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Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

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Old 09-26-2006, 12:02 PM   #1
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Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

The latest from Trevor Walters:


Reason for (Cautious) Optimism
For the first time since their playoff victory in TampaBay during the playoffs following the 2005 season, the Washington Redskins walked off of the field Sunday with a victory in their pockets. With a 31-15 triumph over the woeful Houston Texans, the Redskins made their first tangible step towards fulfilling the massive expectations that have been set forth for them both internally and by their fans. While Houston is a team that the Redskins should beat, there is something to be said for winning the games that you’re supposed to win. Good teams do that, and they also win on the road. Washington did both of those things this past Sunday, and they did so in rather impressive fashion.

In truth, the Redskins provided more competition for themselves than the Texans ever could have. As has become custom, the Redskins were whistled for 12 penalties, not counting another handful that were declined because there were multiple infractions on the same play. In terms of yardage, the distance the Redskins amassed in penalties was slightly more than the career high tally reserve tailback Ladell Betts registered on his 16 carries. It goes without saying that this is an area that Washington must correct if they are to duplicate Sunday’s result against the tougher teams that lie ahead on the schedule, but what isn’t as obvious is whether or not such issues can be resolved.

The big question coming from the 31 point outburst Sunday afternoon is how much of the scoring can be attributed to the opponent, and how much is reflective of an increased comfort level with the offense? The opposition notwithstanding, the offense was splendidly balanced, at least until the game neared an end and more run plays were called to help bleed the clock dry. Of course, the efficiency of the offense can’t be praised without giving all due credit to quarterback Mark Brunell, who responded to numerous calls for his job with a record setting performance. Brunell seemed to flawlessly execute Al Saunders’ offense, seeming more like the “savvy veteran” of 2005 than the “washed up senior citizen” that he resembled only days earlier.

But just as the offensive explosion must also have an asterisk given the opposition, so too must Brunell’s day be analyzed with a grain of salt. Brunell made precious few throws that traveled over 10 yards in the air, with most of his 261 yards coming after the catch on screens and check-downs. His jersey can also skip the washing machine, thanks to a superlative effort in pass protection from the offensive line. So pessimistically, if you give him plenty of time, Brunell can accurately hit the receiver less than 30 feet away. Optimistically, he takes what the defense gives him and gets the ball into the hands of his playmakers. You can chose which description best suits your personal opinion, but as always, the truth most likely lies somewhere in between.

The best news to come out of Houston – other than the victory of course – is that star halfback Clinton Portis returned, and did so with an emphatic bang. There appeared to be no new setbacks with regard to his injury status, and the outstanding performance of his backup Ladell Betts enabled him to take a large chunk of the second half off. His shoulder is going to be a source of constant concern as the season progresses, so each week that passes without a setback is critical for his long-term availability.

The game was not without its low points, though. Each team’s opening drive looked eerily similar to those from Washington’s two prior contests. While the offense would eventually take command of the game, the defense continues to be as enigmatic as it has previously been dominant. Still without top cornerback ShawnSprings, the secondary continued to struggle in pass coverage. Adam Archuleta, never known for his cover skills, has done little to alter his reputation in the first three games. The corners that have seen the brunt of the action – Carlos Rogers, Mike Rumph, and Kenny Wright – have been inconsistent at best. In Eric Moulds and Andre Johnson, the secondary faced a challenge that was much more difficult than did the team as a whole. Moulds and Johnson are an outstanding pair of receivers, and their success (combined 15 catches for nearly 180 yards) demonstrates the strides that the secondary must make down the stretch.

The amount of pressure Washington placed on the quarterback was as negligible against the Texans as it had been in weeks past. Andre Carter, rescued from San Francisco to liven up a dull pass rush from the front four, has done little to merit his billing as a disruptive force. The one lineman who has spent time in the opposition’s backfield is rookie Kedrick Golston, who transformed himself from possible training camp casualty to consistent contributor in his short time in D.C. Golston and Lemar Marshall shared credit for the Redskins’ lone sack, and Golston also recovered his first career fumble when Texans quarterback David Carr put it on the ground after being flushed from the pocket.

The game ball this week goes to Clinton Portis, whose performance, and mere presence, fueled the 31 point offensive outburst. Portis lead the team with 78 yards receiving, most of which came on a Mark Brunell shovel pass, and chipped in with another 86 on the ground. The latter is a figure which would have been much higher had he not been rested in favor of Ladell Betts late in the game to rest his shaky shoulders. His two touchdowns raises his total for the young season to three, which is an impressive number given Portis only has 30 total touches thus far. His quickness and vision makes the draw play a vital weapon, not only for the yardage it accumulates, but for the pressure it takes off of Mark Brunell by reducing the defense’s appetite for the blitz.

Winning is a lot like pizza; it doesn’t matter where it comes from, it always hits the spot. While it can’t be forgotten that the Texans were lining up on the other side, it is still noteworthy for any team to put up 30+ points and win on the road. The gameplan set forth by Al Saunders had the Texans defense confused all afternoon long, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention again that Mark Brunell’s execution of it was very nearly flawless. The healthy return of Clinton Portis was, and will be, key as the season progresses.

Washington will visit the other end of the defensive spectrum Sunday as the third-ranked Jacksonville defense comes to FedEx. The execution will need to be on a par with this past Sunday’s game if a similar result is to come from the Redskins’ tilt with the Jaguars.


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


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Old 09-26-2006, 01:44 PM   #2
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

I like it - hits the points I've been trying to make about Brunell.
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Old 09-26-2006, 01:51 PM   #3
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

the play that randle el scored on was a thing of beauty. hopefully, there is alot more where that came from. people around here said it would take a good 3-4 games until this offense started clicking. well, maybe this is the beginning of good things from mr saunders and company
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Old 09-26-2006, 02:13 PM   #4
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

Man the 74yds play Portis run/ catch because in reality that was a run even thought technically is a pass I was screaming in the end for him to cut to the middle he had the hole field open but he wanted to go close to the sideline and got tackle.

Great play tough it really shows how different this team it's with him on the field
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Old 09-26-2006, 02:16 PM   #5
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

Good comprehensive breakdown of the game and the individual performances. I agree with his comments regarding the defensive line, and am pretty disappointed in the lack of an impact Andre Carter has had thus far. He and the rest of them need to pick it up. That would go a long way in helping out our banged up secondary and creating more turnovers.
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Old 09-26-2006, 02:29 PM   #6
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

Great article. That's basically my exact view of this team, when I'm thinking clearly, and not in "Kill Brunell" mode. Although, he's a little more forgiving to the defense than I am.
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Old 09-26-2006, 02:54 PM   #7
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

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Originally Posted by Southpaw View Post
Great article. That's basically my exact view of this team, when I'm thinking clearly, and not in "Kill Brunell" mode. Although, he's a little more forgiving to the defense than I am.
The entire majority of fans are a little more forgiving than you are! ... I just hope we all continue to yell at you for being negative, because that means the Skins are improving and doing well!! :-)
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Old 09-26-2006, 03:01 PM   #8
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

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The entire majority of fans are a little more forgiving than you are! ... I just hope we all continue to yell at you for being negative, because that means the Skins are improving and doing well!! :-)
Actually, there are far more people on my side of the fence than you realize. I'm just not as shy about vocalizing my frustrations with this team. And honestly, I'm only negative when there's reason for it. If Washington was 3-0 right now, I'd be homering with everyone else.
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Old 09-26-2006, 03:15 PM   #9
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

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Actually, there are far more people on my side of the fence than you realize. I'm just not as shy about vocalizing my frustrations with this team. And honestly, I'm only negative when there's reason for it. If Washington was 3-0 right now, I'd be homering with everyone else.
agreed. and since we are 1-2 against good teams with our sole win over the Houston Texans, you cannot blame us for being more cautious than optimistic at this point.

not until Springs is back at least.
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Old 09-26-2006, 03:16 PM   #10
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

all excellent points. jacksonville's D will provide a tough test for us this week. i hope they beat that ass.
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Old 09-26-2006, 05:31 PM   #11
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

I nominate Walter for a Pulitzer.
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Old 09-26-2006, 05:45 PM   #12
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

I guess I was the only one that didn't get an optimistic feeling after reading the article.

If we lose to Jacksonville -- which I'm fairly certain is going to happen, the story this year will likely be that the Redskins are good enough to beat bad to below average teams, struggle against the teams that are on about the same level as the Redskins, and lose convincingly to good teams.

If they can cut the penalties down, and put some pressure on the quarterbacks, I suppose their fortunes could change. But we still didn't even see that against the lowly Texans.
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Old 09-26-2006, 05:53 PM   #13
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

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If we lose to Jacksonville -- which I'm fairly certain is going to happen, the story this year will likely be that the Redskins are good enough to beat bad to below average teams, struggle against the teams that are on about the same level as the Redskins, and lose convincingly to good teams.

jeez, even i'm not that pessimistic. Brunell may not throw long anymore, but he doesn't throw INTs. a lucky INT from our defense and we could very well win us this game.

what's great about Portis is that with him, you just never know. he could always break one. you counteract size (JAX's monstrous defensive line) with speed and we have that. adding Randle El with Moss you now have three of those guys.

i don't think Brunell will have time to even start thinking throwing long this game, hopefully YAC will win us this game too.
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Old 09-26-2006, 05:56 PM   #14
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

Matty sits atop the mountain and observes the rabid fans (including myself) and comes down to offer the wisdom that everyone agrees upon.

Nice article. Ef the washington post.
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Old 09-26-2006, 06:35 PM   #15
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Re: Reason for (Cautious) Optimism

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Man the 74yds play Portis run/ catch because in reality that was a run even thought technically is a pass I was screaming in the end for him to cut to the middle he had the hole field open but he wanted to go close to the sideline and got tackle.

Great play tough it really shows how different this team it's with him on the field

I think if Clinton had been 100% since per-season, he would have scored on that play.
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