Progress Takes Time

Take no solace that the Redskins played a tight game against a good team on the road. Had the offense managed anything, that would have provided some postive vibes. Alas, they managed their second lowest output of the season. Meanwhile, the defense did what it's done all season and the special teams produced another maddening day

Now the Redskins have new problems, with Clinton Portis playing very little in the second half and finishing with only six carries. Their offense remains unproductive, moving at times and then not so for long stretches. But give credit to the defense which got production from two guys on the practice squad a week ago -- defensive lineman Ryan Boschetti and linebacker Chris Clemons. The latter lined up at right end in three-man sets -- as he did in training camp here -- and got a sack. Boschetti played end and tackle and fared well.

Not buying it: The Redskins claimed Clinton Portis wasn't being used much in the second half because they were throwing the ball more. Thing is, when Portis signed the Redskins made a big deal out of his being able to do everything. Isn't that why they handed him $17 million in bonuses. Now we find out he's either a two-down back or the Redskins' coaches have blown it by not using him more. We don't buy the rationale for Sunday. If Portis is a playmaker, get him the frickin' ball. If he's not -- and no doubt he hasn't been -- then they made yet another offseason mistake.

Maxed out: The Steelers estimated that Washinton used max protection about 80 percent of the time. That sounds a bit high, but probably not by much. Somehow, Patrick Ramsey still got knocked around -- partly because the line is just not good. Also, the Redskins lack receivers who consistently get open. That said, it's hard to get open when you're running two wideouts against four defensive backs. One thing Washington needs to this offseason find is a playmaking wideout. Laveranues Coles is a good receiver, but his size works against his being a downfield playmaker, save for crossing routes.

Debut: Rookie tackle Mark Wilson had an inconsistent debut, which was to be expected. At times he seemed overmatched by the speed of the game. He set too high, losing his base and allowing speed rushers to get around him. Thank goodness the Giants will be playing without Michael Strahan this week. But Wilson had decent moments, too. Overall, he was probably a little better than I expected. But I expected him not to do much at all, particularly against this front seven.

Shaky line: The Redskins need major help in the interior of their line, starting at center. Cory Raymer has had a nice career, but he's not getting it done, missing blitzes and failing to prevent backside penetration, blowing up plays. Derrick Dockery is still inconsistent despite playing a lot. Allows too much pressure. Doesn't always drive his guy off the ball.

Finishing: Marcus Washington had been close to a number of sacks all season, but only had 1.5 entering Sunday. He recorded two more off blitzes, thanks in part to the secondary's coverage and Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger's holding onto the ball a bit too long. Washington excels at forcing the run and has been a nice pickup.

And while we're at it: More kudos to tackle Cornelius Griffin for being in Pittsburgh's backfield often.

Hurry up: Patrick Ramsey needs to hustle his decisions a little bit. His penchant for holding onto the ball too long resulted in an incompletion on one particular play in which receiver Laveranues Coles, from the right slot, ran an intermediate crossing route. As Coles broke free, Ramsey held the ball for another second or two then threw the pass. By then it was too late and a once-open Coles was now covered.

Starting to see: that it wasn't all Mark Brunell's fault. I never thought it was -- the line and receivers share as much of the blame. That said, the Redskins need to play Ramsey the rest of the season. Both of their futures ride on his performance. But there's a part of me that already senses Ramsey is done and that owner Dan Snyder will want the hot new toy: Drew Brees. Imagine if they signed Brees then drafted a playmaker such as Michigan's Braylon Edwards. Those are the kinds of moves that'll once again fill fans with bushels of promise.

McCants time: Darnerien McCants is getting more and more time, often replacing Rod Gardner as the lone wideout in Washington's one-receiver set, a run-heavy formation (though they used that set to throw long to McCants on a post, when he nearly made a diving catch).

Turf face: That's what Mike Sellers got when he tried to tackle punt returner Antwaan Randle El and whiffed. Sellers landed flat on his face, summing up the Redskins' afternoon. Don't blame the coverage alone for Randle El's two long returns, totalling 103 yards. Punter Tom Tupa unloaded two low, line-drive kicks on each return. From up high in the press box, it was easy to see they would lead to long returns. You can't give Randle El that much room to operate. By the way, the blocking on Washington's return units stinks.

Good riddance: to Pennsylvania. The Redskins have been outscored in this state by a combined 44-13 the past two weeks. In watching both the Eagles and the Steelers, it's clear that Pittsburgh has the better defense, but Philly the scarier offense because of the quarterbacks. Roethlisberger looks ordinary of late, but doesn't have to do much to win games -- sort of like Trent Dilfer a few years back with the Ravens.

NFC Least: And we all thought the NFC East would make a return to its glory years. How wrong we all were. The only good news for Washington is that Dallas faces as many, or more, questions as the Redskins.

Big hit, dumb hit: Sean Taylor once again left you gawking at a play and shaking your finger at another. He decleated one running back on a pass play, jarring the ball free for an incompletion. Taylor also nearly intercepted a pass that was also nearly picked off by Fred Smoot. But Taylor had his typical immature play, running into an unsuspecting Steeler a good second or two after the runner, a few yards in front of them, was whistled dead. It cost the Redskins 15 yards. Once Taylor eliminates that garbage from his repertoire, he'll be darn good. He's looking better and better from scrimmage and has become a better blitzer. But his tackling stinks -- too high all the time, which led to a couple broken tackles Sunday.

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