July 31, 2008

Art Monk, Darrell Green Set To Carve Their Names in Canton

Art Monk and Darrell Green are deeply loved in DC, and for good reason. They are two of the primary reasons the Redskins brought home three Super Bowl trophies in the '80s and early '90s.

Without their presence, we would never have seen Green's epic punt return in the '87 playoffs, while Monk never would have broken the all-time reception record in '92. More importantly, we wouldn't have experienced the class they possessed, both on and off the field.

However, we were fortunate enough to watch these two outstanding players for many seasons. The Redskins' front office selected Monk in the first round of the 1980 NFL Draft, and he quickly took off.

Monk recorded 58 catches in his first season, a Redskins' rookie record and then went on to become the first receiver to ever catch more than 100 balls in a season in 1984. His quiet demeanor and humble approach hid his talent. Fans in DC always knew they could count on No. 81.

He was an excellent route runner and willing blocker. A receiver lacking the usual prima donna air that goes with most premiere WRs. He had five seasons with 1,000 receiving yards or more and caught at least one pass in 183-straight games.

Monk was instrumental in all three Super Bowl seasons. He was one of the members of a phenomenal trio of receiver named the "Posse", and in 1989, all three (Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders, and Monk) of them went over 1,000 receiving yards for the season.

Monk's greatest individual moment came on a Monday night, against Denver, in 1992. On that night, he overshadowed the retiring of John Riggins' jersey by hauling in his 820th catch, passing Steve Largent to become the all-time leader in receptions.

Monk ended his career with the Eagles, after the Redskins refused to pay him, but he will always remain a Redskin. He is seventh on the receptions list now, with 940, and his 12,721 receiving yards rank 12th on the all-time list.

It took Monk far too long to be inducted, but on Saturday, his bust will finally arrive in Canton. He was a receiver ahead of his time, and the NFL has finally given him the recognition he deserves. Congrats to Art and to the Redskins' community!

Meanwhile, Darrell Green didn't have to wait. He was inducted on his first ballot, which was expected.

Green is Mr. Redskin, without question. 20 seasons, two-time Super Bowl champ, 54 interceptions, four-time NFL's fastest man, seven-time Pro Bowler, and the list goes on.

Drafted in the first round in 1983 from Texas A&I, Green became the oldest CB ever at 42, and he is also the longest-tenured Redskins ever. He recorded at least one interception in 19-straight seasons, while returned six INTs for TDs in his career.

He was named to '90s' All-Decade Team and ran the fastest forty known to date (4.09).

Green's greatest moment came in a 1987 playoff game against the Bears. Green returned a punt 52 yards for a TD, which proved to be the winning score.

On the play, Green tore cartilage in his ribs, but finished off the play, vaulting over a defender to break it open. The image of Green jumping over the defender has become an iconic shot that is treasured by all NFL fans.

Green was, and still is, a classy, professional man who has raised a large sum of money for his own charitable foundation, and he continues to do to a lot for the city of DC. He retired in 2002, and his final game fittingly was against the Cowboys.

It's been five long years since then, but the wait has been worth it. Green is my favorite player, and to see him go to Canton this year will be a special moment for the Redskins' faithful. It is even more special because Art Monk finally got his due and will join Green.

This Saturday, tune in at 6:00 PM to watch two greats give their speeches and enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's a Burgundy and Gold weekend! Hail to the Redskins!

July 29, 2008

Fred Smoot Opens Up And Goes Big

Fred Smoot has always been "the Mouth of the South," so it wasn't a surprise to hear him speak big words on ESPN 980 yesterday.

Smoot raved about the revamped defensive line and how it will help the secondary generate more turnovers. He spoke of DC's need for a parade. He flashed his new Jordan cleats. He praised the new offense Jim Zorn has brought.

Yes sir, Smoot never met a mike he didn't like.

"This city deserves a parade and we are gonna do everything in our power to bring one," he said.

What's going on in the huddle when Jim Zorn stops practice? "The offense is moving to slow," he laughed.

What's the offense like? "It very uptempo, they break the huddle and run for the ball and snap it. They don't wait for the defense."

And how about those cleats? "The Jordan fours," he said. "All I know is that he releases a new shoe every year and I'm gonna buy them."

It's always a pleasure listening to "the Mouth of the South."

July 28, 2008

SI's King Continues To Rave About Campbell

Jason Campbell is getting some love from SI's senior NFL writer, Peter King. King praised him during his stop in Redskins Park and then heaped on some more in his Monday Morning QB piece today.

"I think I am smitten with Jason Campbell," he said. "The guy's going to be good. Maybe really good. He's sure of himself, throws a nice, soft spiral downfield -- harder when he has to -- and is more confident and self-assured than anyone learning an eighth offensive system in his last nine years of football has the right to be."

Campbell has to feel good hearing that from such an astute NFL mind. Seeing as he will likely determine the fate of the team, it's good to hear a vote of confidence for him.

The rest of the team has put together the pieces and now it's Campbell's turn to take the next step. Is he ready?

Two Tight End Sets Work In Skins Favor

When the Redskins drafted tight end Fred Davis with a second-round pick, many fans' initial reaction was that the pick was wasted. After all, Chris Cooley held down the ship more than adequately last season. He has been a huge favorite in DC, and moving him did not appear to be option.

Jim Zorn reassured fans that Cooley would still be a factor, and that Davis was brought in to help form a quality, two-tight-end set.

Cooley was the top target of QB Jason Campbell last season, hauling in 66 passes for 786 yards and eight TDs. Campbell established a strong rapport with Cooley, and he was more consistent in his throws when passing to the tight end.

Davis was the nation's finest, collegiate tight end last year, winning the John Mackey award for the top tight end in the country. His addition, upon further examination, is a good one.

Campbell's accuracy and confidence increased when throwing to tight ends last season. He wasn't the same when throwing to WRs. Maybe it was the drops that plagued them early on, or maybe it was the size difference (Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El are both significantly shorter than Cooley), but whatever the case, Campbell missed throws to WRs that he didn't miss to TEs.

So Zorn decided to play to Campbell's strength and stole another TE for him. Davis was the best player available at that point, so Zorn decided to take a chance.

Campbell should benefit from Davis' arrival, considering that Davis is a fantastic route runner and possesses great hands. A premium is put on route running in Zorn's West Coast system, so Davis fits very well.

Davis provides some extra security for Campbell as he transitions from the timing system Joe Gibbs used to Zorn's West Coast offense.

With both tight ends on the field, defenses will be hard pressed to conjure up a scheme with the personnel to defend both. Most LBs will be too slow, while safeties will be too small. Add a solid WR corps, including Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, Moss, and Randle El, and most defenses will not have the manpower to stop the 'Skins' offense.

The two-tight-end set creates a matchup nightmare for opposing coaches, and Zorn was wise to stick with his convictions that more offense is needed to help Campbell. Now that he has accomplished this, it's time to put the pieces into action.

July 27, 2008

Injuries Continue At Redskins Park

Defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery went down to day with a broken hand and will miss 2-4 weeks. He joins LB Rian Wallace who also broke his hand yesterday.

These injuries have been quite a problem for the Skins throughout training camp and hopefully will not carry over into the regular season.

Fortunately, we have seen some quality depth at linebacker, corner, wideout, and running back so things should be manageable for Jim Zorn if he needs to use reserve players.

Overall, it was quiet at Redskins Park on Sunday as Zorn only had a morning practice. However, there were two new Redskins on the field as the Skins waived O-lineman Kerry Brown and D-lineman JT Mapu, picking up O-lineman Fred Matua and DT Zarnell Fitch.

Really everyone seems ready to start preseason which begins next Sunday against the Colts at 8 pm in the Hall of Fame Game. This will be one of the last chances many of the players will have to impress the coaching staff in a bid to make the team.

July 26, 2008

Chief Zee And The Skins Strut Their Stuff For Fans

Redskins Park was awash in Burgundy and Gold today as the team celebrated Fan Appreciation Day. The day was highlighted by a scrimmage in which WR Billy McMullen pulled in a great touchdown catch in between two defenders from Todd Collins.

McMullen is familiar with the style of offense Jim Zorn runs as he played in similar schemes in Minnesota, Philadelphia, and at the University of Virginia. Zorn praised him earlier this week for his knowledge and with that catch, McMullen might be making a strong push for the 5th receiver slot.

Jason Campbell played fairly well, but didn't make any big plays. He often settled for checkdowns and overthrew receivers several times. He evaded pressure well and had a couple of sizeable gains running the ball. On the first possession he ran in a short yardage TD. On the day, Redskins.com reported that Campbell went 15-of-22 for 122 yards and a TD pass to Todd Yoder.

Nehemiah Broughton got a lot of touches and looked good out of the backfield. However, he did fumble/drop one pass.

Everything I heard about Colt Brennan is true. It will be a long time until he sees any game action. His release was strange and his mechanics were unpolished.

The defense looked very solid as usual. Cedrick Holt pulled in an interception and the team had five sacks. There were also several passes batted down at the line which reminded me of the 2005 team who constantly did all the little things to knock down passes.

Overall, the end of practice seemed to go at a much slower pace and the offense picked up a delay penalty midway through, prompting fans to voice their displeasure.

Zorn made it clear he wanted to keep the team focused at all times. "I want to go in there every play and just drive, but we've been working now for the last six days."

Players were clearly drained and Zorn is giving them tomorrow afternoon off so they can recuperate from a hot week of practice.

Despite their fatigue, players still remained outside to sign some autographs after the scrimmage. Jason Taylor flashed his million dollar smile as the fans clamored around him. He signed autographs while he was being interviewed and a fan shouted out, "Don't our fans treat you better than Miami?"

I got to catch up with mascot Chief Zee as the practice ended and I was able to ask the all-important question. What will the Skins record be at the end of the year?

Zee quickly responded, "13-3, play-offs, Tampa, Super Bowl."

Hey, the superfan knows best.

Then Zee signed my hat, capping the end to a solid day at Redskins Park.

July 25, 2008

Zorn Fever

Jim Zorn has been earning high praise as a cool and collected head coach thus far in Redskins training camp. Even with the pressure he's been under in the nation's capital he still rolls with the punches.

Zorn has had to deal with quite a few injuries and yet he still manages to maintain a good sense of humor with the media. More importantly, his demeanor has been embraced by his players and the fans.

Jason Campbell told Peter King that Zorn "has been an excellent teacher." "I think he's going to mold me into a great quarterback and I think he's going to teach the guys here a lot about football."

Zorn has made it clear Campbell is his starter in strong terms and this should only increase Campbell's confidence.

Zorn's new offense seems to be fitting the Skins well. Campbell had a great day according to King while Chris Cooley also praised the offense. "based on our personnel, it's an outstanding offense," he said.

The two tight ends sets of Cooley and Fred Davis will be devastating this year as Campbell loves throwing to TEs and King thinks that Davis "can play in the NFL right now."

Zorn has plenty to work with, but he must make sure he keeps himself focused on the whole offense, not just QB. His work ethic is undoubtedly superior to Steve Spurrier's, but as a first time coach he is entering into a completely different football world. So far he has stayed grounded and he will need to remain that way throughout the year in order to fulfill the potential this team has.

I really see the Skins possessing to many weapons to handle. In the two TE sets no one will be able to match up with both Cooley and Davis. Safeties will be too small while LBs will be too slow. Add the fact that Campbell should improve his connection with WRs and defenses will be hard pressed to stop all the weapons the Skins possess. Even King admitted that the Skins skill players are the best in the NFC East.

Overall, the team really needs to just realize its talent and believe in itself. Last year they failed to believe partly because Joe Gibbs hampered the belief with conservative playcalling. Now they have Zorn who will be giving Campbell more freedom and should organize a better offense than his predecessor, Al Saunders. Now is the time for this offense to get over the hump.

News briefs:
Shawn Springs has been putting in time at safety. I am not a fan of this move as our CBs are weak this year and will need Springs. However as long as he plays primarily at corner, I'm ok with the move. A little safety might safe him some wear and tear.

Malcolm Kelly will miss tomorrow practice with a hamstring injury as will Anthony Mix. These WRs really need to get the hammy issues ironed out before the start of the season.

LaRon Landry also missed Friday's practice with...A sore HAMSTRING!

Defensive lineman JT Mapu sprained a ligament in his knee while undrafted free agent offensive lineman Kerry Brown hurt his shoulder.

Tackle Stephon Heyer is being dubbed the most improved player thus far in camp. That's pretty good for a guy who already played well on the line as an undrafted free agent last year. He will provide great depth along with rookie Chad Rinehart this season.

That's it for now. Tomorrow I will be attending camp and return with a rundown of what I saw. Position analysis is coming soon...

Recent NFL News And Notes

The Redskins spent the day fighting the injury bug as Devin Thomas pulled his hamstring and is expected to be sidelined for the next 10-14 days, meaning he will miss the Hall of Fame Game against the Colts.

In addition, DE Chris Wilson missed Wednesday's afternoon session due to a strained calf muscle while LaRon Landry also tweaked his hamstring.

Leigh Torrence has been making a name for himself this offseason. His training camp performance has been strong by many reports and he might end up making a push to play some nickel corner if Carlos Rogers is unable to play to start the season.

However, Rogers told ESPN 980 this morning that he will be playing in the season opener against the Giants and would like to play some preseason ball as well.


Jim Zorn on Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis.
"I look at Ladell and Clinton as good zone runners and excellent pass blockers. They do a really nice job in pass patterns."

Santana Moss on the new offense.
"No matter who you are, you are going to have a chance to make a big play."

Tomorrow I'll be starting a series of reviews breaking down the team position by position. Stay tuned.

Now for a look at the rest of the NFL.

RB Brian Westbrook and CB Lito Sheppard of the Philadelphia Eagles both reported to camp despite rumors that they would be holding out. This is good news for Eagles fans as Westbrook is the centerpiece of Philly's offense while Sheppard should combine with Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel to form a solid trio of CBs. The secondary will definitely be a strength for the Eagles as they also have Brian Dawkins at safety.

Packers fans today let the sports world know that they are fully behind Mike McCarthy and are willing to let Brett Favre depart. The Packers have been actively shopping him around and some of the possible trade partners mentioned are Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and Baltimore. My pick would be Tampa Bay primarily because the Bucs are reportedly completely enamored by the prospect of having Favre suit up in that hideous orange colored jersey. And they want to add a ninth QB to their roster.

Chargers rookie CB Antoine Cason ended his holdout and signed a deal on Wednesday. He will be learning from Antonio Cromartie and Quentin Jammer so expect Cason to catch on quickly.

The Cowboys have still not signed their two first round picks, RB Felix Jones and CB Mike Jenkins. They also have yet to ink Terry Glenn meaning that the Boys will be missing three key components as they report to camp.

The Packers extended the contract of current starting OLB Brady Poppinga for four more years. Poppinga is considered the weakest link in a strong linebacking corps that includes AJ Hawk and Nick Barnett, but he is still a reliable player who can start games and hold his own.

And finally WR Anquan Boldin, once rumored to end up in DC, has announced he will not resign with the Arizona Cardinals, citing that the team lied to him about giving him a new contract. He told reporters he would finish his contract out if he was not traded, but that is it.

Boldin is a quality receiver who deserves to be treated fairly. Cards' owner Bill Bidwell is not exactly a revered figure in Arizona and his apparent mishandling of this affair will only further fans' views that he won't spend what it takes to win.

More to come.

July 24, 2008

Quick Hits From Around the NFL

Redskins WR Devin Thomas was carted off the field today with an apparent hamstring injury. Profootballtalk.com reports the injury does not appear to be serious, but there is no official diagnosis. Jim Zorn told reporters that "he would be back soon," which is excellent news for Skins fans.

First round guard Brandon Albert signed a deal with the Chiefs while second rounder Brandon Flowers also inked a deal with the team.

The Patriots signed their first rounder Jerod Mayo, breathing new life into an ancient LB corps.

Rod Smith is finally going to hang up the cleats today. Denver's all-time leading receiver is 38 and coming off a 2007 season in which he did not play. Smith was a great worker and player who made the practice squad as an undrafted free agent in 1994 and then went on to post outstanding numbers. Here's a look:

849 receptions
11,389 receiving yards
68 TD reception
31 100 yard games

Smith is true icon of the game who quietly went out and did his business. He won two Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999 and will be missed in Denver.

Devin Hester will be holding out to open Bears camp. Hester feels that the current rookie payment system is unfair and that he is being paid less than some unproven first year players. My advice, just pay him, Chicago because he's the only offense you have.

Skins Offense Must Step Up In 2008

The Washington Redskins have long been plagued by offensive futility. Be it injuries, coaching changes, or just a plain lack of talent, points haven't come too easily for the 'Skins over the past decade or so.

Former coach Joe Gibbs was able to generate some offensive success during his second tenure, but inconsistency really hampered development. I often got the feeling that he was constantly overthinking and outsmarting himself.

First halves for Gibbs usually went smoothly. Last season, Washington led at the half in several games and then went on to lose due to conservative play-calling. Al Saunders never opened his playbook past page one, and the offense struggled to move the ball.

Jason Campbell was never handed the full reigns over his team or the playbook, which proved to be a serious error in judgment. Young quarterbacks learn from their mistakes, but Campbell always made his at the most inopportune times due to the fact that the coaching staff botched leads, resulting in putting all the pressure on Campbell.

So at one moment, Campbell was given almost no control, but then in the next, everything was expected of him. That certainly is not fair. The correct way to develop a quarterback is to gradually depend on him, little by little, to run the show.

The incorrect way would be to thrust the entire game on his shoulders after you display no trust in him throughout the first three quarters.

Joe Gibbs should have known better than to do this to his young quarterback.

However, new coach Jim Zorn has made it quite clear that this is now Campbell's team; something Gibbs never emphasized. Campbell will get to make his throws this season and will not be limited by the staff. Zorn cast his vote of confidence in Campbell's direction when he told the media that Campbell would start the season, regardless of the performance of backup Todd Collins, who is coming off a very strong 2007 season.

That is the kind of thing a young quarterback needs to hear. When a new head coach comes to town, bringing a new offense in the process, a young QB likes to hear that he will be the leader. This statement will be a nice shot in the arm for Campbell.

However, giving him the reigns doesn't mean all is well. Execution must improve tenfold. Receivers were plagued by drops last year, and careless turnovers occurred every week. Zorn must review these tendencies and cut down on them in training camp to ensure a cleaner performance on gameday.

Zorn's offense will be much better tailored to Clinton Portis and Campbell. Portis has gushed about Zorn's rushing attack, saying that he was "running into a brick wall of players" with Gibbs, and that this new system will allow him to exhibit his speed and elusiveness.

Meanwhile, Campbell will be learning an offense similar to the one he ran at Auburn the year he went undefeated. He has big receivers in Malcolm Kelly, Fred Davis, and Devin Thomas, and he has already established some chemistry with Chris Cooley, Antwaan Randle El, and Santana Moss.

Zorn's offense is very up-tempo and quick, which was not exactly what one might label Gibbs' offense.

"Once we get to the line of scrimmage, we are going," Campbell told Comcast SportsNet.

This change of pace should help get the offense comfortable with the flow of the game, as they seemed to be going through the motions for much of last season. They have to learn how to simply play the game without thinking so much.

Guard Randy Thomas is aware, though, that whatever changes the offense undergoes, the bottom line remains the same: score points.

"I don't care if [Campbell] has to drop back ten steps," said Thomas, referring to the shorter dropbacks Zorn uses, "we just need to score points."

Indeed you do, Randy.

For Jansen, Avoiding Injury Is Key Concern

Jon Jansen has experienced a plethora of injuries during his nine seasons in the NFL. Name a bone, and odds are Jansen has broken it.

Jansen came out of Michigan in the 1999 NFL Draft, and he quickly established himself as a force at the right tackles spot. He and Chris Samuels have been a fine set of bookends, paving the way for the likes of Steven Davis, Ladell Betts, and of course, Clinton Portis.

However, injuries have haunted Jansen since 2004, when he ruptured his Achilles tendon in the Hall of Fame game against Denver. After undergoing a tough rehabilitation process, Jansen returned in 2005, only to break both his thumbs.

This couldn't stop Jansen from playing every game with heavy, clumsy casts on both hands, as the 'Skins went to the playoffs.

Then in 2006, Jansen tore a hamstring and still managed to play a game on it in December. And yet the bumps in the road were not to cease in 2007, as Jansen broke his ankle and was lost for the season in Week One of the regular season.

Now, with a new season just beginning, Jansen has to prove he can overcome the injuries that have been dealt his way and renew his talented game. He did it in 2005, and now it's time to see if he can do it again.

He's a smart player who really enhances the chemistry along the offensive line, and his presence will be essential, especially in the running game, where Clinton Portis struggled to find holes throughout the 2007 season.

The warrior-like mentality he brings on game day would take the offense up a notch, and there would be nothing wrong with that. He's excited to get back, and the 'Skins are excited to have him. Here's to healthy season for Jansen.

Also, Phillip Daniels addressed the media following his season-ending knee injury. He said he still intends to return to football next season, despite the fact that he'll be 35. "I am not going to be done," he said, "I am still going to play. I'm going to rehab hard and come back."

Daniels was a solid force against the run and will be missed for his leadership. It was disappointing to lose someone so involved in the organization for the past several seasons. Redskins' nation wishes him well on his recovery.

At camp on Tuesday, defensive coordinator Greg Blache announced that LaRon Landry would start the season at free safety, resolving one of the bigger issues on the team. It was uncertain as to who would be starting at each safety spot, but now it appears that Landry will start at FS while Reed Doughty will start at SS.

"LaRon is an improved player," said Blache, "He's such a force back there, being able to play from sideline-to-sideline."

Blache is wise to stick to last year's starters. Doughty began to play very well at SS down the stretch, while Landry played reminiscent of another young safety the Redskins used to have. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and Blache certainly stuck to that old adage.

In other NFL news, Luis Castillo of the San Diego Chargers agreed to a five-year contract extension valued at $43.1 million.

Also, Profootballtalk.com reports that there is a chance Roy Williams might undergo the chopping block in Dallas. Williams' lapses in coverage reportedly could cost him a roster spot, but as of now, that is simply hearsay.

The Giants signed their first-round pick Kenny Phillips, who earlier this year announced he would wear the No. 21 as a tribute to the late Sean Taylor. Phillips is from Taylor's alma mater, Miami, and he should help fill the void created in New York by the departure of Gibril Wilson.

Hey Skins Fans!

Welcome to Skins Talk. My name is Jack Anderson and I've been operating this little enterprise since 2008.

Skins Talk is dedicated to providing readers with informative insight and analysis on the news and events surrounding the Washington Redskins.

I write for several online publications, including SB Nation DC. I also run a Washington Capitals blog entitled Kings of Leonsis.

I am a credentialed DC sports writer who covers both the Redskins and Capitals. I have been lucky enough to receive tremendous access and I thank all of you who read my work and support it.

Anyone interested in posting feedback, which I always appreciate, can contact me at jackfrom3@yahoo.com.

And so without further ado, I give you Skins Talk. Thanks for reading and HTTR!