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Sports: Redskins

Mark Maske

Washington Post Staff Writer

Thursday, September 18, 2003; 11:00 a.m. ET

What is your reaction to the Redskins game against the Falcons? Can this team make it to the playoffs? Who are the breakout players this season? Who isn't living up to your expectations?

Washington Post staff writer Mark Maske was online to take questions and comments on the team, their game against the Giants and your forecast for the season.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.


Herndon, Va.: How do the coaches think Darnarian McCants is playing? Any chance Taylor Jacobs will get quality playing time when he gets healthy?

Mark Maske: Only okay. He had a touchdown catch in the first game. But he has only two catches in two games, while Coles and Gardner have combined for 30. When Jacobs gets healthy, I still think he's the clear-cut No. 3 receiver on this team, and the "other" receiving threat that the Redskins will need at some point when they come across a defense that does a better job against Coles and Gardner.


North Potomac, Md.: Why does it seem as though the Redskins are bipolar? One minute they look great, the next minute they look like the most unorganized professional sports team. Why can't they play at a consistent level? This has been the case for over a decade. Will Spurrier be able to root all of the mental problems that plague the players? On a side note, I just want to say that enjoy your insightfulness into the Redskins, it is a pleasure to read your articles.


Mark Maske: I think most teams are like that except for the really, really great ones. And there may not be a single really, really great team in the league this year, so I think fans in most cities will be saying about the same thing all season.


Fort Washington, Md.: I want to know how much longer will the Redskins let David Terrell #31 stay around he can't play safety and he is just as bad on special teams can somebody tell me how much longer will he slip through?

Mark Maske: The time to cut David Terrell was right before the season. He is what's called a vested veteran, so his salary for the season became guaranteed when he was on the roster for the opening game. He will be around, but he probably won't play much. The coaches clearly were irritated with his attitude after he was benched in the preseason. He was inactive for the first game and, though he suited up for the second game, he didn't play much except on special teams. The Redskins started the game with three safeties on the field, and Todd Franz, not Terrell, was the third one.


Washington, D.C.: How can the Redskins beat the Giants this week?

Mark Maske: Slow down the pass rush and keep Ramsey from taking too many hits. To me, that's the key. The Giants beat up Kurt Warner in Week 1, and they'll try to do the same to Ramsey, especially after watching the hits he took in Atlanta. So for the Redskins, that means continue to mix in the run with the pass and use the screen passes and other short, quick routes they used after Spurrier made his midgame adjustments in Atlanta. On defense, the Redskins need to keep Shockey from beating them (like he did the first time these teams met last season) and take advantage of the Giants' offensive line to get some heat on Collins.


Vienna, Va.: By the middle of the second quarter on Sunday, with all the hits, sacks and fumbles Patrick Ramsey must have felt like he'd been stuffed in a garbage compactor.

I was really afraid the Redskins caoching staff was jeopardizing Ramsey's health by insisting on setting up the passing game first. Yes the figures show Steve Spurrier is learning that in the NFL a balanced attack is necessary. But that balanced attack should not be all passing in the first half and all running in the second half.

When your quarterback is taking a hit virtually every time he drops back to pass, then it is time to start running more.

I don't like paasing so much early that you risk losing your quarterback (even though Ramsey has shown tremendous resilience). Likewise, I don't think it is wise to sit on a two-point lead by running every down, just so your pass-run ratio looks good in the statistics.


Mark Maske: Ramsey can't continue to get hit the way he got hit early on in Atlanta. I think Spurrier realizes that, and he did what he needed to do. You don't necessary have to stop passing, but you can't have all your passes be five- to seven-step drops and looks way down the field. As for the running late in the game, I don't think Spurrier really went to run-only until he had a nine-point lead, and then after the clock was way, way down following Atlanta's final touchdown. I thought he handled the run-pass decisions brilliantly from about the second quarter on.


Arlington, Va.: Am I the only person who thought the Redskins should have gone for a two-point conversion after the Ramsey to Coles touchdown pass in the 4th Quarter Sunday? What do the guidelines on two-point conversions recommend? The skins were already 8 points ahead, which means two scores, so John Halls extra point was totally meaningless. A two point conversion would have have at least held the Falcons to a tie with a field goal and a touchdown (assuming the Falcons still kicked their extra point).

Mark Maske: If you go for two there and miss and you're only eight points ahead, you are potentially only one score ahead--a touchdown and a two-point conversion.


Germantown, Md.: Taylor Jacobs has yet to play in a regular season game for the Redskins. So far, the 3rd receiver in the Redskins' offense has not seen too many balls. Do you think that will change when Taylor enters the line-up? Secondly, how much of an impact to do you think Taylor will have this year?

Mark Maske: I think Taylor Jacobs, when he's healthy, will be a big-time threat who will play a lot and get a good number of balls thrown his way. He will enable the Redskins to take advantage of other teams' No. 3 cornerbacks better than they have so far. Even so, if you can get the ball to Coles and Gardner 20 times in a game, like the Redskins did in Atlanta, you do it.


Washington, D.C.: Hey Mark: Very few if any have picked the Redskins to win the NFC East, but the way the Eagles and Giants are playing it might not be that hard. In your mind right now do you think the Redskins are the team to beat in the division?

Ramsey to coles sounds real good for along time. Go Skins!

Mark Maske: If the Redskins beat the Giants, you would have to say they are the team to beat. I thought the Eagles had taken a step back in the offseason with the people they lost on defense (and the potential moves to upgrade their offense that they didn't make), and the injuries they have suffered on defense have put them in danger of being buried early. I still think the Giants are a solid team, but they are vulnerable because of the state of their offensive line.


Washington, D.C.: Mark -

What's your take on the "no-name" Defensive tackles? Based on the number of plays the Linebackers have made, I would say the DT are doing their job in occupying space and offensive linemen.

Thank you.

Mark Maske: I absolutely agree. If you see Trotter, LaVar and Armstead running free and making plays from sideline to sideline, the guys up front are doing their jobs.


Raleigh, N.C.: Mark,

Now that we see that there's a need for a balanced attack(running & passing), do you think letting Stephen Davis was a good move for the Redskins?

Mark Maske: I still think it was the right move. As you could see in the Atlanta game, a back like Canidate is suited to Spurrier's style of offense. Betts can be the guy who pounds it out in the fourth quarter with the lead, and Spurrier has come up with a nice wrinkle of using two fullbacks together on short-yardage plays. Stephen Davis is a terrific back who should have a great season in Carolina, but he wasn't worth the money (and salary cap space) the Redskins were devoting to him to be in THIS offense.


Mayo, Md.: I was really surprised to read this week that the Skins had defensive end Lorenzo Bromell in for a tryout. Is the team already looking for a younger replacment for Bruce Smith next season? Are there any more players coming in for visits the next few weeks?

Mark Maske: Just about every Tuesday, you will see players who aren't on teams come in for workouts. That's the day off for the players, and the scouts and front-office guys have the fields to themselves to conduct workouts like that. The basic purpose is that if someone on your roster gets hurt later in the year, you will have seen first-hand some of the guys who are available to be brought in. The Redskins will have to replace Bruce next offseason, but I think getting a pass-rushing defensive end and a big-time defensive tackle will be big-ticket, big-money moves, not filling in with a guy like that.


Arlington, Va.: This is a comment, not a question. The thing that stands out to me about this team is that it has personality and an identity. Since Gibbs' departure we have been through apathetic high-paid veterans, ill-drafted rookies, and coaching vs ownership debacles that have made the past 10 years a low point in the organization's history.

Now we have a team that steps onto the field that plays for themselves and the fans, not the coach or the owner. They're proud, scrappy, talented and most of all, fun to watch. Sure, they're not a great team yet, but they've established a blueprint for success. The key now is to let them play, let them learn, and to keep the chemistry intact.

Mark Maske: One comment to your comment: That kind of thing only stems from having some continuity in the coaching staff from year to year.


Springfield, Va.: Last week I heard Howie Long say the 'Skins offensive schemes are flawed. Defensive coordinators around the league recognize it and feel they can easily take advantage of it. Based on the number of sacks and hurries that must be true. My question is what is the flaw or weakness and is it based on playing techniques by players or is it inferior talent?

Mark Maske: If a team with a "flawed" offensive system can go on the road and score 33 points in a win over a team that was in the playoffs last season, I'd hate to see what a perfect offensive system looks like. Sure, every system has its good and bad points, but I think the Redskins are showing that Spurrier's system works just fine if he has the players to pull it off and makes the proper adjustments to the NFL game.


Washington, D.C.: I worry about the team having a good cover corner after Champ and Smoot, do you think the guys they have can do the job? And what happened to Alex Molden?

Mark Maske: I think Rashad Bauman is a decent No. 3 guy. He had a strained hamstring in the second half in Atlanta, so it was Ade Jimoh, an undrafted rookie, who got turned around for the Falcons' last touchdown on a bad, bad mistake. Molden was released in training camp. That, to me, was a risky move because in the current NFL, you really need four corners you can count on and Molden, although he isn't the world's greatest player, at least has some experience.


Fells Point, Baltimore, Md.: Even with the wins they have under their belt, I am still not ready to look for post-season. But at a certain point, if they keep this up we have to start believing. Do you think a conference win this weekend will be the first sign?

Mark Maske: From the beginning, I thought if this team went 3-4 through its first seven games, it could win nine or 10 games this season and contend for the playoffs. At this point, you'd have to think the Redskins have a good shot to be 4-3 or maybe even better after the first seven--which, to me, puts 11 wins for the season at least on the radar.


Frederick, Md.: With so much emphasis put on the O-line of the redskins I'm worried that the special teams problems will not be dealt with. Special teams play has NOT been good -- they're giving up way to many yards on punt and kickoff returns. Can/will the Redskins do anything about it?

Mark Maske: They certainly are aware of it and have made it a point of emphasis this week. Hall has been very good, and Barker has been okay. But you're right, the coverage units have been subpar, and the blocking on returns has given Chad Morton very little opportunity to break anything. If that doesn't improve, the Redskins will have wasted the money they gave him because no return guy would have had a chance with the blocking he's had to work with so far.


Oxford, U.K.: Hey Mark. Is it just me or is Ramsey consistently underthrowing the deep routes slightly?

Mark Maske: I think he's done okay on the deep balls, considering the pressure he's been under.

Thanks for the questions this week. Practice just ended, so I have to run.

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