September 2, 2014

Washington Redskins 2014 Season Preview Part III: Wide Receivers

All this week leading up to the Washington Redskins 2014 season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7, District Sports Page is taking an in-depth look at the players that will make up the 53-man roster to start the season in a position-by-position breakdown.

Monday, Neal Dalal took a look at the Quarterback position.
Tuesday, Eric Hobeck examined the situation at running back.

This is the preview of the wide receiver corps.

[Read more...]

Washington Redskins Season Preview Part II: Running Backs

All this week leading up to the Washington Redskins 2014 season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7, District Sports Page is taking an in-depth look at the players that will make up the 53-man roster to start the season in a position-by-position breakdown.

Monday, Neal Dalal took a look at the Quarterback position.

Tuesday, we examine the situation at running back. Who will be the third down back, who didn’t make the team and just how deep are the Redskins in the backfield.

[Read more...]

Washington Redskins sign safety Duke Ihenacho


Over the weekend, the Washington Redskins picked up safety Duke Ihenacho off waivers from the Denver Broncos. Ihenacho will immediately provide support for the suspended Brandon Meriweather, but will also strengthen the defensive backfield for the long run.

Head coach Jay Gruden addressed the move during his routine Monday press conference at Redskins Park.

“I think he brings some experience to the table,” Gruden said of the three-year veteran. “He started a lot of games last year for Denver. He’s a tough guy and became available. We didn’t know who was going to come available. We saw that he was there, we put a claim into him because of the experience level and special teams experience. We thought he could be an immediate help for us and luckily we got him.”

Ihenacho started 17 games for the Broncos last season, but apparently became expendable after Denver signed T.J. Ward and had Quinton Carter return from injury.

Asked if Ihenacho would start immediately, Gruden was coy but optimistic.

“It depends on how quickly he picks it up mentally. I envision him participating in some level, some capacity, we’ll see what that is. It’s too early to tell. This is the first time we met him, today. So, we have got to get him acclimated to the defense, the calls, see how much he can pick up, see how much he can help Ben [Kotwica] and special teams and go from there. Whether he is activated or not, we’ll see.”

Ihenacho, for his part, embraces the special teams aspect. As he told, “I think kickoff is the easiest thing in the world. If you’ve got that mentality then they put you on kickoff because you like doing it.”

What does Ihenacho expect to bring the Redskins defense?

“I just bring some physicality, man, and playmaking ability,” Ihenacho said. “A little more excitement, a little more passion to the game.”

Gruden praised the organization for making a move like this so close to the start of the regular season.

“Thank your scouts and your [Director of Pro Personnel] Alex Santos and those guys,” Gruden said. “They’re watching very closely all positions, not just safety but all positions. We’re looking at who’s available and if somebody can help our football team right now we’re going to make a run at them. Obviously, you have to make room on your roster and those decisions become tougher and tougher once you make your 53, like it was with Akeem [Davis]. But, you’re always looking to upgrade your team and if somebody can help you then you have to make that move and we thought that Duke could help us.”

Washington Redskins 2014 Season Preview Part I: Quarterbacks

All this week leading up to the Washington Redskins 2014 season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7, District Sports Page is taking an in-depth look at the players that will make up the 53-man roster to start the season in a position-by-position breakdown.

Monday we look at the competition at quarterback. More realistically, we asked the question: Is there a competition at quarterback?

In the recent history of the Washington Redskins, the biggest question that is most often repeated year after year is “Who should play quarterback in order to give the Redskins the best chance to succeed?”

Under the helm of Mike Shanahan, he brought in Donovan McNabb to replace a developing Jason Campbell. Then he benched McNabb during the end of a game against the Detroit Lions to have Rex Grossman attempt a game-winning drive. Next, we had the Grossman and John Beck fiasco that ended in a wasted season, enticing the Redskins decided to move up in the next draft to grab Robert Griffin III.

Surprisingly, Washington drafted another quarterback, Kirk Cousins,three rounds later and questions automatically began to fly about whether there would be a battle for the starting signal caller. In 2012, all of those questions were put to rest as Griffin led his team to the division title and a home playoff game for the first time since 1999.

Unfortunately for both the Redskins and Griffin, 2012 ended with its offensive leader going into the offseason broken and physically incapable of getting ready for the next season. Questions again arose about whether Griffin would be able to start the season against Philadelphia and if Cousins should fill in until the week five bye after having an impressive pre-season showcase.

After dropping five straight games after a 3-5 start, Griffin was benched for “safety precautions”. Cousins had a trial run of three games but did not win any of the encounters, though he showed potential as a leader. With the incredibly disappointing 3-13 record, both head coach Mike and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were given the boot and replaced by former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.

Beginning the 2014 training camp there seemed to be no controversy as Gruden immediately named Griffin as the starter. Everyone felt that with a full offseason and playing without a hindering knee brace, the former Heisman winner could return to form and lead this team once again.

However, after a mediocre and lackluster preseason from the first string offense, there were some doubters if Griffin was the best option for the team. Griffin went 13 for 20 for 141 yards, two interceptions, was sacked four times, and multiple questionable decisions. The controversy was fueled by former Redskins great Joe Theismann when he made the following comment:

“Let’s stop beating around the bush. Kirk Cousins has played much better at the quarterback position than Robert Griffin III has. Now, Robert is learning to work out of a pocket. He doesn’t look as smooth or as comfortable throwing the football. I mean, your eyes will tell you everything you need to know.

It’s going to be a decision that Jay Gruden will to have to make. Right now, Robert Griffin III is his quarterback. Now, if there was a quarterback competition, it wouldn’t be a competition. Kirk Cousins would be the man I believe he would have to go to, because of the efficiency with which he has run [the offense]. Now Kirk, like I said, is basically a drop-back quarterback. I see Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, I see Kirk Cousins that way”.

Although Cousins has looked impressive during the course of the first three preseason games, he did so against backup defenders, many of whom will not be employed in the coming month. It was crystal clear that Cousins had a much cleaner pocket with more time to throw when compared to Griffin running for his life against the Ravens. Furthermore, Cousins already had his chance to compete for the starting job when he played against starting caliber defenses at the end of last year, where he faired okay, but not to the extent where he would unseat Griffin.

To add another twist to the already confusing puzzle, the St. Louis Rams lost their franchise quarterback Sam Bradford, again to that same dreaded torn ACL injury. With Cousins being a young and capable backup with some game experience, rumors began to swirl linking the two teams because of their history in trading picks for the Redskins’s right to select Griffin. However, at this time Rams’s coach Jeff Fisher claims he is sticking with his veteran backup, former Maryland standout Shaun Hill.

For now, there will not major developments or changes at the quarterback position for the Redskins. Griffin will start and continue to do so until he physically cannot or he loses the support of his teammates. Some fans may be quick to blame Griffin for last year’s disappointment simply because he did not save a team that had an atrocious defense and special teams.

Cousins will continue to be the guy who is one play away from getting into the game. Cousins will have to bide his time while Griffin gets every opportunity to fulfill the promise that everyone saw in 2012. Perhaps Cousins’ best opportunity might be with another franchise, but for now, he’s the backup unless Griffin proves once and for all he’s unfit for the job.

Colt McCoy will be retained as the third string signal caller because of Griffin’s injury history and is more than capable in that role, as he could be many teams’ primary backup.

The organization, coaching staff, players and all Redskins fans hope Griffin shakes off the rust, quiets the doubters, and takes his team to new heights.

Washington Redskins 53-man Roster Analysis

The Washington Redskins trimmed their roster down to 53 players before today’s 4 p.m. deadline. Here’s everything you need to know about the players who made and did not make the cut:

One of the most debated cuts was the running back position, where the Redskins made a somewhat surprising move by keeping on three running backs and a fullback in Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Roy Helu, and Silas Redd. Ultimately Chris Thompson couldn’t stay healthy long enough to make an impact leading to his release and Lache Seastrunk proved to be too raw of a prospect for the 53-man roster. I’m actually a big fan of this move, I think it was clear from the pre-season that Redd is the most game-ready back out of the four on the bubble (Redd, Thompson, Seastrunk, Royster) and could be the teams best pass blocker. In addition to his role on offense, it was Redd’s special teams contributions that probably punched his ticket onto the 53-man roster.

The other “surprise” cut was Phillip Thomas. The second-year safety was in the same boat as Chris Thompson — he couldn’t stay on the field long enough to show his potential. Thomas has practice squad eligibility, and will likely end up there if he clears waivers.

As most expected the Redskins kept all three quarterbacks on the final roster. With Griffin’s durability concerns this was both a smart and not surprising move.

The Redskins kept nine offensive lineman, including two backups each at the guard and tackle positions. The one concern I have with this area is the lack of depth at center if something were to happen to Kory Lichtensteiger.

Trenton Robinson and Akeem Davis show the importance of special teams play and how it can affect a players roster spot. Robinson and Davis were two of the best special teams players on the Redskins this pre-season; both were considered long-shots to make the final roster at the beginning of camp, but both fought their way onto the final roster mostly through special teams ability.

Kai Forbath edged out rookie Zach Hocker to win the kicking battle, and after a strong performance Tress Way won the punting job.

There are conflicting reports about the cornerback position, the Washington Post has Chase Minnifield on the final 53 with Tracy Porter cut. On, however, both players are listed on the roster. We will clear this up as soon as possible. [UPDATE: Minnifield was indeed released and Porter made the team.]

After a strong performance in the final pre-season game Gabe Miller beat out Everette Brown for the final outside linebacker spot.

In addition to the cuts the Redskins placed Stephen Bowen and Leonard Hankerson on the PUP list, and Chris Neild and Darryl Sharpton on injured reserve.

Here’s the Redskins full roster heading into the season opener:

Quarterback (3): Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy

Running Back (4): Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Roy Helu, Silas Redd,

Tight End (3): Jordan Reed, Logan Paulson, Niles Paul,

Wide Receiver (6): Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts, Ryan Grant, Aldrick Robinson, Santana Moss

Offensive Line (9): Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester, Tyler Polumbus, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long, Josh LeRibeus, Tom Compton

Defensive Line (7): Chris Baker, Barry Cofield, Jason Hatcher, Jarvis Jenkins, Kedric Golston, Clifton Geaters, Frank Kearse

Inside Linebackers (5): Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley, Adam Hayward, Will Compton, Akeem Jordan

Outside Linebackers (4): Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Gabe Miller

Cornerback (5): DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Bashaud Breeland, Chase Minnifield/Tracy Porter, EJ Biggers

Safety (4): Ryan Clark, Bacarri Rambo, Trenton Robinson, Akeem Jordan

Specialist (3): Nick Sundberg, Kai Forbath, Tress Way

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins preseason finale win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Here are five big takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 24-10 preseason finale win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday night and the implications:

  1. The Washington Redskins have had a good preseason avoiding injuries in their first three contests, and they survived the huge scare when Morgan Moses went down with a knee injury last Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens. Unfortunately this week that was not the case as knee injuries were sustained by NT/DE Chris Neild and LILB Akeem Jordan. A source with knowledge backed up Jay Gruden’s belief that it is very likely that Neild has a significant ACL tear of his right knee according to ESPN 980 Radio. This could very easily open the door to a roster spot for Clifton Geathers, massive body that showed agility and power off the ball. Jordan is believed to have a non-major tear to either his MCL or ACL, but is preliminarily not having an end to the season quite yet. ILB is one of the toughest roster spots to project this year where guys will be cut that could produce this year. One huge thing that is helping Will Compton is his ability to play “Mike” & “Jack” positions. Jordan can only play Mike and Adam Hayward only Jack. Thus, the next men up for Washington at these positions are Geathers and Compton who have now possibly secured jobs for the rest of the year.
  2. The next toughest position to project for the Redskins is clearly at the running back position. Since Roy Helu did not receive any playing time it is safe to say that he has secured a roster. Chris Thompson needed a hall of fame performance to even creep back into the mind of Gruden as his durability is in question constantly. Thompson had two bright moments in an otherwise vanilla performance: he had a 25-yard catch and run reception and nearly an amazing touchdown run where he broke two tackles, one in the backfield, to lunge short of the goal line. That subpar performance opened the gates to Silas Redd and Lache Seastrunk who both improved their stock quite well, while Evan Royster saw limited playing time in which he did next to nothing. Redd was the workhorse with 79 yards on 14 rushes, while Seastrunk had a more mediocre six rushes for 23 yards. The thing that Seastrunk has had on his resume since the beginning is his speed, which differentiates him from rest and it is tough to cut a guy who can a take screen pass 80 yards for a touchdown as he did in the game.
  3. The battle at wide receiver was more of the usual as Aldrick Robinson and Ryan Grant continued to shine. Robinson managed 75 yards on five receptions off eight targets, while Grant posted a similar 73 yards on five catches on a mere six targets. The things that stands out to coaches is Aldrick’s motivation to run full speed ahead on a perceivable go route to attract both the cornerback and safety, clearing the way for Chris Thompson’s 25-yard reception. On the flip side, Grant runs great routes, has good hands and is focused. Two guys who have done nearly nothing wrong this offseason have given Coach Gruden the easy decision to have quality depth behind an already elite receiving corp.
  4. A topic of speculation comes from the quarterback position as third stringer Colt McCoy played the entire game with most of the second string weapons. McCoy posted great fantasy numbers with 321 yards and two touchdowns, but had two end zone interceptions which dropped his QBR down to 105.7. Numbers that are both appropriate and welcomed for a third stringed quarterback, but not numbers to assure a roster spot on a team that may be looking to keep an extra guy in another area. That begs the question was this McCoy audition to show Gruden that he would be idiotic to cut such an asset? Did backup signal caller Kirk Cousins not play because he is about to be traded to the Rams? Or maybe he should have played to potentially raise his worth even more? All of these are possible explanations, but we will never know the answer. If Cousins is indeed staying with the team for the season, then McCoy is probably not needed.
  5. The preseason is over and now it is time to look forward and start scheming against the Houston Texans. Gruden will have to put some fairy dust on his current starting offensive line to keep Robert Griffin III clean from the dynamic bookends of Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt. As fans we are all anxiously awaiting the start of the 2014 season and cannot wait!

Washington Redskins Preseason Game 4 Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It may have been a short week for the Washington Redskins, but it certainly was not short on drama.

From a quarterback controversy to a suspension to a “will he or won’t he” scenario that had Coach Jay Gruden playing his starters against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Thursday, the Redskins certainly do not look like a team ready for the start of the regular season.

Many are blaming Redskins great Joe Theismann for at least stirring the quarterback controversy pot with his problematic comments to ESPN, but it’s Robert Griffin III’s production — or lack thereof — that ignited the debate in the first place. Let’s be honest, there is no quarterback controversy in Washington, regardless of what Theismann or the thousands of fans calling for a switch behind center are suggesting. It cannot, however, be what Gruden or Griffin envisioned for the offence after three preseason games, the last of which was RG3’s worst outing.

Even with the offense sputtering, Gruden announced on Tuesday that he had no plans of playing his starters against the Bucs, allowing every Redskins fan to exhale. Then begs the question: was Gruden purposely vanilla this preseason, stunting the offence and Griffin’s efficiency or is Griffin and the starting offense as bad as they appear?

We’ll have to wait until Sept. 9 in Houston to find out.

With the first round of cuts in the books, the dreaded and often ugly fourth preseason game will be the last chance for players on the bubble to put some plays on tape. All NFL teams are required to trim their rosters to 53 players in advance of the 4 p.m. deadline on Saturday, Aug. 30.

There will a number of positions up for grabs when the Redskins travel to Tampa Bay on Thursday, Aug. 28.  Kickoff from Raymond James Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. NBC-4 and Comcast SportsNet will broadcast the game to a local audience. The game can also be heard on the Redskins Radio Network.

Third Running Back: Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. haven’t set the world on fire this preseason but they’re not going anywhere. They are locks for this squad and should be. The question is, who is going to be No. 3, joining Morris, Helu Jr., and fullback Darryl Young on the Redskins roster?

Rookies Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd have been spotty but impressive, while incumbent Evan Royster has done everything he can to outplay fellow veteran Chris Thompson.

It is no secret that fans and coaches love Thompson, thanks to his world-class speed, but the guy can’t stay on the field. Gruden went as far as suggesting on Tuesday that the second-year pro needed to learn how to play through pain; not exactly what you would call a glowing endorsement. With Andre Roberts handling returns, Thompson is going to need a miracle to make this team, and chances are he’s not going to find one in Tampa.

Royster has been quietly doing what he’s done since the Redskins drafted him in 2011 — make plays. Not gifted with tremendous speed, Royster has good hands and can be a hard runner when he wants to be. He has shown in the past that if he’s given a chance, he can reel off a 100-yard game or two. With both Seastrunk and Redd battling Royster for one, perhaps two spots, this is going to come down to a numbers game for Royster.

Right now, those numbers are not stacked in his favor, and he will most likely join Thompson on the unemployment line. If the Redskins decide to carry four running backs on the roster, look for them stash Redd on the practice squad if he’s not snatched up first.

Safety Valve: Thanks to his second suspension in as many years, safety Brandon Merriweather will miss the first two games of the regular season, baring the outcome of an appeal, once again leaving Washington coaches scrambling to find a square peg to stuff in a round hole.

With Philip Thomas sidelined with a foot injury, Bacarri Rambo and EJ Biggers, neither natural strong safeties, will be called upon to fill the void. This may be a blessing in disguise for Rambo, who DeAngelo Hall called the preseason’s best defender.

After what can only be considered a disastrous rookie campaign that saw Rambo miss more tackles than he made, he lost what could have been a starting free safety gig to veteran Ryan Clark. The Redskins are no doubt hoping Rambo can be that square peg in Merriweather’s absence, but if he’s not, Biggers has made a career of filling in where he’s needed, splitting time between corner and safety for the Skins last season, and is capable of being a stopgap for two games.

Merriweather’s suspension, combined with Thomas’s injury, which requires a trip to Dr. James Anderson in North Carolina, could end up being yet another reason for coaches to find a place on the roster for rookie linebacker-turned-safety, Akeem Davis, who is a tremendous athlete and has impressed many this offseason. It will be fun to see if Davis can continue to make an impact on Thursday and find his way onto the team.

All Hands on Deck: It has been a long time since the Redskins have had too many talented wide receivers, a problem Gruden has no trouble accepting.

We know Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and Andre Roberts are 1-2-3 respectively on the depth chart, leaving spots four, five and six up for grabs. For anyone who’s watched a game this preseason, you know Ryan Grant, a 2014 fifth-round pick out of Tulane, has wrapped up one of those remaining spots, meaning veterans Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Nick Williams, and Aldrick Robinson are left fighting for the scraps.

Robinson has been productive this preseason, albeit against second and third stringers, and has, along with Grant, been a favorite of Kirk Cousins. Once a one-trick pony, Robinson has also shown this preseason that he is more than just a burner, flashing good hands and making the tough catches in traffic. Moss has been steady, and has shown he still has some burst, which may be enough to entice Gruden to make him the sixth wideout heading into the regular season. Although coaches love his size, look for the oft-injured Hankerson to join Williams as the odd men out.

Stay Healthy: There’s going to be 22 men cleaning out their lockers on Saturday. Up to 10 can be added to Washington’s practice squad, while the others will be released. Of those, some may find employment with another team.

An injury can change all of that.

Sure coaches will be looking for players to put plays on tape, to impress, to win a job, but what they are really hoping for is an injury-free 60 minutes of football. There will be players on the field Thursday who will end up playing important roles for the 2014 Redskins, whether as a backup or special teams.

With their 22 starters set, the Redskins have one goal: survive Thursday.

Joe Mercer is a Contributor to District Sports Page. A communications specialist with a municipal government north of the border, Joe is an aspiring author with close to 20 years experience in the newspaper business. Starting as a sports reporter covering the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts for a small daily newspaper in Barrie, Ontario, Joe is also a self-taught graphic designer with more than a dozen regional and national newspaper awards to his credit. A Redskins fanatic since the early 80s, Joe has often made the 12-hour journey from his hometown 45 minutes north of Toronto to Washington for both training camp and regular season games. You can follow Joe on Twitter @stylesmcfresh.

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden comments on Brandon Meriweather’s suspension

The Washington Redskins have their final preseason game of 2014 on Thursday at Raymond James Stadium against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Redskins are coming off of a 23-17 road loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday. Washington is 2-1 this preseason and the Buccaneers are 1-2 after beating the Buffalo Bills 27-14 on the road on Saturday.

[Read more...]

Washington Redskins Monday Morning Roundup

Here’s a look at the top stories coming off Washington’s 23-17 preseason loss to Baltimore:

Washington Post, Liz Clarke: Redskins vs. Ravens: Robert Griffin III struggles, Redskins lose, 23-17

“Of the six drives Griffin engineered, two were three-and-outs. One ended with a sack; another with an interception.

Through three preseason games, the first-team offense has yet to score a touchdown.” [Read more...]

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...]

%d bloggers like this: