Following the 2013 NFL season, the Washington Redskins replaced head coach Mike Shanahan with young Jay Gruden with the hopes of turning the franchise around. In Gruden’s first year that didn’t happen and there was talk that Gruden may be one and done.
While there was a big change made in Washington, it wasn’t with the head coach. Instead, the Redskins hired veteran front office man Scot McCloughan. McCloughan has experience with multiple franchises and is well respected in the league as a personnel man. His experience should help the Redskins get on the right path.
Unless Robert Griffin III turns things around this year, he could go down as one of the biggest busts of all time. RGIII showed flashes as a rookie but has not done much since. Injuries have had an effect, but from what I’m told, it’s more of a football character thing in that he doesn’t do what is necessary to make himself a great player. Things came easy for RGIII in high school and college. That’s not the case in the NFL. Behind Griffin III are Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy. Going into last season, Cousins was a hot name because of some fairly good play in the little play time he got in 2013. With his play last year, he is no longer “hot”. McCoy flashed at the end of the 2013 season, but was it enough to earn him the backup job?
Alfred Morris is a perfect example of an excellent running back drafted in the later rounds. The former sixth-round pick has run for 3,962 yards, a 4.5 yard average and 28 touchdowns in his three seasons with the league. With the Redskins improving the offensive line during the off-season, Morris could be even more productive in 2015.
McCloughan is said to really like third-round pick Matt Jones from Florida. Jones is similar to Morris in that he is an excellent inside power runner, yet he is bigger and faster. The third back is second-year man Silas Redd who is yet another power guy. At fullback is Darrell Young who is productive in the red zone.
Wide Receivers and Tight End
While much of the league is going towards tall, athletic receivers, Washington’s starters are a bit smaller, but very fast. DeSean Jackson is one of the better deep threats in the league while Pierre Garcon is an athletic, possession type with deceptive speed.
The Redskins added a similar style receiver in the draft with Duke’s Jamison Crowder, who can be an ideal slot type. Last year the Redskins signed Andre Roberts away from Arizona, but he disappointed in his first season. Hopefully he will show improvement this year.
Jordan Reed is the starting tight end and Washington wants more production from him. He has the speed and athleticism to play at a high level, but injuries have hurt him from playing at an optimum level.
Washington wanted more production from the offensive line than they got in 2014. With that in mind, they drafted an offensive linemen with their first pick in the draft. Iowa’s Brandon Scherff is a nasty and technically strong blocker who should be an automatic starter at right tackle. At left tackle, is Trent Williams who has had a hot and cold career to date. When he is good, he is really good, but he also looks very average at times.
Going into camp the starters at guard will be Sean Lauvao, who was a high priced free agent a year ago. Lauvao did not play up to his price tag in 2014. The other guard should be second-year man Spencer Long who had a good off-season. The center is former guard Kory Lichtensteiger. In his second year at this position, improvement is expected.
The defensive line will have an entirely different look than in 2014. The only returning starter is defensive end Jason Hatcher who started 13 games in his first season in Washington. The new nose tackle will be Terrance Knighton who is an excellent run stuffer. The other end will most likely be Stephen Paea who was with the Bears a year ago. He could be challenged by Ricky Jean-Francois who is a little more athletic. Backups will include Frank Kearse, Chris Baker, Kedric Golston and rookie Corey Crawford a free agent who very well could have been drafted if not for some character flaws.
The outside linebacker group is solid with Ryan Kerrigan and and second-year man Trent Murphy. The second-round draft choice Preston Smith will also get play time. Smith who is a very good pass rusher should play down in nickel situations.
Inside, the starters look to be Perry Riley Jr. and Keenan Robinson. Robinson played very well in his first year as a starter. Will Compton looks to be the primary backup. Rookie Martrell Spaight will also be in the mix for playtime, but will most likely play on special teams only.
The starting safeties will be two new starters. Dashon Goldson comes over for Tampa Bay where he wasn’t a great fit in Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2. He will be much more productive in this scheme. The other new face is Jeron Johnson who was a backup in Seattle but McCloughan knows him well from his time in Seattle. The primary backup is Phillip Thomas who has started a few games in the past.
At corner will be new addition Chris Culliver, who was a starter in San Francisco, and second-year man Bashaud Breeland who played better than expected as a rookie last year. The third corner will be veteran DeAngelo Hall who is coming off a serious injury. If Hall can’t go, look for former starter David Amerson to be the nickel corner.
Washington needs a big year form RGIII in order to jump out of the NFC East basement. If he falters I doubt the Redskins show much improvement. The roster is better, but as we all know, if the quarterback can’t play most teams are in trouble.
Follow Greg on Twitter @
Dallas Cowboys defensive end Jeremy Mincey doesn’t plan to report for training camp without a new deal, according to a league source.
Mincey ranks 70th in compensation among defensive ends.
He signed a two-year, $3 million contract last year that includes a $500,000 signing bonus.
He’s due $1.5 million this year and carries a $1.75 million salary-cap figure.
Mincey recorded six sacks in 16 starts last season.
By holding out, Mincey can be fined $30,000 per day.
Follow me on Twitter: @RavensInsider
Aaron Wilson covers the Ravens for The Baltimore Sun
In Tom Telesco’s two seasons as General Manager of the San Diego Chargers they have had back-to-back 9-7 seasons. In 2013 the Chargers made the playoffs, but they fell short a year ago. With Denver seemingly starting to go downhill and the Chiefs and Raiders progressing, the Chargers have to at least stay even with the rest of the division.
There was a lot of talk about quarterback Phillip Rivers being traded during the off-season but it never came to fruition.
Rivers, at 33 years of age, is still is at the top of his game. Last year he completed 379 of 570 passes for 4,286 yards and 31 touchdowns. While he lacks the movement skills he had earlier in his career, he still has a very quick release and is extremely accurate.
The backup is Kellen Clemens, who going into his 13th season, is a very reliable player to have in that important backup position.
The Chargers running game was horrible a year ago. The leading rusher was an undersized rookie free agent, Brandon Oliver, who ran for only 582 yards. To change that, the Chargers drafted explosive Melvin Gordon from Wisconsin to be their lead runner. Gordon has a running style similar to the Chiefs Jamaal Charles but he isn’t the receiver that Charles is. Like most backs coming out of college, Gordon will also have to improve his pass blocking.
The primary backup at running back will be either Oliver or Donald Brown, who was a disappointment in his first season with San Diego. Danny Woodhead is coming off an injury and is also in the mix.
Tight End and Wide Receiver
The bad news is that the Chargers have lost long time starter Antonio Gates for four games due to a league suspension. There are some in the Chargers organization who feel that this could be a positive. The Chargers have relied on Gates for the past 12 seasons and it’s time to develop another player. The next guy in line to start at tight end is Ladarius Green who has shown flashes of talent in his three previous seasons.
The starters at the wide out positions will be Keenan Allen, who already has two strong seasons under his belt. The other wide out will be veteran Malcom Floyd. Another possibility could be Stevie Johnson who San Diego signed as a free agent. While Johnson is very talented, he has a way of wearing out his welcome. Jacoby Jones appears to be the fourth receiver, and he is also a reliable returner.
The line will have a different look than a year ago since center Nick Hardwick and guard Jeromey Clary retired. To replace Hardwick, the Chargers have moved Chris Watt over from guard. Watt started five games as a rookie. I thought that when he was coming out of Notre Dame, he was a natural center. We will soon find out.
To replace Clary, the Chargers gave substantial money to former Denver starter Orlando Franklin. He should be a huge upgrade. The other guard is Johnnie Troutman, who needs to play with more consistency.
The tackles will be King Dunlap, who last year may have had his best season, and former first round pick D.J. Fluker. If Troutman struggles at guard, Fluker could move inside, and former Buffalo Bill Chris Hairston could play right tackle.
The defensive line has to get better. As of now, they have one legitimate star in end Corey Liuget. Liuget is still young, and this will only be his fifth year in the league, so he can still get even better.
The other end going into camp is Kendall Reyes. Reyes has the traits to be a very good player, but he has never been able to play with complete consistency. Behind Reyes and Liuget are Ricardo Mathews, Tenny Palepoi, and free agent pickup Mitch Unrein. The rookie sixth-round pick could surprise, but he is more of an undersized pass rusher who looks like a role player.
While the starter at nose tackle going into camp is Sean Lissemore, I expect second year man Ryan Carrethers to mount a strong challenge. Carrethers should see a good amount of playtime.
There will be a bit of a different look at linebacker in 2015. Dwight Freeney is gone as is inside starter Jarrett Johnson.
The starters inside will be Manti Te’o who has been set back by injuries but played well towards the end of last year. He felt good about his off season and is looking forward to camp. Opposite Te’o is Donald Butler who has not lived up to his contract numbers. Butler needs to show vast improvement this year. If he falters even a little, rookie Denzel Perryman is ready to step in. Perryman might be undersized, but he is all football player!
For the outside linebackers, former first round pick Melvin Ingram has to put injuries aside and play to his first round talent level. His play picked up some last year but it still wasn’t enough. Now in his second year, Jerry Attaochu should show improvement. He has some very good pass rush talent.
An interesting rookie to watch is Kyle Emanuel. He was one of the better FCS pass rushers while at North Dakota State. He played down in college and will need to adjust to playing on his feet.
Brandon Flowers played very well in his first year as a Charger and was given an extension. He will hold down the left side. On the right side will be last year’s first-round pick Jason Verrett. Verrett is undersized, but plays an aggressive game. Although, that style of play could hurt his durability. The third corner should be free agent acquisition Patrick Robinson, who came over from New Orleans.
Nine-year vet Eric Weddle is the free safety, while the strong safety position will be a camp battle. Third-year man Jahleel Addae played close to 400 snaps a year ago as a reserve and nickelback. He is a playmaker and will be tough to keep off the field. Coming over from Miami is free agent Jimmy Wilson who started 13 games for the Dolphins. While Addae is undersized, he may be too good to keep out of the starting lineup.
As I have mentioned in the other AFC West write-ups, the division title is up for grabs. I feel Denver’s days as the champ are over and the division will be a battle between Kansas City and San Diego. The Chargers have to get much better play on defense this year in order to challenge for the title.
Follow Greg on Twitter @
The 2014 season went great for the Miami Hurricanes until the last four games. They started off the season with wins against soft teams followed by losses to Nebraska and Georgia Tech. They went on a three game roll beating Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina. Then, they played the dominant FSU Seminoles and it went downhill from there. They closed out the season losing four straight games to FSU, Virginia, Pitt, and South Carolina. This year, the Canes are hoping to bounce back and be more consistent.
The offense for the Hurricanes will have a hard time replacing the offense threat they had last season in RB Duke Johnson. Johnson was a very valuable cog in the rushing attack for the Hurricanes. He provided over 1,500 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns. Replacing him will be tough but they do have two up and coming backs that should do a decent job. Gus Edwards and Joe Yearby were both great backups last season and will hope to develop themselves into key parts of this offense. On the passing side of the ball things are looking very positive. They have QB Brad Kaaya, a promising prospect for the 2017 Draft in two years. Kaaya blew people’s minds last season. As a freshman, he threw for over 3,000 yards, threw 26 touchdowns and had 12 interceptions. Although the Canes lost both WR Phillip Dorsett and TE Clive Walford, the receiving staff still looks like they will be in great shape. The offensive line for Miami looks very weak heading into this season, seeing as they have only one returning starter. They also lost the leader for the line, Ereck Flowers, to the Draft last year. They do have some linemen who are coming off of injuries from last season such as OT Sunny Odogwu who stands at 6’8” and 322 lbs.
The defensive side of the ball for the Hurricanes does not look as promising as the offensive side. Last year the Canes were ranked 30th in the nation in rushing defense. This year will likely be a different story. Miami lost four starters from their front seven in the draft. The most missed piece will be LB Denzel Perryman his hard hitting play style. This year there is a lot of young talent who needs some polish. The biggest one to keep an eye on will be DT Jelani Hamilton. The leader of the LB core would be Jermaine Grace. Grace is the only returning LB for the Hurricanes. He will have to be the glue that holds this defense together. The Canes have a lot of experience returning to their secondary this year, three starters to be exact. Last year they allowed only 192.5 passing yards per game, which ranked 20th in the nation. With a more experienced staff, they are hoping to have one of the best pass defenses in the nation.
2015 Outlook: 8 out of 10
The Miami Hurricanes have an extremely tough schedule to overcome this year, and I am struggling with whether they can do it or not. Don’t get me wrong, the Canes have a great team this season, but in many instances, the teams they are facing will be stronger than them. It is a very rough road schedule. They face Florida State, Cincinnati (who has a brand new stadium), Duke, and Pittsburgh (in November) all on the road. Anyone who follows the ACC knows that in-conference road games are extremely difficult. Even their home schedule is hard, with matchups against Nebraska, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Georgia Tech, all of which have a very good chance of beating them. I say to not expect more than eight wins out of the Canes this season. The schedule just does not favor them.
2016 NFL Draft Prospects:
#2 DB, Deon Bush, Senior—6’1”, 198 lbs
#5 LB, Jermaine Grace, Junior—6’1”, 210 lbs
#15 QB, Brad Kaaya, Sophomore—6’4”, 218 lbs
As training camps around the league start, often players with any minor injury issue will start on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. The Steelers opened camp with a surprise in center Maurkice Pouncey and four others starting on PUP. This designation sounds ominous, but what really is the significance?
The knee-jerk reaction for the rabid fan is to freak out when your favorite player is placed on the PUP list. After all, there has been an entire offseason to get healthy. The reality is that most players pass physicals and are activated very quickly, usually within days.
Teams freely use the temporary PUP designation to get some future roster protection in case an injury lingers or regresses. There are actually two categories of PUP (active and reserve) with different implications.
Active/PUP is utilized in the preseason when a player doesn’t pass a physical from a football related injury. The player remains on the active 90-man roster during this time. He can pass a physical at any time and come off the list and start practicing.
Reserve/PUP is saved for the regular season. Here the player does not count towards the then 53-man roster. This designation requires missing a minimum of six but a maximum of 12 weeks. Once activated, there is up to a three-week grace period for practice before being the roster spot counts.
Check-in physicals are performed upon arrival at every camp and a player must pass before any conditioning tests or practice starts. If there is any question on an injury or the possibility of a setback, the player is typically failed on physical and the active/PUP designation is used to preserve the right to later enact the reserve/PUP status in the regular season.
If a player passes the initial physical and practices for even one minute without having been on active/PUP first, a team loses the ability to use the roster spot saving reserve/PUP designation. This is why you will see teams freely apply the active/PUP status as training camps open. This is also why you will see many players pass a physical a day later and begin practice. If the original injury flares up, this allows the team to save the roster spot later. However, it can’t be used if a new unrelated injury occurs.
Expect Jadeveon Clowney (Texans/knee), Earl Thomas (Seahawks/shoulder), Sam Bradford (Eagles/ACL), Dont’a Hightower (Patriots/shoulder), Brandon Albert (Dolphins/ACL), Dennis Pitta (Ravens/hip) and more to be placed temporarily on active/PUP. They all are coming off known injuries and it means very little to start camp on PUP, as long as it is temporary.
It is more telling when a player with known injury does not start on PUP than if he does. Le’Veon Bell starting camp day one not on PUP is much more meaningful. Evan Silva of Rotoworld asked me about Bell earlier this summer and I indicated little concern about the knee injury that kept him out of the playoffs. The Steelers leaving him off PUP indicates they have no worries about any possibility of lingering injury or risk of missing games and indeed he has had a strong early showing already.
Expect the Rams to open with Todd Gurley on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list, which is essentially the PUP equivalent, except it is for a non-NFL injury. Players with illness, fireworks injuries or those injured in college football fall under this category. For a full listing of PUP, NFI, IR and IR/dfr, see last year’s column here.
MMMD 1: Jadeveon Clowney “looks spectacular”
The Texans team physician says last year’s first pick of the draft has very little muscle atrophy after his microfracture procedure due to use of blood flow restriction (BFR) training. The surgery necessitates non-weight bearing initially and limited physical exercise for at least six months. This typical leads to significant muscle loss, whereas Clowney’s is minimal.
Although the Texans have a top team surgeon and his use of BFR puts him ahead on rehab, expect Clowney to still start camp on active/PUP. BFR helps muscle girth but it has yet to be shown to help articular cartilage regrow and that is the main issue.
Despite this report of great progress, my earlier comments still stand and the hope is for a small lesion. Even in the best hands, needing microfracture is not a good sign. The likelihood is that Clowney will not have a 10-year NFL career. If he gets to a second contract or is just productive throughout the first one, that would be deemed a huge success. The bottom line is Articular cartilage is the Holy Grail.
MMMD 2: Impossible to have someone else’s kneecap
Trevathan now says he was just joking. He admits to reconstructive surgery but the kneecap is his. I still think the injury bears watching as anytime articular cartilage is involved, it leads to concern.
MMMD 3: Why is Junior Galette still listed on Saints roster?
New Orleans decided to part ways with Junior Galette due to character issues. Because Galette had a recent pectoral injury where surgery was contemplated, the team can’t actually cut him until he reports and passes a physical (or reaches an injury settlement).
Passing a physical shouldn’t be an issue as this recent video proves the pectoral issue behind him. However, Galette still needs to report to do so before he can be released. That may be the bigger obstacle based on reports of his anger at the Saints.
MMMD 4: C.J. Wilson stepping away from football
Most of the attention has been on Jason Pierre-Paul, but the other NFL player injured by July 4th fireworks has decided to step away from football after he lost his index and middle fingers. We all wish him well.
Meanwhile, Justin Tuck says he spoke to JPP who realizes he made a mistake, but his spirits are up. Hope he can put this behind him and return to play. It all depends on what damage there is beyond the index finger.
MMMD 5: Cardinals rookie WR wounded by gunfire
When I was team physician, our second-round pick was an innocent bystander and shot at a mall in the July offseason in his hometown as well. He subsequently needed surgery.
The team immediately had me reach out to his treating physicians to get updates. I am sure this is the case here with the Cardinals just like the Giants also reached out when JPP was hurt. The job of professional sports is not limited between the white lines.
MMMD 6: NFL plotting response to movie Concussion
A movie about two doctors at the forefront of the CTE issues will be released on Christmas day. Apparently owners have already begun to meet to deal with the response.
I hope the movie is accurate and continues to bring further concussion awareness rather than being sensationalist. No one should be afraid of an honest discussion of the issues.
MMMD 7: ProFootballDoc scorecard
As we restart the regular season column format, I will resume the self-assessment of correct/incorrect injury prediction/analysis that left off at 6-0. The goal is to have vetted numbers this year instead of just reporting 92.6% accurate at season’s end.
The vast majority of the Jason Pierre-Paul analysis has been accurate. Even though my breakdown turned out correct on multiple aspects, it will count as only one in the plus column. Add to it the correct assessment that Trevethan did not “have somebody else’s kneecap” and that Le’Veon Bell would start the season healthy and that leaves the score at 9-0. I am sure a miss is coming soon.
Follow David on Twitter: @profootballdoc
Dr. David Chao is a former NFL head team physician with 17 years of sideline, locker and training room experience. He currently has a successful orthopedic/sports medicine practice in San Diego.