The Washington Redskins continue to lay the groundwork for the upcoming season, and this week features their second round of offseason practices. They have another week of OTAs after this, then a three-day minicamp the following week, and then things quiet down until July 23, when players report for training camp.
Until then, we continue to examine the depth of various positions, position battles and expectations for the coming season. We also take a couple of looks back to the demise of the Shanahan era.
Thanks, as always, for taking part in the mailbag, and feel free to send questions throughout the week. E-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and be sure to use the subject line of “Mailbag question,” and we’ll do it all over again next Tuesday.
Here we go.
Do you think the Redskins are seriously pursing any free agent tight ends such as Jermichael Finley or Dustin Keller? We have limited depth behind Jordan Reed with only Logan Paulsen and the rookie Ted Bolser.
– Doug McLachlan
I guess you can never say never, but I haven’t heard any rumblings of interest in either player at this point. The Redskins feel good about their tight end position. Reed and Paulsen lead the way. In last week’s practice, we saw the continuation of a lot of multiple tight end sets. I’d expect to see a good deal of this in the coming year. Niles Paul and Bolser are currently the third and fourth tight ends on the roster. It’s hard to say if the team would carry four tight ends under Jay Gruden like they did under Shanahan, but each tight end has a different strength. Reed has great versatility and can line up all over the field like a wide receiver. He needs to put on a little weight, Gruden said, to help improve his effectiveness as a blocker. And he needs to stay healthy. Paulsen excels as a blocking tight end, but also has good hands, and his size makes him tough to bring down. He’s always generating yards after contact. Paul is another former wide receiver, who can also fill in at fullback. But special teams is his forte. He’d like to become more involved in the offense, however. Bolser also can split out wide like a receiver, and did a lot of this in college. He has a good deal of developing to do as an in-line blocker, Gruden said, and so far in practices, he has seemed to struggle with consistency as a pass catcher. But the Redskins like his potential. As a whole, they believe that they have good talent and depth at this position.
What does the future hold for Darrel Young in this offense, considering that Gruden didn’t bother keeping a fullback last year?
– Robert in Chicago
The Bengals did carry fullback/tight end Orson Charles on their roster last year, but you’re right, fullbacks don’t have a large role in Gruden’s offense. The good thing for Young is that the playbook will feature a blend of Gruden’s attack and the best of Washington’s offense from the past few years. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster’s involvement in the run-game planning could bode well for Young. But, Young didn’t have a huge offensive role even then. He normally lined up for around only 20 to 30 percent of Washington’s offensive snaps (15 to 20, to 30 plays) depending on if Kyle Shanahan went with a pass-heavy or run-heavy attack. We’ve only gotten to see a small sampling of the offense, since last Thursday marked the first open full-squad practice. But Young was indeed on the field and used a number of times as a receiver out of the backfield. He’ll look to continue to prove his versatility and effectiveness, and of course, he will look to remain in the mix on special teams, where he lined up on nearly every unit. Unlike some players, Young is passionate about special teams, and he’s the type of guy who is willing to do any and everything he can to help the team and hang onto his job.
So if we have practiced all these exotic blitz packages in the past, why did we not use them more? Was that a Mike Shanahan call? Or did not the situations arise where they could be used? At 3-13, I would think that we could have at least tried them out.
– Clint Wood
There were indeed times where we saw a nickel package where Haslett had Ryan Kerrigan line up as the left defensive end on one side with Rob Jackson or Brandon Jenkins (sparingly) lined up as the edge rusher on the left and Cofield as the right end and Orakpo coming off the edge. Or, there were times when an inside linebacker, like Perry Riley Jr., would come to the outside and rush from that edge with Orakpo, and things like that. But Haslett didn’t go with these wrinkles a lot and opted instead for a more conservative approach. Was it all Shanahan’s fault? Hard to say. Shanahan obviously isn’t here to defend himself, but Haslett has said that this year he plans on being more aggressive in his play calling, and players like Orakpo and DeAngelo Hall have said we will now “see Haz unchained.” Now, is this unchained version of the coach that much different? I don’t know the answer to that yet. It’s still extremely early. We’ll see how much things change once the games begin.
I was wondering how Kory Lichtensteiger is looking so far? Did he add any weight during the offseason? If so, is he within the range the coaches are looking for from the center position?
– Andy Kreutzer
Lichtensteiger definitely knows all the calls and is well respected among the linemen, and shouldn’t have a problem from that stand-point. Execution-wise, it’ll take a while to see. He is more naturally suited to play center, and the Redskins believe he can be effective there. He said he has worked to bulk up some more while also making sure that he doesn’t lose the quickness and mobility that Washington’s zone-blocking schemes require. But it’s hard to really get a feel for how he is doing when they’re only limited to non-contact drills right now.
The Redskins have a roster battle for the No. 4 cornerback between Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield, and Bashaud Breeland (is E.J. Biggers still on the team?). I’ve always liked Crawford and felt he was beginning to earn time on the field in 2012. I know it’s still early, but who do you think will have the better defensive season this year (not including special teams)?
– Dave Shockey, Sacramento, Calif.
Biggers is indeed still on the team. He re-signed on another one-year deal. For now, he’s the third cornerback. Once Tracy Porter recovers from shoulder surgery, those two will likely compete for that job. Then, it’s Crawford, Breeland, Minnifield, Peyton Thompson and Blake Sailors all battling for the final spots at that position. Crawford still hasn’t fully recovered from the surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his knee. He’s getting there, but not back to 100 percent yet. Thompson also is rehabbing from an injury. So, it’s Breeland and Minnifield getting a lot of the backup snaps, with Sailors seeing some time as well. It’s tough to predict, but the player that earns the fourth and/or fifth cornerback job on this roster has to be a good special teams player, because that’s where he’ll see most of his action. Breeland loves playing special teams, so I’d look for him to have an edge over Minnifield, who doesn’t have much experience at all there. Crawford, if healthy, is an effective return man. But again, they all have a lot to learn, do and show between now and the start of the season.
I follow the Skins pretty closely. Yet despite having read reams of copy on Mike Shanahan, it never has been clear to me what happened. Did his departure really come because he couldn’t abide the relationship between RGIII and the owner? But now, with Gruden having retained so many of Shanny’s assistant coaches, it wouldn’t appear last season’s record alone got him fired. If so, everyone would be gone. So maybe Shanahan is just a small, jealous little man. But it defies common sense to lose everything – or want to be let go – because Snyder liked Griffin TOO much. Mike, what really happened?
– Nelson Brown, Virginia Beach
This all remains a bit of a mystery, even to people within the organization. The only people who really know the answer to what went wrong are Snyder, Shanahan, and maybe Bruce Allen, and their lips are all sealed. From what I’ve been able to gather, the whole Snyder-Griffin unhealthy relationship story was more of a farce than anything – part of the smear campaign as Shanahan was on his way out. A number of people within the organization believe that the falling out had to do with Snyder’s reluctance to give Shanahan an extension. At some point during the second half of the year, the two parties had talks on this matter, people familiar with the situation say. Shanahan is believed to have wanted a new deal either late last season or early in the offseason that preceded the fifth and final year of his original contract. He didn’t want to be in a lame-duck situation, and also believed that it would be hard to sell free agents on coming to the organization, and his command of the team if he didn’t have a contract beyond that year. Snyder, however, didn’t believe that the middle of what ended up being an eight-game losing streak was the time to hand out a contract extension. It sounds as if he had his reservations about upping Shanahan’s deal following a 3-13 campaign as well. But insiders say Snyder didn’t plan on firing Shanahan. The season ended in chaos, and the marriage between Snyder and Shanahan eventually reached an unrepairable point. Was it all over a contract extension? We’ll never know. But a number of people close to the situation do believe that had a lot to do with it.
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