AFC South: Washington Redskins
Some brief thoughts out of the Colts’ 30-17 loss to the Redskins in Washington on Saturday afternoon.
- We’ve long been asking if this collection of offensive linemen will be good enough to offer rookie quarterback Andrew Luck sufficient protection. Through two games it had been pretty good. Phillip B. Wilson of the Indianapolis Star wrote their praises yesterday. They were without injured left guard Mike McGlynn again and Seth Olsen filled in. He was not good, especially early, and overall the protection was the type cynics feared as this group was pieced together. Luck showed poise and calm and had a good feel for what was going on around him. And he did well to get rid of the ball. But he absorbed shots on several occasions just as he let the ball go. A couple blitzes up the middle, like one in the third quarter by linebacker London Fletcher, proved a good tactic for supplementing the defensive line. Washington’s entire defensive front was quite disruptive -- and this was without Brian Orakpo. The offensive line remains a giant concern.
- The run blocking didn’t do anything to offset the protection issues. Donald Brown really failed to get anything going, with eight whole yards on his seven carries. The Colts are going to need to have some success running the ball to take pressure off of Luck in a game like this, and what we saw was a scenario where the ground game offered no help, the pass game had to carry the offense and the line wasn’t up to the task.
- While Brown was ineffective, the Redskins got fine work out of the back that got most of their early carries. Sixth-round draft pick Alfred Morris looked quite good as he turned 14 carries into 107 yards, and the Colts were far too sloppy in terms of hemming him in and bringing him down.
- Jerraud Powers went out of the game with a sprained knee. The Colts have several indispensible players. Their top cornerback is absolutely a can’t-lose guy, considering the drop-off in talent at the position after him. Hopefully he can recover quickly, but injuries have been the one thing that have slowed him down.
- The Colts' lone first-team touchdown was a pretty one -- as Luck reacted to pressure and threw a strike to T.Y. Hilton from 31 yards out over mismatched safety Madieu Williams.
- Receiver Jeremy Ross had a nice 59-yard catch-and-run from Chandler Harnish in the fourth quarter. He made it difficult for safety Reed Doughty to bring him down as he made three different cuts. But one of them should have turned around the defender enough for the receiver to have broken free and gone farther, I thought.
- Jerry Hughes started for Robert Mathis, and Jerry Hughes served as the referee for the crew of replacement issues. Yup, the Colts outside linebacker and the ref were both Jerry Hughes. The one in the striped shirt was far more visible in this game.
It’s nearly impossible to prove what people were talking about before a deadline, though it’d make sense to allow preliminary free agency discussions at the scouting combine since they go on there all the time anyway.
My complaint is over the timetable.
The conversations that may have taken place would have happened in February. It’s been 10 months. The league's “extensive review” took 10 months?
I understand it’s not a front-burner issue, and this resolution wasn’t anything that affected the day-to-day lives or planning of anyone. I understand that more pressing issues arise and need to be addressed first.
But taking 10 months for something that doesn’t involve the American legal system is simply unacceptable. And the league is very ho-hum and nonchalant about such things. “We’ll get to it when we get to it,” is the attitude I feel. It gives the NFL a bureaucratic feel that suggests it is based in D.C. instead of New York.
I wonder how the league would feel about similar lag time on, say, season-ticket holders around the league writing their checks each season?
Albert Haynesworth is a great interview because he's fearless. He doesn't worry what bosses or fans or friends or old friends will think. He gives an honest unfiltered answer.
But as with virtually anyone, his perspective is affected by who his friends are, where he is and who's showering him with money and affection.
In a Wednesday interview on "The Sirius Blitz" on SIRIUS NFL Radio Haynesworth talked about his former team.
Here is some of it from a transcript provided by Sirius, with my interpretations from more of a Titans perspective weaved in.
Host, Adam Schein: "Was it a situation where everything just ran its course for you in Tennessee? Was it time for you to leave Tennessee?"
Haynesworth: "Yeah, it was. It was. I'm kind of glad [we] didn't work out something there because it was really time for me to go and try to start this deal elsewhere and go out there and show how good I can play this game."
Kuharsky's interpretation: When you get the money and affection he got, of course you're happy and saying good things about the new team and not so good things about the old team.
Host, Jim Miller: "Can [the Titans] move on? Can you weigh in on whether Kyle Vanden Bosch can be a Pro Bowler again without your presence?"
Haynesworth: "Honestly, I don't know. I don't know how it's going to affect them or whatever. I took a lot of his double teams and things like that, allowed him to get single blocked so it's going to be different watching them and how they adapt to that."
Kuharsky's interpretation: He'd like to be missed and for the Titans to regret not trying harder to retain him, of course. If he plays well in Washington and they miss him in Tennessee, he smells like roses.
Miller: "Can Vince Young resurrect his career? What was your perception as his teammate?"
Haynesworth: "Vince is a really good friend of mine and everything, but I just don't see it happening in Tennessee. I think he has to go elsewhere and start elsewhere because I've been in that organization long enough and I know how kind of when you fall out of the good graces with certain people that you're not going to get back in it. I don't think they'll trade him because his cap number is too high, but he'll probably have to do his legacy elsewhere, which I definitely think he can because I think he's an awesome quarterback. He has amazing talent.
"He's a very passionate guy. He just loves to win and play the game. When things ain't going his way he's sitting on the sidelines trying to figure out himself. Now, all reports saying he refused to go back in the game and then he goes and gets hurt. I mean, that's not the case. They kind of blew it out [of proportion]...They can make or there or they can break you there. That's why I think it's time for him to go and start his career elsewhere and become that Hall of Fame quarterback that I know he can be."
Kuharsky's interpretation: Players often seem to think that falling out of good graces is something personal. No one wanted/wants Young to pan out more than the Titans -- who invested a high pick and millions in him and look bad because he's on their bench. But it's his approach, growth pace and ineffectiveness that put him in whatever bad position he is with Tennessee brass.
Young undeniably asked out of the season opener in 2008 before he was injured. It's a fact. We mean media can make you and can break you, and we helped make Haynesworth the richest defender in football, but he forgot about that while answering this question.
Regarding his relationship with Titans head coach Jeff Fisher:
Haynesworth: "I think it was OK. It was all right. You can say some good things; you can say some bad things. But I think it was OK. I don't hate the man."
Kuharsky's interpretation: He's a bit bitter because Fisher and the Titans ultimately didn't want him at market value. He shouldn't hate the man, who showed great patience when he was slow to understand what it meant to be in shape in the NFL, who kicked a teammate in practice and who stomped Andre Gurode in the face. In each instance Fisher allowed Haynesworth to earn his way back into good graces. Also, Fisher is the guy who hired Titans defensive line coach Jim Washburn, and Washburn played a bigger role in Haynesworth becoming a dominant force than anyone.
On his relationship with Redskins head coach Jim Zorn:
Haynesworth: "Coach Zorn is a very cool individual. You can go up and talk to him anytime, at any point. You can call him. I've probably talked to Coach Zorn on the cell phone more than I talked to Coach Fisher in seven years. And same thing with Mr. [Daniel] Snyder too. I know I've never talked to Mr. [Bud] Adams on the phone and I've talked to Mr. Snyder several times on the phone and he's called me and things like that. I mean, it's just a totally different situation there in Washington. It's not really like a division between the players and the front office. Here in Washington it's more that everybody gets along, everybody hangs out. You have Vinny [Cerrato] that comes down and works out around the same time we do and always coming through the training room and stuff. It's just really different. I've never been to any other team and I thought every team was pretty much like [the Titans]."
Kuharsky's interpretation: Fisher maintains a cool distance, but is hardly inaccessible. Position coaches are closest to players, and you'll notice Haynesworth didn't compare his new line coach to Washburn. Careful what you wish for in terms of a phone chat with Adams, who can meander around in such a conversation.
Mike Reinfeldt and Cerrato are probably polar opposites in personality. Fair to say Reinfeldt's not the kind of guy looking to workout beside players. I'd tend to be far more wary of an executive who's in the weight room than one who's not, but maybe that's just me. Snyder was courting Haynesworth and likes to be a player's pal as much as he likes to be an owner.
That Titans' distance sure doesn't translate in the win column like Washington's closeness does: The Titans are 35-29 in the last four years, the Redskins 32-32.
Revisiting my Haynesworth stance: If the Titans were $1 million away from re-signing him a year ago as he's said, they really blew it. I think his name means a lot to him after the Gurode stuff, and that he won't turn into a dog with the big contract because he doesn't want to see that name soiled again. Even if he's not as good in Washington, that doesn't mean he wouldn't have been good in Nashville.
So big is the deal Albert Haynesworth has agreed to with the Washington Redskins, that the Titans will be out of the doghouse with many of their fans who were ready to pounce with complaints about their unwillingness to pay him.
|Albert Haynesworth shows why he is one of the top defensive tackles in the NFL.|
John Clayton says the deal is for seven years and $100 million, with the potential to max out at $115 million. It includes $41 million in guarantees, a stupefying $32 million of that over the first 13 months.
There will be a press conference Friday.
While as many as six teams expressed an interest and were in the ballpark of $30 million to $40 million in guarantees, Tampa was the last team standing before the Redskins closed it.
The deal stirs up a lot of questions, of course:
- What does Haynesworth now need to do to be worth that kind of cash? In seven years with Tennessee, he had 454 tackles and 24 sacks while missing 22 of 112 games due to injuries. He could play every game and be more productive than ever and there will still be questions as to his worthiness of that kind of contract.
- How are the Redskins affording this and what does it do to their salary cap over the life of the deal? Think they are rooting for 2009 to be the last capped year? The longtime thinking from the players' side has been that if the league reaches an uncapped year, it will never go back, thus the urgency for a new CBA by this time next year.
- What was the last offer the Titans made and what was it worth? It would be good for them if they offered something reasonable and are able to say they made an effort but simply wouldn't approach that stratosphere. Jim Wyatt reports it was in the $11 million-a-year range. If the Titans were going to lose Haynesworth no matter what, Washington may have done them a favor. Fans will be hard-pressed to bemoan Tennessee's inability or unwillingness to approach these numbers. Will we hear numbers from the Titans or from Haynesworth at his introduction in D.C.?
- Is there any possibility the Titans ask the league to investigate a tampering charge? Based on a report, denied by agent Chad Speck, that the team had worked out a deal before free agency officially started, they could. These things are hard to prove, and considering the likely gap between the package he got and the maximum the Titans offered it might prove fruitless and a waste of energy for Tennessee to pursue it. It's generally hard to prove such a complaint, but the speed of the deal certainly raises questions about if the league should look to somehow strengthen the prohibition against early talks or officially loosen up on what can go on from the combine forward as free agency approaches.
- Will the Titans take a serious swing at Dallas free agent Chris Canty? They've already been in touch. But his price and the price of defensive tackles and defensive linemen will go up because of Haynesworth, even thought it shouldn't have much of a bearing. Scouts Inc. gave Haynesworth a grade of 93, with Jovan Haye the next best available tackle at just a 73. They've got Canty listed as an end, which is what he played in Dallas' 3-4, at a 77. I think the Titans could still have a reasonably strong line with Tony Brown and Jason Jones as the interior starters, though they can certainly fortify things beyond that.
- Even if Haynesworth plays super football in Washington, he'll be under the microscope. Should he underachieve there he will get hammered by fans and media, but it doesn't mean he would have done the same had the Titans managed to keep him. Again, it's awfully hard to complain that they didn't based on the numbers. The debate now is more about the ease with which they handed him easy routes to ensure he wasn't franchised a second time.
- In recent years, as the Titans got good again, Haynesworth gave them something they had lacked for a stretch: a player who was good enough that he was unafraid to speak his mind. He entertained us with shots at Matt Schaub and gripes about the front office not pursuing a big-play receiver. It's unlikely anyone in the locker room now will match that fearless outspokenness. The team won't miss that, but I sure will.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|Redskins rookie Colt Brennan was nine-for-10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns in his Washington debut.|
CANTON, Ohio -- Jim Zorn never saw 12 men on the field, he never saw 10.
In some coaching debuts, that alone would have been a small victory. But Zorn got a bigger one than that tonight.
It doesn't count, no, but a preseason 30-16 win over Indianapolis in the Hall of Fame Game came with calm coaches in control, not the sort of chaos some staffs have to work through at the start. Zorn, a former quarterback hired largely to mold a quarterback got strong play from his signal callers, who posted a collective 147.2 rating thanks to three touchdowns paired with three incompletions.
"I felt like it was a big win for me because it was my first time out, what we accomplished was pretty special," Zorn said. "I thought it was very smooth."
Zorn's lead quarterback, Jason Campbell, didn't play long, but didn't miss while he was in, hitting on all five of his passes.
"He wasn't just looking at it, 'Oh, just give me 10 plays and I'll get out,'" Zorn said. "He was really looking at finishing drives. So he gave me what I wanted and I think he gave the team what they needed as far as his leadership, his accuracy. He was very disciplined by staying with reads and not deviating from what we had planned."
The Colts may have helped the Redskins out with a failed onside kick at the start of the game that left Washington with great field position to go get a quick touchdown. But the Redskins also had a 15-play, 88-yard drive that ate 7:46 off the fourth quarter clock and put them up for good.
Zorn was also pleased that rookie quarterback Colt Brennan, who put in extra study time the last three days, handled his time in the huddle so well -- nine-for-10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
"He kind of stepped it up for himself in the last few days," Zorn said. "He had some really slick throws, a few of them were really dangerous throws. But he was looking and going to the right guy when we were dropping back. He even took a couple of checkdowns and scrambled and threw a touchdown pass."
Said Brennan: "He has a thing where we are responsible for knowing the formations, he doesn't call it, we have to know it -- and it being my first game, that's a lot of formations to remember and a lot of different situations. What it did was really made me grind out the study hours, kind of lock in the offense and it helped me be a lot more confident with what we were doing."
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
CANON, Ohio -- Right to second-half observations...
- Wow, a timeout for Indianapolis before its first play from scrimmage in the second half. To be clear, that's a touchback and a timeout before a snap. Just in case you were mistaking this for Peyton Manning's September-October Colts.
- Newly minted Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Emmitt Thomas did their interviews with the NBC crew in the booth, not from the sideline. No elevator here. They may be immortalized in bronze, but they'll still walk up 40 stairs to chat with Al Michaels and John Madden.
- Clinton Portis, who didn't play and Shawn Springs, who did, spent much of the third quarter wide of the bench area, chatting and seeming to enjoy life. Bob Sanders, who's not even dressed, was across the field from them. We've got coach-to-quarterback and coach-to-defender communication devices. How about stars-to-stars after halftime of the first of five preseason games? I guess those are called cell phones and we'd frown upon their use. Be fun to listen in, though.
- The second completion of Colt Brennan's NFL life was a beautiful 34-yarder that Billy McMullen did well to corral as it dropped right in front of him as he angled to the left side. Brennan may never make it at this level, but with that throw you can see the sort of thing that makes him intriguing. A few plays later he held it forever, took a sack and you could see what makes him very iffy. Then he immediately threw a 20-yard TD pass to Maurice Mann and you could what makes him intriguing. He surely earned more of a look -- finishing nine-for-10 for 123 yards and two touchdowns before he was replaced by Derek Devine.
- Jared Lorenzen dropped back, stepped up, took off, ran to the right sideline for a 9-yard first down and went out of bounds. Who, exactly, would rather step up and take him on than get an earful at a film review session? A few plays later, Chris Horton got both arms around the massive QB in the backfield, but it took a while to actually tip the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Lorenzen over. Some teammates could have taken a knee to catch their breath while they waited. You have to guess none of them have had practice at toppling a guy that size in the pocket, or have ever seen it done.
Back in a bit after we see what they're saying downstairs.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
CANTON, Ohio -- In-game thoughts from the dark front row of the press box at Fawcett Stadium:
- You're welcome, Jason Campbell. The Colts started the game with an onside kick, and failed to recover. Washington and its new offense began the game on the Colts' 45-yard line. Three plays and Campbell had a 20-yard TD pass to Antwaan Randle El. Indy was happy to oblige as the Skins try to get their new stuff off the ground.
- Washington defensive linemen Jason Taylor, Andre Carter and Cornelius Griffin are in uniforms, minus pads, sleeves rolled up. A winning, comfort-and-cool combination on the bench. What, no lounge chairs?
- Joseph Addai went out in the first series out with what officials deemed a "head injury." No way were we going to see him again. In the middle of the second quarter he was hanging with the running backs on the sideline.
- The Colts front-line offense did well to get from third-and-long to second-and-manageable twice in its first (only?) drive. Skins corner Fred Smoot should have ended it when a bad pass for Reggie Wayne hit him at the goal line, but he dropped it. Jim Sorgi found a lot of the Colts basic passes, then they got to the red zone and he couldn't finish things. And yup, that was it for Sorgi.
- Colts center Jamey Richard created a mini-stat team controversy when he snapped a ball through the end zone for a second-quarter safety. However, as it's officially written up in the press box, Richard's snap looked like a field goal attempt as it sailed over Quinn Gray's head and then skittered out the back of the end zone. Write that on the stat sheet, everyone will understand. Jeff Saturday won't do that when it matters.
- Late second quarter, I focused for a series on Indy defensive tackle Eric Foster, the undrafted rookie out of Rutgers who's had some encouraging things said about him. He's flipped between left and right tackle, working pretty hard. A couple times he helped steer a back towards a tackler. He goes a lot against right guard Jason Fabini, an 11-year veteran who Washington is hoping is a second-stringer. Foster looked tired in the long series. He was away from the conclusion of a couple plays in a row and wasn't running hard to get involved. I suspect he was pleased when the series ended with a 39-yard field goal attempt by Shaun Suisham -- which was missed.
- Forgot to mention this earlier: Chris Cooley had some interesting thoughts when he was asked about the Steve Smith-Ken Lucas fight in Carolina. It left Lucas with a broken nose and Smith with a two-game suspension for the start of the regular season.
"I don't think it causes a chemistry problem. I think it hurts the Panthers because Steve Smith is going to be missing the first two games. I think that's your biggest problem. But at the same time you've got to set down a rule that you can't just break someone's nose on the sideline. And if you know you're going to miss two games you maybe think about it a little more. I don't think it causes a chemistry problem, I assume that they get over it. It's not like we're a women's basketball team."
And how would women's basketball team be? "Just more drama."
Believe it or not, Chris got married this offseason.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
CANTON, Ohio -- Redskins 17, Colts 13.
No, not my score prediction for the Hall of Fame Game.
That's how many players each team has scratched.
The resulting starters include Colts left guard Dan Federkeil and strongside linebacker Ramon Guzman. For Washington we'll see the likes of running back Rock Cartwright, weakside linebacker Matt Sinclair and defensive end Demetric Evans.
One storyline that might have played out beyond the first quarter pertained to Washington's rookie receivers. But Devin Thomas didn't make the trip because of a hamstring problem, and now Devin Thomas won't play either because of a sore knee.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
CLEVELAND -- Got my first dose of Chris Cooley this morning, and I would say he's worth a high spot on any list of the NFL's most entertaining talkers.
I asked him about the Redskins new offensive coordinator Sherman Smith, who joined his old teammate Jim Zorn after 12 seasons as the Oilers/Titans running backs coach. While Smith is the offensive coordinator, he won't call plays. Cooley said Joe Bugel installs the run game while Zorn handles the passing game.
"I think it's more of a behind-the-scenes kind of role (for Smith)," Cooley said. "I know he has a large role in scripting the offense, choosing what plays we're going to run, evaluating players. We'll break up in an offensive meeting and Sherman will be the first guy to speak. And he has outstanding football quotes, I have a notebook here of about 100 Sherman Smith quotes. I write everything down.
"But it's an interesting role. He'll kind of sit up there and it's kind of a daily motivational deal that he does with the offense. He really doesn't install any plays with us, but you can tell the knowledge is there. You can tell he knows what he's doing. And like I said I think it's kind of a coaching office, behind-the-scenes role."
Clinton Portis also gave Smith a thumbs up, saying he liked a former running back holding that spot on the staff.
Before Cooley finished his visit with us at the Ritz Carlton, he thumbed through his notebook and offered these notes from Smith's talks:
- "If there is one thing we've learned from history, it's that we've haven't learned from history. We need to learn from our mistakes."
- "Something is measured not by how much it costs, but by how much is means."
- "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different outcome."
- "We must respect the football. I never did a fumble drill in practice. I felt like it was saying, 'I'm going to try to break into your house right now,' and then you're saying, 'OK, I've got a nine-millimeter, how close to you want to get?'"