Robiskie: Consistency Is Key for Passing Game
Terry Robiskie, the Redskins' passing game coordinator, said in an online discussion Friday, Aug. 13, that he's looking for consistency in the preseason opener against New England.
||Terry Robiskie, left, and receiver Michael Westbrook. (John McDonnell - The Washington Post)|
Robiskie joined the Redskins as wide receivers coach in 1994 after spending 12 years as a coach for the Raiders. Drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 1977, Robiskie's five-year playing career includes three seasons with the Raiders and two with the Dolphins.
Thanks coach for being with us today. Sorry for the technical problems. We've got a bunch of questions waiting for you so let's get started.
Thanks for taking your time out for all of us fans. It seems Michael Westbrooks' best pattern is the out, and sometimes the fly. He seems to really struggle on the quick slants especially. Has he done better this year on the inside routes and has his route running gotten more consistent?
Terry Robiskie: Yes, he has become more consistent in running routes. You are a very observant person and he has had problems in the past with the quick slant. To be honest with you, with this training camp he has struggled with this same route. We are continuing to keep on working on it and hopefully he will get better. His overall progress in running routes has showed real improvement.
Please tell me the line will be able to protect the QB this year.
Terry Robiskie: We are working hard to get that done. With each day, we have showed improvement. That is the key to all success and I think we will get it done.
Terry, I appreciate the fact that you are so candid in interviews when asked about your players. That being said, how do you feel Michael Westbrook's camp has been thus far? Thanks!
Terry Robiskie: I think Mike is having a tremendous camp. I'm so looking forward to having him carry it over to the season. If he can do that, he should have a tremendous year and so should the Redskins.
Colorado Springs, Co.:
How many receivers are the Redskins planning to keep on the final roster?
Terry Robiskie: Well, as the receivers coach, hopefully six. But I would think four would be the logical answer and if a fifth guy pops up to be a player, then five. But to be realistic, I would say four.
With so many new faces in key positions on offense, how has the chemistry of the passing game looked to you so far in camp?
Terry Robiskie: With all the new faces, the chemisty is going great. The one new face that has made that possible is Brad Johnson. When you are successful at that position, you develop chemistry. I think Brad's presence has made everyone step their games up a level.
Will the Redskins try to use a quick-short passing attack to set up the run this year to hopefully spell relief from an unproven offensive line? Additionally, will the tight ends and running backs be even more involved in this passing game to run more of a wide open offense?
Terry Robiskie: That's exactly what we are hoping to do.
Kansas City, Mo.:
Two questions: Is there a plan in place to get Stephen Alexander the ball more? Second, considering Brad Johnson's mobility and the offensive line, will the offense incorporate a shootgun formation and 3 wideout set?
Terry Robiskie: You must have attended one of our meetings. I'm sure you have spent days at training camp. We are doing all we can in developing and creating more plays for Stephen Alexander. I think he's got the chance to become a Pro Bowl tight end. Yes, we have installed the shotgun and we also have a package of three wide receivers so you must be listening in to our meeting. You must be spying on our meetings.
Are the Redskins going to offer Ken Harvey a coaching position and is he even interested. I think he would be a great presence to keep around and we do owe it to him for his hard work. I'd love to see him be a part of the team when we go to the playoffs this year.
Terry Robiskie: He has mentioned that he has no interest in doing that.
What is the condition of Brad Johnson's knee? Are the Skins looking for that BIG player to sign? And who are they looking at?
Terry Robiskie: Brad's knee is holding up pretty good so far. We will keep our fingers crossed. Yes, the Redskins are always looking for an impact player who can help us win. Unfortunately, at this time, there's no one readily available to us.
Roanoke, Va. :
There has been much speculation about a major trade involving a wide receiver. In your opinion, can we compete and win with the receivers currently in camp?
Terry Robiskie: Yes, we can. If I coach up to my potential and the receivers play up to their potentials, we have the skills and the ability we have just got to do it. As far as trading, there are a lot of rumors about guys being available and if so, we are always listening.
What's your prediction for the Redskins' 1999 season? 10-6? 11-5?
Terry Robiskie: Today I would feel that we have failed if we don't win 10 games. I'm shooting for 12-4 because I think it is reachable. 11-5 is good, 10-6, winning the division, is pretty good, but I have high expectations and I think 12-4 is doable if everyone plays to their potentials.
Terry, your new boss owner Daniel M. Snyder has obviously lit a fire under everyone in the Redskins organization. How is that sense of urgency impacting both the coaching staff and the players? Do you think it's positive or distracting?
Terry Robiskie: I think it is positive. I think for the coaches we have always coached with fire but I think some statements he made to the players he needed to make. That has a lit a new fire and I think it should carry us all throughout the season. There is no distraction.
Is Nigel Williams or James Thrash in position to take over the #3 wide out slot?
Terry Robiskie: Nigel I'm unsure of today. James Thrash I'm excited about but I still like Chris Thomas and I think through the preseason it will be a battle between Chris and James. Hopefully, Nigel will continue to clog the picture and make us make a difficult decision. Today, I think Chris has the nod.
Are you worried that Michael Westbrook may be slightly gun shy about his neck injury? And if so will you use him as a deep threat decoy and play an underneath type passing game to the middle and sidelines for Connell where his speed may set up big plays that are less risky?
Terry Robiskie: Absolutely not. I'm not afraid of his neck and I'm not worried about his neck. I'm worried about winning. We are not good enough to have anyone on the field as a decoy. If he is out there, we need him to make plays and be involved and not decoying. So no, Mike will be running every type of route that we can get him the ball.
What is the real likelihood of the Redskins trading for a starting wide receiver i.e. Rob Moore or Carl Pickens before the season begins?
Terry Robiskie: If those two opportunities present themselves, we would surely listen and discuss it. Because of financial situations and the salary cap I don't know if either would be doable. But we would surely be interested.
Today in The Post it was mentioned that Shar Pourdanesh was unhappy about his move to right tackle. Did his attitude with regards to the move play a role in him being traded?
Terry Robiskie: I don't think so. Shar was playing third team for us and while scrimmaging the Steelers they became interested. We felt an opportunity to get something for him so we did.
Any idea why the team let Leslie Shepard get away when the braintrust feels there is a great need for an established wide receiver?
Terry Robiskie: I think it became a money deal. I think it was similar to Art Monk's last year. The two could not agree on the money and a lot like Art Monk he decided he would play somewhere else for less than to stay here for what he felt was unfair.
How good will the defense be and specifically how are the linebackers doing in the new positions.
Terry Robiskie: I think the linebackers are young but aggressive and playing extremely well. We think that the defense should be outstanding. We have added a few new faces that we think are excellent players.
Any chance that Champ Bailey could get a shot at receivers during the season if you get thin?
Terry Robiskie: As a receivers coach, I pray every night.
Silver Spring, Md.:
How is Brad Johnson's quarterbacking skills-style different from past quarterbacks we've had lately, and how has it changed your approach this year?
Terry Robiskie: Brad Johnson is the best quarterback I've have been around since I started coaching professional football in 1982. He's very, very polished. He's very, very smart. He's very, very sharp and extremely accurate always on top of his game and very aware. He is a lot more experienced than anybody we have had here the last five or six years. He is an outstanding player.
There have been many stories about the problems between Casserly and Turner over the years. Could you shed some light on those stories for us? Was it as difficult to work with them while they were feuding as it was portrayed in the papers? Was it ever a distraction? If so, who was the mediator between the two?
Terry Robiskie: Unfortunately, I never had the chance to be in private meetings between those two. In our general meetings, neither myself nor the others saw the inability to work together. In draft meetings, it was always one that made a statement and we all discussed it. I did not see the confrontations or the lack of ability to not work together. But again, I was never invited to the very private sessions; however, it was never a distraction to us, the staff and what we were trying to do. Unfortunately, it ended the way it did but now we must move on.
Who do you see as an Art Monk, Gary Clark type of receiver in the league right now, who can catch the clutch pass and isn't afraid to get hit?
Terry Robiskie: Well, as far as Art Monk, that of course would be a Jerry Rice, a Tim Brown and a Michael Irvin. I would think as a Gary Clark I see but one and that's Antonio Freeman.
Silver Spring, Md.:
I have been impressed by the intensity I've seen so far this year that hasn't been there in a long time. How will you as a coach keep the fire burning?
Terry Robiskie: The intensity has been tremendous. I think all the new faces has helped. The guys are competing and fighting for jobs. As a coach, we just continue to keep them going.
How difficult was it as a coach to deal with the turmoil surrounding the team during the offseason with regards to the ownership situation? Did it ever seriously cross your mind to accept a job elsewhere?
Terry Robiskie: Never because I felt irregardless of who the new Redskins owner became, this would still be a tremendous job. We have talented players, a tremendous organization with tremendous fan support. I knew I wanted to be here so no, I never considered leaving.
Good luck this year. Hopefully I'll get to watch the Skins in the playoffs. My question is this: What happened to James Thrash after making huge plays every preseason? Is he that nervous during a real game?
Terry Robiskie: Absolutely. Before the Seattle game last year, he was so nervous because he was starting I think I made him run 10 laps to try to calm him down. Yes, he is a nervous wreck before a game but he is improving.
What do you hope to learn about the receiving corps in tonight's first preseason game?
Terry Robiskie: That we are maturing. We are learning to become a group. We are learning to gel as a group. We are learning to get ready to play football in the NFL.
Which receivers are the Redskins planning to use on the reverse play that Norv likes to run so much now that Leslie is gone?
Terry Robiskie: We are comfortable with two or three guys. If you remember, Michael Westbrook's first touch of the ball his rookie season was a reverse for a 68-yard touchdown. Albert Connell shows tremendous explosion when running with the ball. James Thrash is excellent as he is a great kickoff return man so we like all of them.
I am curious. How has Kenard Lang been doing so far in camp? From what I hear, many expect this to be his break out year. How has Sam Shade looked in the secondary?
Terry Robiskie: Kenard has been good, has been excellent, has been tremendous and has been awful. But we are hoping that he will have a breakout year. Sam Shade is working wonderfully and we are hoping for good things from him.
Right now, who is your go to guy on 3rd and long, over the middle, receiver? Michael? Albert?
Terry Robiskie: Michael Westbrook or Albert Connell or Stephen Alexander.
Who do you feel is the strongest man on the team in terms of conditioning and weight lifting?
Terry Robiskie: That's a tough question. Weightlifting would be Tre Johnson. Conditioning would be James Thrash.
A few years ago, there was a big "stink" about African American coaches not being seriously considered for head coaching positions. Has the atmosphere improved over the last few years?
Terry Robiskie: A few years ago when the big stink came out. If you remember, I started the stink. I did an article in USA Today, stating that we were not being given equal opportunities. From that, a lot of meetings with the commissioner came about. However, unfortunately no jobs came about. So it is easy to say discussions are being had but without jobs things are no better.
How do you see Larry Centers impacting the offense. How many passes would you estimate that he'll catch, and does he block well enough to help the running game?
Terry Robiskie: I see Larry Centers as the most improved part of our offense besides Brad. Larry Centers is the best looking all-purpose running back I've have seen next to Marcus Allen whom I coached. I hope Larry Centers can catch over 70 balls and yes, he is an outstanding blocker. He should make a tremendous impact to our ballclub.
Every year I get so excited before the season... tell me we won't be let down this year. What are the big 'IFs'?
Terry Robiskie: You won't be let down this year. There are no ifs or should I say: if I'm here you won't be let down.
How does the offense stack up against the defenses in the NFC East? Please beat the Cowboys on opening day! Good luck.
Terry Robiskie: Thank you. I think we matchup extremely well. I am so looking forward to the opening day that I can't wait.
Why do you think the Redskins have not been able to develop a long term quarterback for their team? It seems we have had good prospects, but the longevity of them has been at best one year or so. Is it difficult for the management to commit to the development of a new quarterback?
Terry Robiskie: I think when you start your program with young quarterbacks and you never have an older guy to lead them, to direct them, to show them how, you make a mistake. I think that happened with us. We had young guys with ability but not the leadership from the quarterback position to show them how to prepare, how to get ready and how to play in the NFL. We as coaches can say it, but veteran players can show it. At that position, we have never had that since I've been here.
Greg Beckley, WVa.:
How are Brad Johnson and the receivers coming along this preseason? Does he seem to have any "favorite receivers" yet?
Terry Robiskie: No, not yet. But like all good quarterbacks, I'm sure his favorite will become the guy who catches it when he throws it.
Do you think Trent Green would have been just as successful this year had he stayed with the Redskins? Will we see a clear improvement in the quarterback position? Can you describe the different styles between Trent and Brad?
Terry Robiskie: Today, I don't think there is a comparison. I think Trent Green was a good young quarterback learning to play but I believe Brad Johnson is sensational.
How is the team doing injury-wise? Are we about average in terms of number of injury in comparison to other teams
Terry Robiskie: No, I think we are better than average. At this point in time of training camp, most teams are hurting a little more than we are. We have been fortunate in that area.
Coach Robiskie has agreed to stay on for another half hour or so. Keep the questions coming ... but please try to touch on areas that we haven't covered yet.
How many games, realistically, do you think Michael Westbrook will play this year?
Terry Robiskie: Of course, I have no idea. But I am hoping about 23 to 24.
It sounds like from The Post article today, that Norv Turner has decided not to hold back his starters from the preseason this year as he did last year. Is this true?
Terry Robiskie: We are definitely playing our starters more than in the past. We have a lot of new faces and we must learn to play together.
The Redskins used to dominate the Cardinals but in recent years Arizona has gotten the best of the Redskins, which cost them a few playoff berths. Has the staff been stressing the need to treat every game this year as a must-win, so when the season is over and you do not have to look back and wonder what could have been if we had only beaten the Cardinals or a team like they used to be.
Terry Robiskie: Yes, the Cardinals have improved. Evident they beat Dallas in the playoffs last year. We do however look at every game as a playoff game in trying to get there and we will continue to approach each and every game like a playoff game.
What is you opinion of our division. The NFC East was terrible as a whole last year. Have the rest of the teams improved as we did?
Terry Robiskie: I think the division title is there for the taking. I think Arizona is the team to beat, but we are capable. I think we match up with every team in our division and we are surely capable of winning the division. Anything less, for me, would be disappointing.
I had often heard it said that "If Terry Robiskie couldn't make an NFL receiver out of Michael Westbrook, nobody can." To what do you attribute his slow development into a dependable receiver, barring the obvious injury issue?
Terry Robiskie: I think his slow progress has been due to a lack of consistency. Consistency in his life both public and private as well as on the field. As soon as Mike makes football the No. 1 priority in his life, he'll become a dominant football player.
What were the main differences between Stephen Alexander and Jamie Asher enough to let Jamie go and focus on Stephen?
Terry Robiskie: Stephen is much bigger, he's much faster, he's much stronger and he's more explosive. He's better looking. He's just a better football player period.
Are we reading more into then we should when we hear that Stephen Davis is starting tonight?
Terry Robiskie: No, we are not. Stephen Davis is having a tremendous camp and he deserves to start tonight.
Is there any chance we could see Larry Centers and Brian Mitchell on the field at the same time in shotgun situations?
Terry Robiskie: Absolutely, you will but I won't say when because you might be in New England in the locker room.
Why did Coach Norv Turner decide to turn up the conditioning program at this year's camp, was there a particular game last year that made him feel he needed players in better condition.
Terry Robiskie: We felt like in a couple of games last year we became tired. So we decided to increase conditioning this year.
New York, N.Y.:
Do you think that defense with improve to the point where they will take some of the pressure off of your guys or will this season turn out to be another token defensive effort?
Terry Robiskie: I hope not. I think the defense is very capable of carrying this team to where we are trying to go. However, the offense must do its part as well as special teams.
Do you think the early bye week this year week 4 will allow the staff to tweak things. We will have played two divisional games and by all rights should be 2-2 if not 3-1 at that point. Do you prefer the bye early like this, or later in the season for resting purposes?
Terry Robiskie: It depends. If we have injuries early, I prefer it early. If we have injuries late, I would have wished it late. If like you said at the bye we are 3-1, I don't care when we have it.
Were the Redskins ever really close to dismissing or trading Westbrook after missing the team meeting last year? Have his teammates forgiven him for the Stephen Davis fiasco?
Terry Robiskie: If the organization ever seriously considered trading Mike, I know nothing about that. Yes, his teammates has put aside the Stephen Davis incident.
If you had a voice in drafting a receiver next year please say you do , which receiver(s) would be on your wish list? Or which ones do you recommend we watch in college games this year. Thank you.
Terry Robiskie: All I can say without giving away secrets is watch Florida State.
I realize that falls out of your primary area, but how much do you expect Champ Bailey to play and help the secondary this season. Any plans to use him on special teams?
Terry Robiskie: I think Champ Bailey should start from the opening kickoff tonight to the last whistle at the Super Bowl in January. I see Champ Bailey being for us what Charles Woodson was for the Raiders last year.
Who do you think is the best young receiver in this league right now, and which rookie wide receivers do you think will have the biggest impact for his team?
Terry Robiskie: Obviously, the best young receiver is Randy Moss. Who will have the biggest impact among the rookies? That is a tough call. I would vote Torry Holt for the St. Louis Rams.
With pass-catchers like Brian Mitchell and Larry Centers in the backfield, do you work with them as much as the running game co-ordinator does? Or does he handle all aspects of the running backs?
Terry Robiskie: I work with them a little. But the running backs coach handles them mostly.
No matter who the teams, divisional games are almost always tough. When you look at the schedule, which out-of-division games jump out at you as automatic wins?
Terry Robiskie: It's impossible in football today to declare any game as a sure win. Certain teams you look at and you think you can win but nothing is certain in football today.
I've been watching Michael Westbrook since he became a professional, and it seems to me, that he's always had difficulty getting separation from defensive backs, making it more difficult for him to get yards after the catch. What is your opinion on that and do you think he's improved in that area?
Terry Robiskie: Absolutely, I think Mike has improved. But since his rookie season, he has always shown the ability to separate. Not necessarily up field on the deep ball, but on all the short to intermediate passes. Yes, there is the ability to run after the catch.
Do you agree with the division to trade an early position in the draft to the Saints which could have given the Redskins Ricky Willims.
Terry Robiskie: Absolutely. That decision not only solidified a great position on defense, it allowed you picks to better your organization for the next 10-12 years. Champ Bailey should play 15 years or more, hopefully the picks next year, the No. 1s, will do the same.
Burke, Va.: Thanks for being so candid with your responses. This has been refreshing.
Terry Robiskie: Thanks a lot. Candid is the only way.
Who has the edge in the battle for the left tackle spot?
Terry Robiskie: Joe Patton.
What are the receivers saying about Champ Bailey?
Terry Robiskie: Explosive, quick, smart and they go: "coach, he is very good."
With all the other weapons on offense, and on special teams, where does that leave Brian Mitchell?
Even though he is aging, will Larry Centers replace him permanently as a third down back??
Terry Robiskie: Permanently, I don't know. But the two of them should be trouble for defenses.
Best of luck this year!
When not prepping for the Sunday game who will you be watching on Saturdays this fall? (What with all of those 1st round picks next year)
Terry Robiskie: Florida State, Florida State and Florida State!
What lingering questions do you have about the receiving corp that you want to have answered tonight against New England?
Terry Robiskie: Consistency. Consistently being where we are supposed to and doing what we are supposed to. Just come out and be consistent, look sharp, look like we've practiced these plays before.
Who has the edge in the kicking game, if anybody?
Terry Robiskie: I have no idea.
Do the Skins plan on drafting a QB next year and grooming him under Brad?
Terry Robiskie: I have no idea. Too busy worrying about this year and I can't look forward to next.
How has the new structure of the scouting department effected the coaches, if at all?
Terry Robiskie: Too early to say.
How will Albert Connell do against top-flight competition? What are his strengths?
Terry Robiskie: His strength is speed, quickness and hands. I think he will do extremely well.
How do you see the offensive strategy this season. Is the west coast offense an option or are we looking at another season of running on first and second down and having to throw long on third?
Terry Robiskie: Well, I don't remember it being a run on first, a run on second and throw on third and long. It's an offense where you must run to be able to pass. I do see us opening up a little more and doing a little more.
Why didn't we just sign Jeff George and save our draft picks that we gave up for Brad?
Terry Robiskie: I think Brad is a much more stable choice. As I look back, I think Jeff George has gotten seven coaching staffs fired and I'm a coach that would not be my choice.
Besides Washington who is the best team in the NFL
Terry Robiskie: I would guess Denver. Hopefully, with John Elway leaving that should weaken Denver and even the field. I would say Atlanta and Minnesota shall be the two teams to beat [in the NFC].
What is Charlie Brown's role as a consultant to the squad?
Terry Robiskie: Charlie was not and is not a consultant. He was a visiting coach who worked with us for two weeks. His job is offensive coordinator at Mississippi Valley State to which he has returned.
Do you think Westbrook's strong performance so far this year has anything to do with the fact that he's in the last year of his contract?
Terry Robiskie: No, I think it is because he, like all of us, realizes he has not shown anything yet. He is out to prove his critics wrong.
What was the biggest transition you had to make coming from the AFC to the NFC?
Terry Robiskie: It wasn't that big. Football is football and we are all trying to reach the same goal.
Why do you think more great receivers don't go into coaching. I'm thinking of Art Monk here. His experience and talent would be a great fit.
Terry Robiskie: Because they quickly realize the pay, the time and the patience and most of them understand they may one day have to coach a Michael Westbrook.
Who in your opinion, is the best all time receiver and why?
Terry Robiskie: Jerry Rice. The proof is in the pudding.
Silver Spring, Md.:
I imagine that Champ's presence is making Darrell feel young again?
Terry Robiskie: No, no way. Darrell Green don't need Champ Bailey to make him feel young. And if I could run a 4.2 40, I would not need Champ Bailey to make me feel young.
Coach, I enjoyed attending training camp last week and am hoping the enthusiasm carries over to the regular season. Do you feel that with Daniel Snyder's sense of urgency that he has instilled and knowing how long it takes a team full of new players and chemistry to develop, that the Redskins can be successful and compete for a division title?
Terry Robiskie: Absolutely, I think we can and I think we will.
We've seen the deep ball more in the preseason. Can we expect the use of the long ball more during the regular season, seeing as the receiving core's speed has improved? Oh, and thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
Terry Robiskie: Hopefully, if we find success with the deep ball in the preseason it will carry over to the regular season. Of course, my years with the Raiders, I grew up with the deep ball so I would love for us to succeed with the deep ball.
Ellicott City, Md.:
What are your three biggest goals you want to accomplish this year with the Redskins?
Terry Robiskie: Win the division, win the Super Bowl, see Michael Westbrook in the Pro Bowl. With that I'll smile and with that I'll say good night. Thanks to all, thanks for the questions, talk to everyone later.
We're going to let Coach Robiskie go get ready for tonight's game. Our thanks to the coach for spending so much time with us today.