Monday, October 16, 2006


That's the Redskins record today, after a humiliating and confounding loss to the previously winless-rookie-quarterbacked, visiting, Titans yesterday.

So, what happened yesterday? Is the team this bad? If so, why? Given their lackluster performance in Dallas in week 2, and being blown out in Giants stadium last week, yesterday's lost would appear to constitute a pattern.

Here are some reasons why the team is struggling:

1) Their defense isn't very good. Even last year, the front four didn't often put sufficient pressure on the QB. The Redskins were dependent on blitzes to get sacks or hurry the QB. But in previous years, they at least stopped the run. They didn't do that yesterday, and it will be a very long season if they can't figure out how to in future weeks [it should be noted, however, that the team's two top run-stuffers, Joe Salave'a and Cornelius Griffin were on the bench with injuries yesterday]. The strength of the defense has been its linebacking core, but even they were mostly AWOL yesterday. Adam Archuleta has been underwhelming; Carlos Rogers in the secondary doesn't play the ball. Rogers and Taylor do bring a lot of speed to the unit, but the Titans thwarted that strength by running straight up the middle.

2) Mark Brunell doesn't, or can't, throw the ball down the field. Brunell still has a gun of an arm, but it appears the staff doesn't think he can throw the ball down the field accurately on a consistent basis. I don't know how many swing passes and lateral screens Brunell threw yesterday. But after a while, when that's about all you have in your reportoire, the other team's defense is going to get after it. In a way, I can partially understand the staff's frequent use of the quick passes. They have speedy guys at wide receiver in Moss and Randal-el, who are generally good at getting yards after the catch. And it may also be a way to avoid offensive holding penalties and sacks. But if that is the case, than the highly-touted offensive line may be worse than we think. If the team's defense was really lights-out good, as it was at times last year, Brunell would be worth keeping behind center, as someone who can "manage the game well". But as it is, the offense needs more variety, the kind delivered by more frequent passing down field. The kind that the kid, Jason Campbell was drafted in the first round to perform. At a certain point, and I'm not saying that point is now, but at a certain point, say, 2-7, the team needs to give the kid some reps and see what it has. And besides, the team has too much talent on offense, purchased at great cost, for its entire game plan to consist of swing passes. Arizona and Tennessee (and now Tampa, too) have already thrown their first year guys in. The Giants went with Eli Manning early on and paid the initial cost, but it is paying off now, in Eli's (third, fourth?) season. The Redskins, once it's completely clear this season's lost, need to hand the ball to Campbell. This will be difficult because Gibbs likes veterans. Let's hope he either turns the season around or helps the Redskins prepare for the future.

3) Clinton Portis needs more up-the-middle carries. Yes, it is well-recognized Portis got only 14 carries yesterday. But what's worse is where those carries were. Several were around the tackles, instead of in between them (the touchdown run, right up the middle, in the first quarter being an exception). Portis is more of a between-the-tackles kind of back, not primarily a speed guy best used to run to the outside. Coach Gibbs--give Portis the ball more often and run him right up the gut. What's odd is the broadcasting team yesterday remarked before the game that the Redskins thought they had an advantage in their o-line and thought they could use it to run Portis right up the middle. Without Albert Haynesworth, suspended by the NFL for five games for kicking an opponent in the face, the Titans d-line should have been ripe for the picking the Redskins are best able to exploit. But for whatever reason, they failed to do it yesterday. Here's hoping they give Portis a shot to exploit the Colts' suspect D next week. And running the ball more often and well, will of course, help an ailing defense get better.