Justin K. Aller
Halloween may be over, but there are two really scary things on the DC Sports scene to watch as we head into November.
The Redskins' offense is must-see TV this season, while the defense is like watching a bloody horror movie with a predictable plot. It is not a question of if the opposing offense is going to score, just a question of how quickly. Then the game is spent hoping RGIII and the offense can match whatever the 'Skins D gives up. If that was not enough to keep you away from the D.C. sports scene in fear, the Wizards' season is underway and John Wall, Nene, and Kevin Seraphin are in street clothes. The day after Halloween, we tackle a couple scary topics in this week's edition of Chain Reactions.
Any Saving the 'Skins Defense?
The Redskins defense is giving up 28 points per game (28th in NFL), ranks 32nd (dead last)against the pass, and ranks 10th against the run. The easiest target is the 'Skins secondary that is devoid of talent and has two safeties starting that were supposed to be back-ups and two cornerbacks that are just 'guys.' However, for me the biggest culprit for the 'Skins defensive struggles remain the front seven. The media, fans, and, most importantly, the Redskins themselves all agreed coming into the season that the team's strength would be up front. Sure, there have been two BIG injuries ... both Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker are done for the year.
The depth, though, was supposed to be a strong suit. Yet the backups have not performed to this point. Orakpo gets all the headlines, but right now Carriker has been the toughest guy to replace. The Redskins are getting no push up front. Second-year man Jarvis Jenkins has not been the player he appeared to before tearing his ACL in last year's preseason. Carriker's strength on the line to take on double teams and still get push allowed others to make plays. His presence not only opened up things for Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen, but it also opened up things for guys on the outside. Ryan Kerrigan is suddenly a marked man without Orakpo on the field, too. Rob Jackson has made some plays, and so has Lorenzo Alexander.
However, they are still not making enough plays. In the middle, Father Time seemed to be catching up with London Fletcher, even before his hamstring injury. Perry Riley has been solid. The overall unit has not been great, good, or even average to this point.
Is there any hope? All I can offer is this: The remaining schedule is not full of quarterbacks playing their best football right now. Cam Newton is the 28th rated passer in the league, Michael Vick is 25th (the Redskins play him twice), Tony Romo is 24th (the Redskins will also play him twice), Eli Manning is 11th (but has struggled v. the Redskins' 3-4), Joe Flacco 17th, and Brandon Weedon is 31st. Not sure this means much when you are facing this year's Redskins defense, though. Quarterbacks and offenses seem to have no trouble finding comfort when lining up against Washington. Ask Sam Bradford and Danny Amendola about that. This is the NFL and things can change quickly ... for better or for worse. What does that mean for the Redskins defense? We will find out soon enough. We do know if something does not change in a hurry, this team's final eight will not be any better than the first 8.
Wizards Remain a Work in Progress
The Wizards remain an easy target as they roll into year three of the five-year Ted Leonsis rebuilding plan. Many a tweeter, as Davey Johnson calls them, had fun with the opening night lineup of A.J. Price, Bradley Beal, Trevor Ariza, Trevor Booker, and Emeka Okafor. This was not the way things were drawn up in the summer. Only Beal and Ariza should be starters at their current positions. Okafor is supposed to either be a backup or the starting power forward next to Nene.
The buzzword once again around the Wizards is "injuries." That has been the buzzword forever, it seems, when it comes to this franchise. I am not here to say that if the team was healthy, they would be title contenders. I'm not even sure they would be a playoff team with a full cast, but at least we could give an honest evaluation of where they might be. No John Wall is bad enough, and then you add Nene to the guys dressed in street clothes, as well as improving big man Kevin Seraphin, and you have a recipe for really ugly.
Here is what you can say about what the Wizards have right now: It is a scrappy group that is going to struggle to score points. When they shared the ball in the opener, they did get some easy buckets. All too often, though, they settled for 3-pointers. which is not this team's strong suit. Sure, Beal is better than he played in the opener, Jordan Crawford can provide instant offense off the bench, Martell Webster can shoot, and the return of Seraphin in the next week will give the team a low-post scoring option. Price is not as bad as he was the other night and Booker certainly can play better. Can they rebound better than they did against the Cavaliers and Anderson Varejao? Let's hope so! Give the "Earl of Washington," Earl Barron, praise for leading the 4th quarter rally. He played with passion and energy on a night when that was missing from your passion and energy guy, Booker. Chris Singleton did some good things too, as did Jan Vesley off the bench.
The problem is that those guys are mostly hustle guys, not go-to guys. That is why it is imperative that Beal ends up being the real deal. The rookie was lacking energy in the opener, and admitted it after reviewing the tape. That is why the Wizards and so many other teams were high on the kid. He has talent and is extremely coachable. The league is littered with talented players that tune out coaching. It is up to Randy Wittman and his staff not only to coach up the prized rookie, but the rest of this group that truly wants to stop being the laughing stock of the NBA. The question is not desire with this year's Wizards, but whether or not they have the ability to get it done.