Will Allensworth, otherwise known as 'Skin Patrol' over at SB Nation's Redskins blog, Hogs Haven, has taken the time to answer a season-opening '5 Questions' as we prepare for Thursday night.
Here is our little Q&A.
1. Big Blue View: The biggest question about the Redskins, I believe, is head coach Jim Zorn. What are your impressions so far? Does Zorn as head coach feel like a mistake, or can he do this job?
Hogs Haven: As much as I've liked his presence this offseason, it's still way, way too early to tell. I would not characterize the Zorn choice as a "mistake" yet, though, either. So far he strikes me as a likeable enough coach, a guy who can get his players to play, albeit in fake preseason games. A 3-2 preseason, with its relative highs (HoF game?) and extreme lows (Carolina), doesn't tell much about him one way or the other. Any prediction I'd make now would be based exclusively on his attitude, demeanor, and success thus far. Admittedly, none of these are telling indicators of how a coach will succeed in the NFL. I probably felt good, at the time, about Steve Spurrier. So... who knows? You're right, Jim Zorn is the big question mark on the team, I'm just incapable of predicting how it will play out just yet.
2. Big Blue View: Would you consider this a make or break season for Jason Campbell in terms of developing into a top-flight QB? If so, will he make it, or will he break the Redskins?
Hogs Haven: This is absolutely a make or break season for Jason Campbell as I'm not certain how much patience any quarterback can reasonably expect of a fan base before they turn on him. JC has been, at different times, a very good and very subpar quarterback in his NFL tenure, now entering its fourth season. If he ends the year with just about as many interceptions as touchdowns, with something below a 60 completion percentage, and we're not winning games (which we won't be if those two things are true) then I don't see any reason to devote dramatically more emotion into his continued success. I'm not saying that he has to be a Pro Bowler in 2008, but marked improvement over his previous numbers is a requirement.
It's unfortunate for Jason that he's had so many coordinators and has had to overcome an injury in his young career, but thems the circumstances. No one is owed an NFL starting job and you have to win with the hand dealt. I have every confidence that Jason Campbell will develop far more under this particular head coach than he has previously if only because the one aspect of Jim Zorn's coaching ability that I do not doubt right now is his ability to develop quarterbacks. He knows the position about as well as any player or coach in the league. If he can't get production out of Campbell, no one can.
Jason Campbell will make the Redskins, which is a predictable if not interesting answer given that I'm unwilling to give up on the 2008 season before it starts.
3. Big Blue View: The biggest thing that has surprised you about the Redskins coming out of training camp?
Hogs Haven: Training camp is all about surprises as we've been sitting about ringing hands over the coming season long enough now where every event, no matter how trivial, is new and fascinating and worthy of excessive print. I could rail off 10 things about this team that I wouldn't have thought to actualize at the end of last season. Of those things, off the top of my head, word that undrafted free agent Stephon Heyer is actually pressuring starting tackle Jon Jansen for playing time is baffling to the extreme. Barring injury, Jansen has started every single game of his Redskin career since his rookie season in 1999. That Jon Jansen is now being troubled for his starting spot is simply not something Redskins fans have had much experience with over the last 10 years. Does not compute.
4. Big Blue View: Give me a player or two Giants fans may not know about who could break out and make a difference for the Redskins this season.
Hogs Haven: Chris Wilson is one of them, as you probably don't know much about one of our backup defensive ends. Wilson came on fire at the end of last season and, with limited playing time, managed to finish 2nd among defensive linemen in sacks. Considering that Jason Taylor will probably miss the home opener, that Phillip Daniels is already out for the season, I anticipate Wilson's role to be increased in 2008. My other pick would be Anthony Montgomery, who Football Outsider's Pro Football Prospectus informs was probably the best defensive linemen on the team last year, but my understanding is that he still might not even win out the starting job against teammate Kedric Golston. I'm going to have to go with safety Reed Doughty. It feels dangerous making that pick for two reasons: 1) I'm not certain that Doughty is going to remain the starting safety for the team just yet, and 2) you guys may have heard of him, as he was our starter for much of last year after Sean Taylor was injured and then murdered. I choose him because he's just such an effort player; whatever Reed has received in the NFL, he's gotten in virtue of a high motor and working as hard as anyone else. With LaRon Landry as such a phenomenally talented player as he is, the team has the ability to use Doughty in a way to maximize his strengths. I think he could end up as an above average starting safety in this league and, since I don't think many people outside Washington are all that familiar with him, I say he's one of the unknown assets of this football team. For now...
5. Big Blue View: I saw your prediction on ESPN (and why the hell wasn't I invited to make my prediction?) that the Giants would go 7-9. Since you are now in enemy territory, explain yourself. What makes you think the defending Super Bowl champions will turn into pumpkins?
Hogs Haven: I don't, that was supposed to read 7 to 9 wins, which could alternatively be 7-9 or 9-7. I think a regression from 10-6 to 9-7 isn't dramatic enough to require all too much explanation, but if I had to explain the 7-9, I'd say: I doubt you'll catch the Eagles snoozing twice again in 2008 and while I think you will be an improved home team this coming year, I don't see you being 7-1 on the road again, especially with away games at Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota. In other words, I think you're going to lose more ground on that 7-1 road record than you are make up games on that 3-5 home record. I also think the AFC North this year, top to bottom, is better than the AFC East last year. Worse yet, you face the cream of the AFC North on the road, dumb luck, that. Throw in another season in the absolutely brutal NFC East, and I don't know if an 8-8 type season for the Giants is really all that remarkable a prediction. Nor do I think an 8-8 or 9-7 finish is anything deplorable given the circumstances of our particular division and schedule.
In sum, to explain my answer over at ESPN, they presented me with the proposition that the Giants will win 10 games in 2008 and asked me whether I agreed or disagreed. I disagreed because that prop depends on one of a few scenarios actualizing itself that I found unlikely. I do not think the Giants will win 10 regular season games in 2008. I think it is as likely as not that they win 9 games, but when you throw in the "and one playoff game" that probability falls below 50%. I think more likely the Giants are an 8-8 team (which is what I settled on as far as predictions go) and thus would necessitate two postseason wins to make that a solid bet in 2008. Most playoff teams don't win two games in the postseason, so... My gut told me that I didn't think an 8-8 Giants team makes it to 10 games.
If you guys was in the NFC West, you know, no prob, 10 games certainly. You've found yourself in exceedingly troubling circumstances though, to your (and Tom Coughlin's) enormous credit, have made the most of them in recent years.
Thanks, Will! Be sure to head over to Hogs Haven to see my answers to Will's probing questions.