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The 5 O’Clock Club: Those compensatory picks are still looking good; how about the players that walked in free agency to get them for the Skins?

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Compensatory picks look safe

Redskins are still on track to get a 3rd, 5th, and two 6th round compensatory picks in next year’s draft according to OverTheCap.

I thought it might be interesting to see what has happened so far to four of the players the Redskins allowed to walk in a free agency period that is on track to bring in the Redskins’ biggest ever haul of compensatory draft picks.

Let’s start with a brief look at the highest profile player in the Redskins (outgoing) free agent class of 2018.

A tie is like kissing your Cousins

The third round pick that will likely be awarded to the Redskins is for Kirk Cousins, whom the Redskins drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. The Shanahans, and later Jay Gruden and Sean McVay, taught him to be an NFL quarterback, and developed him into his role as a 3-year starter. His 6-year journey with the Redskins took him from being an afterthought among NFL quarterbacks to the most discussed player and sought-after free agent in the 2018 off-season. Somehow, a 3rd round draft pick as recompense seems anticlimactic.

Kirk Cousins was last seen throwing a loss-sealing interception with 97 seconds on the clock during the final drive against the Packers, in a scene that was eerily familiar to Redskin fans.

But wait!

There was a yellow flag, and a criminally negligent call of roughing the passer on Clay Matthews that gave the ball back to the Vikings offense. On three plays in the final 2 minutes of the game, Packers players got their hands on Kirk Cousins passes, but none, bar the disallowed interception, came down with possession to end the game.

The Vikings and Packers went on to play the new shorter 10-minute overtime period. Cousins drove his team down to field goal range, and — with just seconds left in overtime, in a scene that must’ve been eerily familiar to Kirk Cousins — the Vikings kicker missed the field goal to end the division battle in a tie.

I imagine we’ll see similar scenes from the Vikings and their $84m franchise quarterback (though not the same placekicker) all season, and the comparisons between the Vikings signal caller and Alex Smith will go on for years on Hogs Haven and elsewhere.

Three more compensatory picks

But there were three other players not named Kirk Cousins who were instrumental in adding 2019 Redskins draft capital to the upcoming April draft. I found myself wondering how three players who were on the field for the Redskins this time last season — Ryan Grant, Terrelle Pryor and Spencer Long — are faring with their new teams. Grant, as you probably know, is playing for the Colts, and visited FedEx Field this past Sunday. Long and Pryor, meanwhile, are teammates with the Jets, and were last seen on Thursday night in the Battle for the Bud Lite. Dilly, dilly.

For analysis on what’s been happening with these three ex-Redskins so far in the 2018 season, I turned to Chris West (@westcoast_skins) for some film review.

Chris’ analysis of Grant, Pryor and Long

Ryan Grant

After being a number 5 or 6 wide receiver for the first three years of his career in Washington, Ryan Grant did a good job in many receiving roles for the Redskins in 2017. Grant, last year, was the Redskins number two receiver in some games, and their number three or four wide receiver in other games.

This past offseason, after signing with the Indianapolis Colts on a one year $5 million dollar contract, Grant apparently solidified a role as the number 3 wide receiver with them.

Grant is a fundamentally solid wide receiver and works very well with a fundamentally solid and smart quarterback like Andrew Luck.

In Grant’s first two games with the Colts, he caught 8 passes for 59 yards in a losing effort against the Cincinnati Bengals, and 2 passes for 30 yards in a win against his former team, the Redskins. Grant had a few key catches in the second half of that opening week Bengals game as the Colts attempted to come back from a four point deficit.

Most of Grant’s receptions were short curls, crossers, or slants which he ran repeatedly during the game. Being best suited to playing slot receiver, those routes fit Grant’s skill set very well. With the Colts new offense, designed around a shorter passing game (probably due to Luck’s arm strength not being what it once was), Grant may thrive in that role.

Grant’s best route versus Cincinnati was a crosser he ran in the third quarter. Colts head coach, Frank Reich has done an excellent job of scheming to get his receivers open on shorter routes so far this season, and the play shown below is a good example of that.

The crossing route

Grant (yellow) gets a step on the ILB closest to him as he sprints across the field. Tight End, Jack Doyle runs a deep curl designed to draw the other ILB away from Grant’s route and to turn his back away from Luck and Grant so he doesn’t see the pass when it is thrown.

The RILB covering Grant drops his coverage as Grant crosses midfield as his zone is the right side of the field. With the LILB out of the play and all of the defensive backs run off by deep routes, Grant is left wide open.

Grant is able to catch the ball and have open field in front of him as he gains 13 yards on the play.

Grant versus the Redskins

Grant wasn’t as active versus the Redskins in week 2 but he did have a big catch on the Colts third touchdown drive. Grant does a good job of getting an inside jump on Quinton Dunbar here.

Grant gets separation from Dunbar with body lean and subtle fakes enabling him to get open for the catch.

Dunbar tackles Grant quickly after a 21 yard gain.

Chris’ bottom line on Ryan Grant

The Redskins chose not to re-sign Grant, even after a suspicious failed physical voided his deal with the Baltimore Ravens. This was initially a good decision as the Redskins had excellent preseason performances from many of their rookie wide receivers.

Grant still showed decent blocking skills in the two games with the Colts but I think the Redskins have players who have better blocking skills. Grant is running primarily short breaking routes with the Colts. When he has broken free for longer plays, it has been mostly due to scheme rather than his route running although they both work together well.

The biggest difference I see between Grant and the players the Redskins have kept at wide receiver this year is run after the catch ability. Grant rarely gets many yards after he makes a reception. Even on his 21 yard gain versus the Redskins, only 2 yards came after the catch.

With both Quinn and Sims on injured reserve now, the Redskins might wish they could have Grant back, but I don’t think it was a bad decision to let him leave in free agency.

Grant is a useful player, particularly with a quarterback like Luck, but he doesn’t have much upside, and $5 million would have been a lot to spend on a number four wide receiver. Cam Sims showed enough potential that the Redskins were probably happy that they didn’t retain Grant and instead are expected to be awarded a 6th round compensatory draft pick for him.

With wide receiver Maurice Harris sidelined with a concussion in Week 1, Trey Quinn essentially took Grant’s spot as the fourth before his high ankle sprain sent him to IR. In fact, the Redskins may even choose to not re-sign Jamison Crowder next year if Quinn shows enough when he returns — and Grant will have another opportunity in free agency in 2019 if he and the Colts don’t choose to sign a fresh contract when the season is done.

Win-win.

Terrelle Pryor

Terrell Pryor was very unlikely to be re-signed by the Redskins since he never seemed to fit in Jay Gruden’s offense. Pryor is still an athletic freak though so I was very interested to see what he has done so far this season with the New York Jets after signing a one year deal for more than $4 million.

Pryor has been used by the Jets as their third or fourth wide receiver, and is rarely used in two wide receiver sets. Since the Jets don’t have a very strong wide receiver unit, it is not a good sign for Pryor that he hasn’t been able to break into a starting role. He has been a good run blocker for the Jets which would usually mean that he would get more playing time on run downs but that hasn’t been the case so far this year.

In the first game versus the Detroit Lions, Pryor caught 3 passes for 49 yards which is a decent stat line for a reserve. He didn’t play very much in the first quarter, but looked good as the Jets made a surge in the second half. He made a good catch and run on a curl route, and another good catch on a deep crosser for 20 yards.

The deep crosser has been Pryor’s best route, as he showed off his athletic ability on a 44 yard gain versus the Miami Dolphins in week two. He finished that game four receptions and 84 yards.

Let’s look at Pryor versus the Dolphins

Pryor made a good adjustment on a comeback route when Jets’ quarterback, Sam Darnold was under pressure and sprinted right.

Pryor makes a move towards the end zone.

Darnold makes a great throw high between two defenders.

But Pryor is separated from the ball and unable to make a game changing play.

One more play from Pryor

Another play which Pryor had a chance to make an impact on was this throw by Darnold to the back of the end zone. Pryor has position on the defender.

But despite Pryor’s great size and speed, the defensive back makes a surge ahead of him for the ball.

And intercepts the ball

Chris’ bottom line on Terrelle Pryor

Those two plays would have made the difference between winning and losing in a game the Jets lost 20-12. Pryor’s lack of play making ability with the game on the line probably shows why Pryor is a reserve in New York. He was able to catch only one pass for 25 yards in the Jets’ 21-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns (dilly, dilly) on Thursday night.

Even with the injuries they have suffered at wide receiver in 2018, I doubt that the Redskins regret moving on from Pryor.

In fact, I suspect the front office will be downright tickled to get a 6th round pick as a reward for the monumental failure that the Pryor signing represented.

Despite elite athletic ability, Pryor has continued to be a disappointment in New York, just as he was in Washington.

Spencer Long

Technically, the loss of Spencer Long was offset by the signing of Paul Richardson in free agency; the 5th round pick the Redskins will likely be awarded is connected to Trent Murphy’s signing with the Bills, but Long actually played for the Redskins for part of the 2017 season, while Murphy — who was on IR all of last year — hasn’t been on the field for the Redskins since 2016.

So I made a judgement call and asked Chris West to look at Spencer Long on film.

Here’s what he had to say.

Spencer Long left the Redskins to sign a four year deal with the New York Jets worth $27.4 million. That contract, paying Long $6.85m per year, is much higher than what most fans & media expected and probably not something the Redskin had any interest in matching. The Redskins re-signed the oft-injured (and currently injured) Shawn Lauvao to a 1-year contract worth $2.4m instead.

Long played well versus the Detroit Lions in week one. He has looked like he has refined his game some withthe Jets. Long looked very good getting to the second level after coming off double team blocks.

Long has been very technically sound. He directs the pass blocking well in pass protection and gets his body in proper positioning in the run game. What Long hasn’t improved on much is his strength. He continues to get overpowered at times, even when he has good technique.

Let’s look at his play

Long gets under the defensive lineman’s pads initially.

But he doesn’t have the power to finish the block as the defender holds him off with one hand as he cuts off the runner.

Even though Long recovers to reengage his block, the runner is tackled for a loss with his path to the hole cut off.

Let’s look at one more play by Spencer Long

Long has one or two or even three of these plays every game. Here, he gets pushed back by the pass rusher.

Allows him to hit Sam Darnold as he throws.

Forcing a fourth quarter interception which helped decide the game.

Chris’ bottom line on Spencer Long

The Jets signed Long because they needed a quality center to lead their offensive line to protect their future quarterback. Long is an above average player but I feel the Jets overpaid with the big contract they gave him.

As for the Redskins, Chase Roullier has looked good at center and is much cheaper as he is on a rookie contract through the 2020 season. Long is a more reliable player than Lauvao though.

How many fans would have been happy to see the front office spend another $4.4m to keep Long in burgundy and gold this year instead of relying on Lauvao?

For the money they saved by re-signing Lauvao instead, let’s hope the Redskins are able to use it (or the 5th round compensatory pick he probably was worth to the team) next season to continue to build their offensive line.

Poll

Knowing what you know now, how do you feel about the decision to let Ryan Grant walk in free agency?

This poll is closed

  • 88%
    It was the right move
    (448 votes)
  • 11%
    It was a tactical blunder
    (60 votes)
508 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Knowing what you know now, how do you feel about the decision to let Terrelle Pryor walk in free agency?

This poll is closed

  • 99%
    It was the right move
    (501 votes)
  • 0%
    It was a tactical blunder
    (4 votes)
505 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Knowing what you know now, how do you feel about the decision to let Spencer Long walk in free agency?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    It was the right move
    (282 votes)
  • 44%
    It was a tactical blunder
    (228 votes)
510 votes total Vote Now