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Hatcher and Bowen PUP List Placements Expose Lack of Depth Along the Defensive Line

July 24, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

Up until the surprise signing of Wide Receiver DeSean Jackson, the Redskins major free agent acquisition was Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jason Hatcher. Hatcher was coming off an 11 sack season with the Dallas Cowboys and the hope was that he could add a penetrating threat along the defensive line that could help open up the rest of the defense. The Redskins defensive line managed a meager 5.5 sacks last year, and the hope was that Hatcher would boost that total by a significant amount. Hatcher was the Redskins only significant free agent defensive addition, to a unit that ranked 30th in the league in scoring last year. The hope was that between him, fellow defensive lineman Barry Cofield, and outside backers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, the Redskins could generate enough of a threat to hide the deficiencies along the rest of the defensive unit.

Fast forward to the start of training camp and the outlook for the Redskins defensive front doesn't look as promising. Hatcher had to have minor knee surgery late in the offseason, which landed him on the PUP list to start training camp. Though it is right now fully expected that he will be ready for week 1 of the regular season, any significant lost time at this point can be seen as a set back. Hatcher is learning a new defense and working with new teammates, all of which takes reps to get comfortable with. In addition his missed time will likely lead to him not being fully conditioned for the 16 week grind of an NFL regular season, and could make him less than 100% effective at the start of the year.

The other thing that is concerning is that when talking about a knee injury, the effects of the injury/surgery can last for some time, particularly among older players. In addition to not being fully conditioned, his knee might simply might not be near 100%, which will further impact his effectiveness level. Another concern is the potential for him to come back too early and put too much strain on a knee that's not 100% leading to a more significant injury. This fear is what could lead to the Redskins being extra cautious in how quickly they bring him back and just how much they use him when they do.

With Hatcher's outlook more murky the Redskins are left to rely on a defensive line group that is actually weaker than it was a year ago at this point. The other defensive lineman placed on the PUP list to start camp was former top defensive end Stephen Bowen, as he recovers from a microfracture surgery. Bowen was an average to above-average defensive end his first two years in Washington, before injuries really slowed him down this past season. Though outside the organization the hopes for him to have much of an impact this year were already low, the Redskins spoke highly of him and didn't move to cut his massive contract or workout a lower deal. The thought was that as a key reserve, he may be able to offer positive contributions off the bench. Now with his placement on the PUP list and his timeframe for a return even more murky than Hatcher, the Redskins defensive line looks pretty thin.

The Redskins will rely on a group of returning players in Barry Cofield, Chris Baker, Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston to handle the majority of the work right now. Cofield has proven himself to be a pretty good player, capable of disrupting a lot of plays in the backfield and for the most part holding his own at the point of attack. Baker and Jenkins have both flashed potential and made some nice plays, but both disappear far too often to be counted on as full-time starters. Golston is a solid back-up, but he will get exposed if he's asked to play more than 10-15 snaps a game. That is a weaker line-up (given the absence of Bowen) than the unit that was below-average last year, and right now that is the best the Redskins can field. It will improve when Hatcher returns, but how much so is a major question for the Redskins.

If that isn't bad enough, history shows that injuries will likely thin out this group over the course of camp and the regular season. Defensive linemen suffer injuries at a pretty high rate, and the Redskins have seen at least one top 4 defensive lineman suffer a major injury in each of the last three years. In addition to the major injuries, nagging injuries will come into play as well. There were weeks last season where the Redskins had 2-3 of their defensive linemen on the injury report and even when they played, their effectiveness level was well below where it should have been. That is why depth is so important along a defensive line, and right now that is a real concern for the Redskins heading into this season.

Redskins Positional Overview: Quarterbacks

July 19, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

As Training Camp is about to start, now is a good time to take a look at where the Redskins roster stands and how strong it is at each position heading into the season. First up Quarterbacks:

Starter: Robert Griffin III

-RGIII's sophomore season was a year to forget, for both the team and it's fanbase. The 2012 Rookie of Year winner, took a major step back last season as he struggled in returning from his ACL injury suffered in the playoff loss the season before. While there are a number of contributing factors to why it happened, the end result was a quarterback who was pretty ineffective, and at times a liability. Even without having to return from a serious injury, Griffin's performance would have likely gone down as a number of young quarterbacks experience a sophomore slump.  Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys

Now the question becomes just how much can Griffin bounce back this season. The 3rd year (as a starter) for young quarterbacks is typically the year that will set the tone for their future career, as they should now have had time to correct bad habits and have a far better understanding of how to read NFL caliber defenses. Griffin has to work on some things this offseason as he looks to take the next step in becoming a top tier Franchise quarterback and the addition of new coach Jay Gruden, could be the answer to helping Griffin overcome these bad habits. Griffin has to work on his footwork and pocket presence, as with most young quarterbacks he has a penchant for holding on to the ball for too long. Griffin also needs to do a better job going through his progressions during a play. When Griffin's first and second options are covered is when he typically gets himself into trouble.

The good news is that Griffin has a lot of natural talent going for him. Even with the knee injury, he will likely be one of the fastest and most athletic quarterbacks in the league, which will force defenses to respect his ability and potentially open up other options for the offense. Griffin also has a cannon for an arm, and can make every throw that is required from him. If he can throw more often with proper footwork and work on his pocket presence and progressions, he has the upside to become a great quarterback.

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Back-ups: Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy

-Kirk Cousins remains the primary back-up for the Redskins and they should be pretty happy in that regard. Cousins doesn't have the best numbers (though a lot of that can be attributed to the situations he's been put in), but has flashed more than enough potential to suggest that he could eventually become a starter in this league. In the meantime he's one of the better back-up quarterback options in the NFL, and gives the Redskins a legitimate option if RGIII can't go.

Colt McCoy signed as the Redskins 3rd quarterback this year, and while he's got zero chance of being able to unseat either the top two options, this was a nice pick-up for the Redskins. Given the heightened injury risk to Griffin, the Redskins would be wise to have 3 quarterbacks undercontract and should likely keep all 3 when the season starts. McCoy will likely never become the starter that some envisioned after his brilliant college career at Texas, but he's got a little experience and should be a viable back-up caliber quarterback.

Season Outlook: Good to Very Good

-There is little reason to think that Griffin won't improve this season from last year, the only real question is how much improvement can be expected? If Griffin has moderate to good improvement the Redskins will be in a good situation at quarterback this season, but if Griffin really takes the next step, they will quickly have one of the better quarterbacks in the league. It's tough to say just how much Griffin can improve this year as there is a lot of a gray area, but overall it should be a positive for the Redskins and this will likely be a strength for the Redskins organization going forward.

Ten Questions the Redskins Special Teams Need to Answer This Season

June 29, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Who will win the kicking battle?

-In a bit of a surprise move the Redskins drafted a kicker at the end of the draft this year to challenge incumbent Kai Forbath. While on paper Forbath's accuracy took a hit last year as he connected on just 81.8% of his attempts, but a deeper look into his numbers shows he was better than that. Of his four missed field goals, one came when he was playing with a groin injury, another came in his first game back from the groin injury and his final two "misses" were blocks. That makes it tough to really blame him for those missed field goals, as he went 18 for 18, when he wasn't injured and was able to get a kick away. The real issue with Forbath is his lack of kick-off distance which allows for some favorable field position for the opponent. That's where Hocker can win this battle, if he proves to be a superior kick-off guy, and shows at least a close enough accuracy level to Forbath.

2. Will the Redskins keep a kick-off specialist on the roster?

-One solution to the kicking battle would be having the Redskins keep both kickers and use Hocker as a kick-off specialist where he is likely to make a noticeable impact over Forbath. The argument is that a good kick-off specialist is more important than a 3rd QB, 4th running back, 6th corner or whatever other position would be at the end of the Redskins roster. While that is true, it's a faulty argument. The guys at the bottom of the roster, are going to be on the inactive list each week, so the kick-off specialist has to be better than the 46th player on the roster the guy who will not get dressed because he is needed. It might still seem insignificant, but that player definitely is going to have a role in the game day plan. Other teams do it, but there is a reason why only a handful do and the Redskins need to determine if it is worth it.

3. Who will win the Redskins punting battle?

-Another big battle that is raging is who will win the punting duties for the Redskins. Right now it is between Robert Malone and Blake Clingan, neither of whom is a real household name. Malone has more experience and has been decent in some areas, but struggled in others. This looks to be a very open competition, and while it is likely that whomever wins will be an improvement over Sav Rocca, how much of an improvement is a big concern. The Redskins don't have a defense that can shut down an offense anywhere on the field, so field position is going to be extremely important to their level of success.

4. Who will win the return duties?

-The Redskins return game was pretty inept last season and it left the Redskins offense with their own field position woes, which contributed greatly to their own issues. The Redskins need someone to step up and handle the return duties this year. Perhaps it will be one player for kick-off and one for punt, but one way or another the Redskins need to get some positive returns. Early money is on wide receiver Andre Roberts, but we could some some other guys step up like corner Richard Crawford or a running back like Chris Thompson or Lache Seastrunk.

5. Will the coverage unit's improve?

-For as bad as the kick-offs and punts were last year, they were exploited even further, by a truly awful coverage team last year allowing 4 combined kick and punt returns and multiple other big returns that set up easy scores. Even if the punting and kick-off depth improves, it won't mean much if this unit continues to allow these types of back-breaking returns. The Redskins believe they have addressed the problem this offseason, but until we get to the regular season it won't be clear if they were successful or not.

6. Can the Redskins get through a season without any blocked punts or kicks?

-As if the Redskins special teams weren't bad enough, they've had to deal with far too many blocked punts, field goals and even extra points over the last 3 years. If a team has one blocked kick or punt a year it's considered a bad thing, the Redskins have had over 10 kicks or punts blocked over the last three seasons combined including 3 last year. With as weak of a special teams unit that the Redskins already have the last thing they can afford to do is allow these blocks. Last year it almost cost the Redskins 2 of their 3 wins. In week four Sav Rocca had a punt blocked that was recovered for a TD against the Raiders. This kept a Raiders team that was playing numerous back-ups to stay in the game, and be in a position to challenge the Redskins until late in the game. Later in the year against the Chargers, Kai Forbath saw two field goal attempts blocked in a game against the Chargers. If Forbath made both field goals, not only could the Chargers not have won the game on their final drive (The Redskins put up a goalline stand to force a game tying FG), but they couldn't have even tied it with a TD and 2 point conversion. Even if Forbath would have made one of the field goals it would have forced the Chargers to play for the win, which would have meant the Redskins weren't forced to go to Overtime.

7. Will the blocking on returns improve?

-The Redskins returners weren't the only players to fail in the returning game, too often they had to dodge defenders soon after catching the ball (in many cases they failed to do so). Good return units, set up nice lanes for their returners to run through and to cut back to, and that just hasn't been the case for the Redskins. While the returner has primary responsibility, his talent level will only go so far, the blocking needs to step up.

8. How will the new signings improve the special teams unit?

-The Redskins made a concerted effort this offseason to bolster their special teams unit, signing a number of linebackers who are known to be strong special teamers. In addition many of the Redskins street and college free agent signings were predicated on the players ability to contribute on special teams. While it could be a long shot for any of the street or college free agents to make the team, it's good to see the Redskins having the right focus here. The main boost to the special teams unit will come from how Adam Hayward, Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton perform this year.

9. Will any 2nd year guys step up on special teams?

-A big contributing factor to the failure of the Redskins special teams last year was the wholly lackluster performance from the Redskins rookie class. Typically teams rely on their rookie class to make a positive impact on their special teams, and bring in a fair amount of first year value. This is especially true for any defensive backs, linebackers, receivers and running backs, as they are the key special teams positions. The Redskins last year got major negative contributions from these guys on special teams and it cost them. Things didn't start out well as 4th round safety Phillip Thomas was lost for the year with injury during the preseason. Those players that were healthy didn't fare any better. Running back Chris Thompson was an embarrassment as a return man, while fellow 5th round LB Brandon Jenkins was so poor that he was inactive most weeks. Second round corner David Amerson had some struggles on coverage units, but even his issues paled in comparison to how poorly Bacarri Rambo played on special teams.The Redskins need these guys to step up their special teams play this season. When it comes to some of the later round guys like Thompson and Rambo, their roster spot could be on the line based on how they play on special teams.

10. Can any rookies make their presence felt on special teams?

-In addition to last year's guys stepping up the Redskins need this year's class to make their impact felt as well. Obviously 7th rounder Zach Hocker has already been talked about, but the rest of the class needs to step-up as well. The good news is both LB Trent Murphy and CB Bashaud Breeland have strong special teams reputations and both could make an early impact. Seventh round tight end Ted Bosler also has a special teams reputation, but he's not going to replace Niles Paul, so it could be tougher for him to make the team or be active on game days.

Ten Questions the Offense Needs to Answer This Season

June 28, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

With Training Camp less than a month away, here are 10 questions that need to be answered by the offense this season (in both training camp and the regular season).

1. Will Robert Griffin III take a big step forward this season?

-The fact that Robert Griffin III struggled in his sophomore season wasn't exactly shocking. A number of quarterbacks struggle in their 2nd season as defenses begin to pick-up ways to defend them. Normally though it isn't as noticed given that few rookie quarterbacks have the level of success that Griffin enjoyed in 2012. Since there was such a wide gap in between the performances it became a much bigger story. Griffin's injury obviously played a role in the lackluster season, but the question is was it the only reason Griffin's production fell? The bigger question is how will Griffin perform in year 3. For young quarterbacks this is typically the season when teams realize what they have going forward. How Griffin performs this season will not only determine how successful the Redskins can be in 2014, but it should really put the rest of his career in focus as well.

2. Can RGIII stay healthy for 16 games?

-Perhaps the biggest hurdle that Griffin will have to overcome is whether or not he can stay healthy this season. While he technically was healthy last season, the reality is he probably should have been eased into the season and not been allowed to start week 1, as he clearly wasn't ready. Though Griffin is now over a year removed from his 2nd ACL reconstruction, he still carries a fairly significant injury risk. Even though he may physically be back to "normal", Griffin has a higher chance of another knee injury (and it could be to either knee), than a player without a previous ACL injury.  It's something that bears watching and if there are any minor signs of trouble the Redskins can't take the risk to allow him back on the field like they did in 2012.

3. How balanced of an offense will we see this season?

-There is a strong belief by some that the addition of Jay Gruden combined with the free agent signings of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts, will see the Redskins turn into a major passing team. The reality is though that might not be the case. For one thing the Redskins threw quite a bit under the Shanahan's with the exception of the 2012 season (the one year they were actually successful). So chances are if anything their passing attempts will go down after slinging it quite a bit last season. Also, Gruden's Bengals weren't known as a major passing team, and it's not as if they didn't have quality QB or WR play. With Alfred Morris on the team, you don't want to get away from an offense that features him.

4. How will Darrel Young be utilized?

-One fairly big question mark surrounding how balanced the Redskins will be, is how will FB Darrel Young be used? Jay Gruden wasn't known to utilize a FB that much in Cincinnati, and in fact didn't have a natural FB on the roster last year. Young though is one of the best fullbacks in the league, and he's been a big factor in Alfred Morris' success. If Young is utilized less in the offense it could make Morris' life tougher and make the running game less effective.

5. Will the DeSean Jackson signing pay-off?

-It was a surprising move and on paper it looks like it could be a great move, but Jackson's success with the Redskins is far from a sure thing. He's had attitude and lockerroom issues in the past, will those come up with the Redskins and cause an issue, or will everything work out. If issues do occur will they negatively impact the team and cause major issues throughout the lockerroom?

6. Will Jordan Reed become a reliable impact player?

-Jordan Reed burst on to the scene last year and proved himself as a quality weapon. Unfortunately a host of injuries slowed down Reed throughout the year and led to him eventually being shut down. If Reed can stay healthy he legitimately should be a top 10 pass catching tight end in the league. If Reed can reach that level it will be a major boost to the Redskins offense.

7. Can the offensive line stay healthy for the 3rd year in a row?

-The Redskins offensive line has been incredibly healthy over the last 2 seasons, missing a combined 1 start over those two years. While the line might not have been incredibly strong, the fact that they haven't had to go to their bench has made the Redskins offensive line better than what you'd expect. The Redskins offensive should have some new starters this year and hopefully the line will improve, but if multiple starters are missing multiple games not only will any improvements be lost, but the overall production could be worse than years past.

8. Will any OL outside of Trent Williams, play at a high level this season?

-Speaking of the offensive line, will any of the 4 other starters than Trent Williams finally play at a level above average (or greater). While Williams has established himself as one of the top LT's in the league, the rest of the line are filled with question marks (including some of the additions). If their level of play remains pretty poor, it could greatly impact how much RGIII can grow this year.

9. Can the Redskins fix their first half scoring woes?

-One of the biggest problems that haunted the Redskins last season was their inability to score points (particularly TD's) on offense in the first half of games. For as bad as the Redskins defense was, their job was made far worse by an inept offense. This put the Redskins in a lot of early deficits that they just weren't able to come back from. While hopefully the defense will be improved this season, it won't matter much if the Redskins offense can't get off to an good start early on.

10. Can the Redskins improve in the Red Zone?

-Another area where the Redskins struggled was converting red zone appearances into TD's. After finishing 4th in the league in that category in 2012, the Redskins fell to 21st last season. That is just unacceptable for a team who is built to win on offense. This is an area that desperately needs to be improved upon if the Redskins are to succeed this year.

Ranking the Redskins Defensive Position Groups by Talent and Depth

June 15, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Outside Linebackers:

-If one unit from this Redskins defense that has the ability to be a top 10 unit in the league, it's their outside pass rushers, who in this 3-4 defense are their outside linebackers. Brian Orakpo has led or been tied for the team lead in sacks, the 4 years he's been healthy. Orakpo is playing under the franchise tag this year, and is one of the better right side pass rushers in this league. Opposite Orakpo is Ryan Kerrigan, who has been a good left side rusher, who has put up solid sack numbers and pretty good pressure numbers in his 3 seasons in Washington. Joining them this season will be rookie 2nd round pick Trent Murphy. Murphy not only offers quality depth, either to rotate in or protect from injury, but the Redskins will likely try to get all 3 pass rushers on the field in a number of passing situations. Though his total snap count may be limited, he could be a nice boost to the pass rush when he's in. When he's subbing in for Orakpo/Kerrigan, it will mean the Redskins still have 2 quality edge rushers on the field. When he's apart of the nickel unit with all 3 on the field, it will make life quite difficult for the opposing offense, because they have so many options to worry about. This has been the most productive unit for the Redskins defense the past couple of years, but now they really have to step-up their game if the Redskins are to get back to the post-season.

2. Defensive Line:

-The Redskins biggest defensive investment in free agency, was defensive lineman Jason Hatcher who is coming off an 11 sack season and Pro Bowl selection last year. He will pair with Barry Cofield to give the Redskins two good defensive linemen. Behind them it gets a bit more shaky, but Jarvis Jenkins and Chris Baker can both be solid rotational guys. When you have a 3-4 defense, that plays a lot of nickel, your top 5 defensive linemen are who really matter. As it stands now the Redskins are pretty solid there as they have 2 good starters and two solid guys behind that. After that it's pretty murky as who will emerge as that 5th guy. Now ideally that 5th defensive lineman (and anyone below him), will only play the least amount, but the defensive line is a position that has a lot of attrition, so chances are one of these top 4 guys are going to miss some time. Overall the Redskins are in good shape here. It could be better, but as long as the injuries aren't too bad they should be okay.

3. Cornerbacks:

-After a couple of really rough years DeAngelo Hall had perhaps the best year of his career (easily his best year in a Redskins uniform) last season, and the Redskins awarded him with a contract extension. Hall had some great games last year, locking horns with some of the league's best wide receivers and coming away the victor. Unfortunately Hall also had his games where he disappeared and proved to be streaky in his play. Now that Hall is no longer paid like a top 10 corner, his play being streaky isn't as much of an issue, but it does mean that when he's your number one corner, you aren't going to be an elite group. Ascending to the starting role opposite Hall this year is David Amerson. Amerson was a 2nd round corner last year, but only came in when the Redskins went into nickel. Amerson showed some flashes of potential, but for the most part he struggled quite a bit and gave up some of the biggest passing plays the Redskins allowed last season. What made Amerson's struggles more troubling is that he faced primarily 2's and 3's, many of whom aren't considered quality options, yet he wasn't able to shut them down. He'll need to step up in a big way this year if he want's to prove his draft stock. The Redskins signed Tracy Porter to be their 3rd corner. Porter has had an up-and-down career, but the biggest concern with him is his health as last season was the first time he was ever able to play in 16 games. The Redskins drafted Bashaud Breeland in the 4th round and while he's raw, he's a guy with a lot of potential. Overall there is solid depth here, but question marks surround all the top guys.

4. Inside Linebackers:

-The Redskins went with a quantity over quality approach at inside linebacker, as they have 5 guys who could theoretically be average, but none really expected to be a quality starter or better. Ideally Perry Riley will take over the top ILB role, but he's been below average-to-average throughout his career and after not finding much of a market in free agency he re-signed for a moderate deal. The fact that no one in the league thought enough of him to overpay him, doesn't really bode well for his opinion around the league. Hopefully 3rd year LB Keenan Robinson will earn the other starting job, but he's now missed the last year and and a half (including much of training camp last year) due to injury, making him a big question mark. The Redskins signed Akeem Jordan, who has started for the Chiefs and Eagles in the past, Darryl Sharpton, who has been an injury replacement and racked up some solid playing time these past couple of years for the Texans and Adam Hayward, who has been a back-up with the Buccaneers. Any of the three could end up being Riley's running mate in the middle if Robinson can't return from the injury, but none are considered to have much potential. The good news is there is depth here, so if there is an injury or two this year, the Redskins can survive it. The bad news is there just isn't a lot of talent here and it's tough for a 3-4 team to succeed without at least one star inside linebacker.

5. Safeties:

-If this was 2009 the Redskins would have one of the most promising safety pairings in the league. At the time Ryan Clark had established himself as a really good safety, who was extremely consistent and reliable. Brandon Meriweather was a former first round pick, who looked like he was finally going to live up to his promise to be one of the top safeties in the league. Fast forward 5 years later and it is a completely different story for this pair. Clark is now entering his 13th year in the NFL, and will turn 35 this season. Clark has started to lose a step and is not as reliable as he once was. Meriweather failed to ever reach his promise and in the last 4 years has been benched by two top defensive coaches (also was cut by one of them), suffered a major knee injury, has been suspended by the league for illegal hits, and has played extremely poorly. Now 30 years old, Meriweather's time for being a star has passed and the best the Redskins can hope for is somewhere close to average production. If their starting pair of safeties weren't bad enough, the depth of this unit leaves a lot to be desired. Tanard Jackson has essentially been suspended 3 of the last 4 seasons, and when he has played he's been a major liability with his tackling. Second year safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo, both have question marks as well. Thomas missed his entire rookie year with injury and has now been injured two of the last 3 seasons. Rambo struggled mightily as a rookie, and was a liability when he was on the field. This is not just the worst unit on the Redskins defense, but they are one of the worst safety groups in the entire league.

Ranking the Redskins Offensive Position Groups By Talent and Depth

June 14, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Running back / Fullback:

-With all the hype on the health of RGIII and the receivers the Redskins brought in, what has been forgotten is just how good the Redskins rushing attack is. Just four running backs have rushed for 1,200 or more yards over the past two seasons, Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris. That is pretty impressive company to belong with and even more impressive given just how poor of an offensive line Morris has had to work with. In two years Morris has 2,888 yards, 20 TD's and has averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Morris is clearly a stud and a workhorse running back and easily a top 5 back from a rushing standpoint. While Morris has not shown himself as much of a receiver, Roy Helu Jr. excels in that area and has been a nice complement to Morris. At fullback the Redskins have one of the more underappreciated players in the league in, Darrel Young who grades out well as a runner, receiver and most importantly a lead blocker. This is a very strong group for the Redskins and if the passing attack can keep the defense from stacking they box, the sky is the limit for this unit. Also, don't be surprised if rookie Lache Seastrunk gets some carries as a change of pace back.

2. Wide Receiver:

-Many people would probably put wide receiver as the Redskins best position group as a whole, and on paper it is pretty impressive. Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson are arguably both top 20 (if not higher) receivers in this league, Andre Roberts would be capable of starting on 10-15 teams in this league, and has been pretty effective his last three years in Arizona. If Leonard Hankerson is healthy and Santana Moss makes the team, the Redskins would easily have the best 4th and 5th receivers in the league, giving them capable depth is any of the top 3 miss time due to injury. With all of that the wide receiver group should be a lock for the top spot, but two things really hold them back: Familiarity and Size. With two of the Redskins top receivers brand new to the team, there will be a period of adjustment with a new quarterback (and a new offense). It will likely mean that Jackson and Roberts don't produce as much value as they would say a year from now. The other question mark with this group is the lack of size. The Redskins don't have any big physical receivers which limits some of the routes they can run, and how effective they will be in the red zone. This is still a very talented group, but it is just number two on the list.

3. Quarterback:

-This is a big year for Robert Griffin III as he has to prove that the injury is behind him and 2013 was a fluke year, caused by the injury and the issues with the coaching staff. Griffin has the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in this league, but he has a ways to go. As brilliant as he was in 2012, so much of that success came from screens and misdirection, defenses have improved and now take away some of those plays, so Griffin must adapt as well and become a stronger pocket passer. Reading the defense is a tough thing for any young quarterback to learn, but it will be necessary if Griffin is to take the next step this year. The Redskins do have a capable back-up quarterback in Kirk Cousins, so if Griffin were to miss some time it wouldn't be as dire of a situation as it is for some teams.

4. Tight End:

-Jordan Reed is a top 10 pass catching tight end if he's healthy. Unfortunately that is a major question mark going into this season. Reed's brilliant rookie year was marred by multiple injuries that would knock him out of games, and concluded with a bad concussion that shut him down for the final month and a half of the season. Reed has a history of injuries, including concussions going back to his college days at Florida, making the injuries from his rookie year a bit more concerning. When Reed was healthy and on the field, he proved to be a major weapon in the making and one that could cause major mismatch problems for opposing defenses. The fact that he was able to be that successful his rookie year, while Griffin was struggling and with a lack of other weapons drawing the defensive focus, was pretty impressive. If Reed is healthy this will be a position of strength for the Redskins. If he misses time, the Redskins don't have the depth to make up for him. Logan Paulsen the back-up tight end is very streaky and even when he's playing well, it has more to do with his blocking than his receiving.

5. Offensive Line:

-If this list was broken down by each individual position, Trent Williams at LT would rank number one, unfortunately for the offensive line, Williams alone can't keep this unit out of the cellar. There are 4 question marks to the right of Trent Williams and if those positions don't vastly improve this season it could be another long year for RGIII. The Redskins could start three guys (outside of Trent Williams), who were on the line last year and it is doubtful any of them have improved too much (if at all). Though the Redskins did bring in a pair of free agent O-linemen and drafted another two, none of them are considered definitive major improvements to this unit. The good news is that the depth of the unit has improved and hopefully the future as well with the additions of the draft choices, but in terms of talent, for this season it could be a rough year.

5 Returning Redskins Fighting For a Job: Defense

June 2, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

Here's a look at 5 returning defensive players, who could be fighting for a job this training camp.


1. DE Stephen Bowen-

-Bowen was a big free agent signing of the Redskins back in 2011 and initially it looked as though he would make a pretty big impact as he had a strong first season in D.C. The past two years though he's seen his play decline considerably. While it's not entirely been Bowen's fault as he's dealt with a host of injuries including a microfracture injury in his knee late in the season last year, his inability to stay healthy has become a liability for the team. Making matters worse is the fact that Bowen's salary cap impact has increased making him one of the more expensive players on the team. With his status up in the air this year due to the microfracture surgery, keeping him around doesn't make too much sense. Perhaps Bowen works out a major salary reduction to stay with the team, but if they can't count on him to be healthy the Redskins can't justify paying him.

2. DE Kedric Golston-

-Golston has been with the Redskins since they drafted him in the 6th round back in 2006. He's proven to be a solid back-up, who can contribute some on special teams. Golston though could be facing an uphill roster battle in camp this year as he could be on the losing side of the numbers game. The Redskins are only going to keep 6 or 7 defensive linemen (and the past couple years they've gone with 6), which could make it tough for Golston to earn a spot. Four spots are already locked down with Barry Cofield, Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker and Jarvis Jenkins all locks for a spot, barring an injury. That leaves just 2-3 spots between Golston, Bowen, Doug Worthington, Chris Neild, free agent signing Clifton Geathers and a couple street/UDFA free agents. Of that group Bowen (if he's healthy and reduces his contract) and Geathers would probably be ahead of Golston at this point. Neild and Worthington both have some experience and are cheaper options so even if Golston beats out Bowen or Geathers, he might not be a lock for a spot.

3. S Bacarri Rambo-

-Rambo was considered a steal in the 6th round of the draft last year by many and the hype train got rolling pretty quickly with the former SEC standout last year. It grew even further when during OTA's and mini-camp, Rambo was getting high praise from the coaching staff and it was thought that he could end up starting. As training camp was getting going he was considered further along than fellow rookie safety 4th rounder Phillip Thomas. Thomas was injured in the first and the team did nothing to bolster their safety depth before the season, leaving Rambo as a starter despite serious questions about his play during preseason. Rambo was benched early on in the season and was even made inactive after he struggled on the Redskins special teams units. While he eventually got back on the field, Rambo continued to struggle on special teams. The Redskins brought in Ryan Clark this offseason, in addition to re-signing Brandon Merriweather. With Phillip Thomas fully healthy it appears that 3 of the likely 4 safety spots are already set. Rambo will now need to beat out Tanard Jackson, Trenton Robinson, Akeem Davis and possibly CB/S hybrid E.J. Biggers (see below) for the final spot. The real key for Rambo will be how he improves on special teams. If the Redskins are serious about boosting their special teams this year, they can't justify keeping a 2nd year 6th round pick back-up safety that struggles on special teams.

4. OLB Rob Jackson-

-Rob Jackson has been part of the Redskins organization since he was drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 draft, but his time in D.C. could be coming to a fast end. Jackson gained some consideration among Redskins fans for his solid play in relief of Brian Orakpo back in 2012, when Orakpo missed the final 14 games due to injury. Jackson wasn't near the pass rusher that Orakpo was, but he was used in a platoon system and made some nice plays for the Redskins against the run and in coverage. Jackson was suspended for the first 4 games last season, but he did come back to play as a solid back-up for the Redskins down the stretch. After not receiving much free agent interest, Jackson returned to the Redskins on a 1 year deal. The Redskins though spent their top pick on rush linebacker Trent Murphy, meaning that the Redskins have their top back-up and 3rd OLB during pass rush situations. That leaves Jackson to compete with 2nd year OLB Brandon Jenkins for what is likely to be the final OLB roster spot. Jackson is more well-rounded of the two, but Jenkins is a more natural pass rusher and signed extremely cheaply for the next 3 years. Jackson is going to have to clearly out play Jenkins to beat him out of a roster spot.

5. CB E.J. Biggers-

-The Redskins signed E.J. Biggers last year to be either their 3rd or 4th corner, depending on the healthy of Josh Wilson and the development of David Amerson. As week one rolled around though and Phillip Thomas was on IR and Brandon Meriweather wasn't 100%, Biggers was pressed into duty as a starting safety, a position he hadn't played since he was in High School and not something he worked on much in practice. Not surprisingly Biggers struggled in the role, and was a major liability to start the season. Biggers remained in the mix for a hybrid safety role given the ineffectiveness of Bacarri Rambo during the season. Though it never became a positive, Biggers play in this role (and the back-up corner role) improved throughout the season. Now Biggers figures to be in a tough battle for a roster spot this year. The top 4 corner spots (Hall, Amerson, Tracy Porter and rookie Bashuad Breeland) are all set, leaving just 1 or 2 spots. Biggers will face some serious challengers including youngsters with promise like Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield, in addition to a whole host of street/undrafted free agents. Even if the Redskins keep 6 corners, Biggers might be on the outside looking in. One saving grace for Biggers could be the development of the young safeties. If they are still struggling, Biggers could earn a spot as a 6th corner given his ability to help back-up that position.

Final Look at the 2014 Redskins Draft

May 31, 2014 in Redskins Personnel, Washington Redskins Draft

By: Justin Partlow

After doing a player by player breakdown of each draft pick, I wanted to then go and give one last final look at the draft class and give then a preliminary look at the 2015 draft and what route it could go as well. This draft class at first was given pretty low marks by some, but after carefully reviewing it and looking at the team depth chart, it makes sense that they chose to go the route of developmental guys who can really provide value moving forward even if it isn’t as noticeable in 2014. So with that said let’s take one last look at this class

When sitting down on Friday night of the draft, I had it almost in my head that they would be taking an OT at 34 or if they traded down in round 2 they would take one there. After the Cowboys trade I knew it could then be an OLB target, but still had held out hope that it could be an OT. When the pick of Trent Murphy was announced, there was that mixed audible reaction out of my mouth. Looking back at the pick, I would have preferred someone such as Jeremiah Attaochu, but Murphy makes sense as he could be seen as insurance for Ryan Kerrigan, and also provides another guy who can put his hand in the dirt and can pass rush from that DT position if Haslett implements the nascar packages again. After that selection I felt that the team would go either OT or secondary help. Getting Morgan Moses at 66 was a great move and if he can continue his trajectory seen in his senior year, then the Redskins have a long term starter at RT for years to come. Finally the Redskins took this OG in Spencer Long who wasn’t as well known, but because of the knee injury he had he wasn’t able to take fully show his ability he had in 2012. Long can immediately compete for the RG spot in 2014 and it wouldn’t surprise me if he did so.

After day two came day three, which is really about getting those value picks and then finding guys who can do one thing better than anyone else. The Redskins used that mindset to get guys who they felt were good fits both on special teams as well as upgrades at positions they can use help at. Bashaud Breeland has the ability to be a starting caliber CB, but will need a bit of a red shirt year to learn and refine his technique. Then adding guys like Ryan Grant and Lache Seastrunk will provide more weapons for the disposal of RG3, HC Jay Gruden and OC Sean McVay. Grant will make his name as someone who can play special teams along with being a slot WR. Seastrunk is the dynamic homerun threat at RB that many fans have wanted for years with his ability to take any run and turn it into a touchdown. Finally the Redskins rounded out the draft with Ted Bolser and Zach Hocker as the final picks. Bolser can compete as the #3 TE, but almost figures to be a candidate to get a year on the PS before he can become the #3 TE. Hocker could unseat Kai Forbath as the team’s only kicker, but could at worst be kept as a kickoff specialist.

So with that said what can we expect from the Redskins in the 2015 draft? If this year is any suggestion the Redskins are really leaning on the idea of a BPA approach, but also a very forward look for the team. If that’s the case then I’d look for them to continue that approach with the CB class along with S class. With the Redskins having a 1st round pick again after the RG3 trade, I’d not be surprised to see them target those classes early. 2015 will be a big year both drafting as well as development for the Redskins and could lead to very good results in the future.

Zach Hocker: What Can Redskins Fans Expect Next Year

May 29, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

By: Justin Partlow

When it got to the last Redskins pick of the draft, no one honestly knew what route the team would go. When the pick got announced it was a kicker by the name of Zach Hocker out of Arkansas, the reaction to his selection was almost one of the wrong 1st round pick. While Hocker was someone who had a chance to be an early UDFA signing, it’s always rare to see kickers get drafted unless they are a generational type talent or just that much better than their peers. Hocker though started to raise some eyebrows with Redskins fans because of his known high end leg strength that he possesses. Kai Forbath the current kicker has had problems when it comes to leg strength and with the way of the NFL you need kickers who are consistent touchback kickers on kickoffs. Below I’ll take a look at what Hocker can do well already and then what he can bring to the Redskins next year.

When it comes to kickers, I’m not going to sit here and act as if I watched any of his film or even have sat down to ever watch a kicker. Hocker, is one of those guys who I’ve never watched. From what is seen of Hocker, and the tiny bit of Arkansas games I’ve watched, it was apparent that he has the leg strength to at worst be a kick off specialist in the NFL. Hocker though will need to be more than that if he wants to consistently stick in the NFL. With his much the game is evolving and moving into the new age, kickers either need to be able to do both kickoffs and kicks, or they will have the punter do the kickoffs as well. While Hocker never has shown amazing accuracy, he’s shown the ability to be fairly accurate and you hope that when moving to the NFL and getting some special teams coaching then he can become a bit more accurate. When you see what Hocker has done and what he possesses, it’s easy to see that actually one of the toughest competitions in training camp just might come down to the kicker battle.

With that being said, what will Hocker provide the Redskins next year and what can the fans expect then? As I mentioned briefly earlier, Hocker either will be a kick off specialist(which would be a mistake) or he will beat out Kai Forbath and become the new kicker of the Washington Redskins. I’d expect that Hocker does win out the battle, and if he were to lose the battle it would be quite a tough blow and will lead fans to question the pick even more than it already has been. In some ways I almost expect Hocker to win the battle because they don’t want to have a 7th round pick already cut and one that has been scrutinized as a pick already. Look for Zach Hocker though to be the kicker for the Washington Redskins if he can show good accuracy and the leg strength that he does have.

Ted Bolser: What Can Redskins Fans Expect Next Year

May 29, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

By: Justin Partlow

When you head into the 7th round of the NFL draft, you generally are looking for guys who have one area that they are specialized in over anyone else at their positions and in the draft. For the Redskins they took a TE in Ted Bolser who has the height to become a matchup nightmare, but also has a ton of work to be done before he could ever reach that point. Bolser has the size and athleticism to be successful, but has poor blocking technique along with very poor concentration lapses. What Bolser makes up for with his errors is the effort in which he plays. It always seems as if Bolser is playing with his hair on fire and will play until the whistle blows. Bolser has the ability to be a good successful #3 TE who specializes as well on special teams, but will face an uphill battle as he’s got incumbents who already have shown the ability to be successful in that role. Below I’ll take a look at Bolser’s strengths and what then Redskins fans can expect next year from him.

Now I’m not going to pretend here that I’ve watched every game of Ted Bolser and know exactly every nook and cranny of his game. What I have seen though is enough film and tape of Bolser to get a good judgment of what he can do as well as what he does need to improve on. When I started to watch Bolser, I immediately jumped back to another player I watched last year in Joseph Fauria out of UCLA. Fauria was in a lot of ways just a touchdown machine who didn’t have a lot of substance outside of it. The Detroit Lions then took him and used his strengths to their advantage as they now have a TE who can be a matchup nightmare in the red zone. In a lot of ways I think the Redskins want Bolser to become that jack of all trades player who can be an H-Back/TE type, but also has that Fauria in him with his ability to get touchdowns over defenders in the red zone. Bolser is someone though who gives you all 110% effort that is wanted, but he also has his fair share of issues and really will have an uphill battle moving forward. As mentioned earlier, Bolser struggles to remain focused and will have timely drops that can kill momentum. As well, Bolser struggles a lot when it comes to blocking, which will be critical in the Jay Gruden offense. Now the Redskins don’t just want him to become only a blocking TE, but at the same time he needs to be at least average in it. Bolser truly has the ability to take that #3 TE job by the horns, but at the same time he’s got quite an uphill battle with his negatives and having guys already in place like Niles Paul who have shown the ability to do what is already needed.

What then can the Redskins fans expect from Bolser next year? I’d expect Bolser to either unseat Niles Paul or if he cant, then he’ll get moved to the practice squad and have another year to develop and have his chance to then go after and become the #3 TE. If Bolser makes the roster, he’ll really get his chance to make his name on special teams and will have the chance to make a name in the red zone with his height that he possesses. As has been the theme with many of the 2014 class, Bolser could see his time come in 2015, but again will need a lot of seasoning before he can truly reach that level.