Sunday, July 31, 2011

Redskins shuffle the backfield

So here’s something weird. Mike Sellers appears to be a tight end now.  And Keiland Williams is a fullback.

Now it’s true that sometimes coaches will experiment with something for a few practices just to see how it works. If this was an OTA in May I’d think that may be what’s going on. But given the abbreviated schedule the Redskins are working with I can’t imagine the Shanahans would be shuffling guys among positions unless they really meant it. And there’s even less chance of the moves being reversed now that Keiland’s spot among the tailbacks has been filled by the trade for Tim Hightower.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Talking special teams with Brian Mitchell

It seems like even those of us who take our football very seriously have a pretty big gap in our knowledge when it comes to special teams, despite the fact that it can have a huge impact on the outcomes of games. Fortunately former Redskin Brian Mitchell, who just happens to be among the best kickoff and punt returners in NFL history, was kind enough to take the time to answer a number of questions about special teams play.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Redskins upgrade D-line, O-line, and punting game

Several moves of significance today: Philip Daniels and Ma'ake Kemoeatu were cut, which in conjunction with the trade of Jeremy Jarmon do a lot to clear up what had been a rather cluttered defensive line depth chart. Then, of course, there were the three free agent additions:

DE Stephen Bowen

So the talk of the Redskins-Cullen Jenkins “imminent” deal was either smokescreen or just reporters making the assumption that the Redskins would pursue the biggest name at a given position.
Bowen spent the vast majority of his time in Dallas playing on the right side, so my assumption is that he and Carriker are now the starting defensive ends, with Vonnie coming in for the nickel package and rookie Jarvis Jenkins working his way in when other guys need rest.

Now, my thinking here is that the apparent solidification of the end position means that Barry Cofield is truly designated for nose tackle, which was originally a bit ambiguous because he’s not at first glance a perfect fit. If I’m jumping to conclusions and Cofield’s role is more flexible than that, then maybe the depth chart won’t be as simple as I’m making it look here. And if, against my expectations, the Redskins make another D Line addition – well then it’s all up in the air.

RG Chris Chester

Not an outstanding guard, but a capable one. And he’s not a mauler but pretty quick on his feet, which we all know is the priority in the offense anyway. The contract is probably a little steep for someone who’s only a little above average, but like receiver, offensive line is a position that the Redskins badly need to bring up even to a level of NFL adequacy, so with cap room to spare overpaying a bit is in order. The question now is whether the interior line is set or if there are more moves to come. Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, and Artis Hicks may be dividing up the center, left guard, and the primary interior backup job among them. And G/C Eric Cook and 7th round pick Maurice Hurt could conceivable be in the mix. Lichtensteiger might be the best center out of the bunch, though he would probably also be the best guard (relatively) – so it could be he sticks at LG and Montgomery takes over center. We will probably get more clarity after a few days of practices.

P Sav Rocca

I get a little too excited over punters. But Sav’s a good one, and with all else that was going on the catastrophic punting situation last year got relatively slight attention. But a good punter like Sav could be key to the Redskins being competitive in 2011. The fact is, even if more moves are coming it is extremely doubtful that the offense will rise even to an average level. But the defense might – not certainly but might – be significantly improved. The Redskins best may be to run a bit and have a good kicking game, and hope the defense can pull out some wins.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Redskins trade for Jabar Gaffney

Well-liked but superfluous (in this defensive scheme) Jeremy Jarmon has been shipped off to Denver for Jabar Gaffney. It's a move that seems to benefit both Jarmon and the Redskins greatly.

Shortly after the trade Examiner beat report John Keim tweeted "talked to one scout who saw Gaffney often. his take: 'just a retread. Nothing special.'"

Actually, that works for me because I don't think the Redskins were looking for special. They were looking for competent. A three receiver set consisting of Gaffney, Moss, and Anthony Armstrong is not exactly scintillating, but it will get the job done. Gaffney is a reliable possession receiver who should always be exactly where John Beck, or whoever the quarterback is, expects him to be.

This move quite nicely solves the problem I wrote about yesteday: needing rookie Leonard Hankerson to thrive as a starter right off the bat. And the beauty of it is, the investment in Gaffney is small enough that if Hankerson does earn playing time, the job of only one of the three guys clearly ahead of him on the depth chart (Santana Moss) is clearly untouchable. So if Hankerson excels, he isn't blocked. If he's not ready, the Redskins aren't stuck with a gaping hole of non-production in their offense.

I had advocated passing on the top tier free agent receivers and instead focusing on adequacy at this position. In a perfect world Santana would have been replaced by a younger slot receiver. Nonetheless, this position is looking reasonably stabilized right now. At least sufficiently so that the lack of receiver production won't directly hinder the development of other parts of the offense. Not quite how I would have done it, but I'll take it.

[The Redskins have, to great comic affect, also added both Donte Stallworth and Brandon Stokeley today via free agency. Each seems much less likely to compete for top-three playing time than Gaffney. I'm sure we'll talk about them later.]

Redskins add Barry Cofield to an already confusing defensive line

Barry Cofield is a very good player. But he is a good player in a 4-3 defense. He’s a block-eater by trade, so he seems like he’s most likely destined to fill the hole at nose tackle. But at 306 pounds he’s quite light for the middle man in a 3-4. If he had been signed in March like a normal offseason, maybe the Redskins could have asked him to put on 20 pounds or so over the summer. Now, however, we have a guy who is smallish for the nose role but doesn’t seem to have the skill profile Jim Haslett likes at right end (the first and second down left end job is, or should be, securely the property of Adam Carriker).

So the defense fell apart last year largely because guys were forced into new jobs in the 3-4 that were not a good fit for their skills. In response, the Redskins spent two high draft picks on natural 4-3 players (Ryan Kerrigan and Jarvis Jenkins) and brought in a free agent 4-3 tackle (Cofield). Alright then.

Redskins retain Santana Moss

It's hard to know exactly how to evaluate this move without seeing how the rest of free agency pans out, but my immediate suspicion is that re-signing Santana Moss was a fallback plan. I suspect the uncertain quarterback situation meant they would have little chance at the top tier receivers (i.e. Sidney Rice and Santonio Holmes) and if they had any interest in pursuing younger but less heralded receivers, as I had proposed, such plans were never mentioned in the media.

If another receiver is added, then we will cross that bridge when we come to it. For the time being though, let's evaluate Moss' signing on the assumption that the receiver corps is now set.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Which impending free agent should the Redskins retain?

Last week we looked at possible outside free agents that the Redskins could bring in; now it's time to talk about which of their own impending free agents the team should retain. The noteworthy players lacking 2011 contracts consist of Kedric Golston, Rocky McIntosh, H.B. Blades, Chris Wilson, Carlos Rogers, Reed Doughty, Santana Moss, Jammal Brown, and Rex Grossman:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tarvaris Jackson, another Redskins quarterback option?

My mind keeps coming back to former Viking Tarvaris Jackson as a low-cost, low risk option to try and shore up the Redskins messy quarterback situation.

He was finally improving in Minnesota when his (admittedly slow and rocky) development was cut off by Brett Favre’s arrival. He certainly is not yet at the point where he should be washing out of the league – he’s going to have at least one more chance to stick with a team before that happens.

I am well aware of how poorly he has played. I am also well aware that this is a far from ideal scenario, and could still leave the Redskins with a terrible quarterback situation.

But we need to remember that there is no scenario that could be implemented this offseason that would leave the Redskins with a quarterback depth chart we could feel good about. None. Compared to the other options I outline below, Tarvaris Jackson provides a dim glimmer of upside (I cannot stress enough – compared to the other realistic options) and the chance to help the team in one role or another beyond this season.

And what exactly is the downside? If he fails completely, the end result is the Redskins are stuck with poor quarterback play. But doesn’t everyone agree that’s what the Redskins are likely facing already? Remember, he only has to be better than the loser of a Rex Grossman–John Beck competition to help the team.

Before you rip this idea, let’s compare it to the other options for the quarterback position:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Redskins and the impending (hectic) free agency market

With increasing optimism that the lockout will be resolved over the next few days, it seems that a very frantic free agency period will be upon us sooner rather than later. This being the offseason, various media outlets have “reported” that the Redskins should be expected to make a play for various big name free agents, because that’s what football reporters do. The most notable is of course NFL Network’s Jason LaCanora, who has the Redskins signing about half the league. Many of these reports are obviously mutually exclusive. Nonetheless, let’s look at some of the names that have been brought up and discuss the feasibility of signing them and what impact they could have on the Redskins roster.