Thursday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. ET

Redskins Insider

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 18, 2008; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Sept. 18 at 1 p.m. ET, to take your questions about the Redskins, their win against the Saints and their game this weekend against Arizona.

The transcript follows.

Read the Redskins Insider blog.

Full coverage: Washington Redskins


Jason La Canfora: Hey there everyone. Thanks for stopping by. I am hoping everyone is a little more calm this week, and maybe a little more patient with the starting quarterback, but we shall see.

Okay, let's get er going.


Chesapeake Beach, Md.: Jason,

How do you see us doing against the Cards this week and how do we stack up to the rest of the division? It looks like Dallas and Philly have exploitable defenses.

Jason La Canfora: I think this could be a pretty good test. Hard for me to fathom the Cards could be 3-0 ... But they have some definite strengths. It's going to be interesting.

As for the division, man, like I blogged about this weekend, it's like the old AFC West with Elway, Fouts, Plunkett/whoever Al Davis wanted to throw bombs that week (Shraeder) and Z-Man. Lot of points being scored and a lot of secondaries that have obvious weak spots.

Fun to watch though, eh?


San Diego: Can we expect to see more of Horton this weekend? Doughty is decent, but more suited to a backup role. I'd like to see the promising young rookie get more playing time and experience.

Jason La Canfora: Reed is starting and will play a lot. The Skins will use much more of their three safety "Cobra" package this week, defensive coordinator Greg Blache said, so Horton will get on the field for sure, and certainly in some coverage situations.

But Reed remains someone the coaches trust, they like his instincts, toughness, smarts and experience and the way he keeps people alligned back there.

I figure, given the Cards' issues in the run game, and the presence of two stud WRs, we're going to see more Cover-2 umbrella with man matchups underneath -- and if the Cards can run on you and beat you in the box, then so beat. I'd make Edge James do it the hard way, and try to eliminate the big play at all costs.

Bend don't break, which seems to be the way it goes around here.


Baltimore: When is Carlos Rogers going to learn to refrain from making boneheaded 15-yard penalties. If he had an interception for every unsportsmanlike conduct he has committed...

Jason La Canfora: I thought that penalty was a little ticky-tack. The tackle started well in bounds, it was a continuation sort of thing and I didn't think there was a lot of intent there.

Carlos's quick recovery from his major knee surgery, and steady play, has been a huge boost to the defense, I think.


Maple Shade, N.J.: What is Vinny thinking doing this radio show?

Jason La Canfora: I would never attempt to pretend that I could speak for the guy, nor would I consider trying to rationalize many of the decisions made by this ownership and front office group.

I have no idea, but I'm guessing he'll tell you if you call in, right?


Baltimore: Okay, here's the question Skins fans REALLY want answered:

Do we even have a chance in beating Philly or Dallas? Both offenses looked near unstoppable, even if the D's were pretty porous.

Jason La Canfora: Sure they have a chance. Divisional games are always a war and can go either way. It's up for grabs.


Tucson, Ariz.: Jason,

Why can't Rock Cartwright return punts? He does a great job on kickoffs...

If Moss gets hurt, the Skins will have only Cooley as the main passing game threat...To me, it's too risky of a move...

Jason La Canfora: I'd give him a shot. He'll catch the ball and run straight ahead like a madman.

I'll take the sure yards at this point.



Thanks for taking the question. In light of Cooley's "Tip Slip," and other NFLers who have had pics and/or videos floating around the web in the past year, do you think teams will be looking to put some type of wording in contracts to help players to be more mindful?

Jason La Canfora: Well, there will be some First Ammendment issues in there as well I suppose, but yes, anything that is team issues, etc., could enp up in contract langauage down the line as something that can be posted, etc.


OG Barno: I doubt you'll take a tough question like this, but here goes:

What do you think of Dan Snyder publicly calling out the Washington Post by name in his interview with Comcast Sportsnet last weekend? He, as well as thousands of WaPo readers, believe the Post is biased in its coverage.

I can't remember a beat reporter ever having so many questions asked about their objectivity before.

What do you say to all those critics who believe your coverage of the Redskins is intentionally negative?

Jason La Canfora: Unlike a lot of the people you praise, I never duck the public or criticism.

I cover what has been a losing franchise for the most part for what, 15 years now? And it is my job to bring to light why. Two individuals have been constants amid all the failure, while everyone else has come and gone.

And thus I hold them to a standard I would imagine any right-minded fan would. I think it's beyond presumptuous of you to believe you can speak for thousands of readers, and if I'm doing my job diligently then I'm not going to be please everyone. I'm interested in journalism; I'm not a politician.

You call me a beat writer, and I surely break news and do beat work but I have a blog that was established to provide analysis and commentary and I also write onfootball columns for the paper. On Comcast I provide analysis. Times have changed and we all wear many hats.

I don't cover the Redskins any differently than I did the Orioles, the Red Wings or the Caps. Go ask Peter Angelos, Mike Ilitch or Ted Leonsis. This is the big leagues.

Snyder can say whatever he wants. He also says he has nothing to do with the radio station. And he'll tell you he doesn't run Six Flags.


Farmington, Conn.: Not hearing Heyer's name mentioned during the broadcast of last week's game is a good sign, right? Can you evaluate his performance, and progress in the starting role? And since I don't know much about him, can you tell me what his strengths and weaknesses are?

Jason La Canfora: He's holding up pretty well. This will be a big challenge for him, with the Cards mixing between a 3-4 and 4-3 fronts and doing lots of stunting.

Heyer has better lateral movement and better quickness on the edge than others on the roster, but is still dealing with leverage issues and getting more aggressive in the run game.

He's been a big surprise over the last 18 months, without a doubt.


Chevy Chase, Md.: You think Vinny's got regrets for passing over DeSean Jackson TWICE in the 2008 Draft?

Jason La Canfora: I think they have enough to worry about concerning the guys they did take.

And it's not even just about DeShean, Eddie Royal and the other receivers. They passed on a ton of linemen on both sides of the ball, and the lineman they did take pretty high (third round) has been inactive.

You look around the division and you see rookies making plays all over the place (Jackson, Jenkins, Felix Jones).

They deserve a ton of credit for Chris Horton, but when a comp pick at the end of the 7th round is your best looking rookie in mid September, and you had 10 picks, that's not exactly a cause for celebration.


Parts Unknown: What's going on with Justin Tryon? Is he in on any defensive packages and what about him at PR/KR? Did he do that in college?

Jason La Canfora: He's on the periphery of the mix as a return guy.

He's very small and though he has good man coverage skills, he's learning that it's a whole different ballgame at this level. He's been in for a few snaps in the dime package but at this point that's gonna be about it.


Arlington: Moss to return punts? Huh? That's stupid. That's insane. Without Moss, who's going to be the No. 1 receiver? One of Vinny's rookies?

Jason La Canfora: I think with the lack of depth at WR, this is a big gamble with Moss and Randle El handling this chore. They may not even have Thrash and/or Kelly for the game, so the two starters are going to be on the field all the time.

I'd go with Betts/Cartwright/whoever else, over them right now.


Washington, D.C.: Do you expect Marcus Washington, Malcolm Kelly and James Thrash to play?

Jason La Canfora: Greg Blache said he is confident that Marcus will play. I think Kelly has a chance but I can't imagine Thrash being back from his high-ankle sprain by Sunday.


Walden Pond: Jason,

I understand that "Doonesbury's" Rick Redfern is leaving the Washington Post and may start a blog. Has he been to see you for advice, considering the success you have had with RI?

Jason La Canfora: That is too funny, and too kind.

I'm just a hack trying to work hard and dig as hard as I can as reporter. You're talking real talent with Mr. Redfern.


Tallahassee, Fla.: After watching last week's game, do you consider Jason Campbell's problem with the West Coast offense more or less solved? What would you do differently to help his production? BTW, your Insider column rocks.

Jason La Canfora: Thanks so much for the compliment, and thanks to you for reading for my stuff.

I don't think you can make any sweeping conclusions one way or the other yet. I've said all along I want to see the kid make 30 starts (and hopefully at least 16 within the same system) before making a real determination.

I've always said from the start I think that if groomed properly JC can be a very good NFL QB and I continue to think that. We'll see over time if that's what he becomes.

The Saints has a pretty wounded secondary and made some interesting calls and decisions on defense, and JC did an awesome job of making them pay. For his sake, I hope he can keep it up.


Miami, Fla.: If you remember back a few years to Tampa's Michael Clayton, he set a rookie record for receiving yards and has since fallen off the face of the earth.. Where is Dwayne Bowe so far this season? Jackson and Royal fell into great scenarios in Philly and Denver, you can't compare them to Thomas and Kelly. One person learning an offense is easier than 22 learning an offense.

Isn't week 2 a little early to judge the rookie WR good or bad?

Jason La Canfora: I'm not saying they wont become players. My point is the team devoted what I beleive to be an ungodly amount of assets into one thing - pass catchers - in this draft, and did so to immediately upgrade the unit.

The fact that they can not even really get on the field with any regularity, and that James Thrash rises from a No. 5 WR to a No. 3 WR essentially by default, can be considered a nod to shrewd offseasoon roster building.

In a few years they may flourish; but Thomas is in essence their first round pick (the skins dealt out of it to still get a WR lower) and was the second WR taken. That is significant. There were major red flags with these guys in college as they slid down other draft boards. That's reality and worth pointing out.

Zorn has been highly critical of them at times for performance issues, mental issues and conditioning issues. And it is not uncommon for them to run the entirely wrong route in practice. Zorn spoke openly about maybe putting Kelly on IR ...

It ain't a great start. I think that's a fair statement. I'm to writing them off, but in terms of their ability to contribute to this team in the first half of this season, if not longer, Zorn has been pretty up front about that.


Sacramento, Calif.: There has been a lot of discussion about the "maturing" and "growing up" that some players, specifically, Devin Thomas has to do. Can you give me some specific examples of what this means. A lot of players have this written about them, but there are never specifics involved. If he has that much "maturing" needed why was he drafted in the first place? With all the poking and prodding done before draft day, one would figure this would be known before drafting the player. Thanks.

Jason La Canfora: Not being fully conditioned.

Running wrong routes in practice.

Making the same mistakes again and again.

Failing to grasp where the down markers are.

Not exactly exuding an all-out work ethic in the eyes some teammates.


Mt. Ranier, Md.: Any chance of signing ex-Skin WR Ryan Hoag, a last cut for Jacksonville this summer?

Jason La Canfora: They didn't bring anyone in this week and will look to the practice squad first. Guys like Toller, Mann, Mix would be options. (The Skins want a size guy should they need any sort of longterm replacement for Thrash or Kelly, so Mix fits that bill).

Jimmy Farris is good on teams and if they get pretty thin he could be an option (he knows the West Coast offense well from San Fran).


The Coaches' Box Part 2: And here I was thinking I was the only displaced Redskins' fan in Tallahassee! To the previous Tallahassee poster, find us at Miller's on Sunday. I'll rock the Darrell Green jersey.

Jason La Canfora: Just doing my part to get like-minded people together.


Re: Sean Taylor and LaRon Landry: I stayed up watching Sean Taylor highlights for about an hour the other night on YouTube. I hope people don't forget how incredible a player he was. Can you imagine how incredible the safeties would have been with Taylor and Landry over the long haul? Revolutionized defensive football, in my opinion. So the Skins had it right in taking Landry in the draft.

My question: Is Landry ready to follow in the footsteps of Taylor? Is he ready to try and be great? Does he know how great he can be?

Jason La Canfora: It took Sean until last season before he finally really put it all together and showed what a consistently disruptive force he could be.

LaRon will need time to keep learning offenses, schemes, etc. If he puts in the reps in the film room as well as the field, he has all the tools in the world to be the best at what he does.


Merrifield, Va.: Who do you think will be the best defensive player from Auburn on the field Saturday: Marcus Washington, Carlos Rogers, Karlos Dansby or Roderick Hood?

Jason La Canfora: Dansby looks like the truth, eh?


Silver Spring, Md.: I know before Jansen was Mr. Redskin on the team and always was laughing and joking with his teammates. How is he handling being benched and is he still the same positive Mr. Redskin we're used to?

Jason La Canfora: He's taken it very well. I know he's a crazy competitor and is probably still seething a bit on the inside, but he's been all class, he's smiling and he's working hard at practice.


Wilmington, Del.: From what I saw, his performance against the Giants was more the "real" Jason Campbell than his performance against the Saints. The Saints made some flat-out awful decisions, and their secondary was in bad shape. Yes, Campbell is 1-1, but nobody should confuse him with an above average QB. Statistically, he's about the 13th best QB in the league right now, but that equals about an 8-8 finish if history is a guide. We still need a lot more improvement out of Jason -- even against the Cards.

Jason La Canfora: I'll say it again.

Give this a little more time, please.


OG Barno: Hope you'll take a follow up question.

"I think it's beyond presumptuous of you to believe you can speak for thousands of readers"

I'm basing this on the thousands of comments I've read on your blog that complain about your apparent bias. I'm not speaking for anyone but myself.

And I've heard you introduced as "Redskins beat reporter for the Washington Post" on Comcast Sportsnet, so again I was not basing this on my opinion.

As to your assertion that you cover all teams the same way, well i don't know about your past coverage of other teams, but I do know that the Washington Post is generally far less critical of teams like the Wizards, who up until recently had been a losing team for the better part of 30 years.

But the coverage of Wizards owner Abe Pollin as well as his general managers and front office people over the years hasn't been even close to as negative as your coverage of the Skins has been.

What gives?

Jason La Canfora: Do you think perhaps the same person may post more than once, under any sort of handle they please? I wouldn't call that science.

When I am on Comcast, it's abundantly clear we are talking about opinions, commentary, etc. Hence the disclaimer at the start of every show.

I don't cover the Wizards, but I know how I covered the Caps, for five years, and several years of big spending and no results, and, again, shoot an email to Ted Leonsis and he will fill you in. Ted is amazing for the fans to deal with and answers pretty much every email.

Questions about Wizards coverage can be directed to my sports editor, Emilio Garcia-Ruiz ( and he could answer anything you need. I'm not in any position to speak about how that team is covered, and how the Skins are covered.

Thanks for the discourse.


Annandale, Va.: What is the story with Randle El? He was great in Pittsburgh.

How come the 'Skins don't use the gadget plays for him like when he was in Pittsburgh?

Jason La Canfora: He wasn't on the field nearly as much in Pitt, the Skins throw the ball more and run a much more wide open offense.

He got to focus more on teams by far, and you're right, a lot of the stuff he ran with the Steelers was reverses, trick plays, etc.

Al ran some stuff like that for him and I'm sure Zorn will too. It's only been two games.


Arlington, Va.: The Post is "biased?" Man, what is wrong with people. The Redskins have become something out of BRAVE NEW WORLD or 1984. What a bunch of hooey!

Yes, please report "Go Skins" "Skins Rule" and other rah rah slogans.

Maybe they should worry about winning a few playoff games sometime this century?

Jason La Canfora: The record speaks for itself.

The lack of division titles speaks for itself.

The last of playoff wins speaks for itself.

Leading the league in spending since 2000 speaks for itself.

And the price of anything possibly related to the Redskins -- anything a fan might want to purchase from a ticket to a beer to a jersey -- is just about tops in the league.

I view my job as using my access to be the eyes, ears of the fans, and I believe my blog, through guests blogs and comments, allows for as free of a discourse as you will find. If that means some people don't like me -- the owner and the executive vice president -- well, that's part of the job and how it goes sometimes. I'm perfectly cool with that.


Hollywood, Md.: Jason, what do you see as the viable options at #3/#4 WR if Thrash and Kelly are inactive? Has Davis or Cooley gotten any work in at these positions?

Jason La Canfora: Cooley will continue to see a lot of work in 3-4-and-5 wide sets, no doubt.

Davis is working hard with tight ends Coach Rennie Simmons, trying to do all the right things and really make an effort to get on the field more. I think he'll get there. But as the No. 3 TE, it's still a somewhat limited role.


Keep it up: I have been reading the Washington Post for my entire life. I have been a Redskins fan for my entire life. Hell, I even delivered the Washington Post when I was know, back before Snyder when the Redskins won and stuff.

Nothing about your coverage is anything other than blanaced (if snarky) reporting. If Daniel Snyder can't take snark, he picked an awful place to setup shop.

Funkadelic - "Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock?"

Jason La Canfora: How sick is that tune? I love that tune. Hell, I love everything on Maggot Brain. What a genius album.

Thanks so much for the shout. I readily admit the blog can have a snark factor, no doubt. Guilty as charged on that one.

Wish I had my Ipod with me right now. I'd be rocking out with you.


C'ville Va: I speak for thousands of Skins fans when I say that if I had the choice of giving away Jason La Canfora or giving away Dan Snyder, I wouldn't have to think for a second.

Don't let the fanboys get you down.

Jason La Canfora: No worries brother.

Like I said, it's part of the gig and something I came to grips with long, long ago.

Thanks for the support.


Great NW: so...with Portis being very talkative these his relations on the team okay...especially the O-line...everything cool?

The line play seemed more inspired vs the 'aints.

Love Portis, a "core Redskin" in my opinion.

Jason La Canfora: I'm sure a few guys weren't totally pleased with everything he said -- and I know Snyder and Cerrato were very ticked off after giving the dude another huge contract -- but honestly I think this thing had much more traction outside Redskins Park than in it.

Portis is his own dude and says what he feels and most have come to grips with it by now.

And the bottom line is Sellers and the O Line went to war for him Sunday and played their butts off, and that's all that really matters.


Anonymous: Is long term success in the NFL draft predicated on intelligence and risk aversion rather than talent evaluation? Seems like the teams that use the draft to back-fill the lines and special teams positions (LB, CB, etc.) are always better off from any injury perspective. On the other hand, young WRs and rookie punters rarely make a good impact.

Jason La Canfora: I haven't run any numbers on this, but so many people around the NFL would back-up precisely what you just said. It's find a balance in allocated assets and resources, building first your dependent positions, and, of course, having a capable QB.


Richmond: Jason, what worries you more: another injury in the secondary, along the offensive line, or to one of the starting receivers? Personally, I think the secondary will be a revolving door all season, and that does not bode well against receivers like TO and Plaxico.

(And don't let the fanboys get you down.)

Jason La Canfora: I think losing Moss or ARE right now would be a huge blow, big enough to really derail the growth of this offense.

Thanks for the support partner.


Seattle: JLa-

Couple things... why no iPod mentions?

Why did Anthony Mix not make this team??

Thanks for keeping it real and staying on top of Snyda and V-boy.

Zorn is a good guy though...I am really pulling for him...players seem to be buying in and responding to him, no?

Jason La Canfora: My Ipod is on the fritz. Im actually trying not the think about it. I am fearing the worst.

Mix is oft injured and was simply outproduced by most of the guys who made the team, as well as some who didn't (Mann and McMullen come to mind).

If he gets fully healthy and conditioned he's someone I could definitely see back, and he was a stud on teams down the stretch last season and obviously has a strong connection to Jason Campbell.


Vinny FAILED: Vinny used this draft to solve an IMMEDIATE problem -- adding a big receiver. He didn't use his 10 picks to develop for the future, at say the OL or DL. So it's perfectly fair to judge him a failure because he DIDN'T solve the immediate problem. You don't sign three pass-catchers with the intention of developing all three. That's ridiculous -- it eats up too much roster space. You only do that if you think one or more will play major minutes immediately. Vinny failed. Spin it any way you want.

Jason La Canfora: No argument here my man.

You said it better than I did.


Falls Church: It's early August. Could you have imagined Warner and Frerotte starting in the same week?

Jason La Canfora: Crazy league, eh?

Just goes to show you how hard it is to find a good young QB, and how long you can stick around if you can get this most difficult job done.


Atlanta, Ga.: Barring no major inuries losses, if we can make it out of these next 3 games with a record of 2-3 ( Cards, @ Cowboys, @ Eagles) is there any reason we couldn't run off 3 in a row against the Rams, Browns and @ Lions to be 5-3 at the halfway mark ?

Jason La Canfora: If they survive the first five at 2-3, then they have a very chance of playing meaningful games in December, for sure.

The schedule does ease up some down the road.


Ade Jimoh: Speaking of Marcus Washington, is this just about the end of the line for him in DC? Wrong side of 30, constant nagging injuries with the hip, huge base salary next year.

Jason La Canfora: I think so, Ade (was New England your last stop).

Maybe he restructures and sticks around another year, but I know a lot of people in this building were stunned that one of those 10 picks was not used on a LB.


Doonsbury, USA: Maybe Redfern can get a post-buyout gig on Monday Night Football!

Jason La Canfora: Not a bad landing strip, eh?


Reston, Va.: What do you make of everyone "freaking" out about our rookie punter? Let's cut the guy a break and give him a couple of games. Where's this urgency over all the other weaknesses of this team (OL comes to mind.)

Jason La Canfora: I guess the difference at punter is there is no back-up plan, no alternative on the roster.

Brooks himself was first to say he's gotta another week or so to get it right, and with the way Vinny Cerrato was hovering over him on the field at practice Wednesday, I'd say I can't blame him for having that feeling.


Arizona, Dallas, Philly Defenses.: What is the number one thing or main things I have to stop to make sure we shut down the Skins offense?

Jason La Canfora: I think you've got to stop the run, particularly the stuff behind Samuels. That's the bread and butter right now.


Anonymous: Jason,

Do you think any more players are going to post photos on the web of their privates and pages from the playbook?

Jason La Canfora: I believe we have seen the last of that.

Weird week around here, eh?


Jason La Canfora: Hey guys, got to get running out to practice. Thanks so much again for the great questions and the dialogue. Always appreciated.

Sorry for those I could not get to, but as always I'm on Redskins Insider, and on e-mail (

Have a great week, enjoy the weather and the game.



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