Sunday, August 10, 2008

It Is What It Is: A Good Looking Preseason Win


Takeaway drill: First team offense looks good; first team defense looks good; more preseason football that looks like preseason football; many other players stand out; no injuries


Monday Sunday Walkthrough: the Redskins look good when it counts and don't look terrible when it doesn't, beat the Bills 17-14 to move to 2-0 in Jim Zorn's first preseason. The Redskins looked good when it counted, all the starters looked good, offense and defense.

After team introductions, the first quarter started inauspiciously with Marcus Mason getting a chance to return the opening kickoff and fumbling it over to the Bills. The starters played two series and done. The first team defense played well and actually moved the Bills backwards on their second drive. At one point Mike Patrick, calling the game with Joe Theismann, said the Redskins were moving the ball easily but frustratingly unable to score. Yep I thought that pretty much sums up the Redskins. After the Bill's field goal on the opening drive and four straight Clinton Portis runs from inside the Bill's five ending with a 4th down TD the quarter ended 7-3 Redskins lead.

The Bills had the ball to start the second quarter and punted it right away. The Redskins took the ball back and on the eight play of the drive Todd Collins threw a short swing pass right to Ladell Betts who stayed with the play, getting excellent downfield blocks from Jason Fabini and Marcus Mason scored from 12 yards out. A long Bills drive ended with a field goal, the defense on this 12 play drive was pretty bendy. The next Redskins drive ended with Todd Collins throwing a brainfart pass, over the head of Maurice Mann and behind Billy McMullen for an INT. Two plays later the Bills score on a passing TD and get the two point conversion, more weak defense here. The Redskins got the ball back and the half ended tied at 14.

The game suddenly morphed in the third quarter from well played first teamers and slightly stumbling second stringers to a more sloppy preseason format. Bills tailback Dwayne Wright fumbled the ball and newcomer linebacker Alfred Fincher picked it up, the Redskins get a field goal out of it to break the tie. Colt Brennan played the whole quarter and looked more like the NFL rookie some haters are calling him. Not a terrible outing for Colt, 4 of 8 for 37 yards. The action slowed and the quarter ended 17-14 Redskins.

No scoring in the fourth quarter as both teams went through their depth charts. With 10:07 left in regulation the Redskins got the ball back and went on a long drive punctuated by 11 Marcus Mason carries in 16 plays, nearly 10 minutes of game time later the Redskins turned it over on downs at the Buffalo 1 yard line, with 27 seconds to get into field goal range to tie the game Bills last string QB Matt Baker could not get it done and the game ended, Redskins win 17-14.


Soapbox: Ladell Betts, Antwaan Randle El, Todd Collins, Billy McMullen, these are the players that had the best games. Clinton Portis, Colt Brennan and Derek Devine are not. Ladell had a great 12 yard run right through the defense in the first quarter and an excellent catch and TD run from Todd Collins, juking his way into the end zone past two tackles.

Marcus Mason, who many of us have been writing about lately had a huge chance last night to show why he belongs on the team. The top three tailbacks are established though Rock Cartwright is not an every down option in the back field so it is really Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts and if neither of those guys is available then the Redskins are in bad shape so for Marcus Mason to bring the point home he needs to be a special teams contributor which we have not seen much of. He took the opening kickoff and fumbled it away. He had another kickoff return, a long run and had 80 yards on 16 carries so he acquitted himself, that's still not a great way to try and crack a tight roster at your spot. Overall though his night running the ball makes him look more like an NFL back. Jason La Canfora agrees with me that he will be hard to stash on the practice squad this year, someone will scoop him up (other teams can make a move to sign a player off a team's practice squad, at which point the team must either promote the player to the regular roster or lose the player to the inquiring team).

The starting defense looked good, after Marcus' fumble the Washington defense held the Bills to a field goal and Buffalo actually went backwards on their second drive.

There was a story that maybe Jim Zorn would swap quarterbacks Colt Brennan and Todd Collins, putting Colt with the second team and Todd with the third in the pursuit of seeing what Colt could do with better teammates and against a better defense. Did not happen. We will obsess on and break down this non happening with extreme prejudice all week.

The non starter portions of this game looked more like typical preseason play. Todd Collins and the second stringers were less consistent though still well put together on offense and defense and although Todd threw a bad interception in the second quarter that was just a bad read on a play and not somehow indicative of Todd Collins' inability to absorb this system.

Have there been any offensive procedural penalties so far in two games? Any false starts or illegal shifts? I believe there have not though I am not certain.

Apparently most quarterbacks that move on to coaching do not fare well. I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that as the football prima donna they never learn to communicate adequately with the littles (a viewpoint alluded to in the piece).

How incredibly amateur the TV coverage was, production values were very low. The on screen graphics did not include down and distance. There was a phone somewhere near an open mic that rang every couple of minutes. Two of the Swarthmorons I was watching the game with have the old throwback AT&T phone ring on their mobiles and they kept looking to see if it was them. Despite Mike Patrick and Joe Theismann in the booth, two seasoned announcers, there was lots of dead air, the sounds of heavy breathing, it was not a good production and for the love of god Dan Snyder does everything have to be covered in advertising?


Chattering class: Jason La Canfora at the Washington Post, who now appears to get a post game column, writes about Todd Collins' learning curve. The most amazing thing about this piece is that Jason LaCa manages to get all the way through a column about the quarterback position and never once manages to get a Colt Brennan reference in there.

George Solomon at the WaPo draws a parallel between Sonny Jurgenson's experience at the end of his career and what is happening to Brett Favre right now, George also manages to get the Colt Brennan reference in there that Jason LaCa missed. Brett is scheduled to start next week for the Jets against the Redskins.


Omnibus: reversing last week's Hall of Fame Game, Derrick Frost got all the punts (ibid.), Durant Brooks did not play.

Jason Campbell and Todd Collins are a combined 25 for 32 for 241 yards 2 TD 1 INT in two preseason games. Not too shabby. Colt Brennan is 13 for 18 for 160 yards 2 TD. Trent Edwards, the 2007 3rd round pick of the Bills that supplanted JP Losman as starter last season, was a pretty weak 1 for 5 against most of the Redskins first team defense. JP looked much better, going 7 for 9 with a TD pass. Yes that was former Redskin Gibran Hamdan in there at third string for Buffalo, when Steve Spurrier was coach in 2003 the Redskins used a seventh round pick on Gibran from Indiana University, he never caught on and the team cut him before the start of the 2004 season.

Shawn Springs played some at safety (op. cit.), this after having said hell no to the idea back in April. Shawn is now quote hopeful unquote to play the position in an effort to extend his career. He damns that safety position with faint praise, I am sure that was inadvertent. His moving to safety caused Leigh Torrence to move to corner opposite Fred Smoot and rookie Justin Tryon moved into Leigh's nickel back spot. It was after Todd Collins' interception that JP Losman and receiver James Hardy beat Leigh for a 16 yard touchdown (both op. cit.).

Defensive end Jason Taylor made his Redskins debut last night, he was obviously intimidating the Bills offensive line, which committed two false starts while he was in the game.

Other injuries and such: Lorenzo Alexander aka Scarface rolled his ankle but was fine. Antwaan Randle El had X-rays on his wrist but he's fine as well. Receiver Anthony Mix took a shot in the ribs from Nehemiah Broughton, early X-rays were negative (all from here) though late reporting today indicates he does have a broken rib, that will hurt him in his training camp competition with Billy McMullen (Wahoowa!) for the 11th receiver spot.

LaRon Landry did not play, his hammy was still hurty, he is scheduled to play next week against the Jets.

In an interview before the game pesudo GM Vinny Cerrato reported that rookie safety Chris Horton had a colon infection (ibid.). He did not play last night.

There are two number 23s on the Redskins right now and two number 46s. The 23s are Marcus Mason and safety Justin Hamilton, who forced a Bills fumble in the third quarter . The 46s are Ladell Betts and the new linebacker Alfred Fincher, who scooped up the fumble that Justin Hamilton forced.

It happened again only this time it was the Bills that did it. Deep into the Redskins' final drive of the game at the end of the fourth quarter the Bills tried to call consecutive timeouts, a rules violation committed by Joe Gibbs last season and that led to the Redskins losing the Sean Taylor game, also the last regular season game they lost on their way to a 4-0 finish and the playoffs. The second timeout was not granted by the official which I guess is a way of saying the ref said no you can't have it, in the Redskins case last season it is specifically against the rules to try and ice the kicker with consecutive timeouts from the kicking formation. Personally all the parsing of rules for specific context is a bit pedantic, either make it ok to call two timeouts in a row or don't.


Zorn Addiction: Jim Zorn continues to impress me, this is a guy that has never called plays at the NFL level much less run a team. Things will get dicey once the 24 hour a day season starts, up to this point coach Zorn handles himself like a guy that was ready for the gig. Coach was booed for the first time last night, in the third quarter when electing for the field goal instead of going for the first down.

Shooter: Jason Campbell played well for the second straight game. Good patience in the pocket, smooth delivery, open receivers. You can tell from looking at him that he is trying his darndest to make this team his.

Coltrolled: Colt Brennan did not get the shot at the number two QB slot last night as was rumored the previous day, and even commented on by Colt himself, he played the third quarter and was not as outstanding as he was in the HoF Game last week, this was to be expected.

Washington Post recap (AP recap also at WaPo), box score, play by play (not available in preseason), photo gallery. NFL recap, box score, full play by play, photos, Gamebook (PDF).

Jamie Mottram at Mr. Irrelevant has winners and losers. David Warner at Riggo's Rag recap, Gavin, in for the vacationing Lee Gibbons at The Redskin Report thinks Jason Campbell did enough last night to go back ahead of Colt Brennan in the quarterback competition. Greg Trippiedi at Hog Heaven liveblogged the game. So did Rich Tandler at Real Redskins. The liveblog software thing is pretty cool, I might try it out since I do the liveblog as often as I can.

Mark Newgent at DC Redskins Examiner was at the game, Mark sorry we could not get it together, Mark and I plan to take in at least one game together this season and we will try and pimp it out for a meet up for readers and writers. After another gratuitous Colt Brennan reference Mark becomes the latest to remind us once again that number 5 was also Heath Shuler's number (op. cit). If Colt does not turn out to be the greatest thing since internet porn that history of number 5 will get hung around his neck like a lei.

Next opponent: Brett Favre and the New York Jets in preseason game three. That's right kids you heard me, Brett Favre and the NEW YORK JETS, Saturday 16 August at 7pm at Giants Stadium.

Marcus Mason fumbling the opening kickoff return: Preston Keres / Washington Post from here. Brett Favre uncredited image from teh internets.