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Where has that been?

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Old 12-03-2006, 12:03 PM   #1
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Where has that been?

The latest from Trev Walters:

Where Has That Been?
Coming into the game with the 30th ranked defense in the NFL, this season’s Redskin defense had been a shell of its former dominant self. Free agent superstars-to-be Andre Carter and Adam Archuleta have been the biggest waste of money this side of NASA, and yet another thin draft class has provided little support to the veteran cast already in place. Players upon whom the Redskins had thought they could count, such as second-year corner Carlos Rogers and human missile Sean Taylor, have had below average seasons to say the least. Weak side linebacker Warrick Holdman can’t tackle third-grade math, yet neither rookie Rocky McIntosh nor veteran Jeff Posey has been able to supplant him in the lineup. However on a beautiful late November Sunday just outside our nation’s capital, that group of overpaid underachievers blended their talents together brilliantly and defeated a team that many had forecast as the NFC representative in Super Bowl XLI.

All of that prior futility makes the Redskins’ impressive 17-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers all the more impressive. This was what everyone had hoped to see all season long, we just had to wait until all the leftover turkey had been converted to sandwiches before seeing those hopes come to fruition. The defensive success started, as it often does, with pressure from the front four. Phillip Daniels, rookie tackle Kedric Golston and others played with a level of inspiration heretofore unseen from the Redskins defensive line. By knocking down passes and having enough close personal contact with the Panthers quarterback that Mrs. Delhomme might’ve gotten jealous, the defensive line enable the much maligned secondary to force two Carolina interceptions while holding the explosive Steve Smith to a very pedestrian afternoon.

To be sure, there are many better teams than this Redskins team in the league, and there are a handful of teams that are worse, but perhaps none is more enigmatic. The same team that registered three dozen points against a very stout Jacksonville team and defeated a Panthers team that many believed to be the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl has also lost a home game to a thin Titans team and looked even worse in a horrible performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their own rookie quarterback. How can Washington beat a team as talented as the Dallas Cowboys and yet lose to the Minnesota Vikings on the very same field? That type of inconsistency, as difficult as it might be to swallow, is primarily the fault of the coaches. It is their job to have the team playing at its highest level each week, and no matter how lackluster the team has looked on the field for most of the season, they should have been prepared better off of it.

Even in the face of such an improbable and enlightening victory, the most glaring positive was that the victory was the first for second-year quarterback Jason Campbell. In only the second start of his career, Campbell faced his second consecutive stiff defensive test, with the latter forcing him to recite his cadence with Julius Peppers, the NFL’s best defensive lineman, just a few short steps away. Just as was the case the week prior, Campbell handled this adversity with his soon-to-become trademark poise and precocious composure.

There were two plays in particular during the Tampa Bay game in the previous week that demonstrated Campbell’s surprising intellectual play. The first play – also the former Auburn star’s first as a professional – saw Campbell flawlessly direct a pass toward Brandon Lloyd, requiring shockingly little effort to do so. The pass, as if a microcosm of the season, was subsequently dropped, but the latent statement was emphatically made. The deep ball is now in play for this Redskins offense, even if an increase in production is not immediately apparent.

Unlike the first, the second play has certainly received its share of attention in the local media. Escaping from a blitzing Buccaneer defender, Campbell proved too strong to be sacked while simultaneously escaping and threading a pinpoint perfect pass to an open James Thrash, turning what would have been a sack mere days before into a first down. While Campbell did on at least two occasions force passes into spots that had no business seeing a ball thrown at them against the Bucs, that is to be expected from someone with such precious little game experience at this level. A few passes were one-hopped to their intended target, but this can often be the result of a wide variety of factors, from missed to erroneous routes. Whatever the cause, it’s most likely has correctable roots.

Against the vaunted Panther defense, Campbell overcame his first career interception to lead the offense – with a big assist from tight end Chris Cooley – to the eventual game-winning score. While this is certainly an impressive and important drive, both for the game and for Campbell’s young career, there was one other incident that bodes well for the Redskins and their future at quarterback. After his deft scramble to rescue a Redskin drive, Campbell leaped from the FedEx Field turf and gestured forcefully towards the end zone that he had in fact attained the yardage necessary to continue the drive. The obvious signal was of the first down his legs had just granted the offense, but the latent indication was the changing of the guard in D.C. The Mark Brunell era, with its ups and downs, had passed, and more importantly, the era in which Redskins fans had to pin their hopes on the likes of Cary Conklin or Jeff George has passed too. Campbell’s right arm will now lead the Redskins down whichever path they are to go.

Also deserving of mention is the highly professional way in which former starter Mark Brunell has handled the change. Brunell appeared at times to be his successor’s most vocal supporter, cheering and encouraging Campbell from the sidelines more demonstratively than when he was taking the snaps. Throughout his tumultuous time in D.C., Brunell has received far more than his share of criticism, something which is certainly true of this space as well. Brunell handled those situations every bit as well as he has handled this transition. While his playing career has seen its brightest moments, never let it be said that he has lost one ounce of his professional polish.

This week’s game ball goes to Chris Cooley, whose strong running enabled Jason Campbell’s slant pass to turn into his longest career touchdown pass. Cooley has adapted to the Al Saunders brand of offense as well or better than any of the other Redskins and has consistently proven himself as a reliable target. The first defender hardly ever brings Cooley to the turf, and the ball barely ever escapes his grasp when it is aimed in his direction. Cooley is no stranger to personal success early in his career, which can only serve as a resource for his young quarterback.

This Sunday, in the second of three consecutive home games, the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL’s most overrated quarterback make the trek to D.C. This will be the toughest test to date of the inconsistent Redskins run defense as the plan will surely be to make Michael Vick try to beat Washington with his arm. Prepare yourself for ridiculously hyperbolic analogies from both announcers and the pre-game talking heads. If we see the same defense as took the field against Carolina, the Redskins may find themselves one step closer to crawling out of the hole they’ve dug themselves.

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

Comments and questions can be sent to skins.fan@comcast.net

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Old 12-03-2006, 04:05 PM   #2
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Re: Where has that been?

Where has that been?

And where did it go?
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Old 12-03-2006, 04:06 PM   #3
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Re: Where has that been?

And will we ever find it again?
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Old 12-03-2006, 04:11 PM   #4
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Re: Where has that been?

"For there is nothing half so glorious
As to see our team victorious"

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Old 12-03-2006, 04:22 PM   #5
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Re: Where has that been?

Springs out = loss ...seems like these days, did Wright play college ball, or did he just wander onto a practice field and no one noticed??
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