NFC East: Washington Redskins
Breakdown: The Redskins will be the first team to see just how much better defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh makes the Miami Dolphins. And the Redskins' start could provide a chance for instant success with consecutive home games. In 2011, the Redskins played their first two games at home and won both -– and then went 3-11 the rest of the season. Still, they need to give the fan base a boost after a 4-12 season, and winning immediately at home would help. But the real test will be the following two games, starting at the New York Giants and then hosting the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins have gone 2-12 in NFC East games the past two seasons, so a good start here is a must. After the bye, life gets interesting with a game at New England –- their first game against a 2014 playoff team -– followed by intriguing teams New Orleans and Carolina. The Panthers played well down the stretch and made the playoffs at 7-9. The Saints also went 7-9 but still have a dangerous quarterback in Drew Brees. These games will set the tone for the rest of the season.
Complaint department: The Redskins finish with three road games in the last four weeks, including consecutive road games at Philadelphia and Dallas to close the season. Chicago, the first of the three away games, is a rebuilding team with a new coach. So the Bears are a wild card in this, but to finish with two division games on the road is brutal, especially with one being a night game. If the Redskins catch some breaks and are contending entering this stretch, then they’d better hope they build some cushion entering those two games. Otherwise they’d have to finish strong against the two best teams in the division a year ago. The lone home game in that stretch is against Buffalo, a team that could be on the rise.
Finishing touch: The Redskins will get a long break from divisional games this season. After playing the Giants and Eagles in consecutive weeks, they go from Oct. 4 until Nov. 29 without facing a team in their division -– and then they finish with four of their last six games in the NFC East. That’s good and bad. In 2012, the Redskins believed they were still in contention even at 3-6 because five of their seven remaining games were against division opponents. Every game is important, but you can make up a lot of ground with a hot finish versus division foes. Sure enough, they won all five as part of their seven-game winning streak en route to a division title.
Strength of schedule: 21st, .479
Redskins regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 13, Miami, 1:00 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 20, St. Louis, 1:00 p.m.
Week 3: Thursday, Sept. 24, at NY Giants, 8:25 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 4, Philadelphia, 1:00 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 11, at Atlanta, 1:00 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 18, at NY Jets, 1:00 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 25, Tampa Bay, 1:00 p.m.
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 8, at New England, 1:00 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 15, New Orleans, 1:00 p.m.
Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 22, at Carolina, 1:00 p.m.
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 29, NY Giants, 1:00 p.m.
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 7, Dallas, 8:30 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 13, at Chicago, 1:00 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 20, Buffalo, 1:00 p.m.
Week 16: Saturday, Dec. 26, at Philadelphia, 8:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Jan. 3, at Dallas, 1:00 p.m.
USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams will visit the Redskins on Wednesday, according to the NFL Network. A week ago I'd been told that the Redskins had not expressed much interest in him. Based on how more visits are trickling out, it's clear they've been deliberate (and quiet) about who they're bringing in and when.
Here's a brief look at Williams and his visit:
What it means: Williams is considered by many as the best defensive player in the draft. Early projections had him going to Tennessee at No. 2, but now that a quarterback (Marcus Mariota) could be taken there, it then comes down to how others view Williams. Would Jacksonville take him at No. 3? Would the Raiders go for him at 4? If not, then the Redskins would have a shot at him -- if they like him, that is. They need to bring him in just for due diligence. There are many reasons to bring in a player -- creating smokescreens among them. But the reality is Williams was excellent at USC and any team seeking defensive help should be interested. I will say, not all analysts are sold on him and worry about his pass-rush ability.
Why they’d be interested: It is not a pressing need -- if the season began tomorrow, the Redskins would be in good shape up front. However, Jason Hatcher will be 33 years old this season and coming off a season full of nagging knee issues. Those rarely improve as you get older. If they wanted to draft Williams, yes they would have a surplus of linemen for now – and excellent depth. But a year from now you might be really glad they selected him. Also, his presence would lessen the load on Hatcher and provide the Redskins three potential pocket-collapsers (along with Stephen Paea). Obviously the key would be how they felt he could collapse the pocket – if they don’t view him as a pass-rusher, then you’d have to pass.
How he would fit: As a 3-4 defensive end with the ability to play inside in the nickel to collapse the pocket. The Redskins want to improve their pass rush, so if Williams falls and they like him better than the edge rushers, it’s a possibility.
Scouting report: Here’s what I wrote on Williams after watching him on film. I’ll add again: There are times you believe he should be more dominant given his skills, but he is talented.
The Washington Redskins have expressed a desire to add another pass rusher. So it makes sense that they'll host two players who could be in play when they use the fifth overall pick later his month.
Florida's Dante Fowler Jr. visited with the Redskins on Wednesday, according to a source, and Clemson's Vic Beasley will visit next week, according to the NFL Network. Both players would satisfy the desire to add a third pass-rushing outside linebacker. I've written about both Fowler and Beasley previously. Fowler's size gives him an edge if they want an immediate all-around linebacker -- at 261 pounds, he won't have to add weight to do things such as setting the edge in the run game. Fowler played all over at Florida, which might be why he wasn't as productive as some would have liked. But he flashed quite a bit. And that versatility can be seen as a plus.
Beasley added weight since the season ended, getting up to 246 pounds, and teams love his quickness. To be a full-time outside linebacker in a 3-4, he'd have to gain a few more pounds. But with Trent Murphy on the right side, the Redskins don't need someone to immediately be a stout run defender. They likely would be in nickel 60-70 percent of the time, so having three outside linebackers like this would be put to good use.
Just because the Redskins host several players does not mean they'll end up with many of them. Obviously it shows some level of interest, but in a seven-round draft with 32 teams, it's not always a strong indicator of who might go where. There have been a handful of players who have yet to schedule a visit -- or won't come -- who could end up in Washington. Pass-rushers Randy Gregory and Eli Harold have not heard a lot at this point from Washington. What does that mean? We'll find out once the draft (finally) begins on April 30.
Among others who have or will visit with the Redskins, based on various reports or tweets from their agents:
- Texas Southern CB Tray Walker: Projected as a late-round selection.
- Miami OT Ereck Flowers: Projected as a mid-first-round pick.
- Washington State QB Connor Halliday: Projected as a late-round selection.
- Kansas CB Dexter McDonald: Projected as a late-round pick.
- Nebraska G Jake Cotton: Projected as a late-round pick
- Houston DL Joey Mbu: Projected as a late-round pick or priority free agent.
- Washington DE/OLB Andrew Hudson: Projected as a late-round pick, priority free agent. Was not invited to the combine.
Taking a weekly look at various players who could tempt the Washington Redskins with the fifth overall pick in the NFL draft, watching at least three or four of their games. As the draft gets closer, I'll post these reports more frequently and take a look at other rounds as well.
Player: Eli Harold
Position: Outside linebacker
Weight: 247 pounds
Projected round: Late first, early second
Games watched: Florida State, Miami, Louisville and parts of UCLA.
What I liked: Flashed potential as a pass-rusher because of a good first step (when he reacts to the ball and not the man at the snap). Liked how he kept his balance as a rusher around the edge; he does a good job of staying low in his stance and after his first few steps. It gives him a chance and it enabled him to turn the corner. At times he had a quick get-off – against Florida State on some rushes he was a good yard or so ahead of his linemates. But that’s likely when he went off ball movement. Liked how against Miami, he was taken out of a play with a block but got back in the play and ran several yards downfield to help cause a fumble. Need to see more of that quality. He was able to beat Miami’s Ereck Flowers inside a couple times, but never finishing. He did a better job vs. Flowers when Virginia was winning big and Miami was forced to pass. Harold showed the ability to win inside; once he got to the inner half of his blocker, he could win with power. He rushed from both end positions and as a stand-up linebacker. Harold shows a nice burst from a four-point launch. While he's quick, others are definitely quicker. His 10-yard split in the 40-yard dash of 1.61 seconds is fine. (By comparison, Trent Murphy's 10-yard split was 1.67 seconds last year.)
What I didn’t like: Just didn’t see Harold make a whole lot of plays behind the line. Seems like there’s something to work with, but I would like to have seen more production. In the three-plus games that I watched, I saw one play made behind the line of scrimmage (he did have an interception off a tipped pass and forced a fumble). He’s considered an active player, but at times I did not like his pursuit if the play went away from him. On one occasion, it was a third-and-6 in which the quarterback ran to the right. As Harold jogged to the ball, the quarterback cut back inside. Had Harold not been jogging, he’d have cleaned up. Needs to work on winning with his hands; at times he tried to win with them, but there was too much of a gap between himself and the tackle for it to be effective. Seemed to react mostly on movement by the tackle; it led to some slower get-offs in some games. Seemed to lack a plan as a rusher. Flowers was able to get his head around him in the run game and seal the outside, though there were some times Harold did a nice job of forcing the runner back inside. He’ll need to learn how to disengage against stronger tackles - - or to not be thrown off his rush path by a hard shove.
Why they would want him: I think we’ve established by now the Redskins’ desire to add another pass-rusher. It’s like pitching in baseball: You can never have enough pass-rushers. Even if they believe Murphy will develop, adding another one would be good. That rusher would still be on the field 60-70 percent of the time and would help them have an impact on games. Seattle built a world-class defense in part because of its pass rush – and also crafted a secondary that paired well with that sort of line. Against Louisville, Harold did not play the run well and struggled to disengage. When he rushed from a stand-up position against Louisville, he did not always use his hips to generate power.
ESPN insider on his intangibles: “Nephew Forrest unexpectedly died of an enlarged heart while playing basketball in November 2010. Condition had gone undetected. Mother Sheila Korvette passed away from pancreatic cancer in January 2011. Brother, sisters and his mother kept the diagnosis from him until a few days before she died. African American studies major. Brother is a father figure to him. Brother also admits to dealing drugs and was convicted of cocaine possession in 1991 before becoming religious.”
How he fits: Harold would be an edge rusher and would need to develop against the run to become a full-time player. I’m not sold on him – not sure the film matched the workouts -- but my opinion doesn’t matter. So if they drafted Harold, he likely would be used as a third outside linebacker in nickel situations. If the Redskins drafted him in the second round, that would be good value. I was not wowed by him, but he has qualities that can be developed.
Not in every case, mind you, but in four of his offseason acquisitions he had an in-depth knowledge of the player. He drafted Goldson and Ricky Jean Francois; he was in Seattle when the Seahawks signed Jeron Johnson as an undrafted free agent and he still has strong connections in San Francisco who could fill him in on Culliver. That, too, is a golden rule of free agency (or trades, for that matter): Get players you know. You should make fewer mistakes that way.
Goldson is not a big risk at all. If he does not pan out, the Redskins are out $4 million this year – a good sum for a safety, but not huge. Yes, they lose a sixth-round draft pick, but they also gained a seventh. If it doesn’t work out the way they hope, then he was just a one-year rental and it’s back to trying to fill this spot. I can't tell you that this problem area is solved; more needs to be known and seen.
But the overall key is that McCloughan knows the type of player Washington received. just as he did with most of the others. And his scouting of Stephen Paea before the 2011 draft also came in handy; he liked Paea before that draft because of his research. They did not have ties to nose tackle Terrance Knighton, but they know what he adds on the field (and certainly Chris Baker could have helped provide information on his best friend). But again, Knighton is on a one-year deal. So any risk is mitigated.
McCloughan also didn’t want older players – among the new players, only Goldson is 30 years old. The rest are younger. The need at safety, combined with McCloughan’s knowledge of him, made signing someone in that age range an OK risk.
But the overall point is that McCloughan had a plan and has stuck to what he views as the blueprint to building a team. It’s a welcome change. Not every move will work out, but if you stick to your beliefs, you eventually get to where you need to go.
The Washington Redskins will return for offseason workouts April 20, the first day allowed for teams with returning head coaches. It's two weeks later than last season, when Jay Gruden was new in Washington.
They will conduct their spring practices May 26-28, June 2-4 and June 8-11, with one day each week open to the media. They will conduct their mandatory veteran minicamp June 16-18. The rookie minicamp likely will be two weeks after the draft.
Once the players resume workouts, there are three phases. The first two weeks of workouts are limited to strength and conditioning and rehabilitation only. Position coaches are not allowed to work with players on the field and no footballs can be used, unless it's a quarterback throwing to receivers who aren't being covered. Players can't wear helmets.
During the second phase, a three-week period, coaches are allowed on the field and they can put players through drills and instruct them. They can run offense-only or defense-only drills. No live contact is allowed (which is true during all the spring workouts) and no helmets can be worn.
Finally, the third phase encompasses the organized team activity sessions with 10 practices spread over three weeks. Teams can run offense-vs.-defense drills, but again, no helmets or contact.
- Well, no kidding. Any team picking in the top five should host any player projected to go in that range. It’s called due diligence. Even if you don’t think you’ll draft the player, it’s wise to meet with them. That way, you can add more information to your book on him in case he’s a free agent in a few years and you have interest. Good teams have lots of information on every player. Teams are allowed to have 30 players in for visits. Clearly they won’t be drafting all of them.
The Redskins have said they would consider drafting Mariota at No. 5 – both coach Jay Gruden and general manager Scot McCloughan said so at the owners meetings. Listen, if it’s a ruse, then you have to keep it going. And if it’s legitimate interest, then you have to do your homework. Considering the team still has concerns/doubts/whatever about Robert Griffin III, it’s not hard to imagine the interest is real. For what it's worth, Scott Frost is Oregon's offensive coordinator; Redskins coach Jay Gruden was an offensive assistant in Tampa Bay when Frost played there in 2003. And Mariota worked with Gruden's brother Jon earlier this month for his series on ESPN. Good insight is available -- yes, the word is Jon Gruden likes him, but he clearly loves quarterbacks and once was a big fan of Kirk Cousins, too (might still be, I don't know). My own guess is that Mariota will be gone by the time Washington selects. If he’s that good, then someone will trade up to No. 2 to get him – or the quarterback-starved Tennessee Titans will take him. There was a lot of love for Mariota at the owners meetings, but we've entered the poker-playing stage of the draft, so who knows what teams really think.
- I have not yet studied Mariota (on the docket for this week), but I have seen him play and I do wonder how he’ll translate to the NFL. Half his highlights involve him running and there aren’t many games where you can get a great feel for how well he’d do in the NFL. Scouts and evaluators I’ve talked to do like him (several have said he’s better than Griffin, but if both were coming out now, the latter, in my mind, would have to go ahead of Mariota). But I don’t know that they love him. That spread system has not been conducive to grooming NFL quarterbacks, but like Griffin, Mariota has talent that should translate and give him a chance to succeed. At that point it’s about more factors than the system you played in college: smarts, leadership qualities, coaching, decisiveness, durability, etc.
PHOENIX -- Sometimes it was just a text, other times a phone call early in the morning. Jay Gruden’s former boss in Cincinnati would check in on him. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis just wanted to be supportive of his former offensive coordinator.
A year ago at the owners meetings, Lewis was asked if he had warned Gruden about the perils of coaching in Washington. Lewis said, “I didn’t get the chance.” Lewis also knows any first-year coach faces adjustments, and that was no different with Gruden. It didn’t matter that Gruden had been a head coach in other leagues, it’s just different in the NFL.
“That first year as a head coach, there’s those days that come around and you can’t wait for them to be over,” Lewis said. “They become fewer and fewer. ... He’s weathered the storm and now he’s going into Year 2, everyone knows each other better, the players have a better feel for him and him for them, and that’ll be good.”
There’s another factor Lewis said can make a difference for Gruden: general manager Scot McCloughan.
“[Gruden] is excited going forward,” Lewis said. “With the addition of Scot, they added a guy who has great experience. I know Jay’s excited to be working with Scot.”
But last season was tough for Gruden as the Redskins went 4-12 and once more dealt with an atmosphere they had hoped to tame.
“I thought Jay handled them well,” Lewis said. “But I don’t have time to judge someone else. All I was there for was to be supportive of him.”
The Washington Redskins' free-agent strategy resulted in several defensive upgrades as they landed a run-stopper in the middle, a quality starting corner and an end coming off his best season. This isn't about one signing that provides hope for the defense, it's about several. How good that makes them won't be known for six months. And this defense needed to be re-made so not all the work has been completed. We've all seen here how things that look good on paper don't translate to the field. Still, it's a good start for the Redskins and, for now, that's all we have to go on.
And when you go player by player, you see why:
Out: Barry Cofield
Verdict: Better. Cofield's health hurt his play the past two years (not to mention sidelined him for eight games this season). It turns out he needed surgery to repair a torn labrum (which he has undergone) and might not be available for training camp. Had he returned, my guess is he would have played more end than nose as general manager Scot McCloughan looks for more size. But Knighton is one of the best nose tackles in the game and a true run-stuffer. Cofield had more quickness, but Knighton has girth and can anchor against double teams. He can have a big impact on early downs, something the Redskins needed. Knighton's arrival also means his best friend, Chris Baker, likely will be a backup end and nose tackle. Baker likely will still play a lot and having him as a reserve strengthens the depth. He can play both nose and end.
In: Stephen Paea
Out: Jarvis Jenkins
Verdict: Better. Jenkins never became the pass-rusher Washington hoped he would; he's athletic, but he lacked instincts and any sort of moves. Jenkins recognized this and it's why he's been training in Atlanta this offseason, but Paea already does what Jenkins hopes to do. Paea showed with Chicago last season that he could pressure the passer inside when asked to play vertical and not horizontal. His ability to get upfield on early downs should pair well with Knighton's ability to force runners wide. Jenkins improved against the run and was not the problem in that area. But Paea is better all-around.
Reserve defensive end
Out: Stephen Bowen
Verdict: Better. It's not because Jean Francois is going to be a great player for Washington. But it's because Bowen had lost his ability to rush the passer because of damaged knees. A few years ago he was good in this role, but that time passed. Jean Francois is not a quality starter, but he can be a good reserve and evaluators say he fits well in Joe Barry's scheme (basing it on San Diego, which asked its ends to attack upfield).
In: Chris Culliver
Verdict: Better. It's only speculating at this point to know what the Redskins will do at the corner opposite Culliver. Will it be DeAngelo Hall (if he's healthy, you'd think that would be the case). So who's out? David Amerson? He's a former second-round pick who did not have the sophomore season I expected. He matured about the game -- much more insight from him last season -- but he made some of the same mistakes. Regardless, Culliver is better than Amerson or Bashaud Breeland. In the games I watched of his last season, Culliver was consistent -- and not often tested. I did not see coverage breakdowns or visibly botched assignments (there are always subtle mistakes, but the ones the Redskins made last season were glaring). The key with Culliver will be him maturing off the field, where he has had issues. It's not about having choir boys; it's about having players available.
In: Jeron Johnson
Out: Brandon Meriweather
Verdict: We'll see. I like the potential of what Johnson brings, but he's started just one game. How will he fare over 16 games? If he brings a physical style and just does his job, that will help. Meriweather, when available, was capable of playing well and he had some speed that allowed for some versatility in blitzes and coverages. But he'd also have the undisciplined breakdown that would prove costly. Oh, and the illegal hits. He was a definite mixed bag so it's not as if Johnson must replace a Pro Bowler. I like the signing -- I like former undrafted players who must fight to win a job each year. They add something when it comes to a mentality. And if the Redskins improve the rush it will help all in the secondary (we've heard this before). So it might be a very good signing; I don't think it's a bad one at all considering he was not expensive and, at the least, he provides depth and more special teams help.
The Redskins’ free-agency period has yielded something unusual: positive reviews. The players they’ve signed have improved their defensive line and secondary, both areas where they needed big help. The contracts seem reasonable as well, adding to the belief that they’re off to a good start. Yes, they need more help at other areas. But they also knew they couldn’t solve every issue in the first week of free agency.
It’s not as if the Redskins were careless last season, but they did sign some player who drew more questions than any of the ones they’ve signed this offseason. It’s hard to consider nose tackle Terrance Knighton, end Stephen Paea and corner Chris Culliver as anything but upgrades. And safety Jeron Johnson should provide a steady presence.
This is not to look back on last season as some sort of warning it might not work out. But it’s just a look back at what the perception was when the player signed and what it is now. And just know that the perception of the players they signed this offseason is better. There might be questions about them after the season – every player has flaws – but the signings were greeted with more applause than those made last offseason.
Here are the five higher-priced free agents they signed last season:
Guard Shawn Lauvao
At the time: Why did the Redskins make him a Day 1 priority signing after lackluster seasons in Cleveland? But some Browns coaches felt he would be a good fit in a zone-based system because of his ability to move. However, he was an inconsistent starter in Cleveland.
Now: He’s an inconsistent starter in Washington. The coaches say he graded out OK and that he was an improvement at left guard in pass protection over Kory Lichtensteiger. His run-blocking improved later in the season, but he clearly needs to play better overall.
Receiver Andre Roberts
At the time: A versatile receiver whose role decreased in Arizona as the Cardinals used Michael Floyd more and opted for a more run-based offense. He was signed to be a No. 2 receiver opposite Pierre Garcon and he also had return experience, something else the Redskins needed.
Now: Just a guy. He caught just 36 of the 71 passes thrown his way, by far the worst target percentage among those on the team. He was an ordinary returner and did not show a lot of burst. He turned out to be the No. 3 receiver after DeSean Jackson was signed.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher
At the time: Hatcher was coming off his best season and some wondered if he was a one-hit wonder and simply the product of how Dallas used him in 2013. However, the Redskins planned to use him in similar fashion as a pass-rusher, moving him inside in nickel packages. So he did not have to match his total of 11 sacks with Dallas; he just had to collapse the pocket and help the edge-rushers. My big concern with him was his age (turned 32 before the season), but figured the contract was, in essence, for two years and he could help during that time.
Now: Hatcher was a force when healthy, but his knees bothered him almost all season. He’ll be 33 when the season begins and is coming off knee problems. Not a good combination. But the Redskins have improved their depth – it appears – so they should be able to reduce his snaps and increase his effectiveness. If healthy, he and Paea could be the pocket-collapsers they've wanted for a few years.
Cornerback Tracy Porter
At the time: He was an oft-injured player coming off the one season in which he stayed healthy. The Redskins needed a slot corner and tried to sign Corey Graham. But considering Porter’s resume and the fact that he was coming off shoulder surgery, it was a keep-your-fingers-crossed move.
Now: An oft-injured player was oft-injured. The Redskins wanted to sign two corners in free agency, but have thus far added one. You need good corner depth and if everyone’s healthy they will have it, but if they can add another slot corner, it would be beneficial.
Receiver DeSean Jackson
At the time: He was not an unrestricted free agent; he was cut by the Eagles (in late March by the way; in other words, more moves can happen). But with so much swirling around why Chip Kelly would cut his most productive receiver, he was viewed as a risk. A week or two before he was available, one Redskins official did not sound all that high on Jackson. But the contract wasn’t bad, and nobody doubted Jackson’s on-field ability.
Now: Jackson was the Redskins' best offensive threat and was not a distraction at all. It’s not as if everything was rosy, but he produced and was one of the few players who did exactly what was expected.
Taking a weekly look at various players who could tempt the Washington Redskins with the fifth overall pick in the draft, watching at least three or four of their games. As the draft gets closer, I’ll post these reports more frequently and take a look at other rounds as well.
Player: Vic Beasley
Position: Outside linebacker
Weight: 246 pounds
Projected round: First, likely top-10 selection.
What I like: A tremendous first step and excellent athleticism. Beasley cuts like a receiver or running back at times when trying to reach the quarterback – he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds and his 1.59 10-yard split was second-best among edge rushers. He appeared to be better when launching from a four-point stance. Sometimes he was a yard ahead of his teammates just after the snap. Beasley does not have a lot of moves, but what he does, he does well. He’s fast to the edge and will use his hands to turn the corner. He used a spin move on occasion – and probably should have used it more because it’s quick. Got a sack using that move vs. Oklahoma and used it to create pressure in other games. He rushes with an urgency, which should translate well in the NFL (sometimes rushers need to speed up their internal clock when going from college to pro). Causes tackles to occasionally lunge or get off-balance. He can quickly cut back inside. Did a good job vs. Florida State of not letting a double-team beat him on a rollout to his side. Got off the double team, jumped and deflected the pass attempt. An athletic play. His quickness makes it tough for tackles to stay with him when a quarterback extends a play; got some pressure that way vs. Ohio State. There’s not a lot of wasted movement or stutter steps. Lived in the backfield in some games. Did see him drive the Ohio State left tackle back by sticking his left hand into his chest and powering his legs, then getting around and tipping the pass. He does have some experience dropping into coverage; saw him reading the QB’s eyes on one drop.
What I didn’t like: His play against the run. Bad. Beasley is not an every-down linebacker at this point because he’d struggle against the run. Needs to get bigger (he did add weight this offseason and it didn’t change his speed; he also benched 225 pounds 35 times at the combine, so his upper-body strength is good) and stronger in the lower body so he can anchor and hold ground. He did not shed blocks easily against the run, either, whether from lack of desire or strength and he did lose contain on occasion (as on the game-winning touchdown in overtime vs. Florida State). Athletic, long-armed tackles in the NFL will provide him a test in the passing game, too. Tough for him to bull-rush anyone at this point, too. Did not like that Morgan Moses handled him quite well in 2013 (though it speaks highly of Moses). Moses’ long arms made it tough on Beasley, even when he tried to take him upfield and cut back in, he couldn’t get past him.
Why the Redskins could use him: They clearly want another pass-rusher, having pursued Pernell McPhee (to a degree) and maintaining interest in Brian Orakpo before he signed with Tennessee. They’ve improved, they hope, the interior pass rush with Stephen Paea to pair with Jason Hatcher, and they do have Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy on the outside.
How he fits: Well. He’d provide the Redskins with a quickness they lack outside. And, if used only on nickel and not worn down from playing the run, he could be a big threat later in games against tired tackles. Thanks to Murphy, Beasley would not have to play run downs (best guess: they’ll be in nickel 65-70 percent of the time). Clemson typically kept him outside (would sometimes line up inside), but he seems to have the ability to be used all over. With stunts and blitzes, he could be dangerous when the offense isn’t sure where he’s coming from.
The Washington Redskins once again were among the busier teams submitting rules proposals. When NFL owners meet next week in Arizona, they'll consider four proposals submitted by the Redskins (there are a total of 23 rules proposals):
- Review all personal fouls. That includes penalties for roughing the passer or any unnecessary roughness penalties. The listed reason for this: competitive fairness and integrity of the game. My own guess is that the Redskins, like many teams, get tired of later in the week learning that a certain personal foul should not have been called. One note: On a conference call, Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the competition committee, said he did not want every play reviewable.
- Review any penalty that results in a first down. This is just a continuation of the previous rule, though with some obvious differences. This would enable teams to challenge a defensive holding penalty, pass interference or illegal use of the hands.
- Every team receives three challenges. As of now, the rule states that if a team wins two challenges, it receives a third. But this proposal would give every team three challenges regardless. Of course, the Redskins didn't exactly have a lot of luck with two challenges per game last season. Coach Jay Gruden challenged eight calls last season; he lost seven of them. And, for what it's worth, these are three of the 13 proposals that pertain to instant replay.
- Cutdowns and player limits. The Redskins want to eliminate the first round of cuts and keep all players until the final cuts. So instead of one date where they cut the roster to 75 and then another when they trim it to 53, they'll keep all 90 players until after the fourth preseason game. The reason? Player safety and development. This makes some sense. It's getting harder to get a great sense of players in practice because of the lack of hitting so you want to give them as many chances in a game as you can. Also, the thought is that after a few weeks of camp there are more injuries and this would allow for more bodies throughout camp.
The Redskins did not propose the craziest rule. That honor belongs to Indianapolis, which proposed that if a team opts for a two-point conversion and succeeds, they also would get to try a 50-yard field goal to receive one more point. If this somehow passes, then it would give teams a chance for nine points in one possession.
The first thought is that it didn't make sense. The next thought is that it makes all the sense in the world. Colt McCoy returning to the Washington Redskins? The entire quarterback gang back together again at Redskins Park? Yes, it's happening.
McCoy agreed to a one-year deal with the Redskins, which ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported. Before the free-agency period started, I reported McCoy remained in contact with the Redskins and he did not view this as a bad situation. So his return is not surprising in the least.
Initially, I wondered if this marriage would continue. If the Redskins were going to have a quarterback competition, as coach Jay Gruden said, then it would be a two-person race -- in other words, one of the three would not compete for the job. There aren't enough reps to spread among three passers fighting to be the starter. (That doesn't mean the team will keep only two quarterbacks; it's just that if there was an open competition, the third would be . . . well, third). Would the Redskins bring back all three -- or would they draft someone late, a young guy to groom?
And I wondered if McCoy would want to return to this sort of situation. But it makes sense: He's playing with two quarterbacks who have a lot to prove. For McCoy, returning to Washington represents opportunity. Until Robert Griffin III or Kirk Cousins prove themselves for the long haul, then there will be chances for McCoy. Also, McCoy talked after suffering his neck injury in December about how much he felt in sync with the coaches when it came to this offense. It's why that injury crushed him. He lacks Griffin's pure talent, but the coaches like how McCoy manages the game and plays with poise.
For the Redskins, they get a quarterback who knows the offense and is excellent in the meeting room. People can dismiss that, but it matters; McCoy is smart and has a future in coaching if and when he's ready. McCoy showed he could win in a pinch (at Dallas) so he's a good short-term backup.
Washington originally signed him last year for the right role: as the No. 3 quarterback. But it was poor play by the other quarterbacks, not some undying love by the coaches, that elevated McCoy. Really, this goes back to Griffin: If the coaches were pleased with his play, then the other two wouldn't matter as much. If Griffin were a Pro Bowler, the reaction to McCoy would be: What depth! Instead, Griffin is not, so the reaction is different.
The other question is, what does this mean for the draft? There does seem to be interest in Marcus Mariota -- how real or how deep, I don't know. Considering that information came out a week ago (courtesy of ESPN's John Clayton) and that they were already in contact with McCoy about returning, I'm not sure this move means they won't draft Mariota. Not sure why it would: You'd have two good quarterbacks in Cousins and McCoy to mentor a young passer, figuring the team would then trade Griffin (which is what I would want if I were him).
After all, the Redskins now have three quarterbacks who aren't signed beyond this season. It would be good to know one of them will be with you going forward.
Of course, it could also mean that even if they like Mariota, they're not confident he'll still be around at No. 5, so go with the pull-a-name-out-of-a-hat-approach for another season. And hope that one of them gets it and can hold onto the job.
The Washington Redskins didn’t make any splash moves, but they have been active in free agency – as expected. They’ve already added three new starters to their defense and will continue to look for more. When it’s all said and done, their defense could have not only a new coordinator in Joe Barry but also at least five new starters and possibly more.
Here are the moves that have been made, or what I know based on my reporting:
The Redskins have approximately $12 million to $17 million left in cap room based on various sites, including ESPN Stats & Information ($17 million). This number can be fluid.
DE Stephen Paea: Will play defensive end in their base defense and move inside on nickel downs. He’ll be the athletic rusher Jarvis Jenkins failed to be. We’re not talking double-digit sacks, but he will be more effective. If he records six or seven, it would be a big help.
NT Terrance Knighton: The run-stuffing nose tackle signed a one-year deal. Why only one year? No one has told me directly, but I was told before he arrived that he was seeking more money than Denver or even Oakland wanted to pay. Teams just won’t pay above a certain amount for two-down players. The $4 million contract would be double what he made in Denver, so it’s not a bad move for Knighton. If he has a good year, he can get another deal next season (yes, from Washington; so no need to keep asking about Danny Shelton, OK?).
CB Chris Culliver: Signed to a four-year deal Friday and will start. That, of course, leads to several questions. A good player with off-field concerns.
OT Tom Compton: Re-signed the right tackle to a one-year deal. The Redskins' right-tackle situation remains murky.
SS Duke Ihenacho: The exclusive-rights free agent re-signed on a one-year deal. Could add depth at strong safety and on special teams, but they absolutely still need a starter.
CB Justin Rogers: Re-signed Friday.
CB Perrish Cox: Reported this Friday, but he has two and possibly three other teams interested in him. Cox visited with Washington on Wednesday then headed to Cleveland on Thursday and Tennessee on Friday. One source said another team was interested in him. But the Redskins have told people they want to sign two corners this offseason. So even though they signed Culliver, that does not kill a potential deal. UPDATE: NFL Network reported that he agreed to a deal with Tennessee.
Person of interest
S Dashon Goldson: The Tampa Bay free safety isn't free yet, but several reports suggest he’ll either be cut or forced to take a pay cut. If he becomes free, I’d be surprised if the Redskins don’t have interest. He was one of Scot McCloughan’s better draft choices in San Francisco, a fourth-round choice who made two Pro Bowls. But Tampa Bay will view him as a poor free-agent signing. However, the Bucs made a mistake in overpaying another team’s safety and trying to fit him in a new scheme. The Redskins would not be overpaying him. What does the 30-year-old Goldson have left? The Redskins might find out.
S Ron Parker: I have not heard anything regarding him in several days, but they have expressed interest early in free agency. Chicago and the New York Giants seem to be more connected based on others' reporting, but don’t know that for sure. UPDATE: Multiple reports say he will re-sign with Kansas City.
WR Michael Crabtree: Yes, Crabtree. The Redskins have expressed interest in him, but a source says he’s leaning toward San Diego, so I wouldn’t anticipate anything happening here. The Washington Post's Mike Jones also was told that the interest in Crabtree at this time wasn't serious.
Taylor Mays: The last I'd been told, a few days ago, was that there was mutual interest but could not confirm any visit. But that's where mutual interest usually leads so we'll see.
LB Brian Orakpo: Signed a four-year contract with Tennessee. Here's what he had to say about leaving the Redskins.
WR Leonard Hankerson: Signed a one-year deal with Atlanta.
RB Roy Helu: Signed a four-year deal with Oakland.
S Antrel Rolle: He told Sirius XM Radio that he chose Chicago over Washington.
RT Derek Newton: The Redskins contacted him during the legal tampering period, but he re-signed with Houston before free agency.
RT Jermey Parnell: The Redskins contacted him during the legal tampering and would have had an interest, but he agreed to a deal with Jacksonville before free agency.
CB Brandon Browner: Had a visit lined up for Thursday, but signed with New Orleans on Wednesday.
The Redskins added a solid young cornerback, Chris Culliver, on Friday morning -- he signed a four-year deal worth up to $32 million. His cap hit this year will be a reasonable $5 million. But his signing does lead to some questions:
How good is he?
Culliver is a solid corner. At 6-foot-0 and 190 pounds, he has good size and speed. When I’ve asked around, no one has considered him a budding Pro Bowl candidate, but nobody has said he’s bad, either. One former NFL coach wasn’t impressed by his instincts. But for the most part, he can play. He did have a torn ACL in 2013, and you wonder how much that had an impact on him last season -- and if it will lead to improved play this season. You could do worse than Culliver; you could do better. But he's an improvement.
Who will start at corner?
Clearly, you don’t sign Culliver at this price and expect him to be a backup. He’s a starter. But that leaves the Redskins with three other corners who started here: David Amerson, Bashaud Breeland and DeAngelo Hall. All have question marks of their own. Amerson is coming off a tough season; Breeland played well for the most part but committed 12 penalties (two shy of the league high). And Hall is coming off a torn Achilles tendon -- will he even be ready? As the Redskins have discovered, you need good depth at corner.
Who will play the slot?
Culliver played in the nickel in San Francisco in 2011 and 2012, but he was usually on the outside, and that likely will be the case in Washington. Amerson is not a slot corner, but Breeland played inside at times last season (against Indianapolis, and he fared well). Hall struggled in the slot two years ago. The Redskins could sign corner Perrish Cox, Culliver’s teammate in San Francisco who visited Wednesday; he can play inside.
Are they done at corner?
I don’t think so. One source said the Redskins have told people they planned to sign two corners this offseason. They already met with Cox, but he also has visited Cleveland and is in Tennessee on Friday, with another unnamed team also interested. The Redskins wanted to bring in Brandon Browner on Thursday, but he signed instead with New Orleans. If they sign another corner, I’d imagine they would cut Tracy Porter. It wouldn’t make much sense to keep him -- and they could save $2,328,175 against the salary cap.
Can one of them move to safety?
Perhaps, but they’re not good options. One former NFL coach said he’d be concerned about Hall’s size and durability at a position he’s never played. Hall is smart enough, but he’d have to learn the game from a new perspective, plus learn run fits and how to play angles and be physical coming from the middle of the field. He’s listed at 5-foot-10 and 198 pounds -- small for a safety. Amerson is too undisciplined, with his eyes in particular. Breeland has the skills to move there, and the previous defensive staff believed he could play safety. But if a guy is playing well at corner, you don’t move him. My guess is the Redskins will sign another player. They’ve expressed interest in Taylor Mays (not a quality starter), and when Dashon Goldson is released by the Buccaneers, general manager Scot McCloughan's ties to him suggest some level of interest. There’s also Stevie Brown, who played for Redskins secondary coach Perry Fewell in New York.
What about Culliver’s off-field issues?
They’re key. He has made comments that upset the gay community. He also was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run last year, and he faces both criminal charges and a civil suit. The alleged incident hardly paints him in a flattering light. What happens if he gets punished for the case? Will the NFL react? It’s something to watch. Has Culliver matured? Or will giving him good money lead to other problems? No way for me to know, and we’ll find out. It also matters how his contract is structured and what safeguards the Redskins have; they’ve done a nice job with contracts during the past two offseasons, so I’d imagine all of this was addressed. Also, McCloughan still has strong ties to the 49ers, so getting a good feel on a player from there wouldn’t be hard. Clearly, the 49ers won with Culliver. From what I understand, they wanted to re-sign him, but at a much lower price. But it's not as if they were saying they were done with him, either.