Friday, May 13, 2011

NFL Lockout Affects Oakland Raiders Rookie Stefen Wisniewski Less Than Others

A few weeks ago, I predicted the Oakland Raiders would pick Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski for several reasons.

The most obvious reasons were legacy and bloodlines. His uncle, Steve Wisniewski, was a eight-time Pro Bowl guard for the Raiders from 1989-2001. His dad Leo was incredibly productive for three years with the Baltimore Colts as a nose tackle from 1982 to 1984 until an injury ended his career.

All three Wisniewski's starred at Penn State under the legendary Joe Paterno before being drafted in the second round of the NFL Draft. Steve could very well end up inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day.

The other reason was that Stefen has the ability to start at either guard or center. It appears his destination will be center, a position the Raiders need help at because Samson Satele, now a free agent, was not what Oakland had hoped for in 2010.

While the players and owners battle for money in the lock out, teams cannot even contact players. Some players are scrambling to put together impromptu workouts in hopes of staying sharp.

Yet all Stefen Wisniewski has to do is stay at home to stay sharp. His uncle happens to be the offensive line coach of the Raiders, so they can conceivably spend all day every day working on his game. While teams may not contact players, there is no rule preventing family from interacting.

As Steve Wisniewski barks out instructions to his nephew, Leo can line up over his son and teach him some of the tricks to expects from an NFL nose tackle.

Though working on actual plays and formation appears virtually impossible in this scenario, the amount of fundamentals in learning his position is priceless and the type of individual attention no rookie can get in training camp, especially over this length of time.

When the lockout ends, Stefen Wisniewski should be the sharpest rookie, if not player, on the entire Raiders roster. He should also be in great shape, ready to withstand even three-a-day workout sessions.

No other player in the NFL is enjoying this unique situation, so hopefully Stefen Wisniewski is taking full advantage of his bloodlines to keep the Wisniewski name high in both NFL and Raiders royalty.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

2011 NFL Free Agency: 5 Undrafted Players the Washington Redskins Should Sign

Now that the 2011 NFL Draft is done, the entire league is back on hold in a stagnating pattern as the lock out resumes.

Despite the fact the Redskins worked 12 picks out of the draft, there are still positions to upgrade and fill on the roster. Some of these roster spots can be filled with undrafted players.

Many players go undrafted these days because the NFL only has seven rounds to pick from these days. Yet, even with the days where drafts went 20 rounds deep, the Pro Football Hall of Fame has several inductees who were never drafted.

Here are five players that went undrafted and could still possibly help the Redskins out in 2011.

Willie Smith, Offensive Tackle, East Carolina

A good athlete who started out on defense in college, Smith is 6'5" 310. His team was run-oriented in the beginning of his career, then went pass-crazy in his last season.

Smith can mash, and he did show promise in pass protection. He also plays with a nasty streak, which should further the Redskins interest in him.

He needs work, but Smith is a guy who could play guard or tackle for many years. Even if he's no more than a reserve, Smith offers Washington needed depth.

John Graves, Defensive Lineman, Virginia Tech

Graves is a hard worker and a plus to have in a locker room. He is a run stuffer but, at 6'3" 286, he could use more bulk. Yet he has the frame to hold it.

He isn't much of a pass rusher, and a project. It will not hurt bringing him in camp and see if he can stick on special teams and develop.

Mark Herzlich, Linebacker, Boston College

It was a bit a shocker this kid went undrafted. A cancer survivor, he was one of the top collegiate linebackers before being sidelined to fight cancer.

He is a leader who works as hard as he can every play. He can run well enough to cover tight ends and running backs in the pass as well.

Though his return to football as a senior saw a decline in production, there is no doubt Herzlich is working out every day to get back to where he once was. While he might need some refinement on his tackling technique, the kid has good burst and closes out plays with fire.

The Skins are terribly thin at linebacker, so calling this kid the moment the lock out ends should be a priority. His best position may be inside linebacker, though he has the athleticism and versatility to line up on the outside as well.

The quality depth Herzlich could provide immediately should be reason enough.

Kyle Forbath, Kicker, UCLA

Graham Gano was too inconsistent in 2010, so getting competition in camp is a must. The 2009 Lou Groza Award winner, his leg converted 10 of 13 kicks over 50 yards in his career.

His career field goal percentage was 84.1, something the Redskins could use big time.

Chas Henry, Punter, Florida University

It seems like the Redskins haven't had a great punter since the days of Mike Bragg. Henry, who never had a punt blocked in college, can also kick off.

He won the Ray Guy Award in 2010 and has a propensity of dropping punts inside of the 20-yard line with 68 of 165 career punts having done so.

Henry is certainly a guy Washington should bring into camp for a tryout.

Others To Consider :

Why not bring in a few running backs into camp. Wisconsin's John Clay and Virginia Tech's Darren Evans went undrafted, but both run hard between the tackles and can block.

They might not make the team, but both have the ability to beat sixth-round pick Evan Royster out for a job.

Bringing in a ton of linebackers would be smart. They only need to look a few miles up the road to ask Maryland Terrapins Alex Wujciak or Adrian Moten to try out.

Moten would be the type to help on special teams, and he is smart with good leadership abilities. He might add depth at outside linebacker also.

Wujciak was a tackling machine in college, racking up 381 on his career. While the knock on him is a lack of athleticism, he was always around the ball for the Terps.

He is an inside linebacker who might help the team for two downs before coming out on pass plays. Think Neil Olkewicz.

Yet there are also two other linebackers to consider. Scott Lutris started all four years for the Connecticut Huskies and had 341 tackles despite missing time because of injuries.

He is a type of player who could be a starter as a strong side linebacker because he is smart and is always around the ball. Lutris needs to improve his pass coverage ability, but he does have enough speed to cover a tight end or running back.

It seems his injury history kept him undrafted, so the Redskins should try to bring him into camp.

Many scouts liked the hard-nosed run stopping ability of Central Michigan University's Nick Bellore. While he isn't fast or athletic, Bellore never quits on a play and excels at stopping the run.

Some scouts had him a mid-round prospect, so it wouldn't hurt Washington to bring him into camp.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Washington Redskins Owner Dan Snyder's Best Move Ever Shines In 2011 NFL Draft

In 1999, a life-long football fan realized a childhood dream by purchasing his favorite team. Dan Snyder, who was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs just outside of Washington D.C., was just 33-years old when he became the owner of the Washington Redskins.

He has become a polarizing figure since then. Redskins Nation knows Snyder is a real Redskins fan who is hell-bent on seeing his team win titles, willing to do whatever it takes to reach those heights.

Yet he has also ostracized himself by moves like confining tailgating and charging fans for wanting to do so. Moves that took a team once ranked as the sixth most popular NFL team in 2003 to 17th since 2009.

Despite a famous waiting list for season tickets that numbers over 200,000 people, he sued season ticket holders who had not yet paid because of the hard economic times the country has been in. Actions looked upon as betrayal by one of their own.

It hasn't helped Snyder, who has long admitted he knows nothing about the intricacies about football, has had his teams go 86-106 since his purchase. The Redskins have had just three winning seasons in his regime.

His naivety to the game saw Snyder hire Vinny Cerrato, a guy he thought was a disciple of Hall of Famer Bill Walsh and had learned how to build a winning team. In retrospect, it appears Cerrato learned nothing from Walsh and bamboozled Snyder.

When Cerrato was hired in 1999, he mortgaged the future of the franchise by bringing in old players like Irving Fryar, Jeff George, Mark Carrier, and a pair of Hall of Famers named Bruce Smith and Deion Sanders. His first two draft picks were Champ Bailey and Jon Jansen.

While only Smith helped the team from the free agents group, Bailey and Jansen both helped the Redskins for many years. Bailey, who appears that he will one day be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, gave Washington four Pro Bowl years in five seasons before being traded for running back Clinton Portis in 2004.

While many of Cerrato's draft picks played in the NFL, his trading away draft picks for old players infuriated fans. Especially in the aftermath, where the Redskins got next to nothing in return.

The Redskins had four years where they had five or few draft picks in the Cerrato Era. They headed into the 2011 NFL Draft with a team desperately needing bodies, but with only seven draft choices to accomplish this.

It was a different draft day for the Redskins in 2011. A draft not seen by the team since the days of Bobby Beathard, the great Redskins general manager who helped build teams that went to four Super Bowls in a 10 years.

Snyder had tired of hearing about the incompetence of Cerrato. He had tried to quell it by banning fans from bringing signs into the Redskins home stadium, and even bought several radio stations that were managed in a heavy-handed manner by Snyder to prevent negative talk about his organization.

He announced Cerrato resigned at the end of the 2009 season, but being fired is more of an apt term for Cerrato. He had already been fired for one year in 2000 before coming back to seemingly systematically destroy the Redskins for revenge.

Bruce Allen was hired as general manager after Cerrato departed. The son of Redskins Hall of Fame coach George Allen, he is the eight general manager of a team that has been in the NFL since 1932.

He follows in the footsteps of such Hall of Famers like Otto Graham, Vince Lombardi, and his own father. Allen had won the George Young Executive of the Year Award with the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and had been the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2004 to 2008.

Not only was he blessed to have learned from his dad, but he also got mentored by Hall of Famer Al Davis. After gaging his team during a frustrating 2010 season, Allen had a plan for the Redskins in the 2011 NFL Draft.

He works side by side with head coach Mike Shanahan, yet Allen pulled off a series of draft day moves that would have made Bill Belichick smile. Belichick, the master of wheeling and dealing on draft day, now has some company in that area with Allen.

Trading down from the get go, the Redskins went from seven draft choices to 12. It was as if the team took a time machine back to the 12-round draft days of Beathard and Charley Casserly.

It was a draft day Redskins fans deserved after having suffered for too many years to want to count. The team desperately needed this, even if the possibility of having to cut draft picks in training camp occurs.

It was an infusion of not just competence, but expertise. For all of the verbal lashings Dan Snyder has taken since 1999, this is the time to pat him on the back for getting Bruce Allen and giving the team a chance to finally turn things around.

Now if we could only get Snyder not to confine nor charge fans for tailgating and be more of a fan than owner on this issue.

Here is a brief break down of the Redskins draft, followed by a grade.

Ryan Kerrigan, Outside Linebacker

After watching the Tennessee Titans shock people by reaching on quarterback Jake Locker, there was more available talent available than expected. Yet The Redskins were intent on getting bodies, and it appears they were not high on Blaine Gabbert.

The Jacksonville Jaguars were high on the quarterback, so the teams pulled off a trade that saw the Redskins switch slots in the first round while picking up another draft pick that they would later trade for more selections.

Kerrigan goes were most draft experts had him. He is your classic overachiever who never quits on a play. He is also a pleasure to have in the locker room.

While he should see time at strong side linebacker, I imagine both he and Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo will put a hand in the dirt on obvious passing downs. Like Orakpo, the only pass defense Kerrigan will offer is rushing the passer.

After a season of drama from Albert Haynesworth in 2010, veterans will enjoy this kid. Kerrigan brings his lunch pail every day and goes to work, the type of player a franchise can never get enough of.

Jarvis Jenkins, Defensive End

A very sound pick up that will be even more effective if free agent Kedric Golston returns. Jenkins is very good at stopping the run, an area Washington needs help at.

He isn't a classic nose tackle, but is versatile enough to get rotated there if needed. He is not going to rack up many sacks, but you will rarely see him get fooled or pancaked.

Some question his stamina, because he was given frequent blows in college, so this is why the return of Golston helps. Jenkins will be good for the Skins rotation playing the five-technique or wherever he is needed.

Leonard Hankerson, Wide Receiver

A big kid with huge, soft, reliable hands. He will not burn any defensive backs, but he will use his body to screen them off. A red zone threat who will be looked on as a chain mover.

With Santana Moss possibly gone, and Anthony Armstrong catching 20-yard passes, Hankerson fills a big need while adding quality depth. He also has the possibility in leading the team in touchdown catches as a rookie.

Roy Helu, Running Back

Helu has to be a Shanahan Special. Shanahan is known for taking running backs later in the draft, then turning them into 1,000-yard backs.

The kid is a one-cut back who hits the hole hard, but his real worth could be he saves Washington a roster spot because of his excellent receiving ability. He should challenge for a starting job right away.

Dejon Gomes, Cornerback

His athleticism is probably what had Washington reach on him much higher than he was rated. Many experts had Gomes going undrafted or in the seventh round.

He has good size and hands, but often whiffs on tackles and needs a lot of work in his deep zone recognition. Defensive Backs coach Bob Slowik has a lot of work to put into Gomes.

He will have to earn his pay on special teams, but there is a chance that this is the only area Gomes can contribute at for Washington.

Niles Paul, Wide Receiver

Another physical possession receiver, possibly signalling the end of Roydell Williams and Malcolm Kelly. Paul needs major work on refining his route-running, but Washington has the great Keenan McCardell at Wide Receivers coach to help him.

He has decent speed to go with a good frame, so there is a chance he can help the team. Paul also has experience at returning kicks, so special teams play might determine if he sticks or not.

Evan Royster, Running Back

The first real bizarre move by the Redskins. Washington is woefully thin at linebacker, and there were a ton of linebackers selected right after Royster was drafted. This includes Greg Jones, a tackling machine who has the ability to start at middle linebacker one day at middle linebacker.

With Rocky McIntosh a free agent and London Fletcher 36-years old, Jones made sense here, especially with the fact that the oft-injured and smallish Robert Henson and young Perry Riley are the only inside linebackers on the roster besides Fletcher.

Royster was productive in college, but he is not very strong nor fast and offers nothing but blocking in the passing attack. He isn't explosive, lacks lateral agility, and goes down easy too.

Yet he is a very hard worker and smart. Maybe the Redskins plan on trying him at linebacker, because I think he may have difficulty beating out Helu, Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams, Mike Sellers, Darrel Young, James Davis, Chad Simpson, or even Andre Brown for a roster spot.

Aldrick Robinson, Wide Receiver

A smallish, but speedy, wide receiver, Robinson could end up being the best receiver drafted by Washington in 2011. He has great hands and body control, willing to go over the middle without fear.

He should fill in at the slot right away, but he needs work because he comes from a spread offense in college. McCardell was a Pro Bowl receiver known for crisp routes and great hands, so Robinson will get coached up to produce early in his career.

Brandyn Thompson, Cornerback

A small, but not speedy, cornerback Washington hopes can add depth and help on special teams. Though his hips are a little stiff as well as his difficulties with bigger receivers, Thompson has a tendency to gamble.

Yet he has good hands and knows how to play zone coverage. Thompson is smart and a sound tackler. He will have to make the squad via special teams, but he could be solid in the nickel formation one day.

Maurice Hunt, Offensive Lineman

The Redskins finally address the offensive, perhaps a hint they plan on bringing back free agent Jammal Brown. Hunt is a bulky guy who will try to add depth at the guard position

He is strictly a masher for the running game right now, needing work on his pass blocking and assignment recognition. But he could prove to be very serviceable down the road.

Markus White, Defensive End

He had good leadership qualities, which always upgrades the locker room. He is a hard worker who has some pass rush ability, but is raw and needs a lot of coaching in that area and awareness.

Given his size, which is more suited for a 4-3 defensive end, one wonders if the Skins plan on trying him as a strong side linebacker. Yet he didn't show the ability to stand up in college, so his selection is a mystery that will be unraveled in training camp.

If Washington plans on keeping him at defensive end, White might have trouble beating out Jeremy Jarmon, Adam Carriker, Darrion Scott, along with graybeards Vonnie Holliday and Phillip Daniels, for a roster spot.

Chris Neild, Nose Tackle

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Neild not only looks like a nose tackle, but the kid reminded him of New York Giants great Jim Burt. Yet the analysis on the NFL's website says Neild will not be able to play nose tackle at the next level.

One thing all can agree upon is that the kid is an anchor in the trenches, because he is strong and hard to move. He is slow and not very athletic, but Neild specialty is clogging lanes and stopping the run while always working as hard as he can.

Washington's nose tackles are a collection of mediocre journeymen, so hopefully Neild can at least add quality depth. Defensive Line coach Jacob Burney has the responsibility of trying to help get Neild be an effective NFL nose tackle, because a 3-4 defense is never good if the position isn't productive.

Bruce Allen got a lot of bodies in the draft, yet the only linebacker he took is a defensive end who will need a lot of coaching to transition smoothly. He also eschewed the offensive line until the final round.

It was quite apparent the Redskins were not interested in any quarterback available to be had. Talking heads kept mentioning how the Redskins are planning to go with John Beck during the draft. Beck, drafted in the second round of the 2007 draft, is on his third team so far.

Despite the reaches on Royster and Gomes, Allen got good value and possible sleepers at wide receiver. If Jenkins and Neild can contribute to a defense that struggled last year, Fletcher, Orakpo, and Kerrigan will be freed up to make big plays that will help a secondary that is uncertain heading into 2011.

With Carlos Rogers a free agent, the bookend for DeAngelo Hall is unknown. Gomes and Thompson might be able to make up for the loss of reserve cornerback Phillip Buchanon, but neither appear ready to start. If the Redskins do not sign Rogers or another free agent, perhaps the unproven Kevin Barnes gets the nod.

With the lock out back, free agency remains as convoluted as ever. Some assume the 2010 rules will apply, though no one is certain. Since teams cannot contact players, Allen will not be able to flesh out his roster for awhile.

But he did at least add much needed depth at wide receiver and cornerback, got some players who will help on special teams, and got a couple of projects to develop in the trenches after his first two picks.

Kerrigan and Orakpo have the potential to meet at quarterback often, which could create turnovers. Jenkins can occupy blockers, leaving the pair in favorable match ups, as well as help stop the run.

With an even split on drafting both sides of the ball, Allen really fortified the roster through all of his trades. Helu might be the most immediate contributor on offense while Kerrigan and Jenkins appeared destined to start immediately.

Grade : B +