December 26, 2008

What's To Be Done In DC?

Aside from the tremendous success of the Washington Capitals in the recent year, there has been little to cheer about in the nation's capital. The Nationals lost out on their bid for Mark Teixera and the Wizards just blew another one away to Cleveland while the beloved Redskins have struggled with consistency for the past decade.

Looking at the Caps, I would say there are lessons to be learned from that franchise.

Pre-lockout the Caps dumped their aging, underachieving talent i.e. Jaromir Jagr, Robert Lang, Brendan Witt, etc. They determined that to achieve long-term success they would need to undergo some short-term struggles.

So they drafted Alexander Semin, Alexander Ovechkin, and Nick Backstrom. They brought up Mike Green and Tomas Fleischmann from the minors. Once they had their nucleus in place, they brought in veteran leadership last season with Victor Kozlov, Tom Poti, and Sergei Federov.

Then in their run for the postseason they added the final piece in goalie Cristobal Huet. Huet carried them into the play-offs and the Caps took the Flyers to game seven in the first round.

This year the Caps returned almost the entire cast and it's paying off. They spent several years struggling while developing talent and now they are contending with the best of them.

Granted they did make a huge mistake in signing Jose Theodore to replace the departed Huet, but they got lucky with Brent Johnson and up-and-coming rookie Simone Varlimov.

In addition, the Caps have been able to overcome injuries, displaying loads of depth that they have stored in the minors. Martin Giroux has the makings of a goal scorer while several other young guns are also filling in nicely.

The Caps also possess a hunger instilled in them by a great coach. Bruce Boudreau has really demanded more from his team than they probably even knew that they could give. The commitment to the plan, young talent, veteran leadership, solid coaching, and tremendous depth all factor into the Capitals success.

Now the questions begs: Do the Skins possess these intangibles necessary to establishing a consistently successful franchise?

I would say they half-heartedly pursue most of these intangibles. Different people in the organization seem to be going different places. No one seems to know what the other is thinking. In essence, there appears to be a little order amidst a lot of chaos at Redskins Park.

They lack a set plan. Dan Snyder often trades away his draft picks and signs players that don't fit his system. Then when he seemingly swears off his mindless signings, something catches his eye. Be it coach or player, he will snap them up at first glance.

What he needs is a football-savvy mind to control operations. Vinny Cerrato has been a disaster (partially due to Snyder's controlling ways) and its time to land someone who demands complete control, coming equipped with a plan which he will not abandon for the latest free agent attraction.

When the plan is a scattered mess it's difficult to consistently bring in young talent. Hoarding up young talent is the first step. Once you have that young base, then comes the time to bring in veteran leadership.

Currently, the Skins have an ancient lineup with very few young stars. Now would be the time to bring in a crop of youngsters. Sure they have talent now, but it is certainly not enough to win a Super Bowl. Considering this team is among the oldest in the league, the time to reload is now.

As much as I want to see success next year, I think that with a more careful approach, things could be that much better in two or three years. Jim Zorn is a great coach to have in this situation. He brings a cautious demeanor to the club that would work well with a experienced determined GM.

Zorn knows his system can work, but he needs the right players. In particular he needs to oversee the development of his three big receiving targets. Malcolm Kelly, Fred Davis, and Devin Thomas will all have a big part to play in the coming seasons.

Zorn also must begin to bring in a completely new offensive line. They are aging and their skills are eroding rapidly. Together with O-line wizard Joe Bugel, Zorn must convince Snyder to bring in a host of young offensive lineman.

This year, the Skins were unable to overcome injuries because they lacked depth in certain areas. The linebackers struggled at times while the offense bogged down due to the age of the line. The pass rush was also lacking due to injuries across it.

The Skins need to have a plan. Jim Zorn is the one to give it to them. Along with a solid GM, he can bring in youth, cement it with the addition of veteran leadership and quality depth, and give DC a quality football franchise again.

Take a page from George McPhee and the Caps, Dan Snyder. Be patient and good things will come. Oh and stay out of the front office.

December 22, 2008

Plenty Of Positives Today

Although the Skins season has been quite a disappointment today's victory over the Eagles really shone a light on how dominating this defense really is.

They can hit, cover, and downright pound opposing offenses into submission.

If only the offense could get some life.

The Skins defense is once again top ten in the NFL. They boast a great secondary consisting of Laron Landry, Chris Horton, DeAngelo Hall, Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers, and Fred Smoot. These guys have really held their own throughout the year. They have to bring them all back.

Springs will most likely retire and Hall will be a free agent. If Springs does quit, resigning Hall will be the top offseason priority.

Hall is a playmaker. That is something the Redskins have very little of. He does take risks, but often the risk reaps a reward. He is lightening-fast and is a top flight man corner when he is on top of his game. Smoot and Rogers are solid, but Hall is spectacular. He will be needed next year on defense that fails to generate a lot of turnovers.

Secondly, today's game showed that Jason Taylor still has something left in the tank. He had a burst and enthusiasm that I haven't seen since the calf injury in week 3. Perhaps the injury took more out of him than we anticipated.

We gave up two draft picks for him, and I think we should give him another year to pan out should he decide to return. Besides what else do we have that is better?

Andre Carter has struggled and Demetric Evans is far from a force (although he has overachieved this season). Bring Taylor back. I have a feeling he'll pay off next year.

The defensive line might not rush the passer well, but they have stopped the run for the majority of the season. They rank fifth against the run and this week they shut down longtime nemesis, Brian Westbrook.

Adding a little depth in there should help the line stay strong. Cornelius Griffin is aging so he'll need a replacement. The draft is the place to look.

The defense has some holes, but the offense is where there are some problems. Primarily I see a lack of rhythm as the key problem.

The offensive line played well considering the two starting tackles were missing. The pass blocking was solid against the blitz happy Eagles. Run blocking needs more chemistry and that was clearly lacking today.

However, Clinton ran hard to make up for it, which paid off inside the red zone. He was running with a full head of steam and that enabled him to get that crucial score.

Jason Campbell threw the ball well, but Jim Zorn seems determined to stay conservative. Screens on every third down do not work. Zorn has to get that intermediate passing game working because it's Campbell's strong suit and it allows the Skins to get first downs on second down rather than have to convert on third down every drive.

Converting on first and second really puts a defense back on it's heels an let's the offense get some confidence. An offense needs that confidence to convert third downs when they have to. The Skins just seem to be resigned to being faced with third and longs all day. That is a terrible mentality and a lot of that has to do with the conservative play calling.

Zorn should improve. The addition of a consistently viable threat opposite Santana Moss can only help matters An early observation suggests taking a look at Anquan Boldin. Granted Devin Thomas will be good next year, but I don't think of Antwaan Randle El as a quality player. The offense is still missing that possession receiver to help free up Moss.

Overall, we saw the Skins play well tonight. Some continuity throughout the offseason should only help matters. Let's regroup and gear up for another year with Zorn in 2009.

November 26, 2008

RIP #21

I don't cry. I haven't shed tears through the funerals of close friends and family members. But a year ago I cried. And cried some more. When Sean Taylor died I lost someone who was a part of my family.

I watch the Redskins every week; devote hours to news, stats, and everything Redskins. When Sean Taylor died it struck very near to home. I was at school and my friend texted me at nine in the morning, telling me Taylor had been shot. The rest of the day felt so strange. My brother had been shot.

I prayed that he hadn't been involved in anything criminal. I just wanted him to be innocent and recover. Innocent he was; recover he would not.

I went to a Caps game the night he had been shot, but everyone there could only talk about Sean. It was the saddest I had felt, but we all thought he would pull through.

Unfortunately I woke up the next day to learn that Sean had passed early that morning. I was shellshocked. To have something so close to you taken away was unreal. Sean was a football player in the prime of his career. When do they end up with their lives cut short?

I couldn't help but cry. Sean represented everything I loved; my team, my city. He was one of my boys that went out there every Sunday, but no longer.

However, Clinton Portis brings him along to every game. He wears a Sean Taylor T-shirt under his jersey, allowing Sean to be out there for every moment. Santana Moss flashes the #21 after big plays and everyone still admits they play for Sean.

I still think about him often. In retrospect I really believe he was turning his life around. Though his death haunts me, I am overjoyed to know that he died defending his family rather than being shot by a bouncer at some nightclub in Vegas. He died a good death and that's what we all really want isn't it?

In a time where every story in the NFL seemingly focuses on trials, crimes, and thuggery, it is truly refreshing to hear the Sean Taylor story. There is so much heartache in the story for me and yet there is a hint of triumph as well.

The Redskins will be adding Taylor into their Ring of Fame this Sunday against the New York Giants. This will undoubtedly be an emotional event and I'm just hoping that Sean will throw in a little help from above to ensure a Skins victory.

RIP #21. You will always be in my thoughts. And I'm still crying

October 29, 2008

Ugliness Aside, It's Good To Be 6-2

Sure the Redskins need to think about scoring points. They can run up all the yards they want, but scoring wins games. That's a huge concern for the second half of the season, but overall, who cares? The Skins are 6-2!

Halfway through the regular season the Skins are in prime position to secure a play-off berth considering they have upcoming games against the Niners, Bengals, Ravens, and Seahawks. On the other hand, they still have to contend with the Eagles, Cowboys, Giants, and Steelers.

Taking a quick peek at the first half of the year, it sometimes hard to believe we are 6-2. After the Giants game, it looked like the typical Redskins. Sloppy, sluggish, and downright vanilla. Then Jim Zorn opened up the playbook and let it rip. Jason Campbell went on a tear that led the Skins past Dallas, Philly, New Orleans, and Arizona.

Clinton Portis was running well, the offense was minimizing it's mistakes and capitalizing on the majority of their scoring chances. All of this crashed down around them with a loss to St. Louis.

The Rams came into DC winless and the Skins certainly played unispired football against an uninspired team (they have recently picked it up however). They committed their first offensive turnovers of the year, and failed to score enough points despite outplaying the Rams in almost every category.

Things didn't change much for the next two weeks against Detroit and Cleveland. The same vanilla effort. The same offense that can do anything it pleases except punch the ball into the endzone. However, the Skins did salvage out a pair of wins and that's all that matters. Now, they need to look to the second half because chances are, these Skins have a lot to look forward to.

October 25, 2008

"Trap" Game For The Skins? Don't Count On It.

The experts this week are predicting a Skins choke job. Memo: That was two weeks ago. The Skins don't lose to Detroit. It's happened only a handful of times since my birth. Maybe twice, but not much more than that.

However, Peter King predicted a loss, the guys on CBS Sportsline think it'll be really close and the Lions might pull it off, and then the guys on are predict a loss. Come again?

The Skins will be going up against one the worst defenses in the NFL. Clinton Portis is on fire and Jason Campbell will get back in his groove in this one. The defense has to worry about one player only: Calvin Johnson.

The Steelers are next week and the Skins can't flub this one up because Pittsburgh will be a real challenge. Jim Zorn screwed up once against a winless team, but, to quote The Who, he won't get fooled again. He knows what it's like to be upset and he's too smart to let it happen again.

The Skins will come out focused, stay focused and romp. 31-14. You heard it here. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Peter.

October 23, 2008

Could Romo Miss The Skins Game?

Reports are out that Cowboys' QB Tony Romo could miss the next two games and not return until the November 16th game against our Skins.

CBS Sportsline reported that Romo will not even be the team's emergency QB this week when they play the Buccaneers this week. He will also miss the divisional game against the Giants the following week before the Cowboys have their bye.

Romo can't grip a football properly and meanwhile his team can't get a grip on themselves. Jerry Jones is the self-proclaimed team physician; Terrell Owens has yet to meet a mike he didn't like; Pacman Jones has probably ridden in just about every cop car in existence and Wade Phillips is on thin ice.

Things aren't exactly great in Dallas as they could be looking at a 4-5 record when they head to DC. I would be interested to see if Romo even plays in the Skins game. If he does, there will certainly be some rust.

So how great could that be? The Skins sitting at 6-3 or 7-2 playing the Cowboys who are struggling to even stay in contention for a play-off spot. Like Mastercard, that's priceless.

October 22, 2008

Jason Campbell: More than A Game Manager?

Jason Campbell came into the season with the entire Redskins Nation holding its collective breath, waiting to witness his performance. Would the young signalcaller step up his game to lead the Redskins offense to some much-needed success? Would he grasp a new offense with a new coach?

Seven games into the season, the answers are slowly coming. Campbell has experienced several great games, but is still in the process of becoming a great QB.

The game against the Saints in week two saw Campbell throw the game-winning 67-yard score to Santana Moss. He threw for over 300 yards in the game and then proceeded to throw a pair of touchdowns in the following week's win over Arizona.

Campbell completed over 73 percent of his passes against Arizona, but his best was yet to come. He led a balanced offense to a victory over the Cowboys in which he tossed two touchdowns and threw for 231 yards.

However, following the Dallas game, Campbell has only thrown one touchdown and the team has only scored 54 points in the past three games. That's an average of 18 points per game.

On the flip side, Campbell has attempted fewer passes the past three weeks (29 against the Eagles, 26 against the Rams, 23 against the Browns) than he had against Dallas, Arizona, and New Orleans. So the question is: does the offense need more of Campbell?

To me, the answer is simple. Campbell needs more involvement. The offense has put up an average of 26.3 points a game when he makes 30+ attempts. When he goes under that mark, the offense averages just 15.3 points per game.

Last time I checked points win games. The Skins are seventh in the NFL in yards per game, but only 24th in points per game. The offense scores more points when Campbell gets more opportunities to throw the ball to Moss and Cooley.

Clinton Portis is having a phenomenal season and the Skins offense has been moving the ball freely all year, but they have had trouble getting the ball in the endzone. Against the Eagles, they had to settle for three field goals in the first half; against the Rams they turned the ball over twice in St. Louis territory. That can't happen and the best way to keep drives from stalling is to get Campbell more involved. If Jim Zorn can bring this about, it will add extra dimensions to the offense.

So it's time to fully entrust the offense to Jason Campbell. He is more than a game manager this year. And it's time to let him prove it.

October 21, 2008

Redskins Defense: Battered, Bruised, But Not Beaten

The Cleveland Browns were knocking on the door deep in Skins territory, down 14-3 late in the fourth quarter. It had already been a hard-hitting game, but London Fletcher brought it to a new level as he stuffed the truck-like Jamal Lewis on two consecutive plays. Then the rest of the team caught on and stopped the next two plays to get the ball back.

Fletcher stepped up to fill the void in a big way all day with twelve tackles. Not only does his play speak volumes, but his fire and leadership really sparks the team. Those primal screams jumpstarted the team several times yesterday. They have been ravaged by injuries, but that didn't seem to matter.

Fred Smoot, Carlos Rogers, and Chris Horton all played with injuries, ensuring that the loss of Shawn Springs would be softened. Horton notched eight tackles and came up with some timely stops. Smoot continued his hard-nosed coverage while Rogers came up with two huge hits and consistent coverage all day.

The physical coverage the Skins have been relying on more and more the last few weeks has been working. Receivers get frustrated as they are beat up and have no room after the catch. When Springs returns, expect to see even more man coverage and more lockdown defense.

Meanwhile the defensive line was able to get a little pressure, but came away with just one sack. This is a line with Jason Taylor and Andre Carter and they can't provide pressure. That needs to change.

However, the line has been stopping the run. They are ranked 7th in the NFL in run defense, only yielding 86.4 yards per game. They stick runners at initial contact and rarely give up big gainers.

On the whole, the Skins defense has been tremendous this season. They are ranked number six overall in total defense and allow just 18.3 points per game. They could stand to force more turnovers and create extra pressure, but as things stand, this defense is as stifling as they come.

October 20, 2008

Where Did The Offense Go?

After two tremendous wins over the Eagles and Cowboys, I expected to see the Skins take at the very least two out of the next three games. Three cream puffs: the Rams, Browns, and Lions. Two games at home and a road game against a Detroit team who looks like the division I-AA team thrown into division I.

However, the Redskins have decided to make things painful for us. Joe Gibbs' offense was supposed to leave with him, but it didn't seem so yesterday. Jason Campbell doesn't throw interceptions, Jim Zorn. So why did you refuse to throw downfield in the first half.

Sanatana Moss is a guy who can score on any given play. That being said, why not throw to him more often. The way Clinton Portis is running, Moss will get single coverage more and more frequently. He needs to get the ball early and throughout games.

The Skins did a great job moving Moss around the field, making it difficult for the Browns to double team him. This is what Zorn will have to continue doing so his top receiver will have some room to work with.

Again though, the playcalling needs to open up. Zorn did a fantastic job after week one, mixing it up and using the pass to set up the run. This week Zorn seemed to focus on using the run to set up the pass. I think to maintain consistency the Skins must stay aggressive. That killer instinct to finish drives has to be present in every game. The more Campbell gets comfortable early, the more scoring we will see.

So please, Jim Zorn. Take a chance. Let the Campbell to Moss connection work. It will pay off.

October 15, 2008

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October 12, 2008

Fear Not Skins Fans, Things Are Fine

I know everyone will want to panic after today's loss, but let's stay reasonable. As the entire FOX crew abandoned their belief in the Skins, I sat back and laughed.

After back-to-back road wins against divison opponents and four straight wins, a letdown was expected. With the next two games coming against the Lions and Browns, the Skins will get back to their winnning ways.

What the Skins really need is that killer instinct to crush the bottom feeders. They don't need to play a ball control game against the Rams. Just air it out early and often challenging that secondary.

The Skins did play very well in terms of moving the ball for parts of the game. However, turnovers hurt the Skins badly. Three fumbles, two deep in Rams territory took points off the board. What Pete Kendall was doing was beyond ridiculous. The fluke plays need to be stopped.

In addition, the defense failed to generate sacks. Two sacks against a weak offensive line just isn't enough, but with two more easy games, they have time to regroup.

More to come.

October 3, 2008

Can't Have A Letdown This Week

Washington needs to stay focused after a big win in Dallas. They have won three in a row and now this trip to Philly means they can make it a huge four game win streak.

The first five games of the schedule were, as I said at the start of the year, the hardest stretch for the Skins. Now after Philly, they have the Rams, Browns, Lions, and Steelers before playing Dallas. That's a far cry from the Giants, Saints, Cardinals, Cowboys, and Eagles.

I said if the Skins went 3-2 then we could possibly have a play-off year. Even if we do go 3-2 at this point, we are still contenders. We beat the Cowboys and this game will tough to follow up on that. Imagine if we do follow it up.

4-1 would make us the top team along with the Giants in the NFC in my opinion. We have been through the toughest five games thus far and emerging at 4-1 is exactly what is needed for a play-off run. And a divisional run as well.

The Eagles need this game in a bad way though. They are 2-2 and 0-1 in NFC East play. This game will determine whether they will have to play catch up all year or be right in the mix.

I like the Eagles chances even with a banged up Brian Westbrook. Their defense is unlike anything Jim Zorn has played against and I think the Skins will struggle to establish themselves on the ground. The defense will have to keep them in it and without Westbrook at 100% I think they will be able to manage this.

It's a tough game to win because of the Dallas win and the back-to-back road games in very hostile stadiums, but I think Zorn is giving his team the right mentality. Skins win 24-17 in a close one.

First Quarter Review: Defense

While much of the credit for a 3-1 start goes to the Redskins' offense, the defense is certainly carrying its weight as well. They are ranked 14th in the NFL giving up 20.2 points a game, but the average numbers don't tell the whole story.

In the Dallas game, the Skins only gave up 10 1st half point and prevented the offense from getting into any rhythm. TO only had two catches in the first half, and the secondary played a physical man coverage which Dallas struggled beating out.

In the second half when Dallas made the necessary adjustments to spring TO, the Skins retaliated with a huge interception by Chris Horton. That was really what allowed the Skins to take a two score lead.

This opportunistic play isn't confined to this one game, however. The New Orleans game was very similar. The Saints, like Dallas, have a great offense capable of scoring in bunches. The Skins played a bend-but-don't-break defense for most of the game, but when New Orleans made a mistake, the defense was there to take advantage.

Horton recovered a fumble caused by Rocky McIntosh and caught two tipped balls for picks. The second interception sealed the game and allowed the Skins offense to run out the clock.

In the next week against Arizona there was much of the same. Kurt Warner caught fire late in the game after being stymied for much of the game. He threw a deep TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald and then went right back to the air on the Cardinals' ensuing possession. This time the ball was tipped in the air and intercepted by Carlos Rogers. Another big play by the defense when they were on the ropes.

This isn't the most dominating unit we've seen, but it stays strong for long stretches. The offense stays on the field for such long periods of time that it really keeps the defense fresh and when the defense has stumbled, someone step up and makes a play.

Sure, the defense needs tightening up. The offense won't be dominant in every game and so the defense will have to really put on better performances. There's room for improvement and with time I think we'll see it.

Firstly, the defense has been going up against great offenses all season, but now they will a reprieve over the next month. The offenses playing the Skins after Philadelphia will be St Louis, Cleveland, Detroit, and Pittsburgh. These teams are not powerhouses and actually can be downright awful. This is a great remedy for a team looking to get over the hump. The turnovers and sacks are coming slowly, but they might pour in over the next month.

As for individual performances, the most disappointing would have to be Jason Taylor. He hasn't been healthy or productive. He has one sack and his absence really means that the defensive line is reduced to stopping the run. You can't get sacks on a QB with just Andre Carter and Demetric Evans.

The line has been able to generate some pressure, but the sacks are few and far between. Taylor needs to come back at full strength if the line wants become anything special. However, it's wise that no one is pushing to come back quickly. He will be needed healthy down the stretch.

As for the run defense, the Skins are ranked 11th, giving up 92.2 yards per game. Cornelius Griffin continues to play at a high level despite his age while a rotating front has kept the line fresh. The Giants and Cardinals both ran with much success against the Skins which leaves some concern.

We really haven't seen a team just pound the ball against the Skins with the exception of the Giants so the line might be tested more in the future if opposing offenses see this as a weakness, but for now the line appears to be much improved against the run since week one.

London Fletcher is a constant plug and phenomenal leader in the middle. He ranks second in the league with 36 tackles and is a steady presence who will always keep the defense at home.

The outside backers are a mixed bag. The good is that Rocky McIntosh has really developed into a reliable LB. He doesn't wreak havoc, but he has a forced fumble and half a sack. He also has 26 tackles and his performance is always solid with no glaring mistakes. As for the bad, Troy Aikman commented in the Dallas game that Marcus Washington is looking old and a step slow. I agree with this. Washington is definitely struggling with injuries and can't cover like he used to. HB Blades is the future in the middle, but he played well in Washington's place in week two. Look for him to get more time if Washington's struggles increase.

Jim Zorn and Greg Blache have shown no favoritism thus far. They have been playing the best players. Jon Jansen was benched and Todd Wade was cut; Reed Doughty was also shown benched for the vastly superior Horton.

Speaking of Horton, the read he made on Romo's out route this past week was beautiful. The man makes plays, wraps up ballcarriers, and can cover unlike Doughty. He has athleticism, strength, and speed which enable him to play either on or off the line with ease. Strong safety was a question mark until he came along. Not anymore.

LaRon Landry has yet to really take off and yet he hasn't been beaten in coverage. You want to see him lower the boom or make a great interception and don't worry it will happen. He is a freak athlete who will make his mark. Unfortunately, he is stuck in the shadow of Sean Taylor who made a highlight reel play just about once a game. Landry is good, but no Taylor.

The corners are battling those nagging injuries and that is the thing that worries me the most. Shawn Springs is the life of the defense. At 33, he can still cover most receivers with little help, but his shin and calf injuries have forced him to miss time already. Fred Smoot has been playing physically and he seems to fit well at nickel corner. Carlos Rogers has also been steady in coverage.

The secondary has room for improvement and it would only get better if the defensive line started sacking QBs. I know they are ranked 23rd in pass defense, but they really have made the most of opposing QBs mistakes. In addition, they have played against Kurt Warner, Tony Romo, and Drew Brees. They have done a great job against these guys and the good news is that they won't be playing them every week. I expect them to really turn it on against Jon Kitna, Marc Bulger, etc.

Overall, I think given the matchups the Skins have played great defense and will be even better when they get to the easier parts of the schedule. Greg Blache has a disciplined unit that responds well to challenge and their confidence will soar once more results come.

First Quarter: Offense Review

Four games into the regular season and the Skins have given us plenty to think about. After a devastating week one loss to the Giants, it seemed as if the transition from Joe Gibbs to Jim Zorn would take some time. Then in week two everything fell into place.

Gone was the timid play-calling and vanilla offense and in was the pass to set up the run.

These are not your average Skins.

After everything went horribly wrong on that opening Thursday night, things changed. Now Washington can only do right and boy, is it sweet.

Of course there's the fear that the Skins will regress back into their impotent selves, but for now they are experiencing the thrills of offensive success.

What have they shown us thus far? Well, taking a quick look, fans can quickly see that Jim Zorn has adapted swiftly to coaching and his decisions have been masterful.

Firstly, the offense has been much improved. It has always had great potential for the past several years and Zorn's play calls have really brought it to fruition.

Zorn has made sure that his top playmaker Santana Moss gets at least five or six touches a game. Moss has delivered with these touches as he has 27 catches for 421 yards and three TDs.

Moss is fully healthy for the first time since 2005 and it shows on the field. The fact that he has Antwaan Randle El and Chris Cooley drawing some coverage doesn't hurt either. By 2005's end Jimmy Farris was playing opposite Moss.

Chris Cooley has made strides as a blocker. He seals off edges with more authority while his pass catching abilities haven't eroded in the least. He has 17 catches for 179 yards.

Interestingly, Cooley hasn't been as big a target for QB Jason Campbell this season. Cooley is still a big part of the offense, but it no longer feels as if Campbell needs him as a security blanket. This is a big step for the offense because it shifts defenses' focus away from Cooley, spreading them thin as they try to account for every weapon.

The offensive line has kept Campbell off the ground for the most part, but there is room for improvement. Campbell has been sacked seven times in four games, leaving him on pace to be sacked 28 times.

Fortunately, Campbell can avoid pressure and has cut down on the fumbles. In fact, his ball protection and awareness in the pocket have improved tremendously. So combining Campbell's newfound awareness with a line that should continue to improve, the sacks totals should decrease. In addition, the line will squaring off against weaker fronts like Cincinnati and Cleveland as the season progresses, meaning the number will drop even more.

Stephon Heyer's injury is a concern, but some of that worry was alleviated by Jon Jansen solid effort on Sunday. Jansen has clearly lost a step and yet he still held his own against a ferocious Cowboys front seven. Chris Samuels remains a reliable blindside blocker, and overall the line has done a good job protecting Campbell since their dismal week one game against New York.

The run blocking opened up holes for a phenomenal 161 yard performance by the backs against Dallas this past week. It has paved the way for the Skins' backs to rush for 132.5 yards per game, 11th best in the league.

Randy Thomas continues to remain a terrific guard whom Clinton Portis loves to run behind. However in the Dallas game, all five Dirtbags were generating a strong push in the second half. Zorn dared the Cowboys to bring up eight men in the box by just pounded the ball down their throats. The Cowboys knew it was coming and they still couldn't win the battle in the trenches.

The line's success has largely been due to clock control. A defense gets tired when they can't get off the field and the Skins' offense has remained on the field for an average of 32 and a half minutes per game. In the Dallas game, Washington had the ball for about 38 minutes. When a team gets a decisive advantage like that, then they have to take advantage of it and wear the opposing team down. The Redskin line does just that as the running game has been very effective in the late stages of the last few games.

Clinton Portis has spearheaded the running attack with 369 yards rushing, tied for fourth most in the NFL. He is coming off of a 121 yard game in which he punished the Cowboys defense with some hard-nosed running. He is averaging 4.3 yards per carry which is up from last year's dismal 3.9.

The running attack is remarkably different from years past primarily because of Zorn's West Coast style. Portis does a lot less running in the early stages of a game as Campbell picks apart opposing secondaries. Once the Skins force defenses to respect Campbell, Portis starts to pick up steam. His power and determination are more apparent than last year as there is no longer a "brick wall" in front of him. There are good holes which he hits hard with positive results.

The main concern here is that the running game has yet to be something that can dominate when Campbell struggles. Should there come a game when the Skins have to establish a threat on the ground early on, things could get tricky. The offensive line has done a solid job up to now, but can they ensure the running game's success early in games? I think the Skins might struggle to dictate the line of scrimmage in a game where Campbell struggles. The line is older and the running game has yet to carry the offense so trouble might arise.

This week's test against Philly might solve the problem. I would expect to see more running in the first half due to the Eagles blitz-happy schemes. After this week we could have a better idea of whether or not the run can set up the pass for Washington.

And finally, Jason Campbell has been near flawless following since his bland start against the Giants. He has not turned the ball over while throwing the ball 124 times. His 65.3 completion percentage is five points higher than 2007 and he has thrown for 6 TDs.

The leadership is there; the confidence is there. His precision and calmness under duress have been fantastic. Nothing proves it better than his game-winning 67 yard TD pass to Moss against the Saints in week two. That throw really opened the floodgates and brought forth a new Jason Campbell.

This new Jason Campbell is winning games and making plays. Drives don't stall anymore; they end in scores. Optimism runs high. Now the team must remain focused on continuing their offensive success.

Next up, I'll offer a look at the defense and what we know so far.

September 28, 2008

NFC Contenders? You Betcha!

The Redskins made quite a few believers this week in their upset of Dallas. The media will certainly count the Skins among the top contenders in the NFC if not the NFL after they dominated the ball and large parts of the game Sunday.

The Skins can soak in the glory, but only on Monday because there are still 12 more games to be played and 3-1 start can quickly turn into a disaster. What has brought them this far is consistency and aggressiveness combined with a killer instinct that previous Skins' squads never developed. If the Skins want to continue winning they have to keep that consistency which is easier said than done.

Jim Zorn has kept the Skins focused and collected thus far. After New York, he made the necessary adjustments. After New Orleans, he stuck with what worked and built on the progress against Arizona. Coming into Dallas, he made sure the Skins weren't intimidated and ended up going blow-for-blow with the big D.

And it wasn't just mindless body blows. The shots were direct and square in the mouth. A ball control offense wore down the Cowboys until they didn't know what was coming. An early dose of Campbell gave way to some strong runs by Clinton Portis. An opportunistic defense shut down Marion Barber and made a key interception late in the game.

The Skins went out to keep the ball away from Dallas' offense and they did just that. They held the ball for over 35 minutes and had their way for much of the day with Dallas' secondary.

Zorn's play calling used the pass to set up the run and the scheme seems to fit Washington beautifully. Portis improves as the game wears on while Campbell continues to avoid mistakes.

To beat great teams, turnovers can't happen and the Skins have only one in four games. Campbell has yet to throw a pick while his decision making has been superb. Several times he checked down as his downfield target was covered. Other times he avoided pressure and got the ball downfield to the open man. He hasn't been biting off more than he can chew and Zorn has given him his complete trust.

This trust was something Joe Gibbs never gave Campbell. Whenever there was a positive, Gibbs failed to build on it. Not so with Zorn. The offense can't be this flawless all season, but Zorn has already proven his ability to bounce back. Consistency will be the main thing down the stretch and with Zorn we should see more of it in the offense.

Only time will tell concerning the long-term consistency of the offense, but one thing is for sure: the Skins are damn aggressive. After killing the clock with passing the last two weeks, the Skins threw non-stop en route to four straight scoring drives. Then Zorn unabashedly ran right down the Cowboys throats on the final drive that put them up two scores. No deception, just simple, smashmouth football.

This consistency and aggressiveness give the Skins that killer instinct which have given them three straight wins. They have won these games on their own terms, killing the clock in all three.

This success has been monumental for the Skins and now that they have opened up everyone's eyes, they have to keep on the delivering. Contenders? For now, but let's keep it rolling.

September 16, 2008

Victory Is Sweet But Questions Remain On Offense

With a thrilling 29-24 victory over the New Orleans Saints, the Washington Redskins found the win column and some offensive prowess to boot.

Jason Campbell was impressive throwing for over 300 yards and Santana Moss proved once again how devastating he can be when healthy as caught seven balls for 164 yards including a 67 yard game winning TD catch from Campbell.

Clinton Portis added 96 yards on the ground with two scores, playing in a way he hasn't in quite a while. In fact, the running game really stood out to me for the following reason. The Redskins mixed up the play calling in such a way that it allowed Portis to face less men in the box as the game wore on.

Jim Zorn actually opened the playbook and continually ensured that Campbell would dial up his receivers. This wasn't the case in week one and in many games which Joe Gibbs coached with Campbell. There often has seemed a reluctance on each coach's part to let Campbell get the ball to his playmakers, but yesterday we saw how good Campbell can be when he is given a looser reign.

In week one, Zorn seemed to call the most basic pass plays and the running game was very predictable. If Campbell completed a pass, Zorn seemed to think it would automatically free up Portis.

This week, Zorn kept up a constant passing attack, forcing the Saints to respect Campbell. As the game wore on, Portis began to see fewer men in the box and bigger holes. He ran with speed and power and the hesitation seen in week one was gone.

The offensive line was fairly effective only giving up two sacks while opening up good holes for Portis especially in the second half.

And of course Moss put on a show all day with Campbell. He took advantage of Aaron Glenn's injury in the fourth quarter burning a battered secondary all day. Antwaan Randle El also got in on the action with four catches and Chris Cooley came back from a quiet game with a workhorse-like five catches including a nice first down grab on a second-and-22.

The big issue with the offense is that they failed to put the ball in the endzone in the first half despite five trips into New Orleans' territory. That cannot happen against teams like Dallas and Philadelphia. Those teams are much better equipped on defense so drives can't be wasted.

Overall, it was a phenomenal offensive effort, but the Skins will be playing much tougher defenses in the upcoming weeks so they had better hope their strong second half performance translates into season long success.

I think if Zorn stays aggressive the Skins have a chance to field a good offense. Campbell has always been fairly interception free so the main concern will just be getting the ball early and often to his playmakers so that the running game will open up as the game heads towards the late stages.

The defense also played well as they only gave up 17 points (the other score was courtesy of a horrible Durant Brooks punt). One of the scores came off of a short drive that stemmed from a Randle El fumble on a punt return.

So, in essence, the Skins only gave up two long scoring drives and looked solid for most of the game. The front four applied decent pressure and Jason Taylor notched a sack. The linebackers were their usual steady selves and the secondary improved drastically from week one to week two.

HB Blades filled in for the injured Marcus Washington and had six tackles. He looked very comfortable and I wouldn't be surprised to see him play a lot more in the future.

LaRon Landry played spy on Reggie Bush for a large part of the day and prevented any big plays. He played with more fluidity in his second game back from a sore hamstring.

However, the big star had to have been seventh round rookie Chris Horton who recorded two interceptions and a fumble recovery along with three tackles. Horton had a good nose for the ball and could very well replace Reed Doughty who just appears to be a step behind on so many plays especially through the air.

Lastly, the cover 3 defense used on the touchdown from Brees to Robert Meacham was atrocious. Firstly, Shawn Springs should never be left covering flats when he is the best corner on the team. Secondly, the Skins have been burned often when in zone defense and I don't understand why they even consider using it. They really don't have the athleticism to use it and it takes the linebackers away from the line of scrimmage where they excel. Anyway, I didn't like the call and I impore Greg Blache to can the zone.

The game was a joy to watch. One of my favorite Skins games in a while. I just hope and pray there will be more like it throughout the year.

September 10, 2008

Colston To Miss 4-6 Weeks With A Thumb Injury

The Skins were given a huge break with the announcement that Marques Colston will miss this week's game after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.

This really helps the Skins ailing secondary as they are hoping to see Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot return healthy after suffering minor injuries this past week.

Springs has a bruised calf that forced him to miss last week's game vs. the Giants because he couldn't put weight on it. He is needed back so the Skins can play more man coverage as the season goes on.

Man coverage really frees up Laron Landry as Springs can effectively shut down one half the field with little help so it is important to see him come back soon.

Smoot bruised his hip in the Giants game and will most likely return along with Springs into the lineup against the Saints.

The Saints will now look to the speedy Devery Henderson and newly acquired Jeremy Shockey for more output and they will also most likely activate last year's first rounder Robert Meacham. Meacham is coming off a huge preseason and the Skins would be wise to not overlook him.

On a quick side note, this will mark the return of Mark Brunell to Washington. He was let go in the offseason and is now backing up Drew Brees in New Orleans.

More to come.

Merriman Puzzles Me

Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman came into week one with a torn PCL, a devastating injury that requires months of rehabilitation after a difficult surgery.

Four doctors had advised Merriman, known by the nickname Lights Out, to pack it in and receiver the surgery.

However, Merriman decided to take his tough guy persona to a new level by playing on his gimpy knee last week against Carolina. He ignored the doctors' advice and declared he would be playing for as long as he could.

Well toss that statement out.

After just one game, Merriman realized his foolish mistake and has now decided to end his season.

The questions is: why did Merriman take such a big risk against 4 professional physicians' warnings only to pack it in after such a short time.

I like bravado as much as the next guy, but what Merriman did was beyond foolish. Torn ligaments are no joke, but Merriman decided to treat his like it was just a sprain.

His injury was career-threatening especially if he played on it. I guess that thought didn't bother Merriman as he suited up.

Did he play just so he could tell his kids that he played on virtually one knee? Did he really think he could play through it for a whole season? Or was he simply in denial about the injury?

Whatever the reason, the Bolts' front office needed to assert themselves and ensure that Merriman wouldn't risk his career like he did. Where was Norv Turner in this? All he said after the game was that Shawne "looked very explosive and physical." What a load of garbage, Norv. We all know he wasn't even close to full strength.

I don't understand how the organization allowed Merriman to play in his condition when they had certified doctors on their side. The situation makes no sense and things could have gotten dicey had Merriman further injured himself.

AJ Smith commented saying, "Shawne informed me he did not feel right and thought it best to shut it down." Wow. I just think Smith should have put more pressure on Merriman to not even play in the first place. The team has invested a lot in him as a player and to have him place himself in such a situation puts the team in a bind.

So even though Merriman emerged from Sunday's game in no worse shape, I really felt he should have never considered playing. How did that one game benefit him?

So Shawne, was it really worth it?

September 8, 2008

Ugly Start To The Season

Jim Zorn was certainly joltd back to reality last Thursday as the Giants spoiled his coaching debut, winning 16-7 over the Skins.

The game could have been much worse had the Skins not made some defensive adjustments after the first quarter. They were also helped by a more passive gameplan by the Giants after they built a comfortable lead early on.

Zorn had a whole half to comeback as the defense gave up zero points in the second half and yet the offense failed to score. Four times the Skins were stopped a yard short on third down pass completions and they went 3-13 overall on third down.

When you get in a hole early there is no way you can afford to go through the second half with no urgency, but the Skins did just that. They failed to capitalize on good field position throughout the third quarter. A 25 yard Clinton Portis run failed to bring about a scoring drive and Jason Campbell turned in a listless performance.

However, I see Zorn as being the main problem. Campbell would hit a few receivers and get into a groove only to have Zorn call an ineffective draw. Zorn didn't seem to mix up his plays in the right way whatsoever.

When Campbell hit receivers things looked good. He ran the slant route to perfection with Moss and Randle El. He missed a couple of deep throws, but I didn't think that Zorn called a game that worked in the offense's favor.

The running game was unimaginative and Chris Cooley was only thrown to three times. Countless patterns were run short of the sticks. The tempo, praised by many players to be so upbeat, was rather downtrodden.

The one thing to look at was that Campbell had great success running from the shotgun. He was 10-15 from the gun, but was only 5-12 from under center. Zorn announced to the Washington Post that he would be employing the shotgun more frequently in the future.

Nevertheless, Zorn failed to manage the clock properly late in the game and even though it was his first time out, it's common knowledge that when you are down two scores, you run no huddle. Especially considering Campbell is at his best when playing from the no huddle. In the future, Zorn must get everything under control if he wants to win close games.

The O-line improved as the game went along and aside from the first play from scrimmage, they gave up only one sack. More improvement is needed, but Joe Bugel knows how to make the proper adjustments and I don't see them struggling against a like the Saints have this week.

Defensively, the absence of Shawn Springs was evident as Plaxico Burress torched the Redskins secondary for 10 catches. Springs should be back at full strength and he'll be needed to cover Marques Colston.

The defensive line did not put pressure on Eli Manning consistently although they did notch two sacks. I think as Jason Taylor recovers from his sprained knee, things will improve, but Manning was comfortable in the pocket for most of the game. That's not something that can happen again this week as Drew Brees is a significantly better passer than Manning.

London Fletcher was the star on defense, making 17 tackles while McIntosh and Washington stayed quiet throughout the game.

The defense dropped two picks which really hurt the team's chances. Fred Smoot had one interception, but dropped an easy one at the goal line which led to a Giants field goal. Laron Landry dropped another when Manning was under pressure from a blitz.

Whenever Manning was rushed he made poor decisions and so the Skins really need to look hard at that game tape and say, "wow look what happens when we generate some pressure." They need to keep up that rush every passing down. Not just one out of every ten plays.

So it wasn't a good start at all, but if the Skins just adjust the play calling and allow Campbell more opportunities to get the ball to his playmakers, things could turn aound quickly. Unfortunately I've seen the Skins squander talent far too often and so I'll remain skeptical until I see some change.

September 3, 2008

Let's Get This Party Started

Believe in now. That's what the NFL has been telling every team and fan base this offseason. And it's convinced me.

The Redskins have put together an up and down preseason, but just a glance at their roster doesn't make me think how bad will we be, but how far can we go?

Jason Campbell is the key to the offense and he's kept us in suspense as to how he'll perform this year. When I look at him I see a guy with all the intangibles, but he has yet to gain the confidence needed to lead a team in any situation.

Jim Zorn is doing all he can, but the ball is in Campbell's court. This is his team and he needs to show the NFL world that he is ready to take them on his shoulders.

Anyway without further ado, it's time to break down tomorrow's opener and it couldn't get much closer.

At first glance the Giants have an advantage. They are playing at home and are receiving their Super Bowl banner so the momentum goes to them.

Looking at the matchups, the game gets a little tighter. The Giants are playing without Osi Umenyiora, and Michael Strahan retired so the current defensive ends who are Justin Tuck and Matthias Kiwanuka are a bit of a downgrade. Neither of the latter two players have played without the former two drawing most of the attention from opposing teams' offensive lines.
I like the Skins' chances in the trench battle. Jon Jansen will be replaced by Stephon Heyer who shut down Strahan in a game last year. The rest of the line should settle in nicely against the Giants front four.

This should allow Washington to experience some success in the running game early on. The offensive line will have its best run blocking guard in Randy Thomas and this should get Clinton Portis some quality touches.

If Portis runs well early, the pressure on Campbell should vanish and he can sit in the pocket and pick apart secondary on underneath routes. The Giants don't have the best corners, but Sam Madison really came on at the end of last year while Aaron Ross is a shutdown corner in the making. Corey Webster is weakness the Skins should challenge. Campbell has yet to prove he can throw a consistent deep ball and so it would be wise for him to stick to the quick rhythm throws that really play to his strengths.

The Skins have a good chance to wear down the Giants defense by controlling time of possession and the line of scrimmage, but the defense will need to get the job done.

This is where I see the problems flaring up. Jason Taylor is questionable for the game and if he misses it or plays under 100% the Skins defensive line will also have trouble controlling the line scrimmage.

The Giants have a running back by committee. Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw, and Derrick Ward will all get touches. Ward tore the Skins up last year in week three, rushing for over 100 yards. He is a nifty runner with good vision as oppsoed to the lumbering Jacobs. Jacobs runs upright, but is big enough to push the pile and pick up extra yards. Meanwhile, Bradshaw is the speed demon. He can catch and provides that burst which makes him a threat to score whenever he touches the ball.

I think the Skins will have trouble stopping this trio. They are all so different and that's what makes them so tough to get a bead on. I could see the running game being very successful for the Giants tomorrow night.

As for Eli Manning and his receivers, there will be less success. Manning is lucky to only have to face Andre Carter and possibly an injured Taylor, but he will still be pressured. I think Greg Blache might use a variety of blitzes, sending Reed Doughty from the safety spot and an occasional corner blitz.

These manuevers would be wise to employ as Manning jars easily. Throw his timing off and he can get intop a gamelong funk. Add the fact that Plaxico Burress always seems to drop passes against us and he could have a frustrating day.

I think the Skins linebackers will have a huge impact on the game as they will need to cut off the run plays that make it past the line of scrimmage. Since there will be a substantial number of them, London Fletcher has to plug up the holes and there is no reason to assume he won't.

Special teams is a split decision. John Carney is old, but accurate while Shaun Suisham is coming into own. I call that a draw. Jeff Feagles is unmatched when it comes to downing punts inside the 20 while Durant Brooks sees his first real action. The return game features an up and comer in Dominik Hixon for NY while Rock Cartwright anchors a solid kick return game for the Skins. Advantage Skins. Disappointing punt returner Antwaan Randle El needs to revert back to his Pittsburgh form while RW McQuarters is adequate.

The coaching match-up will be fun to watch as well. Tom Coughlin, so often criticized, is coming off his first Super Bowl win as a coach. He has all the confidence in the world right now and will call a good game.

On the other hand Jim Zorn is calling his first game and we will probably see a few mistakes. He has looked great so far, but this is taking it to another level. Advantage Giants.

The pick: I think the Skins build off success in the running game and control the ball while the Giants will struggle in the passing attack, limiting what they can do offensively. The Ginats will get a big play or two to keep it close, but the Skins won't blow a first half lead this time. Jim Zorn will win his coaching debut 20-14 and the Skins will knock off the defending Super Bowl champs in their own house.

Hey, believe in now!

September 1, 2008

Safety Is The Key

All good things must come to an end. For the Washington Redskins the good came to an end in a big way last Saturday against the Carolina Panthers.

The Skins were trounced by the Panthers 47-3 as they were dominated in every aspect of the game. The Panthers amassed over 400 yards off offense, striking early and often against a suddenly helpless defense.

Jason Campbell was eaten alive by a ferocious pass rush while the defense was carved up by what could be the new premiere two-headed rushing attack of Johnathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams.

The defense began the night solidly with an interception by Kareem Moore and a sack by Jason Taylor. Carlos Rogers also looked fabulous early on in coverage. However, as the defense remained on the field due to offensive futility, things got real ugly real fast.

Safety play left much to be desired. LaRon Landry's hamstring had better be 100% if the defense wants to retain its status as a a top ten unit. I see a good FS (Landry in this case) as being the key to our defense, the X-factor so to speak. When he plays Reed Doughty can play closer to line of scrimmage (where he excels) with far less responsibility when it comes to pass defense. Last night proved that when Landry doesn't play, the secondary can't hold up. The key to defensive dominance seems to be a great FS because the Skins defense has been downright awful when they don't have one (see Dallas last year and Tampa in 2005).

Doughty was exposed as a liability in pass defense just about every time he had a coverage assignment while the defensive line was blown off the ball. The battle in the trenches was agonizing to watch as Carolina had their way with the Skins' front seven.

Gaping holes led to bursts into the secondary for both Panther backs while poor angles by the defensive backs led to touchdowns.

Adding insult to injury, Jason Taylor was injured and could miss the season opener against the Giants. The injury appeared to be much worse than it was, but fortunately, Taylor's flexibility saved him.

On offense, there was a positive in my opinion. Clinton Portis ran very hard. He went all out and showed a burst of steam that I haven't seen in a while. His numbers weren't great, but he had a nice hop in his step. Too bad that was the only good thing for the offense.

Campbell hesitated often and the offensive line gave him no room for that. Pete Kendall was schooled several times by interior linemen; Casey Rabach was dominated on a few draw plays and that cost the skins several downs; Chris Samuels was badly beaten on a bull rush that knocked him into Campbell, forcing a fumble; and finally Jon Jansen continued to perform poorly in pass protection.

The line was to blame for much of the struggle and as Campbell kept getting hit, he started to revert back to some of his old habits. He missed throws, failed to protect the ball, and looked quite overwhelmed.

I know it's just one preseason game and yet it was a shame that I didn't see any fire or confidence from Campbell after the first quarter. As a leader, Jason must be a spark in tough situations. He wasn't last night and hopefully Jim Zorn will drill into him the importance of stepping up to be the guy everyone looks to with the confidence that he will keep them in any game.

All I can take away from this game is that it was preseason and it really doesn't reflect who the Skins are. I expect it to serve as a wakeup call for a team that was still on its honeymoon with Zorn at the helm. If it doesn't then it's gonna be a long season.

QB Surprises

Joe Flacco was named the Ravens starting QB today, one of many surprises in the QB battles going on around the NFL.

Flacco was a 1st round pick out of Delaware and the Ravens were hoping he would be ready to start right away. With the poor performances of Troy Smith and Kyle Boller, Flacco will undergo trial by fire and begin his career as the starter.

The Skins will be playing the Ravens in week 14 and if Flacco is still starting, the defensive could potentially have a field day with the Ravens patchwork O-line.

Elsewhere, Matt Leinart was beaten out by the ageless Kurt Warner, winning the Cardinals QB job. Ken Whisenhunt gave Leinart the shaft, indicating the former Heisman winner might not have a successful future in the NFL.

I was surprised Leinart wasn't given another shot, but Whisenhunt sees his players everyday and knows what they can do and the dedication they have. Clearly, Leinart must have been lacking in some aspect that Whisenhunt wants to see.

Leinart was injured last year, and I don't think he's ever been given the vote of confidence he needs in order to be a good QB. It looks like that might never come with the Cards.

The Skins beat Warner and Arizona last year (Warner was played with a injured elbow). This year they play in week three in the middle of a tough stretch for the Skins. We need to win that game as the Cardinals are having several internal problems and are ripe for the picking. Plus, we haven't lost to them in a while.

Finally, the 49ers declared that JT O'Sullivan is now their starter over former first overall pick Alex Smith. Smith struggled with injuries and poor play since taking the starting job under Mike Nolan. The spread offense system he ran in college left him unprepared for more complex NFL offenses. Sullivan outplayed him the preseason and Nolan and the organization swallowed their pride, going with the best player.

The Skins play the Niners in the last week of regular season play. Recently the Skins have been the dominant team. But this is a new season and we might know something different by it's end.

August 30, 2008

Skins Down To 53, No 6th WR In The Mix

The Skins finalized their roster cuts earlier today, leaving them with nine O-lineman and two fullbacks, cutting loose the extra WR contrary to expectations that there would be a 6th WR on the team.

Maurice Mann, Anthony Mix, and Billy McMullen, the frontrunners for the spot were all cut. reports that the Skins might be looking for another veteran WR, but for now they have 5 WRs.

A complete list of roster cuts can be found at the team's website

Skins Cut Mason

Marcus Mason, Derrick Frost, and Todd Wade were all given the axe today in the Redskins' effort to make it down to 53 men.

Mason had a phenomnal preseason, but he was the fourth RB on the depth chart and couldn't move ahead of Rock Cartwright in order to make the team.

The move shows that Jim Zorn feels the need to address depth in other areas, most likely the secondary and offensive line.

Todd Wade became expendable after suffering injury in the first preseason game. Wade wan't quick enough to be a Tackle and a bit tall to be a guard. He was also ancient and the Skins already have several aging players. They have several young prospects and they were obviously more valuable than Wade.

Durant Brooks won the punting job over Frost in a dead heat. Brooks has much more upside being a rookie and Frost has never been consistent so Zorn made the right move.

More cuts to come.

Jansen Done?

Jon Jansen might not be starting at RT to open the year. Based on his performance, the decision would be understandable.

Jansen has long been a stalwart along the line since being drafted in 1999, but he has appeared to suffer one injury to many his preseason. I like Jansen for his hard work and strength, but football is a business so if he gets benched so be it.

Stephon Heyer proved last year that he is a viable starter and he has only gotten stronger and smarter in the offseason. He was an undrafted FA last year an yet he still held his own against some great players like Strahan and Jason Taylor.

Jim Zorn doesn't seem to care about who starts as long as it's the best player. He pays no heed to the name or the salary so I would expect to see Heyer start based on Jansen's poor performance this preseason.

August 28, 2008

What If Jason Taylor Doesn't Play In Week One?

Sorry for the delay in between posts. I'm just getting back into the college groove and so I got a little sidetracked. Fortunately it's only preseason.

Anyway, We watched the Skins get destroyed in every facet of the game last weeks against Carolina and now the preseaon ended with a meaningless loss against Jacksonville, 24-3.

Roster cuts are coming, but the major concern is the offensive futility that plagued the Skins over the past two games. They were outscored 71-6 and Jason Campbell left much to be desired.

The big question is will the Skins be ready for the Giants in week one? It doesn't seem so as the Skins dropped passes and sputtered the past two games. Jason Taylor is rehabbing his knee in order to return for the NYG game, but things are up in the air.

It would be foolish for him to prematurely return as it could ruin Taylor's and the Skins' season. If he didn't play then we'd probably see Demetric Evans or Erasmus James play in his place. I would bet Evans.

The Giants have two solid tackles in David Diehl and Kareem McKenzie. They would have little trouble with Evans as a pass rusher, allowing them to double team Andre Carter who is already undersized.

If Taylor is absent the Skins' secondary will need to step up in a big way this week since the pass rush will not really be coming. We'll see what happens and I'll keep you posted.

August 20, 2008

A Quick Olympic Post

I know that this a football blog and yet I have to touch upon the olympics.

Last night America got to witness Shawn Johnson win her first gold medal after three close finishes. She brought home the gold with a phenomenal balance beam routine just edging out teammate and friend Nastia Liukin.

Both these gymnasts have represented our country so well and they have graced us with their beauty, strength, effort, and poise. Johnson captured audiences' hearts with her winning smile and beaming presence. Win or lose she always remained her gracious self while her powerhouse performances landed her four medals.

Johnson was the definition of power in her routines, scoring big air on every jump. Liukin contrasted Johnson's power with flowing grace and ended up with five medals.

However, to me, Johnson was the star of the show. I really can't express how much admiration I have for her. Her friendly demeanor, big heart, and beautiful face won me over from day one as I have to admit I have quite a thing for her.

Rather than simply train endlessly, Johnson has other pursuits that she dedicates time too. She draws and goes to public school and that is what sets her apart. She has other things to look forward to in life. She's not only an olympic champion but a champion in life in general. By being a well rounded person, she has truly made herself a better person and it shows whenever she is interviewed.

I can't hide it. I love this girl. She is everything I would want in a woman. And I pray she can stay grounded and continue on her successful road in life. Congratulations Shawn! Keep making me proud!

August 19, 2008

NFL Tidbits

I am terrified of a rumored trade that would send Anquan Boldin to the Eagles in exchange for Lito Sheppard. It would make the Eagles very scary. Remember last time Donovan had a premiere receiver? I know the Eagles aren't strong at LB or defensive end (aside from Trent Cole), but they could spare Sheppard in order to make their offense a potential top ten machine. Think of it: Westbrook, Curtis, and Boldin. DeSean Jackson seems like a better option in the slot than out wide so McNabb might end up with the best set of receivers he's ever had.

Fortunately, these rumors have been downplayed by and let's hope they just remain rumors.

Carlos Rogers is looking for an increased workload this week against the Panthers according to the Washington Post. "It's going to be a big test," Rogers said yesterday at Redskins Park. "I really didn't get hit on it [against the Jets], so I really don't know the reaction of it after me getting pounded on." Rogers' progression has been astounding and I for one am hoping he can return back to last season's form.

Kyle Orton has won the Bears starting job, meaning Chicago has likely ended the Rex Grossman experiment. Unless Orton plays poorly (a likely possibility).

I really see the Browns getting into a QB controversy this year. If Derrick Anderson slacks off one bit, fans will demand Quinn. Anderson's concussion really doesn't help him. Last year he had a great year, but he did have games where he played like Rex Grossman (that was an overstatement). One or two of those and things could get ugly in Cleveland.

The Bills have a great return man in the very least with Leodis McElvoy. However they already have Roscoe Parrish so he'll need to be a good CB as well. McElvoy will probably return kicks anyway though as he took one 95 yards to the house following a big return against the Skins the previous week.

The Bucs lost guard Davin Joseph for 4-8 weeks, dealing a big blow to a stellar O-line. The Bucs lack skill players so having a solid line is essential in order to prop up the offense.

The Bengals resigned Chris Henry. I don't get this at all. The guy was nothing but trouble and now you bring him back? I know CJ got hurt, but why Henry? It could have been anybody else preferably a player who plays rather than spends time in jail.

Joe horn was also released from Atlanta as the Falcons continue to make the case that receivers go to Chicago or Atlanta to die.

That's it for now...more to come

Colt Brennan: Overhyped Or The Real Deal?

Since the start of preseason, I have tried (for the most part) to stay out of the Colt Brennan discussion. However, I can't resist any longer.

It's hard to really pass judgment on a guy that has only played in three NFL preseason games, so I'm going try and avoid labeling him. So many people I have talked to are ready to crown him as the savior of DC, and it's way too early to even discuss him taking the No. 2 role. So basically, I just have to point out several things.

From what I have seen thus far, Brennan is very raw. I think he has talent and a great arm, but come on people, let's face it, some of the throws he makes would never fly against first-team defenses.

Now, I know he's a third stringer playing against third stringers, and it's good to see him dominate his peers. Unfortunately, many of his peers will be looking for work in a month, so his present success is rendered irrelevant. Should we care that he was burning Joe Schmo last week? No!

However, all that we have to look at is his previous performances, so let's check them out.

In first game against Indy, Brennan showed good mobility and made some tough throws. He went 9-10 for 123 yards and threw a pair of TDs. Overall, there wasn't much to complain about as he played as well as could be expected. He went out against third stringers and played very well, but some of those throws wouldn't have been made against starters.

He also moved in the pocket too much, which would have been exploited had the speedier first teamers been on the field. Jim Zorn attested to this. "Colt Brennan had a couple of plays that could have gone either way," Zorn said. "Those are the things he can learn from, and he has to become a more disciplined quarterback and not risk as much as he did in the game."

I'm not faulting Brennan for this. He's young and inexperienced. But fans were singing his praises the next week—saying he would become a starter and replace Jason Campbell—about what a star Brennan would be.

All I could think was, "This is far too much hype for a late-round rookie QB with two quarters of preseason experience."

It was only one game and fans were ready to crown him. That's easy to do when he came off a great performance and everyone jumps onto the Colt Brennan tour bus. I figured he would struggle and everyone would forget about the glowing promise he exuded on that Hall of Fame weekend.

Week Two actually played out accordingly. Brennan had an average showing, going 4-8 for 37 yards and was sacked several times. All of a sudden, I didn't hear as much from the Brennan crowd.

Things are back to a fever pitch now that Brennan led the 'Skins to a victory from behind last week. His play was great, but fans fail to realize this isn't the main stage; things are different once you play with the big boys.

Why do we quickly embrace the big story? I know Brennan is a likable guy with a solid winning record, but just watch him play a little. The guy is not ready to play against DeMarcus Ware and the Cowboys or Ray Lewis and the Ravens.

I am calling out to 'Skins fans to temper their enthusiasm. We have a guy at starter now who looks like he is about to come into his own. Jason Campbell has been comfortable in the offense and is surrounded with talent. Let's not abandon him now that he is gearing up to prove himself.

It's easy to root for the guy who makes the headlines, but sometimes he isn't the best option to win. Right now, Colt Brennan is not ready, and if Campbell comes into his own this season, then we might never see Colt as a starter in DC. I don't think Colt has played badly, I just think it's silly to listen to fans proclaim him the next superstar.

Zorn summed up the atmosphere surrounding Brennan by saying, "Remember, we were talking differently last week after the Buffalo game: 'Oh Colt came down to earth.' Well now he's in outer space again."

Come on, DC! Get your heads out of the clouds.

August 16, 2008

That Hideous Strength: Redskins Overcome Sloppy Play To Beat Jets

Brett Favre didn't disappoint, but in the end, Colt Brennan stole the show.

Favre played for two drives, throwing a TD, but his Jets lost 13-10 on a last minute drive engineered by Brennan, the rookie from Hawaii.

The fans flocked to see Favre in his debut for a team not named the Packers. They cheered loudly when he connected on a 20 yard throw to Jericho Cotchery and erupted as he threw a TD to tight end Dustin Keller.

After that second drive, things quickly ground to a halt.

The Redskins couldn't get much going with their first team offense as Jason Campbell turned in a subpar performance. He was 4-10 for a meagre 28 yards, but did lead the Redskins to a field goal on his second of two drives.

Starting guard Randy Thomas and running back Ladell Betts were both banged up, but the injuries were reported to be minor.

The Skins were unable to do much anything with Todd Collins who still showed signs of struggling to grasp Jim Zorn's west coast offense. He did go 11-15, but missed on several throws and has yet to appear comfortable in the offense.

The Skins trailed 7-3 at the half and then the team's exchanged field goals in a sloppy second half making it 10-6. Then with just over two minutes to play, Brennan woke up New York and then proceeded to light it up.

On the first play of the drive, Brennan completed a 37 yard pass to Billy McMullen into Jets territory. Three plays later, he avoided the blitz and completed a pass to tight end Jason Goode who took it 33 yards for the score.

The Skins led 13-10, but with over a minute go, another Brett (Ratliff) took the Jets down the field and set them up for a chip shot field goal in order to tie the game. However, Mike Nugent clanked his attempt off the goal post as time expired and the Skins remained perfect in preseason play.

Despite the perfection, this was the first game where the Skins displayed mental errors and struggled to play smoothly. They had six penalties, several of them false starts and motion infractions. In addition, they only converted 2 out of 11 third downs and the two minute drill before halftime was mismanaged by Todd Collins. There will be games like this and though it was nice to see them overcome the errors and win, the mistakes must be minimized.

Rogers, McIntosh To Play In Tonight's Game

Carlos Rogers was supposed to be out of football for over a year. Not so fast my friends! Rogers is returning tonight against the Jets only nine months after suffering a gruesome knee injury midway through last season.

Rogers has been rehabbing furiously to get back in time for the start of the regular season. His comeback has moved along rapidly as he began participation in practice a few weeks ago and is now ready for some game action. Coaches were apprehensive of Rogers playing on the Meadowlands field turf surface, but now it appears that he is a go for tonight's game.

Rogers, a 2005 first round draft pick, was coming into his own last season before injuring himself in a 52-7 loss to New England. He is expected to be one of the Skins' starting CBs this season and it's great to see him prepared to return.

Another injured Redskin is set to see limited action tonight. LB Rocky McIntosh was hurt in a November loss to Dallas, banging up his knee as well. However, the injury was not as serious and McIntosh was expected to play in at least one preseason game. Now that we get the confirmation that all is on schedule, we can breathe a sigh of relief.

McIntosh was the Redskins second rounder in 2006 and last year was arguably the best linebacker on the team last year. London Fletcher was great, but McIntosh is very well rounded as he can adeptly defend both the run and pass. A healthy linebacking corps would greatly benefit Washington since both McIntosh and Marcus Washington missed time last year.

August 13, 2008

The Washington Redskins Should Take No Part in the "Cover Two" Defense

Thus far in the preseason, the Redskins have employed both zone and man-to-man defenses. Anyone who has watched the 'Skins for the past year knows which one the 'Skins should embrace.

Man-to-man allows the 'Skins to get physical with wideouts and prevent them from running free through seams. It gives free safety LaRon Landry the freedom to roam the field and use his excellent football smarts to break up plays, while Reed Doughty can play closer to the line of scrimmage where he has shown himself to be much more comfortable.

The man-to-man-press scheme benefits Shawn Springs, who became a shutdown corner by the end of the year. After the first game against Dallas last season (in which T.O. torched us for four TDs while the 'Skins were using the cover-two scheme), Gregg Williams admitted that he should have put Springs on T.O.

Once the playoff push began, Springs came into his own, as Williams went at it with reckless abandon in a press coverage that mugged receivers all the way down the field.

Springs is a year older, but hasn't seemed to be a step slower. He is a viable option to shut down all challengers, and this luxury enables the 'Skins to focus on one less player on offense.

When T.O. comes to town, Springs can handle him with very little help. This leaves Landry and the others in the secondary with the task of stopping Jason Witten. When the Bengals host us, Springs will be able to single-handedly contain T.J. or C.J. With Springs, the defense has less to worry about.

Man-to-man also allows the linebacking corps to play up on the line of scrimmage. They played much of the year in zone, allowing receivers to sneak in underneath. The 'Skins were so afraid of the big play last year that they gave up a lot of big drives instead.

Overall, man coverage is the best option for the 'Skins defense. They have guys on the line that will get pressure on the quarterback, enabling the secondary to press the receivers and throw off the timing.

Cover two is not meant for this team. The scheme demands perfection and great athletes. The Redskins don't have the athletes to run the system perfectly. One breakdown and everything collapses.

Here's why the 'Skins are not suited to run this defense.

Firstly, Reed Doughty does not have the speed or cover skills to play in it. Last year, he was the reason T.O. had his way with us. Safeties are the last line of defense in the cover two, they are responsible for everything outside the hash marks, more than 10 yards down the field. Doughty can't handle that.

Next, it's a waste of cornerback talent. Corners play 10 yards downfield and then everything falls to the safeties. You do not have to possess great corners to be effective in the cover two (the Colts had Jason David and Nick Harper).

The 'Skins have a shutdown corner who can hold his own, while Landry helps out the rest. So why not use them?

Thirdly, the linebackers are at their best when swarming to the ball and playing the run. London Fletcher shouldn't be eight to 10 yards back. He is a run stopper who doesn't have the speed to play in a cover-two scheme.

Rocky McIntosh and Marcus Washington can cover, but I just don't like the linebackers playing so far off the ball. It opens up seams underneath, something the 'Skins were burned by many times last year.

Also, it fails to allow Landry to roam. Being a FREE safety was Landry's strong suit as he blossomed late last year.

The cover two doesn't bring out the best in these Redskins, so I don't understand why the coaching staff even bothers with it. We did see less of it during Saturday's game, and hopefully the increased man coverage against Buffalo is a sign of things to come in the nation's capital.

There Can Only Be 53

The Redskins have so much talent hidden deep on their roster, but unfortunately much of that talent will be gone in a few weeks. By the end of August, Washington must trim their 80 man roster down to 53, meaning some of the preseason stalwarts will be cut to finalize the roster.

Everyone has their opinion on who should be spared from players, to fans, to coaches, and in the end everyone will be upset at the loss of at least one player. However, that's the way it goes when around thirty players are to be cut.

So in order to prepare the Redskins world for disappointment I have decided to make my own roster cuts while attempting to display little if any partiality for certain players. Without further ado here it goes.

Firstly I am going to take into account how many players at each position will make the team. I am uncertain if my numbers will be correct, but this is how I see it playing out.

Jim Zorn will keep three quarterbacks, one fullback, six receivers, three tight ends, four running backs, and nine offensive linemen on offense. Defensively I expect to see six corners, four safeties, six linebackers, and eight defensive linemen. Also on the roster will be a kicker, punter, and a long snapper.

The O-line has some big battles brewing and several talented players will be cut. Justin Geisinger, Fred Matua, and Tavares Washington will likely be released, but I could see Todd Wade getting the axe if Washington continues his strong performance. Wade has a sprained ankle and is an aging player entering his eighth season. I know he's got the experience, but the line is old and a youthful injection might be what Zorn wants.

The sixth receiver spot is a battle between Billy McMullen and Anthony Mix. Mix is out two weeks with a broken rib while McMullen has wowed coaches thus far in preseason. Look for Mix on the practice squad because McMullen has most likely made the team.

At running back I can't see how the Skins ignore Marcus Mason. Rock Cartwright is primarily the return man and probably won't see too many carries. So why not sacrifice a player for Mason? He is way too good to throw on the practice squad again.

Mike Sellars will be the lone fullback as Zorn will rarely use one. Sellars is great catching passes out of the backfield and is valuable in short yardage situations.

At tight end Todd Yoder has been solid in the preseason and is still second on the depth chart. It may take Fred Davis a little time to break into the NFL, so I expect to see Yoder on the final roster.

The defensive secondary is the most hotly contested area at this moment. At safety Laron Landry and Reed Doughty obviously make it, but behind them, there's a mess.

Justin Hamilton played well last week, but he's a long shot. Vernon Fox has the most experience and I expect he'll make it. Chris Horton will make it. So in the end, it will be Horton and Fox with Patrick Ghee, Kareem Moore, and Hamilton leaving town.

Rounding out the secondary with the corners we have Springs, Smoot, Rogers, Torrence, Tryon, and the unknown number six.

Byron Westbrook has yet to impress me and Cedrick Holt has been outperformed by Matteral Richardson. Richardson has a great pass breakup last week which was following his pick six performance the week before. Richardson should get the spot, but Westbrook had the talent to push him.

The linebacking corps is also tough to navigate. Matt Sinclair and HB Blades should survive, but what about Alfred Fincher, Rian Wallace, Khary Campbell, and Curtis Gatewood? Fincher recovered a fumble last game, Campbell is a great special teamer, while Wallace has been drawing some praise from coaches. Campbell will probably make it and Wallace might too if the Skins decide to roll with seven LBs, or cut Sinclair since he and Blades are MLBs.

The defensive line will consist of Montgomery, Golston, Griffin, Taylor, and Carter, leaving three spots available.

Erasmus James just resumed practice, Demetric Evans will back up whoever plays on the left side, Chris Wilson is a pass rushing specialist, Lorenzo Alexander is a jack of all trades, and the list goes on.

Evans, Alexander and Wilson have the inside track and it will be difficult for Matthias Askew and Ryan Boschetti to earn spots. However, James is a wild card. If he performs well the Skins might have to go with nine D-linemen or cut lose Evans. If he fails to produce in the preseason, then Skins should just cut him and keep their seventh rounder.

The special teams consist of Shaun Suisham at kicker and Ethan Albright at long snapper. Punter is up for grabs between Derrick Frost and Durant Brooks, neither of which has distanced themselves from the other.

And that is how I see it going down. Did I disappoint?