1. This is a big game Sunday (yes, they all are). I’m not talking about for the playoffs, but for the direction of the franchise. You can’t start 1-3 in the third year of a regime that won a combined 11 games the first two. But that would be OK if the schedule doesn’t start to get a lot worse: Atlanta, Minnesota, at the Giants, at the Steelers. Time to get some urgency. And that’s one thing I’m not sure I sense a lot of right now. They’re either calm and confident or something else. We’ll find out Sunday. I remember some teams in the past that I thought worked too hard and were too determined to ultimately fail (Joe Gibbs’ 2005 team and ’07). Eventually, you saw that in Marty Schottenheimer’s team, too. They did everything with urgency.
2. Cedric Griffin isn’t a great corner, but at 6-foot he’s another guy with size. The Redskins will be facing a Bucs team with one receiver who’s 6-foot-5 and another who’s 6-foot-2. With Griffin out because of his hamstring, they’ll counter with two of their top three corners standing around 5-foot-9. They’d best get to Josh Freeman.
3. When the Redskins signed Josh Wilson, one scout who liked him coming out of college said he worried that Wilson’s size would start to work against him now the way the game was headed. But in talking to one coach this summer he said he was surprised how few times offensive coordinators challenged Wilson last season, in terms of any height mismatches. Wilson is a smart corner.
4. Will Montgomery is off to a good start. I remember talking to one scout a year ago who really liked him and thought he could be a solid center in the NFL. Maybe he was right. Lots of games left to play, but he’s played well. Haven’t even needed to break out the stopwatch to time his snaps.
5. Didn’t have time to do a separate blog on my free email report this week, but here are a few snippets (and you can sign up here for future ones; trust me, you get your money’s worth). Talked to one NFL source who pointed out how this is Raheem Morris’ first season in a completely new scheme. His experience came in the Tampa 2. The Bucs also played some cover 3. But this system rarely uses a cover 2 and relies on a variety of coverages, from man to zone and a combination of both. It’s a lot to ask a new coach, one who didn’t play in the NFL as the source reminded, to get it down right away. It leads to slower adjustments during the game.
“If there’s only a handful of calls you can make then you’ll be at the mercy of the offense,” the source said.
6. There’s also a sense that when you implement a system like Pittsburgh’s (run by Dick LeBeau), it’s tough to know all the nuances as well as how to install it as he does. You can implement a system, but it takes time to make it your own. This could explain, perhaps, the consistent big plays allowed. “Guys never develop a foundation of what it is they’re supposed to be doing,” one NFL source said.
7. I’ve heard that talk before about the defense, which is one reason I didn’t think they’d be a top-10 defense. And why I didn’t think they’d win more than seven games.
8. Also talked to former NFL coach Dan Reeves, who worked with three mobile quarterbacks in his career (Roger Staubach, John Elway and Michael Vick).
“Like all coaches you’re worried about the QB,” Reeves said. “When he runs you hold your breath. But he creates nightmares for defenses. I’ve watched almost every game and I like him. He’s in a perfect system. I said that when I drafted him.”
9. I’d be very surprised if Trent Williams plays. I have no idea about Pierre Garcon. Both are needed big-time.
10. One thing I wouldn’t do if I were a defense: Fall for the fakes. Let the Redskins prove they’ll run consistently before coming up hard. Easier said than done, which is why I’m on this side of the ledger.
11. I like that running back Alfred Morris knows he needs to improve. He’s caused four sacks because of his missteps (including two last week; bumping Robert Griffin III’s arm and then cutting between Jordan Black and his man). He’s not a kid who would ever get a big head, despite his strong start.
12. I have no idea what to make of Tampa Bay. The Bucs are committed to running the ball and have power backs, but they are dreadful on third down. Keep them in third and long and they should be OK. Considering some of the size outside it would be good if the Redskins could stop the run with seven. But I’d do what I could to get to Josh Freeman and make him throw as he’s backpedaling. Did it last week. Just know that the Bucs will probably run a lot of screens, too.
13. Kory Lichtensteiger is starting to get into a good rhythm. The interior has a tough matchup this week with Gerald McCoy and Roy Miller. The Bucs will sometimes slip end Michael Bennett inside; saw him get some pressure vs. the Giants that way.
14. Willie Smith is a big topic this week with Williams ailing. As in, how could they have released him? Well, he wasn’t very good. They want young players to develop and they opted for a 32-year old who was out of the league last year. Says a lot. But they need Jordan Black to play a solid game. Doesn’t have to be great, but needs to be solid or at least not horrible. The problem is they need one of the tackles to do a good job in terms of cutback lanes — and they can’t protect both in protection. It’ll be interesting. Will playing one game help Black this week? It better.
15. That’s enough. I’m tired.