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04Sep

anatomy of a big play

Tonight the nation’s attention will wander away from the new 90210, the latest chapter of political mudslinging or whatever other distractions are out there and return to where it should be – the NFL’s 2008 season opener featuring the Washington Redskins and the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

This time around, names like Joe Gibbs, Michael Strahan, Gregg Williams and Jeremy Shockey are nowhere to be found, but there’s till plenty to talk about. The Giants still have a chip on their shoulder, believing that the general public still views them as a lucky team that got hot at the right time, rather than a true world champion. The strength of the Giants last season was clearly the defensive line, which featured Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. With Strahan retired and Umenyiora out for the year due to injury, people aren’t sure what to expect this time around. Will young talents like Justin Tuck be able to continue to grow and fill in the void created by the missing veterans?

For the Redskins, tonight ushers in the Jim Zorn Era. And one of the biggest names on Zorn’s roster, a guy by the name of Jason Taylor, will see limited action, if any, against the Giants as he tries to bounce back from a knee injury suffered against the Carolina Panthers. If the ‘Skins are going to be able to repeat their convincing 22-10 win over the Giants from the last time these two divisional rivals squared off, then they’re going to need to give New York a taste of it’s own medicine – a healthy pass rush against Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning (who would have thought you’d ever hear those words together?)

If Taylor is ruled out for the game or sees very limited action, then those responsibilities fall on Andre Carter and younger, less established guys like Chris Wilson and Lorenzo Alexander.

After the preseason finale against the Jaguars, I tracked down Alexander. After watching Alexander sack Jags QB Cleo Lemon with two minutes to play in the first half, I specifically wanted to ask him exactly how much work goes into getting that one big play – whether it be a sack, a forced fumble or a tackle in the backfield for a loss.

“I was trying to set him up all night,” Alexander said of the Jacksonville offensive lineman he lined up against. “Eventually, I had a good ‘get off,’ he over-stepped me, so I gave him a bump inside and the center was late to get over and help him.”

Alexander would have continued with his narrative, but Andre Carter decided to chime in.

“Tell him about the play before,” Carter said with a laugh, clearly enjoying selling out Alexander.

“Oh yeah, the play before I was chasing [Lemon] and I think the fullback came back and cleaned my clock pretty good on the sidelines,” Alexander said. “I was running at an angle towards the quarterback and he was coming from the side of me. As soon as I turned, he was right there and blew me up. That’s what happened.

[Editor’s note: the player who bested Alexander was not the fullback, but rather wide receiver D’Juan Woods, who is nearly 100 pounds lighter than Alexander. We didn’t have the heart to tell him].

“So I knew the guys, as soon as I came to the sideline, were going to give me a hard time – especially the DBs like Smoot, Springs and Carlos – so I had to make a play,” Alexander said. “When I got loose, I just exploded through and was able to make the play.”

The question then became, when Alexander did finally get to the sideline, which came first – the congratulations or the harassment?

“They did congratulate me first, but then the said, ‘But you did get smashed on the play before,’” he answered with a hearty laugh.

Who would have thought that one of the best ways to motivate a player is by pure embarrassment? Had Alexander not gotten leveled on the play before, there’s no telling if he’d have stepped up and delivered the big sack on the very next play. If that’s the case, here’s hoping Alexander and a few other defensive regulars somehow end up getting embarrassed during warm-ups and head into the game fully motivated and ready to produce.

(photo by Brian Murphy)

04Sep

note: the tie that bonds

(courtesy photo)

Last week, in what was a surprise to absolutely no one, the National Football League reinstated Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, meaning he’ll be able to suit up for his team’s season opener against the Cleveland Browns this weekend.

And where was Mr. Pacman when commissioner Roger Goodell sent word that he was being granted yet another lifeline? At Hooters, of course. Sadly, this is probably an upgrade for a guy who likes to “make it rain” in the stripclub.

The news of Jones’ fifth or sixth “second chance” got me thinking – if someone who has done next to nothing on the field is warranted this many “do-overs,” then why exactly has all of professional baseball conspired to blackball Barry Bonds? Rhetorically I ask – do we really live in a world where athletes are given a free pass for their off-the-field transgressions as long as they deliver on Sundays? And if so, how can anyone justify slamming the door on Bonds, a guy who doesn’t have a rap sheet twice the size of his stat sheet?

The negatives against Bonds are well known – he’s a diva. He’s moody (okay, he’s an asshole). Oh, and there’s that whole steroids cloud hovering over his head. But the way I look at it, if Pacman Jones warrants multiple chances with a resume nowhere near what Bonds’ has brought to the table (he is, after all, the all-time home run king), then why can’t some team rent Bonds for the stretch run to the playoffs?

Click here for the full article.

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

03Sep

giant batch of links

(photo by Brian Murphy)

The season is upon us, and just in case you’re not fully prepared for the opener against the Super Bowl champion New York Giants (let’s not make it a habit of calling them that), we’ve got you covered. Here’s a few links to get you ready for some football:

  • Ryan O’Halloran, of the Washington Times, and Channel 4’s Lindsay Czarniak are two of my favorites in the press box. Both know their stuff and, as a bonus, have always been very kind to a hack like this McFanboy. Each week they get together for a point-counterpoint column. This week they focus on the demotion of Jon Jansen, which rookie will make the biggest impact and predict who will be victorious Thursday night.
  • Rich Tandler, who knows way more about football than I ever will, also previews this week’s game by taking an in-depth look at the Giants. Tandler asks the question, are the Giants a better team now than they were last December. I think we all know the answer to that one, don’t we Tiki?
  • One of my favorite sites out there is called Post Game Heroes, who do a great job of actually breaking down film to track tendencies and possible weaknesses or areas of concern heading into each week’s match-up. This week they turn their attention to Giants left tackle David Diehl, who in their estimation is the offensive lineman the ‘Skins should be able to exploit.
  • Finally, the Redskins official blogger Matt Terl, reminds Redskins fans that we are, in fact, smarter and more successful than Giants fans. He could have added better looking too, but why kick a fanbase when they’re down?
03Sep

a frosty world

It didn’t come easy, but the Redskins made their cuts and are now down to the required 53-man roster. And unlike other towns where running backs like Rudi Johnson or quarterbacks like Joey Harrington were sent packing, the story locally was all about the punter “competition” between Derrick Frost and Durrant Brooks. Here’s an excerpt from David Elfin:

“They said the competition was even, but it definitely wasn’t,” said Frost, who averaged 45.5 yards gross and 32.3 net to Brooks’ 42.8 and 34.5. “I started the last game, and I definitely outplayed him after they said it was even going in. It was a sham. There was no competition. I think [special teams coach Danny Smith’s] hands were tied.”

That meant Frost, who is pictured above chatting with Homer McFanboy on the sidelines during last week’s Jaguars game, was suddenly looking for a new employer. It didn’t take him long to find a new home, and some would argue he’s in a much better situation now that he’s signed with the Green Bay Packers (clearly they sensed what kind of impact player Frost is, bringing in #4 as soon as Brett Favre leaves town).

After his first day on the job, Frost had a chance to talk with the Packers media and still couldn’t help but take one more little jab at the ‘Skins.

“Last year, looking back at it, I think I kicked too many balls,” said Frost. “I think I wore myself out. I’m a real hard-nosed guy and I work really hard, and sometimes I don’t work smart. This offseason, I really focused on working smarter.”

Sounds to me like Frost felt if GIbbs offense scored half as often as he had to bail them out, then he’d have been a lot fresher for his “competition” this year. Okay, I’m really reading into nothing and completely making stuff up at this point, but the truth is I’m a Frosty fan (I mean, do you see the photo of us chatting at the top of this post?) and thought he outplayed the rookie.

Do I blame the front office for keeping a punter they used a draft pick on? Of course not. But that doesn’t mean you’ll see Brooks and I being buddy-buddy on the sidelines any time soon.

29Aug

jaguars playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

The fifth and final preseason game is in the books, which means it’s time for another installment of Homer McFanboy’s Redskins playlist. As always, here are five songs inspired by the Redskins most recent game.

1. “I’m In Love With A Stripper” by T-Pain.

Let’s start with a little back story. Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache doesn’t talk much, but when he does, you’d be wise to listen. Otherwise you just might miss a highly enjoyable quote like this — “Rookies are fine and dandy, and I’m glad to see them progressing,” said Blache. “But I don’t fall in love with rookies. You’re better to fall in love with a stripper than a rookie, because they’ll break your heart. They really will. We will give them some time and let them prove themselves if they are worthy of it.”

Blache might have made that comment a couple weeks ago, but it definitely applied Thursday night. Rookie wide out Devin Thomas earned the ire of head coach Jim Zorn for his play against the Jaguars, with the coaching specifically mentioning the Jason Campbell interception and a catch Thomas made on third down, where he failed to get the first down. On top of that, fellow rookie receiver Malcolm Kelly was AWOL after warm-ups, when he apparently aggravated the knee injury that has sidelined him all preseason. So when it comes to rookies (and possibly even strippers), it’s safe to say Blache speaks from experience.

2. “Wish You Were Here” by Wyclef.

This modern take on one of the best songs ever goes out to Gregg Williams, who looked completely out of place sporting Jaguars colors at FedEx Field last night. When I saw former ‘Skins safety Pierson Prioleau, who followed Williams to Jacksonville this past offseason, I said “You just don’t look right in those colors, man.” He laughed and said most everyone he talked to told him the same thing. Nothing against Jim Zorn, who may very well have some bright days ahead of him as a head coach, but this should be Gregg Williams’ team. I know it, you know it, and the players damn sure believe it.

3. “Asshole” by Denis Leary.

To the bushleague “fans” in attendance last night at FedEx Field who felt it was appropriate to start “the wave” during the fourth quarter when the hometown offense had the ball.

I understand that the game was not the most exciting NFL game of all time and that the Redskins looked pitiful for large stretches. I also understand that it’s the preseason and the game was on a weeknight, so a lot of the true Redskins fans opted to sell the tickets and save their energy for games that actually matter. But anyone who knows me knows by now that I’d ban “the wave” and gladly throw out anyone caught doing it at a sporting event. That’s no secret. So to see this be the way locals fans chose to carry themselves while spotlighted on a national broadcast … well … let’s just say I died a little inside.

4. “Scenario” by Tribe Called Quest.

To my 22 fallen homies, who won’t be on the team this time next week. When breaking down the roster, one could make a case for guys like linebacker Alfred Fincher, running back Marcus Mason or wide out Billy McMullen to make the 53-man roster. But at the end of the day, we have no idea how the scenario will unfold and which route the front office will decide to go.

5. “My Hero” by Foo Fighters.

To tight end Chris Cooley, for kindly stepping up and helping Chief Zee recovering his missing tomahawk. It’s funny that only a few hours after Cooley posts on his blog that whoever returns the tomahawk will earn themselves a free autographed jersey, some drunk guy who walked off with it suddenly grows a conscience and returns the stolen merchandise. Either way, thanks to Captain Chaos for restoring order in the universe.

28Aug

why your team won’t win the super bowl

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time again. With the preseason nearly complete, it’s time for the fifth annual “Why your team won’t win the Super Bowl” column. Book a flight to Las Vegas immediately and bet the farm – this is why your favorite football franchise won’t get it done this year.

Arizona Cardinals – Matt Leinart can’t beat out Kurt Warner. Kurt Warner can’t beat anyone but Matt Leinart.

Atlanta Falcons – The Falcons named rookie quarterback Matt Ryan their starter, guaranteeing no more than five wins in 2008. Sadly, that would be an improvement over last year’s four-win effort. I’d say more, but I don’t want to sound like I’m picking on the autistic kid.

Baltimore Ravens – Is Kyle Boller still on the Ravens? Nuff’ said.

Buffalo Bills – Oh how tortured Bills fans long for the days of choking in the Super Bowl. Buffalo is going to be so disappointing this season that they’re openly trying to deport themselves to Canada.

Carolina Panthers – Nevermind wide out Steve Smith sucker-punching teammates during practice – how do you expect me to take your franchise seriously when you draft Jon Stewart to play running back?

Chicago Bears – Talk to me when Devin Hester learns to play quarterback too.

Cincinnati Bengals – Other than collect convicted felons, what exactly have the Cincinnati Bengals done well since head coach Marvin Lewis came to town?

Cleveland Browns – Because they’re the Browns.

Dallas Cowboys – Terrell Owens. Pacman Jones. Tank Johnson. It’s nothing short of hysterical that on a team full of assholes and screw-ups the biggest name keeping them from winning a playoff game is Jessica Simpson.

Click here for the full article.

(courtesy photo)

27Aug

a bitter homecoming

No sense in lying to you, this week’s game isn’t going to be easy for Homer McFanboy. You see, unlike Vinnie Cerrato, I was actually a fan of Gregg Williams and would have loved to have seen him become the next head coach of the Washington Redskins after Joe Gibbs raced back to NASCAR. But we all know that’s not how things played out at Redskins Park.

Jim Zorn was given the job and Williams landed in Jacksonville, where he takes over an already talented defense. With the Jags coming to town Thursday night, it seems I’m not the only person with “Gregg the Genius” on the mind. Jason La Canfora has a nice feature story on the ties that still bind Williams to D.C. If that’s not enough, Dave Elfin spends some time with London Fletcher talking about his old boss.

Once you get your fill of the return of Gregg, head over to Chris Cooley’s blog to help join the band of crime fighters taking on the case of Chief Zee’s missing tomahawk. And a quick note to all you humanitarians, whoever helps find and return the Chief’s prized possession can score a free autographed Cooley jersey for their troubles.

From crime fighting to the truly bizarre, we turn our attention to an entry by the Redskins official blogger, Matt Terl, who shares with us a FedEx Field cake. Three workers from Kristi’s Kakes spent 26 hours creating a replica of Dan Snyder’s least favorite stadium for a bar mitzvah. The least you can do is click the link and check out the photos for yourself.

And finally, a recovering alcoholic named Ned Bitters decides to take aim at your’s truly in his weekly “Overrated” column. I’d quote an excerpt from his tirade, but honestly, none of it is actually suitable for print. Let’s just say he thinks Homer McFanboy goes above and beyond the call of duty to provide Redskins coverage. Or something like that.

(photo by Brian Murphy)

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