In calling the season, I projected a fast start on the way to a 8-8 season for the Washington Redskins. I didn't expect the Skins to beat the Cowboys and lose to the Texans. Who knew that Houston was the best team in Texas?
Next up are the beatable St. Louis Rams and a potential upset of the Philadelphia Eagles--as long as Andy Reid cooperates by starting Kevin Kolb at quarterback.
The nature of Washington's play gives rise to optimism. It's pretty clear that they are going to be competitive in every game. Washington was competitive last year too, in spite of top to bottom ineptitude. The competitiveness is a higher quality now.
The fault lines on this team are still there--depth on offense, talent at wide receiver. But after two good showings and with the afterglow of beating Dallas (well, who doesn't?) we're just not going to focus on that today. So here are five things to like about the 2010 Washington Redskins:
1. LaRon Landry leads the league in tackles after two weeks. (London Fletcher ranks third) Landry wasn't cutting it at free safety. Jim Haslett moved him to where his skills are best applied as linebacker-lite, a.k.a. strong safety. Haslett is making better use than Greg Blache did of Landry and all the talent on defense. Lets hope Haslett is open to whatever suggestion DeAngelo Hall has for improved coverage--and that Hall is open to improvement after viewing game tape. We know how that conversation would have gone with Blache. Haslett is still learning about his players and has to do something to fix the bottom-ranked defense in the league. But I digress. Landry can be had in pass coverage and he still tends to hit late, but he's the beast we expected when we drafted him. We can work with beasts.
2. Donovan McNabb is second on this list because Landry has been more than we expected. McNabb, on the other hand, has been everything we hoped. McNabb extends play with deft mobility behind a suspect line. Against Houston, McNabb distributed passes to nine receivers, completing 61 percent of his throws for a QB rating of 119. He is the No. 2 quarterback on Football Outsider's DYAR list for week two. The Skins scored three offensive touchdowns against Houston. That's progress around here.
3. Santana Moss is healthy again. He's caught 16 of the 22 balls thrown to him and averages 83 yards per game. Let's not worry that he's made 69 percent of the receptions to wide receivers. Moss himself said he expected to make plays with or without a viable No. 2 wide-out. Well, if he's happy--and healthy--I'm happy.
4. Carlos Rogers snagged a turnover. I'm happy for the guy. Redskins Hog Heaven believes Rogers is solid as a starting cornerback, even with hands of stone. His drops of potential game-changing interceptions focused a defense-wide issue on him. Fans saw Rogers in a zone coverage scheme and read that as playing receivers too loose. Fans tend to follow the ball when watching a game, not study how a scheme places players before the snap. Yes, Rogers should have had a few more picks, but the notoriety was unfair. He gets a little relief this week.
5. Nail-biting football. I like to say football is life, but it's entertainment at its core. Win or lose, we need to be thrilled by the drama of it all. Last year's team was a circus in a bad way. This year is more Cirque Du Soleil and that means edge-of-your-seat, heart-stopping, gut-wrenching, holy doo-doo football. We are compelled to watch.
It's early. Even Jim Zorn went 6-2 in his first eight games. Opponents are still figuring out what the Shanahans are up to. In three or four more games, they'll know how to scheme against it. We won't know until 2012 if Danny Snyder can keep his nose out of the football decisions. But after two weeks, we don't have to feel like we're cheering for a laughing stock.
Point After: T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been ineffective for the Baltimore Ravens with one catch in game one and none in game two against his old team, the Cincinnati Bengals. That's to be expected for someone who joined a team on the eve of the regular season. Expect less of Vincent Jackson no matter which team he joins. He did not participate in any team's OTAs. He missed the entire training camp and is only familiar with the San Diego Chargers' playbook. Any move for Jackson has to be seen as seeding the 2011 season.
The Minnesota Vikings are the current favorite to trade for Jackson according to the chattering class. Gawd knows they need receivers. The Redskins might be trying to swing a trade of Albert Haynesworth to the Vikings, or Chargers, or anybody, for Jackson. They would just be trading one headache for another. Then there's that whole conditioning test thing.