September 22, 2020

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens

Here are five big takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 23-17 preseason road loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night:

[Read more…]

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.

Fantasy Football: Last minute adds for Week 5

If you have a starter on bye or inactive this week, here’s a look at a last minute add — one player per position — that might keep you from taking a zero to contribute to a loss. All of the players listed at owned by fewer than 50% of owners in Yahoo leagues.

QB: Sam Bradford, STL (7 TDs, 1092 passing yards, 3 INT): Bradford has the best possible matchup for any potential free agent QB — the Rams are hosting Jacksonville. The Jaguars at 25th in the league in pass defense and there’s really no reason Bradford can’t get back up on the horse and ride for 300 yards this week.

RB: Pierre Thomas, NO (101 rushing yards, 19 catches for 111 yards): New Orleans travels to Chicago, and while the Bears defense is usually stout at home, there’s reason to believe Thomas can have success on the edges in the passing game as a valuable receiver for Drew Brees. Thomas has been losing carries to rookie Khiry Robinson but he’s the best backfield blocker and pass catcher the Saints have.

WR: Vincent Brown, SD (15 catches for 91 yards): Brown should be “The Man” for san Diego with Malcolm Floyd out. It hasn’t happened yet, but he had his best day of the season in Week 4 with seven catches. Against the soft Oakland defense, this might be the week Brown busts out.

TE: Jermaine Gresham, CIN (18 catches, 181 yards): Gresham has been a popular target for Andy Dalton this season and could have a nice day against the Patriots defense, which gave up 12 catches, 149 yards and two touchdowns to Tony Gonzalez last week. Gresham is no Gonzo, but the tight end should be a good option for the Bengals attack this week.

K: Steven Hauschka, SEA (8 FGs, 11 XPTs): Your kicker on bye? Try Hauschka, who’s turned himself into a pretty decent kicker for Seattle after specializing in kickoffs for Baltimore for a couple of seasons. The Seahawks play at Indy, and with the Hawks sometimes erratic offense, Hauschka could be in for a big day. Plus, I always like to take kickers working in a dome.

DEF/ST: Atlanta (7.0 sacks, 3 INTs, 1 fumble rec., 1 TD): Yeah, those stats don’t look so hot. But the Jets are coming to town. Geno Smith  has committed 11 turnovers in four games and why would he stop this week on the road? He’s also been sacked a league-high 14 times. The Falcons need a win and should be smelling blood this week.

Washington Redskins DE Jarvis Jenkins suspended for PED violation

From Washington Redskins press release:

STATEMENT BY AN NFL SPOKESPERSON:

Jarvis Jenkins of the Washington Redskins has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2013 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

Jenkins will be eligible to return to the Redskins’ active roster on Monday, September 30 following the team’s September 29 game against the Oakland Raiders.

Jenkins is eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.

STATEMENT BY DEFENSIVE END JARVIS JENKINS:

“When I learned that I tested positive for a substance that is banned under the NFL policy, I was shocked and confused.  It’s an obscure substance that I’ve never even heard of, and I still don’t know how it got into my body. My only guess is that it came from one of the supplements I was taking around the time of the test, even though none of them listed anything banned.

“I’m very sorry for the effect of this situation on my teammates and coaches, and I also apologize to my family and all Redskins fans.  I will be very, very ready to contribute as soon as I get back for Game 5.”

With Adam Carriker’s injury that will keep him out for the season, and Rob Jackson’s similar suspension, the Redskins will be considerably depleted at the left defensive end spot for the first quarter of the season. Second year player Chris baker and veteran DE Kedric Golston will see more playing time.

Washington Redskins Announce 2013 Regular Season Schedule

The Washington Redskins announced Thursday night dates and times for their 2013 regular season schedule.

As expected, the (assumed) presence of Pro Bowl quarterback Robert Griffin III along with the fact that the team is coming off their first NFC East championship since 1999 meant the Redskins would be featured more in primetime in 2013. The schedule for the upcoming season is highlighted by a team-record of five nationally televised games, including the September 9th opener against the Philadelphia Eagles on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football”.

Here’s the full slate:

Week 1: Monday, September 9th – vs. Philadelphia Eagles (ESPN) – 7:10 p.m.

Week 2: Sunday, September 15th – at Green Bay Packers (FOX) – 1:00 p.m.

Week 3: Sunday, September 22nd – vs. Detroit Lions (FOX) – 1:00 p.m.

Week 4: Sunday, September 29th – at Oakland Raiders (FOX) – 4:25 p.m.

Week 5: BYE

Week 6:  Sunday, October 13th – at Dallas Cowboys (NBC) – 8:30 p.m.

Week 7 :  Sunday, October 20th – vs. Chicago Bears (FOX) – 1:00 p.m.

Week 8: Sunday, October 27th – at Denver Broncos (FOX) – 4:25 p.m.

Week 9: Sunday, November 3rd – vs. San Diego Chargers (CBS) – 1:00 p.m.

Week 10: Thursday, November 7th – at Minnesota Vikings (NFL Network) – 8:20 p.m.

Week 11: Sunday, November 17th – at Philadelphia Eagles (FOX) – 1:00 p.m.

Week 12:  Monday, November 25th – vs. San Fransisco 49ers (ESPN) – 8:30 p.m.

Week 13: Sunday, December 1st – vs. New York Giants (NBC) – 8:30 p.m.

Week 14: Sunday, December 8th – vs. Kansas City Chiefs (CBS) – 1:00 p.m.

Week 15: Sunday, December 15th – at Atlanta Falcons (FOX) – 1:00 p.m.

Week 16: Sunday, December 22nd – vs. Dallas Cowboys (FOX) – 1:00 p.m.

Week 17: Sunday, December 29th – at New York Giants (FOX) – 1:00 p.m.

Washington Redskins Announce 2013 Preseason Opponents

The Washington Redskins have announced their 2013 preseason opponents. Though the order of the games have been determined, specific dates and times for three of the four matchups are to be announced at a later date.

The team will open their preseason slate on the road against the Tennessee Titans between Aug. 8-11, then return home on Aug. 19 for a nationally televised game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on ESPN at 8 p.m. They’ll then have another home tilt against the Buffalo Bills between Aug. 23-25 before concluding the exhibition season on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccanneers between Aug 29-31.

Every game with the exception of the Steelers matchup will be broadcast on NBC4/Comcast SportsNet.

Despite the uncertainty of whether or not quarterback Robert Griffin III would see any action in the preseason, the Redskins still managed to draw a nationally televised game.  With a dynamic player such as Griffin and with the team coming off its first NFC East championship since 1999, it’s expected that they’ll receive more national exposure in 2013.

The NFL will announce its regular season schedule later this month.

Opinion: Washington Capitals left behind with success of Nationals, Redskins

Verizon Center was Rocking the Red, in overtime on May 2 (Cheryl Nichols/District Sports Page-iPhone photo)

The roar of the crowd could be heard for blocks, the champagne could be tasted for miles and the sea of red was endless in Washington on Monday night. It was not the same red Washington is used to seeing in celebration though — it was Washington Nationals red. And suddenl,y the team who originally “rocked the red,” is an afterthought.

It has been an almost banner year for Washington in terms of major sports. The Nationals have the best record in baseball and are serious World Series contenders. Another shade of red, burgundy to be exact, is worn by the Washington Redskins. They drafted Robert Griffin III, who has them back on a path to success and the Washington Capitals, for the most part, over achieved despite failing to make the Eastern Conference Finals again.

Despite their recent sustained success though, the third team listed, the Caps, are suddenly on the bottom of the pile even though they were the city’s most consistent team for the last half decade. In almost no time at all, it is as if the Verizon Center and all the memories of the past five years have faded into the dark ether of a third-rate sports organization. It’s not to say the Caps are third-rate, they are actually one of the best run clubs in the DC area right now. But as Nats fans sang “Take on Me” and jumped around in celebration, the Verizon Center lay dark like an old house with no one to care for it.

Of course, it is not all Washington’s fault. There is this pesky thing called the NHL Lockout going on right now preventing the team from training and having a preseason. The labor strike will not go on forever and the hockey-first crowd in Washington should be legitimately concerned where the team sits in order of importance when it does end. It took nearly a year after the team rejuvenated itself with new jerseys, a new coach and a new look for them to garner the front page of the Washington Post consistently. The Nationals did it in about a month of being relevant and the Redskins do it every Monday.

With only so many front pages to go around, who do you think is going to see it more next year? Right now, it’s probably not a good idea to bet on the Caps.

Obviously it is comparing apples to oranges to pineapples, but the Capitals do have to face the reality they are never going to be able to separate themselves from the Nats and Redskins in terms of attracting the casual fan. Look around your social media networks and look at the sheer number of people who you’ve probably never heard talk about the Nats or Redskins discuss Teddy winning on Wednesday, or how awesome RGIII looks. Sure, the Caps generated buzz, but never to the volume both of Washington’s other big clubs are.

Perhaps even more concerning, is now the Caps are fighting with a fan they never thought they’d go head-to-head with, the Baltimore Orioles fan. O’s fans have been deprived of success for so long it is hard to fathom any of them would pass up a chance to see their team make a run at a World Series at the expense of the NHL. Even an unnamed member of the Caps faithful, who you have probably never heard talk about baseball before, is trumpeting his orange and black this fall, perhaps a true sign of where the Caps fall in the greater scheme of things.

Owner Ted Leonsis is now facing a nightmare scenario where his Caps are forgotten in the fall and may not even return to the ice again to recapture Washington’s attention until after baseball crowns a champion and the NFL is in its annual playoff frenzy. If, as some have predicted, the NHL season manag4ed to get underway with the Winter Classic, the Caps will return to the Verizon Center ice just two months before Spring Training gets into full swing and the Redskins will be in NFL Draft hype mode, or challenging for a postseason bid. Not the best circumstances for a team trying to fill an arena they just figured out how to sell out on a nightly basis a few years ago.

It is not all doom and gloom for the Caps. They have an easy solution to winning back fans: win hockey games.

Maybe it is the Capitals’ inability to win in the playoffs that has partially led them down this path. It has been season after season of disappointment for the Caps faithful. A seven game series loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in 2008 was the team’s first postseason birth in years and was deemed successful, despite losing. Even an excruciating seven game series loss the next year to the eventually Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round was viewed as a step forward.

A seven game loss in the first round to the Montreal Canadiens, a team many picked Washington to sweep, the next year, followed by a second round sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning the year after, might have led some fans to turn away. All of the pain and disappointment culminated in an ugly 2011-12 regular season that led to yet another second round loss, this time to the New York Rangers, and left Washington wondering if the team would ever win.

With all that in mind, it’s not hard to understand why some of Washington jumped ship to join the winners and up-and-comers.

It’s great for the Nationals and Redskins to start to see success again and to turn a barren football and baseball landscape into a place of promise and success. The Washington team on skates probably wishes they were enjoying the same success, even though there is currently almost no way for that to happen until the owners and players play nice.

It’s all about winning in sports, something that is new to the Nationals, Orioles and Redskins and it is exciting for the District and Baltimore. Those three franchises’ success comes at a cost though, as people only have so much capacity to support teams, and right now that cost is the popularity of many residents’ beloved Capitals.


Andrew Tomlinson
is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He is a graduate of The American University and has experience covering the NCAA, WNBA, NFL, MLB and NHL. A life-long Detroiter at heart, he is one of the staff writers at the Detroit Sports Site where he primarily covers the Detroit Tigers. Andrew is a former staff writer for On Frozen Blog, where he spent three years covering the ups-and-downs of the Washington Capitals. You can follow him on Twitter @drew_tomlinson.

Washington Redskins docked cap space by NFL; release Otogwe and Sellers

The Washington Redskins Monday announced they released safety Oshiomogho Atogwe and fullback Mike Sellers.

Atogwe played just one season with the Redskins, signed as a free agent last summer. He played in 13 games with eight starts in 2011, finishing with 66 tackles (43 solo), three interceptions and 0.5 sacks. [Read more…]

Fletcher to play in Pro Bowl; makes third straight appearance

London Fletcher will play in his third straight Pro Bowl. (stock photo by Brian Murphy)

Washington Redskins’ soon-to-be free agent linebacker London Fletcher will play in the 2012 Pro Bowl, the team announced this morning via press release.  This marks the third straight trip to Hawaii for Fletcher, who has been an alternate selection each time.

From the Redskins press release:

ASHBURN, Va. – The National Football League announced today that Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher will play in the 2012 Pro Bowl. The annual contest of the AFC and NFC’s best will take place Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.

The Pro Bowl appearance will be Fletcher’s third consecutive and the third total for his career. NFL GSIS credited Fletcher with a league-leading 166 tackles this season, his highest single-season total since the NFL began independently tracking tackle data in 2001. The Redskins coaching staff credited Fletcher with 209 tackles (123 solo) for the season. He matched his career high for tackles awarded by coaches, established as a member of the Buffalo Bills in 2002.

In addition, Fletcher also added 1.5 sacks, 14 quarterback pressures, 11 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two interceptions.

With Fletcher’s addition to the roster, the Redskins have had at least one Pro Bowl player for 18 straight seasons.

__________________________

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Redskins coverage on Twitter @RedskinsDSP.

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