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Jul
30

Redskins Training Camp Visit 7/27/2013

Matt won a trip to Redskins training camp from 106.7 the Fan and invited me to go with him. So we took The Fan bus down to Richmond on Saturday with J.P. from the Junkies and a bunch of the other winners. It was a pretty cool day, we got to meet Art Monk and Darrell Green and we watched the morning walkthrough and the afternoon practice.

Here are a few thoughts from training camp -

  • RGIII and Pierre Garcon didn’t do much, but they looked fine when they did work.
  • Kirk Cousins can really throw the ball.
  • Rex Grossman’s arm is looking old.
  • Pat White is a terrible, awful quarterback who didn’t even look good in undefended drills. He’s not making the team.
  • I’ve never been impressed by Niles Paul before but he was looking better than last year. He was fighting for the ball and making good catches. Of course, maybe if he could get better separation he wouldn’t have to work so hard to catch the ball.
  • 7th Round Pick RB Jawan Jamison did not look half bad on Saturday. We’ll see how he looks in the actual games, but it was a nice surprise.
  • The defensive linemen were beating the offensive linemen in the one-on-one drills. Hopefully that’s just how that drill is supposed to play out.

And here a few pictures from the day -

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Apr
1

Why Trading Up for RG3 was the Right Choice

The decision by the Redskins to trade up to the number 2 overall pick in this year’s draft has divided Redskins nation. The Redskins will presumably pick up Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III with that second pick and hopefully finally solve the quarterback question.

There are those that think the price was too high no matter how good he is. There are those that think the price was too high and he’s going to be bust. And then there are those that think a future franchise QB is worth it. I am firmly in the worth it camp. Let’s look at why this was the right decision for the Redskins.

The Redskins desperately needed a franchise QB
The Redskins have been searching for the answer at QB ever since Joe Theismann’s career ended in 1985. Since then the Redskins have had 26 different men starting under center. In Mike Shanahan’s two years as head coach he has already used three different starting QBs. Rex Grossman began last year as the starter, but performed so poorly against the Eagles in Week 6 that he was benched for John Beck. Beck was an even bigger disaster, and Grossman was eventually given his job back. Last year Grossman and Beck combined for only 21 touchdowns against 33 turnovers. The Redskins ranked 29th in Red Zone Scoring
and 26th in Points Scored.

Not all of the blame for that goes to the QBs, but the fact is Beck couldn’t move the ball at all and Grossman couldn’t move the ball without taking too many chances.

There is no way that Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen could stand pat at QB. After two seasons of six wins or less and three QBs that didn’t work out, they had to make a move. Not doing something and bringing back Beck and Grossman for round two would have been the end of their careers in Washington. Let’s look at the other options that were available at and why those other options would have been worse choices.

Go After Peyton Manning
The most obvious flaw with this plan is that Manning never seemed in interested in coming to Washington in the first place. But there would have been other potential problems if the Skins had snagged Manning.

Firstly, no one knows for sure if Manning is truly healthy and recovered from his neck surgery. The Broncos are taking a huge risk to sign him to a big contract if he’s not as game-ready as he says. Secondly, supposing he is completely healed, he’s already 36. That would mean he would play in DC for four years tops. The first year  he would be learning the system and the last year he would probably be declining. So the Redskins would only get prime Peyton Manning for two years.

But the biggest potential problem would be Manning fitting into the Shanahan system. Manning had a great offensive line in Indy that allowed him to be pocket passer. Shanahan designed his offensive line schemes and has acquired personnel based around a mobile QB running the plays. In Indy Manning had speedy receivers and pass-catching running backs.The Redskins have acquired faster wideouts this offseason(including Manning’s one-time teammate Garcon) and their running backs can catch out of the backfield but it’s still not a great fit. Roy Helu and Evan Royster rushed well last year, but if Manning ran his type of offense their talents would be largely wasted.

Finally, Manning had a lot of say in how the Colts offense was run and Mike Shanahan is control-freak. There would be instant head-butting over not only the offensive approach but playcalling. From a personnel standpoint, Manning could potentially fit the Shanahan system even worse than Donovan McNabb.

Drafting a different QB
Another route the Redskins could have chosen to go was to keep the picks they had and draft a QB other than Stanford’s Andrew Luck(projected to go #1 overall to the Colts) or RG3. The problem with this is that they would be gambling on a prospect’s upside. After Luck and Griffin, draft experts think this year’s QB crop is pretty weak. Texas A & M’s Ryan Tannehill is the only other QB consistently mocked to go in the first or second round, but the feeling is in another draft year he wouldn’t go until at least the second round. He has a lot of upside, but is very raw. His completion percentage and QB rating wasn’t anywhere near Griffin’s numbers. He is also coming off a foot injury. Additionally, the Redskins would likely had to have used their sixth overall pick on him, despite his borderline first round talent.

Some are saying that the Redskins needs are so large, they should have drafted another position like cornerback or wide receiver at number 6 overall and drafted a QB in the later rounds. By then it is likely Luck, Griffin, and Tannehill would all be gone and the Redskins would be stuck drafting someone based almost solely on potential. The thought being if you can fill out the Redskins roster around a decent prospect they might have more success than a potentially great QB like Griffin.

The number of “decent” QBs leading their NFL teams to playoff and Super Bowl victories over the last few years has been very few. The NFL has become more and more of a passing league and coaches can’t simply plan on winning based on their great defense and rushing attack like they used to.

Signing a Free Agent QB
Signing a former backup to become your starter has almost as much risk as drafting a QB. It worked for the Texans and Matt Schaub and to a certain extent for the Chiefs and Matt Cassell, but Kevin Kolb was a huge disappointment for the Cardinals last year. Having a few good games in one NFL city, doesn’t necessarily make you a franchise QB.

Green Bay’s Matt Flynn was most highly regarded free agent QB out there, but he’s only played a few games. The Redskins reportedly weren’t very impressed by him anyway.

There were a number of starting QBs or former starting QBs out there like Alex Smith of the 49ers, the Chiefs Kyle Orton, and the Dolphins Chad Henne. None of the older veterans would have been much of an improvement over Rex Grossman. Some of the younger QBs have potential,  but they haven’t lit the league on fire despite their starting opportunities. The fact is most of the free agent QBs were signed on as backups in their new cities. Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn are the only two free agent QBs who are locks to start for their new teams.

In the end, trading up for RG3 was really the only choice Shanahan and Bruce Allen could have made. If they had more faith in some of the free agent QBs or had rated some of the other draft prospects higher maybe they wouldn’t have given up so much. But they didn’t. They saw Griffin as one of the special QBs of his generation and as a possible franchise star to build around. If they’re right they’ll be set at QB and ready to contend for the next decade. If they’re wrong they’ll probably be fired and the next regime will be severely hamstrung in their rebuilding process. This move will either be remembered as the start of a Redskins turnaround or the worst personnel move in the history of the NFL. Either way, it was gamble the Redskins had to take.

Jan
24

Redskins QB Quandary: Should the Skins Pursue Peyton?

After a disappointing 6-10 2011 campaign by Mike Shanahan and the Redskins, there are many areas on this team that need to be upgraded.  While the defense made strides in their second year of a 3-4 defense; the offense, aside for a late year improvement in the running game, left much to be desired.  Excuses regarding learning “systems” and injuries are overused and non-applicable.  What is clear is that despite Mike Shanahan’s reputation being staked on the quarterback pairing of Rex Grossman and John Beck, there was no starting talent lining up behind center for the Redskins in 2011.  Indeed, the second year of the Shanahan offense yielded poorer quarterback play than the first.

QB                                        Comp %        Yards             TD             INT   Rating

Donovan McNabb in 2010: 58.3%            3,377              14                15       77.1

Rex Grossman in 2010         55.6%            884                7                   4         81.2

Rex Grossman in 2011          57.9%            3151               16                  20       72.4

John Beck in 2011                 60.6%            858                2                    4         72.1

This, of course, was with another year of familiarity in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s (and Mike’s son) offense.  Interceptions were up and touchdowns were down.  Now, I would never say that Donovan McNabb should have been kept for another year. It is clear that his skills diminished even more this year and proved to more of a malcontent than what he was worth  (sad to see, I’ve got to say). But giving the reins to “system” quarterbacks Grossman and Beck, didn’t yield any better results.

One thing is clear when seeing this offense for two years under Shanahan: learning this system is overrated, the Redskins need talent at this position more than any other.

It’s good to have options…

The Skins were so bad this year, they are given the opportunity to improve their team with the 6th overall pick of the draft.  However, with USC QB  Matt Barkley returning to school for a shot at becoming the number 1 pick next year, and Oklahoma QB Landry Jones following suit, the Skins may likely be out of the running for the two top QB prospects – Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. The lack of quarterback talent across the league across the NFL exacerbates the issue.  Obviously for Luck there’s a  99.9% chance of the Colts picking him #1 overall. For Robert Griffin III there’s a good chance the Rams hold an auction for the 2nd overall pick for teams willing to sell the farm. Even if he slides to number 3, the Cleveland Browns are poised to take him and show a slightly struggling Colt McCoy the door.

Some are reporting the Skins should sign Aaron Rodgers’ back up Matt Flynn to a long term deal for the potential he’s shown in limited action.  While others in the media spread rumors of the Skins being willing to package future first round picks and/or players to draft RG III or Luck.  While those are interesting propositions, the most intriguing and possibly the most destructive (maybe even more so than keeping Grossman and Beck for another year) is the scenario that the Redskins either trade for or pick up in free agency, one of the greatest signal callers the game has seen, Peyton Manning.

The Peyton Propositon

Peyton Manning at 36, is one of the best the NFL has ever seen.  But after three neck surgeries in one year, he is possibly one hit away from retirement (assuming he’s healthy even now-which is a big assumption in and of itself).

Pro’s for Peyton:

  1. He has a huge impact on the team around him through motivation, excellent quarterback play, and elevating the play of those around him significantly.The Colts have been a perennial playoff contender, but became the worst team in the NFL without him this year. Replacement QBs Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky, and Kerry Collins weren’t able to make much use of the same cast that Peyton had and the Colts only put up two wins.
  2. No one in the league is like Peyton: 94.9 career passer rating with 64.9 completion %, 399 TDs to only 198 Interceptions.
  3. IF he’s healthy, this differs from a Donovan McNabb situation in two ways
  4. No one works harder than Peyton in regards to film study, and being on top of his game.
  5. Peyton is not statistically in decline, his last full year played in Indianapolis was solid: 91.9 passer rating, 66.3%, 33 TD’s and 17 INT’s.
  6. FILLING OTHER NEEDS: The Skins have a lack of talent at many different positions on this squad.  That’s why they were 6-10 last year.  Picking up Peyton gives the Skins the ability to address other needs in the draft like cornerback, offensive line, linebacker, and wide receiver.  The Redskins may even be able to draft a QB in a later round to groom under Peyton for two to three years.

Problems with the Peyton Plan

  1. Health- The Redskins would be gambling on Peyton not only being able to recover from his neck surgeries but to stay healthy for a 16 game (or more, hopefully) season.  For a veteran of 14 years, this is nearly impossible and more difficult with an often times shaky Redskins offensive line.
  2. Short term vs. long term- The Redskins may risk mortgaging future progress by taking the band-aid solution now.  A young quarterback can often progress much more easily if they are enabled to grow with their offense early on (see Andy Dalton in Cincinnati) and the Shanahan club can ill afford to waste ANOTHER year of quarterback quagmires after the lost years of McNabb and Grossman.  This could be a fix for a year or two, but a  franchise quarterback be groomed for the next decade and beyond in that time period.
  3. $$$- Getting Peyton Manning may be costly even though it’s a high risk.  There are reports that the Jets, Dolphins and Cardinals are also interested in getting Manning’s services.  With the exception of the Dolphins, Manning may see other teams as being closer to another Super Bowl with his help putting them over the top.  The Skins may have to make up for that in extra cash (and thus limiting their options for surrounding Peyton with playmakers to help him in his quest).
  4. Personality, Experience, and Strife – Clashing is bound to happen.  Peyton has proved his worth and skill as has Mike Shanahan.  But Kyle Shanahan… has not.  There could be a clash of epic proportions that made the McNabb wristband, cardiovascular battles look like nothing.  This would embarrass and crush the fan base even more than the Swinging Gate or Spurrier years.

My Thoughts

If the Redskins can’t trade up to nab RGIII or if they don’t find another young QB they believe is worthy of a first-round draft pick,  the Skins should pursue Peyton. I don’t have a problem with a Peyton-led team if everyone on the staff understands their roles AND they draft another qb in a later round they think can groom (not a Chase Daniels or Colt Brennan, but a Ryan Tannehill or Nick Foles).  Peyton is the master and must be given flexibility and freedom.  It’s going to be interesting to see what the Skins do, but one thing is for sure.  This quarterback problem needs to be fixed, and Peyton Manning may be the answer.

What do you think????

Dec
6

Grading the Redskins Drafts

After the Redskins started the season 3-1, many fans hoped they were coming out of the rebuilding phase faster than anticipated. Then, they went 1-7 (with six straight losses) and it became clear that it would likely be two more years before they could be considered serious contenders. Now at 4-8 they are all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. So, I thought now would be an opportune time to look ahead to their future by grading the two drafts General Manager Bruce Allen and Head Coach Mike Shanahan oversaw in the rebuilding process.

 

2010

Round 1 (4)    LT Trent Williams Oklahoma

Williams has shown that he has the talent to become the rock of the offensive line. He has been a bit inconsistent, but when the line around him gets better that shouldn’t be an issue anymore. He has the speed and strength to get to the second level on run blocking. In pass protection he has proven he can stop elite pass-rushers like DeMarcus Ware.

On the downside, Williams has character issues that may affect his NFL career. He has lost his temper on the field before; earlier this season he pushed a 49ers defender after the whistle and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. This weekend, news came out that he had failed three drug tests and will be suspended for four games.

If Williams can mature and keep his conduct in check he can be a franchise player and a potential Pro Bowler. If continues to make stupid mistakes he may find himself out of the NFL and considered a huge bust.

Verdict: Incomplete

 

Round 4 (103) LB Perry Riley LSU

Riley had a disappointing 2010. He didn’t get on the field often and when he did he made bad mistakes. He’s turned it around this season though. He overtaken Rocky McIntosh as London Fletcher’s starting middle linebacker counterpart. This is thanks in part to his good run defense. He recognizes the run quickly and wraps up well. He had 14 tackles in the Seahawks game. He still needs to work on his pass coverage, but overall he’s been a pleasant surprise this year.

Verdict: Pass

 

Round 7 (219) WR Terrence Austin UCLA

Austin has been on the active roster both this season and last season but has hardly put up any stats. He’s had strong pre-seasons both years but that hasn’t translated too much regular season opportunity. The fact that the Redskins brass drafted three wideouts in this year’s draft is a little worrying for his future in DC.

Verdict: Incomplete

 

Round 7 (229) C/OG Erik Cook New Mexico

Cook spent his rookie season on the practice squad, and was forced into a starting role this year because of a spate of injuries. He has played awful; he is consistently being pushed back into the pocket. Worse, he apparently refused to play guard, which forced center Will Montgomery to slide over and play out of position when starting LG Kory Lichtensteiger was placed on injured reserve.  In the seventh round you can only really expect to get backups for your o-line. However, Cook is pretty useless in that role as well. His inflexibility makes him a wasted roster spot.

Verdict: Fail

 

Round 7 (231) OT Selvish Capers West Virginia

Capers was a practice squad member for all of 2010 and was then cut before the 2011 regular season. He wasn’t given an opportunity to play here but he must be pretty terrible if couldn’t crack the active roster of the Redskins offensive line in the past two years.

Verdict: Fail

read more

Nov
8

What the Redskins Should do at QB This Year

After three increasingly depressing starts by John Beck, it’s time for the Redskins to admit he’s not a NFL-caliber quarterback. The offense has been woeful the past few games and while that’s not all on him, he’s making a bad offense looks offensively bad. Head coach Mike Shanahan can claim that Beck is improving and “getting there” all he wants but the truth is obvious. The reason John Beck has never had a real chance to start in the NFL is he doesn’t deserve one. He doesn’t go through his receiver progressions, instead he locks onto one target and either throws it to them, tucks and run, or takes a sack. He’s afraid to go downfield, largely because he lacks the arm strength and accuracy to hit his receivers deep. Against the Bills he held the ball too long and was sacked ten times. On Sunday against the 49ers he let go of the ball to quickly, throwing meaningless dump-off pass near the line of scrimmage while he had targets getting open downfield. In Beck’s time under center this year he’s given no indication he’s the Redskins future at QB, or even their future second-stringer.

The Redskins can’t continue to start John Beck; they have to do something else at QB. Not only does he hurt their chance to win, he hurts their chance to rebuild. How do you evaluate receivers if your QB won’t throw to them? How to do you evaluate a running back’s effectiveness if the QB can’t sustain drives? How do you judge an offensive line if the passer is holding the ball too long or getting rid of it to quickly? If Beck continues to play he’ll begin to hamper other players’ development.

What should the Redskins do then? It is too late to trade for a QB and there are no meaningful free agents on the market. So, the Redskins have three bad options – give the job back to former starter Rex Grossman, give practice squad QB Jonathan Crompton a chance, or sign another team’s practice squad QB. Let’s break the down the different scenarios.

1. Give Grossman back the starting job

Reasons Why Not

Rex Grossman was benched for reason and that was his terrible turnovers. For every TD he’s thrown this year, he’s thrown 1.5 picks. Add in his two fumbles and he has 1.8 turnovers for every TD thrown. It’s hard for a team to win when its quarterback is giving the ball away so much. Grossman also appears to have peaked. He’s never going to be any better than what he is, and is clearly not the long term solution at QB.

Reason Why

Despite all of his turnovers, Grossman can move the ball up the field. In Sexy Rexy’s four starts kicker Graham Gano was averaging 2.5 field goal attempts a game. In Beck’s three starts he’s averaging only 1.3. In fact, in Grossman’s starts the team averaged 20.75 points per game. The defense is allowing 19.8 points per game all season. Starting Grossman would give the Redskins a decent shot at squeaking out a few wins.

2. Give Jonathan Crompton a chance

Reasons Why Not

Crompton was not a hot prospect coming out of college. The Redskins are his fourth team in his two years in the NFL so he’s not impressing anyone. He is also at the disadvantage of being signed after the pre-season, so he has no live game experience in this offense.

Reasons Why

It’s hard to come up with a reason why Crompton should start, but hopefully the Shanahans envisioned him as the future third-stringer for the team. Surely he wasn’t signed just to be a warm body on the practice squad. Right?

3. Sign a QB from another teams practice squad

Reasons Why Not

There is only one notable QB prospect on any practice squad in the NFL. Former Delaware QB is signed to the Miami Dolphins. When Devlin declared for the 2011 draft he was considered a top QB prospect but he didn’t end up being drafted. He hurt his draft stock with poor performances in the combine and pre-draft workouts. He also showed up late to his own pro days, which many NFL teams saw as a sign of immaturity. The consensus on him is that he’s not ready for the NFL yet. If he can’t even get on the active roster of the atrocious Dolphins he may not be.

Reasons Why

There’s no good reason why the Redskins should do this. Though, most of the other coaches in the league seem to be better judges of QB talent than Mike Shanahan right now.

What’s the Answer?

The Redskins should start Grossman, cut Beck, and promote Crompton to backup. Look, it’s not a good solution, but it’s the best available. Grossman will lose some games for the Redskins but at least the offense will have a spark. Beck doesn’t have a future with this franchise or in the NFL. Unless, he transforms into a vastly better QB this weekend, continuing to start him is futile. No one seems to think that Crompton has much of a future, but the Redskins should see if he’s good enough to be the third-stringer next year.

The Redskins need to figure out what they have on offense and what pieces need to be added next year. It’s going to be a long, painful season but there’s no need to make it worse. The Beck experiment failed. It’s time to move on.