Rounding Up the Latest Redskins Offseason Buzz
September 4. Just make it to Thursday, September 4 and real, meaningful NFL football is back. Along the way, we're lucky enough to have the World Cup, and baseball too if you're into it. But September 4—that's the day circled in red on the calender.
In the meantime, it's important to stay logged in with your respective rooting interest. And in the case of the Redskins—with a new head coach calling the shots and plenty of new names added to the roster—Washington certainly isn't lacking buzzworthy material.
Here's a look at five interesting/fun Redskins nuggets to keep an eye on early this offseason.
Andre Roberts Wants to Be Redskins' Returner
After a miserable performance on special teams throughout last season, the Redskins made it a point to address the weak link this offseason.
Although signing wide receiver Andre Roberts didn't initially feel like an upgrade on special teams, the subsequent signing of DeSean Jackson appears to have made Roberts the Redskins' best option as a returner.
“I feel like I’m one of those players who, when he gets the ball in his hands, he can make some big plays,” Roberts said, according to Rich Tandler of CSN Washington. “That’s what I want to bring to this team as well, not just as a receiver but also on special teams.”
The Redskins signed Roberts to improve their wide receiving corps. But as things play out (i.e., Jackson's signing), plans change, and the roster may begin to take on a slightly different shape. Although Roberts' primary duty as receiver remains important to the Redskins offense, his playmaking ability isn't something the coaches are willing to ignore.
Especially when that ability has a chance to drastically improve a significant, yet often overlooked position on the roster.
Darrel Young's Role
In addition to leading the way and clearing paths for Redskins running backs, fullback Darrel Young has also served as a timely and sneaky receiving option out of the backfield for the last four seasons in Washington.
Although his stats won't pop out from a box score, Young has six touchdowns over the last two seasons, and he always finds a way to gouge the opponent at its most inopportune time, ripping off a 20-, 30- or even 60-yard play when the Redskins need it most.
But the question this offseason, under the direction of new head coach Jay Gruden, is what will Young's role be, and/or how will it change?
"I can’t tell you,” Young said when asked about his upcoming duties, according to Evan Redmon of SonOfWashington.com. “Every game is different. I could play 30 snaps. I could play five. Depends on how we’re doing offensively, depends on the game plan, depends on what [opposing defenses] do. It’s a game-to-game thing.”
So maybe no one's sure of Young's role in Gruden's offense. But it seems safe to assume he'll be around. And if the coaches need him on offense, Young is versatile enough to offer plenty as a blocker, pass-catcher and goal-line option. Additionally, that same versatility can make Young a nice piece on special teams, further helping a unit the Redskins' front office sought to improve this offseason.
Remember Josh LeRibeus?
Remember? Josh LeRibeus—the lineman the Redskins drafted out of SMU in the third round two years ago, which felt like a reach then and has since firmly established itself as one.
After coming into rookie camp out of shape, then following it up with an offseason last year that wasn't much better, LeRibeus returns to Redskins Park this year with a new coaching staff in place and no choice but to show improvement if he has any desire of sticking in the NFL.
According to John Keim of ESPN, LeRibeus is working at both guard spots, and head coach Jay Gruden seems to appreciate his progress.
"His weight was down. He's in good shape and he's made some improvements from what I saw last year," Gruden said, according to Keim's report. "I don't have a lot of history with him obviously, just what I've seen this year. But he does look a lot better this time of year than he did last year from what I hear. He's doing well."
Just positive words early in the offseason to help keep the fire lit beneath LeRibeus' behind? Maybe.
But Gruden's mentioning of his weight and it being "down" (or implied as "under control") is probably the most important part of the quote. If LeRibeus isn't fit to practice, then he damn sure isn't fit to ever play. With a better grip on his weight and agility, perhaps the Redskins finally get to see what the 315-pound guard has to offer, and whether or not he's worth a roster spot.
Ryan Clark as the Leader We All Expected
Not that it should come as a surprise to anyone, but safety Ryan Clark looks like the early favorite to take over the role of on-field general following the retirement of linebacker London Fletcher.
Throughout last season—with the anticipation of Fletcher's departure—a popular discussion topic was who steps up in his absence, not from a talent perspective, but from a communication standpoint on the field. Then the Redskins signed the 34-year-old Clark and the debate quickly took a backseat.
As ESPN's John Keim describes, "Safety Ryan Clark never stops talking on the field—and I mean that as a compliment."
Clark helps this Redskins defense in a number of ways, from always communicating with his teammates—showing them their spots and warning them of "what if" situations—to putting himself in the right spot and forcing an offense to change an otherwise routine play against this Washington defense from a season ago.
Clark, despite his age and the late stage in his career, will remain a fun guy to watch throughout the summer and regular season. A veteran leader in the deep half could work wonders.
A New Energy Among Coaches
I wasn't one of the Mike Shanahan bashers during his time in Washington. But after last season—Shanahan's fourth with the team—the experiment had run its course. It was time for a change.
In comes Jay Gruden, a first-time head coach who has been handed a five-year deal worth a boatload of money and challenged with the task of turning a team that was riddled with drama the year before into a playoff contender.
The most noticeable difference so far between past and present regimes seems to be their respective styles. Sure, coaches have different philosophies, different playbooks, different tendencies and so on. But the major difference standing out so far (after a short time in camp) is the difference in style.
"When you have a coach like that, you've got to love it," receiver Andre Roberts said, according to Mark Maske of The Washington Post. "He's one of those players' coach kind of guys. We respect the heck out of him, especially the offensive guys, him being offensive-minded, what he did in Cincinnati. We just love a coach like that."
Where Shanahan was more of a ruler, Gruden seems more accessible. He's more involved with the players, he prefers a hands-on approach in practice and there's a new energy among the entire coaching staff that seems to translate well with the players.
It's easy, especially as a hometown fan, to get behind a new head coach making a fresh start in a new city. But for what it's worth, the energy, or at least the change, feels good.