What We Learned
Overall, the first team offense did what all of you guys were hoping it would. Whole lot to like about that game if you're a Skins fan. But let's start with the only thing everyone will ever remember about that game - the sight of Jason Campbell's plant foot getting buckled by a direct blow to the outside of the knee.
O-Line Issues. I have railed against the Stephon Heyer/Left Side Of The Line experiment pretty much since the onset. Now you know why. That was the season right there Saturday night, folks, and had Campbell blown out his knee after that D End blew through the kid tackle, well, not many football people would have been surprised. It was an accident waiting to happen, and I don't want to hear anything this year about the Skins not getting any breaks, because they already got the biggest break possible in August.
Even so, losing Campbell for even a week is a big deal. The third preseason game is the week that's a dress rehearsal for the regular season, with the most game planning and an approach similar to what goes on when the games count. Every practice is precious for Jason, and thus for the Redskins for that matter, and who knows how long he will have some discomfort. It was imperative to get Campbell's footwork and movement precise, and now he may have to compensate a bit. It's a setback for sure - albeit it much, much smaller than what nearly happened - and they came a fraction of an inch from taking a year or more off the kid's career and having all of his progress and hard work this offseason go down the drain.
If they go with Heyer at left tackle against Terrell Suggs this Saturday they are courting disaster again. Hey, they have no depth on the O Line and few options - trust me I get that, even though it's a problem of their own creation (that's what the middle rounds of the draft are for) - but this has to stop. Like I wrote a week ago, too many people not named Bugel and Gibbs have told me this is an accident in waiting. Too many personnel people have told me the un-drafted kid just isn't ready to be protecting the blindside of the young franchise quarterback right now and that as his number of snaps in this role increases, despite him being serviceable for a series or two, that one huge error is always lurking.
"Right now, he can't play," one exec said. "I don't care what the Redskins tell you, he is not an NFL left tackle right now."
The Skins need someone with some experience there, especially against feisty defenses like Baltimore and Pitt. Todd Wades shoulder is okay now, and he wil practice Tuesday, he said. If it's me, he's at left tackle Saturday night. He's not a guard and we're getting too late in the game to turn him into one. If they lose a QB they will be in trouble. Let Heyer play once Brunell is in there - since it's not his blindside - and keep Pucillo at guard for now. (He's another guy who might be okay for a game or two, but has shown not to be a starting caliber guard at this point, and the Skins themselves signed him to be a reserve guy.)
"He's not helping them and he's not killing them," said one NFL personnel executive said of Pucillo. "He's okay in a spot, but he's not the guy you want to be counting on. Once Samuels comes back it should tighten everything up (along the line), but right now they have a gaping hole at left guard and they'd better find another left tackle until Samuels comes back. They have major depth problems on the offensive line and they're running out of time."
Another personnel exec who has watched the Redskins this summer said: "Pucillo is a better center than a guard. He can do alright and hold teams off for a while, but you don't want to go four or five games and he's your guy (starter). That's not who he is."
The Skins can say what they want about Heyer, but they put him in position to fail. I spoke to three personnel people who watched that game who all said the same thing - Heyer isn't close to being ready for this type of challenge now, he gives up leverage and interior position too easily, he plays too tall and can't get his backside close to being low enough when pass blocking. He got run over by Brett Keisel on that sack, providing zilch in terms of impediment.
No one disputes that he could develop into a fine player ... I just can't find anyone else who would be willing to expose a QB like Jason to this kind of experiment at this stage of his career.
Also, they left Heyer out there hanging. The protection did not roll often enough to Jason's blindside, there weren't many, or enough, chips, and he rarely had tight end help. They were leaving the kid on an island and got the end result you would only logically expect to get - Jason got crushed. Stephon says he took it as a challenge and "it gave me confidence to know I would have to do a lot more blocking on my own,"
Heyer says he wasn't surprised by how often he was on an island because from the practice work all week he expected it. Trust me, people sitting near the scouts in the press box Saturday were certainly shocked by it. "It was a joke not to turn the protection towards that kid," one scout said. "I was stunned by that."
I'm not knocking Heyer at all and I think he was a nice find by them and kudos for that, but it's just the situations they are putting him in are too risky. He is holding up okay for an un-drafted rookie, you just can't keep going into games with an un-drafted free agent left tackle.
Heyer says as far as he knows he is still the starting left tackle for this week ("If they start him against Suggs they are crazy," one NFL exec told me. "Suggs will eat his lunch. They'd better keep at least one tight end, maybe even two, next to that kid all the time and even then I'd never do it.")
Spoke to Wade today and he says he has been told only that he is a guard for now. As for other tackle options, Jason Fabini has played the part in the past, but looks awful this camp and is being used as an interior guy. The No. 3 LT on the depth chart right now - Taylor Whitley - had a brutal night Saturday according to all accounts from scouts I spoke to- and Calvin Armstrong caught the attention of some as a solid prospect, but he is a project at this point.
Oh yeah, and Jansen looked better. It seems he usually follows up a poor performance with a better one - he thrives with the chip on his shoulder - but undoubtedly needs more tight end help than he used to. Teams will certainly test him greatly once the real games begin. The best long-term solution to the guard problem might be to move Jansen there and put Wade at right tackle, but I don't see the Skins being willing to try that, so I'm not going to waste my blog breath on it.
The Defense Is Legit: They haven't allowed a TD yet, and is playing with an aggression and speed not send since 2005 and, save for along the D Line, have great depth in the eyes of scouts who have watched the Skins. Once NFC guy told me he thinks that the DBs, 1-through-10, might be in the top 3 in the entire league. Springs looks like he's back bigtime and Landry is already a factor in the run game. Guys like Reed Doughty and Leigh Torrence are showing well and if they are cut won't last long on the waiver wire. These are good problems to have.
Rocky could not be doing much more than he is, and continues to make strides in coverage as well. He is progressing so well that had Marcus's injury been long-term, there is a good chance he would have switched to the strong side because he has the closest ability and skillset to Marcus. Very shrewd by the Skins not to deal him for Lance Briggs, 'cause he's already better than Briggs against the run and will probably be better against the pass, too, by the middle of the season.
Special Teams: Had a scout who pays a lot of attention to special teams tell me the Skins may have more above average guys on their coverage teams than anyone else in the conference. Thinks the talent and personnel on teams is excellent. Some still worry about the kicker and punter, but the depth on teams has caught the attention of other clubs, and guys they cut have a good chance to catching on elsewhere.
Todd Collins Looks Like The No. 2 QB: He took a little too long to get rid of the ball a few times and mobility will never be his forte, but you can't knock what he's done. Mark Brunell is by no means a lock to be the No. 2, and some around the league figure the Skins might shop him for a draft pick, with money invested in Jordan Palmer and Collins and Brunell both set to make over $1 million in base salary. Atlanta called about Brunell early in camp and was rebuffed, but if they were to check in again this week, and were dangling a pick, maybe a deal gets done. Wouldn't shock me.
I Wouldn't Sweat The Running Game: This may be the only time that you ever catch me writing that I think Coach Joe is making too big a deal out of something, but he's being harder on the rushing attack than I am. He's pretty much ripped them unsolicited after both games, and, yeah, it's been ugly in there, but Portis has yet to dress, Betts has played about 3 total series of the preseason, Samuels is out, the left side is unsettled and they aren't running their more elaborate plays much in the preseason. If there is one thing this team knows how to do its slam the rock.
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