Redskins mailbag: Josh LeRibeus, offseason changes and more

December 3, 2013
Guard Josh LeRibeus (67) has yet to dress for a game this season. (Cliff Owens/Associated Press)
Guard Josh LeRibeus (67) has yet to dress for a game this season. (Cliff Owens/Associated Press)

The Washington Redskins have four more games left on the season, but no postseason aspirations to pursue.

The next four weeks will serve as an audition for the future for everyone within the organization.

As the players heal up today from the Giants game, and coaches begin forming their game plan for the Chiefs matchup on Sunday, we’ll continue our own evaluation of all things Redskins as we go over your weekly mailbag questions.

Here we go!

What is the deal with Josh LeRibeus?  I see him on the sideline in sweats  not looking too fit.  Has he gotten himself in shape, and do you think he will ever be able to be an upgrade to the line, or is he another bust/missed opportunity?

 Julian Castelli

Josh LeRibeus  the Southern Methodist guard that the Redskins drafted in the third round of the 2012 draft, with visions of him helping solidify the interior of their line either as a center or a guard  hasn’t dressed for a game all season because he hasn’t played well enough in practice to warrant coaches making him one of the game-day 46. LeRibeus saw time in five games last season, and one of them was the playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. He did well enough for coaches to enter the offseason believing that he could compete for a starting spot the following year. But LeRibeus reported for offseason workouts overweight, and he spent all of the spring and summer trying to get back into shape rather than practicing. Back in training camp, offensive line coach Chris Foerster had this to say about LeRibeus: “His offseason was not what we wanted it to be. He came back overweight so he had the challenge of losing the weight, getting himself into shape and then he suffered an injury at the end of OTAs which kept him out, probably  who knows  as a result of the issues he had in the offseason. But he just didn’t have the offseason that he needed coming out of his rookie year. So right now he looks a lot more like Josh LeRibeus of a year ago in camp than, say, [fellow Redskins offensive linemen] Tom Compton and Adam Gettis, who have seemed to make that next step. Josh has a lot of work to do. But he’s working hard to get back into that form he was at the end of the season.” By the looks of things, little has changed as LeRibeus has yet to even work his way into a uniform on game days, let alone play. It’s unfortunate for the Redskins, who spent a high pick on him and have yet to  and may never  see a return on it. Now, there were plenty of analysts who said that a third-round pick was way too high a price to spend on LeRibeus in the first place. So far, he hasn’t proven critics wrong, and Mike Shanahan said on Monday that he isn’t willing to play young players just for the sake of playing and evaluating them. So, don’t expect to see LeRibeus on the field, at least not unless there’s an injury or he makes a drastic change in his play to earn a game-day look from coaches.

From Playoffs to poverty. What went wrong? Did Robert’s injury last year really impact the whole team this season? Since playoff chances have been eliminated, what major changes do you see happening in the next year?

 Daniel Wooten

Robert Griffin III’s knee injury, surgery and recovery have been only part of the problem. Yes, the fact that he got no offseason work or preseason snaps did stunt the offensive development, and that’s why we saw a lot of struggles during the first four games in particular, but a lot of the others as well. Sunday’s performance against the Giants might have been his best of the season, so that should serve as a sign of encouragement to the Redskins and their fans that he is indeed making strides. But, Griffin can’t block, he can’t run pass routes, he can’t make catches, and he can’t make tackles or play in pass coverage. As Pierre Garcon said on Sunday, “Obviously, we have a lot of problems.” The Redskins haven’t executed across the board. Some of it’s a lack of talent, some of it’s age related, some of it’s schematics. The Redskins this offseason need to upgrade their offensive line, they need to add more explosive receivers to go with Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed, and that’s just on offense. On defense, they have 11 players (seven starters) with expiring contracts. Of the linebackers, only Ryan Kerrigan remains under contract. So, the team needs to make moves that will help them get better against the run, and better in the pass-rushing department. The secondary, where only David Amerson, Bacarri Rambo and the injured Phillip Thomas have contracts, also is in need of upgrading. And we still don’t know about one of the most important aspects  the head coach. Regardless of whether Shanahan returns, expect a lot of new faces next year.

Since they’re officially out of it, is it really realistic to expect the Redskins to give 100-percent effort in the last four games?

 Janell Wheeler

Well, it’s debatable as to whether or not everyone on the team gave 100 percent even when they still were very much in the picture. But the next four games will serve as a test for Mike Shanahan and his players, because they’re all under the microscope and fighting for their futures. Everyone within the organization is saying the right thing: That they’ll keep fighting, that they have jobs to do, that they have pride and that they’ll still play as if a playoff bid was on the line. We’ll see if they can deliver. There could be some cases where guys unconsciously check out, but plenty of these players have reasons to keep fighting  if anything, to put positive play on video for next season, or for future teams.

On a third-down catch by Pierre Garcon in the third quarter, he slipped trying to get some extra yards, and you could clearly see his frustrations with the conditions of the field. What do you think it will take for Dan Snyder to properly address the issue with the field at FedEx? I know it was recently re-sodded, but every player’s career is at risk playing on a surface like that.

— Cory Gallagher, Washington, D.C.

It probably would take his head coach going into the office and saying, ‘C’mon, man. We need FieldTurf.’ But Mike Shanahan has said many times that he is a fan of natural grass and that he wouldn’t consider an artificial surface. Team officials’ decision to re-sod the field at midseason was intended to ensure that FedEx Field had an improved playing surface late in the season. It certainly looks better, but Garcon and Alfred Morris did have some footing issues. One solution could be to switch to longer spikes on their cleats to help improve footing.

Does Alfred Morris have some of the worst hands in the league? I mean, for being one of the up-and-coming potential-beast running backs, it looks like they have zero faith in him catching a ball. With all the things that AREN’T working for them, Morris has been consistent on the ground. At this point Morris is zero threat for passing yards. I get Roy Helu is the “passing back” but why limit themselves? It constantly seems third down means it’s basically time to punt. Why isn’t the best player on this team being utilized?

— Joey Ponsiglione

Morris has proven himself to be rather sure-handed when he is targeted, it just doesn’t happen often. He has six catches on eight targets for 49 yards (8.2 yards per catch) this season. On Sunday, Morris actually had three catches for 27 yards. I think there are a couple of reasons for his limited involvement in the passing game. For one, Helu is faster, and that lends itself to the Redskins being able to use him several different ways on passing downs. Bringing in Helu on third downs also helps ensure that the Redskins keep Morris fresh.

After watching Peyton/Brady and several other top-notch quarterbacks, I notice that they almost always audible after looking at the opposing teams defensive schemes. It appears to me that not only is RGIII not doing the same he seems to fixate on one receiver or one designed play and sticks with it.  Is this because 1) He is unable to read the defensive schemes and recognize a need to change the play, 2)RGIII has a superman mentality and says “I can make anything work” or 3) Do the Shanahans not trust him to change the play, or 4)The Shanahans feel they are superman? I realize that RGIII is still learning, but I see Luck, Wilson, Kaepernick changing the play more often than RGIII.

 — Glenn A. Brehm, Yorktown, Va.

Although Griffin is indeed still learning to read coverages and does still need to improve at scanning the whole field, a lot of the limited number of audibles called has to do with the Redskins’ scheme. Kyle Shanahan, even with Donovan McNabb or Rex Grossman, has preferred that his quarterbacks not change out of plays a lot, but instead, get to the line and snap the ball quickly before the defense can get a read on what they are trying to do. But, there are obvious times when the quarterback has to scan the field and change the play, and Griffin does do this. So, I guess the answer to your question is, at least partly, Answer No. 3.

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.

More from The Post:

Sideline track at FedEx a hazard? | Decision on Maurice Hurt coming today

D.C. Sports Bog: Shanahan and sticking with the run | More

Wise: Shanahan tried to stick by Griffin, and in the process might have lost him

Shanahan defends emotional penalties | NFL: Officials should have stopped game

Five observations from Redskins vs. Giants | Position-by-position review

Hamilton: The latest act in a ‘theater of the absurd’ season | Reid | Boswell

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 · December 3, 2013

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