NFL team preview: Washington Redskins
The Redskins opened their first training camp under coach Mike Shanahan on July 29 at their Ashburn, Va. facility still adapting to coordinator Kyle Shanahan's version of the West Coast passing game and to new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 system, the first time the scheme has been Washington's base scheme.
There was also the weighty matter of defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth. After leaving the offseason program as soon as it began on March 15 because he wanted to play end, not nose tackle, the $100 million man stayed way even during June's mandatory minicamp, drawing the ire of such veteran leaders as linebacker London Fletcher and end Phillip Daniels. But Haynesworth reported to camp on time and having trimmed down from the 350 or so pounds he weighed during his underwhelming Washington debut season in 2009.
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However, Haynesworth couldn't pass Mike Shanahan's conditioning test -- he was the only player made to take it -- and the old-school coach vs. it's all about me player standoff intensified. Haynesworth finally passed the test and joined his teammates in practice on Aug. 7. He soon even seemed to enjoy Haslett's defense, but when he left practice on Aug. 16 and didn't return the next two days because of hydration issues, he and Shanahan were at odds again, especially when the two-time All Pro tackle with Tennessee didn't play until the second half on Aug. 21 against Baltimore.
But Haynesworth went in for the fourth snap six days later against the
However, it's too early to say if the rift is finally healed or how Haynesworth will react if he opens the season as a backup or is asked to play extensively at nose. Whether those events occur is partly in the hands, or more aptly, the Achilles tendon, of Maake Kemoeatu, whom the Redskins hope can man the nose after missing all of 2009 for Carolina with that injury. Kemoeatu has seemed to favor the Achilles at times this summer and hasn't been much of a force inside.
Washington's defense also began camp not sure whether: newcomer Adam Carriker or holdover Phillip Daniels would start at left end -- it's Carriker -- ; Andre Carter could make a smooth enough transition to outside linebacker to hold off the versatile Lorenzo Alexander -- Carter has -- and if rising safety Kareem Moore could beat out the more experienced Reed Doughty and Chris Horton to start next to LaRon Landry -- Moore did but had his right knee scoped on Aug. 23 and is out another three to five weeks.
On offense, the Redskins went to camp still searching for a receiver to start opposite Santana Moss, their top wideout the past five years. Malcolm Kelly, who opened 2009 in that role, was laid low by a hamstring, and the only candidate to step up has been 2009 practice squad member Anthony Armstrong so 38-year-old Joey Galloway will likely get first crack at the job. Devin Thomas, Kelly's fellow 2008 second-rounder, continues to be an enigma, following a long touchdown catch with a couple of drops.
The news has been better for Trent Williams. The fourth pick overall has looked good at left tackle save for a bad night against Ravens Pro Bowl pass rusher Terrell Suggs. The other big question for the revamped offensive line is whether Jammal Brown, the two-time Pro Bowl left tackle acquired from New Orleans in June, was fully recovered from the hip surgery that cost him the 2009 season and whether he could make a smooth return to right tackle where he hadn't played since 2005. The answers have been less conclusive for Brown than for Williams.
Clinton Portis, Washington's No. 1 back the past six years, went to camp still in that spot after a solid spring, but free-agent signee Larry Johnson had actually looked better and a third former 1,200-yard runner Willie Parker was also in the mix to start. Portis was fine in limited duty before spraining an ankle against the Jets, but Johnson and Parker were both awful in their chances to start although the former redeemed himself with a strong finish against New York.
New quarterback Donovan McNabb, the longtime Philadelphia starter, was inconsistent in camp and in the first two preseason games before a sprained left ankle against the Ravens cost him the final two weeks of the summer and blunted the chemistry he had begun to establish with 2005 Pro Bowl pick Moss and tight end Chris Cooley, who was chosen for Hawaii in 2007 and 2008.
COACHING: Mike Shanahan, 17th year (154-103), 1st with Redskins.
REMEMBERING: 2009 record: 4-12 (last in NFC East).
PREDICTING: 2010 regular-season record: 7-9 (last in NFC East).
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Redskins traded sixth-round TE/FB Dennis Morris to St. Louis for a conditional draft pick on Aug. 30 and then acquired Rams fifth-round LB Hall Davis that day for a conditional selection in a swap of disappointing draft choices. Washington cut Davis the next day along with G Edwin Williams (four games, two starts as a rookie FA in 2009); S Lendy Holmes (eight games as a rookie FA in 2009) and LS James Dearth (a longtime Jet signed on Aug. 8 as a spur to young LS Nick Sundberg).
--QB Donovan McNabb will miss a second straight preseason game Thursday at Arizona with a sprained left ankle but is hopeful for the Sept. 12 opener against Dallas.
--RB Clinton Portis won't face the Cardinals after spraining an ankle in the Aug. 27 game against the Jets but is hopeful for the opener.
--FS Kareem Moore is recovering from the Aug. 23 scope on his right knee that is expected to sideline him 4-6 weeks.
--LB Perry Riley was wearing a walking boot on his injured right foot during Tuesday's practice. The rookie won't play at Arizona but seems likely to make the team.
--RB Ryan Torain will start at Arizona. It will be Torain's first start since Nov. 6, 2008 when the then-rookie tore an ACL while playing for Denver.
DRAFT PICKS TO STICK
Rd. 1/4, OT Trent Williams, Oklahoma -- A starter at left tackle from the day he arrived, the first-team All-American has displayed quick feet and good recovery skills. A worthy replacement for retired six-time Pro Bowl pick Chris Samuels.
Rd. 4/103, ILB Perry Riley, LSU -- A consistent presence with the second-team, Riley made veteran Chris Draft expendable. Led team with seven tackles and recovered fumble in Aug. 27 victory at Jets.
Rd. 7/219, WR Terrence Austin, UCLA -- Missed OTAs because of UCLA's June graduation but could win a job after following 14-yard punt return vs. Jets with three catches for 34 yards on subsequent drive.
UNIT BY UNIT ANALYSIS
Since owner Dan Snyder foolishly soured on 4,000-yard passer/1999 NFC East champion Brad Johnson in 2000, the Redskins started nine quarterbacks from the too-bitter Jeff George to the too-nice Jason Campbell. A decade later, Washington finally has a big-time quarterback and leader again in McNabb, who had one of his best years for the Eagles in 2009. McNabb, who played in a similar offense to coordinator Kyle Shanahan's the past 11 years in Philadelphia, should certainly be an upgrade over the inconsistent Campbell even though he'll be 34 in November and didn't have a great summer.
Former Bears starter Grossman, who learned the offense with the 2009 Texans, is the backup and has had a better preseason than McNabb. Beck, the one-time Miami starter acquired from Baltimore in August, has the edge over practice squad journeyman Bartel for the No. 3 job if the Redskins keep three. Coach Mike Shanahan often went with just two quarterbacks in Denver.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Clinton Portis, FB Mike Sellers. Backups -- Larry Johnson, Willie Parker, Ryan Torain, Keiland Williams, FB Carey Davis, FB Darrel Young.
Portis, whom Shanahan traded to Washington in 2004 because of a contract dispute that followed two spectacular seasons in Denver, led the NFL in rushing at midseason 2008. Johnson was a stud for Kansas City in 2005-06. Parker was an ace for Pittsburgh from 2005-07. Trouble is that was then and this is now. Portis, who'll be 29 in September, was slumping before missing the second half of 2009 with a concussion. Johnson, who'll be 31 in November, was a disgruntled backup last year. So was Parker, who'll be 30 in November. Johnson had the best offseason but Portis still went to camp as the starter and tightened his grip on the job in preseason during which the Redskins really struggled on the ground. Parker, who has shown the least, will have a hard time since he's the least accomplished receiver and blocker.
Torain, who played for Shanahan in Denver, could be the young, change-of-pace back unless that's rookie free agent Keiland Williams, who has had a fine preseason. Sellers went to the Pro Bowl in 2007. August pickup Davis, a former Steeler, could make the team unless Shanahan decides to keep just one fullback active and puts converted linebacker Young on the practice squad. Shanahan's running game with the Broncos was the NFL's best from 1995-2008.
The goofy but productive Cooley was coming off consecutive Pro Bowls when he suffered a season-ending broken ankle in Week 7 of 2009. Davis, a bust as a rookie in 2008, took over and sparkled, giving McNabb two prime weapons in new coordinator Kyle Shanahan's West Coast passing attack that worked so well the past two years in Houston. Neither the well-traveled Vickers nor Paulsen has done much in preseason to win a job other than on the practice squad.
The undersized Moss is still a reliable target at 31 but has never quite recaptured the form that made him a Pro Bowl pick during his 2005 Redskins debut. What's more, Moss missed most of the spring following knee surgery and is embroiled in the human growth hormone case surrounding a Canadian doctor and could still face an NFL suspension. Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, both second-round draft choices from 2008, shared the other starting job last year but Kelly's on injured reserve with a hamstring and Thomas has had another disappointing summer.
Ex-star Galloway is 38 and had just 20 catches in 12 games the past two years but is the likely opening day No. 2. Williams, who didn't play the past two seasons, has had a more productive summer than Wade, who had 89 catches in 2008-09. Armstrong, a practice squad member in 2009, has had the best preseason with seven catches for 101 yards to win a job. He could be joined by swift seventh-rounder Austin. Banks is super-quick and elusive but is just 5-foot-7. He has a shot to stick unlike fellow rookie free agent Hodge.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Trent Williams, LG Derrick Dockery, C Casey Rabach, RG Artis Hicks, RT Jammal Brown. Backups -- T Stephon Heyer, G Chad Rinehart, G Kory Lichtensteiger, G/C Will Montgomery, T William Robinson, T Clint Oldenburg, C/G Erik Cook. T Selvish Capers.
At midseason 2008, the Redskins' ground game was on fire, but age and injuries caught up to that line, with Rabach the only survivor. Fourth pick overall Trent Williams has looked good so far as he tries to replace six-time Pro Bowl pick Chris Samuels as the blind side pass protector. Dockery, who returned in 2009 after two years in Buffalo, is serviceable which was better than the line's right side last season. That outlook changed dramatically with the June trade for two-time Pro Bowl pick Brown. If he is fully recovered from hip surgery and can adjust back to right tackle which he hasn't played in five years, he's a huge upgrade over 2009 starter Heyer.
Brown's arrival moved versatile free agent signee Hicks inside. Rinehart, a third-rounder in 2008, has been a disappointment and could be cut. So could Montgomery, who started three games in 2009, one fewer than Rinehart. Robinson has shown enough to win the fourth tackle spot over Oldenburg and seventh-rounder Capers. Lichtensteiger, chosen by Shanahan during his final Denver draft, knows the coach's famed zone blocking scheme, could also make it over seventh-rounder Cook. Capers and Cook could wind up on the practice squad.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LDE Adam Carriker, NT Maake Kemoeatu, RDE Albert Haynesworth. Backups -- DE Kedric Golston, DE Phillip Daniels, DE Vonnie Holliday, NT Howard Green, DE Darrion Scott, NT Anthony Bryant, DE Jeremy Jarmon.
Much depends on the talented but selfish and moody Haynesworth. After blowing off the offseason, including the mandatory minicamp, he reported on time but out of shape and then criticized how he was being used and treated. If Haynesworth settles in to a right end/nose tackle rotation, then the front seven of new coordinator Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme could be effective. Carriker, Daniels, Golston and Kemoeatu are all run-stoppers first. Veterans Holliday and Scott and youngster Jarmon, returning from a torn ACL suffered last November, are more pass rushers. Green, like Carriker, played for Haslett elsewhere but hasn't shown much this summer. Neither has Bryant, who was drafted by Redskins general manager Bruce Allen in Tampa Bay.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WOLB Andre Carter, WILB Rocky McIntosh, SILB London Fletcher, SOLB Brian Orakpo. Backups -- OLB Lorenzo Alexander, OLB Chris Wilson, ILB H.B. Blades, ILB Robert Henson, ILB Perry Riley, OLB Rob Jackson, OLB Curtis Gatewood.
The 3-4 scheme should suit the athletic Orakpo, a standout as a rookie in 2009. Fletcher, who switches from the middle, was chosen for his first Pro Bowl at 34 after leading the NFL in tackles the past 11 years. Fletcher is also the leader of the defense, on and off the field. Former weak side starter McIntosh, a sure tackler, doesn't excel in pass coverage. That was also true of Carter when San Francisco went to a 3-4 in 2005. However, he has looked more comfortable in Haslett's version of the scheme. Alexander, who has played on both lines for Washington, has taken to linebacker with aplomb, pushing Carter to raise his game in order to remain in the lineup. Pass rusher Wilson made the move from end to linebacker last year that the little-used Jackson is trying to make now. The undersized Blades is a survivor. Fourth-rounder Riley had looked good until injuring his right foot against the Jets and could beat 2009 sixth-rounder Henson. Journeyman Gatewood has been cut six times since signing with Washington as a rookie free agent in 2008.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Carlos Rogers, RCB DeAngelo Hall, SS LaRon Landry, FS Kareem Moore. Backups -- CB Phillip Buchanon, S Reed Doughty, S Chris Horton, CB Justin Tryon, CB Byron Westbrook, CB Ramzee Robinson, CB Kevin Barnes, S Tyrone Carter, S Anderson Russell.
Rogers, who's in the final year of his contract again, is much happier under Haslett after clashing with ex-coordinator Greg Blache in 2008 and 2009. Hall hasn't been the standout expected from his Atlanta tenure, especially against the run, but he's the secondary's lone serious ballhawk and had two interceptions in the first three preseason games. Free-agent pickup Buchanon replaces the departed Fred Smoot as the nickel corner. Tryon was much improved in 2009 after a dreadful rookie year but he hasn't been as impressive this summer as Robinson, claimed off waivers in June. Barnes saw little time as a third-rounder in 2009. He and 2007 undrafted rookie Westbrook are in serious jeopardy of being released.
Landry, who missed the final month of the spring with an ailing toe, moves back to strong safety where his hard hitting is a plus and his lack of interceptions is less of a minus. Moore was looking like Landry's most natural partner since the late Sean Taylor in 2007 until having his right knee scoped on Aug. 23. Until Moore returns, Doughty and Horton, who shared the spot next to Landry the past two seasons, will do so again. That is unless August signee Carter, who knows the 3-4 from his Pittsburgh tenure, looks good enough to force his way onto the field. Rookie free agent Russell is practice squad material.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Graham Gano, P Josh Bidwell, LS Nick Sundberg, KR Thomas, KR Torain, PR Buchanon, PR Moss, PR Hall, KR Austin, KR/PR Banks.
Gano did enough in his four games as a rookie with Washington in 2009 and this spring to go to camp as the only kicker. He was 3-for-4 on field goals during the first three preseason games. Bidwell, who played for Allen in Tampa Bay, succeeds another proven veteran, Hunter Smith. Sundberg hasn't played a regular season snap but he responded well to the August signing of longtime Jets snapper James Dearth, who was cut on Aug. 31. The diminutive Banks returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown in the preseason opener. He and Thomas, who supplanted the solid but unspectacular Rock Cartwright late last year, also each muffed a return.
Austin was a standout return man at UCLA. Buchanon is supposed to succeed the very disappointing Antwaan Randle El on punt returns but didn't have a chance during the first three preseason games. Moss and Hall are pinch-hitters, not regulars. Blades and Doughty lead the usually stellar coverage units which haven't been nearly as good in preseason.