Redskins mailbag: Schedule, draft talk and the grass at FedEx Field


Workers begin to re-sod FedEx Field immediately after the Redskins played the Chargers last November. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Last week, the NFL released its full schedule, so we now have a better idea of what lies ahead for the Redskins. And the 2014 picture will gain a little more clarity in just more than a week, when the NFL Draft takes place.

In today’s Redskins Mailbag, we talk a little schedule, a little draft, and a little bit about the playing surface at FedEx Field.

Thanks as always for taking part. And keep the questions coming. E-mail them to me at mike.jones@washpost.com with a subject line of “Mailbag question.”

Okay. Let’s go.

The Redskins kick off against the Houston Texans this season. Do you think that this is a deceptively difficult game? I know they were 2-14 last year, but they won double-digit games the two seasons before that, and they will be unveiling the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. If the Texans draft a QB with that pick, it could be a situation similar to when the Redskins played the Saints in 2012.

– Dave Shockey, Sacramento, Calif.

Yes, this isn’t exactly an easy game to call. Because the Texans have a new head coach, there could be a number of changes in their schemes on both sides of the ball. Many times, the roster changes a good deal from year to year even with an incumbent coach, and they do with a new regime as well. The Redskins will have little to go on in their preparation for the Texans. At the same time, Houston will find itself in a slightly similar situation because Washington has a new coach as well. But, there’s more carry-over for the Redskins than in the case of most teams with a new head coach. Both teams could be poised to rebound quickly, or both, or one, could continue to struggle following last year’s double-digit loss campaigns.

Is there any talk that the Redskins may be looking to slide up to the mid-20s of the first round? Do they have some interest in Calvin Pryor?

– Rhett Bratton

Moving up into the first round is always a possibility – and maybe a little more possible this year because Washington has the second overall pick of the second round, rather than the 19th in Round 2, like last year. But the main problem is that the Redskins have to have something attractive to offer. Because the Redskins still have a number of holes and need to continue to build for the future, it’s hard to envision them packaging a bunch of picks just to move up into the mid-20s. They could try to include Kirk Cousins and a pick or two, but of the teams in the 20s – Arizona, Green Bay, Philadelphia, Kansas City, Cincinnati, San Diego, Cleveland, New Orleans, Carolina and New England – only Cleveland appears to need a quarterback. The catch there: The Browns have the opportunity to either get a passer with the fourth overall pick of the draft. If they pass on a QB there, they also have the 26th pick of the draft and could select him there. Or, if they feel the need to move up to take a quarterback sooner than that, the Browns also have the third pick of the second round, which they could package with the 26th pick and move further to get the quarterback they want. It just doesn’t look very likely right now. You can never say never, however.

As far as Pryor, the free safety out of Louisville: he currently ranks among the top 20 to 25 prospects in the draft, and the second-best free safety (behind Hasean Clinton-Dix), so it’s hard to say if he would even last into the 20s, because of teams’ needs. A little of info on him: He has decent size for a safety (5 feet 11, 207 pounds) and athleticism (4.58-second 40-yard dash, 18 reps of 225 in the bench, 34 1/2 inches in the vertical jump and 9 feet 8 inches in the broad jump). He also has quality ball skills and explosiveness. He draws comparisons to the Giants’ Antrel Rolle. He could potentially help solve the Redskins’ long-term problem at free safety. But, again, it appears unlikely they have the reach to snag him.

When Jack Kent Cooke Stadium (the original name of FedEx Field) was built, I remember reading about the field and how it was designed to keep the turf playing surface in excellent shape. Now all we hear about the playing surface is how bad it is. Can you explain why the field is having such issues after 17 years? The Redskins now have some skill players with great speed and it might be time to consider a faster, more reliable, playing surface!

– Steve Greenfield

It’s just a natural grass field, and because of that, and the wear and tear that the surface takes from the Redskins playing on it, and because of other events, like concerts, soccer matches and a college game here and there, it’s just not realistic to expect it to remain in tip-top shape throughout the year. The Redskins last season re-sodded the field halfway through the season, which helped some, but it still wasn’t fantastic by late season. It’s just how it is. We all remember seeing late-season games at RFK, where the Redskins played on muddy surfaces. The inability of a field to hold up all year long is the reason why a number of teams have gone to artificial surfaces. Some cold-weather teams, like the Packers and the Browns, do still have natural grass, and they – like the Redskins – just deal with it. (Correction on this: 5:29 p.m., Tues., April 29: The Packers actually have made the switch to artificial turf). It’s hard to say exactly how much of an impact it has on detracting from speedy receivers. But it would seem to make some cuts here and there difficult to make. Will Daniel Snyder ever decide to make the switch? It’s hard to say. Last week he made a donation to help fund an artificial surface for Park View High School. But there’s no indication that he’s planning on making the switch any time soon for his own team.

Can you walk us through what happens when a draft prospect visits a team? If there is a workout, who is involved (players/coaches/scouts/front office) and what are their roles?

Also from a reporter’s perspective, do you prefer the extra two weeks before the draft or prefer it earlier?

– Big John Little

A pre-draft visit normally includes a one-day physical evaluation, interviews and written tests. NFL rules prevent teams from holding an actual workout like you see at the Combine or Pro Days (no timing or testing) at their own facilities. They can hold a workout with a player at his school. By the time draft visits roll around, a team has seen a lot of physical performances by each player – during their seasons, all-star games, at the NFL Scouting Combine, at the regional combines and school Pro Days. The pre-draft visits moreso give a team another opportunity to evaluate a player as a person, and further evaluate him mentally (which is in addition to the interviews they can hold with a player at the Combine or at another event, like Senior Bowl week).

As far as the draft goes, I’d rather have it back in late April. It was already dragged out enough. Bruce Allen said yesterday that while it helps the Redskins this year because it gave their new coaching staff more time to evaluate players, he doesn’t really like the draft in this pushed-back schedule. He said most teams in the league dislike it and would rather get it done in late April, and get to see those draft picks on the field at rookie minicamp in the first week of May rather than having to wait until May 16th for that minicamp this year.

Have a question about the Redskins? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

More from The Post:

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Announcement soon on Kerrigan | Orakpo: I’m already proven

Draft preview: Top 10 wide receivers | More draft coverage

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

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 · April 29

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