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In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.

~ Sam Huff                    


 


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Redskins in Richmond - July 28 & 29 - Practice # 5 & a Break
by Chris Russell
Jul 30, 2014 -- 10:49am

The Redskins were off on Tuesday, after wrapping up a physical first week of training camp in Richmond on Monday.

ESPN.com and ESPN 980 Redskins Insider John Keim filed this practice report with his view of a full pads two-and-a-half hour session.

While the Redskins were on the field, we host "Training Camp Today" on ESPN 980 and focus on some of the bigger picture items.

Perhaps you haven't heard our one-on-one interview with Quarterback Robert Griffin III yet
In the interview, Robert talks about his relationship with Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay being just as important as his relationship with Jay Gruden and his teammates. Griffin also touches on what he is most pleased with as the offense transitions from the Shanahan offense to the Gruden scheme.

Redskins President and General Manager Bruce Allen was on our Redskins Radio/Red Zebra station ESPN 950 AM & Sports FM 100.5 with our buddy "Big Al" Coleman on Monday, and had some very interesting comments looking back at last year and how the Redskins handled Griffin.

I don't know for sure what he meant. Bruce is a mysterious guy in many ways. He doesn't truly open himself up for us to pick his brain on any sort of meaningful basis, but he's a smart guy.

The one thing I was glad  Bruce said was one simple word. He used the term "we" when assigning blame. That was the right thing to do. It wasn't one person's fault.

Robert Griffin, could be blamed  because he held the Redskins to their word and for the marketing campaign "All In for Week One," with Adidas. I would point out that I would never want a player on my team that DID NOT want to play. That would be a much bigger problem.

Dr. James Andrews contributed. Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen did as well. So did Dan Snyder. Everybody did. The Redskins did not want the controversy hovering over the organization and made a overall mistake.

That's the bottom line. We could debate this all day.  OK, enough. I want to move on.

Something I am very much looking forward to seeing is how the Redskins players that are quietly under the radar perform in the rest of camp and with the preseason opener. A few guys I am really excited to see as things cranks up are Safeties Akeem Davis and Trenton Robinson, Outside Linebacker Adrian Robinson, Offensive Guard Josh LeRibeus and I really want to see how Morgan Moses does in pads and in a live game situation.

What are you looking most forward to seeing?

Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980


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Redskins in Richmond - July 26 & 27 - Practices # 3 & # 4
by Chris Russell
Jul 27, 2014 -- 4:22pm


A weekend of training camp football in pads reminds us that the season is finally near and the sport we live for is back.

The Redskins wrapped up two days of practice in pads on Sunday plus two walk throughs and are expected to practice again in pads Monday morning, before the players have off until Tuesday night meetings.
 

Redskins Owner Dan Snyder attended his first practice of training camp on Sunday morning, as the rain quieted down and the team had no issues getting their work in.

I can't see everything so I count on my guy John Keim of ESPN.com to provide his excellent analysis, but here is some of what I was able to see and remember.

Sunday:

Robert Griffin III had his moments over both weekend days. On Sunday, one of the prettiest passes you will ever see was released by Griffin who threw a dart along the sidelines over the shoulder of rookie Ryan Grant in stride with tight coverage. What stood out more is that Brandon Meriweather was blitzing and Griffin recognized it, stared down the gun barrel and released it quickly, with accuracy and precision.

In that same sequence, he hooked up with Pierre Garcon a few times on post routes and then on one play, he went play-action right with a boot to the backside. He tried to flip his hips while running laterally to make a play and throw. He couldn't find anybody and still had enough speed to out-race Orakpo to the sideline before running into the crowd. The play resulted in virtually nothing, but it was a big something if you know football. It was an encouraging sign to me.

Kirk Cousins threw an absolute seed on a rope to Santana Moss in stride and so quick and hard that Tracy Porter who had underneath tight coverage, did not even react. It was an absolute bullet with precision accuracy and timing.

David Amerson jumped a near pick six in front of DeSean Jackson off of Robert Griffin. Amerson is playing so free.

Young CB Peyton Thompson did a nice job on inside hook route run by Cody Hoffman. The ball was to outside. Raheem Morris said "nice sit T"

Another young CB Chase Minnifield continues to make a play a day from what I've seen. Had another pass breakup today. Sometimes he needs to hold on for interceptions, which will separate him from the pack.

RB Lache Seastrunk had a drop on a swing pass that may have been backwards. He didn't go after ball. Jay Gruden yelled "Get on the ball (expletive)"

Looks like rookie TE Ted Bolser is more comfortable catching the ball here in Richmond. He struggled at Redskins Park with a lot of drops. I've seen him make a few catches over the weekend, and don't remember any drops.

The only guy that he would have a chance to replace on the roster (and I'm not saying he should) is Niles Paul who had a few contested drops over the weekend.

The Redskins ran a one on one period again on Sunday that I was able to closely observe:

 

Brian  Orakpo jacked up Trent Williams one time, then jumped off-sides twice before Williams got him & pushed him down by engulfing him with his strength. On another rush, Williams quickly walled off Orakpo to his left and on an outside pass rush before quickly shuffling his feet to the right and stoning Orakpo as tried to dart inside. Just textbook stuff, and a lot of fun to watch.

I thought LG Shawn Lauvao looked pretty good on the one on one rushes I saw him involved in. Kory Lichtensteiger handled Barry Cofield twice.

Brandon Jenkins did not have a good session. He was swallowed up by Tom Compton on one rush OLB coach Brian Baker was screaming at him. Later on Sunday afternoon, Jenkins was waived by the Redskins who quickly got tired of the fifth round pick's inconsistency.

Rookie Trent Murphy just abused fellow rookie Morgan Moses on one rush in 1's. Others that stood out - Adrian Robinson. On one rush, Baker had to chastise the young rusher for being too far outside. On his next rush, Robinson got it and adjusted. Robinson's ability is another reason why Jenkins was cut.

In a WR-CB one on one session, David Amerson was beaten by DeSean Jackson on a beautiful throw and hook up with Kirk Cousins. Those drills are designed to be won by the receiver but Amerson had fairly tight coverage so it was a good sign.

In another matchup, Amerson blanketed Jackson who won with an outside release as Amerson did not jam him with his hands. Amerson quickly recovered and shadowed Jackson for an incomplete along the sidelines, drawing praise from Raheem Morris. (Thanks to NBC-4 Washington for the video replays)

In a team session, Amerson jumped a near pick six in front of Jackson off of Robert Griffin. Amerson is playing so free. Mentally and physically. I recorded a one on one interview with him on Saturday, that you can listen to on ESPN 980 Monday morning between 8 AM - 11 AM with John Keim and myself.

Another Robinson that is standing out is free safety Trenton. He's not afraid to throw his body around and while on a blitz Sunday, he batted down a pass. He's also expected to be a key member of the special teams unit.


Saturday:

Defensive Backs Coach Raheem Morris saluted Phillip Thomas on one play for recognizing an audible. "That's a great job Phillip," Thomas says he's reacting more instead of thinking.

Chris Baker continues to impress every time you see him. He stuffed a reverse by Pierre Garcon from left to right well behind the line of scrimmage. He stayed home and was disciplined.

Chase Minnifield dropped an interception after he jumped the route of Jerry Rice Jr. from Colt McCoy.

Perry Riley dropped a potential interception from Griffin.

David Amerson had some nice moments that I saw. He's very smooth and confident. He locked up Pierre Garcon a few times.

Rookie Bashaud Breeland jumped a quick screen to Aldrick Robinson after engaging on the line of scrimmage. He read it and blew it up.

It's hard to tell with running backs  but Silas Redd absolutely has some wiggle and ability to cut and showed a bit of physicality. He also threw his body around  in pass protection.

DL Clifton Geathers had a nice pass knockdown. He's also 6'8".

S Trenton Robinson popped Lache Seastrunk on the sideline. He can run and hit.

Veteran PK Kai Forbath was (2-3) by my count. Good from 40, 40.5, and missed wide right from 49. He had the  distance.

Rookie PK Zach Hocker was (4-4) from 40, 40, 44, 46 unofficially. He had plenty of leg. He was hooking the  ball right to left in the breeze. This may mean absolutely nothing, but Hocker was first up in the rotation. That's unusual, as the incumbent (Forbath) normally goes first.

Tom Compton had a exchange with Darryl Sharpton as a play was ending. Sharpton threw a punch, but Compton said it was  "Nothing serious. We had a good contact. We're both competing. Everyone's trying to finish."

Robert Griffin III threw a pick six to DeAngelo Hall. It was a route to DeSean Jackson that the play was on. Jackson stopped on the route, Griffin threw it. Hall was sitting on it. Jordan Reed was open on it (Jay Gruden pointed that out).  "The day you stop learning things, is the day you have to retire." Griffin said they worked out a communication afterwards.

Jackson blow torched Courtney Bridget for a long bomb in stride from Griffin, earlier in the practice.

Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980


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Redskins in Richmond - July 25 - The King Speaks
by Chris Russell
Jul 26, 2014 -- 2:22pm


The national media arrived in Richmond for the Redskins 2nd day on the practice fields. Deion Sanders and Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network were in the capital of the Commonwealth on Friday, as was Dan Pompei.

If you count Jon Gruden as national media, I suppose you can add him to the list. Let's be honest here, I think he has a connection or two in the organization.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated, the MMQB, and Sunday Night Football on NBC also was here. As you know, King has been outspoken over the Redskins name controversy, but  that was just one of the issues that George Wallace of WTOP and I were able to speak about with King.

King saluted Bruce Allen for the hire of Jay Gruden, with an interesting spin that I haven't heard many discuss at least recently.

"I thought that Bruce Allen made the right hire," King said.  I thought he hired the right Gruden."

He clarified what he meant about Jon, by complimenting Jay. Essentially saying because Jon has climbed the mountain, he prefers a young and hungry wolf.

"I want  as a coach of my team a guy who has beaten the bushes, who has done everything," King told us.  His career path, his goal is to be a head coach in the NFL."

King felt that Jay Gruden's number one mission (to get the most out of the franchise quarterback) will be easier to accomplish because Gruden is flexible.

"The reason Robert Griffin III is going to like working with Jay Gruden, I think, is because Jay runs a fairly democratic ship," King mentioned. "He's going to feel like he has a little more ownership in the scheme."

King preached something that I have been mentioning to anybody that would listen. "The one thing he's sure of is that he can go out there without restriction," King opined. He just wasn't happy (last year). This year, it's so different. He's involved in everything. I think mentally, he's so much more with it."

King meant that because Griffin is fully involved, he wasn't as frustrated. He also may have been talking about the peace of mind effect that Griffin has now that he feels he has "two coaches that believe in you," as he labeled Sean McVay and Jay Gruden on Thursday.

King felt that Gruden is not necessarily married to just his way or the highway, or to just what the coaches feel is the right thing to do. Players are going to have a voice. Griffin voiced similar sentiments earlier this off-season and that theory has held true on defense.

With players and with the coaching staff. One of the reasons why Jim Haslett has been reinvigorated to a large degree is because the proverbial handcuffs are off. Players, like DeAngelo Hall, Ryan Clark, Brian Orakpo and Barry Cofield are going to have more input with the staff both during the week and in a game to bend and adjust.

"The defense knows that Jim Haslett runs a smart scheme, very aggressive pouncing defense," King told ESPN 980. King mentioned the Redskins second round pick, Trent Murphy and the enthusiastic and fiery Ryan Clark. King thinks Clark "is going to be a real asset to that secondary."

Two other big picture items that we were able to pick King's brain on was the first public comments of Mike Shanahan since he was fired by the Redskins in January. Shanahan told USA Today that he would like to coach again, with a team that has a legitimate chance.

"I think Mike Shanahan will have a chance to coach a team, where the quarterback is under-achieving," King said. "He had some rocky moments with Jay Cutler, but he really helped Jay Cutler be a better player."

An early guess here is that I wouldn't be surprised to see Shanahan take over a team like the New York Giants next year if Eli Manning struggles again this year. Miami - perhaps with Ryan Tannehill.

King feels that Shanahan's departure from Washington wasn't all his fault. It was just a tough situation and "once they started going sideways, it couldn't be repaired," he said. "It's hard to repair something when your season is going down the tubes and your quarterback still is probably 88 %."

King was using that number as a figure of speech, but the point was served. Robert Griffin III was never one hundred percent last season.  

Finally, the issue that will never rest. The term "Redskins" doesn't exactly sit well with a lot of people, as you might have heard, but get used to it. "I don't think the issue is going to go away," King said. He's right. However, he made a tremendous point about the overall issue and the handling of it.

"I don't know that you want to be using a really good  smart general manager like Bruce Allen to be out front as often as he has been out front, writing letters talking about the nickname of your team." No doubt, this issue can hurt the operation of your program.

"Jerry Reese with the New York Giants, Howie Roseman of the Philadelphia Eagles - they're not fighting the national government about Giants and Eagles," King said. It's an issue that he feels is hurting the overall ability of the franchise to move forward because of "the way that Bruce Allen is fighting in a lot of arenas here."

King recently wrote that he feels the Redskins will likely change their name by 2016. "I have no proof, I have no reason. I can just feel the momentum," King told Wallace and ESPN 980. "Pretty soon, the NFL is probably going to realize that we can get rid of a pretty big headache if we start calling them the Washington Veterans or the Washington Americans or the Washington Warriors. I don't know what..Pick a name."

"It's just a gut feeling. I don't have a little birdy on Park Avenue in New York whispering in my ear 'hey we're going to get that name out of there,' It's just a sense I have."

Far be it from me to sit here and advocate for a change to the name when the issue does not have any effect on me. I get those that are bothered and I understand those that defend the name so passionately.

I also get that this issue is never going away. I don't think the Redskins are budging and I don't believe the other side of the aisle is backing down.

Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980


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Redskins in Richmond July 24 - Practice # 1
by Chris Russell
Jul 24, 2014 -- 7:15pm

The Redskins held their first official practice of training camp 2014 on Thursday in and around the showers during a morning session that extended a bit further than originally scheduled.

Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen's plan to have the main practice in the morning instead of in the afternoon as Mike Shanahan did the last two years (only one year in Richmond) paid off huge dividends on day one. The afternoon practice was forced indoors to the Richmond Convention Center, because of heavy rains, thunder and potential lightning.

The word on the morning practice was that the offense was rusty for the most part and sloppy. When you have rain and wet footballs, that can happen. I still like the fact that Gruden pushed through it. You have to have some mental toughness and be able to overcome adverse conditions.

I'm doing a radio show during practice, so I will tip my cap to ESPN.com and ESPN 980's John Keim for a birds eye view of the practice field with his report.

I was able to talk to a number of players afterwards.

Stephen Bowen opened training camp on the PUP list as expected. He had microfracture knee surgery last December and wasn't fully ready to go.  "It's looking good, feeling good," Bowen told me. " I think the next couple of weeks, I should be out there."

Quite simply, the Redskins approach of caution is finally the right one. All too often (Malcolm Kelly, Kory Lichtensteiger, Robert Griffin III) the coaching staff or medical staff in conjunction with players wanting to be on the field, rushed players that were not ready.

"They're trying to take their time with me," Bowen told ESPN 980. "We still got time. If it was do-or-die, I'd probably be out there."

Over the off-season, Bowen told me that he felt the Redskins defensive line could be the best in the NFL. He wasn't as bold on Thursday, but he's still confident. "I feel like we have so much talent on our defensive line. We could be as good as we want to be."

That's more like it. Prove it first, then we can talk. Still, I think the Redskins do have a good defensive line. Chris Baker, Barry Cofield and Jason Hatcher (PUP) are your starters barring any significant injury problems moving forward. Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston are your likely reserve defensive ends. The question becomes the backup nose tackle spot (Baker/Chris Neild) or a wild card in Golston. Baker and Golston would kill two birds with one stone. Neild would not.

Also what do you if Bowen is healthy? Hard to imagine the Redskins carrying more than seven linemen as a maximum, and hopefully they can get away with six. Baker, Cofield, Hatcher, Golston, Jenkins and Bowen seem about right to me. That would mean Neild, Clifton Geathers and Doug Worthington are on the outside looking in.

Trent Williams is coming off another Pro Bowl season and is already beginning his fifth year. He's the one and only Redskins player that you simply can not replace in any reasonable mind. Tom Compton or moving Tyler Polumbus over is not exactly a comforting thought.

Williams has two years left on his original deal, a six-year contract that paid him an enormous sum because he was drafted before the current CBA. Should the Redskins approach him about re-working his contract to lower his cap values for 2014 and more importantly 2015?

Apparently, they have not really begun those discussions according to Williams. He isn't worried at all. Or thinking about it very often."Umm not much. Of course, I would love to stay here and finish my career here, but I'll let the agents earn their money..That's what they get paid for....I'll kind of let them take care  of that.."

Williams counts 10.9 million  against the cap this year and 12.2 million on the 2015 ledger.

If the Redskins have started those future plans, Williams has been left in the dark. "I have no idea. .If they have, I haven't been informed"

The Redskins don't have to do anything right now or they really don't have to do anything for two more years. The problem is if Williams has two more Pro Bowl years, they could be up a river without any help. Williams at that point would be 28 going on 29 with six years under him and possible four Pro Bowl appearances. That will be a killer package.

Not to mention, Robert Griffin III has the right to get a new contract after 2014 or the Redskins could lock him up with a fifth year option through the 2016 season. If you pay Williams after the 2015 season, because you wanted to see where he is at - you could be looking at a very messy salary cap situation with Griffin III, Alfred Morris, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams all looking out enormous deals within a year of each other.

You can do it anyway you want, but I think it's important to work manageable extensions when you still have the ability and some leverage .

Andre Roberts told me he feels he will still be a huge part of this offense, even with DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon surrounding him. Think about this. Who's going to be able to pay a lot of attention to Roberts out of the slot or even on the outside, when the Redskins can mix so many different formations. Roberts should have a field day if he's consistent and catches the ball consistently. Bottom line, he should be better than Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson when Hank gets healthy.

Ryan Grant will get some opportunities, but the player that thrives in the red zone and on third down will get extra opportunities. I believe that will largely be Jordan Reed, but this is a perfect opportunity for Roberts to score a lot of touchdowns on a team that is desperate to improve their red zone efficiency. If he can do that, he will have no issue getting more touches.

DeAngelo Hall had a terrific chat with the media, which John wrote about in detail. I will have some thoughts on my question for Hall and how Jay Gruden asked him to be a leader shortly.

Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980


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Redskins in Richmond July 23
by Chris Russell
Jul 23, 2014 -- 6:59pm

The Redskins officially kicked off training camp 2014 at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond on Wednesday.

No practice was held on a steamy one hundred degree (at 4:30 PM) afternoon, but the entire roster was on the field for conditioning tests that were closed to the media.

ESPN 980 was first to report on Wednesday morning that DE Stephen Bowen and DE Jason Hatcher were to begin training camp on the preseason physically unable to perform list (PUP). Joining Bowen and Hatcher are WR Leonard Hankerson and OL Maurice Hurt.

A couple of things that we can take away from these developments.

1. Somewhat surprisingly, CB and potential punt returner Richard Crawford Jr. has been cleared to return following his ACL and MCL knee injury from last August. Crawford told ESPN 980 and John Keim in May that he was ready to go, but he was being held out of off-season activities as a precaution. That always concerns me, and Crawford has looked uncomfortable when I've seen him walk but the Redskins feel he is ready to go.

2.  Crawford's return at the start of camp is crucial because he was by far and away the most improved cornerback during last year's off-season and early in training camp. It will be interesting to see how the Redskins deploy him and if he will be used outside or inside or a combination of both. If he can play both, and he has regained his speed - the Redskins will almost be forced to  keep him. He can obviously help as a punt returner, but with DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson, Tracy Porter,  and Bashaud Breeland  in the fold already - there may only be one spot to win amongst Chase Minnifield and EJ Biggers. 

3. Tracy Porter will be the starting slot cornerback despite missing the entire off-season. I'm anxious to see how he plays, with David Amerson now the full time starter at the RCB position. Porter may not be a significant upgrade from Josh Wilson, but he is better in my eyes and he won't be asked to play as much as Wilson was. Hopefully for Porter, he can track the ball better than Wilson did. That was a huge problem.

4. Stephen Bowen said all the right things, but there was no legitimate reason to rush him back from micro-fracture surgery last December. I know he wants to play, but as long as Jason Hatcher is ready to go (knee) - I see no huge reason to rush Bowen back and would even strongly consider putting him on the regular season PUP list.

5. Jay Gruden said Hatcher would be ready to go ahead of the others, and that was expected as well. I am not terribly concerned by Hatcher's situation because he does not have as much mileage as a typical 32-year old defensive lineman would have. He probably won't play until the Baltimore preseason game (if at all) but the Redskins are wise to take their time to limit the chances of swelling.

6. Maurice Hurt was already on the outside looking in. Now he's in the chateau bow-wow. I don't have any good explanations for it, other than it is really hard to stay in tip-top shape and watch what you eat all the time. Hurt showed up out-of-shape and the new head coach sent a message of accountability. He called him out in the media, something Mike Shanahan rarely did. 

7. This sends a message to the entire team, right from the start what is expected. Here's the deal - if you are Trent Williams, you can get away with it. If you are Maurice Hurt - you have pretty much driven the final nail in your burgundy and gold coffin.

Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980

 

 


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How Can the Redskins Get Better? Scheme, Schedule & Philosophy
by Chris Russell
Jul 15, 2014 -- 10:00am
ESPN 980

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Our Redskins summer series continues with another look at a critical element on the defense. We focused on the defense and  my belief and expectation that they can  obtain 50 sacks this year if all goes as expected.

Of course, that is a high expectation and I should know better, but it makes sense.

If you missed our first entry on the Redskins offense  and a huge focus on special teams , just click on the link and you can get extended breakdowns.

If the pass rush is as good as the Redskins believe it will be and I of course think it can be, it should stand to reason that the secondary and overall pass defense should be a lot better than it has been in 2012 and 2013.

When I wrote the profile on the 50 sacks, my friend John Keim of ESPN.com and ESPN 980 had some fun with my premise, but also pointed out a key fact and trend.

Yards per pass attempt. The Redskins need to improve dramatically in this area. There is no doubt about that.

As John points out, last year's Super Bowl Champion Seahawks only had 44 sacks, but were first in yards per pass attempt (YPPA) at 5.82.

Washington was terrible in this area. They were 31st last year, allowing 8.04 YPPA (514 attempts, 4,134 yards). When you take their net passing yards figure (3,896), the number goes down to 7.57 YPPA. The Redskins had 36 sacks in 2013.

In the division championship year of 2012, the Redskins were at 7.42 YPPA (636 attempts, 4,720 gross yards) with an adjusted net figure of 7.09 YPPA (4,511 net passing yards allowed). The Redskins had 31 sacks in 2012. 

In 2011, the Redskins had their best defense overall, but not their best  YPPA mark under Jim Haslett and Mike Shanahan (3,804 gross yards, 509 attempts) at 7.47. Their adjusted net figure (3,553 net passing yards allowed)  would be 6.98 YPPA. The Redskins had 41 sacks during this year, their highest total in recent years.

Last year, the Carolina Panthers had 60 sacks and they allowed 6.84 YPPA (3,853 gross yards, 563 attempts). The Arizona  Cardinals had 47 sacks and they were better than Carolina with a 6.50 YPPA (4,065 gross yards, 625 attempts).   

As John points out, "since 2009, the Redskins’ best finish in this area came in ’09 when they were 18th at 6.96.

A couple of things come to mind with that. The more passing attempts against you, can either hurt or help you but generally your average comes down with the larger sample size. Also, while Arizona's YPPA was better than Carolina's - the Panthers allowed less gross passing yards AND had 13 more sacks.

The point is that while a lower YPPA certainly helps you, it is not the primary or only factor in determining a team's success. It is one of the factors. It also depends on who you play.

For instance, Arizona played San Francisco and Seattle twice each in the division. Two of the best teams in football, but to be fair, they do not exactly have loaded passing attacks. Both have a run first mentality. Arizona also played high powered passing attacks like Detroit, New Orleans, and Indianapolis

Carolina played Drew Brees and the Saints twice, along with Matt Ryan and the Falcons who were banged up but love to sling the ball around. Carolina played Seattle as well in the first week of the season and lost in Arizona in early October. They also played New England and the Giants. The schedules in terms of tough passing attacks to defend were about even, with possibly a slight difficulty edge to Arizona.

The Redskins went against three pretty good passing teams in their own division plus took on Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago, Denver and San Diego. As I said many times last year, the schedule was relentless in the first half in terms of premier passing quarterbacks like Rodgers, Stafford, Cutler, Manning and Rivers.

Let's look at some trends a little more closely, as we go "Inside the Numbers."

The Redskins defense which was considered "historically bad" by some,  finished the season ranked 18th (NFL) in yards per game at 354.1, a spot that was tenth in the NFC. Not good but not as terrible as the picture was painted to be. The unit allowed 243.5 passing yards per game which ranked 20th in the NFL and tenth in the NFC, but were last in the NFL in passing yards per play at 7.58, a different metric than YPPA.

Jim Haslett's guys had a 7.00% sacks per pass attempt ratio, which ranked 13th in the NFL and 7th in the NFC. One key area where the unit was really good (on a pass heavy down) was 3rd Down percentage. The Redskins finished at 34.02% to finish fourth in the NFL and 2nd in the NFC in this hugely critical area.

Washington's defense went from worst in the NFL in yards per game allowed in Week five to 18th by the time the season ended. After an initial rise, the defense dipped back to 30th in the league in Week nine only to jump 12 spots in eight games.

On third down the Redskins went from a season worst 22nd in the NFL after two weeks on a steady climb to fourth overall.

Their red zone percentage was 28th in the NFL and 15th in the NFC and the number that everybody looks at (points per game) never was better than 24th overall, and finished 30th in the NFL and tied for 14th in the NFC. Of course, those that don't understand how the sport works blamed this woeful statistic all on the defense which could not be further from the truth.

Some other accomplishments for the Redskins defense, courtesy of Redskins PR were:

- Finished second in the NFL in least third down conversions allowed (66)
- Finished tied for third in the NFL in rushes stuffed (50)
- Finished tied for fourth in the NFL in most stuffed yards (124)
- Finished fifth in the NFC and sixth in the NFL in rushes stuffed efficiency (11.3%)
- Finished tied for second in the NFC and tied for third in the NFL in interception return touchdowns (4)

The Redskins scored five defensive touchdowns last year, the highest total since 1994. They had four interception returns for touchdowns (DeAngelo Hall - Detroit & Denver, David Amerson - Oakland, Brian Orakpo -Chicago). Hall had the lone fumble return for a touchdown in the season opener.

So a defense that was so brutal, so awful, such an abomination (as many pundits labeled it) did something no Redskins defense had done in nearly 20 years.

Looking further, the Redskins defense yielded on average 309.3 net yards per game in the second half (final eight games) of their season. The total net yards allowed was 2,475 yards over eight games.

Of that total, 1,639 net yards were via the pass or an average of 204.8 net passing yards allowed per game. This was on a total 225 attempts, which meant the adjusted YPPA was 7.28. The unadjusted figures are 1,742 yards over 225 attempts for a YPPA of 7.74.

The first half Redskins adjusted YPPA was 2,257 yards with 289 passing attempts, for a YPPA of 7.81. The first half unadjusted figure was 8.27.  

It wasn't a monstrous decrease, but it was a 0.53 drop in YPPA from the first eight games to the final eight. When that is measured at a total of 514 passes, that number becomes more magnified.

The bottom line is that the first half of the season saw the Redskins defense allow 618 more net passing yards than they did in the second half in the same amount of games, or an average of 77.25 more per game allowed in the first half as opposed to the second half.  

An interesting number to note is that the Redskins defense only had 15 sacks in the second half of the season, compared to 21 in the first half. Of course, seven of those came against a brutal Oakland offensive line so the numbers were probably more equal if we are factoring in opponents.

In the first half of the Redskins season, they faced the # 1 (Aaron Rodgers), # 2 (Philip Rivers), # 3-Tie (Tony Romo), # 5 (Peyton Manning) and # 9-Tie (Jay Cutler) quarterbacks that are the active yards per pass attempt leaders.

In essence, sacks are not directly tied to YPPA, and that was completely understood when I did the column. I was trying to say that the Redskins had bolstered their pass rush enough that I felt that specific number was absolutely in reach.

There are a lot of factors that go into a good secondary and therefore good pass statistics. Tackling might be the most important, but scheme and pass rush  pressure are major factors.

Pro Football Focus judged the Redskins to have missed 143 tackles on the season, with DeAngelo Hall leading the way with 18 missed tackles per the website. Tampa had 146 to lead the NFL according to PFF.  The Rams had  145,  the Vikings were at 143, the  Bears were scored at 137, the Raiders were  at 135  and the Cowboys were at  130. On the low side, the Colts  were at 95. The Patriots were at 84, while the Saints finished at a league best 77 missed tackles according to PFF numbers.

Seattle had 78.  Obviously, very close to the top of the league and when you combine their league best YPPA at 5.82 - you start to see a trend.

This chart which measures the adjusted YPPA as far as I can tell, has St. Louis at 29, Oakland at 30, Dallas at 27, Chicago at 26, Tampa at 20 and Minnesota at 23. This seems to be the most glaring connection that leads to a higher YPPA. Missed tackles.  The higher the amount of missed tackles is clearly going to mean a higher YPPA.

So it would seem easy to say - just tackle better - and that would solve all of the issues right? Well....

Here's where I am at and how the Redskins can get better. Sacks are just one metric, pass rush pressure is much more important in a lot of ways. Tackling is clearly an area that the Redskins have to improve but I believe that they will be better than their judged total of last year.

There's no doubt that increasing the sack total should help, but not if the Redskins can't clean up the damage on 2nd or 3rd down depending on when sacks occur.

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that if the Redskins can have better sustained pass rush pressure, that will make things harder on opposing quarterbacks and offensive units. They have to get rid of the ball quicker, coverages do not break down as much and more mistakes are generally made as harassment is increased.

Here's another thing that will help. The Redskins defense will have a much more aggressive mentality this year. Under Mike Shanahan, the Redskins wanted to stop the run and make opponents one dimensional. Now, they are going for broke.

From their defensive line philosophy to their pass rush philosophy and I believe that extends to how the secondary will improve their own unit and the defense overall.

The Seahawks have redefined how to play fast, physical and aggressive defense. Mike Shanahan normally preferred to play a more conservative type of coverages. The Redskins defensive staff wanted to do more. At the bye week in 2012, the Redskins were (3-6) and sinking quick.  The defense decided to put their own stamp on things and became much more aggressive. Remember? One of the key philosophy changes was playing more man coverage and blitzing from the secondary.  The inside linebackers were free to attack the line of scrimmage. It  worked.  That's Jim Haslett's mentality.  He is far from conservative in his thought process, unless he's forced to be.

Clearly, Washington is nowhere near that level but a constant complaint that I've heard from Redskins fans over the course of the last five years is why the defense often employs corners lined up a considerable yardage off of the receiver.

Far be it from me to know all of the nuances of schemed defense, but there are many reasons for it. Clearly, it is a much more cautious approach and the thought would be to give your corners room to operate and see routes develop.

The Seahawks play a mix of coverages, like anybody does, but almost always - their corners are lined up on the line of scrimmage and ready to jam and contest the receivers route.

I believe the Redskins will employ this philosophy as much if not more than they ever this year. I believe their skill set at corner matches this and I can't imagine that DeAngelo Hall, David Amerson or Bashaud Breeland do not want to be mano a mano and in a receivers grill. I don't see that being EJ Biggers' strength but Chase Minnifield has that mentality and feisty mindset.

Thankfully for the Redskins, Josh Wilson is no longer around. That's addition by subtraction and I would have to imagine that Tracy Porter could not possibly be anymore of a liability. Wilson allowed 372 yards-after-the-catch, 5th worst in the NFL. Porter wasn't much better, but Wilson allowed more receptions and more yards than Porter did, even though Porter was thrown at more times.

Porter played 1,016 snaps with Oakland last year (RCB, Slot CB) and Pro Football Focus gave him a cumulative minus 11.6 grade. He really fell off in the late part of the season, and that could be a combination of many factors.

Porter, according to PFF (ProFootballFocus.com) statistics was thrown at 94 times with 62 completions against his coverage.  He was judged to have allowed 707 yards into his coverage and 363 yards-after-the-catch (YAC). So quarterbacks throwing against Porter's coverage were  (62 -94, 66 %,  4 TD, 2 INT).

David Amerson's rookie season was judged better than I thought by PFF, as quarterbacks were  (45-77, 58.4, 684 yards, TD, 2 INT)  with 246 YAC.  DeAngelo Hall (60-94, 63.8 %, 726, 4 TD, 4 INT) with 301 YAC. Amerson gave up more big plays than Hall did, but there is reason for optimism.

This is your starting three. Others will contribute like Breeland and possibly Minnifield, and both of those guys fit the mold. As does Richard Crawford. Who knows what Crawford will be like (if anything at all) this year, but I would love to see what he could be late in the year. He was very much improved before tearing up his knee before the regular season last year.

Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark will struggle at times in coverage, but Meriweather was much better in the second half of the season last year as he finally was healthy and was able to just focus on football instead of the tackling issues. Clark was better in the second half than he was in the first according to PFF, but still, he can't possibly be expected to hold up for a thousand high impact snaps. I would NOT rule out Tanard Jackson in any way, despite everything you hear.

Here's the bottom line. The Redskins secondary and pass coverage will be a LOT better because of an emphasis on getting after the quarterback, better athletes and a more aggressive style. That I can realistically feel confident in. I have to believe they will be better tacklers, but I can't say I am really confident there.

YPPA is a by-product of a few things. If the Redskins are better in several areas than they were last year, the number will be much more reasonable. It also helps that they will be playing quite a few quarterbacks with inconsistent careers like Ryan Fitzpatrick (Houston), Eli Manning (Giants), Jake Locker (Titans) and other teams that have huge questions at the position.

The only truly elite quarterback they face all year is Andrew Luck. That's it. Sorry, Russell Wilson doesn't count yet because his success is largely because of a punishing running game and elite defense.

Something the Redskins hope to give their quarterback this year.

Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980


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