Travis Mills, who, at The Diner, squeezes pure writerly mojo out of all of us by gently massaging our weatherbeaten teats until the sweet milk of snark pools into lap-worthy puddles, may live in New York City--where the opening of a Target in Brooklyn is a reasonable cause for inflicting embarrassing celebrity behavior upon Page Six--but he's a DC'er, born and bred, and he loves his Washington Redskins. So we bring you his pre-pre-season musings, because he's the chronic.
Top ten things to look at in training camp and the coming season:
1) Brunell v. Ramsey--hopefully this is as friendly and uncontroversial as a quarterback competition can get. They can both learn a great deal from Gibbs, but more importantly, Brunell, who hasn't had the wear and tear of a full season on him for a while, should have every opportunity to start without guilt, team spite or media scrutiny. He should be fresh and invigorated and ready to pop. Patrick will get his chance, probably this year, as things go, so his chin better be up, his attitude flush and his ears and eyes wide open.[DCVR: Yeah, we've always loved Brunell, but why you gotta mess with the kid, Joe? That's all we wonder. The kid played on a broken foot with an offensive line that provided the protection of a cheap screen door. Why you gotta mess with the kid?]
2) Please tell us it was the schemes--Spurrier seemed to take pride in his lack of blocking schemes to protect QBs and easy to read running plays that netted shite. But until we see Bugel's Dirty Dawgs (or whatever they're calling themselves) in action and Brunell upright with time to throw, we won't know if our fabled all star OL is just lip service paper tigers or real deal Hog material.[DCVR: Trav. It was the schemes, dog.]
3) Five wide outs--The addition of James Thrash added another element to an already crowded stovetop. Coles is a lock, McCants a wildcard. Taylor Jacobs has yet to prove himself. Gardener is our supposed #2, but he's the most invisible WR in the league right now. Cliff Russell will probably never be able to prove his mach 2 mettle for us. The question is can all five contribute to a team whose first priority will be to run? It's a good problem to have, but it can cause strain down the road. Luckily, you can call all these guys Redskins and mean it.
4) Brandon Noble--after last year's gruesome, near-career ending preseason injury, no one in their right mind would expect him back this year. Law of averages says he actually won't be despite the hype, but a miraculous recovery and tireless work ethic already has him rarin' to go for training camp. Problem is, we need him. If we rely on that need, and he goes down again, we're screwed in the middle. Looks like this is what we're doing. All together now: Pray.
[DCVR: Joe Gibbs is my shepherd...I shall not want...he leadeth me to the stadium of Superbowls...he maketh me lie down in Canton, Ohio...and, yea, though I may walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Peter Angelos, I shall fear no Tuna...]
5) The rest of the DL. With no discernable pass rush on the line, many in the league are scratching their heads wondering why we didn't pursue this position more fervently in the offseason. DCo Williams must have something interesting up his sleeve, putting Lavar and Washington at DE occasionally going with a shifty 3-4 and attacking with his deep LB corps. It'll be fun to watch, or painful. Either way, we'll be hearing about it from Mr. Arrington by game 4.
6) Gas in the tank--Gibbs' coaching style is legendary, not just in DC, but all over the universe. But he's had about twelve hours of sleep since February. Can he keep it up? If Dan Snyder weren't cashing their checks, 75% of the other coaches would be on Social Security. I have no doubt they have the goods to coach in today?s NFL. I just wonder if they can sustain the drive they've started for a full season. Is this ageism or a legitimate concern?
[DCVR: Think McKeon. Think Larry Brown. Think of that stack o' bills with Gibbs' name on it if he comes through. We gotta start means-testing social security, after all.]
7) The Rise of the NFC East and the hype that goes with it--Suddenly we're the talk of the league--all roads lead to us and one of us is going to be in Jacksonville in early Feb. Ours is a new team, a young team, a team in name only, since 1/3 of them are newbies and most of the rest haven't been together for more than 2 years tops. Does Gibbs' all-encompassing coaching style also have brainwashing techniques for not believing the hype? The only thing that proves anything is winning (and in the case of teams like KC and Tennessee last year, even that doesn't mean everything) Youngsters and loners are prone to play blame games and take plays off. If there's one variable this year, it's chemistry = wins = modesty = championship.
8) How exposed are we at secondary now--I have no doubt that the Skins came out better on the trade to Denver for Portis--Champ was on his way out anyway. But even after adding Shawn Springs and Sean Taylor, will we still have the reputation for a dominant secondary or are Smoot's and Springs' weaknesses for the burn going to show. Springs can make huge headway just by staying healthy all camp, but Smoot, in a contract year, has to prove he's numero uno material.
9) Fed Ex--the place has become as quiet as an old folks home--a haven for opposing teams--fans and pipsqueak fair-weather brie and merlot deal makers. It doesn't matter how many seats Snyder pulls out of thin air, to make the new stadium the largest in the game, it matters which butts are in those seats. The place has to rock. Skins fans have to show their colors like they did when the place was called RFK and there were 40,000 fewer seats. When Dallas has the ball on that Monday night, you need to be able to hear that mug in Vienna.
[DCVR: FedEx, from what I gather, is the blowingest, suckingest stadium ever built, besides the fucking Kingdome.]
10) CP--is he the real deal? His blocking in Denver was so good, Marlon Brando could have gained a thousand yards. So now we find out if it was the man or the line. Gibbs will have to temper his usage of his new toy too--sub in the Rock or Betts to spell Portis - otherwise he could run down like he did in Mile High and that ain't good for nobody.
Aw, yeah, Trav. Hella astute. One thing more, though. Will we have more Elizabeth Hasselbeck sightings this year? Because that's the only reason I watched last year.