Weekend mailbag: Redskins running backs

You know, when you submit mailbag questions, you're supposed to give your name, location and e-mail address. Just sayin.

Orangeskins from oompa loompa land saw Adam Schefter's report late Friday that running back Tim Hightower was visiting the Patriots and asks whether the Washington Redskins have given up on trying to re-sign him.

Dan Graziano: No, they have not. The Redskins still like Hightower an awful lot, and if he's fully recovered from his ACL tear they would love to have him back as their starting running back in 2012. Yes, ahead of youngsters Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Mike Shanahan loves Hightower, whom he views as an every-down runner, a good receiving back and a help in pass protection as well. He's not sold on either of last year's rookies as the total package yet, and so the Redskins' ideal plans for 2012 include a healthy Hightower at the front of their running back corps. Now, the question is how much they want to offer him before they're sure he's healthy again, and if he's getting interest from other teams, his price could stray beyond what they're willing to risk. Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai were also reportedly in New England for visits this week, so it remains to be seen what the chances are of Hightower signing there. If he does, the Redskins will look for a veteran back or two to add to the Helu/Royster mix.

Joseph Kony from Antarctica asks whether I share his belief that New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning's production will drop now that his big brother is back in the league this year. Joseph believes that "without the pressure of having to compete with his brother, Eli was able to have his best statistical year and win the SB... again."

DG: I think that's a reach, Joseph. Eli Manning's career arc is one of steady improvement year over year, with the one exception being the interception total from 2010. He's an excellent player in his own right, obviously mentally tough enough that no one should still be questioning the way in which he handles the fact that his big brother operates in the same profession. I would have thought the second Super Bowl ring would have eliminated questions about Eli and Peyton's shadow. But your question reinforces my sad theory that people are always going to believe what they want to believe, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

Robert Shipman of Mobile, Ala., a Crimson Tide fan, likes the idea of safety Mark Barron going to the Dallas Cowboys with the No. 14 pick but wonders if the Cowboys might consider outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw instead as a pass-rushing complement to DeMarcus Ware.

DG: From everything I've been told about Dallas' mindset, they have evaluated Upshaw and Melvin Ingram and the other pass-rushers at the top of the draft and decided that they're all pretty much similar players to Anthony Spencer. And since they have Spencer on the franchise tag already, they believe the best way to maximize the value of that pick is to look at other positions. If they drafted Upshaw, it would be because they'd decided to rescind the franchise player designation and let Spencer leave as a free agent, and that doesn't seem a likely course of action. I think if both players were there at 14, they'd take Barron. The question at this point seems to be whether Barron will last that long.

Zach Iseminger of Southland, Texas recalls that last year, the Philadelphia Eagles for the first time gave responsibility for calling the offensive line protections at the line of scrimmage to quarterback Michael Vick. "Obviously there were other factors like a new O Line coach and a new blocking scheme and two rookies starting on the line, but just curious if a full off season with OTAs will help this year."

DG: It certainly could. I remember writing about this change last year at the Eagles' opener in St. Louis. Howard Mudd likes giving the quarterback the ability to call changes in protection based on what he sees at the line, and that game was the first time Vick had that responsibility. The pass protection did improve as the year went along, as everybody on the line got used to each other and to Mudd. It's still tough to block for Vick, who likes to try to keep plays alive as long as any quarterback in the league does. And the loss of left tackle Jason Peters is going to have a negative effect. But to answer your basic question, yes. As I tell my kids, the best way to get better at anything is to practice, and more practice identifying defensive schemes and calling those protections at the line can only help Vick.

Keep the questions coming, folks. Next Saturday, we'll be writing about the fourth through seventh rounds of the draft instead, but maybe we'll do this on Sunday.