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Blognostications

Week 3 - @ St. Louis Rams

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Blognosticator - honorary_hog

Welcome, ladies and gents. I'm HH, and I'm honored to be your humble Blognosticator for Week 3 of our beloved Washington Redskins' season, aka the "Silencing of the Rams."

Though we've just embarked on this 16-week NFL journey, it's already been quite a ride. We've run the gamut of emotions. We've felt the ecstasy of holding on to beat our most loathed rival. We've felt the agony of letting a good team up off the deck; and letting one slip away. We've bemoaned game-winning field goals that weren't; and we've rejoiced over game-winning touchdowns that weren't. We've seen an inept offense bailed out by its defense. We've seen a secondary-shredding offense let down by its defense. In just two weeks, we've already been run through the NFL's ringer. Are we ready to give in? Haynesworth chance, my friends.

After two weeks, it's virtually impossible to tell how good this Redskin team actually is. Through my burgundy and gold glasses, I see a team that finally has a franchise quarterback, receivers who get the job done, a defense that can make a big play when it needs to, and a fanbase that is more energized than it has been in a long, long time. When I lay those glasses on my desk, I see a team that still can't put together a full 60 minutes, a secondary that's got some glaring weaknesses, a completely non-existent running game, and a fanbase that silently wonders if we're in for another season of hope turned to torture.

Perhaps a little game of good news-bad news will make things just a little more clear. When someone tells me they have good news and bad news, I want the bad news first. I've learned over the years that the bad news often isn't as bad as I expected, and the good news softens the blow even more. And since I'm the one writing this blognostication, you're getting the bad news first too.

First and foremost, we have GOT to find a running game. I don't care if it's Clinton Portis, Keiland Williams, or Sultan McCullough toting the rock; you simply cannot be competitive in the NFC East without being able to grind away, and run some time off the clock. While the NFL has certainly become a pass-first league, offenses that can't run the football are about as effective as LJ reversing his field.

Portis is not the problem. He's in the best shape of his Redskin career, and still shows plenty of explosion when he gets a rare opportunity to do so.

The scheme is not the problem. Mike Shanahan has never had a problem running the ball with no-name backs, and average talent along the offensive line. When he was in Denver, I felt like Shanny could have used you and me in his backfield, dear reader, and we'd BOTH have put up thousand-yard seasons. I exaggerate, of course, but only slightly.

The problem is the offensive line. These guys had better be taking their performance to date personally. They had better realize that they are in a proven system, with a proven back, and it's danged sure time for them to prove themselves in the ground game.

Ready for more bad? No? Tough. Reed Doughty. Buddy. You don't have a bigger defender on earth than me. But I'd really appreciate it if you could make the defense's case just a little easier.

Doughty is playing out of position. He's a strong safety, and is well-suited for playing in Jim Haslett's system as, essentially, a fifth linebacker. He is not well-suited for having Andre Johnson turned over to him by a cornerback deep down the field. While he was in position to make plays on Sunday, he didn't make them. And I'm tired of saying, "He was in position, he just barely missed making the play." No, Reed. You start making the play, or I'm getting off of this one-man bandwagon.

OK, one more "bad" and then we'll get to the good stuff.

We need to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And we need our secondary to take full advantage of the limited time to throw that follows. Our blitz has been very effective at times. Five sacks against a good team is a respectable number. But we need far more hits and hurries. We need to make sure that Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall are only responsible for two- or three-Mississippi, not six.

Enough of that. Time for the "good."

LaRon Landry. This kid is almost -- almost -- making me feel bad about all the things I said about him last year. "He doesn't wrap up. He takes dreadful angles. He's more worried about making 'Jacked Up' than he is playing anything resembling fundamental football." Last year I was right. This year, he's proven me wrong. He's become a tackling machine, an excellent blitzer, and a very sound fundamental player. He's also playing back at his natural position; which is a double-edged sword. He's getting the job done, but free safety is now a huge liability. Still, if we were to hand out an award for Most Improved Player two weeks in, LaRon gets it, hands down.

More good? My pleasure.

Washington, we have a franchise quarterback. Donovan McNabb shredded the Texans' secondary for 426 yards, the most by a Redskin since Brad Johnson threw for 471 in 1999. The guy is the leader we've lacked, can still scramble like he's 24, and continues to get it done without having a truly dominant wide receiver. He is everything I hated him for being in Philadelphia.

And how about this kid, Trent Williams? Admit it. Two games into his professional career, when you saw him go down, you thought to yourself, if just for a fleeting moment, "There goes our season." I think you would have been right. Fortunately, we won't have to find out. His MRI revealed no structural damage to his knee. That's a very good thing, considering he's allowed (unofficially) just two sacks so far, despite spending a lot of time lined up across from premier pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Mario Williams. I hated to see Chris Samuels forced into retirement, but if it had to happen, I'm glad Williams was the one to step in. And I'm sure Chris has been a huge cog in this young man's development.

I can see it in your eyes, you want one more tick in the "good" column. Well here it is. By virtue of being the only 1-1 team in the NFC East with a division win, your Washington Redskins are officially in first place. By virtue of not winning crap, the Dallas Cowboys are last. Oh, and you heard it here first. If the 'Boys lose to Houston this weekend (a very real possibility, mind you) Jason Garrett will replace Wade Phillips as head coach.

And now, for our opponent, the St. Louis Rams. (I'll pause here to allow the booing to die down a little.)

Nothing cures an "ailing" secondary like facing a rookie quarterback. While Sam Bradford will in all likelihood become a very good NFL QB, he's not there yet. Bradford's done what you hope a rookie signal-caller will do, and that is improve from week-to-week. He followed up a 1 TD, 3 INT performance in Week One with 2 TDs and a pick last week. It helped that they played the Raiders, and Bradford wasn't asked to shoulder the entire load. He no doubt needed to ice his elbow after chucking and ducking 55 times in the opener, but aired it out only 25 times in an efficient game two.

Expect Jim Haslett to dial up every creative blitz in his deep bag of tricks. The Redskins should have no problem getting some pressure on Bradford, and pressuring young quarterbacks often leads to turnovers.

The Rams running game hasn't quite hit its stride yet either. They're running the ball better than the Redskins (as are 29 other teams), but Steven Jackson hasn't been Steven Jackson through two weeks. Don't expect that to change now, with Adam Carriker stepping it up, and London Fletcher and LaRon Landry playing stellar football.

Mark Clayon, late of the Baltimore Ravens, has been Bradford's favorite target so far. DeAngelo Hall has volunteered to cover him.

Defensively, linebacker James Laurinaitis (Animal, Jr.) is quickly proving himself to be the real deal. And safety O.J. Atogwe's real dealness has never been in question. Still, these guys need help. And they don't have a lot of it. (I won't insult Howie Long by calling Chris "Howie, Jr.")

All in all, this is a good matchup for the Skins. I said earlier that I'm not sure exactly how good this team is. Sunday we may be one step closer to finding out. Good teams beat the Rams; and so did the Raiders.


Predictions:

Final Score: Redskins 24, Rams 13

How they'll do it: Donovan McNabb goes 26-38, for 281 yards, and one TD. Clinton Portis goes over 100 yards for the first time this season, and scores once. DeAngelo Hall takes a pick to the house. (Boone made me say that. *not really*) Graham Gano kicks a 52-yard field goal, and gets credit for it this time.....For the Rams.....who cares?

Key to the game: Field position, and Portis getting it going.

Surprise of the game: Bradford's shoulder stays in its socket for all 60 minutes.

Homework Assignment: See how many words you can make out of the letters in "Oshiomogho Isaac Atogwe."

Extra Credit: Figure out why a guy named "Oshiomogho Isaac" goes by "O.J."
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