May I offer an understatement? Things are not going well for the 2011 St. Louis Rams. Three losses and no wins to start the season and two (if not all three) in absolutely embarrassing fashion. The last game before the bye will be this Sunday when the Washington Redskins come to the Ed.
It's been a favorable matchup for the Rams in the last three years. In 2008, the Rams beat the Redskins in the first of their two wins that season. Oddly, it was also the debut for the new Rams HC Jim Haslett who is now the Skins' DC. In 2009, the Rams only won one game but nearly defeated the Redskins in week 2, losing 7-9. Last year, it was again the Redskins who gifted the Rams their first win of the season.
So there's a history of competition. There's a history of roster moves as well; Haslett has populated his defense with a pair of former Rams with O.J. Atogwe and Adam Carriker. Of course, London Fletcher, who spent his first four years with the Rams during the Greatest Show on Turf, left Buffalo for Washington back in 2007.
To help me get a feel for the Redskins, I swapped info with Kevin from Hogs Haven, the SB Nation community for Redskins fans.
With all the offseason drama, namely Albert Haynesworth and Beck/Grossman, is the fan base buying into the Redskins this year? Is there a sense that they can build on the 2-0 start and put the MNF loss behind them?
The fan base has definitely bought into the change brought to the Washington Redskins, creatively dubbed The Shanaplan. No longer does a player's name and contract guarantee a starting position. Portis and Haynesworth are gone. Mike Sellers and Chris Cooley have seen less playing time to younger, more athletic guys. It's clear Snyder is in the back seat because the Redskins turned 7 draft picks into 12, and the majority of the guys they drafted were team captains in college. Clearly, the Redskins are focusing on character first team, which free agency also proved fruitful in: Atogwe, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen. We know we're not winning the Super Bowl this year, but it's clear we have a young foundation moving forward for once.
The rest of the Q&A after the jump.The Redskins' defense is markedly better in 2011, a factor I expect of Jim Haslett and an influx of new talents such as Ryan Kerrigan, Barry Cofield and OJ Atogwe. What has been the most obvious improvement this year compared to previous years?
Definitely the pass rush. Last year all teams had to do was double Orakpo and call it a day. Our NT last year, Ma'ake Kemoeatu, was playing with an Achilles injury that never healed and a bad shoulder injury. The additions of Cofield and Ryan Kerrigan to the pass rush have greatly significantly QBs time to throw the ball. (Well, except for that damn 3rd and 21 play last week).
Offensively, what is this team's identity? Is it a rushing team that leans on a Hightower-Helu combo or a passing attack that rolls the dice with Rex?
The offense is all about taking what defenses give us. Shanahan loves to line up players all over the field and he'll exploit matchups defense can't cover. Generally, Kyle Shanahan loves to get the running game going and helping that along with dink and dunk screens. The Redskins have quality route-runners everywhere (Moss, Gaffney, Cooley, Fred Davis), so it's a matter of getting Grossman in rhythm (no easy task).
Back to Atogwe. Has the fan base warmed to him? Has his play been sufficient?
Atogwe was a big splash when the Redskins first signed him. He's always had big games vs the Skins so the fans definitely know who he is, what he brings, and his relationship with Haz. The Free Safety position has been a disaster since Sean Taylor died and finally Atogwe brings some stability there. He really hasn't done anything statistically to get fans going, but if you're a safety and your name is not being called by announcers regularly, that means you're doing something right in my book. Last year Kareem Moore, our safety who is now on PUP, was consistently missing tackles in the box that led to big gains.
From the outside, the biggest underlying issue that has made the Skins a sideshow at times and a relatively mediocre franchise in the past decade has been Dan Snyder. Even non-D.C. area football fans heard about the Dave McKenna situation. Is he as psycho as I want to believe he is? Do Redskins fans believe the team can be successful as long as he's the owner? Can I get sued for asking these questions?
Dan Snyder's lawyers read all my emails so expect a lawsuit at any moment (or send it Van Bibber). I've met Dan Snyder three times, including a very rare 1-hour, personal sit down interview I got with him last summer. The guy is extremely likeable and clearly a fan of this team. The other time I met Snyder was at Russ Grimm's private, Hall of Fame after-party in Canton. A good way to tell the character of a man is how he treats you after many drinks. I hadn't see Dan Snyder in nearly a year and surely I thought he would not remember me. He was very courteous (despite several people trying to talk to him at the same time). It's much easier for the media to rip Snyder, as it is more popular, so until the Redskins win anything he's going to have to deal with it. It would take me three posts to list out all the charity work he does for the city, schools, etc....but of course, the media never wants to talk about that. Snyder has no one to blame but himself for the Spurrier and Zorn eras, which VERY BRUTAL as a fan to go through, but as fans, I say move on already.
Thanks again to Kevin from Hogs Haven for hooking it up.