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Coming and Goings: Redskins cut roster, add punter

Coming and Goings: Redskins cut roster, add punter

Some lockers were emptied at Redskins Park today and someone came in to fill one of them.

Among those who bade farewell to Ashburn was Darnerien McCants, the wide receiver who was the last of the Redskins’ 2001 draft class who was still on the roster. It appeared that “Darkerien” (that was the way that Steve Spurrier would constantly mangle his name) was, if not a rising star on the team, was at least secure in his spot on the team after he tied for the team lead with six touchdown catches in 2003. Even with a regime change from Spurrier to Joe Gibbs, McCants appeared to be a valued property by the Redskins. Gibbs compared McCants to Art Monk, high praise indeed. Gibbs put the Redskins’ money where his mouth was by signing McCants to a three-year, $4.5 million contract that kept the receiver off of the restricted free agent market.

That pen scratching on that paper was the high point of the Gibbs-McCants relationship. Gibbs became disenchanted with McCants’ practice habits and with his reluctance to participate on special teams. Those factors earned him a spot on the inactive list for 10 games last year.

The handwriting seemed to be on the wall for McCants’ imminent release for most of the summer and it became a little bit more visible when the team signed receiver Kevin Dyson, another big receiver, just before minicamp. The handwriting turned bolder as he dropped pass after pass early in camp and in the Carolina preseason game and the ink turned indelible as he continued to sit out special teams plays in the preseason games.

I knew that he was gone as he spoke with a few of us after a training camp practice. When asked about playing special team, he said that he was lining up as one of the gunners on punt coverage. The only aspect of doing it he didn’t like, he said, was the hitting part. “If I get to him (the returner) I’ll just wrestle him to the ground or something.” That’s kind of like saying that you like to go swimming, but you hate getting wet. Such an attitude will not earn too many points with special teams coach Danny Smith, who is as old school as they come.

Oddly, McCants was the first to break the news of his release, doing so via his own website:

ITS OFFICIAL!!!
I AM NO LONGER A REDSKIN! I thank everyone for there support and love through out the years. I want you to know this is my home and always will be, if God see fit for me to play again i'll give it my all like always. I wish my Redskin family the best and to all my brothers stay healthy and win. I love all of you because without you i dont exist, thank you i wish you peace and many blessings... (sic)

It was rather classy but rather odd farewell from a rather classy but rather odd player.

Along with McCants, the Redskins released TE Billy Baber, DB Charles Byrd, K Jeff Chandler, RB Jonathan Combs, RB Brock Forsey, WR Steven Harris, DL Charles Howard, LB Jared Newberry, DL Jerome Nichols, LB Clifton Smith, QB Bryson Spinner, and OL Josh Warner.

Baber’s long odds of making it were made much longer when the team signed massive TE Robert Johns, who, unlike Baber, has been getting himself noticed. Byrd was caught in a numbers game in a very crowded defensive backfield. I really thought that Chandler would challenge Jeff Hall for the placekicking job, but the “competition”, such as it was, ended in the first preseason game when Hall nailed a field goal from 40+ while Chandler was wide on an attempt from virtually the same distance. Combs fumbled away his chances in the Carolina game and Forsey and Harris never really had a chance. In the early going in camp Howard was a chic pick among the media types and others to be a dark horse for a roster spot, but he faded as camp wore on. Newberry is the first of the team’s draft picks to be shown the door; he’s a good bet for practice squad duty. Like Howard, Nichols found himself with too many good, experienced players at his position and, like Newberry, Smith found the same situation. Smith was on everyone’s list of the final 53 on the roster, but with rookie Robert McCune showing promise in the middle and proving to be a special teams demon, Smith became expendable. Spinner’s release was inevitable as the need for four QB’s went away when two-a-days ended. Apparently Cory Raymer and Lennie Friedman listened to those who said that their spots one the roster were at risk as they have responded with solid play so far, a development that cost Warner a chance at stealing a spot from one of those two.

The only person at Redskins Park who was feeling as bad as those listed above was Tom Tupa. That’s because one of the newly vacant lockers was quickly filled by the belongings and #15 jersey of one Chris Mohr. He’s a punter with 16 years of NFL experience. After having an excellent 2004 season, Tupa developed a back problem while warming up for the Cincinnati preseason game. He missed all of that game and the next one. Tupa’s once rock-solid grip on a roster spot is now quite tenuous for two reasons.

One is the signing of Mohr, the other the play of Andy Groom. The first-year punter out of Ohio State has been booming the ball both in practice and in the punts he has made in the preseason games. He has shown not only power but touch as well, putting four punts inside of the 20 last Friday against Pittsburgh. In light of Mohr’s arrival, he must be wondering what a guy has to do to get a roster spot.

It would be uncharacteristic of Gibbs to go with an inexperienced punter, but such a move would not be unprecedented. During his first season as head coach, veteran Mike Connell handled the punting duties. In camp the following year Jeff Hayes who, like Groom, had never punted in a real NFL game, won the job over Connell. That move worked out OK as we all remember how Gibbs’ second season ended.

There was a key difference between then and now that might make Gibbs less likely to go with a younger player. Back then, Joe Theismann was the holder for kicker Mark Moseley. The coach has decided to go with the punter in that role this time around. It is here that Gibbs might be nervous about going with inexperience. The occasional shanked punt or misplaced directional kick due to inexperience is one thing. Handling the snap on a game-tying extra point in the fourth quarter in the rain in October is quite another. If Tupa is unable to go or if his situation is iffy, that could be the deciding factor between Groom and Mohr.

For his part, Mohr is confident, perhaps to the point where it seems the Redskins have told him that the job is his as long as he performs decently in practice. "At this stage of my career I don't want to come in and compete," Mohr said. "You know what I can do."

Well, we don’t really but I guess we’ll find out.

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Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Need to Know: Betting on the Redskins' playoff race outcomes

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, December 3, one day before the Washington Redskins play the Arizona Cardinals.

Timeline

Today's schedule: No availability

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 8; Panthers @ Redskins 16; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), DE Anthony Lanier (leg)
Questionable: G Brandon Scherff (ankle), OT Ty Nsekhe (ankle), Bashaud Breeland (ankle), LS Nick Sundberg (back)
Final injury report

Redskins vs. Cardinals
FOX, Sunday, 4:25 p.m., Dick Stockton and Chris Spielman
Line: Cardinals -2.5

Resetting the playoff odds

The Redskins start their stretch drive to the playoffs tomorrow. The will play five games in 29 days. After that, they will have either earned the right to keep playing or will they go home.

Let’s get out the imaginary $100 in casino chips and look at the various possibilities of the finish to the season and spread out the chips based on how likely each scenario is. As always, you are welcome to jump into the comments if you agree or disagree.

Win NFC East, $0—This might be worth a buck or two but this place doesn’t have any chips smaller than $5 and it’s not worth investing even that much in the chance of this happening. The scenario would have to be the Redskins winning out, the Cowboys losing out, and the Giants losing at least two more games. I’d put something on the first scenario and a few chips on the last one but no way is Dallas going 0-4. Keeping my chips in my pocket on this one.

Wild card as No. 5 seed, $40—To do this the Redskins would have to stay ahead of the wild card contenders behind them (see next scenario) and make up a game and a half on the Giants. They play New York in Week 17 so the Redskins would have to make up one game between now and then and they could then determine their status on January 1 at FedEx Field. The Giants go to Pittsburgh on Sunday and host Dallas a week after that so we will see how that looks in a couple of weeks. As of now, the No. 6 seed would go to Detroit for the first round of the playoffs while the No. 5 would play the Falcons in Atlanta. That, of course, is subject to change.

Wild card as No. 6 seed, $35—I think getting the five seed is slightly more likely than getting the six since I think the Giants are a mirage. But even if New York keeps it going, the Redskins can clinch a spot by running the table in their last five games. That would make them 11-4-1 and no other wild card contender could catch them. If they win four of five, only the Bucs can catch them and it would take a 5-0 finish for Tampa Bay. Winning three of five still gives them a good shot at getting in although at that point you are also opening the door for the Vikings, Saints, Packers, and Eagles to catch fire and jump ahead of them.

Out of playoffs, $25—I might be putting a little too much here but it’s the NFL and it’s certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that the Redskins could finish 2-3 and miss out altogether. Their margin for error is slim and an injury here and a bad break there could have them on the outside looking in.

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When asked to vote for top 20 players, Pierre Garcon just wrote 'Kirk Cousins' 20 times

When asked to vote for top 20 players, Pierre Garcon just wrote 'Kirk Cousins' 20 times

Redskins receiver Pierre Garcon just filled out his ballot for the annual NFL Top 100 Players list.

Let's just say it's pretty one-dimensional. 

Straight like that

A photo posted by Pierre Garcon (@pierregarcon) on

As you can see, the form asks guys to rank who they consider the top 20 players in the league. But instead of naming 20 different players, Garcon voted for the same player 20 times. Talk about stuffing the ballot box. 

No surprise, but he's hyping his quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

Cousins is having a career year with the Redskins. His stock has soared over the last three weeks especially. Take a look at his numbers in that span: 84 completions on 116 attempts for 1,086 yards (72 percent), eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

Those efforts earned the Michigan State product NFC Offensive Player of the Month honors. And more importantly, Cousins has the Redskins in favorable position to make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

So far this season, Garcon has caught 52 passes from Cousins for 636 yards and two scores. 

MORE REDSKINS: Reed out, 7 other Redskins questionable