The Road to the Lombardi Trophy
Look alive football junkies! Dust off your foam fingers and throw your jerseys on, because the kickoff of the NFL season is approaching faster than a yellow penalty flag in the old, sloppy Spurrier-coached Skins days.
With football god Joe Gibbs at the helm for his third year since returning from success on the NASCAR circuit, Redskins' fans can rest assured that penalties won't be an issue in this administration. Also returning for a third go-around are assistant coaches Gregg Williams, who masterminded last year's 3rd-ranked defense, and offensive line coach and Head Hog, Joe Bugel.
New to the franchise this season and joining the illustrious list of football geniuses is a legend himself, Al Saunders. With twenty four years of NFL coaching under his belt, Saunders has, undoubtedly, one of the best offensive minds the game has ever seen. Architect of Kansas City's amazingly efficient offense, which broke the '84 Dolphins record of 387 first downs with 398 first downs two seasons ago, Saunders will be taking over the play-calling this year. The acquisition should solve the problems with confused play-calling the last two seasons. Brushing off old-school schemes and adjusting them to the NFL climate of today is no easy task, especially when Skins' fans know all too well that games are usually decided by a touchdown or less, making Saunders a very welcome addition to the burgundy and gold coaching staff. Unfortunately, no matter how many football gurus Washington will have sitting around a table, the season still comes down to game time and what gets done on the field. Let's break it down, shall we?
Led by 13-year veteran quarterback Mark Brunell, this year's offense has shown a lot of promise under the direction of Al Saunders. Recruited three years ago by Gibbs, Brunell brings a wealth of experience and leadership to the huddle. Luckily, Brunell is now working with an incredibly talented group of young receivers, which will hopefully compensate for his inconsistency, something that has plagued him since being seriously injured while playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Although Brunell clearly holds the starting spot at QB, a lot of fans have shown interest in the progress of last year's first round draft pick, Jason Campbell. Since Campbell showed a lot of poise in early scrimmages and preseason games, hopefully the young stud will be able to see more of the field this coming season.
The receiving corps, led by Santana Moss and new addition Antwaan Randle El, will definitely need to come up with a solid rhythm to re-create Saunders' offensive success with the Chiefs. Moss' speed and Randle El's versatility and his ability to find gaps will definitely help get a passing game that has been a little lackluster off the ground. Randle El's experience as a high school and college quarterback also opens up options for surprise plays, flea flickers, etc. that have always been fan favorites. However, in order to have a working passing game, there must always be that go-to run option. Clinton Portis, the charismatic face of the franchise and holder of the team's single-season rushing record, suffered a dislocated shoulder in the team's first preseason loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. This injury is a serious detriment to the team's success, although team officials are hopeful that Portis will be healthy for the team's first regular season game on September 11th. This conjecture is under only the best conditions with an injury of this nature. The injury is especially detrimental to running backs like Portis, who need to lower their shoulder to squeeze out extra yardage. In the meantime, Ladell Betts will be taking over the position, despite coming off an injury of his own from last season.
Coming from a 3rd place ranking in the NFL last season, there is a lot to be expected from the Skins defense this season. After losing two-thirds of his linebackers to the Giants, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has still managed to retain all of his talent at the corner and safety positions. The loss of the old linebacking personnel should not be an issue, however, since the magic of Williams' defensive schemes is the well-disciplined zone that doesn't call for a big name playmaker. Watch for vets such as Marcus Washington, Lemar Marshall and Cornelius Griffin to really step up and stuff runners up the middle, the signature of last year's run defense. The one-two punch offered by the speed and tackling of Carlos Rogers and Sean Taylor should also be enough to keep the passing game of the opposing team on their toes. Although the defense has had extremely poor showings in the preseason thus far, this usually isn't a great indicator of what the regular season will be like. Expect Williams to really whip the boys in shape for the sixteen weeks that count.
Now that Washingtonians know more than ever what it's like to win or lose by just one field goal, a solid special teams crew is the secret to a successful football team. A product of the "Jetskin" trades in recent seasons, kicker John Hall is back to reclaim his starting position as the team's kicker after falling to injury last season. Although usually a very solid kicker, Hall looked a little rusty at the Redskins/Ravens scrimmage, missing two 40+ yard field goals. But Hall's poor showing early in the offseason should not be cause for concern in Washington, because there are still preseason games to be played before getting the ball between the uprights becomes crucial. The Redskins' starting punter will be Derrick Frost, starting punt returner Ataveus Cash, and starting kickoff returner Ladell Betts, which may be subject to change depending on the number of carries he'll be getting in the wake of Portis' injury. The area that seems to need the most work on special teams is again, defense. Lack of hustle is hopefully just a side-effect of the preseason slump and the Redskins should be on point for the season kickoff.
There's little argument that the NFC East is going to be a serious force to reckon with this season. Bill Parcells and T.O. in Dallas, Eli Manning and our former linebacking crew in New York and even the seemingly weakest foe, the Eagles, who could still pull a fast one with Donovan McNabb taking the snaps, each stand between the Skins and a return to the playoffs. Who knows if T.O will finally settle down as a team player, but if anyone can do it, it's Bill Parcells. T.O.'s sheer explosiveness is welcome on any offense, but his attitude isn't. Parcells has already been putting him in his place and watching his development is definitely going to be the big headline coming out of Dallas.
In New York, young Manning is ready for work and so is the rest of the team. The Giants are looking sharp with Amani Toomer at wide receiver and a big portion of the Skins' former starting defense. Their run game is also fairly strong, but there are no guarantees with Tiki "Fumble-itis" Barber carrying the ball. As for the Eagles, McNabb may no longer have T.O. to throw to, but still is an explosive player who can get out and run. Although the team came close last year, it seems that Philly has never been able to get the job done - a job that'll be harder this year after losing talent on both sides of the ball.
Well, there you have it Skins' fans, your starters and stars for the'06-'07 season. SCO bids fans happy couch-lounging after a summer of sweating it out and pretending to enjoy watching baseball and tennis. From one Skins diehard to Skins diehards everywhere, hail to the Redskins!
Elsi Wu. Elsi Wu is really a middle-aged, obese Italian man. A perky CAP junior who lives for ESPN, Superbowl Sunday, Poms, and food, she watches Friends and Oprah RELIGIOUSLY along with any Redskins/Maryland games (you know, normal activities for the average obese Italian man). Instead of … More »