Debugging the Redskins - analysis

CHARLOTTE--The Redskins did it again. They scored lots of points, created lots of buzz and left with more than a few questions. Can they run the ball? Can they keep this going? Is the offense really this good, or is this a mirage?

This from a 37-30 win over Carolina on Saturday, a come-from-behind victory as Washington scored two touchdowns in the final two minutes for the victory. First, Danny Wuerffel led a 79-yard scoring drive, capped with a five-yard touchdown pass to receiver Reidel Anthony, wide open in the back of the end zone.

The winning points came when safety Ifeanyi Ohalete blitzed up the middle, tipped the ball to end Carl Powell, who rumbled 21 yards for the final touchdown.

The Redskins also scored on three touchdown passes: Shane Matthews hit Kevin Lockett for a 22-yard score in the second quarter for a 10-3 lead; and he hit Anthony for a five-yard score on the next possession for a 17-3 lead; Wuerffel then threw his to Anthony, punctuating a fluid two-minute drill. Wuerffel was five of six for 82 yards on the drive.

Matthews also led two field goal drives. The first, an 18-play march that consumed 9:43 resulted in a 20-yard Brett Conway field goal on Washington's opening possession. The second came in the two-minute offense before halftime and ended on Dan Frantz's 43-yard kick for a 20-10 halftime lead.

Sage Rosenfels managed one field goal in the third quarter. Conway kicked a 45-yard field goal for a 23-10 lead.

RATING THE QUARTERBACKS

Shane Matthews: Made some nice throws at times and missed on several others, leaving questions about his accuracy downfield. He missed a wide-open Jacquez Green in the end zone on the first drive, leading him out of bounds. And he misfired on other passes downfield, making a poor decision on his interception. The receiver wasn't open on the out route and Matthews waited too long to make the throw. Two Panthers were in position to make the interception.

That said, Matthews made a nice toss to receiver Kevin Lockett in the back of the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown. He looked off the safety and placed a perfect pass to Lockett.

But Matthews also admitted he did not always make the right decision before the snap. He failed to audibilize a few times and the result was a bad play. In Spurrier's offense, that's a no-no.

Sage Rosenfels: Mediocre at best. Rosenfels made two bad decisions on one drive, looking indecisive on one throw and trying to force a slant to Chris Doering, who wasn't open. But he made one nice play: facing a heavy rush, Rosenfels kept his composure, slid up and lofted a pass to receiver Chris Doering, who made a running one-handed grab for a first down.

Danny Wuerffel: Looked the best. In some ways he reminds me of Trent Green. Not in style but in results. Remember how Green often looked the best of Washington's quarterbacks during the summer? But Norv Turner never gave him a chance. Had Spurrier been here during that time, Green would have played much earlier. Which is why Wuerffel seems to be the leader in this derby. Though he's putting up numbers against lesser talent, he still looks more comfortable than the others.

He knows exactly where everyone will be on a given play. That's why, when he fell coming out behind center on one pass, he threw the ball lying on his back to the spot the receiver was headed. Amazingly the ball got there, nearly resulting in a catch. Of course, it almost ended in an interception, too.

WHERE'S THE RUN?

Washington wanted to work on the running game, but it continued to sputter. The Redskins haven't gotten much push inside and may need to work tight end Walter Rasby in the game even more. The running game excelled a year ago in part because of Rasby's blocking. With three wideouts and a two-back set a typical deployment, Rasby's role is minimized.

Still, the interior did not get the hoped-for push, which is why Washington managed 80 yards on 22 carries. That's a 3.6 yards-per-carry average, but 19 came on a third-and-22 draw.

VERSATILITY

The Redskins might not be deep along the line, but they are versatile, thanks to their talent and Marvin Lewis' schemes. They can rush three or four linemen, with a linebacker blitzing. They can rotate their linemen to provide a different look. For instance, in a nickel situation, linebacker LaVar Arrington lined up at left end with Renaldo Wynn sliding inside to left tackle next to Daryl Gardener and finally Jackson (or Bruce Smith during the regular season). The Redskins had similar versatility three years ago under Mike Nolan and it often confused offensive linemen, who couldn't get used to what was coming.

GOING UP

. . . Receiver Derrius Thompson, who caught five passes for 73 yards. Spurrier can't understand how Thompson didn't get a chance last season. He'll get one this season. Thompson showed an ability to run after the catch. Wit how open the receivers can get in this offense, that's a major plus.

. . . Receiver Reidel Anthony re-entered the receiver's race with five catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns. For the first time he made you think he's worthy of a roster spot.

. . . Receiver Chris Doering had another strong game, catching five passes for 71 yards. Sense a problem here? One of these guys might not make the final roster. Imagine if Cliff Russell had stayed healthy. Doering doesn't run as well after the catch, but he's reliable and knows where he should be.

. . . End Ladairis Jackson, who tipped a pass and applied some pressure--against Carolina's first string. He's athletic and versatile and a strong contender for a roster spot.

. . . Right guard Ross Tucker was left in one-on-one blocking and held his own. He deserves another start. But we need to see more of the run blocking.

. . . Running back Ladell Betts did a nice job picking up a blitz in the first half. That's one of the tougher things to learn for a running back. Betts also ran well, when the holes were there. He runs with excellent balance.

. . . Running back Kenny Watson ran four times for 36 yards and appears more comfortable running in this offense. Problem is, he's not very good picking up blitzes.

NEED WORK

. . . Fullback Rock Cartwright missed a few blocks and hasn't shown that he's ready to be a full-time contributor (which is a lot to ask of a seventh-round pick).

. . . Tackle Reggie Coleman entered for Samuels and did OK, though he's still too upright in pass protection allowing others to get around him easier. But Coleman has enough talent to stick around, or so it seems.

GOING DOWN

. . . Receiver Justin Skaggs has become the lost soul of 2002. He hasn't stood out in practice and he's done nothing in games to warrant another stay on the roster.

. . . Tight end Zeron Flemister is in danger of getting cut, too. At least if the Redskins only keep two tight ends. Which, given that they want to keep six wideouts, is a strong possibility. Washington rarely used two tight end sets versus Carolina. And Robert Royal is a bigger target--and this coaching staff's draft pick.


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