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Redskins Roundtable Discussion

Hi there everyone.  Redskins Gab recently held a contest for contributing writers, and I’m pleased to say that 4 talented Redskins fans wrote in on time and claimed a spot to cover the Redskins this season. With that, I’d like to announce we’ve started a fun new roundtable segment featuring each of our writers here at Redskins Gab.  So with out further delay here is the Redskins Gab week 1 roundtable discussion featuring Rajan Nanavati, L. Michelle Baker, and Steve Kerneklian.

Albert Haynesworth has been a major distraction all off season and it wasn’t much better during the exhibition period with all the trade talks, what are your thoughts about Haynesworth staying on with the Redskins roster for 2010?

Steve: What is Haynesworth, worth? Regarding Hayneworth’s value to the Redskins, first I want to say I think the team should be smarter about trying to keep Haynesworth’s situation under wraps with regard to his place on the team – especially as it applies to the Cowboys Sunday night. In this way, it makes it harder for the Cowboys to game plan and Haynesworth, playing or not, can still be an asset to the Redskins as the Cowboys won’t know which way to go regarding whether or not he will be playing. That said, Haynesworth staying on the roster for 2010 and into the future just doesn’t seem smart. First, I don’t think he’s ever been a Redskin or wanted to be one. He wanted the paycheck first of all and when he got that and a head coach like Zorn who would let Haynesworth essentially walk all over him and get his way every time (Snyder, too for that matter), he was living the dream.

Now, he’s got a coach who pushes him to be better, who pushes him to compete and play hard, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be in Haynesworth’s nature. He was born with God-given size and strength, but it takes more than that to make a difference in a league that’s full of players just as blessed as he. It does take hard work, dedication and heart to truly be great. And I feel like Haynesworth just doesn’t have the heart to be there for the Redskins.

Michelle: Get rid of him. Whatever he can offer to the 3-4 defense, however many blitzes he can muster, he’s too much of a distraction.  Don’t worry about throwing good money after bad.  The contract has been paid.  He hasn’t lived up to his end of the bargain, and he’s got to go.  We have much better players that would be happy to step up to the line.

Rajan: Plain and simple: I’m not a fan of it. It’s obvious that the Redskins players, fans, and coaches are all sick of Albert Haynesworth, and the best course of action for everyone involved would be to ship him out of town as fast as humanly possible so that everyone can move on from this fiasco.

The Redskins have made it very clear that they don’t want him. You don’t openly entertain trade talks for a guy, blast him in the media, humiliate him when he comes back to training camp, and then re-initiate trade talks for him right before the season starts if you view a guy as an indispensible part of the team. The 4th preseason game, against the Cardinals, said it all: Rex Grossman, the team’s backup quarterback, was held out of the game so as to prevent injury, yet Haynesworth played over 45 snaps in that game.

Do you really think that, after the way Haynesworth acted all off-season, and his reputation for taking plays off and faking injuries for a breather, this is a guy whom any single Redskins player would want to be in a foxhole with? No matter what Dononvan McNabb might try to tell you, I firmly believe the answer would be a resounding “no.”

The Redskins have had the overpaid inmates running the asylum for far too long, thanks to the continual pandering from Vinny Cerrato and Dan Snyder. Haynesworth is the last vestige of that culture fostered by the previous regime, and his departure will drive home the point that if you’re a Washington Redskin, your talent and your salary will not outweigh your dedication and commitment to the team’s success.

The money that the Redskins paid Haynesworth is now nothing more than a sunk cost, and they’re stuck with an asset that has little (if any) salvage value left on the trade market. The Redskins just need to cut their losses and move on.

Mike Shanahan’s debut Sunday night is going to be viewed under a microscope, particularly since the team and local media is operating under this campaign of a “Return to Glory” … win or lose what does Shanahan have prove Sunday night to get on that path to glory from day 1?

Shanahan has to prove to Redskins fans that he can win. He does that by having:

• a smart, effective game plan

• a team and staff that is well prepared and disciplined

• players that are motivated not only to do their best, but to win and accept nothing less

• by making intelligent coaching choices on the field

These are points of difference between Zorn and Shanahan. Zorn lost so many games based on poor decisions and bad preparation. Likewise, Zorn won some games based on the play of a few players and not the play of the team.

Shanahan has to instill that killer instinct and the feeling of team back into the Redskins squad and make it about the team and not about individual performances. Zorn’s failures rested on the fact that he expected a few to lead and the rest to support. That is not the right philosophy for a successful team.

Okay, so Shanahan has to prove he can win, but against the Cowboys, is that really enough? New head coach, new GM, new and revamped organization and your opening game is the Cowboys, prime time, at home? I think Shanahan is going to have to do more than prove he can win. I think Shanahan is going to have to win – Period – to get on that path to glory from day 1.

Don’t be a total screw up.  The chances of us winning against Dallas are slim.  They’re a tough competitor, and it’s always a hard fight.  What Shanahan has to do is keep his players motivated the entire 60 minutes—shouldn’t be too tough given that the home crowd is always completely supportive (you hear that guys?—no BOOing!!).  Anybody expecting a slam dunk needs to return to this planet and get some oxygen.  But if we lose by more than 7, Shanahan will have a tough week ahead of him.

One of the biggest reasons for excitement regarding Shanahan coming to town was his reputation for being an “offensive
mastermind,” so one the first ways that Shanahan can get the Redskins back on the path to “Glory” is simply moving the
ball against a Cowboys defense that ranked in the top 10 in 2009, and allowed the second lowest points per game to their

Here’s an alarming stat for you: the Redskins haven’t scored a touchdown in 11 straight quarters against the Cowboys, and have
put up a whopping 16 points total in their last three games versus Dallas. There’s just no way that’s acceptable when playing a
hated rival, no matter how good they may be.

The Redskins have a chance of starting a storybook era by making a statement against Dallas, in front of the entire country.
But to do so, they have to come out and punch Dallas right in the mouth with heavy doses of Clinton Portis and a few timely
downfield shots by McNabb. If they move the ball effectively against the Cowboys, and show everyone watching that they can
compete with the team whom the vast majority of people believe will win the division, it will go a long way towards restoring
the faith of the Burgundy & Gold diehards.

The Redskins Defense had been perhaps been the lone bright spot for a struggling team during the Zorn years… so what does Jim Haslett coming in with the 3-4 defense do for you?  Is he fixing something that maybe wasn’t broken?

The shining point for the Redskins during the Zorn years was the defense. They’ve been ranked in the top 10 numerous times and have kept the Redskins in many games. It was a defense that was working, but as we all know, your defense helps you win games, not save them.

So the Redskins switched to a 3-4 defense and instilled a philosophy of attacking and creating turnovers which in the end will open up things for the team. While the defense was good, it didn’t add to the score, but instead, just kept the opposing teams scores even. I think change is good and this new switch to a 3-4 plus the additional emphasis on creating turnovers is a good change that will help the Redskins win in the long run.

Our biggest defensive problem in the past three years has been that we’ve been on the field too long.  Hopefully the Shanahan boys can fix that.  I wasn’t a fan of Haslett before he came to the Skins, and he’s got some work to do to win me over.  But I believe in our defense.  They’re nothing if not flexible!

On paper, yes, it “wasn’t broken.” The Redskins were in the top 10 in total defense for each of the last two years. Yet, despite
those rankings, the team has a 12-20 record over that span to show for it. While I wasn’t in love with the idea of moving to the 3-4 defense when Shanahan brought in Jim Haslett to run the defense, there are three benefits that are highly likely to come out of it.

– Brian Orakpo will thrive as a 3-4 outside linebacker, the position I believe he’s best suited for in the NFL. I always felt that he
was misused as a SAM (strongside) linebacker in a 4-3 defense, and was a bit too undersized to be a defensive end. Now, as a
stand-up linebacker, there’s always the threat of him coming full speed from the outside on the pass rush, and the occasional
dropping into coverage when Haslett brings the blitz from another direction.

– Most importantly, I think the move was more geared towards generating turnovers via the blitz. The Redskins have been
absolutely awful over the last several years when it comes to creating turnovers – they’ve ranked in the bottom three in the
NFL in three of the last four years – and the coaching staff believes that moving to the 3-4 will help build the pressure and chaos
necessary to create more opportunities for mistakes and short fields.

What is the X-Factor for the Redskins to win this game Sunday night?

The defense needs to attack Romo, make him make mistakes and create turnovers.

Force interceptions.

Starting out fast. There is a tremendous amount of hope and enthusiasm surrounding this team and the new regime, and the
fans at FedEx field will be riled up more than usual with the Cowboys in town. The last thing the Redskins can afford is to allow
Dallas to get out to a quick lead, taking the team away from its game plan and the crowd out of the game

What is the X-Factor for the Cowboys?

Keep the fans out of the game.

Stop the run.

If the Cowboys can run the ball successfully against the Redskins, not only can they open up the vertical passing game, but they
will neutralize all of Haslett’s blitz packages while adding a step of hesitation to guys like Brian Orakpo if there’s the threat of
being gashed by a big run.

The Cowboys may very well have the most talented trio of running backs, collectively, in the entire league. But sometimes
Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett outthinks himself and falls in love with the pass while eschewing the run. Given the fact that
the Cowboys will be playing this game with only two of their starting five offensive lineman from last season (two are out with
injury), and the Redskins will undoubtedly try and test the lines pass protection and communication by blitzing from a variety of
different directions.

More questions for Rajan

Donovan McNabb had a tough time with Dallas’ defense last year, particularly late in the season.  Do you think that is a trend that continues this year and what do you see happening with the question marks at WR?

I think McNabb will find it tough to pass on the Cowboys, mostly because the Redskins don’t have the weapons surrounding him
like the Eagles do. The Cowboys will very likely bracket cover Santana Moss to make sure he doesn’t burn them with the big play
(as he’s done in the past), forcing McNabb to throw the ball elsewhere.

With no legitimate second wide receiver to help take away double coverage from Moss – you’ll have to excuse me if Joey
Galloway and Anthony Armstrong don’t excite me as much as they do most fans – it’s going to be tough for McNabb to put up
big stats through the short passing game.

How does Clinton Portis and the rest of the backfield fair this week against the Cowboys run defense?

This is a tough question for me, because I’m one of the bigger Portis apologists you’ll ever meet. It’s no secret that he’s come
into camp this year as motivated as he’s ever been in his career, especially considering the whispers of Portis being washed up
were getting louder and louder this offseason.

I think Shanahan will use the running game to open up the passing game this week, so look for him to establish a running game
early on with Portis. Running against this Cowboys defense won’t be easy (they were 4th in the NFL against the rush last year),
but they need to stick with it to eat up the clock and keep the Cowboys defense honest. If Portis can get somewhere between 15
and 20 carries by the end of the third quarter, the Redskins can bring in Larry Johnson in the 4th quarter, sort of like a closer in
baseball, and bludgeon a (hopefully) tired Dallas defense.

How has the offensive line looked to you this preseason with Trent Williams at LT?  Is there cohesion?

The Offensive Line, to me, looks about how one would think a line with three out of five new starters would look: there are
lots of flashes of potential but still some growing pains to work through. Trent Williams has a chance to be just as good as Chris
Samuels had been for the past decade – if not better – and has & done all the right things in camp so far. Right tackle Jammal
Brown, when he’s been on the field, has shown some of his skills and mean streak that made him a Pro Bowl offensive tackle just
two seasons ago.

The key to this unit will be staying healthy during the season and developing chemistry as the year progresses, since they
weren’t able to do so in training camp due to injuries. If they’re able to stay healthy and progress as a unit, the Shanahan’s (Mike
and Kyle) could unleash a rushing game reminiscent of the elder Shanahan’s teams in the late 90’s & early 2000’s.

More from Michelle

Fill in the blank: The Donovan McNabb trade on Easter Sunday night was the single worst moment of my life …. and what have you seen from McNabb this preseason that either confirms or dispels that sentiment.

Two things in his favor.  First, he’s a leader.  Our offense gives him respect him in a way that neither Campbell nor Brunell were ever able to garner, and that means a lot when you’re putting your body on the line for another human being.  Second, in a clinch, he jumped and threw the ball from his abdomen.  It landed on the numbers, and the receiver didn’t miss a step.  Only a handful of quarterbacks have that kind of touch.

What do you look for from Albert Haynesworth this game, and what can he do to prove his critics wrong and potentially regain a starting role again this season?

I’m not sure Haynesworth can do anything right this Sunday.  The best case scenario is for him to come in when we need him, block a run play, and sit down.  If he can do that without complaining to the media about it, I think we have a chance to rehabilitate him.  Worst case—he comes in often and makes big plays. Then you’ll going to see the rest of the defense get unsettled.  And he’s going to remain a nuisance.

LaRon Landry moved back to SS this season — what do you expect to see from Landry this season?  Numbers up or down?

LaRon reminds me of LaVar Arrington, not in size, not in speed, not in strength, but in his eye.  He knows where the ball’s going, and he has the capacity to get there.  That being said, open field tackling has been a weak point for the entire team.  So in terms of tackles, he might not get the big numbers.  Still, it settles the rest of the team to know that Landry’s back there doing his job, especially Carlos Rogers.

Brian Orakpo had somewhat of a breakout season last year even as a rookie in a base 4-3 scheme… what do you think the switch to a 3-4 does for the linebackers this year and specifically Orakpo’s numbers this year?

Orakpo is built for the 3-4.  If Haynesworth behaves like a good boy and Carter works the other end, you’ll see the two of them match their 11 sacks from last year.  And Orakpo will build in assists from 13 to 15.  I expect him to go to pro-bowl this year.

And more from Steve

Jim Haslett is going up against an explosive Cowboys offense right out of the gate, what do you expect from the Redskins defensively that will keep Jason Garrett and the Cowboys in check?

The defense needs to attack Romo and create turnovers. One thing that concerns me about this is the fact that we are weak in the Safety position and vulnerable against the long ball. I feel like if we keep Romo running scared, they’ll have to opt for short patterns which will suit our defense better. Our ends are going to have to push and who ever is at the nose, needs to hold their ground on runs and put pressure on the quarterback in passing situations.

Chris Cooley is a fan favorite for many reasons — he’s coming off major surgery but already looks to be one of McNabb’s favorite targets… what do you expect from Cooley this game?

Cooley is going to have a solid performance. I expect him to be a major target early on for McNabb and later in the game to be a great decoy to open up some long balls for Moss and Galloway. In the end, he’s going to catch the ball that either gets them into field goal position to win or scores the winning touchdown. He’s clutch.

Is the Zone Blocking scheme going to work in Washington?

I am a proponent of the zone blocking scheme. I think it’s going to help give McNabb more time in the pocket, protect him more and also helps the line by relying on one another to help out. Williams is going to be learning something new every game and I hope that when he makes a mistake (and he will), that this zone blocking scheme will back him up.

Larry Johnson vs Keiland Williams — who has a bigger impact this game in the RB rotation?

Keiland Williams is going to be a break out runner this season. He rushed for 2 TDs and averaged close to 5 yards per carry against the Bills. OK, the Bills defense is terrible, but still, the talent is there. He’s good in pass protection, he’s young, catches the ball out of the backfield and he’s got running skills. He sounds a lot like a younger Portis – younger and healthier – which is why he’s going to end up taking more carries and make a great impression this year as a new back for the Redskins.

Which WR is going to step up this year?

It’s going to be Santana Moss. He’s been waiting for the right offensive scheme and QB to make his mark. His speed and overall ability mesh very well with McNabb’s ability to throw the long ball. They will stretch the field and I see the McNabb-Moss connection playing a big part in a Redskins win because they can attack fast with big plays that will get the crowd into the game and keep the Cowboys guessing and wondering what’s next. I think this is also going to open up the game more for Cooley and for Portis which will make it a much more rounded offensive scheme and open up big plays for the offense.

Prediction: Final score

24-21 Redskins win

21-24, Skins

My homerism gets the better of me: 23-20, Redskins.

And my prediction is 17-14, Redskins

Final notes:

The rematch for this game takes place six days before Christmas in Big D. While I never – EVER – want to lose to the stinkin’
Cowboys, I’d trade a loss in September to place a giant lump of coal in Dallas’ playoff stocking come December. Few things warm
my heart more than watching Dallas self-destruct in the winter.

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