Stephen Davis gets his first opportunity to show the Redskins organization what they lost. Big country and the awesome defensive line of the Panthers will try to continue their winning ways and keep the Redskins from getting to .500.
Oh what a difference a week can make! Coles started the year out very strong in the first three games of this season, averaging 7.6 catches for 130 yards per game. Then came the dry spell...when Patrick Ramsey spent more time on his back-side looking at the sky then he did standing up looking down-field for Coles. During these next 5 games, Coles averages sunk to 4.6 catches for 53.4 yards per game. Last week, against Seattle, the Redskins faithful once again saw what the Ramsey-Coles connection is capable of doing if/when Ramsey has the time to throw. Not only did Coles get his third touchdown of the year last week, he racked up 125 yards doing it. Iíve said it once...and Iíll say it again, there is not a single cornerback in the league that can stop the Ramsey-Coles connection if Ramsey has the time to throw the ball.
This week itíll be Reggie Howardís "turn to feel the burn." Howard, in his 4th year, has 41 tackles (38 solo), 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. Howard is not a bad cornerback...but is certainly no where near being a "great" one. He does not have the skills to match up against any of the Redskins wide receivers. His biggest hope is that the Carolina defensive line (which, unfortunately, can be quite formidable) is able to get to Ramsey enough times to keep Coles out of the game. If this happens, Howard will have an easy game.
Unfortunately, when comparing Coles to other cornerbacks....I have to take into consideration the "Ramsey" factor. Coles is far superior than any cornerback out there; however, without Ramsey, his talent cannot be exploited. This week, I predict another slow week for Coles because I believe the Panthers defensive line is going to go after Ramsey hard (unlike what Seattle did last week), taking Coles out of the game. Itís not easy for me, but I have to call it like I see it.
To say that Stephen Davis, once beloved running back for the Redskins, is off to a great start this year is a supreme understatement. He has rushed for 992 yards in 193 carries, averaging over 5 yards per carry. He has also caught the ball for another 78 yards on 8 catches. While he isnít matching some of his touchdown totals from the past, he is a massive threat. He can help establish a beat for the offense as well as make coverages shrink to cover the run threat, exposing the secondary.
Against this, Jeremiah Trotter is the man who must key on Davis and help to shut him down. Trotter had a rough season last year, and certainly hasnít shown the flair he had in Philadelphia working behind Hugh Douglas. He is facing a task of monumental proportions in trying to key on Davis out of the backfield behind a very good offensive line. Meanwhile, unless the defensive line starts attacking in a more unified manner, Davis may have his pick of holes to attack Trotter up the middle. Trotter must either sit back and acknowledge the fact that Davis is going to get 3-4 yards a carry minimum, or attack with another linebacker in an attempt to plug the holes in the defensive line before Stephen can get up a head of steam.
Fortunately, while Davis is a spectacular back, his strength comes in the north south running attack, leading the Panthers away from the east west running that has been so successful against the Redskins. Due to this, it might be feasible for the Skins to attack gaps in advance of Davis hitting them and keep him from gaining the yardage he has become accustomed to recently.
However, there is always DeShaun Foster and his speed.
When the Redskins visit Ericsson Stadium on Sunday, they will be meeting perhaps the best 4 man defensive line that they have faced yet this year. Both ends, Julius Peppers and Mike Rucker have been giving opposing tackles fits with their pass rush. Rucker leads the NFL with 11 sacks including one against the Bucanners last week for his 4th consecutive game with a sack. Rucker has also tallied 51 tackles along the way to lead a talented defensive line, and has managed a forced fumble, a batted pass and 13 QB hurries. He has steadily improved since being drafted in the 1999 season, and has routinely beat some of the best linemen in the game this year. This week Rucker gets former pro bowler Chris Samuels.
Samuels has not had a typical pro bowl year. Much maligned, and often blamed, the big tackle has been beat far too many times this season. But is it Samuels or is it another blocker missing his assignment? Many of the times, Samuels has been out on the island and it has been a back or a tight end whiffing at the end as they sprint past unabated to the quarterback. Recently though, things have been coming together better for Samuels and the whole offensive line. Last week they allowed no sacks for the first time this year.
So what will happen this week?
Well, it'd be nice to get Samuels some help for the 2003 season's most prolific pass rusher... but it probably won't happen too often. While the Redskins definitely don't want to see someone like Rock Cartwright left to block Rucker, it will help if the backs and ends can cheat towards Samuels occasionally and make Rucker beat a double team. The Panthers do not have the secondary to blitz often and leave them in man-to-man packages, so Carolina will be trying to use only a 4-man front to get to Patrick Ramsey. Samuels will have to return to his old form if he wants to stop Rucker from registering a sack in his 5th consecutive game. Hue Jackson will be calling the plays again, and hopefully he will continue to use the run effectively. If the Skins can establish a ground game and run right at Rucker and Peppers, it will be that much more difficult for either of the two ends to beat us.
Samuels will also have to be leery of Rucker's countermoves. Most of his sacks this year have come not from his initial move but on his reaction to the tackle's move. Samuels will have to be disciplined, stay in his lane, and not over-commit if he wants to keep the Panthers at bay.
Rucker has been too strong this year though. Look for him to break through for at least one sack and hopefully, Samuels can limit his opportunities.
Muhsin Muhammad (6'2", 217), drafted in the 2nd round (43 overall - Michigan State) of the 1996 draft by Carolina, is the Carolina Panther's all-time leading receiver with 431 catches, 5,509 receiving yards and 18 100-yard receiving games and ranks second all-time for the Panthers with 25 TDs. If that isn't enough to scare you, his back up is Ricky Proehl, an accomplished, battle-tested 14-year veteran, who played great in last week's victory over the world champs. Steve Smith rounds out a very good Panther receiving corp.
That's right they beat the world champs last week for the second time this year and hold a 3-game lead in their division with quarterbacks the likes of Jake Delhomme taking over for the season starter, Rodney Peete. The Panthers have plenty of offensive weapons, including our once loved fullback turned pro-bowl tailback, Stephen Davis.
The stout offensive line and running game of the Panthers is going to make Sunday difficult for the Redskin defense and in particular the Washington secondary. Bailey is having a below average year for his standards and continues to fight nagging injuries. The Redskin defensive line continues to lack any sort of pass rush, giving their opponent's quarterback all the time necessary to survey the entire field and find an open target.
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