John: With Orakpo, this is now his second year on IR with the same torn pec, and to be honest, we knew this was coming in the Chicago preseason game. Am I crazy or does his risk of the same injury stem from the fact he tries to arm tackle ball carries running full speed and he’s reaching out to grab them because he’s out of position? Going back to the Chicago game, he got hurt right as he was running to the side line but had to reach back to attempt the tackle.
With this a contract year, and if Rob Jackson can continue to produce the way he did again Cincinnati, what’s the prospects of Orakpo being brought back?
Thanks, as always
Aaron: I haven’t heard any rumblings that he wouldn’t be back. Jackson had a good first game, but was invisible in the second and is just not as athletic as Orakpo, nor is he an all-around linebacker. It showed a couple times vs. the Bucs. Let’s see how he fares over the long haul and opponents have more tape on him. As for Orakpo’s injury, you’re on to something. The Chicago one was unfortunate because it was him trying to reach back. But I talked to one knowledgeable person who thought the original injury stemmed as much from how he plays blocks as anything. That’s one opinion, but it was interesting to hear. Part of it is the nature of the position and therefore, going forward, there has to be some concern as to whether or not it will re-occur. At least until he goes through a season unscathed.
John: I have been a huge skins fan for years. We have had so many situations where we had to come from behind after giving up a lead. The skins have been in football purgatory, never awful enough but never good enough to win. When was the last time we had a win like this? a qb that led us down the field to get a game winning field goal with less than 2:00?
Richard: Don’t remember, but CSNWashington.com wrote that the Redskins hadn’t rallied to win in the final seconds of a game since Oct. 3, 1999. They’ve won games in the last minute since then, but not in comeback fashion.
John: I was wondering, with a healthy (or healthier Trent Williams) playing at left tackle, do you think there is a chance that Black takes over for Polumbus at right tackle down the road? Thanks for all your great work week-in and week-out.
Zack: Thanks. At this point I don’t see Black taking over for Polumbus (who did just fine vs. Tampa Bay, but struggled in the first three games). Black has taken snaps at right tackle since he arrived (as has Maurice Hurt). However, a few more games like the Bengals game and anything is possible. Regardless, the solution to this spot lies in the offseason whether in free agency or the draft. Polumbus was their third option for this season, behind Eric Winston (in free agency) and Jammal Brown (obviously injured).
John: Can quarterback play get much better than what RGlll did in the final two minutes of the Tampa Game, especially since his head gear mysteriously malfunctioned? The Redskins truly have a special player in RGlll, I can’t wait to see what he does for us during his career. Does it make any sense that Shannahan cut both Graham Gano and Neil Rackers in favor of Billy Cundiff? If Cundiff ends up getting replaced are Gano and Rackers still available? Finally, if not for RGlll, how much press would Alfred Morris be getting right now. He quietly is having an incredible season for a 6th round running back. I hope RGlll and Alfred Morris will be a long term solution on offense similar to Troy Aikman and Emmit Smith.
JKC: 1) No, it doesn’t make sense why they not only would cut those two for him, but not even open it to a competition. However, Cundiff would not have come here had he not been promised the job. His kickoffs are great, but he’s only made around 80 percent of his kicks under 49 yards the past four years. If you can’t hit from beyond 50, you’d better be automatic from shorter distances. He’s not. 2) Morris is a terrific back, but he’s been helped greatly by Griffin and the attention paid to him. Those zone read fakes create excellent lanes for Morris. But I really like what he’s shown in terms of his cutting ability. He also presses the hole well, helping his blockers and opening up his own paths. Morris will start to get more pub, especially when the head coach compares him to Terrell Davis. Mike Shanahan didn’t say Davis’ name directly, but it was implied.
John: Thanks for your mailbag weekly I always find your responses to be very insightful and you give me a perspective I sometimes forget to take into account. My question is about the scouting. It seems the Ravens, Steelers and other upper echelon teams seem to do better in the mid to late rounds on draft picks and the Redskins seem to miss more often than not. How does this team handle it’s scouting or does Shanahan and few people just look at film and make decisions on who to draft? I just think our scouting more than anything has hurt the team and needs to improve.
Taurus: The middle rounds are what separate teams, no doubt. That’s why some teams love having multiple picks in the middle to late rounds. Very, very tough to hit on, say, one fourth-round pick. But if you have two or three? The odds increase and now you’ve found cheap labor for a few years. It killed the Redskins during the Vinny Cerrato regime (not tough to pick LaVar Arrington or Chris Samuels or Sean Taylor). Anyway, the Redskins handle their scouting the same way other teams do, with a scouting department that goes to games during the fall and pores over film throughout, among other aspects of their homework. Shanahan doesn’t get fully involved until after the season (yes, he watched film of some of the quarterbacks during last season, but there’s a difference between doing that and being heavily involved). A big key for the scouts is knowing what the head coach wants in a player. Teams like the Steelers do a good job developing talent and often times that goes back to coaching and how they bring them along. If a guy fails as a draft pick, you can’t just blame scouts. Three years ago they drafted Perry Riley in the fourth round and he’s faring well (though the others were cut). Most of the picks after the third round in 2011 seem to be backup types, though contributors. In a draft if you can find two or three starters and a few other contributors for several years, you’ve done well. It’s hard to fully judge that class yet, but most beyond the Kerrigan-Jenkins-Hankerson trio, right now, are just backups. Still a potentially good class. As for this year, they drafted Alfred Morris in the sixth and he’s working out rather well. I like Richard Crawford and think he’s very smart, but at this point he’s not a future starter. With the rest we have to wait and see (though I wish I’d felt better about how third-rounder Josh LeRibeus looked in practice and the preseason; could take time).
John: With the success that Robert Griffin III has had in the two minute drills and hurry up offense, can you see the Redskins going to the hurry up in the middle of games as so many teams are starting to do? Why or Why not? I figure it could create even more mismatches and stretch the defenses.
Amani in LA
Amani: Yes, I do. But most of those teams who do run it now (probably all in fact) have experienced quarterbacks. In a two-minute situation the quarterback is calling from a smaller play list, too. This tactic is all about keeping defenses in their base look and making it tougher to sub as well as a way to change the tempo of a game. So it’s really best used in small stretches, if the offense is struggling, for example. As Griffin gets more comfortable, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it used. The thing is, he’d be good at it because of how smart and prepared he is.
John: Their comeback worked out for them last week but they worry me in close games this year. They have an erratic field goal kicker who famously struggles with kicks under pressure and in recent years cannot complete field goals from 50 yards and beyond. Compared to the rest of the league, they are a heavily penalized team that tends to make penalties in those crucial last moments and did so last week again but luckily persevered, regardless. And Shanahan for a smart coach surprisingly tends to struggle with clock management and squandering timeouts. Fortunately, RG 3, is clutch and can counter some of this. What do you think?
Mike: I agree 100 percent. They have a special player at the most important position and therefore will have a chance in close games. But the issues you stated are legit. Griffin helps teams overcome a lot of sins.
At some point we all know the game will come down to a 51-yard field goal. Somewhere Graham Gano will be seething. Or smirking.
John: Thanks for your continued outstanding coverage of the Redskins. I know the task is a lot more demanding this year with the extra details you are providing with your RG3 insights/analysis. Was Alfred Morris on the Redskins’ radar before the coaching staff took part in the College All-Star game (forgot which game this was)? I’d expect coaching in these games would be a much sought after job in order to get more data for a player evaluation than a coach might get from sitting in the stands.
Chris, Richmond, VA
Chris: You’re absolutely right that it helps coaching in those games. You might only take a couple guys you coached, but you get insight into many, many players. There are definitely some players who get written off because of these games, too. Morris did play at the Senior Bowl, but as a fullback (on the squad coached by the Redskins’ staff). He didn’t carry the ball, but Mike Shanahan told him afterward that he had played a great game. Oh, and thanks. Yes, there is more added to the plate with RG3, but he’s fun to watch. It’s better than when Haynesworth kept adding extra hours to my week.
John: So in the 4 games so far, I’ve anecdotally noticed that it seems when the other team scores, RG3 leads the offense back to answer or at least back into scoring range. That was one of the major issues last season, especially late. When things started going downhill, they rapidly deteriorated. The Jets game, Vikings game and Eagles game are all examples of how the team played competitively for a large portion of the game but then once they faced some adversity, the bottom fell completely out. Is there a way for you to analyze the post score drives and how many of them result in the Redskins scoring points or being in scoring position? Thanks!
John: Man! Making me work hard today, huh? I agree with you; they respond well. They haven’t done so in the past for a variety of reasons but one of them is the quarterback. A rather large reason, too. However, in looking at the last four games of 2011 (when the offense was playing well) and the first four of this season there isn’t as big a difference as you would expect. There is an improvement, but not a significant one. In the last four games in 2011, the opposition scored 19 times and the Redskins responded with eight scores (two of those 19 scores came at the end of a half and a third was followed by a knee, so in essence they were eight of 16). They scored three touchdowns and five field goals. This season, they’ve allowed 19 scores and responded with eight as well. The difference is that five of those have been touchdowns and there was a missed field goal as well. One opponent score came at the end of the half. They allowed 91 points and scored 44. Last year they allowed 105 points and scored 36.
John: I enjoy reading your articles. My question is about the Redskins’ offensive philosophy and personnel. I’ve read detailed articles on different aspects of the offense this season (package plays, zone reads, etc), but could you provide an overview of the entire offensive system, how unique is it, how well and quickly the coaches are making adjustments during the game, how well it fits the current personnel, and what would be top position (or two) to upgrade next year in the draft or free agency? Next week I’d like to ask the same question for the defense.
Kevin: Thank you. Just remember to submit the question next week too; it’s a lock that I’ll forget. The offense is unique because it features more sets than a traditional offense, especially with the use of the zone read and option game. Only Carolina really compares right now in terms of how the offense forces a defense to prepare (wrote about this in the email report this week). In the past the coaches were not known as much for their in-game adjustments or for how they adjusted throughout the season. That’s based on talking to coaches and/or scouts. Personally, I think the better your QB play is the more it looks like you can adjust. Griffin makes this offense go. They adjusted well in the Bengals game, going to the triple option look and it forced Cincy to abandon its cover-2 for a cover-3, thereby opening up throws over the middle. Everything changed. In the other games the opposition had to adjust more to what they were doing. But against the Bucs they threw some new wrinkles in terms of where they aligned players that opened a few runs/passes. I’ll be curious to see what they do once they face some of the better all-around D’s and how they adjust. They’ve done a good job finding players who fit this system, obviously the quarterback but also Alfred Morris and the receivers. None of them are elite, but in the stretch zone it’s imperative to have receivers who block (in addition to being a threat) and they now have those players. The line is suited to it, though their strength is not blocking in straight drop-back situations. It’s a weakness actually. As for the offseason, the No. 1 target is a right tackle. If they want Tyler Polumbus as their backup swing tackle, fine (that’s what he was slated to be before Jammal Brown’s latest injury). But they need a more athletic guy at this spot. I’ll also be curious to see what happens with Santana Moss the rest of the season. At 33, he doesn’t have many years left but he’s in better shape than the past couple years.