Redskins mailbag: RGIII’s return, zone-read use, cap space and more …

September 10, 2013

Robert Griffin III scrambles past the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox and heads out of bounds. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins‘ first game is in the books, and now they must pick up the pieces from their 33-27 loss to the Eagles and turn their attention to the Green Bay Packers, whom they travel to face on Sunday.

Today, however, we go back to the mailbag and tackle your latest questions surrounding the team.

Thanks for taking part, and keep your questions coming for next Tuesday’s installment.

I’d like your opinion: Did RGIII not taking one snap in preseason have any effect on his performance Monday night? It was quite obvious he was not himself, particularly in the first half (where the game was lost, in my opinion). Also, should Shanahan have considered a change to Kirk Cousins when it became clear that RGIII was off his game and not quite ready? Thanks!

 – Bob Swanson

Griffin refused to use rust as an excuse, but I do believe that it took him a while to get into a flow. It’s only natural. He hasn’t played in eight months. I interviewed Adrian Peterson for Sunday’s season preview story on Griffin, and Peterson – who also didn’t play in the preseason last year as he came off of his knee surgery – said it took him two weeks to feel like his old self. Could Mike Shanahan have given one or two preseason series to help him get back into the flow? Sure. But what would’ve happened if Griffin got hurt in a meaningless game? Everyone would have been calling for Shanahan’s head. Shanahan did the right thing in sticking with Griffin. The only way for him to get back to his previous form is for him to work out the kinks. Yanking him while in the midst of those struggles wasn’t the solution. And who’s to say Cousins would’ve done better? Remember, because of his foot injury, he hasn’t played since the second preseason game. He seemed to move a little gingerly during pregame warmups. He could’ve been rusty as well. Griffin is healthy. He showed good speed, elusiveness, and also was able to get back up after several hard hits. In the late third quarter and fourth quarter, you saw him settle into a rhythm. He believes that he can build on that rather than have to start all over next week against Green Bay.

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m wondering why so far nobody is asking the question why the Redskins didn’t use the read option? Where were all those great fakes that had opposing defensive ends wondering who had the ball? Griffin running the option helped give Morris 1,600 yards and gave Garcon big runs after catch?Shanahan lied to us, he said he would not change a thing and he absolutely did. 

– Kerry Triplett

The Redskins actually did use the zone read during their limited first-half action. The problem was, they couldn’t hold onto the ball. Everything was disjointed, and nothing was clicking. And so, Kyle Shanahan, after setting Griffin up with a designed run around the left end for an eight-yard gain, scrapped the zone-read game plan and went to a drop-back attack. Griffin settled into a rhythm, found open receivers, extended plays with his legs, and had a few more unscheduled runs as well. Trust me, the Redskins aren’t going to abandon the zone read. Things will change from week to week depending on matchup. Last year, they didn’t run much zone-read against 3-4 defenses, which the Eagles and Packers (next week) both utilize.

I know this is out there, but with White’s speed, do you think there may be a time or two when Kyle puts both he and RGIII in the backfield?  If nothing else, I’d love to see the faces of the defense when they line up. 

 – Bob Lasher

You can never say never, but I’d be surprised if they did do that. It remains to be seen how long Pat White remains on this roster. Was he just here to help prepare for Michael Vick? (If so, not sure he helped based on last night.) Or, is he a guy the coaches really see as a developmental player? An option threat? Throughout the preseason, the Redskins didn’t run any plays in practice that featured two quarterbacks in the backfield at the same time. The Redskins have great speed threats in Roy Helu Jr. and Chris Thompson. Helu ran a 4.34 40-yard dash coming out of college, and Thompson ran a 4.32. White ran a 4.46. Now, his ability to throw as well as run while lined up next to Griffin would cause some uncertainty for defenses. But for now, it doesn’t seem likely to happen.

I’ve seen a few other teams use short term IR for 4-6 week injuries, why didn’t we use this designation on Briscoe? He was making plays!

– Otis Collins

Even had he made the roster, Briscoe would’ve been the sixth receiver behind Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss and Aldrick Robinson. The Redskins wouldn’t use that “designated to return” injured reserve tag on a backup player. That would be used on a guy like Garcon or Morgan.

Now that the 53-man roster is settled, for now anyway, what is the status of the Redskins salary cap? Just wondering how much they have to spend.

 – Mike Downes

The Redskins are now just less than $2 million under the cap thanks to the restructuring of Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Adam Carriker’s contracts last week. Those moves provided $3.7 million in cap room for the Redskins.

The quarterback helmet contains a communication device; is this device “on” at all times or is it turned off during the plays? In listening to Mike & Mike [a recent morning], Coach Herm Edwards alluded that RGIII needs to know when to get down, but that his competitive nature keeps him upright.  In addition, he thinks these type of athletes get so focused on juking the guy in front of him, they never see the injurious blindside hit coming (not exact quote). In NASCAR, the drivers have spotters to give them extra eyes around them. If the helmet’s “on” at all times, do/can the Skins utilize a “spotter” on the sideline to let RGIII know that he’s, “got to get down, right now?” I know this is not groundbreaking solutions, but again, we couch potatoes are definitely wondering what goes on behind the scenes.  As always, thanks for the insight you provide us remote Redskins fans.

 – Steven Smith

Actually, the helmet device doesn’t stay on all throughout the play. It turns on at the end of a play, and then remains on until 15 seconds remain on the play clock. So, a coach can give the play call and make a few more recommendations, but can’t walk a player through the whole play. That’s probably for the best. I remember hearing stories that Steve Spurrier used to chirp out the play call over the radio, and then change his mind and would be trying to offer all kinds of instructions as the radio shut off, and at times, his quarterbacks never had the a decisive play call. Can you imagine having that voice in your head as you’re going to the line and dropping back and trying to read a defense? Maddening.

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 on Tuesday.

Shanahan news conference:

Jones tweeted some of the things the coach touched on in his press conference. Here are a few samples:

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins do not practice on Tuesday, but with the quick turnaround for Sunday at Green Bay and a battle of 0-1 teams with high expectations hoping to avoid 0-2, Alfred Morris and Mike Shanahan speak with reporters in the afternoon.

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo |@MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

More on the Redskins:

Ryan Kerrigan passes concussion tests

The Takeway (video): Jones breaks down the loss

Meriweather’s absence again an issue for struggling secondary

Five observations from Redskins vs. Eagles

D.C. Sports Bog: Cofield’s club hand | ESPN’s RGIII camerman | More Bog

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 · September 10, 2013