Thursday, October 25, 2007

Punch Tom Brady in the Face: Volume 2, Issue 11

"This game will go a long way toward determining whether the Washington Redskins can be considered a Super Bowl-caliber team. The Patriots have been on an unheard-of roll through the first seven weeks of the season and are averaging 39.9 points per game, but the Redskins rank third in the NFL in scoring defense at 14.7 points per game. This is about as close as we are going to get to an irresistible force (Patriots) going against an immovable object (Redskins). Something has to give in this one. " – ESPN Insider


Washington Warpathers,

This is the second draft of my preamble. My first iteration detailed why this game presented itself was a win-win situation: either the Skins would be touched by an angel and pull a Lake Placid, or, even in a loss, they would still muster some moral victories. After putting together Skins Serv, spending a few quiet moments pondering the game, and discussing Sunday's match-up with some other dedicated Skins Servers, I have one thing to say to people with my original attitude: Funk Dat!


The Skins are an NFL team. A good NFL team with a great defense. There aren't any moral victories up here. We are going to Foxboro to win the game, to hurt some people (hopefully many), and to come home 5-2. We're not going to garner national respect, to try covering the spread, or to make a statement to the NFC - as a great man once said " you play to win the game." That's exactly what the Skins will do on Sunday and exactly how us as fans should approach this thing. Be nervous about playing the Patriots, be excited about the opportunity, fear defeat, and believe that they can be victorious. If they win on Sunday - amazing, and if they lose - I don't want smiles, hand shakes or pats on the butt - a loss is a loss.


I hope Skins Serv will get you believing the same way it got me believing.


Don't stop believing,




How They Can Win


1) Take Away Moss and Welker - It sounds so easy, but how do they do that? I actually believe our defense sets up well to do it. The situation bodes very similar to how we played the Packers on defense – we need to take away the under stuff (slants, in particular) and take away the deep ball. Our safeties positioning will be key to doing this. Sean Taylor is going to have to play amazing deep center – Moss has TD catches this year of 51, 50, 45, and 24 – if Taylor can help Springs and Rogers on the deep routes, the Patriots attack will suffer. The Skins are going to have to look to Fred Smoot and LaRon Landry to help contain Welker over the middle, something they did very well against Donald Driver in Green Bay. Welker is averaging about 75 yards per game, most of which has been gained after the catch. If Landry and Smoot, with the help of LB's dropping back in coverage, can limit Welker to 4-6 yards per catch, as opposed to 8-12 yards per catch, the Skins defense can force the Pats into trickier third and long situations and maybe get them off the field once in a while.

By focusing on Moss and Welker only, the Skins leave themselves susceptible to the Patriots running attack and the Pats number three WR Dante Stallworth. The Redskins would much rather get burned by those two options than by Moss and Welker. The Patriots running attack is hampered by injuries with Sammy Morris on the shelf for a couple of more weeks, and featured back Laurence Maroney still working himself back from injury (Maroney only carried the ball 6 times last week). If the Redskins somehow force the Pats into beating them on the ground, at least the Redskins can avoid giving up quick-hitting big plays that have propelled the Pats before. Stallworth is a bonafide downfield threat, and because Taylor will have his eyes on Moss, we are going to have to pray that Carlos Rogers can contain Stallworth in man coverage downfield, but hey, Stallworth isn't nearly as good as Moss at bringing down those home run balls – so lets let him try to beat us. 


The Skins biggest vulnerability against the pass won't even be tested this week, as TE Ben Watson doesn't look as if he'll go. The Skins were torched last week by Arizona TE Marcus Pope who repeatedly ran up the seam for big strikes – taking advantage of our weaker-covering LBs. With Watson out, the Skins defense can fully focus on stopping Moss and Welker.


Ideally, Taylor and company frustrate Moss with Brady spending the day using him as a decoy, and Landry gets a few licks on Welker early on, deterring the little guy from going over the middle often.


2) Punch Tom Brady in the Face – Literally. Brady needs to get hit. I don't care how it happens - pre-game warmups, halftime, whatever. The guy is rarely touched and always seems to avoid contact. If the Redskins want any chance at getting this guy frustrated and making a mistake, they're going to have to send someone at him. This probably means using LB/DE Chris Wilson more in blitz packages and could mean blitzing another linebacker as well. The Skins front four is going to have trouble getting to Brady on their own and Williams can't risk sending in corners or safeties – so it comes down to the LB's giving that extra push. I don't even care if the Skins get flagged for a couple of late hits and personal fouls – if they're within 5 feet of him, they should go for the big, painful hit. Brady needs his face eating dirt and needs to be thinking about contact when he throws the ball. If Landry can contain Welker underneath in the early stages, Williams will be more comfortable sending in the LB's after Brady. Getting a couple of picks is the only way the Redskins offense will play on a short field, and getting after Brady is the only way those picks will happen. 


3) The Redskins Offense Needs to Chew Clock – As much as the prolific, high-powered attack of the Pats is the concern this week, and as much attention as the clash between their offense and our defense is getting, the only way the Redskins will have a fighting chance in this game is if the offense can stay on the field. I am convinced that if time of possession in this game is 30-30, the Redskins will be in the game right until the end. The Redskins defense will only melt down if they're on the field too much. Sure they'll give up a big TD or get burned by a slant or long run (the Pats are good), but I just don't think Brady and Co. will run up the score on our guys if the defensive unit is fresh throughout the game.


Here's the problem – the Skins offense is horrible at staying on the field. According to JLC's numbers presented earlier this week on his blog, not including the Detroit and Miami games, the Redskins have two second half drives over 2:50 for the year! Forget the lack of TD's, they're obsessed with three and outs. They have failed to get a first down in 15 of 24 second half drives in those games. If the Redskins offense pulls the same kind of shtick against the Pats, it will get ugly in the second half. Even 2-3 first downs per drive can make the difference. I don't care if they punt it away 8 times on Sunday, if they can chew some clock up, they can stay in the game. So how can they do that? 


4) The Running Game – It's been abysmal. Blame who you want, it just stinks. Maybe CP's slowing down (I don't believe it, but you're welcome to), maybe the o-line gets no push and no holes opened (I have video evidence that says that's the case), or maybe the coaches aren't calling it correctly, the bottom line is that something has to change. For starters, the Skins will likely have Casey Rabach on Sunday. Rabach is vital for the offense, he's captain of the line (which means he calls the defense and blocking formations) and he's much more athletic on pulling plays than his backup Mike Pucillo. Even more important than Rabach's return is the fact that the starting line will actually practice together three days this week, as opposed to last week where the makeshift group was on the field together once (and it showed). If the Skins can get their YPC up from the 2.4 it was in the second half last week, they'll have more manageable third down plays – something huge for staying on the field. The Patriots actually give up 4.4 YPC – eighth worst in the NFL and according to ESPN insider, they do not stack the box with Defensive Backs, relying on their front seven only to stop the run. This is something the Skins have rarely seen this year and could take advantage of.


5) Unleashing Campbell - If the running game isn't working, why not throw the ball? Duh. I do love CP and want to see him carry it 40 times, but if he isn't happening for Dolla Bill, then Coach Joe has got to start airing it out. If there ever was an opportunity to see what Jason can do, this is the game. The Patriots have a top-5 pass defense, they're considered the best team in the league and they're playing at home. If Campbell can move the offense in this situation then he can do it in any. If Campbell can throw upfield against the Pats maybe Coach Joe will be confident in the passing game's ability against other, less-qualified teams. Here's my bottom line: what do the Redskins have to lose by letting Campbell pass 40 times on Sunday? If he throws a couple of picks, that's what he's supposed to do in this environment throwing the ball 40 times. I would as go as far to say that I would rather the Skins go down a FG or a TD in the first half than play ahead - this way Coach Joe's hand would be forced into throwing. We need to see what happens when the Skins chuck lots of bombs, go over the middle, run slants, run outs to the sidelines - we haven't see any kind of momentum in the pass offense at all and it's about time we do.


6) Injury Update - Casey Rabach and Marcus Washington went full speed today along with Wade and Kendall.  Having Marcus back could help the Skins pass rush - I'd love to see some kind of variance of a 3-4 this week with the Skins rushing Carter, Washington, Wilson, Montgomery and Griffin, letting Fletcher and Rocky handle coverage with Landry up as a hybrid linebacker keeping an eye on Welker. I'm very excited to see what they come up with defensively - I'll think it will be different than anything we've seen this year.


7) Interesting Stats to Get You Believing -

A) With the exception of the Cowboys (who rank 7th), the Patriots have played the 32,31,28,29,27,16 defenses in the league. And according to Patriots stat guru Ami Rozmaryn, those total defensive numbers wouldn't change significantly if you took the Patriots games out of their defensive statistics. Those teams can't stop anyone. The Redskins are the best defense the Patriots have played - by a lot.


B) The Redskins are the only NFL team Tom Brady hasn't beaten (he's 0-1).


C) Randy Moss v. Sean Taylor Historically (two game averages):

4 Receptions, 53 yards and 0.5 TD.

I know he's playing with a better QB, but in both those games Taylor was great at covering Moss deep down field and hitting Moss hard whenever he has a chance. Taylor has a knack for rising to the occasion against the league's premiere receivers. Remember - in their first match up in 2004, Moss was trying to make the playoffs in the last game of the season (so he was playing 100%).


8) Prediction - I really believe the Redskins keep this one close for a while. The defense will keep the Pats offense somewhat contained and the offense will surprise some people by moving the ball on the ground and through the air. What will end up being the Redskins demise is turnovers. I see Campbell making a mistake in the middle of the fourth quarter that the Redskins can't recover from. Patriots 30 Redskins 20.



Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hammy Nation: Volume 2, Issue 10

Monks in the Hall,

Let me quickly address the Green Bay loss right now in my prelude, so we don't have to suffer through mentions of it throughout the heart of Skins Serv. When you go on the road in the NFL bad things happen. It is very rare you will see a perfect game by a road team (perhaps in the old Sun Devil Stadium, but besides that they're uncommon). I'd say you would have to be a good two touchdowns better than a team in order to give yourself a great chance to win at their place - if you're only a single TD better, than the entire game is a toss up. And that's what happened Sunday. I'd say the Skins are about four to seven points better than the Packers, which isn't good enough when you factor in turnovers, drop balls and fluke injuries. Again, as it seems happens 5-7 times a year, the Skins let down in the second half, lost focus, were careless with the ball and couldn't put a team away when they had the chance. No killer instinct, no sense of urgency, no ball hawking. They didn't deserve to win. If the Skins want to be an upper-tier team in this league than every player is going to have to respond: follow the ball into your hands, cradle the ball with two hands, wrap up defenders, hold off oncoming pass rushers for the extra half second. If they can't do those intangibles on the road (as they're paid to do) then it's not worth getting too excited about cupcake home performances, because they'll probably not get it done when it counts most.

Kol Tuv,





1) Injuries - Like no other game in recent memory, this game comes down to the health of both teams. I know we've all been pre-occupied by the bevy of injuries that has plagued our offensive line, but we most also take notice of some key injuries that could quickly shift the Cardinals from a good football team to a rotten one. Although on paper I believe the Skins will win this game handily, I will not be confident until the coaches post their active and inactives at about 11:40 AM Sunday. Let me break it down for you player by player.


2) Rabach/Wade/Kendall - Before we get into injury severity and contigency plans, let me just say that if this makeshift group was 100% we'd still have some major issues in the trenches. This line isn't getting any push for our running game and can't move laterally (No excuse for the CP fumble, but there were 5 Packers in on that play and no Skins lineman in the vicinity - how's that possible?). The line had been pass blocking well until Rabach and Wade went down, and then that went kaput also.


Rabach's groin is strained and sore. He claims he'll be ready to go Sunday (the guy's never missed a game as a Skin), but he probably won't practice all week. This is a bit disconcerting - if he's not good enough to go Friday, how much will 48 hours help? If he does play, I just don't know how effective he'll be, especially when he's asked to pull.


Wade's dealing with a hammy (what's with all the hammys?). He's pretty much the same deal as Rabach - don't expect to see him in practice but he'll suit up Sunday. Again, Wade didn't look all that great before he got hurt Sunday, just how good will he be with a week's practice missed?


Kendall is the WebMD/Boeing "Under the radar injury of the week." Apparently he isn't practicing either because of an arthritic knee and, you guessed it, a bad hammy.


Who's leading the pre-game stretching? Are they counting to twenty with coaches and players alternating who says the number? Are the players reaching down all the way to their tippy-toes?


I really can't speculate on an arthritic knee - I think Sandy Koufax had bad arthritis which ended his career, but I don't think Kendall's Jewish. Kendall claims he'll be ready to go Sunday also.


It's pretty unbelievable what kind of medicinal affect Saturday night has on this team. Miraculous almost. I wake up every Sunday morning feeling nauseous and dizzy, yet these guys manage to ignore their millions of ailments and lace em' up.


And let's say that Wade, Kendall and Rabach can't go? Here's what our projected lineup will be. Chris Samuels at LT, Lorenzo Alexander at LG, Mike Pucillo at Center, Rick Demulling at RG and Jason Scrubini at RT. Alexander is actually a defender, Pucillo at center introduces potential QB/C exchange issues, and DeMulling is well...DeMulling?


I know it sounds catastrophic, but if somehow these guys can step it up (they are pros), the Skins have other things going for them (like tons of Cardinals injuries) to help them get through this one.


3) Warner/Dansby/Wilson/Brown/Boldin - The drop off from Kurt Warner to Tim Rattay and/or Tim Hassleback is astronomical. Warner had this offense on a roll before his injury and was starting to look like his old self with his new batch of talented WRs. Warner's arm is still live and he seems to have finally exorcised the demons from his hand injuries of years ago.


Tim Rattay was not just good, he was exceptional in the way he threw big interceptions in each of the Cardinals attempts to come back last week against the Panters. The guy isn't even an NFL bust, he's just a never-was. The Skins will rattle him and force him to commit turnovers. Doesn't matter what kind of weapons he has on the outside, he won't be able to lead this team to a victory.


Tim Hassleback is more famous for impregnating his hot wife than he is for playing football. To put it in a little more perspective, the Cardinals had Rattay, Vinny T, Ryan Leaf, Todd Marinovich and the Boz ahead of him on their QB depth chart.


If either of these guys start, the Skins will be playing on short fields all day and even their o-line should be able to handle that task.


As of now, Warner does have damaged ligaments in his left elbow but opted to not have surgery and will be available to play (he practiced yesterday). Here's the thing - Warner can't even hand the ball of with his left hand right now and the Cardinals are talking about having him come in for no-huddle, pass-only situations. Seems like a pretty appealing situation to the Skins defense also. One hit on Warner and he's probably not only done for the game, but will be done for the season. The Cardinals are also not going to play Warner until they can find something to stabilize the elbow - we'll see if they're able to do that.


What could be bigger than the Warner injury are injuries to LB Carlos Dansby and S Adrian Wilson. These two guys make that defense go. They are fast to the ball, can stop the run and are great in coverage. This 'Zona defense, when healthy, can stop people (see the Pittsburgh game from three weeks ago). Dansby is an up and coming LB out of Auburn (JC's best friend) who leads Zona with 44 tackles. Wilson is a top-three safety in the entire NFL. The Cardinals defense, which is a mediocre 16th overall with those two in the lineup, will be vulnerable to everything with them out. If Dansby and Wilson do play, the Skins will have much more trouble running and passing.


As of now, Dansby is questionable with a sprained left knee and didn't practice yesterday. I don't think Arizona knows his status for Sunday yet. Wilson, who strained his hamstring late in the game against Carolina, also didn't practice yesterday - his status is uncertain also.


Arizona's number one pick from last year, Levi Brown, who hasn't played in three weeks with a bummed ankle, practiced limitedly yesterday and will also be a game-time decision. If Brown can't go, the Skins defense will have an even easier time getting at whichever dufus is back there.


Lastly, the Cardinals will finally get Anquan Boldin back this wee, but I don't think it makes much of a difference if he has nobody throwing it to him.


4) How it Will Go - I'm seeing a turnover fest this Sunday. The Skins defense is number three in the league. They've done a great job against defenses with good aerial attacks and I'm not worried about Edgerrin James burning them much out of the backfield. The Skins will play inside their 50 the entire game, they'll get a defensive score, and they'll take pressure off the o-line by pounding the ball to Portis and running behind Samuels and Sellars. The game will not be a close one. Our o-line will heal up and our defense will move up to number one in the league, setting up a fun one in Foxboro next week. (How's that for optimism? Bet you didn't see that one coming)


Prediction (for Dani): Skins - A lot,  Cardinals - A little


Parting Shot: Sean Taylor - Sean is finally becoming the player we all dreamed of when the Skins drafted him. He's hitting, he's intercepting, he's covering, he's limiting stupid penalties and he's becoming the leader of the defense. The guy has not let anything behind him yet and when it looks like he does, he breaks to the ball and stops the play. I know he got roused in the media for dropping 3 potential picks, but that kind of thing comes with time - the more opportunities he gets the more relaxed he'll be when the ball's in his hands. ST is in all the right places - he has defenses scared to throw deep and scared to throw over the middle. I wouldn't want to have any other safety in the league playing back there. If the Skins manage to sneak into the playoffs, he'll get major votes for defensive MVP.




PS - Moss (Groing) and ARE (Hammy) practiced yesterday, but watch these two closely. I don't think either one played near 100% last week and Moss strained a hammy late in the game to go on top of his groin issue. It's possible we won't see much burst out of both of these guys - another good reason for why the Skins will have to play on short fields this week. Also look for a little more Brandon Lloyd this week - although he dropped one he could have had (which would have put us at the one yard line late in the game), the coaches will have had to see the move he made to get open on the play - a pretty sweet juke off the line of scrimmage. Maybe this guy can finally get going. 

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Time to Really Find Out: Volume 2, Issue 9

Fellow Followers of JC,

Sunday was good. Ok, Sunday was really good. Father Joe, Son JC, and the holy Greg and Al threw a complete game. The Skins spanked the Lions en route to a little more national respect and talks of being a contender in the NFC, that's right, a con-ten-duh. Personally, I'm not drinking the Manischewitz just yet. My giddyness levels are low and my super bowl hallucinations have been minimal. Why? Because, despite the fact that the Skins seem to be a top-6 NFC team, they haven't done anything to show that they can make it to the big show, or at least win a road divisional round playoff game. I know I'm jumping way ahead of myself, and this is a week-by-week league, but I will only get super-psycho excited when I know the Skins have a legitimate shot at playing the Cowboys in the NFC Championship game. Thanks to the schedule makers, we don't have to wait long to make a determination. The Packers are considered by the prevailing consensus the second-best NFC team, and because of their weak-sister division, it is likely the team of cheese will host a wild card and/or divisional playoff game. My heart believes the Skins can win this week, show us that they and the Cowboys will duke it out for NFC dominance all year, and use this victory as a catalyst for great things. My mind tells me that the Packers rarely lose two in a row in Lambeau, Jason Campbell still has only played a handful of road games, and that four quarters ago the Skins offense looked as anemic as it ever has over the past three years. X's and O's say both defenses are stellar and just like the Packers home opener against the Eagles, special teams and turnovers will determine the outcome. We got three more days until we know just how good our boys are - if they win on Sunday I might book a ticket to Dallas, not for the third Sunday in November, but for the third Sunday in January.

Kol Tuv,





1) JC - Number 17 was perfect on Sunday. It's pretty hard to believe that this guy could have a perfect game at such an early stage, especially considering he was without Moss for the entire game and ARE for the second half, but I guess our boy is all growns up. Peter King, who is as NY-centric as a reporter comes and never sheds his love towards the B&G said JC is a top 10-12 QB in the NFL right now. Watching some of the highlights last night, here's what I really liked. 1) His Accuracy - I know he threw for a high percentage, but what was more astonishing is that he threw those balls in the perfect spots. 6 passes - the Cooley TD and 2Pointer, the two McCardell balls, the Sellars seam route and the ARE slant - couldn't have been thrown anywhere else. Jason's throwing lasers, anticipating the defense, and leading his receivers to the ball - this only a few weeks after he was being critiqued (by me) for being erratic and telegraphing his passes. His progress is stunning. 2) His Playmaking - 2 plays, the Sellars passing TD and the Cooley 2Pointer, were designed to get Jason out of the pocket, improvise, and break the defense down while on the run. That's exactly what he did. First on the Sellars play he drew the entire Detroit LB corps to the sideline with him before throwing back to big Mike (who made a great play by curling back to the middle of the end zone). On the Cooley play, JC made a similar play, but threw across his body and threaded the needle through oncoming defenders. To me, what's most exciting about Campbell's progress is his ability to throw the ball over the middle of the field. Sometimes it seems the Skins coaches don't have faith in the young guy and water down the playbook to protect him. They need not do that anymore. Jason can throw the ball everywhere and keep this offense moving with his arm. That is awesome.


2) Andre Carter - The guy is a man-beast. He doesn't have a single ounce of fat on his body and has some of the quickest feet for a man of his size. He's got 8 sacks in his last nine games and a whole lot of hurries to go along with that. I don't know if it's fair to call this guy another Redskins free agent bust. Carter's ability to speed rush is making the Skins front four much better than it's ever been and has now cleared the way for the Skins LB's and secondary to worry about coverage. One point to ponder - the Lions o-line is pretty weak. They've given up the most sacks in the league. I don't know if Grilliams will be able to get pressure on Favre this week by rushing four like he did against the Lions - the Skins might have to take one more person out of coverage to make sure Favre feels the heat and makes some mistakes.


3) The O-Line and CP - The Skins aren't moving the ball on the jumbo sets. The word has spread that when Mike Pucillo comes in and the Skins have an extra blocker, the Skins are running up the gut. It might work with Randy Thomas, Dock and Jansen, but it ain't working with the new guys up front. Portis and Betts are getting knocked back on these plays and the Skins aren't getting good yardage on first down runs still. Portis did look great on Sunday - but mostly it was out of spread sets where the Skins lined up three recievers, showed pass and ran Portis to the edges, where he can turn the corners and make guys miss. The direct snap was effective once, but I don't see that play being part of the repertoire every week. (I have a hunch the Skins throw Randle El in that same formation and have him throw down field). I'd like to see CP crack 20 carries this week. It seems his carries 10-17 have been a lot better than 1-10. The more they feed him the better he gets. Green Bay's got a great run defense who will only allow yards once they're worn down. The Skins need to stick with CP in this one, even if he gets off to a slow start.


4) ARE/WRs - I hope ARE is healthy this week, because he has become big trouble for defenses. Opposing DBs cannot keep up with this guy. He gets open off his routes and he alludes defenders once he catches the ball. I'd be a huge plus for the offense if they can have both of the speedsters out there this week. Which brings me for an interesting What to Watch For: the Pack corners love bumping at the line and disrupting quick timing routes. The Skins did a lot of that last week against soft Detroit corners. It will be interesting to see what our WRs can do off of Woodson and Harris and if Campbell will stay patient and not force bad throws if the GB corners have their way with our pass catchers. I think the Skins will take some more down field shots than they did last week also - Tana and/or ARE can outrun both GB corners, while the GB safeties looked vulnerable over the top late in the Chicago game.


5) GB - No Running and Quick Passing  - The Pack don't have much of a running game and like the Lions last week, have the best passing offense in the NFL. The Packers looked great in the first half on the ground but lost all momentum with the run in the second half. If the Skins stop Wynn/Morency/Jackson quickly then they can turn their focus to combating the aerial assault which the Pack will inevitably go to on every play. The Pack's brand of passing is different from the Lions though. Favre likes getting the ball out very quickly, usually hooking up with Driver and Jennings on slants. As opposed to Kitna, who needs time to set up and let his receivers get down field (thus making him vulnerable to the sack), Favre will take quick drops and sling it out fast. I don't think the Skins can just rush four and drop guys way back like they did last week. If they rush four, Favre won't have a hand in his face on the quick stuff, and if they keep the safeties downfield, the corners won't be able to stop the quick routes. The Skins need to: a) somehow force Favre out on the run where he tends to make more mistakes, b) knock some heads off early by inching up Taylor and Landry on those quick slants. If the Pack receivers become shy going over the middle, the Skins defense will have a huge advantage. It will be really interesting to see what defense Grilliams throws out Favre - lets just hope our boys are as good as they were last Sunday.


7) Injuries - From what JLC's saying, Moss seems back to 100%. I'm kind of glad the temps around here dropped, so the injured guys can get used to running in the colder weather. ARE hasn't practiced and doesn't seem as sure about playing as he was on Sunday. My gut is that he doesn't play and used one more week to get the hammy healthy (this is the same guy that said Tana wouldn't play against the Pack). The coaches don't want Daniels to play with the shoulder dislocation (even though he wants to), that'll probably be a game-time decision. Marcus Washington's hammy has also prevented him from practicing. I think he dresses. What bothers me about Washington is that he seems to have something new every couple of weeks. The trend needs to end.


8) How it plays out - Before the season I had this marked as a three point loss. All indicators point to tightly-contested, defensive clash. Here's what I'm thinking though - maybe the Pack aren't as good as their record says, or maybe we are just better. It was a similar thought I had before we played Philly - "we should lose this game, unless we are actually better than them." Do I make any sense here? The Packs wins: Philly (in a game they should have lost), New York (somehow they caught the Giants before they remembered how to play defense), San Diego (also got this team at a bad time),  and Minnesota (1-3). Ok. I don't think that really proved anything, but "that's why they play the game." I'll stick with my early season prediction for this one and hope the Skins surprise me.


Parting Shot - Walking out of my abode near Dupont Circle this morning, I felt DC's first autumn winds strike my bones - a glorious sensation that symbolized Fall's arrival and the start of the NFL's stretch run. The temperature is dropping, the Skins have a quarter of their season under their belt, and now take their travelling show to the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field for a tilt with the legend in front of a national TV audience (temps expected to be in the high 50s, btw). It's good to be a Skins fan right now - pretty... pretty... pretty good.


Closing Numbers (I'm an ESPN thief):


The Skins only played the Packers once between 1988 and 2001 (I guess it's because the Pack were bad when the Skins were good and vice versa).


The last three match-ups since have not been pretty at all:


1) 9/24/2001 - Lambeau Field - Monday Night Football - Packers 37, Redskins 0


2) 10/20/2002 - Lambeau Field  - LaVar knocks Favre out of the game and we still get spanked - Packers 30, Redskins 9 (I got so drunk watching this game, I had to call in sick for a mid-term I had the next day.)


3) 10/31/2004 - FedEx Field - "Thrashgate" (the infamous illegal motion call that negated a CP game-tying TD) - Packers 28, Redskin 14.


That's right boys and girls, since these two teams started hooking-up again regularly, the Skins have been outscored by the Packers 95-23 and 67-9 at Lambeau.


Cheer up, though. Stats are stupid anyway.



Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bye Bye (Get It?): Volume 2, Issue 8

Friends of the Feather,

Not sure if you noticed, but I granted myself asylum over the bye week. I needed it. We all needed it. In my life as a football fan, I have never liked the bye week; while all other football

enthusiasts get to don their team colors and root for their teams, the bye week teams and their faithful must wait on the sidelines; a full two weeks until they can re-join the party. (I did wear my new Cooley throwback on Sunday).


Not this year - Redskins nation needed all 1,188,000 seconds granted to them by the league office. Demons needed to be exorcised, enemas needed to inserted, and chunks needed to be spewed so that last Sunday's nightmare could be fully expunged from our systems. This year the bye week accomplished what it was supposed to, maybe not for the players (we'll get to that), but definitely for us fans (or this fan). Sunday without the Redskins was nice (I'll admit it), although, by the second half of the Giants/Eagles game, I started to miss my boys.


The first three weeks of the 07 campaign were super intense (it all happened so fast). The bye week gave us all a chance to rest, re-energize, re-focus and re-commit ourselves to this season. Although 9/23 was nothing short of disaster, the B&G are still in a great position to play into January.


The stretch run begins now: 13 weeks, 13 games, 13 Skins Servs. I hope you all are as ready as I am.


Kol Tuv,





1) Injuries - Please refer to Jason's blog for the most updated Redskins injury news ( ). I will give my two cents based on the reading I have done : take from it what you will - this is my gut speaking.


Bro Sweets - Everything's always a mystery over in Ashburn (I hate that about our team. Why can't we just know the story? Everyone says something different or things just go unexplained. It makes me crazy). Is it tendinitis? A bruise? Was he too hurt to go in last Sunday? From what I saw from 141, Row 7, CP could have played and Gibbsie made a mistake by holding him out. Apparently the injury came early in the game and he played through it. CP was on the field during the closing drive, which means the injury couldn't have been too bad with a minute to go. Regardless, CP will play this week (you can book it). The dude's a gamer, and he'll be ready come Sunday. The Skins won't practice him all week, and may never practice him again this year (a storyline Skins Serv foreshadowed early in camp). The amount of carries is a different story. I hope the Skins aren't too stringent about the "interchangeable" thing and don't limit him because of the knee: they need CP running 22-25 in order for the offense to flourish. No knock on Betts, but there's a reason CP rushed for 1500 in 3 of his first 4 years in the league. Let the guy get into his groove, work for the 3 and 4 yarders early and break the big ones late.


'Tana - This is the one we should be sweating over. Santana was iffy all off-season and the Skins didn't push him at all in camp (he had hammy and groin stuff). Looks like this latest iteration of the groin strain is pretty bad - the team is optimistic he'll be alright, but 89 hasn't run on it yet since the injury occurred. With Moss's history, I gotta believe the Skins are cautious about this one on gameday. He won't play this week and my feeling is that they hold him out of Green Bay also (pure pontification).


Quick comment about Campbell's first of two spikes late in the Giants game. People blame the coaches and Campbell for the first one (at about the 20 yd ln with a buck and change to go). It was actually because Moss got hurt on the play before that they didn't run a play in that situation. He could barely line up at the scrimmage line and wouldn't have been able to run a route, so Campbell opted to spike it in order to get him off the field. For some reason, nobody's mentioned that.


Rocky/Daniels/Griff - The first two should be alright, but I see Griffin as a big concern. The anchor of the defense hasn't really played a full game yet and seems to go down with a terrible looking injuries every two or three series. The guy is a warrior but at some point his body's going to give for good. I don't think he gets through 16 games.


2) Wide Receivers - Keenan McCardell has a super bowl ring from the 1992 Redskins - half of that team is dead or unaccounted for. Do you remember what your body looked like 15 years ago? People's bodies (I might be the exception) change a lot over time. The man is old. McCardell can play, don't get me wrong, but he's not the solution. The Skins are going to have to address WR this off-season - there's no way around it. This week it's very possible the Skins will line up Randle El, Caldwell and Thrash in three receiver sets and throw in McCardell for four receiver sets.


From what I've read, Brandon Lloyd might as well be Christopher Lloyd. I know JLC and others have dogged Lloyd for his demeanor, attitude and performance, but I'm going to take the players side on this one and quote the great SE Jerome "He's gotta be great to be able to catch balls that aren't thrown to him" (or something to that affect). I don't think Lloyd's really gotten a shot here. I'll agree to disagree with most of Redskins nation.


So who is Campbell gonna look to in order to bail him out this week? ARE isn't a possession guy (he's too small), Thrash runs a 5.4 40, Cooley's pass blocking, and Caldwell and McCardell are still learning the system. We have two options: pray for Tana's groin and hope the Lions can't stop the Skins rushing attack.


3) Carlos - When can Carlos be officially deemed a bust (JLC posted on this last week also)? He can wrap up well, but past that the positives are scarce. He rarely sees the ball in the air, and if he does he can't catch it. He can't really take anyone man-to-man and I can't remember the last time he's blitzed off of corner. Rogers is bordering on a Kenny Wright-sized liability. Especially going up against Williams, Johnson, Fitz and Boldin over the next three weeks. The Skins don't blitz effectively because Carlos can't man up and he isn't affective in their zones schemes either (can corners be affective in zone schemes - I haven't seen it yet this year). Kitna and Co. are going to air it out all day and try to exploit whoever lines up across from Rogers - I am not sure how the Skins are going to stop it.


4) Covering TE's - I know what your thinking: this Serv is way too skeptical. Hopefully I'll think of some positives before we get to the end.


Our LB's are great stopping the run and pressuring the QB, but when NFL scouts watch tape of the Giants game, they're going to see Jeremy Shockey running circles around Rocky and Fletcher. Both guys are great at the line of scrimmage, but can't cover down field. I don't really know how to get around this issue, except by bringing Sean Taylor up a bit from his perch in deep center, which then makes us vulnerable to the deep ball. The Skins don't face a great past-catching tight end this week or next, but it will be a problem they're going to have to fix before the stretch run.


5) Run Stopping/Pass Rushing - Don't know what to make of the front four's performance last week. In an amazing turn of events, the Redskins are getting consistent pressure on the QB but can't stop runners up the gut. The Skins usually are weak at the edges, but Derrick Ward was running everywhere he pleased(as Westbrook was the week before). I think I'll take this trend for now - the Skins haven't really been burned for a home run yet, they have been getting run stops when they need to, and have been in the QBs face far more often than in years past. Run stopping is a concern we'll have to be vigilant about, but it isn't pressing this week with the Lions having a very weak ground attack.


6) Third Down - The second half was simply a case of the great third-down numbers going skitzo on us. The Giants converted three third and 7 plus in their opening drive and the Skins had 3 straight three and outs. A quick solution to the problem is getting better running chunks on first and second down on offense, and blitzing more on third down when they're on defense. I think the Skins defense was way too complacent in the second half. The prevent, zone-style defense we saw was Williams simply playing not to lose. Lets hope the third-down numbers do another 180 this week.


7) The O-Line - In the first half the Skins played with shorter fields, so the O-line's flaws went unnoticed. In the second half you could really see the Giants defense win the battle in the trenches. Campbell looked hurried on most of his throws and rushed many of his deliveries. The Skins are going to have to implement some deeper drops and more shotgun in order to give JC an extra second to see the field. Hopefully the O-line will use practice this week to gel and will not face much of a challenge against a porous Lions defense. Green Bay's a different story.


The o-line showed its weaknesses in the running game too - the Skins were forced to run left (Pierce and the Giants knew it was coming) most of the game and couldn't establish anything when they ran behind Wade and Fabini. I am of the opinion that the Skins need to keep running right - Portis is much better going to his right and defenses won't expect them to do it.


8) Coaching - I have stuck with Gibbs for three years, never caving to the pressure of using the old man as a goat. I can't do it anymore. I pin the Giants loss directly on him and Al Saunders. Gibbs' entire mindset needs to change. He was quoted after the game as saying that they don't expect to blow teams away. Well I think it's time to reassess the team attitude. The Skins had no killer instinct in the second half and it starts with the coaches. The offense went into coma mode - dump offs, check downs and reverses (my least favorite play in football). The Skins needed to pass it up field, exploit the middle of the Giants secondary (which was the worst in the league at the time) and grab big chunks using their speedy receivers. The Skins didn't take any shots until they went down: that's about a quarter and a half of vanilla offense. Maybe its a lack of trust in Campbell, maybe the receivers aren't getting open, or maybe Campbell isn't seeing the field well, but at this point it doesn't matter. The Skins have to unleash Campbell and use his arm; this isn't Brunell anymore, the kid can thread the needle and hit guys 50 yards down field - it's time to use it to our advantage. It the Skins continue the dink and dunk, they will continue to lose games in the second half.


Ok - the final drive. 1) Don't spike on first. Take a shot with your three receiver set. 2) After the incompletion sub Portis in for Betts. 3) On second down call your sweep left and get stuffed. 4) On third down, using the same formation, send Portis left and bootleg Campbell. He scores. Game tied.


Not sure how nervous Coach Joe gets on the sideline, but I think they should start shooting insulin in him during the 4th quarter so he calms the heck down and makes some good decisions.


9) Forcing Turnovers - Wasn't it nice to see the Skins work with a short field? The front four is really forcing the issue. In the Giants game it led to three TOs - we will see that number continue to go up (see - that was positive).


10 The Lions - Oh yeah. This team gave up 56 to the Eagles. The Skins will run, run, run, stay on the field, get pressure on Kitna, force bad throws, win the turnover battle and win the game. If for some reason they can't get first downs, can't stop the Detroit wide outs and don't win the turnover battle, I'm going to call the commish's office and ask for another bye.




Parting Shot (Shout Out to Dick Schaap zt"l): When the Skins win the coin toss at home, they must elect to defend. It lost them the game on Sunday, has lost them games in the past, and will continue to haunt them in the future. When the Redskins defend to start the second half, teams are always methodically driving the ball down and scoring - without fail. The stadium is a ghost town as everyone is filling the Danny Boy's pockets with concession money. A twelve minute halftime isn't long enough to buy something, wait in line to pee and get back to your seat. The Giants grabbed all the first half momentum by scoring on that first drive in front of about 25,000 spectators (all of whom, like myself, put the Redskins ahead of relieving themselves). Either the Skins elect to defend in the first half, the NFL extends halftime by six minutes, or all 90,000 spectators start holding it in. We can't lose more games like this.