December 1, 2010

Who Are These Guys?

As fans, coaches and players of the Tennessee Titans watched the Redskins’ patchwork offensive line hold its own against their sack-happy defense two weeks ago, they could be forgiven for invoking Butch Cassidy.

“Who are those guys?”

As Minnesota Vikings interim head coach Leslie Frazier and his reshuffled coaching staff studied film of that game last week, in preparation to play the Redskins on Sunday, they too could be forgiven.

“Who ARE those guys?”

Think about it. Here was the projected starting offensive line heading into the Vikings game:

Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Artis Hicks and Jammal Brown.

Redskins fans who have watched the offensive line evolve—some might say devolve—to its present state over the past decade may well have asked themselves the same question a few times, but more likely posed if the classic movie were remade today.

“Who the **** are those guys!?”

Introductions are in order.

A year ago at this time, the only name you would have found from that list on the Washington Redskins’ roster was Will Montgomery. For the benefit all who might stand behind him on line at the grocery store and think only, “whoa—big dude,” here is a quick primer:

Montgomery was a seventh-round (234th overall) draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in the 2006. He stuck with the Panthers for one year, appearing in six games and starting four. Carolina released him before the 2007 season and he was picked up by the New York Jets. He played in seven games for the Jets over two seasons, recording two starts.

The Redskins then signed Montgomery as an unrestricted free agent in December of 2008. He appeared in all 16 games for them in 2009, starting three, and through this past weekend had played in eight games, with two starts, in 2010.

There are household names, and there is Will Montgomery.

Projected to start off Montgomery’s left hip against Minnesota on Sunday at left guard was Kory Lichtensteiger. For those who struggle with his name, the proper pronunciation is Koh-ree.

Drafted out of Bowling Green in 2008 by then-Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan, Lichtensteiger played one year in Denver, appearing in 16 games (no starts) before being released. He was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings for the 2009 season, but saw no action and was let go again before October. The Redskins signed him prior to the 2010 season, and by week two, he had earned his way into the starting lineup. He has nine NFL starts under his belt.

Starting at left tackle on Sunday was rookie Trent Williams. One year ago only Mel Kiper, Oklahoma Sooner fans and a few draft geeks could have told you anything meaningful about Williams. He has since become a top-five pick in the NFL Draft, however, so his name at least registers a blip on the average fan’s “yeah, I’ve heard of him” meter.

Still and all, Williams is a classic, raw rookie all of ten games into his NFL career.

At right guard on Shanahan’s projected lineup card Sunday was relative Methuselah and prototypical NFL journeyman Artis Hicks. An eight-year veteran, Hicks was brought into the NFL by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Memphis in 2002. By 2004 he had become a starter, and over the course of four years started 31 games for the Eagles. After being traded to the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2006 season, Hicks went on to start 27 of 56 games over four years for the Vikings.

And yet, when he was inked by the Redskins as a free agent prior to the 2010 season, I would wager 95 out of 100 fans asked, “who?”

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November 27, 2010

Sean's Gone

There was no good way to say it when it happened,
there is no good way to say it now.
But this was how Sean's death struck me then,  
so I will continue to make this my silent tribute
for as long as the feelings remain unchanged.
(Reprinted from November 28, 2007)

It’s not a long drive to my son’s high school, maybe 15 minutes.

Most mornings, we share sleepy wise cracks—which of us looks worse; whose day projects out the bigger pain; the lameness of a certain radio commercial.

Sometimes we talk daily routine—remembering to turn in an order form; calling if he needs to be picked up; the logistics of an upcoming outing with friends.

Sometimes we talk a little sports. Redskins, mostly.

Once in a while, as events dictate, we talk real life—there will be other girls; they just discovered an Earth-like planet 20 light-years away; it’s junior year partner, these grades count.

Tuesday morning, we rode in silence.

He’d had a strange look on his face as he came down the hall from the living room, where the morning news was playing, when we readied to leave the house. His voice had a flatness to it when he spoke.

“Sean’s gone.”

I wasn’t fully awake—I didn’t understand. Then I saw the look in his eyes, the awful news story I had fallen asleep thinking about came flooding back, and I understood only too well. I don’t remember now if it was raining as we headed out into the dark, but it always will be in my memory.

As we were pulling out into the road a minute later, a voice on the car radio confirmed the reality.

“Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died this morning from a gunshot wound suffered in his home …”

We drove in silence, staring straight ahead.

I don’t really know if the time it took to get to the school took forever, or if it flashed by in an instant. Time has a strange quality to it in times of stress. What I do recall is the unsettling jumble of disjointed thoughts, feelings and impressions...

November 25, 2010

Lucky Me

To those who stand in harm's way for the freedoms we at home too often assume a birthright, and not the single greatest blessing one human can offer another, won at inconceivable cost, please accept one free man's humble, heartfelt, sincerest gratitude.

A safe, peaceful and happy Thanksgiving to all.

November 23, 2010

A Work in Progress

By the time you read this, the Washington Redskins will have spent a very long week stewing over their embarrassing 59-28 nationally televised home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and turned their attention to the Tennessee Titans.

The Redskins will have either lost their third straight game, fallen to 4-6 and seen any realistic shot at a late-season wildcard playoff run disappear, or they will have somehow upset the Titans, leveled their record at 5-5 and stayed alive for at least one more week.

In the grand scheme of things, though, it doesn’t really matter. Barring some miraculous turnaround, some unexpected catalyst, the Redskins’ chances of establishing genuine January NFL relevance in 2010 dissolved in a rain of Philadelphia touchdowns on Monday Night Football two weekends ago. They just plain do not have the talent to make real noise in the playoffs.

It may be too soon to close the book entirely on the 2010 Redskins however.

Contradictory? Not really.

Lord knows Redskins fans have had their fill of losing. Two winning seasons in 12 will inexorably instill a “here we go again” vibe with any loss –particularly one that sinks the team’s overall record below .500. An historic beat down like the one the Eagles laid on them feels like a heavyweight’s uppercut to the midsection.

When the gridiron gods chose the Philadelphia Eagles as their implement of torture in 2010, allowing them to lay 59-28 on the Redskins, the sad truth is it really came as no surprise. The burgundy and gold have managed to turn in avert-your-eyes catastrophe games like that every couple of years for over a decade now.

Last season it was 45-12 at the hands of the New York Giants.

In ’07, the New England Patriots laid the Redskins waste 52-7.

In ‘05, fresh off a cathartic 52-17 victory of their own over the San Francisco 49ers, the burgundy and gold sauntered up to New York only and got sautéed 36-0 by the Giants.

In ‘03 the Dallas Cowboys crunched the Redskins 27-0.

Remember ‘01? Try 37-0 to the Kansas City Chiefs and 45-13 to the Green Bay Packers in back-to-back weeks.

I would bring up 73-0 in ’40 to the Chicago Bears, but that would be piling on.

Point is, painful as it may be to watch, losing the occasional game in what-the-hell-was-that fashion has become almost de rigueur for the Washington Redskins of recent memory. And what needs to be noted is that losing a game like the 59-28 Eagles embarrassment does not necessarily mean the team is headed for a top five draft pick next season ...

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November 16, 2010

Eagles 59, Redskins 28

You'd think the annual nationally televised embarrassment the Redskins subject us to would get easier to take over time.

It doesn't.

Only one thing is clear this Black Tuesday morning ... there will be no feel-good, worst-to-first turnaround from last year's 4-12 debacle.

At 4-3 you could indulge the speculation.

At 4-5, with cartoon anvils chained to their ankles and a road trip to Tennessee up next, it's time to shift psychic gears.

The rest of 2010 will be watching for signs head coach Mike Shanahan can stop the hemorrhaging of the last two games and get his team's collective head on straight heading into what promises to be another very busy offseason.


November 4, 2010

Not Dead Yet

The title refers to both the 4-4 Redskins and (with apologies for injecting myself into the mix) yours truly.

On the former ... you may have heard about the Redskins' latest fun and games. They lost again to the Detroit Lions (apparently trying to balance out universal karma since between 1782 and the mid-2000's they beat the Lions 2,113 straight times.

Apparently they also had some drama involving their quarterback.

Me, I've had an interesting year. Separation from spouse of 23 years, losing 40 pounds (unrelated of course) and, over this past weekend, moving into new digs.

Why share the personal stuff? Because those of you kind enough to saunter through here from time to time deserve an explanation when you find it silent for days at a time. Please accept a nod of appreciation for the patronage and consider hanging in there a while longer while Life does its "Yo, deal with me" thing.

So ... the quarterback thing? About as overblown as any local sports story I can remember.

My quick take:

On a day the offense was, shall we say, struggling, at some point during the second half the FOX cameras catch the offensive coordinator (and head coach's son) on the sidelines. He's watching what is about to transpire on the field as his offense comes to the line of scrimmage.

He spreads his hands and gives the classic "WTF?" look. It sends chills up my spine. Truth is I haven't seen anything like that in 40 years of watching pro football.

It was a clear and frightening insight into the clusterf*** that was (is?) the current State of the Offense, a unit being run in some kind of strange brew involving head coach Mike Shanahan, son Kyle and erstwhile Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb.

Donovan was having a crappy game. The offensive line slept in. The defense got stops except when absolutely necessary. But Brandon Banks and a few timely offensive plays here and there had the Redskins up five, with four minutes to go, and the ball.

October 28, 2010

Synaptic Shotgun - DaView, London, Going Deep, Wimoweh

Occasional, recurring short-form posts about
the Washington Redskins, NFL and maybe even Life.
Almost like a blog.

Season Record: 4-3 (2nd, NFCE)

Don't mind me. Just enjoying da view.

Been a while since I felt like I was watching something being built. Yes, Jim Zorn started 6-2 in his debut season, but with Vinny Cerrato and Jason Campbell large and in charge, even then it was hard to get too excited about the upside. Respectability maybe. Possible championship(s) not so much.

This feels different. Allen, Shanahan, McNabb, Williams, Orakpo, Landry ...

Hey I'm not saying how far off. Just that if I squint my eyes just so, I can almost see it from here.

Meanwhile let's not forget to stop and enjoy some of the roses along the way. With winning comes suddenly finding familiar favorite names and faces starting to appear on all those lists and features that for so long Redskins fans have viewed from the outside looking in.

Do they "mean" anything? No, not really.

Is it cool anyway? Oh yeah ...

October 25, 2010

Not Your Same Old Redskins

When Mike Shanahan accepted the Redskins’ head coaching job last January he made it clear right from the beginning that his first season would be no rebuilding project. He acknowledged that certain areas of the roster—the lines in particular—needed rebuilding, but didn’t agree the Redskins needed the kind of raze-it-to-the-ground fresh start many fans and observers were clamoring for.

He wanted to build, but also to win. Now.

At first blush, it appeared he and general manager Bruce Allen intended to do that with a Back to the Future is Now approach that would have made George Allen and his famous Over the Hill Gang approach proud.

Six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb (33) was brought it to replace popular but ineffective incumbent Jason Campbell (28).

Running backs Larry Johnson (30) and Willie Parker (30) were brought in to compete with Clinton Portis (29).

At wide receiver the team signed graybeard Joey Galloway (39) and not-spring-chickens Bobby Wade (29) and Roydell Williams (29).

Key names expected to help transition the defense from a base 4-3 alignment to a 3-4 included Philip Daniels (37), Vonnie Holliday (37), London Fletcher (35) and Ma’ake Kemoeatu (31).

Before you knew it word on the street was the 2010 Redskins, the “oldest team in the NFL,” were simply the latest incarnation of Dan Snyder’s Flying Circus and destined to crash and burn.

But a funny thing happened on the way to disaster.

An opening night victory over ballyhooed Super Bowl favorite Dallas was followed up by a close loss to the suddenly relevant Houston Texans. A road win over division rival Philadelphia and surprising victory over preseason Super Bowl favorite Green Bay had the team 3-2 and suddenly being called “rugged” instead of “ancient.”

In a matter of just five weeks, the national conversation about the Redskins had evolved from clichés about age and “buying championships” to “tough and improving.”

On the fly, without fanfare and even while changing the losing culture fielding a competitive team in a transition year, Shanahan and Allen are also making the Redskins younger...

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October 22, 2010

33 Yards Between Glory and Unemployment

As Redskins placekicker Graham Gano lined up to kick a potential game-winning 33-yard field in overtime against the Green Bay Packers, I jotted down the phrase that would become the title of this column.

In the heat of the moment the comment seemed utterly reasonable. If in the cool light of hindsight it reads a little hyperbolic, that is because Gano coolly drilled the kick down the middle, sealing the Redskins’ dramatic come-from-behind victory over a team that had dominated them throughout most of the game.

Had Gano missed, however, the title might well have served as a roster move announcement.

In the NFL placekickers are generally noticed—only truly register with fans—when they miss. Professional field goal kickers are “supposed” to make routine 33-yarders to win overtime games. And they do, for the most part.

When they succeed fans go home happy and spend the afterglow hours talking about everything but the kicker. They talk about the quarterback that drove the team down the field to set the kick up; they talk about a defense that dug in its heels and limited one of the NFL’s most dangerous offenses to three second-half points.

If the kicker misses, it’s a very different story.

October 21, 2010

Synaptic Shotgun 10.21.10 - Da Bears, Some Dude, Norval, Viva

Occasional, recurring short-form posts about
the Washington Redskins, NFL and maybe even Life.
Almost like a blog.

Six games into the 2010 season, the Redskins are 3-3, one game out of first place in the NFC East and heading to Chicago to play the Bears. Transition year (new Redskins regime) or not, it's a Big Game.

Win on Sunday, and the happy vibes and upward trend in DC continue as the Redskins stay in the thick of early playoff position jostling. Lose, and the darkness of doubt settles in again as the team dips back below .500, and all the same old questions and demons Washington fans have become so accustomed to come a'calling.

Like I said.  Big.

Weird thing about the Bears these days though. It's hard to get a good mental image of this game. When I think about the Redskins at Chicago I still conjure smashmouth. Monster defense, power running game, faceless quarterbacking, icy wind off the lake and SOLDIER FIELD.

I'm struggling to shift gears and envision the Flying Martz Circus, baby-faced, lazy-eyed gunslinging quarterback Jay Cutler and this shiny thing passing as Soldier Field:

Hey, call me curmudgeon, but this is Redskins at Chicago:

And this.

This, not so much:

The new Redskins, Bears and Soldier Field have work to do.

October 18, 2010

Colts 27, Redskins 24 - Damn.

Synaptic Shotgun Lite
Random short-form day-after reactions
to the mini-dramas that are Redskins games

The Redskins never really seemed to be in it.

Oh, they tied it up at seven early, but it didn't last. Peyton Manning pretty much did what he wanted, when he wanted to, and reclaimed the lead. You just never got the sense the Skins would take, or if they somehow did, hold on to, the lead.

And when the Skins somehow managed to hang around, narrow it to three late with the game on the line, the ball, all their timeouts and all the momentum, they couldn't get a first down much less a touchdown.

That's the bad news.

The good news? The first-year Shanahan Redskins have come far enough, fast enough, where losing a last-minute scrambler to Peyton Manning in prime time is cause for gut-churning disappointment.

The Redskins are still rough around the edges. They lack the kind of offensive refinement and timing that makes the difference between a converted third down on a key drive and a ball that falls incomplete by a matter of inches. They are missing key components on both sides of the ball it will take at least another offseason or two add.

But they're tough. They hang around leave you knowing you've been in a football game. If you're a glass-half-empty guy you have plenty to bitch about this morning. But if you're a glass-half-full guy, you might just be thinking this thing isn't that far from coming together.

 Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is bit of a Golden Boy in Washington. He's Mike's son after all. His stint as offensive coordinator in Houston was wildly successful. And if not formally anointed, he has at least been openly whispered about as the likely successor to Dad as head coach of the Redskins one day. Through six weeks of his debut season as OC in Washington, however, it's been hard to see what all the fuss is about...

October 11, 2010

Staying Alive

Given the dramatic swings from week to week during an NFL season, it is difficult to get a sense of how good a given team might be or project where they might be headed.

That holds true for teams recognized as “elite” heading into the season, to hopeful playoff teams looking to break through, to struggling teams simply trying to find their footing.

No team may have been more difficult to get a read on than the 2010 Washington Redskins.
Heading into the season with a new general manager, new head coach, new offensive and defensive systems, new quarterback and dozens of new players, putting winning expectations on the Redskins was unrealistic and unfair. Or at least it should have been, in a perfect and reasonable world.

The 2010 NFL universe of course is no such place.

Context, perspective and common sense take a back seat to passion once fur and footballs start to fly in September. The weekly spectacle of the NFL, and the intensity with which fans invest emotions and identify with their teams, quickly turns the dispassionate analysis of May and June to the Monday morning angst or chest-thumping of September and October.

Case in point…your Washington Redskins.

For many, it matters not that this franchise last hoisted a trophy—or even threatened to—19 long years ago. It matters not that as recently as January the team was coming off a 4-12 season and a two-year circus that saw franchise sink as low on the NFL scales of respect and relevance as fans of the burgundy and gold can remember.

Put names like Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb on the letterhead, and then hit the quarter pole of the season at .500 (2-2), with the wins coming against hated division rivals Dallas and Philadelphia, and you give rise to expectations.

More than that—to playoff expectations.

Yes, the dreaded P word. The word that sent former New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Mora into public paroxysm when an intrepid reporter dared mention the word after a tough loss. The very word that defines success in the NFL.

As fans of a perennial non-playoff-expectant (“losing” is as hard a word to utter as it is swallow) team, Redskins faithful have been left going year-to-year for a very long time, wondering if this is finally the year their team will qualify for…the word.

Well, brace yourselves. One quarter of the way through the first season of the Shanahan Era, the reality is that this team in transition is very much a part of the post-season conversation. At 2-2, with two division wins, the Redskins were alive and well...

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October 8, 2010

Synaptic Shotgun 10.8.10 - TGIFBARG

Occasional, recurring short-form posts about
the Washington Redskins, NFL and maybe even Life.
Almost like a blog.

Remember the offseason? Remember how looooong it was?

Me too.

Thank god it's Friday before a Redskins game.

● I will keep beating this drum 'til there's reason to stop. Through four weeks the Redskins have yet to show they are capable of sound halftime adjustments. Whatever the cause, be it schematic, age or something else entirely, they have become a lesser team the longer the game progresses.

Four weeks is long enough to constitute a pattern.

Heading into Sunday's game against Green Bay, I fully expect the Redskins to be competitive on both sides of the ball in the first half. Maybe even a little better than that. It's what happens after that, when the Packers have had a chance to make adjustments at the half, that I will worry about until the game is decided.

Heading into the second quarter of the season, this has become my single biggest concern over not just the 2010 team; it has also raised (at this point still whispered) questions in my mind about the ability of this coaching staff to made effective in-game adjustments.

Alarmist? Let's hope so.

● When we last saw rookie LT Trent Williams, the Redskins were 1-0 and tied 27-27 with the Houston Texans with a minute-and-a-half left in game two. Williams was beaten for a sack on Donovan McNabb by Mario Williams and injured on the play.

On the subsequent play, a 3rd-and-20, his replacement, Stephon Heyer, was called for holding, negating a huge apparent 22-yard completion from McNabb to Santana Moss.

The offensive line has been surviving Williams' absence ever since, but not much more than that. Word is he's back on Sunday. If he plays at or near the level he was playing before the injury, it should mean only good things for a Redskins offense still trying to find its way (in the second half anyway).

● we are at the 2010 season quarter pole. Let's check the standings:

October 5, 2010

State of Grace

When Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder hired Bruce Allen to succeed Vinny Cerrato as head of personnel last fall, long-frustrated fans of the burgundy and gold took notice. Deliverance was a long time coming.

When Allen and Snyder landed future Hall of Fame head coach Mike Shanahan to succeed Jim Zorn, fans raised eyebrows and no doubt a few fists. The overnight return to credibility was as exhilarating as it was unexpected.

Then, when Shanahan and Allen pulled off the NFL trade of the offseason, acquiring perennial Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb from the Philadelphia Eagles to replace classy-but-limited Jason Campbell, Redskins fans found themselves facing something of a dilemma.

2010 may be a transition year, but given the nature and quality of the upgrades, should the new Redskins be competitive right away?

To put the question in context one needs to consider the history.

Washington hasn’t fielded a consistent winner in almost twenty years.

The last time the Redskins even turned in back-to-back winning seasons was in ’96 and ’97, under the unlamented Norv Turner. Neither campaign ended in playoff appearances.

The franchise is coming off a dispiriting two-year misadventure under Zorn, capped by a 4-12 season in 2009, that erased the brief return to relevance enjoyed under Joe Gibbs between ’04 and ‘07.

If the names on the Redskins marquee in September 2010 had read Smith, Tobias and Jones, no one would have been thinking playoff contention. But the names in lights weren’t just any names—they were Shanahan, Allen and McNabb.

Context, meet dilemma.

No educated fan should impose winning expectations on a losing team in a transition year. No new head coach can be expected to assemble a new staff, assess inherited personnel, retool and re-deploy a scouting staff, install new offensive and defensive systems and acquire enough new pieces to turn a perennial loser into a winner in one offseason.

But given the names, it became impossible not to daydream.

Over the course of a long offseason of quarterback schools, OTA’s and minicamps, as the roster was methodically retooled and an air of competence settled over Ashburn, a jump from 4-12 to 8-8 suddenly didn’t seem so far fetched.

When April’s NFL Draft fetched a potential cornerstone left tackle, and reports out of Ashburn had the Redskins coming together in a sense of quiet confidence, it did not seem out of the realm of possibility this team could play an extra game or two in January.

Preseason did little to quell heightened expectations. The opener against Buffalo was cathartic—the Redskins looked crisp, efficient, professional. Then they stared down and bested the NFL’s brash “it” team, the New York Jets.

By the time the Redskins out-slugged and outlasted the Dallas Cowboys on opening day, it was hard to find a fan in burgundy and gold not prepared to at least entertain the notion the 2010 team might do something crazy. Something like skip right over the inevitable struggles endemic to any transition year and move straight to respectable. Maybe even a little better than that...

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October 4, 2010

Redskins 17, Eagles 12 - Let There Be Light

Synaptic Shotgun Lite
Random short-form day-after reactions
to the mini-dramas that are Redskins games

A few quick Monday morning thoughts:

Ø      Why Bookies Wear Bling. At kickoff yesterday, I think it's fair to say 90-plus percent of Redskins fans and media had effectively written the stumbling, 1-2 team off. With the Eagles, Packers, Colts and Bears on tap, I suspect 75-plus percent would have bet even money the Redskins would emerge from that gauntlet 1-6. It's a damn good thing most of don't actually place bets.

Ø      I've said it before, I'll say it again. Even at probably 80-90 percent of the player he was five years ago, quarterback Donovan McNabb is better by orders of magnitude than anyone the Redskins have had masquerading as a legitimate NFL quarterback for a very long time. McNabb is a professional NFL quarterback. He gives his team a chance to win, and he will win games for the Redskins with his arm, legs, brain and leadership.

The man is also going to get better. Maybe a lot better. Let him actually learn the offense (two years per Shanahan, remember?), get his legitimate left tackle back, maybe even have a legitimate number one wide receiver to throw to (anyone want to care to wager the team enters 2011 without one?), and apparently serious comments suggesting the man is just another Patrick Ramsey or Jason Campbell will be relegated to even the most cynical fans' dustbin.

And a few quick things we know:

Ø      Coffee and breakfast tasted a whole lot better this morning than a week ago.

Ø      The Redskins passing game will show flashes of Thunderbird brilliance. In the first half. In the second not so much...

October 3, 2010

GAMEDAY: Redskins vs Eagles Notes, Prediction

If the Redskins hadn't overslept last week, and failed to realize they were in an NFL game until it was too late, previewing today's tilt against the Philadelphia Eagles would have been a different exercise.

We would have been discussing two hot, 2-1 teams vying for undisputed hold over first place in the NFC East.

We would have been solemnly parsing the million-and-one angles surrounding the quarterback matchup between returning prodigal (if adopted) son Donovan McNabb and the dogged reincarnation-in-progress that is Michael Vick.

We might have spent time pondering the possible passing of the title of Unofficial Best Head Coach in the division from incumbent heavyweight Andy Reid to legendary old welterweight Mike Shanahan.

As it stands however, with the Redskins' suddenly staggering defense set to face the hottest quarterback since Alexander exploited the Persians' too-deep zone in the 4th Century B.C., the focus of today's game is far simpler.

All the other angles are still out there of course. But as far as the Redskins are concerned, today is—or at least should be—simply about proving that last week against the supposedly hapless Rams was an anomaly. That it was a single unfortunate pothole along the road back to respectability. That it was one of those simultaneous hiccup/burp/fart deals.

Don't laugh—we all have 'em.

Win or lose, Washington needs to come out swinging this afternoon and play a respectable NFL game, forcing the Eagles to beat them rather than giving another game away with self-inflicted wounds and mistakes.

If they do that, those of us who care so damn much about the burgundy and gold can go back to projecting a strong(er) finish to the 2010 season and bright(er) future. If they mail it in however, or look disinterested, disorganized or just plain bad...well...if you thought things were bad this week, next week Redskins Nation will all but self-immolate.

September 30, 2010

Darkest Before the Dawn

I don't care, you know.

I don't care about DeAngelo Hall's diarrhetic mouth, Clinton Portis' rubber legs or the vaccuum that is Albert Haynesworth's intellect.

I don't care if Mike Shanahan, Bruce Allen and Donovan McNabb are Sons of Washington or adopted sons passing through.

I don't care if Dan Snyder is sinner or saint.

For reasons that go way back, I do care whether the professional football team known as the Washington Redskins scores more points on a given Sunday than the team the National Football League schedules them to play.

It's a simple formula really:

1. Score more points than the other guy more often than not over the course of sixteen weeks, and chances are they will let you play another game.

2. Score more points than the other guy in that game and lo and behold they let you play again, and...

3. Everyone talks in reverential tones about how awesome, cool and sexy you are.

I vaguely remember the last time my favorite team was awesome and cool and sexy. I was 31 and had a full head of hair. I could still stomach cheap beer. Life was good.

Lots has happened in my life since then; stuff you don't care about and I don't feel like telling. Know what hasn't happened?

My favorite football team hasn't won.

Instead they have become an opponent. You know opponents. The Washington Generals are an opponent. Grenada was an opponent.

The Washington Redskins are supposed to be better than that.

I've had my fill of friends who don't follow football, or worse, root for other teams, looking at me Monday mornings with geniune pity or barely-disguised mirth.

I wish I could stop caring. Or at least I do for a few minutes after the latest soul-crushing loss. But of course I can't. I'm a lifer.

Then I wish like hell I could do something about it. Which of course I also can't. I'm a fan.

Tired of losing though. Like, alot.

I think it's time for a futile gesture.

Until the losing stops this dumb blog will wear black.

Hail dammit.

September 27, 2010

Wide Receiver: The Missing Link

When you think about certain NFL teams, you tend to think about individuals. At mention of the Indianapolis Colts, one pictures Peyton Manning. His brother Eli is the New York Giants. If the subject is Green Bay, even three years after his departure it remains Brett Favre.

With the myriad changes surrounding them this year, who is it that people first think of when the conversation turns to the Washington Redskins?

Those old enough to remember the glory years of Joe Gibbs 1.0 may still think of the bespectacled one himself. Or if not him, at least some aspect of his teams—the Hogs, The Diesel, maybe Art Monk. For those too young to have known those championship teams, however, what name springs to mind?

The easy answer is new quarterback Donovan McNabb. Not since Joe Theismann in the early 1980’s have the Redskins been led by name worthy of a storied quarterback legacy dating back to the first great NFL quarterback, Sammy Baugh, and sustained over the years by such as Sonny Jurgensen and Theismann.

But that almost feels like a disservice. Can McNabb, with unopened moving boxes still stacked in his living room, truly be the face and soul of a franchise? Do serious Redskins fans—those who know the roster and history—so quickly give away their hearts?

Certainly there are other candidates. Players at positions across the board that a proud fan can point to with conviction and say, “That guy could play for anybody.”

With the addition of McNabb, the Redskins arguably now have “that guy” at almost any position one cares to think about; a player good enough to anchor the unit he plays on, and also carry on the legacy of Redskins greats at their positions going back to the days of grainy black and white...

Click Here for your Free Subscription to read the rest. You won't be sorry!

September 26, 2010

Synaptic Shotgun 9.26.10 - Rams Game Day

Occasional, recurring short-form posts about
the Washington Redskins, NFL and maybe even Life.
Almost like a blog.

Yeah, I know. Sorry—long week.

No way I let a gameday go without posting though.

Boiled it down to just a couple of things.


You know it's true. Today's game against the 0-2 St. Louis Rams and wet-behind-the-ears rookie quarterback Sam Bradford feels like a "must" win. Why? Because for the past nine months Redskins fans have slowly, inexorably built up hope and expectation that the Allen, Shanahan, McNabb Redskins are not just any other 4-12 team launching a new regime.

Against our better judgment, in the privacy of our hearts and minds many of us believe this team is at least a wild card hopeful; a team that could well find its stride down the stretch in time to qualify for the playoffs.

And everyone knows what can happen then. You get in, you get hot...

But all that knock-on-wood thinking ends today if the Redskins lay an egg and lose to the Rams. No disrespect to the good people of St. Louis, but losing to your team today would send Redskins fans hearts plunging into acidic stomachs and minds to places so dark M. Night Shyamalan might come calling.

It's not about the St. Louis Rams today. It's about find out whether or not the 2010 Redskins are legit.


Through the first two weeks, I have been impressed with the Redskins game-planning and playcalling. The Shanahans and Jim Haslett have shown me preparation, professionalism and even cutting edge.

Where I'm a little nervous is what happens late in games. Dallas drove the field easily as time wound down and was one play from stealing a heartbreaker. Houston got the best of the Redskins down the stretch in a big way, and to me at least part of that seemed to be a result of better in-game adjustments...

September 21, 2010

The Five O'Clock Club

There are any number of ways to contrast the NFL of a generation ago from today’s game—the size of the players, the money they make and the media’s breathless year-round saturation coverage...

But there may be no more revealing a data point, particularly to those who follow the Washington Redskins, than the legendary 5 O’Clock Club.

During the early 1980’s, members of the Redskins’ famous “hogs” offensive line and select others, including Hall of Fame members Russ Grimm and John Riggins, would gather after practice in an old equipment shed at Redskins Park to unwind, share camaraderie and throw back a few cold beers.

Thirty years later there is a certain warm innocence that resonates around that story, an endearing (if somewhat naïve) swashbuckling quality and “we’re good enough to get away with it” roguishness.

That is largely because they were good enough. The strong foundation provided by the hogs played a central role in helping head coach Joe Gibbs lead the Redskins on a magical 12-year run, winning three Super Bowls, losing another and laying claim to be mentioned among the NFL’s Mt. Rushmore of dynastic teams.

But there had to be more…didn’t there? Even on a winning team, could having a handful of key players hanging out in a shed after practice drinking beer be considered a good thing..?

CLICK HERE  for your Free Subscription to read the rest. You won't be sorry.

September 19, 2010

Synaptic Shotgun 9.19.10 - Texans Gameday

Occasional, recurring short-form posts about
the Washington Redskins, NFL and maybe even Life.
Almost like a blog

Can't let this go unsaid. If I came to you after today's game against Houston and told you why I'd seen the Redskins' win coming, you'd think I was catching a wave.

That wouldn't do.

I'm not going to break it down into X's and O' gameday morning you will have read plenty of those if that's your thing. What I will do is tell you is what I was thinking as I watched the highlights of the Texans' 34-24 win over Indianapolis that has everyone buzzing.

Their heretofore anonymous young running back, Arian Foster, ran wild to the tune of 231 yards and three touchdowns. That's pretty good. From the looks of it (acknowledging we're talking highlights here) he repeatedly gashed the left side of the Colts defense. There was a matchup problem there the Colts did not or could not fix on the fly.

I think Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett may have noticed.

The Colts best defensive player, safety Bob Sanders, left the game injured on the Texans's first offensive series. Based on recent history, Sanders is the one guy who seems to determine if the Colts defense is solid or awful. Oversimplified? Sure, a little. But not totally. The Redskins defense is not the Colts defense sans Sanders.

The Texans prepared for Indy all off season. Division rivalry. Raging inferiority complex. An underdog with limited expectations and a huge chip on its shoulder, sneaking up behind the neighborhood bully and whacking him upside the head with a shovel.

None of those factors apply against the Redskins today.

September 17, 2010

Redskins Media Edict: Things That Make You Go "Hmm."

The sounds of silence.

It's quiet. Too quiet.

Nature (and the media) abhors a vacuum.

Cliches become cliches for a reason...they generally bespeak an underlying truth.

Based on nothing more than having lived for a while in and around the periphery of today's 24/7/365 hypermedia scrum surrounding the Washington Redskins and the NFL, I'm thinking a game may be afoot.

Nothing—and I mean nothing—having to do with the Redskins goes unreported, unnoticed, un-parsed-to-death.

And yet...

Two days ago local sports radio ESPN 980 announced on the air that the Redskins had issued what I believe they termed a "media edict," handed down by team officials at Redskins Park.

In it, reportedly, were new groundrules by which the media would be allowed to cover the team. Among the specifics mentioned were:

● no more Tweeting from pracice,
● no more reporting rumors as fact.
● a somewhat pedantic (and truth be told condescending) definition of what a rumor is.

I thought it was a joke at first. Really? An edict saying the press could no longer traffic in rumors?

Somewhere I was pretty sure W. Mark Felt rolled over.

Turns out it wasn't a joke. The station devoted several segments of the show on air at that time to discussing it, and the reaction of local Redskins reporter, columnist and commentator Thom Loverro, who was on at the time—voice rising another octave and unapologetic outrage creeping in— made me think "this is going to be quite the conundrum."

Since then? Bascially nada. Zip. Nicths.

No leaks of said edict—at least not that I have seen. Think a quick-scanned PDF of that piece of paper wouldn't have gone viral in a nanosecond?

No tongue-in-cheek Steinbergisms.

Not even a McKenna sighting.

I'm no reporter—I'm an independent observer who shares opinion, not a salaried finder of fact. I think what those guys do, for the money they get paid, is a pretty thankless task. I also think some of them get jaded to the point their objectivity gets compromised and it shows in their work.

But this isn't about the people doing—or in this case perhaps not doing—the reporting. This is about the fact that this could and probably should have been, given recent history, an absolute media (excuse the language) shitstorm about Dan Snyder and the Washington Redskins yet again trying to Manage the Message, Muzzle the Press and Rule The World.

Instead, it has become...

Listen—do you smell something?


Provided by a helpful (and fast) reader, here is a copy of the "edict" in question and link to the piece about it on TBD:

September 16, 2010

Synaptic Shotgun 9.16.10 - Wrapping up the Cowboys

Occasional, recurring short-form posts about
the Washington Redskins, NFL and maybe even Life.
Almost like a blog.

Begging your indulgence, here are a few final thoughts on the Dallas opener before officially turning the page in order to focus, with proper deference and solemnity, on the mighty Houston Texans juggernaut set to invade FedEx Field on Sunday bent on putting the upstart Redskins and their delusional fans in their place.

Oh yeah. We've been listening.

● About the dropped balls. It's a different game if Mike Sellers can jog and catch at the same time, if Anthony Armstrong can hang on to the sweetest second down fade you'll ever see, maybe even if Santana Moss can catch a simple ball that hits him in both hands to convert near midfield on the penultimate drive.

It's a finished game if Carlos Rogers could catch a cold (warning: watch at your own risk).

If the teflon hands thing happens again, it's not my fault. I shot a $250 gift certificate from Dick's Sporting Goods to Redskins Park Monday morning. They have these.

● If the Redskins never throw another pass to Mike Sellers, it will be too soon. You don't invite Conan to tea and crumpets.

● I won't lie...I don't think I would have pulled the trigger on the 49-yard field goal attempt from the Dallas 31 with two minutes left in a three-point game. No way I could risk giving Tony Romo and Miles Austin the ball at their own 39, where just 30 yards gives them a good shot at the tying field goal. I would have punted, hoping to pin them back inside the 20, and asked my defense for one last stop.

A sincere nod of respect to Mike "Cojones de Acero" Shanahan.

● Another nod for Graham Gano. That was a big-time money kick. It's been a very long time since a kicker has earned the trust and confidence of Redskins fans. Yeah, it's too soon to unreservedly take that plunge at this point, but this wasn't a bad downpayment. Not bad at all.

The Hold. I watched the final play of the game several times, anticipating the Cowboy fan perspective that the Barron holding penalty didn't affect the play. Happily, if for no other reason than my own peace of mind and sense of justice, that wasn't the case...

September 14, 2010

Redskins Key Stats Tracker - Game 1 (Cowboys)

Welcome to the first regular season installment of the 2010 Washington Redskins' Key Stats Tracker.

This is a weekly feature that will run all season focusing on three specific statistical categories—turnover differential, third-down-efficiency and red-zone-efficiency—plus any specific observations/anomalies that stand out from any given game. 

This week we look at the Redskins' season-opening 13-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Not a bad way to start.

Key Stats Tracker

Quick Notes:

● Few games will better support the theory that turnovers are the single most important statistic in football. The Redskins got owned in areas commonly pointed to, like yardage (380-250), time of possession (34:03-25:57) and third down efficiency (38-23%). They scored just six total offensive points on two field goals. But they won the turnover battle.*

Season record of team forcing more turnovers: 1-0

● One of the lingering mental images I had of this game prior to visiting the stats page was of Dallas seemingly having their way with the Redskins in the running game. On both sides of the ball. It felt like Dallas ran at will and the Redskins barely crawed. So the final rushing numbers came as a bit of a surprise...

Is Jim Haslett Tough Enough?

Among the seemingly endless storylines surrounding the 2010 Washington Redskins, one that has been largely overlooked is the potential career crossroads faced by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

By accepting the job that two-time Super Bowl winning new head coach Mike Shanahan offered, Haslett accepted both great opportunity and potential for a fall.

Succeed, and doors will reopen, including a possible return to the head coaching ranks. Fail, however, and the plateau Haslett found himself walking before Shanahan hired him could represent the highest level he will achieve again.

When Shanahan accepted the Redskins head coaching job in January, one of his first orders of business was hand-picking Haslett to craft the Redskins a championship defense.

If that wasn’t challenge enough, Shanahan made it even more challenging with his decision to scrap the 10th-ranked unit Haslett inherited, dismantle the 4-3 style defense the Redskins have traditionally played and install an aggressive, ball-hawking 3-4 style defense bent on wreaking havoc.

Since his arrival, Haslett has preached an attacking style and implored his defense to “make plays.” The onus will be on creating turnovers, and he has made it clear that unlike previous regimes, his players need not fear being summarily benched for making mistakes or giving up the occasional big play.

Haslett, with 25 years of experience in football, brings a brooding swagger to the job that at first blush makes his hiring look like a natural fit. After seven months of OTA’s, minicamps and training camp, Haslett’s players know by now that their new coach can talk the talk.

Asked what he wanted to see from his charges prior to the first preseason game, he said, “I want to see us go out just play hard and create panic and let it go.”

One suspects they also know by now that back in the day he could walk the walk...

Grab your free subscription to Hail! Magazine to read the rest. You won't be sorry.

September 13, 2010

Gift Horse My Ass: Redskins Beat Cowboys, 13-7

Yeah, I went there.

I'm hearing more than a few "yeah but's" today. Can't say I'm surprised to hear them from Cowboy backers--it's what fans of the losing team do. I am a little surprised to hear it from Redskins fans.

I'm talking about the line of thinking that, yeah, technically the Redskins won, but it was more a matter of the Cowboys losing.

As if only Dallas made mistakes.

As if Tashard Choice voluntarily surrended the ball.

As if the Redskins didn't drop three or four routine catches, every one crucial to the flow of play, at least two which would have ended it outright.

As if the Redskins didn't gift the Cowboys three points with a muffed snap/hold on a routine chip-shot field goal after taking the three they had already earned off the board.

As if the Redskins didn't generously commit a motion penalty on a third-and-two with two minutes left that, if converted, would effectively have ended the game. This after clicking off runs of eight, ten, eighteen and seven leading up to it against a clearly finished Dallas defense.

Don't get me wrong. The Cowboys screwed up plenty last night. But they had plenty of help doing it. And the upstart (4-12 last year, if memory serves?) Redskins were pretty generous in helping keeping the Cowboys in the game to the bitter end.

No sir. Dallas didn't lose this one. Washington won it.

Argue otherwise if you must, but in your heart of hearts you know you're wrong.

So there.

Washington Redskins 13
Dallas Cowboys 7

More later...synaptic shogtun-style.

September 11, 2010

Redskins vs Cowboys - Recipe for Victory

I wondered all week how to distill this game down to a single manageable piece. There are so many angles and layers, so many keys and so much intrigue, I could have easily written a trilogy.

As much time as one spends trying to predict, anticipate and best guess, however, it is often an offhand comment by a player that resonates most and points the way.

Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers doesn't strike me as the head-game, counter-intelligence type (no disrespect intended), and I am quite comfortable thinking what he said yesterday is worth noting. As it happens, it was also a perfect jumping off point for a discussion about what the Redskins need to bring to the table against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night.

Talking about the injury-plagued Dallas offensive line, and how it could affect the Redskins' defensive approach, this is what Rogers had to say:

"Their back-ups pretty good; they all right. Like Coach said, they plan to us we got to play our defense, what we do. Whoever is in there, we still gonna run our blitz [and] make their line move. They got a lot of big guys so we do a lot of stunting, a lot of different things on the line where they have to move their feet. We think that's an advantage to us no matter who is in there."

Based on what we have heard all offseason, we had reason to expect defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to be  aggressive right out of the box. But there was also reason to think he might try to protect his still-raw unit and maybe cross up Dallas up by not brining the heat, instead sitting back and making Dallas try to sustain long, multi-play drives.

Well, it doesn't sound like that's going to happen. Look for the Redskins to make good on all the tough talk out of Ashburn since January about attacking the football and looking to create turnovers.

The good news there, of course, is that the Redskins are going to lay some hits on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and wreak some havoc. The bad news is that by going full blast after Romo and forcing him to scramble, they are going to force him to do the one thing he does best...slide in the pocket, roll out, buy time for his receivers to break off routes and find open spaces.

The Redskins haven't been an attacking, aggressive defense for a long time, and it is definitely a breath of fresh air to think of them turning up the heat and getting after people. Richie Petitbon seems like a very long time ago.  The flip side of that, of course, is the high risk that accompanies high reward ventures.

We know nothing about Haslett's defense at this point. We don't know if they can contain the run, consistently pressure the passer, if Haslett can call a good game and make in-game adjustments...nothing. And it will take far more than just one first game to see how those things will evolve or devolve over time.

One thing seems certain, though. If they go down, they're going down swinging.

"Regardless of whether they were starting the whole five or not I think the most important thing is this is the season opener, we have to set the tempo for the defense and just set the tempo in general just as an organization," linebacker Andre Carter said. "Regardless of who is playing it's just important we go out there and play four quarters of our game."

Thinking about the defense got me going on what else the Redskins will need to do to come away with a win Sunday. It's not an exclusive list, of course, but if the Redskins can check more of these boxes than not it would be a hell of a start...

September 10, 2010

Redskins Key Stats Tracker (Preseason Final)

Welcome to the fourth and final preseason installment of the 2010 Washington Redskins' Key Stats Tracker.

This is a weekly feature we will run all season focusing on three specific statistical categories—turnover differential, third-down-efficiency and red-zone-efficiency—plus any specific observations/anomalies that stand out from any given game.

This week we look at the Redskins 20-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, and tie a bow on the 2010 preseason.

Thank god.

Key Stats Tracker

Quick Notes:

● The Cardinals game was hard for even the most passionate fan to watch. The Redskins played zero starters, used zero schematic/strategic planning, cared zero about anything more than looking at the last few guys on the roster and getting out of the desert healthy. Add the fact that the Cardinals played starters while the Redskins played footsie, and the stats in this one were as meaningful as the proverbial politician's touch.

That established...

September 3, 2010

Virginia Tech Football

It's that time.

Turn it up.

Remember to breathe.

September 2, 2010

Synaptic Shotgun 9.2.10 - Cardinals "Gameday"

Occasional, recurring short-form posts about
the Washington Redskins, NFL and maybe even Life.
Almost like a blog.

Okay so it's more bazooka this time.

Tonight's loosely football-related event involving the Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals is the reason there is a "hate" component to my relationship with preseason.

Backups' backups will line up opposite backups' backups.

There will be no gameplanning.

There will be no setup, sequencing or flow to playcalling.

There will be no schematic adjustments.

After the first couple of possessions there will be few names, faces or numbers on the field anyone will recognize. Which matters little because by Saturday evening after final roster cuts we won't need to.

There will be even less reason than the last three weeks for any rational person on the sidelines, booths or playing field to give a genus rattus' empennage about the scoreboard at any point during the course of the evening. 

Most of the players on the field tonight will have one thought in mind--lane discipline my ass, I'm making a play

It's the Arizona Cardinals...without Kurt "Is My Wife Watching?" Warner.

It starts at ten o'clock pm.

My alarm goes off at five thirty tomorrow morning.

I'm turning fifty in six weeks.

Wish list for tonight?

2) Don't forget to thank someone I didn't have to fly to Phoenix.

1) Don't let anyone even remotely likely to make the final roster get anything worse than a scraped elbow, sore pinkey or bruised ego.

Yes, the NFL league scheduled it. Yes, it's going to be on television. Which means at least one sap (me) is going to not only be watching but actually trying to pay attention, from start to finish, because he has committed to doing another stream-of-consciousness recap.

But I gotta tell ya, if I wasn't, tonight would be a sapling falling in the proverbial woods with no one around to verify its auditory footprint.

I mean, it's not like you are going to be watching.

Are you?

August 30, 2010

Redskins Key Stats Tracker (Preseason Game 3)

Welcome to preseason installment three of the 2010 Washington Redskins' Key Stats Tracker, a weekly feature focusing on three specific statistical categories—turnover differential, third-down-efficiency and red-zone-efficiency—plus any specific observations/anomalies that stand out from any given game.

This week we look at the Redskins' 16-11 road win over head coach Rex Ryan's big bad (just ask them) New York Jets last Friday night.

And yes, I will let it go now.

Key Stats Tracker

Quick Notes:

● W/L record of team that forces more turnovers: 3-0.

● The Redskins defensive 3rd down efficiency coming into this one was an impressive 2-20 (10%), with complete-game one-hitters against both Buffalo and Baltimore.

This weeks' 5-13 (38%) is a little more to the norm, but it is worth noting that in the first half, with "starters playing against starters," the Jets offense converted only 1 of 6 (17%) third down opportunities.

It is also worth noting that in the second half, the Jets' first-team offense converted on 3-of-4 (75%) against the Redskin second team defense. Which is, you know, big and bad.

Okay now I'll let it go.

● Field goal kicker Graham Gano quietly went 3-3 on the evening, including efforts from 41 and 42 yards with the game still in question. Surprisingly, does not show field goal highlights unless:

1) they are at the end of a game,
2) the ball hits an upright,
3) the kick comes up short and some dude takes it 108 yards the other way,
4) it's a fake,
5) the kicker gets mangled, blown up or otherwise mutilated,
6) a fan jumps out of the stands to try to catch the ball, or
7) the guy in the control room is asleep at the switch.
... but if memory serves, both of the longer kicks were straight, true and plenty long. Which I bring up only because it makes envisioning a last-second 47-yard attempt to beat the Dallas Cowboy in the season opener just a little less scary than last week.

May the forced turnover be with you.



Redskins: 4
Opponent: 1


Redskins: 8
Opponent: 5


Offense: 5-14 (35%)
Defense: 5-13 (38%)


Offense: 21-46 (46%)
Defense: 7-33 (21%)


Redskins: 1-4 (25%)
Opponent: 1-2 (50%)


Redskins: 5-11 (45%)
Opponent: 3-7 (43%)

Bonus:  this one is my own pet peeve and will be tracked, relentlessly and with ever-increasing angst, until it is broken. As of this writing the last Redskins' defensive touchdown came in October 2007, when the Redskins beat the Arizona Cardinals 21-19 at FedEx Field and linebacker London Fletcher picked off Kurt Warner, taking it to the house in the second quarter to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead. At least it was epic--be sure to check out his flying leap into the end zone.

For those scoring at home, that was 55 games ago (43 regular season, 11 preseason, 1 playoff).





* tap ... tap ... tap *

August 28, 2010

Redskins Beat Big Bad (just ask them) Jets

You know, I have to say this. It's preseason. It's meaningless in almost every regard. But sometimes you just really want your team to beat someone else.

Last night was one of those nights.

The New York Jets are doing everything they can these days to call attention to themselves and assume the role of AFC East schoolyard bully. Thing about bullies is, they better be able to back it up.

New York Lite got on a nice run after squeaking into last year's playoffs with a 9-7 record, and apparently the attention got good to them because they haven't stopped talking since.

Rex Ryan, their corpulent head coach, may well turn out to be a great. But he may also turn out to be just another front-running loudmouth. Most people I respect don't start acting like the former until they are well on their way to disproving the latter.

Not so with Rex--he's cashing in "look at me" chips like pocket change.

Fair enough, that's his choice. But to me he's setting himself, and the Jets, up for epic ridicule if they turn out to be just another team. Which through three weeks of meaningless-but-satisfying preseason football is pretty much what they look like.

But enough about that. On to the game.

Stream-of-Consciousness Recap

Here we go again.

What follow are real-time notes and observations made during last night's preseason tilt between the Reskins and Rex Ryan's big bad (just ask them) New York Jets. It has been edited only for grammar, punctuation and clarity.

August 27, 6:55 pm EST

- So, Rex Grossman is the Redskins starting QB tonight. If you'd have told me that this time last year I'd have asked you to pass the doob. Do they still call it that?

- I refuse to let JT (Joe Theismann) get under my skin (Skins?) tonight...

August 27, 2010

Synaptic Shotgun 8.27.10 - Gameday

Occasional, recurring short-form posts about
the Washington Redskins, NFL and maybe even Life.
Almost like a blog.

Redskins vs NY Jets - August 27, 7 pm EST

● According to Mike Shanahan the Redskins will be gameplanning tonight's game against the Jets. A little, anyway. So far against Buffalo and Baltimore all we have really seen from the Redskins is situation-specific play calling, set against a backdrop of "getting looks" at certain players in certain situations. This will mark the first time we get even a taste of Kyle Shanahan's playcalling rhythm and style. Same with Jim Haslett.

Consider my preseason curiousity moderately aroused.

● The flip side of that is that Rex Ryan's mouthy New York Jets are sure to want to put on a show of their own for the home folks and slobbering local media. They will be "gameplanning" as well, and the prediction here is that they will have taken that aspect of tonight's affair far more seriously than Washington. Remember the Ravens' "they did what?" fake punt last week? That may pale in comparison to what the Redskins see tonight.

If for some odd reason you have actual money on the Redskins in this one, start taking your Pepto and Advil now.

● Three men who should be particularly cognizant of the above are Redskins quarterbacks Rex Grossman, John Beck and Richard Bartel. Keep your heads on the proverbial swivel, gentlemen. The big bad (just ask them) Jets are coming after you...there are Sportscenter highlights to be had after all.

Wish List Lite

● The Redskins need to not get caught up in the woofing and hype. Show professionalism and discipline.

● At least a couple of sparkling schematic moments—some "nice!" individual play calls from Kyle Shanahan; a well-scripted and executed drive; a couple of Haslett-designed blitzes springing someone in clean on Mark Sanchez and company. Not a lot. Just a taste.

● One or two bubble or concern players flashing (as it were) enough to make tomorrow morning's discussion of this affair bearable. Anthony Armstrong, maybe. Brandon Banks. Andre Carter. Graham Gano?

● No injuries.

Sam Bradford

I haven't had the chance to watch him in real time yet, but if first impressions from extended highlights mean anything, the woebegone St. Louis Rams may have hit the lottery. Even fresh out of the rookie gate, the game is not moving too fast for Bradford. He looks poised, quick in his decision-making and release, and most impressively, dead-on-balls accurate.

Hyperbole? Perhaps. But sometimes it's merited. This kid is one to watch.

It Figures

Steven Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery. The baseball gods hate Washington. Truth? Washington doesn't think much of those sadistic bastards either.

Hall to the Redskins (plus Redskins All-HOF Team)

With Russ Grimm's recent induction into the Hall of Fame, the number of Washington Redskins in the Hall from the Joe Gibbs glory years rose to five—Gibbs, John Riggins, Darrell Green, Art Monk and now Grimm.

It has long been an article of faith among Redskins fans that the Hall was somehow biased against those teams; that they were under-represented. Theories as to why include that the blue-collar Redskins weren’t “flashy” enough, and that the individual players weren't of self-promoting type who get their names into the news by any means necessary.

Redskins fans have long believed—I can say this because I count myself among them—that the Glory Years Redskins teams have been under-represented, at least as compared to the teams one automatically thinks of when discussing the Hall of Fame.

I thought I might put the theory to the test.

Having cut my football fan teeth as a child of the 1970’s, the first team I thought of was the legendary Pittsburgh Steelers—they of four Super Bowl titles in six years (1974-79). There are ten Steelers from that era in the Hall of Fame.

Next I thought of the iconic Vince Lombardi Green Bay Packers, the early 1960’s teams that mark and dominated the beginning of the Super Bowl Era. There are also ten Lombardi Packers in the Hall.

What about the Don Shula Dolphins of the 1970's? Eight of those big fish are mounted on the walls of Canton.

The great San Francisco 49er teams of the 1980’s and early 90’s sent six to the Hall.

I almost hated to look, but I did: what about the hated Dallas Cowboys of the 1990's? Four of those cursed silver stars dot the shelves.

Ah, that's more like it...

August 24, 2010

Redskins Key Stats Tracker (Preseason Game 2)

Welcome to installment two of the 2010 Redskins Key Stats Tracker.

This is a weekly feature focusing on three specific statistical categories—turnover differential, third-down-efficiency and red-zone-efficiency—plus any specific statistical observations/anomalies that stand out from any given game.

Baltimore Ravens 23
Washington Redskins 3

This week's Quick Notes:

● Through two preseason games, won/lost record of team that forces more turnovers: 2-0.

● It seems counterintuitive, but despite gaining 396 total yards, the Ravens only went 1-10 (10%) on third down.

● 51 of those total yards, of course, and ultimately the play of the game, came on a fake punt down to the Redskins 1 yard line that led to the only touchdown of the first half. Yeah. A fake punt. In preseason. Whatever.

● Interesting to note the Redskins' run/pass ratio: 47 passes, 14 runs. Those were not garbage-time passes playing catch-up either; 26 of the 47 total passes were by Donovan McNabb in the first half. By contrast, last week against Buffalo the Redskins' numbers were 41 runs and 33 passes (first half: 18 runs, 22 passes).

What does this week's disparity suggest? That Kyle Shanahan came into the Ravens' game with a specific goal in mind—working his passing game. To what end? Could have been to look at the offensive line against the Ravens' pressure packages sans any real gameplanning, or getting McNabb untracked, or something else entirely. We can speculate but will never know.

Just another illustration of the folly that is trying to draw meaningful inferences from preseason results.

On to the raw numbers...

Redskins Key Stats Tracker


Redskins: 1
Opponent: 4


Redskins: 4
Opponent: 4


Offense: 4-13 (30%)
Defense: 1-10 (10%)


Offense: 16-32 (50%)
Defense: 2-20 (10%)


Redskins: 0-3 (0%)
Opponent: 2-4 (50%)

Redskins: 4-7 (57%)
Opponent: 2-5 (40%)


Bonus:  this one is my own pet peeve and will be tracked, relentlessly and with ever-increasing angst, until it is broken. As of this writing the last Redskins' defensive touchdown came in October 2007, when the Redskins beat the Arizona Cardinals 21-19 at FedEx Field and linebacker London Fletcher picked off Kurt Warner, taking it to the house in the second quarter to give the Redskins a 14-0 lead. At least it was epic--be sure to check out his flying leap into the end zone.

For those scoring at home, that was 54 games ago (43 regular season, 10 preseason, 1 playoff).





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