It is the Friday before Week 1. All this talk, now it is time to play the games. THE REGULAR SEASON IS HERE! God, I love football.
The Skins game. We chatted with some folks over at DC Pro Sports Report to get a sense of what we will be seeing on Sunday. Here are the answers to our questions.
1. Why should we expect the Redskins offense to be better than it was in 2008, when it was anemic? Who is going to make the difference?
A: Maybe you shouldn’t. The Redskins offense is a big unknown. The offensive line should be better, with the addition of Derrick Dockery at guard and some health at offensive right tackle. However, the depth is young and completely unproven. Any injury could be a disaster and the only offensive line I know lucky enough to go a full season [or more] without a serious injury is the Giants offensive line — which is both lucky and good. If Washington’s offense improves in 2009 it will be because the offensive line does not collapse under age and injuries, as it did in the second half of 2008.
2. Everyone knows and respects Haynesworth and Daniels. What should opposing offenses do to attack the Redskins defense?
A: Attack the linebackers in pass coverage. London Fletcher is a tackling machine and a real stud against the run, but he’s not a speed demon and quicker running backs can really exploit him. WLB Rocky McIntosh isn’t great in pass coverage either. SLB Brian Orakpo is extremely quick, but he is still learning the position after starring as a defensive end at Texas, and he looks a bit stiff in pass coverage. The more the Giants can make Orakpo play pass defense instead of rushing the quarterback, the better off the Giants will be. Rookie or not, the Giants must watch Orakpo carefully in all passing situations. He’s scary fast.
3. Is Kelly good enough to play opposite Moss? How do you beat a defense that gives help over the top against Moss and lets the other WR get singled?
A: Kelly fell in the draft last year because of well-known concerns about a history of knee injuries and those concerns were justified when he missed 11 games to injury. He’s healthy now, though, and his decent speed, good hands and great size [6’4″ and 220 lbs] make him an ideal complement to Santana Moss. Of course, whether or not Kelly can stay healthy long enough to do some real damage is another matter entirely. The Redskins can move the ball through the air, even with Moss doubled, with TE Chris Cooley, who caught over 80 passes last year. However, they can’t beat a good team like the Giants with just Moss and Cooley. Someone else will have to step forward — a wide receiver like Malcolm Kelly. If the Redskins receiving options are Moss and Cooley again, Washington’s 2009 offense will look a lot like the 2008 edition.
4. Clinton Portis has had his share of injuries. Will he last the season?
A: Who can say? Portis is still only 28 [hard to believe], but he’s had a ton of carries. If he’s healthy, he’s a top running back who can do everything. The Redskins plan to spell him more this season with Ladell Betts who ran for over 1100 yards in 9 starts in 2006 when Portis missed half the season. The idea is for Portis to get the ball about 300-315 times this year instead of 350 or more. It would help Portis a lot if the offensive line could stay healthy. When the OL was healthy last year, Portis was leading the NFL in rushing. When it fell apart in November, Portis’ health and productivity went with it.
5. Who wins? What score?
A: Washington has more weapons offensively and defensively than it did last year. The offensive line didn’t allow a single sack of Jason Campbell in the preseason, but let’s see how they do in a real game against a big-time defensive line. The Giants are a good team and are playing at home. They should win. I don’t expect a romp like the season opener last year, but I think the Giants win in a close game, something like 20-17. I expect a hard-hitting NFC East battle.
Ultimatenyg back here again. I think the Redskins are fortunate to be playing the Giants in Week 1. It is not who you play but when you play them. And the Giants are vulnerable here early in the season because the defense has not played together. All it takes is ONE miscommunication on defense or one play where CC Brown is subbing in for Johnson/Phillips and all things can go south. If we know Gilbride is dialing up Bradshaw and Boss as an important part of the passing game, if we know that our defensive players are healed, if we know that Wilkinson’s speed is going to be used over Blackburn (who will be “starting”) on passing plays to neutralize Portis/Cooley.. the Giants can roll easily. But if the Giants make a few mistakes and Daniels/Haynesworth wreak havoc, the Skins will be in the game and have a shot. I’ll predict the Giants win a tight one. Wonder likes the Giants to win and cover.