Greetings from frigid North Dakota, where it hasn’t gone above zero degrees in days. Even though it’s Christmas, the work doesn’t stop. Here is my debate for Week 17 with News 4’s Lindsay Czarniak.
1. The Redskins moved back above .500 (8-7) with the 10-3 win over Philadelphia. How surprising was this result?
R: I was stunned by the result. I expected the Redskins to come out with solid effort because there are a ton of professionals in that locker room and it was an NFC East game. But the Eagles had been rolling on offense. But the Redskins defense played their best game of the year. They completely flummoxed whatever Philly wanted to do until the last two-minute drill drive. This showed me Jim Zorn has most of the locker room on his side. Why else would they have played hard?
L: What surprised me most was that the Eagles only put three points on the board. I’m not surprised that the Redskins won because I think there were many things at play and a “need” to get this win as well as possible “job saving” pressure. But with the way Philly’s offense had been moving, I thought for sure McNabb would’ve had more been more in control. The Redskins defense gets serious kudos being able to shut down Westbrook and keeping McNabb from scrambling for yardage.
2. DeAngelo Hall had a great day for the Redskins secondary – eight tackles and three pass break-ups. In just half a season, has he developed into Priority No. 1 in free agency?
R: Since joining the Redskins in Week 10, Hall has become the chief in-house priority come the start of free agency. Right behind him is left guard Pete Kendall, who needs to be re-signed because there isn’t an immediate replacement on the roster. Back to Hall. He’s been a solid citizen the last few months and a lot of NFL teams will forget about his Oakland experience because it happened in Oakland. I expect New England to make a big-time run at him so the Redskins better have some money ready for him and Hall must decide if he’s a fit for the Redskins’ style of coverage.
L: I think Hall has to be pretty excited about where he has positioned himself. Coaches rave about his preparation and I think he’s proven his worth as a starter on this team. I agree with Ryan that the offensive line has to be addressed. However, I do think that the first priority needs to be Hall because I do not expect Springs back with the Redskins next season.
3. The Redskins offense continues to sputter – they’re averaging about 10 points in the second half of the year. What’s the biggest area of need as this slump created?
R: A second receiver behind Santana Moss. Antwaan Randle El is a No. 3 receiver. Sure, he has 50 catches but nobody has worked their way up the depth chart to take playing time away from him. Out of the two rookie receivers, one person on the coaching staff thinks Devin Thomas will be ready to contribute at the start of next year. If the Redskins think they can fill a big need with somebody on the roster, that will allow them to use money and draft picks to address the offensive line.
L: Man, he keeps taking the words out of my mouth. The Redskins need to address the wide receiving corps and get another threat alongside Santana Moss. It’s so disappointing that they haven’t seen the expected production from Malcolm Kelly and while Devin Thomas has gotten more time lately, I’m not sold that they can fill the void. I think the Redskins should make a play for Plaxico Burress. I know it might sound crazy, but they need to get a proven playmaker (get him some security) and use him to make a difference in the passing game.
4. Jason Taylor had a busy week, saying “I stink” and wasn’t worth $8 million and basically that he expects to be released. And then he had two sacks and a forced fumble. What do the Redskins do with No. 55?
R: No way Taylor is back with the Redskins at the current $8 million price tag. It doesn’t make fiscal sense and Taylor all but said as much last week. OK, so they release him. What does Taylor do – retire, re-sign for a lower salary, see if the Dolphins are interested or go to another contender? He doesn’t have enough loyalty to take a discount to come back to the Redskins so I think a contender in need of a situational pass rusher will pursue him.
L: I think he can be an asset if they keep him here and use him in a role similar to how he was used Sunday – move him around. It’s obvious that he hasn’t been the “fit” that they needed, and has been hampered by injury, but he can be so strong in the pass rush, it’s frustrating to see him not producing. I don’t think he’ll go to a contender. I think if this is it with the Redskins, this is it for No. 55. I can’t see him going somewhere else, even if it’s the Pats or another contender and going through all of this readjustment again when he’s got such a bright future in other areas as well.
5. The Redskins wrap up the season in San Francisco Sunday. Who wins and why?
R: I’ve only been to Candlestick Park once and that was for the Redskins’ win over the 49ers in December 2004. Both teams were playing out the string and the same is true this time around. But the Redskins know that 9-7 looks a lot better than 8-8 and a 3-5 second half looks a lot better than a 2-6 second half. I’m going to shock everybody – the Redskins FINALLY reach 30 points and win 30-20.
L: The Redskins win in San Francisco but HOLD THE PHONE … 30 points! Ryan obviously has spiked the eggnog early. Come on, man, 30 points?! I think they will win because the Redskins defense will crush Hill and the 49ers but I can’t see the offense having a heyday. San Fran is 24th against the pass but the Redskins have struggled. I say Redskins 17-10.
6. BONUS Where do the O’Hallorans of North Dakota and Czarniaks of Pennsylvania do for a Christmas tradition?
R: Open the presents on Christmas Eve and go to the movies on Christmas Day. Stay inside from the elements. It took 12 hours because of weather problems in Chicago on Tuesday night but I got to West Fargo for the holidays where the star of the show – my 2-year old niece – arrived on Christmas Day to entertain. And of course there is some partaking in libations like Crown Royal.
L: We have a very Polish Christmas, which is wonderful up in Western Pennsylvania. We always do a big Christmas Eve dinner (all fried food – the pierogies being my favorite) and then do our gift exchange. We actually leave our coats in the car because then when we go to Christmas Eve mass, people turn around when we walk in because we smell like fried fish. (it always makes for good holiday fun, especially if you’ve had the spiked eggnog). I can’t wait!