Sunday, October 5, 2008

Game Preview

Gameday Update

WAS used a lot of pre-snaps tricks to fool Tony Romo last week. That stuff worked very well because Romo gets rid of the ball so quickly. The Redskins shifted into different coverages right at the snap, making the pre-snap look useless. Donovan McNabb and the Eagles passing game will be a different challenge. We really like to throw deeper routes. McNabb holds the ball to let his guys get down the field. Shifting into different looks shouldn't be as effective against us.

We do need McNabb to make good reads. He's got to identify where the LBs and DBs are. WAS won't make that easy.

The Redskins like to run to the left. Cole and Bunk are going to need to be stout. Portis loves to look for cutback lanes. The LBs need to flow to the ball, but stay under control and maintain gap integrity.

Turnovers will be huge. WAS has only one turnover all year. If we can get the ball away from them, it will help our offense and erode some of their confidence. Scoring a defensive TD...too much to ask for?

It's official. Westy will play. Getting him back is huge. Buck is a good backup RB, but he isn't a backup playmaker. #36 just adds something special to the offense.


WAS 3-1
PHI 2-2

"But I'll tell you something, kiddo. You couldn't find Big Time if you had a road map. "

The Eagles don't lack talent. They lack that certain something that turns talent into wins. This team could easily be 4-0. Instead they have blown a couple of games and sit at 2-2. The good thing about football is that teams change over the course of a season. The Giants did it last year. The Colts did it in 2006. The team just needs to find that groove where the players start making winning plays and we look..."Big Time". Sunday would be a great place to start.

This is a huge game for the first weekend in October. The Redskins are a surprising 3-1. A win here keeps them near the top of the division and gives the team even more confidence. The Eagles sit at 2-2. A loss puts us at 1-3 in the NFC and 0-2 in the division...bad places to be. It isn't a "must win" game because there is too much season left, but this sure as heck isn't just another October game. The Eagles need this one like the US needed Midway in '42. Quick, somebody call Joe Rochefort.

Washington is coming off a huge win in Dallas. How will they respond to success? We're coming off a tough loss at Chicago? How will we respond to adversity? This game is going to be interesting from that kind of a perspective, as well as the obvious NFC East battle.

I'll be highly surprised if the Redskins can go on the road in back to back division games and play at a really high level. That's tough for a team in transition to do. The Eagles certainly can't count on that. They need to come out ready to roll on Sunday. They need to score TDs early and get a lead. Make WAS try to come from behind. Don't let them play with a sense of confidence. Put the pressure on them.

We made just enough mistakes to lose last week. Can't have that happen this week.


Top Players

QB Jason Campbell - Zorn and Campbell have really hit it off this year. Campbell ran the West Coast offense in college and is now back in that system. I'd say it suits him well. His quarterback rating is over 100. He has yet to throw an interception and his team is 3-1. This young man is playing good football. A couple of things stood out to me as I watched him. First, Campbell is "running the offense." You'll see him drop back and read his progressions. He's not just looking at his first option. Campbell is trying to find the best option. Some quarterbacks when young or in a new system just drop back and force the ball to the primary target. That isn't happening with him.

I'm also impressed at how Campbell is using his legs. He is running more than in the past. He is also buying time in the pocket. He had a couple of plays on Sunday where he extended the play by eluding pressure and giving his receivers extra time to get open. Campbell isn't running because he can't pass. He is running when he needs to. That makes him a dual threat quarterback. He can throw the ball effectively and efficiently, but also make plays with his legs.

RB Clinton Portis - Portis looks really good this year. They are feeding him the ball and he's producing. Portis already has 369 yards on the ground. His average per carry is up from last year.

TE Chris Cooley - He's having a solid season. Has 17 catches, but no TDs so far. Always kills us on 3rd downs. Has a knack for catching the ball short of the sticks and fighting for exactly the yardage needed.

WR Santana Moss - Moss is off to a great start. He already has 27 catches and three touchdowns. Last year, he finished the season with 61 catches and three touchdowns. He looks quick and fast. He's moving the chains and giving WAS big plays.

WR Antwaan Randle-El - More of a possession receiver this year. Only averaging 10.5 per catch, but already has 18 grabs. Still has good RAC ability.

DE Andre Carter - The Redskins best pass rusher. Off to a slow start this year. Only has one sack so far. Only has 4 solo tackles.

MLB London Fletcher - He's the leading tackler and on-field leader as well. Has good speed. Has excellent range and is effective in coverage. London has 2 TFLs and a FF on the year. #59 is around the ball all game long. He's getting up there in age, but it hasn't shown on the field. Watching him chug Geritol instead of Gatorade is sorta weird.

FS LaRon Landry - Fast and talented. Good young centerfielder. Plays deep a lot of the time. Hasn't picked off a pass yet this year, but has broken up 4. Good hitter and tackler.

SS Chris Horton - Late round rookie is playing well. NFC Rookie of the month. Leads the Skins with 3 INTs. Blitzed well in the preseason, but has been playing off the ball during the regular season from what I've seen. WAS isn't afraid to use him creatively. Had a really impressive pick vs Romo last week while executing a tricky scheme.


Jim Zorn brought the west coast offense to DC. The Skins are 9th in yards, but only 18th in points. Let me describe a team for you: big, mobile QB...speedy WR...possession WR...good TE...workhorse RB...solid OL. That is the Redskins and the Steelers. They don't do things the same way, but I think the two groups are much alike in terms of size and player descriptions. While Zorn uses the WCO, he is 50/50 run and pass.

The passing game isn't standard WCO right now. They are feeding the ball to the starting WRs and the TE. That's about it. James Thrash is the #3 WR. He's got 3 catches. RBs have a total of 11 catches.

Washington likes to run wide, but not outside. They'll use a toss play, but don't go all the way out. Portis is most dangerous as a downhill runner. The Redskins have tailored the running plays to fit what he does well. Running wide gives Portis a chance to build up a head of steam while also reading blocks and looking for a running lane.

The Skins do use non-RBs as they did last year. 3 different WRs have carries already.

The biggest difference from last year's offense is that they use very little motion. Al Saunders liked to move guys around and try to fool the defense. Zorn only does a bit of that. He prefers his guys set so they can concentrate on proper execution. The players all say they prefer the current system.

* OL *

LT - C. Samuels ... LG - P. Kendall ... C - C. Rabach ... RG - R. Thomas ... RT - J. Jansen

No new faces. Rabach had a really tough game last week. He had a couple of crucial penalties that took a TD off the board. Jansen was the backup a couple of weeks ago, but Stephon Heyer is hurting. Jon started last week and is expected to play this week. Campbell has been sacked 7 times... sorta average. The run blocking is good.


They run a 4-3. Gregg Williams is gone, but Greg Blache appears to be doing many of the same things. Washington likes to rush with their DL and have the back 7 cover and limit big plays. The system is not working great so far. Part of the problem is that Jason Taylor isn't healthy and Andre Carter is off to a slow start. They have only 2 sacks combined. The team only has 6.

They are 14th in the league in yards allowed and 12th in points allowed. Washington does seem to make timely plays on defense. They have five interceptions. In the Dallas game, they just had a knack for doing what needed to be done on a particular play. The Redskins just came up big when they needed to. That was also true in the win over the Saints. Washington stopped them on a third-and-one run play late in the game. The Saints had moved the ball all game long, but not getting that one yard changed things entirely. Moss caught a long touchdown pass on the next offensive play and the Saints never recovered.

CB Shawn Springs is iffy to play. CB Carlos Rogers is finally starting to play like the Skins expected him to when they used a top ten pick on him. SmootSmack will start in place of Springs if he can't go.


The P is Durant Brooks. He's not having a strong year. The PK is Shaun Suisham. His numbers are solid.

Rock Cartwright is the KOR and a good one. Randle-El is the PR. His numbers aren't great, but we've seen him enough to know he can break a big one.

Kickoff coverage has been excellent. Punt coverage is solid, although they have given up one long return.


The Eagles love to throw the ball deep and attack. Against Dallas the Skins kept their Safeties deep and forced the Cowboys to throw underneath and play small ball. I would tend to think they will use that strategy against us as well.

I've heard from my sources that Westy will play. That adds a major weapon back to the attack. Without him the offense doesn't have the same kind of versatility. We threw the ball deep pretty well vs CHI, but had trouble throwing short and creating nice gains. Buck had a long screen, but other guys were tackled quickly after catching the ball. Didn't get much RAC yardage. Westy gives us a player who can catch the short pass and make something happen.

Because the Skins don't blitz a ton this is the game to use 4 WR sets a lot. Spread them out. Run the ball with Buck or Westy. Throw quick passes and give the guys a chance to get RAC yards. Dallas had a lot of success with crossing routes in the 2nd half of last week's game.

We will move the ball. Scoring TDs will be the key. I think our OL will control their DL...for the most part. Demetric Evans played pretty good last week in place of Taylor, but McNabb should have time to throw the ball.

I mentioned earlier that WAS reminds me of the Steelers. I hope Jim Johnson feels the same way and attacks the Skins like we did the Steelers. That was the best our defense has looked in a long time. Turn the guys loose and let them play.

The Skins will try to run. I think they'll be our toughest challenge yet. Portis is healthy and playing well. They will stick with the run. We can't count on shutting them down early and Zorn going pass happy. They will stay balanced. That said, the only top ten run defense they played was the Giants, a game that WAS lost.

Moss is the kind of player that makes you nervous all game long. Our CBs match up with him pretty well, but he is a big time playmaker right now. Cooley will be a challenge on 3rd downs. Hopefully we can get Gaither on him in most of those situations.

WAS would be smart to go max protect and attack our Safeties with downfield passes. They should test Mikell and Dawk. The key for us is getting them into known passing situations and attacking Campbell. Play-action passes are probably their best weapon against us.


* We have the #1 run D in the NFL. We lead the league in sacks.

* We have only allowed 15 punt return yards all year. Rocca has the best leg I've seen since Lilly Von Schtupp.

* WAS is doing a great job of protecting the ball...0 INTs and only 1 fumble.

* Interestingly, Campbell led the NFL in fumbles last year.

* We're 2-0 at home after struggling at The Linc last year.

* We've forced 9 turnovers the last 3 weeks. That does need to continue.

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