Eagles TE Zach Ertz did his homework and was told that retired offensive line coach Hudson Houck still trained players. So he called Houck, who mentored Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz and Bruce Matthews at Southern Cal and coached the great Cowboys lines of the 1990s, out of the blue. Soon after, they spent two weeks together in San Diego working on blocking.
Ertz' time with Houck was just one part of his offseason plan. He spent a month focusing on strength training, another on circuit training and additional time on mixed martial arts training. He also sought out former tight end great Tony Gonzalez, who instructed Ertz on the importance of preparation and tenacity.
The 24-year-old Ertz's goals are high. He said he wants to be mentioned someday alongside Gonzalez and others in the NFL pantheon of tight ends. But he knows he can't get there if he's playing only 50 percent of offensive snaps, as he did last season.
There's ample reason, though, to believe that Ertz will finally become a focal point of Chip Kelly's offense. He caught a franchise-record 15 passes against the Redskins in the penultimate game of last season. And when asked to explain last month how he'll compensate for the loss of wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, Kelly prominently mentioned Ertz.
"I think he's still growing, and I think Zach will be the first one to tell you that," Kelly said at the NFL meeting. "I think he's working extremely hard in the offseason at continuing to get better."
Ertz was the #13 TE in both standard and PPR formats despite only playing half of the Eagles’ snaps in his second year. Ertz played mostly (73%) on passing downs, so if his playing time is going to increase, a majority of the additional snaps are likely to come in run formations. Still, there’s upside with Ertz if he begins to see starter’s snaps. The Eagles lost their leading receiver -- DeSean Jackson and then Jeremy Maclin -- in back-to-back seasons, so there will be opportunity from a targets standpoint. If Chip Kelly moves Jordan Matthews outside, then Ertz is a candidate to fill Matthews role in the slot, assuming Kelly is willing to play more two-TE sets to get Ertz on the field. Ertz is currently going in the 8th round of early PPR drafts.
Thursday, April 9, 2015, 12:12pm
With the Redskins returning a majority of their weapons from the 2014 season, head coach Jay Gruden wants to see the ball spread around more in 2015.
As the Washington Redskins look to build off some of the offense’s successes from last season, head coach Jay Gruden wants to make sure the unit doesn’t become too predictable.
That starts with getting enough weapons involved to keep opposing defenses on their toes.
Yes, both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon will still get plenty of touches, but some of the team’s role players may see an increase in looks as well during the 2015 season.
“The most important thing with an offense is being able to spread the ball around and get everybody involved,” Gruden said at the NFL Annual Meetings in Phoenix. “I think with Pierre, Andre and Ryan Grant coming back in a second year, Jordan Reed, Niles Paul coming back, good sound running game with Alfred [Morris], Silas [Redd Jr.] and Chris Thompson, I think it’ll benefit everybody.”
Garçon carried the majority of the aerial attack during the 2013 season, recording 68 more receptions than anyone else on the team en route to a single-season franchise record 113 receptions. But Garcon's receptions dipped to 68 last year and the story mentioned the Gruden thinks the team can “get his numbers back up a little bit.” Gruden added that would come with QB stability.
Redskins HC Jay Gruden discussed the drop in receptions for WR Pierre Garcon...
"I think we can get his numbers back up a little bit," Gruden said. "We missed him. With three quarterbacks playing, there was never any ideal situation, and that hurt all the receivers. Moving forward we get some stability at the quarterback position, you’ll see all the numbers go up for all the receivers hopefully. A lot of people would rather just hand it off, but I think, we need to spread it out and be diverse in what we do and get these guys these touches. These guys work extremely hard. For us not to give them opportunities to make plays down the field is silly."
Ideally, Garcon will be in the 70-80 catch range. If the Redskins are successful this season, it will be their run game that powers them. They are not a team that should drop back more than 30 times a game. However, they do have two good starting receivers and a third who is capable of 40 receptions, plus Reed who deserves his share of targets, too.
After a #11 finish in PPR formats in 2013, Garcon was the #47 receiver last season. His targets dropped from 182 to 105, thanks to the addition of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts in free agency. The team is expected to run the ball a bit more this season, so we're not expecting a bounce-back season for Garcon.
McCoy initially feared it was something serious, based on the way he went down. Other players knelt around him, hoping it wasn't. McCoy eventually arose and limped off the field on his own power. He wanted to go back into the game, but the clock was winding down by that point.
The Eagles' Pro Bowl running back avoided a scare. The question now is whether that was his final carry with the team.
That question might seem absurd considering that McCoy, 26, rushed for 99 yards on Sunday to finish with 1,319 yards this season. It was the second-highest rushing total of his career, with both seasons coming under Chip Kelly. He was named to his third Pro Bowl in six seasons last week.
But McCoy is due to be paid $9.75 million with a salary-cap number of $11.95 million in 2015. That's a hefty price for a running back, and McCoy admitted that his future goes through his mind sometimes - especially after the Eagles jettisoned DeSean Jackson last offseason.
McCoy said he wants to stay and seems open to restructuring his contract after a down year. HC Chip Kelly came out Sunday and said he wants Shady back in the fold for 2015, so a departure seems unlikely at this point.
After averaging 27.48 yards per catch from Weeks 5-9, Redskins WR DeSean Jackson has cooled off. Since that time, he's averaged 12.36 yards on 14 catches -- though he was missed on two deep balls vs. Tampa Bay in Week 11.
His knee injury hasn't helped.
"Just trying to get back to 100 percent," Jackson said. "Last week I was 85, 90 percent so hopefully this week I'll feel better."
What he doesn't feel like doing is talking about the Eagles.
"I just don't really care too much for it," he said. "The first game was the first time playing them. Now a whole season went on. They're playing and I'm playing here. I don't put too much energy into that and outside of that I don't care too much about it."
His owners are hoping for a repeat of the 5-117-1 line he posted on 11 targets back in Week 3, but Jackson has had one good game since the team's bye in Week 10. His comments make it sound as if he's not too focused on the revenge factor, but we find that a little hard to believe. The Redskins have a chance to knock the Eagles out of the playoff hunt, so they should be plenty motivated even in the middle of a dysfunctional season.
Friday, December 12, 2014, 6:26pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shin, questionable) took limited practice reps all week and is questionable for Week 15. Jackson looks like a true game-time decision. His return would put a big dent in the the appeal of Pierre Garcon, who had a nice Week 14. Washington plays early on Sunday.
Thursday, December 11, 2014, 6:32pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shin) took limited practice reps again Thursday. Consider him questionable for now. His return would put a big dent in the the upside of Pierre Garcon, who had a nice Week 14. Washington plays early on Sunday.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014, 6:25pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shin) took limited practice reps Wednesday. Jackson’s return early in the week is a good sign, though he’s still not able to run at full speed per HC Jay Gruden. Consider him questionable for now. His return would put a big dent in the the upside of Pierre Garcon, who had a nice Week 14.
Friday, December 5, 2014, 6:38pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shin, questionable) missed practice all week and is questionable for Week 14. The Redskins are out of the playoff race, so there’s no need to rush Jackson back other than to try to win a few games to save face. Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed would all get a bump if D-Jax can’t play. Washington plays in the early round of games on Sunday.
Thursday, December 4, 2014, 5:59pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shin) missed practice again Thursday. Jackson was reportedly “still limping” on the sideline at practice on Wednesday, which indicates that he’s not a good bet to be able to play through the injury. The Redskins are out of the playoff race, so there’s no need to rush Jackson back other than to try to win a few games to save face. Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed would all get a bump if D-Jax can’t play. Washington plays in the early round of games on Sunday.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 6:30pm
Redskins WR DeSean Jackson (shin) did not practice Wednesday. Jackson was reportedly “still limping” on the sideline at practice, which indicates that he’s not a good bet to be able to play through the injury. The Redskins are out of the playoff race, so there’s no need to rush Jackson back other than to try to win a few games to save face. Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed would all get a bump if D-Jax can’t play. Washington plays in the early round of games on Sunday.
Jackson was streaking down the left sideline past Colts cornerback Josh Gordy when he fell to the turf and immediately grabbed his right leg. Though Gordy was flagged for pass interference on the play, it did not appear as though Gordy was responsible for Jackson’s injury.
After a brief examination on the sideline, Jackson was taken by a cart to the locker room. Jackson actually missed a few plays earlier in the game because of the injury but he never returned after being carted off. Despite being in catchup-up mode, WRs like Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts weren't really factors. TE Jordan Reed ended up hauling in nine catches for 123 and RB Roy Helu finished with a 4-61-1 receiving ilne.
Washington is planning to start Colt McCoy over Robert Griffin III on Sunday at Indianapolis, per a team source.
While Griffin is not a part of Washington's plan for Sunday's game, he still appears to be a significant part of the Redskins' long-term plan, per another source.
Yet right now, Washington is hitting the reset button, though it might not last long, a source cautioned.
McCoy has played a game and a half of football this season, relieving Kirk Cousins in the second half of Week 7 against the Titans. In that game he threw for 128 yards, which included a 70-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon. He started the following week in Dallas, throwing for 299 yards and an interception, while also rushing for 16 yards and a touchdown. More importantly, the Redskins beat the Cowboys, 20-17. The thing that jumps out about McCoy is his YPA, which is 10.2 on 42 attempts. This is a rather small sample size, but it is an encouraging sign for McCoy backers. The move may be good for DeSean Jackson, who had six catches for 136 yards in McCoy's start against Dallas. Jackson had a nice Week 8 game with Griffin against the Vikings, but only caught six passes for 74 yards combined in the last two games. McCoy doesn't have a bad matchup the rest of the way.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014, 10:17am
Redskins WR Pierre Garçon would rather be catching passes than throwing them. Last year Garçon was targeted 181 times, or more than 11 times per game. This season he has been targeted 68 times, about six times per game. He’s on pace to catch 67 passes this year, a far cry for the team-record 113 he caught in 2013.
It was expected that Garçon would catch fewer passes last year with the addition of DeSean Jackson. But it’s not like he has caught a ton of passes either; Jackson will catch 61 at his current pace.
The Redskins have started three different quarterbacks this year and while all have struggled in various ways, Robert Griffin III has been the least effective of them and he has started the last three games, all losses.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden understands the frustration.
“You get paid to play wide receiver,” he said. “You get paid to catch balls and they’re not catching the balls they’re accustomed to catching. We’ve just got to find out ways to get them the ball. You only have one ball. You hand the ball off to Alfred and throw some quick gains. The backs are involved, the tight ends are involved and over the course of the game, sometimes you don’t get as many as you would like.”
Perhaps the final hope for Garcon owners was the return of RGIII at QB. Garcon's targets had dipped with Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins under center this season, but that increase hasn't taken place since Griffin returned making Garcon not much of a fantasy option with this struggling offense.
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