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.
1) Injuries - Please refer to Jason's blog for the most updated Redskins injury news ( http://blog.washingtonpost.com/redskinsinsider/ ). 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.