X's & O's with: Eddie Mason

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone. I hope everyone has a blessed Holiday season and a Happy New Year. Hopefully there will be more Holiday cheer for the Redskins, too. Now, onto the analysis.

One play in the win over San Francisco stood out that I thought showed a maturing Patrick Ramsey. It was a third and nine in the third quarter and he threw a pass to Ladell Betts. It wasn't a big play, it wasn't a scoring play but it was a play where he had pressure in his face and he was able to make a throw to Ladell. Normally he'd throw that ball away or throw an errant pass or something. But this demonstrated that he is getting more comfortable with the offense and he seems to be just a lot more technically sound in relation to stepping through his throws and being planted when he throws. His confidence level is up. He's not turning the ball over.

What I really saw was poise. He used to have not so much a dead look but a young rookie look when he'd be under pressure because he didn't have that experience. Now he's really starting to take a little more ownership as the quarterback and leader of the offense. You can see the enthusiasm he has. I've seen many times on this same play where Patrick would short-arm the ball and brace himself for the hit. But you could see him thinking, 'If I get hit, I get hit.' And you didn't see him flinch after he released the ball.

But their red zone offense has to pick up. They should have scored 40-something points. And that's where I wonder about Patrick.

There was one play that other quarterbacks make and it has nothing to do with his arm. They were down on the 5-yard line and ran a counter trey, with both guards pulling to the left. First of all, Clinton Portis' depth is so shallow; he's not deep enough to get any power. There's nowhere to cut. After he cut back and tried to go the other way there was one thing I didn't like. Guess who was standing around? Number 11. Brett Favre would have thrown a block. Joe Theismann would have thrown a block. All the great ones throw a block. If Patrick makes a block on the linebacker or just nips him, with Clinton's speed he could have walked into the end zone. Patrick has to understand that when the Niners have everyone playing their gaps and are getting push up the middle, that this is a possibility. He has to recognize someone might break free.

The other one is about his savvy in the red zone. One minute he makes a great throw and the next it's like he feels the pressure and makes a quick throw. He missed a wide-open Rod Gardner in the back of the end zone. They're up 23-9 so some people might say it wasn't a big deal. But it is a big deal because if you can't make throws like that with protection that's on the QB. It was a seven-step drop and you have to go one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, plant and throw. The ball is supposed to be out. He's too slow getting the ball out. He'd go one-through-seven, pat the ball, pat the ball and then get it out. It was too late. Rod is already out of his cut and the ball should be gone. You throw to a spot and hte receiver has to do his job to make that catch.

Those are the plays why I say he's not their franchise quarterback. I love Patrick but he's too erratic, too inconsistent and he's going into his fourth year next year. Will he be better next year? The hope is yes. But we don't know. We don't know which Patrick we'll get. The play above has nothing to do with his talent, it's his psyche, telling him he's about to get hit. He's not firm enough in the pocket to step up and make the throw on time, knowing he's going to get hit.

I think he's been hit so many times that it messes with his psyche. He doesn't have all of his confidence back to where you can put the franchise in his hands. Patrick is like a rookie going into his fourth year because he'd been in a college offense his first two seasons. That's why I think he might be a Band Aid for the Redskins until they groom another young quarterback. I think in time he could be great, but I don't know that the Redskins have that much time. overall, Patrick has played better the last several weeks. But he can't make those mistakes in the Red Zone against good teams. Those are plays he has to make.

Defensively, one of LaVar's first plays stood out to me. The thing he brings is his excitement and passion and ability to explode into people and make plays that most can't make. On this play, he lines up at end and the guard pulls and he hammers the guard. Most linebackers would have just given their body up and that was it. But he had the athleticism to get back into the play and help make the tackle. He has a knack for making plays like that and all the great ones are instinctive and he has tremendous instincts. Is he always in the right place? No. But he's able to sniff out stuff and do things from an athletic standpoint that others can't do. If LaVar spends enough time with guys like Marcus Washington and Antonio Pierce and Micheal Barrow, really studying the game, then there's no telling what kind of player he can be. We've been saying this for years.

Now, on Antonio's play, all it was was a basic zone drop and he has to cover the inside route. The Niners ran a bunch formation and the receiver motioned in. When he cam inside all Antonio is supposed to do is sit on the route. His job is to create disruption in the passing game, try to knock the receiver off his route. The receiver's goal is to get across the field on that crossing route so Ken Dorsey can make an easy throw. But AP reads pass, sets his feet, gets inside and as the receiver comes in he uses his hands to knock him off the route and then Dorsey thinks the receiver will be at a spot. But AP is standing there with a freebie. And AP demonstrated that he has the speed to get around the corner and pull away.

The greatest thing about the play is that you see players making key blocks, getting downfield and trying to score. You could see the hustle in their faces. Those guys were doing everything they could to get to a spot. Most plays like that you'd see some guys jogging, but there was no one watching. Everyone was trying to make something happen. Those are the types of plays that will make a difference not only today but in the future.

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