SportsIllustrated.com just posted their preview for the Redskins, and we were able to catch up with the SI.com author, Adam Duerson, who answered our questions, including why so many professional columnists, including Peter King, have the Redskins winning only 6 games this year.
Hogs Haven: In your preview, you had a lot of conversation with Haynesworth and Phillip Daniels. What kind of season statistically do you think the defense has to have in order for Haynesworth to be worth the money and hype, including the number of games Albert has to play?
SI.com: You nailed it on the head: Haynesworth's impact needs to be measured in team statistics, not by Haynesworth's sacks or tackles alone. And yes, that starts with getting Albert on the field. I pointed out that he's missed time-12 starts in the last three seasons-to injury and suspension. In talking to Haynesworth in August, he seemed determined to go 16 straight. Shame on me for believing him. The missed practices and missed preseason games already should be a warning. Now, if this guy gets on the field for 14 games I'll be shocked.
So what do I need to see to make him worth the money? Ideally you'd like those 14 or so games. And then you want to see the turnovers and sacks-albeit not all from Albert-bump up a bit. How a defense consistently ranks so highly without getting pressure in the backfield is beyond me. For what the Skins paid, I think you have to see a jump into the top third of the league in sacks, which would mean about 15 more than their mere 24 last year. Lucky for Haynesworth he has Daniels (who still has something left in my book) and Orakpo (who'll be raw but respectable) contributing to the cause in ‘09.
Hogs Haven: Looking at this Redskins team and comparing it to the surprise teams from the last couple of seasons, specifically Atlanta last year, isn't there plenty of reason to think this team is talented enough to overcome the low expectations from league analysts?
Well, the difference is that most of those surprise teams came out of nowhere with relatively new lineups or coaches. Atlanta, Miami, Baltimore-the teams I'm presuming you're looking to for hope-were largely retooled last year and they had some guys overachieve or exceed the media's expectations. Washington really hasn't done much to change though, have they? I'll give you the defensive changes. But the offense, which rolled over late in ‘08, is really the problem here. And what's new? Nothing for the good that I can tell. I think you can only go so many years hoping that something will click with guys who've been together a while-Cooley, Campbell, Moss, Portis, Randle El-before you have to start over. This has to be that year, right?
If you put Washington in a division without the East's defensive pedigree, I think their chances for surprise would be quite higher. Then you'd be in the same boat as, say, Arizona last year. That team hadn't changed much in a few years, and I think they just kinda gelled in a pushover division. (Then they got hot, confident, etc...) But the NFC East and NFC West are mightily different. No pushover defenses to speak of.
Hogs Haven: Is Chris Cooley a top-5 tight end in this league anymore? There is a lot of talent at the position these days. What is your perception of the kind of player he is and do you think he has already played his best years?
Eighty-three catches at tight end is pretty hard to argue against, don't you think? If anything, I think Cooley's stats say something about Jason Campbell's conservativeness. Don't you wish he was throwing just some of those balls a little deeper, taking some risks? I spent less time watching the tight ends this summer, so I won't dwell on the subject, but I think this is a position you should consider yourself set at for a number of years.
Hogs Haven: Peter King has the Giants 12-4, Cowboys 10-6, Eagles 9-7, and Skins 6-10. The Sporting News has the Skins at 4-12. Why do you think so many columnists rank the Skins so low considering all the additions Washington made and all the problems the other NFC East teams are having? The Eagles lost starting LB Bradley, Brian Dawkins, and Jim Johnson (RIP). The Cowboys have done nothing this off-season to upgrade their suspect defense, and the Giants have MAJOR concerns at WR, which Eli is visibly frustrated by. In addition, the Skins play the Rams, Lions, and Oakland. They seem to base their rankings off last year's 2-6 finish.
I'll start by saying that I like a lot of Peter's picks. Bears-Patriots makes sense to me. And he's high on the Pack; how can't you be? But what you see in the magazine is precisely that: Peter's picks. And I disagree with him a little on the Skins. I got into a heated email chain with a Washington fan who hated Peter's 6-10 pick yesterday, and the guy made some good points. Ignore what the official strength of schedule formula says: the Skins might have the easiest 10-game non-division slate in the NFL. Also consider that they haven't changed terribly from their .500 2008 squad. Now they're starting to sound a little like those surprise Cardinals in ‘08, eh?
Meanwhile, all three teams in their division have changed dramatically. And in all three cases, including Dallas, I would argue that change was for the worse. So maybe you give them three wins in-division. That's being generous. And now look at these lowly teams they face: Rams, Lions, Bucs, Chiefs, Broncos, Raiders. How do they not win every single one of those? If they do all of that, they're 9-7. Throw in a win over Atlanta or Carolina and they're playoff contenders.
So where are these other prognosticators coming from? I think people are a little too high on the division in general. (Media = East coast = Giants fans?) But mostly, yes, I think disappointment in how Washington finished last year has to be a big part of it. That team showed no guts. And a gutless team is a hard team to pick.
I think those last two sentences are intriguing. Even this pre-season at times the Redskins have not shown good hustle. Blache has been reaming his defense for sloppy play and missed tackles. The large number of penalties also shows a lack of concentration. It seems to be a consistent occurrence when you build a team from free agency. As Ted Leonsis said, the free agents should compliment the youth, not the other way around.
I do have a problem with Adam's comment, "But the offense, which rolled over late in ‘08, is really the problem here. And what's new? Nothing for the good that I can tell." In his article, he has a whole section dedicated to Devin Thomas learning the West Coast offense and that "change is coming." So which one is it? Well, I think we know the answer watching Malcolm, Devin, Fred and Marko the past four weeks. Change is here.