It is a simple multiple choice question: Do you see the loss to the Rams as a canary in the coal mine the Redskins are headed down a long path to a bad season kind of loss? Or do you see it as an acceptable part of the sausage making of a good football team? Because I thought I knew and now I do not.
In three games we went from hope inspiring win to productive loss to OMG THE REDSKINS ARE AWFUL! Two full days of coverage into this week's loss and some themes are emerging, let us review them and see if they really apply.
First, this was a tough loss, the Redskins gave up play after play and never put the game away defensively. If you go and look at the Gamebook (PDF) and check out the Rams ten longest plays from scrimmage, there were no knockout punches, just a steady stream of jabs that kept the chains moving, three of the top five of those gainers would have had different outcomes if Kareem Moore had not whiffed, if DeAngelo Hall had not fallen down and if DeAngelo had covered Mark Clayton's inside move, it strikes me that DeAngelo's boast last week of wanting to cover opponents' top receiver was ill advised.
Offensively there was no rhythm to go with some questionable personnel calls. With or without Anthony Armstrong is it time to see if Devin Thomas can play a little? This somehow reminds me of former Redskins receiver Desmond Howard's situation in Green Bay in 1996, while the guy was tearing up the kickoff return game there was no way Mike Holmgren would let Brett Favre throw it to Desmond on a dare, the guy just could not run a route. Whatever the case may be with Devin, the team could have used another viable option out there.
There are deeper questions that emerged this week.
Is Kory Lichtensteiger that much of an upgrade at left guard over Derrick Dockery? And I am asking because I cannot really tell the difference. It seems as though we should have worked through this in camp, the shuffling and the starting, the box score says Derrick played but I never saw him so it must have been Kory all the way. I understand if the team is trying to find the right combination or legitimately develop a rotation to give the most players game experience, unless there is something about Derrick or Kory that you are seeing and I am not then it seems like coach Shanahan is treating the left guard position like it is still preseason.
What happened at the tailback position? I thought Keiland Williams was the number two guy and Ryan Torain number three, I admit here that I thought Ryan was a better player in preseason, the team kept Keiland on the roster and stashed Ryan on the practice squad. Keiland now has no carries in three games while Ryan has seven in one, if Ryan is the better option for the team then why wait two games? Is Clinton Portis hurt or will he always fall down now to protect the ball?
Is the team too old to compete? We know the Redskins are the oldest team in the league, with both starting receivers over 30 and an offensive line with three starters over 30, unless you count Kory over Derrick in which case that means two. In the defensive front seven there are four regular contributors at 30 or over and two at 35 or over. Santana Moss is tearing it up, the offensive line is an upgrade from last season and the defense had no problem in the the first two games putting pressure on the quarterback. Honestly it does not seem to me that age is really the issue.
Is the defensive scheme wrong for the team? I will grant you that Andre Carter should not be in pass coverage, shame on any coordinator that puts him there, he should be rushing the passer on every play, beyond that is the 3-4 really such a bad option for this team? The Redskins are giving up more yards per game than any team in the league, yet held the Cowboys to one touchdown and were within a couple individual mistakes of beating the high flying Texans. There was little pressure Sunday on Sam Bradford but plenty on Matt Schaub the week before. Washington is not on track for a top ten defense, something the team has enjoyed consistently over most of the past decade. Are we still in the adjustment period or is the personnel all wrong?
Does Kyle Shanahan + Donovan McNabb = Andy Reid + Donovan McNabb? A good friend and Eagles fan told me not long after Dono's trade here that I was going to learn first hand why the Eagles ran the pass heavy offense they did for Dono's eleven seasons there, because having that arm and that mobility in and out of the pocket is like a drug, that with Donovan under center all offensive coordinators believe they can pass their way out of danger. In the Rams game after drawing to within one point at halftime the Redskins proceeded to run the ball only five times in the second half and the alleged second string tailback never got a carry. What about this famous Mike Shanahan commitment to the running game, is that gone now that Kyle is in charge? Is it a work in progress? Or does the demand to try and win each week mean the Redskins will run it a few times in the first half then start chucking it to try and catch up?
I have insisted from the beginning of this new era of team management that new real actual general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan were playing with house money this year, that the simple act of putting the team's future in the hands of accomplished football professionals entitled the team to a freebie year, whether that year was 3-13, 5-11 or 7-9, the idea that future years would pay off meant Redskins fans would suffer whatever this year brought. Was I wrong?
Ben Folsom is going to Philadelphia in a number five jersey next week and is edtor of The Curly R, a blog covering the Redskins and the NFL since 2006. The Folsom Point appears Tuesdays on Hogs Haven.