Fred Smoot: Chris Cooley Can ‘Save His Career’
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Former Redskin and perennial fan favorite Fred Smoot joined Holden and Danny Friday to lend his defensive expertise to Washington’s failing secondary and explain how the team fares at stopping a pass-happy Pittsburgh offense Sunday.
Last Sunday, when Giants QB Eli Manning hit Victor Cruz with 1:13 remaining to send Washington packing, he made an obvious statement about the Redskins secondary and their deficiencies in the simplest of coverage in pivotal moments of the game.
It was also clear that Josh Wilson and Madieu Williams – both doubling down on Cruz – had some explaining to do. But who was more at fault?
“The blame lies with both parties here,” Smoot said. “Josh Wilson should have did a better job at the line of scrimmage with Victor Cruz. Second of all, Madieu Williams is what we call flat-footing, and right at 10-12 yards, so he’s too shallow. If you look at when Eli lets this ball go, Victor Cruz is only at about 10 yards – it drops right at about 25.”
While for Smoot, the on-the-field blame should be shared between the two, he said the real problem lays with the play calling. He would not specifically name Jim Haslett, at least, not mention his last name.
“Well everything starts with a guy by the name of Jim. I’m not going to say the guy’s last name. It starts with Jim. Alright, I’m starting this thing around D.C. Everybody, we just going to call him Jim ’til he starts to produce.”
Smoot said ‘Jim’ needs to evaluate his defense and put his guys in a better position to make plays, noting the importance of situational play calling.
Fred also said no thank you to the theory that there’s no such thing as a good loss, saying that’s exactly what the Redskins ‘L’ to their big apple divisional foe was … a good loss, if nothing more than for the fact that “you saw your quarterback can play with anybody.”
Robert Griffin III’s 71.4 completion percentage on 28 passes for 258 yards flew in the face of the league’s absolute best defensive front four. Names like Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck chased RG3 around the field all day as he racked up 89 yards with his legs in his first NFC East divisional game, staking claim for himself and his team that the Redskins are no longer an easy victory.
While Griffin III may be the team’s new face, this week and a season-ending Achilles injury to tight end Fred Davis brought the return of an old face of the franchise in Chris Cooley – signed off waivers after eight weeks on the couch.
The conversation shifted to difference of being ‘in shape’ versus being ‘in football shape’ and Fred believes it won’t be as simple as Chris throwing on that no. 47 and taking his familiar place at the end of the offensive line.
“If he comes and plays a game more than 20 to 30 plays, fresh out the couch, we got to give this man the Old Spice award,” Smoot joked. “That would be unbelievable. It’s a couple layers of shape you have to be in and that’s why training camp is so important to push the body; to get the body used to taking a pounding. It’s almost like growing calluses on your hand to make it tough.”
Assuming he wisely uses this week of practice to start to work himself back into football shape, Fred said this is a tremendous opportunity for Cooley to show this Washington coaching staff something he hasn’t been able to – oft due to injury – since they took over this franchise.
“I think this is not only a time for Cooley to see himself in this offense, but to save his career; to bounce back, save his career and let people know he has a lot more football in him,” Smoot said. “And what better place to do it then the place you started your career at?”
Washington will have their work cut out for them this Sunday in Pittsburgh. The Redskins secondary – dead last in pass defense, allowing 328 yards per game – have the unenviable task of having to stop a Ben Roethlisberger-led offense which ranks sixth in the NFL in passing, with 282 yards per game.
While Smoot gives the edge to the Steelers at home, he does think if Washington reverts back to a bend-but-don’t-break defensive scheme – allowing the secondary to play back and limiting the number of blitzing defenders in the box – it will raise their chances of winning to a reasonable fifty percent.
“We can win scoring battles. I know that sounds funny coming from the Washington Redskins.”
He said the keys to victory are for Griffin to continue his scoring pace by putting up at least 20 on the board, and for the defense to afford Pittsburgh’s offense enough space to work and move the football, but then hunker down in the redzone, forcing field goals.