Joined: 25 Jul 2003
Location: Yonkers, N.Y.
|Posted: Thu Nov 30, 2006 9:10 am Post subject: USAToday: Inside Slant
|Having faced Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, Dallas' Terrell Owens, Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb and Carolina's Steve Smith the past five weeks, Washington's defense is well-versed in trying to stop dangerous players. However, the Redskins haven't faced anyone like Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick.
"It's a nightmare because of what he can do with his feet and his arm," safeties coach Steve Jackson said. "Our (defensive backs) have to cover their guys and if Vick scrambles, you've got to get him down. All we can do is get him down and live to play another down."
Although the Redskins do have jitterbug receiver Antwaan Randle El, the former college quarterbacks is considerably smaller than the 6-foot, 215-pound Vick. And scout team quarterback Todd Collins is as slow as Vick is fast.
"He's extremely hard to prepare for, very unorthodox," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "He adds another dimension. He goes back to throw and the problem is he might get out of there and do it with his feet. What did he have at halftime (last week against New Orleans)? 120 yards? You just don't get that in a normal offense. It doesn't do any good to spy him because we don't have anyone fast enough to catch him."
Gibbs was a minority owner of the Falcons before returning to the Redskins in 2004, so he has seen Vick up close and personal even though he hasn't coached against him. And Vick, who was injured when the teams played in 2003, has never faced Washington.
"He can get right to full-bore (speed) and (still) fire a pass on (the) sideline." Gibbs said. "He's a gifted guy that doesn't come along very often. How many times do you see one player take over a game? That's rare. But probably half the games (that he's played), he's dominated."
Defensive end Phillip Daniels is one of six Redskins starters who have faced Vick. Daniels sacked the first-round draft pick from Virginia Tech in the rookie's first extensive action against Chicago in 2001.
"You can't get all tight because it's Mike Vick," Daniels said. "You've got to relax, play your scheme and let things happen for you, but at the same time know where he is at all times. You're not going to contain him every time. He's kind of like a Barry Sanders at quarterback. He's tough once he gets out there and starts running around. He puts a lot of pressure on a defense. The main thing is don't play hesitant."
And while the Falcons have such other weapons as Pro Bowl tight end Alge Crumpler and scat-back Warrick Dunn, Vick makes the Falcons go.
SERIES HISTORY: 20th meeting. The Redskins lead the series 14-4-1. The most memorable matchup was the 1991 NFC Championship Game in which the Redskins beat the Falcons 24-7 in the slop at RFK as the fans celebrated by raining seat cushions on the victors.
—Safety Sean Taylor was named the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week for his play in last week's 17-13 victory over Carolina. With 2:16 left, Taylor tackled receiver Drew Carter shy of the first down on fourth-and-six from the Washington 33-yard line. When the Panthers got the ball, Taylor finished them off by intercepting Jake Delhomme's heave for Steve Smith with 1:10 remaining. It was the first Player of the Week award of Taylor's 3-year career.
"Sean's best game?" safeties coach Steve Jackson said rhetorically. "He's played some good games. That was Sean's best game in a victory and that tends to make it stand out more. If we would've lost or been down 20 points, those things go unnoticed."
—Santana Moss, a Pro Bowl starter in 2005, has just six catches for 29 yards in two games since he strained his right hamstring on Oct. 22 at Indianapolis. Moss missed the Dallas and Tampa Bay games and was ineffective against Philadelphia and Carolina. However, coach Joe Gibbs was pleased with Moss' effort against the Panthers last week although he gained just 12 yards on three catches and also dropped a pass.
"The first time you get out there and are really busting it you are a little hesitant on how hard you can go," Moss said. "The last time he did that (in Philadelphia two weeks earlier) he was extremely sore and this week he's not. I think he gained some confidence late in the game."
—The Redskins signed K Shaun Suisham to their practice squad and cut receiver Ryan Hoag, whom they had just signed to that unit last week. Suisham, a former Cowboy and 49er, might be activated in place of struggling K Nick Novak.
"Shaun was someone we wanted to look at, so we brought him in to let him work," Gibbs said. "We like his kickoffs. He's extremely strong. He had 14 kickoffs, four out of the end zone. He had two others that were touchbacks. I had a good talk with Nick today. He understands that competitively. Right now, Nick's the kicker until we decide something differently."
Gibbs said he could see using both kickers on Sunday.
"That wouldn't be out of the realm of possibilities, but I haven't done it before. We'll do what makes the most sense for us after we analyze everything."
BY THE NUMBERS: 6 — Redskins who weren't born when Falcons K Morten Andersen made his NFL debut in September 1982. The Falcons have 14 such players.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's a commitment Joe made to the football team. It's still his team. He'll do what he wants to do. He wants to run the ball." — Redskins offensive line coach Joe Bugel on coach Joe Gibbs' decision to focus on his trademark running game even though associate head coach Al Saunders is still calling the plays.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
—SS Troy Vincent was back on the field for individual drills for the first time since leaving the Tampa Bay game on Nov. 19 with a strained hamstring. Vincent is questionable for Sunday's game with Atlanta.
—OT Jon Jansen was held out on Wednesday with an ailing calf, as has been the case of late, but is expected to start on Sunday.
—WR David Patten, who missed the past seven games with calf and hamstring injuries, took limited work after not practicing at all last week. He's questionable for Sunday.
—FB Mike Sellers was held out of practice with a shoulder injury but is expected to start against Atlanta.
—LB Khary Campbell didn't practice after straining his right hamstring last Sunday against Carolina. Campbell is questionable for Sunday.
GAME PLAN: The Falcons are much more vulnerable against the pass (30th) than they are against the run, but look for the Redskins to try to pound the ball on Atlanta all afternoon. QB Jason Campbell had passed for just 52 yards until finding TE Chris Cooley for the 66-yard TD with 4:26 left that beat Carolina last week. Although RB Clinton Portis is done for the year, Washington ran for 143 yards on 37 carries against the formidable Panthers defense. Cooley (eight catches for 147 yards and two TDs) has clearly been Campbell's go-to guy in his two starts. The Redskins are hoping that WR Santana Moss, who hasn't been himself since straining a hamstring in Week 7, returns to being a big-play threat this week.
Washington's defense is coming off its most complete performance of the season, holding dangerous WRs Steve Smith and Keyshawn Johnson of Carolina to 72 yards on 11 catches and limiting a running game that had churned out 242 yards the previous week to 39 yards on 13 carries after halftime. However, Atlanta has the NFL's top rushing attack with incomparable QB Michael Vick and lightning bug Warrick Dunn. The Redskins, like all Falcons foes, will try to force Vick to beat them with his arm, particularly since last week's game was the first one all season in which the Redskins didn't give up a pass of at least 20 yards. CB Carlos Rogers and FS Sean Taylor are both coming off their best games of the year.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Redskins RG Randy Thomas vs. Falcons LDT Rod Coleman. Coleman, who led all defensive tackles with 22 sacks the past two seasons, started off this year with a sack in each of the first two games. However, he injured a toe against the New York Giants on Oct. 15 and hasn't been the same force since. Thomas was having a Pro Bowl year in 2005 before breaking his right leg. He hasn't been quite as good this year.
—Redskins MLB Lemar Marshall vs. Falcons QB Michael Vick. While defending Vick is a massive headache for any player, the ultimate responsibility falls on the shoulders of the middle linebacker who calls the defense and is supposed to watch the entire field. Marshall is the only one of Washington's starting linebackers who hasn't faced Vick but he's coming one of his better games of the year.
—Redskins TE Chris Cooley vs. Falcons SS Lawyer Milloy. Cooley has been red-hot with five touchdowns in Washington's past six games. His 66-yard run and catch for the winning touchdown last week was the longest play of his 3-year career. Milloy, a four-time Pro Bowl pick with New England, is in his first season running the struggling Atlanta secondary.
INJURY IMPACT: If Vincent can't play, Vernon Fox would make the seventh start of his five-year career and second as a Redskin. Fox had an interception last week as Washington shut down Carolina's passing attack.