August 12, 2009

2009 Preseason Opener: Top Five Wish List

Once again it's time for the requisite "what I want to see" piece heading into the first preseason game of a new season. Gotta do it—it's as much a part of the early-season NFL ritual as stopping at Best Buy for new box of blank DVD's. Only so many games can live on the DVR before it starts bogging down.

Top Five Wish List
Washington vs. Baltimore

V. Speed.

For as long as I can remember the Redskins have not been a fast team. They've had fast players now and again, sure, but haven’t been a fast team. In fact, they've often looked plodding by comparison. So at least twice in the "game" tonight, I want to react to a play by a Redskin that bespeaks pure speed.

Doesn't matter who does it, or in what context:

A running back beating inside pursuit and turning the corner. A linebacker or defensive end coming off the edge, closing on the QB with evil intent and actually getting there. A wide receiver pulling away from a defensive back who seems to have the angle. A punt returner splitting the gap with a burst. You’ll know the kind of play I mean if (when!) you see it.

Former Cowboys Head Coach Jimmy Johnson talked about speed being the one thing he realized he needed to bring to the roster when he took over in Dallas back in 1989. No Redskins fan has forgotten how that worked out.

Speed thrills. I want some.

IV. I was actually kind of glad to hear big DT Albert Haynesworth won't play. For one thing, it removed the chance of reliving the massive letdown that was the first preseason game back in 1998, when uber-free agent signing DT's Dana Stubblefield and Big Daddy Dan Wilkinson first lined up next to one another.

Those of you too young to remember can't imagine the hype leading up to the first preseason game that year—those two guys were the missing ingredient, baby. And those of you old enough to remember surely haven't forgotten the air escaping from our collective balloon as the ho-hum Miami Dolphins proceeded to march right down the field for a TD on their first possession, largely on slashing off-tackle runs right through our brand new multi-million dollar turnstiles.

And no, I'm not suggesting Haynesworth is going to be a bust—far from it. I'm just happy enough to save that first peek for a week, and use this week to get my first look at what this year's defensive might look like without him … because you know he's going to miss at least a game or two.

To that end, nothing would make me happier tonight than seeing some other defensive big men stand up and get noticed. Rookies Brian Orakpo or Jeremy Jarmon, young returning vets Chris Wilson or Rob Jackson, old hands Andre Carter or Phillip Daniels ... anyone.

Just get after the passer—show some movement up front. Gotta have it.

III. One thing I'll be looking for will probably only get much attention if it doesn't happen. I want to see the Zorn Redskins 2.0 show clear signs of having upgraded in terms of overall gameday organization.

I want to see units getting on and off the field like they know what they're doing. I want to see competent game and clock management. Maybe even see the Redskins dictating the pace of the game as often as reacting to it. It will take at least 2-3 regular season games before I'm ready to draw any real conclusions on this one, but the one thing I know I don't want to walk away with tonight is the impression they weren't organized or ready to play.

Hiccups are to be expected—it is preaseason game one. Technicolor yawns, on the other hand, would be a real drag.

II. Okay, there is one thing I'd like to see more than a Haynesworth-less pass rush. The same thing every Redskins fan is hoping to see—the quarterbacks and offensive line looking competent in the passing game.

I don't ask much. Couldn't care less about the final score. Couldn't care less about the stats. Just let me see a solid sampling of plays where the QB is able to drop, make a read and release without two or three guys smacking him in the mouth.

Let me see the line look like it generally knows who to block, and individual linemen not getting whipped or bowled over in their one-on-one matchups all night.

Let me see the QB's—Jason Campbell in particular—look like they know where to go with the ball and when, then either throw on rhythm, pick up a few yards on their own if nothing's there or just get rid of the damn thing.

Quarterback and offensive line, working in concert. I think it was Robin Williams who once said of that dynamic, "What a concept."

No injuries.


It's really here, ladies and gentlemen. Redskins football.

Don't forget to enjoy it.


Anonymous said...

Great article Om, just 1 small comment/question.

Point IV, isn't it ANDRE Carter and not Anthony Carter?

Mark "Om" Steven said...

Why yes. Yes it is. Ahem.