Much of the talk this week on sports radio in Washington has focused on how the Redskins, and Shanalahan in particular, have failed at QB and how the season is over. While I have to admit that while I feared we would lose to Philly and had that sick feeling in my stomach that only losing to Philly can produce, last week’s loss produced an overwhelming sense of dejection. I heard this same feeling in the voices of my fellow DC fans this week as if they were lamenting another lost season.
The season is not lost. We are one game behind the NY Giants who we beat earlier this year and we still lead the Eagles and are even with the Cowboys. The Cowboys have perhaps the easiest remaining schedule of all the teams in the division while the Giants definitely have the toughest. All that doesn’t matter though if we don’t start winning.
Brandon Jacobs came out this week and said that the Redskins’ luck has run out as an explanation for our recent 2-game skid. As I have repeated on this blog, there is no greater enemy of DC fans, no player who is as reviled as Brandon Jacobs on this blog. No Brandon, the lucky team is the NY Giants who had to have a blown call go their way in order to beat the Arizona Cardinals. That is lucky. You are arrogant and have ceased being a factor on a Giants team that is no juggernaut. The Giants will probably win this weekend, but a lot more losses await them down the road.
What has brought the Redskins down has been a linebacking core and secondary that took poor angles against the run last week, some missed opportunities and some questionable play-calling on both sides of the ball. While the Redskins are banged up, the fundamental differences that make us a better team than we were last year are still there.
People have been criticizing Shanalahan for gambling on McNabb last year and rightfully so, but they should not criticize him on rebuilding this team yet because last year was year 1 of the rebuild at every position aside from the QB. This is year 2 and tomorrow against the Bills, we will see how far our rebuild has come along. Young players will have to contribute all over the field in order for us to win.
What is lucky is that we are playing the Bills in Toronto. I have been saying this to anyone who is willing to listen since the schedule came out. The Bills have a good home-field advantage and playing them in Buffalo, where I bet there will be a very noticeable number of Redskins fans, is huge. Even if they aren’t, it’s addition by subtraction by simply not having to play in front of a pumped up Bills crowd.
The Bills defense is weak and having watched them play against Philadelphia, they seem to be a gambling defense that leaves holes open for attack. As many have said, they thrive on turnovers. Last week the boy wonder, aside from the 4th and 2 play at midfield which apparently was a bad play because it didn’t work – (really the bad decision was in going for it there; go for it inside the 40, outside the 40, play the field position game)- stuck to the run game. I still think he needs to learn to sprinkle in two different runners and not just run one ’till he drops as was the case last week with Hightower. Obviously the Bills will be keyed to stopping the run, but their defense will get worn down. Their corners are not good enough to consistently make plays on our receivers if they are worried about the run.
I would be willing to bet that all of our receivers get looks tomorrow. Moss’ absence means that the coaches will be looking for someone to consistently run routes well which is Santana’s strength. Gaffney will play, but it will be interesting to see who gets more time. Obviously much has been made of Beck’s interception and whose fault it was, him or Hankerson, but the Redskins have three young receivers, Paul, Austin and L Hank, who need to start playing minutes so we can see who has the kind of heart, route-running and desire to be a difference maker for years to come. Send Armstrong on some fly patterns. Don’t be scared to air it out when we do air it out. Otherwise, the Redskins should stick with the run.
Our defense will be the deciding factor, as it will every week from her ’till kingdom come it seems, on whether we win or lose. I like the fact that Fitzpatrick got a huge contract this week. He may relax just a bit, think about the nice cars and nice places he’d like to go with some nice looking women (or his wife – I don’t know if he’s married) and a little less about looking off our safeties and checking out whether DeAngelo Hall is peeking into the backfield. The Redskins have done an excellent job of stuffing the run in our 3 wins and a horrid job of stopping the run in our 3 losses. Again, this is where the game will be won or lost.
Shanny is supposed to be a great coach. To this point, he has shown himself to be a great organizer, a football mind with a definitive vision about what kind of players he wants, and someone who commands respect because he demands precision and concentration. What he has not proven to me yet is that he is a great coach. The only time that I thought we had something was after we beat Tennessee on the road after getting pummeled by Philly on Monday night. This is the same kind of spot. The season seems like it’s on the line because a 3-game losing streak is hard for any team, let alone a talented, but still flawed team like ours, to overcome. Tomorrow is do or die for us.
I admit that I’m no journalist. I’m a fan first who opens myself up to ridicule when I do things like write a blog.
I think we will win: Redskins 23 Bills 17.