NFC East: Washington Redskins

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

April, 19, 2014
Apr 19
10:00
AM ET
A little more balanced mailbag for Saturday, with four questions on the draft but three on other topics, including Robert Griffin III and who will make the biggest impact of anyone not named DeSean Jackson. Enjoy.

The Washington Redskins' defense is optimistic about where it's headed, thanks to the addition of Jason Hatcher and a tweaked philosophy regarding the pass rush. Whether their play matches that optimism always remains the biggest hurdle. What's not in doubt: They will have two players among the most expensive at their positions when it comes to the salary cap. The fact both are in their front seven isn't a coincidence as the Redskins' offseason goal has been to improve the pass rush. So, after breaking down where the Redskins' top cap hits at each position offensively stood in comparison to their NFL counterparts earlier this week, it's time to take a look at the defense.

Safety

NFL's top five cap hits
Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs $11,619,700
Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers, $10,100,000
Antrel Rolle, New York Giants, $9,250,000
Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $9,000,000
Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans, $8,000,000

Meriweather
Redskins' top cap hit
Brandon Meriweather (59th), $1,000,000

Summing it up: Notice who’s not in the top five? Jairus Byrd, after his new deal with New Orleans. But don’t worry: He’s set to take up the most cap room in 2015 at $10.3 million. I like Byrd, but not at that figure (I’d have paid Sean Taylor that sort of cash). But Byrd was never really a legitimate option for the Redskins. Mike Mitchell was and he’ll count $2.2 million this season and $4.95 million in 2015. But the overriding point is Washington views the best way to help this position is by bolstering the pass rush. Starters Meriweather and Ryan Clark both are on one-year contracts, so this position is still a question mark beyond this season (and still will be one entering the year).

Corner

NFL's top five cap hits
Brandon Carr, Dallas, $12,217,000
Johnathan Joseph, Houston, $11,250,000
Lardarius Webb, Baltimore, $10,500,000
Brandon Flowers, Kansas City, $10,500,000
Tramon Williams, Green Bay, $9,500,000

Porter
Redskins' top cap hit
Tracy Porter (43rd), $2,800,000

Summing it up: Next season, Darrelle Revis' cap hit jumps to $25 million. Which means he’s playing on a one-year deal. Is it a good thing the Redskins’ biggest cap hit here belongs to Porter, who has battled injury issues along with consistency during his career? Of course, it’s not like he occupies a lot of space. DeAngelo Hall's cap hit is $2,062,500 but that jumps to $4,812,500 in 2015. By then the Redskins need young corner David Amerson to have fully emerged -- can he become their best corner? If not, then they’ll have to start looking for a No. 1 corner. By the way, the top five on the list for 2014? They’ve combined for four Pro Bowl appearances and one All-Pro spot (Joseph). But Carr did do a good job vs. Washington last year (and in at least one game against then-Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson).

Linebacker

NFL's top five cap hits
Lawrence Timmons, $11,816,250
Tamba Hali, Kansas City, $11,464,706
Brian Orakpo, Washington, $11,455,000
Clay Matthews, Green Bay, $10,943,750
James Laurinaitis, St. Louis, $10,400,000

Orakpo
Redskins' top cap hit
Orakpo

Summing it up: That’s quite a list for Orakpo to be part of, but to stay on there after this season -- at least in Washington -- he’ll have to be a little more productive. But even if he has another season like last year, Orakpo will still be in the $10-million range. When Hali got paid, he responded with sack totals of 12, nine and 11 in the next three seasons (with nine forced fumbles and one interception). I don’t think anyone says Hali's overpaid (well, at least not many). In Orakpo’s last three full seasons, he has a combined 27.5 sacks, but only four forced fumbles. More game-changing plays and he’ll get the contract he desires. Another interesting part on this is that two of the five are inside linebackers, though Timmons plays in a 3-4 and Laurinaitis in a 4-3.

Defensive tackle

NFL's top five cap hits
Ndamukong Suh, Detroit, $22,412,000
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore, $16,000,000
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay, $15,627,253
Geno Atkins, Cincinnati, $9,000,000
Barry Cofield, Washington, $7,667,500

Cofield
Redskins' top cap hit
Cofield

Summing it up: Cofield’s base salary jumped from $840,000 last season to $4.55 million (the lower figure was the result of a restructuring last spring in which $3.5 million in base salary was converted to a signing bonus). This is as high as Cofield’s cap number will be and in two years it falls to $6,877,500. I know the coaches felt he would become the NFL’s top nose tackle by this time. That’s not the case, but Cofield does have his strengths and has done a nice job with Washington. For a short stretch last season he was playing as well as anyone on the team defensively, and he always plays hard. He’ll be helped by having Hatcher in the pass rush, perhaps giving Cofield more one-on-one matchups. If that happens, then perhaps Cofield will have the sort of season in all phases that coaches have hoped for.

Defensive end

NFL's top five cap hits
Mario Williams, Buffalo, $18,800,000
Charles Johnson, Carolina, $16,420,000
Chris Long, St. Louis, $14,900,000
Greg Hardy, Carolina, $13,116,000
Calais Campbell , Arizona, $11,250,000

Bowen
Redskins' top cap hit
Stephen Bowen (15th), $7,020,000

Summing it up: All of the top five on this list play in a 4-3, where ends can excel as playmakers and, therefore, command big bucks. The 3-4 ends, typically, are not -- with some exceptions. Bowen has not been a playmaker, though for a while he was an effective player both against the run and as a rusher. However, he has just one sack since the 2011 season (26 games). And after microfracture surgery and being 30, I wonder about the level at which he’ll be able to play. Multiple Redskins sources said they still expect him to be in the Redskins' plans, but will it be at this cap figure? That's a big hit for someone in his situation. If Bowen returns healthy and plays well, the Redskins will greatly benefit. If not? That's a lot of cap room to occupy. One more note: Johnson and Hardy combine for approximately 23 percent of Carolina's cap.
In the fifth part of our re-examining series, I take a look at cornerback where the Redskins made a couple moves, though only one key addition. Already this week I've discussed safeties, the pass rush, receivers and the offensive line.

[+] EnlargeDeAngelo Hall
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliDeAngelo Hall is back for his seventh season in Washington.
What they’ve done: Re-signed DeAngelo Hall, re-signed E.J. Biggers, signed Tracy Porter, let Josh Wilson leave via free agency.


Problem solved: Tough to say that considering it’s largely the same group that’s returning. But the corner play wasn’t nearly the same issue as safety. Porter is coming off a solid year and should be improved over Wilson in the slot in coverage. Amerson’s progression will be a big key here. Hall isn’t going to get better but if he duplicates last season they’d be happy; Biggers is fine as a fourth corner. They still could use one more corner to compete with Chase Minnifield and Richard Crawford. Overall this group still has a lot to prove.

Projected starters: Hall and Amerson with Porter in the slot.

What must happen: Amerson must be able to handle a starting role after serving as the No. 3 corner during his rookie season. Amerson definitely improved throughout the year, cutting down on his mental lapses in coverage. He was better with his eyes throughout the play later in the year. He learned to play press coverage last season, which should be a good tactic for him because of his long arms. He needs to show consistency and prove he can handle consistently tougher assignments as a starter (though it’s not as if he only played lesser receivers; he did a good job vs. Denver’s Eric Decker, for example). Amerson will have to show he can handle run game duties, too.

Porter has to play at a comparable level to 2013 -- I know what some rankings say about him, but those who watched him every game and in practice called him the Raiders' most consistent corner. In the games I watched of him this offseason (Indianapolis, Denver and Dallas), he was solid. He showed good patience in the slot while facing receivers such as Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker and Miles Austin (and occasionally Eric Decker or even Dez Bryant, who was a mismatch inside against him). When Porter allowed bigger catches, it typically came off an excellent move and good throw because he still had tight coverage. He’s willing to play the run, but Wilson was stronger in this area. And Porter showed he could blitz from the slot. Porter’s previous seasons weren't that strong, which is why he’s on his fourth team in four years. Injuries have been an issue in his career; last season was his first playing 16 games and only his second of more than 12. So staying healthy is a big key. Hall needs to maintain the same level of intensity he showed in 2013 when facing many top receivers. He played well and was most effective in press coverage. Hall also turns 31 this season and he was not as consistent in other coverages.

Address in the draft: Sure, but not until the later rounds. It would be a waste to select a corner in the second round knowing they would serve as a No. 4 at best. It’s not like, say, outside linebacker where they’d be used in packages to bolster the pass rush. What if the corner is by far their best on the board? OK. But short of that, they can address the position later in the draft and try to develop the player. They need depth right now, not starters (you can debate the quality of them; but they’re invested and it’s not a need). Next year? Different story. Minnifield and Crawford still have something to prove; the former spent most of the year on the practice squad and the latter missed all season with multiple torn ligaments. It’s asking a lot to expect him to be at the same level he was entering camp last summer. When he entered camp he and the coaches felt good about how he had improved in the slot. The feisty Minnifield has to show he can be effective in more coverages than just press.

Last word: This group will definitely be helped by increased quarterback pressure. Too often last season the coverages didn’t seem to match the rush, for whatever reason. And when they’d play zone, that’s when they’d get into trouble. They’re not good enough to just play press man all day. Few corners are so they must be able to play a variety of coverages. But if you know the pressure will get home, then you can play tighter even in zones. If safety Ryan Clark has anything left, he’ll also help in two ways: making sure everyone is lined up right (sounds little, but it’s not) and providing trust that he’ll be where he’s supposed to, allowing the corners to play accordingly. It matters.
The Washington Redskins can host up to 30 players before the draft, but who they do doesn't always tell the entire story of their interest. And we don't really know how what visits mean for this regime: How many of these players will they ultimately select? Some teams draft maybe one or two players that they actually hosted.

That said, some things are telling. First I'm going to take a look at the offensive players mentioned. What stands out: They've looked at several tackles. That's no surprise, but I think the plan all along was to look harder at the draft for this spot than free agency (where they brought in only Donald Penn).

It's also true that in some cases the Redskins might not want to draft certain players, but would bring them in because they want a book on them for the future -- in case they get cut or become free agents down the road.

Anyway, take the visits for what they're worth but the positions they're looking at are noteworthy. These are players who either have visited, will visit or have talked to them about visiting. I've used reports from the Washington Post, myself, ESPN980, SiriusXM radio and 106.7. I also used some info from draft analysts for ESPN.com, CBS Sports and NFL.com. And in finishing this item, I came across a similar format on a site called Pro Player Insiders.

Here are the offensive players who either have visited or will:


T/G Jack Mewhort, Ohio State

Projection: Third round

Comment: Mewhort played left tackle and both guard spots in college and was a solid player. He's athletic, but lean at 6-foot-6, 308 pounds. He's a much better fit in a zone blocking system, an outside one at that, than anything else. Which, of course, the Redskins use. I don't think he's going to overpower any defender.

How he'd fit: Mewhort would have to be viewed as the eventual starter at right tackle, but I'd be surprised if it happened right away. If he can't handle right tackle, he could always slide inside so if nothing else he'd find a way to be productive. However, he'd have to learn to consistently play lower if that were the case. It was an issue in college.

WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
Projection: Mid-to-late rounds

Comment: Coming off a 72-catch season. Has good size at 6-2, 215 pounds and excellent hands. But he's not a fast receiver and analysts worry about his ability to defeat athletic corners in the NFL.

How he'd fit: Developmental receiver and depth.

OT Morgan Moses, Virginia

Projection: Second round

Comment: He has clear ability, but for a guy who projects this high he also seems to be a bit of a project. He has good size at 6-6, 314 pounds, but doesn't always bend his knees. The fact that Washington is looking at him suggests the Redskins want to upgrade right tackle and might do so with its first pick.

How he'd fit: Despite faring better on the left side in college, he'd be the future starter at right tackle with Washington. Day 1 starter? Hard to see, but if you're a second-round pick you should be ready to start at some point that first season.

OT Cameron Fleming, Stanford

Projection: Second round

Comment: He's not considered a fast or agile tackle, so I wonder how he'd fit in with Washington. He's considered by analysts to be better as a drive blocker. But he did not receive high marks for his pass protection skills. Honestly, after reading more about him, I'm not sure why he's projected to this round.

How he'd fit: I really don't know based on his fit with a zone scheme. Perhaps they view him more as a guard long-term than anything else.

WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

Projection: Late rounds

Comment: He attended Bishop McNamara in Forestville, Md. He's 6-6, which is great except that there aren't many receivers that size in the NFL. It can be tough to get in and out of breaks when you're that tall. But he'd make an inviting red zone target if nothing else, though it takes more than size to excel here. He caught 92 passes in college (20 for touchdowns).

How he'd fit: Developmental guy. The Redskins could afford to bring him along slowly. Nothing wrong with that.

OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

Projection: Second, possibly third round

Comment: He has good size (6-5, 336) and long arms, two welcomed traits at tackle. Richardson received higher marks for his pass protection skills than anything. He's considered to have good enough quickness to handle the right side.

How he'd fit: Eventual starter at right tackle. Day one? Tough to say, but has traits worth grooming.

RB Charles Sims, West Virginia

Projection: Mid-to-late rounds

Comment: He has excellent hands and quickness. Has good speed, though not a burner. Analysts consider him a better fit in a zone system (like the Redskins).

How he'd fit: A third down pass-catcher. The Redskins have Roy Helu and Chris Thompson as possibilities here, but both have question marks.

Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Redskins 

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
12:15
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The Washington Redskins don’t pick in the NFL draft until the second round, 34th overall, thanks to the Robert Griffin III trade in 2012. A 3-13 record at least provided them a high pick in the second round, which is not exactly what they were hoping for last season. Despite luring some key free agents, the Redskins remain in need of several positions. A right tackle, a safety, an inside linebacker or even another pass-rusher would make sense with their first pick.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draftInsider is out on ESPN Insider today, and his choice would give the Redskins a replacement for a departed leader.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Malcolm Jenkins only echoed what others have said about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. And the new Philadelphia Eagles safety didn't question Griffin's game, but, rather his ability to stay healthy. At this point, it's a fair topic. Of course, maybe it's not one a player new to the division might want to address. But then again, it was tame compared to his thoughts on the Dallas defense.

Jenkins
When Jenkins appeared on the NFL Network, he discussed the other three teams in the NFC East. He took a shot at Dallas' defense, as well as the New York Giants' ability to protect Eli Manning. Here's what he had to say about Griffin:
"I think the biggest thing we're going to see is [Robert Griffin III] take that next step as far as the cerebral approach to the game. But the biggest concern I have with RG3 is, will he protect himself? And that's a thing he hasn't done early in his career.

"He scrambles, he gets those extra yards, he makes those throws out of the pocket, but takes a lot of unnecessary hits. We've seen the toll that has had on him.

“Last year he really wasn't himself, still trying to recover from that injury. Those kind of hits, when you talk about a QB, it's all about accountability and availability. He's very very accountable, but availability is going to be an issue if he continues to play the style of football that he's used to."

Jenkins isn't the first opponent to wonder about Griffin's durability or his health. In the past year, several players did just that, including Dallas corner Brandon Carr, San Francisco linebacker Ahmad Brooks and New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle among them.

But Jenkins is new to the division and his yapping does two things: endear him to Eagles beat reporters and mark him as a target for other teams. With Griffin, there's only one way to prove Jenkins and many others wrong. He needs to stay healthy; it's not about one game or one throw, it's about a season and then a string of them. And Jenkins didn't knock his game, just questioned his durability.

Dallas' defense might feel a little differently about Jenkins. But when a defense ends the season ranked 32nd in yards allowed and 26th in points allowed, and then loses its best pass-rushers (Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware), well, it leaves little room for anything but criticism. So here's what Jenkins said:
“A couple years ago, their scapegoat was Rob Ryan, and they got rid of him, and he was the cause of all their problems. He went to New Orleans and took the worst defense in NFL history and turned them into a top 5 defense. So he couldn't have been the problem.

“And then you look at this year, I had the best seat in the house when I watched the Saints get 40 first downs in one game. Forty. In one game. So it must be the players.”

And then Eli Manning was the topic. Again, good, honest stuff.
"I think the problem is he was sacked 39 times, a career high last year. If that continues, Eli's best days are behind him. If they can protect him, then maybe, but it doesn't look like it."

When Jenkins played for Ohio State (my alma mater, as you might know), I preferred that he keep quiet. Typically his game spoke volumes. In the NFL, he's been up and down, but there's no doubt he now has a role as a future analyst. As a reporter, I'll never knock a guy for giving an honest opinion. Sort of helps the job, you know?
Last week I broke down the Redskins' salary cap by position and how it compared to the rest of the NFL. This is one more extension of that so you can see how the Redskins' top cap hit compares to the five biggest cap hits at each position. For the most part, the Redskins have more bargains offensively in part because they've found younger contributors through the draft or they landed players such as DeSean Jackson after they'd been cut, thereby lowering their price. The Redskins have only one player who will count among the top five at their position in 2014 -- left tackle Trent Williams.

Quarterback

NFL's top five cap hits

Eli Manning, New York Giants, $20,400,000

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh, $18,895,000

Jay Cutler, Chicago, $18,500,000

Drew Brees, New Orleans, $18,400,000

Sam Bradford, St. Louis, $17,610,000

Redskins top cap hit

Griffin
Robert Griffin III $5,759,754 (19th overall)

Summing it up: St. Louis is paying the price for a since-changed system when it comes to rookie contracts -- and the Redskins clearly have benefited. There’s little chance anyone would think Bradford is worth as much as his 2014 cap number. Manning has regressed the past two seasons, for whatever reason, and needed ankle surgery this offseason. Roethlisberger is excellent and Brees remains a top-five quarterback. But Cutler is an example of a guy who is being paid because of the position he plays. He's been a good quarterback, but it's tough to say he's been great. He's definitely not a top-five guy. The Redskins have Griffin at a lower cost the next two seasons and then, if he plays as they hope, his number will skyrocket.

Receiver

NFL's top five cap hits

Mike Wallace, Miami, $17,250,000

Andre Johnson, Houston, $15,644,583

Percy Harvin, Seattle, $13,400,000

Calvin Johnson, Detroit, $13,058,000

Vincent Jackson, Tampa Bay, $12,432,000

Redskins top cap hit

Garcon
Garcon
Pierre Garcon $9,700,000 (seventh overall)

Summing it up: The top two at this position certainly didn't outperform Garcon, who led the NFL with 113 catches. Garcon only caught five touchdown passes, but that matches what Wallace and Andre Johnson did as well. Harvin played just 19 snaps all season. Calvin Johnson caught 84 passes, but 12 went for touchdowns and he averaged 17.8 yards per catch. Jackson caught 78 passes, seven for scores, and averaged 15.7 yards per catch. The Redskins received good value from their top earner at this spot. They have even more invested here now after adding DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. The former will be a major bargain compared to the rest of this group if he puts up numbers similar to last year (82 catches, nine touchdowns, 1,332 yards. But keep in mind in his first five years Jackson averaged 54.8 catches, 4.6 touchdowns and 957 yards per season).

Running back

NFL's top five cap hits

Adrian Peterson, Minnesota, $14,400,000

LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia, $9,700,000

Ray Rice, Baltimore, $8,750,000

Arian Foster, Houston, $8,300,000

Matt Forte, Chicago, $7,900,000

Redskins top cap hit

Helu
Roy Helu $1,548,563 (38th overall)

Summing it up: Peterson and McCoy are two of the most dangerous offensive players in the NFL and are difference-makers. But what's also clear is why teams don't like to shell out huge money for running backs. Washington’s Alfred Morris, who is 93rd on the list of running backs when it comes to 2014 cap figures ($600,775), was as productive running the ball as Peterson. Morris ran for 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns, averaging 4.6 yards a carry. Peterson rushed for 1,266 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 4.5 yards per rush. Rice ran for 660 yards in 15 games, averaging 3.1 yards on 214 carries. Foster only played in eight games. Forte is an excellent all-around back and was productive. But the Redskins are fortunate they won’t have to shell out more money here for two more years.

Offensive line

NFL's top five cap hits

LT Joe Thomas, Cleveland, $12,300,000

LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, New York Jets, $11,698,666

LT Russell Okung, Seattle, $11,240,000

G Jahri Evans, New Orleans, $11,000,000

LT Trent Williams, Washington, $10,980,393

Redskins top cap hit

Britt
Williams
Williams

Summing it up: Williams is one of the games best tackles so for him to be in this group makes sense. He could be more consistent and avoid the clunker game, but overall Williams has proven himself and earned two Pro Bowl trips. I'd have a hard time paying a guard as much as Evans, but at least he's an elite player with five consecutive All-Pro nods (in addition to five straight Pro Bowl berths). Okung, drafted one spot after Williams in 2010, has missed 19 games in his career and made one Pro Bowl team. Williams has played in every game the past two seasons. Because of his athleticism, the Redskins can use him differently than other teams use their tackles.

Tight end

NFL's top five cap hits

Jason Witten, Dallas, $8,412,000

Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville, $8,250,000

Greg Olsen, Carolina, $7,800,000

Antonio Gates, San Diego, $7,362,500

Vernon Davis, San Francisco, $7,342,916

Redskins top cap hit

Paulsen
Logan Paulsen $2,236,666 (21st overall)

Summing it up: Yet another position where the Redskins have a bargain for a few more seasons. This isn’t about how Paulsen stacks up, but really about Jordan Reed. If he can stay healthy, this will be the company he keeps statistically. I love watching Davis because of the matchup headaches he causes based on his athleticism. It’s the same with Reed. Marcedes Lewis has had a nice eight-year career and is an excellent blocker, but No. 2 on this list? He has 25 career touchdown catches, but 10 came in one season. The others are proven pass threats. Of course, this list will change once Jimmy Graham's situation is settled with New Orleans.
Depending on who you talked to, receiver DeSean Jackson missing the first week of voluntary workouts was either no big deal or the greatest sin committed in some time.

But all is fine now. Jackson showed up for the start of Week 2 of the workouts, with the Redskins tweeting a picture of him in the weight room.


I didn't have a big problem with him missing the first week, mainly because he told the Redskins before he signed about a previously scheduled trip. Yes, there are some who say it would have been a good move for him in terms of public perception had he cancelled his trip and showed up last week. Maybe they're right. One agent said Jackson could have recouped the money he lost from a cancelled trip by working it into this contract.

But I don't think most players will care a whole lot whether or not Jackson missed last week. Most will understand: the trip was scheduled when he played for a team that didn't have to report until April 21. In fact, the agent I spoke with said his Redskins client did not care at all about Jackson's absence.

For the first two weeks of the voluntary sessions, players aren't permitted to do more than just weight training and conditioning. But quarterbacks and receivers can throw (with no defenders). It's a good time for Jackson to start building a rapport with quarterback Robert Griffin III, which is obviously important. So, sure, it would have been nice.

The key for Jackson, though, will be how he handles the workouts going forward. If he takes them seriously and works hard? The players will embrace him. His situation is different because of the circumstances surrounding his release from Philadelphia and more eyes will be focused on him. Maybe he doesn't care. But the eyes he should care about are those of his teammates. And if it matters to him, he'll have a strong spring. If that's the case, they'll be looking forward to the start of training camp -- and not looking back on the first week of voluntary workouts.

Redskins hope for 'double whammy'

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
12:30
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It's supposed to provide a boost to themselves and hurt a division rival at the same time. That's the benefit of signing a player from a team in your own division. The Redskins have done so in the past; they did it again this offseason -- twice.

First they landed defensive lineman Jason Hatcher, taking him away from Dallas. Then it was receiver DeSean Jackson from Philadelphia.

Hatcher
Hatcher
Jackson
"It's always great to go to a division rival and take someone from their roster that was big for them and bring it to your own team," Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. "That's almost a double whammy on their part."

How much does it really help or hurt? New York adequately replaced Cofield and won a Super Bowl in his first season with Washington. But the Giants' defense did fall in terms of effectiveness after he left, falling from 17th in points allowed his last season there to 25th the following year. Many reasons could explain that tumble and the Giants did rank 12th in points allowed in 2012. They survived the loss of a player to a division rival.

But consider that during Cofield's time in Washington, the Redskins steadily improved against the run while the Giants temporarily declined in this area. The Redskins went from allowing 4.6 yards per carry before Cofield arrived to 4.3 then 4.22 and finally 3.99 this past season. New York took an initial dip going from 4.16 yards per carry in his last season with the Giants to 4.46 and 4.6 in its first two seasons without him before rebounding this past season at 3.84.

Cofield has been a solid player for Washington, but its defense clearly needs more. The Redskins ranked 21st in points allowed the year before his arrival and have gone 21st, 22nd and 31st in points allowed with him. He has not emerged as the NFL's best nose tackle as the Redskins had once predicted.

And I use Cofield as an example more than Stephen Bowen, also signed from a division rival, because he was a full-time starter for all of his five seasons in New York. The most Bowen had started was nine games in 2010 for Dallas.

And the overall point is: They survived the loss of a player to a division rival. But the other point is: Cofield did help the Redskins' defense.

And 20 of his 95 tackles in Washington have occurred in six games against the Giants. That's 21.1 percent of his tackles during his 48 games with the Redskins. Yeah, those games probably meant something more. For Bowen, 11 of his 85 tackles -- or 12.9 percent -- and 1.5 of his seven sacks have come in five games against Dallas.

Cofield said playing your former team twice a season definitely matters.

"There's that chip you carry on your shoulder playing against your old team," Cofield said. "It's like playing against your brother in the backyard. You love them, but you want to beat them worse than anybody for bragging rights. Having guys within the division, having that hatred -- not just my feeling for the Giants, but my feeling against the Cowboys and Eagles built over the years. DeSean has feelings in the division that will be strong I'm sure. Playing against teams twice a year, you can't replicate it. So playing a division rival is a positive in many different ways."

The Redskins did not get the double whammy when they obtained quarterback Donovan McNabb from Philadelphia in 2010. Of course, that's exactly what the Eagles got as McNabb struggled, the Redskins went 6-10 in their one season with McNabb under center and they ended up with two draft picks. Oh, and they went 10-6 and made the postseason (but McNabb did win an ugly game in Philly; so he had that going for him). Then again, McNabb's failure eventually led to the Redskins' aggressive pursuit of quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Dallas and Philadelphia both were fine letting Hatcher and Jackson leave. The Cowboys weren't going to re-sign Hatcher and the Eagles cut Jackson. But having them both remain in the division? The Redskins hope they make their former teams pay.
Shortly after he signed with Washington, receiver Andre Roberts recalled his frustration from the past season. He was Arizona’s second receiver in 2012; he was their third in 2013. His numbers suffered.

Roberts didn’t complain, but it did bother him.

“It was definitely frustrating,” he said. “I felt great coming into [2013] and I was hoping I could better my stats and help the offense more. But I wasn’t able to do that. Being a competitor and a receiver who wants the ball every play -- you obviously can’t get the ball every play -- but I have that mentality. Whenever there’s a pass play I want the ball in my hands and I think I can do something special with it. When you don’t get the opportunity, it was definitely really frustrating for me.”

[+] EnlargeAndre Roberts
Jeff Curry/USA TODAY SportsEx-Cardinal Andre Roberts could be a valuable weapon for the Redskins as the team's No. 3 wide receiver.
Which leads us to now. When he signed with Washington, Roberts envisioned a role in which he’d play inside and outside, being a second option after Pierre Garcon. Of course, that was before the Redskins signed receiver DeSean Jackson.

“Well, I envisioned one thing and then we signed DeSean Jackson,” Roberts said on ESPN 980's "Inside the Locker Room" Thursday. “So I haven’t really thought too much.”

Roberts got paid -- he received a four-year, $16 million contract with $8 million guaranteed. But now that he has the money, he’d also like to have a lot of chances. Jackson’s arrival can help make everyone better, just because defenses will have to focus on taking him away. They can only double so many receivers and, if the Redskins use a lot of three-receiver sets, that means Roberts could be put in numerous one-on-one situations. Roberts likely will play in the slot, but he can play outside as well. Last season, Arizona used him outside in many of its three-receiver sets with Larry Fitzgerald inside.

But the Redskins didn’t bring Jackson here just to be a decoy. And there’s also tight end Jordan Reed to consider when it comes to targets. It’s a good problem for any team to have; that’s a potentially explosive offense. Which is why the Redskins coaches and players, quarterback Robert Griffin III in particular, are thrilled.

It also means players will have to realize they may not get as many targets as they desire. That’s what Roberts dealt with in 2013. His snaps went from 837 in 2012 to 605. His targets dropped from 114 to 73.

“That’s how the league is, that’s how the league works,” Roberts said. “Going into my situation, I wanted to be the No. 2 receiver. But I still don’t how it’s going to work out. Obviously, when you look at how much money is being made each guy, you’d think that’s going to be [the] No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.”

Not only by the money, but by the reputation. Garcon and Jackson will be the primary targets at receiver. The former is coming off a 113-catch season; the latter had 1,333 yards receiving.

Regardless, if Roberts just plays the slot he’ll get opportunities with perhaps more of them coming down field. There’s a reason Washington targeted him so fast in free agency. He also told ESPN 980 that he thinks he’ll be doing a lot of returning. Jackson did that in Philadelphia, but not as much in recent years -- and in his last 32 punt returns combined the past three years he averaged only 5.7 yards. Besides, the Redskins would be wise not to have Jackson return a lot to limit the wear and tear on his body.

“I think I’ll be returning,” Roberts said. “What I want to do is punt return and kick return, if I have that choice. Anytime I feel like I can get my hands on the ball, I want to do it. … If I can get back there and returns some kicks and return some punts for this team, I’m going to be pretty happy.”
The Washington Redskins filled two big holes in free agency -- they hope -- when they landed defensive lineman and pass-rusher Jason Hatcher as well as big-time playmaking receiver DeSean Jackson. Next stop, the draft, where the Redskins don't pick until the second round (34th overall). Several positions would make sense in the second round: right tackle, safety or even inside linebacker.

Todd McShay's fourth mock Insider is now available on ESPN Insider's page and he projects a player to Washington who should make quarterback Robert Griffin III happy.


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Defensive end Brandon Moore was a longshot to make the Redskins' roster. His path got a lot harder Tuesday when the NFL announced he would be suspended for the first four games of the season.

According to the NFL, Moore will be suspended without pay for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. However, he'll be eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games.

The Redskins were awarded Moore off waivers after Kansas City cut him last month. Moore left the University of Texas early to enter the NFL, but went undrafted in 2013. He spent time on the practice squads for both Denver and San Diego.
The first day of free agency witnessed a changing of one guard. A couple weeks later, they ditched their center. So there were changes along the Washington Redskins' offensive line. However, it wasn’t a massive rebuild.

Still, it will be different with Shawn Lauvao at left guard and Kory Lichtensteiger at center.

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Lauvao
“I don’t know what to make of it,” Redskins left tackle Trent Williams said. “We have to see how everything plays out when the pads get on and how everything meshes. Obviously Kory is a more than capable center, and Shawn has played and proven he can play in this league. I’m stoked to see how this thing works out.

“I feel we had a bunch of pieces already in place and [we] added some more and bulked up the offensive line a little bit. I’m thinking this thing can work out the best for us.”

Whether that does won’t be answered for another five months or so. Until then, it’s all speculation. Lauvao had a spotty track record in Cleveland, though multiple sources with the Browns said they wanted him back (clearly not at the price Washington paid).

Lichtensteiger has played guard the past three years, but now replaces Will Montgomery at center.

“When we played against [Lauvao in Cleveland], we had a lot of respect for him,” Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I read some negative things about him, but among our defensive linemen we knew he was a guy that could play and played well for them when we played them two years ago.”

Washington also flirted with Donald Penn, who would have replaced Tyler Polumbus at right tackle. That position could be addressed in the draft as well.

The Redskins’ line wasn’t a big issue after the 2012 season, though in truth the scheme helped mask some deficiencies. The zone-read and the play-action game -- both in the stretch and regular -- caused hesitation at times among pass-rushers. Teams did not blitz as often. All of that helped give quarterback Robert Griffin III enough time to throw (or escape).

Last season, minus a similar threat, Griffin needed more time. And the line was forced, especially early in the season, to drop back without the benefit of as much play action. Not their strength. The result: more pressure. Griffin can help himself by making quicker decisions. The line can help with better protection, especially up the middle. That is, if the Redskins want to get the ball down the field. With DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts and Pierre Garcon, that likely is the plan.

And that means more pressure on the line to protect Griffin. Re-establishing the play-action part of their attack would help tremendously.

“We have to hold up a little longer,” Williams said. “Those guys are fast ... But that’s what we get paid to do.”
One person after another has let it be known how happy Robert Griffin III has appeared this offseason. It’s why I wrote a column on it a couple weeks ago.

But Griffin hasn’t spoken much this offseason, other than the occasional text messages to include in stories. His tweets Monday night, however, were telling. There is not much need to rehash what happened in 2013, but one word was used more than any other over the past year: trust. Griffin did not trust coach Mike Shanahan. Doesn’t matter how the coaches perceived it, it was reality for Griffin.

There is little doubt Griffin has been energized by the offseason, because of the coaching changes and, more recently, the acquisition of receiver DeSean Jackson. Griffin is working out the way he likes; he’s taking charge of working with others and he had a highly active role in recruiting free agents -- probably more so than most outsiders realize.

Then came this: Griffin retweeted a Pro Football Talk tweet about a Jay Gruden comment regarding his quarterback and the new logo. (Thanks to the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg, who always has his eyes out for such things). And in retweeting the link, Griffin added this: “Coach supports his players, new year.”

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Then, after retweeting another PFT link to comments Trent Williams made to the local media regarding Jackson, Griffin added: “Players have each other's back, New Year”. Now, it did not seem like that last part was a big issue last season, especially given the 3-13 record.

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But it’s difficult not to interpret Griffin’s first tweet regarding the coaches as a decisive nod to what he endured over the past year. This offseason is going so much different for Griffin than in 2013. For the Redskins, it’s a welcomed start.
The wrinkles they added last year were, more or less, on their own faces. The season aged them all, from the owner down through the coaching staff.

Then came the changes in the staff. Then came, well, new wrinkles. This time in the form of the defensive playbook. The storyline this offseason for the defense: The Redskins will unleash the pass rush more, tinkering with the philosophy to generate more pressure. It’s not a 100 percent of the time issue; that would be a huge change.

But the opportunities will be more. Or so they hear.

“I can only hope so,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “I feel that’s where we’re starting now. You can go into it with the best intentions, but if you don’t get it done and you’re hurting the team, you have to make changes to generate pressure. It will come down to execution. But I can genuinely say that’s the plan. We’ll do different things up front, not just the line, it’s linebackers included, that should allow us to play in the backfield more and make big, disruptive plays.”

[+] EnlargeMatt Flynn
AP Photo/Ben MargotBarry Cofield is excited about the changes coming to the Washington defense.
The Redskins have been a two-gap defense, with the line responsible for occupying blockers so the linebackers can make plays. They mirrored their 3-4 off of Pittsburgh, which also is two-gap. Some 3-4s are one-gap systems, like Arizona (which switched to this style last season).

Jason Hatcher, signed in free agency, fits the one-gap style well – it’s what he did last season in Dallas’ 4-3 front. The Redskins can use that style when they go to their nickel packages (as they have done in the past). Regardless, the players believe they’ll be doing different things to help this season. They need to as the pressure the past two years was inconsistent, especially when only rushing four. Hatcher’s ability to beat one-on-one blocking inside should make a difference – they hope. (More on him in another post.) And the secondary desperately needs the front to apply more heat.

It will help them that they’re facing a different level of quarterback in 2014. They will see Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick (in addition to Tony Romo and Eli Manning twice. Not to mention Nick Foles, if he can maintain his level of performance). Five teams have major questions at quarterback with a sixth (St. Louis) that has a big-money guy who has not performed at a high level at all (Sam Bradford).

Last season, they faced 10 of the top 14 quarterbacks in terms of passer rating. They’ll play six games in 2014 against quarterbacks who finished in the top 14 this past season (seven if Josh McCown starts in Tampa Bay). That doesn’t mean a whole lot right now because things change. But last season they faced a stronger group that included Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Jay Cutler, Aaron Rodgers and even Matthew Stafford (who finished 20th in passer rating, but still threw 29 touchdowns to 19 interceptions).

The oft-repeated storyline this offseason has been that minus Mike Shanahan in charge, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett finally has all the say. We don’t know if Shanahan made positive suggestions defensively; that never gets leaked.

But, the point is, there’s a belief that things will be different. How much that plays out won't be known until September. For now, it's April and that means we're about to enter about four months' worth of stories saying how it could be different. The players are hearing the same things.

“We’re not in on all the meetings so I can’t sit here and tell you who is dictating what," Cofield said. "I just know Coach Haslett is very excited and he has a lot of new wrinkles for us and has different things we’re going to do. Whether that’s him being more himself or whatever may be, I’m not sure. All I can tell you is he’s excited, we’re excited and the new wrinkles will help.”

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