2014 Washington Redskins Defense:
As disappointing as the offense was in 2013, the defense was even worse. The unit surrendered 29.9 points per game and was especially brutal when it came to stopping the pass. The front office desperately had to find some secondary help this offseason.
The Redskins signed two defensive backs of significance. The first was Ryan Clark. The long-time Steeler has been a solid safety for quite some time, but it was apparent that he was slowing down this past season. Clark struggled in his age-34 campaign, so there's no reason to think he'll bounce back in his new home, especially given that he'll turn 35 in October. He'll start next to Brandon Meriweather, a mediocre player who has never been able to stay healthy.
The second defensive back of note who was acquired was Tracy Porter, who inked a 2-year, $6 million deal. Porter will provide depth behind DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson, but he was brutal in Oakland this past season, so he won't make much of a positive contribution. That's unfortunate for Washington because neither Hall nor Amerson performed very well in 2013. Amerson at least is young and has the potential to improve. Hall, on the other hand, will turn 31 in November, so his best days are behind him. He wasn't terrible or anything last year, but he wasn't exactly a strength.
A superior pass rush could help the defensive backfield. That's why Washington signed Jason Hatcher to a 4-year, $27.5 million contract this offseason. Unlike the Porter and Clark signings, this move has some promise, though it's worth noting that Hatcher just turned 32, so the Redskins are making the horrible mistake of paying on past production. Still though, Hatcher should provide a pass-rushing punch, given that he logged 11 sacks with the Cowboys in 2013. He'll start on Washington's defensive line with Barry Cofield, who can also get after the quarterback, and Jarvis Jenkins, who can stuff the run somewhat well. Jenkins missed some time in 2013 because of a suspension, so having him around for the entire year will help.
Having Hatcher and Cofield chasing after opposing signal-callers will give Washington a very formidable pass rush, as Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan combined for 18.5 sacks this past season, which is impressive considering that the team was always behind. The Redskins spent a second-round pick on another pass-rusher, Trent Murphy, who will be able to step into the lineup if either Orakpo or Kerrigan goes down. Depth at the edge-rusher position was a big issue in 2012 when Orakpo was out for 14 games, so the front office may have rectified that problem.
That wasn't the only issue in the linebacking corps. London Fletcher's regression had been a serious problem the past couple of seasons. Fletcher has finally retired, but the Redskins don't really have anything in the interior. Perry Riley will continue to be a three-down player, but he struggled in 2013. Darryl Sharpton was brought in to compete with 2012 fourth-rounder Keenan Robinson for the spot next to Riley, but he wasn't exactly a positive contributor with the Texans.
2014 Washington Redskins Schedule and Intangibles:
The Redskins have an awesome fan base, which makes it strange that they are just 14-27 as hosts the past five years. They were just 5-4 in 2012 when they were competitive, compared to 5-3 on the road.
Jay Gruden will have to fix Washington's dreadful special teams. It allowed four touchdowns this past season and scored none of its own. The team was outgained by more than 10 yards on punt returns, the widest disparity in the entire league.
The Redskins spent a seventh-round pick on Zach Hocker to compete with Kai Forbath, who hit 18-of-22 field goals in 2013. He was just 1-of-2 from 50-plus.
Sav Rocca was the worst punter in the NFL last year in terms of net average. He's gone, so Robert Malone and Blake Clingan will compete for the job. Neither will be very good.
As with the other NFC East teams, the Redskins have a mixed schedule. They have to battle all of the other NFC West teams, as well as the Colts. However, they're in a weak division. They also get to play the Vikings and Buccaneers.
2014 Washington Redskins Rookies:
Go here for the Redskins Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2014 Washington Redskins Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2014 Washington Redskins Analysis: The Redskins were a mess last year, but they're bound to bounce back. Robert Griffin is healthy, a new coaching staff is in place, a few upgrades were acquired, and an easy schedule looms on the horizon. However, this would require Griffin to stay on the field, which is something he has failed to do throughout his entire football career, dating back to college. He's injury-prone, so the odds are against him playing all 16 games. If he does, however, Washington will have a strong chance to win the division.
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Redskins don't have a first-rounder, so they won't be able to upgrade their roster very much. What they can do is find some potential starters on the offensive line and front seven. Some help in the secondary is needed as well.
2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Washington found two potential starters with its limited picks. The team did a good job of trading down, so it was able to acquire both Morgan Moses and Spencer Long on Day 2. I wasn't very high on the Long selection, but it's possible that he could beat out Chris Chester at right guard. If Moses doesn't start right away, it'll be a minor disappointment.
I didn't like the Redskins' first pick very much. I'm not going to rant and rave about it being a reach like Todd McShay; I thought the middle of the second frame was the right spot for Trent Murphy. My issue is that it means one of two things: Murphy will be a career backup with the Redskins, or Brian Orakpo will be gone in 2015. I don't think that's a good message to send to the team.
Washington also made strange choices. Long was taken too early, Ryan Grant was unnecessary, and a kicker didn't make any sense. I did like the Bashaud Breeland pick though.
Overall, the Redskins had a pretty average draft. They found two potential starters and did a nice job of trading down (robbing Dallas in the process), but some of their selections made little sense.
NFL Draft Individual Grades:
47. Trent Murphy, DE/OLB, Stanford: C+ Grade
I like that the Redskins traded down for Trent Murphy, but that's what's keeping this from being a C- or a D. The Redskins have tons of needs and a limited amount of picks, so it's strange that they went with such a luxury pick. Murphy will provide depth for now, but he could eventually start if the team can't re-sign Brian Orakpo. That's fine, and I'd understand it if Washington was obtaining this great value, but that's not the case with Murphy.
66. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: A Grade
Morgan Moses has his flaws, but he could have easily been chosen as high as No. 28 to Carolina (or No. 19 to Miami because the Dolphins like to reach). I actually had Moses going to the Redskins - in the second round. Washington had to find an upgrade at right tackle, as the offensive linemen will have to be more talented with Mike Shanahan gone.
78. Spencer Long, G, Nebraska: D Grade
The good news is that the Redskins are filling yet another need on the defensive line, as Spencer Long can eventually take over for the pedestrian Chris Chester. The bad news is that Washington reached for him. Long was a Round 5-7 prospect, so taking him at this juncture, especially with someone like David Yankey on the board, is a bit crazy.
102. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson: A- Grade
Bashaud Breeland is a slightly better cornerback prospect than Jaylen Watkins. If it weren't for some character concerns, he may have been chosen in the second round. Washington, of course, needs secondary help, so this is a very good selection.
142. Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane: C Grade
The Redskins are stacked at receiver, so I would have liked to have seen the Redskins continue to address their abysmal defense. Ryan Grant fits this range - I had him at the bottom of the fourth round - but I don't really see where he fits in.
186. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: A Grade
Running back is not a need, but I'm giving the Redskins an "A" for value. Lache Seastrunk could have easily been chosen in the third round. He fell because of the perception that he can't catch passes, but the Baylor offense didn't ask him to do that. He looked good in the receiving drills at the Combine, so it's ridiculous that he slipped this far.
228. Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas: C- Grade
It's hard to get excited over a kicker, especially when a team doesn't need one. Kai Forbath is fine. There was no need for this pick.
So much was expected out of the Redskins this season after last year's divisional title. Perhaps expectations should've been tempered with Robert Griffin coming off a devastating knee injury. Griffin came back too soon and predictably struggled. Lots of finger-pointing ensued, with Mike Shanahan ultimately getting fired. Now, Jay Gruden will be tasked with righting the ship.
Bears sign WR Josh Morgan
Falcons sign CB Josh Wilson
Redskins re-sign DE/OLB Rob Jackson
Redskins sign QB Colt McCoy
Redskins sign WR DeSean Jackson
Broncos sign C/G Will Montgomery
Redskins sign S Ryan Clark
Redskins sign G Mike McGlynn
Redskins re-sign CB E.J. Biggers
Redskins sign ILB Akeem Jordan
Redskins sign S Brandon Meriweather
Redskins cut C Will Montgomery
Redskins sign DE/DT Jason Hatcher
Redskins sign DE/DT Clifton Geathers
Redskins sign ILB Daryl Sharpton
Redskins sign CB Tracy Porter
Lions sign DE/OLB Darryl Tapp
Redskins sign OT Bruce Campbell
Redskins sign G Shawn Lauvao
Redskins re-sign WR Santana Moss
Redskins sign WR Andre Roberts
Redskins re-sign ILB Perry Riley
Redskins sign LB Adam Hayward
Redskins cut DE/DT Adam Carriker
Redskins cut P Sav Rocca
Redskins cut TE Richard Quinn
Redskins waive RB Jawan Jamison
Redskins waive RB Davin Meggett
Redskins franchise DE/OLB Brian Orakpo
Redskins re-sign NT Chris Baker
Redskins re-sign CB DeAngelo Hall
Redskins hire HC Jay Gruden
Redskins fire HC Mike Shanahan
Two Cornerbacks: DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson are free agents, but they needed to be upgraded anyway. It's too bad the top cornerbacks will be off the board when Washington is finally on the clock at No. 34. Re-signed DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers; signed Tracy Porter
Two Inside Linebackers: London Fletcher has looked like he's been playing in slow motion the past couple of seasons. He has announced his retirement, so Washington will finally be able to add an upgrade. Re-signing Perry Riley is also imperative. Re-signed Perry Riley; signed Daryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan
Defensive End: The Redskins couldn't stop the run because their defensive linemen were frequently pushed around. They need to obtain a stronger presence up front. There will be plenty of big players to choose from on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL Draft. Signed Jason Hatcher and Clifton Geathers
Safety: Brandon Meriweather can't be relied upon to stay healthy. A veteran should be added while the two young safeties are brought along. Re-signed Brandon Meriweather; signed Ryan Clark
Outside Linebacker: Retaining Brian Orakpo is a must. Otherwise, the Redskins will have a huge hole at this position. Franchised Brian Orakpo; re-signed Rob Jackson
Wide Receiver: Pierre Garcon became just the third receiver in NFL history to catch at least five passes in every game during an entire season. He was great, but Robert Griffin desperately needs a No. 2 wideout to throw to. Signed DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts
Right Guard: The Redskins have more pressing needs on defense, but they could stand to upgrade the right guard position, currently manned by the pedestrian Chris Chester. Signed Shawn Lauvao and Mike McGlynn
Punter: Sav Rocca had the worst net-punting average in the NFL last year.
Jason Hatcher, DT, Cowboys. Age: 32. Signed with Redskins (4 years)
Jason Hatcher has always been a solid 3-4 player, but he took it to another level while in the 4-3 this past season. Hatcher proved to be a monstrous pass-rusher as a defensive tackle, so he should stay in that formation. The only downside with him is that he'll turn 32 in July.
DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles. Age: 27. Signed with Redskins
DeSean Jackson has always been a member of my Top 10 Most Overrated Players list, which I compile every summer. He's a one-trick pony who happens to be very brittle. And now, it turns out that he's affiliated with some Los Angeles gang that has been connected with a couple of murders. Joining that exclusive club must have seemed like a great career move at the time for Jackson, but the Eagles apparently didn't agree. They simply cut him without getting anything in return, which is crazy. Jackson still has enough talent to be a three-star player atop this underwhelming list of free agent receivers, but if Philadelphia was this concerned about his off-the-field issues, other teams should be as well.
Andre Roberts, WR, Cardinals. Age: 26. Signed with Redskins (4 years, $16 million)
Andre Roberts is a very solid No. 3 receiver. He's had issues with drops in the past, but he appears to have fixed that issue.
Ryan Clark, S, Steelers. Age: 35. Signed with Redskins (1 year)
Ryan Clark, 35 in October, is no longer the quality safety he used to be. He has struggled at times this season and has hinted at retirement.
Daryl Sharpton, ILB, Texans. Age: 26. Signed with Redskins (1 year, $2 million)
Daryl Sharpton took over as Houston's three-down inside linebacker following Brian Cushing's season-ending injury. He's solid versus the run, but a bit of a liability in coverage.
Akeem Jordan, ILB, Chiefs. Age: 28. Signed with Redskins
Akeem Jordan can't play three downs, but he's a smart linebacker who provides very good run support.
Shawn Lauvao, G, Browns. Age: 26. -- Signed with Redskins (4 years, $17 million)
Mike McGlynn, G, Colts. Age: 29. -- Signed with Redskins
Adam Hayward, OLB, Buccaneers. Age: 30. -- Signed with Redskins (3 years, $3 million)
Clifton Geathers, DE/DT, Eagles. Age: 26. -- Signed with Redskins
Tracy Porter, CB, Raiders. Age: 28. -- Signed with Redskins
Colt McCoy, QB, 49ers. Age: 27. -- Signed with Redskins
Washington Redskins Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Brian Orakpo, DE/OLB, Redskins. Age: 28. Franchised by Redskins
One of the NFL's top pass-rushers, Brian Orakpo is also strong against the run and can cover if he has to. He deserves a massive contract this offseason, but he'll likely have to wait until 2015 because he'll almost certainly be franchised.
Perry Riley, ILB, Redskins. Age: 26. Re-signed with Redskins (3 years, $13 million)
Perry Riley had a strong 2012 campaign, but I'm not sure what happened to him because he was terrible this year. Perhaps his 2013 season will go down as a fluke.
Brandon Meriweather can sometimes be an effective player when he's not serving suspensions for dirty hits. He just turned 30 though.
Will Montgomery, C/G, Redskins. Age: 31. Signed with Broncos (1 year, $1.3 million)
Will Montgomery is decent at opening running lanes and has some versatility because he can also play guard. However, he's on the wrong side of 30 and was whistled for a ridiculous 11 penalties in 2013.
Fred Davis, TE, Redskins. Age: 28.
Fred Davis has never lived up to his potential because of numerous injuries. His talent might be sapped, but he's only 28, so he's worth a shot at a cheap price.
E.J. Biggers, CB/S, Redskins. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Redskins
QB Colt McCoy, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Andre Roberts, OT Bruce Campbell, G Shawn Lauvao, G Mike McGlynn, DE/DT Jason Hatcher, DE/DT Clifton Geathers, ILB Daryl Sharpton, ILB Akeem Jordan, CB Tracy Porter, S Ryan Clark, S Brandon Meriweather.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Trent Murphy, OT Morgan Moses, G Spencer Long, CB Bashaud Breeland, WR Ryan Grant. Redskins Rookie Forecast Offseason Losses:
WR Josh Morgan, TE Richard Quinn, C/G Will Montgomery, DE/DT Adam Carriker, DE/OLB Darryl Tapp, ILB London Fletcher, CB Josh Wilson, P Sav Rocca.
2014 Washington Redskins Offense:
Washington's offense was a mess this past season. The team rushed Robert Griffin back way too quickly from injury, and he struggled as a result, committing turnovers and compiling most of his positive stats in garbage time when his team was already far behind. Griffin eventually got into fights with the coaching staff, threw his teammates under the bus and was eventually benched for the final three games of the season, due to poor performance.
Major changes had to be made. The front office fired the Shanahans and replaced them with former Bengals' offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who did a good job getting the most out of Andy Dalton. Perhaps he'll be able to revitalize Griffin's career, and it'll help that the young signal-caller won't be rehabbing a knee injury like he was last summer. However, Griffin will still need to stay healthy, which is something he hasn't been able to do in college or as a pro. Being a better teammate instead of a Prima donna will also help, but if he can remain on the field and win, locker-room dynamics shouldn't be much of an issue.
The Redskins needed to make several upgrades to the offensive line to keep Griffin upright. They started by signing Shawn Lauvao in free agency, paying him $17 million over four years. Lauvao will start at left guard, but he wasn't a good player in Cleveland, so it's strange that Washington paid him so much money. Lauvao will be stationed in between elite left tackle Trent Williams and solid center Will Montgomery.
Two third-round draft choices were spent on offensive linemen as well. The Redskins picked Morgan Moses and Spencer Long, who should be able to eventually start at right tackle and right guard, respectively. Those positions are currently occupied by Tyler Polumbus and Chris Chester, both of whom are serviceable but mediocre.
Of course, Washington's big move this offseason was signing DeSean Jackson about one week after the Eagles shockingly released him. Jackson is a dynamic player because of his speed, but he's also overrated because he's a one-trick pony who causes issues in the locker room and constantly gets injured. He had never logged more than 63 receptions in a single season prior to last year, so there's no reason to expect him to begin doing so in Washington.
What Jackson will do, however, is draw attention away from Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed. Despite Griffin's struggles, Garcon was huge this past season, registering a whopping 113 catches for 1,346 yards and five touchdowns. With Jackson and slot option Andre Roberts joining the team, his reception total is bound to decline, but he'll make more of an impact downfield. Reed, meanwhile, is a highly athletic tight end who was posting big numbers as a rookie (9-134-1 line versus Chicago) before missing the final six games with a concussion. Reed will be even better in 2014, provided that he can stay healthy. He has suffered four concussions dating back to his college days, so another one could knock him out for a while.
As for the running backs, that group essentially stays the same in terms of personnel. However, Alfred Morris might not be utilized as much as he was by the previous coaching staff. Gruden wants a back who can catch passes, and Morris just isn't capable of doing that. He'll still get his fair share of carries, but he'll split more touches with Roy Helu this season.