With the Giants/Redskins game only 2 days away now, I had the chance to interview Dave Wagner of Riggo’s Rag. Here is a look at the ancient rivalry that is the Giants and Redskins:
NK: Right now how should Redskins fans feel about the direction of their team for the remainder of this season and next season?
DW: Better than we’d feel if Eli Manning were our quarterback. No, actually pretty crummy to tell you the truth. Even if we win out and make a playoff run we have some problems going forward. Jason Campbell looks like the real deal at QB, and the offense is solid enough (though I’d love to add another receiver and some o-line depth). And while the defense has been a strength this year, there are some glaring problems. It is too early to think about the Sean Taylor tragedy in terms of football, but let’s face it, it really stinks. Instead of a major hole at DE, we now have a major hole at DE and safety. Not to mention, I fear it will take at least a year for Carlos Rogers to be himself so we might have a hole there, too. I think we are making smarter personnel moves of late, and we’ve been drafting very well. But it will be hard to draft to fill that extra slot.
NK: Without Campbell starting at QB, what is the level of confidence you have in Washington winning the game Sunday night?
DW: I suspect most people are thinking Collins is a downgrade. I actually think in the short term that we’re a better team with Collins. I think Jason is great and he will be a long time starter and occasional pro bowl QB for us. But he was still learning, particularly in the 4th quarter and the red zone. This may be a blessing in disguise. Campbell got his year to get his feet wet, not he gets a little time to reflect on what he’s learned and come back stronger.
NK: Randle El’s kick returns have begun to fade as the season has gone on. Is this a product of fatigue or advanced scouting reports?
DW: Injuries, injuries, injuries. He’s had tough issues with his groin that have sapped his acceleration. We’ve also had injuries at times to some of our best special teams guys like James Thrash and Rock Cartwright.
NK: Santana Moss has caught only one touchdown pass and has only one 100+ yard receiving. Is there something more to Santana than injuries?
DW: Mostly injuries, but you have to remember the Al Saunders offense in KC didn’t produce huge stats for the WRs either. Chris Cooley is Al’s version of Tony Gonzalez right now. One of the things this offense is very good at is converting in 3rd and long. We have an uncanny knack for making the 11 yard gain when we need 10 yards. That doesn’t pad your stats, but it makes the offense work.
NK: A lot of critics take any opportunity they can to put down Clinton Portis and mention his diminishing talents, but is Ladell Betts the answer when Portis’ days at the main back are done?
DW: What is the obsession with the feature back? I blame fantasy football. One only need look at the ’72 Dolphins and Larry Czonka and Mercury Morris to know that you can create a good team without a feature back. Betts and Portis have different skills and we can use them both to make a better running game. One of the great things about Betts is that he has really come on of late in the passing game. Portis is still the best blocking RB I’ve ever seen. And Portis’ “diminished talents” may have more to do with the fact that we have at times lost three pro bowl o-linemen to injury and lost the entire right side of our line for the year. We were in the top 2 or 3 teams in rushing until we lost Jansen and Thomas. Besides, aren’t we getting picky when we say being 8th in the league in rushing yards is a sign a player is losing it?
NK: The Giants are favored by 4.5 points, what can we expect Sunday and what will the final score be?
DW: Redskins 700, Giants 3. No? OK. How about a close, tough game coming down to a FG? I have to say we’ll win. 24-21.