Each week, we discuss the upcoming game with a writer from the opposition. This week, Rich Tandler (CSN Washington) and I exchanged five questions about the game. Enjoy!
Blogging The Boys: So after a pre-season of the Mike Shanahan Era, what kind of team is he putting together? Is the fan base generally happy with the direction he's taking the team?
Rich Tandler: After the rudderless Dan Snyder-Vinny Cerrato-Jim Zorn era, Redskins fans are happy to see the team go in any direction. Rule number one is that Mike Shanahan is in charge. Rule number two is, if there are any questions, see rule number one. Discipline has been restored to Redskins Park and a real, professional organization is now in place. How that will translate onto the field remains to be seen; not much was revealed during the preseason. By design, the offense will run to set up play-action passes and the defense will pressure the opposition into bushels of turnovers. We will see if it works out that way in reality.
BTB: It looks like Donovan McNabb will play on Sunday. Is there concern over his lack of playing time in the pre-season and whether he has found any rhythm with the offense?
RT: There is concern that he missed the third preseason game, the "dress rehearsal" with a sprained ankle but it is mild. He was present for the entire offseason program and the bulk of training camp and had the receivers out to his place in Arizona for a week just before camp for conditioning and route running. Compare that to Bret Favre dropping into the Vikings facility a few weeks before the start of the season and look at what he was able to do last year. That doesn't mean that I expect the offense to come out and run like the proverbial well-oiled machine. But frankly I'm a lot more worried about the timing required to execute the zone blocking scheme for the running game to work than I am about any issues between McNabb and his receivers.
BTB: We have to do it - go ahead and address the Albert Haynesworth situation.
RT: Wednesday was a typical day in the saga. On the heels of general manager Bruce Allen's denial that there were trade talks involving Albert taking place, a report comes from ESPN saying that the Redskins want a second-round pick for him and the Titans will only give up a fourth. At just about the same time, Shanahan vowed to the press that Haynesworth would be a Redskin for the game on Sunday. It was notable, however, that he would not commit to him being a Redskin beyond that. Trade drama aside (and, ultimately, I think that the chances of that happening are very nearly dead until next year), he will only be a moderately effective player until he both learns the new 3-4 scheme and then goes out and executes it without freelancing.
BTB: How has the overall transition to the 3-4 defense gone? What has looked good and what looks like it could be a problem?
RT: After a couple of years of watching a bend but don't break defense we should be seeing a defense that will give up some big plays but also should create turnovers. The Redskins had 17 last year. No, not 17 interceptions. Not 17 fumble recoveries. They had 17 total takeaways. They are looking to double that. The strong point of the defense will be outside linebackers Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo when they are moving forward, towards the quarterback. Orakpo is a good bet to challenge DeMarcus Ware for sack supremacy in the NFC. It won't look so pretty when those two are forced to drop back into coverage, particularly Carter. They will scheme and use packages to keep them from doing so very often but it's something that a sharp offensive coordinator will be able to exploit. There also are concerns about Maake Kemoeatu, the starting nose tackle, being able to hold his ground in the middle. Opponents were able to run the ball well in the preseason.
BTB: What can we expect out of Clinton Portis in 2010? Will he be a top-tier back this year, or have those days passed him by?
RT: Portis could have a big year left in him. Not a huge year but, say, 1,000 to 1,300 yards. There are three reasons to think that he will play well in 2010. First, he spent the offseason at Redskins Park pumping iron and not splitting his time between the Bahamas and South Beach lifting umbrella drinks as has been his custom. Second, he is very focused on proving wrong those who say that he is washed up. Finally, and most importantly, he is going back into the offense in which he had his best seasons. The one-cut running game behind zone blocking is his forte. That's how he gained over 3,000 yards his first two years in the league. Nobody is expecting that kind of production but in limited carries during the preseason he looked very sharp. The major caveat here is that after missing the last half of last season with a concussion, one blow to the head could again sideline him for a good chunk of the season.
Thanks for the knowledge, Rich! My responses to his questions can be found here.