Chris Cooley and Santana Moss both had a seasons to forget in 2011 and both hope to be with the Redskins in 2012 to turn things around.Cooley had issues with his knee swelling all the way through training camp, problems caused in part by the tight end trying to guide his own way through rehab during the NFL lockout.He was off to a slow start with just eight catches for 65 yards when he suffered a broken index finger in the fifth game of the season. After a few weeks, he wound up on injured reserve.A week after Cooley broke his finger, Moss suffered a broken hand against the Panthers, an injury that cost him four games. He had his worst season statistically since he was a Jet in 2002.Both Moss and Cooley have had younger players added to their respective positions over the offseason. Joshua Morgan and Pierre Garon were added as free agents and their contracts indicate that they will be in line for a significant number of snaps.This comes on the heels of the Redskins adding three wide receivers in the draft last year. Mike Shanahan indicated that Leonard Hankerson, one of last years rookies, will be one of the top receivers along with Morgan and Garon.Shanahan mentioned Moss almost as an afterthought. He did say that Moss has lost 15 pounds since the end of last year and that he is in the best shape he has been in for the last few years.One of the wide receivers drafted in 2011 is changing positions to challenge Cooley. Niles Paul has added some weight and will move to tight end.Cooley, the longest-tenured Redskin, already was looking up at Fred Davis on the depth chart and now he must stave off Paul. Logan Paulsen is in the picture, too. That is four players vying for what is likely to be three roster spots.Shanahan said that health will not be an issue for Cooley.Cooley is looking really good in rehab, Shanahan said. Theres been no setback with him working out, him being able to run his routes, no swelling in the knee area.Financial considerations could come into play. The Redskins are pushed up against the salary cap due to the 18 million penalty the league imposed on them. Cooley counts 6.2 million against the cap while Moss cap hit is 4.8 million. If the team releases Cooley after June 1 they will create 3.9 million in cap space while Moss being released in June would save 3.15 million against the cap.The futures of Moss and Cooley might not be entirely decided by Shanahan. Law professor Stephen Burbank, who is the arbitrator who will decide if the salary cap penalty will stand, could have a big role in deciding if the Redskins can afford to keep him around.Days until: OTAs start 13; minicamp 34; preseason opener 93; Redskins at Saints 124Rich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email at RTandlerCSN@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.
Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.
—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.
In case you missed it
Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.
—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.
Tandler on Twitter
Teams picking between 33-45 will need to make sure they are comfortable with R. Foster, cause he will be there.— Michael Lombardi (@mlombardiNFL) April 21, 2017
Would hate to see my TL if the Redskins pass on Foster at 17. But they are seeing the same red flags other teams are. https://t.co/xyDZTxb0L7— Rich Tandler (@Rich_TandlerCSN) April 21, 2017
In case you missed it
- Chris Thompson has re-signed with the Redskins.
- Redskins' Thompson and Compton still unsigned but options are very limited
- Redskins mock draft roundup: Picks tilting towards defense
- Five pivotal games on the Redskins' 2017 schedule
- One reason to watch each Redskins game this year