Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: NFC East

Four Downs: NFC East
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Bill Barnwell

This second round of Four Downs will recap free agency and examine the biggest hole remaining on each team.

Dallas Cowboys

Biggest hole: Strong Safety

With the recent release of the much-maligned Roy Williams, the Cowboys are left with a huge gap in their defensive backfield. There was talk that Anthony Henry would move into the slot, but Henry was dealt to Detroit in the Jon Kitna trade. Williams' backups are Patrick Watkins -- who, like Williams, missed virtually the entire season with an injury -- and Keith Davis, who did an adequate job in Williams' place while serving as one of Dallas' best players on special teams.

Davis is an unrestricted free agent, and his role seems to have been filled by former Jaguars safety Gerald Sensabaugh, who has a similar sort of skillset to Davis. Both players would be a borderline starter at safety, so if the Cowboys want to save some money this year, Sensabaugh came relatively cheap and has more upside than Davis.

The Cowboys don't have a first-round pick, but there are a number of safeties they could target with the 51st pick. Oregon's Patrick Chung is a natural leader and solid run defender, but has many of the same issues in pursuit and coverage that Williams did; if they want to confuse the media, they could place Clemson safety Michael Hamlin next to holdover Ken Hamlin (unrelated). The safety class is relatively unimpressive this year, so the Cowboys may very well choose to go with Sensabaugh and wait for a more talented crop of safeties to arrive in 2010.

Free Agency Recap

After all the talk of Ray Lewis heading to Dallas, the Cowboys ended up adding Keith Brooking to play middle linebacker, losing Kevin Burnett to San Diego in the process. Brooking was seriously limited in coverage a year ago, and has not played in a 3-4 scheme as an inside linebacker in several years.

The Cowboys also released Terrell Owens, as you might have heard. Owens is unlikely to return to being an elite receiver, so it wasn't an awful move for a team that desperately needed a change in the locker room. Owens' departure moves Patrick Crayton back into a starting role, with Miles Austin likely to return and serve as the slot man. If Roy Williams can approximate Owens' performance as the No. 1 guy, the Cowboys' offense should be just fine.

The final swap saw defensive end Chris Canty move out and Igor Olshansky take his place with a four-year, $18 million deal. Olshansky had a mediocre season in 2008, but probably would have been regarded as the better end before the season. The difference in price between the two players does not match the difference in quality, so the Cowboys got a bargain on this one, especially considering that Olshansky was the only 3-4 end of that caliber left on the marketplace.

New York Giants

Biggest hole: No. 1 receiver

If Domenik Hixon catches that bomb from Eli Manning against the Eagles in Week 14, chances are that this discussion isn't happening.

Hixon dropped the pass, though, that came to signify the struggles of the Giants' offense without mercurial wideout Plaxico Burress in the lineup. With the threat of Burress going over or past defensive backs nullified, teams were able to disguise their coverage, push a safety into the box, and stifle the Giants offensively.

The only problem? The Giants were actually better with Hixon as the primary "X" receiver than they were with Burress. Hixon's statistics are more impressive than Burress', both over the season as a whole and in the games where he was specifically in Burress' role (Week 5 and then Weeks 12 through 17).

Player DVOA Catch Rate Yards In Air YAC
Domenik Hixon (overall) 11.5% 59% 13.9 3.3
Domenik Hixon (w/o Burress) 6.5% 55% 14.4 3.0
Plaxico Burress 4.9% 53% 13.0 1.9

New York's offense was also better with Hixon as the primary receiver than it was with Burress. In the weeks where Hixon was in charge, the team had a pass DVOA of 8.9% and a run DVOA of 20.2%; with Burress as the "X" receiver, those figures were 3.4% and 20.0%, respectively.

The Giants are unlikely to commit another draft pick to the receiver spot after spending picks on Sinorice Moss, Steve Smith, and Mario Manningham in recent years. They could choose to package several of their early picks in a deal for Anquan Boldin, but as the 2008 season showed, Hixon's got the talent to be the Giants' "X" if they give him the opportunity.

Free Agency Recap

A very good front seven got downright devastating. On the line, the Giants added two tackles: Chris Canty comes over from Dallas, where he'll go from being a 3-4 end to a 4-3 tackle, while Rocky Bernard leaves Seattle. The pair will rotate with Fred Robbins and Jay Alford. Canty, in particular, is a good pass rusher who could easily post seven to ten sacks against overmatched guards this year. They also added Michael Boley at linebacker; Boley was an FO Favorite in 2007, but fell out of favor with the new coaching staff in Atlanta this year. Boley's presence allows the Giants to keep Mathias Kiwanuka at defensive end if so inclined.

The only prominent loss was that of Derrick Ward, who left for Tampa Bay. The Giants will likely increase Ahmad Bradshaw's playing time while attempting to find a second back in the draft. Safety James Butler also departed for St. Louis.

Philadelphia Eagles

Biggest hole: Left Tackle

With the departure of Tra Thomas to Jacksonville and the uncertain status of Jon Runyan, it's extremely likely that the Eagles will be counting on two new offensive tackles come September. That's a frightening thought for a team that ran Runyan and Thomas out there for nine consecutive seasons.

The team filled their gap at right tackle by signing Stacy Andrews (brother of Eagles right guard Shaun) away from the Bengals; Andrews can play on the left side in a pinch, but he's a much better fit at right tackle. The team's depth chart lists Winston Justice as the starting left tackle, a gambit which resulted in six sacks for Osi Umenyiora the last time it was attempted. Starting him at left tackle would result in the entire Eagles organization getting fired for illicit comments on social networking sites. The team could also choose to move Shaun Andrews to left tackle, but that just opens up a hole at guard in the process.

The likeliest solution is in the draft, where the Eagles have the 21st and 28th picks in the first round. They could choose to move up and try and grab either Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe, or take a chance on Michael Oher or the rapidly-falling Andre Smith. Of the four, Monroe is the best pass protector and projects as the best fit for what the Eagles do offensively; if the Eagles are ever going to trade up to a high pick, they'd do it for an elite pass blocker.

Free Agency Recap

The Eagles showed little interest in retaining either Brian Dawkins or Tra Thomas, who left for Denver and Jacksonville, respectively. Dawkins had little left in the tank and won't be missed, with Quintin Demps competing with new acquisitions Sean Jones and Rashad Baker as the likely replacement. Sean Considine followed Thomas to Jacksonville, while Correll Buckhalter departed to Denver, where he could play the Sammy Morris role in Josh McDaniels' offense.

Washington Redskins

Biggest hole: Defensive End

The arrival of Albert Haynesworth in Washington helped hasten the end of Jason Taylor's Redskins career; for a second-round pick, the Redskins got 3.5 sacks, helping them to a total of 24, fourth-worst in the NFL. Then again, that's more than they got out of Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, or Fred Davis.

Taylor's departure leaves the Redskins with a huge hole across from Andre Carter and next to Haynesworth; while Haynesworth will improve the pass rush by occupying blockers, the Redskins have only roster filler in Chris Wilson and Rob Jackson to offer. They need to improve their situation on the edge before training camp.

They could go about that task in one of two ways. With the 13th overall pick, the Redskins will be in the range of Penn State's Aaron Maybin and Florida State's Everette Brown. They could draft one of those two players and hope they emerge as a impact pass rusher in their rookie campaigns, but that's a bad bet; no defensive end selected in the first round has mustered double-digit sacks since Julius Peppers and Dwight Freeney in 2002, and that was 17 players ago.

The wiser idea: Attack the idea on the cheap, and trade down for more picks. The Redskins need depth, and compiling a platoon of Kevin Carter, Bertrand Berry, and Vonnie Holliday would allow them to rotate players in and out depending on the down and situation, all the while feeding the team's veteran fetish.

Free Agency Recap

The Redskins were the first team to make a peep in free agency, securing DeAngelo Hall's services with a six-year, $55 million contract that suggests that the Redskins have never actually heard of the Oakland Raiders or are performing an exemplary, expensive parody of their existence. They released Shawn Springs in the process, costing them the better player.

The Redskins also added Derrick Dockery following his release by the Bills; he'll fill the left guard slot that Pete Kendall occupied. Kendall remains unsigned.


131 comments, Last at 21 Mar 2009, 4:32pm

2 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Interesting stuff on Burress/Hixon, Bill. However, I think it is not quite that straightforward. To wit, there was a lot of commentary by people who, unlike me, had looked at a lot of game film about how Burress was occupying safties more than Hixon was (Jaws comes to mind as one who made such a point on NFL Matchup). With this in mind, I think it would be instructive to look not only at Hixon, Burress, and Hixon w/o Burress but also at Toomer and Smith with and without Burress. Further, if Hixon steps into Burress' role, who steps into Hixon's role? Hixon obviously was being very productive when Burress was in the lineup; I don't think Manningham filled the void very well (although this is a guess).

I think Hixon has a lot of potential, but unless he gets the same sort of respect from defenses that Burress has, then even a marginal 1 1/2 point improvement in DVOA over Burress is likely to be a net loss.

22 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

"In the weeks where Hixon was in charge, the team had a pass DVOA of 8.9% and a run DVOA of 20.2%; with Burress as the "X" receiver, those figures were 3.4% and 20.0%, respectively."

This was a team stat not a Hixon stat. Bill already answered your question

93 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

two questions stem off of this in my mind. all things the same isnt this more a comparison from burress to the new starting receiver/receivers? Hixon is the only constant in both scenarios. wouldnt this show that the giants are better off with steve smith/toomer than they were with burress instead of being better off with hixon instead of burress?

and either way how does the production of giants receivers fare next year. At an eyes glance doesnt this bode well for hixon in fantasy football next season? If hixon > burress wouldnt hixons numbers likely be > than burress's production over the last couple years?

1 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Nice work. It's amazing how many of the smaller FA moves have passed me by this year, I had no idea that the Cowboys had signed Sensabaugh, or that the Jags had signed Tra Thomas.

Starting him at left tackle would result in the entire Eagles organization getting fired for illicit comments on social networking sites.

I've thought about this one for a few minutes and I have to admit that I really don't get the joke.

4 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Some goofball who works as a gate chief at the stadium got his fool self fired after calling team management "retarted" on Facebook. It's been a big deal in Philadelphia because . . . well, because a significant percentage of Philadelphians are idiots.

Hail Hydra!

12 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Oh, you mean they're NOT "retarted"?

Times to stay away from Facebook:
1. you work for the Eagles and disagree with their management style;
2. You are serving as a juror for the corruption trial of a well-known local politician

Formerly known as PhillyCWC

36 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

it means that the eagles owner would find an excuse to abruptly fire the management and coaching staff with little notice. you know, like, give a petty reason for firing someone to hide the true reason.

3 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I'm not convinced the Eagles must draft a tackle in the first round. Herremens looked good playing there in the preseason, when he stoned Julius Peppers, and Dunlap has freakish size and ability if they can keep his head on straight. They have bigger issues at TE and RB. Celek is a decent receiver but he can't block and Schobel . . . well, he doesn't do anything except hold down the bench in case of gusting winds. With the criminally underused Buckhalter gone, there is no experience backing up the oft-injured Westbrook except a practice squad guy and Lorenzo Booker, who looks to be another in a long line of failed Andy Reid projects at the position. Given my druthers, I'd have them take Pettigrew, Alex Mack and Donald Brown in the first two rounds, and I wouldn't complain if you wanted swap out Mack for Brian Robiskie.

Hail Hydra!

87 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Why would the Eagles draft Alex Mack? He is a center and the Eagles needs along the OL is at guard and tackle. Especially if they are moving either Herremans or Shawn Andrews to tackle, leaving a hole at guard. Most outside observers assume that if the season started now the Eagles OL would look like this (from Left to Right):

Todd Herremans - Nick Cole - Jamaal Jackson - Shawn Andrews - Stacey Andrews

I my opinion if the Eagles don't trade up in the first round to draft a tackle, they will sit and wait and see if any of the top five OTs slip to them (those five being Eugene Monroe, Jason Smith, Michael Oher, Andre Smith, and William Beatty). And since that is not likely to happen, they would then be likely to drafting a OG like Duke Robinson or the mass-of-humanity that is Herman Johnson. This would be a smart move since guards have good value at the end of the first/beginning of the second round, this is where players like Chris Snee and Logan Mankins were drafted.

129 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

They'd draft Alex Mack because Jamaal Jackson was pretty underwhelming this year, and because Mack would be a great value at that point in the draft (better than Herman Johnson, and arguably better than Robinson depending on who you ask). If they really want to keep Jackson in the lineup for some reason, they could slide him over to guard to fill the spot vacated by Shawn Andrews or Herremans if one of them moves to tackle.

There's a pretty good chance that Beatty will be around at 21, but he's not in the same class as the other 4 in terms of what he did in college. He's in the second tier with Eben Britton

5 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

For those interested; "X" receiver is the split end - the receiver on the other side of the tight end.

6 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Minor point, but wasn't Danny Ware the reason the Giants did not make more of an effort to re-sign Ward?

Also, it would be nice to see them address their depth on the offensive line. As you pointed out elsewhere, the Giants were quite blessed with the health of their line last year, and the young backups have not shown a lot of potential.

7 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I think any Giants fans out there who are panicking over the Pexiglass situation need to calm down and realize that this is a scary-good freaking team. As a Redskins fan, my only hope is that they suffer a Cowboys-like failure to live up to expectations. I may have to try and engineer a secret, no wide-receivers Manning-Boss play designing session...

8 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Canty, in particular, is a good pass rusher who could easily post seven to ten sacks against overmatched guards this year.

I don't have access to an advanced statistical database, so I may be wrong but very few DTs post half a dozen sacks during the course of a season. Did Canty ever manage it from 3-4 end? Yet he 'could easily' get seven to ten sacks next year?

I call nonsense on this one. I have never been particularly impressed by Canty, he passes the eyeball test for an NFL lineman, but I have never seen him make anything like enough plays to justify the salary they have given him in NY. I would rather have Olshansky.

9 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

You have to consider his role in the defense. He plays on the side that Ware plays on most of the time, so obviously he never saw a lot of double teams or anything like that. But he was also asked to guard against the run so that Ware could cheat more towards the pass on a lot of downs. When he did rush the passer, he did better than most 3-4 ends do, which is why the Giants paid him.

IIRC, opponents run success to Canty/Ware's side was worse than their success to Ellis/Spear's side the last two seasons. However, it remains to be seen how much of that was because Ware's an absolute beast while Ellis has been a complete stiff against the run ever since his Achilles injury.

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

11 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

The Redskins were also interested in Canty. When two teams in your division both go after one of your FAs, it's probably a sign that he's pretty good.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

14 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Not when one of them is is owned by Dan Snyder. He always seems to get his free agent scouting reports from ESPN Insider instead of his scouting department.

I could be wrong about Canty. It might turn out that it was Canty's dominant play that opened everything up for Ware. I'd be seriously suprised though.

17 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Under Bill Parcells, the Cowboys played the two gap version of the 3-4. This means Canty's job was simply to occupy two offensive lineman, therefore he would not post high sack numbers.

The same may be true for Wade Phillips 3-4 defense but I am unsure if Wade employ's the one gap or two gap version. The point about being on Ware's side of the defense is definitely solid.

I tend to agree that if two teams in the division set out to acquire him, there must be talent there.

18 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I can't say I have ever coached under the man but I thought Phillips' defense was a one gap system. Canty might have been a bit better in the 1 gap under Phillips than he was in the two gap under Parcells, but that could well be because he is a veteran. One of my problems with the move (and the near-universal aclaim it seems to have generated) is that I can't think of another 3-4 end who moved to a 4-3 team to play tackle who turned out to be worth much at their new position. Canty was a big end who could control his gap (or gaps) when on the end of the line. He hasn't demonstrated that he has the power to do the same in the middle of the line. Also he doesn't seem to have the elite burst or agility to be a great pass rusher from DT. I am not sure why he is expected to produce at a much higher level than he has over the start of his career.

Canty's best asset as an NFL player (IMHO) is that he is the right size and shape to be a 5 technique in a 3-4 defense. I am not trying to diminish the guy, there simply aren't that many people on the face of the planet who are that big, strong and quick (isn't that a Parcells theory?). I recall that there was something in PFP about defensive tackles being either 'elite players' (rare) or 'bodies'. I guess I reckon that the Giants have just given an elite player's contract to a 'body'.

72 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I guess I reckon that the Giants have just given an elite player's contract to a 'body.

And that's exactly the Cowboys position as well. Basically, they think Igor Olshanksy can do the same job for a heck of a lot less money.

They liked Canty, but felt that the role Canty played in THEIR defense was worth far less than what the Giants paid him. Perhaps the Giants/Redskins felt they would get more bang for their buck in their vision of Canty's role. A run-stuffing 3-4 DE is just not worth that kind of money.

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

74 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Speaking of Parcells, he also loved Canty. And I think at this point we can trust that the Giants' D-line scouts know what their about.

84 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Yes, that is exactly what I said!

But I assume you're referring to Spags...who was DC for a grand total of 2 years and inherited the defensive line built by the scouting dept/front office/line coaches that are pretty still in place

88 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Two years in which the defense played a lot better than it had previously. Also both Strahan and Osi played at much smaller weights than they had previously.

118 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Actually, the defense in Spags' first year performed pretty much exactly the same as it did the year previous - they ranked 14th in the league in 2006, and 13th in 2007. This year they performed better, despite the fatc that the pass rush slowed down a lot from 2007, and was largely due to a much improved performance in the secondary. And aside from that, I don't think it was Spags who was out there scouting and developing the D-linemen.

37 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

canty is pretty athletic, which is why he was drafted fairly high even though he'd been injured a lot his senior year. the giants have kiwanuka, umenyiora, and tuck, along with all the blitzing linebackers and safeties. with all those distractions, it's reasonable to predict that canty could face a lot of 1-on-1 situations while shooting gaps instead of soaking up double teams head-on against offensive tackles like he did in the 3-4.

73 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

This theory that Canty faced a lot of double teams is absolutely not the case. Ware took on all the LTs the Cowboys faced last season on almost all the plays (as well as most RBs and FBs), and in no way did Canty help in that regard.

The difference is that Canty won't have to hold the line against the run in his new role, which can help open him up against the pass. There were a lot of 1st-and-10s and 2nd-and-6 type downs where he'll now be able to rush the passer rather than guard against the run like he did last year.

"Then again, I'm a Bobby Carpenter believer." -- Barnwell

10 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I'm not sure about Kevin Carter, Bertrand Berry, and Vonnie Holliday, but the Skins have already added Reynaldo Wynn and are trying to bring back Philip Daniels as well to form a cheap veteran platoon opposite Andre Carter. I suppose that if Daniels turns them down they will probably pursue one of those guys because they also have a huge need for an OT to replace Jansen in the short term and possibly Samuels in the long term. That is most likely where their first draft pick is going. (I suspect that if Andre Smith lasts to #13 they will take him, if not they will trade down and take the next OT.)

There is no doubt Springs is better than Hall. However, Springs cannot stay healthy and he's a lot older than Hall, so I don't see it as a terrible move.

Also, minor point in regards to the Giants, you forgot to mention that their D-line becomes even more devastating because of the return of Osi.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

13 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Harris, it's ironic that you used criminally and Buckhalter in the same sentence.

16 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Hey, the guy had to do something to pass all that time he spent on the bench. Really, I'd much rather know that pro athletes in my community are getting high at home rather than out driving drunk.

Hail Hydra!

20 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I am not completely pleased with the way this division is looking. The Cowboys and Giants are making some smart roster moves and I don’t like it. The Giants especially. The Eagles seem to be moving backwards though, which is nice. Their OL needs some help and I don’t see them getting it, unless somebody like Winston Justice somehow steps up.

Albert Haynesworth is going to be huge for the Redskins. He is great player who should actually fit the scheme, unlike Jason Taylor. I am not sold on DeAngelo Hall yet, but it might be nice to have a corner who can catch. Pete Kendall played amazingly last year, and I think he is one of the biggest reasons Portis tore it up. Derrick Dockery has been a solid player but is probably a big step down.

26 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

"Their OL needs some help and I don’t see them getting it, unless somebody like Winston Justice somehow steps up."

Philly had so many offensive linemen that they wanted to keep last year they had to put one of them (Dunlap) on injured reserve for a minor foot injury.

They've got ridiculous flexibility in the guys left: the two they lost were pure LT/RT. All the remaining starting OL (from 2007 - Andrews was missing last year) are multi-position players: an LG/LT, a C/RG/LG, and an RG/RT. In addition, they've got another C/RG/LG backup who's played both C and RG in NFL games (and done well), and an RG/LG backup who's played both in NFL games. Those are just the guys who have actually started, and played well. In addition, they've got a G and LT from last year's draft, and Justice (a T/G), as well as the just-acquired Stacy Andrews (a RT).

As I said in a different post, the Eagles could easily start an offensive line next year consisting solely of experienced players, none of whom would be playing a new position - Herremans/Jean-Gilles/Jackson/Andrews/Andrews. That's not "needing help." It's a transition, sure, but it's not a big one. Reid's been drafting guys who can play multiple positions on OL for years now, and it's paying off.

If I had to guess, the only reason Justice is listed at LT on the depth chart is because the team won't move Herremans to LT until they know what their other options are, because moving Herremans to LT triggers a huge bonus in his contract.

23 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

the redskins biggest need is a receiver who can get off jam coverage. if i have to watch one more game of repeated 3rd down pass attempts to santana moss go incomplete because he's still getting jammed on the line i'm going to go apeshit.

24 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

"The team could also choose to move Shaun Andrews to left tackle, but that just opens up a hole at guard in the process."

The thing is, they've got a crazy number of guards. Andrews (it's Shawn, incidentally), Jean-Gilles, and Cole all started at RG. Jean-Gilles looked really good, and Cole looked passable, so Andrews could be moved to tackle if needed.

But I think the most likely solution is Herremans moving out to LT. He has been an NFL left tackle and not given up eight billion sacks like Winston Justice, although I think that, too, is overblown. Herremans started at LT in 2005 when Thomas went down, and did well. They played him at LT for the last game in 2006, as well, when they sat starters against the Falcons.

I really, really would hope that they'd go with the player on the roster who actually has played at LT, and done well, rather than mythical hopes that Shawn Andrews can switch sides and move out, or that a rookie can step in and perform.

The most likely starting OL for the Eagles, in my mind, is Herremans, Jean-Gilles, Jackson, Sh. Andrews, St. Andrews, presuming that Stacy Andrews's recovery goes well. If not, then Herremans, Jean-Gilles, Jackson, Cole, Sh. Andrews.

I really wouldn't be surprised to see Justice at LT with the ones during training camp, though. Burying a guy for giving up six sacks against a team that eventually would win the Super Bowl due to a superlative pass rush seems a little silly.

35 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Not the first or the last time I will get Shaun/Shawn mixed up.

Herremans moving to LT is wholly plausible, too, and I should've given it more credence than I did.

I think burying Justice for giving up six sacks to one guy isn't silly when it's the only game he started in his entire career. Plenty of teams have great pass rushes; they don't have their right end pick up six sacks when they face a rookie left tackle.

41 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Herremans moving to LT is wholly plausible, too, and I should've given it more credence than I did.

It's really not surprising: the Eagles hate mentioning moving Herremans to LT because of the contract escalator, so it gets forgotten about in the media as well.

I think burying Justice for giving up six sacks to one guy isn't silly when it's the only game he started in his entire career.

It's the only game he started. It's not the only game he played in. He played nearly the entire game at RT vs. Buffalo in 2007, and did fine. The fact that he "started" the NYG game and not the Buffalo game comes from the fact that Tra Thomas had back problems before the game and Runyan got injured early in the game.

Plenty of teams have great pass rushes; they don't have their right end pick up six sacks when they face a rookie left tackle.

I never thought I'd be saying that a Giants fan isn't giving their team enough credit! The 2007 Giants didn't have a great pass rush. They had probably the best front 4 of the past decade. The Giants put up 5 sacks against a team that gave up 21 sacks in the regular season!

If you go back and look at the Audibles after that game, most of you guys were commenting that it was strange or inexplicable that Reid wouldn't give his rookie LT any help against Osi, and it was true - Justice was left one-on-one a ton. Why? Because the rest of the offensive line was having just as many problems.

I'm not trying to say that Justice wasn't bad that day. Of course he was. It's also telling that Justice was inactive a ton last year, and that they picked up Stacy Andrews and drafted King Dunlap last year. But I don't think Justice was hopelessly awful that day, and I think it's also crazy to believe that Justice hasn't improved to "average" from "below-average" in two years. Granted, "average" is a step down for the Eagles, and that's the issue.

It may even be possible for Justice to improve to "above average," and I'm sure that's what the Eagles are hoping. But if not, they've already got an above-average LT in Herremans, so they're covered.

45 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I understand, and I don't have the snap totals, but I'm willing to bet it's his only significant experience at left tackle. It's also from a prominent game. I don't think by any means, it's silly to bring that game up as an indicator of his ability at the position. I'm not saying that his true level of performance is that he'd give up six sacks a game, but at this point, all we really know about his true level of performance is that he's had one really bad game at the position he's currently listed as the starter on the depth chart for.

I don't know about best front four of the decade. That same front four led the league in sacks almost assuredly because of that one game. Had Thomas been in there and allowed, say, one sack as opposed to six, they still lead the league in sacks, but it's by one whole sack. I covered the issue of the elite pass rush in PFP 08; their greatness is overstated.

You're right that Justice could be average (or above average). I don't know if I could call Herremans an above-average LT based on such a small sample, just like I can't say (for sure) that Justice is any one thing. I'm not sure what the inverse of Justice's performance would be -- maybe Herremans pancaking Jared Allen all day -- but the reason why I can at least feel more confident about my pegging of Justice than your thoughts on Herremans is that I can't imagine that it would be remotely possible for someone who was an above-average left tackle -- or had it in them to be an above-average left tackle -- to give up six sacks. I just can't, regardless of how good the end across from him was or how little help he got. I was just doing some research, and the average left tackle who started 16 games last year was credited with something like 4.38 blown blocks in a season. Justice probably wasn't credited with six blown blocks in that game, but I'm willing to bet he had four.

63 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I can't imagine that it would be remotely possible for someone who was an above-average left tackle -- or had it in them to be an above-average left tackle -- to give up six sacks. I just can't, regardless of how good the end across from him was or how little help he got. I was just doing some research, and the average left tackle who started 16 games last year was credited with something like 4.38 blown blocks in a season. Justice probably wasn't credited with six blown blocks in that game, but I'm willing to bet he had four.

Justice gave up 4 of Osi's 6 sacks (not exactly sure what constitutes a "blown block"). Not that that isn't still a horrible outing, but I think you're reading too much into it. Jon Runyan had a game where he gave up 3.5 sacks to Strahan and he was well above average as an NFL tackle for many years (albeit on the right side rather than the left). I have no idea whether or not Justice will ever be a useful starter, but I think it's premature to say that he doesn't have it in him.

40 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Jean-Gilles looked really good? I couldn't disagree more. I thought he was the weakest link on the line last year, and the RG spot improved when he was injured and Cole took over. I figured MJG might struggle in pass protection and he's not good at moving on screens, but I thought he'd at least be able to plow ahead in the run game. Nothing. Remember how the Eagles couldn't score a goal-line touchdown to save their lives last year?

I think the Eagles are set up pretty nicely on OL, considering the necessity of transitioning at both OT spots (for the first time in the Reid era.) I think they plan on taking a stud LT in the first round, but they don't have to if things don't shake out that way.

The Eagles' biggest holes, by far, are OT, RB, and TE. All could be addressed in the draft.

44 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Jean-Gilles looked really good? I couldn't disagree more. I thought he was the weakest link on the line last year

Jean-Gilles played games prior to that, too. I don't think he played particularly well in 2008, but I don't think he looked that bad. The entire Eagles line seemed fairly out of sync early on.

Remember how the Eagles couldn't score a goal-line touchdown to save their lives last year?

I never saw a case where Jean-Gilles was the problem in those cases. Most of them were FB/TE problems - Schobel's "whiff" block in the "multiple goal-to-go" game last year, for instance. MJG had quite a few good short-yardage plays that game in goal-line situations: the 1st and 4 during the 4th quarter against Chicago, for instance, MJG cleaned a highway to the right side - if Hunt would've been able to block Briggs at all, that would've been a TD. (MJG also had a mediocre block that same game in the red zone, but it was mediocre, not bad - the play was still a success, just not a TD).

120 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

First Giants game, the deciding 4 and one play. Chase Blackburn shoots though Jean-Gilles' gap to tackle Westbrook before the can even get up field. Max on that play was slow out of his stance, so he could not block his gap responsiblity on that play. He was also consistantly slow out of his stance though out the season. Jean-Gilles is a good blocker when he can establish contact first, and then use leverage created by his 358 pounds (that he is listed at) to drive defenders off the ball. However, it is the same bulk that he needs to create this leverage that seemingly makes him too slow out of his stance to establish contact with a defender. And with Jean-Gilles in the line up the Eagles had to scale back the screen passing game because he could not gain the edge fast enough. Jean-Gilles would be better if he played on a team that emphsised straight ahead blocking, on having a strong running game, and clock management. You know a team like the University of Georgia.

125 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

He was also consistantly slow out of his stance though out the season.

A little, yes, but poor timing on the line blocking was a serious problem early in the year - it wasn't just Jean-Gilles.

I find it really hard to vilify MJG for his performance in 2008: the Eagles run game was just disoriented and full of stupid mistakes all around early in the season. Whether it was problems at FB, comically bad tight end blocking, or bad timing on the offensive line, everyone looked pretty bad early in the season.

Early in the season I had charted every single running play (for the first few games) mainly because I wanted to see how Hunt was doing as a FB. At first I was thinking "well, this doesn't look too bad" and then I realized he was blocking well on something like 1 out of every 10 plays.

And with Jean-Gilles in the line up the Eagles had to scale back the screen passing game

Huh? The screen passing game was missing all season. It certainly didn't come back with much success after Cole came in (with a few notable exceptions, although in some of those cases Jean-Gilles would've done just as well given the play).

When asked about it during the season, the coaches said that it was due to other teams keying on the screen a bit too much.

25 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

"Dawkins had little left in the tank and won't be missed..."

Maybe as far as making plays, but it's really unfair to say he won't be missed. I know leadership isn't a real statistic, but it will be missed.

28 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Anyone who said Dawkins had nothing left in the tank didn't watch him play very closely. His range had definitely decreased, but he still has an amazing ability to strip balls and cause fumbles.

Dawkins had 3 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, and a pick last year. That's not "nothing left in the tank." I can understand the Eagles not wanting to keep him as a starting safety, but the idea that you won't miss that production is crazy.

The forced fumbles are really telling - Dawkins has more forced fumbles than any safety in history, and he had 6 last year, which is basically the same rate he's had most of his career. If you read any stories about Dawkins from opposing players, the most common thing they say is that when Dawkins comes at you, he's not just trying to tackle you - he's trying to get the ball.

30 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East


I didn't say that Dawkins had "nothing left in the tank"; I said he had little left in the tank, and (at least to me) those two statements don't mean the same thing. I don't doubt that he's great at stripping the ball, but he has to get there in order to do so. I promise you that I watched the Eagles very closely this year.

I'm also not sure that Dawkins can repeat that sort of performance when it comes to getting sacks -- he had a combined one sack in 26 games over 2006-2007. I think his increased sack totals are a function of him being used closer to the line than he was previously, because he simply can't close on guys anymore.

39 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I didn't say that Dawkins had "nothing left in the tank"; I said he had little left in the tank, and (at least to me) those two statements don't mean the same thing.

Even still, 6 FFs, 3 sacks, and 1 INT aren't exactly "little." The guy's not a great cover safety anymore, but jeez, I'd say half the teams in the league have at least one safety who's not great in coverage. Dawkins right now is a much better Michael Lewis, and the 49ers have been starting him for two years.

The problem is that the Eagles don't like having a safety with coverage liabilities, because it reduces your flexibility. It means that if you drop both safeties to the line, the QB knows that if the other safety rushes, he's got an outlet over the top of the "bad" safety's head. This is why they let Michael Lewis go. It's why they let Sean Considine go. And it's why they let Dawkins go. Especially because they knew Dawkins would only get worse.

The key to Philadelphia's defense is flexibility. Everyone has to be able to blitz, everyone has to be able to cover, and everyone has to be able to tackle. Dawkins can still play - heck, he can still start - for probably half the teams in the league. But not Philly.

But the idea that Philly won't miss Dawkins much is, well, specious. The guy's coverage skills were lacking, but he still could blitz and still could strip the ball. They won't be able to replace that easily.

he had a combined one sack in 26 games over 2006-2007. I think his increased sack totals are a function of him being used closer to the line

You're somewhat right: 2007 was due to poor preparation due to unavoidable outside circumstances. In 2006 Dawkins was used differently: Neither Michael Lewis nor Sean Considine showed any ability to cover, at all, and so Dawkins played deep almost exclusively late in the season. Hence the increased interception numbers in 2006 (4) as opposed to 1 in 2007 and 2008.

In 2008, he had more chances close to the line, and produced. It wasn't age in 2006/2007; it was scheme and family problems.

42 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I really don't see those numbers being particularly amazing in that defense, Pat, for the role he plays. I'm not just saying that he can't cover, I'm saying he's also not great in run support, he's missing more tackles than he has previously (or, at least, more than I would figure a safety held in such high regard would -- I wasn't watching him with the eyes I have now before 2006), he's not very good in deep zones...

I agree that he's great at stripping the ball. I don't think three sacks and an interception are really anything that overcomes his liabilities elsewhere.

Then again, one of our Charting comments for one of Dawkins' three sacks -- the one where he forced Roethlisberger to fumble -- was "Dawk hurdles a block, corrects course in mid-air, knocks ball loose, recovers. Clearly over the hill."

The other two sacks were a rusher untouched and the Romo strip sack when Romo was scrambling in the Week 17 game. Attributing that to a skill Dawkins has would be questionable. He's credited with two hurries. He had two passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.

What do you think the floor is for a free safety in the Eagles system when it comes to those numbers? Is it possible to play the number of snaps Dawkins did in that defense and end up with 0 FF, 0 sacks, and 0 INT?

I agree that Dawkins still has a place in a lineup, and that he could start for a few teams -- Denver's one of them. I'm sure they'll miss his leadership and his ability to force fumbles. I believe that replacing him with Jones or Demps and acquiring the additional coverage abilities and speed therein will mitigate those concerns.

61 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I'm sure they'll miss his leadership and his ability to force fumbles.

I think the main thing they'll miss is his experience. His coverage skills were down, definitely, due to reduced speed, but he was rarely out of position, and that does mean something.

Right now the Eagles, at safety, have exactly one safety with any serious in-game experience with Philly's defense. Maybe one and a half, if you give Demps half of last season. Given the number of times that Philly blitzes, that scares the heck out of me.

49 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I have read, but have not confirmed, that Dawkins came off the field on passing downs last year. If this is correct, little left in the tank might be generous. A DB who cannot play the pass is as useful as a stopped clock. Bill (or anyone), can you confirm or contradict that Dawkins was removed on passing downs?

58 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Who said that Dawkins came off the field on passing downs?

Tackles (as a proxy for downs played, not quality) don't support it: he had 75 last year, which is basically spot-on average for his career. If he had played ~1/3 less downs, you'd fully expect his tackle numbers to drop.

75 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I don't remember where I read it (but I remember the assertion because it surprised me). It was an actual football journalist, either print or net, not just some silly blogger or poster (like me). I was curious if it was accurate.

27 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Spring may be the better player than Hall in some respects but he has some problems that guaranteed his release: he'd likely only play 8 games next year because of injuries and he had the largest cap hit on the team.

I'm not yet convinced that Hall can't be a stud for the Redskins. The system he played in for the Raiders appears to have had a big impact on his game. I know he's one of FO's favorite targets, but having watched him play in Washington I was fairly impressed. Give me Hall and Rogers plus the extra cap space, rather than whatever benefit Springs has plus the extra injury time and salary.

38 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Hall needs to be consistent before he can be considered a stud. I think this idea is what Bill B. was alluding to in his comments. Hall (IMHO) ran hot and cold in Atlanta and his mouth got himself run out of town. The 'skins obviously hope that his Raider days are an aberation, not the rule.

click name - linked to the Football Outsiders cornerback charting.

"Hall has never had an extended performance that came close to what he did over the second half of the year in Washington, and Springs always has injury issues (although he always plays well when healthy)." Aaron S.

DeAngelo Hall was better than Springs for Washington last year. 3.2 v 6.3 yards per pass, 67% v 53% success. Hall is younger, doesn't get injured as much, played better for Washington last year, and will cost less money. Yeah, they're gambling on Hall but i think Washington made the right move.

60 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Springs is a 34 year old one-time probowler who missed half of last season and half the season three years ago.

Hall is a 25 year old two-time probowler who has missed 1 game in the past 3 years.

Hall played phenomenally with the Skins. For once, the skins made the right choice (Hall and Rogers) over the old guy, and the hive-mind of FO cannot get over their Hall-hatin'. You guys keep beating that dead horse all you want.

68 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

There are, to be sure, extenuating circumstances (different system, different team, played opposite a different CB, etc.) and Hall played well in Washington last year, but when looking at him, you can't ignore the time he spent in Oakland.

The only other comment I'd make is that rating someone based on pro bowl appearances is ridiculous. Making the pro bowl means exactly nothing in terms of evaluating who will be, was, or is a good player.

29 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I am not so sold that the Giants are better without Hixon. Can you argue that they "played" better over a limited sample size? Sure, but Plax's DVOA is probably more skewed than most receivers due to his bad hands ( low catch rate), Playing through injury in all of 07', Penalties, occastional quitting our routes, but then very big plays. Then you also have the fact that defenses roll coverage to his side when he plays X which makes it easier to run/throw to other receivers etc. etc. etc.

The Giants lost James Butler at Safety but replaced him by CC Brown from Houston and I'd call that a wash. Both guys are more known for tackling and weaker pass coverage, and Brown has played an awful lot and racked up a lot of tackles for a young guy. I always felt Butler was the weak link on defense and was glad when the Giants drafted Kenny Phillips. CC should be battle tested depth in the secondary.

The Giants biggest needs IMO this offseason were big play WR and big play LB. Michael Boley could be that big play LB, and now the Giants have a draft/Free agency to help at WR. Before it looked like a done deal that Plax was gone, and I certainly wouldn't count on him coming back but it isn't a lock that he is gone either. I don't think the Giants would *have* to bring in a tall WR that can play X and force safety help but it would certainly help the team.

The Giants also have 3 draft picks in the first two rounds to add depth and the best players available. If there is a TE better than Boss you can draft him, if a big play LB drops you can draft him etc.

I love the Michael Boley signing, I love the Rocky Bernard signing ( but I wonder what Seattle knew about him to let him go), I do think the Giants overpaid for Chris Canty but he is versatile. They look to continue pressure looks from the old Spags D, and Canty could play DT, 5 Technique if you want that look, and possibly even DE on 1st or 2nd downs which nobody mentioned. Kiwi is a little undersized to play the run, but if you had him rushing on 3rd & passing downs, and Canty playing DE on run downs... The Giants have a lot of options.

I think Chase Blackburn could be the starting MLB once Pierce retires, but I still think that even with the addition of Boley they need to add another LB to the mix. The D-Line looks solid, adding depth to the back 7 ( LB's and DB's) could make that defense even better.

The Redskins biggest need is at QB. They have invested countless dollars/draft picks on thier WR's and TE's. They have 2 of the best RB's in the league, a good offensive line, but they can't score more than 30 points but once in a season, and average more than 20?

Take a look at the Redskins offensive point totals every time they played a pretty good defense, Steelers, Ravens, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles. The offense they ran with Campbell was so predictable with draws, WR screens, TE drags, and hardly anything thrown downfield except for the occasional play action pass after a turnover. I hear people call into the radio stations and complain that " Jason Campbell just doesn't have any talent around him"? What?

The NFC East is still the most exciting division to watch in all of pro sports. You have the old traditional teams, the franchises worth the most money, the dislikeable owners, some of the biggest rivalries in all of sports ( every team hates every team), and then big media markets covering the action.

47 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Chris, you certainly know a lot about football, and I would never expect you to make the mistake of confusing "skill position players" with "offense." The weak link on the Redskins last season was the O-line, particularly the RT. I agree they have WRs, TEs, and RBs, but they most certainly do not have "a good offensive line," particularly not in the second half of last season when injuries started to mount. Your criticisms of Washington's offense can mostly be explained by the complete lack of pass protection (and the downturn in run-blocking as well).

Radio callers are idiots. But Campbell, or any QB, needs a line which can protect him. If the Skins draft an OT high (they'd be insane not to), this will be a make-or-break year for Campbell and if he still can't get the job done then you will be proven right.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

55 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I agree and furhtermore think that RT is a much more pressing concern than DE, as chosen for this article. The holes are RT, OLB, and DE. In my opinion DE, while a concern, is the least urgent of the three.

In fact, Randy Thomas has declined dramatically so really the whole right side of the line is a shambles. We'll find some generic veteran to plug in at DE.

69 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I think ideally the Redskins would trade their first rounder and acquire a later first rounder and a second rounder (or something along those lines) in order to draft both a DE and a RT, both of which they need desperately.

48 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Fair point about the versatilty that Canty brings. I suppose the extra money the Giants shipped him (for my mind at least) is a fiscal measure of that versatility. It would make an in-game injury to the D-line easier to cope with. Also the ability to beef up and down at will must be handy.

31 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Could you please post rushing DVOA, and other WR DVOAs with Hixon starting in place of Burress?

My argument is that Burress commands far more double coverages, so his presence in the lineup improves the play of the other receivers. He also helps the running game by keeping 8 men out of the box.

33 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

"In the weeks where Hixon was in charge, the team had a pass DVOA of 8.9% and a run DVOA of 20.2%; with Burress as the "X" receiver, those figures were 3.4% and 20.0%, respectively." Right in the article.

Don't have other receivers' DVOA handy.

34 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

i guess this is a "who you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes" moment, and dammit, my lying eyes will never see hixon being even half the receiver as plax. dvoa blasphemy, i know, but i have more faith in manningham figuring it out then hixon being anything more than a role player.

also think that boley is a much more important addition than canty, despite much more attention being paid to the latter.

i'll echo chris in saying the giants are sitting pretty going in to the draft, as long as they don't overestimate their need to pick a high-profile wr.
armchair journeyman quarterback

46 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I think -- wholly ignoring numbers -- that Plaxico is better than Domenik Hixon, both in general and in that role, whether you're judging strictly his receiving or including Burress' above-average blocking.

When you factor in the difference in price and the attitude, though? I'd rather have Hixon than Burress.

50 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

BGA: The "Redskins don't have a good line" is a fallacy even without Jon Jansen.

At one point in time Clinton Portis was leading the league in rushing, and he had been very successful behind virtually the same guys in the past. Jon Jansen goes down with injury but Stephan Heyer is probably an average NFL tackle. He is a great backup to have, and young, but you'd ideally want more.

Chris Samuels has his fair share of probowls, Pete Kendel is a little older but an above average guard ( and next year having Dockery is an improvement at LG), Rahback is a good strong center that knows his assignments up front, and Randy Thomas was a big free agent acquisition that actually worked out alright at RG. Samuels, Kendal, Casey, Thomas and Heyer is " good". Their line might not be as good as the Giants, but it is certainly above average.

So the redskins have a good ( above average) at worst line. They have a high end RB, one of the best backup RB's in the league, they have a pro bowl Tight end, a 2nd round pick to back him up, Santa Moss is a pro bowl caliber WR, and then you have a high end slot WR and two 2nd round picks.... Yet the offense was awful.

What is the weak link there? THE QUARTERBACK!!!!

One of the reasons why you say " the pass protection" isn't that great, is because Campbell not only has a slow ( mechanical) release, but because he holds onto the ball too long. He needs to make quicker reads and throws. He sort of reminds you of Byron Leftwhich with the long release and the ton of checkdowns he throws, although Byron had the worst windmill release I can ever remember.

Jason Campbell's contract will expire at the end of next year and I don't expect the team to resign him. He has to break out in this contract year or else he will most likely be taking snaps elsewhere next year and the Colt Brennan ( or latest hot free agent) era begins.

If you want to win a Super Bowl with Campbell playing the Trent Dilfer game manager role, then you need the 2000 Ravens defense behind him and Washington clearly doesn't have that.

56 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Samuels: 12 starts at LT
Jansen: 11 starts at RT
Heyer: 9 starts at either RT or LT replacing Samuels and Jansen.

Jansen was a disaster in pass pro. Heyer is better in that regard but worse at run blocking. Heyer is also not great at pass blocking, just better than Jansen. I agree he's a good backup but he's not a starter on a playoff team.

Portis weeks 1-8: 118 rushing yards per game, 5.0 YPC
Portis weeks 9-17: 69 rushing yards per game, 3.6 YPC

That horrific drop in Portis' numbers represents the Washington O-line collapsing due to injuries over the course of the season. (Campbell's numbers also dropped a lot over this timeframe.) Kendall, Rabach, and Thomas started every game, but that does not mean they were as healthy in the second half as in the first.

Now will you tell me again that Washington has a good O-line? Maybe they have a good first 8 weeks O-line, but they do not have a good full season O-line, not at their ages. (Heyer isn't old but he is also injury prone, which is why he went undrafted.) Dockery represents a move to get younger and healthier, but the Skins need a better and healthier RT to replace Heyer/Jansen as well. I pray that comes in the draft.

I'll concede that Campbell's release is slow, and as I said before if they improve the line some more then this is the make-or-break year for him. But you cannot call him the weak link on O with the line performing the way it did in the second half.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

71 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I know it's not possible to watch all 32 teams in any detail, but please at least try to ground yourself in facts before spouting off about the Redskins. Stephon Heyer lacks the leverage to be a capable pass blocker and the either the technique or the strength to be effective in the run game. Randy Thomas was a good FA acquisition... in 2003, and has finished two of the last 4 seasons on IR. He's basically done. Casay Rabach has never been a great pass protector (which is why, of course, he plays center). Which leaves Chris Samuels, a marginal pro bowl player getting paid like an All-Pro, and Pete Kendall, an overachiever on his last legs. This is not an above-average line.

Ladell "negative DVOA for two years running" Betts is not an above-average back, much less one of the league's best. The "high-end slot" receiver is playing split end. And all those second-round picks? That's Campbell's fault? Are we blaming Eli Manning for Sinorice Moss now, too?

An easy way to tell that it's as much the players as the coaches on offense in Washington? Look at the guys who have left. Rod Gardner, Lavaraneus Coles, Taylor Jacobs, David Patten, Robert Royal, Derrick Dockery, Reche Caldwell, Keenan McCardell, Brandon Lloyd? Where's the pattern of success? How good did the Al Saunders offense look in St. Louis last year (let's not start on whether there's any objective evidence that Zorn has any idea what he's doing as a play caller)?

Campbell may not be the solution, but he's not the biggest problem, and he's not Trent Dilfer (he's also light years better than Kyle Boller or Anthony Wright or most of the other dreck the Ravens put behind center during the Billick era, for that matter). He's an average quarterback in a poor situation, and it will be up to the Redskins whether they will be able to improve that situation, or whether Campbell will find success elsewhere. Campbell would make the Pro Bowl in Tennessee or Minnesota, and they'll probably be looking.

77 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Campbell would make the Pro Bowl in Tennessee or Minnesota

He really wouldn't. Zorn did a good job in the first half of last season disguising Campbell's inability to read defenses with slip screen passes and play action throws. When he is left to drop back and read a defense (without a play pass or a designed screen to lean on) he can take five seconds to get to his secondary target. I am not exagerating, seriously five seconds. That is about four seconds too slow. I don't really have as much of a problem with his mechanics as some around here, but he doesn't read defenses like a pro QB should and it hinders his team badly.

130 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

It's got to be the constant offensive changes. Really, it has to be: Campbell's gotten markedly worse since his first year as a starter with Washington.

and it hinders his team badly.

Not as bad as having a substandard QB would. Campbell's overly cautious at this point, and that's not even debatable. 542 pass attempts, and only 5 interceptions? 1 per 100? The NFL average is ~30, and the best QBs in history at avoiding interceptions are ~1 per 45. Campbell's interception rate's been going down steadily, which would normally be a good thing, but it's going down because he's getting more cautious.

But being overly cautious is a lot, lot better than being reckless, as those who have watched Rex Grossman can attest to. Campbell's about average, maybe just a little above average. Trying to replace an average QB is really, really dangerous.

For as much as Chris wants to lambast Campbell, an average QB would've thrown anywhere from 5-10 more interceptions last year. A turnover is worth ~3-4 points, on average. So as much as you can criticize Campbell for holding the ball too long, you have to realize that that did save the Redskins 20-30 points.

51 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Hixon can be a good player but I just feel like he'd be a better "Z" than "X" to best utilize his skills.

I feel like with Plax the deep ball is always a threat that the other team has to keep in mind. If you have a 5'10 corner locked in on Burress Man/Man Manning will see that and attack you. The defensive coordinators always have to keep that in the back of their mind and have a half field player deep over top.

Hixon was actually the Giants leading WR last year with only 7 starts and "can" catch the deep ball but I feel a lot of that is more of a function of them "tricking" the DB's off of play action or a stop/go move and them having to prove to other teams that "Hixon" can beat you and that you shouldn't sell out to stop the run. With plax, you don't have to prove anything, everybody knows the 6'5 232 pound monster can beat you deep.

The Giants also brought in Derek Hagan 6'2 to come in and compete but I can't even envision him even making the active roster with Hixon, Smith, Toomer, Manninghang, Moss and possibly a rookie.

The Giants can try and scrimp with 2 QBs, 9 O Lineman, or 5 linebackers to try and have an extra receiver but it might all end in Amani Toomer being a training camp casualty.

I think the Giants can stil be a very strong team without Plax, but if they would have added Boldin, Hoosh, or Braylon it coud have helped having that big physical WR to go along with Smith/Hixon.

Last year with Shockey leaving, people were scared the Giants offense would fall off because Boss isn't as good as a Receiving TE. He even went the first few games of the year without catching a pass, but I felt like the Giants would throw to their receivers more, maybe run more 4WR sets, even 5 WR sets and that what they lost in TE production they'd gain in more passes to Steve Smith and others etc. Eli Manning has actually performed pretty well in shotgun 4 WR/5 WR sets and even in the hurry up fashion.

When Plax is out they are really getting more thin on pass catchers unless Sinorice Moss can stay healthy and work himself more into the slot role that he can Excel in. I know Manning has a special chemistry with Amani Toomer but at some point those physical skills start to dimish and his catch percentage started to go down. Many on this website postulated that it's because as an older WR ages ( and losses speed) they have less seperation and have to make harder catches with defenders on them. I can see that being true.

94 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Agree with you on adding Boldin or Edwards, but adding a possession-type receiver like Houshmandzadeh wouldn't have addressed the issue---that of "stretching the field," if you will.

Thought they were letting Toomer walk?

armchair journeyman quarterback

53 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Herremans is a good OL, if not more. And he has the skillset of a good LT. Shawn Andrews can play at LT too.
Jean-Gilles was average in 08, but Nick Cole was really underrated. He was above-average, and could compete for a starting spot.
But I don't think Cole or Jean-Gilles can start at LG for the Eagles. In their system, LG and RG are really different. LG pulls a lot, and is an agile OL while the RG is more of a mauler. And they have a guy that they really like there, who is McGlynn.

My bet on this year starting Ol : Herremans - McGlynn - Jackson - Andrews - Andrews

And if Stacy is not ready, Shawn will play RT and N.Cole/.Jean-Gilles will play RG.

I agree with Harris do think that the Eagles are looking for OT/WR/TE/RB with their first 3 picks. Pick 21 and 28 will be 2 players from Moreno, Pettigrew, D.Brown, Beatty, Britton, H.Nicks, or even a surprise pick like J.Cook.

On W.Justice : 2 sacks were on Herremans on mishandled stunts. And I'm pretty sure that a few LTs in this league would have given 3/4 sacks to Osi with the number of times we passed the ball, with McNabb holding it forever (His big problem in 07, along with the lack of confidence in his knee), and without any TE/RB help. Andy Reid was the one to blame in this game.

67 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

For the record, I don't think they're necessarily looking at OT, though they might take an OT if one of the top guys fall. No one has ever any idea what the Eagles will do in the draft(I've seen a convincing argument saying they might take Vonte Davis) but, and this plus a $1.50 will buy you a cup of coffee, I would target Pettigrew (they desperately need a TE who can block and he's the only one who can block AND catch) and Brown (a good all-around RB with decent speed). I wouldn't be surprised to see them take Maluaga because I don't think they're completely sold on Jordan at the WIL, and I'd love to see them trade a few of the 43 5th round picks they've got to move up in the second to grab Robiskie. I won't complain if they get Andre Brown on the second day.

Hail Hydra!

57 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Re: the Eagles' offensive line, I tend to agree that they will be absolutely fine. Thomas is still an excellent pass protector but had declined from an average run blocker to a poor one, and there are a couple of good candidates already in house to replace him in Herremans (who has played already played LT in the NFL and played it well, albeit for a short period) and Andrews (who was a dominant LT in college), even leaving aside Dunlap and Justice (who did play well in the '07 finale at Buffalo when filling in for Runyan).

I'd be surprised to see McGlynn start at LG; if they move Herremans to LT and need an agile player to start at LG, Shawn Andrews seems like a much better fit. People seem to assume that because he's 340 lbs. and a dominant straight ahead power blocker he's not good at the finesse oriented aspects of the position; that's absolutely not true. He's been the best athlete on the Eagles' line for the past several years and he's one of the best open space blocking guards in the NFL - if you watch the replay of almost any screen or sweep that Westbrook has busted for a big play over the past five years, odds are that a great open field block by Andrews was prominently involved.

This athleticism is why it's entirely reasonable to think Andrews can play LT, though I tend to agree that moving him there would significantly weaken the RG spot.

At RG Jean-Gilles and Cole both showed that they could be adequate-to-good last year; obviously it would be possible to upgrade that position but if they have to play one of those guys it won't kill them.

Stacy Andrews for Runyan at RT is probably a wash, albeit one that swaps an aging player for a much younger one with more upside.

All that said I think it's very likely they draft an OT high next month, given Andy Reid's history and the fact that this is a very deep draft at the position. Even if they don't, though, I think there are bigger holes at RB and TE.

As far as Dawkins goes, he's still a good player, but he's not as good as he used to be, and definitely not as versatile. Utilized correctly, as an in-the-box run defender and blitzer, he can still be very effective, but he's no longer a guy opposing offenses have to account for, and he's not capable of covering elite TEs anymore, much less receivers. While they'll miss his ability to hit and create turnovers, I think filling the hole in pass defense his diminishing skills created will more than make up the difference.

62 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

"Owens' departure moves Patrick Crayton back into a starting role, with Miles Austin likely to return and serve as the slot man."

That's not what I'm hearing. All indications are that Miles Austin is the likely starter at flanker. Crayton will stay in the slot because that's what he's good at. Crayton simply doesn't have Austin's speed. Jerry Jones said that getting Austin on the field was a major reason they cut TO. To put Austin in the slot would be to waste his talents, and Crayton is a natural slot receiver.

64 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

As to the Eagles' line, I've been quietly wondering for a while if it wouldn't make more sense for them to draft someone on the interior line positions. If you assume Andrews moving to Left Tackle, then you need to firm up his spot and yes, they have guys they like, but you can always get better if you draft the number one OG prospect, who everyone's let drop because they think what you want is a tackle.

There's also Jamal Jackson, who even SAID 'I can play guard, too' in an interview on the Eagles' site, and could be very good- has the right size, is probably a bit more agile than a Max Jean-Gilles. If you think about possibly moving him (admittedly that causes some continuity problems for the QB, but maybe they'd think it's worth it) then you go for someone like Alex Mack or Max Unger, watch the Philadelphia fanbase explode with confusion, and sit back knowing that your line is fixed, despite appearences to the contrary.

66 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I've been thinking sort of the same thing, although I would rather see a guy like Mack replace Jackson rather than simply pushing him over a spot, with Cole, Jean-Gilles, McGlynn, and possibly Justice competing for the other guard spot. Jackson was definitely a weak point of last year's line. Either Herremans or Andrews could slide over to LT, although I think Andrews is a better bet in the long run.

Still, if they have a shot at a guy like Oher or Andre Smith, I think they'd have to give it pretty serious consideration. Smith has been dropping because of his disappearance at the combine and the fact that he's a big fat guy, but he's a big fat guy who dominated the SEC. Even if he's not ready to start out at LT, he could do what both Andrews brothers did, starting his career as a guard.

81 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Oh yeah, sure, if they can get a really dominating, Orlando Pace type guy, then they should totally go for it. It only really tends to be linemen they trade up for in the first, too. I don't know much about the tackles in the draft, though, so I don't feel qualified to offer an opinion on them.

I'm not as down on Jackson as you are, but hey, you can always get better. The fact that a starting center is openly mentioning in interviews on his team's site that he plays guard too, kind of tells me that something's going to happen in the middle of the line.

What's that? Why yes, I am a colossal nerd.

65 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I'm confused as to where these assertions about Chris Canty being a good pass rusher keep coming from. Canty has never been anything to get excited about as a pass rusher, even in college. At Virginia he had 7 sacks in 4 years (although his senior year was cut short by injury), and with the Cowboys he had 10 sacks in 4 years. As for the argument that he didn't get to the quarterback because was asked to occupy blockers in a 2-gap system, that only applies for his 1st two years in the NFL since Wade Phillips plays a 1-gap system (I believe Al Groh's system at Virginia is 2-gap, although that certainly didn't stop Chris Long from getting to the QB as a 3-4 DE). Even if you take the argument that Canty was being asked to occupy blockers at face value, that still leaves no reason to think that he'll be a capable pass rusher as a DT. Saying that he hasn't been asked to rush the passer, but could if he was asked to do so is pretty much entirely speculative.

As an Eagles fan, I'd much rather see Canty in the middle of the Giants' line than a healthy Fred Robbins (or is the plan to start them together with Bernard/Cofield/Alford on the bench?). He's even less scary playing as a 4-3 DE in certain packages. I think Boley was a far more important pickup for them.

All that said, I'd be interested to see anything from the game charting stats that might show something I'm not noticing with Canty.

78 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

There is a lot more to pass rushing than sacks.

IDK where people got the impression Joe mauer was a good hitter. I look at his stats and see very few home runs...

85 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

No, sacks aren't everything, which is why I asked about the game charting metrics. Still, there's a pretty strong relationship between pass rushing and sacks, and it's the best proxy we've got, at least among conventional stats (note that Barnwell's original formulation was that Canty is a good pass rusher and will therefore get a lot of sacks). There are other measures that indicate that Joe Mauer is a good hitter (e.g. his OBP). Is there an actual argument for the claim that Canty's a good pass rusher other than simply asserting it? I've watched Canty a fair amount over the last 4 years and don't recall his getting into the backfield with any sort of consistency. I still want to know where this reputation is coming from.

70 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Some Eagles O-Line buffs here, I like it. So what are the chances they improve running the ball next year and in particular what are the chances they improve running the ball in short yardage situations next year? I'd love to hear your thoughts Xeyon, P-Liz and AlanSP.

I am also not as excited as Chris Canty being a great pass rusher, but I do think he will be a good run stuffer and I wouldn't be shocked to ever see him line up as a DE on 1st & 2nd downs. The good thing about the Giants having 4 starting quality DT's ( Alford is good but not yet starting quality) is that these guys do get hurt, and you do need to rotate them within the games anyways to keep everybody fresh for late in the games. The Giants really would have the ability to mix/match skills sets for matchups with all those horses up front. Having Kiwi, Osi, Tuck & choice DT rush the passer on 3rd & longs is a good thought.

89 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Some Eagles O-Line buffs here, I like it. So what are the chances they improve running the ball next year and in particular what are the chances they improve running the ball in short yardage situations next year? I'd love to hear your thoughts Xeyon, P-Liz and AlanSP.

Not an Eagles line buff, but as far as I am concerned the answer is glaringly obvious. Bring in a proper lead blocking fullback. On short yardage the defenses will be stacked near the line meaning all the gaps are pretty much filled. To create a seam you either need every blocker to dominate their assignment (very difficult to acheive) or pull guys about to try to create a lead or a trap or any kind of opening. The Eagles haven't used a proper fullback for most of Reid's tenure, so this is the limit of their ingenuity to make a lane for a sure fire yard or two. If you have a blocking back lined up ahead of the tailback you automatically have the ability to lead a back into the hole to clean up any linebackers or safeties waiting around the hole. You also immediately gain a greater ability to use misdirection to trick the defense.

I am not saying that you have to use a fullback to gain a yard on short yardage situations. I am all in favour of spreading out a defense and diving a back through the line or taking advantage of safeties stacked near the line byt throwing to a WR in single coverage. That hasn't been the Eagles problem. The Eagles have suffered when they line up in heavy packages with extra TEs and H-backs. There are far less reads for the defense to make, which is a lot easier to stop.

91 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I do think the Eagles' run game will improve, particularly in short yardage situations, for a few reasons:
1. Regression to the mean
2. Their best run blocker (by far), Shawn Andrews, will be returning. The team suffered a lot from his absence. Whether he returns to his old guard spot or slides out to tackle, he'll be a big upgrade in the running game over what they had most of last year.
3. They will likely add additional linemen in the draft, and they might also add a blocking TE (Pettigrew is the one that keeps coming up, and he's a superb blocker) and/or a FB who can block (this could come through the draft or a free agent like Leonard Weaver). They'll also add at least 1 RB in the draft to spell Westbrook

98 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I love the idea of Pettigrew in the Eagles' Offense. McNabb's always been at his best when he had a good TE to work off, or, to be more specific, when he had Chad Lewis.

Not so sure about Weaver, though- I've heard he's a marginal blocker, though I'm only going on what I've read, not what I've seen. If he's even adequate, though, his playmaking ability would make the Eagles a nightmare to defend out of a traditional two-back set. Somewhat predictably, that'd probably lead to more passing.

124 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

To update, they have in fact signed Weaver. He's nothing to write home about as a blocker, but he's probably about average in that department and he does a lot of other things well, he's young, and I think he should be a good fit for the Eagles.

As an aside, I've noticed that Eagles fans as a group tend to clamor a lot for hypothetical players independent of who's actually available (a big, run-blocking fullback, a big #1 receiver, a big running back...Eagles fans like their fantasies big apparently). Lorenzo Neal and Mike Richardson were available, but they're 38 and 37 respectively. Weaver and Heath Evans were the best options among the guys the Eagles could actually acquire.

79 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

P-liz? I like it. Makes me sound like the Gangsta I am. P-Liz kicking it to the max.

I would say that the Eagles may well get a lot better at running the ball, to be honest, and were already showing signs- Kyle Eckel was actually something close to money on 3rd and 1, once they picked him up.

The team also got to the NFC championship game with a lot of injuries on the line. Forget McNabb's slump, that's the real story; their starting RT played half the season with a ridiculously bad knee which made things progressively harder for him, and they lost THREE guards this year- it got so bad they had to start Mike McGlynn for one game. If you're now thinking 'who's he,' let's just say you shouldn't feel bad about it!

In the short yardage situations it's often been peripheral players like LJ Smith, Matt Schobel, or Dan Klecko not picking up their man that was the issue. In a lot of the well-documented goal-line foul-ups, linemen have more or less done their job, only to have a lead blocker or edge guy miss his man or get pushed back.

The other issue wass Tra Thomas- he's never been a great run blocker, but he regressed a LOT this year, even though his pass blocking's still pretty good. He had Hank Baskett helping him out a lot by chipping and shuch recently, which really says something.

Incidentally, I think once our line improves, Baskett will have something of a resurgence as a receiver. Just sayin'.

Back to the line, though, I would imagine that with Andrews back to full strength, which is likely (though not certain) given the amount of recovery time he's had, his brother on board, and improved health on the interior line with perhaps one really good high draft pick, the Eagles' line is going to be a lot better. I'd like to see the Eagles at the very least push Klecko for his spot, too, and a decent blocking tight end. The only issue on the actual linemen is going to be how Juan Castillo and Andy Reid shuffle the pieces around. I've driven myself crazy trying to work out which permutation works and I'm still not quite sure who they'll move where.

82 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Early in the year Washington also had the benefit of playing the Saints defense at home. If you wanted to control for the teams played later in the year, @ Bal, Pitt, NYG, Dal, etc, then you'd expect for their rushing yards to drop as they were facing better defenses.

Washington does not have a bad o-line like the Campbell appologists will argue, and even you seem to agree that they were at least good through the first 8 games when their starting RB was leading the league in rushing. Bad lines don't have league leading rushers 50% the way through the season.

Perley- I do watch all the Redskins games and you sir are clearly a homer. Campbell a pro bowler in Minnesota or Ten? Ladell bets is one of the best backups in the league, you have a pro bowl TE, Pro Bowl Caliber WR, three second round draft picks, and the highest paid slot WR in the game. What is "bad" about that situation? Detroit is a bad situation for a QB, Washington is clearly NOT.

Jimmy- Exactly! I've been pounding this point on Campbell from day one. It isn't because I don't like the Redskins or any other reason but it's just so Obvious. Campbell throwing slip screens, WR screens, RB screens, check downs, and all other short crap. The guy is NOT very good at dropping back, reading the coverage, and delivering a throw and that is what you need from your QB. Zorn was picking up cheap yards on check downs and screens over and over and shielding your quarterback from the cold hard reality of the position. The media just loved to go on about how he didn't throw an interception early in the year, but it's hard to do that when you consider what he was doing. He takes forever to make his reads, and holds onto the ball too long.

Redskins fans will do whatever they can to blame, the line, the receivers, zorn, the offensive talent in general but the sore thumb is sticking out right there in front of their biased eyes.

90 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

The constant screens, waggles and so forth won't just be to hide Campbell's shortcomings. Zorn will also be wanting to use them to disrupt the pursuit by the defense to make his power running game more effective. That doesn't mean that Campbell isn't benefitting quite a bit from their use.

I think you and I differ on Campbell when it comes to his mechanics. I actually think he has good enough footwork, a quick enough release and is quite accurate. He can make great throws when he sees them in time. He just takes too long. He owuld be a better player in a system like the Pats (especially last year with Cassel running the show) which uses loads of screens, traps and draw plays. The Skins might need a Randy Moss to make it as succesful as the Pats though and they are very rare.

West Coast QBs need to read the defense very quickly and have great footwork (ie not just good). I once watched a video of Bill Walsh using Joe Montana to demonstrate the principles of the QB dropback. Montana used to cover three yards with the first step of his drop and completed the whole thing within two seconds by which point he was about seven or eight yards deep. If you think about it he was pretty close to sprinting throught the steps backwards while looking downfield. That is a very underapreciated part of the athletiscism requied to excel at QB in the NFL. I also read a book by Steve McMichael in which he said that you could see Montana on film going through five reads by the time he got to the base of his three step drop. So that is covering eight yards in two seconds from a completely stationary position, whilst running backwards and managing to make five reads spread across a whole football field full of guys running all over the place. Every single play. It is amazing when you think about it. It is also amazing that teams think all they need to do to start using this system as affectively as the Niners did under Walsh is bring in a coach who has used parts of it before.

99 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I'm always surprised when people don't understand that body control, and therefore keeping your head steady, might be important for a position where the player who needs to do more reading of the field than anyone else. It seems screamingly obvious to me.

92 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Let's keep it simple. Let's keep it objective.

Ladell Betts 2008: 61 carries, 206 yards. 3.4ypc
Ladell Betts 2007: 93 carries, 335 yards. 3.6ypc

You contend that the Redskins' OL is "good" and that Ladell Betts is "one of the best backups in the league." Yet objectively, the collective performance of the Redskins ground game when Ladell Betts touches the ball, is below average.

Your scouting is not what you think it is.

83 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I dub thee P-Liz! So how do you feel that Andy Reid's playcalling contributed to the Eagles rushing attack/3rd and short woes?

102 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I think that gets overblown. Seriously, if you're the Eagles' coach, and you've just had the Bears game, do you really want to go back to the run in short yardage?

Reid had what was for him a 'playoffs? Don't talk to me about playoffs!' moment a while back when being asked about that for the umpteenth time, he said something like 'there's no point in running the ball if you can't run' in a press conference. It was the closest I've ever heard him get to blaming his players, but he does have a fair point.

86 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

2 comments: 1) I thought I knew football, but man, the comments on FO are impressive. 2) It's great to be an NFC East fan.

106 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Sneering disdains don't have to fact based (or based on any reality at all). All the best sporting rivalry needs pointless and entirely spurious hatred. The dafter the better. The longer a perceived slight can be carried again all good. The best ones are those that the opposing fans don't even realise you are still grinding (proverbial) axes about.

Like the inexplicable decision by the refs to overturn a correct call of incomplete on a ball that Paxico Burress let hit the floor. Giants score in fourth quarter and Bears lose. Giants stay undefeated away from home the entire year and win the Superbowl. The blown call in Chicago is forgotten as the footballing world celebrates their new champions.............or is it?

Also what is wrong with having the Lions in your division, two free wins a year!

121 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

The NFC North's 'Cardinals' were the Bucs. If you took the Lions out of the North you would have been removing Barry Sanders, which means I wouldn't have seen him play as much which has to be a bad thing even if he was running in riduculous TDs from all over the field against the Bears.

95 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Betts needs more touches to get it going. Wasn't it the same in '06 when Portis finally went down? Slow start, and then later in the game, really starts picking up chunks of yardage. Betts is a good backup for a whole game, IMO. What he isn't though, is a change of pace back that can do something on one or two carries, like Leon Washington or Jerious Norwood.

As a 'skins fan, I'm more inclined to agree with Chris; when Campbell has time(not always), too often he's simply not making the reads or getting the ball out. He's inconsistent, is all. Sometimes he looks great, and other times like a bum. What continues to amaze me is how much time he gets on play action(respect for Portis or Moss). Jansen's pass pro has never been his strong suit and he's deteriorating, and Samuels keeps going to Pro Bowls but I don't know why half the time. Definitely better in run blocking than pass pro, but he's not a liability. Thomas seems to be an injury waiting to happen, Kendall had that one big goof with the fumble but seems as solid as a guard his age can be, and Rabach is either overpowered or holding far too often. I'm ready for a younger line while Bugel still has the years to teach them.

101 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I can't remember where I read it (it was an analyst, but one who claims to watch a lot of film) but I remember the guy saying that Samuel gets left on an island with the opponent's best pass rusher more often than any other LT in football. I don't watch the Skins week in and out so I am not able to personally verify it, but if it is true, even spotty play under those circumstances would actually be quite impressive.

104 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

I'm honestly not sure how anybody who has watched the Redskins over the last 5 years has any faith in Joe Bugel's ability to "coach up" OL talent. Will Chad "Inactive" Reinhart and Justin "undrafted rookie" Geisinger be any better than Jim Molinaro and that other guy they drafted in 04 (neither of whom were good enough to prevent the Ray Brown 05 campaign)? They certainly haven't shown it yet. Heyer may not be cover-your-eyes awful, but he's also still just a guy with good athleticism and poor technique. And that's the roster--it's been propped up with retreads like Todd Wade and Cory Raymer, with exactly the kind of results you'd expect, and in true Redskins fashion, they're paying top dollar for second-rate performance.

Ladell Betts may be the same guy he was in 2006. I'm inclined to think it was just contract year magic. Either way, he's a poor fit for what the Redskins do on offense (which is basically "run CP until the wheels come off"), and, tbh I think he's a waste of a roster spot if Rock's going to stay at #3 RB/KR.

The point isn't that Jason Campbell's a great quarterback--he's not (whether he will continue not to be is another question). But building up a pile of straw men and asking why he's not making the pro bowl throwing to Randle El and Malcolm "Inactive 14 Weeks" Kelly is a preposterous question on its face. He's an average, uneven player on an average, uneven offense. The face of the franchise. No more, no less.

105 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Jimmy, I don't have a problem with Campbell's size, the height of his release or his footwork or arm strength. I do have a problem with the slow mechanical release, and him making slow reads and holding onto the ball way to long. In a true west coast offense you want a guy with quick accurate reads/quick release. A relatively undersized QB that doesn't have the strongest arm like Jeff Garcia can be successful.

Campbell is big, strong armed, but slower released. You'd ideally think he'd be better suited into an offense that can run the ball and throw more play action downfield but even there, I don't see him as more than a game manager and not " a pro bowler in Minny or Tenn".

Jason Campbell only threw for 13 touchdown passes last year and less the year before. Keep in mind that rookie Joe Flacco had 14, Tyler Thigpen had 18, Kyle Orton 18, Shaun Hill 13, and Jemarcus Russell had 13.

The Redskins had the 5th worst scoring offense in the NFL right there behind winless Detroit. Campbell was NOT a good redzone player and NOT good in the 2 minute drill. He lacked urgency and leadership.

Look, I am not calling the guy Ryan leaf but when your QB throws 13 TD passes, he had the 5th lowest scoring offense in the league, and the Redskins had more pro bowlers on offense than any team...

What do you need to coinvince you that Campbell is holding this offense back? Even if you disagree that he has " good skilled position players" and a good... average at best offensive line... Then why isn't the production there? The team hired a QB coach to be the head coach, they tried to rally around him...

It's not light Todd Collins didn't step in and outplay Campbell at the end of the 07' season or anything.

Perly- I love how you left out the year that Betts actually *started* 9 games in.
Laddell Betts 2006: 245 carries, 1154 yards, 4.7 YPC, 53 catches, 445 yards.

That's over 1500 total yards for a talented 2nd round draft pick who started only 9 games! How many other backup RB's can you honestly say would do that? Is Laddell Betts "the best" backup in the league, who knows, but he is certainly able to produce and the guy doesn't even start.

Laddell Betts 2008: Was a year he battled through injuries. It was the least carries he's ever had in his 8 year career. If you want to cherry pick the stats from his injured year, and ignore the good year... I think I already made my point.

107 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Here's what it would take to convince me that Campbell's the problem. Somebody--coach or player--needs to leave the Redskins offense and play better on another team. Anybody. In 5 years. And you know what? It hasn't happened. The closest one can get to an example is Brandon Lloyd, who went from worst ever to just casually bad.

The problem is that you're trying to cobble together incompatible data into a single picture. You can't put the 2006 Skins OL and 2008 Jason Campbell together to make a shoulda-been offense. You can't look at Ladell Betts' 2006 and say he's a great back in 2008--he wasn't injured in 2007, and he wasn't good then either. When the 2009 season opens, he'll be a 30 year old tailback coming off a knee injury whose last good season was three years ago. You don't even need to run the similarity scores. He's just not that good.

112 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

"Somebody--coach or player--needs to leave the Redskins offense and play better on another team."

This is hard to do. Their lack of tremendous success has meant their offensive coaches have not been in great demand, and off the top of my head I can't think of too many offensive players who have left the Skins lately (regardless of if they got better or worse).

108 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

So then where is Jason Campbell short changed? Why did he have 13 TD passes, and why did they score the 5th least points in the league?

Santana Moss: Pro bowl caliber
Kelly/Thomas: 2nd round draft picks
Randel El: Highest past slot WR in the league
Chris Cooley: Pro Bolwer
Backup TE: 2nd round draft pick
Clinton Portis: Pro Bolwer
Ladell Betts: if you can't agree he isn't a premier backup, agree he is "good".
LT: Pro bowler
LG: Kendall has been at least an average NFL lineman
C: Rahback has been at least average
RG: Thomas is good
RT: Jansen is good/injues: Stephon Heyer is average

Now many people would argue the starting QB is average. You can say that Campbell has " no talent" all you want, but no other team in the NFC had more pro bowlers on offense. If you put a "good" quarterback on that offense, the offense certainly wouldn't score less points than Detroit and 27 other teams.

Is Campbell awful? NO, but he is holding back the skins offense.

110 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Perly: So Santana Moss, Chris Cooley. Clinton Portis, Mike Sellers, and Chris Samuels wouldn't be good on other teams?

In general, teams want to KEEP their good players, and release their bad/average/overpaid players.

I don't need for the Chargers to release Tomlinson, Gates, Mcneil, Hartwig and watch them play well to know that they are good players.

111 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Betts should have been traded to the Broncos after that good season; Rock shouldn't be the third RB either, since he never gets to carry the ball, but between him and Thrash the 'skins are carrying two blue collar ST/whatever needs doing types. They desperately need a real change of pace type to keep some of the wear and tear off Portis, and Betts isn't it.

As for Bugel, the talent needs to be there to start with; not every lower round and undrafted rookie will turn out to be Joe Jacoby. I think he's done a good job with a bunch of over the hill, injured and undrafted players. I'd have been thrilled if instead of wideouts, they had spent all three second rounders last season on linemen prospects. Someone needs to light a fire under the Danny's ass so he'll draft a lineman, but it ain't gonna be Vinny.

113 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Why did they score the 5th fewest points in the league?

1. Lack of pass protection. Rabach was never a great pass-blocking center, but he's adequate between good guards. Randy Thomas is no longer a good guard. And Jon Jansen is done. He's so done that Bill Parcells went on record saying that he was done in the New York Times two years ago.
1a. Because Jon Jansen is done, Chris Cooley spends his time either blocking, or chipping before releasing on 4-yard routes because Jon Jansen is done. To reiterate, Jon Jansen is so done that Jim Zorn wanted to cut him as soon as he took the job.
2. Lack of receivers. Santana Moss is Steve Smith without the health or stamina. If nobody touches him, he's unstoppable (see 2005 season). Unfortunately, football's a contact sport. Randle El's a good slot receiver asked to play split end, and neither James Thrash, Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas, or Fred Davis have shown that they have any business being in the NFL. The Redskins don't need a Chad Johnson or an Anquan Boldin, but they need one guy who can line up on the outside and beat single coverage. And they don't have it.
3. Lack of coaching. Jim Zorn may be the real deal. He certainly learned from his early-season timidity. But he's a guy whose entire coaching resume is a Mike Holmgren project (Matt Hasselbeck) and the continuing adventures of Seneca Wallace, NFL QB. And now the 5th-worst scoring offense in the NFL in 2008. He may be able to do it, but he hasn't yet.
4. Lack of depth. Ladell Betts is below average. YPC, DVOA, take your pick. There's no objective case that he's been anything close to good since 2006. The rookies haven't seen the field--with the exception of Chris Horton, the highly-graded 2008 draft class has been a complete bust.
5. Jason Campbell isn't Drew Brees. But the idea that he's a worse QB than Kerry Collins is completely unfounded. He's not holding the Skins back because they wouldn't succeed without him--the same front 5 is going to be a year older in 2009, Clinton Portis is coming off 340 carries, and unless the rookies show up huge, there's still nobody to catch the ball. Unless the Zorn/Cerrato regime has more up its sleeve than they've shown, this is an offense that's going nowhere.

123 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Why did they score the 5th fewest points in the league?

I'm really surprised you didn't mention the three most obvious things. Only one of them has anything to do with Jason Campbell.

1) Red zone performance (this one has to do with Campbell, somewhat): the difference between the Redskins yards/drive and TDs/drive is just huge. They moved the ball fine, but weren't ever really able to punch it in.

2) Field goals. The Redskins had the second worst FG/XP DVOA in the league. For a more conventional stat, the Redskins had an overall percentage of ~72%, worst in the NFL.

3) Defensive scoring. Teams on average score 3 touchdowns on defense a year: the Redskins scored zero.

Add in about 15-20 points lost on field goals, 21 points lost on defensive scoring, and the Redskins are nearing the low-20s in total points, and the difference between that and the ranking in terms of yards/drive (or DVOA) is just the poor red zone performance.

127 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

"But the idea that he's a worse QB than Kerry Collins is completely unfounded."

I would go with unproven. It is also unproven that he is markedly better than Kerry Collins. Although, I don't think KC is the best comp for him. I would call him a very poor man's Drew Bledsoe.

114 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

1. How many sacks did Casey Rabach give up last year?
1a. Jon Jansen didn't even play in all the games. If he's half as garbage as you said, then having an average stephon heyer should be an upgrade, no?
2. Santana Moss can't line up on the outside and beat single coverage? The three draft picks don't have any business in the NFL? It's hard to be prove your worth with Jason Campbell as your starting QB.
4. Ladell betts was INJURED last year.

Take a look at the Redskins Over/Under total last year, especially at the end of last year. It shows that their offense was worse than expectations almost every single week. It was a joke... yet they still sent more offensive players to the pro bowl than any NFC team.

Rock Cartwright is an underrated Kick Returner and that's why he's there. James Thrash is now a very good special teams player and that's why he's there.

I recall after the 05' season when the Redskins fixed their only problem... by bringing in Randel El. I was totally against them having such a short WR Corps. with all those guys under 6' and Campbell as the QB.

119 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

1. I have no idea. Where do you find these numbers?

1a. Jansen started 11 games last year. That's 2/3 of the season. I don't know why you think Heyer is average. Better than Jansen is not necessarily average. And he only replaced Jansen after the first 2 games, so it's not like it was so obvious that he was better.

2. Moss is often hurt. When healthy he's quite good, but he wasn't healthy for part of last year (despite his starts). Those 3 2nd round draft picks had 21 catches combined, less than Ladell Betts by himself (he was the 5th leading pass catcher). It's hard to prove your worth when you never catch the ball.

3. (No #3)

4. Ladell Betts was healthy in 2007 and he was just as bad as in 2008.

5. That Pro Bowl offense consisted of a FB, a TE, a LT who only started 12 games, and Clinton Portis' first half. Let me repeat that: A FB, a TE, 3/4 of a LT, and half a RB. You call that a Pro Bowl offense?

6. Your assessments of Rock and Thrash are accurate.

7. I don't see your point in claiming that Randle El was supposed to solve all the problems on offense. It's not true because they also added Lloyd (and Fauria), and it's also a total non-sequitor based on the previous discussion.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

115 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

1. postgameheroes has some pretty good offensive breakdowns of the Redskins... offensive breakdowns. I'm not going back to count. Rabach will be adequate if Randy Thomas 2009 looks like Randy Thomas 2006. At 33, I'm not holding my breath.
1a. If Stephon Heyer were average, he'd start over Jansen. He's not.
2. Referring to the X position. Moss can be handled by press coverage or safety help; when he draws double-teams, there isn't another receiver on the roster who can consistently get open in single coverage.
4. Ladell Betts was bad in 2007. That data's not any less valid than his 2006 season. If he could start, somebody would have paid him to.

Again, I've argued repeatedly that DVOA overrates the Redskins offense last year and that the money that they're spending this year on defense is likely to lead to much additional success unless 2008 turns out to have been the mythical lost year in starting a WCO. And, sure, I suppose that's possible: Thomas and Kelly and Davis will all make it on to the field and be able to use their size to run enough slants and hitches to slow down a pass rush to make deeper routes possible. But that's me in the corner, still breathing.

I know why they keep Rock and Thrash. But they're not starters, and the guys ahead of them (Betts, Thomas and Kelly) aren't filling the roles they need to.

And, a little perspective. After the 05 season, the Redskins didn't only sign Randle El. They also went out and got Andre Carter ... and Brandon Lloyd, TJ Duckett, Kenny Wright, Mike Rumph, and Adam Archuleta. So it's not like they're not trying. It's *how* they're trying that's the problem.

116 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Also, re: the Pro Bowl voting

Snyder's Redskins have always been better at selling the product than creating it.

117 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

1. Do sacks usually occur because Centers are better run blockers or pass blockers or do sacks occure because pass rushing DE's beat Tackles, and lineman don't communicate/don't know who to block?
1. Stephon Heyer is average and he's young.
2. Your scenerio doesn't factor in all of the direct WR screens they throw to Randel El ( and Moss for that matter) that require no read from the quarterback. It's not like Campbell even IS a drop back passer because he's not.
4. Ladell Betts was injured in 2007. The guy starting in front of him was leading the league in rushing behind the offensive line you argue is no good.

I'd agree that DVOA overrates the Redskins and Campbell in particular, for a lot of the same reasons it overrated Byron Leftwhich in Jacksonville.

Danny is a loose cannon. You'd be better off keeping what you have ( even if the players might be a little less talented), and building on last year than ripping up the coaching staff/roster every two years when you don't win. Real football is not fantasy football.

The better teams/offenses Indy, New England, Giants, Eagles have players in key spots that have played together for years, they are better apt to making adjustments/improving.

Fans/gamblers are so high on teams that "signed", "improved", "brought in", talented players while they highly underrate good teams that are just doing more of the same, or that might have "lost", decent secondary players of importance. It amazes me every year how people pick the teams that brought in the most guys in the offseason, as opposed to the "best" teams after you do all that accounting.

The year the Giants won the super bowl they didn't sign any free agents, in fact they lost Tiki Barber and their left tackle.

122 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

1. Usually? Depends on the team, I guess. A few teams have tried the bookend tackles and mush in the middle approach to building OLs--Washington did it in 2004 with the still-developing Derrick Dockery and Cory Raymer/Lennie Friedman, and GB did it the year after they left Wahle and Riviera go. And, of course, there was the Sean Mahan chronicles up in Pittsburgh, although he certainly wasn't the only problem.

Stephon Heyer overperformed as an undrafted rookie in 2007. In 2008, he didn't look any better. It's entirely possible that in two years he'll be ready to take over for Chris Samuels, but until then he's a project and hasn't shown that he should be anything more than a situational reserve.

2. Honestly, I don't buy the idea that short routes will open deeper ones. But the only hope for the Redskins to improve their offense without roster churn is the receivers growing up fast and being able to do a lot with misdirection and three-step drops. Continuity isn't going to help the OL--they're too old for that. This year I look for the Redskins to look like they did last year--solid if underrated defense and just enough offense (probably a little better in the air, and a little less on the ground) to get to 9 wins, and if that gets them into the playoffs, they'll be destroyed by any team with a decent pass rush the way they were by Seattle in 05 and 07.

Zorn and Campbell each deserve a chance to be the guy because there isn't any other choice. The roster's too old in the trenches to try another QB or another coach without just blowing the whole thing up.

4. Ladell Betts played in every game in 07. Was he hurt? I can't remember. The difference between he and Clinton Portis is that Portis is better.

Look at the good rushing lines in the league and you see a pattern: it's not about the back. Carolina had Stewart and Williams. Dallas had Barber, Choice and Jones. NYG had Jacobs, Bradshaw and Ward. Atlanta had Turner and Norwood. Washington had Portis... and Portis... and Portis. I can't think of another team that had such lopsided success behind a good line.

Anyway, I was loudly critical of the 2005 offseason for the Skins--it was pretty obvious where that team was headed, and it was upsetting as a fan to look at the relatively measured steps they'd taken after the 2004 and 2005 seasons to get old mistakes off the books, to see them make a serious of glaringly obvious new ones.

128 Re: Four Downs 2009: NFC East

Some Eagles O-Line buffs here, I like it. So what are the chances they improve running the ball next year and in particular what are the chances they improve running the ball in short yardage situations next year?

As Alan and co. have already said, I think chances are good. They already improved after adding Eckel at midseason last year, and having Andrews back and replacing Thomas and L.J. Smith, perhaps the two weakest run blockers on their line, will help.

I am also not as excited as Chris Canty being a great pass rusher, but I do think he will be a good run stuffer and I wouldn't be shocked to ever see him line up as a DE on 1st & 2nd downs. The good thing about the Giants having 4 starting quality DT's ( Alford is good but not yet starting quality) is that these guys do get hurt, and you do need to rotate them within the games anyways to keep everybody fresh for late in the games.

Agreed. I don't think there's a chance in hell Canty gets 8 sacks this year, but having competent depth at DL is extremely undervalued. One of the things that's always driven me nuts about the dumber segments of the Eagles' fanbase is their belief that Reid continually adding guys like Chris Clemons and Trevor Laws through FA and the draft represents a failure to address the team's needs. I'd go so far as to say that quality defensive linemen are ALWAYS a need for EVERY team, and the Giants and Eagles seem to be two teams that have figured this out.