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Archive for August, 2009

Cuts: Round 1

So the cuts have begun. I always have trouble clamoring for a guy to be axed because I can’t imagine how hard that must be to go through. There seems to be a lot of pro/con chatter about guys like Marcus Mason, DJ Hackett and Marko Mitchell–although frankly I’m 100% in agreement with Bowles on the Marko Mitchell issue.

The cuts were: DB Michael Grant, LB Alfred Fincher, DL Michael Marquardt, WR Marques Hagans, & OL Devin Clark.

The only cut I was really surprised about was Alfred Fincher. I suppose this means that the team is happy with Brian Orakpo and Chris Wilson’s abilities to take over for Marcus Washington even though both are converted defensive ends. I thought it made sense to keep Fincher as a mentor and back up in case things got dicey.

The other thing about Fincher is I thought he was being groomed for a Khary Campbell-like role on special teams after Campbell left the team this off-season. I don’t really know who is going to be a special teams standout on kickoff and punt coverage with both these guys gone, although I would imagine Chris Wilson will be relied on in this capacity as well.

As for the other cuts, I would imagine that getting rid of Devin Clark means Will Montgomery has a spot on the team.

I appreciated Bowles’ at the game report from Friday. I love how quickly the Jason Campbell haters seemed to have vanished. The reason why I loved Jim Zorn’s “Stay Medium” mantra last year is that these days, with 24-hour news cycles, team bloggers, tweeters and talk radio, there is too much space for people to overreact from week to week, day to day, hour to hour and minute to minute.

One day the offensive line is going to get Campbell killed; now they are gelling into a formidable unit. One day Campbell is incapable of leading the team; now he is standing toe-to-toe with Tom Brady. I think we all have to resist the temptation to fall to hyperbole and micro-analysis. Yes, I know I’m included in this.

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The Wave that Turned the Tide

I am one day late in writing about Friday night’s game because of the effort I poured forth sitting in section 449 early in the 4th quarter of the Redskins-Patriots game. As the Patriots were driving slowly towards the Redskins’ end-zone, on what was a slow developing drive, a wave was started in both the upper and lower bowls of Fedex field. About a minute after the wave began and as it really was picking up speed, I peered across the stadium at the clock that indicated the time of day and took note of the time. As I continued to observe the wave and half-heartedly participate in it as it crashed through 449, I noticed that the upper bowl and lower bowls were perfectly synchronized. The wave was uniform from top to bottom. This miraculous occurrence inspired those like me who don’t care much for waves to soon join in this strange, yet organic beast that was ripping through Fedex field. It grew and grew in intensity until it felt inevitable that it would begin to have a direct impact on the game of which we, seemingly as fans, had lost all awareness. Just as it grew to a point of symmetry and intensity from which there seemed no turning back, we were informed that the ruling on the field had been reversed and that the ball Bryon Westbrook recovered had indeed been jarred loose by H. B. Blades before the Patriot running back had hit the ground.

“What, there’s a game going on???” was heard being mumbled in section 449 as if the referee’s call reversal had aroused us from a deep hypnotic state. As I rubbed the cold out of my eyes, I peered across the stadium clock and saw that the wave had rolled through Fedex field for almost 15 minutes. This symmetry and length of time the wave occurred taken together must constitute a world record. My friends, Ryan Kalonowski, Manuel Rodriguez and Mario Elasquez witnessed this strange beast which ravaged us in 449 and throughout the unsuspecting stadium. My calls have not yet been returned from Guinness or the Elias Sports Bureau. I will keep you up to date.

Moving on to less important details: If Marko Mitchell does not make this team and D.J. Hackett does, I will personally call for the ouster of head coach Zorn. Hackett is the only other receiver competing with Mitchell who has more than one reception and let’s face it, Hackett has not done squat. Enough said. As far as I see it, when the Redskins begin using four wide-receiver sets in the season, I would like to see Malcolm Kelly and Mitchell on the inside with Santana and Randle-El in the slot. That sounds lethal.

As for the other standouts of the game, my partner in crime was the soothsayer this week as he correctly predicted that Kevin Barnes and Devin Thomas would have big games. Thomas looked natural as a kick-returner and made one excellent catch and another great run after a catch in the 3rd quarter. I frankly don’t give a damn who is called the #2 or #3 receiver, but Kelly, Thomas and Mitchell are stepping up for us and have got to have the Giants coming up with some new plans for September 13th. Kevin Barnes showed great break and acceleration on the ball he picked off, albeit that the ball should have NEVER been thrown. Speaking of balls that should never have been thrown: Scouts honor, I leaned over to my friend Ryan while the Redskins were in the huddle on 3rd and goal from the 3 yard line in the 3rd quarter and said, after having seen Brennan throw two straight in-completions, that if Zorn calls another pass play, Brennan will throw a pick. I held my hands in my head as I saw the Patriot corner gallop into the end-zone in front of section 449 (which eerily reminded me of the Rams game last year just before halftime, but let’s not think about that anymore than we have to). People will talk about how Brennan recovered and threw a TD to B2BR’s-favorite Marko Mitchell, but in my estimation, that pick combined with the sack Brennan took in the 4th quarter, putting us out of reasonable field-goal distance, exemplify why he may not be on this team in the upcoming weeks. By the way, the Cult of Colt was present once again at the stadium, rising to their feet when he was introduced after Landry’s pick off a beautiful tipped ball from Rocky McIntosh in the 3rd quarter. However, as you may guess, they were eerily silent for the remainder of the game realizing that their hero not only undid himself, but next to Campbell – the QB they want him to replace- he looked like a little-leaguer. In case this was not evident from T.V., Rayner’s kick-offs were about 5 yards deeper than the one Suisham kicked. Lastly, Chad Rinehart looked pretty good in my estimation except when he just whiffed on a Patriot lineman who ended up crunching Brennan for a sack. Oddly enough, the Patriot player was called for unnecessary roughness and we got a 1st down on the play. We were very confused in section 449 about what the hell was going on even though we were satisfied with the result. Anyone have an explanation?

The pre-game torrential downpours made interviewing our fellow members of the Redskins brotherhood impossible, but I will be sure to do so at the home-opener on September 20th. By the way, who do our readers think will get cut this week? Any surprise cuts among the five that happen before the Jaguars game next Thursday?

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That’s right, big bad Tom Brady and the Belichick boys come to D.C. tomorrow night.   This game will bring about some interesting match-ups for our defense which, missing Carlos Rogers, should allow us to get a clearer idea of who among those competing for spots in our defensive backfield measure up to some top-notch competition.   Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t the Patriots top receivers Randy Moss, Joey Galloway and Wes Welker??? That means Hall will cover Moss – o.k we’ll take that with a slight ‘Gulp’ in the throat; Smoot, our supposed slot corner back will take Welker – sounds scary; and someone from among Barnes, Tryon and Westbrook will be covering Joey Galloway – yikes!!!! – this could get a little ugly. Well I guess we will see what kind of pass rush we have now.   (By the way, I haven’t heard anyone mention this, but is there a chance that Renaldo Wynn does not make this team???  Jarmon has been looking awfully good and is about thirty years younger than Wynn.  In the Redskins’ defense, they signed Wynn before they knew they could get Jarmon in the supplemental draft, but seriously, here’s my list of defensive linemen that are definitely on the team:  Haynesworth, Carter, Griffin, Daniels, Montgomery, Golston, Alexander, Jarmon;  Now factor in Orakpo and Wilson who are hybrid LB and DE and that’s ten defensive linemen. Is Renaldo Wynn going to be shopping for a team come September 5th ? Do they cut him to keep Dorsey)???

So yes, tomorrow night will be interesting for the defense and the offense and of course the special teams which seems to not have adjusted to the new rules at all yet.  Danny Smith is pretty good in my estimation though and special teams often look shabby in the pre-season with the constant shuffling of guys in and out of the lineup who are all trying to make the team playing positions they have never played before.

I will be on the look out for the Cult of Colt folks and will try to interview some – (my wife has given me permission).  Other things to look for: will Marko Mitchell continue to improve his play and go from someone who seems sure to be the #5 receiver to someone who actually could take playing time away from say…Devin Thomas who has looked a bit ordinary to this point.  Will Marcus Mason ever make this team?  By the way, is it just me or do people think that Michael Vick is going to have a bad effect on an Eagles team that is already prone to over-confidence? Nothing would make me happier. I do know this, the Eagles have just become that much easier to totally detest.

Anyway, I will be there tomorrow night with a Dictaphone in hand interviewing fans.  Let me know if there is anything you want me to ask or do as your trusty, Fedex field, pulse-of-the-fan-in-the-cheap-seats reporter. I will do my best to make it happen……

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Lavar Arrington hates me

So, I called in to the Lavar Arrington show yesterday to make my point that while I agree that RFK is the greatest NFL stadium to have ever been constructed, and while FedEx will never replace it in our hearts, that in fact the high prices and inconveniences of FedEx are not unique to the NFL and based off of my experiences of having traveled to Redskins games on the road, (Chicago, Philly, NY, Miami, Buffalo) that this is more a symptom of the big money machine that the NFL has become. I thought I made a great point and was very proud of the calm and poise I exuded while on live radio and then…….Lavar hung up on me and in his subsequent comments basically blew me off. Here I thought I was paving the way to go from this blog to big-time sports journalism. I felt better today though to see more people part of our BBR community.

Barnes and Buzbee, BBRs and Byron Westbrook, that’s a lot of B’s who are creating a buzz. As training camp’s end looms on the horizon, it would be interesting to construct a poll of our readers about who they think will make the team at each position. Some tough cuts loom: Dominique Dorsey and Marcus Mason made strong showings and Marko Mitchell is becoming un-cutable, so to speak. (Need I mention that he shares numbers with the Redskins hero pictured on the homepage of this blog?) I have been pleased that Byron Westbrook has been on the practice squad for the last two years. Is this the year that he makes the team? I don’t know, but I do agree that from my view high in section 449 on Saturday at FedEx, he always seemed to be in the right position. Could he be the fifth corner on the team….don’t know, in addition to Rogers, Hall and Smoot, we have Barnes who will definitely be there. Could Westbrook jump on top of Tryon? Maybe, but Westbrook is undrafted while Tryon is drafted and cutting him would make Cerrato look worse. Can Westbrook return kicks??….we haven’t seen it yet…… I do know this though; Bryon Westbrook provides the spiritual balance to the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook – the Dematha grad who grew up loving D.C.’s team and has now become one of the Redskins’ mortal enemies. Byron Westbrook plays the role of his evil brother in Redskins’ practices leading up to the Eagles game and since we have had him on our team, we are 3-1 against the Eagles, so maybe we should keep him just for this reason alone.

One more little thing about the defense that I have not seen mentioned anywhere yet: Number 92 is making a huge difference. To my recollection, he did not play at all on the drive where the Steelers scored their TD and from watching in the stands where it is very easy to see player substitutions, his absence was extremely noticeable both in terms of QB pressure and the running lanes. On the play where Parker scored, the O-line of the Steelers was able to seal the edge because they had a free blocker that did not have to deal with Haynseworth. I’m not an expert, but it seemed clear to me that this is what happened on that play especially since it was at the end-zone on section 449’s side of the field. Other than that, I agree with just about everything posted by AEK and Bob Mitchell.

I will admit that I feel a little prophetic discussing Marko Mitchell and Fred Davis in my previous post since they were of course the recipients of both of Chase Daniel’s TD passes. (By the way, I found Bob Mitchell’s assessment of the Daniel/Brennan controversy very interesting). Let me say one thing about the cult of Colt, it is very real. When he entered the game, many fans, I mean a lot, stood up and applauded. When Campbell missed his unbelievably over-documented 1st pass of the game to Kelly, many of these same folks stood up and started chanting ‘We want Colt’. These people were nuts. They sounded like Eagles fans, (an insult I do not use lightly). What is it about this guy? On way home from the game, there were four calls, that’s right FOUR CALLS, in the first 15 minutes of the show about whether Daniel would pass Brennan on the depth chart. At the game, there were some rather attractive female Redskin fans who had Brennan jerseys and the jerseys looked official. Where the hell did they get them? (I would’ve asked these ladies, but I’m married.) I think the cult of Colt has to stop.

A memory just flashed before my eyes from a pre-season game many moons ago at RFK: a memory of something I did that I know will never happen to me again in section 449 of Fedex: I just now remembered looking up at my father and catching him glare at me while I chanted “We love Babe, We love Babe, We love Babe”!!!!

 

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So I missed the Steelers game because I was driving home in a rain storm. Apparently Tdbowles was prophetic in his Marko Mitchell adulation and he seems to be on his way to a Chris Horton-esque romance with Redskins fans. I welcome that.

As for the game, any goodwill that Jason Campbell received after being the subject of trade rumors this summer seems to be evaporating. From what I understand, he missed some passes and there were no line woes to blame. I still think he needs more than a quarter to show himself, after all, we’ve seen people have bad halves/series and bounce back. Still, Campbell seems to always hover around being just good enough without actually impressing. Speaking of the lack of line woes, its funny how those concerns seemed to have magically disappeared and the focus is now on the pressing Daniel/Brennan debate as well as the fifth wide receiver spot. It must be preseason.

Preseason is one of the best times of the year to observe BBR’s since many are running around capturing fans’ hearts and trying to make the team. Two that I’m particularly fond of this year are Kevin Barnes and Alex Buzbee. Both are local products having gone to Maryland and Georgetown. In a way this makes them even more BBR-ish, if there is such a thing. I haven’t seen anything about how either player did against Pittsburgh so any comments are appreciated. I’m sure Buzbee will never see the field since the defensive line is stacked but I imagine Barnes, a third-round cornerback, might see some time, especially if Justin Tryon continues to have a tough time and Smoot (a BBR prodigal son returned) is really as cooked as some in the media would lead you to believe.

Friday should tell us a lot more about the team’s state of affairs. Expectations are low and we’re flying under the radar, a position both Tdbowles and I  favor.

I can’t believe there’s a Giants game on the horizon.

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I am excited to see that the people out there have started posting and that I’m not talking to myself in a dark room while I listen to Nats game on the radio ( by the way, 4 losses in a row now for the Nats).  Last night I had one of these dreams I have from time to time at the dawn of  each new Redskins season, where I am either witnessing or participating in one of the Redskins upcoming games this year.  Last night, I woke up sweating and screamed after the Redskins lost to the Giants on opening day and I found myself playing defense for the Redskins, but unable to stop the Rams as they drove for a game-winning field goal.  This dream was not “double vision” which I have from time-to-time, but rather, as the Ghostface Killer once put it, a “Crazy vision”.  But wait, this actually happened to us last year. Well, I don’t really believe in deja –vu……

Anyway, our latest comment posted by BKilmer mentioned Marko Mitchell.  I too have heard that Clinton Portis loves Marko Mitchell and apparently no DB on our team can cover him in practice. Marko Mitchell is definitely a BBR legend in the making.  He’s a 7th round pick, no one had ever heard of him when he was drafted; at least no one I know had ever heard of him.  He is tall, lean, and has a mean streak….I love all of it.  Is he Plaxico Burress??? Well, if he is Plaxico the football player and not the Plaxico from the Wild West who packs heat when he goes into a ruff’n’tuff night bar, I’ll take it. The best thing about Marko Mitchell is that while I not only love him already, I am also convinced that he will catch an eighty yard TD pass, one-handed, while falling backwards into the end-zone on the final play of an NFC championship game that carries us into the Super Bowl in the not-so-distant future. Marko’s mystical destiny I guess should be weighed against the fact that he has not yet caught a pass in any game, not even last week’s pre-season game. Hope that changes tomorrow night at the Steelers game.   Now, there was a question as to whether Fred Davis is BBR.  Indeed, he is….anyone drafted by the ‘Skins is. However, in my mind, he is not quite a BBR legend. The reason being is that he was a 2nd round draft pick from USC, had a celebrated college career and people who know a lot more about football than me, definitely knew who he was. Not to mention that he really has not done squat yet for us.  That, we all hope, will change this year.  No, last year’s BBR legend, who I think we all believe will continue to get better, is Chris Horton.  At the Saints game last year, Horton was announced along with the rest of the starting defense.  Poor guy, he was sandwiched between Laron Landry and London Fletcher who came out last with the American flag in his hand.  When Horton was announced, many fans in section 449, the location of my season tickets and where I sat with my father on that boiling hot September afternoon, looked at each other in bewilderment.  “Who the hell is this guy???” was painted all over their faces.  I will not brag by saying that I knew exactly who he was as I was closely following the safety battles from last preseason between Horton, Reed Doughty, Kareem Moore, and some other guy from VA Tech who ended up not making the team and moved from potential BBR legend to someone of which I have absolutely no recollection.  Anyway, our 7th round pick from UCLA last year, as we all remember, had two interceptions and a fumble recovery in that game. After he made his last pick of Drew Brees and the game was sealed for the Redskins, section 449, lead by yours truly, was chanting HOR-TON!, HOR-TON!, HOR-TON!.  Chris Horton….who plays the same position as Alvin Walton, BBR legend, I wonder whether people will ever wear his jersey.

One final note about tomorrow night’s preseason game with the Steelers: apparently, the first 50,000 fans will receive white rally towels to combat some of the “terrible towels” that undoubtedly will be present.  Fist of all, I hate towels.  I guess I respect what the Steelers got, because it’s their tradition. Fine let them have their tradition. We have a fight song, “Hail to the Redskins”, and a marching band, the combination of which nobody else has in professional sports. (Someone, please correct me if I’m wrong about that last point). Now since this new wave of rally towels has appeared, I have been to several games where these have been handed out to the fans and we lost all of them.  The first was at the Buffalo game after Sean Taylor died.  This is the only towel I kept for obvious reasons. The next was at a Wizards playoff game 6 in 2008 where we got smoked by LeTravel and his cronies. The next was last year at the Dallas game, reactionary towels issued by Dan Snyder to show America that we can wave towels. This immediately following the utter humiliation all Redskins should have felt during the Monday night debacle against the Steelers. We lost against the Cowboys too.  What is so great about towels? What do they do to hurt the opposing team’s chances of successfully executing the play? Couldn’t we as fans be more distracting to the visiting team by using our hands to clap while we screamed obscenities at the opposing team’s QB? Why can’t fans just show up, wear their team colors, stand up and make a lot of noise. A perfect example of this was when I went to game 5 of the Caps-Penguins series last year, which was a total sea of red, extremely loud and an absolutely awesome atmosphere… No thanks, no towels necessary. (The fact that we lost that game does not disprove my current point, but just further details the anguish I and all Washington sports fans feel).  So, Redskins fans, stop selling your tickets, stop complaining about the cost of food at the stadium and the cost of parking, all NFL stadiums that I have been too are the exact same, and just come to the games so we don’t need these damn towels. Let’s support our team and sway to and fro while we hold hands and sing “Hail to the Redskins”. By the way, my prediction for tonight’s game: since we are receiving towels, the Redskins will lose, but since it’s pre-season who gives a damn? All I hope is to see the birth of a new BBR legend.

 

Double vision: All of us who are Caps fans/parents/Washingtonians/human beings should take a moment to thing about Jose Theodore whose two month old little boy died this week.

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Okay, I have to admit that it gets me annoyed when people say that they can’t watch preseason games because the outcome doesn’t matter. Let me say this, watching preseason Redskin games is just about the only relaxed experience I have watching my team play (aside from the 1991 when we romped just about everyone…even the Superbowl felt over at halftime…sigh!!!, those years seem so far away). In pre-season games, aside from the obvious – the outcome means nothing- you get to watch all the new BBRs trying to make the team. It’s at this point where starts begin to shine. (Anyone else remember that Brian Mitchell returned his first every kick-off, during a pre-season game, for a touchdown). In fact, the only thing that makes me anxious is that someone is going to get hurt, which is of course the only thing that really makes anyone watching anxious. I’m not going to go crazy over the fact that the offense looked bad last week against Baltimore. Last year, in our pre-season opener, we cruised down the field and scored a touchdown against the Colts. We looked like the 1983 Redskins. Need I mention that last year, our offense pretty much stunk.

 

What sticks out to me from last week are some BBRs, players who could add to the obvious star-power we have at some positions and could provide the depth and grit it takes to carry our team to a higher ground. Orakpo’s skill is obvious. A friend of mine answered my call to him last week with the words “we drafted the next Reggie White”. Maybe. Orakpo is a little smaller, but who knows. It will be interesting to see if he can be used more as a down lineman if the Redskins use their ‘Cobra’ formation from last year with three safeties, one taking the place of the strong-side linebacker. Sticking with the defense, Jeremy Jarmon seems to be on track to start contributing much sooner than anticipated. This will be a player I follow closely as having been the first Redskin selected in the supplemental draft, and being snatched away from the Eagles by the ‘Skins (I know this because while living in Philly, all the local sports stations mentioned his name as the only guy the Eagles were considering), he already has a more mystical BBR aura surrounding him. He has turned from potential division enemy to potential hometown hero, (a notable distinction for future discussion). I’m trying to think of someone else who fits this same description in Redskins history. If anyone can, please let me know.

 

Slightly less profile on the defensive side of the ball is Kareem Moore. While the second and third team defense struggled overall, I thought he shined not only in his hitting ability, but his hustle – tracking down a Raven receiver from behind to save a TD. His ability to play regularly at safety will allow the defense to not have to use Smoot in the Cobra formation, allowing the mouth from the south to stay fresh for DB work. Does everyone realize that Kareem Moore played in 14 games last year and started in one of those games? It seems like criticism over the 2008 draft looks over this fact.

 

I want to leave Chad Rinehart out of the discussion for the most part since the O-line has been under the microscope so much – (and I can’t pretend to have the ability to accurately relate from watching on television whether a guard did an awesome job for the two or three series he played) – but let it be said that if he can fill in well at Thomas’ guard position, the O-line will suddenly start looking a lot better. (By the way, anyone heard anything about Jeremy Bridges???- not a BBR for sure, but maybe important for us as well down the road). I will leave Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas out of this as they have also been talked about ad nausea.

 

Double Vision: A friend of mine said to me about a month ago that with Starsburg, the Nationals were ‘damned if they do and damned if they don’t’ so to speak. If they didn’t sign him, they would be mocked. If they signed him for too much, they would be criticized for ruining the system and caving to his notorious agent. I think they actually came out looking pretty good. It’s also good that they are keeping Rizzo. For people who have been fans of this team since they started here in D.C. and have accepted that there will be a slow climb, (some days it feels a lot slower than others), keeping people like Rizzo who have done good for the team even though he may not be considered to be one of baseball’s bright stars, feels good. More later………

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