With the 2010 season less than two days away, fans are preparing for one of the most hyped season openers in recent memory and the first against the archrival Dallas Cowboys since a heartbreaking shootout in 1999.
Along with the front office and roster overhaul, the franchise has been making an effort to reach out to the loyal fans in part to make up for last season’s debacle. Part of that effort involves building up the fans excitement level for “Dallas Week,” which concludes Sunday night on national television. The players, including linebacker Andre Carter, have certainly taken notice in a changing atmosphere this week.
“Oh yes,” Carter said when asked if this is one of the most anticipated season opener’s that he’s been apart of. “There is no [better] thrill than playing a division rival in the season opener. It doesn't get better than that.”
Adding fuel to the fire to this proverbial Sunday night inferno is the fact that many national media outlets and personalities are picking the Cowboys to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium come February. When asked if that changes anything for the Redskins heading into this game, Carter played the diplomat and offered no bulletin board material, simply saying: “Dallas is a big rivalry. May the best team win.”
What determines “the best team” Sunday night may come down to conditioning and preparation, which were two of the biggest themes preached by Coach Mike Shanahan during his first training camp as Washington Redskins head coach.
Not even eight months into his job, Shanahan set the tone for the team and how they would approach the season.
“His style of training camp practice was great. ‘Fast, effectiveness, and up tempo’ was his philosophy. When we worked hard he was pleased but if you made a lot of mental errors as a team, then you will get called out. We practiced in pads in the morning and had a jog-through in the afternoon. It kept us fresh and effective, especially during the preseason,” Carter said.
Speaking of conditioning, rumors surfaced early this week that the Redskins and Tennessee Titans were in discussions regarding a possible Albert Haynesworth deal. The superstar defensive lineman has been the main topic of discussion since he publicly requested a trade before training camp. Just prior to the latest trade rumors, it had appeared that things were quieting down on that front. But as we all know too well, there is rarely a quiet moment at Redskins Park.
“It's getting old,” Carter said. “He's a great player and can make a huge impact on the team. Regardless of the rumors, as people can see, he is still on the team.”
Part of the criticism aimed towards Haynesworth came during the final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals when he was condemned for his performance while playing most of the defensive snaps, which is unusual for a player of his status and caliber.
While he said he didn’t watch Albert specifically during that game, Carter feels he is grasping the 3-4 defense after spending the whole offseason away from the team.
“I feel he is understanding the system. He can [play] the nose or defensive tackle position and create a disturbance in the backfield,” Carter said.
“Those who have seen Albert play know what he can bring to the table. We shall see what happens on gameday.”
Another critique of Haynesworth’s preseason play was maintaining gap discipline, which Carter cites as a reason for the defense’s tendency to give up large chunks of yardage in the running game during the preseason, with and without Albert on the field.
“It was mental errors on our part; mainly gap responsibility. This defense is built to stop the run. If everyone is in their proper position, there shouldn't be [any room] for error,” Carter said.
While his teammates continue to adjust to a new scheme, Carter feels his transition from defensive end is going much smoother than the one he made 3,000 miles away with the San Francisco 49ers.
“With everything new there is always a learning process. I feel like I have gotten better from the beginning of OTA's to now. I am having fun playing in this scheme. There is no comparison to the scheme I played in ’05,” he said.
Despite two of Dallas’ starting offensive lineman being out for Sunday night’s matchup, the game will certainly be an indicator of how the defense can handle a tough offense with so much change going on.
frankcal20: Did your wife, Bethany, being a nutritionist herself, offer to help Albert Haynesworth train and fix his hydration issues?
AC: Lol. Good one. No she didn’t.
Deadskins: Could you speak to the Cowboys-Skins rivalry and Mike Shanahan's approach to playing our most hated opponent?
AC: The rivalry is nothing I had ever experienced in my 10 year career. The rivalry is tradition in Redskins football. We are excited. Shanahan's approach: Win.