Posted on: July 14, 2009 3:52 am

Who's in and Who's out: NFL Playoff Predictions

If there is one thing that the current age of free agency and parity has taught me it’s that change is inevitable.


This is why I can say with absolute confidence that six of the twelve teams who made the playoffs last season will sit at home while six new teams take their place.


I have done the math folks, and the results may be shocking to some.


I have gone over the last ten NFL seasons and added up the changeover from year to year.


Starting with the 2000 NFL season (which I compared to the 1999 season) there were 57 teams who have made the playoffs after not getting in the season before.  Fifty seven new teams out of a total of 108 slots.


I didn’t get out the calculator, but if 54 are 50% of 108, I’d say that we are pretty close to a 50% changeover rate.


The numbers are pretty even in both conferences.  Twenty seven slots have been filled by new teams in the AFC, and thirty slots have been filled with new blood in the NFC.


Given this recent history I have decided to go with the odds and safely predict that half of last year’s playoff contenders will be replaced this season.  The fun part is predicting who is in and who is out.


I have decided to give you my opinions as to who replaces who.  I’ll start in the AFC.


AFC East:


Who is in:  New England.


This has to be by far the easiest pick.  If you take a team coming off an 11-5 season and add Tom Brady to the mix you should feel pretty confident.  I know that the jury is still out until we see Brady in action, but barring a major set back I think it’s safe to say that New England will return to form this year.


Who is out:  Miami.


 I like their coach.  I like their GM.  I like their players.  I’m just not convinced that Chad Pennington can put together back to back great seasons.  I’m not sure he can put together two back to back injury free seasons.  And I can see the Wildcat coming from a mile away.


AFC North:


Who is in:  Cincinnati.


This is one that could go either way.  I like that Carson Palmer is back, but I don’t like that T.J. Whosyourmamma is gone.  But I think that they have improved defensively and will definitely be very competitive this year.


Who is out:  Baltimore.


Sorry guys, I just don’t trust second year QB’s to repeat their Rookie success.  Even Big Ben couldn’t strike gold twice in a row (although a certain bike crash may have factored in to the situation).


The defense is older, Derrick Mason may retire, and their RB’s just don’t scare me.


AFC South:


Who is in:  Houston.


I am invoking my Arizona Cardinal rule with Houston.  It’s time to poop or get off the pot. 


The talent is there on offense and defense, and I like their coaching staff.  If they don’t realize their potential I won’t have them on this list this time next year.


Who is out:  Tennessee.


I went back and forth on this one.  I can honestly say that I can see both the Titans and Colts regressing this year.


The Colts lost much of their coaching staff, while the Titans lost several key free agents.  I chose the Titans because of their QB situation.


I trust Peyton Manning to hold his team together.  I’m not convinced that either Kerry Collins or Vince Young can return the Titans to glory.  The little things will add up this year and Tennessee will be left on the outside looking in.


NFC East: 


Who is in:  Washington.


This division is a crap shoot.  I don’t know who will bludgeon their way into the playoffs in this division.  But I do know that it is usually a different team each year.


The Redskins have a recent history of taking a season off following playoff seasons.  Since they took last season off (but still came tantalizingly close) I think they stick with the trend and get a wild card this year.


Who is out:  Philadelphia.


File this under “you heard it here first.”


Every “expert” is predicting a Philly division title.  I just don’t see it.


Their top two stars have injury issues (including Westbrook, who has already had surgery before the start of training camp).  They have two new starters on their offensive line.  They have a very young WR corps, and they lost two people who were the heart of their defense.


I’m talking about Brian Dawkins and Jim Johnson.  Dawkins they can live without, but not having your defensive guru (who I hope has a quick recovery) will throw you through a loop.


NFC South:


Who is in:  New Orleans.


We all know what the offense can do.  The reason I think they will get over the hump is the acquisition of Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams.  He is a system coach who has a history of maximizing player potential.  He didn’t succeed in Jacksonville last year, but given the sorry state of the Jaguars offense it was almost impossible for anyone to succeed.


Who is out:  Carolina.


It pains me to say this.  I really like Carolina.  But they have the same history as the Redskins.  One good year is always followed by a bad year.


I think their running game may be one of the league’s best, but I don’t trust their defense.  Also Jake Delhomme has injury concerns.


NFC West:


Who is in:  Seattle.


This is my most confident prediction (after New England).  Seattle was a good team that was decimated by injuries last year.


I love what they did in the draft, and I love the pick up of T.J. Houshmanilli in free agency.  If  Hasselbeck returns to form I think the Seahawks will return to the place they are accustomed to: division champs.


Who is out:  Arizona.


I know, I know.  They return lots of talent.  They came within two minutes of winning the Superbowl.


History is not on their side though.


In the last ten years only one team who had lost the Superbowl the year before has made the playoffs the following year.  That team was the 2006 Seattle Seahawks.


Besides historical jinxes I have more tangible reasons for an Arizona setback.


They don’t have a great defense.  They are serviceable at best, but does anyone really trust them to hold a fourth quarter lead? 


They also don’t have a running game.  This means that they can’t control the clock, which puts the game into the defense’s hands to win.  Yikes!


Also, I love Kurt Warner, but the odds of him reproducing what he did last year at his advanced age with his injury history are only slightly greater than getting a royal flush in poker.


I have gone out on many limbs today.  If I am right I will remind every one that I told them so.


If I’m wrong I will write an article stating that I was misinformed.  Stay tuned.


I’ll see you in January.


Category: NFL
Posted on: July 13, 2009 4:02 am

For Those About To Rock: A Salute to Da Bears

The summer is my least favorite sports season.


No football, no basketball, and the World Cup once every four years.  Baseball is mildly entertaining to me, but not until August or September.  By that time I have football back.


Anyway, to keep me entertained throughout the slow months of summer I sometimes turn to youtube.  I can look at Redskins and Tarheels videos that I may never have seen before.  Even if I have seen them there is nothing like a trip down memory lane to remind me of why I like sports.


This article is not about the Redskins or the Tarheels.  But it is my humble attempt at giving recognition to one of the most entertaining and hardworking NFL teams of the eighties: the Chicago Bears.


I stumbled across the Bears innocently enough.  I put in Joe Theismann into the youtube search engine to see what I could find.  When the results came up there was one that intrigued me.  The title of the clip was “A Bad Day for Joe Theismann,” submitted by Beerzgood5.


What I saw was a video that included highlights of the 45-10 thrashing that the Bears gave to the Redskins that autumn day in 1985.  The highlight (or lowlight) occurred early in the game after the Bears had injured the Redskin’s punter and Joe Theismann was forced into emergency kicking duties.


The result was a highly pressured kick that yielded a net total of four yards.


I was going to write this article solely about this one game, but I decided to broaden my scope for two reasons.


First of all, when I looked up the box score for this game it showed that the Redskins didn’t get dominated as much as the score and video would indicate.  They won the time of possession and out gained the Bears by 160+ yards.  Although Theismann gave up three turnovers and was sacked four times his overall stats weren’t that bad.


The second reason was that this video led me to other Beerzgood5 submissions that highlighted those classic Bears’ teams in a way that America’s Game can’t accomplish.


Each video had a catchy title like “Bad day for Phil Simms (part one and two)” and “Bad Day for Cowboys QB’s”.


Also, each video was accompanied by an ACDC soundtrack (with a Who song thrown in here or there).


I’m not a huge ACDC fan or a huge Bears fan, but the combination somehow fits.  ACDC represents blue collar America.  So does the late eighties Bears’ football team.  There is nothing pretty about either the songs or the videos, but the results are powerful.


As I watched video after video it occurred to me.  This defense slaughtered some of the best offenses of all time.


Between 1983 and 1993 the NFC East accounted for seven out of ten Superbowl titles.  Yet here was video proof that the Bears made these teams look like the expansion era Bucs.


The most revealing video was the two part video set against the Giants that documented a playoff game in 1985 and a MNF game in 1987, which pitted the two most recent Superbowl winners against each other.


The results are awe inspiring.  I have never seen a Bill Parcells led team get out muscled like this in the trenches.  I also have never seen so many quarterback substitutions in one game (other than the Redskins/Eagles body bag game in 1990).


Simms starts, and gets mauled.


Then Rutledge comes in, and gets the wind knocked out of him.


Then Simms comes back in, and goes back out, after a monstrous hit that had me screaming obscenities into a computer screen 22 years after the event.


Rutledge comes back and gets slaughtered again.  There is one frame in the video that shows the two QB’s talking to each other.  It looks like they are drawing straws as to who must go back into the game.


I know that the Chicago defenses of the 1980’s get a lot of respect, and are mentioned along with the all-time greats.


But seeing them in the proper context (beer in hand, ACDC blaring, and crucial hits highlighted) has given me a new appreciation for what they were all about.


Plus seeing Mike Ditka sporting a black Kangol makes it all worthwhile.


If you are like me and are desperately searching for anything to keep you entertained during the next month I suggest you watch these videos.  Even a Packer fan might get inspired by watching the Fridge grab Walter Payton at the three yard line and throw him towards the goal line in a prime display of sheer will to win.


Stand up and be counted!





Category: NFL
Posted on: July 11, 2009 1:25 am

Could Santana Moss Be the Best WR In the NFC East

            I was looking at the Washington Redskin website a few weeks ago when I saw an article that caught my attention.


            It was discussing the Redskin receivers and it mentioned that Santana Moss may currently be the best receiver in the division.


            I love Santana, but I thought that the writer was being very biased by stating that Moss could be the best in the division.


            Then I started to really think about it.  The more I pondered it, the more I agreed with it.  Santana Moss may well be the best receiver in the NFC East this season.


            When I first started to think about this my mind went to the big guns.  Surely Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress are better than Moss.  Then I realized that although they probably are neither player is playing within the division this year.


            Suddenly I became optimistic.


            My next train of thought was to compare Moss to other receivers in the division.


            Right away my mind went to Jason Whitten and Chris Cooley.  They certainly are better than Moss.  However, both are tight ends.  If we are talking about all players that catch passes they would be ahead of Moss.  But strictly regarding receivers eliminates these two from consideration.


            Then I went roster by roster, considering each team’s best receivers.


            Dallas’ big name is Roy Williams.  Williams is a very popular receiver, but as I looked at his stats it occurred to me that he has only produced one breakout season.  His 2008 result of less than 500 yards confirmed my belief that Santana is better.


            The next team on my list was the Giants.  I really do like several of their receivers, but none have proven that they can carry the load as a go to guy.  If their late season collapse is any indication the Giants may be in more trouble offensively than many would think.  They drafted Hakeem Nicks, who I think will be an absolute stud in the NFL, but as a rookie he won’t be able to put up the numbers of a Santana Moss.


            Lastly I looked to the Eagles.  This is the team that many believe will win the division.  This is the team that has several receivers who could be legitimately compared to Santana Moss. 


            Kevin Curtis is the Eagles’ most reliable target.  He is very under rated and my favorite Eagle receiver.  But given his history with injuries and his career performance I can’t feel comfortable saying that he is better than Moss.


            This brings me to DeSean Jackson.  He may be the most explosive player in the division.  He may also end up with the greatest overall career.  He certainly is the cockiest receiver in the NFC East. 


            But I am a superstitious man.  I believe in things like sophomore slumps and Madden curses.  Therefore, if I was a betting man, I would take a player who has averaged around 900 yards a season over the last six years over a player who has only done it once.


            The same logic can be applied to Jeremy Maclin.  He has many sportswriters and Eagles fans abuzz with his skill set and potential.  I’m cool with that.  Just don’t expect me to rate him above an established veteran like Moss before he plays his first NFL game.


I am not guaranteeing in any way that Santana Moss will have the best season of any NFC East receiver.  Injuries can take their toll on even the best players.  Also Moss is coming off of a thousand yard season.  He has never had back to back thousand yard seasons in his career.


            It is quite possible that one of the players that I have mentioned will have a breakout season and leave Moss in the dust.  But until this happens you must acknowledge that Santana Moss may very well be the best receiver in the division.



Category: NFL
Posted on: July 6, 2009 11:45 pm

Joe Gibbs: The Greatest Coach In Modern Times?

I will admit it right from the start.  I love the Washington Redskins.  I am probably a little biased.  But try to leave your perceptions that I am looking at Joe Gibbs through burgundy and gold colored glasses at the door and seriously consider my arguments.  My beliefs are grounded in fact every bit as much as they are grounded in favoritism.


            Now that I have gotten the disclaimer out of the way let me get down to business.


            There have been many great coaches in the superbowl era.  Coaches such as Vince Lombardi, Chuck Knoll, Don Shula, Tom Landry, Bill Walsh, and Bill Belicheck have created dynasties that have produced multiple superbowl wins and countless hall of famers.


            Joe Gibbs has led just as many or more teams to the superbowl as all of these great names.  The only coach in the superbowl era with more titles is Chuck Knoll.  But it is the path that Gibbs took that separates him from the others.  If at the end of this article you still don’t consider him the best coach, you will at least understand that he was unique among his peers.


            If you take a look at the coaches who have won multiple superbowls, they all have one thing in common.  They all have had the good fortune to have a franchise quarterback to guide their team throughout their triumphs.  Each coach that I have mentioned had a quarterback who is either in the Hall of Fame or soon will be.


            Vince Lombardi had Bart Starr as his field general.  Knoll had Terry Bradshaw.  Shula had Griese, Landry had Roger Staubach, Walsh had Montana, and Belicheck has a guy named Tom Brady that a few of you may be familiar with.


            History has shown us that no matter how good a coach you are you need a great quarterback to sustain championship success.


            Joe Gibbs is different from these great coaches in that he didn’t have a marquee quarterback.  He won three superbowls with three different quarterbacks.  Only Bill Parcells has ever won even two superbowls with different quarterbacks.


            I love Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, and Mark Rypien, but I have to be honest when I say that none of them will ever make the Hall of Fame.  Even Theismann, who led the Redskins to back to back superbowls and is the best of the three, has no reasonable shot at making it.  He only started seven full seasons and only played at a pro bowl level in three or four of them.


            This reason alone separates Gibbs from his contemporaries.  But there’s more.


            You may bring up the valid point that Starr, Bradshaw, and Greise were game managers and it was the running game that mainly propelled their teams to greatness.


            You would be correct in that assumption.  The Packers, Dolphins, and Steelers all had Hall of Fame caliber running backs to carry the ball.


            Once again, Gibbs succeeded with three different running backs in three different superbowls.


            John Riggins is without question a Hall of Fame running back and one of the main forces behind two superbowl Redskin teams.  But he retired after the ’85 season.


            Gibbs continued what he had built with Riggins by clever drafting, great line play, and players considered past their prime by many in the NFL.  Earnest Byner was a very good running back.  But he was labeled as a fumbler and hounded out of Cleveland, where his untimely fumble cost them a superbowl birth against (guess who) the Redskins.


            The running backs on the Redskin team Byner’s Browns would have faced consisted of journeyman Gerald Riggs, unheralded Kelvin Bryant, and rookie Timmy Smith, who had not started a game all season.


            Due to injuries to starter Riggs Gibbs decided to go with the rookie.  The result was the greatest single rushing performance in superbowl history.  Smith ran for 204 yards that day, breaking a record previously held by Larry Csonka, Franco Harris, and John Riggins.  Smith quickly faded into obscurity following his epic superbowl performance.


            Many of the mighty dynasties of yesteryear also had great receivers to help them win their championships.  The Redskins did have a very good receiving corps, but only Art Monk among them has made it into the hall, and that only happened last year after years of being overlooked.


            In fact, of all the coaches and teams I have mentioned, the Redskins have the least amount of Hall of Fame inductees out of all of them.  In fact, they only have three players who were significant contributors to their superbowls that are currently in the hall.  Two of them (Darryl Green and Art Monk) finally got in last year.  Before that it was one (Riggo).


            There is one final piece of evidence that I would like you to consider.  The NFL has experienced two strike shortened seasons in the superbowl era.  Gibbs’ Redskins won both superbowls.  You may say that due to the strikes Gibbs had it easier.  I disagree.


            The 1982 squad only played nine regular season games, but because of this the NFL extended the number of teams allowed in the playoffs.  This forced the top seeded Redskins to play four postseason games.  Normally a top seed only plays in three, including the superbowl.


            The 1987 season featured replacement players for four games.  Joe Gibbs managed to coach these players into a cohesive unit that ended up winning all four replacement games.


            The 1987 Redskins were the only team to not have a single player cross the picket line before the strike was resolved.  This means that in the latter weeks of the replacement season the Redskins faced more and more legitimate NFL players.


            This was most evident during the last week of the strike.  The Redskins faced a Dallas team that had eleven starters playing in the game, including Tony Dorsett.  The Redskins defied the odds and won the game in what has to be considered one of the greatest upsets in modern sports history.


            To sum it all up Joe Gibbs coached his teams to four superbowls during his tenure.  He is the only coach in league history to have a different starting quarterback, a different starting running back, and a different leading receiver in each of his superbowl victories.


            Gibbs is also the only coach to have won three superbowls and have his team not considered a dynasty.  This is with good reason.  The length of time between superbowls and the personnel changes in between them are all convincing evidence that the Redskins were no dynasty.


            This is the point.


            Joe Gibbs built three different championships with three different sets of players.  What do these teams have in common?  The answer is Joe Gibbs.


            No coach in the superbowl era has done more with less than Joe Gibbs.  No coach in the superbowl era has responded to adversity as well as Joe Gibbs.  That is why to me he is the best coach the NFL has seen since the AFL-NFL merger.


Category: NFL
Posted on: July 6, 2009 11:23 am
Edited on: July 6, 2009 11:25 am

Will Terrell Owens End Up In The Hall Of Fame?

            Does Terrell Owens deserve a spot in the NFL hall of fame?


            This is an interesting question that is not as cut and dry as one would think. 


            I would like to state for the record that I am not a T.O. fan and think that many of his on field antics have no place in professional football.  I am from the Barry Sanders school of thought when it comes to touchdown celebrations.  Barry asked players to “act like you have been there before”.


            My feelings on Owens aside, I think that based purely on his statistics he should be a first ballot hall of famer.


            However, history has taught us that the hall of fame committee takes more than just stats into consideration when judging hall of fame talent.


            I submit to you another player who based on his statistics deserves to be in the hall of fame:  Ricky Waters.  However Waters is not in Canton, and the reasons for his exclusion bear a striking similarity to the career of T.O.


            Owens and Waters both boast statistics that are significantly better than players of their position that are already in the hall of fame.  But both players have been condemned as me first players who seek individual glory over their team’s best interest.


            Both Waters and Owens have been at odds with teammates, and both have left promising teams due to off field circumstances.  Waters left the Forty Niners after winning the Superbowl amid a contract dispute.  Owens was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team the season after he helped lead the Eagles to the Superbowl.  His grievances with the Eagles stemmed from trying to renegotiate his contract with several years left on his current contract.


            Both Waters and Owens have public personas that have created enemies within NFL circles.  Both have offended writers who vote on the hall of fame to the point where certain writers have sworn to leave them out of their HOF ballot as long as they vote on the Hall of Fame Committee.


            They are also similar in that their career can not be associated with one franchise.  Waters played for the Eagles, Niners, and Seahawks, but can not be considered truly a part of any organization.


            Owens also gives off the vibe of a hired gun.  His stints in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, and now Buffalo make not only the question of merit a consideration for the hall of fame, but of what team he would be inducted for.


            Lastly, both Owens and Waters have spurned the same franchises that are among the most loyal and unforgiving in the NFL.  If you can use Waters’ career as an example you don’t burn your bridges with two of the most popular NFL franchises and easily gain entrance to the hall.


            This is not an excuse to bash Terrell Owens, but to give legitimate questions to his Hall of Fame credentials.  When does personal achievement supersede team goals and accomplishments?  If Ricky Waters is an example of the HOF committee’s mindset Owens’ place in the NFL Hall of Fame may not be as set in stone as most of us would think.

Category: NFL
Posted on: July 5, 2009 12:48 pm

New D-Line Gives Greg Blache Creative Freedom

            The Washington Redskins achieved a feat last year that is almost unheard of in modern sports history.  Their defense managed to finish fourth in the league in total yards given up despite having one of the lowest sack totals of any team.


            Anyone watching film on the Redskins last year came away with two definite conclusions.


1.      The secondary is very good.  Week after week opposing quarterbacks were given all day to throw a pass and still had trouble making plays.


2.      The defensive line must be upgraded.  Aside from Andre Carter (and disregarding Jason Taylor, who played injured the entire season and was not a factor) the Redskins had no other player on their d-line who would start for any other team in the NFC East.


            The only way that Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache could generate any pressure on the quarter back was by blitzing.  Blitzing can be very successful, but it is not a permanent solution.


            Bringing linebackers, safeties, and the occasional cornerback off of their primary cover duties on passing situations is risky.  It puts those still in coverage on an island and leaves zero room for error. 


            An upgrade along the line was long overdue.  Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato came through this past off season by signing free agent Albert Haynesworth and drafting promising speed rusher Brian Orakpo.


            Given the Redskins’ recent history regarding the production of free agents I know that success is in no way guaranteed.  But barring injury or a catastrophic regression in play by Haynesworth I would have to think that the Redskins will have a much better line this year.


            If the new line plays up to their potential it will open up new possibilities for Greg Blache and allow him to change defensive strategies.


            A front four of Andre Carter, Cornelius Griffin, Albert Haynesworth, and Brian Orakpo has a chance to be really special.


            Try to imagine how much more effective this defense (which was very good last year) could be if they could generate an effective pass rush without blitzing.  Rushing only the four down linemen and dropping seven players back into coverage will clog up passing lanes and will almost assuredly lead to more turnovers.


            Turnovers have been hard to come by in recent years for the Redskins.  I feel that one of the main reasons for this was the poor pass rush.  Pressure from the front four not only makes the quarterback have to throw before he is ready, it allows linebackers to drop back into areas where a quarterback does not expect a defender to be.


            The combination is a recipe for creating turnovers!


            Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall are well suited to playing single man coverage, and I think they will still be asked to do this from time to time.  But I feel that Blache will have more flexibility this year and will install more zone coverage schemes.  This will give help to Fred Smoot in nickel and dime coverage’s.


            Following the Redskins my entire life has taught me two very important things.


            The first thing is that Dallas is evil.


            The second and probably most important thing is that anything can happen from one season to the next.


            While I don’t enter the season assuming that the recent off season acquisitions will definitely pan out and return the Redskins to glory I am intrigued by the potential of this defensive unit.  If everything falls into place and the injury gods are kind to us this year we could be looking at a very special defense.                     


            I can’t wait to find out.  There is only nine more weeks until show time.  Start your countdown now!


Category: NFL
Posted on: June 14, 2009 6:19 pm

Not Enough Brett Favre Articles

            I am really upset with the national media and its lack of Favre coverage.  One article a day is not nearly enough.  This is a story that everyone loves and needs to hear. 

     I feel that sportswriters are being lazy so I thought I should give them some ideas to follow.

     First, I want daily reports from Brett's doctor, his agent, and Minnesota management.  So much can happen between one article and the next and I believe the public are missing out.  Since I am sure that Brett and his agent are in daily contact with the Vikings we should be privy to these encounters as well.

     Secondly, I want TV coverage of every rehab session and practice session at the high school.  There should be an ESPN film crew permanently on location in Hattiesburg.  If he plays catch with his kid in the back yard I want a camera man in a tree giving us the overhead angle.  Another guy can be in the bushes for the on field angle.

     I want one candid interview with Favre a day.  Chris Mortensen gave this to us last year and every fan appreciated it.  I know Brett will give the media the access, so what are they waiting for?

     I want a radar detector documenting the speed of his fastballs and changeups.  That way we can gauge his level of recovery on a daily basis.

     I want HBO to make this season's Hard Knocks show a reality show involving Brett and his family.  Seriously, who produces this show?  Does HBO really think Chad Ochocinco and the Bengals are a better soap opera than this?

     I think every newspaper in the country would be wise to devote a special section of their paper to the events surrounding Favre and the Vikings.  They do this to preview the upcoming season and for the Superbowl, why is this any less important?

     Topping the list, and I can’t stress enough the importance of this, I want visual evidence of every bowel movement he makes.  I want a bulletin running under the screen on ESPN if it has corn in it.  They should bring back Keith Olberman for this job exclusively.

     I want to turn on Sportscenter tomorrow and hear him say “Last night Brett Favre produced two solid pieces of fecal matter.  They were brown with a hint of green.  I am happy to announce there were no floaters.  I think I can speak for all of us at ESPN when I say that I am relieved that the taco diarrhea he experience yesterday is firmly behind him.”

     I ask all sportswriters and sports TV channels everywhere to step up their game.  This topic is the most important cultural event since the Kennedy assassination.  We must treat it accordingly.

Category: NFL
Tags: farce, Favre, Vikings
Posted on: June 10, 2009 2:06 pm

Redskins Need Youth, Pass Rushers To Step Up

The 2009/10 Washington Redskins have high expectations for the upcoming season.  While I share that optimism I know as well as they do that several things must happen this year that did not happen last year. These things are imperative if the Redskins are to bypass their recent mediocrity and become the deep playoff team that they are fully capable of becoming.

    1). Defensive line pressure.

          The Redskins finished the 2009 NFL season ranked fourth in total defense.  This was a remarkable feat considering they were one of the worst pass rushing teams last year.  The pass rush has been a concern for a few years now, a trait inherited from Greg Williams' teams by current Defensive guru Greg Blache.  The overall strong play of Redskin defenses of the last two years is a testament to superb run stopping and exceptional secondary play.  If the Redskins truly want to become a dominating, turnover producing defense this is the year the defensive line must step up. 

          The Redskins coaching staff and front office is painfully aware of this and has tried many ways to remedy the situation.  Last year's experiment with Jason Taylor was a failure due mainly to injury.  This year the team has made several upgrades by signing pro bowler Albert Haynesworth and drafting DE Brian Orakpo.  Whether this new unit bonds together to become the pass rushing presence that it is capable of becoming remains to be seen.  The Redskins do have a history of having pro bowl free agents under perform.  But I applaud the effort nonetheless.  If the Redskins are to become a playoff contender this new unit must rise to the challenge this year.

    2). Young players must step up.

          The current starters for the Washington Redskins are a very capable group.  They are easily capable of winning eight or nine games.  However, injuries have taken a huge toll in recent years.  A lack of depth has been a real problem and certainly played its part in last season’s end of year meltdown. 

          It has been widely reported that the offensive line is old and injury prone and the receiving corps lacks a tall, physical presence.   It is also a fact that the Redskins did not draft or sign in free agency any significant players to improve these units.  But as I look at the roster I see plenty of young talent that, due to injury or inexperience, was not ready to contribute last year.  Therefore I say with all earnestness, “The time is now young players!  Step up your game and realize your dreams!”

          Chad Rhinehart and Stephon Heyer are two young offensive linemen who will be needed this year, and they must be ready when the time comes.  Jon Jansen has been a good player for the Redskins, but his age has caught up to him, and he wore down as the season went on.  Heyer had initially won the starting job at tackle over Jansen, but a minor injury caused him to relinquish his starting role.  Heyer must continue to improve and regain this starting spot.  If he can play with the same passion and skill that he exhibited in 2007 as an undrafted rookie free agent the Redskins will have one piece of their offensive puzzle solved.

          Rhinehart was a rookie last year and did not see the field once during the regular season.  While I don’t think he will unseat either Randy Thomas or Derrick Dockery (who was brought in to replace an aging Pete Kendall) at either guard positions, he must be ready to be a solid player if he sees action this year.  Given Thomas’ injury history I would say it’s more than likely that he will see game action this year. 

          I believe that injuries and fatigue on the Redskins line were the main culprits for the severe decline in their rushing and passing attacks last year.  It’s up to the young players on the line to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.  If they can’t step up I feel the Redskins will have a similar drop off in production this year as well.

          Receiver is another position that must get a boost from its young talent.  Last year the Redskins drafted three receivers in the second round.  They were Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelley, and TE Fred Davis.  All three were taller than any receiver on the Skins’ roster at the time and all were slated to provide badly needed depth behind Moss, Cooley, and Randle El.  Once again, due to injury and inexperience they never provided the depth and playmaking ability that they were drafted to produce.  Only Thomas gave a brief glimpse of his skills last year and scored the only touchdown of the three rookies.

          For the team to succeed this year things must change.  Thomas must continue to grow into his role as a deep threat and Kelly must overcome his injuries to become the sure handed presence over the middle that he was in college.  Davis must work on his blocking to make Coach Jim Zorn feel confident inserting him into two tight end sets.  If these three continue to grow and mature into viable options for Jason Campbell the Redskins will become infinitely more dangerous in the passing game.  It will also take the double teams away from Santana Moss and help him to thrive as one of the most electrifying receivers in the NFL.

          When healthy the Redskins have the talent to play football with any team in the league.  A lack of depth on offense and pass rush on defense were two major problems for them last year.  With another year under this coaching staff I believe the Redskins have a chance to play more cohesively as a unit.  This can only help them.  If the Redskins want to emerge from the 8-8 team of last year to be the playoff team they are striving for the rest of their young players must step up the way second year safety Chris Horton did last year.  Work hard, stay focused, and when opportunity knocks be ready for the moment.




Category: NFL
Tags: opinion, Redskins
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