As the 2009-10 NFL season draws nigh, I feel the need for an outlet for my thoughts concerning the Washington Redskins and other issues. This is mainly because the Skins are showing some signs of disaster during training camp, and I need to vent.
I’m too lazy and not knowledgeable enough to start/maintain a blog or actual website, so I think this will do nicely. Plus, I have a built-in audience. However, if you prefer not to read this, you know where the “BACK” button is.
Training camp is in full swing, and the preseason games start in only a week (The Redskins play at Baltimore on 8/13). I’ll begin by introducing the team and reviewing players by position over the next couple of weeks (as I find time to post).
Appropriately enough, here are the likely running backs for the Washington Redskins.
Roster Review – Running Backs
Clinton Portis (Lock to make the roster)
Ladell Betts (Lock)
Mike Sellers (Full back – Lock to make the roster)
On the bubble: Anthony Aldridge
KEY ADDITIONS: None
KEY LOSSES: None
Unquestionably (in my mind, at least) Clinton Portis is one of the top overall running backs in the NFL. There are clearly others who have speed over him, and his advancing age is making difficult cuts harder. However, his is a warrior on the field. Unlike other running backs, Portis has never shied away from making a block when he doesn’t get the ball on offense. When he does get the ball, he seems to prefer taking a hard hit along the sidelines to get an extra yard or two rather than stopping short and running out of bounds (arguably, this will be detrimental long term).
Portis appeared to be on the brink of a career year through roughly the first half of last season. However, he was slowed at around week 6 by a Grade 1 MCL tear (i.e. a sprain) and an offensive line that degraded by halfway through the season. Additionally, as he nears the age of 30, it is becoming apparent that he may be on the downside of his prime years. I have no doubts about him continuing his high level of performance for the next year or two, but for him to continue beyond that will require Portis to take fewer carries per game.
That’s exactly where Ladell Betts comes in. Betts, entering his 8th year as the Redskins back-up running back, has shown in seasons past that he is capable of starting as running back with many other NFL teams. In 2006, when Clinton Portis was sidelined with an injury, Betts rushed for over 1,100 yards. A key component of the Redskins running game this year must be to integrate Ladell more into the running game (no less than a 70/30 ratio between Portis and Betts in terms of carries).
Mike Sellers returns as the Redskins starting fullback. I desperately want Sellers to be involved more in the offense. He is getting up in years as well, but he should be a well-used asset when inside the five or ten yard line, similar to how the Steelers utilized Jerome Bettis in his later years. Sellers is also one of the top blockers that the Redskins have.
On the bubble is one Rock Cartwright, a perennial fan favorite of Redskins fans. Though he is listed on the roster as the third string running back, he is the Redskins primary Kick-Off return specialist. He is second only to Brian Mitchell in terms of career return yards for the Skins, and his average return of 25.6 yards was among the top in the NFL last season. Cartwright, a likely candidate for Special Teams captain with the loss of Khary Campbell to free agency, is a heart-and-soul player who I do not think the Redskins can afford to lose after the loss of James Thrash, another special teams ace who the Redskins cut in the off season due to injury.
Looking to take Cartwright’s place on the roster is young up-and-comer Anthony Aldridge. Aldridge, in his 2nd year, has thoroughly impressed coaches thus far in training camp with his outright speed and cutting ability. However, he certainly won’t be taking carries away from Portis or Betts if he were to make the roster. His only hope is that he can prove beyond any doubt that he can bring more to the tables than Cartwright in special team situations, especially with Kick Off returns. If there is even the slightest doubt, I believe the Redskins would be much better off keeping Cartwright. Considering he spent all of the 2008 on injured reserved with the Denver Broncos before being cut, I think it’s fairly unlikely this will happen.
Roster Review – Quarterback
Jason Campbell (Lock to make the roster)
KEY ADDITIONS: NONE
KEY LOSSES: NONE
The NFL off season has had its fair share of storylines: Michael Vick, Brett Favre, Plaxico Burress to name a few. However, when it pertains to on-field playing, there are few storylines that can match the times and trials of Jason Campbell.
Campbell, selected late in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft, was hand-picked as the quarterback of the future by then-head coach Joe Gibbs. Campbell had led the Auburn Tigers to an undefeated season his senior year of college, and was the MVP of both the SEC championship game and the 2005 Sugar Bowl (in which Auburn beat VA Tech). However, Campbell did not play a single NFL snap until week 10 of the 2006 season, when he replaced Mark Brunnell as the starting quarterback.
Campbell saw moderate success in the remainder of the 2006-2007 season, but enough to return as the starter for the 2007-2008 season. Jason Campbell’s limited success this season raised the argument that he had been forced to learn a different offensive system each and every year since graduating from high school. Campbell suffered a knee injury on 12/6 on Thursday Night Football against the Bears, and did not return for the rest of the year. Instead, back-up Todd Collins (see below) stepped in and led the Redskins to four straight victories and a squeak-in playoff berth.
Regardless of this postseason run (which lasted all of one game), Jason Campbell was given the starting position over Todd Collins for the 08-09 season. However, Campbell was once again forced to learn a new offense with the arrival of another new head coach in Jim Zorn. Despite this, Jason completed 271 consecutive passes without an interception (between late in the 07 season and early in the 08 season), a franchise record and the longest streak since (I believe) Rich Gannon threw something like 280 earlier this decade. Campbell led the Redskins to a 6-2 record to start the 2008 season. Despite his lack of flashy statistics, he was picked by some sports pundits as the unofficial MVP of the first half of the season due to his ability to lead the team and not throw interceptions. However, the Redskins fell apart in the second half of the season, due in part to injuries along the offensive line. Opposing teams were able to stop the deadly running attack of Clinton Portis, and began to make Campbell force bad throws. The Redskins finished 8-8, missing the playoffs.
This year, the 2008-09 season, is the final year of Jason Campbell’s rookie contract. The Redskins management are waiting to sign him until it is apparent if he can recover this year. The team also made great efforts to bring in a new quarterback in the offseason, but failed to trade for then-Denver disgruntled quarterback Jay Cutler, or trade up to draft USC quarterback Mark Sanchez.
For what it’s worth, this is Jason Campbell’s second year in an offensive system. If he is going to step up to be the leader of the team, there’s no better time than now. If I had to guess, I would say he will have the best season of his career. He will depend largely on the ability of the offensive line to gel as a unit and, more importantly, stay relatively healthy for 16 games. There’s no chance he posts Tom Brady-like numbers, but even a 3,000 yard/20 TD season would likely be enough to sign him to a new contract.
None of the other quarterbacks are certain to make the roster. Todd Collins, the veteran back-up quarterback, has reportedly looked a bit lost in training camp this year. The same reports say that second year player Colt Brennan and rookie Chase Daniel have looked better, but I honestly can’t see the Redskins keeping two incredibly young/unproven players as the back-ups for Campbell. For at least this next season, I’m expecting Todd Collins to remain the back-up quarterback, with Colt Brennan holding the clipboard as third sting quarterback. Chase Daniel may be signed on to the Redskins practice squad, if he’s not signed to another team first.
Roster Review – Offensive Line
Likely starters (ideally)
Chris Samuels, Left Tackle
Derrick Dockery, Left Guard
Casey Rabach, Center
Randy Thomas, Right Guard
Stephon Heyer, Right Tackle
KEY ADDITIONS: Derrick Dockery, free agency
KEY LOSSES: Pete Kendall (free agency), Jon Jansen (released)
I’ve listed all of the lineman that I know of in camp for the Redskins. Joe and Phil may recognize the names of several Terps. Not all of these guys will make the final roster. Of those who don’t, maybe two or three will be signed to the practice squad. Devin Clark spent last year on the practice squad for the Skins, so that may give him a slight advantage.
The offensive line issues with the Redskins are well documented. One could argue that the OL is the Redskins’ “Achilles’ Heel,” if it were located on the neck instead of the foot. While this OL was quite formidable only a few years ago, it now suffers from age and injury. This is most notable of RG Randy Thomas, who has had surgeries in each of the last two years. He is likely at the end of the line as a starter. Chris Samuels has been having knee troubles, but seems to be holding on despite his advancing age. Being that he protects Jason Campbell’s blind side, the Redskins will surely be in trouble if this multi-pro bowler goes down with injury.
Stephon Heyer, out of UMD, will be the starting Right Tackle if his knee is healthy. He’s been having problems during training camp, but otherwise is blowing away his competition. Mike Williams, the now 340-pounder I spoke of recently who was 450 pounds in February, does not seem to be ready to become that great human interest story. Instead, it is said that he’s looking like a guy who should not even be in training camp with a pro football team. Given that he recently pulled an abdominal muscle (which at first was thought to be a pulled groin), I would put him as doubtful to make either the final roster or practice squad.
Jeremy Bridges will likely be a back-up who can start in place of any injured tackle or guard. He’s described as incredibly versatile, but I have doubts he can beat anyone out quite yet. Same goes for Chad Rinehart, whose reps will likely come on the right side of the line. Rinehart was drafted in the third round of the 2008 Draft by the Redskins, but confusingly did not play a single down all season despite OL issues in the second half of the season. I’m hoping he can emerge as a solid back-up.
The OL played a stellar first half of the 2008 season, but quickly deteriorated down the stretch. They were a big reason that the Redskins went 6-2 to start the season, but probably a bigger reason that they went 2-6 in the second half. Unfortunately, the Redskins will live and die by their offensive line this year. If they perform well, then Clinton Portis will be able to establish a rushing game which will open up Jason Campbell’s pass attack. However, if they play like weeks 9-17 last year, I fully expect Jason Campbell to be on pace for a sack record. If the OL plays terribly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Campbell benched in favor or Todd Collins or Colt Brennan to try and shake something up a bit. I’m not saying I would agree with this, but it’s probable.
All NFL teams had until 6pm EST this past Saturday to trim their rosters down to 53. DR may be pleased to know that among the players to make the cut for the Redskins is SU alum Byron Westbrook. Byron signed with the Redskins as an undrafted rookie free agent in May 2007, and played two seasons on the Redskins practice squad. This will be his first year as a member of the 53-man roster.
I found Westbrook not being cut to be very intriguing… he is their sixth cornerback on the roster, many teams only carry five. This could mean that they suspect injuries could be an issue with one of the top corners (Carlos Rogers struggled with a calf issue all preseason), and perhaps they want an insurance policy.
It remains to be seen how often Westbrook ends up playing this year. Unless he proves in practice that he is more valuable than recent mid-round draft picks Justin Tryon and Kevin Barnes (out of UMD), his playing time will most likely be on special teams. It’s also worth noting that NFL teams can only carry 45 players on their game day rosters. While the full roster is 53 players, eight players are ultimately inactive on game days (seven players if the team carries a third QB, which the Skins don’t). I imagine Westbrook could be one of those casualties some games this year, but I’ve yet to review the roster to see who could be special teams.
I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not. All I heard on post-game coverage yesterday was how Albert Haynesworth was a non-factor, but I think that’s the biggest crap I heard yesterday. Multiple times I saw Haynesworth occupy more than one member of the Giants OL, which freed Griffen, Carter, Daniels, and blitzing lineman to pressure Eli Manning. One of these instances resulted in sack for a fumble, the other resulted in a bad throw and interception.
It’s also worth noting that the Giants seemed almost afraid to run the ball up the middle, knowing they would have to go through Haynesworth. This resulted in Brandon Jacobs running for a paltry 46 yards on 16 carries, when he destroyed the Redskins last year.
I also made the mistake of reading the “comments” section of the NFL.com breakdown of the game. I hate doing this because these posters seem to hate every player in the NFL. Every player seems to be “over rated” in their eyes. Brian Orakpo, the Redskins first round pick from Texas whom they converted from DE to LB, had only two tackles in the game. This leads to these posters to rate him as a bust. After one game. This ignores the fact that it will take time for a career DE in college to convert to having to cover in pass situations. Also, it ignores the fact that London Fletcher, the Redskins MLB and defensive captain, had EIGHTEEN tackles yesterday. He was running around like a maniac the entire game.
Cambpell’s stat line isn’t awful. I think he was 19-for-26, 211 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Seventy three percent completion percentage, but only 11 yards per completion on average. He took a couple of chances down field, but mostly threw underneath to Chris Cooley. The Skins offense looked anemic though, just like the past several years. They had a limited number of first downs and low time-of-possession, causing the defense to have to stay out on the field longer. If they can’t get their offense going, then it’s going to be the same story as the last several years… maybe they’ll average 17 points a game, the fatigued defense will be forced to play bend-don’t-break, and they’ll be grasping at a wild card berth down the stretch.
The good news is that now comes the cushy part of the Skins schedule… next Sunday we host the woeful St. Louis Rams, who were blanked by the Seahawks yesterday. The following week we visit the Detroit Lions (0-16 last year, failed to cover a 13-point spread against the dynamic Saints offense yesterday [6 TDs by Brees!]), followed by a home game versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (lost yesterday to a sharp-looking Cowboys squad). We then visit the Carolina Panthers, who appear to finally be ready to punt Jake Delhomme after his god-awful 7-17, 73 yard, 4 INT performance yesterday. The five-game stretch ends with a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs, which may be the first Skins game I dare attend since 2006. The Chiefs appeared utterly confused against a strong Ravens team yesterday, swapping in-and-out backup QBs in starter Matt Cassel’s absence. The final score of 38-24 in the Chiefs-Ravens contest makes the game appear far more lopsided than it was. The score was tied in a very competitive battle 24-24 inside of five minutes. The Ravens scored late, then forced a Chiefs turnover inside of two minutes. Another TD, and a 14-point win. My point is that what the Chiefs lack in an abundance of talent they make up for in guts. That could be very dangerous against the Redskins, who had several players who looked very lethargic and disinterested yesterday. As one person on my Twitterfeed remarked yesterday, “Jason Campbell played with the urgency of a CVS employee.”
The Skins need to go at least 3-2 in the next five, if not 4-1. They play the Cowboys and Eagles twice after that, plus the Giants, Saints, and Chargers.
HobbyJogger & HobbyRacer
I mean, they did make over 20 points this weekend. In one game.
(MTA: to add "over", which I forgot to type)
It's a 5k. It hurt like hell...then I tried to pick it up. The end.
Twenty seven. Amazing what happens when you play the running back who actually takes carries in practice. Levi Jones also deserves credit for stepping in at left tackle. The new patch-work offensive line, comprised of some third-stringers after injuries to both starters and back-ups, played very well together. The Broncos had one of the best past rushing defenses coming into the game, but managed only one sack on Campbell. Apparently the OL coach, Joe Bugel, gave his players the business after a horrible performance against Atlanta last week (and, let’s face it, every other game this year). Levi Jones, a former first round draft pick who has suffered a lot of injuries in his short career, was signed by the Redskins as a free agent a few weeks ago. Right now, it’s looking like a smart pick-up. He’s better than who’s been playing, anyways.
Jason Campbell does what he can do when he’s at his best… stats aren’t flashly, but mistakes aren’t made. No picks, 1 TD, 193 yards through the air. Ladell Betts, who’s been taking reps all year during practice, had something like 116 yards. Rock Cartwright had 41 yards on 9 carries. I’ll never understand while he’s our primary kick returner, but never sees time as an HB.
This doesn’t turn the season around, and it probably won’t stop the team from getting blown up at the end of the year. It doesn’t even mean that the Redskins (3-6) will finish much better than 4-12 or 5-11. It’s still nice to get one in the win column, though.
As of yesterday (3/25) we are officially five weeks out from arguably the most overhyped and overanalyzed sporting event of the year: The NFL Draft. The first round of the NFL Draft will be broadcast in primetime on a Thursday for the first time ever in 2010. I'm about to jump on the pile with my first awful mock draft attempt (of the first ten picks, at least).
#1: St. Louis Rams will select Sam Bradford, QB. Marc Bulger's time with the Rams appears to be over, but he stinks anyways. While rumors swirled briefly this week about the Rams trading for Donovan McNabb, Coach Spagnoulo served as rumor-killer. A lot of people are projecting the Rams to select Ndamukong Suh (DT) first overall. Neither move would be unwise. However, this is an era where college QBs have started in their first year and seen some level of success. The Rams have won five games combined over the last two years. They need success, and will select Bradford barring a trade.
#2: Detroit Lions will select Russell Okung, Left Tackle. Words can't describe how abysmal the Lions offensive line is. Last year, they drafted QB Matthew Stafford #1 overall. He showed flashes of the talent he has, but spent most of the year running for his life. The rest of the year he was injured. The Lions need to protect their investment, and Okung (who is reportedly an "elite" level tackle) most definitely will be available here. It will be idiotic to pass on him.
#3: Tampa Bay Buccaneers will select Ndamukong Suh, DT. He's arguably the most talented player in the draft, but his knees are a liability. Regardless, Tamper has huge needs on their defensive line. Suh could be a huge step in the right direction.
NOTE: It's also entirely possible that the Browns trade with the Buccaneers to leap-frog the Redskins and take Jimmy Clausen. However, I don't think new Browns team president Mike "Big Show" Holmgren is very high on the Notre Dame QB, so that doesn't seem too likely.
#4: Washington Redskins will select Jimmy Clausen, QB. New head coach Mike Shanahan and new general manager Bruce "Son of George" Allen was a new quarterback. Personally, I think they have bigger needs. Clausen is a bit suspect due to reported attitude problems at Notre Dame. However, he's played in a pro-style college offense for several years, and could be ready for the pros. Additionally, Shanny drafted and had success with uber-diva QB Jay Cutler while the two were in Denver. Maybe lightening strikes twice.
#5: Kansas City Chiefs will select Eric Berry, Safety. I'd love to have Berry on my team. Honestly, the term "Sean Taylor-esque" calls for doing backflips. KC needs help everywhere, but Berry may be heads-and-tails above other players at this spot.
#6: Seattle Seahawks will select Gerald McCoy, DT. There's nothing more that the Seahawks would probably like to do than to get in front of the 'Skins and select Jimmy Clausen as an heir to former pro bowl QB Matt Hasselbeck. Barring such a trade, they'll take McCoy, who some are mocking as high as #2 overall.
#7: Cleveland Browns will select Joe Haden, CB. After trading away several key players on both sides of the ball this off season, the Browns may have more needs than anyone. The good news is, at last glance, they have a whopping THIRTEEN draft picks, with ten in the first five rounds!
#8: Oakland Raiders will select Bruce Campbell, OT. If there's anything that gargolye-esque owner Al Davis loves these days, it's combine numbers. Those are the same numbers that caused them to draft Darrius Hayward-Bey last year at #7, when clearly superior wide receiver Michael Crabtree was still available. Campbell indeed posted some sick combine stats: 4.78 unofficial 40, 32-inch vertical jump, and 34 bench press reps at 6-6 and 313 pounds. Apparently the Raiders are the current leader to trade for QB Donovan McNabb. If that happens, it's almost a lock that Oakland select a Terp for the second year in a row.
#9: Buffalo Bills will select Trent Williams, OT. I've heard a lot of people talk about how this is a weak draft for offensive linemen, but I'm not sure about that. Regardless, the Bills have two glaring needs: QB and tackle. No QB is worthy of being drafted this high, and the Bills may not have the juice (or desire) to trade up to #3 or 4.
#10: Jacksonville Jaguars will select Derrick Morgan, DE. The Jags just signed 30-year old Aaron Kampman who is coming off of ACL surgey. They need more at this position. However, it's worth noting that the Jags are the most likely of the top 10 teams to trade down. They want Tim Tebow. Of all teams in the league, they are the most motivated to go get him. Tebow, a two-time national championship winning QB for Florida, is a rock star in the sunshine state. Two thousand people recently turned out for a Tebow autograph signing, and were more than happy to fork over $150 each for the "privilege." Tebow sells in Florida, and the Jags can't sell seats to save their lives (or perhaps more likely, to save the team [from relocation]). Trading down and picking up an extra second or third rounder will get them closer to their goal: Tim Tebow on their 2010 roster.
So... the Redskins trade a 2010 2nd rounder and 2011 3rd or 4th rounder to the Eagles for Donovan McNabb. I didn't see that coming. Certainly shakes up the draft board a bit. Though here's a couple of potentially interesting scenarios...
1. The Redskins want(ed) Sam Bradford. They reportedly were putting together a package to trade up to #1. Shipping McNabb and the #4 pick to the Rams for #1 certainly is a possibility.
2. Flozell Adams, a 13-year veteran offensive tackle has unexpectedly cut by the Cowboys on 4/4. A more likely scenario than the first is that the Redskins sign him and then still draft Jimmy Clausen in the first round.
3. Still even more likely, but less exciting... keep McNabb, draft offensive line.
Phil - That was merely Sunday night speculation. Apparently a source close to the Redskins confirmed that the team does not plan on trading up to #1, nor do they plan on drafting Jimmy Clausen. Both Jimmy Clausen and Sam Bradford groaned simultaneously. Bradford now may be forced into a pre-draft deal with the Rams, as he had previously been holding out hope of being somehow traded to the Redskins. Fortunately, Shanahan and Allen are being level-headed and have no issue of building around a veteran, and a proven winner at that.
The Rams will select Bradford, so it all comes down to what the Lions do. If the Lions take Okung, I think the Redskins may try to trade down to either Cleveland at #7 or perhaps Buffalo at #9 to select Trent Williams or Brian Bulaga (sp?). I prefer Okung, but also wouldn't mind trading down if it gets us a 3rd rounder (Cleveland) or even a 2nd rounder (Buffalo).
Apparently the Redskins offered Haynesworth to Philly, but they declined. The big man's on the trade block.