Chris Cooley and Santana Moss both had a seasons to forget in 2011 and both hope to be with the Redskins in 2012 to turn things around.Cooley had issues with his knee swelling all the way through training camp, problems caused in part by the tight end trying to guide his own way through rehab during the NFL lockout.He was off to a slow start with just eight catches for 65 yards when he suffered a broken index finger in the fifth game of the season. After a few weeks, he wound up on injured reserve.A week after Cooley broke his finger, Moss suffered a broken hand against the Panthers, an injury that cost him four games. He had his worst season statistically since he was a Jet in 2002.Both Moss and Cooley have had younger players added to their respective positions over the offseason. Joshua Morgan and Pierre Garon were added as free agents and their contracts indicate that they will be in line for a significant number of snaps.This comes on the heels of the Redskins adding three wide receivers in the draft last year. Mike Shanahan indicated that Leonard Hankerson, one of last years rookies, will be one of the top receivers along with Morgan and Garon.Shanahan mentioned Moss almost as an afterthought. He did say that Moss has lost 15 pounds since the end of last year and that he is in the best shape he has been in for the last few years.One of the wide receivers drafted in 2011 is changing positions to challenge Cooley. Niles Paul has added some weight and will move to tight end.Cooley, the longest-tenured Redskin, already was looking up at Fred Davis on the depth chart and now he must stave off Paul. Logan Paulsen is in the picture, too. That is four players vying for what is likely to be three roster spots.Shanahan said that health will not be an issue for Cooley.Cooley is looking really good in rehab, Shanahan said. Theres been no setback with him working out, him being able to run his routes, no swelling in the knee area.Financial considerations could come into play. The Redskins are pushed up against the salary cap due to the 18 million penalty the league imposed on them. Cooley counts 6.2 million against the cap while Moss cap hit is 4.8 million. If the team releases Cooley after June 1 they will create 3.9 million in cap space while Moss being released in June would save 3.15 million against the cap.The futures of Moss and Cooley might not be entirely decided by Shanahan. Law professor Stephen Burbank, who is the arbitrator who will decide if the salary cap penalty will stand, could have a big role in deciding if the Redskins can afford to keep him around.Days until: OTAs start 13; minicamp 34; preseason opener 93; Redskins at Saints 124Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.
Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.
Fan questions—The secondary
The last few seasons our secondary has been in rough shape. With injuries and lack of depth we were trying anyone out with a heartbeat. I've heard allot of good things so far this yr. Do you think we've gotten better even with the loss of Fuller?— BRuss (@Allhail76) June 22, 2018
To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.
Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.
Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.
That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefited from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.
The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent, but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.
It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.
Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.
The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.
The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.
There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year.
The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.
Tandler on Twitter
I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.
As long as the NBA regular season remains essentially meaningless and only two or three teams can realistically win the title, a sizable gap will remain.— Rich Tandler (@TandlerNBCS) June 23, 2018
Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.
—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59
The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.
- Jay Gruden know the pressure is on him in 2018
- The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor
- Redskins face a tough road test against the Titans in Week 16
As June minicamp concluded, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden pulled no punches when asked about expectations for new quarterback Alex Smith.
"He has got to get it down by the first game," Gruden said of Smith.
While that might not sound overly demanding, remember this is Smith's first season in Washington. The QB will be playing with new teammates and implementing new terminology.
Still, Smith is a veteran with a lot of experience, and frankly, it seems like Gruden isn't worried about a transition period.
"We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now," the coach said. "This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away."
Gruden made things quite clear. He expects the best from Smith, yesterday.
Those comments created headlines, but there was something else the coach said about his passer that also stood out. Asked about Smith's veteran presence, Gruden talked about what the quarterback might mean for his teammates.
"The whole job a quarterback has is obviously getting the most out of the people around you. That’s what I think he does as good as anybody," Gruden said. "He’ll get the most out of the tight ends. He’ll get the most out of the backs."
The coach continued, and things got a bit more interesting.
"He’ll get the most out of the receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way or at least give it everything he’s got and take responsibility if something doesn’t work out."
Redskins fans are often a weirdly divided bunch. Many liked former QB Kirk Cousins but plenty did not think he was worth the type of money he was paid the last two seasons. Along the way, some fans will read Gruden's comments about making something happen and taking responsibility as a jab at Cousins. That's probably wrong.
Remember, Trent Williams played through a serious knee injury last season. Asked why, Williams said he wanted to be out there to protect Cousins. Guys played for Cousins.
The responsibility comment might mean something else, though. There was a rather hostile back-and-forth last season between Gruden and Cousins last season when the QB and coach disagreed about taking more risks with the football. A quick reminder of the scene: Cousins told a reporter that he would throw 20 interceptions if he played like Gruden wanted. The coach responded that while the interceptions might pile up, the QB would also throw 60 touchdowns. (Relive it here)
Throughout his career, Smith has thrown fewer interceptions than Cousins. But that doesn't mean Smith doesn't take risks or put his receivers in position to make plays.
It's entirely possible Gruden simply expects Smith, a veteran, to be a responsible player and leader. And it's likely that comment had nothing to do with the Redskins previous quarterbacks.
The bottom line is that Smith better be ready to go Week 1, and his coach made that clear. And if Smith isn't, Gruden expects his quarterback to take responsibility.
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
— Contract years: Redskins face 5 tough decisions
— Dead Money: Trades, misses and mistakes hurt Redskins salary cap
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