Talent and Health Give Skins the Edge

Earlier this week in this space, a case was made that, in the long run, it was a good thing that the Redskins lost to the Giants, given the way they played. One of the counter arguments made to this was the fact that the team didn't learn anything from their decade of losing since 1993. Why should it be any different now?

A fair question with a simple answer: The Redskins are a more talented team now than they have been since 1991. They put better football players on the field than their opponents do almost every week. And better players win games.

The Redskins' abundance of talent is evident from almost any angle. Look at the team's superstars. Almost every week, Lavar Arrington, Champ Bailey, and Laveranues Coles will be better players than almost anyone taking the field for the other team. We could soon add Patrick Ramsey to that list and, if Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels improve their play to levels they've shown in the past, they will be there among the elites as well.

Taking a broader look, how many of the Redskins' starters would also be starters if they played for other NFL teams? Every starter on the offensive line would start for most (most meaning more than half) NFL teams with the exception of center Larry Moore. Both receivers would and Ramsey would. On defense, Renaldo Wynn, all three linebackers, both corners and Matt Bowen would crack the lineup in most other organizations. Add in kicker John Hall and returner Chad Morton and you have 16 players that a lot of NFL teams would immediately insert into the lineups. During most of the past 10 years, you'd have been hard pressed to find 10 such players populating the Redskins' roster. Most years there were about a half a dozen.

When the Redskins take the field against the Patriots, the numbers will be similar. What Pats would start for the Redskins? On offense, New England tight end Christian Fauria isn't a total stiff, so he's better than anyone the Redskins have there. Antowain Smith is certainly a more accomplished back than either Ladell Betts or Trung Canidate, but he's listed as second string and starter Kevin Faulk probably wouldn't beat out either Betts or Canidate. Rock Cartwright beats out Fred McCrary at fullback. New England's Joe Andruzzi probably could earn a starting spot at left guard.

They biggest areas up for debate are quarterback and receiver. Of course, Coles would start for a combined Pats-Skins squad, but the other spot would be up for grabs between Troy Brown and Rod Gardener. In 2002, Brown caught more passes, but Gardener gained more yards. This year, Gardener is playing better. And at quarterback, you have an accomplished young quarterback who's playing well in Tom Brady and a virtual rookie making his ninth NFL start who's playing out of this world in Patrick Ramsey.

Let's give New England the benefit of the doubt and say that both Brown and Brady start. That still means of 11 offensive starters, four are from New England, seven from Washington.

It's difficult to compare the defenses since New England sports a 3-4 alignment. Wynn, Trotter and Arrington get three of the front seven spots, give New England the other four. In the backfield, Ty Law starts over Fred Smoot but the other three spots go to the Redskins. That's a six to five advantage for the Redskins.

That doesn't necessarily mean that a Washington win is a slam dunk. Guards don't have to beat the opposing guards; they have to beat the man in front of them. It's not Brady vs. Ramsey; it's Brady and Brown vs. Bailey and Ramsey and Coles vs. Law. New England certainly has an edge in the coaching department, although it appears that Steve Spurrier is learning quickly.

Still, given the Patriots' injury problems—they list 11 players on their injured list, only two of them are probable, the rest questionable, doubtful, or out—this should be the Redskins' day if they can stay in single digits in penalties and keep the dropped passes down under a half dozen.

Washington 24, New England 13.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has detailed coverage of every game the Redskins played from 1937 through the 2001 season. For details, go to RedskinsAtoZ.com

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