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Fight for Old DC is a blog covering all sports in and around the District. Main focus will be on the Capitals, Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, United, and Hokies (I know they aren't DC, but it's my alma mater). Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Part Two: Running Backs

Part Two will cover both Running Backs as well as fullbacks, mostly because I don't think Fullbacks need their own section. The Redskins have one of the deepest crops of Running Backs in the NFL, with Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright all posting 100-yard rushing performances in their careers, and with Portis and Betts both with the potential to rush for 1200 yards in a starting role. Portis has been knocked in recent years because the Redskins traded Champ Bailey away to acquire him, and his performance is not what it was in Denver. I disagree with this. I'll admit that I've had times when I've missed Champ a lot, but his play hasn't been nearly as strong the last two years in Denver. He's been making the Pro Bowl more on his reputation, while his passing defense consistently ranks at the bottom of the league. Clinton Portis (save 2006) has been a stabilizing force for the Redskins rushing attack, and the Skins have been one of the strongest rushing teams in the NFL in recent years. If they expect to make the playoffs again, the rushing attack will be the most important factor for the offense. Here are some things to look for going into summer:

Shaping Up: Portis has had injury troubles the last few years, and many people are beginning to think he's not a very durable back. Many people are reporting that Portis is in the best shape of his Redskins career this offseason, and is poised for a very strong 2008 campaign. This may have been derailed a little bit when Portis and Safety LaRon Landry decided to race after practice one day, and Portis came out of it with a strained hip flexor. Hopefully the coaches are right in saying he should be ready for camp, but fans should be a little concern about his injury tendencies the last few years.

Out in the Flat: Because of the implementation of the West Coast offense, look for Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts to catch the ball more out of the backfield. Both have proven to be pretty good receivers out of the backfield, but the offensive rhythm will rely on their hands as much as their legs now. Portis actually had his best receiving season in 2007 with the most catches (47) and yards (389) of his career. Betts had 53 catches for 445 yards in 2006 when he was in the starting role for a majority of the season. Jim Zorn will rely much more on their receiving abilities than Joe Gibbs did, and they need to perform well in order for the offense to work.

Yards Per Carry: Portis has also been knocked because his career YPC has dropped to 3.9 since he joined the Redskins. Last year, he was very up and down with his YPC varying greatly from month-to-month (September-4.7, October-3.1, November-4.5, December-3.5). The Redskins need to keep him above 4.0 to consistently win games. Zorn needs to find a way to keep Ladell Betts' average up, as it dropped from 4.7 in 2006 to 3.6 in 2007. If the running game can consistently gain over four yards-a-carry, they will be very difficult to defend overall.

Positives: Clinton Portis (26) and Ladell Betts (28) are both in the primes of their careers, and should have a strong season, especially if Zorn balances their carries well. Betts should be able to spell Portis in order to keep them both healthy, and they seem to have a good relationship, so they shouldn't bicker over carries too much. On top of this, Portis is the best blocking running back in the NFL, so he allows Zorn to keep him on the field in obvious passing situations. He and Betts allow for a very diverse offense. If one or both goes down, Rock Cartwright is a strong 3rd option, and Mike Sellers provides a lot of brute force in the short yardage game. Overall, this is one of the strongest if not strongest units on the roster, and should go a long way towards a 2008 playoff push.

Negatives: Portis has been nicked up the last few years and his YPC stats can be a little scary in some outings. The Redskins need to see much more consistency from game-to-game if they want to see a strong season as a whole (rather than a late surge to put them in as a wild card). If they expect to compete for the division, they must stay healthy, must catch well, and must make the most of their opportunities. If the running backs don't play well, it could be a very long season.

Grade Review:
  • Skill- This backfield doesn't have the home-run ability as some (Adrian Peterson) but they hit a lot of singles and doubles, and like to grind down the opposing defense. While none of them is very big, they are physical and quick, which is a good combination
  • Athleticism- Clinton Portis is not only a strong back, but a great blocker and receiver. His body adjustments and versatility allow for him to be one of the most athletic backs in the NFL
  • Depth- The Redskins have a Pro Bowl caliber back in Portis, a strong starter in Betts, and a quality backup in Cartwright. Sellers is a solid Fullback as well as a punishing runner. All of them are experienced with their line and quarterback. That counts for a lot
  • Experience- Clinton Portis has rushed for over 7700 yards in his 7 NFL seasons, and seems to be in the best shape of his career. Betts has a season of starts under his belt and has been on the roster since 2002. Portis began his career in Denver in the West Coast, so that should allow him to have a very big year
  • Intangibles- These guys don't really have to run with a chip on their shoulders, but Portis is itching to get back to the Pro Bowl and prove to people that Denver did not make him a great back. Their major motivation is to carry the Redskins to the playoffs and stabilize Jason Campbell's offense
Overall: Like I said earlier, this is one of the best units on the tean (if not the league), and they will be the driving force behind a playoff run. If they have an OK season, the Skins make a playoff push. If they have a great season, the Redskins could challenge for the division, or maybe even the NFC. We just need to see some consistency.

Next Section: Wide Receivers

Please Comment!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Part One: Quarterback Breakdown

The Quarterbacks are the focal point of my first positional breakdown. We are in a very interesting position this year. Jason Campbell is now in his fourth year, in his third offensive system, and while he hasn't proven himself to be an elite NFL quarterback, has shown flashes of being a very capable quarterback. Unfortunately for him, he has Todd Collins' late season push last year casting a shadow on a promising season ahead. When Campbell went down with a knee injury, Collins stepped in and admirably led the offense to four straight wins and a wild-card birth in the NFC Playoffs. A promising start in Seattle fizzled out to bad mistakes and coverage lapses, and the Skins were eventually booted to the tune of a 35-14 loss. With a new coach and new offense, this is what we should look for going into this summer at the Quarterback Position:

Position Battle to Watch: Going into June, we have four quarterbacks (ignore Derek Devine) that are vying for 3 spots. Let's stick with Jim Zorn's belief that Jason Campbell is a solid #1 with no QB controversy. Essentially, it's a battle between second-year man Sam "Hollabackgirl" Hollenbach and Colt "I swear I didn't sexually assault that girl" Brennan for the 3rd QB position, and it should actually turn into an interesting battle during camp. As a recent Virginia Tech alumnus, I can honestly say my only major knowledge of Hollenbach comes from the two games I saw him play in as a Terp. The one that stands out most was a 55-6 egg that UMD laid in Blacksburg on a Thursday during my freshman year. Hollenbach had to put down his clipboard when the 1st string QB played his way out of the game and the 2nd stringer was knocked out cold. He actually played pretty gutty, and led the Terps on a nice FG drive, but that was about all I remember. He was very average in 2005 against the top-ranked Hokie defense, only managing a meaningless score in the 4th quarter in a 28-9 loss. Basically, I've heard he was an average quarterback in a very average program, and I don't see a lot of major potential. He has to have something going for him or the coaching staff would not have kept him around, but I'm not sure what it is. Brennan is coming off hip surgery, but the organization is already selling his jersey (which is an idiotic move for a #3 QB), so you wonder how high Jim Zorn must be on him. Once he's healthy, I'd put my money on Brennan because of his upside.

Progress Under the West Coast: We all know that Todd Collins success last year was greatly affected by his experience under Al Saunders' offense. He excelled in a system that he knew well. Redskins fans are keeping their fingers crossed that Jason Campbell will be able to recapture the magic he had in his Senior Year at Auburn under Al Borges' West Coast scheme. Campbell propelled himself into the first round by leading the Tigers to a perfect 13-0 record, a Sugar Bowl win over Virginia Tech, while throwing for 2700 yards, with 20 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions. If he can have the same success under Zorn, things will look very good for the Washington offense in 2008.

Pocket Presence: Jim Zorn believes that Campbell's release is good, but that his footwork needs to be more efficient. Campbell has received a lot of credit in the past for his release form, but he always seems to hold on to the ball too long. He was sacked 21 times in 13 games, but many more plays seemed to be out of rhythm and turned out negatively (incompletion, batted down, fumble, etc.). Zorn is tweaking how Campbell stands in the pocket, and hopefully his reputation as a strong QB tutor will pay off. How Campbell responds to his teaching will go a long way to determining how this season will go.

Positives: Jason Campbell still has a world of potential, and his leadership ability and physical tools could eventually lead him to Pro Bowls, or maybe a Super Bowl. As long as he has the capacity to learn and adapt, the offense can do well. Collins proved himself to be a capable backup if Campbell goes down, and fans have a lot to feel good about. Brennan is a nice developmental prospect for a coach like Zorn, and keeping him on the roster could pay off down the road if he pans out as a solid player.

Negatives: While Campbell has always shown the willingness to learn and work hard, he has to be a little uneasy about how well Collins played down the stretch last year. If he stumbles early, how long will Zorn, or more importantly, Dan Snyder put up with poor play? His tendency to hold onto the ball needs to change, and change fast, or he could lose his job.

Grade Review:
  • Skill- Campbell has strong throwing ability, but needs to improve on his short throws
  • Athleticism- Jason Campbell has all the physical tools to be a top 10 NFL quarterback
  • Depth- The Redskins have a strong starter in Campbell, with Collins being more than capable as a backup and Brennan in a good position to learn and develop
  • Experience- None of the quarterbacks has been a healthy, consistent NFL starter, but the combined experience isn't too bad
  • Intangibles- The potential for controversy is there, but it's ludicrous if people believe that Collins is a more capable quarterback. Campbell has a lot of incentive and tools around him to succeed, and the motivation should be enough
Overall: The position is solid, but needs to see improvement in order to carry the team further into the playoffs. Leadership will be huge in an offense with a great deal of star power (as well as ego), and Campbell has the potential to take the team to the next level. I look for Campbell to take a major step forward this year and possibly make the Pro Bowl. Unlike a lot of people, I like the hiring of Zorn, and think it will do a lot to stabilize Campbell's career.

Let me know what you think!

Next section: Running Backs

Friday, May 23, 2008

Your Weekend Update

I know it's been a few days since I've posted, so I figured I would give an update for anyone that's interested. I've been working on the layout of the blog (obviously), so you can now find my YouTube choices at the bottom of the blog, as well as a nice new format. I finally got my hands on Photoshop, so posts should be a little more exciting from now on. Look for some cool new additions for the next series of posts, which should begin within the next few days. If I can get this thing off the ground, we may have a few more writers come on-board to help me out. Anyway, OTA positional breakdowns will be coming soon! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

HOF Weekend and Current Events

So I've just booked tickets to attend the 2008 Enshrinement ceremony in Canton, OH. Sweet. I always told my dad that we would go to see Darrell Green's induction together. Now it's actually happening and I'm completely pumped. My mom (and maybe my cousin) are also coming along, so it will be a family affair. The HOF weekend will be a nice break in the trend of the 18,000,000 weddings that Misha and I have to go to this summer (not that they won't be fun), and will be a nice way to kick off football season. We won't be going to the game on Sunday, but it's just a glorified pre-season game anyway, and I've seen waaay too many of those in my lifetime anyway. This trip is something I've been waiting for my whole life, and I'm way too excited about this to even begin to describe it. The pricing was actually very reasonable, which I was relieved to see. I'm assuming my dad is paying for the weekend, so that's just an added bonus.

On to some current events:

Owners opt out of current CBA through 2011- This is a really stupid move on the owners' part. I'm tired of hearing small-market owners whine about not making enough money. I agree with Chris Cooley, and maybe I'm a softie when it comes to competitive nature, but let's care about the team more than the money. NFL Franchises are more than investments, and football is something that Americans are passionate about. NFL owners exploit their players and fans enough, and this CBA disagreement is another example of this.

They're lovin' JT, and No I Don't Mean Justin Timberlake- There's a lot of buzz around Redskins Park about 4th Round Draft Pick Justin (J.T) Tryon. Many people are prematurely comparing him to Fred Smoot; both for his play and his mouth. I've done a little research on the guy, and watched a little video on him. I have to say that he completely reminds me of Smoot coming out of Mississippi State in '01. His mouth will probably get him into a little trouble as a young guy, but as they highlight in this video, his mouth is backed by his heart and passion for the game. I feel like he'll end up as a #2 corner in the NFL, as long as he bulks up to 195-200 lbs in the next year or so. His route recognition isn't strong, but he should do well as our nickel or dime (depending on Carlos Rogers' knee status) corner, and will move up in the depth chart once Shawn Springs hangs up his cleats. I personally do not see much of a future for Carlos Rogers in DC, which I'll address in a future post, so hopefully Tryon will live up to his billing and be a strong starter in a few years.

Non-Football Current Event: Pens v. Wings Stanley Cup Final- This has to be one of the best things to happen to the NHL in a really long time. I think that this final is one for the ages, if Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury can keep up his tough play between the pipes. Having Sid the Kid in the Cup final is huge for hockey pub, and will only build upon the hype and coverage that these Stanley Cup Playoffs started with (having Crosby and Ovechkin in the same year). Hockey enthusiasts and underground fans should really come out of the woodwork for this series, and this guy is hoping that ESPN continues to amp up the hockey coverage above and beyond "The Mullet." I hate both of these teams (being a Caps fan), but I'm going to go ahead and predict a Red Wings Championship in six.

That's all I have today, look for a Redskins Roster Breakdown in the next few days. Please post comments!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

There's Nothing Good about [a] New Jersey

The design of jerseys and team logos is something that has always intrigued me. I always thought I was the weird kid around because I used to draw new logos and uniform designs for the Redskins in my notebooks as a kid to kill time in the classroom. Apparently I wasn't alone. In the last few years, I've discovered the ESPN counterpart to my secret obsession in the Uni Watch, a much more detailed insight into sports outfits and regalia than I've ever considered. My thoughts have typically been limited to football, hockey and basketball, as I'm not that big into baseball, so I'm not as schooled in that area.
One of my old ideas (as the always critical Redskins fan) was to retool the old uniforms and make them a little more "modern." This idea, circa late 1990s, was to actually look into a more spear-based logo, similar to the 2002 (70th anniversary) design. My idea would have taken things a step further, with a white home jersey with a similar look, but no awful gold pants. The concept of the 2002 jerseys was OK, but the look was a little too different from the current jerseys, and the burgundy was too dark, almost like the Chicago Maroon that my Hokies wear.
Anyway, this article does have a point. I'm a huge fan of the 'Skins uniforms in retrospect, and I want them to stick to what they have. The more I've thought about it, the classier I think they are, and the more unique it is becoming in today's NFL. On the same note, I wouldn't mind seeing the Burgundy jerseys on the road a little bit more. I understand that the Skins, Cowboys and Dolphins are the only teams that usually wear white at home, but I feel like it would be nice to wear burgundy more than just the one Dallas away game every year (besides the random Eagles game last year of course). That's all I really have for tonight. Hopefully I'll be back into the swing of things within the next few days.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

A Fresh Start

Like with all things, this blog is a new route for me. I've always tried to write more professional looking posts in other blogs, but that's going out the window here. Right now, I'm sitting one day away from graduating college. I have a month off, and then it's off to the "Real World" up in Falls Church, VA. While I'm about to put one part of my life behind me, which can be sad, I'm really excited about the opportunities that moving back to Northern Virginia has to offer. One of the coolest parts of this will be Redskins games. My dad and I had season tickets from 1991-2004 (the point when I graduated high school, moved down to Blacksburg and couldn't go to games anymore). He gave the tickets up and it was hard to see them go. I've had Hokie football to get me through my live football fix the last four years, and I have to say that it's been a hell of an opportunity to watch big-time college football every fall in one of the loudest stadiums in America. That being said, while I'm a Hokie, the Redskins were my first football love, and being estranged from them (geographically, not emotionally) the past four years has been absolute hell. Some of the best memories I have from growing up are at RFK and FedEx, and I can't wait to get back into the swing of live Sunday football again.

That being said, I've not given up on the Burgundy and Gold (or the maroon and black according to Coach Zorn) during my college career. Actually it's the opposite. College football has really unleashed a whole other football monster out of me, and it's really made me even crazier about the Skins than I used to be. Growing up (beyond the Super Bowl XXVI win) I was constantly rooting for mediocre-to-terrible Redskins teams, so I really only had major hope as a fan in Darrell Green. Since '04, my attachment to the team has gotten a little ridiculous. I'll admit that I have a closet man-crush on Chris Cooley, but in all seriousness, he really does a good job of making the fans feel like they're worth more to him than just his paycheck. Guys like Clinton Portis and Santana Moss give the team a ton of personality (sometimes multiple), and while they may not always have the best record, they're fun to watch, and fun to follow during the week.

Based on the draft, and the chemistry of the team, I feel pretty good about this year. I'll be coming back here periodically to offer a little personal opinion on what's going on with the team, DC Sports, or just life in general, but stay tuned!