The Arizona Cardinals are already be in our nation's capital and solely focused on
defeating the Redskins to start the season 3-0. The injury report for the Cardinals good news for the most part but there's one big question: Travis LaBoy. He returned to practice yesterday but only on a limited basis, which is a better sign but not real encouraging. Darren Urban seems to think that he'll at least try to play but that it could come down to a game time decision. If he's unable to play, it wouldn't be as catastophic as losing Karlos Dansby or Adrian Wilson because Bertrand Berry would take his place. The interesting part is who would give Berry a breather from time to time and if I had to take a guess it would be Clark Haggans, who's the backup to Chike Okeafor on the other side. As for Steve Breaston and Levi Brown, they both took part in a full practice and will be good to go tommorrow. To be official, Laboy is questionable, Breaston and Brown are probable.
The Redskins report doesn't look as promising though with
Khary Campbell (Thigh), Kareem Moore (Hamstring), James Thrash (Ankle), Marcus Washington (Hamstring) and Malcolm Kelly (Ankle) all listed as questionable, although Kelly was the only one who was limited in practice on Friday.
As for keys to the game, I'll try to avoid the obvios cliches as much as possible such as win the turnover battle or win time of possession. I think we all understand how important it is for Kurt Warner and the offense as a whole to continue to protect the ball. So here's my keys:
- Contain Clinton Portis: Portis is one of the better backs in the league when he's healthy and he's the heart of this Redskin offense. He's a complete back who's competent out of the backfield and has the speed to turn a small crease into a huge gain. The Skins' offense isn't prolific though and they depend on Portis moving the chains. Since he came to Washington in 2004, the team is 16-3 when he rushes for 100 yards or more and 21-10 when rushes for 75 yards or more. In other words, they need him to have a good game in order to win a ball game. They've got other weapons but he's the key.
- Pressure Jason Campbell: This serves two purposes because Campbell is still a young quarterback trying to learn a new system, but it also prevents the passing game from being able to beat the secondary deep. This is Campbell's first year in the West Coast Offense and he's still picking up all of the intricacies, but he's always had a problem when teams blitz him. For his career, he's been sacked almost twice a game (1.7) in games that he lost, but less than a sack (.89) in games that he won. Bringing pressure would almost give his receivers less time to get downfield. Santana Moss is a good receiver but his strengths don't correlate to the West Coast system, he's a deep threat and thrives when he's able to stretch the field. Bringing pressure on Campbell will rattle him and limit what the passing game is able to accomplish.
- Protect Kurt Warner: This may sound like a given but I still think it's crucial. The Redskins have hinted all week that they know Warner is turnover-prone when he's facing pressure and I wouldn't be surprised to see them bring pressure early and often. They don't respect the running game and I'd imagine they'll focus thier attention on Warner. They can protect him one of two ways: establish a ground game that the defense will have to contend with or keep in an extra tight end or back during passing situations. When the Skins start to blitz too often, I'd imagine we'll see Todd Haley try to use some of the draws and screen that they've working so hard on since the start of training camp. A couple of big gains on draw plays will slow down a pass rush pretty quickly. They could also keep Leonard Pope or Tim Castille to help protect against extra blockers, since neither have had big roles in the passing game yet. However they get it down, if Warner has time in the pocket, he'll be able to shred this secondary.
Thoughts? Agree/Disagree? Predictions?