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Mechanical difficulties?

Mechanical difficulties?

ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski got some headlines on Wednesday by declaring that a quarterback who has started seven NFL games could be one of the best ever.

"I truly believe Colin Kaepernick could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever," Jaworski said Wednesday on ESPN. "I love his skill set. I think the sky's the limit."

Well, OK then. Some might think it’s a bit premature to say that but when the purpose is to make a bold statement you might as well go out on a limb.

Earlier in the day, the former Eagles quarterback made some statements that drew some attention around these parts when he talked about the throwing mechanics of Robert Griffin III.

“I was watching him throw the football — there were a few clips — and I was concerned in the weight transfer,” he said on Mike and Mike In the Morning via our friends at Pro Football Talk. “I didn’t see the clean mechanics I’ve seen in the past. I’m not there every day, I’m not a doctor, but he just looks a little different right now. It’s pregame, it was warmup, people can discount that. I’m just saying from my eye, I didn’t see the clean drops, the weight transfer, stay on that back foot, snap the hips, that I’d seen out of him.”

This created some degree of panic among some Redskins fans who fear that Griffin’s second ACL injury may have permanently altered the quarterbacks ability to throw. Both Griffin and Mike Shanahan were asked about it yesterday.

Griffin was asked if there were any changes to his mechanics. “I think the experience last year playing through the injury, being hurt out there, showed me a lot about football,” he said. “That’s something that I’ll keep to myself.”

One could surmise from the last part of that answer that Griffin’s mechanics aren’t the same as they were when he had such a stellar rookie season last year.

Shanahan said that any hitch in Griffin’s mechanics may be due him taking fewer practice reps due to his knee rehab.

“When you take a look at his OTAs, the minicamps, there’s about 600 throws in there, so we’ve watched them,” he said. “You know, right now, he’s got well over 200 throws – about 220 – so we’ve had a chance to see what he’s done thus far, and we’ve still got a couple more weeks left, putting him in team situations and things that he’s done in the past.”

“Everybody needs those reps and that’s why we’re going to do it for two weeks before we get in our game week against Philly, so it was part of our game plan in getting Robert ready and we’ve got a couple of weeks to go and hopefully he keeps on progressing like he has.”

If what Jaworski said is true—and remember that he was watching pregame warmups for a game in which Griffin would not play—it’s not necessarily any cause for alarm. Griffin is still rounding into form and the knee is different from the way it was before. In addition, there is a brace on it and that will take some getting used to. The more reps he gets the more comfortable he will be. It’s possible that he will have to live with some flaws in his motion for the rest of the year until he gets them ironed out next offseason.

So it is premature to be overly concerned about permanent issues with Griffin’s throwing motion, if he does indeed have any at all. But it is worth watching and I’m sure we’ll hear more about this when the season starts.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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

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