Thursday, Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. ET

Redskins Insider

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 9, 2008; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Oct. 10 at 1 p.m. ET, to take your questions about the Redskins, their win against the Eagles and their game this weekend against St. Louis.

The transcript follows.

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Jason La Canfora: Hello there everyone. How 'bout dem Redskins?

I'm sure you guys have a lot you want to get to, so I'll get out of the way and let you guys have at me.


Mike Nelms: It seems like Zorn is able to do much more than Gibbs could with the same talent, and I'm thinking the main issue with Gibbs' second tenure (and lack of success team-wide) was a lack of multiple receiving routes. and lack of offensive creativity.

The running game looks much improved, but the biggest difference in the offense is clearly Zorn's ability to move the ball through the air and keep the D guessing, which backs the 8th man away from the box, making it easy for Portis to run for 5-7 yards rather than 2-4. Maybe Portis finishes the season with a higher YPC than any Gibbs season?

The defense under GG was always tough even if not top 5, but they were always on the field and had no margin for error playing alongside an O that couldn't score TDs.

Jason La Canfora: You won't get a single argument out of me on any of that. Gregg's defense was always playing from behind. Gibbs never came close to maximizing his talent, playing like a four-corners style offense with a bunch of guys who wanted to play a full-court press.

The motion and shifting never took. They playbook was too expenasive. There were too many cooks int he kitchen. And Gibbs was indecisive and sometimes just plain bad with in game calls. The sidelines often appeared to be in chaos and the team was prone to penalties and breakdowns.

It's a much smoother, much more streamlined operation now.


West Falls Church, Va.: Suisham had a great game last week, but what was the reason for the pooch kickoff that landed out of bounds?

Jason La Canfora: I meant to ask Danny Smith about that. I know that's a call Danny will make against certain teams when he sees certain things.

With the way Suisham has been booming kickoffs, I wouldn't expect to see it a whole lot more.


Tarboro, NC: Good afternoon brother J La C. Look into your crystal ball and give us a prediction on the next five games could you sir?. The first three are against "supposedly weaker" teams. These "weak teams" can sometimes slip in and bite ya. Agreed?. Now if Coach "Z" can keep the team away from the press clippings through proper motivation and pull off wins against Pitt and Dallas, then I would say this team is not doing it with smoke and mirrors. What's your take? Cheers and peace out bro.

Jason La Canfora: Good to hear from you brother.

My crystal ball is a little cracked, but even if they go 3-2 the Skins are in good position. Real good position. The road games in the second half are against weaker teams. Yeah, there's some long trips involved, but it sets up well.

A lot will depend on what condition Roethlisberger is in by the time that games rolls around. That O Line has nearly gotten him killed a few times, and the Skins might end up catching them at the right time there.


Helsinki: Hi Jason, It's 9am here and 2am there, so maybe I'll have the first question for your chat today. I wondered if the league has reviewed the two apparently incorrect calls by the officials in the game last Sunday; the first on the wrong "number 50" on the punt return for a TD and the second when Randle El was seemingly not touched when he got up and ran for a TD after catching a pass. Thanks! I guess these calls are not reviewable during the game.

Jason La Canfora: I love Helsinki. Love it. Spent several weeks in Finland 4-5 years ago covering a soccer tournament. My wife and I had a wonderful time in Helsinki (I loved Tuurku and Lahti as well). That boat cruise around the harbor is awesome (We still crack each other up say, "Helsinki, daughter of the Baltic" in the heavy accent of the translated voice on the headphones you wear on the cruise).

Had a blast on the boat to Estonia - the Baltic gets a little choppy for my taste, though. Would love to get back. Very expensive city though, eh? Dollars won't go far there now I imagine.

Anywho, I am waiting to hear back on those two plays. Have checked with some people to see if the Skins asked for clarification. You are correct that they are not reviewable in the game, but the league will let teams know when they blow calls.

Email me over the weekend and I'll let you know what I hear ( and enjoy Finland.


Leesburg, Va.: Hey Jason,

The Rams are a team that scare me this weekend. They have a lot of talent and nothing to loose. How do you see Zorn keeping the 'Skins heads on right heading into Sunday when they are heavy favorites. Thanks

Jason La Canfora: The coaches have been pounding this message into the heads of the players all week long. We just spoke to Greg Blache and he was giving us the hard sell, too, in the media.

They are talking up the Rams talent, the desperate situation they are in. And they do have some individual game breakers, but have been putrid as a collective unit this season.

There are big upsets every weekend in this league and this is by no means a guaranteed W, though I do expect the Skins to win comfortably.


Woodbridge, VA: Jason,

How concerned are the coaches about the seven starters that did not practice yesterday? How many of them have a realistic shot of playing Sunday?

Also, what are you predictions for the Caps this season? Thanks.

Jason La Canfora: Not too concerned. The Skins have been thriving without many of these guys and have solid people in place like Evans and Jansen who are filling in quite well.

Springs says he is definitely playing. Taylor is pushing to play but might need another week (we shall see how much he does in practice today). Griffin's shoulder is the only new concern, and even then he hasn't been playing much on third down, anyway.

I wouldn't sweat it too much.

As for the Caps, I'm not sold on the new keeper, but overall it should be a great year. Now, they will be measured by playoff success again from here on out, and a long playoff run would be a lot of fun (and hopefully I'd get to do columns again during it, in case any editors happen to peruse this here lil chat).


Ade Jimoh: My gut says not only is Marcus Washington near the end, but might have reached the end. Is the IR list in his immediate future?

Jansen vs. Heyer. How is there any debate after these last two games?

Jason La Canfora: Ade, how you holding up dude? I think this is the end for you, too.

I'm with you on Marcus. I don't IR him yet and I think he could be a valuable option with his hand down in the nickel package depending on Taylor's health down the road ... But I think we have seen the best of him. Too many injuries over too many years.

They have to invest in a linebacker in the first three rounds of the draft this April. People in the building were shocked they didn't come away with one with 10 picks in this draft.

You can't count on Marcus to be a playmaker anymore and maybe he restructures and stays around as a role guy next year, but I think they need to explore options in the offseasoon for a replacement.

As for Jansengate, I say you stick with Jon until/unless he plays his way out of the job. That's a no-brainer to me right now.

_______________________ Redskins Insider: Blache Takes Cautious Approach to Rams


Tucson, Ariz.: Jason,

Great job as always. I think the Jansen/Heyer situation will really test Zorn in his first head coach situation.

Zorn tends to follow his veterans, he appreciates their input. If he benches Jansen, will he lose the support of his veteran team...especially the guys on the line?


Jason La Canfora: Thanks so much.

Guys are watching this closely, but in the column I wrote on this week I didn't want to overplay the severity of it, and I hope I did it justice.

The guys on the O Line are watching very closely and some have very strong opinions on it, but it's not the kind of thing that's going to cause a mutiny or totally derail the team. Would it rub some vets the wrong way? Sure. But not enough to make people go nuts.

There is definitely a sense among that group that Jon should have his job. Zorn has had the perfect touch with this stuff for the most part so far, and this will be an interesting obstacle for him.


Mayaguez, Puerto Rico: Has Greg Blache express concerned about a lack of pass rush on "obvious" passing downs? I think Zorn has done a great job with the talent at hand. But I also think the offense has been healthy for once and they're now scoring points and converting 3rd downs. If anything, I still think the defense is still suspect at times. It just seems like coaches have the team practice the easy things...and it's shows with wins.

Jason La Canfora: I agree with you that this needs fixing, and maybe a healthy Jason Taylor fixes it. Maybe. Blogged about it in the middle of the week as the No. 1 nitpicky thing to point out in what has been far and away an amazing start to the season.

A lack of pressure has been reality around here for a long time and the D Line has often been overlooked, especially adding young, impact guys.

Blache barely blitzes at all, and the secondary has been outstanding, allowing him to go that route.

We asked Blache about it today and he conceded that he would like more pressure - saying no coach is ever satisfied with the amount they generate - but that he isn't concerned at all with sacks. He generally pronouces a distaste for stats.

Come January you have to be able to get after the QB, no doubt about it. Teams that go far in the playoffs generally do.


Columbia, S.C.: Like your production. I'm a diehard Redskins fan from the deep south. I remember well the First Gibbs go-round: nerve-wracking from my perspective, but capable when the games are in the books. Against top teams in the '80s the Redskins couldn't do a darn thing in the first two quarters, but by the half defensive coordinator Ritchie Pettibon had the opponents' offense schemed pretty well. Meant a lot of come-from-behind victories.

Gibbs' second coming, the Redskins game planned the first two quarters pretty well, scoring on the first drive and keeping opponents at bay -- until the half. But that was it for the Washington offense. Two quarters and sit on the lead. Resulted in a lot of losses.

With Zorn, ironically, I'm seeing the philosophy of the first Gibbs go-around. Let the opponent's offense score a couple of times, whether you want them to or not, but get them schemed by the half. Meanwhile, stay running, make first downs, look for a big-play opportunity and stay close. That strategy has thus far made me a very, very happy Redskins fan in Panthers' dominant territory. Your thoughts?

Jason La Canfora: I agree. Unlike Gibbs 2.0, Zorn seems more willing to run while behind, and he is also a go-for-the-throat guy. He plays to put teams away, not go ubber-conservative at times and play not to lose.

He wants to play at a high tempo and attack all the time. He goes for it on fourth down to put games away with the ball in his hands, not always punt and rely on the defense to close it out.

There has been a massive shift in mentality in that offense, and to me it all starts with Zorn (to say nothing of his hands-on work with Jason Campbell).


Columbus, Ohio: I will keep asking this until I get an answer. So what does your source say about JC's fit with the WCO now? When are we going to read more from this source? He obviously knows a lot about football.

Jason La Canfora: Actually, I talk to him all the time.

And he points out that the Skins are running more play action, more seven step drops, and way more shotgun than any other West Coast team would. He's also utilizing way more motion and shifting in key places than most any West Coast offense would.

He gives Zorn a lot of credit for tailoring the offense to Campbell after the Giants game and putting him in situations he is comfortable with. He says JC does far fewer true three-step drops than you would see from Hasselbeck.

I did a long blog entry last Friday from an NFL exec breaking down the Skins/Eagles game and how he thought it would play it. It was spot on and included much praise for Zorn. And it came from the same person who gave me that quote.

The man is decorated and knows football.


Wells, Maine: I think John Jansen has earned the right to start again on the offensive line. I was puzzled by Jim Zorn's comments this week that he thinks Stephon Heyer is still the guy. I hate to see a change when things have worked so well the last two games. On Football: What Can Brawn Do for You? (Post, Oct. 8)

Jason La Canfora: I'm with you boss. He may end up over-thinking this one.

It would be one thing if Heyer if the guy who faced Dallas and Philly, and he shut down those team while the Redskins also dominated on the ground. But that wasn't the case.


Orlando, Fla.: JLA,

Thanks for all the great info!

I wonder, with all the insane coverage from both the print media and Internet, is it possible that team issues that used to fly under the radar and be routine, are now blown way out of proportion. EX: The Redskins keeping all their draft picks or the firing of a team executive over the summer.

Are we looking too hard into these teams and creating stories, or do you feel they are legit?

Jason La Canfora: Interesting question. I'm not sure about blown out of proportion. It's news - always was and always will be. It's noteworthy all the changes made as an organization completely re-shapes itself on the fly.

i think the way news is digested has changed more so than even the way it is presented - people read things now collectively, emotionally, on blogs, message boards, comments at the bottom of online stories. That may lead to certain perceptions.

This stuff would be written about under any circumstances I feel.


Arlington, Va.: What's the status of Erasmus James?

Jason La Canfora: Not very productive. He finally got in last week for a few plays but looks like it's going to be a long road back.

_______________________ Redskins Insider: Redskins/Eagles Scouting Report


Pentagon City: Jason,

Over the past several years I have been very skeptical (to say the least) about the way Snyder/Cerrato have run the Redskins -- from player acquisition to the FedEx Field game day "experience." I felt he treated the team like a fantasy football squad.

I was even more skeptical when Snyder hired an inexperienced head coach in Zorn and found it ironic how Snyder told Gibbs something along the lines of "Zorn has what it takes to be a good head coach."

Yet after 5 games the Skins are playing very well and are 4-1, and Zorn does appear to be a good head coach -- he even appears to be better than Job Gibbs 2.0.

So what do you think? Was I wrong in thinking Snyder and Cerrato do not have a high football acumen or that they did not know how to run a football organization and pick players and coaches? Were we wrong about Cerrato? Is he indeed a good GM? Can we say that Snyder is indeed a smart "football guy" who knows what he is doing?

Jason La Canfora: I think it's way too soon to say either way.

It's early October.

Zorn was a guy they hired as an offensive coordinator and it's not like they targetted him and he was their guy. They interviewed like a dozen people before him and ended up having very few options in Febraury as candidates dropped out (esepcially after Spagnuolo departed).

Zorn was a huge questionmark. And right now he looks like the real deal in every way, shape and form. He has been impressive since the spring and though unconventional in many respects, is commanding respect in droves.

it could turn out to be the best hire this organization has made in a long, long time, but he's not even six weeks into the regular season yet. Maybe Snyder and Cerrato have turned the corner, and the indications from the first quarter are certainly strong.


Tom Cruise: Could I star as Zorn in the upcoming movie, 'Hip-Hip Hooray! The Story of the '08 Redskins'?

Seriously, what were you most wrong about coming into the season (offense, Zorn's adjustment, defense, OL performance) and where were you right?

Jason La Canfora: Wow, TC as JZ?

Guess I could see it. He could do the spikey hair thing, eh? Zorn has him by about 7 inches, but they can shoot around that.

As for final conclusions on the team, let's hold off until the season ends. We have yet to see how the draft class, depth, age, injuries, etc will impact the team.

Right now they look like world beaters but there is a lot of football to be played.


Jim Zorn: Alright Mr. JLC. During the preseason you went on national TV and said that the only way the Skins win the division is for McNabb, Romo, and Manning to all get hurt. Do you still feel that way?

Jason La Canfora: It certainly wouldn't hurt, would it?

Let's see. I don't know too many people who looked at this division, and all the unknowns surrounding the Redskins, and said they were going to win the division.

And in October, I wouldn't hand any division to any team (except the AFC East to the Pats by this time last year).


Mark Felt: What's up with readers questioning "anonymous sources?" News for all of you; that's how this biz works. (Sorry to jump to your defense, Jasno. I know you're a big boy and can handle the haters)

Jason La Canfora: No worries dude. It's all good.

I didn't really think this was all that hostile. Has it been? I am just totally immune to it at this point?


Reston, Va.: Will Fred Davis ever take over for Yoder?

Jason La Canfora: Not in the immediate future, that's for sure.


DC: Jason, i noticed that Jason Campbell has not used a mouth piece since the giants game. I would notice that sometimes he would forget to put it back in his mouth during before the snap and it would just be sticking in the mask. I also remember a few years ago that Patrick Ramsey had the same issue and when compared to Mark Brunell who did not wear a mouth piece, you could clearly hear the difference in the cadence. Can you follow up on this theory of mine with Zorn and J-Cam...Small thing, but he's playing much better with out the piece.

Jason La Canfora: Wow, great observation. I will run that up the flagpole and see what comes back.

Thanks for the heads up.


New York, NY: The offensive line has been a pleasant surprise. What kind of rotation are they using? How many guys are getting in, and what kind of depth do we have beyond the starting 5 (6 including Jansen)?

Jason La Canfora: No real rotation my friend - unlike the D line.

It's the same five guys - only with Jansen now in cuz Heyer has been hurt.

They may go with a tackle eligible once every few weeks, but that's it. The reserves who have been up - Fabini, Giesinger - aren't being used on offense.


Baltimore: When is Jason Taylor expected back?Would it not be more prudent to sit him out for the next couple of games to ensure he's 100 percent since the Skins will really need him for the end of the season push to the playoffs given their schedule?

Jason La Canfora: He could play in a rotation this weekend.

He is taking part in practice today, and though he's missed several weeks and wouldnt have his full game legs under him, Zorn says he would see action if he can practice Thursday and Friday.

I wouldn't expect him to start - Demetric Evans is better against the run and is doing well - and to me Taylor would be the ideal third-down guy in this defense. Especially given how much time he has missed early on.

Give him 10 real explosive bursts on third downs and try to generate more pressure and sacks there.


Rockville, Md.: Jason - Santana goes without a reception and is happy his team is winning instead of pouting? For all the criticism thrown at Gibb's in his second term here, you can't argue with the character of guys brought in on his watch. Is that the legacy he leaves behind this time around?

Jason La Canfora: I think that is a great point.

Keeping certain guys out of the building - people who had been welcomed with open arms in the past - would certainly be a legacy. And maybe Jason Campbell, too. That would be the greatest gift he could have left, and JC is playing like a stud so far.


Charlotte, N.C.: JLC,

I do not like revisionist history but what do you think of this thought: Al Saunders had a terrible first year at offensive coordinator with the Redskins, now that he has moved to St. Louis Rams, well, their record speaks for itself. What say you.

Signed, Joe Gibbs

Jason La Canfora: He actually had two really poor years here, and one solid month at the very end.

It wasn't working here. St. Louis has a lot of talent and it's only been 4 games, but man, they have been a disaster on offense.


Brunswick, Md.: Thanks for the chat and the blog. Any thoughts on Donovan McNabb being so dismissive of the Redskins and the way they dominated Philly for the last three quarters?

Jason La Canfora: All thanks to you.

I don't make too much of it. Players have to believe that their team is legit, and there is a lot of frustration and emotion boiling over in Philly right now.

These guys aren't always being rational when they speak this way, and hey, of course they are biased ... but the eagles got their butts kicked for the final 3 quarters of that game and the better team on that day certainly won.


Wichita Falls, Tex.: You're doing an awesome job, Jason--love reading your blog. Apart from Heyer's injury, what's turned it around for Jansen--full rehab, wounded pride or both(good article, by the way)? And can you specify the moment when Cerrato became a genius?

Jason La Canfora: I think Jon is probably a little better rested and more healthy now after his long layoff, and a kick in the pants can always do us good. He never feared his job was in jeopardy, and next thing you know he's fighting for it.

As for the other guy, could it be the moment he got the radio gig?


Tucson, Ariz.: Jason,

I think you've alluded to this in your Insider posts but it looks like the work ethic of Campbell is rubbing off on some of his particular, his college buddy Carlos Rogers. The vets must love that and the young guys better take notice...

Say what you will about Gibbs II as a coach, the man could identify "character."

Jason La Canfora: Second question/comment to this end, and again, agreed. No argument on that aspect of Gibbs 2.0.


Zornville USA: Hello,

I would like to say that I have moved to Zornville and I love it here. Band wagoners unite.

Jason La Canfora: Sounds good. I hear the weather in Zornotropolis is actually quite better than what you get in Zornville, or Zorntownland, for what it's worth.


Reston, Va.: Will Fred Davis ever take over for Yoder?: Is that more a reflection on Yoder or Davis?

Jason La Canfora: Both.

Todd is well versed in this offense and is a better blocker and route runner at this point.

Fred came in very green, had a very slow start and has had to play catch up. He has a ways to go, still.


Baltimore: I was able to meet a past Redskins great at a golf tourny last year and I asked him about the team. His response, " the offense is being held back by the coaches." I think it's evident that the talent has been here it just hasn't been used properly. I see the offense getting better and finishing off these drives with more touchdowns and less field goals.

Jason La Canfora: I'm with you.


DC: Jason,

Thanks for the all great info. Any word on how well Todd Collins is grasping the offense? He seemed to struggle a bit in preseason.

Jason La Canfora: It's funny you mention that. I was going to catch up with Todd soon and see how he's doing.

The reality now is that JC gets all the reps once the season gets going, so Todd does scout team stuff and mental reps and meeting room stuff, but it's all about the starting QB up here. He did have a rough preseason.


Springfield, VA: I've heard that when healthy, Malcolm Kelly has done some really good things in practice. Do you expect to see him get some playing time soon?

Jason La Canfora: Well, he was up last week and still didn't know which routes to run at some points and ended up mostly just watching from the sidelines ... and his knee swelled up again.

I fear this will be a lost season for him, as he is trying to make up for so much lost time, and already started off behind the curve.

He had some good days early in camp, but that was a very limited window. He could be a great slot target receiver in an offense like this, but has much to prove.


Final question: Before the season you predicted between 6-8 wins, max. What's your prediction based on how things are now?

Jason La Canfora: Well, barring a total collapse of some sort they are going to fly past my predicition. They aren't going to play turnover-free football forever, and most teams end up losing at least a few games they should have won, but the Redskins are certainly poised to push for a division title at this point given what they accomplished in those very tough first five weeks.

I thought they would turn the corner around the bye, and not this soon. I figured 2-3 wins first half and maybe 5 in the second half, but it would appear now the sky is the limit.


Jason La Canfora: Well guys, got to run. Sorry my hour is up. Lot of fun as alwasy, and hopefully by next Thursday I'll have my ipod back.

Sorry for those questions I could not get to, but as alwasy you can find me on the blog - Redskins Insider - or on email -

Thanks as always and have a great weekend.



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