NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - INSIDE SLANT
The Washington Redskins and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett mutually agreed to part ways on Wednesday.
The Redskins released statements from head coach Jay Gruden and Haslett with the announcement.
Gruden, after finishing 4-12 in his first year as head coach, said Monday that no decisions would be made about his assistant coaches until after he had met with general manager Bruce Allen and owner Dan Snyder. Gruden had continued to express support for Haslett, under whom he worked as offensive coordinator of the United Football League's Florida Tuskers when Haslett was head coach in 2009.
"Jim and I have had discussions over the last few days and have decided that it's best for everyone that we have a new defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins. I wish him nothing but the best in the future," Gruden said in a statement.
Haslett had one year left on his contract. He finished his fifth season in Washington and first under Gruden.
"Jay and Jim had been talking the last few days. This morning when they were talking they decided it was the best way for both sides," Allen said. "I appreciate Coach Haslett's work and what he has done for the Redskins, but I think it was the right decision."
During Haslett's time in Washington, the defense has finished a collective 29th in total yards and 30th in points per game. This season, the Redskins ranked 20th in total yards and 29th in points allowed.
"Jay and I mutually agreed it's time for the Redskins to have a new defensive coordinator. I want to thank Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen, Coach Gruden and all the players and fellow coaches for their efforts the last five years and I wish them nothing but the best," Haslett said.
--The only previous Washington Redskins coaches to go 4-12, Richie Petitbon in his 1993 debut and Jim Zorn in his sophomore campaign of 2009, were fired.
But Jay Gruden is expected to return in 2015 despite his rough introduction as a rookie head coach with the Redskins.
One reason Gruden will be back is that he has four years left on a contract that pays him at least $4 million per season. Another is that, at 4-12, his Redskins still finished a game better than the team he inherited last January. And two of Gruden's victories came against NFC East rivals Dallas and Philadelphia after predecessor Mike Shanahan went 0-6 in the division in 2013.
However, Gruden helped Cincinnati reach the playoffs in all three of his years as its offensive coordinator (2011-13) and had posted winning records in all 10 of his seasons in command in the Arena League (1998-2001, 2004-08) and the United Football League (2010). Gruden was also the coordinator for Florida's unbeaten UFL champions under current Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett in 2009. So until 2014 in Washington, Gruden hadn't been part of a losing team since he was an offensive assistant for his brother Jon with Tampa Bay in 2006 when the Bucs went 4-12.
"It's a humbling experience, being the head coach in the NFL going 4-12," Gruden said during his season wrap-up press conference on Monday. "You learn a lot about yourself, a lot about the team, a lot about the staff you work with. It's definitely a learning experience. It's something you can grow from."
Redskins fullback Darrel Young, who like receiver Pierre Garcon and injured special teams captain Adam Hayward, said he wants to keep playing for Gruden, agreed that the 47-year-old coach can grow into the job.
"He's the type of guy you enjoy playing for," said Young, whose only previous NFL coach was two-time Super Bowl winner Shanahan, whose first NFL command came when Gruden was a senior quarterback at Louisville in 1988. "He's excited all the time and he's gonna coach his [butt] off. He's one of those guys you can always count on to be honest with you. It was a terrible year, but I expect us to be a lot better next year. The first step is done with where we're trying to go."
Receiver Santana Moss, the senior Redskin at 35 and after 10 years in Washington, said it's up to the players to effect change.
"The guys have to take over and say, 'We refuse to put up with what we've been going through,'" Moss said. "That's when we can overcome what we've been going through. We can't wait on nobody else to do it for us."
Take away the remarkable 7-0 run under Shanahan that won the NFC East in 2012 for Washington's only division title of the millennium and Redskins Nation has been waiting six and a half years for success. Even including that seven-game winning streak, Washington is 34-71 since mid-season 2008, including the loss to Seattle two years ago next week its only playoff game of the last seven seasons.
During that span, the Redskins had three coaches, two defensive coordinators, four play-callers, three special teams coaches and dozens of players. None of the assistant coaches and only three players -- Moss, defensive end Kedric Golston, both backups for most of the last three years, and cornerback DeAngelo Hall, whose 2014 season ended with a ruptured Achilles' tendon in Week 3 -- have survived all the defeats.
Fixing Washington's woes will take some serious work.
The Redskins have weapons in moody receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon and oft-injured tight end Jordan Reed, but Robert Griffin III struggles to get them the ball further than 15 yards downfield, backup quarterback Kirk Cousins is a turnover machine and Colt McCoy - if he re-signs - is also less than proven. What's more, left tackle Trent Williams is the only reliable offensive lineman and running back Alfred Morris' final month was easily the worst of his three seasons.
Haslett's three-man front might not have a keeper other than emotional swingman Chris Baker. The secondary is a mess beyond cornerback Bashaud Breeland, a pleasant surprise as a rookie this year, and Hall, depending on his recovery. Linebacker is a strength with Ryan Kerrigan (13.5 sacks), the oft-injured Keenan Robinson, who played well in his first year as a starter, and rookie Trent Murphy, who seemingly showed enough to allow Washington not to re-sign three-time Pro Bowl pick Brian Orakpo, who managed just half a sack in six-plus games before being lost for the season with a torn pec.
Washington will have a first-round draft choice in 2015 for the first time in three years come, but it sure looks like a long road back to respectability, let alone the top of the NFC East. Good thing that of the 19 usual starters under contract, only center Kory Lichtensteiger (30), right guard Chris Chester (31) and right defensive end Jason Hatcher (32) will be as old as 30 in 2015.
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - NOTES, QUOTES
--2015 OPPONENTS: Home: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins. Away: Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, New York Jets.
--Defensive end Jarvis Jenkins was showing plenty of promise until he suffered a season-ending torn ACL IN the third game of his rookie year. Jenkins started most of 2012 and 2014 -- while serving a backup in 2013 -- but has only two career sacks and hasn't been an impact player as a second-round draft choice is expected to be.
"Jarvis has done fairly decent against the run," said first-year Redskins coach Jay Gruden. "He's a load in there in the running game and our run defense has been pretty solid. He's part of that rotation of big guys in there that really do a good job of holding up against the run and freeing up the linebackers. Obviously we would like to see a little bit more from a pass rush standpoint, but overall he has had a pretty decent year."
Jenkins, who was credited with a career-high 51 tackles, believes that 2014 has been his best season, but he professed no desire to test the free agent market even thought his contract is expiring.
"Obviously, you have to look at what's best for you and your family, but I'm comfortable here," Jenkins said. "I know the coaches. I know the defense. I can only get better. I've been more consistent this year. I've graded out higher. I watched a lot more film and I improved my technique which put me in better position to make plays. I definitely want to come back, but we'll see what they're thinking."
--Niles Paul was drafted as a receiver in the fifth round in 2011. Converted to tight end in 2012, he made his mark covering kicks and punts. But when Jordan Reed was sidelined for five-plus of the first 11 games this season, Paul saw more offensive snaps than he had played during his first three years combined. Paul had 16 catches for 253 yards during the first three games of 2014 -- he had just 14 catches for 228 yards from 2011-13 -- and wound up with 39 catches for 507 yards.
Washington's coverage units also improved markedly this season, but with his contract expiring, Paul can't be sure that he'll remain a Redskin in 2015.
"I know there's a possibility that I won't be back, but this is my home," said Paul, who finished with a career-high 39 catches and 507 yards. "I want to be here. I expect to be here."
--After recording a career-high 11 sacks for Dallas in 2013, Jason Hatcher signed a four-year, $27.5 million deal with Washington as the Redskins looked to bolster their pass rush.
The 32-year-old defensive end was credited with 30 tackles and three sacks in Washington's first seven games. However, Hatcher was shut out the next week against the Cowboys and was credited with just 11 tackles and 2.5 sacks over the following five games before an ailing right knee sidelined him for Week 15-16 and he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27.
"Obviously at the end here with the injuries it's been a little frustrating for him," Gruden said. "Early on ... he was doing a good job, but I think overall for anybody to say that we were completely pleased with coaching performances or player performances would be a little over-exaggerated. He's a great guy who works hard and I really appreciate what he brought to this team not only from the football player standpoint, but from a person standpoint. So moving forward I'm glad he's on our team."
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Players expected to be unrestricted free agents: CB E.J. Biggers, S Ryan Clark, WR Leonard Hankerson, RB Roy Helu, DE Jarvis Jenkins, G Rishaw Johnson, QB Colt McCoy, S Brandon Meriweather, WR Santana Moss, NT Chris Neild, OLB Brian Orakpo, TE Niles Paul, T Tyler Polumbus, CB Justin Rogers.
QUARTERBACK: Starter - Robert Griffin III. Backup - Kirk Cousins. Injured Reserve - Colt McCoy.
Griffin's record-setting rookie year of 2012 was golden. His poor second season was attributed to coming back too soon from major knee surgery and his clash with coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. However, Griffin's 2014 season was arguably worse as he missed six weeks with a dislocated ankle, was benched for former third-stringer McCoy in Week 13 after losing a third straight start and never developed as a pocket passer or showed that he was a good fit for new coach Jay Gruden's offense. So although Griffin is under contract it's not clear that Gruden will want him to return in 2015.
The coach made it clear he prefers the less flamboyant McCoy, who doesn't get sacked or turn the ball over quite as often and led the upset of NFC East champion in Week 8. Cousins took over when Griffin went down, but after a strong start, committed 11 turnovers in less than six games before Gruden replaced him with MCoy, whose season ended with a re-aggravated neck injury in Week 15 and whose contract is expiring. The big question in the coming weeks is whether owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen, who joined Shanahan in trading three first-round selections and a second-rounder to St. Louis for the right to choose Griffin second overall in the 2012 draft, demand that Gruden give him a chance to at least compete for the job next summer. When Gruden, who helped develop pocket passer Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, said that he was excited to coach the athletic Griffin when he accepted Washington's job last January but he seemingly gave up on him after just four full starts. The quarterback drama continues.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters - Alfred Morris, FB Darrel Young. Backups - Roy Helu, Silas Redd, Chris Thompson.
Gruden had coordinated a pass-happy offense in Cincinnati from 2011-13, but he didn't have a stud back like Morris, who powered for 2,888 yards in 2012 and 2013. That showed this year when play-caller Gruden repeatedly kicked himself for getting away from the run too soon after the Redskins fell behind. And Morris took a big step back during the final five games, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. He'll surely be out to prove himself again in 2015 but he's not the sure thing he was during his first two seasons. Part of the drop-off has to be attributed to the blockers including Young, who had five touchdowns on just 20 touches.
Third down back Helu played well, averaged 5.4 per carry and caught 42 passes but hopes to find a team that will give him a chance to compete to start which he did part of his rookie year in Washington, 2011. Redd made the team as a rookie free agent and flashed with 4.7 per carry and eight catches, mostly in mop-up duty. Thompson returned from than a year on injured reserve and the practice squad in Week 15 and caught a touchdown pass. Generously listed at 5-foot-8, the 2013 fifth-round pick should battle to be the third down back if Helu leaves as a free agent and if he can upgrade his blocking.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Jordan Reed. Backups - Logan Paulsen, Niles Paul.
Reed set Redskins rookie records for tight ends with 45 catches and 499 yards in 2013 despite missing seven games. He was sidelined for five more games while catching 50 balls for 465 yards in 2014, a season bookended by his fumbles in opposing territory in the opener at Houston and the finale against Dallas.
Paul had 16 catches for 253 yards and a touchdown during the first three games after Reed pulled a hamstring compared to just 14 catches for 228 yards from 2011-13 -- and wound up with 39 catches for 507 yards. However, the former receiver isn't a good blocker and that means he's not a sure bet to be re-signed despite his love for and ability covering kicks. Blocking specialist Paulsen didn't have his best year but figures to be back.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson. Backups - Andre Roberts, Santana Moss, Ryan Grant, Leonard Hankerson.
Garcon, led the league with 184 balls passes thrown his way and a franchise-record 113 catches, in 2013, saw those numbers fall to 105 and 68 this year after the acquisition of deep threat Jackson (94 targets, 56 catches), who led the NFL with a 20.9-yard average, making him the first Redskin to do so in 18 years. Jackson, who adjust to deep balls as well anyone in the league, had 13 catches of at least 40 yars, eight of at least 50. He and Garcon combined for only nine touchdowns. Roberts, who was signed from Arizona to start before Jackson was cut by Philadelphia, had a less robust debut with 36 catches as the No. 3 receiver.
Former starter Moss was inactive for seven games and caught just 10 passes. Grant made the team as a fifth-round pick but had just seven catches. Hankerson was activated in Week 11 after recovering from major knee surgery last fall but never caught a pass. The third-rounder from 2011 will likely be gone after catching just 81 balls during his four years. All the receivers suffered from the merry-go-round at quarterback.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Trent Williams, LG Shawn Lauvao, C Kory Lichtensteiger, RG Chris Chester, RT Tom Compton. Backups - T Tyler Polumbus, G Josh LeRibeus, G Spencer Long, G Rishaw Johnson. Injured Reserve - T Morgan Moses.
Williams made his third straight Pro Bowl on reputation as his injury-riddled season didn't compare to his strong performances in 2012 and 2013. He ended the year with a high ankle sprain that could keep him out of the all-star game. Lauavo, signed from Cleveland in March, was nothing special. Lichtensteiger made a smooth transition from left guard to center, but had his struggles in pass protection like the entire line as Washington surrendered a whopping 58 sacks. Polumbus fared so poorly in that area that he was benched in favor of the inexperience Compton for Week 8. Compton was adequate and will likely be challenged by a high draft choice or a free agent signee in 2015 while Polumbus isn't re-signed. Chester didn't have a good season and could well be replaced as he turns 32 in January.
LeRiebus, a 2012 third-rounder, has yet to push to start. Neither Moses nor Long, third-rounders in 2014, did so as rookies with Moses flailing in his start at San Francisco when Williams was sidelined. Johnson was signed for Week 17 but didn't play.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DLE Jason Hatcher, NT Chris Baker, DRE Jarvis Jenkins. Backups - DE Stephen Bowen, NT Barry Cofield, DE Kedric Golston, DE Frank Kearse. Injured Reserve - DE Jason Hatcher, NT Chris Neild.
Hatcher was signed from archrival Dallas with big expectations after he recorded a career-high 11 sacks in 2013. He produced 5.5 for Washington before missing the final three games with a sprained knee and since he'll be 33 in July, his future's not exactly bright. Baker can be over-exuberant on the field but is a serviceable player who can play end or nose. Jenkins, a second-rounder in 2011 who missed his rookie year with a torn ACL, has been a major disappointment and might well not be re-signed.
Cofield, 30, missed the first half of the season with groin and ankle injuries and wasn't his usual forceful self after he returned. Bowen, also a 2011-13 starter, was activated in Week 7 after recovering from major knee surgery last December. The 30-year-old took a while to regain his form. Golston has evolved from starter to decent backup and figures to be the senior Redskin in 2015 which would be his 10th season in Washington if he makes the team. Kearse, a free agent pickup last May, had three sacks in the first seven games but his role diminished after Cofield and Bowen returned. Neild, a 2011 draft choice, has missed two years with torn ACLs and might have spent his last day at Redskins Park. This group needs some young blood.
LINEBACKERS: LOLB Ryan Kerrigan, LILB Keenan Robinson, RILB Perry Riley, ROLB Jackson Jeffcoat. Backups - ILB Will Compton, OLB Gabe Miller, OLB Trevardo Williams, ILB Ja'Gared Davis, OLB Stephen Beauharnais. Injured Reserve - OLB Brian Orakpo, OLB Trent Murphy, ILB Adam Hayward.
Kerrigan stepped out of Orakpo's shadow this season, finishing second in the NFC with 13.5 sacks, a total eclipsed in Washington history only by its two leading sack men, Dexter Manley and Charles Mann. The fourth-year man also tied for the league lead with five forced fumbles even though three-time Pro Bowl pick Orakpo had produced just half a sack before suffering a season-ending torn pec in Week 7. Second-rounder Murphy took over and recorded 2.5 sacks before breaking a hand in Week 16. Still, Murphy showed enough that Washington can let Orakpo, who'll be 29, walk. Robinson, who hadn't played since Week 11 of 2012 because of two torn pecs, displayed superb athleticism and good tackling ability in his first year as a starter. Riley regressed after leading Washington in tackles in 2013 and could be pushed by one-time undrafted rookie Compton or a newcomer to start in 2015. Jeffcoat and Williams each recorded a sack in Week 16 after being promoted from the practice squad.
Special teams captain Hayward's season ended after 11 games with a fractured tibia. Miller played sparingly in seven games, November signee Beauharnais the same in three. So did December signee Davis.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Bashaud Breeland, RCB David Amerson, SS Ryan Clark, FS Phillip Thomas. Backups - CB E.J. Biggers, S Trenton Robinson, S Akeem Davis, CB Justin Rogers, CB Kenny Okoro. Injured Reserve - CB DeAngelo Hall, FS Brandon Meriweather, CB Tracy Porter, S Duke Ihenacho.
Breeland came to training camp hoping to beat out the more experienced Richard Crawford and Chase Minnifield for perhaps the fifth and final cornerback job. Instead, by mid-season, the fourth-round pick was Washington's top performer in the secondary. That's not saying much from a unit that lost three-time Pro Bowl pick Hall to a torn Achilles in Week 3 and got just three games from free agent signee Tracy Porter before he, too, went on the shelf for the year. Amerson regressed noticeably in his second season, especially during the final month.
If Hall is healthy for camp, he and Breeland should be the starters with Amerson hoping to be No. 3 ahead of newcomers. Biggers has good speed but not good cover skills and doesn't figure to be back. Rogers (three games) and Okoro (two) were late-season pickups who didn't make major impressions. Clark led the team in tackles in his return after eight years in Pittsburgh but struggled in coverage and will likely retire to a TV studio at 35. Meriweather began the year on suspension for yet another late hit and finished it on IR with a sprained toe. He'll be 31 and a free agent. The Redskins should give 2013 draft pick Thomas and maybe ex-Denver starter Ihenacho -- who went on IR after just three games -- a lengthy trial next summer while also adding a couple of safeties with early draft picks or in free agency. Davis and Robinson are really more special-teamers although the latter did have an interception.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Kai Forbath, P Tress Way, LS Nick Sundberg, KOR-PR Roberts.
Tress Way led the league in gross punting average in his debut season and Kai Forbath made 24 of 27 field goal attempts in his third to rank as Washington's most accurate career kicker. Sundberg was spot-on after missing 19 of 32 games with injuries in 2012-13. However new return man Roberts wasn't very good (7.4 yard-average on punts and 23.7 on kickoffs) and new special teams coach Ben Kotwica's units allowed touchdowns on a blocked punt, a kickoff return and a punt return while not coming close to scoring any of their own.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun