March 6, 2011

Talking Clinton Portis On 106.7 The Fan

Scott Jackson and Mike Prada had me on to talk Clinton Portis this morning on 106.7 the Fan in DC. With Portis recently released it's the end of an era for the Redskins, but it's up for debate as to what his legacy meant to the team.

As I wrote earlier, I think Portis made the Redskins relevant again, but he never displayed the skills of the elite back he was in Denver. However, there was rarely a dull moment when Portis entered a room and his impact was often felt on and off the field for better or worse.

We discuss this and the future at running back for the Redskins. Is Ryan Torain the guy or will the front office target a new back in the draft or free agency?

Listen to the segment here and thanks to the guys for having me on.

February 28, 2011

With Clinton Portis On His Way Out, What Is His Legacy In Washington?

A column for SB Nation DC.

The DC sports landscape is often devoid of star power, but in 2004 the Washington Redskins landed one of the premier running backs of the past decade from the Denver Broncos. Seven years later, the Clinton Portis era has come to an end as the Redskins have cut ties with the high profile running back in an effort to jumpstart a youth movement.
Portis will leave Washington with the team mired in the same uncertainty present throughout his time here. The woeful state of the franchise diminishes his individual accomplishments, but it seems fitting the Redskins were as volatile as their star player during this emotional roller coaster of a relationship.
The enigmatic yet talented Portis flew to the top of the Washington sports scene during his tenure here. He brought a vibrant presence to the Redskins as an entertainer off the field, and as a warrior on it. There was little question he established himself as the face of the franchise during his stint with the Burgundy and Gold, and with his release on Monday, he leaves a legacy which will be heavily scrutinized in the coming weeks.
The most impressive aspect of Portis' time with the Redskins is his loyalty to Joe Gibbs. Gibbs expected Portis to change his running style and the young back bought into the new system regardless of his comfort level with it. He bulked up to prepare for the bruising role Gibbs wanted him to play and abandoned the one-cut mentality he had been taught in Denver. He wasn't a great fit for Gibbs' scheme, but rather than voice his displeasure at the situation, he adapted and rushed for over 1,000 yards in three of the four years he spent with the coaching legend.
He burst out of the gate with a 64-yard touchdown run on his first carry as a Redskin, led the team to playoff berths in 2005 and 2007 and departs as Washington's second leading all-time rusher behind the great John Riggins.
While Portis managed to succeed with Gibbs, it is easy to think about what could have been. Gibbs handed him the ball 695 times in his first two seasons with the Redskins. He was never quite the same afterwards. It's no secret that Portis refused to commit to a steady workout regimen during the offseason. Preparing for football in the weight room wasn't a priority and it hampered his production.
Neither Gibbs nor his predecessor Jim Zorn could ever convince him to come to training camp in tip-top condition and as the workload wore him down, Portis found his skills eroding. The extra weight cut into his speed and injuries forced him to think twice about seeking out contact.
However, when he was at the top of his game, there weren't many better. In 2005, he posted nine 100-yard games on the ground including five straight to end the season. The Redskins won their last five games that year and made the playoffs.
His most memorable season might have been 2007. Portis and the Redskins overcame the emotional toll taken on them by the murder of Sean Taylor, winning their last four games to surge into the postseason. Portis scored twice in a Week 17 elimination contest against the Cowboys, spurring a dramatic victory to clinch a trip to Seattle. After his second touchdown, he paid tribute to his friend by revealing a Sean Taylor t-shirt under his jersey. The image of Portis flipping into the end zone after breaking two tackles is one of the lasting memories created at FedEx Field.
The entire team fell apart after a 6-2 start under Zorn in 2008, and Portis was never the same after an incredible eight game stretch that year. By the time Mike Shanahan entered the scene to reunite with him, the back was already well into the twilight of his career.

February 25, 2011

Weekend Roundup: Combine 2011

It's that time of year again. We're already starved for football, so we tune into a weekend of guys sprinting 40 yards at a time and throwing up an inhuman amount of repetitions on bench press. And for some reason, it's entertaining.

Here's what I'm reading to keep up to date with all the latest comings and goings from Indianapolis.

Mike Jones has been doing a fantastic job as the new Redskins Insider. He has a great offering on spread QBs trying to make it in the NFL.

Who's been taken with the tenth overall selection in years past? Larry Weisman gives us some recent history about the pick.

The Redskins have a ton of needs so why force it and take a QB if Mike Shanahan isn't sold on any of the top prospects at the position? Rick Snider advises patience and I couldn't agree more.

Snider believes Gabbert won't fall to No. 10 and he isn't a Cam Newton fan. I'm of like mind in regards to Newton. Like Snider writes "there's just something about Newton that says pass."

I have watched a lot of Gabbert the past week and there's a lot to like. He has a great arm and a solid release. Still, he's unpolished and a spread QB. I'll be writing about him for SB Nation DC next week so stay tuned.

But back to the main point, the Redskins might be better off making a lower profile selection that fills one of the other many holes on the roster.

Rich Campbell addressed those holes specifically on the defensive front in his latest article. It's getting tougher to find 3-4 talent and the Redskins are picking in a tough position if they want a nose tackle or outside linebacker.

Another Rich, this one of the Tandler variety, had a good article on the youth movement that should be taking place in the next few seasons for Washington.

Rich and I have discussed this before and though I agree the Redskins need to get younger, I don't think it should be at the expense of every veteran player on the roster. There are a few who can still be productive while remaining affordable, but on the whole, it is time to inject some youth.

That's it for now. Grab your popcorn, sit back, and enjoy the combine. I'll be here this weekend providing you all with my thoughts on what's going down in Indy.

February 24, 2011

Redskins Roundtable: Offseason Musings Part Two

Here's round two. Part one can be read here.

3. Out of all the Redskins set to hit the free agent market, which one does Bruce Allen have to re-sign?

Pappas: Santana Moss (Editor's note: I was hoping for some elaboration, but seeing as I agree with Pappas and have argued this point ad naseum, I think you guys get it).

Murf: Jammal Brown, Santana Moss and Carlos Rogers are the three guys I feel the Redskins should make a strong push to bring back. Brown and Moss have said repeatedly that they want to be back in Washington, but Rogers looks like he's hoping for a big pay day. If the money is right though, I'd love for all of them to return.

Ed: Fortunately, the Redskins would not be hit hard if they lost every FA available on their roster. If they are to continue building off their six win season, retaining WR Santana Moss is essential. I wouldn't go beyond a three year deal with Moss, but they may prove to be difficult unless the Redskins can front-end the bulk of his salary in 2011 and 2012.

Rajan: He got a fair bit of criticism this season, but in my book, it's gotta be Tackle Jammal Brown.

When Brown is healthy, we're talking about a player who has been to the Pro Bowl twice in the past five years, and is versatile enough to play either left or right tackle. We have to remember that he was still recovering from surgery that he had on his hip. While his injuries did manage to heal (to some extent) as the season went on, it's impossible for anyone to fully recover from that injury, given the wear and tear they go through during the season.

Coming into 2011, Brown has a chance to finally start the season healthy. Pairing Brown with Trent Williams would give the Redskins Pro Bowl-caliber bookends on the offensive line for at least another half decade.

Keely: The ‘Skins cannot afford to lose their most reliable receiver, Santana Moss. Moss' accomplishments last season included a career-high 93 catches for a second best 1,115 yards. He placed 3rd in the league in receptions and 10th in total yards. Without his contributions, the team would have been in even worse shape.

4. What concerns you the most about the current state of the roster?

Pappas: A lack of talent across the board. At this point it is easier to list the areas where they don't need help - and that would be tight end.

Murf: Too old. Too slow. Too few playmakers on all sides of the ball.

But other than that, they're great.

Ed: The biggest concerns I have with the Redskins' roster heading into the 2011 season is age and Albert Haynesworth. Haynesworth needs to go. If they can't trade him, cut him.

It is my hope that the Redskins will let some of the aging veterans go and bring in faster, stronger, and hungrier players. There are too many players on the Redskins roster who play not to get hurt. Although that is the culture in today's NFL with no guaranteed contracts, there are younger players out there who don't have the big contracts that will sell-out for their big pay day.

New England has mastered managing players who start to show signs of playing only for the money. They ship them out quickly and bring in players looking for opportunity. Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan will turn things around, but it is a process and it won't happen overnight.

Rajan: Honestly, it's the severe lack of quality depth at so many key positions. I've been saying this all along: most people don't realize how unbelievably bare the cupboards were once Cerrato was dismissed and Allen & Shanahan came aboard.

I know it's cliche to say when it comes to the Redskins, but when you keep trading away multiple draft picks, year after year, for a single player, it eventually comes back to bite you. They're dangerously thin at running back, wide receiver, the interior of the offensive line, inside linebacker, cornerback (with Carlos Rogers and Phillip Buchanon being free agents), and free safety.

Redskins fans can cross their fingers that a "bigger name" prospect in the draft falls to Washington's selection at No. 10, but if they have an opportunity to trade back (ideally into the mid-to-late-teens) and pick up a second and/or third rounder, they have to do it. This team needs depth, youth, and speed - and lots of it.

Keely: Our wide receiver and quarterback situations give me most cause for concern. Despite the poor defensive performance last season, the Redskins have enough talented on defense to give them an opportunity to succeed. The offense, however, lacks a viable long-term candidate for quarterback.

After benching Donovan McNabb, the Redskins found themselves without a starting-caliber quarterback. Santana Moss, whose contract expired in February, had an excellent season, but has been the only consistent playmaker at wide receiver. Though Anthony Armstrong showed big-play potential and made considerable progress, his production was sporadic.

February 23, 2011

Redskins Roundtable: Offseason Musings Part One

Coverage of the Redskins is in no short supply on the Internet. Various media outlets and blogs do a fantastic job breaking down all the comings and goings involving this team and without them I honestly wouldn't be able to keep in the loop.

I've been writing this blog for a a few years and this offseason, I felt it would be a good idea to bring in some fresh perspectives to the site. So I reached out to a few of my fellow writers and set up the first Redskins Roundtable on 'Skins Talk.

This will be an occasional feature in which four or five extra voices will address some of the big issues facing the Redskins at that particular time. This time around we examine the draft, free agency, Donovan McNabb, and the culture change Mike Shanahan is bringing about.

The Players:

John Pappas-Pappas is the host of Skinscast and a contributor to Hail! Magazine among other endeavors. Shaun Suisham and Graham Gano are his all-time favorite Redskins and he's pulling for Shanahan to draft Alex Henery in the first round.

Brian Murphy-Murf goes by the name Homer McFanboy and is the Editor-in-Chief of Hail! Magazine. He's another member of Skinscast and has been covering Washington area sports for...well, a very long time.

Ed Sheahin-Ed is one of the nicest guys in the business. He covered the Redskins for CBS Sports in 2009 and is now writing for Sports Fan Live.

Rajan Nanavati-Rajan is the Editor at Redskins Gab and is a Virginia Tech alumnus. So he's alright in my book.

Keely Diven-Keely is a contributor at Redskins Gab and provides the female voice for our Roundtable. If you haven't checked out Redskins Gab be sure to do so. They churn out quality content daily.

That's the lineup for this inaugural edition of the Redskins Roundtable. We're breaking this first one into two parts. Enjoy!

February 22, 2011

What's the Deal With St. Patrick's Day Merchandise?

I like holidays. I'm a huge fan of gifts and eating and drinking. But what I don't like is the marketing done by sports franchises on St. Patrick's Day.

The Redskins sent out an email today, advertising their St. Patty's Day apparel.

Funny but the Redskins don't have green in their color scheme and Washington DC isn't Boston, Buffalo, or Chicago. The Nation's Capital has zero ties to Ireland and quite frankly I can't remember the last time I saw a shamrock growing on Constitution and Seventh.

The Redskins aren't alone in this. It's a league-wide gimmick designed to sell more memorabilia and jerseys, but when the NFL is trying to sell Dolphins fans this, I think we can safely say St. Patrick's Day themed merchandise is a complete joke.

Here's a peek at what the Redskins are offering:

That's the best they could do? A generic three leaf clover with a Redskins logo thrown in at the top. Honestly, I wouldn't have even noticed it was a Redskins T-shirt if I had seen it in person The hat isn't fitted so that's a no-go as well. Maybe I'll just roll with these.

I would be a little less annoyed if the NFL came up with an energized marketing campaign for this holiday, but green T-shirts and Pilsner glasses display an halfhearted attempt to sell a few extra products to markets that possess no roots in Irish heritage.

February 21, 2011

Have The Redskins Learned How To Be Smart In Free Agency?

It was only a matter of time before the Redskins figured out free agency. After all, they've had since 1993 to master the art.

If the developing OJ Atogwe story is an indication of how savvy Bruce Allen can be, then I'm sold. Allen wasn't aware Atogwe would be cut a year after signing another contract with the Rams, but the simple fact that he passed on the free safety when the asking price was too high speaks volumes to a cautious approach in free agency.

In 2010, the Rams let Atogwe test the free agent market for three weeks in June after declining to sign him to a one-year tender. However, he chose to sign a five-year, $31.6 million deal with St. Louis after talking with several other teams. The contract promised him an $8 million roster bonus this offseason, prompting the Rams to part ways with him last week.

Last offseason, Mike Shanahan deflected questions from reporters trying to gauge his interest in Atogwe before the latter signed with the Rams.

"We're always interested in upgrading our football team, and if it helped us with the right situation and the price was right, and somebody is available, we're always going to look into it," he said. "We do have some depth at certain positions and we've got some pretty good players at certain positions. You've got to take a look at the value of the player, how much money, draft choices. There's so many factors involved. We'll do what we can to help our football team improve, but look at the economics as well as the strength of the position."

We'll never know for sure if the Redskins took a look at Atogwe in 2010, but the point is they passed on an expensive free agent and now have the opportunity to sign him to a more cost-effective deal. Call it patience; call it good fortune; I don't care. The days of rabid spending are over.

Bruce Allen wasn't hired to make football decisions so much as he was brought in to adopt a policy of fiscal responsibility in the front office. He's a numbers guy and thus far, he's avoided any huge financial commitments to underachieving, aging players.

He will probably back out of the Donovan McNabb deal and the higher profile signings of Willie Parker and Larry Johnson didn't take much from the coffers (Parker's deal had a max of $3.1 million and Johnson's base salary was a little over $1 million per year). The Redskins took a gamble on the pair of older running backs and though it backfired, there was little to no financial strain in signing them.

Unlike Johnson and Parker, Atogwe still has plenty left in the tank. He will be 30 in June, but a ballhawking free safety doesn't experience the same wear and tear a running back endures. Brian Dawkins was 30 in 2003 and that didn't stop him from making the Pro Bowl five more times. Darren Sharper has 18 interceptions in five seasons after turning 30 as well.

Atogwe also played for Jim Haslett when the current Redskins defensive coordinator was with the Rams from 2006-08 both as a defensive coordinator and an interim head coach in 2008. During those three seasons, Atogwe had 232 tackles 16 interceptions, and 11 forced fumbles under Haslett.

His release has generated some interest around the league and he met with Washington on Monday, paying a visit to what will likely be his most active suitor. The Redskins need a a free safety to complement LaRon Landry and Atogwe fits the bill.

Speaking of bills, Allen lived up to his reputation and saved Washington a pile of them because he knows good things come to those who wait. Atogwe might not end up a Redskin, but Allen's restraint in this situation is a display of what solid decision-making can do.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Atogwe actually arrived Monday night per Mike Jones and is visiting with the team today.

February 16, 2011

Terrence Austin on Santana Moss: "I Would Love To See Him Back"

Terrence Austin happens to be a favorite on this blog and I was able to catch up with him last week for a great chat as he talked about his rookie year, life on the practice squad, his first catch, and the offseason.

However, he also touched on Santana Moss and the latter's potential departure from the Redskins. Moss is a free agent this offseason and Austin made no bones about the fact he wants him around in 2011.

"I would love to see him back and that's one thing I hope they can work out," he said. "I'm a little biased because he's been my favorite receiver since he got to [the University of] Miami."

Losing Moss from a production standpoint might be costly. He had a career-high 93 receptions last season and was one of the few bright spots on an anemic offense. He is an older player, but some reports indicate that he might take a shorter deal, which would be more conducive to the Redskins overall plans both financially and on the field.

Not only is Moss an asset on gameday, but Austin also revealed that he was instrumental in his development last season.

"It was an honor to get here and actually learn from him and I don't feel like I've soaked up all that I need to get from him," he told me. "You know, he has a lot of knowledge and a lot of stuff that he can show any young receiver coming into the league and I just don't want to lose him. I think he's definitely a big help to our program and hopefully we can reel him back in. I really hope so."

It's hard to find a player as committed to Washington as Moss is. He has played through injuries, led the receiving corps since 2005 and has displayed incredible professionalism during his entire career with the Redskins.

Hearing Austin speak about him with such respect, it's clear his impact stretches far beyond his own performance. He has been extremely supportive of the younger, more inexperienced receivers on the team and that selfless approach isn't often a common trait among talented wide outs.

The Redskins shouldn't hamstring themselves with a hefty, long-term contract for a receiver who is 31, but a two or three-year deal makes sense if Moss is willing to sign one. He can still be a threat while providing a guiding hand to players like Austin.

"I'm going to try to do whatever I can to try and help get him back if I can do anything," he said. "I love that guy. He was like a big brother to me the whole season."

February 14, 2011

Albert Haynesworth Is At It Again

This is just getting comical. Hours after turning himself in for a misdemeanor assault charge on Saturday, Albert Haynesworth was accused of sexually abusing a waitress early Sunday morning. Controversy is his forte and over the weekend he managed to stir up two breaking news stories in record time even by his lofty standards.

Haynesworth allegedly got a bit carried away after slipping his credit card in a waitress' shirt pocket as he lingered to cop a feel. While that wasn't a surprise, I was shocked to hear a burly defensive lineman with $41 million guaranteed doesn't roll with straight cash.

I've lost count of the pending lawsuits and law-breaking incidents this guy has been involved in, but it has to be more than the 6.5 sacks he contributed on the field in two season with the Redskins.

One thing's for sure. He's consistently the biggest headache on the roster and it's getting to the point where you have to wonder if he is simply trying to force his release rather than wait for a trade. Given that his value is hovering around the zero mark, Washington may as well accommodate him before any other negative stories break this offseason.

Character Counts In Redskins Rebuild Effort

A column for SB Nation DC.

It has been said that drama finds the Washington Redskins. Dan Snyder is suing a newspaper, Albert Haynesworth is suffering from the ill effects of road rage, and even in an offseason devoid of free agency, the Redskins have taken center stage. Without a doubt, drama is the key word-but let's be honest-they bring it upon themselves.

The Redskins modus operandi has been to lure fans back to FedEx Field year after year with marquee names, promising they will be the ones to restore success to a woebegone organization. Each splash brings a rush of excitement which comes crashing down by midseason amidst the realization that mediocrity reigns supreme. The results of this cavalier approach have been disastrous as Washington has never made it beyond the divisional round of the playoffs since Joe Gibbs' first retirement.

We could argue for the entire offseason about what ails this team. There's no shortage of ideas on what the Redskins must do to win on the football field and succeed beyond the annual offseason spoils. Fortify the trenches, build through the draft, snag that elusive franchise quarterback, implement a system with staying power; all of these philosophies possess their merits and you can find supporters for just about any theory under the sun. Analysis comes from just about everywhere these days and I'm sure I've heard about 100 different formulas on what it takes to become a winning franchise.

But in football there isn't any one way to win. The Redskins of old had a tremendous offensive line. This season, the Packers didn't. The Patriots and Colts have based a decade of winning upon the draft and it didn't hurt that they bagged franchise quarterbacks along the way. Meanwhile the Ravens and Buccaneers got by with solid, dependable veterans under center. The Rams made their mark on offense while the '85 Bears won with defense. Terrell Davis carried Denver to the Super Bowl in '97, but the Steelers weren't riding their 23rd-ranked rushing offense to a berth in Glendale.

The point is that there isn't any one thing which these championship-winning teams had in common aside from the actual accomplishment of winning a championship. Title runs come in all shapes and sizes; they aren't limited to one breed of team. The current state of the NFL is a testament to this. A commitment to a particular brand of football is important but innovation and flexibility within such a system are just as crucial.

However, on-field excellence isn't what I'm getting at. The other side of the blueprint to success is more clear cut and less debatable. A high level of character is essential to providing a stable locker room where ego is downplayed and vocal leadership maintains order. A delicate balance is necessary to affirm such stability exists year in and year out. And at this juncture, the Redskins haven't learned to embrace a culture that fosters such a balance.

Click here for the full article.

February 8, 2011

Redskins Would Be Wise To Re-Sign Santana Moss

It isn't news that Santana Moss' contract expires this offseason. The Redskins top receiver addressed this issue several months ago at the end of the season and made it clear he wants to remain in Washington.

"I don't feel like leaving is going to help me win games somewhere else," Moss told Redskins Blogger Matt Terl. "I feel that, you know, somewhere that you are comfortable with, that you feel like you can play, and your family can live and, you know, you can raise your family and live comfortably, and play a great game, and play at a high level. You know, why leave? So that's why I feel the way I feel."

Moss said this in December just weeks after a heartfelt outburst in the locker room following a 17-16 loss to Tampa in which he had scored the potential game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter only to see the extra point botched.

"Man it just hurts," said Moss who was nearly in tears. "There ain't a whole lot to say about it. When you are going through it year after year, it just builds up man. It hurts. I don’t have words for it. I just feel we work too hard to come out here and be mediocre on Sundays."

For anyone in the locker room that day, the emotional scene wasn't a me-first breakdown a la Terrell Owens. Moss is a team-oriented guy who has pushed all his chips in with the Redskins organization and he's proven that with the effort he's put forth since his arrival. He wants to win and has made it clear he wants to win here.

The Redskins haven't been particularly successful during Moss' time here, but he hasn't let it affect his personal performance. Since coming to Washington in 2005, the 10-year pro has been the top option on the receiving corps, catching 70+ passes four times and going over 1,000 yards on three occasions.

Age hasn't been a factor yet as Moss embraced more of a possession receiver role in Kyle Shanahan's offense this past season and caught a career high 93 passes at the age of 31. He spent time in the slot this year and it seemed to keep him fresher than in seasons past.

The University of Miami product has been a warrior throughout his career, battling through a plethora of lower body ailments that come with playing the receiver position. He has missed just four games in six years with the Redskins and though his gamebreaking skills have diminished, he is still a valuable asset on a team devoid of elite receiving talents.

The general consensus heading into the offseason seemed to be that Moss wanted to stay and the Redskins would likely try and re-sign him. Without him, the Redskins top receiver would be Anthony Armstong who emerged as a solid deep threat and number two wideout, but really doesn't have the make up to be the top WR.

However, a report surfaced on Sunday from Jason La Canfora, indicating Washington would not offer an extension to their best receiver.

Hold the phone here. I don't believe for a minute the 'Skins would let Moss walk without at least conducting some sort of discussion with him. Moss has indicated that he wants to play here and considering the lack of proven talent on the depth chart at receiver, Shanahan would be foolish not to pursue him.

Some people have taken La Canfora's report as gospel truth and while Bruce Allen may embrace a more fiscally responsible approach to managing player personnel than his predecessor, I would find it shocking and borderline negligent if he completely ignored Moss this offseason.

I'm aware the team should be in rebuild mode, but with all the holes on this roster, letting a highly productive veteran like Moss go would only add to the problems rather than contribute to the solution. Moss is a leader, a focal point offensively, and Washington has no one to take over his role should they choose to let him go.

Granted he might demand a long-term deal the Redskins deem risky given his age. He might even ask for more money than Allen is willing to part with. But ultimately the organization will be sorry if they don't sit down and attempt to reach an agreement with a guy who said it "felt like it was meant for me to be here" in the Nation's Capital.

February 1, 2011

Albert Haynesworth Voted One Of The Most Disliked Figures In Sports

Albert Haynesworth isn't just hated in Washington. Apparently, the negative feelings towards the surly defensive tackle resound around the nation.

Fat Albert came to DC amid much fanfare. He'll be lucky if he leaves without being tarred and feathered by a contingent of burgundy and gold clad season ticket holders. In his wake he leaves a legacy of failed wind sprints, belly flops, some failed business ventures, and a general nonchalance in regards to life.

He'll also carry with him the distinction of being the seventh most hated figure in sports. featured Haynesworth in a slideshow of the top ten most hated figures in sports today. He landed in between St Louis Cardinals home run king Mark McGwire who was number eight and Cincinnati Bengals prima donna wide receiver Terrell Owens at number six.

I knew Al wasn't popular in the area, but I thought the national storylines from the season were long blown over. After all, he didn't play the final four games of the season after Mike Shanahan suspended him for what he described as "simply existing" conduct detrimental to the team. I believed that would have given him time to move out of the spotlight and make way for the Lebron Jameses of the world.

However, James was absent from the list and the Nielsen poll had 46% percent of the voters hating on Washington's $100 million man.

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis won the top spot with 68% dislike. Michael Vick's impressive year couldn't absolve him of past crimes as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback came in at number two with 56%. Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was number three while Tiger Woods and Manny Ramirez rounded out the top five.

The Redskins are looking to part ways with Haynesworth and will likely look for a trade partner willing to surrender a mid-round draft pick in exchange for the mercurial defensive lineman's services. When motivated, he can still be a dominant player and there has been speculation he could end up with either the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles, or his former team, the Tennessee Titans.

Haynesworth played under Lions' coach Jim Schwartz when the latter was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee. Current Eagles defensive line coach Jim Washburn coached him in Tennessee and though Jeff Fisher was recently given the boot by owner Bud Adams, Haynesworth hasn't seemed opposed to returning to the Titans.

January 31, 2011

2011 Pro Bowl: Hall, Orakpo, Fletcher Shine Bright

A column for SB Nation DC.
Glorified flag football game or not, the Washington Redskins ended their season on a positive note. It wasn't the ideal time to shine, but DeAngelo HallLondon Fletcher and Brian Orakpo silenced the critics who believed them ill-suited to play in the 2011 Pro Bowl at Honolulu Stadium on Sunday.
The voting process may be a farce, and the Redskins may have been undeserving of having three players participate (two made it as alternates for crying out loud), but trio made the most of their appearance, combining for 19 tackles, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown as the NFC romped to a 55-41 victory over the AFC.
Fletcher made it to his second straight Pro Bowl, replacing Brian Urlacher after he suffered an injury in the NFC Championship game. Until last season, Fletcher had never made the Pro Bowl despite being one of the top middle linebackers in the league. He brings stability, a vocal presence and other intangibles into the locker room that can‘t be measured by simply watching him play. He has played in 208 consecutive games, making 167 straight starts, more than any other linebacker in the NFL. If there's anyone more deserving of a trip to Hawaii, I can't think of him.
Fletcher, one of the leaders in the Redskins locker room, helped new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett begin Washington's transformation to a 3-4 unit. They finished second to last in the league in total defense, but Fletcher managed 136 tackles in another strong season for the ageless wonder.
He only added to his tackling prowess on Sunday, notching six stops and recording an interception. Strangely enough, he had just two picks in his previous three seasons. It is a travesty Fletcher has never been selected outright as a Pro Bowler, but given his performance in the NFC's domination of the AFC, he didn't seem to mind playing as an alternate.
Orakpo's spot on the NFC squad came at the expense of Clay Matthews. Green Bay's star pass rusher is obviously happier to be playing in the upcoming Super Bowl, but Orakpo can't be too upset over playing in two Pro Bowls during his first two years in the league. He led the NFC with seven tackles and also took an entertaining fishing trip with Calvin Johnson and Darrelle Revis.
Expectations for Orakpo to make the list as an alternate were few since his second half performance was so poor. The move to full-time outside linebacker was a rocky one as he struggled to stop the run and was inconsistent in pass coverage. Even his sack totals tailed off in the second half of the season. Seven of his 8.5 sacks came in the first eight games of the year, and somehow he managed to ride the early wave of fan votes to be named an alternate.
While Orakpo and Fletcher both had good games, it was Hall who stole the show. The one Redskin who was actually elected to the Pro Bowl, Hall stood out with six tackles, an interception, and a beautiful play where he stripped Patriots' receiver Wes Welker of the ball, recovered it, and ran it back 34 yards for a touchdown to give the NFC a commanding 28-0 lead in the second quarter.
Hall's playmaking abilities were the reason he was invited to the Pro Bowl in the first place. He scored two touchdowns this season, both of which essentially won the Redskins a pair of games and his four interceptions of Jay Cutler tied an NFL record for most picks in a single game. Shockingly, all four came in the second half of that contest.
However, a look past Hall's interceptions revealed a corner who gave up the second most yards in the NFL only ahead of maligned Cowboys' CB Mike Jenkins. His measurables didn't add up to an All-Star worthy season, but perhaps a previous pair of Pro Bowl trips and a penchant for running his mouth helped land him in Honolulu. After all, Hall did make big news when he told reporters the Redskins were "his team" following a 30-27 loss to Houston in which Matt Schaub torched Washington's secondary for 497 yards.

January 28, 2011

More On Cam Newton And Drafting A Quarterback In The First Round

I know I've beaten the quarterback situation to death, but Jason Reid of the Washington Post was on 106.7 the Fan with LaVar and Dukes and he had some great insight on the rumors of Cam Newton going to the Redskins in the first round.

"As far as Cam Newton; you mention the word project. [He's] clearly a bigtime athlete, but in that offense he runs, it's one read and then run," Reid told Chad Dukes on Thursday afternoon. "He's not playing in a pro style offense and after this Donovan McNabb situation was such a colossal, spectacular failure, they can't take a project."

Mike Wise said the same thing last week and I completely agree. The last thing the Redskins need is another project. Newton may be the guy Shanahan covets, but I don't see him being a great passer and he has serious character flaws to boot. He has never particular impressed me with his accuracy and I doubt his ability to grasp an offense that requires multiple reads, option routes, and the like. He's a great athlete, but the quarterback position requires precision, rock solid decision-making, and an awareness of what opposing defenses are throwing at him. Athletic prowess is nice, but it doesn't guarantee those other things which make a quarterback successful.

Does anyone associated with the organization want to wait around for Newton to develop, knowing there's a good chance he may never transition smoothly to the NFL? Every draft pick is a calculated gamble, but Newton is even more so given the hype surrounding him. It would be wise for the franchise to avoid the excess scrutiny that comes with drafting him and settle for another need.

Which is exactly what Reid continues on to say.

"They are going to take a quarterback somewhere in the draft," he said. "They put themselves in a position unfortunately where they have to now take a quarterback somewhere in this draft. I personally am not convinced it will be with the tenth overall pick ... Based on people I've talked with who I trust, I don't think there's a quarterback worthy who will be available at that pick and when a team has as many major holes as they have on both sides of the ball, I don't think you can take a project with the tenth overall pick."

Reid also addressed the recent trend of mock drafts predicting the Redskins will select Newton. With the draft still in the distant future, he stated all of those rumors could be conjured up to distract the rest of the league from the players Washington is truly intrigued by.

"I think a lot of what's going on right now is a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of misdirection stuff, said Reid. "They don't have to make any decisions yet. We're months away from the draft. I would be shocked if they took Cam Newton."

Obviously Mel Kiper is a sharp evaluator of talent. He's been watching these prospects all season and not many possess the knowledge he has when grading these players. But no one can better predict what a team wants or needs than the beat reporters who cover them each and every day. I'll hang on every word of Kiper's analysis, but pass on his mock drafts. That being said, I'm glad my thoughts run parallel to the local reporter (who's now a columnist) rather than a national talking head.

January 27, 2011

Redskins Roundup: Carson Palmer, Senior Bowl, And More

Grant Paulsen takes a look at the Carson Palmer to the Redskins rumors. I'm of like mind. Palmer is a turnover prone quarterback whose best days left town after Kimo von Oelhoffen ran into his knee. He struggles mightily with his accuracy at times and he hasn't sustained much consistent success in Cincinnati.

Obviously all of that can't blamed on him. The Bengals have had their share of injuries and distractions, but Palmer turned the ball over 23 times last year and has experienced two major injuries (elbow and knee) in his career. Plus, is he mobile enough to fit Mike Shanahan's offense?

With the Redskins trying to get younger, how does acquiring a 31-year old quarterback aid that attempt? Consider also the fact that the Bengals will likely demand draft picks. The whole thing would be a big mistake.

Bold Prediction: Rex Grossman will be the short-term starter until the Redskins have their franchise QB in place. Some people have already mentioned this, but think about it. If the Redskins roll with Rex it means they are admitting this upcoming year is a transitional one. When has that ever happened?

I have begun a miniseries over at SB Nation DC focusing on prospects in the upcoming NFL draft. First up, Von Miller.

The Senior Bowl is this week. Here's an assortment of info and nuggets from TBD, Redskins Insider, National Football Post, National Football Post, Redskins Insider, Matt Bowen.

As for me, I'm not a wealth of knowledge on what goes on in Mobile, but I'm most interested to watch Alabama QB Greg McElroy. I think he could be a real sleeper and a solid late round pick. Whenever I watched him in college he had poise and was efficient while running an offense similar to some NFL systems. Here's a nice piece on how polished the kid is both on and off the field.

I don't think much of the top ranked QBs in the draft and if Shanahan doesn't either, then he should pass on the position in the first round. Too many needs for Washington to take a QB for the sake of taking one.

Rich Tandler has a great piece on the Redskins in their quest to get younger. A really interesting read which focuses on how the average age of the team can be lowered.

And another from Tandler grading the Redskins draft from 2006. By my judgement it's an incredibly poor class. Props to Rich as he's been on the ball with some great stuff this entire month.

Finally, Cam Newton isn't at the Senior Bowl, but he might as well be given all the buzz. John Keim talked to Mel Kiper and got the ESPN draft guru's thoughts on the controversial, yet immensely talented QB. If you didn't know, Kiper and many others are projecting the Redskins to scoop Newton up with the tenth pick.

January 21, 2011

Crunching Numbers: Season Ending Stats (Defense)

Last week, I had a Crunching Numbers piece focusing on the Redskins offensive performance in 2010. Now for your reading pleasure, I'll take a look at the defensive side of the ball, digging up some nuggets on what was a very disappointing first year in Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense.

The Redskins have long had trouble getting to the quarterback, but after last season when they finished tied for eighth in the NFL with 40 sacks, expectations were that it would be more of the same in 2010. Brian Orakpo was entering his second year and the 3-4 defense would give opposing offenses exotic looks to further complicate matters. However, the personnel on defense was lacking from the start and Orakpo struggled as a pass rusher for much of the second half of the year. The Redskins ended up with 29 sacks dropping them to 25th in the NFL.

Ironically, the Cleveland Browns also had 40 sacks in 2009 and then 29 in 2010. Neither team won more than six games either year.

The worst part was that over the final eight games, the Redskins had just 11 sacks. They hardly applied pressure on quarterbacks, giving them plenty of time to pick apart 31st ranked secondary in the league.

Just how ugly are the Redskins sack totals? Let's take a look:

2010: 29 sacks (25th in the NFL)
2009: 40 sacks (8th in the NFL)
2008: 24 sacks (28th in the NFL)
2007: 33 sacks (16th in the NFL)
2006: 19 sacks (32nd in the NFL)
2005: 35 sacks (20th in the NFL)

One year in the top ten and that's with the Redskins signing Cornelius Griffin, Albert Haynesworth, and Andre Carter to big contracts. They also had pass rush guru Gregg Williams coaching in 2005 and 2006, traded for Jason Taylor, and drafted Orakpo in 2009. All of that effort and the Redskins have had one season where they finished in the top ten in sacks since 2005.

A good pass rush cures a lot of ills, but so does a solid defensive line. The Redskins didn't have one in 2010 as they were consistently pushed around and beaten off the ball. The defensive line recorded 11.5 sacks as a unit and gave up 4.6 yards per carry. The run defense gave up 2,041 yards rushing; seventh most in the NFL and a big reason for that was the lack of a good nose tackle to keep blockers away from the linebackers.

The most interesting part about the huge totals? Opponents ran the ball 444 times against Washington. 11 other teams were run on more, but six of those teams allowed fewer yards than the Redskins.

The defensive line does have some pieces. Adam Carriker was playing very well by then end of the season. He was very disciplined in holding his gaps and by the end of the year, it was apparent he was accustomed to his role. He had 10 tackles and a sack in the final two games of the year.

Vonnie Holliday and Phillip Daniels are both older players, but each contributed. Daniels was valuable on the goal line while Holliday impressed in a pair of late season starts. He had 14 tackles and a sack in his final three games.

Holliday and Carriker are two guys you want to see back next year, but the Redskins should look long and hard at Wisconsin's JJ Watt, a 6-6, 292-pound DE who is projected to go in the first 15 picks of this year's NFL draft. They need a younger presence on the defensive line and Watt fits the mold of a 3-4 DE.

DeAngelo Hall has been a controversial selection in this year's one-again meaningless edition of the Pro Bowl. Hall is a playmaking corner who likes to gamble and his stats only further cement this fact. He had six interceptions on the season, including his four interception performance of Jay Cutler. He also had two defensive touchdowns, which proved to be the difference in two Redskin victories.

Yeah, yeah you know this. Here's the other side of the story which you may not know.

Pro Football Focus dished out this Hall-related information on Twitter the other day. Needless to say it isn't pretty. Hall gave up 420 YAC and 965 total yards receiving. Only Dallas CB Mike Jenkins gave up more yardage than Hall.

One final note on Hall is that his tackling was remarkably improved for the most part and he also forced two fumbles. Overall, he's a high-risk, high-reward player who tends to get exposed when the front seven can't apply pressure. He's not a shutdown CB, but he is an adequate number two.

Creating turnovers was the mantra around Redskins Park during training camp and the offseason. Haslett wanted to see more takeaways defensively especially given the varied looks he was concocting in the 3-4.

For the first half of the season, Washington had 19 takeaways. They had 17 in all of 2009. The turnovers were hugely vital in masking the defense's penchant for giving up more yards than 30 other teams in the league over the first eight games of the year.

Unfortunately, the defense retained its grip on the 31st overall ranking through the second half and the turnovers dried up. Washington managed eight of them and the defense's one support was knocked out from under them.

The absence of LaRon Landry was a key reason the defense worsened as the early front runner for the NFL's defensive player of the year missed the final seven games due to injury. Landry not only accounted for 85 tackles, eight passes defensed, one interception, and a forced fumble, he also brought a swagger to the defense, which it has lacked in previous years.

Had Landry kept up his pace, he would have had 151 tackles on the year. That's an enormous amount for a safety and would have tied him for the third most in the NFL. His role playing closer to the line of scrimmage was one of the best moves made by Haslett and the new coaching staff.

January 20, 2011

Kevin Barnes Is On The Rise In The Redskins Secondary

Kevin Barnes hasn't had much of a chance to display his talents on a football field since being drafted by the Redskins in the third round of the 2009 NFL draft. The 24-year old defensive back played in four games his rookie year and until week 10 of this past season he had played in just three.

However, injuries to a plethora of defensive backs left the door open for the ex-Terp to play in the final seven games of 2010, including a pair of starts against Jacksonville and New York.

Finally given the opportunity to shine, Barnes didn't disappoint.

A cornerback by trade, Barnes lined up at strong safety for much of the final two contests and arguably distinguished himself more than any other player during Mike Shanahan's three week evaluation process. He intercepted Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard in overtime in week 16, setting Graham Gano's game-winning field goal and was the most aggressive defender on the field in the season finale against New York.

"I play behind three great corners [with] first-round pedigrees," Barnes told me after the Giants game. "So a young guy like me came in last year; [it wasn't that they] didn't really expect much from me, I think it was more so they wanted to give me time to develop and fortunately they saw an opportunity to slide me in there at safety and I made the most of it."

Barnes notched four tackles and broke up three passes against the Giants, leaving everyone believing he will be back to play a role next season. It's difficult for a corner to fill in at safety on the fly, but he did just that thanks to a work ethic that is widely praised in the locker room. But for Barnes, it's simply business as usual.

"At the end of the day it's football so I mean regardless of me playing corner or safety you have got to go out there and do what your assignment is and fortunately in the offseason I made an effort to learn as much of the defense as possible so making the transition to safety wasn't that hard," he said.

He certainly grew more comfortable because as the repetitions built up, so did his confidence.

"There was a couple plays [earlier in the season] where I could have got a piece of the tackle but I didn't," said Barnes. "Coach [Haslett] pointed it out during meetings [before the Giants game] and every time I had a chance I threw my body in there."

Against the Giants, Barnes found himself staring directly at an oncoming Eli Manning. Manning was scrambling out of the pocket in an effort to reach the the first down marker and for Barnes, it was a prime chance to once again show the world his hitstick ability.

However, the NFL's emphasis on limiting defender contact with the quarterback caused him to think twice before lowering his helmet and unleashing an all-out, bone jarring tackle. The half second of indecision was enough to ruin a highlight reel hit. Barnes didn't induce a Jahvid Best-like upheaval of Manning's insides, but he did make the stop and get a decent lick on the quarterback.

"I was expecting him to slide, that's why I didn't hit him as hard as I probably could have, but it was good," he said with a grin after the game. "I probably could have got a bigger hit, but I got him down."

Barnes is undoubtedly someone who knows a few things about big hits. He wrecked the aforementioned Best while the two were in college, and then fractured his shoulder while making a tackle against Wake Forest later that season. Fittingly, the receiver fumbled the ball.

Barnes has never been afraid to be physical so long as he can make an impact. "He's not permanently hurt, so I'm fine with that," he told the Washington Post following his shot on Best. "Had he died or something, I'd have felt bad, but he'll probably be playing next week."

After spending most of his time in the NFL on the pine his first two seasons, Barnes is a hungry player ready to prove he belongs in the Redskins' long-term plans. He proved it with a strong showing down the stretch and it became apparent he takes pride in being a versatile player who can succeed in every aspect of the game. With the possible departure of Carlos Rogers and with Washington looking to perhaps replace Kareem Moore at free safety, the future is bright for Kevin Barnes in the Redskin secondary.

January 17, 2011

An Interview with Ken Harvey: The 3-4 Defense, Brian Orakpo, Darrell Green And More

If you didn't catch the first part of my interview and subsequent column with former Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey, check them out. Harvey talked with me a few weeks ago about his campaign against teen drinking, his involvement in the community, the state of the Redskins franchise, and gave me his thoughts on Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense after watching it for a full season.

Here's the full transcript of the interview:

What do the Redskins need to do in order to reestablish a culture of winning?

"Looking back at it, you got to realize one it's going to take time to produce any type of winning team. If you look at the history of what they've done over the years is that every other year there's been a turnover, there's been somebody new, there's been something else. So what [Snyder] has to do is give a person time to establish a team.

"Two, what I think they are doing now is they're establishing an attitude that if you're going to come to the team this is what you're going to need to expect. As much as you know [Shanahan] may have been back and forth on the Haynesworth thing, every guy coming into camp next year knows he needs to come in shape because if not he's going to be either on the bench or embarrassed and without a team. So now you're going to have guys not taking it for granted that they got a job. They're going to come here and say 'I better come in in tip-top shape' which is only going to make the team better.

"The third thing is the hiring of a new GM. It's to say 'OK we need you to identify what exactly out needs are and address those needs. In the years past you look back and you say 'well they need an O-line'. And the issue hasn't been totally addressed and so here in the end result you have a quarterback who may have been a  good quarterback, but if you're getting hit in the face every time, then it's hard to do anything.

"So now you have to address the issues. I think probably the best thing is hopefully it works well together [so] that you got a GM who can address both issues and then you got a head coach who can try and establish the new attitude.

"The biggest portion of the future is to make sure that the GM and the head coach are on the same page. If that works out I think over time you'll start seeing, hopefully you'll start seeing some results based off what they are doing."

Brian Orakpo became the first Redskins since yourself to record back-to-back seasons of 7.5 sacks or more. Do you see him as a guy the Redskins can build their defense around?

"In a 3-4 this is the reality: It's hard to build on an outside linebacker. He'll be a playmaker, he can make things happen. But when you have a [3-4] defense that defense is going to be built around guys who you don't know really that much about. It's being built around a strong nose tackle who's going to take up two or three people so the quarterback can't step up in the pocket. It's going to be built upon good [middle] linebackers who are dropping in the right coverage so that it's making the quarterback hesitate a little bit longer and then you have outside 'backers who can get to the the quarterback.

"So a 3-4 I think is going to be built up on more of team. You have some stars on the team and I think Orakpo will definitely be a star, but the D-line is going to be a huge component of how successful that team can be."

As you pointed out, a good nose tackle is critical to success in the 3-4. Is that a position the Redskins will look to upgrade this season do you think?

"I think that they will. You need to get hungry guys. I'd rather take a bunch of guys who may not be the biggest and best but that want to be the biggest and best than to take a few guys who maybe are the biggest and best, but think that they are and then don't perform like it.

"With that said yeah [nose tackle] should be an issue, but the bigger issue is you've got to start [number] one: building for the future a little bit, and [number] two: getting some offensive linemen who are going to be hungry because I think if you get an offense that can start throwing out points, then it gives the defense time to rest.

"The defense will be in the second year of this new system so they will start understanding and getting the feel for what they [need to] do a little bit more. And they [can] adjust off of that.

How long will this defensive transition take?

"It will take until halfway into next year. I mean guys will work into it. But you're still seeing that some guys are playing out of position. You've got some defensive linemen now playing linebacker. That itself takes a year to adjust to.

"Let me give you a brief [explanation] as to why. As [a linebacker] rushing now all of a sudden you have to get in a two-point stance, your take off is a little bit different than you would normally do. Now you also have to [play off the ball] where you're used to getting in somebody's

"And then you have to worry about those guys with the receivers. Who knows what [they are] doing and how [they] have to play off against [them]. Then you have to learn how to communicate to the other guys around you so that they understand [whether or not] to pick up on your guy when he comes across your field in the zone or if you're playing man to man.

"All those little things go into making something that seems like the simplest adjustment not as simple. And so you need at least a year because you can understand it on paper but in the heat of the game when everyone is going 100 percent and you're trying to figure out do I drop here, do I drop there? That split second can be the big difference between a touchdown or maybe a tackle."

Switching gears for a moment, do you still interact with former teammates you played with on the Redskins?

"I didn't play with these guys but I talked to Art Monk, Monte Coleman. He's not here but I talk to him. [Also] Charles Mann I talk to him a lot. Darrell Green I talk to him some. I go to some of the Redskins Alumni functions and so I see some of the guys who have been around.

"But I get a chance to talk to some of the guys here and there. The guys that I played with; every once in a while I've talked to Marvcus Patton. He's still looks like he can play (laughs). "You see guys and you're like 'man he has a body that looks better than mine when I played.'

"Rich [Owens], he's in Miami now. So he'll see everybody and obviously Facebook is a great tool to hang out with people and talk to people."

How close have you grown to the people through your work in the community? Do you feel as if you have a special bond with them due to your outstanding service?

"Well I mean obviously there are gifts and blessings. Sometimes you have the time to do things and as a father now you realize how valued you spending maybe an hour [with somebody] can mean. Because when my boys, when they see who they've looked up to, it definitely wasn't just me as a player because kids see other players and they are all happy to get their autographs and if that person says 'hey kid, you need to do well in school,' you can see how it can make a difference in their life.

"So little simple things even doing stuff with the military; I may go someplace and just shaking hands with the military you're like 'well yeah I'm just an average guy. You guys are sacrificing for your country,' but you realize that they are as excited to meet you as you are to meet them. So I try to do some, but at the end of the day there's only so much time in the day and you've got to allocate your time and all that, but you know. To whom much is given, much is required so I try to do a little more than I have to."

Ken Harvey Outlines A Defensive Blueprint For The Redskins

A Column for SB Nation DC

Surveying the final stats for the Washington Redskins defense this year, it was a struggle to take many positives from the NFL's 31st ranked unit. After finishing in the top 10 in total defense for three consecutive seasons, the Redskins ranked near the bottom of the league in every statistical category, far from a distinguished first effort from defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
The defense initially masked their deficiencies by generating 18 sacks and 19 takeaways through the first half of the season. The second stanza was not so kind as they managed 11 sacks and a paltry eight turnovers while continuing to give up yards by the bushel basket. Brian Orakpo, perhaps the unit's brightest star, had 8.5 sacks on the year, but seven of those came in the first eight games. After an explosive start that left many believing he would be a defensive player of the year candidate, LaRon Landry missed the final seven games of the year with an Achilles injury.
Orakpo's drop-off in his second year as a pro is certainly a concern, as he has yet to blossom into the elite pass rusher Washington envisioned when they selected him in the first round in 2009. Obviously, he has plenty of time to bounce back from a miserable second half of 2010, but there are concerns about his compatibility in the 3-4 defense. He isn't strong against the run and wasn't nearly as effective as a pass rusher in a two-point stance than when he lined up as a defensive end in the 4-3.
I spoke with former Redskins standout linebacker Ken Harvey about Orakpo a few weeks ago. Would he be someone to build around defensively?
"In a 3-4 this is the reality: It's hard to build on an outside linebacker," Harvey said. "He'll be a playmaker, he can make things happen. But when you have a [3-4] defense, that defense is going to be built around guys who you don't know really that much about. It's being built around a strong nose tackle who's going to take up two or three people so the quarterback can't step up in the pocket. It's going to be built upon good [middle] linebackers who are dropping in the right coverage so that it's making the quarterback hesitate a little bit longer and then you have outside 'backers who can get to the quarterback.
"So a 3-4 I think is going to be built up on more of team," Harvey continued. "You have some stars on the team and I think Orakpo will definitely be a star, but the D-line is going to be a huge component of how successful that team can be."
I can stress enough how much I agree with this. The defensive line surrendered 2,041 yards rushing at 4.6 yards per carry while recording a measly 11.5 sacks. The lack of production up front made life miserable for the rest of the defense.
We saw firsthand how ineffective Haslett's unit was without a dominant nose tackle to absorb that extra lineman or to provide penetration up the middle. When Orakpo's speed rush did get to the quarterback he could simply step up in the pocket without having to worry about an interior pass rush. A top flight nose tackle will change the dynamic on defense and is the true cornerstone for success in this 3-4.
Harvey believes they Redskins will try to upgrade the nose tackle position since the position is, in his words, an "issue" He also emphasized the importance of acquiring highly motivated players rather than signing marquee talent to big contracts, leaving them with little incentive to produce.
"You need to get hungry guys," Harvey said. "I'd take a bunch of guys who may not be the biggest and best but that want to be the biggest and best [rather] than to take a few guys who maybe are the biggest and best, but think that they are and then don't perform like it."
The mentality of a football team is so important in factoring wins and losses. A cohesive locker room has been hard to find during these tumultuous times in D.C., but to attain one would drastically alter the atmosphere of a team still reeling from distractions courtesy of the Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb. However, the only way to achieve that level of commitment in the locker room is to fill it with extraordinary individuals blessed with character and passion.
One of the players who brings that approach to the squad for next year is Landry. He improved his tackling fundamentals and embraced his role at the line of scrimmage while rediscovering his playmaking abilities. The Redskins numbers dropped significantly without one of the toughest players in the NFL, a further testament to just how crucial he is to the team in the future.
But aside from Orakpo, Landry, and a few others, the Redskins' personnel for the 3-4 has been questioned and rightfully so. Rocky McIntosh and Lorenzo Alexander seem to be poor fits as linebackers in the scheme. London Fletcher isn't getting any younger, and the free safety position next to Landry is a liability with Kareem Moore as a starter. Also, there's the aforementioned woes along the defensive line.

Clicker here for the full story.