April 20, 2014

Redskins share Christmas memories, help kids find coats for the holidays

If you closed your eyes, it almost sounded like a playground.

The hum of kids’ voices dominated a cozy corner at the Macy’s in D.C.’s Metro Center Tuesday morning, where the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation and the store were hosting a “Covered for the Holidays” event for underserved kids in the DMV. Students who attended received winter coats, goodie bags and toy balloons, with Redskins players Doug Worthington and Joshua Morgan on hand to help out.

Morgan knows where these kids are coming from.

“I experienced it, ’cause I was in these children’s places. I was some of these kids just searching and hoping [that there would be] somebody to help me out,” Morgan said. “You never know how many lives you can change just by showing up to something like this.”

During a brief interlude as the event transitioned from one student group to the next, Worthington, and later Morgan, shared their favorite Christmas memories with District Sports Page.

Morgan estimates his favorite Christmas memory came somewhere around 11 years old, when he was finally allowed to go outside and play football on Christmas–but there was one hiccup: that year, so much snow had fallen that it came up to his waist.

“We were so excited our parents finally let us go outside and play football on Christmas–[we] couldn’t even make it to the football field,” he remembers. “Couldn’t make it off the porch, honestly. Walked right into all the snow.”

Worthington remembers, when he was six or seven, that his father had nothing under the tree–”It was just kind of heartbreaking, I didn’t know if I did bad in school”–but then, when Worthington woke up, it ended up being the “biggest Christmas ever.”

Worthington said he started waking up earlier to see if he could ever catch his father in the act, which he thinks he did once, but never on the scale of that one Christmas.

“He just always used to make Christmas pretty special,” Worthington says.

The Redskins’ charitable foundation and Macy’s had up to 300 coats, scarves and hats ready to donate Tuesday. It was one of three events the team will hold in their “Season of Sharing,” which centers on giving back to the community during the holiday season.

Worthington joked about steering the kids away from the dark blue or gray colored coats, but in the end put color as secondary importance.

“As long as it fits and they’re warm, that’s all that  matters,” he said.

Doug Worthington and a young DMV student chat at Tuesday’s event. (Photo by Elisabeth Meinecke/District Sports Page)

There’s more than one way to wear a new winter coat! (Photo by Elisabeth Meinecke/District Sports Page)

(Photo by Elisabeth Meinecke/District Sports Page)

Is Joshua Morgan the biggest kid of them all!? (Photo by Elisabeth Meinecke/District Sports Page)

Hail to a Solid Defensive Performance

There’s not too much to critique on a given Sunday in a defense that holds its opponent to only 6 points, as the Redskins did to the Eagles this week.

Yes, it was an Eagles offense sans Michael Vick, but Vick also hasn’t been tearing up defenses this year. The Redskins targeted the inexperience of Vick’s replacement and, more importantly, were able to capitalize on it.

“[E]specially with Philly having a young quarterback, we wanted to really get after him and force some turnovers and steal every possession for our offense,” Kerrigan said when talking about the Redskins forcing 3 turnovers in the first half.

It was a should-win game, and the defense came through. In fact, they played well enough that Brandon Meriweather was able to leave the game later as a precautionary measure after tweaking his knee: ”

“Yeah, it was more me thinking about the future then me going back in there when we were already up by so much, and the defense was actually playing great,” he said postgame.

The defense earned praise from the most high-profile player on their team–even though he plays on the other side of the ball.

“Their play was great,” Robert Griffin III said. “Whenever your defense plays like that, it makes you feel as an offense that you don’t have to press to try to score every time. You can go out there and feel the rhythm of the game. The defense played great the whole game. They had some turnovers, got us the ball in great situations and we capitalized.”

Sunday’s game, though far from any kind of silver bullet for the Redskins’ defensive issues this year, was a solid foundation on which to build this week. Their opponent this Thursday will be a test of a different subject. Dallas has the sixth most passing yards in the league this year and an experienced (though turnover-prone) quarterback under center. The passing game has been the Achilles’ heel of the Redskins defense and will be a major factor in Thursday’s game.

The Redskins’ receiving corps also looked more collected after the bye week. Logan Paulsen had an excellent spin and reach move on his touchdown reception that assured six points for the Redskins even as he was being dragged to the ground. The more effort that comes out of the receiving corps, the more this offense goes from really good to positively nightmarish for opponents.

Overall, Thursday’s game should be one of the more exciting Thanksgiving Day matchups in recent history, especially between these two teams. Both are coming off wins Sunday. The offenses can score. And the Redskins’ defense should be focused again on not giving up big plays and exploiting a quarterback who, far from rookie status, has been known to throw several turnovers.

Washington Redskins’ to-do list for second half of 2012 season

Dez Briscoe swallowed whole by Pittsburgh defense in Week 8. (photo by Brian Murphy)

The Washington Redskins loss Sunday to the Pittsburgh Steelers offered plenty of winding paths for armchair quarterbacks (guilty!) to stray down this week. Which to select: the no-show on defense? The dropped passes? The inability of a veteran player to keep his cool when the blame for the lopsided score rested on his team’s shoulders, not the official’s?

With key rookies playing so well, the Redskins really should have a better record than 3-5. Much of this comes back to the question we posed early in the season at the District Sports Page: can the defense keep pace with the offense?

An AP article on ESPN talked about how, on Monday, Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan referenced the injury card when discussing the defense, which has been, to shamelessly borrow a Halloween-appropriate word, ghoulish:

“Shanahan said he thought the defense was going to be the strength of the team, but it’s not the same unit he expected because of injuries to starters Brian Orakpo, Adam Carriker, Brandon Meriweather and some backups, as well as Tanard Jackson’s season-long suspension for failing a drug test.

‘”That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to improve in the second half of the season,’ Shanahan said.”

Injuries are a legitimate factor in the struggles of the Redskins’ defense. But the Steelers weren’t immune from defensive injuries either, and that didn’t stop them Sunday from being effective against one of the NFL’s most potent offenses. Ironically, Mike Tomlin is citing his defense and special teams as the reason the Steelers are only 4-3, according to this ESPN article.

Fretting over injuries is a great way to end up at 3-13, not .500 or possible playoff contention. That’s one of the most fascinating aspects of the New England Patriots’ dominance in the past decade. The personnel may change, but Bill Belichick knows how to adapt for success. If Redskins fans want the inebriation of a dominant franchise, that’s a useful lesson to learn now rather than later.

The play calling also has to get smarter. Not necessarily better (they have a lot of points), but smarter. The decision to have RGIII play wide receiver on one down has already received its due disgust. But the Redskins’ impressive fourth-down conversions, which finally stalled Sunday, beg the question: if the Redskins pick the right plays to call on fourth down, why can’t they do that on third down?  They’re 29th in the league in third down conversion percentage, and third in fourth down conversion percentage. They’ve only missed one. And their fourth-down attempts are not a small sample size.

Then there’s the whole dropped passes situation. As someone who’s unlikely to catch even car keys when they’re tossed at me from a few feet away, I get that catching a pass isn’t as easy as A.J. Green makes it look, especially with a Pittsburgh defense breathing down on you.  But it’s also a pretty crucial part of the job description. And to back up this football principle, I reference not ESPN, but Gisele Bundchen’s infamous statement after her husband lost the Super Bowl this year: “My husband cannot ******* throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can’t believe they dropped the ball so many times.”

And to end on a more fashionable note, the Redskins can take comfort in one thing from Sunday: bottom line, nothing was as wrong as the Steelers’ uniforms.

Words of Wisdom from the Washington Redskins, RGIII’s Dad, and Tom Coughlin

There were several  gems from the Redskins’ media availability this week that illuminate the story of the Washington Redskins’ current offensive success better than a detailed breakdown of stats.

One of these comes from the man who led the team in both rushing and passing yards for that game–Robert Griffin III. He was asked this week about whether he prepares more for a division opponent, presumably in light of the upcoming game against the Giants, and he had this to say:

“I used to high jump back in the day, way back in the day. A couple years ago, my dad was telling me you jump the same way you jump at 6’8” that you do at 6’0”. Just because it’s at 6’0” it doesn’t mean you put less into it. So for me, you always keep your preparation the same way, whether it’s the Giants or anyone else.”

Charlie Sheen would call that a winning attitude. We call it awesome life advice. No wonder Griffin is succeeding by leaps and bounds and 76-yard touchdown runs in the NFL.

But don’t take our word for it.  New York Giants’ head coach Tom Coughlin was asked about Griffin’s improvement since Week 1.

“He runs in the endzone, for crying out loud,” Coughlin began. “He’s got a better feel of what’s going on. He’s more acclimated to the game, to the circumstances, the situations. He’s playing outstanding, he’s not forcing anything.”

Aptly stated.

Griffin is now third in passer rating in the NFL, and leads the second-most prolific offense in the NFL in points (though they tie with the Giants for that distinction) — and the Redskins have done this without a wide receiver or tight end in the top 40 in the NFL in receiving yards.

But don’t try to label the magic.

“Every place I have been in, everybody says ‘What do you call this offense?’,” Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan told the media this week when asked about the team’s offensive identity. “Rick Reilly had asked and he wanted a name so I said, ‘Call it the East Coast Offense.’ I get tired of answering the question, to be honest with you. I’m not sure what the name of the offense is but we are just experimenting with what Robert can do and we are having fun with it. Hopefully we can keep executing.”

For a no-name offense, it sure is accomplishing pretty big things.

After Wednesday’s Practice, RGIII Said He Felt ‘Sharp,’ ‘No Symptoms of a Concussion’

Robert Griffin III, assisted by trainers, leaves the field after being dazed in Week 4. (photo by Brian Murphy)

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and head coach Mike Shanahan updated the media Wednesday on Griffin’s progress after the concussion that took him out of last Sunday’s game against the Falcons–and the news sounded mostly encouraging.

Griffin said practice went well and that he felt “sharp”–”no symptoms of a concussion or anything like that, no dizziness, or feeling off-balance, or things of that nature.”

“The only symptom I do have is irritability because they [Head Athletic Trainer Larry Hess and the guys] keep asking me the same questions,” Griffin added later. ” They’re doing their job and I respect them for it. They kept me out of the game even though, as they just told me earlier, I still refuse to say I had a concussion. I had temporary memory loss.”

He also said he hasn’t had any concussion symptoms since he left the locker room Sunday, after which he was able to go home, watch TV, and relax.

Shanahan told reporters that while Griffin did not take his normal reps Wednesday, he took “a significant amount.”

Griffin’s status for next Sunday’s game remains up in the air.

“[S]omething could happen Saturday right before the game,” Shanahan pointed out. “You don’t know. So each day, we will monitor him and if he feels good, we will go with him.”

A more indirect indication of Griffin’s status came when Shanahan talked about which quarterback next Sunday’s opponent, the Minnesota Vikings, might prepare for. He explained the Vikings will know backups Kirk Cousins and Rex Grossman thanks to watching preseason games:  “But they anticipate Robert starting because probably that is what has been talked about through the media outlets that he should be ready to go unless there is a setback.”

Provided Griffin plays Sunday, look for him to play more wisely, but not necessarily less aggressive.

“It doesn’t make you less aggressive, but it is a learning lesson,” he said of the experience. “The one thing I learned was I can’t do that to my team, to the fans or to my family because life is more important than the game of football. ” He added that he ran out of bounds and imitated a slide in practice Wednesday and got a huge cheer from the team.

And expect Griffin to be prepared.

“I make sure I continue to do the same things I normally do – whether it’s with their scouting report, what they do, talking to different people about the team, watching film. I still stay on top of all those things,” Griffin said. “They said it was OK for me to watch film since I wasn’t having any sensitivity to anything or just watching guys run around on the screen. I’ve been able to do the same things.”

When Griffin returns to the sideline, he may find more support from the kicking unit than he’s experienced up until this point: the Redskins released Billy Cundiff after another disappointing performance Sunday and signed free agent kicker Kai Forbath, who went 5-for-5 in kicks during the preseason for Tampa Bay before  being waived by them at the end of August, according to a Redskins’ press release.

Though the Redskins haven’t had too much trouble scoring points this season, a solid kicking game can be the hinge on which  a team’s win-loss record swings in today’s NFL. It’s a weakness that a team with key young offensive starters shouldn’t have to deal with if at all possible.

No pressure, Forbath.

Washington Redskins need to take next step to advance past .500

Alfred Morris runs away from the Bucs en route to a TD in Skins 24-22 win. (photo Brian Murphy)

 It was a game the Washington Redskins should have won Sunday, and win they did–despite dramatic closing minutes.

The team’s offense has developed far past functioning–it’s exciting and fairly dependable, something all the more impressive when one remembers key offensive positions are filled by rookies. Alfred Morris, in fact, is top five in the league in rushing.

And while the offensive line has to find ways to keep RGIII from taking too many hits in the backfield, the team’s high rushing numbers show a certain degree of promise in an offensive line’s capabilities.  Case in point: that hole they opened up during Morris’ 39-yard touchdown run Sunday could have fit a small planet.

A downside, of course, are the sacks given up this year–RGIII’s total is up to 11 right now, a stat more troublesome when one remembers how mobile he is. It’s also high compared to the protection most other rookie quarterbacks are receiving. The good news is the number of sacks the Redskins gave up dropped significantly from the horrendous total after the Cincinnati game.

Overall, the next big development for the Redskins is going to be maintaining the leads they’ve managed to build in games. They face some of the league’s top offenses down the stretch, and giving most of those opponents a yard will ensure they’ll walk all over you. Right now, the Redskins can’t seem to keep a solid lead, as witnessed in the second half of Sunday’s game against Tampa, and earlier this season in St. Louis–so 50 percent of their season up until this point. With all due respect, since us journalists can barely kick our shoes off in the right direction, do the Redskins really want the fate of their win-loss record riding on the leg of Billy Cundiff?

Speaking of Cundiff, head coach Mike Shanahan indicated the team is not going to go shopping currently at that position, after the kicker went 1-for-4 on Sunday, when he made the one good kick the game winner: “We’re not going to work out any kickers this week.”

Shanahan also wants to address the big plays he feels the Redskins give up and which Tampa capitalized on.

” … [T]wo big plays obviously put them in position for touchdowns. Is it just that simple? Maybe it is. I don’t know, but we can’t give up those plays – for sure if we want to be the type of team we want to be. That’s what we’ll work on,” he said, and went into  more detail on how the team fixes that. “You take a look at everything . Why do they make those plays? That’s what we do when we look at film. We talk about the things that we did to give up those big plays. Is it scheme? Is it personnel? Doesn’t matter what it is. You have to take a look at what players do best and you have to adjust your scheme to fit your personnel. That’s always an ongoing process, both offensively and defensively.”

While the big plays make for good TV, it isn’t good defense, particularly when the opponent’s offense is as weak as Tampa’s is. To go from a talented team to an elite team, the Redskins can’t just build a lead–they have to protect it, too.

Can the Washington Redskins Defense Keep Pace With the Offense?

DeAngelo Hall contemplates the state of the defense in Sunday’s loss to the Bengals. (photo Brian Murphy)

It’s like car maintenance—the minute you get one part fixed, another breaks down.

The Washington Redskins have shown they can score. The team that was 26th in the NFL in points per game last year is now first in a league—a league that still boasts Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and duos like Stafford-Johnson and Dalton-Green. RGIII’s rating is the second-best among rookie quarterbacks in the league. Alfred Morris is a keeper. [Read more...]

Washington Redskins: A Growing Team of Atlases

All the class and poise that was missing on the field during the fourth-quarter unsportsmanlike penalty call on Redskins wide receiver Josh Morgan found its way to the back of the podium for the Redskins’ postgame presser.

“One thing that Coach Shanahan has stressed to us since he’s gotten here is just maintaining composure, walking away,” said captain London Fletcher. “You have to still maintain your composure. … Me, as a captain, I didn’t do a good enough job of emphasizing that to my teammates. So I’m pretty disappointed about that and I take responsibility.” [Read more...]

Washington Redskins performance provides hope with Sunday’s win over Saints

Robert Griffin III hands off to Alfred Morris in Redskins 40-32 win over New Orleans Saints Sunday. (photo by Brian Murphy)

If you are a long-suffering Washington Redskins fan, you hoped things would be different Sunday. That, in the end, a new offense led by a marquee rookie and a defense that finished 2011 slightly better than average would be able to hold off any last-minute push by a man who knows how to tear up his opponents: Drew Brees.

And in the end, they were.

The Redskins held out to win their first regular season game with Robert Griffin III under center and by a score, 40-32, that almost edged into college-football territory. [Read more...]

Washington Redskins: “Just Robert” already showing veteran poise to the media

(photo courtesy Brian Murphy)

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new quarterback in town. The first day of training camp is over, his quotes from earlier this week have been disseminated. Early analysis from the media on Thursday’s camp indicates his performance was respectable, though not flawless. His interviews from Wednesday, however, were in veteran form, particularly where he declared himself as “just Robert” to his teammates.

Robert, as is Robert Griffin III, better known across the league as “RGIII” and the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft, also showed a refreshing empathy with the common man’s plight when a question came up about housing prices in D.C. [Read more...]

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