NFC East: Washington Redskins

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The offseason grade turned out to be much better than their outlook for the next three years. That's the opinion of ESPN's panel of experts when it comes to the Washington Redskins.

In May, a panel of ESPN experts gave the Redskins an A-minus for their offseason (the same grade I gave them last week). But the latest project for the Insiders page shows just how far the Redskins have to go in the minds of someInsider: They ranked 27th when it comes to what shape they're in for the next three years. It takes into account the roster, coaching, quarterback, front office and the draft. The Redskins had a total score of 59.3, which was down from 69.4 a year ago.

The roster was down (to 60, from 70) and perhaps that can be explained by reality. Last season, there was still a belief the Redskins merely needed to change coaches because they had the talent. Wrong. But the roster has been upgraded this season. Also, the Redskins received a mark of 66 for their draft outlook a year ago compared to 64.3 this year. Not sure why it would go down; this class, I believe, is better and was selected by someone with a proven track record in Scot McCloughan.

Overall, the Redskins dropped three spots in large part, my colleague Mike Sando wrote, "because there is much less optimism for Robert Griffin III and the quarterback situation."

McCloughan's arrival meant the Redskins jumped from 27 to 14 in front office rankings and their drafting went from 31st to 23rd. Two low spots: coaching (27) and roster (26). The latter was impacted, John Clayton said, by the Griffin trade as well as the $36 million cap penalty. I'm not big on excuses, but those are definite factors.

For the crowd that loves to (foolishly) toss around the word "Haters" to describe any article that doesn't glorify their team, here's what the experts said in an Insider's post about their offseason in MayInsider. Their grade was the same one I gave them, an A-minus. And both of these Insider projects mirror my general sentiment that I wrote about Monday: Good offseason; lots of work needed to be done -- and still remains.

But so much rides on Griffin's development -- even if the roster around him has improved (in my eyes at least; how much so? Stay tuned).

Anyway, here's what ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick said in the article about the situation: "RG III's inability to stay on the field has severely hampered his development as a passer. And while I love just about everything this team has done from a player acquisition standpoint since McCloughan took over, exercising Griffin's fifth-year option for 2016 at $16.15 million is a huge risk, given his injury history. I'd be worried every time Griffin broke the pocket and ran with the football. This season will go a long way toward determining whether Griffin has a long-term future in Washington."

Riddick is right on all counts. That said, if Griffin plays well, then the risk goes away -- they clearly would want to keep him. If he doesn't, then he could be replaced long before the season ends, which would minimize the risk.

One thing the Redskins tried to do this offseason is rebuild the rest of the roster so they're far less reliant on the quarterback position than they have been the past three seasons. But even in 2012, they caused turnovers and limited them offensively, which helped tremendously.

It's not surprising where the Redskins rank. The memory of the past two seasons are not erased by one good offseason. The key, now, is where they rank in 2016.

NFL Nation reporter John Keim assesses which rookies on the Redskins could earn a starting berth this season.

Why Brandon Scherff could start: Because there’s nobody else at right tackle and because they selected him with the fifth overall pick in the draft for a reason. The Redskins started Tom Compton at this position for the final nine games last season, but that only revealed the need to find another starting right tackle. Compton is an OK backup, but that’s about it, and last year’s third-round pick, Morgan Moses, was better on the left side. He’s also recovering from Lisfranc surgery. Plus, when Moses was drafted, some in the organization believed his development would take a while, and the need at right tackle was immediate.

[+] EnlargeRedskins
AP Photo/Luis M. AlvarezBrandon Scherff is almost certain to start at right tackle for the Redskins, even if some across the league still believe he'd be better at guard.

Enter Scherff. There was considerable debate in the NFL world about whether he was best-suited at tackle – and those debates were not just among analysts. Many teams believed his best spot would be guard. But some teams labeled his potential this way: good tackle, great guard. For the Redskins, a good tackle would be a nice improvement. Scherff is considered smart, tough and nasty – all three elements needed for any good lineman. He’s athletic enough to play on the edge and should be an excellent fit for line coach Bill Callahan, who likes to mix power and zone schemes in the run game.

Why Preston Smith could start: This one is much less clear and, in the end, outside linebacker Trent Murphy will be ahead of Smith entering camp and probably going into the season. Murphy is just further ahead and is coming off a good spring. But it’s not as if he is already a proven player, so he must still show he can be an effective all-around outside linebacker. In 2014, Murphy started eight games as a rookie for the injured Brian Orakpo and showed the ability to be an effective edge-setter in the run game. But Murphy recorded only 2.5 sacks and the Redskins need more from this position. They like Murphy’s hands and believe he’s capable of more as a pass-rusher.

But if he falters, Smith enters the picture. The Redskins drafted him in the second round with the 38th overall pick. Smith has terrific hands, which should make him effective if they want to rush him from the inside (they did not show this during the spring; eventually I think he will). He’s a good athlete with length – watch out for him on inside moves if he gets his hands up. Smith, though, clearly has plenty to learn – he still is thinking too much, causing him to hesitate. And he does not look fluid in coverage. Regardless, both linebackers will play quite a bit. The Redskins will play nickel probably 70 percent of the time and want all three outside linebackers, including Ryan Kerrigan, on the field for pass-rush purposes.

ASHBURN, Va. -- Here are some defensive highlights from the Redskins minicamp practice Wednesday (their last practice; Thursday's session was canceled as they'll only have meetings):

  • For the first time this spring with the media in attendance, Jeron Johnson worked with the starting defense. He and Duke Ihenacho have been rotating, but every time we’ve been there, Johnson has worked with the second unit (with occasional time with the 1s). Johnson does a nice job with run fits and has made some plays when we’ve watched. I’ll be curious to see how this battle develops; I think some of his teammates like Johnson’s mindset. It’s a good fit.
  • [+] EnlargeTevin Mitchel
    AP Photo/Danny JohnstonRookie Tevin Mitchel showed his potential on a couple of nice plays Wednesday.

    Corner Tevin Mitchel has made strides and looks comfortable in the slot. I like his patience, for the most part. But he’s a long way away from being ready. Still, he’s improving. And he also made the play of the day. Mitchel, working against Ryan Grant on the right side, was good off the snap. As Grant cut toward the middle, Mitchel was in perfect position and undercut him and intercepted Colt McCoy’s pass. Secondary coach Perry Fewell shouted, “That’s a hell of a play, big boy!” I mean, you played the s--t out of that!”

  • On the next play, Mitchel handled Jamison Crowder in the back right of the end zone. The pass was too high, but Mitchel’s coverage made a completion nearly impossible. Mitchel also had OK coverage on an in route to Crowder earlier, another pass that was high.
  • Nose tackle Terrance Knighton did a nice job stuffing one run in the backfield. But I’m tired of watching him in shorts; anxious to see him with the pads on and how others react to blocking him. Along those same lines, Ricky Jean Francois drove rookie guard Arie Kouandjio back one snap, prompting defensive line coach Robb Akey to yell, “Good, Ricky! That was nice and stout!”
  • Knighton wasn’t happy about coach Jay Gruden’s “officiating” during a red-zone drill. After one Matt Jones run, Gruden stepped off about five yards. “That’s too many yards! Make them earn that s--t!” Knighton yelled.
  • Nose tackle Chris Baker had a terrific move to get past center Josh LeRibeus, getting to the outside. Baker applied pressure on quarterback Colt McCoy.
  • Corner DeAngelo Hall didn’t do any work, but he did provide some instruction. After one red-zone play, he hustled over and several secondary members gathered as he and corner Chris Culliver went over technique and how to play a certain route. Hall was showing him how he kept his hand back and his footwork. Hall really has developed into a leader. Culliver was receptive to it as well, and that matters.
  • Trent Murphy finished a strong spring with another solid showing, with a good rush in particular off the left side. There has been an adjustment for Murphy in how he uses his hands – it’s different than last year with Brian Baker. Just takes time, and we won’t really see the impact until full contact this summer. Regardless, on the rush he would have sacked Robert Griffin III. One thing he probably won’t do is a spin move; that’s one thing Joe Kim, the grandmaster who is working with hands to help the pass rush, does not like. He thinks it leads to more trouble when you turn your back on an opponent.
  • Safety Dashon Goldson did a nice job in one red-zone coverage vs. tight end Logan Paulsen in the corner of the end zone. There was only one place for Griffin to throw the ball because of Goldson’s presence and he nearly did so, but the pass was out of bounds.

ASHBURN, Va. -- As Jay Gruden walked past, he whispered to make sure and ask Sean McVay about a particular play in the red zone during Tuesday’s organized team activity session. It was a run with no timeouts left.

Gruden watched, then laughed, as the question was asked. He was giving his offensive coordinator a little ribbing.

[+] EnlargeSean McVay and Jay Gruden
AP Photo/Richard LipskiSean McVay and Jay Gruden think alike when it comes to play calling, Gruden said.

But when it comes to calling plays, Gruden said he and McVay think alike – and that, they hope, will help during the season. On Tuesday, Gruden had McVay call plays. Gruden likes calling plays, but as a head coach it’s always good to have someone else on staff who can help with this area – as a head coach, sometimes his attention must turn elsewhere.

McVay is only 29 years old and has a lot to still learn. But he’s a respected young coach. Calling plays is the next step in his development.

“We’re very close mentally to thinking alike, and that’s the thing – when we put together a game plan and you have your third-down situations, you can almost call them together,” Gruden said. “So it’s very important for us to be on the same page when we install and call plays. But we’ll both have input on game day, like we do every game.

“Whether he calls 50 percent, I call 50 percent, he calls 80 percent or 20 doesn’t matter as long as we agree during the week that, ‘This is our plan, this is how we’re going to attack and these are the situations we’re going to call certain plays.’ So I feel very confident in him calling plays and obviously I feel confident in me calling plays.”

McVay’s role will change a little bit this season with the addition of quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh, whose responsibility will be focusing on the quarterbacks’ fundamentals. It frees McVay to focus on his coordinator duties.

“It takes a lot off my plate, just being able to kind of have an overview on the offense as a whole, being able to bounce around from different position groups,” McVay said, “so it’s been very beneficial so far.”

ASHBURN, Va. -- I was going to do a post on the Redskins' defense after this week's open availability in the organized team activity session, but I kept coming back to the secondary. Here are some highlights and observations about their secondary, focusing on some of the young backups:

  • Watched David Amerson for a few snaps – it was mixed. He would have been called for a holding penalty on one play vs. rookie Jamison Crowder. Amerson grabbed Crowder’s jersey a little with his right hand off the snap. Then, when Crowder broke to the outside, Amerson still had a handful of his jersey (the pass went to the other side). A couple plays later, receiver Ryan Grant created separation vs. Amerson with a hard stem and cut.
  • [+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
    Jeff Haynes/AP Images for PaniniDavid Amerson has impressed the coaching staff so far this spring.

    But a few plays after that, Amerson played Grant physically and the wideout could not get free. Finally, Grant caught a fade pass from Robert Griffin III over Amerson – a perfect route and throw. The coverage wasn’t bad, but the offensive execution was excellent. Amerson was OK in press coverage last year; he struggled more when off the ball because his eyes would get lost or his instincts were bad.

  • Here’s what coach Jay Gruden said of Amerson: "David is a one of the great examples of coming in every day, learning the new system and competing. We signed Chris Culliver. He could have buried his head. We’ve got [DeAngelo] D-Hall coming back. We’ve got [Bashaud] Breeland, who had a great year last year as a rookie. But David has come in here, opened his eyes up, learned a new system and competed just like everybody else has, so I’ve been very impressed with David.”
  • Meanwhile, corner Tevin Mitchel looks comfortable covering in the slot, a role he played at Arkansas. It’s going to take time before he can handle top slot receivers, but that’s to be expected – and I have no idea if he’ll ever reach that point. Way too early. But Mitchel showed good patience on a couple plays, especially vs. Grant. The receiver tried to sell him on a cut, but Mitchel didn’t bite and though Grant caught the pass, it was for a short gain. He had good coverage on Grant later as well. This is where it will help to face Houston this summer; players get used to one another in practice and can anticipate moves, etc., so you sometimes get a false sense. Regardless, Mitchel’s patience vs. Grant showed.
  • The secondary’s rotation was the same as we’ve seen in the first two open OTAs: Duke Ihenacho and Dashon Goldson as the safeties. However, Ihenacho and Jeron Johnson have rotated at strong safety (Johnson also worked some at free safety Tuesday). I’ll have more on this later, but Ihenacho said he’s much more patient than he was as a starter in Denver. Perhaps that will help him in coverage; regardless, he nearly intercepted a Griffin pass at the goal-line with solid coverage. Johnson and Trenton Robinson worked as the safeties on the second unit. Have not seen Phillip Thomas do a whole lot.

ASHBURN, Va. -- A few highlights and observations on the Washington Redskins' offense during the open organized team activities session this week:

  • [+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III and Colt McCoy
    Nick Wass/AP PhotoQuarterbacks Robert Griffin III and Colt McCoy run through drills during the Redskins' OTAs on Tuesday.

    Quarterback Colt McCoy hasn't had a good spring, at least when we've watched. Too many interceptions; seems like two in each open availability session. McCoy, too, will hold the ball a little too long a la Robert Griffin III. But both players are capable of extending plays -- and have always done so. McCoy had one pass batted away and another intercepted by linebacker Ja'Gared Davis, who simply stepped in front of the receiver and would have taken the ball a long way in a real game. Davis nearly picked him off again later in the workout. McCoy and Cousins have alternated with the second unit all spring but when we've been in attendance, Cousins has played better.

  • The Redskins worked on back shoulder passes in the end zone Tuesday. The trick is for the receiver to not stop until the ball is on them. Otherwise, it's easy to defend. Receiver Tony Jones learned that lesson and drew a rebuke from coach Jay Gruden on one such play. "Don't stop! Let the ball stop you! You stop, I stop!" Gruden shouted. For what it's worth, the quarterbacks did a nice job overall on this throw.
  • The play of the day: A little gimmickry off a field goal attempt when kicker Kai Forbath took a pitch from holder Tress Way and threw down the field to ... Spencer Long for a score. Who else? Long was actually sort of covered on the play (a defender was close enough) so it was a nice grab on the lineman's part.
  • I still like watching second-year receiver Ryan Grant. He does such a good job with his routes, with good body lean to sucker a defender on the fake. When it works, it creates several yards of separation. He'll use any part of his body to sell a fake -- head, shoulders (knees and toes, knees and toes), etc. He used a shoulder fake to cause a defensive back to lean the wrong way; alas, Kirk Cousins missed him with a high pass. Later, Grant fooled David Amerson with a cut, creating five yards of separation (more on Amerson and Grant in a post later on the defense). Grant needs to do this because he's not explosive or big. But there is a spot for him.
  • Tom Compton is working at left tackle with Trent Williams sidelined; he had some issues vs. Trent Murphy in protection that, if it were a real game, would have hurt the Redskins. Compton also worked at right guard with the second unit, something I've wondered in the past if he could do. I still don't know because these are non-contact situations. But the Redskins really need to see what Compton can do and if he can help at more than just tackle. If Morgan Moses is healthy this summer, then the Redskins have three tackles (Williams, Brandon Scherff). Compton must show more; he did not fare well at tackle.
  • I've written this before, but it jumped out again: Rookie Matt Jones has excellent cutting ability for a guy his size. It's damn near impossible to get a good reading on running backs in these non-contact drills, so do not go overboard (but some will regardless). But I like Jones' ability to swerve through a narrow opening (can't always just run over people) with good cuts. It's something to watch this summer.
  • Undrafted free-agent running back Trey Williams has excellent feet, and is able to make quick cuts. I saw this as a pass-catcher out of the backfield when he made Jackson Jeffcoat miss with one fake. But as we saw last summer with Lache Seastrunk, it takes a lot more than a good cut to make a roster.
  • Wrote about Josh LeRibeus at center last week, so I won't go into much detail. But I'll say this again: He moves well. I've seen him each of the past two open sessions do a good job of getting to the linebackers. The Redskins like his athleticism and if he shows he can play center, then it gives them even more options.
  • Watched left tackle Willie Smith for a few plays Tuesday and their one-time undrafted player looked fine in protection. Liked his base and footwork on one rush vs. Trevardo Williams. Smith always had some athleticism, but the first time around here his fundamentals were inconsistent.

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins always wanted to practice against another team this summer. They just didn’t think one would be available. But when the New Orleans Saints dropped out of their agreement with the Houston Texans, the Redskins pounced.

The Saints, presumably, did not want to appear in any way on HBO's "Hard Knocks," which will feature Houston. The Redskins did not want to be a main attraction on the show, but they were fine being bit players. After practicing vs. the New England Patriots last summer, the Redskins saw the benefit of such workouts.

[+] EnlargeJ.J. Watt
Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe Redskins will practice against J.J. Watt and the Texans -- and get to appear briefly on "Hard Knocks" -- later this summer.

“It’s beneficial to all of us,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “It’s game situations, it’s something we don’t know going to happen. It’s unscripted plays, it’s red zone, it’s move the ball, it’s third downs. All situations you get against an opponent. It’s competitive every day. It’s going to be a good time and I welcome it.

“I’m not worried about [HBO]. They’ll be focused on them. I’m sure they’ll sneak a shot on us. I’m not worried about 'Hard Knocks.' We’ll have some fun with it.”

Yes, they will. HBO won’t focus on the Redskins, but they will have a minor role. HBO would have liked to have had the Redskins on the show, but they did not want to appear. Some players, though, are looking forward to having a little fun.

“They’re going to hear me and [Darrel Young],” Redskins tight end Niles Paul said. “They’re always going to hear me and DY. They’re probably going to hear Chris Baker and [Jason Hatcher]. I just hope they censor it enough.

“This is our practice sanctuary. It’s not going to change the way I talk to certain players.”

The Redskins did not want to go elsewhere to practice and, per their agreement, they must practice a certain number of days in Richmond. Regardless, the players liked doing this last year against New England.

“When you bring in another team it cranks up the level of competition,” Redskins linebacker Keenan Robinson said. “It’ll be fun, man. We get tired of hitting each other every day. We want to hit someone else.”

They also want to learn from someone else, too. The coaches like seeing their rookies face another team’s rookies, having to react to unplanned situations.

But it also provides the players and even the coaches a chance to learn from another team -- how they prepare and conduct themselves in practice. New England was more businesslike and its star players ultra-competitive, especially quarterback Tom Brady.

“Tom Brady is very challenging because what he does, most quarterbacks don’t do,” Robinson said. “Going against him, it opened my eyes to playing more mental. He sees things most people don’t see, so I had to learn to adjust to different quarterbacks. You can bait guys into thinking someone is open when they’re not. He might look this way and throw that way because he knows the whole time he’s going back door. For me, it’s being able to learn different things you don’t get to see unless you’re going against guys like him. Hopefully going against guys like [J.J. Watt and Arian Foster], we can learn different techniques.”

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The offseason always fuels hope, which is what the Washington Redskins have after what can be termed a productive offseason. Translating that hope into success during the season usually is the difficult part.

For now, though, the Redskins say it’s worked out the way they had hoped under new general manager Scot McCloughan.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRobert Griffin III had his fifth-year option picked up by the Redskins this offseason.

“There’s no surprises with Scot,” Redskins president Bruce Allen said. “That’s the way his character has been for as long as I’ve known him. We’re pleased with the draft. We’re trying to get better in these OTAs and develop players.

“Coach [Jay] Gruden did a good job of acquiring some new coaches. Their attitudes and new ideas have been very helpful.”

Allen, speaking at the Redskins Charitable Foundation golf tournament, said they haven’t finished tweaking the roster.

“There are always more players you’d like to acquire, and we’re not done yet,” Allen said. “We have our eyes set on other players. We’ll see what happens.”

One of those offseason decisions: picking up the fifth-year option on quarterback Robert Griffin III. It’s guaranteed for injury only, so if he does not play well they could cut him with no hit to the salary cap. In a worst-case scenario, if Griffin gets hurt (and had been playing poorly) he would count $16.2 million on the cap.

“We’ve seen him win, we’ve seen him win big games,” Allen said. “We know his talent. It really was a no-brainer. If you asked us six months before, it would have been the same decision.

“There’s a cost to everyone who gets hurt. I don’t see that as an individual player thing as much as any injury will cost you on the salary cap.”

The Redskins hope they’ve bolstered their line enough to buy Griffin more time in the pocket. They drafted three offensive linemen earlier this spring, including the fifth overall choice in tackle Brandon Scherff.

“It will take time to develop them and get them up to speed,” Allen said. “But we feel good where [Griffin] is at right now.”

ASHBURN, Va. – The Washington Redskins don’t need Morgan Moses to start, not after drafting Brandon Scherff. They probably don’t need him to move to guard, not with Spencer Long and a couple others competing. They just need him to get healthy.

That’s Moses’ focus for now, coming off a Lisfranc injury that could sideline him until training camp. Of course, he’d like to return sooner and perhaps participate in the June 16-18 minicamp, though that sounds optimistic.

“That’s my goal, but you never know how the timetable [goes],” Moses said. “It all depends on how I feel. I feel I’m headed in the right direction.”

Moses suffered the Lisfranc injury in practice on Dec. 11 and it required surgery, ending his rookie season. The former third-round pick started one game. The recovery period for such a procedure typically is five to six months.

“I can pretty much do everything but contact,” Moses said. “It’s just an everyday thing; do a little bit and see if it’s sore.”

The Redskins said when they drafted Scherff that he still had to win the starting right tackle job, listing Moses as his competition. Moses was more comfortable on the left side as a rookie, but they had hoped he would develop on the right side.

But that job will belong to Scherff – you don’t draft a lineman at No. 5 overall and expect someone else to win the job.

“It’s competition,” Moses said. “Two things competition brings out: It reflects character and brings out the best in a person. I’m not going to shy away from competition.”

It’s hard to compete from the sidelines and it will be hard for him to win a job after having to sit out much of the offseason. That’s why talk of a move to guard is premature. While the Redskins say Moses has the ability to shift inside to guard, he said Tuesday that they have yet to ask him to do so. It would be difficult to change positions without a healthy offseason to work at a new spot. The general feeling in talking to some around the league is that Moses’ short-area quickness would need to improve to play inside.

“My thing is … wherever they plug me to give the best I can. Every adjustment takes time.”

What he likes, though, is line coach Bill Callahan.

“You need a guy like that, especially coming off an injury. He’s old-school,” Moses said. “He’ll push you even on those days you feel tired and you’re not feeling the greatest. He’ll get the most out of you. I can’t ask for anything more than that.”

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."

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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.”

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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 SI.com 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.

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