By Kevin Ross II
With the losses compiling week after week, the Washington Redskins can adopt a few lessons about mental toughness from the local baseball team. The mental fortitude that it takes to play in the MLB is something that most professionals – in any field – can’t handle.
In baseball, the greatest hitters of the sport accumulate a .300 batting average. Meaning, these All-Star caliber players have failed 70 percent of the time when trying to do their job. In baseball, you must not let a failure rate of 70 percent distract from your fundamentals or confidence. Some can do it but many cannot, and that is what separates the elite hitters from the average.
If the Washington Nationals found themselves 1.5 games out of a playoff spot, with seven games to go. Would Jayson Werth let that team pack it in? Or would the Nationals swing for the fences? The Washington Redskins are at a pivotal time in the season, where they can either buckle up and try to take another division title or they can stand still and strike-out looking.
For one moment, let’s forget about the Minnesota game, let’s forget about Mike Shanahan’s future with the organization, and let’s forget about the play of the special teams. If we look at reality, the standings have Washington in striking distance of the first place Cowboys who are ready to implode at any given moment, and Washington can come within a game of the second place Eagles by beating them on Sunday.
I’m sure some are thinking that beating Philadelphia on the road is easier said than done. But the truth is, the Eagles aren’t a very good home team as they have lost 10 consecutive games at Lincoln Financial Field. It’s a mystery why the Eagles are so bad at home. Some say that the players are more distracted by family and friends, while others say the pressure applied by the booing home crowd is the main contributor.
Either way, the lack of home field advantage for the Eagles is a good thing for Washington, and if they can clean up the special teams mishaps and put just a hair of pressure on Nick Foles, they can get back into the swing of things.
In Nick Foles’ last two games, the former third round pick has been a lethal weapon on the field, compiling 10 touchdown passes with no interceptions. To put things in perspective, Robert Griffin III has only compiled 12 touchdown passes this entire season. In the past two weeks, it’s safe to say that Foles has been the best quarterback in the NFL, by completing a Peyton Manning-like 72.6 percent of his passes.
The Redskins are coming off of a game where they were torched by Christian Ponder, mainly because they couldn’t present any form of a pass rush. One has to believe that the coaching staff will try a new approach to add pressure, as it has become evident that the front four cannot do it on their own.
From this point on, the success or failure of the defense lies solely with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. After nine games, players typically don’t drastically improve or worsen. Meaning, the defensive coordinator knows exactly what each and every one of his players is capable of doing.
For instance, it’s now apparent that Brian Orakpo is no where close to being a dominant pass rusher, it’s apparent that London Fletcher should have been benched weeks ago, and it’s also apparent that Ryan Kerrigan is either injured or has mightily regressed. With that being said, these are the players that Haslett has to work with, and it is his responsibility to mask the deficiencies of his defense and to put a serviceable product on the field.
On Sunday, Haslett needs to make some big time adjustments to get pressure on Foles, and he has numerous options. Of course, Haslett can call more blitzes, but he also can bench Brian Orakpo in favor of Rob Jackson, or he could pressure Foles by overload blitzing with Orakpo and Jackson on the same side. The bottom line is the Redskins need their best pass rusher, Rob Jackson, on the field.
It’s time for Haslett to get creative and to think outside of the box, because that’s what he gets paid to do, and that’s what the team needs him to do.
The Redskins have their entire season to play for on Sunday, and a curly “W” against the Eagles could put this team right where they need to be.
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Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.