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Gregg Williams in the Crosshairs

Gregg Williams in the Crosshairs

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

Normally, one would say ho, hum. Another article ripping the Redskins for being an organization is disarray. Wake me up when they get past the part about Dan Snyder being a megalomaniac and fantasy football owner. Most such articles never do.

This one, however, merits close examination. This article is not from one of your typical foaming at the mouth, Snyder hating, Art Monk dissing, card carrying Redskins bashers. It’s by Tom Friend, currently with ESPN and formerly with the Washington Post. He was the Post’s Redskins beat writer for much of the team’s glory years under Gibbs. What he has written about the Redskins in the past has been mostly fair and has stayed away from the conventional myths that surround the team (i. e. Snyder as fantasy GM). For a national writer he seems to be pretty knowledgeable about the team. So, when Friend writes an article that takes Joe Gibbs to task and rips one of his assistant head coaches and beats up on a lower level assistant we should take a closer look.

It’s a long article, a few thousands words, and it needs to be read in its entirety. I’m going to summarize a few things here, but you really have to read the whole thing if what is following here is going to make any sense.

In summary, Friend says that:

  • Gregg Williams is arrogant and mean spirited. When his defense was one of the best in the league he could get away with being that way. Now that his defense is statistically the worst in the NFC his style is wearing thin—to the breaking point, in fact—with his players. He stubbornly insists on sticking with a variation of the Cover 2 defense that has the safeties also playing the run and the mish mash isn’t working. Instead of getting the best of both worlds, the defense is getting the worst of it.
  • Steve Jackson, who coaches the safeties, is pouting over not being promoted to secondary coach. Williams threw him a bone and let him run meetings with the safeties, meaning that they have been meeting separately from the cornerbacks. This has led to communication breakdowns in the secondary, leading in turn to busted coverages and big pass plays by opposing teams.
  • Joe Gibbs has passively watched all of this unfold, something that he never would have done in the 1980’s. In fact, it seems to Friend as though Gibbs has lost his fire after cranking it up for the five-game run to the playoffs at the end of last year.

On the first read, anyone who cares about the Redskins has got to be saying, “Holy crap,” or perhaps something much stronger. Not only is it a scathing indictment of the team’s present state but it makes the team’s future look rather dim as well. More upheaval on the coaching staff and player turnover seems to be in the offing when next year rolls around. On top of that, the whole question of “if Gibbs can’t save the franchise, who can?” seems to be heading towards finding out who the alternatives to Gibbs are.

It’s an indictment, yes, but is there enough here to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that this article accurately portrays the state of affair at Redskins Park? The thinnest aspect of the piece is that it is built primarily on profanity-laced statements made by one defensive player who remained anonymous. To his credit, Friend does point this out in the latter part of the article when he lends a few paragraphs to rebuttal of what he wrote. There is a lot of conjecture by Friend here, a lot of analysis presented as fact.

There are some contradictions in here as well. Williams supposedly let players like Antonio Pierce and Fred Smoot walk because the players didn’t matter; the success of the defense was all about his schemes. But why, then, did he push to sign Adam Archuleta and Andre Carter? And there’s this:

Scapegoat No. 3: Rogers. He's the cornerback that was left on an island on the go-ahead touchdown Sunday against Tampa Bay's Joey Galloway. Williams blitzed and missed, costing the team the score. Afterward, Williams took public blame for the call, a rarity, but a Redskins player said, "No, he didn't. In meetings, Carlos still heard about it."

So, what, Williams, behind closed doors in a meeting, was not supposed to say anything to the player who was nowhere near the receiver who scored the game-winning touchdown? I think that we’re reaching here.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some truth, perhaps a lot of truth, in what Friend wrote. While it’s unlikely that the one defensive player who talked with him represents the view of most of the unit, there are always players who don’t like a coach’s style or disagree with is tactics. This player probably has company in feeling the way he feels about Williams. The way that the defense has been performing with a supposed upgrade in personnel certainly doesn’t speak well about Williams’ schemes.

It’s certainly possible that a turf war led to the corners and safeties meeting separately. That’s an assertion that would be too easy for someone to refute if it wasn’t accurate. Was Jackson pouting and not coaching during practices and during the Tampa Bay game? What may look like pouting to one—arms folded, distant look on the face--may actually be a state of deep thought. We don’t know. The player may know or he might just think he knows. If you don’t like somebody you’re usually going to have a negative take on whatever he does.

Has Joe Gibbs been watching all of this going on, condoning it with his silence? Or, worse, has he been totally unaware of? The third option, of course, is that all of this is being blown out of proportion and there’s nothing for Gibbs to correct.

Just like with all of this, I think that the truth lies somewhere in between the confused, messy picture of an organization in disarray that Friend paints and the ideal scenario of a tight, well-oiled machine running the Redskins’ football operations. When you’re winning, the flaws are largely ignored and the good traits are magnified. When you’re losing the bright spotlight shines on all of the warts.

It’s as simple as this, really: This is the kind of stuff that’s going to get written about you when you are falling as short of expectations as the Washington Redskins are. When the Redskins were winning five straight to get into the playoffs last year Gibbs was calm and unflappable. Now they’re 3-7 and he’s detached and burned out. When I talk to him he seems like the same guy to me. If the Redskins win three in a row, Williams will be a hard-nosed innovator who demands the best out of his players. Now, he’s stubborn, arrogant, and mean. Again, he’s the same guy who has been exchanging jabs with the press every Thursday during the season for the past three years.

Are there big problems at Redskins Park? Yes. Are they as bad as Tom Friend and his anonymous source make them out to be? Probably not.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the Redskins fans on your shopping list. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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10 Questions in 10 days: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

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USA TODAY Sports

10 Questions in 10 days: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold before the team heads to Richmond. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

No. 7: Do the Redskins have a 1,000-yard WR?

No. 6: Is Shawn Lauvao the concern, or is the issue bigger on the O-Line?

Right or wrong, fans blamed Shawn Lauvao for much of the Redskins struggles on the offensive line last season. Pro Football Focus backs up the fans, as Lauvao landed a -19.1 grade, among the worst in the NFL at the guard spot. 

It's worth pointing out that Lauvao was playing hurt during much of his nine starts before getting shut down for the season just before Thanksgiving. In fact, injuries have probably been the biggest issue for Lauvao in his four seasons with the Redskins. 

In four seasons in Washington, Lauvao has never played a full 16-game slate. Last year he played just nine games, and in 2015 he only played three games. 

That points to what may be the bigger issue for the Redskins: offensive line depth. Last season was wild with the amount of injuries Washington sustained up front. It seems almost impossible for the team to have that many injuries again.

Still, the Redskins lost Arie Kouandjio for the year in the offseason. Kouandjio played better last year than Lauvao, and having both men in Richmond would have provided real competition. 

And that might be the biggest question: Neither Lauvao or Kouandjio represent a difference maker at left guard, yet the team did little to address the position. 

All offseason, the Washington brass walked a fine line between confidence and arrogance. The organization believes strongly in the players they already have, and outside of signing Paul Richardson and re-signing Zach Brown, the team had a quiet offseason. The Redskins struggled to run the ball the last few years, and still, the team did not look to upgrade at LG. 

It's important to note that the Redskins have two All-Pro caliber offensive linemen in Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff. Morgan Moses is a plus at the right tackle spot too. The team likes Chase Roullier at center too, and they tried to add depth in drafting Geron Christian in the third round and bringing back swing tackle backup Ty Nsekhe as a restricted free agent. 

Left guard will be a question, and it's hard not to think that it will be the weakest position on the O-line. Should that submarine the group? It shouldn't. What if Lauvao gets hurt?  Then things get quite tricky.

For the Redskins, however, the expectation might be that the line needs to perform as a unit, and with talent like Williams and Scherff, that should cover up any weaknesses.

Time, and health, will tell if that plan works. 

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

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Need to Know: The best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 20, six days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The five best cornerbacks the Redskins will face in 2018

This week we’ll be looking at the best of what the Redskins will face during the 2018 season. Today the cornerbacks are up. They are roughly ranked by Pro Football Focus’ coverage metrics, although I did some juggling based on interception totals and other factors. Prior to this, we looked at the best teamsreceivers, running backspass rushers, and quarterbacks

1. Patrick Peterson, Cardinals—The athletic Peterson has been All-Pro three times and has been selected to the Pro Bowl in each of his seven years in the league. He hasn’t had a big interception total since he got seven in 2012, but that is mostly because quarterbacks only throw his way about once every ten snaps he is in coverage. 

2. Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars—I could easily have ranked Ramsey over Peterson. I went with Peterson because he’s been doing it for longer and he’s only 28. Ramsey has justified his No. 5 selection in the 2016 draft. His long arms and ball skills serve him well. He has the size to defend the bigger receivers and the athleticism to be effective against shifty and speedy receivers. 

3. A.J. Bouye, Jaguars—If Alex Smith tries to throw away from Ramsey he will encounter trouble on the other side. It’s been trendy to say that Bouye is underrated for so long he’s in danger of becoming overrated. But he’s not there yet. Bouye was one of four full-time (played at least 60% of snaps) cornerbacks who did not allow a touchdown pass last year and he had by far the most plays in coverage. 

4. Malcolm Butler, Titans—If the Brady-Belichick Patriots don’t win another Super Bowl, the coach’s decision to keep Butler on the bench as Nick Foles shredded the New England secondary will be marked as the end of that era. Maybe Butler isn’t good enough to have made a difference, but it would have been interesting to see. He’s with the Titans now and he will give Smith problems in December. 

5. Marshon Lattimore, Saints—Last year’s defensive rookie of the year plays an aggressive style both in press man coverage and when tackling receivers who have caught the ball. An ankle injury sent him out of the game against the Redskins early, perhaps one of the reasons why Kirk Cousins was able to light them up for 322 yards and three touchdowns. 

Best of the rest: Desmond Trufant, Falcons; Brent Grimes, Bucs; Logan Ryan, Titans;k Jaire Alexander (rookie), Packers

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

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Timeline 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 6
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 20
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 43

The Redskins last played a game 201 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 51 days. 

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