1. Against the backdrop of our upcoming two-week stretch, I have been trying to come up with what my expectations are for this team. The fact is that back in August, this Buffalo/San Francisco bump in the schedule seemed a lot friendlier. Today, we all recognize how much more challenging it will be just to somehow get one win out of these two games. I look at the injuries we have, the fact we have already switched to John Beck, and the awakening of our fellow NFC East teams, and what once looked like real playoff possibilities seem much less...real. That does not mean we can't set expectations for this team that will--at the very least--allow us to root for some things that will make a meaningful difference for this franchise. From the beginning of the preseason and even up through recent weeks, Mike Shanahan has worked hard to establish what may be our most important core competency: competency. Sure, we have committed unforced errors. Sure, we have hurt ourselves with a bad call here and there. But by and large this team has the looks of a group that is both learning and retaining fundamental principles that previous versions of this team failed to keep a firm grasp on. At 3-3, it is not time to head for the hills or throw in the towel, but for me, the most important thing I will be watching from here on out is the steady buildup of competency up and down the roster.
2. As the third quarter of the Baltimore/Jacksonville game came to a close, I thought, "The Ravens are losing to the Jaguars the way we lose to teams like the Jaguars." As I considered the plight of the purple-camouflage wearing fans to the north, it occurred to me that the Ravens have zero excuse to be so bad on offense. Where they are old, they are strong (on defense). Where they are young and stacked, they are--at least currently--inept. Ravens fans have had the opportunity to watch some pretty good football in their stadium in recent years, yet watching that game brought back all the memories of Baltimore teams that played good enough defense to HANDILY win games, only to be thwarted by an insanely horrendous offensive effort. We can say that we expected to beat Carolina, and that doing so was an early quiz on our playoff readiness. For Baltimore, they had NO excuse to lose to Jacksonville, and by doing so, they raise questions that set them back considerably. What is my point? I think it is that Baltimore losing to Jacksonville is a way bigger deal than Washington losing to Carolina. It is a reminder that at this point in the season, teams can't be defined by their records. It provides a glimmer of hope that our team can be the mediocre squad that jumps up and bites the bigger dog...perhaps in the next two weeks.
3. Hank the Tank time? I think as much as that would make me happy, I would really like to see it be the beginning of the Roy Helu era. I like the idea of Ryan Torain softening the defense a little early in the game with some pounding inside runs, and then unleashing Helu for at least 20-25 carries from the second quarter through the end of the game.
4. I do not buy at all that Mike Shanahan's seat is even slightly warm. Coming out of the lockout, there is no way Dan Snyder or Bruce Allen could have thought that this team was constructed to compete for the division, much less a Super Bowl. There is no way that Mike Shanahan's future with this team was going to hinge on the success of Rex Grossman and John Beck. I simply don't think that is in any way plausible. If Shanahan even had the slightest thought that his job was going to come down to quarterback play this year, he would have made a move for a veteran. Instead, I think he has operated extremely comfortably since July. They brought in a truckload of rookies. They signed a few middle-tier free agents who have proven a willingness to work hard and play where they are asked to play. This team is so obviously in the middle of rebuilding that you can't convince me Mike Shanahan's job is even close to being on the line this year. Sorry Jason Reid...we disagree again.
5. Holy Injured Reserve, Batman. One name I do not expect to see on IR this season: Santana Moss. If he has any chance to come back and play this season, he will. This is not necessarily breaking news, as he has said as much over the last week or so. You see franchises shut down their top players all the time, especially once the postseason becomes a bit of a longshot. Santana doesn't have a ton of years left. He lives to play the game, and he will play as soon as he is able to. He isn't saving himself for next year, and I don't think the Redskins are going to keep him off the field.
6. Only when asked directly did I suggest that I would have taken a mid- to high-round draft pick for Chris Cooley in the offseason. I do/did not think we should be actively trying to trade him, but if we were able to add a starting-caliber rookie offensive or defensive lineman in the draft in exchange for Cooley, I would have done it. That said, I like shutting him down this year to get him healthy for a big 2012 campaign--for the Redskins. Cooley was never going to be 100% this season. The nature of his injury required extended recovery time and 2012 was always a target date for him to be back to full health. If he is fully healed for 2012, I think we could go all Gronkowski/Hernandez on teams.
8. Did I read that right...the Redskins lead the league in sacks? The rubber meets the road this week, as Buffalo is the stingiest team in the league when it comes to giving up sacks. I like our chances, especially since we seem to rush anywhere from nine to ten guys on certain plays.
9. You know a quarterback that is capable of making you pay for one-on-one coverage? Ryan Fitzpatrick. I've said it before and I'll say it again: all Ryan Fitzpatrick does is unload buckets of man-goo all over opposing defenses. Should I stop saying that?
10. I'm currently planning to travel to Seattle for the Redskins game there at the end of November. Who's with me?