StrategyAugust 8, 2009

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Daily Preview: Washington Redskins

By Matt Grant

The Washington Redskins have been active in the NFC East, landing big-bodied Albert Haynesworth and attempting to deal Jason Campbell. There are a few bright spots on the Redskins lineup offensively, but this is a team that is run oriented. Portis has to stay healthy to give this team a chance to not only run the ball effectively, but also to open up the passing game, because Jason Campbell has not shown that he is able to get it done on his own to this point. TO is out of Dallas, the Philly defense has lost Brian Dawkins, Jim Johnson, and most recently MLB Stewart Bradley, while the Giants are going to be without Plaxico and just dodged a bullet on their defensive captain Antonio Pierce. The Redskins could make some noise in the NFC East behind a bolstered defense, but the offense is going to have to make some major strides.

QB: Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Colt Brennan
RB: Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts
WR: Santana Moss, Devin Thomas, Antwaan Randle El, Malcolm Kelly
TE: Chris Cooley
PK: Shaun Suisham

Quarterback: Jason Campbell finds himself in a very precarious position this season. He’s a guy that was the subject of trade talks in the offseason for the disgruntled Jay Cutler as well as talks in order to land Mark Sanchez. Ownership refused to extend his contract and these factors combined display a current lack of faith in Campbell as a franchise quarterback. Needless to say, he is on a short leash. Last year, Campbell had success early in the season (878 yds 6/0 first 4 games, 1,754 yds 8/0 first 8) before regressing and ending up with 3,245 yards and a 13/6 TD/INT ratio. He has a lot of motivation to prove his doubters wrong, is in a contract year, and won’t be trying to learn a new offense for the first time in his career. Campbell is expected to have Thomas starting outside with Santana Moss, while Randle-El will be able to move into his natural slot role, which should open up things a lot for Campbell. Campbell’s stats have increased each year that he has played in a different offense, which shows his growth purely from a skills perspective that is not dependent on his knowledge of one system. All of this considered, Campbell should be looked at as a QB2 with upside. Colt Brennan needs another strong preseason to pass Todd Collins for the backup job and could be fantasy relevant should Campbell fail.

Running Back: Clinton Portis started off 2008 strong with a monster first half to the season and was enjoying a nice position in the top ranks of fantasy backs. He did this with an equally monstrous work load and began to start showing the miles on his tires as the season progressed. Portis had several nagging injuries and the offensive line was also banged up. Portis’ YPC dropped by a full yard and he fell from the graces of many fantasy owners with only two touchdowns in the second half of the season, one being in week 17. 325-plus carries in four of the last five seasons and assorted injuries have taken away Portis’ big play ability, as evidenced by his longest run of 2008 being 31 yards. Ladell Betts, a former secnd round pick, is one of the more complete backup running backs in the league and is already expected to be a bigger factor on third down and is being considered for full-time third-down duties as well as more work on first and second downs. Redskins staff touts Betts every year however, and owners should only expect Betts to have any fantasy value if Portis goes down. Betts is a good handcuff for the aging Portis.

Wide Receiver: The Redskins are really looking for someone to work opposite Santana Moss. Last year they invested in young talents Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, which to this point has not yielded much in return. Kelly had ongoing issues in both knees that plagued him during last year’s offseason and carried into the regular season. He started getting back into OTAs and is expected to be full strength for training camp. Kelly is unlikely to have any fantasy relevance this year as he has fallen behind quite a bit. More is expected of Devin Thomas this year however, and early reports have him displacing Antwaan Randle El as the second receiver, moving Randle El to the slot. Thomas was reportedly very immature during his rookie year, had poor work habits and had a lot of suspect lingering injuries. Santana Moss is probably the only WR here with any value; it seems unlikely that either Thomas or Kelly will be able to make an impact. Moss will benefit from either Thomas or Kelly at least becoming a decoy and taking some of the more physical corners off of him. I wouldn’t mind Moss as a WR3, but he comes with his own headaches and a growing injury list.

Tight End: Chris Cooley has been a pretty consistent presence on the Redskins and would make a solid late-round pick on your fantasy team. He is somewhat under-appreciated but can be counted on for good week-to-week production and hasn’t missed a game in his five-year career. He finished top three in yards and catches for tight ends, yet is running at around the seventh TE off the board. I believe his lack of TDs last year was an aberration and Cooley claims Zorn has promised him at least six TDs this year. Captain Chaos is a great value pick this year at the TE position.

Team Defense/IDP: Albert Haynesworth is the big money add to this defense and could have a similar presence to that in Tennessee as Washington has capable linebackers and defensive backs. The question is whether Haynesworth will still be properly motivated on the field after receiving his monster deal. His knee is a situation worth monitoring, with reports out of camp saying he is getting injections into the deal to help with two-a-days. Draft pick Brian Orakpo should also bring some extra pressure to opposing quarterbacks. He is currently the SAM linebacker with movement to end in passing downs, which could hurt his long term IDP value if he doesn’t end up as defensive end permanently. The selection of Jeremy Jarmon in the supplemental draft with a round-three equivalent pick suggests Jarmon could be the strong side end for the future. London Fletcher is fantasy relevant on this squad, but comes with his share of risk. Chris Horton should be solid in the secondary for the Redskins after a nice year in 2008. There might not be any big standout players on this squad but there are some solid players on this defense.

In team defense formats, the Redskins have some serious sleeper potential. The Redskins went all defense in the draft with the exception of a late round TE pick and also added a promising young defensive end in the supplemental draft. They were a solid defense last year but not from a fantasy perspective because of the lack of picks, sacks and TDs. If Haynesworth can live up to his contract and eat up some double teams, the Redskins should be able to get more pressure on the passer and create more turnovers. The Redskins offer great value as a solid team defense this year with upside.

There is quite a bit of turmoil in the NFC East this year and the Redskins are just hoping to get out of the bottom of the division. A healthy Clinton Portis will make this team competitive and a strong running game will take some of the burden off a still-developing passing game. There are some good value picks on this team, but this offense could really be in trouble long-term if the passing game doesn’t show signs of improvement.

Matt is a graduate student at the University of Michigan (GO BLUE). He spends entirely too much time on fantasy football and his wife reminds him of this on a regular basis. You can catch up with Matt in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of mattUTD20.
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