Are the Washington Redskins on Their Way to a Second-Half Collapse?

Craig Garrison SrSenior Analyst IOctober 28, 2008

The Washington Redskins finished the first half of their 2008 season with a record of 6-2. A fine accomplishment for rookie Head Coach Jim Zorn and the Redskins' much-maligned front-office staff.

The Redskins have enjoyed a four-game win streak that included road wins over division rivals Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, as well come-from-behind victories at home against New Orleans and Arizona.

The two losses include an ugly season-opening loss to the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants and a disgusting self-destructing loss to the then-winless St. Louis Rams. The Redskins are 2-1 in their division, with each divisional opponent yet to travel to Washington.

The Redskins rank seventh in total offense, second in rushing, but only 23rd in points per game. Defensively, they rank sixth overall, fifth against the run, 11th against the pass, and eighth in points allowed.

Running back Clinton Portis and quarterback Jason Campbell have been stellar, especially late in games.

But will any of this prevent a second-half collapse?

Through the four game win streak, the Redskins dominated the fourth quarter in time of possession, points scored/allowed, and yardage. In their last two games, they have lost the yardage and time-of-possession battles, though the Redskins won both games.

In each game, the defense has allowed sustained drives that resulted in points in the fourth quarter, while the offense was unable to achieve sustained drives of their own.

The Redskins have lacked a serious pass rush and have not been able to convert the offensive yardage into points all season.

While the Redskins completed the toughest part of their schedule (the league's highest strength of schedule through the first six games of the season), they still have upcoming games against the Pittsburgh Steelers (5-2), the Dallas Cowboys(5-3), the New York Giants (6-1), and the Philadelphia Eagles (4-3).

The only "saving grace" in each case is that they are ALL home games. A sizable advantage to be sure. However, the road games, Seattle, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and San Fransisco, are all teams the Redskins might struggle against for one reason: complacency.

Aside from the loss to the Giants, the Redskins have played their worst football in games where they were considered easy favorites to win. Does this mean the Redskins are playing "down" to their competition, as has been suggested by many, overlooking "lesser" teams?

If this is the case, the fact that each of these games is on the road may help. The added discomfort level in these games by the need to travel may in fact help the Redskins maintain the necessary focus to take care of business in the games they "should win."

Injuries and the wear and tear of an already long season are also taking its toll on the Redskins. The Redskins have already played 13 games this season, including the preseason, more than any other team at this point. This fact, along with the earliest start to training camp, the oldest starting offensive line in the NFL, and being one of the four oldest overall teams in the NFL will surely come into play as the season progresses.

The Redskins had 12 starters listed on the injury report prior to last week's game against Detroit. There were eight starters the week before, and they averaged only five starters on the injury report for each of the first six games.

In the last two weeks, the Redskins have rested close to three quarters of their starters during the week, with players sitting out at least one practice each week, and in many cases, these players only practiced one day.

The Redskins' depth has been tested at several key positions on the field already, but can they sustain injuries to many other key areas and still maintain a high level of performance on the field?

Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels did not play against the Lions, and it may have showed. The Redskins finished with a subpar rushing day and gave up three sacks, which caused two Jason Campbell fumbles, one recovered by Detroit.

Clinton Portis, the league's leading rusher (in both yards and carries) is taking a beating. He didn't practice, save for the Friday walk through. His primary backup, Ladell Betts, has been out the last two weeks with a knee sprain and is not likely to return until after the bye week, which comes in Week 10.

Before they get to the bye week, they will host an angry Pittsburgh Steelers team. The Steelers lost at home last week to the New York Giants; it was the Steelers' second loss to an NFC East opponent. The Steelers are likely to bring their physical style of play into FedEx and test the Redskins' health and determination early and often.

Again, though, there may be a saving grace for the Redskins: The Steelers are suffering from a number of injuries and the looming legal issues that may prevent young stud wide receiver Santonio Holmes from playing against the Redskins.

How long can the Redskins' luck hold out? Can they reach their bye week without losing yet another player to injury? Can they get past their current slate of injuries and eek out a win against another ailing team this week in the Pittsburgh Steelers? Will the bye week be enough to get key players healthy, or will these minor injuries continue to plague the team?

Head Coach Jim Zorn has done an outstanding job thus far in his rookie campaign. The management of his personnel may be the biggest test he will face this season, and it may just be the most important.