Posted at 2:17 PM ET, 09/ 5/2006

Afternoon Update (couldn't come up with anything better; pretty weak, I know)

Early reaction to the Redskins unusual quarterback rotation:

Jason Campbell seemed pretty excited by the prospect of actually playing football this season, and took his "long-term" backup role as a major sign of faith. Todd Collins says he was "surprised," by the unconventional decision, and seemed a bit confused about how all of this might play out, but at least a semi-hopeful that should he get in a game and perform well, he might still got a shot at his first start since 1997. As for Al Saunders, he seems on board with everything, praised Campbell's progress in the latter stages of training camp, and, like Gibbs, said all you can really bank on is one week at a time, and entering Monday's opener, Collins in the guy behind Brunell.

Any changes to this plan based on team performance, injuries, individual performances, etc. would be Gibbs's all the way, Saunders said, and not his. Most importantly, let's not forget the chasm between the big dog - Mark Brunell - and the backups. Unless Brunell gets hurt, I see him keeping the starting job indefinitely, even if his play somehow slipped to 2004 levels. So in the end, this might be much ado about nothing. But, hell, who doesn't love a quarterback controversy, even a nonsensical one.

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Posted at 8:00 AM ET, 09/ 5/2006

Who's Up Second?

Okay, so we know that Todd Collins is the backup quarterback for Week 1. We know Jason Campbell is the No. 3 QB for Week 1 - exactly where he was a year ago. We know that if Mark Brunell gets in a game, Collins, unequivocally, is the man off the bench. Beyond that, I'm not sure that Joe Gibbs really cleared up too much Monday night.

Anything else, whether it be in Week 2 or Week 8 or Week 13, well, that's subject to change. This is the plan for now, a plan that is set for Week 1, and, says Gibbs, would only change if Brunell got knocked or pulled from a game. To me, it's pretty clear what the pecking order is, and it's a great job of couching the situation by Gibbs and a great way to keep Campbell's spirits up and make him feel like part of the equation. Shrewd thinking there.

But come on, if Todd Collins comes in and manages the game and the Redskins are a competitive team and Brunell is out a week or so, do you really see Campbell going in the following week? Not me. Not with the expectations for this team and not with the familiarity Collins has in this system. Even Coach Joe conceded that "The Campbell Solution" could be altered at any time, and this issue revisited depending on the play of the other quarterbacks, the team's place in the standing, etc.

Bottom line, should Brunell go down for any reason, Collins gets the first crack to show that he can be the guy for this team. That's all any backup can ask for. And we know how it's gone here the last few years. When Patrick Ramsey took over for Brunell midway through the 2004 season, Ramsey started for the duration of the season; when Ramsey was knocked out in Week 1 last year, Brunell came in and started every game from there on out.

All any coach can guarantee is who his top dog will be going into that Sunday/Monday, and who the No. 2 is. Right now, it's Brunell and Collins. I can appreciate the tact the staff is taking and it all makes sense from their perspective. But I still feel like what happens on game day from here on out will dictate the moves made at quarterback much more so than any long-term proclamations made a week before the season starts.

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Posted at 1:12 PM ET, 09/ 4/2006

Labor Day Blog-ette

Hey there. Hope you're all having a great weekend. I'm trying to stay low key and do the family thing, but thought I would throw a lil somethin up here for the diehards. After the widespread NFL cuts came down Saturday there were a handful of players available I thought might interest the Skins. Some of them probably did, but the younger guys have to clear waivers first, and Washington's 10-6 record last year puts them low on the waiver claim list. A few older free agents are still out there, and could be had before the team heads back out to practice Tuesday.

The name that jumped out at me most was Minnesota offensive lineman Chris Liwienski. He's played at a decent level in this league for a long time, and would surely be an upgrade for a second-string line that was punished regularly in the preseason. But, according to league sources, the Redskins did not make a play for him. He's heading to Arizona, to play for Dennis Green, his former coach with the Vikings. I think thus guy would have been a nice pickup.

A younger lineman who showed some promise last season was Rob Petitti. He started 16 games for the Cowboys as a rookie, and, while, taking his lumps, I thought could at least push Jim Molinaro for a backup tackle spot, an area of particular concern. The Redskins may have made a waiver claim, but it's a moot point as New Orleans claimed him. A young tackle who was cut by Kansas City, Jeremy Parquet, I thought might be worth a chance. Al Saunders would know him a bit from the Chiefs. However, the Skins had not called him as of last night, sources said, and Atlanta was expressing some interest.

Finally, Dwayne Carswell might not be able to play in the league anymore after suffering a bunch of injuries in an accident a few years back. He blocked for Portis in Denver and, yeah, that's a different scheme there, but again, if these guys were willing to give 400-pound Lincoln Kennedy a look-see during camp, I thought maybe Carswell would be worth a look. Wasn't able to pin down his health situation, Carswell did get through all of camp for the Broncos

On the defensive side of the ball, lineman Carlos Hall and corner Duane Starks are on the decline, but have put in some very solid years in the past. Both are Rosenhaus clients too, and we know how Snyder likes to do business with him, so you never know. They could probably provide some cover in a pinch.

Anyway, just some names for you to consider. I still have a feeling at least one new face will be at Redskins Park tomorrow, and I'll get any details up here on the blog as soon as I get them.

Enjoy the holiday.

Cheers.

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Posted at 11:24 AM ET, 09/ 1/2006

Friday (late) Morning H-Back

So I'm shooting the bull with Wilbon outside FedEx Field around 12:30 Friday morning - after the exhibition with the Ravens - when who should stroll through but The Danny, and a couple of his well-suited businessman buddies. Dan and I say hello, and he and Wilbon kick it for several minutes as I stand off to the side, several feet away from the cool kids, idly looking at cab drivers and the odd stumbling drunk still in the parking lot .

(Perils of traveling with Wilbon - For the second time in four preseason games some random inebriated dude approached us mid-conversation near a stadium to tell Wilbon something like, "I love you. I love you. Everything you say is true. Everything you say is true!").

Anyway, after The Owner and Mike finish up, Dan calls out my name and says that, "Vinny (Cerrato) asked me to tell you something if I ran into you." Immediately, my reporter senses go up, and I have some doubts about this statement alone, but I let the man continue. So Dan, acting as if he has no idea what he's taking about, says that, per Vinny, I should go ahead and turn in my credential, because Jason Campbell is the backup quarterback. He's the guy behind Brunell. The Danny again goes to lengths to say that he doesn't know what any of this means, and he's just relaying a message.

I'm not buying this exact turn of events, but still explain to Dan that I wrote a blog Thursday saying that I believe Todd Collins has always been Al Saunders's guy, has the coach's ultimate faith and will be the man who goes in the game if Mark Brunell goes down in Week 1. I joked in the blog entry about being willing to stake my credential on this being the case. In the next paragraph, however, I revoked the offer, saying I'm not willing to risk my job on Collins being the No. 2 come opening day, but would be floored if anything other than that occurs

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Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 08/31/2006

Game 4 - Why Bother?

Anyone else already dreading the drive to FedEx tonight? I hate these weekday night games. Inevitable traffic chaos. Even more parking lot bedlam than usual (I mean jammed up I-95, not the actual spots where people drop off their cars for $35 a pop). I'm thinking I'll be out of DC and on my way to DannyLand by 3:30 this afternoon to be safe.

With the Ravens in town, there's bound to be plenty of Baltimorons (I write that with the utmost love and respect and can get away with that, since I'm a Baltimoron myself) making the trip. And all to watch the starters play probably a collective 12 plays. Oh well. Sometimes you don't get what you pay for, eh? I have to say, taking the logistics of this trip out of it, I still don't have high expectations for this game. The second half in particular will be an open audition for the collective scouts from the CFL, NFL Europe, Arena League ... you get the idea. Good thing my main man Howard Bryant is writing the game story tonight and not me.

I have a feeling Jason Campbell is going to get at least another half of play, which will change absolutely nothing. Al Saunders wanted Todd Collins, Al Saunders got Todd Collins and Al Saunders has ultimate faith in Todd Collins. Four preseason games never was going to change that. If Todd Collins isn't the No. 2 QB come opening day - which I have professed since the day he was signed in March - I will be utterly stunned. Floored. I'll turn in my credential to the NFL and walk away with my tail between my legs

Dose of Reality: Okay, I'm keeping the credential. The way Chloe Jane is tearing through the spinach nuggets these days (we've resorted to tricking her into eating veggies already, at just 18 months, telling her they're chicken nuggets. Man, she takes after her daddy sometimes), there's going to be a shortage on Size 5 Cruiser diapers in Arlington County, and I need this here job. So the credential stays. Back to the blog.

I'd keep an eye on LB Rocky McIntosh, too. He's coming on strong and plays the kind of knock-your-head-off football these coaches demand. He's got a ton to learn, still, but I figure he'll pop a few more people tonight and push his way into the base packages by Week 4 (I'm full of fearless prognostications today). Figure we'll get a decent dosage of RB T.J. Duckett tonight as well. But overall, don't expect much from this game. You'll only be let down.

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Posted at 1:00 PM ET, 08/30/2006

The Baseball Bunch


Wanna know why football is so much more popular than baseball these days. Three words: The Dugout Wizard. What the hell happened to The Baseball Bunch? We lived for that show every Saturday morning. TWIB in the morning - the only way for my friends and I to really see baseball highlights at the time before ESPN's BS "Web Gems" every stinkin' night - then Tommy Lasorda, Johnny Bench, Ozzie Smith and the entire gang from "The Baseball Bunch." (Anyone remember the name of the nerdy stat kid?). That show rocked, and it was huge in Baltimore City, I can tell you that much. We'd watch the fundamentals, it made baseball seem simple and fun and we'd go out and practice the drills in the park, then play wiffle ball in the alley behind my cousin Todd's house all night. We even built a backstop at one point. This was the real deal.

But seriously, it made the players seem accessible. It seemed like they cared about kids. It wasn't stuffy or over-hyped or crazy corporate. Hell, if I remember correctly, they maybe even played on a stereotype or two. (And while I'm on that topic, the first coupla of Bad News Bears flicks were straight dope. Don't think you'd see them made today.) Regardless, baseball was cool. Not that football wasn't, but it just seemed like we related more to ball players, felt more connected to them. And that's not just because the NFL sat back and let Irsay move the Colts out of my hometown.

I look around at baseball these days, and how often do you see a kid from, say, downtown Detroit or Philly on a roster? The disconnect seems deep. But any NFL roster is loaded with dudes from inner city areas. Just a thought. But I think a modern day "Baseball Bunch," with Manny Ramirez as the "Baseball Idiot," Grady Little as "The Dugout Buffoon," and, say, Tim McCarver as "The Human Ego/Baseball Demigod" would be just plane good TV. Right?

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 08/30/2006

The Madden Curse (sort of)

Someone posted on the blog last week that Skins long snapper Ethan Albright was the lowest rated player in the NFL on the Madden game. What a travesty. When I approached Ethan about it, he'd already heard. Some buddies emailed him about it. Seems odd to me though - the dude has not missed a game in the last 10 years and hasn't botched a snap in three years here, yet he gets kicked around by these tech geeks. Why? Just because he's a red-haired long snapper.

Ethan's a great guy and I got to know him well last training camp when I did a big feature on the life of a long snapper. Ain't now way he's the worst snapper in the NFL. The man takes pride in his craft, and was clearly a little ticked off by his Madden treatment.

"If they really want to be accurate with the game, do long snapper category," Albright said. "Somebody was telling me my spin move rating? Like that's going to help me snap the ball. Why would I need a spin move? If they wan to be accurate, have a snap be 90-percent accurate in games and then when its botched watch everyone jump all over the video game. That would add some excitement. But the way I understand it, you just press a button and it's always a good, perfect snap."

I haven't played Madden in like 10 years - man, did we have some epic, all-night tournaments back in Day Hall at Syracuse University - but I'm pretty out of the loop now. Seems like a fair enough suggestion to me,. though. I'd say Ethan deserves to be on the cover of Madden '08 after this snub, but then again, that's not always such a good thing, is it?

...continue >>

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Posted at 5:58 PM ET, 08/29/2006

Eddie Johnson Just Got Cut, No Joke

They whacked Eddie Johnson after practice, his first with the team. Johnson worked out this morning, showed well, was signed, had some fatigue during practice after punting and kicking so much this morning, and got the pink slip a little while ago. What a day. Frosty lives. Frosty lives.

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Posted at 3:09 PM ET, 08/29/2006

Nick Novak, 24/7

Because the people have spoken. Because you demanded it. Because he appears to be one of the most popular ex-Skins of all time (or someone who has a lot of his friends posting comments on this blog), I've got the latest Nick Novak news.

He's getting a hair cut, as we speak, right now in Arizona. Yep, that's right. Got it confirmed straight from the horse's mouth. Just got off the phone with him ... and he's getting a buzz while seeing if anyone claimed him off waivers. Teams can not contact him during this period, and he'll know later if anyone claimed him.

I'll give him a call back tonight and post whatever update I get. I figure we should do a weekly Novak watch all season, no matter where he ends up. Even if he's still waiting around to get signed and just, well, getting a haircut or shopping for groceries. He's a great dude and I'm sure he wouldn't mind me calling him randomly for updates, especially after I tell him how huge he is on this blog.

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Posted at 1:49 PM ET, 08/29/2006

Punters Galore


Let the punter games begin! The Redskins have brought in a few punter/kickoff guys to compete with incumbent Derrick Frost, and today's 2 pm practice will get it started. League sources have told me one of the punters is Eddie Johnson, a former sixth-round pick by the Vikings (1993) who has overcome a series of hip flexor problems. Johnson was waived by Jacksonville a year ago and used 2005 top rebuild his leg strength and fully overcome his hip issues.

Johnson handled kickoffs for the Vikings in his rookie season and displayed strong hang time. He has not kicked off into the end zone as consistently in the NFL as in college. Johnson, 25, worked out for the team this morning, fared well, and was signed. The Redskins are expected to have at least one other punter in camp for today's practice as well, and Thursday's preseason finale with Baltimore could go a long way to settling the issue.

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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 08/29/2006

Dr. Evil

If you asked me to play mad scientist and pick one player to pluck out of Gregg Williams's defense as an evil ploy against all of Redskin Nation, I'm taking Cornelius Griffin every single time. The defense does not have the same bite without him there - regular season, pre season, spring practice, mini camp, whatever - the pass rush falls and suddenly opponents are able to slam the ball between the hash marks with abandon.

Griffin is a quiet warrior, who draws double teams and opens up terrain for the defensive ends. When the ends start getting into the backfield, suddenly life is easier for the linebackers to make plays, and, with Griff a stud run-stopper, too, you can see what makes everything tick around here. When he went down with that knee injury a few weeks ago, you should have seen how fast Williams was sprinting out to midfield to check on him. That don't happen for just anyone.

With Griffin out (he went down against New York with a knee sprain), the Jets and Patriots ran right up the gut. There was no pass rush, and quarterbacks had time to pick apart the secondary. If Griffin's injury lingers much longer, red flags should wave. He's practicing without pads this week, with a brace on the knee, and heaven knows he's a gamer. He'll be out there at far less than 100 percent if he has to be, and he'll still be effective. But you don't want your d-linemen having to worry about their knees, and with Phillip Daniels (back) and Renaldo Wynn (ankle) hurting, too, there is ample reason for concern.

Everyone seems confident these guys will be fine for the real games, but Griffin will need several more days work with the trainers before he is cleared for more work.

...continue >>

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