Sunday, September 27, 2009

Game 3: Redskins (1-1) at Lions (0-2)


Out of the box: From fans to players this town is hopping mad as the Redskins travel to Detroit to play the Lions, 1pm ET on FOX, one team has not won since 2007 and the other is getting a taste of what that feels like.


The story so far: The week began with the team dealing with the injury loss of right guard Randy Thomas, Randy tore his right triceps in the Rams game and was placed on injured reserve, this is the second time in three seasons Randy has ended the season on IR and will mark Randy's fourth surgery in three seasons.

Randy's loss left a temporary void at right guard, one that may only ever be partially filled, third year guard slash center and local product Will Montgomery and second year guard Chad Rinehart were pitted against one another for the spot (ibid.), ultimately head coach Jim Zorn opted for Chad as Will is also Casey Rabach's backup at center and if Will were to get injured at guard it also takes down the center position. Chad did not play a snap last season and the team was pretty down on him, all signs indicate he has improved, we are about to find out, as they say in show business, take your time, think it through, relax, DON'T FUCK IT UP!

The team also faced something of an existentialist dilemma this week as well, there are now eighteen games under Jim Zorn's belt and a body of data is beginning to emerge, and that data tells us the Redskins are not very good offensively. Defensively they continue to be great, they were great before coach Zorn got here and besides, coach Zorn is an offensive coach. The Redskins are the fourth worst scoring team over that eighteen game stretch, surpassed, or rather undercut only by St. Louis, Cincinnati and Cleveland.

And despite some really good looking statistics in last week's game against the Rams, Washington managed no touchdowns in four red zone possessions. Jim Zorn's ability to playcall an effective game is now officially in question (op. cit.). Sonny Jurgenson may be bordering on doddering at this point, when he is calling out the Redskins coach on live TV for poor playcalls you know they are chopping down the tree, if not already building the scaffold. The Washington Post's Jason Reid:

The perception of Zorn struggling with clock management is bad for Zorn, but not nearly as bad as mixing it up verbally with Jurgensen. I mean, shoot, this is such a big mistake for him on so many levels, where do I even start?

Jurgensen is a Hall of Fame quarterback who is known to share good cigars and refreshments with the guy who signs Zorn's paycheck, owner Daniel Snyder. A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Jurgensen was considered one of the best passers in his era. I know Zorn was a successful quarterbacks coach with the Seattle Seahawks, but the other guy in the conversation is Sonny Jurgensen.

The town has become a pressure cooker for Jim Zorn, so far he seems to be handling it personally, though professionally the team is showing signs of unraveling. Everyone is on the hot seat (op. cit.).

In comings and goings the team re signed tailback Anthony Aldridge (ibid.), a smaller quicker back in the mold of Darren Sproles, Anthony was with the team for training camp and was released in final cuts, he showed great speed and maneuverability, had a tendency to fumble, including one really bad on the Redskins first kickoff return of the final preseason game against the Jaguars.


Curly R aside: I am not sure there has ever been a distraction in my time as a Redskins fin like the one this week, not when Jack Kent Cooke died, not when the team went up for sale, not when Dan Snyder fired Norval Turner at 7-6 and in the playoff hunt in 2000. Fan reaction to the Redskins weak win against the Rams was awful, a rookie linebacker lashed out at the community over an internet platform that is new to the NFL, he got lambasted for it and apologized which did not stop it from becoming front page news in one of the world's largest newspapers. Players are everywhere pleading for fans to chill or outright rebelling as if simply because they deign to address us directly we somehow will come around to their viewpoint that our expectations are too high, and one even went so far as to blame it on the media (here via here), the very media that exists to exalt the team and its accomplishments.

But wait it gets worse. Reports were that players got pelted with stuff coming off the field after the Rams game and the same linebacker that Tweeted about Redskins fans being dimwits claimed he was spit on leaving the field which is something I have never heard of Redskins doing in all my life as a fan, Dan Steinberg is similarly skeptical. This sounds really really desperate and immature and made up to garner some sympathy.

Here is is a quick prescription for every player and team official huddling on how to deal, how to make the fans understand and give them some breathing room, how to avoid the pitchforks and mass hysteria: just win and it all goes away. You don't even have to win, except for this game today, you just have to put a respectable product on the field. JUST WIN.

Curly R aside continues: Could Jason Campbell's mind already be made up about leaving after this season? Two months ago I did not think so, now I am not so sure.


Oppo research: The Lions are 0-2 and 0-19 for the past two seasons. Prior to last season no team had ever lost all sixteen regular season NFL games. On of those losses last season was to the Redskins (op. cit.). The team fired Rod Marinelli and is once again in the process of moving on.

You know you are a bad team when your badness attracts the eye of the Wall Street Journal, no one you know will ever accuse the WSJ of having the broadest coverage of the NFL or sports in general. In a Wednesday piece the WSJ's Reed Albergotti notes the Lions have given up more points, 1033, than any team in any 34 game stretch since Lyndon Johnson was president, which incidentally was from 1963 to 1969. It is a pretty wonky piece overall looking back at the last time the Lions were good, in 2000, and dissecting how the team's personnel was never up to the scheme and how new coach Jim Schwartz is turning the roster over to favor his preferred basic 4-3 defense.

In the that's why they play the games department, receiver Calvin Johnson is still Detroit's only serious offensive threat, rookie Matthew Stafford looks weak compared to fellow rookie Mark Sanchez of the Jets.

It is worth noting that Jim Schwartz was Tennessee's defensive coordinator for defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth's entire NFL career up until this season (op. cit.). He may know a thing or two about gameplanning for Albert.


Trainer's table: Quarterback Jason Campbell sprained his left ankle in the second quarter of the Rams game, the midweek report was that it was mild and he is good to go. And the two players that missed that game, cornerback Fred Smoot with ribs and defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery with a knee, both practiced and looked ready to play (op. cit.). Reserve right tackle and former 400 pound man Mike Williams missed Thursday's practice (op. cit.), no other information about him was available.


Gameplan: I know it sounds contradictory to the pressure I and much of Washington have put the Redskins under this early in the season, but the players need to relax and move through their jobs, these guys are all professionals and have been playing football for years. Yes Jim Zorn is inexperienced as a head coach, this is where a veteran roster like Washington's comes into play, while the players need to execute coach Zorn's plan, they are eminently capable of doing it in a manner commensurate with their profressionalism. Time to get back to Jim Zorn basics and stay medium.

It might even be the right day to turn Santana Moss loose, it was in the road game versus Detroit last season that Santana had more than one hundred yards receiving, including a touchdown, and scored on his first punt return of the season. I am secretly harboring concerns that Santana is losing it, a solid game will assuage that fear.

No matter what is going on in the outside world, Jason Campbell and Jim Zorn need to stick together. Their fates are intertwined and once one deserts the other they are both sunk. Jim Zorn will just be another Redskins statistic.


My take in 60 words or less: Not everyone is calling this a must win game, I am. The next four games are against currently winless teams and the one after that is against an Eagles team with problems at quarterback. If there is any hope of making a go if it this season the Redskins need to make hay early.


Washington Post interactive Gameday, Redskins roster, keys to the game, key matchups; broadcast coverage, this game is blacked out in Detroit, be thankful the Washington market is not there... yet.

Other previews: Mark Newgent at Redskins Examiner does a great question and answer session with the Examiners' Lions blogger, at the end Mark predicts Redskins win 27-7 and Jason Campbell has a great game.

If the Redskins come home losers from this one they should expect to find an eviction notice on the front door in Ashburn.

This is a gameday open thread.

NFL helmets from here.