Skip to content

Preseason Power Rankings No. 23: Washington Redskins

Jay Gruden, Robert Griffin III AP

The Redskins took a major step backward in 2013 and they blew things up as a result.

Jay Gruden is the new head coach, with the team hoping that his offensive mind can totally relegate former coach Mike Shanahan and his icy relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III to the fringes of memories. Griffin’s play could also do that as he’s had an entire offseason to work after rehabbing from a knee injury during the spring last year.

Dysfunction and lingering injuries weren’t the only reasons things went south for the Redskins last year, though. The defense was a mess and the changes on that side of the ball were not particularly dramatic, while the team also gave away far too many yards and points on special teams.

The potential for a repeat of 2012 certainly exists, but, based on their spot at No. 23, PFT’s panel needs to see more than potential to buy into the Redskins.

Strengths.

Signing DeSean Jackson was the latest addition to a receiving corps that should be much improved over last season. Pierre Garcon returns, tight end Jordan Reed should be healthy after last year’s concussions and Andre Roberts joined the team as a free agent. That’s more than Griffin had to work with as a rookie and should make his efforts as a passer easier than in past years.

Running back Alfred Morris is also back, giving the Redskins enviable potential balance on offense this season. If all goes according to plan, defenses will find it hard to keep an eye on everyone Washington rolls on the field.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo re-signed with the team and he’ll rejoin with Ryan Kerrigan to give the Redskins a strong pair of outside linebackers. If Jason Hatcher can repeat the pass rush he gave the Cowboys last season, Washington should be very effective at pressuring quarterbacks.

Left tackle Trent Williams remains one of the best in the league at his position and gives the Redskins an anchor as they build the rest of their offensive line.

Weaknesses.

The Redskins didn’t look that strong at safety when Tanard Jackson was in the mix and they aren’t looking any better in light of his latest suspension. The best hope is that Ryan Clark can push back father time and Brandon Meriweather avoids injury long enough for 2013 picks Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas to come into their own.

It would help the Redskins if cornerback David Amerson did the same thing in his second season. Old hands DeAngelo Hall and Tracy Porter will likely hold prominent roles, but the team needs Amerson to develop into a shutdown player on one side for their defense to reach its full potential.

Williams is a great left tackle, but the Redskins aren’t quite as lucky along the rest of the line. Kory Lichtensteiger is moving from guard to center, right guard is unsettled and the team picked Morgan Moses in the third round to give them an option other than Tyler Polumbus at right tackle.

Hatcher’s arrival should be a plus, but his offseason knee troubles are a bit of a concern since the rest of the Redskins defensive ends are an unimpressive lot.

Changes.

Gruden replacing Shanahan as head coach (and, for all intents and purposes, Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator) is by far the biggest change in Washington this offseason. Every coaching change is significant, of course, but this one feels even bigger because of how bad things got between Griffin and Shanahan last season.

Griffin has been spreading nothing but sunshine about the switch and the Redskins are hopeful that his knee will respond to a full offseason of work as well as he has responded to Shanahan’s departure. The quality of the skill position players around him should help.

The Redskins didn’t change defensive coordinators, but there’s been a lot of talk about a more aggressive approach from Jim Haslett’s unit this season. That should fit with the outside linebackers and help defensive tackle Barry Cofield rebound, although the defensive backfield could be stretched if they’re left out on islands.

Ben Kotwica is the new special teams coach and he’ll be charged with turning around units that struggled badly last season.

Camp Battles.

London Fletcher has brought his long career to an end, leaving an opening at inside linebacker next to Perry Riley. Keenan Robinson, Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward are all options with Robinson potentially the favorite if he’s over his torn pectoral.

Roberts was signed to play receiver, but Jackson’s arrival opens up the possibility that he could become the team’s primary kick returner. Rookie Lache Seastrunk would be another option for the role.

Chris Chester will try to hold onto the right guard job against challenges from Josh LeRibeus and third-round pick Spencer Long. The right choice there could help mitigate any right tackle issues.

Prospects.

The NFC East title has been a revolving door in recent seasons as the four teams generally muck their way through the regular season before someone grabs a 9-7 record in Week 17.

It is easy to see why the Redskins would believe they could return to the top of the food chain this season. Every report on Griffin’s health is positive, his supporting cast is stronger and the darkness that hung over Shanahan last season has been expunged.

At the same time, though, there’s not much about the Redskins that makes them a sure bet to be better than last year’s also-rans in Dallas and New Jersey or the defending division champs in Philly. The defense needs to be much better and we’ll still need to see Griffin’s play match the offseason reviews, for starters.

Should that happen, a return to the playoffs may not be out of reach but the Redskins will need to show that the stink of last year has been totally eradicated before the bandwagon starts to fill up.

Permalink 113 Comments Feed for comments Latest Stories in: Features, Top Stories, Washington Redskins
yo

Reggie Bush limited in practice with ankle, back injuries

Bush Getty Images

Lions running back Reggie Bush intends to play on Thursday against the Bears.  To do so, he’ll need to overcome another injury.

Already dealing with an ankle problem, Bush was limited in Tuesday’s practice with a back injury, too.

He also would have been a limited participant on Monday with both injuries, if the Lions had actually practiced.

Several other Lions were limited in practice on Tuesday as well, including receiver Calvin Johnson (ankle), defensive end Ziggy Ansah (elbow), safety James Ihedigbo (knee), and safety Glover Quin (back).

Tackle Riley Reiff (knee), guard Larry Warford (knee), and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (knee) did not practice.

Permalink 6 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dominic Raiola says he has no fine and no regrets

Dominic Raiola AP

Lions center Dominic Raiola took a cheap shot at Patriots defensive tackle Zach Moore on Sunday, but Raiola says he hasn’t been fined and doesn’t have any regrets.

There’s no fine,” Raiola said, via Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News. “It’s during the game. I don’t know about regrets, I don’t live life with regrets. I didn’t intentionally try to hurt anybody. I didn’t try to do anything out of the ordinary. I would’ve gotten a FedEx letter [from the league office regarding a fine]. So, just play the game. I didn’t make it a big deal, everybody else did.”

Patriots coach Bill Belichick ripped Raiola the day after the cheap shot, pointing out that Raiola was probably sore at the Patriots because he’s been in the NFL for 14 years and has never beaten the Patriots. Raiola declined to get into a war of words with Belichick.

“I don’t really care what he said,” Raiola said. “Not a lot of people beat those guys. I didn’t make it an issue. I just finished the game.”

Raiola may say he was just finishing the game, but he was also taking a cheap shot at an opponent. Just because the NFL says he didn’t technically break the rules, that doesn’t change the fact that what he did was dirty.

Permalink 36 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Vikings look at Webb, Winston

Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos Getty Images

With right tackle Phil Loadholt done for the season due to a torn pec, the Vikings need help at tackle.

They explored getting that help by bringing in veterans J’Marcus Webb and Eric Winston for tryouts on Tuesday, per a league source.

Webb appeared in eight games for the Vikings last year, with one start.  He’s perhaps best known for getting bumped by Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on national television when Webb was Cutler’s left tackle.

Winston, the current NFLPA president, started 16 regular-season games from 2007 through 2013 with the Texans, Chiefs, and Cardinals.  He spent some of training camp with the Seahawks, and he has gotten periodic look-sees throughout the season.

Neither Webb nor Winston have been signed by the Vikings, yet.

Loadholt will be replaced in the starting lineup by Mike Harris, who arrived to the NFL undrafted in 2012 and spent two years with the Chargers.  Harris has 27 regular-season appearances and 12 starts.  Sunday will be his first as a Viking.

Permalink 15 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

“Without question” Marshawn Lynch plays Thursday night

Lynch Getty Images

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has been dealing with a back injury.  But that back injury won’t keep the 49ers from having to deal with Lynch on Thursday night.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Lynch “without question” will play in Santa Clara on Thanksgiving night.

If Lynch can get through the short-week game, he’ll have a chance to get some extra rest before the Seahawks head to Philly for a showdown with the 8-3 Eagles.

Permalink 49 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Titans release Shaun Phillips, place Brian Schwenke on injured reserve

Brian Schwenke AP

Reports on Tuesday morning indicated that the Titans were going to part ways with veteran linebacker Shaun Phillips and they came to fruition in the afternoon.

Phillips has been waived, which makes him available to any of the league’s 31 other teams if they choose to make a claim. Phillips wasn’t overly productive in Tennessee this year, but he had 10 sacks for the Broncos in 2013 and there’s not a lot of available players with Phillips’s history as a pass rusher at this point in the season.

The Titans also announced that they have placed center Brian Schwenke on injured reserve. Schwenke hurt his knee during last Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, which also saw him catch a deflected pass and then fumble it as his career as a center didn’t set him up well for the role of ballcarrier.

Tennessee signed offensive lineman Eric Olsen to help fill the void left by Schwenke. Left tackle Taylor Lewan also suffered a sprained ankle against Philly, so there might be multiple starters missing when the Titans face the Texans this week.

Linebacker Dontay Moch was promoted from the practice squad to round out the set of moves for the day.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Matt Ryan on Mike Smith: We’ve got to make him right

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Falcons coach Mike Smith said Monday that he felt he didn’t give his team the best chance to win based on the way he handled the clock during the team’s final offensive drive in a 26-24 loss to the Browns, echoing criticism from many corners that didn’t do anything to help Smith’s job security.

Quarterback Matt Ryan said Tuesday that he thought Falcons players were angry at themselves in the wake of the loss, but that their anger didn’t extend to Smith. He also said that the players’ job is to make Smith’s decisions the right ones on the field.

“There’s nobody that takes more responsibility than Mike,” Ryan said on 680 The Fan, via ESPN.com. “And that’s one of the reasons, as a player, you love him. He is the first to say, ‘Listen, I wish we would have done that one differently.’ So from a player’s perspective, we’ve got to make him right. We can’t worry about anything else other than we’ve got to convert that third down, we’ve got to get a first, we’ve got to be able to make them burn their timeouts and then kick it in the uprights and win that game. I feel for [Smith] because he’s ‘the man’ when it comes to that. He will stick his neck out there for us and take the brunt of the responsibility. But, from a player’s standpoint, we’ve got to make him right.”

Ryan’s loyalty to his coach is clear, but it’s less clear how much loyalty owner Arthur Blank will show Smith once the season comes to a close. Finding a way to finish atop the NFC South would help and Ryan correctly points out that the Falcons control their own destiny in that regard. So would Ryan finding a way to cut down on interceptions against the Cardinals, who visit Atlanta this week, after throwing nine of them in two games against Arizona the last two years.

Permalink 10 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Aaron Rodgers swears he wasn’t squeezing Vikings with grape soda

grape_crush_2

In these cynical and sarcastic times we live in, many folks saw Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers drinking a Grape Crush soda after beating the Vikings and thought there was a message.

As it turns out, he just really likes grape soda.

Rodgers cleared up the social media-generated flap during his weekly radio show with Jason Wilde of ESPNWisconsin.com, insisting he wasn’t trolling the Vikings.

He apparently eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and drinks the same soda after every game, which makes seem like he’s a 9-year-old even if he’s not going for juvenile humor.

Seven years. To all the idiot trolls out there, seven years,” Rodgers said. “PBJ and Grape or Orange Crush. It’s been grape for the last five, the first couple years it was orange or grape. Seven years.”

While it’s hardly a controversial topic, he seemed offended at the perceived lack of respect for opponents.

“Anybody who knows, any of the local media or anybody who’s seen me after a game, I’m always carrying that around with me. That’s probably the only soda that I ever drink – right after the game, when you’ve got to get those nutrients back with you,” Rodgers said. “So that’s my post-game [snack] – PBJ and the Grape Crush. I do like it, contrary to anybody who thinks I was trolling anything. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s comical.

“I don’t do those kind of things.”

Now, if he beats the Patriots this week and walks to the podium with a Sam Adams, we will be able to call shenanigans on him.

Permalink 75 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

D.C. dysfunction looks to be continuing

Griffin AP

Jay Gruden has said he has “every intention” to start Robert Griffin III at quarterback this weekend, for what would have been one of the best games of the year.  In the year 2012.

It’s Washington and Indy.  Griffin and Luck.  The top two picks in the 2012 draft.  Now, Griffin could be having a hard time keeping one of the top two spots on his team’s depth chart.

Diana Russini of NBC 4 in Washington reported earlier today that the quarterbacks will meet at the team’s facility on Tuesday “to find out who is starting.”  And that hardly represents a clear indication Griffin remains entrenched as the starter.

In an organization seemingly bereft of strong leadership, the man who served for years as one of the true leaders in the locker room has addressed the situation in blunt, candid terms.

“It’s not an environment that’s really conducive to winning for a sustained period of time, from top to bottom,” former linebacker London Fletcher said Monday on 106.7 The Fan in D.C.  “You have to have a plan in place and say, ‘You know what?  This is what we’re gonna do, this is a winning formula,’ and then stick to the formula.  From my seven years, prior to [when] I got there, even now — and I count myself as being a part of it because I didn’t help get it as good as I wanted it to be once I left — you have to have a plan, that, ‘You know what?  This is going to be a winning plan, let’s stick to this plan, let’s stick to the script,’ so to speak, and do it the right way.  And that hasn’t been done before I got there, while I was there, since I’ve left, and I don’t know if they know what they’re doing, in terms of saying, ‘Hey, this is what we’re gonna do to be a winning franchise for the next decade.’ I like Jay Gruden as a head coach.  I think from a play-calling standpoint, I like some of the things he’s done. Maybe he can be that guy, but there needs to be some more changes that take place.”

It’s a strong indictment of the entire organization, from a guy who was in the middle of it for seven years.  And Fletcher has the perspective that comes from being with winning teams; he won a Super Bowl with the Rams.

Whatever Washington is doing, it’s clear that, currently, the plan is there is no plan.  The next five weeks could be more about figuring out who’ll be there to put a plan (or to not put a plan) in place in 2015 and less about laying the foundation for sustained success.

Permalink 67 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Broncos cut kicker Brandon McManus, sign Connor Barth

Connor+Barth+Carolina+Panthers+v+Tampa+Bay+amA1CE9Y95Gl Getty Images

The Broncos have made a change at kicker.

Brandon McManus, who was acquired in a trade before the season, has been released. Connor Barth, a free agent who spent the last four years in Tampa Bay, has signed.

The Broncos had high enough hopes for McManus this season that they cut Matt Prater, a Pro Bowler last year, to hand McManus the job. But McManus has struggled and made Broncos fans miss Prater, who has since returned from a drug suspension and signed with the Lions.

McManus missed a 33-yard field goal attempt on Sunday against the Dolphins. That turned out to be his last chance in Denver.

Permalink 27 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Michael Bush signs with Cardinals

Michael Bush AP

The Cardinals have added a veteran running back to their roster for the final five weeks of the season.

The team announced on Tuesday afternoon that they have signed former Raiders and Bears tailback Michael Bush. They released Kerwynn Williams to open up a spot on the roster.

Bush has not played for anyone since the Bears released him in March after two years with the team. He ran for 608 yards and eight touchdowns on 177 carries during his time in Chicago. His best season came in 2011 with the Raiders, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2007 draft, when he ran for 977 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Cardinals haven’t found a reliable No. 2 back behind Andre Ellington this season and Ellington’s production has sharply declined over the last few weeks. He’s run 47 times for 89 yards in the last three weeks to go with 14 receptions, which makes the interest in a productive backup an easy one to understand. Bush’s work the last two years wasn’t overly impressive, but it wasn’t any worse than what Arizona’s gotten this season.

Permalink 14 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bengals place Andre Smith on IR, sign Jamon Meredith

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

The Bengals expected to the worst on right tackle Andre Smith, and it was confirmed today.

The team announced Smith was going on season-ending injured reserve with a triceps injury. He’ll be replaced on the 53-man roster by free agent Jamon Meredith.

They also announced that linebacker Terrell Manning had been signed off their practice squad by the Giants.

Meredith was last with the Packers, and has also spent time with Colts, Buccaneers, Steelers, Giants, Lions and Bills.

Losing Smith is a tough blow for the first-place Bengals, who appeared to have shaken out of an earlier slump and were running the ball effectively again.

Permalink 9 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Dolphins bring back cornerback R.J. Stanford

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Dolphins are short-handed in the secondary at the moment, so they brought back a familiar face.

According to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins have signed cornerback R.J. Stanford.

He was with the Dolphins in 2012 and 2013, and has also spent time with the Panthers and Bengals.

The Dolphins are short there, with Cortland Finnegan struggling with an ankle injury and Jamar Taylor expected to miss some time with a shoulder injury.

Permalink 4 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Bills make it official: They’ll play in Buffalo on Sunday

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwvlmzllzta1nmmwywuxotkzngzmnjqzzgrhzgyzotm1 AP

Before they played the Jets in Detroit on Monday night, Bills president Russ Brandon said there were “no red flags” standing in the way of the team returning to Ralph Wilson Stadium for their Week 13 game against the Browns.

On Tuesday, Brandon made it official.

“We will play the Browns at Ralph Wilson Stadium,” Brandon said, via WGR550.com. “There’s been an enormous amount of progress over the last few days. While we had a difficult hand from Mother Nature last week, Mother Nature certainly assisted this week and with the heat wave that we somewhat had here in Buffalo, and the great efforts by [vice president of operations and guest experience] Andy Major and his staff over the last few days.”

There is some damage to the stadium, but Major said none of it is structural and that fans would not be restricted from any of the normally accessible areas of the stadium. There will be a bit less parking because of the need to pile up snow removed from the stadium and seating bowl, but it seems like it will otherwise be business as usual in Buffalo this weekend.

Permalink 21 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Kaepernick thinks Harbaugh will be back in 2015

Harbaugh Getty Images

It’s become almost a given that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh won’t be back next year.  Many believe anything short of a Super Bowl win means he’ll be gone.  Several weeks ago, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that Harbaugh won’t be back, regardless of the outcome to the season.

That perception/reality has yet to permeate the locker room.  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose press conferences have become an exercise in saying as little as possible, was asked on Tuesday whether for a gut feeling on whether his only NFL coach will return for a fifth season.

“I think he’ll be back,” Kaepernick told reporters.

So why does Kaepernick believe that about Harbaugh?

“His resume,” Kaepernick said.

Actually, Harbaugh’s history suggests he doesn’t stay in one place for very long.  Three years at San Diego University.  Four at Stanford.  Now, four with the 49ers.

This, based on Harbaugh’s track record, should be his last season on the job.  Both he and the organization have done a nice job of putting that issue behind the question of whether the team can get back to the Super Bowl and win it, but the reality is that, as soon as the last second of the last game ticks off the clock, the clock will start ticking on what many believe will be an inevitable divorce.

Permalink 42 Comments Feed for comments Back to top

Report: Michael Vick the choice to start if he’s healthy

Michael Vick AP

After the Jets were crushed by the Bills in Detroit on Monday night, Rex Ryan said he didn’t know whether Michael Vick or Geno Smith would be the team’s starting quarterback against the Dolphins in Week 13.

A pair of reports from Jets beat writers point to Vick being the choice. Both Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News and Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com report that Vick will be Ryan’s choice if his calf is OK after injuring it on Monday. Vick did not think the injury was serious after the game.

Mehta adds the caveat that Vick will be the choice if he’s healthy and if Ryan is the one making the call about the starting quarterback. That suggests that General Manager John Idzik and/or others in the organization might want to see Smith play out the string in hopes of seeing something that Smith didn’t show in 24 consecutive starts over the last two seasons.

That might be an unlikely outcome, but so is meaningful improvement from the offense with either player at quarterback.

Permalink 12 Comments Feed for comments Back to top