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Rookies, Receivers, Hamstrings and Chickens

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I’ve been trying to think of something constructive to add after Monday’s excursion into disaster. The outcome has been varied. Ultimately my thoughts came to rest on the receivers. Cooley had eight catches, which amazes me since I felt like he was invisible most of the game. Portis had seven. Randel El and Thomas had three catches each. Moss had two. None of our actual receivers got more than 25 yards in the game.

Campbell’s pocket was porous, no doubt. But he broke free and had quite a lot of rollouts. When the QB rolls out after the pocket collapses, it usually hearlads the big play. Instead of striking deep though, Campbell was constantly throwing underneath. Because I was watching on the boob tube I didn’t get views of the secondary, but I got the impression that Campbell was going underneath because his deeper receivers were blanketed. This wasn’t once or twice, or just on the rollout plays, but happened all night long without a letup.

It harkened me back to the beginning of last year, when our receiver corps contained a gimpy Moss, a gimpy El, James Thrash and a slew of other guys who weren’t on the team for training camp that year, and who aren’t on the team now. During this time, Campbell played with mediocrity, used Cooley more as a wheelchair than crutch, and continually finished out games forcing throws to the other team's secondary. When our receivers finally got healthy last year (which incidentally coincided with Campbell’s kneecap relocation and TC's masterful assertion that 10 years of benchtime does not necessarily make one rusty) we looked a lot like the ‘Skins did in the first half of this season (no INTs, excellent intermediate passing decisions opening up the balanced attack, O-line domination in the run game, winning etc...).

My constructive moment is one of Homeric hope, looks towards the future, and takes the form of Thomas and Kelly. Zorn got the shaft in terms of rookie performance on his picks. Thomas is too raw and needed the next year of big league college ball. From all reports Kelly has the skill and talent right now, he just doesn’t have a healthy knee. Both problems were noted before the draft, and the Skins went with them anyway. Some may say that this was stupid, shortsighted and ignored more glaring holes in the team, like the ever popular pass rushing end. I beg to differ.

Our D-line is playing very, very well. Lack of sacks be damned, the “mush rush” is working to hurry the QB and the lateral run D is stunning. Golston, Griffin and Montegomery are playing excellently. Demetric Evans shouldn’t worry about becoming a used car salesmen until a few years from now, and is proving that the second round pick for Taylor wasn’t necessary.

I’m happier with the thought of an improved passing game with physical, big, talented receivers than I am of another stud d-lineman coming into next year. Assuming there isn’t a huge dropoff in the D-line’s performance (which is unlikely since it’s a rare spot of youth, with Golston, Montey, Alexander, Wilson, Evans, Carter, and Jackson all under 30), the real holes next year will be at O-line, linebacker and corner (for depth and youth, not for lack of starting skill). Notice that receiver, isn’t likely to be on the list, and would have topped it in bold writing had Zorn not drafted like he did. Assuming that Kelly and Thomas continue to heal/mature respectively, we should be seeing more of TD’s and less field goals from our O in the years to come.

Back to present reality though, Moss better get healthy and stay that way. He is the cornerstone of the Redskins' passing game, and without him the team is bringing knives to gunfights when playing tougher defenses. El and Co. (oh wait, I mean El and Thrash) can hold up against the weaker teams, but when push comes to shove, Moss opens the field up for everyone, not just himself. Until the rookie receivers mature I’m going to sacrifice lots of chickens to the pagan gods of football. Anything to keep Moss’ legs healthy and let them heal speedily. Any playoff run is going to have to feature Moss heavily, and he's only as fast as his hamstrings are healthy.