Friday was Dezmon Briscoes 23 birthday. It was also cutdown day around the NFL, and the Redskins wide receiver wasnt certain he had done enough in the preseason to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.Everybody kept asking me what I wanted for a present, Briscoe said. I really didnt want anything. I told them, Just pray for me. The only thing I really wanted for my birthday was to make the team.On Friday morning, his cell phone rang. It was Paul Kelly, the teams director of football operations.He said, Coach wants to see you, Briscoe said. I was like, Um Then he was like, Calm down. Its not one of them calls. It was a good feeling.Briscoe said his talk with Shanahan was more of the personal one. But Shanahan was also very clear when the conversation turned to on-field expectations, he added.He just wanted to get to know me, said Briscoe, who was claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay on July 28 after the Buccaneers released him for reportedly failing a conditioning test. He didnt really know me as a person. He just wanted us to get to know each other a little better.Shanahan also said he wants me to come in and keep doing what Im doing, he continued. Keep making plays, catch every ball that comes my way, contribute anyway I can, whether its scout team or getting reps on offense.Added Shanahan: I felt very good about my conversation with him.Still, Briscoe didnt allow himself to relax until the 9 p.m. deadline for submitting rosters had passed. At 7:30, Briscoe tweeted, I hour 30 minutes A second call from Kelly never came. The team released Anthony Amrstrong instead to create a spot for him.No call is a good call, said Briscoe, who tweeted HTTR just after the deadline. I just basically showed up Saturday and had a locker.It was the end of a stressful week for Briscoe, who sounded downtrodden after the Redskins preseason finale against the Buccaneers. He had expected to see ample playing time but didnt enter the game until the second half and was hardly used, leading him to believe he wasnt in the teams plans.I was on the edge because I didnt play special teams, he explained.As it turned out, the 6 foot 2, 210 pound third year professional out of Kansas had already shown Shanahan enough. In three preseason games, Briscoe had hauled in six passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns.Briscoe is a little bit bigger guy, Shanahan said. A very physical receiver, whereas Anthony is more of that X guy where hes got that great speed, very similar to Pierre Garon, Aldrick Robinson and even Brandon Banks. So we thought we were a little deeper at that X position than we were at that Z position, so thats why we went in that direction.So after an anxious birthday, Briscoe got the present he wanted. But he said Monday that he also knows this is not the time to celebrate, not for a player listed on the third string behind Garon, Morgan, Leonard Hankerson and Santana Moss.Just dont slack off, Briscoe said. Everything can easily get taken away. Dont take it for granted. Just go out there and contribute any way that I can.
The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.
That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.
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Can the Redskins trust Dustin Hopkins at kicker?
Finlay: Nick Novak. Graham Gano. Shaun Suisham. That's just a recent list of kickers the Redskins gave up on too early.
Dustin Hopkins missed a couple of important kicks in 2016, especially after a very strong start to the year, but with a powerful leg and a sharp mindset he should absolutely be the 'Skins kicker in 2017. In two seasons with Washington, Hopkins has made 84 percent of his field goals and 95 percent of his extra points. Don't forget he routinely puts kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks too.
Yes, Hopkins missed a game winner against the Bengals and other important kicks later in the year. That happened. Missed kicks are a part of life in the NFL. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed an extra point in the Super Bowl.
At 6-foot-2 and just 26 years old, Hopkins is young and athletic. Of 70 career field goal attempts, Hopkins has missed 11 times. Of the misses, six of them came from 50+ yards. In 31 games, Jay Gruden has proven he trusts Hopkins to attempt long kicks. The 'Skins would be well served to stick with the young kicker.
Finding a quarterback may be the most difficult, least scientific task that NFL organizations must undertake. Deciding when to let go of a struggling kicker is second.
There are plenty of strong legs out there spending hours every day kicking on high school fields in hopes of getting an NFL tryout. But being successful as a kicker is as much about what is above the shoulders as it is what’s below the waist. It appears Hopkins had a mental slump last year but he came back to finish strong.
Hopkins started the year making 14 of his first 15 field goal attempts, with the miss coming in the wind in Baltimore. But then in the dome in Detroit he just missed a 45-yard try and that set off a slump where he missed five of 15 field goal tries. He pulled it back together and missed just two of his final nine kicks, one of them a “why not” 57-yard try at the end of the first half against the Giants.
So, it was more of a slump than a bad year for Hopkins. He continued to pound the ball into the end zone, finishing tied for fourth in touchback percentage. I would understand if they brought in some competition for him during training camp but it will be a major upset if he is not the Week 1 kicker.
More offseason questions:
Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!
Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 19, 18 days before the March 9 start of NFL free agency.
—NFL Franchise tag deadline (3/1) 10
—NFL Combine (3/2) 11
—Redskins offseason workouts start (4/17) 57
—NFL Draft (4/27) 67
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 203
Sunday morning quick hitters
How many spots up for grabs? A quick mid-February look down the final 2016 53-man roster shows about 20 players who may not be on the roster for Week 1 this year. This includes players who may depart as free agents and others who just won’t make the team. They probably won’t turn over that many spots but it does show that a lot of jobs are up for grabs.
RELATED: #RedskinsTalk Podcast - It's tag day
How many draft picks? The Redskins have nine draft picks, their own in rounds 1-6 and extra picks in rounds 4, 5, and 6. It’s easy to say that Scot McCloughan may turn that into as many as a dozen picks, especially with all the roster spots that may be open. But remember that last year the Redskins wound up with just seven picks with no pick in the fourth and two in the seventh. McCloughan may intend to stockpile more picks but it depends on how the draft unfolds.
1st-round RB a bad idea: Yesterday JP and I posted on the topic of Rob Kelley as the Redskins’ prime running back this season and it drew quite a bit of discussion on Twitter and on Facebook. I think that they should try to get an upgrade over Kelley but I don’t think they should use their first-round pick to do it. There are just too many other, higher priority needs.
More Redskins: NFL Mock Draft 3.0
A turnaround for Matt Jones? Last year Trent Murphy broke out after two mediocre seasons to register nine sacks. Can Jones do the something similar in this, his third season? The rough equivalent of Murphy’s performance would be Jones rushing for 800 yards. It’s as much a matter of him holding on to the ball as anything. Jones was on pace to rush for over 1,100 yards before losing his grip on the starting job, literally and figuratively.
Tandler on Twitter
In case you missed it
- Would a Cousins contract be a cap killer for the Redskins?
- Will Kelley remain the Redskins' lead running back?
- The Redskins week that was—How many DL, players to step up
- 2017 NFL Mock Draft 3.0