Training camp has come and gone, but three more weeks of the preseason remain.
In today’s mailbag, we assess the state of this team, and what we’ve learned so far.
Thanks, as always, for taking part in the mailbag, and keep the questions coming. E-mail me at email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and we’ll do it all over again next week.
Here we go!
In light of last year’s deficiencies in the run game, I expected a lot more in the first preseason game. You would expect improvement and even an emphasis on the run right from the start. Where is the problem? Talent, offensive line or blocking schemes? Can we win more than nine games without a solid run game?
– Tim Chumley
You’re not alone in your disappointment in what you saw last week against the Falcons. Everyone within the organization wanted to see better ground production out of the first two units. The very next practice, Gruden had the offense run 12 straight run plays as they try to get this thing right.
I wouldn’t panic just yet if I were you. That first offensive series could’ve played out very differently. Remember, Matt Jones ripped off a 12-yard run, and it got called back because of holding on Morgan Moses. But that hold didn’t have an impact on the run. So, say Jones picked up a first down there, and then came a pass, and another run, and maybe another. It’s hard to say. It’s true that Jones’s other carries were far from impressive, and Keith Marshall didn’t look good either. But it’s still early.
I believe the Redskins have the talent to produce better results. Shawn Lauvao is still working his way back into form, and should provide a boost. And Jones has worked hard to prepare his body and mind for this load. It could just take a few more weeks to get things fine-tuned.
Can the Redskins win more than nine games without a dominant rushing attack? It’s not impossible, but it’s hard to do. The Patriots ranked 30th in rushing last season and won 12 games. But they have Tom Brady. Washington ranked 20th and won nine games. Outside of New England, none of the teams that ranked behind the Redskins in rushing owned winning records. And only Pittsburgh (16th) and Denver (17th) were in the bottom half of the league in rushing and managed winning records. And, of course, both Pittsburgh and Denver had great quarterbacks and good defenses. So, for the Redskins to win more than nine games despite only having an average rushing attack (or worse), the passing game has to be on point, and the defense must improve and consistently stop the run, get after the quarterback, force turnovers and set up the offense with good field position.
What’s the reasoning behind the decision to experiment with the running back committee instead of starting Matt Jones? Has Jones underperformed in camp? Has Marshall outperformed Matt Jones? Or do they just really like our group of running backs?
– Cole Walmsley, Northern Va.
Matt Jones is going to be the workhorse back. At least that’s the plan. But the coaches believe it’s smart to have a back to sprinkle in here and there to help spell Jones, keep him fresh, and the keep the defense off-balance. Jones has worked hard all offseason, and running backs coach Randy Jordan and Jay Gruden have both praised him for how he has carried himself, and for the improvement they have seen in the way he approaches the game. Even after the ineffective bite-sized performance in the preseason opener, they continued to express confidence in Jones and his abilities.
So, whether it’s Chris Thompson, Keith Marshall, Rob Kelley or someone else, that back will just be used to help lighten the load here and there.
Scot McCloughan came out said Ty Nsekhe could start on half the teams in the NFL and was one of the top five offensive linemen on the team. Pretty high praise, but if so, why are we not seeing him at one of the biggest question marks on the team, left guard? It’s not as if Long or Lauvao are running away with the position or have ever been more than serviceable anyway.
– Steve Pruitt
I like Nsekhe, and I do think he could start somewhere. I think he could get the job done at left tackle if Trent Williams got hurt. But there’s a drop-off. Is Nsekhe equal to Morgan Moses? To me, yes. But, Bill Callahan knows a lot more about evaluating offensive linemen than I do. Is he really among the top five offensive linemen in the room? Eh, I think McCloughan may have gotten a little carried away. Or, maybe in certain categories (size, athleticism).
Remember, the Redskins needed a right tackle last year, so they tried Brandon Scherff there, then moved him inside and tried Morgan Moses there, and Moses settled right in and had a good first year as a starter. Nsekhe never challenged for the job. And when Callahan was moving other guys around to get them some experience at other positions in case of an emergency, Nsekhe never took a snap at guard. Former backup tackle Tom Compton did line up at guard last year. And this year, guard Arie Kouandjio has taken a couple snaps at left guard on the third unit. If Nsekhe had the skillset to play guard, Callahan would put him there.
It seems the Redskins are very deep at wide receiver and like the talent there. Obviously, there aren’t going to be enough roster spots available. Do you see us keeping an unusually high number of receivers on the practice squad, considering Jackson and/or Garcon may not be back next year?
– Rob Conn
I’m not sure what you consider “unusually high,” but I wouldn’t expect any more than two.
They already have a number of young prospects behind Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant and Rashad Ross will be waiting to take over next year if Jackson and/or Garcon aren’t still here. So, that will make for a fierce competition for Maurice Harris, Valdez Showers, Dez Stewart, Kendal Thompson, T.J. Thorpe and Jarvis Turner.
Do you feel the Redskins should give Ray Rice a chance at running back since they seem to have some weakness in that area?
– Ernest Hatfield
I don’t think it’s a good idea. This team doesn’t need any more controversy. I’m sure Rice will probably never make the same mistake again, but it’s just a distraction this team doesn’t need. And even taking Rice’s background out of the equation, he already had started to decline. His final year in Baltimore, he averaged only 3.1 yards per carry. The Redskins are better suited going with a younger, more versatile guy.
I’ve been a Redskin fan since 1954. I’ve often wondered what happens to a player’s pay when he is placed in IR. I’m sure there are contract variances regarding injured reserve compensation, but are there any standards?
– Jim Seeley
It depends on how the contract is worded, but most of them have a base salary that’s guaranteed for injury, so the player would get that money, but they would miss out on those game bonuses or other performance incentives.
Others prove more costly. In the case of Junior Galette’s contract in 2015, the pass rusher signed for $745,000, but his contract was structured in a way that when he got hurt, his salary dropped to $413,000, meaning he lost $332,000 because he got hurt.There are some contracts where the entire salary is guaranteed for injury. That fifth-year option that the Redskins picked up on Robert Griffin III’s contract in the offseason of 2015, which would have enabled them to retain his services this season if they wanted? All $16.3 million of that salary would have come to Griffin had he gotten hurt.
Please explain the lack of performance from Stephen Paea. I know he was dealing with turf toe last year but he didn’t stand out before that. I think he even got replaced before he went down with injury. At this point, he is replaceable. Can you give any insight as to what’s going on with him?
– Josh Edney
People at Redskins Park are asking themselves the exact same thing. Paea, for whatever reason, hasn’t managed to stand out with any kind of consistency. He hasn’t found a way to climb back up the depth chart. I don’t know if he’s just not a fit for this defense, or what. Last year, he entered camp as the starting left end, but a week into the regular season, he lost his job to Chris Baker, then he was hurt for the final five games.
After one game last year, when Paea had one of his better outings, I asked what led to the success, and he said he was used differently that game, in an alignment more similar to how the Bears used him. He had more one-on-one matchups that game (where Washington used more four-man fronts), and was shooting a different gap than when lined up as a 3-4 end. What I don’t get is this year, Paea has been used primarily in nickel packages, so that means as a defensive tackle in a four-man front, which he prefers, and he still hasn’t managed consistent production. Paea spent the bulk of training camp working with the second and third units, barely seeing the field with the first unit even as a substitute.
Email a Redskins question to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered next Tuesday.
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