Key Player Match-Ups
The Washington Redskins suffered a tough loss last week to the Philadelphia Eagles, a loss that ended the playoff hopes for yet another season. But there was a lot of sentiment in D.C this week that the Redskins are finally coming around. The defense continues to perform beyond any expectations, and the offense is showing signs of life now that Patrick Ramsey is getting settled in at quarterback. This week the Redskins draw the 2-11 San Francisco 49ers, one of the few teams in the NFL to be having a tougher season than they are. Despite having just two wins, San Fran is coming off a victory last week against the Arizona Cardinals.
Here are some key personnel match-ups to look out for this week:
Randy Thomas vs. Bryant Young
By Scott Hurrey
Bryant Young, listed at 6'3" and 291 pounds, is an 11-year veteran. The Notre Dame product has 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles to go with his 62 tackles. While the 49ers have struggled this season, Young has been outstanding, setting a career high with 12 tackles at Chicago in October.
Randy Thomas has been one of the bright spots in the Redskins struggling offense. Thomas, known by Redskins fans as much for his eating as his blocking skills, is a fifth year player out of Mississippi State. At 6'5" and 306 pounds, he combines power, great technique, and excellent footwork together to establish himself as one of the best guards in the NFL.
Young is a quick and powerful defensive tackle who is an excellent pass rusher and a good run stopper. Randy Thomas is a lunch-pail type of player who brings grit and determination. While Young is the consummate professional, Thomas is the better player.
Chris Cooley vs. Tony Parrish
By Fran Farren
With each passing game in his rookie year, Chris Cooley is becoming a bigger part of the Redskins offense. Early in the season, Cooley was used very sporadically, getting 1-2 receptions per games for minimal yardage. His breakout game came against the Steelers, when he pulled in 7 receptions for 31 yards and 1 touchdown. Last week against the Eagles, Cooley had another strong outing with 5 receptions.
Joe Gibbs is also learning Cooley's value in the red zone. With Darnerien McCants getting limited playing time, Cooley is slowly becoming the “go to” guy around the goal line for the Redskins. He will continue to grow into a more vital part of the offense.
This week, Cooley presents a huge mismatch against strong safety Tony Parrish and a depleted 49ers secondary. With the 49ers playing the run more effectively in recent weeks, the Skins will have to attack this defense through the air at first, spreading out the defense and giving Clinton Portis more running room. This controlled passing attack is where Cooley will come in. Parrish has struggled and the whole 49ers secondary has been dismal this year. The short range passing attack of the Redskins will certainly provide Cooley with a lot of opportunities underneath. Don’t be surprised if Cooley catches more than 10 balls this week with at least one touchdown.
Sean Taylor vs. Eric Johnson
By Mark Solway
Both the 49ers and Redskins might describe their 2004 seasons as forgettable, were it not for the players involved in another of this week's key player match-ups, Sean Taylor and Eric Johnson.
Eric Johnson has been a lone bright spot for San Francisco this year. He leads the team in both receptions (69) and yardage (707 yards) and is behind only Tony Gonzalez ( 74 receptions for 946 yards ) and Antonio Gates (73 receptions for 843 yards) in both categories. With two games left to go, he needs just 40 yards to equal Brent Jones' season of 747 yards that stands as the most ever for a San Francisco tight end.
The job of stopping Johnson from reaching that record mark this week, will fall to rookie Sean Taylor. Taylor is coming off his best game as a Redskin last week against Philadelphia and while he still has some learning to do, he is quickly turning into a marquee defender. His mean streak is becoming known and the more receivers are looking for him, the more the young safety goes hunting. He has steadily compiled a fairly impressive highlight package in his inaugural campaign, and his hard-hitting style has quickly made him a hit with the Redskin fans.
As good a season as he is having, Johnson will be in for a long day Saturday. Sean Taylor has taken over the Redskins defense, a defense that is ranked number two in the league despite the Redskins 4-9 record. Johnson's great hands and great route running skills make him ostensibly a 256 lb. wide receiver and a tough match-up for most defenses. He is willing to go after the tough balls across the middle; that may be his undoing this week. Taylor's aggressive play seems to be gaining momentum each week and he will be looking for the 'big hit' . While Johnson will likely still catch more balls than any other receiver on Saturday, don't expect much in the way of yardage or after the catch yardage. It will be a good day for Johnson, but it will be a better day for Taylor.
Note: It bears mentioning for this match-up that Taylor may draw help in the match-up from linebacker Lavar Arrington. Arrington has missed the last eleven games but may be cleared to play in a few defensive packages on Saturday. If he does return on Saturday, he'll be hungry, and Taylor always is... so expect to see #36 or #56 every time Eric Johnson catches the ball.
This article was released on 2004-12-18.
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