The Folsom Point: Progress versus Regress

I have words for Redskins fans:  Feel better.  Because other teams are headed in a different direction.

This only matters of course if you are concerned about injuries and lack of offensive production, the two headlines in the wake of the Redskins' third preseason game, a victory over the Jets at New Meadowlands to put Washington at 2-1 with a tuneup to go.

To be sure, both issues should be concerning to Redskins fans, the 2010 plan in Washington was to retool with veterans, plug holes and make a run, by the time the crop of short termers was overdone the team should have found young talent to anchor long term growth and then we will really have the team built by Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan.

If those veteran players, new or established on the team, get hurt and cannot contribute, it makes the Redskins look less remarkable and sets the whole timeline back.

As far as the offensive production part, remember this is an all new team with an all new head coach, an all new offense and all new terminology.  As much as we do not like, it will take some time for this team to jell, expectations should be appropriately low while hopes inappropriately high, from the lowliest part time fan to the exalted cognoscenti of football there is no one that thinks the Ashburn team in place cannot put a winning Redskins team on the field.  It is a question of when not if.

So with one preseason game to go before the games count, let us talk a little bit about how the Redskins are developing as a team in the context of a team on the other end of the lifecycle:  The Dallas Cowboys.

Saturday night the Cowboys played the Texans in Houston and the Cowboys were awful.  I mean really bad.  And disclaiming that preseason performance does not necessarily predict regular season record, the Cowboys seriously look like a team that is past its prime in its current configuration.  To wit:

Undrafted Texans tailback Arian Foster, 110 yards on the ground in three and a half quarters, not much defense going on there, Arian averaged 6.1 yards per carry against the Dallas starters.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, sacked twice plus a fumble.  Twice Dallas had the ball in the Houston red zone and both times the Cowboys coughed the ball up, once on that fumble which was a pitch to Tony's tailback and another on a Tony Romo interception, the botched pitch was later chalked up to Tony changing the play at the line and tailback Felix Jones not getting the change.

Dallas' starters managed a whole seven yards on the ground before being pulled in the third quarter and the Cowboys' starters managed a whopping 135 total yards, this against a Texans defense that gave up 409 yards to the Saints last week.  Take away a thirty yard pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin with sixteen seconds remaining in the half and Dallas managed just 66 yards in the first half, the traditional evaluation period for the third preseason game.

The Dallas starting offense has one touchdown drive in four preseason games, and that drive started at the San Diego eight yard line.  The Cowboys' only touchdown in Saturday's game was a drive led by backup Jon Kitna after the Texans' starters were pulled.

Does this mean the Cowboys will roll over on Sunday night in week one?  Hells no, it may not mean anything, the Cowboys have a veteran core with experience and the benefit of a system in place for its fourth season.

But watching Tony Romo bicker with Felix Jones on the sideline and see head coach Wade Phillips do the alligator shake after another penalty and watching Jerry Jones take another angry pull from an empty water bottle in the visiting owners box I am left with the feeling that the Cowboys are about to implode and be started over as soon as 2011.

The Redskins on the other hand are at the beginning of a new period in their long history.  If Washington can mount a winning season and challenge the established powers in 2010 then it will be all that much more enjoyable.  If not then we will have the joy of hope in every game and not the dread that Cowboys fans must feel after that game Saturday.

The new Redskins organization has proven winners with so far a measurable independence from ownership.  Mike Shanahan as your coach?  Come the fuck on, it's Mike freaking Shanahan!

Trent Williams at tackle, after being dominated by Terrell Suggs in preseason game two Trent made no headlines against Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor, being unremarkable against an otherwise respectable defense is a great start for a rookie.

Brian Orakpo at linebacker, he will get plenty of opportunities to play with his hand down as a de facto defensive end pass rusher in Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense, Brian looks bigger in 2010.

LaRon Landry, after two plus seasons at an unnatural position is moving back to strong safety where he can hit some guy.  These are three players the Redskins can build on.

Could the line be blocking better for any tailback not named Clinton Portis?  Yes, that is all about Clinton, he looks that much better so far this preseason.  As the line jells and that second tailback comes into focus that Mike Shanahan ground game is going to come into focus, it is my belief that any of the non Clintons will have a good 2010 as the second option simply based on repetitions and development of the line.

Could the passing game make a better hookup?  Yes, we know from experience that Donovan McNabb is used to working with less at receiver and if Rex Grossman has to go then it is grit guts and glory on the upside.

Hope they do well in 2010, do not be bummed if they stumble on the path, remember the Redskins are at the start of an upswing and their chief rival is about to hit rock bottom.

=====

Ben Folsom discovered Chincoteague this week and is the editor of The Curly R, a blog covering the Redskins and the NFL since 2006.  The Folsom Point appears Tuesdays on Hog Haven.

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