There is no way to sugarcoat it. Sunday’s 19-14 loss to the Detroit Lions, who had lost every regular season game since Week 17 in 2007, is arguably the most undesirable in recent memory.
Fans and media alike have been questioning the team’s direction since the Redskins 9-7 win over the St. Louis Rams in Week 2 and the second guessing escalated this week.
With all of the external distractions that can quickly infiltrate a locker room, defensive end Andre Carter says that, as a veteran leader of the team, it is important to show the younger players how to fight through tough times and adversity.
“We are a vet team and as a vet team we know that we need to lead by example. We have great leadership on our team and will come together to get back on track.”
In order to get back on track, it will be important for the defense to exploit the offense of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday, just as the New York Giants did in Week 3. Much like the Redskins, the Buccaneers head into Landover, MD this weekend with a lot to prove coming off of a 24-0 shutout.
“This week is a new week. The past is history. You can't change it or go back. We will learn from our mistakes and play the football that everyone knows and loves at FedEx Field. Redskins football. We will not look at Tampa as an 0-3 team but a team that is trying to establish their first win. Like every game, each play will be earned on offense, defense and special teams,” Carter said.
The Giants defense dominated Tampa Bay, only allowing 86 total yards and just 16:22 of offensive football. The Bucs went 0 for 9 on third down attempts and had just five first downs for the entire game. One game, however, will not give the Redskins defense the clearest picture of how Tampa Bay Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson attempts to utilize his strategies.
“I think studying all games will give us an idea on how to play against them. Its one thing to study but you don't want to over study. I believe our coaches will have a great gameplan for Sunday’s game,” said Carter.
The gameplan will now have to include quarterback Josh Johnson, who was named the starter while Byron Leftwich was demoted to third string behind Josh Freeman this week. Having been deactivated throughout his rookie season in 2008, Johnson has only appeared in two career games and just one as a quarterback.
This change will provide the Redskins, and more specifically the defense, an opportunity to take advantage of a young and underachieving offense. Carter says that inexperience does not change how the defense will approach Johnson.
“Even though he has limited experience in the NFL, we can't underestimate him. I am sure he has been waiting for his opportunity to start and put on a show. We will get a feel for him during the first series of the game and make sideline adjustments if needed.”
In an unusual display from the normally rock-solid group, the Redskins defense had their share of problems against the Lions offense and rookie quarterback Matt Stafford. How was the number one overall selection in this year’s draft able to pass at will against the Redskins experienced secondary?
“Their offensive line was able to disguise play action pass. That being said, it gave Strafford more time to pinpoint his receivers. As a defensive line we have to help our secondary. It's a team effort,” Carter said.
Second-year running back Kevin Smith also had his way with the defense. Smith gained 82 yards on the ground in the first half and 101 on the day by mostly targeting the Redskins interior defensive line.
“In their run game, we had missed tackles and when the defense is unsuccessful in that department it's going to be a long day. I felt that [Cornelius] Griffin and Albert [Haynesworth] did a great job,” Carter said.
The loss took fans and the players by surprise but due to the makeover Detroit went through in the offseason with front office management and on-field personnel, the fact that the Lions players performed much better than they did in 2008 wasn’t a big surprise to the Redskins.
“We didn't look at Detroit as a 0-19 team. They were a 0-2 team. When we studied film they were a different team from last year. More physical, had trick plays, and moved the ball very effectively. We can't compare them from last year.”
“One thing about the Detroit Lions is they are a new team. Forget about the 19 game losing streak. Last year they were 0-16. This year they were 0-2 but with a new sense of energy. They played well Sunday. Our defense is capable of so much more. We need to be gap sound in our execution and continue to grow as a defense. It's still early in the season. Nobody has thrown in the towel,” Carter added.
While Stafford won his first game as an NFL quarterback thanks in part to his arm, the Redskins passing game was very active as well. Head Coach Jim Zorn allowed quarterback Jason Campbell more freedom through the air, resulting in his first 300 yard performance of the season. Over half of Campbell’s production came as a result of the hands of Santana Moss, who caught 10 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown. Campbell totaled 340 yards passing and two touchdowns. That performance gave fans a reminder of what the duo is capable of.
“It's always important to have a connection between the QB and receiver. Santana and Jason were on point and had a good game. I don't know anything within the realm of playing QB but Jason has been poised despite being under the microscope in each game. I have and will continue to have faith in him,” Carter said.
The Tampa Bay defense the Redskins face this weekend is not the Bucs’ defense of old. The unit is still led by 13-year veteran cornerback Ronde Barber, but leaders and key contributors of seasons past are no longer there. Gone are linebackers Derrick Brooks and Cato June. Also gone are defensive linemen Kevin Carter and Jovan Haye. The Bucs will be looking for young players like defensive end Gaines Adams and cornerback Aqib Talib to step up and fill the roles left vacant.
Having Campbell play his “A-game” against Tampa Bay’s defense is essential to the offense’s ability to effectively drive the ball down the field, which has been accomplished in all three games so far this season. All that will need to change is the result that follows their entrance in the red zone.
Under the Helmet:
THN: For the first time, the Seattle Seahawks broke out their brand new neon green uniforms Sunday against Chicago. It looked like the Bears were playing 11 crossing guards at a time. What is the strangest or most unique uniform you have ever seen worn by a team in any sport?
AC: I forgot what year it was but when the Baltimore Ravens [first] wore all black on their home turf and won that game. That was pretty good.