The Redskins announced that they have waived defensive tackle Vaka Manupuna. The 27-year-old has had a couple of stints with the Redskins in camp and one with the Jets without ever appearing in an NFL regular-season game.
Unfortunately for Manupuna, he won't be able to return to his former employer. He played with the Utah Blaze of the Arena Football League this past winter. The AFL recently announced that it will suspend operations for 2009.
[caption id="attachment_1294" align="aligncenter" width="341" caption="Will Devin Thomas get his hands on the ball a lot more this year?"][/caption]
Less than a week into camp it appears that a starting job for the Washington Redskins has changed hands.
Per Jason Reid at the WaPo, Devin Thomas has the inside track to start at wide receiver opposite Santana Moss. Thomas had his shot this track from the get-go. When the offense lined up for its first snap of 11-on-11 drills on Thursday it was Moss wide left, Thomas wide right and Antwaan Randle El in the slot.
The Redskins have been trying to replace Randle El as the starter almost from the moment they got him as a free agent in 2006. They signed Brandon Lloyd the same year and envisioned him playing the role as the regular starter while Randle El ran gadget plays, returned punts, and played in the slot. The fact that Lloyd lost whatever ability made the Skins want to give up two draft picks and $10 million guaranteed to pry him away from San Francisco make them abandon this plan.
Last year the plan was for Thomas and/or Malcolm Kelly to supplant Randle El but both of them got off to a slow start and neither could even get time as the third wide receiver.
This time, however, it looks like Randle El has met his match. Per Reid, Thomas has drawn praise around the organization for his work ethic he has displayed in both his physical and mental preparation.
It remains to be seen if Kelly will be able to push Randle El further down the depth chart. Kelly has had a good camp so far. What Jim Zorn likes about him is that he catches with his hands and that, combined with his long arms, gives the quarterback a huge target when throwing in his direction. His practice time is somewhat limited by the microfracture surgery he had on his knee during the offseason so it may not be a good idea to count on him too much just yet.
But it's clear that Randle El is being phased out. It's unlikely that he'll be going much of anywhere since, according to my friend PC in Oz's salary cap chart, he is signed through 2016 and he has a lot of unallocated money on the books. But the player who currently has the 11th-highest cap number in 2009 may end up playing a marginal role on the team.
Sometimes you have to read between the lines to get the answers you're looking for.
During the offseason, there has been speculation that the Washington Redskins might choose to keep both Colt Brennan and Colt Daniel and release the 38-year-old Todd Collins. The thinking was that Collins is not the long-term answer at quarterback so why not go with a youth movement and have a leg up should Jason Campbell leave via free agency at the end of the season.
Again, this was based on nothing more than musings but still something that warranted some attention. There also was speculation that if Daniel performed well Zorn might keep four quarterbacks.
Until Saturday, that is. After practice, Jim Zorn was asked if there was any chance that he would keep both Brennan and Daniel on the final roster.
"I'm not going to keep four quarterbacks," Zorn replied. "I can't. I will not do that. That's tough."
Given the context it's clear that Collins is safe. And when looking at the big picture it makes sense. While I'm not with those who say that the Redskins must make the playoffs in order for Zorn to keep his job, an ugly 6-10 would almost certainly have Dan Snyder push him out the door. A veteran quarterback who can stop the bleeding is a good insurance policy to have around if Jason Campbell gets injured or is ineffective.
To take it a step further, it doesn't seem possible for Daniel to make the roster. Both he and Brennan were highly productive college quarterbacks who face a long adjustment to the pro-style game. Brennan, however, already has a more than a year of learning under his belt while Daniel has just three months. Daniel would have to shine brightly while Brennan would have to fall flat on his face for Zorn to choose Daniel over Brennan.
The quarterback picture seemed to be pretty solid going into camp. Now, three days in, it's etched in stone.
I'm new at this podcasting thing, but here you go with my radio appearance from last Thursday. I did it from the radio studio at Redskins Park while Big Al, the dean of Richmond sport talk, was at the Richmond studios. It's about 20 minutes long, a camp preview.
Tandler on ESPN 950 07.30.09
[caption id="attachment_1269" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Randy Thomas"][/caption]
The Washington Redskins offensive line is off to a slow start.
According to John Pappas at WarpathConfidential.com, the Redskins O-line has lived down to expectations so far in training camp. The defensive front is looking like the '85 Bears unit in practice. That wouldn't be so disturbing, says Pappas, but the likes of Chris Wilson and Lorenzo Alexander are playing wrecking balls against a unit that isn't functioning well at all.
Of course, this is not a shocking development. The team has neglected to plan succession for a unit that is showing its age. Sure, Derrick Dockery fell into their laps after Buffalo cut him (ouch, that must hurt) but that was reacting, not planning.
It is early. There still is time for them to get their feet under them and hit their stride. But it gets late early in the NFL. Pappas suggests that the Redskins should start to scan the waiver wire for help if the situation doesn't improve quickly. I'm not sure if that would help but if the offense has any hope of improving on its mediocre showing in 2008 something will have to happen.
[caption id="attachment_1000" align="aligncenter" width="360" caption="When will Brian Orakpo see the field?"][/caption]
With less than 24 hours remaining until the first practice the Washington Redskins have yet to sign their top draft pick, Brian Orakpo.
There has been no public negotiating which generally is a good sign. Michael Crabtree, the Texas Tech receiver taken at No. 10 is demanding top-three money, and that's not sitting well with the 49ers management.
But no news isn't necessarily good news. It would indicate that there is a waiting game going on involving the slotting system. Rookie contracts generally are based on slots. Basically, a player get a little more money than the player drafted immediately after him and a bit less than the one take right before him. This "system", such as it is, relies on slots getting filled so that there is a basis for comparison at a given spot.
As of right now, though, there isn't a slot to determine Orakpo's deal; in fact it's not even close. He's in the middle of a gulf. The Texas defensive end/linebacker was taken with the 13th selection of the first round. On the higher side, the closest pick signed is Mark Sanchez, taken fifth overall. In addition to being eight picks away, Sanchez is a quarterback. They get the chicks and make more dough, so his deal is not a good basis for comparison.
On the low side is center Alex Mack, taken at No. 21 by Cleveland. So we're looking at eight slots on that end. Orakpo is the man in the middle.
There is another way of getting this done. Mack got a deal that was 12% higher than that of the player taken 21st in 2008. The Redskins and Orakpo's agents, Ben Dogra andMichael Lartigue of CAA, could look at the contract signed by Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart last year and add 12% to that. The result would be a five-year contract worth about $15.6 million. Start there, build in a few incentives, call it a deal, and get Orakpo out on the practice field.
This would serve the team and the player well but the agents will be hesitant of getting burned. God forbid the 12th pick and/or the 14th pick get deals 13% higher than last year. The reputations of Dorga and Lartigue would suffer (from their point of view, anyway), they would stand to be accused of leaving money on the table, and they believe they will have trouble lining up first-rounders in the future.
So, the waiting game continues. If Orakpo misses Thursday and Friday it won't damage his development to any great extent. But I'll bet you that by Friday, Greg Blache or another defensive coach will be lamenting his absence and saying that each lost day is like missing two days. Sometimes that's just coach speak but in this case, with Orakpo being counted on the man two positions, it's not too far from the truth.
It could be worse. The Washington Redskins could be having trouble getting a sixth-round pick into camp as the San Diego Chargers are. And they hardly are alone, with only five of the 32 first-round picks having inked contracts as of Wednesday morning. Still, it would be good to get the guy they're counting on so much into the fray as soon as possible.
[caption id="attachment_1004" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Chris Horton is looking to follow up a surprising rookie year"][/caption]
Between now and the start of training camp I'll be making my predictions about who will be on the final 53-man roster for the Washington Redskins--who's there, who's in, who's on the bubble, and who's out. The predicted roster will be revised and updated as preseason events warrant. Today, in the last of the series, defensive backs:Who's here Now: (13) Cornerbacks: Kevin Barnes, Doug Dutch, DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers, Fred Smoot, Justin Tryon, Byron Westbrook Safeties: Michael Grant, Kareem Moore, Reed Doughty, LaRon Landry, Lendy Holmes, Chris Horton.
How many will stick: 9
Starters: Hall and Rogers at cornerback, Landry and Horton at safety—Hall isn't expected to be a shutdown corner but one who will gamble and win often enough to make some big plays. Rogers is underrated and in his contract year. He could play at a Pro Bowl level. Landry didn't exactly have sophomore slump but he didn't have the breakout to stardom many predicted for him. Horton was a great story last year and he should continue to improve.
Solid backups: Smoot, Barnes, Tryon, Moore –Smoot may be slowing down a bit and Tryon and Barnes will push to be his replacement at nickel back in 2010 if not sooner. Moore is a solid hitter who needs to hone his coverage skills some more to warrant more playing time.
Last man on: Doughty—He's an over achiever who's good to have on the team. He rarely makes a costly mistake.
First man off: Westbrook—Unfortunately, he won't be eligible for the practice squad since he's been on it two years.
Training camp starts for the Redskins at 8:30 on Thursday. I'm going to be doing a live blog from the field to give you a feel for what's going on. However, the CoverItLive application has only partial functionality from the Blackberry and one of the major limitations is that reader comments can't go through.
There is a workaround for that, I think so anyway. It involves Twitter hashtags so you'll have to be signed up with Twitter to submit comments or questions. I'm going to experiment with it later today and, assuming that it works, I'll put up details tomorrow.
My friend Rick Snider posted this preseason fan checklist in his excellent blog. Just something different to kill the next 48 hours (and counting).
[caption id="attachment_994" align="aligncenter" width="335" caption="Will Fred Davis have an impact in 2009?"][/caption]
Between now and the start of training camp I'll be making my predictions about who will be on the final 53-man roster for the Washington Redskins--who's there, who's in, who's on the bubble, and who's out. The predicted roster will be revised and updated as preseason events warrant. Today, the tight ends:
Like with the specialists, there isn't much of a point in deep analysis at this position. Pro Bowler Chris Cooley is the starter and Fred Davis and Todd Yoder are the backups. Rookie free agent Robert Agnone has impressive size at 6-6, 260 but a practice squad berth seems to be the best that he can hope for.
Cooley could have a better season than in 2008 but fail to make the Pro Bowl. Two quality, high-profile tight ends have come over to the NFC this past offseason in Tony Gonzalez and Kellen Winslow. Add in perennial Pro Bowl participant Jason Witten (and although the reputations of some who have to blue star on their helmets are overblown, I don't believe that to be the case with Witten) and you have four excellent players jockeying for one spot. There will be two odd men out.
Spots taken so far: 37