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Posted at 05:15 PM ET, 10/21/2011

Redskins vs. Panthers: A statement game for Washington

This isn’t a trap game. A trap game is where you’re overly confident and play down to a lesser opponent. This is a statement game. Mark my words: this game will define the 2011 Redskins.

After a tough loss against the Eagles last week, where the defense admittedly came out flat and unmotivated and Rex Grossman’s four-interception performance earned him a trip to Benchville, the Redskins are once again the underdogs against a one-win team. This doesn’t reek of overconfidence.

John Beck didn’t win the starting job; he had it thrust upon him. How his teammates respond to him under center will be all too telling. If they come out flat again we could be looking at quarterback coin tossing all season long.

It’s already a disconcerting sign when Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall chuckle to themselves every time they’re asked about Beck’s leadership or enthusiasm. It doesn’t seem like a doubtful chuckle, more like a “this guy’s the missing son of Jim Zorn” sort of chuckle, but that doesn’t reek of overconfidence either.

How does Beck win this game and keep the starting job? By not being Rex and by Kyle Shanahan not being Kyle Shanahan. Carolina is second to last at stopping the run. Unfortunately Kyle is last at sticking with the run (unofficial stat). However, Carolina also knows that the Redskins are missing two starters on the offensive line and Beck hasn’t played four quarters of football since 2007, so they’ll hope to stuff the run and force Beck to throw.

Beck’s teammates are the ones who will need to pull him through. Brandon Banks needs to have a tremendous day. Jason Baker, Carolina’s punter, ranks last in net average at 29.7 yards per punt and Carolina has allowed 24.3 yards per return. To put that into perspective, Sav Rocca has a net average of 41.2 yards and the Redskins unit only allows 6.8 yards per return. What was the point of keeping Banks on the roster if he can’t take full advantage of a struggling second-tier unit?

The defense also needs to step up big-time. Saying you’re disappointed doesn’t get it done, much like saying you were embarrassed and don’t need motivation. Cam Newton is like Michael Vick on HGH (unfortunately testing before the games hasn’t gone through yet) but he’s still a rookie quarterback. The zero blitz might not be the best option as Newton can avoid the rush and throw the ball a mile.

Get to him early and make him improvise. Newton’s fourth in passing yards, behind Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers, but he’s also thrown nine interceptions and completes less than 60% of his passes. He’s rushed for six touchdowns this year, but his longest rush is only 14 yards. Anyone want to wager he’ll surpass that on Sunday?

The ifs will determine this game. If Beck and Kyle can control the clock with the running game, the Skins should win, but that’s only if the newbies on the offensive line are up to the task. If Banks can get great field position all day and possibly score some points, the Skins should win, but that’s only if he gets his opportunities. If the defense can turn the Big Apple (bad Isaac Newton joke) into a Bad Apple, the Skins should win, but that’s only if the Skins offense can put up more points.

The majority of Redskins Nation is glad to see Beck get his shot, though some might’ve hoped it had come a couple drives or a couple games sooner. Whether or not Beck can be a long-term starter for the Skins won’t be determined, but we’ll at least see if it’s at all possible.

By Evan Bliss  |  05:15 PM ET, 10/21/2011

Tags:  redskins

 
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