August 30, 2010

Redskins Roster Cuts: Second Edition

Tuesday afternoon, the Redskins begin to make their first cuts to get down to the 53-man roster limit for the regular season.

So what better time than now to compose the second edition of predicting Washington's final roster?

Here it goes.

Offense

Quarterback: Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck

I know everyone is thinking Shanny is going to go with two QBs, but given the state of McNabb's injured ankle I can't see them risking that at least early in the season.

Running Back: Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Ryan Torain

Willie Parker isn't going to make this team. Keiland Williams is tempting to put here and will probably end up on the practice squad. Torain has been very impressive.

Fullback: Mike Sellers

Fullbacks have never been a huge part of Shanny's game, but Sellers is a valuable commodity.

Wide Receiver: Santana Moss, Devin Thomas, Joey Galloway, Anthony Armstong, Terrence Austin

I was convinced there would be six on the list at WR, but now with Malcolm Kelly getting hurt again, the chances of it go down. Roydell Williams might make it as could Brandon Banks. I think Austin is a safer bet over Banks since he can actually play more than a few snaps a game.

Tight End: Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Logan Paulsen

Every team needs a blocking tight end, Paulsen has been reliable from what I've seen.

Tackle: Trent Williams, Jammal Brown, Stephon Heyer, William Robinson

Heyer takes a lot of heat, but he has the most experience out of any backup lineman. The 'Skins have no choice but to keep him.

Guard: Derrick Dockery, Artis Hicks, Edwin Williams, Chad Rinehart

I am a huge Ed Williams fan. I think the guy is strong and has improved his technique over the past year. There is talk he could be the eventual starter at center once Rabach moves on.

Center: Casey Rabach, Korey Lichtensteiger

Rabach will have to step up his game against power players like Jay Ratliff. I wonder if he can.

Defense


Defensive End: Adam Carriker, Phillip Daniels, Kedric Golston, Jeremy Jarmon, Vonnie Holliday

Jarmon is on the bubble, but he has tremendous athleticism. I can't see him getting cut. Holliday is a great depth guy and a veteran presence.

Nose Tackle: Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Albert Haynesworth

I would be willing to bet Haynesworth is the starter by week four. Nothing wrong with Kemoeatu playing in a reserve role.

Outside Linebacker: Brian Orakpo, Andre Carter, Lorenzo Alexander, Chris Wilson

Wilson has been playing largely against backups, but the guy has been great rushing the passer. He will see a lot of time this year.

Middle Linebacker: London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, Perry Riley, HB Blades

Robert Henson could easily move into the last spot over Blades. He is a good special-teamer, but Blades has seen more time in the preseason.

CB: DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers, Phillip Buchanon, Byron Westbrook, Kevin Barnes

I have zero faith in Justin Tryon. I pray the coaching staff shares my view. Ramzee Robinson has been solid in limited action. Barnes is far from a lock.

SS: LaRon Landry, Chris Horton

Horton will play some at free safety as well. LaRon looks much better closer to the line of scrimmage.

FS: Kareem Moore, Reed Doughty, Tyrone Carter

Carter has so much experience in the 3-4. I like his chances despite hopping on board late in the game. Moore will need to get healthy fast after suffering a sprained knee vs. the Ravens.

LS: Nick Sundberg

James Dearth was brought in to push Sundberg. It seems to be working.

PK: Graham Gano

He tends to push longer field goals wide to the right, but last week he did go 3-3 against the Jets. I'm not sold on him, but he is the undisputed kicker at the moment.

P: Josh Bidwell

Bidwell is averaging 42.8 yards per punt with a net average of 37.4 yards per punt this preseason. Last year, Hunter Smith averaged 41.3 YPP with a net avg. of 36.8 YPP for the 2009 season. So that's an improvement. Don't know if it means anything yet.

August 27, 2010

Redskins-Jets News & Notes

Check out my updates from tonight's Redskins 16-11 victory over the Jets.

Rex Ryan played his starters into the fourth quarter. I guess he's serious about wanting to win every game. The guy is crazy. Would he really relish watching Mark Sanchez get crunched by Vonnie Holliday or Darrion Scott?

I could see the presser now:

Reporter: Rex, what possessed you to keep Sanchez out there against scrubs to get his knee shredded?

Rex: I wanted to win the (expletive) game. I think any coach with a sack will risk whatever it (expletive) takes to win the (expletive) game.

That would be must-see TV.

Also, here's my column form SB Nation DC from Friday on Donovan McNabb.

Tomorrow, I'll be back to break down things in depth.

August 24, 2010

Midweek Roundup: Hard Knocks

The Redskins travel to New York to take on the Jets this weekend. So they'll be on HBO's Hard Knocks. Brian Murphy says the 'Skins are built for prime time TV.

Donovan McNabb sat down with GQ for a feature story. It's actually pretty damn good. Shutdown CB has a few issues though.

While McNabb basks in the glow of his recent conquest of GQ, he'll miss this week's game with an ankle injury. No Hard Knocks for Super 5 this week. Mike Shanahan said he would not even go if this was a regular season game.

That's something you were praying wasn't going to happen. McNabb has been through his fair share of injuries and the only drawback to bringing him in was the fact that he tends to get hurt often. Let's hope this blows over before the start of the season because Rex Grossman proved the other night he is anything but the answer.

Mike Sellars (knee) and Malcolm Kelly (hamstring) will miss this week's game as well. Kelly's job is becoming less of a sure thing each day he misses practice and other receivers make plays. Will the Redskins have enough patience to keep him on the roster? I sure wouldn't.

LaRon Landry pulled a Willie McGinest last week vs. the Ravens.

Vinny Cerrato sat down with 106.7 the Fan in DC to discuss his tenure as "GM" of the Redskins. Will the guy just go disappear? Please, there are thousands of remote island locations to spend your our money at. Fly out to one and leave us alone.

'Skins LB Chris Hanburger has finally been named as a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of my buddies JW Nix has pushed for this for years and sent petitions all over the Web to get Hanburger into the Hall. Congrats to Hanburger and his biggest supporter, JW!

Which running back do you want on the team? Ryan Torain or Keiland Williams?

Redskins Making Strides In New 3-4 Defense

Last week's 23-3 beatdown at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens would have been cause for alarm in seasons past for the Washington Redskins. But not this year.

The Redskins defense did not prepare for the Ravens as they normally would. Simply a preseason game, the Redskins did not watch film or gameplan for the Ravens. Instead, they operated out of their base defense without adding any wrinkles to it.

Brian Orakpo wasn't concerned with the loss in the least. To him the game was all about working out the kinks.

"We're not gameplanning Baltimore," he told me afterwards in the locker room. "We're not opening up our playbook for anything. It was a physical game and it's preseason. It's just an evaluation period right now."


It may sound like a positive spin following a tough loss, but Orakpo blew off the notion that the Redskins defense struggled so nonchalantly, I knew that the game wasn't a concern. The only thing Orakpo and the defense cares about is September 12th vs. Dallas. The game against Baltimore was all about making progress.


And Orakpo felt that the defense did just that.


"We're still creating turnovers, still getting pressure, we're still getting off the field when we need to," he said. "So I think defensively we're making huge strides as far as getting the ball back to our offense."

Baltimore's offense was just 1-10 on third downs in the game and also turned the ball over once on a fumble forced by DeAngelo Hall and recovered by London Fletcher.

Last season, the defense's inability to generate turnovers and stop opposing offenses on third downs attributed in part to its struggles. Orakpo stressed the importance of improving upon Washington's third down percentage as opposing offenses converted 40 percent of their third down opportunities in 2009.


"Third down is a money down," he said. "You gotta get off the field [and] put pressure, you know not [just] sacks. It's about creating turnovers, interceptions; it's all that combined to really get the ball back to the offense."


Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has emphasized the importance of playing aggressive defense and the 'Skins have taken that to heart, swarming to the ball, tackling well, and playing with a swagger they didn't have in 2009.


Thus far, LaRon Landry has been rock solid playing in the strong safety role. He was active Saturday night, hitting everything in sight and looks to be re-energized under the new leadership from Haslett.


The same can be said about Carlos Rogers who has stepped up his performance since last season when he wanted out of DC. Rogers might be the team's best pure cover cornerback and he showed it in particular on one play in the first half against Baltimore.


Ravens QB Joe Flacco dropped back to pass, and looked deep for receiver Derrick Mason down the left side of the field. Flacco let it fly, but Rogers was right on Mason's hip stride for stride and the pass fell incomplete.


Rogers has the physicality and speed to be the team's top corner, and if he can live up to his potential, Haslett will have himself a corner who can thrive on a Revis-type island; a crucial element to an aggressive 3-4 defense.


Of course there's also Orakpo. He's coming off an eleven sack rookie season, and this year he is expected to rush the passer to an even greater extent. Orakpo will need to build on last year's success if the defense wants to achieve their goal of putting pressure on offenses.


Haslett has several pieces in place, but the defense is still one in transition. The defensive line has yet to look consistent in filling gaps while the outside linebacker position opposite Orakpo is a concern. Still, there was more good than might have been expected when looking at the final score from last week's game.

The defense is heading in the right direction.

August 23, 2010

Injuries Begin To Mount For Redskins

After two relatively quiet weeks on the Washington Redskins injury front, things took a turn for the worse in last night’s 23-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens as several players bit the dust including starting safety Kareem Moore.

Washington’s starters played the entire first half of a hard-hitting game and paid the price in full. Trent Williams hurt his forearm , Mike Sellars’ knee was heavily wrapped after the game, ditto for Donovan McNabb’s ankle. Also, Chris Wilson suffered a nasty gash after losing his helmet.

However, it was Moore who suffered the biggest setback as he sprained his right knee in the second quarter on a fake punt attempt by Baltimore. He is expected to miss six weeks, a serious blow to a secondary still learning a new defensive scheme.

Moore was considered by some to be the breakout performer of training camp and he had certainly embraced his role next to LaRon Landry as the last line of defense. His ball skills are among the best out of all the defensive backs on the team and the defense will miss his presence on the field.

Reed Doughty is expected to replace Moore.

Doughty is a smart, gritty player, but he lacks the range of Moore. Landry will have to pick up his game in order to make up for Moore’s absence, and if last night was any indicator, Landry appears to be developing quickly under Jim Haslett.

Landry notched eight tackles and was better than usual in coverage. He was connecting on all his tackle attempts and laid down the wood several times.

The ‘Skins need more of the same from him in the coming weeks because Saturday night, the injury bug bit Washington right where the sun don’t shine.

August 22, 2010

'Skins-Ravens Game, Postgame Notes

The skinny from the Redskins 23-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens is all on SB Nation DC courtesy of your truly.

Year two in the press box is under way so stay tuned to Skins Talk for all my updates on all things Redskins.

I'll break down the game here tomorrow. As ugly as it was, Donovan McNabb really impressed me under pressure (for the most part) and the defense is much improved

August 19, 2010

Thursday Roundup: Wrongfully Accused

It seems the local police blotter has been riddled with infractions by Redskins players in recent months.

Trent Williams received a reckless driving ticket (honestly who hasn't).

However, he also played really, really well last week against Buffalo. So we'll forgive him. Homer McFanboy sat down for a great interview with him.

Fred Davis missed part of practice on Wednesday for a court appearance stemming from two misdemeanor charges (falsifying his identity to authorities and operating a motor vehicle with a revoked driver's license).

Malcolm Kelly wasn't present at Redskins Park today because he was in court dealing with a plethora of traffic offenses.

Fitting that the Redskins Rides Car Show will be held this week? I think so.

The wide receiver situation is getting the most buzz from the media and the fans. Peter King believes the situation is dicey, saying via Twitter that the WRs are a "big problem."

Rich Tandler from CSN Washington isn't a fan either.

Larry Johnson gets his turn as the feature back Saturday night vs. the Ravens.

Scrabble is a locker room favorite for the Redskins apparently.

A little inside info on some X's and O's from Matt Bowen.

A bit late on this, but worth noting that Donovan McNabb wants to be a Redskin for the rest of his career.

August 17, 2010

Terrence Austin: No Stranger To Stardom

Growing up in Southern California and attending Long Beach Poly high school, Terrence Austin is no stranger to stardom. After all, he played wide receiver opposite current Philadelphia Eagles star wide out DeSean Jackson.

So what was it like for the offense; having two future NFL speedsters on each side of the field?

"It was really terrible for the other team to be honest with you," said Austin with a grin. "I tried to learn from him, you know? Whatever he did, I tried to emulate it because he was successful."

Success is the name of the game for Long Beach Poly grads. Rapper Snoop Dogg attended the school as did actress Cameron Diaz. Ever heard of them?

The star-studded lineup coming out of Long Beach Poly is a tough one to live up to, but if anyone is ready for the task, it's Austin.

After high school, Austin entered UCLA, opting to remain in his native state to play football with the Bruins. After four solid years, Austin graduated UCLA at number two on the program's all-time, all-purpose yardage list with 4,425 yards, and also set marks for the most kick and punt returns by a single player in school history.

Austin started at wide receiver his senior year, catching 37 passes for 455 yards and four touchdowns. He caught at least one pass in his last 27 collegiate football games and was named UCLA's MVP on offense in 2008 after breaking Maurice Jones-Drew's single season all-purpose yards record.

Austin's total receiving numbers in college are to the tune of 109 receptions for 1,192 yards and five TDs in  48 games. He returned 95 punts for 942 yards, a 9.9 average. Also, don't forget the 89 kick-off returns for 2,145 yards.

As busy as Austin was on the football field, he still managed to snag his degree in history at UCLA before moving over to the east coast to play football with the Redskins.

Washington selected him in the seventh round of this year's draft, hoping he could provide a boost in a return game that has suffered greatly since the departure of Brian Mitchell in 2000.

However, Austin has made it clear in training camp that he can be more than just a return man. He has performed at a high level playing receiver in camp. His speed, hands, and fearless attitude over the middle has turned heads, but Austin knows he hasn't arrived yet.

Last week at camp served as a reminder to that as the elder statesman of the receiving corps, Joey Galloway, forced him to carry his pads after practice, but Austin took it in stride.

"I'm cool with these guys; I like them," he said. I'm going to do whatever is possible to try to keep face with everybody."

He must be doing a pretty good job of it because fellow receiver Bobby Wade has liked what he's seen from Austin thus far.

"He has a lot of strengths, he has a lot of upside," said Wade. "He's a guy who is gonna definitely be able to, I think, excel in this league. It's [just] going to come down to doing the little things and just getting as comfortable as possible within our offense."

The best way to "get comfortable?"

"Study. Be ready for anything," said receivers coach Keenan McCardell. "Don't play like a robot. You gotta react to things sometimes. This is the National Football League anything can happen. You're up here competing at the highest level; you're up here for a reason; now just show your talent."

Talent is something Austin has in spades. Attention to detail has never been a problem either. Austin might run some of the best routes on the team and he takes pride in being precise and methodical when practicing his craft. For a guy who weighs just 172 pounds, it's important to get creative when it comes to getting separation from a defender.

"That's been something I've been working on for a long time," he said. "I knew that if I wanted to be good, I had to be sudden and really quick in and out of my breaks. So I worked on that a whole lot. I did that a lot within college and high school, and that was just the main thing. We always had to catch the ball, but I mean we definitely wanted to get separation, and so that's what I worked on the most."

Preparation is what will set Austin apart from the competition as he already possesses the skills to make an impact. He desperately wants to succeed and relishes the competition currently at wide receiver for the Redskins.

Washington will have no more than six receiver spots available on the final roster, and there are 11 players vying for them. But Austin is confident in his abilities.

"[Competition] won't do anything but make us better," Austin said. "I like it. It keeps me on my game everyday. It let's me know like, 'hey you know if you want to be able to be in this spot you gotta compete with this guy. You know you can't be making too many mistakes because this guy behind you is gonna gain or the guy ahead of you is gonna separate. So that's what it's like everyday."

To his credit, Austin realizes he may have to make his mark on special teams and in the return game to break into the NFL. And he's alright with serving in that role.

A jack-of-all-trades mentality is a good one to have in Austin's case as his skill set will certainly benefit him in his efforts to solidify a spot in the NFL. He knows a dedicated approach to every aspect of the game will ensure he's primed to play a long time in the NFL and experience success throughout his career.

He has no choice but success anyway, right? What would Snoop say if a Long Beach Poly grad failed to go platinum?

August 16, 2010

The Redskins Should Pass On Brian Westbrook

Free agent running back Brian Westbrook is expected to announce tonight which team he will play for in 2010, according to several sources close to the veteran running back.

Now it's all well and good if Westbrook wants to pretend that this decision is as monumental as LeBron's. Westbrook has certainly dragged it out about as painfully as LeBron did his and then some.

It irritates me that Westbrook has spent months deliberating between two teams as if he's a major superstar who franchises are bending over backwards to acquire. Granted, other teams have popped up in rumors, but the only ones actually in this race have been St. Louis and Washington. You would expect a quick decision, but Westbrook has yet to choose.

It should be a simple choice. Play or don't play. If you have taken over 60 days to decide whether you are going to play football for another season, maybe you don't have a strong enough commitment anymore. Either that or you don't want to participate in camp.

Skipping training camp has become a disturbing trend in the NFL for all players. Players who know they are guaranteed a roster spot have sought out any opportunity to miss training camp and that's unfortunate. Camp is a grind where you kill your body and your mind all while spending every second with a group of 80 other smelly, angry athletes, but it's necessary.

I imagine that it can't be fun, but it's not supposed to be. It's part of the job. Get over it. If you don't want to be in camp, then football isn't for you. Westbrook must have missed that memo.

Anyway, it makes perfect sense for Westbrook to pick the Redskins. He has played his whole career with Donovan McNabb and his brother Byron plays for the Redskins. It also doesn't hurt that the Redskins are significantly superior to St. Louis.

However, for some reason Westbrook has yet to come to a decision halfway through August, which means the Redskins should have already moved on. They can't afford to wait on one guy who has no concept of what the team has been doing.

Furthermore, last week's preseason game vs. Buffalo showed coaches that they already have three backs who can run the football, and we haven't even seen Larry Johnson. With this in mind, how much would Westbrook actually contribute?

There's no question Westbrook was at one time an explosive, every-down back, but now he's a guy who might do well in a limited role. The Redskins really don't need him since Torain has displayed his pass-catching ability, and that's what makes Westbrook's nonchalance in coming to a decision even more infuriating.

The impression I get from this entire incident is that Westbrook expects teams desperately want him and he has the luxury to take his time and select his destination. Those days are long gone, Brian. Just take what's being offered and quash the ridiculous notion that you are a hot commodity because you're not anymore.

I'm all for an infusion of youth at running back, which is why I like Keiland Williams and Ryan Torain. They represent a future. Brian Westbrook is just an injury-ridden stopgap solution with commitment issues.

August 15, 2010

Shanahan's Debut Is Enticing But...

There was little to hate in regards to the Washington Redskins' 42-17 pounding of the Buffalo Bills on Friday night.

Mike Shanahan made his debut as the Redskins' head coach one to remember as Washington scored early and often. The 42 points they scored surpassed the 41 points scored in the first three games of last year's preseason. Jim Zorn fans, take note.

Donovan McNabb led a scoring drive while Rex Grossman headed up three more and undrafted rookie Brandon Banks quickly made us all forget Antwaan Randle El by returning a punt 77 yards for a TD.

They say the preseason isn't always a telling sign of what a team will be like in the regular season, but it was encouraging to see an offensive line, so overmatched last year, surrendering just two sacks and paving the way to a 140-yard rushing performance.

Trent Williams built on an impressive training camp in his debut as a Redskin. The entire line appeared to have chemistry and they moved effectively in the new zone-blocking scheme.

In years past, it was never a good thing to watch a Redskins preseason game. Too often the offense was vanilla, predictable, and tough to stomach. Despite the struggles, we would always write it off as the preseason. Zorn and Joe Gibbs were just keeping the juicy details of their offense under wraps until the real games started, right?

Wrong. Once the regular season came around, it became painfully obvious that the offense's preseason struggles were an accurate indicator of how bad they really were. The Redskins have been offensively challenged for years, and so it was breath of fresh air to see a confident, aggressive unit on Friday.

Obviously, there must be continued success to generate some real belief in the offense, but it sure was nice to see things working out for the 'Skins. Even an ill-advised Grossman pass in the red zone was snagged by tight end Fred Davis for a TD when it could have easily been taken the other way by Bills' cornerback Reggie Corner. It was that kind of night for the 'Skins.

Clinton Portis received his turn as the feature back against Buffalo. He rushed for 22 yards on six carries. Larry Johnson will get a crack at it next week against Baltimore. However, the real stars on the ground were the two guys not on everyone's radar coming into training camp.

Ryan Torain, a Shanahan draft pick from his days in Denver, rushed for 62 yards on 17 carries while rookie Keiland Williams had 11 carries for 51 yards and a pair of rushing TD's. Torain added a catch for 22 yards and made a good block that helped spring Banks on his punt return TD.

Banks, the Big 12 special teams player of the year in 2009, was the big story as he returned four punts for 97 yards including his scintillating 77-yard scamper. The Redskins have not possessed a player with Banks' speed in years, and so far he seems like a player worth keeping on the roster just so he can touch the ball a handful of times per game.

Banks did muff a punt, but his dazzling return squashed the memory of the miscue far into the summer night. He stands at just 5-7 and might weigh 160 pounds soaking wet, but the guy has the acceleration and speed to make it in the league as a game-breaker. Think Rudy Ruettiger with dynamite in his cleats.

But not all was flawless on Friday. While Banks and the offense rightfully drew rave reviews, it was the defense which was the cause for concern. And it shouldn't come as a surprise given the recent switch to a 3-4 base.

The Bills averaged 8.1 yards per rush against the 'Skins renovated front seven, and the lateral speed of the linebacking corps was largely to blame. I was afraid that the OLB's would be liabilities in coverage and in containing the edge. What I saw last night did nothing to convince me otherwise.

The pass rush is ferocious and it will have to be all season in order to hide the deficiencies in coverage from the linebackers. London Fletcher is suited to be a plugger. He isn't a guy who is incredibly versatile. Same goes with Lorenzo Alexander, Andre Carter, Brian Orakpo; none of these guys are strong in coverage.

This shortage of multi-dimensional linebackers will hinder the defense, but I would bet Albert Haynesworth emerges as a solution. Friday night, he certainly looked the part as he drew several double teams and forced some pressure up the middle while playing for two series in the second quarter.

A healthy, productive Haynesworth at nose tackle will give the linebackers extra space to operate while also giving the Redskins an ability to control the line of scrimmage. Current starting nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu is still not at 100 percent after his Achilles injury, offering Haynesworth the perfect situation to win back the starting job. He's too good to sit on the bench and Shanahan knows it. It's simply a matter of time.

However, for now the front seven on defense will have to make the necessary adjustments to ensure their lack of lateral speed can be overcome by a strong pass rush and improved secondary. Rest assured changes will be made for next week's game against Baltimore, and we will see how positive these changes are.

It was only a preseason game, yet there was plenty to approve of in the Mike Shanahan debut. The recently-installed HD video boards were christened at Fedex Field with some highlight-reel performances as the 'Skins executed their gameplan to near perfection. The new era of Redskins football didn't fail to thrill us in its opening act on a night where the Burgundy and Gold played with the swagger of a champion.

August 7, 2010

Fan Appreciation Day Camp Notes

-This was without question, the most physical day of training camp this year. The Redskins ran some goal line formations including plenty of contact and also a series of two-minute drills at the end of the practice.

-TE Fred Davis starred in the goal line work catching several TD passes. I saw him catch at least three on the day. He is really coming into his own a player.

-TE Chris Cooley on the other hand, dropped a few balls. He's had a bad camp, but I treat him the same as Donovan McNabb. Those guys have performed at high level throughout their careers in the meaningful games. They'll be fine come regular season time.

-Speaking of Donovan, he did complete a beautiful out and up to Cooley in one of the two-minute drills. However, that was the only big play he made. The rest of the practice he was busy throwing interceptions.

-The offense as whole will be much improved. It has yet to be consistently good, but I've seen enough to let me know the running game is going to scare people and the air attack will be more aggressive.

-RB Ryan Torain caught the ball well again out of the backfield. He has been the best pass-catching RB in camp. He also runs with good vision and lowers his shoulder to finish off runs. If he can stay healthy, he might be a nice little sleeper on offense.

-RB Larry Johnson ran effectively in goal line work, scoring twice behind stellar blocking on the left side. He is expected to get most of the work down there during the season, and he did nothing today to alter that mindset.

-WR Terrence Austin took the first rep at punt returner. Don't know what that means, but he had a nice one-cut and go return. Plus, he scored a TD in one of the two-minute drills.

-CB's Ramzee Robinson and Byron Westbrook each intercepted a pair of passes.

-QB Rich Bartel threw two picks nearly back-to-back.

-WR's Devin Thomas and Roydell Williams each made some good catches. Thomas had a nice one on the sideline with Westbrook draped over him.

-S Reed Doughty timed a blitz perfectly on the goal line to "sack" QB Rex Grossman.

-WR Brandon Banks showed his speed on an end-around where he turned the corner easily, picking up a few yards. It's a good thing he's fast because at 155 pounds, he can't afford to get hit.

-RG Artis Hicks just isn't winning enough one-on-one blocking battles for my liking. He doesn't get enough leverage.

-LT Trent Williams is living up to his billing. He has sound footwork and his athleticism is unmatched by any of the other linemen.

-My favorite lineman of camp has to be G/C Edwin Williams. He is pound-for-pound, one of the strongest lineman on the team. I'd book him as the future starter at center.

Weekend Roundup: Haynesworth Passes

It's official. Albert Haynesworth has finally passed his conditioning test. According to the guys I talked to, Haynesworth completed the shuttles in 66 and 70 seconds respectively. So he even had room to spare.

Now that the nightmare is over it's down to business for Haynesworth. He apparently likes the scheme and is ready to go. I'm pretty sure I remember writing in July that Haynesworth would end up in camp with the Redskins.

Then again, I also said he's going to perform at a higher level than last year too, so we'll see what happens.

Fearless Prediction: Haynesworth will be back in Redskins' fans good grace by October.

More reading material on Russ Grimm as he prepares to enter the Hall of Fame this weekend.

Dan Snyder is considering retiring several former Redskins' players' jerseys. The only one currently retired is the #33 worn by Sammy Baugh.

Om Field sums up the preseason nicely. It's funny that we are so deprived of football that we'll pour our attention into practices that we could not care less about midseason.

And finally, the viral video taking the web by storm, featuring Donovan McNabb.

August 5, 2010

Redskins Roster Predictions

The Washington Redskins have been in training camp a week and so what better time than now to reveal my predictions of who will make the Redskins final 53-man roster?

It had not been too oppressively hot this week until Wednesday. A downpour early Wednesday morning really spiked the humidity levels, resulting in the muggiest atmosphere yet in camp.

That merited a day off for several of the big name players, but aside from a canceled practice on Sunday afternoon, the players have been going strong twice a day.

The morning practices have been more intense, featuring 11-on-11 and position drills, sprints, etc. while the afternoons have been walkthroughs. The afternoon practices simply install the various packages; the morning practices put the packages into action.

The team as whole has steadily improved each day, but the offense has had several shaky performances. It has been a well-run camp according to everyone I've talked to and the structure has been praised as the best in years at Redskins Park.

That being said, here's how things shake out from what I've seen in camp, but before we get to the start of preseason:

Offense

Quarterback: Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck

-Mike Shanahan might want to roll with two QBs, but he brought in Grossman because of his familiarity with the offense, and he traded for Beck due to his interest in him since he came out of BYU in 2007. That tells me he likes them both enough to keep three QBs on his roster.

Running Back: Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson, Ryan Torain

-Portis and Johnson are playing possessed. Both have been tearing through camp. Portis is in the best shape I have seen him in a long time. Johnson has been a joy to watch both on and off the field.

-Willie Parker has picked it up the past few days, but Torain has shown some flashes including a beautiful reception down the sidelines early in camp. His youth gives him an edge.

Fullback: Mike Sellars

-Shanahan didn't use a fullback very often in Denver, but he has used them to an extent in training camp. Sellars is too valuable and too much of presence to cut.

Wide Receiver: Santana Moss, Devin Thomas, Bobby Wade, Joey Galloway, Malcolm Kelly, Terrence Austin

-I want Kelly to make the roster. I really do. But he hasn't practiced since last Thursday. The new regime inherited him, making him even more expendable. Given his size, I still think he'll make it with a solid preseason.

-Austin has been very impressive, but his size is a worry. He will make the practice squad in the very least though.

-Wondering why I have Wade in the mix? This is why.

Tight End: Chris Cooley, Fred Davis, Lee Vickers

-This is the strongest TE duo in the league in regards to Cooley and Davis. Davis is athletic enough to line up anywhere while Cooley can play in the slot and at TE. Both guys complement each other well. Vickers replaces Todd Yoder as the blocking TE.

Tackle: Trent Williams, Jammal Brown, William Robinson, Stephon Heyer

-Robinson has received some buzz and started at LT the day before Williams signed his deal. Heyer has struggled, but Selvish Capers is too raw for a spot on the final roster.

Guard: Derrick Dockery, Artis Hicks, Chad Rinehart, Will Montgomery

-Rinehart has actually looked good in camp, and in regards to last season, I didn't think he was half-bad.

Center: Casey Rabach, Edwin Williams

-Williams could be the future starter at tackle. He told me he has been playing a lot of left guard in addition to center, giving him the versatility a reserve lineman needs.

Defense

Defensive End: Adam Carriker, Albert Haynesworth, Kedric Golston, Jeremy Jarmon

-Carriker and Golston can play any position on the line in a pinch. With the way the defense is mixing up their schemes, they probably will.

-Jarmon is a great prospect.

Nose Tackle: Ma'ake Kemoeatu, Howard Green

-Kemo isn't playing at 100% after his Achilles injury from last year. But he has been taking the bulk of the first-team reps.

Outside Linebacker: Brian Orakpo, Lorenzo Alexander, Andre Carter, Chris Wilson

-Alexander and Carter could end up in a sort of platoon system at the OLB position opposite Orakpo's.

Middle Linebacker: London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, Perry Riley, Robert Henson, Chris Draft

-Henson is a special-teamer. Draft can play any of the linebacker positions.

Cornerback: DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers, Phillip Buchanon, Byron Westbrook, Kevin Barnes

-Westbrook can play special teams and that gives him an advantage.

-Barnes is more of a hitter so the 'Skins will have to look for ways to utilize that strength. He still struggles in coverage.

-Justin Tryon continues to struggle in camp, but Darrell Green keeps talking him up so we'll see in the preseason. For now, I think he's a goner.

Safety: LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore, Reed Doughty, Chris Horton

-Moore has been terrific in camp. Can't say enough about how much more confident I am in him as a starter.

-Doughty can play either safety spot.

LS: Ethan Albright

-Yes he's not on the roster right now, but current LS, Nick Sundberg has been bad. Really bad. Albright has been here for years and is still a phone call away.

Kicker: Graham Gano

-Gano has been stellar going 42-46 through Wednesday. The 'Skins must feel comfortable with him so far as they have not brought in competition.

Punter: Josh Bidwell

Kick Returner: Devin Thomas

Punt Returner: Phillip Buchanon

Just Missed: Selvish Capers, Erik Cook, Justin Tryon, Lendy Holmes, Anthony Armstrong, Rob Jackson (Some of the younger players released could be added to the practice squad).

Quick Links For Thursday

I won't be at camp today, so here's some reading for you all. There will be a quiz so take notes.

I wrote a piece on John Beck and the Redskins' evolving QB situation for NFL.com's Blog Blitz. Peek it.

Also, I'm getting ready to start writing a weekly column over at SB Nation DC. If you're keeping track. I'm writing with SB Nation, FFODC, and NFL.com's Blog Blitz. I'll be linking to all of it from here.

I wrote this a month ago and today it was a hot topic in DC. LaVar and Dukes were talking about it, and so was Riggo's Rag. Plaxico Burress to the Redskins anyone?

Money article from B Murf on Homer McFanboy. Murf ranks the top ten performers in camp.

Roger Goodell and John Madden were at Redskins Park on Wednesday. So was rapper and DC sports fan Wale.

Russ Grimm will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend in Canton, Ohio. He is the first Hog to be inducted.

I was watching NFL Network's America's Game last night and it was the 1982 Redskins. I love the story where Grimm told Joe Theismann to ignore the offensive playcalls from Joe Gibbs and pound it up the middle. The Redskins did that for eight consecutive plays, and it worked with Grimm leading the way.

August 4, 2010

Notes From Day Seven

-Several of the first-teamers sat out of practice and observed the proceedings on the sidelines. Jammal Brown, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Larry Johnson, Joey Galloway, and London Fletcher all sat out. Albert Hanyesworth missed practice again while Mike Furrey (illness) and Malcolm Kelly (hamstring) did as well.

-That made for a rather quiet practice, but the most important thing I noted today was that S LaRon Landry had a great day in coverage. He was strong over the top and didn't let much get behind him. He gave some perfect safety help to CB Carlos Rogers on a deep ball to WR Terrence Austin.

-Rex Grossman missed badly on a pair of deep passes. He will need to sharpen it up as the QB competition just kicked up a notch with new QB John Beck on the field.

-LB Robert Henson had a great interception on a Richard Bartel pass downfield. His coverage on the play was impressive.

-The tight ends have been moving all over the field. Chris Cooley and Fred Davis lined up out wide. Davis did that on occasion last season, and why not? He is athletic enough to play some wide-out. He is smoother and appears to have lost some weight. He is definitely speedier. Cooley lined up in the slot at times last season, and can make an impact there.

-WR/KR Brandon Banks returned some punts today. He is elusive and shifty with great vision. You have to worry about his size though. He might be pushing 160 pounds. I wouldn't want to see him involved in a high speed collision.

-WR Terrence Austin dropped a catchable pass in coverage. It was thrown a bit high, but he should have caught it.

-S Chris Horton dropped an easy interception on a ball thrown by Donovan McNabb. Horton needs to make the most of every opportunity since his role isn't as defined anymore after LaRon Landry was moved over to SS.

-The offense after the first week has been inconsistent. They have shown some potential running the ball and both Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson are in fantastic shape (Portis in particular). The passing game has been hit-or-miss. I'm not as worried about that though because we all know when the real games start, McNabb will be ready.

-I like what I've seen from Trent Williams. He has been steady thus far, and he possesses the size and potential to be the franchise tackle Mike Shanahan wants.

-The defense has improved by leaps and bounds. Not that they ever looked awful, but they are getting more comfortable every day.

-The secondary is reborn after a dismal year. Rogers and DeAngelo Hall are playing well, and new starting FS Kareem Moore might be the most pleasant surprise of camp.

August 3, 2010

Jarmon Bulks Up For D-line Duties

Mike Shanahan addressed the status of defensive end Jeremy Jarmon today as the second-year pro prepares to return from a knee injury that cut short his rookie campaign last season.

"Well Jeremy Jarmon, the reason why he is staying at the defensive end position [is] we thought we needed more depth there," said Shanahan at his daily press conference. "He went up to 295 pounds, so he gained a few pounds and he's been playing well especially now playing that position a little bit. It's nice to get him back; he's healthy. I think it's always different when you've been out for a while to put pads on and actually get started, but it's been very positive and I think he'll just keep on getting better."

Jarmon was taken by Washington last season in the third round of the supplemental draft out of Kentucky. He played in 11 games, starting one before his season ended after he tore his ACL in a week 12 loss to the Eagles.

Being drafted in July left Jarmon facing a steep learning curve. He still managed to show flashes of potential in a week four win over Tampa Bay in which he stripped Buccaneer RB Clifton Smith late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory.

After rehabbing his way back into playing shape over the offseason, Jarmon has packed on about 20 pounds of muscle so he can withstand the beating of playing defensive end in a 3-4 defense.

Initially, there was speculation that Jarmon would be moving to outside linebacker along with Chris Wilson, Andre Carter, and Lorenzo Alexander, but Jarmon possesses more of a defensive end build, and the added weight along with his athletic ability will make him a valuable member in the rotation of DE's this season.

August 2, 2010

This Colt Deserved To Be Cut

The backup quarterback is traditionally a popular figure in Washington, but now-former benchwarmer Colt Brennan was especially beloved by many fans for his gunslinger mentality and candid personality. However, the Brennan era is now over and after Brennan was cut today, the Cult of Colt will ride off into the sunset.

Brennan was the figurehead of an underground movement of 'Skins fans looking for a rowdy, frat-boy gunslinger they could relate to. Brennan fit that prototype and his fans ate it all up. We would see ridiculous blog posts and threads proclaiming Colt the next big thing at the quarterback position.

As time wore on and Jason Campbell began to lose his luster, other fans grew to love Brennan because he was an alternative to a QB they felt was not effective. Campbell was a model citizen during his stint with the Redskins, but he lacked charisma and flair; something Brennan possessed. Many turned on Campbell as he struggled through several disappointing seasons, clamoring for Brennan to start.

Brennan was the anti-Campbell. Everything Brennan was, Campbell wasn't, and fans grew tired of holding onto the hope that Campbell would be the savior of the franchise. Campbell was conservative on the field while Brennan played with reckless abandon, making him easy to root for.

Campbell was the prototypical nice guy. He shrugged off criticism with his Southern cool, and just kept working. As admirable as this approach was, it left people with the impression that he would never be vocal enough to take control of a locker room.

Meanwhile as Campbell was experiencing the pressure of being the incumbent in Washington, Brennan was soaking up the limelight while sitting on the bench. Brennan was a collegiate superstar from Hawaii who had always attracted fans from across the country.

And those fans didn't abandon him after he was drafted by the Redskins in the sixth round in 2008. Many Hawaii fans tuned into the Redskins, hoping to see Brennan succeed and become an NFL starter.

Brennan played well in the 2008 preseason, gaining instant approval. He solidified his cult status with a 67.9 completion percentage, 411 yards passing, and three TD passes in five preseason games. He could do no wrong in almost anyone's eyes, but he spent the year behind Campbell and Todd Collins.

Brennan's mechanics were a real concern as was his average arm strength. In the 2009 preseason, he had a significant drop-off, posting a 53.5 completion percentage, 249 yards passing, and one TD pass. To add to that, Brennan threw three interceptions, including one ill-advised pass thrown across his body that was returned for a TD.

Brennan ultimately sat out the 2009 season on injured reserve. He underwent hip surgery and proclaimed himself fully healthy for training camp this year. Yet despite the setback, he had managed to maintain his rockstar image.

The Cult of Colt was still going strong even with the addition of Donovan McNabb. Some fans felt that Brennan would eventually succeed McNabb as the starter.

Their hopes died today when the Redskins cut Brennan after they traded for Ravens' backup QB John Beck.

I never bought into the Brennan hype. His arm wasn't strong enough to make the deep throws, his accuracy was spotty, and his decision-making...well it would make Brett Favre proud.

Training camp did little to change my opinion. Brennan is a cult hero and nothing more. His play was uneven at best and for all his bravado, he just doesn't have the makings of a good quarterback.

Brennan's swagger off the field is reflected in his game, which is a good thing. You like to see a QB who is comfortable with running an offense. But for Brennan there was just too much untamed technique to overcome his deficiencies. To his credit, he always played with moxie, but he didn't have the raw physical tools to supplement it.

So as Brennan looks to catch on with a new team, there is a group of football fans just waiting for him to become football's next big thing, insisting that once he gets his shot, he'll deliver.

Unfortunately, these fans just haven't faced the cold hard truth; Colt is nothing without his Cult.

August 1, 2010

Haslett's Flexibility Ensures Carter Will be Productive in 2010

I was unable to attend camp today so here's some camp notes from the Examiner's John Keim.

Something I've wondered about is Andre Carter and how much he will factor into the new 3-4 at outside linebacker. He can rush the passer as well as anyone on the team, but I have been worried about his issues in coverage.

The Redskins have Lorenzo Alexander taking the majority of the first team reps at OLB, but Carter did take some reps with the first team yesterday. Keim told me that Carter is "getting a little more action," with the first team today, and that he had one good play in coverage against Fred Davis.

You won't find a nicer, more positive guy on the team than Carter so it's tough to gauge how he's actually handling the transition, but outwardly he has been upbeat and positive so far. He is coming off a torn bicep, which limited him over the offseason, but he looks to be in tip-top shape now.

Carter's recovery from the injury and subsequent inability to fully participate in OTA's helped Alexander get a leg up in the competition at OLB. Alexander made the most of his opportunity with a performance in the offseason workouts that drew rave reviews from the coaches, prompting them to put him on the first team.

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's decision to switch to a 3-4 also led to speculation that Carter would be traded since many believed he would be a poor fit in the system.

In San Francisco, Carter was involved in a 3-4 that demanded he learn to cover the slot receiver. Carter never really adapted to that. However, the Redskins 3-4 defense looks to be featuring a ton of blitzing from the OLBs. The defense puts an emphasis on rushing the passer from the edge, meaning that the scheme is suited to Carter's style. Unlike in San Francisco, Carter won't have a whole lot of responsibilities in coverage when he's lined up at OLB.

Even if he finds himself backing up Alexander, Carter will be on the field much more than a normal reserve. That would make sense for a guy who has 25.5 sacks over the past three years. Carter is a force rushing the passer, and Haslett knows this.

Haslett differs from his predecessor Greg Blache in the fact that he has been tailoring his schemes to fit certain players.

Case in point: Haslett is teaching Albert Haynesworth the right defensive end position, a position in Haslett's scheme which allows for the "most freedom to maneuver." Haynesworth has been adamant that he plays his best football in a system that gives him the choice to improvise. Haslett wants that organized chaos on the field, which is why guys like Haynesworth and Carter will see plenty of snaps.

Blache would never adjust his scheme to his player's abilities, and we saw this first-hand with Haynesworth and LaRon Landry last year.

Haslett's flexibility will only benefit his players and keep them content in the locker room. Carter might not start, but being the consummate professional he is, I would be willing to bet that he gladly accepts a role that will play to his strengths while also keeping him fresh by splitting time with Alexander.

Last year was a frustrating one for a talented group of defenders. Blache stymied their growth with an uninspired defensive philosophy, and as a result we were treated to a year full of uninspired performances. This year the talent is still there, but with it comes a leader who will energize them with his creativity rather than prevent them from reaching their full potential.