Redskins mailbag: Roster needs, draft evaluations, injury updates and more

Tyler Polumbus

Jay Gruden said the Redskins have a dilemma on their hands when it comes to the offensive line.

The NFL Scouting Combine concludes today, and from here, Redskins officials will continue to plan for their offseason moves with free agency approaching in a couple of weeks, and college Pro Days on the upcoming schedule as well.

Today, we continue to examine the Redskins’ roster and areas of need, and also dig into the draft evaluation process, and check in on some players working their way back from injury.

I see the Redskins biggest problem as not being physical enough at the line of scrimmage. They got pushed around a lot last year – see SF 49ers game. The old super bowl winning redskins teams of the past dominated the line of scrimmage. My question is; do you think Gruden & Co. see this, and who do you think they’ll go after in free agency or with our first few picks in the draft to bolster the OL and DL?

– Doug McLachlan

The Redskins definitely do have deficiencies in the trenches, and they’re well aware of that. When he spoke to members of the media last Friday, Jay Gruden acknowledged that the size of the offensive linemen is an issue. He described a dilemma on his hands, though. The linemen do well in the run game, and Alfred Morris’s strengths include hitting those cutback lanes in the zone-blocking scheme. But when it comes to pass protection, the linemen really struggle in the drop-back attack.

Here’s what Gruden had to say: “That’s something we’re battling. Those are good players, but sometimes on third and eight, they get pushed back a little bit. They’ve done some great things in their career, obviously. But if you get the bigger guys that don’t move quite as well, then you lose Alfred Morris and his strength, and that’s the outside zone and the stretch and finding lanes and holes to cut through. So, it can come back and bite you if you want to go big, depending on what you’re doing. You have to get better. But I like the guys we have on our team and we can work with them.”

Now, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any changes on the line at all. I thoroughly expect them to make moves. But the question is how many? They won’t scrap the zone-blocking scheme, so the lighter, quicker, more mobile lineman is still the player of choice. But that doesn’t mean they can’t find some stronger, slightly bigger, more well-rounded players capable of fitting into this scheme.

Defensively, the Redskins have a good player in nose tackle Barry Cofield. And they like what they have in Chris Baker, who came on late in the season and wound up being the most productive defensive lineman outside of Cofield. Jarvis Jenkins needs to get stronger and make more of an impact. It’s hard to say what will happen with Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen, who are both coming off of injury and owed significant salaries. Depth must improve on this side of the ball as well. Jim Haslett likes rotating his linemen in and out to keep them fresh. So, additions could come via free agency or the draft.

Can you give a detailed list of the players the Redskins talked to at the Combine? Thanks

– Mike Tedeschi

I’d like to, but that’s not an easy answer to uncover. Here’s why: The combine featured 335 prospects, and the Redskins and their fellow teams are allowed to hold 60 15-minute “formal interviews” with players. That doesn’t count to quick-hitter Q&A’s scouts have with hundreds of players between the start of the college all-star games and the combine. Basically, they’ve talked to just about every player at positions of need, and some in positions where they don’t have needs for now. The Redskins’ January prospect list of 500 players is whittled down to 300, and down to 100, and they then come up with 60 to formally interview at the combine. The way the combine is set up, players do a lot of quick-hit interviews with scouts from all 32 teams the night before their media availability sessions, so when asked, if they had spoken to the Redskins, most said, “I can’t remember, there were so many.” I always follow up with, “Do you have a formal interview set up with them?” Some know, but have been instructed not to say. But most at that point don’t yet know because later that evening they receive a card with a list of room numbers to report to. They don’t find out what teams are interviewing them until they get in a room. Some teams don’t want anyone knowing who’s on their radar, so they hold the interviews in stark rooms and don’t even wear team colors. Of the many players asked, Baylor guard Cyril Richardson, Wake Forest wide receiver Michael Campanaro, Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and LSU tackle Ja’Wuan James all either had met with the Redskins or expected that they would. We start getting a little more clarity in a couple weeks when the Redskins will start hosting prospects for pre-draft visits at team headquarters. They’re allowed 30 such meetings.

Couple of Redskins questions for you in the aftermath of D.Hall re-signing with the Skins. First, any news on some of our younger and injured secondary players? Specifically Chase Minnifield. Will he actually be in line to get some playing time this year? I know with the knee issues he has had, we can’t really count on him to be a five-year fixture in the secondary, but any chance he gets a little love this year? Also, any news on how Phillip Thomas and Richard Crawford are progressing?  In a perfect world, these guys come back and combined with Hall’s re-signing the Skins don’t feel the need to throw money at the two big names in free agency (those names being Aqib Talib and Jairus Byrd).

– Dirk Jordan

Chase Minnifield should have a chance in this year’s offseason workouts and training camp to compete for a spot. He showed some promise last summer, but did look like a guy who hadn’t played in a while. Having gone through a full season as a member of the practice squad, he should be more comfortable. I’m told that Crawford, who tore ligaments in his knee last preseason, is ahead of schedule in his recovery from that injury and surgery. When he got hurt in August, he was told to expect a nine-month recovery time. He was encouraged in late December by his progress, and his agent said that remains the case now. He is expected to be full speed this spring when the offseason workout program gets underway. The Redskins certainly could have used Crawford’s skills as a punt returner, and he has a chance to compete for a role on defense as well. Phillip Thomas said at the end of the season that he had just started doing some running, and was expecting to be fully recovered from the foot injury that cost him his rookie season by the start of offseason workouts as well. I hear things remain on schedule for him as well. Now, that being said, even with all those guys fully healthy, I don’t know that the Redskins can go through this offseason without making moves at cornerback and safety. I think they probably should and will still look to add veteran help.

I was watching the first game against the Saints in 2012 again (I never saw it… Only the highlights- I know that’s un-fan-like of me). A name that came up a lot was Cedric Griffin. What happened to him? I remember hearing his name during some of the later games but he didn’t come back this year. Is there a reason? Just was curious, thanks!        

– Ed

Griffin had some flashes in that game, but had some inconsistencies that season. He also didn’t help himself and his future by getting suspended for four late-season games for the use of performance enhancing drugs. The Redskins felt like they could do better both short and long-term by signing E.J. Biggers and drafting David Amerson. Amerson, like Griffin, is a longer corner who also has the ability to develop into physical cover guy.

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.

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