washingtonpost.com
Redskins Training Camp

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 21, 2008 12:30 PM

With training camp underway, Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Monday, July 21 at 12:30 p.m. ET to take your questions about how things are going and what to expect from the Redskins this season.

The transcript follows.

Read the Redskins Insider blog.

Full coverage: Washington Redskins

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washingtonpost.com: Jason will begin answering questions around 12:45 ET.

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Jason La Canfora: Sorry I am late. The internet connection out here is awful.

I'll make it up on the back end.

Fire away.

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Ovid, NY: Jason, thank you for all your hard work. Laron Landry appeared to excel at the end of last season as free safety, any reason we shouldn't be optimistic for an outstanding season from him? Thanks!

Jason La Canfora: All thanks to you for reading my stuff. LaRon definitely finished strong and started to really make plays on the ball late in the season. He is a unique talent and has all the tools. He needs to continue progressing in the mental aspect of the game and learning through experience - both good and bad - but particularly in the aftermath of the Sean Taylor tragedy it's a huge asset to have such a young, talented safety on the roster.

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Washington, D.C.: When asked yesterday about competitions to follow during training camp, Coach Zorn mentioned the #4 WR. Am I missing something or has one of the rookie WRs already been given the de facto #3 spot. Randle El has said that he'd probably play a lot more in the slot this year, so who takes the flanker opposite Moss? Please tell me it won't be Thrash.

Jason La Canfora: Coach Zorn has talked about open competition for all the WR spots beyond the top two.

Thomas and Moss are more outside speed guys and Kelly is being given a lot of work as a slot guy, where Randle El will be the "starter."

James Thrash is so smart and versatile he could play any WR position (as well as TE, H-back and even some fullback), but obviously lacks speed at this stage of his career.

Anthony Mix is a special teams standout with great size, and I imagine barring injury those 5 WR make the team, with the role playing out based on how quickly the rookies develop and how they mesh with Jason Campbell.

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Washington DC: Do you think the Skins gave up too many draft picks for Taylor or was it reasonable trade?

Thanks

Jason La Canfora: I think they found themselves backed into a corner after years of neglecting the lack of pass rush, and were already quite thin at DE even before the injuries. They managed to do well in the face of that to land a player of this caliber and ability, and as I've said on the blog, I don't think you can knock the parameters of the trade.

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Austin, Tex.: Quick -- name a Super Bowl winner that lacked a premium pass rush?

You can't do it. Last year's included the top two sacking teams. When the 'Skins won Super Bowls, they had the all-time franchise sack leader on one side, and Charles Mann on the other side.

Does this make the 'Skins a potential contender (finally)?

"8 Ball" - Underworld

Jason La Canfora: Man, forgot the ipod today. I'll get it cranking next time.

I think this helps address a significant need, no doubt, but given other questions surrounding the team (will the offense mesh andn how steep will the learning curve be?, is Zorn a good playcaller?, can he manage a game as a head coach?, where is Jason Campbell in his development?) and the depth of the NFC East I do not believe they will be competing for a Super Bowl this season. Lot of transition going on all around - everything from players to coaches to medical staff.

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Crofton, Md.: Jason,

What are your impressions of Zorn? Do you get the sense that he is over his head? How are the players responding to him? I know publicly, they have been positive, but have you seen anything which would show that perhaps the players are tuning him out?

Jason La Canfora: Only time will tell my friend. He is certainly a relaxed, amicable, people-person who is very disarming and player friendly.

Is he ready for the vast responsibility thrust upon him - he is essentially the QB coach, O coordinator and head coach - well, we shall see. The players are feeling him out and watching everything closely. Privately, some have the same logical concerns you might harbor, and there are some things that have left them scratching their heads, but overall they seem to be giving him the benefit of the doubt and hoping for the best.

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Wilmington, Del.: Jason, how has Colt looked so far in camp?

Jason La Canfora: It's very, very early, and as a rule I'm not a guy to get into putting too much weight on any of these training sessions the first two weeks.

People start making a name during the preseason games and Colt is very, very raw. Zorn is working with him on getting rid of the ball much quicker and in reality this guy is years away from even being seen as someone who could enter a real NFL game.

A few years under Zorn's mentorship and we should have a much better idea of any long-term ability to play in this league.

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Reston, VA: Jason, Any initial thoughts about a "no-namer" that could push for a roster spot? I am looking for this year's Alexander/Heyer type player.

Jason La Canfora: Again, we're only three practices in, and the reality is that injuries at certain positions, more than anything else, often have the biggest impact at who comes out of nowhere to earn a roster spot.

In general, CB and LB are areas of not much depth - especially with Carlos Rogers being iffy, guys like Smoot and Springs being older, and guy like Marcus Washington and Rocky McIntosh injury concerns. They will need at least one more young, atheltic reserve LB to be a special teams help (Rocky and Marcus wont be playing much teams coming off their injuries, and London isnt going to be asked to play much). You have HB Blades and Khary Campbell as good teams LBS, and Matt Sinclait stuck around last season, but I could see someone like Danny Verdun-Wheeler maybe making a push.

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Alexandria, Va.: Any player, other than the usual suspects, who have stood out so far?

Jason La Canfora: Wow, that's almost the same question.

Very early. Very early. I'm gonne hold off on anny proclomations until someone brings it for at least a few weeks.

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Reston, VA: As I under stand it, Jason Taylor is most effectively used as a hybrid LB/DE such that the offense is continually guessing where he will be coming from. Is there any plan to use him in a more hybrid role? Also any concern on what moving him to the other side of the line will do to his effectivieness?

Jason La Canfora: There are certainly questions about how well he will play the run on that side (expect a lot of TEs going after him and teams running right at him), andn Marcus Washington can play with his hand down as well, so they have some flexibility there, obviously.

But he was acquired to be an every-down DE, and given the other options here, I see that being the case.

Depending on the match-up, and how well they are playing, I would expect Blache to flip-flop Carter and Taylor some games and certainly Jason can be moved wider off the line at times and he can attack from anywhere and be a threat to hurt the QB.

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Fire It Up!: Hey JLC,

First, fire up that I-pod, mate, and let's hear what you are 'hearing' while doing this chat.

It's early, I know, but anything noticeably different out at Redskins Park under this new regime?

Jason La Canfora: Yeah, forgot the ipod today. Shame on me.

In general I would say the vibe is more relaxed under Zorn, a little less rigid and corporate.

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Buffalo, NY: Doesn't being "thin" at DE beg the question why did we just use 3 second round picks on pass-catching guys?

Jason La Canfora: Hey brother, no argument here. Archive my blog from draft weekend. I found it stunning, as did many personnel guys around the league.

Overkill to me.

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MsTeenSouthCarolina hates maths too!: Jasno says: "Barring injury, those 5 WR make the team"... Moss, ARE, Thomas, Kelly, Thrash, Mix.

That's, um, 6 U.S. American wide receivers on the map, like such as.

Jason La Canfora: Good point. There's a reason I was a history/english guy and not a math/science.

They may in fact keep 6. This new staff is learning to love Thrash as much as Gibbs did, and from what i hear from football people in this building, he is a guy who they expect to be on the 53. Zorn said 6 WRs is a possibility, but maybe they have to chose between Trash and Mix. Both are good special teams, which helps their cause.

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Annandale, Va.: Who are the starting safetys on the first couple of days of camp? Reed Doughty and Laron, or is it Schweigert and Laron? Or do they appear to be mixing it up at this point?

How is the punter competition looking?

Did you catch the Dropkick Murphys and the Bosstones at Merriweather Post on the 9th??

Jason La Canfora: Sorry about that delay. Phillip Daniels came out and did a quick press conference out of the blue, and I just posted that on the blog - redskins insider.

For now it's LaRon and Reed as the top tandem but there is definitely some competition for Doughty's spot, with Schweigert have starting experience in the NFL.

The punter competition will be interesting. This kid Brooks is pretty big and has a big leg, and I know Danny Smith is looking for much better consistent hang time in the punting game this season. I wouldn't bet against the kid winning the job, but, again, we are way early.

With 5 preseason game both of them will get plenty of PT in the exhibitions, and that will tell the tale.

and I missed that show. Saw the Bosstones too many times to remember but I kinda drifted away when they appeared in Clueless and went real poppy. And, generally, I am the lamest guy on the planet when it comes to getting to shows anymore. Missed X, Al Green, was dying to see Mick Jones's new band a few months back.

Im aging far too quickly.

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Richmond, Va.: Re: Zorn -- "some things have left them scratching their heads" Can you elaborate on maybe one of those things? So little is known about Zorn, we would like to get a sense of his approach, sensibilities, idiosyncrasies, etc.

Jason La Canfora: He does a lot of very quirky drills with the QBs, took a lot of time getting the playbook together, at times can come off as a little disorganized ... in so many ways he is oh so different than Joe Gibbs, so there is a natural transition there.

It will be a major storyline of the season and we will be monitoring it very closely.

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Sunderland, Md: What's your prediction....is Favre a Redskin this year or not?

Jason La Canfora: I still say no, but if the QBs look poor in the first 3 games and its mid-August and Favre is dangling for a mid-round pick ... well, never say never with the Redskins. You can't believe much of what Vinny Cerrato often says, even when it's on the record.

Overall, though, I doubt it. I keep hearing Baltimore and Miami.

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Washington, D.C.: Hey Jason, are Thomas and Jansen fully participating and up to full speed? How's the first-team O-Line looking?

Jason La Canfora: They look like a bunch of guys coming off of major injuries and battling in some intense heat. How they progess, and if they remain healthy, will go a long way to determing the outcome of this season.

Samuels is being spotted the most in team drills, often off to the side doing individual drills. Kendall's knees are a concern. Randy and Jon have been prone to major injuries the past three seasons. Casey has played through some incredibly painful injuries.

Age and injury are significant factors with that group and they have to find a way to give them a blow in the preseason games, yet they will also need them on the field to protect JC out there - and he has to play a decent amount in the preseason to get up to speed.

Walking a real fine line there.

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Anonymous: Curious, where's the love for Betts? Is it 100-percent Portis this year?

Jason La Canfora: I give Betts props all the time, but Portis is the guy who rolls with Vinny and Dan, he's the dude who just got the $16 million guaranteed, he's their guy and we've been given every indication that he will be the workhorse.

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Weird: JLC,

Isn't it very unusual to have players suffering season ending injuries while in shorts and t-shirts? Geesh. Hopefully the curse of the Nats doesn't befall the Skins this season or it could be over before it starts.

Jason La Canfora: Weird indeed. They haven't even put the pads on yet.

No way to predict this stuff.

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Chantilly, Va.: With the injuries to Daniels and Buzbee and now Smoot with a sprained ankle, do you feel the players may start to complain about the intensity level of a "Zorn" practice?

Jason La Canfora: This was just fluky. It wasn't intense or anything. I mean Daniels tore his ACL on the first real snap - 0 vs. D - in a non-contact 7-on-7 drill. And Buzbess was just back-peddling on a simple special teasm excercise.

No one to blame. Just the way it goes sometimes.

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Washington, D.C.: So those concerns regarding Landry's attitude from a few weeks back have gone away?

Jason La Canfora: I didn't say that. Gregg Williams worked tirelessly behind the scenes with LaRon, much as he did with Sean, keeping him in the right frame of mind, loving him up, etc.

Greg Blache is known as a guy who works most closely with the guys in the trenches, but would be wise to go out of his way to develop a similar relationship with LaRon. That will be an interesting dynamic to follow.

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Dancing with the Stars?: I am conflicted over this trade. JT is an obvious upgrade, but will his prior success translate to D.C.? I HOPE it does, with 8-plus sacks next year. That would make our entire D better and cover the weaknesses in the backfield. But changing to the left side concerns me, as does a few more cold weather games, and 4 less games against the Jets and Bills awful QBs. Thoughts??

Jason La Canfora: I think you've given this a lot of thought and I'm not going to disagree with anything you said.

There are trade-offs in everything and no player is perfect or flawless. Check out the blog and our stories tomorrow. I have tracked down scotuing reports on taylor from some other teams and that should provide a good thumbnail on him and how he might fit in here.

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Rosslyn, VA: Hey Jasno, great job on insider keeping us posted on the local obession! I was wondering if you could break down the D line dpeth chart for us as much as possible? Who starts and who are the first off the bench? Who comes in on 3rd down or running down, etc now that Taylor is here? Finally, what kind of role is Erasmus expected to play this year?

Jason La Canfora: That will all be in flux as things play out but for now:

Taylor and Carter are starting ends, with Chris Wilson the third-down pass rusher (rookie draft pick Rob Johnson will push him) and Demetric Evans the top reserve DE.

Montgomery and Griffin start at tackle, with Golston the top back-up there. Lorenzo Alexander is also right there pushing for PT. Spots beyond that will be sorted out.

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San Francisco: Hey Jason,

Thanks for the Shawn Springs article. Really glad he's doing better. What a series of tragedies to have to face. (Praying for Ron too, at least that he be at peace.)

Jason La Canfora: Thanks so much. Shawn is a very open and honest dude who is not afraid to reveal his life and struggles with others. He's a joy to cover.

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Rockville, Md.: How do you think you did on ESPN this morning?

Jason La Canfora: Hadn't thought about it? Did I choke? I was trying to do like 5 things at once and watch practice at the same time, so I may have dropped the ball.

Oh well, get em next time. Going to take it one show at a time.

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Waldorf, MD: Jason, I realize that today you'll get a lot of questions about yesterday's injuries, the trade for Jason Taylor, new head coach Jim Zorn, and the West Coast offense. But I'm the only one who has the chops to ask you the question that really matters to Redskins' fans. Will Coach Zorn have the Redskins wear the burgundy jerseys at Fedex Field this fall or will he honor the Joe Gibbs tradition of wearing white at home?

Jason La Canfora: I will look into it my friend.

He may let Portis continue to head the team's game-day fashion squad, but I promise to ask Zorn about it.

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Hyattsville, Md.: Hey Jason,

Will Jason Taylor play the right-side or left side... and how will he pair with Andre Carter on the other side.

Jason La Canfora: They say he moves to the left, with Andre staying on the left. But, again, they can flip flop them and deploy them from all over.

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Austin, Tex.: What's the cap impact of the Taylor deal?

"Is This It?" -- The Strokes

Jason La Canfora: He remains on the Skins cap this year with a charge around $2 million.

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Jason La Canfora: Well guys, been a pleasure as always. I have to get running but hope to be able to chat with you as much as possible throughout the season.

Hope you all are staying cool out there and have a great day.

Cheers.

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