On the day that the Redskins announced that Mike Shanahan would be fired as the team’s head coach, Bruce Allen also announced that he would take over control in the personnel department.
“We are going to redefine some of the characteristics that we’re looking for in players,” Allen said at the time.
This week at the NFL Combine, Allen was asked just what he meant by that. Part of it, he said, was that there were going to be some scheme changes that will ask different things out of some players. But the bottom line of what he was talking about was more about what a player has above the shoulders.
“What I was saying was we are going to find mentally tough players,” said Allen. “We want to find people who love playing the game of football.”
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By saying that the Redskins are looking for mentally tough players strongly implies that Allen believes that the team has too many players who are mentally soft. That issue could manifest itself in a few different ways.
One of them is special teams. Virtually every player who puts on a uniform is capable of covering kicks and blocking on returns. What separates the ones who can’t—and many on the 2013 Redskins couldn’t—from those who can is often what’s inside the player’s helmet.
Another is the ability to hold on to a lead. In the past two years alone, the Redskins have lost 12 second-half leads. They did manage to recover to win a few of those games but perhaps a mentally tougher team can maintain those leads.
The mental toughening of the Redskins probably can’t take place over the course of on offseason but it will be interesting to see who Allen ends up taking and how they stack up in that important but hard to define category.
The Redskins made a roster move just before departing for Arizona to play the Cardinals.
They signed cornerback Dashaun Phillips from the practice squad and cut offensive tackle Blaine Clausell. The Redskins also waived safety David Bruton Jr. off of injured reserve.
Phillips was the Redskins’ nickel corner for the first three games of the season, and he made four tackles and recovered a fumble. But they moved rookie Kendall Fuller up into the slot corner role in Week 4 and Phillips spent several weeks on the inactive list before being waived on November 12 and added to the practice squad three days later.
The moves became known after Redskins coach Jay Gruden had spoken to the media for the day so we can only speculate as to the reasoning behind them. Actually, the release of Clausell isn’t hard to figure out. He was signed after Trent Williams started his four-game suspension and with Williams set to return on Monday and the other options at backup tackle healthy there was no point in keeping him around.
Phillips is likely going to Arizona as an insurance policy. The Cardinals like to spread the field with a lot of wide receivers. They will want to have five cornerbacks active. They do have Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Fuller, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler. But Breeland is listed as questionable with an ankle injury and they Redskins don’t want to take any chance of being caught short-handed at cornerback if he suffers a setback. That’s especially true when they don’t need to bring an extra tackle along.
Depending on how things shake out injury-wise against the Cardinals there is a good chance that we could see Phillips on the waiver wire once again as a roster spot will be needed for Williams.
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—The word heroic is thrown around too often when talking about what athletes do, in light if what, say, first responders do every day. But Reed playing in the second half out of the Dallas game with a third-degree AC joint sprain certainly was remarkable. But Gruden said that Reed won’t have sufficient range of motion in the shoulder or range of motion to be able to go against the Cardinals.
DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the second half of the Dallas game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.
LS Nick Sundberg (back)—He tweaked his back in the weight room before the Packers game and missed that game and the one against the Cowboys. He was a full go in practice all week and will return against the Cardinals.
G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Cardinals.
T Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Ditto comment on Scherff above.
CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle)—He suffered the injury in practice this week and he was limited in practice on Thursday.
RB Chris Thompson (illness)—He was limited in practice during the week but he said in the locker room he will have his usual role on Sunday.
Also questionable for the Redskins: ILB Terence Garvin (shoulder) and DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee)
Check back for the Cardinals injury update after they release their report later this afternoon.