STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Inside Slant | Notes, Quotes | Strategy and Personnel |
Starter - Robert Griffin III. Backups - Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy.
Griffin sunk from the focal point of the surprise NFC East champions to a quarterback with a 5-15 record the past two seasons. His sack percentage nearly doubled while his interceptions more than tripled and his touchdown passes stayed the same. The world-class athlete who ran for a rookie quarterback record 815 yards in 2012 gained just 665 yards the past two years. So head coach Jay Gruden turned to former third-stringer McCoy in Week 13 of 2014 after Griffin had lost three straight starts following his return from the ankle injury. If McCoy hadn't injured his neck two weeks later, Griffin might not have played again. McCoy, who led the upset of eventual NFC East champion Dallas in his first Washington start in Week 8, is much less flamboyant than Griffin but doesn't get sacked or turn the ball over as often. Cousins, who played well when Griffin was hurt in 2012 and not so well when the latter was benched in 2013, started strong when Griffin went down last year. However, Cousins coughed up five turnovers in Week 4 against the New York Giants and five more in Week 6 and the first half of Week 7 before Gruden turned to McCoy. Griffin, who looked a little better as the constant No. 1 quarterback during offseason practices, has to show that he can make quicker, better decisions. Cousins, 1-7 as a starter the past two years despite plenty of big plays, has to prove that he can win games and not make so many big mistakes. McCoy lost all three of his starts after the upset of the Cowboys. While he seems to be Gruden's type of quarterback, he and Cousins took turns as the backup during the spring so he could return to third-string status this fall unless he can add a little more pizzazz to his generally solid play.
Starters - Alfred Morris, FB Darrel Young. Backups - FB Jordan Campbell, Matt Jones, Silas Redd, Chris Thompson, Trey Williams.
After rushing for a franchise-record 1,613 yards with a 4.8-yard average as a rookie in 2012, Morris slipped to 1,275 yards and a 4.6-yard average in 2013. He dropped further last year with 1,074 yards and a 4.1-yard average. A rushing attack that ranked first in the NFL in 2012 and fifth in 2013 under former coach Mike Shanahan finished 19th in 2014 under Jay Gruden. For Morris, it seems to all come down to whether Griffin is at quarterback. In 2012 when Morris was setting Redskins records, Griffin ran for 815 yards, the most ever by an NFL rookie quarterback. They remained in sync in 2013 when Griffin started 13 games and Morris wound up in the Pro Bowl. When Griffin was out for six games last year, Morris ran for just 419 yards on 117 carries, a 3.6-yard average. When Griffin returned for Weeks 10-12, Morris rebounded to gain 313 yards on 61 carries, a 5.1-yard average. Gruden then benched Griffin and Morris fell to 67 yards on 17 carries at Indianapolis, a 3.9-yard average, before his career-worst eight yards on six carries against St. Louis. In case Morris doesn't bounce back this fall and/or doesn't re-sign for 2016, the Redskins drafted the 6-foot-2, 231-pound Jones in the third round. He'll compete with Redd, who averaged 4.7 yards on 16 carries as an undrafted rookie in 2014, for the primary backup role that became open when Roy Helu signed with Oakland. Thompson, who's just 5-foot-8, is fast but has been unable to stay healthy since being drafted in 2013. Young, who got his start on the practice squad in 2009, has played more games for Washington, 74, than any other member of the offense. Last season, Young scored a career-high five touchdowns on just 20 touches. Campbell and Williams are likely just training camp bodies.
Starters - LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Kory Lichtensteiger, RG Spencer Long, RT Brandon Scherff. Backups - T Takoby Cofield, T Tom Compton, G Arie Kouandjio, C Austin Kreiter, C Tyler Larsen, T Bryce Quigley, G Josh LeRibeus, T Morgan Moses, T Ty Nsekhe, T Willie Smith.
Under Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs from 1981-92, "The Hogs" were the NFL's most dominant line. The Redskins haven't been as good up front since, but last season might have been the line's nadir. Washington went 4-12 while surrendering an NFC-high 58 sacks and falling from fifth in 2013 to 19th in rushing. Only six NFL teams scored fewer points. Williams made his third straight Pro Bowl on reputation as his injury-riddled season didn't compare to his strong performances in 2012 and 2013. He ended the year with a serious ankle injury that kept him out of the Pro Bowl and sidelined him for offseason workouts. Lauvao, signed from Cleveland in March 2014, was nothing special in his Washington debut at 27. Lichtensteiger made a smooth transition from left guard to center but had his struggles in pass protection. After sagging veteran Chris Chester was cut in May, new line coach Bill Callahan installed Long, a third-round pick in 2014, in his spot. Compton - a sixth-rounder in 2012 took over when Tyler Polumbus was benched last October but was mediocre so the Redskins drafted Scherff fifth overall and made him an immediate starter. Washington will give Kouandjio, a fourth-rounder this year, and Moses, a third-rounder last year, time to develop that LeRibeus, a third-rounder in 2012, hasn't used well. Seventh-rounder Kreiter seems bound for the practice squad. Of the rest, only Nsekhe (two games) and Smith (30, with 11 starts, including four when Williams was suspended in 2011) are the only ones with NFL experience.
Starter - Jordan Reed. Backups - Chase Dixon, Je'Ron Hamm, Devin Mahina, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul.
Reed pulled a hamstring in the 2014 opener and didn't return until Week 6. Reed, who was also sidelined for seven games during his rookie year and throughout this offseason, this time with a balky knee, has 95 catches and 964 yards in just 20 career games. Imagine what he could do this year if he can stay healthy. Paul had 16 catches for 253 yards and a touchdown during the first three games of 2014 after Reed went down compared to just 14 catches for 228 yards from 2011-13 and wound up with 39 for 507 yards. However, like Reed, Paul isn't a great blocker which is why blocking specialist Paulsen started 12 games even though he caught just 13 balls for 78 yards. Dixon, Hamm and undrafted rookie Mahina are likely vying for a practice squad spot unless one of the three veterans is seriously injured this summer.
Starters - Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson. Backups - Reggie Bell, Jamison Crowder, Quenton Dunbar, Ryan Grant, Tony Jones, Colin Lockett, Rashad Ross, Andre Roberts, Evan Spencer.
Jackson led the NFL with 20.9 yards per catch last season, Washington's first player to do so in 18 years. Garcon topped the league with a franchise-record 113 catches in 2013. The Redskins paced the NFL with 2,491 yards after the catch in 2014 and were tied for the NFL's second-fewest dropped passes while ranked 11th in passing yards. And yet, their Week 3 loss in Philadelphia was the only game in which Jackson and Garcon produced the way Washington envisioned when the former signed that April, catching 16 passes for 255 yards and a touchdown. From then on, there wasn't a single game in which Jackson and Garcon each caught at least five balls and only one - the Week 16 upset of the Eagles - in which they each totaled at least 60 receiving yards. Deep threat Jackson and over the middle specialist Garcon, each of whom can be a volatile, give me the ball type, have to prove that they can co-exist successfully since each wants to be the guy. Roberts, signed from Arizona to start opposite Garcon before Jackson was cut by Philadelphia, had a less than robust Redskins debut with a mundane 36 catches for 453 yards as the No. 3 receiver. Fifth-round pick Grant had just seven catches. Crowder, a 5-foot-8, 185-pound fourth-rounder this year after making the All-ACC team as a receiver and return man at Duke made some plays during the spring. If sixth-rounder Spencer wins a roster spot, it will be because of his special teams play, the area in which he excelled at Ohio State. Ross has returned five kickoffs for Chicago. Bell, Dunbar, Jones and Lockett have no NFL experience.
Starters - DLE Stephen Paea, NT Terrance Knighton, DRE Jason Hatcher. Backups - NT/DE Chris Baker, DE Corey Crawford, DE Kedric Golston, DE Ricky Jean-Francois, DE Frank Kearse, NT Jerrell Powe, DE Travian Robertson, NT Robert Thomas.
The Redskins haven't had a Pro Bowl defensive lineman since end Marco Coleman was honored in 2000. Last season, all of Washington's linemen combined for just 10.5 sacks, with Hatcher recording 5.5 of those. Washington ranked a solid 12th against the run but was last against the pass. So general manager Scot McCloughan signed Knighton from Denver and Jean-Francois and Paea from Indianapolis and Chicago, respectively. The latter duo will battle for the job vacated by Jarvis Jenkins, who departed in free agency. Knighton will likely supplant Chris Baker, his best friend of more than two decades who is a solid at the nose or at end. Hatcher, 33, was signed from archrival Dallas with big expectations after he recorded a career-high 11 sacks in a contract year in 2013. He missed the final three games of his Redskins debut with a sprained knee that limited him during the offseason. Knighton has been a starter for all but one of his six seasons and the Redskins hope that his one-year contract will produce the big man's best effort. Paea was a Bears starter the past three seasons. Jean-Francois, whom McCloughan drafted for San Francisco in 2009, was a regular for the Colts' AFC South champions the past two years. Former starter Golston will have to fight to stick for a 10th season. Kearse, a free-agent pickup last year, had three sacks in the first seven games but his role diminished after the since-released Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen returned from injuries. Robertson has played in 13 career games. Powe started three games for Houston last season. Thomas is back for a second summer. Crawford is a rookie free agent.
Starters LOLB Ryan Kerrigan, LILB Keenan Robinson, RILB Perry Riley, ROLB Trent Murphy. Backups - ILB Houston Bates, ILB Will Compton, OLB Junior Galette, OLB Dyshawn Davis, ILB Adam Hayward, OLB Alonzo Highsmith, OLB Jackson Jeffcoat, ILB Terrance Plummer, OLB Preston Smith, ILB Martell Spaight, OLB Trevardo Williams.
Kerrigan firmly stepped out of the shadow of three-time Pro Bowl pick Brian Orakpo (now with Tennessee) last season, finishing second in the NFC with 13.5 sacks. Only Dexter Manley and Charles Mann, who rank 1-2 in Redskins career sacks, have ever had more in a season for Washington. Kerrigan also tied for the NFL lead with five forced fumbles, giving him 15 during his four seasons, more than any Washington player has recorded during the past two decades. While Kerrigan was wreaking havoc outside, Robinson excelled in his first year as a starter inside. After missing the final five games of 2012 and all of 2013 with torn pec muscles, Robinson took over for the retired London Fletcher and led the Redskins in tackles. Riley, the top tackler in 2013, and Murphy, who replaced the injured Orakpo at halftime of Week 7 and flashed some talent before breaking a hand in Week 16, are the other returning starters. After regressing in 2014, Riley could be pressed to start under new coordinator Barry by former rookie free agent Compton, an overachiever with a nose for the ball. Murphy, a second-round draft choice in 2014, will be challenged by the 6-foot-5, 271-pound Smith, who was chosen in the same round this May. Jeffcoat and Williams, who each recorded a sack in Week 16 after being promoted from the practice squad, will compete for a fourth job outside. Special teams captain Hayward, whose 2014 season ended after 11 games with a fractured tibia, should be the fourth man inside ahead of December signee Ja'Gared Davis and fifth-rounder Spaight. Dyshawn Davis, Highsmith. McCullum and Plummer have yet to play in the NFL.
Starters LCB Bashaud Breeland, RCB Chris Culliver, SS Jeron Johnson, FS Dashon Goldson. Backups - CB David Amerson, S DaMon Cromartie-Smith, S Akeem Davis, CB DeAngelo Hall, CB Tajh Hasson, S Duke Ihenacho, S Kyshoen Jarrett, CB Tevin Mitchel, S Trenton Robinson, FS Phillip Thomas, CB Trey Wolfe, CB Deshazor Everett.
After surrendering a league-high 35 touchdowns with just five interceptions, this unit has been largely revamped. Position coach Raheem Morris, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, starting safeties Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather, and veteran reserve cornerback Tracy Porter are all gone. Ex-New York Giants coordinator Perry Fewell, who has replaced Morris, should have three new starters: Culliver, a free agent from San Francisco; two-time Pro Bowl pick Goldson; and either holdover backup Ihenacho or Johnson, a free agent from Seattle. Culliver's only full season as a starter was 2014 and he missed 2013 with a torn ACL. Goldson, 30, might be on the way down after being virtually given away by the bad Buccaneers in a cost-cutting move that sent a sixth-round choice to Tampa Bay and a seventh-rounder to Washington. Ihenacho was picked up last year after Denver cut him even though he had started all but two games for the 2013 AFC champions. Johnson has started just one game while playing behind the Seahawks' outstanding safety tandem of Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. The other corner will be manned by Breeland, the secondary's top performer as a rookie last season, or 31-year-old three-time Pro Bowl selection Hall, who missed the final 13 games with a torn Achilles. Amerson, a starter in 24 of 32 games during his first two seasons, will likely be the fourth corner. Rogers, Cromartie-Smith, Davis and Thomas all have at least eight games of NFL experience. Washington drafted safety Jarrett and corner Mitchel in the sixth round this May while undrafted rookie free agent Hasson made some big plays this spring.
K Kai Forbath, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg, KOR-PR Roberts, K Ty Long, KOR-PR Crowder, Redd, Thompson.
After fending off a challenge from draft pick Zach Hocker last summer, Forbath made 24 of 27 field-goal attempts, including 23 of 24 from inside 47 yards. Way, signed off waivers from Chicago in late August, was a revelation, finishing second in the league with a 47.5-yard average in his debut season. Sundberg stayed healthy for the first time in three years and was flawless at his job. Roberts averaged just 7.4 yards on punt returns and 23.7 on kickoff returns in his Redskins debut, which were actually better numbers than he had produced for the Cardinals. Washington ranked just 21st returning punts and 25th returning kickoffs. Rookie receiver Crowder and holdover reserve backs Redd and Thompson are among Roberts' chief challengers, but none of them is a lock to make the team.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
S Brandon Meriweather (not tendered as UFA).
WR Santana Moss (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
RB Chris Thompson is just 5-foot-7 and he has been injury-prone, but he's very quick. Head coach Jay Gruden liked Thompson enough to keep the Mike Shanahan draft pick over one of his own, Lache Seastrunk, last summer. With Roy Helu Jr. gone, Thompson could be Washington's third-down back.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED (all signed)
T Brandon Scherff (1/5); $21,215,638 guaranteed/4 yrs, $13,689,556 SB.
LB Preston Smith (2/38): $5,779,368/4 yrs, $3,595,875 guaranteed/$2,463,176 SB.
RB Matt Jones (3/95): $2,921,416/4 yrs, $599,416 SB.
WR Jamison Crowder (4/105): $2,825,624/4 yrs, $545,624 SB.
G Arie Kouandjio (4/112): $2,801,672/4 yrs, $521,672 SB.
LB Martrell Spaight (5/141): $2,517,948/4 yrs, $237,948 SB.
S Kyshoen Jarrett (6/181); $2,415,628/4 yrs, $135,628 SB.
CB Tevin Mitchel (6/182); $2,413,164/4 yrs, $133,164 SB.
WR Evan Spencer (6/187): $2,406,576/4 yrs, $126,576 SB.
C Austin Reiter (7/222): $2,354,924/4 yrs, $74,924 SB.
K Kai Forbath: RFA tendered at $1.542M with no compensation; $1.542M/1 yr.
S Duke Ihenacho: Potential ERFA; $680,000/1 yr.
QB Colt McCoy: UFA; $1.5M/1 yr, $150,000 SB.
T Niles Paul: Potential UFA; $6M/3 yrs, $1M SB/$2.25M guaranteed.
S Trenton Robinson: ERFA; terms unknown.
CB Justin Rogers: Not tendered as RFA; terms unknown.
CB Chris Culliver: UFA 49ers; $32M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$16M guaranteed.
LB Junior Galette: FA Saints; 1 yr, terms unknown.
S Dashon Goldson (trade Buccaneers).
RB Michael Hill: FA Colts; terms unknown.
DE Ricky Jean Francois: FA Colts; $9M/3 yrs, $4M guaranteed.
S Jeron Johnson: UFA Seahawks; $3.5M/2 yrs.
DT Terrance Knighton: UFA Broncos; $4M/1 yr, $2M SB/$2.95M guaranteed.
T Xavier Nixon (waivers Colts).
DT Stephen Paea: UFA Bears; $21M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$7.85M guaranteed.
NT Jerrell Powe: Not tendered as RFA by Texans; $745,000/1 yr.
T Willie Smith: Not tendered as UFA by Chargers; $745,000/1 yr.
CB E.J. Biggers: UFA Eagles; $745,000/1 yr.
DE Stephen Bowen (released).
G Chris Chester (released).
S Ryan Clark (UFA/retired).
NT Barry Cofield (released/failed physical).
WR Leonard Hankerson: UFA Falcons; $1M/1 yr, $255,000 SB.
RB Roy Helu: UFA Raiders; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
DE Jarvis Jenkins: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
NT Chris Neild: Not tendered as UFA/Texans; terms unknown.
OLB Brian Orakpo: UFA Titans; $31M/4 yrs, $5 SB/$13.5M guaranteed.
CB Tracy Porter (released).
T Tyler Polumbus: Not tendered as UFA/Falcons; 1 yr, terms unknown.