With the eyes of a franchise, a success-starved fan base and, to some extent, a curious league transfixed on his every move Thursday night, Robert Griffin III did not disappoint.The Redskins and their rookie quarterback started slowly at Ralph Wilson Stadium, going three-and-out on each of the first two drives. Griffin was also assessed a fumble when he and running back Even Royster failed to connect on a handoff.Washingtons third drive, though, was different. Griffin methodically directed an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive against the Bills starters. The scoring play was a bubble screen pass to Pierre Garon, who raced 20 yards before flipping into the end zone.On three drives and 14 snaps, Griffin finished 4 for 6 for 70 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 145.8. A perfect rating is 158.3.Since my esteemed colleague Rich Tandler has already covered Griffins night backward and forward, Im going to fast forward to a couple of other players who impressed, a few who didnt.--The injuries along the offensive line the unit was missing three starters were supposed to spell doom for Griffin and the Redskins.They didnt. Backups Maurice Hurt, Adam Gettis and Tyler Polumbus proved more than adequate against a first team Bills defense. Polumbus was especially impressive against standout defensive end Mario Williams.--With expected No. 1 running back Tim Hightower sidelined with a knee injury, neither Evan Royster nor Roy Helu Jr. distinguished himself. Royster fumbled a handoff and finished with 21 yards on 7 carries, while Helu gained 17 yards on four carries. Helu also lost three yards on a screen pass. --People who want to forget about the game as quickly as possible: Rex Grossman (2 for 10 passing); Brandon Banks (targeted eight times but limited to 2 catches for 7 yards), cornerback Cedric Griffin and all of the replacement referees.Check back later for a full game report.
Redskins draft countdown
Stuff the run in the middle of the line? Check. Get outside to stop stretch plays? Check. Get after the passer? Check. Yes, Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne checks all the boxes the Redskins are looking for on the D-line.
He can be the immovable object, taking on double and triple teams, and he also can chase down the quarterback. At 311 pounds he could be the Redskins’ nose tackle in base and move outside in nickel.
40-yard dash: 4.95
Projected draft round: 1
What they’re saying
Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run.
How he fits the Redskins: This just in—the Redskins need a nose tackle. Of course, if you’re reading this you know that, and you’ve known it has been the case ever since the Redskins went to the 3-4 defense in 2010.
In very closely related news, they need to play better against the run, too. You probably noticed that they were dead last in the league in rushing defense last year. And that the NFC East has two very strong rushing teams in the Eagles and Cowboys and a Giants team that could well take Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft. If they don’t fix their rushing defense they could literally get run over.
Payne could help them a lot. He can take on double and triple teams and clog up running lanes in the middle. If they try to go around him, he has the quickness to penetrate and disrupt outside runs.
And a defensive lineman taken in the top half of the first round should be able to provide some pass rush pressure. As noted by Zierlein, Payne has the potential to do that. He’ll never be a double-digit sack guy, but if he can kick in four to six per year and get some pressure up the middle, that would be fine.
Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs Georgia (national title game)
Like most players, Payne can’t get much in the way of a pass rush when he is double and triple teamed. But when they tried to block him one on one he consistently got pressure. Payne didn’t get many sacks, but he did make a difference. Against Georgia, one pressure resulted in an interception and another forced a third-down incompletion.
Payne is very difficult to move off the spot in the running game, even when the offense tries to do it with two or even three players. Running backs did not get by him on a regular basis. In the second half in particular, Georgia tried to move the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are likely to get selected in the top 100 in the draft next month. But they kept running into a mass of humanity in the middle of the line with Payne in the middle of it.
He played well during the Tennessee game during the regular season, but he didn’t have a lot of impact. The only time his name was called was when he was hit with a roughing the passer call.
Potential issues: At 311 pounds, Payne may not be the ideal size to fill the chronic hole at nose tackle. It should be noted, however, that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said that the Redskins aren’t necessarily looking for the 350-pound nose tackle and that a relatively smaller player can get the job done. Ziggy Hood played the nose at 305 pounds last year. The Redskins finished last against the run, although that’s not necessarily cause and effect.
Bottom line: The Redskins went 20 years without taking an interior defensive lineman in the first round before taking Jonathan Allen last year. Nobody could legitimately complain if they doubled up on first-round D-linemen after so many years of neglect.
Payne should be there when the 13th pick goes on the clock. Unless the Redskins address the nose tackle spot in free agency Payne will be under strong consideration. The defensive line improved last year with the additions of Allen in the draft, Stacy McGee as a free agent and the second-year emergence of Matt Ioannidis. Payne could be the final piece of what could be a dominant defensive line.
The Redskins’ contract with wide receiver Paul Richardson is very team friendly in the first year but it increases over the years to the point where he needs to be a very productive receiver in order to justify staying on the roster.
The big picture of the deal is $40 million over five years. A total of $12.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing, which is comprised of a $10 million signing bonus, his $1.5 million 2018 salary, and $1 million of his $5 million 2019 salary.
More money will become guaranteed if Richardson is on the roster as of five days after the start of the league years in 2019 and 2020. The remaining $4 million of his 2019 salary and $3.5 million of his $6 million 2020 salary become guaranteed on those dates.
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Richardson will get salaries of $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022. Each year of the contract he can earn $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($31,250 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster).
It all adds up to the following salary cap numbers:
2018: $4 million
2019: $7.5 million
2020: $8.5 million
2021: $10 million
2022: $10 million
The average annual value of the contract is $8 million, which is tied for 24th among NFL receivers.
The first window the Redskins have to terminate Richardson’s contract without taking a negative cap hit would be in 2020 as long as they do it prior to the fifth day of the league year when the partial salary guarantee kicks in. They would take a $6 million deal cap hit but they would save a net of $2.5 million.
The last two years, when the cap numbers are at their highest, the Redskins could easily move on, saving $6 million in cap space in 2021 and $8 million in 2022.