Mailbag: Impact of the draft, and Redskins’ position battles


Jay Gruden and the Redskins continue to lay the groundwork for the upcoming season. (Richard Lipski/For The Washington Post)

Things continue to roll along at Redskins Park.

The NFL draft and rookie minicamp now have come and gone. In a couple of weeks, Jay Gruden and his players will move on to the next phase of the offseason program and ramp up the activity with more involved offseason practice sessions – also known as Organized Team Activities.

In today’s mailbag, we continue to take a look at how some of the new pieces fit, what the draft moves – and some non-moves – mean for some of the veterans.

Thanks, as always, for taking part in the Redskins mailbag. Keep the questions coming. To submit your question for next week’s edition, e-mail me at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line of “Mailbag question.”

Here we go!

With the lack of safeties and inside linebackers drafted, can we assume that the coaches have seen enough out of Rambo, Thomas, and Robinson to where they didn’t feel those positions where as important to address? Also, what undrafted free agents do you think have the best chance of making the active roster?

Nolan Broadie

Your assumptions are correct. Looking at their crowded safety position, which features veterans Brandon Meriweather, Ryan Clark, the wild-card Tanard Jackson, and young players Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo and special-teams contributor Trenton Robinson, Redskins officials opted to pass on a safety in the draft. They did the same at inside linebacker, where Keenan Robinson, Adam Hayward, Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan all are vying for the starting spot next to Perry Riley Jr. At the completion of the draft, I asked Jay Gruden almost the exact same question as you, and he said that the Redskins do indeed feel good about safety because of Meriweather, Clark and Thomas. He didn’t mention Jackson or Rambo. He also said that Robinson has looked good in offseason practices, and that he has good competition as well. The Redskins believed that the depth and potential at those two positions gave them flexibility. They looked at the talent in the draft at those positions and asked themselves, “Are any of these guys better than our own young, still-developing guys?” They felt like the answer was no. Team officials instead chose to meet needs at other areas where depth and/or talent seemed more severely lacking.

As far as the undrafted free agents go, it’s still very, very early, but wide receiver Cody Hoffman (BYU) seems to have a chance to make this roster. Gruden & Co. find the 6-foot-4, 210-pound pass-catcher intriguing because of his size, receiving skills and special teams abilities. He doesn’t have top-end speed (ran a 4.62-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, and a 4.65 at his Pro Day). But Gruden described him as a smooth, natural route-runner with good hands. The Redskins lack big targets in their wide receiving unit, and so Hoffman will get a chance to compete during training camp to see what he can offer.

Is it possible or true that the Redskins might trade for Andre Johnson?

– Ethan Darrenkamp

Andre Johnson has been at the center of trade speculation this week, but I don’t see that happening – not as a deal to the Redskins, or any other team. The Texans need Johnson, especially as they head in a new direction at quarterback. Big, talented receivers can be a quarterback’s best friend. Also, the Redskins don’t really have much of anything to offer, and they have quite a lot invested in the wide receiver position at this point. They couldn’t take on another big pass-catcher salary.

I know Gruden has more of a short-drop West Coast passing game and a power running attack, and I think he had Sean McVay look into which of the Shanahan zone-read schemes to keep. Is the offensive playbook essentially complete, and how much of the zone-read scheme did Gruden keep? How involved was McVay in developing the playbook, and how involved will he be as an offensive coordinator considering Gruden will be calling the plays and has previous OC experience? What do you think of Gruden as a play-caller and offensive mind? I did not see many Bengals games, but I have heard Bengals fans complain of predictability and second guessing himself?  

– Manuel Martinez

The Gruden-McVay playbook remains far from complete. They have defined their philosophies, and they have a general idea of what they want the offense to look like. But this offseason will continue to feature a lot of experimentation and tinkering. The zone-blocking schemes that the line and Alfred Morris have thrived in will remain in place, but we could see some tweaks. The passing game will stress accuracy, short drops and quick delivery while spreading the ball around to multiple receivers. But Gruden, McVay and the players still are working to learn what they do best. As far as the zone-read option plays, they will scale back on those, but they will likely remain an element of the offense. People have this perception that the bulk of Washington’s playbook centered around it in the past two years, but they actually only ran those plays less than 25 percent of the time in Year 1, and less than 20 percent of the time last season. Gruden is on record saying the Redskins will not run a lot of the zone-read. But exactly how much remains a mystery.

As far as McVay’s involvement, I know he and Gruden have worked hand-in-hand since the day Gruden took over. Based on the look of things in rookie minicamp (the only practice the team has let reporters attend thus far), McVay does the bulk of the directing and installing, and Gruden jumps in here and there with some instruction, some correction and reinforcement. It’ll be interesting to see how things seem to run with the veteran practices.

But there’s no question about Gruden’s abilities as an offensive mind. After years of success in the Arena Football League, he made the move to the NFL in 2011 and proceeded to help Andy Dalton and the Bengals make strides each year. Under Gruden, Dalton had immediate success, throwing for nearly 3,400 yards as a rookie, and those numbers – as well as his touchdown to interception ratio and completion percentage – got better three straight years. At the same time, Cincinnati made three consecutive playoff appearances. Gruden’s critics will say that the coach tended to get away from the run a little too much, but that’s the trend in the NFL. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how this all plays out.

I was wondering if the addition of Lache Seastrunk spells any specific bad news for other backs. It seems they drafted Seastrunk to fill the same role they had been using Evan Royster for in previous seasons. Does this have ominous overtones for Evan?

– Brian Helms

It’s not just Evan Royster who should be looking over his shoulder. Roy Helu Jr. and Chris Thompson have to be feeling a little uneasy as well now thanks to the drafting of Lache Seastrunk in the sixth round and the signing of Silas Redd as an undrafted free agent. Jay Gruden has made it clear that the team needs better options in that change-of-pace/third-down back role. The Redskins need someone with more explosiveness, versatility and the ability to make something out of nothing. In his three NFL seasons (mainly his first two, because he hardly played on offense last year), Royster hasn’t really excelled in this role. He has had some good games as a primary rusher. But he has struggled in pass protection and is just an okay receiver. Helu has served as third-down back at times, but his effectiveness has fluctuated. Thompson seems to have the ability to fill this role, but durability is a big concern with him. Seastrunk will be a project, Gruden says. He caught only nine passes at Baylor because that system doesn’t involve running backs in the passing game much at all. He did some work in pass protection, but struggled with consistency. Gruden, McVay and running backs coach Randy Jordan will work to develop him in these areas. But initially, he will chip in primarily as that speedy, elusive running threat used to complement Alfred Morris’s power running style.

Have a Redskins question? 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.

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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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