Please note that the first three paragraphs are a rant and are not informational, for the latest on the Redskins skip down to paragraph four. As many of you probably have noticed, it has been a while since my last message. I apologize for being so aloof, and I promise to never abandon ship like that during the regular season. The truth is that I haven't felt like writing over the past few weeks because, I confess, optimism hit a low point in my camp. I simply didn't feel like spreading any of my negative karma on to you all. Somehow, the Redskins burst their own bubble well before the opening kickoff to the season. The six game winning streak, the playoff appearance, the win in Tampa Bay: all for naught. In the eyes of many NFL insiders the Skins are back to square one, facing the same criticism of yesteryear (bad signings, lack of chemistry, old players) and are facing similar forecasts as this time last year (7-9, 8-8, at best).
But fret not my Potomac Warriors, after a three week trip to Turks and Cacos, my unbridled optimism for this season is back. Instead of pitying ourselves for losing the respect of the national media and slipping down the consensus power rankings, we must relish our position as the NFC's underdog. The magic may have momentarily slipped out of our hands when Portis's shoulder popped, but now that we are in week 1, with a 95% healthy roster, we have every reason to believe that the drive to victory in Miami begins Monday night at FedEx Field. Mark this psycho's words: the Skins will go 13-3, have home field through the playoffs, beat Carolina in the NFC Championship game and beat the Broncos in the Super Bowl 42-10.
If you are still feeling the wrath of cynical Susan spewing evil in your loins, please hear me out. The Skins went vanilla in the pre-season: they were literally a bunch of sandbaggin SOBs. Gibbs and Saunders didn't want to give away a single thing (they used 2% of a 700 page playbook - that means they have 686 pages left to go). So no need to worry about the offense - if they are a little rusty in the first quarter on Monday it is natural, but after that you will never know they didn't score a point in the preseason. If you are worried about the defense, please don't be. Everyone, with the exception of Springs, will be fully healthy in Week 1. And remember, the Skins had a much harder time dealing without Griffin last year than they did when Springs got knocked out. Hopefully Springs will be ready for week two and TO and the Redskins will be all-systems-go for their first real test. This is the year, people. This is the year!!!
Ok. Now to the real issues at hand.
1) There are mixed reports coming out of Ashburn over the Portis situation, and the only official word we have is from Gibbs' presser yesterday. Gibbs said ""He is still day to day...He had a real good day in the weight room and rehab also. He is doing a real good job with it and will continue to expand what he is doing. It's still day to day, though. He feels like he is making good progress." That is classic Gibbs fluff, giving us no real indicator of what the truth is. Tomorrow will be very telling - the Skins have their first of three straight practice days leading up to the Vikings. If Portis is in pads, then he'll play, if not, it's more likely we'll see him in Dallas.
Despite my theory, there are speculators out there who are convinced CP will be playing. According to ESPN's Football Injuries Insider (coolest job ever) Will Carroll, Portis is 100% playing. Pretty shocking stuff - here's the quote: "Who else drafted Clinton Portis early? Good, I like to see smart people get rewarded. Portis will get the bulk of carries in Week 1." Another source, although not as respected, said the same thing. According to ProFootballTalk.Com, a league source with knowledge of the situation predicts that Portis will be suited up and ready to play against the Vikings on Monday night.
Here's the crucial point on Portis: there is no need to rush him back for the Vikes. The only thing it will do is give his teammates a mental edge and send out a strong message to the rest of the league.. The Skins can definitely get away with a Betts/Duckett combo for week 1 and have Portis ready for Dallas. I would love to see my boy Dolla Bill out there, but it wouldn't be terrible to see him in street clothes either.
If the Skins don't go with Portis, Gibbs has said he will start with Betts in the backfield. Look for TJ Duckett to get the brunt of the work inside of the ten's regardless of who is playing in front of him.
2) As I mentioned earlier, and even more important than Portis returning, is the health of the Skins front four. For the first time in three weeks, Andre Carter, Cornelius Griffin, Joe Salevea and Philip Daniels all practiced yesterday. The front four's health, and specifically Griffin's, will be critical in the defense pressuring Brad Johnson and creating turnovers, making it much easier for the offense by shortening their field. Look for Williams to still blitz the corners out of zone sets on Monday because of Minnesota's weak receiving corps, and to alleviate some of the pressure on back-up corner Kenny Wright, who has looked awful in man coverage in the preseason.
3) The Skins made a very good signing this week that went unnoticed in the media. They brought in veteran tackle Todd Wade. Wade, who was cut by the Texans in July after coming off of a season-ending knee injury last year, had started in 23 games over two years with the Texans before getting hurt. Wade also started 63 games over 4 years with the Dolphins. Wade will finally provide some needed depth at O-line, and the Skins can afford to let him continue to rest his injury while he waits for an opportunity.
4) Gibbs came up with a interesting plan for backup QB that he unveiled this week. Jason Campbell will back up Mark Brunell in the event that he has a week to prepare for his role as starter. Todd Collins will be Brunell's in-game back-up. The move is more for Campbell's mental peace than anything else. Gibbs has realized that if Campbell left camp without some kind of promotion, it would have been very demoralizing for the young QB. With the weid solution, Campbell feels like he is one step closer to actually playing for the Skins. I think both QBs were mediocre in the pre-season, and don't be surprised to see Gibbs go back on his word if Brunell misses a week or two - Campbell won't see a snap this year.
OK. That just about covers it. I will try to get one more update in before kick-off Monday.
In case you didn't catch the spirit of this email, I promise that this week will be a celebration of Redskins football. The coaching staff has been preparing this game plan for months, and the players have a lot to prove after an atrocious pre-season. Also, the Skins always beat up on the Vikes. Enjoy every moment of it on Monday, because week 2 is going to be a lot more stressful.