July 30, 2014

Washington Redskins key training camp questions: defense and special teams

Training camp is underway in Richmond and that means the season is just around the corner. The Washington Redskins, however, have a lot of work to do before their opener in Houston.

Each year, every team in the NFL has questions they hope to answer during training camp at each position. That is especially true for a team like the Washington Redskins who enter the season with a new coach. With that in mind, here are the key questions for each position the the team needs to answer during camp: [Read more...]

Washington Redskins key training camp questions: offense

Robert Griffin III hands off to Alfred Morris in Redskins 40-32 win over New Orleans Saints in Week 1. (Photo by Brian Murphy)

Robert Griffin III hands off to Alfred Morris in Redskins 40-32 win over New Orleans Saints in Week 1. (Photo by Brian Murphy)

Training camp is underway in Richmond and that means the season is just around the corner. The Washington Redskins, however, have a lot of work to do before their opener in Houston.

Each year, every team in the NFL has questions they hope to answer during training camp at each position. That is especially true for a team like the Washington Redskins who enter the season with a new coach. With that in mind, here are the key questions for each position the the team needs to answer during camp: [Read more...]

Washington Redskins training camp notebook 7/28/2014

Here is what you missed from the Washington Redskins fifth day at training camp:

The fifth day of training camp gave us the first fully padded Redskins practice of the 2014 season. With full pads, the intensity was turned up significantly, and there were plenty of hitting drills including a few special teams drills that featured contact. There was also some extracurricular physicality today as tempers flared in Richmond. It is normal to have a few scuffles around this time, it’s hot, it’s the first time they have gotten to really go at each other, and the Redskins are well aware that the stakes are high to get a roster spot on the 53-man roster.

We’ll start with what everyone wants to read about, Robert Griffin III. Griffin has looked much sharper than he did at the beginning of camp, and it is clear that Griffin is putting in the effort to develop chemistry with newly acquired targets DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. Griffin and Roberts clicked early, and Jackson and Griffin’s deep ball connection is getting better by the day. Griffin showed a flash of the electric player we saw in his rookie campaign, in an 11 on 11 drill Griffin saw a seam up the middle and burst through the defense for an easy 20 yard gain untouched. This is the type of running (not by design but by opportunity) you can expect more from Griffin in 2014. Even in the first few days of camp, Griffin has taken off less and less each day, in favor of progressing through his reads. Too often Griffin uses his athletic ability to get out of trouble and he may “panic” and go to his legs too early, staying calm in the pocket and progressing through his reads will be huge for Griffin.

Pierre Garcon tweaked his hamstring in this mornings practice. Garcon didn’t seem overly concerned about the injury, saying that he felt fine but he wasn’t going to push it at this time in the off-season. This injury should have no effect on Garcon’s regular season play.

Chris Thompson has continued to impress and has emerged as the favorite to land the third running back job. Griffin was quoted saying “We want him (Thompson) to be our Darren Sproles”. Thompson has the skill set to be this type of player, but the biggest question mark with Thompson is his durability. Thompson has a lot of potential, and is a player to watch throughout camp.

Number 51 wasn’t vacant for long, Brandon Jenkins was cut yesterday, and Everette Brown was signed today and was sporting Jenkins former number in practice today. Brown worked with Skins outside linebacker coach Brian Baker who coached Brown at Carolina in 2009-2010.

That’s all for now! Have a Redskins question? Tweet me @Justin_Byram, or email me at jwbyram@email.msmary.edu

Washington Redskins Traning Camp Notebook 7/26/2014

Today the pads went on, which means full contact, resulting in the first scuffle of training camp. The small scuffle broke out (and was quickly separated) between Tom Compton and Darryl Sharpton.

There are a couple of Redskins coming back from injuries that look very good thus far in camp, Chris Thompson, Keenan Robinson, Tracy Porter, and Richard Crawford all seem to have successfully made a full recovery from whatever injury hampered their 2013 seasons.

Josh LeRibeus has continued to look good as well. LeRibeus reported to camp out of shape last season, and never got a chance to get going. However, LeRibeus reported in good shape this year and seems to be hitting the ground running.

It will take time for RG3 to develop chemistry with his new weapons, and he did hit DeSean Jackson on a nice deep pass off the boot-leg. However, Griffin and Andre Roberts seem to be making an early connection making quite a few plays today.

Trent Williams rolled his ankle, but after sitting out a few plays returned to action and insisted he was fine.

David Amerson has done a nice job covering some of the Redskins best receivers including a few times against Pierre Garcon today. Coach Gruden said that Amerson is playing with a lot of “Swag” out there and that he likes what he sees from the second year corner. Amerson has gotten much better at using his long frame and arms to jam receivers and put himself in a favorable position from the beginning. I like Amerson’s chances of taking the next step in his development and becoming a more solid, consistent starting corner.

That’s all for now, have a Redskins question? Leave a comment! Or tweet me @Justin_Byram, or email me at jwbyram@email.msmary.edu

Washington Redskins Training Camp Notebook for July 25

by Justin Byram

Here is what you missed from the Washington Redskins second day at training camp:

* You may be able to chalk up the Redskins shaky offensive performance on the first day to rust or the weather conditions. The Redskins offense including RGIII looked much sharper on day two of camp. Coach Jay Gruden challenged the team to respond after a bad first day of practice and was pleased with how they handled it.

“Yeah, I mean, we had to. It wasn’t a very good practice offensively, in a lot of respects,” Gruden said. “The weather had something to do with it – dropped balls – and I just thought the tempo wasn’t as clean and sharp as I would like it and had to challenge them. So they responded very well today.”

* The Redskins’ hottest position battle might just be running back. The only player who should feel completely safe is Alfred Morris, and Roy Helu isn’t far behind him. However, Chris Thompson received praise from Gruden today saying the second year back looked good today. Thompson will battle Lache Seastrunk for the change-of-pace back, and both have the ability to make an impact in the passing game out of the backfield as well (that is still to be determined, and will play a large role in who makes the team).

“He’s got the speed,” Gruden said of Thompson. “He’s got the hands. He’s got the quickness. He’s got everything you’re looking for. We’ve just got to make sure he stays healthy. He’s had a little bit of the injury bug the last couple of years, and – knock on wood – he’s been healthy and he’s looked good. So he’s definitely going to compete for that spot.”

Add Silas Redd to the mix as well, he has looked good so far in camp, and although he has an uphill battle to make the roster he shouldn’t be counted out completely. Another scenario that is unlikely but shouldn’t be ruled out completely is if Seastrunk, Thompson, and Redd all impress during pre-season cutting Roy Helu who is set to make more money this year than work-horse starter Alfred Morris.

* Jay Gruden’s brother and father were visitors to camp today. Jon briefly spoke to the media, and stressed the importance of patience with RGIII’s development. He does have a point, Griffin is currently participating in his first full off-season program, while learning a new offense, and adjusting and attempting to build chemistry with his new targets, not the easiest process and there will be bumps in the road but the sky is still the limit for this offense.

* DeSean Jackson responded to the classic “do you think RG3 will be able to keep all his weapons happy with targets?” Jackson pointed out that he would rather be on a team full of weapons, going on to say that with all the weapons they have it will be difficult to focus or double team one player, and if a defense focuses too much on the receivers RG3 and Morris can hurt opponents with their legs.

“Honestly, me and Andre [Roberts] were just talking about it earlier,” Jackson said. “It’s very dangerous and it’s very scary – I’d rather be on the team that has all the weapons. It just makes it easier for Robert. Actually, me and Andre were saying every play somebody has to be open. With me, Tana [Santana Moss], Pierre [Garçon], J-Reed [Jordan Reed], Roberts, it’s so many options – Alfred Morris. “

“There’s just so many options that regardless of how you play it, somebody’s going to have to keep an eye on RGIII, because if not, he’s going to run. If somebody doesn’t get double teamed, another receiver is going to be open. So like I said, we’re putting in the effort to go out there and just all be open. As long as we’re all open, it makes it easier for RGIII, so that’s what we look forward to.”

Gruden spoke about the flexibility his offense has with all the weapons they have.

“You want to get people involved,” Gruden said. ” That’s what the beauty of this offense hopefully is – being able to spread the ball around. We are able to get the running game involved, we are able to get Andre Roberts, DeSean, and Pierre their touches and Robert [Griffin III] whatever he need to do. Darrel Young, Jordan Reed, even [Logan] Paulsen, we’ve got to try to get everybody involved.”

“When we call a play, we don’t know who the ball is going to. We don’t call a play and say, ‘Throw it to this guy no matter what,’ unless it’s a special circumstance. It’s up to the quarterback to make the reads. Some days DeSean will have 10 catches for 200 yards. Maybe he will have two catches for eight yards. We don’t know how it’s going to play out, how the defenses are going to cover us, but the coverage should dictate where the ball goes and hopefully with the weapons that we have, a certain guy can make a defense play depending on how they are playing us.”

* I love what DeAngelo Hall said to the media, Hall knows he is at the end of his career and is enjoying his time in the NFL while he can. Hall is also stepping into a bigger leadership role and looks to take over the vocal leader role that London Fletcher possessed the past few seasons.
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Justin Byram is a contributor to District Sports Page. He covers the Washington Redskins for several on-line publications. You can follow him on Twitter @Justin_Byram.

Washington Redskins training camp notebook

by Justin Byram

The Redskins kicked off training camp on a rainy Thursday morning at Bon Secours Training Camp. Here’s what you missed at the first day of training camp.

Robert Griffin III had a shaky start to camp, his throws were often inaccurate and off target. That could be due to the sloppy conditions he was throwing the ball in, rust, or maybe he just needs more time to get on the same page with his new targets. Regardless, it is not time to panic if you’re the Redskins, but Griffin must improve on his rocky start sooner than later in camp.

Running back will be an interesting position battle to watch throughout camp, Chris Thompson looked very quick, and appeared to be fully healthy. Seastrunk proved to be as advertised showing extreme burst and playmaking ability. Seastrunk also did a nice job catching the ball out of the backfield, I saw him make two difficult grabs (one low and one behind him). Catching the ball out of the backfield is a huge part of Jay Gruden’s offense and the quicker Seastrunk can pick it up the better it will be for him. Both Seastrunk and Thomas worked on returning punts as well.

Keenan Robinson has received a lot of hype this off-season, and rightfully so. The third year linebacker looked extremely athletic and showed great range covering the very talented Jordan Reed (typically a linebacker matchup nightmare) and did a phenomenal job. Robinson looks like he will be a huge asset to the Redskins defense provided he stays healthy.

Another recovering Redskin that looks healthier than I expected him to be was Richard Crawford Jr., who was playing his best football before getting injured last season, and could be an asset in the return game in 2014. Phillip Thomas also looked good, and doesn’t seem to have lost his explosiveness after missing his rookie season with a lisfranc injury.

In addition to returning punts, Andre Roberts made his presence felt immediately, making some nice plays in eleven-on-eleven drills. Roberts might be an underrated addition thanks to DeSean Jackson, but Roberts will be a bigger playmaker than people expect in 2014. Although their timing was off (it will get better with time) DeSean Jackson appears to be the deep threat RGIII has lacked his first two years. Twice today Jackson blew by the defense and Griffin went to him with no hesitation, one ball was a bit overthrown, and the other Jackson probably could have caught but it’s a safe bet you can expect a lot of deep shots from RGIII to Jackson in 2014.

Trent Murphy was put on the field with Orakpo and Kerrigan and formed a very good looking pass rushing trio. Murphy is enormous in person, bigger than I thought he would be and he looked great in his first practice with Washington. Murphy was reportedly one of the first Redskins to show up for camp around 6:30 a.m. (two hours before practice). With Murphy’s hard working attitude and talent, expect him to make an impact early.
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Justin Byram is a contributor to District Sports Page. He covers the Washington Redskins for several on-line publications. You can follow him on Twitter @Justin_Byram.

Predicting the Washington Redskins final 53-man roster

by Justin Byram

With the 2014 Washington Redskins training camp underway, we’ve decided to go out on a limb and predict the final opening day 53-man roster:

To kick off training camp, we are going to predict who makes the final cut for the Redskins’ 53-man roster. Have a question? Leave a comment!

Quarterback: 3

Robert Griffin III

Kirk Cousins

Colt McCoy

With RGIII healthy and Gruden’s tendency to only keep two quarterbacks it is tempting to cut McCoy, however, RGIII needs to prove his long term health before that happens.

Running Back: 4

Alfred Morris

Roy Helu

Lache Seastrunk

Darrel Young

This battle will go through camp and pre-season, but the bottom line is Seastunk is a more durable version of Chris Thompson and was drafted by Gruden giving him the edge.

Wide Receiver: 6

Pierre Garcon

DeSean Jackson

Andre Roberts

Santana Moss

Leonard Hankerson

Ryan Grant

The top three are a lock, but Gruden has stated he likes Moss and what he brings to the table, Leonard Hankerson may start the season on the PUP list but will make the team at one point or another, and Grant has impressed early and was another Gruden draft pick. (if Hankerson opens the season on the PUP look for Alderick Robinson to stick around a little longer)

Offensive Line: 9

Trent Williams

Shawn Lauvao

Kory Lichtensteiger

Chris Chester

Tyler Polumbus

Mike McGlynn

Spencer Long

Morgan Moses

Tom Compton

The starters are pretty set in stone unless one of the two rookies overcomes Chester or Polumbus (I don’t think that happens). The two rookies are locks to make the roster, they are the future of the right side of the line. McGlynn is a solid versatile backup, and Tom Compton is playing right tackle with the second team and looks much more pro-ready than Moses.

Tight End: 3

Jordan Reed

Logan Paulson

Niles Paul

This is a pretty easy group. Jordan Reed is a budding superstar, Paulson is the team’s best blocker and an underrated pass-catcher, and Niles Paul is a special teams ace and when your special teams is as bad as the Redskins’ was in 2013 you don’t cut a guy like that.

Defensive Line: 6

Jason Hatcher

Barry Cofield

Chris Baker

Jarvis Jenkins

Kedric Golston

Stephen Bowen

The starters are set in stone. Jarvis Jenkins is now over a year removed from knee surgery, and looking to make good on the potential he flashed as a rookie, Golston gives the Redskins versatility to play the nose and end position, and Bowen will make the team, but barely as a rotational player.

Inside Linebacker: 5

Perry Riley Jr.

Keenan robinson

Darryl Sharpton

Akeem Jordan

Adam Heyward

Back to the terrible special teams from 2013, the Redskins brought in three athletic inside linebackers who all excel in special teams, which is why Sharpton, Jordan, and Heyward all make the roster behind the starters Riley and Robinson.

Outside Linebacker: 4

Ryan Kerrigan

Brian Orakpo

Trent Murphy

Brandon Jenkins

This is one of the toughest decisions the Redskins will have to make this season. The top three are established, Rak and Kerrigan are two of the best players on the Redskins’ entire roster, and Murphy was the Redskins’ first draft pick and will have a chance to make an impact early. That leaves Rob Jackson and Brandon Jenkins fighting for the final roster spot. Outside Linbackers coach Brian Baker said that Jenkins might be the most improved this season, and the Redskins didn’t make an effort to re-sign Jackson early in free-agency so I’ll give the edge to Jenkins because he is younger with a higher ceiling.

Corner: 5

DeAngelo Hall

David Amerson

Tracy Porter

Bashaud Breeland

Richard Crawford Jr.

Richard Crawford looks healthy despite suffering a nasty knee injury during last pre-season. Crawford was playing his best football before the injury and is a solid special teams player which is why he gets the final spot behind the starters and fourth round pick Bashaud Breeland.

Safety: 5

Ryan Clark

Brandon Meriweather

Phillip Thomas

Bacarri Rambo

Akeem Davis

Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather are penciled in as starters, and Phillip Thomas will push Meriweather for playing time early, leaving two spots up for grabs. Bacarri Rambo will get one more chance to prove his potential and that he can improve upon his tackling. Akeem Davis is a great athlete that has turned heads at camp and will be kept around to challenge Rambo for playing time.

Specialist: 3

Kai Forbath

Robert Malone

Nick Sundberg

Zach Hocker will push Kai Forbath for the kicker position, and there is a small chance the Redskins could keep a field goal kicker and a kickoff specialist – but that’s not likely. Sundberg is now the only long snapper on the team so he’s a lock, and Malone has the edge at punter early but that is another competition that will last throughout camp.
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Justin Byram is a contributor to District Sports Page. He covers the Washington Redskins for several on-line publications. You can follow him on Twitter @Justin_Byram.

Jay Gruden to put his stamp on Washington Redskins training camp

“Nothing is worse as a coach than when you let somebody go and they go on and kick your ass later on.” –Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden

The Washington Redskins reported to training camp Wednesday, and new head coach Jay Gruden faced the media for the first time at camp. He addressed the lingering injury situations of Jason Hatcher, Leonard Hankerson and Stephen Bowen and of course, talked about his quarterback, Robert Griffin III.

But he spent much of his first media availability talking about himself, his training camp, and how he expects things to go with him at the helm for the first time.

“Every coach wants to have great energy and great tempo, and that’s the big thing,” Gruden said from the training facility in Richmond, VA. “We want to get in and out of the huddle. We want to have great tempo and try to simulate game fashion as best we can. It’s going to be hot. Practices, sometimes they roll into period after period after period.”

“They can be mundane, but it’s important for us as coaches to motivate and keep the tempo moving at a quick pace and make sure we’re learning and coaching and the players are getting needed work – running to the football, pursuit, discipline. All that coachspeak that you hear, it’s what training camp is all about. Fundamentals of football need to be taught every play, every day. The tempo needs to be taught and worked on. The pursuit angles, the pursuit drills need to be practiced and worked on, and we strive for perfection.”

Gruden made sure to point out that he would lean heavily on his assistants.

“I try to use input from everybody. Coach [Jim] Haslett, obviously Coach [Ben] Kotwica, Sean McVay, [Director of Football Operations] Paul Kelly, we’ve all been at different systems and different programs and we’ve seen how different teams do them. Some have been successful, but we try to do what’s best for our team and for this place.”

“We thought practicing in the morning was the best option for us. Just walking out there today, it was hot, so I’m kind of glad we’re going in the morning. I was sweating. This jacket was a bad choice. I used everybody’s input on that as I do in coming up with game plans, and every decision I make will have input. Obviously I’ll have the final say, but I really expect that from the coaches.”

Gruden was asked how his training camp might be different than his predecessors’.

“I don’t know,” Gruden admitted. “I haven’t been to every coach’s training camp, so we’ll see. The big thing is we have a schedule drawn out. Now, how much we stick to that schedule will be determined on how we do. We might have to take a period out or add a period, a live tackling period or something along the way and change it up. I don’t think there’s any special drill in football I’m going to do that nobody’s ever done before. I hope not. It’ll be football.”

Gruden said that choosing the right mix of players for the opening roster is the first priority of the camp.

“I want to make sure we make the right decisions on players, No. 1. We have to make sure we get a good look at all the young guys, all the free agents, all the undrafted free agents, the draft picks, the veteran free agents, and make sure when we make our final cut-down we make the right choices and hopefully these players will make it very difficult on us in making those decisions.”

“When you play four preseason games and you scrimmage against the New England Patriots, hopefully we’ll get enough reps where we do make the right decision because nothing is worse as a coach than when you let somebody go and they go on and kick your ass later on. We want to make sure we get these guys the reps necessary and keep who we think are the best 53 and make the right decisions.”

Addressing the holdovers from last season’s debacle, Gruden said he hopes the players come in with a chip on their shoulders.

“Any time you lose the last one – whether you go 2-14 or we were 11-5 in Cincy and lost the last one – you should have a chip on your shoulder. You should want to get back on the saddle and compete. I think we have the type of guys here that all want to compete, whether they are coming from another team – we don’t have anybody coming from Seattle so everybody in this locker room should have a chip on their shoulder and should be eager to get back on the field and excited to play.”

“Football is a great game, it’s a privilege to play this game and I know they all love it and they want to do well. They are excited. We have worked extremely hard with the strength and conditioning coaches in the offseason program and you see them out there today running. They are all in good shape. Moving forward I feel good about where we are. Now it’s just a matter of getting them out there and playing.”

Washington Redskins report to camp with injury updates

by Justin Byram

The Washington Redskins have now reported for training camp, but not everyone is quite ready to participate yet. Defensive ends Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen will both open training camp on the PUP list (Physically Unable to Pperform); joining them on the PUP list will be Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson.

All three players are recovering from knee injuries, however, each is in different stages of their recovery.

Jason Hatcher is probably the closest to returning to action, but the Washington Redskins aren’t taking any chances on their biggest defensive addition, and he will return when he is 100% ready. Head coach Jay Gruden was optimistic Hatcher would play at some point during camp. “He’s being monitored closely by Larry [Hess], our trainer, and as soon as they see fit, he’ll be ready to go. But we want to make sure he’s obviously ready to go.”

Hankerson suffered a nasty ACL injury in 2013, and with the receiver depth the team has there is no reason to rush Hankerson back before he’s fully ready. However, Hankerson was seen doing conditioning workouts, running and cutting, so it seems that Hankerson is recovering well.

Stephen Bowen is the most interesting situation. Bowen underwent microfacture surgery this off-season and is fighting to prove that he can still be effective and worth his high cap number (he is the fifth highest paid player on the roster). The longer Bowen is out of camp, the less likely he is to make the team. Bowen is in the most danger of losing his job/roster spot, so he will be the player to watch closest throughout camp.

The cornerback position will be at full strength to start training camp with Tracy Porter and Richard Crawford Jr. being cleared for all football activities. Porter was expected to be fully recovered from an off-season shoulder surgery, however Crawford is a bigger surprise to be fully ready to go this early in camp.

Crawford suffered a nasty knee injury, tearing just about every ligament in his knee last pre-season. Crawford was playing his best football before going down, and if he can return to form he will be an asset to the Redskins not only in coverage but in the return game.

It is also worth noting that although he didn’t come out and say it, Jay Gruden implied that Bowen and Hankerson are far behind Hatcher. Gruden confirmed that he expected Hatcher to return to action sooner than later, but when asked about Bowen and Hankerson he wouldn’t commit saying: “I never like to try to make predictions on when guys are going to come back”.

Brian Orakpo feels like he has nothing to prove to Washington Redskins

Redskins LB Brian Orakpo can only watch from sidelines in Week 2 loss to Rams. (Photo Courtesy of Brian Murphy)

Redskins LB Brian Orakpo can only watch from sidelines in Week 2 loss to Rams. (Photo Courtesy of Brian Murphy)

The deadline for franchise players to sign long-term deals has come and gone and Brian Orakpo’s future with the Washington Redskins remains uncertain. The franchise tag will keep him in D.C. for this season, but beyond that there is plenty of reason to wonder if Orakpo will remain here in the future.

Orakpo was a first-round draft pick in 2009 when he was selected by the Washington Redskins and is a three-time Pro Bowler. The problem, however, is money. [Read more...]

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