The vibe around Redskin Park is decidedly different this week after your hometown heroes stubbed their toe in a 19-17 loss to the St. Louis Rams.
The Washington Times’ Ryan O’Halloran and News 4’s Lindsay Czarniak review the loss, debate the roster moves, wonder if the Redskins can ever get a consistent pass rush, predict the Redskins-Browns game and opine about the NFC East.
1. Before getting to the wild Tuesday and the three roster moves, what about the Redskins’ loss to St. Louis on Sunday? At what point of the game did you guys think a loss was an real possibility?
Lindsay: I saw the tide turn when Pete Kendall’s fumble was returned 75 yards for the touchdown just before halftime. Even though the Redskins were able to come back and take the lead in the second half, I think that play gave the Rams the momentum and the confidence they needed to pull it back together when the game was winding down. I felt the Redskins weren’t playing as much of the “team” game they had spoken about in weeks past.
Ryan: I didn’t actually believe the Redskins would lose until Josh Brown’s field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired. It was simply an inexcusable loss. The Rams came here as one of the worst teams in the NFL and left no better. There was no sense of urgency by coach Jim Zorn in his play calling. It’s one thing to let the game come to you when you’re on the road, but when you’re at home against an inferior opponent, the mentality must be crush-their-will. The Redskins let St. Louis hang around and it cost them the game.
2. The Redskins made their first three roster moves of the regular season on Tuesday, adding Shaun Alexander, Mike Green and Ryan Plackemeier. What kind of impact can we expect Alexander to make and did the Redskins giving up on punter Durant Brooks surprise you?
L: The Redskins decision to part ways with Durant Brooks didn’t surprise me at all. They couldn’t afford to wait for him to come into his own. Sure he would’ve improved but he was putting the Redskins in an awful spot with bad field position and a lackluster performance. I’m actually surprised they didn’t make a move sooner. As for Alexander, I expect to see him out there on Sunday. He has a lot to prove - I know that’s how he feels. After being released by the Seahawks in April, he’s been waiting for this opportunity. I think that the question when Ladell Betts is healthy and Alexander is doing really well, what do you do then?
R: Brooks needed to be sent packing - he wasn’t becoming any more consistent and now he was fighting an injury. If Plackemeier doesn’t perform, he’ll get cut, too. The signing of Alexander is low-risk because he’s getting the veteran minimum salary but it became more interesting on Thursday when Clinton Portis missed his second consecutive day of practice with a hip flexor injury. I now think Portis was hobbling late Sunday or early Monday and the Redskins made the fast move to bring in Alexander. His impact will depend entirely on Portis’ health. Betts was averaging about six carries a game. The Green signing may turn out to be important in the short term because of Chris Horton’s injury.
3. Clinton Portis leads the NFL in carries and yards. Just how good is C.P. playing? Should Jim Zorn curtail Portis’ workload at all?
L: Jim Zorn should do exactly what he’s done so far this season with Portis. I feel like he’s sparked something in him - he trusts him and he’s getting the most production out of Portis that we’ve seen in years. I think the days off here and there are fine, but I’ll tell you what I also see — Clinton has picked up his devotion and his desire to be out with his teammates. Would he still love for the pre-season to be more like a “resort”? Yes, however, he wants more than anything to win and just this week he said that the personal accolades (though we know they do make him feel good) don’t mean anything if the team isn’t winning.
R: He’s playing better than at any other point since 2004. The move back to Jon Jansen at right tackle has made a big difference because the Redskins can run right, run left and run up the middle without having to worry about missed blocks and assignments. But the fact Portis leads the league in carries should be concerning because his history is that he gets a ton of work, his production goes down. Problem is, the Redskins don’t play lopsided games. That said, I would find ways to spell Portis by playing Alexander a minimum of 20 snaps a game. Betts played 22 snaps at Philadelphia two weeks ago.
4. The Redskins can’t get a four-man pass rush with any consistency so far this season. If you’re Greg Blache, what do you try to do to improve the four-man rush as well as with the blitzes to get more pressure?
L: The good news is pass rusher Jason Taylor is beginning to improve (although he missed practice Thursday) and I think once he’s back to full health, some of the pass rush issue will begin to get solved. Last week, I felt the defense started to struggle with the more aggressive blitzing so honestly, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. I’d stick to what was working for them the previous weeks. Maybe playing Shawn Springs more at safety would help.
R: Taylor didn’t practice on Thursday and he did very little in 39 snaps against the Rams. He just doesn’t seem to be a great fit for this scheme because Blache loves to have an anchor-type player on that left side who can play the run (like Phil Daniels). Now, Blache has to use linebacker Marcus Washington in a stand-up position alongside Taylor to help with the run. I would continue to blitz depending on who’s the quarterback. Horton blitzed seven times against the Rams but is still learning how to get from Point A to Point B. I would consider using a smart player like Springs on blitzes. He earned his first sack in three years on a blitz last week.
5. The Redskins now move on to host Cleveland Sunday at 4:15. Who wins and why?
L: This will be a dogfight. Thank goodness the Browns don’t have the “Dawg Pound” and will have to deal with the crazy crowd but with the win Monday night over the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, Cleveland is rolling in here with a lot of swagger. I think the Redskins can exploit their weakness in run defense but they’re going to have to find a way to pressure Derek Anderson while at the same time blanketing Braylon Edwards. I say Redskins win 24-17.
R: Even though the Browns rolled up more than 400 yards last week, Cleveland is still one of the least productive offenses in the league. The Redskins should be able to create a couple of turnovers. Lindsay is right about the Browns’ run defense - they can’t stop anybody. How about 25 carries for Portis and 10 for Alexander to control the ball and keep Anderson and Edwards off the field? Redskins 31-17.
BONUS 6. The Redskins lost to St. Louis. The Cowboys lost to Arizona, lost Tony Romo to injury and lost Adam Jones to suspension. The Giants were blown out by Cleveland. Is the NFC East slightly overrated and who is the favorite at this juncture?
L: Heck no, it’s not overrated. In the other divisions, I can easily pick out a favorite. The fact that you can’t say that about the NFC East is another example of why this is the toughest one around. Right now, the Giants are the team to beat and the Redskins are right behind. I think the Eagles are inconsistent and the Cowboys are dealing with injury although there is no way Romo misses 4 weeks.
R: It’s overrated but still the best division in the NFL. The next month is going to be intriguing. Dallas appears to be in disarray and probably won’t have its quarterback. The Eagles are 3-3 and have a bye but haven’t shown any consistency. And the Giants just got punched in the mouth for the first time. Right now, I would rank them Giants-Redskins-Cowboys-Eagles.