Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

14 Oct 2008

Redskins sign Alexander

Desperate times call for desperate measures. With Ladell Betts injured, Shaun Alexander becomes the top backup to Clinton Portis. This is the same Shaun Alexander that the Bengals turned down in favor of Chris Perry.

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 14 Oct 2008

30 comments, Last at 15 Oct 2008, 8:08pm by Dice


by tuluse :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 6:39pm

There has to be an undrafted rookie that would be better than Shaun Alexander at this point.

by Telamon :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 6:50pm

Far more importantly in the long run, they also signed a new punter, Ryan Plackemeier. The old one, 6th round rookie bust Durant Brooks, was cut with an injury settlement.

Note, that they drafted this rookie to replace Derrick Frost, currently posting a (barely) positive DVOA with Green Bay. Nice call, Dan Snyder et. al.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 6:55pm

It should also be noted that Derrick Frost is a fierce tackler, despite being a punter.

by Sean :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 9:46pm

is it even possible to be a bust when selected in the 6th round? even for a punter?

by ammek :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 5:50am

Meanwhile, Packer fans are furious about Frost. Lots of comments along the lines of "I never thought I'd say it, but bring back Jon Ryan."

Ryan, meanwhile, has become a hate-figure in Seattle, and has horrible DVOA.

Conclusion: punter's a dirty job.

by Bobman :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 11:47pm

ROBO-Punter has no need for tackling. What is this tackling you speak of, you puny human?

by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 8:03pm

Whither Rock Cartwright? He's only had 1 carry on the year. I know they love him on special teams and all, but you gotta get your most talented guys on the field as often as you can.

by Arson55 :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 8:18pm

I'll second the Cartwright question. Why can't that guy get a chance on offense? Could he really be worse than Alexander?

by Telamon :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 9:20pm

Rock Cartwright is the CAPTAIN (i.e. the man with the badge) of Redskins Special Teams, and putting him in the backfield with Campbell, CAPTAIN of the Redskins Offense, would be PERVERSION, unto both GOD and NATURE.

Seriously, though, I don't think he's doomed to obscurity during Betts absence. He might even get more carries than Alexander, but the point of this signing is that there has to be more than one person backing up Portis. Whether Alexander is the right guy is heavily debatable, but at least he knows the West Coast Offense, right?

by Fergasun :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 8:42pm

As a Redskin fan I hate the signing. I'm not a fan of Alexander. I think he plays soft.

Of course I think the flip-side is that he knows the playbook...

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 7:10am

Relegating Marcus Mason to practice squad was a mistake. If you are going to employ a 2-back offense, and your third string back is your spec teams captain, then you really need 4 backs.

by Ashley Tate (not verified) :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 9:40pm

Meet the Washington Redskins: One of just two NFL teams with both an offensive and a defensive player of the year. Sounds impressive, doesn't it?

(The other team being the Colts with Manning and Sanders.)

by Sean :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 9:45pm

"...6th round rookie bust Durant Brooks..."
is it even possible to be a bust as a 6th round pick?

by Telamon :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 9:51pm

It is when you're a freaking punter.

by The Ninjalectual :: Tue, 10/14/2008 - 11:17pm

The 6th round is the new 1st round. For punters.

I thought Brooks was playing alright, too.

Chris Horton for defensive rookie of the year.

by David C (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 1:09am

This is when you start looking at the film of nobodies that got cut from teams that were already set at Running Back. You know, the ones that never had a chance in the first place.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 7:14am

Here come the Seaskins!

by panthersnbraves :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 7:22am


by hubcap (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 9:29am

I thought Brooks was playing alright, too.
Ladies and gentlemen, Durant Brooks's mom!

Seriously, Brooks was 32nd of 32 punters in both total and net punting average. He's also had two punts run back for TDs, which isn't all his fault but those punts did indeed suck.

The knee-jerk reaction to fire the punter (or a kicker) is often silly. But statistically Brooks was the worst punter in the league, and last game his own teammates were yelling at him. Replacement-level punting would be a boon for the Redskins. As a fan, I'd be happy with a nice C-minus performance.

by Dice (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 10:47am

/me cries at the news...he coughed the ball up when Smoot him, for chrissakes.

by Loose On The Lead :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 10:59am

Derrick Frost is an interesting case. By DVOA, the Redskins' punt unit was quite good while he was here (2005-07), yet fans couldn't stand him and eventually the coaches couldn't, either. He is somehow a fairly effective punter despite not getting much hang time. I wonder...I mean, if I had a choice between (a) a 45-yard punt with lots of hang time and (b) a line-drive 40-yarder that couldn't be fielded and would probably roll 10 or 15 yards, I'd take (b). But (b) would be perceived by coaches and fans alike as lucky. And maybe it is, but Frost seems to do it often enough that...er, I just don't know.

Regarding the comment about Shaun Alexander knowing the playbook...I don't think he does. Remember, the Redskins largely kept the Bugel/Gibbs running scheme and terminology. Alexander presumably is familiar with Zorn's passing scheme, but how valuable is he going to be there?

Oh, and Cartwright's running ability hasn't ever been appreciated by the Skins. (Heck, Gibbs and his staff couldn't see that Betts had every-down ability until they were forced to use him when Portis was injured in '06.) I guess he doesn't look the part, so no one bothers to check the results when he does get significant playing time. It's weird.

by Theo (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 1:46pm

Take 3 big pitchers of beer.

1: Anytime a talking head says he's a good back because Alexander was the 2005 MVP: down one glass.

2: Anytime a talking head says there's thunder and lightning in Washington: down one glass.

3: Anytime a talking head says he's great in the locker room: down 2 glasses

4: Anytime a talking head says it's a good signing because "Dan Snyder knows how to sign good veterans": drink 2 glasses.

5: Anytime a talking head thinks it's a bad signing because he runs soft: drink 1 glass.

5: Anytime a talking head says Clinton Portis can learn a lot from Alexander: drink what's left.

by KyleW :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 5:36pm

That is borderline suicidal.

by Dice (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 2:02pm

I like Rock, quite a bit. But without looking at stats, and knowing he doesn't get much in practice, he seems to fumble a little too often. I might just be remembering a game where a fumble of his cost a win in '05, but something has put that in my head.

I agree about Marcus Mason: promote him to the team and use him.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 2:34pm

I believe the Ravens signed him off the Skins practice squad.

by Dice (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 3:56pm

Isn't Keon Lattimore still a free agent? I'd take him...

by Theo :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 6:38pm

tell us why.
"I saw him play at my local school/university" does not count.

by Drew (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 7:08pm

I don't think the 'Skins are expecting great things out of Alexander at this point in his career. Basically, they needed a stopgap who could hold the fort for a month until Betts heals, and since Alexander knows the offensive terminology from his time in Seattle, he won't have the learning curve of another back and can step in and play immediately.

My concern is that Alexander doesn't have a good track record of blocking or receiving, so he'd make an iffy third-down back, which was one of Betts's primary roles before he was injured. Cartwright is the best option on third downs with Betts out.

by Dice (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 8:06pm

@Theo: I guess 'I saw him on Hard Knocks' doesn't apply then? But if he was picked up, then the Skins would further establish their rep for picking up the younger brother of player X on another team. Hell, its a bonus with Lattimore, since the Skins already have one of the Landry brothers...they'd have a second one. And then there's Byron Westbrook, and they did draft Jordan Palmer...

by Dice (not verified) :: Wed, 10/15/2008 - 8:08pm

Er, second younger brother from a Ravens player. Being Ray Lewis, in this case. Beer and grammar don't mix. Except for Raiderjoe.