Monday, Aug. 11 at 11:45 a.m. ET

Redskins Insider

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 11, 2008; 11:45 AM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Monday, Aug. 11 at 11:15 a.m. ET to take your questions about how things are going and what to expect from the Redskins this season.

The transcript follows.

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Jason La Canfora: Hello there everyone, hope you are enjoying this glorious day. Guessing the bandwagon might be getting fired up at 2-0, eh?

I gave an update on injuries and the like on the blog, Redskins Insider, a few minutes ago, and I imagine we will rehash some of that in the next hour. There's certainly a lot to chat about, as always, so I guess we'll get rocking and rolling.


Charlottesville, VA: Two games, roughly four series, and Jansen has been badly beat twice already, one for a sack and the other for a bad holding penalty in the red zone.......anybody else as concerned as I am?????

Jason La Canfora: His pass pro was slipping in recent years and I know that was one thing Al Saunders was least prepared for when he got here - how much help he would have to give to the right edge of the line.

But with all of that said, it's still very early, and Jon is coming off missing an entire season, and, frankly, Chad Rinehart might be the third best tackle on the team right now and he's very green. I would think you will see a lot of help from backs and tight ends on that side as the year goes along, again, perhaps.

No doubt it's something to watch closely. When the Skins reworked Jansen's deal a year ago, they essentially bound themselves to him for at least a few more years. As Snyder and Cerrato tole various head coaching candidates who had concerns about RT - it was "cap-prohibitive" to release Jansen. Also, Joe Bugel loves the guy and believes in him, and that goes a long way around here.


D.C.: With all due respect to the previous HOF coach, this time last year and well into the season the Skins could not even line up and snap the ball consistently. After 2 mostly penalty free preseason games it seems Zorn's basic football coaching skills surpass previous administrations.

Jason La Canfora: I am with you 100 percent.

Game day was a mess under Gibbs. It really was. All of that clutter and pre-snap motion and mumbo-jumbo that never really fooled anyone and resulted in a lot of penalties (too much time, offsides, etc).

This looks like it will be a smoother operation, but, again, let's see how it goes when the results really matter. Early returns are promising, but that's not alwasy the best way to project.


Zoom Betts: J-LC, was it me or did Ladell Betts look awfully swift in the Bills game? I don't remember him having that much of a quick burst.

Saw something in the paper that Zorn might use him and Portis together, but didn't have a chance to read the piece.

Can you enlighten?

thanks! Portis, Betts Impress During Opening Half: Zorn Says He May Use Them Together (Post, Aug. 10)

Jason La Canfora: He looked good indeed, and seemed to be playing with a chip on his shoulder.

Zorn said again today he could imagine having two tailbacks on the field in a certain package, but that would be pretty rare. For the most part Betts will be the No. 2 guy top spell Portis and do some things in the passing game, third downs, some short yardage maybe.


Augusta, Ga.: Any idea how long it'll be before we can get a solid look at Erasmus and whether he'll live up to his high expectations out of college? Weeks? Months?

Jason La Canfora: Well, he finally practiced today and is talking like he wants to get a few snaps Saturday night. That might prove ambitious, but he was doing drills with the D Line, making hard cuts and turns and seemed to be holding his own.

He still has to work back into a full practice and see how the knee responds to real contact, and given his history of setbacks, there's no way to know for sure he's back, until, well, he's actually back and making plays.

If they can get him to be a solid rotation guy, who can spell Carter and Taylor and maybe even take some snaps inside on passing downs, give them team 15-20 snaps per game, I think everyone here would be pumped.

Having Evans and James as back-ups would be very solid, and then you still have another true speed guy like Wilson/Jackson in the mix too at end.

James will be someone to watch closely in the final 2-3 preseaon games for sure.


Myrtle Beach, SC: I'm sure this will be unpopular, but here goes: 7 carries, 18 yards? If this were a rookie back what would be said? CP needs to step it up I think. What do you think?

Jason La Canfora: I think anyone who has paid attention to my blog the past few years would know where I stand on this one. The guy need to average more than 4 yards per carry and get back to being someone who stretches a defense, anything close to what he was in Denver.

He isn't keen on the preseason at all and to me his stats here are irrelevant in the exhibitions, whether good or bad. If he can carry some small load now, get his legs under him, and be conditioned and consistent all year, then he'll be earning that latest massive payday. But he he's always treated with kid gloves and is coddled and the favorite son, then I'm not sure that approach will truly coax the best out of him.

To me this needs to be a big statement season for him, one way or the other.


Alexandria, Va.: Jason Taylor is a left defensive end, but wears a linebacker number. Isn't all that just a smokescreen to make Andre Carter feel better? More often than not, Jason Taylor will line up at right defensive end as we saw against the Bills. Of course, he'll move around a lot like he did in Miami, but you want your best pass rusher attacking the quarterbacks blind side, don't you?

But hey -- Andre Carter's got to keep his number. So that's something.

Jason La Canfora: I think it's more a smokescreen to let Taylor wear a number he wants to wear (and yeah, Andre looks like he's keeping 99).

Taylor and Carter will toggle between sides, with Jason taking the majority of snaps on the left. But versatility is the key and the Skins can not present some challenging looks to the offense in terms of attacking the QB.

It's all about matchups and getting teams to take away from what they want to accomplish by having to devote more man power to moving backs and tight ends around to stop your defense. Sometimes Carter might have a better feel and approach against a certain LT, while Taylor is best suited to eat up the RT.

Neither player is locked into thinking he has to play a certain position all the time in order to thrive, and to me that's the most important thing.


Roanoke, Va.: Thanks for the great coverage Jason. Here's my question. Marcus Mason: There is no way they put him on the practice squad to be scooped up by another team right? Aside from the fumble, the kid has looked really impressive. Do the Redskins carry four running backs? Fugazi-Waiting Room

Jason La Canfora: I think so my friend. Barring a collpase or injury, I think Mason will stick.

Last year I know of two teams that nearly plucked him from the practice squad, and he won't last this time around.

Love me some Fugazi.


Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.: Is it now safe to put all of the 'convoluted hiring mess' behind us now? The team has clearly taken to Zorn thus far and seem to embrace him as their leader. Was the team unhappy under Gibbs or are they just rejuvenated under the more fresh, honest, contemporary Zorn regime?

Jason La Canfora: I don't think it's time to put anything behind anyone.

Jim Zorn as an NFL head coach remains a complete mystery. No one knows how this is going to work out. He could flop in the first half and appear to be over his head and the players roll on him ... Or he might be what Gibbs was in his first go-round.

Nobody knows. Not even Zorn himself. He's never done it before; not even close.

But no matter what to many people in this building, players and coaches among them, Zorn is a refreshing change of pace from the past regime on many levels, and people are embracing the idea of a fresh start.


Ellicott City, Md.: From what I have seen out of Jansen over the last couple of years, it is evident his best days are behind him. Having said that, what will it take for Bugle to overcome his (Gibbs/Brunell) love for a player and start a younger guy like Heyer or Rinehart?

Jason La Canfora: I think to assume Heyer is ready to start and thrive at this level may be premature. He had a rough time in Canton and is by no means a finished product. And Rinehart is a baby at this point in his career. And Wade was pretty poor all of last season and is a serious injury risk.

If Jansen is struggling mightily in the regular season I get the sense that Zorn is the kind of guy who would not be afraid to make a change, but you'd better be sure what you're putting out there next is indeed an upgrade of some sort.


Farmington, Conn.: I didn't get to watch he Bills game up here in Connecticut. Can you tell me how Jason Taylor looked? Did he look fast? Well conditioned? In-position/out-of-position on most plays?

Jason La Canfora: He showed well. He and Carter brought the heat a few times (though they did get picked up well on another third-and-long situation) and when they flopped sides it seemed to catch the Bills offguard and led to some false starts.

But the Bills stud LT Jason Peters wasn't playing, either, and it's not like Taylor was having to play four quarters - just a few series. Seeing how he withstands playing the run over a four quarter game will be huge, and I continue to think that spelling Evans and James for him on some first and second downs will go far to preserving him for an entire season.


Maryland: Jason, have they established the location for the Skins Super Bowl victory party yet?

Jason La Canfora: Six Flags maybe?


Farmington, Conn.: Hi Jason. I haven't heard much about Rocky MacIntosh's recovery. He showed some real progress last season before his injury. Can you tell us how he's doing in his rehab, when we might see him on the field at practice and in a game, and what impact we can really expect out of him when he returns?

Jason La Canfora: Rocky is not playing in the games yet and today was the rare time when he took part in some full team drills in practice.

I would look for him to see action in the final two preseason games, with a goal of having him starting in Week 1. It could be that he splits some time with Khary Campbell early in the season as well as he gets back into the rigors of playing every week.


Eatonton, GA: Please give me some encouraging news about Devin Thomas. I know Kelly is weeks away but is Thomas ready to go on Saturday or what?

Jason La Canfora: He took part in a full practice today and made a nice grab. He wants to play Saturday and barring a setback I think he'll get in for a few series.

Those kid WR need to get going here soon if they are going to contribute in the first 5-6 weeks of the season and make a push to get in some of the base packages (Thrash is running away with that No. 3 WR spot).


Toronto: How many receivers will this team keep on the roster?

Jason La Canfora: Six max, but if they keep Mason might be just five to start depending on the health of Kelly/Thomas.

So I guess what I'm really saying is it's too soon to tell. How's that for a copout?


Washington, D.C. : Jasno, Is it just me or does Campbell seem to be getting rid of the ball a beat quicker than he did last season? If true, I think that development could be huge in dictating the type of season he has; less time holding the ball = fewer fumbles.

Quick aside: Just got a new blank Arsenal kit and am trying to decide on a name for the back. Thinking Fabregas. As a guy who follows the game, who would you choose?

Jason La Canfora: JC looks like the real deal. Watching him place ball all over the field today at practice and was thinking the same thing. This is by far the best I have ever seen him look.

Now, as for the Gooners, as a Leeds man I have a strong distaste for Arsenal (Wenger in particular turns my stomach). But if you're making me pick, my favorite Arsenal player to watch in the past 10-15 years was Bergkamp. If you're making me pick a current Gooner, well, Cesc is a little genius with the ball at his feet at times, isn't he? Can't argue with giving him the nod.


Augusta, Ga.: If you had to make a bet today, over/under one playoff win for the Skins this year?

Jason La Canfora: I don't think this will be a playoff team given the schedule, tough division and learning curve they face on offense. But I'm often wrong.


Long Beach, Calif.: Thanks for all your great coverage Jason, you make it really easy to follow the Skins even out here in sunny SoCal. Got a really important question for you -- on the throwback uniforms with the arrow head on the helmets, is it an arrow head or a spear tip? My wife and I are brewing a beer for the season using that logo, and I'd hate to get the name wrong. Can't start off Zorn's first season like that!

Also, am I the only one puzzled by the emphasis on retaining Todd Collins? Dude played well in the stretch last year, but he'd been in the same system for the better part of a decade. I feel like with the new system, a lot of his up-side disappears, but I haven't heard a lot of talk on that front. Thanks!

Jason La Canfora: Hey brother, thanks for the email.

As for the helmet, I belive spear tip, but I am throwing this out there for the nation to answer. I am sure there are people out there who can speak with full authority on this aspect, so we'll see if someone write in.

As for Collins, I think he's a perfect backup to get you through a stretch, but to think he's gonna be the guy for 16 weeks - or to consider him a better option than Campbell - I just can't see it. Wrote a column speaking to that Saturday night.


Washington, DC: So I see the NFL wants teams to police fan behavior more thoroughly. Any chance the Redskins will finally stop playing that stupid "Rock & Roll Part II" after touchdowns? Setting aside the fact that it's massively overplayed at sporting events, the tiresome reaction of many fans at FedEx Field would seem to cause that song to run afoul of the league's new rules. (Ted Leonsis banned it from Capitals games because (a) he received complaints about the vulgarities some fans yell during it and (b) it sounds incredibly stupid to have your fans yelling "you suck" right after their own team scored!)

Jason La Canfora: Yeah, and the fact that Gary Glitter - the scumbag who wrote that song - is a convicted child molester would be enough for me to have banned it forever from any event, much less a sporting event filled with kids.

It's a pathetic, trite song, regardless.


Augusta, Maine: How are Bugel and Simmons meshing with Zorn and his staff? I like the fact that we still have a connection to the glory days, but nostalgia is not reason alone to keep them around. So how are they doing?

Jason La Canfora: I think that part of the transition has been smooth. I wouldn't worry about it too much.

On a more somber note, Coach Bugel is with his family in Arizona this week tending to his daughter, Holly, who is battling a rare form of bone cancer. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Bugel family.


Burke, VA: I knew it was coming, and here it is -- the Marcus Mason fan club is forming.

Yes, he can beat the Future Rec Center Directors of America.

If he plays AT ALL this year, isn't that a huge problem for the Skins?

Jason La Canfora: He might end up being a great change of pace guy in the mold of Eric Bienemy/Ronnuie Harmon. I don't get too excited about the preseason numbers, but he looks the part.

He has to find a way to contribute on special teams (and the return game probably wont be part of that) but if he keeps this up, to me, you give him a chance at some point in a real game if you need a RB. otherwise you keep developing and see if he can beat out a Betts or Carwright at some point.

I don't see him being an every-down back - but you never know - and he could certainly find his niche in the NFL here or elsewhere.


Parts Unknown: Delve more into the 'learning curve' you often allude to with the offense.. What are some specific problems you anticipate the offense running into in learning/implementing the offense. Don't you think Zorn (being a former QB) will only game plan for what he knows the team/JC can execute?

Jason La Canfora: (I am guess your weight is also unknown? I know the two go hand-in-hand).

As for issues:

Balls thrown to the wrong shoulder

Receivers running routes a yard or two too deep or shallow.

Guys running the wrong routes.

Just an example of the kid of things that have to be overcome as every learns to master a new system all at once.


Annapolis, Md.: Hi Jason. Skins are looking good. I know Coach Z is going to have his bumps and hiccups, but I love the fact that he seems to be an aggressive play-caller. Gibbs was afraid to do anything risky, and it put the offense in handcuffs.

Jason La Canfora: No argument there.

I'm not going to say I have Zorn figured out or know everything he's going to do, but I do believe he will go for the throat and play to win, not just play not to lose.


Manassas, Va.: JLC -- do you think the rib injury hurts Mix's chances as the last WR? Billy Mac looks like he is making a push. Also, how is the new LB Finncher working out? Will he make the squad?

Jason La Canfora: Mix has been starcrossed this preseason and indeed it's not looking good. He's really going to have to make up for lost time int he final two weeks, andd with so many other WRs here I'm not sure that will occur.

McMullen could be that sixth guy, if they keep six. They may go in with five, then re-sign some of these guys for Week 2 or 3 as they need them, because many of them will still be out on the street if released here.


Miami, FL: In obvious passing situations, will we see Smoot, Rogers, Torrence (or Tryon) at CB and Springs & Landry at safety? That's a whole bunch of speed and hides Doughty's weakness, right?

Jason La Canfora: We might definitely see that.

Remember last year, the Skins often used 3 CBs and 1 safety after the tragedy with Sean, so that wouldn't be a big change now. Then the third corner was usually still playing as a corner - with Landry playing centerfield - but with Springs taking reps at FS, he could play there as well.

Good point.


Boston: Of these guys, Geisinger, Crummey, Wade, Fabini, Washington, who makes it, and who does not?

Jason La Canfora: Fabini to me is a lock unless he gets hurt.

Geisinger is making a push, and would like to see if they can find a way to get him some snaps at guard in these games, too, cuz doing both is the way to make it as a reserve at this level.

Wade is no sure thing with 4 other tackles ahead of him in all likelihood (with him hurt and Rinehart playing so well). Washington and Crummey could be lost in a numbers game.

Crummey is not on the first or second team right now, so that's not a good sign. Washington is battling Matua for playing time at guard on the second-string line.


Princeton, W.Va.: After Saturday's game, who is leading the punting competition, Frost or Brooks? My bet is on Brooks after Frost had that poor punt in the 2nd half with little to no hang time. Also, are they bringing anyone in to compete with Suishman? That guy makes me nervous! Paul -- skinsfan

Jason La Canfora: There won't be any competition for Suisham unless he gets hurt.

As for the punters, I think it's pretty close right now, but in the end I have a feeling a tie would go to the rookie.

Thanks so much for reading the blog and for your support. That's always awesome to hear/read.


Yorktown Heights, N.Y.: I realize we're only two weeks into the preseason, but I've been very impressed with our offensive output. Between the complexity of the Saunders scheme and the conservative tendencies of the old regime, it seems like this year might be the year we settle in and finally score points like we're supposed to. It may take three or four weeks, but I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far.

My question is, how much do we have to worry about our defense -- especially our secondary? We were able to steal some wins in the NFC East last year mainly because of our punishing defense, but it doesn't seem like we've got a unit that can hold these guys back again this year. What do you think?

Jason La Canfora: Depth in the secondary always seems to loom large around here, with so many CBs and safeties going down, and I think it will again this year. In 2006 the pass rush stunk and the DBs were pretty awful, too,

The added punch getting after the passer should be a huge boost to the secondary now, but guys still have to make plays.

Kids like Horton, Tryon, Richardson, Moore may have to play, and we'll see if they are truly up to the task.


Arlington, Va.: I feel I am in what appears to be the minority but I think is truly the majority in being THRILLED about the league saying they are going to start policing fan behavior.

I finally got access to season tickets about 4 years ago and after 2 years of going to the cesspool that is FedEx field I decided to stay home and watch on TV.

The level of drunkenness is staggering, just walking the the parking lot before the game you could already see thousands of people totally inebriated and starting to act like Cro-Magnons. And it just got worse inside the stadium with loud profanities and ugly cheers as you noted above. Often they were directed AT the Redskins with clever lines like "Joe Gibbs $ucks" (uh, yeah, sure he does) or other similarly brilliant observations.

The worst times were when my buddy and I had the temerity to bring with us some fans of...THE OTHER TEAM! These people committed the unpardonable sin of cheering when their team did something well, and unfortunately both of their teams won. The level of abuse and threats that they heard are not acceptable on any level. How can "adults" live with themselves when they act this way?

I know there is NO chance the league will ban alcohol sales or limit them in any meaningful way (cha-ching!), but anything they can do to at least bring it down to horrible from unbearable is fine with me.

The league is driving away a bunch of good fans in order to serve the young/drunk/hooligan crowd. I hope they can reverse it before they lose control.

Jason La Canfora: As someone with two small children - very small in fact - I would never bring them to an NFL game anywhere unless they were seated in some sort of club level type deal.

The league as a whole needs to step up efforts to this end, and I think they are trying to now. I fear all that yapping about a fan conduct policy is hallow PR windor dressing - individual teams still get to enforce it as they wish for the most part, and I doubt we're gonna see anything really change at FedEx - or most places in the league - anytime soon.

It's become engrained in the culture, and with all the billionss brought in by alcohol advertising to the NFL, well, money talks. I think it's gonna be a grim reality for quite some time, and I hope there is some real punch behind the measures to clean up NFL stadiums.


Annapolis, Md.: Jason, I would like to hear your take on the play calling so far from Zorn. He seems to be pretty successful and I'm wondering how much of the playbook he's implementing? Could this be another Spurrier scenario, where we show everything in preseason and get killed on opening day? Thanks. Steve

Jason La Canfora: I think it's really hard to say, given they are focusing on elementary stuff in these games and bringing in very stripped down gameplans.

Let's see how things look in October.


Rockville, Md.: Jason -- I am impressed with the speed of the offense. They seem to getting to the line of scrimmage faster than under Gibbs and they seem energetic. This Zorn dude may not be so bad after all, huh?

Jason La Canfora: The overall pace and tempo of the offense in both the games and practices, and the quickness with which they break the huddle and go to work, is certainly a departure from the past four years, and should be a welcome sight to all Skins fans.


Richmond, Va.: How did the NFL settle on the 53-man roster? With all the injuries in the NFL, and depth required for the season, why doesn't the NFL allow teams to carry more players? It seems to me to make more sense to allow the teams to carry more active players. It's not like the NFL can't afford it.

Jason La Canfora: It's an issue that might be addressed in the next round of CBA negotiations. I wouldn't be surprised to see a 57 or 60-man roster at some point. I think it's heading in that direction.


Washington, D.C.: The Skins have a full backfield, a deep (if fragile) receiving corps, and too many tight ends. Somethings got to give (especially given the needs on defense), but there are too many quality players there to cut. What are they going to do?

Jason La Canfora: Well, guys are gonna walk, just the reality of the situation.

Now, trust me, injuries will occur and that will solve some of the problems, but there will be some good football players on the street in a few weeks, no doubt.


Carlisle, Pa.: I can't see the Skins keeping 4 Rb's. Is Mason really that good on special teams that they could afford to keep him around? He did fumble the opening kickoff.

Jason La Canfora: I don't think he'll nbe returning kicks, but he's a good enough athlete to contribute to teams in other ways.

They got by with one FB most of last year and with Yoder and Davis able to do some of that stuff, that can help toward carrying 4 RBs. It's going to be very interesting, but Mason has to keep playing well, too, and let's see what happens in the final 3 games.

A lot could happen between now and when they actually have to make these decisions.


Jason La Canfora: Well guys, gotta run. Thanks as always for all of the enthusiasm and the great questions. Sorry for the ones I didn't get to, and please check me out on Redskins Insider, or email me ( with anything at any time.

Hope you guys have a great week and enjoy Saturday's game.



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