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17Nov

kiss the ring

(photos by Brian Murphy)

Lost in the aftermath of the Washington Redskins’ disappointing 14-10 defeat to the Dallas Cowboys is the fact that two of the franchise’s most popular players — wide receiver Art Monk and cornerback Darrell Green were honored prior to Sunday night’s game.

The two 2008 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees received their Hall of Fame rings during a pre-game ceremony on the field prior to kickoff. The ceremony began with video highlights of the players’ respective careers and also included recorded comments from former teammates.

After Green’s 20-year career and Monk’s 14 years with the organization, it was a fitting tribute to two of the greatest players in the history of the franchise. There was much to be happy about Sunday night, but seeing two greats get their Hall of Fame rings in front of the fans who love them was something ‘Skins fans can remember fondly.

17Nov

cowboys playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Let Down” by Radiohead

Spin it however you’d like, but things just aren’t clicking on the offensive side of the ball for the Redskins these days. If ever there was a game to be fired up for, it was this one. First of all, a win Sunday night against your hated rival effectively eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs. That’s always enjoyable. Then, you’ve got running back Clinton Portis, who everyone said there was no way he was playing, strapping it up and not only playing hurt, but starting. And oh, by the way, your two Hall of Famers – wide receiver Art Monk and cornerback Darrell Green – received their HOF rings in a ceremony before kickoff. Like we said, if the team couldn’t come out of the bye week with all of that going for them and get a win, then it’s time to start asking some serious questions.

2. “Show Me What You Got” by Jay-Z

One player who needs not be a part of the soul searching Clinton Portis. All week long we kept hearing that there was zero chance Portis would be able to play against the Cowboys, and yet, there he was warming up on the field before kickoff. We had a chance to talk to his mom down on the field about an hour before gametime and she told us that while her son wasn’t 100 percent, he was definitely going to play and give it everything he had. He knew how big this game was and there just wasn’t any way he was going to watch from the sidelines when his teammates needed him (commonly referred to as “pulling a Shawn Springs”). It matters not that Portis finished with 15 carries for 68 yards. Just seeing him tough it out and limping back to the sidelines in between plays showed everything you need to know about the Redskins’ best player.

3. “Down in a Hole” by Alice in Chains

Outside of Portis, there are some major causes for concern with the ‘Skins offense, which has recorded just six touchdowns over the last five games. During that same span, the team has scored more than 20 points just once – and that was against the winless Detroit Lions. With the nation watching as Washington hosted back-to-back primetime games, the ‘Skins scored a grand total of one touchdown in losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.

This team needs to stick with what works. Go back to basics. Something. Because what we’re seeing right now is not an offense capable of any kind of consistent production. If this team can’t find a way to challenge opposing teams downfield, then it’s going to get awfully crowded at the line of scrimmage. If teams don’t respect or worry about getting beat by the deep ball, then you’re going to have eight defenders in the box ready to stuff Portis and the running game or blitz Campbell.

We’ve always been of the mindset that if you get a big turnover, then you come out on the next drive and go for the kill shot. Unfortunately it seems like this team has exactly one receiver (Moss, Santana) and one tight end (Chris Cooley) they can count on in the passing game. With Moss being the only legit deep threat, teams simply roll an extra defender to his side and take away the chance for the homerun play. If the ‘Skins don’t get some sort of contributions from Antwaan Randel El, James Thrash, Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelly to help take the pressure off of Campbell and Moss, then it’s going to be a long second half of the season.

4. “Who Knew” by Eminem

Who knew that cornerbacks were actually allowed to intercept passes? Who knew that a Redskins defense could actually pick off two passes in the same game? Who knew that DeAngelo Hall, playing in his first game with the ‘Skins, would not only find himself in the defensive rotation, but would jump to second on the team in interceptions?

Sure, Oakland thought it was best for the franchise to release Hall after paying him $8 million for just eight games, but how many times have we seen a player find a new lease on life as soon as the are no longer in the Raiders organization? Hall is just 24 and is a two-time Pro Bowler. In the first quarter of his first game with the Redskins Hall showed why he’s considered a playmaker. He jumped on a Tony Romo pass intended for wide out Terrell Owens and actually came up with the interception. Hall simply being here gives this defense plenty of options and you’ve got to believe that if he reverts back to that Pro Bowl level he’s capable of that the team can officially say goodbye to Springs.

5. “Sad But True” by Metallica

Instead of harping on the negatives, we decided to end this week’s recap on a lighter note. The Philadelphia Eagles tied the Cincinnati Bengals 13-13 yesterday in the NFL’s first tie since 2002. But the best part is that franchise quarterback Donovan McNabb admitted after the game that he didn’t know it could end in a tie. In his post-game press conference McNabb said he thought there would be a second overtime if the score was still tied after one extra session.

“I’ve never been part of a tie,” McNabb said. “I never even knew it was in the rule book. I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game. But unfortunately with the rules, we settled with a tie.”

Wow. Just wow.

The ‘Skins might have lost, but at least they know the basic rules of professional football.

13Nov

note: fan friendly

(photo by Brian Murphy)

As soon as the presidential election was over and Barack Obama’s job titled was officially updated to “president-elect,” there was a sense of imminent change on the horizon. It’s almost as if the entire world decided that things would magically change over night and all the country’s problems would be solved, even though the man won’t even take office until Jan. 20.

While it’s true that we needed change and better days could very well be ahead, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to have to deal with some of the lingering issues and challenges such as the economy, the job market and the war in Iraq before we get there. So what does this have to do with sports? I’m glad you asked.

If your hours are being cut down at work, then you’re going to have less expendable income for frivolous purchases such as tickets to sporting events. Spending money on Mets tickets over paying your mortgage simply isn’t an option.

Even in the sports world, where average players are still multi-millionaires, times are tough. Sure, folks are happy when their favorite team lands a top-tier free agent, but someone’s still got to pay that annual salary. And if a team is shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for a perennial loser … well, then things get dicey if the fans stop showing up. There might be a paragraph at the bottom of a daily story reporting that a dozen staff members from the ticket office were let go due to cost cutting or maybe the team lowers the prices for nose-bleed seats in hopes of making family night at the ballpark a viable option again. The bottom line is the world of sports is affected just like everyone, which makes the story coming out of New Jersey all the more interesting.

The Nets announced this week that they are providing 1,500 free tickets over the next two months to unemployed fans who submit resumes to the team. Once they receive the resumes, the NBA team plans to send them to its 120 corporate sponsors and a couple hundred firms that own season tickets. Some teams give out rally towels or bobbleheads, but the Nets are simply giving fans hope.

“Our belief right now is let’s invest in people who might invest in us later,” said Brett Yormark, the team’s chief executive. “In doing so, we can help people who need it most.”

Even the players are on board with the innovative program.

“I think it’s great,” said Nets forward Jarvis Hayes, who will make $1.9 million this season. “Everybody knows the economy is struggling right now and if people can turn in their resumes to our sponsors and get jobs, I think it is wonderful. Hopefully, when the economy turns around we’ll have more fans.”

That got me thinking. What if other teams got in on the act? Who needs a set of thundersticks (the answer: morons) when a team could actually give something useful? And if the team adds a personal touch and uses their resources to come up with something special, even better.

Take the New York Yankees. Everyone knows by now about third baseman Alex Rodriguez and singer/slut Madonna hooking up this past season. Well, why can’t the Bronx Bombers use this to their advantage and offer season ticket holders marriage counseling? The sheer thought that a fan might be seated next to A-Rod or even Guy Ritchie during one of the sessions would be enough to add 20,000 names to your season ticket list for the new ballpark.

You’ve heard of “shirt off your back night?” Well, what if the San Francisco 49ers offered “pants off our coach night?” Mike Singletary has trouble keeping his clothes on during his halftime speeches, so why shouldn’t the team find a way to turn a negative into a positive?

Or the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders could team up to offer “bring your grandpa to work day.” Watching senile owners Ralph Wilson and Al Davis wander around the sidelines aimlessly in their robes is the pure definition of “must-see TV.”

Or USC could formally extend the program that pays college kids to be a Trojan. Instead of just limiting the under-the-table deals to the Reggie Bushs of the world, let’s open it up to the entire student body. Tell me that wouldn’t pack the house. Prospective students would be lining up for days for a chance to be the next Trojan Man.

Tell me that if the Cincinnati Bengals offered “babysit a player night” that the fine folks of Ohio wouldn’t jump at the chance to take an offensive lineman to visit his parole officer. And while we’re at it, the Cleveland Browns could offer to spay and neuter pets, since the Dawg Pound hasn’t had a potent attack in decades.

Earlier this season, the Dallas Cowboys gave 15,000 lucky fans a mini football. Unfortunately, this upset wide receiver Terrell Owens because he didn’t get enough footballs, so they scrapped the idea. Next time, the team could offer a session with a financial advisor instead. That way, fans can learn to live on a budget and maybe – just maybe – Jerry Jones can learn to be fiscally responsible and not spend $150 million on a mediocre ballclub.

And finally, the Washington Redskins began offering an innovative idea – giving away stock to Six Flags at home games (which helps keep the Steelers fans away from FedEx Field). While that’s great, the big announcement this week is the amusement park’s new attraction. Starting this weekend, Daniel Snyder’s company now offers “Dancing with a Star,” where regular fans can spend a song with defensive end Jason Taylor. Okay, so that’s not true. But they should strongly consider it, if for no other reason than to finally get some form of production from the injured diva before the football season ends.

Note to self is a weekly sports column written for HoboTrashcan.

08Nov

hall to the redskins

When was the last time a team picked up a 24-year-old Pro Bowl player basically for free? Honestly, if it’s happened before we certainly don’t remember. But that’s what’s happened now that the Washington Redskins have signed free agent cornerback DeAngelo Hall for the remainder of the 2008 season.

Hall, a two-time Pro Bowler, was available because the Oakland Raiders (really, need we say more?) decided to move in a different direction – this after trading multiple draft picks to acquire him and signing the former Virginia Tech Hokie to a seven-year, $70-million deal this past offseason. Hall’s time in Oakland basically comes down to eight games for eight million dollars, which is why he was probably willing to accept a prorated $1 million deal with the Redskins for the second half of the season.

Let’s address the elephant in the room first. Hall is overrated. He is. We promise. He’s good, but he’s not the second coming of Deion Sanders or Champ Bailey. According to Matt Mosley, who covers the NFC East for ESPN.com:

“Hall has given up more yardage this season than any cornerback in the league. And regarding his reputation, he did get along with Jim Mora in Atlanta. The problem was that he got along with him too well. The other players resented the coach’s friendship with Hall, and that signified the beginning of the end for Mora.”

Others have said that Hall was uncoachable on the field and a pain in the ass off it in Oakland. So why would the Redskins risk ruining their fourth-ranked defense by bring in a talented, but troubled player? Because the positives outweigh the negatives.

Depth is an area of concern for the ‘Skins secondary. Cornerback Shawn Springs is simply unable to stay on the field for any length of time at this point in his career. Cornerback Fred Smoot manages to play, but he’s often banged up as well and Carlos Rogers is back from a major knee injury one year ago. Adding Hall to the mix takes pressure off of everyone involved – especially if he comes in with something to prove, since he’ll be a free agent after this season.

At safety, the ‘Skins have LaRon Landry and Chris Horton … and that’s it. If (and that’s a big if) Springs can actually get back on the field, then we could see him used as a safety more often. If the team was willing to put together packages to get Landry, Horton and Reed Doughty on the field at the same time, then they certainly would jump at the chance to utilize Springs in a similar fashion.

But here’s the biggest reason ‘Skins fans should like this move – it shows the Redskins front office is getting smarter. Just a season or two ago, management would have jumped at the chance to acquire a Pro Bowl player like Hall in his prime. If multiple draft picks were used to acquire wide receiver/malcontent Brandon Lloyd or rental running back T.J. Duckett, it’s scary to think how many picks Hall would have been worth in their eyes.

And once here, without ever having played a down in D.C., Hall would have a signed (at a minimum) the same five-year, $25-million contract that was standard with players like Lloyd and safety/bust Adam Archuleta. This time around, management locked him in for roughly half a million bucks. And the best part is, if internet reports are true, ownership spoke with defensive captains London Fletcher and Cornelius Griffin prior to making the move. This is a veteran team with great locker room leadership. Players talk to friends throughout the league, so checking in with those guys to ensure Hall won’t be a disruption or that the risk is outweighed by the potential reward shows a maturity – a willingness to admit management might not have all the answers – that some would say we’ve never seen before.

This isn’t fantasy football anymore. This is (hopefully) another sign that the Redskins front office is learning from past mistakes and looking at both the short-term and long-term ramifications of their decisions. For the first time in recent history, a free agent didn’t choose the Redskins over teams like New England, Pittsburgh and New Orleans simply because the Redskins outbid everyone else (truth is the Chesapeake, Virginia native is happy to come back home). They made a fiscally responsible decision to bring Hall in for eight games and see if he fits. If not, no biggie. They still have their draft picks and don’t do anymore damage to their salary cap situation. That’s what we in the business like to call a win-win.

(courtesy photo)

08Nov

the predator has arrived

(photo by Brian Murphy)

We had hoped to catch up with Washington Redskins rookie safety Chris “The Predator” Horton after the 23-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night, but he was in the trainer’s room getting some bumps and bruises looked at by the time the media-types were allowed in the locker room. Luckily for us, Horton’s popularity continues to grow and he was an in-studio guest on the NFL Network’s Total Access yesterday. While most of the conversation centered on being a rookie and the improbable start to a seventh-round draft picks’ career, the end of the segment was very interesting.

One of the NFL Network guys asked – “Predator48, is there something significant about that?”

“Yes, my marketing guys kind of launched a new website that actually launched today – Predator48.com,” Horton said. “It’s a great thing coming from a guy like myself who never really got all the fun things all the earlier picks got. I think it’s a good thing and it’s my nickname out in D.C., so it’s gonna be fun.”

All of this attention for Horton is great for many reasons. First of all, it shows just how unpredictable the NFL scouting and draft process truly is. Horton was the 249th overall pick in the 2008 draft, and by all accounts the Redskins got a steal by finding an impact player so late in the game. And while every other team in the NFL passed on the UCLA product multiple times, even the Redskins looked over him nine other times.

Look no further than the trio of second-rounders the team selected – wide outs Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and tight end “Sleepy” Fred Davis have a combined nine catches for 69 yards through eight games. With three interceptions, Horton has gotten his hands on three times as many passes as Davis and Kelly combined. And then there’s that whole rookie punter situation that’s best if we pretend never happened.

The moral of the story is, Horton is a helluva player and a seemingly genuine guy off the field. We’ve certainly enjoyed each of our conversations with the kid and folks in the Redskins organization swear he’s the real deal. The fact that this website coined “The Predator” nickname is simply a bonus. So head over to Chris Horton’s official website and maybe even pick up a Predator48.com t-shirt. If that’s not your style, then head over to the Homer McFanboy store and pick up our Predator t-shirt to show your support for one of the best stories of the 2008 NFL season. Christmas is coming. Horton has arrived.

07Nov

stats are for losers

(photo by Brian Murphy)

When the Washington Redskins acquired defensive end Jason Taylor on the first day of training camp, ‘Skins fans immediately began to compare the team’s defensive end duo of Taylor and Andre Carter with the NFL’s elite. Both had double digit sacks last season, so folks assumed that visiting quarterbacks would spend the bulk of the season running for their lives. As we’ve seen through the first half of the season though, that simply hasn’t been the case.

Taylor has been in and out of the lineup thanks to a left calf injury and something called acute compartment syndrome. He’s spent more time on the sidelines (standing next to oft-injured cornerback Shawn Springs) than actually pressuring QBs. The 11-year veteran has played in six games this season, registering 12 tackles and just one sack. Meanwhile, defensive end Demetric Evans, who has been with the team since 2004, has assumed Taylor’s role – both as a starter and in terms of generating constant pressure – racking up 14 tackles and a team-best 3.5 sacks. It should be noted that the Redskins, as a team, have just 15 sacks through eight games.

We had a chance to talk with Evans after the Redskins’ 23-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Evans has flown under the radar for much of his seven-year career, so naturally one might think that being the team’s best defensive player on the field Monday night would cause Evans to seek a little attention and/or glory. That simply wasn’t the case.

“It was one of those games where the stage was set and as a D-line we wanted to go out and make plays,” he said. “Unfortunately, the ball didn’t fall in our favor.”

But you seemed to have a solid game with 2.5 sacks, right?

“Stats are for losers,” Evans said bluntly. “I’ll take winning any day.”

So much for his strong outing going to his head.

“We want to win games around here,” Evans said. “We want to play total team football. That’s Redskins football.”

While Demetric wasn’t in the mood to pat himself on the back, we’ll gladly show him some love anyways. If he continues to play at this level the rest of the season, then the ‘Skins defensive line might do just fine without Taylor. You can have all that Dancing with the Stars attention. Evans just wants to win.

05Nov

sean taylor honored

(photo by Brian Murphy)

PRESS RELEASE

ASHBURN, VA – The late Sean Taylor will take his place among Washington Redskins greats when he is inducted into the franchise’s Ring of Fame in a ceremony prior to the team’s contest against the New York Giants on Nov. 30, 2008 at 1 p.m. It will be the first game following the anniversary of Taylor’s tragic death at the age of 24, which occurred on Nov. 27 of last year in Miami.

“It’s appropriate that Sean joins our Ring of Fame after a stellar career cut short far too soon,” said Redskins Owner Daniel M. Snyder. “His life touched so many of us in such deep and lasting ways. His presence is all around us, in our organization and among our fans.”

Executive Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato added, “Sean was developing into one of the best to ever play the safety position, as well as becoming a role model to those who knew him. He still touches us every day in some way on and off the field.”

Taylor will be the 43rd member admitted into the Ring of Fame, which honors those who have made distinguished contributions to the team. He is the first since Gary Clark entered on Oct. 7, 2007. The ceremony will feature a tribute and messages from former teammates as well as the presentation of a commemorative plaque to members of Taylor’s family.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early at FedExField for the pre-game ceremony.

With his incredible combination of size, speed, athleticism, ferocity and instincts, Taylor was one of the most unique and dynamic athletes the game has ever seen, despite playing less than four seasons. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection after the Redskins made him the fifth pick of the 2004 NFL draft following an All-American career at the University of Miami.

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