Wednesday, September 19, 2007

O-line Signing: Volume 2, Issue 8

Sorry about two emails in one night, but the Skins filled the hole at Guard with Rick DeMulling, according to the Post's JLC. DeMulling and Keydrick Vincent were both at Redskins Park today for workouts, physicals, and coaches meetings. Late tonight the Skins decided to go with DeMulling.


Here's the Skinny on him: He's 30 years old and was a seventh round pick to the Colts in 2000 out of Idaho. He started in 41 games over three years with the Colts from 02 to 04 but has only started in 12 games with the Lions since then. DeMulling signed and was cut by the Colts this preseason.


DeMulling is 6-4 and 304 and is noted for his ability to move on sweeps and screens (probably why they signed him). Who knows with this guy - there's a reason he was on the street until now.



O-line Signing: Volume 2, Issue 8

Sorry about two emails in one night, but the Skins filled the hole at Guard with Rick DeMulling, according to the Post's JLC. DeMulling and Keydrick Vincent were both at Redskins Park today for workouts, physicals, and coaches meetings. Late tonight the Skins decided to go with DeMulling.


Here's the Skinny on him: He's 30 years old and was a seventh round pick to the Colts in 2000 out of Idaho. He started in 41 games over three years with the Colts from 02 to 04 but has only started in 12 games with the Lions since then. DeMulling signed and was cut by the Colts this preseason.


DeMulling is 6-4 and 304 and is noted for his ability to move on sweeps and screens (probably why they signed him). Who knows with this guy - there's a reason he was on the street until now.



Rack Up the Wins Now: Volume 2, Issue 7


I know it sounds hackneyed, but up here, in the NFL (I love when Coach Joe says that), every game is big. I don't want to get too ahead of ourselves, but I will say this, the Redskins cannot squander the amazing opportunity that has unfolded for them. They are 2-0 with two inferior opponents coming into FedEx over the next three weeks. They must capitalize. I am going to refrain from jinxing this surprise start with words that start with a P or a HFA or NFC CG or SB, because I know that even if the Skins run off the first 6 in a row (it's possible), they are still looking at a tantalizing late October and November schedule with away games at New England, New York Jets, Dallas and Tampa Bay and only one home game in that stretch against a revenge-seeking Philly. An amazing start could be spun around in a blink. That's why the B&G need to cushion a potential fall now; that's why they need to build momentum and confidence. A 4-0 team going into Lambeau on 10/14 is a whole lot surer of themselves than a 3-1 or 2-2 team. These next two are massive.


Kol Tuv,





10 Things I'm Probably BSing (It's stolen but I like it)


1) The Offensive Line - If you are worried about the offensive line and saying to yourself "this could really hijack the season," you might be right. I don't want to sound catastrophic, but the entire right side of the line didn't start on this team last year. Wade is a great filler, don't get me wrong, but when packaged with a Scrub like Fabini (or Scrubini, as JLC likes to say) then we may have issues. Fabini is a backup. The Skins have to upgrade him ASAP. Hopefully by the time this thing's sent out they will have signed Keydrick Vincent, a perennial starter over the last few years with Baltimore and Pittburgh (good power running teams). But even Vincent, a worthy replacement, will need time to learn the system, the timing of the pulling plays and sweeps (something Thomas was one of the best in the league at), and get into shape. Scrubini will be the starter on Sunday, so pray (on Yom Kipps) that he holds up against what we can only assume will be an inspired Giants pass rush. Our best case scenario is that Vincent uses the bye week to get himself ready for the stretch run and performs at a high level, the worst case is that the Skins can't run the ball to the right side all year. Only time will tell.


2) Clock Management - I will defend Coach Joe to the grave (along with all other Skins, including BLloyd - it's just what I do, they're like my grandchildren), BUT late in the first half on Monday night was totally embarrassing and cannot happen again. Coach Joe said he "got nervous." I get nervous too, Coach Joe - it doesn't mean I turn to my FG unit every time. I got a 4PM presentation, my palms are sweating and nothing is problem, I'll just dial Shaun Suisham - he'll take care of everything. JEEESUS. There were fourteen seconds left in the half, that's a lifetime in the NFL. Three plays - 2 passing and then a chip shot. At the end of the first half the Skins really looked like the "Mites on Ice" who play during intermission of Caps games. Someone with nerves, decisiveness and leadership has got to be controlling the sidelines in those situation or else it's gonna cost the Skins a big game. I hope it's Coach Joe, but if it can't be then he's got to pass the headset over to someone else.


3) Campbell - You can pretty much count on JC getting his name in bold every week around here. I'm gonna track number 17's progress like Leo Mazzone tracks a pitch count. Campbell's got to overcome two major things and then I think he will be a legitimate star (yes, star) in the NFL.

1) He telegraphs his passes (I wrote about this last week). He's been burned twice now because of it. The INT to Randle El was a total force and JC didn't take his eyes off of ARE for the entire route - everyone in the Linc knew the ball was going that way (including Kid Bro Sweets, who was waiting patiently to knock Will James's head off...what a hit. On James for a sec - I love how this guy thought a name change would mean a upgrade in talent. He's still the same old sucky Will Peterson and Santana burned him all night long. There was one other play where Campbell's eyes failed him. In the middle of the first quarter, the Skins settled for a field goal after Todd Yoder dropped a pass off a Campbell boot leg. Campbell locked into Yoder and didn't even glance upfield to a wide open Santana Moss, who had beat James or Brown on a post. That could have been seven. 2) His accuracy (I also wrote this last week). Campbell is still missing guys. I know the Skins dropped some balls Monday night, but he's gotta get more consistent hitting people in stride, if not at all. Campbell could have punted the ball to 'Tana on that fly route late in the game, instead he missed him by a good five feet. I assume the accuracy will come as the kid calms down a bit. We gotta give props to JC also - he still hasn't started 10 games and he went into Philly, kept his composure, limited his turnovers and marched his team down the field four times for scores (that pass to Cooley was life-changing: for me, not for him). Jason's also been great at keeping plays alive using his feet - even when the Eagles got into the pocket, JC burned them by running for critical first downs, something that demoralizes and tires out a defense. I can't wait to see how much better he's gonna get.


4) You Can Call Him Al - I think Coach Joe and Al Saunders came to a nice understanding this summer about the Skins offense. The Skins have used a strong running game to set the offense up and have taken shots with the deep ball when the defense settles on the run. The Skins are also over 50% on third down tries, which means their medium stuff has been excellent too. That's a credit to Saunders, Gibbs and the play calling - I think big Al called a great one Monday night. Hopefully there's more to come.


5) The Pass Rush - Three sacks is three sacks. You can call them coverage sacks and say that Donavan was slow, the bottom line is that they got McNabb to the ground three times. That's three times more than they ever have before. The Skins had push up front all night and really didn't have so many opportunities to throw guys at him as the Eagles were passing quickly in the flat most of the night. Andre Carter was an inch away from big sacks and forced fumbles on a few separate occasions - I think he is actually becoming the speed rusher the Skins were hoping for.


6) Rocky - All the LBs were great again on Monday, but how about Rocky's effort on his sack. He was being blocked by an offensive lineman and he still leaped and threw a hand up in the air so McNabb couldn't release the ball. 52 kept on the play, got around the O-lineman and tracked McNabb down for the sack. McIntosh is ruthless out there and seems to be in every play. There was one series where the linebacking corps missed a couple of tackles on Westbrook late in the first half, but besides that, these guys aren't letting anyone get by.


7) The Secondary - I'm still torn about this group. The safeties showed signs of promise this week but the corners make me nervous. In crucial fourth down situations late in the game, Carlos Rogers got beat: first on a slant (in which he didn't even see the ball whiz by him) and then on a 15 yard post over the middle of the field. The Skins sent the house, leaving Carlos in one-on-one coverage with Reggie Brown and the all McNabb had to do was loft the ball up and Brown came down with it easily. When Grilliams watches the tape, it'll make him more nervous about sending blitz packages and leaving the corners in man. I'd rather them blitz the heck out of Eli, but with Plax and Toomer (along with Rook Steve Smith) as formidable threats on the outside, I see the Skins dropping back in their bend-don't-break cover three which keeps the corners from being vulnerable in man. On the bright side, the corners are tackling very nicely. Even though these guys give a bigger cushion than most, they wrap up really well (which kind of makes up for it). Another positive is how solid Landry and Taylor have been. Landry has chipped in with the run-stopping effort and has been covering well on the medium stuff (see the last play of the game), while Taylor has been great down the field, keeping the big plays to a minimum and hitting well when teams challenge him. It looks like the Springs controversy has been put to bed for now - we'll see what happens Sunday when all three corners are healthy.


The Giants Game


8) I know it looks the same, but it isn't - In each of the last three years the Redskins have come off early season victories before playing the Giants. In 2004, the Skins rode into East Rutherford after the big Tampa win (CP's and Coach Joe's debut game) only to have the offense sputter in a 20-14 loss (the Giants were coming off a loss in their opener to the Eagles). In 2005, the Skins were marching after a 52 point effort in Week 7 against the 49ers, only to fall on their faces in a 36-0 trouncing by the Giants, who were hopped up on emotion after the death of their owner Well Mara that week. Last year, the Skins also came into Jersey in early autumn and had seemed to right the ship with 2 wins in a row against the Jags and Texans, but again it was the reeling Giants (they came in 1-2 off a bye) who used the Skins as a cure and walloped them 19-3. That's right, in three years the Skins have scored 17 points in their early season matchups with the Giants. And now, yet again, the Skins come in looking sharp off of a victory. And again, the Giants are a team in disarray, looking to the Skins for that perennial early season fix. To make matters worse, the Skins are on a short week.


I really believe this year is different. For three reasons. First is that the Skins are a much better team personnel wise. The Giants are weak and old on both their lines and have one of the worst linebacking corps's and secondaries in the league. The Giants have good wide receivers and a solid QB, but that's about it. Which leads me to my second reason this is different: no Tiki Barber. This guy just slaughtered us. He ran to the outside at one of our sissy linebackers and broke through for the biggest games of his career. To all of our's delight, Tiki will be at NBC studious watching this week. The last reason this is different is that the Skins are coming home. They won't come out flat as they always do at the Meadowlands, and FedEx will be loud when the defense is applying pressure and will be silent when the offense is at work. This should make things much easier on Campbell and Co. than in year's past.


9) What we need to be worried about - The Giants are going to close their eyes and pretend Derrick Ward is Tiki Barber. Ward had success carrying the ball against the Packers last week and he's speed will give the Giants reason to try to run the ball to the outsides and challenge our Ends and Linebackers, just as Tiki always had success doing. The Giants will also watch game film and see that Brian Westbrook had about a 9 YPC through the first three quarters Monday. Of course, Andy Reid bailed us out and went to the passing game, but it seemed like Westbrook, who is built in the same mold as Ward, could do what he wanted when he was handed the ball. I also think we need to be concerned about Burress. The guy has been a TD machine thus far and there's no doubt the Giants will take shots with him down the field (why not, they really have nothing to lose). The safeties are really going to have to keep an eye on Plax because he'll be able to make plays on our smaller corners. The Skins are also going to have to be weary of Shockey. He presents serious matchup problems for the Skins and can beat any of our linebackers and safeties in man to man coverage. Lastly, look for a stronger effort by the Giants defense. This unit is taking serious heat up in NY and I don't think they'll get much worse than they've been in the last two weeks.


10 Why we should win anyway - If they execute, the Redskins offense can do anything against this Giants defense. The Giants front four is slow and will get tired; the Skins need to continue pounding the ball as they have been the last two weeks. Their LB group might also get thinner as Coughlin is considering moving Kiwanuka back to end, likely setting up a situation where another backup will be playing in the Giant front seven. Portis and Betts will both have their shots at breaking big ones. Once the Skins get the run going and the Giants stack the box, Campbell must exploit the Giants secondary (which could be the worst in the NFL). Their corners, Sam Madison, R.W McQuarters and Corey Webster haven't been able to keep anyone in front of them, and now the Giants are seriously considering starting a rookie corner, Aaron Ross, to line up across from Moss or Randle El. The Giants safeties aren't much better with James Butler filling in for an injured Will Demps and Gibril Wilson (who might be the only secondary member who could start on another team). All the Skins position players will have big days and the makeshift offensive line will have a week to breath. On defense, the Skins need to keep an eye on Ward, but really make sure the Giants outside guys don't beat them. It's possible Grilliams will get aggressive and try to blitz Eli, but I think the Skins will stop the run early and play a lot of nickle once the Giants start throwing the ball on every down. The Skins should control the clock with the running game and force the Giants to play from behind.


I really did my best to repress my excitement levels over this start. I still think they have a lot to show and a lot of things to work on. The Skins are 2-0 and I don't think they've put together a complete game yet. The Giants are a great opportunity to do that.



Monday, September 10, 2007

Enjoy the Growth: Volume 2, Issue 6

Children of the Landover Lumbee's,

Whether you find yourself chatting by the water cooler or in the back of synagogue amongst fellow MMQB's, I would like this addition of Skins Serv to equip you with a full arsenal of talking points and retorts about Sunday's week 1 victory over the Miami Dolphins. When you hear snickers of "I guess a win's a win, right?" or "Nice moral victory over a bad team," simply pull out this printable version of Skins Serv from the your pocket (don't let it sit in the same pocket as the day-old, used tissues) and come out swinging.


As I noted in last week's Skins Serv, you should all make a concerted effort to enjoy the progress of this team. I don't think we can get overly excited and too ahead of ourselves (this a marathon, people), but I have a hunch you are going to see the Redskins improve and grow each week throughout this season. As opposed to year's past when negatives and losses compounded, the positive momentum is going to accumulate, making for a very enjoyable year.


Kol Tuv,





The Bad's Are Not So Bad


1) Jansen - Mike Wise of the Washington Post put it best: the loss of Big John is not the same this year as it was in 2004. Jansen had shown signs of age over the last two years and instead of being irreplaceable (as was evident by the Skins disaster '04 season), the Redskins will find a more than serviceable replacement in Todd Wade and/or Stephen Heyer. Wade, who will get the nod for now, showed at the end of last season that he had recovered from a devastating knee injury, and could be the lineman he was when he only missed 4 starts between 2000-2004. And if Wade does not pan out, the Skins got a great confidence boost by Heyer's performance on Sunday. The undrafted rookie stepped in to his first NFL game, in a position he's never played, and held his own against a formidable pass rush and one-on-one situations with Jason Taylor (who came at Campbell from both sides). The Skins were able to run effectively behind Heyer and did an adequate job picking up the blitz, reason to make me think the Jansen loss isn't a blow to my 10-6 prediction.


2) The Corners - We all saw how bad Smoot was on Sunday: he got beat deep and gave way too much cushion on Chambers. Smoot is a good corner and can be a big spark off the bench in nickle, but I don't see him holding his spot on the depth chart ahead of Springs for much longer. There have been rumblings that the Skins are pulling the same shtick on Springs that they played on Lavar in 2005 ( i.e phasing out a highly-paid veteran who is nearing the end of his contract). It didn't help that Springs ignored the Skins request to restructure his 5 million base pay for this year or that he skipped out on OTA's, but I still can't believe that the Skins would keep their best corner on the sidelines while mediocre WR's are making Smoot look stupid. Holding grudges or making an example of Springs isn't going to work if the Skins are getting lit up. Gibbs and Springs have done some jostling in the media this week over an apparent hammy injury that could be the reason for Springs stint on the bench - hopefully cooler heads will prevail and the soap opera will end. The Skins need Spring as the starter - he makes that secondary click.


3) Campbell - It was his ninth NFL start. No need for any other explanations. He rushed some throws, made some poor decisions and didn't look away receivers - all things that will erode with more starts. Campbell made the plays when it mattered and showed resilience by bouncing back when he could have wilted after a couple of bad throws. The kid has a great arm, can get these guys the ball anywhere on the field, and most importantly he can keep the chains moving with his feet.


4) Cooley - Captain Chaos was invisible for more than three quarters on Sunday. That is due to two things: 1) The Dolphins keyed in on him after watching the Skins preseason film. Cooley was JC's favorite target in August and the Fins did a nice job preventing him from doing it again on Sunday. 2) Cooley spent a lot of the day chipping next to Heyer, keeping him from getting to the middle of the field as a target for Campbell. If Randle El continues to be a threat on the sideline for the Skins, Cooley will get his share of balls as defenses will not be able to keep such a close watch on him. With Wade starting I also don't think Gibbs and Buges will keep him on the line as much.


5) Only 13 Points in Regulation - I chalk up the first half offensive performance to nerves and rust. Campbell squandered two good drives with the Cooley INT and a horrible overthrow of Moss. Moss also didn't help the cause with two drops on critical third downs. Those drives should have ended up with points. The second half was a different story: 10 points on 305 yards of offense with over 160 on the ground. The offense will click when they can use the ground game to set up Moss and company (without the drops and errant throws).


The Good's are Great


1) CP and LB - I don't think any of us could have dreamt up a better performance from the RB duo this week. Against the number 4 rush defense from last year, the Skins hammered the ball down the field with a aggressive downhill running, controlling the line of scrimmage throughout the second half. The Skins told the Dolphins they were running (going to Jumbo sets with Pucillo) and it didn't matter. Portis (as I told you he would) looked fast and healthy - getting to the holes quickly and cutting back nicely as well (see the TD run). Betts was his usual self as well - ramming people over and wearing the defense down. Credit Al Saunders with sticking to the run and not getting too cute on offense (except one terrible third down reverse call to Randle El). Lets hope he doesn't get away from it if the Skins don't have great success on the ground in the first quarter Monday night. If the Skins can carry the ball 40 times against the Eagles, they'll have a shot at winning. I don't see the 50/50 thing lasting much longer with CP and LB, btw - I think we'll get about a 20-22/12-15 ratio as the season progresses. Regardless of the carry numbers, both backs will be fresher at the end of games and the end of the season because of the system they've got now.


2) The LB's - Heard an interesting point in the post game: you know things are improved on defense if the LB's are leading the team in tackles and not the safeties. Instead of Taylor's and Landry's names being called, Fletcher and McIntosh were the ones being called most after plays on Sunday. That means the Doplhins weren't getting into the secondary, and that most running plays were being stopped at the line of scrimmage or a little beyond it. If the Skins make it clear that teams won't be able to run on them, they'll be able to get more aggressive in passing defenses and hopefully create some turnovers. McIntosh and Fletcher combine for 23 tackles Sunday - these two are definitely the real deal.


3) ARE - The Redskins might have found a real number two receiver. You may ask, how can ARE have improved so much from last year? The answer is simple: this is his only his 3rd year starting as a Wide Receiver...ever. The guy is a converted quarterback and is still perfecting the art of his new position. NFL commentators, including Peter King, have discussed the strides Randle El has made with his route running and catching. If he can continue to improve then defenses will not be able to key in on Moss and Cooley (the skins only aerial threats last year). ARE also gives Campbell another target he feels comfortable throwing to. Today's addition of Caldwell will help spread defenses more and give Campbell a slightly bigger target when teams can bump Moss and ARE in 3rd and 4 or 5 situations.


4) The Front Four - Don't laugh - a sack is a sack. I know the Skins only got one from the front four this week but it actually changed the entire Dolphins scheme. After Carter got to Green, the Fins immediately went to quick, three-step drops to prevent more sack opportunities and potential turnovers. If the Skins can get a speed rush off of Carter's side it would be a huge boost to this normally inept group.


5) The Fins Point Total - 13. The defense is faster, tackles much better and actually stopped drives on third down. I know they didn't play a high-octane offense, but you've got to like what you saw.


The Eagles Game


1) McNabb - The Skins may catch a break getting McNabb early in the season. He looked slower and a bit rusty on Sunday (I only saw clips) and I really don't expect him to get out of the pocket much, something that normally leads to major secondary breakdowns or big McNabb first-down runs. I hope the Skins feel comfortable manning up on the WRs early and blitzing more than they did Sunday. We saw a lot of zone stuff against Miami (showing Grilliams doesn't trust Carlos or Smoot), which is another reason why we didn't see much blitzing. If Springs can man up Reggie Brown and they don't have to worry about McNabb leaving the pocket, they might have some success. But...


2) Westbrook - The Skins gave up a lot of in the flat stuff against Miami - that's not going to fly against Westbrook. The man thrives on the dump down, west-coast passing game and always kills the Skins by getting big chunks after the catch. If I'm Williams, I focus on stopping the run and taking away the middle, underneath stuff by playing up our speedy LB's. Let McNabb try to beat our corners deep - I think it's a lot better option than Westbrook having a total field day on us.


3) Sheppard - The Skins must take advantage of Sheppard being out. The Eagles are very vulnerable at corner with Will James filling in as the number two CB. We'll probably see Sheldon Brown on Moss, so Campbell can go right back to ARE on the other side.


4) The Eagles Blitz - Campbell makes his tenth start under the lights on national TV among the craziest fan in sports. It will be hostile. Jim Johnson is going to send the house at Campbell until he shows he can pick up the blitz. The Skins can defeat the blitz in one of two ways: running right at it or going with quick hitters to Moss, Cooley and ARE. I think both options are viable and the Skins will have to see which works best. I think they need to run at the Eagles first. Just like in the Fins game, if the Skins can get them going backwards early, the Eagles D will be a worn squad in the second half. If the Skins can't get it going on the ground, they're going to have to start picking on James. Hopefully something will work.


5) Special Teams - I hate putting this as a key to the game, but the Eagles muffed two punts on Sunday while the Skins special teams were flawless. These type of things usually linger throughout the season - hopefully the Skins will have the edge again.


Realistically, I just don't think the Skins can pull it out. Throw x's and o's out the window - most NFL teams would have a rough time going into Philly and beating the Eagles in their home opener on MNF. Lets hope turnovers and special teams give us the edge in what should be another pain-staking and closely contested NFC East match up.


Fret not though Skins Serv, the Giants are less than two weeks away.



Breaking News - Caldwell: Volume 2, Issue 5

According to the Post's Jason LaCanfora the Skins have signed veteran WR Reche Caldwell. Caldwell could be penciled in as the Skins number three wide receiver within a couple of weeks. Caldwell, who comes off a years in which he caught 61 catches for 760 yards and 4TD's in 14 starts, found himself without a job once the Patriots were comfortable with Randy Moss and Wes Welker in their lineup. Caldwell, who doesn't fit the Santana Moss and Antwan Randle El smurf mold (he's 6"0), could be the possession receiver the Skins have been looking for to compliment their deep ball threats. Details of the deal will be reported later today.




I hope to get a real Skins Serv out before the holiday.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Will It Get Better Than This?: Volume 2, Issue 4

Sons of Washington 

It is with great excitement and anticipation that I wish each of you a Happy New Football Year. As I am sure the rest of you can attest, this has been one of the most stirring and anxiety-filled weeks of the year, and thankfully now, kickoff is less than 72 hours away.

As my family wraps up our opening game tailgate each season and heads into FedEx amongst thousands of other drunk and delirious Redskins fans, it has become tradition to say "It doesn't get any better than this." With each new season, comes new hopes and new dreams, and for that one sweet moment before the ball is placed on the tee, we all believe that our beloved Skins can conquer the football world. Everyone in the NFL, just like our Skins, is 0-0. No one is better, no one is worse. They all must prove themselves on the field.

And with most seasons I can remember, the Redskins eventually shatter those dreams. They turn out to not be the Goliaths we convince ourselves they are and within a month (or two, if we're lucky) the harsh reality of mediocrity (or worse) sets in, leaving us to dream big about the next campaign.

So that brings me to my initial question: can it get better than week 1? Will the 2007 Redskins give us something to build upon our dream (as opposed to last year when we knew they stunk by halftime of week 1)? Will our hope be realized for 60 minutes this Sunday, enabling us to dream even bigger while we sit our desks waiting for Philly in week 2? Can the dream continue till week 8? 16? Super Bowl Sunday?

Thank goodness we finally get to find out.

In a special week 1 edition of Skins Serv (get ready – it's huge), I will not only walk you through Sunday's battle with the Fins, but I will give you my humble predictions for how I see this year transpiring. And if you don't believe me, I'll give you some solid brainwashing material so that by Sunday at 1PM you will.

Lastly, a hearty Skins Serv mazal tov to Gadi Rozmaryn on the birth of a little baby tight end.

Kol Tuv,




 Why They'll Be Better - Defense

 1) It's the Secondary, Stupid - It's all starting to add up for me. Gregg Williams couldn't give two hoots about a front four. He made the playoffs two years ago and had a top 10 defense in 2 of his 3 Redskins campaigns with Renaldo Wynn and Joe Salavea up front. With all due respect to those two, they were, at best, average NFL d-lineman. Williams defensive success came from corner blitzes and his CB's abilities to shut down opposing WRs. To prove the theory, Williams's ignored his front four in the off-season and acquired 4 new secondary specialists instead (Smoot, Landry, Macklin and Torrence - he came in 12/06). Was this a case of hubris, or did Williams go back to '04 and '05 game film and realize what set us back last year? I'll go with the latter. The Skins were depleted at corner and safety in 2006. Some weeks they were starting Kenny Wright and Mike Rumph alongside Vernon Fox at safety - the former two should have hung up their cleats after college. Never mind asking them to spot blitz, they couldn't keep any receivers in front of them. So the Skins kept Springs (who's now fully healthy) and brought back Smoot as a nice insurance policy and great nickel guy. With the corners settled, the safeties won't be nearly as exposed as they were last year, enabling Landry to sneak up on the run Taylor to roam around and look to knock some heads off. The corner depth will also allow Springs and Landry to do more blitzing (as they did in the preseason), because Williams now trusts the guys covering behind him. (Side note on Landry: It seems the entire league has crowned this guy defensive rookie of the year already. He's fast, he's a heavy hitter and he'll blitz a lot. This guy is going to hurt many QBs). The focus on secondary personnel will create two things: more turnovers and more third down stops, thus creating shorter fields for the offense to work with (something they never got last year). The Skins rushed three and played soft on third down last year leading to the worst third down defense in the league (see below Slate article). That won't happen again - Williams will bring the house this year and make QBs get rid of the ball a lot quicker.

 2) Youth Movement - One thing you hear all the time in the NFL is that speed makes the difference. For the first time in a while, the Skins are making a commitment to getting young legs on defense - opting for quickness and athleticism over experience. I liked Marshall, Wynn and Big Joe, they were character guys, but seeing them go in favor of players like Golston, Montgomery, McIntosh and Blades means the Skins will be faster to the ball and better down the road. The buzz on McIntosh has been amazing this off-season with many (including those outside DC circles) saying he could play at an all-pro level. I can't tell much you about Golston and Montgomery other than that if Griffin can stay healthy, these guys will have fine years. With Griffin always taking so much of the offensive lines attention, any kind of burst from the other two will be an upgrade from Big Joe.

 3) The Linebackers - The Linebackers have a huge role in this defense as well. They're asked to help with the run on first and second down and fade into coverage on third. These guys need to know where to be and have to be able to be quick to the ball and tackle like crazy. So far, so good. I know it's only the preseason, but Rocky and London Fletcher seem to always know where to be. Both guys are fast, smart and have an acute awareness of this system. Washington will be great as well, and could be a help to the pass rush when he moves to all fours in nickel situations. I can say confidently that this is the best middle three the Skins have had in a bunch of years. They're smarter (no more Lavar over pursuing), they're better in coverage (Holdman and Marshall were a disaster last year), and they can stop the run (no more missing tackles).

 4) Slate - Everyone's been talking about it. I'll let you read the article and draw your own conclusions. Whether or not the third down defense makes them a super bowl contender remains to be seen, for now, it at least makes your mouth water a bit. And while I'm throwing some fodder at you, why don't you try this article on for size:

Why They'll Be Better - The Offense

1) They'll Have the Ball - The most frustrating part of last year was how little the Skins were on the field. Of course, you need to convert a first down to keep playing, but time and again, the Skins defense gave up sustained drives that kept the O off the field for huge chunks of time. Whatever momentum and continuity the offense could get going they would lose after sitting on the bench for half a quarter to a full quarter. I remember one game last year where the Skins offense wasn't on the field for 70 minutes in real time - that's absurd, and something we'll see a lot less of this year.

 2) QB Stability - Let's face it, Brunell's career ended when he injured his knee in week 16 of 2005 against the Giants. His knee wasn't right against Philly, TB or Seattle and he never gave them a chance to win in any game he started last year. Yes Campbell is young and inexperienced, but his great arm poses as a legit deep ball threat. As opposed to when Brunell was flicking 4 yarders to Sellars every play, defenses will not know how to play us. Campbell's deep play potential will spread the field, push the corners back, give Cooley room to roam the middle and keep extra players out of the box so Portis and Betts can get going with the run. The big concern a young QB's tendency to make bad decisions - hopefully that will lessen with some more game experience. Regardless, I think Campbell right now gives them a better chance to win than Brunell did when he was behind center (even in 2005).

3) The Running Game - I still have a modicum of reality in these bones and understand that our receiving corps won't make us a winner this year. The Skins will have to rely on their two horses to move the chains and keep the clock ticking. The combo of Portis and Betts is a top three tandem in the league. I don't care what people say - Portis is healthy. He could have practiced in August and could have played in games, but the Skins got smart and rested him hoping he'd be a little fresher in November, December and January. Portis is only a year separated from 1500 yards and 11 td's. Don't close the book on his career just yet - even in an injured shortened season last year, Portis scored 7 tds in just 7 games started. Betts gives them a great compliment and a great change of pace – it's possible they'll both rush for 1000 yards. Once the coaches figure out who will carry the ball when, we will really see this thing blossom. Lastly, once the Skins establish their ground game, the pressure will cease on Campbell and maybe the air game will take flight. 


The Season: The Official Prediction (Hold me to it)

 The defense will get this team rolling early and the offense will arrive as well. Campbell and Co. have a year of the offense under their belts and will actually find themselves in the end zone like most other NFL teams. Barring injuries, there's no reason the Skins can't get off to a fast start with a relatively light schedule. If they can roll off some early wins, then Campbell will continue building confidence and we might see some winning football later in the year.

 I see the young QB being solid (but not spectacular) with Portis and Betts doing the grunt work and giving the defense time to breath. The turnovers will come pouring in this year and all will be forgotten about last year's misery - Williams's defense will find itself right back in the top five.

 The Skins 07-08 run will be promising and something to build on (unlike 2005) and will set up a year five for Gibbs that we all envisioned when he started.

Week 1, 9/9, Miami (W, 17-7)

Week 2, 9/17, @ Philadelphia (L, 24-21)

Week 3, 9/23, New York (W, 31-17)

Week 4, Bye

Week 5, 10/7, Detroit (W, 35-10)

Week 6, 10/14, @ Green Bay (L, 13-10)

Week 7, 10/21, Cardinals (W, 28-21)

Week 8, 10/28, @ Patriots (L, 24-14)

Week 9, 11/4,  @ New York Jets (L, 9-6)

Week 10, 11/11, Philadelphia (W, 28-20)

Week 11, 11/18,  @ Dallas (L, 27-9)

Week 12, 11/25,  @ Tampa Bay (W, 30-13)

Week 13, 12/2, Buffalo (W, 21-20)

Week 14, 12/6, Chicago (L, 12-6)

Week 15, 12/15, @ New York (W, 19-17)

Week 16, 12/23, @Minnesota (W, 22-14)

Week 17, 12/30, Dallas (W, 33-21)


10-6, Wild Card Berth

I've come full circle...yet again.

Just get on the bandwagon now, peeps. Might as well.


 The Miami Game - All Defense

 1) Trent Green - Cam Cameron brings in a new offense and the last time we saw Trent Green play he was still feeling the jitters of that horrible week one hit to the head last year. Green comes in with no great receiving threats (don't sell me on Ted Ginn) and a running game that couldn't establish itself last year. This offense will be very rusty and Green, if pressure is applied, will make mistakes early and often. Even in 2006 the Skins could sack Drew Bledsoe and Green is of the same mold. He's butt will be hitting the ground all day.

 2) The Miami Defense - This game, as all opening day games go, will be a struggle. Miami has a fantastic front four and they added Joey Porter behind it. I don't see the Skins having much luck running the ball and we'll probably see a lot of Campbell scrambling and throwing to check downs because of a heavy rush due to Samuels and Kendall's rust factor. This shouldn't concern you as a long term problem; it is just that they are up against a mighty defensive foe this week. Is Jason Taylor more good looking or scary?

 3) Turnovers and Defensive Touchdowns - I am convinced this will be the difference in the game and I'd be surprised if we saw a single offensive TD. The Skins, who have spent all off-season figuring out a way to make a turnover, will get a few - two of which they'll take back to the house themselves. I could see Campbell getting sloppy and maybe throwing a pick himself, but I don't think it will make a difference. The Skins defense is going to establish itself early and Green, who wouldn't dare leave the pocket, is going to throw some go-fer balls up there (hopefully Carlos will catch one)

 4) One Player to Watch – Santana Moss – I think Cooley will get his balls and I think Portis and Betts won't average more than 3 YPC. They guy who I see do helping the Skins move the chains is Santana Moss. Santana is always good at home and he goes up against a guy who he absolutely tore to bits in 2005: Will Allen. If you recall, Will Allen was last seen on the ground after Santana shoved him out of the way en route to his third TD in the Skins Christmas day massacre of the Giants in 2005. Allen wants revenge and I sure don't see him getting it this week.

 Redskins 17, Dolphins 7

 It's getting closer and closer. I can't wait to enjoy an amazing season of Redskins football with you all.





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