Sunday, December 21, 2008

Swan Song: Volume 3, Issue 17

Fighters of Dixie,
First, I would like to thank all my dedicated Skins Servers for being so patient with, and supportive of me this year. Guest authors, mini versions, subpar quality and a sucky team could potentially lead to angry emails, calls for the server's head and eggs on my front door. None of this has happened. In fact, I have been inspired by all your encouragement and genuine love for this team.

Why would Scooter's intro sound like this is the last Serv of the year? Odd...there's one more week left. Yes, peeps, this is the end of the road for 08' (pending a miracle win and miracle losses by the entire NFC South, North, West, AFL, USFL and half of the English Priemer League). I have decided to bump up my off-season by a week and will be taking this show on the road - spreading Redskins love to those in Caribbean. It's possible I'll bump into actual Redskins players on my cruise - they got a faster jump on the offseason than I did as they've been down there fishing since Thanksgiving.

This has been ugly - no matter how you chalk it up. Even the biggest white washer will tell you this is a disaster, and even the biggest skeptic will admit that this is even worse than once thought. What is so demoralizing for me is that this core is finished. The free agent class of 2004 (Griffin, Springs, Portis etc) is just about kaput and now the Skins will have to do some real rebuilding in order to get back on track. For those of you who believe that this was a rebuilding year, please reconsider. You don't rebuild by sending two picks away for Jason Taylor and you don't rebuild by signing DeAngelo Hall. The front office wanted to win now - remember Snyder called for a deep playoff run - and now that they haven't; with the pieces aging rapidly, its back to the drawing board.

Unfortunately for all of us who love this team, we'll be counting on two dingbats to get us out of this mire. After one disaster draft class (I'm not being quick to judge, they're a disaster), the Skins are without four picks in the upcoming draft. So unless they decide to trade for more picks (a smart move), they might try to rebuild the ole Danny way - bringing next years Bruce Smith, Mark Carrier and Deion Sanders in to rescue a floundering franchise. But before we prognosticate on just how embarrassing this off season might be, lets go over what needs to be addressed. Grab a Snickers, this could be a while.

And as for 2008. Lets keep it simple. This was an aging team with limited talent in the skill positions, no interior play to speak of and a new coach trying to implement a system these players weren't ready for. Joe Gibbs got the most out this personnel last year at 9-7. Getting Zorn to raise the bar from that was a lot to ask. Is putting up 10 points a game his fault? Yes. But to be honest, I don't think 17 points a game would have made a difference. This team is a bottom 10 team in the league no matter how you chalk it up.

I wish I could say things will get better.



1) Horny for Zorny? - The scheme hasn't worked, but it could. It isn't exactly like Zorn had Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson up there to give Campbell any time. This team broke down in the trenches as the season went on and Campbell couldn't really ever get comfortable throwing the ball. And what about targets? Zorn was dealing with an aging Santana Moss (who is a #2 WR anywhere else in this league), ARE (a #4 anywhere else) and James Thrash (a DNP-CD on any other team). It is very hard to implement the west coast without targets and time. Give Zorn both and maybe things are different. My only issue with this guy is that the players don't care for him much. How do I know this? Because if they cared for him they would have showed up to play last Sunday. That was one of the most uninspired Redskins efforts since the Turner years. A December game with the playoffs still in the equation and you come out flat and lose to a 1-11-1 team? That's grounds for dismissal right there. You can knock Joe Gibbs for his conservative play-calling, his time management, etc., but he had these same players fighting their guts out in December the last four years. Zorn isn't even close. Maybe that changes with time. I really hope it does.

Now position by position (until I get bored).

2) RB - Clinton Portis got banged up this year. The mix of his overuse and abusive running style has taken its toll on CP. The entire league is going to the Williams-Stewart mold and its time the Skins do it for real. I believe Portis still has some tough runs in him and can still turn the corner quicker than most in the league, but with that said, its time to bring in some fresh legs. The fast runners these days come in all shapes and sizes - Felix Jones, Sproles, Slaton - the Skins need to draft a speedster and let him bring in a change of pace from Portis. The Portis/Betts combo doesn't work bc Ladell doesn't really change the pace, if anything, he slows it down. If the Skins can bring in a guy who will scare defenses with the big-play speed who can come in after CP wears them down, the running game will take on a much healthier dimension. Am I saying drop Betts on the depth chart? Yes I am.

3) QB - To re-up JC or not? I wouldn't do it this off-season. I don't think he's earned a big contract. The guy has been steady (that's being kind) but not spectacular. He doesn't elevate this team to another level. He's flies though his reads and makes a living with his check downs. He rarely hits the big play and is prone to losing the ball. But is it his fault? Does the scheme stink? Are his targets getting space? Does his line protect him? I'm willing to give JC the benefit of the doubt to the point where the Skins don't bring someone in to compete with him this off season. Let him grow and develop under Zorn more and if he is showing very positive signs by late next year then re-sign him. If it looks like he's part of the problem, well then, fare thee well.

4) WR - As I eluded to, this position is a disaster. Santana Moss isn't getting any faster (and he might be getting dumber), ARE is a joke and James Thrash needs to hang it up. Oh yeah, didn't the Skins draft two outside playmakers? One had a bad wrap for being injured prone - guess what? He's barely been on the field. And the other had a bad wrap for being a one-hit wonder at MSU. Guess what? He's not that good. So where the heck do the Skins go from here? Do not go drafting more WRs (like Matt Millon). If there's a young, sure-thing WR in free agency (I can only think of TJ Howsyourmama) then go after them. If not, give Kelly and Thomas one more training camp and if they stink, boo the heck out of them.

5) O-line - Its scary to say this, but the only guy who probably has two good years left in him is Casey Rabach. Its hard to find a solid center in this league and with younger guards around him, he could be OK. Everyone else can hit the road. I don't know how Snyerrato managed to do this but this line is old, finished and has no backups! Chad Reinhart was supposed to be the answer, but if he was that good, I assume he would have been active more than twice this year. The Skins need to upgrade Jansen (I guess Heyer can get a shot - but he's looked awful). Samuels might have one more year in him, but I'd still draft his replacement now. Kendall wants to come back, but he's got more gray hairs than a mule. And Randy Thomas is deep into the downside of his career (and also can't stay on the field). I propose the Skins draft 2 guards and 2 tackles with their first four picks. They have to. And if they can sign a big-named guard, maybe do that too. Look at what Alan Faneca has done for the Jets running game? The need to blow up this group now. Btw - maybe the Skins can snag the dude from the "Blind Side." I love that guy. Michael Oher, is it?

6) D-line - Looks like the Skins are going to need more draft picks, because its time to blow up this unit too. The front four can't get within sniffing distance of a QB. Andre Carter is AWOL, Jason Taylor wants to go to Hollywood, Griffin will probably retire and Golston/Montgomery aren't NFL starters. So I think you give Carter the chance to bounce back (they can't cut him anyway), but you can draft a young, fast pass rusher for the other side and you can also draft two hefty run-stoppers in the middle. This front four needs some young energy (and not the Rob Jackson/Erasmus James kind of energy). I know Julius Peppers is off a great year and is a FA, but let him go somewhere else and be awesome. There's no way he makes it here.

7) LBs - I guess London Fletcher's got one more year in him. Marcus Washington and Rocky McIntosh don't though. Rocky McIntosh? Yup. Apparently, the degenerative knee thing that the Skins knew about when they drafted him as really slowed this guy down this year. People around the Park don't really know what his deal is. So now we're looking at upgrading two LB positions. Can HB Blades and Albert Fincher be adequate fillers? They might have to be, because at this point I don't think the Skins have draft picks or cap money to address these issues.

8) Secondary - This is the unit the Skins can probably get away without touching. And by not touching, I mean please don't bring back Hall. I know he has great hands, but the dude is a ticking time bomb. Club house cancer is an understatement. He's a me-first guy who's on everyone's target list. Don't bring him back!!! The Skins can live with Carlos, Smoot, and a veteran nickle guy (who they can sign on the cheap). They'll have Landry, Horton and Springs back at safety. With a decent pass rush, the unit will be fine.

9) Special Team - Suisham is miserable. Need to upgrade over there. Placky is worth bringing back - maybe have someone in camp to challenge him. Rock Cartwright can still get it done on kickoffs, but ARE has to be upgraded. The Skins can use Moss if he isn't the number one anymore or put Justin Tryon back there (if that loser is still on the team).

10) Prediction - With the Cowboys losing last night, the Bucs losing early against SD, and Arsenal and Liverpool drawing at Anfield, it looks like everything is in line for the Skins to enter the NFC playoffs through the back door. Just a win today, an Eagles...wait. No. Isn't happening. The Skins will be exposed, yet again, on national TV. No need to discuss how it will play out. Eagles 27 Redskins 10 (shocker?)


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Finals Week: Volume 3, Issue 16

I have to a apologize for a very condensed version of Skins Serv this week. I am in the midst of finals, and time (and knowledge) isn't on my side. In fact, those two introductory sentences (and this one) will make up the meat of this week's edition. To business. After a fun week at the Park (this is the first time I've enjoyed being a Skins fan in about two months), the Skins will get healthy this week in Cincy. Somehow the B&G's wake will be delayed one more week as our boys will be thrust into a huge showdown for the last NFC playoff spot against the Eagles (yes - I'm not only calling a Skins victory but I'm also calling a Cowboys and Falcons loss). Don't get your hopes up though, next week's Skins Serv will detail how the Eagles will obliterate us and roll into the post season (on national TV again, btw. NFL: it isn't funny anymore).
Happy Birthday Dad,

1) CP v. Zorn - I take CP on the points that he shouldn't have been benched, the scheme sucks and that Campbell needs more help in protection. I don't take CP as a team leader. Team leaders don't air their grievances on the radio. Grow up, Dolla Bill. That being said, I think he has a big day today running behind Jason Scrubini. (I also got 4:1 that Zorn's gone in three months).

2) Injuries - Jason Campbell's gonna have to get rid of the ball quickly today. He's got Scrubini on one side and Heyer on the other. I wouldn't want those two guys protecting Dani at Shabb Footy. Marcus won't go either. Fletcher and Springs will play. Horton's out too. Its about freaking time we see Fred Davis, Kelly and Thomas on the field at the same time. How much worse could it get?

3) Prediction - Skins find one of the five teams in the league who are worse than them. Skins run, pass (kind of) and score. Mostly because they'll get the ball inside the Bengals 30 a lot due to Fitzpatrick (or is it Boomer Esiason today?) turnovers. Btw - if Marvin Lewis is coaching the Bengals next year, the NFL is a joke.

Redskins 24, Bengals 13


Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Ravens Wear Purple: Volume 3, Issue 15

Fans of the Authentic Mid-Atlantic NFL Franchise,
Even if the Skins weren't 7-5 and in the heart of the NFC playoff chase, this game would still mean a lot to many people in the Washington/Baltimore area. Let's face it, although these two teams play once every four years and play in different conferences, their fans don't like each other at all. I believe the bitter hostilities start with Baltimore's second city mentality - a constant inferiority complex because the nation's capital that sits 45 minutes to its south. Another factor that plays into the hatred our fans have for each other is that Baltimorans were forced to watch a decade plus of amazing Redskins football teams while they were without a franchise. The above factors have created a breed of obnoxious, angry and traitorous Ravens fans who'd like nothing more than to see the Skins go 0-16 every year.

What really grinds my gears about these awful human beings is that 30-50% of them were Skins fans during our glory years. Of course I'm not talking about the 50-70 year old Ravens fan who wept upon their beloved Colts leaving town, but the Ravens fans of our generation who, without hesitation, put their Redskins Jerseys in the incinerator once the Ravens showed up. Those people are gonna have big-time issues when they get up in front of St. Peter (who clearly is a huge Redskins fan). On a personal level, I believe that any Ravens or Nats fans who were previously Redskins and Orioles fans should be sent to Guantanamo Bay. For Redskins fans, we look at Ravens fans as that ignorant, pesky and rude little brother who is always so damn annoying (kid was probably adopted or something). At some point between when the Ravens were created fans and now, Redskins fans went from effectively ignoring this group of purple punks to starting to get really pissed off that little adopted brother doesn't ever stop yapping. Now we hate little brother as much as little brother hates us. Game on. Time to BBQ some Poe.

Unfortunately for us Skins fans, as many fights go these days, we'll be the ones hanging from the flag pole by our Fruit of the Looms. As I have told a couple of peers this week, the 2008 Redskins season will be remembered as a slow, painful death. As opposed to 05 and 07, when a couple of Dr. Benton-like shocks got us going late in the year, tonight the plug will be pulled for good. At some point last week (either when I lost feeling in my toes, Amani Toomer ran his fastest 40 in 12 years or when I had beer thrown in my face in friendly fire) I knew this thing was kaput. These guys have nothing left (and as you can see by my abuse use of the analogy today, I got nothing left either). The offense doesn't exist and the defense looks worse every week. Amazingly, they're not just playing bad football but they also have nothing to build on either. In a year when NFL teams are putting up record numbers of points, the Skins are putting up 7 points a game. That's like a baseball team being carried by Mike Bordick during the juicing era (hmmm...sound familiar).

In the Skins last three home games they've put up a combined 23 points. They rank 28th in the NFL in points scored and haven't managed to put up 30 points in a game yet this season. Now you ask this team to go on the road to a very hostile environment (see previous paragraphs) and play a team that gives up 15.8 points a game and even more importantly, gives up 78 yards on the ground. This thing could get real ugly.

So what do we do as fans? I say try to enjoy today as much as possible. Enjoy the spotlight, enjoy the cool intros on NBC, enjoy the attention. Remember there are only four weeks left to the season, and we'll all be feeling a lot more miserable when the season is over than we will when the Ravens kick us around like a rag doll tonight. There's some Bobby Knight quote out there about a situation like tonight - feel free to wikipedia it if you'd like. So throw yourselves a party tonight, Skins Fans. Get some beers, buy some Tostitos scoops and invite some buddies over. It's the last time the Skins will be in the spotlight this year (and maybe for some time after that).

Stay Strong,

1) Take on JC - There's been a lot of talk in DC this week about the Skins woes having to be attributed to Jason Candle's (it's Campbell) sub-par performances of late. I'd be the first to admit that I am not sold on JC being the Redskins franchise QB, but with that being said, you cannot pin this dismal stretch on number 17. Campbell's productivity is a byproduct of an anemic offensive system. We really haven't seen what #17 can do with a decent array of WR's and when he's getting consistent time in the pocket. The Redskins offensive coaches, especially Jim Zorn, have not really adjusted to what teams have done against them of recent (double Moss, shade Cooley, stuff the box and blitz at will). No extra protection packages, no deep shots, no imagination in trying to free up Moss (more motion, etc.) This offense showed its cards early, had some production and now defenses have caught up and Zorn has pretty much refused to adjust. They've gotta open things up and get out of the west coast for a bit: run, run, play action (with heavy protection). Keep it simple, do the things that Jason is comfortable doing and see if you can wake this group up.

2) The Wildcat - There's also been a lot of talk this week about the Skins going more to trickery and the "wildcat" formation in hopes of keeping defenses off-balance. The idea would be to use Randle El in some sort of one back formation and giving him the option to run or throw. Although I do like the idea of going to ARE a little more in the option setting, I just don't think the Skins can use it 5-10 a game, especially tonight on the road. Maybe they can slowly integrate it into the offense, but I think we might be about 4 weeks late for that. Maybe Zorn picks the right spot for some trickery tonight, but its not how this game is going to be won or lost.

3) The Weather - I woke up this morning to the sound of heavy winds banging against my window. According to local meteorologists (and my wet finger-tip up against this morning's blustery air), the wind will be howling tonight at M&T. Remember last year's mid-December Meadowlands Miracle? Conditions will be identical. This game will be won and lost on the ground. Whoever can control the line of scrimmage and get first downs off of three straight hand-offs will win the game. Unfortunately, the Redskins o-line, specifically Chris Samuels, is really banged up. They're going to need a huge game from this unit, especially from center Casey Rabach, who has the daunting task of controlling Hatoli Ngata, the big mama who anchors the Ravens 3-4 defense and is controlling opposing run offenses. The Skins have had a miserable time against the last two 3-4's they've faced (the Cowboys and Steelers) and will have to do something different to implement the running attack. I'm all about going back to the ole' Gibbs jumbo formations of two TE's and one WR on the outside. Everyone knows were gonna run it, so lets just maximize our blocking resources and hope we wear the Ravens out. Running cute stuff out of 3 and 4 receiver sets is probably not gonna get it done against this smart, fast group of defenders.

4) Split Carries - I'm all about CP, but the dude is falling apart. He's a hero to be playing every week, but Zorny's gotta force him to the sidelines. The Skins need to work Betts in there more tonight early, so CP will have something left for the 4th quarter. Last week Portis ran hard early and after taking some viscous hits was pretty much a non-factor in the second half.

5) Play Action - In the theme of going back to the basics tonight, the Skins should only pass after setting up the play action. Again, run out of one and two WR sets and then pass out of those same sets. Draw as many Ravens to the line of scrimmage, max protect and see if Moss can beat double coverage or if ARE or Malcolm Kelly can beat Frank Walker on the other side. The Ravens can be vulnerable to the pass, especially if you throw away from Ed Reed. But Campbell's gonna have to be smart about looking Reed off and then taking advantage of whoever has Walker on him. I'd even be fine with picking on Rolle - just make sure there's an eye on Reed at all times. This guy can kill you.

6) TE/FB Blocking - A huge factor in tonight's game will be the ability of Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers to locate and then successfully block the the Ravens fierce linebacking unit. When the Skins run outside, Cooley and Sellers will be responsible for getting out ahead of Portis/Betts and finding guys like Lewis, Scott and Suggs. It is essential that these guys don't close holes and penetrate into the backfield, otherwise the Skins running game will never get going.

7) Keeping it Close - The Skins have to stay neck and neck with the Ravens throughout the game. Getting behind at any point will prove catastrophic. If the Redskins get to the point where they'll have to pass the ball to get back in it, you might as well turn off your TV. The Ravens will fire away at Campbell and I don't think we have the pass blocking to hold up. Keep the game close, burn time on the ground and pick spots to go deep. Once the Ravens sniff out pass, Campbell will be on the ground a lot.

8) The Ravens Offense - Cam Cameron (of Indiana and Redskins fame) has done a great job maximizing his talent. He pounds the rock a lot (even at a pretty low ypc), then he lets Flacco and his big arm air it out to Mason and Clayton (very real threats on the outside). The Ravens also employ a lot of trickery, so the Skins corners cannot get caught leaving their men early in the play. If I was Greg Blache, I'd pretty much have to use the same scheme as last week and hope the Skins corners can hold up better. Last week's performance against the Giants was embarrassing and this unit is going to have to do a much better job containing the Ravens outside threats and try to create some turnovers off the rookie in bad conditions. If the Skins can force the Ravens into some third and longs, then they have to send the house at Flacco and hope Springs, Los, Lo and Smoot can man the heck up.

9) Injuries - CP will go. Spring will go. Fletcher will go. Griff will go. I think Carter will play too. No Washington and probably no Golston either. Nothing major on the Ravens side. They had a few questionables but I think they'll all play.

10) Prediction - Not loving this matchup at all. The Ravens defense has somehow stayed young and fast and will make it hard for the Skins to get anything on the ground. With the conditions, don't expect anything through the air. On the other side, the Skins will commit to the run and could get burned by Flacco once or twice (enough to lose). Ravens 13 Redskins 3.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

21: Volume 3, Issue 14

Seattle Slews,
First I would like to wish everyone on Skins Serv a very Happy Thanksgiving - I hope you each had a special holiday and are ready to parlay that spirit into a huge victory tomorrow. I also would like to wish Sean Taylor's family a long and joyful life filled with great memories of 21 - it's hard to fathom that it has been a full year since 21's tragic death, but hopefully his family has found some solace in their tremendous loss and will honor 21's spirit through their actions for the rest of their lives. As for us fans, it's probably a lot easier to forgot about 21 - players are very transient in the NFL and we are used to not seeing the same names run out of the tunnel annually. I think DC and Skins fans have done an admirable job holding onto the spirit of 21 though - probably because of his great potential more than anything else. We all find ourselves wondering how special the Skins secondary would have been with 21 and 30 back there. But it wasn't meant to be, and now, again we all grieve the loss of this blossoming flower - we will never know what kind of magic he had in store for us. Instead tomorrow, one year after his death, the angel of 21 watches over all Redskins players and us fans - 21 will be there tomorrow willing our boys into their best performance of this 2008 season. I am freaking pumped to see it.

Yes - I believe the Skins will win tomorrow. No x's and o's. No real rationale thought behind it. I just have a gut (and I dreamed they'd lose - which is a good sign). This team has been awesome with its back against the wall and tomorrow is a must win again. I believe the Skins will play with much more passion, aggression and spirit than the Giants, who will be walking into the proverbial NFL boobie-trap. 92,000 emotional fans and 53 driven players looking to honor the spirit of a fallen soldier. I know this game looks similar to the Buffalo game last year, but that Skins team had nothing left. They were emotionally drained. This Skins team will reach an emotional peak at 1255 tomorrow and will have enough energy and spirit to carry it all the way to 4PM. Tomorrow will be cold, wet and ugly. The Giants, who are dealing with all sorts of injury and distractions, will want to get out of the game alive (similar to the Skins against Pittsburgh). At 10-1, the Giants know they are cruising to a division championship - this is a game they just want to get through. They have shown the nation just how good they are and have nothing left to prove. Tomorrow emotion, aggression, and passion will be strictly be on the Skins side. It won't matter how good these Giants are.

Of course the Skins are a battered team as well. In fact, they might have to win this tilt with a bunch of scabs. Players such as Samuels, Portis and Fletcher are no sure thing to play. Of course, on Sean Taylor day, I think they all end up playing - but who knows just how effective they'll be and how far into the game they can go. If I was betting on it, Portis will still carry the ball 25 times. Samuels will struggle in pass protection and Fletcher won't make it through the first quarter. That being said, the Redskins can plug any bodies in there tomorrow to stuff that big Giants running attack and it still might do the trick.

The Giants will be without Plax (idiot), and with Brandon Jacobs and third string back Ahmad Bradshaw battling injuries, I expect the Giants to be very cautious with them on a wet, cold day. Look for this battle to unfold as Derrick Ward versus the Redskins front-8. On a bad weather day with Plax out and the Redskins being very strong at corner, all the B&G have to do is take away the run (sounds so easy). This game will be a war of attrition. No passing, no finesse. Just north-south running - may the best line win. Under normal circumstances, I give the Giants the edge. But again, i believe tomorrow will be special. I believe eight Redskins defenders, honed in on the outside runs they've been getting burned on recently, will hold up. Smith, Toomer, Hixon, S. Moss - they won't be factors. In fact, look for Redskins corners to do a much better job containing the outside runs as Blache will have them play much further up tomorrow.

My only other concern is Kevin Boss - the Skins don't really have a LB who can man this guy up and I can see the Giants sending him out in play-action. The Skins will have Chris Horton keep an eye on him - hopefully the young man will be up to the task.

On the other side of the ball, look for the Giants to do the same thing as the Redskins. Stuff eight men in the box and force Jason Campbell to throw the ball. If the Redskins can effectively spread the Giants out early and move the chains out of 3 and 4 receiver sets, I think the offense has the potential to put up the 20 points necessary to beat this Giants team. Throw early and force the Giants to pull a safety into coverage. Get Moss, Kelly and ARE into the action early and then expose the Giants front-7 by gashing them with delayed draws and that stretch play to the left that Portis is averaging about 7 YPC on this year. Remember those delayed draws in the Meadowlands last year? The Skins need to do a ton of that to keep this aggressive Giants defense off balance. As this game progresses into the later quarters the team who has controlled the clock will have the edge and will be able to run it however they want to - hopefully it's the Skins.

Which makes the first quarter so crucial and the reason I believe the Skins can win this thing. If the Skins can ride the emotion of the moment into a couple of sustained drives, some big stands and get up early, they can dictate the last three quarters. Of course, it's easier said than done.

I don't want to disrespect the Giants at all. This team has been a juggernaut. They have done it without Burress for most of the year and looked just fine without Jacobs last week. BUT - Burress is the player that gives the Skins the most fits. Our corners are too small to handle him in the Red Zone and just about anywhere else on the field. In game one, Eli heaved three or four passes that Plax went up and got. Manning won't be afforded that luxury tomorrow. The Skins corners can man up any Giants receiver tomorrow. Which means the entire defensive focus can be on stuffing the box and blitzing Eli. The Skins have to force the issue tomorrow - especially early. Take chances and tee off on Eli if the Giants face long second and third downs in hopes of forcing a turnover or two. If the Skins can get some short fields they'll get into the end zone more easily on a day when points will be at a premium. We saw much more of LaRon Landry in the box last week - look for the Skins to do more of this tomorrow as they drop Springs back to be the over-the-top security blanket.

Back to offense. Malcolm Kelly being on the field was big last week. The Skins took a deep shot with him and threw him a fade in the Red Zone. Just having those options in the repertoire makes the Skins more dynamic. As this kid develops and gets on the field more, teams will have to account for him. Defenses like the Giants will not be able to stuff the box, shadow Moss with a safety and leave Kelly alone in man coverage. Hopefully tomorrow we'll see more of this develop. Get the young man the ball early, ease up the safety on Moss's side and then get 89 the ball. At that point, run it down their big blue throats. Kelly's had another week of practice - hopefully Zorny showcases him more tomorrow.

I also hope to see more of Chris Cooley and Mike Sellers in the aerial attack tomorrow. Sellers had a big role last week and as long as one of those guys can get down the field a little bit, it'll ease the burden on Portis to carry the load.

Which brings me to CP. 141 yards on 29 carries with the knee, the ribs and the hip. The dude is not just leading the league in rushing, he's evolving into a Redskins legend. CP is 50/50 to go tomorrow but did light drills on Friday, which makes me think he'll be good to go. The Skins had some success on the ground in Week 1 but Zorn got away from it early. I think CP has to have a big role tomorrow. Whether its blocking, catching balls out of the backfield and eventually putting the Giants away late, CP's gotta be the guy. It gives the entire squad and the 92 thousand fans a huge emotional lift to see the star back there sacrificing it all for a win. I love this guy.

If the Skins do have Stephon Heyer tomorrow, look for Portis to be running behind Jon Jansen (right) more than we're used to. Heyer might be an upgrade in pass protection (with Samuels playing on a bad knee for weeks now), but the kid stil doesn't block with anger. I think the Giants will know this and move Antonio Pierce over right on most running plays - again, it'll be a war of attrition. I think the Skins will be more hungry.

Injuries - Griffin will go. Golston will sit, I think. Montgomery and Alexander will have to be huge tomorrow if the Skins are going to pull this off. Fletcher will give it a go. Look to see HB Blades and Albert Fincher spelling him a lot though. And don't be surprised if the Skins drop J Taylor into LB sometimes too. CP will go.

Prediction - Close and ugly NFC East battle. I like the Skins riding the emotion of the day, getting a couple of big turnovers and controlling the clock late with a huge dose of CP. Redskins 20, Giants 16.

Ok - no points by points this week. I'm going to paste an edited version of the Sean Taylor piece I wrote last year (the old version is on

HTTR and RIP 21


In late November 2007, Sean Taylor, a star football player for the Washington Redskins, was murdered in his home in Miami, Florida. Taylor's death was an inexplicable tragedy that left his family, the Redskins organization and their fans in a state of shock. As an ardent follower of the Redskins – a season-ticket holder who attends every game and whose daily mood is a reflection of whether the Redskins win or lose - I took Taylor's loss extremely hard. Yet for the hours that I spent in a cloud thinking about Taylor's squandered life, I spent as many hours trying to figure out why I was so upset.

I only met Sean Taylor once, never knew him on a personal level, and never really understood his persona. Yet I mourned, I cried, and turned to my loved ones for support and answers. This wasn't 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. Taylor wasn't someone I could touch or lean on. Sean Taylor wasn't my own flesh and blood who had been stricken with cancer, leukemia or a heart attack - my mother, father, sister or brother never to be seen again. Yet I, along with so many others in Washington, DC, lost a part of me when I heard the news of his death. Why?

Sean Taylor was 24 years old. There is nothing wrong with weeping over the loss of human life, yet alone someone so young with so much potential for greatness, both professionally and personally. Sean Taylor was just a baby - still learning the world, learning about who he was, and evolving every day. As a young man, only one year older than Taylor, I grapple with those same struggles and growing pains, hoping to one day get "it" right. This made seeing someone who did not realize his full maturation even harder.

I also felt pain for those who were left to pick up the pieces, Taylor's family: his parents, his fiancée and his orphan child. I also grieved for the Redskins players. I never want to see my heroes weep and never want to worry over their mental state. The Redskins are the ones who ease my mind, but after Taylor's death, I worried over theirs.

To me, Sean Taylor was a superhero. His death was even harder because Taylor's intimidating six-feet, two-inch, two-hundred and twelve pound body epitomized the indestructibility of an athlete - he was the strongest and the scariest. Every player feared him. Sean Taylor was immortal.

But for me, Taylor's death went beyond the human tragedy. In my life, football is a constant. And every autumn Sunday for nearly a century, football has been there for America too. For that three hour break, for that escape from everyday life, for a tailgate party with my family or a pile-on with my friends after a big touchdown - football is always there. And for the last four years, Sean Taylor was part of football's dependability. I was used to seeing Taylor's number twenty-one, expected him to play ferociously, and knew he was putting himself on the line for my beloved Redskins. Every week I had the pleasure of seeing Taylor's Samsonian body up close, and now he will no longer be there. Football is no longer dependable.

Football is also my great escape - it lets me shut the real world out: no wars, no tragedy, no sorrow, no terrorist threats or fear of death. Football is a day without stress and a tough work week made easier because of the ability to look forward to Sunday. And then, with one piece of news, the wicked world that we use football to ignore rears its ugly head, sabotaging the game that is supposed to protect us from a dark world.

When Taylor died, football became real for me. It was no longer a hideaway, no longer a safe haven. Football became another depressing tale on the 6oclock news: a soldier never coming home from battle, a child murdered, wild men with guns running amok on our nation's streets. When Sean Taylor died where was I supposed to turn? What means could I use to seek refuge? I was instead forced to engross myself in the tragedy that befell Taylor, his family and the Redskins. I had to deal with this harsh reality because my fantasy world had been hijacked and the real world was so painful.

There is no need to ever justify emotions or feelings. Every person is entitled to handle tragedy as they see fit. For me, Sean Taylor's death struck harder than one might expect. I hope I was able to shed a little light on why this was so.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Now or Never: Volume 3, Issue 13

I just want to again thank Yair for his fantastic Skins Serv last week. Knowing that Skins Serv has such great bench strength makes the future of this project even brighter - although it does put a bit more pressure on me to give you more substantive, knowledge-based writing. Now that you know what's out there, I can't really mess around. So here goes...

This is it. Make or break. Must win. Now or never. Pick a cliche, any cliche. Win won for the gipper, the scooter, the pope. I don't care - just freaking win one. Just to set it up for you a little bit. If the Skins win today (while showing us some improvement in their offensive vitals), then they sit pretty with 7 wins and 5 weeks to go. Looking at the schedule (again, based on an improvement this week), there are probably still wins out there against Cincinnati, San Francisco and Philadelphia (the Philly prediction isn't based on us as it is Philadelphia's gradual implosion). By December 21, we might not see McNabb or Westbrook. 10 wins with 3 more conference wins in the pocket, probably get us in.

On the other hand, if our Redskins show up this week in Seattle and lay another leggo my eggo, you can chalk up 2008 to another 1997 - hot early, stumbled late and out of the post season again. Maybe we call it the year Zorny should have popped a 17-week Cialis and not an 8-week Viagra. Lets face it, if the B&G can't beat a 2-8 Seahawks team, then they're 6-5 (a game behind the Cowboys probably) and all games going forward are hefker. No gimme in Cincy, no gimmy in San Fran and no gimme against the Ron Jaworski-led Fleagles. This is the week we will either look back and say that the Skins righted the ship or the week that we wrote 08's epitaph.

So how do I feel about this 53 man roster of old maids? On paper, they have as good a shot at winning this game as they did winning last January in Seattle (they lost that one - remember?). A little harsh maybe, but lets face it - this is the exact same team, with the exact same inept offense and exact same non-existent pass-rush. Ma Nishtana, people? Ma freaking Nishtana?

You know what, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that this offense is worse now than it was when the Skins marched into Seattle earlier this calendar year. If you recall, that team could not only run, they could pass, pass block and wait, here's the clincher...score points! If you put your prejudices against the front-office and their disastrous decision making to the side for a second and just run some simple numbers, the case against this offense is easily formed. They're 27th in the league in points scored. They haven't scored 30 points once this entire year. They've broken 20 only once in the last five weeks and that was against a Lions team that has surrendered 31 points per game this year.

The 16 total points the Skins have mustered over the last two weeks are not only embarrassing and shameful, they have exposed this lackluster unit and all the schemes behind it to the rest of the league. To Joe Gibbs credit, at least he took care of his QBs. No matter how defunct the offense was between 04-07, Gibbs always left the extra blocker in the box to protect the man behind center. Say what you want about the lack of imagination behind two-WR sets, at least they gave the QB time to not find the open receiver. In this latest iteration of Washington offense, the Skins leave nobody in the box to protect JC so the poor kid has zero time to find those same unopen receivers. Defenses have officially gotten the memo: tee off on Jason Campbell because the Skins won't max protect and they won't beat you with their outside weapons (because they don't have any).

Can five o-lineman change so much in 8 months? Maybe. But I have a hunch Gibbs and Buges understood their front 5 a little better than the next administration does. They're great getting out in run blocking, but if you're gonna sit back and wait for things to open up downfield you better help these geriatrics out.

Jason Campbell has been steady, but have they really asked him to do much. Talk about stat padding. I could have a 90 QB rating throwing slants, TE screens and RB screens in a very scientific three pass play rotation that is the Redskins passing offense. Maybe he's not getting time, maybe Zorn's not protecting the young man, or maybe he's too scared to take a chance, but when's the last time JC has thrown a seam route splitting a corner and a safety? That'd be October 12th against the Rams (a nice toss to Cooley right before the Pete Kendall debacle). If Campbell is going to take the next step and join the QB elites, he's going to have to start carving up defenses himself. No more check downs, no more safe routes - down field throws that might be intercepted but might also lead to points. Being risk averse has put us in this position - why not start taking some chances?

To the Dee for a second. They're good, but not great. I know many on this serv swear by the defense and their very misleading number four ranking, but I do not get caught up in the hype on this one. Just like when the Redskins offense goes on the field, you kind of know what you're getting when the Skins defense goes out there. Heavy pass coverage, decent run defense and zero pass rush or turnovers created (and Ami before you start screaming that that Skins forced two last week, go back and watch game film - those were both on Romo). The Giants marched into the Super Bowl because of a stellar pass rush. Defenses in this league are considered great when they constantly wreak havoc for a QB and set up their offenses with short fields. The Skins bend but don't break and have been doing it for 5 years now. I'm sick of it. Either break or break someone else.

I guess I have to switch to the point by point section at some point.

Kol Tuv,


1) Shir Lamaalot M'Malcolm Kelly - Get on the field today, young man. Excel today, young man. Use all 6-4, 225 pounds of your god-blessed frame to eat up those diminutive Seattle DB's. Continue catching the balls with ease and grace as you do in practice and please don't worry about where you're next injury is gonna come from (although I got 50 bucks it'll be a pulled groin). Catch 7 balls today, Yes Malcolm Can! Be a Red Zone target today, Yes Malcolm Can! Be a compliment to Santana Moss, Yes Malcolm Can! Take 2 defenders out of the box, Yes Malcolm Can!

2) CP will Play - The only benefit to CP playing with that knee last week is that everyone in this area loves him as much as I do. No more haters, no more critics. This guy cares and this guy will give you everything on Sunday. The numbers might fade as he is slowed by this knee and teams hone in on the run more, but Portis has shown everyone his true colors. He wants this as bad as all the great ones do and will do whatever it takes to make this team win. Playing with a 3 inch tear in the knee? You gotta be kidding me. I was going to buy my CP Pro Bowl jersey in a couple of weeks, but I probably can get it cheaper with a bulk order. Who else wants one? And yes, FoxSports.Com reports that despite another week of knee pain, Kid Bro Sweets will start today.

3) Jason Taylor is one week away from being a bust - No more excuses, twinkle toes. The knee's fine. The calf is fine. We need something out of you. Remember, the Skins gave up draft picks for this guy. I was about making this move as much as anyone else, but at some point the excuses run dry. He has got to start getting at the QB.

4) Zorn's Emotions - I read something interesting about Zorn's emotions getting to him on the sidelines to the point where it effects his play calling. Lets hope he doesn't get caught up in the Seattle thing today and calls a nice game. As I said earlier - more jumbo sets to protect Jason is a must.

5) The O-Line - I know I kind of defended them before and I truly believe that Zorn's thrown them under the bus this week by saying that the scheme is right, and the o-line just needs to hold. The NFL doesn't work like that, Zorn. You need to scheme around your players - not force them into something they can't do (see Steve Spurrier). Zorny's gonna start having to take some accountability for these embarrassing showings. Change the scheme, go to max protect, run on first and second down and pass on third. Don't force the issue with guys who can't hold up in protection for that long. It's not working. CP got hosed earlier this year for his comments about the o-line. I think what Zorn did this week was far worse.

6) That Being Said - This unit is aging in dog years.

7) Vinny - He's a miracle worker. I am constantly dumbfounded how this team will go into this offseason with all the exact same issues as it did last off season. At least have some new issues to deal with. Or some one less old issue to deal with. No, says Vinny. After 10 draft picks and a handful of free agent acquisitions, all the same issues need to be addressed. An aging offensive line - they will need at least 2 new starters after this year and will need five new starters after 09. No second WR. Third WR. Fourth WR. Fifth WR. Pass rusher. Interior lineman. I just can't believe that the personality and make-up of this group has been so consistently mediocre for this long without changing. This team is becoming the 1980s Washington Capitals. It must change.

8) Seattle - If the Skins do lose, it will be another case of wrong team, wrong time. Seattle's getting healthy with Hasslebeck and Deion Branch back in the lineup. Their defense is without Kerney for the rest of the year, but they still have a formidable pass rush, still have Lofa roaming the middle and still have Trufant as a shut down on Moss on the outside. Oh yeah, they play in our personal gey ben henom.

9) Injuries - Shawn Springs will be in the lineup today. Look for him playing as a safety in deep shell coverage with Landry blitzing more and Chris Horton watching from the sidelines. CP is a warrior and Betts will play too. Marcus Washington may have played his last game for the Skins. Anthony Montgomery should give the interior line some more depth today.

10) Prediction - After painting a black and white picture, the Skins leave us a lot more grey area after this one. They'll win. Barely. Another barn burner with limited points and ugly play on both sides. They'll get to 7-4, leaving us all wondering if it'll end up being 11-5 or 7-9. Redskins 20 Seahawks 14.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oy CP: Volume 3, Issue 12

Potomac Warriors,
Today's Skins Serv has a special guest bloggers: Yair Rozmaryn. Yair is one of the foremost Redskins experts on the 95 corridor. I assure all Skins Servers that you're in great hands this week.

As for me, I plan to be back (badder than ever) next week. Just two quick points before I hand it over. 1) CP's injury is tragic. This guy was on an MVP-type roll and a grade 2 MCL Sprain is a major setback regardless of whether he suits up today. I'm totally depressed about this injury and you should be too. 2) Prediction. I got a hunch the Skins are gonna get spanked today. I think the defense has a hard time with all the Cowboys downfield stuff and the offense will be a no-show. Cowboys 31 Redskins 14.

Now to Yair.



Landover Legion,

This week's Skins' Serv may vary a bit from the previous weeks, months, year's editions, but I assure you everything you read will be uncut, uncensorred, and most of all unbiased (read very biased). I would also like to thank Amitai Passover Rozmaryn for his DeAngelo Hall piece this week. Maybe his parents named him Passover b/c his opinions on the Skins' organization has passed over logic & rational thought to complete lunacy. I don't know, I wasnt at the naming at his bris. But what I do know is that Ami is part of the Optomistic Squad of Skins fans, which makes up about 1% of the Skins nation, while I lie in the 99% side that would like nothing more than to see Cerrato & Snyder on a spit. So in this segment, there will obviously be lots of Skins negativity but at the same time a few worthy notes to be somewhat optimistic. I would also like to mention that I was asked to write this piece at 11am with no internet for research, so if it sucks I dont really care. Hopefully it doesn't :).


1) The Monday Night Debacle:

The Stadium / Fans - All week i've been reading Skins Post Columnists discuss the Steelers sellout at FedEx. Was it pathetic? Yes. Should we be embarressed? Yes. Should we kill ourselves? Maybe. But stop blaming the Skins FANS for the embarressment. Im looking at you Riggo. The Steelers are the #1 best traveled team in the NFL "", and it doesn't help that they're only a 3 hour 45 minute drive from DC/MD either. Ever go to a Caps-Penguins game at Verizon? Its a 60/40 split at best. If this were RFK or in D.C, would be much different. The fact is there are 90,000 seats at FedEx field and the 30,000 lower level seats are for the corporate cats that don't really care about this game or our team so they either gave their tickets away or sit quietly and sip wine. The real Skins fans are in the uppers and on their laz-e-boys. Don't blame the fans, blame Jack Kent Cooke for building that monstrosity in the middle of nowhere. Blame Daniel Snyder for seeing it as a way to please the fat cats and not the diehards. It's become more and more clear that Snyder doesnt give two poops about the Skins fans. He's more than happy to charge top $ for Skins merchandise, tickets, parking, tailgate club membership, merchandise, food, drinks, and more as long as he's making money and running the team the way he wants it run. I know what you're thinking. I mentioned merchandise twice. I know that, it was a gutsy move and im sticking with it. Anyway, the point is Snyder wants two things at any cost. Money and W's. Regardless, this is the owner of our team, so we live with his maniacal, napoleon, disrespectful, foolish, kiniving, ruthless, and greedy ways, and love our team regardless.

The Game Itself - We all knew going into the Steelers MNF game that it would be a physical, no-nonesense affair that we'd be happy to come out of alive and healthy, whether or not the W came with it. What we didn't expect was the embarressment that ensued for 4 hours in front of the national TV audience. In front of a 70,000 terrible towels, the Skins put on their worst performance since the Giant game in week one. I know what you're thinking, "but Ironhead, what about the Rams game??". No, this was far worse than the Rams game. The Rams game was more disappointing than anything else, but not embarressing. Boneheaded plays cost us that game but the possession and total yards was a one-sided affair in favor of the Skins. We feared this Steelers game may expose what many of us had a hunch about all along. This is a 9-7 team that has been overacheiving this entire year b/c of an overall downyear in the NFL. If you want to get a real guage for this team, it's somewhere b/w the 05' Skins team the last 5 weeks of the year, and the Skins team that faced the Pats in Foxboro last season. Who knows what we'll get week to week in terms of W's and L's but what is for sure is that the problems are more noticable than my receding hairline.

The Issues - Depth at WR - This is by far the biggest issue right now. Santana Moss is an all-world talent, but behind him there's nothing. To quote Boomin' with the Jdawg, "there's more garbage there than you can fit into a can". I've heard every excuse as to why ARE is underperforming this season from the playbook to where he lines up on the field, but the bottom line is, he's not getting it done. He gets no seperation at the line of scrimmage, he's no longer fast enough to beat his guy in man-to-man coverage, and he's scared to go across the middle and get hit. If you're scared to get hit, sit down rando. James Trash is just that, and behind them are the rookies, which brings me to my next gripe. The rookies Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly.

The Rookie WR's - After watching the Eagles / Giants game on Sunday night I am officially pissed off. I was thinking about this long and hard and I just can't get past it. DeSean Jackson is a flat out stud. Im not saying that we could have possibly known that Jackson thus far would be far superior to Thomas, but at the very least with our aging squad, wouldnt the team elect to pick a player that is the most "NFL Ready?" (most scouts compared him to Santana Moss, are we not happy with Santana?!?!) . DeSean Jackson had an excellent 3 years at Cal and was considered one of the most (if not the most) explosive playmaker in the country. On the other hand, Thomas played 1 full year of Division I Big 6 collegiate football, and while he played exceptionally well, was clearly a very raw prospect. Even if Thomas ends up being a stud, he's still not the player we needed to win with our current squad. If we had the depth at WR that the Giants do, and then we were debating b/w Jackson or Thomas, this would make sense. But we weren't and for the last 4 years we've been searching for a 2nd receiver that can help us NOW. Maybe we thought we had that player in Malcolm Kelly, but if other teams saw the big red flag with his knee, than why couldnt the Skins? DeSean Jackson, Eddie Royal, Donnie Avery, Josh Morgan, the list goes on. JLC told me this week that the reason Snyder wanted Thomas was b/c he is represented by Drew Rosenhaus and as we all know they are b-f-f-a-e. This just makes no sense and makes me so angry. If nobody else has realized this we are a DeSean Jackson away from being a serious super bowl contender. He would have been a perfect #2 receiver and an excellent punt returner. Damnit!!

Tryon / Torrence - A big deal has been made over Leigh Torrence's release last week to make room for DeAngelo Hall. I'm not going to discuss DeAngelo Hall with you right now, but I will say this. Leigh Torrance was a liability. He was a liability with his mouth and he was a liability in his defensive coverage. What he wasnt a liability with was his special teams work. From JLC on Friday...

"Jim Zorn spoke today about how difficult it was for special teams coach Danny Smith to waive corner Leigh Torrence last week, and said the team realizes what a daunting task it will be to replace him there. In the end, it's likely to take multiple players to supply what Torrence, claimed by New Orleans on waivers, gave the team. Smith addressed special teams players about Torrence's departure at a meeting Monday, players said, with everyone in the room realizing that it was a significant blow. He told the players that rookie corner Justin Tryon and rookie wide receiver Devin Thomas are likely going to have to assume more duties now."

Umm...then why did they let him go? It will take "multiple players to replace him?" "significant blow". This wasnt an injury, they cut him! Justin Tryon isn't exactly a first-round pick playing poorly. He's a later round pick, that has been seen twice so far. In the pre-season getting burned over and over and running into Randle-El on a punt return in the Rams game. That's it. What exactly are we clinging onto? I understand, Tryon is a rook so maybe we should give him a few more strikes. So than why not cut Jason Fabini? He doesnt add "depth" hes just another body that can be replaced with no dropoff by Wade, Lorenzo Alexander, Heyer....etc etc. I dont get it.

The O-line - I'd like to thank Jon Jansen for bringing to my attention that while some o-lineman are excellent run blockers they may also be at the same time horrible in pass protection. I really never knew that. I thought maybe one is sometimes stronger than the other, but I didnt know that the discrepency could be that big. With CP hobbling 1/2 the game last week and Zorn deciding in the 2nd quarter to abandon the run, the Skins offense stalled. This is very concerning and a possible re-occuring theme for the remainder of the season. With Samuels at 70%, Jansen's inability to pass protect, and Heyer's inability to run block, we could be looking at a lesser version of last year's o-line mess. Heck, while Kendall's been great in in-game action, he cant even make it on the practice field any week to work with the team. With a hurting CP now, we could be looking at the mess magnified 10 fold. For all the hype after the draft about Chad Rinehart's smooth transition to the similar blocking scheme the Skins use, where is the news/notes on his progress? There is none and that's why the ol fart backups are still around. The O-Line is the oldest part of the team and as the season wears on will likely wear down at a much faster rate than any other position, which is a huge problem in the later part of the year against great D-Line's with Dallas, Philly, the Giants, and the Ravens still ahead. This is a situation that should be closely watched in the remaining weeks and it will be interesting to see what adjustments Buges can make.

The Defense - With all the turmoil on offense, isn't it such a warm and fuzzy feeling having such a potentially great defense? I truely believe we have the potential to be the 2006 Chicago Bears. If Hall is all that and a big of cheddar cheese & onion baked lays chips than we may have the most dominant defense in the league. Of course getting to the QB may be an issue, but who knows...if Carter can right his season and Taylor / Evans can step up, this D could be top 3. I wanted to give Evans a big yashar ko'ach for his performance monday night vs. the Steelers. Thank you for being the only player that came to play. Back to the secondary. Nobody in the league has a better secondary. Landry, Horton, Spring, Rogers, Hall, and Smoot. Wow. The talent and depth are there and there's no reason to think that it wont be for the rest of the year, and years to come. Aside from Springs, only Smoot is over 25 years old and he's still a young buck. If Rogers could catch a ball, it makes you wonder what this team's record would be...7-2? 8-1? I dont know but a good amount better. Lets hope this defense carries us the same way the Ravens and Bears defense carried them to the super bowl in 2000 & 2006. Amen.

DeAngelo Hall - Ok. So it's looking like September's promise of a ball hawking defense hasn't exactly panned out. Our secondary's exciting 5 picks in the first 4 games has turned into a depressing 5 picks in 9 games. The Redskins are in dire need to start creating short fields for the offense. To this end the front office picked up newly available CB Deangelo Hall. Not too confident about the prospects of bringing in the Raiders' garbage to enhance our secondary? Here's some stats. Since Hall's second year in '05 he would have lead the Skins in INTs every year. In that same time period he caught more balls than all Redskin's CBs combined. He'll get picks. And maybe he'll give Carlos some tips while he's there. Hall brings some baggage along with his hands. He reportedly didn't get along with the ownership and coaching staff in Oakland which, along with his hefty salary, precipitated his release (same as in Altlanta). The Redskins are gambling that Hall will reward them with the turnovers they so desperately need without tearing apart the locker room. That's is pretty much all they risk as they signed him for the year for dirt cheap and have the personnel to play him mostly when they need to. Plus, he knows how to get under TO's skin, which is always a good start.

Onto the Cowboys:
Even with the recent mess in Big D, the Cowboys are still a very dangerous team that is all of a sudden healthy and rested. This is a very scary game. At 5-4 and 3rd in the NFC East, Dallas knows tonight's game is a must-win. With Romo's idi-widdy-pinkie feeling a bit better, Felix Jones back from injury, Terrance Newman back, and 1 week of rest, the Dallas team looks as daunting as it did in week 5. Then again, we won week 5. Logic in this situation suggests that since the Redskins have a better record, beat Dallas in Dallas, are playing the a Cowboys team worse than the one they beat, and are at home where we havent lost to Dallas since 2004, we should win. The Redskins should be fine then, right? Maybe...but most likely, Maybe not. I know, you know, vegas knows, my booba knows, and the Skins know that this Cowboys team will be ready to play tonight and if the Skins dont bring their A-game this will look more like the Steelers game monday night the the game back in Big D.

The Defensive Gameplan - Stopping Romo - The Redskins know Marion Barber well. He's a tough physical runner that makes great cuts and cant beat you coming out of the backfield as a receiver. But Marion Barber hasnt hurt them, and shouldnt hurt them in this game either. No team in the league has stuffed Barber the way the Skins have in the last 2 years. For whatever reason, we own the dude. We have excellent run stopping DT's in Gholston, Griffin, and Montgomery, with Evans shielding the edge. The player of concern is Tony Romo. Dallas averaged 29.2 points with Romo at quarterback, but scored 14, 13 and 14 in the three games he missed. Exclusing Romo's last trip to FedEx where he played 1 half of the game in week 17 with no T.O., Romo has thrown for almost 600 yards with 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in 2 games. He's a nightmare to handle as he makes excellent decisions, crisp accurate throws, and he's very unpredictable. The Redskins D needs to try and do much of what the did to somewhat contain him last game. Show him alot of different formations and packages and try to throw him off guard. Send the safeties all over the field and use the linebackers to disguise it. Last game it worked very well, with Horton coming up with a big pick, and lots of important defensive stops by Fletcher. What the Skins can't do at any point is play a prevent defense. This killed them on 2 possessions last game against Dallas, one before the half, and the other mid-4th quarter, both of which resulted in long-sustained touchdown drives for dallas. The pressure will be on the D-Line to get to Romo to try and force him into hurried throws. He's not easily rattled so a few hard shots could set the tone early.

The Offensive Gameplan - Move the ball any way possible. Dallas is 18th in the League against the run and 11th in the league against the pass. I still believe the way to beat this team is to control the clock, run the ball, and let the defense make a few plays, even though the who task is daunting without the services of 26. Thats the way we've been successful so far, lets stick with that. The Offense is going to need to free up bigger holes than usual as Betts isnt the player CP is, but seems to run well between the tackles. Control of the line of scrimmage will give us a big advantage in Time of Possession. The Top 5 teams in time of possession this season are the Titans, Giants, Cardinals, Redskins, and Steelers. It's no wonder all of those teams are 6-3 or better. Betts and Alexander will be asked to do more than they can imagine both running and blocking, so lets pray they are up to the task. As for the passing game, Santana has been eating up Dallas D ever since he put on a Skins uni. Doesn't matter who the QB has been, Brunell, Collins, Campbell, doesnt matter if there was double coverage with a safety over top, Santana has killed Dallas. If Santana can continue to beat the Dallas double-team, and Cooley (who has also played nicely vs. Dallas) can get on track early, the run lanes should open up and the Skins could be in business. Neutralizing DeMarcus Ware will be this offense's main priority. If Samuels can contain Ware, this offense should roll. If not, he could be in for a 3-4 sack day and Snyder may think twice about Campbell's potentially big payday ahead.

Active's & InActive's - Portis probably limited but Active. Griffin in. Santana in. Taylor probably active but limited. Springs in for the 1st, out in the 2nd, in for a series in the 3rd, out in the 4th. Montgomery out. The Skins have an amazing 16 players on their injury report out of their 53 man roster. Yikes.

The outcome - I think this game gets nasty. Jerry Jones said the Cowboys will make the playoffs. Must-win for both teams. Physically tough game in freezing cold weather. Skins pass the ball a bit better, Randle-El has a nice game, and Betts is serviceable. Betts has a costly fumble which leads to Dallas points, but in the endRomo beats them with a big play down the field to Roy Williams, which sets up a death blow via the right leg of Nick Folk.

Dallas 16 Redskins 13.

Hopefully im wrong in my first and likely only Skins Serv prediction.



Sunday, November 2, 2008

Crawling to the Bye: Volume 3, Issue 11

Let me just throw this out there. If you like it, great. If not, you can throw it right back at me. Tomorrow night's game versus the Steelers is a nightmare waiting to happen. The only saving grace for you Skins Servers is that I firmly believe the Black and Gold are going to give us an ole' fashion spanking, and usually whatever I think is wrong - which means the Skins have a fighting chance.

First and most importantly, I believe the Skins players and coaches want no part of this game right now. If you read between the lines are guys are basically saying this: they're tired, they're hurting and they can't wait for the bye week to rescue them from the longest stretch of games of any team in the NFL. Is that really something you want to be hearing from a team that is going on national television tomorrow night in a marquee NFL match up? And what's worse is that they happen to be playing the most physical, bone crushing team in the league.

While the Redskins seem to be crippling physically, the Steelers are starting to get stronger (they get Parker and Holmes back this week). And don't think I fault the Skins players and coaches for saying what they're saying. They are tired and beat up. If you run the numbers, except for the teams on bye next week (and the Colts), the Skins have played a full two more games than everyone else in the league. That's crazy. These guys have been playing every week since August 1. That will be 14 straight games as of tomorrow night - remember, they played 5 in the preseason. The Skins are hurting and desperately seeking the week off. Problem is they're gonna have to play an angry, physical football team tomorrow night who are desperate for the win. I don't think the Skins want any part of it. I think in the back of a lot of their heads they want to get through the game healthy and are happy going into the bye at 6-3. I know this sounds outlandish and baseless but I really believe this is the sentiment around Ashburn. That is scary - if the Skins duck out tomorrow night and play for 6-3, it'll get ugly quick.

And we haven't even gotten to matchups and actual injuries yet.

Even if the Skins were playing the Steelers at full strength in Week 5, I wouldn't like this game. Two main reasons. The teams that have the most success against the Steelers are able to get at Big Ben, while the Steelers are a team that can shut the run down no matter who they play. For the Redskins, this presents a terrible matchup. They can't get a hand on a QB no matter what offensive line they play, and I'm not sure how the offense can produce if the Steelers front seven can contain Portis.

First the pass rush - it doesn't exist. Somehow the Skins have gotten away with it thus far, but being in the bottom five in the league in sacks and turnovers forced (a direct correlation to sacks) will come back to bite you. They cannot be an elite NFL team letting QBs sit in the pocket and pick them apart. Especially a QB like Big Ben who has shown how capable he is when given time. Rothlesberger was mauled in his games against Philly and the Giants (something like 15 sacks combine) - but I just don't see the Skins front four being able to distrupt him like that - no matter how bad the Steelers o-line might be. Jason Taylor isn't in my dog house yet because he's been playing through injury and I do think the Skins pass rush will get a boost with Taylor out of the lineup this week - still though, a three headed monster of Demetric Evans, Erasmus James and Chris Wilson doesn't exactly put fear in an o-line. Somehow Greg Blacke is going to have to scheme the heck out of this one and figure out a way to get at the QB - if it means blitzing corners, safeties or LBs, the Skins will have to do something to make up for a pathetic pass rush.

Second - Portis or bust. Despite being 6-2, I can't help but be sad over just how plain our offense is. I know the Skins move the ball and I know they control the clock, but none of that matters if they can't score. Not reaching the 3 TD plateau over the last 5 weeks is pathetic. It wasn't like the Skins were playing good defenses either. This team has no second receiving threat, they have no red zone receiving threat and now, with a hobbled Santana Moss, defenses can utilize all their resources to stop the run. So if Portis gets bottled up, Santana isn't a viable option (or doesn't end up playing), how the heck are the Skins supposed to move the ball, let alone score? Somebody's going to have to step up a be a threat. ARE has been decent, but he doesn't strike fear in a defense. James Thrash could fill in for Moss tomorrow night - you think the Steelers are going to allocate more than one defender to contain him? I love CP and I love what our o-line's been able to do this year, I just don't think they'll be able to be as effective when the Steelers (a super-fast defense to begin with), put all their energy into stopping 2-6. With James Thrash/Santana Bad Hammy on one side and ARE on the other, why not hone in on CP.

Oy. A little about Santana. Right now he's questionable to play and hasn't run side to side or cut on his hammy yet. What that tells me is that either he doesn't play, and even if he does, he'll be thinking about it. Let me remind you of a similar Santana situation last year when he was questionable with pretty much the exact same injury against GB. 'Tana was awful - he dropped at least three big balls and had a fumble that led to the game winning TD for the bad guys. 'Tana's great, but when he's unhealthy he is a liability. I don't even know what I'd rather have tomorrow: him play with the hammy lurking or him not play at all. Either way, it makes things a whole lot easier for Pittsburgh.

Quick point of re-emphasis. Every time I've been this down on the Skins this year they have disproved me. I hope they come out and do it again tomorrow.

This Chris Samuels knee thing isn't going a way for a while either. Poor guy is practicing in a lot of pain and is going to have surgery to repair some messed up cartilage. How long he can play through this and when he'll need to go under the knife is unclear, but as of yesterday evening he went from a sure active to a very questionable. In case you didn't notice, we need him badly. Stephon Heyer was awful in replacing Samuels last week - he didn't look comfortable and was consistently being beaten around the corner. Can Heyer go from being schooled by a weak Detroit pass rush to stopping Harrison, Farrior and co.? I don't see it.

And while I'm tearing up the Skins, let me just get a few more body blows in there. The Skins offense is killing me. I can't put my finger on it, but something isn't right. Maybe Zorn's gone conservative. Maybe he doesn't trust Campbell to take chances. Maybe there's nobody to catch the ball. I don't freaking know. All I do know is that this offense can't score, doesn't make big plays and relies way to heavily on big CP runs and TE screens. As I said before, they got away with it because they've played some god awful teams of recent. It ain't going to work with the likes of Pittsburgh and Dallas coming to town.

OK. Saving Graces. I think Zorn and staff know that this 6-2 team isn't as good as their record indicates. They're not satisfied and only getting hungrier. To add to that, somehow this team is 6-2 and still hasn't played their best football this year. There is so much room for improvement on both sides of the ball. A pass rush, some rookie WRs, some turnovers and this team could be hoppin.

For now, they're all CP all the time and not much else. With a hungry steel curtain coming to town and with a hobbled Moss and Samuels potentially not available, it might get ugly. I am always wrong though.

Rest Up,


Failed to Mentions

1) Campbell -
I probably don't give this guy enough credit. He's been solid, hasn't thrown a pick in years and finds the open guy. I still think if the Skins are going to take it to the next level, Campbell's going to have to do more. How often do you see him splitting the corner and the safety? Zorn plays it safe with the play calling, Campbell plays it safe with his choice in throws. It makes for a great offense between the 20's, but it doesn't give us anything on the scoreboard. JC's gotta start opening up more.

2) Rookies - Everyone knows I hate them. I do. Rookies are good for carrying bags and being torn up on blogs. That being said, we need Devin Thomas to wake up NOW. If Tana doesn't play tomorrow, he'll be on the field a ton and will have to give this team something. Catch a deep one, break some tackles - anything to keep the defense honest and believing the Skins will throw the ball.

3) Steelers Offense/Skins Defense - I think Pittsburgh's offense will get 17-20. They're a pretty underachieving unit plagued by terrible line play, but still have the ability to pound it out on the ground. The Steelers will get Willie Parker back and he could give the Skins fits as all small, shifty backs do. I also think the Steelers will try to test our secondary deep with Holmes and Washington, and Heinz Ward is a tough matchup for any DB. Don't forget, though, that despite a lousy pass rush, the Skins are a top-7 defensive unit that doesn't let up a lot of points. I think the Steelers will struggle moving the ball at times, but will be able to pick spots where the Skins are vulnerable.

4) 3-4? This game will be determined by the Skins success running on this 3-4 defense. Remember, CP and co. have torn two 3-4 teams to bits already on the ground (Dallas and Cleveland), but I think Pitt's personnel is much better suited to stop us than those two teams. The Steelers LB's can cover more field than the both the aforementioned teams and they have Troy Palomalou - probably the best run stopping safety in the league. If the quicker Steelers defense can break through the Skins zone running schemes, Portis will get caught in the backfield a lot. If, on the other hand, the Skins o-line is able to control their zones and find all pursuers, maybe CP will have the lanes he did in the Cleveland and Dallas game. I'm not sold he will.

5) Blitsburgh - I've focused a lot on the the Steelers run-stopping ability, but don't forget that his team gets after the QB. Jason Campbell is going to see blitzers from all over the place. Corners, safeties, LBs, waterboys. It is my hope that the o-line and Campbell can call the right protections, identify the blitzers and give JC a chance to throw the ball. If not, Campbell will be under the gun and forced into making bad throws. My hope is that the Skins combat the blitz as well as they did against another blitz-heavy team, the Eagles. It will be tough though as Pittsburgh will send anyone, anytime and because Heyer is just not game-tested yet. The Skins do have the advantage of CP picking up blitzers, but he can't fend off two guys alone. Another great way to combat the blitz is setting up the screen (which the Skins do well) and taking shots downfield. I hope they're able to do both, thus forcing the Steelers to play off the line of scrimmage more.

6) Blitzington - Greg Blache has been very conservative about getting after QBs. He can't be tomorrow. Teams beat the Steelers by getting in Ben's face and making him throw picks. Look for Blache to start throwing more people at him too.

7) Injuries - Regardless of whether Santana plays, assume he won't be the Santana were used to having. The dude isn't the same with a bad hammy. Samuels is in a lot of pain and if I had to bet, I think he misses another. Springs will miss another one - as will Kelly. I think the Skins will have Griff back and will have Carlos and Smootsie getting close to 100%. Beware of one more injury: LaRon Landry. He too has been bothered by a hammy and has missed a lot of practice. I wouldn't be shocked if he's inactive.

8) Prediction - Late byes are good in that they make a team fresher later in the year. I still think that this one comes one week too late. The Skins are dying for a break, and again, playing the most physical team in football is a daunting task for anyone - especially one that is so banged up. Like our beloved owner says, its all about who is more physical. I give the edge to the Steelers tomorrow in the physical department and that's why I'm gonna take em.
Steelers 17 Redskins 7