Tandler's Take: The production from the position has been solid, and at moments spectacular. That's a mild surprise considering that the team's combined QB rating hovered at around 70 for most of the year, about 15 points below the league average. What's shocking is that it's Mark Brunell driving the bus. It was supposed to be Patrick Ramsey, but his tenure as the starting quarterback lasted about 20 minutes. Brunell taking over was supposed to be the Redskins worst nightmare; instead, the reality has been quite pleasant.
Brunell replaced Ramsey primarily because of his ability to
avoid mistakes and in that area he has been outstanding. Of his two
interceptions in 137 pass attempts this year, one bounced off of the receiver's
hands. He was charged with the fumble on the missed handoff to Portis in
Keim's Take: In training camp, it was obvious that Brunell had more poise and pocket presence, and was a better fit for the offense, than Ramsey. He's throwing the ball more decisively, perhaps because he trusts the receivers to be where they're supposed to be more than last year. And he's avoided so many sacks or negative situations because of his feet. He doesn't always have to run; he just needs to escape pressure.
Grade: B, exceeding expectation. Season prospect: Steady
Tandler's Take: Clinton Portis has only two more
yards rushing through four games this year compared to 2004, but he clearly is
playing better. His average (4.4 yards per carry) is over half a yard better
than his mark last year (3.8). More importantly, through four games last year
he had two fumbles, one against the Giants and one against the Browns, that
were key moments in losses and a total of four fumbles on his record for the
four games. This year he has one fumble, one against
Portis and Ladell Betts, who has spelled Portis well from time to time this year, have combined to give the Redskins the sixth-best rushing attack in the NFL in terms of yards gained per game. That alone might warrant giving an A for their performance this year. However, a few issues drag the grade down. They are one of just three NFL teams not to post a rushing touchdown this year. Their performance on short yardage has been less than outstanding, less than acceptable for that matter. And given opportunities to grind out game-clinching drives against Chicago and Dallas, they haven't moved the chains, leaving it up to the defense to save the game.
Keim's Take: I really like Portis. He's tough, picks
up the blitz well and plays ultra-hard. He's not just about stats; he wants to
win--and, judging by his actions, he means it. Like Brunell, it's his footwork
that makes the difference. He eluded one would-be tackler Sunday with a little
sidestep--all while moving forward. But he's not effective in the red zone
partly because he simply doesn't break tackles at the line. If the hole isn't
there, he's not going to create one nor will he move the pile. And he would
have scored Sunday had he been just a little more patient on his 13-yard run to
the 2. Chris Samuels and Santana Moss had the outside blocked, yet Portis ran
right into Samuels to the inside. Just impatience. I also like Betts, who gives
Grade: B-, meeting expectations. Season prospect: Slight improvement
Tandler's Take: Santana Moss is on pace to catch 112 passes for 1,832 yards, eight touchdowns and 84 first downs. And his record indicates that he is just getting warmed up. The past two years he has put up considerably more catches and yards receiving in November and December than he did in September and October. Now, he's not going to catch 150 passes for 3,000 yards or anything like that, but there is little reason to see his production declining as the season goes on.
The other newly acquired starter, David Patten, has yet to
get untracked. He's averaging 7.8 yards a catch, about half of his career
average. He had his best game against
Keim's Take: Moss is more effective than I thought he
would be. I thought he'd get open, but I wasn't sure, based on watching
practices this summer, if they'd get him the ball. They are. And he has such a
good feel for where the defense is, letting him know where to turn. The 30-yard
pass in overtime against
Grade: B, slightly exceeding expectations. Season prospect: Considerable improvement
Tandler's Take: Chris Cooley is the team's second-leading receiver both in terms of catches and yards and he has been doing a great job of blocking for Portis and Betts. If he keeps up his pace for catches and yardage he'd end up with 68 for 788 yards and if he can get in the end zone a bit more often he could warrant Pro Bowl consideration.
Of the Redskins' six touchdown passes this year, four have gone to this group with one to Cooley, one to Robert Royal, and two to Mike Sellers. The 280-lb Sellers is more of a third tackle than a receiving threat, but he has managed to sneak open twice in paydirt.
Keim's Take: Sellers' performance has elevated this
group. Last year his playing time decreased because he didn't seem to know what
he was doing. He's more comfortable this year and it seems as if they've
narrowed his role on offense, while giving him more time. He's an effective
lead blocker. Cooley is what I thought he would be; and he's quicker getting to
his blocks. He often serves as the lead blocker, pulling from the H-back spot.
And they used him well Sunday, splitting him wide to draw mismatches. He's not
in the elite group of tight ends, but he can serve as the big receiver
Grade: A-, exceeding expectations. Season prospect: Steady
Tandler's Take: The unit is better than it was last year, to be sure, with Jon Jansen back and Casey Rabach in at center. And certainly a good share of the credit for being the #5 rushing offense in the NFL and the #8 overall in terms of yardage has to go to the O-line.
Still, this hasn't been a particularly strong unit. Left
guard Derrick Dockery continues to have issues with his technique and he's not
making the move from project to solid starter or even star that many expected
him to in this, his third NFL season. Rabach has been handled from time to
time, especially in
Keim's Take: Three-fifths of the line is solid almost
every play: Chris Samuels, Randy Thomas and Jon Jansen. The latter has overcome
a rusty start this preseason and is playing like we expected. Samuels and
Thomas have been very consistent all season, starting in camp. Rabach is up and
down. I see him getting beat too often in the middle, but he's still learning
the offense so maybe that has something to do with it. He seems to have a good
grasp of the line adjustments. Dockery has one good game and then has too many
breakdowns the next. Now we know why he was a third-round pick; he certainly
has first-round talent. He's pretty good at pulling, but struggles in pass
protection at times because he gets off-balance when he thrusts into the
defensive linemen, making him easier to get around. The line allowed no sacks
in 53 pass attempts against
Grade: C+, well under expectations. Season Prospect: Considerable improvement