Numbers don't tell the story on RG3 vs. Bengals

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Numbers don't tell the story on RG3 vs. Bengals

You have to say this about Robert Griffin IIIhe makes it interesting.After getting knocked around by the Cincinnati Bengals for most of the first half and looking at a 17-point deficit, Griffin brought the Redskins back. The Redskins ultimately lost but Griffin made it close.How close? Possession in the red zone with time enough to run a few plays, thats how close.The rookies ended up going 21 of 34 for 221 yards and one touchdown. For the second time in his three career games, he did not throw an interception. Griffin also ran 12 times for a team-leading 85 yards.But the numbers dont tell the story.Trailing 24-7 with halftime approaching, Griffin got his team going. He got a drive jump started with an 11-yard run on third and 10. That set up a field goal to cut it to 24-10 at intermission.In the second half, Griffin and the offense got on a roll. Back to back drives that covered 80 and 86 yards resulted in touchdowns that tied the game up at 24 with 3:29 left in the third quarter.During those two drives, Griffin was 4-4 passing for 52 yards and a three-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss that capped the second drive. He also ran four times for 19 yards.But when the offense slowed down, the Redskins defense let Cincinnati take control of the game. After forcing two three and outs and a fumble, the defense turned back into the sieve it was in the first half of the game. Back to back Bengals touchdown drives of 80 and 72 yards put the game out of reach.Almost.After a penalty pushed the Redskins back to their own 10, Griffin accounted for 100 yards of offense during a 12-play drive (a 10-yard holding penalty let him pick up an additional 10 yards of stats). He was 8-10 passing for 93 yards and he ran twice for seven yards including a two-yard quarterback sneak that brought the Redskins within a touchdown with 3:35 to go.Niles Paul touched an onside kick attempt just before it passed the required 10 yards and Cincinnati got the ball at the Washington 44. The Redskins were out of timeouts. Three plays later the Bengals punted and the ball rolled dead at the Redskins two. Griffin came in with 98 yards to go, not timeouts, and needing a touchdown to tie the game.He did manage to get them into the red zone. Griffen passed to Josh Morgan for 11 yards, to Leonard Hankerson for 12 and they he scrambled for 10. A 15-yard personal foul was tacked onto the end of that run when Griffin was hit out of bounds (the defender went sprawling to the ground after the hit, RG3 stayed on his feet). Two plays later Griffin ran for 19 yards and all of a sudden the Redskins were in the red zone at the 19 with 29 seconds left. Could he do it?No. Griffin averted a couple of sack attempts as he scrambled to make a play but he was finally corralled by Geno Atkins for a loss of 15. He spiked the ball to kill the clock but after a false start and a confusing unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Hal Mary came from the Washington 41. It was short and incomplete and that was that.

Redskins guard Spencer Long has been getting some work at center, too

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Redskins guard Spencer Long has been getting some work at center, too

Although it’s a little early in the offseason to handicap position battles, it’s definitely worth noting that guard Spencer Long has also been getting some work at center.

“Getting more and more comfortable,” Long told me on Monday at the Redskins charity golf tournament. “Obviously, I’d be lying if I told you I was as comfortable [at center] as I was at guard, but that comes with time. The more practice I get at it, the better I’ll be. I’ve been working at it daily.”

“It’s something that I’m definitely prepared to do if I’m asked,” the 25-year-old added. “It’s something I’ll continue to work at.”

What does it mean? That’s unclear…for now.

Starter Kory Lichtensteiger along with backups Josh LeRibeus and Austin Reiter are the three centers currently listed on the Redskins’ roster.

Long, meantime, made 14 starts in 2015 at left guard after replacing Shawn Lauvao, who was playing well when he went down with a season-ending ankle injury in Week 3. Lauvao, though, is expected to return at some point and, assuming that he does, it could create an opportunity to reshuffle the line.

But that doesn’t mean it is going to happen. Lichtensteiger is by far the most experienced center on the team. It’s also important to point out how quickly Jay Gruden reinstalled Lichtensteiger as the starter last January after he missed most of the season with a pinched nerve in his shoulder. Long, on the other hand, is more than five years younger and has a big size advantage but has played in only 18 games, all as a guard.

On Wednesday, the Redskins will open practice to reporters for the first time this spring, giving us a better picture of the pecking order at a number of positions, including those along the O-line.

We’ll also get a better feel for exactly how much work Long is getting at center—and how much progress he's made.  

“You’re the guy that has to be orchestrating everything up there,” Long said, asked about playing center vs. guard. “While making the calls, you have to focus on your snaps, too. ...You have to have a certain poise, to make the right calls confidently and also get the snap off when you’re exhausted. It’s just a different position; you’re at the head of it.”

OTAs to-do list: How much work remains at safety?

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OTAs to-do list: How much work remains at safety?

Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin today, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Safeties to-do list

Tandler: In many areas what needs to be accomplished during OTAs is somewhat subtle, a tweak here and there. But at safety there are two glaringly obvious things that need to be done at safety this spring.

One is to get DeAngelo Hall fully acclimated at free safety. Last year veteran made an in-season change from cornerback, the position he played for his first 11 NFL seasons, to safety. Now he is starting the offseason program at the still somewhat unfamiliar position. It’s no longer an experiment and he needs to master the nuances of safety starting today.

The other item here is to figure out who will start at strong safety and what roles the reserves will play. Duke Ihenacho won the job last year but he lasted only a few snaps into the season before a wrist injury ended his season. David Bruton was mostly a reserve in seven seasons in Denver but he signed here with assurances that he would get to compete for the starting job. And while rookie Su’a Cravens is starting out as an inside linebacker it’s only a few steps back from there to an in-the-box strong safety spot. It will be interesting to watch who gets how much action at the position as they begin to sort it out.

El-Bashir: One of the more scrutinized positions in the coming weeks figures to be the safety spot next to DeAngelo Hall, whom I suspect can be safely penciled in as one starter.

As for everyone else? We’ll get our first look at the pecking order tomorrow, when the Redskins open practice to reporters for the first time this spring.

Here’s what I’ll be looking for:

  • Is there a rotation opposite Hall? Or is someone (David Bruton, Duke Ihenacho or 'other') clearly working as a first-teamer?
  • How is Will Blackmon deployed? Listed as a corner last season, the veteran was signed to a two-year contract extension and is now listed as a safety.
  • Su’a Cravens worked with the inside linebackers during rookie minicamp. But he’s listed as a safety. Does he get some work as a defensive back?
  • And what about special teams standout Deshazor Everett? Like Blackmon, he's also moved from corner to safety. Where, and with whom, does he work?

My sense is that there’s a lot of work to be done at this position. We’ll get our first glimpse of exactly how much work remains tomorrow afternoon.  

OTAs to-do list: Is it Matt Jones' job to lose?

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OTAs to-do list: Is it Matt Jones' job to lose?

Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin today, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.

Up today …

Running backs to-do list

Tandler: The Redskins’ depth chart seems to be missing a running back. The “lead dog” will be Matt Jones but there really isn’t a Plan B there. Maybe seventh-round pick Keith Marshall can contribute but if Jones is injured or ineffective for any significant amount of time—and he experienced stretches of both during his rookie 2015 season—it’s difficult to see Marshall carrying the load.

Perhaps the coaches will give Mack Brown a shot. He bounced on and off of the practice squad last year. The 24-year-old former Florida Gator might get a chance during OTAs to earn some significant snaps during training camp. He’s a long shot but part of OTAs is figuring out which players on the fringe of the roster might be able to make a legitimate push to make the team in July and August.

Still, it really feels like they are waiting for another running back to arrive. There has been plenty of talk about bringing back Pierre Thomas, who contributed during the last four games of last season. However, the 31-year-old veteran remains unsigned. Many have speculated that Arian Foster, released by the Texans, would be a good fit. But he is recovering from a torn Achilles and he can’t yet pass a physical so the speculation remains just that.

The process of identifying Jones’ backup is going to start in OTAs but I get a feeling it will continue into training camp.

El-Bashir: As the roster stands now, the Redskins’ plan for an improved rushing attack appears to revolve around Matt Jones staying healthy and making a huge leap production-wise in his second season.

To me, that seems like a big ask. Jones does boast impressive size for a runner and he possesses loads of talent. But he had a rough rookie season, one marked by injuries (he missed four games), fumbles (five on 169 touches) and inefficiency (league-worst 3.4 yards per carry among qualified rushers).

The good news is Jones should be fully recovered from the toe and hip ailments that sidelined him in '15. And, based on the second half of last season, he appears to be recovering from an acute case of fumble-itis. 

But what’s the backup plan if Jones' anticipated improvement stalls? Oft-injured Chris Thompson, who is recovering from shoulder surgery? Speedy seventh round draft pick Keith Marshall? As Tandler said, it seems like there should be a 'TBD' listed on the running back depth chart entering OTAs.

Over the next month, though, Jones will get the chance to quell any concerns about his ability to shoulder the load. But it can also go the other way. If there's any doubt, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Redskins turn to the free agent market for some veteran insurance.