Super Bowl XLVIII is finally here and New York City has done a magnificent job hosting the event by all accounts. While I am not there in person, I am in spirit. You can take the guy out of New York, but you can NEVER take the New York out of the guy.
Quite honestly, this is killing me, a native of the "Big Apple." I try and tell the truth whenever I can, and this has been a painful experience to not feel the energy of midtown Manhattan combined with the Super Bowl.
It's a perfect combination. No matter what anybody else thinks. I fully support the National Football League on this venture, and there's not many things I have their back on.
The media at large are a bunch of crying babies. They've whined about the weather during the week and what it might be on Sunday night. They want to be on South Beach, San Diego or anywhere not near a subway. Who cares. Just pipe down. You are getting a paid "working" vacation in the most electrifying city in the United States.
As for the game, football is meant to be played outdoors, and in the elements. You deal with it. It's part of the theater to have the cold and chance of precipitation as a part of the game.
Football in domes is sterile. It sucks. I hate it. They play the AFC and NFC title games in any kind of conditions that they are dealt with, so all of a sudden everything has to be perfect two weeks later? Nonsense.
I am glad the weather will be a very minimal factor though, just so that the media has nothing to bitch and moan about. Remember last year? They got everything they wanted. New Orleans. Great city, weather, atmosphere. Everything. Except the game was indoors and the Superdome suffered a catastrophic electricity failure.
A few years ago it was the "Disaster in Dallas" as a moderate snow and ice storm hit the DFW Metroplex the week of the game, and driving conditions were awful. Not to mention, the problems with portable seating inside of what is now AT&T Stadium.
Imagine if the game was in Atlanta this week? It will be soon enough, as the Falcons are building a brand new stadium. You have dumb drivers, a decent chance for bad weather and a potential debacle. Think it can't happen there with the Super Bowl in town? Think again, the Rams and Titans remember a different story.
I was in Detroit of Super Bowl XL. The weather was awful that particular weekend, and no doubt it was nice to be indoors. However, if it was outside, I would not have minded. Play the damn game in whatever conditions are presented. Anybody remember the Colts and Peyton Manning's only Super Bowl win? In a soaking rain in Miami. Nobody complained. Nobody.
When the Redskins build a new stadium, they WILL get a Super Bowl. That is 99.5% guaranteed and I would go higher, but I always like to leave a bit of wiggle room.
If Sunday night's weather was a disaster and the NFL got roasted over the coals for what would have been called a terrible decision (even though it wasn't) there would be almost no chance that the Redskins would have been able to land a Super Bowl unless the new stadium had a retractable roof.
Sounds easy to just snap your fingers and say that won't be a problem. I believe it would be. The cost of a retractable roof addition to a brand new football stadium has to add at least 50-100 million and probably more to the construction cost of a new building. The taxpayers of whatever county or state that the stadium is housed in are going to feel that the most.
Either the citizens or the Redskins will have to pay it. Either way, you lose. If the Redskins have to pay it, you would essentially foot the bill in a variety of ways. I think you know how, so I will spare you.
Bruce Allen who will almost certainly be directly involved with the project strongly opposes field turf. So does Dan Snyder. You can't have a retractable roof stadium with real, authentic grass in this climate.
The point is - the Super Bowl Manhattan experience going off with very minimal problems strongly benefits the Redskins, the entire DMV area and perhaps some other cold weather cities without retractable roofs.
You have to have a new or recently built stadium or be a great vacation destination for the NFL to even consider giving the game to your city. You have to have approximately 30,000 hotel rooms according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "We know there’s interest in other communities hosting the Super Bowl, Goodell said on Friday morning in New York." "I think the ownership will sit back and review that when we’re done, but we have a very aggressive process in how we select cities. The ability to host the Super Bowl is more and more complicated, more and more complex because of the size and number of events. The infrastructure is very important. There are over 30,000 hotel rooms needed even to host the Super Bowl so there are some communities that may not be able to do it from an infrastructure standpoint, but we know the passion’s there.”
Think about it this way. You complain about it now. Many of you loathe it now. It's not going to get much better over the next 13 years. The Redskins know that and the NFL knows that. The only question is when and where. Clearly, a stadium project is very complicated and the Redskins know that. They also know that the process takes 5-7 years in a modest estimate to get the deal you want and more importantly to deal with all of the complications that will absolutely come up.
Based on some informal conversations, I believe the Redskins are quietly doing their background work on a new site and long-term home. There's no way that Roger Goodell who grew up as a Redskins fan, and has in my eyes strongly supported the Redskins in the "name game" controversy, allows the Redskins to build a new stadium without the promise of a Super Bowl.
There's also no way that Dan Snyder sits on idle as he watches what the Cowboys, Giants and to a lesser degree what the Eagles have. That's just in the NFC East. Nevermind when Snyder and the Redskins play at San Francisco's new Levi's Stadium next year, while also visiting Reliant Stadium in Houston and University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale.
Oh by the way, those three locations are where the next three Super Bowls are. Glendale, then Santa Clara and followed up by Houston. If you don't think Snyder and his management team will be stewing and itching at the grandiose sites of the 49'ers new digs while admiring what the Texans and Cardinals have, you don't know them at all.
I can guarantee you they will. It's part of what the management team does for every road game. They look at what other teams have and they try to figure out a way to enhance FedExField, while also building data for the future.
A future that just might host the Super Bowl at some point between 2020 and 2025. My money is on the earlier dates, but then again - that's why I don't bet.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
The Washington Redskins need talent in all areas, so they should not be of the mindset that only a certain player or type of player would fit in our scheme. I understand that is a commonplace mentality, but I believe you wind up missing out on more talent than it is worth.
Organizations should take talent, and then build or develop the talent. The notion that a player in today's day and age can only fit in one scheme of system is nonsense. There are "ideal" fits, but the NFL is not an ideal world. Take talent, and find a way to use them.
Today, we present five (or more) players on offense that stood out during Reese's Senior Bowl week from the coverage on NFL Network, when you combine practices, the game and the eyes of various talent evaluators along with my own eyes.
1. Jalen Saunders - WR/PR - Oklahoma - Saunders is a small strike of lightning with a little thunder mixed in as well. He's only 5'8" but he's freakishly fast and seems to run terrific routes out of the slot. He got off to a tough start early in the week, dropping a couple of passes and struggling with punts on Monday but as the week developed, Saunders hit his stride.
I saw Saunders use his speed but his route running ability on a couple of vicious double moves against the lengthy Walt Aikens and Lavelle Westbrooks.
If you go back to Oklahoma's impressive Sugar Bowl win over the Alabama Crimson Tide, Saunders had five catches for 75 yards and two touchdowns. On his first score, Saunders ran a very impressive quick out with tight coverage draped on his back inside the red zone and along the sidelines. He made the catch, reached the ball out and over for the score.
Go ahead and watch Saunders 43-yard touchdown in that game, and see how deep the off-man coverage from Oklahoma was (about 12 yards off the line of scrimmage) and how badly beaten the CB was by Saunders for the catch-and-run.
Just one game, but anybody that does THAT against Alabama is worthy of consideration in my eyes. He has something the Redskins don't have anywhere close to enough of. SPEED. He also returns punts, another sore subject last year.
Santana Moss is a free agent and it is very questionable if he will return. Josh Morgan is almost certainly not coming back. The Redskins can have a weapon that they desperately need in Saunders.
2. Jordan Matthews - WR - Vanderbilt - Matthews is 6'2" plus and tipped the scales at 210 pounds in Mobile, but looks bigger and appears to play bigger. He's polished, and physical. He has a little bit of a nasty streak to him, John Harris from The Sideline View website noted that Matthews "ran good routes, consistently caught the ball" against the best Senior Bowl competition.
I saw him drop a pass after doing a brilliant job of getting open on press coverage. However, he did a great job of flashing open quickly and it struck me that Matthews would be a great red zone threat and something that the Redskins are desperately missing. Later in the practice week, I saw Matthews just abuse Lavelle Westbrooks (as he should) off of an inside jam.
If you watched the Senior Bowl game, you saw Matthews run an electric route down the right sideline past another one of those big, physical cornerbacks (Pierre Desir) for a 33-yards over-the-shoulder gain. To be fair, it was a terrific throw by David Fales, but the route and execution was perfect.
3. Charles Sims - RB - West Virginia - I love this kid, and so do many others apparently. A transfer from Houston to West Virginia, Sims has over 200 career receptions. In a league where you can't have enough players doing multiple things well at the same time. He can return kickoffs (as he did in the Senior Bowl) and he also totes the rock pretty effectively.
Sims has 592 career rushing attempts for 3,465 rushing yards (5.85/attempt) and 40 career touchdowns on the ground. That's just rushing. Add in the 203 receptions for 2,108 yards (10.38/reception) and 11 more touchdowns and you just have a hell of a football player.
According to good guy John Harris of The Sideline View, a scout told him that you could use Sims out of the slot and clearly he would be an upgrade a screen offense.
NFL Network's Bucky Brooks said "Sims' smooth running style and natural receiving skills remind me of Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte. When I pitched that comparison to an AFC executive, he agreed with my assessment and told me that he thinks Sims could be a difference maker in a wide-open offense.
An NFC college scouting director pegged Sims as a DeMarco Murray clone, with the kind of explosiveness to ignite an offense that places a premium on getting the ball to the running back in a variety of ways."
4. Tyler Larson - OL - Utah State / Weston Richburg - OL - Colorado State - Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network (@MoveTheSticks) loves Richburg and it is easy to see why. I saw Richburg use his hands pretty well against Ra'Shede Hagemen and 340 pound defensive tackle, Justin Ellis. He seems like more of a tactician and execution guy, than he is anything else.
Bucky Brooks of NFL Network wrote this "Watching Richburg excel in team drills this week, I've been impressed with his understanding of the position and his technical savvy. He has a knack for getting the job done, which will undoubtedly make him a favorite of coaches and scouts in pre-draft meetings."
I liked Larson more than it seems others did, noting that at times he was able to go inch for inch with stud defensive lineman Aaron Donald from Pitt. Later in the week, he did get beat by Donald, but that's not exactly surprising. I saw Larson also winning against Hageman in some practice drills. I thought he executed a nice combo block with fellow OL Kadeem Edwards in one drill. A couple of times Larson showed me how tough he was.
That being said, there were a couple of times where Larson gave up space and the rush, and not just to Donald. Lance Zeirlein of the Sideline report, noted that UCONN DL Shamar Stephen got the best of Larson early in the week.
5. Gabe Jackson OG - Mississippi State - If somehow Notre Dame's Zack Thomas were to slip out of the first round, the Redskins would have virtually no choice to grab him. He's versatile, athletic, experienced and has a terrific, swift punch. However, I am expecting Thomas to go in the top 20 picks and possibly in the top dozen.
That being said, Gabe Jackson would not be a bad consolation prize. The mammoth 6'3" inch plus, 340 pound interior space plugger would be a massive shift in philosophy and body type for the Redskins, especially since Mike Shanahan took over. Jackson is as Mike Mayock repeatedly said is a "gap-scheme" player instead of a zone-scheme fit that the Redskins have utilized over the last four years.
It would be ideal if Jackson shed some weight so that the Redskins could utilize him even better, but I think Jackson could be an interior guard with starter ability for a while. He had a solid week, and I saw him own California DL DeAndre Coleman early in the week, along with being chosen as NFL Network's standout player on Wednesday.
I certainly want to see some more, but an interior offensive lineman that started 52 games in a row in the SEC can't be all that terrible. I wouldn't take Jackson early in the 2nd round, but if they were to trade back or if he were to slip into the 3rd round, you might have yourself a good value pick.
As everybody knows, Chris Chester struggled at times in 2013 and in the 2nd half of road games, the Redskins offensive line often wilted under heavy pressure (at Dallas, at Denver, at Minnesota). Obviously, Robert Griffin III was a big part of the issue, but the bottom line is this - you can't expect 295 - 310 pound athletic offensive lineman to hold up against 325 pound defensive linemen as much as the Redskins needed them too. Especially pass rushers that can get off on the snap of the football with lightning quick movements.
Will Montgomery also struggled at times, and it is possible that Jay Gruden could try and move Kory Lichtensteiger back to offensive center. Lichtensteiger was planning to bulk up his body the last time I spoke with him.
Honorable Mention: TE Arthur Lynch - Georgia, TE - Crockett Gilmore - Colorado State, QB- Jimmy Garappolo - Eastern Illinois, WR - Shaq Evans - UCLA, WR - Robert Herron - Wyoming (@UKRedskin1 reminded me how good he was).
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
The Washington Redskins season is officially on life support. Sure they return to a brand new playing surface at FedExField for three home games in a span of 13 days, and theoretically that could provide an injection of juice to a season that is wasting away.
Here's a problem, among many. The wrong team is coming to DC to try and feel good about their chances of winning. You can never rule anything out in this league, but the San Francisco 49'ers are a much better team on both sides of the football than the Redskins are.
Yes they are only (6-4) with tough back to back losses to Carolina and New Orleans, but who are we kidding? The Redskins would not and could not beat either one of those teams this year, either.
Certainly not at the maddening inconsistent level of play by all three phases and units. The offense is just that. Inconsistent and bordering on disaster when it comes to the passing game and the various sub-plots and headstrong individuals that are associated with that side of the ball.
Special teams has been....well to put it kind, anything but special. Essentially, they've been as bad of a unit as you can probably fathom. The image I have in my head is trying to make an over-sized pig after a mud bath look like Carrie Underwood. It's not working. It's not going to work. It's not good. It's a unmitigated disaster.
The defense continues to get hammered with criticism. They are not a good unit by any measure, but they are not an awful unit by any realistic observation - when you consider they have gone against Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Matthew Stafford, Phillip Rivers, and Tony Romo for half of their schedule.
When not going against some of the blue-chip gunslingers, they've had to face Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte, and the Eagles contingent of Nick Foles, Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy.
Sure they have caught some breaks (Oakland) and with Jay Cutler getting hurt before halftime, but seriously, while I might make way too many excuses for Jim Haslett and the defense, the notion that they should be anything more than a below average defense against the schedule they have faced is simply preposterous.
Especially when you consider that unit has not had a serious infusion of established talent since 2011. Brandon Meriweather is the only significant veteran addition to the starting core in that time. He's missed 17 of the Redskins 26 games in that time and played in parts of two others (Philadelphia 2012, Green Bay 2013).
Sure they added 2nd round pick David Amerson this year, and he has made some big plays, but the rookie has also given up some huge plays as well. So far, in some ways - he is living up to his boom or bust reputation at North Carolina State.
Phillip Thomas, the fourth round pick hybrid safety out of Fresno State, was lost before the first preseason game was even at halftime. He's done for the year. Bacarri Rambo was seriously over-matched in his first two games as a pro against two high octane attacks and was benched. He re-surfaced in Denver and played a very nice game but has not really been a factor since.
During this three year period, the defensive unit has lost Carlos Rogers, LaRon Landry, Adam Carriker (essentially two seasons lost due to injury), Brian Orakpo (almost a full year due to injury), Jarvis Jenkins for his rookie year and Keenan Robinson for a year-and-a-half.
Because of the cap penalty, the Redskins were unable/chose not to bring back Lorenzo Alexander who helped them in a variety of ways on defense and of course was a special teams monster.
If you factor in the lack of infusion (in talent) along with the injuries - you can see why there are so many issues. Mike Shanahan knows it, Jim Haslett knows it. The entire defense knows it. The only ones that don't understand it are the maniacally frustrated and angry fan base who quite honestly should stick to water on game-days.
Anyways, keep blaming it on some phantom theory that the 4-3 would be better or that Jim Haslett and his staff do not know what they are doing. You have to have horses, you have to have studs. You have to have weapons. You'll see them on the field Monday Night. They'll just be dressed in 49'ers uniforms.
I was curious to see how the Redskins defense matched up statistically in realistic terms to opposing offenses and the league wide average. As we wrote about last week, going into the Eagles loss - the Redskins defense was giving up less rushing yards per game and passing yards per game, as we wrote here; than their opponents were racking up against the rest of the league on average. The point is essentially the same. The defense is only "awful" because the league is a offense driven league, and you have had a regime that has invested heavily in the offensive side of the ball.
This week, we take a further look "Inside the Numbers" and walk away with this. The Redskins (as a team) are allowing 31.1 points per game (311/10 games). Of course, you can't count all of those points against the defense as the Redskins have allowed five return touchdowns in 2013, which included a blocked punt, two punt returns, and two interception returns for scores. That's 35 points allowed (including extra points) that are not on the defense. It's only fair to take that number away and charge Haslett's crew with 276 points.
That's 27.6 points per game in reality (276/10 games) and if you take away the extra points (special teams plays, caused by the touchdown allowed) that is another 34 points. If you really want, the net average is 24.2 points per game allowed (242/10 games). I'll go with 27.6 because that is more accurate.
The defense has also scored five touchdowns for the Redskins, which again totals up to 35 points or 16.1% of the Redskins total team points, which is 246.
Naturally, if you are looking at the Washington offense for comparison sake, you take away those 35 points because the offense did nothing to earn them, and you get 211 points scored by the offense (including extra points). That's an average of 21.1 points per game on offense (211/10 games). Works both ways, right?
So you have an offense that is earning a true 21.1 per game average with a defense that is yielding a true average of 27.6 points per game. You have those 35 points that the defense scored, which kind of just are out there somewhere in between both numbers.
According to Joseph White of the Associated Press and via STATS INC., NFL offensive units are scoring an average of 21.4 points per game purely on offense.
Just to do my own research before Sunday's games, I went to every teams' offensive production and charted their actual offensive production. The following is the cold hard numbers (entering Sunday)
Arizona (21 offensive touchdowns, 18 field goals, 20 extra points) = 180 pure offensive points, 200 including extra points - 10 GP (20.0).
Atlanta (23 offensive touchdowns, 17 field goals, 24 extra points) = 189 pure offensive points, 213 including extra points - 11 GP (19.36).
Baltimore (19 offensive touchdowns, 20 field goals, 20 extra points (1-2pt) = 174 pure offensive points, 195 including extra points - 10 GP (19.5).
Buffalo (21 offensive touchdowns, 22 field goals, 22 extra points (2-2 pt) = 192 pure offensive points, 215 including extra points - 11 GP (19.54).
Carolina (26 offensive touchdowns, 14 field goals, 28 extra points) = 198 pure offensive points, 224 including extra points - 10 GP (22.4).
Chicago (26 offensive touchdowns, 19 field goals, 27 extra points, 3-2pt) = 213 pure offensive points, 242 including extra points - 10 GP (24.2).
Cincinnati (28 offensive touchdowns, 15 field goals, 32 extra points) = 213 pure offensive points, 241 including extra points - 11 GP (21.9).
Cleveland (18 offensive touchdowns, 15 field goals, 20 extra points) = 153 pure offensive points, 171 including extra points - 10 GP (17.1).
Dallas (27 offensive touchdowns, 17 field goals, 29 extra points, 1-2pt) = 213 pure offensive points, 241 including extra points - 10 GP (24.1).
Denver (47 offensive touchdowns, 14 field goals, 50 extra points) = 324 pure offensive points, 371 including extra points - 10 GP (37.1).
Detroit (30 offensive touchdowns, 14 field goals, 31 extra points) = 222 pure offensive points, 252 including extra points - 10 GP (25.2).
Green Bay (25 offensive touchdowns, 23 field goals, 27 extra points) = 219 pure offensive points, 244 including extra points - 10 GP (24.4).
Houston (18 offensive touchdowns, 17 field goals, 18 extra points, 1-2pt) = 159 pure offensive points, 178 including extra points - 10 GP (17.8).
Indianapolis (25 offensive touchdowns, 20 field goals, 22 extra points, 3-2pt) = 210 pure offensive points, 238 including extra points - 10 GP (23.8).
Jacksonville (11 offensive touchdowns, 12 field goals, 11 extra points) = 102 pure offensive points, 113 including extra points - 10 GP (11.3).
Kansas City (18 offensive touchdowns, 19 field goals, 25 extra points) = 165 pure offensive points, 183 including extra points - 10 GP (18.3).
Miami (21 offensive touchdowns, 17 field goals, 22 extra points) = 177 pure offensive points, 198 including extra points - 10 GP (19.8).
Minnesota (24 offensive touchdowns, 15 field goals, 27 extra points) = 189 pure offensive points, 213 including extra points - 10 GP (21.3)
New England (25 offensive touchdowns, 24 field goals, 26 extra points) = 222 pure offensive points, 247 including extra points - 10 GP (24.7).
New Orleans (35 offensive touchdowns, 20 field goals, 35 extra points) = 270 pure offensive points, 305 including extra points - 11 GP (27.7)
New York Giants (19 offensive touchdowns, 15 field goals, 21 extra points) = 159 pure offensive points, 178 including extra points - 10 GP (17.8).
New York Jets (15 offensive touchdowns, 23 field goals, 16 extra points) = 159 pure offensive points, 174 including extra points - 10 GP (17.4).
Oakland (20 offensive touchdowns, 11 field goals, 23 extra points) = 153 pure offensive points, 173 including extra points - 10 GP. (17.3)
Philadelphia (31 offensive touchdowns, 17 field goals, 31 extra points) = 237 pure offensive points, 268 including extra points - 11 GP (24.4).
Pittsburgh (21 offensive touchdowns, 22 field goals, 20 extra points, 1-2pt) = 180 pure offensive points, 214 including extra points - 10 GP (21.4).
St. Louis (20 offensive touchdowns, 15 field goals, 23 extra points, 2 - 2 pt) = 165 pure offensive points, 187 including extra points - 10 GP (18.7).
San Diego (23 offensive touchdowns, 20 field goals, 24 extra points) = 198 pure offensive points, 221 including extra points - 10 GP (22.1).
San Francisco (26 offensive touchdowns, 14 field goals, 29 extra points) = 198 pure offensive points, 224 including extra points - 10 GP (22.4).
Seattle (31 offensive touchdowns, 24 field goals, 32 extra points) = 258 pure offensive points, 289 including extra points - 11 GP (26.3).
Tampa Bay (18 offensive touchdowns, 15 field goals, 20 extra points) = 153 pure offensive points, 171 including extra points - 10 GP (17.1).
Tennessee (23 offensive touchdowns, 15 field goals, 26 extra points) = 183 pure offensive points, 206 including extra points - 10 GP (20.6).
Washington (26 offensive touchdowns, 10 field goals, 26 extra points, 2-2 pt) = 186 pure offensive points, 214 including extra points - 10 GP (21.4).
I have a total of 7,003 points scored by the 32 teams on offense only (including offensive touchdowns, extra points on those scores, two-point conversions and field goals). I have the total amount of games played by these teams entering Sunday at 326, for an average of BAM, 21.4 points per game.
What that means is that the Redskins offense is just slightly below the league average (21.6 - 21.4) and the Redskins defense is giving up six more points per game than the league average scored (21.4 - 27.4).
The Redskins' ten opponents, with Philadelphia counting twice, have accumulated 2,493 points over 102 cumulative games. That's an average of 24.44 point per game. If you only count the Eagles once (some people are picky), you get 2,225 cumulative points divided by 91 games played, you still get an average of 24.45 offensive points scored per game.
All of a sudden, that true defensive average of 27.4 against their schedule and the offensive talent they have faced is not so bad. (27.4 - 24.45). We're talking about a freaking field goal.
As I have said all along, the Redskins defense is not great. Or good. It's a below average defense with below average talent. I believe that in my heart. The numbers prove my case. If you are willing to go "Inside the Numbers."
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com -- www.twitter.com/russellmania980
The (2-4) Washington Redskins head to beautiful Denver, Colorado and Sports Authority Field at Mile High to take on Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (6-1) on Sunday at 4:25 PM ET.
You can listen to all afternoon and evening long coverage beginning at NOON with Larry Michael's Redskins Gameplan on ESPN 980, followed by the official Redskins Radio Network pregame show at 1 PM, hosted by Kevin Sheehan and featuring John Keim, myself and a cast of hundreds live from Denver.
Larry, Sonny Jurgensen, Rick "Doc" Walker and Chris Cooley bring you all the in-game action with yours truly at halftime and Al Galdi wraps it all up until about 10:30 or so on the official Redskins postgame show.
This is a shock the world type game for the Redskins if they can somehow pull this off. Logic and common sense tells you that they won't be able to do it, but I wouldn't be so sure. I think they have a shot of pulling the upset IF they do 8 or 9 things out of 10 right. What I mean by that is you don't have to be perfect, but you damn well better operate at a very high level of efficiency in all phases.
With all of that being said, let's go "Inside the Numbers" for a game that could define a season or be what 99 percent of America is expecting. The Redskins have been installed as roughly 12 point underdogs. I believe this puts a very talented team on a mission.
I. Mike Shanahan returns to Denver as a head coach for the first time since being fired by the Broncos.
Shanahan won two Super Bowls as Broncose Head Coach and is somehow almost scoffed at by some members of the media for not winning a Super Bowl without John Elway. Well....Elway did not win a championship without Shanahan either. Mike was the head coach from 1995-2008 after serving as an assistant with the team at a few different positions. He also left and went to San Francisco and was the head coach of the then Los Angeles Raiders for a short period.
This will be the first time since September 24, 1989 with the LA Raiders that Shanahan will face the Broncos as a head coach. Shanahan is actually 2-1 against the Broncos in his head coaching career. Against teams the comprise the AFC West, he is 60-34, but only 23-25 on the road including a win at Oakland this year.
The Redskins beat Denver in 2009 at FedExField, the last time these two teams met. Shanahan was in his one-year hiatus planning his return while Josh McDaniels was the Broncos head coach. Shanahan was (146-91, .616) in his 14 years at the helm, with an (8-5) postseason record. His 138 regular season wins are the most in Broncos history. Oddly enough, two of those five postseason losses came at Indianapolis during Manning's early career dominance, and helped formulate Shanahan's thought process of running at "34" defense. If and when Manning has struggled, for the most part it has come against those fronts. If you don't remember, New England, Pittsburgh and San Diego all had playoff success against Manning playing a 3-4 defense.
A win against his former team would be his 170th career regular season victory and his 178th overall win. The Redskins beat Shanahan and Denver at the old Mile High Stadium on November 18th 2001, 17-10.
This is also the return of Keith Burns to Denver where he served as assistant special teams coach until last year, helping a very talented group perenially be at the top of the special teams food chain. Burns also won two Super Bowls with Shanahan as a player and a special teams standout. Kory Lichtensteiger played in Denver in 2008. Tyler Polumbus in 2008-2009 and even Chris Baker was here in 2009.
Linebackers coach Bob Slowik was Shanahan's Defensive Coordinator in 2007-08. Jacob Burney was the Broncos Defensive Line Coach from 2002-2008 and Bobby Turner was here from 1995-2009, before joining Shanahan in Washington as the Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs.
II. Peyton Manning and how you attack him.
In the Broncos loss at Indianapolis last Sunday night, the Colts twice stopped the Broncos on 3rd-and-1 for no gain on two run plays. A pretty astonishing feat, considering the Broncose are converting at a 52.8% clip (47-89), which is the best in the NFL. I also saw the Colts playing a lot of two safety looks with man-press and sometimes where they didn't even Jame the Broncos receivers.
Here's the thing. Denver is going to make some big plays in this game. They know it. The Redskins know it. Everybody knows it. Nobody is expecting anything other than the Broncos scoring a minimum of 30 points. Jim Haslett probably knows it. Here's a note directly from ESPN.com NFL Nation Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold on the Broncos offense.
"If the Broncos score 34 points against the Redskins, Denver will have the league record for points scored in a season’s first eight weeks. But on the flip side, the Broncos are currently allowing 28.1 points per game and if that stands it would be the second-highest total by any team to reach the playoffs in league history. The ’07 Patriots currently have the eight-game scoring record at 331 points, just ahead of the 2000 Rams, which scored 330 points through eight games."
The Broncos have Eric Decker with 627 receiving yards (25 career TD's) and Demaryius Thomas (610 rec yards,6'3", 229). Oh don't forget about Wes Welker (474 yards, 8 touchdowns) and the explosive Julius Thomas (422 yards, ) at tight-end who has been terrorizing opposing defenses. The Broncos are the first team in NFL history to have four players total at least 35 receptions through seven games.
I think you have to not only pressure but dial up some creative blitzes. The Redskins will be without Reed Doughty and Brandon Meriweather for this game, which obviously hurts. To me you blitz up the middle or the A-gap on either side of the center. It is the shortest and most direct path to Manning and maybe with a less than one-hundred percent ankle, he's off just enough for a key turnover or a less than Manning like day.
Directly from Legwold at ESPN.com again "It looked like the Colts were far more aggressive rushing quarterback Peyton Manning and got to him far more times than the Broncos’ first six opponents did, and the video backs it up. Manning was sacked, hurried or hit while throwing on 17 of his dropbacks against the Colts. That was his highest total since 2009. He wasn’t pressured on more than eight dropbacks in any of the Broncos’ first six games. And in an indication it may be time to use more two-tight end looks even when they want to throw, on plays with Chris Clark and Louis Vasquez at the two tackle spots, Manning has been sacked or hurried on 24 percent of his dropbacks. With anyother combination of tackles, Manning has been sacked or hurried on just 13 percent of his dropbacks."
I also believe the Redskins need to have some double fire rush's with Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo lining up on the same side to create a jail break situation. LT Chris Clark is nowhere close to all everything Ryan Clady, so this is a break for Washington. We'll discuss another break in just a little bit, but I would be disappointed if the Redskins do not walk away with 3 sacks and say 15 hits or serious pressures on Manning.
Here's the thing. You might be able to figure out Manning for a while, but eventually he picks you apart (at least during the regular season). Manning and the Broncos led the NFL with a + 161 scoring differential in the second half of games last year. This year, they also lead the league with a + 77 scoring margin. They've outscored opponents (469-231) in the second half in that span and have only been outscored in three of the 23 games during that time.
Manning also has 49 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. He threw 37 touchdowns last year and already has 25 this year, to mark the 2nd highest total in NFL history through seven games.
The Broncos 298 points is the highest total in NFL history for a teams first seven games, and they have gone for 40 points plus in four games so far.
III. The Redskins offense vs. the Broncos Defense
The Broncos will not have former Redskins CB and long-time standout Champ Bailey in this game. He's been banged up with foot issues all year and re-injured himself last week. That means it is time to take advantage of a secondary that has allowed the 30th most net yards in the league.
The Broncos two safeties are Rahim Moore who infamously misplayed the game-tying touchdown against Baltimore late in regulation last January and Duke Ihenacho. Ihenacho is a 2nd year product out of San Jose State.
Quite simply, if you are Robert Griffin III and Pierre Garcon - you have to be licking your chops. Throw in Jordan Reed for good measure. Leonard Hankerson has been dealing with a minor foot injury but it would be nice if he could get back in the end zone, or Josh Morgan and Santana Moss.
The Redskins need to take some deep shots in this game, and I would do it off play-action on the very first play of the game to try and loosened up the Broncos expected loaded fronts.
Here's a couple of examples that might work. Against Indianapolis, the Broncos showed a couple of different looks and got hurt on two big plays. Former Maryland product Darius Heyward-Bey ran and caught a 27-yard dig route inside the Broncos-10 yard line against a zone coverage over the top with man underneath. The Broncos only rushed four, and didn't get to Andrew Luck. Simply when you get this opportunity, you have to win.
Later, the Colts showed a jumbo look with an extra offensive lineman and ran a neat play that featured Bey faking a reverse and stopping before arrowing back out. The Colts were able to recognize it was man coverage, and Bey basically dropped back to his original spot to the left of Luck who threw a quick receiver screen or smoke to the left flat and it went for a touchdown.
Not only are the Broncos 30th in the NFL in net yards per game on defense at 397.0 but they're giving up 5.9 yards per play (28th) and 28.1 points pergame (27th). Their pass defense or lack there of, is yielding 319.9 YPG, but a lot of that can be attibuted to no Champ Bailey and Von Miller for most of the season.
Two things that jumped out was that the Broncos early in the game were able to tighten up inside their own 10-yard line by pressuring Andrew Luck. Derek Wolfe (95) had a terrific pressure on a Luck incompletion and on the very next play, DL Terrance Knighton had a sack as he torched the offensive guard with a swim move for the sack. This forced the Colts from a 2nd-and-goal from the three-yard line into afield goal. The point is don't waste any goal-to-go opportunities.
While the Broncos will be without Ryan Clady and Champ Bailey, they do get Miller back. Miller looked pretty sharp to me, on one sequence drawing a false start and then on the next play - he was engaged with RT Gosder Cherilus and ripped off of him to blow up a run. Miller will mostly line up over or near Tyler Polumbus, who has put together a much better year than many realize.
Defensive lineman Shaun Phillips is also having a great year so far with 6.5 sacks, and starting DE Robert Ayers has 4.5 sacks. In other words, the Redskins offensive line could be in for a very long day.
IV. Trindon Holliday - Is he more dangerous to the Redskins chances than Peyton Manning?
The Redskins have allowed three special teams touchdowns in their last threee games for the first time in franchise history. A blocked punt for a touchdown in Oakland, followed by punt return touchdowns against both Dallas and Chicago. Elias Sports Bureau, which provided that statistic could not find a time thru their database in which a team has allowed a special teams touchdown in four consecutive games.
Enter the explosive Trindon Holliday. Found off the scrap heap by the Broncos last year (a staff that included Keith Burns) Holliday is lightning fast and dangerous no matter when he touches the rock. He's dangerous for both sides.
Last week, the Colts did a pretty good job against him, kicking right down the middle after a field goal and nine yards deep. Holliday was lassoed by good Indianapolis coverage at the 11-yard line. On the next punt return, Holliday caught one at the Broncos-7 yard line (in the middle of the field) and ran towards the left sideline where he was stripped for a turnover. The Colts cashed that in on the next play for a touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, Holliday busted one up the same sideline for a huge return that flipped field position. You might remember this as the collision between him and Pat McAfee of Indianapolis.
Holliday is averaging 34.9 yards per return on kickoffs (10) and 11.4 per return on punts (19). YIKES. The Redskins are allowing an average of 21.4 per kickoff return and 21.6 per punt return. They are the only team in the NFL to have that out-of-whack stat line, and they might be the only team in the history of mankind to allow more yards per punt return, than yards per kick return.
Just in case all of that doesn't scare you -- Holliday has returned six punts or kickoffs for touchdowns in his 15 games played with the Broncos. SIX. That included the two in the Broncos postseason loss. He has recorded a touchdown per every four games played (24 career games, six TD). That's the highest special teams return touchdown rate in NFL history.
Don't forget about Broncos PK Matt Prater is terrific and he's knocked down all 11 of his field goal attempts this year. Punter Dustin Colquitt is pretty good as well with a (44.7/40.6) average on 25 punts. Colquitt set a Broncos net punting average record for the second year in a row in 2012, while ranking third in the NFL with a 42.1 net. The Broncos also allowed only 6.0 yards per punt return last year, which was 2nd in the NFL.
**The Redskins have allowed 578 passing yards in their last three games (192.6/game). In their first three games of this season, they allowed 999 passing yards or (333.0/game).
***According to Scott Kacsmar from FootballOutsiders.com, with Peyton Manning at the helm - the Colts lost 23 fumbles in his last 64 games as their quarterback from 2007-2010. In the first 23 games with Manning in charge of the Broncos, Denver has lost 24 fumbles. Obviously, that is a surrounding cast issue, but still somewhat relevant against a Redskins team that needs to generate turnovers.
***Per Evan Silva of Rotoworld, Alfred Morris has 432 yards on his last 80 carries (5.40 YPC) since Week 2 at Green Bay.
The Washington Redskins (1-3) are fresh off the bye and visit the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) on Sunday Night Football right here on ESPN 980 AM, 94.3 and 92.7 FM, ESPN980.com and SIRIUSXM Radio.
You've heard the terms "Dallas Week" and "We Want Dallas," and hopefully for the Redskins sake and the realistic hopes of a season, they give the fans something to be happy about on a short night of sleep into Monday morning.
The Redskins beat the Cowboys twice last year after getting swept in somewhat heartbreaking fashion in 2011. In order to win the division this year, I would argue a second straight sweep of the Cowboys is almost mandatory.
With all of that as a backdrop, we go Inside the Numbers for some of the key stats and matchups and things we might be able to see unfold on Sunday night.
I. The Redskins offense must use more deception and stay on the field.
The Redskins offense is based off the premise of deception. It's very simple, yet very essential. Deception works in many ways from read option gives and pulls, along with zone read play action pop passes to wide receiver reverse motion, bootlegs and full house backfields.
Expect to see plenty of it on Sunday night, as the Cowboys secondary (every time I see it) is just awful when defending some sort of play fake or deception. Another way the Redskins can attack the Cowboys defensive backs is on double moves and back shoulder throws. I saw Morris Claiborne get beat badly on both last week, one for a long gain and one for a touchdown. Brandon Carr was in coverage on Santana Moss' back shoulder fade in Dallas last Thanksgiving.
One area Robert Griffin III and the Redskins offense absolutely needs to improve on is third downs. Overall, they are (16-50, 32 %) but as our friend John Keim (@John_Keim) wrote for ESPN.com - Griffin has been sporadic at best on these key down situations. According to Keim, he is only (23- 44) for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Every teams struggles in third-and-long but just to illustrate, the Redskins lead the league in 3rd-and-9 conversion attempts, of which they were shut out on in the four games. They have 26 attempts on 3rd & 7 + according to Redskins PR statistics. They're (5-26) in those situations. They have less attempts on third down and six or less (24) than third and seven plus (26), as I wrote about here http://bit.ly/1bON8FA.
There are many ways to get better. The addition of Jordan Reed will help, after he missed Oakland. He was really coming on strong. Leonard Hankerson is second on the team with 12.3 yards per catch. According to ESPN stats & Info and via Redskins.com; http://bit.ly/18SdB0Y, 10 of Hankerson's 15 receptions have resulted in a first down.
A part of third down success is what you do on first down. The Redskins according to NFL GSIS have run the ball on first-and-ten only 41.67% of the time. That means they have passed it 58.33% of the time. I think they need a little more balance. Of course, part of the issue is that they have passed so much more than ideally they would like because of game situations.
Just to back that up, the Redskins have run 266 offensive plays and Robert Griffin III has attempted 170 passes. That's 63.9 % of their offensive plays that they have attempted to pass. If you add in the seven times that Griffin has been sacked, the percentage jumps to 66.5%.
While I would strongly favor a commitment to run by the Redskins, I also am torn by the fact that I just love the passing matchups in this game for Washington. Morris Claiborne got beat on a long double move by Eric Decker of the Broncos, a move he seems susceptible too. He also got beat for a touchdown on a back shoulder fade.
Remember how the Redskins attacked the Cowboys on Thanksgiving? Plenty of read option, a long bomb to Aldrick Robinson out of a dual split backfield because the safety Danny McCray was caught cheating with his eyes into the backfield. Santana Moss also had a back shoulder fade touchdown to cap off the second quarter onslaught. Not to mention, Pierre Garcon's huge post crosser and run for a long score and Niles Paul tumbling touchdown catch and run on 3rd-and-1 when the Cowboys were selling out for a run.
II. The Cowboys have a ton of weapons and get another one back to add to the party.
Miles Austin has missed the Cowboys last two games but has 15 catches for 125 yards in three games this season. Rookie Terrance Williams caught 11 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown in Austin's absence. Cole Beasley caught seven passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. (Per Todd Archer, ESPN.com Dallas) http://es.pn/1aiBsnQ.
Austin has (32-429-3) in his career against the Redskins.
III. One way for the Redskins to lose the game (or win it) is by allowing/not allowing Tony Romo to dance around the pocket and break down coverage.
Romo had a simply insane 3rd/10 conversion to one of his favorite targets, Jason Witten. The passing play was only good for 13 yards and the first down, but Romo from the time the ball was snapped until the time that he released his pass, had a unofficial time of 9.1 seconds on my first timing and 9.42 on my 2nd timing of the play.
IV. Don't expect this one to be 13-10.
Through 5 weeks of the NFL season, teams have combined to score 3,566 points. That's tied for the most points scored through 5 weeks (2011). That's 713.2 points per week, which based on a full 16-game schedule is 45.57 points per game between the two teams on average. Two weeks ago, the NFL began the bye calender which means their were only 15 games in Week 4 and 14 games in Week 5. If you take away those three games because of byes, you get a per game average of 46.31.
V. One way to level the playing field is of course by creating turnovers.
The Cowboys and Redskins have both been prone at times this year to key turnovers at the worst times. It levels anyone's margin for error and Dallas felt the wrath of the turnover parade against Jim Haslett's guys in the worst way last year. The Cowboys threw three interceptions in the division clincher, leading to seven Redskins points.They had three turnovers in the game at what is now AT & T Stadium. Those three turnover (London Fletcher INT, DeAngelo Hall INT and Josh Wilson/DJ Gomes fumble & recovery) led to 14 points off of Dallas mistakes.
The point is if you can create turnovers, that's awesome. Converting them into points is even better. The Redskins next opponent (Chicago) is really good at this, as according to ESPN Stats & Info, they've recorded 207 points off turnovers since the start of last year. The next closest team is New Orleans at 53 less points (154).
The Redskins this year have created seven turnovers, but have also scored three touchdowns on those plays directly. The defense has generated 21 points on the very same play as the turnover (DeAngelo Hall fumble return, Hall INT, Amerson INT).
Overall, they've scored 34 points off of turnovers this year and 113 last year for a 20 game total of 147. I am not exactly sure where that lands overall in the NFL since last year (various websites list different numbers), but clearly they are not far behind 2nd place, since the start of the 2012 season.
VI. Some Cowboys facts and figures. The Good, The Bad and The ???
Tony Romo is (57-41) as a Cowboys starting quarterback, with a (30-20) record at home. He is 18-17 in his career against the NFC East. His record is (26-14) when he throws one interception in a game. On the flip side, if the Redskins can get him to throw more than one pick, he's (4-14). His record in games that were played in the month of October? (8-13).
The Cowboys overall since moving into AT&T Stadium in 2009 are (2-7) in October games there, and (4-5) in prime time. The stadium should be fully closed by the time kickoff comes because of a high probability of thunderstorms. If that's the case they are (10-8) in this palace.
The Cowboys have played in 15 games since the start of the 2012 season that have been decided by seven points-or-less. That is the most in the NFL during that span. They are (8-7) in that span during that time. Of course last week was one of these games, a 51-48 home defeat to the Denver Broncos.
Since 2005 - the Cowboys and Redskins have played 16 games and have split them, each team winning eight times each.
Final Score Prediction - Washington Redskins - 34 Dallas Cowboys - 31 (Washington + 5)
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
Every day at Redskins practice, we are assigned to cover a team and to try and track to some degree 90 players and a coaching staff/organization that doesn't exactly like to reveal a whole lot of information. That's fine. It is what it is. Some organizations are revealing and open, some are not.
Often we are left to guess and make our own judgements, because even if you get the help you are left wondering what agenda is in the message that you are given.
I say we cover 90 players (during training camp) but in essence we cover one PLAYER, and then 89 guys vying for the hearts of many and a positive tweet or two. If they have a really good day, they might actually get praised in a blog somewhere.
With that being said, I think we can safely say who that one player is......Tevita Stevens.
No I am only joking. All apologies to the Stevens family, it's not him. Of course, it is Robert Griffin III.
So with that, I am charged with paying special attention to the franchise quarterback at the expense of important drills like one on one periods between lineman on both sides of the ball or running backs versus linebackers.
Griffin III was cleared to return at the start of camp, which simply meant that he could continue to do football related activities in whatever fashion Mike and Kyle Shanahan decided for him. He participates in daily 7-on-7 periods and individual drills, along with various other activities. He does not participate in full team drills.
I am not a coach or a doctor, just a guy with two partially trained eyes and a forum to tell you what I see and think. I am not saying that I am right, but I know what looks normal and fluid versus what looks awkward or uncomfortable.
I closely observed Griffin's footwork during Tuesday's practice, without the benefit of being able to watch the video tape back like he and the coaches can do. In my one crack at seeing his every throw, I was much more interested in his footwork and leg movements, rather than his accuracy or the result of the play. Honestly, I could not care any less. However, to give you a more colorful picture, I did chart the results of what I saw.
During the early portion of Tuesday's workout - Griffin performed some quarterback unit drills and I thought he looked spry and bouncy. He drew a loud ovation for a very nice throw and catch connection to Santana Moss. He planted well on the few throws in this period and Mike Shanahan had a big smile as Griffin "low-fived" him and then the quarterback took off down the field in a fast jog to congratulate Moss for a job well done.
The greater point is that he looked different than I had witnessed in a brief period on Monday -- a good different.
His accuracy and mental knowledge is not in question, it is simply the physical part of the game to make sure that Griffin is ready to go for a long grind of the season. I thought he looked good on Saturday, an improvement from what I witnessed on Friday.
On Tuesday, after the initial period that looked good - I closely honed in on Griffin's lower foot and leg movements. His first pass in 7's was a completed dump off to Niles Paul. I observed a good, but not great thrust or push off his surgically repaired leg.
His 2nd attempt was a completion on a nice dig route to Leonard Hankerson to the right side. I didn't really see Griffin push off hard, but he looked smooth in my opinion in his weight transfer.
Griffin's third snap and throw was a incomplete pass right towards me on the crowd side of the sideline. He fired it high and it was just a rocket that was slightly off target to Dezmond Briscoe. I looked up as the ball was coming right at me, so I did not see his footwork but I can safely say this - Griffin has not lost any velocity on his fastball.
On Griffin's final pass of his first round, he completed a short dump off to Roy Helu to the left side before Kirk Cousins came in for two completed passes.
When Griffin III came back in, I noticed a difference in how he was moving. He hit Logan Paulsen on a short completion in which he planted his right foot, but didn't really push off strongly. I thought Griffin made a hopping motion to some degree. On Griffin's sixth passing attempt, he drifted to his right and hit Jordan Reed on a short dump pass. He looked very awkward and appeared visibly upset with something after the play. He was pretty frustrated to anybody that was watching.
What is not known is what Griffin III was frustrated about. Was he in any kind of pain, or was he mad at himself for some sort of breakdown in the play structure?
On Griffin's next throw, he executed another short pass to Helu but clearly did not step into the throw and once again looked unnatural or awkward in my eyes. Griffin's 8th throw was a drop by Reed, in which he planted his back foot and whipped his leg around in a similar but less noticeable fashion to how he was throwing before surgery.
Griffin's 9th passing attempt was complete to Aldrick Robinson, but it was very clear and easy to see Griffin dragging his right foot on the ground when shifting forward in his motion. It didn't look like anything I had seen so far, and it just appeared to be strange. His tenth and final throw was a completion in which he once again dragged his right foot into the ground, but in a less pronounced manner.
The bottom line is this. It's all part of the rehab process. I get that, but in my eyes Griffin III has quite a long way to go before he looks anything close to the phenom that he was before the injury. He still has a considerable road to walk, and that is not unexpected.
Bruce Allen admitted on ESPN980 this week that he was somewhat surprised that Griffin III was actually medically cleared and they were without a doubt not fully expecting him to be ready for game action and extensive practices.
This doesn't mean he won't be ready to go for September 9th against the Eagles, but the longer it takes for Griffin to be cleared to participate in full team drills lessens the common thought that he is a shoe-in to be the Redskins starting quarterback in Week 1.
I am putting it somewhere between a 10 - 20 % percent chance that Kirk Cousins is the Redskins quarterback that night, where as a month ago - before actually seeing the plan they have for him and witnessing his lower body mechanics I would have said that Griffin was a 95 - 100% chance to start.
I understand my analysis is not going to be greeted well by Redskins nation, but these are simply my observations and clearly a lot of movements can improve over time. Of course, Griffin III is always subject to a setback of some type which would be much worse than any news I could possibly deliver.
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980
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 Washington Redskins endured plenty of criticism last year. Some of it was deserved, some completely unfair but perception is often much more powerful than reality.
The organization was marching to their first NFC Eastern Division Championship since 1999 and all anybody could really talk about was the health of Robert Griffin III and the health of the FedExField playing surface. Even after they won the division on an electric Sunday night, the playing conditions after three December home games were a hot button topic. In the aftermath of the Seattle playoff loss, the burning topic of how sloppy the field was and what impact did it have on Robert Griffin's re-injury and Chris Clemons' torn ACL was an enormous national story.
We were all left with many questions, most of which have gone unanswered.
Should the Redskins put in field turf? What can be done? What did you think of the playing conditions? Is the surface safe? These were all questions the media and you were asking and inevitably the answers coming from the man that matters most (Mike Shanahan) was that the conditions were much better at field level than what it appeared to be on television or from a distant eye in the crowd at FedEx.
No matter the reason, no matter the impact both past and present, the Redskins organization took it upon themselves to fix a good amount of the problems. On Tuesday, ESPN 980 received a first-hand look at the progress and the plan that is in place.
Many of the changes won't be noticeable to the naked eye, so in a nutshell over a lunch meeting and tour with several Redskins officials - this is what is going to happen and what has already taken place.
**The Redskins discovered that the "root" of the problem was not the surface itself, but what was underneath. What was under the sod is what they feel provided an untenable situation moving forward.
A senior Redskins official told ESPN 980 that a "layer of silt formed" which prevented water from percolating and to not be able to get to the roots. The problem also did not allow for proper drainage. Silt is described as a mixture of debris, grass clippings and other materials.
The Redskins attacked the problem by excavating the entire field at the base, putting in fresh sand, adding a few extra inches to the sand base, rebuilding the "crown" of the surface and adding new drainage mechanisms along the sidelines. The organization last performed a major field renovation four years ago.
Behind the Redskins' and visitors' benches, there are now two strips of cement walkways in spots that used to be just an extension of the grass surface during the nice weather, and slippery and dangerous mud during the inclement weather periods. One of the strips of cement will actually go under the "dream seats" as the Redskins call them and has new drainage vents.
On the strip of cement (which will be rubberized) closest to the field, another underground drainage line or system will allow for sufficient drainage (this sits on the field side of the path) and will prevent the sideline areas that players stand on and team personnel walk and run on, from being an absolute quagmire.
***On June 5th, the Redskins per team officials, will lay down a brand new complete surface that they are currently raising on the eastern shore of Maryland. The Redskins are even using a different type of sod going from the old "Tif Sport" to a new sod they called "Latitude 36" which has been tested on the east coast under similar weather conditions.
**One other significant step that the Redskins are taking for the first time in the history of FedExField is that they are doing a complete re-sod of the middle of the playing surface directly after the November 3rd home game against the San Diego Chargers. The re-sod procedure will include the areas from the "bottom of the numbers" on each side of the field spanning the entire length of the field from end zone to end zone.
**Redskins team officials compared the planned improvements to what you see (or don't see) in December & January in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field. However as @HTTR24_7 and others point out on twitter, the Eagles use a different type of surface called "Desso Grassmaster." Another interesting fact is that, for the first time in several years, no college football games are scheduled to be held at FedExField and while a soccer game will probably be added to the schedule, the facility will be preserved for Redskins home games.
***The Redskins have not renovated the base of the surface in four years, and they have never re-sodded the field as they will do this year, which they feel will give them the best chance to provide a world-class surface for a championship contender. As one official told ESPN 980, "We want to be the best in everything we do. We have to provide the best surface we can. We're always trying to be the best."
**As for field turf - it's not happening. Mike Shanahan doesn't like it, and that's really all that matters. Redskins officials insist that they made this decision on their own, and not because they were forced to do so. One said "this is our decision, there was no mandate. Nobody's called us."
**Another item of interest - for the critics that blasted the Redskins for the putrid field conditions late last season, team officials say that that the NFL personally inspects and approves every field surface before every game, and essentially certifies the playing field. The league did this on the Thursday before the Seattle playoff game, and had the ability to demand sweeping changes, but did not.
**One last nugget of information that I found interesting - a member of the stadium management team who is very involved in the building of the Redskins' new training facility in Richmond, Virginia says the fields are being built in Richmond with the same exact specifications and 'crown' as FedExField has. Why? Mike Shanahan believes that if players are practicing and playing on different surfaces with opposite dimensions, the timing and rhythm of say a quarterback and wide receiver can be affected. He wants it the same exact way.
That, along with the refusal to go with field turf, should give you another few examples of not only who is really in charge, but also how deep the head coach's thought process into winning football goes. The Redskins management team feels that they are taking steps every day and every year, to make the organization the best it can be on the field and off the field.
Day one of NFL Mardi Gras is upon us, as the league celebrated their version of a "Happy New Year" at 4 PM Eastern on Tuesday. I don't know about you, but I could just picture Roger Goodell and John Mara of the Giants with a big, fat stogie in hand, feet kicked up on desk (together or separate) saying "YUP, we screwed them good again."
The Redskins, as expected have done very little as I post this, and are not expected to be prime-time players. That's because as Bruce Allen referred to it as a "travesty of fairness," Washington began serving the 2nd year of an NFL-NFLPA imposed prison sentence, by taking away 18 million dollars in cap space once again.
As ESPN 980 first reported on Monday night, the Redskins were credited with 816, 000 under the 2013 cap because of unearned incentives, and sources told us that the adjusted salary cap was set at 110.09 million, while non penalized teams were just north of 123 million.
The Redskins saved a rough estimate of about 2 million dollars by a re-structure to the contract of Santana Moss. They could have saved 5 million dollars this year by letting him go, but that would have taken away Washington's leading touchdown scorer & a great locker room presence. The key, as Mark Maske of the Washington Post tweeted, is that the Redskins did not have to extend Moss' deal which expires after this upcoming season.
Washington essentially did the same type of re-structure to Adam Carriker's contract on Monday, saving a few million dollars by converting a portion of Carriker's base salary into incentives, which does not count against the 2013 cap. Carriker made it clear to ESPN 980 on Monday when we spoke by phone that he accepted the arrangement because he wanted to help the Redskins this year, in dealing with what he labeled as a unfair cap penalty.
I can speak to Carriker's situation, more than Moss (he has not returned repeated texts/phone calls) - but I believe both are the same. Neither player had base converted to guaranteed bonus in the transactions, so they were absolutely helping the Redskins in many ways.
This should not be surprising, as they are two pretty unselfish players. Not only that, but as Mike Shanahan said on Monday "If you get too creative, it comes back to haunt you. We try to do things the right way, not try to structure things out into the future where it come back to bite you three (or) four years from now. You do that, you don't do things the right way," Shanahan said.
"We are not going to mortgage the future, because of something that has been done to us today," Shanahan said on Monday at Redskins Park.
**One move the Redskins were able to make on Tuesday, was re-signing punter Sav Rocca. ESPN 980 was first to report that the two sides had agreed to a two year contract. Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun reported that the financials were 2.24 million with a 324 K signing bonus.
The 38-year old Rocca wanted to come back, but the two sides had made very little progress until Monday and continued the momentum into today. The move ensures that the Redskins will have all three specialists (Kai Forbath - PK, Nick Sundberg - LS, and Sav Rocca - P) in place to start 2013, under new coordinator, Keith Burns.
***A couple of developments on the free agent front look like this. It appears that Lorenzo Alexander is almost assuredly gone. Where he will wind up is still a question. He was reportedly in talks with the Arizona Cardinals, and had interest from the San Francisco 49'ers and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Alexander was very vague in his reply via text, telling ESPN 980 "haven't decided." One of his agent's tweeted that he has a new team. Another one of his agent's told ESPN 980 twice via text, "no decision yet." This much we know - barring a sudden last minute change of heart on one end or the other - Alexander no longer will be a Redskins captain, very likely by Wednesday.
The only possible scenario that would exist to change that is if the Redskins step up at the last minute with a much improved offer than they are currently offering. In other words, did Lorenzo's agent try one last desperate attempt by tweeting "New teams for clients ...@onemangang97" before he actually decided on a new team or does it simply mean - the decision has already been made to leave the Redskins and he now just has to make the choice between two new teams.
The Steelers interest makes all the sense in the world, because of Danny Smith and the 3-4 defensive scheme that is the father of the Redskins scheme. However, I don't believe they have enough money, as they are reportedly not even able to make a legitimate offer to their own top free agents like Mike Wallace (Miami) & CB Keenan Lewis.
The Arizona Cardinals appear to be the front runner, and rumors all day had the Cardinals hot in pursuit of Alexander and Josh Cribbs, who is also represented by Alexander's agent and who is one of the top return men in NFL history. The Cards might be saying, we have to win every week on specials and defense because our quarterback absolutely stinks.
The 49'ers are well...the 49'ers and that doesn't need much explanation. It is interesting to note that San Francisco visits Fed Ex Field this upcoming season, so Alexander would have a return trip to Washington.
**One final note for today, veteran DE Kedric Golston re-signed with the Redskins. The deal, confirmed by ESPN 980 is for three years, and we have learned that it is worth a maximum of 5.2 million if all incentives and scenarios are met. In all likely hood, it will end up being worth in the 3.5 - 4 million dollar range. Golston gets a signing bonus north of 300,000. It's a great deal for Golston, who is also extremely close to Alexander and maybe that changes something at the last minute.
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980
Mike Shanahan raised more than a few eyebrows last week at his season ending Monday press conference, for more than just his comments on Robert Griffin III
After the Redskins were dealt what most thought (and probably is) a crippling blow on the eve of free-agency last year, a 36 million dollar league imposed salary cap space penalty(spread over two years), most thought that Washington was doomed for the next several years.
I can’t say that thought, combined with no first round picks in 2013 and 2014 – didn’t cross my mind. However it wasn’t a serious thought in my convoluted brain, because I strongly believe the wrong way to build is through spending boatloads of money.I was and still am much more concerned about missing a few great potential pieces in the first round, especially considering Robert Griffin III’s current injury status.
The Redskins were punished 18.4 million dollars under the 2012 salary cap, and 17.6 million under the 2013 cap, per ESPN 980 sources. So what's the status of that punishment moving forward?
Mike Shanahan repeatedly said last off-season that he would talk about the situation and the Redskins appeal efforts when he was allowed too. Somehow, the question and a follow-up was allowed to expire during the season by the daily Redskins media corps, which I am obviously a member of and nobody from the outside, really made a big deal of it.
There was one exception, ESPN’s Adam Schefter mentionedin early November on ESPN 980 and the “Sports Fix” that the Redskins believed they had a shot at winning the 2013 war and getting some of the cap penalty room back.
During a few conversations I had with executives inside Redskins Park in November and early December, I was told the same thing. I was told by one person, that they felt like they had a really good chance.
It’s one thing to feel that, but what reason do you have for that optimism? That’s the answer that nobody knows. These conversations were informal and obviously not on the record, but I trust those that verified Schefter’s thoughts, and we know where that information is very likely coming from.
Armed with that information, the question had to be asked after all of the Griffin-gate issues were dealt with. In our last availability with Mike Shanahan until April – the head man needed to address this pertinent issue which would directly affect Washington’s free agent plans. Were the Redskins still contesting the penalties, handed down by the NFL and it’s executive council?
“Well, I can’t answer that at this time so that means we’re still involved in it. Yes, we’re still involved in it. When I can speak about it, I will speak. But at this time, I can’t. I think that answers your question," Shanahan told me.
So there you go. Now the question is – how will the NFL deal with this continued protest? Do the Redskins really have a shot, or are they just desperate and fighting just to fight. What’s the strategy the Redskins are using?
One person that is familiar with the matter, doesn’t feel as confident as others I’ve talked with. The person candidly said “They fought the good fight. It’s over.”
This person has not changed their stance since the initial arbitration case was rejected by Stephen Burbank in Philadelphia last May.
He says the only thing the Redskins can really do, is file a lawsuit against the National Football League, a strategy the person said was highly unlikely, “I can’t imagine they would do that.”
The way the Redskins and possibly the Cowboys would go about that, is to file a lawsuit in state or federal court, because the arbitration angle is dead.
The problems associated with a lawsuit of that magnitude is that according to the league’s constitution, the loser of the battle would pay all fees and could be counter-sued for “conduct detrimental to the league.”
The source described a decision to do this as a “thermo-nuclear” choice and strongly suggested that the Redskins avoid that route.
The same person also said that the only way he could think of to make this reversal take place, short of filing a lawsuit – would be to get an amendment to the league’s collective bargaining agreement. How likely is that and getting such a move past key executives like John Mara of the New York Giants? Extremely unlikely in another ESPN 980 sources thought process.
The main source did allow something that I thought was particularly interesting, by saying the NFL “amended the CBA to (bleep) these teams” before, which is why the league’s management committee was able to negotiate a cut throat deal with the NFLPA, in the person’s eyes.
What makes the issue even harder to fathom, is that the NFLPA collusion suit http://bit.ly/U0oyJk was dismissed recently, so the person who has knowledge of the situation, said the only strategy that he could see working is one of “persuasion.”
You might be thinking, Huh? The person said he was aware of the in-house thought by many people close to Commissioner Roger Goodell. He said that many league lieutenants knew how bad the screw-job was, and just how much the NFL had “(bleeped) over” both organizations, but specifically the Redskins.
One possible argument that the Redskins are still fighting was outlined by my friend J.I. Halsell, who is a former salary cap analyst with the Washington Redskins, and now is a player-agent and salary cap analyst with Priority Sports, based out of Chicago.In the interest of full-disclosure, Halsell also served as ESPN 980’s front-office insider for the last few years.
Halsell, long before this was even an issue, was truly a prophet. He wrote this column http://insidethecap.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html in which he detailed the Redskins creative re-structuring ofthe Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall contracts that they were subsequently penalized for.
We all know why the Redskins were penalized, but the most important element of Halsell’s article was that Bruce Allen essentially executed the same exact maneuver in Tampa with offensive lineman, Jeff Faine.
Halsell at the writing of the article, mentioned the dubbed “I-4 Off-Ramp,” as the ‘same device’ as used in the Haynesworth and Hall contracts. Just for clarification, to make sure nothing had changed in Halsell’s understanding of the situation, he confirmed to ESPN 980 on Tuesday that the restructured deals in both Washington and Tampa were “exactly the same.”
The greater point is this. We know that the NFL and the contract division of the league office approved the restructured contracts of both Haynesworth and Hall, as they did with Faine while Allen in charge in Tampa Bay.If they approved all three restructured deals, along with the Cowboys contracts – how is it that ONLY the Redskins and Cowboys were penalized?
Tampa performed such a move while under a salary cap, which has to be the answer from the league – however it was beyond clear that the Bucs were trying to take advantage of the extra room they had under their cap, while also clearing out a ton of space moving forward, in 2009 and in the uncapped year of 2010.
The strategy worked to a large degree, as they had a pirate ship full of money to spend in 2011 and 2012, after performing extremely well with a young, cheap and pared down roster in 2010.
Of course, it would be nice if the league took the time to explain all of this maneuvering, but maybe they don’t – because they always seem to have something to hide.
The person with knowledge said this in parting “It’s really disgusting what the league did to (the Redskins).”
While it may be disgusting, it seems awfully hard to fathom how the Redskins will get some much needed relief.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980