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Browns @ Redskins - LIVE IN GAME BLOG
by Chris Russell
Aug 18, 2014 -- 8:31pm
ESPN 980 - Home of the Redskins

Ryan Kerrigan with a seven-yard sack off the left edge of the defense to start the game for the Redskins. When the Browns committed a penalty, it put them in a long 3rd-and-21 position. They nearly converted on a run but were stopped short. On the punt return by Andre Roberts, David Amerson put a vicious block in space at the point of cutback. A legal hit by my view up here.

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The Redskins took the ball and Robert Griffin III had a nice quick completion on first down, before scanning the field to his second progression from left to right, finding DeSean Jackson for his first catch as a member of the Redskins. Tremendous job by Griffin and the offensive line. The Redskins first drive came to an end on a toss to Alfred Morris who fumbled and lost the ball for a turnover.

The Redskins defense went back on the field and got off thanks to a solid run stop by David Amerson on first down and a Brian Hoyer incomplete on third down.

**Washington took back the ball and Robert Griffin III ran a boot on first down. It appeared that he could have released the ball to Darrel Young but he chose to keep it and awkwardly slid/fell down. No need for alarm, but it was unnatural. The Redskins are now playing penalty palooza with Griffin taking a false start (strange) and an offensive pass interference by Andre Roberts.

**Johnny Manziel came in and it didn't end pretty on his first series, as Ryan Kerrigan racked up his 2nd sack of the game after Jim Haslett paired Brian Orakpo and Trent Murphy on one side/

**Robert Griffin III is taking a pretty good thumping already. He was just rag dolled down on a sack, The protection broke down as  Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger eventually lost their block. He's done a mostly good job tonight getting rid of the ball, but not that time.

**Griffin has taken two false starts as the officials are calling everything. 

**Just before the end of the first quarter, Griffin threw a 49-yard pass over the shoulder to Andre Roberts to the Browns 8-yard line. Hit his back foot and launched. It might have had a touch too much air, but it worked.


**The Redskins were stoned on several runs inside the five, before going for it on 4th down. It  appeared that they were stopped on a Alfred Morris run, but it was ruled a touchdown and then reversed on replay. Who knows. Ididdn't see his knee go down.

Robert Griffin III is 6-of-9, 112 yards and an interception. I have the Redskins first team offense at 27 official plays. They ran a bunch more but because of penalty, they are officially listed as "no play.'


**It's one game, and I would love to see tape - but Johnny Manziel is terrible with his accuracy. He's had receivers open so far, and has missed almost every one of them either behind or just off-target.

****It's been either a turnover or a penalty for the Redskins tonight. Kirk Cousins jut let one rip and he  was picked off. Cousins rifled one overy the out-stretched hands of  Aldrick Robinson. The pick was returned deep into Redskins territory, but Washington held Brian Hoyer to a field goal after a 3rd down non-catch by the Browns on a play they probably should have made (4 plays,  4 yards) 29-yard FG by Billy Cundiff.

**Trying to keep up between the penalties and the horrible football on display here. The Redskins are playing pretty well on defense, as Rob Jackson made a really nice play on a run stop - followed by Bacarri Rambo forcing a fumble with Bashad Breeland recovering it. The play is being reviewed as all turnovers are. It was ruled a turnover and upheld by officials under review. Redskins ball.

**Tom Compton and Josh LeRibeus allowed a sack. Not sure whose fault it was, but either way - it did not look good. Kirk Cousins then hooked up with Santana Moss on a quick bubble screen on 3rd-and-19 to get the first down.

**Evan Royster just flashed big time on an angle route for a big pick-up to the Redskins two-yard line. Great for Evan. He deserves it. A natural zone runner who was on the outside looking in without a big perfornance. Then he plows in for the touchdown.

END OF FIRST HALF : Redskins 7 Browns 3.

The Redskins took the ball at the Browns 40 to start the 2nd half.  The Redskins sprinkled the ball to Niles Paul, Aldrick Robinson and Ryan Grant on the drive before Kirk Cousins threw a beautiful pass in stride to Ryan Grant, who catches pretty much everything. Redskins lead 14-3.

***

On the ensuing kick-off, former Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong had a very nice 47-yard kickoff return, only to be tackled by Zach Hocker. That's Hocker's 2nd tackle of the pre-season.

Trent Murphy just took a personal foul for a low hit on Johnny Manziel.  It wasn't a menacing hit, and you could call it ticky-tack but they protect the quarterback and call everything in this league.

Hell of a job by Will Compton and Bashaud Breeland to combine on a fourth down pass defense and break it up, to get the Redskins defense off the field. That's the 2nd game in a row they've been able to get off the field on fourth. They allowed 12-out-of-17 conversions on fourth down last year.

***

Niles Paul just went to the locker room with a trainer. According to former Redskins FS Oshiomogho Atogwe  who is working for TSN-Canada is sitting next to me in the press box  and said it was a right hand/arm situation for Paul.

***

A long 16 play, 68 yard drive for the Browns culminates with a Johnny Manziel 8-yard middle dump screen to Dion Lewis who broke a tackle and barely out-stretched himself over the goal line, and the Redskins lead 14-10.

Rob Jackson has a shoulder sprain and Tracy Porter is OUT with a hamstring. Niles Paul also has a hand injury.

Several Redskins players that flashed recently on defense were Rob Jackson before his injury, Bashaud Breeland has been flying and hitting, and Bacarri Rambo has bene noticeable as well.

***

Colt McCoy in at quarterback, and that did not go very well for the #Redskins as veteran safety Jim Leonard who has been with Mike Pettine in several spots intercepted McCoy on a easy read and jump. He returned it for the pick-six and the Browns lead, 17-14.

**

Rashad Ross with a nice kickoff return of 42 yards,  and then on the first play from scrimmage, Colt McCoy lofts a beautiful pass down the Redskins sideline to Ross for 43 yards.

The Redskins drive stalled inside the ten on a couple of fade and back shoulder attempts by Colt McCoy so Kai Forbath connected on a 26-yard field goal attempt and we have a 17-17 game.  Forbath promptly delivers a pretty short kick-off.

**

The Redskins defense forced a 54-yard attempt for a field goal from Billy Cundiff and he missed short and to the right. Not sure what Mike Pettine was thinking there. Cundiff does not have that kind of leg. It's one thing to go for it, but the ball was given to the Redskins at the Washington 47-yard line.


The bad decision by Cleveland, leads to a 30-yard TD pass in stride from Colt McCoy to Nick Williams to give the Redskins a 24-17 lead.

**

Zach Hocker's kick-off is returned and the Browns are driving. Clifton Geathers with the sack to force the Browns to use their final time-out from the Washington 45.

What a crazy ending! The Brown converted a rainbow hail-mary to former Redskins TE Emmanuel Ogbuehi but then thankfully went for two and fell short.

The Redskins win, 24-23 for their 8th straight preseason win. That officially means they are the Champions of August!


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What 2 Watch 4 & What I need to see
by Chris Russell
Aug 16, 2014 -- 12:20pm
ESPN 980 Home of the Redskins



What: The Redskins host the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football at 8 at FedExField, the final time the Redskins will play a game at home for nearly a month. We'll have extensive all-day coverage live from Landover

They host the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 on Sunday September 14th after opening up in Houston.

***

What 2 Watch 4: Johnny Manziel won't start for the Cleveland Browns but he will play with the number one unit according to Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine.

I fully expect a rotation of every other series or every two series between Hoyer and Manziel. I guess Kyle Shanahan could revert to what happened last August with Robert Griffin III unable to play and Kirk Cousins injured - as there was a strange process for Rex Grossman and Pat White in Washington's third and most critical preseason game.

No matter the rotation for the Browns - I want to see how Manziel fares against the Redskins defense which still doesn't have all of their weapons. Jason Hatcher will not play. Darryl Sharpton is still out. Tracy Porter wasn't scheduled to play. Brandon Meriweather missed practice time because of a toe injury.

A Redskins defense that tackled very well in their preseason opener, facing a rookie quarterback and a scheme that they have practiced against for four years. Quite honestly, Washington's defense should be  good against Manziel and Kyle Shanahan's group.

Even with guys missing, it appears that Ryan Clark and  Phillip Thomas will be able to play for the first time.

The Redskins were very good on third down last year, and they need to continue that. Manziel will break contain and try to improvise and run like he did so many times in college and even last week against Detroit. Manziel scrambled for a 16 yard run on a 3rd-and-8 conversion attempt  last week in his pro debut.

You can't do a great job on first and second down and then lose your poise on third down. Or worse. On fourth down. Manziel cashed in the hard way on a 4th-and-1 opportunity in Detroit.

I was so impressed by the Redskins fourth down stop against the Patriots last week. Yes it was against reserves and it is hard to fathom that if Tom Brady, Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman were there that the story would have been the same, but those guys aren't perfect either.

The Redskins were aggressive, they flew to the football especially Will Compton, Akeem Jordan and Trenton Robinson. I bring this up because fourth down defense was a issue last year. It would become so hard for the unit to rally to the cause twice, with a lack of premier talent.

I need to see the Redskins get off the field when they should and tackle well in another game. Tackling builds throughout the year. This is a time for good habits and fundamentals to develop.


***

I would love to see the Redskins offensive line and company, especially the starters, keep Robert Griffin III clean for 98 percent of plays or more. Yes, I know that's asking for a lot, but this is still a concern to anyone and everyone that is around the team. It's not only on the offensive line, it is on running backs not picking up blitzes or being thrown around like rag dolls and on receivers not being able to create consistent separation.

It's also on Griffin, who still has too many plays break down and either would get lit up if practices were games or he would run for his life.

ESPN 980's Chris Cooley isn't concerned about Griffin's struggles in practices, because of the difference between training camp and the regular season.

A more than fair point by Cooley, who will be on the call Monday night, on ESPN 980 and the Redskins Radio Network.

My problem is I want to see the ten plays the first team offense had against New England  elevated to about 25 plays or so against Cleveland, and for them to have the same success against  a talented and physical front that the Browns will bring to FedEx.

Second-year pass rusher Barkevious Mingo is getting better and better, and then you sprinkle in Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard.

It doesn't end there for Mike Pettine's defense,  or as Jay Gruden points out,  for the Redskins with a tough week ahead - "Cleveland's defensive personnel is obviously very good with Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and all those guys and then Baltimore the following week. So we'll get a good taste the next two weeks,see where we are and how far we have to go."

I need to see Griffin III continue to get better in getting rid of the ball. It was a problem last year, and even in 2012. I need to see a cleaner pocket (than practice) for whatever reason and Griffin continue to get better in the check down/screen game. The most encouraging sign? A completion last week to Roy Helu in his third progression. Griffin looked left to Jordan Reed, saw him covered, scanned the field and went to his right in pretty quick fashion. Best thing I saw out of the offense and Griffin last week.

*****

The placekicking battle shall rage on. The easy answer is to take the veteran Kai Forbath. While I would say practices that I've seen are just about even, the Patriots game clearly went to rookie Zach Hocker.

In a very unofficial account, both placekickers missed one makeable field goal to end Friday's practice. Hocker from about 39 and Forbath from about  43. Both have missed some chip shot opportunities, although Hocker has struggled more on shorter distance attempts than Forbath has.

I need to see Forbath get every opportunity he can on kickoffs and Hocker get every opportunity the Redskins can provide with field goal attempts. For the most part, I know what Forbath is on field goals.

He's very solid at 45-and-under. Hocker is inconsistent in that area, but his longer leg helps him for the ones you don't count on.

Forbath has always struggled with touchbacks, but on top of a missed field goal last week - he booted a kickoff out-of-bounds to give the Patriots possession at their 40-yard line. Can't have it. It's one thing to struggle to kick deep enough. It's another to struggle with length AND placement.

Here's the bottom line: Ben Kotwica and the Redskins did not draft Zach Hocker for no reason. He wouldn't have come to Washington if he was a free agent. Hocker admitted that. Kotwica is not messing around, and last Thursday did nothing to help Forbath.


****

Something else 2 watch 4: The penalty parade. The NFL is a league that will stoop to just about anything to stay in the headlines. They don't need much help, but quite simply EVERYBODY will be watching a meaningless preseason game. This is an incredible chance for them to get the entire league and of course the blood-thirsty media all riled up and talking non-stop about the renewed emphasis on illegal contact and holding.

Per NFL analyst Brian McIntyre - the league is calling an average of 22.45 penalties per game (both teams combined) for preseason games in 2014 as of Saturday morning.

Yikes. The Redskins do not seem all that concerned, but trust me, they will be if it costs them games and opportunities to get off the field. It's the last thing that Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris need to worry about but they have no choice.

I need to see the Redskins play a relatively crisp game with say seven team penalties maximum and clean up some of the special teams and holding mistakes of last week. The defense was pretty sharp outside of a long defensive pass interference on Chase Minnifield and a ticky-tack illegal contact on Will Compton.

***

One for the road: The Redskins offense will be challenged in many ways this year, but they have to find a better balance between the success of 2012 and the struggles of 2013 in a key area. Play-action.

My guy Scott Kacsmar of FootballOutsiders.com does a tremendous job breaking down a key area where the Redskins went wrong. Play-action doesn't solve everything, but the more you can confuse a defense - the better.

The only problem is: I struggle with the notion that the Redskins will use a significant amount of play fakes because of how long plays can take to develop. I still love the read option play-action pop passes and that could be an area that becomes more of a staple.

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


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The Real Test
by Chris Russell
Aug 14, 2014 -- 9:23pm
ESPN 980 - You're Home for the Washington Redskins


For Robert Griffin III, so much of what he endures in the public eye deals with some sort of relationship.

A bad one like his marriage gone south to Mike Shanahan gets scrutinized over and over again. A great one like he has with countless members of the organization gets brushed aside. Nobody cares about that.

They do care about his relationship with Johnny Manziel of the Cleveland Browns. Ahhh, now that's juicy right there. They want to know, what does he think? What does he know? How will it feel?

Me? I'm not one of those guys. Honestly. I could care less that the king of hype "Johnny Football" is coming to FedExField to play against Robert Griffin III. You want to know why? It's very simple. Manziel is not playing Griffin III.

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Griffin tried to somewhat lighten the tense  mood at Redskins Park on Thursday when he pointed out that the differences between Manziel and he were that one has played in the NFL, while one hasn't. One played at Baylor and one did not. The common thread Griffin said is that they both want to win.

And sure I will be intrigued to see if Kyle Shanahan and Griffin III speak or shake hands, but that's only because I know and respect both individuals and want to see them both move on and be successful. It's done.

Griffin was asked about Shanahan's return this Monday night and answered how I thought he would and should. "It's not that kind of relationship that we wouldn't talk. If I get a chance to see him, talk to him, I definitely will."

Good for Robert, good for Kyle. They're not playing each other, so I think that's just about it. Of course it won't be that easy for everyone.

Let's move on and worry about the only thing that truly matters. Griffin's relationship with his teammates and the Redskins coaching staff as they try and get the franchise back on the right track. His relationship  and cohesion with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Jordan Reed, Alfred Morris and the offensive line is all that I truly care about.

Griffin's continued improvement as a pocket passer is the main storyline for those of us that love football and hate soap operas. 

It's all you should care about as well.  Griffin wants to win and I don't doubt that for one second. How does he do that? That's the hard part. That's where a good relationship with the coaching staff and his 'guys' as he likes to call them comes in.

That process began in earnest a long time ago, but continued in Washington's first practice back at Redskins Park. Griffin and the Redskins offense were bested by the defense on Thursday during practice

On Tuesday, Griffin and the offense got the best of the defense.  Consistency. That's the key. Something that quite honestly has been missing so far in practices the media has been able to attend.

How do the Redskins get to a point where they know what they are getting from the quarterback and the offense week-in and and week-out? There's nobody that really has any clue right now on what this unit and Griffin III will look like over the course of a long season.

I suppose you could say that for any team or player anywhere, but barring a major turn of events that nobody is expecting, you know that Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are going to be great again this year. There's no reason to expect anything but that.

With Griffin - we truly do not know. Maybe we'll never really be able to know. Maybe he will join that elite class one day where his performance is not in question.

When you watch practice with the Redskins, you are really not sure what you are getting on a daily or consistent basis. It's still a process, a learning curve. A relationship that needs time to grow.

“We’ve had some good days, and we have got a good defense out there," Jay Gruden told reporters on  Thursday.

Griffin isn't being judged completely based on what the Redskins media can convey. He's getting better in areas that are hard to measure, Gruden says. "Just a total understanding of the game other than you see passes flying in the air, and they’re complete or incomplete.”

"Playing quarterback is a lot more than throwing a football. It’s getting us into the right run, it’s handling formation, handling the clock in two-minute, all of these things that he’s starting to understand -- the total big picture of the game -- and I’m excited about his progress already."

Well that all sounds good, but now comes a  stiffer test than he had in ten plays against the Patriots. Griffin is  playing against new Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine's defense. Pettine was with the New York Jets, before a year stop-over in Buffalo. Very good defenses and a physical, attacking style is what jumps out in my mind about Pettine.

Second year potential phenom Barkevious Mingo will be lining up across the Redskins offensive line. Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard add to the mix. Mingo had an interception and a sack in Cleveland's preseason defeat at Detroit.  Pettine's defense should also have high first round pick Justin Gilbert in his first professional game, and DC area product Joe Haden manning the corners at least in the first half.

The Browns are going to get after the Redskins offensive line. It will be a great test for Griffin and the first team offense. The group will likely play about 25 snaps, but nobody knows for sure.

This is the real test. This is the real challenge for Griffin and the offense. Nothing Kyle Shanahan or Johnny Manziel does Monday night matters in any way to Griffin.

He just has to create opportunities that allows his teammates a chance to develop their relationship with the end zone. 

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


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Breeland Busted
by Chris Russell
Aug 13, 2014 -- 9:18pm
ESPN 980


The Redskins feel-good summer of no catastrophic injuries and off-field incidents ended quickly with the news on Wednesday afternoon  that rookie fourth-round draft pick, Bashaud Breeland had been cited for a misdemeanor marijuana possession late Monday evening in Richmond.

Zac Boyer of the Washington Times first reported the story.

There is no excuse or good reasoning for a football player, least of all a rookie, to be on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University at 10:40 at night after meetings and obligations wrapped up on the eve before the Redskins final training camp practice at the Bon Secours facility on Tuesday.

Breeland did not respond to comment. The Redskins told reporters that they are “aware of the incident and we will not make any further comment.”

Clearly they were not happy. As one person in the organization remarked to ESPN 980 on Wednesday  night, "He's a dumb ass." Another just texted back "SMH," which is short for 'shaking my head.'

What are they really supposed to say? Breeland made a terribly poor choice. Given some freedom, he put the start of his NFL career and the Redskins in terrible jeopardy.

He probably will not serve any prison time for the misdemeanor offense, which he will have to appear in court for on Tuesday August 26th. The Redskins are scheduled to practice that day at Redskins Park in Ashburn before flying to Tampa on Wednesday afternoon of that week for their final preseason game.

Even if Breeland escapes the grasp of the law with a probation sentence,  Breeland could be subject to discipline by the NFL  for a first-time known offense.

Per the Times, players “will normally be subject to discipline up to and including suspension without pay for four regular and/or post-season games for a first violation of the law."

Breeland had been a player the Redskins were counting on to play a vital role both at corner and on special teams this year. He helped lead the team in tackles in their preseason win over the Patriots and had a very nice interception last Sunday morning on a under-thrown ball along the sideline by Robert Griffin III.

Now, the Redskins have to hope that Breeland doesn't go to jail (very unlikely) or get suspended (possible) by the NFL. If Breeland has a previously unreported arrest or violation history, that will have an impact on the decision on how to discipline the rookie from Clemson.

Here's the bottom-line. Breeland has to know that marijuana is not something he should be possessing. I think he's more than smart enough to understand that. What he was doing on the VCU campus at a time when he should have been at the team hotel is unknown, but maybe he went there for another purpose. Who knows.

Here's what we know: He put a damper on what was a rare slice of football calm for the Redskins organization. It's something that rarely happens, and seems to happen more to this organization than others.

Another thing we know: It will be hard for the organization and the coaching staff to truly trust Breeland for a while. He was on the rise to possibly eclipse Tracy Porter as the starting nickel corner at some point this year. While that could still happen, Redskins coaches have to wonder how truly smart Breeland is in many ways.

Redskins coaches talk constantly about how David Amerson has grown up by leaps and bounds and his biggest jump in his evolution is above the neck. I suppose the same could happen for Breeland, but it will take a long time for him to repair the stigma that one bad decision has created.

For the Redskins, they have to hope that Breeland indeed made "one bad decision" and that this isn't a sign of what he truly is. Maybe Breeland was able to get away with other bad choices, and not this one. That would actually be more worrisome to me.

All you can do is hope he will learn and mature the way Trent Williams finally did, or the way it seems that David Amerson has done. The Redskins have plenty of leadership in their secondary to guide Breeland, but there's only one person that can truly make it happen.

Breeland has to know that, if he knows nothing else.

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


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Redskins in Richmond - Camp Closes
by Chris Russell
Aug 12, 2014 -- 11:11pm
ESPN 980

(AP Photo/Skip Rowland)

The Redskins wrapped up their second training camp in Richmond on Monday afternoon with the last of their public practices.

Tuesday was a day without fans and a light practice before breaking camp and heading back to Ashburn to begin preparations for the Cleveland Browns.

Washington will practice Thursday through Saturday morning in a 'normal' preparation mode

Going away to training camp is NOT easy. Not when you have a family and you don't make millions of dollars, so my struggles do not match the struggles of a professional athlete - but nobody but me really cares about that.

I would rather be at home, but I understand why the Redskins go away. It was a business move, more than a football move.  The organization truly cares about one thing. The organization. Nothing wrong with it. In this world, you only get bigger, better and richer when you have the hammer.

The building of this facility was done in amazingly quick fashion under the direction of Senior VP of Operations Lon Rosenberg before the 2013 season. It's charming and really is a nice place for summertime football. Lon and his staff did an amazing job. There are things I would change, but the place has a unique feel to it.

The idea behind it has been mostly successful. Get the players out of their 'comfort' zone and to bond over a football, instead of bonding by campfire or with video games.

Last year, the Redskins were (4-0) in the preseason. So the attention to detail must have worked, right? Well - in August it did.

So far, so good this year. The Redskins won their opener last week over New England after hosting the Patriots for three days at the Bon Secours facility in Richmond. Maybe the Patriots don't come for the joint practices at Redskins Park. Who knows.

The bottom-line is this. Going away versus staying home means nothing. If you have talent, and the talent performs well and consistently - you will win. No matter if you are at Redskins Park, in Richmond or hold training camp in Russia.

This was part of a marketing deal for the franchise to expand and modernize Redskins Park, to build a new facility in a centralized location to many in the Commonwealth and to also start the march towards a new stadium in Virginia.

The Redskins do not do ANYTHING without a greater plan to maximize their brand. They know that Virginia wants to do business badly, and they can capitalize on their brand power.

The slogan "Virginia is for lovers" should probably be modified to "Virginia is for the Redskins" because this is all part of a grand plan.

Here's the bottom line. Going to Richmond for training camp has no tangible effect on winning football games, which is what the Redskins need to do more than any other thing right now. That's the way you attract top free-agents without paying top dollar.

Facilities in Richmond are nice for the players, as Jay Gruden pointed out. "Everything was first-class, first-rate – from the practice fields to the way they kept them up to the facility inside here," Gruden said.  "Everything was clean and kept-up. Everything was very, very efficient – transportation, the hotel was excellent."

Gruden was talking strictly about the players and coaches. Which is all he should be thinking about. He wasn't talking about the vendors that were banking on the Redskins driving dollars for their bottom-line.

The Richmond deal helped significantly improve the Redskins Park building  overall, but only one thing matters moving forward. Winning and winning consistently.

Still, if going away to camp provides Jay Gruden with any kind of edge in his mind or in the players - I guess it is worth it.

"I think it was. I think it was a great experience for everybody," Gruden told reporters in Richmond Tuesday morning. "It was for me and I felt like the team came together like you'd hoped they would in training camp, studying like this. Practices were crisp. I think we got a lot accomplished and I'm excited about the progress that we made. And just teaching our offense and defense and our special teams, I feel good where we're at and moving forward. We're at a great spot right now as far as the team chemistry and everything's concerned."

So with the Richmond part of the Redskins season closed - now is a great time to take a look at some of the big picture items that jumped out or bear watching as we head back to Ashburn.

As President and General Manager Bruce Allen pointed out Tuesday to reporters, "the key is to make sure we keep getting better when we get back up to Redskins Park.”

There's one way to do that. A commitment to Robert Griffin III. A true commitment, without any notion of anything else. I'm not sure where we stand on that.

No, there is no quarterback controversy for right now. There should not be one. That doesn't mean there won't be one sooner than later.

**My fear is that the Redskins will not be patient enough with Robert Griffin III's maturation as a pocket passer. Growth is a process, and while Bruce Allen was looking for someone with "fire in the belly" and a coach that had urgency - you don't want to speed the process up to the point of no return.

The worst thing that could happen to the Redskins is a (0-2) start or worse, and Griffin III struggling overall or taking a pounding so that his body is beat up.

If he's healthy enough to play, but not near or at 100 percent - will it affect his performance? Will he get better at getting rid of the football in the two-minute offense which has been the focus of the last few days and also overall?

It is an enormous hovering cloud that could be broken up by the sunshine OR it could get darker and darker, before wreaking havoc.

Here's what I say and will continue to say. Bruce Allen and the Redskins drafted Robert Griffin III and surrendered a boatload of compensation for him to be the long-term quarterback. Rome is not built overnight or even in two years.

Build it right, and you will get rewarded. Patience is a virtue. If Robert Griffin III is struggling the first couple of weeks of the season, you CAN NOT bench him no matter what. You have to be patient, even though it is very hard to be.

Gruden kind of agreed with my position when I asked him on Monday. "I think with every young player, you have to have some patience, but you also have to understand that position. There’s a lot more responsibility on his shoulders," Gruden answered. "He’s got to make a great decision. Taking the ball from center, handing it off to the back, getting us in the right run, the right protection, throwing to the right guy in each pattern, so he’s got a lot more responsibility than the average guy. So having patience with them is maybe just a little less than the normal position, but I think overall he’s handling it well. How he handles it on game day will be how he handles it, so we just have to be patient with him."

Gruden must remember that Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers got better as they went along. The only way Griffin will complete his ascent will be by figuring it out in games. Practice with a gold jersey is very different than games where a team is trained to hunt and fire.

"Hopefully, by Houston he’ll be ready to roll," Gruden said on Monday. "I think when you watch the tape every day, if he throws a ball 45 times, 35 of them are pretty good – good decisions. Then there’s a couple of them we have to correct. But he’s doing good.”

Here's hoping Gruden practices what he preaches. He wants Griffin to live another day. He wants Griffin to not think every play can be a touchdown. If he preaches that to Griffin and he is a thousand percent correct, then what he is saying is to be patient.

If he wants his quarterback to be patient, Gruden and the coaching staff must show extreme patience to allow Griffin to grow.

Gruden knows that his tenure for the most part will be defined by how he and Griffin manage the next few years. They are tied at the hip. "He’s got the keys to the franchise in his (Griffin's) hand, and he’s going to take us a long way," Gruden said. "So, he has got to make the right decisions and I’ll count on him to do that.”

Sounds good. I just hope that Gruden remembers that when it would be easier in some way to pull the rug out. The Redskins need to make sure this works. Patience is more important than urgency in my eyes.

***

Other matters at hand as the Redskins head north are as follows:

Getting and staying healthy. I don't expect DeAngelo Hall, Ryan Clark, Phillip Thomas  and Tracy Porter to play on Monday night against the Cleveland Browns. That's a lot of opportunity for Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield and Bashaud Breeland at the cornerback spot, while Akeem Davis and Trenton Robinson figure to see plenty of time at safety.

Jason Hatcher is also not expected to play. The hope is that Hatcher, Clark, Porter, Hall and  Thomas will all be able to play against the Baltimore Ravens next Saturday in the most meaningful of the four game slate.

**

Despite the starters playing limited snaps last Thursday and some key pieces missing (Hatcher, Clark, Thomas) the Redskins were able to tackle a lot better. Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett pointed out on

Monday that in 51 out of 58 plays that the defense was involved in, ten players were in the picture at the point of the tackle.

Haslett's point is more bodies and hats to the ball equals less broken tackles and therefore much bigger plays. I think a slightly more physical camp and tempo contributed to that, along with a renewed emphasis on swarming the ball contributed.

Haslett, his staff and the players deserve credit if for only one night.

***

Guys that need to step it up are: OT Tom Compton, ILB Darryl Sharpton, ILB Akeem Jordan and CB Richard Crawford. It's also time that PK Kai Forbath put some distance between Zach Hocker and himself and he better do it quickly - because Hocker is ahead in the competition in any reasonable set of eyes.

Guys I want to see more of are: OT Morgan Moses, OG Spencer Long, ILB Will Compton, S Akeem Davis and fellow safety, Trenton Robinson.

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


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LIVE BLOG - New England Patriots @ Washington Redskins
by Chris Russell
Aug 07, 2014 -- 7:16pm
ESPN 980 - Home of the Washington Redskins

Welcome to a new concept that I will be trying to do as much as possible this year during games, a live in-game blog with observations, opinions and analysis.

The Patriots and Redskins are set to go from here at FedExField for the preseason opener.

The Redskins announced the following lineup changes and substitutions about an hour ago. Most were expected.

The following Redskins are not expected to play: WR DeSean Jackson, CB Tracy Porter, FS Ryan Clark, TE Mike Caussin, SS Phillip Thomas, C/G Mike McGlynn, and WR Pierre Garcon.

Santana Moss is expected to start in place of  Garçon at wide receiver. Andre Roberts is expected to start in place of DeSean Jackson at wide receiver. Bacarri Rambo is expected to start in place of Ryan Clark at safety.

EJ Biggers will be the first team nickel corner in the slot, over Tracy Porter who is expected to play next week.  Bashaud Breeland and Chase Minnifield are also expected to see some time in the slot tonight. Breeland is coming on very strong.

David Amerson is the key player I really want to watch tonight from a 'guys that I know will be on the team" perspective. The coaches rave about his progress. It's been easy to see in the off-season and in camp. One of the big changes? His alertness in meetings. It was pretty poor to say the least last year. You've heard the term "above the neck" for Robert Griffin III, I've also heard that from Amerson.

 

*****

Zach Hocker kicked off to start the 2014 preseason, with as he does very well, a touchback thru the end zone.

Andre Roberts with a 13 yard punt return after the Redskins force a  third and long. Brian Orakpo drew a hold on a 3rd down rush that featured Trent Murphy and Ryan Kerrigan as well.

Alfred Morris picks up a first down on 3rd-and-inches up the gut with a power formation. Logan Paulsen with a short catch that might have been intended for Darrell Young.

Alfred Morris with a few nice runs on the drive to the left behind Trent Williams. Robert Griffin III threw a pretty pass that was caught by Aldrick Robinson who got only one foot down before his arm came down.

Kai Forbath initially missed his first field goal attempt as whistles blew for a delay-of-game, but then connected for a 39-yard field capping off an 11-play drive.


***

Brian Orakpo has had a hell of a start with a pass rush that drew a hold, and helped the Redskins get off the field followed by a sack of Ryan Mallett on an inside bull rush. Ryan Kerrigan created the initial pressure.

Kirk Cousins is now in the game. Robert Griffin III's night is over after TEN offensive plays. He was 2/4 for 9 yards.

****

Cousins leads the Redskins on a nine play, 60-yard, 4:17 drive culminating in a 10-yard touchdown pass on a bullet slant to Aldrick Robinson who scored his first touchdown after almost having one on the first Redskins drive. Roy Helu with a nice catch-and-run on the drive. Morgan Moses had a holding penalty, but Moses and Josh LeRibeus also had a nice block on one run off the left side.

***

Kind of a crazy sequence there as the Redskins missed a tackle on the kickoff by Bashaud Breeland. Then Will Compton forced a fumble, recovered by the Redskins and Ross Madison. The turnover was nullified by a off-sides penalty on the Redskins so they had to kick-off again. The Patriots returned it to the 23-yard line.

The Patriots converted a first down on a 3rd-and-10 for 15 yards to end the first quarter, as the Redskins lead 10-0.

Nice job by Keenan Robinson on a run stop in space, something the Redskins coaching staff has mentioned they really wanted to see. Bashaud Breeland and Rob Jackson combined for a run stop and then Will Compton had fairly tight coverage on a poor throw on 3rd-and-4 as the Redskins defense was able to get off the field.

****

Aldrick Robinson is putting a early stamp on a roster spot, with a 23-yard catch over the middle on the drift play to get the Redskins out of their own goal line. Chris Thompson with a nice screen to the left for eight yards. Ryan Grant then with his first catch, and draws a personal fould on Malcolm Butler who threw Grant out-of-bounds late and hard. The Redskins drive got snuffed out as Tom Compton got beat at the point of attack on a run, and then Chris Thompson got dragged down hard on a screen that forced a 46-yard field goal attempt.

Kai Forbath badly missed a more than makeable kick from 46-yards out and was wide right and short.

***Trent Murphy was beated badly in space in pass coverage. He looked very uncomfortable. Bacarri Rambo had a nice tackle on a outside run. Bashaud Breeland had what appeared to be great coverage on a quick slant, but was called for a penalty. I didn't see the foul live and I saw nothing on the replay.

***The Redskins moved the ball on their next drive, but missed on two consecutive throwing attempts to Ryan Grant. Zach Hocker with the field goal from 27-yards out. 13-0 Washington as we close in on halftime. A nice run by Evan Royster on the drive, and a catch by Grant plus a personal foul helped move the Skins into scoring position.


***The Redskins lead 13-0 at the half as Richard Crawford and Trenton Robinson combined on a deep breakup in pass coverage.

*2nd Half...What a catch out-stretched for 18 yards by Ryan Grant to the 10-yard line with a defender blanketing him. Silas Redd with a 17-yard screen run in the middle with quick chopping feet. Such a big addition to the Redskins offense this year, and have seen the screen and checkdown game all night.

Ted Bolser with the 7-yard TD catch from Colt McCoy and with Kai Forbath's long extra-point attempt, the Redskins lead 20-0. A ten play, 65-yard, 6:14 drive for the Redskins.

Kai Forbath just booted the kickoff out-of-bounds which gives the Patriots the ball at the 40-yard line. In the regular season, that's a killer. In the pre-season it is not so bad, but coupled with the missed 46-yard FGA earlier and the first FGA that was no good only to be whistled dead, it is safe to say that Forbath is feeling some pressure.


****

Washington's defense has been outstanding tonight from start to finish. They've tackled extremely well, as was the case moments ago when Will Compton blew up a run for a loss inside the Redskins 10-yard line, and then Akeem Jordan and Trenton Robinson combined for a nice run stop on third-and-two. On the next play, a fourth down attempt by the Patriots - they put heavy pressure on QB Jimmy Garoppolo  only to see him escape and have a near touchdown pass batted away by Chase Minnifield.

The Redskins were awful in tackling and on stopping fourth down conversions last year. Two great signs. 

Minnifield did commit a long defensive pass interference on the drive, but more than made up for it.

***

After the Redskins connected for a long pass to Rashad Ross, they were forced for their first punt of the night. Young safety Akeem Davis flew down the field and helped force a fumble with his pursuit. New England recovered, but Davis' efforts were noted.

**

Peyton Thompson just got burnt on a long pass play, but the Redskins forced the first turnover of the night. The play is being reviewed.

67,327 is the announced crowd here at FedExField.

***The Redskins turnover was upheld. OLB Adrian Robinson forced the fumble and Akeem Jordan recovered it. Good night for fringe roster guys like Aldrick Robinson, Trenton Robinson, Akeem Davis, Everette Brown, Will Compton, and more.

*** Lache Seastrunk with several nice runs, one to the right for 19 yards with some quick cuts. The next was a outside zone run to the right, that Seastrunk cut against the grain and picked up some nice yardage.

Zach Hocker with a 39-yard field goal to give the Redskins a 23-0 lead. That's another ten-play drive for Washington, who have scoring drives of f 11, 10, 9, 10 and 10 plays for their 23 points. Two TD's and the three field goals. Pretty efficient would be my evaluation.

Hocker had a kickoff eight yards deep that was returned. Not every kick is going to be a touchback, but you can see the difference.

***

The Patriots avoid the shutout with a late touchdown (5 plays, 78 yards, 1:00 )  to make it 23-6 with the two point conversion failed. Peyton Thompson got beat on the coverage. Only negative of the night for Washington.


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