News | Washington Football Team - WashingtonFootball.com

#HailMail: Post-Draft Questions On Chase Young, Alex Smith And More

HailMail_043020

The Redskins are now shifting into the offseason after adding eight draft picks and four college free agents to their roster. Here's what Redskins fans want to know:

How is Alex Smith getting along? -- John V.

Smith hasn't given any recent updates on his recovery, but we're about to get plenty of new information.

ESPN has been following Smith's recovery since his gruesome injury against the Houston Texans during the 2018 season, and they will be releasing an E:60 documentary of their footage on Friday night. The sports broadcasting network has already released clips for the past week of Smith's rehab, which began last year.

As for what we do know, Smith has been working diligently and hopes to make an NFL comeback in the future. He told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael in November that he was entering the next phase of his recovery, which included running, throwing to receivers and "getting some kind of real work in."

"I'm working on my own, doing some of that stuff, so it's kind of the next phase in this," Smith said. "It was always lurking to kind of graduate out of everyday stuff and try to get into some athletic stuff and try to push that."

Smith reaffirmed his plans to return after the 2019 season ended in January. He still wants to be the first quarterback in league history to return from this kind of setback, and we'll soon get a clearer answer as to how close he is to achieving that goal.

You can find out how to watch the E:60 documentary HERE.

When will we see the release of jersey numbers for all our new players? Will Chase Young be No. 99? -- Troy D.

Good news, Troy. The jersey numbers for the Redskins' draft picks have been officially released, and Young has gotten his wish: he's going to wear No. 99.

The No. 99 jersey number originally belonged to defensive lineman Caleb Brantley, but he has since switch to No. 96. Offensive linemen Keith Ismael (60) and Saahdiq Charles (77) are the only draft picks to have the same numbers they had in college.

You can check out the rest of the jersey numbers for the 2020 draft class, including the four college free agents, HERE

How do the Redskins plan to work on Chase Young's development? -- Shane G.

There are a litany of benefits to having a strong defensive line, and that is absolutely the case when it comes to Young's development.

There's no denying that Young is a talented player. Most Redskins fans know by now that he was considered to be the best prospect, regardless of position, in this year's draft. He may be able to be a Day 1 starter, but the wealth of talent on the Redskins' defensive front means he does not need to be thrown into the starting lineup.

Instead, head coach Ron Rivera wants to ease him in over time while still using him "right away."

"What we'd like to do is get him out there, get him going, see where he's going to fit and then from that point use him, but use him the right way," Rivera said after Day 1 of the NFL Draft on April 23. "Use him to where if there's 70 plays in a game, he's not playing all 70; he's going to play somewhere between 40-45 because we're going to rotate guys."

Obviously, Rivera's plans for Young's rookie season won't be the case for the entirety of his career in Washington. I assume his growth as a player will demand that he be on the field more often than that in time. But it sounds like Rivera doesn't want to put too much on Young at this point. He would rather Young focus on what he does best, which is rushing the passer.

Now that Chase Young is our newest DE, what's likely to happen with Ryan Kerrigan? -- Corey S.

It's an intriguing question that I don't believe has a clear answer right now, but we do know that Kerrigan is part of the Redskins' immediate future.

Rivera told NBC Sports Washington exactly that in February. He and Kerrigan talked about that subject when Rivera first became the Redskins' head coach, and he said they are excited to have him and Kerrigan is "fired up" for the 2020 season.

But now that Young is officially on the team, how is having five first-round picks on the defensive line going to work? Rivera's answer seems to be rotating players in and out of the lineup during games, which sounds like a strong strategy. Doing that will allow their players to stay fresh throughout the game, allowing for a higher probability that pass rushes will get to opposing quarterbacks.

This will benefit Kerrigan, who is the oldest member of the group at 31 years old. He also has the second-highest career sack total in franchise history, so Kerrigan could also serve as a valuable mentor to Young.

With a shortened offseason, how will coaches adjust player evaluations for developing the best roster? Veterans would seem to have a leg up on rookies and UDFAs, but they may have the better upside in the long-term. -- Sean B.

Let's look at what we have learned so far to get an answer to this question.

The Redskins brought in a ton of free agents -- 14 in total -- in addition to re-signing three of the their own. A lot of them are veterans with some starting experience who were brought in to compete on one-year deals.

They have also brought in 12 new players, including eight draft picks and four college free agents. Players like Young, Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden will likely contribute early, but playing time for the rest of the groups is murky for at least next season.

I believe Rivera and vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith like all of the players they've signed over the past week. I think all of them will be part of building a foundation for the future. But the current circumstances have put the entire league in a position where getting their draft picks ready for the season might take more time than usual.

The league is optimistic the 2020 season will begin on time, but we still don't know when players will be allowed access to facilities. So, my prediction is that teams will try to get rookies as prepared as possible to play, but there won't be much pressure if they still need some work when the season does begin. That's where they can rely on their veterans to fill needs.

Do you think the left side of our offensive line is a concern for the protection of Dwayne Haskins this season? -- Marc S.

It might have been earlier in the offseason, but I don't believe that is the case anymore.

The left guard and tackle spots were full of questions earlier this year. Trent Williams was still on the team, although he was requesting a trade, and Ereck Flowers signed with the Miami Dolphins. Now Williams is gone, and both starting positions are still open. However, Rivera and Smith have done plenty to address those issues by bringing in three offensive linemen from free agency and two via the draft.

I believe the plan is to let all of these players compete for the starting roles and let the others fall back as depth. Charles and Ismael have a chance to get playing time, but I already mentioned in the previous question that veterans will likely get the advantage because of the circumstances.

In any case, I would say Rivera and Smith are confident any of these players can be the starting left guard and left tackle. Whether those players be veterans or rookies, they were brought to Washington so they could contribute in some form.

With Trent Williams being traded, why was Houston tackle Josh Jones disregarded? Did the Redskins have LSU tackle Saahdiq Charles and Memphis WR Antonio Gibson rated higher? -- Officially G.

I can't say for certain where the Redskins had Jones on their draft board, but I know they like the value in where they drafted Charles and Gibson.

Offensive coordinator Scott Turner wanted a versatile weapon for his new offensive system, and he certainly got that in Gibson. He's been called a "Swiss army knife" by both Rivera and Smith, and he can make plays as a running back and receiver. Rivera also added that Gibson has a similar skillset to Christian McCaffrey, which is high praise indeed.

As for Charles, Smith sees him as a high talent player who has plenty of upside. He can play on either side of the offensive line, so he has the position flexibility that Rivera is looking for in his players. Given the right opportunity, he could see the field in the near future.

"We're excited about the structure that we're going to give this kid, the culture that Coach was talking about that we're going to provide this kid," Smith said. "And we're excited to give him an opportunity with the Redskins."

Whether Jones was high on their board or not, the Redskins are happy with Gibson and Charles. They fit needs, have flexibility in their position and have the talent to become starters. Those are the players the Redskins hoped to get this year.

Since very few UDFAs were signed, is it reasonable to believe the Redskins may be looking at signing some additional veteran free agents to fill out the 90-man roster? -- Samuel W.

There are currently 84 players on the Redskins' roster, so there is a good chance they will try and fill those six remaining spots with veterans.

The Redskins are in a good position when it comes to potentially adding players. Per Spotrac, they have the second-highest available cap space in the league. In other words, if they see a player they want to acquire, they can easily do so.

However, I would expect Rivera to be careful when considering how to use that cap space. Rivera wants to continue building a sustainable winning culture in Washington. He has made it clear that the player he brings in has to fit into that culture.

The Redskins could have filled those remaining six spots with college free agents if they wanted to, but they didn't. So, there's a good chance veterans will round out the roster, but they have to be the right players for the right price.

Why did the Redskins not draft a cornerback when they released Josh Norman and traded Quinton Dunbar? -- Anay M.

I think the simplest answer to this is that the Redskins like the cornerbacks who are already on their roster.

Addressing the depth at cornerback was a point of focus heading into free agency, so they added Ronald Darby and brought back Kendall Fuller. They also like their young corners in Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland. While that isn't what some fans wanted, I think that group makes for a strong unit heading into the 2020 season.

It's possible the Redskins liked some corners in this year's draft, but they were limited with just two picks in the first three rounds. The players they wanted may have already been taken, or the players they drafted might have graded higher on their board than the corners available to them when they were on the clock.

Like I mentioned in the previous question, there's a chance the Redskins could sign some veterans in the coming months. But Rivera has said many times he likes the players they have at that position, so I don't foresee many changes to that group, outside of adding depth.

Do the Redskins plan to us the tight end position primarily for run support or as a passing option? -- Don S.

Tight ends are going to be an important part of this system, according to Turner, and they will be used in both roles.

Like cornerback, the Redskins wanted to address the tight end position in free agency. They brought in Richard Rodgers, who was last with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Logan Thomas, who has played limited snaps but has intangibles the Redskins want to develop in the future. They also liked their options in Jeremy Sprinkle and Hale Hentges.

All four of these players have experience as blockers and pass catchers. Running back J.D. McKissic, who spent time with Thomas in Detroit, said that Thomas was always a willing blocker, while Rodgers is known for catching Hail Mary passes from Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Sprinkle and Hentges did both last year, as they each caught a touchdown pass and blocked for Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice in last year's run-heavy system.

Once again, the key here is versatility, The roster is full of players who can perform more than one responsibility. Some of the tight ends might be better blockers or better pass-catchers, but all four of them will be expected to do both.

Related Content

Advertising