The Washington Redskins will move south for the summer beginning on Thursday July 25th, but the real work is in the process of being completed now.
Not that a roster of 90 guys won't be working hard under the boiling sun that downtown Richmond, Virginia is sure to bring, but in order for that to happen a facility must be built. A "Field of Dreams" as Redskins General Manager & Executive Vice President Bruce Allen called it.
Construction officially began on January 9th at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center at 2401 West Leigh Street, not far away from the Richmond Squirrels minor league baseball stadium and right off the Boulevard exit and I-95. It's nestled right by Children's Museum of Richmond and the Science Museum.
It's scheduled to be completed by June 30th, and features a main facility building for multiple uses, along with a 92 player locker room and a premier workout facility that will be used throughout the year, but specifically designed for the Redskins.
During a hard-hat tour on Monday afternoon, the Redskins and city officials made it clear that while work still had to be done -- it won't ruin the good feelings and the real purpose (they say) of going away to training camp.
"Being in the same hotel together, living with each other. It's no different than what the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts do from the very beginning. It creates a special bond. It's not a secret or coincidence that only four Super Bowl winners haven't gone away for training camp. There's a special uniqueness and camraderie that you can build," Bruce Allen said.
Allen mentioned that the facility might be so state-of-the-art and new that the players won't have to endure some of the unique challenges that a off-site training camp might bring.
"We knew what we needed at this training camp, for this limited time. It's actually going to be a little bit nicer because it's brand new than you probably would want. You like the idea that training camp is a tough time. That's where a little bit of suffering is going on in order to succeed later on in life," Allen said to reporters.
The facility has two full-size natural grass fields and a natural grass drill field, with the sod (which normally takes 6-8 weeks to fully hold) put in to place last week. Allen said a key component was making the fields the same as they are at FedExField and Redskins Park, because the crown affects how key components of a offense work together.
As for who will be here and when?? The Redskins open up training camp in just over two months and while Robert Griffin III will be present, there is obviously no guarantee that he will be able to participate in practice.
Allen said that they won't know Griffin's ability to participate until he takes a physical saying it is "too early to tell" if he will on the field from the start, but that currently "he's been doing a lot of drill work on his own and with the other injured players. He has to just follow the doctor's and the trainer's advice on a daily basis."
"My wife will select that. Unfortunatly, I think it's going to be something nice," Allen said in a joking manner (I think). He also added that he didn't think he was going to be asked about the mini-drama, saying he thought "it was going to be about when's "RG 4" come out or something like that."
Well OK then, Bruce. That's all I can say about that.
Brian Orakpo not only hosts the "The Brian Orakpo Leukemia Golf Classic" presented by Omnitec Solutions, INC for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org) golf event, but he has immersed himself in truly being a key figure of an outstanding organization dedicated to fighting blood cancers.
The Redskins outside linebacker, recovering from a 2nd surgical procedure to his pectoral muscle, took over the event from Jason Campbell a few years ago and as the sign at the very top of the golf course would tell you, this is more than just about good publicity or just lending his name.
The sign - a very nice gesture and tribute from a grieving family who just recently lost their son, Brendan Kelly - reads "In Memory of Brendan Kelly - From The Entire Kelly Family....Thank You. Brian!!"
The sign has a picture of Orakpo and young Brendan in happier moments, but you can tell that the two developed a strong connection. In addition to honoring Brendan's legacy, Orakpo and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (@LLSNatCap) honored another "Patient Hero" named Tyler. Tyler, a 12 year old young man who has been fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) since November of 2011.
Orakpo is clearly all-in for a organization that does so much good for so many people. He's also on-board for an organization that drafted him and now sits a year away (maybe less?) from deciding if they want to make it a long term relationship.
I've covered Orakpo since he was a rookie and it's hard to fathom how quickly his first four years have gone, and yet how long the road to success (for everyone) sometimes has been. One thing is for sure, Orakpo has always been determined. He is a consummate professional who works hard at his craft, without any drama.
Sometimes that quality is underrated by fans and even media, but it is extremely important to note because the norm is for great athletes to have something about them that rub people the wrong way. I might be missing something, but I can't think of anything that Orakpo has done in that regard.
Sure, he has been knocked for not having a monster breakout season, and that is for the most part understandable. Right now, the most important issue is Orakpo proving to himself & the Redskins management team that he can stay healthy.
On Monday, the new Dad of little Brianna spent time with the media assembled and Orakpo was very adamant that he is healthy and ready to show that the two pectoral tears and an incident in a preseason game in Chicago was just a couple of "freak" occurrences as he called it.
"I shouldn't have no setbacks come OTA's. I can't say how much even better I feel this year from where I was at this point last year....I'm ready to go."
The natural question is why would Orakpo be any different than any other recovering athlete or even his situation from last off-season, which was similar? "It feels differently because I'm not having any aches or pains. I'm not having any sort of discomfort, post surgery. That's the great thing about it."
Clearly that was a problem last year at this time that continued into training camp before initially giving way in Chicago in the preseason, and then in a completely different area in Week 2 at St. Louis.
Either way, Orakpo knows going into the final year of his initial rookie contract that staying healthy (freak injury or not) is important and if he can do that, along with putting up monster numbers - he will heavily increase his chances of being a "Redskin for life" as he termed it, when I asked him about his pending contract situation.
As of this point, if I am being completely honest - I don't know if the Redskins could afford to make a long term commitment to Orakpo if they had to make that decision today. Luckily for Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, they do not have to make that decision right now or really anytime soon. They might not even have to make that decision next year, as they simply could use the franchise tag.
A franchise tag designation for an outside linebacker in 2012, cost 10.6 million per multiple reports. In 2011, the franchise tag for outside linebackers was a reported 8.8 million. It is possible that the tag price for 2014 could rise to over 11.5 million.
If Orakpo stays healthy for 16 plus games and puts up 10 plus sacks, while continuing to improve in his run defense and pass drops -along with a couple of forced turnovers (interceptions or forced fumbles), that would have to be worth at least 10 million dollars per year in my eyes.
Is that realistic? Of course it is. Players with Orakpo's talent and work ethic usually get better year after year, until their body starts to fail them. I personally don't feel that Orakpo's body is breaking down, but even the most optimistic supporter would have to admit that it is a issue that needs to be monitored.
Let's look at the numbers to see where we are and what is realistic. Orakpo had 11 sacks on an awful team as a rookie, including 4 in one game against a brutal Oakland Raiders team. He had 50 combined tackles and one forced fumble in 2009.
In 2010 (Mike Shanahan's first year) and after transitioning to a 3-4 defense, Orakpo put up 8.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble in 15 games. He had 56 combined tackles.
With Ryan Kerrigan as a first round pick, and helping deter some of the blocking attention, Orakpo racked up 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He had a career high 59 combined tackles and 5 passes defensed, which was one more than his combined first two years total. Orakpo was hurt before halftime of the Redskins final game of the season, with the pectoral injury.
In one game plus (and not very much of a 2nd), Orakpo had a full sack and a forced fumble in St. Louis along with 3 passes defensed. It stands to reason that 2012 would have been the 'breakout' year that everybody was hoping for with Kerrigan now comfortable in the systemand with Orakpo in year number three of Jim Haslett's defense.
Orakpo, a two-time Pro Bowler probably would not have reached the levels of J.J. Watt (20.5 sacks) or Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks) or Von Miller (18.5 sacks) but is it fair to say he could have reached what Cameron Wake from Miami did (15 sacks) or Clay Matthews of Green Bay who reached 13 sacks in just 12 games? I think that is more than a fair assumption, and it would have put Orakpo in the top five of the league as Wake was fourth overall with Matthews coming in 5th.
Matthews might be the easiest comparison in terms of production and value for Orakpo. Matthews has 42.5 career sacks in 58 games, with 55 starts. He does have 4 interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns and 7 forced fumbles. Throw in three fumble recoveries, another touchdown and an unofficial total of 203 combined tackles along with 22 passes defensed.
Orakpo in 49 career games, has 30 sacks with no interceptions, six forced fumbles, 12 passes defensed and 171 combined tackles unofficially.
Clearly, Matthews has been more productive and has already helped his team win a championship despite being selected 26th overall by the Packers in the 2009 draft. Orakpo was the number 13 overall pick the same year.
Remember though that Matthews had an enormously better supporting cast and a franchise that was already poised to win. Orakpo didn't get to play with Charles Woodson in his prime, or a very talented Cullen Jenkins and many others that contributed to Green Bay's defensive success. Matthews also was drafted by an organization that very clearly had been set up well by Ted Thompson.
It's hard to fathom anybody not realizing that your individual success is often a by-product of who and what you have around you. Sure, Orakpo had London Fletcher but that was about it for the first two years of his career. Watt, Smith, and Matthews walked into pretty good situations in their respective organizations. Miller was drafted # 2 overall by a defensive minded head coach in John Fox, but on a team that also had Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey amongst others.
Orakpo has improved in the other areas of his game, such as his pass drops and run defense, along with his ability to use his hands for a little better leverage. If he can play a full season this year, with Kerrigan fully comfortable in his role and ideally others around him being healthier and better in coverage, it stands to reason that 15 sacks is not out of the question for Orakpo.
As for the money, and what it might cost? Matthews signed a six-year, 69.73 million dollar contract on April 17th according to information posted on Rotoworld.com and Spotrac.com. He received a 20.5 million dollar bonus. Matthews will only count for 6.7 million under the Packers cap in 2013, with figures rising to 11.15 million (2014) to 12.7 million in 2015. From 2016 - 2018, Matthews is currently scheduled to count about 40 million under the Packers cap, with 15.2 million counting in 2017 as currently constructed.
The deal seems to favor the Packers in one area, being that the current franchise tag of 10.6 million (will only go up as more deals are done). Matthews will cost less than he would under a franchise tag in the first two years of the deal and that will probably be the case over the first four years of the deal as well.
The Cowboys have franchised OLB Anthony Spencer the last two years in a row, so Washington might not have to make the decision for even longer, but while that gives you good flexibility from a no long-term risk perspective, it significantly boosts your salary cap number for that one particular season.
Here's what I would say. I would roll the dice for right now and wait on an extension, even though it would lower Orakpo's cap number for 2013 (currently 5.109) and see if he returns to the same or even better level that he was before the injury. I think that is only fair for both sides. If Orakpo goes 8 - 10 games and has roughly a sack per game average, maybe you get serious about a long term extension that makes sense for both sides.
Spencer is going to cost the Cowboys 10.627 million as currently configured (barring a long term extension) and while he had 11 sacks last year, Spencer only has 32.5 career sacks (2.5 more than Orakpo) but has played in 90 games. NINETY. Orakpo has played in 49, if you weren't paying attention above.
Orakpo might not be Matthews, but he's far better than anything Spencer has ever produced and that's with DeMarcus Ware on the other side. If you think about it, Orakpo is an absolute bargain for the Redskins compared to Spencer for the Cowboys. The Redskins know this, and now you do as well.
Even though it would help the Redskins now, Eric Shaffer and Bruce Allen are paid handsomely to make sure that common sense prevails in a league that is every bit as much about dollars and cents, as it is about x's and o's.
If Matthews is the high end ceiling, my guess is Orakpo would come in at the 5-6 year range, with a total value of 50-55 million (5 year deal) or 58-65 million (6 year deal) with maybe 15 million guaranteed. You have until early next March to try and make that happen if you wish to do so, there is absolutely no rush for right now.
For his part, Orakpo didn't seem concerned at all. He's in a good spot, but now it is about trying to get the most imporant thing Matthews already has, a Super Bowl ring.
The Redskins took a couple of big swings at the fences on Saturday, and came up with several intriguing prospects that could be boom or bust guys. You can make an argument the entire draft has had that mantra.
In the fourth round on Saturday, the Redskins selected hybrid safety Phillip Thomas from Fresno State. Thomas can play both free safety and strong safety. He grew up a Redskins fan, and told the Redskins media via teleconference, "I know that we needed a safety. I know [Brandon] Meriweather was hurt this year and they needed a safety who could play the ball in the air. I'm happy the Redskins organization chose me to be that safety."
Thomas also joined ESPN 980 moments after he was selected, an interview you can listen to here http://bit.ly/12B7Uk2
Thomas is 6'0, 208 pounds, but he had a broken left leg and a dislocated ankle in 2011 suffered in a non-contact drill. He did rebound nicely in his real senior season, with 8 interceptions and three that were returned for touchdowns. He also had four sacks and four forced fumbles.
The reason why you might consider Thomas more of a risk than what he appears to be is if you watch these isolation videos via www.draftbreakdown.com of Thomas play against Oregon, you have to wonder will he be able to handle the advanced speed at the NFL level.
You also have to think that Chip Kelly had a smile in a quiet moment about what he might be able to run against Thomas and company, when the Eagles meet up with the Redskins.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, via NFL.com says "That is a great pick for the Redskins at this point in the draft. This kid has an opportunity to come in and start , and I think he will." Mayock mentioned free safety, which is the position that Thomas has the most experience with, starting 24 career games. Thomas also has played 15 games at strong safety.
In the fifth round, the Redskins had two selections and chose lightning quick running back Chris Thompson from Florida State. Thompson is 5'7" 195 pounds and is also the fifth running back taken by Mike Shanahan and Bobby Turner.
Thompson who says his best 40-yard dash was a 4.3, has a major injury history including a torn ACL and two broken vertebrae in his back. He told reporters via teleconference, "My knee is feeling really good. I've been told by my trainers and everything that by training camp I should be fine. I've been working out real hard and I've been feeling good so far. Now I'm just ready to join the Redskins and continue to get my knee better."
As for the back being a potential issue? "I broke my C5 and C6 vertebrae. They said it was the thoracic spine. It was kind of mid-back. It was a compression fracture that I had." Thompson said the back has been no issue "It didn't bother me at all. I haven't had any issues."
The Redskins put a double down bet on Florida State players, with their additional fifth round pick. Washington selected Brandon Jenkins with the pick acquired in the Albert Haynesworth trade to New England.
Jenkins, is coming off a foot injury which he called "a freak injury." He says "It made me mentally stronger and a better player on and off the field. A foot injury is all about patience. You can't rush it."
Jenkins and Thompson become the fifth grouping of players since 1969 in which the Redskins have drafted a pair of college teammates with consecutive picks. It's the 2nd time it has happened since Mike Shanahan took over, with the Redskins selecting three Nebraska teammates in consecutive picks (Roy Helu Jr., DeJon Gomes, Niles Paul).
In the sixth round, the Redskins selected the very talented but somewhat erratic Bacarri Rambo with the 191st selection. Rambo, a free safety from Georgia could have gone in the third or fourth round, but a drug suspension issue cost him games in Athens, rounds in the draft and up-front money.
"It was a very selfish decision I made, but I grew from it, Rambo said on Saturday. "That's my past. I can't control my past. All I can do is just grow from it."
Rambo via teleconference with the Redskins media said "I thought everybody had forgotten about me. I was sitting here praying, asking God to give me one team to like me. They the Redskins called, and it's just a blessed moment." I thank the organization for believing in me."
In some game cut-ups that I watched via www.draftbreakdown.com of Rambo, I noticed his ability to blitz frequently from the secondary, and in one particular instance against Florida, Rambo ran an "A" gap blitz from his deep position and sacked the Gators QB. He also had a acrobatic interception in the end zone, in which he was in coverage from a single high position. He patiently read the quarterback's eyes and reacted to make the play.
In the 7th round, the Redskins finished the draft off with another smaller running back in Rutgers product Jawan Jamison, 5'7", 203 pound player who is considered to be a good pass protector and a good pass catcher out of the backfield.
He started 20 games in his career, and ran for 1,075 yards and a 4.22 average, with four touchdowns in 2012. According a release by the Redskins, he ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash but NFL.com lists him as having a 4.68 combine run.
Mike Shanahan said "Jamison is a guy I thought would be going much earlier. We weren't really looking for that running back in the seventh round, but when he was there, we just thought he was too good to pass up."
The Washington Redskins addressed a huge need with the number 51 overall pick in the 2nd round and their first pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, selecting 6 foot plus CB David Amerson out of North Carolina State. With their third round selection, the Redskins selected tight end Jordan Reed from Florida, a former Quarterback with tremendous athleticism.
As reported live on ESPN 980 Friday night before the pick was made, the Redskins zeroed in on Amerson tonight as teams before the Redskins picked off other players of interest such as Johnthan Banks and Jonathan Cyprien.
ESPN 980 first reported several weeks ago that Amerson would make a personal visit to Redskins Park, a visit that he took to spend time with Defensive Backs coach Raheem Morris and Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett.
Amerson had 13 interceptions in his sophomore year of 2011, the most in college football since Washington's Vince Worley in 1968. He had 18 interceptions in his career at NC State, with 5 picks coming in his final year.
He also has the ability to play free safety, although he told ESPN 980 moments after his selection that for the time being the Redskins coaching staff has only talked to him about playing cornerback, but he also said "I'm open for anything."
Currently, the Redskins have DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield, EJ Biggers, Jerome Murphy and now Amerson in the fold at cornerback.
Free Safety is a much thinner group with Jordan Pugh who played mostly on passing downs last year, Reed Doughty and the currently suspended Tanard Jackson.
Amerson, was sharply criticized for his performance in 2012 for the Wolfpack, but some of that may be unfair. He says and the tape cut-ups prove it, that he was guilty of being a little over aggressive and not reading with his eyes carefully enough. He feels that the early season adversity made him a better player.
In looking back at my notes when I was able to watch isolation coverage via DraftBreakdown.com of Amerson against Boston College, I saw a defensive back who plays on both sides of the field, who can flip his hips and run around a 4.4 40-yard dash. He had an interception while playing on the right side, and in zone coverage that he returned for a touchdown along with a few nice pass break ups.
However, he also had times where he was beat like on a deep post and one time, playing off-man coverage, Amerson was beat on a 3rd/10 hook route. He also did a bad job tackling in space on a cutback run on one play.
We will learn more about Amerson in the coming weeks, but he is a member of the Washington Redskins tonight and he adds to a big need area, in a league that is clearly going taller, bigger and faster at wide receiver.
As for Reed, he joins a group that consists of Fred Davis who is on a one year deal and coming off a major surgery, along with returning tight ends Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul.
Reed becomes the eighth player from the University of Florida selected by a Shanahan led team, the most of any school. Shanahan has roots to Gainesville as he was an offensive coordinator there from 1980 - 1983.
Reed has been compared to Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots, by more than just scouts and draft analysts. Mike Shanahan mentioned the connection as well saying Reed is a "lot like Hernandez. I'm not sure if Hernandez is that fast."
Reed figures to give the Redskins the ability to be a matchup nightmare to opposing defenses as he can line up at tight end in-line, a split end, a wide receiver and in H-Back capacity.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980