The Ten Spot: Takeaways the Key

The Ten Spot--Turnovers will be the key if the Redskins hope to spring the upset against Jacksonville.

1. Will Mark Brunell's elbow limit him? Remains to be seen. He couldn't throw early in the week because of the stitches and the laceration. Nor did he need to throw. But the Redskins said he looked good in practice Friday -- media aren't allowed to watch the entire practice -- and we have to take them at their word. But I don't think Brunell's arm will be that limited. My guess is that other factors will make a bigger difference, as in Jacksonville's defense.

2. Will the Redskins open up their passing attack? Yes, at some point. And they know they can't win with only a short passing game, at least not against a good defense. Here's the problem: Washington must be able to give Brunell time to throw downfield. Can they do that? And is he willing to stand in the pocket to deliver those passes under duress? The answer to both questions, in the first two games, was no. It's clear there's a lack of trust when it comes to the downfield passing game, in the tackles for protection, in some receivers for their routes and in the quarteback's ability to make the play.

3. Have the Redskins found their offensive rhythm? Until they show complete balance, as in throwing downfield, it's hard to say yes. But what they did find, for the first time this season, was confidence. And that can lead to rhythm. Also, with Clinton Portis back, the Redskins have some swagger and energy that they lacked in his absence. Ladell Betts is a nice back, but Portis can scare a defense. Pittsburgh couldn't run on them with Willie Parker, but Portis is a much better all-around runner than Parker. However, don't measure them by what happens Sunday. Jacksonville has a way of taking teams out of their offensive rhythm.

4. Should Washington be worried about Jacksonville's offense? Some parts of it, yes. The Jaguars have sputtered offensively, but look at the defenses they've faced: Dallas, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. Most teams would sputter against that group. But quarterback Byron Leftwich has not made many plays and is averaging less than six yards a pass. Plus he has a long windup that has gotten him into trouble this season. But he does have big wideouts and a strong running game with Fred Taylor and third-down back Maurice Jones-Drew.

5. How can the Redskins slow the big plays? Well, one way would be for the linebackers to do a better job jamming, or at least slowing, receivers who line up in the slot. That's been a point of emphasis this week. For example, on the big play by Houston last week, the Redskins needed Warrick Holdman to at least make it harder for Andre Johnson to have run unimpeded across the field. It wasn't Holdman's fault on the big play, but it's an example of how he could have helped. But another way they can do it is by stopping the run. They keep getting burned on play-action throws.

6. How good is Jacksonville? Very good, especially defensively. But here's what I wonder about with the Jags: How drained are they? After all, those first three games were brutal and they had a tough game at Indy last week. Yes, they did a great job and nearly pulled off a slight upset. The week before they had an emotional win at home over Pittsburgh, probably one of the bigger regular-season games in Jacksonville in some time. At some point there's a natural letdown. Will that occur this week? However, the Jags also know at some point they have to beat a good team on the road if they want to be anything other than a nice team.

7. What are the key matchups defensively? The Jags have talent all over the placed. But everything starts up front with the tackles, Marcus Stroud and John Henderson. Considering the problems Washington has had at center and left guard on occasion, that could be trouble. Casey Rabach is coming off his best game, but he faces a different challenge this week. Derrick Dockery was good in space last week, but did anyone see Seth Pyne knock him on his backside in a short-yardage situation? He faces a much better player this week. If the Redskins can at least neutralize the tackles, they'll be OK. They don't have to score a lot, but they do have to move the ball.

8.What else should they be worried about offensively? Jackonsville corner Rashean Mathis is good at jumping routes and plays very tight coverage, especially underneath. Safety Donovin Darius is an excellent hitter. And middle linebacker Mike Peterson is a nice player as well. The ends are not outstanding, but here's my concern: the Jags will pressure up the middle with their tackles and blitz off the edges, causing problems. One reason Chris Cooley has not caught as many passes is because he's having to stay in to help the tackles. That's not a good sign.

9. How can the Redskins pull it off? With turnovers. Leftwich has thrown four picks. If the Redskins are to win, they must win the field position battle. And the best way to do that is by causing turnovers. Just a hunch, but the guess is they'll pick off two passes -- Lemar Marshall will get one and Sean Taylor another.

10. Will the Redskins win? I've gone back and forth on this one. Early in the week, I thought no way. The Jags' defense is too good. But I also believe the Jags' offense is mediocre, giving Washington a chance. Playing at home helps a great deal, too. If this game were in Jacksonville, I wouldn't hesitate picking the Jags. So what's the hesitation in picking Washington? I just don't trust the offense yet; nor do I think the defense is playing exceptionally well; they're good, but not close to great. If the Redskins can force at least two turnovers, they have an excellent shot. And for all the lambasting of Mark Brunell's throwaways, this is the game where a quarterback needs to manage, not force things. Skins pull off the upset, 14-13.


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories