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CNS: A Giant Disappointment


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A Giant Disappointment

At some point in most everyone’s life, they encounter a set of twins who, even though you know they look the same, will inevitably have one twin who is obviously more aesthetically pleasing than the other. In this way, the Redskins are no different than the aforementioned twins in that they seem to be two teams that should look the same, but are in reality very dissimilar. The “hot” twin showed up in Houston a few weeks back and then again the following week when the Jaguars came to town. Unfortunately for Washington, the “not” twin reared its ugly head once again Sunday, and the result was a critical loss that places the collective backs of the Redskins firmly against the wall.

Perhaps you’re one of the optimistic few who will assert that, as a 2-3 team with the bulk of its schedule remaining, the Redskins still have plenty of time to right the ship and make the playoffs as they did in 2005. The difference in that team and the 2006 version is not only how often they’ve won, but who they defeated. Each of Washington’s three losses comes at the hands of an NFC opponent, two of which are also division foes. These setbacks are much more punitive than the two AFC victories are helpful. Had the Redskins not defeated the Eagles in their regular season finale in 2005, they would have still made the post-season by virtue of holding the tiebreaker over their nearest competitor. Such an advantage is going to be very difficult to come by in 2006 when Washington must battle out of the 0-3 NFC hole they’ve dug for themselves.

As was predicted by most everyone, there were a number of barbs exchanged between former Redskin LaMartyr Arrington and his former teammates. Cornerback Shawn Springs, in a statement that was seconded by Arrington’s former position coach Dale Lindsay, made reference to the linebacker’s lack of understanding of the Redskins’ complicated defensive schemes. It was clear that, even though the comments were made in jest, that there was a lot of truth in Springs’ comments. Arrington was frequently out of position when on the field, and preferred to air his frustrations publicly rather than behind closed doors when off of it. When his chronically injured knee became so bothersome that hoisting himself up on his personally fabricated cross proved too difficult, it was time for a change. The rest is history.

But one cannot discuss former Redskins and the lingering acrimony between the parties without mentioning former Redskin Antonio Pierce. In a league where players change teams with regularity, Pierces seems to fancy himself the only person to ever have been spurned by his old employer. In truth, Pierce owes his entire career to Gregg Williams, who rescued him from battling for a roster spot each season and turned him into a bona fide NFL starter, as well as to the Redskins, who signed Pierce as an undrafted free agent. Pierce doesn’t just owe Williams in a way that all of us owe someone in our lives who mentored us or showed us the ropes of our chosen profession. No folks, you see Pierce owes Williams in the same way that Pinocchio owes Gepetto. Pierce is Dr. Phil to Williams’ Oprah Winfrey. He owes his very NFL life to the Redskins defensive boss, but then again, how quickly we forget from whence we came.

But the overrated and overpaid aside, the Redskins played a truly awful game Sunday, an effort that only looked tolerable when placed against the backdrop of the 36-0 beating they took in The Meadowlands in 2005. The offense, which had seemed to finally find its way in the previous two weeks, resumed its early season form, failing to break the plane of the end zone a single time. Santana Moss, who is fast enough to hunt cheetah on foot, once again failed to have his talents properly utilized. Chris Cooley led the team with four catches, a solid figure had it not been best on the team.

This is where, if you are a faithful reader, you’ve noted that in the past the column normally morphs into a “how-bad-was-Brunell” tirade, but this time, that isn’t the case. It’s not the Brunell was as good as he had been in the previous weeks, because he wasn’t, but the plays that were called for him barely resembled the tactful ingenuity that had been exercised of late. It surfaced first as a peculiar ****ization of the option on a third down early on when both Brunell and his intended target Antwaan Randle El looked more out of place than Leonard Little at an A.A. meeting. Later on, it showed itself again when a puzzling choice was made to keep one of the finest third-and-short backs in the league, T.J. Duckett, on the bench late in the game when just such an occasion arose in favor of a short pass to a double-covered Cooley. It was as if Al Saunders seemed to leave his genius back in D.C., thinking that the new airline restrictions prohibited his taking it on the flight.

As I’ve said in this space a thousand times before, whenever two such polar opposites exist, as with the Redskins’ 36-point outburst against a great Jacksonville defense and their 3-point showing on Sunday, the actual identity of the offense is lies somewhere in between. To be truthful, the Washington offense is most likely not as good as they showed in their overtime victory over the Jags. One can only hope that they aren’t as bad as they showed this past weekend, when the final points of John Hall’s Redskins career marked the only dent Washington made on the scoreboard.

The benign offense was certainly not rescued by Washington’s once stout defense, which has suddenly adopted the nasty habit of giving up the big play to nearly everyone who tries one. It is frightening how much this team, and more specifically this secondary, misses injured corner Shawn Springs. Perhaps more disturbing is the enormous step backward second-year man Carlos Rogers seems to have made. Kenny Wright has been forced into situations and match-ups that exceed is abilities, and newcomer Mike Rumph has had many a growing pain mixed in with the handful of big plays he’s made.

Most frustrating with respect to the defense has to be the virtual lack of pressure they are getting on the passer. Andre Carter has shown flashes, but nothing near the consistent pass rush he was brought in to create. A consistent pass rush would alleviate much of the strain the depleted secondary has to bear, but the Redskins have not shown an ability to create such a presence from their down linemen. Decent quarterbacks can become good quarterbacks when given time to read the coverages, and good quarterbacks set records when they have the kind of time the Redskins are allowing opposing quarterbacks.

The game ball this week goes to Lemar Marshall, who, along with Sean Taylor, has appeared to be the only Redskins defender who has consistently come to play this season. This game also has special meaning for Marshall given the fact that his predecessor, Antonio Pierce, has acted like he invented the mike linebacker while in D.C., and has alluded to no one being able to fill his shoes since. Marshall has been every bit as good in the middle as Pierce was in his one season, and has done so while getting very little credit for doing so.

With the Titans coming to town Sunday afternoon, Washington has a golden opportunity to regain some of the swagger that it had before traveling to New York. Tennessee, winless in their five games thus far, is surrendering over 170 rushing yards per game, easily the highest total in the NFL. This plays right into the hands of the Redskins, who are at their best when they dedicate themselves to the run. We’ll stop just short of guaranteeing victory, given the last two times that has been done here (Cleveland in 2004 and the Raiders in 2005) have ended up in disaster. Nonetheless, if Washington has designs on a future in the post-season come winter, the Titans are a team the Redskins must roll over.

Check back in next week for your weekly Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!

Questions and comments can be sent to Trevor Walters at skins.fan@comcast.net

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