Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Sparty could impact my life positively

It's been a busy day for me here at The Sun. if you aren't in New York, you probably don't know about the proposed subway fare hikes that have New Yorkers big and small in an uproar. Well, I've been covering the subway beat here for awhile, so I had to go to another MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) meeting today.

But it didn't stop me from becoming prefixed on the NFL once again. This Jason Taylor trade really got me going, and I'm back into the swing of things. And when I got a chance to sit in front of a computer today, I noticed this article about the Skins offensive line from Jason La Canfora of the Washington Post (Incidentally, I met Jason at a hotel bar in Livonia, Michigan the week before the Super Bowl in 2005. Not sure if anyone actually cares about that, though).

The article goes into great detail about how injured the Skins offensive line was a year ago, and specifically the right side of Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas. And it implies that their health may be a linchpin to the success of this season. And while I agree, the success of a team does hinge an awful lot on line (cough cough notice how I was on the line in two consecutive Mudbowl victories), I think the focus on this Redskins team should turn to the outside.

I'm talking the wide receiver position. See, we're in the Jim Zorn era now, and he brings with him his usually dynamic offense from Seattle. And if you remember, the Seahawks ran a ton of West Coast style routes that largely depend on wide receivers breaking big runs after the catch. You'll also remember that the Skins had an unusual infatuation the past few years with the Mighty Mouse receivers like Santana Moss, Antwaan Randle-El, and the $10 million dollar poop aka Brandon Lloyd.

Well that didn't really work over the past couple seasons, especially in 2007, when wide receivers accounted for 1/3 of the team's touchdown catches. I understand the Gibbs offense was run heavy, but that's not a good ratio no matter how you slice it. The bottom line is the past two seasons the Redskins best offensive player has been Chris Cooley, and no matter how much I like him, that just can't happen again if this team is to reach its capabilities.

To their credit (sort of), the Redskins went out and tried to address this problem in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the NFL Draft by selecting three wide receivers in Michigan State's Devin Thomas, Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly, and USC tight end/wide receiver Fred Davis. My opinion is that one of these three needs to step up and become a consistent red zone threat in order for this Skins team to be successful.

They Skins have gotten away with it the past couple of years, but let's face the facts: Santana Moss is not a viable No. 1 receiver in the NFL and Antwaan Randle-El is more like a No. 3, slot receiver than someone who should be split out as your No. 2. Now I'm not ruling out Kelly or Davis in this debate, well actually maybe Davis since he overslept for his first ever meeting, but I just have a hunch Michigan State's Devin Thomas is going to be the guy who fills the TD catching role that this team so desperately needs.

Just check out this scouting report leading up to the draft and tell he doesn't seem like the perfect type of guy for this role:

Very good size with long arms and excellent bulk...Smooth natural athlete...Great timed speed...Extremely elusive and runs well after the catch...Terrific vision...Has reliable hands and he'll pluck the ball...Great leaping ability and ball skills...Tough, strong and physical...Is also an outstanding return man...Still has a ton of upside.

I mean, seriously, he fills all the voids. Yes, he did have just one big college season, but I think that's largely related to him being a JUCO transfer. You rarely see guys from the JUCO ranks make an immediate impact at the Division 1 level. Frankly, the reason I'm just not so sure about Kelly is the fact that his statistics went down from his junior to senior season. To his credit, Oklahoma had a freshman Qb this past season, but Sam Bradford was still pretty solid. And if you watched the Sooners at all last season, it's readily apparent that Kelly is more of the big play, fly route kind of receiver.

All in all, though, I think the pressure needs to be on the wide receivers (and also the QB throwing them the ball). They underachieved big time a year ago, and now they're being counted on more than ever. Remember how the Seahawks offense used to sputter when Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson used to get the dropsies? We can't have that at Fedex Field this season or else a young QB might get frazzled and the season may just go up in flames.

So whether it's Thomas or Kelly or even dreary-eyed Fred Davis (he's never going to live that down, in my opinion) who steps up and makes the receiving corps more than a white tight end with a fro who blogs, I don't much care. But my money, unfortunately, is on one of those East Lansing bums.

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