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Need to Know: How safe are the Redskins’ Riley and Lauvao?

May 9, 2016, 5:07 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 9, four days before the Washington Redskins hold their rookie minicamp.


—The Redskins last played a game 120 days ago. It will be 126 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Rookie minicamp 4; OTAs start 15; Redskins training camp starts 81

Hot topics

The Redskins have two players who may be reserves this season who have salaries of $4 million.

One of them is inside linebacker Perry Riley. He will battle Will Compton and Mason Foster for the two starting inside linebacker jobs. If it looks like he will win the starting job he has had from the middle of the 2011 season until he sustained a foot injury last year then nothing will change.

But if it looks like he is going to be a reserve the team might ask him to cut his pay by 50 percent or more. If they are going to do that, however, they need to be prepared to release him if he balks. Do they want to go into the season with Terence Garvin, who played mostly special teams in his three seasons with the Steelers, first-year player Martrell Spaight and rookie Steven Daniels as the backups at inside linebacker.

The situation is different with the other $4 million man, Shawn Lauvao. For one thing, he is injured. At least he still was ailing at the end of last season when he recovering from surgery on both of his feet. Based on that hard to see him ready for OTAs and the PUP list for the start of training camp is not out of the question.

The big difference here is that left guard is a fairly deep position. Spencer Long started 13 games after Lauvao got injured last year. Arie Kouandjio spent the 2015 season on the 53-man roster and it’s possible that he could win the job outright or at least be able to hold his own if called upon. While you can argue that a healthy Lauvao is the best option at left guard they have viable alternatives if he’s not there.

The point here is that it’s not just a numbers game with the salary cap. A team can’t just say that it won’t pay a backup at a relatively low-value position (which is what guard and ILB are) $4 million. It depends on what the alternatives are. In Riley’s case there are few alternatives and that gets him some security. There is some depth at Lauvao’s spot and that could put him in danger.

Stat of the day

Avoiding throwing interceptions is a key to the Redskins’ success. The fewest interceptions they have thrown in a season since 1990 is eight, in 2012. They won the NFC East. Their second-lowest interception total is 11, and they have done it five times. They made the playoffs in 1990, 2005, 2007, and 2015. In 1996 they went 9-7 and missed the playoffs on tiebreakers.

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  1. colorofmyskinz - May 9, 2016 at 6:31 AM

    I think they are both at risk. Foster is a pretty good starter and did much better than Riley did. Then you have Garvin, Spaight and Daniels. Both feet having surgeries for a guard position is pretty tough. Again we have really good depth there as well. Luavao was not so great first year with us, second year he showed promise under power running but is now pretty beat up. Luavao at risk for sure. Agreed, if we could get Riley to take a cut, he would be good depth. If not, still worth keeping if we cut Luavao. Agreed one of the $4 million boys needs to go.

  2. colorofmyskinz - May 9, 2016 at 8:08 AM

    Hey Rich. Can you provide injury updates from what you see being in the building? Specifically:

    Much appreciated. Did I miss any?

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - May 9, 2016 at 10:06 AM

      I recall asking Rich about the injuries earlier this off-season. I think he said we probably won’t get anything from the team until the OTAs (starting May 24).

  3. abanig - May 9, 2016 at 9:06 AM

    I’d say Lauvao is more safe than Riley unless of course Spencer Long looks a lot better this preseason than he looked last season. Our OL took a hit – especially the run game – when Lauvao was lost for the season in the Giants game.

    With Riley, he’s more expensive and if he can’t beat out Foster then there’s a good chance we go with Daniels or Spaight as cheap, young & developing ILB over him.

    • bowlregard - May 9, 2016 at 12:42 PM

      Perhaps the ILB situation will come down to ST play.

      • abanig - May 9, 2016 at 12:47 PM

        Very well could. In that case Garvin should make it for sure and it’s still up to Spaight & Daniels to show they can be more reliable than Riley on special teams.

        Riley was only a special teams player his first year and half and a pretty good one. I think he’s played them some since 2011 also.

  4. bangkokben - May 9, 2016 at 9:48 AM

    Rich. 100% agreement. A well reasoned argument. Professional sports teams value experience as much or more so than any other industry and don’t cut that loose unless there are clearly better options available. Even though these positions have relatively low value, the Redskins aren’t going to give the season over to complete inexperience just to save some money. ILB was a revolving door last season due to injury and even if they like Daniels as an eventual starter, there are no expectations for that to be this year. Compton, Riley, and Robinson all missed time with injury and one guy with experience coming in — even if just for a few plays a game — is what the team would prefer. With all the draft investments in guards, the expectations are different. The expectations are that Long should be able to start and Kouandjio should be able to back him up if need be. The reasons Lauvao stays is if the previously mentioned guys aren’t as far along as hoped for or Long moves over to center (which depending on who’s writing the story is a slim to distinct possibility.)

    • ET - May 9, 2016 at 10:34 AM

      “Compton, Riley, and Robinson all missed time with injury and one guy with experience coming in — even if just for a few plays a game — is what the team would prefer.”

      Good point. But at what pay grade is that experience worth it? They’ve already got a player that fits the bill in Mason Foster. If the position group were stronger, he’d be perfectly serviceable in that role at a reasonable price. Does Riley fit those criteria? I have a hard time believing the Skins will pay him $4 million as a situational player (in a scenario where Riley doesn’t win a starting role).

      • bangkokben - May 9, 2016 at 10:47 AM

        That is the question. Riley vs. Foster for the starting job? Riley is paid like a starter and still on the team and Foster is paid like the situational guy just re-signing as a free agent. Foster is a lock to make the team but at what role? Riley played well when paired with Compton. They can save a little bit of money if Foster wins the job and Riley is cut. The only benefit I see in that is to roll over the savings into next year’s cap because there will be enough for this year. At the same time, they could let Riley play out is contract and get a 6th or 7th round compensatory pick in 2018. Injuries to any of ILB during camp may keep Riley here as well.

  5. troylok - May 9, 2016 at 9:50 AM

    I think Riley was really coming on before he got injured last season. He’s better in pass coverage than either Foster or Compton, although both of those guys are better tacklers. Spaight, I thought, looked like a player to develop last season so I am anxious to see what he looks like in the preseason. Daniels would be a real steal if he can contribute in his first season. Bottom line: keep Riley unless he has regressed.

    As for Lauvao, he’s a big powerful guard and a complement to Scherff on the other side. I have heard some rumblings that the team might move Long to center, and in that case, the math works to support keeping Lauvao. In that scenario, and if Long worked out, one of the centers would be in jeopardy. Bottom line: keep Lauvao if he can play at the level he did before in his injury last season.

    I don’t think the Redskins are in a salary cap position where they truly need to cut veterans for cap reasons. Their continued employment will be based mostly on their performance in training camp and the preseason.

  6. ET - May 9, 2016 at 9:50 AM

    Both at risk.

    Lauvao looked very good in the games he played last year—he looked like he was finally earning what previously had appeared to be an overinflated salary. But Rich makes a good point, that good alternatives are available at left guard. And multiple surgeries send up red flags. So, while I hope to see him back, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t make it.

    In Riley’s case, the talent is there. If he can remain healthy and consistent, he may make the roster. He and and former ILB Keenan Robinson have both been frustrating players to watch over the years. You can SEE the talent there. They both have it. But neither has managed to maintain a high level of play (and obviously with Keenan, the injuries were a huge factor as well). If one of the young guys displays consistency, toughness and the kind of in-game smarts that Will Compton has—and I think they will show that—Riley might be gone. Compton and Foster are workmanlike, but they play well together. Riley needs to show the defensive coaches he can plug in as well as those two.

  7. Kevin - May 9, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    I think Riley is a lock for the rest of this year. before getting hurt he was playing some of the best football of his career and not to mention we don’t currently have a major need at middle linebacker but there definitely will be one if we let him go. let him play out his contract see if you can get back to the level of play he was at last year before injury. if not release him and replace him next year.but our salary cap is in great condition at the moment, no need to add extra money and needs at the same time

  8. 226thebeatdontstop - May 9, 2016 at 12:06 PM

    The inside linebacker play was poor at best, part of it is scheme and the other is on the players. Compton and Foster are not special or irreplaceable they are just guys this coaching staff likes. If the Redskins cannot stop the run or put pressure on the passer they finish 6-10 .

    This schedule is tough , offensively I am not convinced Matt Jones is the answer for a full season, he has never been durable in college and last year he was too brittle for me. Cousins is a big question mark because I doubt he puts up numbers anywhere close to what he did last year and he will be facing some good defenses.

    • bangkokben - May 9, 2016 at 3:00 PM

      “If the Redskins cannot stop the run or put pressure on the passer they finish 6-10 .”
      They couldn’t do either last year and finished 3 games above that last year. Didn’t need much of a run game last year either. The defenses they faced last year were comparable to this year’s schedule. Cousins has year two and more weapons. It would be fantastic if these flaws are addressed appropriately but since they changed QBs the offense has proven that it can carry the team past bad/mediocre teams.

      • Trey Gregory - May 9, 2016 at 7:03 PM

        I’m a little concerned about the run too. But more so on defense. Because opponents can keep Cousins and our offense on the bench if they can manufacture long scoring drives. They will also keep their defense fresh.

        But I’m going to wait and see. There’s too many questions. Maybe Paea, Francois, Baker, and Murphy will be a pretty good DE group. Maybe this motley crew of ILBs will be better as a unit in year two and stuff the run even if we don’t have strong DTs. Maybe our SS play gets better and helps stuff the run. Maybe our improved secondary allows us to stack the box. Maybe teams don’t want to pass against us and become predictable with running the ball. We have to wait and see. Ioannidis is the biggest wild card to me. Because if he can come in and make an impact, then things are looking up.

        On offense: I think people forget that the pass can set up the run. It works both ways. Also, our run blocking should improve. We will be able to run 2 TE sets. Plus Scherff/Moses should improve together and I would expect whoever plays LG to get better. And people are making a lot of assumptions about Jones. He showed some bad stuff last year, but he also showed some good stuff. Why is everyone assuming only the bad stuff will stick? This guy is still a 3rd round Scot McCloughan pick. His deficiencies are correctable. Maybe he works out better than some expect. Maybe Pierre Thomas and Chris Thompson have a good year. It’s too early to know.

        So it worries me a little bit, but I can see t working out just as easily as failing.

        • bangkokben - May 10, 2016 at 7:47 AM

          Stopping the run is a better concern than stopping the pass — as long as you have an offense that can score. Even if you can’t stop it, the score doesn’t get out of hand. Pit, Dal, & Min are the teams that this benefits the most.

  9. skinsdiehard - May 9, 2016 at 12:42 PM

    Spaight was drafted to probably replace Riley. Mason Foster fell into their laps unexpectedly. So, they have known for a while that Riley would be gone soon.

    • skinsgame - May 9, 2016 at 9:25 PM

      I’m not buying Spaight. He’s a special teams guy at best.

      • Trey Gregory - May 9, 2016 at 9:30 PM

        Yeah I agree. I’m not buying that Spaight was necessarily drafted to replace anyone. He could have just been an intriguing late round prospect. A lot of late round picks are taken with special teams in mind. Not necessarily to take over for current starters

  10. kenlinkins - May 9, 2016 at 3:46 PM

    IMO Riley will have a head start at ILB as he always looks better in OTA’s wearing shorts & helmet. When training camp opens and the pads are on, both Compton and Mason could give Riley a run for his money. If Spaight and Daniels show well on Special teams and prove in preseason games that they could provide spot back up duty in cases of minor injury they will win roster spots. One of these four will have to prove they can stay on the field on passing downs as Riley has shown talent in that area but his production always seems to be sub par. I am sure that the GM wouldn’t mind saving $3 million if forced to cut Riley due to talent over taking him.
    As for Lauvao, I just do not know how 5 operations on his feet will help him win the starting job. You must have good feet to play O-Line and there will be some lost of movement for Lauvao. Will he still have the talent to keep Long, Kouanpjio or Leribeus out of the starting spot? I just do not know. But I do know that his Cap number is way too high for a back up. The Redskins GM has shown he will not over pay if there is a Cap saving to be had. If Lauvao and Riley do not win starting spots (and I mean play much better then the other guys), IMO they will be right behind Roberts heading out the door.

  11. channer81 - May 9, 2016 at 5:28 PM

    The running game was fantastic when Lauvao was out there and terrible the rest of the season after he got hurt. This is a concern if you ask me. I think both are safe simply because he have no one to replace them with yet. You don’t see late round linebackers coming in a contributing early either..

  12. bk70 - May 9, 2016 at 8:56 PM

    Ignoring the salary side of things and knowing that Lauvao won’t be available for OTAs and most likely training camp, why do we have so few OGs on the roster? Don’t we need at least 6 guards by OTAs? One thing I enjoyed about last years training camp was the three tier OL and their progression to get the best 5 on the field for the first preseason game. We have enough C and T, and a few will practice at multiple positions. I just don’t see three full set of OL today. Archives

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