Monthly Archives: August 2017

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LANDOVER, Md., — The Washington Redskins started slow — being outgained by 98 yards in the first quarter — before rebounding vs. Cincinnati in a 23-17 win. They at least put together some good drives, but they did not play the sort of crisp game the coaches would have liked — at least when it comes to the passing attack.

QB depth chart: Kirk Cousins has not had a strong summer. He finished the preseason having completed 25 of 44 passes for 258 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He made a bad decision on one ball Sunday, making his mind up before seeing the play, and it turned into an easy pick-six for linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Backup Colt McCoy looked more comfortable than he had in the first two games, completing 8 of 11 passes with one touchdown. A second one was dropped.
Kirk Cousins completed 10 of 19 passes for 109 yards Sunday, but didn’t throw for a touchdown. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
When it was starters vs. starters, the Redskins looked …: Bad at first, then better. Washington trailed 14-13 at halftime when matched vs. the starters. The offense did start to run the ball well, the first positive sign the Redskins have shown this summer. Rob Kelley carried 10 times for 57 yards and a touchdown. The defense allowed a long drive on the opening series, allowing two third-and-longs to be converted. It was a mixed effort in the dress rehearsal game.

One reason to be concerned: The Redskins’ receivers just haven’t made many big plays this summer. Terrelle Pryor and Cousins haven’t found much of a rhythm — some passes have been high and Pryor dropped one Sunday. Ryan Grant just doesn’t make big plays and Josh Doctson did not play vs. the Bengals. He has big-play ability, but now you have to wonder about his durability. The Redskins haven’t yet shown they’ll be OK minus Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson.

That guy could start: Rookie center Chase Roullier. He made his first start with Spencer Long injured and handled himself well. Long will start when he returns, but if he can’t make it back for the season opener Roullier has shown this summer he won’t be overwhelmed. He’s smart, can anchor and worked his combo blocks well Sunday.

Rookie watch: Corner Josh Holsey played well again and will make it real tough on the Redskins to cut him. The problem is, he’s likely their sixth corner at this point so if he makes the roster they’d have to keep one less player elsewhere. But he’s competitive and plays bigger than his size (generously listed at 5-foot-11).

Long awaited debut: Linebacker Junior Galette made his Redskins debut — more than two years after he signed with Washington. Galette, returning from two years of Achilles’ issues, played with both the first- and second-team defenses in nickel packages. He had at least two good rushes, showing good burst to the inside. Galette will help.

Healthy return: Tight end Jordan Reed played for the first time this summer as well, having missed the first two games while on the physically unable to perform list. Reed didn’t play many snaps, but did catch two passes for 12 yards and was targeted two other times, once in the end zone. With questions still at receiver, the Redskins need a healthy Reed this season.

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LANDOVER, Maryland — The problem with the Washington Redskins’ run game remains the same as it’s been in the past. It’s not a one-position issue. It’s not even just an offensive line problem, though there were a few negatives up front.

Rather, when they have a good play called, one person misses a block. Or when they need push, they’re not getting it. Or when they do, it takes one miss to cause it all to break down. Or if the line does its job, a tight end might lose his block.

It adds up to a lackluster preseason showing by the Redskins’ offense. The regular season is three weeks away, so panicking now wouldn’t be productive. Being concerned? Yes, that would be wise. In Saturday’s 21-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Redskins’ run game was non-existent. This after a week in which coach Jay Gruden stressed its importance.

I like that the starting offense wanted to stay in the game, knowing they needed to generate something positive. They know what they must prove; it’s a good mindset to have. This isn’t about a group that doesn’t work hard; nobody does more work than the offensive line. At some point maybe this is just who they are: a group that pass protects well but is inconsistent blocking for the run. If you want to be called Hogs 2.0 — again, I appreciate what and who they’re trying to emulate — then you need to duplicate their success. Nicknames, in the end, are earned. Nobody knows that more than the players.

Two times it was left guard Shawn Lauvao who missed a block, leading to problems. Another time center Spencer Long stumbled and was unable to block the linebacker. Or tight end Niles Paul missed a block on the edge. And receiver Ryan Grant failed to obstruct the linebacker on another. And tight end Vernon Davis didn’t handle the corner in space on another. Last week Trent Williams missed one. Maybe running back Rob Kelley could help on some runs with an extra dash of patience. Other times, though, he’s being hit two yards deep.

“It just takes time and practice,” Williams said. “It takes growth. It doesn’t just boil down to the five people blocking. It takes everybody. If one guy misses a block, it can turn a play that’s a potential plus-10 to a minus-1. Those are the things we have to iron out and keep swinging and hopefully it will come through.”

Other observations about the No. 1 offense:

They’ll miss Pierre Garcon’s penchant for tough catches. That doesn’t mean they can’t succeed without him, but that’s one area where he performed well. The Redskins’ starting offense had two drops (Ryan Grant and Vernon Davis) and another ball that was too high but one that Terrelle Pryor will need to catch in the regular season. Garcon provided an edge and was adept at running after the catch on screens. Green Bay’s receivers made the first man miss on those screens too often. On Washington’s one screen, Ryan Grant did not. Jamison Crowder has done so and will continue to do so.


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They’ll need to be more balanced on first down in the regular season. Excluding the two-minute offense at the end of the first half Saturday, the starting offense has run 10 first-down plays this summer. Of those, seven have been runs — and those have gained a combined eight yards. Gruden wants to establish a mindset on the ground and that should be applauded. He needs to see what they can do. But this offense will struggle if they run that much on first down (with no success). The bad part? They did what they should on a first-down run in the second quarter and went play-action — using their tight bunch formation that usually signals run. But the play fake wasn’t great and didn’t cause the backside end to bite hard inside. Instead, he ran at Kirk Cousins running the boot. It caused a throwaway. Still, first-down passing will have to become a thing; it’ll help the run game. First-down play-action works well — and it’s often the best time for receivers to make big plays. This is where the preseason is helpful, as long as lessons are learned.
Timing is everything. Cousins threw two excellent touch passes to running back Chris Thompson and tight end Vernon Davis. But he was off on some other throws — the deep cross to Jamison Crowder; the fade to Davis in the end zone. On the latter, the play was there but Cousins just left it short. Contrast that with Aaron Rodgers’ fade to Martellus Bennett for a touchdown. But Bennett also set it up well, freezing linebacker Zach Brown and then creating enough separation by cutting back outside so the throw didn’t have to be perfect (though it was close).

Receiver Josh Doctson will need to start. Grant is a terrific worker who runs excellent routes, can play any receiver spot and usually blocks well. He has yet to translate what the coaches see in practice into games, but Doctson provides big-play potential. He caught only one pass from Cousins, but it was for 12 yards on a slant in which he needed to let inside receiver Crowder clear his man. So that required patience; Doctson showed it and set his man up well to get free. He later made an athletic breakup of a deep ball. The coaches aren’t going to play Grant ahead of him if Doctson shows he’s ready — and stays healthy. If Doctson conquers the latter, this becomes an easy call.

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — David Bruton Jr. turned 30 on Sunday, an occasion he said would include “a mountain bike with me on it.” He will complete a summer chemistry class on Thursday, and he has a to-do list that is chock-full of “my new life” as he looks at what’s to come.

The future is now for Bruton, as the longtime special-teams captain of the Denver Broncos formally announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday. The self-professed “nerd of the locker room” said that a combination of health concerns — he said he’s had six concussions in his eight-year career — paired with a loss of passion to prepare for the game and his eagerness to get to the next life step brought him to his decision.

“I’m burnt-out, definitely worry about my health,” Bruton said. “Another season was cut short by a concussion [in 2016] — that’s six. I’m a guy who likes to use his brain. Especially back in school, I need as many brain cells as possible with all these science classes. It came down to health, and I’ve definitely had my time in the league. I’m ready to move on.”

Bruton, who graduated from Notre Dame before entering the NFL in 2009, is already back in school at the University of Colorado-Denver. He has begun what he says will be a five-year journey to become a physical therapist in his post-football life.

To that end, he has been an intern at Next Level Sports Performance in Golden, Colorado, and will work with the Broncos’ training staff during training camp.

“I thought about professional mountain biking,” Bruton said with a laugh. “I don’t know if they have a great concussion plan. But physical therapy is definitely something I’ve always wanted to do. To see the people who enjoy doing it, who are good at it, and seeing the reward they get with working with people who work so hard to get back to normal life — it’s so rewarding.”

Bruton played 108 games in his NFL career — 104 with the Broncos. He was a longtime special-teams captain, a respected voice in the locker room. As the Broncos powered through the 2015 season on the way to victory in Super Bowl 50, Bruton was the longest-tenured player with the team, having been a fourth-round pick in 2009.

Champ Bailey, who played the bulk of his Hall of Fame-worthy career in Denver, routinely pointed to Bruton as a player “who does it like guys should do it — [Bruton] knows what he’s supposed to do and what everybody else is supposed to do too.”

But how the 2015 season ended — the Broncos put Bruton on injured reserve in December with a fractured fibula because they feared he wouldn’t be healed in time for the postseason, so Bruton was not in uniform for the Super Bowl — and how his final season unfolded in Washington in 2016 weighed heavily in his decision. Bruton suffered a concussion in the Redskins’ fourth game, and eventually the Redskins put him on injured reserve and later released him.

“I thought I was ready to come back for the playoffs [in 2015]. I did a full workout before the Super Bowl but was already on IR. So I still went into last season thinking I’m going to at least see 10 years … that concussion happened, being cut happened, the ugliness of the business was really exposed,” Bruton said. “But the bottom line is I want to do other things. I’m ready to move on.”
David Bruton Jr. played 108 games in his NFL career, 104 with the Broncos. He was a special-teams captain and a respected voice in the locker room. AP Photo/David Richard
The Broncos are expected to recognize Bruton’s contributions to the team now that he has formally announced his retirement. He and the Broncos always had football love for each other, but it was often tough love. A safety, Bruton was consistently one of the smartest, most athletic players on the team, but the Broncos often seemed to be searching, through three head coaches and five defensive coordinators, for someone else to play instead of him.

“So I made sure I excelled on special teams,” Bruton said. “You can make an impact with the team, make an impact in the community, make a career for yourself. It always angered me, always motivated me to work. I don’t know what it was. I took my role very seriously no matter what it was. But when you’re living it, it’s always tough to constantly see somebody else get drafted.”

Bruton said a workout with the Baltimore Ravens earlier this year, one that “did not go well at all, because I just didn’t have it in me anymore to do it,” was one of the last indicators football is no longer for him.
As he moves into this next career, he will continue with his Bruton’s Books program to put books in the hands of children and improve reading skills of at-risk elementary school students. During the 2011 NFL lockout, Bruton worked as a substitute teacher in Miamisburg, Ohio, and he was the Broncos’ Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2015 for his charitable endeavors.

He said he allows his son, Jaden, to play football, but wishes Jaden had waited a little longer to take up the game. Jaden will be a sixth-grader this coming school year.

“I started playing in seventh grade,” Bruton said. “But he’s been playing since third grade, I haven’t been a fan of that. I advise to start later; football can wait. If you can eliminate that contact until you get older, I think it’s better.

“But my family, my parents, my brother, everyone, they’re very happy with what I did, and with what I’m going to do now after football. Especially my mom [Constance]. She wanted me to hang it up after the last concussion. But I’m excited about what’s next.”

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RICHMOND, Va. — The Washington Redskins have rotated their defensive linemen all summer, making it hard even for that group to know what’s going on. So their an unofficial depth chart for the preseason opener clarifies only a little bit what’s happening up front.

The Redskins released their first depth chart of camp with the Baltimore game being played Thursday.

It’s an unofficial depth chart. It’s also true that it doesn’t matter until the regular season begins. But it does provide an early look at some position battles.

Defensive line: The “starters” listed were Stacy McGee and Ziggy Hood at ends and Phil Taylor at nose tackle. A.J. Francis was the No. 2 nose with Joey Mbu third. Rookie end Jonathan Allen was with the No. 2 defense.

What it means: A little, but not a lot. The Redskins have rotated their line throughout the spring and into training camp. It’s clearly kept players guessing as to where they fit on the depth chart. It has also given players a chance to work against different players in practice — so players who would be considered backups can prove themselves vs. starters. The Redskins plan to rotate their line quite a bit this season, but that’s how they’ve done it the last few years. If Taylor does win the job, it would be a terrific comeback story after he missed the last two years due to various knee issues.


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Inside linebacker: There is no surprise here as Will Compton and Mason Foster remain the starters, ahead of Zach Brown.

What it means: The Redskins don’t believe all the issues vs. the run started at inside linebacker, which is why they continue to have Foster and Compton in this role. However, Brown will rotate with the starters — both next to Compton and Foster at various times. Sometimes it’ll be in a nickel package; other times in their base front. He’s an athletic linebacker who can help. The question will be when and in what role. It’s certainly still possible he could end up starting. During the spring, Brown, signed in April, said it would take him into camp to feel comfortable in the defense. If that’s the case, he’ll show it in games and, perhaps, win the starting job.

Running back: It’s an easy call here with Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson the top two, with rookie Samaje Perine third (and the primary backup to Kelley). Former starter Matt Jones is fifth, behind Mack Brown.

What it means: The coaches like Kelley, and Perine still has work to do in order to become a starter — notably in the passing game. Jones was on the outs in the spring, so him being in this spot isn’t surprising. It’ll be interesting to see if the Redskins backs are more consistent this season.
Outside linebacker: Rookie Ryan Anderson is listed with the third defense, behind starters Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith and backups Junior Galette and Trent Murphy. In fact, with Smith sidelined due to an ankle injury, it was Murphy who worked more with the first group Saturday.

What it means: The Redskins have good depth here. But they need it with Murphy suspended the first four games, so Anderson will get chances. But one note about the Alabama rookies, Allen and Anderson: I get the sense they don’t mind having to fight for positions; it’s how they were raised in college.

Receiver: The Redskins listed three receivers among their starters: Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder and Josh Doctson. They’re the clear leaders among the receivers. Pryor will start at the X position, where Pierre Garcon had played.

What it means: The Redskins haven’t always listed three receivers among their starters in the past, but it makes sense to do so, considering the way their offense has evolved of late. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Redskins used a three-receiver look 72.3 percent of the time in 2016 — that’s up from 66.9 percent in ’15 and 61.6 percent in ’14 (coach Jay Gruden’s first season).


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RICHMOND, Va. — The tease began two years ago when Washington Redskins linebacker Junior Galette first showed in training camp what he could do. And then he got hurt. Then he spent the next offseason posting videos of him dunking a ball, or working out, showing that he could still be explosive. Appetites were whet. And then he got hurt again.

So when it comes to Galette, “caution” must be the operative word.

With that said: As the Redskins take a mandated day off Sunday, they have to be encouraged by what they’ve seen, both from the spring and the early part of training camp. It’s still too early to know just how much he can be his old self after two Achilles injuries or how much he can do. There’s still rust to his game, and when you’ve last played in 2014, expectations must be limited.
The Redskins have to be encouraged by Junior Galette’s offseason and training camp given he hasn’t played since 2014. AP Photo/Alex Brandon
Still, Galette clearly isn’t done. After a lackluster Thursday, Galette played well against the run a day later — both from a recognition and quickness standpoint. He was able to get into the backfield and either make a stop or pinch the play (the players were only in shells; pads matter, but with Galette you want to see the get-off, considering that’s been his strength).

During one-on-one drills Saturday, he wasn’t overmatched at all against left tackle Trent Williams. He made Williams work. Galette did get Morgan Moses on one rush. And Galette showed what he could do on a stunt, working well with Preston Smith and ducking inside past Shawn Lauvao.

You can’t go overboard and extrapolate what Galette will now do during the season based on a couple of days in camp. But for Washington, Galette’s start beats the alternative, one in which he shows he can’t play anymore. Again, one word: caution.

“We just have to play it by ear and see how he does,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “I’m excited. He has got great energy out there, he works hard and has won a bunch of one-on-ones already.”

The Redskins have depth at outside linebacker, also with Smith, Ryan Kerrigan, Ryan Anderson and Trent Murphy. It gives them flexibility as most of them can rush from multiple spots. Galette, though, would give them someone with more explosion. He can win solo battles and, paired with power, he can be effective on stunts. Galette plays with more passion than most, and after two missed seasons that will only intensify — and this defense needed more passion.

First things first, he must have a strong camp and not just a good opening couple of days. Then he must, of course, stay healthy. Then we’ll finally see what he can do rather than wonder.

Other camp observations:

1. It’s a shame that running back Keith Marshall injured his knee Saturday and now will miss the season. Marshall clearly knew it was bad, slamming his fist to the ground. That’s understandable given that he missed all of last season, too. Concerned teammates (Vernon Davis, A.J. Francis, Rob Kelley, among others) walked over to say a few words. The tough part for Marshall is that earlier in the day, Gruden had told reporters “I think people are sleeping on him a bit.” Marshall showed speed early in practice, getting around the edge for what would have been a 15- to 20-yard gain. He also showed in a blitz pickup drill that he had work to do in that area. One of the loneliest things for a player to do is rehab, and now Marshall must do it again. And a dream, once more, is deferred.

2. Your daily “Terrelle Pryor is big” nugget: On another comeback, linebacker Mason Foster was in position to make a play. But Kirk Cousins could throw the ball off target just a little, giving Pryor a chance to make a play. And he did. It’s impossible to know if Cousins would have thrown a similar ball to someone a few inches shorter. But with Pryor he can get away with it; the key will be how much Cousins is willing to do so during the regular season. It took him a little bit to trust former teammate DeSean Jackson on certain routes, even if he appeared to be covered.
3. There’s reason to feel good about the 2016 draft class, even after Marshall’s injury. Receiver Josh Doctson and corner Kendall Fuller have looked good; Su’a Cravens is starting at safety, and defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis has looked bigger and stronger at end. He’s done a nice job using that power to win battles, and he has a knack for finding the ball. Former general manager Scot McCloughan loved him last year, partly for his mindset. It’s a good start for Ioannidis; where he takes it from here is up to him.

4. Defensive backs wanted to be corrected sooner than they were last season. Most like to know shortly after a play in practice what went wrong, or what they needed to do. They’re getting those sorts of lessons from new secondary coach Torrian Gray. After one play Saturday, he spoke with corner Josh Norman for a couple of minutes going over the technique that should have been used on a play. Another key: Norman was receptive and listened.

5. It’s still really hard to know how the defensive line will look as the Redskins continue to mix players; no one has consistently lined up with the first defense. Figuring out what they’ll do at nose tackle is also difficult. They also have time. Joey Mbu has probably worked the most with the first unit at nose tackle. He’s strong, but he’ll also have to show that he can move well laterally, something he’ll have a chance to do in games.