The first taste of live practices for the Redskins comes to an end. This was a good weekend for the new coaching staff to evaluate players and for players to get to know their new coaches. For many, it was a great oppertunity to see Donovan McNabb under center and watch Larry Johnson and Willie Parker share the load with Clinton Portis.
The offensive line faces the most questions, and should be the biggest concern for this team. Over the weekend, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had an excellent opportunity to get a good look at this group.
“I’m real excited about our offensive line,” he said. “You know, I mean, they talk about that that’s been a weakness and stuff, but I don’t see it on tape and I don’t see it on the field. We’ve got some real good players. I think we’ve got some big guys who aren’t just big guys who stand still — we got some big guys who can move. We’ve just got to get ‘em in shape and get ‘em used to running the zone scheme, and runnin’ and cuttin’ and I think we’ve got a good chance there.”
This speaks volumes, and disagrees with what many have been speculating for months. I do not think this coaching staff is finished addressing the line, but it makes more curious to what kind of approach they will take as they near the draft.
Another group to watch this camp is the runningback stable, and no back entered this weekend with more questions that Clinton Portis. Mike Shanahan praised Portis’ offseason commitment and preparation and feels he will be ready to main gains once again this coming season. About his general thought on the rushing attack, Shanahan had this to say:
“I think the end result is you want a productive running game,” he said. “The experiences I’ve had through the past is we’ve done it different ways. We’ve had a 2,000-yard back, we’ve had a 1,750-yard back, we’ve had a 1,500-yard back and we’ve had a 2,500-yard back with three guys doing it. So [it's] who gets it done, it really doesn’t matter if you’re doing three guys, one guy or two guys, you want to be productive in the running game, that’s the bottom line. It’s just not yards; it’s yards per attempt.”
Quotes like this lead me to believe that this coaching staff is strongly considering to use all three backs(Portis, Larry Johnson, and Willie Parker). It would not be bad move, and you have to think the two latter backs are an upgrade over Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright.
Much has been made about the team’s “switch” to the 3-4 base format. While moves and talks have suggested this, Shanahan has all but said that this will be the case.
“It’s been very successful and if you take a look from an offensive perspective it’s much harder to prepare for,” Shanahan said. “You’re not really sure who’s coming a lot of different variations you can do at least from my perspective with a three-man front and a four-man front to really keep an offense off balance.”
This coaching staff is really keeping its business close to the vest. What they have seen this weekend will be used to base their needs and make a final assessment on what they will be picking up this week at the draft. I am convinced they have already made their choice, but having your pick isn’t so bad either.