Quarterback Robert Griffin III’s performances will always be front-page news, and the Washington Redskins’ defense is so bad at tackling that it’s tough to ignore.
Beyond the headlines, though, several other story lines have developed in the first four weeks.
With the Redskins off today, here’s a look at some players and events that have shaped the team:It’s easy to make a case for nose tackle Barry Cofield as the team’s best player this season. Cofield spent the first two weeks playing with a large cast on his hand, but has dominated offensive linemen anyway.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he thinks Cofield isn’t just one of the best on the Redskins, he deserves to be in the league-wide conversation.
“I think Barry is the best nose tackle in the league, because he can do a little of everything,” Haslett said. “He’s good on the run. He’s powerful. He’s strong. He’s a good pass rusher. He’s relentless. And I think that combination makes him the best.”
In Cofield’s eighth season in the league, his first Pro Bowl invitation could come if he maintains his level of play.
Washington has tweaked its defensive formations to better accommodate Cofield. Most 3-4 defenses take the nose tackle out on third downs, but Haslett gradually stopped doing that this year. It paid off against Oakland when Cofield recorded two sacks.
“Guys try to cut him, and do other things, but he’s so athletic they can’t get him down,” Haslett said. “He’s the reason everything goes.”
Davis on his way out
He tore his Achilles midway through that season, but last spring turned down other long-term offers to sign with the Redskins for a reported $2.5 million plus another $1 million in potential bonuses.
The gamble was that he’d have a big year, then make far more than that on the free-agent market.
Instead, Davis has found himself on the bench.
Rookie tight end Jordan Reed has caught the eye of coach Mike Shanahan, and just as importantly, Griffin.
That’s led to Reed playing more snaps than Davis, who is fully recovered from his Achilles injury.
Both players were banged up last week, with Davis nursing an ankle injury and Reed recovering from a thigh bruise.
If Davis doesn’t find a way to get off the bench, he’ll lose a significant amount of leverage when he hits the free agent market after the season.
Cracking down on apparel
The NFL is entering its second year of an apparel contract with Nike, and has gotten serious about protecting that revenue stream.
Players are banned from wearing any logo other than Nike from the time they arrive at the stadium to the time they leave on game days.
Two Redskins players have run afoul of the rule.
Griffin wore a T-shirt with an adidas logo on the back during warm-ups at FedEx Field before a preseason game and was fined $10,000.
On Sunday in Oakland, cornerback DeAngelo Hall had a postgame interview stopped by an NFL uniform inspector because he was wearing a shirt with the Lacoste gator.
Hall was told he would have to change before chatting with reporters. Citing family members waiting outside, he declined to do so and apologized for the interview ending prematurely.
NFL uniform inspectors are former players who are stationed at games each weekend, but a league official told the Washington Times this week that the inspector was overzealous in stopping the Hall interview, that the rule is intended to shut down more flagrant violations.
Helu back to rookie formRunning back Roy Helu had a strong rookie season in 2011, but was sidelined because of a toe injury in 2012.
He proclaimed himself back during training camp this year, and has backed it up through four games. Helu has excelled in the third-down role, getting opportunities to run, catch and block depending on the play.
“You can tell he’s healthy, and he’s the same guy he was his rookie year,” offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. “We’d like to give him the ball more, because he’s done a good job with it, so hopefully it works out for him.”
Jackson still waitingSafety Tanard Jackson enjoys a popularity in Washington usually reserved for the backup quarterback.
With the unit struggling, fans continue to hope Jackson will be cleared to play, and will come back and fix the Redskins’ woes at safety. It might not be that simple, though. Jackson was suspended indefinitely by the commissioner last year for his third violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy. He was eligible to apply for reinstatement in August, and has done so.
However, there is no timetable for the commissioner to act.
If Jackson is cleared, he still would have to learn the Redskins’ defense. He has been banned from having contact with the team or its coaches during his suspension.
The team’s last true roster battle is between receivers Leonard Hankerson and Josh Morgan (Virginia Tech) for the No. 2 spot. Pierre Garcon has claimed the No. 1 role, and Santana Moss is the No. 3, or slot, receiver.
The coaches have been waiting for Morgan or Hankerson to claim the job, but didn’t see any separation during training camp or the first two weeks of the season.
Over the last two weeks, though, Hankerson has slightly improved, and has been rewarded with more plays.
Kyle Shanahan said one of Hankerson’s biggest weak spots was not being able to hang on to the ball, something that’s changed.
“We talk about the consistency as being something that’s kind of held him back, and he’s been consistent these last few weeks,” Shanahan said. “If he can do that, he’ll have a great career.”