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Beginning Of March Madness And Sadness

Posted by Brian Tinsman on March 16, 2012 – 2:57 pm

In a month already known for its madness, this week saw the start of NFL free agency and the tip-off to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

I don’t think ‘madness’ is a strong enough description.

Where the NFL is the nation’s premiere sporting league, March Madness is the nation’s premiere tournament, pairing the excitement of Cinderella stories with amateur athletics.

And NFL players are some of the biggest fans.  Many of these guys are top athletes with the physical talent to play in the NBA.  Some players like London Fletcher were two-sport athletes in college, crushing the D-3 hoops at John Carroll.

And like any other office pool, there are players with prophetic brackets, and those that wish it was April.

Here’s a Twitter-ific recap:

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Westbrook’s Cinnamon, Spice Challenge

Posted by Brian Tinsman on February 23, 2012 – 4:13 pm

AP Image

Redskins cornerback Byron Westbrook had another solid season as a reserve defensive back and special teamer.  In his third season with the club, he posted a career-high 20 tackles, three passes defensed and a forced fumble.

Not bad for the soft-spoken Salisbury University alum.

But last night was time for something different in Westbrook’s world, as he told one of his Twitter (@BWestbrook34) followers that it “grind time now.”  He must have been referring to grinding up spices, because his next tweet called for an old fashioned Cinnamon Challenge.

According to Wikipedia, the Cinnamon Challenge has been around almost as long as cinnamon itself (with it’s popularity reportedly increasing around 2007).  The challenge calls for whatever brave soul to pour a tablespoon of cinnamon and swallow it in 60 seconds without the aid of liquid.

It’s a Youtube sensation, if you’re bored at work.

Westbrook did not supply any actual evidence of his challenge, but did offer convincing testimony, suggesting that he ingested both half and full spoonfuls of cinnamon.  Here’s the blow-by-blow account: Read more »

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Redskins-Cardinals Reflection

Posted by Brian Tinsman on September 18, 2011 – 6:19 pm

AP Image

After throttling the Giants last week, it would be easy for the Redskins to laugh at the Cardinals and look ahead to Dallas.  According to some of the veterans in the locker room, that’s what this team would’ve done in recent years.

And it would’ve cost them the game.  But this is not your Redskins of recent years.

This is team with some resolve, and it showed as time ticked down in the fourth quarter. With 1:39 left and a rack of timeouts, the Cardinals only needed to get into field goal range for the win.  On the first play of the drive, Kevin Kolb found his man over the middle in Cardinals receiver Chansi Stuckey.  Turning upfield, Stuckey picked up the first down.

But Redskins reserve corner Byron Westbrook was in the area, and keyed in on making the big play.  Securing the tackle, he ripped the ball out of Stuckey’s hands.  When safety Reed Doughty recovered the ball, it sealed the second victory for Washington in as many weeks.

The 76,330 fans roared in appreciation,before joining in a chorus of “We Want Dallas!”

The same sentiments of “this is a different team in 2011” were echoed in the locker room after the game, and there’s an unwavering conviction in the company line.  This isn’t a team that’s surprised by their success, and it’s not just the rookies or the veterans that are feeling the vibe.

The Cardinals gave this team a battle, and for the second week in a row, the Redskins had to find a way to win from behind.  But it never felt like the game was out of reach, and when they needed a big play, the team responded.

“It felt like we were still up, if that makes any sense,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said in the locker room.  “Because we shot ourselves in the foot.”

It was only a flesh wound.

This was a great game for running back Tim Hightower, because it was a grudge game for him, and he got his feet under him this week.  He gashed his former team for 106 all-purpose yards and showed that he can be a game-changer in Washington.

Meanwhile, Vonnie Holliday, the man he was traded for, managed only one tackle and one pass defensed in his return to Washington.  Nothing against Holliday, but the numbers don’t lie.

Hightower’s partner in crime, Roy Helu, also showed that he was capable of dominating off the bench.  He finished with 13 touches for 112 yards, and was voted your MVR(edskin) with 45 percent of the vote.  Keeping both backs healthy and having a battering ram in Ryan Torain for November and December should ensure the effectiveness of this unit for the season.

Next week, the Redskins take their show on the road to Dallas on “Monday Night Football.”  The Redskins have managed to fly under the radar so far, but when the lights come on in Big D, there will be no hiding from the national spotlight.  Rookies like Ryan Kerrigan and Roy Helu proved their worth today, but will need to step up again in hostile territory.  There’s no question that this team has a bright, bright future, but the team seems focused on the next team up.

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Apparently Brandon Banks Did Block That Kick

Posted by Matt Terl on October 18, 2010 – 6:17 pm

No one in the pressbox last night seemed sure that who blocked the Colts’ field goal attempt toward the end of the second half, but we eventually reached the consensus that — as the stadium announcer and official play-by-play said — it was Brandon Banks. Even Banks himself couldn’t be certain, but it made for a good story — and one that might sound familiar, as I wrote about it earlier today.

Well, I asked around in the open locker room today, and Kedric Golston and Phillip Daniels seemed pretty sure that it was Banks. In fact, they looked at us like we were crazy for even asking. “Don’t try to make us do your jobs for you,” Golston joked.

So, since those guys would be in a prime position to know, I’m officially offering my meaningless rubber-stamping to the already official scoring in the play-by-play. But this answer raised another question: why should this be so hard to determine?

Adam Carriker was one of the guys who we thought might’ve blocked the attempt, and he offered a pretty straightforward answer: sometimes you just can’t tell. Read more »

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An Old Eagles Week Routine Ends

Posted by Matt Terl on September 30, 2010 – 2:00 pm

It’s fortunate for the media that Donovan McNabb‘s return to Philadelphia is providing all of this hoopla and fanfare for this week’s game, because one of the traditional go-to stories for Eagles Week has come to a quiet, largely unheralded end.

I’ll let Gary Fitzgerald of Redskins.com sum up what I’m talking about with this excerpt from a July 2009 piece:

Every time something is written about Byron Westbrook, there is usually a mention that he is the brother of Brian Westbrook.

For example, when the Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles, Byron usually becomes a focus that week because he mimics Brian–a Pro Bowl running back for the Eagles–on the scout team during practice.

But Brian Westbrook is no longer on the Philadelphia Eagles. So yesterday, when the outsized media corps got tired of asking people for quotes about Donovan McNabb’s return, they didn’t bother with Byron Westbrook. Instead, the scout team questions were for Brandon Banks, who will be portraying Michael Vick in practice. Westbrook has largely been ignored, so when I saw him today, sitting alone at his locker, I asked how he felt about this change. Read more »

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The Defense Is 'Just Playing For Each Other', As Shown By One Play

Posted by Matt Terl on September 16, 2010 – 4:29 pm

The description of the play in the official gamebook is pretty unassuming:

3-2-DAL 41 (6:58):

23-T.Choice left end to DAL 38 for -3 yards (59-L.Fletcher, 30-L.Landry).

That is, on third and 2 from their own 41 yard line with 6:58 remaining in the game, Dallas running back Tashard Choice ran around left end — or tried to, until he was tackled by London Fletcher and LaRon Landry for a three yard loss.

It doesn’t look like a turning point in the game — and maybe it wasn’t, given how the final drive went — but it could’ve been. This was the play that gave the ball back to the Redskins and let their offense burn a chunk of the final quarter off the clock.

Fletcher and Landry get credit for the tackle, but as soon as the play happened John Keim of the Washington Examiner tweeted that “Byron Westbrook made that play with good run support, forced hesitation and others cleaned up.” And just a few seconds later, Sam Chamberlain of TBD.com noted, “Great play by Brian Orakpo to force Choice out wide on that 3rd-and-2 carry.”

So in the postgame locker room I went to those four guys — Fletcher, Landry, Westbrook, and Orakpo — and got them each to take me through the play from their point of view. Read more »

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A Good Day For The Defense

Posted by Matt Terl on August 16, 2010 – 1:57 pm

Today was an interception-tastic practice for the Redskins. Seemed sometimes like every other pass was being intercepted, dropped, or overthrown. Let me be perfectly clear: these days happen, and I don’t think it’s cause for any particular concern, but … man, it was rough to watch at points. And, of course, the defensive backs will happily tell you that this is just how it’s gonna be.

“This year,” Byron Westbrook — who had one interception off John Beck — said after practice, “we’re focusing on finishing interceptions, making sure we’re catching the ball.”

DeAngelo Hall was standing next to Carlos Rogers watching the second team defense work when a tipped ball landed in Rogers’s hands; the two promptly burst off the sidelines and attempted to run back an interception they made without even being on the field. “When it’s your day, it’s your day,” Hall said. “Los ended up catching it on the tip drill and we ended up trying to get downfield with it.”

Kareem Moore had at least one interception that I saw — his seven millionth of training camp, seems like — but that wasn’t what he was focused on afterward. “I dropped TWO today,” he said. “I’m just trying to work on my ball skills, trying to make sure it goes well in the game.”

And Moore even had a bit of a message for the Redskins QBs. “It was a rough day for them out there, man,” Moore said. “You know, with how we get down, every day gonna be a rough day for them. “

Backup quarterback Richard Bartel was one of those QBs, and I asked him about his rough day.
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Redskins Kill Time By Doodling

Posted by Matt Terl on December 1, 2009 – 4:55 pm

Renaldo Wynn
‘s “Holiday Wishes Come True” event was a big success today. Wynn, along with his wife LaTanya and a huge number of his teammates, escorted local children in need through Target, providing each kid with a hundred dollars to use toward whatever they wanted for the holiday season.

Byron Westbrook was one of the players who helped out with — and enjoyed — the event. “This was a great event today,” he said, “being able to help these kids who can’t get some of these gifts all the time get some of what they did want for Christmas. And it helps the parents out as well, gets something to make their kids happy. The kids had big smiles on their face the whole day.”

Westbrook and a few of his teammates, though, did run into some downtime before the event got started, and they amused themselves by tracing their hands on the disposable tablecloth in front of them and autographing the handprint. Read more »

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Tuesday, November 24: The Likely New Kickoff Backfield

Posted by Matt Terl on November 24, 2009 – 12:35 pm

With the injury to Clinton Portis, Ladell Betts became the primary running back. This removed Betts from his duties as upback on kick returns and put Devin Thomas in that spot. Rock Cartwright, of course, remained as primary deep back return man.

With the injury to Betts, Cartwright becomes the primary running back. This moves Thomas to primary kick returner, and cornerback Byron Westbrook to upback.

At upback, Westbrook’s role is fairly straightforward. “Sometimes I make sure the closest guy doesn’t hit the returner,” he says. “Sometimes I actually have a specific person to hit or to block. So it’s just dependent on the type of coverage we’re running that game.”

But — despite the fact that he worked at return man during his first season with the team, when there were no designated speed guys in training camp — Westbrook says that he’s not secretly hoping for a short kick to show off his skills. “Not really,” he says. “They kick it short, I’m still gonna give Devin the chance. Sunday when they squib kicked, if I really wanted to go attack the ball and get it, I could have. But at the same I know that if I caught the ball, it would’ve been impossible for Devin to get in front of me to make that block. So if the ball can get to him, he’s always the first option.”

It helps that Westbrook seems completely confident in Thomas at kick returner. Read more »

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Scout Team Defense Color-Coordinates For Motivation

Posted by Matt Terl on October 8, 2009 – 4:39 pm

It’s been another zany one here at Redskins Park. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache is no longer speaking to the media, for what Coach Zorn describes as “personal reasons” and “a needed break”. Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly discussed a thumb injury, which Coach Zorn describes as “ongoing” and something that the receiver has played with. A scant two or three sentences later, Zorn talked about how Devin Thomas is “coming on.” Thomas has looked good in practice — better the last two weeks than he has in quite some time, honestly — but saying that he’s “coming on” feels a little premature at this point.

As I mentioned earlier, the team is watching some of the most unpleasant preseason football I can remember for motivation. And it turns out that the scout team defense has taken to color-coordinating their outfits as yet another motivational tool.

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