Just as Detroit, the Washington Redskins are on a bye this week. To keep things moving during the week off, I exchanged questions with the Curly R, a blog that follows the 'Skins. Below are the questions I asked and his answers. To find my answers regarding the Lions, head on over to the Curly R.
Pride of Detroit: Playing in the NFC East can't be easy as all of the teams usually are good year-after-year. What, in your opinion, is the toughest part about playing in such a rough division?
Curly R: If not good, then I'd say at least competitive. The NFC East is won and lost in the divisional games. Even when a team is tearing through the non-division schedule, every division game is hard fought. Winning of the NFC East usually comes down to a tiebreak, or a single upset coming back to haunt a team. Case in point: last season, the Redskins scored two touchdowns in the final 4 minutes to upset the Cowboys in Dallas on Monday Night Football. Although that game was early in the season, that upset was the key in determining which team in the NFC East earned a wild card playoff spot. If the Cowboys had not folded, they would have had 10 wins and captured the spot. Did I mention the Cowboys folded in that game?
Pride of Detroit: The Redskins have lost 3 straight heading into their bye week, and are in last place in their division. In reality, their chances of making the playoffs can't be too good right now, so what are your expectations for the rest of the season?
Curly R: There is a blogstorm about this over in Redskins-land. Opinions on what the Redskins should do next vary from benching Brunell and installing second-year first rounder Jason Campbell as the permanent starter, to making no changes and trusting the coaches to make adjustments. At 2-5, they are only two wins off the division pace, though if the Giants or Eagles win this week, they'll be three down. It's not out of reach yet, and I'm not ready to declare time of death on this season. As indicated above, it's the division games that will decide the NFC East, and the Redskins have already played at Dallas and at New York. They have four more division games, each a chance to get a full game on a rival, and three of those four games are at Redskins Stadium.
Outside the division, the Redskins remaining road games are against the Buccaneers, Saints and Rams. Not an easy run, but the remaining home games are against the Panthers and Falcons, so I think the Redskins will get to play the better teams at home. My expectations are that they will quit sucking, I hope at least a little.
Pride of Detroit: Plenty of blame could probably go around for why the 'Skins are only 2-5 this season. You have the injury early-on to Clinton Portis, and now what seems to be an issue at quarterback. But, what do you think has contributed the most to producing a pretty disappointing season thus far.
Curly R: How do I answer this in a couple of paragraphs? The new offensive system appears not able to exploit the strengths of the players. Santana Moss and Brandon Lloyd are burners and need to get out in the open field to be most effective. Instead though, the Redskins have been running a 'control' passing game that lives on the short game. This means either the playcalling is not suited to the personnel, or Mark Brunell is not looking to (or unable to) throw the deep ball and picking the short routes.
In the running game, the O-line does not seem to love run blocking. From everything I know about football, offensive lineman love to run block, cause they get to hit people. They allow penetration at the line and can't pick up run-blitzing linebackers. This is a veteran unit and they should be playing better.
On the defensive side, injuries are clearly an issue, but there's more to it I think. Shawn Springs' abdomen had to be reattached to his pelvis, a surgery he waited until training camp to have. With him out, that forced Carlos Rogers to step up and be the #1 coverage guy, a role he's apparently not ready for. Two guys off the street combine into one crummy #2 cornerback and Adam Archuleta, the highest paid safety in the history of football, couldn't cover toast with butter. Good thing Sean Taylor is on the job. The guy hits so hard the league makes the Redskins sell collision insurance in the visitors' locker room.
On the defensive line, the tackles are banged up and have missed a couple of games, forcing a couple of promising but over-matched rookies into service. And for the money paid to Andre Carter, the Redskins should be getting more production out of him. There appears to be no identity to the Redskins' play in the box. They don't pass rush or defend the run particularly well.
Coaching-wise on the defense, this year's team does not seem to have any of the 'creativity' of past Gregg Williams defenses, which leads me to believe his gameplans rely on comparative quality in secondary vs. the line in order to execute the coverages and blitzes. If the secondary can cowboy up and get it together, you'll probably see better play at the line as the team forces opposing offenses into worse decisions.
Pride of Detroit: Redskins Daniel Snyder has become pretty well-known in the last few years for having such a short leash on his coaches. There have been many different faces to go through Washington in recent memory. Joe Gibbs is starting to get closer to that spot with the losses piling up. How long do you think Joe Gibbs will be the head coach?
Curly R: For once, Dan Snyder will have no say in this. It will be Joe's decision and his only. By firing the legend Marty Schottenheimer, then forcing two years of the football equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, Steve Spurrier, The Danny had little option but Joe Gibbs to prevent an open fan revolt. We'll always always sell out Redskins Stadium, but notice the owner never appears out on the field anymore. When we see him, we boo, 100% of the time and with absolute certainty. Even though Redskins fans want to see the team play well and win, Joe Gibbs is Joe Gibbs, and Redskins fans will never ever call for him to be fired. If you were to take the temperature of Redskins fans, I think you would see that most are slow to blame Gibbs directly for what's wrong with the team, and quicker to blame a faulty brain trust of Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato, even if that is like blaming your car for breaking down because you didn't change the oil.
Dan Snyder is an object of derision, well hated and spoken of with open contempt in Washington. He should sell the team because no one cares about him and everyone wants him to go away.
Pride of Detroit: Looking down the road at the remaining part of the schedule, how about a prediction on what the final record will be? The Lions have an easy part coming up against some of the worse teams in the league, so who knows what they will end up at. However, sizing up the competition, what are your thoughts on the teams that are still to be played by year's end?
Curly R: At the beginning of the season, I wrote that I thought 10 victories would win the division, and with all four teams showing some inconsistency, 9 wins may even do it (I'm not convinced the Giants are that much better than the rest of the division). In order to win 10 games, the Redskins can afford only one more loss. I don't think this team can do better than 9-7 optimistically, and may even be as bad as 5-11. I hope I'm wrong.
Thanks again to the Curly R for exchanging questions and good luck to the Redskins throughout the rest of the season.