by Eric Stashin
I recently had the opportunity to post 5 questions to Corey Masisak, who covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Times (click here for his coverage). He gave us great insight into the upcoming season, including looks at Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Jason Taylor, just to name a few. It really is a must read if you have either drafted, or are thinking of drafting, any of the key players on the Redskins, so let’s take a look at his thoughts:
1. Clinton Portis had what could be conceived as his worst season as a professional, rushing for 1,262 yards and average 3.9 yards/carry. Obviously, those numbers are not bad, but he has rushed for over 1,500 yards on 3 separate occasions, so how do you see him “bouncing back” this season?
Corey Masisak: It seems like all signs in this camp are pointing to a big year from Portis. Jim Zorn has pledged to use him as a workhorse instead of the spectre of a timeshare that loomed sometimes when Joe Gibbs was in charge. Zorn is considered a QB guru, but Shaun Alexander had plenty of great seasons in this offense. What’s more, Portis has been healthy in camp for the first time in three years, and actually took part in the offseason workout program (even if his “offseason committment” was part of his new contract). He’s had 325+ carries in three of the past four years which might be a concern, but Portis could be in line for another 1500+ type of year. And all of the talk about Portis getting the lion’s share of the work should make it easier to get Ladell Betts as a handcuff.
2. Out of Antwaan Randle El, Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, who do you think will emerge as the main receiving target for the team both regularly and in the red zone?
Corey Masisak: Randle El was having a great camp before a hamstring tweak slowed him down for a week, but I think Moss will be the go-to guy in this offense. It is possible that Cooley approaches similar numbers in catches, but Moss should mix in some big plays as well. Maybe his career high of nearly 1,500 yards is a stretch because of Randle El and Cooley stealing catches, but I think he can top his second-best season (1,105 in 2003 with the Jets). Cooley seems like a natural for the red zone, but WRs coach Stan Hixon told me earlier in camp that Moss was the best red zone guy on the team because of his ability to separate in tight spaces. It seems like Zorn’s offense will throw a lot in the red zone, but the wealth might get spread around a lot between those three and the backs out of the backfield.
3. The team’s biggest acquisition was Jason Taylor, which certainly is a huge upgrade to the defense. What type of influence do you see him actually having this season?
Corey Masisak: Andre Carter had double-digit sacks last year, but the addition of Taylor could push Carter’s total even higher. They have been flipping sides during camp, and both will be counted to pressure the QB in Greg Blache’s less blitz-happy scheme than previous defense boss Gregg Williams. I would think the extra pressure from the two ends could mean a couple of extra picks for free safety LaRon Landry, because there could be some fluttering passes up for grabs for him to rundown. Still, he will be playing free safety full-time after shifting there when Sean Taylor died, so that could affect his tackle numbers and he’s been hurt most of camp.
4. How do you see Jason Campbell performing this season? If he struggles, do you see a scenario when Colt Brennan takes control of the offense?
Corey Masisak: To me Campbell is one of the most intriguing QBs in the league, both in real life and for fantasy purposes. He has been OK but not great as a starter, and he has to learn what seems like his 34th new offense in his college/NFL career, but the first-team offense has looked pretty effective this preseason. He’s got a big arm to hit Moss deep, but his accuracy on the all of the timing routes this team will run will determine his overall numbers. To me, he is the perfect guy to draft as your second QB. There could be a huge upside. I think he could end up in the 10-12 as a fantasy QB, but no non-Redskins fan will be drafting him there.
There is no scenario where Colt Brennan takes over for the Redskins this season (OK, it will take two injuries). Brennan is gaining plenty of poularity in this town for his preseason exploits, but he is not close to being ready to face starting defenses at this level. If Campbell struggles badly enough to lose his job, it will be Todd Collins — who went 4-0 in Campbell’s place after injury last season — taking over. If both of those guys struggle, well, the team just isn’t going to be very good.
5. Who do you see stepping up and emerging as the third WR? Is there any chance of Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelly emerging to fill that role?
Corey Masisak: A few days into camp it looked like those two guys would be battling for that spot, but both have had injuries. James Thrash is way ahead of them right now for the No. 3 spot, but they could both work into the top four at some point during the season. That said, it could take half a season to do it and whoever the No. 3 guy is fifth on the pecking order behind Moss, Cooley, Randle El and Portis when it comes to looks. If I were going to take a late-round flier on one of them, I’d say Kelly just because he might be a better red zone guy and Thomas is probably a little more raw.