Just as I answered questions about the Houston Texans, HogHunter of SB Nation's site for Washington fans, the appropriately named Hogs Haven, answered my questions about the Redskins. Here's our end of the Q&A.
BRB: ILB Keenan Robinson finally being healthy seemed to spark the Redskins' front seven into dominance during the preseason, but every defense has a weakness - what is Washington's?
HH: Keenan Robinson finally being healthy should really help the defense overall this season. London Fletcher retiring left a hole in the defense, and there were question marks about Robinson after back to back pec tears. Some people even predicted that he would be cut before the season started due to a new coach coming in, and his injury history. But Robinson has studied under Fletcher while injured and has assumed the Mike Linebacker starting position that some people assumed Perry Riley would take over after he re-signed. I've been pleased with what he's brought to the defense, but he still needs to improve some aspects of his game before he earns his preseason hype nickname, Keenan the Barbarian.
The obvious weakness on the defense is going to be in the secondary, particularly at safety. You could give that same answer for the last, oh I don't know 6 years. The Redskins signed Ryan Clark, who was brought in to try to get another year out of his career, and to bring some leadership to the young safeties we drafted last year. There are a lot of question marks about his speed, and how much he will bring to the defense at 34. Brandon Meriweather was suspended again for helmet to helmet hits and won't play on Sunday. His likely replacement, Bacarri Rambo, was the starting free safety at the beginning of the season, but struggled and didn't play much as the season progressed. They were able to claim Duke Ihenacho from the Broncos, and hopefully he will be able to help the team quickly at strong safety.
BRB: How has RG3 looked so far in Jay Gruden's new offense? Is he healthy?
HH: I would say that Robert Griffin III is definitely healthy this year and will be a much better overall player than last season. Whether he will get back to his 2012 season playing level is a different story. Jay Gruden has installed his system, and Griffin, along with the rest of the offense, has been learning it for the last few months. Griffin did some good things in preseason, but also some things that you don't want to see happen during the regular season. He's still adjusting his throwing mechanics that were messed with last season, takes avoidable hits, doesn't throw the ball away every time he should, and the whole sliding mess. But these are issues you see a lot of young QBs working through as they work to improve their game.
It's hard for me to lose any sleep over preseason because the offenses and defense are so bland and you're not gameplanning or showing your hand too much, especially running a new offense. In 2012, Griffin didn't look particularly good in the offseason and preseason. The Shanahan's weren't showing much until they went down to New Orleans and let Griffin play the game the way they wanted him to really play it. I'm concerned with how quickly the offense will click at the start of the season, and with the offensive line in front of Griff, but I'm not concerned with him being able to play the game. Hopefully the offense clicks early in the season. I expect Griffin to have a better season than 2013 obviously.
BRB: Washington, at least on paper, had a pretty nice draft haul with Trent Murphy, Morgan Moses, and Bashaud Breeland. How have your rookies fared this preseason?
HH: I wanted the offensive line to be addressed early in this draft to try to get rid of some of the high priced vets that currently inhabit the right side of the line. The Redskins did double dip on the OL in the 3rd round after stealing the Cowboys' 3rd round pick, but neither player will be ready to take over a starting spot until next year. Morgan Moses was getting 1st round hype that I don't think many people actually bought into before the draft. His size and length are great, but he's got a lot to work on and will hopefully be ready to replace Tyler Polumbus at RT next season. Spencer Long wasn't my first choice in that spot, but he's got a lot of potential, and his pre-draft stock took a hit due to his injury last year. He's the backup at RG right now, and was the guy called in to play with the starters in game 3 when starting RG Chris Chester shifted over to Center.
Trent Murphy is a wait and see project for me. He needs to increase his strength, and improve in coverage. He's made some plays in the preseason, but he needs to show some more as the Redskins first pick in the draft this year. He will have time to improve, hopefully, and the new OLB's coach Brian Baker has been a revelation in coaching compared to Bob Slowik. I really like Bashaud Breeland's game so far, and think he could see more playing time than people expected when he was drafted. Tracy Porter is a walking band-aid, and the only other corner who might get put into the slot regularly is E.J. Biggers. The coaching staff loves Breeland so far. The other pick that you didn't mention is WR Ryan Grant. He's had a very good training camp, and preseason. He probably won't get much playing time early with the talent that's in front of him on the depth chart, but he's been a hype machine this year.
BRB: The skins are loaded with offensive weapons like Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and Alfred Morris, but perhaps the most dangerous of them all is second year tight end Jordan Reed. Are the concussions that hampered his rookie season behind him, and if so what can we expect from him this weekend?
HH: Everyone hopes that the concussions are behind him, but that's something you can't know until he stays healthy for a full season. He said during the offseason that he won't be changing his helmet to attempt to lower the chances of another concussion. If he stays healthy I think he's set up to have a very big, breakout type season. The Redskins added a lot of weapons at WR this year, but last year was rough as far as receiving options for Griffin. Garcon and Reed were Griffin's only trusted targets due to some consistently inconsistent hands by everyone else. Reed has great hands, and catches almost anything that comes his way. He's got a huge catch radius that helps him pull in catches from everywhere. He's also very good at finding holes in defenses, especially when matched up with linebackers and safeties.
Last year he was lined up all over the offense, in the backfield, in the slot, even out wide, and I expect Gruden to do the same thing with him this year to take advantage of his talent. The Redskins WR corp this year is very short compared to the rest of the NFL, with the tallest receivers being Pierre Garcon and Ryan Grant at 6' even. Reed brings them a taller option, who can be used as a WR in certain packages. I've lost count of how many different writers and lists have Reed pegged as a breakout candidate this year, so let's all just hope he stays healthy to meet that expectation. Reed's been nursing a thumb injury over the last week, but he reportedly practiced today. He should be ready to go on Sunday, and I wouldn't be surprised with 4 catches, 80 yards and 1 TD.
BRB: At the end of this season, what will the Redskins' record be? Will they make the postseason, and if so, will they have any playoff success?
HH: I'm a little more pessimistic about the Redskins chances this season than a lot of other Redskins fans, but I see a large range this year simply due to the unknown of a new head coach. Right now I have them at 7-9 and missing the playoffs this year. If Griffin starts the season strong and the offense is clicking, I can see the team getting to 9 wins. If it's a slow start, and the defense and special teams don't improve to an average level this year, the team could easily be a 5 win team. The NFC West is on the schedule this year, and the Redskins went 0-6 in their division last season. The division record is going to improve this year with some weak/even competition there, but the NFCW will be 4 very difficult games, and they need to win 1-2 of them to stay in the playoff hunt.
Big thanks to the folks over at Hogs Haven for answering our questions. Hopefully, the game is injury free and features a lopsided Texans' score.
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