Thursday, Nov. 20, 1 p.m. ET

Redskins Insider

Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 20, 2008; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Nov. 20, at 1 p.m. ET, to take your questions about the Redskins, the team's loss to Dallas, this week's game against Seattle, the Pro Bowl voting and more.

A transcript follows.

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Full coverage: Washington Redskins.


Jason La Canfora: Hello there everyone. Hope you are well. Another huge game this week. Got the Ipod fired up on shuffle and I'm ready to go. Have at me.

The Velvet Underground - "I Can't Stand It"


Fox Mill, Va.: Chris Horton lead the team in tackles against Dallas Sunday. He has a sack and 3 picks to his credit and is 3rd on the team in tackles right now. Does he have a legitimate shot at winning Defensive Rookie of the Year? If so or not, what other defensive rookies in the NFL are playing well enough to stand in Horton's way of obtaining the honor ?

Sean Price - "Monkey Barz"

Jason La Canfora: Mayo, the ILB in New England, is gonna take the away I think.

Chris is playing a great level for a 7th round pick and makes a lot of plays in the run game and is a big hitter, but he also tends to overpusrue, is not there in coverage, tends to overpursue and is learning to blitz.

He is, simply puy, learning to be more sound, which is what all rookies go through. He is going to be a strong asset for a long time, but if it's me I'm putting Springs at free safety, getting Landry near the line and using Horton near the line in nickel situations.


Brunswick, Md.: Jason,

Thanks for these chats. Why didn't Stephon Heyer get his job back after his shoulder got better? Has Jansen's pass blocking improved?

Jason La Canfora: Thanks for taking part in the chats. It's a credit to you guys; with no questions this would just a schlub sitting at his computer listening to music.

As for Heyer, he didn't play lights out when he got back out there and has a ways to go. And the fact that the running game - by far the strength of this offense - is much better with Jansen in there carries the day. They put a tight end next to Jansen most of the game and try to get by on pass protection. I wouldnt alter the chemistry of the run blocking at this point and I'm not sold that Heyer would have done a whole lot better against some of these matchups with Dallas, Pitt, and Giants, Philly and Ravens on the way.


Clearwater, Fla.: Do you think Malcolm Kelly or Devin Thomas will have a bigger impact the last 6 games of the season?

Jason La Canfora: If he's healthy, Malcolm.

Johnny Thunders - "So Alone"


Clearwater, Fla.: If they end up moving Shawn Springs to safety, will Chris Horton's playing time diminish?

Jason La Canfora: It would somewhat, sure. But with all the issues at linebacker they are going to play a lot of nickel anyway, especially against spread-formation teams like Seattle, so Horton would get plenty of reps in the Cobra formation.

I dont want Horton locked up on too many tight ends of having to drop back a ton. To me giving him 30 reps versus 70 at this point in his development makes a lot of sense and cover up for some of his weaknesses.


Charlotte Hall, Md.: It occurred to me the other day that, with Zorn, the Redskins have now had both QBs from the '76 expansion teams as a head coach. Let's hope it works out better this time.

Jason La Canfora: Yikes. Wow.

It had better, eh? Be hard to follow that up.


Anonymous: Jason, many people predicted 8-8 at the start of the season. I think that looks likely now despite the promising start. We have virtually the same team a year older and therefore our problems still exist. I get a bad feeling about this next game. What do you think will happen this Sunday?

Jason La Canfora: It's going to be a tough game, I think. fSeattle activates its linebackers and get to Campbell I don't like it from a Skins perspective.

I think Seattle is going to be much better on offense this week with Hasselbeck and Branch back and its hard to travel and play there.

It will be a test. Seattle is still beat up and it's a game the Skins need to win. And I agree that most of what everyone identified as personnel issues in the past offseason went unresolved to say the least.


Herndon, Va.: Mr. LaC: Looks like the major cause of the Skins decline is the offense failing to score, and now the yardage per game is dropping off. Is this just due to the rest of the league figuring Zorn's offense out, injuries to key players, or something else?

Jason La Canfora: Well, I think Zorn faces the same problem Saunders and Gibbs did. Find me a true No. 2 WR or true playmaker at WR besides Moss? It's a failure of personnel.

This team gets pretty predictable by its nature. Double Moss on first down. Play the run on second down. Double Cooley and watch ARE underneath on third down (the only time he really shows up, in the slot).

There's nothing else there. All of these coaches can't be idiots, can they? They've been carrying half a real receiving corps at best for the past 4-5 years, and the QB is still gaining experience and learning on the job.

Atari Teenage Riot - "Deutschland"


Quito, Ecuador: What happened to Jason Taylor? It is like he has dropped off the face of the earth. He certainly isn't down here.

Jason La Canfora: I thought he might be chillin near at the equator somewhere. Shoot. I'll have to keep looking ..

Actually, I think it's time they put him in a position where he might actually make an impact, because he's not a run fit in this scheme and never would be, especially injured at age 34.

Put him on the right side on third downs, stand him up a linebacker more on the weak side, too, and try to get a little pressure. Keep limiting his snaps and hope he makes a play on a wornout O Line in the 4th quarter.

Always going for the older, name player, especially in this scheme, is often destined to fail.

Richard Hell & The Voidoids - "I'm Your Man"


Salisbury, Md.: The last two weeks, it has looked like the opposing defenses may have at least had some indication of what type of plays were being called. Has there been any discussion of whether the Skins offense might have been tipping the play? Anyone even looking into that possibility?

Jason La Canfora: I think they have become too pass happy more than anything else, and Zorn knows he wasn't balanced enough, especially last week.

he's hampered in that his workhorse back is pretty beat up now and everyone knows he can run it 25-30 times in this condition. And his O Line cant pass block long enough to take the number of deep shots he'd like to take with JC's big arm (again, not a shock coming out of last season), and he has two guys who make plays in the pass game (Cooley and Moss).

I agree he needs to find a way to get more creative with roll outs, and I'd like to see Randle El run the Wildcat and I think they have to take deep shots, somehow, but again, there were some overt flaws that have manifested, again.

Operation Ivy - "Sound System"


Reston, Va.: Is it me or is the problem at WR not that two rookies can't produce, but more so that the Skins need to realize that Thrash at 3 and ARE at 2 are in over their heads and not consistent?

Jason La Canfora: That's part of it as well ... But trust me, they didnt think Thrash would be the No. 3 and be on the field more than season than any of the previous four under Gibbs. You don't take 3 pass catchers in the second round and expect Thrash to rise from 5/6 to 3rd on the depth chart.

And, again, it's not all Jim Zorn here folks. He's not running the show. It's the Vinny Cerrato Era. Dole out blame and credit accordingly.

The Rolling Stones - "Neighbors"


Washington D.C. in the 35332: Posted this on the blog a while back and want your thoughts. I feel like during that five-game win streak Zorn was more or less playing to whatever were the players' strong points and letting them do what they thought they could do best, but ever since the St. Louis game we have gone to a traditional West Cost System and the offense has gone down hill and struggled ah la game 1?

Is this just my gut talking or is this being noticed by guys who get paid to notice?

Jason La Canfora: I've written a whole lot the last two weeks dating to the Pitt game about Zorn getting too cute spreading the field and looking more like a traditional West Coast team. But they were still pounding it on the ground until then and Jason took 1 three step drop in the entire Detroit game, for instance, so they were most definitely still Midwest Coast at that time.


New York City: Hi Jason, If you were GM, and even, in the best case scenario, the Redskins make the playoffs as a sixth seed and lose in the second round, which would you consider the team's top priority heading into the offseason?

If it were me, I'd blow up the offensive line and start rebuilding. There is a lot of money invested in that unit, and little if not diminishing returns.

Jason La Canfora: I wouldnt blow up the offensive line but I'd better be seeing a lot out of Rinehart in practice soon. That decision - can Rinehart be a starting guard next season - looms large. Also, is Heyer really a starting tackle in this league? And, can Geisinger really be a guy who could play 4-5 weeks in a row if Rabach got hurt? Is he the answer at least as a No. 2 center/swing guard?

I dont get to watch practice but the GM-type here, Cerrato, is watching every day. Self scouting has long been a problem around here and if they misjudge the existing talent at key positions again, it might not be pretty.

Massive Attack - "Unfinished Sympathy"


Rockville, Md.: Hey -- I just saw on that an amber alert was placed for Malcolm Kelly because that kid hasn't been seen in weeks! What is up with the dude's status this week?

Jason La Canfora: Damn bro, that's strong.

I actually think the kid has a chance to make a play or two this weekend. Give him a chance to rise and fall as a healthy WR. The entire league knew about his knees coming into the draft - so that's on the Skins as far as I'm concerned - and Kelly could be a threat on third down and in the red zone if he can stay on the field.


Brooklyn, N.Y.: We are who we thought we were. Are we going to get back to the running game this week, which has been the most consistent aspect of our game. I would like to see some sort of rotation between all of the backs we have. We can worry about a clever name for them once we run over Seattle.

Jason La Canfora: I ain't arguing with any of that. I bashed Zorn a bit for this on Redskins Insider this morning.

Now aint the time to get too cute. You have the personnel you have and you live or die with the runs off left and right end, and whatever you muster off of playaction off of that.


Syracuse, N.Y.: Do you think Zorn has a soft spot in his heart for veteran players and that is why we don't see more of the young guys? I mean, we drafted 3 receivers and we see little of them (I know Kelly has been hurt but where did Davis vanish to the last few weeks?). And what about Rhinehart and Heyer?

Jason La Canfora: I actually think just the opposite. I think Gibbs had too much sentimentality for certain older guys (Jansen, Brunell) and it set the franchise back.

Zorn has given Campbell a stake in the offense and responsibilities with the audible and pass protection that Gibbs never came close to doing. Trust me, Zorn would love nothing more than to have Thomas and Davis be outplaying Thrash and Yoder, but it's not even close at this point.

These kids will have to take responsibility for learning the offense and showing they will not be liabilities.

Ani DiFranco - "Blood In The Boardroom"


Washington D.C.: Jason--great work on the blog.

Madden mentioned this on Sunday night and Riggo followed up on his show the next day. Is it possible that Zorn has overcoached Jason Campbell? I've seen Campbell make strides this year, but Madden said that Zorn talks to Campbell after every play. Do you think this is true, and if so is making JC more conservative, mechanical and less "instinctive" as a QB?

Jason La Canfora: Thanks so much.

I don't see it. Jason has alwasy been a long guy, with a big wind-up and that hitch in his delivery. If anything Zorn is trying to speed him up. Having just one voice in his ear, instead of three sometimes differing messages coming at him, has hastened his development, I think.


San Jose: So does Seattle try to beat us with Julius Jones running or Hasselbeck throwing, especially now that Branch is back?

Jason La Canfora: Both. The running game there has been pretty solid. Nothing sexy but a solid 4.2 a carry split up between 3 guys and an active fullback.

In the end, though, Hasselbeck would be the guy who could make the 2-3 big plays that could be the difference, especially if he gets time to scan 3 receivers, step up in the pocket and then hit the tailback for one critical check down after the next.

The Buzzcocks - "Just Lust"


Richmond, Va.: I have always thought that we lose games at the line of scrimmage, both on the offensive and defensive side. We hardly get any pressure on the quarterback, even with good down field coverage, and we seem to give up untimely sacks on obvious passing downs. How can the Redskins overcome this?

Jason La Canfora: Invest in quality young linemen on the first day of the draft over a series of years. They seem incapable/unwilling to do that here.


Skins '08 : Let's get down to business. What does this team need to happen to go on a run like last year? The Giants have the toughest schedule in the league, and if they lose to the Cardinals this weekend and we win. We will play them next weekend for one game back in the division. Also, how many plays can we expect from Malcolm Kelly this weekend? Thanks you are the best in the business!

Jason La Canfora: All thanks to you boss.

I wouldnt worry about the division too much though. The Giants are the best team in the NFL and I don't see then collapsing.

It's that moshpit of teams with 5-6 wins that will settle whether the Skins get in. If they win the rest of their NFC games, and at least split the two AFC games, they will get in for sure. If they won all the NFC and manage to lose to Baltimore and Cincy they would still look very good from a tiebreaker standpoint.

Johnny Thunders - "Lydia" (Ipod shuffle not exactly random today)


Camp Lemonier, Djibouti: With the possible activation of Malcolm Kelly Sunday, is there any talk of possibly getting Fred Davis involved in the gameplan at some point?

Jason La Canfora: I don't think so in the immediate future at least. If anything, Kelly being active this week could lead to Davis being inactive perhaps.


Reston, Va.: How much stock do you put int he idea of momentum in the NFL? If the Redskins can get a big win in Seattle (and enjoy the long flight home, etc) could this game be a springboard for the stretch run? Or since they are all pros, does the team approach each game the same way regardless of the previous week's outcome?

Jason La Canfora: This has certainly been a team prone to highs and lows over the years, whether midseason swoons, or those wild December runs. So you can't discount it.

To me more than anything else right now, they just need to stop this rut and get a win. If they build off that with a win against New York, now you're talking. But right now I think just getting a W is what it's all about.


Boston: Any word on how Portis is feeling this week, and was there any additional work on stopping runs on the edges? Cowboys did a good job last week so I know Seattle will try the same.

Jason La Canfora: Portis will play. He's beat up but says he feels better than this time a week ago and should practice some this week, too.

The Cowboys did an excellent job in the perimeter run game for sure (they seemed to overload Evans a few times in particular). Part of that is Barber and the size of that line and the fact Dallas rammed the ball for most of the second half and exerted its will. Not sure Seattle can duplicate that, and Blache blamed himself for not bringing an extra defender in the box sooner, too.

Merle Haggard - "Ida Red"


Manassas, Va.: Jasno,

Please name me 5 redskins that won't be back next year -- in your opinion.

Clash - "Magnificent 7"

Jason La Canfora: Springs and Washington are probably the two to leap out.

Fabini, Erasmus James dont seem to be in the plans. Might be the end for James Thrash (though I've said that before and he always keeps going; quite a dude).

Jason Taylor said he would play for two years, but that could be a very interesting situation to watch.


Sec 126: Sounds like Alexander is going to be active this week from what I have heard (you reported).

Isn't this a bad call? Again from what is reported Portis and Betts are both going to be active and play. Of course Rock (buttock on the ball) will be active and in a pinch you have sellers. Is zorn's allegiance to SA going to take the roster spot away from a position with more need (say activating all 5 WR?, or all 5 Corners to Tryon can play teams)?

Jason La Canfora: I personally have not reported that, although it could very well turn out to be correct. I think with Portis and Betts both having to come out of the last game at various times and clearly still hobbled, you need another back you trust. He seems to prefer Shaun, especially with all the work Rock gets on special teams.

I dont think having 4 RBs up last week really hurt them anywhere. Only difference to me this week is that in order to have 5 WRs up, you sit a TE (Davis).

Jesus And Mary Chain - "You Trip Me Up"


New York: How did the Redskins miss out on Kris Jenkins (a candidate for Defensive POY)? A few years back, Jenkins was arguably the best defensive tackle in football. Isn't this the kind of signing the Redskins are famous for trying?

Jason La Canfora: They could have had him. Carolina shopped him like crazy at various points the past few years, and heavily in the offseason.

NOw, the dude has been too fat, and not nearly motivated enough at times, and giving him big money would be a gamble for sure. There were lot of very good, but very risky, DTs shopped around in the offseason (Shaun Rogers is another), but the Skins were dabbling with Taylor, DeAngelo Hall, Chad Johnson (deactivated for tonight's game by the way; the offseason infatuation with him always cracked me up).

Metallica - "Orion"


Reston, Va.: C'mon bud, give the Caps some love!!!

Jason La Canfora: No doubt.

Still very worried about goaltending and team defense overall come playoff time, but that team is a joy to watch. Entertaining hockey for sure, and that's what you need in a market like this.


Dodgeville, Wisc.: Jason, London Fletcher is a football genius - to be so productive while so size-challenged. But there have been a couple plays recently where he simply disappeared when he was filling the hole on a running play and a much larger guy came through to block. Now Blades is playing linebacker -- at maybe 5-10, and the Redskins are getting beat physically, when they are getting beat. Is anybody worried about this? (The offense has several undersized starters too, and they don't produce as well against the big physical teams). Up on the playoff-run level, the teams are just bigger. Doesn't bode well for the Skins.

Jason La Canfora: Besides Fletcher and flashes from Rocky, LB has been a hole, especially on the outside.

Blades cant cover TEs, not even for a play. It's just too much of a missmatch. And Rocky is not there yet in terms of coverage, either. I wonder if this rookie Carlson gets a lot of balls Sunday.

To me its a big issue and as I've said time and time again, many coaches were stunned that out of 10 picks not a single one was a LB. They knew Marcus was breaking down, they knew London was 34 and they know Rocky has a knee issue that could flare up at anytime (plus he was coming off of major knee surgery).

To me its pretty amazing what this defense and Greg Blache in particular, has accomplished given the passing of Sean Taylor, the LB situation, the fact they still never get to play with a lead (or much of a lead), and the lack of a pass rush. To be ranked fourth this late in the season is quite an accomplishment


Fairfax, Va.: Do you think this team will ever score 30+ points in a game this year? Looking at the remainder of their schedule, I certainly don't. How pathetic. Do you get a sense of frustration from the defense over how poor the offense performs? They've been carrying this team and keeping them in games ever since Gibbs returned. I wonder how many more games this team ends up winning if they only scored 20 points a game over the last 5 years.

Jason La Canfora: It will be tough. Cincy and San Fran games would be best chances, but they arent really built to put up big numbers right now.


Cabin John, Md.: Drafting first day D-lineman sounds like a great plan and if it worked it would be an easy solution. They say you eveluate a draft 3 years later. So here are the 1st day D linemen from 2005 (one of whom is on our team)

Travis Johnson

Erasmus James

Luis Castillo

Mike Patterson

Shaun Cody

Matt Roth

Jonathan Babineaux

Other than Castillo (a beast!!) not sure there are a bunch of guys I would rather have.

Jason La Canfora: I hear that dude, it's just the fact they havent taken a single one in round 1-5 since 1997. It's also got to quantity - like you might not hit on every one, but give yourself a chance to find one impact guy at least.

When Golston and Montgomery are your highest DL line picks in more than a decade it's not exactly showing a dedication to building a team at the line of scrimmage.


Milwaukee via D.C.: Hey Jason,

Aside from London Fletcher, do you view the linebacking corps as an area of concern and possibly a position to upgrade in the offseason? Marcus Washington can't stay healthy and when he is he seems a step slow. Rocky still gets burned in coverage and his knee might always be a question mark. H.B. Blades shows promise but more than likely is not the long term answer.

Jason La Canfora: Without a doubt.





All of them have to be areas of concern, and, dare I say it, still WR? You guys tell me. Would you feel comfortable with the same 5 guys next year, banking on Kelly and Thomas to have breakout seasons?

The Fugess - "Manifest"


Wasilla, Alaska: Seen a lot written this week on the Skins' players winning the fan Pro Bowl vote. How is this being taken in media circles and by other teams in the league?

Jason La Canfora: As the joke that it is.


No. 30 at Redskins Park: When is coach Blache going to play me near the line of scrimmage?

Jason La Canfora: With Springs back this week I think we will see even more of it this week (he started creeping and staying more the past two weeks, but I think we will see it with more regularity down the stretch with other coverage options back there).


Atlanta: Pass blocking and a pass rush don't just suddenly develop out of thin air by week 11 of a season...are we just deluding ourselves into thinking the Skins have a shot to win 10-11 games?

Jason La Canfora: I agree with the first points - Blache said as much about the pass rush this afternoon (its on Redskins Insider now). But I'm not sure that precludes them from winning 10 games. They might overcome it, but throwing 35-40 times with that O Line and with these WRs isn't the way, to me.


Springfield, VA: Hi Jason. There have been a lot of comments about why Mike Sellars isn't more involved in the running game - especially in goal line situations. I think this coaching staff is pretty smart - maybe they have tried it in practice and Sellars just isn't very effective running the ball? His strengths seem to be blocking and ocassionaly catching a pass.

Jason La Canfora: They are trying to play to what he does best and where he can make the biggest impact. I'm with them on this one. Get him more involved in the pass game, especially in the red zone, but lead blocking and pass pro are where he shines.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Hollywood"


Ocean City, Md.: JLC,

Are Jason Reid and Mike Sellers brothers?

Jason La Canfora: Soul brothers, for sure.


Jason La Canfora: Alright guys, my time is up. Thanks so much for all of the great questions, and sorry for those I could not get to. As always, fire away on the blog - Redskins Insider - or on email (

Have a great week and enjoy the game.



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