Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who are these guys?

John Beck ... getting hurt.
So how good are the Redskins?

The Bills didn't seem to provide much of a challenge last week, and the Skins' starting offense played very little. One thing is for sure, the Ravens will provide a bigger challenge, especially for the Redskins' offense.

A few things I'll be watching closely:

How the Redskins' starting offensive line performs against Baltimore's strong defensive front seven. Larry Johnson is expected to start for the Skins, and it'll be a good chance to see how he can perform against a top defense. Rookie lineman Trent Williams especially will bear watching.

How outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter perform. Against the Bills, Carter in particular seemed to struggle with the move to OLB in the 3-4. Both he and Orakpo will be responsible for a lot of the coverage on running backs. And at this point, that's a very scary sentence.

Speaking of defense, can the Redskins stop the run? As I pointed out after the Bills game, the Skins' defense gave up an average of 8.1 yards a carry last week against the Bills. That's unacceptable. The defenses' run-stopping ability must improve, or it could be a very long season.

Who is the third QB? Is there one? John Beck looked shaky at best against the Bills (The Skins' third-team offensive line didn't help), and Richard Bartel sat out last week with a hamstring injury. Coach Mike Shanahan has intimated that neither is a lock to make the team. Neither figures to get much time (a half at most), so every snap is important.

As always, hope for no significant injuries Saturday night. Oh, and don't forget to make fun of Jim Zorn. (I know, too easy).

Sunday, August 15, 2010

So far, so good

McNabb, Redskins all smiles after blowout

First of all, apologies that I haven't updated this space as much as I should have. Busy times. And I promise to try and keep this as updated as needed. But if you want even more of my Redskins comments, I highly recommend you find me on Twitter: @EatSleepRedskin.

Anyway, let's talk football.

The Redskins opened up their 2010 (pre)season with a 42-17 crushing of the Buffalo Bills, who, like the Redskins, have a brand new head coach with a brand new offense and defense. I know Redskins fans will get very excited about the win, but one thing is clear after watching the game: The Skins, under Mike Shanahan, are light years ahead of the Bills under Chan Gailey. This is not to say that the win wasn't impressive, but keep in mind the starters only played about one quarter. New Redskin Donovan McNabb and the offense were merely average at that point.

General comments about the offense:
One thing that was clear to me Friday night was the team's crispness. By that I mean how the offense got in and out of the huddle. There wasn't any hurrying or moments where the team seemed confused. McNabb (and backup Rex Grossman) seemed to know where everyone was and what they were doing. That's a big step up from previous seasons under the constantly confused Jim Zorn.

General comments about the defense:
Alright I'll say it: The run defense worries me. The Bills averaged 8.1 yards a carry as a team, and that's a scary number. Andre Carter particularly looked out of place at times, coming too wide and allowing RBs to scoot inside for big gains. Perhaps this isn't a trend that will continue. Perhaps as Albert Haynesworth gains back his starting duties, the defense will be able to stop the run. When I first heard that the Skins were going to a 3-4 base for the first time in team history, it was welcome news. I, like most Redskins fans, had grown tired of Greg Blache's "bend but don't break" defense, which was about as boring as watching paint dry. The 3-4 we saw Friday night showed pass-rushing promise, but the Bills runners were able to run wild.

Individual honors
Those that I thought improved their stock immensely against the Bills:

Brandon Banks. Banks is tiny. 5-7ish. 150ish. Tiny. The only way this guy is making the team is with standout play on returns and maybe some good plays on offense. His return ability is obviously tremendous. (Does he return kicks, too? No. Seriously.) He'll eventually have to show he has some usefulness on offense too. But there are three more games to play.

Trent Williams. The rookie showed he can play. Didn't allow any of the Bills rushers to get near McNabb or Grossman. The offensive line, as a whole, stood out to me. They didn't allow a sack until the fourth quarter. Poor John Beck. If Williams continues to show what he did on Friday night, the Redskins should be set at LT for the next decade or more.

Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams. With Larry Johnson and Willie Parker both intentionally held out of the game, Torain and Williams got most of the work Friday night, and while neither stood out, both showed flash enough to play in the NFL. The battle to back up Clinton Portis and Johnson (who has shined in camp) will get very interesting as the preseason goes on.

Biggest question mark
Well, maybe not the biggest, but who the heck will be returning kicks this season for the Redskins? Certainly, it won't be Devin Thomas, who muffed one kickoff and looked shaky on another. I'd like to see Banks get a look there.

That's all for now. Hit me with some feedback.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In LaVar vs. Portis, "Wolverine" wins

When LaVar Arrington first entered the league, I quickly nicknamed him "Wolverine," after the comic book hero who was violent, very aggressive, and who had the ability to heal very quickly.

In his early years with the Redskins, Arrington displayed an unmatched tenacity on the field. He was like a rocket, hurtling towards running backs and quarterbacks alike. His most famous hit, of course, is the one that ended Troy Aikman's career.

Arrington's "healing factor," so to speak, was on display throughout his early career. I remember one instance in particular when Arrington was literally knocked out in the first half, but returned to play later in the game.

His healing ability ran out, though, and Arrington retired from the NFL and became a sports radio personality in the D.C. area.

And, apparently, Clinton Portis doesn't like him very much, but we'll get to that later.

Arrington had a falling out with the Redskins, and eventually left for the rival New York Giants before the 2006 season. He lasted just one injury filled season before he was forced to retire.

So it was with a bit of surprise when Arrington returned to the world of the Redskins at Sean Taylor's funeral in 2007. Arrington and Taylor were only teammates for two seasons -- most of which Arrington spent injured. But LaVar's words touched me more than any other that day:

LaVar's comments start at 2:52.

Enter Portis.

Portis first criticized Arrington back in February. Arrington then responded on his radio show, and if you haven't heard the audio from that response, I recommend that you do.  

All was quiet until yesterday, when a radio interview of Portis criticizing Arrington was released. Portis criticized Arrington for what he said at Taylor's funeral.

Courtesy of the Bog, here's what Portis said:

"I lost a lot of respect for LaVar at that moment, speaking at Sean's funeral. To get up, I really thought that was, um, I don't know what you call that. LaVar ain't know Sean like that....
"I remember me and Sean was going to jump LaVar, you know, for throwing pie at Sean's face his rookie year, and trying to haze Sean, and be the tough guy. He felt like it was a joke. We didn't like that [stuff]. For all the attention LaVar claim, and that him and Sean was cool -- they wasn't cool. Sean ain't [mess around] with LaVar....I don't think you should do that. If you cool with somebody, or you know somebody, you knew 'em. Don't go and portray, set out an image like 'this is your buddy, this is your pal,' like you all hung, when y'all really didn't. I don't think that's fair, man."


Well, Arrington responded today on the radio, but not in the way expected: he took the high road.

Among his comments:
"When you go into personal things like that I can only hope and wish and pray he finds peace and clarity in his own life."

In this battle, Arrington did more by doing nothing. Portis continues to embarrass himself by spreading hate. If I didn't know any better, I'd think he was trying to get himself fired.

Way to go, LaVar, by turning the other cheek.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Why Galloway and Wade make sense

The Redskins recently signed two veteran wide receivers -- Joey Galloway and Bobby Wade.

Galloway, who literally is a graybeard, has played 15 years in the NFL for five different teams and has caught 689 passes for 10,777 yards.

Wade, while not quite as aged as Galloway, will be going into his ninth year in the league and has already played for four different teams.

Neither of these signings figures to loom large this season. Galloway is just two years younger than his new receivers coach, Kennan McCardell and Wade has been nothing if not a journeyman.

But here's something to keep in mind: Some Redskins fans have been clammoring for D.C. to sign Terrell Owens, the big-play, once-hated rival. Owens is 36 and will turn 37 before this season is over. If Owens is still a stud receiver, it's possible that Galloway can still display the speed that made him an NFL star. And Wade has started 50 games in his eight-year career.

The Redskins have 11 receivers listed on their roster. Before Galloway and Wade were signed, they had just two receivers with more than three years of NFL experience: Roydell Williams and Santana Moss. Galloway and Wade will bring some much-needed veteran savvy, at least as long as they're with the team.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

For Redskins, no draft surprises -- so far

Despite a late smoke screen with rumors that they might select Tennessee safety Eric Berry, Mike Shanahan and the Redskins did the wise thing and picked Oklahoma tackle Trent Williams with the No. 4 pick in the NFL draft.

The Skins were in dire need of an offensive line upgrade after last season, and with the free-agent moves they've made so far this offseason, combined with the selection of Williams, the line is definitely improved.

Williams played right tackle for the Sooners until his senior year, when he switched to left tackle. And while Oklahoma State's Russell Okung was listed above Williams on most draft boards, Williams is considered to have higher pro potential than the solid-if-not-spectacular Okung. So the Redskins are banking on Williams playing up to his potential.

As for the rest of the draft, unless the team can find buyers for Jason Campbell or Albert Haynesworth, the Skins won't have too many more selections in this draft, so it'll have to come down to quality over quantity.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's draft time! 2010 version

Amongst all of this schedule hoopla, I almost forgot that the NFL draft starts Thursday night!

I still have to believe that the Redskins will be picking an offensive tackle. Despite all of the talk and speculation, clearly the Redskins' biggest need is still a left tackle.

Now, whether it'll be Oklahoma State's Russell Okung or Oklahoma's Trent Williams, I don't know.

New coach Mike Shanahan has been playing coy with media, and his son has been suggesting that the Skins' offensive line is just fine the way it is. But if Washington selects anyone other than one of those above, it'll be a surprise to me.

So who do you have tonight?

Schedule, 2010

The NFL released its 2010 schedule Tuesday, and so I now get to tell you all how I think the Redskins will do this season.

First off, the actual schedule, courtesy of the Redskins:

What we have here is a fairly balanced schedule. When the opponents were initially released, I thought that it was an overpoweringly difficult schedule, but the "difficult" opponents are spread out over the season, so the first half of the schedule is similar to the second half. (Also, note that the Bye week comes in the exact middle of the season).

But there aren't too many "gimmie" games for the Skins. The closest they come are at the Lions, against Houston, at the Rams and at Jacksonville, and those aren't too easy. Consider: The Lions -- THE LIONS! -- edged the Skins last season.

Prime time = ouch
There are three national TV games on the docket, which hasn't been good for the Redskins recently. The Redskins played three prime time games in 2009 and lost all three. Not only that, but they scored just 29 points in those three games COMBINED. They were shut out by the Cowboys, 17-0.

The Redskins are winless in their last two seasons in prime-time games. They're 1-5 for the last three years, and 1-7 in the last four years. Since 2004, the Redskins have won just 3 prime-time games. 3 out of 14 games. Ouch.

Divisional games ...
I really would like to say that I think the Skins will go far this coming season. But, going game-by-game, I just have trouble seeing anything over a .500 season. Of course, that may be because I'm marking off all divisional games as a loss.

Yes, I'm giving the Redskins an "L" for every divisional game, even against the McNabb-less Eagles. Why? Because the Skins have had trouble with divisional victories for several years now. Color me skeptical, but I'll wait until Shanahan and Co. start beating the pants off the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys until I start to be a believer.