September 29, 2010

Crunching Numbers: Santana Moss Catching On

If you all remember, I wrote a column at the beginning of the year, in which I predicted Santana Moss would have a year similar to his breakout 2005 campaign. So far so good through three games as Moss is on pace for career highs in receptions and receiving yards.

Moss has 22 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown. If he continues at his current clip, Moss will end up with 117 receptions, 1,546 receiving yards, and five touchdowns on the season. Those numbers would eclipse his 2005 totals of 84 catches for 1,483 yards.

What's more interesting is that Moss has accumulated this season's numbers by becoming more of a possession receiver. We have seen many of the vertical attempts from Donovan McNabb go to Joey Galloway while Moss has made a living over the middle and underneath thus far.

Need more proof that Moss has become a solid possession receiver? 15 of his 22 receptions have moved the chains and he has been targeted 30 times (seventh best in the NFL). That's a far cry from the days when he wouldn't see a ball come his way for quarters at a time.

However despite his drop off in yards per catch (he's at 13.2 YPC, which is below his career average of 14.8 YPC) this doesn't mean Moss has lost his explosiveness. He is making the most of his new role over the middle; just take a peek at his yards after the catch. Moss ranks seventh in the NFL with 124 YAC, and watching him you can tell he enjoys catching the ball in space.

Consistency has always been the knock on Moss. He tends to play well one week and then disappear the next. It's only been three games, but he is tied for fifth with 96.7 receiving yards per game and he has caught 73 percent of the passes thrown his way.

In 2009, Moss caught 58 percent of the passes intended for him. In 2008, he caught 57 percent and in 2007, 53 percent.

The reason behind this new-found efficiency is two-fold. Primarily, the Redskins are using Moss as more than simply a downfield threat. Kyle Shanahan is making sure his most talented receiver gets involved in the passing game every week He is running routes that put him in a position to catch more passes and it's paying off.

Secondarily, McNabb is a more capable quarterback than anyone Moss has ever had while with the Redskins. McNabb knows who his playmakers are and he makes sure to get them the ball early and often. Obviously, Moss is the only threat in an ineffective receiving corps and McNabb knows it.

September 28, 2010

Mid-Week Roundup: Boo Birds In Philly?

Donovan McNabb will make his long awaited return to Philly on Sunday, and the important question is how will Eagles' fans react to Super Five in the Burgundy and Gold?

SB Nation DC has a poll going regarding what to expect this weekend. McNabb himself says he expects more cheers than boos.

Read McNabb's full transcript from his interview with ESPN 980 here. (Thanks to John Keim of Redskins Confidential for transcribing)

Mr. Irrelevant has the numbers comparing the 2009 'Skins to this year's edition. It's not pretty, which means Jim Zorn is in the process of showering himself with Gatorade.

Clinton Portis had a strange game last week including failing to finish a strong 27-yard run as he inexplicably fell down with the secondary closing in. He told 106.7 The Fan he went down to protect the ball.

I don't quite understand why a running back of Portis' caliber tackles himself in the middle of nice run, but apparently CP felt it was the best thing to do at the time. I got nothing.

You never know what you're going to get from Portis and this week he was a soul-searching individual after carrying the ball just once in the second half of Sunday's game. "You know 26 is on your roster," he said. "Use me as you choose to."

The Redskins defense looked lost against Sam Bradford. After watching some Mike Vick tape, I think things might get even worse this week for the 'Skins D. Still, this stat bears watching.

Portis and McNabb are both Vick fans. Remember Portis nearly found himself in hot water after an interview where he defended Vick for his involvement in dog-fighting, and basically admitted to attending dog fights himself in the process. McNabb reached out to Vick as the QB tried to find a home in the NFL last season after being released from prison.

I have a feeling it will be a fun week preparing for this game even if the 'Skins struggle to keep pace with the Vick-led Eagles.

September 27, 2010

Redskins Vs. Rams: Postgame Analysis

Little has apparently changed from 2009 to 2010 despite early indications the Redskins would be a better team in terms of execution and preparation. It was an ugly performance today in St. Louis as Washington fell to the Rams 30-16 in a lifeless effort from the entire team.

Honestly, can you take anything positive out of this game? Ryan Torain had a good half of football and Santana Moss made up for his costly fumble, but one yard of rushing in the second half did the Redskins in.

Washington ran the ball for 115 yards in the first half. They didn't run the ball once in the fourth quarter and just five times in the third quarter. Somehow they still averaged 6.8 yards per carry for the game. Washington gave up on the run and it cost them dearly.

The second issue is the lack of depth on the offensive line. The Redskins could use an upgrade at left guard, center, and right guard, and today without Trent Williams, Stephon Heyer single-handedly managed to sabotage several drives.

Washington will have to deal with Trent Cole, Clay Matthews, Dwight Freeney, and Julius Peppers for the next month, and they must have a healthy Williams if they wish to compete in those matchups. Donovan McNabb appeared to be a bit jumpier in the pocket today with the extra pressure and Williams will go a long way towards easing the backside rush.

Back to this game, my offensive player of the game would have to be Santana Moss. He's quietly having a very good season and he had 6 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown. He did fumble the ball early in the first quarter, but he was the only offensive threat in the game.

Roydell Williams was the only other wide receiver to catch a pass and Devin Thomas was invisible again despite the absence of Anthony Armstrong. Armstrong was inactive with an injury. It might be safe to say the coaching staff has no faith in Thomas as a receiver despite possessing more athletic ability than any other wide out on the roster save Moss. Thomas has never particularly impressed me, but he's better than Roydell Williams. If I could know one thing for certain about this year's team it would be why they refuse to put Thomas in at receiver.

On the other hand, Moss has 22 catches for 290 yards and a touchdown. He's on his way to another big year even if Washington isn't.

My defensive player of the game is Phillip Daniels. Daniels had a monster series on the goal line against the Rams at the end of the first half. He had great penetration on several running plays and after Washington forced a field goal attempt, Daniels rumbled through the line and blocked it.

The Redskins defense was unable to get off the field on third down as St. Louis went 7-16 on the money down. Sam Bradford picked apart the middle of the field, and Washington seemed lost for much of the second half.

Linebackers continued to over-pursue the run and the defensive line failed to shoot gaps or occupy extra linemen. Sloppy tackling was the norm and certain outspoken players (see: DeAngelo Hall) were completely disinterested in taking part in contact. The run defense especially wore down in the second half as the Rams took control of the clock. St. Louis held the ball for 34:10 and it showed down the stretch.

Washington will need a more inspired effort next week against Philadelphia and hopefully we will see it since it will be McNabb's return to the city he starred in for 11 years. Regardless, these Redskins have a long ways to go under Mike Shanahan.

September 26, 2010

Redskins Vs. Rams: Halftime Analysis

It's been once ugly game, but somehow the Rams special teams pulled a great impersonation of the Redskins beleaguered unit as Phillip Daniels blocked a Josh Brown chip shot and the Redskins trail by just one 14-13 at halftime.

Daniels gets my nod as the player of the first half. He was in on several of the plays during that goal line stand. The Rams ran seven plays from inside the Redskins ten on the drive, but came up with zero points. Daniels' block is certainly a key play and a turning point should the Redskins come back and win this game.

Offensively, Ryan Torain has looked impressive in his first half of work with the Redskins. He has four carries for 45 yards and Washington had 115 yards rushing in the half.

Donovan McNabb has a touchdown pass to Santana Moss as Moss atoned for his first quarter fumble that led to a Rams TD. McNabb has just 82 yards passing a week after throwing for over 200 in the first half against Houston.

Washington will be able to control the clock in this half if they continue to run the ball and that should be enough to right the early wrong s for the 'Skins.

Redskins Vs. Rams: First Quarter Analysis

Awful start to the game as the Rams get the ball on the 40 as the opening kick-off sailed out of bounds. Then Stephen Jackson burst free on a 42-yard TD run to put the Rams up early. The secondary may be ranked dead last as of now, but it's the run defense that still worries me more.

Poor tackling and no bodies at the point of attack.

Things get even worse after Santana Moss fumbles away a reception and the Rams get the ball at the Redskins three. Sam Bradford connected with Daniel Fells for the TD, making it it 14-0.

The run game for Washington might be able to have a successful day. There have been holes for Clinton Portis and he has ripped off a pair of solid runs. But the offense has killed itself with penalties. Might I add, Stephon Heyer has been his usual horrid self.

Donovan McNabb will need to play well all day as well since the 'Skins are in this early hole.

If the Redskins can score after drawing a pass interference penalty against Fred Davis and ending up in the red zone, the Redskins might be able control the clock from here on out.

Redskins Vs. Rams: Pre-Game Notes

It's going to be more casual than usual today as I'm unfortunately not at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. I am hoping to swing a trip to Philly next week, but for this week I'm in front of the couch much like you all.

As you probably know punter Josh Bidwell injured himsefl in pregame warmups, meaning placekicker Graham Gano will handle the punting duties. Chris Cooley will be the holder.

I guess that means Fred Davis will once again be blocking for the field goal unit.

My prediction for the game is probably a lock since I'm 2-0 this year already. I have the Redskins winning 24-10.

This will be the most exotic defense Sam Bradford will have faced to date and so the Rams will have to rely on Stephen Jackson. I like the Redskins to limit him and shred a poor St. Louis defense.

September 24, 2010

Redskins Vs. Rams: Five Keys To A Washington Win, Featuring 'Rookie Hazing' Of Sam Bradford

My bi-weekly column for SB Nation DC

Sep 24, 2010 - The Redskins have played in just two games this year, but they've already had to deal with a wide array of X's and O's and highs and lows. The week one win over Dallas sent Washington soaring despite the uneven, sloppy play throughout the game. Donovan McNabbposted pedestrian numbers and the defense won the day as Washington somehow clung to a hard fought victory. However, the Redskins came crashing down in a shootout with Houston last week. The game against the Texans might have been easier on the eyes, but the Redskins will take an ugly win over blowing a three score lead any day.
This week, the 1-1 Redskins travel to St. Louis to take on the Rams for the third straight year. Washington should cruise in this game, but we all know the Redskins struggle to score more than nine points or so whenever they play the Rams.
If I'm Mike Shanahan, I want to win decisively on Sunday. A convincing win would tell me the Redskins mean business and possess the killer instinct necessary to not only avoid losing a "trap" game, but to win it in style. The Rams have a new rookie quarterback and the 28th-ranked defense in the NFL. No disrespect, but they aren't in the same league as the Redskins this year. Washington needs to win this game in the first half, keep the foot on the pedal, and finish the game off in dominating fashion.
Here are the keys to making a beatdown in St. Louis a reality.

September 23, 2010

D-Mac Vs. JC/K-Squared: Week Two

My great idea for a weekly piece comparing these three guys is quickly unraveling. I was at least hoping to see eight weeks of Jason Campbell before he assumed his spot on the pine, and I never expected seeing Kevin Kolb on the bench by week three.

But both quarterbacks are on the bench, and McNabb is coming off one of the best days a Redskins QB has ever had. So we'll let the gloating commence before I add Mike Vick to the equation.

Stat Line
McNabb: 28-38, 426 yards, 1 TD, 1-1 record.

Campbell: 8-15, 87 yards, 1 INT, 2 FUM (zero lost), 0-1 record. Note: JC was benched at halftime.

Kolb: Did not play (concussion), 0-1 record.

Campbell has four fumbles on the year, and they might be his last four. Bruce Gradkowski will start this week for the Raiders. Campbell had some buzz coming into the season, but it's clear the guy practices well and flops on gameday. He doesn't have a lot of moxie and he isn't a playmaker. Gradkowski isn't as physically gifted, but he's a scrapper.

Oakland needs a gutsy gamer and Campbell doesn't fit the bill. It appears likely Campbell will never land a full-time starting gig again. You have to feel bad for the guy, but at the same time his struggles only further justifies the Redskins trading for McNabb.

Vick had a huge game this week in the Eagles 35-32 win over the Lions. He went 21-34 for 284 yards and two TD passes. He also rushed eight times for 37 yards. Despite Vick's solid play in back-to-back weeks, many (including myself) believed Andy Reid would stick with Kolb.

Reid always goes back to his starter and considering he traded away McNabb to make Kolb the starter, one would expect Kolb to last more than one half. However, Reid shocked us all when he named Vick the starter for this week's tilt against the Jaguars.

Vick has played very well, and so he does deserve the start, but Reid is usually very set in his ways. He made a huge commitment to Kolb, but the move to Vick is a clear signal Reid feels he can win now with him rather than Kolb.

Reid is in a season where he must succeed since he made the controversial move to trade McNabb. The Eagles were perennial postseason ticket-punchers with him, and Reid knows he will need to at least contend for a berth this year. Obviously from what he's seen, Vick gives him a better chance to do that.

So I'll extend this column by replacing Kolb with Vick next week. In two weeks, Vick and the Eagles will host McNabb and the Redskins at Lincoln Financial Field in Philly. That's where McNabb and Vick met for the 2004 NFC Championship game. Oh how times have changed since Vick was under center in Atlanta and McNabb was airing it out with TO in Philly. Now it's the Redskins with a legitimate air attack as Washingtonians, sporting burgundy Super Five jerseys, sneer at Philly sports scene.

September 20, 2010

Where's The Run Game For The Redskins?

My bi-weekly column for SB Nation DC

Sep 20, 2010 - Seventeen attempts. Eighteen yards.
Those were the rushing totals for the Redskins on Sunday in their 30-27 overtime loss to the Houston Texans. Washington averaged 1.1 yards per carry in a putrid performance on the ground, which Mike Shanahan, Clinton Portis and company would clearly like to forget.
While Donovan McNabb was airing it out en route to a 426-yard passing day, Portis found no daylight as he picked his way for 33 yards on 13 carries. The interior blocking was shaky all game long, failing to generate a surge up front and leaving Portis with little room to run.
Shanahan would like to remain committed to running the football, but he may have to get creative if he wants to do it successfully. The Redskins have run for 107 yards over the first two games this season, meaning they are averaging 53.5 yards rushing a game. You won't win football games that way, and the Redskins learned the hard way as they failed to control the clock in the second half, allowing the Texans to come back from a 17-point deficit and send the game to overtime.
The rushing attack was struggling so badly, the Redskins didn't even attempt a conventional running play while leading 27-20 with around five minutes remaining. They sandwiched a Santana Moss reverse in between two passes instead of trying to kill the clock with a power running game.
In the third quarter, on the Redskins last scoring drive, they ran the ball just once on a nine-play series. After Houston scored right back, Larry Johnson ran a stretch to the left, inexplicably changed direction a la Barry Sanders and was brought down for a loss of 10 on the play. Sanders, Johnson is not, and the backwards running cost the Redskins a chance to kill the clock with an extended possession.
However, Shanahan stuck to the run on the next Redskins possession, and Portis picked up 23 yards on four carries as the Redskins pushed it to the Houston five. Unfortunately, Jammal Brown made a major gaffe with a false start on third and one, costing the Redskins a chance to score a touchdown. The chip shot field goal attempt was blocked and you know the rest.
"Right now as an offense we are throwing the ball around; you just have to be patient," Portis said. "I think we just have to be consistent. We were picking up chunks, but we need to capitalize in the red zone because we can move the ball up and down the field."

September 19, 2010

Redskins Vs. Texans: Postgame

My apologies. I was too busy to update the fourth quarter at Fedex, but I have some postgame thoughts here for you after a gut-wrenching overtime loss the Redskins should never have had to experience.

Also, here's my postgame report with reactions from the Redskin players on SB Nation DC.

1. The Redskins interior blocking will need to improve drastically. 18 net yards rushing is not going to cut it. Somehow, the Redskins were able to compete today, but they really had zero success running the football. The scheme is fine; it's more the fact that there's not enough adequate personnel to execute it.

Clinton Portis spoke about what changes need to be made in the ground game. "Right now as an offense we are throwing the ball around; you just have to be patient," he said. "I think we just have to be consistent. We were picking up chunks, but we need to capitalize in the red zone because we can move the ball up and down the field."

The Redskins did have a pair of drives stall in the first quarter after two first down runs deep in Texans territory failed to produce yardage, leading to second and longs, and subsequently, field goals. The first came on the Houston 24-yard line where Portis ran for no gain. The second came from the Houston 11, and Portis carried the ball for minus-four.

The Redskins need better execution on the ground; simple as that.

2. The defense will take time to install. There are moments when they look like world-beaters with timely pressure, but ultimately they are missing several pieces and still need time to adjust to a complex 3-4 scheme. The team had five sacks and countless other hits on Matt Schaub. But they also gave up 497 yards passing and at times struggled to contain the stretch run and protect the cutback lanes.

The 'Skins did make good adjustments against the run in the second half, but that was also due to the fact the Texans had to abandon the run game when they went down by three scores.

The secondary will be happy to have Kareem Moore back. LaRon Landry has been phenomenal, but Reed Doughty isn't a full time centerfielder over the top. It showed today in the second half as he was torched repeatedly.

3. Donovan McNabb is very good. While Jason Campbell was benched at halftime in Oakland, McNabb had 239 yards passing in a half. He ended up with 426 yards and a touchdown and played a tremendous game. Remember, McNabb has dealt with a mediocre running game for much of the past five years in Philly. This is nothing new to him.

The Redskins have finally found themselves a top-notch NFL starter at QB and what a difference it makes.

4. The secondary targets stepped up. Joey Galloway, Anthony Armstrong, Fred Davis, Mike Sellers, Keiland Williams, and Roydell Williams all chipped in to help with the passing game. Eight different players caught passes, and McNabb praised the efforts of the air attack.

"Like I said last week, I enjoy giving everybody an opportunity to contribute," he said. "Today we had that opportunity to do that. We had some big catches from [Anthony] Armstrong as well as Joey [Galloway], Santana [Moss] and [Chris] Cooley, and including Fred [Davis] into it. Anytime you can spread the ball around and get different guys involved, teams have to watch everybody. You can't just key in on one or two particular receivers, everyone got involved today and made some plays for us."

5. My offensive player of the game is McNabb. The Redskins only punted once in the first half and scored 20 points. They slowed up in the second half, but he made several big throws; one was just off the mark to Galloway (Galloway had an opportunity to catch it, but it was a tough play downfield), the other was a huge third down conversion to Moss for 22 yards called back for holding on Stephon Heyer.

McNabb also led two other potential scoring drives, which ended in missed field goal opportunities. The progress from game one to game to was impressive. Now it's simply a matter of staying consistent.

6. My defensive player of the game would be Landry. He plays an undisciplined game, but the Redskins have found the perfect way to utilize his aggressive athletic ability at the line of scrimmage. Landry had 11 tackles, a sack, one pass defensed, and several QB pressures. He also managed to hit both Carlos Rogers and Reed Doughty while flying in for several of his patented kill-shots.

His impact today went beyond the impressive stat line. He harassed Schaub consistently, and made several good stops against the run. He did over-pursue in the ground game in the first half, but he rebounded in the second and filled his lane against Arian Foster, shutting off the cutback lane.

Landry was disruptive all game long and when he had  to miss several plays in overtime, the Redskins clearly missed his presence on the field. Schaub completed a long throw to set up the game-winning field goal with the rough and tumble safety on the sideline.

More to come later. My column for SB Nation DC will come out tomorrow so look for it.

Redskins Vs. Texans: Third Quarter Analysis

6:15-Kevin Walter hauls in a 6-yard pass for a TD from Schaub, and just like that the Redskins lead has slipped to 10 again. With 15 minutes to play that might not be enough. The offense can't let off the gas.

The defense brought the house on 3-15 for Houston, and a screen pass to Foster netted 50 yards and Houston scored on the next play. The play was Washington's only major gaffe in coverage today, but it cost them seven points. Brian Orakpo had a sack on the drive, his first of the season. Great burst to get to Schaub. Four sacks for the Redskins today.

6:05-Incredible drive for the Redskins to put them up 27-10. The scoring drive: 9 plays 92 yard 5:31. McNabb accounts for all but three of the yards on the drive (one Larry Johnson rush for three yards). He has 340 yards passing and converted two hug third and longs on the drive to not only save field position, but to lead the Redskins to a touchdown.

McNabb's 22-yard pass to Chris Cooley is his first as a Redskin.

5:55-Houston gets a 47-yard field goal from Neil Rackers to make it 20-10. Washington has to keep up the pressure offensively because 10 points isn't that wide a margin when dealing with an offense like the Texans.

Halftime Update: Air McNabb

Donovan McNabb has thrown for 239 first half yards, the most by a Redskins QB since Mark Rypien's 259 yard performance against Atlanta in 1991. Meanwhile Jason Campbell has passed for 87 yards and an interception in Oakland today.

Still wondering whether acquiring McNabb was the right move?

McNabb was the player of note in the first half as the Redskins dropped 20 points on Houston, and only punted the ball once. Apprently, these aren't your usual offensively challenged Redskins.

Defensively, the Redskins have struggled to contain the stretch runnning game of the Texans, but Jim Haslett has dialed up the blitz at all the right times today, sacking Matt Schaub three times and intercepting him once. The secondary is the strength of this defense and they have to be happy they are playing with a 13 point lead.

Redskins Vs. Texans: Second Quarter Analysis

5:33-Strong finish for the 'Skins defensively. Landry comes through with a sack and he's been playing well aside from some occasional over-pursuing against the run. The Redskins are fortunate to be up as Houston will have to rely more on the pass. The secondary is this defense's strong point and the Redskin offense is playing right into their defense's strength.

5:27-I have always been jealous of opposing teams who have QBs who can sling it around. Now the Redskins have one. Donovan McNabb has two 62-yard completions; one to Galloway and one to Fred Davis. This one gets the Redskins down to the one and Portis puts it away from a yard out. 20-7 Washington.

McNabb is 12-16 for 239 yards. He has passed for more yards this half than he did for the entirety of the Cowboys game. Portis has two TDs, but just ten yards on nine carries. On this day it doesn't matter because McNabb is playing very well.

5:14-Carlos Rogers has been on Andre Johnson for the most part. So far nothing disastrous although Johnson is having a decent game. The defense sacks Schaub to force a field goal, which Neil Rackers misses wide right from 47 yards. The pass rush has been coming at just the right times.

5:11-The defense continues to struggle against the run. Houston is getting a good surge up front and tiring out the Redskins with the stretch run. LaRon Landry is over-pursuing to the edge and there is no one to fill the cutback lane. Adjustments are necessary as Houston has the playaction safely in their back pocket now.

5:05-The defense picked up the pressure on that possession and the Texans strangely passed the ball on all three downs before punting. The 'Skins will take it though and now they continue to move the ball through the air. McNabb is certainly on today.

4:56-And the Redskins notch their first offensive TD of the season with a Portis one-yard run. With as poorly as the offensive line has been in run blocking it has to be a weight off their shoulders to get Portis in the end zone. And McNabb what a day so far. We don't see these numbers often from a DC QB, but get this:

9-11, 162 yards.

4:53-A Joey Galloway sighting! Galloway hauls in a 62 yard pass to give the Redskins great field position. Great playaction read from McNabb and the 'Skins are picking on the Houston secondary. Santana Moss with a fantastic catch in coverage, which McNabb got to him off his back foot. Offense is much improved today.

4:50- The Redskins defense did a decent job of plugging the middle on the drive, but they couldn't contain the stretch runs and cutbacks after getting the job done up front.

4:49-Not much pass rush for the Redskins on that 11 play, 77 yard drive. Schaub had time and Foster wore out the front seven. The Redskins need to control the clock on this ensuing drive as they trail 7-6.

Redskins Vs. Texans: First Quarter Analysis

4:44: The quarter comes to an end and the Redskins are on top 6-0. The Texans have 2nd-and-goal from the Redskins' five. They have put together a nice drive with plenty of Arian Foster. The front seven isn't containing the edge and Foster is making them pay.

4:40-Portis has zero yards on four carries. McNabb is 7-8, 90 yards. I guess we can tell what the strength is for Washington right now.

4:33-Carlos Rogers did he really...just catch a football? No way! Rogers jumps a att Schaub pass beautifully, but the Redskins stall at the Houston nine. Gano hits the 27-yarder, but it would have been nice to see seven there.

Scoring drive: 5 plays, 33 yards, 2:11. McNabb's pass to Cooley was nice, but the run game is looking bad. Jammal Brown was pushed right back into Portis on one run and then another poor run led to a third and long. The Redskins need to run the ball with more success early.

Portis has had nowhere to run though as the line is being manhandled. Pass protection is actually solid at the moment though. Shanny will keep with the run like he did with Dallas.

4:24-Graham Gano hits a 41-yard field goal to give the Redskins a 3-0 lead. A 5:23 drive, which looked a lot like last week's opening drive. McNabb went 6-6 on this drive, but Clinton Portis struggled to find any room. The left side missed a block badly on the final run of the drive.

4:20-Mike Sellers has three catches on the Redskins opening drive. That's how to answer the critics who felt Sellers played poorly last week. However, a promising drive stalls at the Texans 23.

Redskins Vs. Texans: Pregame Notes

4:13-Gametime. Starting defense gets the introductions and it's down to business. I'll be watching Anthony Bryant who was activated in light of Albert Haynesworth's deactivation. Bryant will get some time at nose tackle and he has drawn solid reviews through the preseason.

Also, can Donovan McNabb get the offense in a rhythm? Can the secondary receivers step up? Will Fred Davis emerge?

The offense will have to score more than six points today if the team wants to be in it at the end.

We are about 30 minutes from kick-off at Fedex Field and the big news is Albert Haynesworth will be inactive. Here's the complete list of inactives for both teams.

It's a sunny 85 degrees in the Nation's Capital and fans are starting to pile into the stadium.

My Prediction: I'm 1-0 after last week, but this week I have to pick against the Redskins. They haven't convinced me they can stop the run, and Houston's rushing attack is at full go after last week. Not a good match-up and it will be the difference. Texans win: 27-17.

September 17, 2010

Five Keys To A Redskins Win: Is Kyle Shanahan The X-Factor Against The Texans?

My weekly column for SB Nation DC

Sep 17, 2010 - The Redskins are coming off one of the most important victories for the franchise in years in front of the largest crowd at a home opener in team history. A win over archrival Dallas is always a perfect way to start the season, but the Redskins still have plenty of work to do if they wish to live up to the hype of the new Mike Shanahan era.
Some have criticized the Redskins for their "flawed" victory over the Cowboys, and they are right when pointing out Washington struggled to put the game away. But hold the phone. You tell me the Redskins would have won this past week's game last season. I dare you.
That's right, you can't. Last year the team couldn't catch a break and they would have lost that game someway, somehow. This year, things are working out a little differently so far as luck smiled on the Redskins in the form of Alex Barron putting Brian Orakpo in a chokehold.
Of course the team admitted they had some work to do in the postgame locker room. We know the team isn't perfect and the players expressed the need to tighten up in several facets of the game this week against the Houston Texans.
So what can the Redskins do to ensure an encore performance in front of the home crowd this Sunday? Here are your five keys to seal the deal on the Redskins second win of the season.

September 15, 2010

D-Mac Vs. JC/K-Squared: Week One

It's time for the first edition of Donovan McNabb against his two measuring sticks as it were. The Redskins gave up on Jason Campbell, traded him to the Raiders, and acquired McNabb from the Eagles who believed they were better off with Kevin Kolb.

So which of the three signalcallers is getting the last laugh? I'll be updating the race week by week.

After an offensively challenged week one of NFL football it's tough to judge which QB has the advantage. Let's take a peek at the numbers.

McNabb vs. Dallas: 15-32, 171 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, one rush for 17 yards (1-0 record)

Kolb vs. Green Bay: 5-10, 24 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 1 FUM (0 lost) one rush for one yard (left game at halftime with a concussion)

Campbell vs. Tennessee: 22-37, 180 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 2 FUM (one lost), six rushes for 34 yards (0-1 record)

McNabb gets a point for winning his game, but in all honesty he really didn't have a strong performance. His receivers dropped several passes, but McNabb also missed his fair share of throws.

We knew coming into this marriage McNabb isn't the most accurate QB, but he makes up for it by protecting the ball. Zero turnovers on offense Sunday night.

Plus, McNabb is more mobile than his predecessor. There were certain plays where he eluded pressure with a natural ability Campbell doesn't have.

Give it a few more weeks and McNabb will have this offense rolling.

Meanwhile, Kolb had a rough day under center. He struggled through a brutal first half of football before calling it a day with a concussion. He led the Eagles to just three points and they trailed the Packers 13-3 after two quarters.

Then to make matters worse for Kolb, Michael Vick came in and had a solid outing complete with 175 passing and 103 rushing. A QB controversy could be in the works if Vick performs well again this week should Kolb not be able to go against Detroit.

Campbell fared no better than his two competitors. Oakland only scored six points before Campbell added a garbage time TD toss with the Raiders down 38-6 to the Titans. He was sacked four times, fumbling twice and the Raiders were their usual putrid selves.

Bottom Line: Going into Sunday night's game, McNabb really didn't have to do much to best Campbell and Kolb. The stats weren't pretty for McNabb, but they were still better than both his counterparts. Add to that the Redskins victory and he has the early advantage.

September 13, 2010

LaRon Landry Brings The Wood In Week One Win Over Dallas

One of my features for SB Nation DC.

Sep 13, 2010 - LANDOVER, MD
LaRon Landry has dealt with endless criticism after a rough 2009 campaign in which the embattled safety came out on the wrong end of big plays routinely.
Landry's misfortunes went hand-in-hand with those of his team, as the Redskins stumbled to a 4-12 record in 2009. The team as whole struggled mightily and Landry was key contributor to the woes on defense.
Opposing offense feasted on the Redskins secondary, largely due to Landry's tendency to bite on double moves. Playing at free safety in former defensive coordinator Greg Blache's read-and-react system, Landry seemed lost in space as he gave up long pass after long pass.
Hitting has always been the dominant aspect to Landry's game. He relishes contact and embraces the "kill shot." Last year his responsibilities at free safety didn't allow him to play his aggressive game and it was apparent the free safety position wasn't Landry's calling in the NFL.
So with the arrival of new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, Landry was moved back to strong safety, where he could play closer to the line of scrimmage. Everyone held their collective breath, waiting to see if Landry would re-acclimate to a familiar position. After all, a player of Landry's athletic ability doesn't come around often. Landry is a physical specimen, and it would be shame to see his career fade away without fulfilling his potential.
Sunday night against Dallas, Landry put the concerns to bed with a monster 17 tackle performance to lead the defense. He was flying all over the field, making plays, applying pressure, and most importantly, finishing tackles.

Victory Roundup: 'Skins Savor Win Over Dallas

It's been hard to sleep after last night's nail-biting finish, but I managed a few hours, and now it's back to work.

Some reading material for you:

DC Sports Bog has some masterful stuff including the best and worst of the game and also a nice piece on Anthony Armstrong who was clearly pumped after the win.

I talked to Armstrong after the game and he was jacked up. He didn't have a memorable performance, but it was his first NFL game and the stakes were high. He was feeling it and let the media know afterwards. I'll have a story on him later in the week.

Michael Wilbon provided his insight at the Washington Post.

The Victory Monday offering from Homer McFanboy.

One holding penalty later and fans and players alike are buying into Mike Shanahan.

Scott Jackson has his Chain Reactions column over at SB Nation DC.

You've probably seen this angry Cowboys fan, but if you haven't, be entertained.

And DeAngelo Hall is emerging as a team leader on defense. The guy has impressed me throughout the offseason and I expect he will continue to do so fueled by that big fumbled return on Sunday.

Players Of The Game In Redskins 13-7 Win Over Dallas

Here's my recap with postgame reaction from Phillip Daniels and Mike Shanahan on SB Nation DC. Thanks to all the guys over there for helping me snag credentials. They do a tremendous job keeping readers updated on the DC sports scene and it is a pleasure working with them.

I write a weekly column on Fridays for them and also do some editing on Saturdays.

Anyways now for my players of the game.

Defensively, I was tempted to pick LaRon Landry, but DeAngelo Hall answered the critics tonight in every way possible.

Not only did he force, recover, and return a Tashard Choice fumble for a touchdown at the end of the half, Hall also stood up to the bigger Dez Bryant all night long.

Bryant weighs in at 217. Hall tips the scales at 195. Several times Hall, notorious for missing tackles, brought down Bryant on screen passes. The Cowboys were trying to exploit his lack of size, but Hall would have none of it tonight.

"I have had some big plays in my career, but I don't think I have had that big of a play in a Redskins uniform," he said after the game. "It felt real good."

Hall had eight tackles and two passes defensed to go along his touchdown heroics, making him the defensive player of the game in my book.

The offense didn't play all that well. They only scored six points, but the running game picked up late and they didn't turn the ball over against a ferocious front seven.

Work needs to be done offensively, but the Redskins came into this game overmatched against the Dallas defense and still managed to protect the football while moving the chains 17 times.

Chris Cooley had a terrific all around day. He lined up in the backfield next to McNabb on several third downs; he went in motion often; and he pulled in six passes for 80 yards. His blocking was much improved in the run game as well, and he expressed his excitement to me on how he's being used.

"I feel so comfortable moving around in the offense. I feel comfortable lining up in different positions and getting lots of different looks," he said. "I love moving around and hopefully we'll be able to continue to do that and I'll be able to continue to make plays for us."

Tonight he made enough plays to earn my nod as the offensive player of the game.

September 12, 2010

Redskins Vs. Cowboys: Fourth Quarter Analysis

12:29-Apologies for the delay had to get downstairs for the postgame festivities.

Incredible finish to a game which appeared to be Dallas' until the clock read 0:00. Alex Barron was finally caught mugging Brian Orakpo. This particular occurrence had happened at least half a dozen times earlier in the game, but Barron got caught at the wrong time as the Cowboys scored on the last play of the game only to have it called back due to Barron infraction.

Not a pretty game, but as head coach Mike Shanahan said in his presser "in the end you've gotta find a way to win and that's what we did today."

Complete analysis coming at you shortly.

11:24-The Redskins just wrapped up a 10-play, 46-yard drive with a 49-yard field goal by Graham Gano. Clutch kick by the youngster, but the 'Skins only lead by six. Nerves have to be setting in here. The Redskins have let these games slip away before.

All on the defense because the Redskins have just one timeout left.

11:11-Huge third down conversion there by Moss. The Redskins are 3-12 on 3rd downs.

11:05-Another unproductive drive and the Redskins will kick it back to the Cowboys. Washington has just 194 yards of offense compared to 302 yards for Dallas. If the 'Skins pull this out, they will have gotten away with one.

But we'll take it right?

11:00-The Cowboys are shooting themselves in the foot with penalties. A holding penalty negated a key third down conversion and the Redskins have the ball back with just under 10 minutes to play. The Redskins need to milk the clock and hopefully extend this tenuous 10-7 lead.

10:50-Trent Williams finally surrenders a sack to DeMarcus Ware and you have to feel the Redskins have lost their grip on this game. They haven't scored on offense since the first drive and now Dallas has momentum.

The defense will need to come up big again, but they have to be getting tired. Dallas has held the ball for 26:26 while the 'Skins have held it for just 19:52.

Redskins Vs. Cowboys: Third Quarter Analysis

10:45-Clinton Portis has shown some burst in this latest drive. The Redskins have good field position and will need to score here because the defense is wearing down.

LaRon Landry has 12 tackles. He is playing very well even though he did miss a sack on Romo. I also like the effort shown from Santana Moss tonight. Unfortunately, Joey Galloway, Armstrong, and Thomas haven't been involved.

10:40-Albert Haynesworth is really getting worked over in this game, but the Redskins don't have many options at nose tackle. Anthony Bryant better get ready to play next week.

Dallas takes advantage of the field position and scores. So we have the Redskins botch a field goal opportunity and then give up a touchdown. 10-7 instead of 13-0.

10:35-Tonight has been unkind to Josh Bidwell. After juggling a field goal snap, Bidwell shanked a 27-yard punt to give Dallas great field position.

10:31- A great drive results in no points as the Redskins botch a short field goal attempt. Holder Josh Bidwell juggled the snap and Graham Gano never got the chance to attempt the kick. Gano had made a kick play earlier, but the Cowboys were offsides on the play and that extended the drive for the Redskins.

But poor execution killed the chance to put the Redskins more comfortably ahead.

Redskins Vs. Cowboys: Halftime Update

Well DeAngelo Hall was certainly the player of the first half. Dallas came out and tested him early with the much bigger Dez Bryant and Hall stood his ground. He has seven tackles so far and attacked Bryant whenever he caught the ball.

For a guy who is considered a terrible tackler, Hall isn't letting that get in his way tonight. He looked good throughout the first stanza, and then on the last play of the half he became a hero.

Hall wrenched the ball loose from running back Tashard Choice on the final play of the half. He scooped it up and took it back 27 yards for a score. Talk about a man possessed; Hall has been the sparkplug on an otherwise bland evening of football.

The fumble return for a TD was the first one since Sean Taylor did it against Philadelphia in 2006. Hall celebrated with a nifty flip into the endzone and the Redskins go into the locker room up 10-0.

That won't be enough, but it's some breathing room the Redskins couldn't get when they led Dallas 6-0 in the fourth quarter of last year's first showdown with the Cowboys.

Key stats: McNabb went 3-5 for 32 yards on his first drive. After that he has gone 5-10 for 56 yards. He has only completed passes to Moss, Cooley, and Portis. So the concerns regarding the lack of secondary options in the passing game seem to be validated thus far.

McNabb passed Troy Aikman and is now 22nd in all-time passing yards with 32,957 yards.

Redskins Vs. Cowboys: Second Quarter Analysis

9:46-The Redskins have just 30 yards rushing and have held to ball for just about 11 minutes compared to Dallas' 19 minutes. Those two stats need to take a turn for the better in the second half.

But first, the Redskins need to hold off the Cowboys in the last 27 seconds of the first half.

9:38-The Redskins force the punt and have the ball on their own five. 1:42 to go in the half. Washington needs to be careful here.

9:34-The Cowboys are taking control of the clock with this long drive. They have had the ball for over six minutes on this drive, which started on their own one.

They have racked up four first downs on the drive as well. The defense isn't being nearly as aggressive as promised. Granted, Dallas has made everything quick, but the Redskins have backed off because of that.

9:23-The McNabb to Moss connection heating up. I have said all offseason, Moss will have a year similar to 2005 especially if someone steps up opposite him. McNabb makes him much more of a threat.

Moss has three receptions for 49 yards so far, but the drive stalls. Field position is at a premium as Byron Westbrook downs Josh Bidwell's punt at the Dallas one. Redskins could be in business if they force a three and out. Or better yet, a Jim Haslett-manufactured turnover.

9:17-Dallas is held to another punt after Rocky McIntosh gets a sack to force a third and long. I don't understand why Dallas isn't running the ball more. They seem to hate doing it, which is silly because it's their strong suit.

Redskins need to extend this lead while they can.

9:07-Cowboys Kicker David Buehler missed a 34-yard FG attempt that would have tied the score at three apiece. Come to think of it, Dallas has had their fair share of kicking woes recently. Looks like we might have solved our's with Gano, but let's wait and see on that one.

The defense has been bend but don't break, which isn't good when nursing a 3-0 lead. They will need to do better controlling the line of scrimmage as the Cowboys are rushing for over six yards a carry.

Redskins Vs. Cowboys: First Quarter Analysis

9:05-The Cowboys second drive was helped by a questionable late hit penalty on London Fletcher. Fletcher came into help DeAngelo Hall finish off a hit. Hall is playing very well against Dez Bryant who has three catches, but zero yards.

The Cowboys are challenging Hall since Bryant has 22 pounds on Hall. Hall has four tackles and has stood up to the larger Bryant. Guess the Cowboys will scrap that assumed mis-match.

9:00-A lightning quick first quarter is in the books and the Redskins lead 3-0 on a 29-yard FG from Graham Gano. However, the Cowboys are knocking on the door at the Redskins' six-yardline.

8:51-The Redskins opening drive featured a good mix of run and pass (6 runs, 5 passes), but stalled in the red zone. Still I liked what I saw. Portis didn't have a lot of room to run, but the offensive line wasn't getting overpowered either.

A big concern appears to be controlling the line of scrimmage against the Cowboys rushing attack. The defensive line was getting pushed around a bit on the Cowboy's first possession.

Redskins Vs. Cowboys Live Blog: Pregame Notes

8:23-Redskins being introduced and fans screaming, "WE WANT DALLAS!" This is turning into a must-win for the Redskins. Full house, national TV. Pressure's on.

8:17-Cheerleaders and Marching Band on the field pumping up the crowd. Players getting ready to be introduced. It's as close as it gets to gametime in the Nation's Capital!

8:03-Celebrities abound tonight at Fedex Field. Lebron James and Chris Paul decided to show up while DC rapper Wale continues to rep the 'Skins. Dale Earnhardt Jr., a longtime Redskins fan, is here as well. Two Washington Capitals are also present right before they kick off training camp in Arlington next week. Forward Mike Knuble and center David Steckel. Good karma all around (minus King James).

Hey guys going to be updating all night live from Fedex Field for this Redskins-Cowboys tilt. The Mike Shanahan era is about an hour away from kicking off and the tailgate today was legendary. I caught up with some Extreme Skins tailgaters among others and I think people are expecting a win tonight.

And why not considering the Cowboys are missing two starters on the offensive line in Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier plus replacing the departed Flozell Adams with an inexperienced left tackle in Doug Free.

The Cowboys could go through a season like the Redskins did last year if their line crumbles. It's already falling apart, and the Redskins have to be excited to show off their new 3-4 pass rush.

However, the new defense and new coach take a backseat to the new look. The Redskins are rocking their  traditional burgundy jerseys, but with gold pants. The pants are more of a yellow than gold, but they still look great. Very sharp.

Plus, if Donovan McNabb can pull out a win tonight he will get an early leg up on Kevin Kolb who was injured today and managed just 24 yards passing before leaving today's game against Green Bay. If McNabb plays well tonight, the city of Philadelphia might tear itself apart tomorrow morning.

The rain has stopped as we approach gametime. The inactives have been announced. Let's get it started!

My prediction: The Redskins win thanks in part to a pass rush the patchwork Cowboys line won't be able to protect against. It will be close, but the 'Skins will pull it out 24-21.

Five Keys To A Redskins Victory Over Dallas

My weekly column with Sb Nation DC

It's been another whirlwind offseason for the Washington Redskins in the Nation's Capital. A new GM, a new coach, a new quarterback, a new mentality; all those changes have inspired hope in a starving fan base on the brink of despair.
No more bingo callers on offense, no more overindulgent spending sprees, no more slip-n-slides or swinging gates. These Redskins are intent on ending their reign atop Mount Ineptitude, preferring instead a climb up Olympus. They may not be successful right away, but one thing is for sure: these Redskins are for real.
Sunday night backed by 90,000 strong, the team will begin a new era with Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb at the helm. Anticipation is at an all-time high as Washington prepares to take on their archrival, the Dallas Cowboys, in what is sure to be a memorable debut for the new-look Redskins organization.
The Cowboys enter the season heavy favorites to win the NFC East, but Sunday night will give Washington the chance to prove they belong in the discussion. Here's what they will need to do to win game one under Shanahan.