Thursday, October 8, 2009

Hunting With The Predator: When You Go To The Ball, Good Things Happen

Through the turmoil of a few tough games, taking a game-changing pass interference call against the Lions, and ultimately ceding his starting job to Reed Doughty, Chris Horton has remained a consummate professional.

I caught The Predator on the local DC sports talk station Wednesday night on Holden Kushner’s Overtime, and if you didn’t hear the interview, I highly suggest you check out the podcast.

Chris answered every question Kushner threw on the table with genuine poise. When asked how he feels about not starting, Chris stated that he’s just going to continue to play his hardest, as he always does. When asked if he ever gets on other guys on defense for not making plays, he said there’s no room for criticism on the field, and he doesn’t believe in casting stones. And to what was going through his head when he recovered the fumble last week to seal the win, (somewhat of a softball question) Horton refused to take credit for the play, and said he was just in the right place at the right time. In his words, “when you go to the ball, good things happen.” It would have been easy enough to celebrate his success on air, even just a little bit, but he gave credit to rookie Jeremy Jarmon for forcing the fumble.

In his conversation with Kushner, it was easy to tell that all his answers were candid and unrehearsed. It’s a testament to his character that given a soapbox to talk about his successes or complain about his setbacks, Horton chose to humbly applaud his teammates instead.

And starting or not, The Predator will continue to play his heart out in each game because he’s part of a team working to win games and deliver a good show for fans.


Heading out to Fed Ex Field last Sunday for the Buccaneers game, there couldn’t have been a greater day for football. The sun was out, the parking lots were full, and spectators were out in force. I stopped by the annual Redskins Extravaganza tailgate, benefitting the DC Boys and Girls Clubs, and fans were as fired up for a game as I’ve seen.

Coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Lions in Week 3, fans, players, and coaches alike needed a win against the Bucs to boost morale and to get back to .500. In what most consider the softer part of their schedule this year, a second loss in a row would have been detrimental.

The game started off as a nail biter. An early turnover deep in the Skins territory led to a Bucs touchdown. Fans were on edge. Getting behind a team they were supposed to beat on paper was all too reminiscent of Week 3. Not good.

But the team fought through the first half, and finally opened up the flood gates in the second. The Campbell-to-Cooley connection linked up again, and Moss found another deep ball, capping off another solid performance. The electricity was palpable. Whatever displeasure roiled in the stands at halftime gave way to an explosion of cheers and applause.

The Bucs managed another field goal in the fourth quarter to keep it interesting, coming within three. But on Tampa Bay’s last drive of the game within the two-minute warning, Horton made a stop on first down. He then came out of the pile on third down with the fumble recovery to seal the game.

He might not have started that day, but The Predator came up big when the team needed him the most.

2009 tackles to-date: 24

Now at 2-2, the Skins head to Charlotte to take on a very dangerous 0-3 Panthers.

The mood is that Carolina’s capable offense could give the D some trouble, and the Skins offense is still looking for a breakout game. With that little extra bit of pressure comes an urgency that wasn’t there in the last three games. The Redskins were favored in each, even on the road against the Lions. Now that they are essentially the underdogs, there is no complacency left to hold them back from their best effort.

They know that it’s time to go out and hammer out a win, favored or not. And regardless of the starting lineup this week, Horton will put forth his best effort on each down he sees. It’s the only way he knows how to play.

Stay Fired Up!

Prey of the Week: DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Two solid running backs who had over 2300 yards combined last year. If Horton and the D shut them down, the secondary should take care of whatever Delhomme throws at them. Advantage: Horton has Stewart’s number from continually shutting him down in PAC 10 games. Bad news for Stewart.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Hunting With The Predator: Visualize the Victory by Matt Wallace

Here’s all you need to know about Sunday’s matchup vs. the Lions: the Redskins will come out of Detroit 2-1.

Usually my superstitions dictate that predicting a win ultimately jinxes a team. But in this case, I’m going to go ahead and say that the Redskins will come out on top. Why? Because they have to win. It might not be pretty. It might not be the sublime masterpiece of a ball game fans have been yearning for the past ten years, but they will win. They will. It’s a fact.

It’s no secret that the Redskins tend to play to the level of their opponent. That was plainly clear last week. Following the trend, many prognosticators and fans alike are worried, or even certain, that the Lions will at least cover the six-point spread, if not win. Fair enough. But to them I say, have some faith! It’s all about seeing the win before it happens. And if spectators are down enough that they can’t visualize a positive outcome against the Lions, then what’s the use in even following the team?

Many consider the eternal optimist to be naïve (and annoying), but at some point fans need to set aside their doubts, get behind the team, and believe they can put together a solid 60 minute performance. It’s true that the team has yet to really prove themselves this year, or even over the past eight games or so. But what use is it to dwell on missed plays and poor performances? Despite some lackluster showings recently, I believe the Redskins have every position filled with a very capable individual, and it’s only a matter of time before all those individuals finally start playing together. Why not look towards the game that finally starts things off (which could very well be Sunday) rather than hate on what has already happened?

Last year they had a few big wins early on, and then lost to some very mediocre opponents later in the year. The result was a very medium 8-8. Could it be that their close games early on this year will give way to some bigger wins later in the year? I won’t be surprised if it happens. I would much rather peak late in the season than fizzle out come December.

Ultimately the point is: it’s early.

No reason to call for anyone’s head just yet and no reason to fear a loss, even if it’s a means of self-preservation. It may not feel like it, but the Skins are still 1-1. Going up against an 0-2 squad this week is just what they need to finally set the tone. It’s true that Johnson and Stafford can be ball players when they show up, but the Lions as a whole are very beatable. The Lions rushing game is paltry so far, and should be demolished by the Skins’ run defense. Look to Stafford to throw quick screens to try and open up the field for both Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith. He only has 50% pass completion so far, so going deep won’t be a high priority in the Lions game plan.

Players need short memories to forget missed opportunities so they can play to their potential. I think a win on Sunday will help shorten the memories of some fans and turn the current tide of skepticism into support for the Redskins.


In all the commotion and bickering between fans and players and the media this week, I’m pretty sure you’ve heard very little coming from Chris Horton. He was the man of the match, arguably the lone game changer with his forced fumble and pass breakup against the Rams last week. And aside from a few folks in the media who recognized The Predator’s contributions, nobody’s heard so much as a blip or a tweet about him. Where some would celebrate their accomplishments, Horton doesn’t take himself out of the game. Undoubtedly he’s got his head down, playing through practice, studying film, and focusing on the next game on the schedule. He knows that a season is made one week at a time.

Sunday’s match up is the kind of game Predator fans should live for. Horton should roll on his solid showing last week to make some big stops if the opportunities arise. (Is it time for Horton’s first professional pick six?)

Prey of the Week: Matthew Stafford. Calvin Johnson is solid, but he can’t score touchdowns if he doesn’t get the ball. Stafford is young and has yet to settle into his role, and Horton has the potential to introduce him to the turf several times this week.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Hunting With The Predator: Small Victories by Matt Wallace

I’m not exactly sure what was said in the locker room following the Week 2 Rams matchup, but one of the positive talking points in a sea of negatives must have been Blache’s game ball speech to Chris Horton.

Like his Seussian namesake, Horton never forgets.

Last year the Rams capitalized on the Skins’ inability to bury them early, and they booted a last minute field goal for a two point victory. All too familiar, the Rams were knocking on the door late in the 4th quarter until Horton forced the ball out of Donnie Avery’s hands for a turnover. Fine time for his first forced fumble of the season.

To add to his already solid performance, Horton defended the Rams’ last-ditch pass play to Avery. Again, no dice. (Talk about getting in a guy’s head). Had Horton not batted the ball down, the Rams could have had another long look at a field goal to eek out a win in horrific déjà vu fashion.

However, Horton did show that he is human (maybe) after all. A poor angle on a run by Steven Jackson in the second quarter led to a 62 yard gain. A mental error against a beast of a running back (the prey that got away?). Consider it a lesson learned -and Horton never forgets.

To offset this infraction, some of Horton’s critics should take note of the coverage on Avery in the Rams’ last play. While Horton’s defense against the run is well-established, he has been knocked for his ‘not great speed’ in coverage. But he was all over this play like a blanket on a baby. (Also, it’s relevant to note that Avery runs a 4.2, and Bulger served up a perfect ball on the play.)

Aside from The Predator’s positive notes, the fans’ reaction to the game and the players’ reactions to the fans was a giant uglystorm.

It’s the old story we all know well: Team wins 9 to 7 in a not-so-perfect home opener, fans boo at half time, player tweets about dim-wit fans. Media attacks.
Two reactions:

1) If fans working at McDonalds fork over such a high percentage of their wages to Snyder to come to games, they can boo all they like.

2) Boos are better than radio silence from empty seats.

I said it last week, and I think the mantra applies here. “Stay Medium” has become “Stay Fired Up!” Fans are fired up because they recognize the Skins as having the chops capable of producing better results. Wasted talent is hard to watch, and that materialized into the halftime grumblings last week. Even so, the fans aren’t completely ruthless. I wasn’t at the game so I don’t know for sure, but nobody booed when the clock wound down with a tally in the Win column.

It’s also foolish to think the players are happy with mediocrity, evidenced by the rookie’s twitter outburst in frustration with the booing fans. The players are fired up, too. They are busting their tails to be great and win, and I am convinced the efforts on the offense will soon reflect the work being put in by the D. Big Mike Sellers, who just signed a contract extension, dropped a pass that should have lit six on the board. But he owned the mistake and said himself that the win felt like a loss. Doesn’t sound like a guy who is content with just showing up.

Everyone’s fired up. The play calling will improve, passes will be caught, and opposing offenses will continue to be crushed. The pieces of the puzzle are there, now they just have to be put together in the correct order.

Perfect opportunity to do just that against the Lions next week.


2009 tackles to-date: 17

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hunting With The Predator: Ram Season by Matt Wallace

I can’t really believe Game 1 is over and the home opener is upon us. Don’t know what it is, but something about the start of football season sends time into sixth gear. Everything speeds up from now until the end of the season. Even the fall weather in DC is a little ahead of schedule. But no complaints; it helps magnify the taste of football season. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence God made the leaves true colors burgundy and gold.

Before we relegate last week’s game to the books for good, a couple stats to point out. Your boy, C. Horton, had the second most total number of tackles for both teams, behind the omnipresent London Fletcher’s 18. Horton’s total would have rivaled that, no doubt, if only he’d had the opportunities in the second half. Horton played 40 snaps to Fletcher’s 64.

I hope whatever confusion about Horton’s role in the game last Sunday has been resolved. He’s settling into a position of leadership, and the coaches need to let him go to work getting the defense stuck in. The only reason The Predator should sit for a full set of downs in a game is if the Skins are nearing a slaughter rule.
And even though Game 2 brings the anemic Rams to town, there is no guarantee of a positive outcome.

Everyone knows what happened last year. A four game winning streak had confidence high, but leaving the team complacent going into the game. A fumble recovery for a touchdown at the end of the first half and a last second drive by the Rams to hit a long field goal put them on top.

Take a team lightly, and they will surprise you every time. Lesson learned, right?
I like that the Skins are coming off an unbalanced effort last week. The guys should be fired up to open up at home with the first win of 2009. But they have to make good on their intentions. Zorn cried “Stay Medium” last year during their winning streak. Forget that. How about, “Stay Fired Up”? They’ve got to convert effort and intensity into smart play and powering through teams for a win in a full 60 minute effort.

I am especially pumped about Horton’s match up this week. Steven Jackson is the lone threat in the Rams’ offense. Horton led the team last year against the Rams with nine unassisted tackles, and he’ll be topping that list again this Sunday. It’s a veritable battle of the dreadlocks. If Horton can squash Jackson and the run early, the defense should allow the offense to go to work and start putting up the points.

But the number one rule for the offense this week is: No Mercy. If the touchdowns are coming easily, there can be no letting up. I want to see some ruthlessness for a change. The offense needs to muscle in TDs as earnestly as Horton crushes running backs. It must happen. Power through, and admire the work done after the game is over. There is no bag limit, so take the Rams for all they’ve got.

It’s time to hunt. Let’s get it done.

Prey of the Week: Steven Jackson. His flow might rival Horton’s, but he’s got a long Sunday ahead of him going up against The Predator. Chris knew what he had to do last year, and this game is no different. Stomp the run, and the rest of the offense will crumble. Jackson is another year older, getting a little long in the tooth and rife for predation.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hunting With The Predator: Shake It Off by Matt Wallace

Afternoon, P48 fans!

I’m a pretty lucky guy. Blogging for Chris Horton, The Predator, Number 48 (Quattro Ocho? Nah…) has got to be the coolest thing I never thought I’d be doing a month and a half ago. When TriFytt Sports told me I’d been selected for the job, I was almost in disbelief. I’m humbled to take on the blog for my favorite player, one of the leaders of the Skins defense, and one of the most unheralded players in the game today. I hope you’ll keep checking in throughout the season.

Hopefully you’ve shaken out the cobwebs from Sunday and are focused on the barbecue of the Rams coming up this weekend. (Ram tastes delicious, by the way). First home game and what should be the first tally in the W column this year for the good guys.
First, a little about last week:

Optimism abounded before the Giants game. Same game as a year ago, but a few key lineup changes (Quickdraw Burress was silenced and Itsnotta Toomer was excised in the offseason) and a renewed hope for a better year for the Skins. It was obvious a strong run defense was the key to silencing the G-men. Horton and the D accomplished this goal, for all intents and purposes. But it was too little in the end.
A few moments of brilliance were quickly squashed by bad play calling, missed tackles, and stupid penalties.

The question that flashed in my brain after more plays than not was: Why?
Why pull a trick play after a first down on the first play or the first drive of the first game of the regular season? It seemed like Zorn drew up the play in the dirt with his buddies during a game of backyard ball. Staying medium is out the window this year, but there is a difference between playing aggressively and playing recklessly. Save these globetrotting plays for when they will work effectively, like the fake field goal, which even took Miss Cleo by surprise. Taking the flicker for an 11 yard loss really hurt. I would have rather seen a sustained effort by Campbell to keep the drive going.

Why run three consecutive identical running plays out of the end zone? Portis was stopped for no gain twice on the same play, so why not run him to the right? Or maybe even throw? Not exactly a novel idea. Campbell has an arm, so use it. He can’t build anyone’s confidence if Zorn won’t let him air it out. I know Portis has the potential to break away, and that chancing an interception is risky so deep on the field. But it’s almost worse to just give a set of downs away rather than let them go for it. I think Zorn triple-deked himself out, thinking that nobody in the world would expect three identical running plays in a row. Nobody except the Giants defense.

Why, D Hall, why? Just why? That’s it.
Why swap out Horton for Doughty in the second half? It didn’t make any sense. Biased or not, Horton had a great first half and was directing the secondary like a salt-and-peppered veteran. He was key on two red-zone stands in the first half limiting the Giants to three points when they easily could have had 14. He shut down Brandon Jacobs on 4th and one on the Skins 3 yard line in the 2nd quarter, and he stuffed Bradshaw for no gain to end the half. It was shocking not to see him getting the reps in the second half, even after he stuffed Brandon Jacobs for a loss on a crucial 3rd and one. Horton was all over the place and helped sustain a defense that was steamrolled by the Giants a year ago. I’ve got to think a breakdown in communication between the coaches came into play. Doughty is blue collar, but he only had three tackles in his 30 reps to Horton’s nine tackles in his 40 reps. Numbers tell the story.

A Cooley TD during the two-minute drill kept things close enough, but I think it’s best to take away the lessons from Sunday and focus on the Rams. I’d like to see much more hard-nosed, deliberate play from the offense, and a minimum of one late hit penalty by the Defense (please). We can’t be left asking why next week, especially against a team that is deserving of some major revenge from ’08.
As long as Horton continues to keep the secondary straight, and Campbell plays to his ability, it should be a good Sunday.

2009 tackles to-date: 9

(Fans: show your support for Horton on the blog and on the message board at Chime in, voice your opinion, and most importantly, spread the word about the most unsung player in the NFL: Chris Horton!)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hunting with the Predator: Group Effort by Matt Wallace

One of the best things that happened to Chris Horton after he arrived in Washington was Reed Doughty.
Last preseason Horton battled his way into the minds of the coaches, making a name for himself from day one of training camp. But despite all his hard work, he still sat behind a major force in Reed Doughty on the depth chart. Doughty, like Horton had come onto the squad as a late round draft pick and had fought his way onto the field, solidly filling the massive void left by the tragic death of number 21 in late 2007. Reed’s play in the last six games of that year made him the go-to choice for the first string spot come 2008.
That all changed one Sunday morning last September when Reed came down with the flu, giving Horton the nod to start. I won’t say the rest is history, because it’s all still pretty fresh in every Skins fan’s mind. Horton made the absolute most of his starting opportunity, garnering NFC Defensive player of the week for his effort, and taking over the starting job from Doughty.
If character is revealed in pursuit of an opportunity, it is also revealed in processing misfortune.
A pinched nerve ended Doughty’s 2008 season, resulting in surgery and the requisite recovery effort. As if he didn’t have enough challenges on his plate to begin with. He had already fought through a difficult dichotomy in caring for his new son during a life-threatening illness while maintaining his intense focus on the game. Doughty is also hearing impaired, which I am sure he would never offer as being a setback to begin with. That’s just the kind of stand up guy he is.
The moment he was able, Doughty began his training for 2009. Coming back to the Skins after a brief free agency, he was itching to re-prove his worth. And that is exactly what he has done this preseason.
Coming into training camp, prognosticators declared that Doughty and Horton would be fighting for the starting position at strong safety. However these predictions we squashed early on as Horton was declared the starter heading into the season. Didn’t matter to Doughty, who has played like a champion since coming into camp. Head down, powering through, just like Horton. They both have somewhat similar playing styles, harassing opponents and driving through each play with force.
Coming into the final preseason game at Jacksonville, the stage was primed for the underdogs. As expected, the starters only took one series on O and D, which provided a last chance for those on the bubble to make a case for themselves. Arguably, the coaches already knew what Doughty can do, so even a mediocre game for him would have sufficed. But if you know anything about Doughty, you know that he will give nothing but his best effort.
Number 37 was all over the place! He pressured the QBs and extinguished runs from both sides of the field. It seemed like he was in on most every defensive play for the majority of the game. This game proved consistent with his high level of play during this whole preseason. If some weren’t informed, it might seem like Doughty was giving Horton a run for his starting spot.
But, a few instances from last night’s game dictate why this isn’t quite the case. Doughty missed an interception opportunity because he was too focused on crushing his receiver, who never looked at the ball. He was also a half a step behind on a pass play that led to a touchdown. Arguably this play shouldn’t have even involved him as two other guys missed their tackles. Reed came in to make the stop just a hair too late, and his frustration was palpable, even though he had gone above and beyond his duty on the play.
Although Doughty put up one of the best showings for the Skins against Jacksonville, Horton made the most of his series. As usual, he was always in position, anticipating plays, and finishing through each down with urgency. The fireworks came as he fought around the run blocks to level Maurice Jones-Drew on the sidelines for no gain. I think I actually heard an explosion.
Having such a strong and devoted player like Doughty behind him is a blessing for Horton. As Doughty will battle through practices and his second string duties, he will keep Horton on the very tips of his toes. It’s too bad not every starter on the team has a second man as determined as Doughty to keep him alert and eliminate any complacency that might creep into his work ethic.
The beauty is that there is no Me vs Him on the Redskins for 2009 anymore. No Burgundy vs White. No Potential Starter vs Roster Prospect. Everyone is now working for the common cause. It is now We vs They. While one can view Doughty as a threat to Horton’s starting job, I like to think of him as a partner in crime. After all, every hero needs a good sidekick.
Let it be written the 2009 preseason is concluded. Bring on Week 1!

Hunting With the Predator: Live Edition by Matt Wallace

I am an American through and through, but I was ready to see some Patriots go down in Week three. Knowing that the third preseason game usually most resembles regular season action, at least for the first half, I was ready for a taste of what’s to come; the patience was finally about to pay off. First-string lineups on both sides, the objective going into the game was clear: a win means more than it has in the first two games, so beat the other guys by any means necessary!
As usual, I was gearing up to take in the game at home with some other Burgundy and Gold fans. That is until a family friend came through with a few tickets to the show. Getting to see this contest live, with several thousand of my closest friends, was like Christmas in August. The first trek out to Landover during the 2009 season came sooner than I expected.
Driving out to FedEx field is like marching into battle with legions of fellow soldiers, united under a single cause. Nervous excitement builds as the lines of cars creep into the parking lots. Fans put on the jerseys and foam fingers and helmets like battle armor. Cries of “Hail to the Redskins!” are echoed across the lot by total strangers. Questions turn over in your head: how will the offense and defense match up? Which players will show up today? How many hot dogs can I eat in the parking lot before I have to pay for them inside? HOW MANY PATRIOTS WILL HORTON PUT ON THE DL DURING THE GAME?!
Battling through waves of fans and entering the stadium, we finally found our seats, which proved to be an optimal perch to watch the hunting begin.
Graciously letting New England have the ball on the first possession, (and after a botched kickoff), the Skins almost instantly took over after several incomplete passes by Sir Thomas Brady. I would just like to say to all the flip-floppers on Jason Campbell: remember this drive. On Washington’s first possession of the game, Campbell led an eight play progression; throwing for 53 yards and setting up a one-yard punch in by Marcus Mason. Campbell played as calmly and professionally as anyone could ask out of a quarterback. He looked like a guy who had settled and was taking control. He was looking defenders off like a seasoned veteran, something I hadn’t seen him do yet in the preseason. He is, and has been, the man for the job.
With the offense digging in early, it was time for the Real Show: Defensive Predation! Of course this was the part of the game I was most excited about. The second play of the game, Horton delivered for P48 fans, stopping Maroney for no gain. Big time! I’m still not sure how he battled through to make the stop. It’s like he’s figured out teleportation, but just hasn’t told anyone else about it. I am sure David Blaine is jealous of his abilities.
A couple of plays later, Horton made a huge stop, taking down Redneck Randy (The Lesser) Moss. He had gotten away from his coverage, and Horton came in, literally out of nowhere, to take him down.
One of Horton’s noted weaknesses out of the NFL Combine last year was his open field speed. My question is: what were those scouts thinking? If anything, Horton’s legacy will be created out of his ability to hunt guys down from ridiculous angles all over the field. Sometimes I think he really has powers on invisibility because you just never see him coming. Watching the Skins at home in HD, with the advantage of instant replay, is great. But seeing the game live, in person, along with a roaring crowd, is unbeatable. Being able to see just how much field Horton is able to cover, and the actual size of the guys he can get around to make stops on the run is incredible. Chris ended up with two tackles on the night, but having those coming in a live game situation against a solid first team offense was a something special to watch live.
We all know the final score, and I guess we can say that “preseason games don’t matter”. And this is usually said even more so for the Week four game as starters rest for the regular season. But as the real deal inches forward each day, the hours of preparation left are dwindling. There are a lot of guys who will be unemployed come Saturday, and even though these games don’t go down on the official stat sheet, they are extremely important nonetheless. These are the times for the cream to rise to the top. Guys are fighting not just for a spot on the team, but for their livelihood. And fans should hope that the battling on the field will produce the winningest team possible.
I know it’s said every year, but this year really is the year for the Skins.

Hunting with the Predator: The Waiting Game by Matt Wallace

Excuse me, bartender? What time do you have? 10:30? Yeah, that’s what I have, too. Thought my watch might be running a little slow. So it’s still preseason, huh? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
There is no more confusing, stressful time for fans than preseason. Winning is always priority one, but it’s tough remembering that the main purpose is to let the guys fighting for a spot showcase their talent. It’s a necessary evil that leaves fans in a tight spot.
From a competitive perspective, there was more on the line coming into Saturday’s contest. Last year the entire fan base of the current Super Bowl Champions literally took over FedEx field, snotty yellow towels in hand, and battled the Skins to a disappointing outcome. All the more reason to root for a win last Saturday after a scoreless opener in Baltimore. Home field pride was on the line.
But again, it’s preseason. The outcome is almost moot. While some waste their breath bragging on a win or defending a loss, the rest of us wait. Not just for September 13th at 4:15 in the afternoon, when each piece of the offensive and defensive puzzles will finally come together. But to hopefully see some of those puzzle pieces show up sporadically in preseason games.
To date, some of those pieces remain to be seen.
If Jason Campbell is anything, he’s one cool cat. He seems unshakable, even after his showing on Friday. The opinion camps on either side of Campbell have been growing considerably in recent days. At this point it’s hard to pick a side. Regardless, he’s the first stringer and fans need to have faith that he’ll show up in Week 1.
After a couple of missed passes and a brilliant fake punt to sustain the first drive, Campbell all but abandoned the air game. Preseason is about getting in reps and making the mistakes now. If I had my choice, I’d rather have the kinks worked out in preseason than still be figuring things out in the first three games. Arguably Campbell should have taken a few more throws to build the game confidence a bit, even though the running backs were on fire.
But so we wait, like dogs at the dinner table.
We know the franchise guys like Moss and Cooley and Portis can play; we’ve seen them before. And if there were real problems in camp, we’d probably see more of them in the preseason games. So really we should take solace in their absence. Right?
Fans were rewarded a bit for their patience in several guys: Davis, Mason, Dorsey, and Mitchell. Davis made up for his mistakes at Baltimore, including one TD. That’s one of the most important qualities in a player, shaking off a bad game and really showing up in the next. Mason looked extremely solid on the ground to bolster the run game, as did Dorsey, who is slowly converting his run measurements from meters to yards after two years in the CFL.
Marko Mitchell: the kid can play. He’s had a strong camp, and is proving his case for taking one of the wideout spots on the roster. If he can step up his presence on special teams, he should be a fixture come regular season. It’s guys like Mitchell, who’s strong play at the outset is becoming reminiscent of Horton’s debut last year, that should get fans excited.
The real test of patience for all P48 fans is waiting to see a full showing by the first team defense. There is no better entertainment anywhere. I’d take watching them over watching Jimi Hendrix perform a live concert during a Harlem Globetrotters game, in a spaceship orbiting the moon, while playing blackjack on the house.
Of course Horton and Co. played to expectations during their series. Orakpo continued to harass and looked sharp in his several series, although he will undoubtedly need to start working through double coverage as teams realize his threat.
Horton covered expertly and assisted on two tackles, which were his only opportunities of the night. I’m continually impressed by his ability to break through the line on running plays to get behind blockers. Seeing his dreads flying in from the backfield should strike fear in any offense. It almost makes me afraid for my unborn children.
My only complaint is that I didn’t see enough of them. I was almost yelling at Zorn through the TV to keep them in one more series.
I guess it’s better to wait. Save the legs, avoid the injuries. It’s just preseason. Patience is a virtue, after all.

Hunting with The Predator: Dusting Off the Body Armor by Matt Wallace

“You’ve got to have a plan” – Coach Zorn, post-game press conference 8/14/09

If Zorn’s plan for the Thursday night match up against the Ravens was to leave Skins fans wanting more, the team delivered. The Skins only showed a few glimpses of great football in the 23-0 loss. No need for long-term speculation or hanging your heads just yet. I keep telling myself, relax, it’s just preseason. But it’s clear there is work to be done.

My heart was pounding in the minutes leading up to the game. It felt like I’d been waiting years for football to come back. How had it only been seven months? I was literally running around in circles like an idiot and yelling and fist-pumping during the kickoff. Excitement and anxiety and relief all in one.

A shot of Horton on the sidelines showed his hair covering his name on his jersey. Blocking out the name is like going into stealth mode. Offenses won’t see him coming until it’s too late! It was time for the hunting to begin.

But as Campbell and the O took the field, the what-ifs started flowing. I almost wanted them to turn around and go back to the sidelines. What if Campbell’s first pass is picked for six and his confidence is crushed? What if Betts (Or is it Bettis? Seriously, who’s running the equipment room these days? Last I checked The Bus was out of commission) blows out his knee for the season in the first series? What if the O-line is holier than a Swiss cheese Bible?

I know, relax, it’s just preseason.

I settled in with the team on the first drive, and the nerves calmed. Campbell’s completion to Betts for the first down was just what needed to happen: a confidence booster, something to start the momentum. After a decent first drive things were looking up. The O-line was providing protection; Campbell completed some tough passes for some solid yardage (but still looked a little robotic); Betts and Sellers were working together like the seasoned veterans they are.

The highlight of the game came as the first team D took the field on the Raven’s first drive. They were visibly hyped up, but stayed medium.

Horton was all over the ball from the start. He assisted the tackle on the second play and was all over the third, his momentum almost taking him through my TV screen. He’s an animal on the field, expertly covering his assignments and then exploding through plays. (I think the Discovery Channel is working on a documentary about him.) It’s apparent that his studying allows him to get in the other guys’ heads. It’s almost like he knows what they are going to do before they know themselves.

On this drive Orakpo made a strong debut, nearly coming up with a recovery on the first play. And DeAngelo Hall made a statement with his coverage. He definitely showed up to play.

But the game began to unravel after the first teams exited for the night. The play on the field became hard to watch. Collins led some decent drives at QB, but that was to be expected. He’s Old Reliable. Brennan missed a lot of plays and was picked off. The defense was scattered, playing more out of nervous excitement than with their heads. The points added up for Baltimore while the Skins remained at zippy. I was starting to sweat and began to worry about the season. Things were not looking good.

I know, relax, it’s just preseason.

These new guys have a lot to learn, and I think Zorn said it best. You’ve got to have a plan. Fitness will come with work, but setting the tone for the season begins first in your head. You’ve got to know what you’re going to do on the field before you even suit up. The new guys battling for a spot on the team can learn from guys like Horton. He’s only in his second year but he’s a prime example. Study up, use your head and the plays will come.

Like my dad says, act like you’ve been there before. Each of the guys on the field knows how to play football. Now they just need to act like it and get it done. Regular season is only 30 days away.

I am already psyched up for the Skins matching up against the Steelers next week. I know the first team guys are itching to get some reps, and I know they will have a strong showing at home. But before the game I’m leaving post-it notes all over my house reminding me: “relax, it’s just preseason”.

Hunting with the Predator: The Only Reason You Need to Watch Chris Horton in 2009 (Plus 9 More) by Matt Wallace

If you’re reading, you’re here for one of two reasons:
1) It’s September 13th or 14th and the Skins have just played the New York football Giants. In particular, you’ve just noticed the exceptional play of strong safety Chris Horton. You might know who he is, but not much about him, so you just googled his name and found this site. Congratulations. This is your first step in the right direction of following one of the most underrated players in the NFL. (It’s OK if you haven’t noticed him until now. Predators are usually invisible).
2) You know who Chris Horton is and what he did in the 2008 season. And you recognize his extreme work ethic and enormous potential. Again, congratulations, you know what’s up.
Either way, welcome to
For both the newly initiated and long-time Skins fans alike, here is a brief list of why your eyes should follow #48 on every play this season:

10. 2009 is pivotal. The Skins have the building blocks of a great team, but the Tetris pieces need to fall in the right places. It’s crucial for the D to ease the pressure on the O so they can settle in and start lighting up the scoreboard. Horton will be making critical stops using his gifts of positioning and relentless closing speed. He is an essential piece of the puzzle.
9. The first day of Chris’s 2009 season started the day after last season ended. He is the definition of “professional” in his approach and preparation for the season. Chris is the professor, and the games are his classes. And Professor Horton does not go easy on his students.
8. Chris led the Skins in interceptions last year, two of them coming against top QB Drew Brees and the team from his hometown, the Nawlins Saints. Don’t hate the player…
7. Chris’s favorite films are NFL game tapes, which he watches while snacking on thoughts of crushing his opponents. In preparation for 2009, he’s been studying offenses like most guys study the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. He knows the subtleties in the play of each quarterback he will face as well as you know Marissa Miller’s curves.
6. Horton is very modest about his own play, so he would never make these comparisons himself. But #48 equaled the number of rookie-year total tackles made by the man he most looks up to: the late, great Sean Taylor. And for comparison’s sake, Horton doubled the number of total tackles by Troy Polamalu in his rookie year. And Horton did it playing 14 games instead of 16.
5. Horton’s performance-based bonus was third-highest in the league for the 2008 season, which nearly doubled his entire salary for the year. That didn’t stop him from taking $100 off Colt Brennan for being the first to intercept one of his passes this preseason.
4. When was the last seventh round draft pick (249th, fourth to last, to be exact) to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Week? In his rookie year? In the fourth week of the season?!? If I am adding this up correctly, it was… NEVER.
3. How is the leading NFC strong safety vote-getter not selected for the 2009 Pro Bowl? I’m not sure either, but you can ask Horton. His e-vite probably went to his spam folder or something. Just another example of the overlooking of #48.
2. Off the field, Chris is simply a stand-up guy and a solid role model. He’s fully engaged in the team’s humanitarian efforts, and he’s one of the leading spokesmen for Team TriFytt, a youth sports organization that focuses on character development. If I ever have sons, I’m sending them to the Chris Horton School For How to Be A Man.
1. As Horton builds upon a hugely successful first year, and people start recognizing him for the player that he is, you can say that you noticed his potential from the beginning. It’s not too late; the 2009 bandwagon is just pulling out of the station.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chris's comments in March

On the competition at safety:

Horton: "I'm competing with all of those guys, Kareem (Moore), Reed (Doughty). I even compete with LaRon (Landry) and I don't even play his position, but you just never know how things are going to go. I just look at it as show up every day and put forth your best effort."

On what he had to do today:

Horton: "Today was fairly easy. You come in, they test your measurements on stretching. Then you do the treadmill run."

On what he has done this off season:

Horton: "I spent a lot of time on the west coast, around UCLA. I can't get enough of that place. I did spend a couple weeks back in New Orleans. I just hung out with my family. I'm not really a guy into big trips and doing all that stuff, at least not yet."

On what he personally needs to improve on to become better:

Horton: "I still think there are some things that I need to get better at in the film room. I need to look at myself from last year and do a self evaluation and figure out where I went wrong in certain games. How could I have done certain things better? I just want to get my physical strength up and just stay healthy."

Chris comments on his Performance based bonus:

So does this bonus make up for the hundred thousand dollars Randy Thomas lied to you about during the season?

Horton: "Definitely. I think that was more than I made the whole year, so I'm still smiling. I haven't even put it in the bank yet, I just go to my place and I look at it. Wow. That's a lot of money."

Is this a Rickey Henderson thing? Are you just going to frame the check instead of taking it to the bank?

Horton: "Mine is going to the bank pretty soon, I just haven't had time."

Any particular plans for the money?

Horton: "I'm not really a big spender. I'm going to sit down and think – what do I need, what do I want? Randy [Thomas] is clowning my car. He's always clowning my car. I think I have a pretty nice car and he just clowns: 'I think you need you need a new car and you have the money to go do it.'

"No I don't. I'm probably just going to save it for right now."

What do you drive?

Horton: "A 2001 Monte Carlo. It's nice, it's in good shape."

So did you even think about Randy's prank when you got this check?

Horton: "I didn't think about that, but every time I see Randy I know not to listen to him because he always has some tricks up his sleeves.

"When I did get the check he said, 'I told you that you were going to get that check.'

"Come on. That's not the same check that you were talking about. We were talking about a check earlier in the year. But it's definitely a good feeling.

"I'm sure a lot of guys around the league who are in my position, who got to play a lot, they're all smiling now."

(Special thanks to for quotes)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Season in Review

What’s up Washington Redskin and Predator48 fans! This is Chris Horton blogging in my hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. This blog is somewhat special because it is my year ending summary, and every question is derived from you, my fans.

Chris being an overlooked 7th round draft pick, can you give us a summary of your expectations coming into this year?
I definitely exceeded my expectations by a long shot. My first priority was to make the team and maybe play special teams. Due to some injuries, I was able to not only play, but make an impact early. When the starting position became available I became determined to make the most out of the opportunity. The ability to excel in the Redskins defense came from the football knowledge I have acquired over the years, and from working hard to obtain the ability to adapt to the defensive scheme.

Chris what is it like to be a starting rookie in the NFL?
Being able to start as a rookie in the NFL is an enormous honor and accomplishment. Starting in the secondary is even more difficult because of the numerous composure issues that arise. Maintaining a mentality of giving 110% on every single play made it easier for me to accept the fact that I wasn’t going to make every play. I feel extremely honored to be a part of the Washington Redskins organization.

Do you think that you should have made the pro bowl or defensive rookie of the year?
I don’t know how the pro bowl voting and picks go, but if it is determined by your level of play compared to other guys, I definitely think I should have been in the mix. I have an immense amount of respect for Adrian Wilson. Adrian has put his time in, and continually proven that he is a top safety. I think that I could have been an alternate for the pro bowl, or in consideration for defensive rookie of the year. However, that has never been my concern. My focus this year was going out there, getting my feet wet, and showing the league that I can play.

Watching you play is truly exciting, have you always played with that predator like instinct/style, and where did you get it?
Since I started at age 5 I have always played with a sense of urgency. One of my nicknames that I took on around 6 or 7 was Hard Head Horton. I believe that football can only be played one way: physically. If you can’t play physically then you shouldn’t be playing this game. I love playing football and testing myself every time I play.

When looking back on the Redskins this year how do you think that the team did?
Have you guys talked as a team about this season and/or talked at all about next season?

As a team I believe that we started the season off well and did some great things. I have never been apart of a winning team and it kills me to see how the second half ended. It makes me sick to go from such a high at the beginning of the season to ending our season the way we did. Our organization needs to go back as a team including players and coaches to make improvements both individually and collectively. Looking forward, we are going to take everything that we did positively and carry that into next year.

Have you talked to the Redskins organization about restructuring your contract?

I haven’t heard anything about that and I am not in the realm of restructuring contracts. I am more focused on building upon the great year I just had, and improving every facet of my game this off-season. Of course I would like a new deal, but that is for my management and the Redskins to discuss.

Are you going to be participating in any upcoming autograph signings?

I would definitely be willing to do some autograph sessions during the off season if my fans are interested. I have to talk to my marketing guy and the Redskins organization to see what off-season (activities/festivities) are going on. I would love to sign autographs for all of my Predator48 & Washington Redskin fans.

What are your plans for the off-season? Are you going to be in Washington, New Orleans, and/or LA?

My plans for this off-season consist of coming home to New Orleans, eating some home cooked food, and relaxing. I am going to hang out with my family for a while because I did not get the opportunity to spend much time with them during the season. I am also going to head out to LA for a while and hang out with some friends. I may also take a few small vacations. Other than that, I am going to sit back, review my year, and work towards getting better for next season.

What is going to happen during the off season in regards to your website?

I am going to definitely continue with the Blogs, which will now focus on my life outside of the NFL season. I am also going to try and get some raffles going because I have a bunch of gloves from various games as well as couple of game cleats that I want to autograph for my fans. I will also start video bogging sometime this off-season!

I want to also take this opportunity to thank my fans and supporters. You have been amazing this year and have made me feel welcome in my new home. Remember to keep checking in on my site as I will be posting new things periodically.