Arenas takes the season’s first shot… at Haywood

Picture yourself on business travel, sitting in a restaurant having breakfast. You open up the USA Today that was left outside your hotel room door. Flip open to the sports section and begin reading the story about Gil talking about the Wiz’s chances this season and BOOM!!! The first shot is fired across the bow:

“No matter if Etan is the starter or the backup, he’s going to give you the same kind of energy and the same kind of play,” Arenas explained. “Brendan will give you three-four (strong) games (off the bench) because he’s mad, then he’s going to tank it.”

While the content of the quote does not surprise me, the timing does. Maybe this was a way for Gil to remind Wiz management to do everything in their power to get rid of him. And if they are unsuccessful, it could serve as a verbal kick to Brendan’s pants. What also surprised me was that the quote was buried deep in the story, I would have thought that the writer would have lead with the quote. I am also a bit surprised that it has not gotten much play in the local media as well.

Maybe the issue is that Gil only said what we all knew. We can see Brendan quit on his team nearly every year. For someone who is as consistently inconsistent as him, he – like a number of athletes – feels as if he is owed some respect, for under performing. I do give Gilbert credit for saying publicly what we all see. Often it is rare for an athlete to call out another athlete. But, there comes a time when you have tried all other methods that you are left with “spanking that ass” publicly. If the Wiz cannot successfully move Haywood, maybe Gil’s comments will serve to light a fire inside Brendan that lasts beyond December 31. Oh, never mind I am talking about Brendan Haywood. Sorry, I forgot.

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The makings of a two-headed monster

During this year’s draft, I was a bit puzzled when the Steelers selected Matt Spaeth in the third round of the draft.  They all ready had a very good starter in Heath Miller, who doesn’t get much respect in the league, but has made a number of big plays in his young career.  It made more sense once it was known that Aryans, the Steelers offensive coordinator, planned on using a lot of two tight end sets.  Historically, the tight end in Pittsburgh has been a glorified tackle, used more as a blocker then as a pass catcher.  But with the change in offensive philosophy, beginning two years ago and evolving further with Aryans, the tight end is becoming an important position.  After two games, it is crystal clear why they drafted Spaeth.  He makes for a big target at 6’7”, has great hands and has a knack for getting open in the endzone.  Currently the Steelers have two former Mackey winners – an award given to the best tight end in college football – and as these two continue to develop, they could become the best tight end tandem in the NFL.  And combining them with Hines Ward and the Steelers young receiving corps, it gives Big Ben plenty of passing options.

I wish I had a Pavlov-like buzzer for television Directors of sports events

During the ESPN broadcast of the Redskins game, I was reminded of something that has frustrated me during Wizards games on Comcast Sportsnet. Directors stay on camera angles that have nothing to do with the action on the field, much too long. I was reminded of this frustration during the Skins game, when the Director decided to stay on Andy Reid for what felt like an eternity, all because the game crew was discussing the issues with his sons. How about you show him for a second or two, just long enough to put a face with a name – for those who don’t know what he looks like – and then get back to the action on the field? I would rather look at the players in the huddle then Andy Reid (or any coach for that matter) for an extended period of time.

 

This problem happens much too often during the Wizards games – whether it is a close-up of someone in the stands, Eddie Jordan, a player on the bench, the Polian’s in the owners box., etc, etc, etc. What is most frustrating is that I have lost count of the times that the television audience has not been shown live game action due to one of these occurrences, from foul shots, to steals, to dunks the list is endless. I remember a number of occasions in which they had to show the audience a replay of on-court action to make up for the fact that they did not show it lives. And let’s not forget the advertisements that they display during the game. They are not commercials mind you, but the advertiser’s logo and a brief amount of copy that Buck is obligated to read. These have also caused a fair amount of game action to be missed over the years. It would be nice if their production crew could make those advertisements transparent or at least minimize the screen so that the game can actually be seen.

 

The folks at the Neilson Ratings should develop a device that allowed people to administer an electric shock – nothing lethal mind you – to either the Director or Technical Director of a sporting event every time they stayed too long on a meaningless camera angle. (Or maybe even the on-air crew when they spend an eternity discussing whether or not Donovan McNabb is being under appreciated in Philly.)

 

Am I the only person who is bothered by this?

Have the Redskins finally turned the corner?

For the second straight game the Redskins have been able to win a close one. What appears to be most impressive is that they have done this while loosing two of their starting offensive linemen, while remaining very productive on offense. The fact that Campbell did not get killed against the typically tough Eagles’ blitz is a testament to how well the backups turned starters played. The coaching staff, showing their trust in Wade and Fabini, continued to let Campbell take shots deep. Maybe even more impressive than that is the strength of Campell’s arm. We often here about a quarterback with a strong arm – particularly leading up to the draft – but seeing how far Campbell throw the ball on a number of occasions and how effortlessly it came out is truly impressive. Once he learns some touch he will be incredible.

 

On the negative side, the defense which played well overall gave up a little too much yardage to Westbrook. In their defense, Westbrook had an incredible game – no doubt in part because he was playing in front of his home town fans – for much of the game his quickness seemed to be on a different level. On a number of occasions, he made some of the quickest Skins defenders grasping at the air. But, as the Monday Night Crew pointed out, it will be interesting to see if he can hold up under that type of workload for a full season.

 

It was also a little disappointing that the stone hands in the Redskins defensive backfield is a little contagious right now. Once they get better at catching the ball, or getting more take-a-ways in general, that defense has the opportunity to be special. One has to love the young core of the defense with nearly all of them making big plays when it counted most, accented by the big hit that Landry made on 4th down to end a potential game tying drive by the Eagles.

 

Prior to the season, a number of local sports media were talking about how bad the Skins “could be” this season. Based on last season, and some of the questions with the team that did not appear to be answered, it is not hard to understand why they would believe that. It is a long season, and a number of teams have started undefeated only to crash and burn later in the season. None of us knows how this season will finish for he Skins, but through 2 games they have been entertaining to watch and have provided us fans with reasons to be optimistic.

Redskins Recap: Redskins 16 Dolphins 13

How much we take from the Skins game today is a bit unclear.  What’s most important is that they won a very hard fought game against a team with a very good defense – at least based on past performance – and an offense that has the potential to be better than last year.  One game does not give a good indication of how a team will play over an entire season, but there were plenty of encouraging signs.  Here were a few things that I was impressed with:

  • Jason Campbell through a bad interception at the beginning of the game (and two overall), came back to make some big completions in a very tight game.
  • It was refreshing to see the Skins throw the ball down the field, which will continue to make things easier for the running game, and vice versa.  How nice it is to have a QB who can actually throw it further than 7 yards.
    Samuels played very well considering that he did not play during the pre-season.  He and Kendall look like they are going to prove to be a great combination on the left side of the line.
  • Stephon Heyer continues to prove critics wrong.  Called in to play due to Jansen’s possible season-ending injury and switching back to his natural RT position, the UFA played a great game.  While it has been pointed out that some (unnamed) scouts believe that he is not yet ready for the NFL, in a game in which the final score counted, he played well enough not to stand out.  If you have watched enough football and/or played it you know that an offensive lineman normally only stands out when they give up a negative play.
  • It appears that Clinton did not need to play in the pre-season after all!  And with him and Betts combining for over 140 yards rushing that production will only make Campbell’s job throwing the ball that much easier.
  • And while the defense gave up a little more yards then they would have probably liked, given that they were put in some short-field situations, they actually continued the type of play that they have demonstrated during the pre-season.  They gave up some yards in the passing game, but were able to hold the Dolphins to 13 points.

Moss, and many of his colleagues in the NFL, dropped way too many passes today.  (It was amazing to see the number of dropped passes today.  At times it was as if we were watching the first pre-season game.)  The biggest drop was by the Smoot-mobile, who had nothing but open field in front of him near the end of regulation.  Thankfully that drop did not come back to cost the team.  Speaking of Smoot, while he had a fairly good overall game, I’m sure others were surprised that he started over Springs.  Correct me if I am wrong, but Springs was clearly the starter following pre-season, but was only brought into the game during nickel situations????  What was this about?