Mark Maske: Redskins Training Camp and the NFL

Mark Maske
Washington Post NFL Columnist
Wednesday, July 29, 2009; 11:00 AM

Washington Post NFL columnist and NFL News Feed blogger Mark Maske was online Wednesday, July 29 at 11:00 a.m. ET to take your questions about start of Redskins training camp, NFL rookie hold outs and all the rest of the news from the lead up to the NFL preseason.

Mark writes the NFL News Feed blog for the's pro football group blog, The League. He is the author of War Without Death: A Year of Extreme Competition in Pro Football's NFC East.


Mark Maske: Hi, everyone. Long time, no chat. I'm sure everyone is geared up for training camps getting started. Let's get right to it.


Westminster, Md.: I'm sure there have already been a dozen Vick questions asked already so here's a different one.

What's the likelihood Orakpo gets signed before training camp starts? Will he holdout? I'd really like to see a drama-free camp.

Mark Maske: Nope, you get the first question before all the Vick questions.

First, a little nitpicking about terms. An unsigned player doesn't "hold out." Technically, only a player who's under contract and doesn't show up to training camp is a holdout.

Will Orakpo get signed in time to report to the opening of training camp? It's looking doubtful. As of this moment, only five of 32 first-rounders league-wide have agreed to deals. The only two players ahead of Orakpo in the draft order to be signed are the two quarterbacks. Matthew Stafford got signed before the draft, and Mark Sanchez was signed in June. A lot of agents seem to be waiting to see what happens with the Michael Crabtree negotiations, to see if he'll get a deal better than the 10th draft slot.

It will all fall into place eventually. Don't worry about it too much. All coaches always gripe and start talking about how this will put these guys way behind and they'll never catch up. But that usually doesn't happen.


Jim Johnson: Submitting early.

Any comments on the passing of the Philadelphia Eagles defensive coach, and what this means for the team?

Mark Maske: Jim Johnson was a great, great coach, one of the underappreciated great coaches in the NFL because he was a coordinator, not a head coach. He always seemed to be a class act as well in the time that I spent around the Eagles. It's clear that the people who coached with him and played for him had deep respect and admiration for him. It's a great loss for the Eagles, both on a personal level and in terms of not having a guy who was a true Xs-and-Os genius. Sean McDermott, his replacement, has a lot to live up to, and there are great expectations for that team this season. Joe Banner, the team president, did nothing to diminish those expectations by coming out and saying he thinks the Eagles have the best roster in the league this season.


Austin, Texas: You think Favre is finally finished? I have been a lifelong Packer fan but his drama has made me sick. I suspect that he may have not been able to get the money he was looking for rather than the lame excuse he gave. Reports were that his agent was seeking $10-12 million for the year plus a percentage of team revenues. It will be a while before I have good feelings about Brett Favre again, either way.

Mark Maske: I do think he's finished now. I know you can never say that for certain with him. But this was a perfect situation for him. This was his team of choice. He knew the coaching staff. He knew the offensive system. He had a great running back, a very good offensive line and a reliable defense around him. He would have been set up to succeed, as opposed to being set up to fail last season with the Jets with his lack of familiarity with the coaches and the system. Plus, he would have gotten his two revenge games against the Packers. If you believe what people say, the money was worked out, a one-year deal for about $10 million. If you believe what he says, he just didn't trust his body to last an entire season and enable him to play well. If he's finally reached that point in his thinking, you would think he's done. Now, the one scenario that could change everything is if the Vikings are playing well and lose their quarterback or quarterbacks in the middle of the season. Then, could it be Favre to the rescue, at a time when his body wouldn't have to last an entire season? I could envision that, possibly.


San Diego, Calif.: Hi Mark,

So, who is going to be Burress's replacement for the Giants come opening day, and how tall is he?

Mark Maske: The Giants drafted a receiver in the first round in Hakeem Nicks but, to me, there still isn't a true replacement for Plaxico Burress on that roster. There isn't a true No. 1 receiver, and that troubles me about them when you consider how Eli Manning and that offense struggled at the end of last season with Burress out of the lineup. That is a Super Bowl-ready team in most other areas, so it surprised me a bit that the Giants didn't trade for a receiver in an offseason in which guys like Anquan Boldin, Braylon Edwards and Brandon Marshall were made available. I know there are issues with some of those guys, and I know it would have been costly both in terms of the trade and in terms of an accompanying contract. But the recent history of the draft tells us that receivers taken in the first round aren't the answer, more often than not, and that still strikes me as a glaring deficiency with that offense.


Bombay, India: Stick with Jason Campbell, trade for Jay Cutler, draft for Mark Sanchez, sign Mike Vick: Which do you think would have been the best move for the Redskins?

Mark Maske: To me, it's sticking with Jason Campbell. Put a decent offensive line around the guy and give him a few receivers, and I don't think he'll be what keeps you from winning.

I didn't particularly like the alternatives, either. Look at what the Bears had to give up to trade for Jay Cutler. That was a high price to pay. The Redskins simply didn't have what it would have taken to trade up to fifth in the draft, and they wouldn't have gotten the pass rusher that they got by taking Brian Orakpo.

And I don't see Vick as a fit for the Redskins. More accurately, I don't see the Redskins as a fit for Vick. He would be playing too close to home. People have talked about Vick needing to associate with different people and cut his ties to some of those around him who have been bad influences on him. That becomes more difficult if a lot of those people are within easy driving distance of where he's playing. Those who are advising Vick would be smart, I think, to get him further away from those influences.


Potomac, Md.: Does the Vick suspension look a little calculated to you? Maybe I'm too much of a conspiracy buff, but I think Goodell laid down this suspension with absolutely no intention of following through with it. By publicly handing Vick a very harsh penalty, Goodell diffuses the brunt of any attacks from animal rights groups or protests that might have followed a complete reinstatement. It also makes Vick a more sympathetic figure. But I wonder if the behind the scenes message to owners is "Don't worry, its really a one or two game suspension unless Vick screws it up."

Mark Maske: Truthfully, I don't know the answer to that. I know it's being said that Vick could be reinstated to play in regular season games earlier than Week 6 if all goes seamlessly. But to me, why do you specifically mention Week 6 if the re-evaluation is going to come much before then?


Washington, D.C.: Have the Bears followed the route of the Redskins by mortgaging their future to get one player who may or may not work out? If Cutler doesn't pan out, can they recover from the loss of two first round draft choices?

Mark Maske: I do think it was an awful lot to give up for Cutler, especially considering that the Chiefs got Matt Cassel from the Patriots in the same offseason for a second-round pick. Cutler is more proven than Cassel, yes, but that much more? My evaluation would be that the Bears gave up too much. But, hey, if the guy ends up reaching a bunch of Pro Bowls and taking the Bears to a Super Bowl or two before he's done, I don't think anyone in Chicago will end up complaining too much.


Washington, D.C.: What do you think the odds are that Vick ends up with the Patriots? Seems like the kind of tool Belichick would love to have in his back pocket, though I'm sure ownership wouldn't be too thrilled. Or what about Pittsburgh? Stable team, stable quarterback, stable steady ownership and compassionate coach ...

Mark Maske: Both of those teams have come up in the Vick speculation. What they both have going for them is a starting quarterback who wouldn't feel threatened. There wouldn't be a quarterback controversy and it would be clear to everyone that Vick would be there merely to run a very specific package of plays. That's the football side of it. I don't know at this point how either of those teams feels about the non-football aspects that would accompany signing Vick, or even being linked to him by interest in possibly signing him.


New York, N.Y.: Is it just me, or do the Redskins have three positions that will ultimately determine whether the team is in the playoffs, .500 or picking in the top-10 next year? The right tackle position, the No. 2 wide receiver and weak side linebacker position all seem particularly key. Which one do you think will work out and which position(s) will dog the team the entire year?

Mark Maske: That's a pretty good analysis. I do think the pass rush will be better with Haynesworth and Orakpo. I'm still not sure what kind of cornerback play they'll get. It will be interesting to see how DeAngelo Hall plays under some slightly different circumstances, with a big contract and a lot being expected of him. I'm not particularly sold on the wide receiver group or the right tackle candidates, and those outcomes could have a big effect on the play at the most important position of all, quarterback.


Placitas, N.M.: Dear Mark,

I've been rooting for the Redskins since before the days of Hall Haynes, Dan Sandifer, Harry Ulinnsky and others whose names have drifted off into fandom oblivion.

One thing has always been constant: the dominance of the defensive and offensive lines is paramount and determinative to the team's success.

So, I'd like to learn your estimation of the lines, as they now stand, meaning the current players, their current health, their current ability to start and their current ability to play up to their full capacity.

Put differently, to what extent will those lines be able to dominate their opponents' lines for each game that is on their schedule this year, any new injuries aside?

Thanks, Mark.

Mark Maske: I actually like the defensive line right now. Adding Haynesworth makes a huge difference. He'll make plays on his own, and the attention that he'll get from blockers will open up lanes for others to make plays as well. Having Haynesworth and Orakpo, whether Orakpo lines up at defensive end or outside linebacker, should boost the pass rush, and getting Jeremy Jarmon in the supplemental draft adds to the depth. It's not a bad group. I'm not as sure that the offensive line is fixed. I don't mind the move of getting rid of Jon Jansen, but there's no sure-fire replacement on the roster. If Chris Samuels's body starts to betray him, then you've got issues at both tackle spots. Picking up Derrick Dockery was a good move, but there are some significant injury questions about Randy Thomas. I still think there's more re-stocking to be done before the offensive line becomes an area of strength rather than an area of concern.


Ashburn, Va.: Can you explain why Orakpo will probably be playing outside linebacker when the Redskins have needed a pass-rushing defensive end for years now? Going forward, will this madness continue or will they have him put on weight and go back to defensive end?

Mark Maske: What the Redskins need is someone to get to the quarterback with some regularity coming off the edge. It doesn't really matter where he lines up. If he can do that, he gives this defense something that it desperately needs.


Mark Maske: Thanks for the questions, everyone. Sorry I couldn't get to all of them. I'm sure we'll be doing this on a more regular basis again now that the season is approaching.


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