- The Washington Times - Monday, July 21, 2008

The Monday Morning Quarterback started his first day back in 2008 writing about the pleasures of opening training camp on a Sunday morning, such as no traffic on the Beltway or the Dulles Toll Road.

That got scratched when Phillip Daniels, a starting defensive end and one of the true good guys on the team, went down with a serious knee injury during the morning practice.

The column was filed, and then came the really big news: the trade for six-time Pro Bowl end Jason Taylor.

Get me rewrite. Again.

Q: So much for the new conservative Dan Snyder, huh?

A: No doubt. After an offseason of inside page moves - the since-released Jerome Mathis, Erasmus James, Stuart Schweigert - Snyder and his right-hand man, Vinny Cerrato, barely waited for the brace to be placed on Daniels’ injured knee before they made the big splash and traded for the NFL’s active sacks leader.

Q: How good is Taylor? He’s about to be 34, which is pretty ancient for a pass rusher.

A: He’s a year and half younger than Daniels, and his 11 sacks last year were more than any Redskins player has had in six years. Taylor is still the best Redskins lineman since Charles Mann was in his prime nearly two decades ago.

Q: Did the Redskins mortgage the future to make this move?

A: Not unless you consider a second-round draft choice in 2009 and a sixth-rounder in 2010 plus a lot of salary cap room consumed this year and next mortgaging the future. If Taylor makes a smooth switch from the right side to the left, it seems like a no-brainer.

Q: Back to the day in general, what happened besides the injuries?

A: Since the players wore light pads and shorts, it wasn’t a day for the linemen to shine. So the skill position players really got to show their stuff. Quarterback Jason Campbell’s arm looked strong. His receivers generally beat the cornerbacks in one-on-one matchups. Fourth-round pick J.T. Tryon was a rare exception to that rule, and the cocky rookie whooped it up appropriately after a couple of nice plays.

Q: How did Shawn Springs look after blowing off most of the offseason again?

A: Springs was beaten by Antwaan Randle El for a long touchdown, but he seems to be in excellent shape thanks to a strenuous regimen with a personal trainer.

Q: How is a Jim Zorn training camp different than a Joe Gibbs camp?

A: The practices are shorter, but their tempo is faster. To put it musically, a Gibbs camp was WMZQ. Zorn’s is DC-101.

Q: How did the rookie receivers look on their first day?

A: Devin Thomas used his strength to push off and gain leverage on defensive backs. Malcolm Kelly beat veteran Fred Smoot on a diving catch. Fred Davis didn’t oversleep.

Q: Did Clinton Portis dress up as one of his characters for the start of camp?

A: No. Portis has rarely come in costume since the 2005 season, but he did wear sweat-inducing black tights when everyone else was in shorts.

Q: How about Chris Cooley? Any special outfit?

A: Nope, but the Pro Bowl tight end, who is growing a beard, was the first player in the ice tub after the morning practice.

Q: You just mentioned Randle El, the rookie receivers, Portis and Cooley. Throw in Santana Moss and how does Zorn keep them all happy?

A: That’s the kind of problem coaches love to have. Asked about Portis taking advantage of the talent around him, Zorn said, “Putting three wide receivers on the field - we’ve got a slew - and then Chris Cooley on the field with Clinton Portis, how are you going to defend us?”

Q: So Sunday was just Day 1 of the long march to the Super Bowl in Tampa, right?

A: Not hardly. The Redskins have a coach who has never been a coordinator, let alone the big boss. Their quarterback remains unproven. Their front seven on defense was thin before the trade for Taylor. And although they made the playoffs last season, the Redskins were 10-18 from Sept. 11, 2006, through Dec. 5, 2007. They’re in the rigorous NFC East and play all three of their division road games before Columbus Day; they could be out of the race before baseball’s league championship series begin. A .500 season would have been a decent start to the Zorn era, but Taylor, the 2006 defensive player of the year, could make them contenders.



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