Sunday, December 21, 2008

Swan Song: Volume 3, Issue 17

Fighters of Dixie,
First, I would like to thank all my dedicated Skins Servers for being so patient with, and supportive of me this year. Guest authors, mini versions, subpar quality and a sucky team could potentially lead to angry emails, calls for the server's head and eggs on my front door. None of this has happened. In fact, I have been inspired by all your encouragement and genuine love for this team.

Why would Scooter's intro sound like this is the last Serv of the year? Odd...there's one more week left. Yes, peeps, this is the end of the road for 08' (pending a miracle win and miracle losses by the entire NFC South, North, West, AFL, USFL and half of the English Priemer League). I have decided to bump up my off-season by a week and will be taking this show on the road - spreading Redskins love to those in Caribbean. It's possible I'll bump into actual Redskins players on my cruise - they got a faster jump on the offseason than I did as they've been down there fishing since Thanksgiving.

This has been ugly - no matter how you chalk it up. Even the biggest white washer will tell you this is a disaster, and even the biggest skeptic will admit that this is even worse than once thought. What is so demoralizing for me is that this core is finished. The free agent class of 2004 (Griffin, Springs, Portis etc) is just about kaput and now the Skins will have to do some real rebuilding in order to get back on track. For those of you who believe that this was a rebuilding year, please reconsider. You don't rebuild by sending two picks away for Jason Taylor and you don't rebuild by signing DeAngelo Hall. The front office wanted to win now - remember Snyder called for a deep playoff run - and now that they haven't; with the pieces aging rapidly, its back to the drawing board.

Unfortunately for all of us who love this team, we'll be counting on two dingbats to get us out of this mire. After one disaster draft class (I'm not being quick to judge, they're a disaster), the Skins are without four picks in the upcoming draft. So unless they decide to trade for more picks (a smart move), they might try to rebuild the ole Danny way - bringing next years Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier and Deion Sanders in to rescue a floundering franchise. But before we prognosticate on just how embarrassing this off season might be, lets go over what needs to be addressed. Grab a Snickers, this could be a while.

And as for 2008. Lets keep it simple. This was an aging team with limited talent in the skill positions, no interior play to speak of and a new coach trying to implement a system these players weren't ready for. Joe Gibbs got the most out this personnel last year at 9-7. Getting Zorn to raise the bar from that was a lot to ask. Is putting up 10 points a game his fault? Yes. But to be honest, I don't think 17 points a game would have made a difference. This team is a bottom 10 team in the league no matter how you chalk it up.

I wish I could say things will get better.



1) Horny for Zorny? - The scheme hasn't worked, but it could. It isn't exactly like Zorn had Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson up there to give Campbell any time. This team broke down in the trenches as the season went on and Campbell couldn't really ever get comfortable throwing the ball. And what about targets? Zorn was dealing with an aging Santana Moss (who is a #2 WR anywhere else in this league), ARE (a #4 anywhere else) and James Thrash (a DNP-CD on any other team). It is very hard to implement the west coast without targets and time. Give Zorn both and maybe things are different. My only issue with this guy is that the players don't care for him much. How do I know this? Because if they cared for him they would have showed up to play last Sunday. That was one of the most uninspired Redskins efforts since the Turner years. A December game with the playoffs still in the equation and you come out flat and lose to a 1-11-1 team? That's grounds for dismissal right there. You can knock Joe Gibbs for his conservative play-calling, his time management, etc., but he had these same players fighting their guts out in December the last four years. Zorn isn't even close. Maybe that changes with time. I really hope it does.

Now position by position (until I get bored).

2) RB - Clinton Portis got banged up this year. The mix of his overuse and abusive running style has taken its toll on CP. The entire league is going to the Williams-Stewart mold and its time the Skins do it for real. I believe Portis still has some tough runs in him and can still turn the corner quicker than most in the league, but with that said, its time to bring in some fresh legs. The fast runners these days come in all shapes and sizes - Felix Jones, Sproles, Slaton - the Skins need to draft a speedster and let him bring in a change of pace from Portis. The Portis/Betts combo doesn't work bc Ladell doesn't really change the pace, if anything, he slows it down. If the Skins can bring in a guy who will scare defenses with the big-play speed who can come in after CP wears them down, the running game will take on a much healthier dimension. Am I saying drop Betts on the depth chart? Yes I am.

3) QB - To re-up JC or not? I wouldn't do it this off-season. I don't think he's earned a big contract. The guy has been steady (that's being kind) but not spectacular. He doesn't elevate this team to another level. He's flies though his reads and makes a living with his check downs. He rarely hits the big play and is prone to losing the ball. But is it his fault? Does the scheme stink? Are his targets getting space? Does his line protect him? I'm willing to give JC the benefit of the doubt to the point where the Skins don't bring someone in to compete with him this off season. Let him grow and develop under Zorn more and if he is showing very positive signs by late next year then re-sign him. If it looks like he's part of the problem, well then, fare thee well.

4) WR - As I eluded to, this position is a disaster. Santana Moss isn't getting any faster (and he might be getting dumber), ARE is a joke and James Thrash needs to hang it up. Oh yeah, didn't the Skins draft two outside playmakers? One had a bad wrap for being injured prone - guess what? He's barely been on the field. And the other had a bad wrap for being a one-hit wonder at MSU. Guess what? He's not that good. So where the heck do the Skins go from here? Do not go drafting more WRs (like Matt Millon). If there's a young, sure-thing WR in free agency (I can only think of TJ Howsyourmama) then go after them. If not, give Kelly and Thomas one more training camp and if they stink, boo the heck out of them.

5) O-line - Its scary to say this, but the only guy who probably has two good years left in him is Casey Rabach. Its hard to find a solid center in this league and with younger guards around him, he could be OK. Everyone else can hit the road. I don't know how Snyerrato managed to do this but this line is old, finished and has no backups! Chad Reinhart was supposed to be the answer, but if he was that good, I assume he would have been active more than twice this year. The Skins need to upgrade Jansen (I guess Heyer can get a shot - but he's looked awful). Samuels might have one more year in him, but I'd still draft his replacement now. Kendall wants to come back, but he's got more gray hairs than a mule. And Randy Thomas is deep into the downside of his career (and also can't stay on the field). I propose the Skins draft 2 guards and 2 tackles with their first four picks. They have to. And if they can sign a big-named guard, maybe do that too. Look at what Alan Faneca has done for the Jets running game? The need to blow up this group now. Btw - maybe the Skins can snag the dude from the "Blind Side." I love that guy. Michael Oher, is it?

6) D-line - Looks like the Skins are going to need more draft picks, because its time to blow up this unit too. The front four can't get within sniffing distance of a QB. Andre Carter is AWOL, Jason Taylor wants to go to Hollywood, Griffin will probably retire and Golston/Montgomery aren't NFL starters. So I think you give Carter the chance to bounce back (they can't cut him anyway), but you can draft a young, fast pass rusher for the other side and you can also draft two hefty run-stoppers in the middle. This front four needs some young energy (and not the Rob Jackson/Erasmus James kind of energy). I know Julius Peppers is off a great year and is a FA, but let him go somewhere else and be awesome. There's no way he makes it here.

7) LBs - I guess London Fletcher's got one more year in him. Marcus Washington and Rocky McIntosh don't though. Rocky McIntosh? Yup. Apparently, the degenerative knee thing that the Skins knew about when they drafted him as really slowed this guy down this year. People around the Park don't really know what his deal is. So now we're looking at upgrading two LB positions. Can HB Blades and Albert Fincher be adequate fillers? They might have to be, because at this point I don't think the Skins have draft picks or cap money to address these issues.

8) Secondary - This is the unit the Skins can probably get away without touching. And by not touching, I mean please don't bring back Hall. I know he has great hands, but the dude is a ticking time bomb. Club house cancer is an understatement. He's a me-first guy who's on everyone's target list. Don't bring him back!!! The Skins can live with Carlos, Smoot, and a veteran nickle guy (who they can sign on the cheap). They'll have Landry, Horton and Springs back at safety. With a decent pass rush, the unit will be fine.

9) Special Team - Suisham is miserable. Need to upgrade over there. Placky is worth bringing back - maybe have someone in camp to challenge him. Rock Cartwright can still get it done on kickoffs, but ARE has to be upgraded. The Skins can use Moss if he isn't the number one anymore or put Justin Tryon back there (if that loser is still on the team).

10) Prediction - With the Cowboys losing last night, the Bucs losing early against SD, and Arsenal and Liverpool drawing at Anfield, it looks like everything is in line for the Skins to enter the NFC playoffs through the back door. Just a win today, an Eagles...wait. No. Isn't happening. The Skins will be exposed, yet again, on national TV. No need to discuss how it will play out. Eagles 27 Redskins 10 (shocker?)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Finals Week: Volume 3, Issue 16

I have to a apologize for a very condensed version of Skins Serv this week. I am in the midst of finals, and time (and knowledge) isn't on my side. In fact, those two introductory sentences (and this one) will make up the meat of this week's edition. To business. After a fun week at the Park (this is the first time I've enjoyed being a Skins fan in about two months), the Skins will get healthy this week in Cincy. Somehow the B&G's wake will be delayed one more week as our boys will be thrust into a huge showdown for the last NFC playoff spot against the Eagles (yes - I'm not only calling a Skins victory but I'm also calling a Cowboys and Falcons loss). Don't get your hopes up though, next week's Skins Serv will detail how the Eagles will obliterate us and roll into the post season (on national TV again, btw. NFL: it isn't funny anymore).
Happy Birthday Dad,

1) CP v. Zorn - I take CP on the points that he shouldn't have been benched, the scheme sucks and that Campbell needs more help in protection. I don't take CP as a team leader. Team leaders don't air their grievances on the radio. Grow up, Dolla Bill. That being said, I think he has a big day today running behind Jason Scrubini. (I also got 4:1 that Zorn's gone in three months).

2) Injuries - Jason Campbell's gonna have to get rid of the ball quickly today. He's got Scrubini on one side and Heyer on the other. I wouldn't want those two guys protecting Dani at Shabb Footy. Marcus won't go either. Fletcher and Springs will play. Horton's out too. Its about freaking time we see Fred Davis, Kelly and Thomas on the field at the same time. How much worse could it get?

3) Prediction - Skins find one of the five teams in the league who are worse than them. Skins run, pass (kind of) and score. Mostly because they'll get the ball inside the Bengals 30 a lot due to Fitzpatrick (or is it Boomer Esiason today?) turnovers. Btw - if Marvin Lewis is coaching the Bengals next year, the NFL is a joke.

Redskins 24, Bengals 13


Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Ravens Wear Purple: Volume 3, Issue 15

Fans of the Authentic Mid-Atlantic NFL Franchise,
Even if the Skins weren't 7-5 and in the heart of the NFC playoff chase, this game would still mean a lot to many people in the Washington/Baltimore area. Let's face it, although these two teams play once every four years and play in different conferences, their fans don't like each other at all. I believe the bitter hostilities start with Baltimore's second city mentality - a constant inferiority complex because the nation's capital that sits 45 minutes to its south. Another factor that plays into the hatred our fans have for each other is that Baltimorans were forced to watch a decade plus of amazing Redskins football teams while they were without a franchise. The above factors have created a breed of obnoxious, angry and traitorous Ravens fans who'd like nothing more than to see the Skins go 0-16 every year.

What really grinds my gears about these awful human beings is that 30-50% of them were Skins fans during our glory years. Of course I'm not talking about the 50-70 year old Ravens fan who wept upon their beloved Colts leaving town, but the Ravens fans of our generation who, without hesitation, put their Redskins Jerseys in the incinerator once the Ravens showed up. Those people are gonna have big-time issues when they get up in front of St. Peter (who clearly is a huge Redskins fan). On a personal level, I believe that any Ravens or Nats fans who were previously Redskins and Orioles fans should be sent to Guantanamo Bay. For Redskins fans, we look at Ravens fans as that ignorant, pesky and rude little brother who is always so damn annoying (kid was probably adopted or something). At some point between when the Ravens were created fans and now, Redskins fans went from effectively ignoring this group of purple punks to starting to get really pissed off that little adopted brother doesn't ever stop yapping. Now we hate little brother as much as little brother hates us. Game on. Time to BBQ some Poe.

Unfortunately for us Skins fans, as many fights go these days, we'll be the ones hanging from the flag pole by our Fruit of the Looms. As I have told a couple of peers this week, the 2008 Redskins season will be remembered as a slow, painful death. As opposed to 05 and 07, when a couple of Dr. Benton-like shocks got us going late in the year, tonight the plug will be pulled for good. At some point last week (either when I lost feeling in my toes, Amani Toomer ran his fastest 40 in 12 years or when I had beer thrown in my face in friendly fire) I knew this thing was kaput. These guys have nothing left (and as you can see by my abuse use of the analogy today, I got nothing left either). The offense doesn't exist and the defense looks worse every week. Amazingly, they're not just playing bad football but they also have nothing to build on either. In a year when NFL teams are putting up record numbers of points, the Skins are putting up 7 points a game. That's like a baseball team being carried by Mike Bordick during the juicing era (hmmm...sound familiar).

In the Skins last three home games they've put up a combined 23 points. They rank 28th in the NFL in points scored and haven't managed to put up 30 points in a game yet this season. Now you ask this team to go on the road to a very hostile environment (see previous paragraphs) and play a team that gives up 15.8 points a game and even more importantly, gives up 78 yards on the ground. This thing could get real ugly.

So what do we do as fans? I say try to enjoy today as much as possible. Enjoy the spotlight, enjoy the cool intros on NBC, enjoy the attention. Remember there are only four weeks left to the season, and we'll all be feeling a lot more miserable when the season is over than we will when the Ravens kick us around like a rag doll tonight. There's some Bobby Knight quote out there about a situation like tonight - feel free to wikipedia it if you'd like. So throw yourselves a party tonight, Skins Fans. Get some beers, buy some Tostitos scoops and invite some buddies over. It's the last time the Skins will be in the spotlight this year (and maybe for some time after that).

Stay Strong,

1) Take on JC - There's been a lot of talk in DC this week about the Skins woes having to be attributed to Jason Candle's (it's Campbell) sub-par performances of late. I'd be the first to admit that I am not sold on JC being the Redskins franchise QB, but with that being said, you cannot pin this dismal stretch on number 17. Campbell's productivity is a byproduct of an anemic offensive system. We really haven't seen what #17 can do with a decent array of WR's and when he's getting consistent time in the pocket. The Redskins offensive coaches, especially Jim Zorn, have not really adjusted to what teams have done against them of recent (double Moss, shade Cooley, stuff the box and blitz at will). No extra protection packages, no deep shots, no imagination in trying to free up Moss (more motion, etc.) This offense showed its cards early, had some production and now defenses have caught up and Zorn has pretty much refused to adjust. They've gotta open things up and get out of the west coast for a bit: run, run, play action (with heavy protection). Keep it simple, do the things that Jason is comfortable doing and see if you can wake this group up.

2) The Wildcat - There's also been a lot of talk this week about the Skins going more to trickery and the "wildcat" formation in hopes of keeping defenses off-balance. The idea would be to use Randle El in some sort of one back formation and giving him the option to run or throw. Although I do like the idea of going to ARE a little more in the option setting, I just don't think the Skins can use it 5-10 a game, especially tonight on the road. Maybe they can slowly integrate it into the offense, but I think we might be about 4 weeks late for that. Maybe Zorn picks the right spot for some trickery tonight, but its not how this game is going to be won or lost.

3) The Weather - I woke up this morning to the sound of heavy winds banging against my window. According to local meteorologists (and my wet finger-tip up against this morning's blustery air), the wind will be howling tonight at M&T. Remember last year's mid-December Meadowlands Miracle? Conditions will be identical. This game will be won and lost on the ground. Whoever can control the line of scrimmage and get first downs off of three straight hand-offs will win the game. Unfortunately, the Redskins o-line, specifically Chris Samuels, is really banged up. They're going to need a huge game from this unit, especially from center Casey Rabach, who has the daunting task of controlling Hatoli Ngata, the big mama who anchors the Ravens 3-4 defense and is controlling opposing run offenses. The Skins have had a miserable time against the last two 3-4's they've faced (the Cowboys and Steelers) and will have to do something different to implement the running attack. I'm all about going back to the ole' Gibbs jumbo formations of two TE's and one WR on the outside. Everyone knows were gonna run it, so lets just maximize our blocking resources and hope we wear the Ravens out. Running cute stuff out of 3 and 4 receiver sets is probably not gonna get it done against this smart, fast group of defenders.

4) Split Carries - I'm all about CP, but the dude is falling apart. He's a hero to be playing every week, but Zorny's gotta force him to the sidelines. The Skins need to work Betts in there more tonight early, so CP will have something left for the 4th quarter. Last week Portis ran hard early and after taking some viscous hits was pretty much a non-factor in the second half.

5) Play Action - In the theme of going back to the basics tonight, the Skins should only pass after setting up the play action. Again, run out of one and two WR sets and then pass out of those same sets. Draw as many Ravens to the line of scrimmage, max protect and see if Moss can beat double coverage or if ARE or Malcolm Kelly can beat Frank Walker on the other side. The Ravens can be vulnerable to the pass, especially if you throw away from Ed Reed. But Campbell's gonna have to be smart about looking Reed off and then taking advantage of whoever has Walker on him. I'd even be fine with picking on Rolle - just make sure there's an eye on Reed at all times. This guy can kill you.

6) TE/FB Blocking - A huge factor in tonight's game will be the ability of Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers to locate and then successfully block the the Ravens fierce linebacking unit. When the Skins run outside, Cooley and Sellers will be responsible for getting out ahead of Portis/Betts and finding guys like Lewis, Scott and Suggs. It is essential that these guys don't close holes and penetrate into the backfield, otherwise the Skins running game will never get going.

7) Keeping it Close - The Skins have to stay neck and neck with the Ravens throughout the game. Getting behind at any point will prove catastrophic. If the Redskins get to the point where they'll have to pass the ball to get back in it, you might as well turn off your TV. The Ravens will fire away at Campbell and I don't think we have the pass blocking to hold up. Keep the game close, burn time on the ground and pick spots to go deep. Once the Ravens sniff out pass, Campbell will be on the ground a lot.

8) The Ravens Offense - Cam Cameron (of Indiana and Redskins fame) has done a great job maximizing his talent. He pounds the rock a lot (even at a pretty low ypc), then he lets Flacco and his big arm air it out to Mason and Clayton (very real threats on the outside). The Ravens also employ a lot of trickery, so the Skins corners cannot get caught leaving their men early in the play. If I was Greg Blache, I'd pretty much have to use the same scheme as last week and hope the Skins corners can hold up better. Last week's performance against the Giants was embarrassing and this unit is going to have to do a much better job containing the Ravens outside threats and try to create some turnovers off the rookie in bad conditions. If the Skins can force the Ravens into some third and longs, then they have to send the house at Flacco and hope Springs, Los, Lo and Smoot can man the heck up.

9) Injuries - CP will go. Spring will go. Fletcher will go. Griff will go. I think Carter will play too. No Washington and probably no Golston either. Nothing major on the Ravens side. They had a few questionables but I think they'll all play.

10) Prediction - Not loving this matchup at all. The Ravens defense has somehow stayed young and fast and will make it hard for the Skins to get anything on the ground. With the conditions, don't expect anything through the air. On the other side, the Skins will commit to the run and could get burned by Flacco once or twice (enough to lose). Ravens 13 Redskins 3.