Last Sunday the Redskins beat the Giants handily by not allowing any points in the second half while outscoring the Giants by 14 in those two quarters. The following Monday should have been a well earned day off in reward for the victory, but the ‘Skins players wanted no such thing and went to practice on Monday to further prove their commitment to making this a new era.
Tim Hightower is looking forward to facing his old team and thinks that the Redskins should win this game. His statement could end up on the Cardinals’ bulletin board, but with a Philly columnist writing this week that the Eagles will win the NFC East because, “The Redskins are still the Redskins,” and Giants corner back Antrel Rolle insisting that the Giants would beat the Redskins 95 times out of 100 the Redskins have some bulletin board material of their own. Football is an emotional game and man players play better when they think they have something to prove. The Redskins played a good game against the Giants, but still have to prove they can play that well on a consistent basis.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Cardinals shocked the world and ended up in the Super Bowl. One of the reasons they made it that far was the play of Larry Fitzgerald, and now with Todd Heap added to the passing attack the Cardinals have two game changers to catch the football. The man whose job it is to get the ball to those dangerous targets is recently traded for Kevin Kolb. Kolb has yet to deliver on his promise, but with pass catchers as good as Fitzgerald and Heap any quarterback can be dangerous. Even if Kolb has trouble sustaining a drive against an improved Redskins defense Fitzgerald and Heap give the Cardinals big play ability.
The ‘Skins defense was solid against the Giants and managed to neutralize the dangerous combination of Jacobs and Bradshaw. The Cardinals do not have a running back on the level of those two, but with Fitzgerald and Heap stretching the Redskins defense down field opportunities could open up for Beanie Wells. The Redskins pass rush will have to be good. Given enough time Fitzgerald and Heap can get open against any secondary. With LaRon Landry back the Redskins defense will be getting some reinforcement in the secondary. Redskins rookies Ryan Kerrigan and Chris Neild were able to get good pressure on Eli Manning in the Giants game and if they can repeat that performance it will go a long way to snuffing out the Cardinals passing game.
Rex Grossman threw for over 300 yards and the Cardinals secondary allowed rookie quarterback Cam Newton to pass for over 400 yards. Cam Newton has all the physical tools to be an elite quarterback in the NFL, but he is still learning a new offense and giving up 400 yards to anyone isn’t good. Grossman doesn’t have the natural ability of Newton but he is a confident veteran in a system that he understands. With a healthier Chris Cooley paired with a much improved Fred Davis at tight end the Redskins will have two big targets to help them control the middle of the field which will allow receivers Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, and Anthony Armstrong to spread out the defense and stretch the field.
Tim Hightower want to prove to the Cardinals that giving up on him was a mistake. If the Redskins passing game can stretch the field and Time Hightower gets 25 carries again he should have more yards than he did against the Giants. Even with injuries to many significant players the Giants were able to hold Hightower to 72 yards. A healthy Cardinals defense will provide a challenge, but shouldn’t be as tough as an injured Giants defense. Progress in the running game is a focal point of the Redskins offense and something Shanahan highlighted in interviews this week.
It is hard to judge the identity of a team only one week into the season, but the Redskins look to be a solid, confident squad. Grossman continues to say he truly believes the Redskins can win the NFC East, and as a player this is what he should believe. Emotion and team chemistry means more in football than in most other sports, but talent will always be the most important factor and what ultimately wins.
The Redskins believe in themselves and have the feel of a team coming together as a committed unit. How much that means will be determined as the season progresses. The Redskins are coming off an emotional win over a team they hadn’t beaten for a number of years, and will be the favorites for the first time this season. The old Redskins would look at these facts and expect to show up and win. Every game in the 2011 season is another step in discovering if the Redskins are truly turning a corner or if the same old underlying issues are simply laying dormant waiting to reemerge. The 2011 Redskins don’t have the feel of a team that is going to just show up and go through the motions. The Cardinals are no cupcake and will provide a challenge, but if the Redskins play at their best then they should win this game.