Thursday, Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. ET

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Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2008; 1:00 PM

Live from his perch at the Meadowlands, Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Sept. 11 at 1 p.m. ET, to talk about the Redskins, their loss in the opener to the Giants and their game this weekend against the Saints.

The transcript follows.

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Jason La Canfora: Hey there guys. Just got back from open locker room and posted a blog item on Redskins Insider about what Greg Blache had to say.

This is always one of the best hours of my week, so let's get it going, shall we?


Canton, Md.: Why won't the skins put Landry ( their quickest defensive player) on Bush and use an LB/Doughty on Shockey? I think that is much better than having Bush matched up with Rocky/Marcus. Your thoughts?

Jason La Canfora: Well, I'm with you, and I think Landry's role might have to evolve over the season given the skill/health of this defense.

Blache just said Landry won't be on Shockey. If they put him on Bush you are talking him basically being a linebacker, so then you don't have anything on the back end, and Brees will pick them apart.

You are picking your poison. This is not the right time to have a less-than-100-percent McIntosh and Marcus Washington. The saints use Shockey underneath and intermediate to create room for Bush on the flank, and then Bush on a ton of screens to get people away from Shockey.

It's tough.


Tucson, Ariz.: With the productive week 1 games of a couple rookie WRs (Jackson,Royal), does coach Zorn feel more pressure to get Kelly and Thomas up to speed?

Jason La Canfora: Well, I think there's was already pressure to get them on the field, because they are the only backup WRs on the roster (as well as being high picks). There's no one else around, xcept for practice squad guys. (Billy McMullen signed with the Seahawks I heard).

Zorn has left no wiggle room ont his one - they wont be ready to really contribute for quite some time, but at least having Kelly in the slot as few tiems as a safety valve - and at least one truly big target for Jason Campbell - makes sense, and they can throw a few jump balls to him in the red zone if nothing else.

I'm still a doubter on the Saints secondary and believe it is the major weakspot on the club, and the Skins need to attack it.


Davidsonville, Md.: What's this we read about Jason Campbell mentoring Malcolm Kelly? Is it true? Does JC have the personality for that type of role? I hope so, for our team's sake, and if he does, that only bodes well for our team. But his public persona seems, well, a bit more reserved than that. What do his teammates really think of him?

Jason La Canfora: JC has immense respect from his teammates. The overhwelming thought I have heard all week long from guys speaking privately, is that he's getting blamed for a lot of stuff he had nothing to do with, that he's taking the hit for the entire offense, that the problems with such an offensive transition go well beyond the QB position.

These guys believe in his skills, but the verdict is out on how his skillset fits with this system. So much of being an quality organization is putting people in a position to succeed, be it a young QB, or an inexperienced coach. Expecting too much, too soon, is dangerous.


Campbell Buzz: Hey JLC,

The constant buzz anymore concerning JC, including a long column today by Boz, is his fit in a West Coast offense. What think ye? And how about the attendance last night for the US MNT's WC qualifier? I guess patsy competition doesn't cut it in the middle of the week in terms of a draw.

R.E.M - Supernatural Superserious A Lag in Adjustment to West Coast Time

Jason La Canfora: Hey brother, I blogged about this as soon as Zorn was hired and talked to several personnel guys who pointed it out. Also wrote/blogged about it extensively after the Giants game.

They drafted him because Gibbs saw him as a Doug Williams, big-arm drop back passer. That's why they went and got him. Now they are trying to make him reborn as something entirely different.

Again, these are organizational decisions, and this one is entirely on Vinny Cerrato. If it works, laud him for seeing something others in the NFL didn't (JC as a prototype West Coast QB) and if it doesn't well, you can add it to a long list of his failures.


New York, N.Y: Jason,

I was shocked at how bad Zorn did with the clock management and lack of urgency of the no huddle last week. You would think being a former QB in the NFL he would know better.

When did the "dirtbags" become the pushovers against the Giants D?

Jason La Canfora: Shoot, forgot to respond to the second half of that question. The attendance in Illinois was weak. I guess a Wed. night during the school year hurts, but that was sad. And, hey, if you're talking CONCACAF, then there's no real draw except for Mexico. I respect the talent of a lot of guys on Hondoras, Costa Rica, Canada ... but no one is going to these games based on watching de Guzman.

I was hoping for a bigger crowd and I know we'll represent well at RFK next month.

Ok, back to the other football.

Yes, the lack of any urgency or anything close to a 4-minute or 2-minute offense was astounding. Again, they went out on a limb and hired Zorn as an OC, and then a HC, knowing full well he had never done any of this before.

Any reasonable person would then also expect a learning curve and rough spots. Life is about experience and learning from mistakes and Zorn strikes me as a bright, honest fellow. If he keeps repeating the same mistakes, then you've got a problem, and, certainly, that was astoundingly ugly the other night, but they assembled an offensive staff with virtually not a single game of NFL experience in the jobs they are now being asked to do.

That's just reality.

And the O Line had better get more physical, very quickly, because teams are licking their lips at what they've been seeing on film the past month or so.


Coral Springs, FL : Based on what I read, Kelly seems much more ready to play at this level than Thomas. Do you agree and if so any opinion as to why that's the case?

Also, who wins the premier league? Liverpool, United, Arsenal or Chelsea?

Jason La Canfora: I would agree.

Kelly flashed better in a few early practices than Thomas has all summer. Thomas's maturity, prep time, football knoweldge were all things scouts brought up about him leading into the draft. He was seen as a one-year wonder and some doubted whether he could get by on his gifts as he did last season at Michigan State. He was seen as a boom or bust guy, with a lot of people believing the risk out-weighed the reward.

Kelly, though with a history of injuries and being seen as some as "brittle," has a skillset to help more sooner as a slot guy.

I go with Chelsea to take the double. I think Scolari will breathe new life in the Blues (though that Lampard contract was a bit too much I think).


Annandale, Va.: How is Jon Jansen looking in practice these days? Does he have a shot at regaining the starting job or has Heyer locked it up?

Is the USA really going to keep Bob Bradley as the coach all the way to the World Cup? How about hiring a real international coach before the embarrassment that surely awaits us in South Africa?

Jason La Canfora: Heyer is going to really have to slip to lose it. I get the sense Zorn is looking to the future and especially with a young QB, pass pro is huge (and he's not going to use too much help all the time in the protection schemes).

Jansen is often practicing at guard and just feeling his way through. It was not too pretty at times last week - which one would expect given that he's never played there before - and honestly I was concentrating on other things yesterday at practice and didn't really note it.

As for Bradley, he's the Fed's guy (puppet?) and I don't see Gulati doing anything at all other than turning a blind eye to reality. It would take something ridiculous not to qualify - this team should be able to qualify with Steve Spurrier as manager - and then no way do I see the USSF pulling the plug then.

I think we're stuck with him until what, barring only the most favorable of draws, would be a quick exit I fear. In full disclosure my boy Klinsi aint exactly tearing it up in Bavaria these days, but I dont think hes cut out for the day-to-day grind of club management anyway.


Charlottesville, VA: Any thing said by Zorn of the lack of use with Cooley? Not targeted much in the preseason and was an afterthought against the Giants. I was shocked he was spit out any with Yoder filling the blocking role since our wideouts were thin.

Jason La Canfora: They are using him, that's the thing. It's not like he's not on the field. He's out there all the time. Zorn called 5 or so specific plays for him against the Giants, and penalties, pass pro mistakes and the Qb not locating him were all involved in part of the reason why he caught just one ball.

No team is really threatened by the Skins deep game right now, and so Cooley is going to command a lot of attention. He's also going to have to help out a lot blocking trying to get the run game going.

These guys just have to find a way to move the ball with some consistency, no matter how, and no matter who is getting the ball.


DC: Short question: why was Santana Moss so good in 2005?

Jason La Canfora: Man, that feels like a long time ago, doesn't it?

Well, they ran the hell out of the ball for one, which opened a lot up (Portis also set a franchise record for yardage that season, and carried the ball like 360 times). Early on no one thought Brunell could still throw the deep ball, so Moss wasn't always being shadowed over the top, so he had favorable match-up. Teams adjusted and there was a down spell, and then at the end of the year the run game was truly dominant (like 5 straight 100-yard games for Portis), and, again, Brunell-to-Moss went big in a few games down the stretch again (NYG and PHI at the end of the year), which brought the numbers back up.

The O Line had a great season and the blocking on some of those screens and quick slants was perfect (leading to big gains).


Bmore, Md.: First play that should happen - play action deep to Kelly - no matter what it makes the Saints respect that we will try and go deep. O-line needs to give it time though. And it lets Campbell stretch the arm.

First play that will happen - Portis up the gut, falls forward for one.

Jason La Canfora: Well, they need to show that Portis can hurt. That has to happen.

Also, Kelly might need a stopwatch to get deep downfield. Speed is not his forte to begin with, especially still working back from the injuries.

Devin Thomas is supposed to be the Santana Moss type, the outside guy, and if he's ont he field to open the game, even if they go four wide, I'd be surprised (they'd use Cooley or Portis first).

They need to show some deep component and hitting one deep might cause the safeties to creep back out of the box, but I also think showing that they will slam Portis if need be is essential, because even if the offense hits one big play, I don't see them being able to move the ball consistently through the air right now.


The Next Babe Laufenberg: How many comments are you getting about "why don't they play Colt Brennan, he was so good in the preseason, much better than Campbell"?

Does every other football town elevate the third string guy to Messiah based on completing passes against people no longer in the NFL? It happens here every year, even when we have a good QB.

Jason La Canfora: It's a wacky phenomenon, eh?

Actually, in all honesty I haven't received too many this week, but last week's chat was loaded with the suggestions. Maybe the fact that the Cult of Colt hasn't thrown a ball in public for a few weeks now has caused the tide to subside.

But man, why do I feel like I'll be getting crushed if heaven forbid my first story at training camp next season isn't about Brennan?


Seattle: JLC,

What about a role for Blades and Fincher this weekend...two guys who can move and tackle?

Also, can we pass to set up the run?

I miss our '05 offense...

Jason La Canfora: Blades is filling in for Marcus Washington in practice and I see him getting some reps on defense.

Fincher is a special teams guy for now. He's still learning the defense and plays with a wild aggression that could get the team in trouble. Getting Khary Campbell back is big for special teams, too, assuming he is able to plays.


Serious Question that won't get Posted: Why does the Redskins organization hate the WaPo? Seriously, what caused the riff? It seems so weird that they (Snyder) go out of their (his) way to say/do antagonistic things towards the paper. Are they (he) angry that the coverage of the team isn't positively glowing (and why should it be glowing based on the track record since Snyder bought the team). I know you can't/won't answer, but I had to ask what fuels their (his) animosity. Thanks!

Jason La Canfora: Hey there my friend. Nothing to hide here. I can't speak for the Redskins/Snyder, nor would I ever want to. I cover this team same as any other throughout my career (Caps, Red Wings, Orioles).

IF you win, you get lauded, and if you under-perform pretty much every year, then it's my job to report on it and find out why. As a public figure, I would expect owners, GMs, etc. to understand that. Seems simple enough to me. It's just business. Nothing personal ... at least not on my end.



Jason La Canfora: Okay, here we go. That didn't take too long, did? And just when I was saying that maybe Colt-mania was slowing down.

Oh well, shows what I know.

(Gotaa love all-caps messages, eh? subtle)


Football 101: Spending high draft picks (PLURAL!) on wide receivers while neglected the lines (both sides) is really going to hurt this team this year and moving forward. Combine this with putting in an offense that emphasizes the things your QB does worst, while ignoring the many strengths he has already shown, and I just have to wonder is anybody minding the store? Seriously, this is nuts.

Jason La Canfora: I am 100 percent with you. I blogged my guts out about this before, during and after the draft, wrote columns about it during preseason games, etc.

Good teams start with putting their independent positions in a position to succeed (QB, DTs, O Line) and then building around that with dependent positions like WR, CB. You start closest to the ball. Pretty much tried and true.

It's backwards here, from the talk in 06 and 07 about using a great secondary to build a pass rush, or taking three young pass catchers with your top 3 picks (despite all of them sliding down other draft boards for one reason or another, and despite already having massive assets tied up in those positions), or offering two first rounders and $20-plus million for Chad Johnson.

hey, you guys figure it out. I sure can't.


Mclean, Va.: Hi Jason, does Zorn handle the offensive play calling and game management decisions by himself? He didn't seem to be talking with anyone against the G-Men.

Jason La Canfora: He has Sherm Smith and Chris Meidt in the press box and he is in communication with Sherm Smith the most, but even then often it's just at the end of a series, or every other series. Zorn gets down and distance and tendencies from them, but it's primarily his show.

And frankly, with so little time to get things in and with as fast as he wants his offense to move, you can't debate much or take in too much info. It's gotta be primarily far and away one dude pulling the trigger.


Bogota, Colombia: Hey Jasno, thanks for keeping me informed while I'm down here. I generally liked the Zorn hire but here's the thing though. I watched the Denver game and the way they used that Royal kid (5'10", lightning fast) was exactly how we should be using Moss. So why don't the Redskins scheme more for the personnel they have? I mean, in the recent past (Gibbs era-present), they basically just employ a system and expect the players to fit it. Seems like a pretty stupid way to go about things.

Jason La Canfora: Bogota, eh? Awesome to hear from you. Stay safe.

Well, they got Portis to be the sledgehammer, JC to be the deep-ball passer and Moss to be the downfield threat. In Coryell's vertical offense it all made sense, but the coaching was not great, there were too many cooks int he kitchen, QB play was often not great, and I believe they grossly over-rated personnel (self scouting has long been an issue around here).

Now they are trying to get these parts to fit an entirely different scheme, one based on mroe quick drops, short passes and intermediate and short routes. Most guys have some of the attributes to do that stuff, but it always takes time and some guys, in the end, just might not be a fit.


Reston, Va: Does Zorn script the first fifteen offensive plays the way Holmgren does? I've never understood that philosophy.

Jason La Canfora: He does indeed. He often has to scrap it early (especially with them giving up so many sacks/committing so many penalties early in the last three games - including the preseason) but he does like going in with a plan and framework, largely based on plays they ran the heck out of that week as well for the most part.


Flim, Flam: Quick one for you, Jasno. Has Coach Buges been back and working? Given how devestating losing someone in the immediate family can be, I simply had to ask. The Dirtbags have been bagged these last few games, and I do wonder if that might be part of it.

Keep up the good work.

Jason La Canfora: Buges was back like two days later and has been here ever since. What a horrible loss. I can not even pretend to know what he is going through, and those closest to him, including the linemen, surely have heavy hearts, too.


C'ville, VA: What is your sense of how committed Snyder and Cerrato are to Zorn (over multiple years)? How has the team responded to him this week?

Jason La Canfora: How committed have they ever been to any one coach, QB, set of ideas?

You can only judge people on their body of work. I can tell you that everyone here is very much aware of the track record, and that's very much the culture of Redskins Park, or at least how it has been for a long time.

Maybe they'll change and give Zorn 3 years no matter what (assuming it's not a total disaster for the first two years). Or maybe he'll be chasing Pete Carroll again in five months. We can't predict the future.

But if you go this route, with someone this green and with an completely new system, you would think there would be an implied learning curve and expectations would be calibrated as such. But I heard Snyder said in a Comcast interview that his expectations are a division title and deep playoff run, so if that's the actual goal (something Gibbs never did the second time around) and that's the standard he's being held to, then who knows what the future will hold. I don't know too many scouts, GMs, football people who think the Skins will win the division.


Washington, D.C.: Do you see the skins being interested in Jeff Garcia per the report in the link below: BUCS SHOPPING GARCIA (

Jason La Canfora: Nope. Don't see that one at all.

They're gonna have a hard time getting anything at all for him. His game is quickness outside the pocket and making plays with his feet and he's slowed down and gets hurt a lot. He's a backup now I believe, and look how long Favre was out there without any rush for takers and big offers.


Los Angeles:"Short question: why was Santana Moss so good in 2005?" Answer: Because the skins had a quarterback who could throw deep (as well as short) accurately. If I have to hear one more time about JC's "big arm." The guy cannot throw accurately and never will. Sorry, that is just the fact.

Jason La Canfora: I wouldn't call Brunell a big arm guy.

Jason, trust me, can throw a great long ball, and he's connected with Moss enough for others to have seen it too (go back to his first ever pass in Tampa, which Lloyd should have caught; the TD pass to Moss at the Superdome, etc.

But this scheme doesnt call for as much of that, and the O Line has been in shambles at times, which means Zorn isnt calling too many seven-step drops, and they're also playing from behind, and trying to beat prevent defenses by the time they do really go deep.

it takes a village.


Berlin, Md.: Is Kerry Brown still on the IR.

Jason La Canfora: He hasn't been listed on the IR on the official roster we get before each practice for a long, long time. Probbaly reached an injury settlement I would presume.


Richmond, Va.: I notice guys reaching out to mentor Kelly, but no one doing the same for Thomas. Is that a perception or a reality? If its true, do you think Thomas can put himself in a position to be liked in this clubhouse?

Jason La Canfora: Devin has some growing up to do, and I think some guys are waiting to see a little more want from him. Kelly is more mature and seems to have a little mroe going on for him right now and kind of gets it a bit more than Devin.

It's very, very early for both of them, and a lot of young WRs struggle. Devin could have his eureka moment.


Zeke: Last week, I asked about chemistry/intensity. You said the 2007 chemistry was gone and the game proved you right. Do you sense the players will be much more intense this week? Or does it feel like more of the same?

Jason La Canfora: The home crowd should definitely help and I would imagine they would play with a bit more vigor and focus right from the onset. This is a tough opponent for them either way, though.


Raljon, Md.: I read on ESPN's NFC East blog this week that there are already questions in NFC circles about Zorn being up to snuff as an HC. Have you heard this buzz? Do the players have doubts? What are your thoughts?

Jason La Canfora: There were questions from the onset. This whole thing is a question mark.

Of course there are questions. He's never done it before, Not even close. As I wrote on the blog, it's not like Seattle make him a head coach, or viewed him as a successor for Holmgren. They didn't make him an OC to keep him, and according to league sources, Mora, who will take over for Holmgren, would not commit to him as his OC, and had other guys in mind.

He's been a QB coach forever, and at age 54, was not seen as an up-and-coming future head coach. He had never installed a playbook, made a full game plan, called a game and made every crucial decision on the sidelines (replay challenges, field goals, fourth downs).

Zorn is an iconclast, and I like him for that, but he's an outside the box guy and this was an outside the box hire and people around the league are wondering if it will work. It was Cerrato first major decision and he hired the same guy twice in two weeks for two different jobs. They hired almost the entire staff before the head coach.

Everyone is waiting to see how this plays out. It's about as unorthodox as it gets. If given sufficient time, maybe it will work, but to think it wont take time is naive.

Trust me, the entire league is watching this thing.


Fairfax, Va.: Knowing it's the NFL and all, don't you think the Chicken Little predictions for the Redskins may be a bit too soon? They only lost by 9 to the defending Super Bowl champs who were opening at home in the first game of the season. Obviously the offense looked awful as did Zorn but I feel like it's still way too early to make any judgments.

Jason La Canfora: Well, they've gomne 3-4 games without showing much on offense or defense. Yes, that's including the preseason, and it's against some strong opponents, but even guys in the locker room know they need to get something going here, find a few things to hang their hat on and win at least one of these next two homes games.

I wouldn't go crazy, but I do beleive there is cause for some concern.


RI Regular: Outside of the the first four Jints drives, the defense bent but never broke. Was it so much that the Jints were bad or the defense got their act together?

Jason La Canfora: Gilbride's second half play calling was bizarre to say the least.

If he takes the Cam Cameron route in the second half against that tired Skins defense it could've been really ugly. Too many strange passing calls, too much rolling otu for Eli. Weird.

Skins made some nice adjustments but I think the Giants had themselves to blame for not convert that territorial domination into more points.


Jason La Canfora: Well guys, I've got to run. Thanks as always for the great questions. Sorry for not getting to them all. You can always email me at, or find me on Redskins Insider.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the game.



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