The Other Side: Washington Post's Rick Maese

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
2:40
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Redskins are atop the NFC East with a 2-0 record, which surprises many. In this week’s feature on the upcoming opponent, we ask five questions to Rick Maese of the Washington Post.

In Denver, he was the Mastermind. How is Mike Shanahan viewed in D.C. in his second year?

Maese - The same. Mike Shanahan arrived in Washington and even though he tried to turn the franchise around as quickly as possible, he knows it was a multi-year process. In his first season, the team won only six games, but Shanahan was able to understand his players better and identify his offseason needs. So while they implemented their new schemes a year ago, this season fans are seeing some of the rewards. There have been some obstacles -- see: Haynesworth, Albert -- but fans are still lined up faithfully behind Shanahan. At the very least, they figure it's better than Dan Snyder making football decisions.

In Rex we trust? No? Maybe? How did the win the job and how will he keep the job?

Maese - There was a lot of buzz around John Beck, but Shanahan promised an open competition and both quarterbacks say it truly was a fair contest. Put simply: Grossman outplayed Beck in the preseason. The numbers bear this out, and we saw it most days in training camp. Shanahan doesn't need Grossman to be John Elway. The coach has confidence in his system and simply wants Grossman to be able to execute the offense. That's not something he felt he had last year. If Grossman does stumble, Shanahan has also said he's fully confident in Beck, prompting some speculation that the team might employ a short hook.

Is Brian Orakpo turning into a DeMarcus Ware?

Maese - The Redskins would love for that to be the case. Orakpo is in his third year and is hoping to make a big leap this year. The team used its first round draft pick on Ryan Kerrigan, a defensive end who's converted to linebacker. While they want more pressure from the opposite side, coaches think the addition of Kerrigan will also free of Orakpo. Teams can't focus solely on him now. Both have looked good thus far.

As far as the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, how is it viewed by the players? How is it viewed by the fans? I say that because I think the players look at Philly and New York as the bigger rival but most of the fans view Washington as the biggest rival?

Maese - I think a rivalry in pro sports almost always means more to fans than players. Unless you have players who are from the area -- and the Redskins do have a couple -- it's difficult for them to get fully invested. They want to win every single Sunday. If they want this game a bit more, it's because the Cowboys are a division opponent. For those outside the locker room, Dallas Week is still a fun week because there are so many Cowboys fans in the area. But in the locker room, it seems the Cowboys are viewed similarly to the Eagles and Giants.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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