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The Washington Redskins are in a tough bind. They are almost damned if you do, damned if you don't.
Robert Griffin III is scheduled to return as the teams starting quarterback on Sunday in Minnesota, where they will face a physical, fast, aggressive Vikings defense.
As a tip of the cap to Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro's weekly staple on the "Sports Fix," let's play "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" about the Redskins decision to start Griffin, what could possibly happen on Sunday afternoon.
1. The common theory is this - if Robert Griffin III is 100% healthy (the Redskins say he is), he always was the starting quarterback and should be the starting quarterback as soon as he is physically cleared to return. This appears to be what the Redskins are doing. That's also important to him, because of what Jay Gruden has told the media over the last few weeks.
Part of the reason (they were both at fault) why the Griffin-Shanahan marriage ended so badly was because of a lack of trust from Griffin to Shanahan. If Gruden said that as soon as Robert was fully cleared, he was the starter, then I suppose he should be the starter to avoid that issue.
2. Griffin III clearly is the most talented quarterback on the Redskins roster, and has the ungodly arm strength that you need to run the type of big play offense the Redskins have feasted on this year. It's a chunk yardage league. Washington has seven passing plays of 50 yards or more, which is tied for their season total in 2012. They had nine in 2010 with Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman at the helm.
3. Jay Gruden mentioned on Tuesday that some of the receivers were frustrated at halftime of the Cowboys win. That's understandable. Gruden rallied the troops and Colt McCoy was able to hit a few big throws in the 2nd half and overtime and that calmed the masses down. In theory, Griffin's arm strength and ability to make plays on the run as coverage breaks down should be a huge boost. If he's on target.
4. Griffin's presence and threat should be an enormous boost to the running game. Alfred Morris finally looked close to the old Alfred Morris, and some of that was because of McCoy's ability to run. With Griffin, teams have to account and respect the threat, especially if/when the Redskins will show it.
5. If Griffin can stay healthy, and if they win, they go on their bye week and can take a five-day vacation with peace and optimism for the shortened 2nd half. They would be (4-5) with Tampa out of the break at home, before a brutal two-game road stretch. If Washington can make it to that point, another benefit would be that Griffin would be able to shake off some of the rust against a very good defense, on the road, and should be even sharper for the Bucs.
6. Jordan Reed has played three games since his return from a hamstring injury. He's caught 20 passes for 186 yards in that time with several big catches on third down. The Redskins were finally adequate on third down Monday (42.9%) and Robert Griffin III clearly favors Reed on the money down. Watch out for this connection to take a big step.
1. What happens if Griffin III is not "mentally" ready as Jay Gruden has said repeatedly over and over again during this process? That doesn't mean he doesn't know the playbook or he is not able to think. However, fans and many media fail to recognize that so much of being a great quarterback is the mental aspect. Can you be calm in the pocket? Can you advance through your progressions as the pocket breaks down? Can you see and anticipate coverage and throws in tight windows. Can you recognize every blitz that a multiple & aggressive defense like Minnesota will throw at you? How will you handle communication issues and tempo that seems to be a never ending problem for the Redskins offense? All valid questions.
I asked Gruden about this on Thursday. "From a mental standpoint, he's fine. It's just a matter of he's a little bit off here and there with some of his throws," Gruden said.
"He's cleared from the doctors. Now it's a matter of getting him ready as far as what we talked about from a quarterback skill set."
2. What if Robert does not get rid of the ball quicker than he has in the past? It's a problem. A major problem and everybody knows it. Robert has to get rid of the football much quicker than he has (even in Houston) while not missing wide open opportunities
3. Griffin normally is less turnover prone than Kirk Cousins and even Colt McCoy. Normally. He wasn't last year or in the pre-season. To some degree, he wasn't in Houston. If Griffin's ball location is off, it won't take much. Ball placement is a huge key in this offense for more reasons than just avoiding turnovers.
4. How do the Redskins really test him in practice without playing and how does he respond?
"Well we can't worry about the simulation of the hits, that comes from the doctors as far as him being cleared physically," Gruden told reporters. "There's nothing more he can do."
Here's the issue with that: Doctors are evaluating medical health. Not football health.
They can't test his ankle out and replicate Griffin running full speed to a sideline and then awkwardly planting and throwing a football. You know, something similar to the injury he suffered.
1. If Robert Griffin III gets hurt again, win or lose, the situation will be a complete nightmare for a franchise that just isn't good at handling the constant spotlight and pressure that comes along with Griffin.
Many will argue, win or lose, that Griffin should have returned as soon as he was 100% healthy. Many (myself included) think that the Redskins should do something they are not very good at. Showing patience. The organization is as impatient as they come in most elements of their business operations, and this could be a perfect example.
2. What if this decision to start Robert Griffin III was not really made by Jay Gruden?
That doesn't mean after the bye, but this particular game. Many of us suspect this to be the case. Maybe that's not fair, but the organization has a documented history of power plays along the lines of this. Sadly, this question has to be asked about several NFL franchises. The Dallas Cowboys, the Oakland Raiders, the Jets, Dolphins and the Redskins come to mind.
Chris Russell - www.twitter.com/russellmania980 - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com
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The Redskins won a game Monday night in Dallas that they simply were not supposed to win. They took an "us against the world" chip on their shoulder to the mammoth football palace in Arlington and played as complete (but hardly perfect) of a game that I've seen the Redskins play since their division clincher in late December of 2012.
Before I watch the tape, here are some of our weekly staple "three-and-out" thoughts on why the Redskins won, with a focus on the offense and special teams.
1. It was great to finally see the Redskins running attack close to what it used to be.
They struggled early and so did the offense, but as Alfred Morris got oiled up and the offense line created a few holes - things began to finally click. Morris broke a few tackles, there wasn't carnage behind the line of scrimmage on every play and both of the Redskins touchdowns came via the run.
Morris said that his touchdown was set up by the read option keepers that Colt McCoy and the coaching staff had set up earlier in the game, along with the boot action game that they featured throughout.
McCoy's touchdown was a stroke of brilliance from Jay Gruden and Sean McVay on a clear passing down. The Redskins faced a third-and-goal from the Cowboys 7 and motioned to a 2 x 2 set with Roy Helu fanned out wide to the right. the Cowboys were absolutely thinking pass (why wouldn't you) and the McCoy kept it, tucked it and ran to pay dirt thanks to some good second level blocking by Kory Lichtensteiger and even Shawn Lauvao.
2. Special teams were tremendous from the start. Kai Forbath had three touchbacks on five attempts. You would like more, but I can live with that. Coverage against Dwayne Harris was excellent (2-45 on kick off return, 2-18 on punt return) after the debacle that existed in Dallas for the Redskins last year.
Andre Roberts had a 37-yard punt return to set up the Redskins first field goal of the night, with tremendous blocks by newly re-signed Akeem Davis and Everette Brown.
That led to a 44-yard Forbath field goal and a crucial three points. Forbath also nailed the go-ahead and ultimately game-winning field goal in overtime from 40 yards out. Forbath had his final touchback of the night when he needed it the most in overtime.
Davis also had a tremendous collision/tackle on a well timed punt by Tress Way. He was initially ruled to illegally hit Harris, but the flag was correctly picked up by the officials.
Speaking of Way, his 38-yard punt late in the fourth quarter was huge, because it pinned the Cowboys inside their own five and Jim Haslett cranked up some more heat on Tony Romo. That led to a few near turnovers by the Cowboys and the Redskins defense made another huge stand.
Way had a long of 54 and three punts downed inside the 20. That's good enough for me.
3. McCoy managed the offense for the most part in a very efficient manner. He clearly made mistakes, such as the bad interception in the back corner of the end zone after the Redskins defense created a turnover. He also took a bad delay of game penalty late in regulation, which then led to a sack and killed any chance of Washington winning in the first 60 minutes.
McCoy made some money throws including the 49-yarder that was perfectly dropped in over the shoulder of DeSean Jackson and the money 3rd down scramble and loft/drop into the hands of Jordan Reed for 16 huge yards.
I was also impressed by McCoy's ability to sense pressure and his accuracy is much higher (so far) than Kirk Cousins and even better than Robert Griffin III. McCoy is an ideal fringe starter.
He is more than capable of doing exactly what he has done over the last six quarters plus. That is to say, he's 36 of 42 for 427 yards with one turnover, and two enormous touchdowns plus two game-winning drives.
OUT: Colt McCoy is my starter on Sunday in Minnesota if I am Jay Gruden and it really doesn't matter if Griffin is near 100 percent as Gruden said he was on Tuesday.
What fans and many media do not understand, is that it takes more than a week of limited practices to get ready for a Mike Zimmer defense when you have not played since mid-September.
I'm all for Robert getting an increase in work with the first team, while not hurting McCoy's preparation and my thought would be that the the Vikings is McCoy sink or swim, with Gruden deciding no matter what that Griffin will start the Tampa game right after the bye.
That would be my plan and he needs to stick to whatever plan he has and resist temptation. There will be a lot of noise and ridiculous, never ending questions about Griffin. Don't play games with anybody. Just get better as a football team.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
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The Redskins and the Cowboys. Two teams, one rivalry and a national prime time stage at AT&T Stadium.
We will have extensive and all day coverage of Monday Night Football starting at 2 PM ET live from AT&T Stadium in Arlington on ESPN 980 and then at 4:30 on the Washington Redskins Radio Network.
A lot has been made about the meaning of "Dallas Week" in the media. I personally do not treat the Cowboys any differently than any other NFC East game. It's a ridiculous notion that games or weeks against the Cowboys means more than they do against the Eagles or Giants.
I've been covering the Redskins for almost six years. I've never asked ONE and will never ask ONE single question referring to "Dallas Week." It's useless and means nothing to me.
Do you really think Cowboys fans run around Texas, thinking about "Redskins week?" NO, they don't. Not to mention, they hate the Eagles more than Washington.
With that being said, it is a great rivalry and I don't believe that the rivalry is dead. Not by any means. The only really good memory I have in my nearly six years of covering the team is on that magical Sunday night for the NFC East championship.
I. Some Numbers on the Rivalry:
A. The Cowboys have beaten the Redskins 64 times in their 108 contests against each other. Overall, Dallas is 64-40-2 against the Redskins, but (0-2) in playoff games (both NFC Championship games) and lost that play-in game a year-and-a-half ago.
B. This is the 16th meeting between the Redskins and Cowboys on Monday Night Football which is 2nd most (Oakland vs Denver -17) in the history of the prime time series.
C. Dallas is 23-9 against the Redskins in their last 32 games against each other.
D. The Cowboys are 43-32 on Monday Night Football, but honestly with all of the primetime games, MNF has completely lost the unique value the platform once had.
E. Last year, on a Sunday night NBC game, the Cowboys beat the Redskins 31-16 in a game that was a special teams debacle for Washington. That's something we will address later.
II. How they were built?
The Cowboys have built their starting offense on a college free agent (Tony Romo), a 3rd round pick in DeMarco Murray, a first round pick at receiver in Dez Bryant, along with three other mid-round draft picks (Terrance Williams, Dwayne Harris, Devin Street) and Cole Beasley was a college free agent.
Jason Witten was a third round pick. Gavin Escobar, who is emerging at tight end, was a 2nd round pick in 2013.
The starting offensive line, which has been dominant, goes Tyron Smith (1st round, '11), Ronald Leary (college free agent, 2012), Travis Frederick (1st round, '13), Zack Martin (1st round, '14) and Doug Free (4th round, 2007.)
In essence, they have two major pieces of the puzzle that were college free agents in Romo and Leary. Four first round picks that are studs in Bryant, Smith, Frederick and Martin. Witten and Murray are third round selections and you get the point.
The Redskins gave up a fortune for Robert Griffin III and certainly it helped them win a 2012 division title, but it was too steep of a price to pay when they made the deal (asI said many times) and now the future is at least cloudy.
They knew back then that they were mortgaging their future on Griffin. They also knew that they were going to serve some type of cap penalty before they made the deal official. When they found out, they could have pulled the plug but chose not to do so.
Their receivers are three high priced free agents in DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts, combining for a robust amount of their salary cap. They have utilized the draft very well at running back Alfred Morris (sixth round, '12) and Roy Helu (4th round, '11), while also doing it right at tight end, Jordan Reed (third round '12) and Niles Paul (5th round '11) but also spent a high fourth round pick on Kirk Cousins in 2012 to be insurance for Robert Griffin III.
Their offensive line has one stud in Trent Williams (1st round '10), and four free agents in Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus.
Tom Compton will start his first game on Monday night for Polumbus at right tackle, and he was a 2012 sixth round pick, but Washington has received very little from Compton, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis (released) and so far 2013 third round picks, Spencer Long and Morgan Moses.
They've invested in quantity, but have received almost next to ZERO production from five mid-round draft picks.
Some of that could be on coaching, a lot of it is on the players inability to contribute, but a good deal of that has to be focused on either reaching for players (LeRibeus) or not investing a high enough priority in this particular group.
It leaves you with no flexibility. It leaves with no identity.
What's the Cowboys identity?? Run the ball and mash it down your throat until you sell out against the run and then we'll go up top on you.
What's the Redskins bread-and-butter?? Ummm....well...you know. I, uhhh, it was something but now that is a complete debacle.
This is what happens when you invest and re-invest in a position group that needs five starters to be good and not mediocre or lightning in a bottle type guys. Instead, the Redskins poured a lot of resources into the quarterback position and the wide receiver group and didn't leave enough assets for the most important unit on an offense.
This was on top of the McNabb disaster and three second round picks in 2008 going to three guys that were of very little help to you (Fred Davis, Malcolm Kelly, Devin Thomas).
III. Remember the last time the Redskins were in Dallas? Yikes.
It was a special teams bonanza for the Cowboys and the beginning of the end for not only Keith Burns but Mike Shanahan as well. Dwayne Harris destroyed the Redskins and for that matter the NFL, as he finished in the top-three in both kick and punt returns.
He had a 12.8 yard per punt return average and a 30.6 yard per kickoff return average in 2013.
Against the Redskins, he had a 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return that set up another touchdown. In total, Harris had 222 total return yards.
The Cowboys entire offense had only 213 yards on that night, so Harris out-gained them all.
This year, Harris is averaging 25.9 yards per kick return on 11 opportunities and a long of 30, while he is much more pedestrian than last year on punt returns (12-81, 6.8, 5 fair catches).
Somehow, the Redskins tend to make everybody look special. They are allowing 8.7 per punt return with only two fair catches on 21 punts and 27.7 per kick return (17-471).
Even if you take away the 102-yard kick return for a touchdown in Philadelphia, Washington is still giving up 23.06 per return. Still not good, but better.
So how does Ben Kotwica walk away without an embarrassing performance on Monday night? Kai Forbath has to be even better than he was in Arizona two weeks ago on touchbacks. He had three-out-of-four attempts that afternoon indoors at University of Phoenix Stadium.
In his only other game indoors this year, Forbath was (1-1) on touchbacks in Houston. Forbath is (9-10) in his career on field goal attempts indoors, including a huge one that locked up the Redskins win in Dallas on Thanksgiving in 2012.
I am more concerned with punt return this week, because of the lack of fair catches forced which is usually indicative of out-kicking coverage and poor hang time, which has been knocks against Tress Way and the fact that the punt return unit was not very good against Seattle (10.8 per return/five) and against Arizona (12.3 per return/three).
Do the Redskins try and pooch kicks (I doubt it, because of the indoors thing) or do they try and pin Harris in on the sideline? Much more likely in my eyes.
IV. The notion that the Cowboys defense is good ....
It's not really good, but hey, why let facts get in the way of a good story? Dallas is giving up an average of 6.1 yards-per-play. That's significant for a couple of reasons. It matches what their prolific offense is averaging per play.
The Cowboys are 27th in the NFL in this category, behind the New York Giants, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa, St. Louis.
The Redskins defense is at 5.2 per play, which is 10th best.
The Cowboys defense is giving up 4.9 yards per rushing attempt, so if the Redskins running attack doesn't click this week - I have no idea what to say.
Dallas is on the field for an average of 26:00 per game. It doesn't seem like that should be that big of a deal, but it is huge. It's one extra series at least, maybe even two series that the Cowboys D does not have to be on the field. For comparison sake,because the Redskins offense has been brutal on third down and in the running game this year, Jim Haslett's defense is on the field for an average of 30:24.
If you don't think that counts, I have no idea what to tell you.
Before last week's win against the Titans for Washington and the Cowboys sixth straight,
I did a defensive team unit breakdown that still has merit today. It shows you how much better the Redskins defense is compared to their Dallas counterpart.
The Redskins offense is a notch better than the Cowboys offense at 6.2 yards-per-play so this should be a very interesting matchup and spot for Colt McCoy.
V. Speaking of Colt
It's his first start since 2011, although he has appeared in four games in the last two plus years including last week.
This is by far the most talent he's ever played with. With the Browns in 2011, he played with elite talent like Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty, along with Mohamed Massaquoi and a rookie in Greg Little.
He did have a young Jordan Cameron, who was just a rookie, at tight end and a Gronkowski, but it wasn't Rob, it was a Dan. It was much the same in 2010, which is to say he played with virtually nobody.
I keep seeing some fans say "we knew who he is" but the question is, how do we know who a quarterback is if that quarterback played with nobody but Joe Thomas at left tackle?
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Robert Griffin III participated in some team drills on Wednesday here at Redskins Park and "looked good" according to Head Coach Jay Gruden.
From the limited window of practice time that the media is allowed to see, it appeared to me that Griffin was moving a lot better than he was last Sunday at FedExField when I watched him closely from the Redskins sideline.
Griffin had a few seven step drops and was working on elements of the game that he became known for in 2012. I still haven't seen him make any sharp cuts or stare down a blitz and deliver a strike.
That being said, Griffin is not playing on Monday in Arlington at AT&T Stadium if Jay Gruden is truly making the decision.
From a medical perspective, Griffin is healed enough to run and participate. I don't know anybody that could say medically he is 100% in a pure football context, because he hasn't been asked to do everything he will need to do in a game until today. That's assuming he even did that.
Even then, as it was last year, a practice with no contact and no heat seeking missiles rocketing toward you without a gold jersey on your back can not be replicated. It is especially true if you have to sprint away and make an awkward plant or cut.
Jay Gruden told reporters on Wednesday, "We'll find out from the trainers how he feels right now, then tomorrow morning will be the big thing. Another day's work tomorrow (Thursday), we'll see how it progresses."
So let me get this straight, they won't even know medically how Griffin responds to Wednesday until Thursday morning at the earliest and then people expect him to start on Monday night??
This isn't the right tackle situation where you can split the reps and evaluate as you go along. This is the QUARTERBACK position. Robert Griffin III has not played in a game since September 14th and has not taken a full load of starter reps since September 12th.
How for the love of humanity does ANYBODY think he should start on Monday night? Fans (and gullible media) want to be excited and want to fall in love with this fantasy that Griffin is going to ride in on a white horse and save the day.
It would make for great television and bad football. It's not happening. Unless.....
That's the tricky part. I know for a fact that if the decision is Jay Gruden's, Griffin will not play on Monday night. There's no way. Not a chance. Or like I said on Tuesday, a negative 5.0% chance. Not very good odds.
After the Redskins beat the Titans, I talked to people involved in the process and it was clear what the plan was and that it wasn't going to waver. I tried to make that clear even before Jay Gruden made it clear during the week.
This isn't about Griffin not being good or anything. I know for a fact that he has a long way to go when he's healthy. He has an even longer way to go right now.
You can't play a game on the road with the Redskins offensive line and Griffin's tendency to hold onto to the ball way too long with a few days of partial team reps. Maybe Peyton Manning or Tom Brady could do something like that, but not Griffin. Not at this point.
Here's the bottom line: Robert Griffin III is not capable of playing on Monday night at a high level, even if he thinks he is. Jay Gruden knows it. The entire coaching staff knows it. Players in the locker room know it.
Gruden is doing the prudent thing, and leaving all of his options open - but it struck me as very revealing that he mentioned that if Griffin does not get cleared, "we will wait another week or two or three after the bye week."
In other words, Gruden's not really in a rush. He made this reference more than once. He wants to see if Colt McCoy can do what Kirk Cousins could not do. Operate the offense efficiently without mistakes or negative plays. He believes it is about the system and playmakers making plays. Also about quarterbacks avoiding making plays for the opponent.
The problem is this: What if Bruce Allen or Dan Snyder think he is? What if the final decision is not Jay Gruden's to make? I'd like to believe it is, but I can't rule out that possibility and as a matter of fact, I give it a decent level of credibility that can not be discounted or dismissed.
I would like to think that Allen would not undermine his hand picked head coach this quickly, but it is beyond clear based on sources within the organization that Dan Snyder very much wants Griffin to play (not specifically on Monday) and is still completely of the belief that he can be a franchise, elite quarterback.
He might be one day, but that day is not right now.
Snyder is growing extremely frustrated by the constant failures of his team, team sources say, despite what he believes is his removal from the football operations. That's a dangerous mix.
I don't blame Snyder for being impatient. He has a lot of resources and investment tied up in the franchise, and that's just the on-field portion. I would be beyond impatient.
With the national stage that Monday Night Football provides, this has the smell of another Monday night disaster four years ago when the Redskins rewarded Donovan McNabb with a contract extension that was basically worth the paper it was written on.
That was against the wishes of the coaching staff at that point, from what I was told. The original acquisition of Mcnabb was a matter of "well he's better than what we have" but not that much better. The previous head coach knew it wasn't going to work by that point in 2010, and yet the Redskins wanted to make a huge national splash as they took center stage on Monday Night Football.
It didn't work so well, if you remember anything about the "Monday Night Massacre."
That's how this organization far too often operates. What will get the most attention, the most buzz, the most coverage? Who sells the most jerseys and who will excite our beyond loyal fan base?
The problem with that is that it almost never works. Albert Haynesworth anyone?
My fear is that with the national stage that ESPN provides and the irresistible urge to beat Jerry Jones and the Cowboys, to therefore shock the world, is that the powers that be force their will down the throat of a rookie head coach.
I hope they won't. They shouldn't. He deserves better. Robert deserves better. He's not ready yet.
Only somebody that values headlines and buzz over reality would think that it is a good idea to start Griffin in Dallas. Hopefully, that lesson has been taught by now. Hopefully. For everybody's sake.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
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The Redskins finally won a game, 19-17, over a team that they should have beaten handily.
Let's start with this: The Tennessee Titans are awful and they were missing three starters in QB Jake Locker, RB Shonn Green and DE Ropati Pitoitua. That does not mean they don't have ability or effort. They do and that's why they almost stole one in Landover. Remember, this is a Titans team that upset the Chiefs in Kansas City to open the season.
The Redskins will take it. They have no other choice to accept it and now they can hope to build on it with the surging and red hot Dallas Cowboys next up on Monday Night
Football in Dallas.
Here's three issues and themes that deserve some attention the morning after the win, while everybody has some relief for a change.
1. Special Teams: They were finally kind of special!
This is somewhat historic. Kai Forbath hit the game winning field goal as time expired. It was a career day for Forbath who had earlier hit three field goals to get the Redskins in position to win.
All of the distances were short, which was good for Forbath and bad for the Redskins offense (more on that later).
With his 2nd field goal and because he cemented that with two more including the game-winner, Forbath became the Redskins all time career leader in accuracy based on a minimum of 50 attempts.
"I had no idea," Forbath told ESPN 980 after his press conference at FedExField. "It's quite an honor knowing that Mark Moseley was here." Forbath is now (46-52) in his Redskins career, good for an 88.4 % career mark.
"I'm just trying to build on that and help out the team," Forbath told me Sunday. Moseley has the most field goals in Redskins history at 263, but Shaun Suisham was the most accurate kicker in Redskins history (based on a minimum of 50 attempts) until yesterday. (Credit Chuck Sapienza ESPN 980 & Redskins Radio)
Suisham finished at 80.2% during his time with the Redskins. Forbath also has been steadily improving with his kickoffs as well. He had two touchbacks in five attempts yesterday. He was three of four indoors in Arizona and now stands at seven touchbacks and eight returns this season. That's improvement but still a situation that is concerning.
The other special teams play that the Redskins desperately needed was Niles Paul being in perfect position to recover a muffed punt by Dexter McCluster. Washington turned that turnover into a field goal. It's a good thing, because Tress Way's kick was short considering where Washington kicked from and maybe that was part of the thinking to not out-kick your coverage.
There was a bad moment on specials as rookie Trent Murphy was offside on a punt which temporarily extended a Titans drive before Bashaud Breeland came up with an interception. Redskins fans will not remember this (of course) but Brian Orakpo belted Charlie Whitehurst on the throw which helped create the Redskins first generated turnover since September 25th.
2. The Redskins offense is still in quick sand, but....
A. As a team, they generated 100 yards on the ground split between Alfred Morris, Roy Helu and Darrel Young. Colt McCoy also contributed two scrambles for three yards. This was on 26 attempts for a 3.8 average. Better (I suppose) but nowhere near good enough.
B. Kirk Cousins was pulled at halftime after a terrible interception to linebacker Wesley Woodyard on a bad read or under throw of a deeper crossing route. He also could have done a better job of getting rid of the ball on the sack & fumble turnover deep in Redskins territory. Cousins was (10-16) for 139 and did hook up with Niles Paul on the first series of the game for a play action boot and throw up the Redskins sideline, along with a 37 yard sparkling hookup to DeSean Jackson in the 2nd quarter on a 3rd-and-eight situation which has been doom for Washington. Cousins also had two delay-of-game penalties which could have been more communication issues with the headsets or it could have been something else.
C. Colt McCoy took over and immediately hooked up with Pierre Garcon on a seven-yard hitch completion, that Garcon took off after forcing the defender to miss a tackle and ran all the way for a 70-yard touchdown catch and run. McCoy was efficient with a simplified play calling structure and accurate (11/12) but also took some shots down the field to DeSean Jackson on the final drive that were either wiped out by penalty or drew a penalty to set up the game winning field goal.
I loved how McCoy patiently worked the final game winning drive. The Redskins had two timeouts and the two-minute warning and drove from their 20 at 3:14 left on the clock to be in position for the game winning chip shot as time expired. Good situational football is something the Redskins have not been known for in any way, under any coach.
D. In the red zone, the Redskins struggled. They were (0-4). They were (11-17, touchdowns to opportunities) before Sunday with four field goals added to the mix before yesterday.
Now they are (11-21) but at least have scored in 19 of 21 possessions.
They still need to be a lot better on third down. They were (3-11) against the Titans and are now a miserable (26 - 82) on the year. That's a 31.7 % conversion rate. Yeesh.
E. DeSean Jackson is really good and in ways the Redskins have not had. I was out-spoken about his addition ten minutes after he was released and I still believe the Redskins would have been better spreading the wealth around, but I can't and won't deny his impact. He gives Washington a jolt of electricity and his presence should benefit others. At some point.
3. Brian Orakpo will be lost for the year with a torn pec:
Brian Orakpo was never really healthy this year from game one of the season. He's fought off an ankle sprain, two dislocated fingers (one on each hand) and now a torn pec on the opposite side of his body from the two previous tears that required surgery.
Trent Murphy will replace him in the starting lineup with Jackson Jeffcoat getting increased playing time and the Redskins could once again possibly promote Gabe Miller or go back to Everette Brown.
Either way, it is not a good situation short or long-term for the Redskins or Orakpo.
Yes, Orakpo only has a half sack this year but he played his best game of the season in Arizona and belted Charlie Whitehurst just as he released which helped an errant throw on an interception to Bashaud Breeland.
Critics will focus only on the half sack, but Orakpo is/was good against the run and probably is the Redskins best coverage linebacker out of a group that is either raw (Keenan Robinson) or not great.
Orakpo needed to do more to fill up the boxscore because that's all that counts for most observers, but as former Redskins linebackers & current Titans linebackers coach (former UCLA DC) Lou Spanos told me Sunday, Orakpo is still an "elite player."
Redskins fans that have filled my twitter timeline for weeks now should just be completely embarrassed and in self-evaluation mode. The pure and bitter anger that many of you who will go nameless have demonstrated towards Orakpo and Tyler Polumbus (split time with Tom Compton) is simply horrifying.
I am disgusted and stunned to see your words. You know who you are. Orakpo and Polumbus have given everything they could this year and over the last several years. They have both been productive players at different times.
Last year, Polumbus was the 2nd best offensive linemen on the team (watch the tape) and Orakpo coming into this year had averaged ten sacks a season plus stopped the run and has been a great team leader. You never had to worry about him getting arrested or peeing in a cup and having it turn up dirty.
Sorry, this is not an attack on everyone but for the Redskins fans that are in this awful category - YOU are completely wrong. You should be embarrassed.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
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The (1-5) Washington Redskins host the (2-4) Tennessee Titans on Sunday at FedExField on "Alumni Homecoming" weekend.
This event hasn't always been met with the warmest regards and clearly the Redskins are hoping a ceremony to honor former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien and the good times, will bring the crowd to Landover instead of eating their tickets and not drinking beer.
The Redskins are (1-3) on these particular weekends since Bruce Allen took over in an executive capacity. For whatever that is worth. They've lost to Indianapolis, San Francisco and Carolina. Last year, they beat the San Diego Chargers in overtime.
It would be their last win of 2013, and they've only won one other game since then in regular season play.
That game was a shootout. San Diego's offense was led by Ken Whisenhunt, who helped Phillip Rivers revitalize his career and is a former member of the Redskins from 1989-90.
Now Whisenhunt is once again a head coach but there is no Phillip Rivers. It's expected that Charlie Whitehurst will start for Tennessee, but Jake Locker could be worked into the fold.
With that as a back drop, let's go Inside the Numbers.
I. The "money down" woes continue:
We wrote extensively last week about the Jordan Reed factor on third down and a way to help the offense
It really didn't change much, as the Redskins were (2-10) in Arizona. Reed was a big addition to the overall offense and should help loosen up a lot of things if the Redskins
can operate better in all phases. Last week in Glendale, Reed had eight catches for 92 yards.
Reed was targeted on a 3rd & Goal from the Arizona-10 and appeared to run a broken off route. On the same series, Reed caught a pass on a 3rd/10 situation and was initially ruled to have the first down before the play was reversed. Reed did not convert on a 3rd down opportunity in the first half, but he did hook up with Kirk Cousins on a 3rd/6 for 10 yards on the very first series after halftime. Washington failed on their next three official opportunities on 3rd down the rest of the way (a fourth was wiped out due to penalty) and that was that.
The Redskins had only four official third down attempts on eight series during the 2nd half. While they are not very good at it, you would like more attempts.
Part of that is because of turnovers on first and second down, and part of that is because of their hurry-up late touchdown drive that ended with a Pierre Garcon touchdown- they never were in a 3rd down spot.
Either way, Washington has to be better on the money down. They're (23-71) and 32.4 % on the year, with a not so sparkling (2-31) record on 3rd & 7 plus. This is the problem.
They are (21-40) in 3rd down & 1-6 situations. So the problem isn't necessarily 3rd down as much as it is 3rd & 7 or more.
Ready for a number that will tell you everything? The Redskins have had 22 of those 31 opportunities come at a distance of 3rd & 10 or MORE. That's 71 % of their 3rd and long situations at 3rd & 10 or greater. A weird statistical nugget that is somewhat eye opening is that the offense is (5-13) on 3rd & 2 and/or 3rd/3 situations.
II. Why are they in so many third-and-long situations?
Part of it is the lack of a great running game for the Redskins. They're 23rd overall the NFL in rushing yards per game and 20th in rushing yards per play.
John Keim of ESPN & ESPN 980 wrote about the running game woes this week and that is a huge part of the issue.
The offensive line is not able to get a consistent push and at times Jay Gruden and Sean McVay have been married way too much to the passing game, as CSN Washington's Rich Tandler wrote about. Sometimes I can't blame them.
The strange part in all of this is that the Redskins rank first in the NFL in total yards on first down plays (1,245) and first in the NFC (2nd in the NFL) in yards per first-down play (6.84).
You would think this would not be the case. Clearly, DeSean Jackson has contributed some of that. Not as much as I thought. He did have the 81-yard touchdown in Philadelphia on first down, and and 57 yard catch in the Seattle game on first down, but his touchdown catches the last two weeks have both been on 2nd down. Arizona was a 2nd & 20 and his 60 yard touchdown against Seattle was on a 2nd & 6.
Per NFL GSIS, The Redskins have run 79 rushing plays for 334 yards on 1st & 10, an average of 4.23. They rank 13th in the NFL in first down run yardage gained.
On the same situation, Washington has 84 passing plays for 816 yards which is good for a 9.71 per pass play average and a # 1 ranking in the NFL. On 2nd & 10, the Redskins have passed 18 times for 204 yards ( # 3 in NFL) at a clip of 11.33 per pass play.
The larger numbers just do not add up. There is no one glaring trend. The only thing I can think of is when you combine penalties, with a inconsistent running game and defenses that are focused on making you one dimensional, you get in trouble more often than not.
That's the only thing that makes sense.
Our most recent entry gives you some more focus on why the Redskins are (1-5) and the Cowboys are (5-1). Washington travels to Dallas a week from this Monday.
III. Another problem is field position.
The Redskins are dreadful in this area. They've been unable to get much of anything from their kick return game as Andre Roberts has only had seven opportunities for 148 yards, an average of 21.1.
Their punt return game is OK at (11-113,10.3) with 13 fair catches. More fair catches than actual returns is probably a sign of a losing battle.
On kickoff return coverage, the Redskins are brutal. Opponents have 14 returns for 409 yards and even if you take away the Chris Polk 102-yard kick in Philadelphia, it's still (13-307) or a 23.61 average. Right now it's a 29.2 per return average.
Just in kickoff return averages, the Redskins are a minus 8.1 yards compared to what they are giving up. In other words, allowing the opponent to start between the 28 and 35 yard line on virtually every drive is a killer.
Just to put it in perspective, the Redskins basically start every drive recently at their 20 or worse and their opponents start somewhere between their 28 - 33 yard line on average. A huge difference.
ProFootballReference.com says that on the Redskins 76 drives this year on offense, their average start is their own 22.8 yard line. The last three games that number is well south of that.
FootballOutsiders.com has the Redskins average starting field position on offense at the 21.88, which is 31st or 2nd worst in the league. The only team worse is Jacksonville.
Redskins opponents are starting at an average of their 31.21 yard line, which is 29th in the league. Only Chicago, Oakland and Jacksonville are worse.
Now you see why the Redskins are (1-5).
IV. One more for the road....turnovers (and not the good kind)
The Redskins defense has only generated four turnovers. That's not good.
The Redskins offense has committed 13 turnovers, for a minus nine turnover ratio in six games. By any calculation that's bad.
Michael David Smith had this really hard to digest number on Kirk Cousins interception rate of 4.6 % in his career. It is significantly worse than some really bad quarterback company.
Just in case you were wondering, Robert Griffin's is a 1.9% for his career and was a sparkling 1.3% in 2012.
Cousins is 1:1 in his career ratio (18 touchdowns to 18 interceptions) but has three lost fumbles as well
Griffin is more than 2:1 with 36 touchdown passes to 17 interceptions with seven more rushing touchdowns for a total of 43. He does have 25 career fumbles, but has only lost seven of them.
To the defense, New England leads the NFL now with 14 take-aways. They have a net differential of plus 9.
Washington's minus nine turnover differential has them tied for 31st with the New York Jets who hve also played one more game than Washington. In terms of actual take-aways, the Jets have one less at three. Same for Kansas City. New Orleans has only two. Jacksonville has the same amount (4).
Those are some of the worst teams in the league. So are the Redskins.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
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