NFC East: Washington Redskins

Some quick quarterback thoughts:

  • Minnesota traded quarterback Matt Cassel to Buffalo on Wednesday, taking another team out of the hunt for another quarterback. There are still a few who need help, but Cleveland (Josh McCown) and Buffalo (Cassel) have found veterans. Tampa Bay will pick one in the draft. And St. Louis still has Sam Bradford -- for now. If the Rams do get rid of him, they could be players for Marcus Mariota in the draft. The New York Jets and Houston remain in the market for quarterbacks, though the Jets, picking sixth, could land Mariota if no one trades into the top five for him.
  • [+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
    Patrick Smith/Getty ImagesShould Kirk Cousins stay with the Redskins, the QB will need to work on cutting down on INTs.
    So, the question then becomes: What does this mean for Kirk Cousins? As of now, he'll be with the Washington Redskins, according to a source. I don't think his side expects that to change, either. The Redskins do like having him around for competition with Robert Griffin III.
  • Yes, Griffin was named the starter entering 2015, but how long that lasts remains uncertain. He'll have to look good to keep that job. And if he hangs onto the job entering the season, I would not be surprised to see a quick hook. As I've written a few times, the coaches do like Cousins and there was a sense he got a raw deal last season (which suggests to me that not all the moves were of the coaches' doing). But if Griffin plays well, then the coaches would be thrilled. His talent is high; he just needs to play better. Keep in mind, others benefit if Griffin plays well. You can put up with anything if a player produces and your team wins.
  • What the coaches need to see from Cousins as much as anything? Fewer interceptions; better reaction to adversity. It will be tough to know how he handles both situations until he plays in a game. He also can improve in the pocket, knowing where to go with the ball, etc.
  • It's not as if every decision he made was the right one last season. On one interception vs. the New York Giants, he went to his No. 2 receiver for some reason (I believe it was Ryan Grant). His first read, on the other side, was open. An easy pick and a bad decision. So it's not just about responding to adversity. People I talk to around the league, from agents to executives to coaches or scouts, are split on what Cousins can do. Some like; some don't like at all.
  • The point is: Both quarterbacks have their issues. Griffin will just get the first crack at the starting job; how long he holds onto it is up to him. I also think if you're going to keep him as the starter, then they should do what they can to bolster the run game. Yes, the run game. Do better on first down, put him in less obvious pass situations. It matters.
  • Of course, if Cousins returns along with Griffin, I can't imagine Colt McCoy, a pending free agent, would want to be back in Washington. McCoy genuinely loved playing in this offense and felt he was in sync with what the coaches wanted. That's why he seemed crushed he could not finish the season because of injury; it was an opportunity lost and he knew it.
A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles trade of running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, and its impact on the Washington Redskins:
  • These were the two guys Washington most worried about two years ago: receiver DeSean Jackson and McCoy. They combined for 3,480 yards and 20 touchdowns during the 2013 season. McCoy, alone, contributed 2,146 yards and 11 touchdowns.
  • The previous Redskins' defensive staff loved McCoy and considered him the best back they faced because of his all-around game. Their plan every time they faced Philly was to stop McCoy. In the first game against Washington last season, McCoy only rushed 19 times for 22 yards -- but the Eagles won 37-34 because, well, they couldn't stop much else.
  • The Redskins actually did a solid job against him during his Eagles' tenure. In 11 games, McCoy rushed 206 times for 807 yards -- a 3.92 yards per run average. He added 51 catches for 479 yards, a 9.39 yards per reception average.
  • McCoy surpassed 100 yards twice against Washington, including the 181-yard game on the opening night of 2013. That game forced the Redskins to tweak how they defended the Eagles, specifically McCoy, and in the three ensuing games they played McCoy gained a combined 187 yards.
  • In five of the 11 games vs. the Redskins, McCoy rushed for 50 yards or less.
  • It's not as if McCoy had the same level of impact last season, rushing two less times than in 2013 but gaining 288 fewer yards. However, you wonder about the loss of Jackson and the impact it had on how teams defended McCoy. But: McCoy faced a seven-man front one fewer time in 2014 than the previous year and faced only four fewer six-man fronts (he averaged 5.09 yards against that look in '13; and 4.42 against it this past season), according to ESPN Stats & Information.
  • But McCoy was always dangerous and using he and Darren Sproles in the backfield at times last season put defenses in a bind. They were successful at using screens in which they'd fake a handoff to McCoy running one way -- defenses had to honor it because of who it was -- and then screened to the other side for Sproles, now in a favorable spot. McCoy would also serve as a blocker for Sproles on occasion. So McCoy's impact was more than just about him running the ball: It was receiving, a little blocking and a dangerous decoy.
  • Until we know what other moves the Eagles, make it's tough to say what they've truly gained or lost. Alonso had a terrific rookie season, but the Bills' defense flourished without him last season when he missed with a torn ACL. But the move also provided them with an extra $10 million in cap space. That could result in two or three more players -- or one (potentially) dominant one.
  • It's not as if Chip Kelly made McCoy; the Redskins' thoughts about him being the best, for example, pre-dated this marriage. So whether Kelly can just plug any back into his system and produce the same numbers is uncertain. Perhaps he can. But the passing game last season definitely missed Jackson, the other big name he jettisoned. And it's always dangerous when a coach thinks it's about his system and not the players.
  • But these moves for the Eagles also are about the future and re-shaping the roster to more of what Kelly wants or needs. Perhaps he's getting rid of McCoy a year or so too early; we'll see. McCoy did not look like he had the same burst and wiggle as he did in 2013. He averaged only 5.5 yards per reception. McCoy still finished third in the NFL in rushing, but he also gained a combined 1,976 yards before contact the past two years -- an NFL best. Just a hunch: I'm guessing Kelly attributed that in part to the line and his system. It's also unnecessary to have a running back count $11.95 million against the salary cap as McCoy would have (though at least McCoy is a three-down guy, which increases his value).
  • The Eagles still have talented parts on offense; the line should be healthy and strong. Receiver Jeremy Maclin is dangerous; receiver Jordan Matthews had a good rookie season and tight end Zach Ertz is a big threat as well.
  • But they will need to replace McCoy and that won't be easy. Then again, they have a lot of money and flexibility -- and it makes you wonder what other moves are on the horizon and how it will impact the Redskins. Will this aggressive mindset carry into the draft with Kelly trying to land quarterback Marcus Mariota? And will the team on the other end be the Redskins or someone else? It would be a steep price to pay for the Eagles, but Kelly isn't afraid to make bold moves.
[+] EnlargeRandy Gregory
AP Photo/Nati HarnikThe Redskins are in need of a dynamic rusher, and Nebraska's Randy Gregory seems to fit Washington's profile.
The Washington Redskins don't have to select a pass-rusher with the fifth pick. They might make a move in free agency that negates the need; they could trade down. But if they stay there, there will be some interesting choices.

Nebraska's Randy Gregory will be, and has been already, projected to the Redskins by any number of mock drafts. That could be cause for celebration -- and a little bit of crossing the fingers. Gregory is a freakish athlete; he's also someone who needs work to make his game fit in the NFL.

So says ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. Gregory's film supports Kiper's belief: In my write-up on him, it was clear he made athletic plays, but his strength is an issue, whether against the run or in beating his opponent in a pass rush where speed isn't working.

"Gregory has to get stronger," Kiper said. "He's more the developmental type. ...If he does, then you could be looking at a guy who can be a very good pass-rusher."

That word, developmental, could scare people. But with Gregory, there are things you can't teach or coach or improve. Like his athleticism and his length. Both are attributes of a (potentially) special pass-rusher.

It's often difficult for pass-rushers to make instant impacts, even if selected high in the draft. J.J. Watt is a dominant rusher now; he was drafted 11th overall and in his first year recorded 5.5 sacks -- and then 20.5 as a second-year player. Last year's No. 5 overall pick, Khalil Mack, had fantastic measurables (a 1.53 in the 10-yard split; anything under 1.6 is good) and showed good things as a rookie. He had just four sacks. St. Louis' Robert Quinn had five sacks as a rookie; two years later he had 19. Teams are trying to find guys who can make a long-term impact, not just an instant splash.

The trick is projecting who will develop into that special rusher. Which of the available pass-rushers could be that guy?

Gregory benched 225 pounds 24 times at the combine, an OK number. But Kiper said his film looked more like someone who benched that weight 15 times. In watching him, Gregory often had a tough time getting off blocks in the run game.

If the Redskins drafted him, they wouldn't necessarily need him as much in the run game with Trent Murphy available. Murphy played the run well, but lacks the explosiveness of any of the available-pass rushers in the first round. Gregory, though, likely would play a lot given how much nickel the Redskins are forced to play (partly because of the division).

However, they'd still have to cross their fingers and hope it pans out. Here's the thing: That's true of pretty much every player in the draft. The more players are scouted and watched, the more they're picked apart. The offensive tackles all have flaws as well -- some project more to guard. Nose tackle Danny Shelton has warts, too; there's concern about his inconsistent game film.

But with the pass-rushers, there is a choice. Florida's Dante Fowler, Jr., has the necessary size, but his game, too, is raw -- he has an explosive first step, but needs to learn how to react thereafter. For Gregory, it's about adding strength -- and staying explosive. Will that happen? It's a bet some team will make.

"Gregory's a great athlete," Kiper said. "Phenomenal athlete. He has the length; long arms. He could be spectacular in this league. He has to show he can be durable as well. He has enormous upside."

Redskins draft prospects: Randy Gregory

February, 26, 2015
Feb 26
Taking a weekly look at various players who could tempt the Washington Redskins with the fifth overall pick in the draft, watching at least three or four of their games. As the draft gets closer, I’ll post these reports more frequently and take a look at other rounds as well.

Player: Randy Gregory

Position: Defensive end/outside linebacker

School: Nebraska

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 240 pounds

Projected round: First round, top 10.

What I liked: His athleticism. It’s why he has a chance to develop into an excellent NFL rusher. Gregory has an explosive first step, especially when rushing to the inside, and he couples it with a good swim move. He was adept at forcing tackles to set wide, only to cut back inside. Saw him get a sack when he jumped over a cut-block attempt by the back. Saw him drive potential first-round pick Ereck Flowers (Miami) back to apply pressure. His two sacks that game did not occur against Flowers; he did take advantage of Flowers’ slow hands in the run game. It was a good game for Gregory. He was doubled quite a bit in most games I saw. Did a pretty good job in open space, tackling receivers (showed it on one screen pass; kept his balance and composure and made a nice tackle). Showed he could rush standing up or with his hand on the ground – from both sides, too. When he got a good jump off the ball, or at least was on time, he would be a step ahead of his linemates. Saw him block a field goal with an inside rush.

What I didn’t like: His play against the run – at all. Gregory would not always get driven off the ball, but he would be controlled and turned to a side. In too many games, he got a late jump off the ball and that allowed the linemen to get his hands into him sooner and, therefore, control him. Gregory goes off player movement; on one snap I froze the frame and the ball is almost in the hands of the quarterback, who was in shotgun, before Gregory takes a step. He needs to add lower-body strength and learn to disengage blockers quicker. Saw him drop into coverage once in five games. But that can be taught. Occasionally he would get upright looking for the ball, losing his base and being driven. I would like to have seen him win more around the edge against good tackles. I didn’t see him beat many left tackles to the outside, though he did have some strong rushes vs. Flowers. Wisconsin’s tackles, especially right tackle Rob Havenstein with his long arms, maneuvered him in the run game.

Why they could use him: Starting to sound like a broken record, but because I’ve focused on edge rushers early on for this series, it’s become repetitive. The Redskins might lose Brian Orakpo to free agency and they lack depth at outside linebacker and do not have many legitimate pass-rushers. They wanted to improve it last offseason and that desire should not have changed.

How he fits: Gregory would provide the Redskins more athleticism and speed on the edge. He would add explosiveness that they now lack on the outside. But he would not be a full-time player because of his need to add weight and strength and would likely be used as a pass-rusher. That’s fine, considering how often they’ll likely be in nickel. He would provide some versatility. Gregory would have to add 10 to 15 pounds to become an effective full-time outside linebacker.

Previous draft prospects
If the Washington Redskins wanted to add more picks and still select an outside linebacker, they could do so. That is, if Marcus Mariota is still around when they select -- and if other teams want him badly enough to take a big jump.

[+] EnlargeLandon Collins
David J. Griffin/Icon SportswireAlabama safety Landon Collins is a possible target for the Redskins, if the team decides to trade down its first-round pick.
That's the opinion of ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, who said the trade for Robert Griffin III in 2012 -- and the loss of picks the past two years -- heightens the importance of adding more selections.

The Redskins still had a combined 15 picks the past two years, just none in the first round. But they have a dearth of under-25 talent because of failed choices for several years. Of course, if Griffin were playing at a Pro Bowl level it wouldn't be a big deal. But he's not; so it is.

Of their 15 picks in the past two years, six are no longer with the team (and nine of the last 24 selections are elsewhere). That's fine if you're a contending team with depth and no room for rookies. It's not good if you're a rebuilding team with a need for young talent.

"If you can get a deal to move out, I think they'd be better served," McShay said. "There's enough depth at the outside linebacker position that you can get a really good one if you move down in the first round."

Or if they trade down they could select safety Landon Collins, who is not considered a top-10 player, and perhaps add a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the second round (possibly Virginia's Eli Harold). Or if they traded down a few spots, Clemson's Vic Beasley would be a good possibility.

The problem is trying to line up a trade partner (I wrote about that Monday morning). Three teams outside the top 10 would be possibilities: Cleveland (12, 19), Houston (16) or Philadelphia (20). And the only position they'd move up that high for is quarterback; if Mariota is gone then a trade is unlikely -- unless it's to move down a couple spots.

"There are plenty of teams that have quarterback needs behind them," McShay said. "Nothing would be shocking. I know it would be a monster move to come up 15 spots. I don't think Cleveland would be willing to [trade] but you never know.

"I'd rather move down several spots and get Beasley and then pick up two or three extra picks."

The caveat, of course, is that every team picking high needs a lot of help and, in theory, would be well-served adding more good young talent. It's not that easy, but if the right player is still around at No. 5, then the Redskins would have a chance.
A few nuggets from Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen's Sirius XM radio interview Thursday:

  • There will be changes offensively. We already knew there would be some defensively just because there's a new coordinator. How different Joe Barry's 3-4 will be from Jim Haslett's remains to be seen, but there are different ways to run every scheme. But Allen said, "We'll make some changes to our offense this year. Bill Callahan has brought in good ideas for what we're gonna do. The coaches don't even have a playbook for [Griffin] to study yet because they're still developing it."
  • [+] EnlargeJay Gruden and Robert Griffin III
    AP Photo/Darron CummingsCoach Jay Gruden and QB Robert Griffin III will see some changes to the Redskins' offense in 2015.
    I have not heard yet how different it's going to be. I don't think coach Jay Gruden would abandon all that he wanted to do, but rather will try to incorporate more of what Robert Griffin III can do -- and probably alter the run game. Callahan has worked with both man and zone blocking -- they ran a lot of zone in Dallas last season when he was the line coach and in charge of the run game. But Gruden has been more of a power guy in the past. It's good to have the ability to do both, but the Redskins did not have a power-based line.
  • They did make some changes to the offense for Griffin when he returned last season, so it's not as simple as saying they need to use his legs more. And he must execute what he's being asked to do better. However, if you're going to maximize his talent you might as well go all in, whether that's bolstering the line or tweaking the offense a little more.
  • Allen said the biggest improvement throughout the season from Gruden stemmed from the way he "interacted with players is where he grew the best. Our team kept competing and we might not have won in the end, but the players still fought for him and they stuck together and played hard each week. His personal interaction with all the players made him grow the most and the players respect him." I heard something similar from Ryan Clark at the end of the season. I still have that interview and will write it up next week.
  • I thought this was telling, too. Allen said he believes the NFL is a coaches' league. "I appreciate coaches that put players in position to win," he said. "You don't have to just coach a Pro Bowl roster in order to win as a coach. Bill Belichick has proven that; he has a completely different team than he won his first Super Bowl with and he develops his players." Too often here, coaches have blamed talent for their issues. In some cases they were right, but it also became a crutch. Not every coach is good at developing talent -- a real commitment must be made to do so and that's by how you use them, both in practice and games and by the coaches you hire. Some prefer to spend their time focusing on game preparation and, therefore, need more experienced players. I like what the Redskins have done in a lot of areas with their coaching staff this offseason.
  • Callahan is one of those coaches who was a smart addition. Here's Allen's take on him: "You could see the Bill Callahan stamp on that [Dallas] offense and the physicalness of the line and the toughness and how smart they played. He's a detailed coach. His experience at Nebraska helped him as well, understanding the younger player and how to deal with them and work with them and simplify the message he gives to them. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that we desperately need and will be a good addition." I agree. And it's not as if I thought Chris Foerster was a bad line coach; he wasn't. But Callahan is a strong addition. His experience as both a head coach and coordinator is a welcomed one on offense.

What Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday about Robert Griffin III being the 2015 starter is what I thought he would say eventually -- like in June. I didn't expect him to say it less than two months after proclaiming a desire for an open quarterback competition. And I'm not sure why it needed to be said now.

In the end, RG III might well have won the job. He remains the most physically gifted quarterback on the roster, so it's not a stretch to think he would enter next season as the No. 1 guy. It's also true that Kirk Cousins didn't do enough last season to warrant keeping the job. One is a former first-round pick whom the team surrendered a lot to acquire. The other is a fourth-round pick. Do the math and it adds up to Griffin. So it's not all that stunning.

But saying it now leads to other questions and thoughts:

Whose decision was this? There were reports during the season that owner Dan Snyder wanted Griffin to return to the lineup after his ankle injury. Gruden said at the time it was his decision to start Griffin. But it also was evident that the coaches lacked confidence in their quarterback. And it wasn't as if Gruden delivered the news Wednesday at the scouting combine with much conviction. Is that reading too much into it? Perhaps. But given what I know, it's hard not to do so. Perhaps it was as simple as Snyder reminding Gruden why he was hired in the first place: to maximize Griffin's talent. A 4-12 season did not give Gruden any cachet to argue hard against the owner's wishes. For what it's worth, even during the season, the Redskins felt they were pulling names out of a hat when it came to deciding who should start.

What's the benefit to saying it now? Well, it removes a constant storyline from the offseason. Make no mistake, Griffin will be scrutinized every time offseason workouts are open to the media. But there won't be daily talk about who leads the quarterback race. Still, at some point the organization will have to learn that it's about 53 players, not one. And if you're going to be about one player, make sure he's someone who warrants that level. There's not a single player in Washington who deserves that sort of standing right now. Seven wins in two years, remember? For a change, let's see someone earn a certain status with multiple great years.

Could Griffin still end up losing the job? Sure. If Griffin does not look sharp in training camp -- or if Cousins looks a lot better -- that will lead to other issues and could lead to a change. But my guess is Griffin would have to play poorly during the season, not before, to lose the position. And if he plays well? That's what the organization, including the coaches, would want. Their jobs sort of depend on him doing so.

Will they tailor the offense more to Griffin's liking? Keep in mind this is a quarterback who wasn't thrilled with running the read-option, and now, supposedly, running more is the answer. OK. He wants to be a pocket passer, but his mechanics in the pocket were so flawed last season that the coaches' frustration seemed to grow every week. That's why, as others tried to blame the protection, they focused on the quarterback. After this move, my strong guess would be that they will want to beef up other areas to give Griffin every conceivable chance to prove himself. That means bolstering the offensive line (my guess: a veteran right tackle). And it meant bringing in quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. If you're going to give Griffin one last shot, make it a good one. That's smart. At some point, though, there must be no more excuses. It's not a good look.

How will teammates take the news? Most aren't paying a whole lot of attention to football, but Griffin needs to build support in the locker room -- and with his play, not slogans. If he's going to be given the job now, he'd better show a lot of improvement when they're back together. Otherwise get ready for another season of disgruntlement.

What's next? Here's the hope for Griffin: This is his second consecutive full offseason, and there's no doubt he will work hard on strengthening himself. If he improves his decision-making on the move, he can be a dangerous player. But he needs to be equally committed to developing as a pocket passer within this offense. He needs to be open to what the coaches need and want him to do -- and be honest about who he is, and where he is, as a quarterback. Griffin is not a finished product. It's OK to admit that, as long as he is putting in the work to reach that point. And if Griffin does that, then nobody will second guess this decision.
The question was debated until the time it was done and the Washington Redskins had made their decision: They would use the franchise tag on Brian Orakpo. They would buy themselves a year to see if it was worth paying him a hefty price. Turns out it wasn't: Orakpo received $11.46 million, but only played in seven games, delivered half a sack and no game-changing plays that coach Jay Gruden wanted to see.

And now we're back at that same point: Orakpo is a free agent; the Redskins have the franchise tag. But there's no way it's a debate this year. Orakpo is coming off his third major arm injury and isn't in a position to warrant that kind of money.

Nobody else is, either. But next year will be one to watch because the Redskins have a couple interesting players who, as of now, would be free agents:

Left tackle Trent Williams. The smart move would be to extend him this offseason, especially if they can lower his $13.73 million cap hit for 2015. Williams is a three-time Pro Bowler, though he does have flaws. He will give up pressures and sacks, but he also does things few tackles can do because of his athleticism. And Williams will play hurt, which he did this past season. It impacts his performance, but even at 80 percent he's their best option at the position. The projected tag number for an offensive lineman this offseason is $12.92 million.

Running back Alfred Morris. He, too, is in the last year of his contract, but using the franchise tag on a running back? They'd better be special. Morris has been good, but special? Here's another way to view it: The franchise tag for a running back this offseason will be $10.93 million. Even the transition tag would be at least $9 million. Should Morris receive that sort of raise? No. A good one? Sure.

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Another player worth extending this offseason after a 13.5 sack season with an NFL-best five forced fumbles. If he isn't signed before this point in 2016, would you pay him perhaps two million more than they gave Orakpo this past season? That's about what it'll cost. But if Kerrigan has another season like the one he just did, he'll be in line for a big raise regardless. He counts $7.038 million against the cap in 2015.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III OK, the past two years have not gone the way he or the Redskins have wanted. And right now, it's a leap of faith to think he'd be a candidate for such a raise. But: What if? What if the Redskins don't offer the fifth-year extension by May 3, leaving him a free agent after 2015? And what if everything clicks and he has a terrific season? Then they'd have no choice but to offer him big bucks and, sure, the franchise tag is an option (it would cost approximately $18.5 million this year). The Redskins and Griffin need to have a special season for this to be a discussion. But if he has that sort of year, owner Dan Snyder would gladly pony up whatever he could to get a contract done.
Washington Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson wasn't going to win offensive player of the year in the NFC East, not with several strong competitors ahead of him. DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo both were MVP candidates for the entire league. Jackson was not. And Odell Beckham Jr.'s receiving numbers were more impressive, too.

Of course, with better quarterback play Jackson's numbers could have been much better than his 56 catches for 1,169 yards. But when he signed with Washington I expected him to be around 60 catches with a number of big plays. Though he caught 82 passes in 2013 with Philadelphia, Jackson's previous career-high was 62 catches. So he did what I expected.

Jackson was the big-play threat Washington needed. He caught 16 passes for 20 yards or more -- on those receptions, he averaged a staggering 50.44 yards per catch with five touchdowns according to ESPN Stats & Information. And he caught an NFL-best 13 catches for 40 yards or more (no one else had more than eight). Jackson wasn't brought here to block (he wasn't good at that) and the Redskins eventually limited situations where it was pivotal for him to do so. But he was brought here to make plays and it was the only offseason signing that turned out the way they could have hoped.

It'll be interesting to see if Jackson can duplicate those numbers in 2015. Or if he becomes frustrated, along with other receivers, because of the inconsistency at quarterback. Regardless, his first season in Washington produced strong numbers.
With National Signing Day on Wednesday, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back to see how the Redskins players were rated coming out of high school (with a hat tip to my Lions colleague Michael Rothstein for the idea). It’s been widely stated, but there were no five-star recruit starters on either Super Bowl team this year.

Here’s how the Redskins’ defensive players were rated. (Thanks to the ESPN RecruitingNation and databases for the information. They only go back to 2002, and ESPN began its rankings in 2006.) Take it for what it's worth; it's a snapshot of how they were rated coming out of high school. And take note of how few five-star recruits are here; in fact, there's only one -- that's a comment on the ratings, not the need to somehow add more.

Defensive line

Barry Cofield: 3 stars.
Jarvis Jenkins: 4 stars.
Jason Hatcher: Not available.
Chris Baker: 2 stars.
Stephen Bowen: Not available.
Chris Neild: 3 stars – as a tight end.
Kedric Golston: 4 stars.
Robert Thomas (practice squad): 3 stars.


Brian Orakpo: 4 stars.
Ryan Kerrigan: 3 stars.
Jackson Jeffcoat: 5 stars (defensive end).
Perry Riley: 3 stars.
Keenan Robinson: 4 stars.
Will Compton: 4 stars (listed as an athlete).
Gabe Miller: 4 stars.
Trevardo Williams: 3 stars (defensive end).
Adam Hayward: 2 stars (as a running back).
Trent Murphy: 3 stars (as a defensive end).


DeAngelo Hall: Not available.
Phillip Thomas: 3 stars.
E.J. Biggers: 3 stars (listed as athlete).
David Amerson: 4 stars.
Bashaud Breeland: 3 stars.
Tracy Porter: No stars/not rated.
Trey Wolfe (practice squad): No stars/not rated.
Akeem Davis: 2 stars.
Trenton Robinson: 2 stars.
Justin Rogers: No stars/not rated.
Duke Ihenacho: 2 stars.
Many factors influence the respective passer rating when targeting a receiver, starting with the obvious: The routes they're asked to run. While DeSean Jackson ran a lot of deep routes, which are lower percentage, he also ran his share of comebacks and screens, which are much higher percentage. A tight end should have a higher passer rating on throws to them considering they typically run shorter routes.

Anyway, I thought it would be interesting to see what each Washington Redskins quarterback's passer rating was when throwing to five particular targets, focusing on just tight ends and receivers. One receiver jumped out in a negative way.

DeSean Jackson

Robert Griffin III: 27-40, 496 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT for a 116.3 passer rating.
Kirk Cousins: 17-34, 447 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs for a 100.7 passer rating.
Colt McCoy: 12-15, 226 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs for a 141.0 rating.

Note: All three did well with Jackson and each averaged at least 12.4 yards per attempt (Griffin). McCoy topped the three by averaging 13.15 yards per attempt to Jackson in their three games together. Griffin had the most first downs with Jackson at 17. Again, a lot of comebacks and screens for Jackson.

Pierre Garcon

Griffin: 27-35, 282 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs for a 76.1 rating.
Cousins: 21-36, 237 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs and a 73.5 rating.
McCoy: 20-30, 233 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs for a 101.1 rating.

Note: Cousins completed 14 throws for first downs to Garcon. But when you look at the ratings for Griffin and Cousins and you see the combined four interceptions on throws to him, you can probably understand some of his frustration -- if you couldn't already. Also, in the past two years combined Griffin has thrown three touchdowns and eight interceptions when Garcon is the target.

Jordan Reed

Griffin: 18-24, 133 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs for an 87.7 rating.
Cousins: 10-13, 121 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs and a 105.0 rating.
McCoy: 22-28, 211 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT for an 83.2 rating.

Note: The worst part for Reed is he never caught a touchdown pass. In 2013, Griffin posted a 111.5 rating with three touchdowns on throws to Reed.

Andre Roberts

Griffin: 10-21, 170 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs for a 35.9 rating.
Cousins: 20-37, 205 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs for a 54.4 rating.
McCoy: 6-13, 78 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT for a 33.5 rating.

Note: Roberts did not provide an impact and these numbers are a bit eye-opening. At least for Cousins, he completed 16 passes for first downs to Roberts. Still, for a guy the quarterbacks said last summer they felt they could trust, these are bad numbers. He also did not get a lot of the easy completions, such as bubble screens, etc. Still, this needs improvement. In 2013, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer's passer rating on throws to Roberts was 72.9, his lowest among all Cardinal targets.

Niles Paul

Griffin: 14-18, 187 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT for an 86.1 rating.
Cousins: 19-27, 271 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT for a 99.5 rating.
McCoy: 6-6, 49 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs for a 100.7 rating.

Note: McCoy played three games with Paul. He was not a focal point of defenses and he continued to improve as a pass-catcher from this position. Add it up and he posted decent numbers. Cousins completed 12 passes for first downs to Paul.
By season’s end it became clear to the offensive coaches: They needed someone devoted only to the quarterbacks. They got that person Wednesday. Washington hired Matt Cavanaugh as quarterbacks coach.

Last season, offensive coordinator Sean McVay had that title in addition to his other duties. And head coach Jay Gruden once played the position and worked closely with the quarterbacks while a coordinator in Cincinnati. Both, however, found that because of the demands of their new jobs, having one person dedicated to the job would be beneficial.

Cavanaugh spent the last two seasons as the quarterbacks coach in Chicago, but the Bears’ staff was fired after the season. The Chicago quarterbacks had a strong season in 2013, as Jay Cutler and Josh McCown combined for single-season team records in passing yards (4,450), touchdown passes (32) and passer rating (96.9).

Last season, however, Chicago’s quarterbacks (mostly Cutler) finished with an 87.3 rating, 30 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Cavanaugh also was the New York Jets’ quarterbacks coach from 2009-12. He was Baltimore’s offensive coordinator from 1999-2004, winning a Super Bowl after the 2000 season. He also won Super Bowl rings as a backup quarterback with the 1990 New York Giants and 1984 San Francisco 49ers.

The former second-round pick started 19 career games and appeared in 112. He threw for 4,332 yards and 28 touchdowns while playing for five teams.

Redskins thoughts: Perry Fewell

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
Just a few thoughts on the Washington Redskins hiring Perry Fewell Tuesday to coach the secondary (they also hired Mike Clark to be their new strength and conditioning coach):

  • The Redskins interviewed Fewell for their head-coaching job last season, so I talked to a few people at that time about him. It was clear that few, if any, pegged him as a future head coach. Then, he didn't have that X factor that it took to be a head coach (and that was from someone who knew him).
  • As a coordinator, Fewell had mixed results: His four defenses in Buffalo ranked between 10-18 in terms of points allowed and were mostly middle of the pack when it came to yards (except for one 31st place ranking). With New York, Fewell's five defenses again had mixed success, with two top-10 finishes for total yards and three that ranked between 27-31. With points, those units ranked between 12-25. I'm not a big believer on going just off stats, but there's a good sample size here. But he's not coming here to be a coordinator.
  • As a position coach, I've heard good things from those in the game -- and it's what I heard last year, too. Fewell is described as energetic, enthusiastic and professional. I think the defense will benefit from a lot of those qualities -- and there's a definite theme to the Redskins' defensive hires thus far.
  • Whether they work out or not, I don't know. I've seen enough change and every time someone new comes on board, there's always talk about how things will be different under the new guy. And I know the secondary liked departed coach Raheem Morris, who was as energetic as they come. But he was not someone who impressed others in the same manner.
  • I've heard that Fewell was liked by his players in New York. I hear you though: The fans want someone who helps the team win. No, it doesn't matter if they're liked or not, but when you spend this much time together you don't want it to be toxic, either. Ultimately, what players really like is a guy who makes them better.
  • But does that mean Fewell is an upgrade? Don't know. But it will be a different vibe, as it will be with new coordinator Joe Barry. I think a new vibe is most definitely needed on defense. Make it more business-like.
  • One NFL assistant said Fewell is better at preparation -- he's considered more of a teacher than a planner -- than adjusting during a game. That could explain some issues as a defensive coordinator. And the word out of New York was that he'd sometimes make the defenses too complicated and perhaps overthink the game plan a bit.
  • What I remember in the research last year, and it was reiterated Tuesday, is that Fewell would listen to his players when it came to changing the scheme. What this means for him as a position coach? That flexibility always helps, but you also have to earn a level of trust before coming to him with suggestions. It's one thing if veteran linebacker Jon Beason has something to say as opposed to a player in his second or third season.
  • As for Clark, he's entering his 12th season and has worked for Chicago, Kansas City and Seattle (when it lost in Super Bowl XL).
The final grade remains a few years away, when there's more proof of what the players Washington drafted could -- and couldn't -- accomplish. After one season, however, the Washington Redskins' 2014 draft class didn't produce enough and that's why ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. gave them a lower grade than he had immediately after the draft.

It's hard to disagree with Kiper's new grade after watching the eight-person class this past season. He initially gave them a C-plus. I always felt this class would take a while to make an impact, based on the players they drafted, the positions they played and because there was no first-rounder.

Kiper also took into account quarterback Robert Griffin III's season because his presence is why the Redskins had no first-round pick this past season. That's fine; I tend to look at the players they drafted and grade them accordingly. But if Griffin had played well, his grade would have been higher.

Here's what Kiper wrote about the Redskins' draft in this insider's piece Insider:

"RG III is a big factor in this draft grade, as the Redskins were again without a first-round pick, hopefully for the last time for a while. That Washington is still something of a mess at QB drags this grade down because they didn't pick until No. 47 overall, and it's a mixed bag after that."

Of the eight players Washington drafted, three were cut -- Lache Seastrunk, tight end Ted Bolser and kicker Zach Hocker. Of the other five, two became starters because of injuries to others -- Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland.

Murphy needs to be a better pass-rusher to hold onto a starting job; not sure he'll do so. I like Breeland's competitiveness and how he studies, so he has a chance to at least be a solid contributor for a while. It's hard to say on Spencer Long because we really didn't see him after the summer. He has good size and can move, but he looked lost in the preseason. Still, for both he and Morgan Moses, I always viewed them as being a year or two from making any sort of impact. After watching Moses, my opinion hasn't changed -- and I'm not sold he'll become a quality starter. His length helps and he improved, but he needs more work. Receiver Ryan Grant showed this past summer he could run excellent routes. He didn't do anything in games to excite anyone, however. Right now, he looks like a fourth- or fifth receiver at best.

The final grade is a couple years away. And the ultimate grade will be based on not only if the Redskins find starters, but do those players then contribute to winning games? After one season, Kiper's re-grade is appropriate. The big question is: Will it stay that way at this time next season?
The move energized Jarret Johnson's career in a way he didn't anticipate. After nine years in the NFL, playing for a perennially-strong defense in Baltimore, Johnson was ingrained in his ways and his thoughts.

He said that changed in San Diego, playing for linebackers coach Joe Barry.

"I thought I was an educated guy and my three years with him, it was like going back to being a rookie again," Johnson said by phone. "I learned a whole different side of football and techniques and ways to play the game. It really gave me a boost in my career and another jolt of energy because he's so intense. ...It was fun to me."

The Washington Redskins hired Barry as their new defensive coordinator Tuesday, replacing the fired Jim Haslett. Barry comes with a good reputation as a linebackers coach, but also with a blot on his resume: defenses that ranked 32nd in both total yards and points in each of his two seasons as Detroit's defensive coordinator in 2007-08. The latter season resulted in an 0-16 mark, though one coach in Detroit from that time called Barry a good coach and refused to blame him for the failures. Still, that mark leaves Redskins fans wondering if this was a wise move.

Those in San Diego believe it will be a good one for Washington.

"This is a great opportunity for a bright, young, energetic football coach. Joe is extremely detailed and organized," San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano said at the Senior Bowl. "He's demanding on his players, pushing them to excel to their fullest capabilities. The players will love playing for Joe."

Barry has experience in the Tampa-2, 4-3 scheme and the 3-4. Johnson said that led to him using multiple fronts and schemes and blitz patterns.

"He has a ton of energy," said Johnson, who played the past three years in San Diego. "He's a hard-working guy, a late-night guy. He's going to work his ass off. He'll do everything in his power to make sure the players are as prepared as can be. A lot of coaches are super intense and all about football but sometimes that doesn't correlate and they don't get along with players. The best thing is, [Barry] has a good balance of interaction with players. He's everyone's favorite coach as well as being one of the most intense on the staff."

Johnson called Barry one of his best friends in the building, saying that he balances having a demanding personality yet also being approachable.

"I've had a lot of coaches that were super intense and demanding and you didn't get along with him because they were do demanding all they wanted to talk about was football," Johnson said.

From an X's and O's perspective, Johnson said Barry's experience coaching at Southern California in 2010 also helped when game planning to stop zone-read teams (that didn't help as much vs. Washington in 2013: The Redskins had 13 zone-read carries for 94 yards in a 30-24 win. The Chargers allowed 5.71 yards per carry vs. this look in 2013 and 3.87 this past season, according to ESPN Stats & Information).

Johnson said not to judge Barry just by his Detroit days.

"I don't know a lot about that situation," Johnson said. "You can't blame it on one guy. I do know he learned a lot that year.

"I know it's an 0-16 season that people will look at. If they judge off that they'll be sorely mistaken. He's way better than that year. He'll bust his ass and do a great job. You're not getting some sly dude who will take the job and lay down and be happy. He's never satisfied."