Redskins mailbag: Sean McVay and the offense, plus the future for Moss


Offensive coordinator Sean McVay, center, gives instructions to Darrel Young and Robert Griffin III. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Redskins this week hold their final round of organized team activities, and next week conclude their offseason program with a mandatory minicamp.

From there, they will have a month off until the start of training camp on July 24th.

Things are starting to take shape, but there’s still quite a bit to learn about this team – both for the coaches and players, and for us.

In today’s mailbag, we discuss offensive coordinator Sean McVay’s role, the look of his and Jay Gruden’s offense, wide receiver competitions and how a couple of other positions could shake out.

What has new offensive coordinator Sean McVay’s role been so far in OTAs? Because no QB coach was hired, has he been working more with Griffin on and off the field to improve his reads and/or mechanics? His presence hasn’t been mentioned by anyone so far this offseason, making me think he isn’t very hands on with players.

– Dave Shockey, Sacramento, Calif.

McVay has been very involved in the planning, teaching and coaching of the offense both in the meeting rooms and on the field. I touched on this in my notes and observations post from the first OTA session, but yes, McVay is working very heavily with the quarterbacks on their mechanics during positional drills. He also leads the quarterbacks and skill position players through passing drills during the 7-on-7 and 9-on-7 portions of practice, and continues to work with them along with Gruden during 11-on-11 drills.

Could you explain how you think the relationship between Sean McVay and Jon [sic] Gruden is going to work?  McVay is offensive coordinator, but Gruden will be calling the plays and also seems to be involved in other areas of the offense. Is this an offense by committee?

– Nigel, United Kingdom

So far, McVay and Gruden have for the most part been equally involved in leading the offense in practices. The two have a very good relationship. Their families have been friends for years, and the two worked together both in Tampa under Jon Gruden, and then in the UFL, where they coached the Florida Tuskers along with Jim Haslett. They worked together this offseason in the planning of this offense, which features a blend of the plays Washington excelled at over the past two years, and Gruden’s playbook from his time in Cincinnati. Gruden will indeed serve as play-caller, but McVay has areas of the playbook and game plans that he will be responsible for planning, just as offensive line coach Chris Foerster, running backs coach Randy Jordan, wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard and tight ends coach Wes Phillips do.

After having some time watching OTAs, do you have a feel of what Sean McVay’s offense will look like? Any key differences from Shanny’s?

– Eli Bookstaber

It’s still a little early to tell because McVay and Gruden still are teaching portions of the offense to the players while also doing a lot of experimentation to see what works well and what doesn’t. There are definite plays that resemble the offense that we’ve seen during the Shanahan era, and part of that has to do with the fact that both Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden come from that Bill Walsh West Coast offense coaching tree. A number Redskins players said that Cincinnati’s offense was the one that most closely resembled their own in the past three seasons (minus the read option plays) and that they would at times watch the Bengals against common opponents to help their own game planning. A couple of things are evident already, however. This offense emphasizes short drops, quick releases, puts the ball in the hands of the play-makers and lets them go to work. Speed, diversity and versatility appear to be strengths of this group of skill players. The speed really jumps out at you with the addition of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts to Pierre Garcon. The receivers – as well as tight ends – have lined up all over the field and in a variety of formations. The coaches want to be able to attack defenses in a number of ways, and if the unit finds a way to limit them, they believe they will have options that enable them to adjust on the fly.

Some are saying that it’s possible that with all the depth at the wide receiver position that Santana Moss might not make the final roster. Is that possible? Wouldn’t Coach Gruden value his veteran leadership in the locker room? How many wide receivers do you expect to make the team and who are they? I am thinking six of them will make it: Garcon, Jackson, Roberts, Hankerson, Robinson and Moss.

– Fred Pace, Charleston, W.Va.

I wouldn’t count out Santana Moss just yet. Yes, he’s getting up in age, having just turned 35, but so far, he has looked as quick as ever, and very sure-handed. The great thing for him is that he has seen and done it all, and that versatility and experience can give him an edge over younger players. It’s still too early to predict which receivers make the team beyond Garcon, Jackson and Roberts because Hankerson is still recovering from anterior cruciate ligament surgery, and other guys still are learning. Training camp will mark the true start of the competition. Coaches thus far have been happy with what they’ve seen out of Moss, though. Here’s Jay Gruden’s take on the veteran last week:

“Santana, he’s had an excellent offseason program, man. He’s fun to be around, he’s fun to watch, he knows every position, he’s making big plays out there. He looks like a young kid, he’s got energy, he’s a great leader. If he drops a pass, he holds himself accountable. If the quarterback misses him, he’s like, ‘Let’s get onto the next one, man’ He’s a great guy to have for these young guys to learn from at the receiver position, and every position for that matter. He’s working out hard. He’s the first one out there today again, I like having guys like that, veteran guys who are great examples for rookies and also can help you win in big games. You know the game’s not too big for them because they’ve been there and done that. He’s another one that’s going to help this team out.”

● Related post, Mark Maske on Moss: Having to work for a roster spot is nothing new

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of chatter about Tanard Jackson. When Gruden talks about him, it sounds like it’s been decided that he’s not making the team. If I recall correctly, there was some good chatter about his conditioning and such followed by a Gruden presser that kind of marginalized his presence on the team. Any clarity as to whether he’ll be able to contribute?

– Sparky Rose

I feel like I keep saying this, but like other areas, it’s still too early to predict Jackson’s chances of making the team. Gruden did praise Jackson’s conditioning level, but he does seem to have tempered expectations. Jackson has a lot of catching up to do. He hasn’t played in two years. Also, the team doesn’t know if it can count on him to stay out of trouble. For now, he’s the third-string free safety behind Ryan Clark and Bacarri Rambo. I think a lot of Jackson’s chances hinge on Rambo’s development. Rambo always looked good in practices and then struggled to tackle in games. If Rambo continues to struggle in preseason games of Year 2, Jackson – if he, himself does well – could beat him out for a roster spot. If Rambo displays real strides and Jackson just looks okay, the team would probably go with the guy with more upside.

Why draft a guy like Trent Murphy, who will get limited snaps for a team that just went 3-13? I can see he is very talented and understand the need because who knows what route we will go with Orakpo and Kerrigan,  but wouldn’t drafting someone who has a shot at being a starter in Year 1 a better game plan?

– Sean Geerlof

Well, given that the Redskins didn’t have a first-round pick, I don’t know that there was anyone capable of starting Day 1 that they could have drafted at that point. There’s a chance for Morgan Moses to beat out Tyler Polumbus, but I don’t know how strong that possibility really is just yet. In that case, the team would have gotten a late first-round projection in the third round, groomed him into a starter, and that would’ve counted as a steal of sorts. As far as Murphy goes, the Redskins plan to use him in a number of ways on passing downs. And considering that this is a passing league and they are in their nickel packages almost half the time, that would mean Murphy could see the field quite a bit. As the Seahawks showed us in the Super Bowl, you can never have too many pass rushers. If Murphy can make an impact, it doesn’t matter if he lines up on the first play of the game or not. The team obviously needs pass-rushing help, and officials deemed him the top pass rusher left on the board. They needed help in the secondary, but none of the top safeties (possible starters) remained on the board. The other plus with Murphy is that the team got him – a player that led the NCAA in sacks last year – and has him in the fold in case Orakpo doesn’t re-sign next year. In that case, they’re not counting on a rookie to step in next year. If Orakpo does re-sign, and Washington has three talented pass-rushers, then that doesn’t hurt at all, either.

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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