Wednesday, September 3: Talking Cuts With Scott Campbell

I’ve spoken to Scott Campbell, director of player personnel, before. His position means that he’s essentially responsible for preparing the team for all aspects of player acquisition, from the pro and college level, and I had found him to be candid and straightforward in the face of some difficult inquiries. so when I had some questions about the recent roster cuts — several of them raised by commenters and emailers — he seemed like a good person to talk to.

Scott Campbell, director of player personnel.

Scott Campbell, director of player personnel.

All right, talk me through the process of the cuts.

We started meeting the day after the Jacksonville game, the entire coaching staff, [Executive Vice President of Football Operations] Vinny [Cerrato], myself, [Director of Pro Personnel] Morocco [Brown], [Vice President of Football Administration] Eric Shaffer was in there as well. And basically just as a staff, we worked through each position and decided how many to keep, and the cons and pros of each guy, and why we should go maybe more one position than the other.

How does it work in the room? Do different people champion different guys or positions, or is it all just consensus building?

Sometimes it’s as simple as, you try to keep your best 53 football players. Sometimes, instead of saying, “we have to keep X amount of players because you’re supposed to keep X amount,” you decide, “well, we’ve got this amount at another position that we really like and think they can play, think they’re really good prospects,” and so you go a little heavy at that position. It’s all just based on the football players on hand.

The other thing that starts to factor into it is injuries. Not so much now, but later in the season there’ll be a lot of juggling that goes on just to get week to week. But we had some injuries with Kareem Moore getting hurt, and some other positions, we just had to make sure that we were fortified and could get through the week of practice and suit up enough guys for the game.

As well as tying it all in to [Special Teams Coach] Danny Smith and special teams, because it’s really important that when you dress your 45 for the game that they all contribute on special teams. So it’s not just the guys that are good at their positions — if they’re going to back up, they have to help over there on teams.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that Alfred Fincher played his way onto the team with an impressive performance in that Jacskonville game. Does that actually happen? And is it what happened here?

I think it’s a gradual process for him, but it certainly helped his cause. He got here somewhat late and had gradually learned the system, made a few plays, and kept improving and improving. That last game said a lot to make his case.

So it certainly helped and didn’t hurt him. To say that was the only reason he made it? I’d say that would be a strong statement. Probably everything combined, but it certainly did help.

What about not keeping a sixth receiver? That seemed to take people by surprise – everyone seemed to assume that ONE of those guys was going to make the team.

In terms of … I’m trying to remember here. I don’t remember the coaches ever saying we’ve gotta have a sixth receiver in the meeting.

Okay, but with Malcolm Kelly injured and not likely to play, and Coach Zorn having been somewhat critical of Devin Thomas so far, it seemed like the so-called sixth wide receiver might actually be a fourth wide receiver, and therefore more important. No?

That might be a better question for [Coach Zorn]’s viewpoint. Mine’s more for assessing the talent at hand. That’s up to him for deciding what he wants to keep balance-wise. In his mind … you just don’t know what he’s thinking in terms of what he needs. He’s the coach and he’s gameplanning.

Also, Malcolm Kelly, he’s kind of day-to-day, week-to-week observation. He could be fine next week. He’s cruised along through certain periods and then all of a sudden felt something, like before the Jacksonville game.

But to discount him or Devin at this point… they’re not starters or anything, but they are young players the coaching staff is trying to develop and groom. Maybe in a month they can contribute a lot more. Who knows? Nobody has a crystal ball for stuff like that.

But if someone in the meeting had really wanted that sixth receiver, they would’ve made it known, right?

Each position coach usually makes his case for why he needs more guys than he has. And then you go short at one position and hope you don’t get dinged there. There’s a calculated risk in every decision. You just want to make sure that you have adequate depth at every spot. You’ve just gotta weigh it all and take your best calculated risk.

Does the possibility of signing a veteran to non-guaranteed contract after week one play into the decisions of who gets cut?

Definitely plays into it. You’ll see a lot of activity across the league – the vested guys will all start appearing on rosters after this first game.

Okay, one of the cuts – or, actually, non-cuts – that surprised a lot of people was Justin Tryon, especially coming off a visibly rocky performance against the Jaguars. What happened there? Was there any thought to trying to put him on the practice squad, or do the coaches really have faith in his abilities?

They have faith in him. We all do in terms of the skills he brings to the table as a prospect. In the Jacksonville game … he is short, and he was guarding two guys who were real tall. He was at a physical disadvantage, but he was right there on their hip. They went after him, and they did pick on him, and that’s just part of the growing process. You don’t cut your losses after one preseason game.

Our thoughts going in to the draft was that he was a guy who could come in and develop and improve.

For his stature, he’s aggressive, he’s not afraid to hit you, he’s got quickness and man coverage skills, and he’s got good speed. We want to see him learn and grow.

With a lot of prospects, you are taking into account if you put him onto your practice squad that you might lose him. A lot of the guys that we did put onto the practice squad – Richardson, Clark, Crummey — guys who played well for us, we were concerned that they might get picked up and we had to make plans in case that happened as well.

I’m not quite sure how to ask about the punter decision, but–

They felt that Durant Brooks‘s potential to improve was a big upside. With all the young guys who get drafted, and even the free agents, you have to factor in the potential of what they’re gonna do, not just what they’re doing right now. Some rookies come in and light it up right away, but that’s probably the minority. A lot of them come along through time.

Most of these guys were taken with the idea of building depth on the team, and having young guys to groom and improve. It’s easier to develop a rookie than a thirty year old guy who’s only got a couple of years left.

Another thing that raised some eyebrows was bringing back primarily guys who had been here in the preseason for the practice squad, rather than looking to guys who had been caught in the numbers game for other teams.

The thought generally, even leaguewide, is that they know the system, they know the plays. If disaster strikes and you get hit at a certain position with a couple of injuries, at least you’ve got a guy who knows your plays. You bring a guy in from another team, he may be a very good athlete or a very good prospect, but he’s got no idea where to line up. It takes a week or two just to learn the basic plays – you can’t just plug a guy in one day and the next day have him play. So at least these guys have been trained, and the coaches are familiar with them. There’s some trust there if they have to play. But the practice squad will fluctuate as time goes along.

17 Responses

  1. Did he offer insight on Marcus Mason and why he was let go?

  2. great post Matt. I couldn’t agree more with Scott Campbell on his defense of Tryon. According to most of the complainers if a young guy is rattled in preseason it gives grounds enough to cut him. If that was the case then how would there ever be diamonds in the rough in this league? With Los and Springs starting, Smoot will likely get the nickel and Torrence will get the dime assignment, so we’re talking 5th corner here, he will not be on the field much and will have time to learn from the great veterans on this team at the corner position. Give the guy a break and a chance to develop.

  3. Scott or Vinny, Please keep an eye open for Tennesee safety, Eric Berry No. 14. For college football this year. He is a stud and a Ball Hawk, has alot of Sean Taylor Capabilities.

  4. BEST POST I HAVE SEEN OF YOURS! THIS IS THE STUFF GREAT BLOGS ARE MADE OF! (PS I know I said I was done reading, but in reality I’m gonna look at all the Skins notes I can get!)

  5. What is wrong with Malcolm Kelly? I’ve heard IR, PUP, day -to- day, week -to- week now? Line him up on 1st and goal and throw the fade, he’ll be fine. I’m tired of these rookie recievers already and they haven’t caught 1 pass in an NFL game.

  6. Mason’s departure makes sense because he wasn’t going to play for the Skins unless all our RB’s fell apart physically. Makes sense to let him try and put together a good year somewhere else.

  7. Well, to be perfectly honest.Malcomn & Devon are probably to immature for an NFL team. Do we have time to wait for them, not really. Fred Davis hasn’t showed me much either, now the defensive side of the draft seems to have settled in and they are doing a good job. Did injuries hurt Kelly and Thomas, yes, did Davis help his case by oversleeping, no. What i really notice is all three lack the fire of a Satana or Antwon, or the cool efficincey of a Thrash and the Smash mouth attitude of a Cooley, these guys may make mistake as anyone will, but you know they are busting it on every play, so you watch em week end and week out and you root for em. So the rookies need to get some fire under their ass and come with an smash mouth attitude, Lead follow or get the hell out of the ways rookies, we need you now to step up, so quit crying in your beer, pull ur ass up by the boot straps, strap it up and go knock the hell outa somebodeyyyyy , pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeee

  8. Stan, you’re a little harsh with a guy (Fred Davis) that made one mistake in a mini-camp on 4 May, not even training camp. Since that time he’s been a model citizen and hasn’t done anything but spend extra time on the field learning his position. He wasn’t one of the guys Coach Zorn called out as being, “out of shape”.

    As far as impressing you, well here are the stats among rookie receivers in the preseason:

    Wide Receivers / Tight Ends (By Receptions):
    Player Team Pos Rec Yds Avg Yds/G Lng TD

    DeSean Jackson PHI WR 12 122 10.2 61.0 19 0
    Josh Morgan SF WR 9 182 20.2 91.0 59T 1
    Pierre Garcon IND WR 7 74 10.6 37.0 32 0
    Fred Davis WAS TE 6 45 7.5 15.0 10 0
    Davone Bess MIA WR 5 29 5.8 14.5 8 0
    Limas Sweed PIT WR 5 32 6.4 16.0 11 0
    Jordy Nelson GB WR 4 45 11.3 22.5 22 0
    Eddie Royal DEN WR 4 80 20.0 40.0 35 0
    Dustin Keller NYJ TE 3 31 10.3 15.5 22 1
    Lavelle Hawkins TEN WR 2 70 35.0 35.0 51T 1
    James Hardy BUF WR 1 16 16.0 8.0 16T 1
    Dexter Jackson TB WR 1 11 11.0 11.0 11 0
    Marcus Monk CHI WR 1 14 14.0 14.0 14 0
    Earl Bennett CHI WR 0 0 — 0.0 — 0
    Devin Thomas WAS WR 0 0 — 0.0 — 0

    That’s 4th among all receivers, not just TEs (where he’s 1st, even over Dustin Keller). In the Bills game he caught a pass, turned up field and it took no less than 3 bills to take him down.

    You may not be impressed, but that’s enough to impress me from a rookie Tight End.

    As for your comments on the other guys, I agree.

  9. Doh, you know what, that was only after preseason week 2, so I don’t know what the stats are now, my bad. I’ll retract that portion of the statement, but still man. The guy’s working hard to learn his position, showed up to camp in shape, hasn’t been called out since May4, and has done everything he’s been asked in the preseason.

  10. Great post Matt. Keep up the good work. Yours is the unfiltered news, unlike Redskins Nation which claims to be unfiltered but is obviously quite filtered with burgundy and gold lenses.

    I like that they’re keeping Kelly on the active roster. Tremendous upside and if he can get healthy, I see stardom in the NFL for this receiver with great hands and quickness. Keeping Thomas on the active roster is problemmatical for me. I saw in this young man during the preseason a kick returner who did not want to get hit. Hope I’m wrong, but he definitely looks to be a guy who will prove to be a huge disappoint for the Redskins. And Fred Davis is a stud and destined for great things. When he learns to be a pro, watch out Cooley because Fred Davis will be better than you. No question.

    Keep up the good work. Enjoy your blog.

  11. stan, you expect too much too fast from the rookies. Rookies are… well for lack of a better term ROOKIES! a rookie is not a veteran, you cant compare devin thomas and macolm kelly with santana and randle el. it’s like asking a newborn baby why he cant walk and talk like his 3 year old brother.

    so impatient…

  12. Matt, again great post. Good to hear from a part of the front office and get a different perspective on how our roster ended up. I like getting that insight.

    Have we really seen evidence of Dan Snyder “controlling” the team in the last few years other than extreme media speculation? And Micheal Wilbon has written that some of the mistakes the Redskins have made in the last few years might have been prevented if they had listened to Cerrato.

    I like the players they drafted, they went after players and not combine guys. I like the guys they drafted last year, like HB Blades, Laron Landry. And I really like a lot of things about Coach Zorn.

    Let’s give Zorn and Cerrato a chance and see what they can come up with in a few years, with Dan Snyder backing them up. I’m pretty excited about it.

  13. Great post. I really like these behind the scenes posts that really provide some insight and clarity to things.

  14. In response to Bos Cephis- Jason Reid and La Canfora from the Post blew Zorn’s comments about Kelly out of proportion. Zorn stated that they were looking at ALL options…in other words…giving them nothing. But alas they mangled what he said. Don’t trust what the post says.

  15. Devin Thomas has been disappointing but he is so young! I think he is still just trying to take everything in and is a little overwhelmed. Once he hits his stride I think you will see some fire from him.

    He had to be kept on the active roster because he never would have made it through waivers without being scooped up by someone else. He has tremendous upside. He just needs time.

  16. Could Devin be another one of the infamous Redskin busts??
    ie….Heath Shuler

  17. I don’t know don, at this point in time that question is just as valid as “could devin be the next hall of fame redskins receiver?”

    depending on if you’re optimistic or pessimistic.

    hes a rookie, give him a chance to prove himself before tossing around dreadful names like Shuler

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