Redskins Mailbag: Ask John

Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

Hi John: Rreally appreciate all of your hard work and dedication toward sharing Redskins news with fans.  Big thank you. The cornerback  maneuvers recently are interesting.  Trade Barnes, release Thompson, release David Jones, sign Butler off waivers.  Coach drafted Barnes and Thompson, so clearly liked them.  Butler was unknown until day after.  Any inside scoop on how/why these chain of events took place?  Also, are we pleased with the end result?



David: Thanks… Barnes was drafted by the previous regime (2009), so this group had no ties to him. Thompson was not very good on special teams and for an end-of-roster guy that’s a death sentence. Butler, meanwhile, has speed and can play special teams so he has more value than Thompson did. Jones did nothing for me in coverage. Pleased with the end result? I think the Redskins lack depth at corner. I like Richard Crawford, but he’s a rookie and after the starters there are question marks.



Hey John: As always, great work out there.  So, first question.  Who are the Redskins targeting next at QB in the 2013 draft?  LOL.  Just kidding. Actually, I’m a real big fan of home grown WR talent (probably cause we haven’t had any in 2 decades).  I was/am very high on Hankerson, based on the small sampling from last year.  Problem is, he hasn’t looked all that good in the preseason.  Doesn’t seem to get much burst and/or separation off the line.  Almost looks as if it wasn’t for his larger body, he wouldn’t stand a chance.

I remember reading that he seemed to be coming on in training camp.  Are my eyes deceiving me or does Hank look slow off the line, and what does that bode for his season?



Aaron: Haha. Thanks for the laugh (and the compliment). It’s funny because I don’t think he looks as quick off the line as other receivers. The coaches say he is, but he was considered more of a long strider and those types of receivers sometimes have trouble adjusting to the cuts needed to be made in this offense. And some of these players – Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson – are quick so it’s difficult to sometimes compare. Hankerson, though, does use his body well; same with his arms. He extends far to catch the ball, making it tough to defend him. Some coaches last year said one knock on him was his route-running. He was OK in camp, but I thought Josh Morgan looked better. Keep in mind that Hankerson isn’t all that experienced and is far from a finished product. They still like him.



John: Great column. The combination of the loss of Tanard Jackson (and Chase Minnifield) and the inclusion of Cedric Griffin kills my ability to even fantasize about the Redskins making the playoffs this year.My only comfort is the emergence of Richard Crawford in the secondary and the added firepower of Chris Baker in rotation on the front line. Will the coaches let Brees throw 300 plus yards on Cedric Griffin alone before giving Crawford a chance?  What options are there to mask our weaknesses in the secondary?  I only see two people that can cover, Wilson and Crawford.  D Hall looks the same as 2011 so far, that is D weight, and not like 2010.

Any chance Butler develops into a surprise?

Thanks in advance,


Scott: Thanks. Not sure what it would take for Cedric Griffin to get bumped. I like Crawford, but it’s tough to put rookies in certain situations. Jim Haslett praised Griffin’s play this summer, but what else is he going to do? Griffin clearly had some rough moments in camp and the games. In the evolving NFL, the way to mask any problems is with the pass rush and the front seven. New York could not do that the other night. But this is how the Redskins will have to do it. They can’t afford to put too much stress on the secondary with a lot of blitzes. DeAngelo’s cover skills are OK, as we’ve seen. But if he’s causing turnovers, it’s not as big an issue. Last year, he failed to do that.



John: Shanahan’s critics like to say he’s a poor personnel guy.  However, thus far, in my opinion, he’s drafted fairly well.  Many draft geeks questioned why he took Trent Williams as opposed to Okung. Thus far, drug issues notwithstanding, Trent is clearly the better player. And, this looks like the 2nd consecutive good draft which includes nice finds in the late rounds like Crawford and Morris.  The Cousins pick which was critiqued by many in the media is now looking smart. I knows it’s too early to gauge this draft class but on the aggregate what’s your feeling about Mike Shanahan and the draft?


Mike: They’ve had two solid drafts in a row (and I agree on Williams over Okung). In 2011, they appear to have found two to four starters (though only one is a lock to start Sunday in Ryan Kerrigan) and several others who can help. That’s a good haul. And this year, they may have two or three starters and a couple more parts. (And by starters, I’m talking guys who win jobs for a few years, not just pressed into service for a couple games; those are the key part guys). What I like about Crawford and Morris is that they won jobs, they weren’t given them because they were draft picks. The key now is developing this talent. One note on Cousins: I always liked the pick because it followed the best player philosophy. They could have pacified many in the media, and others, by selecting a position of need. But in talking to GMs and other talent guys over the years, that sort of move is a recipe for disaster.



Hi John: With “Ask John” back there is no doubt that football season is finally here.  Over the past several seasons it is incredible how many interim coaches the Redskins have faced in the interim coach’s first game.  I see this will be the case for our season opener against the Saints.  At least we won’t also be facing a rookie quarterback.  Our records against interim coaches and rookie quarterbacks is abysmal.  Onto the 2012 draft, if USC quarterback Matt Barkley drops to the 4th round do you see the Skins taking him?  (This is just a Joke!)

Jimmie Crowder


Jimmie: You’re right about the interim coaches issues. Jim Haslett won vs. the Redskins as did Leslie Frazier. But those were different issues. Those teams needed a change and responded. The Saints will be motivated because they didn’t need a change and had one handed to them. So the emotional aspect of the game is comparable to those other changes. Actually, it’ll be even higher. I’m sure that makes you feel better.



John: Had the league not punished the Redskins for not breaking any rules thus robbing them of cap space, I think it’s obvious the positions that were likely to have been more aggressively addressed. Do you know of any specific players that would have been targeted?  Eric Winston?  Possibly making a bid for Brandon Carr?


Birmingham, AL


Trevor: Winston would have been a target. Guard Ben Grubbs is another one and corner Cortland Finnegan or maybe even a Brent Grimes. They would not have landed all these players, but they definitely would have addressed more issues, especially along the line. They did draft three offensive linemen, so they did try to do something. But none of the linemen look ready to help much this season.



John:  So which unit do the Redskins need to be more concerned about, the patchwork secondary or the injury-prone offensive line? I’d say line simply because they’re charged with keeping the franchise upright and healthy.

Thanks for your time.

Keith Kauhane


Keith: The line has so much responsibility for not only protecting Robert Griffin III, but also for opening holes in the ground game. That should not be overlooked. So much of what they need to do starts with them. The secondary can be helped by a good pass rush and if they create turnovers they can compensate for negative plays. If the offensive line can stay healthy, which has been difficult for this team, I think they’ll be fine. So much of the zone blocking relies on cohesion. This week, the secondary is a bigger issue because of who they’re playing.



Hi John: Cooley does not appear to be in a rush to sign anytime soon. Do you think the Skins have any appetite for bringing him back after Week 1? My sense is that Shanny just wants to move on. Also, do you believe the cap penalty fight is over? Or do they have more cards to play (with the hopes of avoiding the penalty in 2013)?

Jeff Lovin


Jeff: You want a coincidence? I was answering your question when news broke of a possible meeting next week. So you can take some credit. A key: by releasing Cooley last week, they’re off the hook for his $3.8 million salary this season. And veterans signed after the season begins don’t have their full deal guaranteed. I’m still not sure how much of a realistic possibility this is; Cooley didn’t even realize there was any sort of meeting set up. Is this just a PR ploy? If so, it makes no sense. Why get the fan base riled up over the possibility if there’s no chance of it happening? Certainly some people would love him back, but it’s not as if they were protesting outside Redskins Park. Not sure people need to be appeased like that. Is this a possible first step to a reunion? Could it be a case of the Redskins helping drum up interest in him, forcing another team to take action? I really have no idea. As for the cap issues, my understanding is that they’ve moved on.



Hi John: Keep up the good work! 1) Can Brandon Banks be a legit weapon on offense? In the final pre-season game he was used in several situations. End around, etc. Will he be more useful coming out of the backfield on trick plays and in the wildcat as opposed to a normal wide receiver? Or is he a threat downfield? I think the former.

2) The safety position wasn’t exactly perfect before Jackson got banned and Meriweather got injured. Do they need to make a trade or can Reed, Gomes, etc get the job done? Any decent free agents out there who could help?


Andy Sherwood
Abu Dhabi, UAE


Andy: 1) Yeah, I think on certain routes and plays Brandon can help, both as a receiver and a runner. I’m not sold that he’s improved that much, however. He struggled vs. Buffalo’s starters and excelled against Tampa’s backups. The key for him is not letting defenders get a jam on him, or re-route him, off the line. So he might be more of a threat on runs, an occasional wildcat (though I dislike this with a mobile QB already in place). He’s still a tough target on shorter routes (no pun intended). But that speed demands that you find out more about what he can or can’t do.

2) Any decent players already are with a team. Not to be flippant about it, but that’s pretty much the truth. While the safety position is not a strength, it wasn’t a year ago either and they still managed a top-15 defense. That’s not to minimize it, but to put it in perspective. Also, Madieu Williams is better than O.J. Atogwe at this point. But I’m not about to suggest it’s a strength. There will be issues.



John: Everyone’s has just settled re: the o-line. How is this secondary going to do against Drew Brees & this season?



RunTMCSports: A question off Twitter. Thanks. I think they’ll have their moments Sunday, but they’ll need to play much more sound coverage than they’ve shown at times in the past. Too many chunk plays (20 yards or more) to be a top-10 defense. The Saints excel in those plays, but the pass coverage vs. them is not just reliant on the defensive backs. The linebackers absolutely must have a good day in coverage as well. As for the season, said it in the previous answer but I don’t know that it’ll be worse than last season. Are they really worse at safety than in 2011 with an injured and aging Atogwe and a banged-up LaRon Landry? Cedric Griffin hasn’t yet shown he’s a big help, but Kevin Barnes in the No.  3 role last year wasn’t as well. Really, they need the front seven to have a terrific year and then capitalize on any turnover chances. I think they’ll have their struggles, but what we also don’t know is what sort of influence will Raheem Morris have? You can’t overlook that factor. I’m also curious to see what sort of defensive changes occur now that more guys are comfortable in the system (four starters who returned were in their first year with this defense in 2011). The players have talked about how much more they can do because of this.  So, in other words, stay tuned.



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