Sunday, September 28, 2008

Can They Do This? Volume 3, Issue 6

Burgundy Bleeders,
Big game tomorrow. In fact, I'd say it's a huge game. Besides the fact that it's Dallas and it's the last Skins/Girls game at ole' Texas Stadium, this game is litmus test for where the Skins rank amongst the NFL's elite teams. Many of you out there are sold on this offense and believe that the past two weeks indicate the Skins are fore real. I am of a different segment of Skins fans - the cautious optimists. I believe that the last two weeks were a vast improvement from week 1, tell us the Skins offense will have an aggressive, pass-happy offense going forward, and that Jim Zorn is constantly re-working and re-vamping his schemes to maximize point output. Does that mean that the Skins are a playoff team now? Does that mean they can dethrone the Giants, Eagles and Cowboys for one of the three NFC East playoff spots? I just don't know. The Skins did just enough to beat the Saints and the Cards - two months from now will we say that those were impressive wins or will we say that those teams were more glitz than substance? Only time will tell.

Fortunately for those of us who don't have patience for answers, the Skins get to play the Cowboys tomorrow. The Cowboys are, without any shadow of a doubt, the best team in the NFL. Their running game is strong, their passing game is prolific and their defense is speedy and strong. The Cowgirls have looked great in knocking off the Eagles and Packers over the last two weeks and have shown very few flaws (those which they have, I'll discuss) in those games. With that being said, this showdown becomes a benchmark game for the B&G. Remember last year in Foxboro? That game turned out to be a pretty good indicator of where the Skins were relative to the best in the league. And now again, the Skins get to show us how they stack against the league's best. Lets just hope the outcome is slightly less one-sided than against the Pats.

So what should we want out of tomorrow? For me, I want the Skins to hang. This team is a heavy dog (currently 11 points) and history tells us they don't fare well in Texas Stadium. I'd love for the Skins to steal one, but I'd be just as happy with them showing me they can move the ball on an opponent's turf - both by airing it out and getting push off the line of scrimmage - and that they can contain the Cowboys offense.

Recall how Joe Gibbs teams of the four previous years would come into Dallas and stall for the first three quarters - you know, the barrage of three and outs and the embarrassing offensive numbers (like this year's Giants game). If the Skins are an NFC playoff contender, that cannot happen again. If this offense is for real, they'll get first downs and put up TDs. If this defense is for real, they'll contain some of Dallas's threats. Its what good teams would do. So for me, a win's nice, but a good looking football team that gives the Cowboys a great game might be just as nice too.

I pray they're a good football team tomorrow.

Kol Tuv,


1) Housekeeping - I've been getting some complaints that the late Saturday postings aren't cutting it. I apologize for not giving you hooked-on-phonicsers enough time before the game starts. Seriously though, I'll do my best to try to get this out of the drafts folder by Friday morning. Also, because it's Cowboys week and I want to keep this email a football only deal, I have attached a letter I recently wrote to the Washington Post (unpublished) for those who are interested in my opinions on Redskins non-football topics. If you want to read about Vinny/Danny gay ghezunta heid, if not, no worries.

2A) How The Redskins Win - Offense - To Jim Zorn's credit, the offense has really mixed it up nicely over the last two weeks. They've done a lot out of those west-coast spread sets and been effective in those Gibbsian jumbo packages. They've also kept defenses honest by hitting on the quick stuff, while trying to take big shots down the field too. The Skins have also done a nice job running out of passing formations and vice-versa.

Tomorrow I think the Skins need to tweak the offensive plan a little bit for a Cowboys defense that is vulnerable in the secondary. Basically, I think the Skins need to go long - early and often. The Skins have to test the Cowboys corners - Newman and Henry - and attack their very weak safety core of Patrick Watkins and Ken Hamlin. To hit the big play, I'm convinced the Skins are going to have to take shots out of their protection-heavy formations. Show run with I-formations, and go play action. The Cowboys will bring their safeties up early (sniffing out the runs) and it'll leave Moss and Thomas (yes, Thomas) room to run sprints at the Cowboys CBs.

I don't think the Skins have the pass-protection ability to take deep shots in the spread formations, the Cowboys pass rush is just too good. That being said, the Skins will have to move the ball in shorter chunks by utilizing the quick-hitting stuff. Ware and company are going to get to Campbell fast, which means that the dink and dunk must be effective. Only once the Skins can establish a deep play threat and be effective with the under stuff, than they'll then be able to run it. If Campbell can get hot early, CP will find lanes out of the spread formations and he won't face 7 or 8 men fronts in the run formations.

Nice thing about Zorn is that he's not obsessed with establishing the run early - which means that they might actually do this! If Zorn, for some stupid reason, comes out running, even me, the CP fantasy owner, will be angry.

2A, II) That's Right, Devin Thomas - Don't think I'm sold on this guy. In fact, before I tell you he'll be a factor tomorrow, let me get my rips in first. On his first "thrown to's" last week, Thomas picked up two offensive PI's and turned the wrong way on a short pattern, which nearly led to a pick-6. The dude has got to get his S&*% together ASAP or else....yeah, that's right, else.

So what can Devin do tomorrow? He can run straight down the sideline as fast as possible (and hopefully catch the ball). Thomas has shown some speed and can win jump balls over Newman and Henry. The Cowboys will shade their secondary over to Moss, which means Thomas (or ARE) will have man-to-man opportunities down the field. As I said before, the Skins must hit on these if they want a chance.

2A, III) The O-Line v. the Pass Rush - DeMarcus Ware scares the ba-heysus out of me. Unfortunately, he scares the crap out of our AARP o-line too. The Cowboys move Ware all over the line, so he'll test Jansen (he's baaaack) and Samuels throughout the game. What this means for the Skins is max protect (TE chipping) or quick hitters off the spread formations. Jason Campbell cannnot and will not get away with holding onto the ball in the 4-receiver sets - he'll get killed. If the Skins protect with five, the three step drop is all he'll be able to do. Because of the Cowboys over-aggressiveness, the Skins might be able to steal yards with screen plays, so look for them to do some of that early - anything to keep this defense off balance. I also think the Skins will be uber-obsessed with Ware, so beware of Marcus Spears or Greg Ellis coming from the other side. Chris Cooley, who's much loved for his pass-catching and YAC ability, has been a dog in pass protection. Captain Chaos and Yodes will have to hold strong on these Cowboys LB's if Campbell's gonna survive.

2A, IV) Red Zone Offense - Can you get over how well the Skins have looked inside the red zone and more specifically, inside the 10-yard line? For me, it's been the biggest difference in the offense in the Zorny area. Campbell was great at moving the team between the 20's last year - now they're going the full 80. I pin the new success on Zorn's counter-intuitive play calling. For example, two of Clinton Portis's three TD's have been virtual strolls down the middle of opponents defenses. Do you ever remember a time when CP wasn't killing himself for every TD (TB in 04 and SF in 05 being the few exceptions)? Dude's been going in untouched and it's because Zorn has been spreading the defenses out with 4-wr sets and running up the middle.

Or, like on the Todd Yoder TD, Zorn's been going jumbo and then passing out of that. The only worry is that defenses will catch on and assume Zorn's going to do the opposite of what he shows. I think Zorn's too smart for that. He'll keep defenses guessing by passing out of those spread sets and running CP in jumbo - only to change it up when the moment's right. This week, Zorn better get it right. The Skins red zone opportunities will be precious. If they want to win, they'll have to be perfect.

2B) How They Win - Defense - Stop the Cowboys offense. Haha. Sounds so easy when putting it like that. The Cowboys have a three-pronged attack, so lets dissect it that way.

2B II) Stop TO - Based on what I've read and seen, the Skins best shot at containing TO is putting Shawn Springs on him in man-to-man coverage the entire day. If you recall (JLC reminded readers this week), the Skins did a nice job of blanketing TO in the first half of last year's Texas Stadium tilt. TO had no big plays and one short TD. In that first half, Springs shadowed TO all over the field. No cute zones. No embarrassing coverage lapses. The second half was a whole different story. Why? You guessed it - Grilliams got greedy in the locker room and decided to zone-up TO in the second half. TO made em' pay - three TDs (all long bombs) and a ton of catches and receiving yards. So tomorrow the Skins MUST committ to matching Springs up on TO for four quarters. Springs has looked great thus far, knows all of TO's tendencies, and I think is up for the challenge.

What this means is that the Skins can make Dallas's other threats their primary defensive focus. Of course the Skins will have LaRon Landry over the top in case of the big play, but besides Springs and Landry, the Skins 9 other defenders can hone in on Witten and Barber.

2B III) Stop Witten - Because of my confidence in Springs and because of what I've seen of Dallas this year, Witten scares me more than the aforementioned TO. Witten runs great patterns, doesn't drop balls and has deceptive speed off the line and after the catch. The dude is literally a chess piece being moved around flawlessly by Jason Garrett. He'll get you on the sideliness and he'll get you up the seam. Of course Witten is so successful because of the TO threat, but because the Skins will man-up Springs on TO, Witten can become the LB's and other secondary personnel's primary concern.

The Skins willl do a bunch of different things with Witten and I assume stick with the thing that works. The Skins will go with three safeties - Landry back and Horton and Doughty chasing around the #3 WR (Austin?) and Witten. This strategy might work because the safeties will have more speed to keep up with Witten. On the other hand, the Skins will give up lots of size. The Skins might also go to a Rocky McIntosh-shadowing strategy - Rocky's looked great over the last two weeks, but I'm not sold on his coverage skills. Witten could run circles around him, but lets hope not. It'll be a trial-by-error situation.

With TO taken care of and Witten being the D's focus, the Skins will have limited resources to stop Marion Barber. Which gets me to my third point....

2B IV) Make Barber Beat You - I know this sounds crazy, but I think the Skins need to let Marion Barber be the guy that beats them. This really isn't about Barber as it is as much about Jason Garrett. Garrett's obsessed with the big play - watching Cowboys games are like watching kids play Madden 09. Instead of forcing the run early (like Gibbs), Garrett forces the pass early taking shot after shot. Once he's done that, he goes to Barber for the 2nd half slam. So I believe you have to get Garrett flustered - take the pass away early and make him do something out-of-character. If it's running Barber on every down - fine. By that point, the Cowboys will probably be playing from behind and go to the pass anyway.

If you watch the Cowgirls, they don't consistently hand the ball to Barber in the first half - he gets his 8, his 9, and then they start airing it out anyway. So I say give Barber his early chunks because they're going to abandon the run regardless. Once they start passing, the defense will be ready. You overplay the run early, you feed into Garrett's plan and he'll find a way to beat you through the air. One note about Felix Jones (the Cowboys backup RB) - dude is a great change of pace back and can hit the dinger - it always seems like the Skins get killed by these types of guys. If Jones is in the backfield they need to keep a keen eye on him.

One more point - the Skins will have Demetric Evans in there instead of Taylor which will definitely help in stopping the run in nickle and dime situations.

2B V) Pressure on Romo - It goes without saying that in order to stop this offense you gotta force Romo to make mistakes. Usually that means getting pressure on him. With Taylor out and Carter presumably getting the TE chip, the Skins don't have a good shot of getting at him too often. Instead the Skins are going to have to disguise coverages and change looks up on every down in hopes of getting Romo to throw to a bad spot. If they can get a hand on him, great, if not, get him to do something stupid instead.

3) Jason Taylor Won't Play for a Long Time - I still don't have a good handle on this situation, but Jason Taylor sustained a freak injury last Sunday. He got kicked in the calf muscle, which then led to internal bleeding. The condition deteriorated so fast that Taylor nearly lost the ability to ever use his legs again and wasn't far from losing his life. Crazy! I don't understand what happened (I wish I had a Skins Serv Sanjay Gupta) and I can only read through the lines of the Skins prognosis. Here's my gut - he's done for the year and probably never going to wear the B&G again. I hate to be Debbie Downer, but the guys walking around with a cane and he doesn't have any idea how long it will be. So I am expecting the worst. Draw your own conclusion:

4) Other Injuries - Skins are looking pretty good. I think Fred Smoot and Marcus Washington will play. By most reports, it seems like Stephon Heyer isn't fully recovered from some kind of shoulder thing so Jon Jansen gets to redeem himself (good for the running game, bad for pass protection). I think this is the last time I mention Malcolm Kelly on the injury report - just assume he's out until I say otherwise.

5) Prediction - History isn't on our side. Check out Dan Steinberg's blog on what the Skins have done at Texas Stadium over the years (
. If you're lazy, the article says the Skins never win in Dallas, barely ever beat the spread and hardly ever break 20 points. And you must also consider how much better this Cowboys team than all of those that make up the stats. With that said, I think the Skins show they're legit (that's right, me being positive), and give the 'Boys a run. The Skins will contain TO and they'll air it out on a bad Cowboys secondary. Problem is, I think that's not going to be enough. Look for Dallas to eek one out with a special-teams play, a late turnover (we're due for one), or by a big performance from an unheralded offensive player. I just think there's too much there right now for the Skins to handle. With the Skins still maturing as a team, looking for a W in their second matchup is more realistic.

I'll be looking for signs tomorrow - more reason to believe - and I think I'll get them.

Cowboys 30, Redskins 24.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Fascism in Football: A Letter to the Washington Post

Did you know that in Washington DC, the center of the free world, a virtual state-run radio station is thriving? As a die-hard Washington Redskins fan and season ticket holder, I have grown deeply concerned with the latest expansion of the Washington Redskins marketing and PR machine. The newest twist to this saga is Daniel Snyder’s takeover of Sportstalk 980, thus merging Snyder’s previously held Triple-X ESPN Radio and Sportstalk 980 into one mega sports station.

Despite his promise to keep the station’s Redskins reporting objective, Snyder has taken full control of all Redskins-related messaging, and has begun to abuse his power. By using the airwaves, the Redskins have already suppressed dissent and stifled free speech - bullying other media members into speaking the same message or risk the threat of being publicly embarrassed, censured and delegitimized.

I happened to have been tuning into Redskins Radio on Monday morning when Redskins Executive Vice President Vinny Cerrato, host of “Inside the Red Zone,” publicly denounced the Washington Post’s Jason LaCanfora and accused him of undermining the Redskins organization and their fans by filing a “tampering” complaint to the NFL league office. Simply, Cerrato told listeners that LaCanfora tattle-tailed on the Redskins with hopes of having the team penalized with fines and lost draft picks. Listening to Cerrato’s on-air diatribe, I could only help but think of the fascist, free speech stymieing tactics used by state-run radio stations in totalitarian countries.

By inquiring with the NFL about the ramifications of Cerrato hosting a radio talk show, something unprecedented in NFL circles, LaCanfora was simply doing his job as a reporter. LaCanfora reports on the Redskins, both positively and negatively, and this was a case of him asking the right questions. For Cerrato to use the airwaves to attack and bully LaCanfora, and even worse, to try to strike fear in loyal Redskins fans that a beat reporter committed treason, was analogous to government-run media’s suppression of opposition voices in Castro’s Cuba or Kim Jong’s North Korea.

Daniel Snyder, who made his millions in marketing, has long been obsessed with his personal image and the Redskins brand – this obsession can be directly correlated to Snyder’s immature spending habits, rash decision-making, and his team’s lack of success over the last decade. Instead of looking to change his personal habits and that of his team’s front office, Snyder has instead opted to seize control of those who report on it. In a nation where freedom of speech and freedom of the press are two of our most valued assets, Snyder’s recent actions must be condemned.

I squirm in fear of what Snyder’s next step could be. Is it possible that the Redskins will confiscate my three season tickets for writing this letter? At this point, nothing would surprise me.

Scott Zakheim
Washington DC
Redskins Season Ticket Holder Since 2004

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Football? This Team Plays Football? Volume 3, Issue 5

Sons and Daughters of the Potomac Valley Braves,

I apologize for a very brief version of Skins Serv this week, but mid-terms have been the focus and I got be at FedEx by 10AM.

I'm actually not going to use this forum to talk about last week's game or even this week's game. Instead I will give you (in cased you missed it) a quick primer on the outlandish activity that came out of Ashburn this week. To say this team is a soap opera is a vast understatement - to say that they're run by, and represented by, juvenile delinquents is a little more accurate. You really gotta love this group. Could be the most lovable group of athletes since Willie Stargell and the 79 Pirates or maybe Doc Gooden and the 86 Mets. In honor of the Skins not doing anything football news worthy this week, I'm not going to write about anything football related. I'd say it's a fair deal, no? Let's get to it:

1) Chris Cooley Exposed Himself on the Internet - Don't think I need to explain further. Here are the links to explanations, reactions and the pic:
- How it happened:
- The Pic (nudity - viewer discretion is strongly advised):
- The Cooley Apology:

2) Clinton Portis and Brian Mitchell Fight on the Radio (and nearly in person) - This is my personal favorite. I've never heard Dolla Bill so angry and I love John Thompson's mediation:
- The uncut clip:
- The Dan Steinberg Translation (This is Amazing):

3) Redskins GM Vinny Cerrato Gets a Radio Show on Redskins Radio ESPN 980 - Just in case they hadn't fully claimed the title of biggest joke in the NFL Danny/Vinny were at it again this week. This time Czar Daniel gave his Vinny-boy 4 hours of air time on the only sports station in the city:
- The LaCanfora Rip (Go Jason):
- The JLC Follow Up:
- Quotes:
- Other 980 Hosts Discuss Cerrato:

OK - some quick hitters for you (I changed my mind about the football thing):

A) The Cards Can Play - This team isn't a joke and might be the biggest surprise in the NFL by year's end. They flaunt amazing position players on offense and might end up being better on the defensive side of the ball. Guys like Dansby and Wilson are just the start - the front four might have two pro-bowlers too (Docket and LaBoy). Redskins optimists beware. JLC explains breaks down their defense:

B) Can JC Build on that Throw? - Despite JC's insane outing last week, I'm convinced this is still a week-to-week operation. The Cards have a faster and more aggressive defense than the Saints. I'd love to see Campbell come out on fire again, but I just don't think this will develop so quickly. Patience is crucial.

C) CP is Angry - In case you didn't hear the clip, Clinton Portis is mad. I think this means great things for the Skins and for my fantasy team. Portis might have the biggest chip on his shoulder of any player up here in the NFL - crazy considering he's coming off a 96 yard, 2 TD performance.

D) One Problem - They don't run right. Ever notice how CP can only gain yards going left? Very troublesome. They need to start running behind Heyer and Thomas or else teams will start shifting over and playing for the run left. We could already start seeing it in the first quarter tomorrow.

E) 'Zona WRs - Somehow Smootsie, Springs and Carlos are going to have to have a huge day. The Cardinals are very talented on the outsides, and even worse, very tall. Our corners are going to have to play lights out and...

F) Jason Taylor Needs to Attack Kurt Warner - Warner's old and can only play on timing. If he gets rattled, has to escape a rush or hold onto the ball for an extra second, he's in deep doo doo. The dude has been awesome, but hasn't exactly faced a good pass rush yet. Taylor looked great last week and if he and Carter can get around on the edges, the Skins will be able to create turnovers and get some easy points.

G) Durant Brooks Sucks - A botched hold and a 25 yard punt to Reggie Bush? Send him back to Atlanta or wherever the heck he came from. Reggie Roby please report to the deli counter.

H) Prediction - I have a bad feeling about this one - it's a tough matchup for us. The Cards defense is super fast which means our old o-line will be tested and our speedster WRs can be contained. The Cards also remembers the Rackers 52-yard doink last year and the awful calls that led to that heartbreaking defeat (which ended up keeping them out of the playoffs). The Cards have also been in DC for the week instead of practicing back in PHX. No jet lag means no sleepy Cardinals. That scares me too. Arizona 34 Redskins 26.


ps - thank you to the Wash Post sports staff for providing all the meaty substance (links) this week

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Exception or the Rule? Volume 3, Issue 4

Loyal Friends of the Feather,

I never thought that writing this Skins Serv would be the greatest Communications struggle of my life, but alas, it I think it is. In my brief and unexciting PR career, I never had to spin anything thing like this before. My job as Chief Skins Server is to keep the huddled masses fresh,excited and enthused for every football Sunday. And not to pat myself on the back too much, but over the past 3 years I've done a pretty freakin' good job of it. I've really BSed myself, and more importantly all of you, into believing that every Sunday is the biggest Sunday - that a mid-December game, when the Skins are 5-8 and starting Kerry Conklin under center is as big the Super Bowl - heck, all they have to do is reel off three in a row and have 6 teams die in  a plane crash and they're there rolling into the playoffs and probably the Super Bowl. Throughout the duration of Skins Serv I have been successful in spreading the gospel that is my delusional, yellow-journalistic approach to the Burgundy and Gold. Myself and all you Skins Servers have rarely shown a moment of vulnerability, even in the most dire of Skins moments.

But this week seems to be different. I confess I am struggling. I bore witness to the trouncing the Skins took last Thursday night, and I'm still IBSing it out of my system. I know the Giants only won by 9 points and I know the Skins could have cut it close late in the game, but that really isn't the point. To me, the point is that our beloved Redskins look as uncomfortable, confused and disjointed playing football as I have ever seen any Skins team play in my life. They did nothing.

To me it's a simple equation, in the NFL season opener team's flaunt what they've accomplished over the last eight months. Forget NFL teams for a second, just look at yourselves and ask "What have I done (that I can show for) over the last EIGHT MONTHS of my life? Do you know what the Redskins showed for their 8 months worth of work? 7 points. Seven. One touchdown - which, by the way, would have never happened if not for Rock Cartwright's pure will and determination to keep the Skins in games they have no business being in.

I was truly depressed but what I saw. This team can't pass, pass protect, run-block, catch, stop the run and stop the pass. I know it's a lot of negatives, and I know I'm being harsh, but that's really what was on display for the whole world to see. And if Eli Manning and the Giants vanilla second half offense weren't as terrible as they were, it would have been a whole lot worse.

So what do I do? How do I spin this? How can I possibly convince you that the Skins have a fighting chance against a Goliath of a team on Sunday? Well for one, I actually believe it. Yes, that's right. For all those of you out there who have been critical of my criticism (so much criticism going around these days), I'm gonna respond by saying that I truly feel, deep down in my heart, that the SKINS WILL WIN THIS WEEK VERSUS THE SAINTS.

Why? Can't explain that. It's just one of those things - you know, when you're driving to school while reading JLC's insider and pondering that the Skins have no business pulling off an upset this week, let alone playing on the same field as the Saints - yet you're suddenly taken aback by this feeling in your stomach (I hadn't eaten breakfast yet), and you think this feeling correlates to the outcome of Sunday's game? Well folks, it happened to me. That's right, at about 9:53 Wednesday morning I got that feeling - that exciting gust of Autumn wind where hope springs eternal - a feeling that wasn't even on my radar last week as I drove to the Meadowlands.

This is the home opener. The Skins have some good players, right?. They'll have the 70,000 fans and 22,000 empty seats behind them, right? They beat a great Saints team in 06' with so much less to play for, right? Right!

This team has heart. This team has character. This team has veterans that won't roll over and play dead. This team has Clinton Portis. This team has Joe Bugel. This ain't no JV squad. This is the Washington Redskins, people. Our Washington Redskins.

I know we're all very wounded (it felt like someone bit me). It was a tumultuous summer and an even harder last 10 days, yet there are still 16 weeks to go. Anything can happen. 30 more Tom Brady-like injuries and the Skins are the Super Bowl favorites. So here's what I say: lets figure out a way to park our disdain for 12 more hours (I'll be parking my disdain in the Red Lot for $35), see how tomorrow plays out, and reassess Monday morning. Isn't that the beauty of a football weekend anyway?


ps - Is the Skins Serv title referring to last week's game or this week's game? Touche, Saadman, touche.

1) Business First - Continuing this week's theme of self promotion and positivity, I'd like to introduce you to SkinServ.Blogspot.Com. Yes, this list serv has finally made the tragic, cliche mutation into a blog. I finally have my own home in the world wide of webs. I cannot take credit for this turn of events, but have to give some hakarat hatov to the family Rozmaryn (and my parents and God). Ami and Elan planned, desigined, archived and executed the site - it's pretty pretty good. If you are ever up at three in the morning, flipping back and forth between Univision (of course you don't speak spanish) and QVC, and you get the urge to find out what I predicted for the Skins 2006 Week 6 tilt, you can now find it. Let the hits start a comin'.

2) Business Second - Skins Serv is having its first official sales drive (we're going corporate). I have worked a deal with the distributors of KrazyKeepahs ( They make an amazing Redskins Yarmulka and I want you all have the chance to have it - men, women and family pets alike. The skullcap runs for $10 and I will personally deliver it to your place of work. Email me if you're interested.

3) The NFC East (aka JTFCest) - I know this blog is Skins only and I promise we'll get back to tomorrow's game with the 'Aints, but let me digress for a couple of sections so I can air my feelings on some other sticky issues that have been weighing on these scrawny shoulders. The NFC East is totally out of control. Totally. I know the Cowboys played a highly-overrated Browns, but they look like a 14-win football team. I also know the Eagles played a lousy Al Saunders-run offense, but they also looked awesome - probably a 10-plus-win football team. So if the Cowboys are good for 14 and the Eagles are good for 10+ and the Giants already have a game on the Skins, where is our place in this division? My point isn't that the Skins are necessarily bad (although they very well might be), they just happen to be playing in one of the hardest division's in NFL history. So in order for them to win a division, or even grab a wild card spot, they're going to have to pitch a perfect game over the next 16 weeks. A perfect game! We'll find out if Zorny's got a Don Larson up his sleeve.

4) Elami Turn Away: A Little More Front-Office Bashing - I just want to address two things that made me hate DannyVinny even more. One was the amount of inactives rookies the Skins had against the Giants. 6/9 to be exact (I don't count Colt Brennan bc the third QB inactive rule is weird). The Skins played 3 of their 10 drafted rookies in week 1 - no Kelly, no Fred Davis, No Rob Jackson, No Chad Reinhart. Who did they play? Besides Chris Horton, who might actually might be a gem, the Skins sported Devin Thomas and his pathetic first down attempt and Durant Brooks. A word about Brooks - I didn't think I could hate a human being more than I hated Derrick Frost, I guess drafting Brooks was a success in that regard because he's my least favorite human being...ever. Well done, kids. My second issue is the productivity of the WRs that the Skins passed upon in the second round. I know it was only one week, but these numbers stung me and I'd like them to sting you too. The Skins took "First Down" Devin at pick 34 opting for the one-year wonder at Michigan State over Eddie Royal, who went 42, a local guy who caught 11 balls and posted 150 yards plus of receiving yards in his NFL debut. The Skins then picked Fred Davis, who was inactive last week, at 48, passing on DeSean Jackson, who the Eagles drafted one pick behind Davis. Jackson posted 100 receving yards and also took a 60 yard punt return to the hizzy. Just sayin...

5) Ok, The Game, Offense:
Skins Serv is already really long and I gotta start up with the Saturday night spirits, so I'm gonna keep the X's and O's to a minimum. The Skins have to move the ball. Pretty simple equation. I think the Skins have to open up through the air and establish some kind of passing game against the Saints most vulnerable spot. The Saints will be without starters Randall Gay (CB), Roman Harper (S), and likely without corner Mike McKenzie. On the other hand, the Saints have a very aggressive front four, led by Sedrick Ellis, Will Smith, Charles Grant and Kendrick Clancy. Ok, I don't know much about these guys, but CP says they're good and I've read they plan on stacking the box. What that means is that JC and his group of smurfs will have to somehow make eye contact and hook up for passes early in the game, which will then force the Saints to play more coverage, which then might get CP some running lanes. So many good NFL teams are going with the pass to set up the run, the Skins have to make it happen too. Early last week, after establishing nothing in the air, Portis was juking and jumping away from Giants in the backfield - this was due to horrible run blocking but more importantly because the Giants didn't respect the pass and threw everyone up at Portis. I actually thought CP ran quick and ran hard this week, he looked faster and more slender - it'd be a damn shame if the Skins squander a potential big-year from CP. But establishing the pass is a must, which leads me to...

6) To Gun or Not to Gun - Basically, Jason Campbell isn't ready to run the West Coast Offense. The question is whether Jim Zorn is willing to take the hits this year and let JC develop in the system or if they compromise the integrity of the West Coast in order to make the Skins a serviceable NFL team right now. It's pretty much a long-term v. short-term gain issue. If they compromise and let Campbell go to the shotgun, he has a couple of more seconds to see his receivers and gives him space to find the little ones coming over the middle. If they stick to the true west coast, Campbell struggles now, but potentially learns how to run the system the way it's supposed to be run down the road. I think I'm willing to take the pain now and see the gain later. If they shotgun it, JC will never get comfortable. Also, if they go to the shotgun a lot, how will they be able to run the ball? Teams will know exactly what they're doing. The larger issue at hand is that JC wasn't drafted to run this offense, and now VinnyDanny have forced this system down his throat. Somethings gonna give: either the system (and Zorn) will be run out of town soon, or JC moves on. I don't think this organization has the patience to wait for him to develop in it.

7) Stopping the Saints - The Saints not having Marques Colston is a plus, but Colston isn't the Skins focus. I read something real interesting about what the Saints are gonna try to do. They like hitting Jeremy Shockey early in the game, taking advantage of the middle of the field and forcing the opposing LB's to lean towards Shockey up the middle. Once Shockey establishes himself in the middle, the Saints swing Reggie Bush out of the backfield into the side flats, leaving LB's out of position and having to chase Bush from behind. As we saw last week, that's not a situation teams want to be in. What makes things worse is that the Skins are extremely vulnerable at Outside LB right now. Marcus Washington is dealing with a hammy and Rocky McIntosh still has some serious knee tzurus. The Skins are gonna somehow cover Shockey while keeping an eye on Bush.

8) Injuries - As we saw last week, Jason Taylor is not 100%. I'd say he's 60% at best. He made an heroic effort but the dude got dominated at the line and was pushed backward all night long. I think we see a lot more of Demetric Evans this week, especially if the Saints start running toward Taylor (which they'll do). In other injury news, Chris Cooley's got a quad and missed the first practice of his career. Looks like Cooley's gonna go though. M Washington is set to go with the hammy and it also looks like Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs will be ready as well (lord they need em'). If I was a betting man, I would put my money on us not seeing Malcolm Kelly tomorrow. Kelly's a game-time decision, but the Skins seemed to get more and more pessimistic about Kelly playing as the week went on. Jason Campbell is in dire need of Kelly, who's gives JC a big target on the short stuff the Skins are running. Campbell literally said he couldn't see Moss and ARE last week - it's tragic if Kelly can't get on the field.

9) Prediction - I have written nothing to indicate the Skins will have an easy go of things tomorrow, but this league is week-to-week and I think this is a trap game for the Saints. The Skins will create some early turnovers that will lead to easy points, and the Saints won't be able to recover. The Skins finally will have the benefit of short fields and Campbell will improve on his nightmare from last week. Skins Win! Skins Win! Redskins 29 Saints 19


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Magical Mystery Tour Begins: Volume 3, Issue 3

Braves on the Warpath,

I would first like to wish you all Happy New Year! Tomorrow night is the start of the next chapter in our riveting, emotional ride as Redskins fans - and before we start chalking up the L's and W's, I think we should pause to remember just how great it is to be here for another season of NFL football - the greatest spectator sport in the history of mankind.


I would also like to apologize for being a deadbeat SkinsServer (Chief Server?). I am going through some major life changes and am still figuring out how to include Skins Serv in the juggling act. Thus, I totally neglected the preseason, discussing hot new players (assuming we have any), and cutting the roster down to 53. In hindsight, this was probably the year to do it. Lets just say the last few weeks haven't been pretty. As you can see though, I have found the time to get this Week 1 edition out to press, and with God's will, I'll be able to do it for 21 more weeks.


Before I get down into the nitty and the gritty, I would also like to make a general statement aimed at all of Skins Servers and Redskins fans universe-wide. The malaise ends tonight. All cynicism, skepticism, and any other "ism" that has captured the sentiment of 99.9998 of Redskins fans (the .0002 are Ami and Elan) over the last two months must be laid to rest tonight (rest in peace, cynicism - see you at the 2009 draft).


As of tomorrow, it is just us the fans, our 53-man roster and the coaching staff that parade on the Sunday sidelines. When Squeezy or Tynes place the ball on the tee tomorrow, there will be no more front office, no more politics, no more PR fiascoes. It will be us the fans and our beloved Potomac Warriors.


This rebuke is just as much internal as it is external - we all need to exorcise our bitterness (go the mikvah maybe?) and come into 2008 with positivism, love and excitement for our boys. JC, CP, Marcus, Rock and all the others that comprise this team we all love so much need us as much as we need them. So lets bring it Skins Fans - better, faster, stronger and more emotionally-tied than ever before.


As for what to expect - I just don't know (as indicated by "Mystery" in the Skins Serv title). This team has some major upside, some major downside, a fledgling QB and a post-fetal head coach. And oh yeah - they play in the hardest division in the National Football League. To me, as a humble blogger, it's the equivalent of making chulent for the first time - I just don't know how it's gonna come out. Good thing is we now have 17 weeks to watch it all play out.


To a very happy new year full of happiness, health and 19/20 total wins.


Kol Tuv,





1) Welcome Zorny (Yeah - I coined that)

When you talk about the 2008 Washington Redskins, you cannot look past the new man under the Motorola. Regardless of  how you feel about the total alienation of, and sheer disregard for, human life the front office showed during the hiring process (OK, I'll stop), you can't help but like Zorny. This guy brings a fresh energy and youthful exuberance (shocking that he's a 50-something, actually) that this organization needed. He's a great offensive mind, he develops quarterbacks, and his most endearing trait, he is candid with the media (no more "great team effort" and no more "3 lb, 8 oz baby Jesus").


In terms of X's and O's, Zorn brings in the West Coast offense. The WCO, based on my limited knowledge, is all about quick hitting, timing-based patterns, which depend equally as much as yards after the catch as it does on the QB's ability to make a quick decision at the line of scrimmage. What this means for the Redskins offense is that Jason Campbell is going to have to know where all his options are within mili-seconds after the snap and then make the optimal decision based on the defensive coverage. In the preseason, I'd say JC was 2/5 in performances - against the Colts and Bills he looked like he had a handle on it, in the last three games not as much (we'll get to that later). The west coast also implements more of a spread-style offense - look for 4-wide sets as well as 2 passing catching TE formations featuring Cooley and Fred Davis. Also look to see more of CP and Betts lining up wide or swinging out of the backfield - this offense loves good pass-catching RB's (see Roger Craig and Ricky Watters).


The other thing Zorn did was keep the Gibbs-era running game in tact. That means we'll still see a heavy dose of Portis and Betts in the North/South running game, but even more so in the zone blocking schemes - where the big guys in will get out front and pull ahead of the pack.


I expect the offense to be a major work in progress. For anyone who thinks the Skins offense will be a Juggernaut out of the gate - I'd downgrade your thinking to cautious optimism. This offense will work eventually - JC has played in it before and is smart enough to manage it, and all the receivers (including twiddle dumb and twiddle dee) will eventually understand where they need to be - but it will take time and the early stages might not be too pretty. That isn't to say the Skins won't shown signs of brilliance. They still have a dynamic and talented group of offensive weapons who will be able to compensate for what they might not grasp yet with their natural skill. Again, this thing is going to be a mystery.


2) The Development of JC

As I alluded to earlier, I believe this team and this offense rides on the development of Campbell under Zorn. In his three years, JC has looked amazing, looked terrible and looked everywhere in between. He ran the west coast brilliantly as a senior in Auburn, but as I said, this is going to take time. Many observers, like Peter King, have stated that JC is up for the task and ready to make an impact immediately. Again, I'd approach the situation with cautious optimism - the dude's barely played a full season as a starting QB and needs to get real game experience in this offense before we can expect him to fully flourish.


Campbell has worked extremely hard in the off season, established himself as a team leader and has made sure that everyone on the offensive side of the ball is on the same page with him. He clearly has the tools and the attitude to be a pro bowl quarterback, and it is my belief that if Zorn can develop Matt Hasslebeck into a stud NFL QB, he'll be able to do it with Campbell (who has much more raw ability than Hasslebeck).


3) The Defense will be Top-5 in the league

My bold statement of the season isn't really that bold. This defense is stacked. I don't think we've seen a Redskins defensive roster with this much talent since, dare I say, 1991. Gregg Williams and Greg Blache put together a top 5 defense in 2004 with much less talent than this Redskins team, and the schemes and strategy haven't changed much since then. Although Williams is gone, Blache hasn't overhauled the playbook and now has many more options to defend than Williams ever did.


First is the defensive front four - the anchor of a teams defense. The Skins upgraded significantly at Defensive End with the signings of Jason Taylor and Erasmus James and added depth with the drafting of Rob Jackson out of Cal. They, along with Demetric Evans as a run-stopping DE specialist and Andre Carter as a speed rusher, will give QB's a lot more to think about than they've ever had to before when facing the Skins. In the interior, the Skins are anchored by CGriff and have a nice rotation of tackles between Montgomery, Golston and Lorenzo Alexander (who is probably the most talented of the lot).


With Taylor and Carter lining up at end, the Redskins secondary can finally count on a consistent pass rush, something that will lead to more press coverage on the outside and more freedom for the Linebackers, who can now focus on the middle of the field instead of having to worry about getting to the QB as well. The Skins will utilize safety and corner blitzing, but again, it won't be as necessary with a good rush from the front four. With addition of Taylor (and with Cater opposite) every player on the Skins defense can go back to their natural roles without having to worry about compensating for a flawed front four.


For the line backing corps this means players like Marcus Washington (who is finally fully healthy and may have had the best preseason of any Skins player) can roam sideline-to-sideline, help on the rush defense, spot blitz and drop in coverage when asked to. The Skins LB's might be the most vulnerable unit because Rocky McIntosh is still recovering from the knee surgery, but I believe that London Fletcher and a healthy Washington will compensate for any rustiness McIntosh might show.


As for the secondary, the Skins got a nice surprise when Carlos Rogers made a miraculous recovery from his knee surgery. Rogers, along with Smootsie and Springs, are ready to go. No more 10-yard cushions - this corner triumvirate will be able to be more aggressive and take chances with plays on the ball. I think we'll see a ton more turnovers than we're used to. LaRon Landry has been absent in the preseason with a hammy, but that doesn't worry me too much. Landry will be able to roam 20 yards deep in many cover-1 coverages (just as Sean Taylor did last year) and will also spot blitz and maybe even cover the run (if Shawn Springs doubles in safety coverage as well). I think Reed Doughty is a good run stopper, but the superlatives stop there. Doughty is very flawed in coverage - even when matched against lumbering tight ends. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the Redskins rookie safeties takes over the job mid way through the year.


4) The Offensive Line

I guess you could stay this is the start of the "oooh boy" section. I just don't know what to make of this unit. They're old, they're looking slow and they can't protect JC at all. In a west coast offense (see timing, precision), the QB needs some space to go through his reads and have a second to think before acting. Joe Montana always had time, Hasslebeck has time, even Jeff Garcia has time - so far in the pre-season, JC's has had time find a nice resting spot for his tusch. Although I will leave the front office out of this, the Skins didn't really address the 30-somethings that make up JC's secret service. They drafted this kid Rinehart hoping he might develop into a tackle - now its looking like he can be a solid guard in the NFL (just not yet). The Skins also have another kid (2nd year) Justin Geisinger, who might also develop into a decent NFL guard, but he isn't first team ready either.


What this means is that the Skins are looking at an o-line with the ages of 32, 35, 31, 31 and....24. I'll get to the 24 in a minute. In a league that gets faster by the minute, with younger, quicker defensive ends and tackles, the Redskins offensive line has only gotten older. Randy Thomas can still pull, but beyond that there are no guarantees. In his limited action in the pre-season CP did have some room to roam on about every other play.


And we haven't even really addressed the pass protection. Lets just say it has been has been non-existent. Amazingly its gotten so bad that the Skins have demoted 32 year old Jon Jansen. Jansen, to be fair, is coming off his second major injury in four years, but the man has looked slow and ineffective. Every pass rusher who he faced in the preseason ran circles around him (literally), and now Jansen must re-establish himself as a force on the practice field, because Stephon Heyer (24 years old) has usurped the role. I could brag about Heyer's age (he brings down the average age of the line significantly), but the guy is raw. He did show some signs last year, but he still doesn't have the footwork or experience the Skins need at that position. I think Heyer will develop nicely, and getting reps as starter will be great for him but still expect a learning curve.


Somehow this unit needs to hold together. Maybe this can be the reincarnation of the over-the-hill gang. Maybe they'll last into late January. Maybe JC will find a comfort zone behind them. All huge maybes.


5) Something's Stinky in the land of WR's

The Skins ended '07 with major problems at WR. They were carrying the usual suspects - 'Tana, ARE and James Thrash, to go along with Keenan McCardell, Reche Caldwell and my boy Brandon Lloyd. This troop of pass catchers made up for one of the worst in the league - they were old, small and injury-riddled. So, in the off season, the Skins tried to address the issue by drafting not just one, but two WRs (and a pass catching TE). That's right ladies and gents, the Skins used their first three draft picks to upgrade on the outside (at the expense of not drafting any 2nd Round O-lineman, btw) and now, this is what they have to show for it:

'Tana, ARE and James Thrash.


Confused? I am. Of course it's still early and there's time for Kelly and Thomas to make up for a comical summer, but until they prove themselves with red-zone TD's (or just time on the field), these two guys are the reincarnates of Michael Westbrook, Desmond Howard, Albert Connell and ...Tidus Wynans (remember him? If you don't, he sucked).


The wrap on Kelly was that he wasn't durable and scared to play through it (that's why he slipped in the draft). Guess what? He's injured and scared to test his surgically-repaired knee. The wrap on Thomas was that he was slow and was a one-season-wonder. Guess what? As I write this, he's still getting to the twenty yard line of the opening kickoff versus Jacksonville. I know I'm being harsh, but these guys haven't brought it. And I'm not the only one saying it.


Apparently JC himself (not Jason Campbell, but Jesus) went to the receivers' homes and begged them to get serious about playing football professionally. For real - this actually happened. Thomas was quoted last week as saying that he's started to take film home with him so he can get a better grasp of the the playbook. It was Labor Day weekend! Both guys have disappointed everyone around them in the early going. The only good part about the whole thing is that that Jim Zorn has been open about just how bad they've been.


So you'd assume the Skins would carry some more WRs right? Not so much. According to my calculations, the Skins will carry 2.5 WRs tomorrow night. 'Tana, Thrash and ARE's right hand (his left one has a brace - don't ask me how he plans on catching the ball). Thomas will be active, but considering he still doesn't know all the routes, don't expect to see him. Kelly will be inactive with the knee thing, and I would assume we don't see him until late October.


So how will the Skins move the ball down the field? They'll get Chris Cooley in the slot in 4WR sets and they'll mix in Fred Davis to match up with weaker-in-coverage LB's. Also look for some two RB formations with either Betts or Portis coming out to catch the ball.


The bottom line is that if you're expecting to move the ball down field with your second TE and two RB sets, you might have some offensive tsurus.


As not to be Debbie Downer, Moss is 100% healthy and is still a big play threat, and ARE's legs are also 100% - which means he could be a threat in the middle of the field. Thrash also could be a guy who gives them a red zone score.


Where have you gone Billy McMullen (who, by the way, was the best WR in the league during the preseason)?


6) I Love CP

If you haven't noticed, I'm one of the 50% of DCites who fall out in the "love CP" camp. Dude can get to the outside in a jiffy, lay out LBs and has good hands coming out of the backfield. This offense is perfect for a RB with diversified skill sets. Portis is healthy, has shed a ton of weight, and is running faster than he has since his days at the U. I think Zorn has actually built a nice trust in Portis, and when the passing game hits road blocks, they will turn to CP to carry the offense. Look for Portis to have his best year as a Redskin, both running and catching the ball. I know Dolla just got a fat contract and has nothing but pride to play for, but something tells me 2-6 has grown up a lot and realizes his window for success in the NFL is starting to close. If there's any guarantees from week to week on the offensive side of the ball, it's that CP will give this team a lot.


Skins v. G-Women

I'm starting to ramble and time is a getting late, so lets move on to tonight's Meadowlands showdown. I actually have no idea what's going to happen...shocker?


1) History favors the Skins

Isn't it nice having a NFC-East affair in prime time to open up the season? Traditionally, the NFC East Super Bowl winner would play a division rival on Monday Night to open the season, and would usually get shmised. Cowboys would whoop the Skins, Skins would whoop the Cowboys, etc etc. That's why my gut tells me that tomorrow night the Skins come out hungry and the Giants come out flat. No X's and O's, no matchups, purely empirical.


2) What to Expect

JLC wrote that the Giants plan to spread the Skins defense out and get some favorable match ups with their Tight End, Kevin Boss, and maybe their 4th WR on Reed Doughty and McIntosh (the weak links). If the Giants can pull this off, then those two are going to have to find a way to rise to the occasion. If not, the Giants could dink and dunk with the big TE for many long drives.


Personally, I think the Skins have looked vulnerable against the run. Tom Coughlin remembers Eli's 50-pass disaster in late December last year, and will instead opt to wear the Skins D-line down with a heavy dose of Jacobs and Bradshaw. This strategy concerns me more. If the Skins line doesn't shore up those gaps and creases quickly, the Giant RB's will get to the secondary and wreak havoc.


If the Giants try to test our pass coverage, I think the Skins have no trouble. If they keep the ball on the ground, it could be a long night.


On offense I assume Zorny will try to pass the ball early, testing our lineman in pass protection. If the outcome is good, expect to see the beauty of the west coast unfold before your eyes. If the o-lineman can't protect Campbell, expect to see a lot of Portis, and for Zorn to pick and choose spots to throw the ball. Yes - it pretty much all rides on this offensive line.


3) The Prediction

Gotta have one, right? I think the Skins win this game because the Giants come out flat and the Skins defense comes through (as they always seem to do on opening day). The offense will put together two good drives for the game and squeak in a late field goal before the half as well. A win, but nothing to get too excited about. Just like in recent years past, opening day doesn't reach the 20's.

Redskins 13, Giants 10


Season Predictions

Over the past three months, I've been everywhere from 3-13 to 11-5. I don't think anything is out of the question. Seriously, if the week 3 Giants of 07 could end up winning the Super Bowl, what's not to say we can't? Just picture it now - "The swarming pass rush of Andre Carter, Jason Taylor and Erasmus James over-matched the Patriots offensive line. Just like 07, the NFC East defensive monster was just too much for Bellichek." Hey it happened in 86, it happened in 90, and it happened in 07. Who's to say it can't happen in 87, 91, and 08?


But really, my friends, this thing seems to be a work in progress. I refuse to use the world rebuilding though. You don't rebuild by picking up a 30+ yr old's 8 million dollar contract. The Skins front office isn't in rebuilding mold. The players want to win right now. So lets just call it a work in progress.


And how far can they progress? Can the offense click by week 4? Week 12? Week 16? We can only wait and see. I personally see this thing coming together for them in October, unfortunately, after they've dug themselves too big a hole to get out. The schedule the NFL handed them is just too grueling, and I think we're asking a lot of them to develop as an offensive unit while going on the road in the NFC East in 3 of their first 5. They'll win tomorrow and then I think it gets ugly for a couple of months, before they start showing signs late - just in time for us to get legitimately excited about a 2009 Super Bowl run.


Here's how I break it down (for those of you scoring at home)


Week 1 - 9/4 - @Giants - W - 13-10

Week 2 - 9/14 - Saints - L - 24-10

Week 3 - 9/21 - Cardinals - L - 21-14

Week 4 - 9/28 - @Cowboys - L - 20-13

Week 5 - 10/5 - @Eagles - L - 16-10

Week 6 - 10/12 - Rams - W - 28-9

Week 7 - 10/19 - Browns - W - 24-21

Week 8 - 10/26 - @Lions - W - 27-13

Week 9 - 11/3 - Steelers - L - 21-9

Week 11 - 11/16 - Cowboys - W - 30-17

Week 12 - 11/23 - @Seahawks - L - 16-14

Week 13 - 11/30 - Giants - L - 22-17

Week 14 - 12/7 - @Ravens - W - 31-9

Week 15 - 12/14 - @Bengals - L - 28-14

Week 16 - 12/21 - Eagles - W - 24-21

Week 17 - 12/28 - @49ers - W - 34-21


Parting Shot

Didn't Joe Gibbs will an 8-8 record after an 0-5 start in 81? Guess what happened the next year...