Tuesday, October 5, 2010, 12:17 PM
By Rich Tandler
After a quarter of the season, the Redskins are 2-2. Plenty of good things have happened, but there is a lot not to like. That sounds like the perfect topic for this weeks edition of the wildly popular Point-Counterpoint. PointLets start with the NFC East. Since the NFL went to the current four-team division format, the Redskins have never started out 2-0 in the division before this year. Sure, thats a pretty low bar, and nothing to have a parade over or anything, but progress is progress. And they a snagged a road division win in Philly on Sunday, a nice notch to have on your gun barrel as the season goes on. The two wins certainly dont guarantee anything, but they do have the Redskins in first place in the NFC East on tiebreakers, and its better to be there than not. And if they can muster a split in the remaining four division games, they will have a winning record in the NFC East for the first time since 2005.
CounterpointSure, a win is a win, but the Dallas and Philadelphia wins werent exactly dominant or even convincing. You could make the case that the Redskins dont beat Dallas if the Cowboys brain trust doesnt develop a joint case of brain lock a few seconds before halftime in the opener and run a play instead of taking a knee. And if Michael Vick plays more than a quarter of the game in Philly, things could have turned out differently. Its a lot easier to defend a 14-3 lead against Kevin Dink n Dunk Kolb than it is against Vick, who makes you defend the whole field. As it was, they barely held on at the end in both games. If Alex Barron knew any blocking technique other than the half nelson, and if Jason Avant hadnt borrowed Carlos Rogers hands for that last play, the Redskins are staring at an ugly 0-4. PointSure, division wins are important, but there are only six of those during the season, and there are 10 games outside of the NFC East. The Redskins are 0-2 in those other games. If the Redskins dont pick up the pace against the rest of the NFL, it wont matter if they roll through their division. Each loss was miserable in its own way. They had a 17-point lead against Houston late in the third quarter and blew it. Apparently their plane to St. Louis was late because they didnt show up for the first quarter and were in a 14-0 hole that they couldnt climb out of. Who knows which team will show up against the Packers on Sunday? Washington made Sam Bradford, who had all of two NFL games under his belt at the time, look like a smooth, seasoned veteran. Aaron Rodgers already looks as good as Brett Favre did in his prime; wonder if hell hang nearly half a thousand yards against the Washington defense like Matt Schaub did?
CounterpointHey, that Bradford kid isnt bad and neither are the Rams. They have been in every game, and theyre fourth in the league in points allowed per game. Steve Spagnuolo has them playing hard. That said, the Redskins still should not have lost to them, but at the end of the year there is a good chance that the loss wont look as bad as it might right now. Everyone knows that the Texans are a good team. They didnt play like one against the Cowboys, but they will be right there with the rest of the AFC Super Bowl contenders when its all said and done. PointThis is the NFL, not the BCS. There is no such thing as a quality loss in this league. Besides, if the Redskins dont tighten up their defense theyre going to pile up a lot more losses, quality and otherwise. They are next to last in total defense and 18th in points allowed. The average opposing quarterback has performed at almost a Pro Bowl level, averaging a 91.1 passer rating, 66.5 percent completions and 7.1 yards per attempt. The offense has a way of starting off smoking, but fizzling out as the game progresses. While it was good to have a consistent running game for a change, well have to see if averaging 4.8 yards a carry without any long runs to skew the numbers is a trend or a fluke.
CounterpointSure, some of their numbers are ugly. But some other stats, including some that matter a lot, look pretty good. They are plus-three in turnover margin, and its always good to be on the positive side there. Donovan McNabb has 7.9 yards per pass attempt, a very solid performance. Certainly, it would be better if the defense would tighten up, but they arent getting lit up on the scoreboard, giving up a respectable 19.8 points a game. Yes, it also would be nice if the offense would gear up and put teams away in the second half. But theyre not quite good enough to do that yet, and Shanahan doesnt yet have the confidence in them to keep his foot on the gas with a lead. It has almost cost them. PointDont forget that this team still is a work in progress. The Redskins have a new coaching staff, new schemes and philosophies on both sides of the ball, a new quarterback, a rebuilt offensive line, and years of poor drafting and unwise free agency acquisitions from which they have to recover. Doing well this year will mean respectability, not hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in February.
CounterpointOnce again, this is the NFL and that stands for Not For Long if you dont get it done. And this is not your fathers league, or even your older brothers NFL. Rebuilding is an outdated concept. Teams from last years Bengals to the Falcons and Cardinals the year before that and back to the Rams and Patriots a decade ago have been able to retool on the fly and go from worst to first. With the financial resources the Redskins have available, they should be able to accomplish this. And, given the prices that Redskins fans pay at FedExField, they should expect nothing less. PointThe schedule remains a meat grinder from here on out. Next up are visits from Rogers and from Peyton Manning. Hello, 2-4. Theyll be doing well to split the two road games after that, in Chicago and Detroit. Thats 3-5 at the bye and midway point. In the second half of the year, there awaits the Titans, who have given the Redskins fits ever since they were the Houston Oilers, the Vikings (Brett Favre will have gone through training camp by then), at Dallas, and at the Giants (dont expect the New Meadowlands to carry any less of a curse than the old one did). Even respectability looks like a longshot.
CounterpointIts kind of early to be writing off any games. Things change in the NFL from week to week and injuries are critical. Besides, the Redskins two wins this year came in games where they were one touchdown underdogs. Again, they arent Super Bowl contenders, but the Redskins will be in most games and will be involved in some upsets (on both the good and bad ends).
You can reach Rich by email atRTandlerCSN@comcast.net.Sendhimyourquestionsforourweeklymailbagfeature.
Rich Tandler has beenfollowing the Redskins since 1966. He has written three books on theteam includingGutCheck,TheGloryDaysofCoachJoeGibbsWashington Redskins1981-1992. Fordetails on this and on Richs other available titles, visitwww.RichTandler.com.