Hey John: Great column, I look forward to it weekly. Here's a question for you: What's your thoughts on offensive line starters & depth? Do last year’s rookies provide hope?
Reggie, a Redskins fan in NC
Reggie: Thanks. I enjoy doing them. The starters are not a great group individually, but they don’t need to be. They just need to be good fits in the stretch zone and most of them are; you don’t need to blow guys off the ball in the outside zone, you just need to make sure you stay in front and don’t get shoved back and create options for the back. But I do have concerns: Jammal Brown’s hip; Chris Chester’s consistency; Kory Lichtensteiger’s knee; Trent Williams’ reliability. Will Montgomery is an average center. In this system, working together is the key; it can make them all look good – (or bad if they fail to do so). They did struggle at times in one-on-one pass protection situations. I like that they drafted two more interior players; Erik Cook did not develop enough last year – because of the lockout or maybe he just isn’t good enough? Can’t blame it all on the lockout. Maurice Hurt needed to get in better shape. And I like what I’ve heard from scouts/experts on Josh LeRibeus and Adam Gettis. In time they will help provide depth and options that the Redskins need inside. As for last year’s rookies, yeah they definitely provide hope. The Redskins might have found six or seven who could contribute for several years. That’s a good haul and it’s how you start building a legitimate contender. The other side of that is: it speaks well of the scouting department.
John: In thinking about dark horse candidates on this roster to pleasantly surprise us next season, I went back and looked up scouting reports on Aldrick Robinson. What I read made me look twice. Robinson, at 5'10'' and 185 lbs, had 17 reps on the bench press at the combine. He also had a 40'' vertical. I always knew about his speedy 40 yard dash, but I guess that colored my impression of him as a small, finesse speedster that would simply be a deep threat. That doesn't appear to be the case. Listed among his strengths were "has a compact muscular build," "fights off the press effectively," and "fearless working the middle of the field." 17 reps on the bench is no joke for any WR, let alone a guy that weighs 185. My question is: from what you've seen of him, what current NFL player does Robinson's game remind you of? Is it too much to hope that his strength and fearlessness could mold him into someone like Wes Welker, or dare I say it, Steve Smith? Or has he not shown enough to even merit a comparison yet?
I'm excited to see what he brings this training camp. I think he's #1 on my list of players to watch, outside of the usual suspect, RGIII. I'm interested to hear what your take on Robinson is.
Alexan: He hasn't done anything in the NFL so any comparisons are premature. I think the qualities you mention from the scouting report definitely remind one of Steve Smith. But let’s see Robinson do something on the field first. He’s a fast guy who didn’t show much speed (which he’ll admit too). Was unimpressive. But he has speed and that’s why he stuck around. I, too, am curious to see what he can do this summer and if he starts playing fast. The lockout clearly impacted some players more than others and I think he was one. Receivers often take longer to adjust to the NFL; if you’re uncertain what you’re doing you will naturally play slower. But if he doesn’t look much better than it clearly wasn’t about the lockout. I think he’d make a good slot receiver. They also had him catching punts during practices last season, so I’m curious to see if he’s improved in that area. He’s definitely on my list of guys to watch.
John: The Redskins secondary is patchwork at best. Can Raheem Morris get enough out of Hall and Wilson for this not to be the Achilles heel that it looks like on paper? How do you see the roster breaking out in the secondary with the current personnel available?
Thanks for your time, Mark Solway
Mark: It’s not just Hall and Wilson that he needs to get enough out of. And they’re the least of my worries. It’s the safety position that is worrisome. Two corners can’t compensate for the entire secondary. The coverage needs to be tightened overall. There would be times last year when a CB would give up a 10-yard hitch, then look at the bench as if to say, ‘Why am I being asked to play so loose.’ Of course, when it was tight it didn’t always matter either. But the point is: the structure of the defense needs to be more sound if they’re going to play aggressively. Morris has a terrific reputation as a DB coach. It’s a start and he can help. The Redskins need a safety with some speed who can cover; as more teams use empty backfield sets it’s imperative to have this. Otherwise you can’t disguise defenses as well. Nor can you try certain coverage schemes (what they used to do with Sean Taylor and his speed was fun to watch. Yes, sad).
For now, I can see Hall, Wilson, Cedric Griffin, Leigh Torrence and Kevin Barnes at corner, though Brandyn Thompson will challenge the latter. At safety it’s tough. I’m not high on Brandon Meriweather, based on recent performance and from talking to people on teams he’s played. My guess is Tanard Jackson will be one starter. Reed Doughty is an excellent backup; fans upset with him need to see him the way the coaches do – as a backup and quality special teamer. They like him. Is it his fault guys in front of him keep getting hurt? DeJon Gomes needs to improve playing in space at free safety, but if nothing else he’ll be a solid backup too. Madieu Williams likely will be in there as well. But this could all change after watching them in camp.
John: The NFL Network reported Thursday night that Lorenzo Alexander has been asked to learn the tight end position. What's up with that? Is there ever going to be a position for him? I think this increases the chances of the Redskins losing him in free agency to a team that will give him a chance to excel at one spot.
Leon: I heard Lorenzo talk about this on 106.7 The Fan the other day. He said he was taking mental reps at the position, something he’s done in the past. He also said he had not taken any physical reps at the position. That’s sort of a big key. He said he knows about 15-20 plays that he could run in a pinch at tight end or fullback, in case there’s another rash of injuries, etc. He’s a guy you love to have around because he can do so much in an emergency. Maybe he’s not good enough to be a starter, but if he can help at several positions then he keeps a job even longer. What if another team only wants him to be a backup outside linebacker? He’s not quite as valuable as a guy who can back-up outside, inside, and play an offensive role. The former guy is easier to cut. I respect Lorenzo an awful lot, but it’s hard to see another team promising him a starting job. So if you’re going to be a backup, might as well do it for a team that thinks you’re capable of helping them in multiple ways. He likes it here; he’s respected here – by teammates and coaches. I wouldn’t worry about him going just yet. And I certainly don't feel he's being disrespected or not given a chance. Remember, he did start two years ago.
John: What, if any, prospects does Chase Minnifield have of getting on the field this year? I know he had microfracture surgery, but what's his time table look like?
Aaron: I haven’t really heard an exact timetable yet – I think we’ll get a better idea through the OTAs. Minnifield was optimistic about being ready for training camp, but that would be quite a fast recovery from this procedure if that’s the case. If teams thought that he would be ready, my guess is they would have drafted him considering he carried a second- or third-round grade by many experts. So you take him, maybe stash him on the PUP list and then IR and get him ready for 2013. He might be well worth the wait.
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