Redskins mailbag, part 1

I pulled these questions off my Twitter feed, but could not get to every one of them. I did have a lot of coffee Wednesday morning and answered a few more, which I'll post later. Some questions were duplicates or about the same topic so I tried to answer all angles. There's a litlte on Tanard Jackson, Bacarri Rambo, Alfred Morris and the zone read. Enjoy.

@kangaroocas asks: do you see the Skins keeping Tanard Jackson if/when he's reinstated? He has the potential to start in this D.

John Keim: Nobody knows what his potential is having missed an entire year already. It’s one thing to be hurt and miss a year; teams can monitor you. But in this case Jackson has missed a year with nobody knowing what sort of shape he’s in or how much he’s working out. He’s not allowed to have any contact with the team. That’s the first issue. Second, I have serious doubts he’ll be reinstated and even if he is, it wouldn’t be until later. Why rush back a guy who already has been suspended for a year and then messed up again to receive an indefinite one a short time later? I wish Jackson well; he has bigger issues to deal with other than his football career. It’s a shame because he looked good last summer, but he needs to get clean and stay clean -- and not for football. The reality is, no team can rely on him.

@LetacrisVA asks: Any possibility our cap money could be used towards a RT? Any good candidates available?

Keim: There weren’t any good right tackle candidates available last offseason, let alone any who would be a good candidate now when the rosters are set. If they’re good, they’re on a roster. (Sidenote: Eric Winston wanted too much money; but they also didn’t view him as being much better than what they already had and, therefore, not very cost efficient). The same goes for safety, as others had asked. Certainly they could pick someone up if they become available, but not many starter types get cut. If they wanted to trade for someone later they could better absorb the cost.

@CardiacCaps asks: Can the offense be effective without running the pistol/zone read?

Keim: Absolutely. For starters, they will continue to use the zone read (the pistol is a formation they use regardless, but it allows them to use the zone read without tipping their hand). I touched a little bit on this in my Five Questions article taking a look at how they fared versus Philadelphia last season, for example. Alfred Morris carried the ball four times for nine yards out of the zone read in those two games combined. Robert Griffin III threw six touchdown passes in those two wins, none of them off a zone read fake. In fact, he threw a combined four passes off zone read fakes. Yet they scored 31 and 27 points, respectively. Morris rushed for 200 yards versus Dallas in the regular season finale; only 35 came off the zone read. This offense works with a heavy dose of play-action, something Griffin does well. And Morris is an excellent runner who fits this system perfectly. The zone read helps him; he does not need it to be successful. It’s obviously a good play: Morris averaged 5.9 yards on 57 zone read carries (4.7 on his other 294 runs) and Griffin averaged 16.4 yards per completion off its fakes (compared to 17.3 off regular play action and 8.9 off no play action). I think it adds a lot of value to what they do and takes them from being a good offense to a dangerous one. But effective without it? Yes. I wouldn’t ditch it, though, because it works. It’s so much better than the wildcat, a gimmick play that involved no real passing threat. One thing could happen in the wildcat; three things could happen from the zone read (handoff, QB run or a pass). It causes so much hesitation in the linebackers that big gaps in coverage followed.

@jnickbarone asks: What (if anything) sets Alfred Morris apart from other RBs that have had brief lived success in the Shanahan system?

Keim: Good question and without studying the other runners he’s had it’s hard for me to say why they didn’t have more staying power. But what I can say is why I think Morris will sustain success. For starters, nobody on this team is more humble. Morris did not grow content after last season and, instead, worked out to improve other parts of his skill set, notably his agility. He cuts with a little more quickness than in 2012. I love how smart he is and that he’s able to look beyond his first cut; it helps him set up blocks better and gain extra yards. His leg drive and vision are excellent. He’s patient -- watch how fast Roy Helu gets to the hole and how often those quick dashes result in two yards. Morris is more calm and forces the defense to overflow more, allowing for better cutback opportunities. I don’t know if he’ll rush for 1,613 yards again -- perhaps he doesn’t get as many carries this season. But he was far from a one-hit wonder.

@NateBolles asks: W/depth at OLB & Kerrigan rushing well from the inside. Would they ever move him to MLB as a replacement for Fletcher?

Keim: There’s a major difference between rushing inside and playing inside linebacker in a 3-4. Kerrigan mostly rushes inside from a down position, making him more of a quick defensive tackle. He did stand up and rush from there last season and I would expect the same to continue. But there’s a huge difference here. Also, in addition to the nose tackle what every 3-4 defense needs are pass rushing outside linebackers. Why take one of the top two pass rushers on your team and put him inside? Darryl Tapp is better against the run and we have no idea yet what Brandon Jenkins will do; Rob Jackson is suspended and could leave after this season. Kerrigan is better than all of them and will be for a few years. He’d also have to re-learn the defense, lose about 20 or so pounds and learn to cover in a much different way and do so man to man. He’d have to transform his body and then himself as a player

@jalee_116: How do you think Rambo has adjusted to run plays since the first preseason game?

Keim: He fared well in the last two preseason games, mostly in open-field situations whether against the run or pass. But he was more decisive and took sharper angles. He, and everyone else on the defense, will receive a big test in open-field tackling against a team that loves to spread you out and can then hit you with LeSean McCoy, a great cutback runner. I like that Rambo seems to be a quick learner, but it could take a little time to fully develop as an open-field tackler. He will miss tackles; everyone does. He just can’t miss as many as he did in the first two preseason games (without making any, that is). His coverage skills have been good, however.