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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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Lucky Whitehead a victim of mistaken identity according to police

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Lucky Whitehead a victim of mistaken identity according to police

It's been a confusing stretch for Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead. 

The charges against the Bealeton, Virginia native have now been dropped, after it was determined by Prince William County Police that Whitehead is not the man accused of shoplifting at a convenience store in Woodbridge, Virginia on June 22.

Here's the full statement released Tuesday:

Upon reviewing the June 22, 2017 arrest of an individual named “Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr.”, the police department is confident that the man charged with petit larceny, and who is subsequently being sought on an active warrant for failure to appear in court, is not Lucky Whitehead of the Dallas Cowboys.

The man charged on the morning of June 22 was not in possession of identification at the time of the encounter; however, did verbally provide identifying information to officers, which included a name, date of birth, and social security number matching that of Rodney Darnell Whitehead, Jr. Officers then checked this information through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) database.

The DMV photo on file was then used to compare to the man who was in custody. Officers acted in good faith that, at the time, the man in custody was the same man matching the information provided. At this point, the police department is also confident in confirming that Mr. Whitehead’s identify was falsely provided to police during the investigation.

The police department is currently seeking the identity of the man involved in the incident. Since the identifying information provided by the arrestee during the investigation was apparently false, the police department is working with the Prince William County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office to clear Mr. Whitehead from this investigation. The police department regrets the impact these events had on Mr. Whitehead and his family. 

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Cowboys hadn't officially released Whitehead on Monday, despite reports to the contrary. 

 

Although it's looking like he still may be looking for a new home.

 

 

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Redskins 2017 training camp preview—defense

Redskins 2017 training camp preview—defense

RICHMOND— The Redskins will assemble here tomorrow to get ready for the 2017 season. There are plenty of position competitions and other storylines. Here is a look at what we at CSN will be paying attention to. The key points on offense were published earlier; here’s a look at the defense.

Rebuilding the line

In a way, the situation on the D-line is similar to the one at wide receiver in that free agency and a release has created some holes. Chris Baker, the team’s best defensive lineman last year, left for Tampa Bay as a free agent and Ricky Jean Francois, arguably the second-best DL last year, was cut.

This is not all bad news. The wide receivers were one of the strengths of the team. The D-line was one of the weak spots so perhaps doing some major renovating there is just what the unit needs.

RELATED: Redskins 53-man roster projection, defense

The big move was one they really hadn’t planned on. Defensive end Jonathan Allen was projected by many to be a top-10 draft pick. But he slipped right into the Redskins’ lap with the 17th pick. He gets to work on Thursday and the sooner he can get up to NFL speed the better. They also signed two free agents in Stacy McGee and Terrell McClain and they re-signed Ziggy Hood. As with Allen, their roles will be determined over the course of the next few weeks of practice and during the preseason games.

Nobody knows who is going to end up playing nose tackle. It could be McGee, Hood, former first-round pick Phil Taylor or one of the 2016 practice squad members, Joey Mbu or A. J. Francis. The fact that there is no obvious candidate is troubling and perhaps a sign that the line will show only marginal improvement this year.

Starters at ILB

The Redskins got an upgrade here late in free agency with the signing of Zach Brown, who was last seen playing in the Pro Bowl for the Bills. How he fits in with incumbent starters Will Compton and Mason Foster remains to be seen. All three are likely to earn substantial playing time and who plays in what situation will be sorted out here in Richmond.

MORE REDSKINS: Ranking the Redskins roster, 11-20

Adjustments at safety

The Redskins could be set at safety for the next several seasons. Or they could be scrambling to make adjustments by midseason. Su’a Cravens moves to strong safety from outside linebacker. He may be a step slower than the ideal for his position and he needs to make up for it by being, as he likes to say, assignment perfect. The Redskins signed D. J. Swearinger, who has been a strong safety for most of his career, to play free safety.

When the dust settles, they could be the best safety tandem the Redskins have had in years. Or they could be showing the effects of trying to put square pegs into round holes.

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.