- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 18, 2007

PHILADELPHIA — The Redskins came in with the momentum from an improved preseason and a season-opening victory over Miami. The Eagles had to be questioning themselves after inept special teams and a rusty Donovan McNabb cost them an upset loss at Green Bay.

Washington took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter when Santana Moss‘ gorgeous 48-yard grab of Jason Campbell’s pass set up Shaun Suisham’s field goal. Then, it looked like the usual Philadelphia malaise was going to kick in. The Redskins, after all, had lost four of their visits the past five years, two by blowouts.

But something strange happened. With a second-and-5 at their own 31-yard line with 1:08 left in the first half, the Redskins began clicking. They drove to the Philadelphia 1 in less than a minute and survived a pathetic delay of game penalty and two false starts by backup guard Jason Fabini to take a 10-6 halftime lead.

The teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter before the Redskins drove 63 yards in eight plays for Clinton Portis” touchdown run that settled matters. The Redskins amazingly are two games ahead of the defending NFC East champion Eagles just two weeks into the season with the 0-2 Giants coming to Washington and then the bye week.

Q: So, Mr. Expert, you still think the Redskins are a 7-9 also-ran?

A: OK, OK. The offense was expected to be as productive as the unit that finished 2006 strong. What has been surprising is it hasn’t been broken by the loss of right tackle Jon Jansen for the season and right guard Randy Thomas, perhaps for just as long.

What’s more, the defense continues to resemble the top-10 unit of 2004 and 2005 much more than the disgrace of 2006. If that continues to be the case, Washington actually can be a contender in the jumbled NFC, in which 2006 playoff teams New Orleans, Philadelphia and New York are all 0-2.

Obviously, the Eagles aren’t playing like their usual selves, but last night’s 20-12 victory at Lincoln Financial Field was a heck of a lot more impressive than the 16-13 squeaker in overtime over Miami at home last week.

Q: Where was this Santana Moss against the Dolphins?

A: Even Art Monk had off weeks, but Moss had enjoyed just two big games since his three-touchdown eruption last Oct. 1 against Jacksonville. If Moss can play the rest of the season the way he did during his first 20 games in Washington, the Redskins will be a much more dangerous offense.

Q: How can Jason Campbell make such terrific throws to Moss and Chris Cooley and then throw a horrid interception in the same half?

A: Have you ever watched young quarterbacks? Did you see John Elway and Steve Young when they first came into the league? Few guys are Dan Marino or Tom Brady, who are great right from the start. Last night was just Campbell’s ninth start. He’s a much better option than the faded Mark Brunell or career clipboard holder Todd Collins simply because of his arm strength.

Q: Why can’t the Redskins tackle Brian Westbrook? The guy wasn’t even a Division I-A player.

A: It’s not like the Redskins are the only team the elusive Villanova graduate drives crazy. Westbrook led all NFL backs the past four years with 6.0 yards a touch and ranked first in receiving yards and touchdown catches. Last year Westbrook ran for 201 yards and caught six passes for 75 yards as Philadelphia swept Washington. And last night Westbrook had 126 yards on 17 touches through three quarters.

Q: What’s the deal with the right side of the offensive line?

A: The dropoff from Jon Jansen to Todd Wade at right tackle doesn’t seem that dramatic, although Jansen’s game is more about power than Wade’s. However, if Thomas is out long term, the Redskins should consider trying Mike Pucillo at right guard rather than Jason Fabini, who was considered over-the-hill last year in Dallas after being let go by the New York Jets after 2005.

Q: So what happens next?

A: The Redskins beat the Giants and head into their bye and October all smiles at 3-0. Remember they started 3-0 in 2005, when expectations were equally low, and went on to make the playoffs for the first time in six years.

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