John: Hope you enjoyed a restful bye week. It’s been discussed in depth about the lack of first round picks the next two years (but they still have a high number of picks) but can you talk about how the Giants built from the Eli draft (who they drafted in the middle rounds in the 2 years following their trade) and how the Redskins may follow a similar blueprint? Thanks.
John: The Redskins don’t need to just follow New York’s blueprint because the answer to their woes is easy and one followed by practically every good team: draft and develop. Of course, doing that is difficult. The Redskins drafted more players the past two years combined (21) than any team in the NFL. So those drafts are as important as the next two because they should provide the corps of the future. As for New York, here’s how they drafted in 2005: CB Corey Webster (2nd round), DE Justin Tuck (third round) and RB Brandon Jacobs (fourth round). They only had four picks that year and found starters with three of them. That trio combined for 317 games played. In 2006, the Giants had seven selections. Here are some notables from that draft: DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka (first round, 32nd overall) and DT Barry Cofield (fourth round). The Giants tend to find a couple starters in each draft and that’s the key.
John: Thanks for all the hard work. Every week, you make me just a little bit smarter. I can’t say that I’ve been disappointed by the player acquisition strategy that the team has adopted in the Shanahan era. The tactic of accumulating a bunch of picks later in the draft and developing those players into contributors seems to be the best way to develop a consistently successful team in the long run. The problem is that the team doesn’t appear to be developing its talent. For every guy that’s developing nicely (e.g. Paulsen), there’s a bevy of guys that don’t seem to be getting any better (e.g. Hankerson, Robinson, Kerrigan, Jenkins). Am I correct in the impression that the Redskins are doing a poor job at player development? If so, who’s to blame? It seems like the coaching staff is interested more in developing strategy than in developing players.
Thanks for the insight.
Andrew: Thank you. I wish my kids felt the same way… I think that’s a major issue, so, no I don’t think you’re off base in that area. They’ve drafted 27 players in the Shanahan era and only six are starters (though seven if Leonard Hankerson or Aldrick Robinson start for Pierre Garcon on Sunday). But keep in mind that of those 27 picks, 20 came in the fourth round or later (10 are still on the active roster; one is on the practice squad and three are on injured reserve). The later-round players take longer to develop. Jenkins is essentially a rookie while Hankerson missed substantial time last season. Robinson is a rookie fourth-rounder who actually is starting to contribute. Kerrigan? He’s improved overall, but not as a rusher. So on some of these players we’ll have a stronger idea next season about where they’re headed. I have heard from others who question this staff’s ability to develop talent (not all the coaches; RB coach Bobby Turner has a terrific reputation). One guy I think this staff misses is former LB coach Kirk Olivadotti; thought he was a good teacher. There aren’t a lot of coaches on this staff with the reputation for developing. In some cases it’s because the coaches haven’t been in the NFL long enough to accurately gauge their ability in this area.
If a guy doesn’t develop you can’t just pin it all on the coaches – Joe Bugel failed to develop any young linemen into starters when he was here the second time; clearly he’s a good coach. In some cases coaches fall in love with a guy’s attributes (Markus White) and realize later he can’t do much or that he doesn’t fit. Other times the player doesn’t work quite as hard as necessary. But it’s also true that coaches are in the win-now mindset and that often clashes with trying to develop guys like a DeJon Gomes, who has speed and started last year but fell off the map. Is that all on the coaches? No. But if you don’t develop enough players, then that’s clearly a reflection of the staff and the organization. You can’t just always say a player wasn’t any good. However, of their former draft picks they’ve cut, only Markus White and Selvish Capers are on anyone’s roster. Tom Compton is on the Redskins’ practice squad while Dennis Morris, Terrence Austin, Erik Cook and Brandyn Thompson remain unsigned.
John: I’m sure you get tired of the Haslett questions, and I feel as if he’s gone. The defense isn’t improving and likely won’t as six of our next seven offenses on the schedule are either proficient or matchup headaches for us. I think much of the problem has been the stubborn insistence that we run a 3-4, and that we do it with largely 4-3 pieces. That’s why I think we should switch, with or without Haslett.
Cofield and Jenkins are natural 4-3 DT, Kerrigan is a natural RE, either leave Orakpo at ROLB or move him to LE and make one of the best lines in football. Riley was a college ROLB if I’m not mistaken, too. Granted, Bowen is likely out of place, but isn’t having one guy adjust better than everyone else? Even Haslett himself always chose to run the 4-3 when he was a head coach, but we’ve got him as a fish out of water. It almost makes too much sense.
The notion that only 3-4 defenses get pressure is false. The Giants have been killing us for years with a four man front, same with the Bears and the pressure they get. At the very least, we need a coordinator who’s had success in this scheme. Once the Jets fire Rex Ryan after this season, that would, at least, make it justifiable to stay the course.
Any chance any of this happens? Thanks, John.
Trevor: For starters, the 3-4 was originally designed to stop the run while the 4-3 is more about pressuring the passer. The linemen in the 3-4, especially in Washington, are asked to take lateral steps initially, trying to occupy blockers for the linebackers. So to really pressure you must have an elite outside rusher and the Redskins do not. Kerrigan and Orakpo are nice and sometimes very good rushers, but not elite. You can rush from a lot of different angles in the 3-4, but it’s not as if this D has transformed the rush. I know Jim Haslett has experience in it, but he seemed to favor a 4-3 (which is what he ran in New Orleans and St. Louis). But would it have been better to have someone with a stronger background in it? Makes sense that this would be the case, though when Haslett was hired people around the league I talked to said he was fine – not special, but OK. I also don’t think you can just install another team’s playbook (Pittsburgh) and expect to have similar results without the depth of knowledge by the coaches or similar players. The Steelers seem to overcome injuries (and even a lack of pressure from their OLBs) and still play fast because they’re so smart in this D. They also have a different-level coordinator in Dick LeBeau.
I’ve talked to others who feel both Kerrigan and Orakpo would be best as 4-3 DEs. However, I wouldn’t want both as DEs, preferring a more stout player on the left side for run downs (think Phillip Daniels in his prime). I agree that some guys would fit in this D, but to think only one guy would have to adjust is wrong. There are different styles of the 4-3 and Riley, for example, has never played in this front in the NFL.I do think Jenkins and Cofield would be effective tackles. The secondary has different responsibilities in a 4-3 in terms of run fits and how they need to react to certain blitzes. If they wanted to they could revert to a 4-3, but regardless they’ll still need another corner and they’ll still need better safeties.
John: Let me start off by saying I really enjoy reading your articles and columns. You are the truth, dude. Your articles are insightful, informative and entertaining. Kudos to you and please keep it up. Now on to my question of the week. John, you’ve answered several of my questions before, but this one is a little different. My family (4) are all huge ‘Skinz fans and will be going to Eagles game this weekend. To say we’re excited would be a HUGE understatement. We are coming from Myrtle Beach and will arrive on Friday. We’re staying at the Westin hotel in National Harbor. My question is what is the general schedule of events for the team the weekend of a home game? Is there some type of meet and greet? What activities would you recommend for us? We would love to maybe tour the stadium or meet some of the players if at all possible. What about field passes? This is will be our first trip to see our team play at home and we’re very excited. We’re just trying to make the most this experience and any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much and HTTR!!!!
Bryan: Thank you. There’s no meet and greet – the team stays in a hotel (Gaylord National Resort) the night before a game and has meetings. I’m sure if you hung out in the lobby you’d catch some guys walking around. I can’t imagine you can get a tour of the stadium on game day, but I really have no idea about this. I think it would be best to contact the Redskins about a tour. As for field passes, good luck. I don’t know how they dole those out, but I do know they’re very precious and limited. If you get to the South gate around 10 a.m. you can stand by the players’ parking lot and get some autographs as they head to the stadium. I don’t have much else besides this; my game day routine usually is to hit the parking lot and head right to the press box. Hope that helps. Enjoy the game.
John: Love your work. So say Rex Ryan gets fires after the season and as does Jim Haslett. Wouldn’t you also like to see the Redskins pursue him as a defensive coordinator? He’s proven that he can be a pretty good defensive coordinator and he has plenty of experience in the 3-4. Unlike like Haslett. Thoughts? Thanks.
-Pascal D. Todd
Pascal: Thanks. Have to be honest and say I’ve never asked anyone about this so it’s not as if I even know what certain people at Redskins Park think of him as a coordinator, let alone if they’d be interested. So I don’t have great insight here. But I’d have a hard time seeing Ryan’s personality mesh with Mike Shanahan’s. If Ryan does get fired, I don’t know that he’d automatically jump right back into a coordinator’s job. There could be a handful of openings that he’d explore and he could make the case he was done in by the personnel staff. But he was a terrific coordinator in Baltimore and would be a hot commodity.
John: The Redskins seems to be well on track to have a typical year. If so, here’s why I think unfortunately they will lose Sunday. They are at home and even worse they are home in November. They are playing a rookie QB. They just lost a do or die match up in the previous game – which usually leads to a long losing streak for them. They are rare favorites. They are playing an even more desperate team then they are. And, they are coming off the bye week with extra time to prepare. For whatever reason all of this hasn’t added up to good things for the Redskins over the years.
The Eagles who have had the Redskins number of late in particular with the Skins coming off a bye — must be confident that they will bounce back this week? Like their previous games against Shanahan in Fedex, they jump ahead early with aggressive play calling, quiet the crowd quickly and by half time the game is over. It’s easy for me to imagine the Eagles heading into this game, thinking they are more talented and psychologically they can get to the Redskins quickly so it’s the perfect set up to get a desperately needed win. I hope am wrong but there just seems to be a lot that spells doom to me with this game. What do you think?
Mike: Well, you root for a team that has won 14 of its last 41 games. That’s what spells doom to you about any game. The reason I’d lean toward the Eagles is because they have more playmakers and have played well vs. the Redskins the past. But I do think the Redskins will be able to run on Philly and the Eagles’ O-line is a potential mess. I can easily see a Redskins win. The Eagles tend to come out hot (though they’ve been outscored 54-14 in the first quarter this year) and then tail off. Their first 15 plays often are strong. I think Nick Foles’ presence could help in that it might force the Eagles to better use some playmakers (like LeSean McCoy). On the flipside, the Eagles have yet to see Robert Griffin III, or the zone read option attack for that matter. It’s always tough. But their ends don’t pay any attention to the running back anyway, so this tactic might not be as effective. It’s hard for me to see the Redskins losing a fourth straight; it’s harder for me to see the Eagles losing a sixth straight. Maybe it will be a tie.