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In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.

~ Sam Huff                    



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Skins-Eagles Wrap
by Kevin Sheehan
Sep 21, 2014 -- 6:00pm
ESPN 980

The good, bad, and more from the Redskins' 37-34 loss in Philly.

Good:

1.  Kirk Cousins.  Good performance but not great.  Great would've meant finishing the deal.  Down 37-34 at the Eagle 41, a great performance would've ended in either a lead or an attempt at a tying FG.  With that said, it was one of the best statistical days for Skins' QB in franchise history.  He went 30-48 for 427 yards with 3 TD's, one pick.  He was near-perfect in the first half leading the team to four scores on four drives.  He was inaccurate at times in the 2nd half and some of that seemed to be a result of ironically, being too quick with throws.  Seemed like he could've extended a few plays longer than he did.  I'd like to see him run occasionally.  The upside of getting rid of it is that he didn't get sacked on 48 throws but it just seemed like there were more chances in the 2nd half.  He also looked jumpy on a few throws....specifically the 3rd and 3 on their first drive of the 3rd qtr on a throw to Jackson.  It looked like he had other places to go.  In his defense, he had some balls dropped too.  Grant, Paul and Roberts had opportunties but couldn't bring in catches on throws that weren't perfect but catchable.  Also thought as the game went on that Philly started to jump some routes and another deep shot or two on double moves or stop-and-gos would've worked.

2.  Pass protection.  Part of pass protection was Cousins getting the ball out early but he was never really hit except once in the first half and that one was late.  That play specifically nearly got Morris hurt.  The O-line and backs did a pretty decent job.

3.  Pierre Garcon.  An outstanding overall performance from Garcon.  11 catches for 138 yards and several of them were spectacular.  The catch early in the 4th quarter on the sideline when he took a huge hit was big-time.  He had the catch on a throw behind him on the first play of the day.  He also had a huge Morris fumble recovery that kept a touchdown drive alive in the 1st quarter.

4.  2nd-half defense.   Philly is really good so to force 2 FGs and 3 punts on the Eagles' first 5 drives of the 2nd half was a major improvment from the first half.  On the Eagles' 6th drive the Skins nearly had them off the field but Keenan Robinson was called for a very questionable pass interference penalty which ultimately led to a go-ahead touchdown pass to Maclin.  If you had told me that the defense would hold LeSean McCoy to 22 yds on 20 carries and one catch for zero yards I would've said the Skins won the game.  The only big criticism of the defense in the 2nd half was their inability to get to Foles against an O-line in tatters.  They hit Foles several times but they couldn't get to him.  The defense gave the team a chance to win in the 2nd half.

Bad:

1.  1st-half defense.  On it's heels against one of the best schemes in the NFL.  They made the proper choice throughout the entire game to make Foles beat them and he did.  Foles' performance was spectacular but it was made too easy for him in the first half.  Pressure wasn't there and receivers were open.  Haz played a ton of people in the first half to try and keep things fresh but it didn't work.  Philly didn't touch the ball until 1:36pm but when they did, they were unstoppable.  3 touchdowns on 4 drives and the only possession that didn't end in touchdown was the drive that ended with the Sproles fumble after an 18-yard gain. 

2.  Special Teams.  Too many back-breaking plays.  A 102-yd kickoff return and a missed 33-yd field goal is hard to overcome on the road against a good team.  They also gave up a 35 yard kickoff return, an 18 yard punt return, and committed an offsides penalty (Merriweather) on a kickoff.  I thought Andre Roberts did a nice job especially fielding a short punt early in the 4th quarter that saved a ton of yards. 

3.  Penalties.  For the 2nd straight week, too many penalties.  Some were questionable but 10 for 131 yards is a bad day.

4.  Penalty on Baker.  Ridiculous.  If the QB can't be hit on an INT or fumble return then he shouldn't be an eligible tackler.  That block was legal and it happened as Foles moved towards Breeland as a potential tackler.  The play wasn't over and Foles was an active player on the play.  A rule to make the QB a "dead" player on a change of possession should be implemented if they're not going to let that QB be blocked. 

5.  Injuries.  This one loss felt like 3.  The injuries to Hall, Hatcher, and others combined with a short week makes it a devastating missed opportunity.  Bottom line, at 1-2, the Giant game is a must if they intend on being a legit competitive team this year.

More:

1.  The complaints about Gruden using his first timeout before the 4th down with under 2 minutes left versus saving it for his defense is nit-picking.  The right play-call in that spot is equally important especially given the field position.  From your own 20, you know you're going to punt so don't use the timeout.  At the opponent's 41, you're going for it so make sure you don't rush a bad play in order to keep a 3rd timeout.  Would've been interesting if Gruden had decided to punt....maybe after a move to try and draw Philly offsides for 5 yards (and FG range).  Wouldn't have been popular but they would've had all 3 timeouts and could've put Philly in a hole.  That's true 2nd guessing and I think going for it was the right move.

2.  I don't like taking a knee at the end of a half from your own 41.  Why not throw it to into the end zone?  Nothing to lose.

3.  Baker had a huge opportunity to pick off a pass on a Kerrigan pressure at 27-27.

4.  D. Jackson should've been hit with a 15-yarder on the first drive of the game.  Ref caught the reaction, not the instigator although truth is, Jenkins went after Jackson't shoulder on the ground which is what made Jackson react.  I also thought that Amerson should've been penalized during the brawl for a punch.

5.  Morris fumbled again.

6.  Jackson and Garcon made some great sideline catches while taking big hits.

7.  Maclin's early bubble screen for big yardage would've been played better by Kerrigan than the way Orakpo played it.  Kerrigan sniffs those plays out and would've altered the throw.  Maybe that's why Philly went to the other side on that play.

8.  Skins had another bad challenge on the Cooper catch.  Have they won a challenge yet?

9.  Foles was great.

10. Morris had one of the best 7-yard runs ever on the last play of the 3rd qtr.  That should've been no gain or minus 1.

11.  The reversal on the Maclin catch in the 4th was the right call.  The knee was down before the elbow hit out of bounds.

12.  The holding penalty on Philly on their last punt was the difference of roughly 40 yards of field position.  Skins had a perfect set up for a go-ahead score late and couldn't get it done.



Skins-Eagles Preview & Pick
by
Sep 20, 2014 -- 9:59am

The Redskins will beat the Eagles if...

1.  the defense stops the run.  Can't let McCoy and Sproles have room to run on read options, sweeps, etc.  Make Foles beat them with his arms or legs.  This is one of those games where we'll all know early if the Skins have a legit chance based on how they defend Philly early in the game.  If Philly is able to run the ball, move the ball, keep the ball, and finish with points it'll be a long day.  A few 3, 4, or 5 and out series to start and the Skins are in it.

2.  the offense gets some short-field chances.  Kirk Cousins' first start on the road against the division favorite won't be easy but a few short-field opportunties would really give him and the offense a chance to score early and gain confidence.  The Skins' defense is much improved as are their special teams.  A big Roberts punt return and/or an interception where the offense starts a drive or two in Philly territory would be huge.  Great starting field position for the offense gives them a chance to score 21+ which will be the minimum necessary to be in the game.

3.  no more than one turnover.  Last week, the only winning team in the entire league to throw an interception was Philadelphia.  Turnovers on the road equal losses.  No more than one in this game will be a problem.  Give Philly more chances with the ball and they'll end the game with 75+ plays and the opposing defense will be exhausted. 

Prediction:

Philly is on a short-week after the Monday night win in Indy and the Redskins have some confidence for the first time in nearly two years.

Redskins 28-20.



Smell Test #4
by
Sep 20, 2014 -- 9:43am

WHAT'S THE FRIDAY FOOTBALL SMELL TEST?

It's a contrarian handicapping philosophy. I look for the games where the public is convinced they are right about a point spread and I go the other way. Have fun and as always, this is for entertainment purposes only.
 
PREVIOUS YEARS
 
2006-- 60.4%
2007-- 56.6%
2008-- 63.1%
2009-- 57.5%
2010-- 48.8%
2011-- 48.7%
2012-- 54.1%
2013-- 47.4%
 
THIS YEAR
Last Week: 7-2-1
Overall:  11-6-1
 
SMELL TEST PICKS FOR WEEKEND OF 9-18-14
 
Thursday, September 18
 
Bucs +7
 
Saturday, September 20
 
Utah +4
 
Sunday, September 21
 
Bills -2.5
Jaguars +7
Seahawks -5
 
Monday, September 22
 
Jets -2.5


Media Beheading of NFL Out of Touch
by
Sep 19, 2014 -- 11:24am

One CNN anchor turned to the other last night and said, "how does Roger Goodell still have a job?" 

The answer from the other, “the NFL is in big trouble.”

The NFL is in big trouble?  According to whom?  Not the consumer.  An NBC/Marist Poll out last night indicates that an overwhelming 90% of Americans polled say their viewing habits of the NFL won’t change at all because of the recent events involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and others. 

The same poll indicated that despite the one-sided public media lynching of Roger Goodell, more Americans think he should keep his job than be fired.  Forty-three percent of the respondents said Goodell should remain commissioner while just 29% said he shouldn’t.

Sadly for the media mob intent on firing everybody, most consumers don’t agree and most businesses don't operate that way.  While it may seem obvious to some that a head or two must role when a mistake is made, that view usually comes from the perspective of inexperience.  

What many outraged media executioners don't understand because in most cases they've never been asked to manage anybody but themselves is that firing a loyal earner for a mistake or two no matter how big is an option of last resort, not first.    

By most accounts, Roger Goodell is an earner.  NFL revenue keeps increasing, franchise values keep going higher, and the new CBA with the players was a negotiating success for the league.  The notion that a monkey could do Goodell's job because after all, the NFL prints money without even trying, might be true.  It also might not be true. 

What is true is that most of us don’t have enough information to make any definitive declarations about Goodell or his job.  There are things we see like Spygate, Bountygate, Vick, PacMan, and 18-game wishes but most of what Goodell does is never seen by anyone except for those that employ and work with him.   

We don't have a clue what his day to day responsibilities are and we have limited information on whether or not he handles those responsibilities effectively or not.  His employers know.  We don't.

Joining the blood-thirsty media mob at Goodell’s door is the media and cause celeb battle cry right now.  It's the typical response from those who are rarely asked in their own lives to solve a problem.  Asking for a beheading in the midst of a crisis may seem provocative to an MSNBC show host but at its core, it’s whiny.  The demand for answers and the assignment of blame can wait for a few NFL stabs at a solution. 

When Hurricane Katrina crushed New Orleans it was repulsive to watch media anchors and pundits pleading with officials for names to blame while those same officials were dropping water and food to stranded families on rooftops.  There's plenty of time for blame and perhaps a Goodell execution, especially if he lied about seeing the elevator video.  For now however, let a league that has some pretty sharp people take the first shot at fixing the problem. 

While the media blamers have spent most of their time begging for scalps, the NFL actually has been doing some work.  It’s barely been noticed but shouldn’t Goodell and the league get some credit for the implementation of a new domestic violence policy?   

We all know that Goodell messed up by giving Ray Rice two games initially because he acknowledged the mistake and took personal responsibility saying in a letter to all NFL owners, "I didn't get it right. Simply put, we have to do better."

But since that mess-up, he and the league have done more than they're getting credit for.  The most severe penalties for domestic violence in any sport now exist in the NFL. 

That new policy rolled out in late August includes an automatic 6-game suspension for a first-time offense with a longer suspension if the facts indicate violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or violence against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child.  For a second offense, it’s banishment from the NFL. 

Goodell also ordered an independent investigation which will be led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller III.  Of course the media mob will say this is so obviously not independent because Mueller worked for a law firm with ties to the NFL but Mueller's reputation for independence is impeccable.  

Mueller is a former United States attorney, a senior U.S. Justice Department official, and one of the most respected FBI directors in history.  There isn't one person who's been asked about him since his designation to this NFL investigation that doesn't speak about him in terms of having an untouchable level of high integrity.

A new domestic violence policy and an independent investigation of the Rice situation seems to have made no difference to an hysterical media intent on seeing Goodell pay with his job and the league be labeled as some sort of NCAA program that’s lost institutional control.

In a clever sleight of hand trick, the media blamers divert your attention away from the NFL’s substantive responses to the crisis and turn you towards the motives behind the responses.  It's all about why they laid out a plan for more severe penalties rather than the action itself. 

The why in this case is the league only came up with tougher penalties because they were bowing to public criticism and pressure.   That may be true but does it nullify completely the action itself?

See, if the blamers acknowledge that the league actually has been taking substantive action, then the blame game festival stops.  So the move is to question the motives for the action rather than give credit for trying to fix the problem.

Motives can be revealing but actions speak loudest.  Roger Goodell and the NFL haven't been rendered impotent by the media mob screaming for heads on a platter.  It may seem that way but they’ve implemented tougher penalties for domestic violence and will likely do the same with child abuse. 

Football fans understand something many in the media don’t.  They recognize that the Rice and Peterson cases don’t speak for an entire league. 

Most NFL players are actually decent citizens.  And while fans recognize that some players are young, aggressive, entitled, wealthy, and lack in personal courtesy and common decency, that knowledge isn’t going to change the way they consume the sport. 

The latest NBC/Marist poll reflects that.  Fans want their football diversion regardless of these recent events.  With that said, they’d probably prefer that the league work harder to outlaw some of the recent unacceptable behavior.  Most recognize the difference between the occasional bad boy pot smoker and the girlfriend beater. 

But they don’t believe the portrait painted by a frenzied media the last few weeks that attempts to dupe viewers, listeners, and readers into thinking that the NFL is a league that actually endorses the beating of women and children.  That's too much reach for reasonable.

The NFL did indeed make a mistake by not being tougher in these cases before.  The initial 2-game suspension of Ray Rice was far too light.  Learning from those mistakes and acting on them can become good measure regardless of the motive.



Skins-Jags Recap
by Kevin Sheehan
Sep 14, 2014 -- 5:28pm
RG3

The good, bad, and more from the Redskins 41-10 win over Jacksonville.

Good:

1.  Defense.  One of the best days defensively I can remember.  Of course it's Jacksonville and you can't get overly euphoric but it was a near-perfect performance if not for a couple of dumb penalties and what appeared to be another bad play by Rambo.  36 of Jacksonville's 48 offensive plays were 3 yards or less.  The Skins held Jacksonville to 8 first downs, 148 total yards, 3 of 13 on 3rd down (2 of the 3 on penalties), and sacked Chad Henne 10 times. The run-defense was dominant....the pass rush relentless.  I'm not going to go nuts but it's so obvious how much faster, overall athletic, and better the defense is this year.  It all starts up front and the addition of Hatcher, the increased presence of Baker, and the improvment of Jenkins is making everyone else on the defense better.

2.  Jason Hatcher/Chris Baker/Jarvis Jenkins.  The Skins haven't had this much interior athleticism and muscle in years.  Hatcher was unblockable, Baker nearly the same and Jenkins' season is off to a good start.

3.  Brian Orakpo/Ryan Kerrigan.  If Hatcher plays the way he's played in the first 2 games, Orakpo and Kerrigan are going to have monster seasons.  Kerrigan had 4 sacks....Orakpo had 1 but both were great.  Kerrigan has great feel and is so smart as a rusher and as a weak-side defender against bootlegs.  Orakpo has been outstanding against the run in both games.

4.  Robinson/Riley.  Speed like they haven't had inside in a long time.  Both are dangerous blitzers and Robinson in particular is solid in coverage.

5.  Amerson.  He's impressive in coverage and tackled well.

6.  RG3 before the injury.  If there were ever a snap shot on how much better RG3 can be if he's a run-threat then today was it.  Two read-option runs for 22 yards, a read-option/play-action throw to Niles Paul for 19 yards, and a nice play-making throw to Jackson on a bootleg on the play he got injured.  He appeared poised to have a big day before he got hurt.  The crowd felt the electricity of him running early and making plays as they chanted "RG3, RG3".

7.  Kirk Cousins.  Completed his first 11 en route to 21 first half points.  There's no doubt he's comfortable with all of the things Griffin has been uncomfortable doing.  He knows where to go and usually does it quickly.  He makes checks at the line of scrimmage like the one I think he made that led to an Alfred Morris run for 18 yards.  His accuracy hasn't always been great but it was solid today.  He took a sack late in the half that knocked the Skins out of FG range.  It appears he didn't see the blitz on that play although that could've been a mistake by Trent Williams too. 

I'd like to hear the fool that still thinks it was a bad idea to draft Cousins.  He came of the bench to win 2 games in 2012 that helped the team win the division.  Last year's starts weren't great but they had one healthy receiver and the team was 3 and 10 and counting the hours until the season was over.  He's going to have some inconsistent days which is a given for someone with just 4 NFL starts but he's an NFL starter for sure and perhaps a good one in the right scheme.  This scheme, which is very similar to the Shanahan scheme, is a good one for him.

8.  Rush offense.  Morris had a nice day.  Helu had a great 9-yard run.  Silas Redd was great in mop-up duty.  He's got terrific vision...perfect for the zone run scheme.

9.  Andre Roberts.  Always open, makes every catch, is solid after the catch, and is dangerous as a punt returner.  His 37-yard punt return set up points in the 2nd quarter and was his 2nd big return to set up short-field points in as many weeks.

10.  Niles Paul.  Almost didn't put him on this list because he dropped what may have been an easy 20+ yarder and perhaps a touchdown but he's proving that his move to tight end from a pass receiver stand point was a good move.

11.  Special Teams.  Tress Way kills the ball....49.8 per boot.  Forbath was 2 for 2.  Coverage was near-perfect except for a 40-yard kickoff return.  Trenton Robinson is a special teams star in the making.  He also had a pick when he replaced Rambo in the 2nd half.  He's great on coverage teams.  There were a few penalties on Sp teams including an offside on a kickoff but it's obvious that the end to the salary cap penalty allowed the team to go out and upgrade talent.

Bad:

1.  Penalties.  11 for 98 yards.  It was the only thing that seemed to keep Jacksonville on the field or the Redskins out of the end zone for at least one more score if not two.  A few of them were totally unnecessary.  D-Hall's 15-yarder was totally unnecessary with the runner already stopped and who knows what Trent Williams did to get called for unsportsmanlike conduct but it cost his team a chance at 7.

2.  Injuries.  Griffin and Jackson.  I think it's obvious that Griffin is brittle.  Interesting to see that he had seemed to improve as a slider.

3.  Rambo.  His chances to play are running out.  That was a terrible angle on the touchdown to Lewis.

More:

1.  Jackson's catch early was a catch.  CBS's Mike Carey (the ref who didn't work a Redskin game for his last 7 years as a ref because he's offended by the name) said it should've been overturned.  He called the league an "it stands league".

2.  Trenton Robinson played for Rambo in the 2nd half.

3.  D-Hall seemed to have a rough day.  He got beat on a deep ball to Hurns early that should've been a touchdown and he had a totally unnecessary 15-yard personal foul.

4.  Breeland nearly made the "good list".  He's going to make some plays this year.  He almost had a pick-6.

5.  The Davis 15-yd penalty on the punt return is another example of how football has changed.  Three years ago, that's one of the plays/hits of the weekend.

6.  Gus Bradley's timeout with 3 seconds left in the half gave the Skins an additional play.  It looked like they weren't going to get the play off.



Skins-Jaguars Preview & Pick
by
Sep 14, 2014 -- 1:04am

The Redskins will beat the Jaguars if...

1.  they don't beat themselves.  This is much more obvious after last week but even against Jacksonville, the Skins can't turn it over and give up back-breaking special teams plays and win. 

2.  if the QB is more of a playmaker than he was last week.  Jacksonville's defense is decent so Griffin may need to make a play or two this week.  He was effective in the 2nd half last week as a distributor taking what Houston's defense gave him and throwing for nearly 200 yards over the final 30 minutes.  Few plays however reminded Houston's defense that they were playing "RG3", the 2012 rookie of the year and the best playmaker that season.  A few plays that remind Jacksonville that they're playing "RG3" instead of a statuesque pocket paser would help him and the team.  Houston never feared going after him and Jacksonville won't either unless he gives them a reason to fear him.

3.  the defense makes a play or two.  We were promised an unshackled defensive approach this year now that Shanahan is gone but Orakpo didn't sniff the quarterback in the opener.  He was in coverage more than he was turned loose as a pass rusher in Houston.  Some of that was down/distance but Haz, Orakpo, and company puffed out their chest this offseason and said, wait till this year.  After one game, we're still waiting.  If this is going to be a good year for the defense, they can't let Chad Henne come into Fed Ex and beat them.

Prediction:

Redskins 20-13. 



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