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Thursday, Sept. 25 at noon ET

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Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 25, 2008; 12:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Sept. 25 at noon ET, to take your questions about the Redskins, their win against the Cardinals and their game this weekend against Dallas.

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The transcript follows.

Read the Redskins Insider blog.

Full coverage: Washington Redskins

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Jason La Canfora: Hey there everybody. Hope all is well and thanks for stopping by. I'm sure I will get a lot of questions on a particular topic, so I'll say what I can about it right away and then we can address Dallas Week and all that comes with that.

Okay, have at me.

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Pittsburgh: Jason you are very entertaining and you get the fans excited. The Cerrato incident seemed like you were out to get him specifically and not just good investigative reporting. I will go on faith for now that is all it was, good investigative reporting as there are always two sides to every story, sometimes more.

Besides scoring more points than Dallas what will the Redskins have to do to win and if you had to pick someone that will be a hero next Monday we are not thinking about who will it be? (ie: Horton, New Orleans game)

Jason La Canfora: I'm glad you asked about that. I did not charge anyone with tampering. My only purpose in contacting the league was to find out in general how its rules might come into play if a team official comments on a radio show about a player or coach under contract to another team.

As for the game, these rivalry matches often have a way of bringing someone expected to the forefront, eh? I think that is the Skins win, Rocky McIntosh may have to be a big part of that. His knee seems to be finally alright, he's getting better each week, he has a knack for prying balls loose and I get the sense he likes the big stage.

He nearly had a takeaway in Dallas last year - replay changed that - and I think he may get a few cracks at Whitten. If, or some other LB, he can control that guy it would be a huge.

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Manahawkin, N.J.: How can the 'Skins pressure Romo without Taylor?

Jason La Canfora: It's gonna be tough. I loved some of the push Griffin and Golston generated up the middle last week. They're going to need more of that with Carter now easily doubled, chipped, or generally derailed.

Marcus Washington could end up being a huge factor on third downs. He's played with his hand down before, and practiced with the D Line a lot last year, and I would imagine Evans could go inside on third downs - as is his norm in the nickel - and Washington could be that rush end on the left side.

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Albany, NY: JLC - what's the scoop on Fred Davis - we haven't heard much about him lately.

Jason La Canfora: He's still finding his way, and the biggest issue is the position he plays. Cooley is a Pro Bowler and Yoder is very good as a second option. Todd knows the offense, has good hands and is a more powerful blocker than Davis right now.

He's too valuable not to have in the 2 TE sets and yes they run a few plays to try to get Davis downfield a bit, but his role is limited for now. Last week in the goal line situations Zorn went with Lorenzo Alexander as a tackle eligible instead of some 3 TE stuff.

He's got a climb but has a lot of natural talent and spends a lot of extra time working with Rennie Simmons after practice, which can only help.

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Greenbelt, MD: IMO the key to the game will be special teams. Dallas has an offensive advantage and the Skins have the defensive advantage. What impact do you see special teams playing this Sunday?

Jason La Canfora: I think it's huge, also. I blogged about it a lot yesterday.

Adding the Jones brothers (okay, they're not related but you get the drift) - Felix and Adam - has given a new dimension to Dallas' special teams. They are a handful to deal with.

I think Durant Brooks needs to have a big game, as a holder and a punter, and the Skins need to find a way to get more out of the punt return game (I hear Santana Moss could be more involved in that regard).

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West Palm Beach, Fla.: Jason,

Do you see Blache blitzing the heck out of Romo on Sunday? If you give Romo the time, he will pick apart any defense. Also, having said that, do you think Landry be shadowing Witten and/or T.O.? Thanks. Go Skins.

Jason La Canfora: I agree with Taylor out a four-man pass rush might not cut it, but the Skins are also going to need numbers back in the secondary.

This is a bend-don't-break D. They want to take away the big play above all else. Even under Williams, who was much more of a blitz advocate than Blache, they didn't blitz Romo much as all last year. His quick release can really burn you, and a guy like Felix Jones can kill you as a safety valve on screens.

I don't see them being super aggressive on the blitz to be honest. They faced two high powered passing teams the past two weeks and didn't blitz much.

They want to utilize their coverage skills and man up on people. Maybe they bring the linebackers a fair amount, and a safety a few times, but I don't think it will be a big part of what they plan to do.

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Tucson, Ariz.: Jason,

In the offseason, Santana Moss referred to his use of mixed martial arts to improve his conditioning. Do you think it's a coincidence that he looks healthier and faster than in previous years?

If it keeps up, any chance he recruits more of his teammates to join him in these sessions? Or could Dan Snyder hire some MMA guys to train the team in the offseason?

Thanks!

Jason La Canfora: I don't think its a coincidence. Shawn Springs is a zealot about what his boxing training does for his body. Stephon Heyer worked out with Springs's trainer, too, boxing, and rehshaped his body.

I definitely believe there is something to it. A lot of the Skins do boxing training at Redskins Park on Fridays, and I think it's paying off.

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Rush End on 3rd Down?: How about Chris Wilson? He had 6 sacks last season with minimal snaps? Doesn't he already have a sack or 2 this season?

Jason La Canfora: He is definitely a speed rushing threat but needs to continue getting bigger, adding more moves, etc.

Chris is a tremendous human being who overcame great adversity to even reach this level, and a guy you can't help identifying with.

He needs to keep making plays on special teams and yes, he will get some duty on third down as well in certain situations. He's a lot like Chris Clemons, who used to be here (except with better knees and with far superior output on special teams) and Clemons went from marginal guy who's career seemed to over to getting a big payday from the Eagles last offseason.

Chris is a hard worker and his day may come, too.

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DC: Who's going to cover Witten? I don't think any of our LB's can cover him, and our safetys may be too small.

Jason La Canfora: I think Rocky may say a fair bit of him, and in zone Horton may be the guy to pick him up down field.

No doubt it's going to be one of the 2-3 biggest match-ups in the game. I am with you on that.

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Anonymous: Early in camp they were saying Chad Rinehart was the real deal. Can a third-round pick not dress on Sundays? Is he that far behind?

Jason La Canfora: He should be a guy who contributes this season, no doubt. They have a veteran O Line, so no shame in him not starting. But he should be a body on special teams at least.

He's a bit of a tweener and has to really learn the guard position, I think, but right now I don't see him as as tackle. His play certainly slipped later in camp and the more he faced real NFL players.

The Skins are not young at all at the guard position, and the expectation should be he takes over one of those spots in 2009 or 2010 given where he was selected.

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Manassas, Va: JLC,

Who will be the number 3 wide receiver for the skins this week?

Why do the 'Skins refuse to put Rock back to return punts??

Jason La Canfora: They like what Rock gives them in other aspects of the punt team but I agree that he could use a shot here at some point.

James Thrash is doing better this week and Zorn expects him to resume a normal role in the offense this week after doing primarily teams work last week. Thomas will get his shot to run those fly patterns though.

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Charlottesville VA: I'm past the point of believing my eyes when I see Carlos Rogers looking completely recovered in no time at all. Are we sure it wasn't a bad sprain?

Jason La Canfora: it really is pretty amazing isn't it?

And then you add the way McIntosh has started to look right, last week in particular and it's even more remarkable.

A lot of coaches around here figured they would be going into the season without three of the four top young talents on that defense this season, and would have to start over to some degree, but their recoveries have been stunning.

You have to give full marks to the surgeons and trainers here, and especially to those two young men for being so diligent in what was an arduous recovery.

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Tel Aviv, Israel: Comin' from a far brutha!

Over/under on my Skin's pulling the upset of the young season in big D?

Don't even ask what time I'm going to the pub to catch the game here!

Jason La Canfora: Wow, thanks for checking in brother.

Are you a Macabi supporter? Israeli football (re:soccer) has taken some big strides in recent years.

I think the Skins have a chance to win this game, certainly. If they can play turnover-free ball as they have been, make big plays, protect the QB -- that's a great recipe to win.

Now, it's much more difficult to do all of that on the road, but anything can happen in these grudge matches. It should be a great game, and one worth staying up late to see (or getting up early, whichever it may be).

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Chicago: If Jansen starts do you think that might open some running lanes on the right finally? What's the over under on him starting?

Jason La Canfora: That would certainly be the most positive thing in this trade off. He lacks Heyer's quickness in pass pro, but is a more abrasive force in the run game.

As we've noted in the paper and on the blog, this has been a decidedly "left-handed" team on the ground and it won't be there forever. I'd go with that as my bread and butter too, behind Samuels, but better balance is essential.

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Washington, DC: What do the Skins plan on doing to slow down TO this year?

Jason La Canfora: I think Springs will man up on him with Landry shaded that way over the top. They can't go crazy trying to truly double him, because they Whitten eats you alive and screens to Barber and Jones as well.

It will be a similar approach to what worked against Arizona and New Orleans, I figure.

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Baltimore: Do you anticipate more gadget plays? I'm not sure why they don't allow Randal El to throw at least one pass a game...what a weapon that is. Moss on some end arounds, etc.

Jason La Canfora: I think so.

The end around for Thomas, the Randle El play, even the TD pass to Yoder all had some misdirection and the element of surprise at play.

Zorn seems to have a good feel for when to call them and when not to (Saunders tended to get them blown up on first down).

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Anonymous: I had a dream that Fred Davis scored the winning touchdown against Dallas, any chance he even sees some PT?

Jason La Canfora: It would be a stretch, but not impossible.

Justin Geisinger? Now that's no chance.

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Falls Church, Va.: Taylor "balked at surgery"? He just got a second opinion! That's one of the dumbest headlines I've read in the Post. I doubt you wrote the headline, so what would your headline have been?

washingtonpost.com: Taylor Balked at Emergency Surgery

Jason La Canfora: Well, he put it off for several hours and hoped his body would heal and he could delay it at least until 7 a.m.

Is balked horrible? I don't think so. Awful hard to get procrastinate in a headline.

I don't have anything to do with that process, and for good reason. I stunk at it even back in my old college editing days. It's an art form and there are some crazy space regulations and trust me, it ain't easy.

We are blessed with an outstanding copy staff and those guys and gals have saved my backside too many times to list.

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Winchester, Va.: Jason, what are the Redskins going to do about Reed Doughty with him being so slow on pass coverage? Could Chris Horton start?

Jason La Canfora: I think they will continue to tweak the roles of both players and I could see a time soon where Horton is more of the base guy in their standard two-deep operation.

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Alexandria, Va.: Hey Jasno,

You are the man. I know Dallas is tough, but we know them inside out. To me, the biggest hurdle to beating the Cowboys will be the injury to Stephon Heyer.

Even with Jon Jansen in for only a series or two against the Cardinals, the difference in offensive production and Campbell's confidence was clearly noticeable.

What do you think?

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

I'm not sure JC starts flinching or anything like that when Jansen comes in, or that the RT will make or break the confidence of the O. Could have been a coincidence.

Jon is getting more reps in practice at starting right tackle this week, so that should help with timing, etc. No doubt I expect the Cowboys to attack that area and get Ware on that side of the field quite a bit. The Skins are going to have to run a fair amount of 2 TE sets I believe, and Jansen will need some help.

Heyer is in uniform today, though we don't get to watch practice so I can't report yet how much or how little he is doing. He may be able to play, and either way I think Dallas will take its chances attacking the right side with Samuels on the left.

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DC: So whose side were you on, Bmitch or CP's? Bmitch made some really good points.

Jason La Canfora: Neither side, really.

I understand where both are coming from and I'm not the type to get all worked up about two dudes exchanging some heated ideas over the air. It went on a little long, but I didn't think it was a big deal at all.

That kind of stuff happens sometimes. It's inevitable.

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West Falls Church: As admirable as the D is playing, they still miss #21. I don't think opposing teams fear this defense.

It was just last season, I think, where #21 flat laid out TO during a game, and we never heard from him after that.

Jason La Canfora: No doubt about that. You can't replace that guy. Period.

To see them play this well without him is special, and, again, especially to be able to get what they are out of Rogers and McIntosh.

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Fairlington, Va.: Jason:

Earlier in the chat you mentioned Rocky Macintosh as someone who could possibly have a big game against Dallas. On the flipside, who do you see on offense possibly coming up big this week for the Skins?

Jason La Canfora: If I'm calling plays I'm taking 4-5 deep shots to Moss. I'm going to test those safeties. Get him on Henry's side when you can and get after it.

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Marion Barber: What are we going to do to stop him? I liked the way we looked in the 2nd half against the Giants and Brandon Jacobs... how stout is our run D right now in your opinion?

Jason La Canfora: It's going to be pushed to the limit in this one. Dallas is just huge on that side of the ball, and the Skins by no means have a massive front seven.

It's going to take a lot of work from the safeties to contain that dude. He's a headbanger man, like an Earl Campbell type (with less girth). He runs with such abandon that I'm not sure he'll have the longest career, but man will there be some memorable highlight runs to look back on.

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West Falls Church: Let's not underestimate or forget how big of an impact the fans will have on this game.

It's a 4:15 game, so I expect the fans to be plenty lubed up by then.

Jason La Canfora: Yeah man, that's a lot of time to throw back the Shiner Bocks.

It's going to be quite the atmosphere I imagine.

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Derwood: Seems to me that the best way for the Skins to scheme Dallas is to try to take away one thing (the run or the pass) and make them one dimensional. If you had to choose between stifling the run game or using lots of nickel to blanket receivers, what do you think gives the best chance of winning?

Jason La Canfora: That's the rub, it's almost impossible to take away either. I think they continue to play coverage and more zone on second and third down, have one safety down as much as possible and go with Springs trying to man up on TO so there is a safety free to keep an eye on Whitten.

It's tough, for sure.

It'll come down to big plays - making a few on offense, trying to prevent the quick-strike on defense, and winning the turnover battle.

Dallas is pretty legit all around. Again, I'm not sold on their deep pass coverage, but other than that it's hard to rip them for much.

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NY, NY: JLC--after seeing Devin Thomas catch that touchdown pass (I almost blacked out at the bar screaming) and then feeling pretty deflated when it was called back due to Heyer's penalty, I felt like Devin was starting to get more acclimated to the offense. Plus I swear on one play, Devin was wide open over the middle and JC just checked down to another receiver for a minimal gain. What are your thoughts on Devin's progress overall?

Jason La Canfora: I think you nailed it. He was indeed open deep a few times ... But after his rough preseason and tendency to make mistakes, he needs to build up the trust of his QB.

If he could get himself up to speed on the playbook and be able to run more routes as well, that would help. But does seem to be making some strides.

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Marthas Vineyard: Follow up to the Billy McMullen cut... Because the Seahawks snapped him up so quickly would it seem plausible that Zorn was against the cut? And quickly contacted Holmgren with a heads-up that the leading pre-season receiver (NFL) was going to be available. Would seem also plausible then, that Vinnie made the "cut" decision?? Not the head coach?

Jason La Canfora: I'm not sure I follow that one. Zorn certainly made it clear the day before cuts that he believed McMullen had made his team, but once you're actually getting down to the final 53 things are still in flux.

I think Zorn would have definitely loved to start with 6 WRs if at all possible, especially given where Thomas and Kelly were at that point, but they had to make some tradeoffs.

I would have put Jackson on the practice squad and kept McMullen, but I don't have any knowledge of that being entirely a Cerrato thing. I never really probed around on it - and I still think you could get by with Jackson on the practice squad even now - but I don't think you can put all of that on one guy.

Plenty of people found it beyond fishy that all 10 rookies made the roster, me included, and especially given how obvious it was that many of them would be inactives and some could have gone to the practice squad without much fear of them being signed elsewhere. And certainly the hand of management was involved in all those decisions, as Zorn said as much.

But I can't put the McMullen release on one guy. And I don't think there's any wayt Zorn would have pushed him to Seattle, because, trust me, Zorn knows he could have definitely needed a free agent receiver real soon, and Billy would have been at the top of their emergency list.

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Boulder, CO: Jason, pretty much any casual viewer of Cowboys games has noticed that deep-center route their receivers love to run. Are the Skins' DBs prepared to defend that without leaving gaping holes in shorter yardage routes (that guys like Witten love)?

I'm assuming that if fans see this the Skins' D has noticed too.

Jason La Canfora: Yeah man, and they routinely gut teams sitting back in Cover-2 with it (they got the Skins like 3 times with it last year, Fletcher included).

You're picking your poison all around and Blache is going to need to have another superior day Sunday. You've got to know the tendencies, be constantly processing what it most likely based on down and distance, gamble a little bit, and at times get lucky.

Blache was in the zone last week, that's for sure. He called a helluva game and his secondary executed expertly.

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Jersey City, NJ: JLC, Will the Redskins be considered a member of Beast of the East when they beat Dallas on Sunday?

Jason La Canfora: If they win this game, then you have to say this puppy is wide open.

Everyone but the G-Men would have a loss, and they are going through a lot of turmoil over there all of a sudden.

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Jason La Canfora: Well guys, got to run; the Skins changed their schedule because of the weather, which forced me to juggle this chat.

Thanks as always for the great questions and for keeping me on my toes. Sorry for those I could not get to, and as always, you can get me on the blog - Redskins Insider - or on email - lacanforaj@washpost.com.

Have a great weekend and enjoy the game.

Cheers.

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