Well, the doomsayers are out. The suicidal Redskins fans are lining up like lemmings behind one another to jump off the proverbial cliff and declare this season lost and done. What they don't see is the fact that this team is already better than last year's, and that if we can avoid total collapse by letting this negativity continue, we can have a competitive season, even if it doesn't mean playoffs.
Many of us, including ourselves, believed that this team would go 8-8, with some ups and downs. Given that we are 3-3, and have really only lost 1 game that everyone early on thought we would win (the Panthers), and we won a game that early on many thought we would lose (Giants), the team is basically where we expected them to be.
So we're 3-3, we've got a new QB, half our offensive line is out for the time being, our starting RB is done for the season, our veteran all-pro TE is also done for the season, and we've lost our best WR for several weeks. What now?
Let's evaluate some things...
1) The passing attack can still be successful. Jabar Gaffney is not quite the playmaker that Santana Moss has been in the past, but Moss and Gaffney have had relatively similar seasons. With Gaffney still there, we have at least one reliable possession receiver that has really only made a few mistakes this season. This will also force the coaching staff to utilize other receivers. Donte Stallworth may have some veteran tricks up his sleeve that he can bring to the table. Also, Niles Paul showed up against the Panthers and made a couple of plays. Leonard Hankerson, buried down in the depth chart due to a poor preseason and early issues with drops, may finally get a chance to show us something. Not to mention, Anthony Armstrong is finally healthy. While Cooley is out, Fred Davis has stepped up and Logan Paulsen's blocking skills assist in the running game. Also, I was one of those who felt we went to John Beck waaay too quickly, but Beck's play in the 2nd half of the Panthers game shut me up. I think that Beck has the ability to quarterback this team into at least a competitive status. It wasn't his fault the defense decided to lay an egg. Speaking of the defense...
2) The defense has yet to have one full "bad" game. The 1st half against the Eagles, the 2nd half against the Panthers...that's about as bad as it has been for this defense...but they only go bad in stretches of quarters, not games. This means that the problems with the defense can be fixed. It's not for lack of talent, but maybe a need to change up some schemes or place players in different places in specific situations. The fact that the defense has yet to have a whole and complete "bad game" gives me hope that they can fix their issues.
3) We knew we that we were going to be thin in many positions. Let's not act like this is news to us as Redskins fans. In fact, some of the backups played well against the Panthers. Sean Locklear looked capable on Sunday, as did Erik Cook (who only had a few bad plays). When Hightower went out, we fell behind and went to the pass, anyway. However, we still have Ryan Torain and Roy Helu. Evan Royster may get called up from the PS, as well. This will no doubt please many fans who wanted to see him on the gameday roster. We have 2 capable running backs and, should Royster get the call up, a potentially strong back up as a 3rd running back. With London Fletcher out, we may finally get to see if Perry Riley has matured or if Keyaron Fox can look as good in regular season as he did in the preseason.
4) The absolute last thing we can do as a team or as a fanbase is hit the panic button. Except for Rex Grossman, nobody made any public statements about winning divisions or even making the playoffs. You're 3-3, and not out of it. Will it be a rough road? Most likely. Can we still hit 8-8? Certainly. We are definitely good enough to beat Miami, Dallas, Seattle, and Minnesota. That gets us to 7 wins...and all we have to do is beat either Buffalo, San Francisco, the Jets, New England, the Giants, or Philadelphia. I'd like to think that we could jump up and beat one or two of those teams. That gets us to 8-8, maybe even 9-7 (at worst, 7-9), and given the fact we are in year 2 of a rebuilding process that Mike Shanahan himself said would take 5 years, and we have faced a rash of injuries to key players in the past 2 weeks, I'd say that's still a fairly good season to build upon for next year.
5) One last thing about "next year". John Beck had a reasonably decent performance against a fairly good pass defense in Carolina. If he shows up like this, I'd keep Beck as your starter into next season, and allow the new QB to learn while we have at least a serviceable starter who knows the system managing the team along while Andrew Luck/Landry Jones/RGIII/Nick Foles/Ryan Tannehill learns the offense. I've never been a fan of throwing a rookie QB in until at least halfway through their first season (if not waiting until their 2nd season), so Beck appears to be good enough to get us to a respectable finish this year and at least be a reasonable option to start next season until we get our future franchise QB's feet wet and good to go.
6) Yes, I know, I was anti Beck Kool Aid last week, but the guy showed me enough poise and moxie, along with ability, that I am willing to stick with him for the last 10 games of the season, and may even 16 of the next season. His 2nd half last week was mostly strong, save for a couple of mistakes that I am willing to forgive now (though not in 3 or 4 weeks if he is still making them). We could do worse... *coughHeathShulerJeffGeorgeSageRosenfels*cough*DannyWuerffelTimHasselbeck*cough*.
Whoo, that was one heck of a cough, there. Must be something going around out here in Virginia. :)
So step away from the ledge, folks...we expected a bumpy ride and some growing pains. Let's just grit our teeth, bear the pain, and try to remain positive because all is NOT lost just yet. Yes, each time the Redskins play awful, I will suffer a mini-heart attack, but I know this is all part of the rebuilding process. Patience, my friends...and maybe a couple of Xanax and a jug of moonshine. We will move forward, and we will get better.