Tandler’s Redskins Blog Ver. 09.09.05
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The 2005 Washington Redskins will make the playoff and anything less than that will be a disappointment.
The team has good, talented football players, a lot of them. One quick way to assess the level of a team’s talent is to see how many of its players would start for most other NFL teams. With the definition being that a player could start for at least half of the other teams in the league, the Redskins have quality players at all five positions on the offensive line, one at wide receiver with Santana Moss, one at tight end with Chris Cooley, and one at running back with Clinton Portis. On the other side of the ball they have defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, linebackers LaVar Arrington and Marcus Washington, cornerback Shawn Springs and safety Sean Taylor. A few others such as safety Matt Bowen and defensive end Renaldo Wynn are on the borderline, but even discounting them that makes 13 players who are above average at their positions. That’s enough to win with.
There was some truth to what people were saying about Joe Gibbs last year, that he was trying to win in 2004 with plays that worked in 1990. Certainly it didn’t work like the typical Joe Gibbs offense, one that took best advantage of the talents of its players and always had a surprise or two in store for the opposing defense. It’s surprising to learn that some still think that the game has passed him by. He didn’t spend 15-20 hours a day at Redskins Park during the offseason trying to convince people that what he did last year works, he spent it revamping the Washington offense. Gibbs has always said the he would change about 40% of his offense from year to year. From ’04 to ’05 the numbers will probably be flip-flopped, with the coaches putting 60% or more of last year’s schemes in the trashcan. The shotgun, which we have seen used effectively during the preseason and zone blocking for Portis to allow him to bust some long gainers, plays that were missing from his 1,300-yard season in 2004.
Even with all of the problems with the offense last year, the Redskins still won three of their last five games. One of the losses was to the Eagles and the Redskins’ strong bid for an upset in that game was derailed by a late interception of a Patrick Ramsey pass in the end zone. The other defeat came in the dying minutes at Texas Stadium when a late Dallas touchdown pass pulled out the win for the Cowboys.
That’s the framework. So how do the Redskins take these quality players running an effective offensive scheme and a Gregg Williams defensive scheme and win the nine or 10 games that will be needed to make the playoffs?
- Win three in the division: The Redskins have favorable matchups in their four meetings with the Giants and Cowboys in regards to the quarterbacks they will be facing. Williams’ aggressive, blitzing packages are designed to terrorize young quarterbacks such as New York’s Eli Manning and immobile quarterbacks like Dallas’ Drew Bledsoe. Even if they can’t steal a win from the Eagles, something they almost did in Week 14 last year, they should be able to muster a 3-3 division record.
- Beat the teams they should beat: The home games against the Bears and 49ers are games that the Redskins should be favored in by a touchdown or more. Seattle comes to FedEx Field and they’re a terrible road team. The Oakland Raiders also visit FedEx and even with the addition of Randy Moss they’re still a team that will post a double-digit loss total. Tampa Bay is just a few years removed from a Super Bowl win but they seem to be a lost franchise now. The Redskins travel to Arizona and the Cardinals are supposed to be an up and coming team but I’ll believe it when I see it. Washington will win five of those six games.
- Pull an upset or two: The three division wins and the five against the lesser teams mean that the Redskins need to find another win, maybe two, to get a ticket to the playoffs. Among the more winnable road games is the one in Denver. The Broncos just aren’t very good this year and, like Manning and Bledsoe, the mistake-prone Jake Plummer is the kind of quarterback that plays right into Williams’ hand. The Chargers, who play at FedEx Field in late November and if the Redskins are playing well then that will be a very tough game for the Chargers to win. A win in a December trip to St. Louis may be a tall order, but the Rams are nothing if not erratic and a win there is not out of the realm of possibility.
Of course, the usual caveats are in place here. The Redskins, like virtually every other NFL team not named the Patriots, won’t be successful if they are hit with an extraordinary number of injuries or get more than their share of unfortunate breaks. Given an equality of luck, however, the Redskins will be extending their season into the playoffs in 2005.