August 31, 2009
With Rock Cartwright out, Devin Thomas impressed at kick returner. Should the 'Skins decide they feel comfortable with Thomas, Cartwright's position on the roster could be in doubt.
Cartwright is solely a special teamer. He doesn't contribute on offense and isn't much of a threat to score when returning kicks. He is a consistent return man, but if the Redskins can find another player who can contribute in multiple areas, Cartwright could be gone.
The 'Skins also need to sort out the running back position. Both Marcus Mason and Anthony Alridge played very well against New England while Ladell Betts remains the number two.
Dominique Dorsey is also in the mix as the 'Skins have used him as both a running back and punt returner, but the strong performance of Alridge hurts his chances.
Alridge rushed for 49 yards on nine carries while Mason saw plenty of time en route to 30 yards and a TD on eight carries. Mason also caught two passes for 23 yards, but suffered some badly bruised ribs late, which could hurt his chances.
Betts didn't get a carry and caught the ball once for 12 yards. He saw limited action after straining his back in the Steelers game.
The running back situation is incredibly murky. Nothing has been suggested as to whether Betts is fighting for the number two RB job, but there has been strong play behind him.
Betts is a back in the mold of Clinton Portis, meaning he isn't much of a change-of-pace back. However, the team has stuck with him despite little production and a big contract.
Mason might have the best resume as a running back among the other three, but he also runs like Portis. He doesn't play special teams well, which is a must for third-string backs and his injured ribs might not allow him to play this week for a final showing.
Alridge is a prototypical third down back. He catches well out of the backfield, is shifty with great speed, and would be a much needed home run threat for the offense. He had a fumbling problem early in training camp, and missed time with a toe injury, but he looked like he hadn't missed a beat Friday night.
Dorsey and Alridge both can return punts, giving them extra value, but Alridge was more impressive on the ground against New England. Dorsey carried the ball five times for 22 yards, marking the second straight week of solid production.
I am uncertain how the 'Skins will play this out. Cartwright might get cut as he can't contribute on the ground even though he's listed as a running back. This will open things up for the third-string RB.
Betts will most likely be locked in as the number two, and I think Alridge might play his way onto the roster. He's explosive and that's something the Redskins badly need. However, the 'Skins like to keep keep things status quo so they could very well stick with Cartwright and Betts.
Mason plays his heart out and runs hard, but since he isn't a change-of-pace and can't contribute on special teams, he has to beat out Betts to make the team. I'm not in charge so I don't see that happening.
August 30, 2009
Fincher was a special teamer last year who saw limited action on defense. He wasn't a standout and the 'Skins just drafted both Cody Glenn and Robert Henson. He had an outside shot to make the team, but it was unlikely seeing how teams rarely release mid-round draft picks in their first season.
OL Devin Clark, WR Marques Hagans, S Michael Grant, and DL Michael Marquardt were also released.
Clark was a reserve last year when the line was decimated by injuries. However, he could only play guard and the 'Skins had been trying to groom him into a tackle this preseason.
Hagans initially impressed in training camp, but a disappointing preseason opener essentially ruined his chances at a WR spot.
Grant and Marquardt were longshots who weren't expected to make the team.
August 25, 2009
The Redskins pulled out a close one over the Pittsburgh Steelers last Saturday and there was a lot more to be happy about in comparison to the previous week's game against the Ravens.
1. Offensive line: The big guys up front looked much better in pass protection. They gave Jason Campbell a good pocket on several throws and surrendered two sacks on 31 dropbacks.
They also were markedly better in opening holes for the ground game (41 total carries for 167 yards, 4.1 YPC). A vast improvement from the Baltimore game.
2. Brian Orakpo: The guy is going to be an instant star. His transition has been seamless and he has terrorized just about everyone he's gone up against.
He had four tackles including a sparkling hit in the backfield on a Steelers RB. The sacks will come very soon. This is looking like the pick of Vinny Cerrato's career.
3. Marko Mitchell: It would be ludicrous to take any other WR for the fifth spot at this point. Mitchell is 6-4, fast, and is producing.
He has played very well in camp and that has translated into the games. Mitchell caught a three-yard fade from Chase Daniel, using his size to make a great grab along the side of the endzone.
Mitchell had three catches for 21 yards last week and looked impressive on two of them. He displayed sure hands and solid route running. His only mistake was his failure to get across the marker on a third down crossing route.
DJ Hackett has familiarity with Jim Zorn's system, but Mitchell has the tools to be a huge threat. Throw in the fact that Mitchell was just drafted by the team, and he should make the final roster.
4. Marcus Mason/Dominique Dorsey: The battle for the fourth RB spot is red hot. Both Dorsey and Mason had good games against Pittsburgh (Dorsey: 11 carries for 39 yards, Mason 11 carries for 45 yards).
Dorsey also handled some of the punt returning duties and he definitely has the edge over Mason because of his special teams' prowess. Mason is a more complete back, but the fourth-string RB needs to be a solid special-teamer.
I prefer Mason, but the guy doesn't have much room for error considering his challenger.
1. Jason Campbell: He couldn't lead the team to TD from inside the Steeler's five. That's not exactly a positive. Neither is going 1-7 for 10 yards.
He must get the ball rolling if he wants to enter the season on a positive note. The Giants won't be giving him anytime to adjust.
2. Ladell Betts: I know I hate on him constantly, but seriously the guy isn't worth the big contract.
Betts couldn't pick up a first down on two consecutive short-yardage plays from inside the five, and had just seven yards on four carries. I still think Mason is a better, cheaper option, but for some reason the 'Skins continue to keep Betts on the roster.
3. Colt Brennan: Chase Daniel is rapidly developing a fan base. The Cult of Colt is reeling.
Brennan has tossed INTs in both preseason games while Daniel won the Steelers game with both game-tying and game-winning TD passes.
Ironically, the number three QB spot might be the most debated position on the team. I don't believe Brennan will lose it however.
Daniel will need two more performances like last Saturday's if he wants to make it. Brennan has a year in the system and is a fan favorite.
That's not to say Daniel hasn't impressed, but the guy went undrafted for a reason. I'm not a huge Colt fan, but Daniel didn't distinguish himself in camp and one preseason performance won't get him the job.
Needless to say, despite all the hype, neither QB is going to be a franchise signalcaller.
Overall, the team improved. They went up against another well run organization and proved they have some quality depth on both sides of the ball.
The starters still need to show up before week one, and this week against New England would be a prime time for a break out.
August 19, 2009
August 18, 2009
August 16, 2009
One can hardly mention the safety position around the Washington DC area without someone invoking the name of the late Sean Taylor.
Some people will cry, some will recall the excitement he brought, others will think about what could have been.
What could have been was a dynamite safety combo consisting of Taylor and Laron Landry. Each is/was a freak athlete and together they could have formed one of the most feared combinations of today’s NFL.
However, Taylor is gone and Landry is now teaming up with second-year man Chris Horton. Considering the loss of Taylor, things are going fairly well at the safety position.
Landry filled the free safety spot left vacant by Taylor while Horton stepped into the strong safety position.
Landry is no Taylor, but he doesn’t let anything behind him and rarely gives up a big play. Still, the playmaking skills that Taylor dazzled fans with are not yet a staple of Landry’s game.
It is important to note that the coaching staff played Landry thirty yards off the ball for much of the season. That kind of overly-conservative approach hindered Landry from making as much of an impact.
Landry proved he can be an effective safety net (no pun intended), but with his athleticism and strength, he could be making a much greater impact closer to the line of scrimmage. Last year he had just 65 tackles, 11 passes deflections, two INTs and a pair of forced fumbles. That’s below my expectations.
The addition of Albert Haynesworth and Brian Orakpo should bolster an anemic pass rush, which in turn, will allow the secondary to play more aggressively. Greg Blache would be making a big mistake to not take full advantage of his front four and play with a little reckless abandon.
The offense needs every break it can get, and so the defense must play with more tenacity rather than it’s typical bend-but-don’t-break style. Landry could be a turnover machine if Blache lets him play up and freelance a bit.
Horton was one of the steals of the 2008 draft as he quickly made an impact at SS. He was ferocious in run support and reliable against the pass.
In 2008, Horton recorded 76 tackles to go along with three INTs, and was a critical element of the defensive chemistry. He often played in the box, but on passing downs he was far from a liability.
The depth at safety is adequate. Kareem Moore is entering his second year and will back up Landry at FS while Reed Doughty returns from an injury to back up Horton.
Moore showed he can play center field in spot duty last year. He started the final game of the year against San Francisco and played solidly. He isn’t a game-changer, but as a backup he is more than capable.
Doughty has been through some tough times. He injured his back and missed most of 2008. However, Doughty shrugged that off and is back to play some SS in 2009.
Doughty is almost totally deaf and also had to deal with a family tragedy the past few years. His son, Micah, suffered a kidney failure and needed a transplant to stay alive. Micah is not well, but it was yet another issue Doughty has had to deal with during the past few seasons.
Despite all the hardship, Doughty is tough-as-nails. His pass coverage has dramatically improved during camp, and he has always been good against the run.
Doughty will probably play special teams and fill in for Horton on some passing downs. He will be an emotional leader and rock for the whole defense so his health will be important.
Michael Grant played some CB the other night, but is listed as a safety. Either way, he won’t make the team giving up 64-yard pass plays. Grant tried to jump a route, but missed and the Ravens receiver had plenty of room to operate after that gaffe.
Lendy Holmes is the final safety on the roster. Though a longshot, he played well Thursday night against the Ravens, logging six tackles. Should the ‘Skins want a fifth safety (unlikely), Holmes will be the guy.
Overall Grade: B
This would be higher, but we have yet to see how aggressively Blache will play Landry. The secondary will go as far as Landry carries them. He certainly can’t carry them as far when he’s standing 30 yards off the ball.
Horton and Doughty will combine to form a good SS tandem. Both can play the position well.
If Landry goes down, I doubt Moore would survive for very long. The depth is decent, but unspectacular.
August 15, 2009
August 14, 2009
It's only preseason, but things aren't looking good for the Washington Redskins offense.
I wasn't expecting to see the second coming of the '99 Rams or anything, but it would have been nice to see a little progression and familiarity with the system when the first-teamers were on the field during a 23-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Instead, we were treated to the same lifeless performance that we saw throughout the second half of the 2008 season.
I've seen this movie before and let me tell you: if it isn't an Academy award winner, I don't want to see any reruns.
This performance was anything but Oscar-worthy.
Jason Campbell went through the motions. One-two-three and kick. At least Hunter Smith can actually punt.
The sad thing is that on the opposite side of the field, the Ravens offense (yes the Ravens offense) played as if they had something to prove. Joe Flacco looked crisp in the pocket and threw some strikes.
The running game wasn't special, but it pushed for the extra yards; something the 'Skins didn't do.
Overall, the offenses were polar opposites. The Ravens got open, beat the Redskins off the ball, and showed they wanted to play well.
Washington simply sleepwalked through a quarter and then retreated to the bench.
I don't know if it's a lack of focus, effort, confidence, or skill. This offense just can't move the ball.
Campbell's footwork isn't much better, his release is still too long, and his reads too slow. He takes light years to make basic reads, and his slow release doesn't afford him the kind of time he takes in the pocket.
Neither does poor blocking. The offensive line could have been worse as they gave up three sacks on the night, but they failed to control the line of scrimmage in the rushing game.
Early on, Campbell and Todd Collins faced some pressure, but things really got bad once Colt Brennan came in.
Brennan was chased around the entire second half and had virtually no chance to make an impact. He didn't play well and yet a lot of it was due to poor pass protection.
The Redskins really couldn't open up their playbook as they failed to get many first downs (11). They had the ball for only 24 minutes (compared to the Ravens' 35 minutes), making it difficult to get into any rhythm.
The running game was useless as the offensive line got no push. The ground attack averaged 2.9 yards per carry and Rock Cartwright was the leading rusher with just 24 yards.
Fred Davis fumbled twice and Devin Thomas went back to looking lost. Thomas looked impressive in camp, but he has yet to show much ability in games. He didn't look explosive enough to be much of a threat.
The lone bright spot on offense was Malcolm Kelly. Kelly looks the part lining up out wide. He's lanky and tall, the perfect possession receiver or red zone target. Add in a dazzling fingertip grab for a first down, and it might be time to get excited about his future.
I know it's sad I'm happy about one play by a receiver who has done nothing but sit out with injuries. Laugh all you want, but let me be excited about something.
Jim Zorn called the offensive struggles a "learning experience." I call them "failure to launch." That was a pretty crappy movie just like this offense.
August 13, 2009
The Washington Redskins kick off their 2009 preseason schedule with a trip over the beltway to take on the Baltimore Ravens tonight.
The game will be long over for most fans and players by the ned of the first quarter when the starters retreat to the friendly confines of the bench, but for the coaches and roster longshots, the end of the first quarter is when the real games begin.
The roster currently hovers around 80 players and that number must be trimmed down to 53 by the start of the regular season. So for Keith Eloi, Rob Jackson, and others, this could be the only time they suit up for the 'Skins in 2009.
So what will will I be watching closely tonight?
1. Marcus Mason: So I admit it. I don't like Ladell Betts. He's signed under a $25 million contract and he hasn't been able to rush for four yards a carry since signing it.
Everyone raves about his ability catching passes out of the backfield, but here's his totals since inking the deal:
2007: 21 receptions for 174 yards (10.9 avg.)
2008: 22 receptions for 200 yards (15.4 avg.)
Not absolutely awful, but not worth a $25 million contract. Derrick Ward, Marion Barber, Correll Buckhalter, Brian Westbrook, and Clinton Portis all had more catches and Tashard Choice was just one behind him.
Combine that with just 541 yards rushing for a meager 3.5 yards per carry over the past two years and it's clear there should be a cheaper alternative to Betts.
Enter Marcus Mason.
Mason was last year's preseason rushing leader and this year he'll need to be on top of his game once again. His inability to play special teams cost him last year, but this time around expect a more well-rounded effort.
Mason runs in a style similar to Betts and Portis. He won't blow anyone's doors off, but he is patient with excellent vision. He finds the right holes and runs hard.
I doubt Betts is going anywhere, but if Mason turns heads once again, the coaching staff must consider it.
2. The entire offensive line: This is the number one concern for the team. The starters are old and injury ridden; the backups seem overmatched in camp.
Tonight will be an important test for the blockers up front. Who will emerge from the backups to provide the depth it appears the 'Skins will desperately need?
Will Montgomery and Devin Clark will be the two I keep an eye on Meanwhile second-year man Chad Rinehart will need to elevate his play as well.
The starters haven't even looked good in camp. Chris Samuels has been beaten handily by Brian Orakpo on numerous occasions; Randy Thomas hasn't been healthy; and right tackle is shaky at best.
If the line fails to show enough progress in the coming weeks, expect the 'Skins to pick up a free agent off the scrap heap. Jon Runyan and Pete Kendall are both veterans who would fare well in limited action.
The offensive line is the only thing that really alarms me about the team. If they can put this concern to bed, the team could very well make a deep play-off push.
I just doubt they'll be able to fix this problem.
3. Chris Wilson: Wilson has struggled switching over the LB position after playing DE last year. He is expected to back up Brian Orakpo, but he has been such a liability in coverage, the 'Skins might have to look for another backup.
Orakpo is supposed to move in to DE on passing downs. That means Wilson is playing LB on passing downs. Unless he's out there to rush the passer from his LB position, I don't know if that's a good move.
If Wilson isn't the answer, the Redskins have two rookie LBs in Robert Henson and Cody Glenn who could compete for time. Alfred Fincher is another possibility.
4. Punt Returner: Marques Hagans, Keith Eloi, Dominique Dorsey and Antwaan Randle El will all be returning punts tonight.
I really believe Hagans is going to make this team and if he does, he will return punts. The Redskins would have to be complete lunatics if they allowed Randle El to return punts again this year.
5. Kicker: This one won't be very exciting. Not only is it the kicking battle, it's also two bad kickers neither of whom should be on an NFL roster.
Shaun Suisham is the incumbent and given that he has done nothing in two years to merit a spot on the team, I am in Dave Rayner's camp. Rayner also was perfect in the intra-squad scrimmage last Saturday while Suisham missed on one.
Game Prediction: I know that it really doesn't matter. Still, Colt Brennan will come in and lead the 'Skins to a late TD.
August 12, 2009
August 10, 2009
August 9, 2009
August 8, 2009
As training camp continues on, I have several more positions to cover to finish off the roster review.
Corner is shaping up to be one of the better positions on the team from top to bottom.
Carlos Rogers and and Deangelo Hall return to man the starting spots while Fred Smoot, Justin Tryon, and Kevin Barnes will provide support.
Rogers came into his own last season as a great cover corner. He drew plenty of criticism for some shaky hands as he dropped several interceptions last season, but he is still the best cover CB on the team.
Shawn Springs departed for New England, and though he was great in man coverage, he couldn’t stay healthy. Rogers brings similar coverage skills to the table and thus far has improved his hands.
Hall isn’t quite the man corner Rogers is, but makes up for it with his playmaking ability. Hall will get beat underneath as he plays soft on his receiver.
Hall’s speed protects him against the deep ball and allows him to gamble. He has a nose for the ball, and can jump routes incredibly well. He will provide the takewaways the ‘Skins lacked last year.
Smoot appears to be in control of the nickel corner position. He is a nine year vet who will fit nicely into the third CB slot.
He is physical against the run despite his poor tackling form, and is adequate in coverage. He won’t stop any elite WRs, but he should matchup well enough against receivers in the slot.
Tryon is a bit of a question mark. He entered the league last year talking a big game only to hardly see the field all season.
He was terrible last preseason, getting burned routinely, but this year appears to be much improved. His small stature (5-9, 183) is working against him, but he has the speed and athleticism to be a pesky CB.
Meanwhile Kevin Barnes was drafted in the third round this year out of Maryland. The former Terp has a reputation stemming from a big hit laid on a Cal RB last year. The hit was so hard, the RB literally lost his lunch and Barnes became a YouTube sensation.
Barnes accumulated 85 tackles, 14 asses defended, and six interceptions during his collegiate career and should transition smoothly to the pros. He has the height at 6-1, but he might need to put on a few pounds to matchup against big WRs.
Byron Westbrook is trying to make the team yet again after two straight years on the practice squad. Westbrook has athleticism, but the numbers are working against him. He will need a strong preseason to overtake Tryon or Barnes, and even that will unlikely save him as the ‘Skins will not cut draft picks.
Doug Dutch is the final CB on the roster. He’s an undrafted rookie out of Michigan who was a solid special teamer with the Wolverines.
Overall Grade: A-
It’s not often teams get two CBs that compliment each other so well. Hall and Rogers are a dynamite one-two punch and each one makes up for the other’s deficiencies.
Hall has his question marks considering he mailed it in with the Raiders last year before coming here, but he appears to have really found his niche in DC. The ‘Skins overpaid for him, but he should still be a vital part of the secondary if all goes well.
Rogers is underrated and may actually get his due this season which is his contract year while the depth is nothing to complain about. Smoot is a solid vet and the two youngsters behind him are oozing with potential.
Not much to complain about at CB.
August 7, 2009
August 1, 2009
Albert Haynesworth didn’t disappoint in his second day of camp as he disrupted several plays in the backfield. Jim Zorn noted his impact and it seems as if Haynesworth is here to play rather than sit back and collect his check.
Andre Carter burst around the edge once on Chris Samuels, but stayed quiet for the most part.
Robert Henson played very well in coverage in both individual drills and the 11-on-11s. He intercepted a pass Chris Cooley bobbled and made several other fine defensive stops. If the ‘Skins can get one of the draftees at LB on the field early, things will be looking good depth-wise.
Laron Landry was quiet, but there was talk from the media on how Greg Blache should consider moving him up closer to the box given the improved pass rush. Landry played off as much as 30 yards from the ball last year, but the addition of Haynesworth should allow him to be more of a ballhawk this year.
Reed Doughty struggled in coverage. The guy works his tail off, but he is coming off a back injury and lacks the athleticism to cover receivers. However, he fits the SS position well because Blache often uses that position as an extra man in the box. Doughty should backup Chris Horton.
Carlos Rogers continues to impress against the pass. He came away with a nice pick today along the sideline while Deangelo Hall made a big hit over the middle on another play.
London Fletcher lost a step on a Clinton Portis corner route in the individual drills, and still managed to recover and break up the pass. He has great determination and speed. He’ll only get better with Haynesworth taking up the extra blocker in front.