It’s a little slow in the way of Redskins news for the next two months so if you’re looking forward to the 2016 season, and we know you are, you can look for a variety of ways to keep your desktop or mobile device hailing to the Washington Redskins between now and September as well as the usual exclusive content for which you’ve come to trust the site.
I thought for a Flashback Friday this week, I would take a look back at a little bit of history about the site. There’s method to my madness.
Yesterday I archived over 1300 articles. They were technically the “first” articles ever written by thehogs.net, and they were housed in a very rudimentary old database. It was there that I started, and it was there that I was inspired to write this blog.
First of all, technology. There were no content management systems in 2002. No such thing as a blog. There weren’t even any good scripts to pillage. I had to build a rudimentary mySQL database. And then learn PHP so that I could use the information on a website. My “hack skills” were born. Deconstructing working scripts that did similar things, and then re-arranging them and learning as I went, to try and accomplish the task. Ultimately, I was able to create a front end and back end to start holding our content in 2003. For the first year-plus – we basically wrote on the fly and over top of what was there the day before.
So it’s funny / aggravating / heartbreaking to be sitting here some 13-14 years later and trying to figure out how to migrate that “crappy old database” over to a new home.
Secondly, I couldn’t help but notice the content. I expected to look back and find garbage – a bunch of hacks that just thought they knew what they were doing, and driven by ego; but that isn’t what I found. I found some really good stuff. Partisan for sure, but quality nevertheless. We had weekly features like The Cheap Seats, Sun Tzu: The Art of Coaching, Scooter’s 6 Pack, and The 5th Quarter – all the way back to 2003 when we started the database.
That crappy old database… man, does it hold something very special… history.
As I scrolled the contents looking for mathematical ways to extract the data effectively, I kept being bombarded with memories. Redskins memories… personal memories… things that happened… people I met… people who have helped me throughout the years… content of ours that has been boastfully claimed by others as “original”… people that have moved on to different things… even people that have passed away.
And so I went on an emotional roller coaster where I didn’t expect to. Too many friends made, to single any out. Too much help given, to thank everyone individually. Too many experiences had, to even try and relay them in a concise manner. Too many doors opened, to amply explain.
After all, 2016 will be our fourteenth season online. When I started the site, they told me that I wouldn’t last 2. Couldn’t last 2. And I think most of the sites that existed back then, are long since forgotten with a few exceptions.
We’ve been through many incarnations. We’ve been through many trials and tribulations. I’ve learned a lot about a lot of different things in my years running this community. And not just about football.
This site has been more than a hobby for a very long time. It is a passion. And while sometimes my responsibilities as a family man and father lend me less time than I would sometimes like, to devote to my passion… it never wanes.
Upon successful completion of migrating all of the old articles over to the blog database where we have been writing our content for a few years, we surpassed the 2500 blog mark. Over 2500 articles written by volunteer Redskin fans here at the site. It’s incredible to think about. I’m proud to have written 2500 times about anything. It takes sticktuitiveness. Fed by that aforementioned passion.
I might actually bleed THN harder than I bleed burgundy and gold. There are friends here. There is family here. There is camaraderie here. There is history here.
And a lot of it is in that crappy old database.
Yeah, yeah, yeah… before you even start, I did this graphic up to pay homage to Sean Taylor, not to exploit him or his good name.
After all, not only is Taylor a favorite of many-to-most Redskins fans, he was also the favorite player of the Redskins 2nd round draft pick Su’a Cravens (53rd overall).
Click on the image for a 1280×800 wallpaper sized version.
Cravens wore number 21 at USC.
It’s not likely Cravens will actually ever see himself in the number 21 of the burgundy and gold – nor will anyone else – so I hope there’s no feathers ruffled with a little bit of Photoshop manipulation to show what it would look like.
The composite uses Sean’s jersey AND pads, and then there is just helmet accents laid over top of the USC helmet. Yeah sure, there are some quirky bits, but it’s just for some burgundy and gold fun. See both images below to see where the composite came from.
Send all complaints to 1-800-EAT-SH… oh, nevermind.
More about Cravens’ pre-NFL days here.
You can actually reach me on Twitter @TheHogsdotNet.
Hail. To the Redskins. To Su’a. And especially to Sean. May he rest in peace.
And just because there is never not a good reason to post this, the original Sean Taylor Tribute wallpaper:
It’s possibly the worst kept secret in the organization that the Washington Redskins need insurance at the running back position. Dismissing all of the questions surrounding the abilities of Matt Jones to be the primary back and operating under the assumption he will, in fact, be the primary back due to both verbal confirmation from the powers that be and lack of evidence to the contrary, the team needs a proven veteran backup who has shown an ability to carry the workload should Jones become either injured or ineffective.
The free agency options are plentiful and while none necessarily make one think any player currently on the waiver wire is a better starting option than Jones there are several who have started far more games in their respective careers. Keeping in mind the backup is not part of a youth movement but rather part of a, “Dear Lord, get us to the next draft so we can address this need.” movement, the following players seem viable options in that role. Obviously each comes with caveats otherwise they’d not be in the free agency market. The salary figures are from the 2015 NFL season. Those costing over $1.0MM appear on chart #1 while those costing under $1.0MM appear on chart #2.
Statistics alone say the Redskins should be looking at Arian Foster or Steven Jackson, both of whom have been workhorse primary backs in the past. Foster is coming off a major injury but ran for 1,246 yards in just 13 games in 2014. If he can pass a physical he has to be considered a serious option. Jackson’s last productive season was 2012. He is not a viable option. Bell had a poor 2015 season but carried the ball 390 times for 1,510 yards in 2013-2014. Gerhart has never carried the ball more than 109 times in a season and has totaled 160 carries in the last three seasons. He is not a viable option. Bush has carried the ball just 84 times for 325 yards the past two seasons. He is not a viable option. Of the ‘expensive’ backups only Foster and Bell potentially fill the necessary role.
Of the lower priced backs, Bradshaw has played just 19 games the past three seasons. Durability issues eliminate him from the equation. Jackson has carried the ball just 165 times for 625 yards the past two seasons. Age has caught up with him. He is not a viable option. Pierce has carried the ball just 99 times for 370 yards the past two seasons however he did carry the ball 150 one season and is only 25 years of age. Thomas played four games with the Skins last season but has only carried the ball 75 times for 350 yards the past three seasons combined. He is not a viable option as a primary back.
The long and short of the situation is that, at present, there are limited viable options for a backup who can double as a primary back if necessary and the Redskins need to jump on one of the few options before there are none. Arian Foster at even 75% of what he once was would be a tremendous asset as a backup. Joique Bell could possibly regain his former form with better run blocking than he had in Detroit. Pierce could potentially be a low cost, low risk, high reward backup. There also may be a player unexpectedly released at some point who fits the bill. What doesn’t fit the bill is having Chris Thompson and Keith Marshall as the backup plan. Journalists are supposed to tell the story, not write the story, but if someone like a Robert Kelley wants to step up into the role of primary backup that would be a story I’d enjoy writing. Why not? If the team is willing to trust Jones as the primary back then why not Kelley as the backup?
P.S.> I know Steven Jackson is in both charts. Kindly overlook that egregious error. You may flog me later when the team goes in an entirely different direction.
Just click on the image for a full size version.
NFL players typically have a limited shelf life. Either their age becomes a limitation or their salary does or both. The 2016 Washington Redskins are no exception and there are some roster moves that simply make sense now as opposed to later. One of those was made in the last twenty-four hours with the release of Andre Roberts. Here are a few others that we should hope to see if not expect to see between now and September.
The starting offensive line should consist of Trent Williams, Arie Kouandjio, Spencer Long, BradonScherff, and Morgan Moses. The backups should be Ty Nsekhe, Austin Reiter, Takoby Cofield, and Cody Booth. This would make Williams the senior member of the offensive line at 27 years of age. It would make the line considerably larger and more geared toward a power blocking scheme. It would mean that, of the offensive linemen, only Williams and Scherff are earning more than $1.0 million per season.
Find a legitimate nose tackle. Relying on Golston, who has never been more than a situational rotation player, and Ioannidis, who is not only a rookie but also grossly undersized for the position is a poor strategy for a team virtually incapable of stopping the run on 1st downs last season. If Knighton in the middle couldn’t stop opponents from gaining five yards on 1st downs then having a smaller and less experienced player in the nose tackle role won’t help.
Neither will having Trent Murphy at defensive end. Murphy got absolutely destroyed on running plays last season as a linebacker and he is the primary reason teams had monumental success rushing the football on first downs. Moving him to defensive end won’t improve the rushing defense. If you’re asking how anyone could possibly know this go back and watch the film from last season. The team needs to roll with Baker, Paea, Reyes, and Jean-Francois and address the defensive line in the offseason. It also wouldn’t hurt to scour the waiver wire.
Start Compton and Foster at inside linebacker with Spaight and Stevens as the backups. Riley was awful the last two seasons and isn’t improving with age.
Give Kendall Fuller a shot at free safety. He’s slightly undersized for the position but athletic and quick enough to close on the ball. Deangelo Hall is a means to an end.
Yes, it’s early. Too early. The FNGs haven’t even been dragged through the week that is rookie camp yet. Furthermore, anyone who witnessed the last two Washington Redskins drafts knows it’s impossible to read the mind of Scot McCloughan. The first person who says they saw the Brandon Scherff pick last season or the Josh Doctson pick this season coming before it happened is the first liar. So, admittedly, this is spitting into the wind. Nevertheless, it’s the off-season and a) a Skins fan always needs something Skins to talk about, and b) trying to break in and get a feel for what draws interest during the season seems like a would-be exercise in futility. With that in mind …
Quarterbacks (3) – Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfield.
Running Backs (4) – Matt Jones, Keith Marshall, Pierre Thomas, Rob Kelley.
Tight Ends (3) – Jordan Reed, Niles Paul, Vernon Davis.
Wide Receivers (6) – DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross.
Tackles (3) – Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe.
Guards (4) – Brandon Scherff, Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao, Arie Kouandjio.
Centers (2) – Korey Lichtensteiger, Austin Reiter.
And the Defense …
Defensive Ends (4) – Chris Baker, Stephen Paea, Kendall Reyes, Ricky Jean-Francois.
Defensive Tackles (3) – Kedric Golston, Jerrell Powe, Matthew Ioannidis.
Inside Linebackers (5) – Will Compton, Perry Riley, Mason Foster, Steven Daniels, Martrell Spaight.
Outside Linebackers (4) – Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Galette, Houston Bates.
Safeties (4) – Sua Cravens, Deangelo Hall, David Bruton, Duke Ihenacho.
Cornerbacks (5) – Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Will Blackmon, Quinton Dunbar, Kendall Fuller.
Kicker (1) – Dustin Hopkins.
Punter (1) – Tress Way.
Long Snapper (1) – Nick Sundberg.
When a team makes a player the highest paid player at his position for the year there are going to be high expectations. When that team is the Washington Redskins and that player is Kirk Cousins we had better like that. More importantly, Scot McCloughan had better like that or we’ll be back on the quarterback search trail. But what does Cousins have to do for Scot McCloughan to like that? There were things Cousins did exceptionally well last season. But when you’re paying a player like a top five player at his position, even if it’s on the franchise tag, he needs to perform as such. Did Cousins? Let’s take a look.
7th in Completions but outside top ten in attempts.
7th in Passing Yards Per Attempt.
5th in Passer Rating.
Outside the top ten in Interceptions.
8th in Adjusted Yards Per Pass Attempt.
7th in Net Yards Per Pass Attempt.
8th in Adjusted Net Yards Per Pass Attempt.
10th in Pass Completions Per Game.
1st in Pass Completion Percentage.
7th in Sack Percentage.
8th in Game-Winning Drives.
10th in Comebacks.
2nd in Fumbles Recovered.
7th in Completions but 10th in passing yards.
Outside the top ten in Passing Attempts Per Game.
Outside the top ten in Interception Percentage.
Outside the top ten in Passing Touchdown Percentage.
Outside the top ten in Passing Touchdowns.
Outside the top ten in Passing Yards Per Game.
Outside the top ten in Yards Per Completion.
8th in Fumbles.
Outside the top ten in Total Offense.
What Cousins has to do to justify the Franchise Tag and command a long-term contract:
Cousins threw 29 touchdowns last season. The top five quarterbacks threw an average of 35 touchdowns.
Cousins’ touchdown percentage was 5.3%. The top five average was 6.5%.
Cousins’ yards per attempt was 7.7. The top five average is 8.4.
Cousins’ adjusted yards per attempt is 7.8. The top five average is 8.6.
Cousins’ yards per completion average is 11. The top five average is 13.
Cousins’ yards per game is 260.4. The top five average is 300.
Cousins’ net yards per attempt is 6.99. The top five average is 7.7.
Cousins’ adjusted net yards per attempt is 7.14. The top five average is 7.75.
Cousins’ sack percentage is 4.6. The top five average is 3.0.
One can gather from the above much improvement is expected of Kirk Cousins this season. Not only should he have better passing protection thanks to the replacement of Josh (What’s the snap count, again?) LeRibeus but he also has an additional receiving weapon in 2016 1st round draft selection Josh Doctson and another red zone target in off-season acquisition Vernon Davis. One has to assume the rushing attack will be better this season. (How could it possibly be worse?)
Cousins will be on a long leash this season because when you’re paying a player over $1.0MM per game you’re not paying him to sit on the bench. The only way he’s not playing is if he is injured. That could be good for Cousins or it could be disastrous. If he’s playing up to expectations expect him to get paid like a top five quarterback. Before complaining about the potential cost involved take a moment to remember the quarterback history of the team over the course of the last twenty-five seasons. If he’s not playing up to the level expected it’s going to be a long and painful season for him, for Scot McCloughan, who will have to begin scouting quarterbacks mid-season, for Jay Gruden whose job is balancing on Cousins’ performance, and for the fans.
The real question is: If Cousins performs marginally well, as in top ten but not top five, what does the team do? They almost certainly won’t tag Cousins again. That gets very expensive. If the Skins offer him top ten money but not top five money will he take it? Or will he take his chances on the open market? Is he really a team player? If he is, I like that.
If you’re among those who felt the running game had room for improvement last season stop reading now. It’s going to get worse before it gets better.
For better or for worse Scot McCloughan and Jay Gruden have all but etched in stone Matt Jones as the primary back for the upcoming season. Jones averaged eleven attempts per game last season behind primary back Alfred Morris, averaging a paltry 3.4 yards per attempt. He also fumbled the ball five times on 144 carries, for an average of one fumble every 28 carries. It’s clear the Redskins are expecting major improvement in these two critical statistical areas. The 2015 league average of 4.1 yards per rushing attempt will be a goal for Jones. He could potentially see twice as many rushing attempts per game as the primary back and will absolutely need to secure the football. Jones has the full faith and confidence of the team and the coaching staff but he will only have it to a point.
Behind Jones is where the situation becomes precarious. As of this writing the primary backup is third down slash change of pace back Chris Thompson who averaged 6.2 yards per attempt last season in limited action. Thompson has never exceeded 35 rushing attempts in a season at the NFL level. Thompson is also a Shanahan era holdover. 2016 7th round draft selection Keith Marshall is very much the same type of back, with more pure speed. It’s reasonable to think only one of these two will be on the active roster. If it’s Marshall, Thompson’s days in D.C. are numbered.
Last season’s third (and sometimes second) option was mid-season acquisition Pierre Thomas. In the four games he played Thomas averaged 4.7 yards per attempt on a total of 11 attempts. He also caught 9 receptions for 84 yards. By all accounts he is a team player and an asset to the locker room. Thomas is currently a free agent. He remains an option as of this writing.
Mack Brown was signed as a free agent from the Houston Texans. Brown has a career total of 30 rushing attempts for 81 yards and 2 receptions for 16 yards. It is reasonable to assume Brown will not survive the final roster cuts. Not only does he have extremely limited experience but the roster now has three players of the (six feet if we’re being generous) and (215lbs. if we’re being generous) type of back. Brown would seem to be the odd man out.
7th round draft selection Keith Marshall combines NFL size at 5’11” and 220lbs. with rare speed. Marshall, as many know, suffered a major ACL injury his sophomore season and missed nearly one and one-half seasons recovering. Going into the 2016 NFL combine there were questions about a loss of raw speed, one of Marshall’s most valuable assets. He put those to rest with 40 yard times of 4.31 and 4.33, the 4.31 being the second fastest time ever recorded at the combine. Marshall obviously has the raw speed to be the change of pace back but he lacks the collegiate receiving numbers to be utilized effectively in that capacity. He will have to demonstrate an ability to be effective as a receiver to be given an opportunity in that role. It is conceivable Marshall spends the season on the practice squad although any demonstration of the ability he showed in college will put him at risk of being signed by another team. It’s hard to say where Marshall fits as of now but make no mistake, he fits somewhere.
Rob Kelley was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Tulane. Kelley had a bit of a legal issue in August 2014 where he was charged with assault and battery of another student over a bicycle. Those charges were dropped. As a result, however, Kelley did not play as a senior. At 6’0″ and 220lbs. (notice a pattern here?) Kelley has prototypical size. He averaged 4.1 yards per attempt for his collegiate career and also caught 80 receptions for 694 yards. Kelley also averaged 20.4 yards per attempt on kickoff returns, making him a possibility in that capacity.
Silas Redd is suspended (again) for violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. His days in D.C. are done.
It would be impossible to fathom the Redskins being entirely comfortable with the running back situation. Ostensibly they will give the verbal and visual cues to the media which indicate they have no qualms about the situation but that simply cannot be the case. The team lost Alfred Morris (by choice) and the only other change made to the rushing game from last season will be the return of a presumably healthy Korey Lichtensteiger at center. That is a net loss by most accounts. When a team drafts not one but two running backs, whose average NFL careers last less than four years, it isn’t for the future. Backs have the shortest shelf life of any NFL position.
Because the team will not carry a fullback it is possible they will use the extra roster position to carry an extra back but it is more likely they will carry an extra receiver. Scot McCloughan is also not known for doing the expected. While personnel will undoubtedly be a joint decision between McCloughan and Gruden and possibly Sean McVay, Randy Jordan, and even Bill Callahan, ultimately “Scotty Mac” is making the decisions. He isn’t likely to cast aside his own draft selections and dismiss his own judgment for players brought in by another coach. Conventional wisdom might suggest Jones, Thompson, Marshall and Thomas making the final roster but, again, McCloughan is anything but conventional. With that in mind, expect to see Jones, Marshall, Kelley, and either Chris Thompson or Pierre Thomas (but not both) on the 2016 Redskins roster.
Also anticipate a shift to a power blocking scheme. With Matt Jones as the primary back there will be little to nothing in the way of cutback running. Everything will be downhill. On the positive side, every back on the roster will be looking to prove something. They’re young and hungry and looking to earn and keep NFL jobs. On the negative side, if Jones is either injured or ineffective there will be virtually no rushing game, placing even more pressure on Kirk Cousins and the passing offense than last season.