Jay Gruden's playbook for the 2014 Washington Redskins is under construction. The first-year head coach plans to cater his system to the players on the roster, including quarterback Robert Griffin III.
"You don't want to put too much on your quarterback ever," Gruden said Friday afternoon at the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. "We're going to do the best we can with our running game."
Griffin, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, had a poor second season while battling back from torn knee ligaments suffered in the 2012 postseason. He was "shut down" for the final three games of the 2013 season, but Gruden said he wouldn't expect permanent negative effects to be evident.
"It could be for some guys if they're not mentally tough. That's the good thing about Robert -- he's mentally tough. You can sense it," Gruden said. "There's no question about the talent he has at the quarterback position."
Gruden said the finger-pointing that happened at the end of last season, when Griffin was the target of mostly anonymous criticism, would also be a thing of the past.
"Last year was a humbling year for a lot of people, especially him," Gruden said. "The one thing about him, he's a very fiery competitor, you can see that."
When the playbook is assembled, Griffin and the rest of the Redskins can claim their copy in April. Gruden didn't tip his hand as to the type of scheme he'll implement, but said many of the aspects of the offense that led to success for third-year running back Alfred Morris will be carried over.
The Redskins operated with a relatively small offensive line, and the running game was primarily a perimeter zone scheme. Morris rushed for 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns, following up a 1,613-yard, 13-touchdown rookie season.
Other than Griffin's emotional and physical health, Morris' success rates as a critical key to the 2014 Redskins.
Projecting where and how he'll fit the offense does depend on the personnel in front of him. Gruden said he isn't planning on acquiring all new blockers, but said the Redskins will make the offense work with what they have if upgrades aren't possible.
"We have a lot of holes everywhere," Gruden said. "There's really not a position where we're not looking to get better at."
--Defensive end Adam Carriker has missed the last 30 regular-season games because of a quad injury and has a $6.5 million cap hit in 2014, but he is hopeful to be with the team this year.
"I run into people in the hall and talk, but nothing has been brought up (about the contract situation)," Carriker told espn.com. "I understand how the NFL works. (But) there's no doubt in my mind they want me around. They like a lot of things about me. They know I can play. They know I know the defense very well. Even if you bring a guy in, unless you see him in your exact scheme it's hard to know if a guy will work. They know I can do it. Plus I've been battling every day for a year and a half. I think they like and respect that. They've also seen the progress.
"It's just a matter of me getting back to full speed and getting 100 percent back to normal. Without a doubt they want me back."
--When quarterback Robert Griffin III was benched with three games remaining in the regular season and replaced by Kirk Cousins, there was persistent speculation that Cousins was being showcased for a potential trade.
The Redskins recently said Cousins is not on the trading block, although it's likely they would listen if a team made a top offer.
Meanwhile, Cousins said in a radio interview he wants the opportunity to be a starter.
"From the day I was drafted, all I've really wanted is the chance to compete to be a starting quarterback," he told 106.7 The Fan "I think that's what all of us ask for, in whatever profession we have, we want a chance to show what we can do. And because of the situation I was drafted into in D.C., that obviously isn't in the cards for me. And so my attitude all along has been, if someone wants to give me that opportunity to have that chance to compete, I'd love to go somewhere. But right now in D.C. if I stay, my job is to be a great backup and hopefully one day become a starter."
While saying the right things, Cousins also added, "I'm gonna communicate my desire to play in a classy way. I don't want to do it in a way that's gonna hurt our organization or reflect poorly on me or the team. But yeah, I absolutely want to play, and that's not a complicated fact. But we'll see what happens. We'll see what's in the cards. And if I'm not good enough, I've got to accept that, but all I'm looking for is that chance."
Asked he would request a trade, Cousins said, "I've signed a four-year contract and I want to honor that contract, so I'm not going to demand anything. You know, I'm grateful for the opportunity to play in the NFL. I feel like I'm living the dream. So no, I'm not going to demand anything. That's not my thought process. I did want to be proactive and communicate where I'm coming from, and not just sit back and assume that people knew the way I felt. So I wanted to communicate it, go to the right people, tell them how I feel, and then those decision-makers can make the decisions they want to make. And I do take it as a compliment if they don't have any interest in trading me. Then maybe that means they see me as a valuable person who can help this team, and in that sense, I'll take it as a compliment."
--The Redskins made their first big personnel move under new coach Jay Gruden when they re-signed cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a four-year contract worth perhaps as much as $20 million on Feb. 18.
In the midst of the wreckage that was Washington's 2013 pass defense, Hall still played well. He led the Redskins with four interceptions and three forced fumbles. He scored three touchdowns, more than all but four players on Washington's offense and ranked fourth on the defense in tackles.
"When I left that meeting (with new coach Jay Gruden), it's almost like I was on a college recruiting trip; I wanted to sign my letter of intent, but obviously free agency doesn't work that way," Hall said on Washington's 106.7TheFan. "I kind of had to let my agent and the front office work all the details out, but it's definitely a deal that I feel good about. That front office definitely showed me they wanted me to be a part of this team, and hopefully retire as a Redskin."
Although he's a 10-year veteran, Hall just turned 30 in November. Last season was one of his two best since he came to Washington in November 2008 after being waived by Oakland. Of the players under contract with the Redskins, only reserve defensive end Kedric Golston has been in Washington longer.
Barring major moves in free agency, Hall will likely start opposite second-year cornerback David Amerson in 2014, but the four-time Pro Bowl corner sees himself eventually moving to safety, as several top corners have done as they have aged.
"It's something I definitely have entertained," said Hall, who ranks fifth among active players with 43 interceptions. "I'm a ball hawk. The greed part of me would love to sit back there and play safety man, but I know what this team needs me to be right now, and that's one of the top corners in the league, and to go out and try to stop other guys' top guys. So I'm a corner for now; hopefully I can transition into that position at some point, but I'm just looking to get this team as good as possible. I'll do whatever they want me to do."
--With Hall back in the fold, the big question for the Redskins with the start of free agency less than three weeks away is three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.
Speaking to Washington media at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, general manager Bruce Allen said the Redskins might use the estimated $10.9 million franchise tag on their No. 1 pick from the 2009 draft if they don't re-sign him before March 11.
"We like Brian," Allen said of the 26-year-old Orakpo, who missed most of 2012 with a torn pec to lead Washington with 10 sacks in 2013. "If we were just one player short (of being a top defense), that'd be an easy question. But we have several (spots) that we're looking to fill. I'm going to have some more conversations with (agent Ben Dogra) and we'll see where it goes. We really haven't gotten into those types of specifics yet."
Top tackler Perry Riley Jr. -- whom the Redskins wants to re-sign -- safeties Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty head the list of Washington's other free agents, many of whom are not expected to return.
--Redskins tight end Fred Davis was suspended indefinitely without pay on Wednesday for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. The suspension begins immediately.
Davis, 28, is set to become a free agent in March. He previously served a four-game suspension for a failed drug test in 2011.
Davis said Wednesday the suspension stems from a supplement he took that contained a banned substance.
"In the past, I made the mistake of knowingly ingesting a banned substance," he said in a statement. "For over two years, I've worked very hard to eliminate marijuana from my life, and I have not had a positive test for it since 2011. Unfortunately, a couple of months ago I took a supplement that contained a banned substance. I now know that supplements are not regulated by the FDA and may contain banned substances.
"The NFL policy is strict, and not knowing that a supplement might contain a banned substance doesn't excuse a violation of the policy. I've worked closely with the NFLPA and NFL to resolve this violation, and I will be permitted to apply for reinstatement in the fall. I look forward to staying in football shape, remaining in compliance with the NFL policy, and having a chance to get back on the field to contribute to a team's success next season."
Then, just one day after being suspended, Davis was arrested for DUI, according to the Washington Post.
Davis may have limited options in the NFL. Aside from the off-the-field issues, Davis had just seven catches for 70 yards with a touchdown in 10 games in 2013. He was also slowed by injuries.
Davis, a second-round pick in 2008, has 162 career receptions, with a career high of 59 in 2011.
Never known for a strong work ethic, he got in then-coach Mike Shanahan's doghouse early last season. He was usurped by rookie tight end Jordan Reed and finished with just seven catches for 70 yards.
Davis' contract is expiring for a third straight year, but this time, he won't be franchised.
"I'm disappointed for Fred," Allen said after Davis' indefinite suspension. "We really can't comment on the suspension because that's a league matter with Fred. There's always a different side to the story. Unfortunately we're not able to talk to Fred, because of the suspension. But, he is a resilient guy. He had to overcome a hurdle a few years ago, and he did it. He got injured (a torn Achilles in Week 7 of 2012) and he worked hard to come back, and so it's up to Fred what his future holds."
--The Redskins announced the addition of Doug Williams as a personnel executive.
The hiring marks a homecoming for Williams, who led the Redskins to a title in Super Bowl XXII in 1988. He was the first African-American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl. He completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards with four touchdowns to earn Super Bowl MVP honors as the Redskins routed the Denver Broncos 42-10.
Williams, 58, played for the Redskins from 1986-89.
"It's great to be home again," Williams said in a statement. "It also is great to be affiliated with a GM and coach who are so focused and dedicated to winning. I have only one mission: to help this team obtain the talent it needs so the fans can experience the Super Bowl they deserve."
Williams has spent 17 years in the NFL, including nine as a player and eight in scouting/personnel roles. He spent five seasons as personnel executive with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004-08) and was the team's director of pro personnel in 2009.
"We are focused on finding people with genuine football insight and a passion for winning," executive vice president/general manager Bruce Allen said in a statement. "As a player, coach and scout, Doug has seen it all and done it all, and we believe he has an incredible talent for identifying the type of players we want with the Redskins."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--The Redskins protected themselves with linebacker Brian Orakpo by placing the franchise tag on him Monday. The One-year tender for linebackers is $11.455 million.
Said Orakpo, "I'm excited to continue to play football. I'm glad we've made the first step, but hopefully we can still get things done in the long run. I don't have a problem with the decision made, but I still want a long-term deal. This is new to me. I'm just letting this play out to the end.
"I'm excited to be with the Redskins as of right now, but now we will go from here. It's always good to try and finish up with the team that drafted you. However, it is a business and I understand the business. If it works out then it works out. At the very least I'm happy they took this step forward."
--The Redskins released five players Tuesday (March 4), including defensive end Adam Carriker who was carrying a $6.5 million salary-cap number.
Tight end Richard Quinn, who had signed a contract after the season ended, and punter Sav Rocca were also cut and the Redskins waived running backs Jawan Jamison and Davin Meggett.
Carriker had missed the last 30 games because of a recurring quadriceps problem. He has had three surgeries to correct the issue.
--The Redskins re-signed defensive lineman Chris Baker to a three-year contract worth $12 million, including $4 million guaranteed. He was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 11.
"I've been waiting for my chance ever since I signed as an undrafted free agent in Denver," Baker told ESPN.com. "Sometimes you have to remain patient and wait your turn. I remained patient and kept grinding. I finally got my chance and took advantage."
Since joining the Redskins in 2011, Baker (6-foot-2, 333 pounds) has appeared in 29 regular-season games with three starts. Last season, he appeared in 15 games with three starts and was credited by coaches with 46 tackles (26 solo) and his first career sack.
Baker, 26, was originally signed by the Denver Broncos as a college free agent on April 27, 2009. For his career, he has appeared in 31 games with three starts, compiling 43 career tackles, eight tackles for loss, two passes defensed and one sack.
UFAs who were regulars in 2013: Inside linebackers London Fletcher (who's retiring) and Perry Riley, Jr.; cornerback Josh Wilson; strong safety Reed Doughty.
UFAs who used to be regulars: Quarterback Rex Grossman; receivers Josh Morgan and Santana Moss; tight end Fred Davis; outside linebacker Rob Jackson.
Other UFAs: Receiver Dezmon Briscoe, inside linebackers Nick Barnett and Bryan Kehl, outside linebacker Darryl Tapp, cornerback E.J. Biggers.
SECONDARY: The Redskins got strafed through the air in 2013. Cornerback Josh Wilson and long-time safety Reed Doughty are free agents.
LINEBACKER: The unit was solid, but London Fletcher is retiring and fellow inside linebacker Perry Riley Jr. and two-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Brian Orakpo are unsigned.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Left tackle Trent Williams and center Will Montgomery are fine, but right tackle Tyler Polumbus and guards Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger struggled in pass protection.
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