Thursday, Sept. 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET

Redskins Insider

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 4, 2008; 3:30 PM

Live from his perch at the Meadowlands, Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Sept. 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET, a scant few hours before the first Redskins game of the season.

The transcript follows.

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Jason La Canfora: Hey there, hope you all are ready for some football. Sitting up here in the pressbox at Giants Stadium - which is to say the roof - and eager for this to start. Very hot up here, but should cool down as the night sets in.

Alright, have at me.


Alex in LA: When Portis took off last years' preseason, he was slow to get into regular-season form, and it wasn't until a few games in that he was his regular beastly self. With a similarly lax preseason this year (still only had a few carries), do you foresee a similar slow start for the NFL's only Multiple Personality Disorder RB? Or were those few touches enough to get him ready?

Jason La Canfora: He should have a better conditioning base this year from sticking around and working harder in the offseason - as stipulated in his latest new contract - but the guy has been a slow starter a lot here.

A year ago he was battling more injury-related problems and this was a healthy camp for him, so he's got no excuses. (Well, except for possible issues on the line, but heck, that excuse could extend to everyone on the offense, so it is what it is).


Worthless WR Woes: Sorry for the gratuitous aliteration.

But reading that Malcom Kelly is inactive for tonight's game, are the Redskins insane only dressing 4 WRs, including one with a broken hand?!?

Jason La Canfora: Yep. That's all they've got.

Cooley will be involved in a lot of four-receiver stuff, but that all they are carrying. If a WR goes down it could really throw a wrench in things.


Bring it on: I am not afraid of the stinking Giants and neither should the Redskins or their fans be. Last year they were a mediocre team that finished the season with a good run when it counted most. This year they are even less than mediocre without Osi and the Gap Tooth Adulterer. This team and our fans should be going into tonight's game pumped to beat the defending chumps and with the utmost confidence (but not cockiness). Bring it on! Hail to the Redskins!

Jason La Canfora: I applaud the attitude. Everyone has the same record right now. The G-men were a lowly 3-5 at home last year, including a late-season loss to the Skins ... Saying all of that, I think this is a tall order for a rookie head coach and a transitioning offense with a young QB, but it's hardly an impossible situation.


DC: Is 7 p.m. the start of the game or the pageantry the Jints are doing before the game?

On my iPod right now: "Pawn Shop" by Sublime.

Jason La Canfora: I'm ipod-less in the swamp. Woe is me. Love Sublime.

I believe, because of the convention, kickoff is actually at 7 (for the sake of my deadlines I am praying that is the case). However, when the almight power of TV is involved I am prepared for anything and, thus, I guess you should be too.

Who's playing tonight? Bon Jovi? I've been so busy I forgot all about the pre-game hype.


Philadelphia: Maybe I've been under a rock, but I haven't heard much about Fred Davis this preseason. What role do you see him playing tonight and this season? Thanks.

Jason La Canfora: No. 3 TE. Involved in some red zone stuff. Invovled in the shortyardage game (Zorn uses 3 TEs in his jumbo stuff(. He is very raw and working on rudimentary stuff daily with Rennie Simmons. By the second half of the seasoon maybe he is doing what Yoder does, but his blocking has to improve as do other aspects of play.

He's got a long, long way to go to displace Cooley.


National Cathedral: To me even with all the changes its the same ol' same ol'.

Basically over the last 4 years, when Portis gets 100-plus yards, the 'Skins generally win. Regardless of the passing stats, they win most of the time with that one stat along...WE have the same line on d and o basically from last year, with one major upgrade in Jason Taylor. What do you think, seems the same thing to me as last year. Portis needs to be a beast!

Jason La Canfora: He needs to average more than 3.9-4.1 yards per carry or this offense could be flawed, big time.

Most teams in the NFL have a winning record if their back gets 100 yards, or if they average more yards per carry than the opposition. No doubt about it.

he needs to keep teams honest, take some heat off Jason Campbell.

But I would disagree about the respective lines. This O line is in transition and a lot of guys are aging and/or coming off serious injuries. And the D Line, against the run, did not get stronger in my opinion. We'll see how Taylor holds up on first and second down, and Griffin is the key to everything. If he can stay healthy and play like he did in 2004, then they could be very good. But that's a big if, and he's been so banged up for so long. He made that 2004 defense, by the best around here in a long, long time.


Tucson, Ariz.: Jason,

Do you know the details of the Fitness Test Zorn had the players do during training camp? I know the rookie WRs didn't finish it, but I was just curious what Zorn made them do.


Jason La Canfora: I dont recall all the specifics off the top of my head but we had it in the paper when Zorn talked about it. It's a series of shuttle runs with a brief break in betwee. Ends up like 12 100s in under 54 seconds for WRS.

The tiems varry by position, with WRs and CBs expected to do it fastest. I can tell you this much, guys like Jimmy Farris - hardly an eliute athlete at this level but a world class worker - used to pass it with ease.


Boyds, MD: Hi Jason, and thanks for your time and patience.

A lot is being made about the relative lack of success of former quarterbacks in the NFL's coaching ranks, and how that bodes ill for Zorn. Is there something tangible with the QB position, something that can be identified for arguments sake, that certain prognosticators believe renders QBs unable to succeed as head coaches?

Otherwise, it's like saying that the city of Buffalo has tripled in 50 years, and the population of albino squirrels in the woods surrounding Buffalo has tripled as well in the same time span. Therefore, if the number of squirrels rise, then the number of people will rise by the same percentage. No?

Thanks Jason.

Jason La Canfora: I'm with you. It's more of a quirk than something I think has a tangible impact on one's ability to be a good coach.

Perhaps, being a perfectionist, seeing the game from that standoint, versus all the other positions, could bne some sort of weird factor, but that feels like a stretch, too.


Fairfax, Va.: Randell-El was a terrible punt returner last year (6.1 yds per return) and 2 fumbles, plus he could get hurt. Is he the punt returner this year?

Jason La Canfora: He's set to do it, although with this hand injury maybe they will go with Thrash more tonight. I agree it was very unproductive a year ago and needs to improve. Sometimne I think you need to have more of a north-south Cartwright guy back there to just go and get positive yards rather than all the loopety-loop twisting and turning that didn't seem to be fooling too many people a year ago.


Giants fan.: DC transplant for 22 years. Follow the Redskins and always pull for them unless it has implications for the Giants. My kids are split one is a Giants fan and the other a Skins fan.

Now, on to my post.

It is all about the front office. The Giants front office sets the tone for everything that happens in NJ. The coaches all come from within the system with the rare exception.

The Giants have been playing the same type of game since I was a 8 y.o. When you sign on to the Giants you know what is expected.

I just don't see any of that with the Skins. The receivers would never come into a Giants camp like that and survive. But then again, our front office probably would not have drafted them to set up the situation. Which goes back to my original point.

I seem to remember a great article about a player who spent time on both squads and the difference between the two...could you re-post it?

Jason La Canfora: I agree with your overpoint in terms of the import of ownership and front office as it translates to winning, or not winning.

As for the article, it may be one of the stories we have done on ex Skin Antonio Pierce over the years, but I'm not sure of one specific one you may be speaking to.

If you google Antonio Pierce and Sally Jenkins (who did typically genius stuff at the Olympics, is amazingly gifted and will be covering the game with us tonight) it might get you on the right track.


Rockville, Md.: The thing that worried me the most about the preseason was the run defense. Tell me why Brandon Jacobs isn't going to run for like 200 yards like Tiki did against us 3 years ago in the Meadowlands.

Jason La Canfora: I agree it's a concern and that was point a few questions back about the import of Griffin. Teams will attack the Skins up front I think, knowing that the CBs generally are ok in press man. Now, if Springs can't play - and if he does I imagine he will be pretty hobbled - that changes a lot.


Alexandria, Va.: JLC, There's been plenty of talk about Zorn's easy-going-Cali-surfer-dude demeanor this preseason. The Skins had a real chip on their shoulder going into the second Giants game last season after blowing the first one. Could you tell us your sense of the team's attitude as it starts the season and the Zorn era? Is it cool confidence, or does the Gibbs' "it will be a war" mantra still float around?

Jason La Canfora: I think it's all wait and see at this point.

Will Zorn be decisive?

Will he make astute halftime adjustments?

Will he call a shrewd game?

Can he rethink on the fly?

Can he handle failure?

There is no track record there, no film to watch. Nothing.

The book starts to write itself tonight.


DC: Have the official active/inactive lists come out yet for tonight?

Jason La Canfora: Nope, we're several hours from that.

Off the top of my head I'd guess:






Then it's last minute calls on banged up guys like Taylor, Springs


Washington, D.C.: The one thing loyal hamsters want to know: Will we see the skins in the all whites this year, red jerseys at home? Is the Gibbs tradition going to continue of white jerseys all the time?

Jason La Canfora: I beleive we will see more burgundy shirts and white pants at home but haven't looked into it yet. Shoot. My bad. Letting down the hamsters again.


Charlotte, NC: Hey Jason, is it uncomfortable walking around Redskin Park when you see Cerrato? You must be on his Christmas card list based on how glowingly you report on him!

Do you think that if Zorn has a terrible year, I'm talking 5-11 or worse, you think the team goes after Cowher?

Jason La Canfora: Not uncomfortable at all. Just doing my job. I can handle criticsm, he had better learn to.

His record speaks for itself. I'm here to work for the fans/readers, not him. They have enough people on the payroll trying to make them look good, let them send the Christmas cards to them.

I don't think Cowher has any intention of coming here. Pete Carroll is my guess for the next high profile coach of the Skins. If they fire a guy for 5-11, that's nuts. You're only as good as your personnel guy and they ignored the O Line and D line, again, for the most part. That's not Jim Zorn's domain my friend. And Gibbs went all of 6-10 in his first year back and 5-11 in 2006.

You guys count all the coaches and systems to come through here with great records, fail here, and then go on and flourish elswhere. They can't all be wrong. Look at the common denomenators during the whole thing - the owner and his right hand guy. It starts there.


Brooklyn, Ohio: How close is Landry to 100 percent?

Jason La Canfora: My guess is in his heart of hearts he'd be 80-something percent. He missed a lot of time and was still getting a lot of extra attention and stretching during practice all week. It wasn't like he was just flying all over the place like his normal beast-like self. It's a process.


Washington, DC: Jasno: I am a Redskins fan, but not a diehard fan. I typically watch or listen to every game, but I feel like I've wasted my time watching and supporting the Redskins the last couple of seasons. I just don't feel like the organization is doing the right things.

So tonight, for the first time that I can remember, I'm not planning on watching the game. I'm sure I'll flick it on once in a while if I remember to see how the game is going, but I think I may sit out the first few games this year just to see how things are going first.

Am I atypical?

Jason La Canfora: Wow. I am definitely not qualified to answer that. We'll see what the other good folks out there say about it, and if you'd like, email me a guest blog and we'll see what the good people of Redskins Insider say about your condition.

My guess is that if these guys get hot you'll be back, and heck, that's all part of being a fan. There's no handbook and no right or wrong. If it feels good - and does not involved punching someone in the face, throwing a beer on somebody, etc - then do it. Right?


Sween, DC: How many snaps does Jason Taylor have to play in order to avoid breaking his "games started" streak? Can he sit after the first series and keep his streak alive?

Jason La Canfora: Hmm, typically good query my man Sween.

I suppose if he plays the first snap and then goes to the sidelines for the rest of the night then he's technically started. Would be pretty cheap though, and given how much Blache talks about starting not mattering, etc, I don't see something like that going down.


Roanoke, Va.: I think the kicking game could play a big role in tonight's game. We have a rookie punting and they have an aging veteran who could be tested on kicks of more than 40 yards. How significant do you think this will play into tonight's game. Thanks!!!

Jason La Canfora: I think it's alwasy key, especially in divisional games (which tend to be close given how well the teams know the opponent).

Carney is what, 70? And Brooks might be a little nervous for such a big debut.

Could be big indeed.


Moab, UT: Hey JaLaCa,

Can you say a few words on why they kept Brennan on the roster instead of IR? The Skin could use that spot for a receiver. (TE on RI said that if he was put on the practice squad another team would pick him up.)

Jason La Canfora: You mean like lie and make up an injury for him? That's tough to do these days (though it was a hallmark of Gibbs 1.0).

And he very well may have been snatched off a practice swuad. They planned on having 3 QBs and you'd hate to get into a Derrick Anderson situation (losing a potential good QB to waivers/practice squad).

I think they had to keep 3 if they liked him at all, and for good reason they do.


Tucson, AZ : What are the chances that Devin Thomas contributes tonight?

Jason La Canfora: It seems pretty remote to me. Maybe he does something on teams, but by all accounts he's way behind on the WR learning curve.


The PDX: Where does Giants Stadium rank among the NFL buildings, in terms of how much you like covering games there?

Jason La Canfora: Nate, you rock.

It's pretty ho-hum for me. Older stadium with a crazy-high press box. Hard to get out after the game. No frills.

Always a pretty good pre-game spread, though.

Tampa, Philly, Bmore, Seattle all leap to mind in terms of great set-ups.

Hope the family is well my man. See you out in Seattle in a few months brother.


Washington DC: Have you heard from players and/or coaches that Jason Campbell is nervous in the huddle or lacks confidence to the point that the offense lacks confidence in him? Other than the absurd decision to carry minimal wideouts and the decision to waste all our second round picks on non-lineman, confidence, from Baby Zorn on down, is my biggest concern starting out this year.

Jason La Canfora: I think Jason's biggest issue would be how much confidence he might feel the organization has in him, how much patience they will show in him, etc.

I think he very much believes in his own ability, if allowed to grow and develop. And Zorn has never lacked confidence to me, but, again, that's not to say he will truly be ready for all of the hats he is being asked to wear.


Washington, D.C.: I hear that Portis is going to shun the uniform policy tonight to display some new "kicks." Do you have any information about it, and what sponsor is ponying up the money to pay for Portis's fine? Also, why does the NFL both having a uniform policy if players can find someone willing to pay the fine for them whenever they want to make a silly fashion statement?

Jason La Canfora: The league loves its rules man, especially with the uniforms.

And given how big a game it is, with nothing else going on in the NFL, all eyes on him, I fully expect Clinton to have a trick or two up his sleeve.


DC: Would you say most of the guys in the locker room would agree with Frost, or do they couldn't care less since he's just a punter?

Jason La Canfora: I didn't talk to enough guys about it to say "more, most, 35 percent" or quantify it in any way. But the fact all 10 rookies made it under in some cases very, very dubious circumstances was not lost on any veterans I chatted with, and many drew similar conclusions to Frost.


Cap Hill, DC: Encouraged to read that Vinny Cerrato is starting to give quotes again to the WaPo ... baby steps, lets not rush into things ... the article seemed fair.

But never mind that. How much does not having Tynes affect the Giants? And do you know whether new coach Chris Meidt is going to have any "in game" role (re: all the money ball/statistics stuff he supposedly can do?)

"Immigrant Song" - Led Zepp

Jason La Canfora: For full disclosure, Vinny talks to jason Reid, Mike Wise, and others from our paper. He just seems afraid of his own shadow around me and doesn't talk to me, which is fine, because I went a good three years without even requesting to speak to him and only began to do so this offseasoon when prompted to do so by the Skins PR department ... who then came back saying he wasn't going to comment. Whatever. No loss. Five years on this beat and I do the job the same way I always have.

Meidt is in the coaches box in the press box charting plays and keeping track of down and distance for Zorn.


Reston, Va.: No question just a comment- Regardless of the record this year- it's a fresh breath of air having a new coach, who so far, is not afraid to answer a question with a non-bs answer. And amen for demoting Jon Jansen.

I predict 4-12 this year.

Jason La Canfora: The dude has some cojones and is a joy to deal with as someone out there everyday. It may not make him necessarily a good coach, but man, what a breath of fresh air. Up here, sometimes, that's huge.


DC: Who has the fastest 40 time on the team and which player presses the most?

Jason La Canfora: Not sure on fastest 40 time but Daniels generally benches the most.


Baltimore: Final Score: Wash 21 NYG 20

Execution, tact and guts secures Jim Zorn his first NFL victory.

Jason La Canfora: You may be right my man. That would be a tremendous start.


Wash, DC: The current 2008 Washington Redskin football team is the finest football team to ever play, in the entire history of the game. The Redskins have the finest owner, coachs, players, announcers, band, fans and stadium, far better than any other team can ever boast. Their play on the field this season will be superb, and we should cherish every moment. That said, do you think their win total for the season will be closer to 5 or 8 games?

Jason La Canfora: My prediction is 5-to-8 wins. Closer to one or the other? I'll say 6-10 if you put a gun to my head.

_______________________ Zorn Tries To Whip Rookies Into Shape


Dale City, Va.: Do you know if the Redskins have been had any contact with any veteran LBs such as Randal Godfrey?

Jason La Canfora: Not that I have heard. They went through the entire offseason without reaching out.

Randall basically retired last year then needed a while to get back going before being a real contributor in the second half of the season. Not sure he could come back this late and do it again, and no interaction between the sides that I am aware of.

Also,m just got some news. Shawn Springs is going to be inactive tonight.


21771: Nice article on Vinny, but you know what says a lot about him? After Schottenheimer fired Vinny he couldn't get a job in football, he ended up being a NFL blogger for Then Snyder hired him back after getting rid of Shottenheimer. My prediction? He'll fail in his new role. Meet the New Boss (Post, Sept. 4)

Jason La Canfora: Time will tell (some would say time already has, but, since this was his coach, and he he hired and fired people in football ops, personnel, PR, security, etc, this is the Vinny Cerrato Era, and accountability should be a hallmark.


Zeke: Does the great chemistry this team had in the closing run from 2007, especially on defense, carry over to 2008?

Jason La Canfora: I think there were so many unique, mitigating circumstances on that team, that's its hard to so it carries over now 6 months later. The top coaches on both sides of the ball are gone, the offense was overhauled, 20 percent of the roster is made up of guys who were in college when Sean was shot. I think it's a different regime, and the amazing chemistry the team showed last December, and that resolve, was part of the 2007 season.


Albuquerque, NM: JLC - Nice job on ESPN's First Take this AM. WCO is about spreading the field and creating space/mismatches. A staple of such is the four receiver set. Given the lack of usable depth at WR, is there any chance that the Zorn-A-Mator would split Cooley or Davis or Portis out in a four receiver set, empty backfield, and use Yoder as the blocking TE to double team a DE against the G-Men?

Jason La Canfora: Thanks so much. and you are all over it. Cooley will be split wide a lot. Portis was split out a fair bit in the preseason and we could see some of that again, too.

That's how they will compensate.


Greer, SC: How difficult would it be to sign McMullen after Moss pulls a hammy tonight?

Jason La Canfora: Not very hard. Just a phone call away.


Reston, VA: Is this the first time in recent memory where Redskins fans weren't saying that they were going to the Super Bowl before pre-season even started?

That would be a breath of fresh air!

Also, what's the over-under on Zorn - does Snyder fire him if loses x number games, or does he stick with him for a while?

Jason La Canfora: Unless it's a Cam Cameron situation (1-15), how do you fire the coach? It takes time. They knew that, or at least should have, when they went to a rookie coach. Maybe the first guy to go should be the guy who hired the guy, no? Maybe they need to start looking at changes beyond just the dude blowing the whistle.


Jason Taylor, LaRon Landry: Are they gonna play?

Jason La Canfora: I'm hearing Taylor is going to give it a go, though maybe not in an every-down role.

Landry should be starting and out there quite a bit. We'll see how they both hold up.


Rockville, Md.: Will I be better off watching the RNC tonight and just wait for the final score or should I suffer through 60 minutes of Redskins football?

Jason La Canfora: I'm biased here, but football dude. Come on. There hasn't been a meaningful NFL game played in like 6 months.

Regardless of the party, these silly hype-fest conventions are a bogus, contrived cheerleading fest. Pigskins, baby. Pigskin.


Maryland: Springs out now too. With him out, Taylor unsure if he'll be able to go and Landry not 100 percent, what can we expect out of this defense tonight? And do you see the Giants shifting focus to exploit the holes in the secondary?

Jason La Canfora: It's too late to change the entire game plan, and as I wrote on the blog this week, the Skins were bracing to be spread with a lot of 4 wide (I could see the Giants runnign quite a bit out of that spread formation, too).

Taylor I think dresses at this point. Springs being out means Torrence could get a lot of duty, and most important, someone has to shift to the slot in the nickel, where Springs plays a key role.


Philadelphia: How different will Clinton Portis's role be in Zorn's West Coast offense versus that under Joe Gibbs? Will Portis come anywhere close to leading the league in carries?


Jason La Canfora: They ran Shaun Alexander into the ground in Seattle, eh? Not afraid of 375 carries a season ... but with Betts excelling in pass catching/route running, I see him getting third downs fairly often. And zorn told me that he will definitely give Betts entire series sometimes (and not the ridiculous stuff we saw last season of Ladell going 2 1/2 hours of real time before getting the ball back in his hands).


Jason La Canfora: Well guys, I gotta run. Awesome questions, and thanks as always for that. Sorry for those I did not get to, and as always, you can check me out on the blog (Redskins Insider) or on email ( Hope you all enjoy the game and have a great night.



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