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Redskins 2017 roster battles: O-line mostly set, but could competition emerge at left guard?

Redskins 2017 roster battles: O-line mostly set, but could competition emerge at left guard?

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

Left guard

The contenders:

The incumbent is Shawn Lauvao, a seven-year veteran who started 14 games last year. He struggled from time to time, notably against the Cardinals when he gave up a game-turning sack and strip to Calais Campbell. Lauvao is in the last year of the four-year deal he signed as a free agent in 2014 and he costs $5 million against the salary cap. Third-year guard Arie Kouandjio is the challenger. The 2015 fourth-round pick started two games last year when Lauvao was injured. He looked lost against the Browns in Week 4 but he recovered and played better against the Eagles in Week 14.

And the winner is . . .

Tandler: I see a very strong likelihood that Lauvao starts against the Eagles in Week 1. It seems that Jay Gruden trusts Lauvao, perhaps more than his level of play warrants. One indication of this is the fact that the team did not go after a viable challenger for Lauvao in free agency. In the draft, the only O-lineman they took was sixth-rounder Chase Roullier, who is going to be spending his time learning to back up at center and both guard spots, not challenging for a starting job. That leaves Kouandjio, who didn’t appear to be ready last year when he got the chance. Lauvao is no threat to make the Pro Bowl or anything but it’s his job to lose and right now I don’t see anyone on the roster to whom he can lose it.

Finlay: 2016 was the worst season of Lauvao's seven-year career, at least according to data compiled from Pro Football Focus. Watching Redskins games closely, however, it was obvious Lauvao's play did not slip until after a Week 3 injury against the Browns. Again, late in the season and particularly against the Cardinals, Lauvao was hurt. That game in Arizona came during Trent Williams' suspension, when much of the offensive line was hurt and playing without their best player. Like Tandler said, Lauvao won't push for a Pro Bowl bid, but if he can stay healthy he's quite serviceable. Fans dislike of Lauvao outpaces his actual play, when healthy. Staying healthy is hard though. It will be interesting to see if Kouandjio has gained enough strength to really push for this job. Arie has a chance, but he does not have the upper body muscle of Lauvao, or at least he has not shown it yet. Repeatedly in 1-on-1 drills last season and particularly in Richmond, Kouandjio got shoved backwards. That can't happen this summer if he wants to push Lauvao for the left guard gig. The Redskins like to develop offensive lineman internally - look at the success of Spencer Long and Morgan Moses, not just first-round guys like Williams and Brandon Scherff. Kouandjio would fit that bill. He will be in his third season, that's when Long really looked his best at starting center and Moses began to run heads with his play at right tackle. The opportunity will be there, but don't forget, Lauvao was signed in 2014, after the Shanahans left town and Bruce Allen was calling the shots. We all know who is calling the shots now, again. 

RELATED: Roster shuffle to continue with rookie camp and OTAs around the corner

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

Redskins fans and players can both be right about FedEx Field frustrations

The Redskins moved to 6-3 on Sunday by beating the Buccaneers in Tampa, and now sit two games clear in first place in the NFC East. 

That should be the biggest football story inside the Beltway. But it isn't. 

The story has become that two of the most high-profile members of the Washington defense said that they prefer playing road games to being in their home stadium. Why? Because on the road they can hear better and focus more since they don't have fans booing them. 

Seriously. 

"Home games, that’s some of the worst things I’ve seen. I’ve played on four different teams, never seen it that bad, with other team’s jerseys in the stands, the boos, whatever it may be," Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said during an appearance on 106.7 the Fan's Grant and Danny program on Monday. 

"I’ve never been a part of nothing like that."

This freight train started moving on Sunday, when after the win in Tampa, Josh Norman said he likes playing on the road. Why? Because there aren't any boos.

"We go into the homestands, and it’s like an open bubble,” Norman said. “Like the other team’s turf or something. You hear more of them than you do us. Then if something bad happens, they suck. They sit back in their seat, and they boo."

There's a lot to unpack here. 

Norman and Swearinger are right. There are always a lot of visiting fans at FedEx Field. Some of that might be that Washington is a transient city, but some of it is also because other fans have determined that it's easy to get tickets at FedEx Field. 

Why is it easy for visiting fans to get tickets? Well, there's not much sizzle at FedEx Field.

The area doesn't have shopping or restaurants around it like many newer NFL stadiums. The traffic, like much of life in the D.C. area, is awful. The stadium itself is underwhelming; old and lacking character. 

The Redskins are working hard to overhaul the game day experience, and some of the efforts are alrady working. But the problem is some fans have soured on the idea of spending the day at FedEx Field, and that will take time to fix. Probably years. 

One obvious fix? A new stadium, preferably back in downtown D.C. That is a long way off though. 

Plenty of fans are bothered by Swearinger and Norman's comments, and they have reason for that, too. 

To start with, there are tens of thousands of fans at every home game, cheering on their club. Lifelong, loyal fans that pay good money to watch the Burgundy and Gold. 

Do some boo? Certainly. But they only boo when the team is bad. Play good, no boos. It's fairly simple.

And the boos aren't only about a specific game, or even a specific season. Many Redskins fans are just frustrated with the franchise in general for a litany of reasons. Things have been stable under Jay Gruden, but for a long time, they weren't. 

What isn't fair for Norman and Swearinger is they played zero part in the multi-decade erosion of the Redskins fan base. And some would argue the fan base hasn't actually eroded, just that fewer fans want to make the trek to the stadium and commit to the full day that is attending an NFL game.

For 20 years, Washington has played plenty of bad football at home. During that time, some fans simply decided they'd rather watch on television, or go for a walk, or do yard work, or hang with their family. 

The toughest part is that both Norman and Swearinger can be right, but the fans that are upset with the comments can be right as well. 

Are there good fans? Absolutely. Are there lots of visiting fans? Yep. 

It won't be fixed overnight. Winning is the best cure, however, as old fans will return and new fans will be created. 

Play well and there won't be any booing. Keep winning games and there won't be anything but burgundy in the stands. 

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8 snap counts and judgments from Redskins' win over Buccaneers and beyond

8 snap counts and judgments from Redskins' win over Buccaneers and beyond

Time for our weekly review of the Washington Redskins snap counts, plus some big picture thoughts one day after Sunday’s 16-3 road victory at Tampa Bay.

♦The Redskins didn’t boldly acquire safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix before the recent NFL trade deadline for him to look cool on the sideline in his No. 20 jersey. After mixing the ex-Packer in for 71 percent of the defensive snaps against the Falcons in his debut days after the trade, Clinton-Dix joined fellow safety D. J. Swearinger on the field for all 69 defensive snaps against the Buccaneers.

Clinton-Dix finished third in tackles (8) against Tampa Bay. The free safety racking up that many tackles isn’t ideal for the defense, of course. He did recover a fumble and was credited with a single pass defended.

♦Jonathan Allen (43), Daron Payne (42) and Matt Ioannidis (43) all played a bit less than normal. Chalk it up to the coaching staff keeping players fresh in the warm conditions. Tim Settle (11) only received five snaps over the previous four games. Stacy McGee (11) made his season debut after the Redskins activated him from the PUP list this week.

♦Cassanova McKinzy didn’t just make his defensive debut for the Redskins. The outside linebacker:

  • Played more defensive snaps (24) than 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson (22)
  • Was active game day ahead of veteran Pernell McPhee
  • Played late in the fourth quarter with the game result still in the balance

That’s quite extraordinary for the 25-year-old undrafted free agent who moved from the practice squad to the 53-man roster multiple times this season. That the Redskins deactivated McPhee automatically sent a signal something was up considering the limited outside linebacker depth.

McKinzy finished with one official tackle, essentially falling on Ryan Fitzpatrick as the Tampa Bay quarterback gathered a fumble. The former Auburn Tiger’s biggest play, a strip-sack and fumble recovery inside Washington’s 20-yard-line, was wiped out by a Josh Norman holding penalty.

Anderson was not officially credited with a tackle or forced fumble, though he clearly punched the ball away from Bucs running Jacquizz Rodgers. Clinton-Dix recovered the ball in the end zone for one of the defense’s four turnovers.

McPhee, who was added this offseason in free agency as pass rush help, had zero sacks in eight games. His playing time ranged from 18-24 percent of defensive snaps this season.

♦Ryan Kerrigan (64 percent) and Preston Smith (70) both played their least percentage of snaps this season. Again, we’ll assume this usage a nod to the heat thrown down by Mother Nature.

♦Whatever blame Zach Brown felt from the coaching staff, it didn’t reflect in his playing time; the 75 percent of snaps meshed with previous weekly amounts.

♦Wide receiver snaps: Josh Doctson (45), Maurice Harris (38), Michael Floyd (31), Brian Quick (21). Percentage-wise, Doctson and Harris ticked down in part because the three tight ends each played 45 percent of the snaps in the same game for the first time this season. The need for more run-blocking in light of the offensive line issues likely played a factor in more work for Floyd.

♦Danny Johnson (18) played early in place of the inactive Quinton Dunbar, but ultimately fellow rookie cornerback Greg Stroman (39) more than doubled his snap total. Both players were credited with a pass defended, but Stroman added an interception and a forced fumble. Either rookie will be challenged in Week 11 against the Texans receiver duo of DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas if Dunbar sits again.

♦Random stat for the win: Alex Smith finished with EXACTLY 178 passing yards for the third time in four games. Equally amazing considering NFL offenses in 2018, the Redskins are 3-0 in those games. They lost to Atlanta in Week 9 when Smith finished with 306 yards as Washington played catch-up.

Props to the Redskins for Sunday’s gritty win. The NFC East leaders, now 6-3 overall and 2-0 in the division, hold a two-game lead over the 4-5 Cowboys and Eagles. Winning just three of their final seven games might be enough to win the division. One can’t win the Super Bowl without making the playoffs, so let’s not discount the potential achievement, especially after zero postseason appearances since 2015.

There’s a difference between qualifying for the playoffs and truly contending. It’s hard projecting Washington as a true contender based on recent performances and current injuries.

The defense, which allowed 501 net yards yet only three points at Tampa Bay, did the best version of bend but don’t break in NFL history. Seriously, this isn’t a joke.

The Redskins forced the Buccaneers into methodical mode offensively. The more plays run, the more chances for mistakes. Fitzpatrick and crew made plenty while Washington defenders consistently held strong in the red zone. That’s probably not good enough most week against steadier offenses. Let’s not forget Atlanta struck for 38 points and 491 yards in Week 9. Among the league leaders in yards allowed per game for most of the season, the Redskins now rank 17th (361.0).

The concern, however, exists on the other side. Washington could barely put up points or move the ball through the air against Tampa’s 30th ranked pass defense. The Redskins now rank 26th in scoring offense (19.6) and yards per game (337.4).

The Redskins are obviously shorthanded. We’ll see when Trent Williams, Jamison Crowder and Chris Thompson return.

The NFL is unforgiving. Other teams are missing integral components as well. The key is adjusting. The Redskins did good work against the Buccaneers. The same likely won’t be enough for two wins over the next three weeks against Houston, at Dallas on Thanksgiving and at Philadelphia.

That’s short-term. If we're talking bigger picture, it’s hard projecting Washington as a true contender under current conditions. Then again, who had them 6-3 after nine games regardless.

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