Jan 15, 2006, 9:23 AM EST
The NFL is a merciless business. If you have a weakness, the other team will exploit that soft spot immediately and often.
The Redskins went into Sunday’s game in Seattle with a glaring weakness. They have one of the league’s best receivers in Santana Moss. The receiver that lines up opposite Moss is merely filling a roster spot. When he was in the lineup, James Thrash was an excellent special teams player but not much of a threat as a receiver. Taylor Jacobs can’t get separation from anyone and, in the rare times that he does get open, he makes you long for Rod “50/50” Gardner when it comes to hanging on to the ball.
If a team can take away Moss and not have to pay for devoting so many resources to that task, the job for the opposing defense becomes that much easier. For a while during the season-ending five-game winning streak, Chris Cooley was a viable option and he made some plays yesterday, but having an H-back as a threat is not the same as having someone who is capable of getting open deep down the field.
Yesterday the Seahawks were able to pack the box with eight and nine defenders with relative impunity. That led to a string of three and outs in the early going, a stretch during which the Seahawks were finding their bearings offensively and adjusting to the absence of league MVP Shaun Alexander from their lineup. It was an opportunity lost for the Redskins as they had just a 3-0 lead before Seattle got it going on offense.
The offensive problems weren’t all about the lack of a second receiver; Ray Brown missing some time due to cramps didn’t help either. Cory Raymer, a center, was clueless during a critical series in the third quarter. One of the reasons he stuck around as a backup with a seven-figure cap number was that he supposedly could provide depth at both interior line positions. At least on this critical day, that wasn’t the case.
And, certainly, while the quarterback gets too much of the blame in losses, the play of Mark Brunell has to be called into question. He was wild high all day, missing Cooley and Moss in critical situations. While he has said frequently that his right knee, injured in the win over the Giants, had nothing to do with his problems, there is no question that it did. Kudos to Brunell for not making excuses, but it’s no coincidence that his play deteriorated considerably in the three games after the injury.
The quarterback and receiver positions will be addressed this offseason. In the latter category, another receiver will be brought in via free agency or the draft, perhaps both, to provide depth and push David Patten for the second receiver spot.
At quarterback it will be primarily a matter of distributing existing assets. It appears that Brunell goes into the offseason as the starter. He is less than a full year younger than Brett Favre, the NFL’s oldest starting quarterback. But as we saw in 2005, there could be plenty of twists and turns in the quarterback story before the 2006 season opener and as the season unfolds
The view here is that it’s not a certainty that Patrick Ramsey will be traded. If Gibbs is not yet comfortable with Jason Campbell starting games—and at Brunell’s age the chances of him making it through 16 games are extremely slim–he may decide to forgo the third-round pick he might be able to get in exchange for Ramsey.
It was a disappointing end to the season because of the missed opportunities. But there is little question that this team went as far as it deserved to in terms of the talent on the roster. A modest upgrade there, along with playing a third season under the same coaching staff, should help the Redskins take the next step.
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