NFC East: Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson's excused absence resulted in a front-row seat to a big-time sporting event -- and some photos with one of the best NBA players in history.

Jackson, who will miss the first week of the Redskins' organized team activities, spent Tuesday night in Cleveland for the Cavaliers' series-clinching win against Atlanta en route to the NBA Finals.

Clearly, Jackson wasn't trying to hide his absence and Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday, and reiterated in a text Wednesday, that he had an excused absence. He posted photos of himself on his Instagram account, sitting courtside with NBA draft prospect Montrezl Harrell, who played at Louisville, and the Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe.

And just in case you missed him on TV, Jackson later posted an Instagram of himself after the game with LeBron James.

Congrats 2 Tha big Bro @kingjames Do work fam ==

A photo posted by Desean Jackson (@0ne0fone) on

Jackson also is scheduled to appear at what is billed as a single release party for rapper Kid Cali Wednesday in Hollywood, California.

Jackson was one of four key players absent from the Redskins' OTAs. Left tackle Trent Williams could not get a flight out of Houston; tight end Jordan Reed was at the doctors' office getting his knee examined and Gruden said corner Tracy Porter missed his flight.

Jackson produced for Washington last season, leading the Redskins with 1,169 receiving yards and the NFL with 13 catches for 40 yards or more. He missed the first week of voluntary workouts in April 2014, but the reason given was that he had a pre-planned vacation based on Philadelphia's schedule.

ASHBURN, Va. -- The transition isn't a tough or difficult one for Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris. It's not just that the Redskins ran power last season, and dabbled in it his first two seasons, it's that he preferred that style in college as well.

It's the style Washington likely will use more often this season. The Redskins won't abandon their outside zone game, but it also probably won't be used to the extent it was in the past. Morris ran for a combined 3,962 yards in his first three seasons when the outside zone was a staple. He set a club record with 1,613 yards rushing as a rookie.

[+] EnlargeAlfred Morris
AP Photo/Alex BrandonIn three seasons with Washington, running back Alfred Morris has 28 touchdowns.

But, he said, the power game is what he prefers. Florida Atlantic ran a lot of power with Morris, focusing on runs between the guards. His job: break inside the pulling guard's block and stay downhill. It requires patience, something Morris always showed -- he excelled at pressing the hole, setting up his blockers on the backside for success. His 39-yard touchdown run vs. Tampa Bay as a rookie is a prime example: He started right, got within a yard of the hole, the defense overflowed and by the time he cut back, the blockers had sealed the hole. Those qualities will help.

"I feel I'm better at downhill plays anyway," he said. "You know what's coming. It's a knockout, drag-out style of play. I don't shy away from contact. It's right up my alley. I thoroughly enjoy it."

Morris could use a strong season, considering he's in the final year of his contract. Also, the Redskins just drafted running back Matt Jones in the third round. At 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, Jones has the makings of a power back the Redskins could have for a while. Redskins coach Jay Gruden has made it clear Morris is their man.

"Alfred is our feature back, obviously," he said, "but in the NFL nowadays it's important to have two, three guys that can carry the ball. If you want to commit to running the football, you've got to have a couple guys that can tote it, so Matt will just add to the number."

Morris is fine with that.

"Competition only makes us better," Morris said. "Every year they draft one or two guys. It's always expected and drafting a guy that high, the competition is that much higher. I'm excited about it. They know what they're doing. It's business and competition drives this business."

And that business involves trying to get a lucrative new contract. He said that's not his concern now. Morris will make $1.5 million this year; a new deal likely would at least double that amount -- and then some -- if he has a solid season.

"I can care less," Morris said. "Whatever happens, happens. I'll just keep showing up every day like I've been showing up."

What he can control is how his body feels. That's why Morris altered his offseason strategy. In the past, Morris said he'd start lifting weights three weeks after the season ended. This year, after talking to other players, he decided not to lift weights until a month before returning for offseason workouts in mid-April. Morris focused on cardio work and his eating habits (so he wouldn't gain weight).

"The last couple offseasons I'd wear myself out," Morris said. "That wasn't smart. I decided what's best is to rest a lot more. It's a long offseason program. I'll get the work anyways, why kill myself before that.

"I feel a lot better. I feel recovered. I wasn't running around doing this and that and killing myself. Just being smart. The main thing I did was just rest."

ASHBURN, Va. -- The speed off the edge didn’t wow anyone; it’s not Preston Smith's strength. So when he wants to pressure the passer, he turns to the advantages he does have: long arms, quick hands and power.

Smith, the Washington Redskins' second-round draft pick this year, will be expected to provide immediate help to the pass rush, whether with sack totals or just overall pressure. He runs fast for a big man (270 pounds), but his time of 4.74 seconds in the 40-yard dash was not considered fast for an outside linebacker.

However, if 40-yard dash times were the only pre-requisite for pass-rush success, then J.J. Watt (4.81 seconds) and Terrell Suggs (4.84 seconds) would not have done a whole lot. The key is to have other qualities, and that’s what the Redskins hope Smith possesses.

As fellow outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said, what matters to pass-rushers is this: “Taking the proper angle to the quarterback and learning how to use your hands and your hips well. If you can do that, you don’t have to have the fastest 40 time or the fastest takeoff. You just have to be a good technical pass-rusher.”

It’s what the Redskins liked about Trent Murphy before selecting him last year. Smith has long arms and, in college, showed quick hands -- especially when working as an inside pass-rusher over the center.

“I have long arms and big hands and it allows me to have a firm punch and create separation from me and the tackles,” Smith said. “It helps my pass rush by adding another element to my game.”

The Redskins plan to use Smith all over, along the line perhaps in some nickel packages, so having skills other than just speed will come in handy.

“A 40 time doesn’t relate to the pass rush,” Smith said. “It’s a different thing when you line up and then run as fast as you can for a certain distance. It’s like you’re running to nothing. When you rush the passer, it’s like you have a different mindset. You move a whole lot quicker than you do for a 40.”

Smith said he worked a lot on his hands in college, working them in tight spaces to replicate life as an inside rusher. His most effective rushes often came when lined up as a nose tackle in the nickel package. In those situations, he used moves that required strong, quick hands.

“It’s how you work under pressure and rushing inside,” Smith said. “It’s not like on the edge, where you have some space before you can work a move. It happens now. So rushing from the inside kind of kept me on my toes, how to use my hand so quick against those interior guys who are way stronger than tackles. Going against them helped my hand speed to get the strong guys off me.”

In college, Smith often couldn’t rush with the get-off he wanted. The elite pass-rushers in this draft often would be a full step ahead of their teammates after the snap. Smith, at most, would be a half-yard. But there were times he seemed more worried about aspects other than the rush, sometimes from facing too much zone-read action. He still recorded 15 tackles for a loss and nine sacks.

“I didn’t have a chance to show my speed,” Smith said. “You didn’t get to play with speed the way you wanted. You have to play slow. “People feel I’m not a good edge rusher, and I feel that hurt me. I can rush the edge and I can be effective on the edge.”

The Washington Redskins didn't want the new extra point rule, but based on history they're better off than most other teams, except when it comes to two-point conversions. The new rule goes into effect for this season and will be reviewed again next offseason. Washington was one of two teams to vote against the new rule (along with Oakland).

Regardless of their preference, it's a rule for this season, with the ball now being placed at the 15-yard line for extra points. Also, if teams return an interception, fumble or blocked kick to the other end zone, they will receive two points. The new rule does favor indoor teams. Here's what ESPN's Pat McManamon found when it came to the new distance and cold-weather games. And ESPN's Kevin Seifert doesn't think it'll change the game much at all.

Here's how the Redskins fared in these situations in the past 10 years:

Two-point conversions: They've converted 11 of 26, good for 42.3 percent. The league average during this period is 47.4 percent. (Last season, NFL teams converted 28-of-59 attempts).

Ten teams have attempted at least 15 two-pointers and converted 50 percent or better in the past decade -- topped by Chicago (17-for-20). But 11 teams have attempted that many and fallen short of 50 percent -- with seven of those teams not surpassing 40 percent.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsThe Washington Redskins have converted 2-of-5 two-point conversions with Robert Griffin III in the last three seasons.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III's ability to extend plays should work well if the Redskins attempt two-pointers. But the Redskins have converted just 2-of-5 two pointers with Griffin the past three seasons -- he ran for one and threw for one at Philadelphia in 2013. (They're 1-for-2 with Kirk Cousins; he scored on a quarterback draw vs. Baltimore in 2012). So it's far from a good chance. Will a bigger offensive line matter, providing more of a run-pass option? Only if bigger equals better.

32-33 yard kicks: This is the distance for the new extra points, which bodes well for the Redskins based on a small sample size. Of course, it only matters how Redskins kicker Kai Forbath is from this distance since he's the one now attempting the kicks. But over the past 10 years, Washington has made 15-of-16 field goals from this distance for 93.7 percent (the league average is 91.6 percent). Forbath has made 5-of-6 from this distance.

If there's a five-yard penalty: Let's say the Redskins have a false start and now must kick from five yards back (ADDED: teams do have the ability to change their minds about what they're going to do on the extra point if there is a penalty). Forbath has made 5-of-7 attempts between 37-40 yards in his three seasons (yes, the kick would be no longer than 38 yards, but I wanted to give a better feel for the overall range from this approximate distance). Both his misses occurred at home; four of his five successful kicks were on the road. Overall, the Redskins made 77.2 percent of their kicks from this range the past 10 years compared to the league average of 82.5.

Keep in mind that on extra points, kickers choose where they want the ball placed. That should increase the numbers, as Seifert's article pointed out.

If there's a 10-yard penalty: If a holding penalty negates the original extra point and pushes them 10 yards back, there will be a bigger impact on the success rate. It would turn an extra point into a 42- or 43-yard attempt. Forbath has been solid from this range in his career. On field goal attempts between 40-45 yards, he's made 12-of-13 attempts (92.3 percent; league average during the past three years is 83.6 percent and in the last 10 seasons it's 79.3). That's far from a gimme. It's better odds than a two-point conversion, but it could still prompt coaches to go for a two-pointer, especially if the weather conditions are bad.

The old distance: Forbath converted 97.8 percent of his extra points (90-for-92) the past three seasons. And, in the past 10 years, the Redskins missed six extra points (98.2 percent; league average 99.1).

I wasn't going to write about this, but the questions came one after another: Why didn't the Washington Redskins pursue La'el Collins? They needed to beef up their offensive line and the first-round talent was available for a cheap wage, having been relegated to undrafted free agent status.

But after the NFL draft, a team official said they would not "go down that road." But, it turns out, it really wasn't their choice. This story on by Robert Klemko provides excellent detail into Collins' life during this saga when he was never considered a suspect in the death of a former girlfriend, but the timing of the situation derailed his first-round dreams.

But one passage in there shed light on why the Redskins wouldn't have been a destination for Collins, even if they had wanted him. One of his agents, Mike McCartney, said they wanted him to go to a place "that had stability at QB, coach, offensive line coach. Not for one year, but the next few years. We wanted a QB that spits the ball out quickly, because we all see QBs who hold onto the ball, take sacks, and then you go blame the young blocker."

The Redskins do not have stability at quarterback. Maybe Robert Griffin III will be here for several more years; maybe he won't. He has the ability and now must remind everyone of that talent. But at this point there's doubt by those in NFL circles (scouts, agents, executives, etc.). That doesn't mean he won't do it, but it's the reality of the situation -- and if he doesn't do it, the Redskins will need to draft a quarterback next spring. Also, Griffin does hold the ball too long -- sometimes that results in good plays, other times it does not. But, fair or not, the line typically gets blamed for the sacks.

However, it's not just about Griffin. Coach Jay Gruden has to prove he can win as an NFL head coach. The Redskins do have a good line coach in Bill Callahan. But what if Gruden doesn't win this season? He'd enter his third year on a white-hot seat, and what would Callahan's future then be? Collins would then be playing for a new staff.

That's why, one source close to the situation said the Redskins "fit none of the criteria."

While general manager Scot McCloughan has been reluctant to take chances on players considered character risks (Randy Gregory), Collins did not fit that category once he was cleared. Before this episode, his intangibles were strong. The Redskins do have young alternatives such as Spencer Long to plug in at guard if necessary so they have some pieces -- first-round pick Brandon Scherff, left tackle Trent Williams -- that could soon result in a solid line. Yes, they could have used someone of Collins' ability. He could become an excellent player and now they'll have to face him twice a year for at least the next three seasons. But their future was never going to include Collins.

The Washington Redskins were anxious to see Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday, a productive college player who needed time to develop. But they won't get that opportunity: Halliday is not attending this weekend's rookie minicamp and there's a chance he's done with football.

The Redskins had signed Halliday as an undrafted free agent, but he was coming off an ankle injury and, a source said, had lost his love for football. Perhaps he can get it back at a later time, but for now he could be done with football.

Halliday had impressed Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan with his productivity in college. He threw for 11,308 yards, 90 touchdowns and 50 interceptions. McCloughan, who lived in that region, saw him a few times and knows the Cougars’ coach, Mike Leach, well.

Earlier in the week, McCloughan said of Halliday, "He has a ways to go physically getting bigger and stronger, but a quarterback gets measured on statistics -- wins and losses and putting numbers up. Not knocking Washington State whatsoever, but the talent level wasn’t huge and he found a way to be successful."

Washington has two other quarterbacks on its roster for the minicamp this weekend: Hutson Mason from Georgia and Anthony Neyer from USC. Both are here on a tryout basis.

The Redskins could use another young quarterback with Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy entering the final year of their contracts. If Robert Griffin III plays well, then they have their quarterback for 2016 and beyond. But they would need to develop backups as Cousins, in particular, would likely look to play elsewhere.

LEESBURG, Va. -- Washington Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan stressed the point when he first arrived: He wanted to take care of the homegrown talent. That’s why he wants to make sure Ryan Kerrigan sticks around longer than this season.

With Kerrigan entering the final year of his contract, the two sides have been negotiating a long-term deal. The same is true with left tackle Trent Williams, also a potential free agent after this season.

“It sounded like talks were progressing pretty well,” said Kerrigan, the host of the Leukemia Golf Classic at Lansdowne Resort Monday. “It’ll happen as it happens. But of course it’s in the back of your mind because it’s a big deal. It’s a big thing that could happen. Hopefully we get that done.”

McCloughan said there is no timetable on a potential deal.

“Just the fact that we’re in negotiations proves we want to be around us for a long time,” McCloughan said. “I want him to have a second contract and hopefully a third contract with the Redskins. He’s what I look for in a football player. Every day he’s there trying to make himself better.”

McCloughan said talks are at a similar point with Williams.

“We’re reaching out because they are good players, but for them it’s a business as well,” McCloughan said. “We’re going to take care of our own. It’s very important.”

"It’d be a great vote of confidence from the organization," Kerrigan said. "Just like getting the fifth year put on my contract last year, it’s a nice vote of confidence and makes you feel good that they want you here."

The Redskins added one more undrafted free agent Friday, bringing their total to 11. They also released offensive tackle Xavier Nixon, a former undrafted free agent they claimed off waivers this offseason.

The Redskins announced the signing of Duke tackle Takoby Cofield, who had signed the contract earlier in the week but needed to pass his physical. Here's a brief nugget on Cofield:

  • He’s 6-foot-4, 310 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash at the combine in 5.19 seconds. He started 42 straight games at left tackle for the Blue Devils and was named the ACC lineman of the week last September. Cofield received a $25,000 signing bonus, a pretty strong sum for an undrafted free agent. That does not mean he’ll make the team, but it does mean the Redskins believe there’s a chance he can be developed.

The Redskins signed Nixon in 2013 and he ended up on their practice squad. Indianapolis signed him and Nixon played eight games over two seasons with them, including two starts at guard. The Colts waived him after the season.

Also, you can read about the other 11 undrafted free agents.

It's not as if Washington Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said anything new about Robert Griffin III during his interview with ESPN980's Kevin Sheehan Thursday. But McCloughan did sound a message that began when he arrived, one that explains offseason actions.

When he was first hired, McCloughan pointed out why he felt Griffin would be worth keeping around. And it goes back to Griffin's rookie season. While Griffin has struggled since that year -- from injuries and other factors -- McCloughan clings to his point.

And that's why McCloughan said it was worth picking up Griffin's fifth-year option, made official earlier this week. It comes with risk, but McCloughan viewed the risk in different terms. If they had declined the option and Griffin ends up starring again, then the Redskins would face a more expensive situation. By picking it up, they also send Griffin a message that they believe in him. One opposing coach said when he watched Griffin last season, he did not see the same confident player he had two years prior.

"The reward vs. the risk was much huger," McCloughan told Sheehan. "I'm very excited about seeing him, in practice and the preseason and going forward in the games. They're hard to find. For a guy to walk into the league and be a rookie and win rookie of the year on the offensive side and win the division, it's few and far between. I'm very excited about it. All I see are positives going forward. There will be setbacks along the way, but I'm looking forward to him being healthy and being a really good player for the Redskins."

The Redskins have made it clear the job is Griffin's to lose. They also have made it clear nothing is guaranteed beyond that, so if Griffin stumbles and one of the other quarterbacks looks great, then changes could be made. It's a message they've delivered several times this offseason.

"I look forward to [Griffin] walking out there Day 1 and taking control and proving to me and proving to this organization that he's the guy," McCloughan said. "Kirk [Cousins] is talented and Colt [McCoy] is talented. Let them compete their tails off and see what happens."

Robert Griffin IIIGeoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

The philosophical change occurred long before the draft, even before the Redskins announced Robert Griffin III as the starting quarterback in February. The changes made suggested the Redskins knew they had to give their quarterback -- regardless of which one it was -- more help.

In some cases, it came in the form of new coaches Bill Callahan (offensive line) and Matt Cavanaugh (quarterbacks).

And the change continued into the draft. The Redskins had a chance to select the sexy defensive name: Leonard Williams, but they passed him to grab the best offensive lineman, Brandon Scherff.

All of which should please Griffin. While his issues have been well-documented -- he does play the most important position, and his drop-off from 2012 has led to intense scrutiny -- it's too simplistic to lay all the blame on him. In games he hasn't started over the past two seasons, the Redskins are 2-9. They've had deeper issues than quarterback.

But the draft solidified the Redskins' commitment to the ground game. That, in turn, can help Griffin. For as much as the Redskins need to improve protection, they had to become a stronger running team. Alfred Morris' statistics have been fine the past two years, but the running game also has been inconsistent.

The Redskins ranked 16th on first-down runs at 3.98 yards per carry. In the second half of games, they ranked 22nd in this category at 3.7 yards per carry, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Add it up and it places the passing game in a tougher spot. And when you have a quarterback still finding his way in the pocket, it makes it even tougher.

By the way, two years ago the Redskins ranked second on first-down carries at 5.13 yards.

The Redskins not only drafted Scherff, but they added a big back (Matt Jones), a shifty receiver (Jamison Crowder) and a strong drive blocker (Arie Kouandjio). I don't know how much Jones will help -- he did not break a lot of tackles at Florida, so he'll still need to prove himself in short-yardage situations. Scherff and a stronger push up front will make a bigger difference; Kouandjio's impact, if he has one, likely will come in future years. But Crowder can help with his ability to make defenders miss, turning quick, short throws into solid gains (not to mention better field position off punt returns). Again, another benefit for Griffin.

All of this would have been done -- needed to be done -- no matter who played quarterback. This is not a case in which the Redskins drafted these players for Griffin's sake. If Griffin exits after this season, these players will help whoever's next.

Regardless, the Redskins needed to reduce the burden on Griffin and the rest of their quarterbacks. When Griffin is faced with third-and-8 or longer in his career, he has a 75.2 passer rating. When it's third-and-manageable (between 4 to 7 yards), Griffin has a 105.6 passer rating with 58 first downs on 72 completions -- and more importantly, only six sacks. He's lost some explosiveness because of injuries; extra time is needed as teams also blitz him more, making it harder to escape.

If Scherff improves the protection, that, too, is good news for Griffin. Yes, he holds the ball too long and has his own issues aside from protection, including his fundamentals and decision making on the run. There's a reason the coaches, at times, harped more on what he did or didn't do than with what the line was doing. But you can't deny that he would be helped by more time. The Redskins wanted him to develop in the pocket, but the protection did not always give him what he needed.

So here it is: When he gets 2.4 seconds or more to throw on third-and-manageable, he has a 129.1 career passer rating (29 completions in 40 attempts).

When it's third-and-5 or shorter, Griffin has a 91.2 career passer rating. (For what it's worth, his rating on any down when given 2.5 seconds or more to throw is a pedestrian 83.0.)

Everything isn't going to click just because they drafted Scherff. Rather, it's about evolving realities, seeing players for who they are and what they can do (and can't do). Griffin won't consistently drop back and pick apart defenses at this stage. But he can execute play-action passes, which are more dangerous with a productive ground game. As a rookie (with a potent ground game), Griffin averaged 12.49 yards on play-action pass attempts. With his own sporadic play coupled with an inconsistent ground game, he's averaged only 8.2 yards per attempt the past two seasons combined. He must improve his downfield accuracy (19-for-68 the last two years on passes that travel 20 yards or more in the air, compared to 16-of-35 as a rookie).

One last telling stat: Of the 14 games in which he posted a 100 passer rating or better, nine occurred when he attempted fewer than 30 passes. Game situations often dictate that number, but so, too, can a run game (not to mention better defense) that removes the need to throw.

The Redskins entered the offseason knowing one way to help Griffin's game was to attack the roster. They've started that process. Three years ago, Griffin was the identity, the engine that drove the offense. Now he could be helped because he's not.

Taking a quick look at how the Redskins draft picks fared in college after watching multiple games.

The pick: Preston Smith

Round: 2

Position: Outside linebacker/defensive end

Immediate impact: With Trent Murphy already around, Smith does not have to start right away. But he will be counted on to help at the very least in nickel packages. The Redskins likely play nickel about 60-70 percent of the time, so this will mean substantial playing time. The name to keep in mind for Smith in terms of how he might be used: Justin Tuck. The ex-Giants pass rusher could line up inside or outside. Tuck was faster coming out of college, but it’s the versatility that the Redskins hope Smith can match.

[+] EnlargePreston Smith
Robert Smith/Icon SportswirePreston Smith should get plenty of playing time right away for Washington.

Why they liked him: Size (6-foot-5, 271 pounds) and versatility. Smith is a strong player. He’s fast for his size (4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash; excellent for defensive linemen, but the top outside linebackers are in the low-4.6's) but will that be enough to win off the edge? And how much does 40 time play into that ability? Longtime Ravens pass-rusher Terrell Suggs once ran the 40 in 4.84 seconds at the combine.

What I liked after watching Smith’s games: What the Redskins did – his power and versatility. Smith’s best pass-rushes typically came when he rushed inside over the center and could shoot gaps – he also beat some centers with an effective swim move (saw him do this to each side). That’s where the Tuck comparisons enter as Smith will be able to line up in multiple spots. Smith will do an excellent job setting the edge in the run game, especially if he can stay consistently lower and use a strong base. He has strong hands, which helps. Smith took advantage of Texas A&M left tackle and first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi’s penchant for dropping his hands. Smith drove him back a few times just by getting his hands into Ogbuehi’s chest. At 6-foot-5 and with long arms, Smith has qualities that make for good pass-rushers. If the Redskins wanted, they could have Smith put on weight and use him more along the line as a rusher (they might do that with Murphy). Smith does take long steps off the ball, though they’re not always fast. He was productive as a senior (nine sacks), after a lackluster junior year (2.5 sacks). He stunned LSU tackle La'el Collins with his hands on one rush, but for the most part Collins did well when matched against him (Smith lined up all over in this game, at both ends and inside).

What I didn’t: In three games I watched, I did not see him beat anyone off the edge for a sack. Part of that might just be a lack of explosion. He was not always ahead of his teammates off the ball; at most it would be half a step (other top rushers would be a full step). Against Ogbuehi Smith had a chance to do so, but he came off the ball too upright and could not bend the edge (did see him beat an Auburn tackle by dipping his shoulder around the edge, drawing a holding penalty). The rush became rounded and he lost his advantage. The rounded rush will need to be fixed (Ryan Kerrigan has worked on this as well). At times, Smith appeared to rush focused more on contain than getting to the passer. That could be a coaching issue. Other times he shuffled his feet too much on the rush, preventing a more explosive pursuit. His change-of-direction speed wasn’t the best. He tried to use moves on the run – head fakes, for example -- but they seemed slow and did not fool the tackle.

A few leftover thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 2015 NFL draft:

  1. General manager Scot McCloughan will conduct his post-draft news conference at noon Monday. Plenty of topics will be covered, including the draft's impact on veteran players, potential changes in the scouting department and why he selected the players he did.
  2. The misnomer is that Washington hasn't had a lot of draft picks lately. In fact, the Redskins selected 36 players in the past four years. Of those 36, only 17 remain on the roster. The problem hasn't been the number of picks (though not having two first-rounders the past two years has an impact); it's either who's selecting them or who's developing them. So getting 10 is great, but the key is they have someone in charge with a good reputation. Now they just need the coaches to do their jobs.
  3. The Redskins have drafted six offensive linemen in the first round, with five coming since 1996. The other one was a tackle in 1939 (I.B. Hale; he never played in the NFL. But imagine now if someone with his last name was drafted by the Redskins. The announcement: "Hale ... to the Redskins!" OK, sorry about that. Long weekend folks). Back to the point: fifth-overall pick Brandon Scherff is the third-highest linemen they've ever selected, behind only left tackle Trent Williams (fourth) and left tackle Chris Samuels (third).
  4. For those wanting to re-create the Hogs: Of that group, there was one first-round pick (Mark May), a third-rounder (Russ Grimm), an 11th-rounder (George Starke) and two undrafted free agents (Jeff Bostic, Joe Jacoby). In the past few years, the Redskins have invested more heavily in the offensive line than they did back in the day; they just did a lot more right in the early 1980s.

  5. I'm not a big fan of draft grades because too often they're based on a simple premise: Did a team fill all of its needs. I'll never look at a draft that way; if you take a guy only to fill a need, you're doing a disservice. Needs change all the time -- and drafting a guy in, say, the sixth round does not fill an immediate need. It's rare that sixth-rounders step in and contribute. The Alfred Morris' are outliers. Those later-round picks are to fill future holes, not immediate ones.
  6. But, instead, what you do is find good players. Or find guys who can help while developing. That's what they potentially have in guys such as Kyshoen Jarrett and Evan Spencer, among others. Players who can help on special teams while developing. If they only end up as quality backups but strong special teamers, then they'll be good choices. Also, for what it's worth I was told by a source that the addition of two receivers did not mean the Redskins had no interest in bringing back Santana Moss. That doesn't mean they will or that if he does re-sign he's guaranteed a roster spot. Just that it's still a possibility.
  7. And there are probably five players you can see becoming starters. Not all of them, mind you, but perhaps three of them. Getting three starters from a draft would be considered excellent. The other key is then finding two or three more who contribute to winning. I think they have a couple guys who can do that, too. Maybe as backups and special teamers, but those are needed.
  8. I'm sure some fans will pay close attention to how defensive lineman Leonard Williams develops, considering he was available for Washington. I wrote this the other day, but there are two things to know: Some teams had medical concerns about Williams -- and McCloughan doesn't like to pass up defensive linemen. They liked Scherff better.
  9. Teams make mistakes all the time, but they have slightly more information at their disposal than media or fans. And by slightly, I mean: A substantial amount. The Redskins will get a pass on some choices this year because of McCloughan. He's one of the few in the organization accomplished at the job he's now performing.
  10. I'm a bit biased because of my Ohio State background, but I really do like receiver Evan Spencer. Trust me, the Redskins have had Ohio State players in the past I did not think could help. I'm not blindly loyal; never have been. But Spencer is just a tough player willing to do whatever it takes to help his team. He was a three-star recruit whose father played in the NFL, but Spencer did not act like an entitled player. Just the opposite. Don't know how well he'll do in the NFL, but his qualities are outstanding.
  11. I could say the same about some of the other picks by Washington. It was a theme. This isn't about getting so-called choir boys -- besides, I have no idea what these players are like away from the field. Rather, it's about finding players with good football character: show up, work hard, play tough. Get enough of those types of players and you have the proper foundation. I thought Joe Gibbs' (2.0) teams had a tough-minded mentality as did Marty Schottenheimer's one team. Now, the question becomes: Can coach Jay Gruden turn them into winners? The burden is now placed on him and his staff.

ASHBURN, Va. – Jay Gruden said what was expected, raving about each of the Redskins’ seven picks Saturday. It’s what he’s supposed to do. Yet they clearly liked something about each of these players. And inside his quotes you can see a theme: Each player has a level of toughness they like. There’s also consistent mention of special teams.

That said, here's what Gruden had to say about the final seven picks:

WR Jamison Crowder (fourth round): “We liked his big-play ability. He can return punts, obviously. That’s obviously exciting. Very productive college football player, very tough, and he’s going to be an instant playmaker for us. So, that’s going to be a good one.”

G Arie Kouandjio (fourth round): “Big, physical offensive guard. You talk about offensive line depth, you can never have too many big guys that can move the pile – powerful people. Knowing him and talking to him at the combine, he’s a very good person who works very, very hard. Very detailed in what he does, and he’ll be a good fit for us.”

LB Martrell Spaight (fifth round): “Very productive player. A one-year player who really did some things in college as a linebacker, physical linebacker. Makes a ton of plays. Very, very productive in the games that he played. Very exciting. He likes to hit; you can see that. He doesn’t back down from any contact. He’ll be a player to be reckoned with, I promise you that. Very tough player.”

S Kyshoen Jarrett (sixth round): “Similar type. A little bit undersized for a safety, he’s 5-foot-10 but when he brings it, he brings it. He’s a tough guy. I think he’s going to be very good on special teams and he’s going to have to try to work his way into the lineup. But, very physical player, very productive player at Virginia Tech, and we like what we saw on tape. And we like his demeanor and the way he plays. Physically tough, makes up for not being 6-foot-2 or 6-foot-1 by his physical toughness and his ability to play special teams.”

CB Tevin Mitchel (sixth round): “Did a lot of work on Tevin. He had an excellent pro day, has excellent measurables, 6-foot tall. He was relegated mostly to playing nickel at Arkansas. But, I think with the measurables that he has, there is a role for him. He can run and did some good things at the nickel position.”

WR Evan Spencer (sixth round): “When you watch him play, you look at his stats, you’re like, ‘Why would they draft him?’ But this guy is a very tough football player. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s physical. He’s going to be a demon on special teams. He’s going to make it hard on everybody to make a move with him but I think he’s going to be here for a while just because of his mental makeup. He’s a heck of a person. He’s going to work extremely hard and when you have a guy who’s that big and that fast, loves the competition, loves to play the special teams, loves to block safeties and corners and all that, you’ll find a spot for him on the football team.”

C Austin Reiter (seventh round): “You watch him on tape and he does some really good things. He’s a good solid center. He’ll come in and fit in the mix and come in and compete like the rest of these guys. I think the motto of this draft really is that these are all good football players, proven football players, very productive in college. Tough, love to play, and we’re excited to get to see them.”

ASHBURN, Va. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' seventh-round pick.

The pick: Austin Reiter, center, South Florida

My take: Reiter entered last season as a Rimington Award candidate for the second time (given to the top college center). Reiter earned USF’s Tough Man Award after last season and was known for his ability to read defenses, a key skill for a center. That means he’s another in the GM Scot McCloughan blueprint: Smart and tough. Whether these picks pan out, no one really knows. But they did follow a theme and there was a clear philosophy.

Weight gain: Reiter entered college weighing 230 pounds, but now weighs 295 pounds. He gained more than 20 pounds last season. The added weight will help as the Redskins make a transition to more of a power game. The good news is Reiter has experience playing in both power and zone blocking schemes.

The impact: I return to the importance McCloughan placed on rebuilding the offensive line and how the Redskins now have a legitimate chance to piece together a homegrown line, something that hasn’t happened in some time. If Reiter makes the team, he’d back up Kory Lichtensteiger. But there will be interesting competition along the line this summer, with five draft picks in the last two years among those vying for spots. I can’t imagine this is good news for Josh LeRibeus, who got in shape last offseason but did not have a great preseason.

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins traded back once again, this time recouping a pick lost in a trade for Dashon Goldson.

The Redskins sent the second of their fifth-round picks (167th overall) to New Orleans in exchange for the Saints' sixth-round pick (187th) as well as a sixth-rounder in 2016. Washington sent its original sixth-round pick in 2016 to Tampa Bay as part of the deal for Goldson. Next year, the Redskins will have one pick in the first six rounds and two in the seventh. It continues general manager Scot McCloughan's desire to stockpile draft picks whenever possible.

And it still leaves Washington with 10 picks in McCloughan's first draft. The Redskins have three picks in the sixth round and two more in the seventh. They still haven't selected a defensive back, so it wouldn't be surprising to see one choice made on either a safety or a corner. They also could use a third-down back.

After that, it's just about finding depth. They could also draft a developmental quarterback. Even if Robert Griffin III returns in 2016, they would need someone to back him up. If Griffin plays well and returns, then it's doubtful Kirk Cousins would. So it would be wise to find another young quarterback, even if it's just to put him on the practice squad and groom him as a backup for 2016.