Friday, September 05, 2003

Week One: Undefeated!

Before we get to the actual game, let me say that there was an absolutely shocking moment pre-kickoff. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Skins/Jets game, and I arrived with my boy Nolan (this was his big birthday present) 1 ½ hours before gametime. One of the selling points of yesterday’s event was the pre-game concert featuring Aerosmith, Mary J. Blige, Britney Spears, and featuring the national anthem by none other than Aretha Franklin. We were there early to catch the telecast, which was supposed to satisfy those of us unfortunate enough to not be able to attend the concert.

8:00 came, as did 8:15 and 8:30. All we saw on the Jumbotrons were spinning Redskin helmets; all we heard over the speakers was rap music. (Something about “to the window…to the floor!”) I wasn’t happy, but I tolerated it because, well, I was really there for sport, not Britney’s belly-button or Mary’s lungs. Certainly not for Steven Tyler’s big lips. At 8:45 we got music. We got Britney. Two songs o’ Britney, which were obviously pre-everything except danced.

As she wrapped it up, military color guard came out onto FedEx Field, and they unfurled a huge nation-shaped American flag. When Britney finished dancing, we were informed by the announcer of the military unit on the field, and that we were “waiting for the cue from ABC for the national anthem.” James Brown’s “I Feel Good” immediately followed. Then that silly Rock ‘n Roll song (hey!). Then yet another song. All this while the crowd is on their feet, the American flag is flying, the military is at attention. Something didn’t feel quite right about that.

10 seconds into the third song, the Jumbotrons quickly cut to Aretha, already wailing “…what so proudly we hailed…” Ugh. How does Snyder, Inc. not know that the Queen of Soul’s begun singing? How do you fall asleep at the controls and miss her opening notes? Aside from kickoff, is there no more an important moment than this? How do you not know a woman that big is on stage? OK, strike that last one. My none-too-subtle point is that this was inexcusable. Somebody should lose their job.

Somebody who should definitely keep their job is one Patrick “Pharaoh” Ramsey. Let’s talk Play of the Game: just over 2 minutes on the clock, and the Skins are hoping to use their positive field position to start the season with a win. On 2nd and 4 Ramsey steps out of the pocket, sees nobody open, fakes a pass to his fullback, and takes off. Now Ramsey’s no Randall Cunningham, so it took awhile. But the secondary was so deep (dunno where the Jets linebackers were) that he was able to rip off 24 yards, giving the Skins 1st and 10 at the Jets 31. Three runs later (thank you, Mr. Ladell “Trung Who?” Betts), and John Hall knocks in the winning chip shot.

Overall, Pharaoh Ramsey didn’t look great, but good. I’ll take it. He floated passes early, and his lone pick came when he telegraphed his throw. But his timing otherwise was on, making Laveranues Coles look very good. Coles was everywhere in the first half, and I’m not completely sure why he wasn’t thrown to at all in the second, Spurrier apparently wanting to get Rod “Free Agent” Gardner in the mix. Ramsey had a great play, now overlooked, where he ducked under a potential sack and got the ball out deep to Coles. Great stuff, and I’m positive about the future with this kid.

Ramsey had to make some very quick reads because, well, the offensive line stank badly. Oh yeah, they run-blocked effectively, but oy vey did they rarely give more than 2-3 seconds for Ramsey to get his pass off. They allowed three sacks, one time failing to provide any protection for Ramsey’s blind side.

On the other side of the ball, LaVar “Beast” Arrington continues to live up to, um, the name I gave him. First four plays: four tackles. He had a great game, as did Trotter, Ohalete and the rest of the defense. Apart from some silly, drive-continuing penalties, and a failure to stop a 4th and goal run, they stood tall when it counted. The Jets really had little offensive power. I don’t think new Jets WR Curtis Conway got a reception, and Curtis Martin was awful quiet. If I’m a Jets fan, I’ve got lots of worries. As a Skins fan, I see lots of potential. (And yes, Bruce Smith, that was a fumble by Vinny. We wuz robbed.)

Special teams did everything we’d expect. I like Chad Morton, though he’s not much at running back. Ladell and Trung can handle that part, thanks. John “TajMa” Hall was perfect, even from 49 yards. Finally the Redskins can take routine field goals for granted like the rest of the NFL.

This Week’s Three Concerns: First, boring play calling down the stretch. With the game tied, I saw the Jets calling a reverse, play action and that oh-so-sneaky running back bootleg. We did nothing of the sort. OK, maybe one play action pass. But I didn’t see a Fun-N-Gun offense out there, and with the speed of Canidate and Coles, that needs to change. Let’s pretend we’re the Rams for one drive.

Second, that offensive line is gonna be the death of Ramsey. I don’t care how good a QB you are, you still need time to make your reads. Sometimes the Jets defensive tackles went right up the middle at Ramsey. Right up the middle! The front line has pass blocking drills to do this week.

Last, let’s cut back on the turnovers, shall we? The Skins were third in the NFL for most turnovers last season, and I couldn’t help but think we were on our way as the second half dragged on. Great job, though, holding onto tough catches and taking big hits by our running backs and receivers.

OFFENSE: B (We’ve got…hiiiigh hopes…)
DEFENSE: A (Honestly, would the Jets have scored more than 7 without the offensive mistakes?)
Sp. TEAMS: A (I’m just waiting for Morton to break a big ‘un. Big potential here.)
COACHES: B- (Two words for next week: flea flicker.)

NEXT UP: The Vickless Falcons. Skins win, 20-17.

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