Redskins mailbag: Banned substances, positional battles and more …

August 5, 2013

Lance Lewis comes down with a pass as Richard Crawford takes a tumble. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Training camp rolls on, and the Redskins soon will face their first opponent of the preseason. Thursday night’s matchup against the host Tennessee Titans should be interesting because it will give us a chance to see how the work in practice carries over against an unfamiliar opponent.

Will the rookies, who have looked rather impressive in camp, continue to shine in an actual game, or will struggles manifest themselves? Which players on the bubble will begin making names for themselves?

We shall see.

But first, we have another two days of practice, and of course, your mailbag questions.

Thanks as always for taking part. I’ve gotten to as many of your questions as possible. Dig in!

Now, it’s back out to the practice fields for me.

Why is it that NFL teams, more importantly the skins, do not control the supply of supplements the players have? They have assistants for everything on a team so why not have a staff member to control the purchasing and distribution of these to the players. They pay enough to the players, so the team, in my eyes, is well within its rights to control this.

 – Chris Fleming

That’s probably a little excessive. The league has made it extremely simple for a player to ensure that he is taking “clean” supplements. All they have to do is look for the “NSF” label before purchasing the supplement. If that label isn’t there, don’t buy it. These are grown men. They can take some responsibility for what they put in their own bodies.

How do you like Lance Lewis’ chance of making the final 53-man squad?

 – Greg Wilcox

We won’t know for sure until we see him play some preseason games, but as of now, Lewis – a 6-foot-2, 207-pound East Carolina product, who saw his 2011 quest to make the roster derailed by injury and then re-signed with Washington in May – doesn’t appear to have the best shot at making the 53-man squad. Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul and Santana Moss all seem likely to make the team. You would think that another wideout with return abilities – Skye Dawson, Nick Williams or Chip Reeves – might be able to earn a spot with a strong preseason showing. And, don’t forget roster hopefuls Donte Stallworth and Devery Henderson, who boast more experience.

How is Kory Lichtensteiger looking in camp?  Is he looking like the pre-injury player who was probably our best lineman at the time, or is he still looking like last year’s version that was still struggling with that knee injury?

 – Brian Mulholland

Lichtensteiger has gotten off to a much better start than he did last season, when just a couple days into camp, he had to have arthroscopic surgery on his already-surgically repaired right knee. He did gut it out last season, and struggled at times. But I expect him to recapture the form that in the past prompted Mike Shanahan to describe him as the team’s best run blocker. He still has some struggles in the passing game here and there, but is a smart, reliable lineman who will play a key role in Washington’s success this season.

I saw the article on Kai Forbath and it got me wondering, are there workouts or exercises that guys like Kai can do to strengthen the leg for kicking purposes? You always see guys who want to be faster running with parachutes or whatever. Is there a kicker version of that? I don’t care about long field goals, but Kai’s kickoffs need to get longer.

 – Brian Mulholland

I talked to Forbath about this during the offseason, and he said while there are indeed exercises he can – and does – do to strengthen his leg, the biggest thing he must master is consistency in his technique. This includes everything from his footwork on his run-up to the ball, the way his foot comes through the ball, and how he holds his head throughout the kick. He likened it to a golf swing, how everything has to be the same, every time. He believes he’s getting close to displaying consistent improvement in this department.

 Offensive tackle Xavier Nixon was rated highly by Mel Kiper (2-3 round), yet he went undrafted and the Redskins signed him. How is he doing so far?  Does he show promise? Do you think he makes the squad? Also, how is former high pick, defensive end Phillip Merling doing so far? Didn’t Bill Parcells pick him a few years ago? Seems like he should be able to contribute with Jenkins out.

 – Michael T.

The 6-foot-6, 321-pound Nixon has great size and decent athleticism, but questions about his consistency and work ethic caused teams to pass over him in the draft. He looks like a guy that still has a good deal of development ahead of him. We’ll see for sure once the preseason games begin, but for now, he is buried on the depth chart behind Trent Williams and Tom Compton at left tackle. He could possibly wind up as a practice squad member. As far as Merling goes: The 32nd pick of the 2008 draft, is now on his third NFL team. He’s got great size at 6-5, 315, and you would think there indeed is an opportunity for him to earn a spot, but Merling hasn’t looked like a consistent impact player. He’s had a couple plays here and there. But for the most part, he has struggled.

Why haven’t we heard much about the Redskins acquisition Devery Henderson? He has been a solid player in the league that I feel is going make the receiving [corps] a lot stronger.

 – Lonnie B. Spry

Henderson — a nine-year veteran with 245 catches for 4,377 yards and 20 touchdowns – has definitely had a solid NFL career, and his presence would have seemed to ramp up the level of competition at wide receiver in camp. But so far, he hasn’t stood out. Hankerson and Robinson have had impressive camps thus far, and Garcon, Morgan and Moss look good as well. Henderson doesn’t yet appear on the verge of taking either of those five players’ jobs. As is the case with everyone, we’ll see what happens once the games begin.

Post photos from training camp:

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.

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What’s ahead:

● Today’s practices are at 10 a.m. and 3:20 p.m. If you’re headed to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, where to park and things to do after the session is over.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

No surprises on Redskins’ first depth chart of the preseason

Keith Burns takes the reins of — and frequent notes on — special teams

Candidates for kick-return duty eager to show their stuff in a game

D.C. Sports Bog: How Redskins specialists pass the down time

Reid: Alfred Morris is lined up for an encore in Year 2

Cousins finds the silver linings in his situation

Grossman stays professional in No. 3 role

Training camp positives and negatives so far

D.C. Sports Bog: Why Cooley is on radio, not in Wyoming | More Bog & Redskins

Redskins eager for preseason opener

Trent Williams says “there’s no reason to worry” about his wrist injury

Observations from Saturday’s practices | Previous days’ observations

Former Baltimore Colt Art Donovan dies at 89 | Bog: When the Redskins honored him

The Early Lead: Vince Young to work out for Packers

Cowboys and Dolphins set off the preseason slate

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 · August 5, 2013

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