Browsing all articles tagged with Andre Carter
Nov
1

Why Shanahan Should get Another Year

After the 23-0 loss to the Bills on Sunday, many Skins fans are calling for head coach Mike Shanahan’s head. That is understandable emotion from a fan base sick of years of losing and embarrassing performances. I’ve certainly overreacted to a loss before and pondered firing Shanahan.  But I hope owner Dan Snyder doesn’t get impatient and pull the plug too early, something he’s arguably done before. Norv Turner was fired during a winning season, a year after going to the playoffs. Marty Schottenheimer was never given a chance and was pulled after one year in DC. Joe Gibbs retired from his second stint as Redskins head coach after a year he led the team to the playoffs. What would have happened if any of these coaches had another year or two in DC? What if one had become the guy long term? Would the Redskins still be in this constant state of rebuilding that has lasted over a decade?

So far Mike Shanahan has led the Redskins to a 9-14 record and his offense looks terrible. Still, Snyder and the Redskins fans need to be patient. Firing Shanahan would create more problems than it would solve. Even if the team finishes out the season 3-13, Shanahan should get the 2012 offseason and at least six games next year. Why? To finish out what he started.

Brian J. McDermott flickr

Shanahan is currently in year two of a rebuilding process. Fire him and the last two years of losing will have been for nothing. If Snyder brings in a new coach what is the likelihood that the new coach will want to run a 3-4 defense, West Coast offense, and a zone-blocking scheme for the offensive line? Why would Snyder want to bring in a Shanny-clone if he thinks Shanahan failed? Any new coach Snyder brings in will want to blow apart the roster and start again.

A case for Shanahan’s firing can be made easily enough. He misjudged the roster coming in, believing he could win with the team last year. He has put too much faith in his system and his defense. He’s cut players that didn’t fit and brought in some questionable talent that did. Instead of working with players that have obvious football skills but weren’t system matches he let them flounder. Offensive guard Derrick Dockery and defensive end/outside linebacker Andre Carter failed so miserably under Shanahan that they weren’t even tradable.

His QB evaluation has been terrible in his coaching stint so far. First he let go of Jason Campbell last year and brought in Donovan McNabb.  Campbell was having a career year and putting up wins in Oakland this year before his season-ending injury. Meanwhile, Donovan McNabb flamed out in D.C. last year, was shipped to Minnesota where he flamed out even more quickly this season. Shanahan went into this season with John Beck and Rex Grossman, two career journeyman as his top two QBs. He believed he could win games with either. It turns out he CAN’T win games with either.

So, why should he get another season after those mistakes? Because some progress has been made and firing him would destroy all that progress. In the first four games the Redskins 3-4 defense was looking stout.  The team is still 7th in points allowed at the end of Week 8. They have given up a lot of points and yards since the Week 5 bye, but they have also been dealing with injuries and an offense that hasn’t held the ball for more than 25 minutes the past three games.

That offense has looked horrendous the past few games but it’s had one of the worst rashes of injuries in the NFL. In two of the first four games the Redskins rushed for over 170 yards. Then starting left guard Kory Lichtensteiger went down for the season and starting left tackle Trent Williams injured his ankle. Without those two starters the o-line has looked overmatched. The losses on the offensive line, combined with losing starting RB Tim Hightower for the season, starting TE Chris Cooley for the season, and number one wide-out Santana Moss has turned an average offense to an abysmal one.

But the point is that GM Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan were able to create a good starting core for their West Coast offense and 3-4 defense in the two seasons they’ve been here together. Give them another off-season and they should be able to finish filling in the holes and put some reliable backups in place. Next year an injury to a starter hopefully won’t have such a drastic effect on the team’s chance to win.

Lastly, Shanahan’s hasn’t yet chosen his QB of the future. I admit this is a bit of cop-out here as Rex Grossman, John Beck, and Donovan McNabb have all been floated to the media as “Shanahan’s guy”. Shanahan has had two drafts and not only didn’t spend a high draft pick on a QB he didn’t spend any picks on one. This is almost unconscionable in what is becoming an increasingly quarterback-driven league. The last five Super Bowl winning coaches had their Super Bowl winning QB starting or on the roster during their first year behind the reins. But the fact is Shanahan has bought himself extra time by avoiding this necessary step (perhaps purposefully). There are many QB options in the draft and through trades in the 2012 off-season. Shanahan should be easily able to get a guy that is both high-talent and fits his system. He may even be able to trade for his “now” QB and draft his future QB.

So, let’s stay patient DC. If after six games into the 2012 regular season the Redskins don’t look like they’re on their way to a winning record then Shanahan should get the ax. He’s clearly not going to win here.  But I think if you give him another off-season he’ll put in place the next franchise QB, a quality starting offensive line, and roster depth on both sides of the ball. At that point the Redskins should be setup to win for the next few years. But if Snyder gets impatient and fires him this season or during the off-season, he’ll just be restarting the three year rebuilding cycle with a different coach.

Dec
12

Why the Skins Should Switch Back to the 4-3

As the season starts to slip away many are wondering if the Redskins should have stayed in their 4-3 defense.  If they need to make major roster moves to make the 3-4 work. If they should switch back to the 4-3 this offseason. The answer to all these questions is yes they should and here’s why.

The 3-4 scheme is not necessary to suceed in this league or to fit Haslett’s playbook.
There are a few out there who think that 3-4 is the way of the future. This is not necessarily true. Of the top 10 NFL defenses in points allowed five are 3-4 and five are 4-3 schemes. You can be sucessful in this league with either scheme.

There are others who have the misception that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is a 3-4 coach. This is not true.  In his stints as defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and St. Louis he has run both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. In fact, he ran a 4-3 at his last stop at St. Louis.

The 3-4 is failing
The Redskins are curently 23rd in points allowed and last in yards allowed. Injuries or not that is unacceptable. It is true that the defense as already caused more than twice as many turnovers this than last year. However if offenses can move the ball at will improved turnover differential means nothing unless you force a to every other possession.

There are those that say it will take a few years to get the players for the 3-4 scheme and for the unit to get comfortable in it. Why bother? The pieces were already in place for a 4-3 defense to be a top ten unit last year. Which brings me to my next point…

There are more holes to fill in a 3-4 scheme

There are plenty of personnel needs on this team already. The offense obviously needs a lot of help. Regardless of scheme a starting second corner and a starting free safety have to be found for this secondary to be effective against all an opponents receivers. The problem is in 3-4 scheme the Skins need a nose tackle, a 3-4 end to play opposite of Adam Carriker, and a starting linebacker who can shut down the opposing team TEs. In a 4-3 the skins already have three solid starting linebackers in Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher, and RockyMcIntosh. Nose Tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu becomes a DT with less responsibilty. Carriker moves inside to the other DT position. Andre Carter moves back to DE and becomes a force again. Now all the Skins need to find is an end to play opposite Carter. And they already have a few options – Philip Daniels if he returns for another year, Chris Wilson has shown some promise at end as well. They would also have much better depth at 4-3 defensive tackle than they have at 3-4 nose tackle. Kedrick Golston is a competent backup who could even compete for a starting job. Vonnie Holliday is a decent backup as well. Right now the Skins have no good option if Kemoeatu gets injured.

If the Redskins stay in the 3-4 defense they are going to be at least two seasons away from being a dominating defense. If they switch back to 4-3 they are just one good offseason away. Let’s hope that Shanahan can swallow his pride and make the right call when this season is done.

Sep
11

NFC East 2010 Predictions – Mark’s Pick

The NFC East is more unpredictable than it has been in years. The Redskins have a new premier QB and a new HOF-caliber coach but will that be enough to improve the team right away? Can the Giants defense regain its form as one of the best defenses in the league? Will the Cowboys offensive line stay healthy enough for them to dominate? Will the youth movement in Philadelphia succeed this year or do the young ones need a little more seasoning?

I have a few theories on the answers to those questions and that has largely shaped my predictions. However, I can very easily seeing things going the opposite way as well. So without further ado, let us move on to the predictions.

1st Place – Dallas Cowboys 10-6

Once again the Cowboys are the most talented team in the division, at least on paper. They have a Pro Bowl QB, a trio of talented running backs, multiple passing weapons, and a fearsome pass rush. There are issues with an old and beat up offensive line, an unproven kicker, and a weak secondary. I think all of those will come back to bite the Cowboys…in the early playoff rounds. Their high-powered offense should win them enough regular season games to take the division.

2nd Place – New York Giants 8-8

This prediction is more based on the Giants tough schedule. They have games at Indy, Houston, Minnesota, and Green Bay. Those are teams they may be able to beat at home but look to be tough matchups on the road. The Giants D has gotten healthier and their performance should improve over last year, but do not expect them to regain their Super Bowl form. They no longer have the talent or the coaching. The Giants disappointing run game could also cost them a few games as it is hard to protect a lead if you cannot run.

3rd Place – Washington Redskins 7-9

The McNabb-Shanahan era has started. While it seems inevitable to be better than the Zorn-Campbell era it is not going to be an overnight success. The offensive line had a major overhaul this offseason and may take a while to gel. Rookie left tackle Trent Williams may end up being a star but right now is still a green LT that elite pass rushers can expose. The wide receiving core is full of good storylines but not much actual talent. Finally, the switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 defense will not happen overnight either. Starting safety Kareem Moore will miss a good chunk of the regular season, Albert Haynesworth does not appear to have bought into the program entirely still, and Andre Carter is having some trouble adjusting from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker. Next year, I can see this team being a favorite to win the division, this year there is just too much change going on at once.

4th Place – Philadelphia Eagles 4-12

The Eagles organization may think otherwise but I do not see a team jettisoning their starting QB and RB and making the playoffs the same year. McNabb and Westbrook may be a touch on the old side and injury-prone but they were also two of the best offensive players the Eagles have ever had. For all the promise LeSean McCoy and Kevin Kolb have, they have proven very little so far. Once opposing defenses get more tape on them they will find that big plays do not come as easy. And if either one of them gets injured there is no decent backup now.  The Eagles bolstered a top 15 defense through the draft but did not add any notable veterans. In a few years this should be a good team, but right now they are mostly raw potential. I see them losing a lot of games because of inexperience this year.

So those are my picks for this year. But before you start any flaming comments let me reiterate that I could be very wrong on nearly every team. The Cowboys offense could continue rolling and finish with more than 12 wins or the offensive line could fall apart early and they could struggle to make .500. The New York Giants could become a dominating defense again and take the division. The Redskins may actually win now, especially if Clinton Portis, Donovan McNabb, and Albert Haynesworth feel like they have to prove themselves every game. The Eagles young ones could come out like a house on fire and perform right away. Like I said the NFC East is more unpredictable than ever. It should be fun year.

Aug
13

Top Five Things to Watch for in Skins v. Ravens

Thursday night is finally upon us and the Redskins will be matching up against their beltway non-conference, non-annually played, non-rival !  Even though this is just a preseason game.  It’s another step closer to the regular season.  There are many things that will need to happen for the Redskins to be successful this year, among them: Campbell’s growth in the Zorn offense, Haynesworth living up to his monstrous contract (though slightly lesser than T-Suggs contract with Baltimore) and how the offensive line protects Campbell.  Unfortunately, because it is the first preseason game you won’t see any of those things.  Campbell is likely to be in for one series, Haynesworth (along with other some other starters including Portis) aren’t playing, and the offensive line (Randy Thomas) will not be at full strength.  But, don’t you worry avid Redskins fan!  There is still plenty to watch and learn from tonight’s preseason matchup.

Here’s a run of our Top 5 things to watch for:

5. Offensive line play- Last year the Redskins selected Chad Rinehart (Left Tackle from Northern Iowa) with a third round draft pick and expectations were high for him to be a quality reserve for the offensive line.  It didn’t pan out that way, and he struggled to be effective last year when his number was called.  His explanation?  He was intimidated by the players he faced in the NFL and was stuck imitating others instead of playing “his game”. Injuries happen and have already started to swipe at the starting O-line, so Rinehart will most likely be called upon during the regular season.  Hopefully he will start reclaiming that swagger in the preseason to gear up for the rest of the year.

Of course Right Tackle is the biggest question mark on the O-line, so watch tonight how Heyer, Mike Williams and Bridges fare against a very challenging Ravens defense.  Although they won’t see the first team defense for long, the Ravens have consistently had one of the strongest defenses in the league the past decade and you don’t have that type of consistency without depth.  The race at who will start at RT starts tonight.

4. Just for Kicks- Shaun Suisham has a competition this year for his job at kicker (Thank goodness). Dave Rayner and Suisham will battle it out all preseason long, probably by switching up half’s of the game.  I am not sure this is really a competition, but I’d be shocked if Suisham wins it. Apparently he’s been spending time in the offseason working on things, so maybe he’ll come out and not be the league’s worst kicker. That’d be great.

Oh yeah, we also have a punter that (supposedly) is decent.  I’m actually looking forward to seeing our first punt tonight to see if Hunter Smith can help us forget about the whole Frost/Brooks fiasco from last year and the Plackemeir band-aid. Smith apparently has some pretty sweet sneaks too.

3. Cult of Colt vs. ToddBall Who will be the Number Two QB? One thing you can bet you’ll see this preseason is a heated position battle for the number 2 quarterback spot behind Campbell.  Colt Brennan had an incredible preseason last year going 36 for 53 for 411 yards 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions (also leading all rookies with a QB rating of 109.9 in preseason games).  Todd Collins will most likely put up a good fight, with him also having the advantage of being in Zorn’s system for a second year.  Last year Collins seemed to be out of place while trying to adapt after being in Al Saunders style of offense for nearly a century.

2. Who’s going to be Z-Man’s Z Receiver? This is it, Devin Thomas vs. Malcolm Kelly. Can these second year receiver’s stay on the field and actually contribute this year? Thomas is starting tonight with the first team offense at the flanker position, opposite of Santana Moss.  But both Thomas and Kelly will receive major time tonight and will be challenged by the Ravens secondary.  Their success this pivotal to the success of Campbell.  Look for Campbell and Thomas to get comfortable with each other.  Some early chemistry building could go a long way if Thomas can stay healthy.

1. Orakpo’s debut.  Brian Orakpo was selected 13th in the first round by the Redskins this year and is going to be playing a mix of the SAM LB position (where Marcus Washington played) and Defensive End (where he wreaked havoc in college while playing for Texas). Orakpo’s been exceeding expectations throughout camp, impressing Samuels and Blache with both his natural talent and his quick learning of the defensive system. I don’t want to jinx anything but I think Orakpo could be a dominant force when paired with Haynesworth and Andre Carter.  Tonight we’ll be able to see Orakpo w/o Haynesworth’s help (hopefully not the case very often during the regular season).

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Also watch for these tonight: The competition for punt returner, Kevin Barnes’ debut, Marcus Mason’s last shot and Chase Daniel’s first time against NFL players.