ASHBURN, Va. -- In Part 2 of the Washington Redskins mailbag, taking a look at the defensive scheme, what a win on Monday would do for this team, and a desire to take a look ahead to next season -- at least for a few players. Enjoy.
John Keim: I understand the angst and lack of confidence by fans, but it's never that simple. This is about way more than a scheme (one that has worked in other cities). Against the Giants for example, there were a lot of miscommunications or youthful breakdowns -- cornerback Bashaud Breeland not carrying out his assignments right, for example. He's not ready to start, though in time could be. They had bump-and-run coverage called that wasn't played. They had veterans, Brandon Meriweather, using improper technique in coverage. They have an inside linebacker, Perry Riley, who struggles in coverage. The list goes on. Yes, coaching is involved in all of that, too. Coaching is so much more than about schemes; it's about communication and putting guys in the right spots, etc. But this is also about the players as well as the decisions to sign some of them -- and, also, some moves that weren't made in the past few years. This group, coaches included, still has a lot to prove. And if they don't get better as the season progresses, then Jay Gruden will have some tough decisions: is it scheme, the coaches, personnel? Usually it's a combination of factors. But whoever they bring in and whatever scheme they use, they will have to address a handful of player issues first -- otherwise, not a whole lot will change.
Keim: For the team and the fan base it would be huge. It would show that this is not just a continuation of 2013 and that, perhaps, there is reason for optimism. More importantly, they just need to play well. I know this league isn't about moral victories, but the Redskins they need to re-establish who they are and want to be. You can play a good, hard-fought game and do that. Wins are what matter most, but when you're rebuilding a team you must establish a mindset and an identity. Jay Gruden is trying, but thus far they are lacking one. Also, I think conversely, an ugly loss would lead to a big loss of confidence and could signal that this rebuild will be harder and tougher than anticipated.
Keim: Well, Trent Williams' teammates think he is a good leader, so that's good enough for me. Williams has matured as a player more than I thought he might when he first came to the Redskins. He works hard; reports in good shape and plays hurt. I will say, I was surprised when they first named him a captain. He does not seem like that sort of guy who would be in that role. Very laid back. But when you see the fire he plays with and you hear what he has gone through to play some seasons, in terms of injuries, then I can understand why players have voted him as a captain. I also don't see a lot of other candidates offensively.
Keim: They have 12 games remaining; it's a bit early to speculate on next season. That said, each of those three need to produce a lot more over the rest of the season if they want to return. Brian Orakpo's issue is just that he needs to make more game-changing plays. He might not win them games, but he doesn't cost them games with blown assignments. That's the case with Meriweather, and Riley's inability to improve in coverage is an issue. I'd certainly be surprised if more than one of these players return. Only Riley is under contract for 2015, but if he is cut with a post-June 1 designation, he'll save $3 million against the salary cap.
Keim: Not really. Gruden has said he would give some input as far as perhaps some tweaks that could be made in certain situations. But the prevailing notion that I've heard is that various players must do a better job. So much of what happened against New York was technique-related, especially defensively. So, no, there haven't been any signs of substantial change, and I never expected there to be any. Now, if they keep playing this way (as a team) then perhaps Gruden will be more involved in certain areas. That's a lot, though, considering his duties too as a play-caller.