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2008 Training Camp Breakdown: Defensive Line

After losing starting left defensive ends Phillip Daniels and reserve end Alex Buzbee to season ending injuries on the first day of training camp, the Redskins were hurrying to find a suitable replacement. They accomplished that and then some with the acquisition of one of the game’s best in defensive end Jason Taylor. The potential future Hall-of-Famer, who spent the last 11 seasons with the Miami Dolphins, will shift to left defensive end and the prospects of forming a powerful duo with right defensive end Andre Carter are very promising. The Redskins, for the first time in several years, have a proven, formidable pass rusher who can take the pressure off of the linebackers and the secondary.

Prior to Taylor’s acquisition, the main focus of the defensive line was prior to this spring’s NFL Draft. The consensus among fans and media was that drafting a defensive end in the early rounds was a priority. The Redskins, however, chose to target the best available, rather than go by team needs. The Redskins had the chance to select University of Miami defensive end Calais Campbell, who many had felt the team would target as a potential first or second round selection, but had already picked up a wide receiver and a talented reserve tight end in the second round. The team opted to wait until the seventh round and undrafted free agency to pick up rookie defensive linemen. They later acquired three-year defensive end Erasmus James from the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for a conditional 2009 7th round draft pick.

Defensive Ends:

Taylor put up 11 sacks in 2007 while playing for an abominable 1-15 Dolphins team. That stat alone says something. The 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 2007 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year has a career total of 117 sacks. He is on the record as saying his main focus is winning, not money or fame. Whether the winning will come along with the stats he has put up since 1997 remains to be seen but the Washington faithful, fans and players alike, are pleased with even having him on the roster so far.

Daniels spent this offseason displaying his strength through power lifting competitions. It wasn’t a waste of time for him despite being excused from the Redskins off-season strength and conditioning program. With a 633-pound squat and 600-pound dead lift, Daniels won his weight class in both types of lifts. Daniels, 35, was trying to prove he still has the power and skill to be the Redskins starting left defensive end. He didn’t provide the most consistent pass rush but is solid against the run, provides great veteran leadership, and can play defensive tackle in an instant. He plans to work hard on a healthy comeback next season.

Buzbee showed enough promise last preseason to make the practice squad and was elevated to the active roster prior to Week 16. This training camp was critical for Buzbee to make an impact and prove himself in his second year. It was crucial for him to show he can be good enough to make the active roster and not just the practice squad. Unfortunately for him, he doesn’t have the chance to prove that now but it’s a safe bet that he’ll be kept around for next year’s training camp given his potential.

Carter returns after having his best season as a Redskin, leading the team with 10.5 sacks. He also recorded 65 tackles, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one safety. In 2007, Carter displayed his speed and power to go along with his size. His status as starting right defensive end is secure, given Taylor’s switch to left end. His stamina and endurance are not in question but if his reserves perform well, he should have more time to rest and re-energize on the bench, likely making for a more productive season.

James was the Vikings first-round selection in 2005 but has been riddled with injuries the past two seasons. With the recommendation of new defensive line coach, John Palermo, who coached James at the University of Wisconsin, the Redskins pounced on the opportunity to acquire James, who was on the outs with Minnesota. There were a lot of expectations from him in Minnesota but the team felt he was expendable given the plethora of talent on their defensive line with the likes of Pat Williams, Kevin Williams, and newcomer Jared Allen. James had a good rookie season with 34 tackles and four sacks while starting nine games. He gives the Redskins flexibility behind starters Andre Carter and Jason Taylor. Currently, he is nursing his knee after having ACL surgery in December. He is patiently working his way back onto the field.

Newcomer Chris Wilson’s 2007 campaign was very similar to Chris Clemons’ 2004 performance with the Redskins. They were both young, overachieving speed rushers who seemed to find a way into the backfield or to the quarterback when given their limited opportunities. Wilson, who joined the Redskins after playing for the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League, was a nice change of pace while Carter and Daniels rested on the bench. He came up big at the end of the 2007 season, logging two sacks in Week 17 against the Dallas Cowboys, sacking both Tony Romo and Brad Johnson. He also sacked Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck in the Wild Card round of the Playoffs. Now with one full NFL season under his belt, having played in every game last year, 2008 is looking to be a good year for Wilson.

Demetric Evans is not notorious for lighting it up in practice but it seems as if every time he is put in during a game, he makes a play, whether it comes in the form of a sack, forced fumble, or a crucial tackle. He is arguably the best reserve defensive lineman on the team and should be a factor while filling in for the starters. He finished last season with 31 tackles, one sack, and one fumble recovery while playing both end and tackle.

Also competing for roster spots are 7th Round pick Rob Jackson and Washington D.C. native Kevin Huntley. Their jobs were made easier with the recent departure of Dorian Smith, an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State who was released to make room for the signing of second rounder Malcolm Kelly.

Jackson played two seasons at Kansas State and started 23 of 25 games. He tallied 61 tackles, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and three defended passes with the Wildcats.

Huntley has NFL experience, recording 2.5 sacks and 10 tackles in only six games with the Raiders in 2006. He also recorded three tackles in five games for the Atlanta Falcons last season.

Defensive Tackles:

Veteran Cornelius Griffin has yet to match his standout 2004 season but has been solid at stopping the run. He has been a positive mentor for his younger protégés Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston, who, if they continue their stellar play, appear to be the Redskins defensive tackles of the future. They would make for a productive tandem when Griffin’s time with the team is up.

Golston beat out Montgomery and had a surprisingly strong rookie season in 2006, starting 12 games, recording 59 tackles, half a sack, and one fumble recovery. Their roles seemed to reverse in 2007 as Montgomery became the regular starter alongside Griffin. He had a career year, mirroring Golston’s rookie campaign by starting 15 games, recording 47 tackles, a half-sack, and one fumble recovery.

One player who made a name for himself last season was Lorenzo Alexander, whose original position is defensive tackle but made an impression because of his versatility. Alexander showed off his versatility on offense as well, substituting at guard, tight end, and fullback on some occasions as well as lining up on special teams. His most memorable play came in the preseason against the Tennessee Titans in which he made a tackle minus his helmet resulting in a bloody nose.

J.T. Mapu, an undrafted rookie out of the University of Tennessee, was signed by the Redskins after a spring tryout. He was released twice since then but was once again called upon following Buzbee’s injury. In four years at Tennessee, the Hawaii native totaled 65 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. From 2004-2005, he was out of college football participating in a two-year Mormon church mission.

Also returning are Ryan Boschetti, who re-signed with the team this offseason, and Matthias Askew.

Boschetti’s playing time has decreased significantly the last three years and is ineligible for the practice squad. This may be his last shot to make the team unless he is going to be inactive on gameday like he has for the majority of the past two seasons.

Askew appears to be the biggest long shot of this group. A 2004 4th round choice of the Cincinnati Bengals, Askew spent training camp with the Redskins in 2007. He failed to make the roster but was re-signed in March.

What to Watch For At Camp:

– How will Jason Taylor’s play affect the rest of the line and the defense as a whole?

– How will Erasmus James perform in his second stint under the guidance of John Palermo?

– Will Chris Wilson continue to impress enough to make the roster?

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp

Topsy, Turvy Start to Camp

Jason Taylor Officially a Redskin; Daniels, Buzbee on I.R.

The first day of the Redskins 2008 Training Camp began and ended notoriously for different reasons. On the first play of 7-on-7 practice drills, Phillip Daniels was tangled in a pile-up and tore his anterior cruciate ligament. The injury forced Daniels to be carted off the field and ended his season, a season for which he trained very hard this spring.

Daniels spent this offseason displaying his strength through power lifting competitions. It wasn’t a waste of time for him despite being excused from the Redskins off-season strength and conditioning program. With a 633-pound squat and 600-pound dead lift, Daniels won his weight class in both types of lifts. Daniels, 35, was trying to prove he still had the power and skill to be the Redskins starting left defensive end. He isn’t the most consistent pass rusher but is solid against the run, provides great veteran leadership, and can play defensive tackle in an instant.

On the second practice of the first day of training camp, Daniels’ injury fresh in his teammates’ minds, Alex Buzbee, a second year defensive end out of Georgetown University, ruptured his Achilles, ending his season as well.

Two defensive ends suffering season ending injuries all before the end of the first day of practice. It was a beginning to camp that no one expected.

Even more intrigue was added when news of a big trade was made official. The NFL’s active sack leader with 117, Jason Taylor, was coming to D.C. in exchange for a 2009 2nd round draft choice and 2010 6th round selection.

The Redskins front office, mainly Executive Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato, reacted quickly to bring a formidable pass rush to a line that was already lacking depth made even thinner due to the season ending injuries.

Taylor, playing ability notwithstanding, already has brought a presence of assuredness when it comes to the Redskins pass-rushing abilities. He will be shifted from right defensive end, to left defensive end because of current right end Andre Carter. As far as the current Redskins players are concerned, he is a welcome addition to a team that has been seeking a formidable pass rush and more sacks from their defensive ends. The idea of Taylor and Carter on opposite sides has teammates hopeful for the upcoming season. Reaction so far has been positive, including from Phillip Daniels himself.

Walking with the aide of crutches, he spoke to the press on day two of camp, saying that he believes Taylor can get us to the Super Bowl. Daniels, who said “this was going to be my year,” also told the media that he believes Taylor is the “perfect” addition and doesn’t want anybody to feel sorry for him despite his situation. He also went on to say that he doesn’t feel this injury is the end of the road for him and that he will work very hard to make a successful return in 2009.

Taylor has already been introduced to the media through a 6:00 p.m. press conference and will be attending team meetings tonight as well. It is currently unknown whether Taylor will retrieve his #99 from Carter but he will attempt to. Fans will get their first glimpse of Taylor tomorrow morning when he practices with his new teammates at 8:30am.

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp

2008 Training Camp Breakdown: Special Teams

Here is a look at some of the special teams battles going on at camp:


Shaun Suisham is coming off of the second best statistical season ever for a Redskins kicker, making 29 of 35 field goals (82.9%). The percentage is only behind Mark Moseley’s 95% in his 1982 MVP season. Suisham also kicked two game-winning overtime field goals against the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets. His efforts against the Jets didn’t go unnoticed. His five field goals that game tied a team record and earned him NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.

Despite missing a crucial field goal against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs, Suisham improved upon his 2006 performance in his first full NFL season and is aiming to be a the team’s kicker for years to come. The Redskins haven’t had a consistent kicker for more than a short period of time since Chip Lohmiller in the early 1990’s. Suisham’s job appears safe considering there is no competition for him in training camp.

This preseason, Suisham needs to improve on placing his kickoffs inside the five-yard line more often. The Redskins were 31st in average yards per kickoff and ranked 22nd in touchbacks forced.

Suisham’s long snapper, Ethan Albright, was finally rewarded for his consistency by making a trip to Hawaii for his first Pro Bowl in his 14-year career. Albright, who re-signed with the team in February, is arguably the most underrated Redskin and has not botched a snap since his arrival in 2001. The “Red Snapper” makes the life of Derrick Frost that much easier as the holder on field goals given that the ball speed and location point are seemingly exact every snap.


One of the many surprises coming from the NFL Draft was the Redskins’ selection of punter Durant Brooks. It’s not new information that the Redskins have needed punting help for the past couple of seasons but not yet having taken a defensive end at that point in the draft, the selection of a punter seemed to jump out of nowhere.

Brooks does seem to have a lot going for him. Legendary NFL punter Ray Guy is a friend of his family and he also won the award named in honor of the former Oakland Raider great after being voted college football’s best punter in 2007. The former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket is hoping to provide the Redskins punting unit with the consistency, distance, and power not seen since Tom Tupa in 2004, when he finished third in the NFL in average yards per punt.

The incumbent Frost did have an improved season in 2007, however. He started off well early on with stronger punts that kept return units back further. But he then continued to rely on punts with fortunate bounces and rolls without much distance on them. Under Frost, the Redskins finished 27th in average yards per punt last season. In spite of his struggles, Frost has beaten out any competition that has come his way in the past so don’t expect him to step aside for a rookie.

Kick and Punt Return Units:

Retaining Rock Cartwright was one of the main priorities for the Redskins this offseason and that was accomplished when they re-signed him to a three-year, $3.55 million deal. As a free agent, the market wasn’t what he expected so he returned to the Redskins as their primary kickoff returner, which has been his main position since last season.

It’s almost a certainty that Cartwright’s kickoff returns will bring the team past their own 30-yard line, giving the offense good starting field position. On many occasions, he seems on the verge of breaking it loose for a touchdown. He finished sixth in the league in kickoff return yardage and was key in the Redskins top ten ranking (they finished 8th in the league) in average yardage per kickoff return in 2007.

Antwaan Randle-El returns as the team’s projected primary punt returner. He had a career year at wide receiver but must find a way to run north and south on punt returns more often, as opposed to east and west, which he is accustomed to doing. His main focus as a punt returner is to make defenders miss with fancy jukes and spins. He must improve on visualizing the best possible lane to run through before defenders get to him instead of running to the first open spot and relying on his moves to get him out of jams once they close up. His habit of east-west running is a factor in the team finishing 26th in average yardage per punt return in 2007. He does, however, have tremendous speed and the ability to score at any moment once he has the ball.

Kick and Punt Coverage Unit:

Khary Campbell returns as the leading special teams tackler for the third consecutive season. Arguably the best special teams defender, Campbell has made the team the last four seasons off of his superior coverage skills and nose for opposing returners.

Cartwright finished second on the team in special teams tackles last season. He is an all-around consummate special teams performer and is a very reliable and valuable asset to the team.

The Redskins had young greenhorns make their presence known on coverage units as well, coming in the form of Anthony Mix and H.B. Blades.

Mix made his mark by logging at least two special teams tackles per game at the end of the season. He was a large factor in containing Chicago Bears dynamic returner Devin Hester during Week 14, led the team with four special teams tackles against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16, and made two special teams tackles along with one critical kickoff recovery against the Seahawks.

Blades led the team with four special teams tackles in Week 3 against the New York Giants and finished the season with 13 special teams tackles.

What to Watch For At Camp:

— The battle between Derrick Frost and rookie Durant Brooks.

— Antwaan Randle El’s urge to push the “Forward Button” on punt returns

— Shaun Suisham’s progression.

— Rock Cartwright’s ability to break away from the last couple of tacklers on kickoff returns.

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp

2008 Training Camp Breakdown: Linebackers

After a dismal season in 2006, the Redskins defense needed on-field leadership and direction. That is exactly what they received when they signed middle linebacker London Fletcher last spring. Under former assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the Redskins defense ranked third and ninth in 2004 and 2005 respectively. An unexpected drop to 31st overall in the league forced the Redskins to seek change on the defensive side of the ball.

That change came in the form of Fletcher, who had played under Williams with the Buffalo Bills. Heading into his first season with the Redskins, he arrived with the reputation as being a well respected, undersized overachiever, who, since his second season, has had no less than 138 tackles in a season. As a member of the St. Louis Rams and Buffalo Bills, Fletcher broke team records for tackles in a season and has led his teams in tackles since 1999. Last season, he did just the same as a Redskin, recording a team-high 156 tackles. He quickly became a leader and accepted the role of being the “quarterback of the defense.” His best performance came in Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals when he led the team with 13 tackles and intercepted a Kurt Warner pass and took it 27 yards for a touchdown.

Fletcher, along with Marcus Washington and Rocky McIntosh, helped the Redskins defense return to Top 10 status in 2007, ranking 8th in the league. Both Washington and McIntosh’s seasons were slowed by injuries, with McIntosh’s being the most severe.

Washington, without question the most energetic player on the defense, had a subpar season by his standards, recording only 59 tackles and suffering a hamstring injury that took a toll on him throughout the season. He did record five sacks, however.

McIntosh, playing in his first full season as a starting outside linebacker, suffered a major knee injury against the New York Giants in a Week 15 victory over the New York Giants, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. Prior to the injury, McIntosh was progressing nicely in his second season, eclipsing the 100 tackle mark (finishing second on the team behind Fletcher), recording three sacks, forcing three fumbles and recovering one as well. His target date for a return should be in time for training camp but it remains to be seen what kind of power the knee will have once he returns to full-time practices.

This offseason, the team opted not to re-sign free agent Randall Godfrey, who was a solid veteran substitute in 2007, so it will be important for H.B Blades to make an impression this summer and prove himself as a reliable reserve when called upon. Blades, coming off a solid rookie campaign in which he made a name for himself on special teams by tallying 13 tackles and collecting 16 tackles in a reserve role on defense, has a fine football reputation to sustain. He is the son of Bennie Blades, the former hard-hitting safety for the Detroit Lions and Seattle Seahawks and the nephew of former Seahawks wide receiver Brian Blades.

In 2007, Khary Campbell led the team in special teams tackles for the third consecutive season. He is one of the key members of the kickoff and punt coverage units and it would be detrimental to not have him on the roster for that reason.

Matt Sinclair and Danny Verdun-Wheeler return for their second seasons with the Redskins.

Sinclair saw valuable action late in the season and was most productive on special teams, recording three tackles. Prior to the season, he spent the spring in the now defunct NFL Europa playing for the Frankfurt Galaxy. He will need to continue to make a name for himself on special teams to make the roster.

Verdun-Wheeler joined the Redskins as a member of the practice squad in December after McIntosh was placed on injured reserve. He originally joined the league last season as an undrafted free agent with the Chicago Bears.

Also vying for roster spots are Rian Wallace and undrafted rookie free agent Curtis Gatewood.

Wallace was a fifth-round draft choice by the Steelers in 2005 and in his career, has appeared in 16 games, totaling nine tackles and one interception, which he returned 30 yards for a touchdown in a 2006 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Gatewood joins the Redskins after four years at Vanderbilt where he played defensive end. He ended his career as a Commodore with 110 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and one interception. He was converted to outside linebacker at the 2008 East-West Shrine Bowl in January.

What to Watch For At Camp:
— Will Rocky McIntosh’s late-season injury linger into the preseason and/or regular season?
— How will London Fletcher adjust to the new radio communication in his helmet?
— With the departure of Randall Godfrey and one season under his belt, will H.B. Blades step up to be the primary reserve linebacker?
— Will Marcus Washington shake the injury bug and bounce back from a disappointing ‘07 campaign?

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp

2008 Training Camp Breakdown: Quarterbacks

One of the most frequent questions asked by the media and Redskins fans following Jim Zorn’s promotion from offensive coordinator to head coach was: “How will Jason Campbell adjust to Zorn’s version of the West Coast offense?”

Campbell has been hearing questions like that his whole career. Now entering his fourth season as a pro, he is going to learn his seventh new offense in eight years, including his four seasons at Auburn. This time, Campbell and the rest of the quarterbacks will be receiving special attention from Coach Zorn, a former Seattle Seahawks quarterback and quarterback’s coach.

The 26-year-old ran a similar offense in college so he has some familiarity with what Zorn will bring from Seattle and is excited about the prospects of experiencing a wide open passing game. Campbell has shown flashes of athleticism and talent but has never had a stable offensive makeup. It will be important for him to be in this offense for more than two years in order to have the chance to become the franchise quarterback fans want him to be.

In 2007, his second season under former associate head coach Al Saunders, Campbell made strides following a 2006 season which can be viewed as him merely “getting his feet wet.” He helped lead the team to a 3-1 start, earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week following a 34-3 victory over the Lions in Week 5 and showed off his running ability throughout the season as well. He passed for a career high 2,700 yards and 12 touchdowns prior to dislocating his kneecap in Week 14 against the Chicago Bears. The injury ended his season but his replacement, Todd Collins, filled in admirably.

Collins was a disciple of Saunders in Kansas City, having learned the intricacies of the famed “700 Page Playbook.” Despite not starting a game in over 10 years and not even attempting a pass since 2004, he led the Redskins offense with surprising ease during the final four games of the season, completing 67 passes for 888 yards and five touchdowns. After helping the Redskins become the hottest team heading into the 2007 Playoffs by ending the season on a four game winning streak, Collins was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Month for December.

Collins was a free agent this off-season and many thought he would follow the departed Saunders to St. Louis, but despite having to learn a new system and his lack of familiarity of Coach Zorn, he re-signed with the Redskins for three more seasons. His spot as the No. 2 quarterback appears all but cemented.

In an effort to inject youth and competition to the No. 3 quarterback slot, the Redskins used their final sixth round selection on Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan. The former Warriors gunslinger set or tied 31 NCAA records but leading up to the draft, was the subject of bad press concerning his attitude and skepticism regarding his ability to adapt to the pro game after mastering a high-yardage shotgun offense. Brennan finished third in the 2007 Heisman Trophy voting and was sixth in the 2006 race. He finished his college career as the NCAA’s all-time leader in passing touchdowns (131), career total offense per game (387.9 ypg), career completion percentage (70.4), and finished second all-time to former Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang in career passing yardage.

Chang is a point of reference for critics who question Brennan’s chances of becoming a successful NFL quarterback. Chang, like Brennan, had an amazing, record-setting career at Hawaii under Coach June Jones. But despite summer stints with the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, and Philadelphia Eagles, he failed to make an NFL roster and last played in the Canadian Football League.

Monitoring Brennan’s progress while adjusting to a different offense will be something for fans to watch for in training camp.

During training camp, the only battle at quarterback will be for the No. 3 position. For Derek Devine, it was made easier with the recent release of former University of Maryland product Sam Hollenbach, who was with the Redskins in 2007 as well.

Devine joined the Redskins in May and after spending time as an undrafted free in Seahawks training camp in 2007 under the tutelage of Zorn, who was the team’s quarterback’s coach, he is accustomed to Zorn’s style. Though he is likely the odd man out, he should bring a good knowledge of the system to the competition. Since fourth string quarterbacks see little to no time in preseason games, his performance in training camp practices will most likely determine his status.

What to Watch For At Camp:

–The relationship between Jason Campbell and Jim Zorn.
–Campbell’s progress grasping the West Coast Offense.
–Will Derek Devine surprise everybody and beat out Colt Brennan for the third string job?

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp

THN Hogcasts Offer the Voice of the Fans

We here at (THN) pride ourselves in our content. As a result, we strive to bring you news on your favorite team in any way possible. The latest of these endeavors is the THN Hogcasts.

We deliver our Hogcasts in mp3 format, and you can play them on any mp3 player, as well as uploading them to any portable mp3 player. This allows Redskin fans the opportunity to listen to the voice of fellow fans that are at camp or at the games to pass on observations, not from the local beat reporter or television anchor, but people that bleed burgundy and gold, just like you.

Be sure to check our podcast section every day to see catch the latest broadcast. Also, be sure to watch for an announcement in the near future, as we make our podcasts available via RSS feed to iTunes.

To close the first week of camp, Mark Solway and I break down goings on at Redskin Park, from notable player performances to general observations in Training Camp Podcast #1.

Then we come to you live from A75 in the green lot at FedEx Field, both before the Redskins-Ravens scrimmage and afterwards in our first ever Tailgate Podcast.

We at THN will continue to try to bring you Redskin news in new and innovative ways. We even have the web’s only wireless Redskins site.

-Scott Hurrey

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Scott Hurrey

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp | Washington Commanders

2006 Training Camp: Cornerbacks

It is said that no man is an island but the cornerbacks in Gregg Williams’ defense must often feel as though they are on one.

Williams relies on a variety of well-disguised blitzes to pound the opposing team into submission and he relies on his corners to handle man-on-man coverage to allow for those blitzes. In fact, he occasionally uses those corners to rush the quarterback.

Additionally, the corners in Williams’ system must be adept at playing the run and need to be solid tacklers.

That is all on top of the difficult tasks corners face in today’s receiver-friendly NFL.

So the question remains: Do the Redskins have the cornerbacks that meet those requirements?

The answer: absolutely.

The names are as follows: Shawn Springs, Carlos Rogers, Kenny Wright, Ade Jimoh, Christian Morton, Dimitri Patterson, Chris Hawkins and John Eubanks.

Barring injury, Springs and Rogers are the starters at right and left corner, respectively.

Springs, 31, has been nothing short of spectacular since signing with the Redskins in 2004. The knock on Springs was that he couldn’t stay healthy, however Springs has silenced that criticism by playing 30 games the past two seasons while amassing 99 tackles and six interceptions.

He is extremely reliable; he is not caught out-of-position and has been frequently paired with the opposing team’s top wideout. In addition, his six sacks in his initial campaign with the team show his versatility as an occasional pass rusher.

Rogers, 25, had a very solid rookie campaign, playing in 12 games and elevating himself to a starter while notching 42 tackles and two interceptions. He will only get better with experience and, like Springs, has the size to cover today’s bigger, more physical receivers.

Wright’s signing has been touted on this site; he is expected to occupy the nickel corner slot, a position that is important in the overall scheme of the Redskins defense. His size and aggressive nature blend well with Williams’ style.

The other names on the depth chart will be primarily competing for spots in the nickel and dime packages.

And Jerry Gray will be there to help them do just that.

Gray, the team’s new secondary coach, played corner in the NFL for nine years (including four Pro Bowl trips) before moving into the coaching ranks. He spent the past five seasons as the Bills defensive coordinator.

He is a very active coach who values athleticism, speed and technique.
His track record bodes well for the young group of corners vying for the additional spots and the group shows definite promise.

Jimoh and Morton in particular should begin to realize their promise under Gray’s tutelage.

The Redskins ranked 10th in the league in passing defense last season, the additions of Gray and Wright coupled with the veteran leadership of Springs and the continued growth of Rogers means this unit should improve on that ranking in the coming season.

And given the number of potent offenses the Redskins will be facing next season, that improvement comes not a moment too soon.

-Stephen Zorio

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Stephen Zorio

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp | Washington Commanders

Oh Canada!

What’s it all ‘aboot’ then, eh?

A weird phenomenon is shaping up at the 2006 Washington Redskins training camp – Canadians. Yes you read correctly, that was plural, Canadians. Like beavers to a dam, there is a Canadian invasion sweeping the NFL as two players travel from the Great White North to vie to make the 2006 Washington Redskin roster.

Take off hoser, no way.

It’s true. When Jesse Lumsden and Kerry Carter take the field at Redskin Park next Monday, it marks the dawning of a new age in NFL football – the Canadian era.

Well maybe not, but it is nice to see a growth in Canadian numbers and two is growth.

Don’t believe the theory? There are two Canadians in Dallas as well – Mike Vanderjagt and long snapper Louis-Philippe Ladouceur. Or how about Canadians Brett Romberg and Rob Meier in Jacksonville? Or O. J. Atogwe and Tom Nutten with the Rams? Canadians seem to come in twos these days.

Most of these guys are not household football names, but there’s no denying an increasing flavor of Canadiana in the NFL. It isn’t a coincidence either; it stems from a much more fluid relationship bewteen the National Football League and the Canadian Football League (CFL). These days, the CFL has become a much more respectable place for an NFL player to go and hone their skills for a season or two before taking another crack at the NFL.

So back to the Redskins. If one Canadian is good and two is exceptional, what would three be? Three Canadians? Well, sort of; Jonta Woodward is also at Redskins training camp, and although he is American-born and went to Louisville, he has played his most recent football for the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the CFL. He is poised to make a solid run at winning one of the backup offensive tackle positions, and at the very least, he has Canadian connections.

Kerry Carter was a special teams regular in Seattle, and the Redskins need some special teams help. Coach Gibbs places tremendous importance on trying to give Danny Smith the tools he needs to make special teams sucessful; so if Carter can win Smith’s heart, he may have a chance.

Lumsden would have likely made a great H-Back prospect in last year’s system, but his unique athleticism and size may allow him to win a few looks at fullback in Al Saunders’ system. Mike Sellers will likely carry the load at fullback, but will there be a roster spot for depth at the position too? The Redskins have fan favorite Rock Cartwright to play fullback, but he may be a little under-sized to carry fulltime blocking assignments. The Redskins also have 2005 draft picks Manuel White and Nehemiah Broughton who can play a pure fullback role, but White spent last year on injured reserve, and it remains to be seen what he will bring to the table. Nemo showed a fair bit of promise last year, but that was at running back, how will he do at fullback?

If Lumsden can show good blocking skills in the preseason, it will definitely help his cause. There would be added value in him being able to back up both fullback and running back. Add to that, his ability to return kickoffs and play special teams, and there will be opportunities for the former Canadian intercollegiate football star. Jesse certainly has no intention of failing; he emphatically told the Hamilton Spectator last week that, “I’m going to make the team. I’m going down and I’m not coming back until the off-season.”

It’s very positive for Canadian kids that are interested in football, to see that they can make it all the way to the greatest stage of them all. It will only serve to strengthen their resolve, and continue this ‘huge’ flux of grid iron talent into the NFL.

The Canadians are coming, you can bet your back bacon on it.

-Mark Solway

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Mark Solway

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp | Washington Commanders

2006 Training Camp: Quarterbacks

They are the ‘however’, the ‘but’ and the reason for caution in most Redskins previews. Their names have been accompanied by warnings often enough that we could call them the Caveat Crew.

They are the Redskins quarterbacks.

Their names and the accompanying warnings are familiar to most Redskins fans:

Mark “He’s Old/Injured” Brunell, Todd “Journeyman/Who?” Collins and Jason “Untested” Campbell.

Those criticisms are not entirely unfounded either.

Brunell, 35 years old and firmly entrenched as the team’s starter, is entering his 14th season in the NFL. Collins, 34, has been in the league for 12 years and taken a total of 546 snaps (and only 18 since 1998) and the 25-year-old Campbell’s lofty stats have Auburn attached to them.

Additionally, Brunell has had to work through injuries, including a broken finger that held him out of mini camp.

Throw in a brand-new offense that relies heavily on the quarterback and you begin to see that the caveats have some merit.

So should Redskins fans panic?

Of course not.

Brunell, who turns 36 in September, had a forgettable first season with the Redskins but rewarded the faith Joe Gibbs placed in him with his performance last season.

He is often cited as lacking a big arm but managed to throw 36 passes of 20 or more yards last season, including nine that topped 40 yards. He also threw two picture-perfect deep balls in a Monday night game at Dallas that no Redskins fan will ever forget.

Brunell’s age is often cited as a negative without acknowledging the experience that accompanies his years in the league. He threw 23 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions last year while amassing more than 3,000 passing yards, completing nearly 60 percent of his passes.

Brunell, to employ an oft-used adage, knows when to get rid of the ball and, when he does, he is not prone to mistakes. Only three of his 10 interceptions last season came on third down. He is an efficient quarterback who is adept at recognizing opposing defenses.

While he is not the scrambling passer he was in his early years, Brunell repeatedly demonstrated an ability to use his legs to buy time last season.

With a deeper offensive line in front of him and a much more dangerous receiving corps, Brunell is poised to have a very solid 2006-07 campaign.

It is worth noting that, after David Patten was lost to an injury, Brunell was left with only two reliable receiving targets. That problem, to put it mildly, has been remedied.

While Al Saunders’ new offense will take some time to master, the team could do much worse than to put the reins in the hands of a crafty veteran like Brunell. With the team focused on the playoffs, and beyond, Brunell’s experience, instinct and ability are all major assets.

Campbell, the team’s first round draft pick from two seasons ago, enters training camp second on the depth chart. The recurring theme with Campbell is one of potential.

The Redskins liked what they saw in Campbell enough to sacrifice draft picks to be in a position to snag him.

It is not hard to see why the Redskins valued him so highly, the 6-4, 223 pound Campbell possesses obvious physical skills. He led the highly touted and undefeated 2004 Auburn Tigers team.

He has a strong arm and, while he is not a running quarterback, he can use his feet adeptly to keep a play alive. He has demonstrated poise and leadership, qualities Gibbs values highly and has a proven ability to adapt; Saunders is his sixth offensive coordinator in six years.

Gibbs has raved about Campbell at every opportunity, even going so far as to say he would have been comfortable playing Campbell last season had the need arisen.

Obviously, until Campbell takes snaps in a regular season game there will be some question about the gap between his promise and the measurable results. Nevertheless, Campbell will benefit from another year under the tutelage of Brunell and has a top-notch coaching staff to guide him.

Look for Campbell to get significant time in training camp and preseason. In the NFL, a backup is one strange play away from starting and Redskins fans can rest assured that Gibbs will do everything he can to be certain Campbell is ready.

It is easy to overlook Todd Collins, his resume is not going to jump out at anyone and he has flown under the radar as an understudy to Trent Green in Kansas City for the past seven seasons.

So what’s to like about him? One word: knowledge.

The offense Saunders is importing is complicated; it relies on timing and precision and is a nuanced and multi-faceted attack. Collins knows that offense and he knows it extremely well.

His ability as a quarterback who has studied/practiced in the offense is extremely valuable. His signing means the learning curve the team faces is much less steep than it would be sans his presence. It also gives the team the ability to immediately plug him into games, should the need arise, without the worries of a knowledge gap.

Teaching the offense to two quarterbacks is plenty of work, having no experience with the Saunders system might have proven disastrous.

So while Collins is not likely to see a lot of playing time, any knowledgeable Redskins fan should see his presence as a positive one.

-Stephen Zorio

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Stephen Zorio

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp | Washington Commanders

Q and A with Cory Raymer

While at Redskins Training Camp, THN caught up with one of it’s favorite players and one of the funniest Washington Redskins to interview — Cory Raymer. Always engaging and entertaining, we were happy to talk with him again. It was just a couple of days after the Baltimore scrimmage where he appeared to have been injured:

THN: Cory, you looked hurt on Saturday and yet you’re already back out here, was it serious or are you just toughing it out?

Cory: (Points to his side) Actually I tore my left love handle.

(Both laugh)

THN: Do you have to work your right love handle to compensate for that?

Cory: No not really. Actually it’s always been like that, my left love handle has always been bigger anyway if you look close enough.

(Both laugh again)

Cory: Seriously, I’m fine… I just had the wind knocked out of me.

THN: How has camp with the other Wisconny boy (Casey Rabach) been?

Cory: It’s going good.

THN: You guys haven’t had a chance to get out hunting yet?

Cory: Not yet, hopefully in the fall. But it’s good to reminisce with each other.

THN: Did you guys know each other before?

Cory: No we didn’t actually. Not at all, we had met here and there but that’s about it. When we played against each other in Baltimore and stuff like that. But yeah, it’s going well between us.

THN: Now I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about hockey a little bit…. what do you think about the hockey strike being over?

Cory: It’s good… now I can go to sleep every night. We watch it every night going to bed… so I hope they got what they wanted and I think they did which is good.

THN: Did you side with the players or the owners?

Cory: Well I always side with the players of course. Come on. (laughs) Absolutely i hope they got what they wanted, but it’ll be fun to get back to watching some games.

THN: Do you think the players gave up too much?

Cory: Who knows… well you know what, no, because they all did it, so probably not. From what I understand a lot of them went overseas to do what they do but I’m sure a lot of them weren’t too, too sad to get the whole year off. But now they’re back into the swing of things and it should be interesting. I’m just fired up to see them get going again.

THN: But you’re still playing hockey…

Cory: Oh yeah, defiitely.

THN: I heard you were a defenseman, that’s kind of a scary thought.

Cory: Yeah I hang back a lot… I can skate backwards better than I can skate forwards.

THN: Do you got that hip check down pat?

Cory: They don’t allow me to be physical… but… you know, sometimes it just happens that way.

(both laugh)

THN: Thanks for your time Cory, best of luck this season.

Cory: My pleasure.

Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Mark Solway

Categories Posted In Archive: Training Camp | Washington Commanders