Kevin over at Hogs Haven answered some questions of mine about the Green Bay Packers upcoming game against the Redskins.
I do find it interesting that the Redskins brought in veteran RB Larry Johnson and RB Willie Parker, two players I heard and read a lot about this summer, only to cut them around the start of the season, and instead go with two young guys (Torian and Simpson) claimed off waivers. A slight change to the veteran centric philosophy in D.C. that has prevailed over the past 10 years.
Acme Packing Company: When the Packers lost Ryan Grant for the season, I started combing the practice squads looking for a replacement and came across Ryan Torain. The Packers instead signed Dimitri Nance off the Falcons practice squad. What has Torain done right in his first two games with the Redskins?
Hogs Haven: Torain is an interesting one since Shanahan drafted him in 2008 when he was still with Denver (though he tore his ACL and was out all of 2009 as well). Torain was delegated to the practice squad this year after the Skins trimmed to the roster to 53, and we're all still counting our blessings no one nabbed him. What's impressive about Torain is ability to run North. He's a 1-cut runner and runs with decent power as his TD last week proves. I'm worried about how durable he can be with Portis not taking some carries off...so we'll see how many carries Shanahan unloads to Chad Simpson (a RB we signed off waivers 2 weeks ago).
APC: You've got two notable injuries, with Clinton Portis already ruled out and Trent Williams limited so far in practice. How will the offense change if they are both out on Sunday?
HH: Huge. When it was announced Trent was going to play last week, not one Redskins fan gave our team chance. His replacement, Stephon Heyer, is up there with Alex Barron when it comes to worst Tackles in the league. Heyer had 3 holding calls last week, but Shanahan did a nice job of using 2 TE sets a lot to help Heyer out. Having said that...it's looking more like it that Trent will play. Portis is one of the best pass-blocking RBs in the league, if not the best. He's great at picking up the correct blitzer and his 3 backups (Torain, Chad Simpson, and Keiland Williams) are substantial drop offs. I wouldn't be surprised to see Cooley in some H-back or FB formations if blocking is an issue early. But given Clay Matthews great pass rushing ability, I really wish Portis could play this week.
APC: It looks like Moss and Cooley remain reliable targets, but they aren't getting a lot of help from their other receivers. Who do you think might step it up as the 3rd best receiver as the season goes on? The Lions did some damage with their tight ends last week, so do you think TE Fred Davis might be that guy?
HH: Bingo. Redskins used 2 TE sets in about a third of their plays last week. Our WRs besides Moss are laughable, so Cooley and Fred should see a lot of action. Portis was our best RB catching the ball, so that hurts as well. Last week we called up speedster Brandon Banks (who ran an official 4.43 - though he said he's been clocked as low as 4.24), so he should get some looks at WR as well. He's 5'7" 150 lbs soaking wet....so make that of it as you wish. He's dynamic as our punt returner, that's for sure.
APC: Is the verdict still out on the new look Kyle and Mike Shanahan offense? Or is anyone better than Jim Zorn?
HH: There's still a ways to go (as it is with any new system), but this offense is exponentially more dynamic with Shanahan squared. Zorn used the same formations every week where Shanahan moves WRs and RBs all over the field looking for mismatches. Zorn also did not allow Campbell to audible...yes, you read that right. Even when the team knew a play was doomed to fail, they had to run it anyway. McNabb of course has leeway to see things. Zorn also HATED the bootleg, which is a great way to buy time with a questionable OLine. The Redskins have done a lot of it so far this year. Get ready for the misdirection plays.
APC: The Redskins have allowed over 300 yards passing per game so far, and lead the league with 119 completions allowed. Are they struggling to find some answers in their secondary?
HH: The Redskins have been a 4-3 defense their entire history, so switching to a 3-4 with a personnel not built for it has been a bumpy road...that's actually an understatement, it's been more like the road to Kabul. Last week the Redskins primarily rushed 4 guys....which was a huge factor in keeping the Eagles in check. The Redskins don't mind giving up yards as long as they don't give up points. DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers are very reliable corners, but have been inconsistent at times...which pretty sums up our season.