The New York Giants made 18 of their players available for media interviews on Tuesday afternoon. Some faces were familiar, others were new. Here are four quick things I took away from the day:

1. Eli Manning's ankle injury may not turn out to be a huge deal, but it's not a small one either. Manning is getting around on crutches right now, though he ditched them before he came out to stand in a walking boot in front of cameras and answer questions Tuesday. (I don't blame him for that, by the way. I'd probably do the same.) Asked directly whether he would be ready for the start of training camp, Manning said, "I think I'm safe to say I'll be 100 percent by the start of training camp." Then he paused and made that face he makes when he's not all the way comfortable with something and said, "I would hope so."

Now, it's important to note that the Giants start training camp a week earlier than usual this year due to their participation in the Hall of Fame game. So it's possible that Manning would be ready by the usual start of training camp but not by July 22, when the Giants are likely to start this year. But regardless of those semantics, it definitely appears that Manning and the Giants are prepared for the likelihood that Manning will miss the on-field portions of OTAs and probably the June minicamp. Manning is a stickler for practice and never misses a chance to discuss the importance of everyone being on the field practicing together. So if his arrival on the practice field is delayed by a month or more, that has to have an impact on his mindset, if nothing else.

2. Chris Snee is a big wild card. We've been treating the Giants' veteran offensive lineman as a question mark, and until we see him back on the field and playing the way he used to play, we'll continue to do so. But Snee said his offseason program has been completely different from what it was last year -- that he's been able to do much more in terms of strength and conditioning work and that he's basically going through a normal offseason of preparation, ready for full practice when the time comes. The potential benefits of a fully healthy Snee to the Giants' offensive line simply cannot be overstated.

3. The new offense will be very new. Lots of talk about new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and what he's installing. Everybody thinks it's going to look a lot like what they run in Green Bay, which is where McAdoo came from. Victor Cruz talked about the simplification of the passing game routes under McAdoo versus the option routes on which Kevin Gilbride's offense relied. There's a lot of learning to be done, and especially with Manning on the shelf you wonder how quickly they can become proficient with it. But the Giants are going to look a lot different this year when they have the ball.

4. They were on message on Will Hill. The Giants have a good media relations staff, and with the news breaking in the morning that safety Will Hill had failed another drug test and was in the process of appealing a potentially lengthy suspension, the players were prepared to answer questions about Hill. Everyone who was asked used the word "support" and talked about Hill as a good guy and teammate who needs help dealing with his issues. I question the characterization of a player who keeps getting suspended as a good teammate, since a good teammate is generally an available one. And I have my doubts about how far the Giants organization's "support" will extend if Hill loses his appeal. I have to think he's probably done here. But Stevie Brown is a question mark as an ACL recovery case, and Quintin Demps was signed more for his kick-return abilities than for his safety abilities. So it's possible they let this play out and see just how mad they want to get about Hill's latest headache.
IRVING, Texas -- Before people get carried away with Kyle Orton's absence from the Dallas Cowboys' offseason program, two factors need to be put out there: the workouts are voluntary and he missed just one day.

But the Cowboys should not look at Orton's absence as a one-day deal. They should take a worst-case scenario look at it. They need to determine whether Orton really wants to play football in 2014, despite what they heard from the player's agent and the fact Orton would be walking away from $3.25 million.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsGiven some of the current uncertainty surrounding backup Kyle Orton, should the Cowboys look to select a quarterback in next month's draft?
It could be as simple as him not wanting to play anymore. He is the second-highest paid backup quarterback in the NFL behind Matt Moore ($4 million) of the Miami Dolphins, so money wouldn't seem to be an issue. He has been content in his role as a backup to Tony Romo, so opportunity wouldn't seem to be an issue.

Undoubtedly the Cowboys have spoken directly to Orton this offseason with the whispers of him thinking about retirement. What was discussed is not known. Did he tell them he would play or not play?

Orton holds the cards here because he does not have to show up until the mandatory June minicamp. If he does not report for that, then he would face fines up to close to $70,000. If he does report, what kind of condition is he in?

The Cowboys can trade him or release him. What kind of return would they get for a player who may or may not report to a new team? If they release him, then they would forfeit the right to pick up $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2011. After the Jeremiah Ratliff fiasco, you would think the Cowboys would be more vigilant in these kinds of cases.

They could keep him and hope he arrives at the June minicamp in good shape and is ready to go when the team reports to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp. Hope, however, should not be their strategy.

Yet there is a more immediate question raised from Orton's absence. Does it push quarterback up the ladder when it comes to the draft?

The Cowboys signed Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal in the offseason with no signing bonus. They liked him coming into the 2012 draft, but not as much as the Cleveland Browns liked him. He had more interceptions than touchdown passes, but the Cowboys have taken a no-risk look at him.

What can they learn about Weeden before the draft? Not much. Coaches are not allowed on the field with the players until Phase 2 of the offseason program, which comes the week of the draft.

The Cowboys attended Aaron Murray's workout at Georgia last week. They talked with Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales at the NFL scouting combine. They had a number of quarterbacks at their Dallas Day workouts last week in Garrett Gilbert, Casey Pachall and James Franklin, but they did not have a quarterback among their national visitors.

The Cowboys aren't exactly being held hostage by Orton, but his decision (or indecision) could go a long way in how they plan to attack the draft.
The atmosphere Jay Gruden would create seemed like something Washington needed. Not because the players disliked Mike Shanahan, but because it would be different. After the end of last season, different was welcomed.

And, for one player at least, different was needed.

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
Rob Foldy/USA TODAY SportsA change of scenery for Jay Gruden could benefit his new team, the Redskins, as well as his old team, the Bengals.
Funny thing is, that's what they're saying in Cincinnati, too. At least to some degree. Here's what ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey wrote in an item on quarterback Andy Dalton.
"Credit Cincinnati's new offensive coordinator for sending the right message through the media in February when he promised from the NFL combine to be just the disciplinarian the team needs. He felt there were players on the team who hadn't been coached hard lately who needed to be. Dalton was one of them, he said. He wanted Dalton and receiver A.J. Green to blossom into bigger leaders as they entered their fourth seasons.

"If a guy's not performing at a high level, there's a reason," [offensive coordinator Hue] Jackson said in February. "They have work to do, but it's my job as leader of the group, along with the head coach, to create that environment to be all they can be."

"Jackson has been known for much of his career as being a Mike Zimmer-type of coach, one who isn't afraid to check players. He will be the first to curse them out when they've done wrong and shower them with praise when they've done right. It's clear that Jackson's prodding has been received by Dalton.

"He's going to push guys," Dalton said of Jackson's coaching style Monday. "[Former offensive coordinator] Jay [Gruden] had a different style than what Hue is going to bring. Guys are just going to have to get used to how Hue does things. Obviously, we haven't been out to practice yet, so I don't know exactly what it's going to be like with Hue running everything now, but it is going to be a little different than Jay."

That's not to say Gruden's style didn't work. The Bengals went from 32nd to 20th in total yards in the three years before Gruden arrived as offensive coordinator. Under him, they went 20th, 22nd and 10th in total yards. They also went 18th, 12th and sixth in total points (in the three years prior: 32, 22 and 22).

And he helped Dalton play better than many thought he could. But three straight one-and-done playoff appearances, with a sputtering offense, led some to believe the Bengals' offense might be better off with a new voice. Enter Jackson.

That said, the Redskins hope Gruden's voice is exactly the one that takes them places. One thing to note: The Redskins coach who might be the biggest disciplinarian could be special-teams coach Ben Kotwica, who has a military background. A coach like this is needed; too many player-friendly coaches can lead to issues (just like if all were disciplinarians). But we still don't know how Gruden will be as a head coach.

Anyway, if the Redskins do improve this season, there will be many contributing factors: a physically better Robert Griffin III and signing receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. But one thing Gruden had in Cincinnati was a strong relationship with Dalton. If he develops one with Griffin, that, too, would help.

If not, the Redskins will look for their own disciplinarian in a few years.
So New York Giants safety Will Hill could be suspended for the season as a result of his latest failed drug test. Or not. He could win his appeal and not be suspended at all. There's no way to know what's going to happen with Hill. That is his defining characteristic. It's why his very promising NFL career is unlikely to ever really happen.

The Giants love Hill's talent. He was the best player in their secondary for much of the 2013 season, and they were looking ahead to this fall with him penciled in as one of their starting safeties. But they also signed Stevie Brown and Quintin Demps, both of whom have starting experience, because the one thing they know for sure about Hill is that they can't count on him.

Four-game drug suspensions in 2012 and 2013 leave Hill teetering on the edge of the league's drug program, with the NFL likely to suspend him a full year for his next violation. That's a tough line for a team to walk with a player it likes but can't trust. Ideally, you'd like to make your plans around him, but you have to operate with the knowledge that you can't. Ideally, you want to support him as he deals with the difficult parts of his off-field life, but you can't follow him around every day of the year.

So Hill has failed another test, and even if his best-case scenario were to come true and he were to be exonerated and win his appeal, you have to think the Giants aren't going to put up with him much longer. Having to wonder every day whether you're going to get the call that tells you one of your starting safeties is suspended is a tough way to operate, especially when you're doing as much roster reassembly as the Giants are doing this offseason. If Brown is fully recovered from ACL surgery, they can go forward with him as the starter opposite Antrel Rolle, and address the position in the draft or next offseason for depth and for years beyond this one.

Hill is a very nice player, but there are good reasons he didn't get drafted. The Giants have always known he was a volatile commodity -- that they'd benefit greatly if he could stay out of trouble but that odds were he wouldn't. At this point, it's hard to say whether this latest bit of news is the one that pushes them to cut ties with Hill, but even if it's not, it's hard to shake the sense that the day is coming. And if it is, it would be tough to blame them.

Victor Cruz, one year later

April, 21, 2014
Apr 21
12:00
PM ET
Victor CruzAP Photo/Bill KostrounVictor Cruz's consistent play in 2013 meant far more than his absence from voluntary workouts.
A year ago, as the New York Giants opened their offseason program, star wide receiver Victor Cruz was not present. Cruz and the Giants were working on a long-term contract extension, which they eventually would complete, and Cruz made the decision to stay away from the voluntary portion of the offseason program as long as the deal was not yet done.

This was Cruz's perfect right, as it is the right of every player this time of year not to participate in the voluntary workouts. The criticism of players for their personal decisions not to attend the portions of the offseason programs that aren't required of them is one of my least favorite things about the NFL. "Voluntary" means voluntary, and when coaches and writers and fans get on guys for taking the time off that's available to them, I think that's just plain lousy.

But it happened to Cruz, as everyone from Tom Coughlin right on down to the fan base made it clear they were upset with Cruz for not attending non-mandatory practices. There was concern expressed about his absence's potential effect on the season and what it said about Cruz as a person, a player and a teammate.

Well, the season was a wreck all the way around, and it's hard to say anything that happened in April or May was the reason. But here's what Cruz's absence from voluntary work a year ago said about him as a person, a player and a teammate: absolutely nothing.

As the Giants' mess of a 2013 season unfolded, Cruz was one of the few consistent positives. Yes, I am well aware he didn't catch a touchdown pass after September. But he was playing in an offense that was, in the words of the team's owner, broken. The line couldn't protect the quarterback; the quarterback couldn't stop throwing it to the other team; the running game didn't exist; and the top outside receiver didn't want to play. Once defenses realized Hakeem Nicks no longer cared about trying to get open, they double-teamed Cruz and took the Giants' passing offense's one remaining threat out of the game.

Cruz's reaction to this terrible situation was to continue to play hard, fight his way open whenever possible and work to improve the parts of his game that needed work. For example, Cruz was a liability as a downfield blocker in his first two seasons in the league but a vastly improved one in 2013. He went to his coaches in training camp and told them he wanted to improve that critical and often overlooked aspect, and he did it, earning praise from the coaching staff and teammates behind the scenes. He worked hard in practice, even helping mentor backup slot receiver Jerrel Jernigan and helping develop him behind the scenes to the point that Jernigan was effective in place of an injured Cruz in December.

The injury is the only thing that kept Cruz from a third straight 1,000-yard receiving season, and it came on an effort play as Cruz was leaping to catch a pass in the third quarter of a hideous 23-0 loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Not only was Cruz still trying to make something of a lost game and a lost season, there were times when it looked as though he was the only one who was.

Why bring this up now? Because it hasn't been brought up very much. And if Cruz had gotten his big contract and then loafed through the Giants' season -- especially after they started 0-6 -- that would have been brought up a heck of a lot, and in very damning ways. Cruz went the other way, though. He went through the negotiation dance this time last year and ended up getting his money, and he reacted by working even harder and trying to get better so that everyone could see he deserved it.

It bears mentioning that a player whose priorities and focus were being questioned this time last year ended up being one of the best and most reliable players on the team. Of all the things that happened last year, signing Cruz to a long-term contract appears to have been one of the few the Giants absolutely got right.

Foles: Jackson was 'great teammate to me'

April, 20, 2014
Apr 20
8:00
AM ET
Philadelphia Eaglesquarterback Nick Foles served as an honorary captain for the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul in their 54-41 victory over the Jacksonville Sharks on Saturday.

Foles
Foles was queried by Comcast SportsNet and wound up answering a number of questions about the Eagles.

Several questions pertained to the Eagles’ recent decision to release wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who was ultimately signed by the Washington Redskins.

“You know, it's surprising,” Foles told Comcast SportsNet's Derrick Gunn on Jackson’s release. “But at the same time, you learn that it's a business. It's a tough business at times. We develop a lot of friendships on a team and I've had many of my close teammates let go. It's very tough, but at the same time you know it's part of the game, part of the business.”

Foles was asked again about his relationship with Jackson.

“He was a great teammate to me,” Foles said. “We had a great relationship on and off the field. Everybody has other things going on, but to me, personally, I really enjoyed playing with him and I'm excited that he landed on his feet. He's a heck of a player. … You wish them well. He landed on his feet and I know he's going to do well. He's a great player, he's been tremendous for me. But at the same time, we have to keep moving forward as an organization. But I do wish DeSean well. I had a blast playing with him.”

Foles also was asked about the direction of the Eagles, specifically at wide receiver.

“It will be interesting but I know that [the front office] is going to do a great job doing it,” Foles said. “Another teammate that I love dearly is [Jason] Avant, but he landed on his feet. I spoke to him the other day and I'm excited for his new journey. I know he's going to make a great impact there for [the Carolina Panthers] as he has for Philadelphia. And I'm excited for Philadelphia. I'm excited to see what happens because we've got a great group of guys and great coaches, so it'll be a good time.”

Cowboys' Twitter mailbag, Part 2

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 2 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • Why the Cowboys would even consider drafting offense in the first round.
  • Why the Cowboys could draft offensive line in the first round.
  • Why the coaching staff could look a lot different.
  • Why I think the Cowboys would pass on Teddy Bridgewater.

If you want to see Part 1, click here.

Away we go:

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
10:00
AM ET
A little more balanced mailbag for Saturday, with four questions on the draft but three on other topics, including Robert Griffin III and who will make the biggest impact of anyone not named DeSean Jackson. Enjoy.

The Washington Redskins' defense is optimistic about where it's headed, thanks to the addition of Jason Hatcher and a tweaked philosophy regarding the pass rush. Whether their play matches that optimism always remains the biggest hurdle. What's not in doubt: They will have two players among the most expensive at their positions when it comes to the salary cap. The fact both are in their front seven isn't a coincidence as the Redskins' offseason goal has been to improve the pass rush. So, after breaking down where the Redskins' top cap hits at each position offensively stood in comparison to their NFL counterparts earlier this week, it's time to take a look at the defense.

Safety

NFL's top five cap hits
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs $11,619,700
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers, $10,100,000
Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, $9,250,000
Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $9,000,000
Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans, $8,000,000

Meriweather
Redskins' top cap hit
Brandon Meriweather (59th), $1,000,000

Summing it up: Notice who’s not in the top five? Jairus Byrd, after his new deal with New Orleans. But don’t worry: He’s set to take up the most cap room in 2015 at $10.3 million. I like Byrd, but not at that figure (I’d have paid Sean Taylor that sort of cash). But Byrd was never really a legitimate option for the Redskins. Mike Mitchell was and he’ll count $2.2 million this season and $4.95 million in 2015. But the overriding point is Washington views the best way to help this position is by bolstering the pass rush. Starters Meriweather and Ryan Clark both are on one-year contracts, so this position is still a question mark beyond this season (and still will be one entering the year).

Corner

NFL's top five cap hits
Brandon Carr, Dallas, $12,217,000
Johnathan Joseph, Houston, $11,250,000
Lardarius Webb, Baltimore, $10,500,000
Brandon Flowers, Kansas City, $10,500,000
Tramon Williams, Green Bay, $9,500,000

Porter
Redskins' top cap hit
Tracy Porter (43rd), $2,800,000

Summing it up: Next season, Darrelle Revis' cap hit jumps to $25 million. Which means he’s playing on a one-year deal. Is it a good thing the Redskins’ biggest cap hit here belongs to Porter, who has battled injury issues along with consistency during his career? Of course, it’s not like he occupies a lot of space. DeAngelo Hall's cap hit is $2,062,500 but that jumps to $4,812,500 in 2015. By then the Redskins need young corner David Amerson to have fully emerged -- can he become their best corner? If not, then they’ll have to start looking for a No. 1 corner. By the way, the top five on the list for 2014? They’ve combined for four Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro spot (Joseph). But Carr did do a good job vs. Washington last year (and in at least one game against then-Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson).

Linebacker

NFL's top five cap hits
Lawrence Timmons, $11,816,250
Tamba Hali, Kansas City, $11,464,706
Brian Orakpo, Washington, $11,455,000
Clay Matthews, Green Bay, $10,943,750
James Laurinaitis, St. Louis, $10,400,000

Orakpo
Redskins' top cap hit
Orakpo

Summing it up: That’s quite a list for Orakpo to be part of, but to stay on there after this season -- at least in Washington -- he’ll have to be a little more productive. But even if he has another season like last year, Orakpo will still be in the $10-million range. When Hali got paid, he responded with sack totals of 12, nine and 11 in the next three seasons (with nine forced fumbles and one interception). I don’t think anyone says Hali's overpaid (well, at least not many). In Orakpo’s last three full seasons, he has a combined 27.5 sacks, but only four forced fumbles. More game-changing plays and he’ll get the contract he desires. Another interesting part on this is that two of the five are inside linebackers, though Timmons plays in a 3-4 and Laurinaitis in a 4-3.

Defensive tackle

NFL's top five cap hits
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, $22,412,000
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore, $16,000,000
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, $15,627,253
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati, $9,000,000
Barry Cofield, Washington, $7,667,500

Cofield
Redskins' top cap hit
Cofield

Summing it up: Cofield’s base salary jumped from $840,000 last season to $4.55 million (the lower figure was the result of a restructuring last spring in which $3.5 million in base salary was converted to a signing bonus). This is as high as Cofield’s cap number will be and in two years it falls to $6,877,500. I know the coaches felt he would become the NFL’s top nose tackle by this time. That’s not the case, but Cofield does have his strengths and has done a nice job with Washington. For a short stretch last season he was playing as well as anyone on the team defensively, and he always plays hard. He’ll be helped by having Hatcher in the pass rush, perhaps giving Cofield more one-on-one matchups. If that happens, then perhaps Cofield will have the sort of season in all phases that coaches have hoped for.

Defensive end

NFL's top five cap hits
Mario Williams, Buffalo, $18,800,000
Charles Johnson, Carolina, $16,420,000
Chris Long, St. Louis, $14,900,000
Greg Hardy, Carolina, $13,116,000
Calais Campbell , Arizona, $11,250,000

Bowen
Redskins' top cap hit
Stephen Bowen (15th), $7,020,000

Summing it up: All of the top five on this list play in a 4-3, where ends can excel as playmakers and, therefore, command big bucks. The 3-4 ends, typically, are not -- with some exceptions. Bowen has not been a playmaker, though for a while he was an effective player both against the run and as a rusher. However, he has just one sack since the 2011 season (26 games). And after microfracture surgery and being 30, I wonder about the level at which he’ll be able to play. Multiple Redskins sources said they still expect him to be in the Redskins' plans, but will it be at this cap figure? That's a big hit for someone in his situation. If Bowen returns healthy and plays well, the Redskins will greatly benefit. If not? That's a lot of cap room to occupy. One more note: Johnson and Hardy combine for approximately 23 percent of Carolina's cap.

Barkley's role in offense still developing

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
2:00
PM ET
In last year’s NFL draft, the Philadelphia Eagles traded up to select USC quarterback Matt Barkley in the fourth round.

It was an interesting decision since Barkley didn’t seem to be the type of quarterback coach Chip Kelly would like to run his offense. Then again, neither is Nick Foles and he had a record-setting season in Kelly’s offense.

Barkley
Barkley’s grade has to remain incomplete. He didn’t get many snaps and was pushed into playing time when Foles and Michael Vick went down with injuries. Barkley attempted 49 passes and threw four interceptions.

Since the Eagles signed Mark Sanchez, it’s hard to figure out where Barkley fits this season.

But Barkley was worth a fourth-round pick since he had so much success in college. Having a full offseason of organized team activities and training camp should be even more beneficial.

“If you want to take that and jab me with that, that’s fine,” Barkley told CSNPhilly.com of his numbers last season. “I’m not going to make excuses. I know what I did wrong, and I’m going to learn from it, but at the same time, I’m capable of a lot more. I’m a better quarterback than that, and I know that and the people who have watched me and know me and watched me play the last four years -- and even the last eight years, going back to high school -- know that I’m a better quarterback than that.”

When the Eagles make their fourth-round pick in next month's draft, it remains to be seen what direction they'll head. At this stage, they’ll be looking for the best player available.

Sometimes, it takes a few years to really determine if the pick was the right one. That's certainly the case with Barkley.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys will exercise the fifth-year option on Tyron Smith's contract, keeping the 2011 first-round pick with the team at least through 2015.

Smith
Smith’s agent, Joe Panos, told 105.3 The Fan on Friday that the option has not been picked up yet but “they told me it’s going to happen.” A source indicated Thursday that the Cowboys had already exercised the option, like teams had done earlier in the day with other first-round picks from the 2011 draft, like Houston’s J.J. Watt.

Once the Cowboys pick up the option, Smith will earn $10.039 million in 2015, but it would not preclude the team and Smith from working out a multi-year deal, which is the hope. The 2015 base salary is guaranteed for injury and would become fully guaranteed if Smith is on the roster the first day of the league year in 2015.

The Cowboys took Smith with the ninth pick in the 2011 draft, and he has missed just one game in three seasons. He played right tackle as a rookie before moving to left tackle in his second year. He earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last season.

Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have to pay Smith the transition tag money due to offensive linemen in 2014 ($10.039 million) because he was a top-10 pick. The Cowboys had to pick up the option by May 2 or Smith would have become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Smith, who does not turn 24 until December, is considered one of the best offensive linemen in the game. The Cowboys want to sign Smith to a long-term deal and have made him a priority, as well as wide receiver Dez Bryant, whose contract expires after the 2014 season.

Smith signed a four-year, $12.496 million deal in 2011 that was fully guaranteed and included a $7.588 million signing bonus.

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
12:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys' Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
  • What I would do with the 16th pick in the draft if I was the general manager.
  • What about a quarterback in the second round?
  • What about Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne?
  • What about the salary-cap implications of letting Kyle Orton go?

Away we go:
 
In the fifth part of our re-examining series, I take a look at cornerback where the Redskins made a couple moves, though only one key addition. Already this week I've discussed safeties, the pass rush, receivers and the offensive line.

[+] EnlargeDeAngelo Hall
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliDeAngelo Hall is back for his seventh season in Washington.
What they’ve done: Re-signed DeAngelo Hall, re-signed E.J. Biggers, signed Tracy Porter, let Josh Wilson leave via free agency.


Problem solved: Tough to say that considering it’s largely the same group that’s returning. But the corner play wasn’t nearly the same issue as safety. Porter is coming off a solid year and should be improved over Wilson in the slot in coverage. Amerson’s progression will be a big key here. Hall isn’t going to get better but if he duplicates last season they’d be happy; Biggers is fine as a fourth corner. They still could use one more corner to compete with Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford. Overall this group still has a lot to prove.

Projected starters: Hall and Amerson with Porter in the slot.

What must happen: Amerson must be able to handle a starting role after serving as the No. 3 corner during his rookie season. Amerson definitely improved throughout the year, cutting down on his mental lapses in coverage. He was better with his eyes throughout the play later in the year. He learned to play press coverage last season, which should be a good tactic for him because of his long arms. He needs to show consistency and prove he can handle consistently tougher assignments as a starter (though it’s not as if he only played lesser receivers; he did a good job vs. Denver’s Eric Decker, for example). Amerson will have to show he can handle run game duties, too.

Porter has to play at a comparable level to 2013 -- I know what some rankings say about him, but those who watched him every game and in practice called him the Raiders' most consistent corner. In the games I watched of him this offseason (Indianapolis, Denver and Dallas), he was solid. He showed good patience in the slot while facing receivers such as Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker and Miles Austin (and occasionally Eric Decker or even Dez Bryant, who was a mismatch inside against him). When Porter allowed bigger catches, it typically came off an excellent move and good throw because he still had tight coverage. He’s willing to play the run, but Wilson was stronger in this area. And Porter showed he could blitz from the slot. Porter’s previous seasons weren't that strong, which is why he’s on his fourth team in four years. Injuries have been an issue in his career; last season was his first playing 16 games and only his second of more than 12. So staying healthy is a big key. Hall needs to maintain the same level of intensity he showed in 2013 when facing many top receivers. He played well and was most effective in press coverage. Hall also turns 31 this season and he was not as consistent in other coverages.

Address in the draft: Sure, but not until the later rounds. It would be a waste to select a corner in the second round knowing they would serve as a No. 4 at best. It’s not like, say, outside linebacker where they’d be used in packages to bolster the pass rush. What if the corner is by far their best on the board? OK. But short of that, they can address the position later in the draft and try to develop the player. They need depth right now, not starters (you can debate the quality of them; but they’re invested and it’s not a need). Next year? Different story. Minnifield and Crawford still have something to prove; the former spent most of the year on the practice squad and the latter missed all season with multiple torn ligaments. It’s asking a lot to expect him to be at the same level he was entering camp last summer. When he entered camp he and the coaches felt good about how he had improved in the slot. The feisty Minnifield has to show he can be effective in more coverages than just press.

Last word: This group will definitely be helped by increased quarterback pressure. Too often last season the coverages didn’t seem to match the rush, for whatever reason. And when they’d play zone, that’s when they’d get into trouble. They’re not good enough to just play press man all day. Few corners are so they must be able to play a variety of coverages. But if you know the pressure will get home, then you can play tighter even in zones. If safety Ryan Clark has anything left, he’ll also help in two ways: making sure everyone is lined up right (sounds little, but it’s not) and providing trust that he’ll be where he’s supposed to, allowing the corners to play accordingly. It matters.
The Washington Redskins can host up to 30 players before the draft, but who they do doesn't always tell the entire story of their interest. And we don't really know how what visits mean for this regime: How many of these players will they ultimately select? Some teams draft maybe one or two players that they actually hosted.

That said, some things are telling. First I'm going to take a look at the offensive players mentioned. What stands out: They've looked at several tackles. That's no surprise, but I think the plan all along was to look harder at the draft for this spot than free agency (where they brought in only Donald Penn).

It's also true that in some cases the Redskins might not want to draft certain players, but would bring them in because they want a book on them for the future -- in case they get cut or become free agents down the road.

Anyway, take the visits for what they're worth but the positions they're looking at are noteworthy. These are players who either have visited, will visit or have talked to them about visiting. I've used reports from the Washington Post, myself, ESPN980, SiriusXM radio and 106.7. I also used some info from draft analysts for ESPN.com, CBS Sports and NFL.com. And in finishing this item, I came across a similar format on a site called Pro Player Insiders.

Here are the offensive players who either have visited or will:


T/G Jack Mewhort, Ohio State

Projection: Third round

Comment: Mewhort played left tackle and both guard spots in college and was a solid player. He's athletic, but lean at 6-foot-6, 308 pounds. He's a much better fit in a zone blocking system, an outside one at that, than anything else. Which, of course, the Redskins use. I don't think he's going to overpower any defender.

How he'd fit: Mewhort would have to be viewed as the eventual starter at right tackle, but I'd be surprised if it happened right away. If he can't handle right tackle, he could always slide inside so if nothing else he'd find a way to be productive. However, he'd have to learn to consistently play lower if that were the case. It was an issue in college.

WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
Projection: Mid-to-late rounds

Comment: Coming off a 72-catch season. Has good size at 6-2, 215 pounds and excellent hands. But he's not a fast receiver and analysts worry about his ability to defeat athletic corners in the NFL.

How he'd fit: Developmental receiver and depth.

OT Morgan Moses, Virginia

Projection: Second round

Comment: He has clear ability, but for a guy who projects this high he also seems to be a bit of a project. He has good size at 6-6, 314 pounds, but doesn't always bend his knees. The fact that Washington is looking at him suggests the Redskins want to upgrade right tackle and might do so with its first pick.

How he'd fit: Despite faring better on the left side in college, he'd be the future starter at right tackle with Washington. Day 1 starter? Hard to see, but if you're a second-round pick you should be ready to start at some point that first season.

OT Cameron Fleming, Stanford

Projection: Second round

Comment: He's not considered a fast or agile tackle, so I wonder how he'd fit in with Washington. He's considered by analysts to be better as a drive blocker. But he did not receive high marks for his pass protection skills. Honestly, after reading more about him, I'm not sure why he's projected to this round.

How he'd fit: I really don't know based on his fit with a zone scheme. Perhaps they view him more as a guard long-term than anything else.

WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

Projection: Late rounds

Comment: He attended Bishop McNamara in Forestville, Md. He's 6-6, which is great except that there aren't many receivers that size in the NFL. It can be tough to get in and out of breaks when you're that tall. But he'd make an inviting red zone target if nothing else, though it takes more than size to excel here. He caught 92 passes in college (20 for touchdowns).

How he'd fit: Developmental guy. The Redskins could afford to bring him along slowly. Nothing wrong with that.

OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

Projection: Second, possibly third round

Comment: He has good size (6-5, 336) and long arms, two welcomed traits at tackle. Richardson received higher marks for his pass protection skills than anything. He's considered to have good enough quickness to handle the right side.

How he'd fit: Eventual starter at right tackle. Day one? Tough to say, but has traits worth grooming.

RB Charles Sims, West Virginia

Projection: Mid-to-late rounds

Comment: He has excellent hands and quickness. Has good speed, though not a burner. Analysts consider him a better fit in a zone system (like the Redskins).

How he'd fit: A third down pass-catcher. The Redskins have Roy Helu and Chris Thompson as possibilities here, but both have question marks.
IRVING, Texas -- So far Mel Kiper Jr. has followed the Dallas Cowboys' draft needs in his mock drafts.

In his first two mocks, he offered up Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. In his third, he went with Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. In his Grade A mock, he went with Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald.

In Kiper's Mock draft 4.0 , he has gone away from the defensive side of the ball.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider