A two-point win over the St. Louis Rams that doesn’t include a touchdown doesn’t inspire optimism. But how worried should Redskins fans be? The Times’ Ryan O’Halloran debates with News 4’s Lindsay Czarniak.
1. The Redskins beat St. Louis but several issues arose, chiefly the loss of right guard Randy Thomas. How big a loss is Thomas and how do they replace him?
L: The Redskins knew the risk because Randy Thomas has been injury-plagued the past couple of years but this is a significant blow. The reason I fear it’s going to be very difficult to overcome is because of the lack of proven depth behind Randy. One would think the natural selection would be Chad Rinehart, but I’m not convinced and I won’t be surprised if the Redskins choose to go with Will Montgomery. He had more experience and more than a few times, Joe Bugel spoke his praises this preseason. It will come down to a battle this week in which the coaches will decide. Sleeper pick: Mike Williams?
R: Lindsay hit the two important points – Thomas is a big loss but pretty everybody expected he would be the first offensive lineman to go down with an injury. And she’s right – despite his health issues, replacing Thomas will be problematic. Say what you want about Jason Fabini but he knew how to “cheat” (hold his opponent effectively) and Pete Kendall is available. If I’m the Redskins, I go with Will Montgomery because he has starting guard experience (albeit six games) at guard and played decent enough against St. Louis. Given the offensive struggles, this isn’t the time to justify a draft pick and go with Rinehart.
2. The Redskins’ offense was fine between the 20s but the red zone was a disaster (0 for 4). At this point, who’s more to blame – Jim Zorn or Jason Campbell?
L: Jim Zorn on this one. I question the third-down decisions in the red zone. I wasn’t a fan of the Campbell-to-Portis trick play to Cooley on third-and-5 in the third quarter. I want to see Jason in full effect here. I tend to get the “uh oh” feeling when I see this team on third-and-goal and I think the only way to erase it is to let Jason go with his gut.
R: This isn’t turning into much of a debate – again, I acknowledge Lindsay’s point. It’s as if Zorn trusts Campbell between the 20s but once the Redskins are on the cusp of scoring, he wants anybody but No. 17 to have the ball in his hands. The Portis passing play was questionable because of the short field – it works better from outside the 10-yard line. Campbell made no mistakes in the red zone (two drops) in part because he wasn’t allowed to make plays.
3. Campbell said after the game it’s all about “attitude” for the Redskins. What was he referring to and is he right – are the Redskins lacking in the want-to department?
L:I think it’s similar to what Chris Cooley said earlier this week when he mentioned the issue this team has had in the past with only playing to the “potential of the opponent.” I think he wants to see teammates ticked because things aren’t going well. I think he wants to see the determination to “want” to come out firing and not to have to wait to react. It’s tough to really know who he’s singling out but I get the sense that its not just an issue on offense.
R: Attitude is punching it in when the other team knows you’re running left but can’t do anything about because they got blown off the line of scrimmage. Attitude protecting the quarterback so he can take a shot downfield. And attitude is holding teams on third down. Zorn used the phrase earlier this week – “detail your work.” It’s the little things that are holding the Redskins back.
4. Even though the Redskins won, defensive coordinator Greg Blache was disappointed with his group’s execution. What’s missing defensively?
L: Overall, you can’t be that upset when the defense limits a team to just seven points, however, a big concern is the fact that in both games, the defense has given up a run over 30 yards. Blache says these are the kinds of breakdowns are ones that, if you don’t find a solution now, will haunt you all season. He needs to see a little more of that “attitude” Jason is talking about.
R: What has to chafe Blache on the long runs is that they should have easily been stopped for little or no gain. On Steven Jackson’s 58-yard run, Chris Horton missed a tackle and LaRon Landry took a bad angle in pursuit, allowing Jackson to spring free. On the one hand, this is a secondary that has forced two turnovers in two games; on the other hand, they leave a lot to be desired, especially on third down.
5. The Lions have lost 19 consecutive games but almost stole a win from the Redskins last year. What happens Sunday in Detroit?
L: I want to see the Redskins score three touchdowns but I also want to see the Nationals avoid losing 100 games this season. They have the talent to pull it off but you just don’t think that they will. For the Redskins against Detroit, I expect them to find the end zone because I can’t imagine them not having success against what can be a porous Detroit defense. However, the Redskins defense has to be careful because Matthew Stafford is finding a rhythm and the first overall draft pick did throw his first NFL touchdown last week against the Vikings. The Redskins have to prove that they can set the tone for this game and they’ve got to compensate for whomever they are expecting to rise to the occasion in the spot of right guard. I’m going with Redskins for the win but I don’t think it will be a runaway. I predict 20-10.
R: I’m going 23-7 Redskins. Stafford will be a good quarterback eventually but he doesn’t have the talent around him to consistently produce. That leads to mistakes. The Redskins’ defense should bring additional pressure to force him to make quick decisions. Offensively, the red zone stuff is huge and the first few drives are monumental. If the Redskins can take an early lead, it won’t allow Detroit and its fans to think their streak is coming to an end.