The Redskins opening day 53-man roster now appears set. After an intense week that included two road games and around 50 roster transactions, the regular season is finally here.
As you know, the Redskins open in Houston against the Texans. It is a match-up of the teams that had the worst records in the NFL last year and had the top two picks in the draft. Of course, the Redskins did not have their selection because of the Robert Griffin III trade.
You can hear game one of the Jay Gruden era Sunday at 1 PM right here (ESPN980.com) and ESPN 980 AM, 94.3/92.7 FM, and Audio Now (832) 999-1980. We will be live in Houston beginning at 9 AM.
Now let's take a look at what the Redskins will bring with them to Houston.
Quarterbacks: By the time Sunday rolls around it will have been 14-and-a-half long days for Robert Griffin III. Quite simply, he needs to be efficient and perhaps conservative to get into a good groove and establish that the Redskins can move the ball as they need to.
Griffin has to get better at not only getting rid of the football quicker (Ideally, no longer than 2.75 seconds per snap) but he also has to get better at avoiding turnovers.
I don't really care about passing stats or anything of that sort. I need to see no more than two sacks per game on average this year AND no more than 1.5 offensive turnovers average per game. In case you are not a math major, that's no more than 32 sacks this year and no more than 24 offensive turnovers.
That's not great, but it would still represent an improvement from 2013. Some of that is not on Griffin, a good portion of it is. He knows that and certainly Gruden and Sean McVay know it.
Griffin is the starting quarterback and he will be the quarterback until Jay Gruden has virtually no choice. His ability to run this year more effectively, should help buy him more time.
I feel you will see some read option earlier than later in games to try and keep opposing defenses honest. You will see it more against 4-3 teams than 3-4 teams.
In the end, I think Griffin will be successful. I hope for everybody's sanity that he is. It would be a nightmare if his play is poor especially out of the gates against improving but not fully there teams like Houston and Jacksonville
Kirk Cousins is about as good of a backup for no cost as you can possibly ask for. There isn't a person that I know of that feels the Redskins would be in bad shape if Cousins had to play.
Colt McCoy made the roster and is very likely to be inactive for games (at least to start the year)
Running Backs: The Redskins kept Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Silas Redd and Darrel Young. This was a somewhat surprising decision to not keep Chris Thompson and/or Lache Seastrunk on the roster to give Washington a speed threat. Yes, Roy Helu can run but he is not as explosive as Thompson or Seastrunk.
I am not surprised at all about Seastrunk and it actually shows that this staff values more than just speed, which is a good thing. You have to be a good all-around player and Seastrunk was lacking significantly in many areas.
I feel Thompson will be promoted sooner than later, only because the Redskins know that he is a boom or bust type talent and can't really be tested on the practice squad.
I believe Morris will benefit from DeSean Jackson's arrival more than anyone. I would not be surprised to see Morris top 1,500 yards this year. Fumbling has been a little bit of an issue, so Morris needs to be extra secure especially with tosses.
Morris' biggest leap figures to come in the screen game. I believe Morris will exceed his two year career total (20 receptions) this year. It will be an emphasis as we have reported and emphasized all off-season.
Helu is a solid backup, and the best third down back the team has in terms of picking up blitzes and pressure. That's not to say he's not capable of a great athletic play every now and then (@ Seattle, @ Oakland) but the notion that Helu is consistent is overrated in my mind.
He'll be big in the check down/screen game as well for Griffin, and that has already proven to be true several times in the preseason.
Redd did everything well this August. I am not sure if he'll be active on game-day to start the year but he could be. I don't think the Redskins feel he couldn't pick up a blitz if asked to do so. He was pretty good at it, especially a few times against Cleveland that jumped out.
Darrel Young might be the best fullback in the NFL. How's that for analysis? If he stays healthy, DY is a multifaceted beast.
Wide Receivers: DeSean Jackson (if healthy) should be a tremendous addition to the offense and is very likely to have as big of an impact on his teammates success as he will in terms of his individual numbers.
I truly believe that. He'll make Pierre Garcon's job even easier, not to mention the slot receiver to his side or Jordan Reed on the same side of the formation on clear-out routes. John Keim has talked about this a lot and I completely agree.
Garcon led the Redskins in receptions last year at 113 but he won't and there is no need for him to come anywhere close to that amount this year. Where he needs to get better? In the red zone. The Redskins were terrible in this area last year. According to Mike Clay of ProFootballFocus, Garcon was targeted eight times while in the actually end zone and had no catches in 2013.
Andre Roberts will be a crucial addition, because he can work inside and outside while also contributing on special teams.
As for Santana Moss and Ryan Grant, I feel their biggest impact will be on third down for Moss and in the red zone for Grant. The reasons are pretty obvious for both.
I am expecting Aldrick Robinson to be inactive early on, but I wonder if Gruden and McVay would be tempted to have a double speed demon package on the field in some spots. You can't keep everyone active on a 46-man game-day roster.
Tight Ends: Jordan Reed is insanely good, if he can stay healthy. It's more than just the concussions. Remember, he had some nagging hip and lower body issues last year that he fought thru for the most part. The book against him is that he needs to prove he can work thru some of these issues. At times last year, Redskins coaches were very frustrated with this issue.
Logan Paulsen is as steady as they come. One of the smartest, hard working dudes on the team. He will be very important against a team like Houston with the double edge threat of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
Niles Paul MIGHT be the most improved individual Redskins player on the roster throughout camp and the preseason. He caught everything, and his blocking has improved under Wes Phillips who comes from a more in-line blocking mentality. I am really curious to see if Paul makes that big jump as a receiver this year.
Offensive Line: The starting unit from left to right is Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus.
We all know what Williams is and as long as he stays healthy - he is likely headed to a third straight Pro Bowl selection. Lauvao struggled at first and then settled down according to Jay Gruden. He should help Washington be a little more physical at the point of attack and on inside zone runs. Lichtensteiger is an upgrade over Will Montgomery and bulked up a bit to prevent what happened last year to the interior of the offensive line. Coaches believe Chester will revert back to his career form that he exhibited before a tough 2013. I agree he will be better. Polumbus gets a lot of criticism, but a good deal of it is unwarranted. Check the tape and listen to Chris Cooley. He's not going to fluff up anybody for no reason. Coaches know that Polumbus is better than fans think he is. So do I.
The real question(s) comes with the backups. Quite honestly, all are unproven and if any have to play for any significant stretch - you should be pretty nervous. I suppose you could say that for any backup but as we just outlined - the Redskins have very good quality depth in my eyes at every position on offense. Except for the offensive line. Tom Compton, Morgan Moses, Josh LeRibeus and rookie Spencer Long comprise the second unit. You will see Compton in some jumbo packages when the Redskins go with a sixth offensive lineman inside the five-yard line.
One thing to keep an eye on with the Redskins offensive line this year from a schematic stand point is how often Trent Williams and/or Tyler Polumbus switch sides and line up next to each other. Trust me on this - you will see this several times in 2014. If anybody watched Jay Gruden tape, you know he did this with the Bengals from time to time.
Coaching Staff: Jay Gruden the play-caller will be under fire at times, especially if the Redskins struggle in the red zone again. The good news? His Bengals improved dramatically over his three years with Andy Dalton and friends in the red area.
Sean McVay is one of the brightest young minds in football and will work directly with the quarterbacks in a hybrid offensive coordinator/quarterback coach position.
I think the Redskins hired two outstanding coaches in Tight Ends Coach Wes Phillips and Running Backs Coach Randy Jordan. I can't say enough good things about their points of emphasis and their creative drills that I witnessed over and over again during the entire off-season.
Keeping Offensive Line Coach Chris Foerster and the same run scheme gives this offensive line the best chance to succeed. This was a very savvy choice by Gruden to listen to those that knew Foerster the best.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
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