Chris Steuber: Clinton Portis seems to be healthy and back to his old self. How good has he been this year and how important is he to the Redskins success?
John Keim: Portis looked like his old self against the Jets, but before that game he wasn't even on pace for 1,000 yards. Portis did not have his usual burst until the past couple games. But the real problem has been that the line hasn't been productive, particularly on the right side. They haven't opened up the cutback lanes that he needs. And against New York, he ran the ball 36 times. He finally got a feel for what the defense was doing and made some big runs based on things he saw during the game. He's very critical to the success. This team is built to run the ball and if he struggles, then the offense will do likewise.
Steuber: After the Patriots posted 52 points against the Redskins two weeks ago, what was the reaction in the locker room, and did it leave a bad taste in their mouth for the rest of the season?
Keim: I would imagine that's the sort of game that never leaves you. I wouldn't be surprised if they still reference it in December as a means of staying grounded. The day after that loss, we counted only four starters in the open locker room session with the media. Others saw the media, then walked away. By Wednesday of that week it had returned to normal. They did seem to play with a little hangover from that game in the first half against the Jets.
Steuber: London Fletcher has always been a productive middle linebacker, but did the Redskins expect him to be this good?
Keim: They knew what they were getting and I think Gregg Williams does a good job of getting even more from certain players. Fletcher is not only productive, he's a fantastic leader. He has size issues, but he compensates with terrific instincts, particularly off the edges. They'll sometimes line him up a yard or two deeper, allowing him to read a little more and then use his speed. It also makes it harder for blockers to reach him.
Steuber: The Redskins have a difficult second half of the season to play, including Sunday’s game against the Eagles. What do they have to do to remain competitive and fight for a playoff berth?
Keim: Stay healthy and run the ball. The first part will be difficult considering they've already lost several key players and a few others -- Fred Smoot, Marcus Washington, Cornelius Griffin -- are playing hurt. And they won't go anywhere if they don't run the ball well. Their passing game MUST improve, but the way this team is constructed, it will only do something if the running game starts to motor.
Steuber: For the Redskins to defeat the Eagles they have to do what?
Keim: Contain Donovan. I know he's not having his best season, but the Redskins can't afford to let him sit back in the pocket and pick them apart. I'm guessing he's just a couple good throws from getting back into a rhythm. The Redskins also say that he's the one player who has consistently played well against them since Joe Gibbs returned. Brian Westbrook can hurt them, but McNabb can beat them.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber is the Editor in Chief of WarNest.com and an NFL Analyst for Scout.com. Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. If you have any questions for Chris, email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.