Covering The Redskins

Location: Bloomfield, CT

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

April 27-- The draft

The Redskins pulled off one of the more shrewd moves under the Dan Snyder ownership by trading out of the first round acquiring two second round picks from Atlanta (while exchanging a few other selections) and ultimately picking at need and getting what is believed to be the top receiver in the draft. So the Skins nab Devin Thomas, a player believed a possible selection at 21 had he fallen to that point in the draft.. Vinny Cerrato had told me numerous times he beleived the draft was very deep at receiver (a need spot if the team couldn't land Chad Johnson/Anquan Boldin etc) in the second and third rounds.. He was very right with no receiver going in the first round..
So they select Thomas.. Then they go with Fred Davis, who certainly is a highly regarded prospect out of USC, but with the financial committment already in place for Chris Cooley, how he'll fit in will be in question.. maybe this is a team that can run two tight ends, only Jim Zorn can answer that..

The third second round pick is where I have a some apprehention. The Skins personally worked out Malcolm Kelly, the receiver from Oklahoma, but it was my understanding that the Skins didn't think Thomas would be available to them when they drafted at 21 or at whatever spot they landed had they traded down. Once Thomas fell into their lap, the necessity to spend that high a pick on Kelly seems moot.. So the Skins try to solve a void with two potential prospects.. Is this overkill? Possibly. Does this mean James Thrash is in danger of losing a roster spot? Possibly. Does this mean Chad Johnson is definitely out of the Skins potential plans? Possibly and probably.

Day two.. I love the selection of Colt Brennan, QB from Hawaii with a 6th round pick.. This is a win win for the Skins. Brennan owns NCAA records mainly because he was a competent gunslinger for a kitshcy offense that does nothing but throw. He certainly is not mobile, had some character issues which led to a transfer to Hawaii but by all accounts has been a good citizen since going to Paradise. The 3rd QB on this roster right now is former Terp Sam Hollenbach, therefore, this spot is open for a young prospect to grow.. Todd Collins should and could be the back-up for two seasons. Jason Campbell is the starting quarterback.. Brennan comes here with no pressure, prove you are worth a roster spot, and sit back and learn from Zorn for two seasons. At that point, you are either the primary back-up, or who knows...

I also applaud the team for taking the best punter in college football.. Derrick Frost has been an erratic performer and needs competition. Spending a low round selection on that was imparative.
The Redskins got a CB, DE and a swing O-lineman, all needs, but honestly I know so little about any of them, we'll see if they are hots or misses..

In all, I like what the Skins did, targeted WR as a need, got value by trading down and landing the right guy with their first pick.. The next two 2nd's need to be scrutinized. I firmly believe in the "best player available" mantra but the next two picks stunk of overkill.. Still, a core with emerging players like Kelly and Thomas with ARE and Santana could be an upgrade, certainly if one emerges, the other doesn't need to be an immediate impact player. The inherent competition the Redskins just created will be one of the most intriguing of camp..
Day two is day two. You take your shots. Grade: B to B+

Friday, April 25, 2008

April 25-- Skins Pick will be...

The Redskins are not moving up in this weekend's draft unless somehow, someway the deal involves a convoluted way of getting one of the three primary receivers possibly available: Roy Williams, Chad Johnson or Anquan Boldin.. My guess is no deal involves them moving up under any such scenario, so lets assume they stay or move down..

The pick at 21 tells us everything we need to know about their confidence that either Boldin or more likely Johnson is a Skin by the start of training camp.. Should the Skins go with Oklahoma WR Malcolm Kelly with the 21st pick, then they are saying that they are convinced Cincinnati is not going to deal Johnson despite his proclamations most recently that the Bengals "will not win this war."

If the Skins take Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling who they went and watched work out at an unusual last minute field session yesterday, then that tells you that the believe Johnson is still in play.. Or if they select CB Aqib Talib or should the Florida's D end Harvey somehow be available, again same thought process..
Even with a selection of Merling, the Skins have three more picks in the second and third rounds, enough to likely land a receiver maybe even Limas Sweed of Texas should he fall into the second round with injury concerns.. Even then, I don't think that selection would be a sign that Washington thinks Ocho Cinco is out of play..
The deal then become a post June one, likely closer to training camp deal where Cincinnati likely deals Johnson for next year's first rounder and likely a second pick, quite possibly the third offerd whivh could escalate to an '10 first rounder with performance levels reached..

As for the rest of the draft.. The Skins will take at least one interior O-lineman likely in he first three rounds, likely a defensive tackle in the first three rounds and defeinitely a quarterback late to develop behind Jason Campbell looking at a possible long term future when the team finally parts ways with Todd Collins after two more seasons..
If there is a young punter worth looking at, I would suggest that selection in the latter rounds as well.. They have 3 seventh rounders, likely few will make the team so why not take the shot on a possible punter to groom..

OK men..

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April 23-- Chasing Chad

It's going to happen.. Just not now.. I'm convinced Chad Johnson will not be a Bengal and I'm convinced he'll be in the NFC East which is why the offer the Skins made though possibly an overpayment for the disgruntled receiver is necessitated..

The Skins, Cowboys and Eagles all want Chad Johnson, all three (maybe the Eag;es more so then the other two) need a secondary receiving threat.. So this is turning into a Red Sox/Yankees arms race where the deal not only ensures you get a top flight talent but keeps him off a main rival.. Whoever ends up with Johnson or in my opinion the more valuable Anquan Boldin suddenly becomes a significantly stronger team heading into 2008..

I figure the Skins to land either Johnson or Boldin based if for no other reason that Drew Rosenhaus represents both and he and Dan Snyder are in the business of making each other happy campers.. The Cardinals sincerely want to keep Boldin who watched Larry Fitzgerald get a major deal, but it must be noted that Fitzgerald overperformed his initial rookie contract which in turn turned his deal into a albatross on their cap.. Certainly the Cardinals weren't going to release Fitzgerald outright. So Boldin wants the big bucks too. Certainly he has every reason to believe he'll get a new deal, but he wants Fitzgerald cash and the liklihood of Arizona breaking the bank for both receivers is unlikely. In the end, this is a good problem for Arizona, they don't have to deal Boldin and are more then happy to try to negotiate a fair deal, but they can also force Boldin to play it out.

Johnson is different story. He has said he won't play. Marvin Lewis dared him to keep his word on that threat and the Bengals for now are playing high stakes chicken with their best receiver. I expect Cincinnati to pay TJ Houshmanzadeh and move Johnson. Chad is 30 and although his numbers are among the most reliable in the league, Bengals brass can sell Houshmanzadeh and someone else as a reliable attack with string armed Carson Palmer at QB. In essence, Boldin is young and probably has a lot more upseide then Johnson as good as Johnson is. The Cardinals would be nuts to get rid of Anquan, the Bengals could try to sell that Johnson's performance will decrease in the ensuing years if not in the very immediate future.

In the defense of Johnson, he has received a lot of the blame for the team's failures, but he wasn't one of the numerous players in that locker room who was arrested in recent years. Is Chad really the bad cat in the locker room? Truth is Johnson also wants to be in a big time city for a marquee franchise. He's that kind of star. So Washington and Dallas certainly fits the mold of a team worthy of Johnson's histrionics.

In the end, I expect the Bengals to relent and deal Johnson probably closer to the start of camp, and next year's draft pick will still be in play when that time comes.. Selfishly, I think Johnson will be an unbelievable addition in terms of interviewees, and I certainly believe the Redskins do need a stable force opposite Santana Moss.. You could make a case that the Skins would have the most dangerous core of receivers should Johnson or Boldin come to DC. Besides, did you really think the Redskins would sit on their hands and not do anything dramatic the entire off-season?

See you in July 85..

Ok men..

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 22-- The Sleeping Giant is Awake

I remember going to Caps games at US Air Arena in the 80's, wearing all white, not a seat unfilled and screaming my head off for a team that annually would break my heart. But I went back year after year, not because I had faith when game six against the Penguins went to double overtime that the outcome would be different, but because it mattered.

Since the Caps shift to the Southeast division (and subsequent crumbling of the true divisional rivalries the area cared about) and since the move to Verizon Center (ticket price hike and new downtown home), something eroded from that experience. Sure the Caps became less competitive in the subsequent years, but the stadium would often be overrun by Flyers, Penguins, even Sabre fans. On the few playoff nights against Tampa Bay, indifference prevailed.

Next came, the media who steamrolled the sport as second tier. The Caps became an ignored property on it's own local airwaves. The hosts treating the game and it's perceived dwindling fan base as a waste of air. The new adage was if the Caps beat the Flames in a shootout and no one talked about it, did it actually happen?

This troubled me on numerous levels. Caps fans were passionate, now they weren't? It continued to propogate the tiresome perception that DC is not a sports town unless your name was Redskins. The frinedliest most accessible owner in town had to turn into a door to door (or in Ted's case email to email) salesman just to get people to give his product a shot.

Put aside the Caps and Flyers enterring a must see game seven tonight at Verizon Center; the biggest game in terms of interest Ted's team has played since Washington's run to the Cup Finals in 1998. Something has pushed the right button in the inner sports concious of this town and has re-energized a fan base for hockey, exemplified by the atmosphere of game one of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Suddenly, like it was 1988 all over again, the Caps mattered, and I'm thinking it's here to stay this time.

"I think we have finally dispelled the notion that this town can't support a hockey team," a beaming Ted Leonsis said in the locker room following a thrilling game one win where his Caps came back from down two goals to start the 3rd period to win 5-4.
It wasn't just about the sea of red or the building being barely able to handle the sound generated from it's suddenly raucous fan base. It was about recapturing something that was already there, rekindling a love affair the Caps created back in the 80's. "This was the most schiovanistic crowd we've had. They want to protect our building. We want to make this place inhospitable."

Was it Alex Ovechkin's season of 65 goals (a feat produced by no other player in the league in a dozen years). Is it the fact that despite popular belief, Alex isn't the team's one trick pony, indeed a line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin and Ovechkin figures to quite possibly become the NHL's next version of Gretzky, Kurri and Messier?
Was it the team's hiring of a weeble-wobble coach who's only NHL shot was afforded because he happened to win a title with 7 of the young up and comers on this team two seasons ago in Hershey? Bruce Boudreau has all but admitted he didn't think he'd even get a shot to coach in the league after toiling for years in towns better known for chocolate then sport.
Was it the final 2 months where Washington never lost back to back games, cruised to victory in their final 9, all necessitated must wins and pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in NHL regular season history to steal the Southeast division?
Or maybe it's something that everyone can relate to. "I think something special is going on here," said a buzzing Joe Beninati, play by play voice of the team to me in the bowels of Verizon after the stirring game one win.
Beninati and Criag Laughlin have become a remarkable duo in the booth, presenters of a game that by ratings standards, no one knew existed. But colorfully and artfully, they called every game for years while the rest of the city pretended it could care less.

Leonsis took his first real risk as owner of the team by spending Snyder style on effortless Jaromir Jagr among others. He had a good team and figured, a boost of star power and veteran leadership would carry him over the top. Jagr didn't like DC, and DC didn't like him or his penchent to play when he felt like it. So the strip mining of a team with an eroding attendence was a death sentence for Ted's checkbook. "I lost 100 million dollars since taking over as owner, but the team has appreciated since I bought them. What's a hundred million dollars between friends?"

In turn, the Caps started to sell a new plan, one that involved a lot of draft picks (many of which wouldn't see NHL ice for 3-4 years if at all). Even fervent hockey fans in fervent hockey towns (outside of Canada of course) would have any clue whether the front office was picking the right guys. They are European or Canadian and there is no Mel Kiper to help us break it down. The team also traded away the gut of the team, well liked Peter Bondra and Sergei Gonchar. Shipped off the old timers like Robert Lang and finally got out from under the Jagr albatross (despite paying a good portion of his slaary to watch him emerge as a star again in New York). This team was not recognizable in a division that provided locals no rival to hate.

Today, that plan is paying off. Regardless of whether the Caps beat Philly tonight or get on a rediculous run to the Cup, Ted's plan finally took shape. It's as if his dream came true, he'd wake up one day and he'd have a good hockey team. "It wasn't hard to change the team back then. The definiton of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. There was more risk not ripping that team apart."

Left was Olie Kolzig, who is ironically only along for this ride. Left is the fruition of remarkable draft selections, Ovechkin, Semin, Backstrom, possibly Defenseman Karl Alzner who the Caps are very high on.
This series has also shown something in DC we weren't accustomed to back in the 80's. The Caps have adjusted to the physical play of an opponent and become the aggressor. Brooks Laich, Steve Emminger and Matt Cooke might not be household names in any town, but their physicality is a huge part of the Caps not only standing up to the Flyers, but in recent days appearing to be the more physical team. It's fun when the bullies are the ones cowering.

And the best part is anyone who follows sports knows that this is only the beginning. Until toay, I'd never actually wanted to give a contract extension to a player who'd just signed a 13 year deal, but in the case of Ovechkin, lifetime contract seems to fit. Backstrom is going to be the NHL assist leader within five years. Semin might have more true offensive skill then Ovechkin. And they are tough thanks to a checking line that in my opinion has kept them in this series. They are the embodiment of the popular sports credo of being a "player or two away." And yet that time might come sooner then we thought. Get by the Flyers, and who knows right?

In the end what's most rewarding to a lifetime fan is the return of the atmosphere. In covering sports, all I ever can ask is that the fans give their heart to the team when warranted but not desert them when times are tough. And for the players, leave it on the field of play and don't disgrace the uniform. The latter half appears in good hands. The first part is up to us, not to let this be a fleeting moment, but to support what could be the beginning of an amazing run. And in truth, could it happen to a better guy then Ted?

OK men..

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April 20-- This isn't goodbye

But Friday was my last official broadcast as a full time member of Redskins Radio.. I will be helping out with our draft coverage but certainly will take a less prominent role then in the past..

My first day at ESPN is in early May and I don't know when my first air shift will be, but I'll certainly update you via the blog so you can see your little reporter all growns up.. I will continue to post blog entries as well, stories from Bristol, thoughts on the Skins etc..

But, it is time to say thank you. Working at Redskins Radio and being part of the gameday broadcasts was a dream come true.. I remember going to RFK as a kid and listening to the post game show coming out of the stadium, hearing Sonny and Sam from the locker room, Ken Beatrice breaking down the game and taking your calls. It's all I ever wanted to do. And for 8 seasons (the last two most prominently) my employers and you allowed me to live that dream.
For 8 years I have seen every game the Redskins have played live, the last two from the unique perspective of the sideline. It's an experience I'll never forget and always cherish.

I'd like to thank Tod Castleberry, someone who took a major chance on me, allowing a 26 year old to take over a very public and prominent position at Sportstalk 980 covering the Redskins. Tod was integral in getting me to make the move from the competitor to Redskins Radio, but considering my expertise and passion, it was not a difficult choice to make because I knew Tod would help me find a higher profile, plus the lure of being part of the official broadcasts was overwhelming. Bennett Zier and Jeff Wyatt were also believers in my work and always beyond supportive of my own personal growth.

Chris Owens is responsible for the opens and overall sound of our shows and in particular the Redskins pre-game show, my favorite program to work on. He was by far the best producer in this regard I ever got the opportunity to work with. The show Kevin Sheehan and I hosted the last two years was leaps and bounds superior to the one I was part of on 980. And it was mainly thanks to Chris and Kevin's passion for the best sound and content we could muster.

I've had the great fortune of working with legends, Joe Jacoby for 8 years on the postgame show. John Riggins who might as well be the Beatles when he walks into a room. And the great John Thompson who was integral in cementing me as more then a neophyte in the eyes of the team early in my run as Redskins beat reporter.
Dexter Manley was one of the most unqiue individuals I've ever met. Doc Walker is easily one of my favorite people in the world. Smokin Al K, Andy P, Czabe, Gary Braun, B Mitch all talents I've had the great fortune of getting to work with and learn from. Special thanks to Dave Feldman, Russ Thaler (and the crew of Washington Pst Live), and the folks at CN8 who rpoduce one of the best sports shows on TV (Out of Bounds) a show I became a regular contributer on and ultimately opened up a creative forum that I hadn't delved into in a while.. And of course the legendary team of Larry, Sonny and Sam, what an honor to be with them every Sunday.

Redskins Radio is currently being run by one of the greats in our business, Bruce Gilbert. The fate of Redskins radio is in the best hands possible. Trust me when I tell you this, this station is ready to turn a major corner.. He was amazing with the tranisitional process for me and I can only hope that he will consider me for any and all limited work with the team down the road possible..

As for the Redskins, I'm not going to tell tales about the team's relationship with the media, but certainly it's no walk in the park covering them. But as I leave daily reporting duties at Ashburn, I can honestly say I have nothing but admiration and respect for the way they treated me. Dan Snyder didn't have to let me do a daily show from an area of Redskins park off limits to the rest of the media. Vinny Cerrato didn't have to do a weekly show with Larry and me every Thursday, but he did and did it as open and honest as he could. They treated me to a different level of access few reporters are privy to and I appreciated it and tried hard not to break that trust. That said, when the team wins one playoff game in the 8 years I covered them, had 6 year different head coaches and numerous players come in and out, certainly I couldn't have done my job with any kind of integrity without analyzing the zits.
Despite popular belief that Redskins Radio couldn't be unbiased in it's coverage, never once did Mr. Syder, Vinny, Joe Gibbs, or anyone in the organization ever tell me I couldn't say this or I couldn't say that. Sure they disagreed with some of my opinions and reporting, but as long as I never made it personal, and I tried hard not to, everything was fair game. In that regard, I want to thank the Redskins for letting me in the door despite the knowledge that not everything I was going to say would be music to their ears. It was tough love, but always behind it was love.

Lastly, I want to thank you, for reading the blog, for listening to my broadcasts and reports and for being so very supportive in my next adventure. I will miss covering the team, I will miss hosting radio shows (not currently part of my ESPN deal) and will miss DC dearly. But this opportunity is amazing. Very few in my business get a shot like this and I am going there with an attitude that the sky is the limit. I can't wait to get started and see where my career goes.

So it's off to New England to start fresh, to find out if I got the goods to hang with the big boys and to take an opportunity of a lifetime and go for it. I always covered the team my way, and I plan on going to ESPN not trying to be like anyone else but be me.

So for one final time: Covering the Redskins, I'm Bram Weeeinnssteiinnn..

OK men..

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

April 16-- Day 3 Final Thoughts, the Front Office

While many seem to naysay the promotion of Vinny Cerrato to whatever title he has now as a sign that things will go back to the way it was done prior to the Joe Gibbs hiring, I have to say I am pleasantly surprised by the restraint and plan Cerrato has implemented..

What is certainly different now that Gibbs has left is that the head coach will have far less say in the determination of who will be on his roster.. Joe Gibbs was not only the President of the team but the de facto GM with Cerrato and Dan Snyder at his side.. Now, Jim Zorn will be the team's coach and coach only.. Surely his opinions will be voiced and heard but he owns no rubber stamp.. That said, Gibbs earned the right to run the ship, Zorn has not and it would be hard to argue making the case to continue the decision making process via a triumverate..

So Cerrato is in charge, and since that promotion, Vinny has been open much more frequently to discuss the team's direction.. This is important on many levels.. The Redskins and the press core haven't had a great relationship under the ownership of Snyder.. Personally, I've got no complaints, the team treated me to a certain level of access that is appreciated.. But some of the others were left in the dark and that in turn garnered a lot of negative attention to the team.. Being more open about moves, potential moves and general team direction is always best.. The people who write and talk about you are an important arm of your operation.. They need to be in the loop or they will start guessing, and sometimes you don't want to read or hear what we might guess..

More importantly of course is how the team is truly built and what the results are on the field.. Should the Redskins win, the media will talk about how great they are.. Lose, and well, you've read that story a lot recently..
The team has shown remarkable restraint this off-season opting so far to hang onto the bulk of their draft selections and shying away from the big money of free agency.. I don't want this to be perceived as the way things will go on from here.. As it turned out, this free agent crop was thin to put it bluntly.. The few available difference making players broke the bank because there were many teams who unlike the Skins weren't flirting with the cap ceiling heading into this off-season.. In other words, teams like the Browns, Bears, Bucs, Titans, all had big money to spend so they might as well overpay.. The Skins did not have the luxury of outbidding teams this time around and truthfully, there wasn't anyone worth doing so for anyway.. So the Skins held back.. The fact that they were able to restrain the typical tendencies still is worth praising..
So the draft becomes a very important part of this team once again.. And that is where Cerrato has done well..
This team has drafted Derrick Dockery, Ladell Betts, Sean Taylor, Chris Cooley, Chris Samuels, Jon Jansen, Jason Campbell, Fred Smoot, Rocky McIntosh, LaRon Landry, all very capableand in some cases pro bowl caliber players..
The amazing part to me during the boom or bust era of free agency for the Skins was that their draft classes were rarely poor, they just chose not to use many of their selections.... I've always felt that this team needed to emphasize drafting more.. Good drafting plus the willingness to spend (which the Redskins do, don't let this off-season fool you) is the key to success.. Seeing them supplement a good core of drafted players with key free agent acquisitions is more in line with how the good teams stay that way.. In the cap era, Having Cooley for four years on a rookie contract is so much more worth it then trading for Jeremy Shockey and breaking the bank.. When your pick fits, you pay him (a lesson learned after letting Smoot and namely Antonio Pierce go), when they don't, no harm no foul on your cap.. Relying less on free agency means the misses won't sting you as much in terms of team chemistry and cap breaking cuts..
In this regard, I like how the Skins handled this off-season, and it would only be fair to credit Cerrto with that..
This team now has a de facto GM, despite Cerrato not carrying that specific title.. If the team has issues, we now know who to look at..
Snyder of course has a large role in determining the team's roster too.. But I do honestly believe Cerrato's opinions are being taken into consideration.. Of coursem, big deals like maybe one for Chad Johnson or the close call with Lance Briggs run through Snyder.. This is not going to change.. But Cerrato seemingly has the power, or at least is reprensenting publicly that he does..

While I don't think this roster feels championship ready, the Redskins took what was handed to them this off-season and didn't make any ghastly errors by overpaying this off-season.. That level of maturity is something I think we all hope continues into future seasons..

OK men

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

April 15-- Day 2 Final Thoughts, The D

Maybe the biggest question surrounding the state of the defense is whether this unit of players will be willing to play as hard for Jim Zorn and Greg Blache as they did for Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams.. The longer I got to cover the sport, the more I realized how important accountability became.. Some teams are fortunate to have players who become the type of on field that demands acountability from their teammates, Ray Lewis and Brian Dawkins come to mind..
Other teams get it from their coach, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick come to mind there..
My gut tells me that Gregg and Joe had a lot to do with the way this team played.. Overall, I don't look at this roster and see mismatches. Certainly with health, this team can be competitive and considering the Giants won the Super Bowl, special, but they need to show desire to win. Basically, it won't come easy and that's where the coaches come in.. It's been an assumption by most that Greg Blache taking over means a carryover from the Williams era where 3 of his four seasons, the team ranked in the league's top 10. I don't know for certain that will be the case. Will the team feel as if they made a mistake letting Williams walk when all is said and done?

As for the players, the D-line is a major concern in my opinion... I like Phillip Daniels, great guy, great quote, plays with injuries and is a very large human being. But there can't possibly be a lot left in the tank and his replacement doesn't appear to be on this roster. Plus, 16 games out of Daniels appears like an unlikely prospect consideirng the ammount of issues he's dealth with over the years, ankles, wrists, shoulder, the list goes on..
Andre Carter to me remains only an everydown player because he is one of the most well conditioned athletes on the team.. Come the third and fourth quarter, his speed and tenacity will take over esepcially on a tackle who might not be in top shape.. Andre is a workaholic and though a bit undersized, his preparation is second to none..
On the interior of the line, Cornelious Griffin is a difference maker, on the field and in the huddle.. The problem is his long injury history.. Like Daniels, he'll need to avoid some train wrecks to stay healthy for a couple more years.. The duo of Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston make for fine back-ups particularly against the run, but neither has emerged in my opinion as a viable starter (Monty however did improve greatly last season from his rookie year).. The team is openly tal;king about drafting a defensive lineman, likely an interior presence who can get some pressure on the quarterback (the Skins version of Justin Tuck). They continue to claim they need not find an ample replacement at end, I certainly disagree with that feeling, but if Chris Wilson emerges as a viable rusher on pass downs then maybe the need isn't as dire as once thought.. Maybe..
Regardless, long term future of this unit is in desperate need of a youth infusion, this team needs to draft someone who is going to be a fixture at one of the four spots for 5-10 years.. This is the year they need a Glenn Dorsey, but drafting 21st with no inclination to move up suggests we'll wait another year..

There has to be growing concern about the long term future at linebacker as well.. Marcus Washington is one of the best people in the locker room.. Well liked, he plays hard and fast and enjoys being on the field as much as anyone.. But for three years running now, he's been dealing with a hip injury and last year missed a month with upper leg issues.. He has had a benign cyst removed from his lower back tice. Basically, he is not as reliable a starter as before.. When he is on the field, he makes plays, keeping him on the field has been the issue..
London Fletcher was a rock and a needed leader.. He'll be 33 this year though and while he has shwon no signs of slowing down, at some point you have to think someone must be ready to step in when he slows a step.. That said, with his track record, you have to figure Fletcher will remain in his spot at least 2 more years, hopefully longer.. He is a tackle machine and one of the smartest players the Redskins have, a great pick-up last year..
I love Rocky McIntosh's abilitty. His feel for the game was leaps and bounds better then his rookie season.. But he did suffer a major knee injury. In college he was plagued with knee issues as well.. McIntosh is very fast for a weak side backer, and if on the field, seems like a perfect fit for the position.. Khary Campbell to me is a special teamer only.. HB Blades is way underszied but like Fletcher seems to just know how to play.. He might be a a good spot player for this team.. Someone will make this team this year that we don't know as a back-up LB..

At CB, Shawn Springs is underrated, if you can be underrated as a former top ten pick.. He has an inate skill set that is rare but often times is the difference between a capable corner and a good one, quickness.. Springs can close on a play faster then anyone I've seen in this uniform outside of Champ Bailey.. He is in his mid 30's now though which is typically ancient for a CB unless your name is Darrell Green and after a year of contractual wranglings, I figure Springs probably has one year left here.. Fred Smoot isn't just a class clown anymore.. He truly emerged as a leader last year taking a hard line with the media after what he believed was unfair characterizations of Sean Taylor immediately following his passing.. Smoot has no fear of throwing his body around even at his own detriment.. He plays hurt, constantly.. Now while I would not place him in the top 10 of corners in terms of cover skills, his heart and likability in the room are priceless.. As a #2, I am very satisified with him.. Carlos Rogers will have a long rehab to go, that will hopefully have him ready by week one.. But a major knee injury like the one he had almost always means a two year recovery before the player is truly back to full strength.. He'll play this year, but I'm not sure how effective he'll be or if he'll even be close to being able to generate his typical speed.. More and more it looks like the team will address this issue by drafting a corner.. The reasoning obviously is two fold.. How much longer will Springs be here? And how much can the team rely on Rogers this season? CB Aqib Talib could be the choice at 21 if he is available.. I still think they go D-lineman with the first pick but if Talib is there, he might be hard to pass up..

At safety, Laron Landry couldn't have been a better fit.. he plays the aggressive style the defense demanded.. He can cover the field and honestly, with some better hands, might have had a friendly competition with Sean Taylor over who'd have more interceptions.. Landry now assumes Taylor's position full time after the tragedy.. So while it seemed taking a safety didn't appear to be the most necessitated move last spring, it is now extremely fortunate that they did.. Reed Doughty isn't particularly fast or big, but he plays hard and like Smoot has no issue throwing his body around.. I don't know if he is considered the long term solution at SS, but as a back-up and spot starter, I'd certainly give him the chance.. Competition for back-up spots there will be interesting with Pierson Prioleau gone and Vernon Fox returning mainly as a special teams contributer.. The obvious comparisons Miami draftee Kenny Phillips would be forced to undertake if he were the selection at #21 are almost too much to bear.. It would be unfair to him to saddle him with thos headlines and expectations should the Redskins go this direction..

Overall, I like this group, but they are going to need some luck and band aids to keep it together.. Long term, this team needs to find a defensive tackle who can start, I believe an end who they can groom for the near future, a corner for the immediate and long term future and some depth at linebacker and safety..
All that said, heart can outweigh limitations.. This group plays with heart, the only question is whether they will continue to do so now that their former coordinator who they supported during the coaching primaries is gone..

OK men

Sunday, April 13, 2008

April 13-- My final week, time for final thoughts

So as I head into the final week of shows on Redskins Radio, it's dawning on me that I won't be talking about the Redskins constantly for a living.. So, while I'm sure this blog will broach what's happening in Redskin Land, this week (while I'm still payed to do so), I might as well vamp on the five major aspects of the team, O, D, Teams, the front office and coaching..

Call it a few parting thoughts..

Lets talk offense today..

The genuine needs remain a true #2 wide receiver and depth along the offensive line.. At WR, I still believe Santana Moss has the propensity to be an eltie receiver. He may be running out of years to prove that out, but his speed and hands (although there were some hairy moments with his hands a season ago) make him practically uncoverable.. The issue has always been and always will be his ability to stay healthy.. Moss dealt with groin/hamstring and ultimately heel issues last year.. Moss took it easy this off-season choosing to lay off the workouts for a few months, focussed on his wedding instead and got himself as he put it "out of shpae." His "out of shape" isn't a you or me "out of shape" but his body needed a break, hopefully it pays dividends come this fall..
Antwaan Randle-El in my opinion os overpayed. This is not to suggest I don't like him as a compliment to Moss, but I have felt for a couple of years now that Randle-El needs to be moved back into the slot. There he can be moved with pre-snap motion to elicit what wuld hopefully become a mismatch.. Randle-El can run and throw as well making him dynamic but despite having what I'd call an adequate year as a number 2, he remains a better option as a three.. His punt returning has a lot left to be desired..
James Thrash is a tremendous competitor and in spot duty can help on offense but is no longer a viable number 3.. Anthony Mix is big and has potential.. Jerome Mathis figures to make this team if the Skins don't use a high pick on a wide receiver.. I expect one of the top two picks to go for a WR..

TE Chris Cooley is only getting better. A well liked force in the locker room, and now anchored in for the long termw ith a new extension, Cooley might become the best TE in the NFC soon.. I like his back-up Todd oder who has surprisingly good hands. Not much speed, but you can try to squeeze a ball into in.. He isn't fast, not particularly big, but all the same will make a play here or there for you..

At Fullback, Mike Sellers is a freak and there is nothing wrong with a few freaks on your team.. At 270 but can run like a skill player, Sellers has a unique blend of natural ability.. What I'd like to see Sellers stop doing is his annual moaning about carrying the ball.. Has Sellers make big plays running with it consistently, I'd get it, but his delusion about being a rusher has become tiresome.. That said, he can be a tremendous blocker and is an asset in the locker room, it's just time he realzied that the ball is in good hands with Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts.

At running back, Clinton Portis to me is a step below top 5 or elite status.. He's a top ten back to me who could ascend into the top five with one improvement in his game.. He needs to become a better pass receiver.. Portis hands are suspect and he appears at times uncomfortable in space.. The best backs to me are the ones who can be used as dump off options and the Redskins have yet to rely on Portis that way consistently..
There is one other spot I'd like to see Portis improve, hios goal line rushing.. Big time backs don't get stopped consistently inside the five.. While Portis is good, he hasn't been great exemplified by the team choices at times last year to give Betts or Sellers shots inside the five..
Portis however is an aggressive pass blocking and giving the right crease is a home run hitting back.. He's still young and with hopefully the knee and shoulder issues behind him, I'm expecting a big year out of him in the new offense..
Ladell Betts is a perfect back-up.. Better then Portis between the tackles with a more decisive approach and minor shiftiness.. He's not a home run hitter like Portis, but should Portis go down for a couple of games, Betts has proven he can carry the load..
Rock Cartwright is a good number 3, but like Sellers, should lose some of the delusion that if he got his shot, he'd be a Portis..

At quarterback, I still remain hopeful of the promise and progress of Jason Campbell.. He has all the tools, big arm, can run, thinks on his feet, has the inate feel for the game, players love him.. Now he has to start winning.. The worst thing that happened to Jason was Todd Collins coming in off a ten year hiatus and winning four games to make the playoffs.. If he can't replicate a playoff run, then it will appear a 37 year old immobile quarterback would have been a better option.. The bottom line is winning and Jason while promising has yet to provide that.. But Jim Zorn may be the right guy at the right time.. Campbell needs help better managing a game and getting the ball out quicker.. This new offense will demand quicker decisions.. Campbell's athleticism howveer meshed with a proven system could be dynamic.. I think it's safe to say Campbell is more athletic then Zorn Protege Matt Hasselbeck.. So should a play not feel right in timing, Campbell has an option to run or make a play with his arm Hasselbeck may have been uncapable of.. It's a big year for Jason to prove he's ready.. It's year four and it's time to start showing an ability to lead, and that means winning..
Collins is an ample back-up but is older and is learning a new offense himself.. He is not a long term solution at the position..
The Redskins will use a late pick to draft a young quarterback to groom..

The O-Line: Chris Samuels has been a rock for the team for going on a decade, and minor injuries don't stop him from playing.. I've never felt Samuels was elite, but his pro bowl selections suggest other wise form his peers, I'm hoping we get anothe good 3-4 years out of him.. They need to considering the lack of depth..
Pete Kendall figures to be the starting left guard, at 35 with arthritic knees, this is probably the last run for Kendall, once again another sign of necessitated depth..
C Casey Rabach is a smart player, who is the only member of the unit under 30.. He should remain a long term soltuion at the position..
G Randy Thomas is a monster when he is on the field, the problem is keeping him on the field.. After losing large poritions of one season with a broken leg and another with a torn triceps, keeping Thomas healthy appears almost impossible.. There is a lot of wear and tear on him but there is no doubt he is the most versatile and aggressive lineman the team has, IF he can play..
T Jon Jansen is heading toward what I believe is a pivotal year for him.. He must remain healthy and he must perform well or it is my beliefe that this will be his last season in Washington.. Some are arguing, the renegotiated deal between he and the team is the only reaso n he will be back for 2008.. Once nicknamed "The Rock" for his long stretch of games played without missing due to an injury, Jansen has long since been reliable,.. He missed a season with a torn achilles, another with a broken foot and good portions of another with a variety of ailments.. After ten years with the Skins, there has been few better representatives of this team and I applaud Jon for that.. All you can ever ask for from a player is that he will work hard, he will play hard and he will not embarrass you off the field.. Jansen does all of those things in the highest regard.. He often was the first to lead the team onto the practice field, sometimes among the last to walk off.. No one enjoyed game day more then Jansen and off the field, Jansen has constantly been trying to do broadcasting gigs to up his profile in DC and nationally.. I like Jon very much, but reality is when you are advanced in age and unreliable on the field, changes come.. This season, Jansen not only must prove he can stay on the field, he must prove he can be adequate on it as well or we might be seeing the last of one of the most likeable players of this era..
Depth is a huge issue.. The team wants T Stephon Heyer to get in the weight room and build some lower body strength.. When he is ready, he will supllant Jansen.. There is an obvious lack of depth at every other position.. The team will draft an interior lineman.. They will once again come next off-season need to address the age and durability of the line.. Right now, all Joe Bugel can do is keep his fingers crossed he won't have the issues he had a year ago, but this line is one year older with no answers behind them.. It's the biggest risk the team is taking, hoping band aids hold together a line that's very good when together..

OK men..

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

April 8-- Yes it's true

There have been so many well wishers about my impending move to ESPN, I can't thank everyone enough..

I'm not quite ready to say my goodbyes yet, I am on Redskins Radio until April 18 and will be starting in Bristol in early May, just thought it was appropriate to say thanks to the readers of this blog, (which I won't stop publishing, even though I have no idea what I'll write about) and the listeners and viewers of Redskins Radio..

Check back in next week when I give a formal swan song..

OK men..

Friday, April 04, 2008

April 4-- Skins workout the locals today

The Redskins are hosting approximately 70 local prospects.. "Local" includes member sof the area collegiate teams, i.e. Maryland, Virginia Tech, Howard etc..
It also extends to players who are originally from the region but played at out of area schools like FB Owen Schmidt who projects as potentially a third rounder.. he is from northern Virgin ia but played at West Virginia..

Standout Terps LB Erin Henderson is among the name players here today along with Schmidt..

Among the success stoires from this workout in the past are QB Sam Hollenbach and CB Byron Westbrook who both ended up on the Skins practice squad and late season roster after being "discovered" here..

Talked to Vinny Cerrato yesterday and he intimated that he believes the re-seeding discussion at the owners meetings that was tabled will not pass.. The argument is over whether a team that won it's division should be automatically hosting a first round playoff game even if their wild card opponent had a better regular season record.. The NYG played at TB in January despite having a better record then the Buccaneers.. Cerrato thinks the owners currently are more apt to continue to reward division winners...
On why the Skins voted against the radio communication in one defensive player's helmet, which did pass, Cerrato said it was offensive coaches who all voted against it, including Jim Zorn, but conceeded he thinks it will be a good advancement for the game and the competitive balance..
Vinny was not in the room for Bill Belichick's apology speech over spygate and had no further comment..

The team cannot trade compensatory picks so packaging the newly acquired selections (a 3rd and 2 7th's) is not an option..
Cerrato continues to assert that the Skins are much more likely to mover down from their top pick at 21st overall then to package anything and move up..

CB is starting to look like a possible early round target.. The team likes Kansas CB Aqib Talib and should he be available, he could be the first pick.. WR is expected to be addressed with any one of the 4 picks in the first three rounds and defensive line feels like a certainty.. The team is most interested in an interior D-lineman who can provide pressure on passing downs..

OK men..

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

April 2-- Checking In

Hi all--

Been a while, but such is the off-season especially one where the team literraly interviews one free agent and doesn't sign him..

I got Larry so good yesterday on the air.. For the last couple of weeks, I've been making a case to get Chad Johnson if and when the Bengals ultimately trade him.. Since the Super Bowl, 85 has been moaning about Cincy to anyone who will listen and I mean anyone..
The Skins need another WR, that much is clear so much so that Vinny Cerrato told us last week on air that we can expect one of the 4 high draft picks (!st, 2nd, 2 3rd rounders) to be used on the position.. More on that in a minute..
Anyway, I have been pushing hard for the Skins to be the Skins and make a bombshell move, give us a high draft pick, give Ocho Cinco his money and let him be a star here.. The west coast offense with Chad, Santana and ARE looks like a juggernaught to me..
Larry doesn't want Chad, thinks he might be a distraction in the locker room and has been openly suggesting that the team should not overpay for him..
So yesterday my producer Brian Corson and I cooked up a scheme to see how quickly Larry would flip flop on 85 if he thought he was actually coming to DC.. I had Corson call me and we pretended that he was a "source." I was talking vaguely about numbers, then left the room.. So the scene was set.. We come back from a break and I said on air we have some breaking news and then reveal to Larry that the Skins are in "deep trade talks with the Bengals where Washington would send their first round pick and thier original 3rd round pick (I loved throwing in original 3rd round pick for effect) for Chad Johnson and that Johnson would get a 7 year 62 million dollar deal with 18-20 guaranteed."
He took the bait suggesting how great an addition Johnson would be, how he wouldn't be a problem, the utter opposite of his position a week ago.. I kept reminding him how much he didn't want 85 and he kept defending the move as a good one for the Skins..
April Fools Larry!

As for WR, the Skins appear not to be too hot on Texas speedster Limas Sweed who many believe could be a target for them in the first or second round.. ESPN pitched the idea of CB Aqib Talib from Kansas, Vinny admitted he liked him very much.. I'd be surprised if the Skins went CB in the first round..
G Randy Thomas was on the show yesterday and said if he was making the pick, he'd take a O or D lineman even if it meant the Skins were drafting his eventual replacement saying this team needs youth on both lines.. Can't say I don't agree.. I like Randy, he's a straight shooter, that's something you will not hear very often, a guy suggesting the best move might be to find the person who will take your job..

Love the schedule with the opener on a Thursday night.. Sure playing at the NYG makes week one a big game with a hole to climb out of if you lose, but if they knock them off then get an extra 3 days to prepare for week 2, me likey..

The Skins got 3 compensatory picks in this year's draft for their free agent losses namely Derrick Dockery getting a supplemental 3rd rounder.. So the Skins have nine picks and what should be perceived now as their full allotment for the first time in six years.. The team does not have a fourth rounder (TJ Duckett deal) however do have 2 3rds now..

OK men