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FOX SPORTS: Off-season outlook: Washington Redskins


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February 15, 2008:


Looking at the makeup of the Redskins, it really shouldn't come as a huge surprise that owner Dan Snyder passed up known commodities like Jim Fassel and Steve Mariucci to give the head coaching job to newly-hired offensive coordinator Jim Zorn.

In many ways, Zorn is a perfect fit.

He spent seven years in Seattle, where he served as Mike Holmgren's quarterbacks coach. He was considered a long shot to succeed Holmgren until the Seahawks officially announced Jim Mora, Jr. will take over in 2009.

Under Holmgren, Zorn learned how to run efficient practices, mine for talent for the West Coast offense and put game plans together. Most important, he learned the intricacies of Holmgren's offense that should suit to Redskins' personnel very well.

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell is an intelligent, poised young passer who should thrive on short drops and getting rid of the ball quickly. And the offense Zorn will bring to Washington means the team's lack of big, physical receivers shouldn't be an issue. The West Coast attack runs most efficiently with quicker receivers who can catch quick outs, slants and other underneath routes and make plays after the catch — which should suit Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El just fine.

"I've always dreamed of being a head coach with a franchise rich in tradition like the Redskins," Zorn said. "As a player who had to fight Redskins teams at RFK as well as at our home field, I know about the history of this franchise as well as the passion of its fans. I won't let you down."

It's Zorn's first head coaching job, and as an offensive-minded coach he shouldn't welcome having veteran defensive coordinator Greg Blache already in place. Knowing Zorn and Blache were already hand-picked by Snyder could have been an obstacle in talks with Fassel, Mariucci and Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

"We knew of Jim's stellar offensive reputation, so we hired him as coordinator, but we also suspected he would be a strong candidate for head coach," Snyder said. "After our first six-hour interview with him, I told Joe (Gibbs), 'This guy would make a terrific head coach.'

"But we stayed true to our commitment to interview every candidate. That took longer than expected because the Giants kept moving through the playoffs. Once we completed our interview with Steve Spagnuolo and concluded a day of discussion about all candidates, I called Jim and asked him to meet for lunch. I told him we were considering him as the next head coach, and asked if he wanted to move forward. Without hesitation he said "absolutely," and that's all I needed to hear."

Notes, quotes

Mike Faulkiner, a Redskins scout from 1974-77, in 2000 and from 2005-07 and their receivers coach in 1978, died on Jan. 15 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Faulkiner had worked in the NFL for 32 years, also spending time with the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers and the Seahawks. Faulkiner was 60.

Quote to note

"I know about the history and great fans of the Redskins. I played against the Redskins. I played against our two newest Hall of Famers, Art Monk and Darrell Green. I, like all Redskins fans, am a long-time admirer of Joe Gibbs. Thanks to him, today's Redskins have a solid foundation that will serve us well. I expect great things of our team, and hold myself accountable for providing the leadership to make us successful." — New Redskins coach Jim Zorn.

Unit-by-unit analysis

QUARTERBACK: Starter — Todd Collins. Backups — Mark Brunell, Sam Hollenbach. Returning injured starter: Jason Campbell. Campbell, who replaced the faltering Brunell in November 2006 after standing on the sideline for a year and a half, developed nicely in 2007. His strong arm and decent mobility were expected, but his poise was impressive for a quarterback in his first full year. Campbell hung in there despite a badly bruised knee in August, losing the right side of his line in September and injuries that limited his starting receivers much of the season. Campbell's completion percentage rose from 53.1 in 2006 to 60.0 until his season ended with a dislocated left kneecap on Dec. 6. Collins, who had thrown just 27 passes since being benched in Buffalo in December 1997, took over and led the reeling Redskins to four straight victories and a playoff berth with a quick release, a deft touch and an encyclopedic knowledge of Al Saunders' offense. Collins, 36, is a free agent and would like a shot at a starting job, but if Saunders is retained by Washington's new coach, odds are that he'll return to push Campbell, 26. If Collins is back, Brunell, 37, could be gone. Hollenbach, a rookie free agent who had been cut before training camp, was re-signed as an emergency third-stringer after Campbell was hurt. He could compete for the No. 3 job in 2008.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters — RB Clinton Portis, FB Mike Sellers. Backups — RB Ladell Betts, RB Rock Cartwright. Injured reserve — Nehemiah Broughton.

Portis had an up-and-down year after missing preseason with knee tendinitis but still wound up second in the NFC with 1,651 yards from scrimmage. His 1,262 rushing yards ranked third and his 47 catches were a career high. Although Portis averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, it was still a solid rebound year from his injury-curtailed 2006 season, especially considering that the run-oriented right side of the line of Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen lasted six quarters between them. Portis was also shaken by the murder of college and pro teammate Sean Taylor in November, but he still averaged 116.8 yards of offense during Washington's 4-0 December sprint to the playoffs. After starring in his first shot at full-time duty after Portis was hurt in November 2006 and signing a lucrative extension the next month, Betts disappointingly returned to his secondary role in 2007, carrying just 93 times and catching just 21 passes. His biggest moment was being stopped on consecutive goal-line runs in the final minute of the Week 2 loss to the Giants. Sellers, a Pro Bowl alternate, is a bruising blocker and he had three touchdowns on 43 touches. Cartwright had just two carries, which is why he's interested in leaving as a free agent. Broughton, a seventh-rounder in 2005, has never been a factor in three years and won't be back.

TIGHT END: Starter — Chris Cooley. Backups — Todd Yoder, Brian Kozlowski. Injured reserve — Tyler Ecker.

After signing a lucrative extension before the season, Cooley was chosen for his first Pro Bowl after catching 66 passes, including a team-high eight touchdowns. Only two tight ends had more touchdowns and only four had more catches. Cooley isn't a great blocker, but he has good downfield speed and soft hands, especially in the red zone. Yoder, a waiver-wire pickup in 2006, is a solid blocker and has had his moments as a receiver. He caught the first Redskins touchdown passes of both Campbell and Collins, the latter of which put Washington ahead to stay in the victory over Chicago that ignited the run to the playoffs. Kozlowski was re-signed during the season for a second straight year but at 37 is probably finally done. Seventh-rounder Ecker was hurt during the first week of camp but is cheap enough to bring back for a true shot next summer. The Redskins need a solid third tight end.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters — Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle El. Backups — James Thrash, Reche Caldwell, Keenan McCardell, Anthony Mix. Injured reserve — Brandon Lloyd, Mike Espy, Steven Harris.

After a first half during which he was bothered by nagging leg injuries, Moss bounced back with 37 catches, 511 yards and three touchdowns during the final seven games despite being deeply affected by the murder of longtime friend Taylor. Randle El fought off a nagging hamstring to set career highs of 51 catches and 728 yards. The moody Lloyd, a major bust after being acquired from San Francisco in 2006, was even worse in 2007, catching just two passes before his season ended with a broken collarbone in practice on Nov. 14. The Redskins will eat the rest of his contract and cut him this offseason. Thrash was the first wideout to reach the end zone in Week 10 against Philadelphia, but he suffered a high-ankle sprain later that day and was a non-factor the rest of the season. Little-used after being signed in September, Caldwell had some big catches late in the season as a No. 3 receiver after supplanting McCardell, 37, in that role. McCardell, a 1991 Washington draft pick, had 22 catches after signing in October and doesn't plan to retire. The 6-foot-5 Mix, signed in November from the Giants, had a heady special teams play in the playoff loss at Seattle and could be the big receiver this team has needed for years. Espy, who made the team as a rookie free agent in 2006, was hurt in preseason and could push for a job in 2008. Harris is a training-camp body.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LT Chris Samuels, LG Pete Kendall, C Casey Rabach, RG Jason Fabini, RT Stephon Heyer. Backups — T Todd Wade, G Lorenzo Alexander, C/G Rick DeMulling, G Kevin Sampson. Returning injured starters — RG Randy Thomas, RT Jon Jansen. Injured reserve — C/G Mike Pucillo, T/G Ross Tucker. Jansen, who had missed just one game (other than 2004 when he blew an Achilles in preseason) in eight years in Washington, didn't last 20 minutes in 2007 before suffering a season-ending broken leg. Thomas had missed eight games in his eight NFL seasons but he tore his left triceps in the first half of Week 2 and lasted just a few plays in his Week 14 comeback. Fabini, signed in March after being cut by the Jets and Cowboys the previous two years, was supposed to be insurance at tackle. Instead, he started 14 games at right guard and improved as the year progressed. Still, he might not return at 34. With career tackle Wade struggling to fill the left guard hole opened by Derrick Dockery's signing with Buffalo, the Redskins traded for Kendall in August. Despite gimpy knees, he was solid and should start there again at 35 in 2008. Samuels missed all of preseason with a sprained knee but he blanked Miami's Jason Taylor in Week 1 and the Giants' Osi Umenyiora twice en route to his fifth Pro Bowl in eight years. Rabach had another solid year as the only starter in the lineup from July-January. Rookie free agent Heyer benefited from the playing time earned when Samuels was hurt in August and was ready when Wade wore down at right tackle in November. Heyer should be the No. 1 backup in 2008. Career defensive tackle Alexander was a great story, becoming a two-way player during the second half of the year as jumbo package tight end Pucillo's bad back flared up and eventually ended his season. Veterans DeMulling and Sampson were stopgap signings. Tucker was going to be cut before he was hurt in training camp. The team needs more young linemen.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters — LDE Phillip Daniels, LDT Cornelius Griffin, RDT Anthony Montgomery, RDE Andre Carter. Backups — DT Kedric Golston, DE/DT Demetric Evans, DT Lorenzo Alexander, DE Chris Wilson, DE Alex Buzbee, DT Ryan Boschetti.

Daniels, who generally moved inside on passing downs, was solid but no longer as dangerous as he was as recently as 2005. Griffin fought through injuries to start every game for the first time in four years as a Redskin but is no longer the force he was in 2004. After a laggard rookie year, Montgomery worked harder and used his bigger body to wrest the starting job from Class of 2006 plugger Golston. They could eventually be the starting tandem. Golston blocked two kicks and recorded a safety. So did Carter, who continued his late 2006 hot streak by recording seven sacks in the first nine games. Carter had just 3.5 sacks the rest of the way but his 10.5 were still the most by a Redskin in five years and he was better against the run than he had been during his Washington debut in 2006. Evans remained a solid fill-in anywhere on the line. Former CFL speedster Wilson was a true longshot but he recorded four sacks (second on the line despite his limited snaps). If Wilson can get bigger without losing speed, he'll play more. Former practice-squadder Alexander won a job with a strong preseason and wound up playing on both lines. The coaches should decide where he belongs this offseason. Rookie free agent Buzbee was promoted from the practice squad in December. Boschetti might finally be a goner after not getting on the field in more than a year despite being healthy. The Redskins need to find an eventual replacement for Daniels, who will be 35 and is in the last year of his contract.

LINEBACKERS: Starters — WLB Randall Godfrey, MLB London Fletcher, SLB Marcus Washington. Backups — OLB/ILB Khary Campbell, ILB/OLB H.B. Blades, MLB Matt Sinclair. Returning injured starter — WLB Rocky McIntosh.

Fletcher was as advertised when signed from Buffalo, a great leader, a terrific tackler and with a knack for big plays. He was credited with a team-high 156 stops and also picked off three passes, forced a fumble and recovered one. After Taylor's murder, Fletcher was the defensive MVP. Washington battled injuries for a second straight year. He missed four games with a hamstring and wasn't the game-changer that he had been during his three previous Redskins seasons although he did record five sacks. McIntosh was Washington's best player in preseason and although he had slowed some, he was still playing well in his first year as a starter before suffering a major knee injury in December. The team hopes he'll be ready for the start of 2008. Veteran Godfrey, who had starred for assistant head coach Gregg Williams in Tennessee, was signed during camp and wound up playing most of the snaps when Washington and then McIntosh were hurt. If Williams becomes the head coach, Godfrey, who will be 35, figures to return. Special teams ace Campbell and rookie Blades are both more suited to the middle but each took some of McIntosh's snaps after he was hurt. Sinclair hustled his way onto the practice squad and was promoted in December. The Redskins need some young backups whose natural position is outside linebacker.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters — CB Shawn Springs, CB Fred Smoot, SS Reed Doughty, FS LaRon Landry. Backups — CB Leigh Torrence, S Pierson Prioleau, S Vernon Fox, CB David Macklin, S Omar Stoutmire. Returning injured starter — CB Carlos Rogers.

After a physically painful 2006 that limited him to half a season, Springs returned to his elite form in 2007 despite playing most of the year knowing that his father, ex-NFL running back Ron Springs, was in a coma. Springs was especially good when the Redskins went to man-to-man coverage in December, picking off four passes and shutting down Amani Toomer and Terry Glenn. The Redskins would like him back but his $8.4 million salary-cap number at age 33 could make that difficult. Back after two unhappy years in Minnesota, Smoot was inconsistent but, like Springs, he played his best when the Redskins needed him most in December. Sean Taylor was having a true All-Pro year, leading the league in interceptions, when he sprained his knee on Nov. 11. He was murdered two weeks later at 24. Doughty was terrible in his first game in Taylor's spot, but the sixth-rounder from 2006 hung in there and was solid down the stretch after moving to strong safety. That entailed Landry, the sixth pick in the draft who started almost from the moment he signed, switching to free safety. As was true with Taylor during his rookie year, Landry had a penchant for big hits and late hits and his menacing style and great closing speed make him a weapon. Torrence won a job with his speed and surprisingly moved ahead of former NFL starter Macklin as the third corner after Rogers was hurt. Rogers had been beaten badly twice but was otherwise doing fine in his second full year as the starter until he blew out a knee on Oct. 28. He should be ready for preseason. Macklin, who hardly played, likely won't be back. Prioleau, a Williams favorite, is also a free agent. He remains a decent backup. Fox is a special-teamer. Stoutmire was signed twice as an injury replacement but will be 34 in July and is probably done. If Springs leaves, the Redskins will need another corner. They also figure to bring in another safety to compete with Doughty.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Shaun Suisham, P Derrick Frost, LS Ethan Albright, KOR Rock Cartwright, PR Antwaan Randle El. Suisham was outstanding in his first full NFL season. His 29 field goals were the most by a Redskin in 15 years and his 29-for-35 accuracy was second in Washington history to Mark Moseley's 1982 NFL MVP season. Suisham was an uncanny eight-for-eight in windy Giants Stadium. His kickoffs aren't the best and he did miss an extra point. Frost slipped from his career year in 2006. What was strange was that he got off to a Pro Bowl start and could never really recapture the form for an entire game. He had one punt blocked and can expect training camp competition. Albright remained impeccable at 36. Cartwright, who broke Brian Mitchell's team records in 2006 thanks in part to an awful defense that prompted a lot of opposing kickoffs, led the NFC most of the season before fading in December. Cartwright's 25.8-yard average was still Washington's second highest in 26 years (a tenth of a yard behind Betts' average on 28 fewer returns in 2005). The Redskins would like him back. If Cartwright returns, he would like a shot at returning punts too. Randle El, so good in that role in Pittsburgh, was dreadful. His 6.1-yard average was Washington's worst in 19 years. Why risk a starter there if he's ineffective? The Redskins finished third in kickoff coverage and sixth in punt coverage as Danny Smith's units continued to excel with Khary Campbell (39 tackles) and Cartwright (36) the clear leaders.

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Wow, Suisham last season was the 2nd most accurate kicker in our history? I cant count the number of times I heard some of the less informed complaining about him missing kicks... Some people just want everything.

Frost interestingly enough just cant seem to get any better. He always starts out the season hot and then fades really fast. Maybe those early punts just take it out of him...

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Suisham is better than I give him credit for, but he doesn't have much of a leg on him for kickoffs. I'll be honest though, when mason crosby was still around for our 5th round pick last year I was hoping we'd take him. Instead we wasted the pick on dallas sartz and crosby turned out to be rather good. Coulda gotten him with our 6th round pick too but I think HB Blades will be a good player for us. Speaking of that, with Williams no longer our DC will london fletcher stay in washington or does blades start for us next year?

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It's Zorn's first head coaching job, and as an offensive-minded coach he shouldn't welcome having veteran defensive coordinator Greg Blache already in place.

Typo I assume?

Decent look at our roster as a whole, but he talks about Rocky and Carlos being ready for '08. My understanding was that both of their recoops were dicey. Wrong?

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That's definitely a realistic point of view. We very well could finish last in the division next year. And while I won't enjoy that, I won't be too angry if it means success in the future.

That said, I don't think we're going to be all that bad. We may finish last in the NFC East, but I think we'll be competitive. Our division is extremely tough.

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If Cartwright returns, he would like a shot at returning punts too. Randle El, so good in that role in Pittsburgh, was dreadful. His 6.1-yard average was Washington's worst in 19 years. Why risk a starter there if he's ineffective?

I couldn't understand why they left him in there returning punts last year. He was not getting it done and he showed no signs of improvement. We needed him focused at WR only. I thought Betts would have been the better choice, he just hits the hole and gets north and south.

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Did anyone notice how Fox still thinks we have Saunders on our staff?

and this part:

Veteran Godfrey, who had starred for assistant head coach Gregg Williams in Tennessee, was signed during camp and wound up playing most of the snaps when Washington and then McIntosh were hurt. If Williams becomes the head coach, Godfrey, who will be 35, figures to return.

Is this really from feb, 15. 2008

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