Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Meet Kyle Shanahan

Posted: September 14, 2010 in Redskins, Sports
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Kyle Shanahan, son of legendary head coach Mike Shanahan is primed to take the woeful Redskins’ offense to new levels this season.¬† Shanahan was named the teams offensive coordinator January 20th 2010, joining his father, Mike, on the new look coaching staff in Washington.

As you can already imagine, Kyle comes to the Redskins with a strong football background.  Shanahan was a wide receiver at Duke University in 1999, and transferred to the University of Texas the following year.  Shanahan got his first NFL coaching job under current Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen in 2004 as the Buccaneers offensive quality control coach.  In two seasons with the Bucs, he helped receivers Joey Galloway and Michael Clayton assert themselves in the NFL.  This might answer several questions regrading why Joey Galloway is listed as the Redskins current starting wide out.  While in Tampa Bay with both Bruce Allen and Kyle Shanahan, Galloway produced the most productive season of his career, finishing with 1,287 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Galloway finished 7th in receiving yards that season.

Michael Clayton is an interesting story,¬† Clayton was drafted 15th overall out of LSU in the 2004 NFL draft and instantly stole the heart of GM Bruce Allen.¬† In Clayton’s rookie season, he set franchise rookie records in both receptions (80) and touchdowns (7).¬† He also finished the season with 1,193 yards, seeing action in all 16 games.¬† Michael Clayton was released by the Buccaneers this past off season.¬† Clayton has yet to play in a complete season, since finishing his rookie campaign, due to injures, yet Allen and the Bucs hung on to the 27 year old, 6-5, 215lbs receiver because they loved his size, skill set and potential.¬†¬† I would not be at all surprised if the Redskins bring Clayton in for a look during the 2010 season.¬† The team is in need of a play making receiver to complement Santana Moss.

Now, back to Shanahan, for the past four seasons, Shanahan has been a part of the Texans’ coaching staff, starting out as receivers coach, working his way up to offensive coordinator.¬† While with the Texans, Shanahan helped All-Pro wide receiver Andre Johnson establish himself as one of the league’s best.¬† In the two seasons Shanahan spent as offensive coordinator, Johnson has appeared in two straight pro bowls.¬† Joining Johnson in the pro bowl were fellow Texans tight end Owen Daniels in 2008 and quarterback Matt Schaub in 2009.¬† In 2008 the Texans set a then franchise record 6,613 total yards, good enough for 3rd overall in the NFL.¬† That same season the Texans also set a franchise rushing record with 1,846 rushing yards, lead buy offensive rookie rushing leader Steve Slaton, who ran for a franchise record 1,282 yards, proving that Shanahan can run a well balanced offense.

In my Redskins’ season preview I broke down both Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson’s statistics and how they lead the best passing offense in the NFL under Kyle Shanahan.¬† It will be interesting to see how this all transitions here in Washington, with the likes of Donovan McNabb, Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Joey Galloway and Fred Davis. ¬† After watching Sunday night’s game against the Cowboys, it appears the team still has a lot of work to do under Shanahan if they want to replicate the same success he had while coaching in Houston.¬† It will be fun to see how the Redskins do against his former team this upcoming Sunday.

“With the 4th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins select Trent ‘Silver back’ Williams, offensive tackle, Oklahoma.” – Roger Goodell (4/22/10)

Last night, Trent Williams made his regular season debut at left tackle for the Washington Redskins.  A position that has been held for the past 10 seasons by 6-time Pro Bowler, and possible future hall of famer Chris Samuels.  Williams, the 6-5, 318 lbs tackle had some pretty big shoes to fill, not to mention he was going up against an All-Pro defensive end in DeMarcs Ware in that debut.  But after watching last nights game, Williams held his own.

Williams played in all 56 offensive plays for the Redskins, allowing 1 sack, and was called for one false start penalty, both coming late in the game.¬† The sack wasn’t exactly Williams’ fault, it was on a play with both DE DeMarcus Ware and LB Keith Brooking were rushing the quarterback from Williams’ side,¬† Brooking cut inside and Williams went to cover him, leaving Ware¬† uncovered and a free shot at Redskins QB Donovan McNabb.¬† If Williams had blocked Ware, I’m pretty sure it would have resulted in a Brooking sack.¬† The false start penlaty couldn’t have come at a worse time for Williams and the Redskins.¬† Just after the 2 minute warning the Redskins were looking at a 3rd and 2 at the Dallas 26 yard line.¬† If they convert the first down, the Cowboys would be forced to use their 3 remaining timeouts and the Redskins would have an easy attempt at the field goal, putting the Redskins up by 6.¬† Unfortunately Williams jumped the gun on that 3rd and 2, pushing the Redskins back¬† into a long 3rd down situation.¬† Luckly for Williams, Graham Gano was able to connect on the 49 field goal, but it would have been nice to pick up the first down and run down the clock before giving the Cowboys the ball back.

In Donovan McNabb’s post game press conference the veteran QB gave praise to his young left tackle, saying that Williams did a great job, but Williams would say he could have done better if you’d ask him.¬† It is a good sign when your quarterback praises the guy protecting his blind side, and it is nice to know that Williams is staying level headed and wants to improve.¬† In last nights game there were some good plays, including a great block against a Cowboys safety in the 1st quarter when Williams pushed to the outside, clearing a path for TE Chris Cooley on the Redskins 1st drive.

All-in-all I think Trent Williams played very well, he held his own against a Dallas defense that was ranked 9th in the NFL last season.  Going up against DeMarcus Ware in your NFL debut, only getting beat once is very respectable.  Next week wont be an easy task either, facing former #1 overall pick Mario Williams and the Houston Texans defense, but the future looks bright for the Redskins at the left tackle position.

Are You Ready for some Football?!

Posted: September 9, 2010 in Redskins, Sports

214 days following The New Orleans Saints 31-17 victory over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, football is finally back!¬† The season kicks off tonight as the Super Bowl champions take on the Minnesota Vikings in an NFC Championship game rematch that ended with yet another Brett Favre interception, but that is a whole other story…

Today I’m going to break down the Redskins and there upcoming¬† 2010 season:

The Washington Redskins are coming off a 4-12 season, but last year’s team is long gone, and with that is the losing attitude in the locker room.¬† With a re-vamped coaching staff that includes 2-time Super Bowl winning head coach Mike Shanahan, we can expect a completely different team this year. With the addition of a new General Manager, Bruce Allen, and head coach, changes were made all acorss the roster.¬† At the end of last season we saw some familiar faces let go, including veterans like Randy Thomas, Fred Smoot, Rock Cartwright, and Antwaan Randle El.¬† The new coaching staff made it clear that losing and playing below expectations was not going to fly in Washington.¬† Along with the departure of some old vets, the team also made a huge off season splash by trading for future Hall of Fame QB Donovan McNabb.

Along with the addition of Mike Shanahan, the team brought in a new offensive philosophy that will be orchestrated¬† under his son, and current offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.¬† Last season Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans, leading the NFL’s 4th ranked offense (383.1 YPG) to their first winning season in franchise history, finishing 9-7.¬† Texans QB Matt Schaub lead the league in passing yards with 4,770 (270 yards more than second place Peyton Manning) and Houston’s top WR Andre Johnson lead the league 1,569 receiving yards.¬† Kyle Shanahan should have plenty to work with with Donovan McNabb at the head of his offense.¬† The team has some questions at wide receiver, Santana Moss is the only clear cut starter on this roster, but with the return of a healthy Chris Cooley and 3rd year tight end Fred Davis, Shanahan will have a unique offense to work with.¬† I am excited to see how he will use both tight ends at the same time, hopefully creating mismatches for opposing defenses.

It is also worth noting that RB Clinton Portis is reuniting with the coach that drafted (…and traded him) in Denver nine years ago.¬†¬† Mike Shanahan is known for producing pro bowl caliber running back s in his running game, but putting a proven running back into this offense could revitalize his career.¬† I wouldn’t be surprised if Portis is up for come back player of the year.¬† I hope both Mike and Kyle Shanahan can combine their two offensive expertize¬† and create one complete offense.¬† Remember, Donovan McNabb has never head a successful running game in all of his time in Philadelphia.¬† Brian Westbrook was the closest he had, but they still threw the ball on 70% of their plays.¬† A running game could protect and prolong the often injured Quarterback’s season.¬† Also, with McNabb entering the last year of his contract, I expect him to play with a chip on his shoulder, going out there to prove that he can still play and is still one of the elite QBs in the the league.

The defense made a switch from 4-3 to 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.¬† Nothing excites me more than a defense that 2nd year linebacker Brian Orakpo thrived in at Texas.¬† Orakpo finished last season with 11 sacks, which I give much credit to the often scrutinized DT Albert Haynesworth.¬† Head case or not, the defense is better with #92 is in the game.¬† Everyone on the defense is excited about the things they feel they can accomplish under Haslett, and cant wait to show the rest of the league what they can do come Sunday Night.¬† The defense carries that sort of swagger that makes you hope they will be good this year, lets just hope that they don’t let that swagger get to their heads and can actually stop some of the highest rated offenses this season.

The only problem with this team is their schedule.¬† After finishing 4-12 and last place in their division, the league thought it would be nice to give them the hardest schedule in the NFL.¬† Seven of the twelve teams the Redskins will face this season had winning records, three of those seven were Division Champions.¬† Seven of the sixteen games this season will be against teams that were in the playoffs, The Vikings made it all the way to the NFC Championship game, and the Colts made it all the way to last year’s Super Bowl.¬† I personally think the Colts and Packers (both on our schedule) will be in this year’s Super Bowl game in Dallas.¬† So wins this season will not come easy for the Redskins.¬† This season will truly be a test for Washington, but¬† I think with all of the additions and the new power structure set in place, the team is definitely headed in the right direction.¬† I expect the Redskins to finish somewhere around .500 (most likely a game or two under) with a possible wild card slot at best, but that will be hard to come by with talented NFC North and NFC South teams most likely taking the two wild card slots.

Now just because Vinny, Cerrato is out doesn’t automatically make a 4-9 team Superbowl contenders. But the Redskins have already hired Bruce Allen to replace Cerrato. Allen is the son of former Redskins head coach George Allen and has worked with both Oakland and Tampa Bay. That makes me think that Jon Gruden is the likely target for the Redskins next head coaching job. The Redskins wasted little time selecting Allen, on a weekend where the Redskins are hosting a Monday Night Football game against the Giants (meaning both Gruden and ESPN will be in town all weekend long).

In Allen’s 5 seasons as the Buccaneers General Manager, the team has had some up and down seasons, including two 9-7 finishes, two NFC South championships and one 4-11 finish. While under Allen, the Buccaneers averaged 9 draft picks per season. Allen was also credited with the questionable youth movement that took place after the Buccaneers released Pro-Bowlers John Lynch and Warren Sapp, opting to build their team through the draft, with picks like RB Cadillac Williams, WR Antonio Bryant, DE Gaines Adams, CB, Aqui Talib (who had 3 interceptions in his game against the Redskins this year). Allen also selected 8 different offensive linemen during those 5 seasons as GM, a position the Redskins have forgotten to draft.

There have also been rumors about cleaning out the entire Redskins personel office and letting the new coach make the final decision about who will join one. One name that makes sense in Washington would be the addition of former Redskins Quarterback Doug Williams, who has held a similar role with Bruce Allen down in the Buccaneers front office. Some Redskins reporters are confident that Gruden will not leave ESPN after signing a contract extention, but it sure does look like the Redskins are building a front office that Gruden would be very familiar with.

So with the addition of a new GM provides all the Redskins fans with new hope, a new list of obscure stats to reference and another offseason of dreams of returning to the glory days.

I don’t think there are enough words to describe how excited I am to see the Capitals doing so well this season.¬† Say what you want about Alex Ovechkin being a dirty player, but with or without him in the line up, the Capitals are scary team that you do not want to play against right now.¬† The Caps are riding a 6 game win streak into tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres, who have lost their last two games.¬† Two of those Capitals wins have been without the great eight, and oh yeah, the Caps scored a combined 14 goals without him in those 2 games.¬† With this team you can no longer only talk about Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin as the teams offense.¬† Throughout the season we have seen talented play makers emerge from the 3rd line, 4th line, and even from the AHL call ups from the Hershey Bears.¬† With that being said, Ovechkin, who has missed eight games this season, is still only one goal behind league leading Marian Gaborik with 21.¬† Mike Green and Nicklas Backstrom are both tied for 5th in the league with 25 assists a piece.¬† The Capitals offense is still the best in the league, averaging 3.60 goals a game

The score sheet has grown accustom to adding the names Fleischmann, Fehr and Laich.¬† Brooks Laich and Fleischmann both have 10 goals and 25 and 17 points, respectively. ¬† Eric Fehr is currently riding a 7 game scoring streak as he has collected a 15 points in 20 games this season, something the Caps have seen happen quite frequently as Mike Green has passed the 7 game scoring streak twice already this season.¬† Five other Caps players have put together scoring steaks of at least 4 games or more.¬† Eleven different players on the Capitals roster have tallied at least ten points through the first 30 games of the season.¬† And don’t think this team is strictly an offensive power house, The Caps defense is ranked 10th in the league, averaging 2.67 goals against, while rookie net minder Semyon Varlamov ranks 7th in both save percentage and goals against average.¬† Varlamov is also boasting a 12-1-2 record, which is good enough for tops amongst rookies.

The list of unbelievable stats for the Caps goes on and on, here are just a few for you to ponder…

– In the month of December, the Caps are averaging 5 goal a game while only allowing 1.5 goals against.

– Semyon Varlamov is leading the league with fewest regulation losses amongst starting goaltenders with 1 and Jose Theodore is tied for 4th with only 3 regulation losses.

– The Capitals power play unit ranks first in the league at 24.4 %, scoring 31 power play goals in 30 games.

– Brooks Laich is tied for 6th in the league with 6 power play goals, Ovechkin is next with 5 on the season.

– Mike Green has 12 power play assists on the season, which is good enough for 5th overall, and Backstrom is the next closest Capital with 10 power play assists.

– Mike Green is leading all defenders with 30 points (5 goals and 25 assists in only 29 games played).

– With 44 points, the Washington Capitals are 1 point ahead of the San Jose Sharks for most points in the league and 3 points ahead of the New Jersey Devils for tops in the Eastern Conference.

– With a 7-0 record against the Southeast Division, the Capitals are a comfortable 11 points ahead of the 2nd place Atlanta Thrashers in their Division.

– 22 games is the fastest it has taken Ovechkin to reach the 20 goal mark, 27 games was the next fewest in the 2007-08 season where Ovechkin finished with 65 goals.

– 9 players on the Capitals have had 2 goal games 22 different times this season.

– Ovechkin has been the first to score in 7 games this season for the Capitals, that is the most in the NHL.

Sad Skins logo

Who’s to blame in DC for the craziness that is sports in our Nation’s Capital?¬† As of November 10th, the Redskins and Wizards have a combined 4-12 record, both teams are in the midst of at least a 4 game losing streak, while on the other end of the thermometer, the Capitals are off to one of their hottest starts in franchise history with a 10-3-4 record.¬† While the Caps currently hold the top offense in the NHL, averaging 3.76 goals per game, both the Wizards and Skins hold the 24th and 29th best scoring offenses in their leagues respectively.

Its hard to say where each team went wrong, or right in the Caps situation, since all three teams entered this season with similar expectations but very different off seasons.  To start, we will have to take a look at the Redskins.  Entering the 2009 off season, Jim Zorn was coming off a 8-8 season as a first time head coach.  During the draft, the Redskins took defensive end Brian Orakpo with the the 13th overall pick, adding to an already talented defensive unit that finished 4th overall in the league.  That move was followed by the $100 million addition of pro bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth.  These moves were heavily scrutinized by the media, suggesting that the team should have focused on improving their often injured and some what old offensive line.

Vinny Cerrato, the teams Vice President of Football Operations, assured everyone that the roster he provided Coach Zorn with was more than adequate to make the playoffs this season.¬† After all it was the same team that started 6-2, produced 4 pro bowlers in Chris Samuels, Clinton Portis, Mike Sellers and Chris Cooley.¬† This team was destined to make it the playoffs and compete for the division title right?¬† Boy were we all wrong.¬† This team as seen its fair share of injures this season, including all pro left tackle Chris Samuels and right guard Randy Thomas.¬† Against Denver this week, the Redskins will be starting their 5th different offensive line alignment this season.¬† That’s five different combination’s in nine games, talk about consistency.¬† The team also suffered several blow s when tight end Chris Cooley broke his ankle against the Eagles, Clinton Portis suffered a concussion against the Falcons, and just yesterday, safety Chris Horton was placed on IR with an ankle injury.¬† But still who is to blame?¬† I don’t think you can put all the blame on owner Dan Snyder, the players still have to play. Last weekend, the Redskins gave up 31 points to the Falcons and only managed to score 17 points.¬† I think the team has given up on each other and the media has caused such a stir that at this point, the players can point their finger in any direction for an excuse and get away with it.

Now, moving on to the Washington Wizards, who were coming off one of their worst seasons in franchise history, boasting a 19-63 record last year.¬† Now with that said, last year’s team was without some of its most important players, losing several starters to injury, including All Star point guard Gilbert Arenas.¬† So this off season, the Wizards brought in a well respected coach in Flip Saunders, who has brought every team he as coached into the playoffs in all but 2 seasons he has coached.¬† The team also opted to trade away its 5th overall draft pick to at depth in the back court, acquiring Mike Miller and Randy Foye from Minnesota.¬† With the return of a healthy line up and the addition of a proven coach, the Wizards were bound to return to playoff form this season…

Well, once again DC was let down with a poor start to the season.¬† In the preseason the Wizards saw their most reliable player, Antawn Jamison go down with a separated shoulder.¬† He has yet to return to action and his return date is still in question.¬† To make matters worse, Mike Miller suffered a shoulder injury last week in a loss against the Heat, he is expected to make his return within the next week or two.¬† Even though the team’s most important star, Arenas has started every game this season, the Wizards still don’t look in sync.¬†¬† In last night’s loss to the Heat, Arenas turned the ball over a career high 12 times and allowed Heat star Dwyane Wade to put up 41 points.¬† Wade outscored the entire Wizards in the second half 29-27.¬† Oh yea, not to mention Randy Foye went down in that game with an ankle injury, his status is still uncertain.¬† Things cannot possibly get worse right?¬† But who is to blame for the Wizards poor start?¬† Is Gilbert past his prime? can anyone play defense on this team?

Ok, now we can look at that lone bright spot in DC, the Washington Capitals.  The team entered the off season after a disappointing game seven loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the playoffs.  The off season buzz was whether or not the team could keep two of their valuable Russian veterans in Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Federov.  The team was also in need of a strong defender, but due to salary cap restraints, the team only managed to find replacements for Kozlov and Federov in Mike Knuble and Brendan Morrison, and hope that the teams farm system could help provided the team with depth when called upon.  This is where the Caps differ from both the Wizards and Redskins, with their ability to scout young talent and successfully develop them in Hershey.  This off season we saw both the Skins and Wiz pass up on bringing in younger guys and instead, went for the some-what proven veterans in hopes of filling the missing pieces of talented, but aging roster.

With the Caps already a month into their season, the ride hasn’t exactly been smooth, the biggest bump coming when two time MVP Alex Ovechkin went out with an upper body injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 1st.¬† When he first went down he was listed as day to day, but after missing a week and a half with his unspecified injury, there is no specific return date in site.¬† But thanks to Capitals General Manager George McPhee, the team hasnt missed a beat since Ovechkin was taken out of the line up.¬† The team has gone 2-1 in three games without him and audiences have gotten a taste of that youth movement that Caps have been quietly developing in Hershey.¬† The most surprising addition came from young Mathieu Perreault, who in the three games Ovechkin has missed, has tallied 1 goal and 2 assists.¬† Although Ovechkin is still leading the league with 14 goals through 14 games, the team is averaging 4.67 goals in the three games without him, and one more then, Alex Semin was held without a point in two of those games.

So as the winter rolls on in DC, you can say what you want about the three main sports teams in our area, but as of right now, it has been proven that building a team through the draft and developing your  young talent will help you, regardless of injuries.  The front office may be the ones who take the bulk of the blame, but it ultimately comes down to the players, those who are willing to step up and fill in the voids, proving that they belong in the professional level and that they want to win.

I hate to give up on a team at any point during the season, but with that being said, I think the Redskins still have a lot to play for and by no means should they lose their next eight games.¬† The Wizards’ season is still young and hopefully they can get healthy and gain some consistency playing together and turn this season around and fight for one of the eight playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.¬† And as for those Capitals, keep on playing and trying to get better, sure not having number eight in the lineup is concerning, but this is shining light on the rest of the players who have been hiding under Ovechkin’s shadow the past two seasons, proving that the Caps are a real team to be reckoned with.

ovechkin

Despite nearly blowing a three goal lead last night against the Atlanta Thrashers, the Capitals are riding a 6 game winning streak into tonight’s game against the New York Islanders.¬† I know that earlier on I mentioned Ovechkin was on pace for a record breaking season, but since then Ovechkin has slowed down a bit.¬† And by Ovechkin’s standards, that means slowing down to 22 point through 12 games this season.¬† Ovechkin’s 13 goals are good enough for best in the league and he also is first in the plus/minus rating at 11.¬† Ovechkin’s line mates are not to be forgotten as well, both Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Semin rank in the top 25 in points this season with 16 and 13 points respectively.¬† Might I also remind you the Semin misses 2 games earlier in the season in which the Capitals scored a combined 8 goals. ¬†Backstrom, known as a set up man, has already tallied 13 assists this season, which is good enough for 2nd place in the league, one assist behind Joe Thonton.

The Caps have built up a comfortable lead in the Southeast Division, putting themselves ahead of the second place Lightning by 7 points.¬† Their 18 points is good enough for second place overall in the Eastern Conference, just 2 points shy of the Penguins (Boo!).¬† The interesting thing about the Caps season so far is that they are just as good on the road as they are at home; the Caps have a 4-1-1 record for both home and away games.¬† Last season we saw Washington struggle on the road, losing 10 of their first 14 games away from Verizon Center.¬† And say what you want about the Capitals defense but the team’s two goaltenders have been playing out of their minds.¬† Young Semyon Varlamov has played in 6 of the team’s 12 games, and won all but one of those games.¬† His five victories is most amongst rookie goaltenders, and that 6th game, doesn‚Äôt go down as a loss for Varlamov because he was pulled after 2 periods against the Flyers on October 10th.¬† Theodore might not have as many wins as Varlamov, but he has kept the Caps in every single game he has played.¬† Theodore‚Äôs .922 save percentage is 4th in the league.

Tonight, the Capitals host the 2-4-5 New York Islanders at 7:00pm on Comcast SportsNet Plus.¬† One of the Islanders‚Äô 5 overtime losses came against the Caps on October 24th in a 3-2 loss.¬† The Islanders had a surprising 2-0 lead through 2 periods in that game until a fire was lit under Capitals‚Äô defenseman Mike Green’s stick.¬† Green scored the first goal and assisted the game winner in overtime last Saturday.¬† Green is currently riding a seven game point streak, where he has tallied 2 goals, 6 assists, and a +4 rating during that time.¬† Mike Green is currently tied for 6th in the league amongst defensemen with 10 points through 12 games this season.

This time around I don’t expect to wait until the third period to start scoring against the Islanders, you can expect a heavy dose of the team’s top line and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Capitals power play unit adding several goals.  Last time the Caps face the Islanders they were 0-4 on the power play and gave up a short handed goal.