1. The Redskins defense held Dallas to a touchdown even though Albert Haynesworth wasn’t around to anchor the middle. What did the Redskins show you without No. 92?
Lindsay Czarniak: It showed that the Redskins should have addressed the offensive line. Though the Redskins gave up some yardage up the middle, for the most part, they held their own. The tackling has been my biggest concern and I thought against the Cowboys, the Redskins looked to be back on track.
Ryan O’Halloran: I agree with Lindsay – it was yet another example of how the Redskins wronged in their allocation of resources. The defense was gashed early by the Cowboys running game but adjustments and Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett’s awful play calling turned things around. Haynesworth has obviously had an impact, but I’m sure Redskins fans would have liked that $41 million guaranteed spent on offensive linemen, not defensive linemen.
2. Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray is a candidate for the University of Memphis job. Why do you think Gray is interested in the position and how big a loss would it be for the Redskins?
LC: It’s a bigger loss than people who say he’s just a position coach realize. Jerry wants to be an NFL coach at some point and I think recruiting and proving that he can run his own show is a big part of that, especially if the writing’s on the wall that the Redskins aren’t going to necessarily promote him. I think he could be a head coach in the NFL right now because he gets through to his players like Gregg Williams, but without the fire and brimstone that can turn some away. He is a true teacher and I think he will be an NFL head coach within three years.
RO: If Jerry ever elects to run for public office, Lindsay should be his campaign manager. I have a completely different view on this one. By going to Memphis, Gray has basically changed his focus from being an NFL head coach to becoming a major college head coach in a power conference. NFL teams don’t call up Memphis when looking for their next leader. Gray is 46 years old – a great playing career gave him a late start in coaching. The other thing is that people will be rooting against him from the day he’s hired because they wanted the other candidate hired. That combined with the perception that FedEx Fred Smith is calling the shots instead of the school president and athletic director will create a tough situation.
3. Jason Campbell had perhaps his best game of the season even though the Redskins didn’t score a touchdown. What is he doing better than earlier in the season and which players are helping Campbell out?
LC: He’s not freaking out in the pocket and anticipating pressure. Jason is allowing plays to develop and I wish he had the freedom to audible more often because I really like what I see when the Redskins are in no-huddle situations. He is a good decision maker. As for players helping him out, there are a few different answers there but I’m pleased with Devin Thomas right now. The chemistry between the two of them is growing and it makes for a quicker pace.
RO: Campbell is showing more trust in the second-year players and they’re responding by finding ways to get open when he’s scrambling. Quarterbacks coach Chris Meidt said the Dallas game was one of Campbell’s most fundamentally sound performances and it showed by how effective he was regardless of the pressure thrown in his face. One point is worth mentioning about the offense. The Redskins scored no touchdowns and there was NO chatter about the play calling. I’m sure that wouldn’t have been the case if Zorn alone was calling the shots.
4. Dallas is a first-place team and struggled to beat the last-place Redskins. Is the NFC East overrated or is there a closer gap between first and last place than we realize?
LC: There is a closer gap than we realize. I truly think the difference is playing as a team. Look at the Cowboys secret weapon, Miles Austin. It’s the big picture and how effective the pieces can be together.
RO: The NFC East is overrated, period. The Giants looked awful Thursday night in Denver, the Eagles are inconsistent, Dallas is a mystery and the Redskins aren’t very good. We’ll just leave it at that.
5. The Redskins head up to I 95 on Sunday to face the second-place Eagles. Do the Redskins make it three straight in Philly?
LC: I can’t see it with the lingering health issues. The odds are squarely against the Redskins. The defense will have to carry this one, especially with the speedster DeSean Jackson. I say Eagles 17-10.
RO: The defense will have a hard time covering both Jackson and Jeremy Maclin if DeAngelo Hall can’t play. That limits Greg Blache’s options in terms of doubling Jackson with a safety and bringing pressure on Donovan McNabb. Eagles 24-20.
BONUS 6. One of the Washington area’s sports giants, Wizards owner Abe Pollin, died this week. What is Pollin’s legacy for the city and the sports scene?
LC: The biggest impact I take away from Abe Pollin was the way that he led. His loyalty and his caring are the first characteristics people think about. I love that he made everyone, no matter what your status, feel like you were the most important person in the room. I also love that he won over his wife, Irene, playing ping pong. Abe Pollin was a giant.
RO: Just get off at the Gallery Place Metro stop. That says it all. The arena. The restaurants. The movie theatre. That’s all because Abe spent his own money to build Verizon Center and the city answered by spending millions to improve the area around the building. Obviously, he wasn’t the most imaginative owner (he stayed with Susan O’Malley and Wes Unseld way too long) so it will be interesting to see how the Wizards are transformed if Ted Leonsis gets the team.