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Redskins Roundtable: Week 4

Mike Burke of was kind enough to provide us with some questions for the roundtable, regarding this week’s Eagles-Redskins matchup, which I took my very best shot at answering….

We have to start off this interview with Donovan McNabb. What were your thoughts when the Redskins first obtained him?

I was very skeptical, to put it simply. My thoughts were two-fold:

1. How did acquiring McNabb make this the team better three years from now? Yes, going from Jason Campbell to Donovan McNabb (and Jim Zorn to Mike Shanahan) with the same supporting cast is easily adding three wins (minimum) to their 2009 total, but then what? If the guy is going to be 34 years old sometime around this Thanksgiving and has already missed 18 games in the past 5 seasons, how much gas does he really have left in the tank?

2. Did Philadelphia know something we didn’t? Redskins fans saw a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback who took his team to five NFC Championships and a Super Bowl. But was that really the guy that was available on the trading block, or some has-been retread version of that guy? In a league that values franchise QB’s like they’re made of Platinum, why was McNabb available?

It doesn’t seem like McNabb has played at a very high level so far this year. Tell us how you think McNabb has played so far this year and are there other areas (line/receivers) that are bringing him down?

Outside of a pretty mediocre performance against St. Louis, Redskins fans really couldn’t ask for much more from Donovan McNabb. He’s been the leader of this offense, he’s made key plays under pressure, and he’s performed as well as any Redskins quarterback has in over a decaed.

McNabb has one of the worst groups of wide receivers in the NFL. I’m a big fan of Santana Moss, but i’m hard pressed to think of any team whose #2 through #5 WR’s are worse than McNabb’s. Joey Galloway is years past his prime. Anthony Armstrong is a 4th wide receiver on an average team, at best. And for a variety of reasons – some known and others unknown – Mike Shanahan has kept Devin Thomas, our most talented wide receiver, buried deep in his doghouse and far away from the offense.

It also doesn’t help when your stud rookie Left Tackle, Trent Williams, is injured and replaced by Stephon Heyer, who is a human turnstyle.

As a whole, the Redskins seem incredibly inconsistent. After an emotional win against the Cowboys, the Redskins lost a close game to a very good Texans team, but then got beat up by the Rams. What can this inconsistency be attributed to?

Outside of the fact that the Redskins have a notoriously frustrating propensity to play up or down to their opponent, I just think it’s a case where the Redskins are still trying to find an identity under the new Shanahan regime.

So far, this season, they haven’t really established one thing that they can rely on as their “bread and butter.” One week, they win by forcing key turnovers at the right time. Another week, it’s the aerial attack that’s featured. Then another week, they try and run the ball down the opponents throat. And yet, being honest, they haven’t really excelled at any of these.

This isn’t a team built to where you can insert someone’s grandmother in the backfield and have them rush for a thousand yards, like Shanahan had with the Broncos in the early 2000’s. John Elway (or Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, and Shannon Sharpe) isn’t/aren’t walking through that door anytime soon.

The Redskins have an assortment of talent at various positions, but the whole is definitely less than the sum of all the parts gathered.

What player has been the most pleasant surprise for the Redskins? Which player has been the opposite?

Surprise: Graham Gano – Gano is 7 of 9 on field goal attempts this season. His only two misses? The block by Bernard Pollard (awful blocking) and the 51 yarder in overtime against Houston (after Kubiak called timeout on his first attempt – which he made). Gano has one of the strongest legs we’ve seen from a Redskins kicker in quite some time, and looks like he has the chance to be a really good kicker.

Disappointment: Ma’ake Kemoeatu – I thought the big fella was going to be one of the best under-the-radar signings the Redskins had this offseason. Physically, he looks the part as a solid nose tackle for a 3-4 defense, but he (along with the rest of the defensive line) has been pushed around all season. Opposing teams have had virtually no problems establishing a running game against the Redskins, despite what the stats may tell you), and in the 3-4 defense, that starts with the job that the nose tackle is doing.

What do you think about the Eagles quarterback situation? Do you think Andy Reid made the right choice?

Andy Reid is the head coach of the Eagles, and his job is to play the guy that will give him the best chance to win this Sunday. But sometimes, that philosophy doesn’t allow you to see the forest from the trees.

Yes, Michael Vick played better against Green Bay than Kevin Kolb did, and Vick definitely has more experience as a starting quarterback. But, for as well as Vick has played this season, he’s still an erratic passer and inconsistent decision maker in an offense that passes a lot to set up the run. I’ve been maintaining it for years: Vick has the talent to tantalize you, but he’ll make you pull your hair out of your head when he throws the football.

Th best interest, long-term, for the Eagles was to stick with Kolb as their starting quarterback. The Eagles were/are young and talented enough to where they could absorb the growing pains associated with Kevin Kolb’s first few games as a full-time starting quarterback, because his upside. If they allowed Kolb time to develop and maintain his confidence as a starting quarterback, they forseeably could have a two year window where they could challenge for the NFC crown, given all the young talent they’ve amassed on that team.

Now, with Vick as a free agent, they have a lot of questions to answer at the quarterback position, once this season is over.

On Sunday, where will the Redskins have an advantage on offense? On defense?

On Offense, their advantage will start and end with Donovan McNabb, solely on the subjective basis of emotion. In a cliched ‘must-win’ game, in addition to the circumstances of his return in general, I can see McNabb turning in a magnificent performance and willing the Redskins offense down the field.

McNabb is almost nothing different than a guy who went through a divorce that was a long-time coming, and now he’s running into his ex-wife for the first time since. You don’t think that he’ll be amped up to prove that the Eagles made the biggest possible mistake by trading him away? Don’t you think he’ll want to have the last laugh at the Philly faithful who booed him since the day he was drafted by the Eagles?

On Defense, if the Redskins make it a point to ensure that they wont be beat by Vick as a runner, then he quickly becomes a very average quarterback (if that) with streaky tendencies. Reid’s mind-boggling propensity to forsake the run as early and often as possible plays right into the Redskins hands, as they’ll be able to employ a combination of blitzes and zone coverages to confuse Vick and hopefully force him into stupid decisions with the football – assuming they can keep him in the pocket.

Where will the Eagles have an advantage on offense? On defense?

The Eagles on offense: Where to start? The Redskins can’t stop the run. They can’t stop the pass. They can’t generate any pass rush up the middle, and their blitz angles are slowly starting to become stale and predictable.

But if you boil it all down to one thing, it will be Vick’s scrambling ability. The Redskins chased around Tony Romo, another elusive quarterback, for a vast majority of their win against Dallas, yet could only bring him to the ground one time. Vick is easily the most dangerous quarterback in the NFL, when it comes to making something out of nothing in the pocket or just tucking the ball and running with it himself. There’s no real way you can game plan for his speed and open-field running ability.

The Eagles on defense: Attacking the Left tackle spot. I don’t think rookie left tackle Trent Williams will be suiting up for this game, and Stephon Heyer has been just hair better than abominable. The Redskins ran a lot of plays with McNabb rolling out to his right or running the football away from Heyer, but if the Redskins get into an obvious passing situation, I expect the Eagles to bring the heat and attack this side of the line in particular.

What player could be a potential x-factor for the Redskins?

I’m going with Tight End Fred Davis. With the Eagles focus likely to be centered upon stopping Santana Moss and Chris Cooley, and considering the Redskins other receivers are about as terrifying as a basket full of kittens, Davis could really prove to be a weapon that the Eagles have no answer for.

Davis is one of the most talented tight ends in the entire league. Like Dallas Clark in Indianapolis, he’s fast and athletic enough to line up as a slot receiver and pose a gigantic mismatch if lined up against a linebacker. But he’s so big and strong that he could easily outmuscle any defensive back that would be matched up on him instead.

Oh, and add in the the fact that he’s played well against the Eagles overall: Davis had 12 catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns in the Redskins two meetings with the Eagles last year.

Give me a score prediction.

I’m a Redskins homer and i’m not afraid to admit it. 23-20, Redskins.

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