December 31, 2009

Orakpo To Pro Bowl

Brian Orakpo was selected to his first pro bowl in his rookie year on Tuesday.

That's probably the best news I've heard all year from the 'Skins camp.

As bad as 2009 has been, Orakpo is a bright spot for the future. I was very worried about his transition especially with him learning to play LB, but it worked out.

I think we learned that he isn't yet a starting caliber LB. In fact, I think the 'Skins should just abandon that idea, get a real SAM 'backer, and go with Orakpo at DE. He's an absolute monster rushing the passer, and has shown an ability against the run too.

However, I really felt Andre Carter should have been given a spot at DE.

Carter had 11 sacks, but still was terrific against the run. Despite being a smaller DE, he was still able to seal his edge consistently, and could also work his way down the line of scrimmage to stop the ballcarrier.

Matt Mosley from ESPN's NFC East blog thought Carter deserved one too. I would have replaced Julius Peppers with Carter.

December 25, 2009

Haynesworth Sent Home From Practice

Not the best Christmas over at Redskins Park.

Albert Haynesworth showed up late for a team meeting and was told not to dress for practice.

He did anyway. Coach Jim Zorn then had an "animated conversation" with him on the practice field. Haynesworth left the complex after the exchange.

Another bad sign that things aren't going well with Haynesworth. The guy will need a monster 2010 to overcome the criticism he's facing this year.

More on this as it breaks.

Campbell: Some Players Have Quit

First off, Merry Christmas! God bless us, everyone!

Jason Campbell told Kelli Johnson that he thinks some of the players have quit on the season.

Here's the interview.

And here's an article on it from the Free Lance Star's Rich Campbell
.

Given the way the 'Skins played last week, Campbell's statement doesn't surprise me. Something was wrong on Monday night.

As for the positives last week? The only one I could come up with was the play of TE Fred Davis.

Also, though Campbell played poorly, I think he's gaining the respect of the fans and his teammates. The guy has undergone so much pressure the past two years behind a terrible offensive line and yet he comes back every week to play.

Last week's game summed up Campbell's tenure as starter. He gets hit a lot and still manages to improve upon his numbers every year. The toughness both physically and mentally he showed coming back in the second half was impressive. I think the team would readily accept him as a leader for next year.

The wins haven't been coming, but with some protection, Campbell could be everything the Redskins have hoped for. He actually seems to be getting more and more comfortable as a leader. Next year, the 'Skins must try and keep him.

At the very least, Campbell would bridge the gap until the 'Skins solidify the offensive line, making it suitable for a new franchise QB. Although, I believe the 'Skins will come to realize that Campbell is a franchise QB once the line is in place.

December 22, 2009

Snap Judgements: Little Goes Right For 'Skins Again On MNF

I haven't really spoke more than a handful of words since the Redskins 45-12 loss to the Giants several hours ago.

But I've written plenty for blogblitz.nfl.com, and now I'm switching venues over to my most casual outlet.

So I'm going to let loose.

Aside from a pummeling at the hands of Kansas City Chiefs in 2001 (the score was 45-20 or something like that; I'm in no mood to look it up and yes, I just used a semicolon while writing in parentheses), I have never seen a more embarrassing loss in my life.

The Redskins were in front of a national audience and came away not only looking incompetent, but downright stupid. The Giants beat them in every facet of the game and then they shoveled the dirt on top of their own coffin with an idiotic fake field goal attempt.

It was an ugly game. But then the 'Skins made it laughable when they trotted on the kicking unit only send them in motion out to the left side of the field. At first I had to wonder, what does special teams' coach Danny Smith have up his sleeve?

After all, the 'Skins do have two special teams scores on trick plays this season.

However, this wasn't a calculated risk. It was the death rattle of the Jim Zorn era in Washington. Punter Hunter Smith lobbed up a duck, which was intercepted. Cue the subdued guffaws by Mike Tirico and Co. in the booth.

Exit Zorn. Stage left.

Albert Haynesworth summed it up afterwards: "I mean, the score, the record, they'd say that we're horrible, that we don't know how to play football," Haynesworth said. "But I've been around these guys a lot. I think they know how to play football. I think we're all just going different directions, and we need somebody to lead us in the right direction."

Truer words were never spoken.

Zorn was doing a good job this past month getting his players focused and ready. However, any good will he had merited was quickly snatched away with this performance.

How can the Redskins bring back a guy who had his playcalling duties stripped midway through the season? How can they bring back a guy who turned in his three of his worst losses on Monday Night Football (Pittsburgh in 2008, Philly and New York this year)?

Zorn had certainly impressed me as a facilitator, but that won't carry him too far when players and the owner start to mention change. It also won't carry him to far since the big name of Mike Shanahan is lurking.

I want stability for this franchise; I really do. However, keeping Zorn only guarantees consistency in losing. Maybe he hasn't been given a good chance because he has lacked personnel on the offensive line, but the fact of the matter is that the Redskins have flopped too many times in many different situations.

They have failed in big games. They have failed in winnable games. They have failed as the favorite and the underdog. They have failed in close games. Clutch isn't a term they recognize.

All of that adds up to too much failure.

So...

Exit Zorn. Stage left.

December 19, 2009

Gray Interviewed For Head Coaching Job

Dan Snyder just lacks something. It's called subtlety.

We all know Snyder is going to make a coaching change. However, we also know etiquette dictates you don't interview potential replacements until you've fired your current coach.

However, Snyder has already interviewed secondary coach Jerry Gray according to an nfl.com report.

Snyder can talk to candidates all he wants, but why is he rushing into the interview process before the season is over?

Jim Zorn has handled this rough season with class. The least Snyder could do is fire him before interviewing replacements.

That's not a good way to do business and can be a huge turn off to some people. Snyder likes the big splash and he loves to make moves quickly (sometimes without thinking), but this style makes him hated by some.

Why else did he have trouble landing a coach after Joe Gibbs left? Because Snyder is heavy-handed. People don't like working with him.

You can't quite put a finger on it, but there's something about Snyder's methods that just don't ring true. He does everything so quickly that he doesn't seem to realize what the full consequences of his actions could entail.

We see it in countless FA signings that kill cap space, we see it when he throws away draft picks, we see it when he sues season ticket holders, we see it when bans sign from FedEx Field. All of that stuff doesn't give Snyder the makings of a good businessman.

This latest news only strengthens my belief.

I have no problem with hiring a new head coach (although I think a case could be made for keeping Zorn). However, I do have a problem with actively interviewing for one when the reigning head coach is still in DC.

There's Still Football To Be Played: MNF vs. Giants

With all the hype surrounding the hiring of new GM Bruce Allen, everyone in the DC area seemingly forgot that there's still three weeks of football to be played.

Even with the season over in terms of play-off hopes, the Redskins have been playing great football. In fact, you could make the case that the Redskins have been outplaying both the Giants and Cowboys the past month.

I have to say this makes me proud. The 'Skins are taking pride in playing hard, and it's paying off. Meanwhile, the Giants and Cowboys are both in the hunt, but they certainly aren't playing like it.

I honestly think the 'Skins could win the next two games against these two teams. Neither team has matched Washington's intensity the past month.

The 'Skins need to win one of them. They have yet to win an NFC East matchup, and they must avoid the embarrassment of going 0-6. Their first opportunity comes this Monday Night against the Giants in front of national audience.

The Giants are coming off a tough 45-38 loss to Philadelphia in which they gave up 30 first half points. Their defense failed to pressure Donovan McNabb (one sack), and they fumbled the ball away four times.

The Giants defense has struggled to find its identity in 2009. They came into the year with high hopes, but the loss of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has seemingly had a devastating impact.

New York is ranked 9th in the NFL in total defense, but they have been abysmal the past few weeks. Since week six on October 18th, they have given up 20 or more points in every game. That's eight games in a row.

On the season, New York has given up 25.4 points per game. They have given up 40+ points three times and have looked incredibly fragile against both the run and the pass.

Injuries have also caused problems. DBs Corey Webster (knee) and Aaron Ross (hamstring) are both questionable this week and MLB Antonio Pierce is on the IR. Overall, the Giants have used nine different combinations for their defensive starting lineup.

The Redskins offense has been on a roll recently, and they could continue their surge against New York.

It's interesting this season because Washington is actually experiencing more success passing the ball. Usually the 'Skins have struggled to establish much through the air, but this year, Jason Campbell has elevated his game in the absence of Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts.

I like the matchup of Campbell vs. the Giants defense. The Giants pass rush is underachieving this year, which is good news for the Redskins depleted O-line corps. New York is ranked just 22nd in the NFL with 26 sacks.

Since their Thanksgiving game vs. Denver, the Giants have registered just four sacks in three games. Tony Romo dropped back 57 times two weeks ago, and they were able to get to him just twice.

Washington will most likely be without right tackle Stephon Heyer and that will only make things harder on the O-line. The line hasn't been dreadful, but it has struggled to give Campbell adequate time to throw.

Even with the pressure, Campbell has managed to make the most of his opportunities. His reads are quicker, his movements are more decisive, and he has been able to avoid the pass rush.

If Campbell can continue to diffuse the pressure by getting the ball out of his hand quickly, the Redskins could replicate the offensive success they have been having again this Monday night.

Kevin Dockery and Terrell Thomas both are expected to get starts at CB. Michael Johnson will come back into the starting lineup at free safety while rookie Bruce Johnson will play at nickel corner.

Bruce Johnson has been targeted often as of late. His inexperience is evident and the 'Skins will look to exploit that. Dockery has been in the coaching doghouse all year. Strong safety Aaron Rouse is a liability in coverage as well.

So the Redskins need to throw early and often while hoping Campbell can withstand the pressure.

The Redskins have an edge on offense not only because of their passing game. The running game hasn't been flashy, but it picks up consistent yardage.

Quinton Ganther has quietly been effective (4.2 YPC), and Ganther, Rock Cartwright, and Marcus Mason have shown an ability to finish runs. Last week in the second half against Oakland, the three backs were all able to turn three and four yard carries into six or seven yard carries.

Not a fancy ground attack, but at the moment it is a legitimate supplement to the passing game. It can set up more makeable third downs and it keeps the defense honest. Quite frankly, that's all Campbell needs.

We'll check out the defense and its matchup against Eli tomorrow.

December 17, 2009

Shanahan On The Way In?

Jason La Canfora thinks the Bruce Allen hiring is just the start of a huge overhaul.

Here's the scoop.

Cerrato's Departure Raises Questions

We all knew something was going to change this offseason following a disappointing 2009 campaign.

We just didn't think it would be this soon. We also didn't think it would be Vinny Cerrato doing the departing.

With Cerrato tendering his resignation from the VP of football operation position, the 'Skins hired former Bucs' and Raiders' GM Bruce Allen. And most importantly, Allen's title will actually be GM rather than VP of football operations (what the hell does that even mean anyway?).

In all seriousness, Allen is a legitimate hire. He has a good track record with both the Raiders and Bucs and is the son of former Redskins coach, the great George Allen.

However, is this just a continuation of "celebrity football?" as Michael Wilbon so deftly put it. Or has Snyder really learned his lesson?

Should Snyder entrust the team solely to Allen, things could move in the right direction. Allen will see the progression of the Redskins over the past month and will most likely give serious consideration to retaining both Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell.

But that will only happen if Allen is, in fact, in charge. He can't be another yes-man to Snyder.

Snyder has already tipped his hand as to what he wants for the offseason.. He wants a bigtime coach like Jon Gruden or Mike Shanhan and he craves one of the star QBs entering the NFL draft.

It's up to Allen to preach some patience at Redskins Park. The 'Skins have arguably played some of the best football in the NFC East since last month's Denver game. They are only several plays away from being 7-6 rather than 4-9 and with another year under Zorn, Sherm Lewis and Campbell, those close games could end up as victories.

The franchise is in desperate need of continuity and Allen has the football sense to realize this. However, he may see the need to put together his own staff and start from scratch. Zorn's win-loss record is underwhelming, and Campbell, despite his improvements, has yet to take that last step.

That would be all well and good. It normal for a new GM to get his own ides and philosophies in place before establishing continuity.

No matter which approach Allen takes, Cerrato has left him with gaping holes along the offensive line. Cerrato made a litany of errors in both the draft and free agency and it has left Washington shorthanded at several positions.

Snyder acknowledged that "it was time for a change." The question begs: has Snyder learned his lesson? Will he practice moderation and avoid, "celebrity football?" Or has he simply redirected his failures onto Cerrato to throw fans off the scent?

Only time will tell. Snyder could very well be playing us. He does it often. A telling sign will be who the Redskins draft this year with their first round selection. Everyone with a half a brain realizes the need for an offensive tackle, but Snyder has made it clear he would prefer to take a QB. Which side will win out, Snyder the businessman or Snyder the football owner?

And if Allen is here to create a winning franchise rather than serve as a the next yes-man, then he'll make sure he gets a tackle rather than a QB.

We don't know what the Allen hiring entails. It could be the turning point for a franchise mired in mediocrity. Then again, it could be a hire to get an angry fan base off an embattled owner's back.Either way, it just made things that much more interesting.

December 14, 2009

What Should The Redskins Do Next Year?

If Jason Campbell stays that would beg the question: what else should remain intact? This is the best stretch of offensive football the Redskins have played in quite some time, and a lot of it should be attributed to the playcalling of new offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis.

Lewis has led the Redskins offense to more points and yards since taking over in late October. The last three out of five games, the Redskins have set a season high for points without much of running game as Campbell has taken the team on his back and distributed the ball to a number of targets.

Lewis has really opened up the offense for Campbell. And as the offense has progressed, Lewis has given a number of different looks in terms of formations, shifts, and motions. The offense has looked comfortable with everything they have attempted these past few weeks.

Look at the screen pass to Santana Moss inside the ten in the fourth quarter today. The Redskins shifted the formation and then pulled the running back, who was in the slot, into the backfield. Campbell, in the shotgun, then delivered a quick pass to Moss. Moss had good blocking in front of him and took it inside the the three to make it first and goal.

That is a play where the Raiders were looking run after seeing the back go in motion into the backfield. The 'Skins knew this and came back with a safe pass to Moss in space.

That kind of stuff is brilliant and keeps a defense on their heels.

So do the 'Skins keep Lewis? They would be wise to keep in place the same offense in 2010 should it continue to roll for the remainder of 2009. If they do keep the offense, then Lewis should be kept.

Jim Zorn has learned how to facilitate. He struggled to find his niche playcalling, but settled nicely into the role of overseer. However, I think the 'Skins FO will be enamored with the big names of Cowher and Shanahan. This will lead to a Zorn firing.

But is that a good thing? Why clean house if a team appears to be getting into a groove with the present leadership?

This is why the Redskins struggle to stay consistently successful as a franchise. There is no sense of patience in Redskin Park. Big names that fill seats are all that matters to management.

Obviously, it would have made sense to fire Zorn earlier in the year. No one could have anticipated this kind of a turnaround from a team who seemed so terrible in the first half of the season.

However, Zorn has brought the team together without one of the higher paid, underachieving stars. Clinton Portis was bringing no fire to the football field on Sunday. Hell, the guy wasn't even practicing.

Zorn certainly deserves another season as head coach. He has adapted well to his new duties, and the team has really improved on offense. A renovated offensive line and a new running back would give the 'Skins a fantastic offense if they kept their offensive philosophy intact and continued to develop what they presently have.

December 13, 2009

Snap Judgments: Gano, Orakpo Impress In Win Over Raiders

Graham Gano didn't have to make any key kicks in his first game as the Redskins kicker, but he still made the most of his two FG attempts.

Gano went 2-2 on the day, banging home field goals of 46 and 41 yards on a slick and muddy field. He looked comfortable replacing the enigmatic Shaun Suisham, but we won't really know what we have until he lines up for an important kick.

Meanwhile the star of the show in Oakland this afternoon was rookie DE/LB Brian Orakpo who picked up four sacks, a forced fumble and three tackles for a loss. The entire defensive line dominated as the unit picked up seven sacks (safety Reed Doughty also added one), but Orakpo was the brightest star.

Orakpo now has 11 sacks on the year putting him four shy of breaking the rookie sack record of 14.5 set by Jevon Kearse. Orakpo has been a bit shaky at linebacker, a position he is adapting to, but at defensive end he has shown the ability to not just get to the QB, but to contain him.

Several times this year Orakpo has been able to keep the QB in the pocket and force him to run up the middle only to corral him as he passes by. In addition, Orakpo has also shown he can work his way down the line to make stops against the run.

He'll be in the running for defensive rookie of the year along with Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing.

And today should have resolved a big question for Dan Snyder. Jason Campbell should be the guy in 2010. Campbell has played extremely well the past month in a lot of different situations. His line has been patchwork and yet he has adjusted his game in order to make things operate more smoothly for the offense.

Campbell isn't a classic WCO QB, but he has shown he can make quick throws and his ability to progress through his reads has increased tenfold as of late. Of course there is still concern regarding his struggles to make big plays in key situations, but as Campbell continues to grow, expect him come through on potential game-winning drives.

December 10, 2009

Hall, Haynesworth Doubtful, Sellers Out

Mike Sellers (thigh) will miss this Sunday's game vs. the Raiders while Deangelo Hall (knee) and Albert Haynesworth (ankle) are likely to miss as well.

Backup tight end Todd Yoder will fill in for Sellers. Personally, I think Yoder might be a better option for next year anyway. He's a reliable pass catcher and is good sealing the edge as a blocker. How he'll work out as a second man in the backfield will bear watching this week.

Right tackle Stephon Heyer was limited in practice today.

On the Raiders side, DE Greg Ellis didn't participate in practice today. Same story for WR Darrius Heyward-Bey and G Robert Gallery. C Samson Satele was limited in practice.

Odds And Ends From The Saints Game

Here's my recap of the Saints-Redskins game on Sunday.

And here's some analysis from it.

Overall, it was a heartbreaker, but I think we learned something about these 'Skins. When Washington really gets up to play, they can play with almost anyone.

Jason Campbell is very close to becoming a legitimate starting QB. The guy can throw. Now the question is: can he overcome his own head and lead the 'Skins on a game-winning drive? That INT late was inexcusable.

Campbell is a good player. He could be more than a good player if he learned how to make plays in big situations.

In addition, totally agree with the release of Shaun Suisham. The guy has missed important kicks throughout his career. I wouldn't trust him after missing that chippy late. That wasn't even pressure-packed. I would just question his focus.

Disappointing game. Now for the Raiders.

December 5, 2009

J Camp To Return?

I don't know what the Redskins front office is thinking, but they should be planning for another season with Jason Campbell at the helm.

He's the best option short-term and drafting a QB in 2010 would be premature considering the need for quality offensive linemen.

Campbell has looked decent this year with little help. I broke down why he should remain the starter in 2010 on blogblitz.nfl.com right here.

My buddy Rich Tandler at CSNwashington.com gives a little input on the negatives in Campbell's game right here.

No doubt Rich hits on some key points. Campbell has yet to really make his mark with Washington. He doesn't have a signature drive or moments, but for next year he really might be the best possible option.

I have definitely heard some chatter regarding a Campbell return in 2010. He isn't viewed by many teams as a good QB, which could make it difficult for Campbell to start anywhere else. However, given the tenuous relationship between Campbell and management, a new contract might not work out.

December 1, 2009

Mason Sees Some Action

Marcus Mason finally got several drives worth of action, and I have to say I liked what I saw.

Mason, always overlooked, had three carries for 10 yards and a catch for 11 yards.

The offensive line was inconsistent on Sunday, but when they got their act together, there were several solid runs that benefited from a good push up front. One particular sequence, Mason ran for about six yards and then ripped off a nice 10-yarder that was called back for offensive holding.

Mason needs to get an extended look before the season's end. Rock Cartwright is a scrappy player, but with Devin Thomas emerging at kick returner, he could be nearing the end of tenure as a Redskin. Meanwhile Quinton Ganther has been a decent midseason pickup, but either he or Cartwright will have to go.

With five games left to go, the 'Skins will have to sort out the RB situation. Mason has put forth a great effort in all of his stints with the 'Skins, but he has never been given a legitimate workload in a regular season game.

It would be foolish not to give him a bigger piece of the action in one of the next few games. Mason looks like a special find and the 'Skins need to see if he is one.

It certainly wouldn't hurt to see which of these three role players fits into the team's plans for next year.

Edwin Williams To Be Replaced By Mike Williams?

The lunacy continues.

For some reason the Redskins are enamored with giant underachiever Mike Williams. So much in fact, that they are trying to reinsert the injury prone OL into the starting lineup.

Williams has been a bust ever since entering the league. He struggles to keep his weight in check and he is never healthy. Plus, his performance this year has been far below average.

Despite all this, the Redskins seem determined to give Williams time and plenty of opportunities to show what he can do.

I know Vinny is desperately searching for that one lucky break. That one "project player" who will pan out and make him look like a genius, but Mr. Cerrato, this guy isn't it.

Still is appears Mike Williams will replace rookie Edwin Williams at RG this Sunday against the Saints.

As far as I saw, Edwin played well on Sunday with the exception of one false start penalty (which didn't matter because there were three other false starts on other members of the offense plus two holding penalties on RT Stephon Heyer). For his first start, I thought Edwin played solidly in both run and pass protection.

There has been talk of moving Edwin to center next year in place of Casey Rabach and it would make sense to get him as much playing time as possible. Mike has no future with the team and Edwin has actually outplayed him from what I've seen.

The season is over and yet Jim Zorn, or whoever is calling the shots, refuses to get the young guys in there. How can these guys be expected to succeed when the only playing time they get is when the guys in front of them go down with injuries?

This franchise just doesn't understand the concept of long-term.

Injuries Continue To Pile Up

Chris Cooley and Jeremy Jarmon are the latest Redskins to hit the injured reserve list.

Jarmon tore his ACL in Sunday's loss to Philadelphia while Cooley's hopes of returning from a broken ankle suffered in October came to an end.

Jarmon was drafted with a supplemental third rounder in July. He played sparingly in 11 games, registering nine tackles and a forced fumble.

Jarmon's best game was against Tampa Bay earlier this year when he stripped Bucs RB Clifton Smith with 48 seconds to go in the game. This preserved the 'Skins three point lead and gave them their second win of the season.

Cooley broke his ankle in the 'Skins monday nighter against Philly on Oct. 25th. He initially expected to return, but with Washington out of the play-off picture at 3-8, management saw no reason to rush the star TE back from a serious injury.

Also, both Albert Haynesworth and Deangelo Hall are questionable for this week's game against the New Orleans Saints.