The Washington Examiner’s John Keim (JK) takes questions from fans about potential camp battles, right tackle and injury updates in this installment of “Redskins Mailbag.”
Q: Interesting battles at RT, backup OL and RB, any surprises you see coming?
George Cheripko @KingGeorge_IV
JK: Depends what you consider a surprise. One guy I’m curious to see is Tony Pashos, someone they were interested in a few years ago. He fits the system well, but how is he physically after playing on a torn tendon in 2011 and not playing last season? Tom Compton is another to watch. Jeremy Trueblood struggled the past few years; I I also think it’ll be interesting to see how the young backup guards develop and if any crack the starting lineup at some point. Josh LeRibeus has the most talent. The line was good at times last season but this scheme helps, so it’s not as if every one of these players should feel secure. Most players never should. As for running back, I could see Jawan Jamison threatening for a spot (love Chris Thompson’s electric style, but durability is an issue; think he’s more of a third-down back only). Evan Royster is OK, but replaceable. He’s better running 15-20 times a game than as a third-down back. Jamison was a terrific pass protector in college, can catch the ball and fits this system well.
Q: [I]f you count 5 players in the secondary as starters, 3 CBs and 2 S, starters for day 1 and then end of year (barring injury)?
JK: I’d like to see the rookies in action first to get an accurate gauge of where they’re at vs. NFL competition (not in shorts at a rookie mini-camp). But for the corners I’ll go with Josh Wilson, DeAngelo Hall and E.J. Biggers in the first game, but Amerson soon replaces him in that role. For safeties, Brandon Meriweather and the other spot is tough. I have a very difficult time seeing one of the rookie safeties playing well enough this summer to earn that spot. It’s nice to fantasize about one of them doing so, but it would be a major bucking of the odds. So much to learn; there’s no way you can trust Phillip Thomas back there until he improves his tackling, for example. The other factor is Tanard Jackson; will he be reinstated and could he be someone to watch in the second half of the season (after a year away, we have no idea what sort of shape he’s in)? For now that leaves either Reed Doughty (better at strong) or DeJon Gomes (hasn’t improved enough). It’s silly to think either Thomas or Bacarri Rambo will come in more ready than those two (I’m adding this after originally posting the mailbag, but I should also throw Jordan Pugh into the mix; could be the Redskins go with a combination and use players in various roles, switching by the series, as they did last year) . More talented? Maybe. But so, so much to learn. I could see Thomas, if he improves his tackling, taking over by the middle of the season or so. But that’s without seeing him in pads vs. NFL players yet. Ask me again in August.
Q: What are the chances Kirk Cousins is retained by the Redskins beyond his rookie contract? Would they draft another QB instead?
JK: Considering he signed a four-year deal it’s too soon to say. What if there are questions about Robert Griffin III’s health at that time? What if Cousins hasn’t done a whole lot between now and then and there’s little demand for his services as a starter? Or, conversely, what if Cousins has a lights-out preseason this summer and next and does well in a couple regular season games. Would they trade him before his final year? Heck, we don’t even know who will be coaching the team at that time. I assume if they keep winning then Mike Shanahan (or Kyle Shanahan) will be in charge. I would assume they’ll draft another QB sometime in the next couple years just in case. But as far as how they would replace Cousins it’s just impossible to say right now: depends on that particular year’s QB draft class or what veteran backup they could land in free agency.
Q: Can Brandon Meriweather be counted upon to play this year?
JK: Yes. He tore his ACL in November, so he won’t return until training camp. We’ll learn a lot more about his knee at that time and what his outlook is for the season. But both Mike Shanahan and Meriweather have been optimistic about his return. The question will then be about his durability over 16 games. But, yes, you can expect him to play. I know he had issues at the end in New England and in Chicago (poor fit for a disciplined cover-2 scheme), but he looked good last summer and in the one game he played last season. He’ll help here – if healthy.
Q: I keep hearing the coaches are high on Compton. If Polumbus is so bad why has he yet to see the field?
JK: Because he was a rookie sixth-round pick last year (and while Polumbus struggled at times it’s not like he was always the main issue. That’s just not accurate. Not saying they shouldn’t look for an upgrade). Guys like that don’t come to the NFL ready to play immediately. Also, they’re high on what they think/hope he can become when he’s a finished product. Also, experience matters a ton in this league. When I saw Compton last summer, he struggled with counter moves. I wondered if he lacked the foot speed to handle NFL athleticism. However, the coaches love his footwork and say his issues were due as much to needing to get stronger so when he’d thrust his arms at a rusher, he’d knock him off stride and make the double move easier to combat. We’ll learn a lot this summer about Compton and where he’s at in his development. I’m intrigued.
Q: As always thanks for the great work. How do you see the tight end situation playing out by the time the season starts? Does the drafting of a TE have implications on team plans for Davis, Paul or Paulsen?
Andrew D. Eckman
JK: Thank you. I certainly don’t see the first two tight ends changing. Fred Davis is the obvious No. 1 and Logan Paulsen is a good blocker in an offense that requires that from the tight end – the stretch zone fails without it. But for the other two, it depends on Niles Paul’s development and how Jordan Reed looks against NFL talent. No way of knowing either situation right now. For Paul, now that he’s had a year playing the position, will he improve? But I certainly think Reed could help them even if Paul does get better. Reed is a more fluid athlete than Paul, who has better straight-line speed, but quickness matters more. Reed runs better after the catch, too. As for the future, I don’t see Reed as a viable replacement for Davis if he’s unsigned. Reed is a mismatch tight end, but has a looooong way to go as a blocker. A long way. Davis has improved every year as a blocker, but it took a while for him to become efficient in that role. Reed enters the NFL much further behind as a blocker. If he’s asked to block along the line right now he’d have major issues. As a blocker on the move? He can help there, much like how they used Paul last year. There’s a definite spot for Reed in this offense because of his versatility.
Q: Thanks for doing this. We fans appreciate the interaction and information. Here’s my question: If the defense makes the jump from bad in 2012 to good-but-not-great in 2013 given the rookie additions and the return of Orakpo, Meriweather, and Carriker, is it reasonable to predict a deep playoff run this year?
Brian in DC
JK: First: my pleasure… Now, for the answer: That depends. Is Robert Griffin III healthy entering the playoffs or not? Let’s assume he is and that the offense stays relatively the same (yes, it could become more explosive, but for sake of argument here we’ll say it’s similar to 2012) then, yes, any improvement by the D should result in expectations of a deep run. I don’t know how much the rookie additions will help on defense. It’s rare to have, for example, a fourth-round pick and a sixth-round pick make instant contributions from scrimmage. Of course, by season’s end one of them could be helping in a bigger way (along with second-rounder David Amerson, about whom it’s reasonable to expect help). Even if the safety play is the same as last year, but the pass rush improves then the defense will as well. That was the bigger issue last season. They had to manufacture a pass rush much more so than in 2011. Which meant a few more chances and less defenders in coverage and more time for QBs to beat suspect safety play. The coaches say there’s increased versatility in the secondary; anxious to see if that’s real and how it plays out.
Q: What’s the status of the lesser known injured players like Chris Neild, Keenan Robinson, and Jordan Bernstine?
JK: Bernstine won’t be ready until training camp at the earliest. He suffered a brutal tear – the ACL, MCL and PCL plus the patella tendon. Robinson was on pace to be ready for the organized team activities, which start next week. I would expect Neild would be somewhat limited until training camp, following their usual protocol post-ACL tears. The good news for him, if you want to call it that, is the injury occurred in August so he should be fully healed.
Q: Maybe you read the thing about Chip Kelly getting rid of Taco Tuesdays and Fast Food Fridays in the Eagles cafeteria and his efforts to install a healthful eating culture. The whole idea that professional athletes are not eating well really caught me off guard. We always hear that pro football players will do anything to gain a competitive advantage – but they don’t want to eat right? I think I even remember RG3 talking about his revelations around the importance of nutrition and hydration when he did the Gatorade thing a year ago. What’s the deal? Is nutrition a foreign concept to these guys?
Thanks as always,
JK: Good question. I remember when I first started covering this beat how often we’d see players return from lunch with bags of McDonald’s or Popeye’s. It surprised me then how prevalent this was. But pro athletes are also young kids/adults in most cases. They’ve excelled to this point not because of their nutrition knowledge/habits, but their athletic prowess. I’m sure they figure they’ll burn it off because of the work they do. But it also seems as they get older their nutrition habits improve; they do work with nutritionists, etc. Those who last the longest probably have the best habits. But there’s no way a team of 61 players will be that strict about their diets. They have access to better information and can afford certain things but that doesn’t mean they’ll take advantage. Many non-athletes are the same way; I can’t imagine anyone eating that way all the time. It still comes down to discipline and wise choices; some are bound to fail in this regard. Having said all that I’m surprised that a pro team would have a Fast Food Friday. But it also could be they knew guys would go to fast food joints on that day anyway and this was a way of keeping them together (bonding) for a little longer. Wonder how packed the Eagles’ cafeteria will be on Fridays – save money or eat fun with your buddies? Tough call for some.