Redskins mailbag: London Fletcher’s quiet start, roster needs and penalties

September 17, 2013

London Fletcher on Sunday recorded only one tackle and one assist. Here, trainers tend to him. (Tom Lynn/Associated Press)

The Washington Redskins have stumbled out of the gates to an 0-2 start that few people imagined. There are plenty of problem areas and plenty of questions, but thus far, few answers.

But, we’re going to do our best to get to the bottom of some things.

In this week’s mailbag, we tackle every topic from defensive struggles, roster needs, penalties and accountability.

Here we go …

It is obvious that London Fletcher has finally lost a step, which makes him a liability. The Skins are going to have to replace him as Shanahan will get fired if the defense continues to play this way. Who is his back up and are there any young unproven players that might fill his role of the past? Even last year most of his tackles were after 5- to 8-yard gains.

– Jay Schurman

Fletcher indeed hasn’t looked like his usual impactful self in the first two games of the season. He was credited with six solo tackles in the season opener, but seemed to struggle mightily in the second game, where he recorded one solo tackle and one assist. Fletcher seemed to get blocked out of plays frequently against the Packers, and didn’t find himself around the ball very often. Is it age, scheme, both? Very possible. Fletcher’s backup is Nick Barnett, an 11th-year veteran, who signed with the team this preseason after spending the bulk of his career with the Packers and then the Bills. Barnett hasn’t taken a defensive snap yet, and I don’t expect the Redskins to readily give up on Fletcher. He started slowly last season before finishing strong in the second half of the season. The team values his experience and knowledge, and Jim Haslett views Fletcher  as a coach on the field because of how he sets his teammates up and puts them in position to make plays. Now, there have been few plays made by the defense as a whole so far, but Fletcher isn’t entirely to blame. We’ll see, however, if he is able to find his groove and reclaim his spot as Washington’s top run-stopper.

With the Redskins struggles on defense so far, will Jim Haslett leave the booth upstairs and come back down on the field to call the game? He looks as lost up there as he defense does down on the field. And why did he move up there to begin with after the defense notably improved in the seven games last season?

  – Greg Dowling

Haslett made the move to the booth because he wanted to be able to get a better overall view of what was and wasn’t working on defense. From up above, you can see the play develop better than you can down on the sideline. The only drawback is Haslett can’t communicate with his players from up in the booth. Any instructions or changes he has to share must be radioed down to linebackers coach Bob Slowik and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, and then relayed to the players. Haslett doesn’t speak to the media until Thursday, but I’ll follow up with him on whether or not he plans on remaining up in the booth, or if he thinks he needs to move back to the sideline.

My question has to do with our struggling secondary. If we obviously need help there, why don’t we sign Kerry Rhodes? There are rumors about him being homosexual. Is that why he remains unsigned? I also know that we were unjustly hit with the salary cap penalty this year and last, but there has to be $850,000 somewhere to sign the former Pro Bowl safety! The grapevine is saying that the Giants are working him out this week. I would hate to see a division rival’s secondary improve while ours gets worked over every week!

 – Robert Schroeder

The Giants reportedly were scheduled to work out Rhodes today (Tuesday), but I can’t speak to whether or not Rhodes is being blacklisted because of rumors that he is a homosexual. Money could be another reason why he remains out of work. Rhodes was owed $4.5 million by Arizona, and it’s possible that he’d rather not play for the league minimum, which is about all the Redskins could afford. As of now, it doesn’t sound like the Redskins have interest in Rhodes.

[Editor's Note: The Redskins do have enough salary cap room to sign an $850,000 player. Scroll to the bottom here to look at the approximate numbers.]

Would you happen to know when or if we are ever going to get Tanard Jackson back on the team?

– Dave Runnels

The league has yet to take any action or Jackson, and he and the Redskins have yet to receive any indication on when they can expect a ruling on whether or not he can play this season.

Two observations/questions today. It’s only game No. 2 of a long 16-game season but something just bothers the [heck] out of me. Why can’t professional football players control the most basic things? Year in and year out Redskins players get caught in personal fouls (late hits and retaliation hits) at the worst of times! And why it is so hard NOT to hit a player in the back during a kickoff or punt return?  I see those penalties and I see a team that lacks discipline. Wouldn’t you agree?  Second, why is RGIII’s captain patch white and London Fletcher’s captain patch yellow?

 – Olufemi Adepoju

Penalties have hampered the Redskins in each of their first two games, but Mike Shanahan downplayed the severity of the situation, noting that the Baltimore Ravens last season ranked among the most penalized teams in the league and still won the Super Bowl. Shanahan said some penalties are signs of aggression and eagerness to make plays. Perhaps there are times when a player doesn’t realize how close he is to the sideline when he levels a hit. But the Redskins do have to do better. Two penalties – the ones on Sunday called on Nick Sundberg and Niles Paul were called because Sundberg took a swing at the back of an opponent’s head as they ran downfield on a punt, and because Paul engaged in an argument and head-butted a player. Those are the kinds of penalties that you can’t have happen. That is indeed a lack of discipline.

As far as your second question, Fletcher has a gold C and stars on his captain patch because he has been a captain for five years. Griffin has a white C and one gold star and three white stars because he has only served as a team captain for one year. Next year, he would have two gold stars and two white.

I don’t even know where to begin …The defense is atrocious, the offense is predictable and inefficient, The O-Line is a disaster, The special teams are horrific, and there is absolutely no discipline. My question is when are the coaches and GM going to be held accountable? Shanahan’s record is terrible here and we are not on the right path. Even last year I felt like they were winning with mirrors (and RGIII).

– Tom, Jacksonville, Fla.

Mike Shanahan has to face questions about the Redskins’ struggles every day, and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan field questions from reporters every Thursday. Believe me, they get grilled pretty well. The Redskins’ coaches and players are doing everything in their power to figure out a solution for their struggles. But, it’s only two weeks into the season, so it’s too early to start talking about heads rolling. The offensive struggles aren’t quite as surprising considering that Robert Griffin III is still getting back up to game speed. The turnovers in the Philadelphia game were alarming, but the Redskins did a better job of holding onto the ball against Green Bay. The problem was third downs, where they opened the game with an 0-7 showing in those situations. Many times receivers were open, but pass protection was poor. Or other times, Griffin had time and an open receiver, but maybe his throws were off, or a pass-catcher dropped the ball. Defensively, where to begin? Aside from Ryan Kerrigan’s two sacks and Brian Orakpo’s sack, there were few bright spots. Are players out of position, or in position and not making plays? Coaches and players say it’s some of both. Mike Shanahan said harder practices and greater attention to detail are the only two ways that his team will see improvements. This is where we’ll see what the Redskins coaching staff is made of. They have virtually all of the same players that they had a year ago when they figured out how to mask deficiencies and capitalize on strengths and turned things around from 3-6 and win the division. Can they push all the right buttons and spark another rebound? We’ll see, or else, then Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen have to start asking some tough questions.

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.

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

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What’s ahead:

Clips from Post Sports Live, a post on DeAngelo Hall and the defense.

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 17, 2013

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