Brian Orakpo not only hosts the "The Brian Orakpo Leukemia Golf Classic" presented by Omnitec Solutions, INC for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (www.lls.org) golf event, but he has immersed himself in truly being a key figure of an outstanding organization dedicated to fighting blood cancers.
The Redskins outside linebacker, recovering from a 2nd surgical procedure to his pectoral muscle, took over the event from Jason Campbell a few years ago and as the sign at the very top of the golf course would tell you, this is more than just about good publicity or just lending his name.
The sign - a very nice gesture and tribute from a grieving family who just recently lost their son, Brendan Kelly - reads "In Memory of Brendan Kelly - From The Entire Kelly Family....Thank You. Brian!!"
The sign has a picture of Orakpo and young Brendan in happier moments, but you can tell that the two developed a strong connection. In addition to honoring Brendan's legacy, Orakpo and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (@LLSNatCap) honored another "Patient Hero" named Tyler. Tyler, a 12 year old young man who has been fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) since November of 2011.
Orakpo is clearly all-in for a organization that does so much good for so many people. He's also on-board for an organization that drafted him and now sits a year away (maybe less?) from deciding if they want to make it a long term relationship.
I've covered Orakpo since he was a rookie and it's hard to fathom how quickly his first four years have gone, and yet how long the road to success (for everyone) sometimes has been. One thing is for sure, Orakpo has always been determined. He is a consummate professional who works hard at his craft, without any drama.
Sometimes that quality is underrated by fans and even media, but it is extremely important to note because the norm is for great athletes to have something about them that rub people the wrong way. I might be missing something, but I can't think of anything that Orakpo has done in that regard.
Sure, he has been knocked for not having a monster breakout season, and that is for the most part understandable. Right now, the most important issue is Orakpo proving to himself & the Redskins management team that he can stay healthy.
On Monday, the new Dad of little Brianna spent time with the media assembled and Orakpo was very adamant that he is healthy and ready to show that the two pectoral tears and an incident in a preseason game in Chicago was just a couple of "freak" occurrences as he called it.
"I shouldn't have no setbacks come OTA's. I can't say how much even better I feel this year from where I was at this point last year....I'm ready to go."
The natural question is why would Orakpo be any different than any other recovering athlete or even his situation from last off-season, which was similar? "It feels differently because I'm not having any aches or pains. I'm not having any sort of discomfort, post surgery. That's the great thing about it."
Clearly that was a problem last year at this time that continued into training camp before initially giving way in Chicago in the preseason, and then in a completely different area in Week 2 at St. Louis.
Either way, Orakpo knows going into the final year of his initial rookie contract that staying healthy (freak injury or not) is important and if he can do that, along with putting up monster numbers - he will heavily increase his chances of being a "Redskin for life" as he termed it, when I asked him about his pending contract situation.
As of this point, if I am being completely honest - I don't know if the Redskins could afford to make a long term commitment to Orakpo if they had to make that decision today. Luckily for Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen, they do not have to make that decision right now or really anytime soon. They might not even have to make that decision next year, as they simply could use the franchise tag.
A franchise tag designation for an outside linebacker in 2012, cost 10.6 million per multiple reports. In 2011, the franchise tag for outside linebackers was a reported 8.8 million. It is possible that the tag price for 2014 could rise to over 11.5 million.
If Orakpo stays healthy for 16 plus games and puts up 10 plus sacks, while continuing to improve in his run defense and pass drops -along with a couple of forced turnovers (interceptions or forced fumbles), that would have to be worth at least 10 million dollars per year in my eyes.
Is that realistic? Of course it is. Players with Orakpo's talent and work ethic usually get better year after year, until their body starts to fail them. I personally don't feel that Orakpo's body is breaking down, but even the most optimistic supporter would have to admit that it is a issue that needs to be monitored.
Let's look at the numbers to see where we are and what is realistic. Orakpo had 11 sacks on an awful team as a rookie, including 4 in one game against a brutal Oakland Raiders team. He had 50 combined tackles and one forced fumble in 2009.
In 2010 (Mike Shanahan's first year) and after transitioning to a 3-4 defense, Orakpo put up 8.5 sacks and 1 forced fumble in 15 games. He had 56 combined tackles.
With Ryan Kerrigan as a first round pick, and helping deter some of the blocking attention, Orakpo racked up 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He had a career high 59 combined tackles and 5 passes defensed, which was one more than his combined first two years total. Orakpo was hurt before halftime of the Redskins final game of the season, with the pectoral injury.
In one game plus (and not very much of a 2nd), Orakpo had a full sack and a forced fumble in St. Louis along with 3 passes defensed. It stands to reason that 2012 would have been the 'breakout' year that everybody was hoping for with Kerrigan now comfortable in the systemand with Orakpo in year number three of Jim Haslett's defense.
Orakpo, a two-time Pro Bowler probably would not have reached the levels of J.J. Watt (20.5 sacks) or Aldon Smith (19.5 sacks) or Von Miller (18.5 sacks) but is it fair to say he could have reached what Cameron Wake from Miami did (15 sacks) or Clay Matthews of Green Bay who reached 13 sacks in just 12 games? I think that is more than a fair assumption, and it would have put Orakpo in the top five of the league as Wake was fourth overall with Matthews coming in 5th.
Matthews might be the easiest comparison in terms of production and value for Orakpo. Matthews has 42.5 career sacks in 58 games, with 55 starts. He does have 4 interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns and 7 forced fumbles. Throw in three fumble recoveries, another touchdown and an unofficial total of 203 combined tackles along with 22 passes defensed.
Orakpo in 49 career games, has 30 sacks with no interceptions, six forced fumbles, 12 passes defensed and 171 combined tackles unofficially.
Clearly, Matthews has been more productive and has already helped his team win a championship despite being selected 26th overall by the Packers in the 2009 draft. Orakpo was the number 13 overall pick the same year.
Remember though that Matthews had an enormously better supporting cast and a franchise that was already poised to win. Orakpo didn't get to play with Charles Woodson in his prime, or a very talented Cullen Jenkins and many others that contributed to Green Bay's defensive success. Matthews also was drafted by an organization that very clearly had been set up well by Ted Thompson.
It's hard to fathom anybody not realizing that your individual success is often a by-product of who and what you have around you. Sure, Orakpo had London Fletcher but that was about it for the first two years of his career. Watt, Smith, and Matthews walked into pretty good situations in their respective organizations. Miller was drafted # 2 overall by a defensive minded head coach in John Fox, but on a team that also had Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey amongst others.
Orakpo has improved in the other areas of his game, such as his pass drops and run defense, along with his ability to use his hands for a little better leverage. If he can play a full season this year, with Kerrigan fully comfortable in his role and ideally others around him being healthier and better in coverage, it stands to reason that 15 sacks is not out of the question for Orakpo.
As for the money, and what it might cost? Matthews signed a six-year, 69.73 million dollar contract on April 17th according to information posted on Rotoworld.com and Spotrac.com. He received a 20.5 million dollar bonus. Matthews will only count for 6.7 million under the Packers cap in 2013, with figures rising to 11.15 million (2014) to 12.7 million in 2015. From 2016 - 2018, Matthews is currently scheduled to count about 40 million under the Packers cap, with 15.2 million counting in 2017 as currently constructed.
The deal seems to favor the Packers in one area, being that the current franchise tag of 10.6 million (will only go up as more deals are done). Matthews will cost less than he would under a franchise tag in the first two years of the deal and that will probably be the case over the first four years of the deal as well.
The Cowboys have franchised OLB Anthony Spencer the last two years in a row, so Washington might not have to make the decision for even longer, but while that gives you good flexibility from a no long-term risk perspective, it significantly boosts your salary cap number for that one particular season.
Here's what I would say. I would roll the dice for right now and wait on an extension, even though it would lower Orakpo's cap number for 2013 (currently 5.109) and see if he returns to the same or even better level that he was before the injury. I think that is only fair for both sides. If Orakpo goes 8 - 10 games and has roughly a sack per game average, maybe you get serious about a long term extension that makes sense for both sides.
Spencer is going to cost the Cowboys 10.627 million as currently configured (barring a long term extension) and while he had 11 sacks last year, Spencer only has 32.5 career sacks (2.5 more than Orakpo) but has played in 90 games. NINETY. Orakpo has played in 49, if you weren't paying attention above.
Orakpo might not be Matthews, but he's far better than anything Spencer has ever produced and that's with DeMarcus Ware on the other side. If you think about it, Orakpo is an absolute bargain for the Redskins compared to Spencer for the Cowboys. The Redskins know this, and now you do as well.
Even though it would help the Redskins now, Eric Shaffer and Bruce Allen are paid handsomely to make sure that common sense prevails in a league that is every bit as much about dollars and cents, as it is about x's and o's.
If Matthews is the high end ceiling, my guess is Orakpo would come in at the 5-6 year range, with a total value of 50-55 million (5 year deal) or 58-65 million (6 year deal) with maybe 15 million guaranteed. You have until early next March to try and make that happen if you wish to do so, there is absolutely no rush for right now.
For his part, Orakpo didn't seem concerned at all. He's in a good spot, but now it is about trying to get the most imporant thing Matthews already has, a Super Bowl ring.
The Redskins took a couple of big swings at the fences on Saturday, and came up with several intriguing prospects that could be boom or bust guys. You can make an argument the entire draft has had that mantra.
In the fourth round on Saturday, the Redskins selected hybrid safety Phillip Thomas from Fresno State. Thomas can play both free safety and strong safety. He grew up a Redskins fan, and told the Redskins media via teleconference, "I know that we needed a safety. I know [Brandon] Meriweather was hurt this year and they needed a safety who could play the ball in the air. I'm happy the Redskins organization chose me to be that safety."
Thomas also joined ESPN 980 moments after he was selected, an interview you can listen to here http://bit.ly/12B7Uk2
Thomas is 6'0, 208 pounds, but he had a broken left leg and a dislocated ankle in 2011 suffered in a non-contact drill. He did rebound nicely in his real senior season, with 8 interceptions and three that were returned for touchdowns. He also had four sacks and four forced fumbles.
The reason why you might consider Thomas more of a risk than what he appears to be is if you watch these isolation videos via www.draftbreakdown.com of Thomas play against Oregon, you have to wonder will he be able to handle the advanced speed at the NFL level.
You also have to think that Chip Kelly had a smile in a quiet moment about what he might be able to run against Thomas and company, when the Eagles meet up with the Redskins.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, via NFL.com says "That is a great pick for the Redskins at this point in the draft. This kid has an opportunity to come in and start , and I think he will." Mayock mentioned free safety, which is the position that Thomas has the most experience with, starting 24 career games. Thomas also has played 15 games at strong safety.
In the fifth round, the Redskins had two selections and chose lightning quick running back Chris Thompson from Florida State. Thompson is 5'7" 195 pounds and is also the fifth running back taken by Mike Shanahan and Bobby Turner.
Thompson who says his best 40-yard dash was a 4.3, has a major injury history including a torn ACL and two broken vertebrae in his back. He told reporters via teleconference, "My knee is feeling really good. I've been told by my trainers and everything that by training camp I should be fine. I've been working out real hard and I've been feeling good so far. Now I'm just ready to join the Redskins and continue to get my knee better."
As for the back being a potential issue? "I broke my C5 and C6 vertebrae. They said it was the thoracic spine. It was kind of mid-back. It was a compression fracture that I had." Thompson said the back has been no issue "It didn't bother me at all. I haven't had any issues."
The Redskins put a double down bet on Florida State players, with their additional fifth round pick. Washington selected Brandon Jenkins with the pick acquired in the Albert Haynesworth trade to New England.
Jenkins, is coming off a foot injury which he called "a freak injury." He says "It made me mentally stronger and a better player on and off the field. A foot injury is all about patience. You can't rush it."
Jenkins and Thompson become the fifth grouping of players since 1969 in which the Redskins have drafted a pair of college teammates with consecutive picks. It's the 2nd time it has happened since Mike Shanahan took over, with the Redskins selecting three Nebraska teammates in consecutive picks (Roy Helu Jr., DeJon Gomes, Niles Paul).
In the sixth round, the Redskins selected the very talented but somewhat erratic Bacarri Rambo with the 191st selection. Rambo, a free safety from Georgia could have gone in the third or fourth round, but a drug suspension issue cost him games in Athens, rounds in the draft and up-front money.
"It was a very selfish decision I made, but I grew from it, Rambo said on Saturday. "That's my past. I can't control my past. All I can do is just grow from it."
Rambo via teleconference with the Redskins media said "I thought everybody had forgotten about me. I was sitting here praying, asking God to give me one team to like me. They the Redskins called, and it's just a blessed moment." I thank the organization for believing in me."
In some game cut-ups that I watched via www.draftbreakdown.com of Rambo, I noticed his ability to blitz frequently from the secondary, and in one particular instance against Florida, Rambo ran an "A" gap blitz from his deep position and sacked the Gators QB. He also had a acrobatic interception in the end zone, in which he was in coverage from a single high position. He patiently read the quarterback's eyes and reacted to make the play.
In the 7th round, the Redskins finished the draft off with another smaller running back in Rutgers product Jawan Jamison, 5'7", 203 pound player who is considered to be a good pass protector and a good pass catcher out of the backfield.
He started 20 games in his career, and ran for 1,075 yards and a 4.22 average, with four touchdowns in 2012. According a release by the Redskins, he ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash but NFL.com lists him as having a 4.68 combine run.
Mike Shanahan said "Jamison is a guy I thought would be going much earlier. We weren't really looking for that running back in the seventh round, but when he was there, we just thought he was too good to pass up."
The Washington Redskins addressed a huge need with the number 51 overall pick in the 2nd round and their first pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, selecting 6 foot plus CB David Amerson out of North Carolina State. With their third round selection, the Redskins selected tight end Jordan Reed from Florida, a former Quarterback with tremendous athleticism.
As reported live on ESPN 980 Friday night before the pick was made, the Redskins zeroed in on Amerson tonight as teams before the Redskins picked off other players of interest such as Johnthan Banks and Jonathan Cyprien.
ESPN 980 first reported several weeks ago that Amerson would make a personal visit to Redskins Park, a visit that he took to spend time with Defensive Backs coach Raheem Morris and Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett.
Amerson had 13 interceptions in his sophomore year of 2011, the most in college football since Washington's Vince Worley in 1968. He had 18 interceptions in his career at NC State, with 5 picks coming in his final year.
He also has the ability to play free safety, although he told ESPN 980 moments after his selection that for the time being the Redskins coaching staff has only talked to him about playing cornerback, but he also said "I'm open for anything."
Currently, the Redskins have DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield, EJ Biggers, Jerome Murphy and now Amerson in the fold at cornerback.
Free Safety is a much thinner group with Jordan Pugh who played mostly on passing downs last year, Reed Doughty and the currently suspended Tanard Jackson.
Amerson, was sharply criticized for his performance in 2012 for the Wolfpack, but some of that may be unfair. He says and the tape cut-ups prove it, that he was guilty of being a little over aggressive and not reading with his eyes carefully enough. He feels that the early season adversity made him a better player.
In looking back at my notes when I was able to watch isolation coverage via DraftBreakdown.com of Amerson against Boston College, I saw a defensive back who plays on both sides of the field, who can flip his hips and run around a 4.4 40-yard dash. He had an interception while playing on the right side, and in zone coverage that he returned for a touchdown along with a few nice pass break ups.
However, he also had times where he was beat like on a deep post and one time, playing off-man coverage, Amerson was beat on a 3rd/10 hook route. He also did a bad job tackling in space on a cutback run on one play.
We will learn more about Amerson in the coming weeks, but he is a member of the Washington Redskins tonight and he adds to a big need area, in a league that is clearly going taller, bigger and faster at wide receiver.
As for Reed, he joins a group that consists of Fred Davis who is on a one year deal and coming off a major surgery, along with returning tight ends Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul.
Reed becomes the eighth player from the University of Florida selected by a Shanahan led team, the most of any school. Shanahan has roots to Gainesville as he was an offensive coordinator there from 1980 - 1983.
Reed has been compared to Aaron Hernandez of the New England Patriots, by more than just scouts and draft analysts. Mike Shanahan mentioned the connection as well saying Reed is a "lot like Hernandez. I'm not sure if Hernandez is that fast."
Reed figures to give the Redskins the ability to be a matchup nightmare to opposing defenses as he can line up at tight end in-line, a split end, a wide receiver and in H-Back capacity.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
The Washington Redskins endured plenty of criticism last year. Some of it was deserved, some completely unfair but perception is often much more powerful than reality.
The organization was marching to their first NFC Eastern Division Championship since 1999 and all anybody could really talk about was the health of Robert Griffin III and the health of the FedExField playing surface. Even after they won the division on an electric Sunday night, the playing conditions after three December home games were a hot button topic. In the aftermath of the Seattle playoff loss, the burning topic of how sloppy the field was and what impact did it have on Robert Griffin's re-injury and Chris Clemons' torn ACL was an enormous national story.
We were all left with many questions, most of which have gone unanswered.
Should the Redskins put in field turf? What can be done? What did you think of the playing conditions? Is the surface safe? These were all questions the media and you were asking and inevitably the answers coming from the man that matters most (Mike Shanahan) was that the conditions were much better at field level than what it appeared to be on television or from a distant eye in the crowd at FedEx.
No matter the reason, no matter the impact both past and present, the Redskins organization took it upon themselves to fix a good amount of the problems. On Tuesday, ESPN 980 received a first-hand look at the progress and the plan that is in place.
Many of the changes won't be noticeable to the naked eye, so in a nutshell over a lunch meeting and tour with several Redskins officials - this is what is going to happen and what has already taken place.
**The Redskins discovered that the "root" of the problem was not the surface itself, but what was underneath. What was under the sod is what they feel provided an untenable situation moving forward.
A senior Redskins official told ESPN 980 that a "layer of silt formed" which prevented water from percolating and to not be able to get to the roots. The problem also did not allow for proper drainage. Silt is described as a mixture of debris, grass clippings and other materials.
The Redskins attacked the problem by excavating the entire field at the base, putting in fresh sand, adding a few extra inches to the sand base, rebuilding the "crown" of the surface and adding new drainage mechanisms along the sidelines. The organization last performed a major field renovation four years ago.
Behind the Redskins' and visitors' benches, there are now two strips of cement walkways in spots that used to be just an extension of the grass surface during the nice weather, and slippery and dangerous mud during the inclement weather periods. One of the strips of cement will actually go under the "dream seats" as the Redskins call them and has new drainage vents.
On the strip of cement (which will be rubberized) closest to the field, another underground drainage line or system will allow for sufficient drainage (this sits on the field side of the path) and will prevent the sideline areas that players stand on and team personnel walk and run on, from being an absolute quagmire.
***On June 5th, the Redskins per team officials, will lay down a brand new complete surface that they are currently raising on the eastern shore of Maryland. The Redskins are even using a different type of sod going from the old "Tif Sport" to a new sod they called "Latitude 36" which has been tested on the east coast under similar weather conditions.
**One other significant step that the Redskins are taking for the first time in the history of FedExField is that they are doing a complete re-sod of the middle of the playing surface directly after the November 3rd home game against the San Diego Chargers. The re-sod procedure will include the areas from the "bottom of the numbers" on each side of the field spanning the entire length of the field from end zone to end zone.
**Redskins team officials compared the planned improvements to what you see (or don't see) in December & January in Philadelphia at Lincoln Financial Field. However as @HTTR24_7 and others point out on twitter, the Eagles use a different type of surface called "Desso Grassmaster." Another interesting fact is that, for the first time in several years, no college football games are scheduled to be held at FedExField and while a soccer game will probably be added to the schedule, the facility will be preserved for Redskins home games.
***The Redskins have not renovated the base of the surface in four years, and they have never re-sodded the field as they will do this year, which they feel will give them the best chance to provide a world-class surface for a championship contender. As one official told ESPN 980, "We want to be the best in everything we do. We have to provide the best surface we can. We're always trying to be the best."
**As for field turf - it's not happening. Mike Shanahan doesn't like it, and that's really all that matters. Redskins officials insist that they made this decision on their own, and not because they were forced to do so. One said "this is our decision, there was no mandate. Nobody's called us."
**Another item of interest - for the critics that blasted the Redskins for the putrid field conditions late last season, team officials say that that the NFL personally inspects and approves every field surface before every game, and essentially certifies the playing field. The league did this on the Thursday before the Seattle playoff game, and had the ability to demand sweeping changes, but did not.
**One last nugget of information that I found interesting - a member of the stadium management team who is very involved in the building of the Redskins' new training facility in Richmond, Virginia says the fields are being built in Richmond with the same exact specifications and 'crown' as FedExField has. Why? Mike Shanahan believes that if players are practicing and playing on different surfaces with opposite dimensions, the timing and rhythm of say a quarterback and wide receiver can be affected. He wants it the same exact way.
That, along with the refusal to go with field turf, should give you another few examples of not only who is really in charge, but also how deep the head coach's thought process into winning football goes. The Redskins management team feels that they are taking steps every day and every year, to make the organization the best it can be on the field and off the field.
Lorenzo Alexander is no longer a member of the Washington Redskins, but that shouldn't make himless important in the Washington DC and Northern Virginia area. He simply wears a different uniform and plays his home games in the desert, instead of in Landover (which can feel like a desert in August and September).
He's still a valued member of the community and a very good part of the recent Redskins history. He has his hands more than full, trying to get the Arizona Cardinals back to the promise land, which they did not too long ago.
This Saturday, at Reston Town Center - Lorenzo will host the 4th annual "Ride to Provide" www.ridetoprovide.org to benefit the ACES Foundation and the "Ride 2 Recovery, Project Hero-Bethesda"
Kedric Golston will co-host the event, as he has every year. Last year, Ryan Kerrigan, Niles Paul, Logan Paulsen and several other players were in attendance so it is an excellent opportunity to get to hang out with players in a very casual atmosphere that helps raise money for a few great causes. This year, Alfred Morris is scheduled to appear along with several others.
It's a great event, to get out and ride a bike with usually great weather or just support a great cause and have some fun on a Saturday in April. Not much can be better than that, right?
If you are looking for a weekend double header of great charity events and good weather - the next day (Sunday April 21st) you can join current Redskins Safety and special teams ace, Reed Doughty as he hosts and chairs the 3rd annual Northern Virginia Kidney Walk, which you can check out at www.kidneywalk.org or directly to the specific Northern Virginia event at http://bit.ly/ZwaF1N, which will start at the Reston Town Center as well.
As you know, Doughty's story is a heartwarming one from his hearing loss to his first son Micah being born and needing a kidney transplant. Doughty's wife donated her kidney and Micah is doing very well. Recently, Doughty joined us on ESPN 980 at Redskins Park to promote the walk and because his wife was out of town, Micah and his two brothers came to work with their Dad and could not have been more well behaved and happy.
Two great causes featuring two great individuals and human beings, who have each been through individual adversity and challenges, as most Americans do. Please support both Alexander and Doughty in any way that you can.
Of course, the main part of what both gentlemen do and a lot of us care about is NFL football. It's kind of interesting how the calendar plays out that you have Lorenzo passing the torch to Doughty in a charitable way, because that might very well be the case within the halls at Redskins Park.
Alexander has served as special teams captain for the Redskins under Mike Shanahan and deservingly made his first Pro Bowl after the 2012 season. Because of various issues, he was not retained via free agency so the Redskins will need to elect a new captain. From the moment Alexander's departure became reality, the one name that made the most sense to anybody with a clue, is Doughty. I can’t be wrong on this, can I?
I will go so far to say that if Doughty isn’t voted as the Redskins special teams captain in 2013, somebody else should replace me. If Doughty isn’t a leader in every way, I don’t know what one is.
Ultimately, the decision will be up to the players – but new Special Teams Coordinator Keith Burns who joined me Monday on ESPN 980 said of Doughty “He’s a leader, disciplined, a hard worker.”
Burns went on to explain “I don’t think you can replace a guy like Lorenzo Alexander,” but that a new voice will emerge besides that of Burns.
“We’ll get another leader out of the bunch. A leader will step forward, and we’ll just have the best guy out there.”You can listen to the entire interview with Burns via the “Long Windows Audio Vault” at redskins.espn980.com .
For his part, Doughty who had toe surgery in January says “I don’t feel like anybody on this team has been a one dimensional leader. I’ve done it for a long time. I feel like I’ve been a leader since 07-08. I don’t think you have to be the captain or wear that “C” on your jersey to be a leader. Lorenzo did a great job as our captain, but I don’t think it changes what I do at all."
Doughty continued on ESPN 980, "If guys want to view me and put that “C” on my chest, that’s fine. If they don’t, I’m still going to be a leader and do the things to be successful (studying film, etc). Hopefully young guys continue to recognize that and do that themselves.”
Doughty also told me that he is planning to be the strong safety until Brandon Meriweather is ready, but “I know I can be a free safety.” He (as many others do) feels the Redskins will target a free safety in the draft, saying “that’s a given” and “there’s going to be a new starting free safety this year.”
Doughty, who had his best game of the year on defense in the Seattle playoff game, is basically the new Alexander.Even though he’s been here the whole time and has been doing a lot of the things that Alexander has done so well.
Perhaps now, he will get a little bit of recognition, heading into a very important year for the franchise and for Doughty himself, as he will be an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming year.
It’s one captain to a guy that should be the new captain, and even if it might not work out that way – it’s time to let the spotlight shine on another good guy in the Redskins locker room.
For more on Lorenzo Alexander’s Ride to Provide this Saturday, please visit www.ridetoprovide.org or come out to the Reston Town Center Saturday morning.To support Reed Doughty, and the National Kidney Foundation, please check out www.kidneywalk.org and go to the Northern Virginia page.
So Robert Griffin III went to the circus at Verizon Center last Sunday. That's great, and by all accounts, he had a great time as he should have.
While you can read about his day here http://wapo.st/Zm0nRx, the fact of the matter is the show may have left Verizon Center for the Wizards, Caps and NCAA Tournament, but the action was just shifting locations.
Redskins Park in Ashburn. It's like the great Eagles song "Hotel California" and the famous line "You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave." It truly never ends. I'm being as kind as I can here.
In case you've been sleeping under a rock and quite honestly maybe I was, it was just after 7 pm on Tuesday when word of a Griffin III text to Trey Wingo of ESPN first was circulated.
"My knee is getting better every day. The doctors say I'm ahead of schedule. My goal is to return healthy in week one but if I'm not ready then i will wait until i am, however long that is. My first NFL season and my injury that ended it showed me a lot about the league, my team and myself. i know where my responsibility is within the dilemma that led to me having surgery to repair my knee and all parties involved know their responsibilities as well. I m looking forward to playing the game we all love so much again and not behind at the negative. thanks for the overwhelming level of support that i've received, sic em bears and hail to the redskins!!" (The tweet was directly copied from Wingo's twitter account, http://bit.ly/YSmX4i @Wingoz)
I didn't think there was anything in the message that was particularly concerning, and I was busy covering the first period of the Capitals - Islanders game at Verizon Center, so it was far from a burning issue or anything more than basically the same old message we've heard before.
On Wednesday, it somehow became a big issue as the statement was debated in various forms of media, including on ESPN 980. According to ProFootballTalk.com, http://bit.ly/11Olgbz, the issue made it (shockingly) to "Pardon the Interruption" on ESPN.
The story quotes Tony Kornheiser as saying "This is a thinly veiled direct shot at his coach, Mike Shanahan,” while Wilbon per the quotes in the story as saying "It is direct, it’s bold, it’s a heavy shot and it’s deserved."
Here is what I don't get. If you want to read the statement and walk away from it as Griffin III is taking a shot at Mike Shanahan, I suppose you can have that thought. In no way could you say that it is "direct" or "bold" or a "heavy shot." Or could you even reasonably think it is a "thinly veiled direct shot at his coach."
I don't get what part of it signals out Mike Shanahan (who I sharply criticized after the Seattle game, and for weeks after the re-injury). You could walk away thinking that Griffin III is not taking all of the responsibility for playing through it and sacrificing his body for the team. That is a fair and reasonable thought.
For Griffin III to say "all parties involved know their responsibilities as well," screams out to me that he is referring to a collective group (not just Mike Shanahan) that includes Dr. James Andrews, other team doctors, Larry Hess and other members of the training staff, Kyle Shanahan, Matt LaFleur, Dan Snyder and the FedEx Field stadium operations crew. It means everyone. Not one person, even though THAT person is ultimately in charge of everything.
Furthermore, when Griffin III said that "all parties involved know their responsibilities as well" that doesn't mean that he was saying one specific person made a mistake or that he was mis-treated. As I said on twitter, what I believe he meant is that everybody involved shared a little bit of responsibility and that the lines of communication and trust will be more open and honest the next time a situation like this arises.
It makes no sense that Shanahan intentionally wanted his big ticket back to glory to get hurt. This is the same head coach that would not let Griffin III play a must-win game in Cleveland just a few weeks before, despite the player really wanting to play. Griffin III, as he admitted after the game, was not happy with the decision that was forced upon him. He wanted to play desperately.
Just like Griffin wanted to play after missing only one snap in the Baltimore game. Griffin wanted to play, because he's a competitor and a football warrior. Sometimes, he might be his own worst enemy. With time to think, Shanahan prevented Griffin from playing in Cleveland. With no time to think in a chaotic environment, he allowed his star quarterback to go back in against the eventual Super Bowl Champions.
Shanahan allowed him to play the next week against Philadelphia, and in the division clincher against Dallas. Shanahan also allowed him to play thru discomfort, clearly limited mobility and perhaps altered mechanics against Seattle, in a do or die situation. The Redskins died, and Griffin was on the operating table 72 hours later.
Shanahan did not allow (nor did the Redskins medical staff) Griffin to re-enter the Atlanta game, in which Griffin suffered a concussion. They made the decision they thought was best, in the overall interests of the player at the time. Of course, concussion protocol is a completely different world in today's NFL than it used to be and is entirely different than dealing with a right knee injury.
The point of this is - if anything - Griffin should have probably said something to the effect of "I need to a better job of communicating and not being as stubborn about my body on the football field" and I believe that would have been something that most people would have no problem with.
Griffin III re-tweeted the statement he provided Wingo, so he certainly did not have any regrets and then at 1:16 PM on Wednesday, a senior Redskins official texted Zac Boyer of the Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star and ESPN 980/my cell phone, with essentially the exact same statement that Wingo posted.
The only difference was it started with "Got a brief update for everyone." The statement was then the exact same as what Griffin III had sent to Wingo on Tuesday night, with the other difference being at the end, Griffin's charming side coming out as he ended it with "P.S. How is your bracket doing? Ha ha."
If Shanahan had a major issue with what he said, I can guarantee that Griffin III would have been told to issue some sort of clarifying statement. Instead, they re-issued the same statement some 20 hours later.
The Redskins have never been accused of being the smartest football organization in the world when it comes to public statements, but somebody in that building reads and hears just about everything that is reported in the local and national media. I would be shocked if the Redskins brass had no knowledge of Griffin's statement to Wingo.
What does this all mean? It means that a drama that was already going to be intense under the scorching late summer skies in Richmond and Ashburn, is going to be more about the characters and less about the finished product.
The Washington Redskins face another new dilemma as they approach April, as in who will be at starting right outside linebacker in Week 1 of the NFL season.
They may have had the same question one way or the other, but now the choices are extremely limited because Rob Jackson, who replaced Brian Orakpo as the full time starter, has been suspended by the NFL for violation for the league's comprehensive substance abuse/performance enhancing drug program.
The details are still unclear, and the suspension has not been officially announced by the Redskins which means that an appeal is still in the process of being cleared up.
ESPN 980 has texted and called Jackson for comment several times since the news was broken by longtime NFL reporter Howard Balzer on Wednesday night, but as of 1:15 PM Thursday, Jackson had not responded.
ESPN 980 also spoke to Jackson's contract agent as listed by the NFLPA as soon as the report came out, and the agent said he had no idea about the report or the suspension. When asked for comment later on in the evening, the same agent did not respond.
Various reports have the NFL as acknowledging the suspension, but it is unclear as to the exact nature of the violation. Other reporters have mentioned that the violation occurred while taking an over the counter pain killer to help with a toothache.
Here is apparently where the issue started. On December 11, 2012, I tweeted this on my account (@Russellmania980) - "Only thing that can stop #Redskins OLB Rob Jackson these days?? A trip to dentist. Told @ESPNRadio980 he had a root canal & wisdom tooth out."
The reason he told me about this issue was because he missed a pre-scheduled interview, one of many that Rob helped with all throughout the season.
I understand that the NFL has very specific rules about what you can take and can't take. It's sad, that some cheaters (HGH users) get away with hurting their bodies and the game because of the lack of testing, while a person that apparently tried to numb a toothache is subject to having his career tarnished and to hurting his team.
Which brings us to the issue and effect on the Redskins. Brian Orakpo is recovering from season-ending surgery on his pectoral muscle in Week 2 of last season. He has had three injuries/tears to the same general muscle area since January 1 2012. Will Orakpo ever be the same?
Nobody knows for sure. He is rehabbing near the University of Texas in Austin, according to Mike Shanahan. Orakpo is a very determined individual for sure, but the questions at least have to be asked and the situation has to be one of concern. Anybody that tells you otherwise is simply blowing smoke where the sun doesn't shine.
The Redskins let Lorenzo Alexander leave via free agency and re-signed Bryan Kehl, but Kehl is a natural inside LB with limited practice time last year on the outside.
Currently, Ryan Kerrigan, Orakpo, Jackson, Vic So'oto and Ricky Elmore are the only listed outside linebackers on the Redskins roster, per a depth chart breakdown from Ourlads.com.
That has to be an enormous concern for a defense that is already thin in the secondary. If Orakpo is not ready, who would start Week 1??
My guess is that with Keenan Robinson (listed at inside) on the mend and the fact that he was a starter at outside linebacker in a different scheme while in college, Robinson will get a healthy dose of reps and work at the outside spot during camp. This would also be to prepare for the possibility that Orakpo will at least need to be spelled as he was even before his injuries.
ESPN 980 reached out to Robinson for his thoughts on the subject. In a text exchange, Robinson explained that "My freshman through junior yr (year) we were based out of a 3-4..I played some 'Sam' (OLB freshman yr) and then moved to 'Will' (ILB) sophomore and junior yr. In nickel, I played Will as well in the 4-2-5. My senior yr we were primarily a 4-3 and I played 'Mike' backer. In nickel, I played 'mike' as well."
You may remember the Minnesota victory, when the Redskins bent but did not break on the Vikings first three offensive series. They gave up field goals, but Robinson was huge on several third down red zone stops to force those three-point opportunities.
Going back and watching some of the coaches tape, the Redskins deployed Robinson on the outside on both 3rd down stops that I saw, on both sides of the field. Both times, Robinson was able get off blocks and make or assist with key stops. I remember Robinson standing out that day in a subtle way, one that was lost in the offense exploding, but the proof was in the pudding after going back months later to watch the tape.
Robinson explained that against Minnesota "I was actually playing DE (defensive end) in a 4 down scheme (4 defensive lineman). I had the option of gettin in a 3 pt (point) or 2 pt stance. I chose 2 pt because I felt most comfortable with that. They had me rush a little bit, but mostly I dropped into coverage. I liked playing the position and it was what Lorenzo played a lot throughout the season."
This isn't to say that he could play 60 + snaps if forced to as a starter in Week 1 and play at a high level, but at least the potential exists. Robinson also told ESPN 980, "I feel like with my size and athletic ability, I could play both (inside/outside), but now that we have Rak (Brian Orakpo) back, they may not need me to do so unless we want to utilize a speed package with me, Rak and Kerrigan all on the field at once."
The other issue?? In a strange twist of irony, the two former Longhorns are both recovering from the same injury (torn pec muscles). Robinson told me via text " It's coming along good. It's been 4 months since surgery..feels good." He didn't know exactly when he would be cleared, but certainly intends on going as soon as the Redskins doctors and staff allow him to compete.
It basically means a dire situation becomes a little less dangerous. It means that we can all go back to worrying about who the Redskins will start at cornerback this year.
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980
For many, March is all about college hoops. It's always been a month that has been terribly overrated in my eyes, at least if you like high quality offense instead of being 'offended' by the choppy product that swallows up the nation's focus.
For an NFL die-hard, March is just an insane month. For somebody who covers an NFL team that never stops making news, it is pure un-adulterated mayhem.
The Redskins have so many issues and questions heading into free agency, the new league year and the annual draft - so we will cover as many as we can.
1. What impact will London Fletcher's situation have moving forward?
The captain of the defense has been largely un-committal about playing in 2013, since his post game comments following the Seattle playoff loss. He told longtime Redskins reporter David Elfin http://cbsloc.al/ZqUzIa that he was having surgery today on his ankle and later this month on his elbow to try and play this upcoming season, saying to Elfin, "Surgery is the first step towards prepping for next season.”
Fletcher confirmed the news via his own twitter saying " @LFletcher59 Surgery went great...thanks for all the well wishes! Prep begins now for season 16!#Monster216#HTTR."
So you have that cleared up, but unless I am missing something, there is no guarantee that he will be able to play at a high enough level in his mind to go through the rigors of a long season.
The other issue and perhaps the one of greatest significance, is do the Redskins feel he will able to play at a high enough level to keep him on the roster next Tuesday at a cost of about 6.2 million under the team's strapped cap? The decision does not actually have to be made on Tuesday or before, as the Redskins can simply cut or re-structure other contracts to get under the mandated league number by 4 PM Tuesday, but the question has to be asked.
The Redskins are roughly 3 million over, and facing a potential loss of their special teams captain, Lorenzo Alexander, a deadly weapon (when on the field) in tight end, Fred Davis and perhaps 2/5th of their starting offensive line. Not to mention, several key contributors and starters like Logan Paulsen, Darrel Young and Rob Jackson are restricted free agents.
Washington would only save an estimated 3.4 million by letting go of Fletcher before March 12, because of a "dead-money" cap hit of about 2.8 million dollars, as part of the 3.5 million dollar guaranteed bonus Fletcher received last year. Still for a team that is being unfairly punished by the NFL, that 3.4 million might be a saving grace.
Don't get me wrong, they have a lot of other work to do to free up enough space to give them operating room for tendering & signing restricted free agents, and perhaps making a push to bring back some of their unrestricted free agents, but here's the 3.4 million dollar question....How much would that saving help the big picture?
Would it keep Lorenzo Alexander in DC? Is there anyway to cut Fletcher now, under the premise that you will bring him back on a much smaller base salary than his currently scheduled 5.5 million? I think you can try that, but unless Fletcher agrees to that pre-arranged deal, it is a large risk.
Or can you keep Fletcher for now, absorbing the 6.2 million figure while giving his body time to heal and buying more time. That plan would allow you to not only see what your other options are, but also set up a situation that if Fletcher decides to retire after June 1st, the Redskins would save not only the 5.5 million in base salary, but the dead-money hit would only be 700,00 this year and 2.1 million in 2014.
So many questions and clearly not enough answers. My money is on the Redskins holding on to Fletcher through the league year deadline and working other contracts to buy cap room. That's only a guess, as the team is as tight-lipped as any sports organization can get (which makes my life incredibly harder) but I just don't know how you can sacrifice a lot of what you are about, for 3 million dollars worth of space.
2. Will Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall be released or have their contracts slashed instead of re-structuring?
Hall is a relatively easy contract to work with. He is on the books for 7.5 million in base salary with a workout bonus of 50 K. His contract for 2014 calls for a 9 million dollar base salary, with the same workout bonus.
Hall said at the end of the year, that he wanted to stay in Washington and would be willing to essentially take less. However, did that mean a re-structure or an actual pay cut? If the Redskins were to simply re-structure by converting base to bonus, they could save somewhere between 5.5 - 6.5 million. However the guaranteed money would then have to be split in terms of amortization over this year and 2014, which is not something I would want to do on a contract that currently has no dead money.
I would ask Hall to take a pay cut from 7.5 to 2.5 million this year, while worrying about next year when you have to (next year) and save 5.0 million dollars under the 2013 cap. If he doesn't accept that, sorry DeAngelo but goodbye and then the Redskins would save 7.5 million and perhaps the full 8.0 depending on how the actual calculation of the bonus is interpreted.
The problem with that plan, cornerback is a much bigger position of need for the Redskins than wide receiver is and Hall is a valuable member of the unit, despite some of his inconsistency. He's an even more important member of the defense, because Josh Wilson struggled last year, while Cedric Griffin is an unrestricted free agent. Combine that with the uncertainty at safety, and you have a key necessary ingredient in Hall to 2013. Is he even more important to the defense than retaining Fletcher or Alexander? Most would scoff, but I am not asking that question for no reason.
Which brings us to Moss, who led the Redskins in touchdown receptions last year, with 8 along with 41 catches for 573 yards. Certainly those are not numbers that would traditionally blow anybody's socks off, but considering how prolific the Redskins running attack was and how they were able to spread the ball around to Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and the tight ends, I don't know if it would be feasible to expect anything more.
Moss will be 34 before the season begins, and counts for about 6.167 million on the Redskins salary cap. He is entering the final year of his deal, so it was very likely that this would be his final year in Washington anyway. If the Redskins were to release Moss, they would save between 4.5 and 5 million dollars worth of cap space, after the dead-money pro-ration of about 1.7 million.
It would seem pretty obvious to me that the Redskins have no other choice, but to exercise this option - despite a potential overall loss to the offense - I believe it would be easier to replace Moss than DeAngelo Hall or even Fletcher.
On a personal note, I hope that it doesn't happen as I've always enjoyed talking to Santana and we have built a good, professional relationship.
3. What impact will new "Senior Executive" A.J. Smith have on the Redskins in 2013?
It's hard to know if he will have any significant impact, but my guess is that for the most part, he can't really hurt. Smith is the only true and pure personnel executive that the Redskins have. Bruce Allen, Eric Shaffer and Mike Shanahan are not known for their expertise in that area. Morocco Brown and Scott Campbell have done a very good job procuring talent in free agency and the draft under the new regime, but they haven't done everything like Smith had to do during his long tenure in San Diego. Brown was a finalist for the Arizona job, so perhaps the Redskins are essentially protecting themselves a bit here.
Essentially, Smith gives them another set of eyes to cross-check and focus on certain areas while hoping that a new challenge revitalizes him a bit, and he can discover somebody like an Eric Weddle, Antonio Gates or Michael Turner.
What will be interesting will be to see what Chargers free agents the Redskins pursue. I don't expect them to be heavily involved this off-season because of all the various issues discussed above, but would Smith put in a good word for CB Antoine Cason, who is only 26 (fits age type) and had 12 interceptions in his five seasons with the Chargers? He's known as a high risk, high reward type of defensive back - but as we outlined with the Hall situation, it is pretty much a desperate need.
Longtime veteran CB Quentin Jammer (San Diego) and former Charger CB Drayton Florence are also veteran free agents who might be less expensive and less risky, because they are on the backside of their careers.
Safety Corey Lynch is also an unrestricted free agent, and while he's listed as a strong safety by most outlets, the word is that he's athletic enough to handle either position. Offensive lineman, Louis Vasquez had a nice year last year on a horrible offensive line, but you would have to think the Chargers are going to make a strong push to retain him.
Smith's son Kyle, is a scout for the Redskins so it probably won't take him a long time to get caught up.
4. Will the Redskins bring back Fred Davis, Lorenzo Alexander, Kory Lichtensteiger or Tyler Polumbus?
Because this is already long, I will try and make this short and sweet. I would say no on Davis, although I know the Redskins would like to see what he could be post surgery.
I am going somehow, someway with a yes on Alexander - although considering every part of the decision for both sides - I think it's no better than 60/40 that Alexander gets treated fairly and the Redskins are the choice he and his agents make.
Because I believe they will find a way to keep Alexander, and I believe ultimately they will not release Hall or Fletcher....some difficult choices remain. Kory Lichtensteiger is as mentally tough and hard of a grinder as there is. I want to believe he will stay, and I am not sure how other teams value him - but with the Redskins being so tight with cap space, it's hard right now for me to fathom that Lichtensteiger will get a fair offer from Washington. Now will he choose whatever the team offers, if he has nothing better? Sure. Will that be a likely scenario? Probably not.
The Redskins hold Lichtensteiger in high regard, but his knee injury was a major blow to a guy who was quickly becoming a more than reliable force at left guard in 2011. He was solid in 2012, but struggled every day and every week with knee soreness and some element of discomfort. I know the Redskins know that, and with Josh LeRibeus in the fold, it would make sense that they are ready to get cheaper and healthier at the left guard position.
It sucks to have to write that, because I think highly of Kory and his family - but the bottom line business might get in the way of a future partnership.
Polumbus, was on ESPN 980 on Wednesday, which you can listen to right here, http://bit.ly/WLpFZA - and I will have more on Polumbus later this week - but I believe he is a guy that the Redskins hold in higher regard than the fan base does, which is understandable. Washington does not have an answer right now on the roster, as Maurice Hurt and/or Tom Compton are far from ideal.
Will the recently released Eric Winston (by Kansas City) who was with Kyle Shanahan in Houston, be the answer to Washington's question mark? Only if he is willing to play for a veteran, team friendly deal after making a small fortune by his move to the Chiefs, and while he was with the Texans.
Washington won't be able to afford Andre Smith from the Bengals, Phil Loadholt from the Vikings or Gosder Cherilus from the Lions as some of the top free agent choices that are available - but with Winston now available - you have to think he would be the only thing that could prevent Polumbus from returning.
5. Is there a surprise cut or release that nobody is really focused on?
The Redskins have some tough choices to make and because they are extremely secretive, a lot of this is pure guesswork. They may have to non-tender a few restricted free agents (Chris Baker?, Nick Sundberg?, Darrel Young?) just to be able to squeeze under the cap by Tuesdays' deadline.
Could we add Rob Jackson to that mix? Or will the Redskins try and work out a long term deal with the young veteran outside linebacker who emerged after Brian Orakpo's season ending Week 2 injury last year? A source close to the situation indicated on Wednesday that the team had not yet approached Jackson about his situation, but both sides could be playing poker. If the Redskins chose not to tender Jackson or any other restricted free agent, they simply become unrestricted - but it would also help the team slip under the cap limit.
Speaking of Orakpo - and I have a hard time believing that I am typing this. Could the Redskins consider letting him go, while bringing Jackson and Alexander back? It might not make sense at first thought, but according to salary database Spotrac.com, Orakpo counts for about 5.10 million under the cap. If the Redskins were to part ways with the former first round pick, they would face a dead money hit of about 2.10 million - but a net cap savings of just about 3 million dollars. It doesn't seem like a whole lot, to give up on such a high draft pick - who at times has lived up to his potential.
However, this is why I don't think you can rule it out. Orakpo suffered his original injury on January 1, 2012 and then re-injured his pec muscle in August and then suffered another tear, in a different area in mid-September. Is there any guarantee that he will ever not be at increased risk for something like that happening again?? That's the obvious part.
What isn't so obvious is this. If the Redskins have a plan in mind moving forward - that they will not sign Orakpo to a large deal when he becomes a free agent for the first time at the end of 2013 - why not move on now (possibly via trade) & secure Jackson and possibly Alexander? Again, I admit this is an unconventional thought process but SOMEBODY we are not expecting has to be released.
If it's not Fletcher or Hall - who is it? Adam Carriker would be another alternative but the Redskins just re-invested in him last year as a key part of the defensive line. It's not going to be Stephen Bowen or Barry Cofield. It's obviously not Ryan Kerrigan. Josh Wilson?? Possibly, but that seems highly unlikely given the already tenuous state of the secondary.
There's nobody on offense that seems to be a likely and significant impact on cap savings other than Moss. I don't believe you can re-structure more than 2-3 guys at max per year, which is a lot in my eyes, but you could do this as Rich Tandler suggested http://bit.ly/WS9G1r OR you could manage your franchise for the now and with one eye on the future.
Just my thoughts - What do you think the Redskins should do as the real "March Madness" begins?
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980
1. They run the football like Carolina did last week against the Falcons. Carolina rushed for 199 yards and had 11 rushes that went for 6 or more yards, not counting Newton's scrambles on passing plays. It's the Skins' NFC-best rushing attack against the Falcons' 2nd-worst rush defense in the NFC....should be a huge advantage for Washington.
2. Pressure Matt Ryan without a ton of blitzing. Carolina sacked Ryan 7 times last week. Falcons' right tackle Tyson Clabo struggled last week which could mean a big day today for Ryan Kerrigan. The Skins' secondary can't cover, we know that. Pressure without a ton of blitzing against what will likely be some short drop/quick throws means the pressure must come from up the middle. Jenkins and Bowen need big days.
3. No turnovers. Atlanta is 2nd in the NFC in takeaways with 12 and it's made the difference in their games. They're 4-0 but probably would be closer to 2-2 with fewer takeaways. The Skins have been very good at protecting the ball this year with just two turnovers in four games. It must continue today.
Upset alert. Skins 33-24.
What a great college football Saturday. South Carolina's defense makes the 'Cocks a legit national championship contender under Spurrier. Florida has been in trouble at halftime in 3 of their games and won all of them (at Texas A&M, at Tenn, vs. LSU). Oregon's defense is improved which is scary considering how good their offense is. How thrilled must West Virginia fans be to play a game at Texas as a member of the Big 12 instead of what would've been a home game against Syracuse. Florida State put the breaks on their offense up 16-nothing thinking NC State couldn't and wouldn't score. It cost them a shot at the national championship. Notre Dame's defense is legit but what a schedule left with Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, and USC still remaining. Duke is 5-1 and one game short of bowl eligibility. This may be Virginia Tech's worst defense in recent memory. Maryland's Stefon Diggs has been worth 3 wins to the Terps this year. Without him, they could be 0-5, no better than 1-4. What was Edsall thinking when he opted to kick the PAT up 19-14 with 5:30 left? Just amazing that so many coaches can't compute simple math. With that said, the Terps are night & day better on defense compared to last year. They go to Virginia next week and the Cavs aren't very good. 4-2 is a possibility.
There hasn't been much to cheer for during the Snyder era but here are my top five favorite wins.
1. Skins 14, Cowboys 13/Sept. 19, 2005. The Monday Night Miracle is one of my favorite Redskin wins of any era. Mark Brunell to Santana Moss twice in the final four minutes to steal what looked like an unwinnable game all night long. The first touchdown connection came on 4th and 15 with 3:46 left from 39 yards out. The second came a little more than a minute later from 70 yards out. The turnaround was so shocking and unexpected because the Redskins hadn't generated any offense the entire night. Through 56 minutes, zero points and just 190 total yards until the two magical touchdown drives. Joe Gibbs got an ice bucket bath when the game ended and to make it even sweeter, the stunner came on the night when Aikman, Irvin, and Smith were inducted into the Cowboys' Ring of Honor.
2. Skins 22, Cowboys 19/Nov. 5, 2006. The Skins and Cowboys have played some of the league's most memorable games and the blocked field goal returned by Sean Taylor to set up an untimed game-winning field goal by Nick Novak is right up there. Novak's kick was redemption after he missed a 49-yarder with :31 seconds left. Dallas appeared to be in the driver's seat when Mike Vanderjagt trotted on to kick the game-winner with :06 left. The kick was blocked however by Troy Vincent and subsequently picked up by Taylor and returned to the Dallas 45 where it appeared like the game was headed to overtime. But a 15-yard facemask penalty on Kyle Kosier gave the Skins 15 yards and an untimed down. Novak barely cleared the uprights from 47 yards out to win the game.
3. Skins 17, Tampa Bay 10/Jan. 7, 2006. This was one of the two playoff wins during the Snyder era. LaVar Arrington's first quarter interception set up a Portis touchdown and a few minutes later, Sean Taylor picked up a fumble and rumbled 51 yards for a score to give the Skins a 14-zip lead. The Redskins managed just 120 yards of total offense, a record-low for a winning playoff team. Still, it seemed at the time that Joe Gibbs had the franchise on the verge of getting back to where he had left it.
4. Skins 35, Cowboys 7/Dec. 18, 2005. Part of the five-game winning streak at the end of the '05 season that clinched a playoff berth. This game was the loudest Fed Ex Field has ever been for a Redskins game (see VATech-USC for the loudest). The "We Want Dallas" chants were back and it was an atmosphere that seemed at least for a day, to be RFK-like. The Skins rolled out to a 28-zip halftime lead and never looked back. Seven sacks, four forced turnovers, and four Brunell touchdown passes (three to Cooley) put the Skins in playoff position with two weeks left.
5. Skins 26, 49ers 20 (OT)/Dec. 26, 1999. Down 10 in the 4th quarter, the Skins rallied behind Brad Johnson's 471 yards passing to win in overtime and clinch their only NFC East division title during the Snyder era. The game winner came on a 33-yard TD pass to Larry Centers.
2001-Skins 17, Denver 10. After an 0-5 start, Marty's team was on its way back to 5-5.
2005-Skins 35, Giants 20. Patrick Ramsey comes off the bench for an injured Brunell and leads the Skins to a critical Christmas Eve win over N.Y.
2005-Skins 31, Eagles 20. Sean Taylor returns a fumble for a touchdown to clinch a playoff berth on the season's final Sunday.
2007- Skins 32, Vikings 21. Todd Collins went 22-29, 254 yards, 2 TD's and no picks in a huge Sunday night win in Minnesota to put the Skins one win away from the playoffs.