September 1, 2008

Safety Is The Key

All good things must come to an end. For the Washington Redskins the good came to an end in a big way last Saturday against the Carolina Panthers.

The Skins were trounced by the Panthers 47-3 as they were dominated in every aspect of the game. The Panthers amassed over 400 yards off offense, striking early and often against a suddenly helpless defense.

Jason Campbell was eaten alive by a ferocious pass rush while the defense was carved up by what could be the new premiere two-headed rushing attack of Johnathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams.

The defense began the night solidly with an interception by Kareem Moore and a sack by Jason Taylor. Carlos Rogers also looked fabulous early on in coverage. However, as the defense remained on the field due to offensive futility, things got real ugly real fast.

Safety play left much to be desired. LaRon Landry's hamstring had better be 100% if the defense wants to retain its status as a a top ten unit. I see a good FS (Landry in this case) as being the key to our defense, the X-factor so to speak. When he plays Reed Doughty can play closer to line of scrimmage (where he excels) with far less responsibility when it comes to pass defense. Last night proved that when Landry doesn't play, the secondary can't hold up. The key to defensive dominance seems to be a great FS because the Skins defense has been downright awful when they don't have one (see Dallas last year and Tampa in 2005).

Doughty was exposed as a liability in pass defense just about every time he had a coverage assignment while the defensive line was blown off the ball. The battle in the trenches was agonizing to watch as Carolina had their way with the Skins' front seven.

Gaping holes led to bursts into the secondary for both Panther backs while poor angles by the defensive backs led to touchdowns.

Adding insult to injury, Jason Taylor was injured and could miss the season opener against the Giants. The injury appeared to be much worse than it was, but fortunately, Taylor's flexibility saved him.

On offense, there was a positive in my opinion. Clinton Portis ran very hard. He went all out and showed a burst of steam that I haven't seen in a while. His numbers weren't great, but he had a nice hop in his step. Too bad that was the only good thing for the offense.

Campbell hesitated often and the offensive line gave him no room for that. Pete Kendall was schooled several times by interior linemen; Casey Rabach was dominated on a few draw plays and that cost the skins several downs; Chris Samuels was badly beaten on a bull rush that knocked him into Campbell, forcing a fumble; and finally Jon Jansen continued to perform poorly in pass protection.

The line was to blame for much of the struggle and as Campbell kept getting hit, he started to revert back to some of his old habits. He missed throws, failed to protect the ball, and looked quite overwhelmed.

I know it's just one preseason game and yet it was a shame that I didn't see any fire or confidence from Campbell after the first quarter. As a leader, Jason must be a spark in tough situations. He wasn't last night and hopefully Jim Zorn will drill into him the importance of stepping up to be the guy everyone looks to with the confidence that he will keep them in any game.

All I can take away from this game is that it was preseason and it really doesn't reflect who the Skins are. I expect it to serve as a wakeup call for a team that was still on its honeymoon with Zorn at the helm. If it doesn't then it's gonna be a long season.

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