While training camp battles in the secondary and among a trio of running backs figure to receive much of the spotlight in the coming weeks, theres another competition that promises plenty of intrigue: kicker.The Redskins signed veteran Neil Rackers in April to compete with incumbent Graham Gano, who was 29th in the NFL in accuracy last season (75.6 percent), a year after ranking 30th (68.6 percent).On Friday, Coach Mike Shanahan said the job is up for grabs.Right from the start, both kickers know they have an opportunity to make this football team, Shanahan said. This is the way its supposed to be.Ganos unimpressive numbers in 2011 were no doubt affected by the five attempts that were blocked. Although it could be argued the breakdowns were caused by blocking breakdowns, not the kicker, Shanahan apparently was concerned enough to bring in Rackers, who was not re-signed by the Texans after making 32 of 38 attempts (84.2-percent) last season.Rackers, 35, said a miscommunication between his former agent and the Texans during contract negotiations contributed to a departure he described as unexpected.They threw out a number evidently and my agent threw out an astronomical number so they just decided, Hey, were going to go in another direction, he said. Thats business.Gano is 10 years younger than Rackers and boasts a more powerful leg. But hes connected on 73.8 percent of his attempts in three seasons with the Redskins, while Rackers has made 80-percent of his kicks in a 12 season career thats made stops in Cincinnati, Arizona and Houston. Three times, in fact, Rackers has made 90 percent or more of his kicks, including the 2005 season in Arizona, where he made 40 of 42 attempts.I liked what they had to say, Rackers said of his discussions with the Redskins prior to signing a one-year deal. I like the idea of NFC East football. Its real football. I think its a team thats got an opportunity to do some special things.Ive been on two teams that no one assumed would do anything the Texas and Cardinals, the St. Louis native added. The Texans went to the playoffs for the first time and the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl. I see a lot of similarities between the Redskins and those teams.
The Redskins have conducted interviews with a number of candidates at defensive coordinator, but a new name emerged Thursday morning.
Thurman played cornerback in the NFL for nine years from 1978 to 1986, recording 36 career interceptions in 137 games. The bulk of his playing career was spent with the Dallas Cowboys, but he played his final season with the then St. Louis Rams.
In coaching since 1988, Thurman's coaching career started working with the secondary for the Cardinals before an eight-year run at his alma mater, Southern Cal. From there, Thurman came back to the pros, joining the Ravens coaching staff in 2002 working under Rex Ryan. In 2008, Thurman moved on with Ryan to the New York Jets, and in 2013, was named Jets defensive coordinator In 2014, he went to Buffalo with Ryan to serve as their defensive coordinator when Ryan was named head coach.
In four seasons as a coordinator, two in New York, two in Buffalo, Thurman's defenses ranked no worse than 19th, per Pro Football Reference.
A football lifer like Thurman likely has connections all over the league, but it's interesting to note he has worked with new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn since 2009. The two were on staffs both with the Jets and the Bills. Another Redskins coordinator candidate Gus Bradley has often been linked with Lynn, though the two have never been on the same staff.
Meeting with Thurman will satisfy the NFL's guidelines to interview minority candidates for coordinator positions. The Rooney Rule, as it was instituted, requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching jobs, but only suggests that teams extend the practice to coordinator positions. Washington had set an interview with Carolina's Steve Wilks, but then he was promoted internally to be the Panthers defensive coordinator and the meeting never took place.
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You can strike Redskins offensive line coach Bill Callahan off the list of candidates for the team’s vacant offensive coordinator position.
It’s not a matter of the 60-year-old veteran coach having been passed over by the organization. The simple fact is that Callahan enjoys doing what he’s doing, reports the Washington Post.
“Bill has never been happier in his life,” said Bob LaMonte, Callahan’s agent. What Callahan is doing now is coaching the Redskins’ offensive line and helping in the running game planning. He is well known for keeping the linemen out well after practice ends, schooling them on various techniques and details of their craft.
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LaMonte said that Callahan enjoys working with Jay Gruden and he didn’t rule out the possibility that Callahan may want to take the step up a coordinator job in the future.
Callahan is certainly well qualified for the job. His resume includes 37 years as a coach including seven as an NFL coordinator and two years as the Raiders’ head coach.
The Redskins’ offensive coordinator search still seems to be focused on internal candidates. Quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh is considered to be the favorite, while tight ends coach Wes Phillips could get the promotion, remain with the tight ends, or head west to Los Angeles to join the staff of former Redskins offensive coordinator and new Rams head coach Sean McVay.
In the week since McVay was announced as the Rams’ new head coach there has been little news about the search. The team is also looking for a defensive coordinator after firing Joe Barry two weeks ago. They have announced interviews with four candidates including Rob Ryan and an internal candidate, outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky, earlier this week.