If you haven’t figured out by now, Ryan O’Halloran of The Washington Times, is one of the best beat writers in town. If you don’t believe me, go check out his latest contribution, a highly-enjoyable feature story on Chris Cooley from earlier this week. If you also haven’t figured out by now, I’m a complete hack. I watch a bunch of sports on TV or play a couple of video games, and suddenly I think I’m qualified to drive NASCAR tracks and rip the local baseball general manager who may or may not be under federal investigation.
To make up for the fact that you, the loyal readers, must put up with my incessant ramblings and mindless drivel on a regular basis, Ryan has graciously agreed to class up the joint by answering the top five questions the Washington Redskins face heading into training camp. Without further adeu, here we go:
1. Jim Zorn is a rookie head coach with roughly two weeks of offensive coordinator experience. What can we reasonably expect from the Z-man in his inaugural season?
Ryan: A major transition for the entire organization. If Zorn had even a season of coordinating experience, he would have had a chance to oversee half of the roster. In Seattle, he was responsible for three of the 53 players. Now he has to oversee a roster, a coaching staff, coach quarterbacks, call plays and deal with the media. That’s a awful hefty load. What I expect to see is an innovative offense that uses all of its weapons (Al Saunders was never allowed to do that). I also expect some games where Zorn acts like a first-year head coach and makes questionable decisions.
2. Like Zorn, Vinny Cerrato find himself in a new situation, now that he’s “the guy” when it comes to the front office. How much involvement did Cerrato have with some of the recent late-round draft picks (Montgomery, Doughty, etc.) and undrafted rookie free agents, and how confident should ‘Skins fans be with Vinny calling the shots?
Ryan: Cerrato’s impact on drafting second-day players is a million dollar question. Gregg Williams’ defensive staff scoured the country along with the team’s scouts during the pre Draft process. One positive for Vinny is that he hasn’t really screwed up a first-round pick. But the decisions by the front office in the draft room has left a lot to be desired. If Snyder/Cerrato really mean they’re turning over a new philosophical leaf, they have to draft better. Redskins fans aren’t going to cut Vinny much slack. I’m sure many were as puzzled as those in the media with the promotion before they actually hired a head coach. The fans should be in show-me-Vinny mode.
3. While the head coach is new, most of the players are not. This is a veteran team that has made the playoffs two out of the last three seasons. Does this team have what it takes to compete in the always competitive NFC East and an improving NFC, or should fans temper their expectations as the team adjusts to the new regime?
Ryan: While hardly any of the players are new, expectations for a team should be lowered anytime there’s a new head coach, two new coordinators and a new passing game. That’s not continuity. That’s transition and basically starting over. And that’s fine — obviously Snyder wasn’t comfortable handing the keys of the his kingdom to Williams. The Redskins might win only six or seven games but their talent could be better than that — the NFC East is that tough. Right now, I’d tab them to finish last in the division.
4. Where do the Redskins have the most depth and where is the biggest area of concern heading into the season?
The most depth: Quarterback because Todd Collins showed last year he has a few bullets left in his 36-year old throwing arm. Running back because Ladell Betts proved to be a solid every-down player when Clinton Portis missed the final half of the 2006 season. Safety: LaRon Landry, Reed Doughty, Stuart Schweigert and Vernon Fox all have NFL starting experience.
The biggest area of concern: Attrition along the offensive and defensive lines. Both sides are aging, don’t have a ton of depth and do have a long injury history. Linebacker: The back-ups are Khary Campbell, H.B. Blades and Matt Sinclair. Cornerback: If Carlos Rogers starts the season on the shelf, the Redskins could be in trouble.
5. If you had to pick one Redskins player, who is most likely poised for a breakout season? Why?
Safety LaRon Landry. I got ripped pretty good for this last year but I think Landry is light years ahead of where Sean Taylor was at the same point of their career. Landry is athletically gifted like Taylor but, entering his second season, is already excellent at anticipating plays, making up for a teammates’ mistake/blown assignment and sending messages with physical play. He might not make the Pro Bowl this season but he’ll turn out to be the defense’s best player.
For more of O’Halloran’s work, check out the Redskins 360 blog.