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Posted at 12:20 PM ET, 01/29/2015

Terry Shea: Robert Griffin III and Matt Cavanaugh will work well together

Given Matt Cavanaugh’s wealth of experience as an NFL quarterback, position coach and offensive coordinator, Terry Shea, the trusted quarterbacks guru of Robert Griffin III, believes Cavanaugh and Griffin will be a good fit heading into Washington’s 2015 season.

“Number one, Matt Cavanaugh has been an offensive coordinator,” Shea noted in a telephone interview. “He has been a quarterbacks coach. He has played the position at a very high level so he will have as much sensitivity to what it’s like, as quarterbacks coach, as the offensive coordinator sends his message.”

Cavanaugh joined Washington’s staff Wednesday as the first quarterbacks coach under Jay Gruden, a former college quarterback who went without a designated coach for the position during his first season as head coach.

Shea, who spent eight seasons in the NFL working with quarterbacks, said he’d never met Cavanaugh but referenced his impressive credentials and positive reputation around the league as key qualifications.

While Shea said he firmly believed in the merits of NFL quarterbacks coaches, he raised two words of caution about the dynamic. One: An NFL quarterback needs a consistent message on matters of mechanics. And two: An NFL quarterback coach must bring an appropriate level of respect for his pupils.

“Over my years of coaching, and I’m sure Jay Gruden will confirm this — too many voices in the quarterback’s ear can be a negative, as well,” Shea said. “You have to be good about how you divide up the reps when you are working with a situation when you might have three very knowledgeable coaches, and the quarterback is receiving information from all three.

“All of the sudden you have the possibility of one voice conflicting with the other; not necessarily by intent, but just by a message that is conveyed in a different manner. You have to make sure the quarterback is receiving a consistent message. I’m sure the Redskins will take care of that.”

Gruden was particularly critical of Griffin’s mechanics as the quarterback struggled during their first season together, citing his subpar footwork, improper drops and incorrect reads, among other shortcomings. Griffin won just one of his six complete games last season, which was interrupted by an ankle injury. Washington finished 4-12, once again at the bottom of the NFC East.

● Related: Griffin says he wasn’t healthy last year and ‘it sucked’

Asked what sort of match Cavanaugh might make for Griffin, Shea said: “You want to make sure that the quarterbacks coach carries a certain amount of respect going into the position, and you would hope that the personalities are a match.”

Based on everything he’d heard about Cavanaugh, Shea predicted he’d mesh well.

“He’ll bring that respect that I talked about into the quarterbacks room. I think for Robert, and for all the quarterbacks of the Redskins, it’s a good fit.”

Cavanaugh, a former standout college quarterback at Pittsburgh, played 14 seasons in the NFL as a backup with New England, San Francisco and Philadelphia. He brings 22 years of coaching experience in the college and pro ranks that includes four stints as an NFL quarterbacks coach, at Arizona (1994-95), San Francisco (1996), the New York Jets (2009-12) and, most recently, Chicago (2013-14).

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By  |  12:20 PM ET, 01/29/2015 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Matt Cavanaugh, Robert Griffin III, Terry Shea

Posted at 09:50 AM ET, 01/29/2015

Chad Grimm, son of founding Hog Russ Grimm, joins Washington’s coaching staff

Washington’s new defensive coordinator Joe Barry is bringing San Diego’s former defensive quality control coach and, along with him, a storied name in Redskins history to his coaching staff.

Chad Grimm, son of former offensive lineman Russ Grimm, a founding member of Washington’s vaunted “Hogs,” was announced Thursday as the latest to join Barry’s defensive staff.

A former linebacker at Virginia Tech (2003-06), Grimm boasts six years’ experience in the NFL coaching ranks, having served as an offensive quality control coach in Arizona from 2009-12 and, more recently, a defensive quality control coach in San Diego, where Barry coached linebackers.

● Related: All offseason coaching moves

Reared in Fairfax County, Chad Grimm played football and lacrosse at Oakton in Vienna, helping the school reach the state finals in both sports.

The elder Grimm, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, played 11 seasons in Washington, having a hand in all three Super Bowl championship seasons, and was retained upon retirement as the team’s tight ends coach and later, offensive line coach. He went on to coach offensive linemen in Pittsburgh and Arizona.

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By  |  09:50 AM ET, 01/29/2015 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Chad Grimm

Posted at 04:45 PM ET, 01/28/2015

Redskins hire Matt Cavanaugh as quarterbacks coach

At the conclusion of a 4-12 campaign in his first year at the helm of the Washington Redskins, Coach Jay Gruden vowed to make whatever changes would improve the team’s performance heading into the 2015 season.

On Wednesday team officials announced another step in that process, with the hiring of Matt Cavanaugh to the new post of quarterbacks coach.

A former standout college quarterback at the University of Pittsburgh who played 14 seasons in the NFL with New England, San Francisco and Philadelphia, Cavanaugh has 22 years of experience as a coach in the college and pro ranks. That includes four different stints as an NFL quarterbacks coach, at Arizona (1994-95), San Francisco (1996), the New York Jets (2009-12) and, most recently, Chicago (2013-14).

From 1997 to 2008, he served as offensive coordinator at Chicago (1997-98), Baltimore (1999-2004) and his alma mater (2005-08).

Among the NFL’s 32 teams, only New England and Washington went without a quarterbacks coach in 2014.

● Related: Theismann’s five reasons to hire a quarterbacks coach

Gruden said in early December that he’d consider adding a quarterbacks coach for the 2015 season but noted that he didn’t think his quarterbacks had suffered for lack of one.

Instability at quarterback was a running theme of Washington’s disappointing season. While injury was partly to blame, so too was the fact that none of Washington’s three quarterbacks impressed sufficiently to lay claim to the starting job.

Robert Griffin III, sidelined in Week 2 by a dislocated left ankle, finished with a quarterback rating of 86.9, throwing four touchdowns and six interceptions in the nine games in which he appeared.

Kirk Cousins, who took over once Griffin went down, threw a team-high 10 touchdowns. But his productivity was undercut by nine interceptions, which left him with an 86.4 rating.

And Colt McCoy, who opened the season third on the depth chart but ascended to the starting job only to suffer a season-ending neck injury, finished with a team-high passer rating of 96.4. In McCoy’s five appearances, which included leading Washington to an overtime upset at Dallas, he tallied four touchdowns and three interceptions.

Cavanaugh, 58, a native of Youngstown, Ohio, led Pittsburgh to the 1976 National Championship and was named M VP of the Sugar Bowl following the Panthers’ 27-3 victory over Georgia.

He was drafted by the New England Patriots in second round (50th overall) of the 1978 NFL Draft. The bulk of his pro career was spent as a backup, and he finished with 19 starts in 112 regular-season games, completing 305 of 579 passes for 4,332 yards and 28 touchdowns.

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By  |  04:45 PM ET, 01/28/2015 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Matt Cavanaugh

Posted at 12:14 PM ET, 01/28/2015

Joe Theismann’s five reasons for needing a quarterbacks coach (updated)

Update, 4:10 p.m. The Redskins have announced that they’ve hired Matt Cavanaugh as quarterbacks coach.

Cavanaugh has been a quarterbacks coach or offensive coordinator for five NFL teams over six stints, most recently the Chicago Bears.

Original post, 12:14 p.m. The remaking of Washington’s coaching staff has proceeded briskly in the offseason, with a defensive coordinator, offensive line coach, defensive backs coach and strength and conditioning coach hired in the past four weeks. That leaves two unfilled spots: Defensive line coach and outside linebackers coach.

But progress has been slower regarding the addition of a quarterbacks coach — the lone customary NFL job that Coach Jay Gruden did without in his first season as a head coach.

With Washington’s record at 3-9, Gruden said in early December that he’d consider adding a quarterbacks coach for the 2015 season but noted that he didn’t think his quarterbacks had suffered for lack of one.

Last week in Mobile, Ala., Gruden indicated that the team is in the process of lining up interviews with potential candidates.

Instability at quarterback was a running theme of the disappointing 4-12 season. While injury was partly to blame, so too was the fact that none of Washington’s three quarterbacks impressed sufficiently to lay claim to the starting job.

Robert Griffin III, sidelined in Week 2 by a dislocated left ankle, finished with a quarterback rating of 86.9, throwing four touchdowns and six interceptions in the nine games in which he appeared.

Kirk Cousins, who took over once Griffin went down, threw a team-high 10 touchdowns. But his productivity was undercut by nine interceptions, which left him with an 86.4 rating.

And Colt McCoy, who opened the season third on the depth chart but ascended to the starting job only to suffer a season-ending neck injury, finished with a team-high passer rating of 96.4. In McCoy’s five appearances, which included leading Washington to an overtime upset at Dallas, he tallied four touchdowns and three interceptions.

Among the 32 NFL teams, only New England and Washington went without a quarterbacks coach in 2014.

Gruden, a former college quarterback and NFL offensive coordinator, was brought to Washington largely for his prowess in developing quarterbacks. With the team eliminated from playoff contention, he voiced no regret in early December about not naming a quarterbacks coach, explaining that he and offensive coordinator Sean McVay shared those duties and that he didn’t want too many voices in his passers’ ears.

Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, who led Washington to the championship in Super Bowl XVII and twice earned Pro Bowl honors in 12 years with the team, said he understands that point of view.

But Theismann said he sees tremendous value in a designated quarterbacks coach in the present-day NFL and feels that Griffin, Cousins and McCoy would all benefit from the specialized attention.

“Absolutely!” Theismann said in a telephone interview, asked about the merits of the job. “Our game is so specialized. I’ve always believed that if you don’t have a quarterbacks coach, you’re really not giving that position the full attention you can.”

Theismann went on to make a forceful case for adding to a Redskins coaching staff that already numbers 19, with the defensive line and outside linebackers coaches yet to be named. His argument in favor of a quarterbacks coach stressed five points. They are:

DEMANDS ON NFL HEAD COACHES: Many NFL coaches log 100-hour work weeks, pulled in myriad directions that leave little, if any, time for specialized attention.

Notes Theismann: “Think of the responsibilities Jay has as a head coach. Today, head coach responsibilities include media personality, drug counselor, disciplinarian. How much time while you’re awake do you actually think you can apply to working with the quarterback? You don’t see quarterbacks coaches with TV shows and radio shows. They’re totally immersed in one position.”

DEMANDS ON OFFENSIVE COORDINATORS: They’re nearly as taxed as head coaches, he adds, charged with designing game plans to attack specific defenses, calling plays (though Gruden relays his calls to coordinator Sean McVay), studying film and cleaning up errors.

“If I’m a coordinator, I’m concerned about the depth of routes and different things I want to see in our offense,” Theismann said. “I need another pair of eyes to focus specifically on the quarterback. Is he taking the proper drops? Making the proper reads? Are his mechanics good? Those are all things you need to do, and you can’t do both. What you do is you weaken two positions instead of strengthening them.”

In an unusually withering public critique of Griffin’s play following a 27-7 loss to Tampa Bay on Nov. 16, Gruden enumerated the “fundamental flaws” of his starter’s mechanics, including subpar footwork, improper drops and incorrect reads of the defense.

COMMON-SENSE ALLOCATION OF STAFF: “Think of it this way,” Theismann said, by way of illustration. “You have three tight ends normally on a football team, and you have a specialized tight ends coach. So for the most important position on the field — the quarterback — why would you not have a dedicated coach?”

SMART DIVISION OF LABOR: While the head coach and coordinators review film immediately after practice, a quarterbacks coach could meet with the passers and review what needs tweaking. “It might be an hour and half with the quarterbacks talking about specifics of the reads in the game plan, correcting any mistakes of mechanics mistakes — all the little fine-tune elements of playing quarterback.”

COMPLEXITY OF DEFENSES: NFL defenses are far more complex than they were a few decades ago. Outfoxing them has become a science best practiced by specialists.

The key to any successful hire, Theismann added, is finding a quarterbacks coach who shares Gruden’s vision of the position.

“I can understand why Jay wants to oversee it,” Theismann said. “Whoever Jay hires, they have to be on the same page as Jay. It’s essential that the quarterbacks coach and coordinator and head coach see the position the same way, from a mechanical standpoint.”

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By  |  12:14 PM ET, 01/28/2015 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Colt McCoy, Jay Gruden, Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin III, Sean McVay

Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 01/28/2015

Reviewing the play of the Redskins’ inside linebackers

Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan is tasked with rebuilding a roster that lacks both top-end talent and depth, and one of his first jobs is to evaluate the current players. We’re doing the same. Inside linebackers are next up.

Keenan Robinson After missing the majority of his first two seasons in the NFL, Robinson finally found his way on to the field as the starting Mike (middle) linebacker. He was tasked with replacing London Fletcher at the heart of the Redskins defense, and communicating the play calls to the rest of the defense. Robinson was one of the few bright spots on an otherwise poor Washington defense. He showed he was capable of reading and reacting well to the run, while flashing his athletic ability in coverage.

Here, Robinson lines up on the line of scrimmage, faking a blitz. But he actually drops into an underneath zone in the middle of the field.


He does a good job reading the quarterback as he drops to his landmark, following his eyes. He breaks on the throw the moment he spots the quarterback begin to throw.


Robinson jumps the route perfectly. It could and probably should have been taken all the way back for a touchdown, but Robinson drops the interception.

Still, the read and break was perfect from Robinson. The only thing he failed to do was make the catch (which is admittedly a big part of the play). With Robinson, the Redskins have a linebacker that is athletic enough to be factor in coverage. But he does still need to improve in this aspect of his game.

Robinson was also the Redskins’ leading tackler (109), despite missing three games. He reads and reacts to the run game very quickly, putting himself in good positions to stop the run.


On this play, the Cowboys run one of their most effective plays, pulling both guards to get them on the edge.


Dallas try to confuse the Redskins by having Tony Romo take a reverse pivot out of the snap, while DeMarco Murray takes a false step to his left.


But Robinson isn’t fooled. He reads his run keys, noticing both guards pulling and works to the right side of the offensive line.


Robinson gets low on the pulling guard and gets under him to stop him in his tracks. Robinson sets a hard edge, forcing Murray to cut back inside to the rest of the defense.


Murray eventually tries to bounce his run back outside, but Robinson is in position to make the tackle for no gain.

Robinson looks set to be one of the Redskins key building blocks on defense. He has all the traits you look for in a starting inside linebacker, making him an every-down player. If Washington can continue to develop his coverage skills, Robinson could become a very strong player for the Redskins.

Perry Riley Jr. Riley started the year at inside linebacker next to Robinson. He was a solid defender against the run, but got picked on early in the season in coverage.


Riley was often put in a tough spot, but he could have done a better job. Here, Riley is playing as the Mike ‘backer in a “Tampa 2” coverage scheme. His job is to drop deep in the middle of the field and split the safeties. Philadelphia uses wide receiver Jordan Matthews in the slot to run up the seam, matching him up with Riley’s zone responsibilities.


But Riley gets caught looking in the backfield at the mesh point rather than reading his keys. That allows Matthews to close the gap between them quickly.


Quarterback Nick Foles has an easy throw over the middle of the field and Riley is nowhere near it.

Riley got burned in similar coverages multiple times to start the season. But after he missed a few games due to injury, he came back and slowly improved in coverage as the season went on.


This was a crucial third down in overtime of the Redskins’ win over the Cowboys. Riley lines up on the line of scrimmage. He fakes a blitz, but drops into coverage. Tight end Jason Witten runs a quick stick route on the other side of the hashmarks from Riley.


Riley drops to his landmark, but quickly spots the threat of Witten, breaking on the throw without hesitation.


Riley gets there as the ball arrives, landing a hit on Witten.


Riley manages to do enough to break up the pass, forcing it incomplete.

Riley still had ups and downs in coverage, but got better as the season progressed. He’s solid as a run defender and provides a solid inside linebacker partner with Robinson. For this coming season, I see Riley as a capable starter, but looking to the future, he may become upgradeable.

● Related reviews: OLBs | Safeties | CBs | interior line | Tackles

Will Compton Compton saw spot time when Riley and then Robinson were injured. He looked to be more reliable in zone coverage than Riley, but struggled getting off blocks in the run game.


The Cardinals run a slant-flat route combination on this play. Compton lines up in the middle of the field.


Compton drops to his zone landmark, but keeps an eye on the tight end in case he breaks up the seam into his zone.


Compton then recognizes the threat of the slant route that enters his zone.


Compton brackets the wide receiver and then gets his eyes on the quarterback. The quarterback is forced to start scrambling as Compton takes away the slant route.

Compton displayed solid zone awareness in his spot time as a starter. But his biggest problem was in the run and screen games. He struggles to get off blocks, and not just those of guards and tackles either.


This time, Arizona run a screen pass to the running back. Wide receiver Michael Floyd gets tasked with blocking Compton.


Floyd locks on Compton early in the block and then drives him towards the sideline.


Compton fails to gain any leverage with his hands as he struggles to combat the size of Floyd.


Floyd blocks Compton almost all the way to the sideline and certainly through the whistle.

Compton was okay against the run when he found a free lane, but if a blocker managed to engage him, he was taken out of the play too often. But if Compton can improve his hand usage, that could help him get off blocks more and have a bigger impact in the run game. Compton for now is a solid backup who could develop into a starter down the line.

The Redskins are in decent shape at inside linebacker. They have one potential star in Robinson and two solid players in Riley and Compton. With so many other needs on the Redskins’ defense, I would expect Washington to leave the inside linebacker position alone this offseason, except for adding more developmental depth or special teams players.

Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his Redskins impressions without the benefit of access to the team. For more, click here or here.

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By Mark Bullock  |  07:00 AM ET, 01/28/2015 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley Jr., Will Compton

 

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