August 21, 2014

Washington Redskins Preseason Game 2 Analysis: Takeaways for the Offense

The Washington Redskins were able to defeat the Cleveland Browns last night in a sloppy game that ultimately resulted in a 24-23 victory for Washington. Here are some key takeaways for the Redskins offense:

AREAS OF CONCERN

Turnovers: The Redskins first team offense Monday Night much resembled the team last year that turned the ball over 33 times (good for 30th worst in the league). On the team’s opening drive, Alfred Morris was not able to catch a pitch to the left from Robert Griffin III resulting in a lost fumble which set the opposition up with great field position.

On the offense’s next possession, on third and long from Cleveland’s 27-yard line, Griffin made a terrible decision under duress, floating the ball towards a very well covered DeSean Jackson along the right sideline. It was easy pickings for Browns cornerback Joe Haden who returned it 37 yards. It was a throw Griffin just can’t make, especially in scoring position.

The team’s backup quarterbacks didn’t fare much better, as Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy both threw interceptions later on. Turnovers were a major reason why the team struggled last year, often putting the defense in bad situations. This area must improve for the Redskins to be successful in the regular season.

RGIII scrambles: After an offseason where there was much talk of Griffin needing to develop as a traditional “pocket passer” to avoid taking so many hits, the quarterback took his fair share of punishment Monday night. On his first scramble, Griffin struggled to slide after bouncing out wide to the right. He came into contact with Browns linebacker Karlos Dansby four yards downfield, and it resulted in an ugly tangling of his legs as he went down awkwardly.

Later on the same drive, Griffin scrambled again, this time to his left. Instead of ducking out of bounds unharmed after a modest eight-to-ten yard gain, he cut upfield eventually colliding with three successive Browns defenders as he got knocked out of bounds. Not exactly what you want to see in a preseason game that means nothing.

If Griffin wants to stay healthy, he’ll need to better avoid contact going forward. For the record, he vowed to the fans after the game that he’d work on his sliding. We’ll see.

Poor run game: The Redskins first team unit wasn’t very good on the ground, with Morris running the ball 11 times for only 29 yards (a 2.6 average yards per carry). The struggles were epitomized early in the second quarter when the team ran the ball four straight times on the goal line and could not score, resulting in a turnover on downs.

The stretch-zone running game will need to be the backbone of this offense as the Redskins install a new passing scheme under first year head coach Jay Gruden, so they can ill-afford nights like tonight on the ground once the regular season hits.

BRIGHT SPOTS

DeSean Jackson: The team’s prized free agent acquisition had a strong showing in his Redskins debut with two catches for 34 yards. On both receptions, Jackson was able to get yards after the catch using every bit of the quickness and elusiveness we’ve seen throughout his career.

In addition, on the Haden interception, Jackson was ultimately the one to run him down from behind to make the tackle. Great hustle and effort, especially in a meaningless preseason game with nothing to prove. Expect him to be a big part of the offense this season, and not just on deep routes.

Moving the ball: Despite the offense’s turnover struggles, the team was actually able to move the ball pretty well through the air, as Griffin went 6-for-8 for 112 yards. A big highlight was a long 49-yard pass from Griffin to receiver Andre Roberts. On this play, Griffin initially looked right and pump faked before bombing the ball down the field left to Roberts who had the Browns’ Haden beat by a step.

The initial pump from Griffin gave him enough time to squeeze the pass into Roberts before the safety could get back over top to make a play on the ball. A beautiful throw and catch. Jackson clearly isn’t the only one who can beat defenders deep. Expect to see Griffin take some shots down the field to Roberts this year as well.

Kicking: After an opening game in which the rookie Zach Hocker appeared to best incumbent Kai Forbath, neither could distance himself Monday Night. Hocker was a perfect 2-for-2 on both his elongated extra point attempts, while Forbath hit the only Redskins field goal attempt of the game, a 26-yarder, as well as an extra point himself.

Both performed pretty well on kickoffs, although Hocker outdrove Forbath on average and even had a touchback on the game’s opening kickoff. Solid nights for both. The decision on who wins the starting job didn’t get any easier.

Other notables: Rookie receiver Ryan Grant had another strong showing catching four passes for 44 yards and a touchdown. It appears he’s a lock to make the team at this point.

Fellow receiver Rashad Ross had another strong night, showing off that same speed he showed in the preseason opener. He again had a long kick return, this time for 42 yards, and again had a long catch on a go route down the sideline, hauling in a 43-yard pass from Colt McCoy. He’s still got to be considered a long shot but his showing so far certainly has helped.

Washington Redskins Preseason Game 2 Review: McCoy’s late TD difference-maker in win over Browns

If you watch the NFL preseason at all, you should expect sloppy and disjointed play, penalties and turnovers. But Monday night, before a national audience on ESPN, the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns combined to play a spectacularly sloppy, disjointed, penalty-filled preseason game, with Washington ending on top 24-23.

The teams combined for 21 penalties for 154 yards.

In what was billed as a marquee matchup between media darlings Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel, the outcome was more affected by bottom of the depth-chart signal callers, as is usual for the second preseason game.

The first quarter, when both teams played with their starter, suffered flag after flag and three turnovers — and no scoring.

On the last play of the first quarter, Griffin hit a streaking Andre Roberts on a fly for 49 yards to put the first team offense into scoring position.

New head coach Jay Gruden stuck with his starters at the start of the second quarter in an effort to put a score on the board. Gruden called for three straight dive plays, challenging his offensive line to win the line of scrimmage and the one yard needed for the touchdown.

But on three straight attempts, the Browns line was up to the task. On fourth-and-one, Gruden called for an off-tackle left with Alfred Morris and the call on the field was ruled a touchdown. After review, however, it was ruled Morris’ hip had hit the ground before he crossed the goal line and the score was disallowed.

In three series, Griffin finished his night 6-for-9 for 112 yards and interception.

On the subsequent possession, the defense was able to hold the Johnny Manziel-led Browns and forced a punt. On the resulting drive, Kirk Cousins was able to move the second unit offense for a first down, but on a play-action pass as the series continued, he overthrew his receiver and it was picked off by T Gipson, who returned it to the Redskins 15-yard line.

Manziel went three-and-out, and Cleveland settled for Billy Cundiff nailing a 29-yard kick for to give the Browns a 3-0 lead.

As time was expiring in the half, Cousins found Santana Moss on a screen on third and long and the veteran   gained 24 yards for the first down. Later, Cousins hit Even Royster on a circle route out of the backfield for 24 yards down to the Browns’ two-yard line, then two plays later he bullied his way into the end zone to make it 7-3 at the half.

Washington outgained Cleveland 241-84 in the first half.

On the first drive of the second half, the Redskins drove down the field on the legs of Silas Redd, then Cousins hit the impressive Ryan Grant on a fade from 15 yards out to make it 14-3.

The Browns got into the endzone early in the fourth quarter. A 16-play, 68 yard drive culminated with Manziel’s middle screen taken by Dion Lewis eight yards for the score.

On the ensuing possession, Jim Leonhard intercepted Colt McCoy’s first pass and took it 21 yards for a touchdown. After the kickoff, McCoy found Rashad Ross on a go route for 43 yards, but the drive stalled and the Redskins had to settle for a Kai Forbath 26-yard field goal to tie the game at 17.

McCoy then led the Redskins on a six-play, 56-yard drive, capped by his 30-yard touchdown pass to Nick Williams to break the tie.

Unfortunately, Browns fourth-string QB Connor Shaw heaved a 45-yard Hail Mary to Emmanuel Ogbuehi as time expired to draw Cleveland within one point, but the two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Redskins walked away with a 24-23 decision, mercifully avoiding overtime.

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins victory over the Browns

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ Monday night 24-23 preseason victory over the Cleveland Browns.

  1. An up-and-down performance from Robert Griffin III. The interception RGIII threw was an ugly one, where he should have thrown the ball away and didn’t plant his back foot and throw with good form. This will be something the third-year pro will surely go back and correct on film. However, the interception wasn’t helped by poor pass protection by both the offensive line and running back (Roy Helu). However, on the second play of the game Griffin did a fantastic job of standing tall in the pocket, progressing through his reads and finding the open man down field. Griffin also threw a pretty ball to Andre Roberts at the end of the first quarter. Griffin’s transition into more of a pocket passer will take time, but he has shown promise on plays like these.
  2. The defensive pass rush may be the biggest strength on the Redskins entire team. Even without Jason Hatcher the front seven has played very well. The pass coverage has to improve though. The Redskins were bailed out by poor passes from the both the Browns quarterbacks, in addition to some drops from the wide receivers.
  3. The running back position is wide open. Roy Helu still has the inside track on the third-down back job, however, he struggled both in pass protection and in catching the ball against the browns. Evan Royster, Helu’s main competitor for playing time, played very well including an impressive catch-and-run on a circle route and a solid run to finish off a two-minute drive with a touchdown.
  4. Ryan Grant is making a push to be the fourth receiver on the Redskins depth chart. After Aldrick Robinson had a solid performance in the first pre-season game, Grant continues to show rare polished routes for a rookie and consistently good play, including a beautiful touchdown strike from Kirk Cousins.
  5. Turnovers need to stop, especially the sloppy avoidable ones. The starting offensive unit played well, and moved the ball well, but when you fumble a ball that is directly in your hands and throw an easy interception you won’t win many games. Turnover margin was one of the biggest reason for the Redskins success in 2012 (+17) and failure in 2013 (-8). The Redskins simply have to take care of the ball better.

Washington Redskins Preseason Game 2 Preview: Cleveland Browns

by Joe Miller, Staff Writer

Robert Griffin III will play up to a quarter in the Washington Redskins second preseason game Monday night against the Browns (photo by Brian Murphy)

Here’s what to look for in the Monday night showdown between Washington and Cleveland:

Normally, Johnny Manziel coming to town for his second ever NFL game would be excitement enough, especially for a preseason game. But Kyle Shanahan will also make his first trip back to FedEx field since he and his father were shown the door following the 2013 season.

While both provide their fair share of drama to an otherwise mundane preseason game between two of 2013’s bottom-dwellers, there are an abundance of other intriguing storylines that have greater implications for the Redskins upcoming season.

Here are a few things to watch for: [Read more...]

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden speaks about upcoming Monday Night preseason game

Robert Griffin III hands off to Alfred Morris. (Photo by Brian Murphy)

The Washington Redskins play their second preseason game of the offseason this Monday Night, August 18th versus the Cleveland Browns.  Game time is at 8:00 pm and will be played on the Redskins’ home turf, FedEx field.  The first preseason game for the Redskins came with a 23-6 victory over the New England Patriots on August 7th, but head coach Jay Gruden is already looking towards Monday night and the matchup with Cleveland.

Gruden took the podium Friday and spoke to the swarm of media around him.  The first series of questions were in regards to how long his starting players will play on Monday night, as well as which athletes would sit out.  Gruden told the press that he is “shooting for at least a quarter” and will see how it goes with his starters.  When asked if any players have been ruled out, Gruden had this to say:

“Maybe [Brandon] Meriweather. I think he took the day off today. He just got his toe drained a little bit, but he’s got a chance to play. We’ll wait and see.”

With the news of newly acquired defensive end Jason Hatcher removed from the physically unable to perform list after he passed a physical, Gruden was asked if Hatcher would be able to play.  Gruden answered with a definitive “Hatcher’s out”. Hatcher had been working on the side fields during training camp while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in mid-June.  Gruden said his goal is for Hatcher to play in the third preseason game against Baltimore, giving him one outing with the rest of the defensive starters.

Gruden also spoke about his backup quarterbacks, praising Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy on how they have handled their roles on the roster:

“He’s done great. You know, Kirk’s handled it like a pro. He understands the situation here. He understands it’s Robert’s job to lose right now but he’s still coming in here, competing and battling every day. And, that’s what a quarterback does. Whether you’re the starter or not, you have to take advantage of the reps you get and they are few and far between sometimes, but I think he’s done an excellent job. Him and Colt [McCoy] both have been great in the quarterback room. There’s been no controversy whatsoever. It’s just been business as usual and they’re all trying to get better and master this system and he’ll be ready when his time comes. “

When discussing the Browns’ style of play, Gruden is very familiar with Cleveland, as he was the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals for three years and faced the Browns twice a year in the AFC North.  When asked about if the Browns’ pass rush will be a good test for starting quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Redskins offense, Gruden said it will be an ideal situation:

I’m familiar with Cleveland’s personnel on defense, coming from Cincinnati, and then next week we get to play Baltimore who I’m familiar with, so it’s going to be two great tests for us from an offensive standpoint. Obviously defensively there’s some elements that we also have to work out and be ready for which is a good test for them too. Every team in the NFL gives you different problems, but Cleveland’s defensive personnel is obviously very good with Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and all those guys and then Baltimore the following week. So we’ll get a good taste the next two weeks, see where we are and how far we have to go. “

According to the press, the “big story” will be rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, and Gruden was asked about what he thought after seeing him on film:

“I haven’t watched him yet. I’m going to start that today, tomorrow we’re going to start really trying to game plan. I know Coach [Jim] Haslett’s watched him. I’ve been studying the other side of the ball a little bit more. So I’ll check him out today, but I saw him on television and obviously studying him coming out and know he’s a very talented kid, lot of mobility – no question about it – and very exciting player.”

One of the biggest concerns of the Redskins is their offensive line.  Gruden spoke about the depth of their new corps of players:

“We feel good about the depth. We have got a lot of players to choose from, which is good. Now, the starters, we’ve got to go out and perform. That was one of the Achilles heels so to speak last year from what I heard about coming in from what you see on tape. You see some pressure, but I think Coach [Chris] Foerster has done a great job with them and they’ve done a pretty good job. They’ve given up some pressure every now and then. We’ve got some good pass rushers on the other side. We don’t expect a clean pocket on every time we throw, but we do expect them to do a good job. We’ve got good veteran leadership up there with Tyler [Polumbus] and Chris [Chester], and obviously Trent Williams is a Pro Bowl left tackle, and Kory [Lichtensteiger] has done a good job moving into center, so I feel good about where they are.”

Gruden was also asked about running back Chris Thompson’s ankle sprain and how it will affect the other running backs on the roster.  He said that it “gives them opportunity and opens up a window for other guys to perform”, after expressing his feelings for Thompson as “it’s unfortunate for him because he was doing a great job.”

When asked about how Gruden’s second string, third string, and rookies have responded to practice this week, he replied:

“I have been very pleased. The tempo has been outstanding and their attention to detail has been very good. Like I said, very few mental mistakes. It looks sharp out there – the weather has something to do with it too, but overall I’m very happy with where we’re going, both offensively and defensively, and then obviously the special teams are doing an excellent job, but we have to sort some things out there. But it’s all about installing your offense and defense and special teams and also finding ways to evaluate the people that you have and right now all the players are making it very difficult on us because they’re all performing pretty well. The competition has been excellent.”

Jay Gruden is ESPN analyst Jon Gruden’s brother, the very man who is the Monday Night Football announcer.  Coach Gruden was asked if Jon Gruden would take it easy on him during Monday Night’s game, as well as if Jon would meet with him the way other analysts do.  Coach Gruden chuckled at the questions, but answered them with his usual professionalism:

“He called a couple of my games last year in Cincy. Jon is Jon. He’s going to be positive if he can but if I do something that’s out-of-line ignorant, I’m sure he’ll call me on it. I think he’s coming in Saturday. He’ll be out here for practice Saturday and we’ll be able to hopefully go out to dinner maybe Saturday night, or I might be tied up, but I’ll be able to see him Saturday. Jon is obviously very good at what he does and he won’t jeopardize what he does for my feelings. That’s for sure. He never has.”

Many fans and teams have criticized the officiating already during this preseason.  Gruden was asked about the NFL’s new rules and how they affected the Redskins’ first preseason game against the Patriots:

“We had a couple called against us – I think we had three called against us – one was a PI [pass interference], and I think one was illegal contact from [Will] Compton, and those are great to show. Obviously the emphasis of the illegal contact and we just have to continue to preach it out here and we try to show our guys in practice when it happens and just to be aware. They’ve been so engraved in their minds to try to jostle guys off and move receivers off their line and try to get them off their spot that we have to be careful. It’s something we have to continue to coach and watch, because I know the NFL is watching, the referees are watching, and there are a ton of penalties I noticed in Week 1 of the preseason games – not in our game, but the other games – so you’ve just got to watch it.”

The Washington Redskins take on the Cleveland Browns this Monday Night at 8:00 pm on ESPN.

Gruden being patient with Griffin as training camp winds down

In his press conference from training camp today, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden discussed several aspects of Robert Griffin III’s adjustment to Gruden’s offensive systems. Gruden, the rookie head coach, has been pleased overall with Griffin’s progress, but indicated that the adjustment period hasn’t been completely smooth sailing.

“Well, there’s been a lot of good, there’s been some bad, as most quarterbacks go through in training camp,” Gruden said. “You’ve seen all the different looks [Griffin]’s getting, and overall I think he’s making progress at a good rate. We just need to make sure it carries over into games. He’ll get a few more reps Monday night, and he’ll get more Game 3. Hopefully, by Houston he’ll be ready to roll. But I think when you watch the tape every day, if he throws a ball 45 times, 35 of them are pretty good – good decisions. Then there’s a couple of them we have to correct. But he’s doing good.” [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 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.

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.

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