Not only were the Washington Redskins thrown for their second straight loss of the season in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers, but they also left Carolina with a laundry list of injuries to play through on an already unproductive offense. For those wanting a serious youth moment with the Redskins, your time has arrived.
In a business where injury equals opportunity for the next guy, this final 10 weeks could be very interesting or extremely ugly. Is it time to hit the panic button?
"We'll let y'all panic this week, but we're not panicking yet," said veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall, trying to calm a few skeptical reporters around his cubicle in the visitor's locker room. "We're 3-3, going to Toronto to play a tough Buffalo team this week and we got 10 games left. That's where we are. Our goals haven't changed."
I'm not sure the Resdkins can achieve goals like winning the NFC East anymore. They did not have an overly talented offense to begin with, and suddenly the defense is also looking venerable. Now, I'm not here to say the "Suck for Luck" campaign is on, but some rocky roads could be ahead for the Redskins over the last 10 weeks.
In this week's edition of Chain Reactions before the Redskins head to
Buffalo Toronto (can't wait to see how Washington handles playing with CFL rules! Kidding!) to face the Bills, we look back at John Beck's big play a day after the game, a feeling of Cam Newton envy, how injuries can now equal opportunity and whether the defense suffered from the "Chain Reactions" jinx.
John Beck's Biggest Play Made on Monday
John Beck was neither awesome nor awful in his first start of the season and first start in four years. Beck made some plays, especially on the move, ran for a touchdown, had a few dropped on him and threw for a touchdown. He also missed some passes, fumbled on a sack and threw a pick.
But really, it was Monday when his biggest play was made. Beck had a chance to go all Rex Grossman (sorry you were in hospital) on rookie wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, but instead had his back.
"I just want to add one more thing, too, just because I kind of caught wind of what was going on," he said as his interview neared its conclusion. "Hey, listen: The play with Hankerson, it's on me. I'm the guy that's got the ball in my hand. I'm the guy that makes the decision on where that ball goes.
"We were very excited to have Hankerson be a part of this football team. He's going to be a great asset to this football team. Nothing goes on Hankerson. It all goes on me. You got that?"
It really does not matter who made the mistake, because as we covered last week, an interception always goes on the quarterback. Sure, Beck does not have the ability, size, strength, or speed of his counterpart on Sunday in Cam Newton, but he already understands the accountability that goes along with the position he plays, something the guy before him never grasped.
Suffering from Panther Envy
Admit it Redskins fans, you watched Sunday with a certain amount of Panther envy. Cam Newton is the real deal, and he's young. The Panthers still have pieces they need to put around him, and he still has things to learn about the game, but the more I watch Newton, the more I wonder what Mississippi State was thinking turning down Cecil Newton's $200,000 offer for his son's services. What a bargain!
"He's a great quarterback," said Brian Orakpo, who sacked Newton once but could only wave at him a number of other times. "We knew that from what we saw of him on film."
Newton certainly has more options than, say, John Beck right now, with one of the game's best wide receivers in Steve Smith. To take it a step further, if you look at the starters at the skill positions on the Redskins, how many of them could start somewhere else in the NFL? I would say just one, and that would be Fred Davis. Outside of him, no else is worrying opposing defensive coordinators.
The Redskins' scheme can't overcome an offensive talent pool that is lacking playmakers, which is not really the recipe for success in the NFL.
You know the saying in the NFL. When a player gets hurt, it's "Next Man Up." In the case of the Redskins, it is more like "Next Men Up." These men now need to make the most of the opportunity presented to them, because if they don't they will likely be part of the Extreme Redskins Makeover: Offense Edition this upcoming offseason.
Those looking for a youth movement: your time has come. Both Tim Hightower and Chris Cooley are done for the year, and Santana Moss is going to be out 5-7 weeks. Ready or not, the young skill guys are set to get some work.
Players like Niles Paul, Terrence Austin and Leonard Hankerson will get more looks at wide receiver, and at running back Ryan Torain and rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster will get a chance to see more playing time. The guy that intrigues me the most at running back is Helu, who CSN Washington's Ryan O'Halloran points out got more snaps last week than Torain when Hightower went down.
OFFENSE (67 snaps)
RB: Roy Helu 33, Tim Hightower 31, Darrel Young 25, Ryan Torain 3.
Helu is a home-run hitter, which this offense desperately needs, and is perfect in Mike Shanahan zone blocking scheme with his one cut style of running. It is also time for Hankerson to show the playmaking skills the team drafted him to show. He has the size that could help in the red zone. Hankerson and Beck should have some chemistry from their time working the scout team together. Now, they need to bring it to the first team.
Did I speak too soon?
Last week, in this very column, I was slobbering all over the defense, how they have done their job to this point and where would the Redskins would be without them. The defense that took the field in Charlotte clearly was not the defense I was so in love with from the previous weeks.
The group that played Sunday did not create turnovers when given the opportunity. They missed tackle after tackle (Kevin Barnes) and apparently had never heard of Steve Smith. The Panthers have one wide receiver that can beat you. His name is Steve Smith. Please stay close if possible.
So if they are who were thought they were on defense (Dennis Green voice), they need to regroup and shut down a Buffalo team that is third in scoring averaging at 31.3 points per game. The Redskins have not scored 31 or more in a game since week 14 in 2009, when they put up 34 against the Oakland Raiders. On the bright side, the Bills defense ranks 31st in the NFL. Of course, all of this could be a mute point with the game in Canada and the weak exchange rate.