2011 Washington Redskins Notebook: First Quarter Review by Barry Barnes

Image: Kerrigan

Additions like Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate, OLB Ryan Kerrigan, has made the Washington Redskins the top team in the NFC East for the first quarter of the 2011 season

The Washington Redskins are sitting in a spot where many NFL experts are surprised and fans are optimistic for a playoff season—at the top of the NFC East Division with 3-1 record. 

Within the walls of Redskins Park, a solid start was expected, despite more work that needed to be done.

“I felt that from day one. I have a good feel for this group,” said Redskins head coach and executive vice president Mike Shanahan at his press conference Oct. 4. “I thought, when you take a look at the free agents, when you take a look at the draft choices, you really don’t know coming in. You think you have a feel for them, but, until you work with them, you don’t know for sure.

“It didn’t take long to feel that this is a very solid group both from a character standpoint as well as a playing standpoint.”

The Redskins started with an impressive victory over their division rival New York Giants (3-2), 28-14 at FedEx Field in Week 1 on Sept. 11.  Washington did not have an astonishing performance from all three phrases for one outing thus far.

However, they managed and sustained control over their opponents to stay in striking distance for a win—which they did.

Washington slowed down Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in Week 2 for a 22-21 win. Fell short in Dallas for a primetime Monday Night game. In a tight outing where field goals were paramount, the Redskins gave up a third-and-21 play late in the fourth quarter when Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo connected with wide receiver Dez Bryant for a huge completion. Tapped with a 15-yard personal foul by Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall for his penalty on Bryant, the action set the Cowboys up with good field position to get a late field goal as the Redskins lost, 18-16. Continue reading


LaRon Landry: “Miscommunication” from the Redskins training staff and “Don’t Judge Me.” by Barry Barnes

Barry Barnes recently interviewed Washington Redskins safety Laron Landry and he had a lot to say

The worst thing that can happen between a professional athlete and a training staff is miscommunication regarding an injury.

Indeed, no player wants to be re-injured, especially after spending months of painful rehab in order to return in better shape to perform successfully on a high level.

When Washington Redskin safety LaRon Landry tore three ligaments in his wrist and injured his shoulder, he continued to play—until he tore his Achilles in the ninth game of the 2010 season, finishing with 85 tackles and Pro Bowl consideration. Instead of healing and training in Washington, Landry decided to seek help across the country. Continue reading

Is Michael Vick On Track For Having A Better Career Than HOF QB Steve Young? by Barry Barnes

Since being successfully tutored by Eagles head coach Andy Reid on the nuances of the West Coast Offense over the last couple years, some are comparing Michael Vick to Hall of Famer Steve Young

When Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick celebrated his 31st birthday on June 26, his offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg gave him a surprising, but realistic compliment. 

The former NFL head coach told the Philadelphia Daily News: “Mike’s got a long way to go, but, you know what? I think he can be better than Steve.”  The perception of this comment appears to be a joke in the eyes of many football fans. Continue reading

At Corner Three’s Not a Crowd By Matt Lombardo

Asante Samuel

In 2010 the Eagles pass defense surrendered 31 touchdowns and ranked near the bottom of the league in yards per game. This off-season the front office rebuilt the secondary by adding Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique-Rodgers Chromartie to go with All-Pro Asante Samuel. Some have called for a trade, but is that an option the Eagles should even consider? 

Last January, Aaron Rodgers threw for a pedestrian 180 yards against the Eagles in the NFC wild card game. However as it became a trend throughout last season, the Packers signal-caller gutted the Eagles secondary for three crucial touchdowns in a 21-16 Wild Card win that ended the Eagles season at home and in the first round of the playoffs for the second straight year. Needless to say, the Eagles front office sat up and took notice.

Enter eight months later Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Chromartie joining Asante Samuel in a revamped Eagles secondary. Strangely, almost immediately after the signing of Asomugha was announced callers flooded talk radio stations, posters pounded the keys on message boards and fans clamored to all that would listen for the Eagles to deal Samuel.

Samuel to San Francisco for Patrick Willis they screamed. Samuel for linebacking help they pleaded. Samuel for draft picks. The rumors, speculation and thought process persisted. These thoughts from the stands and some media members alike go against the very motivation for Philadelphia signing Asomugha in the first place. The Eagles off-season moves defensively were made for one purpose and one purpose only; to fill the gaps that were exposed by the Packers twice last season and were inadequate against the pass all season long.

Trading Samuel or Rodgers-Chromartie weakens a secondary that is, at least on paper, amongst the best in football. While the Eagles would be misguided not to listen to offers in the event that a team proposes a trade that Howie Roseman, Joe Banner and Andy Reid simply can’t refuse, they’d be much better served to keep all three corners in the midst of a league where the passing game is more prevalent ever year.

The fact of the matter is, the Eagles have no plans to move Samuel. A team source denied that the Eagles are actively pursuing a deal for the All-Pro with seven interceptions in 2010. Contrarily, on the first day of full team workouts on August 5th when newly signed free agents were first eligible for practice all three corners were on the field with the first team. Interestingly enough for the rumor mongers, it was Rodgers-Chromartie, and not Samuel playing the nickel corner. A clear indication of the team’s plans moving forward.

This isn’t the first time that Philadelphia enters a season with three marquee corners. In 2008 the Eagles secondary was anchored by Pro Bowler Lito Sheppard and lockdown corner Sheldon Brown. Yet, the front office added Samuel to the mix when he was the top free agent available. That season the Eagles used the formula of a strong pass rush and dominant secondary play en route to the NFC’s top defense and a trip to the NFC championship game.

Not only did the 2008 season produce strong results for the team as the Birds marched through Minnesota, and New York on the road in the post-season, but despite the bruised ego of Sheppard who was relegated to the nickel role, all three corners prospered. Samuel in his first year as an Eagle tallied 35 tackles, four interceptions and returning one for a score. Brown certainly benefited from the Samuel the ballhawk on the other side of the field, holding down 51 tackles and an interception. Meanwhile Sheppard still managed 21 tackles and an interception, despite admittedly never again reaching the pro bowl caliber level of play he was accustomed to after becoming a part time player that year.

The simple facts are that as strong as the Eagles secondary was in 2008, this year’s incarnation is simply better. Moreover, the league today almost dictates that teams carry three strong corners moving forward as teams continue to evolve towards a much more pass heavy offensive scheme. In 2009 teams threw the ball 56% of the time and averaged nearly five yards per catch. Furthering this trend, teams are playing three and four wide receiver sets more than ever in an attempt to spread the field and exploit defenses with weaker corners on the lower tiers of their depth chart.

Almost needless to say, the last thing the Eagles need to worry about at cornerback is depth.

“Right now we’re trying to get Nnamdi [Asomugha] comfortable at his position at corner. There are some things we’re going to do and right now the first thing is to get him comfortable,” Eagles defensive coordinator Juan Castillo said. “You see Dominique [Rodgers-Chromartie] it’s the same thing, sometimes he plays outside and sometimes he’ll play inside. We certainly have the luxury of flexibility with those packages.”

Simple logic and forward thinking says that moving forward in order to minimize the impact of the passing game, a defense must have the personnel and depth capable of withstanding the aerial assaults that offenses are putting forth in today’s game.

The Eagles have built a secondary that is capable of doing just that.

Last season Asomugha only had 19 tackles, but he faced a total of 28 pass attempts all season. That’s only two attempts per game. Samuel faced 35 passes and intercepted 7 of them, that number is bound to increase with Asomugha locking down the opposite side. Finally, Chromartie is the kind of physical corner who thrives in big game situations; he had three interceptions taking two to the house last season. You won’t find a faster corner in the league than Rodgers-Chromartie, and at 6’3 182 he has the size to compete in the middle of the field against the more physical slot receivers in the NFL.

Obviously there’s a formula in place here that the Eagles are using to take away the passing game down the field. By and large Andy Reid and the Eagles have been ahead of the curve in most regards, heir handling of the salary cap among them which positioned them so well for this off-season haul. Once again they just may be ahead once again when it comes to structuring a secondary.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see all three corners on the field for a high percentage of plays every week, which is exactly why trading one of these corners simply doesn’t make sense.

If the Eagles meet the Packers in January, it will certainly be a different defense looking Rodgers in the eye across the line of scrimmage. Whether or not that translates to a different result remains to be seen. However, one thing is for sure, the eagles are much better suited at corner with all three of their new additions then they would be sacrificing some of that depth for help at other positions.


Matt Lombardo is a reporter and host for 97.3 ESPN in Atlantic City, NJ. Matt can be reached on Twitter @MattLombardoPHL

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 100410 (Part 1)

In Part 1 of this week’s Taking It to the House NFL Podcast — The New York Giants defense, led by DE Justin Tuck, put a beat down on the Chicago Bears quarterbacks in big Sunday Night Football win

Taking It to the House NFL Podcast 100410 (Part 1)

NFL Insider Lloyd Vance reviews Week 4 of the 2010 season with host Mark Gray including the New York Giants Defense showing some fight, like in 2007, as they knocked two Bears quarterbacks from the game in a solid win

Training Camp Questions – NFC East

Dallas Cowboys

What affect will the removal of distractions/players Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, SS Roy Williams, defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, and former Romo girlfriend Jessica Simpson have on the team?

Will QB Tony Romo, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and head coach Wade Phillips survive of being on owner Jerry Jones’ Hot Seat?

Will the 2009 NFL Season produce the Cowboys’ first playoff victory since 1996?

Will Tony Romo continue the trend of producing early (21-8 from September through November over the last two years) and then faltering in December?

Will WR Roy Williams be ready to takeover from T.O as the team’s featured receiver and will he live-up to the high expectations set for him from his 2008 NFL trade deadline deal?

 New York Giants

Will it be Domenick Hixon, Steve Smith, Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham, David Tyree, Hakeem Nicks Ramses Barden, or no one that replaces receiver Plaxico Burress’ production in the Giants offense?

Can Ahmad Bradshaw, Danny Ware, and/or Andre Brown replace departed running back Derrick Ward as Brandon Jacobs’ running mate?

Is quarterback Eli Manning ready to be the main leader on the Giants team and is he worth the expected huge contract coming his way?

How will new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan fare at replacing Steve Spagnuolo (Rams head coach)?

Will DE Osi Umenyiora (knee) and LB Michael Boley (hip) return to full strength by the beginning of the season to help a defense that produced 42 sacks in 2008?

Philadelphia Eagles

How is the health of running back Brian Westbrook (ankle) and should the Eagles bring-in a veteran just in case he is not ready?

Will there be any drop-off in the Eagles defense with Sean McDermott replacing Jim Johnson as defensive coordinator?

With the additions of Jason Peters and the Andrews brothers returning from injury, will the Eagles offensive line be healthy and cohesive for the start of the regular season?

Who is going to replace the lockerroom presence of Tra Thomas, Jon Runyan, and Brian Dawkins?

Will quarterback Donovan McNabb be more consistent in 2009 after a 2008 season where he was too up and down including being benched? 

Washington Redskins

Did Redskins owner Daniel Snyder overpay for free agents DT Albert Haynesworth, OL Derrick Dockery and DB DeAngelo Hall?

How will head coach Jim Zorn get along with RB Clinton Portis and will Zorn survive if the Redskins don’t produce in 2009 (i.e. Win a playoff game)?

Can quarterback Jason Campbell rebound from an offseason where the Redskins tried to unsuccessfully obtain Jay Cutler and Mark Sanchez?

How much will the addition of Haynesworth and first-round draft pick Brian Orakpo help improve a defense that usually ranks pretty low in sacks?

Can rookie LB Brian Orakpo make the switch from college defensive end to professional strongside linebacker?


Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

2008 NFL Playoffs Divisional Round: Eagles at Giants

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6-1) at NY Giants (12-4), Saturday 1 p.m. ET (Fox) Broadcasting Team: Troy Aikman, Joe Buck, and Pam Oliver (Field Reporter)

The Birds will head 90 miles up the New Jersey Turnpike to face the NFC #1 seed Giants in the highlight game of the four divisional round games.  Since a 5-5-1 start, the Eagles have rattled off 5 wins out of 6 games including a solid win over the Vikings in the wildcard round.  The Eagles are the hottest team in the NFL playoffs that everyone is trying to avoid them, so naturally in the eyes of some they can easily draw comparison to the “2007 Giants”. But the comparison to last season’s wildcard to Super Bowl champion Giants has rankled some like linebacker Antonio Pierce as he basically said “prove it” to the Eagles with some recent quotes.  Pierce said of Eagles comparisons to last season’s Giants, “I won’t know anything about any team until February 1st or 2nd, so you can’t call any team the NY Giants of 2007, because that team won the Super Bowl.”  The loquacious linebacker added, “The psyche of the team this year is a group that understands what it takes to win the championship”.

These two bitter NFC East rivals and their neighboring fans are ready for the “rubber match” of this highly entertaining three-game set.  So far each team has taken home a victory with the road team winning each game — the Giants won 36-31 in Philadelphia in Week 10, and the Eagles won 20-14 at Giants Stadium in Week 14.  This will be the eighth meeting between the longtime foes in three years, so expect this game to come down to game planning, execution, turnovers and special teams.  Both earlier games were slugfests that featured typical NFC East black-and-blue action with the team that ran the ball for the most yards in each meeting winning.  The Giants had 217 rushing yards in Week 10 and the Eagles in Week 14 turned the tables running for a season-high 141 yards on 41 carries.  With both teams looking to stop the run their highly ranked defenses (Eagles NFC leading 274.3 yards allowed and Giants 292 yards).

The talk on the radio always seems to be, “Can Donovan McNabb lead the Eagles to victory?”  But the Eagles offensive game plan should be to get the ball in the hands of playmaker Brian Westbrook (121 total yards in last week’s win over the Vikings).  B-West always seems to save his best efforts for the Giants, but the Eagles need balance to help him so running mate Correll Buckhalter (only 2 carries for 27 yards vs. Vikings) must also get the ball into his hands early and often.  Westbrook showed his explosiveness last week in taking a short screen pass 71 yards to the ‘House as the Eagles sealed the deal against the Vikings.  However I know Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo (former Eagles LB’s coach) is probably studying right not trying how to limit Westbrook.  If Spags is smart he will look to have someone else shadow Westbrook other than overmatched linebacker Antonio Pierce – beat for two touchdowns in the last time in the Meadowlands.

The Eagles may go about running the ball with the speedy Westbrook, but the Giants choose to go at defenses with “Earth, Wind, and Fire” 1-2-3 punch of Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.  The Giants’ three-headed monster is only as good as their cohesive offensive line, which has over 25 consecutive starts together.  Led by Pro Bowl O-lineman Shaun O’Hara and Chris Snee, the Giants’ Jacobs (rushed 22 times for 126 yards in the Giants’ win) and the rest of EWF are ready to pound on the Eagles again.  The scary thing is that the Giants behind 217 combined rushing yards from their backfield trio held the ball for 39:10 in winning the first regular-season meeting. However lately the Eagles defense has been stifling.  The quick undersized unit finished the regular season with the league’s No. 4 run defense (92.2 yards) and they basically kept Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in check (83 yards, but 40 yards came on one run).

The Philadelphia Eagles will aim to qualify for the NFC Championship Game for the fifth time in the past 10 seasons, since Andy Reid became head coach in 1999.

Other Keys to watch

— A rejuvenated Brian Dawkins in the box against Jacobs, Ward, and Bradshaw

— Receivers Dommanick Hixon (dropped a potential 80-yard bomb last time in Week 14 against the Birds) and Amani Toomer trying to replace Plaxico Burress against an Eagles’ secondary that doesn’t respect them

— Special Teams should be huge in this game so watch to see if David Akers () can come through in the windy Meadowlands and rookie DeSean Jackson can hit a big one on a punt return.  The Giants greybeard Pro Bowl crew of K John Carney and P Jeff Feagles will also be a factor.

— QB Donovan McNabb will need to avoid Justin Tuck (GMen are 13-3 when he gets a sack) and the Giants pass rush.  McNabb has avoided sacks this year in his two prior games against the Giants after the Birds laughingstock 12 sack game last year.

— QB Eli Manning will need to make some more timely throws after only managing only 123 passing yards in the Eagles earlier win.  Manning will have to keep an eye on Pro Bowl corner Asante Samuel (NFL record 4 career touchdown interception returns) and the blitzing schemes of Eagles mad scientist defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.

LV‘s Pick:  I have wrestled back and forth on making this pick, but in the end I just can’t see the Giants losing twice at home to the same team.  Remember the Giants were 7-1 at home and they are the defending Super Bowl champs.  Giants win 20-17 over the Eagles in a very close game.