Nickel Package: 5 Current Redskins Topics

John Keim reports on and analyzes five huge topics: Campbell, Portis, Suisham, Blitzing and Playoffs.

Nickel Package 1. Shaun Suisham.

He was named the NFC's Special Teams Player of the Week today after kicking five field goals in the win over New York. Suisham had missed three of his last five field goals before this game. But one thing that stands out with Suisham is his ability to stay calm. When the Jets called time before the final kick, he never moved towards the ball. And he always has a sly smile when being interviewed. He's a tough-minded customer. However, his kickoffs have been way too short. They don't always have to reach the end zone, but he's too often landing them around the 13-yard line. He's giving teams good field position.

2. Clinton Portis.

He was finally able to get in a rhythm during a game and that's important for plays like this: on a second-and-1, he started right and cut back left for a 32-yard gain. Portis said he had noticed something the Jets were doing backside, by listening to teammates and by looking at pictures on the sideline. But the point was this: the more plays you run, the more chances to figure out what the D is doing. Can they keep it up? Sunday will tell an awful lot. The Jets have a horrific run defense, but it's not as if the Eagles' D is playing at a high level now, either. Two strong games running the ball in a row would help gather momentum.

3. Jason Campbell.

Yes, he's stagnated the past three games and seems to be regressing. But let's cut him some slack: we've seen him play better and we've also seen what he's playing with. The offensive line is still a question mark on the right side. And the wideouts have not helped. Finally, Santana Moss seems to be coming out of his funk and was open by a couple yards on a deep ball that barely missed. But the Redskins do not have any receiver playing at a No. 1 level now. It's not often that you see guys wide open. Campbell needs to be more accurate and has flaws, but the problems in the passing game are many.

4. Blitzing.

The Redskins returned to blitzing against the Jets and it was fun to watch them set it up. Take the time when LaRon Landry drilled Kellen Clemens in the helmet. On the play, Landry was about seven yards off the ball by the left hash. Two seconds before the snap, he looked to his right where Sean Taylor started towards the line of scrimmage. The back, who was on Landry's side, clearly was distracted by this movement. He did not notice Landry taking off a second later and instead crossed the QB's face to get to Taylor on the other side. That left a path for Landry. The kid knows how to blitz well from his days under Nick Saban at LSU. And the Redskins know how to set him up.

5. Playoffs.

With eight games remaining, it's now officially time to start thinking playoffs. At 5-3, do the Redskins have a legit shot? Of course. In the NFC, most teams do. As of now, their main competition for a wild card berth (assuming Dallas wins the NFC East) would be: the Giants, New Orleans/Tampa Bay and Green Bay/Detroit. Two of those teams will enter as a division winner. It's hard to imagine Carolina staying in the race and Chicago has shown little sign of life. Arizona is not basically three games behind the Skins because of the tiebreaker. So it's really four teams for two spots at this point. The Redskins have plenty of sins, but so do those teams. It'll likely come down to health; and the Redskins haven't shown they can stay healthy this year. They'll need better luck with that in the second half.


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