Sunday, August 29, 2010

An updated (but still hopless) attempt at a 53 man roster projection

Back in  mid-July, before training camp even opened, I put up my best effort at an admittedly hopeless projection of how the 53 man roster would end up come September.  Of course that was before weeks of reports from training camp (and tweets... so many tweets...) as well as three full preseason games.  Obviously a lot has happened, including a number of personell moves, so it seems like as good a time as any to take a second look and see what changes need to be made now that, you know, we actually have information to base this on.

First I'll go over each position group from the original projection, with a brief note on what changes seem necessary due to the events of the past month.  After that, we'll look at how the projected roster looks after implementing those changes.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Redskins-Jets preseason notes

My notes from Friday's game:


On the Redskins first offensive snap, Willie Parker actually did a decent job picking up a blitzing linebacker. He is not known for this particular skill.

Joey Galloway had appeared to be invisible to Donovan McNabb in the first two games, but Rex Grossman was looking his way from the beginning.

On the Redskins first running play both Casey Rabach and Derrick Dockery get overwhelmed by the Jets linemen and let the corner collapse (Trent Williams did his job and quickly shed off the RDE and was perfectly placed to seal the linebackers inside).

The offensive line (and other blockers) did a much better job than last week adjusting to blitzes from multiple angles. Lends more credence to the argument that many of the protection problems against the Ravens were due to preseason game-planning (or lack thereof).

Monday, August 23, 2010

Anthony Armstrong and the Redskins wide receiver situation

From the way Anthony Armstrong is being used, it is evident that he is not your usual young receiver who flashes a bit in preseason. In the first two preseason games, Joey Galloway and Santana Moss have been lining up as the starters. As soon as the Redskins go three wide, Armstrong takes over at flanker for Santana, who slides to the slot (this is a fantastic place for Santana to be by the way, and shows how Armstrong’s emergence can offer benefits beyond his own production).

And as soon as he is on the field, McNabb starts looking his way. He does have good speed, but more importantly than that he has shown the route running ability to set up defenders well before blowing past them. And the key is that those are starting defenders he is setting up. He has been productive in the first quarter of preseason games against starters, rather than the fourth quarter against guys who will be trying out for the UFL in a month. We can’t say for certain that this situation will continue into the regular season, but it’s hard to find a reason why it wouldn’t.  And for that matter, if Armstrong doesn't become an effective third receiver, who else on the current depth chart will?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Redskins-Ravens preseason notes

Well that ought to calm people down after the Buffalo game.  But keep in mind that the lopsided score didn't occur until after both teams had pulled their starters from the game.  And aside from Trent Williams' struggles against Terrel Suggs, many of the protection problems came from the fact that the Redskins hadn't game planned for Baltimore's various blitzes, so my level of concern is only moderate.

In the near future I will be putting up more detailed posts on Anthony Armstrong and Albert Haynesworth, but for now here are some brief and non-comprehensive notes on the game:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Redskins-Bills preseason notes

I'd say that went well. 

It was a first preseason game against a very poor opponent who played a pretty bad game.  We all know not to get overly excited about a lopsided win here, but it's okay to enjoy it a little.  When's the last time the Redskins were convincingly the better team on the field?

Although it would be crazy to draw conclusions after one preseason game, I think there was a fair amount to learn from finally seeing the Redskins in game action (sort of).  Below are my notes from the game, with sections for offense, defense, and special teams.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Twenty-seven questions for the Redskins preseason

It's less than 24 hours until we finally get to see the Redskins in action against a live opponent.  Although we will quickly become frustrated by the  meaningless nature of these games, right now we are all in severe withdrawal and I'm sure you can't wait for it to start either.  And as much as I appreciate the detailed and high-quality training camp blog posts, tweets, and other observations of Rich Tandler, John Keim, Mike Jones, and others I am pretty eager to see the Redskins for myself.

Here are some things I'll be hoping to learn from watching the first three preseason games (we all know the fourth game is useless):

1) Is Maake Kemoeatu healthy enough to get significant preseason playing time? If not, should we worry about his availability for the regular season?

2) Does the comptetition between Lorenzo Alexander and Andre Carter for the starting LOLB job have meaningful playing time implications, or are they going to rotate based on game situation?

3) Are the defensive linemen able to keep the inside linebackers clean? My skepticism that London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh can consistently overcome blockers in their face is one of my primary reasons for concern about switching to a 3-4 defense.

Redskins position preview: Special teams

Confidence Level: 7

At long last, we are finally wrapping up the overviews of every position group that started when I took a pre-training camp stab at projecting a 53-man roster back in mid-July.  All that's left are the special teams, which require a rather lengthy post since we have to talk about kick returners and all that, but for purposes of the roster projection were pretty straightforward as there just weren't any choices to be made (at least at the time):

Specialists (3)
Long Snapper: Nick Sundberg
Kicker: Graham Gano
Punter: Josh Bidwell

Long snapper

One of the first things Mike Shanahan did when he took over was ditch Redskin of the Decade Ethan Albright, who had been the Redskins long snapper pretty much forever. How Shanahan was not immediately fired for this act, and then hit with a class-action lawsuit from Redskins fans, is a mystery to me. Over the course of nine Redskins seasons Albright has never, to my knowledge, been guilty of a bad snap. Think about it – when is the last time you can remember the Redskins being the victim of a botched snap? For me it was when the late Dan Turk was unable to set up the potential game-winning field goal in the 2000 (’99 season) playoff game against Tampa Bay. If you can come up with another one, please remind me. It’s quite a luxury to never have to worry about getting the snap down.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Redskins position preview: Quarterbacks

Confidence Level: 6.5 out of 10

We are almost done with the 2010 positional previews, and today we finally get around to the quarterbacks.  Back in July this was my original pick for the quarterbacks from my 53 man roster projection.  Clearly it has been overtaken by events, although swapping out new acquisition John Beck for new Raider Colt Brennan in the #3 spot is the only change.

Quarterbacks (3 Keepers)
Keepers: Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, Colt Brennan
Cut: Richard Bartel

Donovan McNabb is in town, and represents a significant upgrade over Jason Campbell.  When the protection breaks down – and it will – McNabb will see it coming and buy just enough time to make a play. We have a serious upgrade here both in terms of pocket presence and recognizing the defense before the snap.  He is still mobile enough to execute Shanahan’s beloved rollouts and bootlegs to perfection.  When the play-calling works, McNabb will be more likely to capitalize on it with a much more accurate deep ball than Redskins fans are used to seeing.  Importantly, he has been consistently productive in the past despite spending most of his career with a mediocre wide receiver corps.

There are flaws of course.  He has never been terribly accurate and has relied upon his ability to keep plays alive and make something out of nothing.  And he is going to have mysterious bouts of extreme inaccuracy in which he misses open receivers badly for whole games at a time. This is going to happen and we may as well mentally prepare ourselves for it now.

Staying Medium joins the TBD Community Network

As of this morning has launched as a new local news site to be paired with TBD TV (formerly known as News Channel 8), and Staying Medium is lucky enough to be included as one of their community blogs.  You can still find me right here at this Blogspot address, although many of my posts will now be linked on the sports page along with three other great Redskins blogs: It Is What It Is..., Brooding Burgundy, and Riggo's Rag.

But TBD will be leading the way in professional journalistic coverage as well: they have their own Redskins beat reporter Mike Jones, whose very active Twitter feed had already provided tons of in-depth updates from training camp even before his first article went up earlier today.  They have even managed to land a weekly column from DC favorite David Aldridge.  I also recommend you check out the TBD Scrum, a forum in which a different local sports topic will be put up for debate each day.  Today: whether or not Willie Parker should make the Redskins 53-man roster (he shouldn't).  You should also follow the Scrum on Twitter to keep up to date on the current topic.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Redskins position preview: Tight ends

Confidence Level: 8

Finally we get to talk about a position of (nearly) unambiguous strength as we continue to previewing each position as follow up to my hopeless 53-man roster prediction back in July.

Tight Ends (2 keepers)

Keepers: Chris Cooley, Fred Davis
Cuts: Logan Paulsen, Lee Vickers

Fred Davis was one of the few pleasant surprises of 2009. While filling in during the first injury Chris Cooley has ever had, Davis stepped right in and shows he has the ability to be a top flight NFL tight end. Davis’ athleticism was never in question, but it was gratifying to see the timing and chemistry he had with Campbell – he was clearly running the routes correctly and Jason trusted Davis would be where he needed to be. Now if he can continue to trust his speed in the open field rather than go all Tinkerbell on us like last year, he brings some serious playmaking ability to the table.

Cooley, meanwhile, should pick up right where he left off. He is not the fastest or biggest guy out there, but he knows his craft. He is a master route runner and knows how to find the openings in the defense. Perhaps my favorite aspect of Cooley’s game is his open-field running ability. As mentioned, he doesn’t blow you away with raw speed. But he understands angles and manages to avoid contact for as long as possible, and then he has exceptional balance that makes him nearly impossible to take down with a glancing blow – and he is very good at adjusting at the last second to make would-be tackles into glancing blows.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Redskins position preview: Wide receivers

Confidence Level: 3

Another look back at my earlier attempt to project the 53-man roster:

Wide Receivers (6 Keepers)
Keepers: Santana Moss, Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, Bobby Wade, Mike Furrey, Terrence Austin
Cuts: Joey Galloway, Brandon Banks, Roydell Williams, Shay Hodges, Anthony Armstrong

There has been much focus this offseason on the perceived slow development of the Redskins two young receivers (who by the way have been referred to as The Two Young Receivers for some time now) as they enter their third season. There has even been speculation that one of them could even not make the final roster. The most likely victim in this scenario would be Malcolm Kelly, who despite putting up similar numbers to Devin Thomas does not appear to have refined his game much. The fact that he has already lost training camp time to his constantly recurring injury issues means his job could be in jeopardy simply because he never gets a chance to get on the field. I have him on my 53 man roster projection, but mostly because I am unimpressed with the various veterans who would replace him.

I am quite a bit more optimistic about Devin Thomas because he displayed a very encouraging progression last season. After being invisible early on, he gradually gained more and more chance to show off his extreme athleticism. He developed into Jason Campbell’s go-to safety valve on the many, many occasions when Campbell was running for his life. Of course we all know that speed and athleticism by themselves don’t get you too far in the NFL, and it was telling that Thomas only showed up in an improvisational fashion on broken plays. However as the year went on he was Jason’s primary read more and more often, and increasingly often the passes were timed to hit Thomas as he came out of his break, which I took as an indication that he had significantly improved his route running - a skill difficult to judge with TV camera angles.  He is also, in the words of a representative YBF commenter, “SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO DAMN FINE,” so he has that going for him too I guess.