1) How much will the loss of Rocky McIntosh affect the 'Skins run defense?
Considerably. Gregg Williams prefers veterans and he brought Rocky along slowly as a rookie last year, playing him mostly on special teams and in spot duty. But this year he had become the every down weakside linebacker and he will be hard to replace. Rocky seals that left side to prevent the run from getting to the sideline.
With 34 year old Randall Godfrey inactive last week, he is a versatile guy that can play all three linebacker positions and with Marcus Washington back from the hamstring he was not expected to get much playing time, rookie sixth rounder HB Blades played the run downs with veteran Khary Campbell playing the passing downs. However this week I expect Randall Godfrey will play most of the time. A soft spot on the Redskins defense just opened up for you.
2) Is Joe Gibbs coming back next year? Do you want him back? And who's his successor, Gregg Williams or Al Saunders?
Honestly I don't know. At this point I don't know what's best for the team, what's best for the fans, I have no idea. If you had asked me before game 10 against the Cowboys I would have said it was time to move on, Joe Gibbs was not only not getting it done on the field, he was making bad mistakes. Game management problems, confusion getting the play in, things that were not supposed to happen to the Space Cowboys, Joe Gibbs, (former Vikings offensive coordinator) Jack Burns, Don Breaux, Joe Bugel, Al Saunders, they were supposed to bring veteran savvy and a calming presence to the team. Instead it has seemed at times like a bunch of old men all trying to decide which socks to wear while the phone rings.
Then the way the team played it close with the Cowboys and Buccaneers, it was 'almost' football.
Then Sean Taylor died.
And so I have no idea.
Look at it another way: the Redskins have lost a halftime lead in five of their seven losses. So that looks like a coaching problem, right? Cutting it another way the Redskins are 5-6 in games decided by one score or less. The defense has played well all season, particularly in the red zone and so with some offensive adjustments the team could press its advantage and build a more solid lead. Which also sounds like a coaching problem.
But ultimately I have no idea if this team is better served in 2008 with the same leadership and likely many of the same questions, or by a whole new regime with few or no ties to the tumultuous experience that has been this season.
I can say for sure that when the time comes I do not want to see either Gregg Williams or Al Saunders as coach. My early favorite is Russ Grimm.
3) Is Todd Collins a viable NFL quarterback, or was his great game against the Bears a fluke?
Todd is a short term fix at quarterback. He is 36 so he is not necessarily ready to stand in there and take blindside after blindside like a young gun (thankfully he has Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels watching his back) so the offense will have to conserve a little by keeping the tight end or tailback in to block for him (as a blocker Clinton Portis is underrated by everybody except Clinton Portis). Although I saw a little zip in his passes against the Giants, Todd's specialty is the touch pass, a floater that is right where the catcher needs it to be, a pass that can easily be hauled in. And since he knows the offense so well he knows where those passes need to be.
The way to confound touch passers is to jam the passing lanes so there are hands everywhere to knock it down. Todd does not throw with the same velocity as Jason Campbell and teams will key on that.
It was fortuitous that if Jason had to go down he went down in the 13th game because Todd is at best a four game solution at quarterback. Much more than that and he would begin to resemble the guy in Buffalo that always had dirt on the back of his jersey.
4) The Redskins have one of the better pass defenses in the NFL (79.5 QB rating against)--how are they doing it? Has Fred Smoot actually contributed?
To some surprise the defense has improved greatly since last season. There was not much room to go down when you were ranked number 31 last year but the Redskins made no serious investment in the defensive line in the offseason and despite bringing back Loveboat Freddie and signing linebacker London Fletcher I thought it was putting trhe horse in the barn after he's eaten your children with no investment in pass rush or stopping the run.
I think the defensive improvement is a result of four factors:
1. Defensive end Andre Carter has *gasp* lived up to his big ass contract this season. Last year he was not outstanding until the end of the season and now I think he got jobbed being left off the Pro Bowl list, hard to argue with Aaron Kampman and Patrick Kerney but Andre has had more tackles than Osi Umenyiora, and only 1.5 fewer sacks. A full half of Osi's total this season came from one game against the Eagles and one game doth not a Pro Bowl sean make. Andre has been consistent all year and *horrorshow* has actually played the run!
2. Shudder to think, but the Redskins have actually acquired some good young player and developed them. Defensive tackles Anthony Montgomery and Kedric Golston are low round pick second year players and have both been starters at time. Although they are no gargantuan hulking masses of rib eating tailback stuffing space eaters to the likes of Pat and Kevin Williams they have not disappointed. Two other players, Lorenzo Alexander and Chris Wilson also represent the Redskins newfound ability to develop young defensive talent.
3. London Fletcher. Leads the team in tackles. Gregg Williams' presence on the field. Finds the football. Nuff said.
4. Loveboat Freddie. he has never been a physical player, we joked two weeks ago when he was on the sideline (we did not know at the time he was vomiting blood, for which he would be spirited to the locker room, poked with an IV and then when he realized he was not going to die he told the trainers, look! Over there! A unicorn! and ripped out the IV and ran back into the game) that he was receiving treatment for a sore forearm he makes so many arm tackles.
Since Carlos Rogers went down with serious knee injuries in game seven against the Patriots Loveboat Freddie has stepped it up and he had an outstanding game against the Giants last week covering Plaxico Burress while giving up something like seven inches. He is challenging receivers at the line now and not giving up such large cushions that quarterbacks exploit for short catches and long RAC.
5) Who do you have winning on Sunday and why?
I'm going to call this one for the Redskins. The Vikings are on a hot streak winning five in a row but that Bear victory was not decisive and the crowd was not into it for much of the game. I think the Redskins rattle Tarvaris Jackson with linebackers trying to hit the run holes and jam them against Adrian Peterson. Adrian in his emerging Barry Sanders way will break a few long ones but the Redskins will be hoping to contain. The Redskins secondary will try and confuse Tarvaris into bad throws and with Sydney Rice out or playing hurt it removes or reduces the number of targets.
On offense I think they do just enough to win. Clinton Portis rushes for less than 100 yards, less than four yards per carry and Todd Collins makes no huge game changing mistakes. If I were a betting man and I am I would take the points and the under (MIN -6.5, 40.5)