June 29, 2015

Washington Redskins Minicamp, Day 2 Practice Observations

For the last time in a while, the Redskins completed offseason practice on a gloomy day in Ashburn, VA. Minicamp was originally suppose to last three days, but it was decided to wrap it up earlier after just two days, joining the trend of calling minicamp. With the upcoming six-week gap before training camp, much of what follows will be the last taste we have of the Redskins for an extended period of time before the season eventually sneaks up on us.

Although many fans might be hesitant to think that the team is improving after much promise over the past decades, Jay Gruden stated that he is starting to see results with the team. Not so much with the on field performance, but Gruden stated that the Redskins are “physically in better condition”. He thinks, as well as the rest of the DMV hopes, that will have a positive counter impact on game day. The head coach singled out Trent Murphy and Jason Hatcher for proactively getting their bodies in better shapes. [Read more…]

Washington Redskins Minicamp, Day 1 Practice Observations

Today marked the first mandatory offseason practice of the 2015 season and all healthy Washington Redskins players took part including DeSean Jackson, who was excused from portions of the voluntary OTAs. As a reminder, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) prohibits live contact during minicamp practices as well as the use of equipment pads. Minicamp is a three day set of practices before a six week layoff that build up to the start of training camp starting in the end of July.

Coach Jay Gruden has been nothing of complimentary to his coaching staff and has reiterated that he loves all of their enthusiasm, much of that was on display today. To start the practice, special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica, a holdover from last year, had his unit working on punt and kickoff coverage while the other starters were still stretching out.

New defensive backs coach Perry Fewell was described as a great person that has been productive in all situations according to Gruden. The head coach laughingly conveyed that coming from the Giants, the Redskins might have an edge against the division foe in the coming season. Gruden also spoke about Fewell’s boss’s energy, new defensive coordinator Joe Barry, which he described as “a consistent upbeat, positive influence on our team and he’s always coaching”. Although contact is not allowed, Barry installed a tackling drill that featured shedding a blocker, hitting a tackling dummy, and landing on a large pad. In a lesser known addition to the coaching staff, Assistant Strength & Conditioning/Skill Development Coach Joe Kim was given praise by Coach Gruden because of his past experience in developing the pass rush of the likes of Justin Houston and Tamba Hali.

As Gruden had stated during OTAs, Bill Callahan, new offensive line coach, is effective in his hands-on style of teaching. The lineman guru, who turned the Cowboys line into arguably the best unit in football last year, was under center taking snaps during positional drills to get a perfect view of his unit’s progress. In case you missed it, the current starting offensive line with Trent Williams currently sidelined is (from left to right): Tom Compton, Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Spencer Long, and Brandon Scherff.

Per usual, starting quarterback Robert Griffin III headlined talks both on and off the practice field. Griffin has shown noticeable improvement in his reads since a miserable performance throughout the season last year. When given the time, Griffin surveyed all of his options and make the right reads and accurate throws to his receivers. During 11-on-11 scrimmage, he hit Pierre Garcon for a 15-yard gain, while hitting DeSean Jackson along the sidelines during 7-on-7 drills to beat newly acquired corner Chris Culliver. Griffin later had a 70-yard touchdown bomb to Andre Roberts during the one minute drill; granted Baushad Breeland fell down in coverage, but the former offensive rookie of the year may have missed that read last season.

Coach Gruden continued the same tune that Griffin has been getting a little better each and every day and that is exactly what they ask from him. Griffin was described as starting to have confidence in the pocket by “doing a great job of exhausting all of his progressions, playing the quarterback position with good fundamentals”. Gruden did admit that it is likely that Griffin’s second go-round in a more complex system has helped his development. The second-year head coach went so far to call Griffin a “very gifted quarterback” and chuckled when explaining that “Robert’s going to be Robert” when the pocket breaks down insinuating the use of the former track star’s mobility.

There was little to talk about in the battle for the backup quarterback job. Kirk Cousins was given the opportunity to start with the second unit in 11-on-11 drills, but it seems to be alternating from back in OTAs so do not read too much into it. Cousins did a solid job when practicing as he repeatedly put the ball where it needed to be. The Michigan State product also showed his fleet of foot by avoiding a miscommunicated blitz and completing the play. Cousins’s lone miscue was missing rookie receiver Colin Lockett, who tipped a pass into the bread basket rookie corner Tajh Hasson for an interception.

Colt McCoy was also efficient in dissecting many of the undrafted free agents the Redskins brought into camp. Both backup signal callers received help from their receivers, Ryan Grant and Roberts, who made tremendous grabs to make their QBs look good.

One of the hardest things to watch with the Redskins last year was the self-inflicted wounds that just made the game so heart breaking. Gruden is having it none of that this year because he knows you cannot go from the bottom to the top without perfecting what is in your control. If a defensive back dropped a potential interception during a positional drill, they did push-ups. If an offensive lineman had a false start, they ran a lap around the field and were replaced on the ensuing play.

Injury Updates:

  • Those players who are already rehabbing from injury will NOT practice during minicamp, but home to be back by the start of training camp at 100 percent.
  • DeAngelo Hall went through positional drills with comfort. The veteran was held out of the scrimmages for precautionary reasons. During the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drives, Hall worked on the side simulating dropping into coverage, cutting and then catching passes.
  • Silas Redd has started to turn a few heads during practice; on one instance he had an excellent cut to get to open field. However, the Penn State product tweaked his ankle and will be held out of the rest of minicamp. That could open the door for Chris Thompson to secure a position as the third string running back behind Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones.
  • Trent Williams (left ankle), Jordan Reed (knee procedure), and Ryan Kerrigan (knee scope) were all non-participants during practice but are all expected to return for training camp.

Important Dates:

  • Minicamp runs through Thursday, June 18.
  • Training camps starts on Thursday, July 30 in 44 days.
  • Travel to Cleveland for first preseason matchup against the Browns on Thursday, August 13 in 58 days.
  • Season and home opener against Miami Dolphins on Sunday, September 13 in 89 days.

Washington Redskins Week Two of OTAs Observations

Week two of organized team activities began for the Washington Redskins this week which allowed for a slightly clearer image of how next season is shaping up through press conferences with head coach Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Unlike last week when Robert Griffin III was the main topic of discussion, more light was shed on the updating of injury concerns and the early evaluation of the younger talent.

The biggest takeaway from Barry’s first press conference as a member of the organization has to be how optimistic and complimentary he was about all of the tools he has around him to succeed. In his short time on the field in Ashburn, Barry has been enthusiastic and willed his players to be more aggressive, which was eluded to last week with a focus on forcing more turnovers.

Barry had high praise for each of his position coaches under his wing, including new secondary coach and ex-Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. Barry spoke about how he was lured to Washington by the rich legacy and tradition of the Redskins even though they are in a down cycle. Moreover, Barry applauded the Scot McCloughan’s mindset of bringing in not only good football players but good character and coachable individuals. [Read more…]

Washington Redskins Second Day of OTAs Observations

With the media not allowed to attend the second or third days of organized team activities, there was not as much information available to pass along with the current status of the Washington Redskins. However the few bits of information that were reported through knowledgeable sources showed the moving parts that will likely continue going into the upcoming season.

As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Caplan, the Washington Redskins will release veteran Chris Chester, last year’s starting right guard. Chester was signed in 2011 to a five-year, $20 million contract and would have been a cap hit of $4.8 million this year in his last year under contract before becoming a unrestricted free agent. Chester also had a $100k workout bonus and $400k roster bonus in his contract, which may have played into the timing of release. There will be an $800k dead cap hit, but overall the Redskins have carved out an additional $4 million to work with to possibly bring in another free agent. [Read more…]

Washington Redskins First Day of 2015 OTAs Observations

After the first day of organized team activities, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden and current starting quarterback Robert Griffin III addressed the media to provide insight on the upcoming NFL season.

Gruden expressed that coaching is a learning process and one of the biggest things he is getting used to is what buttons to push with the players at his disposal to get the most out of them.

After naming Griffin the preliminary starter early in the offseason, Gruden had Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy split the second team reps today. Both threw interceptions in their limited playing time, while Griffin had no turnovers. Gruden expects both to “push Robert and themselves”.

That being said, Gruden wants Griffin has to put together multiple strong practices to show the consistency that is desired because the work ethic is there ready to pay off. [Read more…]

Washington Redskins Select DE/OLB Preston Smith and Trade Down before taking RB Matt Jones on Second Day of NFL Draft

After the Washington Redskins found their potential bookend on the offensive line to complement Trent Williams Thursday in the first round of the NFL Draft in Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, Scot McCloughan looked to continue rebuilding his team in a manner similarly to what he did while with San Francisco and Seattle. With the sixth pick in the second round, the Redskins selected DE/OLB Preston Smith.

Preston Smith is out of Mississippi St. standing at 6’ 5’’ and 271 pounds. Smith had 15 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, and even chipped in with two interceptions last year in the defensive powerhouse of the SEC. Continuing the trend of big nasty guys for McCloughan, Smith has long arms and refuses to get pushed around. Smith is also versatile enough where he can line up anywhere from nose tackle, edge rusher opposite Ryan Kerrigan, or at times in coverage. In a 3-4 system, he should be able to produce enough havoc to make an impact as he plays the run well after shedding blockers. In Jay Gruden’s post game press conference, he confirmed that his versatility was something that sold the team on him.

After being seen as slow on film by some, Smith was a top performer at his position during the combine as he ran the 40 yard dash in in 4.74 seconds, had a broad jump of 121 inches, and completed the 3-cone drill in 7.07 seconds. Smith might be too slow to be an edge rusher, which the Redskins might want to plug him into, but he did speak of the possibility of losing weight to increase his quickness. According to Gruden, Trent Murphy’s status with the team is unaffected as everyone is going to have to compete for their right at playing time.

McCloughan continues to build his team from the inside on both sides of the ball and could continue to do so in the rest of this draft. McCloughan and company must have felt that they wanted Smith badly enough to not attempt to trade down to get to the 10 picks that the Redskins newly hired general manager desired. The New York Giants moved up to the #33 overall pick and the Carolina Panthers moved up to the #41 pick.

S Landon Collins (Alabama) to Giants from Titans, OT Donovan Smith (Penn State) to Buccaneers, DL Mario Edwards (Florida State) to Raiders, RB T.J. Yeldon (Alabama) to Jaguars, and WR Devin Smith (Ohio State) to Jets were all taken before the Redskins pick in the second round.

Washington traded their 69th overall selection to the Seattle Seahawks, McCloughan’s old stomping grounds. The Redskins will receive the 95th, 112th, 167th, and the 181st  overall pick in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th round of the NFL Draft respectively. The trade is relatively even as per the Jimmy Johnson chart, the Redskins give up 245 points and get back 238 (http://walterfootball.com/draftchart.php). McCloughan wanted 10 draft picks in the 2015 draft and now has it by trading down 29 spots to pick up three additional picks.

After the Redskins moved back 26 spots to gain three draft picks from Seattle, Washington ended up drafting RB Matt Jones out of the University of Florida. Jones had a modest 817 yards on about five yards a carry and six touchdowns last season for the Gators in 2014 in a mere five games of work. Jones season was cut short early because of a torn meniscus in his left knee, which took two surgeries to repair in October. As a result, Jones was only projected to be a fifth or sixth round pick in the draft. For a big running back he is relatively athletic and can move the pile, but must develop into a more patient runners as his vision is not great. McCloughan saw his potential as a third down back because he is arguably the best back in pass protection in the draft because he squares up linebackers, whom he has comparable size to.

Jones met with the Redskins in Ashburn and he says that Washington showed him love leading to his good feeling of coming to the nation’s capital. Matt Jones believes he is a complete back and says he patterns his game after Marshawn Lynch (5′ 11”, 215). In the 25 picks that were made between where the Redskins could have picked in the third round and where the eventually did, names like Tevin Coleman (Indiana), Duke Johnson (Miami), and David Johnson (Northern Iowa) came off the board. While some running backs came off the board, the Redskins passed on names like Jay Ajayi out of Boise State and Jeremy Langford from Michigan State. In the coming months, it will be interesting to see how Jones’s rehab continues and how soon he can get back on the field to fight for a position on the Redskins roster with names like Silas Redd, Chris Thompson, and Michael Hill. Gruden elaborated that Alfred Morris would not be affected as the #1 ball carrier for the team.

Moving forward, the Redskins have seven draft picks moving forward in the last four rounds of the NFL Draft starting with the 6th pick tomorrow (105th overall). Gruden stated that there are still a lot of players left in the draft that can still help the Redskins.

Washington Redskins Select Brandon Scherff at No. 5 Overall in NFL Draft

“Coach [Jay] Gruden, he said, ‘We want you to be a Redskin. How do you feel about that? ‘I said absolutely and just talked about that. I talked to Coach [Bill] Callahan and then went on stage.” — newest Redskins lineman Brandon Scherff

With much speculation over the past three months of whom the Washington Redskins would select with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft — from Marcus Mariota to Dante Fowler to nobody at all in a trade down scenario — we now know that individual is Brandon Scherff. This is a statement pick that tells the rest of the league that Scot McCloughan is in charge and wants to create a dominant force on the line on both sides of the ball that can impose their will.

Scherff is a 6’ 5’’ 315 pound offensive lineman out of the University of Iowa and was rated as the No. 1 offensive linemen available in the draft ahead of names like Ereck Flowers and Andrus Peat. Scherff is a big, tough, nasty, and strong individual on the line to protect Robert Griffin III and block for Alfred Morris. Scherff spent all four years in college and played behind and at times replaced, when injured, Riley Reiff, who was a first round pick of the Lions in 2012.

“Then when it came to our pick, we thought that he was the best person for what we wanted, the best player available,” said head coach Jay Gruden. “If you’re talking about offensive linemen, you’re talking about a big, physical guy, and we want to bring that mentality back to this football team and it starts up front. We addressed the defensive front a little bit in free agency, and I think we had to address the offensive linemen, the offensive line room, and we did that tonight.”

Moreover, the acquisition of Bill Callahan as the Redskins offensive line coach most definitely had an impact in the decision as McCloughan somewhat hinted at in his press conference on Monday. It is now believed that Scherff will transition into Washington’s starting right tackle which was a much maligned position for the club last season. As a result, the Redskins offensive line could read Trent Williams, Shaun Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Morgan Moses (possibly replacing Chris Chester, and Brandon Scherff.

Gruden went out of his way to praise Scherff’s toughness. “When you have a guy that’s this tough on film and it just echoes every time you watch him play, every play that he plays, you see the toughness and you’re like, ‘Man, we could use a little bit more toughness.’ Not to say we weren’t tough last year. We had some guys that competed and played very, very hard, no doubt about it, but when you add another guy of his caliber, his size, his strength, his tenacity, that only makes your football team better. It’s going to help our defensive line, it’s going to help our offensive line, it’s going to help our running game, obviously, and it’s going to help our passing game.”

In what might be a shocker to some with defensive lineman Leonard Williams still on the board — Mel Kiper’s No. 1 rated prospect — McCloughan pulled the first major shocker of the draft by drafting an offensive tackle. What makes this move even more shocking is that there were highly reported rumors that if Williams was available, the Redskins said to him that they would draft him.

When talking on ESPN980 Radio, Scherff said he did not talk to the Washington Redskins much except at the NFL Combine. Scherff says that his best trait is his foot work, while he needs to work on his pass protection the most. The Iowa big man also shared his confidence in playing all five positions on the offensive line because of his versatility which Jay Gruden talked about in his first round press conference. However, Gruden has stated he will be plugged in day one at right tackle.

“Either way wherever they want me to play, I’ll do my best and I’ll jump right in and try to get that spot,” Scherff said in his post-draft media call.

Gruden shed light that they might have looked more for a non-defensive lineman because of their free agency acquisitions, which would explain why they passed on Leonard Williams. The head coach also said that they had the phone ringing a little but said when your guy is there you have to take him. It is possible that Scherff was the second player on the Redskins board behind Dante Fowler.

As a chain reaction of moves, the New York Giants, who desperately needed a left tackle, had their hand forced and drafted Ereck Flowers out of the University of Miami. This is definitely a stretch pick because of questions of what position Flowers will finally settle into, as well as if he has enough time to be polished into a NFL offensive line from his current state of raw talent.

McCloughan started to build up the San Francisco 49ers at the offensive line position leading to the building of an eventual playoff contender. He is starting to follow the same blue print with the Washington Redskins. It will be interesting to see who will fall to the Redskins at the 38th overall pick tomorrow. Redskins fans who may be hesitant on this move should still have faith in McCloughan going into the later rounds because of his excellent track record of finding that diamond in the rough.

Washington Redskins’ General Manager Scot McCloughan Pre-Draft Press Conference Need to Know

Scot McCloughan met with the media today to talk about the Redskins strategy heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, which begins this Thursday with the highly anticipated first round where Washington holds the No. 5 overall pick. This is the first first round pick the Redskins will have to play with since drafting Robert Griffin III in 2012. Speaking of the current starting quarterback of the Washington Redskins, McCloughan announced that they are going to exercise the 2016 option on RGIII as was reported earlier today by NFL Network’s Albert Breer.

According to the Redskins’ GM, the decision was arrived at awhile back because he has “good tape,” including extraordinary playmaking ability back in the 2012 season. The hope is that with a full offseason and going into his second year in Jay Gruden’s system, Griffin shows flashes of his rookie year brilliance that the franchise can continue to build around. Clearly this is a $16.2 million financial risk that the Redskins are going to take as they plan to officially announce their intentions to the league on Monday, May 4. The Redskins clearly did not want to gamble of not having control of his contract for 2016. [Read more…]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins season finale loss against the Dallas Cowboys

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 44-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, ending the season at 4-12:

1. Robert Griffin’s performance gets worse as the game goes on.

Griffin’s stats are inflated by big gains after the catch on screen plays, but Griffin did nothing to fuel the offense or put the defense in bad situations. Griffin took another sack that helped stall a drive, although Chris Chester being pushed into your face cannot help in reading progressions down the field. Griffin was also not helped by his receivers when Roy Helu and Niles Paul dropped catchable balls and Jordan Reed didn’t run the necessary depth on a route on fourth down. [Read more…]

Five takeaways from Washington Redskins Game 15 win over Philadelphia Eagles

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 27-24 win to the Philadelphia Eagles, improving their record to 4-11:

1. Robert Griffin III does enough to get the victory.

With Colt McCoy being placed on season ending IR this past week, Robert Griffin was given another opportunity to show why he should be back as the starting quarterback going into training camp next season. Although Griffin didn’t fill up the stat line, throwing for a somewhat mediocre 220 yards on 25 drop backs, he had his best game of the season in terms of executing a game plan. Griffin took three shots to DeSean Jackson deep resulting in two 50+ yard completions and one interception.

Both of the completions ended in Redskins touchdowns. Moreover, the threat of Griffin tucking the ball and taking off not only led Alfred Morris to average four yards per rush, but late in the game it forced the Eagles’ linebackers to creep forward. Griffin took advantage of an open middle of the field by hitting Pierre Garcon on a classic 2012 play that eventually led to the game winning field goal. [Read more…]

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