The last game of the year. Saturday at 8pm on the wonderful, terrible NFL Network, the Giants come to Redskins Stadium. How far have these teams fallen? The Giants won the NFC East last season and the Redskins ripped off 5 straight wins to go from 5-6 to 10-6 and the playoffs. This season for Giants, news of Tiki Barber's retirement were leaked before he announced, a string of injuries including Carlos Emmons, Amani Toomer and Michael Strahan plagued the team, Eli Manning has been room temperature average and they gave up 30 straight points to the Saints last week. This season for the Redskins, Clinton Portis got hurt in the first preseason game, the defense appears to have been designed on a bevnap and Mark Brunell doesn't have the arm strength to pull a greased string through a rat's ass.
Unbelievably, the Giants can still make the playoffs! But it's really tough. After winning five straight in October and November, New York has lost six of the last seven, and the media environment is so bad for Eli that it is spilling into the Washington market.
Curly R aside: it is so asinine for Archie Manning to pretend that he did not do a svengali on Eli prior to getting drafted by the Chargers. That team was having some problems at the time to be sure, but look at what happened? It's like chicken and egg: did the Chargers get better because Eli spurned them and New York showered San Diego with draft picks, or vice versa? Archie was bitter about being a great player saddled in a bad market and did not want that to happen again, so he convinced Eli that Eli was sooooooo good that bucking the system the way John Elway did would be forgotten after four or five Super Bowls. Thing about that is, Elway was good. From the beginning. Eli, your dad is hanging you out to dry in the savage media market he insisted you play in. The love of a father.
Aside continues: so this week the NFL decides the playoff races are so 'exciting' that they authorize both Fox and CBS to carry two games on Sunday. 1) this is a bland form of appeasement of the fans in light of the hue and cry over NFL Network, which is only going to get bigger. 2) I won't even get to enjoy it since I'll be going with lifetime Eagles fan & Curly R reader/lurker Wilbert Montgomery to the Eagles-Falcons game in Philadelphia. Sirius will have to do us.
Jeremy Shockey, Shawn Springs, Michael Strahan, Luke Petitgout, Chad Morton, all on IR for these teams. Clearance, all players must go! Adam Archuleta might as well be hurt and on IR for all the playing time he's getting. As if it were not already bad enough with the whole Adam deal, it's devolving into a he said-he said on who got lied to, what was promised and how the team responds. It's an embarrassing mess.
Trying to look at the positive, Ladell Betts is a hell of a back, except for the fumbling. He has a chance to set a Redskins record for most consecutive 100 yard rushing games and has the highest per-rush average of any Redskin in the past seven years. With New Year's on my mind, here is to hoping Ladell resolves to fumble the ball no more. As for Jason Campbell, well I just hope he keeps it together and doesn't make any big mistakes. Remember dear reader, that the Redskins scored 31 last week and lost! The Giants are 28th against the pass, so here's hoping.
Defensively, I'm kind of low in the 'stay positive' department and just hope Eli and Tiki Barber do not light up the Redskins the way Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson did last week. The defense is an embarrassment and it would be hard to be worse.
There is a whole depressing side story here at the end of the year: the Redskins are about to set a bunch of franchise and league records for futility. Have a look and we will be going over these in the season wrap next week.
Other previews: Hogs Haven, The Redskin Report handy FYI, Redskins Fanhouse
This is a gameday open thread.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Friday, December 29, 2006
Last game of the season, last edition of 5 Questions. We at The Curly R have thoroughly enjoyed this weekly exchange with bloggers covering the Redskins' opponents and hope it has provided some football insight and amused you. I would like to thank all the blogs and bloggers that exchanged with us this season: Chris at Daily Norseman, Thomas at The Ragnarok, Dave at Blogging the Boys, Rodney at Texans Rock, Chris at Big Cat Country, this week's partner James atNFL-Giants, Jimmy at Music City Miracles, Brad at Stampede Blue, our bye week partner Sean at Pride of Detroit, Jason at Bleeding Green Nation, lifetime Eagles fan and Curly R reader/lurker Wilbert Montgomery, Brendan and Sarah at Best Bucs Blog, Dave at Panthers Fanhouse, Dave at The Falcoholic, Matt at Saints Watch and Ryan at Turf Show Times.
This week, the New York Football Giants come to town to play the Redskins. Reprising our exchange from October, we bring you our Q&A with James at NFL-Giants. Lots has changed since game 5 when the Redskins were 2-2 going into the Giants game and still with visions of playoffs. You can find my answers to James' questions here. Head over there and drop a comment. And now, our questions:
Curly R: Tiki. The Giants have a complex way into the playoffs, and need help no matter how they can do it. It is at least possible if not likely that this will be Tiki Barber's last game in a Giants uniform, his last in the NFL. What are your thoughts on this occasion, and where does his departure leave the team? Is Brandon Jacobs an every-down replacement or will the Giants be looking to supplement the backfield with a platoon runner?
NFL-Giants: It's the end of an era. Tiki will be remembered as the greatest runningback in Giants history but also for never winning a superbowl. The last few games he appears to be slowing down so it may be time for him to pack it in.
Jacobs hasn't proved that he can be an every down NFL back and his physical running means he will take a beating. Derrick Ward should be a decent backup but a shifty finesse runner would be a nice complement. The Giants need another back.
Curly R: Play-calling. Offensive coordinator John Hufnagel was relieved of play-calling duty by Tom Coughlin and the plays on Saturday will be called by quarterbacks coach Kevin Gilbride, once punched in the face by Buddy Ryan over playcalling. What should we expect to come out of Kevin's toolbox? Is this Tom throwing John overboard to save himself, or is this the right move?
NFL-Giants: I don't see how the playcalling could get much worse but Gilbride can not be a long term answer. Can he switch things up enough to give the Giants 4 decent quarters? I hope so. I don't know what to expect, but I would like to see more slants and posts as the Giants need to speed up the passing game. Asking Eli to hold the ball as long as Kurt Warner used to is asking for trouble.
Curly R: Eli. He is experiencing the the media glare of New York in exactly the opposite way he and his father intended and oh by the way now Archie Manning is denying he ever influenced Eli in any way. What happens to Eli now? Do the Giants just soldier on another year and hope he gets better, or will bring in a veteran to push him, look to trade him, cut him, what is your take? Back when we did 5 Questions in October, you said Eli needed to get better at putting the ball where defenders could not make a play on it. Has he improved?
NFL-Giants: Yes and no. Eli has had some good games and he has been horrible in others. I don't understand how he can be very good one game and then completely suck the next game. I don't see nayone pushing Eli next year but a vet QB is certainly warranted as the Giants can't know how the current backup J-Load will handle an NFL game. So Eli will be the Giants QB next season with or without a new vet backup.
Curly R: Strahan. He went on IR. What does this mean for his career in New York? Will he be back or will he be too expensive? Who on the team becomes the premier pass rusher?
NFL-Giants: It depends on the new administration but it certainly looks as though Strahan can no longer put together a 16 game season. However, he is an excellent DE who can rush the passer and stuff the run - having him for hlaf the season may be better than not having him at all. The Giants do have the talent at DE to give Strahan plenty of breaks.
Curly R: 2007. I know you want the Giants to sneak into the playoffs and make a showing, redeem themselves, but assume for a moment that they do not. What happens next? Will Tom Coughlin be here next year? What are the positions the Giants most need to address? Who do you expect not to be there next year?
NFL-Giants: The Giants need a new GM as Accorsi is retiring. Then they need new coaches. Coughlin, Huffnagle, and Lewis must go. The Giants need a safety. Will Demps has sucked despite a good start to the recent debacle against the Saints. Gibril Wilson has been OK and James Butler is unable to earn much playing time. We'll need to get rid of Tim Carter and fine an actual wide receiver. We need that third running back I mentioned above. If O'Hara doesn't resign we need a center. All in all the personnel situation isn't too bad. The coaching situation is.
Curly R BONUS QUESTION: I'll agree with Alge Crumpler, but how the hell did Jeremy Shockey get a Pro Bowl bid over Chris Cooley? A comparison of key stats:
Receptions: Shockey, Witten, Cooley, span of 14 catches, less than one catch per game difference. This pack is bunched up.
Yards: Crumpler, Witten, Cooley, span of 31 yards, less than 2 yards per game difference for the top three. Shockey appears nowhere in the top four in this category. Another bunch at the top.
TDs: Crumpler/Shockey (7 each), Cooley/Desmond Clark (6 each). Another bunch.
Plays of 20+ yards: Crumpler/Cooley (12 each), LJ Smith/Dan Campbell (9 each). Shockey is not in the top 12 in this category, and only has 2 catches over 20 yards. This is the crucial tight end stat in my mind, because this is a measure of how explosive your tight end is.
Chris Cooley has 32 catches for a first down, Jeremy Shockey has 36, a difference of four and Shockey has 14 more catches than Cooley. Shockey has a very slight statistical advantage numerically, but Cooley is more likely to pull off a big one, making him more valuable in my opinion.
Fantasy-wise, Cooley has been worth two more points, 106 to 104 over this season.
NFL-Giants: I don't expect the most talented palyers to make the probowl but I would say that Shockey is a better tightend than Cooley from what I've seen. Shockey is an excellent blocker and a good receiver who gets open but occasionally has a drop. I love Cooley's passion for the game but I haven't seen him block as well or as consistently as Shockey. Correct me if I'm wrong on this one - I don't see more than 2 or 3 Redskins games / year.
(Ed. note: I completely agree with James that Jeremy Shockey is not the most talented player. It is true Chris Cooley is not known for his blocking prowess, but I'll still take him. It has been Chris that has largely advanced Jason Campbell's play. -Ben)
Thanks to James for trading up again, and The Curly R staff looks forward to trading up with James again twice next year.
One more game and that's it.
Next: game preview
I'm going to the game Sunday
The Eagles just pummeled the Cowboys and now Jeff Garcia is 4-1 as a starter. Brian Westbrook, who was gimpy and supposed not to be able to carry the season load,* did, again. The Eagles did something even with Donovan McNabb I didn't think they could do which was win that December three-game road stretch against division rivals.
After losing to the Colts in his first post-Donovan McNabb start, which was a tough bet to begin with (the Colts went 3-1 against the NFC East losing only to Dallas), Jeff has shined on for 240 yards a game with 7 TDs, 2 INTs and a 101.9 qb RATING (OOps, caps lock). He caught fire too late to make it to the Pro Bowl, but Jeff deserves it over Tony Romo. And if this is not a case of life imitating art, Dono's mom
want[s] our team to win and even go to the Superbowl and win it in Miami, especially if they continue to play as they have. But oh oh, if they win the Superbowl without my son, what would be the real outcome with the fans? Will they crucify him? Maybe then the trade talks would begin. Off season madness, worse than last year's fiasco. But guess what, I guess I'll have to take the beating if it comes. I would have to hope that scenario of the madness would not happen or be that bad. Well, let's wait and see. Bitter sweet.
Crucify him? Like Jesus? Good luck with all those mommy issues Dono. Any solace I can take as a Redskins fan, it's that this is fucking with Dono's psyche and maybe it'll carry over in to next season. Can't you see it? Eagles are 1-2 with Dono back in the saddle and there's Jeff Garcia on the sideline, smiling that big smile.
Brian was passed over for the Pro Bowl, which is a shame since the guy is freaking 33% of the team's offense! 5710 total yards for the team, 1214 rushing for Brian, 670 receiving for Brian works out to 32.9947% of the offense going through him. So much for Die Eagles Die. That theory has been exposed.
While I have a natural distaste for the Eagles, and all things vulgar, this season I have a prurient interest in seeing the Cowboys and Giants go home disappointed, crushed again by the weight of unreasonable expectations. Terrell Owens has been a waking nightmare for Bill Parcells and when Tony took over for Drew Bledsoe, the Cowboys were 3-2, leading the division and losing at halftime. He lost that game, no surpise, and has gone 6-3, which really should be 7-2 because games don't end on untimed plays. But due to the Eagles' play, the Cowboys are looking at a wild card. They will lose in the first round.
Over in New York, well, I'll let Mark Maske in the Washington Post say it:
How's this for a playoff push? The star tailback is retiring. The standout defensive end has a foot injury that has ended his season and perhaps puts his future with the franchise in doubt. The coach has responded to fans' calls for him to be fired by ousting his offensive coordinator with one game left in the regular season. And all of it comes against the backdrop of six losses in seven games.
Eli is wearing down, soon to a little nub over being the mediocre QB that put himself ahead of football. Tiki Barber is gone, Michael Strahan is gone, Amani Toomer is like 40. Two weeks ago, I heard Randy Cross on Sirius NFL radio say, as well as I can remember, Eli is what Eli is going to be. Life will be getting tougher every day from now on for Eli as a Giant.
I love to see the Cowboys and Giants take a beating. The Eagles winning the division is best remaining outcome.
* September Philadelphia Inquirer; October Philadelphia Daily News.
Yowza: calendars.com via Sportscolumn Blog
Hang in there
Reed Doughty's son
Micah's life ha[s] been a struggle. Born nearly six weeks prematurely, the baby is battling chronic kidney failure and for the Washington Redskins' rookie safety, an afternoon spent bonding with his son after practice is particularly special.I can relate, a little bit. My kids were born five and a half weeks early, had respiratory issues, spent 12 days in the hospital, wore monitors for a month and still see a pulmonologist, but all that's nothing compared to what little Micah is dealing with. Going onto dialysis will not help his weight gain and this is all just shitty stuff to have to deal with.
It also highlights how fucked up the healthcare system is in this country. Jason La Canfora in the article
Had [Reed's wife] not had health insurance when Micah was born, Doughty said his son's preexisting condition would not have been covered by insurance.Right, because the Doughtys might be insurance scam artists, deliberately waiting to have a kid with a life-threatening illness before exploring healthcare options. Something has to change in our system of healthcare.
Good luck Doughtys. I hope Reed works out and the Redskins need him.
Reed Doughty & familiy: John McDonnell / Washington Post
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Voulez-vous cover-2 avec moi?
I did not know this.
Cue surrender jokes.*
* Philippe badinant juste. Le R Bouclé respecte nos alliés français et déteste des médias et des représentations politiques du Français en tant que n'importe quoi mais des chefs dans la communauté internationale.
Philippe Gardent: Preston Keres / Washington Post
Tom Boswell captures it:
The reason Washington remains an NFL economic powerhouse and a perennial threat to (someday) field a team worthy of its elephantine payroll is the rare combination of patience and enthusiasm shown by its supporters.Why do we care? Because 'the Redskins' isn't just a football team. It's a story, with chapters and cliffhangers aka soap opera for men but WWE is a crude crude imitation of the real life drama and high stakes of NFL football and the Redskins.
First, we are football fans. With no true appreciation for the underlying medium of the sport, there can be no real evaluation of the product as it relates to the story. However you came to be a Redskins observer, whether lifetime fan, DC relocation or general football fan, the principle lies in the enjoyment of watching uniformly dressed individuals play a game. Whether you got that from the Redskins themselves or another organized team is moot. You are a host candidate, like a college student with no afternoon classes getting hooked on Days of Our Lives.
As Jerry Seinfeld once said, we're just rooting for the laundry, so for there to be a real attachment, there has to be something there besides just the football product. The Redskins are one of the longest-running stories in the whole genre with one bitter relocation, some of the greatest teams there ever were, a racist owner that had to be ordered to integrate the team by the federal government and later lost his mind, a long stagnant period riding the early glory, an new owner committed to winning, Vince Lombardi, a newer owner that took a steeper arc toward winning and teams that would win even when the opponent knew exactly what they would do.
Meanwhile because the product was good no one cared that the owner's trophy wife, an admitted drug dealer fighting deportation through most of the late 80s and early 90s, was running around Georgetown with a man 10 years her junior at night so she could tolerate her days with a husband 40 years her senior. Or that the owner's family was so drenched in cocaine that they actually shot guns at each other. That Jack Kent Cooke moved the team to Maryland is something few Redskins fans are happy about but many will also laugh with a kind of pride that JKC had the stones to tell the corrupt and inept DC government to fuck off. The Redskins bow to no high authority.
Now, as the Dan Snyder era continues to spiral down into total chaos, Redskins fans find themselves as they were back in the 50s and 60s: a popular team with an inconsistent product riding the glory of an earlier period. History tells us we already know everything about the owner after six years, that he is what he will be, and Redskins fans, never slow to boo or stay at home on gameday (though those empty seats are paid for), have to wait it out and hope a new owner comes in some day and makes a new commitment to winning. Until then, we'll have to settle for poking loud and hard fun at an organization that exists for our amusement. Dan Snyder may be the guy with the keys, but he's just the steward. The Redskins belong to us.
George Preston Marshall: Pro Football Hall of Fame
Edward Bennett Williams: Wikimedia
Jack Kent Cooke: Washington Post
JKC & Marlene: Washington Life
Dan Snyder: sell the team
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Steven Jackson is a Pro Bowl back
31 points and still lost, that's really the story of the Redskins 37-31 overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams. Marc Bulger racked up 388 yards passing with 4 TDs and no INTs. Eight different Rams caught passes and Isaac Bruce was Ijacked up with 148 yards receiving on 9 catches. All told, the Rams put up 579 yards of offense, the most the Redskins have given up all season. By more than 100 yards. Only twice this season have the Redskins given up over 400 yards, at Colts (452) and at Giants (411). Those were both before the bye, in October.
But the headline was Steven Jackson. He is a beast and rumbled throught the Redskins for 150 yards on 33 carries, a 4.5 yards per carry average. Brian Westbrook was still robbed by getting passed over for the Pro Bowl, but the way Steven looked Sunday, he deserves to be there. His step through the hole is quick, he is fast for his size and he is completely unafraid of contact. He just beat down the Redskins again and again. Six times he moved the chains to first down, five of them from a second down play.
The Redskins opened the game by holding the Rams to a punt and then marching 78 yards down the field for a score. The teams traded punts and the Rams carried over a drive into the 2nd quarter and scored on a play that was called wrong but challenged into a score. The entire second quarter was a bloodbath with the teams combining for 4 touchdowns. Early in the 3rd quarter, Ladell Betts did not come out in the redzone and the Redskins scored, going up by TWO TOUCHDOWNS. All St. Louis did was score TDs on consecutive drives; drives that featured a lot of complete passes and a lot of good runs. The 4th quarter finally saw a field goal trade and at the end, the Redskins had nothing left in the tank and watched former Redskin Stephen Davis' fresh legs and Steven Jackson's tireless ones just run all over the place for the win.
What a near-perfect inversion of the Jacksonville game this was. In that game, the Redskins were at home, Jacksonville took an early lead, the teams traded scores and interceptions and the Redskins got the big play to close out with a TD in OT. In this game, the Rams were at home, played from behind most of the day, fumbles were traded and the Rams got the big play in OT. Fluky is as fluky does.
I'll take moment to talk about the Redskins offense: we'll take it. As predicted by the statistical matchup, it was a good day for Ladell Betts, 129 yards on 29 carries, for a 4.4 yards per carry average. Those are Pro Bowl numbers themselves and Ladell has now rushed for 100 yards or more in five straight games, with six 100 yard games on the season, on eight starts! I know there is no room with Frank Gore, Steven Jackson and Tiki Barber on the Pro Bowl roster, and I would not pull any of those guys, but Ladell and the offensive line run blockers are playing at an elite level in the league, and this with an inexperienced quarterback running the other half of the offense. Looking at the guys Frank, Steven and Tiki are supporting even Alex Smith is a second year starter, so Ladell is creating the conditions for quarterback maturation
No the fumble in the 4 quarter did not help things. Look at Ladell's player card: 5 fumbles on 225 carries + 47 receptions = 272 touches this season, never more than one a game, for an average of 1 fumble every 54 touches. By comparison, Steven Jackson is sitting on 1 fumble every 101 touches, Brian Westbrook is at 1 fumble every 158 touches and Tiki Barber is at 1 fumber every 119 touches, so yeah... maybe now that Tiki is retiring and Tom Coughlin is being fired Tom can come over and be Ladell's personal 'how to don't fumble' coach. Need to work on that Ladell.
Speaking of quarterback, Jason Campbell had a decent day, 13 for 26 for 160 yards and a TD. Basically a conservative and mistake-free game by Jason. Chris Cooley was the leading man, doing what he does best, catch 5 yard patterns ove the middle and take them long. The NFL play by play only lists three deep attempts, and none of them connected but I still get the sense the Jason is taking what the defense gives and not deliberately keeping it short the way Mark Brunell would. As long as Jason can keep turning in games like this, he can grow.
Curly R aside: man oh man Eli Manning is an average quarterback (sooo much more of this to come this week). And if Tony Romo (6-3 since replacing Drew Bledsoe) gets to make the Pro Bowl basically because of one game with five TD passes against a bottom-half passing defense in Tampa Bay, then Jeff Garcia (4-1 since replacing Donovan McNabb) gets to go because all he has done is carry his team in to the playoffs, and Tony, impressive though he has been, stewarded his team from first place in the division to needing a win and some help to get into the postseason. If Jeff Garcia's voice sounded like his play, he'd be Barry White.
But it was not the fumble that lost this game for the Redskins. It was weak defense, against the run and against the pass. Marcus Washington went on IR the day before the game. Shawn Springs has another injury, a broken shoulder. Carlos Rogers was tentative and Sean Taylor was downright in another world an a few plays, notably the 43 yard catch-and-run by Isaac Bruce. Sean seemed to back away from the play, not making a move to contain Steven. Among the defense, only Andre Carter (8 tackles , incl. four limiting the Rams to a yard or less, and a sack) and Rocky McIntosh had good games. The stat box says Vernon Fox led the team with 15 tackles, and good on ya Vern, but that's really a condemnation that Marc Bulger could have his way so easily as to need free safety support like that. All this when the game did not even sell out, thus plunging St. Louis and a 75-mile radius into video blackout. Crowd noise was never a factor.
The Redskins defense is just bad. Just bad. Just. Bad.
Since we publish game previews the day before the game, we were unable to link to the WaPo's keys to the game. They were all right on and the Redskins nailed 1.5 of them. See if you can figure out which. And the WaPo's gameday take on the Rams.
Duckett Watch: once again, he went into the game when the Redskins got into the redzone. I simply think this is mismanagement of this position. Joe Gibbs has an agreement with Clinton Portis where Clinton takes himself out and Ladell goes right in. It's obvious Ladell does not have this arrangement with Joe, and I think he should. TJ is slower and hesitates going into the hole. I have not yet seen his size consistently benefit his play. Oh well. He got 5 carries for 18 yards, including his first TD. Season now projecting to 37 carries for 145 yards and 1.07 TDs.
B-Lloyd Blues: for the third straight game since freaking out on the sidelines, two closed doors with Joe Gibbs and a public nonpology, Brandon Lloyd did not start. This time he did not have a catch and does not appear in the box score or in the play by play, and I cannot recall Jason ever throwing to him. He may be done here.
Being Mark Brunell: it must have been weird for Mark to come back to St. Louis, where he led the Redskins to a 24-9 victory over Harvard dude Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Rams last season. Or maybe Mark is so effed up on goofballs and amyl nitrate that he's barely there.
Arch Deluxe: I do not recall seeing him on defense, but the statbox credits him with one tackle. Perhaps this was on special teams. The Washington Post says he did not play on defense. Some homecoming for Adam Archuleta. Anyone else starting to get the feeling Adam is a scapegoat here?
Box. Full play by play. Other reviews and recaps: The Redskin Report, Redskins Fanhouse, Covering the Redskins
Steven Jackson getting ready to bowl over Sean Taylor and looking not a bit afraid: Washington Post
Monday, December 25, 2006
On this Christmas Day, happy holidays from the entire staff of the The Curly R. I hope you are spending the day with family, friends, or doing whatever you want.
Other Curly R season's greetings: 2007 :: 2008 :: 2009 :: 2010
Jerry Garcia Santa Claus from here.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
One team is 4 games below .500, the other 2 games. How hilarious is it that when the Redskins kickoff at 1pm Sunday in St. Louis, the game will have playoff implications? If the Rams win out and the Giants and Falcons lose out and the 49ers have to lose one and the Panthers or Vik...ok forget it it's too complicated. Just go check out our 5 Questions trading partner VanRam's St. Louis playoff roundup here. For the Redskins it's easy: win and the Rams are home for the holidays with the Redskins. Being the spoiler is the next best thing to being a good team, like the guy coming to grips with drunk chick not going home with him but still having the focus to cockblock dude with too much hairgel.
There's been a fair amount of back-patting and conflatulations this week for the defensive secondary, but I'm still not convinced. The defense gave up big yards when the opposing offense needed it against the Falcons and Eagles. But, against the Panthers and Saints, the defense played very well and all four of these teams are in playoff contention, were in playoff contention or might be in playoff contention. I can't figure it out, it's all a mess so look for yourself here and here.
Any confidence I had in the defensive side of the ball was disappeared when I read that Gregg Williams is going back to formula. Technically speaking in the media narrative, a feature piece in the hometown paper that basically says TEAM ALL WRONG AT HALF THE GAME presages a bad loss, letting the opposing offense have its way, getting off again and again, piling on hot loads of scoring so everyone just forget Andre Carter is playing well at this point, Marcus Washington spent a decent part of the Saints game in Drew Brees' face and the three Muskateers Sean Taylor Carlos Rogers Shawn Springs and Vernon FOX got Brees jammed up downfield. Too bad Marcus won't play in this game, but it's good that Jon Jansen will.
On the offense dare I hope for another steady performance? A random stat that is decidedly un-Redskinslike, at least in the last ten years:
[the Saints game] was the first time one of Washington's starting offensive linemen had missed a game this season.
That was Game 14 people! This group has played better steadily all season, especially run-blocking and I hope Ladell buys these guys Rolexes or at least a steak dinner because I didn't comment on that thread Skin Patrol but my Redskins pick for the Pro Bowl is Ladell. He's been the most valuable player on this team since Jason took over. So valuable that you can add former Redskins beat writer Mark Maske to the chorus of voices asking the musical question, is Ladell a better runner for this offense than Clinton?
Curly R aside: speaking of things you give to offenive linemen for taking care of you, does anyone else remember at the end of the 2003 season when Emmitt Smith, finishing up his first year in purgatory in Arizona, gave his five offensive linemen Hummer keys and told them to follow him to the lot? And when the freaking out players got to the lot and found five remote control Hummers next to his full size Hummer? Man, what an ass. No wonder he only ran for 3-1/2 yards a carry in 2004 and then retired. I'd be ole' blocking for him too.
In the pass game, it's a little like interpretive dance because no one has the same opinion. Joe Gibbs, the man responsible for drafting Jason Campbell, is boldly praising his QB, comparing him to my man Mark Rypien so Joe sees the real deal coming, or is making a confidence play for his QB. Or both. In that context, last Thursday a piece ran where Al Saunders on Jason was in essence, ok fine now go faster, with slightly more backhanded praise:
The Redskins need to simplify things enough to give Campbell the best chance to succeed over the last three games of the season while also identifying and correcting the flaws in his technique that must be refined for long-term success, Saunders said. The coaches cannot overload Campbell with too much information...
Hunh. Al sounds a little petulant, a little condescension in there as well. Then I go back and re-read yesterday's Gibbs-Campbell story and there it is, buried in the 10th paragraph, smack in the middle of a story about the things Jason is doing right, Al's first appearance in the piece:
"Whatever your history is will dictate you falling into that pattern. You know, Mark had completed 65 percent of his passes," said Al Saunders, the Redskins' associate head coach-offense. "He wasn't turning the ball over and was doing a real good job of managing the game in the way it was asked of him."
Velly intellesting. Sounds like soooomeone isn't 1000% behind Jason. I'll ask the Fox News question about this situation:
Is Al Saunders hurting this team by not supporting the starter?
On special teams, Joe Gibbs loves Shaun Suisham but then again he loved John Hall all the way to IR. Shaun is 8 for 10 on field goals with a 62 yard average on kickoffs and it's good to know the Redskins have a kicker. For now. And like some others I've read on this, I take Gregg Williams' cryptic message to reporters about Adam Archuleta's likelihood of playing this week as meaning he'll play special teams, and there's little chance we'll see him playing defense against his former team.
Numerically, here's how it looks. The Rams are ranked 8th overall on offense, 6th in passing yards, 21st in rush yards and 14th in scoring. The Redskins are ranked 15th overall on offense, 22nd in pass yards, 5th in rush yards and 23rd in scoring. Defensively, the Rams are 21st overall, 9th against the pass , 31st against the run and 25th in denying scores. The Redskins are 23rd overall, 21st against the pass, 20th against the run and lets in the 20th fewest points.
Put that in a blender and the Rams will be gameplanning a big day for Marc Bulger and the Redskins will be counting on Ladell. Let's see the Redskins defense turn out another performance like they did against the Panthers and Saints and the Redskins can win this one, especially since St. Louis is so apathetic about the Rams that the game did not even sell out, and therefore it won't be seen by the home town fans. If the Redskins can get a good drive and score early, there will be no crowd noise to worry about.
Other previews and sundries: Skin Patrol has a State of the Redskins posted on Turf Show Times, and his take on the Rams offense at Hogs Haven. Lee's crib notes at The Redskin Report.
Uh-oh, so John Riggins' daily radio show on Dan Snyder's
I'll be in Charlottesville tomorrow (where I am now) doing Christmas with the in-laws, so football blogging will be on the agenda.
This is a gameday open thread.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Anyone have any ideas?
I didn't really want to bump 5 Questions below the fold this early in the day, but I just have to comment on today's Howard Bryant Washington Post piece on Gregg Williams so make sure you read our exchange with VanRam at Turf Show Times, and in case you missed it, the sordid history of the sale of the Redskins from the estate of Jack Kent Cooke to Dan Snyder is here.
Gregg Williams is out of ideas, and facing a public backlash. Something we've been reading about the Redskins for much of the season, in the tradmed and on the blogs has been that Gregg's stubborn insistence at sticking to the Cover-2 base defense has turned back on the team and opponents know how to exploit its weaknesses. The hot knife in this argument is Tom Friend's now-famous 'Deep Cover' piece on ESPN, which essentially says Gregg fell out with key defenders (LaVar), let others simply go (Fred Smoot, Antonio Pierce, Walt Harris, Ryan Clark), bungled the handling of assistant coaches (Steve Jackson and Jerry Gray) and is basically imperious and immune from blame as to how the Redskins defense could somehow fall from 3rd to 9th to 23rd in two seasons.
Howard's piece in the WaPo is a bit wonky on the ins and outs of cover-2, but we like that. Here's the upshot: Gregg has patterned his own variation of cover-2 that requires the defensive backs to lend a greater amount of help to stopping the run than the standard variation. The rationale is that if the safeties and cornerbacks can shut off the deep passing routes and give run support, the linebackers will have a better chance to get into cover position on the slot receivers and middle routes.
As it so happens, I have hypothesized for some time now that the Gregg Williams defense turns on good DB play, moreso than at the LB or line positions, and this piece seems to validate that hypothesis (here and here).
So why isn't it working? There are three factors, figure out for yourself the proportions:
1. the DB play has been weak all year. Shawn Springs was out with that whole abdomen-reattached-to-pelvis thing (ouch) for five games and was a liability for two after coming back. Carlos Rogers just was not ready to be the number one and spent much of the season doing his best Tom Carter imitation and blaming everyone but himself. Adam Archuleta was either a bust or a victim of Gregg Williams and it's really moot which. Arch's replacements are journeymen at this point, adding insult to injury.
2. the linebackers are inadequate, or being asked to do too much. In this system, they are supposed to cover the run and cover the center of the field, no duh that's what linebackers do. But in Gregg's scheme, or so is the inference in Howard's piece, because the safeties play further back, the linebackers have comparatively more space to cover and one linebacker is explicitly in pass coverage against the slot receiver, so that receiver is often open. This has the effect of opening that gaping hole in the center the field. So fading back in coverage and then running to stop the run has the whipsaw effect of making the linebackers not even understand what they are doing, much less what the opposing offense is doing. If Sean Taylor were not faster than a hyena, a larger number of those long passes into the soft middle would have gone for TDs.
3. the scheme is simply not working. Whether it's because of the personnel (or rather, the personnel that has been jettisoned) or the nature of the scheme itself may be moot. Opposing teams know you can run at the line and freeze the linebackers and DBs, and then after a little of that, pop one deep. I have been amazed at how open the receivers are in the middle of the field.
So Gregg finds himself down a bad road borne of theories looking good on a whiteboard but that didn't play in reality, a plan that could not be executed with the personnel allocated to the problem. Now in the face of public failure is
faced with potentially reinventing portions of his defense, since a good deal of his philosophy relies on[ideas that don't work.] But don't worry, Gregg is listening to a variety of opinions, looking at all options for success and will present his new plan, sometime after the season ends. Sound like anyone else you know?
It's a good thing football is not played with people's lives.
Greatest Could Be Worse Show on Turf" St. Louis Rams. Here to answer our questions about the Rams is Van Ram of Turf Show Times. You can read my answers to Van Ram's questions at this link.
Curly R: The Rams came out strong, winning 4 of their first 5 games. Then they went on a streak of 7 losses in 8 games. What went wrong?
Van Ram: If you go back and look at those games one thing that really stands out is the turnover ratio. The Rams defense – which has been our biggest weakness this season – played aggressive, mistake-free football and forced key turnovers that the offense were usually able to capitalize on with a score of some sort. At the very least, the turnovers kept the defense off the field. In the wins over Arizona and Green Bay, late game turnovers foiled opponents’ drives that would have given them the last chance to score in regulation.
Curly R: Marc Bulger, Torry Holt and Issac Bruce have had great careers with the Rams, but this team hasn't surfaced above .500 in three seasons now. Is it time to blow up the offense and go into rebuilding mode?
Van Ram: The offense is fine. It’s been mediocre at times this season, and has had to suffer through some big losses (i.e. Orlando Pace) this season too. Bulger’s 29 and Holt’s 30, so they have some good years left. Bruce is long in the tooth and I suspect he’ll retire after this season. Kevin Curtis is a solid receiver, who will be more than just a replacement for Bruce. The defense desperately needs the overhaul. Outside of Leonard Little, Will Witherspoon, and Pisa Tinoisamoa, there’s very little talent on the line. Trading one of those players you mentioned is off the table, so the biggest part of our rebuilding will come via the draft and free agency.
Curly R: The Redskins signed former Ram Adam "Arch Deluxe" Archuleta to a ridiculous contract worth $10 million in guaranteed money. He's been a huge bust this year and has been relegated to special teams duty. Any chance the Rams might want him back? Please?
Van Ram: No thanks.
Curly R: The St. Louis Cardinals football team left town for Phoenix in 1987. The L.A. Rams came to town in 1995 and kept the Rams name and logo. Was there any movement to restore the Cardinals name and logo to the St. Louis franchise. I can think of nothing cooler than having a baseball and football team in the same town have the same name and mascot.
Van Ram: It was cool to have both teams named the “Cardinals” back in the day, but I don’t think there was any organized effort to force a name change when the Rams came to town. There are still LOTS of area football fans that remained loyal to the Cardinals.
Curly R: The Rams have shown flashes of brilliance, but have tossed up some huge stinkers to the Cardinals and the Niners (twice). Is there any hope of beating the somewhat-revived Redskins offense and defense?
Van Ram: There is such hope. With Bulger and those receivers the coaches will be looking at that Redskins secondary that gave up so many big plays this season. The catch here is the new offensive line. Pass protection hasn’t been their strong suit, so the pass rush could really wreck havoc on the Rams. The line has blocked well for Steven Jackson these last few weeks, so the threat of the run could really keep them off the pass rush.
For the ‘Skins offense, let me offer you one word of advice: run. The Rams run defense has been terrible. They stepped it up against the dysfunctional Raiders offense, so perhaps they’ll be buoyed by their success. When Santa rolls down the chimney for this game he might bring lots of offense for fans of both teams. Coaches on both sides will be hoping he doesn’t bring them a pink slip.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Those were the days
Jack Kent Cooke, the Squire, the owner Redskins fans wish was still alive, is back in the news in a Marc Fisher column titled 'Fulfilling Lives Will Be Cooke's Enduring Legacy.' If you will recall, JKC died in 1997. He gave 50 million dollars in a trust to his son John Kent Cooke, some other nicks and nacks to people, but the bulk of his billion dollar fortune was bequeathed to the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, an organization dedicated to bettering high academic achievers from lower income brackets in poverty-stricken areas such as Fairfax and Montgomery Counties. According to the foundation's website, up to 650 students a year are selected, with up to 50,000 dollars in scholarships and assistance granted per student, though the Marc Fisher piece pegs the number at about 15,000 dollars each.
Recall if you will the final days and aftermath of JKC's life. John Kent Cooke, JKC's only surviving son, toiled in relative anonymity as the president of the team, the operations guy. Bobby Beathard, then later Charley Casserly handled GM duties, and Joe Gibbs had a direct line with JKC, so John spent most of his time tending to the business of the franchise, making sure stuff got done. When JKC died, John announced his intent to keep the Redskins in the family.
But there was a problem. JKC was the owner of the team and spanking new stadium, and as such, they were his assets and they went into his estate, which was willed to the new foundation. The trustees of the estate had orders to sell the team to the highest bidder. With the new stadium doubling team revenue and boosting the team's profitability by a factor of ten, the Redskins were hot hot hot, and there was speculation the team could sell for twice the 450 million dollars that bought the new Cleveland Browns. JKC had only (only!) given son John 50 million dollars, not enough to buy the team.
The bidding started at 450 million, and eventually John put together a 680 million dollar offer. That was rejected by JKC's trustees, with whom John's relationship went south fast. The trustees, of which John was technically one, demanded final say on all decisions related to the team, everything from groundskeeping to office supplies to contract negotiations. John and Charley complained to the league that these non-football people did not have the health of the product in mind and could lead the team down a road that would take decades to recover from, so NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped in and decreed John remain president of the team, retaining Charley and Norv Turner. It is in this tumultuous period that the Redskins lost Trent Green, to St. Louis.
It must have been hard for John not to think the father was punishing him from the grave, but JKC earned his money from scratch and I always thought this was meant by JKC to be John's test.
John upped his offer to 700 million dollars, but that was still not enough for the trustees. They were in love with developer Howard Milstein who, with his brother Edward and 'Bethesda businessman' Dan Snyder, put together an 800 million dollar offer which the trustees accepted.
Here is where this story gets hard to follow.
The league either actively wanted John Kent Cooke to have the team, or actively did not want Howard Milstein to have it. The JKC trustees approved Howard's offer, but the NFL Finance Committee, the body in charge of granting approval to team sales, waffled, then rejected it, nominally over concerns about how solid was the financing. The league then even took the public-pressure step of asking to 're-examine' John's bid, even as the JKC trustees were shaking hands and signing papers with Howard.
Howard eventually withdrew his offer in rage and disgust, and to add injury to insult, the league did not return his 30 million dollar application fee-deposit on the team, and this refusal was upheld in court (adding to the intrigue, Dan Snyder's portion of the deposit, 10 million, was refunded to Dan after the league accepted his bid).
Despite denials and no findings by the league (surprise the league found nothing in its investigation of itself), it was obvious to me at the time that Charley Casserly and John Kent Cooke ran interference with the league and persuaded the Finance Committee to reject the offer, with the idea being that John would be the last man standing, and the league would pocket 30 million from Howard. Was Howard blackballed by the fraternity of NFL owners, or was his bid really too debt-heavy, as was the official reaction from the NFL? Great NYT article on the aftermath of Howard's failed bid.
Then in swept Dan Snyder with his own 800 million dollar offer, essentially identical to Howard's only without Howard. It was strange because Dan had been quiet, like a little mouse as Howard's bid went down in flames. The trustees approved Dan's offer, and the NFL Finance Committee approved it. What did the fans get? After Giants owner Wellington Mara died last year, the NYT quoted Michael MacCambridge, author of NFL history tome America's Game:
It was clear to me that Mr. Mara viewed Daniel Snyder in roughly the same way that Frank Sinatra might have viewed Eminem(You may remember Dan had TVs installed over the urinals in the owner's box at Redskins Stadium so he would not have to miss a play while recycling his juice box.)
John subsequently withdrew his offer and lived out a few years in Middleburg before slinking off to Bermuda with his 50 million, but not before buying a newpaper chain. He and Richie Petitbon now hang out at the Bitter Bitter Man's Club.
Always the pioneer, JKC will now forever be remembered for brigning Super Bowls to Washington, and now as the rich guy that wanted to give back to the community, and in the end, had the courage to help middle class white people.*
Everything you wanted to know about Jack Kent Cooke: Special Washington Post section (why doesn't this stuff appear in the Washington Post or Google searches? I came across this in an image search and followed it back). Another Washington Post special section on JKC. Wikipedia. JKC's will. Feel like reliving the tragicomedy of the NFL and John Kent Cooke sabotaging Howard Milstein's attempt to buy the team while minority partner Dan Snyder was oddly silent? Washington Post section of key stories on the sale of the team. Unfortunately, many of these links are long broken. Another special online section, looking like it has not been updated since about 1997.
* This link s the google image search for Jack Kent Cooke. Follow it and tell me what you see. Since he's been dead for almost ten years, there are fewer pictures of the man and more related to the JKC Foundation. The recipient students pictured in the first 5 pages of this search are overwhelminly white.
Interestingly, in the course of researching this piece, I came across an NYT piece on former NYC top cop and failed DHS Secretary nominee Bernie Kerik that ties into this story. After September 11, 2001, Anthony Bergamo, a vice chairman in Howard Milstein's real estate empire, at Bernie's request, donated an apartment overlooking the rubble as a place for weary police and firefighters to rest. Many involved in the recovery and cleanup simply refused to go home between shifts, and it was a gesture meant to show solidarity in the city. After the initial 24-hour cycle of effort slowed to a predictable pace, Bernie asked if he could rent it for himself, which brings into question in my mind his real motivation for securing the residence in the first place. I am sure when Howard's company agreed to rent it to Bernie, they were not thinking Bernie might use it as a loveshack where he could take his recently fired OJ=dollar signs anti-semite floozy Judith Regan and bang her out of sight of his wife and children, which is in fact what he did with it. What is the tie-in to this story? After the whole Redskins thing collapsed and Howard realized he not only was not getting the team but was not getting his 20 million dollars back, he sued John Kent Cooke, then already in Bermuda, for 100 million dollars. In an effort to get some incriminating evidence on John or Charley Casserly, Howard spent 6500 dollars sending Anthony Bergamo to Bermuda under an assumed name where he wore a wire and arranged to bump into John and Charley and try and get them to talk. Ultimately, Anthony got nothing and the lawsuit was tossed.
Jack Kent Cooke and Marlene Ramallo Cooke, April 9, 1992: AP photo
Joe Theismann, Jack Kent Cooke, John Riggins and Joe Gibbs after winning Super Bowl 17 and John Kent Cooke: Washington Post
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
This day in Redskins history
1970, Redskins beat the St. Louis Cardinals by one point at RFK, 28-27 after watching a 15-point lead nearly disappear in the second half. The Redskins finished 6-8 that year, and were coached by Bill Austin, the one year fix between Vince Lombardi, who had died of cancer after leading the Redskins to a 7-5-1 record in 1969 (a good year for your blogger), the best Redskins record in 13 years, and the arrival of George Allen (not Senator Severed Deerhead in the Mailbox, his father) who would usher in the modern age of Redskins football.
1981, capping off Joe Gibbs' first season as head coach, Redskins whomp Los Angeles Rams, 30-7 at RFK. Joe Gibbs had opened his first season as a head coach 0-5, then rallied with an 8-3 to finish 8-8. Hrmmm...that story sounds familiar...oh yeah, Marty Schottenheimer did this in 2001, then was fired after one year because that slut Steve Spurrier showed Dan Snyder a little leg. What did Joe Gibbs do in his second year? Go to the Super Bowl. What did he do in his third year? Go to the Super Bowl. The first in a career of brilliant moves by Dan Snyder.
1987, Dan Marino brings the Dolphins back from behind to win 23-21 at Joe Robbie Stadium. This game featured three lead changes in the fourth quarter. The Redskins would finish the season 11-5, win the division and go on to beat the Broncos 42-10 in Super Bowl 22. But because this was a strike season, sooooooome people will never accept the legitimacy of this Super Bowl. To them I say feh.
1992, with the division title on the line, the Redskins lose in Veterans Stadium to the Eagles, 17-13. On the final drive, down four points, Mark Rypien drove the Redskins down to the Eagles 3 yard line where Eric Allen stepped in front of Gary Clark three yards into the end zone to swat away a fourth down pass. I remember this game like it was yesterday. The Redskins would finish 9-7, make it into the playoffs with help, and both teams would win one, lose one.
2006, pithy Redskins blogger refers to own post recapping the day in Redskins history.
Redskins logo from 1937 to 1951: sportslogos.net
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Too much of a good thing
In today's Redskins Notebook, Jason La Canfora (who I have recently learned is a drunk and a narcoleptic) writes that Joe Gibbs thinks there will be no problem with both Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts on the roster next year. That they can have both is obvious. That they will or should is entirely another matter.
As Skin Patrol points out, Clinton's cap number is large next year, 8 to 10 million, and he's just entering the magic fourth year of an eight-year, 50.5 million dollar contract (as in either the player magically renegotiates or the team makes him *poof* disappear). Clinton is due to get paid. Although I don't know the particulars, Ladell's 2007 number should be cap-friendly, with only a prorated year's slice of the signing bonus plus a low first-year salary.
Rick Snider at the Washinton Examiner, in a column that reads like it was written in 20 minutes at 2am after a half dozen bourbons, says Ladell is the better back and besides the Redskins have plenty of other weapons, including Brandon Lloyd who's 'still out there' (I agree with that), so losing Clinton doesn't hurt the offense. He posits the Redskins could get an impact player on defense or a second-round draft pick for Clinton and so should trade him. (How's this for regression: I'm hat tipping Skin Patrol hat tipping Dan Steinberg on Snider's piece.)
Great idea, wrong running back.
In terms of ability, I think both backs are perfect for this system. As Skin Patrol points out with more of those damn facts, Clinton can break off a long one on you if you are not paying attention, and Ladell is for sure a straight-ahead runner, a between the tackles kind of guy with enough slipperiness to get through the line. He doesn't have the lateral moves or side-to-side sweepability that Clinton does, and I am not ready to render a judgment on whether one is a better blocker or receiver. They are, though, the perfect combination, and either is perfect as the feature back with Mike Sellers, Rock Cartwright and to-be-drafted rookie at backup.
The problem is not meshing or working together, the problem is that despite conventional wisdom that starter-quality backups are needed at both running back and quarterback, it doesn't work. Or rather, it only works in spite of football's nature. If the starter is not perfect, then the yammering starts for the backup. And if the starter is perfect, the whining starts about wasting roster spots and cap room. Chris Weinke and Jake Delhomme. Patrick Ramsey and Mark Brunell in 2004. Or Heath Shuler and Gus Frerotte in 1995. Some running back examples: Ladell Betts and TJ Duckett (pretty much accepted as a stupid move), Julius Jones and Marion Barber in Dallas (that debate is playing out now in their world), Thomas Jones and Michael Pittman in Arizona and Tampa Bay from 2002-2004.
It does work when there are no real expectations of the backup to hold the position longterm. Look at Joey Harrington in Miami and Jeff Garcia in Philadelphia. At the running back position, I knew Ladell was a good player before this season, and better than some starting RBs, but it's now accepted as fact. No one thought Frank Gore could carry the 49ers after Kevan Barlow left.
Ladell has played a role on this team, and he has done it with aplomb. In four previous seasons, all with the Redskins, he has never had fewer than 65 carries and never fewer than 255 yards. When asked to be the feature back, he went and did it and now unless the Redskins can pull off an act that hasn't been done since 1985*, every time the Redskins don't have a dominating day on the ground, ExtremeSkins will be like LADALLL IS SO NUCH BERTTEWR THEN PORITS!!!1!! CUT PORITS!!!1!!
On the other hand, if the Redskins have another playoff season, with Clinton ringing up 1200 yards and Ladell pulling down 400, ExtremeSkins will be like WHY DID TEH REDKSINS PAY SO MCYU FOR LADALLL?!?1? PORITS IS SO NUCH BERTTEWR THEN LADALLL!!!!1!!
Here is the football play in this situation: Ladell is the trade bait. He's a hot property and going into the offseason, there will be several teams with immediate needs at RB. Tennessee, Detroit, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Carolina, New York Jets and Houston to name 8. If you can unload him for a package of draft picks or a solid player, do it. I'd be sad to see him go, but sometimes the best thing you can do for your team is help it get better without you.
Alternatively, Ladell can be used as leverage against Clinton, because Clinton is too expensive to trade. If you can get him to renegotitate downward, then you can keep both and weather the controversy, or even unload Clinton in a trade once his number is down. Or you could *gasp* let Clinton go and take the dead money hit. He's been here three years, which is about the shelf life of an acquired Redskin.
There's no way Ladell plays the same role next season as the past two seasons and it's not a problem.
* Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner were the last running back duo both to run for 1000+ yards in a season, for the 1985 Cleveland Browns. The playcalling came down to 53% run, 46% pass, 1% choking. Reference.
Details from Getty Images
The Season of Miracles
You may know back on November 12, I went to the Eagles-Redskins game with lifetime Eagles fan Wilbert Montgomery, and that I was accosted and my Redskins hat (below, right) of 12 years was stolen from my head by a drunken Eagles fan. Hate the sin not the sinner, so I was just irritated at having to go into the game with hathead.
Sunday, Brandon gave me a hat sufficiently approximate to the one I lost that day that I consider it miraculous, or at least worthy of a pithy comment. As he acquired it at no charge at an industry event, the heavens parted and a beam of light shone upon it. This hat was destined to be Ben's.
Thank you Brandon, for restoring my faith in the principle of Even Steven.
Monday, December 18, 2006
The first one's always the toughest
Tough defense, solid running, keep the mistakes to a minimum. That's how to grow a passing game in this league, and that's exactly what the Redskins did in beating the Saints 16-10 in the still-recovering city of New Orleans. There were some scary moments, and the conservatism of the Redskins offense shone through a few times, but overall it was an outstanding effort and we learned a lot about what this team can do.
Right out of the gate the Redskins attacked, setting up the first score (see Duckett Watch, below), and came right back on defense with Marcus Washington nearly intercepting Drew Brees from like four feet away. Washington literally jumped five feet in the air. Sean Taylor did strip that ball from Reggie Bush and after the Signature Hit on Marques Colston, Saints receivers were a tad bit hesitant out in the secondary. Sean Taylor is a game-changer at safety.
New Orleans would not roll over, and Reggie got back at Sean by making him whiff. Both teams dialed back the offense and amped up the defense in the third quarter, I definitely got the feeling that both teams were trying to keep it close and hope for a mistake or a big play. That big play came in the fourth quarter. Despite each team scoring just a field goal in the 4th, it was one of the more exciting finishes in a while.
Throughout the day, the Redskins defense harrassed the NFL's number one offense, and kept Drew and Reggie Bush and Deuce McAllister in check. This defense is improving, playing more like they should, and dadgummit if Andre Carter isn't suddenly a pretty good player. Skin Patrol is wondering if he made a deal with the devil, but I think he realized 10 million doesn't go as far as it used to. Shawn Springs also probably played his best game of the year so far. And despite what the announcers were saying, that was not 'encouragement' Sean Payton was yelling at his offensive line, and later his defense.
Drew was over 100 yards under his passing average for the year. Reggie Bush's long play was a 15 yard pass catch and Deuce was held to 48 yards on 15 carries (3.2 average). Marques Colston was the big man for New Orleans, seeming to be always right over the first down marker, and he pulled in two crucial third downs and one fourth down. Of all the Saints players, he was the guy I was darkly envisioning catching one behind Carlos Rogers and taking it in.
Speaking of Carlos, looks like I owe someone some flan. Carlos juggled, then caught an underthrown pass intended for Devery Henderson. All in all an encouraging day for Carlos, with four tackles, an INT and the game-saving pass deflected in the end zone to seal the deal. Drew completed four consecutive passes on Carlos, but after the interception, didn't go at him again until the Saints' last play. A good game, positive growth and a confidence builder. Makes me feel a little better about the possible breakup of the defensive core signed in 2004. A little.
Offensively for the Redskins, Ladell Betts is just a hoss. The guy can do it. Four straight 100 yard games, and he's only 67 yards from his first career 1000 yard season. We have learned something about Ladell though, that he is a straight ahead, between the tackles type of runner. The sweeps and tosses, so valuable for tiring out defenses, are not his cup of tea. Send him up the middle, get those linebackers to commit and toss some play-action.
Since we're talking about passing, I countes 9 deep throws by Jason yesterday. Only one was complete, to Santana Moss for the touchdown, but I like what I see. Keep those defenses honest and the safeties playing back. They'll get in rhythm at some point and we'll see those starting to connect. Oh and Chris Cooley? A quarterback's best friend. Three times, Chris caught a pass of less than ten yards and turned it into a gain of more than ten. He is terrific in space.
As you may have read, even though the Saints lost, because the Panthers got pasted 37-3 by the Steelers, the Saints clinched the NFC South division title. They are still fighting for a home game and a bye, with Dallas tied with New Orleans at 9-5. Thanks to all the Cowboys fans who chimed in with words of support for the Redskins. Weird stat: this is only the third division title for the Saints in 40 years, with the other two being in 1991 (the Redskins won Super Bowl 26 but never had to play the Saints) and 2000, the Jeff George year here in Washington. By contrast, the Redskins have won the NFC East seven times since its creation in 1970. (15 times for the Cowboys, six times for the Eagles, six times for the Giants, twice for the Cardinals)
Tom Boswell warns that games like this are not a reliable gauge of team talent, but don't knock it.
Duckett Watch: 4 carries for 18 yards. Season now projecting to 34 carries for 135 yards. It makes me kind of sad to say it, but they guy has to go away. Right in the first drive of the game, Ladell comes out after two carries. TJ comes in and the drive suddenly looks like this: 1st down TJ for 2, 2nd down TJ fails to pick up a block forcing Jason Campbell to scramble short of the first down, 3rd down Jason fumbles the snap, 4th down delay of game, 4th down replay Shaun Suisham 37yd FG. Even the announcers were wondering why Ladell was standing on the sidelines.
B-Lloyd Blues: 2 catches for 30 yards, but the highlight of the game was Brandon Lloyd streaking down the left sideline in the second quarter, a full three steps ahead of Fred Thomas, wide open...and then losing the ball over his head, it falling harmlessly to the turf one yard to his left and behind. It would have been a sure 50 yard gain, if not a TD. Also, he's still not starting.
Being Mark Brunell: had a hand in one completion this week: he agreed to restructure his contract so the Redskins could sign Ladell to his longterm deal. So he gets no money for the rest of the season, and gets what he would have made weekly as a signing bonus for his 2007 contract which he will no doubt be asked to renogtiate again.
Arch Deluxe: once again does not appear in the defensive statistics for the game, and I never saw Adam Archuleta on the field. This piece however, at least mentions that he is still alive. Reed Doughty, the strong safety drafted this year to be Sean Taylor's backup, is being trained as a free safety, Adam's position.
There is a storm brewing over Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis.
Box. Full play by play.
Hogs Haven. The Redskin Report. Covering the Redskins. Redskins Fanhouse.
Carlos Rogers: Preston Keres / Washington Post