It's summer in Washington, which means it's hot. The question is: How hot will it be for coach Jay Gruden in late December or early January? That depends. And do the Redskins have interest in players available for the supplemental draft? Welcome to this week's mailbag.
Is Jay really on the hot seat if we go 7-9 or 8-8 and miss the playoffs? Brand new QB, and FINALLY building through the draft and 11 picks next year. As long as this year is respectable, aren't we realistically looking at 2019 as his strongest year?— Gary L. Straw (@GaryLStraw) June 28, 2018
John Keim: Good question, Gary. I think it’s hard to put a record on the season and ask if that would be enough to get a guy fired. What happens if Alex Smith misses 10 games with an injury? Or several other key players? That changes the way a season is viewed. Of course, injuries were a factor last season as well (and the Redskins still could have won a couple more games).
But let’s say they stay relatively healthy and go 7-9 or 8-8, then yes, I think he’d be on a rather hot seat. That would represent a third straight season with no playoff appearance. Keep in mind that no coach has lasted longer under owner Dan Snyder than Gruden. That patience must be rewarded. There’s no season with double-digit wins to fall back on, no deep playoff run -- there's been one playoff game -- to buy more time.
The staff did a good job in 2017 despite all the injuries. I know other teams still won with players out, but the Redskins weren’t all that deep to begin with and some guys are just tougher to replace. Before camp last year, I thought 9-7; after camp, I dropped it to 8-8 (didn’t think the defense and run game had improved enough). Had you laid out the injury scenario, I would have said 5-11. They managed 7-9 -- yes, losing the finale to the Giants was bad, and they should have hung on against the Saints.
But you can't give them an excuse for having a new quarterback. I don’t think they’d do that, either. That new QB is 34 years old and has started 151 games (and won 88). In Smith’s first season with Kansas City, the Chiefs went 11-5 -- a nine-win improvement over the previous season. Here’s what I know about Smith: He’s a smart quarterback capable of quickly picking up offenses, having done so many times throughout his career. He’s working with a coach who has a good system and there is talent around him. If they struggle, you can’t blame it on Smith being new. Yes, more experience in a system helps. But to expect that level of patience in year 5 of a program with a proven quarterback? No.
Finding chemistry in certain situations -- third down, red zone, etc. -- will take time. That’s especially true when it comes to tight end Jordan Reed, who couldn’t practice all spring. You can expect improvement in the future; you shouldn’t settle for more losses in the present. If they built a good roster, then it shouldn't sidetrack them.
Here’s what Gruden said in minicamp about Smith:
“He has got to get it down by the first game. ... We are not in here to build the team around him, the team is built and he has to lead it like right now. This isn’t a two- or three-year process. This is a one-year process and we have got to win right away.”
Building through the draft and having all those picks bodes well for the future, but there’s no reason they shouldn’t be expected to do better in the present. I do believe they're better entering camp this year than last year, but that's also taking a leap of faith about various players' health (Reed). They do have question marks, secondary depth and receivers among them, but I like what the defense has done and the run game should improve. It's time this organization actually takes what looks good on paper and applies it to the field. I hear that chorus of "Amens."
With the supplemental draft on Wednesday & 3 good DBs in it, would you expect the Skins with extra picks to be active in the supplemental draft? Any word from coaches on their thoughts on its prospects? #JKmailbag— Jay (@RedskinsCult) June 29, 2018
Keim: The draft is July 11, which I know you corrected in a subsequent tweet, but now everyone else knows, too. There could be five players eligible to be picked, but likely only three have a legitimate shot: Western Michigan’s Sam Beal, Virginia Tech’s Adonis Alexander and Mississippi State’s Brandon Bryant. All play corner, though Bryant played safety as well.
The Redskins have shown interest, having attended each of their pro days. They sent multiple people to Alexander’s workout, which of course was the closest one. Based on what I’ve read, and what I’ve been told, it seems as if Beal is the best of the bunch and would get drafted the highest. Not everyone thinks that; I do know some who view Alexander as that guy. But my guess is that the Redskins view Beal as the top available player. Some think Alexander will warrant a mid-round pick; I’ve talked to others who project he and Bryant as seventh-rounders in this draft. Alexander ran a 4.6 at his pro day, which will scare some teams unless they view him as a safety.
The Redskins are doing due diligence on these players, but it clearly goes beyond just basic homework. It’s always good to add young corners, especially when two of your top three -- Josh Norman and Orlando Scandrick -- are 30 and 31, respectively. They also have several other young corners with question marks. And they need more depth at safety, if they felt one of these players fit better at that position. I don’t know if they will pick one of them, but yes, there is interest.