Monday, September 5, 2011

Final Thoughts on Redskins and 2011 Pre-Season

With practice starting later today, it's time to look at some final things that I noticed about the 2011 pre-season. Most of this deals with the Redskins but I did get a chance to watch a few of the other pre-season games and I'll throw a few comments out there about the Giants and the Ravens. This will be in bullet points, so it should be a quick read.

- Proof the Skins have better WR depth. Flashback to 2010. Let's put Donte' Stallworth on that roster. Where would he be on the depth chart at the start of week 1? Probably the #2 WR. Flash forward to today. Where do you think Stallworth is on the depth chart? At best 4th. He almost didn't even make the 2011 roster. Goes to show that the Redskins emphasized the position and found a few players to fill those spots.

- Why I didn't do a Ravens game recap. The moment Jarvis Jenkins went down in that game, it didn't matter how much the Skins beat up Baltimore, I was just to bummed to write about the game. Jenkins was looking really good. I mean really good. Numbers really don't say much for OL and DL (unless you're a 4-3 DE), but Jenkins was doing some really good, veteran things out on the field. He was taking double teams and getting through them. I hope he can recover from the ACL tear and come back even better in 2012. Good news is that the surgery was successful, Jenkins has reported that there was no cartilage damage and that he will work harder to get ready for 2012. Can a year of meetings/film study, OTAs and 2 training camps make him better? You bet.

- Steelers, Colts and Ravens games were important games. I keep hearing from people that the Steelers could care less about the game with the Skins, same with the Colts and same with the Ravens. I call BS on two of those games. I'll give you the Colts because historically they play like crap in the pre-season. Also with Manning out, the Colts are a top 20 team at best. The Steelers tend to come into FedEx, dominate, waive way too many terrible towels and go home. Didn't happen this year. Matter of fact Steelers coach Mike Tomlin was pretty unhappy with his team's performance and admitted they were outplayed at every level by the Skins. The Ravens for some reason really want to win pre-season games and they really want to beat the Redskins in pre-season games. Last year John Harbaugh ran trick plays to do it. This year, the Ravens went down right crazy as they scored the winning TD to beat the Skins in the final moments. Just remember at halftime the Skins were leading 21-14 and outplaying the starters; a probable playoff team in Baltimore.

- Speaking of the Ravens. I think they are going to have a rough year against Pittsburgh. The Ravens really struggled against a Washington 3-4 that employs similar philosophy and scheme to that of Pittsburgh. If Flacco got sacked 3 times against a team getting into to the groove of this scheme, how will they do against a team that has been running the same scheme for decades?

- Beck vs. Grossman. Do I think the QB play will be better in 2011 than in 2010. Actually, yes overall. McNabb did have the ability to throw game changing passes (see GB 2010) but, he lacked the rhythm and tempo that the coaches wanted. He also struggled with the system. Grossman has been in the system for 3 years, Beck for 2 and it shows. They seem to play within the scheme and find the players open when they should be open. So who should be the starter? Let me first say that I think we'll see both get a start at some point this season. I also think that both will struggle at times. I like Beck. I like his "take charge" attitude, I like that he'll tell you when he made a mistake and how he'd go about fixing it. I like his comeback story. I love his mobility and his ability to hit guys in stride on bootlegs. I think though based on only what I've seen it probably will be Grossman starting against the Giants. Maybe the Skins will go with Beck because of his mobility and that he tends to feel the pressure better than Grossman, but I think Grossman has looked better in the pre-season games.

- Skins are the masters of small name trades. Jarmon for Gaffney. Holiday/2012 6th round pick for Hightower. Skins get 2 starters for a player later to be cut (Jarmon), an aging backup and a late round pick. Not bad. Not bad at all.

- Skins are having a change of philosophy in offense. Last year there seemed to be much more of an emphasis in the pass game than in the run game. Maybe it was because the best offensive players (Moss, Cooley, McNabb) were part of the pass game. Maybe it was because the Skins fell behind. Maybe Kyle Shanahan is more of a pass first OC than a run first OC. Not sure. If you look at the pre-season, there is much more emphasis on the run game. This is good because Mike Shanahan's offense much like Joe Gibbs offenses work best when a run game is in place. That sets up play action and bootlegs. If the Redskins can have a strong run game in 2011, the pass game should also be better.

- Thoughts on the Giants. Brandon Jacobs looks like Brandon Jacobs of old and that has never been a good thing for the Skins. I'm not sold on their pass game though. D looks about the same to me.

- I'm expecting more Redskins fans to show up the first few weeks. Everybody has seen the changes and I think that it has motivated fans. Take the Tampa game for example. I didn't think that many would show for a meaningless 4th game. But they did. A good portion of the lower bowl was full and I even saw a surprising amount of fans at the club level and in the upper bowl.

- This is going to be an interesting season. I think the Skins are better and are on the right track. But I'm sticking with my 8-8 prediction. It could be better than this based on the schedule but two games better should be something to build upon for 2012 and beyond.

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