Redskins mailbag: RGIII’s work ethic, piecing the puzzle together and more

Jay Gruden praised Robert Griffin III for the work ethic he has displayed. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Jay Gruden praised Robert Griffin III for the work ethic he has displayed. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Redskins this week got back to work, beginning the first phase of their offseason program. Meanwhile, they appear to have completed their free agent shopping for the most part, although a couple signings could trickle in here and there, and up next is the draft, early next month.

The roster has started to take shape, and now it’s a matter of figuring out how all the pieces fit, and what kind of expectations Jay Gruden & Co. have for this coming year.

In today’s mailbag, we take a look at Robert Griffin III and what lies ahead for him, where things stand in the secondary, the wide receiving unit and more.

After two years, what is your assessment of RGIII’s work ethic? We know he’s athletic, we hear he’s smart, but we haven’t heard much about his work ethic, which makes me curious. Is he the type of QB that lives and breathes the game; who is in the building first and out last; a religious studier of film; etc? In the mold of Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, it’s the work ethic we often hear is coveted by coaches in their franchise QBs, and I’d like to know how RGIII stacks up to those ideals, especially considering that our near-future success is directly tied to his ability to read the game and command a new offense.

– Matt Powers

As he got to work as a rookie, Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur all praised Griffin for his study habits. They spoke last offseason about how although he was rehabbing, he was still working on the mental aspect of the game. Then, once the season got here, and after things didn’t go well, the talk turned to how the lack of an offseason reps hurt his development. They never called his work ethic into question. But I think everyone, Griffin included, will agree he has work to do. I think we’ll learn a lot about Griffin this year. He’s been at Redskins Park religiously this offseason, and Gruden joked that he has had to kick him out because the quarterback wanted hints as to what he could work on, and rules prevented the coach from sharing them. Now, however, they can talk football as much as they want. He can spend those long hours in the film room with Sean McVay, dissecting defenses. It’s important that Griffin to maintain that same enthusiasm and diligence.

I don’t want to call this a make-or-break year, but it is certainly a very important year for the young quarterback. We haven’t gotten a chance to interview him extensively this offseason, but from what I gather, he gets that. I think having endured last year’s struggles, he understands that physical traits will only get him so far, and that he can’t underestimate the mental aspect of the game. I know Griffin got some heat this week for unveiling his new Adidas logo, and some of you have e-mailed and tweeted asked what he was doing promoting a logo instead of getting ready for the season. I didn’t have an issue with the logo, or Griffin taking a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon in April to put it out there on his Instagram account. It was designed for him by Adidas, who signed him to a deal worth a reported $3 million heading into his rookie year. Griffin certainly isn’t the first young sports star to get his own personalized logo, and it’s not like he was sitting in his living room for hours on end, drawing up a logo rather than studying film. Griffin hasn’t cost himself valuable prep hours with the release of the logo. His coach felt the same way. Gruden in an interview on Sirius XM radio just yesterday said he has no problems at all with Griffin’s work ethic, or the placement of his priorities. In case you missed it, here’s what he had to say:

“Anybody who knows Robert knows he’s entirely focused on football,” Gruden said. “He works out more than anybody I’ve ever seen. If I ever felt like that was an issue, or if he was spending more time trying to create logos than he was working out and getting himself ready to play, then there’d be an issue. But there’s no issue in my mind. I think nowadays, these quarterbacks and these players in general, they have people do a lot of work for them. They have these managers, these agents, and these commercial people working for them, and they’re doing all the work. I don’t think Robert’s doing any. He’s just signing off on it. Adidas is doing all the logo things for him. So if it’s extra money for him, have at it. As far as dedication and his desire to win and his work ethic, that is not to be questioned. He’s unlike anybody I’ve ever seen as far as that’s concerned.”

What would you say the chances are that David Amerson starts as the second cornerback? Also what chance do you think the Redskins take a corner in the draft?

– Shannon W. Mullins

The Redskins do plan to start David Amerson at that cornerback spot opposite DeAngelo Hall. Jay Gruden told us a couple weeks ago in Orlando at the owners meetings that they believe Amerson is ready. The team needs to settle on the third cornerback, and it looks like Tracy Porter and E.J. Biggers will compete for that spot. I do still think it’s possible that they draft a cornerback, however. This draft class is deep at the cornerback position, and neither Porter nor Biggers are long-term answers for Washington. And Hall still has quality football left in him, but he won’t play forever.

Still entirely too early, but for the sake of discussion, who’s your favorite to start alongside Perry Riley at inside linebacker? Is it Keenan Robinson, assuming he’s healthy? Akeem Jordan seems to be better in coverage than Darryl Sharpton. So does that make Jordan the early front runner?

– Shae Cronin

Team officials had hoped that Robinson (the 2012 fourth-round pick out of Texas) would’ve been ready to take over as a starter by now. But he missed half of his rookie season with a torn pectoral muscle, and then missed all of last season with a torn pectoral muscle on the other side of his chest. It’s hard to envision him stepping in as the starter next to Riley. It could take another year of grooming. The Redskins signed three candidates in Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward and Darryl Sharpton. Jordan has the most experience, and Andy Reid described him as a strong leader, versatile and knowledgeable enough to make all the defensive calls. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he winds up winning the job.

Any update on the punter situation? Sav Rocca was dreadful last year. Any sense on whether the front office is looking to bring in a journeyman vs. acquiring a young guy out of college?  What are some names we might be hearing? Also, are there any things fans or the media will be able to take away from the first couple weeks of off-season workouts?  There is no defense and no real coaching.  Is this merely a period where players and coaches get to say how excited they are for the future while we watch videos of weight lifting?

 – Dave Shockey, Sacramento, Calif.

The team signed Robert Malone back in January, and for now, he’s the only punter on the roster. Malone played at Fresno State and has had stints with the Bucs, Lions and Jets. His best year came in 2012 when he appeared in all 16 games for the Jets, averaging 45.8 yards per punt. Now, is he the answer? Or will they bring in someone to compete? We’ll see. As far as the workouts go, not much can be taken from these first two weeks. Right now, it’s just guys running and lifting and having meetings with their coaches to learn the play books. It’s important for guys to be there. It gives them a head start. But, if a guy isn’t there for every single session, it’s not cause for grave concern. Hall is not there this week because his children are on spring break and he got an excused absence and is taking them to Disney World. DeSean Jackson also had a previously booked vacation. Remember, he didn’t know he was going to get cut by Philadelphia. Their workouts don’t start until April 21. He will join the team later this week, and Hall says he will be back at headquarters next week. Coaches can start their evaluations in a few weeks when they are able to get on the field with players and begin gauging their capabilities. Now, a guy can hurt himself by showing up to these workouts grossly overweight, or by giving less than 100 percent effort. But that’s about it for the first two weeks.

With the signing of DeSean Jackson, are the Skins more likely to release Stephen Bowen to clear up some cap space?  Also, the Redskins’ receiving unit seems in need of a big body. Will that enhance Leonard Hankerson’s chances of remaining with the team, or do you think they’ll try to address that in the draft?  

 – Bob Swanson

The Redskins do still need some size at wide receiver. Tight end Jordan Reed helps some because they can move him around a lot and use him in a variety of ways. But I’d still look for them to draft a big target receiver. Hankerson has size, but the team doesn’t know what to expect from him because he’s still rehabbing from that anterior cruciate ligament surgery, and he likely will not have fully recovered until late in the summer. So they can’t just cross their fingers there. Durability has been an issue for Hankerson for much of his young career.

It’s seems we have drafted a decent amount of wide receivers in the past few years. I know none of them are really high-round picks but do you think the Redskins are not developing these receivers correctly? Sometimes it seems to me that we are not giving the receivers the proper chance to play and grow. I know most times Aldrick Robinson got a chance to play, he would make a big play and the other team even knew he would run a fly route. I worry that we don’t give our younger players the proper in-game experience and give up on them for stop gap veterans.

 – Tim Heath

Hankerson did seem to have made some progress, but injury derailed him. He still wasn’t as consistent as he needed to be. Consistency also is a problem for Robinson, who does well running deep routes, but struggles to make an impact when it comes to running other routes. The Redskins drafted Niles Paul, but moved him to tight end. And in 2010, the team drafted Terrence Austin in the seventh round. But the Mike Shanahan era didn’t really produce any consistent wide receiving threats. The Redskins have lacked stability at the receivers coach position, and that could have something to do with the lack of development. Every year the players have to learn a new way of doing things. It’ll be interesting to see what Ike Hilliard can do with some of these young players in his second go-round.

Does the Ryan Clark signing close the door on Reed Doughty’s tenure in D.C.?  With six safeties on the roster and more coming from the draft, it seems like the slots are filled. I put him on the list with Rock Cartwright and Mike Sellers, guys who were able to hang around for several years based on solid special teams play and dependable contributions in base packages, but who had limited prospects once the Redskins looked elsewhere. Do see him getting picked up by anyone before training camp?

 – Brian DuBoff, Boston, Mass.

So far, things sound quiet on the Redskins-Doughty front. There had been some talks between the two sides, but I think they see Clark as an upgrade on defense. Doughty is a great special teams player, but the team added a number of other players they believe will help them on those units, and the hope is that their young safeties can develop. With Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark as the starters, the quickest way Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, Trenton Robinson and Jose Gumbs can contribute is to make plays on special teams. I haven’t heard of any other teams with interest in Doughty, but that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for him. There’s still plenty of time leading up to training camp for him to find a landing spot.

Have a football 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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