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Mid-Week News and Notes: Levi and LJ

Redskin fans are definitely beat up this week, but hopefully the team can build off of a little second half success last week against the Falcons. While they may still have lost the game 31-17, the offense put together a couple of drives in the third and fourth quarters, that were as sharp as they have looked in all of 2009.

There will be one big offensive change on Sunday against the Broncos, Levi Jones will be getting his first start at left tackle. Redskin fans seem quick to dismiss this move as futile because Jones failed to catch on with a couple of teams earlier this season, but I don’t see it that way at all. The Redskins need some personnel ‘luck’ with the state of their roster, especially the offensive line, so if Jones can come in and play well, he could prove very ‘lucky’ indeed. In my opinion, Washington need to sign four offensive linemen before the start of 2010, so if Levi plays well, he could turn into one of those players. He really only has to be better than Stephon Heyer to make it worthy of serious consideration.

It isn’t practical to expect the Redskins to get four offensive linemen that can start in one draft, so finding a guy that can come in off the street and play, is a win-win. If Samuels decides to come back, then Jones can be the right tackle, or he can just be Samuels’ back-up. Part of fixing what is broken with the offensive line, is being able to bring in depth that can provide very little drop off in talent.

I’ll be watching Levi all game long to see how he does. While it would be unfair to expect him to put in a Pro Bowl performance, I’ve spent a lot of time watching Heyer struggle the last few weeks, so I won’t have any trouble gauging the relative performances of Heyer and Jones.

On top of struggling, Heyer has been banged up – so hopefully he can get a chance to heal up a little bit. If Jones can stick, it will bring up an interesting scenario; would the Redskins then be better to put Heyer back at right tackle, and move Mike Williams back to guard in place of Will Montgomery? When cohesion is such an important pert of the offensive line, it’s hard to want to play musical chairs all of the time; but would that then actually be the best combination available to the Redskins? Heyer would have to establish that he could play better back on the right, than he has on the left, but Montgomery has struggled as well. Williams has played well at both tackle and guard when you consider how far he has come, but I thought his best game was actually at guard.

It will be interesting to see if the Redskins just sit Heyer down now, or if they continue to tinker with the line-up. While cohesion may be paramount to success, I’d settle for average protection at this point. I wouldn’t hesitate to try the aforementioned line combination – we’re 2-6 and we need to not only play our young guys, but we need to see how our ‘cheap’ options work as well. Guys like Jones and Williams are very worth retaining if you can get them on the cheap – now is the time to see what kind of money is worth throwing at them.

Keep your eye on the left side of the line this week, and see how Levi does. Hopefully the Redskins will get him help from a TE or RB chip, early and often. Let him settle in a bit and shake off some rust. I’d run Betts between Jones and Derrick Dockery on the very first play. Then I’d run a late developing screen to Levi’s side and let him get out in front blocking – that’s how important I think it is that the Redskins give him every opportunity to be successful.

LJ?

Larry Johnson was released by the Kansas City Chiefs this week, and cleared waivers as well, so he is an unrestricted free agent

Redskin fans, who have become accustomed to thinking EVERY free agent will end up here, will spend the entire week going back and forth about why it’s the worst idea on the planet, or why it’s the best idea on the planet.

Personally, I take a flyer on LJ and here are my reasons:

1) It won’t cost anything. Larry’s already been paid his $2.3M this season, so it’s probable that he is going to sign for minimal money – probably even league minimum money – so that he can try and ‘re-establish’ himself as a viable NFL entity.

2) With Clinton Portis and the rest of the Redskin offense struggling – what do they have to lose? There has been a lot of talk lately about how CP may have lost a step and maybe on the downside of his career, so the running back job for 2010 is certainly up in the air.

3) Considering the wealth of personnel moves that Washington has ahead of them, they have to start somewhere, and they have to count on a little bit of luck. Luck in the sense that if the Skins could find a couple of people that other teams have given up on, and give them a shot, then the risk-reward factor could be very favorable. Washington doesn’t have enough good draft picks to land 4 starting offensive linemen, a franchise quarterback, and a stud running back, so some of this new personnel will have to come from free agency. Johnson is a proven performer – even if he hasn’t done it with enough consistency. Sometimes a change is all a player needs to get back on track.

4) Bringing in LJ and him being able to contribute, doesn’t in any way prevent the Redskins from drafting another RB in the 2010 draft or looking to free agency for the need – it just gives them a possible option.

The drawbacks for getting LJ are not lost on me either. He’s had a multitude of off-field transgressions and his production has slipped considerably. He hasn’t exactly established himself as a leader or a team player over his career, so he does still have the potential to put the fun in dysfunctional.

Can the 2009 Redskins actually be any more dysfunctional though?

It is obviously impossible to know ahead of time if things could work out, but it’s difficult for me to see how Johnson could make the offense more inept, or the team, more dysfunctional.

So while I’m not saying for one second that it’s a lock for success, I just don’t see how the possible rewards don’t outweigh the risk factor. To me, there is no risk factor if you sign him to a small contract. If they can do what the Eagles did with Michael Vick and lock him up on a two-year cheap deal, they can let Larry’s play decide his future. If he doesn’t work out, they can cut him at little harm to the cap.

With Portis possibly seeing his last season in the burgundy and gold, to me it’s worth taking a shot.

The Redskins have nothing left to lose.

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