Redskins’ roster: leftover thoughts

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

Leftover thoughts on the Redskins’ roster:

Alfred Morris was a camp surprise, but knowing how much Mike Shanahan likes developing young backs, it’s not a surprise that he made the roster. Mild surprise? Yeah, sure, considering there appeared to be three guys ahead of him. But it was evident early on in camp that he could play and it was clear once the games began. And once it was known that Tim Hightower wasn’t close to 100 percent (as Mike Shanahan said early in camp), Morris’ spot was no longer surprising. Should Morris start? I’d say yes, but the pass protection is an issue. And it’s why he ultimately might not start. He was good at this in college, but inconsistent this summer. With a rookie QB, picking up the blitz is paramount. Steve Spagnuolo will throw blitzes at him that he hasn’t seen before so it’ll be tricky if Morris does start.

…You can’t include Dezmon Briscoe among the surprises given what he did a year ago in Tampa Bay (though the Bucs still felt a need to upgrade). But it’s difficult for a receiver who had been released to come to a new team after camp begins and be able to earn a spot. I thought his best chance was if they kept seven and that’s what they did. But Briscoe offers something the Redskins lack enough of: big receivers. Pierre Garcon is strong, but he’s not as big as Briscoe.  He showed more than Leonard Hankerson did in the preseason, which is not necessarily good. Based on the preseason, I’d start Morgan at the Z receiver instead of Hankerson. But the coaches really like Hankerson’s ability so we’ll see.

Jordan Black also falls into the same category as Briscoe. He looked better than anyone else trying to be the backup swing tackle. Doesn’t mean he looked great, but based on camp and the games he was going to be the pick. Willie Smith improved the last couple weeks – but he looked dreadful early on — so it’s telling that he was still released. Black at least looked better than Sean Locklear last summer. Still, it’ll be interesting to see if Black has to play, having been out of the game last season and still only around 285 pounds.

…I was mildly surprised that fifth-round Adam Gettis made the roster. Based on his play he looked more suited for the practice squad; got moved around a bit much. He has a strong lower body, but there were times when he played too upright. Or he’d have his hands too low and the defender would get their hands inside. Struggled on cut blocks vs. starters. I’m curious to see how he develops because I’ve heard good things and did see good fundamentals. It’s clear the Redskins thought they’d lose him if they exposed him to waivers. Can’t imagine he’ll be active barring injuries.

…Third-rounder Josh LeRibeus also wasn’t a camp standout, but he can play guard and center and he didn’t look nearly as lost in the final preseason game as he did in the first. I’d be wary of him playing early, but, again, barring injuries that won’t happen. Maurice Hurt is the first backup at guard and he looked better than LeRibeus. Talked to one NFL evaluator who liked what they saw in Hurt this summer; thought he had improved.

…Is the line depth really better? Hurt was a reserve in 2011 and he’s improved; Gettis and LeRibeus have more potential than Erik Cook and Black is better than Locklear. So yes it is. The single biggest thing the Redskins’ line needs is cohesion among  the starters. That alone will help them improve.

…Some players I did not expect to make the roster when camp began: Richard Crawford, Jordan Bernstine, Chris Baker and Chris Wilson. Let’s go in order. Both of the rookie defensive backs, Crawford and Jordan, were in crowded fields. But I remember in a spring workout seeing how close Crawford was in coverage vs. Pierre Garcon on some routes, forcing tight throws by Robert Griffin III. At the time I marveled more about Griffin’s throws than the coverage. But I do remember making a mental note of Crawford and he was excellent this summer. Bernstine made it because Tanard Jackson was suspended. Bernstine also is fast and can help on special teams. Baker? He played well early in camp, but I did not see that coming. Wilson? The rap on him always has been that he’s a pass-rusher only. It’s why no one picked him up last season. As a 3-4 outside linebacker you have to do more. But his one skill, plus his special teams play, was enough. If the coaches were honest, there’s no way they would have predicted Wilson either when camp opened. But Markus White, who has raw ability, did not develop enough and Wilson stood out. If you’re keeping the best 53, it was the logical choice.

…For all the talk about special teams and receivers, if the Redskins keep five wideouts active there’s a chance none will be special teams guys, save for returner Brandon Banks. Of course, Aldrick Robinson and Briscoe might not have a choice and Briscoe has served in special teams roles in the past (off-returner in Tampa Bay, for example). But one reason DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty were never really in trouble: special teams play. If you’re going to keep a wide receiver group that lacks special teams standouts, then this was a must. It does help that Niles Paul, converted to tight end, plays gunner. Not sure you’ll see many tight ends in that role (of course, he’s not a traditional tight end).

…I have no idea if Crezdon Butler can play corner; haven’t seen him. I know he’s fast so if nothing else he can help on special teams. I also know that Arizona defensive coordinator Ray Horton coached him in Pittsburgh, where he was eventually cut after Horton left; and then Horton cut him this past week.  Butler dislocated his ankle (and damaging ligaments). Coach Mike Shanahan said he’s healthy, but what impact has that injury had on his game? We’ll find out.

Here’s what NFL.com wrote about Butler before the 2010 draft: “Butler has good size and straight line speed for the position but lacks great change of direction in coverage and lateral quickness in pure man schemes. He isn’t a physical tackler and needs to use his hands better to separate from blockers. Butler understands angles and how to leverage the ball but consistency is lacking. He needs to become more comfortable tracking the ball to make plays as a pass defender. Butler is a better athlete than football player but has the tools to develop into a solid NFL defender. He is a bit of a project and may contribute early as a rolled up corner in two deep coverage’s as well as special teams.”

I do know that Cedric Griffin struggled this summer. I also know that as much as I like Crawford, he’s still a rookie (albeit a smart and mature one; that helps). So the depth here is a question mark.

 

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner