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Five Questions with Football Outsider Bill Barnwell

Bill Barnwell is a Staff Writer for Football Outsiders and also writes for Fox Sports. He contributed to the recent positional rankings at Fox Sports, specifically this Receivers ranking, that prompted a discussion between the two of us. As I am a huge fan of the work of Football Outsiders generally and Bill Barnwell specifically, I  asked if he'd be willing to answer a few questions regarding the Redskins for the upcoming 2007 season, and Bill obliged. The questions, and his answers, are below.

Hogs Haven: 1. Neither DPAR nor DVOA nor Football Outsiders' WR rankings think highly of Antwaan Randle-El and Brandon Lloyd. It's still up in the air as to which one of these guys is our #2 receiver. Purely as receivers -- ignoring for a moment the added value of ARE as a punt returner or trick play artist -- if you had to choose one, which would it be and why?

Bill Barnwell: Randle El, because there's been a period of his career where he actually was a competent #2 receiver. It was for five games in 2004, while Plaxico Burress was out injured; he caught 20 passes for 350 yards. Sure, he wasn't much of a #2 guy in 2005, but those five games are about, oh, five more than Brandon Lloyd's ever shown.

The thing about Lloyd is that he looks pretty smooth in his routes, which allows him to get behind people, and he can catch passes when he's wide open. The problems, are, well, most everything else. He doesn't go over the middle all that well. He's small and he's not particularly fast, which means he struggles to create separation. Without separation, it's hard for him to focus enough to catch the ball, which is the biggest problem: Lloyd just doesn't catch the ball enough. Over his career, his catch percentages (the percentage of the time he's caught balls that were thrown to him) are abysmal: 47%, 48%, 44%, and 41% last year in DC. A player with his skill set needs to catch the ball somewhere between 56-58% of the time to be successful, and Lloyd's just shown no sign that he's going to become that player.

HH: 2. I treat David Lewin's quarterback projection as scripture, since he had such nice things to say about Jason Campbell's development. How good is JC in 2007, in your opinion?

BB: Hey, it's always good when the facts back up what you want to say. I think Campbell's going to be pretty solid, if not a star yet. His DVOA (3.5%) was worse than Mark Brunell's (13.1%), but it was still a pretty solid campaign for a debuting quarterback. By comparison, Matt Leinart's DVOA as a rookie was 3.9%. Campbell (and the rest of the team) have had a year to adjust to the playbook, and I don't think the loss of Derrick Dockery is going to be wholly significant, particularly in the passing game. I would peg him for somewhere around 3300 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions.

HH: 3. You're an NFC East guy, so let's get you on the record: How does this division shake out, top to bottom in 2007?

BB: Eagles on top. No team - not even the Patriots - is better-managed from the top down, and most years, that's enough for me to give them the benefit of the doubt. Cowboys next, but they're a boom-or-bust team; the locker room mindset and the new coaching staff just gives off the feeling that this team will either win 10-12 games or 5-7. I'm going to peg them for 10. 'Skins are third, and my Giants are last.

HH: 4. Sage Rosenfels was selected by the Redskins in the 4th round. Danny Kanell was selected by the Giants in the 4th round. While Danny is clearly the more accomplished, in that he underperformed longer, Rosenfels has him in that his stats are slightly less mediocre. In a battle of these gridiron goliaths, who is the better quarterback, in your opinion?

BB: No. Oh, fine. Um, I think we'll never know until Danny Kanell auctions off a day with himself on eBay -- if people bid an inflation-adjusted amount higher than what was bid for Sage Rosenfels' day, we'll know who's better.

[Ed. Note: for those of you that don't know, Sage Rosenfels auctioned himself off on eBay in 2004 trying to sell the "Sage Rosenfels Experience". I am not sure how successful that auction was. What I do know is that Yours Truly successfully bid on a Sage Rosenfels rookie card which I have in my possession and may or may not give it away to a Hogs Haven reader. I need to enjoy it for a few more months before I can do that.]

HH: 5. The Redskins defense was awful last year. Regression towards the mean tells us that they'll improve, but it's unclear how much. Based on their performance last year, and the personnel they've brought in, how much better are the Redskins defensively in 2007? Our DVOA, weighted and otherwise, was dead last in the NFL last year, but 4th in both 2004 and 2005. Can we return to a top 5 defense in a single year, or am I just being a partisan?

BB: I don't think you'll get back up to the top 5, but you won't be dead last, either. The problem is that what the Redskins really needed was a serious pass rush, and I just don't see where it's coming from. Cornelius Griffin's return would be a real bonus, but can he stay healthy? I think LaRon Landry is going to be an absolute stud at safety, but I'm not sure how he'll be employed vis a vis Sean Taylor, since there's a lot of overlap in their skill sets. Fletcher-Baker's a definite improvement at middle linebacker, but he's also 147 years old and has to stay healthy, too.

A secondary that has to defend for eight or nine seconds each play just gets worn out. Gregg Williams needs to create pressure on the quarterback, and I don't see where that's coming from. I'll project a generous bounce-back and put them around 18th in the league in defense.

HH: BONUS: Admit it, the Giants are doooooomed without Tiki!

BB: Oh, god, do we have to talk about it? I can't think of a single position I feel comfortable saying is a positive for the Giants right now, except for punter. I just see absolute disaster written all over this season, something like four wins and Michael Strahan selling the space between his teeth to advertisers to help pay off his alimony. Amani Toomer doesn't even have that luxury.

The problem is that Tiki Barber's skillset -- especially the non-rushing skills like pass blocking and downfield receiving -- isn't replicated at all by Brandon Jacobs or Reuben Droughns. I would be shocked if they had a winning record, absolutely amazed.


Bill, thanks again. I enjoyed it. For the record, Sage Rosenfels rocks Danny Kanell's world.