The Redskins made it two NFC East wins in as many weeks and now come back home for games against Detroit and Cleveland. Both the Washington Times’ Ryan O’Halloran and News 4’s Lindsay Czarniak had the Redskins winning in Philadelphia. This week, they debate about which win was more impressive (Philadelphia or Dallas), Santana Moss getting shut out, how the defense is playing, which players have caught their eye and make a pick for the Rams-Redskins game.
1. Two weeks, two NFC East road games for the Redskins. Which win was more surprising – at Dallas or at Philadelphia?
The ROH: Both were impressive for a variety of reasons but I’ll go with Philadelphia for a couple of reasons. First, the Redskins rallied from a 14-0 deficit … and they did it with five scoring possessions instead of quick strikes. This showed they were able to dominate the Eagles defense for long stretches. Second, it showed the Redskins didn’t spend most of the post-Dallas days patting its collective self on the back for beating the Cowboys – they kept their eye on the ball. Last, the Eagles were a desperate team. They came out firing but were then rendered ineffective after taking the early lead.
The LC: I’ve thought long and hard about this and my answer is Philadelphia because of Jim Johnson’s wild defense and how aggressive they are – I was pleasantly surprised that Jason Campbell was able to hold onto the ball as well as he did and that his line gave him the kind of support necessary against a frequently blitzing, pressure applying D-line. Add to that the fact the Redskins were down 14-0 and to me, that’s even more impressive. You can’t take for granted the fact that this team has proven week in and week out that every play is its own and when the chips are down, they know how to work themselves out of hairy situations.
2 The Redskins won despite Santana Moss getting no catches. Couple layers to this question – should this be something to monitor and what do you think of the way Moss handled getting shutout for only the second time as a Redskin?
The ROH: First, it should be something to monitor only because he’s having a great year and needs to be involved in the offense. This issue would have taken on a different complexion had the Redskins lost to Philadelphia while not going to Moss. I expect Zorn to devise ways against double coverage to get Moss some touches (a return to the slip screen and quick slant). Moss is the consummate team player and the ‘W’ is all that matters. He’s a smart player and realizes his performance against Dallas helped open things up for Chris Cooley and Clinton Portis, just like their play against Philly will help him be effective downfield.
The LC: Well, I think Santana’s lack of catches should have other teams saying “uh oh” because sure, they need to limit him, but look what a double-headed monster the Redskins became when they held him in check. I really respect the fact that Moss threw himself out there and was blocking like a madman. After the game, Jim Zorn said he had encouraged Moss to get “mentally prepared” for when this day would come and that they really talked about how he was going to react and respond and how the Skins leading receiver would “feel” walking off the field without a catch. Moss answered it like a pro when he said he can’t be “pissed off” about it but had to choose to make an impact in a different way. This team has a different mindset than I’ve seen in years past.
3 The Redskins’ defense controlled Philadelphia after the opening possession for the better part of three quarters and did so without three starters. Who is playing the best on the defense?
The ROH: That’s a long list but I want to focus on two players – defensive end Andre Carter and cornerback Carlos Rogers. When Carter got here in 2006 from the 49ers, he was a pass-rusher who struggled against the run. Two-plus seasons with the Redskins has turned him into a decent rush defender who knows how to take on blocks and use his athleticism to chase down runners from behind. Rogers’ play – a year after ripping up his knee – is borderline amazing. He’s playing physical without being called for penalties. He’s tackling well in the running and passing games. And he’s playing with newfound confidence.
The LC: I like Ryan’s selections but the one player that stands out to me, is also Carlos Rogers. I’m not just talking about him finally getting picks, but I’ve noticed a different confidence and maturity about him. Defensive coordinator Greg Blache noted that, as a coach, he has witnessed a sort of “light bulb” going off in that Rogers is taking things into his own hands and really working hard in his off time. The fact that he wasn’t even expected to be ready at the beginning of the season proves that this will be a standout year for the cornerback.
4 At 4-1, the Redskins have entered the top five of most “experts” rankings. And now comes the soft part of their schedule – St. Louis, Cleveland and Detroit. Will three more wins make the Redskins a legitimate contender?
The ROH: If the Redskins defeat the Rams, Browns and Lions, which they should and probably will although one of the games will be close, they’ll be 7-1. But that doesn’t mean they’ll join the NFL’s elite because winning the next three is exactly what they should do. The smell test comes in prime-time home games against Pittsburgh and (after the bye) Dallas. The Steelers’ game – and I expect the Lindsay’s family to waving their Terrible Towels at FedEx – will be tough because Pittsburgh is so physical. Dallas will be tough because it will want payback. If they come through the next five games at 8-2, the Redskins can start talking about challenging the Giants for the division title.
The LC: All I have to say is TRAP! The players will tell you this is a particularly dangerous time because teams that appear “easy” are absolutely not and they now have to worry about fighting the other intangible of “complacency”. Am I worried the Redskins will go back a level? Not at all because Zorn is giving them the mental mindset that they were lacking before. I don’t need three more wins for them to be a legitimate contender – I need one, not to prove that they’re going to be tough to beat but to prove that it’s not just when stakes are on the line that they flourish.
5 The lowly Rams (0-4) are next for the Redskins. You’ll both be at FedEx Field for the first of four home games in five contests (six weeks). Who wins and why?
The ROH: In the past, this would be the classic “trap” game for the Redskins, the past since I started covering the team on an every-day basis in 2005. The Redskins would win a biggie and then lay an egg the next week or the next few weeks. But two things: This team seems to be wired a little differently and will feed off their coaching staff and not ease up just because they’re done with the NFC East road games and just because the Rams stink. I would like to see old friend Al Saunders put up some points and yards but the St. Louis offense is just too banged up to remain competitive. The Redskins win 44-20.
The LC: The Redskins win this one but it is not going to be a blowout. Remember when the Tennessee Titans came into FedEx in 2006 with an 0-5 record and then Vince Young got his first win as a starter? However, I say the Redskins win because I’m really buying into their ability to take it one play at a time and makeup for mistakes. I know Al Saunders will be “going for blood” as Jim Zorn said, but I don’t think the Rams offense can rattle the Redskins defense. I say Redskins 24-17.
6 BONUS The Redskins are king in the D.C. sports scene. Who’s No. 2 and why?
The ROH: The Capitals. The Wizards are irrelevant as long as Gilbert Arenas is on the shelf and that soap opera will extend into the 2009. Here’s what I like about the Capitals games and it’s in addition to hockey being my favorite sport. The atmosphere is incredible at Verizon when the place is near full, which is most every Saturday night. The young fans get into it. The college fans get into it. The older fans laugh at both the young and college fans. And they’re watching the most exciting sport in town. The Capitals play an up tempo, offensive style that is great to watch.
The LC: What you might not know is that Ryan grew up in North Dakota so there was no chance the Wizards were getting play over the Capitals! You are talking “NHL – lover!” However, contrary to the nature of our “he said, she said”, I agree. They are in a similar vein of the Redskins. They are being picked as the team to beat, although they are that way before the start of the season. They have kept continuity and have the luxury of Bruce Boudreau at the helm for the start of the season.