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The Redskins

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Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 31, 2007; 1:15 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Friday, Aug. 31 at 1:15 p.m. ET to take your questions about the Redskins.

The transcript follows.

Read Jason's blog, Redskins Insider.

Full coverage: Washington Redskins

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Jason La Canfora: Hey there, sorry I am a few minutes late -- traveled back from Jacksonville and had some reporting to catch up on. Have a feeling this will be Brunell-mania on here, but let's see what ya got for me.

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Bowie, Md.: What's the report card on Andre Carter this preseason? Do you expect a breakout year?

Jason La Canfora: He's in great shape -- and much better mental shape than when he was trying to adjust to a new lifestyle, new teammates, position switch, new coaches, etc. -- and I think he will be solid. Don't see him being a monster sack guy -- not great size -- but if he can play all of 2007 the way he played last December, it should help the Skins greatly. He needs to get to the QB more, period, and I think he will, given the changes in the scheme.

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Miami: Why does Sean Taylor look so thin this year?!

Jason La Canfora: According to the Redskins roster, he is down like 12 pounds from last year; according to Sean he is the same weight he has always been. It's obvious he changes his body type some in the offseason, with less bulk but still ripped, and Sean does concede he trained differently this offseason and is eating better now, too. Coaches and players believe he is lighter than a year ago and I imagine the team scales are accurate.

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Stumped (Portland): Where was Waldo (er, I mean Lloyd, Brandon) last night?

Jason La Canfora: He's had a lingering shin splints problem and they held some guys out who had minor stuff. I would imagine he would be full-go come Week 1, and he was not listed with the injured players last night.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: What impact will a Brunell trade have on the salary cap for next season?

Jason La Canfora: Not much, given his new deal. He already has received $500,000 in roster bonuses this summer, which counts, and the prorated portion of his original signing bonus is still there either way ... all he has a left is a nonguaranteed $1.5 million salary

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Bethesda, Md.: Since you mentioned Brunell, what do you think the Redskins could get for him? Would teams actually give up something like a fourth round pick for this guy?

Jason La Canfora: No way -- they'd be lucky if they got a conditional sixth for him, which is why I think there is not a great shot of something getting done, because Gibbs's value of him would be greater than how the rest of the league sees him.

Seattle is by no means chasing Mark with abandon or anything -- they made an exploratory phone call as they are seeking an upgrade at No. 3 QB. To expect to get much of anything in return is crazy -- Mark is likely to be the No. 3 QB here at this point -- and teams call around like mad this time of year as a rule. Seattle just as easily could sign Chris Simms or something if he's cut, and is trying to get a feel on which teams might be cutting loose a QB with NFL experience.

This thing got way blown out of proportion on TV. No trade is imminent and the Skins have to determine if they even would be wanting to move him at all given that they have no other decent options for a third quarterback themselves.

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New York: Jason, Jordan Palmer looked pretty bad last night ... sure makes you wonder why they got rid of Casey Bramlet so quick. He looked okay as a quarterback for Atlanta recently. If they trade Brunell I would rather have Casey than Palmer as my third. Your thoughts?

Jason La Canfora: They kept Jordan because he was a draft pick and they invested some money in him ... but as I blogged way back in mini camp, he never has looked anything other than very poor from what I have seen. He is nowhere near being ready to throw a pass for you on Sunday, and the prospect of the Redskins being one hit away from possibly having him as the backup quarterback, assuming they were to deal Brunell, would have to scare Gibbs silly.

If the Skins dealt Mark they essentially would be committed to two QBs to start the season -- Palmer could go on practice squad (doubt anyone would claim him) -- and that would open up a roster spot at another position, which could help. But if Campbell or Todd got hurt they'd be scrambling to sign some sort of veteran QB off the street (like a Parcells-Testaverde situation) only this guy would not know the system, and it could be pretty ugly.

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Washington Navy Yard: Jason, in all seriousness do you think this will be Coach Gibbs' last year if we don't make it to the playoffs? I love the man dearly but I'm not sure we can continue on this course for years to come. What do you think?

washingtonpost.com: Gibbs Believes in His Team. Do You Believe Him? (Post, Aug. 31)

Jason La Canfora: If the team does not show signs of turning the corner, then that may be it for him. I think the health of his grandson will be a big factor, as well as Joe's health, as it always is. It's way too soon to tell.

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Falls Church, Va.: Jason, can you shed any light on the actual physical status of Clinton Portis? Have the coaches just kept him under wraps, per his wish, or is he really struggling to rehabilitate that knee? Thanks.

Jason La Canfora: A little bit of both -- he's in no rush to play and they were in rush to play him. It's a big deal anytime a guy like him misses the entire preseason with a knee injury, and they definitely are concerned. It's an unknown to everyone as to how the knee will respond to game conditions, being hit, etc., and their best hope is that all of the time off will have allowed the tendinitis to subside. But there is no way to know for sure until he puts it through the rigors of game day, and they chose to delay that until the last possible time, Week 1 itself.

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Dallas: How much is Cooley looking for in his extension?

Jason La Canfora: If you look at the money Graham got in free agency, I'd say that's a good ballpark. I am sure the $17.5 million Landry got guaranteed from the Skins this summer did not go unnoticed by Chris's camp as well.

I wouldn't be surprised if he cut them a little slack, but not a whole lot. The sides are not close and I wouldn't be surprised if they end up throwing the franchise tag on him at the end of the season, 'cause the tight end numbers usually are not nearly as bad as other positions.

Things always can change -- and I am sure the prospect of getting hurt while there is all this money on the table will weigh on Chris at times -- but both sides are gambling at this point.

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RFK Stadium: We know what the rest of the league thinks of Stephon Heyer -- what's your take on him? I thought the kid was impressive (except for that mix-up between him and Pucillo)?

washingtonpost.com: Redskins Stay Course With Heyer and Pucillo (Post, Aug. 21)

Jason La Canfora: I think he is a very raw prospect who showed some signs but must refine his technique significantly to play on Sundays.

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New York: How did Pete Kendall look last night, and do you think he will fill the void Dockery left behind?

washingtonpost.com: Redskins Bolster Left Guard By Getting Kendall From Jets (Post, Aug. 24)

Jason La Canfora: Pete held up okay, but it was a very small window with which to judge. He continues to say how far he must go, but it was a positive first step. Getting him and Samuels in sync is going to take some time, because both essentially are going to be going into Week 1 cold. It's going to take a few weeks at least for the line to hit stride, but once they do -- barring injuries -- it's hard to imagine them not being legit. They had a helluva second half last year.

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Bethesda, Md.: If the Brunell trade goes through, any chance the Skins put Palmer on the taxi squad and go with Randle El as their game day No. 3 quarterback?

washingtonpost.com: Redskins Notebook: Seahawks Inquire About Obtaining Brunell (Post, Aug. 31)

Jason La Canfora: As I mentioned earlier, they might go with two QBs in this scenario, and Randle El could throw a pass in a pinch ... but the phrasing of that question is off. Seattle made a phone call to express a little interest, and that's it. This kind of thing is going on right this second between teams all over the league, and 99 percent of the time it leads to nothing.

The only reason I even wrote about it at all last night is because the report on the post-game show took on a life of its own and a lot of people truly believed a trade already had been made. They have a long ways to go before getting close to a trade. Like I said in the previous question -- first the Skins have to decide to part with him, then Seattle or some other team would have to make an actual offer, and that offer would have to come close to being worthy of what the Skins think he's worth. That's a lot of stuff to overcome.

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Roanoke, Va.: Jason, I caught that writer from Philly (who's a Skins fan) on Washington Post Live the other night. I didn't know Comcast allowed people on TV that were under the influence of hallucinogens. I mean, I'm a Skins homer and hope they pull out 10 wins and squeak into the playoffs ... but 12-4 and in the NFC championship is ridiculous! Not really a question, just a comment.

Jason La Canfora: Gotta love that guys enthusiasm. It was fun doing the show with him.

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Bethesda, Md.: JLaC -- I thought Marcus Mason ripped off a few nice runs last night and overall showed some promise. Any idea how he finished stat-wise? What do the coaches say about him? Will he make the 53-man roster? Thanks for doing these chats.

washingtonpost.com: A Young Man in a Rush (Post, Aug. 18)

Jason La Canfora: I like this kid. I thought he had wrapped up a spot on the practice squad before Blaylock got hurt, and he could end up making the 53 as the No. 4 running back ... but I think a ton will depend on who is cut Saturday.

They could decide to keep an extra FB or TE and go with three RBs to start the year -- even with an iffy Portis -- or they could go with three to start Saturday, then sign a RB if they like one out there, and put someone on waivers then. I know they would like to hold on to him, but guys have to clear waivers before going on the practice squad -- and Blaylock's injury can't hurt his chances.

I also think Rock is cool as the third RB for at least a few weeks, but I admit that I'm a Rock guy. I've got a soft spot for him.

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Washington: With the injury to Espy, then Blaylock, who's next up to be the depth in the return game? And what happened with Eubanks wheeled off on a cart last night?

Jason La Canfora: Eubanks had a hamstring injury that they seemed to imply was fatigue/heat related and might not be too bad. He was on the bubble of making the team either way, and this may not have helped. They can use Thrash in either return role and have in the past, and Randle El will be doing punts in the regular season. Westbrook got work there in practice but he's a practice squad guy at best at this point.

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Accomac, Va.: Has The Washington Post selected another reporter to help you with the 'Skins beat? Who? And are you going to be Batman or Robin?

Jason La Canfora: Batman. Absolutely Batman. After four years on this beat with four different partners, I ain't riding in the sidecar like The Boy Wonder. Jason Reid, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, will start Thursday, I believe. Don't know him, never talked to him in my life, but I am told he's a good dude.

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So, Brett Haber on Channel 9 Was Wrong?: Jason, Brett Haber on Channel 9 spoke with so much passion last night that it hardly seemed like a casual discussion with the Seahawks. If the situation with the 8-car is much as you describe, why would Haber even go there? I don't see it as an attempt to drive ratings, and why stir something like this up with Gibbs? What you say makes sense, but I tend to think that there is more to this. What say you?

Jason La Canfora: I say people make mistakes and get things wrong all the time. Your question is best directed at him. I cannot, not would I ever want to, vouch for his reporting.

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Washington: In retrospect, do you think the Skins should have traded Portis in the offseason, when the word was that he'd be 100 percent by September? Everything I've read recently makes his future prospects here seem bleak.

Jason La Canfora: Everyone who was brought in during 2004 is essentially on a one-year contract at this point -- that's the nature of how they structured all those contracts, as we wrote at that time and have since then. They were all really three- to five-year deals, with the base salaries getting nutty in 2007 or later for the most part. They've redone Portis's deal like three times since then, and Gibbs loves him.

Would other coaches or scouts have been comfortable dealing him this offseason? Definitely, but it's not their call, and also the guy's contract is huge and his value is as low as it ever has been in his career given all the injuries in the past year, so it would be another case of buying high and selling low, which has doomed the Skins for a long time.

He needs to have a big year here to keep this contract with the huge base salaries (nonguaranteed) but that's no different than what LaVar went through, and Springs, Daniels, Brunell (obviously), Griffin and a lot of guys who have been injured lately are carrying huge cap numbers the next few years.

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Ashburn, Va.: JLC, is it really reasonable for Portis not to play at all in the preseason? Are the other players upset about CP's special treatment? It is really looking like a bad trade ... we gave up a draft pick and a future Hall of Fame cornerback for a running back who doesn't like to practice, had one good season with the Redskins and at the age of 26 is considered to have a lot of wear and tear.

Jason La Canfora: Everyone is just waiting to see what happens when it counts -- he is all about doing his thing six days a week but then bringing the heat on Sunday. If he can bring the heat and stay healthy, then no one will be moaning -- too much, at least -- about the CP rules. If not, yeah, it's definitely an issue, and I still believe and have since the end of last season that Betts is going to have a very prominent role this season.

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Washington: Jason, why are so many helmets coming off in games this preseason?

Jason La Canfora: Not enough Stickum?

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Baltimore: Fed Hill in the house -- J, are Portis and Samuels going to be in game shape for the opener? And what do guess the compensation would be for the Skins to trade Brunell to Seattle?

Jason La Canfora: Fed Hill ... I was getting my swerve on at The Market right now. Friday Happy Hours used to be a beautiful thing there.

As for CP and Chris, no, they won't be in top game shape -- that's just the reality of the situation. As for Mark, I think a conditional sixth based on playing time or amount of time spent on the roster or active on game days -- some contingency like that -- would be as good as it gets.

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Germantown, Md.: Hey Jason, love your posts. Are the Eagles in trouble with no viable backup to McNabb? Also, why do some media outlets predict that the Skins will have a bad year? Where do they get their information from? What is your record prediction for the Skins? Thanks.

washingtonpost.com: Backup Feeley Breaks Hand in Eagles' Loss (AP, Aug. 31)

Jason La Canfora: They'll be sniffing around for help at QB, 'cause as much as Reid went out on a limb for the rookie QB there, it's hard to imagine he's close to being ready and hard to see McNabb starting all 16 games given recent history.

As for media predictions, I will never figure out why anyone cares, or especially why people get so worked up about this stuff. No one knows. No one! I am the first to admit it. Everyone is just guessing and it means absolutely nothing and has no impact on the actual outcomes of games and seasons. Let's let it go.

Most writers/talking heads who make predications do it for one reason -- their editors/producers make them. It's just following orders. Very few people do it because they actually think they are the smartest guy in the room and want to brag ... for the most it's just part of the job.

I never do it unless asked, and even then only reluctantly. So why do editors/producers keep making people do it? You'd have to ask them, but I am guessing it might be because it gets everyone talking and the message boards get all fired up and it creates a stir, whether it's ESPN or a local paper. My advice is to just ignore it. Who cares, honestly? Come Sept. 9 the answers to all of this will start taking shape, so just enjoy it and take it as it comes.

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Waldorf, Md.: J-lac, you've been getting hammered a lot by folks on the insider blog recently -- waddup with that?

Jason La Canfora: I don't know, dude, and I honestly don't care. Some people can't handle the truth I guess.

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Lexington, Va.: Is there any indication that Saunders is adjusting his playbook to fit this team, or is the team adjusting to fit Saunders' playbook? Neither?

Jason La Canfora: A little but of both. Jason is obviously more active and better on bootlegs and stuff outside the pocket than the other two QBs, but each week is different than the next, or the last. The playbook is tailored to what is working well and to the strengths and weaknesses of each opponent.

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Atlanta: Is there some kind of curse of the "Core Guy" going on in Redskin Land. Time and time again you hear Gibbs talk about keeping these players and then they get shown the door. I love Salave'a and his heart, and after hearing that he had a solid camp and was healthy again I can't understand why they did him wrong like this. I get the feeling this youth movement on the defensive line will amount up to a couple snaps throughout the whole season for guys like Alexander and Buzbee. Why not just put them on the practice squad and keep big Joe? Plus my wife just bought me a $300 custom Salave'a jersey three months ago. I'm feeling kind of stung right now.

washingtonpost.com: Redskins Cut Veteran Salave'a (Post, Aug. 29)

Jason La Canfora: I love Joe, and if these kids don't work out or guys get hurt I would not be surprised to see Joe back in October or November. I don't think any teams are going to jump on him right now -- he's Gregg's guy and if Gregg let him go, teams take that as an indication.

As for the youth movement, Golston is going to start and Montgomery is essentially the No. 3 tackle -- those dudes are going to get more than a few snaps. Either Wilson or Buzbee could be a rush end from the left side in the nickel and dime packages -- that's a big deal, too. Alexander might make it as another tackle, and they have good veteran depth inside already, because Wynn and Evans easily can fill in at tackle and get reps there in certain packages and situations, and Daniels already is playing tackle in the nickel and dime.

I think they had to start heading in this direction ASAP, and a year from now Daniels and Wynn will be in the same situation and they're going to have to have some known commodities here with the kids and already have seen them in some game situations to know what they can do. Heck, this line was hardly full of spring chickens back when they put it together in 2004, and 2004 is like a decade ago in NFL years with the turnover in this league and how quickly guys age in the trenches.

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Bridgewater, Va.: Miami has a very good defense and now with Trent Green a potentially good offense. A good test for us -- your thoughts, especially in light of Campbell's opening drive against Jax?

Jason La Canfora: I smell an ugly, defensive slugfest that turns on a turnover or field goal. Green knows this system inside out from his days playing in it and has had two months to talk to the defense about what to expect. Miami's defense is big-time to begin with, and Samuels could have his hands full with Jason Taylor after missing so much time. A real test for the left side of the line right off the bat.

Miami's run defense is very tough as a rule and I just don't see the Dolphins moving the ball much on the Skins as well. One of these defenses will make a play or two that wins the game is my guess, and the Skins D will have a perfect chance to make a statement about whether the sack/takeaway drought is really over.

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Washington, DC: Jason, great articles so far (see the links above!). Last year, the Tom Friend article made safeties coach, Steve Jackson, sound like a pouter. Your LaRon article made him sound great. Are the coaches getting their mojo together better this year? Also, is child No. 2 sleeping better or worse than his bigger sister at the same age?

washingtonpost.com: Redskins Have a Hit At Safety (Post, Aug. 23)

Jason La Canfora: Thanks so much for the kind words. Unfortunately, Chloe is now by far the better sleeper of the two, which ain't saying a whole heck of a lot. Rocco won't nap more than 30-40 minutes and still wakes up two or three times at night. But heck, everyone is healthy, so that's all the matters -- this too shall pass.

As for the LaRon article, I didn't really see it as Jackson coming through good or bad, and I think the Friend article, as I wrote at the time, was based off less-than-rigorous reporting and overly slanted. He essentially hinted that Jackson and Williams would be fired, said the entire defense had quit and that everything needed to be blown up and everyone had figured Gregg out and it was hopeless. If this defense plays in the regular season like it did in the preseason, well, draw your own conclusions.

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Herndon, Va.: JLA -- whatup, no music comments? Carlos "Double Move" Rogers feeling any pressure with Smoot in camp? Any competition there? How does each one look?

Jason La Canfora: I am at home right now, so no music. Hoping one of my kids actually takes a nap.

Carlos has had a strong camp and it was imperative to make him fight for a job a bit (Rumph and Wright weren't scaring anyone other than their own coaches last season). It seems to have brought out the best in Carlos. We shall see if it carries over to the regular season, but it's time for him to step up.

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Georgetown, D.C.: Re: Portis and "injuries" -- I seem to recall several times when Riggo would be injured or some such, so he practiced seldom, if at all. Of course, come Sunday, he still ran over, around and through opposing defenses. So, even under Gibbs I, such occurrences could happen. It appears we'll see whether CP can pull that trick off.

Jason La Canfora: Those guys are built very differently, though. Not even close in the heft department.

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Charlotte, N.C.: Jason -- in his previous life, Coach Gibbs was known for making great half-time adjustments and pounding teams in the second half of games. It seems that Gibbs 2.0 has been on the receiving end of those second-half poundings much more often than not. Any thoughts on what might have changed?

Jason La Canfora: Not sure what has changed, but the slow decisions, poor second-half offense, wasted timeouts, too much deliberation about going for it or not, management of the coaches challenge ... all of it needs to be better in 2007.

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Jason La Canfora: Hey guys, my time is up. Thanks for the great questions and sorry if I seemed a little distracted. I am trying to make phone calls and stay on top of five things at once here. Very busy time.

As always, thanks for taking part and feel free to email me at lacanforaj@washpost.com at any time. Have a great weekend. Cheers.

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