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Need to Know: Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016

Mar 1, 2016, 5:02 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 1, eight days before the start of NFL free agency.

Five Redskins who need to step up in 2016

At the NFL combine, Scot McCloughan said that the team liked one player’s ability but added that “he has to do it”. There are several players on the Redskins’ roster who have the potential to be very good but who need to take the next step and, as they used to say, just do it. If they don’t the team could be looking for replacements in 2017.

RB Matt Jones—This was the player that McCloughan was talking about at the combine. A running back generally isn’t considered a three-year project; he needs to start consistently showing signs that he can get the job done this year. The starting job is his for the taking and this may be his first and only chance.

OLB Trent Murphy—When they draft you in the second round and then the next year they take another guy to play your spot in the same round you have better be ready to fight for your job. Although Murphy retained the starting position for most of the year it’s clear that Preston Smith will be the starter going forward. Murphy needs to step up and earn some snaps or he will be a career special teamer.

WR Ryan Grant—He sure has Jay Gruden in his corner. “I feel really strongly about Ryan Grant,” Gruden said at the combine. “I think he’s an excellent receiver just waiting for his opportunity to be a starter.” Well, he got his chance to get some starts while DeSean Jackson was sidelined and he responded with 16 catches in 6 games, hardly No. 2 receiver production. On the season, Kirk Cousins, the most accurate passer in the league, targeted him 42 times and he managed just 23 receptions.

S Jeron Johnson—Duke Ihenacho beat him out for the starting job in training camp and then when Ihenacho was injured in the season opener Trenton Robinson went in. Johnson has one year left on the two-year deal he signed with the Redskins in 2015. Everybody needs safeties. If he can either start or be a key substitute this year he could get a good deal from the Redskins or from someone else. If not he could be searching for tryouts.

PR Jamison Crowder—Don’t get me wrong here. Crowder the receiver is just fine and on track to have a good career. But his punt returning left a lot to be desired. He doesn’t have great speed (4.56 in the 40 in last year’s combine) but at Duke he showed an uncanny ability to find the open areas and elude would-be tacklers while rolling through them. But last year his average of 5.3 yards per return was among the worst in the league and he made some very questionable decisions when fielding punts. A year to get used to the speed on the NFL game is fine but at some point he has to break one. His long return as a rookie was 16 yards.


—Redskins running back Silas Redd was born on this date in 1992.

—The Redskins last played a game 51 days ago. It will be about 194 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 8; Redskins offseason workouts start 48; 2016 NFL draft 58

In case you missed it

  1. colorofmyskinz - Mar 1, 2016 at 6:32 AM

    Completely agree on all of these! Jones really needs to quit making brain farts. That has been his biggest issue so far. Smart play, running, and decisions. I agree with Crowder the punt returner. I was biting my lip every punt in fear he would try to do too much to prove it. His time will come.

    OT: will we cut Hatch if he decides he does not want to retire? Is that possible to while out his cap hit? His production is in the tank. And with the Franchise, we need that $6 million.

    Our cap management and contracting has not been great. So many teams do so much more with their money. Sure would be nice to pick up the following in FA so we can focus on other positions in the draft: DL, Middle Linebacker, Center.

    In the draft we need a BIG WR, CB, DE, Safety, NT, RB, another DL as priorities. I know I know, draft the best available, but… We saw Scot thinks different with the Scherff pick.

    • Rich Tandler - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:25 AM

      My gut feeling is that the Redskins will not try to get back Hatcher’s pro rated signing bonus if he retires. Might have been a handshake part of the original deal.

      But I don’t think he retires. I think he takes a cut in pay and plays this year. That’s what I’m hearing anyway. Certainly could change.

    • bangkokben - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:20 AM

      When you compare Hatcher’s play, what are you comparing it to? Paea’s? Knighton’s? Jean-Francois? His own from two years ago? The Redskins still want Hatcher because he has been the best D-linemen in his two seasons with the Redskins. Baker has surpassed him, finally, but Hatcher still remains the 2nd best at his age and continues to have the 2nd most snaps on the line. He played on 49% of the defensive snaps in 2014 and 51% last year. Only Chris Baker plays more and just slightly. Do they want his cap hit this year? No but don’t mistake that with them not wanting the player or that the player still isn’t better than what they have. The Redskins would like Hatcher back at a discount and would like to play him less than 40% of the snaps to keep him fresh and keep his impact fresh throughout the season. They probably would like him to show whomever they draft the ropes as well since everyone beside Baker is fighting for a job at some point and Hatcher would know his role.

    • ET - Mar 1, 2016 at 11:52 AM

      When Hatcher is healthy and rested, he’s still a really good player and a good leader. The issue is money (or “value,” if you prefer). If the Skins can renegotiate based on Hatch’s age and diminished skills, he could be back. And as long as his role is properly managed—meaning, for example, that Hatcher doesn’t have play too many snaps—we should be happy to see him return for one more season.

  2. colorofmyskinz - Mar 1, 2016 at 6:45 AM

    Stefen wisneiwski Center at jax for $2.5 M, Vincent Ray ILB at Cinnc for $3M, and Wikerson DE at NYJ for $7 M. Wilkerson at 26 years old would be a huge pickup to replace Hatch. Wisneiwski is 26 years old, 6’3 and 210. Ray 28 years and Cinnc mean. This is $13-15 M and would be well spent.

    • redskinsfan1982 - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:22 AM

      Wilkerson is getting tagged and would cost us two first round picks. Also, not a chance he signs for 7 million a year when the franchise tag number is 12 million.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:46 AM

      Wisneiwski review:

      What he does well: Wiz brought a little bit of stability to the interior of the offensive line, but it wasn’t necessarily the upgrade that most people thought it would be. Wiz didn’t really do anything exceptionally well, he wasn’t penalized a lot and his noticeable mistakes came down to a few bad snaps at seemingly the most inopportune times.

      Concerns: As mentioned, Wiz was just kind of ho-hum at the position and he had a few critical bad snaps that you could argue cost the Jaguars wins. While Wiz was solid in the pass protection department, he didn’t really add anything in run blocking like the Jaguars had hoped.

    • babyteal1 - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:48 AM

      A real football fan would already know that Wilkerson has been tagged. Do your homework.

    • sidepull - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:55 AM

      I saw Tashuan Gipson, FS, is going to be a FA and Cleveland is not using FT. Hes only 25 and he has already had one PB year. He is young and maybe thats a player that Scot is aware of.

      • Mr.moneylover - Mar 1, 2016 at 10:47 AM

        He’s a bust…if he can’t make it in Cleveland then that’s not a good look…scot m. Likes to pick up players from winning organization not losing organization

      • kenlinkins - Mar 1, 2016 at 11:12 AM

        If he is still a free agent in June I would look at him but I would not be first in line on March 7th money in hand.

  3. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 1, 2016 at 8:09 AM

    So today is tag (or not) day for Kirk.

    I’ve got 60 chips on non-exclusive franchise tag, 30 on transition, 5 on exclusive franchise, and 5 on no tag.

    • bangkokben - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:22 AM

      Not a fan of hedging bets. I’m putting 90 chips on the non-exclusive tag and keeping 10 so I can play the slots if I lose.

      • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:28 AM

        Risk not thy entire wad, they say in the gambling (and trading) biz…

        • bangkokben - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:35 AM

          Yeah. I’m too much of a wuss. A month ago, I’d have gone all in. Now, I’ve been influenced by all the chatter. I’m keeping my imaginary 10 chips.

  4. BigJake - Mar 1, 2016 at 8:55 AM

    The # 4, 5, and 6 WR didn’t contribute much last season. Grant and Roberts dropped way too many balls in their hands and Ross was decent when he played but he’s small and isn’t as fast as he is quick. The ‘Skins could use some size and/or speed in these spots to compete.

    I don’t think Jones will have issues if he practices a little control. Most of his fumbles came when he was running loose and holding the ball away from his body. If Morris walks then they might be able to find some decent talent in the later rounds.

    I think you can put Breeland and Dunbar on this list as a package. The 2 youngest CB on the squad and the ‘Skins need them to step up. Breeland played well and has big time potential but he relies a lot on his abilities to get himself out of trouble when he’s out of position. Dunbar is just raw talent that needs to be coached. Playing the receiver better should come with more experience for both.

    Also as a footnote to the RB story should be the offensive line getting more experience at Center. The young OL needs more help in run blocking and blitz pickups and that could make a difference.

  5. Thetruthis - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:33 AM

    Really, rich….The most accurate passer in the league? This is erroneous. Actually the passer who throws the most short passes that quite naturally results in increased completion stats is more accurate.. Accuracy in NFL terms is about ball placement. Not about receivers having to make remarkable catches but about the QB who puts the ball exactly where no one else but the receiver has the best chance of getting it among other things. In particular, accuracy is referred to downfield or balls thrown at least 20 yards. Cousins completion stats are up because he actually served as the alternative to the running back handoff. That does not equate to the term “accuracy” Please correct before the fans get out of hand and use the term and site you as their source.

    When people use terms like this erroneously, thirsty people pick it up on sites and keep repeating it and it becomes a myth albeit a false one.

    Have a good day.

    • bangkokben - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:37 AM

      Yep. You’re right Rich is the source. MOST ACCURATE PASSER OF 2015! Pay da mon ‘is money.

    • redskinscaio - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:49 AM

      Accuracy means the percentage of passes a QB completes. Kirk Cousins IS THE MOST ACCURATE passer in the NFL.

    • dcfaninecuador - Mar 1, 2016 at 10:35 AM

      Yes, highest completion percentage is another way of saying “most accurate passer.” And this “dink and dunk” criticism is bunk. He ranked 8 (out of 34) in YPA at 7.67. Ahead of…hmmm…lets see… TOM BRADY, Mariota, manning, waaay ahead of Rogers, Eli Manning, Rivers, etc. etc. etc. in fact, he was just behind Cam Newton at 7th. Sooooo, all you Cousins (and Gruden) haters just stop the dink and dunk nonsense.

      • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:21 PM

        While Cousins has done well in many areas using YPA is nonsense for arguing “dinks and dunks”. What you should be looking at is YPC (Yards per Completion) which he ranked 28th. However, I pointed out before that he was averaging 12.66 YPC in his last nine games so the trend is upward for Cousins. This seem to coincide with the return of Jackson and the emergence of Reed as an elite TE.

        The yards per attempt are exaggeratedly high because he had a very good completion/attempt ratio where he was 12 in attempts but 7th in completions. What this all boils down to is Cousins has shown for a season average to be a very accurate short range passer. His YPCs picked up later in the season but he still ended the season with 68 percent of his passes 10 yards in under while the league average is 60.

        If Cousins can maintain the level of consistency he showed in the last nine games then the “dink and dunk” argument will cease to be true.

    • bangkokben - Mar 1, 2016 at 3:00 PM

      Now, he’s the most accurate franchised tagged quarterback.

      • firesnyder - Mar 1, 2016 at 4:31 PM

        He is getting paid more than Brady now. Yeyyy! Good for him. Lol.

        • bangkokben - Mar 1, 2016 at 5:11 PM

          Brady is living off his wife’s money otherwise he’d be around $30M a year.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:27 PM

          Right, bang since after all who can manage with just 14 million a year. You need a Supermodel to help support you under those circumstances.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:29 PM

          I’m happy for Cousins because he is a good man. However, that salary will back fire next season if he isn’t playing like a to 10 QB.

  6. vtsquirm - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:43 AM

    Trent Murphy was a terrible waste of a 2nd round draft pick. I think most people were scratching their heads after that pick. Its worked out about the way I thought it would. He has no burst. He needs to move inside and put on some lbs. Jones will be fine, he just needs to lower his pad level. Crowder, I’m not as concerned about him producing at PR as I am about him playing WR3. Grant is always going to be a backup (WR4 or 5) from what I’ve heard so there is only so far he can step up.

  7. Mr.moneylover - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:56 AM

    I’m done with guys like Trent Murphy or Ryan grant…they haven’t step they game up to the point were they should still be on the roster…Preston smith had 8 sacks in one year…Trent Murphy got the start for half the season and didn’t get a sack but I mostly watch him get thrown to the ground and watch the rest of the play like Albert haynesworth did one time against the eagles

  8. troylok - Mar 1, 2016 at 10:01 AM

    I’d like to know who the potential hidden gem is on the roster. I am intrigued by the size of guys like Marcel Jensen and Lynden Trail. Mack Brown was an injury away from playing last season. Will one of those guys step up?

    • bk70 - Mar 1, 2016 at 10:24 AM

      Good point…don’t forget about the big WR LaRon Byrd at 6-4 230 or Jerrell Powell NT at 331 pounds. If one or two of these and the ones mentioned by troylok show up as part of the 53 man roster then that reduces the wide open FA needs in the short term. Be nice to focus on just one or two positions of need after this draft season.

    • Mr.moneylover - Mar 1, 2016 at 10:33 AM

      Watch out for this guy Willie Jefferson LB he got soooooo much potential he played for the Houston Texas before getting in trouble by the league for smoking weed but like tarik said if this guy can stay out of trouble this off-season he could be the best off-season pick up….TE Marcel Jensen got soooooo potential jay gruden likes this guy he’s a big guy 6’7 he didn’t get playing time last season for only two reasons it was very late in the season and jay gruden wanted him to learn the scheme…jay gruden ” hes somebody we like to groom for next season we couldn’t believe bills had him on the practice squad hes a talented kid ” so redskins sign him to the 53 man roster so nobody won’t steal him from us…out of your choice I’ll say Marcel Jensen has a really good chance because the unknown of Niles Paul

    • Mr.moneylover - Mar 1, 2016 at 10:43 AM

      I think redskins roster is not in a bad place as to what many ppl think…they been bringing in and grooming players during the season last year…Trent Murphy I think gonna have to battle to make the roster this season because redskins got so many LBs already on they roster don’t forget about another guy Houston Bates…I think scot m. Gonna focus on WRs CB DL…I don’t see him really getting LBs unless its a late round draft pick or undrafted free agent…martrell spaights coming back…if they don’t bring back mason foster I think he’s gonna start next to will compton

    • sidepull - Mar 1, 2016 at 11:24 AM

      Spaight. I want to see Spaight brng it.

      • hail74 - Mar 1, 2016 at 12:43 PM

        You and me both. I’m thinking with the extra year under his belt he may start to really flash his potential

      • ET - Mar 1, 2016 at 2:17 PM

        He and Compton both have the smarts to diagnose offensive formations quickly. But Spaight has more upside, and now he’ll have a year of film watching under his belt. At any rate, love the smart, scrappy defensive players. Scot is stockpiling a fair number of them.

  9. Mr.moneylover - Mar 1, 2016 at 10:23 AM

    Jay gruden is one stubborn guy…he know Trent Murphy is way behind on what he should be…and Ryan grant is not a threat to take the #1 spot so why keep him…redskins got a average WR group and they gotta let go of Ryan grant and Andre Robert if they wanna take that next step to become a threat in the East…the WR I’m expecting to crack the rotation is LaRon Byrd so I think somebody is not gonna return…Ryan grant didn’t really step up when Djax went down it was P.garcon and Jordan reed…that Atlanta game was the prime example of what type of player he is.. one moment he do good things the next moment he don’t step up when the team needs him…Jamison crowder had a better season then both of his seasons put together so that should show redskins will be just fine without Ryan grant…matt Jones is gonna be just fine Alfred morris had a fumble issue in his rookie year and we seen last couple games he played matt Jones he really stepped up…I’m gonna put breeland on this list…breeland had a few moments but I don’t think it was enough and I think scot m. And jay gruden gonna make him fight this training camp to keep his starting job…its a big difference between knowing you gonna be the starter in training camp then competing for the starting job…Dhall went down and breeland stepped up in a big way they need him to get back to having that edge we seen it a lil bit last season… Bring in a couple vets make them guys battle it out

    • bk70 - Mar 1, 2016 at 10:44 AM

      Ryan Grant and Trent Murphy are players that can produce, not exceptional, but will in time loose their spots to draftees. Maybe as early as the 2016 draft…we’ll see.

      As far as veterans coming in to battle, why not use those on the roster with some top draft picks. I don’t expect Will Blackmon or Cary Williams to be resigned, but I do see a DB coming in the first four rounds to challenge Breeland, Dunbar, Harris, Louis-Jean, Phillips and Everertt at the corners. Culliver needs to move on or be reduction in compensation). Let the best five CB’s make the final 53 man roster.

      For that matter, lets have a battle at the Safety positions with a new face from the 2016 draft. It should be fun to watch this off season with Ihenacho, Johnson, Hall, and Jarrett. Goldston, I’m on the bubble with due to salary.

      The best part of the 2016 season will be the addition of two or more DL from the draft. We may get back to three down players fighting their hearts out and leaving it all on the field. We should have 15 or more DLs battling for 6 or 7 slots on the roster.

      • ET - Mar 1, 2016 at 12:33 PM

        I suspect Murphy will carve out a role for himself. While he’s a disappointment in the context of a high 2nd round pick, Murph is still a good player.

        Grant, on the other hand, has been disappointing even when viewed as a natural 4th or 5th receiver. Grant had some good opportunities this past season and utterly failed to capitalize. I still think he has potential, but man, you gotta make your mark on the snaps you get to play.

    • James McFullan - Mar 1, 2016 at 3:19 PM

      Bashaud Breeland had 81 tackles in really only 13 games (suspended the first game against the dolphins, DHall was ahead of him on the depth chart against the rams, and was still hurt for the Patriots game), he saved the Buccaneers game for us and he had 3 FF, 2 INT, 16 Passes Defended, and 2 FR through out the season. Not to mention, he was also the first player in 20 years to have 1 INT, 2 FR, and 1FF in the first half of a football game.

  10. kenlinkins - Mar 1, 2016 at 11:03 AM

    Well, we know for a fact that the new GM has no problem cutting a 2nd round draft pick just starting his 3rd year after letting Amerson go! Murphy better hope that there is not a good value at OLB when the Redskins pick in this years draft or he might find himself on the trading block or worst. I wonder how Bruce Allen would feel having his top two picks released in back to back years?

  11. John - Mar 1, 2016 at 11:37 AM

    I’m not worried about Crowder. He did just fine as a receiver. The punt returns will come. He said the speed was different and the way it works in the NFL is different. It takes time to adjust.

    Matt Jones is still learning after not playing much in college. Needs to let the linemen set things up for him. Needs to tape a ball in the crease between his forearm and bicep. Like Bon Breux did with Keith Griffin. They still need a dynamic back.

    Ryan Grant: Great “route runner” otherwise known as slow and trips over his own feet. Bye!

    Murphy: plays the run well. Did vet some sacks and a pick at the end of the Philly game here early in the season. Rotational.player.

    Johnson: Thought he was being handed the job when signed, then did’nt work in camp. Expensive special teamer.

    A lot of those guys on the practice squad are there for a reason. Anyone want to guess why? Because their not good enough to mahe the 53, much less start….

  12. kenlinkins - Mar 1, 2016 at 11:46 AM

    Cousins agent is not a rookie and he understands that this is one of the very few times that a player holds all the cards. Why would the Redskins even try to low ball Cousins (dumb move). The bottom line is easy, you offer what the market will bare and today is the day Cousins and his agent are waiting for. Today they call the Redskins buff and IMO the Redskins will fold and place the $19.6 on the table with the Exclusive Franchise Tag. If the Redskins do ANYTHING else, they are playing a very dangerous game at QB and in doing so are saying that they must have a major reason to think that Cousins is not the QB he showed in 2015. IMO Today is the real first day for Cousins contract talks, everything before this was just a GM making noise about not liking the position he placed himself in. This was a mess he took over and made worst by giving RG3 the Option for 2016, and now he must clean up his mess and get the QB position back on track and in the books, but IMO it is going to cost him!

  13. Mr.moneylover - Mar 1, 2016 at 1:46 PM

    Grant paulsen reported redskins have given kirk cousins the name non exclusive franchise tag witch means he can see how much he’s worth on the market but also if another team decide to get him they will have to give the redskins two draft picks

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 1, 2016 at 2:12 PM

      This was mostly inevitable from the get-go, I think.

      Kirk was either going to get the 19+ million for the one year non-exclusive, or else get a longer term deal at almost as much money per year.

      Because he wanted it that way, and the cards are in his hands. (I.e. he’s willing to play on a year deal.)

      • bangkokben - Mar 1, 2016 at 3:04 PM

        Nothing like getting a raise THIRTY TIMES what you previously made. Now they wait until, Bradford, Fitzpatrick, and Osweiler sign as well as an Andrew Luck extension – although his camp may be waiting to see what Cousins’ long-term deal is to ensure their client gets properly reimbursed.

        • hail74 - Mar 1, 2016 at 4:33 PM

          Bradford got 2yr/36 mil with 26 guaranteed

        • bangkokben - Mar 1, 2016 at 5:04 PM

          I swear that guy just keeps failing forward.

        • hail74 - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:11 PM

          I know, he’s made an awful lot of money just based on what he COULD be.

  14. Scottie queen - Mar 1, 2016 at 3:50 PM

    My reply go after Greg hardy to help build our defense and then if josh Norman is alcove then sign him for the safety spot and work on getting a good offense line to help Kirk cousins out and then we might be in the hunt for Super Bowl 51

  15. kenlinkins - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:00 PM

    Open question: How many times have as NFL team signed a Tagged player and gave up two number one picks in the process? As it ever happened?

    • Rich Tandler - Mar 1, 2016 at 8:50 PM

      The Redskins were the beneficiaries the last time it happened (at least I think it was the last time). The Panthers signed DT Sean Gilbert as the franchise player in the late 1990’s and the Redskins got two firsts as compensation.

  16. hail74 - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:10 PM

    Take it for what’s it worth but Ian Rapaport just said on NFL network that the Eagles,jets and Broncos were all waiting to see if cousins was going to be available via transition tag.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Mar 1, 2016 at 7:31 PM

      Cousins is overpaid but I’m happy for him since it couldn’t happen to a better person. I hope he can meet expectations next season since that Salary has definitely raised it in the eyes of the organization and fans.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 1, 2016 at 8:43 PM

      Yep. The Eagles just had too much cap available for the Skins to risk the transition tag.

      Even if the Skins kept him, the Eagles could have made us beat an offer that screws our cap up for the next couple years.

  17. goback2rfk - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:14 PM

    18 Mil for Sam Bad-Ford!!! HAHA! If that is the case Cousins is worth 20 mil a year easy.

    • hail74 - Mar 1, 2016 at 9:28 PM

      PFT says it’s only a cap hit of 12.5 for the Eagles this year so does that mean the remaining hits next year? That would be 23.5. Wow.

      • bangkokben - Mar 2, 2016 at 8:48 AM

        Interesting. They could then get out after a year with a big dead money charge but still save about $10M or they could extend Bradford and bring his 2017 hit down. Either way, it sounds like a one/two year rental with an option to buy.

  18. berniebernard666 - Mar 6, 2016 at 8:34 PM

    well whoever comes to the Redskins in Free agency, or the draft, it will be a smart choice because IN SCOTT WE TRUST. Archives

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