Tagged with "NFC"
Divisional Upheaval?
Category: FEATURED
Tags: NFL Manziel NFC AFC


Why talk football? Why not, with a bare 6 weeks or so before we gear up for preseason? Good time for a final prediction before the oft-meaningless results of said preseason cloud one's judgement, catastrophic injuries excepted.

Football doesn't change much. Despite an effective draft system and free agency galore, the league has a stunning equilibrium, at least in some divisions. Bottom feeders like the Red Sox don't vault to the top in one season --- then plummet to the bottom again the next. In hockey, the elite tend to stay that way for a while until slow change overcomes them. The NBA is the one place where one player, whether named Wilt Chamberlain or LeBron James, can team-hop and turn the league upside-down.

The one thing that can produce a sea change in the NFL is a dramatic QB change, but even Peyton Manning hasn't seen the mountain air produce a ring.

Anyway, on with it!

AFC East:

In what has become the most predictable division in football, don't expect any miracles outside Foxboro. The Patriots, with all their supposed issues, will win the division again and vie for the ring again just because they're... well... the Patriots.

The Jets, erstwhile challengers, have spent the past few seasons in the bad joke department. This year, despite what many are calling vast improvements in personnel, one of said improvements has been none other than Mike Vick. Gone is Sanchez, the questionable quarterback who led them to two conference games not so long ago. Vick is aboard to 'mentor' Geno Smith. Smith needs more than mentoring, but doesn't relish the thought of being a backup. The plan is that he starts. We shall see. The stage is set for another circus.

The Fins, sidetracked by the media's vapid anti-bullying campaign last year, have proven less than resilient in the face of adversity, however minor. Why they should suddenly develop the heart of a champion is a topic for conjecture.

And, as usual... Buffalo. They seem to have a lot of good players. They are a tough out in the division. But they're always an out. EJ Manuel isn't going to turn into Tom Brady. Or Ryan Tannehill. Or even Mike Vick. But they may not finish last. In fact, except for first place it's a scramble, but one with dubious probability of producing a wild card.


AFC North:

With the decline of Baltimore and Pittsburgh, the Bengals have been something of a default champion recently by virtue of being a solid team. But they lack everything necessary to advance past their first playoff game. What that lack is can't be quantified easily, but it will focus, as it always does, on Dalton. Fair? Who cares? Anyway, though Pitt and Balty have stronger organizations, the front offices don't slug it out on Sundays.

The Browns are a big talking point. Again. Last year they looked formidable for a game and a half before Hoyer crumbled behind his oddly porous offensive line. Everyone would love to see Johnny Football ride in on his horse and pull an instant Andrew Luck, but only Cleveland fans could possibly believe it will happen. Something good could happen. The Browns have some pieces, the Bengals are still a dubious division dynasty, and the Ravens and Steelers still have winning pedigree but not much else. Unfortunately, the Browns' organization from top to bottom is so chaotic that it's impossible to believe they can pull it off until it happens.

The Ravens and Steelers are lumped together. Each team has a star quarterback, but the rest of the equation is a big fat question mark. It's hard to fathom starting a season without a 'pick one' for the AFCN between them, but here we are.


AFC South:

Colts Magic may be burning out a bit, but has anyone lately come out of college and turned a completely dismantled team into a winner like Andrew Luck? So far the rebuild has been more successful than planned. Expect this to continue. Unless...

Well, there is one case of first-to-worst in the NFL, and it's the Texans. How a team boasting one of the strongest rosters can succumb to injuries (and to two disheartening blowouts to New England) with a 2-14 season is beyond belief. We are about to find out whether Gary Kubiak was the glue that held them together or the problem. Bill O'Brien is a great coordinator but this is his first head job in the NFL. A coaching change can do wonders, and if he can revive their moribund offense things might get interesing. But bypassing a quarterback for a defensive end in the draft may have sealed their fate.

Tennessee ain't too bad... and ain't too good. End of story.

Jacksonville had a very good offseason, but the Jags need to pull a 'show me' to regain credibility as a contender. The team has heart. It could happen.


AFC West:

You'd think with two flops in the playoffs and Peyton Manning applying for Social Security the Broncos would hang it up. Not John Elway. He has his window, and this year is proving no different than last with an army of acquisitions to get Peyton his ring. It's doubtful that it will, but it will get him yet another division crown.

Should Denver slip up, however, the Chiefs at least look like the clear lady in waiting. Alex Smith may not be Manning, but he's pretty good, and his team isn't bad either. It's all a question of what the Broncos do, and after that Super Bowl, more than one potential sword hangs over their heads.

And then there's Oakland. Except for the Browns, the perennial example of how not to do things. This year they had a good offseason, not just for them but for anyone. The question will be whether the added talent has effect or just gets sucked into the bottomless pit that has claimed so many. Matt Schaub will become the latest faded star to try his luck. Carson Palmer couldn't do it. Went to Arizona and looked just fine. Oughtta tell you something.

Finally we have the Chargers... or what's left of them. They showed so much heart last year, it's impossible to write them off. Under AnybodyButNorv, they blossomed from talented underachievers to untalented overachievers. The latter is far more fun to watch. Don't count them out of second place unless a few of their remaining wheels fall off.


NFC East:

The division that had everyone in a 4-way head scratching quandary for years now is Nick Foles' to lose. The Eagles may not be great, but they're good, and that's all it should take. The reasons?

The Giants stunk, and have great stink potential again. The embattled Coughlin could pull one of his miracles again, but this time it would have to be a real miracle.

The Redskins have more problems than their name (or, more accurately, those who've made a PC cause celebre out of it) and they start with what was only recently their one rock-solid position. Two years ago, RG3 and Kirk Cousins looked too good to stay on the same team. But they did, and the results were disasterous. Griffin, back early from his injury (at his insistence), stunk the house out. He was so bad that he was benched in favor of Cousins, unfortunately so late in the season that the cause was hopeless and Cousins was hopelessly out of sorts. Now they have two young question marks to go with the others... which comprise the whole shebang, on and off the field.

The Cowboys get sillier --- and progressively worse --- by the year. Don't guess this trend will continue. Bank on it.


NFC North:

The Pack may not be what they were once, and Aaron Rodgers may be contemplating suicide judging from his comments on running with the ball, but for reasons so common among the divisions they should manage win theirs.

The Bears are coming back with a revamped defense. Good idea. After that it's Jay and Matt and pray for health. Same old Bears.

The Lions continue to be the league's shining example of how to squander apparent talent. Will a coaching change make all the difference? Something better.

The Vikings try hard, and that might be enough to push them past the menagerie if both animal squads sputter, which is more than possible. But whatever happens they probably won't catch Green Bay. You can't ride AP like a horse.


NFC South:

I've been predicting the dissolution of the Saints for a few years now, and been wrong. Last year their hot start buried the Falcons, leaving doubt as to how hard said Falcons were actually trying. And they handled upstart Carolina when they had to. They have the best (and dirtiest) coach in the division. Will that still be enough? Maybe. Maybe not. The wheels have to fall off some day, but they need some encouragement.

Atlanta is a huge question mark following a pathetic season rivaled only by Houston. Is Mike Smith really back? Consistency may be something the Falcons don't want this time around. Nobody sinks like that after losing a wide receiver. Nobody good, anyway.

Carolina had a breakout season for Cam last year. Or was it a flash in the pan? Judging from what happened between the season and postseason, it'll all depend on how short a leash they can keep on Newton, who appears to prefer the Superman routine, which loses, to the game manager routine, which won them games.

Tampa Bay isn't pathetic, but the Bucs also aren't looking like contenders either. This year, though, is the Lovie Smith Show. If they play as hard for him as the Bears did, who knows where this fairly talented team might end up?


NFC West:

Suddenly the premier division in football, the NFCW has two powerhouses, one good team and one mystery flop. Seattle's hold on the division is anything but guaranteed. But the champs are the likeliest to win it. There's one major reason.

Colin Kaepernick has been showing more and more of his flaky side since the reins came off. He's talented and dynamic, but he's also a mistake-prone passer who can be a liability when he goes sour. His discipline is in, shall we say, some question, certainly when compared to that of the possibly less skilled Russell Wilson. But the Niners should be there until the end anyway.

The Cards surprised almost everybody by making a run at a playoff spot late. Carson Palmer settled into his role, and the team played well. There's just too much to overcome right now in the division though.

Which brings us to the Rams. Is Sam still a franchise QB? Have all those draft picks borne fruit yet? Will they this time around? Is Fisher really still a capable coach? Stay tuned, but the likely anwers, as their record shall determine, are no, no and no. This ain't the NFCE. This ain't even the NFCS. Rebuilds don't take this long.

Reflecting on The Pats Season
Category: Daily Blog 2.0
Tags: Super Bowl AFC NFC Broncos Patriots Manning Brady

This is a tale of two similar seasons 12 years removed. ?In January 2002, I watched the divisional round of the playoffs from a cruise ship leaving Miami. ?I watched an improbable Patriots win to advance to the AFC title game in Pittsburgh. I watched that game from Key West Florida. ?This year, I watched the divisional round just before leaving on vacation, and came home to watch the AFC title game. ?Both playoff runs were improbable ??if for different reasons. ?Both the 2001 and 2013 Patriots had fluky things happen to get to the #2 seed. ?Neither team was really expected to get there. ?The big difference ??the 2001 team had enough horses to make it over the finish line.

So, that Patriots fell short ??as it happens, very short ??this year. ?That said, there s no shame in losing the AFC title to the most prolific offense in NFL history with a team depleted as much by injury (Gronkowski,?WIlfork) as by apparent malfeasance (Hernandez). ?This is a team that completely overachieved this season, as I suggested in an earlier article. ?They won several games (Broncos, Texans, Browns) they had no business winning, and were lucky enough to pull out the #2 seed ??I m still not sure how that happened.

So here s my thing: it s easy to point to yet another big game loss and wonder if Brady has any more big game wins left in him, but over the last 12 years the Patriots have gone to 5 Super Bowls, 8 Championship Games. ?I can t think of a more impressive run, ever. ?As far as I m concerned, while I m disappointed my team lost, I m happy as hell that I got another week to watch them play this year, that they went as far as they did. ?Winning is great, but you also have to appreciate getting to the game. ?It?wasn t really that long ago that I was thrilled the Pats got to the playoffs, never mind really contesting the Super Bowl. ?

I was really giggling at the thought the Pats could play for another Super Bowl on Eli s home turf. ?Of course, if I m being completely candid, I honestly thought that it would be the NFC representative dancing under the confetti at the end of the day. ?Of course, in February 2002, I was convinced of the same. ?Anything really can happen.

Now, I cannot leave it there. ?The Broncos absolutely deserve to be in the title game. ?In fact, there was a point at which I was convinced they could go undefeated all season. ?Additionally, they showed they were the superior team Sunday. ?No doubt there. ?They controlled the ball for the entirety of the game; the offense truly had their will and the defense stifled the Patriots. ?Sure, the Patriots played a bad game, but in my opinion was a result of the Manning-led offense playing their game with precision and victimizing the Patriot defense. ?No doubt, the AFC is sending the best representative to the Meadowlands February 2.

The NFC game was the polar opposite of the AFC tilt.? Sloppy at times, a potentially fatal officiating error on a turnover on the goal line, obviated only by Marshawn Lynch failing to get a handle on a handoff.? In the end, the Seahawks put the game away with 22 seconds left in the game.? Consider that against the AFC game earlier.? Little doubt in my mind really, I think the ?Hawks are probably the best team in the league and are my pick for the Super Bowl Champion.? That said, Coach Carroll is going to have to keep the showboating and sloppy plays down ? a Peyton Manning led team will eat those mistakes for dinner.? Richard Sherman got the best of his opponent, and in his post game interview he was stuck on some disrespect by Crabtree and reaffirming his status as the best corner in the game.? C?mon man.? Buck up.? You won.? Lose the ego.? We?ll see if you?re the best in the game when you?re facing Manning in the Super Bowl.

Now, on a personal note, to make matters worse, the game comes on the heels of a really cold vacation week ??I know, complain about a week away ??but it was disappointing in that respect. ?And of course, I got myself locked out of my work email, so I m sure there s 1000 mails begging my attention. ?Sometimes being away for a week?isn t worth the backlog you come back to ??even with all the?prepwork?you do to avoid it. ?TO make matters even worse, I changed my voice mail with the very clear message ?I m not here, here s where you can get answers. ??And of course I come back to three voice messages from the same person saying they left a message the other day and?weren t sure why I?hadn t responded. ?Yeah, I have a new message for you the best part is that I have NO idea why they re calling me ??they ?would have been advised to follow up on my directions. ??File this:?NMP? ?Not My Problem.

Congratulations Denver and good luck February 2. ?I think you?re going to need it.



Deep Thoughts 12-11-13
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Texas Longhorns and Mack Brown Dallas Cowboys Jerry Jones and Monte Kiffin NFC contenders AFC contenders Danica Patrick Dances Olympic Football?


Hello and welcome to another Wednesday of deep thoughts. If you are a football fan, it would be tough to beat last weekend for watching football…unless you are a Longhorn or Cowboys fan. I admit that I was less than confident that the Horns would be up to the task of beating Baylor in Waco. I told friends that Waco is a tough place to play. Winning conference games on the road is always tough. I was hopeful, but anything but confident. To make matters worse, Saturday was the last game being played at Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco and with the loss by Oklahoma State earlier in the day…the game was for the Big 12 title. As everyone knows, Texas battled to a 3-3 tie at halftime before Baylor figured out the cold weather and pulled away in the second half. With the loss, the eyes of Texas have begun to look for new leadership. The heat on Longhorn boss Mack Brown has grown increasingly hot in the past few years. 2013 was supposed to be the year that Texas became relevant nationally; once again…they were not. There are many in Longhorn nation that believe Mack Brown should be replaced. I am not one of them anymore. Earlier in the season I believed that Texas needed a new head coach, but what happened after the loss to Ole Miss changed my mind. Had Texas won one more conference game, there would have been a good argument for Brown to be the Big 12 coach of the year. Given the injuries that the Longhorns have faced this year, it is amazing that Texas was able to win as many games as they did. But, for many fans that is simply not good enough. I suppose that I am in a minority, but if Brown has one more year on his contract…why not allow Mack Brown to finish out his time? Given the good times that Mack has brought to the 40 acres, it seems the right way to end this era.




Now, changes do need to be made. The first thing that I would address is a new offensive coordinator. Major Applewhite was a great player while at Texas, but I just don’t see him as the answer at Texas. During the Baylor game, Texas ran the ball extremely well. Despite the success on the ground, each time the Horns crossed midfield, Applewhite went with a pass play. I understand the concept of a balanced offense, but in that weather…with Case McCoy at QB…keep running the ball. Each time Texas went with the pass, the incompletion meant that another pass was necessary. It is why Texas was unable to finish several promising drives and only able to muster 3 points in the half. Once Baylor put two scores up in the second half, Texas was done.

Next I would take a long hard look at the talent evaluators at Texas. I like what Case McCoy represents, but 12 for 34 for 54 yards is just unacceptable. In today’s college football if you don’t have a QB…you don’t win. When Mack has had a good QB, Texas has won. It really is that simple. Teams are going to make mistakes sometimes, but how is it possible that there was not more talent in the QB cupboard? You can make the argument that better QBs were at Texas and left and that is a fair take. But when you realize that Texas tried to talk RG3 into being a wide receiver, you have to wonder at the wisdom of those making the talent decisions.

Mack joked before the Baylor game that he had to be the only coach in America with a team playing for a conference championship and also answering questions about his job. If history is correct, where there is smoke, there is almost always fire. I suppose that we will hear in a few days that Brown is stepping down and a new coach is taking over. That is too bad. For all of those Texas fans clamoring for Nick Saban, be careful what you wish for. Saban is the same age as Brown and if he is the one chosen to replace Mack, his tenure at UT surely won’t be long. Of course, five years at one place is a long time for Saban. For those keeping tabs…the extension that Bama offered Saban on Friday remains unsigned…hmmm. I wonder if that means anything.






All of those great NFL games on Sunday left me excited to see the Cowboys face the Bears. I envisioned the Bears in Chicago to be much tamer than those in Waco. The Bear defense has been horrid this year and I fully expected the Boys to rack up points. The game began just as I expected, with Dallas running the ball at will. For once, the Cowboys took the opening kickoff and scored a TD. This was going to be fun, I thought. Then Chicago scored and scored again and again and again. I think that the Bears punter had one punt. The Bears used their big receivers Marshall and Jeffery to haul in one first down after another. Then Forte ran a bit, and then he caught a few passes. The poor passes that Josh McCown threw, Dallas dropped. The Bears dropped nothing. I watched a replay the other day of the 1994 Cowboys against Green Bay on Thanksgiving. I realized how much defensive talent they had on that team…Jeffcoat, Haley, Maryland, Hennings, Leon Lett, Robert Jones, Darrin Smith, Bill Bates, Darren Woodson, Larry Brown. There were players at every position and even the back-up players were good.  As I watched the Cowboy defense Monday night, what I noticed is that they just did not have the talent to make the plays necessary to stop the Bears. Maybe Monte Kiffin is the right guy…maybe he is not. In the end, the team with the best talent wins and Dallas just does not have enough talent of defense to make any coordinator’s system work. Seriously…this stat says it all. For the season, the Cowboys defense has allowed an average of 25 first downs each game. This is just pitiful. The funny thing is, I still think that Dallas will probably win the NFC East. But I know what is ahead. Sadness and disappointment lay ahead for Cowboy fans.



I laugh when I hear the press spouting stats about Tony Romo’s December struggles. There is a reason that Tony Romo has struggled in December. This is the time of year that defense wins games. Really, what chance does Dallas have of winning if it is not Romo’s offense outscoring the opposition? For those that criticize Romo…what would Dallas have without him? I had to laugh when I read this quote about Monte Kiffin from Jerry Jones on Tuesday:


"He takes it personally; it's hard on him," Jones said of Kiffin during his twice weekly radio show on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. "Very hard on him. He's been doing this a long time.

"At his age [73], he's had a lot of different experiences. With all of that in mind, he's just got a resolve and he doesn't in any way reject the responsibility. As a matter of fact, he invites it all on himself."

After the loss, Jones said he wished the Cowboys (7-6) would trick up some of their defensive schemes and get more pressure on the quarterback to create turnovers.

"To be doing what we're doing and to fix what we're doing, there's nobody I would rather have than him and [defensive line coach] Rod Marinelli," Jones said. "Where we are today, to get this fixed over the next, if you would, week or four or five days, the next three weeks, there's nobody I would rather have to get it fixed.

"First of all, he knows what's happening to us better than anyone. And if there are adjustments to be made, he's the right man for the job right now."

It is clear to all what adjustment is needed in Dallas. A general manager not named Jerry Jones. Seriously…read that quote. What the hell does this mean? “a week or four or five days, the next three weeks” It is time for Dallas to find someone that actually knows how to build a team. The tough part is convincing the owner…


 I have said and continue to say that unless a team plays defense this time of year that they cannot win in the playoffs. It looks to me like there are two teams in the NFC that have a chance of making the Super Bowl. Seattle and San Francisco have the defenses to compete the rest do not. I thought that Carolina might have a chance, but after Sunday, I am not so sure.

The AFC seems like a four team race. Denver, New England, Cincinnati and KC appear to be the four teams with a realistic chance this year. Of course, those pesky Ravens always seem to be a problem if they manage to make the playoffs. Is it just me or are the Ravens very similar to what the Giants were a few years ago. With that defense, this time of year seems to just agree with them. Flacco plays like shit the entire year, then suddenly transforms into an NFL QB for a month. Think how good they would be if they still had Boldin. I am still trying to figure out why they did no resign that guy.

If you believe in defense winning, Denver and New England do not seem to be the choice to be in the Super Bowl. Of course, when you have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady…sometimes you can make up for a leaky defense. Watching Gronk go out on Sunday, I could not help but think that the Pats chances got much tougher. It is too bad he cannot stay healthy as he is a great player. For my money, it looks like Denver and Seattle in the Super Bowl this year. Offense against defense...in the cold. If Peyton actually wins outside in NY, he really does have a right to tell everyone to stick those questions in their ear.




I am sure that Qwazier will cover this, but I had to at least give it a mention. Apparently, Danica Patrick is now a Las Vegas show girl? During the America county music awards in Las Vegas, Danica Patrick showed up in her dancing gear…





I caught a bit of conversation on sports radio about Football being added to the summer Olympics. What do you think about this? Why would other countries agree to this? Is there any doubt that we would kick everyone’s ass for decades? The rest of the world could put a team together and I doubt they could still even compete. It will be interesting to see how this develops. Strange that they take wrestling out of the Olympics and add football? I wonder what crazy rules Olympic football would have?

That’s all I have today, but will leave you with a bit of Jack Handey…



"I think people tend to forget that trees are living creatures. They're sort of like dogs. Huge, quiet, motionless dogs, with bark instead of fur."


The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.




Thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a few deep thoughts of your own…



Conference Championship Picks with IHM
Category: NFL
Tags: NFL AFC NFC Patriots Ravens 49ers Giants

  Well folks, it's that time of year again... the men have been separated from the boys, the cream has risen to the top, and a number of other cliches could also be used to describe the majesty that is the AFC and NFC Championship weekend. The final four include some old standbys in the AFC, the Patriots and Ravens, and a band of underachievers and overachievers in the NFC with the Giants and 49ers. 

  Last week, I really shit the bed, going 2-2 on my picks, bringing my playoff record to 5-3. This week I can save a little face... or get them both wrong and sit at .500 going into the Super Bowl. If that happens, my days as an amateur prognosticator are OVER! 

  We'll start with the early game, the AFC Title contest between the Baltimore Ravens and the New England Patriots. As much as I hate to say it, the Ravens have a real chance here. This should be a tight ballgame... the real question being which strength will win, the Patriots offense or the Ravens defense. The clear formula for the Ravens, run the ball, control the clock, and keep Tom Brady in check. The clear formula for the Pats... score more points than your defense allows! Look, I'm not saying the Patriots defense is BAD... but they're not what you'd call great, either. Honestly, in a game like this, I say it comes down to the play of your quarterback... and the Patriots have a clear edge there. 

  Patriots 31- Ravens 23

  In the NFC, a championship game between the Giants and 49ers would have drawn a few odd looks in your direction had you predicted it going into this season. Mostly people wondering if you realized this was 2011, not 1991. The Giants seemed a safe bet for the playoffs, and the 49ers a sexy pick in the NFC West... but honestly no real expectations for either club. This one comes down to the running game, pure and simple. Alex Smith was good last week, and this week is his chance prove that was no fluke. Eli Manning has always been a bit streaky in my eyes... this is his chance to have a third consecutive solid-to-great playoff performance... something he didn't put together the entire regular season. But at the end of the day, the winner will be the team that runs the ball effectively, and you're looking at a 49ers defense that didn't allow a rushing touchdown until week 16. 

 49ers 28- Giants 24

  There's the picks... hopefully I'll be coming to you in two weeks at 7-3, giving you a Patriots-49ers Super Bowl preview! Thanks for reading and for any comments you leave on the way out. 

Washington Redskins 2011 NFL Season Grades
Category: FEATURED
Tags: Washington Redskins NFL NFC East 2011 NFL Draft 2011 NFL Free Agency Mike Shanahan Dan Snyder Bruce Allen Chris Cooley London Fletcher

As the Washington Redskins finish a third straight season at the bottom of the NFC East, an era where they have 15 total victories, there has been scattered areas of improvement. This is a positive sign for a franchise trying to rebuild a disheveled roster that suffered through years of poor decision-making at the top.

Though the Redskins new general manager and head coach have yet to make a huge impact to verify a statement of improvement, it appears owner Dan Snyder has enough reason to be patient and stay the course that has been laid before the team.

Struggling often comes with rebuilding, so the roster has players who did not perform well enough to warrant a return in 2012. Yet there are hidden gems in a disastrous season where Washington failed to realize the Super Bowl hopes every team begins a season with.


Rex Grossman - He is, at times, a poor man's Brett Favre. At other times, he is the equivalent of a junior high school sandlot quarterback.

Like Favre, he turns the ball over in bunches with throws no professional quarterback should make. He also has a habit of taking delay of game penalties in bunches and takes tons of ill-advised sacks that result in huge losses of yards.

Grossman was brought back in 2011 because of his familiarity of Kyle Shanahan's offensive system. This has helped him make plays that show off a skill set that has intrigued many ever since he joined the NFL in 2003.

He is, at most, a system quarterback who needs an exceptional defense to carry him and cover Grossman's innumerable mistakes. But he is no more than a backup because of his constant mental errors. He is certainly on the lower tier of starting quarterbacks in the NFL, as shown currently by his eight fumbles and league leading 19 interceptions.

Washington will most likely upgrade the quarterback position in the draft, thus ending Grossman's days as a starter. He made $810,000 this year, but is is just slightly more than backup John Beck. It is doubtful both will be back in 2012, but Grossman may leave on his own thinking he can start for another team elsewhere.

Grade : D +

John Beck - Redskins brass spun stories that Beck could lead the team before the season began, but he was beat out for the starting job in training camp. He did get three starts this year, but lost each of them. Beck has now lost all seven of his career starts, but four did occur with the 1-15 Miami Dolphins in 2007.

He took 16 sacks and threw four interceptions in his four games. While the blocking was not good in stretches, it was expected that his mobility would help prevent so many sacks in a short time.

It won't be shocking to see him return in 2012, but as a reserve since most of the football world expects the Redskins to draft a quarterback to start.

Grade : D

Running Back

Roy Helu - When Redskins general manager Bruce Allen grabbed Helu in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, he had an idea Washington had a steal on their hands. Those ideas were put into reality after the rookie was forced into action much earlier and much more often than they expected.

Helu became the main ball carrier after injuries disheveled the backfield. He has responded even better than expected, showing excellent receiving abilities as well. Not only does Helu lead the team with 635 yards rushing, at a respectable 4.3 yards per carry, he has 47 receptions.

The best part of his success may be his ball security. Helu has fumbled twice, but recovered one. He also became the first Washington rookie to for 100 yards in three consecutive games. The Redskins can only hope for similar results in the future.

Grade : A +

Tim Hightower - Getting Hightower in a trade this year excited the halfback and Washington fans, because most knew the abilities of the hometown hero from his previous three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. The only question was if he could last all year as the primary ball carrier.

His season ended after getting hurt in the fifth game, but he was averaging more touches per game than he had before. The reviews of his time were mixed because he was scoring less touchdowns and catching less passes, but Hightower's injury put a damper on getting a real review of his abilities.

His injury allowed Washington to discover rookie Roy Helu, so it seems likely he will go back to a familiar role to sharing the football in 2012.

Grade : C

Ryan Torain - Injuries basically ended his Redskins career, as Washington cut him a few days after Christmas in 2011. Torain has had injuries plague him ever since college, but his interesting skill set should get him a training camp invitation somewhere in 2012.

Drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 draft by Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos, he was lost for the year after getting hurt in his first NFL start. After sitting out the 2009 season, he rejoined Shanahan in Washington last year.

Many got somewhat excited about Torain after seeing him run for 742 yards in eight starts, but injuries soon hit him again. After sitting out preseason and the first three games of the year with a hand injury, Torain led the Redskins to a victory by running for 135 yards on 19 carries.

Since then, he had gained just 65 yards on 40 carries and fell on the depth chart so far that the team decided to part ways with him.

Grade : D

Evan Royster - Royster spent most of the year on the practice squad, but was promoted in week 10. Since then, he has run for an impressive six yards per carry on 36 attempts as a reserve.

While pounding the ball between the tackles is more his game, the rookie has had a few impressive moments. He won't outrun opponents, but Royster gets by with intellect and enough elusiveness to show why the Redskins used a sixth round draft pick on him this year.

He will return next year hoping to back up Roy Helu and Tim Hightower, but he has shown some abilities when called on.

Grade : B

Darrell Young - A college linebacker, he was converted to fullback as a undrafted free agent rookie last year. While he did play quite often as a rookie, Young has shown a lot of improvement this year.

His job is to block, but the fullback has touched the ball 16 times and scored once. He should return next year and continue to get better.

Grade : A

Mike Sellers - His has been quite a successful career after the Redskins signed him from the Canadian Football League in 1998. Sellers has played both fullback and tight end in his 12 NFL seasons.

He did leave the team after 2000 to join the Cleveland Browns for a season and the CFL for two years. Sellers returned to Washington in 2004 and made the Pro Bowl in 2008 for his exceptional blocking ability.

Sellers is 36 years old and this is probably his last season. He has spent most of the year on the bench and has one reception. But he was a team player that Redskins fans rooted for because of his toughness and leadership as well.

Grade : C -

Wide Receiver

Jabar Gafney - Washington is the fourth team Gaffney has played for in his 10 NFL seasons. He has had his best season in the pros with them, as he is on the verge of setting career high marks in receptions and touchdowns scored. He has already set a career best mark of 919 yards receiving.

He has been Washington's only consistent force in the passing game. A big reason is his reunion with quarterback Rex Grossman, who also threw him a ton of passes while both were members of the Florida Gators in college.

Gaffney has one more year left on his contract, so that should guarantee a return to Washington in 2012.

Grade : A -

Santana Moss - It has been a forgettable season for the 11-year pro. A injury to his hand slowed him down, and the 43 receptions he has had this year is the fewest he has had since 2004. He signed a three-year contract worth $15 million before the season started, so it appears likely Moss will be with the Redskins in 2012.

Grade : C

Anthony Armstrong - It was been a horrific season for Armstrong in 2011. He came out of nowhere as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2010 to catch 44 balls at 20 yards per catch. He has just seven receptions this season.

A big part of the reason could be Washington's struggles at quarterback, but Armstrong has battled a hamstring issue this year and lost his starting job. He might be able to rebound in 2012, after the Redskins get a better quarterback, but Armstrong was a feel-good story of 2010 now trying to prove his success wasn't a flash in the pan.

Grade : D

Donte` Stallworth - Stallworth has been in the NFL nine seasons and has played with six teams. He has a good skill set, but has never consistently put it together. He sat out in 2010 after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter.

Washington cut him briefly this year, but brought him back after injuries depleted their receivers corps. Stallworth has caught 21 passes for two scores in the 10 games he has played. The former first-round pick of the New Orleans Saints appears to be running out of chances, but it would be no surprise to see him in the NFL next year.

Grade : C

Leonard Hankerson - The rookie had a case of the drops in preseason, but he made the team because the coaches were impressed with his size and skill set. The team had also used a third-round draft pick to acquire him.

Hankerson was beginning to show productive signs when he got hurt and was lost for the season. He played just four games, catching 13 passes, but he had his first 100-yard receiving game in the NFL at the time of his injury. Expect him back in 2012, assuming he is healthy.

Grade : C +

Terence Austin - Austin is a second-year pro who has played and contributed more this season. He has 11 catches, showing decent ability in getting open. He has had to fight through the depth chart since arriving in Washington, an issue he will once again face in next year's training camp.

Grade : C

Niles Paul - Paul is another Nebraska Cornhusker that Washington drafted this season. He has primarily been used on special teams, but the speedy wide receiver has caught two passes and run the ball once.

One of Paul's strengths is blocking downfield, a skill he showed often in preseason. He has a very good chance of returning next year, but is buried right now on a depth chart full of good receivers.

Grade : C

David Anderson - He will played just five games, but the possession-type receiver has caught six balls and scored once. It will be a longshot for his return in 2012, but Mike Shanahan does like a receiver with his skill set. Brandon Stokley is a prime example.

Grade : C +

Tight End

Chris Cooley - You could say it was a wasted season for Cooley, who played just five games because of a knee and hand injury. But he did catch eight balls and surpass Washington legend Jerry Smith for having the most receptions in a career by a Redskins tight end.

Cooley wants to return in 2012, but that was beginning to look suspect when Fred Davis started to excel in his place. Davis then got suspended for illegal drug use, so Washington should think about bringing back a player who wants to finish his career with them.

Grade : C -

Fred Davis - Davis was starting to look like one of the few good draft picks Vinny Cerrato had before he was finally fired as the Redskins Vice President for Football Operations in 2009. Then the tight end was suspended for the final four games of the 2011 season for illegal drug use.

The criticism of Davis, when Washington used a second round pick on him in 2008, was that he wasn't really interested in football. He developed slowly behind Chris Cooley on the depth chart, but showed flashes of the ability most felt he possessed.

Davis was having a career year this season, catching 59 passes in 12 games, before he was shelved. His contract expires at the end of the year, so there are no guarantees he will return in 2012.

If Washington loses him, there will be a big hole to fill at tight end. It will be even bigger than the one he created himself by poor decisions.

Grade : B

Logan Paulson - A blocking tight end forced into more involvement in the offense due to injuries and suspension, Paulson made the team last year as an undrafted free agent rookie. He has caught a career best nine passes this season, as opposed to the two he had last year.

He makes his bones by blocking, something Paulson does a good job at. This should get him serious consideration at a 2012 return to Washington.

Grade : C

Richard Quinn - Quinn went into the 2009 draft as the top blocking tight end in the draft. The Denver Broncos used a second round selection on him, but cut him the following year. He has appeared in one game, so his chance will come in training camp as he vies with Paulson for the job of blocking tight end.

Grade : Incomplete

Rob Meyers - After spending most of the 2011 on the practice squad, Meyers joined the active roster for the final two weeks of the season. He gets compared a lot to Chris Cooley, most likely because both attended Utah State University.

Meyers has been on six different teams practice squads since joining the NFL in 2009, so it is doubtful he will be back in 2012.

Grade : Incomplete

Dominique Byrd - Byrd appeared in two games before being waived. The four-year pro has played for both the Saint Louis Rams, who drafted him in the third round of the 2006 draft, and the Seattle Seahawks as well.

Grade : Incomplete

Offensive Line

Trent Williams - It has certainly been mixed reviews since the Redskins used the fourth pick pf the 2010 draft on Williams. Many thought he was suited to play right tackle, but the Redskins believe he can play the demanding left tackle spot.

More criticism of this pick comes from the fact the final four games of this season saw him suspended for using illegal drugs. The fact he continues to miss games due to injuries is also becoming a trend Williams needs to halt next year.

Williams struggled last year by giving up 11.5 sacks, but he showed some improvement this season by giving up just three in his 10 games. He did draw more penalties this year, but the youngster is still a work in progress.

I expect Williams to remain at left tackle in 2012, but his drug suspension has to be cause for some concern. He was lauded for having high character when drafted, so letting his team down belies that thought. But the team needs to hope this is a temporary setback for a man who is the beginning stages of an excellent career.

Grade : B -

Jamaal Brown - Washington felt good about trading for Brown's services before 2010, because they knew they were getting a two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion who was the first round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints in 2005.

He had spent his best years at left tackle, but the Redskins have had him at right tackle since they acquired him. While he has played decently, the injury bug has plagued Brown's career and prevented him from ever playing 16 games in a season.

While the Redskins offensive line showed improvement this season, they are still ranked ninth with 40 sacks allowed. Brown has unofficially been credited with a career high nine sacks allowed, but he has had just four penalties called on him as well.

The Redskins will face some tough decisions once this season ends. Brown will be just 31 years old next year and his 2011 salary was just $685,000, but the team might make some changes to a unit where injuries prevented them from truly gelling this season.

Grade : C -

Sean Locklear - His previous seven years had been spent with the Seattle Seahawks, where the veteran started the last year at both tackle spots. Washington signed him as a free agent this year, where he has started in four of the eight games he appeared in.

Health is a concern, mainly because he missed 17 games with Seattle. Even though he was replaced on the starting lineup recently, after giving up four sacks, having a veteran on a roster is a positive. Especially one with the experience of starting 82 games. This factor could bring him back to training camp next year.

Grade : D

Will Montgomery - He had quite a journey in becoming the Redskins starting center this year. Drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 draft, he had six starts in 13 games in his first two seasons with the Carolina Panthers and New York Jets. Washington signed him in 2009, where Montgomery had nine starts at guard before this year.

Replacing Casey Rabach, who missed just one contest in six seasons, placed Montgomery in the spotlight somewhat. He has had a few moments where he has been overmatched, but Montgomery has kept his job on a team that has a lot of offensive linemen who are able to play his position.

He will be just 29 years old in 2012, and his body still does not have a ton of wear and tear on it. Montgomery should go into training camp expecting to start next season.

Grade : B -

Willie Smith - The undrafted rookie has appeared in just three games this year, but started at left tackle in two. The Redskins could have a legitimate steal here.

Many scouts thought not only that Smith would be drafted this year, a few thought he could start in a year or two into his career. While raw, mainly because the former defensive lineman has less than four years experience as a blocker, he is athletic and blessed with long arms that help him do well in both the run and pass game.

While Trent Williams had had a few decent moments at left tackle, many believe right tackle is his best position. Aging veteran Jamaal Brown may not return next year, so it is a possibility that Smith starts at left tackle while Williams moves to the right side of the offensive line.

Grade : B -

Tyler Polumbus - After going undrafted in 2008, Polumbus was signed by Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos. He spent the next two seasons starting 15 games at both tackle spots for the Broncos and Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle waived him after five games this year, so the Redskins signed him a few weeks later. Polumbus has a start at right tackle and has also played guard. His familiarity with Shanahan should give him a decent chance at being invited to training camp next year.

Grade : C

Maurice Hurt - He began this year on the practice squad, but has started the last eight weeks because of injuries. Drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft., Hurt is one of the gems Redskins general manager Bruce Allen unearthed.

While he has had moments where Hurt had typical rookie struggles, giving up two sacks and drawing a pair of penalties, he has earned a chance to try to make the team again in 2012. His will be an interesting story in training camp, as he battles Kory Lichtensteiger for the job at starting left guard.

Grade : B

Chris Chester - The Redskins happily signed him as a free agent before this year, because he was a big upgrade over Artis Hicks. Hicks, who was a mistake free agent signing in 2010, was let go by the team. Chester has no sacks or penalties credited against him this year.

Chester was drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft by the Baltimore Ravens. After nine starts in his first two years, Chester has started at right guard since. Washington gave him a five-year contract, so expect him back in 2012.

Grade : A

Eric Cook - At 6'6", Cook is tall for a center. Washington drafted him in the seventh round of the 2010 draft, but cut him and placed him on the practice squad. He has started in two of the seven games that he played in this season, but as a guard.

Washington might bring him back next year, but it will be interesting to see which position Cook will try to make his mark at.

Grade : C

Kory Lichtensteiger - Drafted by Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos in the fourth round of the 2008 draft, he spent that year as a reserve before being cut after Shanahan was fired. The Minnesota Vikings signed Lichtensteiger, but cut him a few weeks later.

After sitting out of the league in 2009, he rejoined Shanahan with the Redskins last season and started 14 games at guard. Lichtensteiger, who can play both guard and center, began 2011 starting at guard and tore his knee up in the fifth game of the season.

He should be back, if healthy, next season because Washington needs all the help they can get on the offensive line. Lichtensteiger's best position was once thought to be center, but he has forged a decent career so far at left guard. He was playing at a decent level when his year was halted by injury, giving up no sacks or penalties at the time.

Grade : B

Defensive Line

Barry Cofield - Coming over a free agent this year from the division rival New York Giants, Cofield had adjusted nicely to the nose tackle position after having spent his previous five years as a defensive tackle.

Cofield will end up with the lowest tackle total of his career this season, expected because few nose tackles pile up huge tackle numbers, but he has a career high eight passes defended. A key note is that Cofield has missed just one game in his career, so he will be penned in for 2012.

Grade : B +

Stephen Bowen - After five years with the hated Dallas Cowboys, the undrafted Bowen came to Washington as a free agent this season. Not only has become a full-time starter the first time in his career, Bowen has responded with the finest season of his career.

He leads all Redskin defensive linemen in tackles and sacks. Bowen has proven to be a service player that Washington can plan to start again in 2012.

Grade : B +

Adam Carriker - Carriker has revitalized his career since washing out as a 2007 first round pick of the Saint Louis Rams in 2007. Unlike his time with the Rams, Carriker has not battled injuries in Washington.

Able to play nose tackle as well, the defensive end has been more productive this year compared to last season in quarterback sacks. He is getting less tackles per game, but the rate isn't a huge drop off.

The five sacks he has right now is second amongst Redskins linemen and fourth overall on the team. Since the team has so many other holes to fill, Washington could ride Carriker another season with confidence.

Grade : B -

Chris Nield - The rookie was a hero in his first game, collecting two key sacks and forcing a fumble. He hasn't been heard from since, as his 10 total tackles show. It seems he has a chance to return as a reserve next year, because nose tackle may be the most physically demanding position in all of football.

Grade : C -

Darrion Scott - After spending two years in the UFL with Haslett, after having spent four previous years with the Minnesota Vikings, Scott is in his second season with the Redskins. He has played seven games and wore three jersey numbers for Washington since then.

His Haslett connection might get him back in camp, but four total tackles says the Redskins could do better here.

Grade : D -

Kedric Gholston - A serviceable lineman since being drafted by Washington in the sixth round of the 2006 draft, Gholston got hurt in the ninth game of this season and was shelved the rest of the year.

He has a good chance of returning because he does fit the 3-4 scheme defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is running, but his output pretty much says that serving as a reserve in the rotation would be his best fit.

Grade : C -

Kentwan Balmer - The Redskins could be the last NFL team for Balmer, who has become a journeyman after flopping as the San Francisco 49er's first round pick in 2008. He has given nothing in his three games with Washington, a fact that probably doom his chances for a return next season.

Grade : F

Chris Baker - Baker came from a very defensive line at Hampton University that featured Miami Dolphins defensive end Kendall Langford and New York Jets defensive end Marcus Dixon. Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant got to play behind them.

While those three have become starters in the NFL, Baker had had the least success. He has logged just two games, recording no statistics, since 2009 with two teams.

After spending three months on the practice squad, he joined the team and got hurt in his first practice. Now on the injured reserve, it is doubtful Baker will be back in 2012.

Grade : Incomplete

Jarvis Jenkins - Getting injured during a promising preseason during your rookie year can only get an incomplete grade. Washington will hope his knee injury does not inhibit him any further.

Grade : Incomplete

Doug Worthington - He joined the team for the last two games of 2011 after having spent the season on the practice squad. The combination defensive tackle/ end spent 2010 on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squads after being drafted in the seventh round. He will hope for a chance to make any NFL tea, next year.

Grade : Incomplete


London Fletcher - The unquestioned leader of the defense, Fletcher is a 14 year veteran who contract expires at the end of the season. While 36 years old, he has never missed a game in his career and continues to be one of the top tacklers in the NFL.

He leads the NFL with 163 tackles, which is actually more than he had in his previous two years where he garnered Pro Bowl honors. There is no doubt the man still produces better than most middle linebackers in the NFL, yet the only question will be if he wants to return in 2012.

His return is probably the most critical of all of the Redskins impending free agents. Even if his production is curtailed, Fletcher's leadership is irreplaceable.

Grade : A +

Ryan Kerrigan - Drafted in the first round of the 2011 draft, the former collegiate defensive end has made a nice transition to outside linebacker. He leads the team with 7.5 sacks, has 62 tackles, four defended passes and has a touchdown off a interception.

He is a serious candidate for for Defensive Rookie of the Year and appears to have a big future ahead that will probably includes Pro Bowls.

Grade : A

Brian Orakpo - Orakpo made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons after the Redskins drafted him in 2009. He is still learning how to be more than just a pass rusher, yet he has a career high in both tackles and passes defended this season. If he doesn't get 1.5 sacks in his final game, he will have a career low seven this year.

He is a work in progress, but a successful one who has teams up rather nicely opposite Kerrigan at outside linebacker. They are learning from a defensive coordinator who was also once a Pro Bowl linebacker, so there is a very good chance Orakpo's game continues to evolve and improve annually.

Grade : B +

Perry Riley - Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Riley has steadily improved at middle linebacker. After playing eight games as a rookie, Riley has now become a starter at inside linebacker and has 64 tackles so far.

He has benefited from learning from Fletcher, which only bodes well for his future in Washington. Expect him to be starting in 2012.

Grade : B

Rocky McIntosh - There is no question that McIntosh hasn't been nearly as productive as he was in 2010. Not only has he lost his starting job, but he has his least amount of starts since the 2006 draft when Washington acquired him in the second round.

His 62 tackles this year are the fewest since that rookie year, and it appears McIntosh is better suited as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme. His contract expires at the end of the season, so there is a decent chance he will be with another team in 2012.

Grade : D

Lorenzo Alexander - Though listed as a linebacker, his position may be better termed as just "Football Player". Alexander made the Redskins as an undrafted rookie in 2007 and has played all along the front seven of the defense and is the captain of the special teams.

Head coach Mike Shanahan once called him Alexander the best special teams player he had been around. So it is a pretty safe bet the relentless Alexander returns in 2012.

Grade : C

Keyaron Fox - Fox makes his money on special teams. The eight-year veteran has earned a Super Bowl ring with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the past, where he was the captain of their special teams. There is a good chance Washington brings him back in 2012.

Grade : C +

Markus White - Drafted in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, White is a former collegiate defensive end converted to outside linebacker. He has appeared in one game this season.

Grade : Incomplete

Rob Jackson - Another outside linebacker converted from defensive end, Jackson makes his main contributions via special teams. He has been in Washington since 2008 since being drafted in the seventh round, but has appeared in just 24 games. Jackson will have to fight for a roster spot in 2012.

Grade : C -

Defensive Back

LaRon Landry - After starting out the first nine weeks of the 2010 as the best safety in football, Landry has been battling injuries to his Achilles tendon. He has played in just eight games since then.

After sitting out the preseason, Landry struggled with his health before shutting it down. He was still effective, making 48 tackles. But the question with him looms larger with each day.

Landry is going to be a free agent in 2012, one highly sought by teams who want to believe his injuries are behind him. Washington surely doesn't want to let him go without a fight, but owner Dan Snyder has taken similar gambles in the past and gotten burned.

Landry has all the tools desired to play strong safety, and his level of intensity makes him a favorite amongst the Redskin fans. No one would blame him for joining a team offering a bigger salary or a winning record, but this team needs him to return next season and beyond in full health so he can continue to be the best strong safety Washington has had since the immortal Hall of Famer Ken Houston.

Grade : C

DeAngelo Hall - Maybe the biggest headlines Hall has made this year was telling reporters he did not deserve his annual $4.5 million salary. Yet he leads the team with 15 passes defended and three interceptions. He is also second on the team in tackles.

Hall plays a soft corner and often gives up plays. There have been lapses in effort and attention, something not to be expected from a player raking in the salary he does.

He should be back starting in 2012, mainly because effective starting cornerbacks are hard to find. He revitalized his career with Washington in 2009 and went to the Pro Bowl last year. He is a key figure in the Redskins dreams to returning to glory.

Grade : B +

Josh Wilson - There have been several moments in the 2011 season where Wilson was the best defensive back on the team. A local hero who is also the son of a Maryland University legend, Wilson and Kevin Barnes both played on the same Terrapins team in college.

Washington signed him as a free agent this year and have been rewarded. Besides picking off two passes, Wilson is tied with the most passes defended on the team and has started and played in every game.

Not only should he be back in 2012, but it is likely the Redskins start him as well.

Grade : B +

Oshiomogho Atogwe - Washington was hoping for a bigger season from Atogwe in 2011, but he got hurt in preseason and has been inconsistent much of the year. Not only is he about to finish with his lowest tackle total since his rookie year, but the seven-year veteran missed three games and eight starts

Washington invested five years and $26 million into the free safety, so they are hoping for better in 2012. Atogwe can make plays, but he may not be on the team long if injuries continue to hamper him.

Grade : C -

Kevin Barnes - Barnes has had his best season as a Redskin since being drafted by them in the third round of the 2009 draft. He has set career high marks of two interceptions and 26 tackles thus far.

He gets picked on at times, but the improvement over his career is evident. Barnes has one more year left on his contract, so there is a good chance the homegrown hero returns to the Redskins in 2012.

Grade : C +

Dejon Gomes - Drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 draft., Gomes has started four games at free safety. He is aggressive and shows good range, but his rookie season might be most noted for his tackle ending the year of Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl halfback Adrian Peterson. Peterson, the highest paid running back in the NFL, had a consecutive streak of 1,000 yard rushing seasons halted at four years.

Gomes will be back next year to back up Atogwe, but the future of the youngster is very promising.

Grade : B

Reed Doughty - He may not be the most athletic player, but Doughty is third on the team in tackles. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2006 draft by Washington, he has played both safety positions and started 35 of his 74 career games.

Doughty won't wow many and creates even fewer turnovers, but he is an intelligent player who gets the most out of his abilities. Yet there is no guarantee he returns in 2012 for seventh season with the Redskins. Doughty has fended off challenges from players like Chris Horton and Kareem Moore thus far, so don't count him out just yet.

Grade : C

Byron Westbrook - Born and raised in Washington D.C., Westbrook is about to complete his third season with the Redskins. It is his most productive yet, as he has a career highs with three passes defended, 10 tackles and a forced fumble.

Special teams is his main area of contribution, but it is very foreseeable that the cornerback stays on the team next year.

Grade : C

Brandyn Thompson - Drafted in the seventh round of the years draft, the bulk of his work has come via special teams. He has a pair of tackles in the five games he appeared in. He will spend nest season's training camp trying to make the team again.

Grade : D

Phillip Buchanon - Drafted in the first round of the 2002 draft, the Redskins represent his fifth team so far. Buchanon started out 2011 suspended for using performance-enhancing substances, then promptly went on inured reserve after playing in two games.

It is hard to imagine he will be back, but Redskins general manager Bruce Allen has worked with him in Oakland and Tampa Bay as well. It could be time for Buchanon to call it a career, but perhaps he tries again in 2012.

Grade : Incomplete


Graham Gano - In 35 games over three years with the Redskins, Gano has been up and down. He has missed 20 field goals the last two years, in 74 attempts, but did make a career best four field goals of over 50 yards.

His nine misses of 39 yards or closer is a frustrating career statistic, but there are no guarantees Washington will find a better placekicker in 2012. It is possible Washington may be forced to spend a draft pick on a kicker, since Gano's inconsistencies are not conducive to winning football.

Grade : C

Sav Rocca - Rocca has been one of the Redskins best free agent signings of 2011. Despite the fact he will attempt the fewest punts of his career this year, his 43.6 yards per attempt average is the close to his career best mark. His 39.7 net yard average is the best of his career.

Though having just five NFL seasons under his belt, Rocca is 38 years old. He has spent 15 years playing Australian Rules Football. Washington needs him back in 2012, and can only hope he wants to return.

Grade : A +

Brandon Banks - The Redskins kick return specialist, the second-year pro has been used even less on offense this season. He did throw a 49-yard touchdown pass on a wide receiver option.

The diminutive Banks isn't returning balls as effectively as he did in his 2010 rookie year, but the difference isn't great and he does lead the league in kickoffs and kickoff return yardage. It seems very likely he will return to that role in 2012.

Grade : B

Nick Sundberg - After spending his 2009 rookie season on the practice squads of the Carolina Panthers and Baltimore Ravens, Sundberg replaced aging Pro Bowler Ethan Albright at long snapper on special teams in 2010. He has done a good enough job to warrant a return next season.

Grade : A


Mike Shanahan - Shanahan came to Washington in 2010 with a career record of 138-86 with two Super Bowl titles as a head coach. He also won another Super Bowl as an offensive coordinator.

He has gone 11-19 with the Redskins so far, which has caused some to speculate if his job was in jeopardy. Shanahan admits his rebuilding plan hasn't gone as quickly as expected, but he is basically trying to turn over a roster that suffered years of incompetence under Vinny Cerrato's leadership.

While Shanahan will need all five years of his contract to show if he was a success, there is areas he has earned criticism. The main one is him allowing his son to be the offensive coordinator, a job the younger Shanahan has looked overmatched at often.

Patience will be needed in the Redskins overhaul. He and general manager Bruce Allen saw all of their 2011 draft picks make the team, but there are plenty of other holes to fill. Yet there is the worry that Shanahan is running a system that can't win it all in the NFC East.

Grade : C -

Kyle Shanahan - Getting a job because your dad is the boss doesn't exactly breed confidence amongst the ranks. He first got a NFL job working with Jon Gruden, then four seasons under Gary Kubiak. Kubiak played two years under the eldest Shanahan, then spent 12 years coaching with him.

Washington finished 25th in scoring last year, averaging 18.9 points per game. They finished 18th in yards gained and 30th in rushing yards accrued. improvement was needed by the younger Shanahan's offense, but it actually regressed in certain areas.

The Redskins are ranked 26th in scoring this year and are averaging about a half a point less per game than 2010. They have improved to 16th and 26th in total yards and rushing yards gained, but regressed in passing yards gained and interceptions thrown despite throwing the ball at about the same rate as last season.

Most of the criticism of Shanahan's strategy comes from the fact it appears he often abandons the run in favor of the pass. It has surprised some because his father had most of his NFL successes via strong rushing attacks.

He appears destined to return to the Redskins in 2012 because of his dad being the head coach. Shanahan will most likely have a rookie quarterback in charge of his offensive schemes, so there is a chance Washington continues to falter with the ball as a young quarterback matures.

Washington fans might be stuck with both Shanahan's all five years, but a lot of critics could be suppressed if the young coordinator shows his theories to be correct.

Grade : D

Jim Haslett - Haslett has been involved with NFL defenses since 1979, save five years where he coached in college or other professional leagues. First he was a Pro Bowl linebacker, then he eventually became a head coach and respected defensive coordinator.

He is still in the throes of converting the Redskins defense into a 3-4 scheme, acquiring the personnel he feels best fits his system. The Redskins struggled last year, finishing 31st in both total yards and passing yards allowed. They were 26th in rushing yards allowed and 21st in points allowed, getting 29 sacks, 19 forced fumbles and 14 interceptions.

There was improvement this year, as Washington finished 16th in total yards allowed, 11th in passing yards allowed, and 19th in rushing yards allowed. While they have 38 sacks, the Redskins slightly improved to 19th in total points allowed.

Yet the defense is still not creating the turnovers needed to be considered respectable. They have created five less fumbles and interceptions so far, an area the team must improve on in 2012.

Haslett now has some interesting talent to work with, but depth must still be built and the run defense must get stouter. Injuries certainly hindered the unit, but that is a factor most NFL teams deal with annually.

The Redskins defense often found itself on the gridiron too long, causing fatigue, due to an inept offensive attack. If Haslett and Washington can convince aging middle linebacker London Fletcher to return next year, they will be much better off. If he doesn't, a huge hole will be there in the middle of the defense. This hole could get gigantic if strong safety LaRon Landry leaves as well.

But Haslett has led to defense to improve somewhat. He still has a ways to go, but there is more hope that pessimism involved.

Grade : B

Danny Smith - Smith has been here since 2004, but it seems he has dealt with a new kicker and punter most years. Washington finally got an excellent punter, even if he is 38 years old. But it seems their placekicker is inconsistent like most have been under Smith.

His coverage teams are generally good, but Smith must get the team a reliable kicker to procure more victories. While widely respected in the NFL, he won't reach the heights of an upper echelon special teams coach until he fixes this critical area.

Grade : B -

Yoooooooo! Dis iz Third's cuzin 7thStoneFromaTheSun makin his final procrastinashuns for da 2011 yeer. I did OK so far. I went 11-4 las week, and iz 143-88 overall.

Letz finish strong, capeesh?

Green Bay Packers @ Detroit Lions

I do belieef me and Third BOTH said da Lions wuz playoff bound dis yeer. Yo, da Pack don't knead dis, as both teems try to stay healthy. But Detroit wants homefield advantage in dere next game.

Lions 34 Packers 24

Tennessee Titans @ Houston Texans

Neither teem needs dis, but I tink da Texans finish strong.

Texans 27 Titans 17

Indianapolis Colts @ Jacksonville Jaguars

A battle of bottom feeders.

Jaguars 17 Colts 14

New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins

Too teems goin nowhere after dis.

Jets 17 Dolphins 16

Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles

Da disappointing Eagles strong finish mite save Andy Reid's job.

Eagles 31 Redskins 16

Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints

Da Saints go marching into da playoffs wif dere heads held up high.

Saints 34 Panthers 24

San Francisco 49ers @ Saint Louis Rams

Many tought, befour da seesun began, dat da Niners would be in last and da Rams in furst. Whops!

49ers 23 Rams 9

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots

Da Pats want momentum headin into da playoffs.

Patriots 37 Bills 31

Chicago Bears @ Minnesota Vikings

Who cares?

Bears 13 Vikings 10

Kansas City Chiefs @ Denver Broncos

Denver needs dis, but Kyle Orton makes dem regret choosing a weak-armed fullback over him.

Chiefs 27 Broncos 13

San Diego Chargers @ Oakland Raiders

Da AFC West has always been wacky. Three teems go 8-8 dis yeer.

Chargers 28 Raiders 20

Seattle Seahawks @ Arizona Cardinals


Cardinals 24 Seahawks 21

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons

Da erratic Falcons knead dis.

Falcons 34 Buccaneers 13

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cleveland Browns

As David Byrne chirped,"Same as it ever was."

Steelers 23 Browns 14

Baltimore Ravens @ Cincinnati Bengals

You like defense? Watch dis game! Call me crazy, but I'm goin wif da Bengals. Dey knead it two klinch a playoff berth.

Bengals 20 Ravens 17

Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants
Game of the Week

Personally, I tink dat Ravens/ Bengals game is better den dese too mediovre squads. BUT all da media will bee dere and da winner gets da NFC East title while da loser goes home until 2012.

Neither teem can run da ball, both quarterbacks iz overrated, and da defenses ain't nothin to write home about. I just gunna say Tony Romo ends dat "choke artist" label dis yeer.

Cowboys 30 Giants 24

Power Rankings

1. Packers
2. 49ers
3. Saints
4. Ravens
5. Steelers
6. Patriots
7. Texans
8. Lions
9. Bengals
10. Falcons
11. Cowboys
12. Giants
13. Raiders
14. Broncos
15. Chargers
16. Jets
17. Titans
18. Eagles
19. Chiefs
20. Bills
21. Dolphins
22. Cardinals
23. Bears
24. Panthers
25. Seahawks
26. Redskins
27. Buccaneers
28. Browns
29. Jaguars
30. Colts
31. Vikings
32. Rams

OK, datt iz it folks. Yo? I hope I seas yous alls in 2012, but dat iz cuntingint on if dat certain family lookin four me finds me or not.

You all have a Happy New Year and every day beyond.

As dey say in Ol' Mexico= A.M.F.

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