1. The Redskins got off to a great 4-1 start before losing to the Rams and struggling to beat the Browns. Did they just play a couple of bad games or are there some legitimate concerns about losing to a winless team and just barely beating a 2-win team?
Hogs Haven: If you had told me before the season that they would go through the first 7 games 5-2, I'd have taken it. On the spot. No questions.
I'm not so concerned with the St. Louis game. The Rams got all their points on turnovers and field goals. Losing on a last second field goal hurts, but the Rams' performance against the Cowboys shows that they really are getting better under Haslett. That being said, there is some concern about the most recent game against the Browns. There were open receivers running down field and Anderson just didn't see them. That's bad. This game will be a good test to see where the team is mentally and see whether the Browns game was just an aberration.
2. Jason Campbell seems to have improved quite a bit this season. What has he done to make himself a better quarterback?
HH: As for JC's development, I can't help but point to Jim Zorn. He brought the West Coast offense with him from Seattle, a variation of the offense that Campbell used to go 13-0 at Auburn. It has been widely reported that JC has been in 7 offenses in 8 years, which is not good for a QB's development. This year, he looks comfortable and confident. Zorn worked with his footwork in the off-season and the football seems to come out on time, which did not happen last year. So, I say Zorn and the experience from last year. QBs take time to get comfortable and it looks like JC is settling in just fine.
3. Jim Zorn was sort of an unexpected hire. What was the reaction of Redskins fans when he was hired, and is he exceeding your expectations?
HH: As for Zorn, when he was hired at first, it was as OC. The reaction was actually pretty good. He seemed like he had done his time as QB coach under Holmgren and was ready to take the next logical step, which was calling plays as an OC. When he was announced as head coach a few weeks later, the reaction quickly turned to panic.
As for exceeding expectations, all I can answer is yes. I figured this would be a year of learning a new system and figuring things out and next year (year 2) would be the year that things started to happen. But Zorn got JC ready, kept the running game from last year (which has been tremendous) and kept most of the defensive staff, including the promoted DC Greg Blache. Zorn, for a first time head coach at any level, seems to know what's going on. To use his phraseology, he keeps it medium.
4. What is Washington's biggest strength and weakness on defense?
HH: The weakness of the defense is easy: pass rush. 9 sacks in 7 games is no good. Jason Taylor had a freak injury (blood pooled in his calf, which necessitated an emergency operation to avoid an amputation) and didn't provide the immediate pressure he was brought in for. That being said, he's been getting healthier and so has the pass rush. Because of the lack of a pass rush, the secondary has been under pressure, but they've held up for the most part this year.
As for a strength, the Skins D just doesn't let anyone get started on the ground. They're 7th in the NFL, giving up just over 86 yards per game. Blache has done a great job this year. Oh, and watch for S Chris Horton (#48), the team's 7th round choice this year. He's been all over the field after he got his shot. He and the other S LaRon Landry are always near the line making tackles and plays.
5. Last year the Redskins thumped the Lions with ease. They ran and passed their way to a 34-3 victory. Do you think we will see a repeat of last year's game on Sunday?
This one's tricky. I think, on paper, the Skins should roll the Lions. They're a 7.5 favorite on the road and if I was a betting man (I am) I'd give the points. That being said, the Skins have shown, in the last 2 games, a tendency to play down to the competition. If they can control the field position early with Portis, I don't see this game staying close for very long. But, as the saying goes, any given Sunday. They've already lost to a then-winless team (the Rams) so I'm not ruling out anything. Call it hesitant optimism.