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The Redskins

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 1, 2007 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Nov. 1 at 1 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, hope all is well. What a game last weekend, eh? No lack of angst I'm sure.

Have at me.

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Anonymous: From today's article in The Post about the NE blow-out. "It's not a big deal, it happens three to four times a year," one veteran, who requested anonymity, said yesterday. "It wasn't any kind of turning-point situation."

Seems to me that there ought to be a lot of anger. Use that loss as a turning point and go forward with greater intensity.

Do you sense that this last game lit a fire in this team?

Would be a shame if it didn't.

Jason La Canfora: The quotes are in regard to the series of player meetings that went on this week, the kind of standard stuff you always see in these situations that often get overblown and over-played by some in the media.

If you re-read it, you'll see the quotes are not directed at that blowout loss, which, trust me, no one around here is trying to slough off. They got worked and they know it.

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Pittsburgh: Why is the Redskins running game failing so rapidly: Randy Thomas out, Redskins call terrible plays, Jason Campbell does not scare anyone, Portis does not have it anymore?

Jason La Canfora: Some of that stuff is in there, but I wouldn't be blaming Campbell. Injuries, Portis does not seem right, they refuse to give Betts more carries, the O Line is not making holes at times, and teams have seen how much the Redskins are running the ball, so they are keying on it.

Also, I don't think Moss and Randle El are close to their usually explosive selves post injuries, and without that deep threat, all the more reason to tee-off on the run game as an opposing defense.

They'd better fix it fast, but I am not sure hard work alone is going to cure this ailment.

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Richmond, Va.: JLa,

Who's starting opposite Springs now and who comes in for nickel situations? Injuries continue to pile up for the 'Skins.

Jason La Canfora: Springs and Smoot will start with Prioleau continuing to play a lot of nickel. Torrence will be involved in some nickel and dime packages as well.

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Silver Spring, Md.: So I read in today's Express that the 'Skins will start from scratch on offense and get back to doing things like playing physical, smashmouth, run-first football combined with some passes downfield. But isn't that what they've been trying to do all season? What, if anything, can give me hope that the 'Skins can start scoring points on offense?

Jason La Canfora: It's a rehash of the same old, same old.

I am writing about the running game in tomorrow's paper, so you might want to check that out. I re-read that AP story a bunch of times and still don't know what point the article was trying to make.

They've been running ubber-Gibbs stuff all year. The articles talks about "a bigger Gibbs footprint." What could that mean? His footprint already looms over the whole thing.

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Charleston, S.C.: JLC, love your work dude. Keep it up.

What do you think of the overall defensive strategy this week against the Jets? With a young QB on the other side do we go after him early to get him rattled or does the loss of Carlos mean we'll see 3- and 4-man rushes the entire game?

And can you come up with some sort of strategy to get Coach Joe riled up tomorrow. We need all the swinging souls to unite and get a definitive win this weekend against the Jets. Go 'Skins!!

Jason La Canfora: I think Gregg is going to have to go Cover-1 a little bit more, get a swagger back in his defense and attack. They made it through a real gauntlet of elite passing teams/teams with great wide outs and spread offenses -- Green Bay, Arizona, Pats and Detroit -- by being conservative and dropping 8 back a lot, but that can't be who they are every week.

They need to grab this game by the throat early on both sides of the ball and show right away which is the dominant team, because letting this thing drag on and become another nailbiter could have some season-long ramifications Sunday.

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Pittsburgh: Joe Gibbs, paralysis by analysis?

Jason La Canfora: Perhaps.

The answer is always to work hard, pull more all nighters, practice harder ... but it hasn't worked this time around, in large part I think because of the very different nature of the front office and organizational structure this team around.

There is no GM there to say, hey give Betts more carries. Or, hey, look at our offensive personnel, let's spread the field a little more if possible.

Checks and balances, stuff like that. I think that absence looms large over this team.

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Hampton, Va.: The local paper down here ran that AP story you were referring to. This "committee" stuff sounds like rubbish. And then he quotes Rock Cartwright, who didn't even play? Please comment.

Jason La Canfora: I'm with you brother.

That story had me puzzled at hello.

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Ashburn, Va.: Hey Jason,

What do you think the Redskins' long-term plan is at corner. Clearly Springs is getting older and Smoot is often injured. Possible free agents out there or someone in the draft?

Jason La Canfora: I think DB is a position they need to address with a solid mid-round pick in the next year or two. And with this outfit, never rule out a free agent at any position at any time of year.

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Bend, Ore.: What, no iPod today?

With regards to the drop off in passes thrown by Campbell from last season to this season, I would have liked to have seen what the difference in number of plays per game was as well. When the running game was clicking behind a healthy O-line, drives went longer, Jason had more opportunities to throw. The last few games in particular, it seems like we've seen a lot of 3-and-outs in the second half. So the percentage of run-pass might be the same even in the numbers of chances has gone down.

Jason La Canfora: Hey boss, left the iPod in the car, along with the abundance of leftover candy my wife ordered me to get out of the house and leave in the media schlubs room out here for us fat guys to get fatter on.

To your point, which is great. 'Skins actually had 63 plays or more in each of the first 5 games, including 69 vs. Green Bay.

Doing some math as I write this ...

426 plays in 7 games in 2007

447 plays in 7 games with JC in 2006

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Psychological Damage: Hey JLC,

Any way to gauge the possible long term damage to the 'Skins collective psyche as a result of the butt whoopin' by the Pats?

Also, DCU gonna pull it off tonight?

"Watching the Detectives" -- Elvis Costello

Jason La Canfora: Love that song. Everything Elvis did on like the first four albums is pretty much genius.

I think this is the kind of thing you can get over in a week and move on ... if you take care of business. Couple this with another ugly game against the 1-7 Jets -- now you're really dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight.

I think DCU will get it done in extra time.

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BucktownSkinsFan: JLC! Any progress on the Gravy Boat explanation?

What's up with everyone's favorite preseason darling Byron Westbrook? Any chance he gets activated for some PT this season?

Jason La Canfora: Dang, forgot about asking Sellers about gravy boat. Thanks for the reminder (a lot going on these days).

As for Lord Byron, he is coming along, showing well on scout team, but is still raw. Eubanks has more experience so he got the nod, and I think they would rather bring Byron along slow this season and, with another offseason and preseason, get a shot at more PT in 2008.

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Washington, D.C.: Fourteen games into the Campbell era, and at what point do we let him actually throw the ball around? How can every team except us run slants and gain positive yardage?

Jason La Canfora: Hey dude, read what I wrote today.

I can't figure it out either.

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Joe Gibbs: The Jets are the best team in NFL history. We are the biggest underdog in sports history.

We're gonna have to play the game of our lives to come out of there with a victory. Joe Namath is a great QB and Al Toon really fights his guts out. I see it coming down to the last play if we're lucky. Yep, that's the way I kinda look at things, UP HERE.

Jason La Canfora: I have a feeling Freeman McNeil is going to break a big one in the 4th quarter. The big question is: Will Gastineau dance?

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Washington, D.C.: So what's the actual coaching arrangement between Gibbs and Saunders on game day? Does Saunders call 100 percent of the plays, or does Gibbs take over for crucial downs? What happens going forward? Same thing or does Gibbs let Saunders really let loose his 700-page playbook?

Jason La Canfora: Al calls the plays, Joe is very involved in game plan, oversees the overall practice structure, has a say in how much they run and pass in general and also is speaking with Al through the game to converse and exchange ideas about tendencies and principles.

Now, in the heat of the moment it's all Al, but Al has no say whether it's Portis or Betts on the field, for instance.

So Gibbs's authority is over-arching.

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20165: J-to-the-L-to-the-C: WP bogger Dan Steinberg compared the stats of Campbell vs. the other QBs that have started every game this year, and the results are that Campbell's stats are pretty bad. Is this a result of the playcalling above all else? What will it take to Gibbs to unleash Campbell?

No iPod songs today?

Currently am listening to a conference call for capital markets, which is slightly more interesting than a K-Fed album.

Jason La Canfora: He's about where a lot of QBs of his experience level would be.

The fact he is 12 percent more accurate than he was last year is huge.

He is also functioning in the NFL's 4th-worst offense, in which no one is making plays for him.

Compare his numbers to Vince Young -- yeah, he missed a game with injury but is still clearly the young starter there.

Or his first 14 to Eli Manning's first 14 games.

Let's compare apples to apples, right?

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Westminster, Md.: What has happened to Santana Moss? Is he still injured? He just can't seem to get open, or catch the ball when he does.

Jason La Canfora: I think the hamstring is playing on his mind a bit and, while okay to play, he does not seem to be as quick and nimble. That's the nature of those injuries and it's something that has plagued him at times throughout his career.

He just doesn't like "right" to me for lack of a better term. And the drops have been maddening and completely out of character.

If there was one simple way to reverse it all, trust me, they would do it. He's also emblematic of an entire offense lacking its way and searching for an identity and that tends to coat every player as well.

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Richmond, Va.: Do you think there is any chance that the 'Skins take a flyer on the recently released Mike Williams?

Jason La Canfora: Been looking into it. No one will touch the contract so once he clears waivers it could be.

He has been a total bust and seems to lack hands and desire -- not a great combination at WR -- but clearly has great size and some athletic skill. The 'Skins have longed for a tall possession receiver for a long time, but not sure this guy will ever become what some hoped he would be.

I'll throw it on the blog if I hear anything.

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RE: Slants: You can't tell me that Randle El or Thrash can't do what Welker did all day in the slot! Welker looked like he was playing a college game being able to still move at the snap he was in the slot so fast so often and hit in stride by Brady.

Pretty to watch.

Jason La Canfora: That dude is as tough as any WR I have seen. Fletcher kept pounding him, and he was willing to absorb huge punishment to get those 7-8 yard gains that move the chains and exploit the gap between the line and the LBs in Cover-2.

It's a brutal way to operate, but that and the RB screens are prototype ways to attack Cover-2.

James and Antwaan are super tough and would do whatever is asked. That's normally what you No. 3 WR does for you -- you don't want your $10 million WRs in those routes as much -- and putting more balls in that area for Thrash and McCardell makes sense to me.

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FedUpField: JLC

I am tired of these questions every week. It's truly the "same old Redskins" every year. We show a glimmer of hope, get crushed, find a resurgence and get killed again. The 'Skins are truly one of the cruelest franchises to root for. Forget the weekly game plan, when are we gonna see an overhaul in the front office? Are The Danny and Co. really that deaf and blind?

Jason La Canfora: I think that until there is a real fan uprising -- and whole bunch of empty seats and, dare I say it, a blackout one Sunday, nothing is going to change.

Hit 'em in the wallet as they say.

Now, let's also see where this thing goes. They collapsed into another 5-6 win team and the gloves come off, but they are 4-3 with a good opportunity to get to 5-3, and 9 wins could easily get you in in the NFC.

As bad as the Pats loss was, Green Bay and NYG hurt way more with all the playoff and tiebreaker implications.

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Charlotte, N.C.: Jason -- love the work you do covering the team. I'm curious, do you have any thoughts on Shapiro's piece in today's paper? Personally I thought it was right on point. I think what frustrates a lot of Redskins fans is not the loss last week, or the fact that they got blown out, but the way in which Gibbs reacted -- which was to have no reaction. I was young when he made his first run, but I distinctly remember watching games with my mother, specifically games in which the Redskins would have a terrible first half, and she would always say to me "just wait until they come out in the second half-they'll end up winning. Joe will fix it." I grew up on stories of Gibbs's legendary halftime speeches, but now I can't imagine him being able to make that same kind of speech. I think Joe needs to be honest with himself, this organization, and the fans, about whether or not he has the desire for this anymore. I'm running out of patience here -- and I think I speak for a lot of Redskins fans. Thoughts?

Jason La Canfora: I respect and admire the heck out of Len. Have not read the piece yet but will as soon as possible.

I think if you just look at the results of the franchise since 2004 -- everything from wins and losses to the trades and signings to in-game management to the lack of winning streaks and continued positive growth ... and then you take out the name of this coach and replace it with pretty much any other, and I imagine people would be running him out of town.

If they don't get it right in the second half in 2007, and you're talking about not making the playoffs for the 3rd time in 4 years, then I think it's fair to say this isn't working and big changes are needed. I don't think that's going out on a limb too far at all, and I think, should it come to that, Joe would admit that they have not accomplished close to what they set out do.

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RFK heartsick: Excellent job, dude. You bring a different and fresh perspective to the grim fate of Redskins faithful. Yes we LOVE pain.

Is the O line going to come together this season? I think it is what's holding us back...

Jason La Canfora:

Thank my man. You rock.

You can't replace Randy Thomas, brother. He made the run game go in so many different ways and was a force all over the field with his pulling and athleticism.

But they shouldn't be this bad -- 3.5 per carry. That's putrid.

More games should help, at least somewhat, but I don't see them being an elite rushing team this season barring some changes in personnel.

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Bend, Ore.: Jason wrote: "If there was one simple way to reverse it all, trust me, they would do it."

Please, let's not use the term "reverse" when talking about Moss any longer...

Jason La Canfora: Touche

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Raleigh, N.C.: Howdy,

Among the players you've spoken with this week, is there is a burning for retribution this week after getting pummeled by the Patriots? Or do you get the impression that the players have moved on and will just put that embarrassment out of their minds? Thanks!

Jason La Canfora: You can't get retribution on the Pats unless you make the Super Bowl, and that's not what anyone is focused on right now.

They need to exert their will against the Jets and get a win and come out of the first half 5-3, maintaining that 2-0 cushion they grabbed at the start of the season.

I don't think it goes too much beyond that right now.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Would you say London Fletcher is the MVP of the team so far this season?

Jason La Canfora: Yes sir.

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Wondering why I bet the Redskins would win at Foxboro!: Does the Carlos Rogers injury hurt the Redskins defense badly or do you think they have enough depth at the position? Do you see the return of Williams's blitz schemes this week against a new QB?

Jason La Canfora: It is a very significant injury as it impacts not only their outside coverage, but also their underneath stuff, and Springs, their best slot defender, likely shifts outside now.

Also, with Smoot clearly not 100 percent with his hamstring injury, it provides a real incentive for teams to test the corners now.

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Richmond, Va.: Hey Jason,

Thanks for what you do. From reading the comments on your blog and talking with other Redskins fans, many of us are getting a little tired of Joe Gibbs's hyperbole: The players are always "super smart" and "fighting their guts out" and "incredibly talented." I'm sure they are all these things for the most part, but the play on the field seems to suggest otherwise. Do you get the sense that any of the players are starting to grow a little weary Gibbs's cheerleader in a vacuum routine?

Jason La Canfora: A few guys have rolled their eyes a time or two when chatting about it privately, but all admit it's hardly the main thrust of the problems around here.

Different people respond to different approaches, and I think there are some guys who grimace a bit at the rhetoric about every game always going down to the wire, but, again, there are bigger fish to fry and the players are hardly absolved of blame.

When you look back over what, 8-9 years now, though, you start to look at all of the players and coaches and scouts -- many of them very talented and qualified -- who have come and gone in a revolving door, no one ever achieving much real glory ... then you look at the constants in the organization who have stayed the same through it all -- you know, the ones that rarely speak -- and it can make you scratch your head, eh?

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Arlington, Va.: Hey Jason. I hope all is well.

Thanks to the Redskins' big-spending approach to player acquisition, it seems they begin each season with a starting 22 that can compete (on paper, at least) with anyone in the league.

But this approach sacrifices depth, and I think we've really seen that with the injuries to Jon Jansen, Randy Thomas and Carlos Rogers. Have these three catastrophic injuries enlightened team officials, in the least, to this fact? To me, it's a reality check that they need to build through the draft with inexpensive talent.

Jason La Canfora: Well, I actually think they have done a better job by keeping buys like Yoder, Wade, Fabini this year, and adding Godfrey, etc. All pretty valuable depth guys.

Any team would be stung by the loss of so many top O linemen -- perhaps not to this degree but a significant blow nonetheless. I think the real problem is in the lack of mid to late draft picks who fill quality roles on the second team.

We are starting to see it more on the defense with Golston, Wilson, Torrence, Alexander (though I guess he's kinda on offense now). But the game-ready TE, O Linemen, WRs just haven't been found for the most part.

Especially along the line, you gotta find good young cheap guys who can play in rounds 4-7. And they have failed to develop one proven O lineman in 4 years here.

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D.C.: " ... but they are 4-3 with a good opportunity to get to 5-3, and 9 wins could easily get you in in the NFC." ...

Dude, you are absolutely right, the problem is they have done NOTHING in the past few years to take advantage of such a situation. Nothing except the usual post-game apologies and ruminations about being in this together ... the problem is they are at a point where, we expect them to lose because they coach and play like they expect to lose. That's a virus.

Jason La Canfora: Trust me bro, I feel your pain. But hope is not lost.

If the 'Skins were in the AFC I would be throwing dirt on them too. But they're not, so revel in the fact that unless they totally meltdown -- and, again, a loss Sunday would qualify -- they should be in great position to be playing meaningful games in late December.

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Washington, D.C.: Thanks for the chats/blog. Several questions --

On offense, is Gibbs willing to shift away from the run-first offense, since it's clearly not working this season, or is that something he'll stick with, even if it means losing?

On defense, we've barely blitzed this year. Is that a function of defending the deep ball against recent pass-happy offenses, or do you see the blitz-free defense continuing all season?

Jason La Canfora: I am with you on both counts.

The average NFL team passes 55 percent of the time now; the 'Skins pass like 49.4 percent of the time.

With the running game this stuck, I think they need to rethink it a bit, and have been alluding to that for a few weeks now.

And, like in an earlier question, I think Gregg will find a better balance between Cover-2 and aggressive blitzes in coming weeks.

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Washington: B. Lloyd at corner: he's got speed/size; he isn't bothered by anything, so getting beat wouldn't bring him down; and maybe G. Williams in his face would wake him up.

I'm joking about this idea, but only sort of...

Jason La Canfora: Watching him have to interact constantly with the defensive players would be fun if nothing else.

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Clifton, Va.: Jason -- after last week's nuking in New England, isn't it time for people around here to stop referring to Gregg Williams as a "defensive genius?" I mean, a true genius should've been able to come up with SOMEthing to stop Brady et al., right?

Jason La Canfora: Bro, the offense has been a complete joke and handed NE what, 17 points in that game?

It was a horrible embarrassment for everyone in the organization, but his defense was on the field so much in the first half -- like 18 minutes -- that there was no way they were going to keep up in a track meet now, especially with Smoot out, Carlos out, Marcus barely playing and McIntosh constantly in and out of the game with the shoulder burners.

Again, don't get me wrong, the defense was awful, but I think given how they have played overall this season it's hard to pile on them much, since without them in the first 6 weeks this is probably a 2-5 team.

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Burgundy and Gold: Jason,

Earlier this season in a chat you were asked if you were a 'Skins fan, and you professed your neutrality. You claimed that you were just a guy whose job it is to cover the 'Skins, and that you were strictly objective in your coverage of them.

Since then, it has seemed to me that you have warmed up a bit to the team, and your articles and chats have shown that you are pulling for them a bit, if not outright. In the leadup to the Pats game, you even sounded a bit hopeful.

So what is it? Are you still a professed agnostic? Would you crack a smile if this team managed a first-round playoff victory? Would you not hope that they can pull it together and consistently display the type of dominant football we have seen glimpses of?

Jason La Canfora: Agnostic my man. That's how I roll.

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Jason La Canfora: Okay guys, got to run. Practice is over and time for interviews about to begin.

Thanks as always for the great questions and sorry for those I could not get to.

As always, you can email me at lacanforaj@washpost.com and check me out on Redskins Insider.

Have a great weekend.

Cheers.

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