August 23, 2019

Washington Redskins 2014 NFL Draft Profile: TE Ted Bolser

This week, District Sports Page will take an in-depth look at each player the Washington Redskins selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including quotes from the Skins brass and player reaction to being drafted.

Part I: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford, Second Round.
Part II: Morgan Moses, OT, University of Virginia, Third Round.
Part III: Spencer Long, OG, Nebraska, Third Round.
Part IV: Bashaud Breeland, DB, Clemson, Fourth Round.
Part V: Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane, Fifth Round.
Part VI: Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor.

Part VII: Ted Bolser, TE, Indiana

  • 6’5″ Height
  • 257 LBS. Weight
  • 4.74/4.78 40-yard dash
  • 19 reps bench press (225 lbs.)
  • 31-inch vertical jump
  • 111-inch broad jump
  • 7.11 3-cone drill
  • 4.50 20-yard shuttle

Ted Bolser is the Indiana career record holder for tight ends with 117 receptions, 1,337 yards, and 15 TDs.

Asked what Bolser is best at, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden responded, “Pass catcher, probably. He is split out a lot, I think he is probably known for his pass catching skills. Talking to their coaches, they feel like he could be an inline blocker, they just didn’t do it a whole lot but they did it. He has done it. He’s got good size. He is 6-foot, 5-and-a-half, 258-plus pounds. So he has got the frame to do it.”

As a receiving tight end, Bolser offers a large target, the strength to fight off linebackers jamming him, and the ability to catch balls in his vicinity.

“Everybody there, they’re just going to expect my full-out effort on every single play no matter whether it be on offense or on special teams. I’m there. I’m coming there to compete and I’m ready to play right away, so they’re going to get my effort and my heart on every single play,” Bolser said.

Gruden said, “He is a solid tight end, got good hands. He’s played outside, he’s played fullback, he has played tight end in the core. He has been very productive at Indiana. Obviously I think he is the leading tight end in the history of Indiana football or right up there. So I like his position flexibility, being able move around, but really what kind of stuck out, he runs down on kickoff like a war daddy. He is a fun guy to watch running down on kicks and obviously I’ve mentioned special teams on here a lot. We were the 32nd category and it was a major item for us in the draft and Ted is a good special team player as well as a tight end.”

Gruden talked about the matchup problems Bolser’s size presents, “It really does. The way Jordan [Reed] can move around outside, inside, it creates mismatches for you against corners, safeties and linebackers. There is different ways to get bigger guys matched up on smaller guys, and with Jordan’s flexibility and Teddy’s flexibility, it will help.”

NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki sees these drawbacks to Bolser as a receiving tight end: “Has very small hands and short arms,” “Lumbering mover,” “One-speed route runner with minimal burst and acceleration to separate,” “Much of his production is schemed — creates little on his own,” and “Can be fazed by traffic (hears footsteps) — hands are suspect.”

“Well I came out of high school as a wide receiver, so I didn’t really put my hand in the ground at all,” Bolser said. “Throughout my process at Indiana, I got a lot better at blocking, which a lot people like how I block, and they see my effort in every single play. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I just go out there and try to do my best.”

For all the potential Bolser’s large frame offers as a blocker, currently he plays too upright and needs to add upper body strength as he bench presses 225 lbs only 19 times.

Fred Davis’s departure through free agency and drug suspension opens up a spot behind starter Jordan Reed that the new coaching staff will consider Bolser for. Newly promoted offensive coordinator Sean McVay will also evaluate two tight ends he worked with last year as tight ends coach in Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen.

It remains to be seen whether Gruden and McVay will continue Mike Shanahan’s experiment of converting Paul from a receiver into a tight end. Shanahan had likened Paul to Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe. Paul is a valuable special teams contributor in coverage, but ideally, with faster players like Lache Seastrunk, the Redskins won’t have to run Paul out there as a kickoff return man.

Scouting report courtesy of NFL.com

Washington Redskins 2014 NFL Draft Profile: Lache Seastrunk, RB

This week, District Sports Page will take an in-depth look at each player the Washington Redskins selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including quotes from the Skins brass and player reaction to being drafted.

Part I: Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford, Second Round.
Part II: Morgan Moses, OT, University of Virginia, Third Round.
Part III: Spencer Long, OG, Nebraska, Third Round.
Part IV: Bashaud Breeland, DB, Clemson, Fourth Round.
Part V: Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane, Fifth Round.

Part VI features Lache Seastrunk, RB from Baylor. Seastrunk played with current Redskins Robert Griffin III while at Baylor.

Lache Seastrunk

  • 5’9″ Height

  • 30″ Arm Length

  • 201 LBS. Weight

  • 9 1/4″ Hands

  • 4.51 SEC 40-yard dash
  • 15 REPS bench press (225 lbs.)
  • 41.5 INCH vertical jump
  • 134.0 INCH broad jump

Of all the running backs compared to Lache Seastrunk, you could say he is this year’s Chris Thompson, last year’s fifth round pick, who like Seastrunk, has breakaway speed, unlike the other running backs on the Redskins roster: Alfred Morris, Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Like Thompson, you can only hope they can at least use his speed on special teams.

Comparisons have been made to Giovani Bernard because Redskins head coach Jay Gruden coached him last year as the Bengals offensive coordinator. Bernard was the Bengals’ second round pick last year.

“Well, Gio had a lot more experience out of the backfield catching the ball,” said Gruden. “If there’s a reach about him, it’s projecting him to be a third down guy who’s catching the ball. What we’re envisioning for him early on is not so much a third down guy but a guy that can spell [running back] Alfred [Morris] and hit the home run. He’s got the breakaway speed and hopefully in time he will be able develop into a pass blocker/receiver,” Gruden continued.

Seastrunk’s profile reminds me of Bryce Brown, the running back the Eagles just traded to the Bills for a fourth round pick. In the action he has gotten in two years as an NFL running back, a lot of you may have picked him up on the waiver wire a couple of years ago in fantasy football when LeSean McCoy was out with a concussion. Brown responded with an Eagles rookie record 178 yards. He also cost the Eagles the game the next week with his fumbling. I make the Brown comparison because he was a seventh-round draft pick of the Eagles who once was a top-rated high school running back prospect whose career went off track after a controversial recruitment and transfer. Unlike Brown, Seastrunk had a college career at Baylor, but may have never escaped the cloud surrounding his recruitment by Oregon.

Seastrunk redshirted his only year at Oregon. However, the NCAA placed Oregon on three years probation with scholarship losses when it was discovered that Seastrunk’s advisor, Willie Lyles, pocketed $25,000 from Oregon after Seastrunk signed his letter of intent. Seastrunk transferred to Baylor in the face of the upcoming sanctions on Oregon, and lost a year of eligibility. Seastrunk was named the 2012 Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year after carrying the ball 131 times for 1,012 yards (7.7-yard average) and seven touchdowns in 13 games (six starts). He also caught nine passes for 107 yards (11.9) and one touchdown. In 2013, Seastrunk led the Big 12 with 107.0 yards per game after putting up 158-1,177-11 (7.4) on the ground in 11 games (eight starts). Seastrunk scored five of his 19 touchdowns on plays of longer than 68 yards.

“Obviously, Lache Seastrunk is an interesting guy because of his speed. He was sitting there later on in the draft, I think he was in the sixth round, and we had him ranked a little bit higher than that and obviously [quarterback] Robert [Griffin III] knows him very well, and so we know a little bit about him. So he’s an interesting guy, I want to see him compete. The only weird thing about him is he didn’t catch any balls at Baylor, but they just don’t throw to their backs. We feel like he can catch the ball good enough.”

Asked what he brings to the Redskins, Seastrunk said “I think I can say my speed and my toughness, being able to be a home run threat.”

In addition to his speed, Seastrunk has elusiveness and the ability to break tackles. While he doesn’t run with his shoulders square, Seastrunk does runs low with balance and shiftiness. While Seastrunk is at times impatient and doesn’t let his blocks develop, he is an ideal zone runner with his ability to hit the cutback lanes.

However, the Baylor offense with its fly sweeps, lateral runs and big running lanes are not preparation for the NFL. Neither is the de-emphasis on blocking and receiving skills.

Scouting report courtesy of NFL.com

Washington Redskins 2014 NFL Profile: WR Ryan Grant

This week, District Sports Page will take an in-depth look at each player the Washington Redskins selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including quotes from the Skins brass and player reaction to being drafted.

The first in the series was Trent Murphy, the Skins first pick in this year’s draft, a second round selection.

Next was Morgan Moses, OT, University of Virginia, the Redskins first selection in the third round of this year’s draft.

Part III of the series featured guard Spencer Long from Nebraska, selected with the Skins second pick in the third round.

Part IV features Bashaud Breeland, DB from Clemson, selected in the fourth round.

Part V features Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane, selected in the fifth round.

[Read more…]

Washington Redskins 2014 NFL Draft Profile: DB Bashaud Breeland

This week, District Sports Page will take an in-depth look at each player the Washington Redskins selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including quotes from the Skins brass and player reaction to being drafted.

The first in the series was Trent Murphy, the Skins first pick in this year’s draft, a second round selection.

Next was Morgan Moses, OT, University of Virginia, the Redskins first selection in the third round of this year’s draft.

Part III of the series featured guard Spencer Long from Nebraska, selected with the Skins second pick in the third round.

Part IV features Bashaud Breeland, DB from Clemson, selected in the fourth round.

Bashaud Breeland

  • 5’11” Height

  • 31 3/4″ Arm Length

  • 197 LBS. Weight

  • 9″ Hands

  • 4.62 SEC 40-yard dash
  • 11 REPS bench press (225 lbs.)
  • 34.5 INCH vertical jump
  • 123.0 INCH broad jump
  • 7.04 SEC 3-cone drill
  • 4.33 SEC 20-yard shuttle
  • 11.65 SEC 60-yard shuttle

Breeland played in 14 games (seven starts) at cornerback as a freshman in 2011, recording 53 tackles, four pass breakups and two interceptions with one tackle for loss. Breeland was injured throughout the 2012 season, registering 32-3-0 with 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack in 10 games (five starts). In 13 games (12 starts) in 2013 as a junior, Breeland registered 74-13-4 with five tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said, “Well, that’s a projection, but we felt like he was… I think the coaches we talked with today felt like he’d be late first, second round pick. I heard today…I think [analyst] Mike Mayock said he was projected first rounder if he stayed another year. We are very excited about that pick up, not only for special teams but we feel like he’s a technician at corner. We knocked him down to our rounds because he probably didn’t run the greatest 40 time at combine, but he’s a heck of a football player and I like guys that are physical tackling machines and that’s what he is.”

Gruden said, “He’s going to come down here and compete, but we feel great about him. Obviously, D-Hall [cornerback DeAngelo Hall] and [David] Amerson had a great three days and we’ve got [Tracy] Porter coming off the injury, but he’s going to come in here and compete. We have some other corners in-house that will be in good competition. For him to come in here, the way he plays and the style he plays really fits what any defense does because he’s physical. He can tackle and, obviously, he can play press with the best of them.”

What Breeland brings to the Redskins as a cornerback are loose hips and the ability to change direction, ballhawking skills, vision/great eye control, the ability and willingness to contribute in run support, his competitiveness, his toughness, and his hard work.

In time, the Redskins might find that Breeland is better suited as a safety. I only say this because he ran a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash, with average explosion and leaping ability. There is also a greater need at that position, with the questionable play they got last year from Brandon Meriweather and Baccari Rambo. Last year’s draft pick Phillip Thomas is unproven and Ryan Clark is only a stopgap solution at the end of his Super Bowl-winning career. Tanard Jackson returning from a drug suspension is also a question mark.

Gruden said, “Yeah, that’s something else that came up. The coaches at Clemson said that he’s a possible safety. Also, you know he can play safety. He has played safety, so you know we talk about position flexibility all the time, and that’s another thing that drew us to him. Not only corner, [he can play] safety [and] special teams. You will find use for him because he’s such a good football player and he’s physical.”

Asked what he brought to the Redskins, Breeland said, “My physicality and my ball skills and my versatility. I can play different positions. I am not just a corner. I can play multiple positions.”

“I played special teams throughout my whole career – except for kick return,” Breeland also said.

What Breeland would bring to the safety position are many of the things that apply to cornerback: his competitiveness against bigger players, his ability to run and cover, his ballhawking skills, his physicality, the edge he plays with, and his football intelligence. At 5’11”, 197 lbs., he does need to bulk up to handle NFL players. He does play out of control at times and needs to tackle better, evidenced by his suspension for the first two quarters against Maryland after he was ejected for targeting in the Florida State game.

Scouting report courtesy of NFL.com

Washington Redskins 2014 NFL Draft Profile: OG Spencer Long

This week, District Sports Page will take an in-depth look at each player the Washington Redskins selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including quotes from the Skins brass and player reaction to being drafted.

The first in the series was Trent Murphy, the Skins first pick in this year’s draft, a second round selection.

Next was Morgan Moses, OT, University of Virginia, the Redskins first selection in the third round of this year’s draft.

Part III of the series features guard Spencer Long from Nebraska, selected with the Skins second pick in the third round.

Spencer Long

  • 6’5″ Height

  • 33 1/8″ Arm Length

  • 320 LBS. Weight

  • 10 3/4″ Hands

  • Excused from NFL Combine due to injury.

After walking on in 2009, Spencer Long stepped into the lineup in ’11 as a redshirt sophomore, starting all 13 games at right guard. Long has played the last two seasons with knee injuries, playing with a torn right meniscus in ’12, starting all 14 games. In ’13, he started the first six games before tearing his left MCL and PCL in the Purdue game.

“The knee feels great. I’ve had no problems with it. It feels amazing. I’ve been training at full go, not holding back and doing football work. I’m just ready to hit the ground running for rookie minicamp next week,” Long said.

“We feel good about his recovery,” said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. “We do a lot of work on medical research on all of these players, and he has passing marks, so we feel like he’s going to come in and be healthy and ready to go. Tough, tenacious offensive linemen are hard to find – big, physical guys that love football. That’s kind of the motto. All three of these guys that we drafted have football as one of their top priorities in life. We know that they are going to come in here and battle and compete every day. You have to love what you do. We feel that all three of these guys love what they do and will contribute sooner than later.”

“I think I bring a mentally tough and physically tough guy on and off the field who takes care of his business and is a very consistent player. Well-rounded, can have very good potential to make a difference on the team here,” Long said.

As for what position he might fill, Long said, “It does not matter, really. I mean, I’ve played all three inside positions. I have had my most experience at right guard. You know, wherever I can help, I am happy to play.”

“I feel like I can get better at my overall game. That’s the thing, if you can get better at one thing every day then you’re moving in the right direction. Being able to get to the second level – in zone schemes –and being able to be athletic to be able to pull and get outside, that is one thing that I can do,”

“We ran zone with both the offense coordinators I was under – Shawn Watson and Tim Beck. I am very familiar with it.”

NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki neatly encapsulates Long as a player: “Big, tough, physical, ornery blocker with starter-quality positional traits and intangible qualities. Is best in a phone booth, where he excels as a run and pass blocker, and is smart and savvy enough to contribute outside in emergency situations.”

Long is only average in terms of speed and athleticism, but that is more of a requirement for a tackle than an interior lineman. Strength is a more highly valued trait.

Much like Trent Murphy, the Redskins were attracted to Long’s leadership qualities. Having moved up from walk-on to starter at Nebraska, Long was named a team captain. Intelligent, industrious, intense and instinctive, Long also displays a nasty streak you want in your linemen in the trenches.

Scouting report courtesy of NFL.com

Washington Redskins 2014 NFL Draft Profile: OT Morgan Moses

This week, District Sports Page will take an in-depth look at each player the Washington Redskins selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including quotes from the Skins brass and player reaction to being drafted.

The first in the series was Trent Murphy, the Skins first pick in this year’s draft, a second round selection.

Our next profile is of Morgan Moses, OT, University of Virginia, the Redskins first selection in the third round of this year’s draft.

Morgan Moses

  • 6’6″ Height
  • 35 3/8″ Arm Length
  • 314 lbs. Weight
  • 9 7/8″ Hands
  • 5.35 SEC 40-yard dash
  • 21.5 INCH vertical jump
  • 106.0 INCH broad jump
  • 7.93 SEC 3-cone drill
  • 4.95 SEC 20-yard shuttle

Moses started six of the final seven games of the 11 he played at right tackle in ‘10. He started all 13 games at RT in ‘11. Moses moved to left tackle in ‘12 and started 11-of-12 games there. He started all 12 games at LT in ’13.

Of the traits you want in an offensive lineman that Morgan Moses shows, he is big and strong, with long arms and the experience of 43 college starts at Virginia, as well as the intangibles.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said, “He is a great kid and like I said, [we’re] very interested in guys that… there is a lot of people that are close, there are a lot of good football players in college football, and when you are making a decision, I think the overwriting factor has to be what kind of person he is, what kind of work ethic does he have, accountability and all that good stuff that I have been talking about.

Is the game important to him? And it is important to Morgan. I think he has got a lot of room to develop, I really do. He can develop some foot quickness, but the one thing you can’t coach is his length and his size, and then you throw a little work ethic in there that he is going to get better every day and when he starts, when he plays will be to be determined, but we are excited to work with a young, big, athletic kid like Morgan.”

Moses’s physical limitations means he is better suited for right tackle, which fills a position where the Redskins need an upgrade. As far as athletic ability, Moses had the slowest 10-yard split (2.08 seconds) at the combine. He also tied for the lowest vertical jump (21 1/2 inches) among all OL.

As a matter of technique, NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki said Moses, “Plays too tall and needs to drop anchor more consistently, is “heavy on his feet and tends to bend at the waist,” and “lethargic shifting his weight — stressed by speed and quickness and cannot recover when beaten,” while having “limited hip snap and is not sudden or explosive.”

As far as intensity, Nawrocki say Moses “does not breathe fire — plays smaller than his size in the run game and does not seek to bury defenders.”

It looks like the Redskins are moving away from the smaller, mobile linemen like incumbent starters Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus, Kory Lichtensteiger and Will Montgomery that Mike Shanahan needed to pull off a zone blocking scheme with the drafting of Moses and Spencer Long. While the Redskins may still employ a zone blocking scheme, larger linemen like Moses and Long fit the more traditional, smashmouth style commonly associated with the NFC East, where the opposing defensive linemen tend to be bigger.

Gruden said, “They’re big. Yeah, and it’s not necessarily bigger we’re looking for. We’re looking to have people come in and compete. Size is important. They’ve got some big defensive linemen nowadays now and we want to be able to protect our quarterback the best way we can, but also we want to be athletic and get up to the next level and be able to run the football. It’s been a very successful zone running team here with athletic offensive lineman, but there’s going to come a time when we’re going to have to throw the ball a little bit. We need some size in there and these guys will compete.

But, moving forward, when I got the job here, I wasn’t as disappointed with the offensive line as I read about. A lot of people had a lot of things to say about them, but anytime you have chance to add depth with some big kids like Morgan and Spencer, it can only help add to your depth, and down the road, young, good, big offensive lineman are hard to find. So when they play for us, it will be to determined, but you can never have too many big guys that can run and block in your room.”

Scouting report courtesy of NFL.com

Washington Redskins 2014 NFL Draft Profile: OLB Trent Murphy

This week, District Sports Page will take an in-depth look at each player the Washington Redskins selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, including quotes from the Skins brass and player reaction to being drafted. The first in the series is Trent Murphy, the Skins first pick in this year’s draft, a second round selection.

Trent Murphy

  • 6’5″ Height

  • 33 7/8″ Arm Length

  • 250 LBS. Weight

  • 11 1/8″ Hands

  • 4.86 SEC 40-yard dash

  • 19 REPS bench press (225 lbs.)

  • 35.5 INCH vertical jump

  • 118.0 INCH broad jump

  • 6.78 SEC 3-cone drill

  • 4.20 20-yard shuttle

Murphy appeared in two games in ’10 and made two tackles, one for loss and one sack before he suffered a broken foot. In ’11, Murphy started all 13 games at outside linebacker, getting 40-10-6.5 with a pass breakup. He then started all 14 games at OLB in ’12 and got 56-18-10 with four pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble. Murphy led the nation in sacks in ’13 when he started all 14 games at OLB and registered 62-23.5-15 with six pass breakups, an interception return for a touchdown, two forced fumbles and a blocked kick.

Asked what his best position is, Murphy responded, “Definitely as probably an outside linebacker. I guess it depends on the situational down or what scheme they’re in at the moment, but as like a stand up two-point outside backer, putting my hand down and sealing that edge, is where I’d like to be.”

Murphy has a large frame where he can bulk up some more. He needs to add more upper body strength. He is more than physically capable of matching up with any tight end one-on-one, but isn’t fast enough or drops back in coverage well enough to handle a running back out of the backfield. Murphy also isn’t strong enough to handle a very powerful offensive lineman

Murphy’s 11 1/8 inches hands were the biggest measured at the combine. Murphy said, “On the edge is basically, use length, get on the edge. I use my hands really well against offensive linemen. If you ever talk to any offensive linemen that I’ve pass rushed against, they’ll talk about how good my hands are and how they can never punch or get a strike on me. I bend really well for how long and tall I am.”

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said, “We saw in Trent Murphy another guy that can rush a passer. He’s a proven pass rusher – 14-and-a-half sacks this year. He led the country in sacks. He works his tail off. He’s first on the field every day and the last to leave. He studies the game. He’s big, he’s long. He may not have the explosion right now off the line of scrimmage, which might have knocked him down to the second round, but I look for production, I look for intensity, I look for toughness and accountability. He’s got all those traits and if he has all those traits, I know he is going to work hard in the weight room to get stronger and provide another pass rusher and some depth at the position. We felt like he was a very good fit for our team.”

Murphy lined up at end in nickel packages for Stanford. When asked about the Redskins’ plans for Murphy, Gruden said, “More so the nickel packages. You know nickel packages get pretty extravagant now-a-days. Coach Haslett has a lot of plans for him, but coming in right now, he’s going to line up obviously at outside linebacker, back up Ryan [Kerrigan] and Brian [Orakpo] and provide us with some depth at that position. Anybody knows about the 3-4 you need to have depth at linebacker because those guys are working their tail off. They’re dropping coverage, they’re rushing the passer, so it’s very important this day and age with the no huddle that you keep guys fresh and you’re able to filter in guys in and out and make sure you can continue to get after the quarterback. We felt like anytime you can add a good pass rusher with the resume Trent has, it was a great opportunity and we couldn’t pass it up.”

Drafting Murphy is more likely to be insurance against Brian Orakpo’s departure in free agency next year after his year as the Redskins’ designated franchise player. Back in 2011, Orakpo was offended by his omission from ESPN’s Top Ten pass rushers list, but after what will be six years, should the Redskins expect him to turn in a J.J. Watt-type year in his contract year?

Gruden said, “No question, and I think that’s what drew us to him is his football smarts. He’s predominately lined up outside but we feel like he can line up inside. He can move around a little bit, but for the most part his flexibility, his athleticism, I think is a little bit underrated. We feel like he can provide us with immediate pass rush on third down and we’ll find a spot for him.”

The Redskins were drawn to Murphy’s leadership qualities. Named a team captain, Murphy was able to lead the nation with 15 sacks in 2013 primarily due to his high motor. He had the toughness and intelligence required to play linebacker, the type that doesn’t take himself out, controls his emotion, and is coached hard. Murphy said, “I think it comes from building good habits. Since high school, really, I really have just been focusing on the controllables, focusing on my attitude, my effort, and everything within my control, within the team’s control, trying to rub off on the guys around me and just kind of continue to push each other. I think when you do that day in and day out, it just kind of eventually becomes who you are and what you do. I think that’s kind of how I manifest that.”

Asked what he could contribute to the Redskins, Murphy responded, “I think the biggest challenge, especially from when I came out there, was basically I can play really hard and do something really good one play or two plays and then the biggest thing is consistency. They want to show that aggression, that relentless effort to the ball every play for 60 plays the entire game, and that’s kind of what needs to take my game to the next level is just to show that nonstop, relentless effort every second between the whistles, throughout the entire game, not just sporadically. Not sporadic great football, but consistent.”

Scouting report courtesy of NFL.com

What the 2014 NFL Draft Teaches us About the RG3 Deal

On Thursday, while the NFL world collectively held their breath, the Washington Redskins were merely spectators. Barring some eleventh hour trade possibilities, on that first night nothing was on the line.

The Redskins ‘earned’ the second overall pick due to their dismal 2013 season, but sat out of the first round as their pick went to St. Louis, the final piece of the package that ultimately brought in Robert Griffin III.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville hung their hopes of resurrecting their franchise on a quarterback most people had never heard of until a stellar performance in the Fiesta Bowl, Cleveland picked a dynamic playmaker that half of the experts believe will be a complete bust, Minnesota traded up for a quarterback who can’t throw the ball without a glove on and Houston is betting the season on Ryan Fitzpatrick after choosing not to draft a quarterback until the fourth round.

For Redskins fans, it stings to watch the first round of this draft and last year’s go by with no picks, but this draft also show exactly why the Redskins were willing to pay such a steep price.

Quarterback is the most important position in football and is debatably the most important position in sports. It is almost impossible for an NFL team to see sustained success without a dependable quarterback under center.

Things went downhill for the Redskins after Joe Gibbs retired (the first time) following the 1992 season. In the 21 seasons since that time, the Redskins have had 23 different quarterbacks start at least one game. To compare, the New England Patriots have had five quarterbacks start at least one game in that same stretch.

In those 21 seasons the Redskins won two playoff games, the Patriots won three Super Bowls.

Clearly, quarterbacks matter.

Franchise quarterbacks, however, are hard to find. There is a big difference between a quarterback who starts and a starting caliber quarterback. There are 32 teams in the NFL, but fewer than 32 franchise quarterbacks. Those teams fortunate enough to have one are loath to give them up. Barring the rare Peyton Manning situation that Denver benefitted from, the draft is the only avenue to acquire one.

But what do you do when there are no franchise quarterbacks available in the draft?

The players considered to be the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft were Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater. Opinions on all three players varied, but the consensus seemed to be that none of them were in that Troy Aikman/Peyton Manning/Andrew Luck, can’t miss, surefire overall-number-one-pick category. In fact, there are major questions about each player’s potential and players at other positions were regarded as better NFL prospects.

Teams with higher draft picks frequently are in need of a franchise quarterback. Drafts like this one, however, leave these teams with a dilemma: do you reach for a quarterback and hope he will exceed expectations or take a player you are more confident is worthy of such a high pick?

Jacksonville reached for a quarterback in 2011, selecting Blain Gabbert with the tenth overall pick. Just three years later, the Jaguars selected Bortles, another quarterback, with the third overall pick. With Gabbert not playing as well as the Jaguars hoped he would, they still remain a basement-dwelling team in need of a quarterback three years later.

The draft is set up to help those teams that need it the most, but there’s no guarantee the player you need will be available the year you have a high pick. That is especially true with the quarterback position as it is so critical to success. When a draft comes along loaded with quarterback talent, therefore, teams must take the opportunity to acquire one just the Redskins did with Griffin.

That does not mean that there are not franchise quarterbacks available in the later rounds; Tom Brady was taken in the sixth round in 2000 and Russell Wilson was selected in the third round in 2012. These cases, however, are not the norm. Had teams known how good these players would be, they would have been taken considerably higher in the draft.

The point is that when your team needs a quarterback and is as sure as one can be about a certain players, that team must break the bank to acquire him. Three first round draft picks and a second round pick is a high price to pay for one player, but how much would Jacksonville give up to erase the last three years of poor play?

From their perspective, you could argue the Redskins got off easy.

Sure, you can take other players high and hope for a sleeper quarterback in the later rounds, but chances are you are not going to find that ‘diamond in the rough.’

You can reach for a quarterback and hope he pans out, but if you’re wrong you’ve set the franchise back several years. Instead, the Redskins paid what they had to for a quarterback they were confident could lead the team to the postseason.

Fans can be unhappy the team was without its first round pick, or they can just be glad they’re not rooting for teams like Houston and Oakland who skipped out on the top quarterbacks or teams like Jacksonville, Cleveland and Minnesota who decided to roll the dice.

To those teams, Griffin is worth what the Redskins had to pay for him and a whole lot more.

2014 NFL Draft is More Proof of a Dying Art Form in Football

When you break down each pick of the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, there’s one thing that ties them all together. While it may seem like just a coincidence, it most certainly is not.

A process that has been accelerated in recent years, the NFL is becoming more and more pass oriented. Gone are the days of building your team around a strong running back. We are now in the age of the quarterback, emphasis on the passing game, and the belief that if you don’t have a strong quarterback, you’re more than likely going to fail.

The mindset of every game plan and every coach used to stress a need to be able to run the football effectively if you wanted to win. At the same time, you needed a strong defense to stop the run. It’s a philosophy that made the Steelers of the late 1970’s so good.

Now, the mindset and philosophy of football is changing. If you want to win, you need to be able to throw the football. At the same rate, you need a defense that can stop the pass, as well. If you can’t have both, then one needs to be especially strong in order to succeed.

It’s a blueprint and design that was started in the fairly-recent past, but it was ultimately finalized on February 2, 2014, more commonly known as Super Bowl XLVIII. It was a matchup between the Denver Broncos, boasting a high-powered pass offense, and the Seattle Seahawks, featuring a defense designed to shutdown the passing game.

The Broncos boasted the league’s best passing offense while Seattle owned the NFL’s best pass defense. Ultimately, it was the defense that won out in the end, only more proving the old adage that offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships. In the broadest of spectrums, it proves that the passing game, both offensively and defensively, is the key to victory in the new NFL.

As made quite clear in the opening round of this year’s draft, teams around the league have embraced the philosophy, but have taken two different sides. Some teams are valuing a high powered offense that simply out-runs the others (the Denver Broncos). Others are sticking with the old adage mentioned above (the Seattle Seahawks). Essentially, we’re seeing two different models implemented across the league.

In the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, there were 16 defensive players selected and 16 offensive players picked. Of the defensive players selected, nine of them were defensive backs. The rest were selected either for their ability to pressure the quarterback or provide interior coverage.

Offensively, it’s just as obvious that the nature of football is changing just by looking the positions selected. There were five offensive tackles taken in the first round because what good is a quarterback is he’s not upright? Including tight end Eric Ebron, there were six pass catchers taken in the first round because what good is a quarterback if there’s nobody for him to throw to? Lastly, there were three quarterbacks selected in the first round because what good is an offense if there’s no quarterback?

For the second year in a row, not a single running back was taken in the first round. In 2013, the first running back to come off the board was Giovanni Bernard when he was taken 37th overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. This year, we waited until the 54th overall pick when the Tennessee Titans took running back Bishop Sankey.

After that, day two of the draft saw a plethora of ball carriers plucked off the board. While there were no running backs taken in the first round, there were eight running backs taken in rounds two and three. It’s a phenomena that reverts the current game to the old philosophy, but does it really?

With so many running backs taken on day two, it means that teams still understand the benefits of a good running game. However, those benefits are different than they used to be. The passing game used to be used to balance out a heavy rush attack. Now, the running game is being used to balance out the pass.

As an offensive coordinator, you’re doing everything you can to keep your offense from being predictable. That used to mean throwing in a pass play in here and there just to keep the defense honest. Now, you throw in a run play, perhaps a draw, every so often just to catch those linebackers if they’re cheating back on their heels to cover a pass.

In general, running backs are being used in many different ways other than what their title suggests. You used to look at a running back and judge him based simply on his ability to pick up yards when handed the football, now you analyze much more than a guy’s 40-time and yards-per-carry average. They are more judged now on their ability to block and catch than they were ten years ago. In today’s NFL, if you can’t catch or block, you’re not going to make it as a running back.

Running backs are used as decoys. You hand them the football just enough to keep the defense honest. If they aren’t handed the football, they are running routes or blocking for the quarterback. On any given play, a running back could have one of three jobs and two of them have to do with making the passing game go.

So while there were a number of running backs taken in this draft and that can lead you to believe that running the football isn’t as dead as it seems, take a look at why those players were drafted. Take a look at what role they’ll be expected to take on for their respective team. Oftentimes, it’s not to simply carry the football 20-25 times a game. Times are changing in the NFL.

As we close out and reflect on the 2014 NFL Draft, it was one filled with drama, trades, excitement and certainly it’s fair share of surprises. What shouldn’t be surprising, however, is the new trend that we’re seeing. As proven ever more true by this year’s draft, the NFL is becoming a pass-first league.

Going forward, running backs will still be an integral of an offensive game plan, but in far different ways. Soon, gone will be the days of teams simply running the football down their opponents throats. The new NFL is all about the high-flying, acrobatic and always exciting passing game.

Washington Redskins select OLB Trent Murphy with 47th overall pick of 2014 NFL Draft

After dealing the 34th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft earlier in the evening, the Washington Redskins finally made their first pick in this draft.

With the 47th overall pick, acquired in that earlier deal (along with the 78th overall pick from the Dallas Cowboys), the Redskins selected Trent Murphy, outside linebacker from Stanford.

Murphy, 6’5″, 250, led the NCAA in sacks as a senior last year with 15.

From Murphy’s draft profile on NFL.com:

Tough, smart and hardworking with a throwback personality. Leader vocally and by example. Will hold teammates accountable and represent the program with class.

and…

As a base end in an even front or a LOLB in an odd front, Murphy’s instincts, motor and toughness are what define his success and could allow him to eventually become a double-digit sack producer in the pros. Will require a few years to adapt to the speed of the NFL game.

The Redskins next pick is No. 66 overall.

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