Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Knee-Jerk Reactions, Week One

It had to happen sometime. The combination of my work, church, and home lives took their toll and I had to step away from Hog Heaven. It was fun while it lasted. What I found, as I wrote less about my beloved Redskins, was that there was an itch that wouldn't stop asking to be scratched.

And so I will continue to cover the Redskins and NFL action as time permits here, at the original home for snarky, well-informed football coverage, The Redskins Review.

Let's get right to it, with this week's Knee-Jerk Reactions.

The good news for Washington fans is that no, the Al Saunders offense isn't nearly as inept as it seemed during the preseason. The long-awaited unveiling of the Redskins' new offensive scheme showed some sparks as Mark Brunell was able to find Antwaan Randle-El and Santana Moss for 8 receptions and more than 100 yards. Coach Janky Spanky even made a cameo, delighting the home crowd with a touchdown and nearly 40 yards.

The downside? The equally-anticipated Gregg Williams defense looked porous up the middle, committed costly penalties and the secondary (*cough*CarlosRogers*cough*) allowed game-changing big receptions. Minnesota quarterback Brad Johnson at times looked like the man from years ago who led the Skins to the playoffs. There was some concern among the Redskins faithful that the defense looked vulnerable during the 0-4 preseason. It's far to early to judge that as valid, but the Vikings' last drive toward the winning field goal certainly is cause for concern.

Despite last night's mediocre performance, this is still a sound, competitive Washington team. At least, they better be for their next prime-time performance, this Sunday night versus the Dallas Cowchips.

Speaking of the ladies in silver, blue and paisley stars, the knee-jerk reaction here is simple: Drew Bledsoe, you are the weakest link. For their part, Julius Jones, Terrell Owens, and the offensive line played admirably against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. But in a tight, hard-fought game, Bledsoe looked to be terminally inaccurate. When the Jaguars were down in the first half, the Cowchps couldn't move the ball effectively enough to gain a comfortable lead. Don't tell anybody I said so, but Dallas has real playoff potential. But my immediate reaction on Sunday (after cheering a Cowchip loss) was "man, Big D might be in trouble if Bledsoe's starting and their alternative is named Tony Romo."

Much to the chagrin of all Redskins fans living in Baltimore, it appears that the Ravens are a team to be respected. So long as Kyle Boller's not under center. The Era of Steve McNair got off to a picture-perfect start against Tampa Bay. He wasn't always sharp, but he was in command, he was comfortable, and he can still break tackles when he scrambles. When it comes to Ray Lewis and Company, you expect quality. You don't expect them to blank playoff teams on the road. But that's what they did--with authority--while the offense played well enough to eat the clock and frustrate a very good Buccaneers defense. Ever silver cloud has a dark lining, so B-more fans should pray every week that McNair doesn't get hurt. Boller came in during Garbage Time and got a delay of game penalty, fumbled twice, and made some handoffs. Rich Gannon, giving booth commentary, virtually called him a dimwit.

Lost in the analysis of Sunday's NFL action is the creeping reality that the Miami Dolphins just might be a good team. They took it to the World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers for three quarters. Unfortunately, the league had mandated FOUR quarters for each game. But for most of the contest, Daunte Culpepper, Reggie Brown and their defensive line looked better than competitive: they looked like winners. That was, until their secondary got porous and sloppy and their quarterback suddenly lost receivers in the lights. Just as with the Jags/Cowchips (and Bills/Patriots), you really have to kick a great team when they're down. For instance, don't give them free third down conversions with illegal contact penalties.

Today's knee-jerk fantasy tip: if you don't have Dolphins wideout/kick returner Wes Welker on your free agent pickup, you're missing out on one of the season's sleepers. You're reading it here first.

Last but not least, my knee-jerk reaction to the CBS/ESPN/NBC broadcasts this weekend is thusly: bring back last season. It just doesn't feel right, having ESPN hosting Monday Night Football, or Buck and Aikman without Cris Collinsworth, or James Brown chuckling it up with Shannon Sharpe and Dan Marino on CBS. (Who is that Black guy playing straight man to Terry, Howie, and Jimmy Johnson?) You can't manufacture interpersonal chemistry. And can we find one simple format for displaying down, yardage, score, and a ticker between the stations? Hey, maybe we don't *need* to know every other game's score constantly. We've already got multiple Game Breaks--why not update us then? Or take it back to the 80s when they'd take 30 seconds and fill the screen with every game played and its score. Is that so hard? Do I have to own a widescreen hi-def TV to see all of the action on the field?

Oh, and if the league could kill those horribly unfunny Coors Light pseudo-press conference commercials, that's be great. Thanks.

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