For the Washington Redskins defense, their performance was a mixed bag. There was the spectacular play, like Matteral Richardson's interception return for a touchdown, there was solid play, like Marcus Washington and Khary Campbell stopping Colts' RB Dominick Rhodes from reaching the endzone, and then there was the NOT so solid play, like rookie Justin Tryon's interference penalty that set up a Colts field goal.
While watching the game again(and again and again) though, there was some sdignificant positives to be taken from many young players that saw significant action against the Colts. Keeping in mind that there was not ONE single starter who saw the field on the defensive line. That being said, the defense as a whole, gave up 410 total yards. 5.6 yards per play, 5.6 per rush and pass. Not a good number. And Defensive Coordinator Greg Blache was NOT happy about it. "It was like three-day-old fish," he said. "Not the best."
While watching the game though, some names stood out to me. Perhaps the most notable was rookie safety Chris Horton. He started off well, recovering the onside kick on the game's opening kickoff. Special Teams coach Danny Smith had warned his players of the possibility, and Horton listened. He was far from perfect, but he made plays, and flew to the ball consistantly. In fact, this young man played with a reckless abandon one doesn't see very often from a rookie in his first game action. Rookies are often aprehensive, or lost, and Horton was neither.
Several other notables:
- Justin Tryon, yea, the guy with pass interference penalty, he seemed to handle his assignments very well. Defenisive Coordinator Greg Blache played almost the entire game in one zone defense after another. Zone defenses tend to be difficult for rookie corners to adjust to because of the diffetent use of the width of the field between the college game and the pro game.
- Linebacker Matt Sinclair, seeing action at middle linebacker, he finished with 5 tackles, and received high marks from Blache, "Matt was very solid," he said. "He handled the huddle and [the helmet
communication] real well. I think Matt has had a solid camp so far. I
like his competitiveness. He's a professional. He's taking care of his
body and he's taking care of his study habits."
Blache has also praised Sinclair on severl other occasions during camp, Sinclair may well be earning himself a roster spot
- Seventh round pick Rob Jackson also had a solid game, recording one sack and losing another due to a penalty, on himself for lining up in the neutral zone. Jackson showed some weakness against the run, but for a seventh round pick in his first ever game action, he held his own fairly well
- Newly signed linebacker Alfred Fincher, after being signed on the Thursday before the game(played on Sunday Night), Fincher impressed me with his instinctive play. He spent a lot of time around the ball, while only being credited with 1 tackle, he was in on at least four others that I saw
- Third year safety Reed Daughty, getting the job done, nothing spectacular, but showing a nose for the ball
- Leigh Torrence, only seeing limited action in order to give the younger players plenty of playing time, he may well have already solidified his roster spot
While the defense in general did not play that well "between the twenties", they did hold the Colts out of the end zone most of the evening. Points are what counts, not yaradage and each of the youngsters gave Coach Blache plenty to coach 'em up on. On to the Buffalo Bills.
The Washington Redskins have released Safety Stuart Schweigert and Linebacker Danny Verdun-Wheeler. Schweigert registered zero tackles and was responsible for at least of the Indianapolis Colts' touchdowns. Wheeler registered 2 solo tackles in the game.
The Redskins signed Safety Patrick Ghee, and re-signed fullback Pete Schmitt, again. Poor Schmitt must feel like a bit of a yo-yo at this point in his career, having been signed and released by the Redskins more times than he has touched a football.
Presumably, the release of Schweigert bodes very well for rookie Chris Horton, who had one of the most notable performances in the game against the Colts. He registered 5 tackles(4 solo) and two sacks. He also simply seemed to be everywhere the ball was. The kid showed he can play, and apparently, the
Redskins plan to reward him with a roster spot.
Wheeler had received praise from coaches at Redskins Park through training camp and I expect he's as much a victim of the numbers game and roster juggling necessary to deal with so many minor injuries as he was cut purely for performance.
These moves come on the heel of the news that Rookie wide receiver Malcolm Kelly underwent arthroscopic knee surgery to remove loose particles in his knee. I had reported earlier that Kelly was sitting out of practice for knee swelling and stiffness, rather than the reported hamstring injury. It turns out to be the case.
He expected to miss two weeks, and Dr James Andrews expects a full recovery. This opens the door even wider for other young wide receivers to break the opening day roster. The player helped most by this might actually be another injured wide receiver, Anthony Mix. He was sidelined recently with his own hamstring injury. He is being pushed by fifth year player Billy McMullen for a roster spot, but with Kelly and fellow rookie and Redskins top draft pick Devin Thomas on the sideline, both McMullen and Mix should get extra reps.
First year Head Coach Jim Zorn should be pleased with what he saw in his team’s first game action in the preseason. The Washington Redskins defeated the Indianapolis Colts by a two touchdown margin, 30-16 in Sunday Night’s NFL Hall of Fame Game.
The Hall of Fame Game opens the preseason each year, and the Redskins have had success playing in the event, with a 5-0 all time record. Quarterback Jason Campbell showed his coach that he has been listening and learning. Campbell was sharp and decisive, just as he has in training camp. With five completions in five attempts and a touchdown for 61 yards and no interceptions, Campbell solidified his status as the team’s starting quarter back.
If nothing else, Zorn’s quarterbacks showed the world he can coach them well. Number 2 quarterback Todd Collins was an efficient five for six with no interceptions while popular rookie Colt Brennan was even more impressive in his first ever action in the pros. Brennan went nine of ten for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Making several plays when his protection broke down, Brennan looked unflappable.
On offense, Zorn was able to play most of his projected starters together. The most notable exception being running back Clinton Portis, the starters were in for 10 plays. Zorn had said before the game that he wanted his starters to get 10-15 plays on offense, and he accomplished that.
The Redskins defense looked nothing like they hope to look come opening day. With eight of the projected starters not playing in the game at all, the Redskins defense did not show well against the Colts “starting” offense. The Colts of course, also did not play many starters. Star quarterback Peyton Manning, and starting wide receiver Marvin Harrison did not play, but backup Jim Sorgi played well, going seven for 10 for 66 yards in the Colts 16 play opening drive. The drive only produced a field goal, but Colts coaches can feel good about what they saw from their starting group.
There were also no significant injuries during the game, another bonus for both teams. Colts starting running back Joseph Addai left the field with a minor head injury following the second play of the their opening drive, but coach Tony Dungy said he would have returned if it had been a regular season game. For the Redskins, second year offensive tackle Stephon Heyer left he game with sprained knee, veteran backup offensive tackle Todd Wade suffered a sprained ankle. Neither injury was considered to be serious.
For both teams, a relatively successful start to the 2008 season, but for the Redskins and Head Coach Jim Zorn, this was a superb way to start a new era of Redskins football. The Zorn era.
The 2008 NFL preseason kicks off Sunday with the Hall of Fame Game, featuring the Washington Redskins versus the Indianapolis Colts. For Redskins fans, there aren’t many competitions for starting positions to watch. Punter, defensive tackle, and surprisingly, wide receiver may even be up for grabs.
So what should we be watching for? Yesterday, I looked at the offense. If you missed it, you can read it here. Today, I’ll take a closer look at the defense.
As with the offense, the starters are pretty well set. The only real competitions seem to be at defensive tackle and safety. While there are several other positional battles worth watching, I’ll begin with starting positions up for grabs.
Third-year players Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston are involved in a “heated” battle for the starting spot opposite veteran stalwart Cornelius Griffin. This is a good competition to watch, but this week, we will only get to see Golston on the field, as Montgomery will sit out due to a broken bone in his hand.
Defensive coordinator Greg Blache said in an interview recently that Golston would have taken the starting spot from Montgomery, if the Redskins had advanced past the Wild Card matchup against the Seattle Seahawks last season.
I heard that Montgomery (“Monty”, as he is called around practice) is one those players who needs to be pushed in practice regularly to stay focused, and Blache believes Golston has been able to do just that thus far in training camp.
Lorenzo Alexander is assured a roster spot, due largely to his versatility, as he is able to play offensive guard as well as defensive tackle. Ryan Boschetti, signed as an undrafted rookie in 2004, has been a reliable backup, and he looks to continue that this season.
Matthias Askew spent training camp with the Redskins in 2007 but was cut before the start of the season. He is working hard not to repeat that this season. Second-year player Zarnell Fitch is a long shot to make it past the first round of roster cuts, but he could end up on the practice squad if he has a good showing in the preseason.
LaRon Landry, entering his second season, was the named the starter at free safety and has no challengers. Look for a strong year from Landry, as he appeared to be very comfortable at the position during the stretch run into the postseason in 2007.
At strong safety, third-year player Reed Doughty played well opposite Landry in 2007, once he settled in as the starting strong safety. He did not play well while filling in for then-injured Sean Taylor at the free safety spot, playing a major role in giving up four touchdowns to the Cowboys’ Terrell Owens in Week 11.
When former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams switched Doughty to strong safety and moved then rookie LaRon Landry to free safety, both excelled and played a major role in leading the Redskins into the postseason.
Newcomer Stuart Schweigert, signed to a free-agent contract from the Oakland Raiders, played at free safety with the Raiders and is widely considered the better overall player, but he is a natural free safety. How will he adjust to the strong-safety position remains to be seen.
Both players figure to see a lot of playing time opposite Landry, no matter who starts.
Rookies Kareem Moore and Chris Horton will need to show that they can play on special teams to make the opening-day roster as backups at either safety spot. Versatility could be key for each player vying for the safety positions. If any of these players show that they could also play corner in a pinch, it could be what sets them apart from the others.
Horton has received praise from coaches during camp, and Moore has yet to participate in any practices, due to recent knee surgery. Moore will have to be impressive to make the opening-day roster.
The rest of the battles will be centered on backup positions. Many of these battles are likely to be critical to the Redskins' defensive performance in 2008.
With several key starters returning from injury, the backups are likely to see plenty of playing time in 2008. One of the most intriguing battles is going to be for the third and fourth cornerback spots.
Veterans Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot will start the season as the No. 1 and No. 2 corners.
Fourth-year man Carlos Rogers is returning from reconstructive knee surgery and figures to be a big question mark. He has stated several times that he expects to return for the start of the regular season, but even if he is medically cleared, it is not likely he will reach 100 percent pre-injury condition this season.
Most players returning from this type of surgery, Rogers tore both the ACL and MCL in November of 2007, are not able to reach pre-injury performance levels until the season following their medical clearance.
Rogers’ status creates a dilemma for the Redskins. He is likely to start the season on the PUP list (physically unable to play), giving the team up to six weeks to decide whether or not he can play, making the decision on who to keep on the active roster a critical one.
Forth-year player Leigh Torrence earned most of the playing time last year following Rogers’ injury, surprisingly beating out veteran David Macklin and every other corner who started the season ahead of him on the depth chart in 2007.
He has the upper hand in the competition for the nickelback position, but it is far from a foregone conclusion. He will be pushed by several players. Rookie Justin Tryon has performed well in camp, and second-year player Byron Westbrook, younger brother of Philadelphia Eagles’ running back Brian Westbrook, has also looked good after spending last season on the practice squad.
Cedric Holt is also trying to make a name for himself, and could easily earn a spot on the practice squad. Rookie Matteral Richardson had a solid college career, but has not looked the part thus far in camp.
At linebacker, the starters are also set, with veterans Marcus Washington and London Fletcher returning as the incumbents. Third-year player Rocky McIntosh, like Rogers, is returning from reconstructive knee surgery. But McIntosh’s injury was not as severe as Rogers’, and he is expected to be fully recovered by opening day.
McIntosh had question marks concerning his knees entering the 2006 draft, and those questions remain, making the backup linebackers just as important.
Second-year player H.B. Blades and veteran Khary Campbell are virtually guaranteed roster spots. As a rookie, Blades earned significant playing time while filling in for both McIntosh and Marcus Washington at times, and he figures to be the heir apparent to veteran London Fletcher at middle linebacker.
He has also been a standout special-teams player, increasing his value considerably.
Campbell has long been a special-teams player, but has also played well in a reserve role over his four years with the team. Second-year players Danny Verdun-Wheeler and Matt Sinclair have both earned praise during camp from coaches, and both stand a good chance of making the roster.
Third-year man Rian Wallace and rookie Curtis Gatewood have also reportedly performed well in camp, but special-teams play will be a key factor for all of these players.
On the defensive line, veteran DE Demetric Evans has looked like a new man in camp. Evans followed fellow DE, and personal mentor, Phillip Daniels’ offseason workout regimen, and it has shown dividends through training camp thus far.
Since newly-acquired defensive ends Jason Taylor and Erasmus James won’t play this week, we will get the opportunity to see Evans and late-round draft pick Rob Jackson on the field Sunday night. Third-year player Kevin Huntley will also likely see plenty of playing time this week; he will need to standout to make the final roster.
For the Redskins, difficult decisions will need to be made concerning the defensive line. How many defensive linemen will they carry on the opening-day roster? Fourth-year player Chris Wilson (he played two years in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Redskins prior to training camp in 2007) earned praise throughout the 2007 season for his hard work and improvement.
He flashed some of this improvement throughout the season in a reserve role, recording four sacks and 15 tackles in the regular season, and two sacks in the playoff loss to Seattle.
With James trying to recover from knee surgery, and being a relatively unknown quantity, and J. Taylor making the transition to a new team and a new defense (and likely switching sides), the coaches will be taking chances, no matter the answer to that question. They will likely be looking for these players to show versatility by being able to play inside tackle as well as defensive end.
There is no competition at place kicker, as Shaun Suisham, entering his fourth year as a pro, is all alone in camp. Last year, he connected on 29 of 35 field-goal attempts and 29-of-30 PATs for 116 points. A solid performance. He will look to continue that this season.
Most teams round out their rosters using special-teams play as the defining factor in determining the backup players. The Redskins will be no different. For insight into who has the best chance of making the final roster, we will be best served to watch special teams closely.
While there are many names we are not familiar with, there is plenty to pay attention to. So print out those rosters and watch closely.
LB H.B. Blades is being listed as out for three to four weeks following a knee scope. While this will not likely hurt his chances of making the final roster, it does open up opportunities for the young linebackers vying for roster spots to get on the field even more.
CB Carlos Rogers participated in a full practice on Tuesday, his first full practice since injuring his knee last season. While he will be monitored closely, this is a good sign for him and the Redskins. His situation is to be watched closely.
Defensive lineman Zarnell Fitch has been cut to make room for another tackle, Babatunde Oshinowo. Oshinowo is a former sixth-round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns, and he comes to the Redskins from the Chicago Bears.
The 2008 NFL preseason kicks off on Sunday with the Hall of Fame Game, featuring the Washington Redskins and the Indianapolis Colts.
For the Redskins' fans, there aren’t many competitions for starting positions to watch. Punter, defensive tackle, and surprisingly, wide receiver may even be up for grabs. So what should we be watching for? Let's take a closer look and find out.
I’ll start with the offense.
The starters are all set, right? Maybe not. Rookie wideout Malcolm Kelly has been impressive during training camp and could challenge Antwaan Randle El for the spot opposite Santana Moss.
Kelly has looked polished and focused. Catching most everything thrown in his direction and seemingly learning the offense quickly, he could be on his way to bucking the trend of rookie receivers not contributing much in their rookie campaigns.
Fellow second-round pick WR Devin Thomas has shown flashes of the skills that had him listed as the top wideout in the 2008 draft, but he has looked confused at times, and with a hamstring injury sidelining him for a significant portion of training camp, he is not likely to crack the starting lineup by opening day.
So the backups are the ones to watch. Veteran wideout and special-teams ace James Thrash has had yet another strong camp, and figures to have an inside track on one of the backup spots.
Thomas is likely to get a spot on the opening-day roster by default, which leaves one or two openings for another wideout to make the active roster. Fifth-year man Billy McMullen has earned praise throughout camp for making plays at every given opportunity, and he could be on his way to finally earning some playing time.
Holdover Anthony Mix has also looked sharp in camp, and having proven himself on special teams last season, after being signed away from the NY Giants practice squad, he stands a good chance of making the roster this year.
Watch these guys closely on special teams, as that may well be the key for earning a roster spot. Rookie Horace Gant has also looked good in camp. Perhaps a practice-squad spot will open for him.
The backups along the offensive line are another key for the Redskins in 2008. Rookies Chad Rinehart and Andrew Crummey have been notables during camp. Both have shown themselves to be aggressive (Rinehart earning a reputation for taking his man to the ground and keeping him there) and will get plenty of playing time this week.
While Rinehart has looked much more polished than Crummey, both of these players could push veterans Jason Fabini and Todd Wade for the primary backup roles. These four are to be watched closely.
While Jason Campbell has easily been the best quarterback in camp so far, the No. 2 and No. 3 spots could be something to watch.
It’s not likely there will be any surprises here, but veteran Todd Collins has not looked comfortable in camp and has not thrown the ball particularly well. He is likely going to be the No. 2 quarterback heading into the regular season, but a strong showing from rookie Colt Brennan would be nice to see.
The running backs are set, so there'll be no real competition here. Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts are one and two, respectively, while special-teams standout and kick returner Rock Cartwright is likely the No. 3 man at running back. Marcus Mason could push Cartwright for the spot, but he will need a very strong showing on special teams to accomplish that feat.
Tight end is not a question mark either, with Pro Bowler Chris Cooley as the starter. Todd Yoder has been a reliable backup, and rookie Fred Davis is almost guaranteed a spot. The only real question at this position is how many TEs will the Redskins carry on the active roster.
If the answer is only two, then Yoder may be out, as Davis has much more upside potential. But Davis will need to elevate his game, as he has not been very consistent during training camp.
The fullback spot belongs to Mike Sellers. The man is an absolute beast. But the Redskins don’t have a known quantity backing him up. They also don’t have any competition going for the backup fullback position.
Nehemiah Broughton is the only other fullback listed on the training-camp roster, so the question is: Will they even keep a backup fullback? Broughton will need a strong showing on special teams to prove he is worth keeping.
The punting competition is another key for the Redskins. I am including the punters today because a good punter can be as much an offensive weapon as a defensive weapon.
Field position is key for any offense, just as it is for the defense. Rookie Durant Brooks is trying to supplant veteran Derrick Frost. According to head coach Jim Zorn and special-teams coach Danny Smith, they have been even to this point.
So the time to separate from each is going to be their in-game performance.
Smith has often said that Frost’s problem is not kicking the ball, but doing it consistently. His hang time is mediocre at best, and Smith is looking for one of these two to stand out with four seconds or more of consistent hang time.
Special teams will be key for every player vying for a backup spot, but several players will be a step behind if they can’t get healthy enough to get on the field during the preseason. There will be a lot of opportunities for these players to get on the field, as the starters will see very limited action this week, if any at all.
Head coach Jim Zorn has said that Jason Campbell will ONLY play when the starting offensive line is in the game, so they will likely see only one or two series this week as the projected starters are still getting into game shape. This is a great opportunity for the young offensive linemen to make a name for themselves.
The wideouts need to make plays on special teams as well as on offense in order to be noticed by coaches. So print out the rosters and take notes, 'Skins fans. While the names may not be familiar, they will be key to the upcoming season.
Part 2 where we look at the defense, can be read here.