Redskins mailbag: Trade deadline, passing game woes and more …

October 29, 2013

Will Fred Davis remain a Redskin past today’s trade deadline? (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Here we are, seven games down, nine to go, and the Redskins own a 2-5 record, but still  as crazy as it sounds  have a chance to save their season with strong finish down the stretch.

To do that, however, the team must resolve the many issues plaguing it right now.  Today as we get back to the mailbag, we go over a number of those issues and take a stab at figuring out the source of the Redskins’ problems, and how they can be corrected going forward.

Here we go . . .

If you were the GM, what trade would you make to help this team? Secondly, what trade is most likely to happen, if any?

 Jay Rotell, Cheshire, Conn.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, there aren’t a lot of easy fixes, and so while it’d be great to see them add an explosive wide receiver like Cleveland’s Josh Gordon (who played with Robert Griffin III at Baylor) to lineup opposite Pierre Garcon, or an all-pro safety like Buffalo’s Jairus Byrd, the chances of anything like that happening are pretty slim. For one, the Redskins don’t really have much to offer. Washington remains interested in working out a deal to trade Fred Davis, but no team is going to give much, if anything, for a tight end who is coming off two shortened seasons (one due to suspension, one to a torn Achilles’ tendon), who also has such little value to his current team that he hasn’t even dressed the past two games.  Cleveland is said to want a second-round pick for Gordon. The Redskins already don’t have a first-round pick next spring. Do they really want to part with another high pick? The other aspect that makes trades difficult is money. In the case of Byrd, who begrudgingly is playing under a one-year franchise player deal, the Redskins  in addition to having to offer Buffalo significant compensation  would have to make a long-term commitment to Byrd. That could be risky considering that, despite a proven track record on the field in previous years, he has some uncertainty hovering over him. Byrd missed the first five games of the season with foot injuries and in three games (only one start) has recorded only 11 tackles and two pass breakups. If any trade happened today, however, the most likely move would be Davis being shipped elsewhere for a sixth- or seventh-round pick. But even that isn’t extremely probable. A team would likely just wait to see if Washington cuts Davis, who would then have to clear waivers before being able to sign wherever he wants.

I see that Robert has some ups and downs like a lot of young QB’s.  It’s nice that he has the ability to run which is helpful to our O-line. However, all of us watching can see that they struggle in most drop-back passing situations.  This is what leads to my frustration. We’ve shown we can do some good things in our “Turbo” offense.  But, it seems that we have a lot of sets with one or two receivers, max protection, and no safety valve.  I saw that several times in [Sunday’s] game: Robert holding the ball, waiting and waiting, then the sack. It was evident when they showed the end zone camera view.  Why don’t we take a page out of the Pats, Broncos, Packers, Saints playbook: five wide and the quick passing game? That’s what teams do to us to stop the pass rush. I thought our offense had moved on after last year, but the Shanahans are still using some ancient operating procedures.

 Greg Williams, Warrenton, Va.

There are a number of problems currently hindering the passing game. The interior linemen’s strengths don’t lie in the drop-back passing game. They’re smaller, quicker linemen, who do well when they’re getting out and moving in the zone-blocking schemes or the play-action and bootleg passing game. But to drop back and block defenders one-on-one? They’ll admit that’s not their strength. Now, that does beg the question, why construct a roster of linemen that can’t effectively excel on both fronts? But that’s a whole other topic that would take a while to get into. But in brief, some of it has to do with financial limitations (they couldn’t go after some players they wanted because of the salary cap penalties) and failed draft projections (see Josh LeRibeus). The problem with going with five wideouts is the Redskins need to keep more people in to protect the quarterback. And, outside of Garcon, they don’t have receivers talented enough to consistently get open. Griffin held onto the ball too long several times in this past Sunday’s game, and a number of other times this season, because defenses are playing him differently this year. They’re content to give him underneath stuff and force him to read the coverages because they know he’s still developing there. Defenses are taking away the deep threats. You saw on Sunday that almost every time Pierre Garcon or Aldrick Robinson went deep, Denver had them double covered. Griffin needs to do a better job of picking his spots and taking what the defense gives him  like he did a lot of last season  and not force things downfield. His anticipation also needed to be better this past Sunday. Griffin wants to see his receivers coming out of their breaks before letting go of the ball. But you can’t always do that. Great quarterbacks can anticipate when a wideout is about to get open, and he puts the ball in that spot on time, trusting his receiver will get there. You may have heard an analyst say there are times when a quarterback has to “throw his receivers open” rather than throw to open receivers. This is what they mean by that.

I want a real answer. Why did The Redskins abandon the run in the 2nd half of the game? Why can’t the Redskins’ receivers catch a pass when it really counts?  Why are Griffin’s passes so inaccurate compared to last year? Why isn’t anyone but Alfred Morris giving an honest answer about what happened on Sunday?

  Jerome

OK, here we go – real answers: They didn’t abandon the run as much as it actually seemed like it. Up 21-14, they called a run (for three yards), Griffin had an 11-yard pass to Garcon, and an unncessasary roughness call gave them another 15 yards. Then Morris had a one-yard run, and then a two-yard run, and on third-and-7, they had to pass. (Here’s the link to the play-by-play). Griffin had to break the pocket because no one was open initially, and as he did, he missed Leonard Hankerson get a brief opening beyond the sticks. Griffin went for Moss, but the throw was out of bounds. Nothing really wrong with the play-calling on that drive. Next Redskins drive: Fourth quarter, 21-21, 14:56 left  Griffin throws an incomplete pass to Josh Morgan, incomplete pass to Garcon, incomplete pass to Aldrick Robinson, punt. This looks worse than what it was. The incompletion to Morgan is what ruined it all. He was WIDE open on that crossing route for a 25-yard gain, but Griffin threw it behind him, and Morgan got only one hand on the ball and couldn’t secure it. Had that completion taken place, the whole complexion of that drive changes. You’re near midfield, Redskins probably run on the next play. After the incompletion, perhaps they should’ve run to set up a manageable third down instead of going deep to Garcon in double coverage. Then, they had to pass on third-and-10, and the pass was a little high, and Robinson got both hands on it, but couldn’t secure it. After that, the Redskins were behind, and had no choice but to throw. As for the questions about the wide receivers, it’s a matter of concentration, and the ball being in the right spot for them as well. Both receivers and quarterbacks share the blame. As for the question about Griffin, check out the answer above regarding anticipation. That has some to do with it. And Morris isn’t the only one giving an honest assessment. Pierre Garcon was pretty blunt in this story here.

In light of the defense’s poor performance, has anyone questioned the efficiency of Jim Haslett coaching from the booth instead of the field?  Seems to me that he’s missing some key real-time interaction with the players, and he has not adjusted to the new visual perspective.

 Dean McCall

Haslett and Shanahan both say they see the benefits of having him in the booth because he is able to see the whole field, and how plays unfold better from that perspective. He calls down to the field and talks to players and assistants on the phone, and gives instructions and adjustments. Around half of the league’s defensive coordinators call games from up in the booth. There were struggles for this defense with Haslett on the sideline as well the last few years, remember? The defense turned things around in the final seven games of the season. This year, they started off terribly, but in the past several weeks (until the late-game collapse versus Denver) had done better. So, I’m not so sure it really matters where Haslett watches the game.

Why don’t the Redskins go to a two-tight end set? I think that Jordan Reed and Fred Davis would create mismatches for any defense. I think Logan is more of a blocker than an offensive threat. What do you think? Is it something that is in the works or worth exploring? If New England can run that offense, why can’t the Redskins?

  Victor Easton 

The Redskins actually do use a lot of two-tight end sets. Reed and Paulsen lined up together a number of times both this past week and in previous games as well. There were a couple of times early in the season where Davis and Reed shared the field. It’s a matter of responsibilities as well, however. A lot of times in those two-tight end sets, one will stay on the line as a blocker (which is why Paulsen works well) and the other goes in motion (Reed). Davis is an okay blocker, but not better than Paulsen. Reed is a decent blocker, but not better than Paulsen either. Although not a primary target, Paulsen does get open when used on routes. He has eight catches for 110 yards, averaging 13.8 yards per grab.

 

Why doesn’t Aldrick Robinson return punts/kicks with his speed. I think he would be a huge upgrade.

 Brandon Yellets

Aldrick Robinson didn’t make the team as a rookie because of an inability to field punts. He muffed several attempts in the preseason and wound up getting cut and re-signed to the practice squad. He tried his hand at it a little last year, but apparently didn’t do very well. This year when Richard Crawford got hurt, Robinson said he was willing to try again, but he wasn’t very confident in his chance of getting another crack at the job, and sure enough, the team didn’t try him in that capacity.

With the secondary as depleted as it is with injuries and the one game suspension of Brandon Meriweather, what is the status of Tenard Jackson, and why is he not reinstated to the team? Is it a league or team issue, or has he failed another test, as to why he is not with the team, also will his salary be counting for this season if he’s not reinstated.

  Andrew Jones

Of course, we couldn’t get through a mailbag without the weekly Tanard Jackson update! And that’s that there is no update. This decision rests solely in the hands of the commissioner. Jackson was suspended indefinitely, which means the league set no timetable for his reinstatement. He was allowed to apply for reinstatement after one year, which he has done. But, Roger Goodell doesn’t have to make any decision on this by any set time. And so, Jackson, who has already been suspended multiple times before this time, continues the waiting game.

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 Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins resume practice Wednesday, preparing for Sunday’s home game against the San Diego Chargers.

More from The Post:

Griffin, Redskins struggle in the passing game | Hamilton: Too much passing

Redskins interested in dealing Fred Davis at deadline

Snyder, Goodell to meet about franchise name

On hits, Meriweather says “you’ve got to go low now” | Shanahan: He’s learned lesson

D.C. Sports Bog: Cooley says Haynesworth an ‘awful human being’ | More

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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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