Thursday, November 19, 2009

Analyze the Enemy: Washington Redskins

In the preseason publications back in August, most people thought the Washington Redskins would likely finish 4th in the always difficult NFC East. But, I am not sure anyone thought that this much chaos would be waiting ahead for them in 2009.

It has been one of those disheartening years that has tested the resolve of even the most hard-core Redskins loyalist.

They sit at 3-6, presently, and are coming off the best win of their season when they beat a Denver team that is in the middle of its own slump by getting plays from unfamiliar names like Hunter Smith and Todd Yoder.

On the road this year, the Redskins are 0-4, with losses against a few good teams like the Giants and Falcons, but also they distinguished themselves as the team that helped break the Detroit Lions 19-game losing streak (the 2nd longest losing streak in the history of the NFL) at Ford Field back in Late September. A loss all the more humiliating because so many people were picking the Lions to win that Friday across the league - which of course means it wasn't that much of an upset.

Much of the blame of this version of the Redskins seems to head directly to its current head coach, Jim Zorn, who was hired amidst confusion, and has appeared to be a "Dead Man Walking" for weeks. The Redskins want him gone, but know that firing him now would be costly and wouldn't solve a thing. So, they humiliated him (Sherman Lewis) and hoped he would resign. He knew that this meant leaving the paychecks behind, so he has refused to do that, but rather hang in there and demand that he gets every cent owed to him.

But, to get a complete appreciation for the mess this franchise has been in the last decade (although it should be noted: Playoff wins in last decade - Redskins 2, Cowboys 0) goes back to May 1999, when Daniel Snyder purchased the Washington Redskins for a record $800 million dollars from the Jack Kent Cooke estate. It was during that wave of owners who were just "regular guys" who wanted to own sports teams (Mark Cuban). Snyder, like many of his colleagues, knows how to make money in ventures, and made the Redskins extremely profitable. But, like many of his colleagues, is learning that success on an athletic field in no way resembles what it takes to find success in a chain of restaurants.

He fired Norv Turner (long overdue), and tried Terry Robiskie to finish out the season, then to Marty Schottenheimer for 1 year, Steve Spurrier for 2, talked Joe Gibbs into another try for 4, and now to Jim Zorn.

At QB during that run, the Redskins have gone with Brad Johnson, Tony Banks, Patrick Ramsey, Mark Brunell, and now the Jason Campbell era continues to plod along.

Snyder may not be universally recognized as the owner who dabbles too much as our own Jerry Jones or Al Davis, but don't tell that to Redskins fans who wonder why J.C.C. couldn't live forever.

The National Football Post Has the following players as "Blue" when season started ...

Washington —

BLUE CHIP: RB, Portis; CB, C. Rogers; DT, Haynesworth; S, Landry.
ALMOST BLUE: TE, Cooley; WR, S. Moss; CB, Horton.

Cooley will not play with a broken ankle. Portis will not play with a concussion. Horton has been placed on Injured Reserve. So, the Redskins don't want to hear about Marc Colombo.

Although it doesn't make for great print, the real issue with the Redskins from my perspective remains an offensive line that doesn't allow the Skins to accomplish just a whole lot. On opening day, from LT to RT, the Redskins starter Chris Samuels, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Randy Thomas, and Stephon Heyer. A pretty solid group that only felt questionable about RT. Since then, because of various injuries and performance issues, the line has been able to count on Dockery and Rabach, but beyond that, they have changed out every other spot on the line. Pro Football has a breakdown of who has played when if you want to see more, but they have lost Samuels for the year and perhaps his career, and everything started caving in around that.

Beyond the mess in the offensive line, and the hiring of Sherman Lewis to take the play-calling away from Jim Zorn, it is difficult to assess what the Redskins have been doing offensively all season - because it may not matter before the bye week.

In looking at them since the bye week, and realizing that their top 2 go-to guys have been hurt (Portis and Cooley), I will tell you that it is what we have come to expect from the Jason Campbell offense - a series of power runs, WR/TE screens, and quick passes that are high percentage throws barely past the line of scrimmage. They still have a host of WRs who all have varied amounts of ability, but they have never been a team to sit back and let routes develop in the last several years.

This offense is about misdirection, fake-end arounds, and power lead plays. To their credit, as the game wore on against the Broncos, the offensive line, as patched together as it is, was able to tire the Broncos out and end up taking the game (with a little help from Chris Simms).

But overall, this offense has not been able to score. Zorn is under fire, Campbell is not on solid ground, and the 140 points puts them at 15th in the NFC scoring, ahead of only the hapless Rams.

The defense is filled with many talented pieces which at times can be dominating. At other times they all look confused at eachother as Brandon Marshall runs untouched into the endzone. Greg Blache has tried to figure out how to deploy his troops properly, but the influx of talent can not be undersold. Albert Haynesworth is playing exceptional, and this is making Andre Carter look like a man possessed at times, with Brian Orakpo, every bit the player they thought they were getting in the first half of round 1.

I am not crazy about Orakpo being assigned to cover men downfield, but when they basically allow him to put his hand down and get after the QB, he has been relentless in the tape I have seen. I am very pleased with his progress and his 7 sacks have already put him in the mix for Defensive Rookie of the Year Awards. Orakpo on one end, Carter on the other, and Haynesworth in the middle have helped make the Redskins pass rush a factor for the first time in years.

Of the 16 teams in the NFC, only the Cowboys (169) have allowed fewer points than the Redskins (171). They don't give up many points, in fact only 3 teams have broken 20, and the Falcons scoring 31 2 weeks ago is the only truly poor defensive performance.

Additional Reading:

Gosselin on Orakpo :

He made his starting debut in the season opener against the New York Giants but was nearly invisible, with two tackles and no sacks in a 23-17 loss.

But Orakpo was credited with two pressures in his second game against the St. Louis Rams – and has been a force in the pass rush for the Redskins ever since. He picked up his first NFL sack in the third game of the season against Detroit and has collected seven sacks over his last seven games. He also has been credited with 10 pressures.

Only weakside end Andre Carter has more sacks (eight) on the Redskins – and only Carter and Philadelphia's Trent Cole have more sacks than Orakpo in the NFC East. Only Denver's Elvis Dumervil and Pittsburgh Pro Bowler James Harrison have more sacks than Orakpo at linebacker.

Sunday will be one of the rare days in his young career that Orakpo will be more experienced than the player he's facing. With Marc Colombo gone for the season with a broken leg, Doug Free figures to draw his first NFL start at right tackle for the Cowboys.

The pass rush will be the key for the Redskins. The Packers last week and the Broncos in October threw Tony Romo around for five sacks apiece in upsetting the Cowboys. The Redskins drafted Orakpo to throw quarterbacks around. It will be Free's job this weekend to prevent that.

No Portis for this week and maybe no Haynesworth:

Clinton Portis is again “very doubtful” for the Washington Redskins as he continues to recover from a concussion.

Coach Jim Zorn said Wednesday that the running back is still experiencing blurry vision resulting from a helmet-to-helmet hit 10 days earlier at Atlanta. doctor for more tests.

Zorn says Portis needs to be symptom-free for 24 hours, then get medical clearance and go through a practice before playing. That timetable leaves little chance that Portis will play Sunday against Dallas.

Ladell Betts rushed for 114 yards subbing for Portis in a 31-17 win over Denver.

Zorn also said defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will be a “weekend decision” with a sprained ankle.

Riggins versus the Snyder regime has really rocked the Redskins world this season.

Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache broke his self-imposed silence today with a passionate defense of team owner Daniel Snyder.

Hall of Famer John Riggins had excoriated the embattled Snyder on Wednesday, calling him a "bad guy" whose "heart is dark."

Blache, who had ceased his weekly sessions with reporters earlier this season, made unexpected remarks in which he said negative talk of Snyder's character is off-base.

"We've had criticisms from people outside the building saying who Dan Snyder is and who is isn't," Blache said. "They don't know Dan Snyder and that's the problem. Trust me because he and I, we work together. I'm not going to tell you that this is a utopia.

"There are no utopias in football, and there are no utopias in life. At the same time, enough is enough. Every story, there is one person's side, another person's side, and then behind it all there is a third side and it's the truth."

Snyder has been under fire from several NFL analysts for his handling of the 2-5 Redskins. But Riggins, who lost his daily Washington radio job when Snyder bought the station he worked at, crossed from professional criticisms to personal.

Blache said he took exception to such comments from Riggins.

"In the six years, I've never seen John Riggins here," Blache said. "... never seen him in the building. So, to hear such a vicious criticism of somebody I consider not just my employer, but a good friend, bothered me."

You can get lost for hours on Riggins' Youtube Page

Here is one of my favorites from a few weeks back -

One Player's Account of the team :

I talked recently to a veteran NFL player, a man who in double-digit years in the NFL has played for dreadful teams and in the Super Bowl. He's watched the Redskins here and there this season and has a good idea of what's going on day in, day out. He thinks a great many of the players are simply dispirited. He doesn't think that they've quit or dislike their coach or any of the grandiose overstated junk that people outside the locker room might lazily come up with.

He reminded me that playing pro football, win or lose, is a career. And no matter what players tell the media or even themselves, it's difficult to come to any workplace when things are awful. Reputations and the size of paychecks can't change that. You can try as hard as you can, harder than you even thought you could, and lose. Then you feel worse the next day, and the next week and as long as the losing continues until teams don't even resemble what they were when the season started.

Haynesworth vs Gurode 2 :

A topic in Dallas today was center Andre Gurode facing Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth for the first time since Haynesworth stomped on Gurode's face in 2006.

Gurode needed 30 stiches and was bothered by headaches and blurred vision. Haynesworth was suspended five games.

The players spoke about the incident today (quotes from the Associated Press story).

Gurode: "That situation is behind us. It's something that happened years ago. He doesn't focus on it. I don't focus on it. We just moved forward and continue to play football."

Haynesworth, who was the Dallas conference call choice: ""If I could go back in time, I wouldn't do that. Now it was a step in my life, a crossroads. I had to choose what I was going to do. Either go down and let that define me or step up and rewrite history."

Gurode: ""It's good that he moved passed it. I moved passed it. He is a great player."

The two players have talked at the Pro Bowl since the incident. Haynesworth has never shied away from discussing The Stomp, including the day he was introduced by the Redskins.


Dallas Apartment Finder said...

I'm sorry to say this, Bob, but I think I liked this site a lot more when it wasn't all football all the time. I know that you're in your element here, but before you moved to D Mag, there were occasional Mavs and Stars stories on here.

Jesse said...

I am inclined to agree with the previous commenter. Your Mavs and Stars analysis is well-missed. But, if covering these angles would affect the quality of your football presentation, then I'd urge you to not diverge your attention. Simply the best, most comprehensive Cowboys breakdowns around. Once the Cowboys are done, then I think it's okay if you pick up in the middle of the Stars and Mavs' seasons.

Phil K. said...

Just answer me this one simple non-american-football question:

Should Ireland and France replay their game?

Muffin Dad said...

I'm sorry to say this, Bob, but DON'T STOP WRITING ABOUT FOOTBALL HERE. Tell the hockey and b-ball pussy's to suck it!

We want your undivided attention on football - this is a must read site and has improved 100% since you left the morons at D Mag.

@Phil K - NO they should not replay that game, that is how football works. Henry said "..yes I handled the ball.. but I'm not the referee"