Redskins mailbag: Front-office changes, position battles and 40 times


There’s never a dull moment for Jay Gruden, Bruce Allen and the Redskins. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post(

The dust has settled from the NFL Draft, but nothing ever completely settles for the Washington Redskins.

In the past two weeks, they wrapped up their rookie minicamp, said goodbye to director of pro personnel Morocco Brown, saw Bruce Allen ascend to the level of team president, and today they kick off the next phase of their offseason program.

In today’s mailbag, we tackle a little bit of everything: Front-office moves, position evaluations and battles and 40-yard dash times.

Thanks, as always, for taking part in the mailbag, and keep the questions coming. E-mail your questions to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line of “Mailbag question.”

Here we go.

What’s in store with Morocco Brown now gone to Cleveland and Bruce Allen having the new title of President and GM? Do you sense the front office is going to hire or promote a new GM and have Bruce Allen as President? Too bad we lost Morocco. Wasn’t exactly clear what his role was, but he had been with the team a long time and had interest from other teams the past few years.

– Doug McLachlan

Allen did say last week that the team would begin interviewing candidates for Brown’s old position this week. As director of pro personnel, Brown was in charge of evaluating potential free agents and putting together lists of targets the Redskins should pursue. Now, his opinion wasn’t always followed, but there were times where he got the chance to have input. Mike Shanahan at times would ask for Brown to give him his top three free agents at a particular position who also fit into Washington’s budget, and then Shanahan would tell Allen to go get them. Some of those players included Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen and Josh Wilson. So the Redskins now need to find someone to fill that position, and we’ll see if they promote from within, or if they go outside the organization. It sounds like there are no plans to hire a general manager, as Snyder in his press release said he thought it appropriate that Allen hold the title of both president and GM. It’s not really clear at all how the title of president impacts Allen’s day-to-day duties, but we do know that since Mike Shanahan’s firing, he has served as the voice of the franchise and the leading decision maker.

I know it is very early and a lot can change, but if you were going to guess: who would be a surprise roster cut and who will surprisingly make the final 53? Also, what rookie has surprised you in how they have looked so far? (good or bad)?

– Jay Rotell, Cheshire, Conn.

Yeah, it’s extremely early, and considering the Redskins didn’t have their first full-squad practice until today, I don’t think even coaches know the answer to that. The team didn’t open the three-day veteran minicamp to reporters, so we haven’t even gotten a chance to see what these guys look like. Thursday is the first day that we’ll be allowed to catch the action at the park, and then, the team will open a practice once a week to the media until the third week of June, when they hold their mandatory minicamp. We got to see one day of rookie-camp action, but even in that, players still were very much learning on the fly, which makes it difficult to play full-speed. Rookie tight end Ted Bolser didn’t have a great day on that Saturday we were allowed to attend rookie camp, so I guess that was mildly surprising that a guy described as a natural pass catcher had as much trouble holding onto the ball as he did. But I don’t think much stock can be put into that. It was one day, and still very, very early. Meanwhile, wide receiver Ryan Grant did look very good, and impressed coaches with his understanding and versatility. That could bode well for him. But again, it was one day. At this point, it’s hard to project any surprise roster cuts or picks. Let’s revisit this after the we’ve actually gotten a chance to see the players on the field for a while.

Who do you think will be our KR/PR this year? Who are the people competing for that position? Could DeSean Jackson or Lache Seastrunk possibly be one of them? And I haven’t really heard anything about our punter situation. Are we having any competition at that position or do we already have a starter?

– Justin Nicely

Those positions won’t get hammered out until late in the preseason, but players expected to compete at kick and punt returner include wide receivers Andre Roberts, Cody Hoffman, Nick Williams, possibly Santana Moss, running backs Chris Thompson and Lache Seastrunk, tight end Niles Paul and cornerback Richard Crawford, if healthy. They probably could use DeSean Jackson here and there, but he’s pretty valuable as a receiver, so they will want to protect him from unnecessary risk of injury. The Redskins released Sav Rocca earlier this offseason, and have signed three-year veteran Robert Malone, who punted for Ben Kotwica with the Jets, and first-year player Blake Clingan. Those two will compete for punting duties.

I noticed last season that Chris Chester was blown off on almost every play, pick any game. He wasn’t the same as the season before. How long till he gets pushed off the starting spot? Or will he even make the team? Who will get the spot?

 – JC

Chester did struggle this year, and that – along with concerns about the limited growth of young players like Adam Gettis and Josh LeRibeus – is a big reason why the Redskins used a third-round pick to select Nebraska guard Spencer Long. Jay Gruden came away from the rookie minicamp with the belief that Long could compete for a starting job at that right guard spot. For now, Chester remains the starter, and he will work to show that he can rebound from a rough year and return to the solid form of 2011 and 2012. But, Long and Gettis this offseason also will get a chance to show coaches what they’re capable of offering.

Have you seen Cody Hoffman (BYU), and if so, what are your thoughts?  I do not understand why the Redskins have so many wide receiver free agents. Obviously, the draft pick last year from Miami has been somewhat of a disappointment, but I would have thought the Redskins would have more defensive linemen/offensive tackles on try out. I guess Hatcher’s signing has a lot to do with the lack of defensive linemen in camp.

– Bogie Holland

I got to see Hoffman for just two practice sessions during the rookie minicamp, but he has great size at 6 feet 4 and 210 pounds, and appears to have good hands. He also has some versatility to offer with his ability to return punts and kicks. Gruden likes his route-running skills and ability to compensate for a lack of elite speed. The Redskins have a number of wide receivers competing for backup spots because depth needs improvement, because they’re looking for players with speed to help the special teams units as well, and because they need to develop for the future. I think you’re referring to Leonard Hankerson, who came out of Miami in 2011. Injuries have been his worst enemy, and he has struggled with consistency at times. He currently is still working his way back from surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament. The Redskins have Tyler Polumbus, Morgan Moses and Tom Compton competing at right tackle. And defensive line is a pretty crowded position. You have nose tackle Barry Cofield and Chris Baker and Nick Sundberg Chris Neild competing behind him, and Baker also can play end. And the other players at defensive end include Hatcher, Stephen Bowen, Kedric Golston, Jarvis Jenkins, Doug Worthington, Robert Thomas, Clifton Geathers and Frank Kearse.

What is your opinion of how the 40-yard dash time, for a receiver, relates to success in the NFL? It was written, Cody Hoffman’s 40 time at Combine was 4.65 seconds and “He doesn’t have top speed.”  I looked up some numbers and will reference a few. Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks’s 4.33-second 40-yard dash was listed as the best in this year’s Combine for a wide receiver. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins ran a 4.43 and was the first receiver drafted this year. The receivers ranked 11-15, with respect to their 40 times, were 4.45 to 4.46 seconds. Now compare this to Cody Hoffman’s time. How many pass routes are straight ahead 40-yard dashes? I just don’t see why a time of 4.45 is that much better than 4.65, when comparing prospects! The bottom line is, can the receiver get open and catch the ball. Too many other factors play into the equation. Strength, endurance, quickness, breaks, route running, timing, height, arm length, etc. Why all the fuss about two tenths of a second?

– Stephen Greenfield

When trying to evaluate hundreds of draft prospects, NFL talent evaluators look for anything they can to help weed out talent, and one of those measurables is the 40-yard-dash time. Every receiver coming out of college is a good athlete. Teams have only about seven picks, though, and must use those on elite players – or as close to elite as they can get. It’s a fast game with small windows of opportunity and slim margins for error. Two tenths of a second can make a difference for a wide receiver, who is going against a defensive back with great reaction ability. Now, does the 40 time mean everything? Definitely not. There are plenty of receivers that didn’t have blazing speed and still found a way to get it done. Speed is important to a receiver with a limited skill set. For example, Aldrick Robinson isn’t the greatest route-runner, and struggles with consistency. He has stuck on this roster for several years because he has great speed (4.35 40) and can be used to stretch the field with deep routes. If a receiver doesn’t possess great speed, he must show he can compensate. Sometimes it’s with size, precise route-running, craftiness, good hands or versatility. That’s what Cody Hoffman is hoping to show coaches this offseason. That 40 time is probably the reason why Hoffman went undrafted, but the Redskins liked what he had to offer, and signed him as a college free agent. They liked Hoffman over another big target, Rutgers’ Brandon Coleman (6-6, 225, 4.52 40) because they didn’t feel like Coleman (who wound up signing with the Saints) was a very fluid runner or as versatile, even though he had a faster 40 time. There you have it. The 40 times help distinguish when it comes to evaluations, but they’re not the ultimate measuring stick. Now we’ll see if Hoffman does indeed have enough to offer to help make up for that two-tenths of a second deficit.

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.

More from The Post:

Bog: Holmgren and Snyder’s old spat | Garcon and Dr. Seuss

Allen gets title of team president

Redskins get a closer look at full squad as OTAs begin

Just more than $2 million in cap space left for Washington

More NFL coverage: Home Page | D.C. Sports Bog |The Early Lead | Fancy Stats

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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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Mike Jones · May 26

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