You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net
about it on the CPND Message Board.
The Washington Redskins will take the field in Cincinnati at
Eastern on Sunday night, but
the real game won’t begin until 45 minutes or an hour later.
Oh, sure, it will be interesting to see if the Redskins’
“first-team” offense can put together a smooth drive or two. “First-team” is in
quotation marks because some of those who will be taking the field as offensive
starters on September 11 against the Vikings will play little if at all.
Clinton Portis, for example, won’t get more than three or four carries if that
many. How can you really judge the performance of the offense without its
The same can be said of judging how well the Washington
defense does when Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer will be sitting out, waiting to
test his damaged knee until the regular season draws closer. Rudi Johnson and
Chad Johnson are likely to see about as much action as Portis does. As is the
case with most NFL season ticket holders, the Bengal
fans who shelled out regular-season prices for tickets to this glorified scrimmage
will have grounds to sue for fraud.
That doesn’t mean that the event won’t have anything to hold
our interest (especially at the price of free, as it’s on over-the-air national
television). The most noteworthy moments will come sometime in the second
quarter. By that time, all of the members of the first-string offensive line
will be wearing baseball hats and the second team, as named by Joe Bugel
earlier this week, will be protecting Todd Collins and trying to open holes for
Kerry Carter. Tyson Walter and Chris Pino will be the tackles, Jasper Harvey
and Ikechuku Ndukwe will line up at guard, and Mike Pucillo will be the center.
Calling this a rag tag group would be doing a disservice to
rags and tags. They used to call the Redskins O-line the Dirtbags. This group
is the Paper or Plastic Bags as each of them is one step away from having to
bag groceries for a living.
Their collective resume reads like that of the proverbial
Waive Wire from Hell. Only Pucillo (seventh round) and Walter (sixth) were
drafted. Those two are the only ones who have ever taken in snap in a real NFL
All kidding aside, these individuals have something to
prove. Pucillo wants to show the Browns that they were fools for letting him go
(and considering what happened to center LeCharles Bentley very early in
training camp maybe the wish they had held on to him). Walter couldn’t get on
the field for one of the worst lines in the NFL in Houston and clearly he wants
to show them what a mistake they made. Pino and Harvey played together at San Diego State last year and they want to show that a lot of teams made mistakes
in passing them over in the draft. Ndukwe wants to make people have to learn to
pronounce his name.
And, more importantly, a couple of them have to step up. All
of the millions that Daniel Snyder spent and all of the countless hours and
buckets of sweat that the players and coaches have invested in trying to win a
Super Bowl this year could be wasted if there is an injury to one of the
starting linemen and nobody is able to fill the void. The team has to find
someone who could answer the 911 call and fill a void for a few plays, a few
games or, perhaps, for a good chunk of the season.
That someone, perhaps a couple of someones, probably will
have to come from this group. For Walter, Harvey, Pucillo, Ndukwe, and Pino,
the first step towards taking that step forward is Sunday night.
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.com
Gibbs' Redskins Take It Easy. . .posted 08.11.06
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
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’
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.