returning the favor

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Earlier this week, I posted a Q&A with Stephanie Stradley, who blogs about the Houston Texans and is one of the coolest people I’ve come across in a while. I figured fans of the Washington Redskins didn’t know much about this week’s opponent, so I’d go to one of the best sources possible to learn about the Texans. Stephanie’s answers were very insightful and, as a result of that post, I’ve had the chance to hear back from many Houston fans.

It turns out, Texans fans in general are really easy to get along with. They’re one of the most respectful fanbases out there and they dislike the Dallas Cowboys as much as ‘Skins fans do. After this weekend, Texans fans and I are good to go. With that in mind, I agreed to answer a few of Stephanie’s questions about the Redskins.

In addition to me, she also got Dan Steinberg, of D.C. Sports Bog fame, one of the guys from Mister Irrelevant and Kevin from Hogs Haven to participate. Seriously, that’s a pretty impressive list of D.C. sports bloggers … and Kevin from Hogs Haven. I’ve included my answers below, but please click this link to read what everyone else had to say about the burgundy and gold.

What’s the general feeling in D.C. in the post Zorn/Cerrato era?

After two years of watching a head coach who knew more about slip-n-slides and dodgeball than playcalling, morale was at an all-time low for Redskins fans. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve never in my life seen fans as downtrodden as they were a year ago (and remember, we root for the team that once employed Steve Spurrier).

Zorn was so inept that management was forced to search retirement homes for a suitable replacement in the playcalling department. Greg Blache, the defensive coordinator, simply wanted to retire and spend the rest of his days hunting and fishing, but was talked into sticking around when promised a sizeable raise (which also helped his pension).

On the field and in the locker room, things were even worse. Clinton Portis got into trouble with his teammates after asking the coaching staff to bench fullback Mike Sellers. Albert Haynesworth tried to stage a protest on Christmas day to show his displeasure with [insert whatever upset him that day here]. And on and on. In short, all hope was lost.

Fast forward a few short months and Vinny Cerrato, Jim Zorn and Jason Campbell have been replaced by Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb. The three position most vital to a football team’s success have all been dramatically upgraded, and now, the Redskins actually have a chance to win on any given Sunday.

I’ve gotta say, it feels nice to have competent people in the key decision making positions once again.

This will be the first time the Texans have faced the Redskins at FedEx Field. Could you give Texan fans a sense of how that stadium can be when the local fans have hope?

Even though FedEx Field has only been open since 1997, it doesn’t come close to some of the beautiful “football palaces” that exist in today’s NFL. It seats more than 91,000, but a portion of those seats come with obstructed views. The stadium has never been considered anything special, the food and beverages are overpriced and the traffic situation is the worst in the NFL.

Add in a 4-12 team and the current economy and there have been times in recent history when fans of the opposing teams (see: Steelers, Pittsburgh) have been able to basically take over FedEx Field.

Fortunately, the Redskins got the memo. They dumped a ton of money into improving the gameday experience, they’re continuing to try and find ways to improve the traffic/parking issues and the stadium now features state-of-the-art HD video replay boards. Combine all of that with Shanahan, McNabb and a general sense of renewed optimism, and the atmosphere for Sunday night’s game against Dallas was electric.

Seriously, that was easily the best crowd I’ve ever seen at FedEx Field. Both coaches even said after the game that several of Dallas’ penalties came because of the crowd (well, that and Cowboys tackle Alex Barron).

If those same people show up again this weekend, then the Redskins will definitely have a home-field advantage. It’s not something they’ve been accustomed to, but it was a welcomed surprise.

What do Redskin fans feel like is the strength of their team coming into this season?

Jason Campbell is a fine human being and a pretty solid quarterback, but I can’t think of one single two-minute drive he’s ever orchestrated in his professional career. McNabb’s resume speaks for itself. If he stays healthy, then the Redskins’ offense has a chance.

Tight end is also a position of strength, with Pro Bowler Chris Cooley and Fred Davis both proving they can carry the load for a team lacking a true possession receiver.

The best thing the defense has going for it is the element of surprise. Before last week, the Redskins had never fully utilized a 3-4 defense in franchise history. Instead of passively waiting for offenses to dictate the play, Jim Haslett has given the green light to his defenders to be aggressive and make plays.

The defense, led by Brian Orakpo, London Fletcher and DeAngelo Hall, is high-risk, high-reward, and as Dallas learned a week ago, they’re good enough to do the heavy lifting on weeks when the offense forgets to show up.

What worries Redskin fans coming into this game about their team?

Honestly, the Houston Texans worry me. Last year, the Texans had the number-one ranked passing offense in football, thanks to Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and a bunch of spare parts. Now, all of the sudden, some guy named Arian Foster shows up and the ground game is as lethal as the aerial attack. Throw in a young and speedy defense, and this is a team that is built to compete this year and for years to come.

Disgruntled Albert Haynesworth has been a Matt Schaub killer, giving him various hits that looked like they were intended to injure. What are the chances that Haynesworth gets more playing time against Houston and figures out what he is supposed to be doing under Washington’s scheme? (Personally, I will be unhappy if he gets traded back to the Titans 4-3).

Good news Texans fans: until Haynesworth gets with the program, he’s basically going to be a nonfactor. The Redskins defense was on the field for 75 plays against Dallas, and “Fat Albert” was only involved in 17 of them. Some of his teammates have privately told me that last season Haynesworth was a liability at times against the run (see: Falcons, Atlanta). In related news, Albert is basically only seeing playing time on obvious passing downs – and he wasn’t on the field at all for the Cowboys’ final drive Sunday night.

I’d worry more about Orakpo. He grew up a Houston fan and would love nothing more than to continue his stellar play against a city with such meaning to him.

Who are a few players for the Redskins that Texan fans may not be that familiar with but could have a huge effect on the game, either good or bad?

Rookie left tackle Trent Williams is obviously going to be key all season long. If he can become the next Chris Samuels, then McNabb just might be able to make it through the next season. If not, then we might see Rex Grossman in live action. I don’t need to tell Texans fans just how much trouble the Redskins would be in at that point.

On defense, all eyes are on free safety Reed Doughty, who is being asked to fill in while starter Kareem Moore is sidelined due to a knee injury. The Cowboys seemingly targeted Doughty early and often, and their lone touchdown came when Miles Austin beat Doughty.

Doughty is better suited for strong safety, which is a nicer way of saying he should only be asked to play close to the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately for Reed, the Redskins already have a pretty good strong safety in LaRon Landry (17 tackles against Dallas), so he’s forced into a role that’s not ideal.

Again, please click here to read the entire article and thanks to Stephanie (and Texans fans in general) for being awesome.


  1. ExKiwi Krol
    September 17, 2010 at 9:15 am

    Word for word, you had more than the other guys who answered the questions.

  2. DaveW
    September 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    We gave up 433 yards last week but Manning had to throw it almost 60 times to get there and the 73 yard TD came at trash time. That said, our secondary is what worried me most coming into the season and I still pucker up when opposing teams drop back to pass. Our corners are a second year guy (Glover Quin) and a rookie first-rounder (Kareem Jackson). Our safeties aren’t big cover guys either. All of them hit and tackle well though, so after your guys have caught a few don’t be surprised if they start hearing footsteps.

    Being ‘good tacklers’ isn’t exactly what you want to hang your hat on for bragging rights with your secondary.

    Our D-Line had an awesome game last week, but we’ve had them before. The thing we haven’t been able to do is play that well consistently. If our D-Line can come out and play like we did last week you guys may be in for a long afternoon.

    It’s going to be really interesting to see how our offense adjusts to your 3-4 D. We’ve struggled against the 3-4 in the past, or at least against teams that play it well. Haynesworth has also seemed to have it in for Schaub for some reason and has given us fits over the years while he was with the Titans.

    So what I’ll be watching from a Texans fan point of view will be our O-Line against your front 7, and our D-Line against your line and McNabb.

    Good luck but I’m planning to enjoy beating you guys tomorrow. Hopefully whatever happens we’ll both emerge without any serious injuries.

  3. DaveW
    September 18, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Oh, I’m also wondering what the chances are that you guys will come out flat after the big home win against the Larry, Curly and Romo show last weekend. Have the Skins had a problem like that?

    Honestly that’s my biggest fear. I think if we come ready to play we can win this game, but we have a history of let-downs after big wins.

  4. DaveW
    September 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    I wish I felt better than I do about winning this game.

    We tried all game to give it away. You guys played us very well. Our D-Line didn’t show up, just as I feared. It was obvious to me you guys had our number.

    I’m glad we won but I’m sorry you guys had to lose for us to win. You played a great game against a pretty tough team that wasn’t at its best.

    I wish you guys all the best.

    Hopefully, we’ll beat the Cowboys next week and that will be some consolation to you guys.

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