Monday, December 22, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 16 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Redskins 10, Eagles 3

If you'd have told me the Washington Redskins could score 10 points and win a divisional game, I'd have called you a liar. Well, maybe not. It's professional football, and as the saying goes, anything can happen on "any given Sunday." But still, it's very surprising to see how things turned out.

Offense: C-

You can't score 10 points and have me give you a high rating on offense, win or no win. Jason Campbell had only 144 yards passing, and his completion percentage was only a tick over 50%. Clinton Portis averaged 3.2 yards per carry, and Ladell Betts averaged 3.3. The Redskins punted 8 times, and averaged a paltry 4.3 yards per play. Their sole touchdown came as a result of a turnover.

And in the last ten minutes of the game, when Washington was up by only 7 points, they got three possessions, averaged 1:24 per drive, and went 3-and-out on each of them. Those are the game-closing opportunities that good teams take advantage of to either score again to put the game out of reach, or drain the clock. The Redskins did neither, and it almost cost them the game.

In the vein of proposing completely ambiguous and unjustified concepts, it seems like Campbell is hesitant to throw deep balls. I'm not going to sit here and say that "I saw plenty of guys get open downfield," because the reality is that most guys aren't open most of the time. But some guys are more open than others, and when a guy is 40 yards downfield and is sort of open, the risk/reward suggests that's a pass you should take rather than a swing pass to a covered Portis or Betts. Deep passes open up everything; they open up the short and intermediate passing games, and give running backs much more room to work with. Additionally, Santana Moss and Devin Thomas are both long pass threats who aren't being used properly if they're not being targeted deep.

Defense: A

Before the last play of the game, the defense was sitting at around a B+, and had they given up a game-tying touchdown, would've likely dropped down to a B. But that play was just fantastic. Fred Smoot made a good play on the receiver, and LaRon Landry did exactly what you drafted LaRon Landry to do: lay hits and stop guys. Watching the play live went something like this:

anxiety - quick, deep breath - holding breath - grimace - tentative clap - intent stare at review - big fist pump

That's what watching football is all about.

Other than the final drive, the Redskins defense was stalwart. They forced six 3-and-outs, and allowed more than 15 yards on only two drives all game. Most exciting, however, was the fact that Jason Taylor actually started to produce, making two sacks, including one that forced a fumble by Donovan McNabb. It was the first glimpse of the Jason Taylor I had hoped the Redskins had acquired when I wrote about how good a move it was. If he returns next year as expected, hopefully we'll see more of this.

Special Teams: B

My longtime faith in Ryan Plackemeier paid dividends on Sunday, when he put the Eagles inside their own 20 yard line on five different occasions. Shaun Suisham was less impressive, picking up his league-leading 10th missed field goal. That's a bad category to lead the league in, and I'm starting to come around on Suisham not being the answer. Still, I don't see any value in benching/cutting him at this point, and I'd only dump him for next season if other roster changes suggest the 'Skins might be competing. That is, if it looks like the offense will score more than 15 points a game.

Antwaan Randle El had his first really nice punt return in weeks, gaining 36. Moss had a nice one as well, but it was called back on a penalty. Rock Cartwright picked up 20 yards on his only kickoff return of the day.

Overall: B

It was by no means a pretty game, and the offense looked as anemic as ever, which is definitely a concern for a supposed "offensive-minded" head coach. But a win is a win, and that last defensive play was perhaps the best moment in Redskins football this entire season.

Next week, I'll give analysis on the final game of the season against the 49ers, and then a full breakdown of the Redskins' entire season. We're also looking into a possible radio show (first in a while) discussing what the Redskins' offseason plans should entail. It should be fun.

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