1. Will this be a tougher game for Jason Campbell? It should be; Carolina is better than Tampa Bay, so it would make sense if it is. The Panthers now have an idea of what the coaches will ask Campbell to do, as opposed to Tampa. But the real problem will come with the pass rush; the Panthers have a better one and they will blitz. That means Campbell will have to make quicker decisions. It might be a tougher test, but it's also a good one for Campbell's development. Poise is his strength; he'll need plenty of it.
2. Will the receivers be more involved? James Thrash was, but Antwaan Randle El and Brandon Lloyd were not. Thrash is a good target and reliable route-runner underneath. Lloyd? Um, nice trade there, Joe. But having Santana Moss back will be a major plus for Campbell. Also, the Panthers are vulnerable downfield and the backs and tight ends will be needed to help pass protect more than last week. So the receivers have to be involved if Washington is to stand a chance.
3. Where will Campbell improve the most? It's hard to say, but our guess is from a recognition and timing standpoint. There were several passes in his first start that bounced short or wide of a receiver. That's not necessarily his fault; in some cases, the receivers ran the wrong depth on their routes. But Campbell has now worked with them in practice for a couple weeks and should have a better sense of timing. It's an evolving process and will take a while.
4. How will the crowd react to Campbell? Thanks for the fastball down the middle. They'll go crazy; he's all they have left. Campbell will now have to deal with calming his nerves maybe more so than in his first start. There's something different with hearing 90,000 people yelling for you. Of course, that has happened in a couple games this season, only Campbell did not go in.
5. Will Joe Gibbs' Wednesday sermon make a difference? No. The Redskins are tackling poorly on defense because they've done a poor job evaluating talent. Lemar Marshall has been terrible of late and can't get off blocks. Newslfash: he's not that good. That's just one example; there are plenty others. Will Gibbs telling them something change that? No. Too many players shrugged off what he said, telling me it was no different than any other Wednesday meeting. Some said Gibbs was more upset, but if he had truly been that way, then many either didn't see it or have tuned him out. There are certain realities with this team; an upset coach won't change that. If they play better, it will not have been because of what was said. During the 1980s? Maybe. Now? No.
6. Where should the Redskins attack offensively? The middle of the Panthers' defense. Carolina's strength is on the edge with ends Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker. But the interior is inconsistent and there's a backup middle linebacker. Power runs up the gut should do well. And they have to take shots deep. Carolina will blitz their linebackers -- three had sacks against St. Louis last week -- leaving the middle open for shots, too. Washington's run game HAS to get get going. If the Redskins are left in obvious passing downs, please cover your children's eyes.
7. Is Ladell Betts capable of being a fulltime back? He didn't seem like it last week, but there were times when the Bucs stacked the line, daring Washington to throw. Certainly, Betts will get similar treatment as teams want to see if Campbell can beat them. Betts has numerous fans among the players, who are confident he could get the job done in a fulltime role. So far he's only shown it in glimpses. T.J. Duckett also will get a chance this week, but let's not make too much of his 25 yards in five carries last week. Four of those carries gained seven yards. He takes too long to get to the line of scrimmage, which often negates the power.
8. What do the Redskins need to do defensively? Stop Steve Smith and stop the run. The Panthers rushed for a franchise-record 242 yards against St. Louis last week. Rookie DeAngelo Williams is a nice little back, capable of running between the tackles and snapping off long runs. He's quick to the outside, too. DeShaun Foster is often hurt, but he might be healthy this week, giving Carolina a big back. The Redskins would be wise to use Phillip Daniels more at right end and Renaldo Wynn at left end, ending the Andre Carter experiment. Want him to rush? Fine. Play the run? Foolish. The defensive coaches -- and their decisions -- are equally to blame as the players in this season's defensive collapse. It's reason No. 101 why a real, or at least a good, GM is needed. As far as Smith goes, Shawn Springs likely will be on him often. But nobody will stop Smith, even with safety help. Smith is like Moss, only better. He gets equal treatment from defenses, yet still makes big plays every week. It's what separates good from great.
9. Have the Redskins given up? No, though you couldn't tell that by the defensive effort last week and some guys I truly wondered about. They seemed to try, until the ballcarrier got past them, then they would stop. That's quitting. But they have enough players like Marcus Washington, Phillip Daniels and Renaldo Wynn who will never give up that it trickles down. Washington had a rough game last week, missing tackles. But he consistently got himself back into plays with effort. Still, there is a definite reality that has set in among the players. When your goal is the Super Bowl and instead you're 3-7, that's what happens. They know this is as much about playing for jobs, and pride, as anything. Considering the annual changes that take place here, a strong finish does not guarantee momentum for the following year. If Campbell does well, it will give them a boost. If not, the speculation will start as to who will return -- and who won't.
10. Will the Redskins win? The fairy tale part of us says yes, Campbell will lead the upset and the Redskins will thrill the home fans, giving them a glimpse of the future. Problem is, Carolina seems to be playing the way everyone expected when the season began. The Panthers were considered Super Bowl contenders. Are they really? Well, anyone in the NFC with a winning record qualifies. They have holes, but they've allowed only 10 points the past two games combined. They have a strong pass rush and are facing a team that struggles in that area, especially in obvious passing situations. Also, Smith will make big plays -- he always does and the Redskins always give them up. We just can't see it happening. Panthers 27, Redskins 14.