OK back to normal, non-self-congratulatory blogging.
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OK back to normal, non-self-congratulatory blogging.
Sent via Empower HTML Mail Viewer For BlackBerry
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile
A look at the final roster for the Washington Redskins tells me that Jim Zorn is hoping for the best but preparing for the worst when it comes to the team's offensive output in 2008.
Zorn and company kept 24 offensive players and 26 defenders. They kept five wide receivers when most thought it was certain that they would keep six, choosing instead to go with a sixth defensive end. And the luxury of having a fourth running back on the roster to stockpile some talent there was sacrificed in order to keep an extra defensive back around.
And, in reality, a number of offensive players either aren't ready to play or won't play if all goes as planned. Colt Brennan and Todd Collins go into the latter category while the likes of Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas, Chad Reinhardt, and Justin Geisinger fall under the designation of those who aren't playing at prime-time levels yet. That leaves just 18 players to man the 11 offensive positions.
On the other hand, most of the defensive players will be counted on to contribute, either in situations from scrimmage or on special teams.
Zorn, the offensive-minded head coach, the ex-quarterback, is being practical. Instead of collecting extra weapons for his side of the ball, he opted to give Greg Blache and Danny Smith a couple more tools with which to do their jobs.
It seems that Zorn knows that he has his work cut out for him in crafting this offense into a well-oiled machine. He knows that in order to stay in games while the offense is in on the job training mode he'll need a defense that can constantly rotate in fresh linemen to keep pressure on the other team's quarterback and that he'll need plenty of hands in the backfield to cover multiple-receiver sets.
The West Coast offense is supposed to replace a lot of running plays with short passes. I don't see Zorn doing that to the extent that, say, Andy Reid does in Philadelphia. While we won't see a Gibbs-like power running game, it's safe to say that Zorn will rely heavily on Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts to move the chains. Still, there will be a high number of three and outs and the defense has to be ready to take the field after only a short rest on frequent occasions.
In other situations such as this, many new head coaches would be uncomfortable going in with a relatively small number of players on the side of the ball that represents his specialty. It looks like Jim Zorn has checked his ego at the door and is dealing with the reality that his offense isn't likely to score points by the bucket in 2008.
I have a moderate issue with former Redskins punter Derrick Frost complaining that the Redskins cut him just because Durant Brooks was a draft pick. He told Jason LaCanfora of the Post:
"I feel like I was dealt with dishonestly. I want to thank Danny Smith for the three years he gave me here, and I feel like he always treated me well, and I will continue to think that. But I think we all know who made the decision, and when you've got a draft that isn't starting to look so good, you're going to do whatever you can to make it look as good as possible."
If you have to vent about losing your job and point fingers and blame everyone but yourself, that's fine. But complain to your wife, to your brother, to your best friend over a few brews at the local pub. Don't complain to a reporter.
Twenty-two players were released by the Redskins on Saturday. Several of them, such as Billy McMullen, Marcus Mason, Ryan Boschetti, and Matteral Richardson, had legitimate cases to pop off as well. But they chose not to, being smart enough not to burn bridges to one of 32 organizations that can give them the dream jobs coveted by many.
Despite all of that, I can cut Frost a little slack here. You're mad, your cell phone rings, it's a reporter. Or you pick up the phone, see that reporter's number in your address book and you hit the call button. The filter in between your brain and your mouth isn't there. You spout off, you hang up and that's that (well, except that you give another reporter the same stuff at a different time).
But that wasn't that as far as the Washington Post is concerned. Frost's words became the launching pad for a Mike Wise column that is nothing short of stupefying. Here's the lead:
If I'm Vinny Cerrato today, I really need Durant Brooks to be the next Ray Guy or Sean Landeta. Heck, I would settle for Dave Jennings. Because if Brooks, the rookie whom Cerrato surprisingly plucked in the sixth round of the NFL draft, 18 spots ahead of the now legendary Colt Brennan, doesn't at least approach numbers and performances better than his predecessor, well, Derrick Frost might turn out to be right.
When a column starts off like that, you know it's in trouble. The implication that Brooks has to be as good as Guy or Landeta or even Jennings to be better than Frost is ridiculous. He just needs to be as good as Chris Kluwe, Adam Podlesh, Daniel Sepulveda, or any of the 24 punters that finished ahead of Frost in net punting average in 2007.
Let's proceed to the nut of the article:
When every draft pick is held onto in the NFL, it normally means the franchise did its homework around draft time. But when the incumbent punter says he got fired because the GM is trying to make his draft-day résumé look better, well, that's a little extraordinary, right? To say nothing of keeping Justin Tryon, a defensive back outplayed by a number of others.
Let me get this straight here. All of a sudden Derrick Frost is the expert on all things Redskins, including the workings the front office? I must have missed all of those times when reporters and columnists flocked to Frost to get a real feel for the pulse of the team and for the direction of the organization.
Oh, wait, you mean he popped off and all of a sudden he's newsworthy?
The last throwaway line about Tryon is another gem. I think that the Redskins got exactly what the expected out of him when they drafted him. They knew he had good speed and suspect coverage skills. You can teach the coverage skills, you can't teach the speed. Keep him on the team as your fifth corner, work to hone is coverage skills, and see what you have in 2009.
The Redskins have been criticized over the years, and justifiably so, for slapping together a team for the here and now rather than building for the future. So this year, in late April, they identified 10 football players who they thought would help them win games in the future. Not necessarily in 2008, but in 2009 and beyond.
And now, in late August, the organization still believes in those players. Perhaps the team would be a little better in 2008 if they had kept Billy McMullen as a sixth receiver rather than Rob Jackson as a tenth defensive lineman or Frost instead of Brooks or even Stu Schweigert rather than Chris Horton.
But it's apparent that this roster was not built with 2008 as the sole focus. A team that has been accused, again with considerable justification, of shifting direction on a whim, sticks by its guns and sticks with its plan to start retooling for the future.
But Wise can't see that. He picks up one of Frost's rolling balls and runs with it.
This is going to be quick here as I'm on my way out the door to a wedding.
As I mentioned earlier, all 10 draft picks made the final roster. The only one I had not making it was Rob Jackson, but he started off strong in the Hall of Fame game and continued to impress. They wound up keeping 10 defensive linemen and 10 defensive backs.
There are those who will say that Durant Brooks made it because the Skins didn't want to waste a draft pick. I don't think so. For all its faults, this team isn't afraid to admit it made a mistake (see Archuleta and Lloyd). Brooks made it because there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between them and Brooks is five years younger, cheaper, and he'll be under contract for at least four years.
Todd Wade seemed to have it made at the start of camp as he represented the little bit of veteran tackle depth on the team. But Stephon Heyer played well enough to allow Zorn to show the injury-prone Wade the door.
Billy McMullen and Anthony Mix both got whacked as the Skins went with just five wide receivers. That's kind of surprising considering the condition of Malcolm Kelly's knees, but apparently they got a good prognosis.
McMullen and Marcus Mason both were victims of the decision to keep 20 D-linemen and D-backs.
The average 2008 Redskin is 28 years old, stands 6-2, weighs 251 and has 4.94 years of NFL experience. Nine of them are first-round draft picks and 13 were picked in the second. Another 13 came into the league as undrafted free agents.
If anything else interesting comes to mind, I'll post it later.
Here are the cuts, analysis to follow:
You're probably going to see "Polo Grounds" as the venue for this game and immediately your eyes will glaze over. But if you'll stick with it, you'll find a great story of a bunch of fans so geeked about their new team that droves of them got on a train and went to battle with them in New York City. From the pages of The Redskins From A to Z:
Polo Grounds--You often hear of a team invading a city for a road game, and it's usually hyperbole, but that's exactly what the Redskins did to New York in the first trip the Washington Redskins made to the Big Apple in 1937. Between ten and twelve thousand fans boarded trains at Union Station to make the trek to the Polo Grounds to watch the two teams battle for the Eastern Conference title on the last day of the regular season. A 150-piece marching band made the trek as well. On arrival, owner George Preston Marshall led an impromptu parade down Seventh Avenue to Columbus Circle. The fans were marching along in step, singing the national capital's new anthem, Hail to the Redskins.
Cliff Battles set the tone, leading the way on a grinding, 83-yard drive that he ended with a two-yard touchdown run. Later in the first, he galloped around left end for 75 yards to the Giants' five. Two plays later, Battles scored again and it was 14-0. A second-quarter drive started at midfield and ended when Max Krause scored on an up-the-middle run from five yards out.
A break got the Giants on the scoreboard as one of their passes bounced off of Erny Pinckert's hand and into the arms of the Giants' Ward Cuff, who scampered 45 yards for the Giants' first score. A second Giants touchdown a few minutes later tied it up and had the Redskins' and their traveling faithful worried. The Giants, after all, had allowed just 60 points all season.
But that didn't stop Sammy Baugh, Battles, and company. Ed Justice was wide open on a 48-yard TD pass and, early in the fourth quarter, got more breathing room when Wayne Milner blocked a Giants' punt and fell on the ball in the end zone to make it 35-14.
The Skins weren't done yet. Battles intercepted a long pass at the Washington 20, broke a couple of tackles, reversed his field twice, cut back and didn't stop until he ran out of gas and was caught from behind at the New York one. Riley Smith got the TD on the next play and, after Ray Flaherty emptied the bench, the Redskins scored once more on a Max Krause TD run of five yards. They were headed to Chicago to play the Bears for the NFL title
The Redskins' fans in the Polo Grounds stormed the field, tearing down the goal posts and reveling long after the final gun. Another gathering of 5,000 greeted the Redskins at Union Station when the trains arrived back in Washington.
Cuts are coming soon; here is my final stab at who will make the Washington Redskins final 53-man roster
Quarterback (3): Campbell, Collins, Brennan—This has been set for a while.
Running back (4): Portis, Betts, Cartwright, Mason—At his Friday press conference, Zorn was noncommittal about Mason making it so he's still on the bubble to an extent.
Wide receiver (6) Moss, Randle El, Thrash, Kelly, Thomas and McMullen—In June, if you'd told anyone that Billy McMullen would be on the final roster you would have been laughed at. Now, given the injuries to Kelly and Mix and the long learning curve of Thomas, McMullen is the #4 receiver. I don't see Kelly going on IR as some have speculated. One receiver is likely to be inactive on game day anyway so you might as well see if Kelly can heal and contribute later in the season.
Tight end (3): Cooley, Davis, Yoder
Fullback (1): Sellers
Offensive line (9): Samuels, Kendall, Rabach, Thomas, Jansen, Fabini, Heyer, Reinhardt, and Geisinger—In a change from my last prediction, I'm cutting Andrew Crummey and keeping Geisinger. I think he's shown that he's someone who can step right now as needed. Crummey can gain some seasoning on the practice squad.
Defensive line (9): Taylor, Carter, Griffin, Evans, James, Golston, Montgomery, Alexander, Wilson—I think that of all the players who were on their final chances last night, Wilson came through as well as any of them. Since there only are six linebackers worth keeping, they can add him as a ninth D-lineman.
Linebackers (6): Fletcher, Washington McIntosh, Blades, K. Campbell, Fincher—Fincher was very active last night and in my eyes he earned a roster spot.
Corners (5): Springs, Rogers, Smoot, Tryon, Torrence—I discussed the Tryon situation here. I'm still not buying that Richardson will beat him out. If there is concern here, a veteran waiver wire pickup is more likely to take Tryon's place than is Richardson.
Safeties (4): Landry, Doughty, Horton, and Moore—It's possible that Justin Hamilton will sneak on to the roster if they decide to cut or trade Mason or shelve Kelly.
Specialists (3): Albright, Brooks, Suisham—I have absolutely no conviction about Brooks making it as the punter. He didn't exactly blow Derrick Frost right out of the water and the word is that Suisham prefers Frost as his holder.
It has been pretty obvious to all who have watched the Washington Redskins this year that Jon Jansen has been struggling. It has been widely assumed, however, that Jansen would get some time in the regular season to work through his issues.
Maybe, maybe not, according to Jim Zorn.
The Redskins' head coach said today in his post-game presser that there is a "battle, a very close battle" between Jansen, who was known as "The Rock" before injuries put him out for the 2004 and almost all of the 2007 seasons, and second-year player Stephon Heyer for the starting right tackle job.
Although Zorn threw Jansen a bone saying that, in contrast to the aforementioned observations, Jansen has been "solid this preseason".
Heyer got praised as well, with Zorn saying that "helped himself last night. He shored things up for us," putting him in position to "compete for a position."
Should Heyer earn the starting job one would have to wonder if Jansen would even make the team. If you're going for youth, why not go all the way? Jansen signed a five-year, $23 million contract extension before the '07 season. Why keep an expensive 32-year-old veteran around when you could use his roster spot for a less-costly youngster?
The cost of cutting him would be high, but not prohibitively so. He has about $6 million in unallocated bonus money from 2009-2011. Subtract his scheduled '09 salary of about $1.3 million and you'd have a $4.7 million dead cap hit for 2009. Against a cap of about $120 million, that's certainly doable.
While it's possible, releasing Jansen may not be such a good idea. His 2008 salary is just $730,000 and considering that his potential replacement would also cost at least $300,000, resulting in a savings of just over $400K.
That's not pocket change but it doesn't seem to be enough of a difference to justify whacking a guy who knows the system and who would be invaluable as a reserve. Who knows, maybe if he rides the pine for the first time in his life for a while he'll come back with a fire lit under him.
Then again, it's possible that he's just lost it. That wouldn't be the first time that happened to a 32-year old. The entire line has to be replaced over the next few years, why not start now?
Certainly such a move would represent Jim Zorn sending a message that there are no sacred cows—or rocks.
There isn't a whole lot to recap about a very forgettable exhibition by the Washington Redskins last night, but here are a few leftovers:
The Flavor Vanilla
Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell both said that the Redskins haven't been showing anything close to their full playbook during the preseason. This, of course, brings up the dreaded "vanilla" offenses and schemes that were used to explain away some poor preseason performances during the Gibbs years.
I asked Campbell about balancing wanting to keep things under wraps against the need to run plays against a live defense in a different-colored uniform. He told me that things are plenty spirited when they run the plays against their first-team defense and that each unit takes a lot of pride when it bests the other.
That's all well and good, but there is no such thing as vanilla blocking and tackling. Those aspects of the game, regardless of the play call, need to be executed and the Redskins have been falling short of doing that.
To be clear, I didn't get the impression that Zorn and Campbell were using the play calls as an excuse for the poor performance of the offense. They were answering questions posed by reporters.
Some beat reports seem to think that he's on the bubble for making the roster and possibly on the wrong side of it. He certainly seems to be lost in pass coverage at times—most of the time, in fact. You don't see a whole lot of him in run support, either.
It seems that the fifth cornerback spot comes to a choice between Tryon, a fourth-round draft pick, and undrafted rookie Matteral Richardson. I haven't seen that Richardson has been noticeably superior to Tryon, although one reporter who has seen a lot more of practice than have I said that Richardson clearly has been better.
I think that the Redskins drafted Tryon based on potential and didn't necessarily expect a whole lot out of him this year. He probably makes it, but I wouldn't be totally shocked if he didn't.
He's been on the bubble all preseason; in fact, the bubble popped for him once already as he was released in May. The Redskins saw enough of Stu Schweigert after the first preseason game and Hamilton got another shot.
Last night he blitzed and nailed quarterback Todd Bauman, jarring the ball loose. In all, Hamilton got credit for six tackles and one assist in addition to the sack and forced fumble. He might have missed a tackle or two, but I don't recall seeing any whiffs.
Unlike some other blogs, this one doesn't formally adopt a favorite dark horse. But, looking back at what's been said about Justin Hamilton here, he has been mentioned a lot here for a longshot prospect. If that makes him the official bubble player of RealRedskins.com, so be it.
I still don't think he'll make it as it seems that the Skins are likely to keep just four at the safety position and those four are LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty, Chris Horton and Kareem Moore. Justin Hamilton, however, did not cheat himself out of his chance.
I'll be posting some Redskins-Giants classics over the next week leading up to the season opener on Thursday. This one from December 19, 1982 needs no introduction for the readers of this blog. From the pages of The Redskins From A to Z.
RFK Stadium—"It was like a Hollywood script," the Redskins Mark Murphy said, "you couldn't have written it any better." Except that even fiction couldn't have been as compelling or exciting as the truth about this one.
A win would give Washington a playoff spot; a loss would put them in the muddled middle of the playoff picture. Before Mark Moseley, who was this close (thumb and index finger an eighth of an inch apart) to losing his job during training camp had a chance to attempt a game-winning, playoff-clinching record-setting field goal, the Redskins had to scrap and come off the mat and give him a chance to try it.
Washington turned the ball over five times in the first half, four of those being interceptions thrown by Joe Theismann. The first and third picks by the Giants led to touchdowns. The Redskins could only hold on to the ball long enough to tally a Moseley field goal and trailed at halftime 14-3.
After intermission, Washington began to get some control. Their 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to open the second half was exactly what Joe Gibbs had asked for at halftime, even though the scoring play wasn't exactly as he had drawn it up in the playbook.
After passes to Don Warren and Charlie Brown led to a first down at the New York 22, Gibbs called for a halfback option. Joe Washington was to sweep right, pull up and throw to Art Monk. New York, though, sniffed it out and Monk was covered. Washington reversed his field and took off around left end. The Giants were caught flat-footed and the only obstacle between Washington and the end zone was cornerback Terry Jackson. Theismann dispatched Jackson with a textbook cross-body block and Washington scooted into the end zone.
It had been snowing off and on the entire day and the field was wet and muddy. The point after attempt slipped off Moseley's wet toe, and the Redskins trailed 14-9.
As the fourth quarter began, the snow began to fall harder. It was time for a Riggo Drill, Gibbs decided, calling John Riggins' number eight times in 10 plays. It was good enough to get in position for Moseley to kick a 31-yard field goal with 6:23 left in the game to bring Washington to within 14-12. It was Moseley's 20th straight successful attempt, tying Garo Yepremian's NFL record for consecutive field goals made. He was hoping for an opportunity to break the mark.
Deprived of Washington turnovers, the New York offense did nothing in the second half. They were given a golden opportunity to salt away the game after their defense stopped Riggins short on a fourth and one at the Washington 40, but Scott Brunner was sacked twice and they had to punt. The Redskins took possession at their own 29 with 3:38 left.
On second down, Theismann found tight end Rick Walker over the middle for 20 yards to get the drive started. A facemask call pushed it forward to the Giants 44. Gibbs wanted to get inside the 30 for a field goal attempt.
On third and five from the 39, Theismann squeezed the ball to Brown between two defenders for 14 yards to the 25. Riggins ran for six to the 19 and then six more. Walker, though was holding on the second run and the ball went back to the 29. After two more Riggins runs, the ball was at the 25 and the Redskins let the clock run down to 9 seconds before calling time out. It was snowing as hard as it had been all day.
With the record, playoff spot, and game all riding on the kick, Jeff Bostic's snap and Theismann's hold were perfect. Moseley tried to get a little extra foot into it, giving the Giant's Byron Hunt a chance to get a finger on the ball. The kick wobbled, but it could not have been more beautiful for the Redskins and their fans. It cleared the crossbar with plenty to spare.