RICHMOND – The Redskins break training camp today, and from here they go back to Ashburn, where they will continue to make preparations for the 2014 season.
We’ve still got time for some mailbag questions, however, and so here we go. Today, we talk Robert Griffin III/Kirk Cousins, offensive line, defensive line and safety, and questions about roster number rules.
Recently this week stories surfaced in national and Boston media where multiple Patriots players are anonymously quoted as saying Kirk Cousins was the best looking Redskins QB during the joint practice sessions. Is this just outsiders picking apart a small sample of practice time and perhaps looking to intentionally stir the pot? Or are there are any Redskins players who’ve expressed similar sentiments (albeit quietly and anonymously) during the course of training camp?
I touched on this in my observations yesterday, and here’s what I wrote then:
There was a little chatter out of Boston about Kirk Cousins looking better in practice against the Patriots than did Griffin. Here’s what I’ll say: ESPN’s Mike Reiss is a quality journalist and person. He wouldn’t just spit something out to stir something up. He simply shared what he observed from two days of practice and said that some people in the Patriots organization agreed. That being said, you’ve got to take a couple of things into account. It was two days. Not a full camp body of work. There have been days when Griffin looks good, and days he looks shaky. There have been days where Cousins looks good, and days he looks shaky. From what I’ve seen in 15 practice sessions, there hasn’t been a question as to who’s the better quarterback.
Also, as several coaches pointed out, Cousins may have indeed looked a little better, but he was going against the second unit, and Griffin was going against the Patriots’ starting defense, including Pro Bowl cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. But, I will say that most days in practice, the gap isn’t as big as you’d like to see between your No. 2 overall pick and a fourth-round pick. Griffin does make some plays – particularly when things break down – that very few quarterbacks can make. But when it’s a drop-back passing situation where the play takes longer to unfold and he has to recognize coverage while feeling the pressure, he hasn’t looked exceptional. He looks okay at times, good other times, and then he makes some bad throws other times. Uneven is the best way to describe it. Cousins also has had his struggles. He gets rid of the ball more quickly, but he also makes some unwise throws. He turns the ball over a lot, and in my opinion hasn’t even looked as sharp as he did last year. He too has been uneven.
Why does the NFL have a rule that only 46 the 53 players on the roster can dress for game day? Since all 32 teams have 53 players, why not let them all dress? Do players that do not dress receive less than their contract salary if they are inactive for a game? What is the rationale behind this rule?
– Lee Friedman, Ocala, Fla.
From the best I can tell from talking to coaches and other people associated with the game for a number of years, it’s to force a head coach to use some skill, strategy and judgment in how to best utilize his 46-man active game-day roster. It requires strategy and planning to determine what players to have active and not active. Having all 53 active would take the strategy out of it.
Outside of special teams, weak Redskins positions last season were right tackle, defensive line and safeties and I am unsure if they have been sufficiently addressed. Tyler Polumbus is still listed as the starting right tackle. He seemed a very weak link for the Redskins in past seasons and I am surprised and concerned that Moses Morgan and others have been able to unseat him. Should Redskins fans be concerned? Also, I know you reported that defensive ends Jason Hatcher and Stephen Bowen are “very close” but given their recovery schedules and efforts to date, do you think they will be impact players early in the regular season or if not, is defensive end another position Redskins fans should be concerned about? Lastly, how weak is the team’s secondary?
– Tim Foisie
The defensive line has been upgraded, if everything plays out right. But presently, right tackle appears to be about the same, and safety is a rather shaky situation. The Redskins did draft Morgan Moses in the third round, and they are still working to develop 2012 sixth-round pick Tom Compton. But thus far, neither has proven himself as the better option to Polumbus. The sixth-year veteran has deficiencies in quickness and athleticism, but he is stronger and more savvy than the other two. Moses has struggled with consistency, and so has Compton, who actually might be further along than Moses, which does give reason for concern. Now, that doesn’t mean the book on Moses is closed. He’s a rookie, and it could take him a year to mature into a starting-caliber right tackle. Just based on watching the three in practices every day, it’s obvious that the best of the three is starting for now.
As far as defensive end goes, yes, this should be an improved area. That’s if Jason Hatcher can make a full recovery from arthroscopic knee surgery. He has been activated off of the PUP list, but still remains a couple weeks away from being game ready. He needs to continue to familiarize himself with his responsibilities, and more importantly, he needs to regain his explosiveness. He could prove to be a difference-maker in the trenches for Washington. Now, if he winds up battling knee problems all year (he is 32 and in his 11th NFL season), then things might remain about the same.
Coaches do feel good about Chris Baker at left end, and they have raved about the improvements fourth-year pro Jarvis Jenkins has made. Things clicked with him this offseason, and he has prepared himself and is playing with a great sense of urgency. He’s getting valuable snaps in place of Hatcher. Once Hatcher returns, Washington will have a nice rotation at end.
It’s hard to say what kind of a recovery Bowen can have. He’s coming off of a very serious surgery, and it’s very possible that he opens up the regular season on the PUP list. If he comes back healthy and back at his old form, he too is a decent rotational player. But, right now, it’s just too hard to predict.
And, lastly, safety: Brandon Meriweather will be better now that he can play his natural position of strong safety. His impact is best felt as he flies around and makes plays in the box. He had to play deep centerfield a lot last year, and that limited his play-making ability. And, when he was making hits, he got into trouble for leading with his helmet. Ryan Clark should help upgrade the secondary because he is a savvy veteran, strong communicator and leader. He may not have the range of the top free safeties in the league, but he does have great smarts, and he helps put teammates in the right positions to make plays. The only problem is he is 35, and you don’t know how much he has left in the tank. If he goes down, then they’re back to Bacarri Rambo, who isn’t exactly a difference-maker yet.
A lot for Washington at this position, as well as defensive line, hinges on health. If everyone is 100 percent, then they will be better. If not, then the same old problems remain.