NFC East: Jason Campbell

RG III named Ed Block winner

January, 7, 2014
It's not the sort of award anyone wants to win -- and it's certainly not one they want to repeat. But it does serve as recognition for how a player responds to adversity. And that's why Robert Griffin III was named the Washington Redskins' Ed Block Courage Award winner.

The award honors how RG III overcame his knee injury, returning to start the season opener eight months after surgery to reconstruct the ACL and LCL in his right knee. Griffin completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 13 games. He was inconsistent all season, but did not miss any time until being benched for the final three games. He's one of only five Redskins quarterbacks to throw for more than 3,000 yards in consecutive seasons, joining Sonny Jurgensen, Joe Theismann, Mark Rypien and Jason Campbell.

“Robert’s commitment this offseason helped him fully recover from a major knee surgery,” Redskins head athletic trainer Larry Hess said in a release. “His passion and dedication toward his profession motivated him throughout this process and made working with him enjoyable. He is well deserving of this award.”

Griffin said in a release: “It’s an honor to be selected by my teammates to receive this award. I received a tremendous amount of support throughout the rehab process from my teammates, the doctors, the trainers and everyone involved in the organization. This award is not only a testament to how hard I worked to return, but also a testament to the support system I’ve had around me for the last 12 months. I’m grateful for their hard work and support and look forward to preparing for the 2014 season.”

Guard Kory Lichtensteiger won the award last season and Stephen Bowen won it in 2011. It's named for the former longtime trainer of the Baltimore Colts.

RG3 makes Redskins' hopes very real

December, 1, 2012
Robert Griffin IIIAP Photo/Tim SharpRobert Griffin III has the Redskins believing they are contenders in his rookie season.

At the end of this interview with Robert Griffin III, he is asked to answer this question: The Washington Redskins are going to the Super Bowl in how many years?

Griffin, nonplussed, offers this answer:

"This year. I mean, it doesn't matter. Our season's not over. We're not out of the playoff hunt. If we win this game Monday, we control our own destiny. So it's every year, until we don't win it."

No pretense, no bluster, just the same, matter-of-fact tone he uses earlier in the interview when he honestly offers up John Elway, Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham among his influences and says Ray Lewis is the player whose autograph he would most like to get. Griffin doesn't suffer mundane convention or consensus protocol. He doesn't seek the sound bite. He gets a question, he rolls it over in his brain and offers his honest answer. Why wouldn't every player believe he could win this season's Super Bowl until his team is mathematically eliminated?

And so here stands Griffin, getting ready to play the first-place, defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the first "Monday Night Football" appearance of his career, with an understanding of the stakes. If the Redskins win the game -- and make no mistake, these Redskins fully believe they can beat these Giants -- they are one game out of first place and right in the thick of the wild-card race at 6-6. They would not, technically, be in control of their own destiny, as he claims, because they would still need teams in front of them to lose even if the Redskins won out. But they wouldn't need a ton of help, and the concept that a 10-6 record is likely to get them in is more than enough fuel for a December stretch run.

Griffin's most essential achievement in his decorated rookie season is to have made this possibility realistic. No Redskins team with Rex Grossman or Jason Campbell or the 2010 version of Donovan McNabb as its quarterback would have been a convincing playoff contender at 5-6 in Week 13. But this one, with Griffin taking the snaps, has people talking. Has people playing around with the Playoff Machine to see what has to happen for it all to come true. Redskins fans see the teams in front of them in that wild-card race and know well that their team beat the Saints, Vikings and Buccaneers head-to-head. They know the Seahawks can't win on the road. Heck, they know the Giants' remaining schedule doesn't look easy, and their team holds all kinds of tiebreakers, and the facts of the case become very simple: If the Redskins win this big Monday night game, they are in the mix.

The Redskins approach Giants games with a high level of confidence. They beat the Giants twice, rather soundly, in 2011, and they believe they had them beaten in Week 7 before they decided not to cover Victor Cruz on that 77-yard touchdown throw in the final two minutes. They do not fear the Giants, and they wouldn't have even if Griffin weren't their quarterback this season. They believe they have coverage schemes and pressure packages that can rattle Eli Manning, and they've spent the week watching film of themselves having great success against him. None of that means they'll win, but they have no doubt whatsoever that they can.

What Griffin has done is to build on that -- to fortify that confidence for the broader stage and the bigger dreams. If the Redskins can beat the Giants, as they already know they can, they can start to think about being a playoff team. And if you're a playoff team -- doesn't matter which one, as those Giants showed last season -- then you have a right to think about the Super Bowl. Why keep it a down-the-road fantasy when it's still a potential present reality? Griffin, who gives the Redskins reason to believe they might have the better quarterback on any given day they play, is speaking the absolute truth of his team's situation and his own. The fact that he's the one saying it means you don't have to look far to figure out why the Redskins, their fans and even some of their opponents might be believing it.

Griffin has made the Redskins legitimate, instantly. And whether they win Monday or lose, whether they make a real run at this year's playoffs or fall short, that's a heck of a rookie accomplishment.
Lots of stuff coming out of the first day of Washington Redskins OTAs, including the apparently scary, inadvertent sideline takedown of head coach Mike Shanahan by defensive back Brandyn Thompson. But as I was reading through the player quotes that the team's media relations staff sent out, I was particularly struck by this one from London Fletcher, when asked whether the trade-up to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III was part of what convinced him to re-sign with the Redskins:
"Obviously, them being able to get into that second pick was something huge for me. I'm a guy, I'm in my 15th season, to go into another year with not having a quarterback was not very appealing to me, I'll tell you that. So, when they were able to make the trade, knowing we would be getting either Andrew Luck or him, that definitely made the situation a lot brighter as far as coming back here. So you know, I've had enough years of other stuff."

I guess he didn't add, "No offense, Rex Grossman, Donovan McNabb or Jason Campbell." But you have to love a guy who gives it to you straight, and the sense around the Redskins the past few years has indeed been one of, as Fletcher put it, "not having a quarterback." Now, they have Griffin, whom everyone loves and of whom great things are expected. Fletcher is impressed with the young man, per this quote:
"He's very humble, you know very respectful, you know not coming in feeling like he's entitled to anything. He's willing to work, he works hard, he's in here early, and he's in his playbook. There are some first-round draft picks, especially high guys, they come in and feel like things should be given to them. That's not the case with him. He has an aura about himself that people want to gravitate to him and just get to know him, talk to him, things like that. You can see why everybody spoke so highly about him."

The latest in a long line of glowing Griffin testimonials. The excited, enthusiastic Griffin honeymoon is in full swing in Washington, and right now Griffin can do no wrong. We're still four months away from games that count, and likely many more months away from Griffin doing anything that opens him up to grumbly criticism and concern.

The Redskins' 2012 quarterback may be a rookie, but it's clear he's got folks around the team feeling as though things are finally going to be okay at the most important position on the field, after a long time during which they've not been.
On the eve of the NFL draft in which the Washington Redskins will select Robert Griffin III to be their new quarterback and, they hope, rescue them from decades of mediocrity at the game's most important position, Jason Reid caught up with the last quarterback for whom the Redskins traded up in the draft -- Jason Campbell, in 2005. Campbell once carried the hopes and dreams of Redskins Nation, though he didn't come with the hype that attends Griffin's arrival, and he's enjoyed watching the Griffin situation unfold from afar:
Griffin III
"You know, man, it's really kind of crazy when I think about what's happening with him," Campbell said, pausing for a hearty laugh before continuing during a phone interview Monday.

"A lot of the stuff that's going on with him, it was like that for me back then. All the media, the expectations coming in, knowing that [the franchise] is counting on you ... I've definitely seen this before. I lived it."

Griffin must exceed Campbell, of course, or else the whopper of a trade the Redskins made to put themselves in position to draft him will be an all-time bust. This story is a worthwhile reminder of the manner in which Griffin's situation is about to change after he's drafted and once he goes to work learning the Redskins' offense and developing as a professional quarterback. He faces expectations well beyond any that were ever held for Campbell, mainly because of the seven years that have unfolded since Campbell's draft without the Redskins solving this same problem. Everybody loves Griffin now because he represents promise, and that promise feels almost limitless. But he will, ultimately, be judged on the way he performs and what he delivers.
After it was announced Monday which teams got compensatory draft picks, the NFL was able to establish its full official 2012 draft order. Here's a look at where the NFC East's teams are picking throughout the draft's seven rounds. Bookmark this baby, because we're going to refer to it a lot over the next month. Heck, print it out so you can bring it to your draft party, if you're into stuff like that. We're here to serve.

Dallas Cowboys (8 picks)

Round 1: Pick 14, overall pick 14

Round 2: Pick 13, overall pick 45

Round 3: Pick 19, overall pick 81

Round 4: Pick 18, overall pick 119

Round 4: Pick 40, overall pick 135 (compensatory -- cannot be traded)

Round 5: Pick 17, overall pick 152

Round 6: Pick 16, overall pick 186

Round 7: Pick 15, overall pick 222

New York Giants (8 picks)

Round 1: Pick 32, overall pick 32

Round 2: Pick 32, overall pick 63

Round 3: Pick 32, overall pick 94

Round 4: Pick 32, overall pick 127

Round 4: Pick 36, overall pick 131 (compensatory, cannot be traded)

Round 5: Pick 32, overall pick 167

Round 6: Pick 32, overall pick 201

Round 7: Pick 32, overall pick 239

Philadelphia Eagles (9 picks)

Round 1: Pick 15, overall pick 15

Round 2: Pick 14, overall pick 46

Round 2: Pick 19, overall pick 51 (from Arizona)

Round 3: Pick 26, overall pick 88 (from Houston)

Round 4: Pick 19, overall pick 114

Round 5: Pick 18, overall pick 153

Round 6: Pick 2, overall pick 172 (from Indianapolis)

Round 6: Pick 25, overall pick 194 (from Denver)

Round 6: Pick 31, overall pick 200 (from New England)

NOTES: The Eagles traded the 13th pick in the third round and the fourth pick in the fourth round to Houston in exchange for the 26th pick in the third round and linebacker DeMeco Ryans. The Eagles had acquired the fourth pick in the fourth round as part of a 2011 draft-day trade with Tampa Bay... The Eagles acquired the 19th pick in the second round from Arizona as part of last year's trade for Kevin Kolb... The Eagles acquired the second pick of the sixth round from the Colts in exchange for the 17th pick in the sixth round and tackle Winston Justice... The Eagles acquired the 25th pick of the sixth round and running back J.J. Arrington from the Broncos in exchange for linebacker Joe Mays in 2010... Also in 2010, the Eagles acquired the 31st pick in the sixth round from the Patriots in exchange for linebacker Tracy White and their 2012 seventh-round pick.

Washington Redskins (7 picks)

Round 1: Pick 2, overall pick 2 (from St. Louis)

Round 3: Pick 6, overall pick 69

Round 4: Pick 7, overall pick 102

Round 4: Pick 14, overall pick 109 (from Oakland)

Round 5: Pick 6, overall pick 141

Round 6: Pick 3, overall pick 173 (from Minnesota)

Round 7: Pick 6, overall pick 213

NOTES: The Redskins acquired the No. 2 pick in the first round from the Rams in exchange for the No. 6 pick in the first round, the No. 7 pick in the second round and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014... The Redskins acquired the 14th pick in the fourth round from the Raiders in exchange for quarterback Jason Campbell in 2010... The Redskins acquired the third pick in the sixth round from the Vikings in exchange for quarterback Donovan McNabb in 2011... The Redskins traded the seventh pick in the sixth round to Arizona in exchange for running back Tim Hightower in 2011.

Weekend mailbag: Long-view Giants

March, 24, 2012
Sometimes, you guys email questions. On Saturdays, I like to pick through them and see if I can offer some answers. Today is Saturday, so...

Larry, who lists his location as "Anywhere but here," is rankled by the idea that the New York Giants always draft the "best player available," regardless of need. Larry asks if doing this "simply makes their decisions less informed."

Dan Graziano: The Giants' draft philosophy, which is almost always to take the best player available on their board regardless of need, is based on their belief that they maintain a deep roster and excel at developing their own players. It can be frustrating to watch them pass on positions like linebacker and offensive linemen when they appear to need them year after year, but they prioritize certain positions (defensive line, defensive back) more than others in the draft and believe that's where the value lies. The Giants have faith in their veterans and their coaching staff to manage the roster, and they don't view draft picks as quick fixes. They view them as assets to be developed and brought along in the program, and that's the way they manage them while they're picking them and after they've signed them.

Jake from the Death Star Command Centre (goodness, you guys are clever this week...) isn't awed by the Philadelphia Eagles' current backup quarterback situation, especially in light of the fact that the Eagles' starting quarterback has a bit of a history of missing a game or two here and there.

DG: Yeah, the top backups on the market got snatched up quickly -- Kyle Orton by the Cowboys and Jason Campbell by the Bears. So the Eagles have Trent Edwards, who didn't play in 2011, and Mike Kafka, who couldn't beat out scatter-armed Vince Young for the Eagles' backup job in 2011. As you point out, Jake, Michael Vick is far from a guarantee to play all 16 games, and unless Kafka takes a dramatic leap forward this offseason you're not going to have much confidence in whoever comes in to replace Vick if he gets hurt. I'll say this, though: As uninspiring as Edwards may seem, the Eagles' coaching staff saw something they liked when they worked him out. And they have a history of getting more than we expect them to get out of that backup QB spot. And besides, how much worse can he be than Young was? Don't be surprised to see the Eagles take a quarterback at some point in the draft.

Mark Reynolds from Roanoke, Va. (Hey! An actual place!) wonders why NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has yet to comment on the salary cap penalties handed down 12 days ago to the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. Goodell gave some interviews this week, but the topics were limited to the Saints' bounty scandal, and he was not asked about the Redskins/Cowboys issue.

DG: You're right, Mark. He hasn't commented, and doesn't appear to have been asked. But he's giving a news conference Monday at the NFL's annual meetings in Palm Beach, Fla. I will be there, and I promise you, if no one else asks him a question about this, I will. And I'll make sure and tell you everything he says about it.
Yeah, yeah, I know. The news that the Washington Redskins have agreed to another one-year deal with quarterback Rex Grossman is not going to make anyone's Saturday night in D.C. After last season's 20th interception, you didn't want to see Grossman again, and I totally get why the initial reaction is to moan and wail.

But folks, they're not bringing Grossman back in to be their starting quarterback. The Redskins' starting quarterback in 2012 is going to be a rookie for whom they traded three first-round picks and a second-round pick, most likely Robert Griffin III. You don't make a deal like the one the Redskins made to move up to No. 2 in the draft if you're not planning to start the guy you're picking right away.

[+] EnlargeRex Grossman
Geoff Burke/US PresswireRex Grossman's role will be to tutor, and back up, the Redskins' rookie starter in 2012 -- likely Robert Griffin III.
That established, how exactly is Grossman a bad choice as backup quarterback? He knows Mike Shanahan's offense in depth. When he was the quarterback in 2011, that offense actually ran somewhat efficiently in spite of a shredded offensive line and a receiving corps of which the team's first two hours of free agency this past Tuesday were a searing indictment. The only problem with Grossman was the turnovers, which were intolerable in quantity and the reason they couldn't possibly bring Grossman back as next season's starter.

But they haven't. They've brought him back as a guy who can help the coaching staff teach Griffin the offense. A guy who can sit in the meeting rooms next to the rookie and help explain terminology that might be unfamiliar, who can stand next to him on the practice field and show him how certain plays work and where he can expect receivers to be in certain situations. It's not as though he's going to get into Griffin's head and affect his in-rhythm decision-making. If Griffin weren't responsible with the ball, he wouldn't be getting picked second overall in the draft. He'll throw some interceptions, but when he does it'll be because that's what rookies do -- not because he was tutored on how to do so by a leading expert who happens to be his veteran backup.

And if Griffin gets hurt and Grossman has to step in and finish a game, the Redskins know he can run the offense and won't be overwhelmed. And yeah, they also know he'll throw interceptions, but that's what you get with a backup quarterback. If he didn't have some kind of fatal flaw, he'd be a starting quarterback. The best backup option on the market was Kyle Orton, but he got a three-year deal from the Cowboys and you can understand why they didn't want to do that. The second-best was Jason Campbell, and if the Redskins had brought him back, would that have made the fans feel any more awesome than this does?

Perspective, folks. We've been trying to preach it all week here. I know it's tough. I know you want every player your teams signs to be the best one you ever heard of. But it doesn't work that way. And given all of the objective circumstances, there's nothing wrong with Grossman coming back to Washington. As long as he's just the backup.

Are all four NFC East coaches in trouble?

December, 10, 2011
Ashley Fox's latest column is on the NFC East, and if you're a fan of the division, you may want to pour yourself something stiff before you read it. We all know this hasn't been the greatest season for this division, and it could be the first non-strike season ever in which no NFC East team wins at least 10 games. But Ashley kind of unloads on the division's four coaches and says: "Although unlikely, it is not out of the realm of possibility that each will lose his job at season's end."

Now, I've kind of been under the impression that all four will be back next year. I think the hottest seat is that of the New York Giants' Tom Coughlin -- not because he hasn't done a good job but because historical circumstances -- i.e., his poor second-half record since becoming Giants coach and a third straight season without a playoff appearance -- could line up against him. But if the Giants win Sunday night in Dallas, they take control of the division race again, so it's premature to think Coughlin's team will even put him in position to lose his job. Ashley writes that Coughlin "has done the most with the least" this year, and I agree. I think this Giants team has either met or exceeded reasonable expectations.

I also think Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is about as safe as any coach in the league, since he was signed two years ago to a five-year contract and is clearly working on a rebuilding project while owner Dan Snyder honors his pledge to leave him alone to work. Ashley hits Shanahan for his failure to so far find a quarterback, writing that "He has misjudged four quarterbacks now: Jason Campbell, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck," and "The fact that Shanahan went into this season with Grossman and Beck, rather than trying to sign another quarterback, looked asinine in August. That he has shuttled between the two and the Redskins have lost six of their last seven games is no surprise."

I would say it's important to watch what Shanahan does at quarterback this coming offseason, and if he does something like bring back Grossman because he knows he can run "his system," then the criticism becomes warranted. But he didn't like what was available at quarterback last offseason and decided to focus on rebuilding the defense -- which he's done with some success. I believe Shanahan has one more year before his results in Washington can be fairly examined and judged.

The Dallas Cowboys' Jason Garrett is also, I believe, totally safe, since owner Jerry Jones loves him and wants him to become a great coach. But this was a bad week for Garrett, who's getting hammered everywhere for his mismanagement of the clock at the end of the fourth quarter of last Sunday's Arizona loss. Ashley believes Garrett's timeout gaffes happened because "Garrett didn't trust his team, and he didn't trust himself. His team lost the game in overtime and lost a chance at wrapping up a weak division title this weekend." But while that last part is clearly true, in the big picture Garrett has done a fine job with the Cowboys. Should he continue to bungle in-game situations over and over again, this becomes something about which to worry. But it's too soon to judge Garrett as a head coach, and his owner knows that.

Then there's the Philadelphia Eagles' Andy Reid, a great NFL coach who's done a horrible job with this year's team. Ashley hits him for his kooky coaching-staff shuffle, letting locker room leaders like Quintin Mikell depart via free agency and his mishandling of the DeSean Jackson contract mess. All of it's warranted. If Reid were judged on this year alone, he wouldn't stand a chance. The only thing that saves him is his prior record of consistently fielding division champs and playoff contenders. Eagles management seems to want to keep Reid, barring something totally humiliating happening over the final four games. But his benefit of the doubt is dwindling, especially with Eagles fans already unsatisfied with a string of playoff appearances that hasn't yielded a Super Bowl title.

The upshot of all of this, of course, is that this is a very down year in the NFC East, and it won't rank among the best years on any of these coaches' resumes. (Except Garrett's, since it's his first.) The scramble is on, apparently, between the Giants and Cowboys, to see which will be the division's lone playoff team and whether that team can make any noise in the playoffs come January.
It's Friday, folks, and that means you can expect your normal Friday goodies -- Fired-Up Friday debate, a video mailbag, and the latest NFC East entry in our "Dream Team of Tomorrow" project. I may not be around all day to mix it up with y'all in the comments (as I'm trying to sneak in a day or two off before the lockout ends and those become unattainable), but I won't leave you hanging on content. I'd never do that to you. You want proof? Here, right on time, are your links:

Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Watkins texted me Thursday morning to complain that I hadn't linked to him in the Breakfast Links. I pointed out that I had, in fact, done so on each of the previous two days, but Calvin was inconsolable. So, since I can't stand to see a grown man cry, here's Calvin's call for the Cowboys to scrap San Antonio and hold their training camp at home in Irving, Texas. He makes a good case, but that would represent a dramatic change in plans for a team that usually likes to hold its training camp in more than one time zone.

Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers of the Packers refused to sign a Dallas Cowboys hat that an autograph-seeking fan handed him at this charity golf tournament that he and Tony Romo and a bunch of other celebrities are playing in. It's okay, though, because the Packers fan who was interviewed about it said it was.

New York Giants

Da'Rel Scott, the running back the Giants took in the seventh round, couldn't tell LaDainian Tomlinson that he was his favorite player as a kid. But he told Mike Garafolo, who spoke to Scott about what it was like to work out with Tomlinson this summer.

John Brennan of The Record took a look at which Giants fans are making out well and which fans aren't when they go to re-sell their personal seat licenses. The answer: Depends on where the seats are located. Interesting look at an issue that's caught a lot of people's attention in this area over the past couple of years.

Philadelphia Eagles

Been lots of talk about how the lockout will affect the rookies who haven't been able to spend any time working out with their coaches or teammates. But Les Bowen looks at the ways in which all this time off will affect second-year guys, such as Eagles linebacker Jamar Chaney and backup quarterback Mike Kafka, who are expecting this to be a big step-forward season. From Chaney: "Usually by the time training camp comes around, you pretty much already know the defense." But not this year, Jamar. Not this year.

The Eagles' team site recently took a look at the safety position, mentioning rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett, Kurt Coleman and the oft-forgotten Marlin Jackson as possible starters opposite Nate Allen. Assuming, of course, as they do not, that Allen is healthy. It seems as if the Eagles think they have enough coverage at the position that they can get away with releasing Quintin Mikell and not making this a free-agent priority. But maybe we'll see soon.

Washington Redskins

Nice job by getting Redskins first-round pick Ryan Kerrigan to sit for an interview, though I must admit I don't remember any journalism classes in which we were told it was OK to tell your interview subject you were about to urinate in your pants. Seriously, Kerrigan plays along and BB draws out some nice stuff about the transition from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker as well as Kerrigan's technique for forcing fumbles. Good stuff for Redskins fans to chew on as they continue to await the end of the lockout.

Former Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell weighed in recently on the current quarterback controversy in Washington, saying Donovan McNabb has acted like a pro by keeping his opinions to himself and adding, "Truth be told, I'm glad I wasn't put in that kind of situation."

Happy Friday, everybody. That's the news and I am out of here.
A person who runs a professional sports franchise might have any number of reasons for making a public comment about his roster or lineup during the offseason. But since "because it's true" does not generally occupy a prominent place among those reasons, we are required to wonder about motivation.

[+] EnlargeMike Shanahan
AP Photo/Nick WassAfter passing on quarterbacks in the draft, Mike Shanahan said he's OK with John Beck as the Redskins' starter.
This is the case with Mike Shanahan, who explained after a draft that failed to produce a new Redskins quarterback that he was OK with the idea of John Beck as his starter. He might well be telling the truth. But since NFL coaches so rarely do (to us, at least), the first question that popped into this skeptic's head was why Shanahan would come out and say such a thing. How could a coach who decided a year ago that Jason Campbell couldn't be the long-term solution (and spent a high second-round pick to trade for Donovan McNabb because of it) now believe that Beck can be?

The first guess is always "leverage." Assuming Shanahan still has a plan to acquire Carson Palmer or some other quarterback via trade or free agency whenever the lockout ends, it's important to enter negotiations from a position of strength. (i.e., "We don't need your guy. We have Beck.") This is a common coach/GM trick and very well could be the exact thing Shanahan is up to. But with the McNabb deal having gone so wrong, you wonder whether the Skins are eager to go back down the veteran-coming-off-a-couple-of-spotty-years road again.

If they aren't, it might be that they're resigned to Beck as the best option and figured, after not coming up with a better option via the draft, that they might as well prepare their fans for it. With the chances increasing by the day that part or even all of the season will be lost to the lockout, it might be that Shanahan doesn't think it's worth installing a new quarterback this year. All of those missed minicamp and training camp practices would represent lost opportunities to work with a new guy. Maybe it's best just to sit around for a year and see whether you're in position to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck into a full offseason.

Shanahan has been a tough guy to read since he got to Washington. His handling of the Albert Haynesworth situation got a bit out of hand. His handling of the McNabb situation was downright baffling. His motivations are not always clear, and it might be that he has some reason for pumping up Beck in May that we cannot fathom. We assume he has a plan, because he has a track record and a five-year contract and a strong intellect. But from this point, wondering when or if he'll even be allowed to pursue other options, it's hard to know exactly what that plan is.

Beck hasn't exactly been getting traded for first-round picks the past couple of years. And the league hasn't exactly been devoid of openings at the position. So if Shanahan is serious, and if he's right that Beck can be a starter, a lot of other people will have had to be wrong. It's happened before, sure. But hearing this kind of talk at this time of year makes you think something else has to be at work.

Don't mock Newton to the Redskins

January, 27, 2011
We've already inspected the first mock drafts from Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, so let's go outside the company for a moment. Don Banks from is a man who will release at least 17 mock drafts in the coming weeks. And here's his first edition:

9. Dallas Cowboys: DE/DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama

10. Washington Redskins: QB Cam Newton, Auburn

19. New York Giants: OT Tyron Smith, USC

23. Philadelphia Eagles: G/C Mike Pouncey, Florida

What did Banks write about Newton?

"A consensus seems to be forming for Newton to land in Washington, where Mike Shanahan and Co. will undertake his transition into a pro-style passing game," he writes. "I guess I can buy that, although drafting a second Auburn first-round quarterback in the span of six years (Jason Campbell, 2005) might make some Redskins fans nervous. Shanahan was thought to be very high on Washington quarterback Jake Locker last year at this time, so don't rule out the ex-Husky if he continues to bounce back from a rough senior season."

From what I'm hearing, it would be a real stretch for the Skins to take Locker at No. 10. And he hasn't helped himself at the Senior Bowl this week.

McNabb has long-term plans with Skins

August, 17, 2010
OXNARD, Calif. -- I interrupt this Cowboys afternoon practice session to bring you some interesting comments from Donovan McNabb. He made the rounds on the local television stations and responded to questions about his contract situation:

"I'll be here with the Redskins for years," he told NBC's Dan Hellie. "We've both said it, I've said it, they've said it. I want to be a Redskin. I want to be a Redskin. Just like I was an Eagle for years, I want to be a Redskin. I want to finish my career here. There's a lot of exciting things that are ahead of us here, there's a lot of talent here, and I think good things can happen here in Washington."

So at what point will the Redskins and McNabb agree to a contract extension? I think it will happen during the season -- especially if McNabb gets off to a quick start.

And when a Comcast reporter mentioned that McNabb wasn't appreciated in Philadelphia, the quarterback cut her off:

"I would not say that, I would not say that," he said. "You know what, it's exciting to be received well, but obviously being in the league for a long time, [Redskins fans] want to see results. I understand that. That's part of my role. My role is to come here and do kind of what they've seen me do for 11 years, and that's something I want to present to them as well as my ballclub."

A couple weeks ago in Ashburn, Va., McNabb told me that he admired how Redskins fans embraced Jason Campbell even when he struggled on the field. Thought it was an interesting comment. Not sure it's an accurate one.

Cowboys' offense allergic to end zone

August, 13, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's too bad we can't get those 60 minutes of our lives back. The Cowboys' first-team offense once again failed in the red zone, and the backups didn't do any better in a 17-9 loss to the Raiders. With the Cowboys having played Sunday, it was obvious they didn't belong on the field Thursday night.

The defense certainly had its moments, but the story of the game (from my vantage point) is that Tony Romo was sacked three times and the running game was non-existent. Other than that, it was a wonderful night of football. The Cowboys have nine days before playing a preseason game in San Diego. Maybe we'll get a better feel for where this team is at that point. But in the interest of producing a blog entry before most of you arrive at work, here are a few observations from Thursday's contest:
[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/LM OteroTony Romo was sacked three times in Thursday's loss to Oakland.
  • The Cowboys were 0-for-4 in red zone efficiency, including a quick trip inside the 20 before Romo was sacked for a 9-yard loss. Dallas gave up six sacks in the game, three on Romo. The most disturbing to me was seeing Raiders defensive end Matt Shaughnessy beat Doug Free on a speed rush and then drag down Romo with one arm. Free was with Shaughnessy the whole time on the play, but he never delivered a solid punch. Shaughnessy's a nice second-year player out of Wisconsin, but he's not Trent Cole, Justin Tuck and Brian Orakpo. Free needs to clean things up before he meets any of those players. At least two of the three sacks on Romo were coverage sacks. He needs to do a better job of unloading the ball in those situations.
  • Linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking were both excellent in coverage in the first quarter. James was throwing his body all over the place and Brooking was superb in not letting anyone get separation from him. Brooking still moves really well. I hope Sean Lee is watching Brooking's every move right now. The rookie needs to get past this quadriceps injury and return to the practice field. Otherwise, he's not going to have a chance to earn time in sub packages. Bobby Carpenter was replacing Brooking in the nickel last season, but right now I wouldn't replace him with anyone.
  • Raiders safety Tyvon Branch was a mismatch for Jason Witten. The Pro Bowl tight end got plenty of separation and Romo hit him in stride for a big play on the first drive.
  • Miles Austin made a beautiful adjustment to a ball thrown slightly behind him in the first quarter for a 24-yard catch. Austin brought a lot of energy to the field Thursday and ran some excellent routes. On the twisting grab, he beat cornerback Chris Johnson. The Raiders are vulnerable on that side of the field.
  • Raiders defensive end Lamarr Houston had one of the sacks on Romo. He was able to sneak in the backside and crunch the quarterback. Romo didn't feel the pressure coming on the play. He just seemed content to stay in the pocket, and that wasn't helping matters. Of course, everyone in the stadium gasped when he took off running up the middle of the field on one play.
  • It was a good night for kicker David Buehler. He nailed a 42-yard field goal and then connected on two short ones. He also recorded three touchbacks. The 42-yarder was a good sign because that's a distance that plagued the team during a miserable stretch in '09. Buehler has all the confidence in the world. If he'll trust his leg, the distance will be there.
  • Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick might be the best tackler of all the defensive backs. He does a really nice job of wrapping up and you don't see guys bounce off him. Scandrick decked wide receiver Louis Murphy early in the game. Then he absorbed a blow from James. The Cowboys were flying to the ball early.
  • The running game was awful, but I did see Marion Barber put a nice little move on cornerback Stanford Routt in the first quarter. He froze Routt with a little stutter-step. Barber stumbled after that and only gained 2 yards.
  • Romo and Austin have tremendous chemistry on the slant. On a third-down play, Austin got Johnson on his hip and then made a nice grab across the middle. Even when cornerbacks see it coming, they have an awful time getting inside position.
  • All the goodwill that Kevin Ogletree earned in the offseason is being wasted early in the preseason. He's not making contested catches and it just seems like there's a lack of concentration. I still think he'll make the roster as the fifth receiver, but he hasn't seized some of these extra repetitions that were created by Dez Bryant's absence.
  • Linebacker Victor Butler picked up a personal foul on a punt return. The officials will not have any tolerance this season for those blindside hits on defenseless players. There's just too much of a risk for head and neck injuries. Butler must have better awareness on that play.
  • In the first quarter, cornerback Terence Newman closed quickly to break up a Jason Campbell throw in the flat. Newman was in position to make the interception, but he opted for knocking down the ball with one arm. It was a very instinctive play and it caught Campbell by surprise.
  • Free-agent rookie Bryan McCann out of SMU had one really nice punt return (28 yards) late in the second quarter when he allowed Ogletree to set him up with a good block. McCann's also getting a lot of opportunities with the second-team defense. He was late on a Campbell throw to Murphy, but you can tell that he's not far away from making those plays. I get the sense that Wade Phillips is really pulling for McCann.
  • I was eager to see how former third-round draft pick Robert Brewster performed at left tackle against the Raiders. And once again, he turned in a dud. Not even the optimistic Phillips will be able to praise Brewster after Thursday's showing. His feet are stuck in neutral and there's absolutely no anchor. When you watch him, he's getting pushed directly toward the quarterback. He's most susceptible to an outside speed rush right now, and that's not a good sign. Brewster will keep getting chances, but I thought that was a poor showing. Brewster was also penalized for grabbing a defensive end as he raced past.
  • Butler does an excellent job getting pressure on the quarterback. He's so much more consistent this season in causing problems for the offensive line. And the other linebacker who caught my eye Thursday was Leon Williams. He's just a really tough player who brings some attitude to the field. Inside linebacker Jason Williams is still a work in progress, but he did race through and make a nice play against running back Michael Bush.
  • Safety Mike Hamlin suffered a neck strain and a concussion in the third quarter, according to's Tim MacMahon. Some folks in the organization thought Hamlin might challenge Alan Ball for the starting role, but that hasn't happened so far in camp. The good news for the Cowboys is that Hamlin was the only player injured. That's a lot different situation than what took place against the Bengals.
  • Roy Williams and Romo weren't on the same page in the first quarter. On one play, Romo rolled right and wanted Williams to come back to him. Williams sort of posted up the cornerback along the sideline and hoped for the best. There wasn't any rhythm to his routes against the Raiders. By the way, Bryant gave Williams and the rest of the receivers some new shoes.
  • In one of the Cowboys' four trips inside the red zone, Jon Kitna rolled right and threw to Deon Anderson in the flat. It was a poorly conceived play on fourth-and-1. Linebacker Thomas Howard applied the pressure to Kitna.
  • I thought safety Danny McCray did a really nice job hustling over to break up a deep ball to Johnnie Lee Higgins. McCray's been a camp phenom, and I'm eager to see if he can keep it up in Oxnard, Calif., next week. The Beast will be on the ground in Oxnard beginning Sunday evening.
  • The Cowboys were 3-for-16 on third down. The lack of a running game put the Cowboys in third-and-long situations far too often. Losing in the preseason isn't a big issue, but this red zone issue is something that goes back to last season. The Cowboys need a touchdown from the first-team offense against the Chargers next Saturday.
  • Guard Pat McQuistan simply doesn't play with any power. Every time I watch him, he's getting thrown toward the quarterback. It's about time to move on without him. The Cowboys have invested a lot of time in him, but I don't think he'll ever be a starter. And he doesn't seem like a reliable backup. On the other hand, I like the backup center, Phil Costa. The guy will stand his ground and he seems to have a little attitude. Give me that guy over McQuistan any day. I also liked the way rookie Sam Young played.

Camp Confidential: Washington Redskins

August, 10, 2010
PM ET NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 20

ASHBURN, Va. -- It’s 7:15 on a Friday evening at Redskins Park and coach Mike Shanahan has taken a short break from watching film of the morning's practice. The man who always appears to be five minutes removed from a tanning session is discussing a philosophy that’s served him well over the years, but came into question when he was fired in Denver after 14 seasons and two Super Bowl titles.

Now Shanahan and his hand-picked quarterback, Donovan McNabb, want to prove that both of their previous employers made a mistake. We’re talking about two of the most prideful men in the league, and in two separate conversations with the NFC East blog last Friday, they essentially said the same thing.

“Yeah, both of us are here to win a Super Bowl,” Shanahan said. “If you’re not in it to win a Super Bowl, then you need to find something else to do. I’m not ever going to comment on how things were done here before, but we had a philosophy that worked in Denver, and that’s what we’re going to follow.”

It’s worth noting that two years ago, players were hailing the unorthodox approach of Jim Zorn. He played music during practice and delivered lectures on designer jeans. He was sort of the lovable hippie -- right up until the team started losing. In ’09, the Redskins became the most dysfunctional organization in professional sports. Zorn couldn’t be shamed into resigning, so the Redskins simply stripped him of his dignity (and play-calling duties).

Dan Snyder hired Bruce Allen and Shanahan because he has lost so much credibility with Skins fans. Allen and Shanahan immediately began changing the culture at Redskins Park. This was a team crying out for some form of discipline, and Shanahan has delivered in spades. If a player doesn’t hustle between drills in practice, Shanahan will call their names after practice and tell them to run extra sprints. He also makes sure that every player keeps his shirttail in during those sessions. Shanahan can get away with this because of those two rings.

With one hire, the Redskins are once again relevant in the NFC East. Now, let’s take a closer look at their chances of making the playoffs:


[+] EnlargeDonovan McNabb
Win McNamee/Getty ImagesQuarterback Donovan McNabb is working on building a rapport with his new group of receivers.
1. Can Donovan McNabb elevate this pedestrian group of receivers to new heights? There’s a reason that Santana Moss seems to have a perpetual smile on his face these days. He didn’t even have time to complete routes last season because of the Redskins’ woeful offensive line. Now, coaches are showing him film of the Texans’ Andre Johnson and saying he could do similar things. McNabb invited Moss and the rest of the receivers to work out with him in Phoenix early last month, and you can already see the benefits on the playing field.

“I told them to bring their wives and girlfriends because I wanted it to be a family affair,” McNabb told me. “When you’re around the facility, you always feel like you’re being watched. I thought it was a great opportunity for us to bond away from everyone else and start developing some chemistry.”

But Moss is the only thing close to a sure thing. We're still waiting for former second-round draft picks Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly to show some consistency. For now, they're listed on Shanahan's depth chart as third-stringers. McNabb may have to rely on the 38-year-old Joey Galloway to play a significant role in the offense. The good news for Skins fans is that McNabb once took receivers such as Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston to NFC title games on a regular basis.

2. When will Albert Haynesworth crack the starting lineup? Shanahan bristled when I asked him if Haynesworth was causing a "circus," but the coach must realize that the defensive lineman has dominated the headlines. I think the players were watching closely to see how Shanahan dealt with the brooding star. Now that he's finally passed the infamous conditioning test, Haynesworth will work as a backup defensive tackle. He'll eventually start at right defensive end, but it's not going to happen overnight.

Haynesworth could be a huge part of Jim Haslett's defense if he buys into what the coach is doing. I am eager to see whether this knee issue goes away in the preseason. Haynesworth needs more game repetitions than usual because of all the time he missed. If the knee prevents him from getting on the field, it will become another distraction.

[+] EnlargeTrent Williams
Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIRookie tackle Trent Williams has drawn rave reviews from coaches and teammates.
3. Have the Redskins solved their issues on the offensive line? I think a lot of this season hinges on whether three new additions to the line play well. Jammal Brown was a Pro Bowl player for the Saints at one point, but he hasn't played since '08. He'll have to knock off some rust while learning how to play right tackle. Rookie Trent Williams has a ton of ability, but he's working with a much thicker playbook now. There were questions about his work ethic at the University of Oklahoma. So far, he's said and done all the right things in Washington.

And we'll see how Artis Hicks performs at right guard. I always thought he was a better option than Mike Williams (out for the year), but this unit needs a lot of work in the preseason. McNabb will bring a lot to this team, but he can't win a lot of games if he's constantly on his back. Ask Jason Campbell about that.


I was thoroughly impressed with free safety Kareem Moore. He was a sixth-round pick in '08 who didn't make much of an impact in his first two seasons. Now, it looks like he'll lock down a starting spot. He's had an excellent camp. He plays with a lot of confidence and he'll allow LaRon Landry to play closer to the line of scrimmage.


You knew that one of the veteran running backs would probably be out of the mix, but I didn't expect it to happen so early in the proceedings. Willie Parker is officially listed at the Skins' fourth-string running back. Hard to imagine him making the final roster unless there are injuries.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIAfter recording 581 yards last season, Larry Johnson is turning in a solid camp in Washington.
  • I talked to one longtime Redskins observer who actually thinks Larry Johnson will have more carries than Clinton Portis this season. I don't see that happening unless Portis suffers an injury, but it's obvious that Johnson's in excellent shape. He's finishing off every run and he actually has shown a burst at times.
  • Lorenzo Alexander and Andre Carter have a nice little battle going on at left outside linebacker. Alexander has been running a lot with the first team, but Carter, 31, will get plenty of playing time. You knew Carter would have a little trouble in coverage, but he's actually been step for step with running backs on a couple of occasions.
  • Haslett is the best thing that could've happened to Carlos Rogers' career. The cornerback thought his career in Washington was over, but now Haslett believes he can turn him into an Antoine Winfield-type player. Haslett will take advantage of Rogers' size and he'll let him blitz more than in the past. (Adam Schefter has more on Haslett.)
  • Brian Orakpo told me after practice Friday that Haslett's playbook has at least 20 more blitzes than Greg Blache's old version. He said it was a little overwhelming at first, but now he's not thinking as much. Orakpo had a nice rookie season, but he's about to become a breakout star. It's pretty amazing to have this many elite pass-rushers in the same division.
  • Kedric Golston and Adam Carriker were running with the first-team defense Friday. It looked like the Redskins were working on their dime package, which features two down linemen. I think Haslett will be very creative with his fronts. He'll have some of the same concepts that we've seen from Dick LeBeau and the Steelers.
  • Cornerback Justin Tryon made a nice recovery on a fly pattern to Roydell Williams on Friday. But Tryon hasn't done a lot in this camp to move up the depth chart. I think he's behind Kevin Barnes and maybe even Ramzee Robinson at this point.
  • If you need a "Rudy" type of player to root for, let me point you in the direction of former Kansas State receiver Brandon Banks. At 5-foot-7, Banks isn't exactly a red zone target, but he's quick and appears to have good hands.
  • John Beck rolled right and fired a bullet to tight end Lee Vickers in team drills. Former TCU linebacker Robert Henson reacted with some loud expletives because he came close to breaking up the pass. Beck had too many balls batted down when he was with the Dolphins. His arm angle's been too low in the pros, so we'll see if Kyle Shanahan can fix that problem.

NFC East training camp preview

July, 22, 2010
The Dallas Cowboys will get a head start on the rest of the division by opening camp Saturday. The Eagles will have rookies and selected veterans show up next Tuesday, but the full team will have its first practice July 31. The Redskins open camp July 29, and the Giants get things going in Albany, N.Y., on Aug. 1.

Keep your eye on the Dez Bryant contract situation. The early start means the Cowboys won't have many first-round contracts to use as a point of reference.

With the Giants starting a week later than the Cowboys, I think New York general manager Jerry Reese will have plenty of time to take care of his top picks.


Dallas Cowboys: Is Doug Free up to the task of replacing Flozell Adams at left tackle?

Doug Free
Kyle Terada/US PresswireThe Cowboys have a lot of confidence in tackle Doug Free.
The Cowboys had better hope they have the answer to this question. Adams may have been in his twilight football years, but he was still one of the better offensive tackles in the NFC.

Free has limited game experience on the left side, but he displays excellent footwork and that should serve him well against speedy pass-rushers such as Brian Orakpo, Trent Cole and Justin Tuck.

Some of the Cowboys -- notably DeMarcus Ware -- were caught off guard by Adams' release, and they didn't immediately endorse Free. But I think those comments were made out of respect to the perennial Pro Bowl player. As camp approaches, Free's teammates are saying all the right things about him.

All the games he played at right tackle last season for an injured Marc Colombo gave him a tremendous amount of confidence. And offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who once tutored Larry Allen, raves about Free. It's a risky move by Jerry Jones, but it's one he didn't have to contemplate for long.

New York Giants: What is Osi Umenyiora's mindset heading into camp?

All eyes will be on the defensive end rotation early in Giants camp. Umenyiora was humiliated by his demotion last season and, he spent the first part of the offseason yapping about the slight. Reese does a nice job tuning that stuff out and he expects Umenyiora to bounce back with a strong season. But you can't demote Mathias Kiwanuka simply to assuage Umenyiora's massive ego.

We'll arrive in Albany for the Giants' first practice, so I'll keep you posted on that front. New defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is off to a good start in terms of gaining his players' trust. It will be interesting to see how many changes he makes to the Giants' 4-3 scheme. I don't think the changes will be dramatic, but expect to see a lot more pressure. Fewell's specialty is in the secondary, and that's where New York had a miserable time last season. I think the pass coverage will be vastly improved. If it's not, the Giants could be in for another long season.

[+] EnlargeKevin Kolb
Chris McGrath/Getty ImagesNow that Donovan McNabb is gone, Kevin Kolb takes over at quarterback.
Philadelphia Eagles: Can Kevin Kolb quickly take command of this team?

Young stars such as DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek couldn't wait for the Kolb era to begin, so now we'll find out what that looks like. He's an accurate quarterback who has an excellent grasp of the offense after watching Donovan McNabb for three seasons. He'll make some mistakes, but he'll be helped by perhaps the best receiving corps in the NFL.

So far, Kolb's done an outstanding job of handling the spotlight. Now, things are going to get much more hectic. His every word and training camp pass will be analyzed. Kolb doesn't seem fazed by all of the attention at this point. Let's see how he responds the first time he has a lousy training camp practice as the starter.

I'm looking forward to watching Kolb in the first couple of preseason games. He'll get plenty of reps. The Eagles need to see how he responds when he gets popped in the mouth. And that's going to happen at some point.

Washington Redskins: Can Donovan McNabb take these pedestrian receivers to the next level?

Donovan McNabb
AP Photo/Nick WassAfter 11 seasons in Philadelphia, Donovan McNabb now calls Washington home.
The good sign is that McNabb elevated some mediocre receivers in Philadelphia over the years. I think Devin Thomas is on the verge of being a consistent threat and McNabb will give him every opportunity to become a playmaker. With no appreciable depth along the offensive line, the Redskins will need some luck. Jason Campbell played behind arguably the worst offensive line in the league last season.

It would only take an injury or two to basically have that same line again. McNabb needs to be on the same page with his offensive line coming out of camp. Even with all of the Albert Haynesworth drama, McNabb will be the most compelling storyline.


Cowboys: Marion Barber. He's dropped about 10 pounds and looks much quicker than last season. But Felix Jones is poised to replace him as the feature back -- if he hasn't already. I could've gone with Roy Williams, but that almost seems redundant at this point. It's hard to say someone's on the hot seat when everyone's pretty much given up on him anyway. Unless he has some type of breakout season (12 TDs), then he'll be long gone in 2011. Barber has a legitimate chance to turn things around this season, so I'm putting him on the hot seat.

Giants: Brandon Jacobs. I could've easily gone with Tom Coughlin because his job will be on the line if he misses the playoffs again. But from a player standpoint, all eyes will be on Jacobs. He took some advice from Tiki Barber to heart and stopped trying to bang his body into everyone. But he may have taken things too far because he looked tentative at times last season. If he doesn't produce early in the season, Ahmad Bradshaw will be ready to replace him as the starter.

Eagles: Andy Reid. If the Eagles make the playoffs with Kolb, then it will be another feather in Reid's West Coast hat. But if the young Eagles flame out, there will be some backlash. It's rare to see such a wildly successful coach take such a huge risk. We'll know a lot more about Reid's legacy after this season. Too dramatic for you? Maybe so, but it's certainly a big season for him.

Redskins: Haynesworth. He'll be the focal point of the first few days of training camp. I'm not holding my breath that things are going to work out between Haynesworth and coach Mike Shanahan. If the defensive tackle pouts openly about his role in the 3-4 defense, Shanahan will be tempted to send him home. Should be fun to watch.


Ramses Barden
AP Photo/Bill KostrounWide receiver Ramses Barden could be the red zone threat the Giants are looking for.
Giants wide receiver Ramses Barden. The guy basically took over training camp last season, but he wasn't ready to contribute on special teams. I think Barden will emerge as a weapon in the red zone. He has more length than Plaxico Burress and makes plays in traffic. The Giants have to find a way to get him on the field. I wouldn't be shocked if he finished the season with seven touchdowns. That would be a big leap, but it's something Barden's capable of accomplishing.


Cowboys: Safety Alan Ball will lead the division with seven interceptions.

Giants: Hakeem Nicks will have 1,250 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Seriously.

Eagles: Jeremy Maclin finishes this season with more yards and TDs than DeSean Jackson.

Redskins: Clinton Portis will go to the Pro Bowl after rushing for 1,280 yards and 12 TDs.