It’s no secret that one of the greatest football movies ever to reach the big screen is “Remember The Titans”.
It’s about a bunch of high school players and their coaches that don’t get along due to their different ethnic backgrounds but must work together to achieve a common goal. Head coach Herman Boone does all he can to force the players to interact and learn more about each other’s backgrounds. As part of this effort, Coach Boone asks all the players to interview each other until all the white players have interviewed all the black players and vice versa. In the process of those interviews, team captain and linebacker Gerry Bertier has an exchange with fellow defenseman Julius Campbell, and at the end of that exchange, Campbell says
“Attitude reflects leadership…captain”.
This moment serves as a turning point for Bertier and he makes the decision to be the catalyst for the team’s attitude change. Something similar needs to happen to the Washington Football Team this week after they were humbled by the Arizona Cardinals.
So my question is who is Washington’s Gerry Bertier? Who is the guy that will step up and be the catalyst for change? Who is going to be the one to set the tone on Sunday when they face a Cleveland Brown team that has just as many offensive and defensive weapons as the Cardinals. I think most Washington fans can honestly say that they didn’t expect a 16-0 season this year, but at the very least, it’s fair for fans to want to see a competitive team that doesn’t look lackluster. That isn’t what fans got last week. The Cardinals played the entire game at the same speed and level of efficiency and Washington never caught up.
The Washington defense allowed 160 yards on the ground against the Cardinals with Kyler Murray and Kenyon Drake accounting for pretty much all of it. This week, the Cleveland Browns have two of the top running backs in the game playing in one backfield, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The two combined for 210 yards rushing last Sunday in their victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. For Washington, it’s pretty simple to see that they need to stop the run first and make the Browns a one-dimensional team to have a chance this week. Schematics won’t make that happen. Washington’s defensive line and the linebackers have to make their minds up and say “not today” and shut all that down. Run defense is about attitude and refusing to get beat. It’s about drawing a line and saying “I dare you to try and cross it”, and smacking anybody in the mouth that attempts to do so. This week, we will all find out if Washington has players with that mentality, or if they have a bunch of guys that will lay down and accept defeat.
Offensively, Washington should be a little encouraged with the Cleveland Browns performance on defense in the first two weeks of the season. They allowed 38 points against the Baltimore Ravens in week one and 30 points last week to the Cincinnati Bengals. This could be an indication that Washington may have an opportunity to stretch the field a little more this week, and get some of their wide receivers not named Terry McLaurin involved. Of course, McLaurin must be implemented as a focal point of the offense, but the Browns know that too. Washington may be able to use that to their advantage, and utilize a couple of these young receivers who have struggled to make an impact in the first two games.
It’s too early in the season to call this a “must win” game, but it definitely sets the tone for the remainder of the season with the Ravens up next on the schedule. Washington needs to come out fast this week, and not stagger out of the blocks like they have with 17-0 deficits in consecutive weeks to start the season. Cleveland is the type of team that will feed off of that, and you don’t want to give a team with that much firepower any extra incentive to keep playing well. Washington needs to come out and be more aggressive on both sides of the football. Last week, they reacted to Kyler Murray too much instead of attacking him, and he made them pay for it. This week, they need to go get Baker Mayfield, and force him to beat them with his arm. They need to try some trickery offensively early in the game, or take a deep shot down the field to get Haskins going. Haskins is a rhythm player, and needs to feel good to play good, so they need to get him some positive results early in the game.
When it’s all said and done, and the dust has cleared, “make sure they remember, forever, the night they played the Washington Football Team…LEAVE NO DOUBT!” Corny, possibly, but it stands true. This is a statement game, and Washington needs to get that bad taste out of their mouths and take care of business in convincing fashion this Sunday. As you were…
Photo Credit: Elijah Walter Griffin Sr/Washington Football Team