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Redskins still learning what they've got in Bill Callahan


Redskins still learning what they've got in Bill Callahan

This offseason the Redskins made a move to strengthen their offensive line, though it had nothing to do with the draft or free agency. Washington poached Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan, offering big money for an assistant coach, and in turn, brought in an experienced and well-respected position coach that should have a big role in the 2015 offense.

Bringing in Callahan is not a typical assistant coach hire, however, as he has significant previous head coaching experience, including taking the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2002. His experience as the boss, both in Oakland and at the University of Nebraska, means Callahan will be demanding, and the players are starting to notice.

"He's a super intense guy, super thorough," Redskins center Kory Lichtensteiger said after an offseason workout. 

"There's a lot of little differences that we have to be very specific on each play. Getting our call right, getting the right IDs," Lichtensteiger explained.


Thorough and intense are not words many would use to describe the Redskins recent offensive line play. While former coach Mike Shanahan built a team adept at run blocking, the team's big guys were hardly as effective as pass blockers, causing Washington quarterbacks to take hits and sacks at unsustainable rates. And as Robert Griffin III's ability to run waned, the offensive line play truly began to suffer, including the run game. 

"He’s a very demanding coach but it’s something that we need and his presence is being felt already in a positive way," head coach Jay Gruden said. 

'Skins GM Scot McCloughan invested in the offensive line heavily at the draft, taking Brandon Scherff in the first round and Arie Kouandjio in the fourth. The team is clearly looking to improve in that area, and veteran guard Chris Chester was released this week. If nothing else, the personnel will be different.

Different players could help, but there have also been suggestions that the scheme may change to go with more power running. Not so, according to Lichtensteiger.

"We're going to stick with the wide zone as our bread and butter, but I think [Callahan is] going to introduce probably some gap stuff that will be a little different. I don't know how much we will rely on that. I think the wide zone is probably still what we're going to stick with most of all."

Interesting thoughts from the center, a smart player that the line relies on to make calls and protection adjustments. Callahan comes from Dallas, which had the best run game in the NFL last season, but also had an elite offensive line stocked full of first and second round picks and running back DeMarco Murray.

In Washington, Alfred Morris has shown Pro Bowl talent, though his numbers have declined each season since his 1,600 yard rookie year in 2012. That season, when Washington went on a seven game win streak to take the NFC East title, also was RG3's first season.

For Washington, it all comes back to RG3 and 2012. That season, Griffin was as dynamic a run threat as the NFL had ever seen at quarterback, and his legs opened up the offense for Morris and everyone else. The 2015 version of Griffin is a different player, and the offense needs to evolve similarly. Can Callahan help that evolution?

"He’s been awesome and we look forward to winning with him," Griffin said of Callahan.

If the Redskins are to win in 2015, and after winning just seven games in two seasons what constitutes "winning" is debatable, the offensive line must play at a higher level. Callahan will be a big part of that, should it happen.

It won't be for lack of effort. Callahan and his linemen stayed on the field for an extended period of time after OTAs last week; young players working on technique and veterans working on new terminology.  

"He shows a great deal of confidence and a great wisdom amongst his players and expects a lot out of them, works the heck out of them," Gruden said. "That’s what I like about him. I like that he’s taken every ounce of energy they’ve got out there."

The schemes may still look similar, but Callahan and Gruden will expect different results this fall. It won't be for lack of effort or intensity. 

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Roster competition, Brown vs. Pryor

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, June 23, 33 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins  and NBC Sports Washington.

Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Defense—NFL coaches and others like to tell you that competition determines who wins roster spots in the league. And that may be true to an extent. But many roster spots are predetermined by a player’s contract situation and/or draft status. It is unlikely that an undrafted player like Fish Smithson will win a roster spot over Troy Apke even if the former outperforms the latter in every way during training camp. Apke was a fourth-round pick and they aren’t going to give up on him in favor of an undrafted player. It would cost $3.2 million in dead cap to cut Stacy McGee and only $150,000 to move on from Ziggy Hood so McGee will win a “competition” that is even remotely close. (Offensive projection here)

Redskins will 'have it out' for Terrelle Pryor at training camp—While this is something that could add a little spice to the Jets’ visit to Richmond, don’t look for much of anything to happen. Zach Brown might give a little extra shove to Pryor here and there but he’s not going to do anything that will draw blood or even cause a deep bruise. If nothing else, a big hit on Pryor would invite retaliation by the Jets on Josh Doctson or Paul Richardson. And that might lead to more retaliation and you end up with a brawl like the Redskins and Texans had a couple of years ago.

Trent Williams very much of approves of Smith and Guice—Williams is going into his ninth NFL season and he has yet to be on the winning side of a playoff game. He thinks that Alex Smith and Derrius Guice can help change that. 

The curious case of Alex Smith and the NFL Top 100 list—I normally greet this list with a big yawn and this year was no exception. But I do find the omission of Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating and was third in adjusted net yards per attempt, odd. In an update to this post, the NFL released the names of the top 10 players and Smith is not on it. He shouldn’t be, but he should be somewhere on the 100, perhaps in the middle of the pack. The only Redskins player to appear on the list was Trent Williams at No. 57.

The Redskins' best players who are 25 or younger—It’s likely that nine players who are 25 or younger will line up as starters for the Redskins this year. I don’t have a rundown of how that compares to the rest of the league but it’s notable that in the last two years six of them have replaced players who were either approaching age 30 or over it. I’ll engage in some speculation here and say that five of the young players—Daron Payne, Derrius Guice, Preston Smith, Jonathan Allen, and Montae Nicholson—are good enough to potentially make a Pro Bowl at some point in their careers. 

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

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Former Redskins defensive tackle Dave Butz was born on this date in 1950. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 33
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 47
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 70

The Redskins last played a game 174 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 78 days. 

In case you missed it

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Titans. 

Week 16 December 22 or 23, Nissan Stadium (the date of the game will be determined no later than Week 8 in early November)

2017 Titans: 9-7, Second in AFC South, lost in the divisional round 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 8

Early line: Redskins +5.5

Key additions: CB Malcolm Butler, DT Bennie Logan, RB Dion Lewis

Key losses: DT Sylvester Williams, RB DeMarco Murray

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Marcus Mariota improved from his rookie year and had a solid 2016. But he regressed last season. In which direction is his career headed?
  • After head coach Mike Mularkey took the Titans to the second round of the playoffs he was summarily fired. Will they regret making to switch to Mike Vrabel?

Series history

The all-time series between the two teams is tied a 6-6; the teams split six games when the franchise was the Houston Oilers and they have gong 3-3 since the move to Tennessee. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1971, RFK Stadium—The Redskins offense didn’t score a touchdown but that often didn’t matter when George Allen was the head coach as they still won 22-13. Washington’s scoring came on five Curt Knight field goals and on an 18-yard interception return by defensive end Ron McDole. That touchdown came on one of five takeaways by the Redskins defense. 

The last time: October 19, 2014, FedEx Field—Quarterback Kirk Cousins was struggling in the first half, losing a fumble and throwing a head-scratching interception. With the Redskins trailing the 2-4 Titans 10-6, Jay Gruden decided it was time for a change and Colt McCoy came in to play QB in the second half. 

Things clicked immediately as McCoy threw a short pass to Pierre Garçon, who turned upfield and rolled in for a 70-yard touchdown. It was back and forth in the second half and the Redskins were trailing 17-16 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 3:14 to play. McCoy led a 10-play drive that consumed all of the remaining time and culminated in a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal to win it 19-17. 

The best time: November 3, 1991, RFK Stadium—To win nine straight NFL games to start out a season, you need solid blocking, accurate passing, hard-hitting tackling, inspired play calling, crisp execution and, as was the case today, a little bit of luck. Chip Lohmiller kicked a 41-yard field goal for Washington to give the Redskins a 16-13 overtime win over Houston. Darrell Green’s interception at the Houston 33 set up the kick. All of that, however, would not have happened if not for Oiler placekicker Ian Howfield. 

After Houston tied the game on a one-yard run by Lorenzo White with 1:42 left in the game, Brian Mitchell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Oilers prime field position. Howfield came in for a 33-yard field goal attempt with one second left. It appeared that the winning streak would end at eight. “You don’t exactly give up, but you’re not far from it,” said Andre Collins. 

The snap was perfect as was the hold, but Howfield’s kick was wide right. 

On Houston’s second offensive play of overtime, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon got bumped as he threw an out pass and Green picked it off. Three Ernest Byner runs preceded Lohmiller’s game-ending kick. 

The worst time: October 30, 1988, Astrodome—Washington entered the contest riding a three-game winning streak and appeared to be rounding into form to defend their Super Bowl title. Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes to Drew Hill, however, and the Redskins took a 41-17 whipping that wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate.

Redskins schedule series

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