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Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 4, 2008; 12:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Jason La Canfora was online Thursday, Dec. 4 at noon ET to take your questions about the Redskins.

The transcript follows.

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Full coverage: Washington Redskins


Jason La Canfora: Hello everyone. Where are we on the angst-meter today? I'm guessing pretty high, and I'm also bracing for a barrage of Jason Campbell questions, so have at me. Got the Ipod fired up. Let's do it.

Dr. Dre - "Stranded On Death Row"


Concord, NC: Is it too far fetched to think that Snyder has some thought in his head that he may try and scoop Plaxico up this offseason if he does get cut and gets out of jail time? You never know with Snyder and his "Big Receiver, Big Name, Skill Player" obsession.

Jason La Canfora: If he was planning something like that, I have a hunch the legal system may preculde it. I'm not sure any of this will be resolved in time for next season, and it would be pretty crazy to sign someone who might be looking at 3 1/2 years or more in the clink.

Also, after all of the assets they have sunk into the WR position, to try to go out and get this guy would be kind of crazy. They'd better hope Malcolm Kelly has a heck of an offseason and that his knees hold up, and that Devin Thomas steps up his preparation and mentality.


Anonymous: Jason, with the Skins up against yet another top defensive team this week, do you see anyway the passing game finally gets on track? What exactly are they working on in practice each week since Zorn keeps saying it's all a matter of execution? I would think they would eventually improve a little each game if it's something they are actually focusing on in practice.

This is starting to feel like the Lions of 2007. Started 6-2 in the first half, and have since gone 1-3 (a good chance of going 1-4).

Jason La Canfora: I don't think they are close to being the wreck the Lions have become. But I agree this goes much deeper than execution - horrid personnel decisions and a predictable scheme are involved, too, for sure.

I'm not sure this is the week they put up big numbers on offense. I think they need to get Betts very involved int he check down game, find more intermediate stuff for Cooley (and theyre going to have to get him in motion more I think) and get going on some gadget plays and trickery.

More of the same ol won't cut it against this defense.

Radiohead - "Melatonin"


Pittsburgh: I know Portis is the heart and soul of the offense, but shouldn't Betts get more carries? With all of Portis' ailments, I'm thinking 50/50 against the Ravens. He's a solid receiver too!

And do you see a new contract for Deangelo Hall before the offseason? He looks like a nice upgrade to Smoot and Springs.

Can't wait to watch the Steelers dismantle Dallas this week.

Jason La Canfora: I am with you 100 percent and have been banging this drum for a long time. They need more rotation, especially on passing downs.

I'd be very stunned if Hall does not explore all of his free agent office. Very surprised. He makes plays on the ball, for sure, but he can get exposed jumping stuff and we'll see how he fares should he get a tough match-up down the stretch. This is probably the end for Springs here.

Black Flag - "Modern Man"


4-12ville: Bench Campbell? Really? Are people serious? Do they even watch the games? When your front 5 can't block the other guys' front 4? When your receivers can't get open/run the right route/learn the playbook after six freakin' months? When your coach has spent the past month calling plays like Gibbs 2.0? Do I ask too many questions disguised as one question?

Jason La Canfora: Dude, I'm rolling with you 4-12. We're seeing the same stuff. I don't get it. Truly boggles my mind. Somehoe Todd Collins has risen to god-like status off of four games in a different system when he wasn't facing anything close to the defense Campbell has seen the past few weeks, and will again Sunday.


Washington, D.C.: How is it possible that all three of our second-round picks still not know the offense well enough to get on the field?

Jason La Canfora: Wel,, Kelly has been on the field more the past two weeks for sure, and Thomas is still in on some four-wide sets and scored a nice TD on a reverse. But you're right in that we have yet to see a week where all three are active in a long, long time (since Oct. 5) much less a week where any of them make an impact in the pass game.

Time is running out on this season and all around the NFL you hear vets talking about how their rookies aren't rookies anymore, and after 12 games they are different players and have really come along, etc. Not so much in DC, eh?

De La Soul - "Tread Water"


Rockville, Md: Why haven't the Redskins tried the Wildcat offense? They seem to have one of the best players to run this offense in ARE (a former quarterback who already has a TD pass this year). It might be something else that can mix things up for the offense and give opposing defenses something else to worry about.

Jason La Canfora: I'm frankly pretty stumped at this point (read my column in Saturday's paper for a whole lot more on this). ARE told me he is eager to do it but isn't going to force the issue with Zorn, and Zorn says he wants to study in the offseason before putting it in place ... But to me it's time to pull out all the stops and this guy already has one TD pass this season on a great gadget play to Cooley back on Oct. 5 at Philly.

It's working well for Baltimore and Miami in the right spots, and those teams don't have anything close to the bloated offensive payroll of the Redskins. They need to find a way to score some points, period.


Tokyo, Japan: Jason,

Last year, Casey Rabach was in charge of calling out the pass protection audibles at the line of scrimmage and the Redskins pass protection was fairly good. This year it's Jason Campbell's job and there seems to be a few blown assignments each game. I know in Jim Zorn's offense, he want the QB to make the calls, but has there been any consideration into letting Rabach call out the blocking assignments? Thanks for answering the question.

Jason La Canfora: Thanks, hope all is well on that side of the world.

Casey still has a role making calls and trust me, against this defense with its hybrid, moving-part 3-4 look and considering the massive problems the Skins had in recent weeks against two other 3-4 teams (Pitt and Dallas), I expect Casey to be very vocal and very involved. If he doesn't get regular help from a guard on nose tackle Haloti Ngata - and Zorn has intimated that he may be one-on-one a fair bit of time - I think Casey might have a long day.

Richard Hell - "She'll Be Coming"


Camp Lemonier, Djibouti: What direction do you see the Skins going in the up coming draft? Especially with them trading their 2nd rounder for Jason Taylor.

Jason La Canfora: Nice trade, huh? They can't help themselves I suppose.

It's hard to say what happens in the draft, because so much will be predicated on free agency, which comes first. If they don't invest heavily in the draft on both sides of the line very soon, and in terms of quantity and quality, then you will not see sustained success from this franchise. It will be more of the same.


Richmond, Va.: First off, love the honest and dependable work that you do on the blog!

Campbell is fine! Cooley is as about as good as it gets. Landry, Rodgers, and Hall are pretty good.

My concern is at the RB position. As we've seen Portis isn't a kid, Betts is having a problem with health and fumbles, and Cartwright and his health are dependable to an average at best special teams unit.

I'm assuming that NOTHING will be done by the front office in this area during the off-season...however...isn't this position as large a concern as the LB, DE, and OL positions?

Jason La Canfora: Not to me brother. They just gave Portis another $20-plus million guaranteed last March. And Betts still has term left on what was a very nice deal for a No. 2 RB. They've made their bed there. You're only going to have three up most weeks. Maybe Marcus Mason ends up on the street at some point, but given their deficiencies at O Line, D Line and LB, I think that's much more pressing than RB.


Alexandria, Va.: I like Campbell, but he's just an average QB. Nothing special. I certainly wouldn't break the bank to re-sign him. But I'm guessing the Skins will, and lock themselves into him for another 5 years of mediocrity. The Skins need to understand he's replaceable. Hell, if we're going to be an 8-8 team, I'd rather go 8-8 and watch Colt Brennan throwing bombs than watch Soup go 3-and-out. What am I missing? What signs of progress do you see in Soup?

Jason La Canfora: I don't get it. So he's "average" now, a mere three-quarters of a season into another new system, and so thus he'll be average forever?

And at the same time Todd Collins, unwanted and below average virtually an entire 13 year career, is not suddenly a star based off four games?

Was Eli a star this time a year ago? What did Hasselbeck look like in his first year with Zorn?

jason is outperforming them at a similar stage by a wide margin.

The Fugess - "No Woman, No Cry"


Sweenopolis: What's the deal with Jon Jansen? Is Heyer really THAT bad in run blocking? Jansen seemed responsible for two tackles for losses (on Portis up the middle), on second and long, another on third (or fourth) and short, by releasing or missing his guy completely.

Also, if they entire starting line was completely replaced, what would Geisinger's "natural" position be?

Jason La Canfora: From talking to guys on defense who see him in practice, they tell me that they can't bank on Heyer being a definite as a starting tackle in this league. He still has leverage issues, his backside gets too high, and he lacks Jansen's drive in the run game.

If Heyer was a given he'd be in there. Now, to me they're reaching a point where you might want to play the kid against some serious defenses and get a clearer idea (and does Rinehart ever see the field, just got a look-see to self scout). With the playoffs still a possibility (though a long playoff run looking highly doubtful to me), they may reach a point soon where they go with some youth and start, to, gasp, dare I ever say it, rebuild? You know, like every other pro sports franchise has had to do at one time or another.


Sterling, Va.: Can we all agree that Sellers should continue to get more touches every game. The guy is a multi-purpose beast!

Jason La Canfora: Yes, especially in the pass game. I worry about fumbles, awareness of the first-down marker, taking off too soon on leaps behind the line ... But he needs to be getting the ball on some slants and screens like we Derrick Ward do against the Skins last week.


Reality talking: There seems to be some kind of inflated self-worth in Skins fans. They think the Skins are some kind of special team, and they think they're special fans. Neither is true. For the past 15 years or so, the Skins have kept company with the Lions, Cardinals, Bengals, and Texans. That's who the Skins are. They're one of the bottom 10 teams in the league. And the fans all sell their tickets to fans from better teams, so the Skins have no home-field advantage. The fans are bottom 10 too. Hate to break it to you. That's just cold reality.

Jason La Canfora: If you look at the cold hard record since the last Super Bowl, the numbers speak for themselves. However, they do have two playoff appearances in the past three years.

Certainly, it has been a long, long time since this was an elite franchise. The Skins have not had back-to-back 9 win seasons since the end of Gibbs 1.0. Maybe they at least reach that modicum of stability this season (though who knows what the future holds in terms of really taking that next step).

Rites of Spring - "End on End"


Reston, Va.: Jason- What's the word on Stephen Heyer? Watching Jon Jansen has turned into a drinking game with my buddies on the number of blocks he misses.

Also, do you get the impression Shawn Springs wants to be here or even wants to play anymore at all?

Madonna -- "Papa don't Preach"

Jason La Canfora: We covered Jansen, but as for Springs, he wants to play for sure. No doubt about it. I doubt here's here next season but he definitely wants to be out there making plays.


Go Colt Go: If the Skins are trying out Heyer and Rinehart, your boy Campbell is going to take a beating. Why not let Colt Brennan take some snaps behind that crappy line?

Jason La Canfora: No way I use both at the same time, for sure. But they are going to have a big determination to make on re-signing Kendall (can Rinehart start there?) and if Rinehart and Heyer are not ready next season, they might get Campbell killed.

Maybe they try to move Jansen to guard (it looked awful in practice this season when they did so, and it was a failure when they tried it with Todd Wade).

Vinny Cerrato better have a real firm handle on his roster and who can play and who can't. Another offseason like last year's and you're looking at ridiculous regression.


Washington, D.C.: Moss seems totally dominant in most wins (for a few seasons). Correlation or causation? Is his disappearance in losses a gameplan issue or a Moss issue? Thanks.

Jason La Canfora: Teams know he shows up almost excklusive on first down so they clamp him. They double Cooley on third down and in red zone and dare anyone else to beat them. No one does; at this point no one can.

Teams even play the run in Cover-2, willing to give up yards knowing that when the field gets tight near the goal line, no one makes plays, and in the meantime they elimate Moss's big-play factor.

None of this is new. It's pretty much what Moss has faced since he got here, and until/unless they get a real No. 2 WR with some size and speed it's not going to change. Failure of personnel dating back to Gardner. Rod's departure. Sad but true. They haven't found a way to replace a guy who faded right out of the league.


Durham, NC: I know Steinberg mentioned this earlier in the week, but since I've yet to see a really satisfactory explanation, here goes: What exactly was that thing around Jim Zorn's neck at his post-game press conference?

Jason La Canfora: I'm not sure. I only saw it out of the corner of my eye - I was in the locker room and not in Zorn's presser Sunday - but it seemd like one of those clunky things Josh Beckett and a lot of pitchers wear. Don't have more details on it, sorry.

Mott The Hoople - "Ballad of Mott The Hoople"


FO question: If you were to rank the front offices of the four NFC East teams, where would the Skins fall?

Jason La Canfora: Is that a rhetorical question?

Honestly, I think they have a whole lot in common with Dallas. Spend a ton, get very little for it. Now, the Cowboys did some amazing stuff in the draft under Parcells, but last year's offseason was a circus. Neither team has a truly big win since the early to mid 1990s. The dealings of their owners are well documented. Kind of in the same boat.

I can tell you this, if the owner stepped aside and gave his resources over to someone like Jerry Reese it wouldn't take long at all to construct a real competitor here for a long time.


North Potomac, MD: I have 2 questions:

1)Why haven't the Redskins activated their 3rd round pick offensive lineman, Chad Rinehart, if he was so promising in the preseason according the the team?

2)I believe the Redskins won't play Todd Collins because they are hiding the truth about Jason Campbell. He doesn't read the defense so quickly, holds the ball to long, and plays afraid. The have done an unbelievable public relations job on him the past year and don't want to admit he is another mistake that they had picked in the draft. What do you really think?

Jason La Canfora: The lack of any injuries to the O Line keeps Rinehart down for one. They haven't needed him; next year they very well might. And while he had a great start to camp, as the preseason games mounted and he played more he was exposed in a lot of area, and his adjustment to the interior might be trick.

As for No. 2, they are playing the guy who is by far their best quarterback. It's as simple as that.


Gardner, Rod???: Do you really want to hurt me? Do you really want to make me cry? Why not just say it? Jacobs, Taylor! Lloyd, Brandon!

Seriously, is Stan Hixon in trouble?

Jason La Canfora: Stan Hixon is very tight with Vinny. I don't see them making a move at WR coach. What they need is a legit WR. Using the position coach as a fall guy is tired. I remember back when it was Dale Lindsey's fault that Rocky McIntosh wasn't up to speed and paying and making plays.

I mention Gardner, Rod, because for a while, despite the drops, he was a No, 2 WR with size who could get downfield and have a big game every now and then and work as a possession guy. Lloyd and Jacobs couldn't even get on the field and they lacked that size element.

Dead Kennedys - "Riot"


Colt Brennan?: Wow, all it takes is a couple of deep-passes in the preseason against people currently working for UPS to make everyone forget the multiple millions of dollare we HAD to spend to re-sign last year's savior, eh?

Jason La Canfora: Ain't it great? The Cult of Colt lives!


South Hill: Poor Jason Campbell. When the Redskins were winning he was considered very calm and easy going in the huddle. Now that we are facing harder times he isn't considered "firey" enough. Too blame all of this on Campbell is ridiculous. If he ever gets the support he needs he could really be a great quarterback.

Jason La Canfora: Amen brother. It takes a village.


Lanham, Md.: What position on the offensive line is the weakest on this Redskins team in your opinion?

Jason La Canfora: RT


Arlington, Va.: It's all doom and gloom from Skins fans even thought they're 7-5 and in the hunt for a playoff spot. They're 7-5 and have two "easy" games (okay, no games are easy for the Snyder-skins) on the schedule. I know 9-7 won't make the playoffs this year unless a comet wipes out the entire NFC South, but isn't this time to put on the rally caps, not cry in your beer? True, they likely won't make the playoffs and Vinny Cerrato will select three long snappers in the 2nd round of the draft, but are we so beaten down by the "Decade of Dan" that we are completely hopeless?

Jason La Canfora: Good points brother. Got to keep the faith. But to me in terms of real success and sustainable success at some point you have to show a consistency and development and not think you can win every game in December every few years and get in, only to make a quick exit.

And when you look at the construction of this team as it is now, I find it hard to make a case it has been fortified enough to get to a championship game or deeper.


Ade Jimoh: Okay, so when the cameras roll the players all say "if I knew what the problems were, we'd fix them." My question...when the cameras are off, or your pen and pad are in your pocket, what are they saying? Is it the scheme, play calling, lack of talent, lack of execution, culture of mediocrity? What gives with with the offensive offense?

Jason La Canfora: I'd say all of the above. Check out saturday's paper for sure Ade. When does that NFL pension kick in dude?


Landover, Md.: It's obvious the Redskins can't afford to lose again this season. Have you guys seen Collins getting more snaps with the first team this week.

Jason La Canfora: Nope.


Arlington, Va.: Looking at the standings, it looks like the Skins might have to win their 4 remaining games to make the playoffs. Is that about right?

Jason La Canfora: Could be partner.

Problem is 3 NFC South teams can get to 11 wins without having to go to any great heroics (especially if The Starcaps Six end up actually having to sit out the rest of the season).


Arlington, Va.: Hey Jason. How strong is the upcoming free-agent market for offensive and defensive linemen expected to be? Any big names expected to be out there? Until the Skins upgrade these independent positions--which you so deftly called them earlier this year--they're gonna keep spinning their wheels.

Jason La Canfora: To me that's where you draft. You can't go 11 years without taking a D lineman in the first five rounds of a draft and expect to have an explosive unit. It doesn't work that way.

Getting guys who are 28-29 ain't the answer either, because if you really do go young and try to rebuild, then by the team you are close those guys are right where this line is today.


Washington DC: People calling for JC to get benched is as embarrassing as the Steeler invasion on Monday night. Your thoughts?

Jason La Canfora: Ditto.


Concerned about Campbell: When is someone at The Post going to stop making excuses for Campbell? It's hilarious -- the paper has become his fan club. I like him too, but here's the thing: all the same problems we're having on offense now we were having last year until Collins went in. People were bashing the line and the terrible receivers just like they are and then Collins came in and in the same game, the line and the receivers suddenly looked good. Part of it was his familiarity with the system, but most of it was due to the fact that he went through his reads and wasn't afraid to go downfield. And it wasn't like JC had only been in Saunders system for a month. He had almost a year in it as the starter when he got injured. In fact, he had far more reps in it as a starter than Collins ever did. I'm not saying JC should be benched -- the skins need to find out what they have in him. But there are certain things like locking in on Moss time and time again or too quickly dumping the ball underneath that have nothing to do with the system he's playing in.

Jason La Canfora: When he's throwing 2 picks per game and making horrible decisions and no one is dropping balls and they can protect the passer and they have a coordinator exuding creativity and they have more than 1 WR, then I'm with you.

He's in the top half of the league in rating, has the fewest picks, makes plays with his feet, has clearly made major strides from last season despite being in another new system. Yeah, he's the problem. It has nothing to do with the overarching deficiencies of this organization. Blame the young QB.

And, again. Is the backup QB Aaron Rodger, or a 37-year-old system QB career backup? And you think Todd Collins will take this team to the promised land, despite no mobility and nothing close to Jason's arm strength. And don't give me accuracy, becasue even in these last 4 games against top notch defenses, Campbell has the exact same percentage as Todd during the greatest four games in franchise history last December.

Has nothing to do with a fan club. Like in everything I write or say or do in covering this team, I'm calling it like I see it, period.


Washington, DC: I know this isn't the week to bring it up as the Redskins are facing Baltimore, but... since you're here.

For as much ridicule as Snyder is subjected to, much of it well deserved, why isn't Jerry Jones subject to the same criticism?

If I'm not mistaken it's been over 10 years since the Cowboys won a playoff game?

They are also the team that signed Pacman. If the Redskins acquired Pacman, much less continued to employ him, you and countless others would be all over the Redskins.

Let's not even discuss the coaching drama, the TO signing, etc.

Why does Jerry Jones manage to avoid the ridicule to which Snyder is subjected? They should both be subject to ridicule as they continue to mismanage two of the best franchises in the NFL.

Jason La Canfora: Like i wrote, I'm with you, I'd lump them in.

But the big difference is Jerry takes accountability, he is the GM, he does address issues and concerns and is the point man for the franchise. And he has deep roots in the game dating to his playing days and he also has a hand full of Super Bowl rings.


Baltimore: We do not have enough picks next year to address:

OG,OT, LB, DE, DT....

What/who should we go after in free agency to at least solve the DE/DT issues? I say Suggs!

Jason La Canfora: If you give up all it would take to get Suggs - and I don't think the Ravens are letting him go- then you need to let him do the kind of things LaVar used to want to do. He needs certain freedoms and he needs to be in a gambling, blitz heavy, very talent defense surroudned by other playmakers. Doesn't sound like how they roll here, does it?

Pixies - "Tony's Theme"


Washington, DC: Here's what you said about the Taylor trade at the time it was made:

Anyway, to me, this is a move the Skins had to make. You're talking about picking up dudes who can, most likely, barely play in the NFL, if at all, versus getting a future Hall of Famer and the premier sack guy in the league over the last 10 years. (Okay, maybe it's Strahan, but he's retired now.)

Agreed, that in retrospect, the move has turned out horribly, but was it a stupid trade to make at the time?

Jason La Canfora: Read the rest of everything I wrote, including scouting reports from several NFL teams, and my overall belief that they put themselves in a totaly desperate situation, as we've seen time and time again.

They had to do it ... because of a situation of their own creating, the systematic disregard for building a dynamic D line, and dedicated any sort of assets to it. The fact that they came in with Daniels and very little else behind him is the major problem. So gambling on Taylor was really thr only thing out there - even thought I also wrote repeatedly that in this system hes a nickel guy who cant play the run and sooner or later (probably sooner) Evans would take his starting spot and that after skipping out on all football activities to do Dancing With the Stars, they were taking a major risk.

That's the whole story, as I wrote and blogged about it then, and as I have since he's been here. I called the Evans thing in like August, dude.

Rage Against The Machine - "Bullet In The Head"


Washington, D.C.: I'm concerned about the near-term future of the Redskins. It seems they have been duct-taping together the same flawed team for a playoff run since 2005, and as a result they have not invested in the "next generation" of linemen on either side of the ball.

So by the time the offense has matured and the new pass catchers get on the field, the Skins will have a nice collection of "skill" players and a really good secondary, but no ability to control the line of scrimmage.

Please talk me down if you can.

Jason La Canfora: I hear you. To me they failed again to see the true picture of where they were as a franchise last year, were seduced by the late December run, and opted to give out $50 some million in new money to existing players, add very little and try to make a run despite overhauling the system on offense and with a novice coach.

To me, and again, go back and read the blog from the offseason and since, if you go with a coach like Zorn you might as well go young and try to rebuild then. Maybe there will be another miracle playoff run and maybe this team, despite its age issues on the lines, etc., is ona steady 2-3 year progression to the Super Bowl with essentially this same roster.

I just didn't see it last winter, and I don't see it now.


Fairfax, Va.: In your opinion, which Redskins players should/deserve to make the Pro Bowl this year? With the team struggling for the past month, I'm not sure any players will make the team. Portis was an MVP candidate earlier in the season and he isn't even a lock to make it with Adrian Peterson, Michael Turner, and Deangelo Williams playing so well. Looks like they'll need more help than just fans voting the Redskins ticket.

Jason La Canfora: I'm not into the Pro Bowl. It's a popularity contest. Dallas sent what, 13 guys last year and couldn't win a playoff game? London Fletcher is having a great year and has been overlooked for a long time. No one else leaps to mind.


Jason La Canfora: Well guys, my time is up. Thanks as always for the great questions and have a great weekend. For any I could not get to, you can always reach me on the blog (Redskins Insider) or on email (



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