NFC East: Jon Jansen
A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:
Who's out: Terrell Owens, WR, cut and signed with Bills
Who's in: Roy Williams, WR
Outlook: Williams was acquired so that he could complement T.O., but that thought was abandoned when Jerry Jones released T.O. after the season.
Williams becomes the de facto No. 1 receiver -- and he'll face enormous pressure. His '08 campaign was shaky at best, but he'll get every opportunity to shine this season. In my mind, 65 catches for 850 yards and eight touchdowns sounds about right.
Williams needs Miles Austin to continue to develop as the potential No. 2 receiver. Austin's speed could open things up for Williams to work the middle of the field. Williams has been frustrated by all the doubters, but they're not going anywhere -- unless he helps take the Cowboys to a playoff game.
Who's out: Plaxico Burress, WR, free agent awaiting trial
Who's in: Hakeem Nicks, WR
But Nicks is too much of a playmaker to redshirt. At some point this season, he'll be called on to play a significant role. I think Eli Manning is relieved to not have the Plax drama hanging over his head this offseason.
I know that rookie Ramses Barden has a body type more like Burress', but he's more of a project at this point. Early in the season, the Giants will lean heavily on the running game. That should buy Nicks and Barden some time to grow up.
Who's out: Tra Thomas, LT, cut and signed with Jaguars
Who's in: Jason Peters, LT
Outlook: The trade for Peters jump-started the offseason. Yes, he gave up too many sacks last season in Buffalo, but he'll bounce back this season.
He finally feels appreciated, and I think he'll turn into one of the best in the league. You also have to remember the loss of Brian Dawkins. But Quintin Mikell is a pretty solid replacement. You get younger, although Dawkins' influence in the locker room will be missed.
Peters should make the Eagles a better running team -- immediately. Now, we just need to see how Brian Westbrook bounces back from a couple of offseason surgeries.
Who's out: Jon Jansen, RT, cut and signed with Lions
Who's in: Stephon Heyer, RT
Outlook: The Redskins didn't really have any major losses, although Shawn Springs was a very solid presence in the locker room.
Springs was still talented, but he couldn't stay on the field because of injuries. Jansen gave the Redskins almost a decade of service, but he had no business starting this season.
Right tackle is Heyer's job to lose, and I think he'll nail it down in training camp. It's still a potential soft spot for this offense, though. Heyer has excellent size and pretty good feet for a big guy. But I'm not convinced he's the long-term answer.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Redskins coach Jim Zorn is pleased with what he's seeing from his offensive line during organized team activities, according to Matt Terl's Redskins Blog.
"I think we are better than last year, or coming into last year," said Zorn. "There were a lot more question marks. I'll give you an example, [Chad] Rinehart wasn't ready to accept the full responsibility of what he is already accepting this time. We did move Jon Jansen on, so we do have a clearer picture of the competition at right tackle. We've got legitimate guys working at left tackle to back up Chris Samuels. We've got [Derrick] Dockery in there and he has kept pace with what we were doing last year with Pete Kendall. We are in better shape, no question."
I still think the offensive line is the Redskins' weakest link but at least there are some encouraging signs. Now, if Mike Williams somehow wins that right tackle spot, then you have some problems.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
As far as NFL executives go, the Redskins' Vinny Cerrato is normally about the closest thing to an open book as you'll find. When his position as owner Daniel Snyder's right-hand man was eliminated by coach Marty Schottenheimer in 2001, Cerrato took his gift of the gab to ESPN, where he served as a college football analyst.
But before Snyder could even deliver the news that Schottenheimer was fired after one season, Cerrato was back on the payroll. The two have been inseparable ever since, which is something that annoys a lot of Redskins fans. Coaches come and go, but Cerrato is the one constant.
|Andy Lyons/Getty Images|
|Second-round picks Fred Davis and Devin Thomas have yet to contribute much on the field.|
He's now the executive vice president of football operations and he's led a delegation of coaches and scouts to the NFL combine this week in Indianapolis. I visited with him for about 20 minutes Thursday, although I did most of the visiting. Unlike our conversations in the past, Cerrato seemed determined not to shed any light on which direction the Redskins might go in free agency and the draft.
Cerrato asked whether Giants general manager Jerry Reese had pulled back the curtain on his plans for Plaxico Burress. I quickly informed him that Reese had e-mailed the plan over that very morning.
Cerrato's sick of hearing the same questions, but they're not going away anytime soon. When you draft two wide receivers and a tight end in the second round of the 2008 draft and they combine to do virtually nothing, the questions come from every direction. Devin Thomas has game-breaking speed, but his work ethic came into question last year. Malcolm Kelly had a knee injury and tight end Fred Davis out of USC seems like somewhat of a flake. Cerrato defended the draft picks, but he's also challenged each of them.
"You can't panic," he said. "The two receivers missed all of training camp. Malcolm had the knee injury. Devin and Fred will improve a lot. But I've told them them that our improvement as a team depends a lot on how they do this offseason. I'm putting the pressure on those guys."
Most people were relieved to see the Redskins bypass all the wild-spending in free agency to build through the draft last April. But out of nine picks, seventh-rounder Chris Horton was the only player to make a significant impact. On the surface, it looks like the Redskins grossly overestimated the core group of players that helped them make an emotional playoff run following Sean Taylor's tragic death in 2007.
Over the last eight years, the Redskins haven't made drafting offensive and defensive linemen a major priority. It's hard to believe they have drafted only four interior linemen in the first four rounds of the draft since 2000. And that's a large reason they now have the oldest offensive line in the NFL.
You can talk about the quarterback and the lack of a pass rush all you want, but this team's collapse in the second half of last season coincided with the breakdown of the offensive line. Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels, a former first-round pick, suffered a season-ending injury and veteran players such as Jon Jansen, Randy Thomas and Pete Kendall appeared to wear down. Kendall is an unrestricted free agent and coach Jim Zorn revealed Thursday that Thomas recently underwent surgery for a neck injury.
But since this league's all about the quarterback, it's important to note that Jason Campbell is entering the final year of his contract. He would like the security of an extension this offseason, but the Redskins aren't showing any interest in making that happen. I reminded Cerrato (not that he needed it) how Jerry Jones ended up paying Tony Romo an extra $10 million or so because the quarterback played so well early in a contract year. And the Cardinals are now dealing with a similar issue with Kurt Warner. Still, Cerrato told me the Redskins don't feel any pressure to extend Campbell at this point.
"He made some strides last year," Cerrato said of Campbell. "He cut down his turnovers. I thought he made great strides with that."
But I've spent enough time with Campbell to know that he functions best when he believes the organization is completely behind him. The fact the Redskins aren't even considering an extension will be weighing on his mind as he enters t
he 2009 season. I know it was something that bothered Romo in 2007, but he used it as motivation and ended up sticking it to Jones, who didn't mind that much since the Cowboys were winning games.
Cerrato said he's talked to the agents for all of the team's unrestricted free agents. He didn't come out and say it, but it's pretty obvious that re-signing free-agent cornerback DeAngelo Hall is a major priority. Cerrato confirmed that he will meet with Hall's agent at the combine to discuss a long-term deal. But with corners such as the Colts' Kelvin Hayden receiving lucrative deals already, there's really no hope of Hall giving the Redskins a hometown discount.
"We're going to meet with his people," Cerrato said. "He played really well for us last year."
On the surface, it doesn't look like the Redskins have the salary cap space to do anything dramatic in free agency, but Cerrato said the team is in position to be relatively aggressive.
"We'll have room to do things," he said. "We've moved some things around to put us in position."
|AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez|
|Many mock drafts have the Redskins selecting Texas DE Brian Orakpo with the No. 13 pick.|
Of all the things that go into the combine, Cerrato said he values the interview sessions the most. The Redskins normally have six or seven people sitting in the room, and they used to bring in a psychologist. Cerrato said that quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Brady Quinn were two of the best interviews he's observed.
"I like the interviews because it's sort of an unknown," Cerrato said. "But the most important thing in the whole process is the film. That's where you gather a lot of the information."
Cerrato said the best combine workout he's ever seen involved former Notre Dame safety Tom Carter, who had 18 interceptions for the Redskins from 1993-96. He said Carter had a 42-inch vertical and ran a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash.
Cerrato's hoping he can find someone with similar ability in the No. 13 spot. The Redskins could end up taking an offensive lineman or a pass-rusher. He said this draft has a lot of "tweeners" at defensive end and outside linebacker. Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo keeps showing up on mock drafts at 13, but Cerrato wasn't about to tip his hand.
With only four picks in April's draft, though, the Redskins don't have much margin for error.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
- Anyone remember Jon Jansen? He played 13 snaps against the Cardinals on Sunday.
- I'm glad the Redskins allowed longtime director of medicine Bubba Tyer to talk about Jason Taylor's gruesome injury. I've been kicked in the shin several times, but have never heard of compartment syndrome. My doctor buddy who reads the blog every day says that Taylor was nuts to ask for a second opinion. He said the condition was serious enough that every minute counted.
- Shawn Springs said we don't give T.O. enough credit for his football knowledge.
"T.O. doesn't get enough credit for his football knowledge," Springs said. "Like last year when I jumped the slant on [Terry] Glenn. T.O. would know I knew it was going to be slant, so he'd take it straight and then try to break it in. People see him as T.O. the arrogant guy, but he's a pretty smart guy. He knows football, and he works really hard."
- Some of you guys wanted more information on Demetric Evans.
- Should the Redskins be worried about facing a 3-4 defense?
- Funny note on rookie safety Chris Horton at the end. Also updates on Stephon Heyer and Malcolm Kelly.