You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
We may lose and we may win though
We will never be here again
So open up, I'm climbin' in,
So take it easy
As we approach mid August, NFL training camps are in full swing. Across the country from Flowery Branch, Georgia to Albany, New York to Oxnard, California, and many points in between two-a-days in full pads are the order of the day. The sights, smells, and sounds of grass drills, Oklahoma drills, and full-contact 11-on-11 drills are abundant all across the landscape.
That is, except in Ashburn, Virginia. The Redskins finished their last two-a-day practice on Tuesday. They were given a day off on Sunday, a luxury that very few of their counterparts on other teams have enjoyed. Just a handful of practices have been conducted in more than half pads. The starters participated in some activities prior to a scrimmage against the Ravens last weekend but most of them, including every starter on the offensive side of the ball, sat out the full 11 on 11 action. By comparison to, say, the Atlanta Falcons, who have gone for 14 days without a day off with two-a-days every other day, the experience in Ashburn has been more like Club Gibbs.
According to Joe Gibbs, the Redskins earned their relatively light camp schedule with an attendance rate of 98% at OTA's and other voluntary offseason activities. Certainly, the players, with very few exceptions, seem to be in excellent condition. Six-pack abs are much more prevalent than the hog bellies around Redskins Park.
Still, most players are in shape around the NFL and they're doing gassers while the Redskins are in an air-conditioned meeting room. Is Gibbs taking a chance in going with a much lighter physical workload?
The evidence says that Gibbs knows what he's doing. Here is his record month by month, including playoffs:
September: 31-20 (.607)
October: 33-21 (.611)
November: 36-23 (.610)
December: 39-14 (.735)
January: 19-5 (.791)
Gibbs' teams start off pretty well, a 60% winning percentage being about a 10-win pace over the course of 16 games. After the falling leaves give way to falling snow, however, the winning percentage shoots up to the point where his teams are winning three out of every four games. His theory is that the team will be fresher towards the end of the year if they don't take too much of a physical toll in August. It's clear that the Redskins have their legs under them in December and January.
In contrast, the tough camp that Jim Mora ran for the Falcons in 2005, which was similar to the one he's running this year, had Atlanta set up in good shape up until the middle of the season. A 6-2 start, however, was turned around as the Falcons went 2-6 the second half of the season and missed the playoffs.
To be sure, this is just a snapshot and the link between the tough camp and the late collapse is a hypothesis, not a proven fact. But the human body can only take so much hard physical activity before it begins to break down. It's too much to ask the players to hit the weight room hard starting in March, conduct OTA's through May and June, hold a minicamp, pound them in training camp in August before going through the grind of the 16-game NFL schedule. Something has to give somewhere.
It's a marathon and Gibbs has decided that the strategy will be to take it easy in the middle of it. They jump out strong at the start, getting a lead on the pack with hard work in the spring and early summer. In the middle, they conserve their energy, keeping a steady pace while others are sprinting by them. The Redskins save up for the finishing kick, the last quarter of the race when they are able to keep in cruising while the rest of the field is gasping for air.
The danger is that you just may let one or two of the other race participants get too far ahead of you to catch up. You can't rely on pulling out a 5-0 finish to the season every year in order to make the last Wild Card playoff spot as the Redskins did last year if you want to make it to the Super Bowl.
The Redskins have upgraded their talent this year in an effort to stay close enough to the leaders so that their annual December run will put them over the top instead of just barely nudging them into the postseason. We will see if that talent improvement will have them poised to make their run when Thanksgiving comes around. We know from history that the finishing kick will be there.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they came to Washington in 1937 through the 2001 season. For details and ordering information, go to http://www.RedskinsGames.comPrevious Entries
Collins, Campbell Duke it Out. . .Posted 08.09.06
We don't often see training camp battles on display this clearly. With Mark Brunell sitting out practice (actually he was there standing with the offense and a very interested spectator), veteran Todd Collins and second-year player Jason Campbell took turns running the offense in Tuesday afternoon's practice. The two are fighting it out to see which of them will be the #2 quarterback, active on game days, and which will have the role of the third string, emergency QB.
Collins took the reigns of the starting offense first. Joe Gibbs cautioned everyone not to read anything into that. He said that Collins and Campbell alternate who is in the #2 quarterback slot and that it was Collins' turn.
They started out with a spirited "walk through" which really was more like a spirited sprint as the offense hustled up and down the field, running plays against no defenders. A good chunk of Al Saunders' 700-page playbook was on display. There were option passes by Antwaan Randle El, who is not in the quarterback sweepstakes, end arounds, fake left, throw right screens, delay draws, and other tools in the offensive's massive bag.
This being the last day of two-a-days, the coaches decided that they'd had enough of drills and the like and they went straight to 11 on 11 play. Campbell threw a nice, deep out on a rope to Jimmy Farris and then made a good decision to throw the ball into the dirt when the defense sniffed out a screen.
Collins responded. As James Thrash broke away from Carlos Rogers Collins launched a picture-perfect, arching bomb that hit the streaking Thrash in stride about 40 yards downfield. Santana Moss broke off his pattern in the hook zone and had a little space between a trio of defenders. Collins smartly threw it low, where only Moss could make the catch. He did. The next play Moss went deeper and Collins displayed excellent touch in zinging the ball into his hands.
And so it went. Campbell to Cooley on a seam route. Collins to Moss again deep down the right sideline. Saunders was getting quite a workout running up to congratulate receivers for making catches.
To be sure, neither quarterback was perfect. A couple of times Campbell tried to finesse the ball in to a receiver when a pass with more mustard on it was called for and the passes were batted away. Collins misfired a time or two.
Overall, it was some pretty good quarterback play on the part of both Campbell and Collins. In the long run, it probably won't mean a lot. The backup quarterback position won't be decided in one day and play in preseason games will weigh heavily in the decision. However, we won't have the opportunity there to watch the two of them duke it out, virtually blow for blow like we did on Tuesday.O-Line Struggles. . .posted 08.07.06
It was about in the middle of the proceedings during Monday afternoon's practice. As the so-called skill players engaged in 7 on 7 passing drills, the grunts, the offensive and defensive linemen, went to the other end of the field to work on some one on one pass blocking.
The first to line up were the Redskins' front-line players, right tackle Jon Jansen against left defensive end Philip Daniels. After momentary contact, Daniels put on a move and blew by Jansen straight to where the quarterback would have been. Chalk up a sack for the defense. The tone for the drill was set.
The drill continued with various matchups of ends vs. tackles and defensive tackles against guards and centers. They say that two out of three ain't bad, but it's terrible when it comes to pass blocking and that's about how often the Redskins' O-linemen were able to keep their defensive counterparts at bay during the course of the activity, which lasted for a good 20 minutes.
Of particular interest was a matchup between rookie defender Kedric Golston and four-year veteran offensive lineman Tyson Walter. Golston immediately got Walter back on his heels and blew right by him the first time they lined up. They immediately lined back up and Golston got by him in an instant again. The third time was a charm for Walter as he bested the Golston on that one rep, but it was clear who had won the mini war between the rookie and the veteran.
At bit later on in a matchup of inexperienced players Karon Riley put a power move on offensive tackle Jon Alston and blasted past him. It was moments like this that had Joe Bugel watching the drill with a concerned look on his face as seen in the photo at the top of this article. Greg Blache was looking on in a much more jovial mood as pictured below.
You don't necessarily expect the offensive players to stonewall the defenders in a drill like this. Even a week in it's still early. The job that the offense has in pass blocking is very much tied into technique, an intricate balance of footwork, hand and arm technique, and torso movement. To be sure there is plenty of technique involved in pass rushing, but at the root of it are speed and power. There is good reason for the defense to be ahead of the offense at this stage of the game.
But not that far ahead. The glass half full view is that the Redskins have some outstanding young talent on the line such as Golston. The empty half of that glass is that the Redskins have yet to make much progress on developing depth along the offensive line.
This is neither doom nor gloom. We have a day less than five weeks to go before the season starts and the picture could improve greatly in that time frame. Aside from Jansen's whiff on Daniels, the starters did pretty well so perhaps their luck will hold and they will be in place all season. Very few teams have quality depth on their offensive lines.
That being said, you would rather the team had some offensive linemen who look better out there.