Saturday, July 31, 2010

Redskins Training Camp Day Two: The Silver and Back

Just fit in baby

Friday 30 July 2010 | Forty-four days until kickoff

Though real news of players and performance began trickling through on day two of the Redskins 2010 training camp in Ashburn, two stories dominated coverage, both about guys making a lot of money and in totally different places right now.

First Redskins fans awoke to learn that presumed left tackle rookie number four overall pick Trent Williams aka Silverback had ended negotiations and signed with the team, it happened in the wee hours, around 4:30 am, Trent's agents and the team agreed to a six year, 60 million dollar deal that features 36.5 million dollars guaranteed. Trent, already not sleeping well in anticipation of this moment, was at Redskins Park by 6:00 am to sign the deal and get to work (op. cit.).

This story parallels last year's latenight signing of first round pick hybrid defensive endbacker Brian Orakpo following the first day of camp, hopefully as with Brian having Trent in camp this early will bode well for his conditioning, performance and spot on the depth chart. Trent was the first top five pick from the 2010 draft to sign, though by the time I could fact check this, number five pick safety Eric Berry had signed with the Titans. All the top picks will now fall into place with a market set by Trent. Trent went right to work and practiced with his teammates, today...

...Which is more than can be said about defensive slash nose tackle Albert Haynesworth.

After failing his first conditioning test on day one of camp due to a potty break then being forced to suffer the humiliation of lining up alone opposite overturned trashcans, Albert came loaded for bear on day two... and failed the test again and was barred from practicing with the team at large. Cue game show fail music, wanh-wah.

This time there was no potty break, he did not fall for that one, this time Albert missed the time by one second, coming in at 71 seconds on the first set of twelve twenty-five yard shuttles, he needed to do it in 70 seconds and as such there was no opportunity to run the second half of the test.

Albert will get a third attempt, Saturday morning, to pass the test.

We will find out soon if this is purely procedural, if it is vindictive on coach Shanahan's part or if three times is enough groveling for Albert to join the team, coach Shanahan seemed to indicate that he is fine with Albert taking the test every day until he passes (op. cit.), when asked about it again at the end of the second day coach said he was done talking about it. Albert obviously thinks it is all bullshit, he told NBC 4 in Washington that he was quote tired of this shit (op. cit.), and that was after failing only one test.

As indicated at the top, there was other news of the team. Receiver Malcolm Kelly, who hurt his hamstring at Hell Week in Arizona with quarterback Donovan McNabb then surprised me and others by going full speed on day one of camp, was slowed by the hammy today (op. cit.). The Redskins, perhaps more or less like any other NFL team, I have no idea, have had a problem in recent years with players suffering strained hammys in camp and having them linger all year. Of course Malcolm Kelly is a borderline NFL player so maybe it is not surprising.

Too early to make a sourpuss prediction, Malcolm is a guy that cannot afford to miss any time. He and fellow underperforming receiver Devin Thomas have started camp as not-starters, with 38 year old Joey Galloway and 2005 fourth round pick Roydell Williams tied for one spot with Santana Moss firmly in the other. It is of note that while the Redskins traded their 2008 first round pick to set up the second round picks of Malcolm and Devin, Roydell's career statistics in five seasons are not even one season's worth of production for Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Wes Welker, Steve Smith, Hines Ward or Roddy White. Frickin Roddy White!

Presumptive right tackle Jammal Brown, acquired in trade from New Orleans in June, has a new position, right tackle. In looking at that sentence I did not adequately communicate the core concept so let us try again: Two time Pro Bowl left tackle Jammal Brown is now a right tackle. For the life of me I cannot figure out why Trent Williams, a right tackle in college is now on the left and Jammal is on the right. Maybe both will line up in both places, maybe performance will dictate, maybe the talent guys know what they are talking about. Seems to me whether you have a rookie or a veteran that you have an easier time leaving a guy at his natural spot if is better than average at that spot BUT WHAT THE HELL DO I KNOW I'M JUST A BLOGGER.

Meanwhile out in Oakland, former Redskin Jason Campbell has been named the Raiders starting quarterback, no word on whether head coach Tom Cable has yet tried to break Jason's jaw, this Q&A with Jason, recorded after he was traded but before he reported to camp, shows a guy in the dumps, bummed about doing his best, doing his part and still being misunderstood. Good luck to Jason and we will be following his AFC West exploits with great interest.

Newly signed rookie tackle Trent Williams signing autographs on day two of Redskins training camp: Getty Images from here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Redskins Training Camp Day One: Taking In the Garbage

Don't forget the [excuse] recycling

Today Curly R begins coverage of its fifth Redskins season, yes we have been here since 2006, we will bring you daily roundups of camp activity, if there is something I missed, drop it in comments or shoot me a note.


Thursday 29 July 2010 | Forty-five days until kickoff

The Washington Redskins began the 2010 season today, and there was news. Not like 2009's first day of camp when number thirteen overall pick hybrid defensive endbacker Brian Orakpo ended contract negotiations and signed with the team late in the day, this year we had no such luck with number four overall pick [projected] left tackle Trent Williams, who as of midnight Thursay had not signed.

Also not like 2008's first day of camp when defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Alex Buzbee both suffered season ending injuries and Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato engineered a hurried trade of second round and sixth round picks to the Miami Dolphins for defensive end Jason Taylor, that turned out to be such a bad move in the grand scheme that when I saw a guy wearing a number fifty-five Taylor jersey in the DC Metro last month I wondered if I should give him my Uno's leftovers.

The second biggest story of training camp day one was actually a story from before training camp opened. Third year receiver Malcolm Kelly, a guy in definite need of a good season, hurt his hamstring at Hell Week out in Arizona last week with quarterback Donovan McNabb, and was expected to miss at least a day, maybe two of practice. This is of course a big bummer for Malcolm, a guy the Redskins drafted injured, struggled in year one, had surgery in the offseason after not playing much, entered year two with some really put-on OMG HES GOINH TO BE SO AWSUM hype that saw him win the starting spot then lose it to fellow underachiever Devin Thomas. Malcolm is a suspect route runner and I have no sense that head coach Mike Shanahan believes Malcolm will be anything more than just a guy. He ended the day practicing, I wonder if that was because his leg was better or if Malcolm cowboyed up and went in, competition can make you heal fast.

In offensive line news, as expected the team placed right guard slash right tackle and former 400 pound man Mike Williams on injured reserve, Mike was diagnosed early this month with blood clots near his heart and will be on blood thinners for the immediate future, the heart is nothing to fuck with and football or no football I hope Mike takes care of himself and is ok, and if he is cleared to play football again next season or in the future, we will welcome him back to the fray.

But BY FAR the most compelling story of training camp day one was of course Albert Haynesworth. Mister twenty one million dollar check waltzed into Ashburn Wednesday after missing the entire offseason program except for the day he stopped by to say he was going to miss the entire offseason program which does not really count as attending, he has lost either thirty five or forty pounds, depending on who you ask, this photo appears to show a trimmer lardass, as do these two from Dan Dan the Sports Bog Man.

Once he realized he was not going to be traded, Albert resigned himself to showing up and playing, and just hoping for the best. And he got it all right, fans have a new milestone and answer to the future trivia question, Who was the first Redskins player to get the Mike Shanahan treatment?

Albert showed up, and coach Shanahan said we need you to run a little conditioning test, no big deal, if you are as in shape as we have been hearing all offseason from third parties then you will have no problems: two shuttle runs, each series of sprints of differing lengths and objectives totaling three hundred yards. Albert pass the first test then, and get this, asked for a potty break between tests.

When he came back from the potty, he discovered his results from the first test were void and he had to run both tests again and was unable to pass the test on the second try. I read this today and split my sides, join me:

What was the potty break? To puke? To go and vapor lock in private? To take a dump?

Did Albert know that taking a break between tests would result in negating the first run, thereby requiring him to run both again? Because I am betting he did not.

Ostensibly the reason Albert had to take these tests, and no one else today ran this test, was because Albert missed every chance he would have had in the offseason program to run. According to the coaches, every other player took this test at some point in the offseason and passed it (op. cit.), meaning even though it looks like Albert was being singled out, Albert was actually the one to single himself out. Apparently Albert and coach Shanahan exchanged words after Albert was assigned the failing grade (ibid.).

Wait it gets better. Failing the test rendered him ineligible to practice with his teammates (op. cit.). But Albert did not sit on his big hands, oh no idle hands are the devil's tools, he got direct reps with defensive line coach Jacob Burney... lining up against overturned trashcans!

You read that right, look again at the image above, Albert was not even allowed to have tackling sleds, the coaches turned five trashcans over, each one representing an offensive lineman, and made Albert walk through his putative assignments against trashcans. And from the image above, you can see on that particular play that Albert is in the nose tackle position.

Whether this will continue into day two and beyond I cannot say, what I can say is that Albert showed up and tried to be cool and do his thing and Mike Shanahan made sure Albert's first day back with the team was spent in public humiliation. Albert will get to take the conditioning test again Friday.

Never forget AH also stands for asshat.

Albert Haynesworth and defensive line coach Jacob Burney: John McDonnell / Washington Post from here.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Donovan's Not Mark Rypien, and Jason Was Not Jeff George - Part Two


Donovan McNabb is in town, this is really actually happening, and 2010 training camp starts today. This is a time for Redskins fans to rejoice every year, and this season there may be a team for us to be proud of no matter the record. Win or lose, Redskins fans never forget. Curly R's two part series on Donovan McNabb and Redskins history concludes.

Part One: More Than One Way to Lead
Part Two: Compared to What


In a Washington Examiner piece by longtime Redskins writer Rick Snider, Rick writes about a new quarterback leadership in town with the arrival of Donovan McNabb, a type of leadership Jason Campbell was incapable of demonstrating, that Clinton Portis' criticism of Jason was unfortunate but inevitable in the face of Jason's resolute stay medium approach to the game.

Then it gets even more jumbled in Rick's piece, he trots out Mark Rypien, and also revives the ghost of Jeff George, even if Rick's intentions were not direct, the effect of the second half of his Examiner piece is to draw the parallel between Donovan McNabb and Mark Rypien, and another between Jason Campbell and Jeff George. I think as an exercise in tugging the emotions this works, as a series of football analogies it does not.

Rick writes,

Mark Rypien was a decent quarterback with a great team around him. He led the Redskins to the 1991 championship and was named Super Bowl MVP because teammates knew Rypien could win late.

Jeff George was a much better passer than Rypien -- not even close skills-wise. But teammates hated George so much in 2000 that no one came to his defense when he was dragged by the Dallas Cowboys after a sack. His linemen saw it and didn't care. If that happened to Rypien, the game would have been delayed 20 minutes for fighting and the entire offensive line would have been ejected. (op. cit.)

That Redskins team, the 1991 team, was built to play with a lead and had a defense designed to force opposing quarterbacks into bad decisions, such as the 3 November 1991 game against the Oilers that the Redskins surely would have lost without Darrell Green's late interception of Warren Moon. Most of them though were big Redskins wins.

More typical of Mark Rypien's performance in a tight spot was the Redskins second playoff game in 1992, the Redskins had backed into the playoffs at 9-7 and beaten the Redskins lookalike Minnesota Vikings and headed to San Francisco. Mark threw a critical interception and botched a handoff to Brian Mitchell late in the game, it all came down to Washington needing a touchdown to tie, first and eighty from the Redskins 20 with ninety seconds left in the game. Washington spent forty seconds going twenty yards then it was fourth down and the game was over before the Redskins even crossed midfield. Why? How?

Because Mark Rypien was not a stretch leader and the Redskins were not known for their two minute offense, this Redskins team had never really had one. A no huddle offense designed to tire out the defense and keep the clock running, yes. A quick strike two minute offense with well oiled plays designed to play against opposing weaknesses, no.

So when you say Mark Rypien's teammates knew he could win the game late, what you really mean is that the defense kept the Redskins in tight games late and the offense was out there hoping to hit a long one or make something happen. Hardly the stuff of legends, working the huddle, sacrificing the body and playing sandlot ball for two minutes. That was not Mark's game.

As for the Jeff George reference, if I take that at face value then Rick is comparing the time Jeff was sacked and dragged fifteen yards downfield by Dallas defensive tackle Alonzo Spellman in December of 2000, no Redskins players came to his aid and the game continued, to the time Clinton Portis broke bad on Jason Campbell in a radio interview. And there are some similarities.

First though it is a bad analogy simply because it draws a parallel between a game situation and a non game situation, and a friendly fire scenario at that.

Beyond that though, in 2000, Norval Turner had been fired, receivers coach Terry Robiskie had been named lame duck interim coach, the team was falling apart and morale was at a low point. In 2009, the team had fallen apart, head coach Jim Zorn had been fired before the team plane had landed following game sixteen and in the disarray of a terrible season and abject lack of leadership, the remains of the team was at a morale low point.

And that is where the comparison ends. Jeff George was a prima donna player and a locker room cancer. The very definition of a jock asshole Jeff was foisted on the team by owner Dan Snyder who just wanted to watch that cannon release. Never mind that the guy blamed every bad read and interception on the receivers and treated his teammates like assholes.

Jason Campbell on the other hand got knocked to the ground dozens of times in 2009 and every time, many times in visible pain, got up and got back to work. If there was ever a time for a player to get bitter at a team simply unable to protect their quarterback it was Jason last season.

And yet he did not, he did his job and he was not the reason for the Redskins failure.

Neither comparison is valid an inch below the surface.

I do not think I am ready to throw analogies out there for either player.

Do not take it personally Rick, your insight into Donovan McNabb's leadership qualities are spot on. And comparatively speaking you are also right about Jason Campbell, it is not in his nature to dominate his teammates, Jason has a simple philosophy that motivation should come from inside, he has it and if you do not, he cannot give it to you so you better find it or GTFO.

Jason was not the problem in recent years and an analysis of Jason's performance in isolation will show he did his job and he improved every year. If Donovan brings success to this team it will be because the Redskins are playing like a team and not a bunch of guys that are either scared for their jobs or getting paid and don't give a shit. And that will be the difference, Dono will just be a symptom.

Donovan McNabb: Detail of photo from the ORB (Official Redskins Blog) here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Donovan's Not Mark Rypien, and Jason Was Not Jeff George - Part One

Let's keep it all in perspective people

As Redskins fans count down the final hours before the opening of 2010 NFL training camp, it seems appropriate to start a conversation now about what we should regard as the future history of this team, not just how the team did, how they did against what we thought they could and should achieve. Curly R's two part series on Donovan McNabb and Redskins history begins today.

Part One: More Than One Way to Lead
Part Two: Tomorrow


How will the 2010 Washington Redskins be remembered in January 2011 and beyond? Will the realities of a sixteen game season bear out success or will Redskinsland realize optimism and the tantilizing possibility of a long term relationship with real football management made the collective think we could score a Super Bowl on the first date?

And even with Mike Shanahan at head coach and a new real actual general manager in Bruce Allen, is there a better example of an expectations rod than quarterback Donovan McNabb? Former rival, made the Redskins pay for years and years, all the guy ever wanted to do was win and stay in Philadelphia for his entire career and they would not let him, and now that he is out the door they are trashing him, it would seem Dono was best at hitting only open receivers and when he did make things happen it was not often out of the base offense. Oh to have such problems.

So Dono comes to Washington with all that experience and all that success and... what?

Is he immediately in the same class with Sonny Jurgenson and Slinging Sammy Baugh? Anyone? No?

How about Joe Theismann or Doug Williams? Any takers there?

One writer is already putting him in the class with Mark Rypien, quarterback and MVP of Super Bowl 26, the Redskins last real stab at glory. Fellow and professional writer Rick Snider wrote last week in the Washington Examiner about Donovan's natural leadership ability and how teammates are already flocking to it, with players agreeing to travel to Arizona to train with Donovan before camp.

This is not inconsequential a matter, as you will remember that the Redskins are the team famous for players that train on their own. From I Don't Know What You Did Last Summer where we discuss the shock SHOCK Joe Gibbs displayed when players did not show up for May 2007 minicamp after he agreed to let players train away from Ashburn, to two earlier Curly R pieces in February 2007 digging into that decision, Irregardless, Bad looking at it from the lens of Stan Humphries' ejection in the 1992 offseason and Revelations 53 breaking down coach Gibbs' philosophy that winning begets winning until the players call the shots, there is a rich and recent history of players not really working out with the team or much together in the offseason, so players agreeing to spend time with Donovan, away from home and in one of their last two weeks of freedom before the six month season begins, that is a big story.

What it is not is in any way an indication that former Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell was not competent enough to run an NFL offense. Rick illustrates Dono's halo effect by reminding us that Jason was good, just not an inspirational leader, and that Clinton Portis' radio interview trashing of Jason in January was really just the conscience of the team coming out.

That is total bullshit, and Rick even gets that, the top of the next paragraph in his piece reminds us that Jason had virtually no pass blocking in 2008 and 2009. The issue then seems to be that Jason's style is not of a particular type.

And while it is true that all teams need leaders, by definition the quarterback spot does not need to supply one hundred percent of that leadership. Tiki Barber mocked Eli Manning's attempt at taking charge in the huddle in 2007, by 2008 Eli was hoisting the Super Bowl trophy and no one will evar call Eli Manning a steely eyed leader of men under fire.

Ray Lewis was clearly the leader of the 2001 Ravens, quarterback Trent Dilfer ran an offense that did not score a touchdown in the month of October. Brad Johnson was not leadery enough to stick with the Redskins past 2000, by 2003 he was winning a Super Bowl on a team where Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp were the undisputed stars and leaders.

So I reject categorically the notion that Jason Campbell's personal style rendered him incapable of doing his part to win the Redskins a Super Bowl. When you have Jason Campbell on the field you are going to get an increasingly predictable performance, around which you can build a team. And the Redskins never really tried to do that. Peyton Manning, Jason will never be, neither will be ever be Jay Cutler.

If you want to examine the exact places where the Redskins needed leadership the past two years, look no further than Clinton Portis himself, that prima donna should throw fewer stones, look at the left tackle Chris Samuels, played his body into retirement, for a real leader only London Fletcher fit the suit.

Above all look at the shackles placed on the team by the horrendous performance of management: playing favorites with players, emasculating the coach, bringing in strangers and giving them total control of the offense on Sundays. The original Joe Gibbs would roll over in his football grave if he knew.

You think hard on what happened the past three seasons in Washington and tell me if Jason Campbell's lack of leadership was really the team's biggest problem. Or if it was even top five.

Donovan's Not Mark Rypien and Jason Was Not Jeff George concludes tomorrow with part two, Compared to What.

Donovan McNabb: Detail of photo from the ORB (Official Redskins Blog) here.