Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Notes, quotes and observations (Tue, 8/24)
What you should know from the day at Redskins Park:
***QB Donovan McNabb (left ankle) will not play against the New York Jets on Friday, coach Mike Shanahan said.
McNabb’s ankle is so sore that he wouldn’t be able to play even if this were the regular season, Shanahan said.
Sure, this is preseason, so this isn’t cause for panic just yet. But remember that McNabb hasn’t played all 16 games in four of the last five seasons. Considering that his durability is in question from the get-go, it doesn’t bode well that he’s already banged up.
Another concern is that this week’s game was expected to be McNabb’s last opportunity to really grow in the offense in a game situation. His timing is still a work in progress. He could get extra reps against Arizona next week if he’s healthy, but the benefit of playing McNabb doesn’t outweigh the risks. At this point, then, McNabb’s next extended game action will probably be Sept. 12 against Dallas.
On the bright side, playing with the starters could be very valuable experience for QB Rex Grossman. McNabb’s recent history says that Grossman is going to have to play with the starters at some point. My guess is that we’ll learn a lot of Grossman’s abilities when he faces the starters on NFL’s reigning top-ranked defense on Friday night.
***FB Mike Sellers (left knee) also won’t play against the Jets, Shanahan said.
Sellers is about as tough as they come, but there’s no reason to risk further injury in the preseason game. That said, his injury highlights their lack of established depth at fullback. Darrel Young has had a relatively good camp—his lead blocking has been pretty good and you can tell that he relishes contact—but he’s inexperienced. Heck, he just started playing the position this year after converting from linebacker. Perhaps newly-acquired veteran Carey Davis can help, but he’s got to get caught up on the offense. Sellers is also extremely important to the special teams. Who took his place on kickoff return duty against Baltimore on Saturday? Will Montgomery.
***WR Malcolm Kelly has also been ruled out, Shanahan said. Shanahan noted how Kelly was running “almost full-speed straight ahead” during his sideline work today. That doesn’t sound like a player who is on the cusp of returning. After he can go full-speed in a straight line, he’s got to be able to cut.
This is the biggest setback yet for Kelly. He’s fortunate that his competition for receiver roster spots isn’t elite because the team would be quicker to move on without him if it were. But Kelly is the tallest receiver they have right now (6-4), and he has very good hands. The team is wise to give him every bit of leeway possible.
Shanahan sidestepped a question about whether Kelly could make the team without playing in any of the preseason games.
“Let’s not count anybody out,” he said “Let’s just take it day by day.”
Kelly is gonna get every chance possible to make it.
***Vinny Cerrato, former executive vice president of football operations, on 106.7 The Fan this afternoon threw former offensive coordinator Sherman Smith under the proverbial bus, saying it was Smith who recommended to team management back in 2009 that DL Albert Haynesworth would fit in the Redskins’ locker room.
“I think [Smith] told us what he saw and observed over the years, [that] the guy had matured,” Cerrato said.
Smith, who was a Tennessee Titans assistant for all of Haynesworth’s tenure there, called Cerrato’s statement “inaccurate.”
Smith said in a phone conversation this afternoon that he told the Redskins “buyer beware,” advice based on personal experience and conversations with former colleagues.
“Do I think Albert is a bad guy? Absolutely not,” Smith said. “Do I think he can be disruptive? Yes.”
Smith pointed out that the Redskins certainly weren’t going to give Haynesworth a record $100 million contract based on what he said. He didn’t have close to enough power around here for that.
It’s widely believed that owner Daniel Snyder drove the effort to sign Haynesworth. Cerrato, meanwhile, didn’t take any responsibility on the air this afternoon for the signing.
Earlier in the day, Cerrato defended it on Sirius NFL Radio.
“I think it was a wise signing at the time we did it for why we did it, yeah,” he said. “Would I do it now with all this stuff? Then it’s a different story.”
***It’s clear that Mike Shanahan is turning off the spout of information as the regular season approaches. He even warned reporters today that he detailed the status of the injured players because it’s only the preseason. In the regular season, that’s not happening. Shanahan also is getting vaguer when speaking about players, in general. His answers to questions have become a coachspeak manual.
Shanahan’s preference for secrecy is why he’d never agree for his team to be featured by “Hard Knocks,” the HBO reality show that chronicles an NFL team in training camp. This week’s opponent, the New York Jets, are featured this summer, which is why it’s a topic of conversation.
“They asked me to do it a couple times in Denver and I didn’t feel very comfortable with it,” Shanahan said.
***RB Willie Parker used the word “weakness” today when evaluating his performance this summer in pass protection. He knows it’s an area that requires improvement.
Thing is, the Redskins knew what they were getting in this regard with Parker and Larry Johnson when they signed them. They don’t have reputations as quality pass blockers, and that’s not gonna change in one preseason game. In other words, it’s difficult to justify cutting either one of them based on their pass blocking deficiency. If that’s the case, why did they sign them in the first place?
***Long snapper Nick Sundberg has snapped very well in practice and both preseason games since the Redskins signed James Dearth. That’s no coincidence.
“It kind of lit a fire under me, and I’ve actually learned quite a bit from James,” Sundberg said.
They’re watching film together, and Dearth is tutoring Sundberg about blocking techniques. Keep in mind that there’s more to being a snapper than just the snapping. Blocking is crucial, and the adjustment from college to the NFL means bigger, faster defenders to contend with. To combat them, Sundberg is working on getting deeper in his sets. It’s a significant adjustment.
“In college you might have a few guys on every team that are lightning-fast, blazing, phenomenal athletes,” he said. “But here everybody is that guy.”
Credit Dearth for being a team-first guy, even though it doesn’t necessarily help his attempt to win a roster spot.
***Wondering why WR Joey Galloway has hardly been noticeable in the preseason? You’re not alone. Shanahan was asked today about Galloway’s scant playing time, despite being listed as a first-stringer.
“It’s more to evaluate the younger players than not give Joey a chance,” Shanahan said.
That said, Galloway didn’t exactly drop jaws in training camp. He has showed he still can get separation on deep balls, but whether he can consistently get it on that and other routes is still in question. Coaches are constantly evaluating film of everyone’s play in practice, so it’s possible that Galloway is distinguishing himself. Until he does it in a game, though, we’re left to wonder what exactly he has left.
***On the other hand, WR Anthony Armstrong is standing out. I’ve been impressed by how smoothly Armstrong runs. He’s very fluid. That, coupled with his speed, is proving to be an asset. His blocking has been OK, too. So far, he has appeared to be the most complete receiver the Redskins have aside from Santana Moss. Another good game on Friday probably would secure a roster spot for him.