Redskins mailbag: Offseason progress, linebacker depth chart and more

Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy

Quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, left, Robert Griffin III, center, and Colt McCoy during a workout last week. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Redskins this week wrap up their final round of offseason practices, and then get the next month off before training camp, which begins on July 24th.

The first practice session of this week’s mandatory minicamp takes place this morning, so the updates will come later this morning, tomorrow and Thursday.

But for now, here’s this week’s installment of the mailbag, which features questions on the overview of the groundwork laid thus far, special teams concerns, linebackers, the future of the team and more.

OTAs have been very successful for the Redskins. No injuries, team seems to be [jelling] between coaching and players. Have there been any negatives from the last three weeks that have not been reported on – players opting out of attending without excuses, conflict between players or coaches, players pulling a LeRibeus, a.k.a. showing up out of shape (although I’ve heard he’s looking better this year)?

– Dave Shockey, Sacramento, Calif.

Actually, no. Thus far, Redskins Park is Gladville, where players love their coaches and are embracing the system and where coaches are thrilled with their players and the work ethic and dedication they have displayed. Spirits are high, as is the competitive fire. Rehabbing players all are working hard, and appear to be in shape and making strides. Nobody has shown up grossly out of shape this year, as Josh LeRibeus did last year. He has trimmed down and is competing as a backup at both guard spots. If you’re splitting hairs, perhaps you could say that second-year players, linebacker Brandon Jenkins and running back Chris Thompson, haven’t shown a whole lot yet. Thompson at least is coming off of shoulder surgery and has thus far been on and off the field. He needs to prove he can remain healthy, and that he’s capable of filling that change-of-pace back role. Jenkins, meanwhile, has looked just okay. The drafting of Trent Murphy and re-signing of Rob Jackson didn’t bode well for Jenkins, who struggled to get on the field last season. He needs a strong offseason to lock up a roster spot. But so far, he hasn’t stood out at all. But otherwise, negativity hasn’t surfaced yet. Almost too good to be true, right? Is it the calm before the storm? We’ll see where we stand come early August.

Is there any indication that Jay Gruden or Ben Kotwica are looking at the punters currently on the roster in a kickoff role? Do you think that Robert Malone or Blake Clingan would be able to handle kickoff duties?  I know that touchbacks are a priority, and that Kai Forbath does not consistently get touchbacks, but he has been very accurate on field goals and I wouldn’t want to lose that accuracy. Can one of the punters be used for kickoffs instead so we can keep Kai this season?

– Devin G. Powers, Annapolis, Md.

Neither punter has worked on kickoffs during the practices we have been allowed to see. The Redskins do know that they need to improve in the area of touchbacks, and that’s part of why they drafted Zach Hocker – to compete with Forbath. Meanwhile, Forbath also knows that he must do better in this department, and so he has spent the offseason trying to get better at this. He is – as you noted – very accurate on field goals, and his experience should give him an edge. Jay Gruden acknowledged that it’s hard for a rookie place kicker to come in and have success. But they want to see what Hocker has to offer. The two will compete throughout training camp and the preseason. Gruden also said that it’s hard to envision carrying two kickers – one for kickoffs, and one for field goals. But he didn’t rule it out entirely. They’d like to go with a guy who can get the job done in both areas, and so, we’ll see how it plays out.

Who are the Redskins’ linebacker starters for the 2014 season, and will the Redskins sign anyone in free agency like a tight end or linebacker?

– Ethan Darrenkamp

Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan will start at right and left outside linebacker, respectively. Meanwhile, Perry Riley Jr. returns as the starter at the ‘jack’ inside linebacker position, and it appears that Keenan Robinson has the best shot at starting at the ‘mike’ linebacker spot, replacing London Fletcher. Akeem Jordan, Adam Hayward and Darryl Sharpton are competing for spots behind the two inside linebacker spots. And Murphy, Jackson and Jenkins are vying for spots on the depth chart at outside linebacker. Murphy will be used heavily on nickel packages if he continues to progress like he has thus far. Team officials seem content at tight end, where Jordan Reed and Logan Paulsen lead the way, with Niles Paul and rookie Ted Bolser battling it out behind them. The team hosted former Browns outside linebacker Quentin Groves last week, but they don’t currently seem to have a strong interest in signing him.

With the team Washington has right now, if they just add a couple more young players at some positions on the offensive line and safety, do you think we can gain ground with the other elite teams in the NFC? Also, do you think we should find better back up to RGIII before we are ready to trade Cousins, because I’m a diehard Texas fan, but Colt McCoy rubs me the wrong way.

–  Derrick Whigham

The team appears to be headed in the right direction, and they’re working to improve the depth and future of the offensive line (drafting right tackle Morgan Moses and right guard Spencer Long, following the free agent signing of Shawn Lauvao). Safety definitely remains high on the long-term needs list. We’ll see this season if Phillip Thomas is the answer for the future of the strong safety position, and they very well could need to find another free safety if Bacarri Rambo doesn’t make strides. They also need to continue to bolster the defensive line, and possibly add some more size at wide receiver. They should make up some ground on the field in the NFC East this year, but it could still take a bit longer for them to catch up to the elite teams of the whole NFC. Additionally, a lot hinges on the strides that Robert Griffin III does or does not make this offseason. As far as Cousins goes, the Redskins aren’t eager to part ways with him for now. Given that they didn’t trade him back around the draft, I don’t expect that he would be going anywhere this season. Also, I don’t know that McCoy is a guy that they see as a replacement for Cousins.

Just wondering if Patriot fans are welcome to the joint practice?

– Ginger Smith

Yes, Patriots fans are just as welcome as Redskins fans for those practices during training camp. They should make for some entertaining sessions to take in, and generally after the practices, players sign autographs. So, if you’re a Pats fan that never gets up north to see your team, this could be a good chance to see them up close.

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:

Giants’ Rolle: Redskins have more weapons than Eagles

Three-day minicamp beginsRoberts is eager to return kicks

Reid: Reed might be overlooked key to Washington’s offense

Amerson appears poised to take the next step

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