Redskins Mailbag: Ask John

Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

John: My question this week, which really makes my blood boil, is about the bomb to Cruz.  Not that we blew it, which we did, but that I can’t help but think that the secondary personnel would be better if it weren’t for Mara’s weasly theft of our salary cap money.  Do you think that’s accurate?  I’m surprised more commentators didn’t mention this wrinkle in the rivalry.  We’ll beat a lot of teams in the future with Robert though, so the opposition should enjoy the wins while they still can.


Adam: There is no doubt that the Redskins would have pursued defensive back help if not for that cap penalty. Sounds as if Cortland Finnegan would have been the target. Think he would have been a good fit in this defense and made a difference. They may have pursued another corner or safety as well. I will say, it wasn’t just Mara who was upset by this; heard many teams were. But, yes, Mara was the one in charge.


John: I know that injuries are a part of every sports organization, okay I get it, but it seems as though the injury bug has totally gone bananas with this team. Every week we are losing more and more starters and I’m beginning to have some concerns.
During the offseason, Landry basically called our medical staff incompetent. I just thought he was another disgruntled employee. But after seeing him fly around the Jets 2ndary, healthy as ever, I’m beginning to think maybe he is on to something. We could never get or keep him healthy. He isn’t the only one either. What about Garçon? Why isn’t our prized number one receiver stretching the field and lighting up the scoreboard if all he’s dealing with is inflammation. Surely our doctors should be able to remedy some swelling. Your thoughts….


John: I think I have finally found the unit on the Redskins that is worse than the secondary.. It’s the medical staff!  Going back a couple years to the Landry Achilles, Brown’s never healing hip, Lichtenstieger’s knee, Orakpo’s pec, now Garçon’s foot. They have a history of misdiagnosis, poor record of recovery and this team seems constantly plagued by nicks that linger.  Of course it is a tough game and injuries happen, but other players around the league seem to heal and stay healed.  I have major concerns for Fred Davis’ recovery.  Thoughts on changes to the medical staff or our injury issues?

John A. Little

Bryan and John: Lumped these in together because you’re basically wondering the same thing. I have a feeling many are – and it’s a question that’s been asked. It’s hard for me to play doctor and to know exactly what goes on in those rooms. In LaRon’s case, from what I’ve heard, the Jets allowed him to work with his own medical people (the Redskins did not). In Garcon’s case, I don’t know that the Redskins handled it wrong; have not heard that even privately. Sometimes guys have lingering issues and things get compounded. I did ask someone who has dealt with this medical staff and they didn’t quite agree with LaRon. I’m sure I could go case by case and it might make sense. But I also know a lot has happened that leads to these questions. We’ve asked Mike Shanahan about this before, but judging by the fact that the training staff remains employed, they have his confidence. Wish I had a better answer; it’s just not my area of expertise to know who’s right.



Hi John: Are a lot of Redskins fans overreacting about Joe Gibbs speaking to the Dallas Cowboys.  From what I understand he spoke to them the night before the game, not in the pregame locker room!  Also, was this a “pep talk” to help them beat Carolina, or Jerry Jones simply asking a legendary coach to address his team.  I have no problem with this and Gibbs is first class all the way.  Can you imagine Daniel Snyder asking Jimmy Johnson to speak to the Redskins and him refusing?  Onto another topic:  Now that our kicking game is having success, would it be a mistake to replace Justin Snow with Nick Sundberg when Sundberg eligible to come off the IR?  Sundberg , I’m sure is the better long snapper, but I’m thinking we should let Snow finish out the year, especially since we are in the mix in the NFC East.




JKC: Gibbs is more tied to the Redskins than JJ was to the Cowboys so it probably feels more personal. But considering Gibbs was talking to them about faith, not sure how anyone could be upset. There are few things more important to Gibbs than his faith. That trumps a rivalry. As for Sundberg, that’s a good question. I think if Billy Cundiff were kicking it might be a bigger issue; he seemed to get thrown off more by change. Kai Forbath has a much different, and better, attitude about this. The thing to note is that Sundberg’s snaps are a little quicker, so that helps. I’d be more concerned if that weren’t the case. By the way, I think many people wish your initials were still attached to the franchise.



John: Even though I’m not as apt to take the blame away from Jim Haslett for our defensive issues, as some, I can’t help but think some of the Redskins key issues on defense have a LOT to do with that salary cap penalty. First, Haslett.  He’s just awful.  I know the whole “coaches coach and players play”, but when it’s consistently the SAME THING as to how they get killed, that’s on coaches.  The message is not getting thru.  BTW, it’s clear he’s not good at adjusting, in game.  That’s usually when a coaching change needs to be made.

As for the salary cap penalty, the Redskins were forced to replace Landry and Atogwe with Tanard Jackson, Brandon Meriweather, and Madieu Williams.  All guys on the cheap.  Jackson out for the year.  Meriweather hasn’t been on the field at all.  Williams is just awful (very ironic since he was the main reason for the 77-yard td against John Mara’s team).

Always felt like the Redskins just sat there and took that penalty.  Was there ever a chance for them to fight harder against it?  I truly believe if we were able to replace guys like Hall and bring in a decent safety, we’d be number 1 in the division at this point.




Aaron: They tried to fight against it, think they saw very little chance of winning. Other teams would say had they not gone overboard stashing salaries into the uncapped year, they would not have had that space to begin with. But, yes, it had an impact. They still could have kept Landry – that was a health issue, not money. Atogwe stunk and they overpaid for him; their fault. But the replacement cast hasn’t helped, no doubt. As for Haslett, the inability to adjust is one thing I’ve heard from others around the league. They do give up big play after big play so there is a broken-record syndrome here. Have talked to others who say it’s a combination of coaching/personnel issues.



John: Great coverage of the team.  I get talent is always the operative thing for success and failure.  But it’s hard not to notice that certain players rise to the occasion when it counts and some don’t.  With the Redskins, RG 3 is clearly clutch and he was clutch in college. Racing to last week’s game, Santana Moss can make big plays with the game on the line but he also fumbles a lot relative for a WR especially in key spots, off the top of my head over the years I can think of 4 fumbles from him in the last drive with the game on the line.  This defense has had its moments but it’s arguably a train wreck at the end of games when you need a stop.  It doesn’t seem to matter who the QB is, even Josh Freedman marches down the field against them.  What do you think is the cause of this? Is it offenses really adjust well to what Haslett does with half time adjustments and they lose that chess game? The defensive line can’t get pressure when they absolutely need to?  The secondary isn’t good and deep down they know in crunch time they can’t stop the opponent’s playmakers?  None of the above? The mystifying aspect of it to me is if it’s just a random drive by the opponent, the defense can have its moments.  But if it’s a money drive it’s practically a given that they will give up the score.


Mike: How about E: All of the above. They don’t have an RG3 equivalent on defense, a guy you know can make a big play in those moments. They do have some very good players, particularly in the front seven In the previous answer, I talked about Haslett’s reputation (it’s hard to truly gauge that because sometimes the adjustments are so subtle that only coaches/players would notice, so I rely more on what others say). Last week, Williams just screwed up and overplayed for a tendency (Cruz goes inside the great majority of the time). But it always happens and to a different player each week. As for Moss, he did a good job cradling the ball in that situation and wasn’t fighting for extra yards. That’s a tough one. I’d have to look at some of his other fumbles because, honestly, I’m drawing a blank.



Hi John: Now that the trading deadline is two weeks later in the season, is there any chance the Redskins might trade for some secondary help? Are there any DBs who would even be available, would be an improvement on what they have and would be able to pick up the defense quickly enough?


Rich: There’s always a chance, but not having a first-round pick puts them in a spot where I don’t know how many more picks you’d want to lose for 2013. I have no idea who would be available. I do know that trades aren’t commonplace. I also know good players who can help the team they’re with are rarely traded. I think people are going to have to be patient and wait until the offseason. Hey, it’s better than worrying about a quarterback.



John: I think over the years and not just this past Sunday’s loss to the NYG, the D lacks concentration and blows leads or can’t stop opponents at critical moments is due to the fact the unit as a whole is too busy celebrating and watching the offense and being joyful causing them to be too lax. Thoughts?


Gene: In the past there haven’t been many reasons to celebrate this offense, so I don’t see that as the issue. Ultimately it comes down to making plays in key moments – or at least playing your spot correctly. That’s been the issue. I won’t just say it’s talent because there’s been enough to stop teams in these moments. They have good players, though they do lack an elite rusher and they do lack a legitimate top cover corner. But when it happens time and again, I’m not sure there’s just one issue.



Sir John: Enjoy your column tremendously — thank you very much for your insights on the game. My question is: Why don’t the Redskin employ Kirk Cousins as the (place kicker’ s) holder?

I wish you well,


Do: Thank you. And a Sir John? Much appreciated. Sav Rocca is a good holder so they’ll opt for experience in this case. Rocca is considered a good holder so there’s no reason to change. Had Rocca been unable to punt last week, and the new punter didn’t hold, then Cousins would have handled this role. I know it makes sense to have the QB hold in case something goes wrong. But punters get more time in practice to work on holding, so that, too, makes sense. I have to admit that it’s not something I’ve asked the coaches a lot about, but will do so in the future.


John: Great column and I really look forward to reading your writing and analysis.  My question is, who is available in the defensive backfield via free agency next year and can we backload a contract so as not to mess with next year’s cap hit!  Thanks,
Doug Stephens
Tallahassee, Fl


Doug: They can do a few things with the contract, but you can only backload so much and if a player has an option elsewhere, forget it. The Redskins can make some moves to help soften the cap blow, but regardless they won’t have a ton of space available. But a few names who will be out there: Atlanta CB Brent Grimes; Tampa Bay CB Aqib Talib; San Francisco S Dashon Goldson, Atlanta S William Moore, Detroit S Louis Delmas.



Hello John:  I have not heard much noise from Jenkins or Baker during the games. What is your assessment of their play so far in the season.


RS: I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Jenkins. He’s clearly still learning blocking schemes, but he’s feeling a lot more confident in knowing what he’s facing. I’ve seen him do a better job taking on double teams, but he’s still learning to be a pass rusher. Again, in this area he’s improving.  Jenkins is a good athlete and is starting to make more plays, especially in the run game. Baker had a solid day vs. Minnesota; he showed some athleticism in pushing back center John Sullivan for one pressure. I also loved how he changed directions on an Adrian Peterson run in the open field. As Peterson cut back across the field, Baker turned and ran with him and helped on the tackle. I think he’s been fine.



John: Another question for you. What’s the organizations opinion (and your take as well) on some of our young defensive starters?  I had high hopes for a couple of guys: Perry Riley, Jarvis Jenkins, Chase Minnifield, Richard Crawford and even Josh Wilson. I think guys like Ryan Kerrigan are paramount to your team, but he’s one I feel will always be solid, but not spectacular.  I really thought Jenkins would be a force, and maybe he will be, but he’s been non-existent to this point.  Riley the same.  He clearly has flashes, but all too often, you go entire games without ever really seeing him make an impact play.  I can’t figure Wilson out, but it clearly seems like he has no faith in the safeties.

We know the secondary is in shambles.  We’ll almost certainly need 2 corners next year.  Here’s hoping Chase Minnifield can come back strong from a very early knee injury (however, I fear 2013 Minnifield = 2012 Jenkins) and Crawford can be ready for a bigger role soon.

Bottom line:  Do we have ANYONE who looks like they’ll be more than just “solid”?  We need playmakers!  “After about 20 games, you kinda know what you have there” – Charley Casserly

BTW, I continue to have an issue with the leagues salary cap penalty and how we seemed to just roll over for it.



Aaron: All those guys are still young, so there’s room for improvement. I do think Kerrigan will be a solid, but not elite, linebacker. Really, it’s the same with Brian Orakpo. Riley has been solid, but covering the pass will never be a strength. Jenkins has improved since entering the lineup, but he has a ways to go to become a consistent force. I’ve seen strong flashes each game from him. Of the young guys I’m most curious about him because we haven’t seen him enough. How high is his ceiling? Minnifield can’t be counted on at all. I like Crawford – he’s a smart kid – but I see him mostly as a backup. With young players there are ups and downs. So do they have any budding young playmakers? At an elite level? Tough to say yes. But they do have a young corps that is solid. They do need to add a playmaker in the secondary.



John: I hope you are doing well – I first would like to thank you for the excellent coverage and insight that you bring to the fans every week.  It is certainly a go-to for any diehard fan like myself!  My question is regarding the salary cap penalty the Redskins where hit with this offseason.  Is there any update on the status of the appeal for this senseless penalty after the moves were supposedly approved by the NFL?  Have the Redskins even filed a formal appeal?   It seems to me that is may one of the larger contributing factors to the lack of talent in the secondary…  …and perhaps several other areas.  I have been rather surprised how quiet everyone is being about this and not shouting from the rooftops - almost as if they are just accepting it and moving on?



Colin: They’ve moved on. It’s over. Yes, it impacted their free agent plans last season. I think you would have seen a different right tackle and at least one new member in the secondary. They’ll have to deal with it again this season. The good thing for Washington is that it drafted 21 players the past two years. If the Redskins can develop these classes, they’ll be in good shape. That’s how you win consistently.



Hi John: Is Garcon’s injury potentially career-ending in the sense that he’ll never be able to consistently sprint and play an entire season at his top level again?  $20 to $45 million for one quarter of one game was not worth it. What do you think about the Redskins injury curse?  Why does it seem worse than other teams? What effect is it having on the salary cap when expensive guys fall and new players are brought in?


Scott: I haven’t heard anything like that, so, no I wouldn’t go that far just yet. They’re hopeful rest will be enough. If that doesn’t happen, then surgery is an option. We’ll see. I don’t know about a curse. The Giants had a lot of injuries last year and won a Super Bowl. The Packers had a lot two years ago and won a Super Bowl. So I don’t know if it’s worse or just the fact that Washington lacks the same depth (and, until this year, the quarterback). Given who is now out, the Redskins’ offense should not be doing excelling. But it is thanks to Robert Griffin III. Heck, last year the Redskins’ defense had one injury (LaRon Landry), so that couldn’t be an excuse for why it slipped. Their front seven stayed healthy all year and that was unusual.



John: Any chance Washington can put together a trade in return for CB’s help? Maybe trade piece of Kirk Cousins…Thanks!



John: Great job on covering the Redskins.  I live in South Carolina so I don’t get to see or listen to much talk about them.  Any rumors about a possible trade for secondary help prior to the trade deadline?



Robert/Vince: Thanks … Lumped these together for obvious reasons, as Mike Shanahan says. Teams just don’t trade good corners so I think any trade scenario is a longshot. You can never say never, but I haven’t heard any rumblings (doesn’t mean calls aren’t being made). I think this issue will have to be addressed in-house for now and then in the draft and/or free agency later. As for trading Cousins, I don’t think he would bring much in return right now. All he’s shown is that he can have some good moments in the preseason vs. backups. Teams can draft a Kirk Cousins type in April if they want. To maximize his value, I’d hold onto him for a few years and let him build up a body of work first. Also, I wouldn’t want to trade Cousins anyway. You’d only get a mid-level corner for him and I’d rather have a solid backup QB.



John: Love your stuff, you have made me a fan and your writing style is great. As you did in the preseason can you analyze how Giants left tackle Locklear has improved from last year, technique, physical aspects, smarts. Did he improve so much or is Kerrigan just not that great. He handled him one on one on several occasions. Thank you.


Prussia: Thank you. Locklear looked more physical than he did a year ago. I remember times when he’d come out on a player and get zero pop and almost slow down before he arrived. He actually looked solid last week. I thought Locklear did an excellent job vs. Kerrigan – his strategy was dead-on. He took away Kerrigan’s rip move by keeping enough space between the two and his hands tight inside. It wasn’t until Kerrigan started bull-rushing a little bit that he had success. I think there’s a strong book on Kerrigan now.  I like when they move him around a little bit more, or when he can rush from a four-point stance (gets a good jump, but it also gives away what he’s doing).



John: With all of the issues they have had, why haven’t they taken a look at Kevin Barnes? He was let go by the Lions after week 2. I realize he is not the long term answer but he seemed to have some talent and a hard hitter. Thoughts? Have you heard anything about him through the grapevine?


Thomas: No, I haven’t heard his name. Kevin is a smart kid, which always helps. But even if they signed him he’s a fourth or fifth corner. They need to bolster the starting lineup.



John: If Mike Shanahan and the Redskins finish under .500 this year, will he be on the hot seat for 2013?

Tsekani Jackson

Tsekani: He should be, yes. But it also depends on how far below .500 he is. If they’re 7-9, you can argue there was progress. If they’re 5-11 – and the QB is as good as he’s been — then it’s very tough to say there was progress. Regardless, any regime in the fourth year should take a big step or face consequences. Heck, you could say that about the third year. The Redskins situation is a little different because they didn’t start the legitimate rebuilding until after their first year and they just found their QB. I also think owner Dan Snyder has to like what he’s seen of the offense and how good it is for Robert Griffin III. So it could be other members of the staff (defense) that is more in jeopardy.



John: Was it just me who saw what appeared to be three blatant holding penalties that were not called on the Giants as they executed their 2-minute drill at the end of the first half of last week’s game?  On their first play from scrimmage (1:49 mark), David Baas seemed to grab Barry Cofield as he was about to hit Eli Manning.  Then, on the 3rd and 4 pass to Nicks near midfield (about the :55 mark), Sean Locklear had a stranglehold on Kerrigan as he was coming around the edge and close to hitting Manning.  Two plays later, (about the :31 mark), Manning hits Cruz for a 13 yard gain, thanks in part to a clear hold by Chris Snee on Lorenzo Alexander.  I was watching the game with a Giant fan who laughed and said “It’s only a hold if they call it.”  I then said I bet Shanahan would say something to the refs at halftime, and sure enough, the Giants were called for holding on their first possession of the second half–too little, too late.  I thought the “non calls” late in the first half may have been crucial, because we had just taken the lead, and a stop may have given us a chance to go up by two scores before halftime given the momentum we had.  Is this just sour grapes, or did you see what I saw?

David Crocker


David: A bit ticky-tack. I also think if you’re going to single out just a couple of their plays, you’d have to go back and look and see what the Redskins O-linemen did vs. the Giants DL in certain situations. Cofield’s was a little tougher to see because it’s inside and Baas had a slight grasp on him but then Cofield quickly broke free, whereas Beatty had a good grab of Jackson, who was clearly impeded. Locklear and Snee? No. I’ve seen holding calls missed vs. Redskins’ pass-rushers; I’ve seen calls missed on the Redskins’ OL, too. They lost because they turned the ball over four times and failed to execute defensively at a crucial time.


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