Redskins-Panthers: Seven Minutes in Carolina adds up to disaster for the Skins

Craig Garrison SrSenior Analyst IAugust 25, 2008


For the Washington Redskins, defeated by the Carolina Panthers 47-3 on Saturday, nothing went the way it was supposed to. While for the Panthers, everything went right.

From a DeAngelo Williams fumble that would turn into a Carolina touchdown, to yet another injured Redskins’ defensive end (Jason Taylor would leave the game on the play prior to Williams’ fumble), this game couldn’t have gone much worse for the Redskins.

On their first three possessions, the Redskins’ offensive line would allow quarterback Jason Campbell to be sacked three times, one causing a fumble, recovered by the Panthers. The Redskins’ defense seemed to be playing fairly well up to this point, allowing only six points when the Panthers’ average starting field position was around mid-field.

But that would not last. The defense seemed to take Taylor’s injury badly. And the play on which the scoring started for the Panthers, just sealed the deal if you will.

On three straight possessions in the second quarter, the Redskins’ defense gave up touchdown runs of 20 yards, 50 yards, and 60 yards. In each case, poor tackling and poor play by the defensive line were the culprits.

And on their fourth and final possession of the second quarter, a perfectly placed pass from Panthers’ quarterback Jake Delhomme would result in another touchdown. And in a span of seven minutes, the Redskins lost Jason Taylor, the Panthers scored 28 points, and the game was over. Disaster had struck.

So what went wrong for the Redskins? While reviewing the game, what struck this writer, was how few offensive plays actually went bad for the Redskins. Yes, “how few”. The difference for the Redskins was the inability to recover from those “few” bad plays.

Well, what went wrong on those “bad” plays? The Redskins offensive line was “soft”, according to Redskins’ Head Coach Jim Zorn. That would be a very polite way of describing what I saw while reviewing the game. On each sack, at least one offensive linemen was physically beaten in his one on one matchup. And on most running plays, at least two were unable to sustain their blocks and reach the “second level”.

The result was the Campbell had little time to “make his reads”. While watching the game live, it looked as if Campbell was holding the ball too long once again, showing hesitance. And, in his post game news conference, Zorn said as much. However, after reviewing the game, I felt that that simply was not the case. And Zorn, apparently agrees with my assessment.

In Zorn’s post game new conference, he commented that while the offensive line pass protection was not poor, Campbell was holding the ball too long. But in his media session on Sunday, after watching the tape “twice actually”, he noted that the Panthers did “a very good job with their tight coverage” and that he would have had Campbell handle himself differently on only one play.

In Zorn’s offensive system, the quarterback is required to make quick decisions, to go through his “progressions” accurately, and make the appropriate throw. But Campbell was consistently pressured before he could get through his progressions. Without time to make his “second” read, Campbell played fairly well, with no interceptions, and his only turnover on a fumble when Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers caught Redskins’ pro-bowl left tackle Chris Samuels off guard, and pushed him into Campbell’s back, hitting him as he was pulling his arm back to throw.

The Redskins offensive line showed their weaknesses, and if they don’t get it fixed, that weakness will be exploited by every team on their regular season schedule.

Defensively, the Redskins also had a very soft showing. After playing a very strong first quarter, the Redskins were moved from the line of scrimmage on nearly every play. And once again, very poor tackling was a major theme of this game.

Through the preseason, I have generally used game reviews to offer to the reader the players that struck me as having solid performances, perhaps helping their bid to make the opening day roster. I’ll forgo that section this week, as their weren’t many players that stood out as having good, or even solid games (though there were several players who would fit this description).

Instead, on Sunday, the Redskins have already made some decisions involving the roster, and in doing so, letting us in on their own evaluations. Veteran safety Vernon Fox, defensive end Dorian Smith and defensive tackle Babatunde Oshinowo were released Sunday, the first of five players that need to be cut by Tuesday. This seems to be an indication that the Redskins’ rookie safeties have possibly earned themselves roster spots. Solidifying the safety position with young talented players has been a key for the Redskins this preseason.

Redskins’ defensive end Jason Taylor underwent an MRI on Sunday and the results were negative, verifying the original diagnosis of a sprained knee. The time frame for his return is said to be 10-14 days and his availability for the season opener against the New York Giants is uncertain. Right tackle Jon Jansen suffered a sprained ankle late in the second quarter, but the injury is not considered serious and he may only miss a couple of days of practice.

This game turned out to be a test for Jim Zorn. But, not the test that was expected. In losing this game the way they did, the Redskins showed their coach just how far they have to go to become the team he believes they can be. And while the final score would suggest that the Redskins aren’t even close to being a good football team, opposing teams using this game to gage the Redskins true identity may be a mistake.

As Jim Zorn noted on Sunday, the Redskins’ upcoming opponents will look at the film of this game and formulate their game plan according to what the Panthers were successful with. To assume that the Redskins will repeat this effort would be a mistake in my opinion.

Jim Zorn is still taking his test. It has not been graded yet, but early returns have been positive. His leadership is key to the Redskins’ ability to overcome a performance such as this. In 11 days the Redskins travel to New York to play the Super Bowl Champion Giants, will they be ready?

And so to answer the question: Was It As Bad As It Seemed For The Redskins?

That won’t be really be answered until they play again. But I for one, would say, No, it wasn’t. It was bad, IS BAD, but there is time and the ability to correct what went wrong.

The question I have no answer for is, can Zorn “get it fixed” before the season starts for real?

Only time will tell.