Redskins mailbag, part 2

Part II of my Redskins mailbag, pulling questions off my Twitter feed. This time the questions focus on Josh Morgan, Pat White, why are there inactives for games and Roy Helu's impact on third downs. So here you go.

@DaSkins804 asks: How much rope does Morgan have with Hankerson looming?

John Keim: Good question. I think Morgan will need to show that he indeed has more explosiveness than he did last season while playing with seven screws in his ankle. At times he looked more spry and I saw quicker cuts. But to me what separates him from Hankerson is his blocking and toughness over the middle. Morgan is willing to make catches between the hashes knowing he’s about to be creamed. I have not seen that from Hankerson, who still drops too many passes. But Hankerson offers more downfield explosiveness. He’s improved as a route runner, too. Both will play a lot and their skills are different enough that the Redskins can rotate them depending on the game or situation.

@chadwiko asks: Skins had big probs on 3rd down last year. How much does a fit Helu solve that problem?

Keim: He helps and gives them a chance for bigger plays, but the third-down issues were not related to the third-down backs. Early in the season it seemed like there were a lot of third-and-longs; Griffin was not equipped to handle those just yet. But he did well in not forcing passes or turning it over. Also, the Redskins were much more effective using play-action passes -- it created numerous openings because of the misdirection nature of the play -- and more often than not they could not do so on third downs because they were obvious pass situations. Teams would rush four and cover with seven and it was effective. A healthy Pierre Garcon and Fred Davis will help; Griffin’s evolution as a passer will as well. And, yes, Helu will help.

@CJCranford asks: how much better do you think RG3 has gotten as a pocket (more rounded) passer this offseason? With inj keeping him from practice?

Keim: There’s no way to fully know given how little we’ve seen of him this summer in those situations. I think there’s a natural growth after your first year as a starter. I’ve seen a difference in guys like Alfred Morris and even Niles Paul just because they now have experience. The area I’d expect Griffin to show growth would be in his ability to quickly know, based on pre-snap reads, whether or not his first target will be free. Little things like that, which can make a big deal. Griffin is a smart kid and the one thing he could do this offseason is study – a lot. I also think he’ll be better at keeping plays alive when he scrambles and not being so quick to tuck and run. I would never just turn him into a pocket passer (I know you’re not suggesting that); the line is built to block on the move and it also would change their offense. But I do expect improvement. And the smarter and more developed he gets in this area, the more route concepts they can run.

@Stew_PDM asks: Who is the odd man out when Jarvis Jenkins comes back? Neild, C.Baker, or P.Merling? Can't they all play the Nose?

Keim: My guess is Merling. They really like Neild, who is the primary backup at nose, and Baker can play both nose and end. Merling is an end. But much can happen in four weeks in terms of injuries or, perhaps, performance. Merling was solid during the preseason (as was Baker).

@BittnerJohn asks: how much will COFIELD disrupt the Eagles scheme on 1st & 2d down leaving them w/ 3d & long and will Has use his Swift Six package?

Keim: This question incorporates one asked by several readers. So here goes. Cofield will be a problem for every team they face this season. He was excellent against the Eagles last season as well. A big key will be occupying blockers and allowing the linebackers to get to the ball. That’s big every game, but it’s especially true with the potential cutbacks of McCoy. So it’s not just about being disruptive; it’s about not leaving gaps in the defense or in allowing a guard to reach the second level to block. But you are right: leaving the Eagles in third and long is a key. As for the Swift Six, I’d imagine they’ll use it in passing situations. Someone else wanted to know: Wouldn’t teams just audible to a run against this look? Possibly. It just depends on how many yards they have to go for a first down. The tough part for this package is that Philly will provide a headache with its up-tempo approach. The Redskins will have to be quick with their substitutions and wise about where they use the Swift Six or else they could get caught with that look on a first down. The red zone, for example, would be a tougher place to use it. At Oregon, Kelly’s offense seemed to go much faster here.

@LimaContreras asks: Do you envision Pat White being active for any regular season games and if so being used in trick plays?

Keim: Had a number of Pat White questions, so figured I’d take one and try to answer them all. I didn’t think he’d be on the roster, so what do I know? But active? Tough to see. If so, it would only be for trick plays. I do not think he’s ready to effectively play in an NFL game against a starting defense; he just needs more work as a passer. As for trick plays, if they have one or two for him we haven’t seen it (and could not say even if they did). I guess anything’s a possibility, but they have better runners than White. He’s a good runner, but I think it would be real hard to keep a guy active for perhaps one trick play (Brandon Banks could do them because he already was a returner). As for how long White will be on the roster (as others have asked), I have a hard time seeing it last more than a few games. He’s a luxury at this point. When Rob Jackson and Jarvis Jenkins return roster moves will have to be made. I can’t imagine four QBs on the roster at this point. I don’t know if someone would trade for him; I’m not sure he did so great and showed so much as a passer that someone would surrender a draft choice, but it only takes one team. Another angle to this: Would they want to groom him as Robert Griffin III’s backup and trade Kirk Cousins in the offseason? I’d be reluctant to keep him around all season just for that point just because you never know how things break. What if Griffin gets hurt again? There’s no way I’d trade Cousins at that point. Yes, I know, White can run the zone read. Big deal. The Redskins run so much more than that play that you’d better be able to do more – and you absolutely need to be able to pass from this look; we did not see White do so in the preseason. Again: Griffin makes the zone read and not vice versa; quarterbacks who are effective in this are considered passing threats first and foremost. The one caveat in all this is that Mike Shanahan has gone with two quarterbacks in the past. I don’t know whether Grossman would have returned had Griffin not suffered the knee injury. I say that knowing Grossman provides a value, both as a third QB and in the meeting rooms. He’s a smart guy. But at this point I don’t know how you can trust Griffin’s health and why leave yourself short at the most important position?

@fifty6CPT asks: with Orakpo back and healthy, do you think this is going to be Kerrigan's comimg out party? Can see him being DPOY. Thoughts

Keim: Good question. I think if Kerrigan has a big year it will stem from a few reasons, with Orakpo’s return being high on the list. But Kerrigan’s versatility makes a difference, too. He can rush inside standing up and, now, with his hands in the dirt. He can rush from either side; paired next to Orakpo it should provide headaches for an offense. Also, Kerrigan has worked on some inside moves versus right tackles; not having one last year hurt him as they played him for a wide rush and rip move all day. The trickle down from Orakpo’s return is tremendous: Stephen Bowen should be freed up of many of the double teams he faced last year, which will allow him to collapse the pocket. When the outside ‘backers pinch the outside, it will give them a better chance to get the QB. I don’t want to go overboard in saying how good this rush could be, but my main point is this: It’ll be more consistent than last year. As for defensive player of the year, are you talking about on the Redskins? The guy I really like for that, right now, is Cofield. But it might be in a more understated way.

@Robertgittleson asks: will the #skins secondary be any good? Seems like nobody is very impressive back there.

Keim: Work in progress. There’s hope because of corner David Amerson and safety Bacarri Rambo that they at least have two young players who can improve. We’ll learn a lot more about them Monday night, though in reality there will be highs and lows as is the case for every rookie. They just need them to develop over the course of the season. Also, there’s hope because they won’t have to blitz nearly as much as they did in 2012 (they believe) because the pass rush should be better. The more they pressure with four, the more times they can use seven defenders in coverage. It makes a huge difference; do not underestimate it. Clearly, the secondary is one of the big question marks entering the season. They just can’t allow the big play as happened last year. I also have concerns or questions about O-line depth (it was barely tested last year), the linebackers in coverage and, obviously, Griffin’s durability – whether scrambling or in the pocket.

@Curzon417 asks: What is the purpose of only dressing 46 players instead of allowing all 53 players to be dressed?

Keim: Actually received a couple questions about this. In a nutshell, it’s to guard against teams being banged up not having the same number of players available as the opposition. In other words, if, say, the Redskins had four players who couldn’t play Monday but the Eagles had everyone healthy then the Eagles would have an advantage just by player availability.