The Mailbag: RGIII’s health, Redskins offensive line concerns and more …

Tyler Polumbus

The Redskins return all five starters along the offensive line.

We’re back for another edition of The Mailbag, which is running today because of the holiday weekend. Next week, we’ll be back to the regular Monday schedule, so fire away between now and then with any Redskins-related questions.

But first . . . as the Redskins get back to work for this week’s round of offseason practices, we’re going over questions regarding Robert Griffin III’s health and speed, Kirk Cousins’ role, offensive line play, some positional battles and more.

Let’s go!

I’m really concerned about the way the offensive and defensive lines look. Can you compare them to the rest of the NFC East, and tell me if I’m justified? I’m hoping you will say, ‘Look, just relax. All is fine on the line.’”

  – Stewart Salkeld

With the Redskins returning all five starting offensive linemen (four of whom have been in those spots full-time for two seasons now, and the fifth – Tyler Polumbus – played some at right tackle as well in 2011), the coaches and players expect continuity to breed improvement. Team officials felt good enough about the line to pass on taking any linemen in the draft. Does that mean there’s no need to worry? Not necessarily. Right tackle remains a question mark. Polumbus understands the system, but struggles when going against a fast, athletic pass-rusher. His current backups, Jeremy Trueblood and Tony Pashos, haven’t played much, or at all in Pashos’ case, in the past year. The team last offseason used draft picks on Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis to bolster depth at the guard/center positions, and Tom Compton for tackle depth. But all three very much remain in the developmental stages. An injury to one of the starters could spell disaster. Yeah, concerns about the offensive line might be justified. Defensive line is a different story, however. I expect that unit to continue to improve. The Redskins were happy with what they got out of Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen last season, as both made strides in their second season in the system. Jarvis Jenkins basically was a rookie last season, and grew as the year went on. He looked faster and more decisive in last week’s open practice session. Chris Baker and Kedric Golston provide good depth. Chris Neild is back from a torn ACL that cost him last season. Free agent pickups Phillip Merling and Ron Brace will compete for time at defensive end. The main question mark is Adam Carriker, who had a strong 2011 campaign and then missed the bulk of last year because of a torn quad tendon. He had a setback and still has a long way to go in his recovery.

There’s something that’s been bothering me for a while, but I haven’t received a good argument for: Wasn’t RGIII’s knee brace specifically designed to prevent the kind of injury that he incurred?  What happened?  How was he still injured? I would understand if he was hit so hard that the brace had little chance to sustain such an impact, but RGIII was hurt with no contact. Why didn’t the brace protect RGIII from his knee injury?

 – Jon Gottfried

There has been much debate about the brace that Griffin wore, and the details surrounding it remain murky. Griffin tried out a couple different kinds of braces when he returned to action following the Baltimore game, and Cleveland game that he missed with the initial knee injury. He went with the brace that felt the most comfortable. Mike Shanahan said at the time that the brace did bother Griffin “a hair” and restrict his movements. There had been rumors that Griffin declined to wear the recommended brace for the Seattle game, but people with knowledge of the situation said that wasn’t true. The brace he wore against the Seahawks didn’t appear to be the one that he wore last Thursday. The brace from last week was bulkier. The brace from the end of last season appeared to slide down on Griffin from time to time during games. Could that have been partially to blame? Possibly.

In previous years, we enjoyed-slash-suffered-through antics such as Clinton Portis’ characters and Chris Cooley’s hot pants.  Who is the Redskins’ Class Clown of 2013?

  – Kelly Worrall

British Columbia, Canada

There probably will never be another player like Clinton Portis with his multiple personalities, and Chris Cooley was pretty unique as well. It’s hard to say who takes on that role — possibly Fred Davis, who has played attorney this offseason, proclaiming himself, “Freddy D., attorney at law.” But as of now, there don’t appear to be any strong candidates for Class Clown. I’m sure the straight-laced Mike Shanahan won’t mind not having one of those in the mix.

Is it possible that one of the rookie RBs we picked up would push Alfred Morris for playing time?

– Frankie D.

I don’t see Chris Thompson or Jawan Jamison as challengers for Alfred Morris’ job as Washington’s feature back, but they could be used to spell him. The rookies will compete with third-year pros Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. for snaps. Thompson is probably Helu’s top competitor for third-down back duties. He has the speed and pass-catching ability to give the Redskins a spark.

I live in Sterling and while traveling to my mother’s house in Ashburn, I pass Redskins Park. The Redskins flag seemed to be at half-mast. Any idea why?

– Jeff Trautner

The flag was half-mast in honor of former coach Bill Austin, who died at the age of 84 last week. Austin served as offensive line coach in 1969, and head coach in 1970.

With the possibility that Kirk Cousins will start week one, what are the differences and similarities we will see in a Cousins-led offense and an RGIII-led offense? I understand the Shanahans will run the same, basic scheme but what can we expect to see differently with Cousins than with RGIII?

 – Kenneth Greenwell, IJC CCJ2
Kabul, Afghanistan

I think we could expect to see a lot of the same plays and formations for the most part. But Cousins, in his relief action and the start against Cleveland last season, did play under center more than Griffin. The offense more closely resembled the pre-Griffin Redskins offense. There was a lot of play-action and bootleg passes. The zone-blocking scheme remained the same. A lot of the plays that Griffin runs actually are the same, just start out with different looks. Of course, you won’t see Cousin running a lot of the zone-read option, although he has worked on improving his ability to do so. He did, however, run some of those plays in last week’s offseason practice that was open to the media.

Out of curiosity, are there any details about Jordan Reed’s contract that explains why his signing took longer than his fellow draftees, or were there other reasons? Also, the impression I had about Pierre Garcon was that he was “uncomfortable” with getting surgery, yet he did have a labrum procedure done. Was the difference in his decisions because of the nature of the injury, the success rate of the surgery, the projected recovery times, or something else entirely?

– Joseph Howell Jr.

Because of the rookie wage scale, there aren’t many complications with signing draft picks anymore. I think the main reason why Jordan Reed (third-rounder out of Florida) didn’t sign his contract — a four-year deal worth $2.7 million with a signing bonus of $549,112 — until after his rookie teammates was that he was out in L.A. for the NFLPA rookie premier, where he and 39 other rookies learned about off-field life in the NFL. As far as Garcon goes, his hesitancy to have surgery on his toe and the torn ligament in his second toe has a lot to do with the fact that there was no guarantee that the procedure would fully correct the problem. He opted to go with the rest-and-recovery route and reports that his toe continues to heal well on its own. Meanwhile, he did have his labrum repaired because that procedure required repair that time off couldn’t heal. He looked pretty good as he ran routes and caught passes from Griffin last Thursday.

What do you see Pat White’s role being if he makes it beyond being RGIII’s training camp fill-in? Practice Squad? Do you have a sense whether he really has a chance to compete with Rex Grossman for the third QB spot? I’d be interested in having a third QB who could possibly run the offense the same way RGIII does. And if he makes the roster instead of Rex, do you think it would be possible/allowable to keep Rex around as some sort of assistant quarterback coach, or would he be more interested in being on a roster?

 – Simon Guggenheim
Washington, DC

Pat White looked very small and inaccurate in last week’s open practice. He didn’t have very good arm strength, and that’s something Grossman has never lacked. I guess things could always change, but I’d be very surprised if White made the 53-man roster. The Redskins value Grossman, both as a mentor and a player. He has now played in this system four years (three here, one in Houston) and if they opted to keep three quarterbacks, which seems likely given Griffin’s health, Grossman likely would be the guy.

What you think the response of the Redskins should be to a recent open call out. Michael Vick recently challenged all NFL quarterbacks (RGIII in particular) to a 40-yard dash/race, stating he was still the fastest quarterback in the NFL today. Should RGIII take him on some time during the season, or should he just let this one go? Do you agree that Vick might still be the fastest quarterback in the NFL especially after the destroyed a running back in a recent race?

 –Olufemi Adepoju, MAC(SW/AW)
USS Ronald Reagan CVN 76

I’m sure that Griffin had a good chuckle when he saw/heard Vick’s comment. Both quarterbacks clocked 40-yard dash times of 4.33 seconds leading up to their respective drafts. And we all know about Griffin’s background as a track star (he narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics as a hurdler while at Baylor). But as fun as it is to debate, there’s no way that he squares off with Vick some time this season to settle the score. It’s hard to say who actually is faster. Vick might seem more jitter-bug elusive in the background avoiding pass-rushers. Griffin’s straight-ahead speed (thinking of the 76-yard touchdown run versus the Vikings) is unreal, though. Anyone have a high-tech computer simulator we could consult? Haha

There has been a lot a criticism among Redskins fans, and around the league about the turf conditions at FedEx Field. In fact, some blame key injuries on those poor field conditions. I read that Shanahan rejects field turf. I’ve also heard that there is some sort of a drainage problem under the field at FedEx. Do the Redskins have any plans to improve turf conditions? Will they re-sod with a different kind of turf and improve the drainage, use field turf or just keep things as-is?

 – Joe Beman
New Mexico

The Redskins did do some work to improve the drainage at FedEx Field, and they say that unlike last season, they will re-sod the field midway through the season in hopes that doing so will lead to better field conditions late in the year.

Because of RGIII’s injury-prone knees and coaches’ desire to protect him more, can he still be a top-tier quarterback if he is forced to pass significantly more?  And is he still worth giving up three No. 1 picks if can no longer run like last season?

 – Gary Rush

I think that Griffin can still become an elite quarterback even if he scales back on the running. Last season, he boasted the third-highest passer rating and fourth-highest completion percentage as he as he threw for 3,200 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions. Obviously, those yardage and touchdown totals would have to increase for RGIII to elevate himself into those elite ranks. But he had the capability to do so. And even if the designed runs become less frequent, there still will be plenty of times when he takes off running. If he puts the Redskins in the playoffs and the ranks of the contenders on a yearly basis, then that price paid for him will definitely be worth it.

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 Mailbag.

More Redskins and NFL coverage:

Rookie S Baccari Rambo has traveled a bumpy road en route to the Redskins

Analysis: Even if Redskins change offense for Griffin, don’t expect Shanahan to say so beforehand

Griffin still gets emotional recalling initial hours after surgery

D.C. Sports Bog: RGIII sent thank-you notes to fans who sent wedding gifts

RTs Pashos and Trueblood are playing catch up

D.C. Sports Bog: RGIII as grand marshal of Memorial Day parade

Griffin has spoken to Adrian Peterson about knee-injury recovery

Griffin thinks he could start opener even without playing in preseason

Cousins felt he’d be back, and is relishing his chance with Redskins

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