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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the Broncos

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Need to Know: Five things the Redskins can learn from the Broncos

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 8, 16 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Five things the Redskins can learn from the Broncos

You can’t have too much pass rushI said this after the AFC championship game and I’ll say it again. Five players shared in the Broncos’ seven sacks and eight different players hit Cam Newton at least once (13 total QB hits). Pass defense starts with the pass rush. You can't have too many defenders who can get after the quarterback.

You have to bring extra pressure—Denver has two of the best pass rushers on the planet in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware but they still brought five or even six pass rushers on occasion. During the season the Redskins brought four in pressure the vast majority of the time and they got 38 sacks, 15th in the NFL. Joe Barry was cautious because his defensive backfield was weak. But sometimes you have to damn the torpedoes and go full speed.

Who needs a No. 1 running back?—Denver started Ronnie Hillman (207 rush att., 863 yds., 7 TDs) 11 times and C. J. Anderson (152/720/5) five times this year. As a team they averaged a respectable 4.2 yards per carry, enough to move the chains and give the Broncos defense a rest. A great, workhorse back can be a good thing to have but sometimes a combination will work just fine.

A game manager can win at quarterback—In terms of quarterback performance, the Broncos went back to the days of Trent Dilfer and Brad Johnson, pedestrian QB’s who got rings thanks to playing on a team with a dominant defense. This one just happened to be Peyton Manning, who had a terrible regular season and put up a 56.6 passer rating in the Super Bowl. Manning was smart enough to let the defense win the game. The Redskins are about to drop a lot of money in Kirk Cousins and that’s a move they need to make. But Scot McCloughan’s goal needs to be to try to construct a team that can win even if Cousins doesn’t play well.

Make the obvious hire—Broncos defensive coordinator Wade Phillips seemed to be a natural choice when the Redskins needed a defensive coordinator a year ago. He had a reputation for turning defenses around and that’s exactly what the Redskins needed. But Jay Gruden chose Joe Barry instead and Phillips went to Denver and did a magnificent job, getting named assistant coach of the year and doing a masterful job pulling the levers last night. It should be noted that the Redskins were not the only team to pass over Phillips. Between the time the Texans let him go after the 2013 season and the Broncos hired him (as their second choice) a year ago, 21 defensive coordinators were hired.

Timeline

—Former Redskins guard Raleigh McKenzie, who started two Super Bowls for Washington, was born on this date in 1963

—The Redskins last played a game 29 days ago. It will be about 216 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 16; NFL free agency starts 30; 2016 NFL draft 80

In case you missed it

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Should the Redskins hit more in practice? Doug Williams explains the situation

Should the Redskins hit more in practice? Doug Williams explains the situation

The Redskins do not hold live tackling drills in training camp. In fact, they don't do it all season. Head coach Jay Gruden has been clear that he doesn't think his players need that additional contact in the middle of a grueling season that stretches from late July to the beginning of January.

Doug Williams, promoted to the Redskins head of personnel this offseason, played for the organization in the days when all teams did was live hitting and tackling. In the 1970s and 1980s practices were much tougher, and Williams was asked to compare that era when he played to the current era. 

The former Super Bowl MVP explained that there was no comparison between the eras, but also dispelled any notion that the Redskins run a soft camp. The franchise simply operates within the rules of the agreement between the NFL and the NFL Player's Association.

"I think we have got to be fair because the same rules apply to every team in this league. So, we can’t use that as an excuse and I’m certainly not going to compare it to the days when I played," Williams said last week in Richmond. 

His comments came in the days after the Redskins lost the physical battle to the Ravens in the preseason opener. The tenacity of camp was not the problem in that game, Williams said. 

"The excuse of not being able to do some of the things that we haven’t done, we can’t make that excuse as far as the rules are concerned because every team has to play up under the same rules. We just have got to be cognizant of it and train the guys, ‘Hey, this is what has to happen.’ We don’t get a chance to ‘hit hit’ and practice [tackling]. In a game time, your mindset should be, ‘tackle.’"

Could the Redskins hit more in practice? Yes. There is more room for hitting and tackling in the CBA than what the Redskins do. And yes, the 'Skins did miss a lot of tackles last season. Some of the worst offenders of missed tackles are gone now though, guys like Duke Ihenacho and David Bruton. 

By the time players make the NFL, they know how to tackle. Williams used Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger as his example. 

"I watch D.J. Swearinger, who I feel like has brought a lot of swag to this defense. There’s no doubt in my mind you don’t have to tell him that when the game starts that you have got to tackle, that this is tackle football. And I think once he gets out there, you’re going to get a lot of guys that are probably going to follow D.J. and I think that’s what we need and he’s here hopefully to lead us down that path."

Football practices have changed. That doesn't mean their soft. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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Redskins rookie report card: Who performed well in training camp

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Redskins rookie report card: Who performed well in training camp

Training camp presents an opportunity for a lot of players to make impressions on coaches, but none more so than rookies. For the Redskins first-year players, Richmond gave the opportunity to show they were ready for the NFL, or in some cases, they weren't quite there.

Starting with the drafted guys, and including some of the undrafted, here's a letter grade pertaining to performance through three weeks of training camp practices and the first preseason game. Starting at the top:

  • Jonathan Allen: A- The first round rookie from Alabama came on strong over the last week of practices in Richmond. Once the pads came on, Allen showed his strength and quickness as he slowly started to get time with the first string defense. In the Redskins preseason opening loss to Baltimore, Allen flashed his top-end talent in the second quarter, shedding blockers with force and technique while displaying a high motor that netted him a sack. Allen is the real deal, and any Redskins coach will tell you that.
  • Ryan Anderson: B The second round rookie from Alabama is very good at a few things. The top of that list is playing against the run. Anderson's stout toughness sets the edge with ferocity, and that skill immediately translates to the NFL game. Anderson's pass rush can use work, though his intensity will keep him in plays that others might give up on. Like many of the Redskins outside linebackers, coverage will be a problem, but that should be something coaches know and scheme around. 
  • Fabian Moreau: Incomplete The third rounder out of UCLA only practiced twice in team drills while working back from a torn pectoral muscle. Just not enough to make a judgement. 
  • Samae Perine: C Fans got excited quickly about the potential of the fourth round running back out of Oklahoma, and had this grade been given before the Ravens game, it would have been a letter grade higher. But Perine did not look ready for prime time in Baltimore, logging a fumble and dropping a pass while rushing 6 times for 15 yards. Perine has talent, but learning the intricacies of the NFL offense after spending four years in a spread offense in the Big 12 is a major jump. Perine is willing and able to block, but needs to know where blitzers are coming from. Most importantly, however, Perine needs to hit holes hard. He has the strength to be an excellent short yardage runner, but he cannot hesitate in the backfield.
  • Montae Nicholson: Incomplete Similar to Moreau, Nicholson only had two team practices as he came back from shoulder surgery. Not enough to make a judgement. 
  • Jeremy Sprinkle: C+ A fifth round tight end from Arkansas, Sprinkle came to the Redskins with a reputation as a tough blocker. That didn't seem to show up early in camp, though the second week Sprinkle started to use his big body much more effectively. Even better for Sprinkle, he showed late in Richmond that he can be more than a blocker, as some soft hands got on display. Sprinkle is the player that might force Jay Gruden to keep four tight ends. 
  • Chase Roullier: B It's odd to say, but the sixth round pick out of Wyoming is the most certain of roster locks of all the Redskins third-day draft picks. Gruden has openly talked about his desire to have a backup center he can trust, and in short order, Roullier must be that guy. If the coach wasn't comfortable with the rook, the team would have brought a veteran in to compete to backup Spencer Long. That Roullier can also play the guard spot if the team gets desperate helps. He's been fine in practice, and has gotten a few reps with the first team offense. 
  • Robert Davis: B- Fairly non-existent early in camp, the sixth round rookie WR Davis is raw. He does have serious size and speed, but this grade leans on a strong performance, er, one explosive play in Baltimore. Davis won't be relied on for much from the Redskins this season, if he makes the team, and he needs to make a big impact on special teams. Working as a gunner in drills during camp, Davis showed the fight needed to effectively play on the outside of punt coverage. That will help. This grade would probably be a C+ if not for the catch in Baltimore. 
  • Josh Harvey-Clemons: C A seventh round pick out of Louisville, Harvey-Clemons doesn't seem to have a natural fit on the roster. He's big, and maybe best suited for a dime linebacker role. Hard to imagine a roster spot for Harvey-Clemons with the team's depth at both safety and inside linebacker, but with his size and instincts, the Redskins would probably like the chance to get him to the practice squad. 
  • Josh Holsey: B For a seventh round rookie cornerback, Holsey has been impressive. A capable player in the SEC, health has been Holsey's trouble, not ability. He has a real chance at a roster spot, and the feisty attitude coaches love from small corners. Has to stay healthy, has to produce on specials. 
  • Nico Marley: B Outside of Jonathan Allen, no rookie has garnered more attention than the undrafted Marley. It started out as a bit of a gimmick, Marley is the grandson of music icon Bob Marley. He's also incredibly small for an NFL linebacker at 5-foot-8 and 200 lbs. Despite the size limitations, Marley just keeps making plays. Against the Ravens he registered a sack and was named to the Pro Football Focus Preseason Week 1 Team of the Week. Marley works as hard as anybody on the Redskins, and has earned the respect of his teammates. It's hard to imagine a roster spot for Marley; he's certainly behind Will Compton, Mason Foster, Zach Brown and Martrell Spaight at the inside linebacker spot. Would Washington love to get Marley onto their practice squad? Seems very likely. 
  • Fish Smithson: C+ An undrafted rookie safety out of Kansas, Smithson has made some plays in camp. Another practice squad candidate that needs to prove his ability on specials. 
  • Tevin Homer: C Great size for a corner, but needs to work on his technique. Many rookies have trouble turning their heads in coverave once they get to the NFL, and Homer is no different. 
  • Zach Pascal: C With Kendal Thompson off the Redskins, there is a spot on the practice squad for a wideout. Pascal has size and decent hands. 
  • Kyle Kalis, Tyler Catalina: C- Both of these guys have been getting beat in Richmond, often. I watched Kalis at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, and didn't think he had the quickness needed to play guard in the NFL. That opinion hasn't changed. Catalina has the size but needs to stay lower in his stance. 
  • James Quick: C Undrafted wideout from Louisville, Quick's built to be a slot receiver in the NFL. Needs to be quicker and work on route running.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!