This week I swapped five questions with Rich Tandler of CSN Washington about all things Eagles vs Redskins. Gotta admit, it's nice getting to talk some football in this dead part of the NFL schedule. His answers to my questions are below while my answers to his are over at CSN Washington.
1. Obviously the first question has to be about Donovan McNabb. How have you viewed him in his career as an Eagle and what are your expectations of him as a Redskin?
Rich Tandler - I have always had a very healthy respect for McNabb. Except for maybe a year or two surrounding the Eagles' Super Bowl appearance I've never viewed him as an elite QB but everyone knew this-whenever he was in the lineup, the Eagles had a chance to win, despite mediocre wide receivers and a rarely-used running game.
My expectations of McNabb are moderate. The Redskins have not had consistent, week in, week out NFL-caliber quarterback play for a long time. McNabb should bring that to them (with the occasional stinker of a game thrown in there, as you and other Eagles fans have warned me). I think that an overlooked factor is that he is going from an offense run by Andy Reid, who likes to throw the ball much more often than he likes to run to Mike Shanahan, who likes to keep it on the ground. McNabb should be more efficient and productive since he won't have the carry the load.
2. One of the big stories of McNabb's Eagles career was that he rarely had great wide receivers to help him out. Ironically, as soon as it appears that the Eagles are stocked with good young WRs he gets shipped out to a team that's suspect at that position. What are your feelings on the Skins' WR corps?
It's apparent that Shanahan is concerned about the receivers. They will bring 12 to training camp in hopes of finding five or six who can produce. The key will be how much they can get out of third-year receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. The two 2008 second-round picks both had lost rookie years and both showed flashes of ability but were very inconsistent last year. They need to step up. Santana Moss is who he is, a playmaker when he's on his game, invisible when he's not. The presence of Bobby Wake, Joey Galloway, and Mike Furrey can be taken as evidence that Shanny is grasping at straws to try to find a group that he can win with. Certainly, there is hope that McNabb can do what he did in Philly and get production out of less-than-stellar receivers.
3. The Redskins offense has lived and died by the running game and with the arrival of Shanahan their run first philosophy likely won't be changing. The question is whether the 2005 All Pro team of running backs they've assembled can carry that load, what do you think?
Between the two of them-I don't think that Willie Parker will make the team-Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson can get it done. They may get an occasional helping hand from Ryan Torain, a third-year back that Shanahan had in Denver. But Portis has been a full participant in the offseason program and he has a burning desire to prove wrong those who think he's washed up. Johnson has been one of the stars of the helmet and shorts phase of the offseason, showing good burst and great hustle. Of course, it all comes down to the offensive line and if that unit, with three new starters, can stay healthy and become adept at executing Shanahan's zone blocking scheme, the running game should be pretty good.
4. Commenters on the NFC East blogs here on SBNation had a little mini war earlier in the offseason about all the talented TEs in this division. It mostly centered on how they were ranked. What's your take?
I like the Chris Cooley and Fred Davis combination just fine, thank you. If you're talking individual tight ends, I'll take Cooley as the second best in the division behind Jason Witten. You can't argue with over 3,000 yards receiving in the last three seasons combined and it seems like every one of his catches has fans of the other team wondering why they can't cover the guy. Brent Celek does have a chance to pass Cooley in my book if Davis takes away a substantial number of his chances. I'm not a big fan of Kevin Boss although he is the only one in the group with a ring and he made some big plays to help the Giants win it all.
5. The Redskins have been somewhat infamous for conducting campaigns to get their players voted into the pro bowl often whether they deserve it(London Fletcher) or not(Jason Taylor). However, if they got Donovan McNabb voted into the pro bowl this year it's going to cost them a 3rd round pick to the Eagles. Do you think that would give them any pause?
That question would have been hard to answer before last weekend but after the Jammal Brown trade, it's easy to root for McNabb to make the Pro Bowl. The Redskins' third- and fourth-round picks are gone regardless. If McNabb doesn't make the Pro Bowl, the third goes to the Saints and the Redskins get back a fifth. If he goes to Honolulu, the Eagles get the third, the Saints get the fourth and send the Redskins a sixth or seventh. So, the net difference to the Redskins is between a fifth and a sixth or seventh. No brainer there, send McNabb to the Pro Bowl.