Once again, it's time for our weekly Q&A session with a blogger who covers the Patriots' upcoming opponent. Up this week is Greg Trippiedi from Redskins Hog Heaven. Here's what Tom had to say about the Skins and Pats leading up to Sunday's game.
1. This is something I have felt strongly about. When Washington started 3-1 and benched Rex Grossman for John Beck, I feel Shanahan tanked their season away. What were your thoughts on the move and do you believe the Redskins' future quarterback is on the rostet?
The idea that Mike Shanahan tanked the season for the Redskins probably isn't fair, in part because I think it assumes his motivation as head coach of the Washington Redskins is not to help the Redskins win games, but it's also not fair because it assumes that Mike Shanahan is a lot more clever than he really is. I don't subscribe to conspiracies about the Redskins motives for this season. I really just think that more Redskins fans and league observers need to look objectively at the Redskins situation.
2, With all the injuries to Washington at running back, how has Roy Helu Jr. looked to you? Is it because Shanahan does well with unknown running backs or is he just that talented?
Roy Helu is the best back on the Redskins roster. Like (seemingly) every other position, the Redskins failed to correctly judge the talent on their own roster at this position, so Helu was sparingly used through the first 10 games of the season. He tore up two pretty good run defense over the last two weeks, and has eclipsed 100 yards from scrimmage in every game he has started as a Redskin. I think the Patriots defense will be wise enough to hold him under that mark this week, but that just means that he's become the feature player in the Redskins offense with three career starts under his belt. Not too shabby.
3. The strength of the Redskins is their defense. Does this D have enough talent even with DeAngelo Hall to give Tom Brady fits on Sunday?
The Redskins defense does one thing really well: puts the other team's quarterback on the ground. Unlike the defenses who have given the Patriots fits this year, the Redskins can't match up with the Patriots. There is no one on the Redskins roster, and maybe not in the history of the franchise, who can match up with Rob Gronkowski man to man. DeAngelo Hall is an awful coverage liability who has improved his game enough in other areas to fend off players who are on the roster for special teams contribution and remain in the starting lineup. One thing that you'll see the Redskins do a lot on Sunday that will give Brady some fits is that they'll load the line of scrimmage with no deep safety, and they'll either bring the big blitz or drop into coverage at the snap.
4. Has Mike Shanahan's act grown thin to you? Will this be his last year in Washington?
A lot of Redskins fans are content with the job Mike Shanahan has done, and the notion that he should be fired is very much a fringe position among the fanbase. It's also the only position supported by either logic or reason. About the 10-18 record that Shanahan compiled in two years with the team:
5. Give me a key to the game and a X-Factor for Washington to pull the upset.
The Redskins have some sort of historic turnover streak going dating back to the very start of the Mike Shanahan era, and it's remarkable that the offensive coaching staff hasn't adjusted away from playcalling/play design strategies that straddle the line between aggressive and hopeless. On one hand, if you're going to play 80% of your games as an underdog, you need to be more aggressive than an average team. But when your offense has committed a turnover in 26 consecutive games, you generally fire the coaching staff and replace the quarterback. This would be a good point to remind your readers that Rex Grossman has started 12 of those 28 games. On Sunday, he will exceed Donovan McNabb as the most played Redskins quarterback of the Mike Shanahan era. You can let that sink in.
6. Who wins the game and why?
New England wins the game, and they win it by a wider margin than they did last week. Let's face it, the Colts are a tougher out than the Redskins at this point. Brady will struggle a bit more against this defense, which really shows up on tape when you study it, but is incredibly ordinary in the secondary, and that's where you have to be strong to challenge the Patriots.