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Game Day Match-Ups
The regular season starts Sunday for Washington, with a tough opponent in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. All NFL eyes will be on Fed Ex field, as Joe Gibbs takes to the sidelines for his second stint as coach of the Redskins. The game will see some tough head-to-head competition... here are a few of the key match-ups:
Simeon Rice vs. Chris Samuels
By Scott Hurrey
Simeon Rice owned this match-up in last season’s meeting. Rice registered a career-high and team record 4 sacks on the Redskins that day, along with 7 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. On the season, Rice was second in the league with 15 sacks on his way to his third Pro Bowl. Earlier this month, he had a scare in which he was treated for an abnormal heart beat. He was treated and cleared to play, and says he feels healthier than ever.
Chris Samuels and the rest of the team had an abysmal 2003 season. Samuels returned this season with a renewed energy and in the best shape of his career. With Joe Bugel’s tutelage, he looks to fair much better in this match-up. Unfortunately for Samuels, he sprained his ankle in the fourth preseason game and will be playing his first game since that injury against one of the premier pass-rushers in the NFL.
At this point, with a healthy Rice who dominated the Redskins and Chris Samuels the last time they met, coupled by the possibility that Samuels might not be 100%, the advantage has to go to Simeon Rice
Shawn Springs vs. Joey Galloway
By Rich Hilts
These two ex-Seahawks go head to head, albeit not necessarily consistently, depending on the defense Gregg Williams uses.
One advantage that Galloway will have is in knowing Springs’ moves from practicing against him. This is an advantage simply due to the receiver knowing what moves he is going to make, where the cornerback will have to guess and stay in coverage. Both have learned new things since moving to other teams, though, so this may be marginalized.
Galloway is an getting up there in age, and he is no Jerry Rice. Not only is Shawn (29) younger than Galloway (32), but he is feeling better than he has in a couple of years. Galloway, if he plays, is bothered by a groin injury and is listed as questionable. Needless to say, if Springs is healthy and Galloway plays hurt, this will definitely be an advantage for Springs.
Galloway has been on the decline for some time, with his best year in the last 5 coming in 2002 with 908 yards on 61 receptions. While he has demonstrated explosive speed in the past, he has slowed a bit in recent years, and last year only caught 34 passes for 672 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Springs has been a good corner, one who is known for not being afraid to tackle, and tackle hard, as well as being an interceptor. When not injured, he amassed 17 interceptions in 4 years, and has 3 career forced fumbles. In 2000 he had 85 tackles, 74 of them solo. He was bothered by injuries in 2001 and 2003, but claims that he is feeling healthier than ever this year.
Neither has a clear cut advantage in height or size. Galloway is 5’ 11” and 197 pounds while Springs is 6’ 0” and 204 pounds. Both have good speed and cutting abilities. If Galloway is allowed to roam in the zones with no assigned coverage, his cutting skills could give him openings, but one on one with Springs could give him troubles. If Johnson starts picking Galloway as his “main go to man” watch for Taylor to “over – under” him with Springs, allowing for opportunities for interceptions.
Advantage: Shawn Springs
CB Ronde Barber v. WR Laveranues Coles
By Fran Farren
The start of the regular season... the excitement... the anticipation. The beginning of the enforcement of the “no hands” rule. Don’t look now, folks, but the 2004-05 season is going to be a monster season for all wide receivers in the NFL because the officials will be enforcing a rule that was not enforced very much in years past. This does not bode well for the secondary of all teams.
Since it’s the first game of the year, it is tough to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of a particular player. One really can’t rely on performances in preseason because the offenses and defenses were so “vanilla”, one really can’t get a “feel” for the value of a particular player this early in the year.
No. To get a sense of what a player brings to the table for game one, one needs to look at some stats from last year. Last year, Barber amassed 79 tackles, 18 assists, and 1 ½ sacks. He also had 3 forced fumbles and 2 interceptions which were returned for a total of 53 yards (with one touchdown).
Entering his 8th year in the NFL, Barber never really earned the title of “shut down” corner like some other cornerbacks in the league. Notwithstanding, he is a physical performer and is fairly reliable. What is going to hurt him this year, however, is that he won’t have safety John Lynch there to help him. He also won’t have Warren Sapp in there putting pressure on the quarterback. This does not bode well for Ronde Barber.
To make matters worse, he will be facing a formidable opponent in week #1 in WR Laveranues Coles. Coles is beginning his 5th year in the NFL and his first being coached by a Hall of Fame coach. Last year, Coles amassed 82 catches for 1,204 yards (14.7 yards/catch average) with 6 TDs. 21 of his catches were over 20 yards and 3 of his catches were over 40 yards. This year, Coles will have a whole new offense to help him earn even bigger numbers. With an improved running game thanks to RB Clinton Portis, the throwing lanes should open up for Coles, Gardner, Thrash and McCants.
Look for Coles to also be the primary beneficiary of the Redskins revitalized passing attack. Last year, Patrick Ramsey did everything he could to keep from being knocked down again and again. He eventually got “spooked” and many of the Redskins faithful saw glimpses of that in this year’s preseason games. Enter Mark Brunell. Brunell has much better game awareness and field generalship. He will be able to get the ball to Coles and the other wide receivers much easier that Ramsey can at this point in his career. It also doesn’t hurt that Joe Gibbs schemes focus on pass protection.
All of this spells for a potentially great year for Laveranues Coles and does not bode well for CB Ronde Barber. In week #1, look for Coles and the other wide receivers to exploit the Bucs’ secondary, including Barber, all game long.
Advantage - Coles
Joe Gibbs vs. Jon Gruden
By Dan Hines
One of the best match-ups this Sunday will take place on the sidelines as Joe Gibbs will make his second debut as head coach of the Washington Redskins. When Gibbs looks across the field he will see a younger version of himself, in Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden.
Gibbs hit the ground running, and has rebuilt the Skins to suit his “protect the quarterback, and establish the run” style. To do this Gibbs tabbed old friend Joe Bugel to mold the current offensive line into a cohesive bunch of “dirt bags”. To run behind the line, Gibbs traded disgruntled cornerback Champ Bailey for running back Clinton Portis. What would a Gibbs coached team be without a great defense? to achieve this, Gibbs grabbed former Buffalo head coach and defensive guru Greg Williams.
Jon Gruden and the Bucs are coming off a very disappointing 2003 campaign after winning the Super Bowl in 2002. Out are Lynch, Sapp and Keyshawn Johnson. In are Steussie, Garner and Joey Galloway . Look for Gruden to get back to what he does best, running the west coast offense. The Skins defense will see a healthy dose of short to mid range passes to the backs and tight ends.
One of the more interesting sub-plots in Sunday’s game will be between defensive coordinators Greg Williams and Monte Kiffin. Both use an aggressive ball-hawing style of defense. Both offenses could be in for a low-scoring, long afternoon.
Jon Gruden must be wondering what he did wrong to draw Joe Gibbs in his first game back. Considering he is the youngest coach in the league and was only 29 the last time Gibbs coached in the NFL. Expect Gibbs to exploit this, by taking a few shots deep , early in the game.
Brian Kozlowski TE, Calf; Andre Lott, S Knee
Mike Barrow, LB, Knee
Jon Jansen, OT, Achilles; John Simon, RB, Shoulder
Joey Galloway, WR, Groin; Shelton Quarles, LB, Wrist
Joe Jurevicius, WR, Knee; Devone Claybrooks, DT, Ankle
Michael Pittman, RB, Suspension; Keenan McCardell, WR, Holdout
Matt O'Dwyer OG Chest
Edell Shepherd, WR, Foot; Kerry Jenkins, OG, Neck; Lamar King, DE, Leg
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