The Washington Redskins come staggering into the Meadowlands off a 52-7 Patriot beatdown last week, a result that can be more attributed to the Pats dominance than Washington’s incompetence. The Skins have steadily been showing improvement in this, the fourth season since the much-heralded return of Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs.
As you might expect with any Gibbs-led team, the focus has been on building a solid running game and playing great defense. Washington is halfway there under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (ranked 12th overall), while it’s taken longer for offensive coordinator Al Saunders and his 700-page playbook to get the 28th-ranked offense on track.
Can you say low-scoring defensive struggle this week?
Cheerleader check: Hail to the Redskins!
Record: 4-3, currently third in the NFC East.
Barometer: Steady, as despite last week’s loss, Joe Gibbs has a fairly strong defense and a ball-control offense that keeps most games close.
Questions: How will Washington respond after last week’s loss? Will Jason Campbell exploit the Jets pass defense like other young quarterbacks have been able to do? How many Washington running backs will break the 100-yard mark? Will the Redskin pass defense give new starter Kellen Clemens a tough time? Which Jet is next to be wearing a Washington uniform?
Key injuries: Cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee) is out for the season.
Old friends: The “Jetskins” continue to grow. In addition to recent and well-documented addition of Pete Kendall, Washington is also home to former Jets Randy Thomas, Jason Fabini and Santana Moss.
What to expect from the Redskin offense: Despite having offensive guru Saunders at the helm, third-year quarterback Jason Campbell has struggled while settling into the starting role, although he has a great arm and has displayed an ability to throw well downfield. Due to injuries (stalwart Jon Jansen is out for the season and Thomas has recently missed games also) the line has struggled; running backs Clinton Portis (3.8 yards/carry) and Ladell Betts (2.9 yards/carry) haven’t had many holes or any room to run, which they hope will change this week as they look to exploit the much-maligned Jets run defense. When Campbell goes to the air, he looks to wideouts Moss and Antwaan Randle El for the deep ball (12.4 and 17.9 yards per catch respectively), and often favors H-back Chris Cooley down by goal line, who has caught 5 of Campbell’s 6 TD passes. Primarily a ball-control offense, Portis is also a threat to catch passes coming out of the backfield.
Jersey watch (offense): #47 (Cooley) seems to make the big plays when needed, especially around the goal line.
What to expect from the Redskin defense: Last week’s “effort” notwithstanding, the Redskins 4-3 defense has been playing better this season under Williams, holding teams to only 91 yards rushing a game. The unit gets a solid pass from its front four: Ends Phillip Daniels (2 sacks, 3 forced fumbles) and Andre Carter (5 sacks) and tackles Cornelious Griffin (2 sacks) and Anthony Montgomery. London Fletcher leads the team in tackles as well as a very good linebacker corps that also includes Rocky McIntosh (2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles) and Marcus Washington (3 sacks, 1 forced fumble). Even missing Rogers, the secondary is an above-average group with corners Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot, plus rookie safety LaRon Landry, who has played well with the hard-hitting and playmaking Sean Taylor (5 interceptions). Expect a lot of disguised coverages and blitzes to confuse new Jets starter Kellen Clemens.
Jersey watch (defense): The Jets better keep their heads on a swivel for #21 (Taylor) or they may be looking around the turf for missing teeth and other body parts.
What to expect from the Redskin special teams, especially since they don’t have Mike Westhoff: Kicker Shaun Suisham doesn’t get a lot of opportunities but is 7 for 10 on field goals, while punter Derrick Frost has been okay, averaging 41.5 (37.6 net). Kick returner Rock Cartwright has been dinged up, but has been averaging 29.1 yards a return. Punt returner El, although only currently averaging 6.8 yards, is always a threat to break a big play.
What to expect from the broadcast booth: You may not have heard, but Pete Kendall was traded from the Jets to Washington on the eve of the season.
What’s being said in the Redskin blogosphere:
- Hogs Haven reacts to Adam Schein’s midterm grade of a C+.
- AOL Fanhouse has Behind Jets Lines: Five Questions with An Enemy Blogger, featuring John Butchko of Costanza’s Jets Commentary.
- The Curly R looks at the impact of the Carlos Rogers injury.
- Riggo’s Rag gauges the Rogers fallout, including replacement John Eubanks.
- Running Redskins is still trying to cope with the loss to the Patriots.
- The Fun Bunch has this week’s Redskins cheerleader of the week (Caution, some bikini-type pics).
- Washington Post‘s “Redskins Insider” features a trip down memory lane with beat writer Jason La Canfora and the Jerry Glanville-Sam Wyche running-up-the-score feud.
The pressure is on: The Redskin line to move the ball on the ground against the Jets suspect run defense and to protect Campbell when necessary from the even weaker Jets pass rush.
Bottom line: With the ineptitude of offenses running about equal, it comes down to defense and we all know that the Redskins defense is dramatically superior to the Jets.
Washington Redskin Quick Ranks:
Overall offense – 28th (293.0 yards/game)
Passing – 25th (188.0 yards/game)
Rushing – 18th (105.0 yards/game)
Scoring – 22nd (18.4 points/game)
Overall defense – 12th (306.7 yards/game)
Passing – 17th (215.9 yards/game)
Rushing – 9th (90.9 yards/game)
Scoring – 16th (20.0 points/game)
13 giveaways (6 interceptions, 7 fumbles)
12 takaways (8 interceptions, 4 fumbles)