June 7, 2009

Redskins Roster Review: Quarterbacks

There are two heads of state in Washington DC. One lives in the White House; the other resides in Landover, Maryland at FedEx Field. Approval ratings are everything. If things stay positive expect another term.

Washingtonians grill their incumbent quarterback as hard as they do their president. Success is the only option; failure is a quick ticket out of town.

For Redskins’ current starting QB Jason Campbell “the future is now.” This year is the last in his contract, and as of yet he has done nothing to merit a new one.

Campbell has the poise and arm strength, but he has struggled with consistency since assuming the starting position. Each year since 2006, Campbell has failed to make significant steps forward into becoming more than an average starter in the NFL.

Last year, Campbell opened the first half of the year by throwing no interceptions. However, he threw just eight touchdown passes to match that. His inability to lead scoring drives was overlooked until the struggles began.

The second half of the season, Campbell threw five touchdowns compared to six interceptions. Washington went 2-6, largely due to the offense and its lack of ball movement.

Campbell appeared unable to sustain any type of rhythm after week eight against Detroit. His solid completion percentage of 62.3% was skewed by his low yards per completion (6.4).

Campbell is the type of QB who will play it safe. He isn’t comfortable in a game where he has to stretch the field often. He likes to keep things in the flats, but that unimaginative style won’t win him many games or fans.

Campbell’s big windup and slow progression through his reads also work against him. Jim Zorn’s west coast offense demands a quick release and a swift progression through the reads. Campbell has struggled to pick up that rhythmic approach and he must work on improving those aspects of his game.

If Campbell wants another term in DC, he will need to deliver not just wins, but post some good numbers. If he is unable to make defenses respect the air attack, then the ‘Skins will have to look to Clinton Portis and their defense to bail them out.

The ‘Skins have three other QBs on the roster. Todd Collins led Washington to the playoffs in 2007 when Campbell was sidelined with an injury, but he succeeded largely due to his familiarity with Al Saunders’ offense.

Now Zorn is running the offense and Collins appeared uncomfortable with the west coast scheme last preseason. Throw in the fact that he’s 37, and Collins has little value despite his big contract.

Expect Collins to compete for the backup role and mentor the other three quarterbacks who are all in their twenties.

Colt Brennan will be competing for the backup job this year after tearing through the 2008 preseason. Brennan is better suited to the west coast offense with his quick release. He showed plenty of poise and confidence last year. He knows how to sling it around from his run-and-shoot days in Hawaii, and is very mobile in the pocket.

Of course, Hawaii isn’t a pro style offense, but Brennan certainly seemed comfortable last year in the preseason. Fans are clamoring for Brennan to start and should Campbell fail yet again, Brennan could see some time late in the year.

No one knows if Brennan can succeed against elite competition. At Hawaii he played the bottom feeders of college football and he beat up on third-stringers last preseason. Still he possesses a certain swagger that entices many people to believe he’ll succeed wherever he goes.

Brennan is definitely the most intriguing prospect on the Redskins list of QBs, but Chase Daniel is also a captivating player.

Daniel is an undrafted free agent rookie out of Missouri, but he was certainly spectacular in college. He threw for 12,515 yards for a completion percentage of 68.0 while tossing 101 touchdowns during his career at Mizzou.

Daniel was a Heisman finalist in 2007 as well and, like Brennan, has a sort of cult following. Both players were exciting and skilled in college, but they have been labeled system quarterbacks, too short (in Daniel’s case), and untested by elite talent (in Brennan’s case).

However, the potential each displayed in college consistently showed up every Saturday and both could be surprise candidates for a starting job down the road.

Overall QB grade: C+

It’s all potential, really. Campbell could pan out with some improved mechanics and renewed aggression, but he hasn’t looked special in his time with Washington.

Collins is nothing but an overpriced backup. There’s chance he won’t even make the roster if both Daniel and Brennan outplay him in the preseason.

Brennan and Daniel are certainly exciting options, but they both haven’t been highly touted as future stars. The cold reality is that Brennan was a sixth round pick and Daniel was never drafted. More often than not that’s an indicator that neither will amount to much in the NFL.

June 4, 2009

Quick Hits

Malcolm Kelly is back and looking good according to several publications. Here's the other.

It's vital that someone step up and fill the role of possession receiver. Devin Thomas saw more time last year, but Kelly might have more potential to be a possession receiver and red zone target.

Chris Cooley has shed some 20-odd pounds, but hasn't lost his strength. Expect to see a faster Cooley this year. It will be interesting to see if Fred Davis can make some strides forward and allow Jim Zorn to use some two tight end sets.

OC Sherman Smith praised Ladell Betts of all people. I'll believe it when I see it. To me Betts is injury and fumble prone. I would love to see the 'Skins get rid of his big contract and bring in Marcus Mason.

James Thrash is pondering retirement. The guy has been a class act in both Philly and here in DC. He works hard on offense and special teams. He certainly isn't a household name, but he's a solid player. I'm not sure he would have made the team this year, but he has played well throughout his career.

This is so huge for the Redskins. A punter! Smith brings a lot to the table. Here's my take on him in one of my articles for Bleacher Report.

As for the returning duties on punts, Deangelo Hall, Antwaan Randle El, and Santana Moss are all seeing some reps. Moss might be the best option, but Skins don't want him to get injured returning kicks. Moss is injury prone so expect him to possibly just return the most important punts.

June 3, 2009

Jansen’s Departure Clears Up Offensive Line Picture

Jon Jansen’s release from the Washington Redskins brings the end of an era. Granted, it wasn’t the golden age of football for Washington, not even close to it, but Jansen represents the hard work and work ethic that fans see year after year from the offensive line here.

In DC, we treasure the guys who will put their noses in the dirt and play tough in the trenches. Jansen was the prototypical “Hog.” He played at a high level from his rookie year in 1999 all the way to 2007 despite numerous injuries that would have derailed many other players’ careers.

He tore an achilles, broke a leg, dislocated an ankle; two season-ending injuries. He played a full season with both his thumbs in casts, and managed to play one game with a torn calf.

That’s the kind of blue-collar play the ‘Skins could use all the time. Unfortunately, the injuries caught up to Jansen last year and he saw his performance drop off the face of the earth.

It was only a matter of time before Jansen was let go. Perhaps it was a season too soon, but quite honestly Jansen has nothing left in the tank. The only question was did the ‘Skins feel fine with their other options at right tackle?

Apparently, the ‘Skins are comfortable with starting either Mike Williams, Stephon Heyer, or Jeremy Bridges at RT. All three are probably better options than Jansen, and they had several months of OTAs and minicamps to see that.

The ‘Skins might have already known that Jansen’s time was done, but waited to cut him so they wouldn’t absorb a cap hit until after the draft and free agency. They gave him a shot at backup center in the meantime, but evidently they saw that he wouldn’t be worth a roster spot considering his big contract.

Jansen’s presence will be missed. He was a natural leader who was a big part of the franchise. However, he just didn’t have enough to offer in terms of on-field performance.

Some thought he would compete for the right tackle spot again, but now it’s left to the aforementioned three to battle it out.

Williams weighs in around 400 pounds, but is working down to a playing weight of 370. If he puts in the work (and that’s a big if), he could emerge as a force especially in the run game. For now he’s a former first round bust though.

Bridges has seen some action back in his days with the Carolina Panthers, but will probably earn a roster spot for depth purposes and see time backing up either Heyer or Williams.

Heyer has the inside track. Offensive line coach, Joe Bugel, loves him and has since his rookie year in 2007. In 2007, Heyer proved he could play with the big boys by shutting down Michael Strahan and only giving up one sack to Jason Taylor (when Taylor wa actually good). 2008 was a down year because of injuries, but Heyer had won the RT job over Jansen before getting hurt.

Heyer is back and reportedly impressing the coaching staff again. Expect him to win the job provided he has a strong preseason. If he can improve upon his 2007 performance, the Redskins might not be in so much trouble when it come to protecting for Jason Campbell.

Jansen was signed by the Lions so he will return to his native Michigan, but to us in DC, Jansen will always be a member of the Burgundy and Gold. Thanks for the dedication and hard work, Jon! We can only hope your replacement puts in half the effort you did.