Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 21, 38 days before the NFL Draft.
Offseason thoughts: Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back
—There seems to be a lot of confidence in Matt Jones to be the replacement for Morris as the “lead dog” running back. Scot McCloughan allowed the top backs like Matt Forte and Lamar Miller (and their high price tags) to fly off of the board early and he has yet to do any serious bargain hunting among the ones who are left. They aren’t going to hand Jones the job but Jay Gruden and McCloughan believe that he can earn. That doesn’t mean that if a running back is the best player available in the first two rounds that McCloughan won’t pull the trigger. But for right now it looks like a later-round pick and/or a veteran picked up just before or just after the draft will provide the competition.
—Something that Chris Cooley said about a departing Redskin didn’t get the attention that what he said about Robert Griffin III got. However, what he said about Alfred Morris on ESPN 980 was pretty harsh as well. “He played in 2015 so hesitant, so tentatively, and without confidence and without the burst he had in the past . . . that you had to say ‘he’s not our guy’” said the former tight end. This jibes with the observations of many, including me. Morris just didn’t have the ability to make the first tackler miss and without that he is a very ordinary running back.
—Yesterday I wrote about the key Redskins who will be free agents in 2017 and WR Pierre Garçon was one of them. It is still possible that he could sign an extension sometime before the season starts, a move that could reduce his cap number this year and keep him in the building for 2017 and possibly 2018. They could create some cap room by reducing his $10.2 million charge in the process although as noted in the same post they don’t seem very anxious. It’s really a question of if they want to ensure that he will be around and if he wants to stay.
—They could also keep DeSean Jackson, also a free agent in 2017, beyond this season but I don’t see a contract being done prior to next year. If Jackson, who turns 30 late in the season, becomes more serious about preparing for the grind of 16 games they might consider keeping him around. Receivers who remain effective into their 30’s are the ones who spend their offseasons preparing. If we see a repeat of last year, with Jackson skipping OTAs and then missing a big chunk of training camp and all of the preseason games with a mild shoulder injury, the interest in bringing him back will be low.
—The Redskins last played a game 71 days ago. It will be about 174 days until they play another one.
—Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 28; 2016 NFL draft 38; Redskins training camp starts 129
In case you missed it
The Redskins made a couple of roster moves just before departing for Arizona to play the Cardinals.
They signed cornerback Dashaun Phillips from the practice squad and cut offensive tackle Blaine Clausell. The Redskins also waived safety David Bruton Jr. off of injured reserve.
Phillips was the Redskins’ nickel corner for the first three games of the season, and he made four tackles and recovered a fumble. But they moved rookie Kendall Fuller up into the slot corner role in Week 4 and Phillips spent several weeks on the inactive list before being waived on November 12 and added to the practice squad three days later.
The moves became known after Redskins coach Jay Gruden had spoken to the media for the day so we can only speculate as to the reasoning behind them. Actually, the release of Clausell isn’t hard to figure out. He was signed after Trent Williams started his four-game suspension and with Williams set to return on Monday and the other options at backup tackle healthy there was no point in keeping him around.
Phillips is likely going to Arizona as an insurance policy. The Cardinals like to spread the field with a lot of wide receivers. They will want to have five cornerbacks active. They do have Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Fuller, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler. But Breeland is listed as questionable with an ankle injury and they Redskins don’t want to take any chance of being caught short-handed at cornerback if he suffers a setback. That’s especially true when they don’t need to bring an extra tackle along.
Depending on how things shake out injury-wise against the Cardinals there is a good chance that we could see Phillips on the waiver wire once again as a roster spot will be needed for Williams.
Bruton started the first four games of the season at safety before going on injured reserve with a concussion. This past offseason he signed a three-year, $9 million free agent contract with $3.4 million full guaranteed. There will be a deal cap hit of approximately $1.7 million in 2017 to account for the prorated bonus.
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—The word heroic is thrown around too often when talking about what athletes do, in light if what, say, first responders do every day. But Reed playing in the second half out of the Dallas game with a third-degree AC joint sprain certainly was remarkable. But Gruden said that Reed won’t have sufficient range of motion in the shoulder or range of motion to be able to go against the Cardinals.
DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the second half of the Dallas game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.
LS Nick Sundberg (back)—He tweaked his back in the weight room before the Packers game and missed that game and the one against the Cowboys. He was a full go in practice all week and will return against the Cardinals.
G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Cardinals.
T Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Ditto comment on Scherff above.
CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle)—He suffered the injury in practice this week and he was limited in practice on Thursday.
RB Chris Thompson (illness)—He was limited in practice during the week but he said in the locker room he will have his usual role on Sunday.
Also questionable for the Redskins: ILB Terence Garvin (shoulder) and DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee)
S Tyrann Matthieu (shoulder)—He missed a couple of games with the shoulder injury and he was out of practice on Thursday after being limited on Wednesday. Cardinals coach Brude Arians said that he will be a game time decision.
WR John Brown (illness)—He has been battling symptoms of sickle-cell trait and it caused cramping on Wednesday.
Not on injury report
CB Patrick Peterson (knee)—Perhaps the Cardinals’ best player suffered a knee injury last Sunday and he has been limited after missing practice on Wednesday. It looks like he will go but the Redskins will surely test his effectiveness.