Mailbag: Multiple tight ends, draft pick potential, name debate and more …


How will rookie tight end Jordan Reed fit into Washington’s offense? (Phil Sandlin/AP)

Here we are again at another Monday, and so, I dive into your questions on all things Redskins.

As always, there are a wide range of topics to tackle, from two-tight end sets, to the quality of Washington’s draft class, Barry Cofield’s performance, the name-change debate, and a couple of others in between.

Thanks, as always, for taking part.

Can we expect to see two-tight end packages with Jordan Reed and Fred Davis? Has Mike or Kyle Shanahan ever done that in the past? Why does it work so well for New England – is it just their individual players or something about their scheme?

– Don Crehan

Yes, the Redskins have used two-tight end sets since Mike and Kyle Shanahan took over in 2010. Sometimes it was Fred Davis and Chris Cooley, or Davis and Logan Paulsen, and at times even Paulsen and Niles Paul. If Fred Davis returns to top form, and if Jordan Reed can learn the offense and display the ability to play at a high level, then you definitely expect to see them on the field together. Both Davis and Reed have great athleticism and the versatility to line up on the line, in the slot, or split out wide. That versatility can cause mismatches and uncertainty for the defense, which is exactly what an offensive coach wants. Here’s what Mike Shanahan had to say back in 2011 about the benefits of having multiple weapons at tight end, just like you want at wide receiver: “What a couple of tight ends enable you to do is present a different package to the defense. They’re not sure if you’re in a three-wide receiver set, four-wide receiver set, two tight ends, or three tight ends. The more you can do, the more you can keep defenses off balance.”

The only issue I had with the Skins draft was taking [Jordan] Reed. I know he’s got good ability, but he’s only 6-foot-2, and we already have three other tight ends on the roster for next year. We just moved Niles [Paul] to tight end, so is this an indication that he’s not really Shannon Sharpe Jr., as Shanny had previously indicated? The biggest reason I didn’t like drafting Reed was because I wanted them to take Barrett Jones from Alabama. I know he lacks the athleticism and agility of a top pick lineman, but he played all over the line in college and won the Outland Trophy – stud.  Having him as a backup at right tackle and guard would seem to me to be a hell of an improvement over the Tony Pashos and Mo Hurt of the world. What do you think? Do you know if the Skins even had him on their board?

– Danny Cole

Taking Jordan Reed made sense, especially considering Fred Davis is coming off of injury and on a one-year deal, and Niles Paul certainly has much to prove as he enters his second season as a tight end. The Shannon Sharpe comparisons were just hype. I’m not saying Paul can’t develop into a talented tight end, but Sharpe was one of the greatest of all time. But back to the draft, the Redskins chose not to select a single offensive lineman because they like their depth there. Last season, they got two interior linemen in Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis, and they drafted a tackle in Tom Compton. Throw Maurice Hurt, Tony Pashos and Jeremy Trueblood into the mix, and that’s a lot of bodies battling for only a couple of backup spots. Tight end, safety and running back definitely were more pressing needs. The team did also sign undrafted linemen Xavier Nixon, Tevita Stevens and Jacolby Ashworth as undrafted rookies.

Does this most recent draft have a better than 50/50 chance of being a truly “special draft?” The Redskins seem to have had a high number of prospects slip to them at great value. If the injured Florida State players have made a full recovery and play up to their potential, you have two first-round talents picked in the later rounds. The same goes for Amerson. If the coaches coach him back to the 2011 Amerson, you have your shut down corner.  The safeties Rambo and Thomas also have tremendous upside and slipped a couple of rounds. To not have a first-round pick, if everything works the way it possibly could, we certainly have drafted a large number of higher-round talent.

 – JKC

Like every draft, we won’t know right away how special this draft was, but it does seem like the players picked by the Redskins do have a chance to develop into quality players despite going later in the draft. It’s hard to say if Florida State running back Chris Thompson and pass-rusher Brandon Jenkins really would have been first- or second-round picks, like Shanahan said. But their production – when healthy – suggests they have good potential. You can make the argument that had Amerson left school in 2011, he would’ve been a first-rounder in 2012, and yes, analysts projected both Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo higher than the fourth and sixth rounds. But NFL front office members know better than analysts. The good thing for the Redskins is they have good depth, so they were able to roll the dice on players like Thompson and Jenkins and hope that they pay off and prove they were better than fifth-rounders. But all of that is on paper. These guys have to show it on the field, just like any other draft pick in previous years.

Will the Redskins look for a more penetrating nose tackle in the offseason? This would be great to get more push up the middle to disrupt the quarterback’s rhythm and push him to the ends, where there is pass rushing help.

 – Shawn Samuel

The Redskins were very happy with Barry Cofield’s production and the pressure he generated. With a nose tackle, you can’t always measure his success based on statistics. He often is asked to take on double-teams, because that gives the inside linebackers an open lane to the running back or quarterback. Or, he might be clogging a gap and forcing a running back to the outside. Cofield definitely made strides from Year 1 as a nose tackle to Year 2. I expect that he will become more disruptive this season because now, things are coming naturally for him.

With most Redskins talk revolving around our new-look secondary as well as Robert Griffin’s offseason recovery, I haven’t heard and talk about our special teams. How are we looking in that area? It may not be the most interesting area but I find it an important one. Will Crawford be our primary return man? What about kick return? Paul did OK at best. There’s got to be someone better, though.

 – Hunter Smith
Gloucester, Va.

 Not only are the Redskins breaking in a new special teams coach in Keith Burns, who takes over for the departed Danny Smith, but they also must find a new coverage ace now that Lorenzo Alexander is in Arizona. Guys like Bryan Kehl, Darrel Young, Rob Jackson and Niles Paul return, and should remain key parts of the coverage units. But opportunities abound for younger players – both those returning, and the rookies like Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, Jordan Reed and the rest. Crawford will likely face competition. The Redskins signed undrafted free agents like Connecticut’s Nick Williams and Troy’s Chip Reeves, who will both get a chance to earn a spot primarily as return men. Chris Thompson is another rookie that might be competing as a kick returner. It’s still early because the Redskins haven’t done a lot of special teams work up until now, as OTAs are just getting underway this week. We’ll have a better idea of the guys battling as the offseason progresses, and then even more in training camp.

I heard a few weeks ago the Redskins were meeting with Jammer but nothing came from that. Is there any more news on him or another defensive back? Also do you think they should add someone (like Jammer)? 

 – Jason Rotell
Cheshire, Conn.

The Redskins did indeed host Quentin Jammer for a free agent visit a couple days before the draft, but hours after that meeting, multiple sources said it seemed unlikely that they would sign him. If you remember, only a couple days later, they got Josh Wilson to agree to a restructuring of his contract (coincidence, or was hosting Jammer a move to create some leverage?), and then they drafted David Amerson. A person with knowledge of the situation said that most likely, the Redskins are done adding pieces to their secondary for now.

Will the Shanahans do a better job protecting RGIII, or will they continue with their suicidal and incredibly naive play-calling?

Adrian Rivera

I do expect a modification of the offensive philosophy that we saw last season. But nothing dramatic. The Redskins will still utilize the pistol formations and zone-read option plays, but I think they will be a little more careful when it comes to dialing up runs for Griffin. And, the quarterback also will likely be a little more selective with his runs – opting to pitch the ball more, or electing to slide more rather than trying to juke or outrun defenders. All parties involved, as Griffin said this offseason, have to work together to ensure that he remains in one piece. (Editor’s note: Meshing offensive innovation and protecting RGIII was also the subject of Jason’s Reid column this morning).

Will there be a Camp Waco this summer with the receivers with the rehab & wedding coming up?

 – @SelfMadeMind (on Twitter)

That seems unlikely considering that Griffin is based in Ashburn now as he rehabs from his knee surgery. I think that, more than the wedding, would be the main reason why.

Lance Lewis can play, but don’t we have too many receivers?

 – Geoffrey S. Gilchrist

The Redskins do have a number of receivers on the roster, but you can never have too many weapons. Mike Shanahan is very fond of competition. If he can find a talented prospect to bring in for coaches to evaluate, and to push guys like Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and Dez Briscoe, he definitely will. Lewis put up numbers in two seasons at ECU, and was in training camp with Washington last season, but battled injury and never got a chance to show what he could do. Now, he gets another chance. Briscoe couldn’t earn playing time, Hankerson and Robinson both struggled with consistency. The more-proven wideouts have questions about them as well. Can Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan stay healthy? How much does Santana Moss have left in the tank? You can never sit back and say, “Okay, we’re set at this position.” That’s not saying Lewis is going to come in and unseat someone. But, this is a case of the Redskins doing thorough homework.

The Skins originally came from Boston. Are they not then named after the rapscallions who staged the Boston Tea Party? Weren’t they a bunch of white guys protesting British Imperialism and Colonialism who dressed up as natives whilst dumping King Georges finest in Boston Harbor? This certainly softens the name “Redskins” for me.  I understand and empathize with natives being insulted by the name, but I think some background about who the original redskins were is in order. They were, after all, “patriots” in the struggle against the British Loyalists.

– John Heffernan
Missoula, Mont.

I hadn’t heard that the Redskins name was for the Patriots. The Redskins originally were named the Boston Braves, because they played in the same stadium as the baseball team. Then, in 1933, the Braves left Braves Field and moved to Fenway Park and became the Red Sox. I’ve read that the name then was changed to Redskins in honor of coach William “Lone Star” Dietz, whose mother was a Native American. There are all kinds of arguments that can be made against the name or in favor of it. And, it’s safe to say that the name means different things to different groups of people.

Do you know if anyone has suggested the Redskins change their name to the Pigskins? We could slap a hog on the side of our helmets to honor all those large linemen and those lovely Hogettes. We could still refer to the team as the Skins.  And everything would be kosher, kind of. Just saying.

 – David Swerdlow

I definitely heard the name, “Pigskins” thrown around by fans as a possible replacement for Redskins, so I’m sure Daniel Snyder & Co. have as well, along with plenty of other suggestions. Only thing about Pigskins, is the pigskin is another name for a football, and not really a group of players. Hogs would work because of the history, but, as Snyder said, he will “never” change the name. So …

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in the Monday Mailbag.

Redskins and NFL coverage from The Post:

Familiar faces at the beginning of OTAs give Redskins confidence

Griffin’s rehab remains shrouded in secrecy

Reid: Shanahans must change a successful scheme to protect Griffin

D.C. Sports Bog: Fans explain why they bought wedding gifts for RGIII

D.C. Sports Bog: Griffin thanks fans for mountains of wedding gifts

Do No Harm, Part IV: Survey reveals the costly price of an NFL career

The Other 31:  Cardinals | Falcons | Ravens | Bills | Panthers | Bears | Bengals | Browns

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Mike Jones · May 20, 2013

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