We watched our team yesterday lose to a team much better than ours. The Giants are every bit as good as advertised.
They're the best running team in the NFL, so we stopped the run with our ever-beastly defense. So, they beat us without their best WR through the air against our secondary, our team's best strength.
They took our running game completely out of the picture and made Jason Campbell beat them with his arm. Per usual, sadly, he was not able to do it.
But it is time to address a few key issues that are worrying me, as well as to to understand what this season has taught us in the grand scheme of things.
First of all, we continue to lack any depth at WR beyond Santana Moss. For the Redskins to win, we need a big game from the three following players in this order: Clinton Portis, Santana Moss, Chris Cooley. All need to preoccupy the defense so that they adjust to one and then we give the ball to the other. Campbell, Randle-El, Betts, etc fall into place in those situations.
But like the last five seasons or so since Moss and Portis have been around, this works at times during the year when both of them are healthy and largely unaccounted for by defense, or when they overwhelm weaker personnel.
We have no backup plan. The Giants doubled Moss in every passing situation, it seemed like. Antwaan Randle-El, I love him, but he is not a #2 receiver. He has no one fooled. Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly need more time, but seem to have some raw tools that could help us in the long run.
This is a personnel issue that has hurt us for a long time. It is now to the point that we have everything else on offense except a legitimate #2 receiver. Clinton Portis is at a level higher than every other RB in the NFL, save maybe Adrian Peterson. Our offensive line is playing better -- only a few sacks for the Giants when the game still mattered yesterday -- and Campbell is making big strides but never has quality throwing options.
Santana Moss is not Randy Moss. He needs to be open, or at least single-covered, to make plays because of his size. With the addition of a LEGITIMATE #2 receiver, we have the most dangerous offense the Redskins have seen since the Fun Bunch. Any armchair defensive co-ordinator can come up with a gameplan for the Redskins. Ready? 7 in the box at all times to at least slow Portis. Safety coverage shifts to Moss's side. Put the other safety on Cooley's side and have a LB match up with him. Single-cover everyone else.
Wes Welker helps Randy Moss, Amani Toomer/Hixon/etc help Burress (unless Burress goes to jail), Gary Clark helps Art Monk, etc. The model goes on forever. It is up to the coaches to decide whether or not Thomas and Kelly can actually perform to the level they *need* to in order to make this team a great team. If not, we have to make a move. Draft Darrius Heyward-Bey in this draft if need be! (Disclaimer: I am a Maryland student, went to high school with DHB, and am a blatant homer.) But seriously, a legit #2 would change things around here fast. Campbell's development would jump by bounds.
So that's the first thing. That would cure our main problem -- scoring points. Our defense is awesome, guys. As much as we could use Julius Peppers or Dwight Freeney or Justin Tuck on the DL, they get the job done for the most part. Jon Jansen is ready to be replaced by Stephon Heyer on the offensive line, but I think that will be remedied by the start of next season.
But let's take a look at the situation here.
The Redskins sit at 7-5, 3rd in the division. This time last year, we were thinking the playoffs were out of reach. Sean Taylor had died, our team was reeling, and we had little reason to believe. We finished the season in the playoffs at 9-7.
Joe Gibbs retires, we have to replace Sean Taylor with a rookie, our WR rookies have given us nothing, we have a rookie HC who gives every impression he has no clue what he's doing after the first game... and we're 7-5. We will beat Cincinnati and San Francisco, most likely, and it is not at all a stretch to think we can beat Baltimore and Philadelphia. 9-7 worst-case scenario here?
For any rookie head coach, that is quite a start. Especially considering we get the Giants and Cowboys twice a year, not to mention getting Pittsburgh and Arizona and New Orleans this year.
Clinton Portis is having the season of his career and Moss and Cooley are entrenched at the top of their positions. Our defense is getting better every year. We gained DeAngelo Hall and are not old enough as a group to be alarmed about slowing down. This is a team a few years away from legitimate greatness.
Imagine if we grab a legitimate #2 or Thomas/Kelly provide the skills that we need to advance as an offense. We've got it all. Another few years in the same system on both sides of the ball and the Redskins are a top team in the NFL, as we were earlier this season.
So for all of the haters saying that we're underacheiving or are hopeless, I remind you of the tumultuous offseason and midseason last year. I also remind you to never sleep on the Redskins in December. Last year, we were 6-7. We went 9-7. In 2005, we were 5-6 and then went 10-6. Every time, Clinton Portis took his game to another level.
If we go 10-6 and miss the playoffs, you can't ask much more from a rookie coach. Hell, guys, we could go 11-5. Our record is better than everyone else's that we're playing except the Ravens', who have beaten no one with a .500 record except the Eagles. There's no chance this team goes 7-9 or 8-8. I guarantee a winning record.
And if you think about it, we haven't had this good of a record by this point in the season in nearly a decade, have we? Never under Gibbs...
So don't despair. Believe me, it could get way worse. Don't sleep on the Redskins, not this year, not ever. We lost to 3 of the best teams in the NFL, who we all happened to play nearly consecutively. Let's hope we take our strongest game into Baltimore and turn this thing around!