Studs & Duds

<strong>Offensive player of the game:</strong> Receiver Rod Gardner caught seven passes for 100 yards, showing excellent hand strength on many grabs. Gardner is on pace for more than 65 catches and nearly 1,000 yards. Considering the Redskins lack another solid receiver and the quarterback play has been spotty, that's not too bad.

Offensive dud: Quarterback Shane Matthews. Could there be anyone else? We thought he was the Redskins best option to start because of his steadiness. But Matthews often looked to unload passes too early. The worst was his intentional grounding penalty in which he wasn't under duress. He hasn't played well the past two games. Then again, his coach isn't using him right.

Defensive player of the game: Defensive tackle Daryl Gardener. We like the big fella. He showed good pursuit down the line, applied pressure and once fought off a double team and made a tackle with another blocker twisting him around.

Defensive dud: Corner Fred Smoot. Just hasn't smothered receivers the way everyone anticipated. Smoot was called for pass interference against Jimmy Smith. Smoot's a nice player, but he's clearly Washington's second best corner.

Time to change: Defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis needs to scrap his philosophy of keeping his corners on one side of the field. Champ Bailey and Smoot are not equal. And teams have schemed to keep their best wideouts away from Bailey most of the time. Sunday, it seemed that whenever Bailey lined up across from Smith, the Jaguars ran. If Bailey ended up covering him, it occasionally came on a switch. That said, we do like Bailey at times in the slot. He applied pressure on a blitz in that role because he can come through the middle or off the edge. But he must be put on the opposition's best receiver. It's ridiculous that Darrell Green would be manned up against Smith more than Bailey.

Did you notice: The Redskins lined up in a 3-4 front, with Kevin Mitchell added in the middle, on a few occasions. It had mixed results. The first time, QB Mark Brunell scrambled for a seven-yard gain, but the next time Daryl Gardener and Jeremiah Trotter stopped Fred Taylor for a one-yard gain.

But you didn't notice: Receiver Darnerien McCants. He played, he just wasn't open or an intended target. He's still very, very raw. But very talented, too.

Now we know why: Champ Bailey hasn't returned more punts. Decision making on returns is one of the harder aspects of fielding punts. And it's why previous coaches didn't use him in this role. Remember, he was a kickoff returner in college and returned only a couple punts.

Clarification: Just so people know, the players all have enjoyed the Tuesday night chat sessions. Each one has told me that--they enjoy the format and love the questions--and each has said they'd return. We need more fans in there so spread the word!!


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