Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The Skins in a nutshell

It really feels like yesterday that the Giants pulled off that stunning upset in the Super Bowl last February. I can't believe Thursday night the Skins return to the gridiron for some meaningful football. It's the most exciting time of the year, when every team in the NFL has a shot at doing something special.

Now, being a die hard Redskins fan, I think it's natural for me to think optimistically about the season. I want to believe they have what it takes to make another playoff run. But I'm no fool, I realize most others think differently.

Look at the trash 'stache on our star tight end.

Here's my logic: In one train of thought, the new Seattle Seahawks-inspired West Coast scheme that Jim Zorn brings over should rejuvenate an offense that still has some playmakers. When healthy, guys like Chris Cooley, Clinton Portis, and Santana Moss have all proven effective. Hell, Cooley is coming off a Pro Bowl season and Portis finished with the third-most yards from scrimmage in the NFL last year. And the defense returns pretty much everyone expect Sean Taylor, and has some continuity with Greg Blatche naturally transitioning into Gregg Williams' old role as de facto defensive coordinator.

But there's a lot of ifs all over the place. Like the Skins will be a playoff team if Jason Campbell learns how to finish off drives with touchdowns and take the next step in his development. Or the Skins will be a playoff team if Clinton Portis and Santana Moss stay healthy for an entire season (a big if). And don't forget the Redskins will be a playoff team if the offensive line remains mostly intact, something it hasn't done in over three years. All this assuming the defense remains a support for the team to lean on. Not exactly a guarantee with formally good veterans like London Fletcher, Shawn Springs, Jason Taylor, and Marcus Washington fast approaching or smack dab in front of the old man wall that kills careers in their tracks.

So yeah, I'd agree I've recently been having bad thoughts grudgingly creep into my mind about this year's Skins team. Anxious is probably the best way to describe my thoughts heading into a season in which I believe the Skins could finish as well as 11-5 (if everything goes perfect) or as poorly as 6-10. A betting man would probably presume an 8-8 season with those thoughts in mind. But I'm a blind, optimistic Skins fan so I'm going with 10-6, skating into that wild card position once again.

Some Other Thoughts For Faith If You're a Skins Fan

-I haven't seen anything suggesting Chris Cooley has plateaued. Zorn as said he will split him out wide this year, meaning even more opportunities for catches.

-The last two preseason games aside, I fully expect Jason Campbell to be a solid NFL quarterback this season. He's not going to single-handedly win games just yet, but I don't envision him being a crutch to this team's success.

-While I accept one player on the D will be exposed as over the hill this year (my best guess is Marcus Washington or London Fletcher), there's just too much talent returning for this unit to be anything worse than solid.

-I lambasted the Skins for keeping Ladell Betts instead of trading him for a good draft pick a couple off seasons ago. But in retrospect, he has proved huge in keeping Clinton Portis motivated. I have a feeling Betts strong finish to 2006 is always in the back of C Port's mind. I'm expecting another big year, especially without as many play calls that involve him ramming full speed into the offensive line.

-Jim Zorn can certainly talk the talk as head coach. The media around here loves the guy.

-Rock Cartwright and Mike Sellers are still on the squad. Gotta have those glue guys.

Mike Sellers in a nutshell: Made the Skins as a young pup out of Walla Walla JC, cashed in during free agency with the Browns, got arrested for felony coke and pot possession charges, then ressurrected his career with the Gibbs regime as a badass battering ram fullback.

Some More Thoughts of Doom

-Santana Moss hasn't had a fully healthy and productive season since 2005. With the rookie wideouts not close to playing in games, he's being counted on to be a primary playmaker. I'm not sold on him doing that. Oh yeah, James Thrash — yes that James Thrash — is currently listed as the No. 3 wide receiver. Is it just me or does it seem weird that a team that plans to switch gears and rely heavily on the passing game has James Thrash as their No. 3 wide receiver?

-Jon Jansen was so bad in pass protection, the Skins benched him in favor of Stephon Heyer, a second-year from Maryland. Randy Thomas is nicely being described as "still rounding into form from another knee surgery", which to me means hasn't shown he's back yet. So basically the right side of the line is in more flux than was expected.

-It seems awfully soon for Carlos Rogers to be 100% healthy from tearing his ACL and MCL last October. Coupled with LaRon Landry missing the entire preseason (although sometimes the rest pays dividends down the road), there are legitimate concerns with the secondary — an area that was supposed to be one of the team's strengths.

-And last but not least on the Richter scale of possibly signaling doom: the men who, despite a relatively decent off season, I would still never entrust my favorite fast food franchise to. Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato are still making the decisions for the Washington Redskins, and judging from recent history that is something to always worry about.

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