If we want to repeat last year's sweep of the Cowgirls, we'll need to make some changes from last week's frustrating loss to the Vikings. Here are a few of my quick thoughts on what needs to be done. Let me know what I got right or wrong in the comments section:
Offense -- I thought our play calling was ok against the Vikings. We saw some good screen looks that were productive, and I'm a big fan of the screen; especially to Santana Moss. If the ball is in his hands in open field, it's just a matter of time before he breaks past someone for deep yardage. My main complaint was the lack of a downfield threat, which makes us too easy to defend against. We had one long completion to Moss, who caught it after returning from out of bounds. Chris Cooley needs to be involved more in our offense as well, because 2 receptions for -3 yards will not cut it against Dallas. Cooley, if you remember, torched the Cowgirls for 3 touchdowns in our last meeting.
An area where I felt could've changed the Vikings game significantly was our inability to hang 7 points on them in their territory. For reasons that are completely beyond me, an offense that marched quickly up the field became helpless as soon as they smelled the endzone. We looked ready for the blitz all night with short dip passes except when they matter most; on big blitzes in the redzone. When that happened, we settled for 3 as opposed to 7 and it cost us the game.
Defense -- Our cornerbacks have got to step up. Travis Taylor and Troy Williamson are not Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn. The Vikings game could've been a lot worse had Williamson been able to actually catch the ball. There's some very scary receiver/corner matchups that do not favor the Redskins. Glenn/Owens against Rumph = touchdown. As reader TexSkins pointed out, we'll need to utilize other players on defense to neutralize these matchups.
With that being the case, our front four must get closer to Drew Bledsoe than they did Brad Johnson. We cannot win this game if Bledsoe is given time to pass to T.O., Jason Witten, and Terry Glenn. That said, this is actually the part of our defense I am most confident in. Last year Daniels had 4 sacks by himself (and a fumble recovery, and a tipped pass that led to an interception...). If he, or anyone else on the line can repeat that preformance, then we can reliably disrupt Bledsoe's passing and neutralize our secondary mismatches.
Special Teams -- Like thousands of Redskins fans, I was excited to see Randle-El's debut as our punt return guy. He looked scary good though much credit should go to the two huge blocks he received.
That's about the only place our special teams looked special.
John Hall's range problems were obvious to a national audience when he whiffed a game winning 48 yarder. While that range is no gimme, this isn't his first missed field goal from range; he's 13-28 on field goals over 50 yards. In 2004 he was 33% in the 40-49 range (though did considerably better in 2005). If you can't make long kicks than you can't attempt 50+ yarders, which is exactly what's happened to the Redskins. Though he's been injured and has missed most of the past two years, he only has 2 attempts (both missed) of 50+ since 2003. We're lacking an essential element in our kicking game. Waiting for an "adjustment"? There is none, Hall has been injured for the past 2 years and last night's game offered no indication that his range is coming back.
Our coverage units were miserable though could get worse with the loss of Pierson Prioleau for the rest of the season. Still, I think special teams coverage is an entirely fixable and coachable problem. The real concern is Derrick Frost who has been inconsistent. Sometimes he's an excellent kicker, like when he nailed the Vikings to the 2 yard line last night. Or he was kicking 32 yards out of bounds shanks. Or he was kicking line drives that were too returnable.
There's almost a chicken-egg dilemna; are we giving up return yards because Frost's punts lack loft or our coverage guys just blowing it? Either way, the coverage unit is bad and needs an immediate fix. Dallas is a good enough team to beat us if we give up the field position battle on special teams. 0-1 teams can afford few mistakes on the road against division rivals.
Please post your thoughts below.