Here are a few thoughts while we wait for Thursday’s Redskins practice, which is open to the media:
QB Robert Griffin III’s speed getting outside the pocket on keepers the most notable element of his game is to this point, based on what little we’ve seen of him. After watching Rex Grossman run the offense for a year, it seems as though someone hits the fast-forward button when Griffin bursts to the perimeter. At the open practice last Monday, we got a glimpse of why Mike Shanahan believes RG3 is going to challenge defenses in unprecedented ways. Griffin can change the direction of a play so quickly that defenses constantly will be chasing him.
The bootlegs and keepers will benefit Griffin because they can simplify his reads over half the field. Plus, he can accurately throw on the run. Shanahan at rookie minicamp in early May emphasized how the playbook will be pared down during Griffin’s rookie season to include what he is comfortable running, and it appears the rollouts could be a staple. Griffin wasn’t as sharp throwing from the pocket last Monday—there were hitches in his mechanics and he was indecisive at times—but let’s keep in mind that was his first full-squad practice. It’ll be interesting to see how his comfort level inside the pocket evolves. For now, his athleticism will shine outside of it.
TE Chris Cooley’s speed warrants close monitoring during training camp this summer. His admission last week that he is slower than he was during his best years gives us a measure for gauging his chances of making the team and contributing at the level at which he’s determined to contribute. Speed and job security generally are positively correlated in the NFL, of course, and Cooley’s value diminishes if he can’t run. He believes he can get faster, though, by continuing to strengthen and rehabilitate his surgically-repaired left knee. The Redskins should give him that chance as long as they can afford his $6.23 million contract.
Cooley at full fitness can help the Redskins as a receiver and a blocker. We need to see a lot more from Niles Paul before assuming he can fill some sort of Shannon Sharpe roll and render Cooley obsolete. Cooley isn’t a lights out blocker, but he has proven to be the best blocking tight end the Redskins have on their roster. He’s at least two inches taller than Paul, so that likely includes a reach advantage. Paul also doesn’t have extensive experience blocking defensive ends and setting the edge in the running game. Shanahan’s outside zone scheme requires tight ends who can block, and that bodes well for Cooley’s chances of making the team. Those hoping Cooley sticks should have been happy to hear of his awareness that he has a great challenge in front of him. Acknowledging that is an important element of his comeback. He knows he has a lot of work to do, and he sounds determined to do it.
WR Santana Moss flashed during full-squad drills last week. I actually noticed him more than any of the new receivers. He consistently got separation over the middle on short and intermediate routes. In other words, he looked a bit like the Santana of old with his quick-burst movements. Disclaimer: It was only one practice, and he was going against the second-team defense. But there’s a place for Moss in the offense if he continues that. Oh by the way, he turns 33 on Friday.
I’d like to spend more time watching the first-string defense on Thursday, but the offense is so much more intriguing these days. That’s a product of the new offensive players, of course, but it also is because of how stable the defensive front seven is. What a positive for this team to bring back that entire group, plus a healthy DE Jarvis Jenkins. On the other hand, safety is a MAJOR question mark at this point. Shanahan believes safeties can’t be fairly evaluated until game situations, and we’ll have to wait a while on that area of concern.
I’d love to see the NFLPA’s collusion suit get to trial if only to see what other evidence the union has against the league. The quotes cited in the suit indicate teams were told to limit spending when there was no salary cap, and that, to my eyes and ears, seems to be collusion. So far, the Redskins have gotten hosed on this thing. They probably won’t get any of their cap space restored—after all, that’s not what the NFLPA is trying to accomplish—but it’ll be a fascinating drama as long as it lasts.
Just a reminder: Friday is June 1, the date after which teams can release a player and divide the salary cap hit over this season and next. Because 2010 was uncapped and players were locked out last summer, it’s been three years since this was a meaningful date. It’ll be interesting to see what movement there is in Washington and around the league.