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Monday Afternoon H-Back

I thought for a minute that Coach Joe was going to combust Saturday night. He was fuming mad, plenty vexed, and in no mood to talk to us media bozos. The man was as peeved as I have seen him on this job. Considering how bad the offense was in 2004 and how poorly 2005 was going after 11 games (5-6), you'd think I would have been privy to a more explosive outburst at some point before this, and not after a meaningless preseason game no less.

The man would not even bite when I tried to diffuse the situation and lobbed him a softball about the progress of his prized pupil, quarterback Jason Campbell. No was getting kudos from the coach on this night. It seemed like the word "concern" was used every 15 seconds. I thought that if Joe hadn't cut the thing off short with an, "Okay?" implying the press conference wasn't going to get any better than this and we'd better head to the locker room for more fertile interview territory, he might finally lose it. It was Joe Vs. The Volcano, indeed, on the lava was mounting from within.

So what do I make of all of this? Well, glad ya asked.

I'm not nearly as inclined to push panic buttons as Coach Joe, but I do think the first-team offense needs to show some signs of life Saturday in New England, because it'll likely be the last real dress rehearsal for the starters before the regular season (the top dogs don't play much in the final exhibition game as a rule). Their timing seems off, which is natural when you have to learn a new system. It's hard to think they're going to be clicking fully those first 3-4 regular-season games at least.

Joe tends to worry about the worst-case scenario - that's just his nature - and I think his exacerbation after the loss to the Jets may serve as more of a wake-up call to the team than the actual results of that game. I think that was the point, actually. I'm reading between the lines here - and I guess that's what blogs are for - but I also got the sense again Monday when Joe spoke that he expected more of the boys after playing nice with them this months. Last team to report to camp. Fewest two-a-days. Plenty of temperate practices at night under the lights. Essentially days off before and after games. Practices were nearly devoid of contact by design. Starters hardly asked to do anything at all in the first two preseason games.

It was all pretty cozy, and the thought was the players would be fresh and give a full effort when asked to. Not quite. They'll likely pay for it in practice this week. I think the intensity will be raised and they'll be some butt kicking going on by the coaches, and rightly so. But the bottom line is these are exhibition games, and this is what they're for. Plenty of time to step up in the last two games. Now, another ugly performance this weekend, and I might be more inclined to start ripping away, myself.

Other musings:

The failings of the offense are probably hurting kicker John Hall as much as anyone. He hasn't had a chance to attempt a long kick since struggling in the scrimmage with Baltimore over two weeks ago, because the team just isn't getting the bal into range. After being so injured the las7 two years, I'd want Hall to be kicking as much as possible in game situations this summer, but he's had just that 38-yard field goal against the Bengals. The lack of attempts has meant rookie Tyler Jones - ostensibly Hall's "competition" for the job - has not even had a shot at a field goal. Not good.

Derrick Frost is just not the answer at punter. He's a good guy and a hard worker, but I don't think you can go with him for 16 weeks and not expect him to cost you field position in at least a handful of games. His short kickoff Saturday set up New York's 87-yard return - Hall isn't kicking off anymore after all the leg problems - and had another chance to pin them deep with the ball at the 34, and sent it into the end zone instead. That freak injury to veteran punter Tom Tupa a year ago might still end up haunting the Skins this season.

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but Gregg Williams, the big fish of the defense, is a lot easier to find after games when his defense shines than when it struggles ... I'm not off the Mike Espy bandwagon completely, but after two drops over the weekend I'd say there's one foot out the door. The guy he's fighting with, David Patten, had a bad third-down drop, too, though ... Ever go to RickyGervais.com? He might be the funniest guy on the planet (the mind behind the original "The Office"). If you haven't downloaded his pod casts - the first 12 episodes of "The Ricky Gervais Show" were free on iTunes - do so ASAP ... I expect a bunch of guys will still be sitting out practice today - it begins at 4:30 - and we'll keep you posted on how the stretching goes, in case anyone was wondering.

Cheers.

By Jason La Canfora  |  August 21, 2006; 3:48 PM ET
 
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