Washington Redskins mailbag: Part 2

July, 19, 2014
Jul 19
12:00
PM ET
One more mailbag before training camp opens when we'll finally get answers to the six months of questions. Anyway, in this mini-installment, the topics include Jay Gruden in comparison to other first-year coaches; the different receiver positions; Aldrick Robinson and more Enjoy.

John Keim: The X receiver is typically a bigger player with speed (Pierre Garcon has played this spot since his arrival). The Redskins also need this guy to be a good blocker (as Garcon is) so he has to be physical enough to not only go across the middle for passes, but also to take care of safeties in the run game. The X often is one of the fastest receivers and needs to be a deep threat, as Garcon has been in his career. Z receiver is more of a flanker (this is what DeSean Jackson will play) and will occasionally line up as a slot guy. The Z receiver is typically smaller and faster and playing off the line enables them to get less beat up at the snap. Playing Z allows Jackson to run some shorter crossing routes as well, as he did in Philadelphia. The Y typically is the tight end in a two-receiver set. But when you start using multiple tight ends or spread formations, then other letters are added to designate the second tight end or a slot receiver or even a running back/fullback.

Keim: There haven't been too many easygoing first-year coaches. I've covered two other first-year coaches in Norv Turner and Jim Zorn (not including Steve Spurrier since he was an established college coach). Turner was a nice guy, but insecure and constantly blaming others. After a while the excuses became too common. But Turner at least deserved a chance at being a head coach and had they had better quarterbacks during his tenure (he was all for Heath Shuler), then they would have been better. Then again, he had Philip Rivers in San Diego and they got worse each year.

As for Zorn, he was in over his head from the start and seemed to think he had become something he wasn't when the team was 6-2; he started talking about getting players ready for the playoffs. Clinch a spot first, you know? Zorn never, ever should have been a head coach. Zorn was a terrific guy, but his stories often baffled players and coaches.

Turner did not communicate well with the media or his players. Gruden is a better communicator, it appears. But we'll get a much stronger feel for him during the season. Can he command the room during tough times? Does he have a presence? Those were two big keys that I heard from many when I'd ask around about various coaching prospects. Heard it a lot about some candidates: Nice guy, but can't command the room. But I don't think Gruden will be like Zorn at all. Gruden understands better what it means to be a head coach. Now he just needs to coach a game and go through a season to see what kind of coach he really is. People in the NFL I spoke to were split on him before the Redskins made the hire.

Keim: They don't have a lot of depth here so it's not as if anyone would be a big surprise. You're looking at guys like Nick Williams (who still has practice squad eligibility). Robinson earning a roster spot could mean that Leonard Hankerson is on the physically unable to perform list to open the season. Seems like Santana Moss is in a good spot, though I would think he still needs a good camp. And they really like rookie Ryan Grant. The key for Robinson, if he makes it, will be what happens when Hankerson returns.

Keim: They need to cut down on turnovers and be better tacklers. If they do that, it's more points for the offense and fewer allowed by the defense. The Redskins ranked 26th in yards after contact last season; they allowed more than 1,200 extra yards this way. I really don't know if they'll be better in this area as a team. That's why, even if they get a lot more sacks, they'll still have issues. Seattle forces quarterbacks to throw quickly, but the Seahawks do such a good job tackling that it leads to short gains. Last season, the Redskins didn't make quarterbacks uncomfortable and missed tackles. With the renewed emphasis on the rush, part of that will change. But unless they tackle better the overall effectiveness won't increase. As for the turnovers, that's an obvious one. They turned it over only 14 times in 2012 and won 10 games. They turned it over 34 times in '13 and won three games. Turnovers weren't the only reason for their poor record, but it sure didn't help. 

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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