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Monthly Archives: June, 2009



Offseason spotlight: What does second season hold for Zorn?

As part of NFL Network's 32 Teams in 32 Days series, takes a look at a key question facing each NFL team. Brian Billick and Jamie Dukes discuss the fate of the Redskins under Jim Zorn.


Setting Player Expectations for the 2009 Redskins Offense

Yesterday, I began to set goals for individuals in terms of helping the Redskins offense reach top-of-the league status.  Today, we need to look at the total production the team will need, and the means to that end.

The assumption with field goal kicking is that Shaun Suisham needs to be able to hit 75% of his attempts, subject to adjust based on the average difficulty of a kick.

Total Offense

The Redskins need to score just more than 2 TDs per game, and at least 2 FGs per game.

GOAL:  34 TDs, 42 FG attempts

Touchdown Production

The mark for Jason Campbell is going to be 23 total touchdowns.  For this exercise, that breakdown is going to be 23 passing TDs, and 0 rushing TDs.  Rushing TDs by Campbell will count towards his total.

For Clinton Portis, we’ll stick with the 9 rushing TDs set yesterday, and we’ll give Ladell Betts the remaining 2.

GOAL:  23 passing TDs, 11 rushing TDs

Receiving TDs

This is a little bit more tricky.  Let’s assume that the touchdown receptions will be split evenly between the Tight Ends and the Receivers.  Cooley should lead the field, but if Moss is going to bring the big play element back this year, he needs to lead the wide receivers by a good margin.  I think Fred Davis needs to be third on the team in receiving TDs this year.  That’s his number one responsibility.

As for the remaining 7 TDs or so, I’ll project multiple TDs from Randle El and Malcolm Kelly and Mike Sellers.  Chances are, Portis will get a TD reception just by being around the ball.

Chris Cooley: 7 TDs
Santana Moss: 6 TDs
Fred Davis: 3 TDs
Antwaan Randle El: 2 TDs
Malcolm Kelly: 2 TDs
Mike Sellers: 2 TDs
Clinton Portis: 1 TD

Passing Yardage

If Campbell attempts the same amount of passes last year, but improves his Y/A figure by 1.0 yards, that will add 500 yards to his season total.  That gives him a total of 3,500 yards.  We’ll throw in another 40 passing yards for Antwaan Randle El successful passes.

GOAL:  3,540 passing yards

For all those yards, someone has to be on the receiving end of them.  If Santana Moss does in fact provide 6 TDs worth of production, that’s going to mean another 1,000 yard season.  I’ll set his mark at 1,150.  Between Chris Cooley and Fred Davis, we set that goal at 1,000 yards.  Cooley is going to drop some, but Davis will pick up the slack.  Our No. 2 and 3 receivers need to combine for 900 yards.  We’ll save 300 yards for the backs, and the remainder goes to the 4th through 6th receivers.

Santana Moss: 1,150 yards
Chris Cooley: 680 yards
Malcolm Kelly: 475 yards
Antwaan Randle El: 415 yards
Fred Davis: 320 yards
Ladell Betts: 170 yards
Clinton Portis: 140 yards
Devin Thomas: 120 yards
Mike Sellers: 70 yards

Rushing Yardage

Clinton Portis needs to be held under 300 carries this year.  In the regular season at least.  That means that Ladell Betts will get to push 150 carries this year if he’s healthy all year.  There will be other runners in the mix as well, but we’ll only project for Betts and Portis.  Portis needs to average around last year’s 4.2, whereas Betts has 3.9 as a goal for him.

GOAL: 1,850 rushing yards

Clinton Portis:  1,200 rushing yards
Ladell Betts: 550 rushing yards
Mike Sellers: 50 rushing yards

So, in summary, we’ll link to this post throughout the season to see how individual players are doing relative to how we need them to play.

Hog Heaven Projection Table

PLAYER Pass Yd Rush TD Rush Yd Rec TD Rec Yd
Jason Campbell 3,500
Clinton Portis 9 1,200 1 140
Ladell Betts 2 550 170
Santana Moss 6 1,150
Antwaan Randle El 40 25 2 415
Malcolm Kelly 2 475
Devin Thomas
25 0 120
Chris Cooley 7 680
Fred Davis 3 320



Redskin Fans, You’re the Reason Albert Haynesworth Came to Washington

Albert Haynesworth would have had $20 million more if he signed an offer by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. So why pass on the big(ger) bucks to come to Washington?

According to Haynesworth during an interview on Sirius NFL Network and reported by

“You look at Washington, they’ve got a lot of the pieces together,”
Haynesworth said.  “They’re right there.  They’re in a huge market. 
It’s one of the largest markets in the world.  You’ve just got a large,
huge media outlet and it can be life beyond football.  Going to Tampa, I mean, great city.

“Looking at it from the offseason standpoint, I love the water.  I
love to be out in the sun.  It’s just awesome, but it would’ve been
like another Nashville.  Tampa doesn’t have that big market and they
don’t have a huge fan base like the Washington Redskins do
, so I think
it was just a choice just to look at it that way.”

(Emphasis mine.)

So, Skins fans, we helped Daniel Snyder save $20 million to land Haynesworth. My season ticket rebate should be in the mail any day now.




It’s Must or Bust for Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly

OK, so maybe Washington Redskins rookies Devin Thomas and
Malcolm Kelly didn’t have the best of seasons in 2008. But, they were rookies
after all and second round rookies at that.

So how would they look if you graded them on the curve? We
look at their performance compared to the other eight wide receivers selected in the
second round of the 2008 NFL Draft. The numbers are not encouraging.

Second round receivers averaged 27 receptions for 328 yards
and 1.4 touchdowns. The group averaged 12 yards per catch.

Thomas and Kelly caught 15 and six passes, respectively. Thomas gained 120
yards. Kelly only 18. Neither player is credited with a touchdown and neither
averaged as much as 10 yards per catch.

Five wide receivers were selected in the third round of the
2008 Draft. They averaged 10 receptions, 102 yards, for 9.9 yards per catch. As
a group, the third rounders delivered a single touchdown reception.

The average for the second rounders was boosted by Donnie
Avery (Rams), DeSean Jackson (Eagles) and especially by Eddie Royal (Broncos). Those three
combined for 10 of the 14 touchdowns scored by the 2008 second-rounders.

Jackson caught 29 fewer passes than Royal, but nearly the
same yards (Jackson 912 yards; Royal 980). Skins fans remember Avery from his
43 yard reception that set up the winning field goal to give the then winless
Rams the upset win at FedEx Field.

The Redskins face Avery, Jackson and Royal in 2009.

But wait. There’s more.

Avery, Royal and Jackson are under six
feet tall. The Redskins selected Kelly and Thomas because of their size.

West Coast receivers like Terrell Owens are over six feet tall. Size and height are prized because WCO receivers run through heavy traffic and must withstand jostling by 240 pound safeties and the occasional linebacker.

Height is supposed to equal ruggedness, again epitomized by Terrell Owens.

Height doesn’t seem to hinder Jackson or Royal. Both play on
West Coast Offense teams.

The measurables clouded Washington’s judgment last season. But,
I won’t criticize the pick of Thomas and Kelly.  Both picks were generally applauded when they
were made.

Thomas flew up the draft charts after the Combine. At one
point, he was deemed the best raw receiving talent in the draft.

However, Thomas started one glorious season at Michigan State. He was considered a project and 2008 was effectively his college senior season.

Kelly was a three year
starter at big school Oklahoma. Three year starter at a big time program is a predictor of pro success. He figured to match the profile of Art Monk.

The Redskins divulged that their scouts questioned Malcolm Kelly’s durability (knees) for professional football. But the Skins drafted linebacker Rocky McIntosh in spite of similar concerns. McIntosh is a starter.

To go by the numbers, Thomas is more likely to hit it big this year. He’s stamped with big play potential. Kelly’s college experience says he has much more to offer–if he consistently gets on the field.

Thomas has been more open in his effort to get better this
season. Kelly has been reticent. It’s a must-or-bust year for both players and
the offense that is counting on them.

One of them has to come up with 40 receptions and 5 touchdowns this year.

Donnie Avery Rams 53 674 12.7 3
Devin Thomas Redskins 15 120 8.0 0
Jordy Nelson Packers 33 366 11.1 2
James Hardy Bills 9 87 9.7 2
Eddie Royal Broncos 91 980 10.8 5
DeSean Jackson Eagles 62 980 14.7 2
Malcolm Kelly Redskins 3 18 6.0 0
Limas Sweed Steelers 6 64 10.7 0
Dexter Jackson Buccaneers 0 0 0 0


Are the Redskins capable of Averaging 21 PPG? (Part Two)

On Tuesday, I beat around the bush for a while before asking the question:

(A)re the Redskins capable of upping their PPG total by 5 points if they
get no more help from the coaches, defense, or special teams than in

We found that the Redskins, in terms of yards gained per drive, fit right into the mold of some average offenses from the 2008 season, including NFC East rivals Dallas and Philadelphia (for most of the year, the Giants offense was far beyond the realm of average, among the league leaders).

Today, the goal is to come up with some sort of answer to the question in the headline of this two part series.

In doing drive stats research for the first part of this article, I realized that the Redskins were not alone in the type of offensive environment that Jim Zorn created that values win probability over points maximization.  A surprise playoff team from last year who didn’t totally crumble in the month of December appears to have enjoyed the same philosophy.  That team: the Miami Dolphins.

If you saw the Ravens dismantle the Dolphins twice last year, you’ll know simply from common opponents that the Redskins were at least as good a team as the 11-win Miami team last year.   That’s not really in doubt.  Miami also finished their season playing their worst ball of the season, although not quite at the level that the Redskins were.  However, Miami’s offense was better than the Redskins offense was for 16 games.  By drives, the Dolphins ranked:

9th in yards per
13th in points per
1st in turnovers against
10 in DSR, the percentage of 1st and 10s converted into another 1st and 10

The only NFL QB who was intercepted less frequently than Chad Pennington in 2008 was Jason Campbell.  The difference between the Dolphins and the Redskins in drive efficiency was the same as the difference between the Redskins and the:

27th ranked Bears in Yd/Drive
32nd ranked Bengals in Pts/Drive
15th ranked Chiefs in Turnovers/Drive
26th ranked Titans in DSR

The point I’m trying to show here is that the Dolphins were better than the Redskins at their own offensive game last year.  Do you want to guess how many PPG the Dolphins averaged last year?  You can probably get close:

The 2008 Miami Dolphins averaged 21.6 PPG.  They were also the 7th most efficient offense per FO’s DVOA metric.  The message is clear: if Jim Zorn’s philosophy is to maximize win percentage at the expense of points, the Redskins offense needs to produce at the level that the Miami Dolphins did last year in order to be a super bowl contender.  You see, the Dolphins were not a super bowl contender last year, but they also did not sport a defense anywhere near as good as the defense the Redskins currently have.  However, the Dolphins defense only gave up 19.8 PPG, or almost equal to what the Redskins defense did last year, while ranking just a hair behind them in DVOA.  The Redskins defense is going to be much improved this year.

Clearly, the Redskins are capable of averaging 21 PPG.  The Dolphins proved that it was possible with limited offensive talent.  But let’s conclude this analysis by trying to figure out where those additional points will come from:

  • Jason Campbell needs to add about 500 yards (GOAL: 3,500yd, 20 TDs, 8 INTs) without throwing too many more INTs.  If he does this, he can become the 3:1 TD/INT QB the Redskins need.
  • It’s acceptable for Clinton Portis to have some decline, and the offense to improve overall.  The key is that he has to convert first downs at the exact same rate he already is.  Clinton Portis’ YPA fell to 4.2 (GOAL: 4.2 YPA, 9 TDs) after the final 8 games, and we can live with that kind of production.  His health is the main thing that we need from him
  • The Miami Dolphins did not have one receiver match the value of…Antwaan Randle El last season, but that’s a deceiving stat because their receiving corps were much better than ours.  The key was three different guys who could all convert on third down: Ted Ginn, Greg Camarrillo, and rookie Davone Bess.  The Redskins have two guys in Moss and Randle El who can do this, they’ll need a third as well.  (GOAL: any 3rd receiver; 40 catches, 2 TDs, Catch Rate of 65% or better).
  • The Tight Ends were the valuable receivers on the Miami roster.  Anthony Fasano and David Martin combined to be Chad Pennington’s two favorite red zone and third down targets, they combined for more than 60 highly valuable receptions and more than 900 yards with 11 combined TDs.  Are you reading this, Fred Davis?  (GOAL: Cooley and Davis combined; 100 receptions, 1,000 receving yards, 10 TDs).

Of course, the ability to reach the above numbers is contingent on the offensive line closing the gap between ours and theirs.  The Miami OL was not much better at the conclusion of 2007 than was the Redskins OL at the conclusion of last year.  They added three parts last year, one of them was former Redskins practice squad player Ike Ndukwe, the other two were FA LG Justin Smiley and the first overall draft pick, OT Jake Long.  The Redskins never had the benefit of the first overall pick, and they used the pick they did have on defense.  Smiley’s performance was mission critical to the Miami offensive line’s improvement last year, and the Redskins have a similar addition in Derrick Dockery.  The Dolphins OL was otherwise weak in the interior last season, which gives Redskins fans hope that we can have an effective offense with the aging duo of Randy Thomas and Casey Rabach in the middle.  As bad as that duo was last year, they weren’t worse than what Miami was running out there.  To their credit, Miami has since improved on their interior OL, but the key to the Miami pass blocking is with the offensive tackles.

The Redskins might not get great OL play this year.  But they passed up obvious oppertunity to improve in the middle of the line for the shot to improve on the outside.  By all means, they MUST improve at tackle because that’s the only area on the OL they gave themselves a chance to improve.  And so the goals of offensive production above become very easy to reach–more likely than not–if the Redskins get acceptable play from their offensive tackles.  This is the one position where the Redskins do not have the resources that the Dolphins’ offense did to improve.  And while the question marks are not quite what they are at the WR position, there’s fewer quality options with upside.

So imagine that.  After a week’s worth of analysis: the Redskins are more than capable of scoring 21 PPG, if only the offensive line pulls it’s weight.  They have all the other tools, except on the OL where an improvement must be made in pass protection without losing the drive blocking ability in the run game.  If Jason Campbell gets remotely adequate pass protection, 21 PPG isn’t a pipe dream — it’s a likely outcome.  If the pass pro doesn’t improve, the Redskins are probably good for 19 PPG, which makes them a borderline playoff team and not a likely threat to win the NFC East (more likely 2nd or 3rd place).

Crazy analysis sometimes arrives at the most logical conclusions.