Sunday, October 26, 2008

Game 8: Redskins (5-2) at Lions (0-6)


Out of the box: the two game home stand is over and the Redskins are traveling to play the worst team in the league, a game with real playoff implications, a 1pm ET kickoff at the Silverdome. Another opportunity for the Redskins to stay on track or let go another.


The story so far: a team that lives on the edge, and is it not nice for a change to have the Redskins come out on top in close games rather than on the losing end? Going into the midpoint of the schedule the Redskins have built a 5-2 record with no game decided by more than nine points and no win by more than seven. The Redskins are playing very well, this is a veteran team with excellent game planning and an infusion of good young talent playing well in a bunch of areas. It is a running team that is incorporating Jim Zorn's west coast offense around a framework of power running and ground containment defense with excellent individual performances in the defensive secondary.

The offensive line rocks. The bad news is that Stephon Heyer, the right tackle promoted to starter at the beginning of the season and then hurt his shoulder against the Saints, has been demoted, Jon Jansen is back at RT full time. The good news is that Jon Jansen is run blocking like a mad man and doing enough in the passing game to allow Jason Campbell to keep his wits, still no interceptions or fumbles. And even though they have a complicated relationship, Clinton Portis and his offensive line are on the same page.

Cornerback Shawn Springs started the season blanketing receivers and now that he is out for the second week in a row, Redskins fans did not even notice Shawn's absence, Carlos Rogers has become the cornerback Redskins fans hoped for (ibid.) when the team drafted him as the number nine overall in 2005. In retrospect Carlos was not even close to ready to be the number one cover corner in 2006 when Shawn Springs had abdominal surgery, 2007 was a learning experience for him with the knee injury, Carlos is more attentive to detail and spends a great deal more time watching film. The future is bright for Carlos and the Redskins at this position, Shawn will be gone next year.

The Redskins are 1-1 in band two, still playing defense here, 3-1 is the solid perform.


Curly R aside: Jason La Canfora continues to develop into a great football columnist, his latest piece is an in depth diagram of Rock Cartwright's second quarter punt return stop of the Browns' Josh Cribbs. Jason is taking the granularity of knowledge he has accumulated as a beat writer and is sharpening his focus to illustrate larger points about the team. I look forward to the full transition of Jason LaCa to columnist.

Curly R aside continues: the new legend of Jim Zorn continues, this week with the Lions game on the calendar it is the look back at Jim Zorn taking the play calling duties with just a few hours notice in 2000 under head coach Bobby Ross when offensive coordinator Sylvester Croom fell ill. The story, that coach Zorn calmly took Sylvester's plays and rearranged them to suit his tastes, foreshadows coach Zorn walking into the Redskins and using what he had, ie a solid running game, to suit his philosophy. Jim Zorn is quickly becoming beloved in a city where there have been few beloved coaches in the past 30 years.


Oppo research: if the Rams were bad two weeks ago, the Lions are two weeks more bad so there is your parable of the team you look past. Detroit has fired its general manager, put its healthy enough to play quarterback on injured reserve and traded its number one receiver, their only real weapon is second year receiver Calvin Johnson. They are winless, punchless, directionless, aimless and humorless. The Rams were this bad and the Redskins lost.

More numbers: the Lions are really bad, defensive edition: last in yards per game defense, 30th in points per game, 31st in rushing yards per game, 31st in passing yards per game.

Really bad offensive edition: 27th in yards per game offense, 28th in points per game, 30th in rushing yards, 22nd in passing yards per game.

The Redskins are 13-2 overall against the Lions, the two losses were both in Detroit. Bottom line, the Redskins need to see the warning signs of overconfidence and stay vigilant.


Trainer's table: in the second quarter of last week's game against the Browns Jason Campbell slipped on a snap and tweaked his groin, it should not be a problem, just another one of the many little things in the life of an NFL player that sometimes add up.

Of real concern is Shawn Springs and Jason Taylor, Shawn is out with the calf injury again and Jason has to have another surgery on his compartment syndrome injury. Shawn has appeared in half the Redskins' games this season, perhaps the team wants to see him playing in the second half of the season and perhaps he is more hurt than they are letting on. Good thing Carlos Rogers has become a top drawer cornerback in this league (yeah!).

Jason Taylor missed two games with that injury and has been mostly missing from the last two games, his stitches leaked blood in the Browns game (op. cit.) and he needs to have another procedure next week to drain accumulated blood. It is never good to have to open up a previous surgery and this will be another setback for Jason Taylor.

Also of concern is defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin. He hurt his shoulder last week and is in a lot of pain (ibid.), looks like coach Zorn will sit Cornelius in favor of Anthony Montgomery.

And down near unconcerned is rookie receiver Malcolm Kelly, his knees are just not cooperating, he is not progressing in the offense and it looks like the team may have put Malcolm on injured reserve after the bye (op. cit.). Bordering on a wasted pick, that one.


Gameplan: attack and defend, the numbers tell us the Redskins should win this game easily. Do not step on the rake and crack your balls.


My take in 60 words or less: expect this will not be a blowout no matter how bad the Lions appear to be. The Redskins are in full playoff mode, they are going to gameplan exactly for each team and only enough to win. Jim Zorn will continue to play it conservative with Clinton Portis and ride that pony until someone stops it. If the team is hot to start expect key reserves to get some time.


Washington Post / AP preview, Redskins Gameday (PDF), keys to the game, the Zorn Zone Watch. Redskins injury report, projected starters, roster; Lions injury report, projected starters, roster. Broadcast coverage, note for Detroit area Redskins fans, this game is blacked out because Lions fans are losing hope.

Other previews:

Outside big screen football on neighbor's back deck, there is lots to love about fall. Thanks to Mrs. Curly R for the kitchen pass. Enjoy the Redskins and every other game.

This is a gameday open thread.

NFL helmets from here.