Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DC Skins: 2009 Pre-Camp Preview

Eager for alternatives to the genocide-rationalizing R-word, "DC Skins" will be given a chance to take a few snaps. It has the advantages of brevity and lack of prior use. If we don't start thinking up alternatives now, it will eventually be changed, by court order, to the Washington Cooters or something even worse.

DC got off to a hot 6-2 start including wins at Dallas and Philly. Portis was on his way to 2,000 yards and steady QB Campbell looked as if he would never throw an interception. Then the aging line wore down, RBs Portis and Betts went out with sprained knees and the offense died. The tough defense broke down, exhausted. Team unity crumbled in the locker room; they finished 8-8.

Coach Zorn did his best to keep the boat steady despite the best efforts of the front office. Undermining Campbell served no purpose. Adding $100 million Haynesworth could be a great move or yet another bust in the grand tradition of Snyder's Free Agent Busts. During the offseason this is Snyder's team. Zorn needs to make it Zorn's team in this second year of his tenure.

DC Skins 2009: Offense
Longtime captain RT Jansen was let go; the job is young Stephen Heyer's to lose. If this Offensive Line can stay healthy they might be decent, but that hasn't happened in a dozen years. Pass protection was a problem all year; their 38 sacks allowed (23rd) would have been doubled if not for Campbell's tackle-breaking strength. Grade: C

Quarterback Jason Campbell has exemplified poise and dignity. What he needs this year is bellyfire. Finally getting a second year in a system should allow him to play instinctively, a zone he hasn't yet reached. In Seattle, Hasselbeck's second year under Zorn was a break-out. Campbell doesn't have a contract for next year, so this season is make-or-break. He clearly has the ability; does he have the willpower to raise his game to the next level? I think that he does. Grade: B+

Running Backs are solid with Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts, so long as both are healthy. When Betts went down, the DC Skins didn't have a good option to spell Portis. Portis had 342 carries last year and his yards per rush plummeted late in the season. FB Sellers is a monster blocker and went to the Pro Bowl last year. They have some inexperienced speedsters in the stable; can one of them emerge? Grade: A-

The DC Skins' Receivers underperformed last year. Moss disappeared under blanket coverage. Despite 83 catches, Cooley only found the endzone once last year -- on a throw from Randle El. The door is open for Devin Thomas to step up in his second year. Too often, that "West Coast Offense" resulted in a five yard reception on 3rd and 6. The blitz was very effective against them last year; hot receivers must make teams pay in 2009. Grade: B-

DC Skins 2009: Special Teams
The Punting game was a weakness last year. Acquisition P Hunter Smith should change this: last year his Colts were tied for first in yard per punt return. But who will return punts? Randle El has not done well. Grade: C+

Kickoffs and Kickoff Returns were very good last year, 1st in the NFC in both categories. Rock Cartwright continues to lead the team in returning and tackling. Grade: A

K Suisham was yet another disappointment from this musical-chairs position. It looks he'll be the guy in 2009; he has a decent leg but has poor accuracy beyond 40 yards. Too many blocked kicks last year, a killer. Grade: C-

DC Skins 2009: Defense
The Defensive Line received a much-need upgrade with DT Haynesworth and rookie DE Orakpo. They bolster a run-stuffing line that hasn't generated any pass rush for years. This unit is finally on par with the rest of the defense which has ranked in the Top Ten the last two years and, remarkably, has been a Top Ten defense in seven out of the last nine seasons (with only one playoff win to show for it). Grade: A-

The Linebackers are led by MLB London Fletcher. A sure tackler, Fletcher is the linchpin for the entire defense. If the new line does its job, his tackle totals will only increase. On the weakside, Rocky McIntosh seems to have recovered from his pre-2008 knee surgery; hopefully he'll get his explosion back for this season. Strongside is the team's biggest question mark. Experiments with rookie Orakpo seem like a bad idea and a confusing waste of time for the youngster. Better if someone in the stable of journeymen can step up, otherwise this position is the only weakness on the defense. Grade: B+

The Secondary was an elite unit last year until injuries exposed a lack of depth. But it also exposed #48 Chris Horton, a seventh-round savior with a nose for the ball. With another year under his belt, the Horton-Landry safety tandem could be lethal this year, especially if Landry's solid play can blossom into play-making. Both starting CBs are excellent in coverage and run support. However, teams will likely spread the field to force a choice between age and inexperience at the nickel and dime spots. Grade: A

DC Skins 2009: Schedule
On paper, the DC Skins play a middle-pack strength of schedule. However, they face the rising NFC South and play against five playoff teams on the road. After visiting the Giants in week one, the DC Skins should be 3-1 when they head to Carolina on October 11th. We'll have a real insight into how good the DC Skins are during this game. Grade: B

With an pre-camp preview Overall Grade: B+, the team has the potential to challenge for the division crown. 10-6 is my prediction; a wildcard ticket will be hard to come by in the NFC. If the team develops a natural passing game, their running and defense could win some contests.

If not, they'll cease to be the Skins ... and become the Skinned.
From "Bodies: An Exhibition"


Big Blue Monkey 2: The Quickening said...

Is Malcolm Kelly going to push or even surpass Thomas? The pre-camp buzz I've been hearing is that Kelly may be further along in his development, but that obviously doesn't mean anything in the OTA's.

Andrew Wice said...

I like Malcom Kelly, but lingering knee trouble has cost him practice time. I think Thomas is physically ready to contribute.

We'll definitely be keeping an eye on the position battle for WR.

Gabe said...

Love the review, but you're about 2 letter grades too generous with the WRs.

Santana Moss is undersized and injury prone, ARE plays out of position, and the rookies had miserable first years.

They are a D until they prove otherwise, IMO.

Andrew Wice said...

Naturally there's some grade inflation ... this is the time of year when every team is a Superbowl contender.

Moss certainly needs help to be effective, but nevertheless he's posted over 4,000 yards and 23 TDs in 4 years with the Skins.

WRs face a big transition in the pros. Rarely does a rookie WR come out strong. Most take 2 or 3 years. I'm definitely counting on that development to happen.