Monday, Aug. 18 at 10:15 a.m. ET
Monday, August 18, 2008; 10:15 AM
Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Monday, Aug. 18 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.
Jason La Canfora: Howdy there. Sorry for the late change in time for this thing -- we had to alter our plans when the Redskins made some changes to their media schedule -- but we will try to figure out a regular session once the season begins.
Anyway, you got me for the next hour, so have at me. A bit of news first -- the 'Skins have releaed injured LB Rian Wallace and signed former Maryland LB David Holloway to take his place on the 80-man roster.
Okay, let's do this.
Tampa, Florida: Morning Jason. It's great to be able to keep up with 'Skins' news in Florida. A few observations from Saturday's game....Rob Jackson played well (does Chris Wilson make this team?) Chad Reinhart gave up multiple pressures and sacks; he played very poorly at tackle. Vernon Fox also played very poorly. Seems like we have too much decent, young talent at safety to keep him. Thoughts?
Jason La Canfora: Hello and good morning to you. Astute observations all around.
For the first time, to me, Rinehart looked like a guard and not a tackle. He played a lot and definitely struggled at times.
Jackson has great speed and burst, as does Wilson. Whichever excels at special teams probably gets the spot. Wilson was great on special teams last year, but Jackson is a draft pick (albeit a very late one). That battle will come down to the end and the loser of that could in fact be the last "cut" so to speak.
And Vernon is definitely having a tough time of it in coverage. He's the only safety to have totally mastered both spots back there from a mental standpoint - which is why I thought they would keep him - but he is not able to make plays thus far.
It will be very interesting to see if they don't keep him, however, and have essentially all rookies and second year guys back there -- Landry, Horton, Moore -- except for Doughty (third year). I guess with CB Shawn Springs able to play safety as well that gives them some built-in flexibility, though, and maybe they save a number at safety on the 53 in order to carry that extra RB (Mason).
Vint Hill, Va.: Jla -- Ummm, that was an ugly game, no? The high points from my couch continue to appear on the backup OL. The ups...Crummey at C and Clark at OT...and that you never hear anything about Tavares Washington is usually a good thing for an OL-man. What's the word on these guys?
The bad... Jansen does not look good... and Reinhart was toasted on spin moves all night. I'd say that Wade is definitely gone, but what will they do to round out the roster spots with some of these young guys?
Jason La Canfora: I'm with you for the most part. With Geisinger (who I like thus far) hobbled and limited in the game, Crummey got a good look. And the second-string guards have held up well.
As we noted, Rinehart had his first real "welcome to the NFL, son" moments.
I thought Jansen was better for the most part -- a few times it looked dicey, really to me it was on Campbell for blowing some quick reads and holding the ball too long. I focusd the binocs directly on Jansen for many snaps. On the few plays he went against Bryan Thomas he struggled, but I thought he contained DeVito well. Cooley was stationed over there with him a lot, but actually didn't do a ton of blocking, generally releasing immediately and getting out into a route.
It's something we're definitely keeping an eye on.
Brooklyn, NY: Jason,
What are the chances that Brennan surpasses Collins as the No. 2 QB or that Collins gets traded at some point? I was at the game Saturday and that, combined with his other performances and reports from camp, make him seem very ill-fitted for this offense and not the guy I want coming in if Campbell goes down.
Jason La Canfora: No chance my friend. None.
Colt makes some plays but a lot of the stuff he tries, if it's against real NFL players, it's going back to the house. He is very, very raw. Trust me.
Todd does not look like the 2007 Collins at all, but he's a veteran who generally can protect the football and make astute decisions. He's been around a long time and knows how to manage a game as a back-up, how to progress despite not getting reps, how to read a defense, etc.
You need to have at least one of those guys around, especially when your starter is young and still feeling hiw way, and the No. 3 QB is a rookie sixth-round pick.
It's not an open competition, nor should it be. Brennan is a project for 2009 and 2010, and if he has to actually get in a game before the end of 2009, well, Zorn will be chewing his fingernails and closing his eyes.
Arlington, Va.: Is there some concern among the defensive coaches that Rocky McIntosh can't sufficiently cover pass-catching tight ends? He was torched last year when he played against Chris Baker and the Jets, and he was beaten again this past Saturday.
Jason La Canfora: Baker in particular was a game that exposed a lot of that (I remember writing a story about that later in that week). He's made strides but has a ways to go. With Marcus Washington healthy, and no longer required to play with his hand down on third down (with Jason Taylor here now), I think Rocky will be freed of that burden on obvious passing downs.
In the nickel package Fletcher and Washington are the LBs, with Rogers the extra corner for now. With Rocky still building up strength and confidence in his knee I think that he'll be on the sidelines on third down in the early part of the season, if not longer.
Ann Arbor, Mich.: Any sense of the reason they looked so bad this weekend? Was really a letdown after looking as good as they did in the first two games. Not that they were going to blow people away, but was pretty much mistake free football. Sat night looked more like the Gibbs era teams in preseason.
(Miss ya in the Freep!)
Jason La Canfora: Hey brother, I miss all my friends in the Detroit area as well, and many of my old pals at the Freep and with the Red Wings. Great paper and great people.
I agree that the game was uber-ugly and really felt like an exhibition game, moreso than the previous two. But I wasn't surprised by that at all. Actually, seeing how crisp everything was the first two games was more of a shocker to me.
It's going to happen and it's going to be a part of the learning curve in the regular season as well. When they run more of the offense and utilize all of the key personnel in the regular season, there should be more options. But the No. 3 WR (Thomas) was barely starting to feel his way through the offense, Campbell had a rough night and, remember, as we get deeper into the preseason, the other teams are playing, too.
The Skins kind of had a leg up before, especially with Buffalo, as it was their second game, but the Bills debut. This Jets defense, on the other hand, had more practice and game time together this summer and with Favre making his debut, you can bet there was more of a regular seasoon feel for everyone in green that night.
Bowie, Md.: What really went wrong on offense Saturday night? They looked out of synch.
Jason La Canfora: I think you nailed it. Timing was off. Campbell was erratic. Things are gonna go that way sometimes.
You gotta remember that this is the preseason, when things are supposed to look shaky sometimes, especially in a new offense.
Washington, D.C.: Jason, Is Devin Thomas the next Rod Gardner or do we need to give this guy 6-8 games to get things going? Why did Jason Campbell look exactly like last year's Jason Campbell? This team was so fun to watch the first two games and this game was tough to watch. Did they go up against a defense who actually game planned for the first time?
Jason La Canfora: I think you've got to give them a few years to compare this young batch to Gardner, Rod (50-50), but I also wouldn't go throwing around platitudes to the front office about this draft just yet, either. The top three picks -- where they clearly went all out for pass catchers over other needs -- have yet to show much of anything, and Kelly and Thomas had reputations in college for being brittle and struggling to overcome injuries. They didn't show up in the kind of shape Zorn expected or demanded, and maturity is also something to watch with WRs who come out early.
Only time will tell, but one thing is clear: Zorn isn't counting on either of them to give him much in the base package in the early part of the season. The coach has been upfront about that for a while now.
Hyattsville, Md.: Matteral Richardson and Justin Hamilton played well in the game. Any chance they supplant a Leigh Torrence or Vernon Fox on the roster? Torrence hasn't really separated himself from the youngsters, despite being in the system last year along with Fox.
Jason La Canfora: I think there's a chance, especially with Fox, but I go back to my point of questioning whether you can be so green at such demanding and important positions?
To me Torrence is the fourth corner coming into the season. He's played at this level and there is a certain level of knowing what he can do (yes, he's not great, but he's smart and savvy and has earned some trust).
If you let go of him and Fox then you're looking at all of the reserve DBs being essentially rookies -- Richardson, Tryon, Moore, Horton, Hamilton. That would be pretty interesting. I like all of those guys -- some more than others -- and I think it's tremendous to assemble young depth, but I wonder if in the end they'll decide they need at least one vet safety and corner in reserve.
Traveling on Business: Jasno... Some pooooooooor tackling may have gotten some people cut Saturday night... Fox looked like a dog, while the kid safties, Hamilton included, have looked pretty good... Fincher also missed some tackles on that drive... what are the cutdown dates... and Goode looked,well pretty good. That catch was a reach across his body right in front of the DB.
Any word on whether any of the kids, be they DB's, OL or WR/TE might have a mystery ailment that allows them to be stashed a year on the IR instead of the PS? Seems there is some actual talent this year worth trying to keep around. Thanks
Jason La Canfora: Hope your travels are treating you well, and by all means, save up those Marriott points my man.
I agree that for the first time in a long time they are going to have to cut some kids who can actually play. And some of them might end up on another team's roster. When you draft 10 kids you expect that to be the case, and their second-day picks have all flashed well at times.
The days of being able to stash guys are pretty much over -- especially after some of the games Gibbs and Belichick played with the roster in recent years -- Gibbs with the practice squads and Belichick with injuries.
To me, 5/6th or more of the 53 man is kinda set, barring injuries, so I don't see a lot of huge surprises. And overall, as the last few questions have pointed to, there could be a lot of new faces comprising the depth in the secondary.
NYC: I find Zorn to be a pretty awful speaker during press conferences and the redskins.com interviews. It would seem that it would be hard to get motivated from somebody who lacks such communication skills. Is there any sense that he just gets nervous in front of the camera, and he is more assertive and inspirational when speaking directly to the team?
Jason La Canfora: Wow, that's the first I've heard of that. He may not be machine-like polished, focusing only on his few talking points and pandering blatently to the fans/constituants with tired phrases, but trust me he can spin a yarn and deliver a message.
He's much more human and real about it, and you'll never find him turning directly into a particular camera to make one appeal or another ("please pray for Billy Bob's hamstring to heal in time for Sunday's game"), but numerous players have said his approach has been refreshing.
He has been candid and revealing in his assesments of players with the media, but then, he's also been exactly the same way with the players themselves behind closed doors, so there's no mixed messages.
Burke, Va.: Jason, when will we see Malcom Kelly back? Can you do an indepth feature on the rookie wr's development?
Jason La Canfora: We wrote about them extensively a few times in recent weeks, and I am sure will address it again in the days before the season starts, to see how much the No.4-5, or 5-6 WRs play. I can promise you that.
As for Kelly, he is supposed to return to practice Wednesday with a chance to see a limited role Saturday in Carolina, but I would not be surprised if his exhibition debut cames in the final game, against Jacksonville.
Leesburg, Va.: Is there any chance of Thrash being cut? It seems as though you could use Mason to replace him on return duties and with several younger receivers on the roster (McMullen as early season replacement giving way to one of the rookies later) he might be an expendable piece but no one wants to consider it because he's a character guy.
Jason La Canfora: No way. The guys is actually going to play a lot this year. For years he's been talked about, then sits on the bench for months at a time except for teams.
He's the No. 3 WR, and going three wide is basically the base formation in this offense. He is far and away the No. 3, according to Zorn, and his hands, route running, self-sacrifice between the hash marks and ability to play all three WR spots make him ideal. QBs trust him.
He may have to cut back on his teams duty, if anything, if he's on the field as much as Zorn suspects he will be on offense. Over time one of the rookies might surpass him, but that's not in the cards right now.
As for McMullen, I think he's the sixth WR for now, and depending on what Thomas and Kelly show, he may get a good look early in the season if they keep 6 WRs up on game day.
Potomac, Md.: Any concern that Jason Taylor hasn't notched a sack yet, or even made it past a OT yet?
Jason La Canfora: Not sure if I'd use the word concern yet, and he's a veteran with a tremendous track record when it comes to sacks. He hasn't missed a game in forever and is an expert at pacing himself and not overexerting now, when it means nothing.
But, with him back at his normal side (right end) Saturday, I thought he had a poor series when the Jets scored. He got blown up on the end around and again was crushed off the snap on the TD pass near the goal line. Not a great showing, but, again, I wouldn't worry about much of the preseasoon stuff with him.
I still believe that Demetric Evans will end up getting more snaps at DE in obvious run situations than most think as the season goes on, but as long as Taylor can bring the heat on third down like he always has, then it's gonna be a strong addition.
Tinky from the UK: Just a comment to say our thoughts and prayers on this side of the pond are with the Head Hog right now and his family.
If we know one thing about Bugel's -- they're fighters.
Jason La Canfora: Thanks Tinky. You could not be more right about that. That is one tough family and Bugel sets the tone as the patriarch.
We are all hoping and praying for the best.
Thanks for mentioning it.
Bugel Leaves to Be With Ailing Daughter (Post, Aug. 12)
Ellicott City, Md.: Do you really think dumbing down our defense from last years dumbed down version is a good idea? I know Blache doesn't want our guys to over think but at the same time we need to make the offense think about who to block during a blitz. My fear is that we will not blitz as often and QB's will light us up for it or when we do blitz it will be obvious and never work. Your thoughts?
Jason La Canfora: I think Williams already greatly cutrailed the exotic blitzing and a lot of the fire zone stuff last year, and I agree that if you go too simplistic you might be over-evaluating your talent.
Blache is a very smart dude and he knows that with a veteran starting group he can just go straight vanilla in the preseason and it's all good. The guy did a heck of a job with Chicago and I think he clearly has the chops for the job, but if he makes a real point to get away from certain things Williams did I will very much be interested in the results of that approach.
Columbia, Md.: Do you think Wade makes the team this year or have some of the young OL surpassed him?
Jason La Canfora: He is someone I could definitely see being let go given his age, injury history and struggles from a year ago.
Heyer's emergence -- should he play like the guy from a year ago and not the guy who was having a rough time of it early in camp - may push him aside, along with Rinehart.
Baltimore: How can Colt Brennan not be a starter? It's the single greatest name for an NFL quarterback since Joe Montana. It's right up there with Bart Starr and King Hill. (The latter a not so great QB for the Cardinals in the early 60s, but what a name.)
Seriously, I think the name is half the reason for the excitement. (That and flourishing in June Jones pass happy Hawaii offense.)
Jason La Canfora: King Hill. Seriously. Gee what fun lame Chris Berman could have had with that one.
It doesn't get too much better than a QB named Colt Brennan. Agreed. Maybe that's part of the reason for the over-the-top love fest. You might be on to something there.
Bend, Ore.: A while back you mentioned in a story about Todd Collins that he bristled at some of Coach Z's innovative drills. Can you elaborate on that?
Jason La Canfora: There were some terse exchanges and tense moments between the two -- Collins expressing his dismay at times -- according to several team sources. Nothing huge, or we'd have made a bigger deal of it, but it does seem that Collins has been the rare guy Zorn has kind of gone out of hiw way not to criticize too much in the press, and given how tied Collins was to the prior system, and how long it had been since he'd really had to change technique and practice routine ... and how "outside the box" some of Zorn's drills can be, well, it's a dynamic we are keeping an eye on.
Woodbridge, Va.: Hey Jason -- when are you going to launch the "Pick the Redskins Final Roster" sweepstakes??
First prize to include a free one year lease of a Tesla Motors electric sports car!
Jason La Canfora: Not sure about the prize, but I will throw my first guess at the 53 out there this week and if someone gets the entire thing right, well, we'll come up with something as a just reward.
Thanks for the reminder.
DC: "But with Portis -- who has a close relationship with owner Daniel Snyder -- back at full strength last season, Betts's carries decreased from 245 to 93. "
Do you believe that Betts's low number of carries last season was in any way related to the close relationship between Portis and Snyder? If not, then why did you include that superfluous detail? If so, could you please expand on the point?
Sorry to play editor, but somebody has to do it. If there's an accusation in there, that's a pretty salacious little tidbit.
Jason La Canfora: I didn't write the sentence -- that's from Jason Reid's game story; I did a column on Monty/Golston.
I'm not going to speak for him, but I also don't think he was trying to say there is a direct relation to that, only pointing out how popular Portis is with the power that be at the top of this organization.
Now, I will say this. Do I, me, Jason La Canfora, believe that most front offices would have given Portis 4 new contracts in 5 years and given him another $16 million guaranteed this past March after averaging below the league average in yards per carry again? Hell no.
Were Portis's teammates shocked he got the deal -- heck, that any RB got such a guaranteed deal, essentially guarnateed his salary and bonuses through 2010? Hell yeah.
Do I feel that the fact Portis is super tight with Snyder and Cerrato, has become the new favored son of theirs (ask LaVar how that often goes down in the end) -- traveling to the Country Music Awards with them to meet other movers and shakers (Snyder's Dick Clark Productions handles the CMAs) has something to do with his repeated big paydays? Absolutely. And I'm hardly the only one.
Brooklyn, NY: Hey Jason, did Randle-El get on the field at all on Saturday? I didn't notice his number at all, and I was wondering if that helped to contribute to Campell's lack of timing with his receivers? What would the team do in these early games if Randle-El or (God forbid) Santana Moss go down?
Jason La Canfora: He didn't play at all. He was nursing the hamstring injury and then had a personal issue to tend to, so with traveling with the team.
Losing either starting WR right now would be a massive blow, especially considering how little the rookies progressed this preseason. No doubt, that fall off would be huge. And given all of the hamstring injuries, muscle problems Moss and ARE went through last year, it's something the Redskins are going to have to find a way to avoid until guys like Thomas and Kelly are ready for that kind of duty (and that could be a long time).
Dupont Circle: How much rope are they giving Jansen? I've loved the guy from day 1, but he really has been slipping lately in pass protection and it seems a complete waste of Cooley to keep him in to protect.
Jason La Canfora: Well, Cooley can "help" with a quick block and release, and then still get into a route. And all teams have to use the TE to block in certain protection schemes. That's part of the game.
But I know that Al Saunders privately felt that the need to direct so much additional blocking attention to that side ended up taking away from the offense. If this develops into a major issue, then, absolutely, it could be huge.
I would very much caution, however, from assuming Heyer or any other tackle on this roster was ready to handle that job any better than Jansen could.
Washington D.C. : Lot of chatter on RI and the radio type talk about the battle at RB. From what I can tell you seem to be in the keep 4 RB's camp, is that right? Also If a trade were to occur, what would the cap hit be with Betts, and would we get more for him over Mason, could we get a 2nd rounder for either of them as we lost one for JT?
Jason La Canfora: I don't see anyway they trade Ladell. You need two proven backs in this league, especially considering how the last few years have gone with Portis, and Betts's contract isn't a big hit against the cap.
If anything maybe you trade Marcus or Rock, but Rock was a UFA and got no real sniffs, so you're not gonna get much for him, plus he's huge on teams. And teams figure that if they don't trade for Marcus they might be able to get him on waivers eventually.
I think they carry 4 RBs to start the season and let the thing play out.
No way they're getting anything close to a second rounder.
Fairfax County, Va.: We have to keep Boschetti. He's a beast. How are we going to do it? Same goes for the RB, Mason. We can keep these guys right?
Jason La Canfora: I hope he sticks around. I love the kid.
Funny you mention him. I'm thinking of maybe doing a column on him sometime soon. He's going to be up against it and I'm not sure he find a way to stick for a 5th straight year, but he's the kind of guy you end up rooting for.
Los Angeles: Following up on the Portis question... well, just how do you think Danny is going to react when Zorn realizes Betts is the better back and, at the very least, is splitting carries evenly?
Jason La Canfora: If we get to that point it would be pretty interesting, eh? If Zorn made that determination, he doesn't strike me as the kind of guy who would back down easily, but trust me, every coach in there knows about Portis's relationship with the front office and the significance of the latest huge deal they gave him is not lost on anybody, either, so barring injury, or some kind of absolutely putrid production, I don't think we'll ever get to that point.
New York, NY: Who is coaching the O-Line while Buges is tending to family matters?
Jason La Canfora: TE coach Rennie Simmons
Jason La Canfora: Well guys, I have to run. Players are about to become available for interviews.
Thanks as always for all of the great questions, and you can always check me out on the blog - RedskinsInsider - and on my email - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great week.
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