Mailbag: Injury updates, draft needs and more. . .

Pierre Garcon

Pierre Garcon hauls in a touchdown pass against the Ravens. The wide receiver dealt with an injury all last season, and suggested he might not be 100 percent to start this season. Mike Jones explains why. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

We’re back at it for another week of the Monday Mailbag. This week’s topics include more injury updates, challenges of remaining effective with the zone-read option plays, draft and free agency needs, as well as some more on the salary cap situation.

Thanks again for taking part. I got to as many as possible, and the others will lead off next week’s installment. Your questions and my answers below.

While it’s no doubt Pierre Garcon was a huge spark for our offense last year when he did play with his energy, physicality, big-play ability, and flashes of great speed. Am I the only one finding it a little concerning our No. 1 receiver is saying “I can’t say I’ll be 100 percent” for 2013 after this extended time of rest and rehab?

– Alec Gerard

It is a little concerning, but at the same time, one thing I learned last season about Garcon from talking to him and talking to teammates about him, is that he is extremely guarded and never likes to raise expectations unrealistically or make predictions. So, that’s why he wouldn’t commit to being 100 percent, although he and his camp, and his doctors believe that his toe will have healed to the point that he’ll have his speed and explosiveness by the start of the season. There was no guarantee that surgery would have fixed the torn ligament in his second toe, and so he held off on that, and this past winter, a little more than a month after the season ended, he had a follow-up checkup, and doctors said that his toe was still making progress and that he wouldn’t need surgery.

Being the skins will eventually trade Kirk Cousins, is it possible they draft a quarterback with, say, their third-round pick should a good one be there?

– Victor Parady

Hamilton, NJ 

 No one expected the Redskins to take Kirk Cousins in the fourth round last season, so I guess you can never say never, but it doesn’t seem likely that Washington would select a quarterback in the third round of this year’s draft. They have too many other pressing needs at other positions, particularly cornerback and safety, possibly right tackle and inside linebacker. They can get a quality player capable of contributing right away in the third round, so they wouldn’t likely use that pick on a third-string quarterback.

How will the Redskins find the money to sign their draft picks?

- Manny Vale

They’ll have to either release players or restructure deals to create between $4 million and $5 million to sign those draft picks.

Most of the coverage of last year’s terrible pass defense has focused on personnel. I haven’t seen an article that looks at the poorly rated pass defense in the context of suddenly having a high-power offense. Last year we had a top-four offense and averaged 27 points a game. The two years before that I am sure we didn’t average more than 20 points a game. Isn’t the poor pass defense a result of teams being forced to try to keep up with the Redskins’ good offense? Didn’t we have basically the same secondary as the year before except Brandon Meriwether rode the injury bench instead of Landry? 

 – Eric Brichto

The starting cornerbacks, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson were the same, but Madieu Williams and Cedric Griffin were new additions. I think more than the offense’s output, the defensive struggles can be attributed not only to Meriweather’s injury and inconsistencies out of his fellow defensive backs, but also to an inconsistent pass rush. Without Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker up front, Washington’s front seven struggled to get to the quarterback. With plenty of time to sit back and dissect a struggling secondary, those quarterbacks cashed in. Teams found it hard to run against the Redskins’ defense (they were top five when it came to stopping the run), and so they took to the air, and met little resistance.

Many analysts agree the Redskins biggest need is free safety. What is the likelihood Tanard Jackson will be able to play this season? Has anybody interviewed him to see where he stands? Is he worth the trouble? What other options are there in free agency?

 – Adrian Rivera

Marbella, Spain

The Redskins are hopeful that they will have Tanard Jackson back in the mix this season, but they won’t know for sure until Sept. 3. He is eligible for reinstatement, but it’s no sure thing at this point. I’d love to be able to interview him, but he hasn’t been made available despite requests. Because he is suspended indefinitely, he’s not allowed to take part in offseason workouts or even be at the team facility, so even if the league does reinstate him, the Redskins would then need to evaluate him and decide if they still think he can help them.”

What are the parameters the NFL will look at when deciding whether to reinstate Jackson? Do the Redskins think he’ll be reinstated?

– Jeff Baker

California

Jackson would have to meet with the commissioner, and Roger Goodell would consult with the NFL Players Association, the Player Advisory Council and those that would’ve had a part in counseling Jackson during his time off, and then make the decision on his reinstatement and the conditions of his reinstatement.

I have heard that Adam Carriker suffered a “setback” during his rehab of his torn quad. What was the setback? What is his prognosis to be able to play effectively this season?

– Rick Rovegno

Carlisle, Pa.

Yes, Carriker suffered a setback of some kind, but he and the Redskins haven’t been very specific on the extent of it. He says, however, that he expects to be back to full strength by the start of the season. Mike Shanahan, meanwhile, said although hopeful, no one will really know until July. That’s why it’ll be important for Jarvis Jenkins to continue in his development. The Redskins this offseason also re-signed Kedric Golston and Chris Baker, who can play both end and nose tackle, and they also have Doug Worthington still. Additionally, Washington brought in former Dolphin Phillip Merling and former Patriot Ron Brace, who are both 3-4 ends.

The team’s D-line has strength and depth. Are there any D backups who might be good right tackle candidates? Would the ‘skins organization consider such a shift? Why or why not?

 – Amy Donahue

While the end position does have pretty good depth, the skill set required to play right tackle and defensive end are pretty different, so I don’t anticipate any defensive linemen transitioning to the other side of the ball. Now, Lorenzo Alexander did line up at a couple offensive line positions in a pinch before he made the switch from defensive tackle to linebacker, but the versatility to be able to do that full-time and at a high level is pretty rare.

With the success that the read option produced this year, what changes do you expect to see in response?  Will it be personnel, or schemes? Every time I think about this, I have a vision of DeMarcus Ware, standing a yard off scrimmage, waiting on the option, and then being ill-positioned for making a play. And it wasn’t just him. He just got to do it during prime time.

 – Justin Kelley

It’s definitely going to be interesting to see what defensive coordinators have cooked up in their labs this offseason. It’s probably going to have to be a mix of personnel and scheme. Defenses need to add speed rushers, and their corners need to be able to play well in press coverage so coordinators can bring safeties into the box to help protect the edges. But it’s all a lot easier said than done.

Aside from the obvious (RGIII and Orakpo), who is the most important returning injured Redskin?

– John Little

On offense, that would probably be Fred Davis. His big-play ability will help make the offense more explosive overall, and more effective on third downs. Defensively, Brandon Meriweather. He provided a glimpse of what he is capable of as he flew around for that half of football against Philadelphia and broke up passes, picked off another and made stops against the run. Washington’s defense instantly improves if he can provide that on a consistent basis.

With Winfield signing with Seattle, sadly, making them even more beast than before, do the Redskins have any other veteran free agent options on their radar (are there any left worth considering?) prior to the draft? If so, what is the next likely cap-space creating move, specifically, they would have to make to sign him (one they will probably need to make for the rookie salaries)?

 – Robert McTurnal
Woodbridge, Va.

There are few high-profile cornerbacks remaining on the market. Charles Woodson remains unsigned, but the Redskins didn’t seem to have interest in his services. The Redskins with the biggest cap hits are Pierre Garcon ($8.2 million), Trent Williams ($7.98 million), Barry Cofield ($6.3 million), London Fletcher ($6.2 million), Stephen Bowen ($5.5 million), Josh Wilson ($5.3 million), Brian Orakpo ($5.1 million) and Josh Morgan ($5.1 million). Because of how their deals are structured, it doesn’t seem likely that Washington would look to rework Garcon or Cofield’s contracts, and Mike Shanahan has said London Fletcher will not be asked to restructure. Wilson and Orakpo (both entering the final years of their contracts) seem to be logical targets if Washington wanted to lower this year’s base salaries and work out extensions. But it doesn’t sound like any such moves have been broached to those players’ representatives. The Redskins need to create between $4 million and $5 million to be able to sign the rookies they will take in the draft later this month.

Will the Redskins hire a new wide receivers coach before training camp? If so, who are the possible choices, and if not, why not?

 – Joseph Howell

The Redskins in February promoted offensive assistant Mike McDaniel to their wide receivers coach.

Any chance the Redskins package some picks to move up to get a safety – Eric Reed, Jonathon Cyprien or Matt Elam? Is there a big difference between SS and FS?

 – Walter Blair

If they didn’t feel like they could get the safety they wanted at 51st overall, then they could. But because this is such a deep draft class for safeties, I don’t know that they would want to part with additional picks. If a safety of a second-round grade isn’t there at 51st overall, I’d expect them to go with a cornerback, and then take a safety in the third or fourth round. In the Redskins’ system, the free safety and strong safety are more interchangeable. Ideally, you’d have two safeties with good coverage skills. Most of the time the strong safety is used more in the box to help against the run and the free safety plays further upfield in pass coverage. But there are times with both play deep, in a cover-2 scheme.

More Redskins & NFL coverage from The Post:

Pain management spawns a culture of drug abuse in NFL

Mike Wise: Lorenzo Alexander says it hurt to leave the Redskins

Start of offseason workouts “like first day of school”

NFL draft preview by position: Safeties

Individual prospect reports: Safeties

D.C. Sports Bog: Jurgensen to Griffin: ‘Quit running.’

Early Lead: Faith Hill leaving ‘Sunday Night Football’

Redskins’ statistics, transactions and roster

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2013 NFL draft position preview: Safeties