Redskins mailbag: Is it time for Kirk Cousins?

November 26, 2013
Would it have made sense for Kirk Cousins to have played in place of Robert Griffin III? (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
Would it have made sense for Kirk Cousins to have played in place of Robert Griffin III? (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

Oh, boy. Where do we start? There were plenty of questions offered up during last night’s post-game media availability, but Mike Shanahan and the Redskins players could offer few answers.

There’s plenty of wreckage to sift through, but Washington has a quick turnaround with the New York Giants coming to town Sunday night.

We’ll hear from Shanahan this afternoon, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of assessment he offers after having reviewed the game video.

But until then, we’ll dig through the mailbag and try to come up with some answers to the questions you’ve sent in this past week.

You’re the coach at the start of the season. Do you play Cousins to give RGIII more time to recover or do what we’ve done this year? In my humble opinion, we might have picked up a victory or two that way, which would still have us in the hunt.

 — Bob Lasher, Clearwater, Fla.

I still feel like playing was the only way for Robert Griffin III to work his way back into form. It’s clear that practice reps  regardless of what Shanahan tried to say during the preseason — are not the same as game action. It’s almost like a sacrifice they had to make. Also, behind this line, there are plenty of times where we’ve seen it doesn’t matter who’s at quarterback. The protection often hasn’t been good enough to keep anyone upright. (The Denver game, when Cousins came in and threw two interceptions, showed us this). Things look pretty disastrous right now, but it’s probably best to let Griffin continue to try to work his way out of this mess.

In every game there seems to be at least one instance where the clock could be managed better, saving time and allow extra plays/snaps. Is the failure to manage the clock and play with a sense of urgency the fault of the coaching staff, or is it because the quarterback (and or team) is incapable of playing with a sense of urgency? One only has to watch Payton Manning and Denver play to see that there is a lot of room for improvement in clock management and urgency of play in the ‘Skins organization. I don’t expect a second-year QB to manage the clock like Manning but should we expect to see some improvement at some point?

 — Paul Seefeldt, Denison, Iowa

Clock management indeed seems to be a recurring issue. And it’s not just this year. Last year it was more understandable because you had a rookie quarterback, but everyone is involved — from Mike Shanahan, who makes the call on what type of play they’ll run, to Kyle Shanahan, who then makes the precise play call into Griffin, to the quarterbacks’ instructions in the huddle and the approach to the line. I understand that Griffin has to be sure of what he’s seeing from the defense, but during his first season in Washington, Kyle Shanahan often stressed the need for better tempo out of Donovan McNabb and the offense so the defenders wouldn’t have as much time to get a read on what was coming. Tempo remains an issue years later. This season, we’ve seen the offense do better when they switch to a no-huddle attack, but the results were mixed on Monday night. During the first quarter, it seemed to jump-start the offense as they marched downfield on a 13-play, 63-yard drive that put the ball inside the San Francisco 20. But then, incompletions on two out of three passes killed the drive and Washington had to settle for a field goal. In the second half, the Redskins went back to it for five straight plays, but they had a 10-yard gain, a five-yard gain, a six-yard loss on a sack, and a 12-yard loss on a sack and then had to punt.

At 96, I’ve been a Redskin fan for half a century. I still am even when I’m no longer in the D.C. area. With last year pretty clear in my mind, it’s been painful to watch the Skins recently. It is clear to me that RGIII has suffered more than an injury to his knee. That amazing precision on his passes last year is gone. He’s just an ordinary passer this year, nothing special , and he runs too much. Isn’t it time to put in Cousins and to begin realizing RGIII is not the only quarterback on the team?

 — Josh Levine

Playing Cousins would give the Redskins a chance to showcase his talents for a potential trade in the offseason, but I’d only put him in if a team had a sizeable lead at the start of a fourth quarter. I’d keep playing Griffin because it’s important for him to work his way through the growing pains. The Redskins have too much invested in him to give up on him already. Any positive step that he can muster down the stretch this year will serve as an investment for next season.

Without knowing what may happen with the coaches this offseason, what’s the feeling/expectation of linebacker Keenan Robinson? If the Redskins stay with a 3-4 I’d assume he will stick in the middle but if scheme/regime changes to a 4-3 could he fit as an outside linebacker on the strong side taking his speed and length into account?  Depending on what happens with coaching, is it possible to see virtually a whole new linebacker corps with Brian Orakpo and Perry Riley being free agents and London Fletcher sure to retire?

— John Little

Robinson  the second-year linebacker who was lost for the season in training camp after tearing a pectoral muscle  played inside linebacker at the University of Texas and had lined up there almost exclusively with the Redskins. A couple of times on some stunts we saw him line up on the outside, but he appears to be more suited for the inside. It’s unfortunate for him that he got hurt, because this year would’ve been the perfect opportunity to play behind London Fletcher, but also rotate in and out with him and prove to coaches what he was capable of. If this coaching staff returns  if  he still has a chance to prove himself during the offseason program. But game snaps are extremely valuable for a young player that missed the second half of his rookie season and now all of his second season to injury.

The coaches aren’t creative enough with their play calling and the players are very one dimensional and predicable. Is there a quick-fix for this season, or is it just a bad system that makes the Skins so bad/ordinary? I also heard the commentators say that the Redskins have the lightest offensive line in the NFL. Is that something we can expect to correct in the off season?

— Olufemi A. Adepoju

Mike Shanahan likes smaller, quicker interior linemen because they are better suited to get out and run and pull in the zone-blocking scheme. The down side of that is they aren’t the greatest in drop-back pass protection. That’s why the Redskins like to establish the run game and then set up the play-action attack. They were able to do a lot of this last season, and it was the key to success. Even this year (with the exception of last night) the Redskins are racking up yards. They rank first in the league in rushing and among the top 10 in total offense. But scoring points is where they struggle. They need better execution, and probably more play-makers so they can see improvements in the red zone and score touchdowns rather than field goals. The other problem this season is now, teams don’t fear Griffin’s legs as much and have basically challenged him to beat them with his arm. The Redskins find themselves in a lot of passing situations, and the defenders can pin back their ears and come after these linemen. Lately, teams have been able to generate pressure with only a four-man rush. This is definitely an area that needs to be corrected. The Redskins drafted Josh LeRibeus in the third round of the 2012 draft, but he hasn’t lived up to expectations, couldn’t beat Kory Lichtensteiger out for a job and hasn’t dressed for a single game all year. They drafted Adam Gettis in the fifth round of the same draft, but he has yet to overtake Chris Chester at right guard. It’ll be interesting to see if he starts getting some playing time down the stretch of the season while coaches try to evaluate the talent that they have on the roster.

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:

● Mark Bullock’s position-by-position reviews and Mike Shanahan’s 3 p.m. news conference with reporters.

From the Post:

Morris says Redskins didn’t practice well | Garcon: Jobs on the line

Boswell: Redskins prove to be an easy feast | Reid: A no-show in prime time

For Griffin, the beating goes on | Dark times under the lights

D.C. Sports Bog: RGIII’s Dad in the locker room | The worst on MNF | More

Photos: Scenes from FedEx Field | Box: 49ers 27, Redskins 6

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

Mike Jones’s video Takeaway:

The Washington Post's Mike Jones analyzes what a tough loss to the 49ers means for the Redskins and coach Mike Shanahan. (Mike Jones & Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)
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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Keith McMillan · November 26, 2013

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