An early look at keys to the season, the tight end position, some players to watch and more in Part 2 of the Redskins mailbag. Enjoy.
Brad Smith (@bradsmith1566) May 28, 2015John Keim: Man, there are more than three - one leads to a subset, etc. They need to do a lot better in the turnover margin - teams that finish in the top 10 of fewest turnovers are 90 percent likely to post a winning record. But I'll go with these and they're mostly in general: 1) Improved defense. That means no breakdowns (or far fewer); better pass rush, etc. Just more attention to detail. I do think they have a chance to be better, but then the question becomes how much? I like the additions of Stephen Paea and Chris Culliver in particular and Terrance Knighton as well (they wanted him to shed a few pounds and he's doing so). But I've learned long ago not to go overboard on projections with this team. 2) Establish an offensive identity. That means the run game and that means power. They need to be better on first-down runs, putting themselves in more favorable spots for third-down passes. It matters. It's hard to be a winning team just based off rushing yards per game but if you pair that with a good defense then it's much more likely. But they have lacked an identity for a while and a power run game would be a nice start. 3) Improved quarterback play. Yes, that means Robert Griffin III (here comes the hate mail for pointing out the obvious). He can't do it alone as we've seen the past two years, but there's no doubt he still has talent. I would never write off someone in his position. And coach Jay Gruden must figure out a way to make it work. Their futures depend on one another. But, regardless, Griffin must be productive - making better plays and decisions on the run and being more accurate on throws that travel at least 20 yards in the air (19-of-68 on such throws the last two years combined). I'm anxious to see how being in the same offense a second year, with another productive offseason, helps Griffin. He doesn't need to be great; he does need to play well.
@john_keim On a more serious note, who's your "player to watch out for that's currently flying under the fans' radar" #jkmailbag - T (@TMM75) May 28, 2015Keim: Are there really any under-the-radar players anymore? I've liked linebacker Will Compton each of the past two summers so he's always on that list, but I would think people know that by now. Maybe Ricky Jean Francois? He doesn't get talked about much and I didn't think he was great in Indianapolis. But I am curious to see how he's used here - guessing he'll end up over the nose in nickel situations, using his quickness. He has been lost a little because of other transactions. I've heard good things about rookie center Austin Reiter, but that's a developmental player. I'd say one of the tight ends aside from the obvious three, but I have no feel for that group yet. Linebacker Trevardo Williams was a surprise fill-in for Ryan Kerrigan earlier this week. This is probably a better question to ask once we get through the June minicamp.
@john_keim do you think Preston Smith will be a true olb? Also did Trent Murphy look more explosive in OTAs? #jkmailbag - Draft (@Redskins_21_HTT) May 28, 2015Keim: Murphy looked bigger, but tough to say he's more explosive. He'll never be an explosive player; just not his thing. Tough to draw great conclusions from spring workouts before they start using pads. When they do get pads on, I'll be curious to see Murphy's hands and repertoire of moves. He had more than most, but he needs to learn to rush with more urgency. I also want to see how he'll be used. As far as Smith, he'll be able to rush from outside and other places and he should eventually be solid setting the edge. I did not see a lot of fluidity from him when dropping into coverage. I think he can help, though. Chase Dixon, Je'Ron Hamm and Devin Mahina (who is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds). They will have to hope Jordan Reed stays healthy or that one of these other players develops. They will need better blocking from the position, especially in protection. Line coach Bill Callahan likes to involve the tight ends more in protection.