On The Clock NFL Mock Draft from Fanspeak.com

You are browsing the archive for Washington Redskins Archives - Fanspeak Washington Redskins Blog.

What is going on with the Redskins defense?

November 21, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

Lost in the poor play of Robert Griffin and all the surrounding controversy with the press conferences, is how once again the defense was really bad in this game. While this is not to say that the defense "cost us" this football game as the Redskins offense committed 3 turnovers and managed just 7 total points, the defense didn't do them any favors. Most troubling about the defensive performance is just how many mental mistakes continue to happen to this unit.

Not only are the Redskins generally defensively deficient from a talent and physicality perspective (at least relative to quality defenses), but they are severely lacking in the mental side of it as well. Each and every week we can point to multiple plays where 1 or more guys just flat out blows their assignment. While every defense is going to have this happen, it is becoming far too frequent. The fact of the matter is the Redskins have been somewhat lucky based on who they have played so far that they haven't been exploited more.

Take their previous game versus the Vikings, the same sort of mental breakdowns that occurred versus Mike Evans happened multiple times against Minnesota, the Redskins were just lucky that the Vikings didn't connect on those plays enough to really turn that into a blowout. It goes back further than that though, as you can look at a number of games where the Redskins opponents had big play opportunities but they just missed them. One game where it could have made a difference was against the Titans. We saw multiple coverage breakdowns, but the Titans missed them for whatever reason (having Charlie Whitehurst as the starting QB was probably a big factor).

These breakdowns just can't be happening at this frequency at the NFL level. Especially when you consider that the Redskins really only have 3 young guys (Keenan Robinson, Bashaud Breeland, and Trent Murphy), who haven't had significant NFL experience before. Of those players only Breeland has really had major lapses in his assignments and he's far from the worse culprit. This by in large is a veteran defense many of whom have been in this defense for multiple years. There is no reason that these guys don't know what their assignments are or how to execute them.

Now some of the blame definitely falls on the coaching staff in particular defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and DB coach Raheem Morris. These are two coaches who were retained from Mike Shanahan's staff and were ideally supposed to bring stability to the unit. Yet somehow the defense keeps failing in their job. Morris in particular deserves scrutiny, because the secondary remains the weak link on this team. While there are definitely talent issues in this group, their level of play has been really bad this season. While both coaches definitely deserve their fair share of blame and should be on the way out next season, the buck doesn't completely stop with them. These players are blowing simple assignments that would be in any defensive game plan (and that these players should already know), I don't know if there is a defensive coach out there that can get them to do their job.

Another major area of concern for the defense is the absolute lack of a pass rush the past couple of weeks. Against the Cowboys 3 games ago, the Redskins were relentless with their blitzes and shut down a Pro Bowl caliber QB in Tony Romo behind arguably the best OL in football. Since then the pass rush has completely withered against rookie Teddy Bridgewater and journeyman Josh McCown behind two of the worst OL's in football. That is just unacceptable for this team.

The Redskins got two sacks this past Sunday and they came on a play where the offensive lineman forgot to block Trent Murphy and a rollout play late in the game where McCown gave himself up instead of throwing the ball away or forcing a throw. Barry Cofield played that play well, but it was hardly a sign of a good pass rush. Beyond the lack of sacks is the fact that the Redskins aren't hitting the QB and pressuring him on enough plays. When they have blitzed these past two weeks, for the most part they haven't worked. They have maybe caused a few rushed throws and gotten a sack or two, but by in large the blitzers aren't getting home and quarterbacks still have too much time in the pocket.

Again this is definitely partially on the coaching staff, but the players need to be held accountable as well. Big name guys like Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher just aren't having the same sort of impact that they did earlier in the year (or were projected to at the start of the season). They should be winning individual battles at a high level even when there aren't extra blitzers and they just aren't doing that nearly enough. The Redskins need their pass rush to step up because they have some better opponents these next couple of weeks and the only hope for this defense is to make some splash plays.

Redskins will have tough questions to answer this offseason

November 19, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

I don't know if many people really thought the Redskins were set and ready to contend in 2014, but I think the general consensus was this team was building for the future. Now after 10 weeks the Redskins sit at 3-7 and there are growing concerns about the future of this team going forward. There aren't many positions that one can point to that Redskins fans can feel comfortable with going forward. Let's quickly breakdown some of these offseason questions and what could happen:

Quarterback:

-This is obviously the biggest question mark heading into the offseason. While it once seemed like RGIII was a lock for not only picking up his 5th year option, but an even longer extension those plans are likely to be scrapped this offseason. Griffin has shown regression and dealt with multiple injuries since his hot start his rookie year, and there is a serious question if he can regain the title of QB of the future for this organization. The Redskins could entertain trade offers for Griffin, but that probably won't end up working out this year. Griffin will likely be back, but without the 5th year option or extension, which means he would be entering his last year under contract, with his future very much in doubt. Kirk Cousins may be moved on from given how he played this year and the idea that a change of scenery could be good for him. Colt McCoy will be a free agent, but it's likely the Redskins will work to retain him as the fallback option if Griffin struggles next year.

Running back:

-Alfred Morris is set as the top back and will be entering his final contract year. The Redskins would be wise to try to extend him this offseason to ensure they don't need to worry about the starter. Roy Helu Jr. is the team's number 2 back and 3rd down back and he's an impending free agent. The Redskins may let him walk and hope that rookie Silas Redd can fill his shoes. If that is the case a 3rd (and possibly 4th) back will be needed. If they don't feel Redd is ready then the Redskins need to have a solid plan for the number 2 back.

Wide Receiver:

-Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson are all free agents and are likely to not be back (or in Moss's case retire). The Redskins top three guys DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts are all under control through at least 2016, but at this point it wouldn't be surprising if Garcon is not on the Redskins next year. It's unlikely they would cut him, but a trade for a mid round pick could happen. Garcon is expensive, and seems unhappy in the offense right now. If he isn't going to get 120+ targets, it is tough to justify paying him that money. The Redskins do have Ryan Grant to hopefully step up, but they will need some additional wide receivers as well (hopefully some guys with size). It probably won't be a major need even if Garcon is traded, but it will be something to look out for.

Tight End:

-Jordan Reed can't stay healthy, Niles Paul is a free agent, and Logan Paulsen is flat out overpaid. Obviously Reed will be back next year, but the Redskins can't be sure he will be able to give them a full season. If they let Paul walk, not only does he weaken the depth as a decent pass catching TE, but he's been a very good special teams player for the Redskins. If they bring Paul back on the cheap it will probably be a smart move, but he would fit best as a 2nd receiving TE and given Reed's health issues he'll probably be pressed into a greater role. Paulsen has really struggled this year and will almost certainly be cut. The Redskins need to find a 3rd TE who can block and play special teams. That isn't the toughest thing to find, so the strength of this position really boils down to the health of Reed.

Offensive Line:

-Assuming he doesn't rush back and further hurt his knee Trent Williams will be locked in as a stud LT on this line. Kory Lichtensteiger has played okay this year and probably could give the Redskins another decent year next season (though the team should look to upgrade for the future). Beyond that though there are serious question marks here. Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester have been awful at guard this season and while Chester is basically a lock to be cut, Lauvao's contract might force the team to at least keep him on the roster. The Redskins have young guys like Tom Compton, Morgan Moses, Josh LeRibeus and Spencer Long waiting in the wings, but they are all unproven. Moses is the best of the bunch and may very well be the RT next year, but the team needs to get better guard play. Relying on unproven guys like LeRibeus and Long is probably not the answer, particularly if you are somewhat rolling the dice with Moses.

Defensive Line:

-Jason Hatcher and Chris Baker are locked in to be back next year, but beyond that there are some question marks here. Barry Cofield contract is pretty expensive and coming off an injury filled year it could be tough to bring him back. Jarvis Jenkins is a free agent and Kedric Golston and Stephen Bowen will likely be released as well. Though Hatcher and Baker are good and solid players respectively, the Redskins need more from their defensive line. They need to add an impact player and may look to either the draft or free agency to hopefully find one. Even if they don't get an impact guy, they need to completely improve their depth and talent of this unit.

Inside Linebacker:

-The Redskins look like they have found one good inside backer in Keenan Robinson, but the other spot is a big question mark. Perry Riley was signed for a short term deal in the hopes that he would develop into the promise he's always had. It's been a rough year on Riley, which is troubling given that the talent has improved beside him and in front of him. The Redskins don't have another starting caliber ILB on the roster and would ideally like to find a good player to pair with Robinson.

Outside Linebacker:

-The Redskins franchised Brian Orakpo and drafted Trent Murphy at this position and so far neither move has panned out as the Redskins have hopped. Orakpo wasn't playing well to start the year and got injured seriously in the 7th game of the season. Trent Murphy has flashed a few times, but by in large has been invisible on this defense. There is little to suggest that Murphy could replace Orakpo on the right side so the Redskins have to decide what to do at arguably the most important position on defense. Do the Redskins re-sign Orakpo on the cheap and hope he can stay healthy and rebuild his value? Do they role with the unproven Murphy and hope he drastically improves? Do they slide Ryan Kerrigan over to the tougher position and hope that he can handle it? Or do you spend another top pick or make another big FA signing (not clear there will be any legitimate options in FA) to fill the position? A lot of tough questions here for the Redskins at a key position.

Corner back:

-DeAngelo Hall is coming off two Achilles tears and at 30 it's going to be tough for him to be fully ready by the start of they year. He may need to start on the PUP list, and even if he doesn't his effectiveness could be compromised. Young corners David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland have flashed at times and may be decent starters, but the book is still being written on them. At the very least the Redskins need to add a veteran corner who can play the slot and replace Tracy Porter and E.J. Biggers. They might need to add two capable corners if they are really concerned about Hall's status.

Safety:

-This was a position where the Redskins basically knew they were punting on this year as their only additions were Ryan Clark and bringing back Brandon Meriweather for a year. Both starting safeties have struggled and the young safeties the Redskins have/had (Bacarri Rambo, Phillip Thomas, Duke Ihenacho), haven't done much to prove they are worth starting long term. The Redskins reasonably need to add two capable starting safeties this offseason and hope that some young guys can man the back-up roles.

Thoughts and Observations: Redskins vs Buccaneers

November 17, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Boy I'm glad we had a bye to be ready for this game:

-Look this game shouldn't have been considered a guaranteed win despite the Buccaneers record coming in. Yes the Redskins were at home and coming off a bye, but they weren't exactly a good team themselves and the Bucs had played a number of average or worse teams tough this year. So while the Redskins losing this game stings given the situation, it's not completely unexpected. What is unexpected and frankly unacceptable is the fact that they didn't even show up in this game. The Redskins failed in just about every facet of this game, and that just can't happen coming out of a bye, especially at home. This was the type of game that you expect to have happen when you are coming off a short week, dealing with a number of major injuries. That's the exact opposite of what the situation was. The Redskins were the healthiest they've been since week 1, and had the most time to prepare since then as well.

2. There are serious questions surrounding the future of RGIII:

-I will delve more in to RGIII later, but this was a bad game by Griffin. He really couldn't do anything right and struggled in pretty much every facet of this game. While the first interception isn't all on Griffin, some of it definitely is as he threw a awful pass to Paul. It maybe was bad luck that it turned into an INT, but it was started with a poorly thrown ball. If you want to not fully hold Griffin accountable for the INT (which is fair), you also can't give him a lot of credit for the TD or yards in this game. The Redskins lone TD was a screen to Helu and the Bucs were basically in prevent mode. Griffin didn't do anything good on that pass (or that entire drive) that is really worthy of praise. The majority of Griffin's yardage was gained in YAC throughout the game. If guys like Jackson, Helu and Morris didn't turn short passes/screens into good gains, Griffin wouldn't have cracked 100 yards passing. And it's not a situation where Griffin threw a ball with anticipation and helped lead his receiver to get some big gains. These were simple passes that really any QB could throw. Griffin really didn't do anything beyond 10 yards in this game and he definitely missed some open receivers that he didn't even attempt to throw the ball to.

If Griffin's passing wasn't the only issue in this game, as his pocket awareness was horrible. Yes the offensive line deserves some major blame (see below), but Griffin could have avoided multiple sacks and multiple pressures. Considering how many passes were quick dump-offs/screens and quick hitters it is shocking that Griffin had so much pressure. A lot of that falls on him as he didn't read the defense correctly and get the ball out of there.

From a long term perspective the Redskins have to be concerned in Griffin's future. In now 31 starts (not counting the Jags game since he left on the 2nd drive), Griffin is just 12-19 and really hasn't played all that well since the ACL injury. While injuries are definitely part of the reason why Griffin hasn't developed faster, injuries don't help your case going forward. The Redskins still have a ways to go in their decision process with Griffin, but its very fair to suggest that there is a major concern here at QB for their future.

3. The offensive line is just atrocious:

-Look the offensive line was bad going in and we knew it would be worse when Trent Williams went down early with multiple leg injuries (though Morgan Moses didn't play bad), but this is getting laughable. Tom Compton nearly did the unthinkable for Redskins fans as he made them wish Tyler Polumbus was playing right tackle. Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester appeared to be having a contest to see who could miss the most blocks in this game (for those scoring at home Lauvao came out the "winner" despite having to leave the game early due to injury). Even Kory Lichtensteiger who has been the Redskins most consistent blocker of the year, struggled some in pass blocking (he did make a great block on the screen pass that went for a TD though). While much of the ineptitude was in the pass blocking, the run blocking wasn't much better. Multiple times Alfred Morris had to deal with defenders meeting him in the backfield and luckily some of those times he was still able to make plays.

The Redskins were facing one elite defender in Gerald McCoy, but the rest of the Bucs DL is considered below average as a group (not counting McCoy). Though McCoy definitely gave the Redskins headaches, they couldn't stop anyone in this game. This was just a pathetic performance from this unit.

4. Where was the pressure on defense?:

-The Buccaneers offensive line had given up a lot of sacks and pressures throughout the season and Josh McCown was hardly a guy known for limiting pressure. A week ago the Atlanta Falcons, who aren't exactly known for getting a lot of pressure on the QB, gave McCown all sorts of pressure throughout the game. The Redskins pressure was non-existent. They managed just 2 sacks (one of which McCown gave himself up instead of throwing it away) and 5 QB hits, despite the fact that the defense got the Buccaneers in a number of 2nd and 3rd and long situations, and brought extra rushers. When the Redskins blitzed, Josh McCown acted like he was Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers and stepped up or avoided the pressure and took advantage of 1-on-1 match-ups in the secondary. Rarely did he really seem rushed in his throws and the pressure was simply not effective in this game. This is supposed to be the area where the Redskins were still strong on defense, even after the loss of Brian Orakpo, yet it completely let them down.

5. Special teams miscues continue to haunt this team:

-The last couple weeks the Special teams really hadn't hurt the Redskins, but that ended on Sunday. They had muffed returns and returns that were short of the 20. Two missed FG's, poor punting and penalties. This was just a bad special teams game all-around and they were even gifted a muffed punt by the Bucs.

6. Why was Perry Riley assigned to cover Mike Evans 1-on-1 with no help?

-I'm seriously asking this question. Did Jim Haslett have Mike Evans in fantasy football this week? What other reason would there be to put Perry Riley on Evans 1-on-1? Perry Riley has been awful in coverage throughout his career, and that is just trying to cover backs and tight ends. There isn't a logical reason to think he could cover the 6'4" stud rookie receiver who was making plays on your corners and safeties. What's the game plan for next week, Barry Cofield covering Michael Crabtree? I understand that the play relies on the blitz to get to the QB and force the ball to come out quickly, but the problem is if it doesn't it is basically a guaranteed big play. If you want to bring an extra rusher why not bring Riley who has shown himself to be a capable blitzer in his career. The same result may have happened if Meriweather was on Evans, but at least there was a chance that Meriweather could cover Evans (not a great one mind you, but it would be there).

7. Final Thoughts:

-I would shut down Trent Williams for the rest of the year regardless of what the MRI says. His play hasn't been as good of late to begin with b/c he's already dealing with injuries, and now it would likely be even worse coming back at the end of the year from these injuries. Also if his MCL is injured, even when he's healthy enough to come back it would increase the likelihood of a more serious injury. It's just not worth the risk in a season like this.

-In Trent Williams place, Morgan Moses played pretty well at LT. It will be interesting to see if they move Moses to RT going forward since that figures to be his long term position, or if they let him play out this year on the left side.

-The Redskins shouldn't bench RGIII regardless of what happens the rest of this season. They have some tough decisions to make this offseason about his future, and they need these last 6 weeks to evaluate that fully. It may mean more performances like this, but playing Colt McCoy or Kirk Cousins isn't going to give you the picture that you need.

-A game like this brings up serious questions throughout this organization. From the players on the field, the coaching and the personnel decisions, everyone is being called into question. There needs to be strong accountability after this season to fix these  issues, up-and-down the organization.

-Can the Redskins really point to any true "winnable" games throughout the rest of their schedule? 49ers and Colts are going to be very tough on the road. The Rams have just beaten the Seahawks, 49ers, and Broncos in 3 of their last 5 games and are clearly playing better. The Giants are struggling some, but they exploited the Redskins once this season and will be at home. The Redskins nearly beat the Eagles and upset the Cowboys on the road, but does this team really look like they are capable of sweeping either of those teams? It's likely the Redskins get a win or two, but it is tough to see any more than that.

Redskins can't overlook the Buccaneers

November 13, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

It's easy to see why some in the media and much of the Redskins fanbase is already chalking this game on Sunday up as a win. The Redskins have played better over the last three games, beating the Titans and Cowboys and playing the Vikings close. The Redskins are also coming off a bye, playing at home where they've been much better this season (with the exception of the Giants game). Tampa Bay on the other hand has lost 5 straight games and are struggling both on offense and defense. It is easy to think that this game is "in the bag" and the Redskins will improve to 4-6 after Sunday, but the Redskins can't afford to get ahead of themselves and count this as a win just yet.

The Buccaneers may be 1-8 and rank in the 20's in just about every major offensive and defensive category, but they've been fairly competitive this season. With the exception of two blowout losses to the Falcons and Ravens, they have had a chance in every other game. even this past week versus the Falcons the Buccaneers took a 17-16 lead in the 4th quarter, but they weren't able to hang on. This is not a team that will just give up if they get down early or have some struggles. There are two areas on the Buccaneers where they could really give the Redskins trouble on Sunday, and if the Redskins allow those areas to be an issue this game could go poorly for the Redskins.

The first area of concern is the Buccaneers defensive front, most notably star DT Gerald McCoy. McCoy is one of the best interior pass rushers in the league and an absolute dominant force in the middle of that Buccaneers Defense. He has lived in opposing backfields this year and will disrupt a number of plays each game. He'll be facing G Shawn Lauvao who has struggled mightily in his first year in Washington. McCoy is a tough match-up for All-pro guards, so a weaker guard like Lauvao represents a massive mismatch. Even if the Redskins commit to double-teaming McCoy there is no guarantee that will stop him. Robert Griffin III has struggled the most throughout his career when he faces interior pressure on a consistent level. If McCoy can't be contained it could cause major headaches for the Redskins. McCoy is listed as questionable for this game, but he's fully expected to play.

Another key player on the Buccaneers defensive front that could cause the Redskins issues is DE Michael Johnson. Johnson was a major free agent signing from the Bengals this past offseason, and has been a disappointment so far for Tampa. He's missed some time due to injury and is listed as questionable this week. If he does play though he's someone the Redskins have to be aware of. Johnson is a talented pass rusher, and when he was on the Bengals in 2012 he had a monster game with 4 sacks. Now Trent Williams missed most of that game due to injury, but he's less than 100% right now so he could be exploitable. Johnson (and the Bengals in general) played the read option perfectly that game and ground the Redskins offense to a halt. If Johnson can go and is relatively healthy he could pose a significant problem if the Redskins are hoping to use more read option.

The other issue that the Redskins need to concern themselves with is how to match-up with the Buccaneers talented pass catchers. Rookie Mike Evans has really started to break out these past few weeks and he has teamed up with Vincent Jackson to give the Buccaneers a pair of big, physical, fast receivers that are match-up nightmares. Going against the Redskins secondary they have the potential to have a massive impact. Though rookie corner Bashaud Breeland has played much better over the past couple of weeks, he's still made some mistakes and if you make mistakes versus this pair of receivers they will make you pay. On the other side David Amerson has had an up and down season and has struggled to play consistently. He has the length to match-up with these receivers, but he hasn't shown he can be physical enough to slow them down. If Evans and Jackson weren't bad enough a third match-up nightmare is emerging in the Buccaneers passing game. Rookie TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins has started to become more involved in the Buccaneers passing offense, and at 6'6", 260 lbs, he's a mismatch regardless of who the Redskins try to cover him with.

The key to stopping the Buccaneers weapons is going to be the pass rush. If Josh McNown has time in the pocket those receivers/tight ends will get open and beat the Redskins weak secondary. The only hope for the Redskins is to try to get enough pressure on McNown that he will make some mistakes and not be able to connect with his receivers.

Just how "homegrown" is the Redskins roster?

November 10, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

If you watched the Sunday night game between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears they talked about how the Packers are built primarily through the draft and the signing of college free agents. They mentioned that  the Packers just have 5 players on their roster that played with other teams. That was the lowest in the NFL, while their opponent the Bears had the most with 31 players from other teams. That got me thinking about the Redskins and their own roster construction. For the purpose of this I will look at all the players currently on the Redskins 53 man roster, plus their injured reserve list. Players that were either on another team's practice squad or played in a couple games (but not significant action) with another team won't count against the Redskins. Afterwards I will look deeper at the roster construction:

*Note Tanard Jackson won't count on either list

Players From other organizations:

Injured Reserve: 4 players

DL Barry Cofield, CB DeAngelo Hall, S Duke Inhenacho, LB Akeem Jordan

Offense: 9 players

QB Colt McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Pierre Garcon, WR Andre Roberts, WR Santana Moss, OL Shawn Lauvao, OL Kory LIchetenstieger, OL Chris Chester, OL Tyler Polumbus

Defense: 9 players

DL Jason Hatcher, DL Stephen Bowen, DL Frank Kearse, LB Adam Hayward, LB Everette Brown, CB Tracy Porter, CB E.J. Biggers, S Brandon Meriweather, S Ryan Clark

*Note: both Trenton Robinson and Chris Baker saw limited time with other organizations, but played in no more than 3 games with those teams and didn't really see a lot of work.

Players From the Redskins:

Injured Reserve: 2 players  (*note I'm only counting IR players who have played in the NFL)

OLB Brian Orakpo, DL Chris Neild

Offense:17 players

QB Robert Griffin III, QB Kirk Cousins, RB Alfred Morris, RB Roy Helu Jr., RB Silas Redd, FB Darrel Young, TE Jordan Reed, TE Niles Paul, TE Logan Paulsen, WR Ryan Grant, WR Leonard Hankerson, WR Aldrick Robinson, OL Trent Williams, OL Morgan Moses, OL Tom Compton, OL Josh LeRibeus, OL Spencer Long

Defense: 15 players

DL Jarvis Jenkins, DL Chris Baker, DL Kedric Golston, LB Ryan Kerrigan, LB Perry Riley, LB Keenan Robinson, LB Trent Murphy, LB Will Compton, LB Jackson Jeffcoat, S Akeem Davis, S Phillip Thomas, S Trenton Robinson, CB David Amerson, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Greg Ducre

Specialists: 3 players

K Kai Forbath, P Tress Way,LS Nick Sundberg

Notes:

Of a possible 59 players 22 were acquired from other organizations which is probably pretty good overall (note: players like Chris Baker might be counted differently according to the ESPN standards). The only troubling thing is just how many of these players were expected to play significant roles with this team to start the season. The Redskins top 3 receivers, 4 starting offensive linemen, top 2 defensive linemen, and four of the 5 top members of the secondary (Tracy Porter was expected to be the nickel corner) were from other teams. What makes it worse is the fact that few of those players have actually produced positive results for this team this year.

The team has relied on free agency to build the defense more than the offense. If everyone was healthy the breakdown would likely be 12 players from other organizations and 12 from the Redskins. Meaning there is a pretty significant reliance there from outside the organization.

Two issues that have forced the team to rely so much on free agency have been the lack of top draft picks and overall selections, as well as a poor job of retaining late round picks. The lack of top selections explains why so many free agents were placed in starting or key positions, while the missing on later round picks has hurt the depth and forced the team to target cheap free agents to fill out the roster. In the last 3 drafts the Redskins have had 13 selections from the 5th-7th rounds, of those just 3 players (Alfred Morris, Tom Compton and Ryan Grant) remain. That is a pretty low retention rate.

Five Questions the Redskins Need to Answer This Bye Week

November 8, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1.How can they protect RGIII better?

-It's no secret that Robert Griffin III doesn't have the best feel in the pocket and he holds on to the ball too long. It is a common trait with both young and mobile QB's, so with Griffin in both categories it's bound to be an issue. In just 9 quarters of play this season Griffin has been sacked 9 times, including 5 this past week versus the Vikings. In addition to the sacks Griffin is getting hit and pressured at a high rate as well. The Redskins need to have an elite line protecting Griffin in the future, but for now they will need to settle for just improved production. Some of it could be fixed with maybe some replacements among the starters (Chris Chester, Shawn Lauvao and Roy Helu Jr. are the biggest culprits), but the Redskins need to do more than that. Given Griffin's natural tendency to hold on to the ball the Redskins should scheme around it. Force more short quick throws to get the ball out of Griffin's hands before the pass rush can make enough of an impact. This is something the Redskins did somewhat effectively Griffin's rookie year, and was a big part of the reason why Griffin was able to have some success that year.

2. How can they get Pierre Garcon going?

-DeSean Jackson has been a major weapon this season, but unfortunately last year's NFL catch leader Pierre Garcon has all but disappeared. Garcon has just 4 games with 6 or more targets this season and just three of those games has he caught at least 5 balls. A year ago Garcon had just 4 games under 10 targets and none of those games were fewer than 7. Garcon lowest catch total a season ago was 5 and that only happened twice. For some reason they can't get Garcon going and it's really hurting the Redskins ability to sustain drives. DeSean Jackson has proven himself to be an incredible deep threat, but they need that chain moving receiver opposite him. That is a role Garcon is well suited for, but for some reason it is just not clicking this year. Part of it is probably on the fact that he's played with three different starting QB's, but there is more to it than that. Whatever the issue is that is limiting Garcon's production the Redskins need to fix it ASAP.

3. Can the pass rush be consistent?

-The Redskins pass rush has dominated at times this season and disappeared at other times. While some of that is going to happen over the course of a year, the Redskins need to get a more consistent pass rush if they want to improve their defense. Two weeks ago the Redskins saw just how much of an impact a quality pass rush can have when they went into Dallas on Monday night and upset the 6-1 Cowboys. The Redskins aggressive blitz campaign saw a rushed Tony Romo take some big sacks and rush some key throws. It directly led to the Redskins win and was the 2nd best defensive performance of the season. Last week again on the road the Redskins got two early sacks on rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, but after that they weren't able to do much from a pass rush perspective. As a result Teddy Bridgewater picked apart the Redskins secondary in the 2nd half and led to the Redskins 6th loss of the season.

Ideally the Redskins could succeed and have a consistent pass rush with just 4 guys rushing the QB, but that hasn't been the case this year. The Redskins are going to have to blitz more in the final 7 games and they will also have to be better with their rushes. Last week versus the Vikings the Redskins didn't blitz as much as they did the week before versus the Cowboys, but they were also more ineffective when they did. On a number of occasions Teddy Bridgewater was able to step up in the pocket, buy some time and deliver a good throw. That can't happen going forward as the Redskins need to at least be forcing some rushed throws if they can't get home for the sack.

4. How can they fix their secondary/coverage woes?

-The Redskins continue to have breakdowns in the coverage with the main culprits being in their secondary. The troubling thing is there just isn't one weakness causing problems in their coverage, but everyone is pretty much to blame. There are issues with the linebackers, corners and safeties. The main culprits are corners David Amerson and E.J. Biggers, safeties Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather and linebacker Perry Riley. While other players have had some struggles these five have been the ones with the biggest and most consistent breakdowns.

Another problem facing the Redskins is that it doesn't seem to matter what coverage they try to run, offenses have found a way to crack it. This speaks to a lack of talent and ineffective coaching. There are breakdowns in every system and coaching staff has failed to correct any of them to produce at least average coverage.

There is no easy way to fix this for the Redskins, but the hope is that they can find a scheme that will work for them enough to have at least average coverage. Probably the best thing they can hope to do from a coverage aspect is not put themselves in a position where they need to rely on coverage. The Redskins best two games in terms of coverage have been the games where their pressure has dominated and the opposing QB didn't have time to wait for the inevitable coverage breakdown.

5. Can the Redskins play at a high level for a full game?

-The Redskins have been inconsistent throughout the season and it is a big reason why they are sitting at 3-6. With the exception of the Jaguars game (and arguably the Cowboys game) they haven't played a good full game. This past week versus the Vikings the Redskins controlled the first 28 minutes of the game and looked like they were going to notch their 4th win. Unfortunately the Redskins made a turnover at the end of the half and the defense started to fall apart. It's not the first time this season the Redskins had a good chance in a game, but couldn't finish the other team off. The Redskins have to stop having these breakdowns if they are going to become a contender. That's not going to happen this year, but the Redskins need to start playing full games in the hopes that they can get on the right track for next season.

Redskins Rookie Report at the Halfway Point

November 1, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

OLB Trent Murphy:

-Murphy was the Redskins 2nd round pick and was initially being used as a 3rd pass rusher on passing downs and a sub for the starters Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. Now with Orakpo's injury Murphy has been thrust into a starting role and will be asked to be a key pass rusher on this defense, playing quite a bit versus left tackles. Murphy hasn't looked that good so far and in his first start he rarely showed much as a pass rusher. He's been okay in run defense (though not great) and has a long ways to go to prove that he can handle the ROLB role.

OT Morgan Moses:

-Moses looked raw in much of camp and had an up-and-down preseason so the jury is still out on the 3rd round rookie. In his limited work he has one really bad snap where it appears he either didn't know his assignment or the snap count and the defender blew by him for an easy pressure. Moses is behind Tom Compton in the tackle battle and now appears to be Compton's understudy with Polumbus on the bench. Moses could push Compton soon if, the 3rd year tackle doesn't improve from his initial start against Dallas where he made some mistakes. As of now the only value Moses has brought is future value, he still could end up being the long term option at RT, but it's a huge unknown.

OG Spencer Long:

-Long has gotten very little work this season, but could be called upon soon if Chris Chester continues to struggle. The Redskins coaches drafted Long so he could even pass Josh LeRibeus on the depth chart in the coming weeks. Right now though they haven't gotten much of a return for their 3rd rounder. Long's preseason and camp weren't too impressive and he's been inactive a number of weeks. He still has a long way to go to prove his value, but right now the early returns are incomplete.

CB Bashaud Breeland:

-Breeland was a 4th round corner for the Redskins and he was expected to spend most of the year playing special teams, getting only a handful of snaps as the Redskins 4th corner. Injuries to the Redskins top corner DeAngelo Hall and their 3rd corner Tracey Porter have forced Breeland into the starting line-up and a lot of playing time. Early on Breeland was getting picked on relentlessly and gave up a number of big plays, but he's started to play much better these past two weeks. On Monday night versus Dallas, Breeland came up with a number of big plays which were crucial in the Redskins victory over Dallas on the road. Breeland will still probably make some rookie mistakes, but his future is promising.

WR Ryan Grant:

-Grant was the Redskins 5th round pick and he had a tremendous camp/preseason which vaulted him to 4th on the WR depth chart  He got some work early in the season when DeSean Jackson was a little banged up, but since then has only gotten a few snaps a game. Barring an injury this likely will remain his role throughout the season. As a 5th rounder though the Redskins can be happy with this kind off return. If there were an injury to any of the Redskins top three starters, Grant has shown the route running, catching ability and poise to at least give solid production.

RB Silas Redd:

-Redd beat out 6th round rookie Lache Seastrunk, and former draft picks Evan Royster (6th) and Chris Thompson (5th) for the Redskins 3rd running back spot. That right there is impressive and shows just how much the coaching staff believed in Redd. With two more established backs ahead of him Redd has gotten very limited offensive work this season. When he has gotten some chances he's shown some nice burst and potential and definitely looks to have a future in this offense. Considering he was undrafted the Redskins coaches have to be extremely pleased with the return on their investment.

Redskins need to protect RGIII (More so than normal)

October 31, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

Barring some unforeseen set back Robert Griffin III is set to start this Sunday versus the Vikings in Minnesota. Griffin is returning from a dislocated ankle injury he suffered week two versus the Jaguars, and this is the first week he's been able to get regular work in practice. Griffin has been medically cleared to play this week, but that doesn't mean he's out of the woods in terms of risk for further injury. Which is why the Redskins number one goal this week has to be finding ways of protecting RGIII from a very talented Vikings pass rush.

Last year the Vikings Defense may have been somewhat of a joke around the league, but first year HC Mike Zimmer has turned them around in one season and has them ranked 12th in points allowed and 8th in yards allowed. Zimmer's key for their success lies within the Vikings pass rush. Minnesota ranks tied for 2nd in sacks and 2nd overall in sack percentage. They generate a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback, forcing negative plays to make up for a relatively weak secondary. The Vikings pressure primarily comes from six guys, three on the interior and three on the exterior. On the inside defensive tackles Linval Joseph, Sharrif Floyd and Tom Johnson have combined for 10.5 sacks and nearly 30 pressures. On the outside Everson Griffin, Brian Robinson and 1st round rookie Anthony Barr have combined for another 12.5 sacks and about 55 additional pressures.

Of the six guys Griffin is the most dangerous of the bunch with 8 sacks already this season and 20 pressures. He does most of his work from the right hand side and will be facing Trent Williams who has been hobbled all year due to injuries. Given the injuries Trent is not playing at the same level he did a year ago. If Trent can't lock down Everson Griffin 1-on-1, he's going to cause headaches for RGIII and will likely get multiple sacks/pressures. Anthony Barr's 3 sacks and 11 pressures don't look like much on the surface, but given the fact that he's only rushed the QB 83 times this season those numbers are a little bit more impressive. Barr spends much of the game as a stand-up linebacker so he only gets 10-15 pass rush snaps a game. He's made the most of those and he'll probably get some opportunities versus Tom Compton who hasn't exactly shown he's locked down the RT position.

On the inside the Vikings rotate three defensive linemen who have some ability to get after the quarterback, and that is a problem for the Redskins. Inside pressure has been an issue for this team as center Kory Lichtensteiger and guards Shawn Lauvao and Chris Chester have struggled against talented interior linemen. Historically RGIII has not fared well when faced with interior pressure and that isn't likely to change with him on a bad ankle. Joseph and Floyd represent a very talented pair of tackles who complement each other extremely well. Joseph is the bigger more physical tackle, capable of taking on double teams and still getting penetration. Floyd is the more classic 3 tech tackle who will shoot the gap and win with size and quickness. Both have shown the ability to exploit mis-matches and will be a handful for the Redskins interior linemen. Back-up defensive tackle Tom Johnson has been quite a find for Minnesota this year. He's been considered just an average back-up before this year, but he's found a home in Zimmer's defense and has shown himself to be a talented pass rusher in the interior with 5 sacks already this season.

The Redskins haven't built an offensive line that was capable of protecting Robert Griffin III on a consistent basis when he was fully healthy, and able to scramble away from pressure. Now their task is going to be much harder, because Griffin likely won't have the same running ability he had pre-injury. Though the running ability may be somewhat compromised, it's tough to know if Griffin will compensate by getting rid of the ball quicker. That is not his natural style and it could be tough to change that mid-year like this, so the Redskins have to find away to get him more time in the pocket. One solution for the Redskins could be using backs and tight ends more as blockers in this game than they normally would. That could mean that there are really only three men in the route, but the Redskins have to trust their pass catchers to win their battles and get open. Normally the Redskins would probably call a lot of bootlegs and rollouts to combat pressure, particularly up the middle, but I don't know if the Redskins want Griffin to run anymore than he has to in this game. Instead the Redskins should utilize more play action and quick screens and slants to force the ball out of Griffin's hands before the pass rush can get up the field.

Redskins vs Cowboys: Keys to the Game

October 27, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Protect Colt McCoy:

-The Redskins will be trotting out their 3rd QB of the year to try to win this rivalry game on the road. It's not going to be easy and if they don't keep a clean pocket for McCoy it could get ugly fast. Now hopefully replacing Tyler Polumbus for Tom Compton is a step in the right direction, but it probably only fixes part of the problem. The Redskins have seen other linemen as well as backs and tight ends struggle in protection as well. They can't afford to give up pressures and sacks if they want McCoy to succeed. The good news is the Cowboys don't have any truly dominant pass rushers, but they have done an okay job at getting pressure on the QB this season.

2. Get the run going early:

-The Redskins inability to get the running game going has been a major issue this season, but this is a game where they ideally should find success. The Cowboys have not been strong versus the run and the Redskins need to exploit this. They have to get it going early to hopefully get a lead, otherwise they won't even be able to run the ball later in the game if the Cowboys can put this one out off reach. Alfred Morris really needs to carry the load in this game, and they have to find away to get him 25 carries against this defense.

3. Sustain drives and keep Dallas off the field:

-One problem the Redskins have had all season is their ability to sustain drives. Given that they typically have had awful field position this has hurt their ability to put up points or flip the field on opposing teams. While it's been nice that the Redskins have had some big splash plays, when that is all you are relying on it makes it very tough to win. The Redskins also need to sustain drives to keep the Cowboys offense off the field. Dallas's entire defensive gameplan revolves around controlling the clock and tempo on offense, so why not give them a taste of their own medicine.

4. Take some chances in this game:

-The Redskins are sitting at 2-5 with really nothing to lose in this game. They need to take some chances early on to try to steal this win. Whether that is trick plays, on-side kicks or going for it on 4th down situations the Redskins need to find ways to catch the Cowboys off guard and get some big plays. They can definitely come back to bite you if you don't succeed in scenarios like this, but at this point what do the Redskins have to lose.

5. Win on 1st and 2nd down defensively:

-The Cowboys run game this year has been simply dominant and it is making the life of Tony Romo that much easier as he is constantly ahead of the chains. The Cowboys aren't getting in a lot of 3rd and long situations, which forces defenses into some bad situations. If the Redskins can't force the Cowboys into some 3rd and long situations there chances of slowing down this offense are extremely slim. The good news is the Redskins run defense has been pretty strong, but this will be an extremely tough test against Murray and this offensive line. If the Redskins get the better of it, then perhaps you can get some pressure on Romo and force a couple of turnovers.

6. Win the penalty and take-away battles:

-Let's be honest, the Redskins aren't a good football team right now and they definitely aren't as good on paper as the Cowboys. So this is not a team that is going to win on the road if they are turning the ball over or giving up free yards with penalties. The Redskins have had issues in both areas this season (though have improved lately with penalties) and it's cost them some of their losses. Against Dallas the Redskins are going to have to be nearly perfect and can't afford big mistakes. On the flip side they have to try to create some turnovers defensively to set up some short fields for their offense.

 

Thoughts and Observations from the Redskins vs Titans Game

October 20, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. What the Redskins win means:

-The number one thing this win means for the Redskins is in terms of confidence boosting for this team. They had lost four straight games and were embarrassed they last time they were on their home field, so the Redskins were desperate for something positive to come out of this game. The fact that the Redskins were able to come from behind in this game is big for this team which had struggled throughout the season to play from behind. Also there were a couple of instances where it would have been very easy for this team to give up and let the Titans take over the game, but instead they held their ground and kept it close.

While the Redskins got their 2nd win, it wasn't exactly pretty as they struggled in a number of areas. Once again they were really bad on 3rd downs, converting just 3 of 11. The Redskins were 0-4 in the red zone and couldn't get their run game established, in a game where they had to turn to their 3rd QB. This is not a recipe for continued success, and a lot of what happened in this game needs to be fixed as the Redskins look to build upon it in their final 9 games. While they did get the win, and kept playoff hopes alive, it is still a major long shot that they could get to the post season. The Redskins would probably need 10 wins to get even a wild card berth in the NFC this year, and it is very tough to find 8 more wins on their schedule. What's most important though is to try to fix what went wrong and build upon it for the future. If that leads to the playoffs that is great, but what's most important is figuring out who can be apart of this team going forward.

2. Colt replacing Kirk:

-The Redskins made the decision at halftime to bench Kirk Cousins and go with the more veteran Colt McCoy at quarterback. McCoy sparked the offense and the crowd, with good safe throws and composure when the game was on the line. Until Robert Griffin III returns from injury, it appears that Colt McCoy will be the starting quarterback on this team. McCoy is not a savior for this team, but he likely won't make some of the same mistakes we've seen in recent weeks with Kirk Cousins. McCoy will hopefully put the Redskins in position to win some games while RGIII remains sidelined and will be a capable back-up when Griffin returns.

3. Tyler Polumbus or Tom Compton:

-The Redskins began rotating their right tackle position in the 2nd half, using both Tyler Polumbus and Tom Compton in that role. Polumbus has struggled mightily this season and he gave up some big pressures early in the game. Compton came in as the only active back-up tackle and though he was maybe slightly better, he struggled as well to maintain his blocks. It's a positive that the team is showing signs of being willing to move on from Polumbus, but Tom Compton is clearly not the answer either. Hopefully the Redskins can look to turn to their rookie 3rd rounder Morgan Moses shortly to handle the position. Though he might make some mistakes as well, Moses has the size, strength and potential to handle the position long term. His mistakes will be more due to his inexperience, rather than simply just not being able to get the job done like Polumbus/Compton.

4. Injury to Brian Orakpo:

-Brian Orakpo suffered his third injury of the year and unfortunately it is the most serious, as he tore a muscle in his right pectoral that will sideline him for the rest of the year. While Orakpo had only gotten .5 a sack this season, he's still been pretty solid, especially considering he was dealing with a broken finger and sprained ankle. Orakpo was definitely a disappointment in terms of being the Redskins' franchise player, but his play wasn't as bad as some make it out to be. He had gotten a decent number of pressures this season, maybe they weren't at his typical pace, but they were at an above average clip. Orakpo had also made some big plays in the running game and was decent in pass coverage.

Now taking his place will be 2nd round pick Trent Murphy. Murphy hasn't really ever projected as a right side pass rusher, so it will be a tough assignment for the rookie to fill Orakpo's shoes. In limited work this year, Murphy hasn't done much to show that he was ready for a starting role, and unless he really picks it up it could end up being a major hole in this defense.

5. Running game woes continue:

-The Redskins tried to be more committed to the run in this game, but it didn't change the outcome for the running unit. While the final number of 100 yards is okay, it took 26 carries to get to that mark for a below average 3.8 yards per carry. What's even worse is that number is inflated due to a couple draw plays that Roy Helu had some nice gains on to boost the overall number. When the Redskins tried to actually run in normal situations they weren't that successful. Alfred Morris managed just 54 yards on 18 carries for a very poor 3.0 ypc. The Titans had an average run defense coming in, that looks considerably better now after shutting down Morris.

Morris had a couple nice runs, but there were other times where he went down too easily or didn't seem to get to the hole quick enough. Other factors were the run blocking, which was once again pretty bad and the play selection. The good news was the Redskins didn't abandon the run like they had in the past, but they also weren't creative in their run play calling in terms of down and distance and out of particular formations. It led to a fairly predictable run game that the Titans were able to key in on.

This is something the Redskins need to fix ASAP, as they can't afford to not have a strong running game. Despite all the receiver/Tight end talent, this team needs to succeed on the ground to win football games. They aren't a team that is going to sustain drives, and that is what is going to hurt them going forward.

6. Pass Blocking struggles continue:

-While this was mentioned in the Polumbus vs Compton item above, the struggles in pass blocking go well beyond the RT position. In fact it even goes beyond the OL position group as we've seen backs and tight ends miss crucial blocks as well. The end result is that a team that is very weak at rushing the passer, was able to get a couple of sacks, a couple of penalties and some key pressures as well. This has been a problem all season and it's only going to get more exposed when RGIII returns. Griffin might be more mobile, but he also holds on to the ball longer, so the protection must even be better for him than the other QB's. Another thing to worry about with the return of Griffin is that you probably don't want him running around trying to escape pressure on that ankle. The Redskins have to improve their blocking this season and it won't be an easy thing to accomplish.