Friday Conversation: Louis Riddick

Former NFL player and executive (with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles) Louis Riddick, who appears on ESPN's NFL Insiders, is always honest and insightful. Here’s our conversation:

What are your thoughts on the Redskins? They were 3-6 a year ago and turned it around. Do you see similarities?

Louis Riddick: RG3 needs that [zone-read] component very much and their offense needs that. It makes them very inflexible in terms of being able to be successful on that side of the ball. If the run game is not going it has a snowball effect in a negative way because that line is not built to pass protect in a true dropback manner. RG3 is not built, and his skill set is not such, that he is a dropback passer who can play catch-up football and throw the ball all over the yard. He definitely needs the run game to be clicking and right now it is and you see how much better they are. Everything has to go right for them to score points. Defensively the secondary is still a problem. DeAngelo [Hall has] come up with interceptions. They’ve been more scheme-driven and bad decision-making on opponents’ part than because he still has elite-level skills. He doesn’t run like he used to and has to win at the line and can’t play off-man coverage and has to win with his mind. David Amerson is still ridiculously inconsistent. You saw that in the Chargers game. That final drive when they tied it up they spun him around. It’s not physical, it’s mental. Some players never get that straightened out no matter how much you want to say with experience they’ll grow and mature and become better. You never know. You hope he does.

Josh Wilson's skills are deteriorating. The safety position has been a mess because of injury and performance. Brandon Meriweather is still a hammer, but he doesn’t move the same. Reed Doughty is not a good cover guy. They put E.J. Biggers in there to play safety. Jim [Haslett] is trying to work miracles back there. London [Fletcher’s] arrow is pointing down. I can see teams attacking him more in the middle of the field with the better tight ends and backs when they can get him one-on-one.

And as much as I like Brian [Orakpo] and Ryan [Kerrigan] because of their style of play and competitiveness, they can go long stretches [without anything]. They’re going to have to catch lightning in a bottle. I’m not optimistic about it and I originally picked them to win the division.

How much should the salary-cap situation be a reason for their struggles?

Riddick: Unless there was a free agent that they felt could have made a significant difference, we’ve all seen that is not a very consistent way to build a team and not a very productive way to build a team on a regular basis. Lower-round draft picks and college free agents, that’s where teams can separate themselves from a scouting perspective and build depth that winds up playing significant roles on special teams. The cap didn’t prohibit them from doing that. That’s not taking a shot at their scouting department, that’s just a reality. Ask the Dolphins where [free agency] led them. They had a lot of cap room and tried to take that approach. Ask the Eagles in 2011, who tried to get over the hump by applying that model. It doesn’t work. When you’re building your team it’s not because of one year and a bunch of free agents you sign as to why you get better. That’s a process that builds up over time. I don’t like that argument.

How would you evaluate Orakpo and Kerrigan?

Riddick: They’re high motor, tough, consistent in terms of effort. Both are predominately power rushers, leverage rushers who want to get under your pads or use a long-arm stab bull rush and take the inside hand and put in the middle of your chest and drive you back to the quarterback. Brian has shown he can go high side, dip and skim the edge. Other than that if you watch him he doesn’t have a consistent inside move; he doesn’t have a package in terms of counter spins. Maybe he’ll come inside off a designed call .… Ryan is very much the same way. If you have tackles that are fundamentally sound and can handle their power, they will be neutralized -- I don’t want to say easily, but effectively.

How would you compare Alfred Morris to last year?

Riddick: You know his strengths are his vision and consistency and center of gravity and ability to break tackles. I don’t think he’s better than last year. I think he’s gotten stronger as the year has gone on. He’s a guy who will give you exactly what you’re seeing right now; he’s doing what’s asked within the confines of the offense.

Are there good pieces to build around?

Riddick: Sure there is. At tight end, Jordan Reed is dynamite. You can’t utilize him enough. The more creative you can get with him the better. He’s very crafty and instinctive as far as working away from coverage. He has great hands and gets great yards after the catch. He can put up crazy stats.

Do you think there is a problem if the Redskins don’t give Mike Shanahan an extension?

Riddick: Sure … Even though you’re dealing with professionals who are supposed to play hard no matter what, that’s good as long as things are going good. But when things start to go bad that’s when teams start to fall apart and lose direction and motivation and focus. That’s not something you want to risk, especially at a place where you’ve been trying so hard to get over the top and return to the glory years.