Redskins mailbag: Part 2

In Part 2 of the Redskins mailbag, a lot of focus on the defense from Mike Shanahan’s input to Brian Orakpo and Jim Haslett and London Fletcher. All questions came via Twitter.

@tcharlesmurray asks: How much input does Mike Shanahan have on the defensive play calling and game plan?

John Keim: He obviously has input and there will be times during a game he will suggest what he wants (remember the cover-zero blitz versus Dallas two years ago on third and long? There you go). He also will make it clear he wants the defense to be the aggressor, but that does not deviate from Haslett’s philosophy either. Two years ago, if you recall, he made a point of saying he would be more involved in the preparation for one game because he did not think the defense was adequately prepared.

‏@JoshAskarinam asks: Besides Garcon, are any of the receivers getting consistent separation? I feel like Hank is clear #2 receiver.

Keim: Hankerson does some good things; he’s become better at separating off the line – his timing has greatly improved. You see separation on his cuts. I don’t see defenses being all that afraid of him, however. He is not a guy who hurts you after the catch. But neither is Josh Morgan. I think Hankerson has a chance to start separating himself, but he’s not there yet. His numbers aren’t all that great and he needs to be more consistent. Aldrick Robinson gets some separation, but is not always in synch with Robert Griffin III. In fact, he rarely is on short throws.

@bancaboy2 asks: is trading Orakpo a possibility? Rob Jackson will be back and could fill his spot and do a better job.

Keim: Trading him now? Let’s say they wanted to (they don’t): You’re still dealing with a guy who had two torn pec’s in 2012 (last game of previous season; third game of ’12) and is in the last year of his contract. I wonder about his value. I know the coaches bemoaned his absence all last season because of how they had to alter the pass rush. They don’t view Jackson the same as you do; he did a good job but he was not an all-around player.

@dcbigoso asks: Should the skins give orakpo the big contract?

Keim: Not until we see how he plays this season. Orakpo needs to prove he can stay healthy after his pectoral issues and also be highly productive. People seem to be scapegoating him for the start on defense. Maybe people had a different idea of who he was as a player; he’s a good but not a great rusher. Two years ago their rush was better with him than it was a year ago without him. Let’s see how it plays out.

@DinoHTTR asks: has Fletchers age finally caught up to him? Or is it the fact the D can't get off the field the reason why?

Keim: I remember two years ago thinking age had finally caught up to him and then he finished strong. A year ago? Same thing. He missed more tackles than we were accustomed to during the 3-6 start. Then? He finished better and made plays. But, yes, age gets everybody and the fact that Nick Barnett will play a little for him during games is a concession that it’s getting him, too. He did not play well in the first two games; against the Packers he was aligned a little deeper off the ball and was too often being blocked – the nickel front often prevents double teams, allowing linemen to get to the linebackers. And Fletcher struggled to either avoid or get off the blocks. Yes, that obviously could be related to just getting older. Last week he was better, though he also was often aligned closer to the line (sometimes two yards off instead of four or five) and could use his quickness to shoot through. Made a big difference. I’m not going to put this on the D’s inability to get off the field.

@redskin_potato asks: Any ideas to improve D with current roster: scheme? players? Haz yelling "play better" doesn't seem to help

Keim: They’re not going to switch their scheme, but they have tinkered. They used only their nickel package against Philadelphia and tried a corner at safety; they used three corners and a safety in their base package against Detroit. It hasn’t worked. My issues are the missed assignments (in a couple games by rookie corner David Amerson); or other times it seems like the linebackers aren’t getting enough depth in coverage. Is that coaching or the players? Probably both. The cap issue hurt their ability to adequately improve the secondary. I don’t know that anyone in the secondary would start on a good defense. So how to improve? They need to apply more pressure, tackle better, quit playing so much nickel so they can play the run better, create more turnovers and hope the offense gives them a lead to play with. I thought this defense, at best, would be in the 16-20 range overall. But I did not think they would play this poorly.

@aninfob asks: Why did the Skins go away from the run against Detroit? The game was within one score the majority of the time

Keim: That question was asked of the head coach and the offensive coordinator. The basic explanation: A lot of those passes were called in pass-heavy situations – end of the first half; last two drives of the game; third downs. They were balanced on first down and their third quarter run-pass was 7 to 8. So there’s some credence to what they’re saying. I also think Detroit using eight in the box a lot of the night forced them into more throws. They need to be more balanced if they want to win and they know it.