First off, terribly sorry for the lack of postings so far, I was having a spot of computer trouble and couldn't access the site properly.
We've got a special treat right now That Guy Ben was kind enough to do some extra cross blogging with me this week. I answered some questions over at The Curly R and he asks some tough ones. Its definatly not your normal run of the mill Jaguars Q and A.
Here's our interview.
River City Rage : Jacksonville is a small market, actually the smallest market. Since you're living on the other side of the NFL tracks with the largest market, what's the difference? How is your NFL fandom experience different than that of a small team?
That Guy Ben : Well the short answer is longevity, winning history, permeation and revenue. The Redskins have been here since 1937, and over that time appeared in four NFL Championships, winning two and five Super Bowls, winning three. Pro football was the main sport in the region decades before NBA, baseball or college football ever got a foothold.
This town literally lives Redskins football. This goes for the generations of fans in town, as well as every transplant-fan of another team that wallows in every Redskins misstep (like signing Jeff George). I can tell you honestly that Mondays are better in Washington when the Redskins win. It's not just the fans that take it seriously. Even non-football fans are plugged into the state of the team.
Finally, all this has led to a team that can expolit its popularity for exclusivity. Redskins Stadium is the largest stadium in the league and the team easily could sell another 20,000 tickets per game. The waiting list for season tickets is something like 35,000 long. If The Danny really wanted to, he could build a stadium larger than the University of Tennessee's or the University of Michigan's and it would sell out. That's because there is still enough diversity in the fanbase that at any given game, you could bump into a bunch of shallow corporate raiders that were gifted tickets to that game, or a bunch of season ticket holders who have been sitting together since the 70s.
How is my football experience different from yours? Probably not so much. The tickets may be a little harder for me to get, translating into a social feeling of acceptance into an exclusive group, even if for one Sunday, but the pride I have in my team from being a Redskins fan is no less than that of a serious Jaguars fan, the Redskins just have 60 more years of stuff to talk about.
River City Rage : Do you think the NFL is going to have to eventually restrict coach and assistant salaries because of the massive salaries of the Redskins administration? Do you think that this strategy of paying head coach level salaries for assistants is a way of circumventing the salary cap (Buying up and holding onto all the Coaching Staff, as opposed to doing the same thing with players)?
That Guy Ben : Yes, I think a salary cap for coaching staff is inevitable. Teams like the Redskins can pay whatever they want to coaching and still have money left over, whereas a smaller market team cannot dole out millions for starpower on the coaching staff. This is one way big money teams maintain a (theoretical) edge over smaller teams, though last I checked, no one was interested in Marvin Lewis in 2002, Gregg Williams in 2004 or Al Saunders last season as head coaches. I guess we could argue about whether the Redskins are getting their money's worth over a young staff like the Jaguars...
River City Rage : Explain to me the Redskins defense. I'm familiar with the offensive pieces but I'm in the dark about the defense. Who's the player to watch out for, who's the weak link, and who's somebody that deserves more attention but is lost in the media coverage?
That Guy Ben : Gregg Williams runs a complex defense that is designed to keep the quarterback second-guessing himself. Zone-man combos, blitzes from all over the place and a lot of stunts at the line combined with deep safety cover to prevent receivers from getting behind the defense. So far, it hasn't played out like 2004 or 2005, and I think they are just trying to hold the line until Shawn Springs gets back. If you want to know how effective Williams' defense can be, look at almost any game last season, especially the 5-0 run to end the regular season. In the playoffs, Tampa just couldn't get out of the garage. Neither could Seattle for that matter, but Brunell couldn't get it done...
The player to watch out for is Sean Taylor. You have to account for him on every play you expect to take past the line of scrimmage. Just ask Jermaine Wiggins and TO what happens when Sean gets a clean hit on you. A quick way to a bad passing day for Byron will be to lead a pass or two over the middle, let his receivers get potted by Sean and see if they hear footsteps the rest of the day. He's a safety in a linebacker's body and can close on the play faster than most cornerbacks. He doesn't play out of position and I can't wait to see Matt Jones and Sean Taylor come into contact. They might leave a crater.
Although Sean's not the weak link, he has a tendency to lose his head and grab facemasks, make late hits and get called for penalties downfield. He had clean games against the Cowboys and Texans, but the refs will be watching him. No, the weak link in the defense is the rest of the secondary. Kenny Wright and Mike Rumph, fill-in cornerbacks opposite Carlos Rogers, are spotty, getting burned twice for every good play they make. And Adam Archuleta? He's just terrible in coverage. If Byron gets going, it could be a long day for the Redskins defense.
In that battered secondary, a great cornerback is being forged in Carlos Rogers. Although you may not think of a second-year, first round pick as 'under the radar,' the struggles of the secondary and titanic hits by Sean Taylor have overshadowed Carlos' development. He still gets out of position at times, and is not fully ready to assume shutdown corner duties, I expect he will be playing at a high level by the end of the season. If Springs can get back and stay healthy, Rogers will have had 4 or 5 games to be the 'guy' at corner and hopefully will step up.
River City Rage : What parts of the Jags do you think will give you the most trouble? Likewise, what elements of the Redskins will give the Jags the most headaches?
That Guy Ben : The Jaguars are stout against the run. That bothers me, since the passing game is premised on defenses looking for the run and missing the open man short. If the Redskins can't get Portis or Betts going on the ground, the Jaguars will just walk up that safety, jam the box and date Brunell to thrown downfield, something we have not really seen. Conversely, I'm worried about the Jaguars' ball control offense. The Redskins are middling against the run and play soft in the middle against the pass, hoping not to give up the long ball. If Taylor gets it going and Byron can find the shorts, screens and tight ends, they'll stay on the field and keep the clock running.
For the Redskins, the hopes are with the running game. With Portis back, the Redskins have another player to be accounted for, one that can run through a keyhole in the middle and cut the corner on the side. If the linebackers are hesitating or skipping toward the line to spy Portis, that will open up the alleged passing game for Brunell. Who knows, maybe this is the game when they open it up and test the Jaguars downfield.
River City Rage : Finally, what sort of game will we have on Sunday, and of course, what's your final score prediction
That Guy Ben : This will be a great game. The Jaguars are a bone fide excellent football team, and so far they are living up to their promise. The Redskins have a good home crowd though, and over the past two seasons since Gibbs came back, the fans have found their voice and we're seeing noise become more of a factor than in previous seasons.
To say the Texans were a powerhouse is something of an overstatement, though the team has improved confidence going into this week. Brunell has made a big deal about how this is not a revenge game, and he does not harbor any ill will (why should he -- the Redskins traded for him and then gave him a $33 million contract), but he'll be out there to win. Portis is back, and the team trusts the coaching, so they'll be confident at home.
I think it will be a low-scoring affair, Redskins 20, Jaguars 17.
River City Rage : Thanks a Bunch for the Interview! Look for great Redskins commentary leading up to game day at The Curly R
Also, There is a GREAT discussion of the Jags and Small Market teams in the story just below this one. Check it out, these Skins fans are some of the most savy I've known!
ps. Much, Much more to come throughout the day.