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Why I Don't Like the Redskins Better Than…

April 11, 2014 in Redskins Offseason

Earlier this week I wrote an article why I liked the Redskins better than the other NFC East opponents. Now let's take a look at the other side of it…

 

1. Philadelphia Eagles

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Courtesy of ICON SMI

The Eagles could sign Randall Cunningham today to come back and play quarterback and it still wouldn't be a bigger story in Philadelphia than DeSean Jackson's departure.  The Eagles do lose a big play talent in Jackson but they feel his loss is actually going to be a positive for the entire team.  At first I laughed it off and thought Chip Kelly was crazy to let Jackson go for nothing and to a division rival, but if I am an Eagles fan it has to reassuring that the team has clearly supported Kelly's call here.  I am shocked no one has come to defend Jackson and even say they wish he was still around.  Is he that bad in the locker room?  Could be which worries me when it comes to the Eagles and the Skins.  As for replacing the talent on the field the Eagles are in a decent spot in the first round to add a third receiver at a cheaper cost than Jackson who can fill in much like Dallas saw last season with Terrance Williams.

Chip Kelly's first season had to be considered a positive one even after a home playoff loss to New Orleans.  Part of me as I stated before wondered if the league in year two can catch up to Kelly.  That is a huge question when it comes Kelly and the Eagles but I don't think with Kelly it’s similar to figuring out the read option.  Kelly's offense is just faster.  Add Darren Sproles into the mix and it could be tougher to stop especially for a team that struggles on defense like the Redskins.  The Eagles also will most likely plan on having Jason Peters closer to 100% than the last couple seasons to pair with a second year Lane Johnson.  Brian Orakpo who will once again be in a contract year must be able to raise havoc versus these guys if the Redskins want to slow down Kelly, Foles, McCoy and the Eagles.

Philly added Malcolm Jenkins to help in the back and I am not a huge fan but what do the Skins still have at safety?  I think it’s more of a concern at that spot for Washington.

The Eagles swept the Redskins after blowing huge leads in both games last season and for the Redskins to be better it will take a huge jump from them.  It is not crazy to think the Eagles could drop a game or two back but I can't see them doing anything close to what Washington did from 2012 to 2013.

 

2. New York Giants     eli

Tom Coughlin will always get criticized in New York no matter how many rings he can show.  One thing we know about Coughlin is that he has been and will continue to be one of the top coaches in the NFL.  We don't know yet what kind of coach Jay Gruden is yet.  What worries me about the Giants most is that there is a potential to see a Coughlin vs. Zorn type mismatch on the sidelines between these two teams.  Also, just like Coughlin, when you think Eli Manning is also is down a bit too, he finds a way to bounce and do things like win Super Bowls.  Griffin has the potential to bounce back and Manning has proved time and again he can bounce back and win big games.

What the Giants did in the offseason also was to go out and shop at quantity more than go after the big price guys.  Rodgers-Cromartie cost them a bit but a guy who might be just as good like Thurmond did not.  The Giants seem to fills holes with two guys instead of just one.  Just by simple math they have a better chance it works out.  And they don't have a rookie coach like the Redskins to try and piece it all together.

Like the Eagles the Giants swept the Redskins in 2013.  Both games were pretty ugly including a week 17 disaster in the rain.  Can the Redskins make a move to catch the Giants?  I think so because I think the Giants are a team in limbo.  They have been in the mix for a long time now and at some point the wheels fall off with almost every organization for a year like it did last season in Washington.

 

3. Dallas Cowboys         The Redskins vs. Cowboys rivalry heats up on Thanksgiving Day this year with 2nd place in the NFC East on the line.

The Dallas offense if their key figures can stay healthy should still be one of the best in the league.  If Dez Bryant can find a way to be more consistent he will be right up there with Calvin Johnson on the field and not just in his head.  That is what most worries me about the Cowboys.  They have the offensive parts to make them still a division contender and if some of those parts can even get better like a Murray and a Williams they could be scary on offense.  Witten is Witten and you can expect him to contribute.  But the key is always Romo and if he can get over the problems he has had in big games.  Good news for Skins fan is Rob Jackson is back in the mix.  Dallas would have been smart to grab him just so Romo didn't have to see him.

As for the defense, it was as bad as you could get when it comes to defense.  They went 8-8 even with a defense that bottom ranked offensives could scorch.  So they can't be as bad as last season because I don't think it is possible.  So if the old school coaches can do any kind of turnaround with the Dallas defense they have to be improved.  Everyone here thinks that without Shanahan having the vice on Haslett that he will be able to improve the Washington defense so it’s far to think that the same can happen in Dallas.

Like the Eagles and the Giants the Dallas Cowboys swept the Redskins in 2013.  They won five more games than Washington as well.  Can the Redskins close the gap on Dallas?  I think so because I don't think there is a huge difference in talent here and unlike the Giants and Eagles I am far from concerned about coaching.  Like I mentioned with the Giants it wouldn't be crazy to see the Cowboys have the huge drop to a 4 or 5 win team.  But then again if they can finally get everything going they could win the KFC East also.

 

 

Where Do The Redskins Go From Here?

April 10, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

By: Justin Partlow

 

Now that free agency has started to wind down, the draft boards will start to become clearer at the park. After a free agency period that started out pretty quiet, the Redskins became players and added divisional players such as Jason Hatcher, and Desean Jackson. Ever since adding those players, the picture has started to become more clear, the Redskins aren’t looking at this rebuild as a long term event, it’s going to be a more rapid rebuild that should span only 1-2 years instead of a longer 3-5 year move. With that being said, what can we expect from here? Below I’ll take a look at the draft and what the Redskins could look to do now.

After adding the FA players this offseason, the Redskins have target a good solid mix on both offense and defense and have made it known not one area is the problem. With that being said, the Redskins seem very likely to target a few specific positions due to areas that still could be upgraded. The likeliest target of all the positions is still at safety, and specifically FS. Brandon Merriweather is a solid option, but he’s reckless and you can’t ever expect him to be a full 16 game player due to injuries or possible suspensions. Ryan Clark was a good stopgap signing, but he’s also an older veteran and has seen his play decline lately rapidly. With that being said, I’d be surprised if the Redskins didn’t target getting another S to add along with Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. The Redskins will look to develop those two players, but they can’t just expect to let that happen and not have any sort of back up plan.

With safety being a need, there are the usual suspect names that have been floated around, including Jimmie Ward and even in some respects Haha Clinton-Dix. The name though that makes a ton of sense for what Washington likes to run, is Deone Bucannon the starting FS/SS out of Washington State. Jim Haslett wants players who can play both safety positions and become more interchangeable than playing just one silo position. Bucannon can play in coverage as a FS, but also isn’t afraid to play up close to the LOS and make plays in the run game, and that’ll be something Haslett would seem to value highly. The good news as well is that Bucannon is a likely day 2 pick, and would be an excellent choice with the 66th pick the Redskins own.

Not only is safety a need, but as well a position that could be upgraded very well is the TE position. Jordan Reed had a bit of a break out year, but injuries are still a concern with him and with Gruden, you can look for Reed to line up more outside and play in that Jimmy Graham role. With that being the case, adding someone who can play to the strengths of Reed and compliment him well would be a very wise choice. At the 34th pick, the Redskins could look to add someone such as Jace Amaro if he were to fall into the 2nd round. As well the Redskins if they decide to trade back a little, could add another big time TE in Austin Sefarian-Jenkins out of Washington. Adding more weapons to the offense would be a good element especially with a new offense, and a young franchise QB who is likely to rebound in a big way.

The Redskins are a team that could rebound quickly and fight for that division title again next year. In order to help reach that goal again, the draft in May will be critical in going forward and helping the overall direction of the team. If Bruce Allen and company can have a successful draft, then look for Jay Gruden and staff to make a big push and fight for the division title in the fall. The future is starting to become bright again in Washington; the draft could even make it brighter.

Why I Like the Redskins Better Than…

April 9, 2014 in Redskins Offseason

1.  Philadelphia Eagles    460x

It is tough to argue why I could like the Redskins better than a team that won a zillion more games than them last season but I have a couple reasons why.

First, these teams were in the exact opposite spots at this time last season most will forget.  Nick Foles was far from a lock at QB for Philly.  Then he exploded with Chip Kelly once he took over for Mike Vick.  But he lost one of his weapons and crazy but he lost him to the Skins.  That has to have an impact on their offense even with adding Darren Sproles to their mix.  More will be expected from rabid concert goer Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin who is coming off an ACL.  And of course we in Washington now know a lot about returning from ACLs.  LeSean McCoy is great….at football…not at Twitter but running backs as we have seen can take steps back.  I doubt he does but it's possible.

And I am still not sold on their defense.  Fletcher Cox is a top d-lineman, Trent Cole and Connor Barwin are still disruptive on the outside but I am far from sold on the secondary.  Just from the eye test last season they got away with all kind of holds and contact, just ask the Arizona Cardinals.  They can use the draft to add on the d side or a replacement for Desean but I am still far from sold.

The Saints game was very telling once they got out of an Eagles fan friend of mine called it the KFC East.  The Saints slowed the Kelly offense down and Foles looked very average.  A tough way to end of the season so let's see if they can rebound as the defending champs.

2.  New York Giants

The Giants made all kinds of moves in free agency.  So much they looked like the Yankees more than the Giants.  Well note fair because the Giants did actually add guys in their 20s not mid-30s.  Will this pay off?  Most were low risk adds but they will be dependent on DRC and Thurmond revamping their defensive backfield.  Is DRC a top corner?  He got paid like one so let's see him take on the best of the KFC East.  I was shocked the Giants spent a lot of money but failed to hang onto Linval Joseph?  The defense is very different and Perry Fewell will have to piece it together if they want to improve but they still do not scare me.

The offense will need a bounce back from Eli Manning behind a new offensive line crew.  New York added a lot of mid-level talent to try and fix an aging crew.  I still think this unit could breakdown and Eli could be looking at another turnover machine season.  Gone are Hakeem Nicks and his Stevie Nicks like touchdown production of 2013.  The running game has been most erratic in the division the past few seasons but Jennings should help by adding to the mix.  But still they aren't looking at having a Morris, McCoy or Murray in NY.

So unlike past seasons I saw the Giants with Manning and Coughlin as the favorites in the East but not anymore.  They could jump back in and win it but I am not scared of the at all.  I like Coughlin over the unknown of Gruden but nowhere else do I see the Gmen having a legit advantage.

3. Dallas Cowboys

Dallas finally paid the price of having Jerry and Stephen Jones run the team.  They were handcuffed this offseason for paying the price of bad personnel moves that haven't paid off with any playoff success.  Dallas lost more than it added to historically bad defense watching Ware and Hatcher roll.  The Redskins defense can look at Dallas and actually say there is a defense on the same level.  And the Skins were at least able to add some pieces this Spring.  I can write all day on Dallas bad signings much like I have from the Cerrato Skins.  Easy one I can mention.  Brandon Carr got crazy money.  I was in Dallas and heard radio guys talking he was a shutdown top of the line corner.  The next week Megatron almost broke the single game yardage record against him.  Jones prays that Rod Marinelli can turn around this defense this summer.  Where was Rod last season?  Part of that horrific defense.

Of for the offense it still does look good on paper.  We make Romo jokes but he can move that team down the field.  But remember how his season ended?  With a major back injury so that has to be a concern.  Brandon Weeded is there now and somehow Kyle Orton and his $4 million cap number is also.  Demarco Murray is impressive but he is the most fragile star in the league now.  Well maybe that should actually go to his own teammate Sean Lee, who is another concern for the miserable Dallas D.  Dez is there and still can be a freak but he still has babysitters.  Babysitters!  I think it’s the biggest laughable joke in the league still.  So I never think he is out of the woods of doing something idiotic.  Jason Witten is still the best tight end in the league.  I wish he would start to decline but he hasn't yet.  Your Dallas o-line got better last season but you can still pressure Romo when you need to.

Dallas has become the kings of 8-7 going into week 17 and losing to miss the playoffs.  I don't think week 17 is going to have the same importance it has the past few seasons.  Jason Garrett has to be gone at some point and this could be the year.  Dallas doesn't scare me.

Next up.  Why I think the Redskins aren't better than…

#KFC East credit goes to Eagles fan John Neher

 

 

Redskins Improved Depth Could Be a Big Factor This Season

April 6, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

While the Redskins have added some nice starters in free agency this offseason, just as important has been their ability to improve their talent level at the roster spots 23-50* (some of their depth signings may need to end up starting depending on what they do in the draft). One of the biggest issues with the Redskins in recent history, but particularly last season, was just their sheer lack of depth. Like other sports, the focus and attention is typically on the star players in the NFL, but the reality is football is the ultimate team sport. Not only do you need the star players, and quality starters to fill out your top 22 positions on a roster,but you better have quality depth and be able to fill out those next 25 positions at least. The Redskins just haven't been able to field teams that had that combination of top level talent, good starters across the board and back-ups to replace them when necessary. Quality depth is key in three main areas: Replacement (injury or ineffectiveness), Rotation, and Special Teams. Here's why those are important and where the Redskins stand:

Replacement:

The importance of depth is shown every year, but was very much on display come Super Bowl Sunday. The Broncos and the Seahawks were two teams that endured a series of injuries (and some suspensions) to numerous starters including some top players throughout the season and the playoffs, yet both of them were able to overcome those injuries to have the best records in their conferences and meet up in the big game. The Broncos played the whole year without their star LT Ryan Clady (the Seahawks were without their LT for 8 games as well), and the Seahawks were without their top WR Percy Harvin (they were also without their number 2 for most of the year) for nearly the entire season. If the Redskins had to play last season without LT Trent Williams or WR Pierre Garcon (and possibly both), they probably wouldn't have won a single game. That doesn't even account for the numerous additional starters and key back-ups lost throughout the year by those teams. The Redskins were lucky last season as until week 10, the only real game missed by a starter due to injury was Brandon Meriweather Week 1 versus the Eagles. Up until Week 10, the biggest injuries were to key back-ups like Phillip Thomas and Keenan Robinson in preseason. Fred Davis and Logan Paulsen missed some time, but they weren't the real top TE at that point. Later in the season some injuries piled up with Leonard Hankerson, Stephen Bowen, Darrel Young and Jordan Reed missing time, but compared to most teams the Redskins were a picture of health last season.

That health is something the Redskins just can't count on to occur again this season. It's likely the Redskins will have to deal with not only a higher quantity of key injuries next season, but more serious injuries as well that could keep players out for an extended period of time. The Redskins are better prepared at this point heading into next season (and that should continue to improve with a few more cheap signings and the draft). Currently their depth is improved at WR, OL (though that could thin out with some cuts), DL (another position that could thin out with some cuts), ILB, CB and S, to go along with pretty decent depth already at QB and RB. It's far from perfect, but the Redskins should be in a better position to deal with some injuries at these positions, both during camp and the regular season.

The other part of the replacement factor that makes it important to have quality depth is the ineffectiveness factor. If a starter or a key contributor is struggling (either due to them dealing with a nagging injury,or just lack of talent), ideally you have some depth to replace some of these players throughout camp or the regular season. The Redskins though haven't had that level of depth which has led to a lot of below average starters and a lack of a shake up of a roster that just isn't working. Last year every starting offensive lineman outside of Trent Williams should have been theoretically challenged for their job, but the Redskins didn't bring in any outside threats via Free Agency or the Draft and none of their young guys were developed enough to challenge the starters. Even the back-ups weren't really challenged outside of the league minimum addition of Tony Pashos (who should have been kept), which allowed a weak 2nd unit that just wasn't capable to replace any of the starters as they struggled. This was a similar storyline at just about every position. Safety was so thin and untalented that the Redskins pressed corners E.J. Biggers and Josh Wilson into duty.

Now there will be greater competition in camp  at many of these positions, so even if there are some weaker starters this year, they will at least had to face a test in camp and if they continue to falter there could be a fallback plan. That is a big improvement for the Redskins and should lead to better production on the field.

Rotation:

Outside of the offensive line and the quarterback, every other position on a football team will likely play less than 100% of the snaps on their side of the ball. For some positions they may still play 90% of the snaps or more, but other positions see serious rotation and they may play only 60% of the snaps. Regardless of the position you need capable back-ups, but those positions that are rotated and rotated at a higher level, you need multiple back-ups. Even if your guys stay fully healthy, your depth will be playing a significant role. Good teams also use that rotation to their advantage by keeping their guys fresh. Last year the Seahawks were great at this, and rotated 7 guys along their defensive line. They were able to match-up in any situation and were able to keep their guys fresh late into the game. The Redskins didn't have that luxury and at times (particularly the DL) you could see them run out of gas as the game wore on.

Again it's not perfect for the Redskins, but defensively they can rotate their players more and keep them fresh. Already they split their running backs time on the field, and it should be expected they look to keep both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson fresh, with Andre Roberts in the fold.

Special Teams:

The Redskins Special Teams were just awful last season and this is where their lack of depth really showed. Though most of the injuries in camp or early in the season didn't impact the starters or key contributors, it did hurt them on Special Teams. Given the fact that the unit was poor to begin with and the coaching was questionable, it sunk this unit completely. The Redskins pressed a lot of guys into service who either had limited special teams experience or just weren't good at it. Not surprisingly these guys failed and the Redskins Special Teams were flat out embarrassing.

This year the Redskins have better depth at LB and among the defensive backs, which should go a long way to improving the Special Teams. Many of the linebackers the Redskins have brought in are known to be quality special teamers. Now it might not turn them into a top 5 or 10 ST unit, but it is a good start for the Redskins and should help them have at least average Special Teams (which is a VAST improvement).

DeSean Jackson Signing Is Better For the Skins Than A High Draft Pick

April 5, 2014 in Redskins Offseason, Redskins Personnel

While I'm not the biggest fan of the DeSean Jackson signing as there is little correlation between the talent of a team's receiver corps and their record, there is one big upside to signing DeSean Jackson, now the Redskins won't use a high draft pick on a wide receiver. Even after the signing of Andre Roberts the speculation was the Redskins would use a 2nd or 3rd round pick on a wide receiver to get another weapon for RGIII. That would have been a pretty big mistake, given the track record of rookie wide receivers, and one that could have cost the Redskins dearly. Jackson's signing now eliminates that "need" and should allow the Redskins to have a far more productive draft. Here is how Jackson stacks up versus taking a receiver at the top of the 2nd round:

(*Note I'm not saying a team should never take an early round WR. Just that the Redskins with their top 2 WR's set in Garcon and Roberts for the next three years and a receiving TE in Jordan Reed, it was an unnecessary risk)

Early Production: Jackson

-I think many people felt that if the Redskins drafted a WR at the top of the 2nd round, they would instantly become a major threat and would put up 800-1,000 yards and 50-70 catches. The reality is that wasn't going to happen. In the history of the NFL just 9 rookie receivers have topped the 1,000 yard mark that first season, and that is from any round of the NFL draft. Most of them (though not all) were first round picks, making it less likely that the 34th pick would have brought that value. On average you might have 2-3 receivers top the 50 catch, 800-900 yard mark each year, and perhaps 2-3 more in the 40 catch 700 yard range. That is maybe 4-6 productive rookie receivers a year out of the 30-35 drafted each season. That is a horrible early return rate and the chances are the Redskins weren't going to get near that level of production. Particularly not on an offense that already had Garcon, Roberts and Reed.

Jackson though should be a lock for at least the 50 catch, 900 yard range if not breaking 1,000 yards. In his 6 years he's topped 900 yards 5 times, with 3 1,000 yard seasons. He's never had fewer than 45 catches and since his ypc is so high he is still going to produce good numbers with that level of catches. His career per game averages are 4.1 catches and 70.3 yards, which puts him on pace for 66 catches and 1,125 yards over 16 games. Now he might not hit those numbers on a team with Garcon, Roberts and Reed, but he's clearly going to out produce a rookie this year.

Long term Production: Jackson

-Now of course it's not just what Jackson does this season versus a rookie that matters, but what happens going forward as well. While it's true in years 2, 3 and 4 you have more drafted receivers start to "pan" out and start putting up those 900-1,000 yard seasons, receiver still has the highest bust rate of any position. While many will point to Alshon Jeffery who had a dud of a rookie year, but a huge sophomore season, he still represents the exception not the rule. Of the 9 receivers drafted in the first two rounds in  2012, just 4 have broken a combined 1,000 yards receiving and only 3 of them have 1,500 total yards or more. To take it a year farther, just 3 WR's from the 2011 draft (A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Torrey Smith) have cracked 2,000 combined yards from the first 4 rounds of that draft. Jackson will easily get 1,500 yards and 2,000 yards (and likely well more) over the next 2 and 3 years.

Some may point to the future beyond the three year mark when Jackson's contract is up, and that is a valid point as a rookie WR would bring at least 4 years of team control. Here's the thing though in looking at a rookie WR beyond those four years you have  no idea if they will still be with the team at that point. And if they are retained, similar to Jackson they will need another big contract. Also, chances are you aren't going to retain that wide receiver beyond that rookie deal, even if they are successful players. In 2009 6 WR's were taken in the first round, only two Micheal Crabtree and Jeremy Maclin will be with the team that drafted them heading into their 6th season. Take it a step further, none of 9 2nd or 3rd round WR's are still with the team that drafted them. Looking at the 2010 draft, this was the first year 2nd round or later WR's were no longer under team control from the rookie deal and could be free agents. Unless Damian Williams re-signs in Tennessee, none of  the 11 2nd and 3rd round WR's drafted that year are still with their team heading into year 5.

Jackson's production over 3 years is likely going to be better than a rookie receivers over 4 and chances are that guy wouldn't be here beyond that time frame.

Cost: Even

Now one would think that this would clearly favor the 2nd round pick as the 34th overall pick should only cost $5.5 million over 4 years compared to Jackson's $24 million over 3 years, but that ignores the actual value of a 2nd round pick. As seen above spending that pick on a WR would have likely resulted in a waste of resources. Using that 2nd round pick on either another player that has a greater chance to offer positive impact or in a trade back scenario to help restock the roster carries a good bit of value that makes up the difference between the two prices. Now Jackson's cost shouldn't be ignored, nor the fact that with him in the fold Roberts is now overpaid for his role, but freeing up this 2nd round pick is big for the Redskins and has the potential to add a lot of value to the roster.

Benefit for RGIII's Development: Jackson

-One reason people were so in favor of drafting a WR is to help develop Robert Griffin III, by giving him another quality weapon that he can trust. The fact of the matter is, with the learning curve of wide receivers and the high bust rate, chances were that rookie WR could do more harm than good. Jackson on the other hand is a known commodity, and is clearly a weapon. He will make things easier on Griffin, by getting open and making big plays. Jackson has the game breaking ability to turn short and intermediate throws into big gains, meaning Griffin has to do less on his own.

Threat to the Defense: Jackson

-Another prevailing school of thought was that a rookie WR opposite Garcon would present enough of a threat to open things up for the Redskins top wide receiver. While Garcon led the league in catches last year, he didn't have a lot of room to operate as defenses focused their attention on him. It was also thought that the addition of a top rookie could open up the running game as defenses wouldn't be able to creep safeties into the box, because of this additional threat. In reality though neither thing was going to happen. Opposing defenses don't fear rookie WR's regardless of their draft status or potential. Last season Keenan Allen the Chargers 3rd round pick, became the 9th rookie WR to top 1,000 yards yet despite his success he wasn't getting top receiver attention for most of the season. When the Redskins faced off with teams with a top receiver capable of going over 1,000 yards, that receiver was typically shadowed all game by DeAngelo Hall. Yet when the Redskins faced San Diego in the middle of the season, they matched up their rookie David Amerson on Allen and the Chargers exploited that match-up late in the game and almost came from behind to win the football game. At the time Allen was clearly the Chargers best WR threat, and easily the best rookie WR in the league yet the Redskins didn't look to match their top corner on him or double cover him.

Jackson on the other hand represents a real threat to opposing defenses and it could make for an easier going for Pierre Garcon as he probably won't face as tough of coverage. Jackson's deep speed will also force teams to play their safeties back some, leaving the underneath routes more wide open and possibly some more favorable fronts to run against.

 

 

Is DeSean Jackson A Good Signing For the Redskins?

April 2, 2014 in Redskins Offseason, Redskins Personnel

There is no question that new Redskins WR is a playmaker and a dynamic threat that can help make the Redskins offense more dangerous. There is also little doubt that this addition gives RGIII all the weapons that he needs to put up big numbers. The question is though is it the right move for the Redskins that makes them a better football team.

Now most Redskins fans would say that obviously anything that is good for Robert Griffin is good for the football team as a whole. After all  Griffin is the Franchise QB and the leader of the team. In most people's eyes as Griffin goes, so go the Redskins. While there is some truth to that statement it is far too simplistic of an approach to looking at this team or any football team. Though it is true that you need a quality quarterback to have sustained success in the NFL, the range of what exactly a "quality quarterback" means is quite wide.

The Ravens' Joe Flacco isn't really considered a top 5, top 10 or even a top 15 QB (outside of his price tag), but in his first 5 seasons he helped his team get to the playoffs each year, make 3 AFC Championship games and win a Super Bowl. Flacco didn't do it himself, but he gave the Ravens a baseline of play that allowed their defense, special teams and running game to lead the team. We see the same sort of thing with other quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Alex Smith among others. There are of course notable exceptions, where elite QB's like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers can put a team on their backs, but even in those cases those teams don't do it alone and they don't win just by having the best weapons in the league. As much as the Redskins might want him to be in the same category with these four guys, RGIII just isn't going to be there heading into his 3rd year into the league. And that is an okay thing, since outside of Manning none of these quarterbacks were carrying their teams at that point in their career (Brady had a SB ring, but he wasn't carrying the team). So adding weapons like his passing attack is what you are going to live and die with doesn't make much sense.

The Redskins won Griffin's first year mainly due to the mobility and creativity of their offensive scheme around Griffin. While it was nice to see it also proved unsustainable and the Redskins have made it clear they are not looking to go down that road again. While the offense may be more creative and take better advantage of Griffin's knee being healthy, he's still going to have to succeed throwing the football from the pocket if he wants to have good numbers. While Jackson can help when Griffin is throwing, it's not like Griffin didn't have weapons already to work with. Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed are three quality options, which is more than what we saw the 49ers have success with over the last couple of years or what the Chiefs, Panthers and Seahawks won with this past season (among some other teams). Those teams won primarily with defense and rushing attacks. Now the Redskins defense isn't on their level, but their rushing attack should be with Alfred Morris in the backfield. Morris is the Redskins best skill player (and yes that includes Griffin) and ideally would be the focal point you build your offense around. If the addition of Jackson signals a more pass first offensive mentality then that is probably hurting the Redskins ability to win football games.

Now that is not to suggest that Jackson's explosive ability and mis-match problems can't help the Redskins. Jackson's presence should free up Garcon, Roberts and Reed to make more plays against single coverage. Griffin will have a legitimate deep threat to go to for the home run ball, and Alfred Morris and Roy Helu should face some more favorable fronts to run against. But is that worth the investment in resources for this position group? And can the Redskins trust Jackson to not be a distraction. Those are two big issues that people are for the most part ignoring.

While many want to celebrate the Redskins 3 year $24 million contract with Jackson as a win for the Redskins, Jackson did land the largest WR APY of anyone in free agency and he did get 66% of his contract guaranteed which is pretty high. Some can see the short deal length as a positive for Washington, but it's also a positive for Jackson as well. If Jackson has 3 good-to-great years, he hits free agency with the chance of one more good pay day. The Redskins will also have Pierre Garcon hitting free agency in 3 years making it unlikely that both would be retained at that point. With the break down of Jackson's contract being reported at cap hits of $4, $10 and $10 million we can now see how much the Redskins will spend on their top 3 receivers over these next three seasons:

2014: Garcon: $9.7 million, Jackson: $4 million, Roberts: $2.25 million = $15.95 million

2015: Garcon: $9.7 million, Jackson: $10 million, Roberts: $3.75 million = $23.45 million

2016: Garcon: $10.2 million, Jackson: $10 million, Roberts: $5 million = $25.2 million

3 year total of cap hits: $64.6 million (*Note there are some conflicting reports on the cap numbers, now it looks like a 4 year deal with the 4th year voidable. it will likely change these a bit)

That is a significant investment into a position that has very little value to a win loss record. And with the way the Redskins are structured if they don't throw enough to come close to justifying the investment it's a huge waste of money, and if they do throw that much, it's probably a bad sign since they are a better running football team. Some of that money clearly could have gone towards the defensive side of the football, and it's hard to imagine that wouldn't be a better use of those resources.

The other part of spending this money, is the risk that Jackson brings to the table. Now there are questions about his proximity to known gang members, and while they are valid they aren't the biggest concern for the Redskins. Obviously if Jackson was tied to any serious criminal offense that would be horrible for the Redskins, but those are more secondary concerns given his track record with his work ethic and giving up on plays/and his team at times. Jackson has a real bad history of not being a team player and not putting in the work that is necessary to succeed in this league. He had those issues his first couple of years in the league when he was playing for his first big contract, and they continued  even after he signed his big deal with Philly. So this deal that he has with the Redskins isn't going to be some motivating factor for him to "ship up", especially not with 66% of the deal guaranteed.

Jackson's lack of work ethic wasn't just under first year coach Chip Kelly, as he butted heads multiple times with Andy Reid as well. During Jackson's tenure in Philly, the Eagles made the playoffs 4 out of 6 seasons. The Redskins will have to rein him in despite having a first year head coach and coming off a 3-13 season. Given those factors it seems unlikely that Jackson will become a model teammate and maintain an effort level that is expected of that contract.

In the end Jackson's signing is a splashy one that will get the fans excited, but while he can bring some big plays to the Redskins offense he's doing so at a price and with great risk. Good and great teams typically don't build this way and it is a bit troubling to see the Redskins take this road as they look to get out of the mess Mike Shanahan left them in. Jackson may be a talented player, and one that can help Griffin develop, but is it the right direction for this franchise at this point? Time will tell, but right now it appears to be more of a risk than a benefit.

 

How Do the Redskins Stack Up to NFC East Opponents Now?

March 31, 2014 in Redskins Offseason, Redskins Personnel

Even though coming off a miserable 3 win season, would it be wrong to think the Redskins could once again contend for the NFC East as early as this year?  Most three win teams find themselves in complete rebuilding mode but I don't think this team should be considered that.  Not that they are a couple players away from winning double digits games, but more based on the division and the division’s past couple seasons.

Washington has taken a quieter approach to free agency although that can quickly change as early as today with Desean Jackson coming to town.  Moves so far that have showed more patience than the "we are going for it" mode of past off-season’s.  I am not endorsing a Snyder/Cerrato past but I do believe this team could contend for the NFC East as early as this fall again.

The Eagles won the division and even with the loss of Jackson still look to be on the rise going into this season.  But just 12 months ago there was another team coming off a division title who looked to be on the rise.  Even with the Griffin injury concerns there was still optimism this team could repeat based on the roll they ended 2013.

So are the Eagles that dangerous?  Maybe but I could easily see the Chip Kelly attack taking a step back much like the Redskins offense did after an offseason where coaches got time to look at it clearly.  Nick Foles was great last season but once he faced a tougher defense in New Orleans in the playoffs he came back to Earth.  Add Sproles but remove Desean and it will interesting to see what Kelly has in store for this season.  Their defense doesn't scare anyone at this point although it did improve.

Then you have the Giants who may have improved through free agency more than anyone in the division.  They added to their two biggest glaring needs at offensive line and in the secondary but even with all the additions they made I am far from convinced they are a 10 win team.  Since winning the Super Bowl they have been on a slight downward slide and now have hopes that free agency can fill holes to quickly bounce them back up.

Then you have Dallas who is easy to discuss since they will finish 8-8 because they always go 8-8.  8 wins even in a weaker NFC East won't be enough.  Kicking the can down the road when it comes to their salary cap has finally caught up the Cowboys forcing them to lose both Ware and Hatcher in the past month.  They can try and sell it as letting aging guys go but that defense was historically bad and could use both of these guys.  Henry Melton comes in on the cheap but he also comes off a major injury.  Both the Giants and Cowboys were better than Washington last season but are they much better?  I would say no.

In January I would have expected this team to have the main focus of just improving and getting the franchise quarterback back on track.  But as I look at it now I wouldn't concede this division at all.  Just like the Eagles in 2013 and the Redskins in 2012 this division could see a 4th to 1st once again.  I haven't even brought up what impact Jay Gruden could have because I just don't know.  I can't see it being as dysfunctional as 2013 was but we will just have to let that play out.  The NFL unlike the other major sports doesn't have much of a rebuilding curve placed on teams.  Turnaround can happen fast, real fast so let’s see what happens.

 

 

What Holes Are Left To Be Filled?

March 23, 2014 in Redskins Offseason, Redskins Personnel

The Redskins have been fairly active so far to start free agency, but while the signings have slowed down, they aren't done yet adding pieces to next year's roster. Here are their biggest remaining needs for the rest of the offseason (in no certain order):

Right Tackle:

-If the season started today Tyler Polumbus would be the starting right tackle with Tom Compton and Maurice Hurt as the only real competition or back-ups. That is about as thin of a depth chart as you can get, as behind Polumbus you have Hurt who has started 1 game at right tackle and is coming off a season lost to injury, and Tom Compton who has played just a handful of snaps in his two year career. Polumbus has not been a particularly effective right tackle (though he's decent in run blocking) and it's proven to be quite a liability for the Redskins these past two seasons. Making matters worse is the fact that the Redskins could pick up $2.5 million in cap room by cutting Polumbus, meaning they can likely get an upgrade or at least similar production for the same price or less. This could be an early round draft target and let him battle Polumbus in camp.

Center:

-The Redskins cut starting center Will Montgomery and are set to move starting guard Kory Lichtensteiger over to fill the role. While Lichtensteiger played center in college he's spent the vast majority of his NFL career at guard and was only ever the back-up center. Lichtensteiger's play at guard has not been particularly good and moving him to center isn't likely to improve his production level. Lichtensteiger is said to be putting on weight, but he still figures to be more undersized. The Redskins would be entrusting arguably the 2nd most important OL position, to a guy who hasn't played it much in years, is undersized and hasn't preformed well of late. That is a risky proposition regardless, but to do that for a young quarterback with injury concerns seems irresponsible. Behind Lichtensteiger the Redskins don't have another true center, Chris Chester, Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus all can theoretically play the position, but it's more like in emergency situations. The Skins have been connected with a couple centers lately in free agency, so that may be their plan for next year.

Guard:

-The Redskins signed guard Shawn Lauvao early in free agency, but they might not be done addressing the position. Right now with Lauvao locked into one position, the Redskins have on paper Chris Chester at the other guard position with Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis and Maurice Hurt behind him. Chester's play really fell off last year and he's now struggled 2 of the 3 years in DC. It's really tough to justify his price tag and the Redskins could save $2.7 million this year and $4.8 million next year by releasing him. That is $7.5 million the Redskins can clear by releasing him and I'm sure they can find a much better use for that money than paying Chester. Behind him the Redskins don't have much. Hurt played guard as a rookie in 2011, but he struggled mightily there and the team has since tried making him more of a RT. He may be considered a back-up guard, but it's tough to consider him an option as a starter. LeRibeus came into camp last year out of shape and he was inactive every week last season. Some of that is being in Mike Shanahan's dog house, but more of it is just the sheer fact that he's been a disappointing draft pick and not ready for the NFL game. Even with renewed commitment (apparently), it's tough to imagine him starting. Adam Gettis is probably the best replacement option, but that is relatively speaking. The Redskins should look for a cheap veteran or an early round guard who they believe can start.

Wide Receiver:

-The Redskins added Andre Roberts as the starter opposite Pierre Garcon on the first day of free agency. Now with their top two spots set the Redskins need to find 1 or 2 more receivers, depending on how many they plan on keeping and the health of Leonard Hankerson. Right now behind Garcon and Roberts the Redskins have veteran Santana Moss, Hankerson (who is coming back from an ACL injury), Aldrick Robinson, and Nick Williams. While if Moss has a bit of bounce back year and Hankerson is healthy, the Redskins might be alright, but both of those things are up in the air. Also Moss and Hankerson are both set to be UFA's next year meaning that long term the Redskins are hurting. The Redskins could look for a developmental receiver to take over that 3rd WR role by 2015. They also may consider another veteran option to come in if they don't feel like Hankerson is going to be healthy to start the year.

Tight End:

-While there is a lot of focus on the 3rd receiver, little is mentioned about the possibility of adding a 2nd TE. The Redskins have already had Owen Daniels in for a visit, and if you look at how Gruden's offense functioned a year ago in Cincinnati the 2nd tight end was more valuable than the 3rd receiver. For the Bengals they also didn't have the injury concerns that the Redskins have with their top TE, so the need is arguably even greater for the Redskins. Now Washington does have Logan Paulsen and he did an admirable job filling in for Fred Davis in 2012, but last year he took a step back and was a liability. With his contract increasing it's hard to justify his roster spot. The Redskins need to add a TE who can be inline, as Reed should be the TE that splits out wide more, but they still need one who can be an effective receiver.

Defensive Line:

-Many think the Redskins are done along the defensive line after they signed Jason Hatcher and Clifton Geathers and re-signed Chris Baker, but they shouldn't be counted out of the mix just yet. The Redskins sound like they are planning on using their defensive linemen more and using more of a rotation system than in the past. Also, while he's still on the roster, Stephen Bowen could save the Redskins a combined $10 million over the next two seasons by releasing him. Maybe he comes back at a reduced rate, but even then he's hardly a lock for the team after he's coming off microfracture surgery. Kedric Golston is another guy the Redskins could save a little money by releasing. They might not do much more in free agency, but they could target another lineman in the mid-to-late rounds.

Outside Linebacker:

-Not a real pressing need as the Redskins are set with their starters, but they are likely looking for an upgrade in the depth department. Currently all the Redskins have is 2nd year pro Brandon Jenkins, who has very limited experience behind their two starters. They probably want to add at least one veteran to the mix this offseason.

Cornerback:

-The Redskins retained DeAngelo Hall and signed Tracy Porter to go along with 2nd year corner David Amerson for the top three spots. Behind that though the Redskins are razor thin with just Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield for depth. The Redskins will likely look to add a corner in the draft to build for the future, but could still look at the free agent market for some depth options.

Free Safety:

-Currently the Redskins would either have Brandon Meriweather or Phillip Thomas play out of position or try another go with the highly disappointing Bacarri Rambo at free safety. None of those options are a real solution and the Redskins need to add at least one free agent of draft pick who can play free safety.

Strong Safety:

-Strong safety is in a little better position as Brandon Meriweather is better in that role. He's still not a good safety, but he's more passable in a strong safety role and can at least be considered a stop gap. Behind Meriweather the Redskins have 2nd year safety Phillip Thomas. Thomas was the Skins 4th rounder a year ago, but was lost to a Lisfranc injury early in the preseason. While it's tough to rely on Thomas given the lost year (also he missed all of his junior season as well due to injury), he at least has the potential to develop into a starting caliber strong safety. With the two of them, the Redskins should be close to average at strong safety.

What to do with Darrel Young?

March 22, 2014 in Redskins Offseason, Redskins Personnel

There has been a lot of talk since the hiring of Jay Gruden that the Redskins will be more of a passing team and use 3 and 4 WR sets more under their new head coach. The idea is that Jay Gruden didn't use a fullback in Cincinnati and that led to the use of more wide receivers. That isn't fully true as Gruden relied more on two tight end sets, then people give him credit for, but what is true is the lack of a fullback in Gruden's offense. The Bengals have not used a fullback much during Gruden's three years, and this past season they didn't even have a fullback on the roster. Instead they used TE Orson Charles and DT Domata Peko when they needed a lead blocker. What does that mean for incumbent fullback Darrel Young?

Young is probably a top 5 FB in the league, and while the position isn't considered one of major importance, it can still offer some good value. Teams that use fullbacks and have a good player at the position can get a lot of cheap value to their team. Most top fullbacks (who aren't on rookie deals) make between $1-2 million, which is pretty good for a team since they play between 35-45% of the offensive snaps and are generally positive special teams contributors. A team can get some nice value from a player even if they aren't touching the ball and picking up yards. It's overlooked but the ability to lead block or serve as a personal protector for a quarterback can have a big impact on a team. Another thing to consider is that fullbacks typically are needed most in high leverage situations. Even if you are a team that doesn't feature a fullback much, you need that player on short yardage and goalline situations. Teams that don't have that fullback on the roster need to convert someone else for the position, just to be able to run that power offense. Sure it might not be a fulltime player, but fullback playing that much and in so many important situations can have just as much value to a team as a 3rd WR or 2nd TE even if they end up playing more snaps.

While Young is more than just a lead blocking fullback, his impact as a blocker became very clear this past year. Unfortunately for the Redskins, that impact became the most clear when he wasn't in the line-up. After suffering an injury week 10 versus the Eagles, Young missed the next three games, during which time Alfred Morris simply hit a wall. During those three games against the 49ers, Giants and Chiefs, Morris had rushing totals of 52, 26, and 31 while positing yard per carry averages of 3.71, 2.36, and 2.58 respectively. To gain 1,000 yards in a season a back needs to average 62.5 yards per game, prior to this stretch of games Morris had only been below that 62.5 yard average 3 times in the previous 27 games (including the playoff game). Yet without Young, Morris couldn't top 52, and posted the two worst games of his career. Now Young was hardly the only reason why Morris and the ground game struggled. The 49ers and Giants were both top 10 defenses in yards allowed per carry, and the Redskins were in complete dysfunction mode. They weren't likely to win those games or be effective on the ground regardless, but with Young playing Morris likely wouldn't have been such a non-factor.

Young's value goes beyond that of his blocking as he's proven himself to be a viable runner and receiver out of the backfield. Young last year had just 12 carries and averaged only 3.4 yards per carry, but that number is misleading. Young scored three short yardage rushing TD's and had another seven of his runs result in first downs. That means 10 out of his 12 carries resulted in a very positive play for the Redskins. So while his numbers don't wow you, the impact was high. Young has done a nice job these last three years as a runner and has proven himself as an effective short yardage option. Young has also proved himself as a solid receiver option out of the backfield as well.

If anything Young has been underused both in snaps and as an offensive weapon, but how will he fit in with Jay Gruden who has favored more 3 wide receiver and 2 TE sets? It's a fair question what will happen with Young's usage this year and one that could have a big impact depending on what they do. If Gruden tries to ignore the fullback position as much as he did in Cincinnati, it could negatively impact the offense, and hinder the Redskins best weapon Alfred Morris. Gruden needs to  implement his offense, but he can't afford to ignore what Darrel Young brings to the table.

 


How often should Darrel Young be used in Jay Gruden's offense?

 

Redskins Early Offseason Report:

March 21, 2014 in Redskins Free Agents, Redskins Offseason

By John Manuel

What I like.

1- I did like the signing of Jason Hatcher to improve the defensive line play. There was an obvious need here to help add pressure to opposing quarterbacks. Since both outside linebackers are set in stone the Redskins needed to get help up front. Hatcher forced quarterbacks to hurry all last season and that would be huge since our guys in 2013 up front failed there. The two concerns when it came to the Hatcher signing was his age and the amount of money spent. As for his age I am sure coming off his best season he can give them 2-3 solid years. As for contract, I don't read much into final numbers anymore so I am not concerned that this is anywhere near the dead money killers of the past.

2- Allen's crew has made a huge attempt to address the special teams coverage units. Last seasons NFL all-time worst special teams unit should be much better with some of the additions that the Redskins have made. Adding Daryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and most notably Adam Hayward we should see a difference this season. Washington hasn't really addressed the return game which was pitiful last season but that may still come down the line. You can say Andre Roberts has experience but I doubt they see him as a returner next season. Hopefully a guy like Hayward can fill the shoes as special teams leader like Lorenzo Alexander did for years. Still a work in progress but at least there is progress in my opinion.

3- There has been no rush to trade Kirk Cousins as of now. I know you can look back to November and see that I said Washington should trade Cousins this off-season but I have changed my stance. The last month of 2013 seemed to hurt Cousins trade value and now I am happy they haven't traded Cousins just to trade him. If his value is anything less than a 2nd rounder I would hold on. We could still use an inexpensive solid quality backup for now. What is the worst case? In two years Cousins is able to roll for no compensation. I can live with that instead of getting a 4th or 5th rounder now and then not having a solid backup behind RG3.

What I don't like

1- Everything that has been done concerning the offensive line. The Redskins have failed to make an average line any better so far. The most glaring need for three seasons at least has been right tackle and that has not change. Washington missed out on multiple guys who can help this team and the options are getting thin. Washington's one main pickup was Shawn Lauvao and I have to be honest I didn't know much about him when he signed at 4:01 of the start of free agency. And what I have read has not been good as Washington passed on other guards with better resumes who got similar money. Now the Skins have to look at questionable free agents and the draft to fix a huge need.

2- Nothing down at safety so far. Well they did resign Brandon Merriweather if that counts but all Redskins fans are freaking out about another season where the back end is horrible. The past two seasons have been a huge disaster at the position. The Redskins failed to land two of the top safeties they were linked to in Jairus Byrd and Mike Mitchell because of so-called money. Byrd got a lot but Mitchell really didn't in the end. Maybe the Steelers were more attractive to Mitchell but the Skins should have made a better run at him. Ryan Clark has been debating where he will play in 2014 for like 6 months it feels like. He would help and I would be down for it if in the end he comes back. But again the choices are getting thin and you have to think Allen targets this position at #34 in the draft. Which is a huge risk since you can't guarantee who will be there.

3- They have left too many holes so far in free agency that will not be able to fill in the draft. Not having a first round pick again really hurts this team of course. But even having high picks in rounds 2.3 and 4 will not be enough to fill the holes they have left. I can see this team going into the beginning of the season very weak at safety, right tackle, guard and still questions at receiver. You can say we are in a rebuilding situation but the past two seasons the division has come from the bottom. I am far from conceding the Redskins having a chance to win the NFC East this season. But I think it will be tough if they can't fill the holes they still have in the next few months.