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Just Not Their Year

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Old 12-10-2006, 12:02 PM   #1
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Just Not Their Year

Trevor Walters


Just Not Their Year
It really should have been quite obvious right from the opening kickoff of the 2006 season. Pierson Prioleau, an unsung yet vital member of the Washington Redskins secondary, ripped up his knee in a freak accident in which the only people to have made any contact with the injured safety was the Redskins medical staff, who rushed out once the inexplicable harm had been done. Without provocation from any of the Minnesota Viking players, Prioleau had wrenched his knee in the FedEx Field dirt, ending his season and providing an eerie insight as to what lay ahead for his teammates. A season that started with so much promise – as was the story in the Redskins’ disappointing 24-14 loss to the Falcons Sunday – ended poorly with Washington crushing any chance of ending the season with a winning record as well as any realistic playoff possibilities.

The first quarter was perhaps the Redskins’ best of the entire season. Despite employing what seemed to be an unofficial Ladell Betts quotient, the Redskin offense manhandled the relatively porous Atlanta defense even though offensive coordinator Al Saunders called only two pass plays (one of which turned into a Jason Campbell run) in his first baker’s dozen. Defensively there seemed to be a solid carryover from the previous week’s victory over Carolina, as the Falcon offense looked about as inept as its defense. An honest to goodness sense of optimism could be felt, and steaks all around Redskins Nation feared an early appointment with the grill as the game seemed well in hand.

Then the bottom fell out.

The second quarter looked like a different team had stolen Redskin jerseys and substituted themselves for the real McCoy. The aggressiveness that is usually present when the Redskins are playing well had completely disappeared. The defense quickly became a sieve once again as it has been for much of the season. But most notably, the coaching, specifically on the offensive side, eroded as the running game that had given the Redskins the lead was largely abandoned.

Perhaps the one play out of the probable thousands in Al Saunders now-legendary 700-page playbook that has come to symbolize his tenure in D.C. is the wide receiver reverse to first-year Redskin Antwaan Randle El. The problem here is not with the execution nor with the personnel involved, but with the regularity with which the play is called. The beauty, and therefore the utility, of such a play is in its surprise. Given that the Redskins run the play, or one very similar to it, at lease once weekly takes away the shock element, and makes it just another unsuccessful rush. Run the play three or four times in a year and it will yield big yardage. Call it once a week and even George Edwards can sniff it out.

However the most perplexing thing about the entire afternoon is how the Redskins can have a 150-yard rushing day from a newly resigned Ladell Betts, a seven-catch, 123 yard performance from Pro Bowl receiver Santana Moss, have the ball spread to seven different receivers, and even block a punt, all while still losing the game. With a coaching staff as experienced and accomplished as this one, a certain level of ingenuity is expected. However finding a way to lose a game with so many statistical feathers in their cap is not the kind of creativity Redskins fans had in mind.

In fact, when looking to assign blame for the debilitating 24-14 loss to Atlanta, one should look no further than the coaching staff, the same one that was considered such a strength mere months ago. While the Gregg Williams honeymoon seems to have officially ended, first-year offensive coordinator/assistant head coach Al Saunders should again shoulder the blame for the loss. Saunders called a masterful first quarter, but then seemed resigned to winning a different way than that which had already been proved to work.

Inasmuch as Redskins fans need to accept that this is not Kansas City and a top five offense is still miles away for their Redskins, Saunders need to get a grip on the same realization. Ladell Betts is not Priest Holmes, the offensive line, as good as it can be, is not the Chiefs line of the last few years, and Mark Brunell and Jason Campbell are not Trent Green, at least not at their respective stages their careers. This Redskins team is built to play differently than were those high-powered Chiefs teams. At times, Saunders has realized that he must tailor his gameplan to best accentuate his talent, and at others, he seems at a loss. This internal conflict must be solved before the start of the 2007 season, or the level of inconsistency seen in 2006 may just become the way of the Redskins world.

The game ball this week goes to Randle El’s fellow Washington newcomer Andre Carter, who had what was easily his best afternoon in Burgundy, registering 11 tackles and a sack, while triggering Falcons tackle Wayne Gandy into committing two very costly holding penalties. In the spirit of optimism, there will be no mention here of how such performances should be a regular occurrence, rather we’ll focus on more such afternoons coming along in the future. Carter has the ability to play at that level week in and week out, but much like the defense, he’s not played up to his potential. While Carter has been representative of the problems defensively this season, he’s not been the main culprit. If fans can remember this, and Carter can remember his capabilities, then we’ll all be better off.

Looking forward, the playoffs are not a realistic option after this past weekend’s defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. An attainable goal however, would be for first-year starter Jason Campbell to secure a winning record in what will be seven starts this season, thus garnering the Auburn product some measure of confidence going into the 2007 season. If the 2005 season showed us anything, it’s that momentum doesn’t always translate from one season to another. In spite of that, having had some small measure of success, as well as a full off-season as the undisputed starter can do nothing but good for both Campbell and the Redskins down the road.

In the short term, playoffs or not, this is Eagles week. Winning this weekend, and in the season finale against the Giants, will mean that the Redskins at least held serve against their division opponents. In 2005, their success was buoyed by their 5-1 record against the NFC East. This season, 3-3 is as good as the Redskins can now hope to end up, but at least they have the opportunity to not resume their post as the division doormats that they were going into last season.

Eagles week, much like Cowboys and Giants week, is about rivalry. The Redskins hate them, and they hate the Redskins. Sure, to be in the playoff hunt would feel so much better than it would be if the Redskins were able to accomplish the more humble goals set forth for them here, but no matter the records, a division win tastes sweet no matter the circumstance. So don’t fold up that jersey just yet, and don’t spend the afternoon on yard work. This is Eagles week, folks, and that means it always matters.

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




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Old 12-10-2006, 12:08 PM   #2
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Re: Just Not Their Year

thanks for taking the time. good read. anyone know how prioleaus' rehab is going?
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