Thursday, July 30, 2009

And Awaaaaaay We Go...

With another NFL (pre)season now officially underway, you can now expect the return of Washington Redskins coverage to The Train (otherwise known as the Redskins Ranting & Humiliation Station). With so many other credible sources for Redskins news and updates, I really have no business even trying to discuss the events and goings-on associated with the team. While I'm better served just directing you to better posts and articles than I could provide through links, this blog will occasionally read more like the diary of a frustrated, know-it-all Redskins fan so I want to thank you all for bearing with me. Now it's time to sit back and watch the rage flow freely as the season progresses.

When we checked in on the first day of Redskins training camp last year, the team was already in full-scale shitstorm mode. We had lost our starting left d-end for the season on the very first play of the very first 7-on-7 drill of the very first practice (... I'll calm down), as well as a key reserve for the exact same position. Nevertheless, we got off to a flying start, only to come crashing reasonably back down to Earth, where we probably deserved to end up all along, and then I became enraged several times during the offseason.

I have given up on the business of making predictions for how I expect the Skins to fare. I am so very wrong so much of the time that I'd rather not embarrass myself, plus with the Redskins, one truly has no clue what to expect heading into any given season.

With so many variables and plot lines affecting our upcoming campaign, what I will do is list which ones to watch for:

  1. HOW WILL JASON CAMPBELL PROGRESS? -- Our owners publicly undermined their faith in him twice by trying to acquire Jay Cutler, then later USC QB Mark Sanchez. Hell, we may even do it again! The fact is that there is a lot of pressure on Campbell to perform, especially since his contract is up after this year, and how he plays will dictate most of Washington's success this year. Since, you know, he's the quarterback and junk.
  2. WHAT, IF ANY, PLAYMAKERS WILL EMERGE ON OFFENSE?-- Everybody already knows our holy trinity of Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley can make plays. The problem is that we got squat in terms of production from literally anybody else. Without making any major additions to our skill positions, we will need someone to step up big time from within or we'll likely face the same issues of last year's offense, which grew more stagnant as the year went on.
  3. HOW WILL JIM ZORN FARE IN HIS 2ND YEAR? -- I thought Zorn did extremely well in his first year as an NFL head coach - considering he had never even been an NFL coordinator. But after teams got film on his offense, the big plays dwindled down the stretch of the season. Will he be prepared for a new season with any wrinkles to the offense? Will he continue to grasp the dynamics of keeping peace and chemistry in the locker room? All of this remains to be seen.
  4. WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM OUR DEFENSE? -- In terms of yards allowed, we had a solid top-five defensive unit. We've made that corps stronger with the additions of Deangelo Hall, high-prized free agent Albert "Hey-Hey-"Haynesworth and standout rookie Brian Orakpo. However, we weren't able to generate many sacks or turnovers, which generally causes momentum shifts in games, or be truly dominant. We looked good on paper, judging by averages and other stats, but failed to snuff out teams when games were really on the line. These moves were made to address that, but no one knows for sure if they will actually work.
  5. IS OUR OFFENSIVE LINE REALLY ANY BETTER? -- The play of the offensive line is so overlooked by football fans and analysts. I can't emphasize enough just how shitty our o-line was last year and how much that affects what you can do with both the running and passing game. Again, we made one significant upgrade by signing former Redskin Derrick Dockery, but the rest is left to aging stars, inconsistent project players and huge risky gambles that may or may not work. It bears repeating that we have failed to address adding any real depth along the line, so the instant anyone gets injured, and they will get injured, it's back to drawing board, or relying on unproven players to step in and get the job done. While I'm ecstatic that we drafted Orakpo and think that it was pretty much a no-brainer to take him, we may look back at a 2009 draft class that featured three potential franchise left tackles and have it bite us in the ass for not making a move on any of them.
So there you have it. We'll check back in tomorrow and find out who we've lost for the season, or that we've signed Jeff George to a conditional contract after failing to sign Michael Vick. Or, we won't. But through all the anger and cynicism and doubt and sarcasm and masochism, it truly is an exciting ride for all NFL fans and the opening of training camp really does feel like the first day of Spring.

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