Thursday, July 30, 2009

Position Overview: Defensive Line

Confidence Level: 8 out of 10
Don’t let anyone tell you Albert Haynesworth was a waste of money. He just may be the single most dominant defensive player in football. If you try to block him one-on-one, your play is guaranteed to get blown up in the backfield. If you double team him, you have a fighting chance to slow him down, but he might well beat you anyway. The only reliable way to take him out of the play is to put three blockers on him, in which case the rest of the defense is running free. He is not overhyped. And although ends get more press attention, tackle is the one position at which a dominant player can improve all three levels of the defense.
Beyond Haynesworth, I expect to get outstanding play from our entire tackle rotation. However, I’m a bit mystified over how that rotation seems to be playing out. When we signed Haynesworth, I just assumed Kedric Golston would be starting next to him. Watching him last year, I think Golston is the most underrated player on the team. He has the strength to hold the line against multiple blockers, and when left one-on-one can penetrate to make plays himself. And he managed all this while he was pretty much working alone out there. I think Golston and Haynesworth would be thoroughly unstoppable in the middle. However, from everything I’ve heard Cornelius Griffin is considered the other starter. Based on what I saw last year, Griffin is still good for utterly embarrassing an offensive lineman once or twice a game. But, presumably due to his advanced age, he seems to spend the rest of the day getting blown off the line of scrimmage. It seems to me that he would be ideal rotating in in a backup role, playing fresh and taking advantage of his still considerable strength without exposing his declining endurance. Nonetheless, Greg Blache rotates his linemen so heavily that it may not be a significant difference.
There’s two more guys to consider when it comes to the tackle rotation:

The first is Anthony Montgomery. He had a reputation as an underachiever his first couple of years, and frankly I didn’t see significant improvement in ’08. Among people who follow the team closely he is still considered to have potential, but I just haven’t seen it. It’s certainly possible I’ve underestimated him, but given that he is in his contract year this is his last chance to make an impression (Golston is also in his contract year, so only one of them, at most, will be staying with the team. Care to guess who I’m rooting for?).
Finally, Lorenzo Alexander has been moved into Demetric Evans’ role from last year, meaning he will be getting time at both end and tackle. I consider Alexander to be one of the team’s unsung heroes along with Golston. He has a pretty nice spin move, and can make plays in the backfield when isolated on one blocker (by the way, we just signed a guy who will prevent him from facing more than one blocker). He’ll only be playing tackle in pass rush situations, which should play to his strengths, and will fill in at end when Orakpo is playing Sam. I have a feeling that by the end of this season both Kedric Golston and Lorenzo Alexander will finally be known by people outside of the DC metropolitan area.
When it comes to the ends, I’m still going to talk about the tackles. Haynesworth might single handedly put Andre Carter in the Pro Bowl. For years he has seemed like a disappointment, but frankly he was the most threatening (relatively) of our pass-rush options and therefore drew the most attention. He has at least moderate skills, and should generate effective pressure now that the tackles will be the focus of every protection scheme.
The other side is complicated. We are inevitably going to see a rotation consisting of rookie Brian Orakpo, octogenarian Philip Daniels, and a little dash of Lorenzo Alexander (I assume he will be spelling Carter as well). As for Phillip Daniels, he has always challenged Golston as work-out king, so even at his age I suspect he will be able to hold the point of attack against the run, and have marginal pass rush skills that should lead to some pressure given the attention devoted to the tackles (have I mentioned the tackles?). Orakpo is a rookie, and will be spending a lot of time at OLB, so I’m not going to let myself have overly high expectations. A little pass-rush would be nice, but as Greg Blache perceptively points out, you’re better off falling in love with a stripper than a rookie. Still, his talents seem formidable so I’m envisiong at leat adequate contributions and, um… Haynesworth might make adequate plenty good enough. I know I’m getting repetitive, but Haynesworth really is the story here.
I'm pretty sure Carter, Daniels, Orakpo, and Alexander will get the bulk of the playing time, and I am pretty optimistic about that group, but of course Jeremy Jarmon is guaranteed a roster spot. Both Zorn and Cerrato have repeatedly stressed his need to build upper body strength and that they consider him to be getting a jump on his development for next year, so this is looking more and more like a redshirt year (in the 80s Gibbs would have found a way to get this guy on IR by now).
There's a few more guys competing to add depth who have a legitimate shot to make the team:
- Old friend Renaldo Wynn, who we cut two years ago and is not that physically imposing anymore (actually, he never was). There's a clear youth movement on the line, so I'm betting he's the guy to get squeezed out to make a roster spot for Jarmon.
- Alex Buzbee, the Georgetown product who blew out his knee in the afternoon of the first day of camp last year. Terrible timing, since with Daniels going down that morning Buzbee was about to get himself a whole lot of playing time.
- Rob Jackson, last year's seventh round pick. I think that Jackson and Buzbee are competing for the final DE spot.
One final note: If Lorenzo Alexander gets a lot playing time, as I’m rooting for and looks likely, will he no longer be the extra lineman in the offensive goal line formation? Not the biggest deal in a football sense, but I’m curious.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

One more Campbell post

Jason Campbell's first year in Zorn's West Coast offense:

Games: 16
Completion %: 62.3
Yards per Game: 202.8
Touchdowns: 13
Interceptions: 6
QB Rating: 84.3

Matt Hasselbeck's first season in Mike Holmgren's (Zorn's mentor) West Coast offense with Zorn as the QB coach:

Games: 13
Completion %: 54.8
Yards per Game: 155.6
Touchdowns: 7
Interceptions: 8
QB Rating: 70.9

In case you're not aware, Hasselbeck turned into one hell of an NFL quarterback, running the Holmgren/Zorn offense all along.

More insight on the Zorn/Campbell relationship

It was well publicized last year that Zorn puts alot of responsibility on his quarterback, and my understanding was that Campbell, instead of the center, was responsible for making all protection adjustments at the line of scrimmage. According to the Washington Post this morning, I may have underestimated the center's role in protection calls, but also underestimated just how much was expected out of Campbell:

" Zorn has tweaked things in an effort to reduce Campbell's on-field duties and, hopefully, increase his production. In games last season, Zorn, the Redskins' play-caller, would only provide personnel groupings for plays, and Campbell was responsible for putting together formations in the huddle. Center Casey Rabach made many of the line protection calls, but Campbell was responsible for changing protection schemes against certain blitzes.

This season, Zorn, essentially, will provide Campbell with all of the information for plays. Pass protection 'rules' for a variety of blitzes will eliminate the need for Campbell to make many protection adjustments.

'We talked a lot about how my work last season was kind of doubled compared to most quarterbacks around the league, in terms of what I had to do at the position level,' Campbell said. 'Learning all the formations, and then you had to put the plays together in the huddles, there's just a lot that goes into it. This year, they're going to try to take some of that strain off of me and just give me the opportunity to go out, play and not have to worry about so much.'"

(The bold has been added by me, because those are the parts that pretty much blew my mind)

Jesus Christ. Yeah, the guy deserves a second year to get this down. This passage also emphasizes the point that Zorn was learning last year too. How these guys work and grow together will determine the future of the franchise.

One other tidbit from the same article was this chart. I know the results fit with what we already know, but the differences in Campbell's performance from the first half of '08 to the second half are still striking when laid out directly:

-----------------------------------------------First Half------------------ Second Half

Completion %-------------------------------66.1 ---------------------------59

Yards/Completion -------------------------11.5---------------------------- 9.1

TDs ----------------------------------------------8------------------------------- 5

Interceptions ----------------------------------0(!)---------------------------- 6

Sacks -----------------------------------------16------------------------------- 22

Passer Rating ------------------------------99.6(!)------------------------- 72.3

(Gratuitous parenthetical punctuation added)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Position Overview: Quarterbacks

Confidence Level: 5 out of 10

Jay Cutler is a better quarterback than Jason Campbell. I’m not disputing that. But I can say with confidence that Campbell has improved every year and is fully capable of exploiting the successes of his line and receivers. If the line holds up, we find a receiver to replace Randle-El on the outside, and Zorn stays one step ahead of his opponents as a play-caller and game planner, Jason Campbell will absolutely not hold us back or cost us wins. It is far from guaranteed that he can take the next step and become a QB who can singlehandedly overcome the failures of others and make the offense greater than the sum of its parts. Personally, I give him about a 50-50 chance on that. Regardless, if the offense fails it’s probably not going to be Campbell’s fault. Also, the constant changing of offensive systems is no idle excuse. Everything we’ve heard out of the minicamps is about how the coaches are just now getting up to speed on what Zorn wants to do. So with that in mind, I’m inclined to withhold judgment on Campbell until we see how this season goes. But I am cautiously optimistic. And frankly, if we’re not going to be satisfied with a quarterback until we find a Peyton Manning or a John Elway, we’re going to have to sit through a lot of lost seasons.

You’ll notice Jim Zorn’s name came up repeatedly in the last paragraph. It’s rare to see a head coach this closely tied to his QB. He is also the quarterbacks coach and personally instructs Campbell on every detail of technique and in-game decision-making. Not to mention that he handles the play-calling personally and is in Campbell’s ear every play. Zorn and Campbell are going to succeed and fail together, and it will be difficult for us to parse the blame or credit. Given that this is Campbell’s contract year (assuming a CBA is reached and we don’t go capless) and that Dan Snyder is very unlikely to give Zorn a chance to develop another quarterback, they are both fighting for their jobs (and possibly their careers). Next year they will both be back or both be gone.

The only real quarterback competition in camp will be Colt Brennan against Todd Collins. Zorn has made it pretty obvious that he wants Colt to win the job, and I take most things from Zorn pretty seriously because unlike most coaches he tends to mean what he says. I’m rooting for Colt here, mostly because I have no faith in Todd Collins outside of the Al Saunders offense. Colt did make some pretty, pretty, throws in the preseason last year, and on paper he seems like a good fit for the system. But there were also a number of throws floated into traffic that would have been intercepted if the defense had their starters in. If we have to put Colt into a game, I’m picturing a few beautiful plays cancelled out by at least two picks returned for touchdowns. As for his relationship with Campbell – there is no way Colt Brennan should see the field until the playoffs are totally out of the question, to see if he’s a reasonable option to be our quarterback for 2010. Of course the value of developing him in-season would be limited, since Zorn and his system will almost certainly be gone if this scenario plays out.

My understanding is that Chase Daniel’s fate is entirely tied to the results of the Collins-Brennan contest. If Colt wins the 2nd spot, Collins is a goner and Daniels gets to hang on as number 3. If Collins wins, Colt goes down to 3 and Daniel is either on the practice squad or out the door. So basically, Chase Daniels should be the biggest Colt Brennan fan in town right now.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Position Overview: Tight Ends

Confidence Level: 8 out of 10
Chris Cooley feels like the only part of the offense that can truly be counted on. I shudder to think what this offense would be like without him. What I really find impressive about Cooley is that his greatness as a player is not just based on athletic superiority. By the standards of playmaking tight ends, he’s really not particularly fast, and there are plenty of bigger or stronger guys out on a football field. And yet, he manages to be a serious threat in the passing game by always finding the hole in the coverage and being exactly where Campbell needs him. I also love his open-field running ability, again because it’s not based purely on athletic ability. He averaged 5.7 Yards After Catch last year, which was significantly more than Jason Witten, Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez, and Kellen Winslow. Rather than bowling guys over or juking them out of their socks, he is expert at taking a perfect angle to avoid contact for as long as possible, and then positions himself in such a way that the first hit is often just a glancing blow. And he seems to be very good at maintaining his center of balance as he just doesn’t go down until someone manages to hit him square-on.

Fred Davis, to date, appears to be the exact opposite – an impressive athlete who can’t figure out how to exploit his physical skills at the professional level. I’m withholding judgment for now because plenty of rookies find the NFL to be mystifying, but Zorn was clearly unimpressed last year. If he does develop, we could really have some fun. With both Cooley and Davis in pass patterns, it couldn’t be all that hard to get one or the other of them matched up on a linebacker. Also, while a two tight end formation would normally tip off a run play, with Cooley and Davis defenses may be forced into a nickel package – and then we can run at them with extra blockers. Nonetheless, while it would be nice to have another weapon for Campbell, the development of a second pass-catching tight end would be a luxury rather than a necessity - as opposed to the urgent need for a wide receiver to play split end.

If Davis does pan out, then it’s probably time to say goodbye to Todd Yoder. Yoder has been admirably boring during his tenure here – he does everything you ask of a backup tight end, nothing more, nothing less. He’s a decent blocker. He’s not going to create separation on his own, but if the defense leaves him open and you can get him the ball, he probably won’t drop it. He was occasionally lined up in the slot last year, which I can only assume was done for humorous effect. Unless Davis looks utterly clueless again, I just don’t see room for a third tight end on this roster (I’m going to guess at the final 53 man roster sometime next week). I’ll miss him as much as you will.
Next overview: Quarterbacks

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Free Agents

My brother Rob sent me this email this morning:
"Should the Redskins look to sign one of the big-name free agents? Derrick Brooks, Plaxico, or Marvin Harrison? With Plaxico, couldn’t you look to sign him to something totally made up of incentives, so you haven’t lost anything if he gets indicted?"

In my opinion, no.
Derrick Brooks is 36 years old. He's probably going to the Hall of Fame - and deserves it - but he was cut for a reason. Also, when I get to the defensive position overviews, I will lay out why I am far less worried about outside linebacker than I was going into the offseason. It's just not a position of need anymore.
The Ravens just lost their one reliable receiver - Derrick Mason - to an unexpected retirement, and apparently they haven't even sniffed around Marvin Harrison. A reasonable case can be made that quality receivers is all that stands between the Ravens and a legitimate Super Bowl run, so that probably indicates that among NFL people Harrison is thought to be done.
In purely football terms, Plaxico Burress would be at the top of my wishlist. Perfect size/speed combo to fill the split end position, keeping Randle-El in the slot, and he would draw alot of double coverage off of Santana. However, my understanding is that he is almost certainly going to do real jail time. On the off chance he doesn't, he probably still has a hefty Goodell-imposed suspension coming (I'll save my Personal Conduct Policy rant for another day). Remember that the development of Kelly and/or Thomas is critical to the offense, so I don't think we can afford to take away their training camp reps for someone who will in all likelihood be ineligible to play.

As I wrote previously, the only veteran free agent I'm currently lusting after is Jon Runyan, assuming his knee checks out.

Leave a comment below if you think I'm wrong to shortchange any of these guys, or if there's anyone else we haven't yet thought of who should be brought in for a look.

Position Overview: Wide Receivers

Confidence Level: 4 out of 10
Last year, the plan was for Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas to start at the split end position, allowing Santana to stay at flanker and Randle-El to be a permanent slot receiver. Due to a combination of injuries and general cluelessness, the rookies were unable to fulfill that role and we had absolutely no depth as backup, so our passing game was pretty much neutralized when defenses were able to roll coverages towards Moss at will.
If the passing game takes off this year, it will be because we found someone to competently man split end. A decent split end would allow us to keep Santana at flanker, helping him avoid press coverage and steer much of the offense towards putting the ball in his hands. Meanwhile, Randle-El largely disappears when split out wide. He will never be worth all that we paid for him, but he can still be quite effective out of the slot, where we can scheme match-ups for him and he can use his quickness to exploit the holes left open by slower linebackers and safeties.

To hear the Redskins DBs tell it, nobody could cover Malcolm Kelly during his rare appearances in practice. Unfortunately, he has yet to show an ability to practice three days in a row without his knee swelling up on him. Thomas managed to get stay upright a bit more, but was so flummoxed by the playbook that he was never trusted to be a significant part of the gameplan. It’s pretty routine for rookie receivers to fail to make an impact in the NFL, but these guys underachieved even by the modest expectations that were laid on them.
Other than the health of Chris Samuels, whether or not these guys start looking like professional receivers is probably the most important variable in determining the Redskins 2009 success. If they fail, we’re stuck with another year of ARE and Santana playing out of their ideal positions and getting smothered by defenses. The only other viable option at split end is Roydell Williams. He’s another little receiver – 5’9” - and therefore is not a prototypical split end (the split end is often the “big receiver” because, being directly on the line of scrimmage, he has to fight through more press coverage), but he is in the race simply because he caught 55 passes for Tennessee in 2007, meaning he has demonstrated at least a marginal level of NFL competence.
Barring injury, the five receivers we’ve discussed so far are probably the only ones that have a chance to make an impact this year. However, I’ll quickly run down the other receivers we’ll have in camp. Not in any real depth, but just with the basic information readily available so we’ll at least have some idea who we’re watching this August. Also, it's inevitable that the local media will fall in love with one of these guys during the preseason as they watch him rack up receptions against special teamers.
Keith Eloi – Another little fast guy. A small school prospect who is on the roster because Vinny Cerrato saw a You Tube video of him jumping into the back of a pickup truck. Seriously.
Marko Mitchell – At 6’4”, he’s supposedly the big receiver we’re always looking for. From what I’ve read, he’s one of those guys with a ton of athletic ability who is incredibly raw when it comes to professional receiving skills. Probably practice squad at best for 2009.
Jaison Williams – That’s not a typo, Jaison really is spelled with an “I”. At 6’5”, this is big guy prospect #2. UPDATE - he's already been cut right after we signed Kevin Barnes.
Marques Hagans – College quarterback pure athlete type – has never been a productive receiver despite bouncing around the NFL a couple of years.
Trent Shelton – He’s spent two years in the NFL but hasn’t yet recorded a catch. His main advantage is that he spent 2008 with the Seahawks, so he should already be somewhat familiar with Zorn’s system. But given the breathtaking series of injuries Seattle suffered at WR last year, it probably says something that he still wasn’t able to make the field.
Next overview: Tight Ends

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mike Williams Weight Watch

According to Pro Football Talk, Mike Williams has almost made it all the way from 450 pounds to his target of 345. I share Florio's skepticism on his chances to make the team. It would be a remarkable comeback story, but I'll believe it when I see it.

For those unfamiliar with his background, Williams was the fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft. After four seasons, the Bills cut him after constant injury and ineffectiveness. He has been out of football for the last two years, during which time his weight ballooned all the way up to the aforemention 450. I'm kind of rooting for him, but realistically we have to expect nothing and consider anything he contributes to be a bonus.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hogs Haven's Best and Worst of '08

Hogs Haven, probably the premier Redskins blog, has put up Top 5 lists of the best and worst moments of the 2008 Redskins season. Check out the post here, complete with video clips for some of them. Off the top of my head, I can think of one entry that should be added to each list.

Worst: Geisinger vs. Suggs
In week 14, while facing the formidable Raven's defense, Jon Jansen goes down and Stephon Heyer is forced into the lineup at RT. Later, Chris Samuels, who has been struggling to keep Terrell Suggs under control, goes down for the year with his triceps injury. Apparently not wanting to shift Heyer in the middle of a possession, Justin Geisinger, the backup center with hardly any NFL playing experience, finds himself lined up at left tackle against Terrell freakin Suggs. Even Suggs was appalled - on video you can see him yelling to our sideline asking if we're trying to get our quarterback killed. One play later, Geisinger is mystifyingly not given even a tight end chip for help, and we face the inevitable result: Suggs buries Campbell in the turf, mercifully ending the drive.

Best: Portis ices second straight division win
With a 23-17 lead late in the 4th quarter in Philadelphia (week 5), the Redskins face a 4th and 1 at the Eagles' 38 yard line. If we fail to convert, the Eagles have over two minutes to score - and a touchdown and extra point would win it for them. The Redskins run a draw. The Eagles achieve penetration and Portis is hit well in the backfield, but lowers his helmet, churns his legs, and just puuuuushes across the line for the first down. Campbell kneels three times; game over.

Anything else that should be added to either the Best or Worst lists?

Position Overview: Running Backs

Confidence Level: 7 out of 10
Let's start at the bottom of the depth chart, just for the hell of it. The Redskins brought in three interesting guys who were all part of a rather obvious attempt to add the proverbial Playmaker Out Of The Backfield. We've got two guys who are near identical (at least from the limited information available on such obscure players) and differ only on background.
Both Anthony Alridge and Dominique Dorsey are in the neighborhood of 5'9", 175 pounds, and crazy fast. Alridge was signed undrafted by the Broncos last year, but spent 2008 on IR with a foot injury. He was cut when Josh McDaniels started stockpiling running backs in the offseason, but apparently comes with the personal endorsement of Mike Shanahan, which I imagine goes along way with West Coast guys like Zorn. Dominique Dorsey, however, has several years of professional experience... in Canada. He apparently was quite the special teams star for the Toronto Argonauts, and they considered his jump to the NFL a huge loss, but it remains to be seen whether that says more about Dorsey or the CFL. Apparently, Snyder and Cerrato are hoping one of this pair turns into their very own Darren Sproles (5'6", 180 lbs). How either of these guys would fit into the offense isn't entirely clear, but I'm curious to see what Zorn does with them - or if they were foisted on him by the bigwigs and he only goes through the motions of giving them a shot in preseason.
The third POOTB is Eddie Williams - an H-back type drafted in the seventh round out of Idaho. Check out NFL Draft Countdown scouting report here - the key points are that he is a very good receiver out of the backfield, but not much of a lead blocker. On these grounds, I assume he's not a threat to Sellers. Hybrid TE/FB receiving types are always fun, and (if he makes the roster) he would spend most of his time motioning around and working match-ups on linebackers.
Of those three new guys, I assume only one is making the team. That leaves the three more traditional running backs:
Forgive me, but I'm going to go on awhile about Clinton Portis because I'm not sure everyone appreciates quite what we have here. Check out this YouTube highlight video. Notice how at the end of every run he is punishing a defender. It is absolutely true that these days he brings little breakaway ability, but he runs as hard if not harder than anyone in the NFL. He simply does not leave yards on the field, as Zorn himself has pointed out.
But my favorite part of his game is also the most overlooked: he is probably the most devastating pass-blocker at his position. Not only does he rarely miss blitz pick-ups, but rather than just getting in their way, Portis attacks blitzers with more ferocity than I've seen from any other back. His most famous from last year was this hit on Kiwanuka in the otherwise dismal opener, but every game was filled with hits like this or better. How can you not respect a player who celebrates after a block? In fact, he may take this enthusiasm for the most under-appreciated aspect of his job too far: I could swear there are times when he would be more useful as a dump-off receiver, but he hangs around the backfield looking for a pass-rusher to level. It's possible this is what Zorn instructs him to do, but it sure looks to me like he just plain enjoys blocking.
The only downside of this, of course, is the toll it takes on his prematurely aging body. Twenty-seven may not sound old, but he's already well over 2,000 carries in his career, and the relentless running style I praised above, along with all those blocks, means that Portis has sustained alot of violence. As much as I respect him for exposing himself to it (not to mention seeking it out), it is essential that Betts gets alot more carries than he did last year. I want to soak every last drop out of Portis over the next couple years, and probably the only way to keep him functional is in something closer to a true committee system. We know Betts can run adequately, if not spectacularly, and is a very good receiver. He also blocks almost as violently as Portis - possible due to Portis' example - but is slightly more prone to missing his pick-ups.
The other traditional running back in the mix is local product (he went to Georgetown Prep) Marcus Mason. He is something of a fan favorite after leading the NFL in preseason rushing yards last year, for whatever that's worth (answer: not much). He certainly seems to run with decisiveness, power, and vision, but so far we've only seen him do it against special teamers and other training camp fodder. I'm not saying he can't be an effective NFL rusher - maybe he can - but he hasn't proven it yet. However, he has one potentially fatal flaw that would make his rushing ability irrelevant: the next blitz Marcus Mason picks up will be his first. If he shows this preseason that he has significantly improved at this very important part of this job, then he certainly deserves a serious look. Otherwise, I'm just not eager to risk Jason Campbell's health on the basis of a few August highlights. And given that at least one of the three POOTBs is probably making the team, where exactly does he fit on the roster short of an injury to Portis or Betts? Also, he has admitted to having been a Cowboys fan growing up. So screw him.
The only man we're leaving out to this point is Mike Sellers. Now I love all 285 pounds of Mike Sellers as much as the next guy, but its time we accept that he is very old to be playing such a brutal position. He made some noises about wanting a new contract this offseason, but even Snyder knows better than to give extensions to 34 year old fullbacks. There's a good chance this is his last year on the team. Sellers is often a devastating lead blocker, and given the unpredictability of our line he could be key to they running game, be he has lately developed the tendency to whiff on some blocks as well. One thing I wish people would stop hoping for is more carries for Sellers. He has never shown himself to be a particularly effective short yardage runner - defenders simply take out his legs (remember the 2007 week 3 loss to the Giants?). He does, however, have very good hands that make him a nice receiving threat - either in goal line situations, or with the opportunity to turn it up field and flatten some 180 pound safety.
Next up: Wide Receivers

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Redskins add a rookie DE

The Redskins have picked up defensive end Jeremy Jarmon in the supplemental draft. For those of you who are unfamiliar, the supplemental draft is a procedure instituted for players who for unforseen reasons were not eligible for the regular draft back in April. It's basically conducted as a blind auction by email, in which teams "bid" a draft round, and if they win they have to give up the corresponding pick next year. So in this case, we have already used our 2010 third round pick.

For the record, Jarmon was available because he tested positive for a banned substance (supposedly the old not-checking-the-ingredients-on-the-dietary-supplement snafu) and was stripped of his fourth year of college eligibility.

It's hard not to like the move. Obviously, DE is a spot where we are really in need of both youth and depth, and the price was modest (one way to look at it is that we have a one-year head start on developing one of next year's draft picks).

Because he wasn't a draft prospect there's very little analysis of his skills available, but here's Rotoworld's take:

"The Skins are less concerned than any team with losing future picks, but at least they're getting a pretty good prospect. Jarmon doesn't project as a future double-digit sack guy, but the 20-year-old is built to stop the run and will probably add 10-20 pounds to his frame as he develops. He'll make it harder for declining vets Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels to make the team."

Pro Football Weekly has this quote:

“As a player, we liked his production,” said Scott Campbell, the Redskins' director of player personnel. “He’s good against the run and can rush the passer. He’s young, only 21 years old, with a lot of playing experience. After meeting him and spending time with him, it is easy to see he is a quality person with good upside and all the qualities we look for. Everyone at the school spoke very highly of him — from the coaches to the training staff to the strength staff, they all had positive things to say.”

Finally, here's Cerrato:

"He's already graduated, which is good and I think this: I think he's smart, he's tough, he's willing to listen and he's willing to work. That was [defensive line coach John] Palermo's comments after he worked him out ... Those are four things you really like to hear. ...
"You see it on film, when you get tired you still chase. I think he has that in him and he'll get more I think from being around our guys and seeing what pro ball is about."

Speaking of film, YouTube again comes to the rescue. This clip shows some pretty impressive ability, both in beating the blocker and chasing down the QB outside of the pocket.

It's important to keep perspective, of course. Ends don't often make a big impact their rookie years. Much like wide receivers, the top players often had such athletic superiority over their college opponents that it was never necessary to really master technique. Once they reach the pros, these guys take awhile to pick up the nuances of their position to the point that they can compete with equally elite athletes. Realistically, he will probably not have much impact this season other than depth. We'll likely have to wait til next season to see if he develops into a significant pass rush threat.

One other effect of this move, as the Rotoworld quoted noted, is that the defensive end competition, in which Carter and Orakpo are the only real sure things, just got alot more crowded. Jarmon's arrival could mean the one less spot for a veteran - more on that in the defensive line position overview.

UPDATE: Thanks to Rich Tandler's Real Redskins, found a link to a Sporting News scouting report on Jarmon.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Redskins Insider (Washington Post) has a good assessment of the Jarmon pick.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Suisham blames fat punter's fat fingers for missed field goals.

SI's Peter King is taking a July vacation from his Monday Morning Quarterback column, so he's been having NFL players filling in for him the past few weeks. After previous submissions by Trent Green and Matt Birk, our own Chris Cooley got a turn.

Cooley's submission was frankly underwhelming, but in his attempt at humor in which he tried to describe the futility of having conversations with a kicker, he did throw out something that caught my attention:

"A couple of weeks ago, I squatted over my helmet next to Shaun Suisham on the practice sideline of Redskins Park...Conversations with a kicker are typically nonsense-filled ideas ranging from Barack Obama staring down girls' backsides to Michael Jackson's death dragging his estate out of debt. Every so often, we even talk about football, but with a kicker it's usually something about how a holder's chubby, jittery hands can mess up an entire season or why adding two games to the regular season would be so much harder on a kicking leg... "

After going on awhile about installing sensors in footballs so that it could be precisely measured when the ball cross the goaline - or stay within the goalposts - he comes back to the fat punter:

"Yes, this great new method also applies to kickers and Suisham's short goal-post theory, though it can't make ex-punters any skinnier."

There's no way that the overweight ex-punter can be anyone but the notoriously rotund Ryan Plackemeier - Durant Brooks' replacement last year. That's Plackemeier in the photo. He is a large young man.

This, apparently, is Suisham's attempt to write off his 72% field goal success rate last year. For the sake of our kicking game, I hope Hunter Smith has lithe, nimble fingers that will be more to Suisham's liking.


Jon Runyan is still a free agent. Granted, he's old as dirt (his rookie year was with the Houston Oilers). Granted he's coming of microfracture knee surgery. But the fact is he is still a very powerful right tackle and he is available. Despite the nagging knee problem, he has started 290 straight games - 308 if you include playoffs. The guy is notorious around the league for being downright mean on the field - in the way you want on offensive lineman to be. One of his strengths? Getting out in front of screen passes and bowling over defenders to create big gains. Can you think of a team that has a hole at right tackle and runs screens like its their job?

As a 35 year old lineman coming off surgery, I can't imagine he's demanding a lot of money or a multi-year contract. Obviously due diligence on the knee will be important, but if this guy's functional come training camp, he simply needs to be on our roster. How nice would it be to not have to run behind Chris Samuels every damn time until he breaks down?

UPDATE: Also, I just learned he has a pet pig. Now we really have to sign the guy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Position Overview: Offensive Line

Confidence Level: 5 out of 10

The O-line is, correctly, the chief focus of concern for most Redskins fans. However, before simply dismissing it as a shambles, let's take stock of what we have, both good and bad.

Welcome to Staying Medium

Hi everyone,

My plan here is to try to add a somewhat rational voice to discussions about the Redskins. All of us are attracted to football partly by the extreme emotions it provokes - and I am certainly not immune. However, the passions involved sometimes make it hard to have a reasonable discussion about what is an exceedingly complex and subtle sport. Just turn on talk radio after a game and you will see how detached from reality people can become: a succession of frantic callers will either be making plans for the next three Super Bowls or stating authoritatively that the Redskins will not win another game all year - all based on the outcome of a single contest the result of which quite likely could have been reversed by a very small number of plays going the other way.
That's why I've co-opted Jim Zorn's slogan: "Stay medium, men." Let's not allow success to give us to big a head, or failure to doom us to despondency.
Before the season, we will try to locate the strengths and weaknesses of this team and try to get a grasp on the potential range of performance. During the year, we will avoid the simple story lines given by most media outlets and discuss what's working and what's not, and what that might mean for the future. After losses we will analyze the failures in a rational light and try to ascertain if the problems are correctible, rather than just go off on a spittle-spewing rant against Dan Snyder. After wins we will talk about what's going right, but keep an eye out for lingering shortcomings that could derail us in the future.
One note. I don't really expect the readership of this blog to expand beyond my immediate circle of friends, but I want to throw in a disclaimer for anyone who may not know me:
I have never coached or played organized football at any level. I am most assuredly not pretending to be an expert, and I do not claim to be anything more than a fan. I also do not claim any "insider" information - my sources are only from the media or other blogs, and most of my go-to sources on Redskins info are included in the links on the right side of the page.
As such, I welcome any and all feedback on my opinions. Ideally the posts on this blog would be springboards for conversation, rather than just one fan laying down his opinions as if he has some sort of authority to do so.

The agenda moving forward:
The bulk of my first posts will be position overviews. These will lay out my thoughts on each position group as we head into training camp. I will try to have all of the positions discussed before the preseason games begin.
Then of course, I'll be watching all the action and sharing observations on the preseason games and trying to glean what useful information they may provide, and tracking the preseason story lines that will be played out in them.
As the preseason wraps up, we will probably come back to the early position assesments to see if there is reason to revise any expectations. I will also post my reactions to any significant Redskins news that comes out. Throughout, we will be trying to get a better grasp out of just what we can expect from this group in 2009 and beyond.
Additionally, I do a lot (maybe too much) of football reading in my spare time. If I find a article that grabs me, especially if it is relevant to our favorite team, I will post links along with my thoughts on it. Hopefully you will find some of them interesting as well, and will give your responses.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your feedback and reactions.
Stay medium, people.