“London calling, see we ain't got no highs” – The Clash, “London Calling”
I doubt Mick Jones and Joe Strummer imagined the lyrics to their 1979 punk rock classic would ever be referenced along with the Washington Redskins. But here it is, because that line epitomizes how most fans felt after the loss to the Giants.
There were no highs.
With the exception being that hilarious fake punt for a touchdown where Hunter Smith ran with, literally, the fear of God in his legs.
I have never seen a punter run that fast. He channeled his inner Usain Bolt in what was one of the best play calls of the game.
And of course, it wasn’t Zorn’s call.
One of the few highs of the game—and I stress few—was the play of 12-year veteran London Fletcher. The unsung leader of the ‘Skins defense continued his rock-steady dominance of the field, totaling 18 tackles and helping to stifle touchdown junkie Brandon Jacobs to a paltry 46 yards on 16 carries.
Matched up with burgeoning star Rocky McIntosh and heralded rookie Brian Orakpo, London and company give the ‘Skins quite a formidable linebacking unit. London, a perennial 100 tackle player, is one of the best leaders in the NFL, if not one of the best linebackers in the league as well.
London, along with Rocky and Brian, will be the lifeline of the ‘Skins defense, a unit ranked fourth last season, and now bolstered by the addition of Albert Haynesworth. To battle the inefficiency of the offense, the defense will have to thwart the opposition’s offense if a fight chance at the playoffs is at all possible.
That begins with the core of the ‘Skins defense, their linebackers. The secondary is still battling inconsistent play and has yet to confidently fill the void left by Sean Taylor’s untimely death. The addition of Haynesworth and the return of Phillip Daniels is an upgrade for the defensive line but so far has not yielded any different results.
The ‘Skins recorded only one sack of Eli Manning and rarely pressured him. It will be some time before the front four coalesce into a dominating bunch. Pressure looms over the linebackers to keep the defense on its feet, to keep the defense aggressive, and to keep the games within reach.
The sole reason that the Redskins kept the loss to the Giants respectable was that the Giants were never able to get their run game going. Coughlin desperately wanted to run the ball but the defense, led by London, was able to keep it in check.
The Redskins' next game is against the lowly St. Louis Rams who appeared totally unmatched in every way by the Seattle Seahawks, losing 28-0. Led by former Giants defensive coordinator Steve “Spags” Spagnuolo, the Rams will look to running back Steven Jackson to take the pressure off an offense lacking any true threat at receiver.
If the Redskins can defend the run as well against the Rams as the Giants, their defense should have no problem overpowering the Rams offense. The task is up to the linebackers, particularly London Fletcher, to thwart any rushing attack and force the Rams into relying on their struggling passing game.
This will also allow defensive coordinator Greg Blatche to use Brian Orakpo in more creative ways. Orakpo is fast, extremely athletic and a gifted pass rusher. Blatche will get the most out of the first rounder if he can set him free on the offense, in the vein of Pittsburgh’s LaMarr Woodley or Miami’s Joey Porter, two linebackers of similar size and speed who attack the quarterback with unfettered passion.
The key to the Redskins winning is the continued strong play of the linebackers. Their support of the front four will be influential in creating pressure on the quarterback and spelling the secondary with much needed relief in the middle of the field. The Redskins need a bounce back win against the Rams this week before entering a four-game stretch against Detroit, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Kansas City.
Last year’s loss to the Rams began the season’s derailment, so it’s important for the ‘Skins to retaliate in good fashion with a convincing win. It’s up to the defense to remain the Redskins’ signature, and it’s London’s calling as the leader of that group.
And after all this, won't you give me a smile?