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Positives the Redskins Can Build Upon for Next Season

December 17, 2013 in Redskins Personnel

This has been a rough season for the Redskins and have seen a number of players regress and under-perform, but this season isn't without positives for the Redskins. Here are the 8 biggest positives the Redskins can build on for next year:

1. Alfred Morris is a stud:

-Morris is proving he's a franchise running back, having nearly as good of a season this year, despite the line play struggling and there being less of a passing threat this year. Defenses have been keying in on Morris, but he's still making them pay most weeks. Whomever their coach is next year, he will have one of the top rushers in the league with Morris to build his offense around.

2. Trent Williams has become a premier LT:

-The Redskins offensive line is a mess overall, but one spot is locked down. Luckily for the Redskins it is the most important spot, with LT Trent Williams having just a great all-around season. Williams started out slow his first two seasons, and though he had a really good year last year you had to wonder which was the real Trent Williams. He's answered the call this year, and has had an even better season despite the fact that defenses have been attacking more trying to pressure Griffin and stop Morris.

3. Pierre Garcon looks like a Quality Receiver:

-There were some question marks if Garcon deserved the big money deal the Redskins gave him before last season, and after he had a good, but injury shortened first year in Washington the questions still remained. This year Garcon is on pace to break the Redskins receptions record and has proven himself to be a very good receiver. He might not be an elite talent, but he's still extremely capable and someone to build around on offense.

4. Jordan Reed looks like a future star:

-Reed's star is a bit dimmer than it was a month ago since he's been out with a concussion, but he still looks to be a very capable weapon to build around going forward. He's not much of a blocker yet, but he is a match-up nightmare for defenses and should only get better as he matures.

5. Brian Orakpo has proven that he's a top pass rusher:

-There were questions among some Redskins fans if Orakpo was even worth extending after this season when he becomes an unrestricted free agent. Orakpo started off the season a bit slowly and had one of his worst games ever in a Redskins uniform week one against the Eagles. Since then he's really picked up his game and has been unstoppable for the last two months. Orakpo now clearly needs to re-sign and has to be a focal point of this Redskins offseason.

6. Barry Cofield remains a force in the middle:

-Last year Barry Cofield really started to make his presence felt in the Redskins defense, but the question became was it a fluke. He's answered that question with another big year of play for the Redskins and is probably the team's second best all-around defender. Cofield's performance is even more impressive considering how little help he gets along the defensive line.

7. Ryan Kerrigan is a good complement to Orakpo:

-Ryan Kerrigan continues to be a strong presence on the left side of the Redskins defense. He continues to make a number of big plays each year and get a good number of sacks and pressures. He's clearly not as strong as a pass rusher as Orakpo, but he is a force on the opposite side that does give the Redskins a nice bookend presence on defense. Both players are young and if the Redskins lock up Orakpo this year this should be a strong tandem going forward.

8. DeAngelo Hall is having his best season yet:

-Hall like Orakpo is an impending free agent, but unless someone offers him a crazy amount of money you have to like the odds of him returning. He'll be over 30 next season and he's a local guy who went to college at Virginia Tech, unless the money is outrageous he's not likely to leave. Given his age and inconsistent play over the years it is doubtful he will ever get crazy money. There is obviously some concern about investing good money into Hall since he was such a bust with his last contract, but the Redskins need some stability in the secondary. It is likely that they will have 3 new starters surrounding Hall next year and probably some new back-ups as well, so a veteran with some success in this league could help. Hall has done a real nice job overall this season and if he can keep up this level of play the Skins will be very happy.

5 Ways to Overcome the Reed/Hankerson Injuries:

November 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Redskins are losing their number two receiver Leonard Hankerson for the rest of the season and Jordan Reed is out for Monday night's game. Here are the 5 ways the Redskins can cope with these injuries:

1. Run the ball 40+ times this game:rg3alfredmorris

-The Redskins have to find a way to not be throwing the ball 40+ times a game and need to ensure they are running the ball at least that much. This Redskins offense can't effectively throw the ball that many times with Reed and Hankerson, they aren't going to find it any better without them. Washington needs to run the ball early and often and try to wear down this 49ers defense. Obviously Alfred Morris needs to be the bell cow, and RGIII should be involved as well, but they need to get Young and Helu involved as well.

2. Utilize the screen game more this week:

-Last year the Redskins threw the ball behind the line on over 22% of the time, this year they are throwing it behind the line 13% of the time. This is pretty big drop off, and helps to explain the lower completion percentage. The Redskins have had a number of big plays off the screen this year, and while you can't always count on that the Redskins should be able to count on positive yards on these plays. That can help put the Redskins in better 3rd down situations (or not force the Skins into those situations). The screen game will probably be the easiest way to get Pierre Garcon involved, but they should also utilize Moss, Nick Williams and Roy Helu in the screen game as well.

3. Show you aren't afraid to use Morgan and Davis:

-The Redskins have been so reliant on Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed and Leonard Hankerson this year and there has been some controversy surrounding Fred Davis and Josh Morgan. The Redskins have to show that there are no issues in the locker room/huddle and get Morgan and Davis involved early on. Robert Griffin needs to establish a connection with these guys and get in an early rhythm. If they can get involved early on, they can perhaps start to draw some attention from the 49ers defense allowing some other things to open up, and maybe limiting the double coverage of Garcon.

4. Utilize the backs more in the passing game:

-Roy Helu has gotten some targets and every now and then Darrel Young gets a shot, but Alfred Morris has barely seen the ball in the passing game. The Redskins should try to get all three backs more involved this week and even run some sets with both Helu and Morris on the field. The Redskins need to do some things the 49ers won't expect and getting the backs more involved is a good way to do that. Now this doesn't just mean utilizing them in the screen game or to dump the ball off (though that is a great way to help neutralize the blitz). The Redskins should have them running some routes down the field in the intermediate game. Helu is the best of the bunch and will present the biggest threat to the 49ers. This would be a great game to get him the ball 4-6 times. Morris is the guy who it would be nice to see him more involved in the passing game. He only has three catches a year and defenses definitely don't respect him as a threat. In fact he is so rarely in there on passing downs that they can cause quite a bit of confusion for the 49ers.

5. Use Garcon as a decoy:

-Most weeks Pierre Garcon is the focal point of the passing game, and typically you are calling plays to get him the football. That can maybe work if you have some other targets that defenses have to respect, but this week without Hankerson and Reed, Garcon is probably going to see a good bit of double-coverage. The Redskins need to use that to their advantage. Now it doesn't sound like a big advantage, but it can be if executed properly. The other part of this is with defenses being able to predict the plays, you can catch them guessing and exploit their aggression. If Garcon runs certain routes, it is very likely you can get corners and safeties to commit early and clear out an area for another wide receiver. Now obviously you want to get the ball to Garcon some and the screen game is a good way to do that, but it's doubtful the Redskins can win if they are trying to force him the ball 10-15 times this game.

Should Alfred Morris be more involved in the passing game?

November 22, 2013 in Redskins Personnel

Alfred Morris has clearly proven that he's one of the top running backs in the NFL as he's third in rushing  yards and 1st in yards per carry (among running backs with 100 or more carries). Morris is clearly the Redskins best and most consistent offensive weapon and should be the focal point of their offense. One area where Morris's value takes a hit is in the passing game. Morris has just 3 catches for 22 yards on the season, just one year after catching only 11 passes for 70 yards as a rookie.

It has become clear that the Redskins aren't going to utilize Morris heavily in the passing game and it has gotten to the point where it's a true platoon situation. According to Pro Football Focus's snap count, Morris has only been on the field for 398 of the Redskins 753 snaps. That is just 53% of the Redskins offensive snaps that their best player is participating in. You look at other top running backs in the league like Adrian Peterson, Jammal Charles, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte and they are all between 80-90% of their teams snaps. Even a big back like Marshawn Lynch who isn't known for his receiving ability (though he does have 24 catches on the year) is at about 68%. Lynch's number is even a little artificially low given how many times he's been pulled early due to the Seahawks being up big in a game.alfredmorris

Morris' snaps breakdown are even more troubling. Of his snaps 60% have come on a play that results in a run, with 40% being passing plays. Overall Morris has been on the field for 78% of the Redskins total runs. Of their passes Morris has been on the field just 36% of the time. Those are pretty wide gaps and can help tell a defense what is coming when Morris is on the field over Helu (who is getting 47% of the total snaps). Are teams going to respect the run and bite on playaction when Helu is in the game? Part of the controversy about the Redskins offense becoming predictable is in their personnel packages, which can give the defense some advantages when they start to see  these tendencies. Sure when the Redskins run when Helu is in the game or throw with Morris maybe they catch the defense off balance every now and then, but most plays the advantage will be with the defense.

Now game situation is a big part of the reason why Morris isn't on the field more, but that is part of the problem. Because Morris isn't involved involved in the passing game far too often this year he's simply been neutralized by the other team getting a lead on the Redskins in the 3rd or 4th quarter. Just 18 of Morris's 180 attempts have come in the 4th quarter. Now being down as much as the Redskins have been that isn't shocking that the carries are low, but he's not even on the field in these situations. When other teams are down late they can still utilize their back out of the backfield as a threat. It also allows the team to have the back in there if they do want to run the ball at all. Take for instance the Vikings game where after the Jordan Reed catch that got them down inside the 10 yard line. They decided to run on that next play and Roy Helu got 4 yards. Had it been Morris in there perhaps he would have had a chance to break it for a TD. But Morris wasn't on the field when it mattered most for the Redskins and that is a real limit to the Skins offense at this point.

The fact that you can keep the Redskins best offensive weapon and most consistent player off the field when it matters most is a huge win for opposing teams. The Redskins are forced into playing a style of football that they just aren't capable of succeeding at. Another factor is the Redskins will sub Morris out on most third downs. Now 3rd down is typically not a running down and most backs will see a big just in their runs on that down, but Morris is almost non-existent. Of his 180 rushing attempts just 4 have come on third down. Roy Helu has 43 total rushing attempts, 8 of which have come on 3rd down and Darrel Young has run on third down on 7 of his 10 rushing attempts. Morris just isn't seeing the field in crucial situations and it limits some of what the Redskins are able to do.

Now this isn't to say that Morris should start playing 90% of the snaps like backs like Peterson or Charles, but the Redskins do need to feel more comfortable with him on passing downs. Morris's snap counts should at least be on par with Marshawn Lynch if not higher. There are too many crucial situations where Morris simply isn't on the field, and that can't happen. Even if he can just show a moderate ability to catch the ball and be involved in the passing game, it would allow you to have him out there late in the game and on 3rd downs. With Morris on the field teams would have to respect the run a bit more and he could be used as a decoy at times that a guy like Roy Helu jr. can never be used as.

Ranking the Washington Redskins Running backs and Fullbacks

March 27, 2013 in Redskins Personnel

Currently the Washington Redskins have four running backs with experience and a fullback, they will keep at least four backfield options, possibly five. Here is how they rank, including predictions for where they end-up. Tiers are based off of what their expected value is for 2013, due to a combination of past production and likely potential. Overall potential, or contract status is not really taken into account.

Rankings: Offensive Tackles | Interior Offensive Linemen | Quarterbacks | Running/Fullbacks | Tight Ends

Tier 1:

Description: Top level starter, absolute lock to both make the team and start. Won't face any competition for his job.

Alfred Morris:

-Morris burst on to the scene last year as a 6th round rookie, and ended up second in the league in rushing. He was tremendous throughout the year and in any other year would have probably won rookie of the year award. He was the perfect complement to Robert Griffin III in the Redskins offense and was instrumental in the Redskins success last season. Morris did much of his damage on his own, as he gained over 1,000 yards after contact last season. Morris should continue to be one of the premier backs in the league, though he does need to improve as a pass catcher. His total yardage may drop off some, as his carries could go down some in an effort to take some of the workload off his shoulders.

Darrel Young:

-Young has become one of the premier fullbacks in the league. Not only is he a strong lead blocker and personal protector for the quarterback, but he can be an offensive weapon as well. He is both a solid runner and good receiver out of the backfield. Young only got 22 touches last season, but was effective last year gaining 169 yards and scoring two touchdowns. He should be inline for more touches this upcoming season, and should be expected to play between 30-35% of the offensive snaps.The only thing limiting him is the decreasing role of the fullback in the NFL, and the fact that his snaps will likely max around 35% of the offense, putting him behind the 3rd receiver and about on par with the 2nd tight end in the offense.

 

Tier 2:

Description: Quality starter who may have some minor struggles in a given year, but overall is a good football player. Should both easily make the team and start.

None

Tier 3:

Description: Passable starter, can play the position and be okay, but won't consistently play at a high level. Will be streaky throughout the season and over the course of many seasons. Depending on position would be better served as a good role player, or would be the best reserve player at a position. Should make the team, though not a lock and should face competition for a starting job.

Roy Helu Jr.:

Helu Jr. was the Redskins 4th round pick in 2011. He had a fairly productive rookie season, particularly when he got a chance to be a starter during the 2nd half of the year. Nagging injuries ended up limiting him that year, but he still had a strong rookie campaign. He's got good speed and agility, as well as receiving ability. He may never be a feature back, but could be a good change of pace/third down back option. Injuries are a concern as they wiped out nearly his entire 2012 campaign, and reports are his recovery has been slow going forward. If healthy he's a good option, but that unfortunately could be a big "if".

Tier 4:

Description: Replacement level starter. This is a guy who could start in a pinch or as a long-term injury replacement but will max out as an average starter, and will probably be below average. He's a guy who could be okay as a short term filler, but over an extended period will struggle. Depending on position could be a solid player, or would be a good back-up. Has a decent chance to make the team, and could get a look at a starting job, but nothing is set in stone for him.

Evan Royster:

-Royster was a 6th round pick in 2011, and while he didn't make the team from the start, he did make a splash later in the year with back-to-back 100 yard rushing games to close the season. He lacks good speed, but has good vision and can work in the Redskins zone blocking scheme. Though he was expected to play a bigger role last year, preseason injuries allowed Alfred Morris to pass him on the depth. Royster dealt with a nagging knee injury early in the season, but never showed any ability to take snaps from Morris. Royster finished with just 23 carries and 15 receptions last year. He will need a strong training camp/preseason to maintain a roster spot this year, and probably is no better than a 3rd back.

Tier 5:

Description: Solid back-up caliber player. Shouldn't really ever start, and would be below average in that capacity, but can be a short term injury replacement. Shouldn't even be much of a role player depending on the position, their best value is in their reliability as a replacement. Depending on the position, should be capable of backing up multiple positions or roles to increase their value. Has a chance to make the team, but really shouldn't be considered a starting option at all.

Keiland Williams:

-Keiland Williams was an undrafted rookie with the Redskins in 2010. Due to injury he got some playing time, and averaged 4.0 yards per carry on 65 attempts, while adding 39 receptions and a total of 5 touchdowns. Williams was waived in 2011, and picked up by the Detroit Lions. He was cut this past year, and signed with Washington for depth late in the season, but didn't see any action on offense. Williams is more of a hybird fullback/running back, who does help out on special teams. Though he's a long shot to make the team he does offer some abilities that could help the team.

 

Tier 6:

Description: Replacement level player. Not considered at all for a starting role, and isn't even considered a viable back-up. Really only has a shot to make the team if injuries thin out the competition. Overall has a poor chance to make a roster, and is a player who will likely be replaced during the season.

None

What do you think? How would you rank the Redskins backfield options? And do you think they should look to upgrade?

Why Running Equals Winning For the Redskins

March 7, 2013 in Washington Redskins

The other day I wrote a post on why it was a good thing that the Washington Redskins were a run first team and why we should expect that trend to continue. That post was based on the success the league was having running the football more often and how it helped equate to winning. Today I'm going to look at what it means for Mike Shanahan, and how rushing attempts and passing attempts for his offenses translate into Wins and Losses at the end of the season. Below I will list his team's rushing attempts, passing attempts, the percentage of each, where they ranked in the league and finally how they did that season, from every season since he started in Denver.

1995:

Passing attempts: 594

NFL Rank: 7th  Offensive Percentage: 57.44%

Rushing attempts: 440

NFL Rank: 16th Offensive Percentage:42.66%

Finish: 8-8, 3rd in AFC West, missed the playoffs

1996:

Passing attempts: 536

NFL Rank: 16th Offensive Percentage: 50.5%

Rushing attempts: 525

NFL Rank: 2nd Offensive Percentage: 49.5%

Finish: 13-3, 1st in AFC West, made playoffs

1997:

Passing attempts: 513

NFL Rank: 20th Offensive Percentage: 49.66%

Rushing attempts: 520

NFL Rank: 6th  Offensive Percentage: 50.44%

Finish: 12-4, 1st in AFC West, made playoffs and won the Super Bowl

1998:

Passing attempts: 491

NFL Rank: 21st  Offensive percentage: 48.32%

Rushing attempts: 525

NFL Rank: 2nd  Offensive percentage: 51.68%

Finish: 14-2, 1st in AFC West, made playoffs and won the Super Bowl

1999:

Passing attempts: 554

NFL Rank: 10th  Offensive percentage: 54.36%

Rushing attempts: 465

NFL Rank: 9th  Offensive percentage: 45.64%

Finish: 6-10, 5th in the AFC West, missed playoffs

2000:

Passing attempts: 569

NFL Rank: 9th  Offensive percentage: 52..44%

Rushing attempts: 516

NFL Rank: 4th  Offensive percentage: 47.56%

Finish: 11-5, 2nd in AFC West, made playoffs

2001:

Passing attempts: 511

NFL Rank: 20th  Offensive percentage: 51.5%

Rushing attempts: 481

NFL Rank: 6th  Offensive percentage: 48.5%

Finish: 8-8, 3rd in AFC West, missed playoffs

2002:

Passing attempts: 554

NFL Rank: 14th  Offensive percentage: 54.79%

Rushing attempts: 457

NFL Rank: 11th  Offensive percentage: 45.21%

Finish: 9-7, 2nd in AFC West, missed playoffs

2003:

Passing attempts: 479

NFL Rank: 26th  Offensive percentage: 46.86%

Rushing attempts: 543

NFL Rank: 2nd   Offensive percentage: 53.14%

Finish: 10-6, 2nd in AFC West, made playoffs

2004:

Passing attempts: 521

NFL Rank: 16th  Offensive percentage: 49.38%

Rushing attempts: 534

NFL Rank: 2nd  Offensive percentage: 50.62%

Finish: 10-6, 2nd in AFC West, made playoffs

2005:

Passing attempts: 465

NFL Rank: 25th  Offensive percentage: 46.17%

Rushing attempts: 542

NFL Rank: 2nd  Offensive percentage: 53.83%

Finish: 13-3, 1st in AFC West, made playoffs

2006:

Passing attempts: 454

NFL Rank: 26th  Offensive percentage: 48.19%

Rushing attempts: 488

NFL Rank: 9th   Offensive percentage: 51.81%

Finish: 9-7, 2nd in AFC West, missed playoffs

2007:

Passing attempts: 515

NFL Rank: 21st  Offensive percentage: 54.55%

Rushing attempts: 429

NFL Rank: 18th   Offensive percentage: 45.45%

Finish: 7-9, 2nd in AFC West, missed playoffs

2008:

Passing attempts: 620

NFL Rank: 3rd  Offensive percentage: 61.56%

Rushing attempts: 387

NFL Rank: 28th  Offensive percentage: 38.44%

Finish: 8-8, tied for 1st in AFC West, missed playoffs

2010:

Passing attempts: 605

NFL Rank: 4th  Offensive percentage: 63.28%

Rushing attempts: 351

NFL Rank: 31st  Offensive percentage: 36.72%

Finish: 6-10, 3rd in NFC East, missed playoffs

2011:

Passing attempts:591

NFL Rank: 5th  Offensive percentage: 59.63%

Rushing attempts: 400

NFL Rank: 25th Offensive percentage: 39.37%

Finish: 5-11, 4th in NFC East, missed playoffs

2012:

Passing attempts: 442

NFL Rank: 30th  Offensive percentage: 45.99%

Rushing attempts: 519

NFL Rank: 3rd  Offensive percentage: 54.01%

Finish: 10-6, 1st in NFC East, made playoffs

 

Summary:

Finished in the top 10 in the league in rushing:

11 seasons out of 17 combined seasons between the Broncos and Redskins

When finishing in the top 10 in rushing: 

116-60 record (.659 winning percentage), eight playoff appearances, just one losing season

When finishing out of the top 10 in rushing:

43-53 (.447 winning percentage), zero playoff appearances, three losing seasons (out of 6)

Finished with at least 50% rushing attempts: 

Seven times in 17 seasons. Made the playoffs in six of those seasons and finished above .500 every season. (Note this does not count: 1996 where they were just half a percentage point away from having 50% rushing attempts)

Finished top 10 in the league in passing:

Six times they finished in the top 10 in the league in passing attempts with a record of: 44-52 (.458 winning percentage), with just one winning record and playoff appearance.

Final Thoughts:

While much of the league may be in pass first mode, it is pretty clear that for the Mike Shanahan system to work the Redskins must remain a run focused team. He has never made the playoffs when his team has run the ball less than 47.5% of the time and seven of his eight playoff appearances his team has run the ball at least 49.5% of the time. So the idea that the Redskins are going to be throwing the ball 60% of the time and winning football games should end for as long as Mike Shanahan is at the helm. That might work for some other teams and coaches in the league, but it's not going to work here with Mike Shanahan. Running the football this much may not seem as flashy or exciting, but for Mike Shanahan it is a way of life.

The fact that the run is so important to his offense, shows just how key the health and production of Alfred Morris is to this team's success. In many ways he's as important as star quarterback Robert Griffin III. The depth behind Morris is very crucial as if he goes down, another back has to be capable of producing similar numbers or the Redskins chances for success plummet.

So keep this in mind as the Redskins go about the offseason and look to allocate resources. The greater upgrades they can add for the running game (back-up running backs, run blocking TE's and Offensive linemen), should help point to a better winning percentage and a far more likely postseason run.

Why The Redskins Need A Backup Running Back

February 21, 2013 in Redskins Personnel

Alfred Morris had nothing short of a miraculous season. As a 6th round rookie, he had 335 carries for 1,613 yards (4.8 ypc) and 13 touchdowns. His overall impact was nearly that of Robert Griffin III, and when Griffin was not himself due to injury in the final game of the season, Morris took over and rushed for 200 yards to send the Redskins to the postseason. Despite that impressive rookie year, the Washington Redskins need to ensure their running back future and invest in some depth, because it is likely that what Morris did is unsustainable.

Morris's 335 carries would rank him in the top 10 of carries in a season over the last 5 years. Typically players with 300+ carries have seen their production fall off the next season. While there are premier backs who aren't as easily affected, they still see a dip in their numbers. For example Adrian Peterson saw his highest carries in his sophomore season with 363 and he maintained a 4.8 ypc. The next season his carries dipped to 314 and his ypc went to 4.4, and he saw his carries per game continue to dip for the next two seasons until it went back up this past season. Now Peterson was obviously still one of the leagues best even when his carries went down, but it's worth noting that he wasn't immune to seeing his numbers fade slightly.

What's even scarier than Morris's number of carries is his percentage of carries among running backs/full backs, which came to 89.5%. That is an insane workload for anyone, and just not a viable plan for Washington's continued success. That is the epitome of putting all your eggs in one basket, and can't be allowed to happen again. While last season Robert Griffin III was able to carry quite a bit of the load with his 120 rushes, that won't be the case this season. Even if Griffin is healthy for week 1, he'll likely be limited in his mobility for at least part of the season. Also the Redskins should look to scale back his runs when he is 100%. That means that some extra carries will need to be heading the running backs way, and Morris can't be asked to shoulder more of the load.

While it is easy to point to Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster as possible options due to their success at the end of the 2011 season, 2012 proved that they are unreliable for the role. Yes both backs were banged up, and Helu had to go on IR, but that could easily happen again. There is no guarantee that either back will be effective enough to take some carries back from Morris. The Redskins need to bring in additional talent and competition both with free agents and rookies. Now in neither case should they invest much in doing so, but Washington can not afford to get complacent here.

So far the focus has been on cutting back Morris's carries, and while that is important, the biggest reason quality depth needs to be brought in is the fact that Morris may need to miss a significant amount of time next year. Despite there being no injury track record, it needs to be a very real concern for the Redskins. Running backs have a high injury rate, and it can happen to anyone. Last year the other three NFC East teams all saw their starting running back deal with injuries that kept them out of multiple games (and made them less effective in others). In addition to those backs a host of other teams (SD, Pitt, Jac, Buff, Den, etc.) saw running backs going down with injuries. Whether it would be for just a game or two, or half a season plus, the Redskins need to have a plan in place on how to get by if the worst happens and Morris gets injured.

What do you think the Redskins should do for their back-up running back?

Grading the Washington Redskins Draft Class

February 13, 2013 in Washington Redskins

*These grades are based on production, potential, and where the player was drafted

Round 1 QB Robert Griffin III: Grade A

-Griffin was even better than advertised and put the team on his back down the stretch propelling them to their first NFC East Title since 1999. Griffin showcased himself as both a tremendous passer and runner, but injuries keep this from being an A+. Griffin suffered both his 2nd concussion (with in a year) and 2nd ACL injury this season giving at least some pause to the future. While it didn't affect the play this past year that much overall, it's unclear just how effective he can be going forward.

Round 3 OL Josh LeRibeus: Grade C-

-LeRibeus got a little work late in the year with a mixed bag of results. For the most part though he spent his time on the inactive list making him one of the least productive third rounders from last year. He should get first crack at Kory Lichtensteiger's left guard spot, but its far from certainty.

Round 4 QB Kirk Cousins: Grade B+

-Cousins got more work this past year than the Redskins hoped, but on the plus side he was pretty productive when called upon. There were some struggles, but he was put in some poor late game situations and his lone start was on the road. Cousins showed a lot of promise and right now with Robert Griffin's status up in the air, could be the Redskins starter at the beginning of next season.

Round 4 LB Keenan Robinson: Grade C+

-Robinson had a nice year as a special teamer and spot duty linebacker, before missing the final 6 weeks due to injury. He may take over the starting ILB duties when London Fletcher hangs them up (possibly even this season), and could be very valuable given his pass coverage ability. At worst he's a good back-up special teamer going forward.

Round 5 OG Adam Gettis: Grade C

-Gettis made the team out of camp, but was on the inactive list every week. He was a project all along, but it's unclear what the future holds for him.

Round 6 RB Alfred Morris: Grade A+

-Morris had a fantastic rookie year finishing 2nd in the league in rushing. He displayed power and vision, and next to RGIII he was the biggest reason for the Redskins turnaround this past season. He looks to have a bright future ahead of him, and no one gave higher draft value compared to where they were picked than him last season.

Round 6 OT Tom Compton: Grade C-

-Compton was cut out of training camp, and while he was eventually added to the 53 man roster he never saw a single snap. He even didn't get much consideration when Tyler Polumbus was injured and Jordan Black was suspended. He'll be given a shot to earn at least a back-up role this year, but overall he's got a long road up ahead of him.

Round 7 CB Richard Crawford: Grade C+

-Crawford had a big preseason and earned some playing time this past year. While he struggled some, he showed some minor flashes that gives hope that in a year or two he could compete for a top three spot. Crawford also showed nice return ability late in the year.

Round 7 S Jordan Bernstein: Grade C

-Despite the fact that Bernstein was lost for the year with an injury, the fact that he made the team at all as a 7th rounder gives him a C grade. His upside/potential is limited, but he could compete for a back-up spot this year.

Three Things the Redskins Should be Focused on this Offseason

February 11, 2013 in Redskins Offseason

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

If I'm the Redskins front office, there are three main areas I'm focused on this offseason. Redskins have Salary Cap issues, which need to be addressed first. But which area do you think is the biggest need?

1- Secondary help

Not a surprise here since at times last season it was ugly.  And to be more specific I am looking at free safety as the most important position of need heading into next season.  Way too many times we saw Madieu Williams be a step late on a touchdown or long pass completion.  The Victor Cruz winning touchdown is the play everyone will most remember.

And I know this team is weak at the corners, but I think the combination of a true free safety and Brian Orakpo's return will be a huge lift for the defense.  In house the only option could be DeAngelo Hall but I am against that.  First, Hall needs to be cut and only brought back to a much lower salary, which he says he is open to, but I really doubt it.  I think we overplay the whole corner to safety transition thing.  Ronnie Lott did it early and Rod Woodson late in his career but other than that it has not been that successful.  I would rather look to free agency or the draft for a new safety.

Jarius Byrd could be out there as an option.  He would clearly fit what the Skins needs.  Problem is he needs to make it to free agency, not be franchised and then the Skins would need the money.  One guy who everyone expects to be there is future hall of famer Ed Reed.  If he leaves Baltimore most see him in Indy or New England most likely.  I think if the Skins are interested in a more veteran star, Washington has been very “U” friendly and wouldn't discount it.  We have seen younger and older players have burned us but Reed is still a difference maker.  And a solid singer.

2- Not a shocker but number two is obvious as well.  Washington needs to shore up its line with a legit right tackle upgrade over Tyler Polumbus.

Polumbus has filled in admirably the past two seasons but it’s time to upgrade.  If the Skins make a move on a safety in free agency then the second round pick is in play for that tackle.  But this is a rare offseason where there are a lot of tackles available in free agency and not jumping on that may be a mistake.  The key could be with the hope that the cap penalty is lessened but we cannot count on that.

There are plenty of big time left tackles out there who may reach free agency from former Shanahan pick Ryan Clady to Miami's Jake Long.  With that position being a premier now many of these guys will see the franchise tag soon.  Branden Albert or Sebastian Vollmer could be a fit for the Skins but they will costly as everyone wants legit tackles.

Protecting Robert Griffin III has turned into huge focus after what happened last season and I can't see Shanahan not looking to upgrade the right tackle position.  The Washington Redskins have a chance to become a consistent offensive juggernaut but to be this Griffin has to be out there.

3- Speaking of making this team an offensive juggernaut, I want to see some improvement is at the running back.

What?  Alfred Morris just ran for over 1600 yards as a rookie.  Morris was unreal last season but I think this team could get scary on offense with a solid compliment to Morris.  Morris is and will continue to be the feature back, but I would love to have someone who is more of a big play threat to add to this offense.  The good thing is that Shanahan has a knack for finding backs anywhere in the draft but I think this should be more of a priority than trying to hit on another 6th round gold mine.

Roy Helu should be back but it’s up to the Shanahans to determine if Helu can fit this role in the offense as more of a home run and receiving guy.  I am not sure of that.  I think this offense can be scary silly if they have that homerun threat in the backfield with RG3 and Morris.

Darren Sproles isn't available but Reggie Bush looks to be.  At first thought I wasn't for Reggie Bush but if his price isn't high I think he could really help with his explosive at times abilities.  I am not sold that this would be a good move, but should be on the table.

Now if the Redskins are able to address both safety and right tackle in free agency and they are on the clock in the second round and the best player on their board is Kenyon Barner, I say jump at it.  Defenses are already on their heels facing the Skins offense and this could have them at a complete loss.  I know we may have bigger needs, but this is an offensive league and we have a treasure in Griffin and must continue to build off of that.

 

 

Redskins Post-Game and Post-Season Recap

January 7, 2013 in Washington Redskins Post Game Recap

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

After the playoff loss to Seattle Seahawks, here's the top five postgame observations for Washington Redskins, Robert Griffin and their future:

1. I will get to the "should he have been taken out or not", but first the game itself.

Seattle dominated the Redskins after the first quarter and deserved to win Sunday.  They did to us what we did to Dallas the week before and ran Marshawn Lynch to control the game.  Add to that Russell Wilson's ability to be unfazed and make plays.

It is crazy to think that the Redskins somehow still had a lead in the 4th quarter and an obvious chance to win.  After the first two drives by Washington, the Seattle defense came together and limited what the Redskins could do.  Add to that starting twice inside the 10 in the second half and the Redskins were doomed.

Seattle has a very good chance now to go to Atlanta and knock off the Falcons next.  The Seattle team that the Redskins faced was much different than the Cowboys, Eagles or Browns wins during the streak although we all should be thrilled to win 7 in a row and to be NFC East Champs.

2- Now to the big debate.  Mike Shanahan is getting killed since the game ended Sunday in leaving Robert Griffin III in the game.

What's your feelings on Shanahan's decision to keep RG3 in the game?

What's your feelings on Shanahan's decision to keep RG3 in the game?

I think it’s a lot easier to criticize Shanahan knowing now the Redskins lost the game and RG3 is most likely hurt worse than when the game started.  But during the game he had to go with who he thought could win him the game.  Griffin has electrified DC all season and even at 60/70/80% if Shanahan felt he was the one to win the game, he should be out there.  Big Ben does this all the time and he has 2 rings.

Is it Shanny's or Griffin's fault that Hankerson short armed what would be a huge play?  That Will Montgomery suddenly started to struggle in shotgun and pistol snaps?  It is easy to say Kirk Cousins should have been in there since now we know the Redskins lost.  But I think Griffin seeing all types of defenses all season compared to Cousins was the better option versus a team like Seattle.

If RG3 has a torn ACL (and that may be the case by the time this is up) it is a very tough pill to swallow.  But he will be back and he will be Robert Griffin III still.

3- I think the biggest play of the game was the play when Brandon Browner got called for illegal contact versus Pierre Garcon.

It was 14-3 and Garcon got by Browner causing Browner to foul him and actually fall to the ground.  But as Garcon was going free, Griffin was unable to get the deep ball off because Seattle had pushed the o-line back into Griffin.  An easy touchdown turned into a five yard penalty and the game was never the same.

The other game changer was the two missed turnovers in the first half.  One was when Doug Baldwin was able to break up a would-be interception from Reed Doughty.  Doughty was great Sunday at making plays at the line of scrimmage but really needed to pull that one in.  The other was the mis-hand off between Wilson and Lynch.  The ball went free and Madieu Williams as we have seen all season was a second late in getting to the ball allowing Lynch to get to it eventually and run with it.  Two tough misses for a team that strived the past two months getting turnovers in key spots.

I also should add the huge 3rd down conversion in the first quarter down 14-0 when Wilson was able to avoid pressure and get the ball to Zach Miller who made a nice catch and run to convert.  Would have given the Skins a good chance to grab solid field position with a Crawford return.

4- My player of the game is simple.

Other than Barry Cofield's head knocking the ball out of Lynch's grasp at the goal line, no one protected the lead like Sav Rocca yesterday.  Rocca had his best day of the season and was able with two huge punts keep the Skins in the lead until midway through the fourth.  If Washington pulled this game out, Rocca would be a hero.

I also continue to be impressed with Niles Paul's ability to get down on punt coverage all day.  Leon Washington was someone I was very concerned with and the special teams did a great job controlling him on kickoffs and punts.  I still love what Alfred Morris brought especially in the first half.  And I feel Reed Doughty and London Fletcher came to play.  Other than that unfortunately not many others stood out Sunday.

5- Although losing a home playoff game is tough (crazy thing is I was at the last one versus the Bears in 1984) this success has to be looked at as a success.

No one predicted the team to win the NFC East and that is what they did.  I think the Redskins now are a year ahead of schedule but a lot will obvious hang on the health of their star quarterback.  But we do have a younger nucleus to go with into 2013 and that hasn't happened in years.  Griffin's rise to stardom should be a huge factor in Washington's ability to attract better talent to Washington in the coming seasons.

We also must not forget that this team was unfairly crushed with a huge cap penalty hours before free agency and that the battle over that is not over.

Finally, I hope that London Fletcher has not played his last game and that he will return next season.  Although he hasn't had the winning success of Redskins of the past, he should be up there with the Riggins, Monk, Theismann and Greens’ of Redskins history.

 

 

Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Seahawks in Playoffs

January 4, 2013 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Playoffs are here for the Washington Redskins, so here are my keys to the game and what to watch for in Sunday's Playoff battle against the Seahawks:

1. This matchup brings us the two hottest teams in the NFC.

The Redskins have won seven games in a row while the Seahawks have won their last five.  Both teams win streaks have come against solid opponents as well.

The Skins used their win streak to capture the NFC East crown while the Seahawks just missed out catching the 49ers and are the wildcard.  Seattle has dropped Washington in their last two playoff appearances but those games were in Seattle.  I think this plays a major role Sunday.  Earlier in the season Seattle struggled on the road but their recent play has shown them to be a much better road team.

Good news for the Skins is that both Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have had much better statistical performances on turf than grass this season.  And we all know by now that the FedEx Field surface is far from turf.  This could play a major factor Sunday.

2- The key matchup all of the NFL world will first look at is between the two rookie quarterbacks.

Both Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson deserved Pro Bowl nods as rookies.  RG3 made it and Wilson didn't, but if it went the other way around it would have been hard to argue.  Both quarterbacks have shown poise in big games and have produced in big games.  Much will be made about Griffin's knee, but I think he is better than most feel.  I have confidence in him in the pocket and he showed last week he could still be a running factor as he ran for over 60 yards.

Unlike last week’s game versus Dallas I cannot see quarterback play being such a huge factor in who wins Sunday.  I don't see either Wilson or the Seattle game plan putting him into situations to make mistakes like Tony Romo did.

3- One of the biggest factors why the Redskins have won seven in a row is that they have not faced any top notch defenses during that stretch.

Philly, Dallas, New York, Cleveland and Baltimore were far from stellar on the defensive side of the ball.  Seattle is a different story.  Up front they can get after the quarterback and on the back end they have two corners who can man up on receivers.  "Drip cup" Sherman and Brandon Browner are the best corner pair Washington has faced all season and will challenge Redskins receivers like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to get open.

Griffin will need his mobility in this game to make time for his guys to break open.  Browner and Sherman, as well as Earl Thomas are very opportunistic so RG3 must protect the football as his has done all season.

4- Both teams like to run the football and both teams have shown they can run the football.

Seattle has been successful when they go into "Beastmode" with Marshawn Lynch and the Redskins cannot let him get going Sunday.  It could be a long day for a defense that has played much better recently if Lynch can move the ball down the field.

They have to get Wilson into 3rd and longs and not 3rd and shorts so stopping Lynch will surely benefit.  As for the Redskins, once again it will be key for Alfred Morris to pound an opposing defense.  The Skins ran well against the Seahawks last season without the force that is Alfred Morris.  Sunday they must continue to ride Mo' Diesel like the Gibbs teams did on their first runs.  Morris has not hit any kind of rookie wall and seems to be getting stronger like Riggins did in the past.  We have to like that.

5- Finally special teams have a couple concerns for me.

Cobra Kai finally had a miss last week, but I am still confident in him as our kicker.  I am worried about the Seahawks being able to block a kick especially with Red Bryant in the mix.  He got us last year and it’s a concern for Danny Smith's crew.

Also, as I have mentioned in the past I really wish the team brought in a kickoff specialist and this week one is clearly needed.  Leon Washington is dangerous and I would rather not give him the opportunities to break one.  Forbath's kickoffs will give him the chance to burn the Skins.  And I was very happy with Niles Paul last week on kickoff returns.  When Dallas had the momentum, Paul came up with a great return that put the Redskins at a good starting point.  He and Richard Crawford need to do the same again.

This is the toughest opponent the Redskins will have faced since going on the streak, but I am confident not only our game plan will work but our quarterback and others can win this game.  Good news is that the last draft has put us in great position for years to come, but I still would love to see this team go far this year.  I see it being a battle and the Skins coming out victors, 17-16.