Nickel Package: Lloyd Under Fire

The Nickel Package: Joe Gibbs announced that he'll stay on as coach; one of the first things he did after doing that was to have a talk with Brandon Lloyd.

1. Joe Gibbs' return. I'm never comfortable when a coach says he intends to ... or plans to... do anything. So I won't be sold that Gibbs will return in 2007 until he actually does. I would bet that he will; Gibbs has always said he wants to honor his five-year deal. But what happens if the Redskins lose their next four? Will Gibbs think he's the problem? He thought so with the playcalling last year. He's always said he'll do what's right for the franchise; maybe that means letting someone else coach -- or, better yet, handle the personnel issues. Gibbs does still seem fresh so maybe he feels up for another season -- toward the end of last season I'm not sure the same could be said. He was relaxed enough last week to talk about commercials he likes and doesn't like with a couple reporters long after practice. (One aside: that's one reason Gibbs is likeable; he comes across as very human. My guess is Gregg Williams would boast to us about how little time he has to watch commercials).

2. Brandon Lloyd. Boy, did the Redskins blow it on this character. Here's the thing: it would have taken, oh, maybe one phone call to find out what kind of guy Lloyd is. He's not the kind of guy you win with and that's proving to be true. Lloyd is unproductive -- and spare us any talk about it being the scheme or changing quarterbacks -- and not a guy I'd want on my team. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't trust players who have publicists. One player told me that Lloyd is everything he'd heard he would be. That wasn't a compliment. It's hard to be as unproductive as Lloyd has been. He also doesn't seem to understand that tossing the helmet is a bad thing. He seems to think if they were 8-4 it wouldn't be a big deal. Heck, if they were 8-4 and those 15 yards cost them a win, it would be a bigger deal. Listen, no one is more frustrated or upset than Phillip Daniels; he doesn't need to toss helmets to show how much he cares.

3. Clinton Portis has surgery. Portis underwent successful surgery to repair his torn labrum. First let me say: in the 13 seasons covering the Redskins, I haven't heard of any unsuccessful surgeries. Portis will need six months of rehab, which will leave him ready for the start of the training camp. But it will also mean he'll spend the offseason focusing on rehab and not getting ready for the season. (Pause for a minute while we chuckle; you see, Portis is not the best offseason guy). It's becoming obvious that, as good as Portis is, maybe Ladell Betts is the better fit.

4. Final Four. The Redskins need a strong finish to build momentum for next season. And it legitimately could give them a boost mainly because Jason Campbell has to progress in order for them to finish that way. Also, if they re-establish their offensive identity, then that's another good sign -- regardless of the record. That's why I say Betts might be the better finish. They've found their identity the past couple weeks with him in the backfield. I love his patient running style; it works well with this group of linemen. Most of the players are professional enough to want to finish strong. So them ''quitting'' is not something I worry about. But I do worry if guys like Daniels or Jon Jansen will finish the season because of how banged up they are. They want to, which says a lot. But being able to do so is another matter. I also don't think the defense is good enough for them to do anything substantial in the next four weeks.

5. Playcalling. I'm not sure why, but there was a great deal of questions about the third series in Sunday's loss when the Redskins went three-and-out after getting the ball at the 48-yard line. I have ZERO problems with calling for a pass on first down -- Santana Moss was open and was an inch, or maybe a replay, away from catching a pass down the sideline. The reverse was curious, but receiver James Thrash messed up by not going in motion -- apparently he must not have heard the call. This messed up the play. Quibble with that call, that's fine. On third down, Antwaan Randle El was open, but Jason Campbell missed him. Worse: Moss was WIDE open on the same side of the field, but Campbell never looked his way and Moss gently waved both hands after the play ended. One thing you can't do is run every series. The reason why coaches want to establish the run early is to set up throws downfield. That series was not the reason for the loss. They had a chance to put Atlanta away and did not do so, but it wasn't the playcalling that cost that game at all.



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