Greetings Redskins fans. Blitzburgh here, an old friend of Skin Patrol's. I'll be posting a few things over the course of this week and perhaps next while SP tends to some affairs. To the game:
* Was it pretty? Absolutely not. But winning is all that matters in this league, and through Week 7, the Redskins sit at 5-2 and in plenty good shape in both the NFC East, and the NFC as a whole if they were to need a Wild Card berth to secure a playoff berth. EVERY team is flawed this year, even the better teams. What happens to the Titans when they aren't able to churn out yards on the ground? Can Kerry Collins stretch the field? What happens to Pittsburgh when Ben Roethlisberger gets pummeled time and time again, like what happened in Philadelphia when he was sacked 8 times and hurried another 10-15 times? New England, San Diego and Indianpolis have both clearly regressed substantially, and even the New York Giants, who are sitting pretty at 5-1, got exposed in their secondary two weeks ago against a Cleveland team that has had absolutely no success throwing the ball this year.
Point is, forget about style points. This 2008 Washington Redskins team is deep enough and talented enough on defense to keep themselves in just about every game. And when you have a QB who limits mistakes, a RB who's having an MVP type season, a gadget artist in Antwaan Randle El, a sure handed TE who occupies LBs and Safetys in the seam, and one of the league's bona fide deep threats in Santana Moss, you have to feel good about the team's chances to make enough plays on offense. Now, as we all know, the Skins have come out on the right side of the stick in close games this year. Can they keep it up? Probably not -quite- at the same successful rate, but as I mentioned, the defense most certainly is going to do its part keeping the team in just about every game.
* Clinton Portis is good at football. Real good. Even though the Skins failed to finish drives Sunday, Portis still amassed 175 yards on 27 carries. A quick word on the volume of carries though. Porter's 162 rushes through 7 games leave him on pace to finish the season with exactly 370 carries. Forget that mythical curse for now though. I bring that up more to marvel at how amazingly productive he's been despite being fed the rock so often. 5 yards per carry! Amazing really, and even if he slows down some in the second half, he definitely has a 1,500 yard season in his sights if he stays healthy. And that's probably the extreme low end of how his season might finish up. Anyway, as fun as it's been to watch Portis excel now that he's basically 100% healthy, the team might be well served diverting just a few carries away from him as the season goes on. In today's violent league, it's just hard to sustain that kind of physical toll for 16 games + playoffs.
* Question for you guys who have been watching Campbell more religiously than me: is his insistence on protecting the ball and avoiding INTs hampering him just a smidge? In other words, is he being too cautious with the ball? I'll leave that for you guys to answer in the comments section, because like I said, I've seen the Skins only 4 times this year, and one of those was in Week 1 when they really bore no resemblence to the team that's taking the field now. Certinaly when the team is in its own territory, protecting the ball is the #1 priority. But there's other times when it's worth taking some shots down the field. The Skins don't exactly have big tall WRs who can go after the ball at its peak, but you can throw to Cooley in small windows knowing he'll go battle for the ball. Anyway, at some point, teams have to fear the passing game more, even if it means that the meaningless streak of games without an INT comes to an end. Or maybe I'm just crazy. Tell me a bit more about his play, if you would.
* Oh one other question. Are y'all feeling less gloomy about the Rams loss from a week ago now? Yeah I know, the Skins had that game in the bag and blew it with costly fumbles, but the Rams followed it up with an even more resounding and impressive win this past Sunday against the UNRAVELING Cowboys. This Skins team, for all the strides it has made since 2006, is still not good enough to handle business against inferior opponents with 100% consistency. In fact, don't be surprised if they drop another head scratching game at some point this year. It won't be the end of the world when it happens. It's just that hard to win in this league.
* Kudos to the Skins secondary for absolutely stymying the Browns passing game. Just one week after torching the Giants for 300+ yards, Derek Anderson struggled mightily against Washington's physical and very talented and cohesive secondary. Anderson finished just 14-37 for 136 yards. That YPA of roughly 3.5 is beyond pathetic. Props to a banged up Carlos Rogers for holding down the fort in Shawn Springs's absence, and I'd be remiss if some praise wasn't heaped on the DLine for batting down 5 passes at the line of scrimmage, in addition to their usually sound job against the run.
* What the fu*& is this? Get a load of this:
"We might have underestimated the Redskins," Braylon Edwards said. "The defense played tremendous, and we've got to give them help. I was a little frustrated early in the game, and it messed me up."
Can somebody please explain to me how a 2 win Browns team can underestimate ANYBODY? My Lord. I hope Romeo Crennel has himself a real estate agent, because there's no way he's still got a job along Lake Erie next year.
* For as amazing as Portis has been, he needs to resolve the fumbling issues. When a rookie or young dude fumbles, team's often will make him carry the ball around the team facility, and if he's stripped, he'll have to shell out some scratch. When you're Clinton Ports, arguably the team's most popular cat in the locker room, fraternal and uncreative games like that don't fly. So I don't know what he can do to work on it, but I'm not sure there's much. He's running hard and seeking out contact, which allows him to get those tough extra 2-3 yards rather than being stood up or driven backwards, which usually is what happens with less agressive contact seeking RBs like Reggie Bush, Willie Parker, etc. Kinda like injurys, the Skins just need some good fortune and hope that the problem disappears, or that the ball luckily squirts into their possession.
* I must say, even though Jason Campbell has played really solid football this year, does he really seem like a QB worthy of a 96+ rating? I only mention that to highlight the error inherent in the formula for QB rating. Too much emphasis is put on completion % and INTs, and not enough on YPA. As I digress.
* The special teams really need to be shored up if this team is going to continue winning close games. Missed FGs (not to mention butt ugly kicks that were good, but just barely), mediocre punting, and unexplosive return games all make the 2008 Special Teams a liability for the Skins. By Football Outsider's metrics, the Skins were the 29th worst in the league through Week 6. Something tells me the performance against Cleveland won't have them ascending the ranks when the new updates are rolled out tomorrow. Particularly awful is the punting game apparently, which FO measures to be the worst in the league. The punt returning hasn't been very special either. As a Steelers fan, I became all too aware of Randle El's over hyped ability as a punt returner as he got older. He's just not that scary anymore. HOWEVER, he does do a really good job not muffing punts. His hands and sense of space is as good as anyone's. Still, it might be time to give some other guys a try. Certainly in 2009 in my opinion.
* That's all for now. More later on this week's upcoming road game at Detroit. I think we should have learned by now not to pencil in Ws against anyone in this league, particularly on the road. But, sheesh, we're talking about the Lions here. Huge opportunity to head into a Week 9 home showdown with Pittsburgh sitting at 6-2. That game will be a battle, and the Skins will likely turn in one of their most physical and gutty performances of the year, with the much needed BYE Week right around the corner.
There are no favorites in this league this year. Only a select number of teams that do one or two things really well. One of those teams is Washington. They defend the pass and run the ball exceptionally well, and this year, that may just be enough to keep them in the thick of things all year long and into January.