Posted: Thursday August 3, 2006 1:13PM; Updated: Monday August 28, 2006 1:45PM
In his fifth year, Santana Moss led the Redskins, and was second in the NFL, with 1,483 yards receiving in 2005.
3. If the NFL really is trending toward valuing smaller, quicker receivers (see Steve Smith and Santana Moss), the Redskins are both in luck and smarter than any other team, because they're hoarding them. Washington doesn't have a receiver taller than 6-foot who is expected to make the final roster. There's Moss, Randle El and David Patten, all of whom are listed at 5-10, with Brandon Lloyd, Taylor Jacobs and James Thrash listed at 6-foot. Hey, it worked pretty well for Gibbs back in the '80s with the "Smurfs.'' Of this group, Jacobs appears to be in the most jeopardy of losing his spot on the roster. If Patten returns healthy next week from the viral infection that cost him his first week of camp, Jacobs, a second-round pick in '03, could be in his final month as a Redskin.
4. As dominating as the Redskins were on defense last season, especially during their late-season run to the playoffs, they really didn't get after the quarterback like a great defense should. Washington's 35 sacks ranked tied for 20th in the league, and defensive end Phillip Daniels led the team with eight. That's where free-agent addition Andre Carter comes in.
Carter is a speed rusher with rare athletic gifts, and in a defense coached by Gregg Williams and Greg Blache, I expect him to come close to replicating his career-high 12˝ sacks with San Francisco in '02. While some in Washington still lament the loss of linebacker LaVar Arrington and his playmaking skills, Carter is a definite upgrade in that department. And in football pads, he's as close to the perfect physical specimen as you would ever hope to sketch out on the drawing board.
5. I'm picking the Redskins to win the NFC East, but when I check out their schedule, my confidence in them starts to waver. They open at home with the Vikings on the first Monday night of the season, and you have to figure Minnesota will get something of an emotional lift from the opening game of coach Brad Childress' tenure. Then the Redskins face the short week and a Sunday-night date in Dallas, where they snuck out of Irving early last year with a rabbit-out-of-a-hat 14-13 win.
In their first 10 games, the Redskins play on the road four times against teams that had winning records in '05 (the Cowboys, Giants, Colts and Bucs) in addition to their annual trek to Philadelphia, where the Eagles figure to rebound to at least respectability. If Washington makes it to the three-game homestand it has scheduled for Weeks 12-14 in good shape, the Redskins should be in position to win their first division title since 1999.
Did anyone in the NFL do more with less than Redskins fullback Mike Sellers in '05? He caught 12 passes for 72 yards last season, but seven of those went for touchdowns. He also scored on his only rushing attempt of the year, a one-yard touchdown plunge. Not bad. Thirteen touches, eight touchdowns.
Fantasy Geek Note
Let's not overthink this one, fantasy players of America: Yes, the Redskins added two experienced receivers in Randle El and Lloyd, and they'll get their share of touches. But don't forget about the holdover pass-catchers, because you can be sure quarterback Mark Brunell won't. If you can't draft play-making receiver Moss, make an effort to land tight end Chris Cooley.
Moss and Cooley combined for 155 receptions, 2,257 yards and 17 touchdowns catches last year, and Brunell developed a superb comfort zone with both of them in his renaissance season. And by the way, you can expect Lloyd to be the team's No. 2 receiver, with Randle El being used primarily in the slot, on punt returns and on a variety of gadget plays.
Don't make the assumption that '05 first-round pick Jason Campbell is ready to step into the backup quarterback role and maybe even push starter Mark Brunell at some point this season. That's an extreme long shot. If anything does happen to Brunell this year, it'll be veteran Todd Collins who'll take the controls of Saunders' offense, not Campbell.
Collins and Saunders were together for five years in Kansas City, and the quarterback's familiarity with the offense makes him the easy choice to hold down the No. 2 job. The Redskins have not put a timetable on Campbell's development, and they are still schooling him daily on his footwork and the mastering of Saunders' massive playbook. Until those two areas of Campbell's game improve, he'll only be the team's emergency quarterback on game days.