The Washington Post

Redskins mailbag: Safety depth, Orakpo’s worth, RGIII’s candor and more …


In their second game of the preseason tonight, the Redskins will look to build on last week’s outing against the Tennessee Titans. In the meantime, however, we dig into the mailbag and tackle your questions surrounding the team.

We’ve got a wide range of topics today, with everything from safety depth, Brian Orakpo’s worth, Robert Griffin III’s candor at the podium, and plenty in between.

Thanks again for taking part, and be sure to send along your questions for next week’s mailbag.

Who do you think now has a better chance to make the final roster after Phillip Thomas’s injury? Do you think that this now leaves the door open for the possible return of Tanard Jackson (if he does indeed get reinstated)? Or do you think they revisit the possibility of adding Quetin Jammer? 

 – Jason Rotell

It’s still early to call, but the prospects for guys such as Jordan Pugh and DeJon Gomes probably improved when Thomas went down with the season-ending foot injury. Brandon Meriweather (if healthy) is the starting strong safety, and Reed Doughty is a player valued by the coaches for his reliability as a backup and his special teams play. Gomes possibly could’ve been helped the most. He had seen next to no first-team action because he had been working as the second-string free safety. Last week he started getting first-team snaps at strong safety, and could start tonight against the Steelers with Meriweather still out. Pugh has practiced at both safety positions, rotating with Doughty at times on the first team. Jammer isn’t an option because he signed with Denver this offseason.

With Brian Orakpo’s contract soon to be up, what’s his real worth? Is he worth DeMarcus Ware/Mario Williams money? Based on his career performance, where does he rank with the top OLBs? What would the dreaded franchise player tag net him? And would said designation be the best option for the team? Finally, with so many expiring contracts on the defense, do you pay Orakpo and let other players go, or pick and choose the best of the other players, and let Orakpo leave?

 – Emmett Mosley

In each of the last two seasons, Orakpo has sought to prove that he ranks among the elite pass-rushers in the NFL, but has yet to do so. That’s why this is such a big year for him. A good comparison is probably Clay Matthews, who like Orakpo has been in the league four years. This past offseason, Matthews signed a five-year extension worth $66 million. It wouldn’t be surprising for Orakpo’s agent to try to get him similar money. But like you ask, is he worth it? Matthews has averaged 10.6 sacks a season in his career, recording double-digit sacks in three of the four seasons. Orakpo is entering his fifth season, but has played just three full seasons, averaging 9.5 sacks during those first three. He had one sack in last season’s injury-reduced season. Orakpo also recorded double-digit sacks only once in his career. But he believes that he is capable of much more. It would’ve been interesting to see how he would’ve done last season because he finally felt fully comfortable as a linebacker. But now he gets another chance to show what he is capable of. The Redskins are on record that they want to work out an extension for Orakpo. If their efforts were unsuccessful, they could resort to the franchise tag, which would pay Orakpo around $9 million for one season. If he can go out and make a big impact, then the team can’t afford to let him get away. But a long-term deal would seem better for both sides than franchise tag. And the Redskins should have significant cap space to work with, so they should be able to hang on to more than just Orakpo.

I’ve read that Roy Helu Jr.’s last name is pronounced with the accent on the first syllable, “HEH-lu,” not “heh-LOO.”  What’s it take for the commentators and everybody to give him respect and say it correctly?  Joshua Morgan says he wants to go by Joshua instead of Josh, and everyone’s on it.  Why does Roy get shafted?  Is it because “heh-LOO” is more fun to say?

 – Your reader with an oft-mispronounced last name,
Adam Gendell

It might be fun for fans to say, “Heh-loo,” but don’t think it has anything to do with which is more fun to say on the part of television commentators. I think it’s more likely an honest mistake. The Redskins’ media guide, for the record, does list the pronunciation as “Heh-lu,” and the Nebraska media guide, when Helu was in college, listed it as “HELL-ue.”

How tall (really) are Chris Thompson, Jawan Jamison, Skye  Dawson, Nick Williams, Jeremy Kimbrough and Marvin Burdette?

 – Christopher Bird

According to the measurements from the NFL Combine, Thompson is 5 feet, 7.1 inches tall. I know what you’re getting at. He definitely doesn’t look that tall. Jamison is 5-7, Dawson is 5-8.6, Kimbrough 5-9, Williams is 5-9.2 and Burdette is 5-9.2. The Redskins list the running backs (Thompson and Jamison) as 5-7, Dawson as 5-9, Williams as 5-10, and Kimbrough and Burdette as 5-11 each.

When the Redskins picked Patrick Ramsey and Jason Campbell in the first round in years 2002 and 2006, respectively, those quarterbacks never questioned Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs. I really liked Campbell’s low-key approach with the media. Griffin could/should learn to use the same approach. What do you think?

  – A. Nathaniel Wallace Jr.

There are differences in personalities and situations, so the comparisons aren’t totally equal. I have no problem with Griffin’s honesty. Fans always want their stars to be open, and then when they do speak from the heart, they draw criticism. Veteran teammates, including London Fletcher, said he didn’t have a problem with what Griffin said about not liking and not totally understanding Mike Shanahan’s plan for him. Fletcher said, “That’s just a football player wanting to get back on the field.” Deep down, Griffin knows Shanahan is looking out for him. The week before Griffin made his statement, Shanahan said he didn’t expect his quarterback to like being held back. Griffin noted that while he didn’t care for the cautious approach, he respected Shanahan’s position.

I left D.C. 10 years ago, but I’m still a Redskins fan. As seen from afar, after Griffin was injured last year, the very talented, and young/healthy/energetic Kirk Cousins did very well under pressure. So, how in heck did veteran Rex Grossman jump in front of Cousins during preseason? I think the former has had his day in the NFL sun. If any player deserves to be ready to go if/when Griffin gets hurt again, or needs relieving, it’s Cousins.

 – Joan Feldman

Cousins hasn’t been overtaken by Grossman. Cousins is the starter with Robert Griffin III out, no question. Grossman got more snaps than him last week (38 to Cousins’ 13), but that’s typical for preseason action. The backup always plays more than the starter – or in this case, interim starter – in the first preseason game. Cousins is expected to play most, if not all, of the first half tonight against Pittsburgh. Grossman likely will play a quarter.

I watched “Hard Knocks” last week and saw the Bengals’ Larry Black break his ankle and just saw that he was waived. How does that work financially for the player? I assume the Bengals pay his medical bills. What about salary and other benefits while he is hurt?

 – Mike Kiley

What they do is waive him injured, and then, he goes unclaimed by a team and then returns to the team and is placed on injured reserve, which means he’ll get paid for the whole year. Other times, players with less serious injuries get released after reaching an injury settlement, and they get a little chunk of cash, and then once healthy, can sign wherever they want.

To this point, who on the team have you been most impressed with and most disappointed by in camp and why? Also, have you seen anything that really surprised you this year?

 – Bob Lasher

Clearwater, Fla.

I’d have to say rookie cornerback David Amerson has proved most impressive so far. Veteran players, as well as coaches, have described him as the most talented corner on the roster, and you can tell why. He’s got great size, long arms, good strength and a physical style of play. When he jams receivers at the line, he really makes things difficult for them. He also can recover quickly if a receiver gets a step on him. One surprising thing about Amerson is how willing and effective a tackler he is. The most disappointing player so far has to be Josh LeRibeus. The Redskins used a third-round pick on him last year and had hoped he would compete for the starting job at left guard this season. But he showed up for offseason practices overweight and had to spend the spring and summer getting in shape instead of practicing. Offensive line coach Chris Foerster said that while LeRibeus’ fellow second-year linemen Adam Gettis and Tom Compton have made improvements in the last year, LeRibeus has looked/played much like the same player he was when he reported for camp as a rookie. Analysts last year called the Redskins’ selection of LeRibeus in the third round a stretch, and so far, he hasn’t done much to prove them wrong.

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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Mark Maske · August 18, 2013