When times become increasingly tougher and the end is not near, it is then that a person, or in this case, a team, determines their true character and desire to be successful.
That is the situation facing the Washington Redskins heading into Week 9 of the 2009 season. Having gone through the lighter portion of their schedule (their first six opponents not yet garnering a win at the time of the contests), the team began its streak of difficult opponents before heading into their bye week.
The last adversary the team had to face before resting up for a full week was the division rival Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football. It was yet another week of “close but no cigar” for the burgundy and gold as they fell 27-17 on national television, dropping their NFC East record to 0-2 on the season.
Aside from touchdowns of 57 and 69 yards by Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson, the defense played another very strong contest but lacked the game-changing turnovers that were needed to help the struggling offense.
“I felt the defense played well. Not great but well. The things that killed us were the two big plays. Take those away; the game would have been closer. That’s Philly’s style of offense; big plays.” said Andre Carter, who had one sack and one forced fumble against the Eagles.
The Redskins offense, however, has not produced big plays all season, which led to Head Coach Jim Zorn being removed as the team’s play caller after the loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. That role now belongs to Sherm Lewis, who was originally brought in as an offensive consultant. Many were left to wonder what Zorn’s new role would entail. Carter believes that Zorn’s role involved him essentially consulting quarterback Jason Campbell and the rest of the offense throughout the course of the Monday night game.
“I felt coach Zorn’s role was to help Jason play-by-play, give him pointers on key reads from what the Philly defense was showing him, as well as help the other offensive players focus on the objective on the sideline.”
With Lewis debuting in his new role, Carter felt he was solid with his play-calling abilities against the Eagles.
“I felt the offense played effectively on Monday night. I don’t know anything about the schematics of our offense but I do know they played hard despite who was calling the plays.”
One of the few bright spots for the team on offense was tight end Fred Davis, who had to take over the lead role due to Chris Cooley’s ankle injury, which is expected to keep him out a minimum of 3-4 games.
Davis had the best game of his young career against the Eagles while filling in for Cooley, catching eight passes for 78 yards and logging his first career touchdown. Over the next month, the 2007 Mackey Award winner will be heavily relied upon for the first time in his pro career.
“He has to step his game up now. Fred doesn’t have to fill Cooley’s shoes but he has to take his play on another level. He showed that on Monday night against Philly.”
With the addition of Chris Samuels to injured reserve due to a career threatening injury suffered in Week 5 against the Carolina Panthers, the Redskins must find a way to protect Jason Campbell, especially on his blind side. Keeping Campbell off of the ground has been a tall task for this offensive line since right guard Randy Thomas suffered a season ending triceps injury during the team’s Week 2 victory over the St. Louis Rams.
Samuels has played with spinal stenosis, a condition which narrows the spine, throughout his career and the stinger he suffered against Carolina could potentially force the 6-time Pro Bowler to retire after a ten-year career with the team.
“You can never replace a man like Chris Samuels. He has had a great career. If I was in his shoes, I would hang it up. When you are dealing with the spine, it’s something you can’t take lightly,” Carter said.
Another aspect that can’t be taken lightly is the health of Campbell, who told Comcast SportsNet that he is suffering from a sore shoulder, sore ribs, sore back and injuries to both ankles, limiting his ability to scramble, a trait he has relied on plenty of times to avoid defenders that continue to expose the lack of quality depth on the offensive line.
Is it smart for Campbell to continue to play, considering all of the ailments plaguing him right now and his decreased ability to scramble due to his ankle injuries? Carter feels the offensive captain will make the smart choice when it comes to deciding how healthy he is to play.
“It’s unfortunate for Jason to have so many ailments. In this business we are not always going to be 100 percent. But the will to win and compete is in us. I can’t say if Jason should be in there because I am not him. He is a smart man and will make good decisions when treating those wounds and be prepared to win.”
The team attempted to bring in extra protection for Campbell by signing former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Levi Jones, who was taken six spots behind fellow tackle Mike Williams (4th overall) in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft out of Arizona State. Jones was reportedly thrown into the starting mix in practice during his first week with the team. Considering he was signed six days prior to the Eagles game, some are wondering if this move was calculated to get the 7-year veteran ready to start this Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
“I think Levi playing against Atlanta will be determined by our o-line coach [Joe Bugel]. It’s about comfort and getting familiar with the system. Practicing against him, [I’ve seen that] he has good feet and he’s strong at the point of attack. I am familiar with Levi due to our battles we had when we played against each other in college,” Carter said.
Whether Jones will be up-to-speed on the playbook and conditioning remains to be seen.
One thing that is certain is that the team, mainly the front office and owner Dan Snyder, is facing a myriad of criticism for its handling of fan relations and a 2-5 performance that is deemed unacceptable based off of the quality of opponents the team had faced during that stretch.
Part of the frustration is due to the fact that a roster comprised of so many talented players is not reaching its potential. The players know that they are not performing up to their standards but with so much time left on the schedule, the current situation will not be improved by passing the blame.
“I can’t tell you why it’s not clicking. We have the [final] half of the season to turn this around. We are working hard and the positive thing is there has been no finger pointing,” Carter said.
The unusual level of negativity from the loyal fan base has reverberated into the locker room at Redskins Park but it has not sidetracked the players from focusing on the task at hand, which, this week, is trying to defeat the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
The Falcons possess an offense that is similar to Philadelphia but present perhaps an even stiffer challenge than the Eagles due to youth and health at key positions such as quarterback and running back. The Falcons present problems on the ground with Michael Turner, who has eight touchdowns this season, and through the air with quarterback Matt Ryan having the luxury of passing to tight end Tony Gonzalez and wide receiver Roddy White, who is tied for second in the league with six receiving touchdowns.
Carter says that preparing for weapons such as those won’t be very different from game planning against any other team.
“Each offense is dynamic. Some teams have more offensive weapons then others yet the concept of preparing against an opponent is the same. Take away the big plays, control the run, rush the passer, prevent the go-to guys from having a big game. It’s all about film studying and communicating with coaches and teammates.”
One player who is looking forward to facing Atlanta’s offense is cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was drafted by the Falcons 8th overall in 2004 and, according to Coach Zorn, will split punt return duties with Antwaan Randle El and Santana Moss this Sunday.
“I think he is excited. I haven’t spoken to him about playing against the Falcons. From my experience there is a sense of excitement playing against your old stomping grounds,” Carter said.
Another reason for optimism for the Redskins is that they are coming off an extra week of rest and the chance to get away from football and the distractions surrounding it.
“It was great to rest up and spend tine with the family. Sometimes it’s good to get away and recharge our batteries. Even though the second half of the season, from what people say, is the toughest, I feel we are taking it one week at a time. If you tend to look far ahead of who you are going to play, you will make that mistake of overlooking your opponent for the week.”
Under the Helmet:
THN: What is the most enjoyable thing you’ve ever done on a bye week during your NFL career?
AC: I have always stayed home. I have never done anything crazy on my bye week.
THN: For my abnormal psychology class, I had to watch “A Clockwork Orange,” which is the strangest movie I’ve ever seen in my life. What is the weirdest or strangest movie you’ve ever watched?
AC: The strangest movie I saw was “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. The old version.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Jake Russell