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ONE Burning Question

ONE Burning Question

It seems that an article or a talk show segment addressing an NFL team’s 10 burning questions going into training camp is in vogue these days. I’m certainly not one who avoids latching on to such trends, but I usually tailor them to give some guise of originally (thus ESPN’s “Four Downs” becomes Warpath Insiders’ “Three and Out”). Surgery that is a bit more radical is performed on the 10 questions here. There is only one such question for the 2005 Washington Redskins:

In Joe Gibbs’ first year back, the passing offense could be best be described as horizontal. That’s partly because it featured a lot of wide receiver screens and hitch patterns. Mostly however, it was horizontal as in prone, like a dead man. They were 30th in the league in total yardage and 31st in scoring. So here’s the one burning question:

Can Joe Gibbs and the Redskins successfully transform the passing game from an ineffective, dink and dunk, horizontal one into abig-play, vertically oriented air attack?

Sure, there are some other fairly important matters out there such as who will start at middle linebacker, can Sean Taylor get his act together, will LaVar Arrington’s knee be completely healed and some others. But even if all of those things fall into place, the Redskins won’t be successful in 2005 if they can’t score more points. And we are defining success here as making the playoffs.

Make no mistake about it, that’s what this team’s goal is for this year and that is what the expectation for them is here. Gibbs is a Hall of Fame coach and should be able to add three or four wins to last year’s total and that should be good enough to be playing in January. A win or two in the playoffs would be a nice bonus, but anything less than making the field will be adisappointment. It says here that’s where the bar is in 2005.

The Redskins had a playoff-caliber defense last year. That’s not just a defense that could get a team to the playoffs; it was one that could get a team deep into the playoffs. If you take the worst-case scenario and say that the losses of Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce hurt considerably, it’s still an upper-echelon, if not elite, defense. The burden of making the playoffs falls on the offense.

A great offense can both pound the ball on the ground when the situation calls for it and air it out deep when that’s what’s needed. You can count the NFL offenses that have the talent to do both on your index fingers and big toes, if you need that many digits. The Redskins aren’t one of
them.

All of the eggs on offense have been placed in the big-play basket. Clinton Portis is not a grind-it-out type of runner. While the offensive line isn’t bad blocking for the power running game, its strength, individually and collectively, is pass blocking. They are not going to grind out a bunch of 15-play drives and pound it in on third down from the two. They’rejust not, as much as Joe Bugel and Gibbs might want it to be so.

Certainly, Joe and Joe realize this and that’s why they are going to air it out. Patrick Ramsey has a big arm and he can find the receivers forty yards downfield. Santana Moss and David Patten have demonstrated their abilities to get open deep and all indications are that Taylor Jacobs will be able to do the same.

Of course, you can’t go bombs away on every play, but the Redskins will have to demonstrate their ability to do so in order to open up the other elements of the offense. An effective deep passing game will let Patrick Ramsey throw the quick hitch to a wideout with reasonable hopes that it will be second and three after the play. If the defense has to deal with the credible threat
of quick score via the air, that will give Portis more room to operate on draws and sweeps. And should the Redskins stretch the field that will give H-back Chris Cooley some space to operate in underneath the deep patterns.

It’s not all about the offense. The defense needs to maintain and it would help if they got more than the 29 takeaways they got in 2004. Improved special teams play might help steal a game if the offense and defense are substandard and teams can’t cost them a game. But any substantial improvement in the Redskins’ 6-10 record will have to come from the offensiveside of the ball. That means it’s bombs away and hope for the best.

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Risk vs reward when Redskins consider Alabama LB Reuben Foster in NFL Draft

Risk vs reward when Redskins consider Alabama LB Reuben Foster in NFL Draft

An undeniable talent, Reuben Foster seemed for months to be a lock for the Top 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Alabama star is a sure tackler, playmaking force and winner of the 2016 Dick Butkus Award as the nation's best college linebacker.

The actual football season went great for Foster, he logged 115 tackles and was named the SEC Championship Game MVP. Since play on the field stopped, things have stalled. Foster had an unfortunate incident at the NFL Combine, where he was sent home after an altercation with a hospital worker. In the time since, it's come out Foster tested positive for a diluted urine sample and will enter the NFL in the substance abuse program. 

Still, despite a tough two months, Foster's talent is too rich to pass up for some NFL teams. And per NFL Network's Lance Zierlein, the Redskins could be that team

In his mock draft released Wednesday, Zierlein predicts Foster's draft day slide to end with Washington at the 17th pick. From NFL.com:

Foster could fall due to off-field concerns and worries about injuries, but he fits a need for the Redskins, bringing a tough playmaker into the fold.

Beyond the diluted sample and the combine altercation, Foster also has had stinger issues throughout his career at 'Bama. He has elite speed at the linebacker position and the type of athleticism defensive coordinators dream about, though some pro scouts question if he can handle the calls of a Mike linebacker in the NFL game.

The Redskins are not desperate for interior linebacker help, this season. The team added Zach Brown in free agency, re-signed 2016 defensive captain Will Compton earlier this week and Mason Foster remains under contract. All three players, however, are headed to free agency in 2018. Adding Foster would provide depth this year and a potential star in the future.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Final Redskins seven-round mock draft: Defense first, a surprise in the third

Final Redskins seven-round mock draft: Defense first, a surprise in the third

We’re a day away from the start of the NFL draft and all the questions surrounding the Redskins’ intentions will start to get answered when they go on the clock at about 10 p.m. on Thursday.

[More Redskins: Full Redskins Seven-Round Mock Draft]

Speaking at the team’s annual pre-draft news conference, Scott Campbell, the team’s director of college scouting, stuck with the company line when he was asked about making picks based on team needs.

“I’m going to frame the answer, and the age-old answer of ‘I’m going to take the best player available,’” he said. “And if that serves your needs, that’s a bonus.”

It would be a big “bonus” for the Redskins if a defensive lineman who can rush the passer and stuff the run was the best player on the board when their first-round pick comes up at No. 17. But it doesn’t look like the board will play out that way. That’s OK because the Redskins have plenty of needs.

In fact, it’s not hard to do a mock draft for the Redskins because they have needs at virtually every position. Certainly, some needs are more urgent than others. But once you get past the first couple of rounds there is enough doubt at each position, whether it’s immediate depth or possible free agency holes in 2018, to get that need “bonus” with every pick.

Campbell said that this is a strong defensive draft and this is reflected in these mock selections, with six of the 10 picks going to defense including the top two. The first offensive pick may surprise some but the talent was just too good at that point in the draft.

Go here to see the full seven-round mock draft.

Your comments are welcome, as always. Make them here in the comments or hit me up on Twitter and Facebook.  

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.