Behind Enemy Lines Part I: Cardinals@Redskins

The Washington Redskins look for two in a row when they host the undefeated Cardinals. After a comeback win against the New Orleans Saints in Week 2, Washington looks to carry the success at stopping the run, while finding a consistent rhythm in the air. Amberly Richardson has five questions for WarPathInsider.com's John Keim about the Week 3 contest that can set the tone for the rest of 08'.

Amberly Richardson: Head coach Jim Zorn is extremely familiar with the Cardinals because of his long ties to the Seattle Seahawks. Numerous articles have been written on his plans to change the Redskins into a West Coast offense. How has that switch gone and is everyone on board?

John Keim The switch is a work in progress. They kept the same running game as they had under Joe Gibbs to ease the transition. But the passing attack has been inconsistent, from the final two-preseason games through the first two regular-season games. Jason Campbell hesitates at times, costing them a chance at big plays. He likes to throw downfield and the West Coast demands more underneath throws. But he was very patient against New Orleans -- he also had more time and the defensive backs weren't as good as what they faced vs. the Giants in the opener.

It will take Jason time to become a consistent player and you really don't know week to week what you'll get just yet. Everyone else appears to be on board. I have not heard players grumble about the offense, even privately. They like that one coach is calling the plays as opposed to Gibbs/Al Saunders trying to mesh philosophies. The receivers feel they have more freedom. The line likes it because, in theory, they won't have to block as long and the backs like it because, in theory, they should have more running lanes. I don't think that's really the case, but that's what they think. The real key has been the solid performances of Clinton Portis. He powers the offense.

AR:The Redskins picked up quite a commodity in Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor, but he left Week 2 with a knee injury. What is the status on Taylor's return, and how will a possible absence play in Washington's defense against the Cardinals in Week 3?

JK:There's no issue with Taylor; he returned in the second game and played the rest of the way. His knee is still not 100 percent and if he faces a power running team he can be moved around. He's lost a little explosiveness, but he had some pressures and a sack last week.

AR:Washington looks to improve on a 1-1 record, while the Cardinals hope to continue its early streak (2-0), what is the area of most concern for the Redskins and what steps are they taking to resolve the issue?

JK:Getting a more consistent rhythm in the passing game is one goal. They did a good job stopping big plays vs. New Orleans, but Arizona offers a stiffer challenge in that regard. But one subtle area that is of concern is the special teams. Rookie punter Durant Brooks has been horrible and another bad game could land him out of a job. His hangtime has been bad and he botched a hold vs. the Saints. He also comes across as fragile mentally, not a good sign. Also, punt returner Antwaan Randle El hasn't been good in that role and they're considering using Santana Moss at times instead of him.

Another area of concern is at receiver where No. 3 WR James Thrash has a high ankle sprain. That means one of the rookies, Devin Thomas or Malcolm Kelly, must play a lot more. Thomas appears clueless on routes while Kelly also sprained his ankle Sunday -- his third leg injury since camp opened.

AR: The Redskins kept the New Orleans Saints to just 55 yards in Week 2, of which 28 was Reggie Bush's (on 10 carries). The Cardinals having a 1,200-yard plus rusher in Edgerrin James and a building threat in rookie Tim Hightower, should Arizona fans expect to see their top ball carriers shut down or was the Redskins' ability to drown out the Saints' ground game a fluke?

JK:The Redskins were very good against the run last year and all but one player is back from that defense. So they are at least solid on the ground. They were bad in Week 1 and good in Week 2. The difference stemmed from the teams they played. New York overpowered them at the line and the linemen did a good job getting to the linebackers. The Saints did not. Also, they swarmed Reggie Bush and prevented any long runs.

The tackles did a better job of allowing the 'backers to run free and they fit their gaps much better. They also used eight in the box a lot. I don't think you can do that against the Cardinals. But it's not as if Edgerrin is off to a great start.

AR: QB Jason Campbell started in 13 games last season, but overall he's sat out more than he's started. How does he look this year, and is he the answer for the Redskins moving forward?

JK: As stated in the first answer he's been inconsistent. It's clear that it will take some time for him to learn the West Coast system; it takes all QBs time. But some of his mistakes -- accuracy, holding the ball too long -- aren't because of a new system. He has shown more maturity in the pocket; he hasn't made mistakes in the red zone, but he also hasn't gotten them in the end zone enough. At times you wonder if he's a good fit for this system; he likes the longer routes. But he does show flashes.

I also think he needs receivers more suited for this offense. I like Moss a lot as a vertical guy and Randle El is a decent possession WR. But Campbell needs a bigger target, which is why they drafted Thomas and Kelly. Is Jason the answer moving forward? He has to be because they lack other options. Todd Collins is a stopgap at best and Colt Brennan, despite some good summer moments, is a couple years away. The coaches see too many holes in his game to proclaim him anything else.


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