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Chain Reactions: Strong Start for Washington Redskins, But Still A Long Way To Go

The Redskins hit the quarter pole at 3-1 and can enjoy their week off thanks to Ryan Torain and a dominant defensive performance in St. Louis. Plus, the Capitals get set to start another Stanley Cup or bust campaign.

OK, raise your hand if you would have signed up for a 3-1 start four weeks ago. Mine is raised really high. Most Redskins fans would be happy with such a start. I think most would also agree that this team is very much in the hunt in a weakened NFC East. I would think most also understand this team is far from championship caliber, unless you are Tim Hightower, who told CSN Washington they were Super Bowl bound.

In this week's Chain Reactions, we deal with some bad trends for Rex Grossman and a suddenly crowded running back position among other things Redskins. Plus, the Washington Capitals get ready for another Stanley Cup or bust season.

Redskins Suddenly Crowded Backfield

Do the Redskins have a running back controversy or just a lot of options? Anyway you break it down, it is a good problem to have, especially when you compare it to the other skill positions. Running back is the offense's strength and will likely need to lead the way in the final 12 weeks. That's why the time might be now to make a change.

Ryan Torain ran with a purpose on Sunday in saving the Skins from what would have been an awful loss to the Rams. Torain racked up 135 yards and a touchdown (congrats to Kyle Shanahan for dialing him up). Sure the Rams are awful against the run, but Hightower was not nearly as effective. I know he had a sore shoulder. The truth, though, is that Hightower has been just OK the starter, averaging 3.5 yards per carry. 

Going out of last season and into training camp, it was Torain's job. If it was not for an injury, he would have likely been the starter in Week One. Hightower's best skills -- blocking and catching out the ball out of the back field -- are suited for third downs. Rookie Roy Helu is the future at the position and should continue to get carries.

Mike Shanahan loves competition and he certainly has it at running back. Shanahan also likes to reward those that have earned it. For now he might be able to keep Torain in a backup role, but if he produces again like he did on Sunday, it might be time to tweak the running back rotation and reward the guy who is producing.

Rex Trending In the Wrong Direction

You could argue Grossman's play has been shakier each week. After good Rex came out with a 110.5 QB rating in week 1 against the Giants, he has slipped to 74.9 against the Cardinals, 77.5 at Dallas, and a Bad-Rex-ian 48.5 in the win at St. Louis. He currently ranks 24th in the league at 78.7. However, quarterback rating is only part of the equation as Mike Shanahan pointed out his week.

"All quarterbacks, every quarterback, is going to be judged by if he wins or loses," Mike Shanahan said. "That's the nature of the job."

So far, so good at 3-1 for the Grossman-led Redskins. Those in his camp will point out he has been hurt by a couple of tipped balls that turned into interceptions. Fair enough, but I will also point out he has been helped by some drops by defenders too, including two in Rams game.

I'm not here to say they should switch to John Beck. They need to ride Rex as long as the W's are ahead of the L's. But he also needs to stop turning it over, because the competition will get tougher as the season rolls on.

D was Dominant

OK, I know it was just the Rams (and we should thank their front office for getting Sam Bradford zero help this offseason). However, the Redskins' defense was pretty dominant, all things considered. They ultimately won the game (along with Sav Rocca) and saved the city and fans from what would have been a long two weeks.

The defensive line is greatly improved from a year ago. It is amazing what a nose tackle can do for a 3-4 defense. Barry Coefield was a great signing and Stephen Bowen has also played up to his contract so far, which is not something we are used to saying with the Redskins.

Rookie Ryan Kerrigan appears to be a steal of the first round. He and Brian Orapko form a pass rushing duo that could keep quarterbacks awake at night.They combined for 3.5 sacks in the win over the Rams. The secondary should get better as LaRon Landry gets healthier, and the return of Phillip Buchanan should add to the overall depth.

As the defense continues to gel, do not be surprised if they win a game or two for this team down the stretch.


NFC East is Wide Open

A month into the season and the NFC East is even more wide open than I originally thought going into the season. The Eagles at 1-3 are far from a Dream Team on defense. Their offensive line is shaky and Michael Vick is finding out the honeymoon is over. Dallas goes as Tony Romo goes, which probably means 8-8, and the Giants, despite a bunch of injuries on defense, are hanging tough at 3-1 as Tom Coughlin continues to do his best work with his back against the wall.

None of the teams are going to be confused for the Packers, Saints or Patriots. I have no doubts that the Redskins can compete and win the NFC East. They just need to keep the same lunch-pail approach every week. 



Caps Get Ready for a Cup or Bust Season

After another offseason of what went wrong and staying the course with the front office and coaching staff, the Capitals will be under the spotlight when the season drops the puck Saturday night.

The postseason failures has not stopped anyone from figuring the Caps will be among the teams to beat in the Eastern Conference once again.


"The Caps are very explosive and highly skilled up front with Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin, Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason says. "It's eeny, meeny, miny, mo when it comes to singling out someone to watch up front. Any of them can beat you. They're dangerous at all times. You have to be aware and keep the puck out of their hands and try not to let them shoot because they shoot from everywhere.

"They've added a bit of grit in Troy Brouwer. He's a big body up front. Their back end is very strong. And Tomas Vokoun is a good change for them; he'll be more of a consistent goalie."

I have plenty of confidence in the Capitals' ability to succeed in the regular season. The million dollar question is can they get it done in the postseason. It was a very good off-season. Now, the hardest part begins the long wait ‘til the post season to see if they hit all the right spots.