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Fan mailbag: Moss' status, Haslett's schemes, and getting younger in the draft

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Fan mailbag: Moss' status, Haslett's schemes, and getting younger in the draft

Before we get started here, I didn't answer any questions about whether the Redskins are interested in a particular player in the draft. They haven't let anything leak about any players and if they did it probably would be a smokescreen anyway. It's lying season, folks.

OK, on to your questions.
@Rich_TandlerCSN #RedskinsTalk do you think it's necessary to keep Moss for veteran leadership,or is that phrase overrated?

— rich depaul (@peyton03) April 15, 2014
Leadership is not overrated. It's perhaps romanticized when it's talked and written about but a locker room needs leaders and veterans usually fill those roles. But a team can't keep players solely due to their leadership abilities. Moss will have to earn a roster spot based on his ability to contribute on the field. If he can do that, his leadership will be a plus. It will be interesting to see what happens if Moss and a younger receiver are in a tie for the last roster spot. Will they stick with the experience and leadership or go with the younger guy who might be around in a couple of years?

Tarik and I posted about this earlier this week. Mike Shanahan like to talk about being the head coach of the whole team, offense and defense, and Haslett did not have a free hand when it came to running the defense. What Haslett has been talking about is a more aggressive approach on defense. For example, Brian Orakpo dropped back into coverage over 100 times last year; Haslett would have him rushing the passer on many of those plays. For this and other more aggressive tactics to work, the pass rushers will have to get to the QB or a shaky defensive backfield will be left on an island with alarming frequency. They will probably give up a few big plays but the hope is that the sacks and turnovers will make up for them. We will see.
@Rich_TandlerCSN So far we've heard about top DL/pass rush draft prospects visiting Redskins but no DBs. Surprising to you? #RedskinsTalk

— Not Your Average Joe (@JoeCoolMiller) April 15, 2014
Not at all. Draft visits are very close to meaningless. The Redskins drafted Jordan Reed last year and they didn't have him in for a visit; for that matter they barely talked to him during the pre-draft process. Last year about 6.7 percent of the players who were drafted had visits with the teams that drafted them. I see that you're trying to connect dots but history shows that if you try to do that based on visits you will end up with a picture that is incomplete at best and misleading at worst.

What will keep Roberts, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, and Jordan Reed happy is winning. If Jackson goes a couple of games with two catches for 15 yards and the Redskins go 0-2 he might be a bit disgruntled. If that happens and they are 2-0 he will be happy to wait his turn. If Garçon's receptions for the season drop to 75 because other players are getting chances and the Redskins have a winning season he likely will be fine. If they are 3-13 again he might wonder about his role. Sure, they want to get the ball and nobody, including Jackson, will be happy if he ends up with, say, 40 receptions for 500 yards. But having an efficient offense and winning will take care of everything.
#Redskins have a young core of talented offensive players, will they look to get younger in the draft on defensive side? #Redskinstalk

— Justin Byram (@Justin_Byram) April 15, 2014
They will look for players who can help them in the draft. As I noted this morning, conducting a draft is not like going to Wegman's with your grocery list. In the draft you don't know what players are going to be there when your turn comes up. If you go into the draft thinking "we have six picks, we want to get younger on defense, so we have to use four or five picks on that side of the ball" the chances are very good that you will have a bust of a draft. A team doesn't get younger, on one side of the ball or as a whole, in one draft. It's process over several drafts of restocking your talent base by picking the best players available when you are on the clock.

It's kind of early to have a good feel for this but I'll take a crack at it. Special teams will be better if only because they can't be any worse but it's going to take a couple of years before they can improve to being even mediocre/competent. I think offensively they will be able to cut down on turnovers and Robert Griffin III (by the way, not one question submitted about him on either Twitter or Facebook) will be more accurate. But I'll buy in to the theory that Haslett's more aggressive approach to defense noted in the first question here will make his unit the most improved. The addition of Jason Hatcher will help put that approach into practice and Ryan Clark will help out the back end.

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Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

Despite one-year contract, Gruden unequivocal about Kirk Cousins' position

RICHMOND - Looking at the contracts for the two most important people associated with the Washington Redskins, a clear discrepancy arises. The head coach, Jay Gruden, is under contract until 2020. The quarterback, Kirk Cousins, is only under contract for 2017. 

Some speculation suggested that, given the diverging deals, at some point Gruden might look to develop another passer that's locked in with the Redskins for the long-term. Backup QB Colt McCoy is under contract for the next two seasons, and second-year passer Nate Sudfeld is under team control through the 2019 season. 

Gruden made clear that isn't the case. Crystal clear. 

"We're focused on Kirk," the head coach said. "He's our starter and he's going to get all the starter reps. Period."

Cousins should obviously be the focus. In the past two seasons he's twice broken the Washington single season passing yards record, and his rise has coincided with the Redskins first back to back winning seasons in 20 years. 

As for practice reps, Cousins will get the vast majority. McCoy will get work, and Sudfeld too, but this Redskins team is focused on winning this season. 2018 contracts are not on the coach's mind in July of 2017, nor should they be. 

"Colt [McCoy] will take advantage of his reps, I'm sure he will. And Nate [Sudfeld] will get a few sprinkled in there. We're trying to develop Nate also for the future. But, this is Kirk's team right now, and it's our job to get him ready for Philadelphia and really surround him and make him feel good about the people around him. Trying to get him used to [Josh] Doctson, get him used to [Terrelle] Pryor, we have some new weapons around him, so it's a matter of getting him ready. But Kirk will get all of them."

With a rebuilt defense and plenty of options offensively, the Redskins should compete for a playoff spot this year. Is there a scenario where the team sputters and spirals into a lost season? Maybe. And in that hypothetical scenario, perhaps at some point it makes sense to see what another passer can do. It's a long shot. 

For Redskins fans, know that Cousins is the unequivocal starter. Period. 

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Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

Focus will be on Redskins' tight end depth during Jordan Reed's absence

RICHMOND—The Redskins will be without Jordan Reed in training camp for an unknown period of time. Although his toe injury does not appear to be serious, others will have to fill the gap until he is able to return. And the Redskins just so happen to have one of the deepest tight end groups in the NFL and they added another one with NFL playing experience on Thursday.

Jay Gruden said that the Redskins needed to sign E.J. Bibbs, who has one NFL catch in his career, because Vernon Davis, the backup tight end, has “a little bit of a tweaked hamstring.” Davis, who caught 44 passes for 583 yards last year, seemed to me moving fine in practice after Gruden spoke to the media but he could need some reps off on occasion so they brought in Bibbs to fill in the gap. There is no point in pushing the 33-year-old Davis if it’s not necessary.

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The Redskins have even more options at tight end. Niles Paul is back and he appears to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for the last eight games in 2016. Paul is going into his seventh season and while he is mostly relied on for special teams play he does have a 500-yard season on his resume (2014).

During offseason practices fifth-round rookie Jeremy Sprinkle looked like he had a lot to learn as he goes from a run-based offense at Arkansas to the Redskins’ sophisticated pass-first scheme. He will need to find his comfort level before he takes any snaps in Reed’s place.

The forgotten veteran is Derek Carrier, who now appears to be fully healthy after he missed the first half of last season with a knee injury he suffered late in 2015. He had just two receptions for 10 yards last year in limited playing time on offense.

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Joining Bibbs in the long shot category is Manasseh Garner, a first-year player out of Pitt. While neither player seems to have a shot at the 53-man roster, the Redskins could carry one of the tight ends on the practice squad.

Depth is a good thing to have and the Redskins have done a good job assembling a backup plan at tight end. But you just can’t replace Reed, one of the best few tight ends in the NFL, without a significant drop off in production. The Redskins will let the backups compete and learn in training camp and will keep Reed either on the sideline or doing very light work until he is fully ready to go (and then some).

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.