Wednesday, November 3, 2010, 3:44 p.m.
REDSKINS PAGE REDSKINS VIDEO
With the season at the halfway point and the Redskins standing at 4-4, staff writer Ryan OHalloran and Redskins blogger Rich Tandler analyze 10 categories, ranging from the best offensive player to a second half prediction:
OFFENSIVE MVPRyan OHalloran: None. Seriously, can anybody remember one defining offensive play this year? Maybe Ryan Torains 12-yard run against Philadelphia that left safety Quintin Mikell with tire tracks on his chest. The Redskins simply arent any good right now on offense. Their line is broke (23 sacks allowed) and their third-down game is disabled (30th in league). The only thing they do well is big plays in the passing game. But Ill abstain.
Rich Tandler: While I agree with Ryan that picking an offensive MVP for this team is like selecting a winner in a tallest midget competition, I will select one. Santana Moss has persisted through the teams offensive line and quarterback struggles and is having a solid season. He is seventh in the NFL with 602 yards, putting him on pace for the second-best season of his 10-year career. Moss has six receptions for 20 or more yards and he has accomplished all of this with no real threats lining up opposite him at wide receiver. Thirty of Moss 48 receptions have resulted in first downs.
DEFENSIVE MVPRO: DeAngelo Hall not only leads the NFL with six interceptions, he is responsible for winning two of the Redskins four games. His fumble return for a touchdown against Dallas and interception return for a touchdown at Chicago represented the Redskins game-winning points. More than the picks, Hall contained Houstons Andre Johnson in Week 2 and hasnt been afraid to stick his nose in the running game and on screen passes. He seems headed to his third Pro Bowl.
RT: With a strong nod to Hall, Ill go with strong safety LaRon Landry. After more than two years in the wilderness out of position at free safety, Landry has turned into the punishing presence he was projected to be when the Redskins made him the sixth pick of the draft in 2007. The defense has been all about turnovers and Landry seems to be in the middle of many of them. Against the run or pass, Landry is always around the ball. He still goes for the big hit but now he gets the hit and makes the stop. Landry sets the tone on a defense that hits so hard that it has become hazardous to the health of the other team.
SPECIAL TEAMS MVPRO: Lorenzo Alexander. Again, Ill go a little out of the box here but Alexander is a regular defensive player who continues to stay on the special teams. In the Detroit game, he served on the kickoff return, kickoff coverage and punt coverage teams. He runs down the middle of the field on to cover kicks and is one of the wedge players on returns. The Redskins rank fourth and ninth, respectively, in those two categories.
RT: I love the One-Man Gang but I have to go with Brandon Banks. Last year, in 16 games, Antwaan Randle El amassed 109 yards in punt returns. Banks has played in just five games and already has 234 yards. Thats a lot of field position given to a struggling offense that desperately needs it. Add in his 27.7-yard average on kickoff returns, five and a half yards better than the Rock Cartwright and others averaged last year, and you have tremendous impact. Banks almost beat the Lions single-handedly.
SURPRISE PLAYERRO: Receiver Anthony Armstrong. Back in June, I did my first projected 53-man roster and it didnt include Armstrong. It did include Devin Thomas, Bobby Wade, Mike Furrey and Terrence Austin. None made the roster. Armstrong has exceeded expectations once he made the team. He seized the No. 2 receiver job from Joey Galloway and has 17 catches for 368 yards. The most impressive thing about Armstrong is that he makes important plays four of his catches have gone for 20 or more yards and an impressive 12 of his catches have resulted in first downs (and one touchdown).
RT: The Redskins got Adam Carriker from the Rams for a swap of late-round draft picks and he has proven to be a real steal. Defensive ends in the 3-4 defense are supposed to be anonymous and get the dirty work done. Carriker, who was out of position playing in a 4-3 in St. Louis, has gladly done just that. Hes capable of playing all three line positions and has a nose for the ball as evidenced by his two fumble recoveries.
DISAPPOINTING PLAYERRO: Receiver Malcolm Kelly. Sure Im piling on but how much could the Redskins use his size in the red zone or on third down when an under-duress Donovan McNabb can just fling a pass in the air in the hopes Kelly can snatch it. Nobody else on the roster can do that. Kelly made the mistake of pushing his hamstring at the start of camp when he should have admitted to the coaching staff he wasnt ready and start camp on the physically unable to perform list. Now hes sitting on the injured reserve list and the Redskins work out free agent receivers every Tuesday in search of production.
RT: Nose tackle Maake Kemoeatu. Jim Haslett has said trying to play the 3-4 without a good nose tackle is like trying to play baseball without a catcher. Well, Kemo has been lined up at catcher but all too frequently he is a few yards behind the batters box. He has consistently been pushed off the line, one of the reasons that the Redskins are allowing opponents an average of 4.6 yards a carry, 20th in the NFL. Kemo was supposed to be a solid veteran presence to anchor the middle but he has yet to live up to that.
SURPRISING DEVELOPMENTRO: Safety LaRon Landrys performance. The Redskins said all the right things since the start of off-season activities how the move from free to strong safety for Landry would mean hes back in his comfort zone and he would use his strength to his advantage. I wasnt buying it. Landry was still a player who took bad angles, went for the knock-out shot instead of a sure tackle and didnt have good ball skills. Well, it didnt take long for me to turn around on Landry. Hes currently one of the best defensive players in the NFL. He has seen the light (and also knows hes playing for a big-money contract).
RT: Lorenzo Alexander has saved the day at strong side linebacker. I figured he would be a reserve and role player on defense but when Andre Carter struggled at the start of the season, Alexander came in as the starter and has been as solid as a rock. Carter is now a defensive end in nickel situations and Alexander is the starting linebacker. The open-field tackling skills he developed as a special team player have translated very well to defense. Hes not an every-down player you only want to see him in pass coverage on rare occasions but he is active and effective when he is in there.
DISAPPOINTING DEVELOPMENTRO: Quarterback Donovan McNabbs inconsistency. Like most players, hes showed flashes with his arm (all of the completions of 50-plus yards) and legs (had a 36-yard scramble at Detroit) but the groans will only grow louder as the ground-balls, overthrows and throwaways continue to mount. Granted, hes been under siege but just as many times, you can see on tape that he has time but either doesnt step into his throw, leads the receiver too much (or throws behind them) or holds onto the ball too long. If the Redskins have any chance for the playoffs, they need better play from the player Shanahan called a franchise quarterback, earlier this week.
RT: During the offseason workouts, Fred Davis was looking great, running deep down the seams and hauling in passes for long gains. I thought Chris Cooley would run the shorter, traditional tight end routes while Davis would make one or two big plays a game. Now, in an offense starved for weapons, he has virtually disappeared. This may well be due to the fact the offense hasnt meshed yet and not much of anyone besides Cooley and Moss have been productive as receivers. Still, nine catches through eight games isnt significantly better production than Davis had at the midpoint of the season last year, before he was surprisingly effective in the starting role after Cooley was injured.
SHANAHANS BEST DECISIONRO: Keeping special teams coach Danny Smith. There are only three holdovers from last years staff and Smith is working for his third Redskins head coach. The special teams has its usual core of players (Lorenzo Alexander, Mike Sellers, H.B. Blades, Chris Wilson, Reed Doughty, etc.) but Smith has made the Redskins successful on special teams while working in what is essentially a rookie kicker in Graham Gano and a rookie returner in Brandon Banks. The Redskins entered the bye among the top 10 in three of the four returncoverage categories.
RT: Im a dont tell me about the labor pains, show me the baby kind of guy, and I think Shanahans decision to play hardball with Albert Haynesworth was a good one. Sure, it was messy, but for Shanahan to give in to Albert at any point during the struggle would have sent the message that a player could pout and get his way. After all the ugliness, Haynesworth has been playing lights out since the game in Philadelphia (minus the two games he missed due to his brothers death). Again, it hasnt been pretty but Shanahans actions have turned a problem child into a highly productive player.
SHANAHANS WORST DECISIONRO: His willingness to start fires. Arent Super Bowl-winning coaches supposed to nip things in the proverbial bud to prevent distractions? This coach seems to revel in it. It started with the Albert Haynesworth Fiasco, which should have been settled months before training camp with a visit by Shanahan and Haslett to Tennessee to present the defensive system and get on the same page. Instead, things never really settled down until the last few weeks. The latest blaze is Shanahans decision to bench Donovan McNabb late in the Detroit game. If he had come out afterward and said McNabb was injured or he wanted to save McNabbs health, fine. Instead, it was a decision that gained national traction (all of it negative for the coach).
RT: I still dont understand his decision to not only keep Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams on the roster, but to compound the problem by having both of them active week after week. The two have combined for 11 catches for 185 yards. Im not one of those who are still fuming over the release of Devin Thomas, but you have to think he could have gotten more production than that if he had been given as many offensive snaps as Galloway has. Williams and Galloway continue to take roster spots, game day active spots, and snaps and the Redskins are getting nothing from either of them.
ONE SECOND-HALF PREDICTIONRO: The Redskins will have three Pro Bowl players on defense yet finish in the bottom third in yards allowed. Washington enters the second half 31st in yards allowed per game, but cornerback DeAngelo Hall (league-high six interceptions), outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (seven sacks) and Landry (all over the field and highlight shows) will all be headed to Hawaii. And its a nod to Shanahans decision to hire Jim Haslett and switch to the 3-4 defense, which has created more play-making opportunities.
RT: The Redskins running game, which is now 24th in the NFL with an average of 95 yards per game and 17th with 4.1 yards a carry, will be much more effective as the second half of the season wears on. The offensive line will gel and the bye will allow tackles Trent Williams and Jammal Brown to heal up from nagging injuries. Ryan Torain is just beginning to figure out how to run in the NFL, Clinton Portis will have a strong role to play and the word on the street is if James Davis, just signed to the practice squad, makes the active roster he could be the best of the bunch. They probably wont make it to the top 10 in yardage by the end of the year but theyll make a run at it.