Thursday, Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. ET

Redskins Insider

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 2, 2008; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Oct. 2 at 1 p.m. ET, to take your questions about the Redskins, their win against the Cowboys and their game this weekend against Philadelphia.

The transcript follows.

Read Jason's blog, Redskins Insider.

Full coverage: Washington Redskins


Jason La Canfora: Hey everybody, sorry I'm late a few minutes. Was getting something on the blog.

Huge win for the Skins and huge game in Philly.

Let's get it on.


Los Angeles, CA : Love the chats. Keep up the great work.

Obviously the success of the offense has been the big story so far this season. How much of it can be attributed to the fact that there's just no tape on us? No one in the league knows what to expect from a Jim Zorn offense, so will teams start catching up with us in the second half of the season?

And why has this offense clicked so much faster than the Gibbs/Saunders version? I know Jason Campbell has another season as a starter under his belt, but can this also be attributed to the fact that Gibbs never let Saunders actually run a true Saunders scheme?

Most importantly, all we hear from your ipod is cool, hip tunes. Give me three cheesy guilty pleasure tunes that are on there. And Dan Zanes doesn't count.

Jason La Canfora:

Thanks so much for your support. Awesome of you to say.

I think it can be partly due to being new, but people know what a West Coast offense is generally like, they know JC is looking for Moss, they know some of the bread and butter plays, and the run game is pretty much the same.

I think Zorn is doing a great job of adapting and plucking just enough of what he needs from the old playbook - blocking schemes, using motion at critical times, letting JC go to the shotgun more - and meshing it with him much more aggressive, high-tempo attack.

The guy deserves a ton of credit, now way about it, for JC's development as well as the success of the entire offense.

As for my ipod, well, it may be heading to the shop. Been so busy haven't had a chance to get into it lately.

I've got plenty of full blown cheese on there though: Abba "Gold," Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack (though I will contend those two albums are classics and "best of breed" type CDs). First Madonna album (saw here with the Beastie Boys as a very young, impressionable lad at Merryweather Post Pavilion many moons ago.

Honestly, early Duran Duran is a something I will always cop to. The first two albums are awesome. Love the Niles Rogers production, the thumping bass. I will throw it on fairly often.


Oakton, Va.: What was the reasoning behind the squib kick?

Jason La Canfora: You know what, I haven't got around to asking Danny Smith about that yet. They do a ton of homework over there, and I'm sure they saw something. I'll try to find out exactly what.


Washington, DC: Hey J-La,

I say Kudos to Zorn for getting the offense together so quickly. Will any of the rookie pass catchers make an impact this year? Will Snyder and Cerrato ever draft a defensive lineman?

Jason La Canfora: Hard to see either of them breaking through regularly in 2008, but I still think Kelly has a shot of being decent in third-down, red zone packages and making an impact there.


Bend, OR: Any truth to the rumor that the Skins are trying to sign Fakhir Brown, cut by Linehan before Linehan was cut?

Jason La Canfora: Tuesday would have been the day to jump on anyone if they wanted to. They like the rotation they have going now and figure Taylor will be back at least by next week. He's someone who would be on their emergency list I imagine. If something gets heated I'll be on it.


Coral Springs, FL: When do you think we will finally see Fred Davis involved more in the offense? Seems like a wasted pick if you are not going to use him,

Liverpool is coming on strong so far, do you think they finally finish higher than 4th?

Jason La Canfora: I think it's going to be a while. They don't use 3 TE that much, and Yoder is just better blocking, running routes and receiving right now.

I agree it was a big stretch to go with him there. He could be a quality addition over time, but with Cooley and Yoder already there, and other issues looming (both lines)it struck me as odd.

I'm not sure Pool will get more than a play-in Champions League spot. Love a lot of the talent there. Watched a replay of a January 1994 game between Liverpool and Man U the other night on Fox Soccer Channel. Sick. Sick Sick. What a game.


Washington: After the Dallas game, what is the current assessment on who will continue to start at right tackle -- Jansen or Heier? I think that Jansen is the weaker at pass coverage, how about the run -- are they considered equivalent?

Jason La Canfora: I think they will lean to Jansen again this week given Heyer's injury issues, lack of recent practice time, etc. This is another team that will bring the heat that Jansen is very familiar with from all those NFC East battles.

Unless Heyer is able to practice full go today - and he seemed a ways away from that yesterday - I see Jansen getting the nod.


Tucson, Ariz.: Jason,

I'm beginning to think that Marcus Washington just can't stay healthy? Should we expect to see more Blades or Campbell this Sunday?

Jason La Canfora: I think Marcus is certainly slipping, I hear the hip is still a concern, and for him not to be involved at all on third downs speaks volumes.

With 10 picks last year, a lot of people in this building were stunned they didn't draft a LB ... I'd be really shocked if they don't look at one in the first three rounds in April.


Christchurch, NZ: Greetings from New Zealand. The Skins seem to be owning the line of scrimmage in the 4th quarter this season. This certainly wasn't the case during Gibbs' second tenure. What gives? Keep reporting what you see, Mate.

Jason La Canfora: Thanks so much partner. Hope all is well on that side of the globe.

Zorn ran a much harder training camp with more two-a-days, more contact, and demands a much higher pace. I think all of that is paying off late in these games. With less pre-snap motion and shifting, players are fresher, and Blache is rotating on defense a ton, too.

I give Zorn credit for sticking with the run even when it's not going so well, also, especially on some of these very hot days, to try to sap the defense.


Brunswick, MD: Thanks for the chat and the blog. Great stuff.

How good is Philly's defense? Can they stop us? They couldn't stop Dallas, so they must have a few cracks ...

Jason La Canfora: All thanks to you.

I think you can catch them in the blitz and really burn them. Dawkins is still very good, but his ratio of blitzes to contact has slipped some in recent years. They have corners who can really defend the deep ball, but if guys like Portis and Cooley can eat up yards after the catch on hot reads and screens against the blitz, good things will happen.


Midtown Manhattan: No question, just a comment.

I know us fans are anxious to see the rookie WRs produce, but I really don't think those guys were drafted to produce this year.

Cerrato has committed to letting Zorn build his offense, and they knew they'd need size at WR. But its too early for the rookies to make their mark. For now we'll take a revitalized Santana, and in a year or two we'll see if these rookies are our new WR Corps, and if Santana's still worth his high salary.

Jason La Canfora: I would disagree to the point that when you take the same guy essentially 3 times within 18 picks - and clearly you are targeting a certain asset (tall pass catchers) you anticipate them being contributors in the short term.

You don't do all of that drafting, add nothing in the form of a veteran WR to be a 3 or 4 to hold you over, and then try to say you are drafting for the future. Trust me, they weren't shopping all of those very same picks to the Bengals for Chad Johnson in hopes of building for the future.


Anonymous: It pained me to see Marcus Washington limping and looking a step behind out Witten last week. Any chance Blades get's more snaps? Marcus is clearly not himself. I hope it's just the injuries and not the age.

Jason La Canfora: I think we'll continue to see more nickel, and yes, Blades could be a factor, too. But Marcus's size is a better run fit and I think will get his plays there.

Like the earlier question alluded to, it does seem to be tough times with Marcus and I think they'll need to address that this offseason.


Baltimore: Glad to see Betts get some big reps last week. Portis was a bit banged up and tired, but good to see Betts out there making a solid contribution. I'd like to see some more screens his way. The guy can help.

Jason La Canfora: Agreed. I like the package with both of them in the backfield at the same time.


San Diego: Love your coverage here in Sunny So Cal. The most important question for this game and it's simple. Is Westbrook going to play? What have you heard?

Jason La Canfora: I talked to a scout who watched him warm-up Sunday in Chicago who said he could not cut or make quick moves at all. Now, that's a few days ago and he did practice some yesterday and it's clearly a big game and this dude is a warrior ...

Greg Blache said he is certain Westbrook will play and they are preparing as if he will play. Thing is, even if he plays, my point is that if he's not able to do the unique things that make him such a weapon, then it's still a big chunk of their offense not there.


Williams vs Blache: Jason,

Hi. Though only four games, doesn't it appear that Blache's defensive schemes are doing better than the previous Gregg Williams schemes?


PS. Don't hear many folks clamoring for Frost to come back. He had a terrible game for Green Bay this past weekend. And Brooks seems to have found his groove.

Jason La Canfora: Brooks had his best game by far, definitely. Frost fumbled a snap for a safety a few weeks back, too. Time will tell.

As for Blache, he's running pretty much the same packages, but has been really on point in terms of when to pull the trigger on which call. He's doing a tremendous job, no doubt.


Arlington, Va.: Jason,

Given what was considered a series of below-average drafts, the loss of Sean Taylor, and some key injuries during the preseason, how can the Redskins appear to be so improved this season? Is Zorn channeling the spirit of Bear Bryant or was Joe Gibbs 2 maybe not all that much better a coach than Spurrier?

I have always appreciated your insight in the strategic parts of team building. Is the future being mortgaged for today, or are the Redskins building something real?

By the way, for years I used to get Jim Zorn and Dave Krieg confused with each other. Was it just me?

Jason La Canfora: Great points. They have overcome a ton and seem to get better each week. Now, there will be bumps in the road and more tough times to come, but they clearly have a great base to fall back on.

Zorn has been much quicker and more decisive in play calling, in-game management, he's stripped down the play book, the offense is more focused and all of the key cogs are in better health than many of them have been in quite some time. The health factor cannot be overlooked. They need to find a way to keep avoiding that hamstring plague for recent years.


Maryland: Is it time for Landry to make a big play on Sunday? He's been real solid this year, but you're not really hearing his name too much.

Jason La Canfora: They are asking him to do so much more in coverage and shifting and alignment than ever before, and I think he's taking great strides in those aspects ... But I also agree that it's maybe taken a little away from that huge-play impact.

He has made some great plays in deep balls - especially in the Arizona game - and hasn't really been caught out of position much. Remember, he's not playing close to the line anymore like he did in his first 10 games last year, and his responsibilities have changed a lot.

There haven't been that many throws over the middle that I can recall. He seemed to have the chance for a few big shots last week and didn't land them, but the dude plays with a violent edge and I have a feeling he's going to connect with a WR or two this week.


Brooklyn, NY: How exactly was Horton out of position on the Witten touchdown? It looked to everyone like Marcus just got torched, but wasn't it partly Horton too?

Jason La Canfora: It was both of them, and mostly kinda Horton. They know Marcus can't stay with Witten for 20-plus yards there, and they know Dallas runs the seam route for him in those situations.

Horton and Landry were playing Cover-2, and that was Horton's half of the field. He was responsible for aiding a CB or LB in coverage in that zone, but when Felix Jones went in motion, Horton was baited a bit, he started to drift the wrong way and ended up unable to recover and get to Witten in time, thus he was wide open in the end zone.

Marcus was supposed to have help over the top, and it wasn't there.


Burke, VA: Hey JLC,

I am willing to take up a collection to buy you a new I-Pod Nano - 8 gig, if you start listing tunes again on this chat.

Jim Zorn seems to love calling plays. And he seems to be good at it. How much do you attribute this to his being a former QB? My guess is that any good QB would love to call an entire game on his own. In fact, I am in favor of the NFL picking one week where all teams have to turn off their headphones and mics and let the QBs and defensive leaders call the entire game. Wouldn't that be interesting to see.

Jason La Canfora: Hey I'm all in favor for that collection, but in this economy my man, save for duckets and look out for number one. Money better spent elsewhere.

I think Zorn's QB mind and acumen is probably at the heart of his instincts in play calling as you mention. He's been around some dudes who excelled at it and studied under Holmgren a long time. At 55 he's no spring chicken and put in a lot of years on that side of the ball, so it's not he hasn't been immersed in it.

I think all of those quick-instincts, rapid-synapses, etc that you need to play QB also apply to the pressure-cookers instances calling plays as well, and I bet it kinda feels like the good ol playing days to him when he's locked in on the sidelines.


Vienna, Va: Jason, has Joe Gibbs been around Redskins Park since the season has started ?

Jason La Canfora: Not that any of us have seen.


Washington: As the young receivers mature this year, do you see the Redskins releasing or trading Randle-El next season for cap purposes and to fill some holes at LB and OL?

Jason La Canfora: Nah. They'll just restructure if they have to. He's contributing and does a lot of things that are well suited to this offense.


New York, N.Y.: JLC... how much longer until Jason Taylor gets back on the field? I was concerned last week regarding your analysis. Now, we hear that he's back out jogging. Realistically, how many more games will he miss?

Jason La Canfora: He was pretty emotional last week and was saying it could be weeks or months. He looks much better the last few days and is doing some things ... But he isn't practicing with the rest of the team now and just came into the building with a trainer.

Zorn said it would be a real stretch for him to play this Sunday and I would imagine they try to get him practicing through next week and see if he's ready then.


Reston, Va.: How is Jason Taylor looking for a return this week?

Jason La Canfora: See above question. He isn't practicing.


Los Angeles: Jason, how in the world can they keep Horton on the sidelines? It seemed like when he was on the field, he was in every tackle and camera shot.

Jason La Canfora: He still makes some big mistakes in coverage, and for every play he makes he sometimes can cost them too. Don't get me wrong, his knack for the ball is superb and the big plays have been huge, but he is by no means the finished product.

After getting burned in Cover-2 last week he was benched in the base package for Reed again, then came back in the Cobra package (three safeties) and that's when he made his pick.

He's getting a lot of reps regardless between the two packages and it's not like he's going an entire possession without playing. I like how they are bringing him along, and it's resulted in some big plays, and fewer big plays against because the mistakes - save for on the Witten TD - have mostly been minimized.


Manassas, Va.: Is it really so surprising to people that the Redskins would be a decent team this year? Last year, with roughly the same personnel, this team blew through the Giants, Vikings and Cowboys to end the year. I seemed obvious that with some leadership at the QB position they could excel, yet all I read in the offseason were predictions of 4-12, 6-10, etc...

Regarding the iPod, any Soundgarden is a good thing.

Jason La Canfora: In this division, I think they can be called a surprise, because the other teams on paper, for the most part, looked to be pretty good.

My thought was 8-8 would be best case scenario, and they certainly eclipse that with this start.

As for Soundgarden, they lost me completely after "Badmotorfinger." I can't even stand to hear Chris Cornell's name anymore ("Louder Than Love" still rocks, though).


Austin, Tex.: Hi Jason, Great victory last week. I'm concerned about all the hoopla from the media as a result. Coach Z says to "stay medium," and I agree -- focus on one game at a time. What's your sense from the players? Any of this new recognition/rankings getting to their heads?

Thanks for all you do!

Jason La Canfora: I actually prefer medium well, but that's just me.

I don't get into the whole "mood of the team" spiel. I don't' really buy it. Each week is a different season and with 53 guys and 15 coaches or whatever, I think there's not really on current that always runs through the team.


Have some Guts!: Top 5 teams in the NFL right now?

Jason La Canfora: Man. I'm not a big power ranking type guy. I think it's all crap until the playoffs. That's why you play the games. This isn't silly college football where opinions and that BS matters.

It's settled in February. Now, I will say it's hard not to like the way teams like Washington, the Titans, the Giants, are playing.

I think Tampa and Carolina could still make some noise in the NFC by the time we get close to the playoffs. I think Jacksonville will get better down the road. I wouldn't put the Colts down for good just yet either. And Buffalo seems to have built off its finish last year.

Man, that was a total cop out wasn't it. Sorry.


Oxon Hill, MD: Hey JC big supporter of you. Will Shawn Springs be available for the game against Philly. How is that calf doing is he or will he practice today?

Jason La Canfora: Springs wasn't practicing today but he told me that he thinks with treatment he'll be good to go for the weekend. He thinks he'll play.


College Park, MD: Hey Jason... Just wanted to gauge your thoughts on Mike Sellers.

Do you see the Redskins addressing the FB position this upcoming off season, or is big Mike a lock once again next year.


Jason La Canfora: I think he's certainly a lock. They have Broughton on the practice squad in case of injury, but he is a very versatile guy and someone who I think will have a bigger role in the offense as Zorn gets to know him better and figures out all that he can do.


Gweez: Whatup JLA?

What is the thinking on the WCO vs. blitz-heavy defenses? Does it help/hurt or make no difference. Seems the quick passing 3 step drops would be an asset.

Also with Stevie G. getting number 100 yesterday I have him past Rush (By a nose) but still not up there with Kenny D. Agree?

What is up with Serie A they look awful.

Jason La Canfora: In theory it should help, but when you look at the Skins running play action, a lot of that turns into in essence a seven step drop. But yes, it should help.

What's up with all the Liverpool love? America's Team?

Dalglish is a legend, and so is Mr. Gerrard. Hard to compare. This era of English football is so much more dominated by foreign talent.

As for Italy, I have barely had time to keep up with the EPL this year and haven't followed Serie A as much as I would like. Been pretty dire, eh?


Redskins Nation: How far behind the curve is Devin Thomas? It looked like he was starting to come on in the 'Zona game late (such as the aborted TD), but I didn't even see that he was on the field for Dallas.

Kelly looks to be a "Hanger Queen".... but with all the other injuries, it looks like someone is putting healing juice on the 'Skins, because they're coming back so much quicker than normal (Rodgers, Rocky, JT (a potentially deadly injury that takes "Months rehab" turning into 1-2 weeks? WOW!), Marcus Washington, Springs, Smoot, even Heyer since he REinjured the problem WHILE PLAYING Teams a week later) Is there something new the training staff has done for getting these guys patched up and ready again, some magic "Redskins-ade" we need to know about?

Jason La Canfora: Devin was actually on the field a lot and basically was the third receiver for the most part.

The team is doing a lot of new treatment and stretching stuff and that may be paying off. Kudos to them if so.


Jason La Canfora: Well guys, my time is up. This hour always flies by with all the great questions. Sorry for those I did not get to, but as always you can get me on the blog - Redskins Insider - or on email (

Hope everyone has a great weekend and enjoys the game. Look forward to catching up again next week.



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