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Posted at 10:02 AM ET, 07/23/2014

Replacing London Fletcher might not be that tall a task

With training camp just around the corner for the Washington Redskins, one of the more interesting camp battles will be held at inside linebacker. London Fletcher held the role of the Mike, or middle, linebacker. He was responsible for calling the plays and making adjustment calls based on his reads of the opposition. He was a vocal leader in the locker room and his leadership and experience will undoubtedly be missed. But in terms of his on-field production, he shouldn’t be too difficult to replace.

Fletcher’s play had deteriorated over the past few seasons, particularly in pass coverage.


Here, Fletcher is lined up in man coverage against Antonio Gates. Gates is running a 12-yard comeback route.


Fletcher runs across and stays tight to Gates until the cut.


Gates cuts quickly back to the ball, catching Fletcher off guard. Fletcher takes a few extra steps and turns away from the ball to try and recover.


That leaves Gates wide open for the catch and creates a gap that Fletcher has to try and close quickly to make a tackle and keep the gain to a minimum.

Fletcher’s coverage hasn’t been his strong suit for quite some time. He lost some of his speed as he aged, leaving him vulnerable to getting beat deep. He overcompensated by trying to stay on top of routes, which allowed tight ends to run plays like the comeback we saw above from Gates with ease. But Fletcher’s ability to set the defense and defend the run kept him on the field past his prime. Unfortunately, his run support began to fall off this season as well.


This play saw the Redskins backed up on their own six-yard line. The Bears run a simple power hand off up the middle.


Fletcher makes the wrong read and finds himself out of position on the outside, with running back Matt Forte running right up the middle.


Fletcher was slow to adjust and can’t get back in time to make the tackle, allowing Forte to run it in for a touchdown.

Washington shouldn’t have too much trouble replacing Fletcher’s play. They added Adam Hayward, Akeem Jordan and Darryl Sharpton to compete with Keenan Robinson, who missed all of last season injured. Robinson looks like the early favorite to win the job, bringing athleticism that gives him an advantage in both coverage and the run game.

What the Redskins will struggle to replace was Fletcher’s leadership and ability to set the defense. Robinson lacks much experience at the NFL level and doesn’t appear to be the vocal leader that Fletcher was. The additions of veterans like Ryan Clark and Jason Hatcher, along with established voices in the locker room like Barry Cofield and DeAngelo Hall should help pick up the leadership responsibilities previously held by Fletcher. But Robinson will have to prove he can be trusted to make adjustment calls at the line if he is to win the job in training camp.

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

More from The Post:

Mailbag: On Gruden’s pedigree | Sheinin: On Gruden’s journey

Reid: Allen’s got unprecendented control, and pressure

Fancy Stats: How Jay Gruden hurts Garcon’s value

Training camp: Five story lines on defense | offense

More NFL coverage:  Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @JReidPost | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

What’s ahead:Players report to Richmond today; the first practice of training camp is at 8:35 a.m. on Thursday. Wednesday afternoon, Jay Gruden and Robert Griffin III speak with reporters.

Post Sports Live:

By Mark Bullock  |  10:02 AM ET, 07/23/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  London Fletcher, The Outsider

Posted at 08:32 AM ET, 07/23/2014

Redskins training camp: Five areas to monitor on special teams

We’ve tackled the offense and the defense. Now for a look at the five areas to monitor on Washington’s special teams units this training camp.


Special teams coach Ben Kotwica. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

1. Kotwica’s message — After the Keith Burns experiment failed miserably, Washington’s special teams units have nowhere to go but up. After studying game video and observing a unit severely lacking in discipline and execution, Jay Gruden hired former Army captain and company commander Ben Kotwica to turn the units around. Preaching dedication, pride and precise technique, Kotwica aims to do just that. The coach put an “Apply Within” sign on his office door, and after hearing his message and challenge to join his “special forces,” everyone from veterans to rookies have signed up in hopes of locking up roles on special teams and final roster spots. Returning players say that already, a change has been felt. They have bought into the coach’s philosophies, and fueled by his approach and strong communication skills, they aim to become aggressive and physical as they try to climb the league’s ranks.

2. Kicking battle — Kotwica is big on competition, and so, despite the fact that Washington returns third-year pro Kai Forbath, he convinced Gruden to draft strong-legged Arkansas place kicker Zach Hocker. Forbath has the experience edge, and does well on field goals. But Hocker appears to get better distance on kickoffs. The two will go head-to-head all camp as Kotwica looks for his man.

3. Punter — Washington released Sav Rocca this offseason, and now competing for punting duties are third-year veteran Robert Malone, who punted for Kotwica in New York, and rookie Blake Clingan.

4. Long snapper — Kotwica even had a competition at long snapper during the offseason, as Nick Sundberg and Kyle Nelson went head-to-head for the job. But Washington on Monday released Nelson, leaving Sundberg as the only long snapper on the roster. Sundberg missed the bulk of last season with a knee injury that required surgery to repair, and to fill his spot, Washington brought in Nelson, who played 11 games. Going forward, health is the biggest issue for Sundberg, a consistent long snapper, who doesn’t mind laying a hit either. He missed eight games with a broken arm in 2012, and 11 last season.

5. Kick/punt return — Washington has a number of candidates for these duties, and it will take all of training camp and likely much of the preseason to sort this out. Wide receiver Andre Roberts wants to be the guy both on kickoff and punt returns, but he has competition from Nick Williams, Santana Moss, Richard Crawford, Rashad Ross, Cody Hoffman, Roy Helu Jr. and Chris Thompson, to name a few.

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

Training camp: Five story lines on defense | offense

Mailbag: On Gruden’s pedigree | Sheinin: On Gruden’s journey

Reid: Allen’s got unprecendented control, and pressure

Fancy Stats: How Jay Gruden hurts Garcon’s value

More NFL coverage:  Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @JReidPost | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

What’s ahead:

● Mark Bullock on replacing London Fletcher, at 10 a.m.

● Players report to Richmond today; the first practice of training camp is at 8:35 a.m. on Thursday. Wednesday afternoon, Jay Gruden and Robert Griffin III speak with reporters.

Post Sports Live:

By  |  08:32 AM ET, 07/23/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  observations, special teams, Training camp

Posted at 07:01 AM ET, 07/23/2014

Redskins training camp: Everything you need to know


The training camp facility was filled on Fan Appreciation Day last season. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post

We’ve covered the run up to training camp wall to wall, and thank goodness it’s finally here. In the interest of gathering all of the basics you might need in one handy reference post, here goes:

Schedule

Training camp runs July 24 to Aug. 12, and there’s an 8:35 a.m. practice and a 4:10 p.m. walk-through every day except:

● Tue. July 29, Sun. Aug. 3, Fri. Aug. 8: These are off days

● Sat. Aug. 2: Fan Appreciation Day, 10: 35 a.m.

● Tues. Aug. 5: Single practice, 1:35 p.m.

● Weds. Aug. 6: Single practice, 8:35 a.m.

● Thurs. Aug. 7: Game at FedEx Field vs. Patriots, 7:30 p.m. (TV: NBC-4, CSN)

● Sat. Aug. 9: Single practice, 2 p.m.

● Tues. Aug. 12: 8:35 a.m. (The final practice of training camp is closed to the public)

Aug. 4-5-6 are joint practices with the New England Patriots.

More details about the schedule are on the team’s official Web site.

Directions and parking

● Coming from Washington via I-95 South: Take Exit 78 for Boulevard; head to the right off the exit. Turn left onto Moore Street. Continue onto Leigh Street; the facility will be on the right. There is no public parking at the facility.

● For directions from other destinations, or to parking facilities, visit the city of Richmond’s Web site. Navigation to lots can be found here.

● For those who just want an address to punch into the GPS, it is: 2401 West Leigh Street, Richmond, VA 23220.

● Parking costs $7 throughout the city, and trolley service from the lots to the field is $2 per person.

Other pertinent details

● Admission is free. Fans must enter a lottery by July 25 to gain admission to Aug. 2, 4, 5 and 6 practices. That’s Fan Appreciation Day and the joint practices with the Patriots. Enter the lottery here.

● There are no bleachers, so fans should bring lawn chairs or blankets for sitting. Fans also can watch practice from a three-tier outdoor amphitheater beyond the end zones of the practice fields.

● Fans are permitted to bring food and beverages; coolers are allowed. Concession stands sell food and drinks.

● Alcoholic beverages, weapons, glass bottles, video cameras and animals (except for certified guide dogs) are prohibited.

● Portable restrooms are available around the complex.

● There are special events and activities geared toward children (through the Redskins Kids Club and Play 60, the NFL’s youth fitness initiative) and women (via WOW, the Redskins’ official women’s fan club).

Our coverage

● Here’s a running, live-updating list of all Insider posts about training camp.

● Mike Jones’s areas to monitor on offense and defense.

● The Early Lead broke down additions and subtractions heading into training camp for all 32 NFL teams. Here are the NFC East, AFC East, AFC North and NFC North. Find the South and West divisions in the scroll here.

● AFC and NFC training camp dates and locations.

Additional resources

● The team’s official training camp Web page. This is the best place to stay updated on last-minute changes, the parking arrangements and more.

● The Richmond Times-Dispatch gives a local angle on training camp. Here’s a post of theirs about trying to accommodate the crowds, and another about spotting players in town.

● Last season, The Post’s Going Out Guide listed some places in Richmond to check out, both for food and drinks, and for things to do when the team isn’t practicing. Most of it is just as relevant this year as it was last, and there’s a pretty handy map at the bottom of the post. They’ll give some more recommendations this season just before fan appreciation day.

● Quarterback Kirk Cousins gives his advice to autograph seekers, via 106.7 The Fan, by way of the D.C. Sports Bog.

More from The Post

● Redskins and NFL home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

● Follow on social media: @MikeJonesWaPo | @lizclarketweet | @JReidPost | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

Post Sports Live

Our biggest story lines heading into training camp. In hindsight, mine is probably more of a regular-season curiosity than a training-camp story line, so watch this video for Dan Steinberg and Jason Reid’s contributions:

By  |  07:01 AM ET, 07/23/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Training camp, video

Posted at 01:36 PM ET, 07/22/2014

Redskins mailbag: Gruden’s track record, Jackson vs. Robinson and more


Aldrick Robinson has shown flashes of talent. How does he compare to DeSean Jackson? (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The wait is almost over. The Redskins on Wednesday report to Richmond for training camp. They will go through physicals and some conditioning tests, and then, football practices begin on Thursday.

Then, as the position battles, system tinkering and experimentation get underway, we will start to get a real glimpse at what kind of shape this thing will take.

But until then, we’ve got one more pre-training camp mailbag, and today we discuss Jay Gruden’s previous successes, we compare wide receivers, talk trick plays and waiver procedures.

Looking at Jay Gruden’s history as a player and a coach in the Arena League, plus his career as an assistant in the NFL, the guy has won, or at least been successful everywhere he’s been. Do you believe that it’s fortunate coincidence or do some people just have intangibles that help to make them winners?

— John A. Little

I don’t think a winning track record can be written off as coincidence. Maybe some things fall into place that will lead to a successful burst. But true, sustained success comes from hard work, and a special something that few have. Every player and coach in the NFL has talent. But it takes something extra to distinguish themselves from their peers. There have been plenty of “offensive genius” college coaches or coordinators, who don’t have what it takes to make the magic work as a head coach. Does Jay Gruden have the special ingredients? He appears to have had enough to put him atop the heap in his previous stints as a college player, in the Arena League as a player and coach, and as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. Does he have enough of that special blend of smarts, discipline, vision, leadership and whatever else it takes to shine as an NFL head coach? We definitely shall see.

Editor’s note: Dave Sheinin wrote a feature that posted this morning that digs into some of the reasons why Gruden has had success and could have it in Washington.

What is the difference between Aldrick Robinson and DeSean Jackson’s games if they both play fast and are deep threats? Can Robinson be thought to be a Jackson-type player?

— D. Holmes

Both players have great speed, but Jackson is a hair faster. He clocked a 4.27-second 40-yard dash coming out of college while Robinson posted a time of 4.30 seconds. But the differences go beyond speed. Jackson has great versatility (the ability to run any route in the book) and consistently plays at a high, game-changing level. Robinson, thus far, has provided a bright spot here and there, but he also has struggled with consistency. Coaches have previously criticized his route-running ability, feeling that he doesn’t do well on much other than deep routes. Now, does this mean that Robinson can’t improve and become a more well-rounded receiver? No. But right now, Jackson is on an elite level while Robinson is not.

Jordan Reed came out of high school the 10th rated dual-threat quarterback on Rivals.com (per Wikipedia) and even played a little quarterback at Florida before converting to tight end. What are the odds we see Reed throw a pass this season using a gadget play? If not Reed, who do you see as the Redskins’ “gadget” player, who may be used in unusual or trick plays?

 — Dave Shockey,  Sacramento, Calif.

It’s always possible, but super hard to predict the odds of such a play occurring. Not since the Josh Morgan pass to Robert Griffin III versus Pittsburgh two years ago (a play in which Griffin nearly got decapitated) have we seen anyone other than a quarterback throw a pass for the Redskins. That doesn’t mean Jay Gruden and Sean McVay aren’t cooking up any such plays. Remember, two years ago Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (another former quarterback) went in motion and lined up as a quarterback in the shotgun formation, took the snap and torched the Redskins for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Sanu also threw a pass last season for the Bengals (a 25-yarder). So, you never know.

Given their 3-13 record last year, do the Redskins get any preferential treatment in signing players cut by other teams? That is, if a team like the Seahawks with a strong secondary cuts a young player with potential, do all 31 other teams have an equal shot at signing the kid, or do teams like the 2-14 Texans and the Redskins have the first shots?

— Tom Lloyd

I think you’re referring to the NFL’s waiver system. If so, then yes, teams with worse records get some help. Here’s how: A team waives a player, and for 24 hours, that player is placed on the waiver wire, which means all 32 teams can put in a claim for that player. For the first three weeks of the regular season, the priority order goes according to the previous year’s standings. So, if the Seahawks cut a player, and the Texans, Redskins and 49ers all submitted claims for that player, the league would award the player to the Texans. However, say the 4 p.m. deadline comes and goes without a single team having put in a claim for the player, then the player is free to negotiate with and sign with whichever team he wants.

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

Reid: Allen’s got unprecendented control, and pressure

Fancy Stats: How Jay Gruden hurts Garcon’s value

NFL’s best QB battles start with Manziel-Hoyer

Training camp: Five story lines on defense | offense

More NFL coverage:  Home page | D.C. Sports Bog | The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

Follow:  @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

By  |  01:36 PM ET, 07/22/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Aldrick Robinson, DeSean Jackson, Jay Gruden, Jordan Reed, league rules, Mailbag

Posted at 01:20 PM ET, 07/22/2014

Redskins make promotions, hires in front office

On the eve of their training camp report date, the Redskins announced four front office moves.

The team has promoted personnel assistants Jeff Scott and Josh Washburn to the positions of Pro Scout. Washington also hired Matt Evans as player personnel assistant and Brian Zeches as an administrative assistant.

Scott enters his third NFL season after spending time on Washington’s staff as a salary cap intern and scouting intern in 2012. He became a full-time player personnel assistant in 2013.

Washburn has spent the past three seasons with Washington as a scouting intern and personnel assistant.

Scott and Washburn’s responsibilities will include evaluating and writing player reports on potential free agents and conducting weekly advance scouting. They also will oversee scouting of the Canadian Football League and area colleges.

Evans and Zeches will assist with various duties in Washington’s front office.

By  |  01:20 PM ET, 07/22/2014 |  Permalink  |  Comments ( 0)
Tags:  Front office moves

 

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