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Change in the air?

Change in the air?

There was a lot of talk of change in the air at Redskins Park over the last few days. At his season-wrap up presser, Jim Zorn indicated that there would be changes.

But he also said that there wasn't much of anything that he wanted to change.

He likes his quarterback, his offense, his job duties, his coaching staff, and his older players. The current player personnel structure, headed up by Vinny Cerrato, will stay intact.

Presumably there would be a major debate if someone wanted to change the carpet on the stairs at Redskins Park.

The team should stay the course in some areas. Staying with the same offense and the same quarterback for another offseason is a good idea. It would be good to see Zorn become more imaginative in his play calling but that will come as the team settles in. We've gone back and forth about Jason Campbell here but he's the man with no competition and we'll have to see what happens. I'd like to see a more solid Plan B in place than Todd Collins, who is too old, and Colt Brennan, who is too inexperienced. Perhaps letting Collins go and bringing in an experienced West Coast QB like Chris Simms would be the way to go here.

The offensive backs are likely to remain the same. Portis got $20 million in guarantees a year ago so he's not going anywhere. There will be some noise about trading Ladell Betts but that probably won't happen. Rock Cartwright is the special teams' Mr. Everything and Mike Sellers is a deserving Pro Bowl pick at fullback (just don't give him the ball at the goal line).

There may be some minor shuffling at WR—will a 34-year-old James Thrash be able to contribute enough on special teams to justify using a receiver slot? Other than that, any changes will come from increased (meaning any) production from Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly.

The offensive line may or may not get the upgrade that it needs. There is talk of Pete Kendall, an unrestricted free agent, returning. He'll be 36 by the time next season starts. I like the guy and I'll always respect him for standing in front of his locker after the Rams game and taking every question from every reporter. But it's time to move on.

Is it time for Jon Jansen to move on? He shouldn't start, that's for sure. There would be a net cap hit of about $6 million ($1 million higher than I previously estimated). In 2009 his salary is "only" $1.3 million, a number you can justify for a backup. The foolishly-paid guaranteed money is water under the bridge and it may be better to wait until 2010 to release him. That may be an uncapped year and even if it's not the hit will not sting quite as much.

At some point there has to be a youth movement on the O-line. They took Chad Reinhart in the third round last year and they need to see what they have there. Can Stephon Heyer develop the consistency and the run-blocking ability necessary to become a solid starter? If those two can start, that's a 40% injection of youth into the aging unit. If a starting center can be found in the third round of the draft, that's 60%.

On the other side of the ball, there isn't much wrong that can't be solved with a big, mean defensive tackle creating havoc in the middle of the line. That would help the ends get better pass pressure, which would, in turn, help the defensive backs play more aggressively and maybe get more than the occasional interception here and there.

Albert Haynesworth of the Titans fills the bill but he's going to demand a ton of money. It's a bit too early to say what might be available at pick #13 along those lines since the juniors haven't yet declared but I have to think that there would be a quality DT there.

Talk of trading Carlos Rogers is foolish. Shawn Springs has to go, along with his $8 million cap number (the net cap savings would be around $6 million). Give DeAngelo Hall a reasonable contract and let Rogers play in the last year of his deal. If there is no new CBA in 2010, he'll be a restricted free agent. There has been a debate on the message boards about whether to pay Hall or Rogers. As neither is going to warrant a monster contract, I'm not sure why it has to be an either/or situation.

 

 

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

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Need to Know: Should the Redskins draft Vita Vea in the first round?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 24, 51 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 41
—NFL Draft (4/26) 92
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 228

Fan questions—Surprise cuts, finding a playmaker

I put out a call for questions on social media and I got so many good ones that I’m splitting them up. Here are Facebook questions today and I’ll hit the best Twitter questions later this week.

 

Spencer Long could be gone but he is a free agent, so he could not be cut. As far as players under contract, a lot will depend on who they draft and sign in free agency. If they go heavy on the defensive line, Ziggy Hood and Terrell McClain could be in danger of being cut. An influx of defensive back might have Josh Holsey and Deshazor Everett headed out of town.

There won’t be any cuts that save a major amount of cap space. Thek players with the top 15 cap numbers per Over the Cap are all vital to the operation with the possible aforementioned exception of McClain.

The rub is that if you want an instant “bona fide” playmaker you are going to have to invest either a lot of cap dollars or high draft pick. They have invested cap dollars in Reed and, to a lesser extent, Thompson and a No. 1 draft pick in Reed. The plan needs to be to make sure that Reed stays healthy (as best you can) and hope you get 12-14 productive games out of him, get Thompson back in the swing of things, and continue to work with Doctson. Perhaps they can get a mid-round find like the Saints did with Kamara to add to the mix. But for the most part, the Redskins will have to make do with what they have.

The way things stand right now, I’m seeing Vea regarded as more of a late first-round pick than a player who should go in the top half of the round. That could change as the draft process goes on. I think the Redskins need to continue to strengthen their defensive line and if Vea moves up to a high first-round grade or slides to a second they should take a long look at him.

The player I’m keeping my eye on is Jordan Matthews, who spent three years with the Eagles before being trade to Buffalo. He had over 800 yards receiving in each of his three seasons in Philly before a knee injury hampered him last year. He’s 6-3 and still young (26 in Week 1). Sammy Watkins of the Rams is intriguing but he had just 593 receiving yards in 15 games in a Sean McVay’s very productive offense. An older but less expensive option might be Eric Decker of the Titans, who had just 30 fewer receiving yards than Watkins and would be much a much less expensive acquisition albeit as a stopgap.

I see them addressing other needs in the first round. That could change if there is someone there who is just too good to pass up.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

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