Early Season Missed Opportunities Now Catching Up With Redskins after 2nd Straight Loss

The Redskins go down for the second time in as many weeks against the Arizona Cardinals, and as the playoff race comes down to its stretch run, the early season missed opportunities is starting to haunt the Redskins. With the loss against Arizona and a Tampa Bay win against the San Diego Chargers, the Redskins have been bumped out of the 6th seed down to the 7th and out of the playoff as it stands.

Season long the same offensive and defensive issues longer, as both sides are terribly inefficient in the red zone, and winning plays failed to be made against this season’s top tier teams. Arizona’s record does not define the team that they truly are, they have a plethora of offensive weapons however some were having bad seasons but found their grove this week against the Redskins. Defensively the Cardinals been stout, so on paper it was a very tough matchup for the Redskins, however the other team made the winning plays and Washington did not.

Going in to week 14 the Redskins only have 5 losses and 1 tie, however when evaluating 4 of the Redskins games prior to the bye week for Washington, 3 of the non-victories could have been avoided with efficiency on both sides of the ball.

A quick review of the losing plays of the 3 non-wins prior to the bye week for Washington:

  • Dallas at Washington: Heading into the last stretch of the game, Kirk Cousins completes a 57 yard pass to Josh Doctson to set up a first and 10 on Dallas’s 22 yard line up already up 23-20. The drive ends up with an interception at the 6 yard line of the Cowboys in which the Cowboys convert to a touchdown to take the lead and also the game winning touchdown as they win 27-23.
  • Washington at Detroit: After taking a late lead against Detroit to go up 17-13 with just 38 seconds left on the clock, the defense of the Redskins fail to stop the Lions offense as they move 75 yards in just 35 seconds for the game winning touchdown.
  • Washington at Cincinnati: After a tough and long fought battle in London, an overtime game came down to the leg of kicker Dustin Hopkins for a chip shot (or what should’ve been) 34 yard field goal, he hooks it left as the two teams end the game in a tie.

3 games in which Washington had clear cut opportunities to win games, they failed to do so, even still they had an opportunity to control their own destiny but it is no longer in their hands now as they give up their spot in the playoffs to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are one of the hottest teams in the NFL at the moment. The Redskins are definitely still in the playoff hunt, with seemingly needing just 3 out of 4 wins down the stretch as Tampa Bay’s remaining schedule is one of the toughest in the NFL. However, the constant theme of Washington this season has been the inability to finish games offensively, score touchdowns in the red zone, and the defense being unable to get opposing offenses off the field no matter the situation.

These issues down the stretch are obviously fixable, but a season’s long trend makes the odds of them doing so unlikely. The early season losses have now caught up with the Redskins and the consistent issues on both sides of the ball and with games against the Eagles, Panthers, and Giants, it is likely going to cause the Redskins think on what could have been heading into the offseason.

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With Normans Limitations, Rookie CB Kendal Fuller May Be In For A Long Day vs Cardinals

When rookie cornerback Kendall Fuller came in to replace an injured and struggling Dashaun Phillips, his play was really solid. He took over the slot cornerback position, an area in which there were multiple breakdowns in coverage alongside the safety spot leading up to the Cleveland Browns game in week four. His ability to defend receivers in what is considered the hardest position for a corner to cover, the slot, showed he is capable of being a premier slot corner back. He is a rookie, so to say he won’t struggle is naïve to believe, and I believe he has reached that point.

A lot of fans and media of the Redskins noticed his struggles in the Vikings game, when their offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur decided to put their best receiver Stephon Diggs in the slot and exploit the mismatch. There were a lot of natural pick plays involved with the drag routes and quick pass plays involved in that game that contributed to his struggling, however his struggles did not last just this one game and has continued into week 13. The issue here is not whether Kendal Fuller is good enough to continue starting, it’s how can Washington hide a seemingly progressive concern.

Against the Packers he did not have much of a struggle as he did against the Packers, he did have some passes completed when thrown at him though, and one arguably indefensible on a big play made by Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. But here is the concern, the league is a copycat league, and when the Redskins faced Dallas on Thanksgiving Day the Cowboys took a page right out of the Vikings playbook. Dallas line Dez Bryant up in the slot on multiple occasions, with only 5 catches Dez caught 2 on Fuller for over 20 yards a catch. When Dez Bryant was not lined up in the slot, Cole Beasley was who ended up with 5 catches for 56 yards, and Beasley is a tough cover as most know but do you see the trend here? The opposing teams are placing their best receivers in the slot to avoid Josh Norman, and exploiting their biggest mismatch.

The Redskins face up against one of the most formidable passing attacks in recent years, with numerous weapons. Before I go any further yes the Cardinals are struggling mightily this year and so has Carson Palmer however, they should never be slept upon by anyone as they are capable of exploding at any moment. They also have a receiver who will be a first ballot hall of famer when it’s all said and done in Larry Fitzgerald. Larry Fitzgerald has 78 catches on the season for 802 yards and 5 touchdowns. Fitzgerald is also capable of playing any wide receiver position on the field, and that includes the slot position. As mentioned before, this is a copycat league and Kendal Fuller will likely be going up against Larry Fitzgerald numerous times as the Cardinals attempt to exploit one of the biggest mismatches on the field. For me this would be a big concern as it would be for many, so what changes are available for defensive coordinator Joe Barry to make?

My biggest suggestion honestly would be to give Quinton Dunbar more playing time this week against a top secondary, or Greg Toler to allow your second best cornerback Bashaud Breeland to play in the slot cornerback position. If the Redskins do not go that route, maybe consider playing a high percentage of zone coverage to keep Fuller from checking Fitzgerald man to man. The reason to suggest limiting Fullers snaps is not because he is not talented, he is too inexperienced and this is a critical part of the season. Fuller has shown he will struggle against premier receivers in the slot position, and things in my opinion will not change this week when facing a receiving core with a hall of famer in that position group. It’s a tough situation to be in looking at it from the outside, but if Fuller is lined up against Fitzgerald when Sunday comes, look out.

Reoccurring Redzone Issues Voids Another Great Offensive Outing vs Cowboys

After totaling up 505 yards in the Thanksgiving Day 31-26 loss against Dallas, Washington becomes just the 4th team in the NFL since 1940 to have 500 or more yards without committing a single turnover and still lose their game, per ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith. An outstanding day by Kirk Cousins and his plethora of weapons goes to waste with the common theme in Redskins losses and tie, inability to score touchdowns in the red zone.

Washington’s ineptitude in the first half was one of the two biggest reasons as to why the Redskins are on the day after the game 6-4-1. The Redskins had four possessions where  their offense got into plus territory and two of which made it into the red zone. For whatever reason it seems to me that coaches Sean McVay and Jay Gruden out-think themselves in this area of the field in terms of play calling when being simple can be your best friend. For example when running the football was very logical inside the 5 especially with running back Robert Kelley’s nose for the end zone, they call a wildcat run instead of keeping a traditional formation. So the decision to run was fine, but why pick a critical moment in the game in a important area of the field to run a brand new play by this offense? The blocking by the tight ends on the wildcat carry ruined the play from the start. This loss of 1 yard led to two incomplete passes from the 6 yard line forcing a Dustin Hopkins field goal, 3 points up on the board. The issue to me with the very first pass attempt following the rush attempt, seems Kirk gave up on the play too soon where if he looked to extend he might have noticed no Dallas defender was covering the flats on his backside.

The second trip to the red zone looks promising as well, but goes awry after a 8 yard completion to Pierre Garcon that gets the Redskins to the 2 yard line of Dallas. The Redskins called a timeout with 11 seconds left, the completion to Garcon came with 33 seconds left on the clock, leaving them in an obvious passing situation on 3rd and 2. In between these issues during the 1st half of Washington was a 2 missed field goals when in hindsight are very important considering the Redskins lost by 5 points.

The second half was not necessarily an issue offensively, as the scored touchdowns on 3 of their 4 second half drives. However when looking at the first half, it is just not acceptable to be so out of sync when in opponents territory and specifically inside the opponents 20 yard line. Coaching and lack of execution has hindered this offense season long and has continued after the bye week, which was a time where most expected coaches Sean McVay and Jay Gruden to refocus and rethink their approach to make calls that puts their team in a favorable position to score 6 instead of 3. Another thing to consider when looking at this offense inside the 20 is the play of Kirk Cousins. He’s playing well clearly, but he is in a part of his maturation where he is needed to extend plays rather than giving up on them so soon. The combination of coaching issues and Cousins mental process in the red zone at times leads me to believe that this is a situation that may very well likely linger season long. If these missed opportunities continue in the remaining games that will determine a post season birth or not, Redskins odds of missing the playoffs become very high.

 

Redskins Offense Likely To Shoulder Load Again Against Dallas

That “elite” word hurt me so much to say that when speaking about any NFC East opponent, but I got to be honest with you that is exactly what the Cowboys offense is. The Redskins defense is giving up over 4.5 yards per carry defensively, which plays well into the hands of the Cowboys strength. The Cowboys are a balanced attack, they move the ball well and can score effectively and it will be no different on Thanksgiving against the Redskins. The optimism in a fan will allow one to hold out hope saying that it is possible (which in reality it is), but the odds of stopping an elite offense like Dallas that can effectively run the ball and does not shy away from it if ineffective early on, and efficiently throw the ball and limit mistakes is pretty low which is why the pressure will be on the offense this week.

The Redskins offense is elite as well as they have had no issues against any defense, outside of the Ravens game, moving the ball up and down the field. Against top ranked defenses this year they have had success too putting up 403 yards against the Giants with 29 points and a win, 310 yards against the Ravens with 16 points and a win, 493 yards against the Eagles with 27 points and a win, and 388 yards against the Vikings with 26 points and a win. Obviously offensive numbers don’t really tell you the whole story of the game but the point was the offense of Washington will not have a problem against a questionable defense like Dallas the key will be giving your defense a lead to play with, or keeping up with the Cowboys offense.

Running back Robert Kelley has provided this offense with stability, in his 2 starts since the bye week his ability to constantly gain positive yards has provided balance to a once pass happy offense that strayed away from the run at times during games. Kelley will be a big key to victory against Dallas because I expect the Redskins to attempt to dominate time of possession, and minimize possessions for this Dallas offense. Much like the Cowboys offense the Redskins ability to stick with the run can tire down defensive lines, even the best of them, so it is important that Washington executes and play mistake free football offensively. Not only does that apply to the offensive line, but it applies to Kirk Cousins as well. As the year went along Kirk Cousins has improved weekly, becoming better before and after the snap of the football. However it must be noted that before the Packers game this offense in general has had a turnover in all but one game and Kirk as the leader of this offense must play mistake free football.

I understand that I’ve mentioned your cliché “keys to victory” in this post but Dallas is 9-1 for a reason and these keys to victory is important because most teams that go up against Dallas not only struggle against their offense, but they hurt themselves throughout the games with mental mistakes. If the Redskins are able to rush the ball effectively, maintain balance, and convert on 3rd downs expect Washington to be in it until the very last drive. Initially I had thought it may be a shootout, which I won’t rule out completely due to both teams capabilities of striking fast, but I believe both offenses will attempt to battle for time of possession which will make it important for Washington to capitalize on each possession they have with touchdowns and not field goals when in scoring range.

Kirk Cousins Has Chance for a Statement Game Against Packers

Kirk Cousins has been playing exceptional football since week 6 of this 2016 football season. When evaluating his play overall, he clearly is not a finished product, growth is still needed from him however each week he has led this offense up and down the field effectively when moving the ball through the air. Cousins has started to gain confidence in himself, and confidence in the fact that he can play with the best, making big time throws in critical situations and downs at times. Kirk has seemingly made strides weekly to prove he’s capable of being a franchise quarterback. Even outside of his throwing abilities, coming from his head coach Jay Gruden himself he has made great strides getting the team in and out of the huddle, I myself has noticed his pre-snap reads and his understanding from film study where blitzes is coming from and getting his running back and offensive line in the best position to pick up those blitzes.

Kirk however still has plenty of work to become a finished product at quarterback, it must be acknowledged that this year he has a part in the red zone struggles this team has had in an area where he needs to at times force the issue with a good pass in a tight window, in general he sometimes gets caught looking down one read and does not attempt to extend the play by manipulating the pocket and extending a play. Another thing outside of his play that needs to improve, is his play when facing teams with top tier quarterbacks.

When facing Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Drew Brees, Matt Stafford, Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Big Ben, Carson Palmer, Joe Flacco, and Russell Wilson he holds a record of 5-14-1 which is around a 35% winning percentage. Yes we all should know all wins and losses should not fall solely on the shoulders of the quarterback, however when facing quarterbacks that are established in this league and quality teams overall it’s important to evaluate how your quarterback played in that big game. The Redskins face off against the Packers in a primetime slot on Sunday night, where Kirk Cousins is 1-5 in primetime games including the wild card game last year. He has 1700 yards with 9 touchdowns. 8 interceptions, and 9 sacks with an 85.2 quarterback rating.

Kirk has an opportunity this weekend against the Packers to make a statement facing off against one of the best quarterbacks of this decade in Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers throughout his career has went head to head with plenty of elite quarterbacks winning a good amount of his games, even having his best games against these quarterback’s defenses. Rodgers has also played well against the Redskins statistically with a 1-1 record, 5 touchdowns, 1 interception, 770 yards, 69% completion percentage and a 111 quarterback rating.  As stated before since becoming the Redskins full-time starter in 2015 he has made improved with playing experience, film study, and learning the offenses and keys within the offense. The defense that he is facing is a quality defense, specifically in their front 7 that will provide a tough match-up for Kirk Cousins offensive line, we all know last year this defense in general gave this offense headaches and Cousins had one of his worst games of the year last year. This is a redemption opportunity for this team and Kirk Cousins, can Kirk Cousins prove to Redskins Nation in front of a national audience that he is the real deal? The opportunity lies ahead of him.

How The Redskins Offense Stack Up Against Vikings Defense

The offense of Washington is facing a huge task going up against the defense of the Minnesota Vikings. This Vikings defense brings to Washington the 3rd ranked defense in yards allowed, and 1st ranked defense in points allowed. The Vikings defense along with their special teams, has been the reason as to why they had gotten off to a 5-0 start to begin the season.

Season long the Vikings has been able to stop both the run and pass effectively, ranking 4th and 8th in yards per game respectively, so the Redskins have their work cut out for them. What has made the Vikings so successful defensively is their ability to play disciplined football, confusing offenses, and capitalizing off of opponents mistakes. Led by defensive end Everson Griffen, the Vikings defensive line is tremendous. The team is tied for 7th in sacks at 21, and their defensive line has 19 of them. The Vikings linebacker corp is just as great, led by Eric Kendricks this is a fast and athletic unit that’s effective in both the run and pass game.

With wide receiver Desean Jackson being announced as out on Thursday, the Redskins offense has took a huge hit losing one of their best weapons adding onto the suspension of pro bowl left tackle Trent Williams. So it is likely Ryan Grant and my guess would be Rashad Ross gets more playing time this week.

First thing needed for Washington to sustain any type of success against Minnesota is not to run or pass well, it is protecting the football. As stated before the Vikings front 7 is great, and they are a large part as to why the Vikings has forced 17 turnovers which is 2nd best in the NFL. Kirk Cousins in my opinion is likely going to have over 25 pass attempts, he has to do an excellent job being accurate with his throws, especially in tight windows, and holding onto the football. Also I expect backup tackle Ty Nsekhe to get picked on meaning blitzes and stunts being sent in his direction. He will have a huge test when having reps against one of the best speed rushers of the game in Griffen. So pass protection and playing turnover free is the biggest key to having success on Sunday.

When evaluating an offense or defense, the yards per attempt tells a much better story than the yards per game. There is one potential flaw to be exploited in the Vikings defense, and that is running the ball. Even though the Chicago Bears may have made the Vikings yards per attempt worse than what it should be as they are giving up 4 yards per carry. The Redskins is very good at rushing the football, averaging 4.5 yards per carry on the ground the Redskins has a better chance to have success on the ground compared to the other teams the Vikings has faced. The last 5 weeks for the Vikings their defense has faced teams with injured or just bad overall offensive lines which in turn made it easier for them to stop the run, Washington has a chance Sunday to be somewhat effective in the run game.

Rushing the football for this offense is not the focal point, and that is evident. The ground game is a supplement to the passing attack, and believe me that is perfectly fine. The Redskins offense on the season is approximately a 56/44 pass to run team. Yes there are times in which this team strays away from the run too early, however the passing attack is the forte and it may be a period in time in which throwing the football against the Vikings may be the most effective. With this being the most efficient set the team has, attacking the Vikings defense in 2 tight end sets can provide a effective balanced attack as long as they do a great job at protecting the football. At the same time the Redskins may want to get the Vikings athletic linebackers off the field, and may consider primarily spreading the field in 3 to 4 wide sets.

Here’s the deal, the Vikings defense is great but the Chicago Bears gave everyone the book to beating this team. With a ineffective offense in Minnesota, the Vikings  are not effective defensively at all if they can not force turnovers, in the one game which they didn’t the Chicago Bears racked up 400 yards of offense and at the time the most points given up by the Vikings defense. This game is definitely winnable, it will be a grinder for the Redskins offense but the job can be done effectively if the costly mistakes are avoided.

1st Half MVPs, Surprises, and Disappointments For The Redskins

Got this good idea from sports talk radio, so I’m going to give my MVPs, Surprises, and disappointments for all 3 phases of the team.

Offense

MVP – Jamison Crowder. I know there’s a few out here who would suggest Jordan Reed or Kirk Cousins but it has to be Jamison. Here’s why, in a season where Jordan Reed is playing at an elite level as a receiver and pass catcher, the offense has put up 273 yards a game through the air in his 2 absences. Jamison has been Kirks go to guy all season long alongside Reed, and has been an absolute playmaker for this offense providing a spark on numerous drives by making a lot out of a little. He’s taken a huge step from year 1 to 2, and has been a vital piece to this offense. There is already legitimate talks on whether or not if he can be the Redskins #1 receiver, he’s already a premier slot receiver if you want to compare him to other premier slot guys in the NFL. He’s been the most valuable player for this offense for me.

Surprise – The Offensive Line. This offensive line has surprised me in so many ways. The first way is how solid they are in pass protection. They are the second best unit in sacks given up behind Oakland and has provided a healthy pocket virtually season long for Kirk Cousins to deliver passes down the field. It’s been so fun to watch the offense knowing that we don’t have to worry about the offensive line being a factor for why the offense has its issues. They have played a huge factor in the success of the 3rd ranked offense in yards. The second way is the major improvement in the rushing attack. I have to make sure I give credit to Bill Callahan, I have questioned up until the regular season started because of how bad this team was rushing the football. But this season his coaching is starting show within his players, especially the young guys like Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, and Morgan Moses. This offense has dominated some of the best defensive fronts at times. Last year the rushing attack ranked 20th in yards (97.9) and 30th in yards per attempt (3.8), and 8 games in this season they are 14th in yards (111.5) and 7th in yards per attempt (4.5) which is a major improvement. This is my surprise for me, they have played great.

Disappointment – Points. Yes, we are 15th in points which is average and acceptable compared to the rest of the league but this is not good enough. Heading into the year we knew as a fan base that this offense needed to carry the team. We knew that this defense may have its issues and the offseason was focused on the betterment of the offense. We have created one of the best offenses in the league schematically and the yards have proven that, however the struggle to put up points has been a major contributor as to why we have 3 losses and a tie. Only 1 time this season has this team topped 30 points, but if you look at just 4 of the games this season (Cowboys, Giants, Lions, and Bengals) you can legitimately say that they could have scored at least 40 points. This was the side of the ball that was supposed to flourish, the yards are fine and dandy but the points must match the yards.

Defense

MVP – Josh Norman. His last game of the first half of the season was pretty bad, but overall he has been a complete stud for the Redskins. Going up against Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Odell Beckham, Terrelle Pryor, and A.J. Green and he has done more than held his own versus 4 of those guys. He has brought an attitude to this defense, especially the secondary that has took these guys to another level. He has been a competitor, competes on every play, and each member of the defense does the same thing. Not afraid to stick a ball carrier, been a playmaker whether it been forcing turnovers or pass breakups, he has shown his worth and it matches the contract he received. Norman is my most valuable player.

Surprise – Trent Murphy. I think we all know why Murphy is the surprise of this defense. His first two seasons for a second round pick he has been dreadfully underwhelming as a pass rusher. With 6 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in his first two years total, he has produced 6 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in his first 8 games of this year already. What I have said though for Murphy and even Ryan Grant, it is never fair to expect a player to be great or have all the answers after his first two seasons, sometimes it takes more time for a player to develop than others and that is understandable. Trent has been more explosive on his get off, played extremely well with his hand in the dirt, and has impressed verse some of the league’s best tackles. In a season where he was on his last leg with the team, being switched to a defensive lineman he has taken advantage of his opportunities so far after an injury to outside linebacker Junior Galette forced him to go back to outside linebacker and have significant playing time. He is my surprise player so far.

Disappointment – Preston Smith. I do believe in sophomore slumps in the NFL, and Preston Smith is a prime of example of a player experiencing that. I will acknowledge he has been stout in the run game in my eyes, and has provided pressure though but that is not enough. Here’s the issue with Smith, he got on a great hot streak at the end of the season leading fans to believe he understood what it took to become a good to great pass rusher in the NFL, but his biggest issue in his rookie year was inconsistency. Prior to the last 6 games of last year he was missing in action almost all year, and this season he has been the same in his first 8 games. After his hot streak he was expected or believed to be way more impressive rushing the passer, many had him having double digit sacks this year but after 8 games has only produced 1.5 sacks which is honestly awful and not acceptable. The good news is for the 2nd year player is there is another half of the season to get better, this defense has been getting to the quarterback pretty well without Smith ranking in the top 5 in sacks but it can be even better if they can get Preston Smith to improve his production. He is my disappointment.

Special Teams

MVP – Dustin Hopkins. If it wasn’t for this guy, we wouldn’t have been in the Cowboys, Giants, Lions, Bengals, and maybe even the Ravens game. Yes, he missed a chip shot field goal against the Bengals to win the game, but does that take away what he has done for the Redskins this year? Not at all. He has now missed 4 field goals this year and is at an 81% on the year but if you analyze his play all year outside the chip shot field goal you would come to the conclusion he has been playing at a pro bowl level to me. He is my most valuable player.

Surprise – Jamison Crowder. Last year our punt return unit was awful, and Jamison Crowder was looking like Randle El 2.0. However after watching the first half of this season, I will just blame it on him being a rookie, he has been great this season. Jamison Crowder is leading the league in yards per return, and has had an 85 yard return for a touchdown and a 50 plus yard return this year as well. The blocking has been fine but Crowder makes this return unit even better with his decisiveness and vision. He is my surprise.

Disappointment – Kick off Unit. Hard to really find a disappointment in a much improved special teams unit, however the Redskins kick off unit has given up a touchdown and a 60 plus yard return this year. I am overall not really disappointed in the overall production of this unit, punting, field goal, and kickoff has been solid season long but hey, things can be bett

3 reasons why the Redskins can be for real & 3 reasons why you should remain cautious about Washington

Washington’s 4 game winning streak has provided a spark in not only the team, but it has provided a spark for the fans within the DMV and fans everywhere. The media’s outlook has changed to an extent, and so has fans on what “can” be. Legitimate questions has been raised though on how serious the Redskins can be taken, because we have seen pretenders in previous Redskins teams, at the same time this team is different than previous teams. Here are few reasons why we should buy stock in the 2016 Redskins, and why we should all just slow the hell down.

Why should you buy in?

  1. Team Cohesion – An 0-2 start to a season can either make or break not just your season, but your team as a whole. When the Redskins back was against the wall, they fought together to dig themselves out of an early hole. Each week provided facets of the team to step up and be game changers. Special Teams has contributed to wins, the offense, and most recently the defense. Each phase has had play makers throughout that has made differences. Players has also been given opportunities to contribute, which has paid off very well for this team. Defensively slot corner Kendall Fuller has been the most noticeable change, and offensively the presence of Spencer Long has provided stability on the offensive line and the run game has been solid since plugging him in at center. There has been a since of chemistry among the players on both sides of the ball, they are playing confident and seemingly trust the players to the left and right of them to execute their assignments. Even in terms of coaching, there has been adjustments made. Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry has changed up his tendencies, creating exotic looks defensively and sending much more blitzes. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay has attempted to stay true to a balanced attack offensively, 3 of the 4 games Washington has won were won with a very balanced run/pass ratio.
  2. The Defense Has Showed Signs Of Life – The first four weeks of the season the defense was close to dead last in almost every major statistical category but things have improved over the past two weeks. The defensive line that many, including myself, had no faith in has proven they can provide pressure when pass rushing and outside of a few big gains on the ground has contained running backs of Baltimore and Philadelphia. Inside Linebackers Will Compton and Mason Foster has improved their play dramatically from the start of the season, being very active in the ground game and playing very fast on the field and reacting well. Even in the secondary this team has been clicking, the offenses in Baltimore and Philadelphia were completely stagnant and stifled, and this is due to a disciplined secondary and a much improved pass rush. I’ve stated the coaching has improved, but the overall level of play by the actual players have improved dramatically. These past two weeks they have been trending up, averaging 272.6 total yards per game, 166 passing yards per game, 106 rushing yards per game, and 15 points per game.
  3. This team has yet to reach its full potential – As bad as the defense looked the first two weeks, I can honestly say I knew that it could not get no worse than what it has looked liked. It did not happen the very next week, or week after, but it has since week 5. They have had moments throughout a game where it has looked relatively easy to move the ball against them, specifically the first and last drive of the Ravens game, and the two 3 point drives by the Eagles that kept them within 1 possession late in the game. Outside of those instances, which was really a nitpick, they have dropped their anchor and became a solid looking defense as it stands today but can still do better. Offensively this team week in and out is capable, legitimately capable, of scoring 30 points per game and has yet to provide that weekly. There has been missed opportunities weekly with this offense and yet this offense has still kept them in majority of the games, and has produced a top 5 offense in yards per game. The potential of this offense has not came to life yet, but as each week goes on there is a feeling by most, even the players, that the time will come sooner than later to start hitting their stride. The ground game has become reliable rather than a liability like it was last year, creating even a more explosive offense if it can sustain it’s current balanced attack. Last week the Eagles was a top 3 rushing defense, and the Redskins produced 230 rushing yards offensively. So in the eyes of many, the best has yet to come with this team.

Why the need to slow the hell down.

  1. No guarantee this defense is sustainable – Washington has played well the past couple of weeks, at the same time they have not faced top tier offenses with respectable quarterbacks in this win streak. The Redskins faced off versus the Steelers and Cowboys in their first two games and gave up an average of 409 total yards per game defensively, and struggled mightily to stop the run. In the remaining games for Washington they will go up against Matthew Stafford, Andy Dalton, Aaron Rodgers, Carson Palmer, Cam Newton, and Brian Hoyer(yes Hoyer, who’s playing incredibly well at the moment). Facing these quarterbacks is going to be a challenge because these are playmakers, they challenge defenses and a couple of the teams like the Cardinals and Panthers bring top 10 rushing attacks. This defense has definitely been on the roll, but have they done enough for you to put your trust in? Honestly not just yet.
  2. The team hasn’t faced top tier teams yet – Yes, Washington has beat 3 teams over .500 this year in the Giants, Ravens, and Eagles but can you consider them top tier teams? Not really. When looking at the NFL and what has been deemed top tier teams based on consistent success over the years you think of a few teams. These few teams are on the Redskins schedule in the upcoming weeks. Top tier teams despite what their record is are the Bengals, Vikings, Packers, Cardinals, and Panthers. You can see exactly where the Redskins stand when you face these teams because it will bring challenges that average or inconsistent teams don’t bring. These teams are used to winning, and know how to win, if you can’t win 2 or 3 of these games let alone 1, this team has shown they aren’t ready to compete just yet.
  3. Can you trust Kirk week in-and-out? – During the 4 game win streak, even throughout the entire year, Kirk has struggled to find his groove and confidence. The Eagles game was his best game of the year in the eyes of many, but can he carry this type of confidence into each week? It has been weeks where he has looked unsure of himself and has found too much comfort in the pocket, he didn’t want to make the big plays it seemed and even locked onto receivers missing bigger opportunities. It has hurt the production of this offense. He performed greatly against the 2nd ranked defense in the Eagles, but when he faces these top tier teams I mentioned earlier, can he step up and make the big plays his team needs him to make in critical situations? Can you trust Kirk Cousins just yet?

There Is No Such Thing As “Bad”Win Streaks; Redskins Notch 3 Straight Impressive Team Victories After 0-2 Start

Heading into Week 3 as an 0-2 team your season is hanging on by a thread, especially when you are coming off a loss to a divisional opponent and facing another in the New York Giants in week 3. The Redskins back was against the wall and the coaches, Jay Gruden, Sean McVay, and especially Joe Barry were under heavy scrutiny by fans and some of the media. Defensive players were being heavily criticized, they were playing historically awful, and many felt personnel changes were to be made long ago. The offense was underachieving, numerous scoring opportunities were left on the field, and quarterback Kirk Cousins was playing at a sub-par level.

If you think after I said all those things that I will say the Redskins fixed everything, you are mistaken, but the Redskins responded. The Redskins started their win streak on the road versus a team they notoriously struggle against on the road. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry prior to Deangelo Hall and Bashaud Breeland made numerous personnel adjustments, and gave players like Su’a Cravens, Quinton Dunbar, and Will Blackmon more playing time and it paid off tremendously. Each of the 3 players forced turnovers and it turned into points for the offense. Offensively the Redskins put up 29 points, virtually with ease against what was at the time a very tough defensive unit. They created a balance offensive attack with 30 rushed to 36 passes. Special teams was a major contributor as well with Dustin Hopkins being a perfect 5-5 on the day and Tress Way executing a fake punt to perfection by hitting Quinton Dunbar down the sidelines for a 30 yard pass completion.

The very next week Washington faces the Browns, where they were in a fight up until the 4th quarter. The offense struggled, quarterback Kirk Cousins made a few errors early and late in the game that directly led to points for the Browns and missed scoring opportunities for the Redskins. The rushing attack did not hit stride until the 2nd half, and was to take pressure off a struggling Cousins. Another week of a balanced attack with 26 rushes to 27 passes. But the offense could not have done anything if the defense did not make it’s mark. The defense struggled all day long to stop running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson giving up 165 rushing yards between the two. Even rookie quarterback Cody Kessler had success against the Redskins secondary. But the Redskins defense stepped to the table, forcing turnovers on 3 straight possessions late in the game providing opportunities for the offense in which they converted to of the turnovers into touchdowns.Washington pulled away late thanks to the late great play of the defense winning the game 31-20.

In week 5 against Baltimore, in another stiff test for the Redskins offense, they struggled. The Ravens are the 3rd best defense in yards allowed this year, and Washington was in a dog fight all game long. The rushing attack was no good, Matt Jones struggled mightily, leaving the coordinators to rely on the arm of Kirk Cousins on a windy day. Kirk had yet another game with missed opportunities, missing a couple of downfield throws and also took a bad sack to take the team out of scoring range. The offensive coordinator Sean McVay also had a bad day of play calling, a lot of inconsistencies in the way they attacked the Ravens defense. Although they did not have the best day, the did just enough against a top notch defense. Kirk Cousins and the offense after trailing 10-6 scores 10 straight points to go up 16-10, and the defense did a great job holding off the Ravens offense shutting them out in the second half. Also another week where special teams was a great contributor, Jamison Crowder took a punt return 85 yards for a touchdown and Will Blackmon took a kickoff return 45 yards to set Washington up in good scoring position following a Justin Tucker field goal.

Do you understand the theme over the past 3 weeks? It’s been a total team effort. Each of the past 3 weeks there has been reasons to complain, legitimate reasons too, but Washington has churned out victory after victory after victory and two of the teams Washington wasn’t even expected to beat. The 2016 Redskins regardless of statistics, is full of fight, and has shown they have improved each week. This team has not put all the pieces together, especially offensively where that side of the ball was supposed to be the backbone of the team, but other phases of the team is starting to pick up the slack. The defense has been terrible against the run, being gashed weekly and has not been able to hold any team under 100 yards rushing this season. It has been a season long struggle so far. Although the Ravens offense is nothing really to be feared, but Joe Barry coached a really good game, holding that team to just 10 points at home, and also pitching a 3rd straight shutout in the 2nd half preventing teams from entering the end zone.

This team is far from a finished product, but heading into a tough stretch of the schedule they are in a very good position to make headway in the division. Even though this team will continue to be tested against better teams than Baltimore,  this 3 game win streak is nothing to complain about, the Redskins are right in the thick of things.

Sundays Game vs Giants May Provide An Explosion As Offense Is Ticking Time Bomb

Washington has a might tough task going up against the New York Giants this Sunday, and undefeated and defensively stout New York Giants team by the way. The Giants have the 8th ranked defense in total yards, and 8th ranked defense in points allowed. Compared to last year where they were ranked 32nd in yards and 30th in points.  Early on you can see the 200 million spent on the defense in free agency  has paid off for the team and their investments at the moment should not be questioned. Up front they look stout, 4th in rushing defense and giving up under 3.5 yards per carry. The passing defense has improved as well has went from 32nd in the league, to 13th, wow.

So, how exactly is Washington capable of exploding offensively against a clearly improved Giants defense? How can Kirk and company, beat a team they have notoriously struggled against?

Let’s speak on Kirk’s history against New York right fast, in 4 games against the Giants:

Kirk Cousins record is 1-3, with  55% completion, and a 60.5 quarterback rating. He’s thrown for 1000 yards in 4 games, but has also thrown 3 touchdowns to 8 interceptions, 4 of which came in 1 game! So to be honest, the Giants has bullied Kirk on a consistent basis throughout his career.

Back to 2016, the Redskins offensively is ranked 7th in the league in yards, 3rd in passing, 25th in rushing. The positive nugget about the ground game though(albeit only 29 rushing attempts) is averaging 4.2 yards a carry. 2 games into the season the scheming by the offensive staff has been confusing defenses and getting receivers open down the field, and the offensive line has been great in pass protection, even providing running backs with decent lanes to run through.

Washingtons offense is in a position where penalties and mental errors has hindered them tremendously. Cousins has also been struggling mentally, also has been wildly inconsistent missing out on a number of opportunities to score touchdowns. The pressure on this team as a whole, and even the offense creates an emphasis on being extremely prepared mentally when staring an 0-3 record in the face. Within the scheme, has to come a balanced attack, take a lot of pressure this week off of the quarterback. The Redskins are going up against a very good run defense, but regardless if they are good or not they must hold steady on Sunday and have about 20-25 attempts by running backs to have a chance against New York. The Giants also are not giving up much in the pass game in net yards per pass attempt, only giving up 5.2. Kirk has to be on his A game, with much scrutiny going into this week he has to show up verse a defense who will test him.

The New York Giants defense has been on its A game to start off the season but here is the facts about the teams they faced so far this season:

  • Giants faced a team in week 1 who had a rookie quarterback and running back, who both struggled mightily in their NFL debut. Was not much of a challenge verse a revamped defense. Giants also did not sack Dak in week 1.
  • Giants faced a 1 dimensional team in week 2, who has a suspect offensive line and struggles to run the ball creating an imbalance.

Please note I did say the earlier the Giants defense has gotten off to a great start, so I am not saying the teams they played were bad, I am just saying they have not been tested yet in my opinion. The Redskins provide mismatches at the receiver position and tight end position, especially when lining up in a 4 or 5 wide set. With yards per carry number on the ground being good, it’s possible that a balanced attack can provide headaches for the Giants. Now we all know Washingtons defense has it’s issues and that they have to hold up to give this team a chance as well, but I have said before that the success of the 2016 Redskins hinge on the offense being successful. So the truth of the matter for the Redskins offense is that this offense is capable of scoring 30 points per game this year, but execution and mistake free football is vital, as well as Sean McVay and Jay Gruden not abandoning the ground game and putting each game on Kirks shoulders.