Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Redskins Need to Continue Their Approach To Building the Roster

(I have faith in the Redskins current Braintrust of Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen image via)

As any Redskin fan who's lived through the first decade of the Dan Snyder era can tell you, free agency or accumulating players (usually at or past their prime) through trade is not generally the way to go when it comes to building a team in the modern NFL. You have to build a team via the draft, trade and free agency if you want to have enough talent and depth to have a strong team and survive a brutal 16 game, 17 week season that usually leaves half a dozen of your players on the injured reserve.

The Redskins are starting to become that team.

It's taken 3 seasons for the Redskins to get close to that point. Let's face it though GM Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan were inheriting a mess when they took over in late 2009/early 2010. Despite being gone for two seasons, many elements of Joe Gibbs 2.0 remained with the Redskins. Many of the coaches and players from Gibbs' run were still there even if most were past their prime. There was a ton of dead cap from failed and expensive free agents and there was little depth thanks to multiple trades (a few with Mike Shanahan, then with the Broncos) that left the Redskins draft board barren. The draft picks that the Redskins did have were generally average to poor.

It became even worse in 2008 when full GM control went to Vinny Cerrato and Jim Zorn tried to build a West Coast style offense using pieces of Al Saunder's and Joe Gibbs units. Cerrato's main actions were to sign Albert Haynesworth to a $100 million contract, sign DeAngelo Hall to a huge contract in 2009 and to botch the 2008 draft so much that only TE Fred Davis and OLB Rob Jackson have been of any use to the Redskins since 2010. Zorn couldn't do much of anything and was eventually stripped of play calling duties by a guy calling Bingo numbers at retirement homes.

In 2010, Shanahan and co. had to realize that they had a mess on their hands, but clearly thought that they could fix it in no time. That seems to be a common trend with experienced head coaches who have had success with other teams during their tenures (Bill Parcells and Mike Holmgren come to mind). The Redskins tried one last ditch effort to "win now" and in the process made the two worst moves during the Shanahan tenure: trading for QB Donovan McNabb and OT Jammal Brown. Meanwhile, they were starting to head down a smarter path by drafting linemen, making trades that benefit the Redskins more than hurt them (see the amazing trade they got for Adam Carriker) and trying to fix the problematic contracts that would hurt them for years to come (Haynesworth, Hall).

Skip to 2013. Right now the Redskins have a decent about of depth on the offensive and defensive lines (although the Redskins need to address who will be the starting RT) and at most positions with exception to the secondary. The key for the Redskins will be to find players who can contribute somewhat now and significantly down the road in the draft, continue to make trades that benefit the Redskins by getting good players for little or get lots of picks and to find the occasional free agent that fits the scheme and locker room but won't cost an arm and a leg.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Editor's Note: Raycom All-Star Game

Just a FYI, I have watched the Raycom all-star game as I was taking it off the DVR and putting it onto disc. That said it was early Sunday morning and I fell asleep during parts of the game, so I really don't have as much analysis on the game that's worth writing a blog post.

I don't think you missed that much.

With this week being Senior Bowl week, I'm going to focus my attention on that game and come back to this one next week.

Quick Preview: There was a lot of incomplete passes in the Raycom game.

Final Thoughts on East/West Shrine Game

The 2013 East/West Shrine Game has come and gone and it's time to make some final thoughts as we head into Senior Bowl week. I've already posted some thoughts earlier about the game HERE and here is a nice recap of the game from Charlie Campbell of Walter Football about the game. To be honest, there just isn't that much else to say about the game.

I guess I can mention the INT/TD made by Kansas State's Nigel Malone which was a good play by the corner who anticipated the pass and jumped a route combined with a horrible read/pass by Louisiana Tech's Colby Cameron.

Bleach Report has a Stock up/ Stock down article which I will link HERE. While I normally don't post anything by BR (for various reasons), I tend to agree with the analysis of the article. Note that the QBs again get some poor ratings.

If the Redskins draft a player or sign a undrafted rookie who played in the East/West Shrine game, then I'll go back a watch the game again (I kept it on disc) and talk about what I'm seeing from the player in the game.

For example, I just went and watched Alfred Morris' performance in the 2012 game and it's clear that the Redskins had a good idea of what they were getting when they drafted him.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Forget the Playoffs, I Have College All-Star Games to Watch

Tomorrow, the 49ers head to Atlanta to play for the NFC Championship. Meanwhile, the Ravens head to Foxboro to play the Patriots for a second straight year for the AFC Championship.

For me, I don't care very much. The Redskins have been out of the playoffs for two weeks (Ed Note: Isn't it great that I could say we were in the playoffs in the first place?) and I'm already looking at the 2013 season. That means the draft, free agency and the off-season programs.

In a sense, the off-season work starts for me today. Two all star collegiate games are taking place. One is the Raycom College All Star Football Classic. This is a game I'm not that familiar with and it's website doesn't have much history on the game. So, I'm guessing this game fall in the similar place as other all star games like Texas vs. The Nation or the NFLPA All Star Game. It's a game for lesser known talents and players that might make their marks in late rounds or as undrafted players. Don't scoff at some of these players though, Pierre Garcon is a perfect example of a player that came out of this type of all star game.

The next is the traditional East/West Shrine Game. It's arguably the 2nd most popular college all-star game and usually features talent that'll go from the 3rd-7th rounds. Last year three Redskins from the 2012 draft class played in this game (Alfred Morris, Josh LeRibeus and Tom Compton). I have watched both games already and here's some early thoughts on both games with Redskins News first.

- According to Charlie Campbell of Walter Football, Redskins GM Bruce Allen was watching the East team's secondary "intently". He wasn't the only one as the GM of the Titans and other evaluators were as well.

- During the East/West Shrine Game, the Redskins had the opportunity to meet with various players for interviews. This saves some time at The Combine and really might not mean that much. That said, we can start to look at some players that the Redskins may have interest. These are the players that were interviewed according to Campbell and Blogging the BEast's Jimmy Kempski:

-Keelan Johnson, S, Arizona

- Bradley McDougald, S, Kansas

- Will Pericak, DT, Colorado

- Rod Sweeting, CB, Georgia Tech

- Sam Barrington, LB, South Florida

- Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech

- Brandon Mcgee, CB, Miami

I did not have access to the East West Shrine Game practices, but both Walter Football and Blogging the BEast did, so here are some links to read up on the practices:

Walter Football (scroll to bottom of page for every link of coverage)
Bloggin the BEast: Link 1
                                Link 2
                                Link 3
                                Link 4

- This is a bad, I mean very bad year to draft a QB. Neither all star game had anybody really worth writing about on the blog. Alex Carder seemed to be the most consistent and was incredibly accurate, but threw a INT. Colin Klein looks like he could succeed in a Zone Read scheme but lacks the arm strength and the coverage reads to be a starter. At this point, I'm thinking most of these QBs will either be undrafted or camp fodder. Don't expect many rookie QBs to be starting in 2013.

- The strength of this draft class has to be in the secondary and the D-line. Expect a large amount of D-linemen to go early. While there may not be a Champ Bailey or Sean Taylor in this draft, there are really talented CBs and S in this draft and there are a lot of them. If the Redskins don't walk away with possibly 2 safeties and at least one corner in this draft then I'll be a bit upset.

- I don't think the all star games themselves helped a lot of player's draft stock this season. Both games seemed sloppy and the Raycom game never seemed like it would end with so many incomplete passes.

- I was impressed by DE Devin Taylor of South Carolina. He had one bad play where he lost contain and gave up a TD on a reverse, but was dominate throughout the game forcing fumbles and getting to the QB.

- Maryland had two DTs that collapsed the pocket in Joe Vellano and AJ Francis.

- Was impressed by long shot WR Anthony Amos of Middle Tennessee St. Came back to the ball on multiple plays, quick but played bigger than his height (roster has him listed as 6', NFLN said he was 5'11").

- I think AJ Klein could be a very nice pick up in rounds 3-5 at MLB/ILB.

- LT Terron Armstead looked as good as he was touted by Mike Mayock and company and could be another 2nd rounder with his performance.

- I like the size of Richmond S, Cooper Taylor but didn't see that much of him to give you a good answer if he's worth taking.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Redskins Season Ends on a Frustrating, Sad Note.

With 7 minutes left in the game, I left my seat at FedEx, found my wife who was on the the concourse and said "I'm leaving". I refused to look back only hearing my wife jokingly saying "Can I come along too?".

I had made up my mind that it just wasn't the Redskins day. I can live with that. The Redskins exceeded any expectations I had of them. I guessed a 7-9 season and hoped for a 9-7 season. They went 10-6, swept the Eagles and Cowboys beat the Giants at home (SCREW YOU JOHN MARA and ROGER GOODELL) and won the NFCE. Anything in the playoffs beyond what they had already done in the regular season was just gravy for me.

What left me so volatile to the point of my wife taking the car keys away from me to prevent me getting road rage on the way out of FedEx was seeing the face of the franchise in a crumpled heap on the dirt. I've seen it before, hell I've been there before as an athlete. It's not good.

What made it infuriating was that I saw the 2013 season flash before my eyes and it felt that everything the Redskins accomplished in 2012 just was flushed down the drain.

And yes, Mike Shanahan in the end is at fault for the mistake of leaving a injured player in the game. I'm not going to even suggest the idiotic notion of firing Shanahan but that doesn't mean that I'm not pissed for playing a QB who clearly seemed to not be right and eventually blew out his knee.

The first paragraphs that I wrote above was the night post game or the next day after. I've had almost a week to think, hear about the ACL/LCL surgery and hear every prognosis from every doctor, every fan and every media head. In the end I'm torn (NOT TRYING A PUN HERE) on what was the right call. I can see it from both sides although with what happened, the right call would have been to pull RGIII and hope Kirk Cousins could put some points up to save the game.

Of course Mike Shanahan was hoping for some RGIII magic and RGIII was not going to leave the field. Most athletes can relate to this situation. You are competitive, you're in a one and done scenario in front of the home crowd and you don't want to lose or let anybody down. You're full of adrenaline and at the moment you believe that you are the best option for your team at that position. In a sense I can relate to RGIII's mindset, because something similar happened to me during my senior year playing football.

(Sadly, every time I talk about my HS football days, I think of Al Bundy)
I hurt my knee in my last season (thanks to some bastard safety cheap shoting me in my knee with his helmet on purpose while I was blocking a DE on a play. Everytime my knee gets sore and I limp I think of you you a-hole.). I kept playing on it despite it swelling up and my dad making makeshift braces to try and help it. It got so bad that I couldn't explode off the ball when I came out of my three point stance. More or less I was playing on one leg. In our final game, the coaches tried to sub me out for another OT and and I told the guy to get off the field. Finally, they benched me. It wasn't until then that I realized that I couldn't help the team. That was my last game of "real" football.

So I know RGIII wasn't going to come out. Shanahan and co. may  have had to physically put him on the bench when he initially re-injured the knee to get Cousins in the game. Robert would have been pissed just like Strasburg was when Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson shut him down but as a coach you have to deal with that.

I'm not a Shanahan hater as some of the Redskin fans would call the anti-Shanny contingent of our fan base. Matter of fact, I was dead set on Shanahan given the full five years or I was going to take a long break from the Redskins tired of seeing another coach leaving and another one coming in. That said, I think he made a critical error that at best will cost our franchise the off-season and possibly training camp and some of the regular season. Griffin was limping, he couldn't plant on the bad leg and his throws were way off the mark (which for RGIII is not common when he's healthy).

Still, it's a tough call for Shanahan. If he puts in Cousins and Kirk fails, then the media bashes him for not leaving RGIII in. RGIII meanwhile is called a coward and soft by the same media, the fans and even some of his peers. Griffin stays in and blows out his knee and yet the same people now go after Shanahan for keeping him in and Griffin for not being honest about his struggles with the knee.

It's not easy being a head coach in the NFL and guys like Mike Shanahan have a much tougher skin than I could ever have (which explains why he makes $7 million a year coaching the 'Skins and while I type a fan blog that maybe 12 people will read). It's a tough call and I think would have been an even tougher choice to make when you're trying to win a playoff game at home.

In the end, what's happened has happened and instead of blaming, I am dreading this off-season with every update giving me either a sense of hope or a deep sense of dread. Where last off-season I was optimistic about the future, this year I am concerned.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Farewell to Ray Lewis

Update: The Ravens have defeated the Broncos. Go Fig!

This will probably be the last game we'll ever see of Ray Lewis today. In tribute, I dug out from the old IIWII vaults a classic SNL TV Funhouse cartoon (for some reason You Tube keeps deleting it) for your enjoyment.

Lewis is going to be a 1st ballot Hall of Famer and yes he deserves it despite some inflated stats (I'm sorry touching a guy's shoulder as he's going down when he's gang tackled by three other Ravens is not worthy of a tackle or an assist) and way too much dancing. That said, in his prime Lewis was a force to be reckoned with as he traversed the entire field looking for a target like a heat seeking missile.

For Redskin, Bill and Ram fans, the trick will to be to get a similar player will similar stats, an IRONMAN caliber playing streak that might even impress the legendary Cal Ripken Jr. who danced a lot less and got less media attention into the HOF.

That my friends is London Fletcher. Maybe I'm wrong and he'll get inducted immediately after he retires (which despite being 37 I hope is at least 1-2 more seasons away) but I think he'll have a difficult time getting in because he'll be compared to Lewis (who by then will probably have a bust in Canton) and never seemed to get much media attention until later in his career.

Fletcher may be this era's Art Monk and the fans maybe fighting to get him a bust in Canton. I hope Dave Elfin will pick up the sword and lead the charge like he did for Monk.

Monday, January 7, 2013

How NOT To Fix FedEx Field's Turf Problems

Did you see the field tonight?
It looked good initially, but then reverted to to mess of dirt, divots  and patches of turf thrown amok that we've been used to seeing over the past few weeks.

I like old school football as much as anyone, but FedEx Field has become a sand and mud pit in 2012 (and in previous years as well) it's getting to be as bad as this field that the Steelers played on back in 2007.

Anyway, the point is that the field looked a bit better than it has in weeks, so did the Redskins re-sod FedEx? No it appears that they sprayed the dirt green kind of like "hair in a can" from the old infomercials.

Note to the FedEx Groundskeepers: Turf in a can is about as effective as hair in a can, so you may want to try something else (like real grass/sod) next time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

If the Season Ended Today: The Redskins (Rams) Would Draft at #22

Last year I wrote frequently about where the Redskins were drafting because obviously I (much like most fans and possibly the team itself) was hoping that the Redskins would be able to land in a spot to draft a top tier QB.

Sadly, we didn't.

So, the Redskins had to make a huge trade with St. Louis to snag the #2 overall spot. It's worked out pretty well so far for us. But, this year and next the Rams will be taking the Redskins 1st round pick.

However, the Rams won't be drafting with the #6 pick the Redskins had last year. Before we even jump into the Wildcard round of the playoffs, the Redskins are currently drafting at #22 and will continue to fall back in draft order as they keep winning.

The point of it all: If the Redskins are drafting in 2013, 2014 and beyond in the 20's, then it means the Redskins are doing pretty well and we made a hell of a deal with the Rams.

Just Sayin'