Hankerson

Hankerson

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Advocating the ZBS to Jay Gruden

Update 2/6: Gruden and McVay have indicated that the offense will not change much, so this is looking good/promising. Still not specifics on blocking scheme, though.

Since Jay Gruden was announced as the Redskins’ new head coach, there has been a lot of talk about how that will impact RG3, but not enough about how it will affect the team’s blocking. What has been written is inconsistent, largely incorrect or baseless.

The truth is that he ran a fairly normal blocking scheme in Cincinnati with both power and zone fronts on different plays, just like his brother did in Tampa.  It’s noteworthy that when Gruden called zones, he favored inside zone runs as opposed to the long stretch runs that Shanahan has always used to great effect. His plays tend to involve more linemen pulling to lead block than Shanahan’s did, like in another of his bread-and-butter plays: the 96(right) or 97(left) power, an off-tackle run with the backside guard pulling.

However, the important thing to focus on is not what he ran in Cincinnati, but what he will run in Washington. Gruden is a smart coach who knows how to get the most out of his offense, so he should be willing to adapt to his situation. Right now his situation should lead him to embrace zone blocking. He doesn’t need to run it almost-exclusively like Mike and Kyle Shanahan did, but it should absolutely remain the primary blocking scheme the Redskins use.

First, the running game was never the problem during the Shanahan era, so why fix what ain’t broke? The Redskins are the only team in the NFL to finish in the top 5 in both rushing yards and yards per carry each of the last two seasons. More to the point, the team is designed to facilitate the ZBS. Nowhere else in the league will you find a 284 lb. starting guard (Kory Lichtensteiger). Trent Williams is the only lineman on the Redskins who I am confident could transition to and excel in other offenses. No other starter was drafted earlier than the 5th round, and two began their careers playing for Shanahan in Denver. Montgomery, the second best lineman, couldn’t stick on a roster until the Redskins signed him. Lichtensteiger, the third best, was drafted by Shanahan to the Broncos. After Shanahan got fired, he was cut and spent a season out of football until Shanahan signed him again in Washington. Point being, these aren’t cream-of-the-crop linemen, they are linemen who have a specific skill set and fit a specific scheme.

Sure, they could put on some weight, but they still wouldn’t be maulers and having them attempt too much power blocking would be downplaying their greatest strength: the speed and footwork to reach block, cut block and get to the second level. The entire line (outside Williams) is undersized and quick, allowing them to get their hands on linebackers and defensive backs, not blow defensive tackles off the ball with strength.

It extends past the line, though: Alfred Morris is an ideal zone running halfback. He isn’t the most talented player, but he has great patience and vision, and can make a cut and explode into a hole when it develops. These are the most important qualities for a runner in a zone scheme. Even Roy Helu and Evan Royster were drafted for their ability to identify and slip into creases in a blocking scheme.
Lastly, it must be taken into account that standout offensive line coach Chris Foerster is still with the team and former tight ends coach/3rd down package planner Sean McVay has been promoted to Offensive Coordinator, so the people working with the offense are comfortable with zone runs. The Redskins don’t have such a plethora of talent or draft picks to add new talent that they can afford to ignore the best way to use their players, and both in front and back, the offensive roster is very clearly designed to run zone schemes. Gruden should embrace that.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Available free agents

It is difficult to tell which free agents are going to reach the open market, so I won't go into great detail on them, but I'll keep a list here of options I find attractive for the Redskins, with their ages at the start of next season, current team, and position

First, the Redskins free agents (in general order of how important it is to retain them)
Brian Orakpo, 28, OLB
Perry Riley, 27, ILB
London Fletcher, 39, ILB*
DeAngelo Hall, 30, CB (potential move to FS)
Reed Doughty, 31, S
Santana Moss, 35, WR
Josh Wilson, 29, CB
Rob Jackson, 28, OLB
Chris Baker, 26, DL
Fred Davis, 28, TE
Josh Morgan, 29, WR
J.D. Walton, 26, C
Darryl Tapp, 29, OLB
EJ Biggers, 28, CB/S
Nick Barnett, 33, ILB
Bryan Kehl, 30, ILB
Dez Briscoe, 27, WR
Rex Grossman, 34, QB

*retiring


And now for other teams' free agents.

Safety
TJ Ward, Clevland, 27, Unrestricted Free Agent
Jairus Byrd, Buffalo, 27, UFA
Taylor Mays, Cincinnati, 26, UFA

Cornerback
Chris Harris, 25, Denver, Restricted Free Agent
Sam Shields, 26, Green Bay, UFA
Aqib Talib, 28, New England, UFA
Vontae Davis, 26, Indianapolis, UFA
Alterraun Verner, 25, Tennessee, UFA
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 28, Denver, UFA
Captain Munnerlyn, 26, Carolina, UFA

Linebacker
Brandon Spikes, 26, New England, UFA
Wesley Woodyard, 28, Denver, UFA
Keith Rivers, 28, New York Giants, UFA

Edge Rusher
Provided that Orakpo is re-signed, not a notable need. A good amount of proven rushers are free agents, though.

Defensive Line
Tyson Jackson, 28, Kansas City, UFA
Arthur Jones, 28, Baltimore, UFA
Linva Joseph, 25, New York Giants, UFA
Pat Sims, 28, Oakland, UFA
BJ Raji, 28, Green Bay, UFA
Paul Soliai, 30, Miami, UFA

Offense after the break


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Roster Review (Offense)


There's a storm of stories and parasites gorging themselves on supposed bad blood in Washington, right now. Not only do I believe it's massively overblown, but I also think it's the wrong thing to focus on. That will work itself out eventually -- hopefully in the off-season -- and I would rather discuss football matters. So, given that this season is clearly over for all but evaluation, I'm going to look at the roster, position-by-position, and discuss where the Redskins need to go. They are still, of course, missing their first round draft pick from the RG3 trade, but they have the rest of the draft, picking early in rounds, and will have 18 million dollars of (unfairly-taken) cap space returned to them this off-season, so there's plenty of room to make moves to improve the team.

I'll post installments or updates adding new positions periodically.

1/8/2014 update: I'm finishing this up and adding players who were signed after the Redskins' season ended. Depending one when entries were written, references to scheme are obviously subject to change.

1/9/2014 update: With Jay Gruden named head coach, we will need to see what he plans in terms of scheme changes, but early reports are that he is likely to promote tight ends coach Sean McVay to offensive coordinator, which I would guess could mean Chris Foerster stays in charge of the line and the blocking schemes don't change too heavily. I think that would be a good move as they are effective and the team's personnel is very much built to run them. Still, we won't know for sure for a little while how much things will change. 

1/20/2014 update: Fully updated for every player on the team or who has been with the team this season. 

Quarterback

1. Robert Griffin III (23 years old/6'2" tall/220 lbs.
) College at Baylor, drafted 2nd overall in 2012 [2 years, $12.5 million remaining on his contract after this season]: He's the starter, he will be the starter, and any "reporters" bleating to the contrary are just regurgitating each other's inaccurate information or trying to get attention. He's a transcendent talent and one of the best players on the team in his second year, and, honestly, has played pretty well this year. Not great, but well enough that everyone would be perfectly happy with this notch in a sophomore quarterback's development coming out of a Big 12 spread offense if it weren't following up the greatest season a rookie QB has ever had, an ORotY award, a pro bowl berth, and the attention that comes with being DC's franchise QB and savior.

Griffin has things to work on: he's one of the worst pre-snap quarterbacks in the league, his mechanics sometimes falter as he tries to let his outstanding arm strength do the job that should be done by his footwork, and his mechanics on the run this season have been much worse than last season (whether that's a result of the injury, the knee brace, or just bad habits coming out as he's often running for his life, I don't know). Griffin is inconsistent on when he tries to trust his receivers' timing coming out of breaks and throw to where they should be be and when he tries to look around and find an open player, and is sometimes punished for both by drops, bad routes, or sacks. He's not unable to read a defense, but isn't as fast or sure of it as a great pocket quarterback, and has trouble picking up on pre-snap clues to what the D will do on the play à la Peyton Manning. He also, of course, needs to learn when to give up on a play and lay down for a sack or toss the ball away instead of trying to force things. These problems are all fixable, however, and not uncommon for a young player, and being as good as he is this early is still impressive. He's smart, incredibly hard-working, and unbelievably talented: there's no reason to think he won't improve. He is in his second year, coming off a major injury, and had no off-season to develop chemistry and work on timing. This entry should be longer than anyone else on the team's will be, for obvious reasons.

2. Kirk Cousins (25/6'3/209 lbs.) Michigan State, 3rd:24 in 2012 [2 years, $1.5m]: Cousins is hard-working, smart, and has college experience that is more applicable to the NFL level than Griffin. But he has his own problems and certainly isn't the talent that Griffin is. He is more of a Matt Flynn/Matt Cassel type. If he gets really lucky, his upside may be Matt Schaub. Any Matt, really. Adequate-but-unimpressive arm strength and athleticism, he is a good backup and I could see him being a solid game manager, but I would be surprised if he's ever a franchise QB for anyone (would be happy to be wrong here though, I like the guy). He will probably be back as the Redskins second string QB next year, but it will depend on how much interest teams have in the off-season. There are a lot of interesting prospects in this draft at the position, but if a team decides they want someone a little more veteran, the Redskins will certainly listen to offers. Cousins started the final three games of the season, and while he wasn't bad per se, he likely didn't do any favors for his stock. The entire team was floundering and he simply showed he wasn't ready to come in and put the team on his back, which no one should have expected. Santana Moss even expressed his belief that Cousins was essentially being set up to fail. Overall, taking context into account, his performances were mediocre, but ended on a particularly poor zero-touchdown, two-interception flop in bad weather against the Giants.

3. Rex Grossman (33/6'1/225 lbs.) Florida, 2003 [Free agent]: Doesn't really matter. If Shanahan is still here, Grossman probably will be too. If he's fired, Grossman will be gone. He's here because the Shanahans like him and he's familiar with their scheme.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chase Minnifield cleared waivers!

Minnifield surprised me by clearing waivers, being added to the practice squad along with Florida rookie OT Xavier Nixon, UConn WR Nick Williams, Scarlet Knight RB Jawan Jamison, LB Will Compton, OL Tevita Stevens, DL Dominique Hamilton, and WR Lance Lewis.

I'm surprised to see Lewis rather than Skye Dawson join Williams, and am surprised that all eight practice squad members were cut from the Redskins' roster, but for the most part that's about as expected.

Primarily, I'm just jazzed that Minnifield made it. I think he has a future in the league, and I hope it's in Washington.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summation, hopes, and possibilities

12/24/2011

First post originally to this blog!

Looks like Barkley is going back to school, and Landry Jones is expected to as well (I didn't really want him, but it still hurts us that he's going back given supply and demand). As such, in the first round where we will be picking, it's really just Luck (not that he'd be there outside the top 5) and RG3.

That said, we lost today. The Eagles are also looking decent so they should be the favorites against us next week. If we lose, we'll finish at 5-11. If we do, that leaves the Colts, Rams, and Vikings as definitely finishing with a higher pick than we will, the Bucs, Jags, and Browns as teams that could finish with a higher pick or could be tied with us (haven't looked into tiebreakers), and the Dolphins as a team that could be tied with us or could have a better record. For reference, current 6-9 teams (ie, ones which could be tied with us if we win next week and finish 6-10) are the Bills, Panthers, and Chiefs. The only interplay between any 2 of those teams for week 17 is Colts/Jaguars. More on that later.

Ergo, if we, as I posited, do indeed lose to the Eagles and finish 5-11, we could be drafting anywhere from 4th (behind only the Colts, Rams, and Vikings) to 8th (actually, probably 7th since I believe that beating us earlier in the season would cause Miami to lose the tiebreaker for higher draft positioning, but I said I wasn't taking tiebreakers into account).

Now, that established, teams who are primary threats to our QB drafting ability are Seattle, who will want to move away from the TJax/Whitehurst fiasco, Miami, unless they decide to try and stick with Matt Moore for a little while, and possibly the Colts (particularly if they end #1 overall and have Luck there, as so many people have been projecting ad nauseum; I'm not necessarily sold on that), the Browns (hard to say if they give Colt McCoy another shot), and the Jaguars (just took Blaine Gabbert at 10 last year, but he's been so abysmal that many people expect a new coach will want a new QB, even with GM Gene Smith still in place).

Now, I think the Jaguars probably don't go QB. Gabbert has indeed been atrocious, and it's true that the new CBA's draft pay structure doesn't put you on the hook for 70 million dollar contracts a la Sam Bradford that handcuff you to that player for at least a few years, but I still think it's hard to justify giving up so quickly on a guy you gave up so much for (they traded up-- with the Redskins-- to get the pick they used on Gabbert) when you have so many other needs. Similarly, while Colt McCoy wasn't as high a pick, he has shown some ability so I think the Browns might do well to continue building their other team (they need a receiver opposite Greg Little, for instance-- their WR corps leads the league in drops this season-- and a RB since it is looking like Peyton Hillis has pre-empted any future there) around him before they rush to replace him. Especially given that Barkley and probably Jones are both staying in school and will be in next year's draft.

Colts Digression:
I doubt the Colts take a QB if it isn't Luck. Even if it is, I'm not convinced they take one as so many people are. Memories are short, but Peyton Manning, even if he is old, is for my money the best quarterback in the NFL provided he heals. The fact that he single-handedly takes a team from 2 wins to double-digits is unbelievable. However, his injury has already shown what I've been saying for years: the vast majority of that team around him is utter crap (sans perhaps Reggie Wayne, Dwight Freeney, and maybe Robert Mathis, all of whom are 30+, off the top of my head). Peyton is too valuable to let go for nothing, and with his bonuses due (just under 30 million this spring) they can't really trade him unless it is somewhere he wants to go, so he'll renegotiate his contract. He doesn't really want to have Luck sitting behind him with his days numbered, and Luck is considered to valuable and ready to sit for long.

Furthermore, Luck will be getting good money for going first overall, and Peyton has an enormous contract, which they just gave him prior to this season, so it's hard to justify that much of the salary cap going to one spot on the field. Jim Irsay said earlier on that they have the flexibility to do so, but that is mostly talk, I think; if they do that, they'll have a very hard time finding money to improve other areas of the team which is desperately, desperately needed. In short: while it's possible, I have a hard time seeing the Colts sit with both Luck and Peyton on the roster, and I have a hard time seeing Peyton get cut. That fundamentally leaves only finding a place to send Peyton where he wants to go, who wants him, and who gives up something significant (obviously his price will be very large) or not drafting Andrew Luck. Irsay has expressed interest in "a young QB" (ie, Luck) if they pick at 1, but he's also said he expects that, if healthy, Peyton will be playing for them next year.

If they don't pick first overall (which would require them beating the Jaguars next week and the Rams losing to San Francisco, the latter of which should happen at least), I think they absolutely do not take a QB. If they do pick first overall, I think it depends what people are willing to offer. Saying they will take him could easily be a smokescreen by Irsay to drive up the price. I would hope that is the case because the Colts woul dbe fools to go QB rather than trade down for the king's ransom that pick will fetch when they have such a plethora of needs. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but it would be foolish.

All that said, if Peyton does not look like he'll be able to return to form and play like Peyton next year, this is all moot and the Colts go QB.

/End digression

Anyway, to be safer, I'm hoping that the Rams lose and Colts win, giving the Rams the first pick because they definitely won't be taking a QB and thus we'll have a better chance of trading up fro Luck, which I still hold as my ideal. That will additionally probably eliminate the Colts as competitors for a QB if they otherwise would have been. Given their better record, the Seahawks are only a threat to us at all if they trade up, leaving the Dolphins (whom we are likely to pick ahead of), and the already-addressed Browns and Jaguars. That said, with the level of our need at QB and only Luck and Robert Griffin as the top prizes, we need to be ready to maneuver in the draft to make sure one of them is ours.

Looking at the schedule for next week, here's my prognostication for the draft order of the top few (obviously a very unsafe and tentative prediction)

1. Rams (some wishful thinking, maybe, but they should lose and given that they're coming off two wins and playing the Jaguars, the Colts have a pretty good chance at a win)
2. Colts
3. Vikings
4. Bucs (Atlanta should beat them)
5. Browns (Steelers should beat them)
6. Jags (Colts winning means they lose)
7. Redskins
8. Dolphins

Or something thereabouts. All the teams ahead of us in present draft order (except one of the Colts/Jags) are pretty likely to lose. I need to investigate the tiebreakers to see who would go where if we lose and the Jaguars beat the Colts (giving us the same record).

Rams probably look to trade the pick, Colts need literally everything, Vikings would probably go with either Matt Kalil (OT) or Justin Blackmon (WR), and Bucs have a lot of ways they could go. As such, if we don't trade up, I expect Luck is gone but RG3 survives through the top 5, meaning which way they Browns and Jags choose to go determined whether he would still be there for us. There's a pretty good chance he would, but maybe a better chance he wouldn't and we need to be sure, in my opinion, so I advocate us trading up unless some of those teams win and we end up picking higher than expected. Ideally, trading up to 1 and getting Luck, but if that is too expensive then trading up 3 or 4 spots and taking Griffin.

Our situation was better when Barkley (and Jones) were expected to come out as I would've been fine with any of the three. Given how draft positioning is looking now, chances are very good one of the three at least would've fallen. As is, things are tighter. Normally I might advocate building elsewhere or even trading down, but I did that last year and I think this is the year we need to strike. We have a few other needs, as my other posts have mentioned, but our present team with a healthy offense, a good QB, and maybe one new player on the OL would be pretty formidable, I think.  I said last year that we should wait it out, not take a QB simply because we need one, and build elsewhere and we did, extremely effectively. But I think we need a new one now so I want to give up what we need to give up to make that happen, if that is how it turns out.

To note, I'm not particularly interested in Foles or Cousins or any of the other 2nd/3rd/4th round type guys. Some may be kind of promising, but the team has had too many years of maybe and think we need to draft a guy to be the QB of the future and the face of the franchise. Our roster is primed for it, the fanbase is certainly looking for it, and I think Shanahan wants a guy he can mold.

Roster


Having gone through the cuts that have happened, what they likely mean for the club, and ones that are likely still coming, I'll now take a look at how things will likely shake out when all is said and done.

Practice squad predictions would include CB Chase Minnifield (if he doesn't get grabbed off waivers by someone else), HB Jawan Jamison, C Kevin Matthews, WRs Nick Williams and Skye Dawson, and perhaps Lance Lewis, OT Xavier Nixon, either of S Jose Gumbs or Jordan Pugh if one doesn't make the active roster. With eight spots, that could fill the practice squad, but I anticipate at least one or two spots (which probably would be at Lewis' expense with both Williams and Dawson also vying for spots) going to guys the team picks up from other teams' cuts.

Injured Reserve:
S Philip Thomas,, LB Keenan Robinson, CB Richard Crawford (technically waived/injured since he didn't have a deal past this year, but he'll be someone who tries to make the Redskins next season), and perhaps DE Doug Worthington. He isn't listed on the team site, so I'm actually not sure what his deal is right now

Still suspended forever:
Tanard Jackson

Projected 53-man roster:
(25) (26)
QB(2): Griffin, Cousins
QB3(1)(2): Grossman and White
HB(4): Morris, Helu, Royster, Thompson
FB(1): Young
TE(4): Davis, Reed, Paulsen, Paul
OT(3): Williams, Polombus, Compton
OG(4): Lichtensteiger, Chester, Gettis, LeRibeus
C(1): Montgomery
WR(5): Garcon, Moss, Hankerson, Morgan, Robinson
Sixth WR?: Dezmon Briscoe (update: IR)
(24)
NT(2): Cofield, Neild
DE(4): Bowen, Golston, Baker, Merling, (Jarvis Jenkins on suspension)
OLB(4): Orakpo, Kerrigan, Tapp, Jenkins, (Rob Jackson on suspension)
ILB(4): Fletcher, Riley, Barnett, Kehl,
Additional ILB?: Burdett
CB(5): Wilson, Hall, Ameron, Biggers, Murphy
FS (3): Rambo, Pugh, Gumbs
SS(2): Merriweather, Doughty

(3)
K(1): Forbath
P(1): Rocca
LS(1): Sundberg

(53 total)

It isn't yet known which QB will win the third QB job, though I've already discussed that, and the 53rd spot on the roster is a bit unclear. If Briscoe is indeed placed on IR as anticipated, it is starting to look like linebacker Marvin Burdett might be surprising everyone to make the team, which would be on his special teams contributions. I have a hard time buying Burdett bringing more value than Minnifield, Pashos, or a 6th receiver, but it seems the coaching staff thinks he will unless they are planning on keeping Briscoe or bring in someone another team cut to take the final roster spot. If I had to make a guess which will happen it would be keeping Burdett, as it seems unlikely that they value Briscoe enough to keep him on the roster when he won't be able to contribute for a month or more.

If they were to bring in a player cut by another team, it's really anyone's guess who it would be, but one very feasible seeming option would be CB Antoine Winfield, whom the Redskins courted earlier in the off-season before he signed with Seattle. He was a surprise exclusion from the Seahawks' 53, but all reports are that he will be moved or released, and the Skins might still have interest in his services.



Update, 6:15pm: Surprisingly, it seems that Antoine Winfield has decided to retire.

Update, 6:50pm: Marvin Burdett has been cut, but apparently the team plans to keep four quarterbacks for the time being and cut neither White nor Grossman. That's a surprise.

Update, 7:00pm: As anticipated, Dezmon Briscoe waived/injured. 

New post! Cut day!

Sadly, Chase Minnifield was cut.

The Redskins will try to put him on the practice squad, but I'm worried he won't make it through waivers. I really like Minnifield, and think he earned a roster spot in the preseason, particularly with Crawford's injury. It's hard to imagine the team keeping just 4 corners, so Jerome Murphy probably has the 5th corner spot sewn up. Murphy showed pretty well, but I would prefer Minnifield if it's a choice between the two. I think he has more upside and played better in the pre-season.

Also released were DeJon Gomes, Keiland Williams, and Tony Pashos, and Dez Briscoe is considered likely to be placed on IR. He looked good in preseason, but apparently the shoulder separation he suffered in Tampa (I was there!) is going to keep him out upwards of a month, and the Redskins are likely to just go ahead and IR him. Those are all guys who had a legitimate shot to make the team, so it will be interesting to see how that is going to affect the shape of the roster.

Kevin Matthews has just now been announced cut, which I expected, but in light of the Pashos release, that means almost certainly that the team will be keeping only 8 offensive linemen, at least until Maurice Hurt gets presumably activated from the Physically Unable to Perform list after 6 weeks, when he's likely to take someone's spot, and unless the team decides to give up on LeRibeus so soon, it will probably be at the expense of someone at a different position.

Very good news for Chris Thompson and Evan Royster; it seems like we will keep 4 HBs given the other cuts, which would include both of them. At his touchdown return in Tampa, I commented that Thompson likely just played his way back onto the roster, and I'm pretty happy to see us keep a talented rookie who can help out in the return game. Royster also had a great game, and Keiland Williams, his top competition for the third running back spot, was cut today, so he will almost certainly be kept as well.

The cuts elsewhere are probably good news for Philip Merling, who I expect to be held onto at DE after Bowen, Golston, and Baker with Jarvis Jenkins suspended for the first four contests.

Also, I assume DeJon Gomes' release means Jordan Pugh is likely to be our 4th safety with Rambo, Meriweather, and Doughty.

Crunching the numbers, it looks like we have 46 players I'd consider locks, and 49 spots I'd consider locks (3rd QB and 3rd HB being the lock positions without a definite player) at this point.

Given that that leaves us with 6 open roster spots, it seems almost certain that both Thompson and Royster are going to make it for 4 HBs, and Grossman or maybe White gets one of the remaining 3 to be the third QB. Grossman is the incubent and likely winner, but I'm hoping for White. We know what we have (not a lot) in Grossman, and I think White has a little more upside as well as the potential to perhaps contribute in occasional gadget plays, which is nice from a third quarterback who is instead just a dead spot on the roster being used for insurance. Additionally, losing RG3 (or even Kirk Cousins, who has underrated speed) would mean a big blow to the run game, not just for his yardage, but also the read option and bootleg scrambling threat he provides, which would make opposing defenses' jobs a lot easier and put more pressure on the passing game, which isn't something we want with Grossman back there. At least White can keep defenses honest and open things up. He played the entire game against the Buccaneers, and seemed to pretty consistently make good reads and extend plays, though his accuracy on what should be routine throws was worrisome. Instead of tossing a dumpoff into the waiting arms of the outlet receiver or back so they can get running and try and get yards, a lot of the short passes were close enough to catch but required adjustment on the receiver's part to do so. Not ideal, but I would still endorse him over Grossman, who looked as bipolar as ever this preseason, stringing together consistently solid performances for a while and then spending a spell throwing ducks all over the field and seemingly aiming for defenders.

One of  the remaining spots could involve some competition at safety. Although, as I said before, Gomes' departure is a big boost to Pugh's chances, another dark horse guy who has played well this pre-season is safety Jose Gumbs. Though possible, the Redskins might not keep five safeties to save both Gumbs' and Pugh's spots, so I the two may in direct competition, with the loser likely headed to the practice squad. I would say Pugh is the favorite, but Gumbs has a shot if they choose only one. We'll see later today.

I had previously considered whether the team might keep a 6th WR, which would be either Nick Williams, who had a good game to close out the pre-season, or Skye Dawson, who impressed in the off-season and can contribute as a return-man. Briscoe would also be an option, and perhaps a likely one if he were healthy, but it sounds like the team will place him on IR. However, recently, both Dawson and then Williams were waived, which means the only way there could be a sixth receiver is if they kept Briscoe on in spite of his injury, which is very unlikely. Additionally, it would have been dicey to keep four halfbacks, four tight ends, and six wide receivers, especially on top of the presumptive three quarterbacks.

One more competitor for a final roster spot could be linebacker Marvin Burdett, conspicuous on the cut lists by his absence. Few people have considered him a serious possibility to make the final roster, but given that he hasn't yet been reported released, he might do so. If he is kept as a fifth ILB, it will be because the Redskins like what he brings on kick coverage, where there are some concerns, particularly after Lorenzo Alexander's off-season departure for Arizona.

The last thing to consider about the active roster is the suspended and PUP guys, who are out for 4 and 6 weeks respectively that don't count against the current count: Jarvis Jenkins (4 games), Rob Jackson (4 games), Maurice Hurt (6 games), and Adam Carriker (6 games). I anticipate that Carriker will likely be placed on injured reserve when his deadline is up if he doesn't really surprise, but the other three are likely to be activated to the roster and cost three other guys spots. Jarvis Jenkins will probably take Merling's spot to keep us at four DEs. Doubting that LeRibeus gets dropped, I'm expecting he takes the spot of someone at a different position, and Jackson is uncertain. I think the team would like to keep Brandon Jenkins and Daryl Tapp in addition to bringing Jackson back, since both have looked good in the pre-season and Jim Haslett has had a field day with packages getting 3 or 4 of those guys on the field at once to pressure opposing passers in different ways. That said, if one of them plays poorly, they could keep the status quo at OLB numbers and replace them with Jackson. Still, I think it's more likely that both Jackson and Hurt take spots of guys elsewhere on the team.

One possibility that I haven't seen mentioned by anyone, but has seemed more and more plausible to me as I've continued to consider it is that, if RG3 and Cousins both look healthy and effective through 6 weeks, the team might feel comfortable cutting the third QB for Maurice Hurt when he comes back, which leaves just one spot to figure out for Jackson's return after 4 weeks. Obviously, the team might not even have decided yet, and if there are any significant injuries that could change things completely as well.

Next post will detail expectations for the roster's final look.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Upcoming Washington/New York Monday Night Football Has a Surprisingly Good Chance of Determining the Divsion

Washington is at 5-6 with a lot of problems, so I would be hard-pressed to call them a good, division-winning, or playoff-deserving caliber of team. That said, they might have a shot at at least two of those distinctions this year due to the relatively weak performance of NFC East teams combined with remaining schedules, particularly the amount of intra-divisional match-ups left on the Redskins' schedule.

Outside of the division, we have Ravens and Browns left. If we go 1-1 in those games, which seems likely, we're looking at 6-7 with 1 game against each other NFC East team left. Though they aren't guaranteed by any means, one has to think we have a good shot at sweeping the Eagles, who are in full-on self-destruct mode, and the Cowboys, than whom we looked much better on Thanksgiving. That puts us at 8-7 with the Giants game left. Obviously the Giants are the favorite, but with an NFC East game and how we looked against them last time, it is by no means assured, and beating them would likely result in both teams ending the year with 9-7 records and Washington having the tie-breaker over New York. How absurd would that be?

Giants (7-4) have a pretty tough road remaining, with the games other than ours being New Orleans, who is starting to look pretty dangerous, the 1-loss Falcons, the 2-loss Ravens, and a divisional game against the Eagles. If they go 2-2 against the Falcons, Ravens, Saints, and Eagles, they're sitting at 9-6 with our MNF game being the remainder.

Obviously that's a lot of if's and assumptions, but nothing outlandish. This MNF game could really matter. A Giants win borderline clinches them the division, while a Washington victory makes things very interesting in the NFC East from here on out.

In addition to that, Washington oddly enough holds a lot of key head-to-head tiebreakers owing to victories over Tampa Bay, Seattle, Minnesota, New Orleans, and Dallas, which comprise all the present 6-5 teams in the NFC as well as the 5-6 Cowboys. As such, if we manage to perform well from here on out but don't win the division, our taking a wild-card playoff spot is still very feasible.