After a rough 0-2 start to the season, the Texans find themselves matched up against a team that is also struggling. After preseason expectations soared for the Redskins with talks of a return to the Super Bowl for head coach Joe Gibbs,
Nothing has clicked thus far for the Redskins, but after making key free-agent additions to a team that advanced past the Wild Card Round in the 2005 Playoffs, yet they still pose a serious challenge. With a legend in Gibbs at the helm, two of the highest paid coordinators in the league (Al Saunders on offense, Gregg Williams on defense) and proven players like WR Santana Moss, LT Chris Samuels, S Sean Taylor, QB Mark Brunell and RB Clinton Portis, the Skins should not be taken lightly. Nevertheless, the Texans have caught them at just the right time and could pull out their first win on Sunday.
**The big questions for the Texans defense this week when it comes to
Although they may be good part-time players, Betts and Duckett could not come close to replacing not only the productivity, but the explosiveness of Portis. Teams gameplan to stop Portis because running the ball is what sets up Gibbs and Saunders' downfield passing game.
The lack of a running game during the first two games of the season has hurt the production of the offense, more specifically the effectiveness of quarterback Mark Brunell. Brunell has struggled, failing to throw a touchdown pass and leading his offense to only one touchdown on the ground. While Brunell is 36 years of age, he had a very productive 2005 season, throwing for 23 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions leading everyone to believe he still had some years of good play left. If Brunell continues to struggle, the Redskins will turn to career backup Todd Collins or 2005 first round pick Jason Campbell, who has a cannon for an arm and is believed to be the quarterback of the future.
The frustrating part about the Redskins offense to start the season has been the inability to put the ball in the hands of their playmakers at wide receiver and H-back. The leader of the group is Santana Moss. At 5-10, he may not be the ideal physical specimen for the position, but you can't argue with his production and intangibles. Last season, Moss amassed 1,483 receiving yards, finishing second in the league, scored nine touchdowns and made his first Pro Bowl. Moss is flanked by new acquisitions Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd. Coming over from the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers where he spent his first four seasons, Randle El may not put up big numbers, but anytime he touches the ball he has the potential to change the game. Lloyd, may not be the most consistent receiver, but he shows the uncanny ability for making the spectacular catch and is adept at getting downfield in the passing game. At H-back is up and coming star Chris Cooley. After a 37 catches in his rookie season of 2004, Cooley broke out last season with 71 grabs. Like many other tight ends that are changing the way the position is played, Cooley has great hands, can run downfield and is a capable blocker.
Up front, the Redskins hope a strong foundation on the offensive line can rebound from a pair of substandard games to open the season. Despite allowing Brunell to be sacked six times thus far,
Al Saunders, who came over from the Kansas City Chiefs in the off-season, shares many of the same offensive beliefs as Gibbs. Both believe in a power running game attacking the interior of the opposition's defense, which in turn sets up a deep passing game with multiple receivers. Attacking a defense in two such drastically different ways forces the opposition to be on their toes. Any defense looking to beat this offensive style would have to incorporate elements of a Cover 2 defense to prevent deep passes as well as varying blitzes to upset the rhythm of their play-calling.
**If there's one thing coordinator Gregg Williams likes to do on the defensive side of the ball, it's bring the heat. The blitzing style of the Redskins frustrates opponents because every play brings a different type of approach by Williams. One play he could be sending safety Adam Archuela and the next he could be sending linebacker Lamar Marshall. These techniques helped Williams lead defenses of the Tennessee Titans (as defensive coordinator) during the franchise's lone Super Bowl appearance and the Buffalo Bills (as head coach)."
The defensive line of the Redskins is asked to do a lot of the dirty work, but the addition of a good pass rusher could give be the missing ingredient to going deeper in the playoffs. After DE Phillip Daniels, more commonly thought of as a better run defender, led the team last year with eight sacks, finding a pass rush became a priority. Enter Andre Carter. Carter comes over from the 49ers with a knack for knocking down quarterbacks averaging nine sacks from 2001 to 2003, but after a season-ending injury in 2004 and a difficult transition to playing outside linebacker in head coach Mike Nolan's 3-4 defense, it was time for a change. He may not be the flashiest pass rusher, but he gets the job done and is slowly becoming a more well-rounded defender. On the inside, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin is a force and is steadily improving, while Joe Salave'a brings his lunch pail to the trenches every game.
The linebackers are solid. Marcus Washington may be the best outside linebacker in the league no one knows about. In his seventh year out of
is capable of filling it on the inside or outside and will more than likely find his way into the starting lineup next season.
Coming into the season, the Redskins possessed arguably the best defensive backfield in the league, but an early injury has put them at a distinct disadvantage.
picked off two passes and gave the staff reason to be excited about his future.
Another one of owner Daniel Snyder's free agent haul can be found at the strong safety position in the person of Adam Archuleta. Archuleta showed in
The way to attack the Redskins in this particular game would be to attack the corners on the periphery to take advantage of Springs' absence. Using play action passes would take advantage of the Redskins' aggressive nature, but a steady diet of short quick passes to feel out their early blitz tendencies would be a necessity. Williams usually has his teams ready to play and they consistently respond by finishing the season among the higher ranked defenses in points and yards allowed, but as mentioned earlier, there are weaknesses that can be exploited.
*Special Teams *
The lone bright spot for the 'Skins so far as been their sparkling special teams. Kick returner Rock Cartwright took one back 100 yards for a touchdown last week against
Throughout his career, opposing teams have been extraordinarily careful when kicking to Randle El.
Kicker John Hall is already four of five on field goal attempts, and while he may not always be the most accurate, he can kick it from almost anywhere on the field and consistently gives his team good position on kickoffs. Needing to show improvement this season, punter Derrick Frost is averaging 48.3 yards on his kicks, a number he hopes to sustain for the final fourteen games.