Monday, November 22, 2004

Time to Get Well

To be really honest, the Redskins did not play all that badly. The Washington defense competed for long stretches. Ramsey, the ex-Tulane quarterback who the Washington Post wrote “sparkled” and called “sharp”, executed the ball control part of the offense- completing 60% of his passes for most of the game. The offense did not turn it over and tried mightily to rush the football. They hung around for a half. It is a telling commentary on the state of the Redskins that, despite all that, Washington still got their doors blown off, 28-6.

The Redskins brought some solid ideas and a lot of effort to their defense. After the Eagles scored a touchdown on an efficient initial possession- the Redskins defense strongly committed to two strategies. First, every single play TO moved down field, they rolled a safety, normally Sean Taylor, on top, and cheated a linebacker under. Second, they loaded the line of scrimmage, more at the point of attack than the box, with five guys and challenged the Eagles to block them all. The Eagles struggled with that aggressive front for a quarter-plus- and the extra guy gave Washington an operative pass rush for once.

However, after an abortive initial second half possession that featured the Eagles trying to push the ball to TO despite the pressure and double-coverage, enter Josh Parry. Josh Parry, a fullback with marginal overall NFL skills, is in the League to do one thing. Block people. Whew, did he do that or what? Almost immediately, Donovan had all day to throw, going over the top to Pinkston (5 catches, 105 yards) and down low to Westbrook and the tight ends. Order thus restored in the trenches, the running game got going too- over 100 yards for the day. The Washington defense was then pretty thoroughly punished, run and pass, for a twenty-minute stretch in the second half- and only was spared by the entrance of Detmer and garbage time.

It perhaps says a lot about McNabb now that even on days he struggles some he throws four touchdown passes. In the second half, the ‘skins had no answers for Westbrook or the secondary wideouts at all - and although TO had a quiet day, he had a huge TD catch in a big spot- and drew a key penalty on Taylor- an awful unsportsman-like conduct foul- that flipped the field position- that lead directly to the game clinching score.

I must admit I increasingly don’t understand the Redskin’s offensive approach at all. In fact, not to be obstinate, but I think their whole offensive method and attitude is silly- and a lot of the blame lies with Gibbs. What head coach is doing a worse job in the NFL right now? These are Gibbs' players, this is Gibbs' philosophy- and frankly the latter stinks and the other is under-achieving. This ball-control via the run worked in the 80’s because Gibbs both routinely had four Pro-Bowlers blocking and the passing game lacked the absolute importance it holds today.

For example, the best part of the skins’ offense yesterday, and the only part that worked at all, was Ramsey’s competent execution of the ball control passing game. And yet, time and time again, the Linc faithful was treated to Portis’ ineffective rushing and worse, Betts. Seriously, Betts might be the worst player in the NFL that plays somewhat regularly. Why is it so mightily important that he get 11 touches yesterday- almost all in non-garbage time? Was the mighty franchise back tired of running into Trotter? And boy, hasn’t Trotter been just awesome lately?

Okay, you devote 25 snaps, and a lot on first down, while the game is competitive to this stupid, ineffective rushing attack- and a lot of it to Betts. What is the plan past that? Where was the play-action? The throwing on first down? The counter-action on a reverse, etc.? The max-protect and throw it deep against our cheating safeties?

The answer: this whole plan is idiotic. The skins have trouble executing on offense- largely due to bad quarterbacking and a bad offensive line- plus, you know what, they don’t run it that great either. The one thing they are doing well, ball control via the air, they move away from again and again- sometimes apparently to give Betts "key" carries? They enter the Linc and play an offensive scheme that does what- puts a premium on competently executing a dozen or so offensive plays in order to score? The one thing the Redskins categorically cannot do? I mean, this team is off-sides every nine snaps- seriously, they were- and Gibbs wants them to execute consistently? Stupid.

Realistically, Gibbs has to get a big play or two out of this offense in order to score. Washington just isn’t capable of executing a dozen plays, at even a mediocre level, all in a row. So you must game plan to not have to do that. Instead, the ‘skins have a 1st-and-Goal from the Eagles Ten and manage to turn it into a missed 48-yard field goal. They can’t sneak a 4th and inches. Stop game-planning like you’re an efficient offensive machine. Throw on first down, take a shot or two deep, do something tricky, etc. Frankly, the ‘skins are very easy to play against. They do nothing, nothing, on offensive that causes a defense to wonder or think- which is fortunate when you have Trotter playing middle linebacker.

As a result, the Eagles just sort of acted passively on defense. They sat back, did not blitz much, stayed in the base, maybe cheated the safeties up on the run a little. In response, the ‘skins courageously ran that passive slop into their maw, and committed literally seemingly endless false-start penalties. Gibbs blamed the crowd. What a wimp. You’re 3-7; bench someone for being stupid. Or am I the only one that thinks this offensive mob desperately needs someone who cares, or pretends to, to teach them to act like practiced football players?

Throw that all in with the ’skins characteristic and distinctive special teams follies: missed field goals, kicking-off out of bounds, big returns- and Washington could not even look to the kicking game to generate a cheap score or win the field position battle. I can’t see how the ‘skins thought their attack plan had any chance to get them to even 14 points. Consequently, the professional football team whacked this semi-professional one.