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Gibbs' Redskins Take It Easy

Gibbs' Redskins Take It Easy


We may lose and we may win though
We will never be here again
So open up, I’m climbin’ in,
So take it easy

--The Eagles

As we approach mid August, NFL training camps are in full swing. Across the country from Flowery Branch, Georgia to Albany, New York to Oxnard, California, and many points in between two-a-days in full pads are the order of the day. The sights, smells, and sounds of grass drills, Oklahoma drills, and full-contact 11-on-11 drills are abundant all across the landscape.

That is, except in Ashburn, Virginia. The Redskins finished their last two-a-day practice on Tuesday. They were given a day off on Sunday, a luxury that very few of their counterparts on other teams have enjoyed. Just a handful of practices have been conducted in more than half pads. The starters participated in some activities prior to a scrimmage against the Ravens last weekend but most of them, including every starter on the offensive side of the ball, sat out the full 11 on 11 action. By comparison to, say, the Atlanta Falcons, who have gone for 14 days without a day off with two-a-days every other day, the experience in Ashburn has been more like Club Gibbs.

According to Joe Gibbs, the Redskins earned their relatively light camp schedule with an attendance rate of 98% at OTA’s and other voluntary offseason activities. Certainly, the players, with very few exceptions, seem to be in excellent condition. Six-pack abs are much more prevalent than the hog bellies around Redskins Park.

Still, most players are in shape around the NFL and they’re doing gassers while the Redskins are in an air-conditioned meeting room. Is Gibbs taking a chance in going with a much lighter physical workload?

The evidence says that Gibbs knows what he’s doing. Here is his record month by month, including playoffs:

September: 31-20 (.607)
October: 33-21 (.611)
November: 36-23 (.610)
December: 39-14 (.735)
January: 19-5 (.791)

Gibbs’ teams start off pretty well, a 60% winning percentage being about a 10-win pace over the course of 16 games. After the falling leaves give way to falling snow, however, the winning percentage shoots up to the point where his teams are winning three out of every four games. His theory is that the team will be fresher towards the end of the year if they don’t take too much of a physical toll in August. It’s clear that the Redskins have their legs under them in December and January.

In contrast, the tough camp that Jim Mora ran for the Falcons in 2005, which was similar to the one he’s running this year, had Atlanta set up in good shape up until the middle of the season. A 6-2 start, however, was turned around as the Falcons went 2-6 the second half of the season and missed the playoffs.

To be sure, this is just a snapshot and the link between the tough camp and the late collapse is a hypothesis, not a proven fact. But the human body can only take so much hard physical activity before it begins to break down. It’s too much to ask the players to hit the weight room hard starting in March, conduct OTA’s through May and June, hold a minicamp, pound them in training camp in August before going through the grind of the 16-game NFL schedule. Something has to give somewhere.

It’s a marathon and Gibbs has decided that the strategy will be to take it easy in the middle of it. They jump out strong at the start, getting a lead on the pack with hard work in the spring and early summer. In the middle, they conserve their energy, keeping a steady pace while others are sprinting by them. The Redskins save up for the finishing kick, the last quarter of the race when they are able to keep in cruising while the rest of the field is gasping for air.

The danger is that you just may let one or two of the other race participants get too far ahead of you to catch up. You can’t rely on pulling out a 5-0 finish to the season every year in order to make the last Wild Card playoff spot as the Redskins did last year if you want to make it to the Super Bowl.

The Redskins have upgraded their talent this year in an effort to stay close enough to the leaders so that their annual December run will put them over the top instead of just barely nudging them into the postseason. We will see if that talent improvement will have them poised to make their run when Thanksgiving comes around. We know from history that the finishing kick will be there.

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Projecting the Redskins 2017 roster—Offense

Projecting the Redskins 2017 roster—Offense

The Redskins are looking at potential free agents and continuing with the draft process as they try to move team from residing in the middle of the pack in the NFL to becoming annual playoff contenders.

The process is all about trying to build a solid 53-man depth chart.

Let’s get out the crystal ball and see what that depth chart might look like.

Today we’ll look at the offense and project the defense in the next couple of days.

*Pending unrestricted free agent

— Quarterback: Kirk Cousins*
Backups: Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld

It’s not a sure thing that Kirk Cousins will be back under center but it’s very much more likely than not, either with a new long-term contract or via the franchise tag. McCoy is under contract and will continue to be the backup. I think they are happy with Sudfeld as their developmental guy although I wouldn’t be shocked if Scot McCloughan decided that a quarterback is the best available player sometime in the fifth round in April.

RELATED: REDSKINS RESUME - MATT CAVANAUGH

— Running backs: Rob Kelley
Backups: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, draft pick

Gruden gave Kelley a vote of confidence in his final press conference but that could be fluid. If Jones can get things straight between his ears he has the physical tools to be a very good running back but they can’t count on that. There is some talk that the Redskins will look to take a back in the middle rounds if they can find one with some impact.

— Wide receivers: Pierre Garçon*, Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder (slot receiver),
Backups: Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris

Right now, it looks like it’s slightly better than 50-50 that Garçon will be back. If he’s not they will have to sign a starter in free agency; as we found out last year, you can’t count on a rookie receiver to produce, even if you take one high in the draft. If McCloughan does take a receiver in the later stages of the draft he likely will replace Grant, not Harris.

More Redskins: THE REDSKINS' WEEK THAT WAS

— Tight end: Jordan Reed
Backups: Vernon Davis*, Niles Paul

It seems likely that Davis will re-sign, although since it could be his last NFL contract I don’t think he will give the Redskins much of a hometown discount. The organization will pay, however, as it is apparent that the need a quality backup for Reed. I’m on the fence about Paul. On the one hand, I could see the organization looking for an alternative since he has finished each of the last two seasons on injured reserve. But he’s the kind of guy that McCloughan likes to have on the team.

— Offensive line: LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Spencer Long, RG Brandon Scherff, RT Morgan Moses
Backups: G Arie Kouandjio, T Ty Nsekhe, C John Sullivan*, 1-2 free agents/draft picks

Could it be that the Redskins are nearly set on the O-line with the exception of some parts further down the depth chart? Nsekhe is a restricted free agent and he will be back either on the tag or with a new contract. Maybe Kouandjio can challenge Lauvao for the starting job but both are likely to be on the 53. If they move on from Kory Lichtensteiger to save $3.5 million in cap room and if Sullivan opts to try to find a starting job elsewhere they could find a veteran center to back up Long.

RELATED: REDSKINS MOST IMPORTANT FREE AGENTS

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McCloughan

Need to Know: Redskins' cap room could be a dilemma for McCloughan

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, January 16, 52 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 44
NFL draft 101
First Sunday of 2017 season 237

A six pack of thoughts to start out the week

1. I think that by the end of the week the Redskins will have two new coordinators. It looks like Matt Cavanaugh will be the offensive coordinator. Haven’t heard why Bill Callahan isn’t getting the nod; it’s possible that he likes what he’s doing now and he’s getting paid as well as many coordinators.

2.  For a quick game with the $100 in imaginary casino chips on the defensive coordinator candidates, I’ll make Greg Manusky the favorite at $40 with Mike Pettine right behind him at $35. I’ll put $10 of the rest on Gus Bradley—we’ve heard of an interview with the Chargers but not anything like a hiring—and $15 on the field. The situation is fluid but that's the way it looks right now. 

Related: Redskins offensive coordinator resume: Matt Cavanaugh

3. On November 21, after the results of Week 11, the Redskins were 2.5 games ahead of the Packers. They were also a half-game better than of the Falcons. Those two teams are now playing for the NFC title. It’s not how you start, or even how you do in the middle of the season. It’s how you finish.

4. I’m not much of a hockey guy but I think I’ve got to get down to the Verizon Center to see the Caps. They are blazing hot and you can tell it’s a great atmosphere at the VC.

5. I have a feeling that an announcement about a new stadium for the Redskins is going to happen sometime in the next few months. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe can’t run again; he is out of office about a year from today. He’s going to want a legacy item and a state of the art stadium in the commonwealth would fill the bill. The process of approval, financing, and construction will take up most or all of the 10 years that remains on the FedEx Field lease.

More Redskins: The Redskins week that was

6. Normally having a lot of cap space to work with is a good thing but it may not be for Scot McCloughan this year. If the Redskins trim some veterans from the payroll they could go into free agency with around $70 million to spend. McCloughan would prefer to build through the draft. But the current situation almost forces the Redskins to spend. McCloughan took some heat for going into the 2016 season with $15 million in cap space and some unfilled needs on the defensive line and at safety. If they have issues again in 2017 and there is, say, $30 million just sitting there the noise will get louder. And it won’t just be coming from fans and the media; plenty of it will come from the offices of Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder.

Tandler on Twitter

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Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.