Redskins Mailbag: Ask John

Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

John: I’m fairly certain you’ve heard these questions before, but: 1)  When will Haslett get fired?  I see you were even saying it.  The Steelers looked like they KNEW every play would work.  I know the skill level is not great, but this is just ridiculous.  Also, when you go back to last year, the defense hasn’t even really been solid since the last quarter of the season.  All you can literally hope for is that they give you a solid half of football.

2)  When will we see someone OTHER THAN “MeAngelo” Hall?  I’m serious.  This guy is awful.  And to that point, with the exception of the Chicago game a couple of years ago, what has he really done?  Not like the game was in hand, but how much longer can Shanahan (with a losing record) suffer idiots like this guy?  I don’t care if Crawford isn’t quite ready.  I’d rather him than this clown!




Aaron:  1) Nothing will, or should, happen until after the season. Sort of hard to sell anyone on the staff as a legit replacement right now. If the Redskins have a second half defensively like they did in the first half, then someone will pay and it’s natural to assume Haslett would be in jeopardy. That’s the way the business works. And I agree that it’s been a long time since it was good and they clearly have not improved. You can only blame injuries for so much – they were healthy in the front seven in the second half last season and they still got worse.

2) Next season, I would guess. There will be fall guys for the defensive slide, if it continues in the second half. Hall still helps them in the run game and offers some chance to make plays, which is what they need. Of course, he really hasn’t made any plays and that’s the problem. If you’re not a great cover corner, which he hasn’t been, then you’d best make plays, which he used to do. I never viewed him as the answer in the slot and he hasn’t been.


John: What D Hall did was the most selfish, dumb act I have witnessed by a Redskin in recent memory.  Until D. Hall’s meltdown, it was a two possession game with 4 minutes left.  Perhaps RGlll hits a quick TD and Washington recovers an onside kick??  D. Hall sealed the game for the Steelers so we will never know.  Every player should understand that Refs are absolutely off limits for a player to approach them like that.  Maybe if Hall had kept his helmet on the ref wouldn’t have called the penalty.  If I were the coach I would have cut him immediately after the game and let him find his own way home.  Second, should RGlll work on throwing the ball to some other place on the receiver other than right in the receiver’s hands?  Those dropped passes were unacceptable and cost us much needed points.  Onto a bright spot, Kai Forbath has been impressive on field goals.  He is 6 for6 with the Redskins and none of his kicks have been in a domed stadium.  He drilled a 45 yarder yesterday in bad weather.  And finally, isn’t this the year that Shannahan and his staff should be held accountable?  After 3 seasons you have a pretty good idea what kind of coach you have and if he will be successful.



JKC: I agree that it was a selfish act. And, yeah, anything is possible, but that game was over. It added one play to the Steelers’ drive and the Redskins still allowed another first down. I get your point, but the Skins were done. It was bad regardless of the situation. As for Shanahan, yes, there should be some accountability if things don’t improve. I doubt anything happens with him in large part because of Robert Griffin III. He buys the offensive coaches a little more time; he’s their biggest (and most important) investment and the staff is getting major production from him. So the next move would be to target the problem areas and those coaches in charge. I do think the Redskins need a solid second half to prove they are, indeed, going in the right direction. Does, say, 6-10 after 11 wins in two years really prove that?



John: Thanks for your coverage of our team. I have a few points to go along with my questions. First, I can’t help but think that, while watching us get torched every Sunday, that a defensive backfield of Champ Bailey and Carlos Rogers at corner, and with Ryan Clark at one safety would do far better than what we’ve got now. While every situation is different, it seems as if the Redskins have a history of not taking care of their own players at the expense of someone else’s. Antonio Pierce, Demetric Evans, Cory Raymer, and Fred Smoot also come to mind. Is this perception true among players and around the league?

Second, it seems to be en vogue to complain about Shanahan “wasting” a fourth round pick on Cousins. While this is total bunk, I think that spending a third round pick on a guard/center who’s only been active for one game rather than a corner than could’ve contributed is fair game. Has LeRibeus done anything we don’t get to see, or is there any information to which we aren’t privy, that would make his selection make more sense?  Hurt is serviceable at guard, and at the very least he is no turnstile like David Loverne was, and Gettis came later on. Seems like that’s the pick that should receive criticism.

Finally, I understand that blaming coaches is an easy path to take and that Madieu Williams is the Cary Conklin of safeties, but the stunning lack of adjustments from series to series can be nothing other than an indictment of Haslett. As a fan, I’ve got no confidence in his ability to scheme around our deficiencies.

Thanks, John



Trevor: The perception around the league for a while was that the Redskins took care of others, but not their own. But this is a new front office and coaching staff. The Redskins genuinely felt they upgraded with Josh Wilson over Carlos Rogers. Whether or not they’re wrong, that was their thought. There were things they just weren’t pleased about Rogers’ play. Of the group you mentioned, Pierce is the one that stands out because he was a young, solid linebacker. He’s the guy you HAD to keep and they failed. But, again, that’s not this regime’s fault. LeRibeus was inconsistent in the preseason, but we don’t get much chance to see him in practice now, aside from the occasional one-on-one vs. D-linemen. He’d best develop by next summer. Gettis is a fifth-rounder, which means it’ll take him time. Saw him get stood up a lot, but also saw some lower body strength with his anchors. He doesn’t need to play now, so that’s fine.  The key to winning is developing your own talent. Talked to a longtime NFL guy today who said Xs and Os are overrated when it comes to coaching, but the ability to make adjustments is not. One complaint I heard from players after last season was how the defense –and some of its rules – changed too often last season. That led to occasional breakdowns in games.  Nobody is off the hook for this mess.


John: I am sure you are a little tired about talking about our Secondary, but humour me a bit. I think the problem with our secondary is that it is too slow. If caused the skins to become OVERLY conservative which gives little room for error. I look at Hall and our safeties and think they are ALL guys who have lost a step. So playing teams with speedy receivers will be a problem all season. I would not be surprised if Steve Smith has a big game this week because of this. They are also ALL short… The bottom line is we have personnel issues; Cap penalties, getting rid of Landry, losing Jackson and Meriweather (even Bernstine) did not help. We hate to see this defense get burned by the big play, but I think they should go back to being aggressive and hope the blitz gets it done. We can’t keep playing SOFT DEF (Bend don’t break) because it does not give the offense time with the ball; teams eat the clock running 7 to 10 play drives and leave us with little opportunity to respond. What are your thoughts?



PS. Does anyone know how to get skins receivers some stick’em gloves? Preferably with the skins logo…

Jevon: Haha. They actually had done a good job holding onto balls until this past week. As for the other stuff, I agree on the secondary 100 percent. Hall is still fast, but the safeties lack speed and that hurts in the ability to disguise coverages well; they either have to tip their hand too soon or not do it often. And, yes, they are a short group. There are personnel issues, among other things.  They’ve tried all sorts of things on defense and nothing works, including blitzing. They need their four-man rush to generate more pressure. Until that happens, no strategy will work consistently.


John: Mike Shanahan this week used injuries as an excuse for the defensive poor performance.  In the scheme of things though the defensive really only has 2 major injuries – Orkapo and Carriker.  Shanny cites T. Jackson but he was picked up after the March free agent season after being released.  M. Williiams was signed first. So clearly they were initially willing to go with M. Williams.    And since when is Merriweather a savior, he’s been dumped by 2 teams in a span of a year.  Other than that they lost some back up players.

My point is two fold:  1.  Shanahan is making excuses and he doesn’t sound like a winner in doing so.  What team doesn’t have injures?  The Giants secondary has been decimated for example.   Shanahan is the same guy who liked to say preseason how deep the club is this year.    Apparently he’s wrong.   2.  Even when fully healthy the defense has been giving up big points since the 2nd half last year.  Shanahan talked about this defense being top 10 or top 5 before the season.  Clearly, he grossly overestimated the talent.  You don’t lose two starters and then justifiably spiral into having the worst past defense in the history of the NFL.  And he’s not going to get a season ever in all likelihood without injuries.  He blamed last season on injuries too.  I’ve been in the tank for Shanny but he has lost me some with his injury excuses.  What do you think?


Mike: I agree. The last two Super Bowl winners were hit hard by injuries (having elite quarterbacks help compensate and it’s why the offense remains hopeful despite losing Fred Davis and barely having Pierre Garcon). Shanahan’s point was that the injuries are the reason they’re so far down in the rankings, but not the only reason for the bad play. There’s no doubt those injuries have made a difference, but so have bad personnel moves and a coaching staff that pales to others that have been in place here in the past. I think all of the guys they say they counted on should not have been counted on for the reasons you state. They rarely had their starting safeties together last season and yet managed to play better than this.



John: love your work. Based on your film review, what’s the deal with Leonard Hankerson? I was hoping he could become a play making receiver for us. Does he play scared or can he just not beat coverage? The drops are obviously an issue. But he just doesn’t seem like a play maker. Thoughts? Thanks

-Pascal D. Todd

Pascal: Thanks. Hankerson has had a couple solid games, both as a receiver and as a blocker. So you see signs that he could become a steady contributor someday. Remember, he hasn’t played a full season yet and receivers often take longer to develop. I will say, it’s surprising to always remember that his 40-yard dash time at the combine was the same as Aldrick Robinson’s (4.43 seconds) because it doesn’t always seem that way. But Hankerson doesn’t have the ability to make sudden moves, etc., that lead to big gains. I’m still not sure if this is just who Hankerson is or if he will develop, but there has been some improvement. He’s just not consistent.



John: Love your coverage! This may be a stretch, but since it looked like the Redskins two worse offensive games came in the rain (Atlanta and Pittsburgh), can any of that be attributed to the fact they practice in a bubble now and therefore don’t get exposed to playing with wet balls and slippery fields? Has the coaching staff ever mentioned this as a factor? I hope I’m wrong because they play in the NFC East, aren’t a dome team, and winter weather looms.


Stephen Kogon

Stephen: Thank you. Yeah, bit of a stretch. I don’t think that’s an issue – they do not practice in the bubble every day. I think last week they practiced in it one time. Not every drop was related to slippery hands/gloves or not being used to the weather. Leonard Hankerson was all about the eyes, for example. You can also stick footballs in water and use them indoors as well. Their issues are still defensively, not the weather. They struggled because the defense failed to come through when needed. You can’t use the weather as an excuse, otherwise certain teams would never win because of where they’re located. The better teams won both those games.


John: Yesterday, Adam Schefter said on the Sports Fix that the Redskins are still appealing the cap penalty and that they have a “good” chance to win the appeal.  To what extent, no one knows.  Could be a portion of the $36 million, or all of it. However it shakes out, IF they were to win back some of the money, you’re looking at a potentially huge jump in talent level and hopefully in wins.  Heard anything about this?



Aaron: Yes, I have. I’ve heard mixed things lately about how good a chance they have. And about when they could actually get the money back; it could take a while. But I really don’t know what will happen. I also don’t know why everyone assumes that spending big on free agency equals a winner. Has everyone forgotten how much money they’ve spent on players in the past in previous offseasons? Free agency can definitely help, and it might have helped this past year depending on where that money was spent. Heck, the one big free agent they did sign (Pierre Garcon) has barely played. But the way to build, and maintain, a winner is by drafting and then developing your own talent. If the Redskins don’t succeed in this area then free agency will only serve to keep them competitive.




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