Five Reasons Why The Redskins Will
1. Clinton Portis. He's as healthy as he's been in a while entering the season, which should bode well for the ground game. Also, in theory, he'll benefit from more running lanes created by the three- and four-receiver sets.
2. The improved pass rush. With Jason Taylor and Andre Carter, the Redskins have two ends capable of big plays, Taylor in particular. That, coupled with a strong set of corners and a dynamic safety in LaRon Landry, should equal success.
3. Jim Zorn. We didn't realize how much the Redskins needed a refreshing change until Zorn arrived and provided one. Joe Gibbs had become stale; his whole act was done, from always defending the players to the inability to watch late FG attempts. Zorn is a breath of fresh air. The players feel it too, saying they hope he sticks around a while. Zorn also will help by being the primary play caller. Heck, we don't know if he can do it well, but we know there won't be any conflicts. More and more this summer, players talked about the confusing signals they got from coaches last year. They'd work on certain plays in the red zone during the week only to ditch them on game day. Now, they'll attack in the red zone – witness the three- and four-receiver sets inside the 10-y ard line vs. Buffalo.
4. Jason Campbell's growth. He looks comfortable in this role; he's showing leadership and more of a pocket presence. He's unafraid to throw downfield, but is learning how to dump off. That's what he showed at times this summer. Campbell flourished in the West Coast offense in college.
5. Return to health. Linebacker Marcus Washington and receiver Santana Moss both enter healthy. Moss is back at X receiver, where he's had his most success. He's had a good summer; in 2007 it was evident he had no rhythm with Campbell. That's no longer the case. As for Washington, he, too, is healthy and his voice is heard as much as anyone's. That's a good sign.
Five Reasons Why They Won't
1. An aging offensive line. Even without Jon Jansen in the lineup, the line is still getting old. Are they a veteran bunch or an old one? Too often this summer they looked like the latter. What does Randy Thomas have left? The same question can be asked of Pete Kendall. And outside of Chris Samuels, nobody on this line is close to a Pro Bowl level. Heyer is merely a stopgap. The Redskins compensated for him big-time last year, rarely leaving him in one-on-one situations.
2. An aging defense. Teams tend to fall hard one year before you think they will. This could be the case with Washington's defense. Seven of the top 12 players are at least 29 years old. That doesn't seem so bad, but that's not what you want. And the young guys include two who are battling injuries – LaRon Landry and Rocky McIntosh. This definitely bears watching.
3. The run defense. With small ends comes worse run defense. And the tackles, outside of Cornelius Griffin, don't do enough to offset this issue. When Taylor and Carter are better at reading the tight end on run downs, that will help. A hint: when the tight end blocks down, trouble's brewing inside and it's likely a draw. If the end doesn't negate him, the tight end will get to the linebacker and that's where big plays result. See Carolina.
4. Jim Zorn. It's his first season, so how prepared is he? We expect a major learning curve early. Considering three of the first five games are divisional games on the road, that could be tough to overcome. Zorn did himself no favors by how he handled the Jansen situation. Longtime vets deserve to be told before the media that they might lose their job. That'll cost you some support in the locker room. Zorn also has to do a better job of getting plays in early enough and also to make adjustments during the game. In the Carolina game, the linemen wanted to change a protection, but Zorn resisted and instead implemented it vs. Jacksonville. He has to react faster.
5. Jason Campbell. Is he truly ready? It's a bit of a leap of faith to suggest th at he'll be that much better than in 2007, when he mixed good outings with bad. He still has to read blitzes better and he still must be patient. He likes to go downfield, but with this line quick dump-offs might work best early in games. Also, in fairness to Campbell, this is his third offense in four years – as you might have heard – and it does take time. Doesn't mean he won't have a better second half of the season, but it could equal a slow start.
John Keim covers the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and is a contributing editor for Warpathinsiders.com. He has covered the team since 1994. Some of his other stories can be found at dcexaminer.com
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