Monday, September 22, 2008

Redskins Report Card - Week 3 vs. Arizona Cardinals

Redskins 24, Cardinals 17

Offense: B-

I got some criticism on my B+ rating for the Skins' offense last week, so I spent this week's game really trying to be critical. I wanted to make sure I wasn't skewing my opinion based on the happiness I was feeling in seeing Washington win. So I made sure to take note of offensive miscues. Problem is, of course, that the Redskins had zero turnovers on Sunday. Jason Campbell had a play where he tripped over his lineman and he just bailed on the play instead of getting up and trying to make a play, but hell, that goes wrong half the time anyways, so I can't be mad about him playing it safe.

Well, that's not entirely true. In the second Joe Gibbs era in Washington, they played it too safe too often. So in that period, I would've been mad about Campbell playing it safe, because the whole offensive strategy was "play it safe." In the Jim Zorn offense, however, the play-calling has been aggressive and confident, so the occasional conservative play isn't a tragedy.

I've been assured by a former football player that this isn't the case, but Clinton Portis looked slow on Sunday. He averaged only 3.2 yards per carry, and didn't have a rush for 10 or more yards. He was able to punch in a touchdown from three yards out, but I'm starting to think more and more that the offensive line he was so quick to throw under the bus is the reason he's getting any yards at all. And more and more I'm thinking that Marcus Mason probably should've made the team. Still, the Skins picked up 11 first downs on the ground, so they're doing what they need to do to keep drives going.

The passing game was good, not great. The Skins still seem to be missing that wild card receiver who randomly gets 50-yard catches. Devin Thomas could be that guy if he can ever get his head on straight, but it's a shame that their first pick in the 2008 draft couldn't figure more into the offense than one seven-yard catch. Eventually people are going to realize that Santana Moss and Chris Cooley are the only receiving threats on this team, and they'll be in trouble, but until then, I say keep going to the well.

The best part of the game? The two kneel-downs at the end. I forgot how much I like seeing my favorite team kneel at the end of a game.

Defense: B

For the second time in two weeks, the Redskins defense has faced a prolific offense and held them just low enough to get the victory. The real key was keeping the Cardinals' passing game in check, which they did by holding Kurt Warner to 53% completions. They got an interception and a fumble recovery, and those two turnovers led to 10 points. The interception in particular was a huge momentum shift, giving the Skins the ball on Arizona's 15 yard line, and letting Moss score on a screen pass two plays later.

I'm still worried about Washington's rushing defense, though. The Skins gave up 5 yards a carry to Edgerrin James and rookie Tim Hightower, the second game out of three in which the opposition's running backs averaged 5 yards a carry. If they're to have any chance against Dallas next weekend, they'll have to tighten up that rushing defense. Otherwise, the thunder and lightning combination of Marion Barber and the explosive Felix Jones might allow Tony Romo to never throw a pass.

Special Teams: C

Shaun Suisham hit a 48-yard field goal, missed a 52-yarder. He also failed to force a touchback on any kickoffs, something of a disappointment after last week's fantastic kickoffs. The coverage teams, however, made up for it. The Cardinals started six different drives inside their own 20-yard line. Anytime you can force your opponent to drive 80+ yards, you're putting your defense in a good position to be successful.

The return game was unimpressive, specifically on punts, which has been an issue all season. They even tried Moss on a punt return to jump start the return game, though it ended up being a fair catch. At least they're trying something. When your offense isn't a powerhouse, and your defense has holes, you've got to make some plays in special teams, so I like that they're trying out some different personnel to see what they can do.

Overall: B

Am I terrified about the trip to Dallas next week? Yes, a little bit terrified. But at least my guys will be going in there 2-1 and with some confidence that they can beat this team. If they can handle themselves on the rushing defense, I think Romo is mistake-prone enough that the Skins can capitalize and make a game of it. If nothing else, it should be fun to watch.

Player of the Game: Jason Campbell, 22/30, 193 yards, 2 TDs, 0 turnovers

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