So much for an uneventful bye week and post-bye week. DeAngelo Hall is signed. Clinton Portis is injured. And the Redskins face the Cowboys. To chat about those topics and more is the Times’ Ryan O’Hallloran and News 4’s Lindsay Czarniak.
1 Barring a surprising recovery, it looks like the Redskins will be without Clinton Portis for at least the Dallas game. If Portis misses 2-3 games or more, the Redskins are finished, right?
Lindsay: I’m not ready to say that yet. Jason Campbell brought up the point this week about what Ladell Betts was able to do two seasons back when he started for the injured Portis and gathered 1,154 yards. I feel like the Redskins will be able to compete without Portis if Betts is healthy enough to get out there. The part that worries me is that Shaun Alexander is still getting the system - I think he needs Betts to be\ able to pick up the slack and become the three-headed monster of Betts, Alexander and Cartwright trying to fill in for Clinton’s void.
Ryan: Because of their road schedule, they’re not finished but they’re certainly a team on the edge of the playoff picture if Portis misses more than a few games. If Ladell Betts was completely healthy, I would say the Redskins would be fine – he’s a quality back that a lot of teams would like to have. But since he’s also banged up, the Redskins enter the last seven games with a huge question mark. Best-case scenario is Betts is ready to go for Dallas, allowing the Redskins to sit Portis. Best-case scenario, part 2: Betts is healthy enough to carry the load at Seattle, allowing the Redskins to sit Portis and get him ready for the Giants.
2 The Redskins made bye week news by signing DeAngelo Hall for the rest of the season. Is this basically a seven-game tryout to see who starts opposite Carlos Rogers in 2009 – Hall or Shawn Springs?
Lindsay: Yes and I think if Hall does what they think he will be able to do, then you have your answer. I obviously don’t have a crystal ball (if I did, I’d be on a beach with a margarita) but Hall talked a lot this week about “longevity” and about wanting to be here beyond this year. He is phenomenal when he’s playing to his full potential. The support he has with the Redskins will be unlike any he’s had anywhere else and I expect him to flourish. I do think another option is for Springs to make an impact at safety.
Ryan: Absolutely it’s a tryout. Greg Blache said the other day he told Hall that he has a blank slate and what he does, he will define himself. Translation: If he plays well and is a solid citizen in the locker room, he’s your starter opposite Carlos Rogers in 2009. I do have a crystal ball at my Ashburn estate so Lindsay is buying the first margarita next weekend in Seattle and this what it projects next year: Rogers and Hall as the corners, Larson Landry and Chris Horton as the starting safeties, Reed Doughty as the third safety and Shawn Springs playing somewhere else. He’s just too injury-prone for the Redskins to keep him aboard and they’ll use his salary cap number to re-sign Hall.
3 To make room for Hall on the roster, the Redskins chose to cut Leigh Torrence instead of a player like Justin Tryon or Rob Jackson. In camp, the team picked the drafted Durant Brooks over veteran Derrick Frost. Are the Redskins making a mistake by appearing to keep draft picks at all cost instead of serviceable veterans?
Lindsay: In the case of Leigh Torrence, the reason I question this decision is more because of what he was able to do on special teams for the Redskins. I did feel they were trying too hard to keep draft picks with the Durant Brooks decision and I think that cutting Leigh was partially at the expense of keeping another draft pick. I want to see how the Redskins answer the void on special teams.
Ryan: I agree with Lindsay on the Torrence decision. He wasn’t a great corner, but he did provide something on special teams that might be tough to completely replace. I also agree that the Redskins’ brass is trying to justify their 2008 draft class by keeping them around (aside from Brooks, who they kept around because he was a pick). Additionally, I think they kept Erasmus James – a prime candidate to be cut because Jason Taylor is supposedly healthy – because they traded a 2009 pick to Minnesota for him.
4 For the Redskins to make the playoffs, which offensive player and which defensive player are most vital to the effort?
Lindsay: Offense: Chris Cooley. If Portis is out anytime with an injury, that gives opposing teams a significant advantage to focus on shutting down the passing game and targeting Santana Moss. The reason I say Cooley is because if that happens, Jason Campbell will need the option of shorter underneath passes that they can grind away with. Cooley is pivotal in making that happen. Defense: Carlos Rogers — I don’t know if Ryan agrees, but Carlos has played so well this year and if he continues to do that, his coverage skills are tough for any receiver to stack up against but he HAS TO GET THE TURNOVERS. He will be the first to tell you how frustrating it is but if he can catch a ball, he can be a difference maker down the stretch.
Ryan: Offense: Santana Moss. If the Redskins lose Portis, they can still stretch the field with a healthy Moss. If they lose Moss, defenses will gang up at the line of scrimmage to stop the run because Antwaan Randle El isn’t a deep threat and Chris Cooley is a tight end whose best routes are intermediate stuff. Lindsay does make a good point about Cooley being Campbell’s security blanket – he always looks for No. 47 in key situations. Defense: London Fletcher. Rogers has been good this year but the Hall addition gives the Redskins some depth at corner. They aren’t as lucky at linebacker. Marcus Washington isn’t likely to play, which moves H.B. Blades from back-up MLB to starter. Fletcher is the engine of this defense.
5 Prediction time: Is this a must win for the Redskins? And, who wins and why?
Lindsay: No, this is not a must win for the Redskins. Generally speaking, every game is a must win but if they lose this game because the running game is lacking or whatever it boils down to, the Redskins have given themselves enough cushion to pull it together. What is so tough about this one is that the Cowboys would obviously pull themselves out of a hole and into a tie with the Redskins in the division. I think it’s going to be very difficult for the Redskins to win this game but because they’ve done it in the past with the late game heroics, I’m giving them this one. I say Redskins by a field goal. 24-21.
Ryan: It’s a must win for Dallas because it’s 5-4, it’s a must win for the Redskins because you never want to lose home division games. The Redskins have to bank on other players rising up – hello, defense, maybe score a touchdown? – in Portis’ absence. There is no such thing as a home-field advantage anymore at FedEx Field but I’ll agree with Lindsay and say the Redskins find a way – 27-20.
6 BONUS Jimmie Johnson only has to finish 36th or better to win his third consecutive championship. Is it the car of tomorrow or is he just that good?
Lindsay: It’s a combination. Jimmie and his crew chief, Chad Knaus have UNBELIEVABLE chemistry. They work like a well-oiled machine with Jimmie, giving the perfect information for what he needs and Knaus knowing exactly how to fix it as well as running his team like clockwork. However, the Car of Tomorrow has made things considerably tougher on teams. The ones that get it, get it. There is a very limited number of drivers that have won this season and Jeff Gordon has gone without a win for the first time since his rookie season. That doesn’t happen to No. 24.
Ryan: It’s not getting a lot of attention because we’re in the middle of football but Johnson’s accomplishment has to be one of the most impressive sports dynasties of recent memory, right up there with the Patriots. The Hendrick organization was out front with the new car last year, which gave Johnson the advantage. But everybody had a year to catch up and it still didn’t happen. Knaus is pretty much a genius and Johnson knows what he’s doing. It’s exhibited by the fact they controlled the Chase and teammates Gordon and Earnhardt, Jr., — with the same information – fell by the wayside.