STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
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Starter - Robert Griffin III. Backups - Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy.
Griffin, for whom the Redskins gave St. Louis three first-round draft choices and a second-rounder in order to move up four spots to pick second overall in the 2012 draft, followed his record-setting rookie year with an underwhelming second season. Wearing a brace to protect his surgically repaired right knee, Griffin posted a modest 82.2 passer rating and wasn't his previously electrifying self. When then-coach Mike Shanahan sat him down for the final three games, Griffin had been sacked 38 times in 494 dropbacks and had rushed for 489 yards, 60 percent of his total from 2012. The 2011 Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor has shed the brace, but had an inconsistent spring as he seeks to bounce back under new coach Jay Gruden, who's less intense than Shanahan and was himself a star quarterback in the Arena League. Cousins, who sparkled in relief of fellow rookie Griffin in 2012 until the wild-card playoff loss to Seattle in which the starter suffered the major knee injury, didn't live up to that standard during his three December starts in 2013. Cousins' trade value diminished and there's no longer talk of him being a true threat to start. McCoy, who was mediocre while starting 21 games during his first two seasons in Cleveland before barely seeing the field the past two seasons, replaces veteran Rex Grossman, who wasn't re-signed.
Starters - Alfred Morris, FB Darrel Young. Backups - Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Chris Thompson, Lache Seastrunk, Silas Redd, FB Stephen Campbell.
Like Griffin, Morris didn't have as sensational a second season as he did his debut. However, the power back still ran for 1,275 yards (4.6 per carry) and seven touchdowns and played in the Pro Bowl. The question is whether Morris will touch the ball enough under the pass-oriented Gruden, whose leading rusher during his three years as Cincinnati's offensive coordinator averaged 224 carries compared to the 306 Morris averaged the past two seasons. Young isn't a mammoth fullback but blocks well enough to have helped Morris run for nearly 3,000 yards in 2012 and 2013. Helu, Washington's leading rusher as a rookie in 2011, missed most of 2012 with a toe injury but had his moments as the change of pace back in 2013. The smooth Royster, who ran for at least 100 yards in each of his two starts as a rookie in 2011, handled the ball just 40 times the past two years and is in jeopardy of losing his job. The undersized Thompson didn't touch the ball on offense before going on injured reserve after just four games as a rookie in 2013. So he and Royster could lose out to swift sixth-rounder Seastrunk or rookie free agent Redd, Royster's one-time backup from Penn State, who played well the last two years at Southern Cal.
Starter - Jordan Reed. Backups - Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul, Ted Bolser, Mike Caussin.
Drafted in the third round out of Florida in 2013, Reed came to camp fourth-string behind expected starter Fred Davis, Paulsen and Paul. However, the rookie's skills in the passing game were so apparent that he soon made Davis and Paul afterthoughts and was sharing the position with blocking specialist Paulsen. Reed had 17 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown in consecutive games against Chicago and Denver, but three weeks after the latter contest, his season came to an abrupt end with a concussion at Philadelphia. With Davis gone, the job is now Reed's to lose. If he becomes a stronger blocker, he could even make overachiever Paulsen who filled in well when Davis was sidelined in 2011 and 2012 somewhat superfluous. Converted receiver Paul hasn't done much on offense during his three years in Washington but has shown a knack for covering kicks. However, since Washington really struggled in that area in 2013, he's in jeopardy of losing his job to seventh-rounder Bolser, who excelled on special teams at Indiana.
Starters - Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson. Backups - Andre Roberts, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, Nick Williams, Ryan Grant, Cody Hoffman, Lee Doss, Rashard Lawrence, Rashad Ross, Jerry Rice, Jr.
After being bothered by a toe injury for most of his Washington debut in 2012, Garcon had a monster 2013. He had at least six catches in all but two games en route to topping Hall of Famer Art Monk's franchise record with 113. Garcon, who thrives on contact in the open field, finished with 1,346 yards despite the lack of an effective receiver opposite him. To remedy that problem, the Redskins signed the speedy Jackson, who had often torn them up while starring for Philadelphia. Jackson scored 43 touchdowns in six seasons with the Eagles (32 on catches, three on runs, four on kickoff returns and four on punt returns). Before Jackson surprisingly became available because of a falling-out with Eagles coach Chip Kelly, Washington had signed the less volatile Roberts to be its No. 2 receiver. Now Roberts, who was solid as a starter in Arizona in 2011 and 2012, will be the first man off the bench. Moss, Washington's top receiver from 2005-10, will try to hold onto a roster spot at 35 with his savvy and quickness. Hankerson, at 6-foot-2, 210, the Redskins' only experienced big receiver, might not return from knee surgery until well into camp which could affect his chances of making the team for the opener. Robinson averaged 20.8 yards per catch the past two years but hauled in just 29 balls. Williams got into five games as a rookie free agent in 2013 but is unlikely to fend off fifth-rounder Grant, who had a strong spring. Hoffman was the most noticed of the four undrafted rookie wideouts this spring because he's 6-4, but he's not very fast. Rice, the son of the greatest receiver, is just 5-10 and had tryouts with Baltimore and San Francisco before signing with Washington in June 26.
Starters - LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Kory Lichtensteiger, RG Chris Chester, RT Tyler Polumbus. Backups - G-C Mike McGlynn, C Kevin Kowalski, G-T Maurice Hurt, T Tom Compton, G Josh LeRibeus, G Adam Gettis, T Morgan Moses, G Spencer Long, OL Tevita Stevens.
A year after ranking as a pleasant surprise, the line was a disappointment in 2013 even though all five starters started all 16 games. Center Will Montgomery, who had been in Washington longer any of his linemates, was cut in March as head coach Jay Gruden and holdover line coach Chris Foerster moved Lichtensteiger to the middle and put Lauvao, a free-agent signee from Cleveland, in his old left guard spot. Trouble is that it was the right side of Chester, now 31, and the tall but stiff Polumbus that was really the problem last year, especially in pass protection. Williams returned to the Pro Bowl for a second straight year in 2012, but he wasn't as effective as he had been in 2012, especially down the stretch. Former Philadelphia and Indianapolis starter McGlynn is the only truly experienced backup. Hurt, who started 21 games during his first two seasons, missed last season largely because he was out of shape, an affliction that has also plagued 2012 third-rounder LeRibeus which likely has them behind 2012 sixth-rounder Compton and 2012 fifth-rounder Gettis on the depth chart. Kowalski played in 12 games for Dallas in 2011-12 but he was out of the league in 2013. Moses and Long, both third-rounders this spring, could be starters as soon as 2015 but probably not this year. The former needs to readjust to the right side after two seasons at left tackle. Stevens, who's back for a second straight summer and spent two years as a Mormon missionary, turns 27 on July 4 but has yet to make his NFL debut.
Starters DLE Jason Hatcher, NT Barry Cofield, DRE Chris Baker. Backups - DE Jarvis Jenkins, DE Stephen Bowen, DE Kedric Golston, NT Chris Neild, NT Clifton Geathers, DE Frank Kearse, DE Doug Worthington, NT Robert Thomas.
During minicamp, Hatcher, who had a career-high 11 sacks for Dallas at 31 during his contract year of 2013, was sidelined before having his left knee scoped. Cofield, 30, was also out of action because he had hernia surgery earlier in the spring. And Bowen, who's also 30 and was Washington's right end the past three seasons, continued his recovery from major surgery on his right knee last December. That's not exactly great news for a unit whose performance has eroded since a strong 2011 season. Jenkins, a second-rounder in 2011 who missed his rookie year with a torn ACL, didn't do much during his first two years as a starter and will begin camp behind one-time undrafted rookie nose tackle Baker, who worked hard to be ready to step in when Bowen went down last November. Golston, a sixth-rounder in 2006 who's now easily the defense's longest-tenured player, lost significant weight this offseason in hopes of maintaining his roster spot. Like Baker and Golston, 2011 seventh-rounder Neild is an overachiever. He missed 2012 with a torn ACL and didn't play much in 2013. The massive (6-foot-8, 325) Geathers got into 31 games, starting none for four teams during the past four years. Kearse played in 16 games, starting eight for Carolina and Dallas the past three seasons. Worthington has never done much despite his great body. Undrafted rookie Thomas is a true long shot.
Starters LOLB Ryan Kerrigan, LILB Keenan Robinson, RILB Perry Riley, ROLB Brian Orakpo. Backups - OLB Trent Murphy, OLB Rob Jackson, ILB Akeem Jordan, ILB Darryl Sharpton, OLB Brandon Jenkins, ILB Adam Hayward, OLB Adrian Robinson, OLB Gabe Miller, ILB Will Compton, ILB Jeremy Kimbrough.
Although Orakpo has the bigger reputation and more Pro Bowls (three to one), Kerrigan was just as big a playmaker during their first two years on opposite sides of the defense. Orakpo missed almost all of 2012 with a torn pec. However, the Redskins were just 8-24 during those two years so neither was a true difference-maker. Orakpo, who was franchised this winter, is playing for a mega-lucrative contract as he was last year when he bounced back well from the injury. Kerrigan is a warrior who never misses a play. Riley, a starter since the middle of 2011, has become as reliable as London Fletcher was in the middle from 2007-12 before he finally hit the wall in 2013 at 38, prompting his retirement. Keenan Robinson missed the final five games of his rookie year of 2012 and all of 2013 with torn pecs, but his knowledge of coordinator Jim Haslett's defense and his athleticism certainly make him the favorite over free-agent signees Jordan (a former Eagles and Chiefs starter), Sharpton (a Texans starter in 2013) and Hayward in the battle to replace the four-time Pro Bowl pick/captain/soul of the team. Jenkins, a fifth-rounder in 2013, saw little time as a rookie. Adrian Robinson bounced from Pittsburgh to Denver to San Diego to Washington over the past two seasons without starting a game. Miller spent time with three teams the past two years but has yet to make his debut. Kimbrough missed last season after separating his right shoulder in the preseason. He and fellow 2013 rookie free agent Will Compton, who got in one game, are back for second chances.
Starters LCB DeAngelo Hall, RCB David Amerson, SS Ryan Clark, FS Brandon Meriweather. Backups - CB E.J. Biggers, CB Tracy Porter, FS Bacarri Rambo, SS Phillip Thomas, CB Richard Crawford, S Trenton Robinson, CB Bashaud Breeland, CB Chase Minnifield, CB Peyton Thompson, S Akeem Davis, CB Bryan Shepherd, S Ross Madison, CB Courtney Bridget.
The Redskins allowed 60 touchdown passes the past two seasons and were getting burned for big play after big play. And yet, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris were retained by new coach Jay Gruden, who had worked with each man elsewhere. Amid the wreckage that was Washington's 2013 secondary, Hall who had been cut for salary-cap reasons before being re-signed shortly thereafter had a strong season, earning a new contract. With long-time safety Reed Doughty not having been re-signed, Hall is also the unquestioned leader on the back end. The question is when Hall, who's just 30 despite having played 10 NFL seasons, begins to wear down as Fletcher did in 2013. Amerson, the nation's interceptions leader in 2011 who was Washington's second-rounder in 2013, had a respectable debut season as the third corner and now succeeds Josh Wilson, who wasn't re-signed, as the starter opposite Hall. The savvy Clark, whose departure for Pittsburgh after 2005 helped turn a playoff team into one of the NFL's worst defenses in 2006, returns to Washington after an eight-year absence. It remains to be seen how much he has left as he turns 35 in October. Meriweather, suspended twice for being a human missile, settled down during the second half of last year but hasn't been close to the playmaker the Redskins hoped when they signed him before the 2012 season. Rambo surprisingly opened his rookie year of 2013 as a starter but spent most of the season in former head coach Mike Shanahan's doghouse. Thomas, who led the nation in interceptions in 2012, missed his rookie year of 2013 with a foot injury suffered in the preseason opener. The Redskins hope that he and Rambo will supplant Clark and Meriweather as the safety tandem sooner rather than later. The fast Biggers will try to hold off former New Orleans and Oakland starter Porter, who missed offseason drills while recovering from shoulder surgery, to be the third corner. Crawford, the third corner for part of his rookie year of 2012, missed last year with a torn ACL and was held out of spring workouts, too, but is in the mix as is aggressive fourth-rounder Breeland. Robinson played in 11 games last year, mostly on special teams. Minnifield and Thompson only have practice-squad experience. Davis didn't make Seattle's roster as an undrafted rookie in 2013. Shepherd, Madison and Bridget are all rookie free agents.
K Kai Forbath, P Robert Malone, LS Nick Sundberg, KOR Paul, PR Crawford, K Zach Hocker, P Blake Clingan, KOR/PR Roberts, C. Thompson, Moss, D. Jackson, N. Williams, Helu.
Incumbent Forbath and former Bucs/Jets regular Malone have the edge in experience over seventh-rounder Hocker and the unproven Clingan. Forbath made 35 of 40 field-goal attempts the past two seasons but his kickoffs weren't deep, prompting the Redskins to draft Hocker, their first kicker selected in 15 years. Gruden has said he'll consider keeping Hocker just for kickoffs. Malone and Clingan, who failed to make a roster the past three seasons, will compete to replace Sav Rocca, who was cut after a poor 2013 season.
Washington's return game was lousy the last two years so the field is wide open. Crawford flashed briefly returning punts as a rookie in 2012. Roberts has said he wants to return kicks if he doesn't start. Jackson had some huge returns for the Eagles. Moss starred on punt returns early in his career. Thompson, Paul and Williams all faltered last year, opening the door for someone like Helu to be given a shot. Sundberg has been a fine snapper since coming to Washington in 2010, but he missed 19 of 32 games with serious injuries the past two seasons. Nelson filled in after Sundberg tore his right ACL in 2013.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Brian Orakpo (tendered at $11.455M; signed tender March 27).
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
ILB Nick Barnett (not tendered as UFA).
WR Dezmon Briscoe (not tendered as RFA).
S Reed Doughty (not tendered as UFA).
QB Rex Grossman (not tendered as UFA).
ILB Bryan Kehl (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
WR Aldrick Robinson (tendered at $570,000).
DE Doug Worthington (tendered at $570,000).
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
LB Trent Murphy (2/47): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
T Morgan Moses (3/66): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
G Spencer Long (3/78): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
CB Bashaud Breeland (4/102): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
WR Ryan Grant (5/142): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
RB Lache Seastrunk (6/186): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
TE Ted Bolser (7/217): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
K Zach Hocker (7/228): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
NT Chris Baker: Potential UFA; $12M/3 yrs, $4M guaranteed.
CB E.J. Biggers: UFA; terms unknown.
CB DeAngelo Hall: Potential UFA; $17M/4 yrs, $3.25M SB/$5.65M guaranteed.
LB Rob Jackson: UFA; terms unknown.
S Brandon Meriweather: UFA; $1M/1 yr.
WR Santana Moss: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
LB Brian Orakpo: FFA; $11.455M/1 yr.
LB Perry Riley: Potential UFA; $13M/3 yrs.
S Ryan Clark: UFA Steelers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
DE Clifton Geathers: UFA Eagles; terms unknown.
DT Jason Hatcher: UFA Cowboys; $27.5M/4 yrs, $9M SB/$10.5M guaranteed.
LB Adam Hayward: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
WR DeSean Jackson: FA Eagles; $32M/4 yrs, $5M SB/$16M guaranteed (final year voids five days after 2016 Super Bowl, making it $24M/3 yrs.
LB Akeem Jordan: UFA Chiefs; 1 yr, terms unknown.
DE Frank Kearse: FA Cowboys; terms unknown.
C/G Kevin Kowalski: FA; $1.23M/2 yrs.
G Shawn Lauvao: UFA Browns; $17M/4 yrs.
QB Colt McCoy: UFA 49ers; terms unknown.
G Mike McGlynn: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
CB Tracy Porter: UFA Raiders; terms unknown.
WR Andre Roberts: UFA Cardinals; $16M/4 yrs.
ILB Darryl Sharpton: UFA Texans; terms unknown.
WR Josh Bellamy (released).
DE Adam Carriker (released/failed physical).
LB London Fletcher (UFA/retired).
S Jose Gumbs (released).
LB Josh Hull (released).
C Will Montgomery (released/failed physical).
WR Josh Morgan: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
CB Ryan Mouton (released).
P Sav Rocca (released).
LB Darryl Tapp: UFA Lions; 1 yr, terms unknown.
C J.D. Walton: UFA Giants; $5M/2 yrs, $1.25M SB/$3M guaranteed.
CB Josh Wilson: UFA Falcons; 1 yr, terms unknown.