*Bye-week blues? Missin' Shanny's screw-ups? My mid-season report card on the Skins is now out. Enjoy......
*For students in the DC area, the first quarter of the school year is over. For the 2010 Washington Redskins, the first half of the season is now complete. Here are their midseason grades:
No doubt, Mike Shanahan is both a control freak and an egomaniac who wore out his welcome in Denver and was paid a king’s ransom to resume his head coaching career in Washington. He gets a tremendous thrill teaching multi-millionaires like Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb who the boss is. But the Redskins are 4-4 and in the thick of the NFC playoff picture. With the possible exception of the New York Giants, the conference looks mediocre. Remember: this is essentially the same talent base that went 4-12 a season ago. Only two draft picks made the team and McNabb is a marginal upgrade over Jason Campbell. So despite the heat that Shanny is taking over his bone-headed removal of his starting quarterback with two minutes left and the game on the line Sunday in Detroit and his ever-changing explanations as to why he did it afterwards, it is minor in the huge scheme of things.
When the Redskins didn’t sign McNabb a month after acquiring him, I had a feeling his stay in your nation’s capital would be one and done. At 33, Redskins PR hailed him as their franchise quarterback. A leader who would recapture the glory and direct the team the next three to four seasons. It just won’t happen. McNabb is not the 70% passer that Shanahan covets. And despite connecting on a few long bombs, his performance has been sub-par. Like the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, McNabb knows his DC days are numbered.
The offensive line has not helped McNabb. He has been dropped (22 sacks) more than any other quarterback except Chicago’s Jay Cutler. An embarrassing seven times against the Lions on Sunday. Trent Williams is a remarkable rookie talent at left tackle when healthy. But the rest of the line has underachieved.
Ryan Torain had back-to-back hundred-yard + games before getting injured (hamstring) in Detroit.Keiland Williams, the back-up, is not an every-down tailback, so Clinton Portis better return to action soon. As much for his bone-crunching blocks to protect McNabb as for his running ability.
Anthony Armstrong has emerged as a potential star at wide receiver. Santana Moss is also having a solid season. Joey Galloway is a non-factor. His best days were in the Clinton administration. Tight end Chris Cooley is battling an array of injuries and has seen his production drop off.
No doubt, the defense yields a ton of yardage. And until a rusty Matthew Stafford torched them for four touchdowns and Calvin Johnson abused their secondary for three scores on Sunday in Detroit, their "bend-but-don’t break" philosophy has kept them in nearly every game. That is all you ask for in today’ s NFL where the rules and the penalty design favor the offense.
Defensive end Brian Orakpo is having an All-Pro second season. His sack numbers are down only because he is being held and/or dragged to the ground on every other play. He draws key penalities consistently, like in the Dallas opener. Albert Haynesworth has emerged from his luxury box slumber to show signs of dominance at nose tackle. He still doesn’t like the position, but realizes that his future is with the Redskins.
In Jim Haslett’s 3-4 defense, quality linebackers are crucial. London Fletcher is having another solid campaign. And Lorenzo Alexander has gone from special teams star to a capable outside linebacker. The rest of the unit has struggled.
DeAngelo Hall had his record-tying four interception afternoon vs. the Bears a few weeks back. He is more than capable against smaller receivers like Johnny Knox that day. He has struggled against bigger, more powerful wideouts like Miles Austin, Andre Johnson and the before-mentioned Calvin Johnson. Carlos Rogers has had a fine season covering the #2 receivers. The Redskins lead the league in takeaways and would have more if Rogers could pick off balls thrown right to him. LaRon Landry is the team’s defensive MVP at the halfway point. He is a physical specimen who is far better at the run than in pass coverage as strong safety. His jarring hits have been the highlight of this unit.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Mighty mite Brandon Banks has been a revelation as both a punt and kickoff return man. If a holding penalty on Sunday hadn’t wiped out a second kickoff return for touchdown, he would have had a history-making day. He was the bulk of the offense against the Lions. He gives the team consistently good field position. Placekicker Graham Gano’s stats looks decent but he misses too many clutch kicks. Punter Hunter Smith has proved to be a marginal upgrade since his return to the team.
OVERALL GRADE: B
This has been a tough week for Redskin fans. Twenty-three 4th quarter points allowed in a collapse in Michigan. Their new quarterback yanked for a backup who hadn’t played a down. Yet, the Skins are still very much in the playoff hunt. They have won some games they could have lost and lost some games they should have won. They are .500 team with .500 talent. In my preseason forecast, I had them going 7-9. They should be able to win at least three more games (home vs. MN, home vs. surprisingly-good Tampa Bay and at Jacksonville). They will struggle in both contests against the New York Giants, who appear to have found their stride. Next week’s game here with Philly and the week after at Tennessee are toss-ups. Best-case scenario: 9-7.
PIC’s PERSPECTIVE—I do not think Randy Moss would be a good fit in DC. Taskmaster Shanahan already has his plate full with the Haynesworth and McNabb situations. Moss is both a Hall-of-Fame long threat and a Hall-of-Fame headcase. He makes Terrell Owens look like Mother Teresa. Moss lasted less than a month in his second stint in Minnesota. They gave up a 3rd round pick to New England to give Brett Favre a viable target. He underperformed on the field and his post-game antics got him waived. The Skins’ coaching regime won’t tolerate questionable attitudes. And when you are more concerned about the buffet pre-game meal, that should send off "Buyer Beware" alarms in Landover……..Speaking of all-you-can-eat spreads, the Skins tried out former Oakland Raider quarterback JaMarcus Russell yesterday. Generally considered the biggest draft bust in history, Russell literally ate his way out of the Silver & Black and is trying to hook on with the Burgundy & Gold. After alleging that Dononvan McNabb didn’t have the cardio to run that two-minute drill in the Motor City, the Skins are contemplating signing one of the least fit players in the NFL. The anti-LaRon Landry. At least his drug charges were dropped a week ago…..Congrats to Nittany Lion tailback Evan Royster for shattering the all-time PSU rushing mark on Saturday vs. Michigan. I was in the stands as he torched the Wolverines for 150 yards in a wild 41-31 win and moved past College Football Hall-of-Famer Curt Warner. Royster is a local kid (Westfield HS in Chantilly, VA) who would be a youthful fit in the Skins’ backfield come April’s draft. Royster and the Nittany Lions come to Fed Ex Field on the 20th of this month to play Indiana. It could be Joe Paterno’s final road game ever. I came away equally impressed with Heisman candidate Denard Robinson, the speedy Michigan quarterback. He shredded the Nittany Lions for four touchdowns, and 190 yards both on the ground and in the air. He is a surprisingly-accurate passer. Robinson is way more talented than West Virginia’s Pat White, a high-draft pick who failed miserably with the Dolphins. I see him as a more talented version of ex-Skin Antwaan Randle-El. Robinson could revolutionize the wildcat for any NFL team……..Enjoy the bye! Heal up from Halloween and look for my Eagles preview sometime next week!