Monday, October 22, 2007

Cardinal rule: win ugly if you have to

This time, the Washington Redskins held on for the win after a letting a big lead evaporate. Twice before this season, the Redskins let the other guys pull away from them.

They got the win, so the glass must be half full. The score and the wins are the only stats that count.

Clever headlines about yesterday's 21-19 win over the Arizona Cardinals:

The cause of everything

I am of the opinion that the line causes 51 percent of everything that happens on offense. This is from anecdotal evidence after long observation of football. It's not scientific like the stuff you find on Football Outsiders, but I believe it to be true. The recent struggles of the Redskins offence is more evidence of that.

Joe Jacobi commented on the SportsTalk 980 Radio after the game that a team could cope with replacing one player on the offensive line, but replacing two would be very difficult. Replacing three would present near insurmountable problems. The Redskins have replaced four if you count right guard Pete Kendall who arrived in late training camp via trade.

Good trades and bad

Kendall is an example of a good use of the trade to bring in a key role player to fill a specific need. Kendall performs with no let down of talent of the man he replaced. That's unlike so many other Redskin trades that are not additive: lose a top cornerback and a draft choice for a top running back; swap a receiver [Lav Cole] for another receiver [Santana Moss]; drop an unproductive receiver [Rod Gardner] and trade for a less productive receiver [Brandon Lloyd].

The Redskins may never overcome the tendency. Consider how close the owner came to the Lance Brigg trade. If that were executed, the Chicago Bears would have our No. 1 draft pick and Rocky McIntosh, but hey, we would have Briggs. Few fans in Washington favored the deal. How does a like-for-like swap build on what you have. If a deal were to be done, we wanted a D-lineman.

Only the owner was enticed by the offer. Joe Gibbs did his best service for the Redskins by killing it, help along by Bears GM Jerry Angelo's demand for McIntosh to sweeten the deal.

But I digress.

Unnatural acts

Offensive linemen are anonymous because they must play as a unit. Everyone else is a skilled player. It seems to take two or three seasons of playing together for linemen to jell as a cohesive unit. Going into the season, we saw the O-line as a strength because of how well they played as a unit over the years.

Injuries have blown that up. Joe Bugel is resorting to unnatural acts to cope. Mike Pucillo is doing OK as a center, but is lost to the team in the flexible extra blocker role he plays in the jumbo package. TE Todd Yoder is a better blocker that Chris Cooley, so do you keep Cooley out so Yoder can block, or do you play Cooley to block so that he can at least pretend to be a receiving threat? Can you have Scarface Alexander play on both the offensive and defensive line? Do you really want Rich DeMulling to start?

Injuries are part of football. Watching how teams cope is part of the drama of the game, part of the test of a champion. Fixing the issues on the O-line will fix 51 percent of what ails the offense.

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