Happy Wednesday everyone! Here at the CSR I thought we'd welcome in hump day with what I like to call the ‘Panther pregame prognosis'. The idea is simple, I'm going to be taking a couple of aspects of our opponent's team, analyzing them and giving a determination of how effective it will be against us on Sunday.
This week's prognosis will focus predominantly on Jason Campbell and Chris Cooley; The much maligned QB, who's quietly putting up the best numbers of his career and a tight end that is not only the fan base's biggest man crush, but also the proverbial soul of the Washington Redskins' offense.
Jason Campbell could be the most unfairly criticized QB in the NFL. Essentially this steams from owner Daniel Snyder repeatedly bringing up the quarterback position to the media when asked the team's weaknesses, as well as putting his desire to make a change at the position on a billboard. Mismanagement surrounding the draft had a lot of media pundits believing Campbell would never play for the Redskins again. He clearly (and rightfully) felt slighted that the team contemplated moving up to draft Mark Sanchez after he just came off a career year where he set personal records in yards, cmp %, TDs, TD/INT ratio and QB rating. Unlike Jay Cutler, however, Jason Campbell remained relatively silent after some early outbursts and came into camp with a chip the size of FedEx field on his shoulder.
2008 marked the year where Campbell made clear strides that he could be a successful NFL QB with the right personnel around him. Thus far in 2009 he's improving on those numbers. He's on pace to throw for close to 4,000 yards and as it stands now in October, he's leading the ‘Great Panther QB race' in this Aussie's head; provided the Redskins do as expected and fail to resign him.
Campbell is part Tony Romo and part Brett Favre. He has all the physical tools and looks unafraid in the pocket. Couple this with a howitzer for an arm and he'll make sure our secondary are in for a workout... provided his WRs can catch the ball, which is part of the reason we can't discuss Campbell without his TE.
Chris Cooley is the fourth dominant, pass catching tight end we have seen this season. Since coming into the league in 2004 Cooley has firmly cemented himself as the #1 receiving threat in the Redskins offense, as well as the safety blanket for Jason Campbell. Since 2004, only Jason Witten, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates have more receptions at tight end.
While Cooley doesn't have the ability to stretch the field the way the above TEs can, he is able to catch better in traffic than any of them. He makes his living catching passes 9-15 yards and is completely unafraid to clash with any linebacker, lineman or safety that gets in his way. He's a lot closer to Brent Celek in this way, and while Celek didn't put up great numbers against us in week one, he made the key catches on 3rd and ‘blank' which killed us in the long haul.
Thus far the Carolina Panthers have been completely helpless against the dominant TEs of the league; we have allowed 22 receptions, 180 yards and 2 TDs in three games. Not encouraging numbers as we move into this week against the ‘skins. Thomas Davis has been lining up against opposing TEs and while he's done admirably, we definitely need to have a dedicated corner planted on Cooley for the game.
My suggestion: Captain Munnerlyn.
Munnerlyn was wholly underwhelming against Dallas, and was beaten on some bad rookie mistakes, and bad coverage of more advanced routes. Cooley will not be running any fancy routes and the good Captain definitely has the tackling ability to get him down, an aspect the rest of our secondary severely lacks. Essentially, we need to turn Cooley's nine yard gains into five yard gains. As clichéd as it sounds: we can't stop him, we can only hope to contain him. If we fail to reduce his effectiveness it will be a long day.
When Campbell isn't looking for Cooley he'll most likely be looking at Santana Moss. Overshadowed by the score in the motor city debacle, Moss had 10 receptions for 178 yards in the game, but has otherwise been quiet this season. So, while Moss has that big game potential in him, his threat to the Panthers' secondary pails to Cooley's. With Gamble being assigned to Moss and if Chris Harris is back at safety, we should be able to shut him down.
Our next biggest threat is Clinton Portis. I'm not buying into the mass media buzz that he is done. While I think he hasn't found his legs yet, we definitely don't want to sleep on Portis who has big game potential every time he hits the field. The Carolina Panthers have never faced Portis in a regular season game, so hopefully the linebackers have watched a lot of tape on his tendencies.
Ultimately though, I stick with the optimistic outlook for Sunday. The Redskins are able to move the ball, but completely unable to score. This bodes well for a Carolina defense that have allowed teams to move the ball, but not allowed them to score up to their season averages. Yes, statistically the Panthers have scored fewer points per game than the ‘Skins; however, we have played the 23rd, 8th and 11th ranked defenses (based on points allowed per game). The Redskins, meanwhile, have put up only 2.7 ppg more against the 6th, 26th, 32nd and 25th.
My optimism abounds for this game. Really, there are only two aspects of the offense I think we really need to be scared about, the tight end and the potential of their RB. I'll take two concerns in a season where we have had myriad worries each and every week. So, as we watch our Panthers return to form on Sunday, keep an eye on Jason Campbell and let me know if you think he can be our QB of the future.
On a side note: What do you think the over/under is on Redskins' fans wearing paper bags to BoA? Especially after the censorship the Snyder regime has in effect over at FedEx?