(photo by Brian Murphy)
So far this week, we’ve cranked out more than 3,000 words to get you, the loyal fans, caught up to speed as the 2009 season officially kicks off for the Washington Redskins. First, we gave you five positions to watch and then we followed that up with five players worth keeping an eye on.
With training camp kicking off today we figured we’d up the ante and present 10 (semi) bold predictions.
1. The downfall of quarterback Jason Campbell in Washington will be the fact that he doesn’t throw enough interceptions.
On the surface that may be one of the most ridiculous sentences ever typed in the history of the world. There are few constants in this world, but it’s safe to say interceptions are bad. Similarly, guys who throw interceptions are bad. But it is our humble opinion that the reason Campbell will ultimately be run out of town is because he plays too conservative and refuses to take chances or throw high-risk, high-reward passes.
The main difference between a guy like Campbell and a guy like Jay Cutler (besides the fact that Denver had zero running game last year and had to throw a hundred times a game) is that Cutler isn’t afraid to take chances. If he thinks he can squeeze a pass through traffic, he’s going to do it and not think twice.
That’s why Cutler had 25 touchdown passes a year ago. Campbell has 25 touchdowns over the last two seasons (29 games). But Cutler also had 18 interceptions a year ago. And he had 14 the year before. He’s clearly a “live by the sword, die by the sword” kind of athlete and for better or worse, this front office seems enamored with players like that. If Campbell wants to win them over and prove he’s the long-term solution here in D.C., the best thing he can do is unleash his inner “gun slinger.”
2. Colt Brennan will continue to excel at holding a clipboard.
If you’re from Hawaii please skip this one. You won’t be happy.
Brennan, while wildly popular with the pothead surfer crowd, still has a ways to go before “The Tasty Drink” Todd Collins should worry about losing the backup quarterback job. Yes, Colt is a “gun slinger,” and yes, management has a chubby for those types of QBs, but Brennan simply isn’t ready to be a starter (or even a backup quarterback) just yet.
Collins is solid, but unspectacular. You know exactly what you’re going to get from him every time he takes the field. He’s not flashy, but he’s certainly dependable. Brennan still has to refine his fundamentals – stuff like footwork and being more consistent every time he drops back – before he can make a legitimate run at playing time.
The sad, harsh truth is that if Colt gets any kind of playing time in 2009 it’s because the season is lost and the team is in “screw it, let’s see what we’ve got with our bench players” mode.
Even if things don’t work out for Brennan this season you can still listen to Jack Johnson on your iPod, drink Fire Rock Pale Ale and relish the fact that you’re living in Hawaii.
3. Linebacker will be an issue and a veteran not currently on the roster will be brought in at some point before the season opener.
We have no inside information and we’re simply stating a hunch, but linebacker is every bit as much of a concern to us as the well-documented offensive line.
You’ve got London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh and Brian Orakpo as your starters. That’s solid. But behind them? You’ve got an undersized H.B. Blades and a bag of balls. Alfred Fincher is fine for special teams, but can he be counted on when the game is on the line? We don’t know.
The team would love for Chris Wilson to successfully convert from defensive end to linebacker, but our money isn’t on it. Robert Thomas is a seven-year veteran, but he may very well be the least heralded player with at least 50 starts in the entire NFL. Cody Glenn and Robert Henson are rookies who need to simply make the 53-man roster before we can reasonably ask anything of substance from them.
The revamped defensive line looks stacked and the secondary has the potential to actually create turnovers for the first time in recent history. If any of the starters at linebacker suffer a serious injury, this paper-thin unit could be the only thing holding back an otherwise dominant defense from reaching maximum potential.
4. Speaking of that offensive line, Stephon Heyer will start more games at right tackle than Mike Williams in 2009.
Again, no inside scoop here. We’re just taking a shot in the dark. Heyer enters the season as the starter by default. Williams is the former first rounder who has amazed locals by dropping more than 100 lbs. as he attempts to resurrect his career. While we have no doubt Williams will get his turn to start at tackle, we’re leaning toward Heyer, the third-year pro out of Maryland, to do well enough to keep the job. As for Jeremy Bridges, the darkhorse in this race, our hope is he slides over to provide depth at right guard behind Randy Thomas.
5. If healthy, Malcolm Kelly will out-produce Devin Thomas and Fred Davis.
One year ago, Kelly caught our attention as he hauled in seemingly every pass thrown his way during training camp. The guy looked like the real deal … until injuries derailed his rookie campaign. While Thomas and Davis could very well become big-time NFL players, we’re inclined to stick with Kelly because he’s the only one of the three who we’ve seen heading down that path.
6. Ladell Betts is a bona fide fantasy football sleeper.
We love Clinton Portis and everything he brings to the table. But that doesn’t mean Betts can’t contribute as well. Before a knee injury got in the way, the Redskins’ offense was already moving towards utilizing both running backs together more frequently. Lining up both Portis and Betts in the backfield at the same time adds a dynamic to this offense that’s been lacking. Over the last seven years Portis has clearly established himself as a top-notch back, but Betts should be considered one of the better backups in the entire NFL. He’s also has very good hands and can provide a safety valve to Campbell in the passing game.
Whether he’s on the field with Portis or stepping in to simply give C.P. a breather, it’s a safe bet that Ladell will be much-more involved this season.
7. Antwaan Randle El will give us an aneurism this season.
If we have to watch one more pitiful attempt at a punt return, we might not survive the 2009 season. On the bright side, with James Thrash, Shawn Springs and Jason Taylor all gone, Randle El is now the only player on the current roster we’re not a fan of.
So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.
8. Renaldo Wynn will not make the 53-man roster.
This one is a bummer, because we love Wynn. But when you take an objective look at the defensive line, something’s got to give. Andre Carter, Albert Haynesworth, Cornelius Griffin, Phillip Daniels, Kedric Golston, Anthony Montgomery, Lorenzo Alexander, Jeremy Jarmon, Brian Orakpo on third downs … the list goes on and on.
Other players who could possibly find themselves on the outside looking in include Chris Wilson, Todd Yoder, Reed Doughty and possibly even Fred Smoot. We still think Yoder, Doughty and Smoot survive, but you never know for sure until the last playbook is turned in.
9. Albert Haynesworth’s first season in Washington will be a disappointment.
Don’t get us wrong, we think he’ll be a stud this year and make it difficult for teams to get any kind of push with their offensive line against the ‘Skins, but Fat Albert’s lucrative $100 contract has pushed expectations to a whole new level.
If you’re expecting Haynesworth to get 20 sacks, create countless turnovers for his teammates and cure cancer, then failure is in your future. If you’re looking to him to provide a new wrinkle to Greg Blache’s side of the house and to anchor a potentially dominant defense, then you might be alright. It’s all about managing expectations, people.
10. DeAngelo Hall will be the defensive MVP.
We openly admit it, we’re not capable of being objective when it comes to Hall. When the team signed him halfway through last season, we believed the hype that he was a coach killer and a diva. We feared he’d walk around town like he was better than everyone else and get toasted every time the opposition threw his way. Thankfully, that didn’t happen.
The guy is the real deal on the field. It seems all he ever needed was a team to use him in a way that maximizes his abilities. Imagine that.
Something as simple as letting him drop back while facing the QB so he can get a read on the play instead of forcing him to keep his back to the play has given Hall his swagger back, which in turn gives the Redskins a true playmaker at corner for the first time since Champ Bailey left town. With guys like Haynesworth up front making life difficult for opposing quarterbacks, we have a hunch that Hall will have ample opportunities to get his hands on the football. That, my friends, is a good thing.
That’s it. That’s all we got.
Baseball players get millions of dollars to bat .300. We’re going to go out on a limb and say we’ll do much better than that with these 10 (semi) bold predictions. Feel free to add your two cents and let us know if you’re with us or if we’ve lost it. Either way we’re just glad to have football back in our lives.