It’s the Friday before the home opener against the Bengals, and for the Opening Kick, that means two things: A back-and-forth conversation about the Redskins’ chances, and the best of the things Insider readers — or just one reader — hope to see the Redskins do on Sunday. Besides “Win.”
For the part where we go back and forth with a fan of the opposing team, I asked Kipp Hanley, a sportswriter in Virginia, a Louisville native and a friend of mine to give a little insight on what the Redskins will be going up against on Sunday. I’ve known Kipp for about a dozen years now, and they’ve mostly been bad years for the Bengals, but he’s never wavered. Some of you might be able to relate. I’ve often thought that a fan who sticks by his team through the losing years is the kind of person you want to be friends with — loyal, committed and dedicated. In any case, here’s our exchange:
Keith:I think of the 12 playoff teams last year, the Bengals are the weakest and least likely to get in again this year. I don’t know if I think that because they don’t have a lot of big names besides Andy Dalton and A.J. Green — seriously, who knows who Domata Peko is? — or because they were 9-7 or what. The Redskins have looked both good and bad, but they’re coming off a week in which they couldn’t stop a Rams comeback. As a Bengals backer, are you chalking the Redskins up as a W, or wary of RGIII and the gang?
Kipp: I think the Bengals win a close one but I’m very wary of RGIII. I think the Bengals are going to have trouble against any offense with a decent line and accurate passer. Having said that, I really like the Bengals offense, especially against a defense without its best pass rusher. And the Redskins defense wasn’t all that great to start with.
Will RGIII perform as well as he has on the road in his home debut or will the pressure and hype be impossible to live up to this Sunday?
Keith: You know as a journalist you try consider all possibilities and not get too married to one storyline, but RGIII to me seems impervious to distraction. Not that he’s perfect — there have been throws in both games that he regrets, I’m sure — but he’s got the right temperament. The Post’s main Redskins story on Thursday morning was about Griffin basically saying “I don’t care if defenders hit me when I run the ball, it’s part of football and I’m not frail. And I don’t care if they try cheap shots because it’s not stopping me.” Whether that’s all genuine or not, it’s the perfect way to play it going forward. Short story long, I expect him to feed off the FedEx crowd and play really well. The Bengals’ front seven is actually pretty good so they might get after him, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say if the Redskins lose, it won’t be because RGIII laid an egg.
As supporting casts go, who the heck are these guys around Andy Dalton. Is there anyone besides A.J. Green we should watch closely? And how are you liking BenJarvus Green-Ellis, as opposed to Cedric Benson?
Kipp: I had to shake my head too when I saw the receiving corps outside of Green. However, I like their tight end in Jermaine Gresham. I expect him to continue to get better. And while I loved the downhill running of Benson, Green-Ellis seems like he fits that mode. He ran extremely well vs. Baltimore before the game got out of hand. He seems like he’s running with a purpose now that he doesn’t have to share the load. And he doesn’t fumble … umm, hope I didn’t just jinx him. As long as he’s able to run well, I think Dalton will have an even better year than his rookie one.
Against Dalton and a quarterback rich NFC East, will the Redskins be able to get pressure up front, especially without Brian Orapko?
Keith: They’re going to miss Orakpo. Not just his production but the attention he draws. Those blockers now are going to be focusing on Ryan Kerrigan. Jim Haslett might try to dial up some blitzes, but the coverage behind those blitzes can be shaky. If he has to do that, it’ll leave opportunities for Dalton to catch the Redskins for a big play.
That’s if the Bengals dial anything up. How do you feel about Marvin Lewis and his coaching style?
Kipp: The one thing I like about Marvin Lewis is that whenever his team is supposed to be down, the team has rallied around him. That shows me that the players respect him and play hard for him. It happened in 2009 when they went unbeaten in the AFC North and last year when Dalton was a rookie. My only criticism I have had of him is that as a defensive guru, his teams have not excelled on that side of the ball as much as I would like. The one exception was the 2009 team when the defense and running game carried a subpar year Carson Palmer.
Is this Sunday’s game a must-win for the Redskins if they want to contend in the NFC East this year?
Keith: You never want to use the term ‘must-win’ in September, but with the Falcons, Steelers, Ravens all ahead and the six division games, I really thought they needed to get three out of the first four. Most us would have expected a loss to the Saints and a win against the Rams, so they’re still right on pace, but they need to beat the Bengals and the Bucs before the hard part begins. The division, especially after the Giants dismantled the Panthers on Thursday night with everybody but Eli (it seemed) out with an injury, and the Eagles winning twice despite not really fixing their turnover issues from last season, is going to be tough. The best way for the Redskins to keep pace, as simple as it sounds, is just to continue to handle their own business. Doing that includes winning home games against pretty-good-but-not-outstanding teams.
More Bengals perspective
Oddly enough, I have another friend who’s qualified to kick in some perspective here, and since its free-for-all Friday, why not? Adam Turer covers sports in suburban Cincinnati, played safety at Washington & Lee and had this to get off his chest:
“The Bengals simply do not have two capable starting safeties. Taylor Mays started Game 1, was his overexcited and out of position Taylor Mays self, and earned a spot on the sidelines for the duration of Game 2. Jeromy Miles got the starting nod against Cleveland and helped Brandon Weeden look like he’d been in the NFL as long as someone his age should have been. All RGIII has to do is look off the safeties and get the ground game going to open up play-action, then attack the seams all day. It pains me to watch my favorite team so sorely lacking at my favorite position. Until Mike Zimmer can find a disciplined safety who can defend both the run and the pass, the Bengals defense will continue to disappoint.”
The call goes out each week for Friday’s collected wisdom. The Opening Kick wants to see two things: The things you hope to see the Redskins accomplish in their game, and an off-the-beaten-path prediction about what might happen around the NFL. Last week, e-mail was overflowing. This week, only two came, so everybody else must be saving their contributions for the comments below. At least that’s what I tell myself.
Reader “dcnoodlez” took the time to break down his hopes for the weekend into three categories, although I did have to re-type them from ALLCAPS. He actually did a pretty nice job summing up some of the thoughts I see in the comments section, and I know you’ll get a kick out of his advice for the individual coaches (and don’t we all want to coach the team anyway?). I don’t know about rushing every down, but feeding the running backs I can get on board with:
A. Call running plays for the running backs. Let RGIII rely on the running game of others, not himself.
B. Mix it up with power (Morris), speed (Helu), change-up (Royster).
C. Involve the tight ends in the passing game more. 1. Davis. 2. Paulsen. 3 Paul, who has not shown why Cooley should have been cut, except for special teams.
D. Stay patient, burn clock, take pressure off suspect defense.
A. Enough with the junk defenses.
B. Either Kerrigan or Orakpo replacement should rush every down, utilizing stunts.
C. Make halftime adjustments
D. Tell D. Hall to stop running his mouth and play ball. He is supposed to be a leader, and when young guys see him acting like a Bama, they will also. See J. Morgan.
A. Sav Rocca is taking too long to punt the ball.
B. Brandon Banks needs to take more chances returning kicks and punts.
C. Don’t let Pacman get off!
Don’t forget Marvin Lewis was hired as heir to the throne during the Spurrier debacle before he took the Cincinnati job.”
The floor is yours, everybody.