[caption id="attachment_2036" align="aligncenter" width="303" caption="Give Kelly a chance!"][/caption]
There are many observers out there opining that fixing the Washington Redskins will be a long, painful process. The whole thing needs to be blown up, they say, and reassembled part by part. It will take years to rebuild the team into a winner.
I'm not exactly sure what decade these people are living in. Long-term rebuilding is a concept of the 1970's. Things can be turned around in-season or, if not that quickly, from season to season. In two parts here, I'm going to take a look at how this team can become respectable in 2009 and contenders in 2010. Today, the immediate fix:
1. Get the younger backs some carries—Again, welcome to this decade. The successful running attacks in the NFL involve more than one back. Ladell Betts doesn't seem to be the answer as a change of pace back. Marcus Mason doesn't have breakaway speed but he needs more than a couple of touches a game (and some work on pass protection). Anthony Alridge has that speed. Give them the ball. Risk an occasional fumble or sack for an extra half yard or more per carry.
2. Call in Langston Walker—Or Jon Runyan or Mark Tauscher or anyone capable of playing at NFL caliber at the offensive tackle position. At the moment, the Redskins have one player who fits that description and Chris Samuels can't be fully relied on week after week. For that matter, Jason Fabini is still out there; he knows the offense and is looking for work. Yes, these are desperation, panic measure. But, guess what, it's time to break the glass, it's an emergency. (Note: As I was finishing up this post, Tauscher signed with the Packers.)
3. Play to Jason Campbell's strengths—I suppose that this would entail abandoning the West Coast offense but I'm not sure that that's what they're running anyway. It certainly bears no resemblance to what Joe Montana ran or even what Matt Hasselbeck ran in Seattle. Let Campbell use his strong arm and throw some deep outs and deep posts. Let him fire the ball to Malcolm Kelly in the back of the end zone from the opponents' 30. Yes, his completion percentage might suffer but overall the offensive productivity would improve (how could it get worse?).
4. Upgrade the return game—Is there any less exciting aspect of a football weekend than watching Rock Cartwright and Antwaan Randle El return kicks for the Washington Redskins? Those moments should bring a tinge of excitement; instead, as we are assured that nothing exciting is going to happen (unless it's negative, as we saw yesterday), it's a time for a trip to the fridge. This is the simplest of all the fixes proposed here. An upgrade here would not involve rewriting the playbook nor would it involve bringing in new players. Devin Thomas, DeAngelo Hall, and Justin Tryon, among others, could provide a spark here.
These changes could be made with our without a new coach and with a minimal expenditure of money. They're not particularly risky.
Most important, they are common sense moves that anyone with a minimal level of football knowledge can see would help.
And that's exactly why I'm not holding my breath waiting for them to happen.
I don't want to bury the lead here so I'll talk about the second one first. John Keim of the Washington Examiner will join us for the usual 7:00 PM chat. He has superb in-depth knowledge about the Redskins. John's the best evaluator of players on the beat and he has the pulse of what's taking place in the front office (a hot topic, to say the least).
In addition, I'll be live blogging Jim Zorn's Monday press conference. I don't know if anything dramatic will happen but you don't know unless you check it out. That's scheduled for 12:25 PM and I'll get things going shortly before that.
See you then!
If any Washington Redskins fan just came out of the mountains of Tibet or from a three-month sojourn into the wilderness and wanted to know what's wrong the team, all that person would have to do is watch today's game against the Panthers and learn all that's needed to be known.
In no particular order, here are the maladies that were on display.
--The offensive line—If D'Anthony Batiste is Plan B at left tackle you have serious problems. When Stephon Heyer is Plan A at right tackle, you have serious problems. When Mike Williams is Plan B at multiple positions, you have serious problems. When those three comprise 60% of your offensive line, all together now, you have serious problems. The Panthers came into the game near the bottom of the league in both sacks and rush defense. They held the Redskins to just 74 yards rushing and sacked Jason Campbell five times.
--Clinton Portis—I don't necessarily think that Portis should be benched. Marcus Mason's poor blitz pickup on one play that Portis missed indicated that Portis is needed. But at least twice during today's game announcer Thom Brennaman said that Portis "was just a step away" from breaking a long one. What Brennaman apparently didn't know was that Portis lost that step about a year ago, maybe longer, and it isn't coming back. The Redskins need to find a running back rotation.
--Stale play calling—I know that both of the above makes it difficult for the Redskins to move the ball. And I know that it limits play calling. But I think that the weaknesses make it all the more important that the play calling keeps the other team off balance. When you have the physical advantage you can just run the same play over and over and dare them to stop you. That's not the case here. So why do you run the same stretch running play over and over without trying some counter action or a reverse off of it? Why, after Malcolm Kelly, a younger member of your offense makes a nice catch and fights for a first down do you not direct any more passes to him? How often do you go to the well with the quick slant to Moss on short yardage?
--Defense can't get the big stop--With time running out the Redskins had to get the ball back to have a shot to tie with a field goal or win with a touchdown. The Panthers took possession with 5:16 left and killed the clock, converting two third downs along the way. Like all of these other problems, this goes back to last year. The defense plays well for 55 minutes but when they need a stop they can't get it.
These hardly are original thoughts here. I hate being Captain Obvious. But if they're obvious to me and they're obvious to you why aren't they obvious inside the walls of Redskins Park? I rarely claim to have knowledge that is superior to that of men who have worked at it all of their lives and spend untold hours a week looking at such things. But I'm baffled here.
Ever since things went south after last year's 6-2 start, Jim Zorn has refused to change anything. The players are the same, the plays are the same, the lack of urgency is the same, the key mistakes are the same.
It's the very definition of insanity.
After two games in the starting lineup, Chad Rinehart has been demoted all the way down to the inactive list.
That's where he spent most of the first 18 games of his NFL career. Today, Mike Williams will start at right guard. It will be Williams' first NFL start since 2005.
The rest of the inactives are Hunter Smith, Kevin Barnes, Anthony Alridge, Edwin Williams, Robert Henson, Marko Mitchell, and Anthony Montgomery.
This means that D'Anthony Batiste will be one of the backups at guard along with Will Montgomery.
Edit: Panthers inactives are running back Tyrell Sutton, cornerback C.J. Wilson, running back Mike Goodson (concussion), tackle Garry Williams, guard Duke Robinson, defensive tackle Antwon Burton and defensive end Hilee Taylor, with A.J. Feeley the No. 3 (emergency) quarterback.
Edit 2: A tweet (I've actually become comfortable typing that word--scary!) from @John_Keim might explain the move:
@john_keim: did Lewis say this to Zorn?: 'Dude, your OL needs some changes. Who put this thing together?' worthy question, no?
This just in via twitter from Frank Hanrahan at ESPN 980:
Mike Williams will see his first NFL action since the 2005 seasons when he takes the starting lineup at right guard. This means that Chad Rinehart's two-game stint at the position is over, at least for the time being.
The guess here is that they want to get Williams some game action and that the eventual move will be to put Williams at right tackle and Rinehart back in at guard.
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We'll be cranking it up at about 12:45 with kickoff at 1:00.
As expected, the Redskins have activated punter Glenn Pakulak to handle both the punting and place kick holding duties in place of the injured Hunter Smith.
To create room on the roster the Redskins waived defensive end Renaldo Wynn. He has been inactive for all four games this season.
It is likely that Wynn will stay in town and be resigned when Smith is ready to play again. This is not a sure thing, however, since another injury could occur in the interim, necessitating the signing of a different player.