Loyal Friends of the Feather,
I never thought that writing this Skins Serv would be the greatest Communications struggle of my life, but alas, it I think it is. In my brief and unexciting PR career, I never had to spin anything thing like this before. My job as Chief Skins Server is to keep the huddled masses fresh,excited and enthused for every football Sunday. And not to pat myself on the back too much, but over the past 3 years I've done a pretty freakin' good job of it. I've really BSed myself, and more importantly all of you, into believing that every Sunday is the biggest Sunday - that a mid-December game, when the Skins are 5-8 and starting Kerry Conklin under center is as big the Super Bowl - heck, all they have to do is reel off three in a row and have 6 teams die in a plane crash and they're there rolling into the playoffs and probably the Super Bowl. Throughout the duration of Skins Serv I have been successful in spreading the gospel that is my delusional, yellow-journalistic approach to the Burgundy and Gold. Myself and all you Skins Servers have rarely shown a moment of vulnerability, even in the most dire of Skins moments.
But this week seems to be different. I confess I am struggling. I bore witness to the trouncing the Skins took last Thursday night, and I'm still IBSing it out of my system. I know the Giants only won by 9 points and I know the Skins could have cut it close late in the game, but that really isn't the point. To me, the point is that our beloved Redskins look as uncomfortable, confused and disjointed playing football as I have ever seen any Skins team play in my life. They did nothing.
To me it's a simple equation, in the NFL season opener team's flaunt what they've accomplished over the last eight months. Forget NFL teams for a second, just look at yourselves and ask "What have I done (that I can show for) over the last EIGHT MONTHS of my life? Do you know what the Redskins showed for their 8 months worth of work? 7 points. Seven. One touchdown - which, by the way, would have never happened if not for Rock Cartwright's pure will and determination to keep the Skins in games they have no business being in.
I was truly depressed but what I saw. This team can't pass, pass protect, run-block, catch, stop the run and stop the pass. I know it's a lot of negatives, and I know I'm being harsh, but that's really what was on display for the whole world to see. And if Eli Manning and the Giants vanilla second half offense weren't as terrible as they were, it would have been a whole lot worse.
So what do I do? How do I spin this? How can I possibly convince you that the Skins have a fighting chance against a Goliath of a team on Sunday? Well for one, I actually believe it. Yes, that's right. For all those of you out there who have been critical of my criticism (so much criticism going around these days), I'm gonna respond by saying that I truly feel, deep down in my heart, that the SKINS WILL WIN THIS WEEK VERSUS THE SAINTS.
Why? Can't explain that. It's just one of those things - you know, when you're driving to school while reading JLC's insider and pondering that the Skins have no business pulling off an upset this week, let alone playing on the same field as the Saints - yet you're suddenly taken aback by this feeling in your stomach (I hadn't eaten breakfast yet), and you think this feeling correlates to the outcome of Sunday's game? Well folks, it happened to me. That's right, at about 9:53 Wednesday morning I got that feeling - that exciting gust of Autumn wind where hope springs eternal - a feeling that wasn't even on my radar last week as I drove to the Meadowlands.
This is the home opener. The Skins have some good players, right?. They'll have the 70,000 fans and 22,000 empty seats behind them, right? They beat a great Saints team in 06' with so much less to play for, right? Right!
This team has heart. This team has character. This team has veterans that won't roll over and play dead. This team has Clinton Portis. This team has Joe Bugel. This ain't no JV squad. This is the Washington Redskins, people. Our Washington Redskins.
I know we're all very wounded (it felt like someone bit me). It was a tumultuous summer and an even harder last 10 days, yet there are still 16 weeks to go. Anything can happen. 30 more Tom Brady-like injuries and the Skins are the Super Bowl favorites. So here's what I say: lets figure out a way to park our disdain for 12 more hours (I'll be parking my disdain in the Red Lot for $35), see how tomorrow plays out, and reassess Monday morning. Isn't that the beauty of a football weekend anyway?
ps - Is the Skins Serv title referring to last week's game or this week's game? Touche, Saadman, touche.
1) Business First - Continuing this week's theme of self promotion and positivity, I'd like to introduce you to SkinServ.Blogspot.Com. Yes, this list serv has finally made the tragic, cliche mutation into a blog. I finally have my own home in the world wide of webs. I cannot take credit for this turn of events, but have to give some hakarat hatov to the family Rozmaryn (and my parents and God). Ami and Elan planned, desigined, archived and executed the site - it's pretty pretty good. If you are ever up at three in the morning, flipping back and forth between Univision (of course you don't speak spanish) and QVC, and you get the urge to find out what I predicted for the Skins 2006 Week 6 tilt, you can now find it. Let the hits start a comin'.
2) Business Second - Skins Serv is having its first official sales drive (we're going corporate). I have worked a deal with the distributors of KrazyKeepahs (www.krazykeepahs.com) They make an amazing Redskins Yarmulka and I want you all have the chance to have it - men, women and family pets alike. The skullcap runs for $10 and I will personally deliver it to your place of work. Email me if you're interested.
3) The NFC East (aka JTFCest) - I know this blog is Skins only and I promise we'll get back to tomorrow's game with the 'Aints, but let me digress for a couple of sections so I can air my feelings on some other sticky issues that have been weighing on these scrawny shoulders. The NFC East is totally out of control. Totally. I know the Cowboys played a highly-overrated Browns, but they look like a 14-win football team. I also know the Eagles played a lousy Al Saunders-run offense, but they also looked awesome - probably a 10-plus-win football team. So if the Cowboys are good for 14 and the Eagles are good for 10+ and the Giants already have a game on the Skins, where is our place in this division? My point isn't that the Skins are necessarily bad (although they very well might be), they just happen to be playing in one of the hardest division's in NFL history. So in order for them to win a division, or even grab a wild card spot, they're going to have to pitch a perfect game over the next 16 weeks. A perfect game! We'll find out if Zorny's got a Don Larson up his sleeve.
4) Elami Turn Away: A Little More Front-Office Bashing - I just want to address two things that made me hate DannyVinny even more. One was the amount of inactives rookies the Skins had against the Giants. 6/9 to be exact (I don't count Colt Brennan bc the third QB inactive rule is weird). The Skins played 3 of their 10 drafted rookies in week 1 - no Kelly, no Fred Davis, No Rob Jackson, No Chad Reinhart. Who did they play? Besides Chris Horton, who might actually might be a gem, the Skins sported Devin Thomas and his pathetic first down attempt and Durant Brooks. A word about Brooks - I didn't think I could hate a human being more than I hated Derrick Frost, I guess drafting Brooks was a success in that regard because he's my least favorite human being...ever. Well done, kids. My second issue is the productivity of the WRs that the Skins passed upon in the second round. I know it was only one week, but these numbers stung me and I'd like them to sting you too. The Skins took "First Down" Devin at pick 34 opting for the one-year wonder at Michigan State over Eddie Royal, who went 42, a local guy who caught 11 balls and posted 150 yards plus of receiving yards in his NFL debut. The Skins then picked Fred Davis, who was inactive last week, at 48, passing on DeSean Jackson, who the Eagles drafted one pick behind Davis. Jackson posted 100 receving yards and also took a 60 yard punt return to the hizzy. Just sayin...
5) Ok, The Game, Offense:
Skins Serv is already really long and I gotta start up with the Saturday night spirits, so I'm gonna keep the X's and O's to a minimum. The Skins have to move the ball. Pretty simple equation. I think the Skins have to open up through the air and establish some kind of passing game against the Saints most vulnerable spot. The Saints will be without starters Randall Gay (CB), Roman Harper (S), and likely without corner Mike McKenzie. On the other hand, the Saints have a very aggressive front four, led by Sedrick Ellis, Will Smith, Charles Grant and Kendrick Clancy. Ok, I don't know much about these guys, but CP says they're good and I've read they plan on stacking the box. What that means is that JC and his group of smurfs will have to somehow make eye contact and hook up for passes early in the game, which will then force the Saints to play more coverage, which then might get CP some running lanes. So many good NFL teams are going with the pass to set up the run, the Skins have to make it happen too. Early last week, after establishing nothing in the air, Portis was juking and jumping away from Giants in the backfield - this was due to horrible run blocking but more importantly because the Giants didn't respect the pass and threw everyone up at Portis. I actually thought CP ran quick and ran hard this week, he looked faster and more slender - it'd be a damn shame if the Skins squander a potential big-year from CP. But establishing the pass is a must, which leads me to...
6) To Gun or Not to Gun - Basically, Jason Campbell isn't ready to run the West Coast Offense. The question is whether Jim Zorn is willing to take the hits this year and let JC develop in the system or if they compromise the integrity of the West Coast in order to make the Skins a serviceable NFL team right now. It's pretty much a long-term v. short-term gain issue. If they compromise and let Campbell go to the shotgun, he has a couple of more seconds to see his receivers and gives him space to find the little ones coming over the middle. If they stick to the true west coast, Campbell struggles now, but potentially learns how to run the system the way it's supposed to be run down the road. I think I'm willing to take the pain now and see the gain later. If they shotgun it, JC will never get comfortable. Also, if they go to the shotgun a lot, how will they be able to run the ball? Teams will know exactly what they're doing. The larger issue at hand is that JC wasn't drafted to run this offense, and now VinnyDanny have forced this system down his throat. Somethings gonna give: either the system (and Zorn) will be run out of town soon, or JC moves on. I don't think this organization has the patience to wait for him to develop in it.
7) Stopping the Saints - The Saints not having Marques Colston is a plus, but Colston isn't the Skins focus. I read something real interesting about what the Saints are gonna try to do. They like hitting Jeremy Shockey early in the game, taking advantage of the middle of the field and forcing the opposing LB's to lean towards Shockey up the middle. Once Shockey establishes himself in the middle, the Saints swing Reggie Bush out of the backfield into the side flats, leaving LB's out of position and having to chase Bush from behind. As we saw last week, that's not a situation teams want to be in. What makes things worse is that the Skins are extremely vulnerable at Outside LB right now. Marcus Washington is dealing with a hammy and Rocky McIntosh still has some serious knee tzurus. The Skins are gonna somehow cover Shockey while keeping an eye on Bush.
8) Injuries - As we saw last week, Jason Taylor is not 100%. I'd say he's 60% at best. He made an heroic effort but the dude got dominated at the line and was pushed backward all night long. I think we see a lot more of Demetric Evans this week, especially if the Saints start running toward Taylor (which they'll do). In other injury news, Chris Cooley's got a quad and missed the first practice of his career. Looks like Cooley's gonna go though. M Washington is set to go with the hammy and it also looks like Fred Smoot and Shawn Springs will be ready as well (lord they need em'). If I was a betting man, I would put my money on us not seeing Malcolm Kelly tomorrow. Kelly's a game-time decision, but the Skins seemed to get more and more pessimistic about Kelly playing as the week went on. Jason Campbell is in dire need of Kelly, who's gives JC a big target on the short stuff the Skins are running. Campbell literally said he couldn't see Moss and ARE last week - it's tragic if Kelly can't get on the field.
9) Prediction - I have written nothing to indicate the Skins will have an easy go of things tomorrow, but this league is week-to-week and I think this is a trap game for the Saints. The Skins will create some early turnovers that will lead to easy points, and the Saints won't be able to recover. The Skins finally will have the benefit of short fields and Campbell will improve on his nightmare from last week. Skins Win! Skins Win! Redskins 29 Saints 19