Washington Redskins: Shayne Graham

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

June, 27, 2014
6/27/14
12:45
PM ET
In Part 1 of this week's mailbag, the topics addressed: Robert Griffin III's accuracy, the kicker battle, differences between Jay Gruden and other first-year coaches I've covered and more. Enjoy. John Keim: Underrated? Maybe underpublicized is a better word for now. But that's because, in part, it involves kickers and there's not a whole lot to write about until camp begins. You can record their accuracy in practice - and we will, trust me -- but it's the games that matter (unless you're Shayne Graham and look horrible in practice, too). I think that's when it will become a bigger deal. Yes, a rookie kicker is a gamble. But Kai Forbath had never attemped a kick in an NFL game until signing with the Redskins in the 2012 season. Keim: Concerned? Not sure I'd go that far. I don't think he's going to turn into a Peyton Manning pinpoint accuracy guy (have said this before, but one general manager I spoke to before the '12 draft was worried about Griffin's intermediate accuracy). Griffin can succeed without being that sort of quarterback because of his ability to extend plays. He also can be a big-play quarterback with his ability to throw deep (which was not a strength last year, but was in 2012). But I think the concern would be if the Redskins want him to become just a pocket passer. They said that's not the case, and though that's what they did this spring, part of that was done because he needs to develop in this area. He will miss some throws, as he did his rookie year (he left a lot of yards on the table that season, too; some by not throwing the ball). But if he hits the deep ball with regularity and if the offense creates good running lanes after the catch, it will offset any accuracy issues. Keim: I've been around two other first-year coaches in Norv Turner and Jim Zorn (Steve Spurrier at least had been a college head coach). Gruden is a better communicator than both Turner and Zorn. Like those two, he's a nice guy who would make a terrific neighbor. But Gruden might have a better feel for being a head coach, though it's hard to compare considering he hasn't coached a game yet. Zorn was just a bit goofy and always seemed overmatched as a head coach. At 6-2, I remember him talking about getting players back healthy for the playoffs. Whoops. Turner had a terrific offensive mind but he also was insecure and often blamed others for losses or bad plays. I don't see Gruden being an excuse-maker; have not heard the same things about his offensive mind as I did about Turner's. Gruden surrounded himself with solid coaches. He seems to coach with less of an ego and that's to his benefit and I think that separates him. One knock on Gruden was his lack of organization; I think the other two were better in this regard. Still, when coaches think they have it all figured out, it can lead to, oh, three last-place finishes in four years. I don't know that any of the three first-year coaches I've covered are great disciplinarians. Definitely not the first two; we'll find that out about Gruden. Keim: Sure. It's not as if the defense that season was great; what they did was cause turnovers (and they did improve in most areas in the second half). And if the offense is scoring well, then it probably means they've cut down on turnovers, which will greatly help the defense. Also, if the offense isn't always playing from behind, then the defense could have better pass-rush opportunities. They bolstered the rush this offseason (they hope), so that should play into their hands. By the way, they had suspect inside linebackers last season, too. It was not a strength. The big difference has to be the pass rush. Otherwise, they will be in trouble and be forced to rely on an explosive offense and causing turnovers. Keim: He'll have to hope the Redskins keep six corners, because that appears to be his only chance (barring injuries to others). And then it depends on how Richard Crawford looks in his recovery from the knee injury. Crawford's chances would be better if he shows he can still be effective as a punt returner, but the Redskins might just opt for Andre Roberts in that role. That would improve Minnifield's chances. He showed last summer that he could help in press coverage, but struggled in a variety of other looks. He's feisty, and my over/under on camp fights involving him is three. As for practice squad eligibility, yes, he still has some. Keim: Hmmm, tough one for the offensive side and it depends on if they keep nine or 10. If they keep nine, I'd expect the backups to be Mike McGlynn, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long and Josh LeRibeus. But if there's 10, or if one of those four win a starting job, I could see Tom Compton making the roster as well. Defensively, if everyone is healthy and assuming the starters are Chris Baker, Barry Cofield and Jason Hatcher (and that's subject to debate), then the backups should be Jarvis Jenkins, Stephen Bowen and Kedric Golston. If Bowen is healthy, the Redskins could opt for him at right end and save Hatcher more for rush situations. I think this group is fluid because of health situations.
A little this and that for a Thursday morning:
  • In case you missed it, here are the rookies I took a look at in terms of how they fit with Washington now and in the future: Trent Murphy, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long, Bashaud Breeland, Ryan Grant, Lache Seastrunk and Ted Bolser.
  • The one rookie I did not go over in-depth is kicker Zach Hocker. It’s simple: He might not be needed now because they already have a place-kicker in Kai Forbath. It’s not like you typically groom kickers to replace a guy when he becomes a free agent. Yes, coach Jay Gruden said he’d consider keeping two kickers, but that means cutting from another position. So it’s usually simple in these situations: If Hocker outperforms Forbath, he’ll win the job. Practice will matter -- if a guy looks as bad as Shayne Graham did in practice a few years ago, they'll matter quite a bit -- but the games count more. Every single coach I've covered has looked at it that way.
  • I’d be more concerned about the punting situation considering the Redskins lack a proven punter. It’s an issue. Robert Malone has experience (157 punts), but was sporadic; too many line drive returnable punts that offset booming ones. For a team desperate to fix special teams, the lack of action here has been curious.
  • With the media allowed to watch our first OTA session today, here’s a primer I wrote on what I’ll be looking for. It’s a long list, so it’s really something to watch over the course of the next few weeks and in minicamp. My main focus Thursday: Robert Griffin III. His progress is sort of important to the season, don’t you think?
  • Another area to watch: inside linebacker. If Keenan Robinson is healthy and knows the defense, he’s definitely a strong candidate to start. Teammates and coaches have always praised his talent, but those torn pecs keep sidelining him. However, he can move and if he proves he can play the run well, then they have an every-down linebacker.
  • If Perry Riley doesn’t rebound with a better season, the Redskins do have more options between Darryl Sharpton and Akeem Jordan. But if the Redskins didn’t value Riley, they wouldn’t have signed him to a decent contract. (He’ll count $3 million against the cap this season; not prohibitive, but the most expensive inside linebacker they have.) They should not make decisions on starters based on contracts, but it is an indication of their thoughts on a player (not to mention the market). But there’s no doubt they want more from him than he delivered last season.
  • One name I left off the list the other day: safety Tanard Jackson. It’s really hard to measure a safety until the games begin, but it’ll be interesting to see how he’s moving around after two seasons away from the game. ESPN980’s Chris Russell tweeted last night that a source told him that Jackson has been “awesome.”
  • Veterans, if they’re trying hard, should stand out at this time of the year. (I always go back to receiver James Thrash; used to look great in the spring and then in training camp and we’d hear about a possible big role. Then he’d go back to his usual role.)
  • The point is, we need to see the safeties come up against the run and tackle; see their recognition at game speed. But if Jackson moves around well, that’s a good start. Jackson was starting to play well when suspended in 2012. It would still be hard to rely on him, but if he gets close to what he was then if nothing else he’s a better backup than what they currently have.
  • Another point to make: For all that will be written and said during the spring, nothing really matters until August and they’re in full pads. But this is also the time of year when players are optimistic, having worked on some aspect of their game in the offseason that provides them – and the team – some level of hope.
  • Off topic, but it’s noteworthy because it involves an NFC East rival. Sean Lee has missed a lot of time for the Cowboys – a combined 15 games the past two seasons. So they’re used to playing without him. However, I wonder if they needed to rely on him more this season because of what else they lost. Here’s a look at their situation.

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