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Redskins Insider: Make do or makeover
Leave it to the normally quiet Rocky McIntosh to sum up the stakes for many Washington Redskins players and coaches when they report to training camp Wednesday.
Opining on his Twitter account Friday night, McIntosh wrote: "Do or die this year skins fans... I choose Do. And do it BIG."
Do or depart may be more appropriate.
The odor of a 2-6 second half still lingers, and with quarterback Jason Campbell in the last year of his contract and numerous Super Bowl-winning coaches available, only big seasons will stop ownership from undergoing another massive makeover.
With the first workout coming Thursday, here are 10 players/positions that need to do it big this year.
1. Jason Campbell
Owner Dan Snyder tried to replace Campbell twice this spring, but a lack of draft picks left the Danny out of the Jay Cutler-Mark Sanchez fray. Halfway through last year, when the Redskins were 6-2, he had thrown eight touchdowns and no interceptions. The playoffs seemed like a sure thing, and teammates were wondering why a contract extension wasn't on the table. But then came the 2-6 collapse and a final ranking of 23rd in passing.
A key for Campbell is his work in the middle of the field. Unofficially, his passer rating was 78.5 between the 30-yard lines with four of his six interceptions, compared to 89.9 (inside the Washington 30-yard line) and 94.8 (inside the opponent's 30).
2. Clinton Portis
Campbell may be the player who needs to raise his game the most, but Portis is clearly the most valuable on the roster. If he's healthy for 16 games, he'll produce and the Redskins have a chance to make the playoffs. If he's nursing injuries through November and December, the offense will again sputter.
The Redskins went 5-1 when Portis gained 100 yards. Even though his 1,487 yards were fourth in the NFL, he reached 100 yards only once in the season's second half. Zorn must take steps in the first half to nurse Portis' workload so attrition won't set in before Thanksgiving.
3. Whoever plays right tackle
Veteran Jon Jansen is out and, well, who's in? Stephon Heyer enters training camp as the starter with competition coming from Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges. It would be stunning if one player starts every game at this spot.
The new starter must replace Jansen's run blocking ability, so the Redskins aren't one dimensional and are forced to run left behind Chris Samuels and Derrick Dockery. In pass protection, Heyer-Williams-Bridges must be efficient enough that Zorn doesn't need to give them double-team help.
4. DeAngelo Hall
Hall's wacky 2008 included a trade, a new contract (seven years, $70 million) with Oakland, a miserable opening performance against Denver, a midseason release and a productive second half with the Redskins. Arriving at midseason, he recorded eight pass breakups and two interceptions.
Armed with a six-year, $55 million deal, Hall must provide what the Redskins haven't had for years: a game-breaking cornerback who isn't afraid to gamble and can flip the field with interceptions and long returns. If he is used covering the slot receiver, that could happen.
5. Chris Samuels
The first 2009 sight of Samuels was him limping through Redskin Park, his right triceps bandaged after surgery and a crutch helping him along after another knee surgery. Samuels turns 32 on Tuesday, this is his 10th season and the mileage is adding up.
Because the decision-makers have neglected to draft a player to groom or fill in for him, Samuels remains a vital part of the offensive line, a unit that will be under scrutiny from the outset. If the perennial Pro Bowl selection returns to form, Campbell doesn't have to worry about his blind side; if Samuels struggles with injuries, the Redskins are in trouble.
6. Albert Haynesworth
His contract ($41 million guaranteed) alone would rocket him to the top of this list, but he's coming to a defense that ranked fourth in yards and sixth in points, so there are bigger issues than his performance entering camp.
This is where he'll make a difference: The Redskins were 27th in sacks per pass attempt - he has to collapse the pocket to pressure the quarterback into mistakes the secondary can turn into interceptions; and he needs to help the Redskins stop teams late in the game - in the final four defeats, opponents had 12 drives of eight or more plays.
7. Andre Carter
He's durable (hasn't missed a game since coming to the Redskins) and a workhorse (will probably lead the defensive line in snaps played again). But he has only 20.5 sacks in 48 games for Washington - not the kind of production befitting a right defensive end.
Carter may benefit most by Haynesworth's arrival. Tennessee defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch had 31 sacks in his first three full seasons with the Titans. Carter should get more one-on-one matchups, and there's no reason why he can't achieve double-digit sacks.
8. LaRon Landry
Granted, he was drafted with the idea of playing near the line of scrimmage to stop the run and blitzing to pound the quarterback - a role that changed with Sean Taylor's death. But two takeaways in 32 regular-season games? There isn't one play Landry made last year that sticks out.
Part of it is on the coaches, who need to put Landry in more playmaking situations. But the majority of it is on Landry, who rankled the staff by skipping all but one organized team activity practice.
9. The 2008 draft class
Teams insist we wait three years before evaluating a draft class. No chance. The 2008 group of 10 picks earned a D - only safety Chris Horton's stunning emergence saved it from a failing grade. The Redskins got nothing from the second-round group of Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis.
Thomas and Kelly will be under the microscope. Thomas totaled more pass interference penalties (two) than touchdown catches (zero), and Kelly was limited to five games because of a knee injury. Can either overtake Antwaan Randle El for the No. 2 spot? Can either become a trusted target for Campbell? If they can, it makes the offense much more dangerous.
10. The kicker
Shaun Suisham led the NFL with 10 missed field goals last year (26-for-36). Dave Raymer will provide the training camp competition.
An offense that tends to stall between the opponents' 20- and 30-yard lines needs better consistency from its kicker.
By Brahma Chellaney
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