The Mailbag: Redskins’ defensive adjustments, uniform rumors, Larry Brown and more …


Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett hopes to have a faster, more aggressive unit in 2013. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Hard to believe it, but we’re down to our next-to-last mailbag before the Redskins return to action.

In just nine days, the Redskins will report to Richmond for training camp, and practices get underway the following day. Once that happens, there will be plenty of topics, position battles, scenarios and predictions to discuss.

The mailbag remains far from empty this week, however.

In this edition, we discuss everything from defensive preparations, uniforms, an all-time Redskins great and a player who will be on the bubble once training camp begins.

Here we go…

It looks like Philly is going to run a high-tempo offense this season. Is the defense preparing in any special way to counter that? Do the three draft picks for the secondary with great ball skills relate to that, do you think?  After all, doing something fast is one thing, but doing it fast and well is another.

 – Don Crehan

The Redskins’ defensive coaches absolutely are doing everything they can to prepare for the Eagles, especially considering that they open the season against them, and the fact that they play Philadelphia twice a year. The Eagles present a bit of the unknown this season because it remains unclear just how closely Chip Kelly will stick to the version of his spread offense that he ran at Oregon. But, it’s the goal of the Redskins’ defense – and those of every other team in the NFL – to get faster and stronger every offseason so they can thwart the attacks they face each week. Speed, athleticism and turnover-generating talent on the back end is something that the Redskins knew they needed to address, and that’s why they drafted cornerback David Amerson and safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo.

I heard Nike introduced a new alternate black uniform to the Redskins?  If so, are there photos of them, and will they be worn this season?  I love our primary colors, but I think that would look really sharp beating the Cowboys in.

– Chris

Northwest, D.C.

I did some checking around, and people within the organization said this is just a rumor and that the team hasn’t considered sporting black alternate uniforms. The Redskins are a franchise that loves traditionalism, and as a result, they shy away from drastic changes to their uniforms. The only new wrinkle you can expect to the team’s look this season is the removal of the burgundy band around the back three-fourths of the white jersey collars that we saw last season.

How come Larry Brown is never mentioned among the greatest Redskins running backs. He carried us to our first Super Bowl, and was a yardage machine. They knew he was going to get the ball, and defenses still couldn’t stop him. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. His No. 43 is unofficially retired, so at least the Redskins appreciate him.

 – Tim Fredrick
Alexandria

Actually, I think Larry Brown is regarded as one of the greatest Redskins of all time. Because he played from 1969 to ’76, maybe some people have forgotten about him – or maybe some younger fans don’t know what he accomplished in his career. But as a kid growing up in Northern Virginia in the ‘80s and ’90s, I recall always hearing my father and grandfather rave about how great Larry Brown was. In case anyone wasn’t aware of some his accomplishments, here’s a snapshot of his resume. Brown earned four Pro Bowl selections and three first-team All-Pro selections. He also earned a second-team All-Pro nod in 1971. He was named the NFL MVP and offensive player of the year in 1972. On Dec. 13, 1970, he became the first Redskins running back to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a season, and a week later he ended the season as the NFL’s leading rusher (1,125 yards on 237 carries). In 1972, he rushed for 191 yards on 29 carries in a win over the Giants, and that ranks eighth-most in a single game in franchise history. Brown had 21 100-yard rushing games (second behind John Riggins’s 25), and he also had two 100-yard receiving games. Only Brown and Dick James (1961) have accounted for 24 points in a single game, scoring four touchdowns apiece. His 1,530 rushing attempts as a Redskin rank third behind Riggins and Clinton Portis, and his 5,875 rushing yards gained over the course of his nine-year career rank third on the franchise’s all-time list behind Riggins and Portis. Brown’s 35 career touchdowns rank fifth-most in franchise history.

What’s the difference between the Green Bay Sweep and zone blocking? Did the Green Bay Sweep attempt to power block a particular running lane, while in zone blocking the running back picks the lane?

– Don Crehan

Actually, there are a lot of similarities between the power sweep that Vince Lombardi’s teams were so successful at running and the field-stretching zone-blocking plays that Mike Shanahan’s offenses have run for years. The power sweep was a form of zone-blocking scheme where the offensive linemen, tight end and fullback had areas of responsibility. The guards generally pulled, and the blockers on the end kicked out, stretching the defense and creating cut-back lanes for the running back. Each offense has its own wrinkles, but you’ll see the Redskins’ offensive line and running backs operate in a very similar fashion.

As I look at the way the Redskins are being built under Shanahan, I am beginning to see similarities to Gibbs I.  We are adding quality character guys and young guys who will know the system and will be groomed to step in if a starter is hurt or passes his prime.  We seem to be building quality capacity with our young backups. What do you think along these lines?

 – Ralph Evans

I think this is the tried and true method for building a winning franchise, and that’s what not only the Redskins under Joe Gibbs and now Shanahan and Bruce Allen understand, but it’s also the approach that most winning franchises utilize. Shanahan and Allen have placed a high priority on building depth through the draft. They’ve made free agent signings, but rather than plopping down wads of cash on over-the-hill big names, they have made smart, cap-friendly signings on younger players who are still on the rise. They have taken a chance on a handful of players with checkered pasts, but for the most part they have gone after character guys to ensure that they have a strong locker room.

How good a college player was Pat White? Why was he out of football for three years? Did he at least have tryouts with other teams? Why isn’t he eligible for the practice squad?

 – Christopher Bird

White was a talented dual-threat quarterback for West Virginia. He finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy race in both 2007 and 2008. He concluded his career as the Mountaineers’ passing leader (10,528 yards) and recorded an NCAA-leading  4,480 rushing yards for his career. The Dolphins drafted White in the second round and used him almost exclusively in Wildcat formations. He is a bit undersize and doesn’t have the strongest arm. He suffered a concussion late in his rookie season and at one point, he was a part of the large former-players’ concussion suit against the league. White, who had a brief stint with the Virginia Destroyers of the United Football League, dropped his suit this offseason, however, when he had a chance to sign with the Redskins. He appeared in 13 games as a rookie, so he isn’t eligible for the practice squad.

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.

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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John Keim · July 15, 2013

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