The Carolina Panthers host the Washington Redskins this Sunday. Carolina has beaten the Skins once in their history, and lost seven times. Like most teams in the NFC East, Washington seems to have Carolina's number.
Washington is 2-2, and has the distinction of only playing teams with no wins. They opened against the 0-0 Giants, then beat the 0-1 Rams, lost to the 0-2 Lions, and beat the 0-3 Bucs. Now they play the 0-3 Panthers, and next week they'll probably face the 0-5 Chiefs. The Football Gods have been kind to Washington this year.
Jason Campbell (5 TDs, 5 INTs, 963 yards, 85.5 rating) is still recovering from a rocky offseason, but he isn't showing too many ill effects from the efforts to replace him. His teammates seem to believe in him, and he's quietly putting together his best season to date.
"What can you say about Jason Campbell? When your quarterback is hailed for finally achieving mediocrity, it's no surprise that owners want to replace him. He's got good physical skills but he's never been a real leader and he has a tendency to throw at his receivers' feet instead of their hands when facing pressure. The only things he's great at is underachieving and disappointing Redsking fans."
"Campbell is a coach's son who is finally in the same offensive system for two years running. His teammates like him, he runs the offense effectively, and he moves well in the pocket. If Carolina was capable of pressuring a quarterback then they might have a favorable matchup here, but that's just crazy talk. Look for a solid outing from a solid quarterback on Sunday."
Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis (72 carries, 281 yards) is the most reliable member of the Redskin offense. He's caught 25 balls this year, and protects the ball well. Portis is a solid between-the-tackles runner, and could pass John Riggins this year as Washington's career leading rusher. Portis runs behind pro-bowl fullback Mike Sellers.
"Portis has been good in the past, but he has yet to put up 100 yards this year against defenses like Detroit and St. Louis. And they're playing the blame-game in Washington about it--word is that Portis and Sellers have had words about it and they weren't pleasant. How do you think Sellers will block after hearing that Portis wanted him removed from the game? There's no threat here that the Panthers can't handle."
"This will be Portis' feel-good game. The Washington line can open holes, and Carolina hasn't been able to stop anyone this year. All they need to face is a fast and powerful back who has made his reputation gaining the hard yards between the tackles. Portis is that and more. Long day ahead..."
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Santana Moss (17 receptions, 293 yards, 2 TDs) has shown the talent to be listed among the NFL's top receivers, but health issues have limited him in the past. Last season he played in all 16 games for just the third time in eight years. He's joined by Antwan Randle El (13 receptions, 158 yards, 2 TDs), and third receiver Malcolm Kelly (6 receptions, 65 yards). Kelly hasn't done a lot yet, but his size makes him an attractive option when the Redskins are in the red zone.
Pro Bowl Tight End Chris Cooley (22 receptions, 254 yards, 2 TDs) has started 64 straight games, and easily led the Redskins in receiving last season. With 22 receptions in his first four games, he shows no signs of slowing down.
"Washington Redskins and Passing Game are two phrases that aren't often heard in the same sentence. This is a team that's played some of the most putrid defenses in the league and can't manage better than a mediocre passing game. The Panthers are actually one of the better teams in the league against the pass, they have great corners and fast linebackers. This should be an easy unit to defend against."
"The only reason the Panthers have a good passing defense is because their opponents are so surprised at how easy they are to run on they forget to throw the ball. There hasn't been any pressure on opposing passers and little coverage. And the Redskins have a Tight End who knows how to catch the ball. If the Panthers decide to start Godfrey again, that option will be open all day."
The Redskins offensive line is supposed to be a team strength, althoguh they haven't played particularly well so far this year. Chris Samuels returns at the Left Tackle position, and is one of the best in the business at his spot. Next to him is Derrick Dockery, who returns to the Redskins after spending the past two seasons in Buffalo. Center Casey Rabach is a good all-around blocker and the leader on the line. Rounding out the offensive line is Chad Rinehart at Right Guard and Stephan Heyer at Right Tackle,
"The entire left side of the line is eligible for the AARP. Through four games they've surrendered nine sacks, and the line as a whole hasn't been able to open any holes in the running game. This is a good group for a defense to get well against."
"Jon Beason sat Peppers down for a talk this week, to try and persuade him to actually show some effort on the field. Expect him to join a long line of players, coaches, and front office people who've failed to persuade Peppers to give it his all every play. Since that's the only person on the line who's capable of generating pressure or making a stop, it's not likely that any weakness of the Washington offensive line will be exposed."
The Defensive Line is anchored by the biggest free agent signing of the off-season, Defensive Tackle Albert Haynesworth (9 tackles, 1 sack). The Redskins lured him to Washington by giving him the most lucrative deal ever for a defensive player. Haynesworth is a dominant interior lineman, and his presence has helped Cornelius Griffin (13 tackles, 1 sack)rebound from a mediocre 2008 season.
Ends Phillip Daniels (11 tackles) and Andre Carter (15 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble) round out the defensive line. Daniels is a powerful run stopper and is moved inside to tackle in some situations. Carter is a good edge rusher, and benefits from lining up next to Haynesworth.
"What can you say about Haynesworth? You can say that he got paid, so he no longer has to perform--that's the story of his career. Only nine teams have given up more yards on the ground than the Redskins. That's bad enough, but then you have to consider that they've played the Rams, Lions and Buccaneers. And it's not like they're pressuring the opposing quarterback too much--the Redskins are in the bottom half of the league in sacks and opposing quarterback rating."
"The Panthers aren't exactly opening any holes this year. They've been throwing because they can't get Williams through the line, and that's all on the guys up front. The Redskins are stout in the center, and their ends can't pressure a quarterback but they can sure string out a running play until the linebackers arrive. And this is the Panthers we're talking about--it's not like they need to be elite to be effective. They'll shut down the run and make Jake beat them. When you play the Panthers, that's a formula for success."
The Redskins were thrilled when Texas star linebacker Brian Orakpo (13 tackles, 2 sacks) was available at the 13th pick in the draft. He's secured the starting role as the Strongside Linebacker for the Redskins, and despite a position change he's been impressive. Weakside Linebacker Rocky McIntosh (24 tackles, 2 forced fumbles) has battled knee injuries, but remains explosive off the edge.
At Middle Linebacker London Fletcher (52 tackles, 1 sack) brings a veteran presence and a knack for being around the ball. He's a real playmaker and a tackling machine, averaging 13 per game.
"The linebackers will be busy Sunday, busy chasing down Panthers from behind. Look for this unit to get the bulk of the tackles again, which is just fine with Carolina because they'll all be five yards past the line of scrimmage."
"Look for the Skins to keep their backers close to the line. They already know that the Panthers won't win in the air, and this unit has the speed to keep it from happening on the ground. Hate on the line all you want, it keeps blockers off of Fletcher and he's responded. Throw in a talented rookie who could probably start at defensive end and it's pressure city on the Panthers all day. "
The Washington secondary is led by cornerback DeAngelo Hall (14 tackles, 2 INTs), who needs no introduction to Panther fans. The other corner is Carlos Rodgers (9 tackles), and the nickel is second year man Justin Tryon (5 tackles, 1 sack).
At the safety position the Redskins feature one of the most talented players on the team, Free Safety Laron Landry (24 tackles). He's an explosive hitter with amazing closing speed, and if he continues his high level of play is probably headed for a pro bowl berth this year. The Strong Safety is Chris Horton (24 tackles, 1 forced fumble), a second year man who managed to make the starting job his own as a rookie. Horton is a ballhawk who works to create turnovers.
"This is Smitty's day, he loves playing Hall. He'll either burn him up for yards or get under his skin so bad that penalties will do what Jake's arm can't. And out of the two tight-end sets that the Panthers like to run, Landry can only cover one. The other will be open all day. So far the Skins have allowed 12 passing plays over 20 yards, and that number is going up on Sunday."
"Is there a quarterback in the NFL that opposing secondarys want to see more than Jake Delhomme? It doesn't matter how open your receivers get when they're constantly overthrown. It would be fun to talk about how the Washington defensive backs will tear up Carolina, but when Delhomme is the quarterback it's so easy it isn't even fun."
"Believe it or not, the Redskins are 2-2. That's right, they've actually won two games. Part of this is due to their having the good fortune to go into every single game against an opponent who had yet to win. Sadly, this is the case yet again. But don't forget, they lost to the Giants and almost blew the game against the Bucs.
About the only thing they have going for them against the Panthers is Clinton Portis. If they can get him on track, then they should be able to chew some clock and keep the score close. But they have no solution to DeAngelo Williams, and this is the game where John Fox reminds Jeff Davidson that he has two supremely talented running backs and a stud offensive line to play with.
When the Redskins have the ball expect them to run as much as they can, but don't look for sustained drives. Campbell is not clutch enough to convert more than a couple third and longs, and while Washington won't be in too many three-and-out situations they shouldn't be able to march down the field on a fresh Panthers defense.
When the Panthers have the ball they'll be running it at every opportunity. Smitty may draw the traditional pass interference penalties against Hall, but the Panthers should actually be able to sell the play-action for a change. They'll run more than they throw for the first time this year, and that will pay big dividends.
This is a statement game for Carolina, and they'll respond big.
Panthers in a walk, 28-13."
"Despite only playing three games, Jake Delhomme is still sitting on a comfortable lead in the interception department. The Redskins know that, and they're not stupid. This game is going to be all about the Panther quarterback.
When Carolina has the ball Washington will stack the box and dare them to throw. Hall has shown an ability to stay with Smitty in the past, and at this point in his career Moose is easier to shut down than a boy-girl dance at a Baptist Church. The Skins will force Jake to throw, and that will be good for a couple of extra possessions; at least until Fox wises up and benches Jake in favor of boy-cheerleader Matt Moore.
When Washington has the ball it's going to be the Clinton Portis show. The Panthers are giving up 150 yards per game on the ground, and don't think that Hollis Thomas can stop that all by himself. The Redskins are a good rushing team to begin with, and Carolina is about to make them look great. And as far as Campbell goes, he'll perform just like any NFL quarterback who has all the time in the world to make a pass. If Washington needs a conversion, then all Campbell has to do is throw it in Cooley's direction and take advantage of Carolina's "hands-off" policy where other teams' tight ends are concerned.
Carolina will get a couple of scores early, but it won't be long before they're playing catch-up yet again. Washington will break out of their offensive doldrums in a big way.
Washington 24, Carolina 14"