Archives for posts with tag: RGIII

One down, three to go.  The Redskins traditional sprint to the finish begins with another underwhelming first half but a victory at slowly sinking Philadelphia.  The 27-22 victory might not propel the team into the second wildcard just yet, but with three weeks remaining the Skins are in position to be in position.

Another Close Call- anyone surprised this came down to the final minute?  Ten of the team’s 13 games this year have been decided by eight points or fewer…and while the Skins are 5-4-1 in those games, it doesn’t help anybody sleep any easier.  What is nice is the team’s second half surges…since starting 0-2, the Burgundy and Gold has outscored opponents in 8 of their last 11 games.

Captain Kirk-  yes, he threw a pick-six.  What is it about the Eagles?  The face of the franchise completed 14 of 21 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns…while leading the team back from another halftime deficit.  Another 4,000 yard season in the books…with a 100+ passer rating.  For those curious, that’s the third time in four weeks Cousins has guided the team to 20 points or more in the second half.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “The Trouble with Tribbles”- frustrating at times, but all the elements of a tough win are in place.  The Enterprise has to deal with little fur-balls that multiply while eating nonstop.  Tribbles also irritate Klingons, so Scotty gets the last laugh by transporting them onto their ship-“where they’ll be no tribble at all”.

Tragedy of Robert III- the former face of the franchise returned to action for Cleveland, completing 12 of 28 passes for 104 yards and an interception in the Browns’ 23-10 defeat against Cincinnati.

Running on a Balanced Ticket- Robert Kelley led the way with 63 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries while Chris Thompson provided the ideal mixer with 38 carries on three tries (including the game winning 25-yard scamper for a score).  As a team, the Skins ran 23 times and had 23-pass plays called.  In 2016 that’s downright conservative.  Here’s to making the running game great again!

Garcon & DeSean- a lot has been made this season about how the team will not be able to afford both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon after their contracts expire.  Sunday, each made their case for retention:  Jackson with an 80-yard TD reception in the third quarter to provide a spark when the team needed one most and Pierre with a clutch grab on 4th and 1 to set up the game-winning score.  DeSean provides the sizzle, Garcon the steak.  Enjoy this next month, because this may be the final dance for this veteran duo in DC.

Third and Limited- the Skins went 2 for 7 on the money down, with Kirk Cousins suffering through a rough 0-for-4 with one sack performance.  He did run for two yards on a third and one while Robert Kelley had a five yard gain on a third and one…hold on.  Running on third down?  I know, miracles never cease.  Jermaine Crowder was the top target with three.  Yardage breakdown:  2-for-4 on third and short, 0-2 on third and medium (4 to 6 yards needed) and 0-1 on third and long.

D earns a C- yes, they were pushed around for most of the afternoon as the Eagles had six drives of 10 plays or more…and ran 39 plays from scrimmage in the first half.  And my pet peeve of defensive backs making way too many tackles continues with four of Sunday’s top five tacklers being DB’s.  But Mason Foster (12 stops and a sack), Deshazor Everett (interception in the end zone) and Ryan Kerrigan (a sack/forced fumble on the Eagles final drive) made up for an underwhelming afternoon where Philly had the ball for over 36 minutes.

Flying flags- only five penalties this time…for 86 yards.  One on offense…any guesses?  Yes, false start (Morgan Moses this time)- the team’s 24th (tied for the most in the NFL) this fall.  Pass interference (Quinton Dunbar) was the only defensive infraction…while three of the penalties came on special teams.  Deshazor Everett was whistled twice-for an illegal block above the waist on a punt return and “interference with an opportunity to catch” on a punt.  The other flag was a hold on a kickoff return.  Most costly penalty?  Everett’s illegal block meant the Skins’ drive began at their 16 instead of the 31-right before Cousins threw the pick-six.

Special Circumstances- Dustin Hopkins missed a 38-yard field goal, awakening the same villagers who stormed other kickers in previous years with torches and pitchforks.  He’s now 28 of 35 on the season:  80% is good enough for 20th in the NFL.  Tress Way averaged 47 yards per punt.  The return and coverage games provided neither feast nor famine.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas (11-2) missed a chance to clinch the NFC East, as their 10-7 loss to the New York Giants was their first defeat since they fell at home to…well, the Giants in week one.  Now other teams have two gametapes to pore over when preparing for the Cowboys, who remain in first place in the division and NFC overall.  The Giants (9-4) moved one step closer to the playoffs; their next game against Detroit could very well be a Wildcard Round preview.  The Redskins (7-5-1) remain in third place while still standing one half game behind streaking Tampa Bay (8-5 with five straight wins) for the final playoff berth in the NFC.  The Buccaneers battle Dallas Sunday night.  Philadelphia?  Eight losses in ten games drops the Eagles (5-8) to the precipice of playoff elimination:  a loss in week 15 at Baltimore or wins by Tampa Bay or the Redskins move Philly into draft-mode.

Best Division Banner up for Grabs- the AFC West (33-19) has a half game lead over the NFC East (32-19-1)…while there’s a new division of depression.  The NFC West after an 0-4 weekend that saw Seattle get smacked, Arizona come up short in the rain, San Francisco collapse, and the Rams finally rid itself of the Jeff Fisher Virus is 18-32-2.  Hats off to the AFC North that has to swim through the waters of the 2016 season tethered to the anvil that is Cleveland.

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The NFL season kicks off this evening, and that means the sports page at WTOP.COM is now over-run with predictions and prognostications.  For all of the goods go here:

http://wtop.com/section/sports/

For those of you who were looking for answers in essay form as opposed to short answer… I’ll hand off right here…:

-What will be the Redskins’ final record, where will they finish in the division, and will they make the playoffs?

Redskins will go 10-6 and win the NFC East…while the rest of the division will all finish 6-10.

-What non-playoff team from last season will make it this year?

The Ravens will bounce back from last year’s close calls and injuries…and shout Oh during the anthem come January…

-What playoff team from last year won’t make it this year?

Denver will realize that a massively substandard Peyton Manning is much better than a Trevor Siemian at his best.

-Which team will have the biggest increase in wins?

The Ravens will win 5 to 6 more games in 2016 than they did last year…I’m also wary about the NY Giants and Indianapolis

-Which team will have the biggest decrease in wins?

The Broncos could crater in a Florida Marlins kind of way…and I’m concerned that Arizona or Carolina will have “market corrections” to 10-6/9-7.

-In what week will Tony Romo return as a starter, if at all?

Tony Romo will start Sunday October 30th and light it up in week 8 against Philadelphia…only to injure his back while trying to slide the next Sunday at Cleveland. Robert Griffin III will be unavailable for comment.

-Will RG3 start for the Browns in Washington in Week 4?

Robert III, one year after being deposed from his the Potomac Valley Duchy, begins an unstable regime on the shores of Lake Erie while many in the Anacostia region root for his triumphant return.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown–for while Robert the Lion-Hearted but Feeble-Kneed directs a campaign into Landover, he gives way to his heir apparent midway through the skirmish.  So ends the House of Griffin in Cleveland…and begins the House of McCown.

-How many personal fouls will Josh Norman/Odell Beckham Jr. combine for in their two matchups this season?

Norman/Beckham Jr will combine for  3 personal fouls this fall…leading FOX to bring Beckham Jr into Norman’s segment where they shake hands.  Sadly it’s funnier than Rob Riggle’s picks segment…

-Who will win each conference championship and the Super Bowl?

Arizona beats Seattle to win the NFC title…while New England beats Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game.

Then Tom Brady sticks it to Roger Goodell as Sully from Southie celebrates on Super Bowl Sunday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BOLD PREDICTION–

NBC and the NFL will get into a major tiff over whether or not Mike Tirico is worthy of their Thursday night games… Al Michaels and Bob Costas taking turns calling them out.

 

 

 

The beauty of the NFL preseason is that despite the fact that the league severely frowns on people calling them “exhibitions”, the wins and losses accumulated during August have no bearing on the rest of the year (unlike baseball’s All Star Game).  Teams can rest players for legitimate or imagined reasons as they’re “finding their rhythm” and then if they don’t produce in August those same teams can hide behind the “rust” excuse.

When I learned last week that the Redskins were giving Kirk Cousins the week off I decided to give the Redskins Rehash the week off as well.  I was getting good typing practice reps this summer anyways.  And It’s not as thogh there is any caryover when you’re getting back into the season grind?  I enjayed

the weak off and have compleat confidense  thaksltsksdf I’ll be ready to go with rakjsdfular season rec&ps when the Skinz host Pitsburg one week from Munday.

 

That said, the 21-16 win over Buffalo means the Skins are now 9-2 in the Preseason under coach Jay Gruden and 20-7 in “don’t call them exhibition games” since Bruce Allen returned to Ashburn.  They can still take the August NFC East with a victory over Tampa Bay plus two Philadelphia losses.  August Banners Baby!

Captain Kirk– the face of the franchise struggled early against the Bills before throwing three touchdown passes in the second quarter.  First four possessions against players who for the most part were starters:  4-12 for 36 yards and an INT.  Last three drives against opponents who might not be with the Bills come September:  8-11 for 145 yards and 3 scores.  Perhaps he could have played last week. 

I’m a Backup, not a Savior– Colt McCoy had another solid week in relief, completing 7-10 passes for 59 yards in the second half.  So he failed to generate any points.  We’ll call it the Laufenberg hangover as last year’s Babe Laufenberg Award winner couldn’t hope to equal 2015’s mercurial numbers.  The only question is will the Skins keep Nate Sudfeld as a third QB on the roster or try to practice squad the rookie.

The Shadow Empire–  much like King James II and his descendents that remained pretenders to the throne of England in the 18th century, it will be a while before Robert III’s followers in the DC Metro area will move on completely.  Therefore every pass, sack taken, handoff executed and snap bobbled by the former Face of the Franchise will be pored over by the Burgundy and Gold faithful.  Friday against Tampa Bay (fans could say they were watching RG3 just to get a take on the Skins’ next foe) Griffin completed 8-14 passes for 119 yards and a TD.  He also was sacked five times.  His August numbers as Cleveland’s #1 QB: 18-30 (60%) for 282 yards and 3 TD’s with 1 INT, 5 carries for 40 yards (with one fumble) and 6 sacks taken.  I’m hoping for split-screen coverage when the Skins and Browns are playing at the same time this fall…

Runningback Roulette– Matt Jones is done for the preseason and Chris Thompson was on the shelf last night…meaning Robert Kelley led the Skins in rushing for the second time in three weeks.  The rookie rambled for 51 yards on 12 carries (making him the #1 candidate for the Laufenberg Trophy) while Mack Brown (not coaching at Texas has freed him up) managed 43 yards on 11 tries.  Not a good night for Keith Marshall– who got injured after one three yard carry.  The preseason finale could become a showdown for a spot in the depth chart and a place on the 53-man roster between these three.

Everybody gets a Catch!– another joy of the preseason is that teams can generate gameplans against vanilla defenses (we’ll give a nod to Buffalo being near Canada and call the Bills French vanilla) that can make sure everybody gets fed.  DeSean Jackson?  You get 4 catches!  Vernon Davis?  Three receptions for you!  Laufenberg candidate Ryan Grant?  A 38 yard TD grab!  Pierre Garcon, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen & Jordan Reed?  Two catches, 2 catches, 2 catches and 2 more catches!  Rashad Ross?  Sorry, bro.  Just a 5-yard reception for you.  How this will translate September 12th against Pittsburgh is beyond me…although I’m envisioning a 3-tight end set just for giggles.

Third and Week 3 of the Preseason– the Skins converted 4 of 13 third downs…while moving the chains on two penalties.  Cousins was 3-5 with 2 assists from the officials while McCoy was 1-6 at staying on the field.  Five of the 7 third downs Cousins was on the field for were passes…6 of McCoy’s 7 third down plays were passes.  Five of the 13 third downs faced were from 1 to 3 yards (Skins converted 3-5), while 2 were from 4-6 yards and 6 were from 7 yards out or longer.

D earns another good grade– yes, these are the Buffalo Bills.  There’s no way that poor quarterbacking has contributed to the fact that they haven’t reached the playoffs this century.  And the fact that Rex Ryan provides a metaphorical anvil to each quarterback he gets his hands on.  They held the Bills to barely over 50% completion rate and under 10 yards per catch while tallying two takeaways.  The fumble recovery by Greg Toler set up their final touchdown of the night and Virginia Tech product Kendall Fuller’s (BEAMER BALL!) interception in the endzone preserved the victory.  Overall, this August the unit that took a lot of lumps last year has played fairly well.  It doesn’t hurt that they have a defensive lineman named Ziggy Hood (one sack).  Cool nicknames always distract one from the actual results. 

Flying Flags– thank goodness they have the preseason to work things out. Ten more penalties for 87 yards…and nine on the offense.  Five holds…and three on Kory Lichtensteiger (when does Bryan Stork arrive in Ashburn?).  Three false starts.  An illegal use of the hands and a false start on Ty Nsekhe…not good news for the 30-year old fresh from playing for the Arena League’s LA Kiss.  Just remember, Gene & Paul had no qualms about cutting Ace & Peter loose in the early 80’s.

Special Situations– Dustin Hopkins missed a 55-yard field goal while nailing all 3 of his extra point attempts.  Tress Way averaged 53 yards on his 6 punts.  No major disasters.

August means many things:  I had better be finishing my summer reading (the Neil Armstrong bio won’t read itself) and the Redskins are back and better than ever!  And I mean better than ever!  Since 2010 they’ve made August their little fiefdom, going 18-6 entering last night’s preseason (don’t you dare call it an exhibition) game in Atlanta.  Thursday’s 23-17 was the team’s second consecutive defeat in “games that do not count towards playoff contention”.

Time for the return of the weekly look back at the game that was…with mind-numbing research, dubious conclusions and snarky thoughts.  First there is some offseason housecleaning as several features that were prominent in previous years no longer fit:

RG3VER- the former face of the franchise is now in Cleveland.  Last year’s best one-liner was that the Skins QB carousel resembled “Star Trek”: Kirk, McCoy and a guy in a red shirt who’s gone by the first commercial.  Good luck with the Browns…

Saved by the Ball- no more Mr. Morris to make the running game bell ding anymore.  One hopes that Matt Jones can at least go to the Max protect, or there will be multiple screeches in the backfield.

Cobra Kai Forbath- we got WAY too much mileage out of this one, from comparing the Skins kicker to everyone’s favorite movie bully.  We ranked the culpability of the other Cobra Kai during Mr. Miyagi’s famed “takedown of the skeletons”.  One likes think that after the disappointment of losing Ali (with an I) to Daniel LaRusso and coming in second during the Valley Tournament, Johnny turned things around (just like he said he was going to at the beach scene) and made us proud.  Dr. John Lawrence has been practicing thoracic surgery with the best of them and is celebrating his 50th birthday this month with his wife and four kids.  Daniel LaRusso still lives in his mother’s basement.  No mercy, indeed…

 

On to 2016–

The preseason loss to Atlanta?  Doesn’t matter!  The first dress rehearsal tells coaches and fans a few things but the regular season won’t begin for another month.  Please get off the ledge and worry about other things, like the Washington Kastles perilous playoff chances.

Captain Kirk-  beam this guy up after a 5-5 for 39 yard performance.  Number 8 converted 1 of 2 third down opportunities and looked solid in his lone drive with the team.  In his limited time on the field he was able to get passes out to DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.  Best thing-unlike previous first string QB’s there were no injuries or massive miscommunications.

The Real McCoy- he’s a backup, not a miracle worker!  After leading the Skins to a field goal on his first possession, Colt directed three drives that gained 26 yards on 12 plays.  He converted 2 of 6 third down chances, but four of the six were 3rd & 10+.  He likely won’t win a second straight Babe Laufenberg Trophy (his 72% completion and 115.2 passer rating still boggle the mind), but he was able to get some good work in…

The New Guy- do we even have to learn Nate Sudfeld’s name and number?  How did he get #7- was Joe Theismann properly approached?  The rookie from Indiana (where previous preseason hero Babe Laufenberg went as well) completed 10-15 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.  His 8.9 yards per completion is right in line with Cousins & McCoy.  The three sacks are less than ideal, but for his first NFL game-like experience this was not bad.

Runningback Rotation- Matt Jones gained 1 yard on 2 carries and had a third attempt (12 yard gain) wiped out with a holding penalty.  Will he be the guy this fall?  There are those who are Robert Kelley fans…and he definitely didn’t disappoint with 40 yards and a touchdown rushing plus two receptions.

The Stars of August- receivers Rashad Ross (4 catches for 49 yards) and Ryan Grant (3 grabs for 31 yards) made their impact against Atlanta…setting up the stage for when they’ll be special teamers who get limited looks on offense during the regular season.

Third and…hey, it’s August- the Skins converted 5-15 third downs…with 8 of those 15 attempts coming from 10 yards or more.  Every one of their 15 plays (even the 4 from third and 3 or fewer) was a called pass.  No turnovers and just one sack.  Again, it’s only August.

Grading the D- last year’s unit was ranked in the lower half of the league and many were saying, “once we get Junior Galette back-we’ll be set”.  As many learned in July, Galette’s not coming back thanks to another Achilles injury.  The defense held Atlanta to under 3 yards per carry and under 50% completion percentage…while also getting off the field on 8 of 10 third downs.  But they failed to notch a sack and allowed backbreaking completions of 48 and 68 yards.  It’s August and one thinks they’ll get it all figured out…but the seeds of confidence and concern both show up here.

Flying Flags- 14 penalties for 123 yards!  I give you Exhibit A for why the preseason lasts 4 games.  One looks with a little more concern towards Morgan Moses’ hold in the first half (turned what would have been a 1st & 10 at the 47 into a 1st & 20 at the 25) as well as Preston Smith’s offsides (turned a 4th & goal from the 11 into a 3rd & goal from the 6) at this time…but there’s a lot to be cleaned up in week one of the preseason.  Atlanta had 11 penalties.  And that’s why we watched the Olympics…

 

 

Previously appearing on WTOP.COM…

 

I’ll say one thing about Scot McCloughan;  the Redskins General Manager has actually helped turn draft day into something to look forward to in this area.  One of the major reasons behind the Redskins run of eight last place finishes from 2004-2014 was its inability to stockpile talent through the draft…thanks to trading many of their picks before doing “creative things” like selecting three receivers in the second round when the crying need was for offensive line depth.  You could say this approach began when Bruce Allen took over in 2010 and brought in coach Mike Shanahan;  the team had ten selections in the top 105 picks from 2005-09 (last four years of Vinny Cerrato’s regime) while boasting 17 such selections in the last five years.

Why the top 105?  Because while it’s nice to talk about all of your picks…once you get past the top 100…the likelihood said player sticks with your team decreases dramatically.  For every Alfred Morris (major hit at 173), there’s a Dennis Morris (174) who doesn’t play a regular season down in the league.  I originally used 100 as the trip-line, but under the Allen administration there have been a slew of picks 102-106 that make more sense when grouped in the top 100.  At that point everybody’s board varies so much these were kids that the Skins’ brain trust had as top 100 guys.

Successful drafts can be somewhat subjective;  in theory bad teams will see more of their picks make the roster that year because, well…they’re a bad team.  Also, a new GM’s players are more likely to make the team just like a new coach’s draftees will get more of a chance to stick than a previous coach or personnel guy’s people.  That’s why the headline “the top seven 2015 draftees made the roster” deserves an “exactly”…just like “the top five players picked in Jay Gruden’s first draft made the team” merits the necessary shrug.

Since 2010 there have been three drafting combinations:  Bruce Allen/Mike Shanahan from 2010-13, Allen/Jay Gruden in 2014 and Scot McGloughan/Gruden last year.  How did each fare?  Time for the avidly awaited year-by-year rundown…a lot less depressing than the Cerrato stumbles.

 

2010-  six picks with two in the top 105.  Trent Williams and Perry Riley became starters with Williams reaching four Pro Bowls.  But from their other picks, only Terrence Austin would play more than 3 games in the NFL.  And this was a last place team.  Still, it’s tough to expect much from a seventh round selection and the Skins had three that year.  Funfact:  the Skins were rumored to be trading up with St. Louis so they could get the #1 overall pick and quarterback Ryan Reynolds Sam Bradford but held at #4 to select a lineman.  Why anyone would send multiple picks to the Rams for a QB when roster depth was a major concern remains beyond me.

2011-  twelve selections with four in the top 105.  And only four seventh rounders!  Seventh rounders are the ultimate scratch ticket–it’s nice when one gets you $20 but stockpiling them is no way to secure a solid retirement.  Ryan Kerrigan (5 seasons a starter with one Pro Bowl), Jarvis Jenkins (3 years a starter before his departure) and Maurice Hurt (9 games started before injuries derailed a nice story) lead the class, while non-starters like Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Leonard Hankerson and DeJon Gomes each contributed during their time in Ashburn.  Funfact:  Maurice Hurt’s given name is “Sparrow Maurice Hurt, Jr.”…in case you were curious.

2012- nine selections with three in the top 105.  It’s tough to look at this draft and not get sucked into a seven-hour conversation about Robert Griffin III:  from what went wrong to the proper price for a franchise QB to which Subway sandwich is the best (my money remains on the Italian BMT with pepper jack cheese, chipotle dressing, lettuce, banana peppers and olives).  Away from the glare of the comet that began with a bang before ending with 16 inactives, the Skins got talent early and often this year.  Kirk Cousins is the quarterback of the future (or until the Skins refuse to give him a long-term deal and he walks) and Josh LeRibeus made 11 starts last season.  Keenan Robinson and Tom Compton were also starters during stretches of their time in burgundy and gold.  Funfact: Sun Chips Garden Salsa is the the proper pairing for the BMT.

2013- seven selections with two in the top 105.  The first rounder went to the Rams and just like Vinny Cerrato made the 2008 second his “receiver round”, this one will go down as the “defensive back draft” for Allen & Shanahan.  Problem was-David Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo had even less time with the Skins than the infamous triumvirate of Devin Thomas, Fred Davis and Malcolm Kelly.  A pair of offensive players who each have had their injury issues remain on the roster:  Jordan Reed is a game-changing matchup nightmare beyond everybody’s expectations while Chris Thompson is a decent change of pace runningback.  Funfact:  the Draft stretching to 3 days…with the first round on Thursday really makes life tough when your team has dealt their top selection.

2014- eight selections with four in the top 105.  The first Jay Gruden draft brought an infusion of offensive line help (Morgan Moses and Spencer Long) as well as eventual defensive starters (Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland) with a fifth rounder (Ryan Grant) who’s played in every game over the last two years.  Is there a star in this bunch?  Not likely.  But you need a 53-man roster filled with glue-guys and special teamers.  This class appears to be a solid part of the foundation.  Funfact:  drafting kicker Zach Hocker in the seventh round with Kai Forbath still on the roster gave training camp the ultimate competition between “Saved by the Bell” and “Karate Kid” fans.  NO MERCY!

2015- ten selections with four in the top 105.  Scot McCloughan’s first draft (although he only had four months to prepare with a roster he was getting to know on the fly) yielded one starter in first rounder Brandon Scherff while delivering impact players in Preston Smith (8 sacks as a rookie), Matt Jones (if he stops fumbling this is the running game’s meal ticket) and Jamison Crowder (59 catches and a special teams presence).  It’s only one year, but the quality of last year’s draft already exceeds the 2011 & 2013 hauls from a roster-building standpoint.  The promising career of Kyshoen Jarrett (16 games played, one interception) may be hampered by nerve damage in his shoulder…while Arie Kouandji and Martell Spaight just seem like the kind of guys who stick on a roster for a year or two, maybe play special teams and then the next April you’re wondering where they went.  Funfact:  for the first time since Bruce Allen came on board, the number of seventh round picks did not exceed the first rounders.

 

Verdicts for those scoring at home:  a decidedly mixed bag.  You could say that 2010 brought minimal depth, but if you’re going to get Williams and Riley’s longterm impact you’re more than okay with the late round misses.  Many of the 2011 draftees turned out to be the middle of the roster guys who depart with a coaching change…and one can’t dismiss the player on the field and in the locker room Kerrigan has become.  The enigma that is 2012 could turn from boom to bust to boom if Cousins builds on his breakout season…while 2013’s failure may be somewhat salvaged if Reed remains healthy and productive.  The jury remains out on the last two years, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.  When Bruce Allen took over this team in 2009, they were easily the most mismanaged in the NFC East.  Since then, Draft Day have been more encouraging than infuriating.  

 

There’s always that magical week or weekend when the days get shorter…it gets chillier by the pool and football preview magazines begin to take precedence over the crossword/summer reading. While September 21st is almost two months away, late July marks the end of one season– and the beginning of the onramp to the marathon/sprint that is college and pro football. Is it really time- can’t I get just one more week?

The Redskins are in Richmond with a new regime; Jay Gruden sorts through a pretty decent cupboard left by Mike Shanahan. Say what you will about last year’s 3-13 descent from awesome expectations to awful execution…not all 3-13’s are created alike. And this team is one year removed from winning the NFC East. The major question is, which year was the outlier–2012 or 2013?

Prepare for the Positive– it’s almost fitting that training camp takes place when the skies are sunniest and the temperatures are highest. EVERYBODY is optimistic. Even teams that are in their 3rd “five year plan” since 2010. That’s the beauty of the NFL– worst to first is not an anomaly: you can almost guarantee that we’ll have 4-6 different playoff teams this winter. Last fall saw Kansas City go from 2-14 to the playoffs…so even a Houston that lost 14 straight can have hope. Or a Redskins team that crash-landed with 8 straight losses…

What to Watch For–OFFENSE:
Life begins with RG3–HOW healthy and ready will the face of the franchise be? How will the new Jay Gruden system maximize his strengths and limit his weaknesses? Will we see rookies Spencer Long or Morgan Moses push the starters on the offensive line or be routed into the “rookie year learning laboratory” that’s high on enrichment but low on game-snaps? And what’s the deal with Jerry Rice Junior? Is the undrafted rookie good enough to leapfrog Andre Roberts and Ryan Grant–or is he more Pete Rose Jr than Eduardo Perez? (if he were Griffey Jr he would have been taken first overall by Houston, set the world on fire, before eventually returning to San Francisco where he would’ve never been healthy)

What to Watch For–DEFENSE:
It’s Jim Haslett’s turn to shine. Year five of the 3-4 means execution and not excuses: of the projected week one starters only Kedric Golston and Bryan Orakpo pre-date his arrival– and if they didn’t fit his vision they’d be gone by now. Will Jason Hatcher recover from surgery in time to be a factor in September? Even healthy, Hatcher has to change from being a tackle in a 4-3 to a three-man front. How much will the linebackers miss the leadership of London Fletcher? Even at the end of his career, the John Carroll University product was averaging 7 tackles a game while holding together a unit under siege. The biggest questions aren’t necessarily about the 3-4…it’s the 4 behind them. Can Deangelo Hall, Ryan Clark and Brandon Merriweather still contribute as starters in this league? After losing his rookie season to injury, will Phillip Thomas be more rusty or ready? Can Bacarri Rambo live up to having the coolest name on the team? (sadly,
having an awesome name is almost a curse: Notre Dame’s Hiawatha Francisco, Baylor’s J.J. Joe and Nebraska’s I.M. Hipp never lived up to their names in the pros)

What to Watch For–SPECIAL TEAMS:
The kicking game can’t be the absolute disaster it was last year…right? From coughing up game-changing returns to allowing kicks blocked…2013 was a major nightmare for the Burgundy and Gold. Can they identify the right guys to be put in place on these units? Meanwhile, Saved by the Bell meets Karate Kid. Is there actually a kicking competition between Kai Forbath and seventh round pick Zach Hocker? Despite making 35 of 40 career attempts (numbers that would make Ali with an I swoon), the Johnny Lawrence of accuracy is Daniel LaRusso-like when it comes to kickoffs. Will Zach be accurate enough to make his kickoff length a factor in late August? (never count out a Zach–from fronting a band to a foiling diamond thieves to hitting on homeless girls at the mall)