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Team Report - WASHINGTON REDSKINS

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INSIDE SLANT

Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather was suspended two regular-season games without pay for his sixth violation of the NFL's policy on player safety.

The NFL's statement on the hit Saturday at Baltimore, when officials ruled Meriweather hit Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith "with forcible contact to the head and neck area ... on a pass play" cited no attempt to make a form tackle or wrap up the offensive player.

Coach Jay Gruden disagreed, saying Meriweather attempted to make a rulebook, if not textbook, hit.

"He did the best he could, it looked like. (Joe) Flacco threw a late one across the middle and he saw the ball and he tried to lower his target," Gruden said before the ruling came. "Unfortunately, as he was lowering his target, the receiver felt him and lowered his head also at the same time. It was a bang-bang play. ... It's out of my hands. But I thought he tried -- in his best interest he tried his best to lower his target and avoid the helmet-to-helmet contact, but sometimes when you're lowering and your receiver lowers at exactly the same time, it's very difficult. But he's trying to lower it."

Pending an appeal that must be filed within 72 hours of Monday's ruling, Meriweather is banned from contact with the team, including participation in practice, training at the team facility and meetings with teammates or club personnel, with the lone exception of medical treatment. He cannot watch or participate in practices, meetings or film review.

The suspension would begin Sept. 1 and end Sept. 14.

Safety is not a position of strength for the Redskins. Veteran Ryan Clark was signed as a free agent to start at free safety alongside Meriweather, who is backed up at strong safety by Phillip Thomas and Akeem Davis. Thomas was a fourth-round pick in 2013 who spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a Lis Franc injury. Gruden said Thomas re-injured his foot at Baltimore, and his status is up in the air.

"We're going to get it checked out a little bit," Gruden said Monday.

"It's a concern because it's the same foot. He's going to get it checked out again, and it's just sore. It's still bothering him. You can see a little bit that it looks like it's bothering him a little bit, but we've got to get it fixed because he's a good football player and we need to make sure he's healthy when he's ready to play."

Chase Minnifield, who can play cornerback and safety, is also injured. He pulled a hamstring Saturday.

--When the Washington Redskins traded three first- and one second-round draft choice to St. Louis for the right to select Robert Griffin III at No. 2 overall in 2012, it seemed that the team's penchant for quarterback controversies was put away for some years to come.

However, this could already be that year, even if responses by team officials reflect the expected amount of denial.

After a record-setting rookie year, Griffin was benched for the final three games of a mediocre 2013 season in favor of backup Kirk Cousins. And after Griffin finished his ugly preseason with a horrendous night in Baltimore Saturday while Cousins played well, there is more than mild discontent in Washington.

Griffin and the starting offense generated one field goal in three preseason games. His passer rating was an abysmal 46.0 as he managed just 141 yards on 13 completions in 20 attempts with two interceptions.

Cousins, who threw touchdown passes to receivers Santana Moss and Nick Williams against the Ravens, has a sterling 101.6 rating heading into the Aug. 28 preseason finale at Tampa Bay in which Griffin and the starters won't play.

Cousins, a fourth-round pick in 2012, was a drop-back passer at Michigan State and seems much more comfortable in the pocket than Griffin, who ran the shotgun and read-option offenses at Baylor. Not that first-year Redskins coach Jay Gruden is planning to replace Griffin with Cousins, no matter how many call local sports-talk shows demanding a switch or take to Twitter advocating the change.

"We're not going to panic and abort ship," Gruden said after the 23-17 loss in Baltimore that ended Washington's eight-game preseason winning streak that dated to 2012. "(Robert)'s a lot further along than he gets credit for. I've seen him practice and I've seen him come a long way. Obviously today didn't show (that). ... We're going to keep working and get ready for Houston. I feel good about the starters that we have. Some of the backups obviously played well again, so that's exciting. We just have to do a better job of executing when it counts."

Griffin certainly didn't do that against the Ravens, completing five of eight passes for all of 20 yards while getting sacked three times and being intercepted once for a 27.1 passer rating. The starters generated three first downs on their six series, the final one of which lasted one play, the interception of Griffin at the Washington 26-yard line on the first play of the second half.

"(This performance) will help us," Griffin said. "I know people can't see that right now. They'll be over-reactions all over the place. It's our job to make sure we stay cool, calm and collected and keep fighting. I'm not going to allow what happens in the preseason to carry over to the regular season. Last year, we went 4-0 in the preseason and didn't have a great year."

Indeed, the Redskins crashed from 10-6 NFC East champions in 2012 to 3-13 division cellar-dwellers in 2013, prompting then-coach Mike Shanahan's dismissal and his replacement by former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Gruden.

"We're in the third preseason game on the road on a short week and you'd like to have some positive things going into the regular season," Gruden said after the woeful outing by his starting offense against a Ravens defense minus its top three cornerbacks. "It didn't happen. We have to do a better job of getting into a rhythm, get some completions early and get some first downs. We were so bad on first and second downs, it kept us in some third-and-longs. When you get in third-and-long against Baltimore with (Elvis) Dumervil, (Terrell) Suggs and those guys rushing the quarterback, it's not fun for anybody."

Like Gruden, Griffin insisted that the Baltimore game and its two predecessors this month will serve as a learning experience and an impetus for better performances during the regular season.

"All the work we put in the entire offseason ... we know what we can do," Griffin said. "We know when the lights turn on, we'll be ready to go. We had a bad outing tonight. We'll take that butt-kicking, look at the tape and we'll get better from it. We didn't play very well. Since I'm the leader of the offense, I have to play better. It seemed like we kept shooting ourselves in the foot. I know it sounds vague, but I have to improve in the overall process of running the offense. I've got to work on that. I think all the guys on our offense will be ready to go when the season starts."

Trouble is that the dress rehearsals are over for Washington's starters. The curtain goes up for Gruden, Griffin and Co. on Sept. 7 in Houston. The coach might soon be very thankful that the Redskins didn't trade Cousins to get help at other spots during the offseason. He may already be the help at a spot that needs it.

NOTES, QUOTES

--If the New England preseason game on Aug. 7 was about Jay Gruden's head coaching debut and the Cleveland preseason game on Aug. 18 was about the debut of the top addition to Washington's offense, receiver DeSean Jackson, the Baltimore game on Aug. 23 was about the debut of the top addition to the Redskins defense, end Jason Hatcher.

"Jason Hatcher looked great out there," said outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. "He's the same guy who terrorized us when he was with Dallas. I thought we worked really well together, and put a lot of pressure on their quarterbacks."

Hatcher, who had sat out the first two preseason games as he completed his rehab from a knee scope in June, ended the Ravens' second series with a sack of quarterback Joe Flacco. It was the only tackle with which the 32-year-old former Cowboy was credited leaving Gruden wanting to see more from a player whose 11 sacks in 2013 were more than double his previous career high.

"It was good to see him out there in a first game experience with us," Gruden said. "(But) he has to get in playing shape. I could see that he was a little winded out there. I think he's a great addition to our football team. We just have to make sure that we work his butt off the next couple of weeks to get him ready for (the Sept. 7 regular-season opener at) Houston."

--The release of outside linebacker Rob Jackson on Aug. 24 left only receiver Santana Moss -- acquired in a March 2005 trade -- and defensive end Kedric Golston -- a sixth-round draft choice in 2006 -- as the only players on Washington's roster who were with the team when the Redskins started 6-2 under then-coach Jim Zorn in 2008.

Jackson, a seventh-rounder in 2008, got into just 10 games during his first three seasons and played mostly on special teams in 2011 before becoming a solid starter in 2012 after Pro Bowl pick Brian Orakpo suffered a season-ending torn pec in Week 2. It was Jackson's late interception of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo in the Week 17 winner-take-all game against the Cowboys that sealed Washington's first and only division title this century. However with Orakpo healthy again last year, Jackson didn't see that much action last season, which began with him serving a four-game suspension after a positive drug test.

Aside from Moss and Golston, cornerback DeAngelo Hall (waivers, Nov. 2008) and 2009 first-rounder Orakpo are now the only remaining Redskins who pre-date former coach Mike Shanahan's 2010 arrival.

--With the Redskins having signed free agents DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts and drafted Ryan Grant, the odds of 2013 undrafted rookie Nick Williams making Washington's roster seemed pretty slim when training camp began.

However, Williams caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter for the second consecutive preseason game on Aug. 23. This one wasn't a game-winner as had been the case five days earlier against Cleveland, but it did draw the Redskins within 23-17 with 5:03 to play.

"Nick really studies the position and he carries himself as a professional and I'm happy to see the fruition, in terms of the touchdowns, the last two weeks," said backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, who hit Williams with the 7-yard strike against the Ravens. "He's a good receiver who can help us."

The Redskins have scored seven touchdowns this summer and Williams is the only player with more than one. Jackson, Roberts, 2013 record-setter Pierre Garcon, former starter Santana Moss and Grant appear to be locks to make the team. But if Washington keeps a sixth receiver, Williams just might beat out speedster Aldrick Robinson.

"(Nick)'s good because he can play multiple spots," coach Jay Gruden said. "(He's) very smart, very reliable, a very defined route runner. He's got good hands. He's just another guy that has performed well. It will be a difficult choice when it comes to choosing the receivers. Nick ... can play in the NFL, there's no doubt about it, and hopefully it's for us."

--Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sacked Flacco on Baltimore's first snap of the second quarter giving the 2012 Pro Bowl pick three sacks in three preseason games. No other Redskin has more than one sack this summer.

"A lot of credit has to go to (defensive end) Chris Baker on my sack," Kerrigan said with typical modesty. "He forced the quarterback to step up and I was there to tackle him."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The offense has done some good things, too, but you hate to end on a sour note. ... Whether they play a series or not in Tampa (there) is probably a 10 percent chance. I'm leaning towards no." -- Coach Jay Gruden on whether his first-string offense, which hasn't scored a touchdown in three games this preseason, will buck history and see some action in the Aug. 28 preseason finale at Tampa Bay.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Reserve linebackers. The release of veteran outside linebacker Rob Jackson as well as those of Adrian Robinson and Jeremy Kimbrough left seven candidates for the backup spots behind starters Ryan Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo, Perry Riley and Keenan Robinson.

Special teams ace Adam Hayward, top draft pick (second round) Trent Murphy, who recorded his first sack in the Aug. 23 preseason loss at Baltimore, and hard-working Will Compton, a rookie free agent in 2013 who saw action in the season finale, seem to be the leaders.

However, former Philadelphia and Kansas City starter Akeem Jordan led Washington's tacklers with five stops against the Ravens. And Gabe Miller, who signed with the Redskins late last season and had a sack in the Aug. 18 preseason victory over Cleveland, and Everette Brown, who signed on July 28, have both made solid impressions in practices. Darryl Sharpton, who started 13 games for Houston the past two seasons, is also in the mix although he missed the past two preseason games with a sprained ankle he suffered in the summer opener against New England on Aug. 7.

Murphy, Miller and Brown are the outside backups as of now with Hayward, Compton, Jordan and Sharpton the inside reserves. No more than four of these players will still be Redskins a week from now. Murphy and Hayward seem like locks to survive the final cuts, which leaves Miller and Brown battling for one job and Compton, Jordan and Sharpton -- if he can get back on the field -- dueling for another.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Robert Griffin III and the other 21 starters won't play in Thursday's preseason finale at Tampa Bay.

--G/C Mike McGlynn, a former starter for Philadelphia and Indianapolis who played under then-offensive coordinator Jay Gruden in Cincinnati in 2011, was cut on Tuesday.

--WR Rashad Ross, a rookie free agent, was cut on Tuesday despite averaging 32.0 yards on four kickoff returns and 39.0 yards on his two catches during preseason.

--TE Matt Veldman, who played one game with Detroit in 2013, was cut on Tuesday, 12 days after signing with Washington.

--S Brandon Meriweather will appeal his suspension for the first two games of the season levied by the NFL for a hit to the head of Baltimore WR Torrey Smith last Saturday. Bacarri Rambo will start in Meriweather's absence.

--S Phillip Thomas won't play at Tampa because of pain his left foot. He will be examined by specialist Robert Anderson in Charlotte.

--P Tress Way, signed on Aug. 20 to replace fellow P Blake Clingan, got off to a shaky start in last Saturday's preseason game at Baltimore with a 27-yarder that was almost blocked but recovered to boom his other punt 51 yards with excellent hang time.

--G Chris Chester played center briefly during the first half against the Ravens. He said that he hadn't played the position since 2008 when he was with Baltimore.

--DE Stephen Bowen remains on PUP as he continues to rehab from microfracture knee surgery late last fall. He continues to work on the side of practice with Washington's training staff.

--WR Leonard Hankerson remains on PUP as he continues to rehab from ACL surgery late last fall.

--G Adam Gettis, who had played in 13 games, mostly on special teams the past two seasons, was cut on Aug. 25. Fifth-rounder Gettis was just the second of Washington's nine-man 2012 draft class to be let go following seventh-round safety Jordan Bernstine, who never recovered from a major knee injury suffered in the opener of their rookie season.

--CB Bryan Shepherd, a rookie free agent from North Dakota State, was waived on Aug. 25.

--TE Jordan Reed sprained a thumb on Aug. 23 at Baltimore, but coach Jay Gruden spects him to be ready for the Sept. 7 opener at Houston.

--OLB Brian Orakpo missed practice on Aug. 25 because of the sprained ankle he suffered against the Ravens.

--CB Chase Minnifield didn't practice on Aug. 25 because of the hamstring he injured at Baltimore.

--OT Morgan Moses practiced on Aug. 25 despite spraining his right MCL at Baltimore.

--CB Tracy Porter returned to practice on Aug. 25 after missing the Baltimore game with a hamstring injury suffered on Aug. 18 against Cleveland.

--RB Chris Thompson, who missed the Baltimore game with an ankle injury suffered against the Browns, practiced on Aug. 25.

--ILB Akeem Jordan has a bruised thigh but should be ready for the Aug. 28 preseason finale at Tampa Bay.

--ILB Darryl Sharpton returned to limited practice on Aug. 25 but Gruden said that he's questionable at best for the Bucs because of the sprained ankle he suffered in the Aug. 7 preseason opener against New England.

--LB Rob Jackson had his contract terminated by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

--FB Stephen Campbell was waived by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

--WR Cody Hoffman was waived by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

--LB Jeremy Kimbrough was waived by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

--WR Rashad Lawrence was waived by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

--S Ross Madison was waived by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

--DE Jake McDonough was waived by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

--LB Adrian Robinson was waived by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

--DE Jeremy Towns was waived by the Redskins Sunday (Aug. 24).

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