Redskins mailbag: O-line depth, practice squad candidates and more

Morgan Moses, Trent Williams

Morgan Moses, left, works with fellow tackle Trent Williams on drills during Day 5 of training camp. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND – The Redskins have knocked out five days of practice, and today get the day off from coach Jay Gruden. The team gets back to work on Wednesday to kick off another four straight days of practice.

In today’s mailbag, we talk about offensive line depth, practice squad candidates, Gruden’s style and more.

Thanks as always for taking part, and feel free to keep firing those questions this way for next week’s edition. E-mail them to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line of “Mailbag question.”

Here we go.

With the drafting of Morgan Moses, Tom Compton looks to be on the hot seat for a roster spot this training camp. Do you think Compton maintains a spot on the roster for the fear of what would happen if Trent Williams were to be injured? The thought of having to put a rookie, who many consider not ready to start, at left tackle scares me.

– Dave Shockey, Sacramento, Calif.

There’s definitely competition at the backup tackle position, but thus far, Compton has looked like the better of the two. He has spent the first five practices at right tackle behind Tyler Polumbus, while Moses has played in the left tackle spot behind Trent Williams. During one-on-one drills with pass-rushers, Compton has held his own at a higher rate than has Moses. You can tell Moses is still getting used to the speed and strength that NFL players possess. Compton also has looked more consistent in run-blocking than has Moses. During the offseason program, Compton and Moses would flip-flop positions from week to week, so we’ll see if they do the same during training camp when the team gets back to work tomorrow. It’s important that the backup tackle has the ability to play both spots because of roster spot numbers. Could the Redskins wind up keeping both? It’s possible. It’s hard to see them cutting Compton unless Moses makes great strides. But, it’s also hard to see them giving up on a third-round pick this quickly. And, I don’t think you could get Moses on the practice squad. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Who are some of the more intriguing players on the current roster that might not make the team but have practice squad eligibility?

– Trent Taylor

There are quite a few, but for starters, I’ll say wide receivers Rashad Lawrence and Lee Doss, inside linebacker Will Compton and running back Silas Redd.

The Redskins are very crowded at wide receiver. Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts are locks. Jay Gruden continues to praise Santana Moss and talk about how much the team values him, although his playing time could be limited. Then, you have Aldrick Robinson, Ryan Grant, Nick Williams, Rashad Ross, Doss, Jerry Rice Jr., Lawrence and Cody Hoffman. Robinson has the experience edge over all those players, but versatility could prove problematic. He’s been practicing on special teams, but he struggles to get off the line when pressed as a gunner. Wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard loves him some Ryan Grant, and Gruden always lumps Grant in when talking about the promise at this position. Hoffman draws a lot of fan chatter because of his size (6 feet 4) and the lack of size throughout the rest of the receiving unit. But coaches won’t fall in love with a guy just because of his size. They’re looking for someone who can help out on special teams since the fifth and six receivers won’t play on offense much. Lawrence and Doss seem to have flashed a little more than their competitors. Lawrence always seems to be getting open and making tough catches. Doss, meanwhile, has turned some heads with his special teams play, particularly with his willingness to race downfield and lay a hit on somebody. It’s still extremely early, but depending on how they do in games, those two could wind up vying for a final receiver spot, or practice squad slot.

Compton is interesting because he spent almost all of last season on the practice squad before being elevated to the active roster. He has worked a lot with the second team in the jack linebacker spot behind Perry Riley Jr., and he has made plays. But he also has veterans Darryl Sharpton, Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward to compete with. Jordan has the most starting experience, and could make all the calls at the mike position. Hayward signed a three-year deal, and also has more experience than Compton. Could he wind up back on the practice squad?

Lastly, there’s Redd, who actually has done a good job of taking advantage of every opportunity he gets. He’s got good speed, field vision, can change directions quickly, and has made plays both as a runner and pass catcher. But Roy Helu Jr. has received the bulk of the second-team snaps, and coaches would really like Chris Thompson to show them he can handle the third-down back role. It’s hard to see the Redskins keeping four running backs, so Redd could wind up on the practice squad, as could Lache Seastrunk, who has shown that he still has a ways to go developmentally. And it’s still too early to rule Evan Royster out of the competition. He needs to get back into the mix after nursing a hamstring strain. Once the preseason games begin, he aims to prove to coaches that he does indeed have a unique skill set that can help this team.

This year the Redskins are having three dual practices with the Patriots. How do these dual-team practices work? How different are dual-team practices from regular practices? What makes these practices worthwhile?

– Albert

The joint practices will take place Monday, Aug. 4 to Wednesday, Aug. 6. I don’t know the precise plans just yet, but I imagine that each team will hold its separate warm-up and positional drill session, and then once one-on-one, seven-on-seven, seven-on-nine and 11-on-11 portions of practice begin, the Redskins offense will face the Patriots defense, and Washington’s defense will face New England’s on the other field. This will give players a chance to compete against some new faces, and it will give coaches a chance to evaluate players against new competition. As Gruden pointed out, the Redskins’ defensive players know the offense well enough to know what’s coming sometimes. New England’s will not. And, Washington’s defensive players will not know exactly what’s coming from the Patriots. This will help the evaluation process and essentially give the Redskins coaches a couple of extra scrimmage-like bodies of work, in addition to the four preseason games, for coaches to grade players.

Recently one of your colleagues, Mr. Jason Reid, stated on an online TV segment that most people valued DeSean Jackson as the Redskins’ number one wide receiver over Pierce Garçon. How do the Redskins qualify those two?  And are you of the same thinking as your trusted friend?  

– Olufemi Adepoju

It’s hard to speak on J-Reid’s statement because I didn’t hear the context. But, it is true that Jackson is viewed as the more dynamic of the two because of his game-changing speed. However, Garcon can do other things that Jackson can’t. Garcon is extremely versatile, and he’s also bigger, stronger and more physical. I don’t really think it matters as long as both are heavily involved, which the plan calls for them to be. Redskins coaches and Robert Griffin III look at it as if they have two No. 1 receivers, who have the capability of exploiting various weaknesses in a defense. Garcon himself says, “We’re all No. 1 receivers out there.” Players also say that fans probably worry more about “Who’s the No. 1 receiver” more than they do.

Jackson says the Redskins have a good problem. “It’s very dangerous and it’s very scary – I’d rather be on the team that has all the weapons,” he said. “It just makes it easier for Robert. Actually, me and Andre were saying every play somebody has to be open. With me, Tana, Pierre, J-Reed, Roberts, it’s so many options – Alfred Morris. There’s just so many options that regardless of how you play it, somebody’s going to have to keep an eye on RGIII, because if not, he’s going to run. If somebody doesn’t get double teamed, another receiver is going to be open. So like I said, we’re putting in the effort to go out there and just all be open. As long as we’re all open, it makes it easier for RGIII, so that’s what we look forward to.”

Is it unusual for a head coach to give the team unexpected breaks in the offseason schedule? For example, he cancelled the last day of OTAs ahead of the players’ vacations, and on Monday, the walkthrough was cancelled ahead of the team’s day off tomorrow? These actions coupled with his “non-meddling” and collaborative nature make me wonder if he’s a softy.

– Brian H. Ogle

No, it’s not unusual at all for a coach to reward his players by modifying the schedule and giving them an afternoon off here or there. The “cancel the last day of minicamp as a reward for 100-percent attendance” is the oldest page in the “Players’ Coach” book. And as far as Monday goes, he extended the morning practice to get in extra work, and then went with a team dinner instead of the walk-through. And anybody who saw Monday’s practice would definitely argue against Gruden being a softy. In my four years of covering Mike Shanahan, I never once saw the players perform tackling drills. Defensive players would tackle stationary tackling dummies, but that’s nothing like lining up across from a player and actually running at him and trying to tackle. And Shanahan normally had only one day of full-pad practice, and Gruden has already had once, with plans of more.

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.

What’s ahead:

Washington is off Tuesday; the next practice is 8:35 a.m. Wednesday. Here’s our camp guide, if you’re planning to attend.

Also from The Post:

Bog: Jackson says Redskins fans are better than Eagles fans

New addition Everette Brown ready to play catch up

Early Lead: Ravens fans give Ray Rice a standing ovation

Training camp observations from Day 5

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

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