Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2009 Redskins Report Card: Week 7 vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles 27, Redskins 17

Sherman Lewis' first game calling plays for the Washington Redskins was more of the same for us 'Skins fans. The Redskins have topped out at 17 points, which they've reached three times this season. Interestingly enough, Washington lost all three of those games; they're 2-2 in games where they scored 16 or fewer times.

Offense: D+

This was a ten-point offense on Monday. They scored 17, but once again the final score is skewed by a garbage time touchdown, the touchdowns that have been making Jason Campbell's passer rating look reasonable, when his performance has been anything but.

I'm not going to pretend that Campbell's failures are solely of his own making, though. Randy Thomas is done for the year, and the talk is that 6-time Pro Bowler Chris Samuels' career might be over. The Redskins haven't done a good job of acquiring depth along the offensive line, so these players' replacements aren't exactly stars. In fact, not a single one of their backup linemen had played a single down in 2008.

Furthermore, and perhaps as a result of the same offensive line problems, the ground game has come to a screeching halt. Clinton Portis has 490 yards in seven games, or 70 yards/game. Perhaps of greater concern, though, is the fact that he's had less than 20 carries in six of the Redskins' seven games this year. Compare that to just four all season last year, and you can see where part of this problem rests (by the way, look at the stretch from week 4 to week 8 last year; that's what happens when you've got an offense that complements its personnel).

But does this mean that Portis should get more carries in order to win more games, or that if the Redskins win more games, we'll see Portis carry the ball more frequently? It's impossible to say for sure, but Washington's identity last year was the embodiment of a run-first team. More of a Joe Gibbs team than a Jim Zorn team, when you think about it. This is why I'm fine with giving Zorn one more year, the last guaranteed year of his contract, to try to get this team headed in the right direction. He's still trying to put his mark on this team, trying to get it to reflect what he wants. Three full offseasons should be enough to craft a roster that complements Zorn's style. If after the 2010 season he's not successful, then we can at least say for sure that he was given a chance to build his kind of team.

And I'm fine with Jason Campbell not being part of that team. He may not be the only problem, but the team was successful last year on the shoulders of Portis and on the backs of those beefcakes along the offensive line. The team did well in spite of Campbell, not because of him. Todd Collins isn't the answer either, but there's going to be someone out there that fits Zorn's offense...maybe like Jeff Garcia, who's completely available right now?

Defense: C+

The defense overall played really well, but two huge first-half plays by DeSean Jackson muted any successes that you could've bragged about. That looks to be the one weakness of this Redskins defense: they have the propensity to give up some big plays. Because there's no one scary patrolling the middle of the secondary, teams will be willing to take chances, feeling confident that interceptions are unlikely.

Was the defense put into a few bad situations as a result of poor performances on offense and special teams? Yes. Is that an excuse for the whole game? Nope. The Jackson plays were just breakdowns where somehow the defense lost sight of the Eagles' most explosive player. That's just inexcusable.

When your offense isn't playing well and you can't gain field position from your pathetic return game, your defense is under massive pressure to not just hold the line, but to make plays. Andre forced a fumble in the first half, but instead of falling on it, the defense tried to pick it up and run, and the ball ended up getting bobbled out of bounds. To me, that's evidence of panic by the defense; they don't think the offense can score, so they tried to take care of it themselves. This is a team divided because of how inept the offense has become.

Special Teams: D

Antwaan Randle El just dropped a simple punt. It hit him in the facemask and skirted away into the waiting arms of Sean Jones, wasting a stop by the Redskins' defense. As I said last week, it's time to put DeAngelo Hall back there. Randle El is more useful on offense, and he's utterly useless in returns. They tried Santana Moss a couple times, which is the right idea, but that means you're putting your "number one" receiver into harm's way (though I don't think the Redskins have an actual number one receiver).

Rock Cartwright is a solid kickoff return guy, if unspectacular. He won't ever break one for a touchdown, but he's pretty consistent about putting Washington into decent starting position, between the 25 and 35.

Overall: D

This was the first game in which the Redskins were disappointing in all three aspects of the game, so it's no surprise that this was the first game this year that was out of hand early and never really competitive. And it's too bad really, because the crowd was pretty damn good for a lot of the game. It was a true home-field crowd for the first time in recent memory, right up until the Randle El botched return.

There's been plenty of talk this week about who's to blame for the Redskins being a below average football team, and there's plenty of people to blame, and plenty to blame them for. But for those of you who'd like to blame Vinny Cerrato, the Redskins' director of player personnel, I give you these links, to the best 40 draft picks from 1997 to 2007, as determined by www.mynfldraft.com. Let me know if you find any Redskins; I wasn't able to.

Top 40 Draft Picks '97-'07

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