We've talked about it a bit here, and it bears repeating right now: the tragic and untimely death of Sean Taylor is one of the saddest, most unfortunate events I've ever witnessed. The fine folks at Hogs Haven, led by their fearless leader Skin Patrol, deserve all the credit in the world in their time of grief. They have been passionate; they have been heartbroken; their reflections on Taylor the person and Taylor the man reflect positively upon the community as one that is incredibly caring. All the best to them this week as they deal with their grief.
Skin Patrol was kind enough to answer a few questions about the Bills/Redskins matchup this weekend. We truly appreciate his taking the time to talk a little football with us, especially this week. My questions are in bold:
Despite three costly turnovers in the loss to Tampa Bay, Jason Campbell has been playing pretty well of late. Talk about which areas of his game have improved the most. Is he the long-term answer at the position?
HH: His accuracy has improved dramatically from last year, I believe by 7%. He's doing that while shouldering an increased amount of the offense as well, which is especially impressive. As a Redskins partisan, I don't think there's any doubt he is the future of the team. He hasn't played with a full surrounding cast what with the injuries to our offensive line and receiving unit, but has done very well regardless. He's young, we have a lot invested in him, and I think he's well within the normal range of development for a guy who just recently had his 16th NFL start as a QB.
The Redskins are coming off of three straight close losses to tough opponents, and have lost four of their last five (beating the Jets a month ago). Is this skid the after-effects of the Patriots loss?
HH: I think the sample size on both sides of the Patriots game is small enough where I can't answer that factually one way or the other. Certainly feels that way in the W and L column. However, we played the Jets close post-Patriots but then again we played the Cardinals and the Dolphins close prior to the Patriots. We might've lost to the Cowboys and Eagles, but the former is a straight up good team that has won a lot and the latter sure looks stronger after their own Patriots game than they did before when we beat them early on in the season.
Washington ranks middle-of-the-pack in plenty of statistical categories, except for one: rushing offense (seventh overall). Talk about the imporance of Clinton Portis to your ball club - somehow, his contributions have been a bit underrated this season.
HH: Clinton Portis is scoring most of our touchdowns. He has 6 of 8 rushing which means he's accounted for over 25% of the Redskins scoring this season (just 20 offensive TDs, I believe). He has put the ball on the ground a few times that has really cost us, such as against Green Bay and last week against Tampa. The reason he is underrated this season is probably inconsistency; he's had just two 100 yard rushing games and disappeared to a certain extent against Dallas and the Patriots. Couple that with him missing most of last year (and being replaced effectively by Ladell Betts) and I think most casual fans, fantasy footballers really, have forgotten who Clinton Portis is. In my opinion he is the same player with strength around the red zone. I'd like to see some longer runs broken open, though.
Where do you stand on the Joe Gibbs as Washington's head coach debate? Is he the coach for the Redskins next year? If he's gone, who does Dan Snyder overpay to replace him?
HH: I stand right behind Coach Gibbs at the moment, hoping he comes back. I am a huge proponent of coaching continuity and I don't know whether Al Saunders or Gregg Williams are ready to take the reigns. For me, that debate heats up with every additional loss and simmers with every additional win; at 5-6 I'm fine with Coach Gibbs, ask me the same at 10-6 (I'm FINE with Coach Gibbs) or 5-11 (I'm not that fine with Coach Gibbs). As of this moment, I think he is the coach next year. I've learned it is best not to try and second guess Dan Snyder.
Imagine you're the head coach of the Bills. (Some Bills fans might actually prefer you to Dick Jauron.) What's your game-plan to beat the Redskins on the road?
HH: Unfortunately, this is when reality meets football. I'd say pass the ball deep, go after an injured secondary. Carlos Rogers is out for the year. LaRon Landry will be lining up along side Reed Doughty at safety. I imagine that Coach Williams will, much as he's done the past two weeks that Taylor was out with injury, line the safeties up deep, deep, deep thus leaving open large patches of the middle of the field open. If your receivers and tight ends can outrun our linebackers to those places, I'd say you'll have some success passing the ball there. Defensively I would go after our quarterback as he's still young and our line is banged up (but getting better). If there's a player you want to eliminate from our offensive gameplan it should be Chris Cooley, as he is our most persistent scoring threat.
Best of luck this weekend.
Once again, our thoughts and prayers are with the fine folks at Hogs Haven, the Redskins organization and the Taylor family. This is going to be a game wrought with raw emotion and energized play, folks. Expect a good one from both sides.