminate them if they want to start getting in the win column.

5. Sustain Drives and convert on 3rd down:

-Last week the Redskins just couldn't sustain drives and only managed just 2 drives inside the Redzone. Last year the Redskins averaged 3.1 red zone drives a game and that was considered below average. Not only did the Redskins managed only 2 drives inside the Redzone, but they only had one additional drive that got into FG range (note this doesn't count the big Niles Paul catch). The Redskins need to convert more 3rd downs and continue to move the ball down the field. Of course it would be nice to get some big plays, but one of the best measures of an offense is how they can sustain drives and their red zone opportunities.

6. Get Pressure on Chad Henne:

-Last week the Redskins really didn't generate a lot of pressure on the quarterback and it made it harder to get some big plays on defense. Now the Texans did a great job gameplanning for the Redskins, but that can't be an excuse for the defense. The coaches have to come up with a better game plan to generate pressure which will hopefully lead to turnovers and some big plays. The Redskins pass rush took a hit with the loss of Barry Cofield as he would do a nice job pushing the interior pocket, but they still have a good group of Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher that have to get going this week.

7. Eliminate the big plays allowed on defense:

-Last week the Redskins did a nice job on defense overall, but they gave up one big play that resulted in a TD and it put the Redskins in a hole that they couldn't get out of. Now obviously the Offense needed to put more points on the board, but the Redskins Defense can't afford to give up big plays like that TD versus the Texans. The Jaguars will surely take a couple shots down the field, so the Redskins need to be ready on the backend.

8. Eliminate the Special Teams miscues:

-Far too often in recent years special teams mistakes have doomed the Redskins, and that happened once again last week with two major errors. The Redskins aren't a good enough team to overcome those mistakes, so they need to do what it takes to eliminate them. This week it might not be blocked kicks/punts, but it could be giving up a big return or missing a key FG. The Redskins just can't afford errors and need to play a clean game on ST.

Redskins vs Jaguars: Tale of the Tape

September 13, 2014 in Redskins Personnel, Uncategorized

Here's a break down of how the Redskins and Jaguars match-up at each position.

Quarterback:

Redskins: 

-Robert Griffin III didn't have a great opening game versus the Houston Texans, but he didn't exactly have a bad game either. He was very accurate, completing 78% of his passes, but most of the Redskins passing game was limited to short throws which didn't really help sustain drives for the Redskins. Griffin struggled with feeling pressure, but he did make sure he didn't throw any interceptions which was a plus. Overall it was just one game, so the Redskins are hoping that Griffin can perform at a higher level this week and help lead the Redskins to a win.

Jaguars:

-Chad Henne isn't going to finish on any top 20 QB lists (he's probably not on many top 25), but he can still be an average guy in the right circumstances. Henne is a game manager type of quarterback and if he's given a situation where he just needs to protect a lead he can get the job done. He's not a guy who will take over a game though, or win a game late.

Advantage:  Redskins by a moderate amount. RGIII is clearly the more talented QB and his potential is off the charts, but he's also struggled the more the Redskins try to keep him in the pocket. Last week Griffin was a game manager type of quarterback and perhaps the Redskins can get away with that this week, but they could also use some of that Griffin magic from 2012.

Running backs/Fullbacks:

Redskins: 

-Alfred Morris is clearly one of the top 5 runners in the NFL and he proved that again last week, when he ran all over the Texans despite only having 14 carries. Morris has such great vision and he's a guy who typically will make the first defender miss. It allows him to pick up big chunks of yardage, despite not being a speedster. Roy Helu Jr. had a big game last week in a back-up role with over 40 yards on just 4 carries. Helu is overlooked in DC due to Morris, but he's a solid runner and can keep the chains moving when he's in there as well. Helu is the 3rd down back as well and can be a solid receiver out of the backfield though it's not a big part of the Redskins passing game. Finally FB Darrel Young is one of the better lead backs in the game, though he wasn't utilized much versus the Texans.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars went out and brought in Toby Gerhart to be their feature back this year. Gerhart hasn't been a fulltime starter, but he's filled in nicely for Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. Gerhart's first week didn't go so well as he got a little banged up with an ankle injury. He did have a couple nice runs, but for the most part he had to deal with a lot of defenders in the backfield. Gerhart is an above average runner and he can catch the football pretty well also. Behind him the Jaguars have Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson. Neither back-up is great, but Robinson can be an elusive weapon if he gets into open space.

Advantage: Redskins by a good margin. It's not that Toby Gerhart is a bad back, it's just that Morris is so far ahead of him. The fact that Gerhart is a little banged up also doesn't help matters. The Redskins really open up their advantage with their depth and FB talent.

Tight ends:

Redskins: 

-Jordan Reed suffered a hamstring injury in the first game and isn't available to play. In his place will be a combination of Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul. Paulsen is the better inline tight end, while Paul can be more of a receiving threat. While Paul showed some promise as a receiving TE last week, he's not on par with Reed, particularly in terms of being a red zone threat. Paulsen has regressed as a receiver and really isn't going to help out much in that department.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars have Marcedes Lewis as their primary tight end. He's been a solid tight end for them for years. He's not great in any area, but he can contribute both as a blocker and a receiver. He's not a dynamic receiving threat, but the Jaguars do seem to want to feature him more this year.

Advantage: Jaguars by a moderate amount. Obviously if the Redskins had Jordan Reed they would have a sizable advantage here, but without him the experience of Lewis gives the Jags the edge.

Wide Receivers:

Redskins: 

-The Redskins trio of Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and Andre Roberts showed some nice potential week one, now the Redskins need to find ways to get them open down the field to take advantage of their speed and athleticism. Week one the Redskins mainly used short quick passes, which really limited the damage these guys can do, but we did see a couple times where these receivers were breaking free. The potential is there for these receivers to have a big game, but they need to get on the same page with Griffin fast.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars appear to be without their veteran receiver Cecil Shorts again as he's listed as doubtful on the injury report. What Jacksonville does have area trio of talented rookie receivers in Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Hurns broke out in a big week one with over 100 receiving yards and a pair of TD's. Hurns can be a deep threat and a guy that the Redskins can't make any coverage mistakes with, or he'll make them pay. Lee is the most talented of the bunch and will likely be featured this week, as the Jaguars want to get the ball into his hands.

Advantage: Redskins by a large margin. The Jaguars receivers have some promise and can be dangerous if they are overlooked, but the Redskins trio of receivers are clearly the bigger threat. They've actually all produced at the NFL level and need to be accounted for. 

Offensive Line:

Redskins: 

-The Redskins offensive line was pretty good run blocking week one, but they struggled to pass block and that is what keeps them as a liability for this team. While much of the focus was on the struggles of Tyler Polumbus, even Trent Williams struggled some in that game. At the end of the day this is going to be a unit that holds the Redskins back. They can mitigate some of the issues with the line's ability limitations if they are more run-centric, but at some point they will need to pass and that could lead to some negative plays.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars are a young, inexperienced line and it showed week one versus the Eagles. They made a number of key mistakes both in run and pass blocking. When this unit though get's it together they could potentially be pretty solid. Luke Joeckel has elite potential at LT, while Zane Beadles was one of the top free agent guards on the market.

Advantage: Redskins by a small amount. The Redskins line is far from good, but they do have two things going for them. One, Trent Williams is a top LT (despite some week 1 struggles), and two they are more experienced overall. They might not be super talented, but that experience and familiarity gives them an advantage over a line that is very much a work in progress. 

Defensive Line:

Redskins: 

-The Redskins defensive line suffered two big blows week 1 against the Texans. Starting NT Barry Cofield is not on short term IR with an ankle injury, while Kedric Golston is listed as doubtful due to a groin strain. Without them, the Redskins are going to have to rely heavily on Jason Hatcher (who is still working his way back from injury), Chris Baker and Jarvis Jenkins. That can be a solid group, but their depth is going to be tested.

 

Jaguars:

-This is the strength of the Jaguars team as their defensive line is both talented and deep. They might not have a J.J. Watt type of player, but they have some guys who can play. Sen'Derrick Marks is probably the best interior defensive linemen that you haven't heard of. He's quick off the snap and he can get a lot of penetration. Red Bryant is a wall of a man, who is incredibly stout versus the run. Chris Clemons and Andre Branch both have good edge rushing skills. Behind them are a group of solid guys including Roy Miller, Ziggy Hood and Tyson Alualu. Also former UDFA Ryan Davis flashed in a situational pass rusher role against the Eagles, and is a guy the Redskins have to watch out for when he's on the field. The Jaguars tallied 5 sacks against the Eagles last week and will once again be looking to have a big day rushing the QB.

Advantage: Jaguars by a large margin. It's hard to compare the DL and LB's for these teams because they run different fronts, but any way you cut it the Jaguars have way more talent and depth here. If Cofield and Golston were there it would help the Redskins, but Jacksonville would still have the advantage.

Linebackers:

Redskins: 

-The Redskins have a strong group of linebackers with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan on the outside and Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley on the interior. Orakpo had a quiet week 1, but the Texans did a good job game planning for him and taking him out of the play. The Redskins need to do a better job of letting him get to rush the QB and face 1-on-1 blocking. Robinson really showed up well week one and it's looking more and more like the Redskins have a solid piece in the middle of their LB corps. Back-up Trent Murphy should help out on passing downs and to give both Orakpo and Kerrigan some breaks from time to time.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars have a solid linebacking corps led by MLB Paul Posluszny. Posluszny is a great run defender and can be solid in coverage as well. He's a smart linebacker who can put his defense in the right place. On the outside Geno Hayes is a solid cover linebacker, but can be exploited in the run game. LaRoy Reynolds is their 3rd starter. He's a young guy, without a lot of hype, but he looked solid week 1.

Advantage: Redskins by a good margin. Like above with the DL it's tough to compare the two, but the Redskins definitely have an advantage at LB. They have arguably their two best defensive players in Orakpo and Kerrigan (and definitely 2 of their top 4) in this group. Also Robinson is looking like a pretty good player in his own right. 

(Note: In comparing front 7's I'd probably give the Jaguars a slight advantage. The big factor would be depth along the DL for the Redskins, which puts them behind the Jaguars. It's a close battle though between the two front 7's.

Cornerbacks:

Redskins: 

-DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson give the Redskins two corners with plenty of talent. Amerson didn't have as strong of a week 1, but he was having to deal with Andre Johnson quite a bit which would cause problems for any CB. He should fare better against the Jaguars young receivers. E.J. Biggers figures to once again be their 3rd corner.

Jaguars:

-Starter Alan Ball is quesitionable, but right now it looks like he's going to play. Ball teams up with Dwayne Gratz on the outside to give the Jaguars a pair of aggressive physical corners on the outside. Will Blackmon comes in to give the Jaguars a 3rd solid corner when teams go three wide. It's not a heralded group, and there isn't a single star amongst them, but these corners are pretty good overall.

Advantage: Redskins by a slim amount. The Redskins corners may have more natural talent (at least their top 2), but the Jaguars group is better than people give them credit for, and have 3 good capable options.

Safeties:

Redskins: 

-Ryan Clark appears to be everything the Redskins hoped for when they signed him this offseason and he offers solid play from the FS position. Unfortunately the SS spot is extremely unsettled right now. Bacarri Rambo once again made a major mistake week 1 that cost the Redskins. They may try to play Duke Inhenacho this week, but he's barely practiced, making it tough to get him up to speed. Either way the SS position is a liability right now.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars will be without their best safety as 2nd year man Jonathan Cyprien will miss the game with a concussion. That will mean they will go with Winston Guy and Josh Evans as their primary safeties. These are two young guys who flash at times, but for the most part are liabilities for the Jaguars.

Advantage: Redskins by a moderate amount. If Cyprien was there it would be closer, but Ryan Clark gives the Redskins the big advantage here as he's the one guy on either team that you can really count on.

Special Teams:

Redskins: 

-On the plus side Tress Way and Andre Roberts looked good week 1. Unfortunately the Redskins made a couple costly mistakes that led to a blocked extra point and a blocked punt. Making matters even worse is that kicker Kai Forbath is dealing with a sore groin. Even if he does suit up, he might not be 100%.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars don't have much in the way of return men, but they do have a good punter/kicker combination in Bryan Anger and Josh Scobee. Scobee missed two FG's week one but he's typically one of the more accurate kickers in the league, while Anger is one of the better punters in the NFL.

Advantage: Jaguars by a good margin. Given the unknown with Forbath and just the constant miscues from this unit, it is tough to get excited about the Redskins ability to make the ST's be a plus for them.

5 Things the Redskins Need to Fix in Week 2

September 11, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Offensive Play Calling:

-Perhaps nothing is more frustrating than watching the success that running backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. had against the Texans Defense, when they rushed for a combined 7.61 yards per carry, only to see them carry the ball a combined 18 times. That is just inexcusable in a game that until their final drive only had the Redskins down no more than 8 points. The Morris/Helu combo also led the Redskins to their only TD drive, yet it continued to be an after thought in the Redskins offensive game plan. Of those 18 runs, just four were for less than 6 yards. What makes it even worse is that 11 of the 29 completed passes that were for less than 6 yards. That is just completed passes, that doesn't take into account the 8 incompleted passes which obviously gained nothing. It's clear that running the football was the winning strategy for the Redskins, and they simply got away from it. If that wasn't bad enough the passing game plays and route combinations, for the most part were pretty vanilla. They used similar concepts throughout the game, making it easy for the Texans to recognize plays and their responsibilities. It was a pretty disappointing game plan for a highly respected offensive minded coach like Jay Gruden.

If the Redskins don't get more creative with their pass plays and run the football more, they will just be making it too easy for the Jaguars to stop them. The Texans Defense was pretty impressive (mainly D.J. Swearinger and J.J. Watt), but the Jaguars showed versus the Eagles that they can make some plays as well. The Redskins need to be more aggressive in taking some shots down the field, while running it down the Jaguars throats if that is working. Use the run game to set up the play action and hopefully get some favorable coverages to take advantage of.

2. Offensive Line Protection/Pocket Awareness:

-Now obviously most of the pressure and sacks comes from failures along the offensive line (or other blockers as well), but the quarterback is responsible as well for his share. Last week Robert Griffin III was sacked 3 times, hit 14 times and had an intentional grounding penalty. All of those are unacceptable numbers and very problematic if any continue to occur in that frequency. What's even worse is the numbers could have been worse but a sack and two QB hits were negated (only on the stat sheet, Griffin still felt them) due to defensive penalties. The Jaguars might not have J.J. Watt, but they have a good defensive line with a lot of depth, that managed 5 sacks on Nick Foles week 1. Though the Eagles line was missing some players, they are still probably a better line than the Redskins, so the fact that Jacksonville had that level of success is troubling.

The Redskins have to hold up versus this defensive line and give Griffin the time needed to throw the football on more of those intermediate and vertical routes. At the same time Griffin needs to recognize pressure better and do what it takes to minimize it's impact. If it's coming from the edge he has to step up (when the interior has held up), if it's coming up the middle he's got to move his feet to whatever side is more clear (preferably behind Trent). Griffin also needs to know when throwing the ball away is the answer (and do so in such a way to not get an intentional grounding call). There is no doubt due to the weakness of the OL that Griffin will be pressured, but a big part of his development is how he handles that pressure.

3. Turnovers:

-Not even counting the blocked punt returned for the Touchdown, the Redskins had two costly turnovers last Sunday to the Texans one turnover. Now much has been made that the Redskins fumbled twice inside the 10 yard line, and how that swung the game. There is no doubt that turning the ball over twice like that cost the Redskins points (whether it would be 6 or 14 is up for debate), but really two turnovers anywhere can be devastating, particularly when you lose the turnover battle. Last year the Redskins had 34 turnovers in 16 games (2.125 a game), which was 30th in the league, and a big part of their struggles last season. The Redskins can't afford another multi-turnover game if they don't want to get upset by the Jaguars. Unfortunately it looks like the Jaguars could prove to be a tougher test for the Redskins as they forced 3 turnovers against a pretty good Eagles offense. The Redskins have to be smart with the football and simply can't afford to give the Jaguars any extra chances. Jacksonville capitalized on some short fields last week, and they will be looking to do so once again.

4. Getting More Pressure on the QB:

-The Redskins lone sack was apparently taken away by the NFL official statistics, meaning their lackluster pass rush day looks even worse. Now it was clear that the Texans were scheming to prevent the pass rush from being a factor, and they were able to execute this perfectly. Unfortunately the Redskins didn't have a good answer and it meant that far too often the Redskins best pass rusher, Brian Orakpo, was in coverage rather than trying to get after the QB. The Texans achieved this in 3 major ways. First they were up most of the game so they were able to focus on the ground game and they trusted their defense to hold a slim lead. The 2nd thing they did was run the football to limit 3rd and long passing opportunities. Even though the Redskins held up pretty well versus the run, the Texans were in a lot of 3rd and 3-5 yard situations. That made it harder for the Redskins to justify a blitz or have their pass rushers pin their ears back, because they still had to watch the run. The final thing the Texans did is scheme their plays well to avoid pressure. They would run empty back sets or trips on the side of Brian Orakpo basically forcing him into coverage when the Redskins were in their base personnel. The Texans also called a lot of quick passes, especially when they were in longer distance situations. They simply didn't give the Redskins defenders time to get past the offensive line.

This week the Redskins need to game plan this week to find ways to generate more pressure and to free up Brian Orakpo to get after the quarterback more. The Jaguars like the Texans are definitely going to try to do some of the same thing to slow down the rush and neutralize Orakpo. The Redskins need to adjust their assignments to get Orakpo after the QB more this week, or teams will just do this all season to take the Redskins best pass rusher out of the game plan. The Redskins coverage also needs to be tighter if they are expecting a lot of screens and quick passes, otherwise Chad Henne will kill them underneath before the pressure ever has time to reach him.

5. Special Teams Miscues:

-Despite all the emphasis on special teams this offseason the Redskins made two major mistakes on special teams (also Darrel Young running into Andre Roberts didn't bode well either), allowing both a blocked extra point and a blocked punt (that was returned for a TD). It's unlikely that those mistakes will happen again this week given how infrequently they happen around the league, but the Redskins have a history of major special teams mistakes so you can't rule them out. Washington can't afford to even make minor mistakes this week, whether that means not allowing big returns or giving free penalty yardage on special teams. The Redskins have to find a way for the Special Teams to stop being a negative for this team's chances of winning games each week. While it would be great to turn it into a positive, having a neutral special teams unit would be a huge step for the Redskins.

How will the injuries to Barry Cofield and Jordan Reed Impact the Redskins

September 10, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

The Redskins suffered two big injuries in Sunday's game and both could have a major impact on the Redskins performance going forward. Here's how these injuries will affect the Redskins and what can be done to stop the bleeding:

TE Jordan Reed:

Reed suffered a hamstring injury early in the Texans game and was unable to return. While there isn't a full understanding of just how long Reed will be sidelined, 2-3 weeks seems likely at this point, with the possibility of it being longer. Hamstring injuries are also an injury that is ripe for a reoccurance, if a player comes back too soon.

The loss of Reed is a big blow to the passing attack, particularly on 3rd down plays and in the red zone. Overall the Redskins can be fine in their passing game as they can opt for more 3 WR formations to ensure there are three good options for RGIII to find. As we saw week 1 back-up Niles Paul can be an athletic target down the field and can fill some of the mis-match value that Reed brings to the table. Paul though is limited (and not just with his fumbling of the football), in his size and isn't going to be that big target that can outmuscle linebackers and safeties for contested balls. This obviously is really going to impact the Redskins near the goalline as they don't have one wide receiver or tight end that can present that big physical target who defenses have to respect. The Redskins will have to get more creative when they want to throw the ball near the end zone, but otherwise the impact of the Reed loss, hurts but is managable.

NT Barry Cofield:

Cofield's injury has been described as a high ankle sprain, which typically can keep a player out 3-5 weeks depending on the severity of the injury. It is also an injury that can be nagging or re-occur, which is probably why the Redskins opted to place Cofield on the short term IR with the designation to return. It means the Redskins will be without Cofield for at least 8 weeks, which will hopefully give Cofield enough time to get back to 100%.

The Cofield injury will cause a reshuffling of the defensive line as starting end Chris Baker will move into the nose tackle position, while top back-up Jarvis Jenkins will move to the starting role. Baker came into the league as a nose tackle and can play the position at an above average rate. Jenkins should fill in decently for Baker as a starting end, but both positions will see a drop in their production. Cofield isn't a flashy player who makes a ton of plays, and he's certainly not an elite nose tackle, but he's a good consistent player at the center of your defense. That is not something that is easy to replace, even with a solid player like Baker.

Baker has showed a lot of promise, but he hasn't been a consistent player where he is a force and a threat that the offense needs to take into account each and every snap. Baker has also not shown that he can hold up over long stretches. Cofield would play 75% or more of the snaps each week, and while that number was maybe a little high, he gave you production throughout. Baker has not played that much for an extended period of time, so it is unclear if he can hold up that much. With him as a starting end, the Redskins could more easily rotate in his back-ups (namely Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston), to give him a breather. At nose tackle there isn't a natural back-up to Baker right now. Both Kedric Golston and Jarvis Jenkins could play there in a pinch, but neither is ideal and obviously Jenkins is now the starter at the one end position. It could be tough for the Redskins sub out Baker if the concern is with him wearing down over the course of the game/season. Also, with Jenkins now in the starting line-up, that means the 40 odd back-up snaps will fall to either Golston or 3rd string DE's Clifton Geathers and Frank Kearse. For this week though the Redskins might not even be able to rely on Golston as he tweaked his groin in the first game and his status for this week is up in the air.

Not only is the Cofield injury more of a concern for the Redskins due to the extended period of time that he is gone, but his impact was likely greater on the team than Reed's. The Redskins will no doubt miss Jordan Reed, but it will also be easier for them to make up for his loss. Cofield's injury could have a major domino effect that weakens 3 positions (NT, starting DE and top rotational DE). The Redskins can overcome these injuries, but they are both tough losses for a Redskins team that can't afford to lose key players.

Redskins vs Texans: Thoughts and Observations

September 8, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Special Teams are far from fixed:

-There were some positives from the special teams play as Tress Way averaged over 49 yards gross per punt (not counting the block). Andre Roberts also had a couple really nice kick-off and punt returns showing that he can help the field position battle as a returner. Roberts might not be Devin Hester and a threat to score every return, but he should get the Redskins some positive yards. Unfortunately two massive mistakes completely washed out any positives from other areas of the special teams unit. The Redskins both had a blocked extra point and a blocked punt (that was returned for a TD). Either of those things are really bad to have in a season, much less a game. To have both of them together is just inexcusable. A number of teams won't have that big of special teams miscues over the course of the season and the Redskins managed it in one game. Going back to the 2011 season the Redskins have at least 4 blocked punts, 3 blocked extra points and 6 blocked field goals (it's possible I'm missing some as well), that is beyond unacceptable.

2. The Passing Game Has some issues:

I know people will point to Robert Griffin's 29 of 37 (78.3 completion %) for 267 yards (7.2 yards per attempt) looks good on paper, but it clearly wasn't an effective part of the offense as the Redskins passing game didn't get them in the end zone. The Redskins lone TD came on a drive where they ran the ball 4 times to score (after a nice punt return). Sure two turnovers ruined other good chances to score, but that is going to happen. The passing offense was in game manager mode and that is just not going to win a lot of football games. While it's good that Griffin didn't force the ball, completing a lot of short passes isn't going to move this offense, and that is not why the Redskins have one of the highest paid receiving corps in the league.

Now there were two contributing factors to why the Redskins went with this approach, the 1st being the offensive line vs the Texans pass rush (more on this later), but the 2nd did seem to be a lack of faith in RGIII to run a more developed offense and make the right throws down the field. Griffin just didn't look comfortable in the pocket and it wasn't always a result of the Texans pass rush. There were opportunities to go down the field more and work the intermediate passing game (10-20 yards down the field) and they just didn't even try to take them. Griffin also made some key mistakes including the intentional grounding penalty (even if the call was wrong, Griffin ran into that pressure), and taking a 12 yard sack taking the Redskins out of a long FG range.

This loss isn't on RGIII or the passing game by themselves, but they also didn't do much to help the Redskins win this football game. Houston might be a good defense, but they had to do more. The Redskins will play other defenses on par or better than Houston this season and if the passing game can't be more than "game managing" it's going to cause some issues.

3. What exactly was the Redskins game plan?:

For much of the night the passing game was wholly ineffective (74 yards at half on 17 passing attempts), meanwhile the run game was dominating with 131 yards on 23 carries (5.7 ypc). Why when you are running that well (and Morris and Helu's numbers were even better) was there such a discrepancy in the play calling? Sure the Redskins drives before the end of the half and the end of the game boosted up the passing attempts, but even outside of that the Redskins were putting the ball in the air too much. In the 2nd half before the Redskins final drive the Redskins dropped back to pass 16 times (1 ended in a sack) and the Redskins had 8 runs (they had an extra one that was nullified due to holding). Why are you passing at a 2-1 rate when you are only down 8 points? That just makes zero sense. How do you have a game plan that only calls for Alfred Morris to get 14 carries and really expect to win? It's one thing if Morris was being stuffed or if the Texans were up by 3 scores and it made sense to abandon the run, but this wasn't the case. Overall I've been happy with Jay Gruden, but this game plan didn't make sense.

4. Where is the improvement of the offensive line?:

Now the offensive line and the blocking wasn't solely to blame, and they did make some really nice run blocks (again if the line is winning in this area, why not keep up the pressure), but the Texans had 3 sacks and 14 QB hits. Another sack was nullified by questionable defensive holding call that probably could have gone either way. Now the line isn't to blame for everything as some of the issues were the tight ends or backs, or even Griffin running into pressure. But at the end of the day the line just gave up too much penetration. The line also failed at some crucial moments, Morris was tackled for a loss twice in key situations. Griffin getting pressured or sacked on some key 3rd downs. Kory Lichtensteiger getting pushed back and Griffin tripping over him resulting in a fumble. Were all situational things that really killed any offensive momentum. Considering the Redskins game plan involved so many short quick passes, 3 sacks and 14 QB hits is just unacceptable.

5. The Run defense held up:

Considering that Brian Orakpo and Jason Hatcher were less than 100% and Barry Cofield played just about a quarter of the game, the Redskins have to be really pleased about their run defense. Yes Arian Foster went over 100 yards, but they were tough yards and he needed 27 carries to get over 100. The Redskins also came up big stopping the running game on some key 3rd downs getting the ball back and keeping the Texans from extending drives. Considering who they were going against and the issues the Redskins were facing this was a good area for the Redskins to build on.

6. Passing defense improved, but not great:

The thought was that the Redskins might have an advantage here, with a hopefully improved pass rush and facing a QB who has a history of throwing the ball to the other team, the thought was that the Redskins passing defense would come up with some big plays. In the end that didn't happen. They managed just one sack and only got a handful of pressures. Some of that was Ryan Fitzpatrick making some quick decisions to limit pressure, but some of that was simply the Redskins not being able to get after the quarterback. Now with Hatcher and Orakpo less than 100% and Cofield missing so much much time there was some reasoning for it, but it was not a good game overall for the pass rush. On the back end the Redskins did okay, but they benefited from a limited quarterback in Fitzpatrick. Some of his incomplete passes were to open guys, but he just missed them. Fitzpatrick did hit the big pass to DeAndre Hopkins which was clearly a blown coverage by someone. On top of the blown coverage, safety Baccari Rambo took a bad angle and missed the tackle allowing Hopkins to score. In a game like that it's just unacceptable to make those kind of errors. The Redskins will obviously be tested by far better passing attacks this year, and with Cofield possibly missing an extended period of time there is some concern going forward.

7. Injuries raise some big questions for the Redskins:

The Redskins suffered 3 injuries that could have lasting impact over the next couple of weeks. Starting NT Barry Cofield went down with a sprained ankle, but some reports said it looked to be a high ankle sprain which can keep a player out for a couple of weeks and limit his effectiveness after that. Even if it isn't a high ankle sprain, Cofield's status for this week is probably in doubt. Back-up defensive end Kedric Golston suffered a strained groin, which is another injury that could affect his status for the next couple of weeks. With Hatcher less than 100% and Cofield possibly out, the defensive line suddenly looks pretty thin heading into week 2. The most serious injury though appears to be tight end Jordan Reed who suffered a hamstring injury. Though the full extent isn't fully known, there appears to be a concern that he could miss significant time. Even if it is only a couple of weeks losing Reed is a body blow to the Redskins passing offense. Reed can be a match-up nightmare for teams, and it was expected that he'd be even more dangerous this year, given that defenses had to account for both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon on the outside. Him being out for anytime will be a huge win for opposing defenses.

Predicting the Redskins Inactive List Week 1

September 7, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

Here is the list of 7 players the Redskins will likely have inactive week 1:

CB Tracy Porter:

-Porter is dealing with a hamstring issue and has already been listed as out. Most weeks though (assuming he gets healthy) he will be active so this will be a spot someone else will be taking.

ILB Akeem Jordan:

-Jordan injured his knee in the first preseason game and is expected to miss the first couple of weeks of the season. It will be interesting to see when he's healthy if he's activated more. The Skins would already have two back-up ILB's in Adam Hayward and Will Compton, but Jordan can help on special teams. It could come down to him or back-up OLB Gabe Miller most weeks.

DE Frank Kearse:

-There is no way the Redskins can keep 7 DL active, making Kearse the most likely to find himself inactive each week. In fact most weeks the Redskins may only keep 5 DL active, but given that Jason Hatcher isn't 100% and players might not be as conditioned to go a full game, having a 6th guy active in Houston makes sense. It also figures to be a game where the Redskins will be in their base package more often as they look to defend the Texans ground attack. Rotation is going to be key for the Redskins as they go up against a good Houston offensive line.

QB Colt McCoy:

-Barring an injury to one of the top 2 QB's, McCoy should find himself on the inactive roster each week. This is not a wasted roster spot though as McCoy offers insurance and he can run the scout team defense each week.

WR Aldrick Robinson:

-This is going to be an interesting decision. It is really tough to keep 6 WR's active, especially when you want to feature the run. Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts are obviously going to be active, but that means one of Santana Moss, Ryan Grant or Aldrick Robinson will be sitting. Moss I think is the next safest. His experience and ability to play every wide receiver position can be invaluable as a back-up. None of the other back-ups are really adapt at playing in the slot. Robinson had very little experience before this year, and he only spent 10% of his preseason time in the slot. That 10% is more than what rookie Ryan Grant saw in the slot as he didn't run a single route from the position during the preseason. Moss also figures to be the number 2 punt returner when Roberts needs a rest so that helps his case as well.

That leaves the inactive spot down to Robinson and Grant. Typically you would probably think the 5th round rookie would get benched week 1, but Grant doesn't seem to be a typical 5th round rookie. Though Robinson has better deep speed and experience, Grant is the crisper route runner and possession guy. If the Redskins need to rely on their back-up receivers Grant's skill set figures to help more with what the Redskins game plan is versus a tough Houston pass rush.

OG Spencer Long:

-Most weeks the Redskins will probably go with just 7 active offensive linemen and I think that is what we see here. I think the coaches are high on Long, but he's probably going to be behind Josh LeRibeus at this point, so Long is likely to sit. Now I don't think this is a permanent position for Long, as he can overtake LeRibeus, but that likely won't happen until later in the season. Obviously injuries typically have a way of shaking up the depth chart and turning Long into an active player.

OT Tom Compton:

-With only keeping 7 offensive linemen active the Redskins have to make a decision. Do they go with the higher touted rookie back-up tackle Morgan Moses? Or do they go with the 3rd year guy Tom Compton. Neither was perfect in the preseason, but Compton really got pushed around more. While Moses is more raw, his physical abilities and potential should win out here. Also if the Redskins want to go with a jumbo package, Moses is the bigger more physical guy which helps as a 6th offensive lineman.

Redskins Rookie Report: What to Expect Week 1

September 6, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

The Redskins take on the Texans tomorrow for their first game of the season, and it will be the first game for the Redskins rookie class. Here is what the Redskins should expect in their first game:

OLB Trent Murphy:

-Murphy was the Redskins 2nd round pick and he was selected to give the Redskins a 3rd legitimate pass rusher from the edge, to be used in a back-up role and on obvious passing situations. Likely with the Texans wanting to run the football, Murphy wouldn't have seen much work this week outside of special teams and maybe 10 snaps on defense. That plan has likely changed with starting ROLB Brian Orakpo listed as questionable with an ankle injury. Though the expectation is that Orakpo will play, the Redskins may limit his snaps some since he's not 100%. Instead of playing 85-90% of the snaps, Orakpo might only play 65-75% of the snaps (possibly less if the ankle is worse than what is being reported). That opens up the door for Murphy to play a fair number of defensive snaps week 1. When he is replacing Orakpo he'll likely have a tough test going up against 2x Pro Bowl LT Duane Brown. Those snaps will serve as a good litmus test for where Murphy is in his development.

OT Morgan Moses:

-Moses was the Redskins first of two 3rd round offensive linemen that they drafted this year. He was asked to learn both tackle positions this offseason which probably limited his overall development and his ability to challenge incumbent RT Tyler Polumbus for the starting job. Moses had an mixed bag of success in camp and the preseason, but he continued to look better as the preseason wore on. In the 3rd game, Moses suffered a minor knee injury that forced him to miss the rest of the game. While he came back for the preseason finale, he didn't look as effective as he did in the 2nd and 3rd preseason weeks. Though he's back to fully practicing if the knee is a concern the Redskins could opt to play Tom Compton ahead of him and possibly even make Moses inactive. The Redskins though could go with 8 offensive linemen on the active roster, particularly if they might want to run more jumbo packages against the Texans tough front. Moses could get some looks as an extra offensive lineman and help on short yardage situations.

OG Spencer Long:

-The Redskins 2nd 3rd round pick, Long had an up-and-down camp/preseason. It looks like 3rd year guard Josh LeRibeus is ahead of him on the depth chart and will likely serve as the back-up interior lineman for the game. That means that Long is likely to be inactive for the first week and won't even be in on special teams. Until Long can beat out LeRibeus he will probably spend most of the season on the inactive list, though any interior line injuries would quickly move him up the ladder.

CB Bashaud Breeland:

-Breeland had a nice camp/preseason, but it seemed likely he'd be no more than a special teamer early on in the season with veterans Tracy Porter and E.J. Biggers on the team. Porter though has been hampered by an injury and has already been declared out for the game. E.J. Biggers will likely take over primary nickel corner duties, but Breeland should see some work with the defense as well. It may be no more than 10-15 plays, but it will be interesting to see how Breeland works against the Texans receiver corps. If he plays like he did in the preseason, Porter might be coming back to a 5th CB role whenever he gets healthy.

WR Ryan Grant:

-The Redskins 5th round rookie was a camp sensation and put together a really nice preseason. Not only did he lock-up a roster spot, but he's now likely to be active on game days. He will make it a tough decision as to whether or not the Redskins can activate all 6 receivers. The top three are set, but the bottom three make for some interesting decisions. Moss given his experience and ability to play in the slot will likely be active, but do the Redskins want to see the rookie who is a quality route runner or roll with the deep threat Aldrick Robinson. I think the Redskins are so impressed with Grant that he could get the nod as the 5th receiver and back-up on the outside. He might not get much work week 1, especially with the Redskins likely using more 2 TE sets and keeping a fullback in there a lot against a tough Texans front 7, but look for the Redskins to try to give him a couple snaps.

RB Silas Redd:

-An undrafted rookie Redd was a surprise this summer as he beat out multiple higher touted prospects to earn the Redskins 3rd RB job. He is likely to be active week one, but chances are his only time on the field will be on special teams. He played well on special teams this summer so he could be a nice addition to the unit. As the season wears on he'll likely get some spot duty (particularly if the Redskins can have a big lead), but early on in the year he's likely regulated to ST work, barring an injury.

Redskins vs Texans: Tale of the Tape

September 6, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

Here are how the Redskins and Texans stack up at each position group.

Quarterback:

-The Redskins are hoping that 2013 was just a blip on the radar of Robert Griffin III's career and that he can return to the potential and production that not only made him the 2nd player in the 2012 draft, but the Offensive Rookie of the Year that season. While it's easy to blame all of last year's struggles on the knee injury and the friction with HC Mike Shanahan, there are some questions that go beyond those two reasons. As impressive as Griffin's rookie year was, he was aided by a scheme that took advantage of his skill set and didn't ask him to do a lot of advanced quarterback work. Most of Griffin's passes were short, quick hitters that took advantage of mis-direction to catch the defense off guard. Griffin didn't have to go through his progressions or throw receivers open with any regularity as a rookie. As he was asked to do that more last season (and in the preseason this year) Griffin struggled and was not very effective. While he should be improved this season, there are question marks about where Griffin ultimately is as a signal caller. Is he back to a top 10 QB like 2012? or is he more in the 15-20 range? Where he falls on that spectrum will go along way to determining how much the Redskins can improve this season.

-The Texans decided to punt on quarterback this year, bringing in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to hold the position down until they can find their QB of the future. Fitzpatrick is by no means a top quarterback or even an above average starter, but he's also a guy who's been around the league and been solid for stretches. Over the last four seasons as a starter Fitzpatrick has a QB rating of about 82.0. That isn't world beating, but it's about average. Fitzpatrick has also not played on teams with as much talent at RB, WR, OL and on defense during those seasons. When Fitzpatrick can be a game manager type he can be efficient and a solid starter. It is when he's forced to the throw the ball a lot that he typically makes mistakes.

Advantage: Redskins, This isn't the blowout advantage that some would expect because RGIII still has some question marks and is learning a new offense. Fitzpatrick on the other hand probably isn't as bad as most people think. Griffin though has the higher potential and if you need one of these quarterbacks to win the game late, he's the one you would pick. 

Running backs:

-Alfred Morris is a top 5 rusher in the league and has an impressive 4.7 yard per carry career average. From a pure running back stand point Morris is a feature back and one of the best in the league, but he's proven to add very little value in the passing game. Number two back Roy Helu Jr. helps make up for Morris's struggles in the passing game, and gives the Redskins a reliable number two back. Fullback Darrel Young is one of the best in the game and is a quality rusher, receiver and lead blocker. He helps give Morris a major boost in the ground game and despite playing in only about 30% of the snaps, he consistently makes his presence known.

-The Texans have a great all-around back in Arian Foster, who is very capable as both a runner and a receiver. He's a major weapon that the Redskins will have to account for.The back-up RB spot for the Texans is a bit shaky right now and figures to be some combination of 6th round rookie Alfred Blue and 2nd year back Jonathan Grimes. Neither back-up back is proven and it could lead to veteran Ronnie Brown getting some work. Regardless of who get's the back-up role there will be a significant drop-off in production for the Texans. At fullback the Texans will go with rookie Jay Prosch who excels as a lead blocker. While his potential is high, Prosch is just a rookie so it's unknown just how effective he'll be versus veteran NFL defenders.

Advantage: Redskins, It's close, and if we were just talking about the top running backs I think you would have to go with Foster given his all-around ability being superior. The Redskins make up ground with the back-up running back spot and the FB spot and take a slight lead here.

Wide Receivers:

-The Redskins have Pierre Garcon returning while adding DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. That gives the Redskins three good-to-very good receivers and can create some match-up problems with the Texans. Jackson is obviously the playmaker of the bunch, and can be a major deep threat. Garcon should be the guy who is targeted the most and will be the Redskins chain mover. Roberts will be the slot guy and is a guy who can help in both areas. He's got some playmaking ability and can be a nice consistent receiver who RGIII can rely on to move the chains.

-The Texans WR's aren't too bad either. A lot of people want to write off Andre Johnson because of the question marks at QB, but Johnson had arguably the worst QB situation in the league last year and still managed over 100 catches and 1,400 yards. Hopkins also added 50 catches and 800 yards, which is good production for a rookie even in good circumstances. Behind the top two though the Texans don't have much at receiver, though Keyshawn Martin and Deveir Posey are interesting, they are unproven.

Advantage: Redskins, small advantage here because Andre Johnson is so talented and Hopkins could definitely breakout, but few teams can match the talent the Redskins top 3 bring.

Tight End:

-Jordan Reed has been dealing with an injury, but he should be good to go for the Redskins. Reed can be a major weapon and threat in the passing game for Washington if he can stay on the field. Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul can be average back-ups, but the key for them will be their blocking ability. The Redskins offensive line will need as much help as possible, so these guys have to hold up.

-Garrett Graham figures to be the primary pass catching TE in Houston this year and he's coming off a decent season last year, which looks better considering how many issues the Texans had at QB. Graham is dealing with an injury as well, but the expectation is he will be ready for the game. He's not as good as a pass catcher as Reed, but he's a guy the Redskins Defense can't ignore or he'll make them pay. The x-factor for the Texans is rookie C.J. Fiedorowicz. Fiedorowicz is a two-way tight end capable as an inline blocker and effective in the passing game as well. He's a big physical tight end who can be tough for some linebackers and safeties to cover, particularly in the Red zone and on 3rd downs.

Advantage: Redskins, this is probably a smaller advantage than what most people will predict. A lot of it will come down to the production of the 2nd tight ends. If Logan Paulsen struggles as a blocker and Fiedorowicz thrives, it can really close the gap here between the two TE groups.

Offensive Line:

-The good news is the Redskins have the best offensive lineman on either side of this contest in Trent Williams. The bad news is the rest of the Redskins offensive line is very questionable. Free agent guard Shawn Lauvao figures to be the 2nd best offensive linemen, but he's not a guy who inspires a lot of confidence. He struggled some in the preseason and camp, and hasn't had a great career prior to coming to Washington. After Lauvao it really goes down hill, Tyler Polumbus, Chris Chester, and Kory Lichtensteiger all look like major liabilities along the line.

-The Texans LT Duane Brown might not be as good as Trent Williams, but he's not too shabby either. Brown is easily a top 10 LT (somewhere in the 5-7 range) and will be a tough match-up for the Redskins Defense to crack. Center Chris Myers and guard Brandon Brooks are two other pretty good offensive linemen and just far superior to anything the Redskins have. The Texans RT Derek Newton and LG Ben Jones are a bit more of question marks, though both may be better than the Redskins 4th and 5th best OL. The Texans also have really good depth with 2nd round rookie Xavier Su'a-Filo and veteran tackle Tyson Clabo on the bench. If there is an injury or even if one of their weaker guys struggle, the Texans will have options.

Advantage: Texans, this one is in a blowout. The gap between Williams and Brown is small, but the Texans win in a landslide with the talent difference of the rest of their OL versus the rest of the Redskins. 

Defensive Line:

-The Redskins went out and signed Jason Hatcher as a free agent in the hopes of adding a quality pass rusher along the defensive line. Hatcher has the potential to be a good pass rusher as a defensive end and will disrupt his share of running plays as well. Unfortunately Hatcher had to have offseason surgery and likely isn't yet at 100%. He'll play versus the Texans, but he likely won't play as much as he would normally and the snaps that he gives you might not be at his peak level. Hatcher should still be an upgrade over what the Redskins had last year, but it will be less than what it should be. Next to Hatcher the Redskins have Barry Cofield and Chris Baker. Cofield is the better of the two and a guy who can get some nice consistent penetration on defense. Baker is a bit more up-and-down, but he's shown some promise. Overall it should be a solid defensive line for the Redskins.

-The Texans have J.J. Watt. That really should be the end of the discussion. Watt is arguably the best defensive player in the league. Don't let his 10 sacks last season fool you into thinking he wasn't getting after the passer. Watt living in the offensive back-field and got plenty of additional pressures and hits on the opposing quarterback. If that wasn't bad enough, Watt is an excellent run defender and will make a number of stops for a loss or no gain. He's extremely tough to run against even when you try to double team him. The rest of the Texans line is filled with more questions than answers, but there is some potential there. 2012 4th rounder Jared Crick figures to take over Antonio Smith's spot, while the NT position will be manned by Jerrell Powe and 3rd round rookie Louis Nix.

Advantage: Texans, it's a small advantage given the uncertainty with most of the Texans line, but Watt is just so good and such a difference maker that it is tough to ignore his impact. Also, while the Redskins look better on paper, Hatcher is a question mark with how many snaps he can give you. If he only plays 30 snaps his impact may be minimal. 

Outside Linebackers:

-The Redskins bring back both Brian Orakpo (who again led the team in sacks) and Ryan Kerrigan to hopefully once again bring considerable pressure off the edge. Orakpo hasn't put up top sack numbers, but that isn't always his fault given the scheme he's been in. He's one of the better right side edge rushers in the game and a force that teams will have to deal with. Kerrigan is a good left side rusher, who can take advantage of 1-on-1 match-ups with most right tackles. Joining them as a back-up 3rd pass rusher is 2nd round rookie Trent Murphy. Murphy still has a long ways to go, but he should help add to the Redskins rush when he's on the field with guys like Orakpo and Kerrigan.

-The Texans went out and grabbed one of the best pass rush prospects the draft has produced in the past 10 years in Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney so far looks worthy of the hope and should give the Texans an edge rusher who can be among the best in the league when he gets to his prime. Whether that starts week 1 or not is up for debate, but pass rushers are one position who can excel as rookies. Opposite Clowney will be 4th year OLB Brooks Reed. Reed flashed strong pass rush ability as a rookie, but hasn't been able to replicate that success since. He can still be a dangerous guy if teams are too focused on Clowney and Watt, but he's still average at best right now. What could be intriguing is when former first round pick Whitney Mercilus is on the field, he has 13 sacks in two years and has shown to be a decent pass rusher. The Texans could use all 3 OLB's on the field together and they can also rotate them to keep them fresh. Another thing that we could see is Mercilus playing some of Clowney's ROLB role to give the Texans a strong presence to go up against Trent Williams, while Clowney moves over to the left side to face Tyler Polumbus (while having J.J. Watt next to him).

Advantage: Redskins, The Texans OLB's might end up being pretty good this year and if Clowney reaches his potential they could be great, but the Redskins have two proven commodities and an intriguing 3rd option of their own. It's not a major advantage here, but probably at least moderate.

Inside Linebackers:

-The Redskins may have a really nice find in 3rd year ILB Keenan Robinson who will take over for London Fletcher in the middle of this defense. Robinson has looked good in the preseason and camp and he displays really good athleticism in getting to the football. Next to Robinson will be Perry Riley who is coming off a poor season. Riley is athletic and can be a thumper as well, but too often he lacks the instincts to make the play. He'll have some good games or stretches from time to time, but at best he's an average ILB.

-The Texans have lost Brian Cushing to injuries quite a bit in recent years, but when he's healthy Cushing is one of the better ILB's in the game and can be a true difference maker. Though his outlook over the course of the season could be murky, with him healthy heading into week 1, that is a huge plus for the Texans Defense. The other ILB spot figures to be more fluid between any of the additional 4 ILB's on the roster depending on match-ups. Also, reports are that OLB Whitney Mercilus will also play inside some, likely with the idea of having him blitz up the middle.

Advantage: Texans, It's only a small to medium edge considering the complete unknown at the 2nd ILB spot, but Cushing alone gives Houston the edge here. When he's on the field he's going to make plays, and will do so in every area. 

Cornerbacks:

-DeAngelo Hall is coming off arguably his best season as a pro and if he can continue to play like that the Redskins will be very happy with him as their top corner. David Amerson assumes the other starting corner role, after a rookie season that saw him struggle quite a bit, particularly against 2nd and 3rd receivers. He is coming off a strong preseason, but things could get interesting as he faces off versus some top receivers from time to time. Behind them the Redskins figure to be without Tracy Porter, leaving veteran E.J. Biggers and rookie Bashaud Breeland as the 3rd corner options.

-The Texans have a good starting pair of corners in Jonathan Joseph and Kareem Jackson, though Joseph is coming off an injury so there is a question mark there. Behind them the Texans corners are very untested, with 2nd year A.J. Bouye likely set as the 3rd corner.

Advantage: Tie, Texans have the better two starting corners, but one is coming off a serious injury. Their 3rd and 4th corners are real unknowns. The Redskins have their own question marks, particularly with Amerson, but he's looked vastly improved in camp/preseason so they could match-up the Texans in the top 2 corner spots.

Safeties:

-The Redskins did add Ryan Clark this offseason to add leadership and experience to the back-end. Even with the veteran in the fold the safety position was going to be one of the weakest on the team this season, and that was even before Brandon Meriweather was suspended and Phillip Thomas was cut due to injuries. The Redskins are going to need to rely on Clark and 2nd year safety Bacarri Rambo to hold down the position week one. It's doubtful that newly acquired Duke Ihenacho can help much week one, leaving most of the strong safety duties to Rambo. This is a major question mark for the Redskins and something that the Texans could possibly exploit.

-The Texans have 2nd year pro D.J. Swearinger and Kendrick Lewis as the starters with Danniel Manning and Shiloh Keo as the primary back-ups. Swearinger had an up-and-down rookie campaign, but shows a lot of promise, and he has the potential to breakout this year. Lewis is an average safety, but probably not much better than that. This is by no means the Texans strongest area, but it should be average-to-above average at least.

Advantage: Texans, Ryan Clark is a nice addition, but it's unlikely this is a strong unit for the Redskins. The Texans figure to have both better starters as well as better depth if they need to sub in.  

Special Teams:

-The Redskins are coming off one of the worst special teams performances in NFL history last year as they had issues in every facet of their ST units. They added some talent to help on their cover units, but until they are tested in game action it is tough to know how improved they are. Andre Roberts takes over as the primary returner and he should improve the numbers from the return game, but overall he's probably an average return man. Kai Forbath won the kicking job and should provide the Redskins with a very accurate kicker, but there are still questions about his kick-off distance. The punting job was won by Tress Way, but he's never punted in a regular season game so there is a question about whether he's up to the task for the season.

-The Texans saw kicker Randy Bullock struggle big time last season with his accuracy, but he's back again after winning the preseason kicking battle and showing better accuracy this year. He's considered to have a pretty strong leg and should do well with touchbacks this season. The star of the Texans special teams unit is punter Shane Lechler who remains one of the best punters in the league. He's the type of punter who can flip the field for your defense and he can limit returns with good hang time. Keshawn Martin will be back as the Texans primary return man. He might not be an elite returner, but he he's pretty decent, as he returned a punt for a TD and averaged 26.3 yards per kick return.

Advantage: Texans, Lechler alone would win this for them, but Martin also should have an edge over Roberts. 

Thoughts on the Redskins Roster and Practice Squad

September 1, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

Here are 10 Thoughts on the Redskins:

1. Redskins are making a bold call on RB Lache Seastrunk:

-The move that is getting the most scrutiny is the Redskins decision with Seastrunk. Cutting Seastrunk was the right call for the Redskins as no one put a claim in on him, but what's really shocking is that reportedly the Redskins changed their mind about offering him a practice squad spot. Given that he was a 6th round pick, the fact that he showcased some of his impressive speed and potential and that they even added two practice squad spots this year makes this a very surprising decision. The fact that a guy like a Ted Bosler (who was drafted after Seastrunk) or a Robert Thomas is considered to have more future value for the Redskins is a bit telling. Though it was clear that Seastrunk needed to develop a lot of secondary skills (receiving, pass blocking, etc.), it's shocking you wouldn't try to keep him on the practice squad in the hopes that he does develop those skills. It seems possible that there is more to the story, but that of course is just speculation. What is known is that the Redskins are cutting ties with a draft pick, who is considered by many to have a lot of upside after just one camp/preseason.

2. Lack of Offensive Line additions are troubling/insteresting:

-The Redskins went with the 9 offensive linemen from their original cuts and opted not to sign or claim any other linemen off waivers. Given just how bad the offensive line looked in the preseason (back-ups included), it's a bit of a worry that the Redskins didn't look to add anyone in the hopes that they could get some better play. Probably the biggest surprise was the fact that they didn't sign former Bill/Steeler Doug Legursky who has plenty of staring experience at both guard and center. There were some other intriguing options as well, but that was probably the biggest name out there.

3. Claiming Duke Ihenacho was a smart call:

-The Redskins were smart to use their high waiver priority to land SS Duke Ihenacho from the Denver Broncos. Ihenacho started 14 games for the AFC Champion Denver Broncos last year and he started in another 3 in the postseason as well. Ihenacho isn't likely going to be the answer at safety for the Redskins long term, but he's young and cheaply under contract for the next two seasons (counting this one). He's strong in run support and can help the Redskins at a time when they are dealing with Brandon Meriweather's suspension. Even when Meriweather comes back the Redskins have to be prepared for another possible suspension with him given his track record. Ihenacho does struggle some in coverage, but overall he was a solid pick-up.

4. Making only 1 move after the initial cuts is a bit surprising:

-The Redskins held the 2nd waiver claim spot and only used it to bring in one player (Ihenacho) to their team. In addition with using their prime waiver spot the Redskins could have brought in some additional veterans who weren't subject to waivers. Now it's not as if they were going to make 10 moves, but you could have seen 3 or 4 moves being made. Obviously there is some risk as these new players won't know the team as well and will be behind, but there was some extra talent out there that the Redskins opted to not go with.

5. There are 21 new players on the Redskins 53 man roster this year:

-There are 21 new players on the Redskins 53 man roster who weren't apart of the organization a year ago. That is probably on the low end for team's with new head coaches, and definitely low for a team coming off a 10+ loss season. Whether the Redskins should have made more moves or not won't be known for sure until after the season, but right now you would have to lean to saying that this isn't enough turnover. (note: the lack of turnover is a big part of the reason for the next two points)

6. The Redskins are the 24th youngest team in the NFL:

-Last year the Redskins were the 31st youngest team in the NFL so this is an improvement, but for a team coming off a 3-13 season you would like to see them get even younger. According to Jimmy Kempski from Philly.com the Redskins average age of their 53 man roster (this was before the Ihenacho for Davis swap) sits at 26.44 years. The Rams lead the way with an average age of 25.09 while the Raiders bring up the rear at 27 years as their average age. Though that age gap doesn't seem that big, there are 72 years that separate the Redskins entire roster vs the Rams entire roster. By comparison just 30 years separate the Redskins roster from the Raiders. The Redskins have the 2nd oldest roster in the NFC East, and their roster will only get older (and move down the list) when Brandon Meriweather and Jason Hatcher are added at some point.

7. The Redskins have the fourth lowest amount of available cap space to start the season:

-According to Overthecap.com the Redskins have roughly $5.3 million in cap space currently, which is the fourth lowest amount in the league. Of that money some will get eaten away during the course of the season, but most of it should carry over to next season. The Redskins have the least amount of cap space among the teams in their division, with the Eagles having the most cap space in the division. Though this impacts the Redskins little this season, next year it offers the Redskins less flexibility than some other teams.

8. The Redskins have a lot of faith in Tress Way:

-The Redskins just signed Way two weeks ago and he won their punting job versus Robert Malone who has been here all offseason and through all of camp. Now Way clearly punted better than Malone in the final preseason game and it's likely he looked better in practice as well, so it's not too shocking that he beat out Malone. What is surprising is that the Redskins didn't sign or claim any other punters who hit the open market. Way has zero NFL experience and it is a lot to ask for him to fix a punting unit that was down right awful last year. Hopefully the Redskins faith in Way is well placed, but it's a bit concerning that they are going with someone with no experience.

9. The Redskins will need to make interesting decisions with their PUP players:

-The Redskins kept WR Leonard Hankerson and DE Stephen Bowen on the PUP list which means that they can't even practice for at least 6 weeks. The Redskins can delay the decision on both further, but at some point they will have to make a call about whether or not to put them on IR or not. Both players would be joining deeper positions on the Redskins and it will make for some interesting choices about who they replace. Now it is likely that some other player getting injured may make this decision easy for the Redskins, but right now what receiver or defensive lineman would be on the chopping block to bring back Hankerson and Bowen? It's not an easy call in either case.

10. Who goes when Meriweather comes back?:

-One of the most interesting questions facing the Redskins roster is who gets cut when S Brandon Meriweather comes back after the first two weeks. The general assumption was that it would be one of Trenton Robinson or Akeem Davis, but Davis has already been replaced by Duke Ihenacho, who is probably going to be on the team longer than 2 weeks. That leaves Trenton Robinson as the likely choice, but if Robinson continues to be a strong special teams player that could change the Redskins thinking. The Redskins could look to cut an extra defensive lineman like Frank Kearse (who is practice squad eligible) and go with 5 safeties or perhaps Bacarri Rambo's job could be in jeopardy if he gets off to a bad start.