Today's 'Five Questions With' segment is with Will at Hogs Haven, the fine blog covering the Washington Redskins.
1. Big Blue View: Joe Gibbs returned to coach the Redskins with great expectations. Things haven't worked out so far. Do you still believe Gibbs is the man for the job and will right the ship, or should he have stayed retired?
• Hogs Haven: Let me address quickly the first point you make, which is that things haven't worked out so far for Joe Gibbs. This is true certainly when compared to the success of his first tenure here. But let me contextualize what he has done. Joe Gibbs retired after the 1992 season. Since then, this team has won 10 games and a postseason contest exactly once prior to his arrival in 2004. It took Norv Turner 7 seasons as Head Coach to match what Joe Gibbs did in two years here in Washington. There's room for improvement, for certain, but I would still characterize his return as a success. Not per his standards but per mine, as someone used to coaching disasters in Washington. He's the best coach we've had in Washington since... Joe Gibbs.
I absolutely believe he is the man for the job and hope he remains through his contract and beyond. Him staying retired probably would've been better for him personally, but not for me. He brought a new hope to the fans and to the franchise that had been lacking for a decade prior to his arrival. Despite our record last year, the team is absolutely in a better position now than it was when he inherited a very bad Spurrier team with no identity nor any future prospect of success. I am a firm believer that, all things equal, contunity and chemistry is something to be treasured on a football team. That depends on keeping much of the same staff, especially at the head coach level.
2. Big Blue View: What can we expect from Jason Campbell? Is this a guy the Redskins will be able to build around for the foreseeable future?
• Hogs Haven: Jason Campbell rates very well by the David Lewin QB Projection system, which I hold in high regard. He had a very productive and encouraging first season given his unique circumstances. To name a few, he has not played for the same offensive system two years in a row since High School. 2007 will mark the first time he returns to an offense. He also had to transition from the guy getting third string reps on the team to the starting quarterback in a very short period of time. It wasn't ever clear that the rest of the team had fully familiarized itself with the offense either, and he was without starting RB Clinton Portis.
All of those things in conjunction point towards a disastrous first year, which never materialized in JC's case. His completion percentage (53%) left much to be desired, but he maintained a positive TD:Int ratio and had zero meltdowns. I thought it was a uniquely bad situation to have to start your quarterback career (especially with that defense... ugh) and he performed admirably. Given the effusive praise he's received from teammates, commenters, and the coaching staff this offseason, and based on what he showed us last year, I am confident that Jason Campbell is the future of the Redskins and we're better for it.
3. Big Blue View: In 2004 and 2005 the Redskins defense was outstanding. Last year, they were almost the worst in the league. Which defense will we see this year, and why?
• Hogs Haven: You just never know, as I couldn't possibly have predicted we'd be so bad in 2006 this time last year. What I will say is that you can observe some of the things we did wrong last year and why there's reason to think we fixed some things.
First, our secondary was dreadful in 2006, both productively and in personnel. Kenny Wright and Mike Rumph are not starting caliber CBs in the league, and with injury to Shawn Springs we were forced to put them on the field. Carlos Rogers probably wasn't as good as we asked him to be, either. To amend, we picked up Fred Smooth, David Macklin, and Jerametrius Butler in the offseason. All three are more accomplished and compare favorably to either Wright or Rumph, and Butler is essentially battling for the 5th CB spot on the team (to contrast, Kenny Wright entered the year at #3).
At linebacker we added London Fletcher in the middle to relieve Lemar Marshall of duties at ILB. Marshall performed admirably enough in 2005, but looked undersized in 2006 in this role. We've also said goodbye to Warrick Holdman, and we're much better off because of it. 2nd round pick Rocky McIntosh is the favorite at the Will linebacker, with Lemar Marshall competing for that spot as well. Marshall would be a fine WLB despite his smaller size, though I think Rocky wins the spot regardless.
Finally, to address the Archuleta spot, we drafted LaRon Landry. Even if we're buying concerns that Landry isn't the right fit at that position, Pierson Prioleau had already wrestled the starting safety job from Archuleta by the beginning of the 2006 season. Unfortunately, he was lost for the year on a freak non-contact injury on the first kickoff of the season. He returns, meaning we're at least better off at that position as we were in 2006. More than likely, though, Landry earns that spot and represents a huge upgrade.
The big question mark is our defensive line, which many felt needed addressing though it saw none. The coaches made their decision and I have faith in said decision, but if the Redskins falter in 2007 defensively it will probably be up front.
For brevity's sake, to answer your question, this defense will be better than 31st by year's end. A simple regression towards the mean would demand such a conclusion. Will they be closer to the top 10 than the top 30? Who knows. I predict a Top 15 finish at least.
4. Big Blue View: If the Redskins surprise this season and make the playoffs, the primary reason will be?
• Hogs Haven: In a toss up between defensive resurgence and Jason Campbell, I'll take Jason Campbell. He is the X factor on this team and we will succeed or fail behind his arm and understanding of the offense. I really think he has the weapons and has worked hard enough this offseason to fully represent the Al Saunders offense, which has historically and consistently finished at the top of the league.
5. Big Blue View: If the Redskins struggle this season and miss the playoffs again, the primary reason will be?
• Hogs Haven: In a toss up of injuries or the defensive line, I'll take the defensive line. It was the one part of the team unaddressed by the coaching staff that many felt was in dire need of a tuneup, and our inability to pressure the opposing quarterback could make it difficult to improve on our horrid turnover and sack production of 2006. I don't list Jason Campbell developing slowly because, in my opinion, we're already past that. He is the real deal and should perform adequately at worst, outstanding at best.
Thanks for the in-depth answers, Will. What do you think, BBV Nation, does this fella know his Redskins, or what?