Monday, September 12, 2005

Skins 9 / Bears 7: Quick Takes

There were three very encouraging aspects to yesterday's game for Redskins fans, and two discouraging ones.

1. The offensive line was outstanding, as expected;

2. The defense was even more spectacular than expected. Although LaVar only played in about a dozen plays, the defense, led by Sean Taylor, put some hurt on the Bears and it is likely to continue to play that way for the rest of the year;

3. Clinton Portis ran like John Riggins, especially near the end of the game when he killed the clock. And, the Skins didn't lose much when Ladell Betts gave Clinton a breather. Some credit for that has to go to the offensive line;

1. I believe that Joe Gibbs knows what he is doing, but all of his post game comments gave the impression that Patrick Ramsey has lost his starting job. Mark Brunell definitely had a better preseason than Ramsey overall, but Ramsey can stretch the field; Brunell couldn't stretch the field with heavy equipment. (Update 8:50pm: Gibbs benched Ramsey today and gave the starting job to Brunell).

Ramsey averaged 9.5 yards per attempt yesterday after putting up big numbers in that area in the preseason, and he converted about 75% of his third down passes. Those are good numbers despite having a touchdown to Cooley on third down get called back on a questionable offensive pass interference call. Brunell used to put up those kinds of numbers, about five years ago.

I understand the importance of holding on to the football. I know that with the exceptional defense that the Skins have, mistake-free football can get you to the playoffs. Hell, that was the formula that gave the the Ravens their Super Bowl rings for the 2000 season, and I'd rather have this Redskins team than that Ravens team. Given a choice between Ramsey and Dilfer at QB who would you pick?

But, Ramsey only made one bad mistake: the interception in the first quarter. He settled down after that until the attempted murder by Lance Briggs took him out of the game. (Seriously, I know it's a violent sport, but clotheslines of the quarterback are penalties in the NFL about 999 times out of 1000; Briggs should have played the lottery yesterday). But, despite the importance of mistake-free football, some consideration has to be given to the next step.

What is the next step? I define it as getting to that dominating level of play that we saw in Joe Gibbs's Redskins teams of the 1980s when Skins fans could look forward to any game with confidence that the Skins had a great shot at winning it. If the team is going to take the next step, they'll need to have a balanced offense. I don't think Brunell can deliver that balance. Patrick Ramsey can deliver it because he can get the ball down field, which opens up the running game for Portis and Betts. With Brunell at QB, defenses are going to stack eight guys in the box and Portis and Betts are going to take a pounding. Their offensive line is great, but I'll bet on eight defensive players when they go against five offensive lineman. When you add in that Brunell has no future here and Ramsey has the potential to be a starting quarterback for years, it makes the case for Ramsey a lot easier to make.

2. John Hall, the kicker, is injured again. He hurt the same leg that knocked him out about half of the season last year. At least it came on the winning kick. If you have a QB that can't stretch the field (Brunell) and you put the whole burden to win on the defense and special teams, you can't afford to lose your only good kicker.


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