Out of the Box: Back to the national stage, another opportunity for the Redskins to show they are a real team as the Colts come into Washington for Sunday Night Football, 8:00 pm ET on NBC, am I dreaming or is a winnable game?
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The Story So Far: Do you believe? It seems the team is starting to, Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb are bleeding their confidence and experience into the rest of this team, it has been a long time since the Redskins had legitimate leadership, and sadly I include the Joe Gibbs II years in this review. They say a good team cannot win if the players do not believe they can win. The Redskins have had decent to good teams in the past five years and have not had a lot of success overall.
Meanwhile back on Earth the Redskins have played Tony Romo, Matt Schaub, emerging rookie phenom Sam Bradford, Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers in the first five weeks of the season, why the hell not throw a Peyton Manning in there just to rub it in a little. Whatever the outcome of this game, this stretch of elite quarterbacks, including Jay Cutler next week, should end up making this defense better.
There was an odd synchronicity of coverage this week leading up to tonight's game, about how both teams, the Redskins and Colts, were still in the process of finding themselves going into week six of the 2010 NFL season. Little different in what it means for each team to be finding itself though.
The Redskins are a wild west gambler walking the razor's edge every week, shooting their way out of barfights and taking out veteran gunfighters from fifty paces, knowing it could all be over any time. Four of the Redskins five games so far this season have been by a touchdown or less, and all four of those games, including the Redskins three wins, have come down to the last play of the game. Looking back over the four plus years Curly R has been covering this team, this is the norm though (op. cit.).
See Oppo Research below for more on how the Colts are looking to find themselves.
Speaking of head coach Mike Shanahan, although I have questioned some his personnel moves, it is unquestionable that there is a method to his madness, he is already in the process of building a team from the inside out.
We are learning a little more about the release of third year receiver Devin Thomas, that happened on the eve of last Sunday's game against the Packers, coach Shanahan did not think Devin was a good fit with the team, based principally on coach's belief that Devin is not really committed to football (op. cit.), apparently coach also thought Devin was a bit of a showboat. Devin never made it to the market, he was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers.
As a footnote to this preview, the last time these two teams played, not counting the Hall of Fame preseason game one in 2008, was game seven of the 2006 season at Indianapolis, the Curly R preview is decidedly downbeat as the 2-4 Redskins played the 5-0 Colts, this game featured the defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Andre Carter nearly ripping Peyton Manning in half in the first quarter, the Redskins were actually leading by one point at the half before Peyton woke up and threw three touchdown passes in the third quarter, the Redskins went on to lose 36-22 to drop to 2-5.
Curly R Aside: Sunday Night Football play by play announcer Al Michaels has been one of the voices of football for about as long as my attention span permitted me to watch games, long enough in the business to learn some really solid preparation habits, and despite that longevity Al consumes alt media including blogs covering the teams he will be working. He has also been in the business long enough to develop some pretty depraved show business fetishes, hey Al when the game is over tonight you can come over to my house and dress up in ladies panties and bite me on the back, I will even let you sodomize me if you promise to give Curly R a shoutout tonight during the game tonight. (Ed. note: Thanks to all the emailers pointing ot my mistake, obviously I had Al Michaels confused with Marv Albert, my apologies to Al Michaels I may have offended. -Ben)
Oppo Research: As alluded above, the Colts are also a team looking for their identity, it is not the same situation as the Redskins, see the Colts know their identity and when we say they are looking for it we mean like they lost it and are looking up under the couch and between the carseats, it is just a matter of time until they find it. Quarterback Peyton Manning is having a great season, three Colts receivers have thirty catches or more, not even one Redskins player has thirty at this point.
Indianapolis' weakness on offense right now is at tailback, starter Joseph Addai and backup Donald Brown are both hurt and may not play, third string ball carrier Mike Hart is on deck, when this guy gets fifty yards in the game they say it's awesome.
On the other side of the ball defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis both present serious challenges to the tackle spots, do not be surprised if the Redskins tight ends stay home more often to block in this game.
Former Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders continues his downward spiral into retirement, he is injured and will not play so go deep Donovan.
Trainer's Table: Both Redskins tackles, rookie left tackle Trent Williams and right tackle Jammal Brown, suffered knee injuries in the Packers game last week, both had negative results on magnetic resonance imaging tests this week, by Wednesday Jammal was back on the field while Trent was not, Stephon Heyer practiced in Trent's place at left tackle (all op. cit.), Trent is expected to play tonight.
Linebacker Rocky McIntosh suffered a mild concussion in the Packers game last week, I do not even think I remember seeing him get hurt, he came in to work Monday with a headache, when the team resumed practice Wednesday Rocky was not with them, Rocky sat out Thursday and Friday, he is not ready to go and is inactive for the game, HB Blades will start in his place (op. cit.), HB is a fine reserve linebacker, having tutored under London Fletcher all four of his NFL seasons.
Tailback Clinton Portis is the only player out for sure with the groin tear suffered two weeks ago against the Eagles, this week Clinton opened up about his time and legacy with Washington, he swears he will be back, whether for this team or another (ibid.), he wants to break the ten thousand yard career rushing mark and wants to become the Redskins all time leading rusher (op. cit.), he would be breaking John Riggins' record, Riggo and Clinton have had a strained relationship over the years and many Redskins fans are conflicted over whether Clinton should be the greatest ever in burgundy and gold.
Gameplan: On offense the Redskins are going to have some options, Indianapolis is 29th against the run and all star safety Bob Sanders is out of the game, Washington may actually be able to produce offense against this team. Expectation is the team will stick with its workhorses, receiver Santana Moss and tight end Chris Cooley, if things go well on offense they will manage to get some other players in involved. Possibly Anthony Armstrong, the 27 year old second year player that s elbowing Joey Galloway out of the way?
On defense, even defensive coordinator Jim Haslett admits there is only so much you can do to stop Peyton Manning, keeping with an early season theme of Brian Orakpo's disruptive influence, go after Peyton, try and force him to make decisions faster, no one is better at reading defenses than Peyton Manning so if you have to play him you want to get as much pressure as possible and not sit back try and solve him. If Brian and his linemates cannot get to Peyton then let us see 2010 NFC Defensive Player of the Week for 2010 week five LaRon Landry smacking the shit out of some white jerseys.
On special teams, kicker Graham Gano is establishing a pattern of missing kicks, the team keeps bailing him out, they need to figure out if something is wrong, or if 75% accuracy on field goals, good for 22nd in the league, is just how Graham rolls.
My Take in 60 Words or Less: Expect this one to look more like the Texans game than the Eagles or Packers games for the Redskins, I expect lots of passing, not a lot of running and a decent amount of scoring. This can happen.
LaVar Arrington's keys to the game: offense :: defense :: special teams. Injury report, the only player for sure out is tailback Clinton Portis who is hoping his groin muscle reattaches back to his legbone at some point in the not too distant future. Inactives include linebacker Rocky McIntosh who is still suffering from a concussion suffered in the Packers game last week, cornerback Kevin Barnes, tailback Clinton Portis, left guard Derrick Dockery, a healthy scratch his second straight week, nose tackle Anthony Bryant, tight end Logan Paulsen and defensive nose end Albert Haynesworth, Albert is physically healthy though just back from Tennessee where he laid his brother to rest and did not practice enough to qualify.
Broadcast coverage is national, for the second time in the first six weeks of the season the Redskins take the stage for Sunday Night Football, we will be treated to the dulcet tones of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth who I am really getting sick of caveating that I like the dude.
Enjoy the game, the action moves down the street tonight to Tony Almeida's house, we will be watching over the air high definition on Tony's big screen running DVR on his linux driven home media system. Cable? FEH!
This is a gameday open thread.
NFL helmet logos from here.