Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Redskin News and Notes: 10 Questions Heading Into Training Camp
Anyway, here are 10 big questions about this team heading into camp:
1. What will be the final fate of Albert Haynesworth?
The Skins have three options when it comes to Albert Haynesworth. They can cut him, trade him or keep him. Each would make sense I suppose but I think cutting him would make the least bit of sense. If the Skins cut him they would have given Haynesworth $32 million dollars for 12 games. Plus, Haynesworth gets exactly what he wants and can go to any team. If the Skins trade Haynesworth, they at least could get some compensation for all of their costs and control where Haynesworth is going. The downside is that the Skins won't be able to get any of that bonus money back (teams can not give cash in lieu of a trade for a player per the current CBA) and that they won't much value in what they trade for him (think something slightly better than what they got for Jason Campbell). I think the best thing for the Skins is to keep Haynesworth. There will be no division in the locker room as it appears that everybody on the team is backing Mike Shanahan and the Skins. If Haynesworth is in shape and ready to go, then he'll be of value to the Skins somewhat as he can play DE and NT. If he's not in shape, the Skins bench him and have him run laps throughout the entire practice as far as I'm concerned. If Haynesworth becomes a headache, then the Skins do the same thing the Eagles did to T.O. Fine and suspend him for conduct detrimental to the team. If that happens, expect the Skins to go after that signing bonus. Remember, Mike Shanahan said they've got a plan and maybe this is all part of the plan they have for Haynesworth.
2. Will Brian Westbrook join the Redskins?
This may not be the most important issue going into camp, but it would be a very nice addition to the team and it would add some competition to an already deep RB corp. Westbrook is still debating where he should go as there have been multiple teams that have interest in him. There's no guarantee that he would even make the 53 man roster for the Skins with Portis, Johnson, Parker and Torain already on the roster. Nor would Westbrook be the starting RB (most likely that would be Clinton Portis), but more of a role player/3rd down back who would probably have 10-15 snaps a game. Money will also be an issue. That said, Westbrook would be a very nice addition to the team and seems to be a good fit with the scheme that the Skins will be using and that Mcnabb is now the man in DC.
3. Will the O-line be better this year and can they succeed?
Here's last year's O-line starting from LT to RT: Chris Samuels/Levi Brown, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Randy Thomas/Chad Rinehart/Mike Williams/Edwin Williams/Will Montgomery, Stephon Heyer/Will Robinson. Pretty ugly, huh?
Here's the tentative starters as we head into training camp: Trent Williams, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Artis Hicks, Jammal Brown.
At first glance it looks a lot better doesn't it? And it should, both Jammal Brown and Trent Williams are 1st round picks. Artis Hicks is a steady fill in at RG and both Dockery and Rabach are solid starters.
But (oh, that dreaded word) this unit has had little time together to gel. There are concerns about Trent Williams as a pass blocker (compared to Russell Okung) and Jammal Brown has a injury history.
I think this unit will still be much improved for the following reasons:
1. They are running a scheme that allows linemen to succeed. I expect Casey Rabach to have one of his better years as the Redskins starting center with less head-on blocking with the bigger NTs in the league.
2. Mcnabb's smarts and mobility makes linemen look good. Mcnabb has a quicker release than Jason Campbell and tends to feel pressure better than Jason.
3. Emphasis on the run. This unit should be able to run the ball very well. I expect the Skins to run to set up bootlegs and play action.
I'm not saying we have a All Pro O-line here, but a much better group than last year. Also, the depth should be much better with guys who started last year being in more of a backup role.
4. Can Donovan McNabb stay healthy for a full season?
It's a big question as his health will be a factor in how successful the Redskins will be. Rex Grossman is a decent option if Mcnabb were to get knocked out of a game despite getting a great deal of flack for throwing interceptions. He was the starting QB for the Bears when they went to the Super Bowl. That said, I don't want to take my chances with Grossman at the helm. Mcnabb has missed a few games/year for the past few years and this will be key if not this year, but next year when one hopes the Skins will be in contention for the playoffs.
5. Can any of the "over the hill" running backs succeed (ie. have a 1,000 yard season) in this system?
I don't know how Larry Johnson or Willie Parker will do in the Mike Shanahan system. But, I do know what Clinton Portis has done in his system before.......and I think he may be able to do something like it again. Have you seen Clinton Portis lately? He looks like he's lost about 10 pounds and looks like he has a bit of that that quickness that we didn't see much of in 2008 or 2009. The rumors are swirling that Larry Johnson will take the majority of the snaps with Portis being used more sparingly and as a 3rd down back. This makes some sense as Portis wasn't known for being a work horse in his Denver days. If Brian Westbrook joins the Skins, this adds more competition but one wonders if a RB corp. of Johnson, Portis and Torain (I'm going with Torain here b/c he knows the system and plays special teams; something Portis, Johnson and Parker don't play) or will the Skins have to carry 4 RBs (5 if you count FB Mike Sellers) to account for age and injury?
6. Who will make up our WR Corp?
Right now, that may be one of the biggest questions heading into camp. It's more than likely that Devin Thomas, Santana Moss and Malcolm Kelly will make the squad. That said, neither Thomas or Kelly are proven guys. There are also concerns about Moss with age/injury issues and other factors. After them, there are at least 2-3 spots open or the other 8-9 guys on the current roster. Some of those names are well known to NFL fans, others not so much. Either way this position is slowly becoming one of the biggest concerns on the team.
7. Who will be our Special Teams Specialists?
While we know (most likely) who the punter, kicker and long snapper will be heading into the season, there are concerns about experience and durability. Also, there hasn't been a determined punt and kick returner named. Currently, there seems to be a few players up for the role but we probably won't know who gets the job until the end of training camp/end of the preseason. Finally, when the team was gutted many of the veteran cuts played special teams. Do the Redskins have enough new players to fill the roles and execute Danny Smith's schemes (Ed Note: last year they couldn't seem to do that much executing of those schemes anyway).
8. Will the 3-4 work in DC?
The biggest question one must first ask is whether a team that has run a 4-3 scheme since the dawn of the franchise (it is believed that the Redskins have never ran a 3-4 as their base package.....ever!) can successfully move to a 3-4 scheme? The Redskins have brought in some players to help with the adjustment and it's clear that the team is ready to run this package whether Albert Haynesworth is here or not. This scheme should make some players like Brian Orakpo even better. But, will London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh do well in this scheme? Also, will Jim Haslett find a way to keep his secondary from biting on double moves and can he help his corners/safeties not named DeAngelo Hall hold onto interceptions (Stickum is still illegal in the NFL right?). If the Redskins can maintain their intensity but improve upon their sacks and generate some turnovers, this could be one scary defense.
9. Will going back to the past help find success in the future?
There seems to be a trend with the Redskins at the moment and while some question why the Skins are headed in this direction, it may be the course the Redskins have needed all along. The Skins have gone back to the old traditions that were created by George Allen and thrived during the days of Allen through Gibbs 1.0. It looks like the Redskins are going to re-emphasize the run in their offensive schemes. Yes, I know that Shanahan runs a variation of the west coast offense and that Kyle Shanahan had the #1 passing offense (and 30th run offense) last year with the Texans but I expect this offense will be based on the run to set up passing situations for Mcnabb. Bruce Allen made a gesture to the Redskins alumni to welcome them back to Redskins Park and the franchise. The foundations of the Redskins franchise and the concept of team is being brought back in full force. So far, almost everyone has bought into this (except one player who has yet to attend hardly anything) and hopefully by going back to what made the team great in past years will help the franchise get back to greatness.
10. Can Dan Snyder keep his hands off the Skins and have some patience?
Same thing can be said for the fanbase as well. When the Skins make the moves to bring in men like Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen and Donovan McNabb there will be high expectations for the team to do well. That said, Redskin fans tend to go from high expectations to that of the absurd. If you're a non-Redskin fan reading IIWII, you probably think that the Skins will be a better team in 2010 than they were in 2009. But do you think the Skins will be in the playoffs this season? How about winning the NFC East? How about going deep into the playoffs? Some Skin fans out there think that's exactly what's going to happen and they will be some of the first people throwing fits when the Skins start to lose with a extremely tough schedule ahead of them. I warn fans right now to be cautiously optimistic about this season and aim your expectations for 7-9 or 8-8. I know, it's mediocre and it may still have the Skins in 4th place but I think it's reasonable and if they do turn out to dominate, then you (and me) will be ecstatic. This goes for the owner as well. If you're a Redskin fan, you may really hope that the Skins succeed this year, because Dan Snyder is taking a hands off approach with the franchise allowing Allen and Shanahan to run the football operations. I know that the Skins are in "Win Now!" mode, but the fans and the owner need to realize that while there have been vast improvements in the team, there is no guarantee that this team is ready for a Super Bowl bid. There is a very small window of opportunity (maybe 3-4 years max.) for this group of players to win it all. But, Rome wasn't built in a day and most championship teams aren't built in a season. Have some patience everybody and hope for a serious run to start in 2011. Right now enjoy what you're seeing/sensing and know that better days (hopefully) are coming sooner than most think.