I was putting together my weekly Timeline feature for the print edition of Warpath and I wrote of the 1991 game against the Browns (we have to get this feature stuff in early to Keim) when Ricky Ervins ran for 133 yards and two touchdowns. Ervins went from being a bench-bound rookie to key role player in the space of about a quarter and a half.
If the Redskins are to have a special season, someone has to emerge into that sparkplug role. The best candidate to do this is Chris Cooley, who caught a pass for the Redskins first touchdown. He also caught a key pass for a first down to get the Redskins out of the hole after Tampa Bay had tied the game last week.
Cooley is a nice blend of decent natural ability and solid fundamentals. He's not one of those fluid athletes who makes everything look effortless, but he doesn't look awkward on the field either. You can see him look each pass into his hands and you can practically hear him count the steps as he runs each precise route.
He probably won't have a signature "breakout" play like Ervins' 65-yard touchdown run in that Cleveland game at RFK, the one that clinched a win that sent the Skins to a 7-0 record. But every week, Cooley will make a play that will help the Redskins win the game or help them stay competitive.
Ramsey in Relief
While it was disturbing to see Mark Brunell limp off the field on Sunday, there was reason to be encouraged by the thought of Patrick Ramsey coming into the game in relief. As a rookie, he came in to relieve an injured Danny Wuerffel twice. The first time, in his first significant NFL action, he led the Redskins to a win over the Tennessee Titans. Ramsey couldn't hold on to the starting job, however, and found himself as the backup again late in the season when Washington faced the Giants. Wuerffel again injured his shoulder and Ramsey rallied the Redskins from an early hole to a near-miss loss. Had Darnerien McCants not fumbled at the Giant 30 after catching a pass from Ramsey the Redskins just may have pulled out a win despite five turnovers.
And had Rod Gardner been able to hang on to Ramsey's pass at the goal line last Sunday, Ramsey may have led his team to a win in a game that they had no business being competitive in given the seven turnovers.
While it's early in Ramsey's career, his story line thus far is filled with "almost", "nearly" and "might have". Last year, he rallied the Skins at home against the Giants, pushing them to overtime and the Redskins almost won the game. A couple of weeks later he nearly lead a miracle rally in Philadelphia, but he sailed a pass over a wide-open Laveranues Coles' head on a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game. The Redskins might have beaten the NFC-champs-to-be Carolina Panthers in Charlotte had Ramsey not overthrown a couple of wide open receivers in the early going.
The good thing for Ramsey and the Redskins is that he is just two years and two games into his NFL career. At that point in Joe Theismann's career all he'd done is return punts. Mark Rypien hadn't even taken a snap. On the other hand, Gus Frerotte and Heath Shuler also had some "coulda, shoulda, woulda's" on their resumes after a couple of seasons on the roster, too. With Brunell questionable for Monday night's game, we may well see another entry on Ramsey's resume written. Whether that will be a value adder to that resume or a detractor, of course, remains to be seen.
The turnovers have been talked to death. And the penalties have received some attention as well. But there was significant damage done by dropped passes as well.
It's 17-7 Giants with just over four minutes left in the first half. On first and ten from the Washington 29, Brunell finds Gardner open over the middle for a 15-yard gain, but Gardner drops it. Just when the Redskins need some momentum to recover from a turnover-created 17-0 New York run, they do everything perfectly except execute the end of the play. New York puts together its only scoring offensive drive of the day to make it 20-7
In the second half, following drops by Coles and Portis that would have been first downs, Gardner made a spectacular, diving catch—having enough presence of mind to tuck the ball away before falling on the ground. Two plays later, though, a sure TD pass goes through Gardner's hands. On the next play, Ramsey throws an INT and Gardner's catch goes for naught.
A former teammate dubbed Gardner "50/50", reflecting his odds of catching an easy pass during a game. The moniker seems harsh, but if the shoe fits. . .
Bold Statements Analysis
In this spot each Monday, I'll examine some of the bold statements I made the week leading up to the game and see if they've held water. The statements will be rated with a number of buckets of water from zero to five. No buckets means that I couldn't have been more wrong had I said that the sky is green. Five buckets means that I either had a crystal ball or I was extremely lucky.
Statement: The Jeremy Shockey factor in this upcoming game is highly overrated. (9/17)
Shockey did have five catches, but the impact of them was minimal. None of his catches were good for first downs and he had no catches on his team's only offensive scoring drive. I take away a bucket only because a couple of his catches left the Giants in second and short.
Statement: It's Tiki Barber that I worry about.(9/17)
It took Tiki 18 carries to muster 42 yards, so he wasn't exactly a huge factor in the game. I get a couple of buckets because he caught a couple of passes for 26 yards and he got the Giants' only offensive scoring drive going with a reception for 11 yards, a run for 11, and another run for eight.
I got Tivo over the summer and I thought of another in a long list of advantages of owning it. I could erase the recording of this ugly game with just a couple of punches on the remote. Being the professional that I am, however, I chose not to do that but it's good to know that the option is there.
The Jeremy Shockey factor in this upcoming game is highly overrated. Yes, he did have a couple of key catches in scoring drives in the game the teams played in Washington last year (he missed the second game the teams played with an injury), but it's a huge stretch to say that he was a major factor in the game. Tight ends rarely are. Besides, there is little resemblance between last year's defense and this year's edition.
It's Tiki Barber that I worry about. Running backs are often major factors in games and while Barber isn't among the elite in the NFL, he was good enough to break off a 72-yard touchdown run against the Eagles last week (albeit in garbage time). The Washington defense allowed just 30 yards on the ground to the Bucs, but their prime backs were the washed-up Charlie Garner and the glacially-slow Mike Alstott. Barber will provide a significantly higher challenge.
Joe Gibbs is generally very vanilla during his sessions with the press, but he took a strong stand earlier this week when the declared that "Young Frankenstein" is "the greatest movie that's ever come down the pike." He then tried to imitate a Gene Wilder line in the Mel Brooks classic comedy about having put an abnormal brain into the body of a nine-foot tall man. While everyone got a good laugh out of Gibbs' performance, it was generally agreed that he should stick to coaching.
It looks like there is a chance that Michael Barrow will be ready to go at MLB on Sunday. After the way Antonio Pierce played on Sunday, do you yank him for Barrow? I don't think so.