Friday, April 26, 2013

Grading The Redskins Draft Need Pt.2: Defense and Special Teams

(DeAngelo Hall is back for 2013, but there are serious question marks for 2014 and beyond at corner.)

With the offense out of the way, we can finally take a look at some of the bigger needs that many hope the
Redskins address early and often in the 2013 draft: the defense. Most importantly we'll take a look at the biggest area of need - the secondary.

Defensive End
Notable Players: Stephen Bowen, Jarvis Jenkins, Adam Carriker, Kedric Golston
Analysis: It was revealed that Adam Carriker suffered a setback in his rehabilitation of a torn quadriceps injury and it questions whether or not he'll be able to play at the start of the regular season. That's bad news since Carriker was dominating on the line of scrimmage and was helping with the pass rush prior to the injury. There is good news however. The Redskins re-signed Kedric Golston who will provide solid depth to the position. The Redskins also have Doug Worthington and Phillip Merling who will both fight for roster spots and can provide rotational depth. This position is one of the deepest on the roster, so I doubt the Redskins will target a DE unless a highly talented player falls to them in later rounds.  I give the position a grade of 2 only because this is such a deep DE draft class this year.
Grade: 2
Nose Tackle
Notable Players: Barry Cofield, Chris Baker, Chris Neild
Analysis: Barry Cofield has been a solid contributor and team leader during his stay with the Redskins. Chris Baker provided good rotational depth behind Cofield last year and can be used as more of a traditional run stuffing NT because he fits more of the prototypical size/girth for a NT. Chris Neild is coming off of an ACL tear but had a good 2011 season as Cofield's back up.
Baker signed his restricted free agent tender for 2013 but will be a free agent in 2014. The Redskins could look for a prospect for 2014 and beyond but have decent depth with Cofield and Neild.
Grade: 1
Outside Linebacker
Notable Players: Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Rob Jackson
Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys
The Redskins hope to find another OLB prospect in the draft like they did with Rob Jackson.
Analysis: The return of Brian Orakpo to the lineup is critical to the success of Washington's pass rush. Rob Jackson filled in well when Orakpo went down with his second pectoral injury over the past two seasons but it took time for him to adjust to being a starter. Kerrigan seemed to improve upon his pass coverage from 2011 but seemed to struggle with the run game at times and wasn't as much of a pass rush threat as he was the previous year. This is probably due in part with Orakpo's injury and absence from the roster.
With the loss of Lorenzo Alexander, the Redskins will be looking for more depth at the OLB position. They re-signed Rob Jackson to a one year deal and have signed former Eagles defensive end Darryl Tapp to convert to the position. The Redskins do have issues in 2014 and beyond. Both Orakpo and Jackson will be free agents, so it would be wise of the Redskins to at least find some future talent in the draft and determine if they will be able to keep at least one of the upcoming free agents.
Grade: 3.5
Inside Linebacker
Notable PlayersLondon Fletcher, Perry Riley, Keenan Robinson 
Analysis: In a matter of a few years, the Redskins have developed a solid inside linebacking corp. Perry Riley has become a solid starter, Keenan Robinson showed potential as a run stopper and pass rusher before he was knocked out for the season with a pectoral tear. London Fletcher had another great year although he played with injuries and missed a few more tackles than normal.
The Redskins may need to address the inside linebacker position in this year’s draft because of a few factors. First is that London Fletcher is in the final year of his deal and probably the final year of his career in the NFL. Those will be big shoes to fill, but it would be prudent to find a young linebacker to teach and groom for a year along with Riley and Robinson. Second is that Perry Riley is a free agent in 2014. While I expect that the Redskins will make him one of their top priorities to re-sign, it still would be smart to have players in place if they are unable to do so. Third is that Robinson is coming off an injury from his rookie season. He is still a developing prospect and we really don’t know how he’ll pan out long term with the team or in the NFL.
The good news is that the Redskins have been able to find starting ILB talent in later rounds. Both Riley and Robinson were 4th round picks and it seems like the Redskin will be able to find at least depth in the 4th-7th rounds.
Grade: 3.5
Notable Players: DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, EJ Biggers, Richard Crawford 
Analysis: The Redskins secondary struggled significantly during stretches of the 2012 season. There was missed coverage, miscommunication with the safeties and being beaten by WRs at various times. While corner and safety are positions that need to be addressed in this draft, the Redskins have set things up so that corner isn’t a position of dire need at least during 2013. The Redskins signed corner EJ Biggers from Tampa Bay during the off-season. Biggers has knowledge of the secondary because of working with secondary coach (former head coach of the Buccaneers who drafted Biggers during his tenure in Tampa) Raheem Morris and provides speed that the team has wanted.
The team also re-signed DeAngelo Hall after releasing him earlier in the off-season for salary cap reasons. Hall has always been known as a gambling playmaker who takes risks in order to make plays. While not being known as a great cover corner, Hall ended the 2012 regular season with an amazing shut down performance against Cowboys WR Dez Bryant. The Redskins are hoping Hall can have repeat performances like that and be more consistent in 2013.
Josh Wilson had a down year in 2012. Part of the reason may have been because he on many occasions had to go up against the top WRs on the opposing teams. Wilson also may have struggled because a lack of pass rush may have forced him to cover players longer and he seemed to be the most frustrated with not getting help on plays. It was clear that many times Wilson was expecting safety help and didn’t get it or got it late leading to big plays. Hopefully, with some adjustments at the safety position and an improved pass rush, Wilson will be in more of his 2011 form.
While the 2013 starting unit could be set, the 2014 roster and beyond does not have starters in place at the corner position. Biggers, Hall and Wilson will be free agents at the end of the 2013 season. Behind them are a couple of players in Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield. Minnifield at one time was considered to be a 2nd round talent but went undrafted because of injuries and some struggles (associated with said injuries) on the field in his final year at Virginia. He then tore his ACL with the Redskins but should be ready for the 2013 season. Richard Crawford is still developing but had a good year for a rookie. He saw some playing time as the team’s nickel corner and had success returning punts replacing an ineffective Brandon Banks.
The Redskins will probably look towards the future and draft a corner somewhere in the draft. While the ‘Skins may have potential in Crawford and Minnifield, it may be prudent to find a prospect early in the draft that can compete for a starting job in 2014. This would allow the Redskins to not have to depend on Minnifield’s health or have to re-sign all three free agents if money becomes a factor.
Grade: 4.5
Notable Players: Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather, Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes
Analysis: I still am of the belief that the starting safety tandem was supposed to be Tanard Jackson and Brandon Meriweather last season. Combined, both players played a total of two quarters in 2012. That’s right, two quarters. Jackson was suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and Meriweather was injured most of the season. He tore his ACL during a game against the Eagles.
Gijon Robinson Reed Doughty
I like Reed Doughty but the Redskins need a significant upgrade at the safety position.
What was left was a rotation consisting of Reed Doughty, Madieu Williams, DeJon Gomes, Jordan Pugh and any player that could help play the position (DeAngelo Hall played FS on occasion). It was an ugly experiment as the backups lacked the speed to play deep center, struggled in coverage against tight ends/WRs and failed to provide help to corners in double coverage.
As we head into 2013, Jackson and Meriweather are still on the roster but questions remain if they can be reliable starters. Jackson is still suspended. If he’s allowed to return to the Redskins, it won’t be until the end of August or early September. He will have missed all of the off-season workouts, training camp and the majority of pre-season. Meriweather will be coming off a torn ACL and until he gets out onto the field, we really won’t know if he’ll be able to start.
As  far as I’m concerned the Redskins really need to draft at least 1-2 safeties in this draft with hopes that one of them will be able to start day 1 and develop while on the field. The current roster has some players who are decent at the position in certain packages and could start in an emergency but I really don’t want them to be everyday starters.
Grade: 5
Long Snapper
Notable Player: Nick Sundberg
Analysis: The Redskins are not going to draft a long snapper. They just re-signed Sundberg.
Notable Player: Sav Rocca
Analysis: The Redskins just re-signed Rocca. He had a decent 2012 despite playing with a torn meniscus in his knee. The Redskins are not going to use a draft pick on a punter. If anything, they’ll bring a free agent into camp to compete with Rocca.
Notable Player: Kai Forbath
Analysis: The Redskins were very happy with Forbath after he replaced Billy Cundiff for the job. While Forbath could improve upon his kickoffs, the Redskins will not be using a draft pick on a kicker. If anything they will bring in a free agent to compete with Forbath in camp.

After looking at the entire roster it is clear that the most immediate needs for the Redskins are at the safety, corner and offensive tackle positions. That’s pretty obvious without looking at the entire roster. What is interesting is that the team has needs at other positions that could be addressed during the draft to improve upon depth or to deal with upcoming free agency in 2014. There are significant holes on the roster despite the front office doing a good job keeping their core players intact. An injury or suspension at one of these positions could have detrimental effects to that position group if the Redskins don’t address those issues prior to the start of training camp. However, the Redskins enter the 2013 draft with seven draft picks and it is possible that they leave the draft with even more picks because of trades that may occur. Hopefully, the 2013 Redskins will have significant depth at most positions and will have picked up a few starters thanks to the 2013 draft.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Grading The Redskins Draft Needs Pt. 1: Offense

If I asked you what are the biggest needs the Redskins need to address during the draft you would probably say the secondary, either safety or corner. You'd be right. But have you thought about all of the improvements that the Redskins could make to make the team better for the upcoming season and beyond?
Believe it or not there are more areas of need than you think or even want to think about.
This article is going to take a look at every position on the roster; look at the starter and the depth behind him and then give a grade based on how badly the Redskins need to improve upon the position.
The grading is simple and is based on a five point scale with 5 being a priority need and 1 being a doubtful need. Below is the point scale and explanations for each point:
5) Priority Need- There is currently no starting talent at the position. There may or may not be depth at the position but if there is they are not ready to be a regular starter.
4) Probable Need- There is a starter or starting talent at the position. However, the position could use an upgrade at the starting position. There may or may not be depth at the position but if there is they are not ready to be a regular starter.
3) Need- There is a solid starter at the position. There may be little to no depth behind the starter or the roster could use an upgrade or even more depth at the position. Also, the team may want to look at future years by finding new, long-term and probably cheaper options.
2) Questionable Need- There is a solid starter at the position. There may be sufficient depth at the position but the team may want to bring in competition to push the current players or to address potential needs in future years.
1) Doubtful Need- There is a solid starter at the position. There is sufficient depth at the position. It's highly unlikely a draft pick is needed for this position.
While it's most likely that the team will focus on the defense in this draft let's start off by looking at the offensive needs. Then we'll look at the defensive needs and finish by looking at special teams.

Notable players: Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Rex Grossman 
Analysis: Even with RGIII's injury, with the re-signing of Grossman and the signing of Pat White, it makes little to no sense to waste a draft pick on a quarterback. That's a good thing because this year's QB draft class is dreadful.
Grade: 1
Running Back/Full Back
Notable players: Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Darrel Young
Could the Redskins find another Alfred Morris in this year's draft?
Analysis: Alfred Morris had a brilliant rookie season. He shattered records and looks to be the workhorse RB that the Redskins have been looking for since Mike Shanahan took over in 2010. That said, the Redskins would like to add more speed and pass catching ability to the roster. Last year the RBs had 41 catches for 340 yards. In 2011, with a speedster like Roy Helu, the Redskins more than doubled the 2012 number with 84 catches for 686 yards. Helu could be the solution.
Roy Helu has been great when he's healthy. The problem is that he's missed significant time due towards injury in both 2011 and 2012. In two seasons, he's only played in 18 games. Maybe the Redskins feel confident that Helu can be more durable in 2013 and beyond, but I doubt it. I expect Mike Shanahan to work his magic and draft another "diamond in the rough" RB like he has done before.
Darrel Young is the lone FB on the roster and has been a huge asset to the 'Skins in both the run game and passing game. That said, the Redskins aren't big on keeping two fullbacks on the roster and they won't draft a FB when they can use other players in emergency situations or pull a player off the practice squad.
Grade: 3
 Tight End
Notable Players: Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul 
Analysis: With the re-signings of both Davis and Paulsen there is little need at the position for 2013. Beyond this year may be a different issue. The Redskins like Fred Davis and are giving him another "prove it" year to show his abilities and prove that he can last a full season without a suspension or significant injury. The Redskins could draft a TE but I doubt it would be early unless they are willing to keep 4 TEs on the roster or aren't convinced that Davis is healthy enough to play. Most likely if they draft a TE, it will be in later rounds in order to push Niles Paul to develop further.
Grade: 2
Wide Receiver
Notable Players: Pierre Garcon, Joshua Morgan, Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson
Analysis: On paper this looks like a really good group with a good mix of experience ans potential. Last year this corp. put up some pretty decent numbers despite injuries and touch competition. But there are issues that may be addressed during the draft. Both Garcon and Morgan are coming off of injuries from 2012. Morgan had various surgeries and should be 100% when training camp starts in a few months. Garcon did not require surgery to a damaged ligament (not that surgery would have fixed the issue) but is doubtful that he'll be 100% next year. The Redskins did not have a solid #2 WR last year across from Garcon and it really showed when Garcon missed six games with his injury. Also, Santana Moss will be 34 in June and the Redskins may need to look for his potential replacement for 2014 and beyond.
Santana Moss will never be forgotten for the "Monday Night Miracle", but is it time to move on?
While there are issues, there is some significant promise in this group. Leonard Hankerson will be in his third year which is normally a break out year for developing WRs. Hankerson will have his first full off-season to work with the team (in 2011, there was the lockout and in 2012 he was recovering from a hip injury). One hopes that he can show why the Redskins used a 3rd round pick for him in 2011 in the 2013 season. Aldrick Robinson also made a few big plays during last season and could also push for more playing time.
If the Redskins feel that their players will be healthy enough to start camp and that Morgan or Hankerson can become that #2 WR this season, then I would expect the team to only look at the position in later rounds or if the best player on their board is a WR. If they don't feel comfortable with this group or if an amazing talent somehow falls further than expected, then they might use a pick in rounds 2-4. RGIII never can have enough options to target.
Grade: 3.5
Notable Player: Will Montgomery
Analysis: It's a fair statement to say that Montgomery was the 2nd best OL on the team last year behind pro-bowl LT Trent Williams. With the exception of a few bad snaps in the Seattle game and a couple of missed assignments, Montgomery was a key component of the Redskins success in 2012. In prior years, some had argued if the position was in need of an upgrade. At this point I would say no. That said, the Redskins do have depth behind him in Kory Lichtensteiger and Josh LeRibeus.
I do like Cal's Brian Schwenke as a perfect fit for the Redskins scheme if they decided to draft another interior lineman, but I just don't see the Redskins going that way or Schwenke falling into a later round where the 'Skins could afford the luxury of drafting an interior lineman to develop.
Grade: 2
Notable Players: Kory Lichtenstiger, Chris Chester, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Maurice Hurt  
Analysis: This is a pretty solid group. As individuals, many sites that rank players don't grade them out that well, but they fit well in this scheme that relies on creating multiple options for the running back. Behind the starters are players that have shown (even in limited snaps) that they can step up if needed. Maurice Hurt and Josh LeRibeus have taken snaps in regular season games. Adam Gettis also showed potential during the pre-season when he filled in for an injured Chris Chester. I don't see the Redskins taking a guard in this draft after addressing the position with two draft picks last year.
Grade: 1
Offensive Tackle
Notable Players: Trent Williams, Tyler Polumbus, Maurice Hurt, Jeremy Trueblood
Analysis: Trent Williams is living up to the potential Mike Shanahan saw in him three years ago. While almost everyone expected Shanahan to take the more polished Russell Okung, he went for the more athletic Williams. It has taken a few seasons, but Williams has become the all-pro talent that Shanahan envisioned. As long as Williams can stay healthy and avoid recreational drug use, he could be an elite left tackle for years to come. Tyler Polumbus had a good 2012 with some ups and downs but for a player who was supposed to be a backup (remember Jammal Brown was to be the starter and never took the field because of a reoccurring hip injury) he fared well.
The Redskins re-signed Polumbus to a two year deal recently but one wonders if they could use an upgrade and/or long term solution at the right tackle position. They do have some options with former draft picks Maurice Hurt (who started one game last year at RT) and Tom Compton and recently signed veterans Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood but the veterans may be towards the end of their careers and the younger players have little experience and may not be regular starters at the NFL level.
The Redskins could also use a long term solution at their back up "swing tackle" position. This would be a #3 OT who could play either LT or RT if one of the starters goes down. In past years, Mike Shanahan has had Willie Smith and Jordan Black play the role. Tom Compton or Tyler Polumbus seems like the best option but the Redskins may look at the draft to bring in a player who could develop in his first year by playing as the #3 OT and then being a starter in year two.
Grade: 4

Tomorrow we look at two of the Redskins biggest needs as I review the defensive side of the ball and the special team specialists.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

TMZ Interviews RGIII

I was digging around my email inbox tonight and found this little tidbit from TMZ and I figured I'd share since it is an RGIII interview after all.

TMZ Logo
TMZ Exclusive
57 minutes ago by TMZ Staff
Robert Griffin III's amazing rookie season ended with a horrific knee injury, but the Washington Redskins' superhuman QB looks ready for action again -- and claims he'll be even BETTER next year. 

RGIII -- who showed no signs of a limp last night outside of Mr. Chow in Beverly Hills -- said he's "feeling good" and brushed off the injury ... reminding us the torn ACL he suffered in college was way worse.

When our camera guy pumped up RGIII telling him he'd be just as good this coming season -- Griffin shot back, "I'll be better."
Click on the video to watch the full video at TMZ.