October 25, 2014

Washington Redskins Week 8 Preview: Dallas Cowboys

The Washington Redskins needed a win in the worst way in week 7 against the Tennessee Titans, and they delivered, albeit in unconventional fashion.  The newest star for the team finally imploded and from the ashes, a new one was born.  Quarterback Colt McCoy will start his first NFL game in almost three years on Monday Night Football against the hated foe Dallas Cowboys.  This also marks a return to Texas for McCoy, where he enjoyed a successful collegiate career with the Longhorns.  While it remains to be seen when Robert Griffin III will return, Colt McCoy seems to be the starter moving forward until that time.

The 6-1 Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a unique position heading into November: not much is going wrong for them. Demarco Murray broke the NFL’s record for most consecutive 100 yard rushing games.  Tony Romo looks like he can do no wrong.  The defense, after much speculation about a complete debacle, has played well enough to not allow Romo to make his now infamous late game mistakes while trying to bring his team back from a deficit.

But let’s pump the brakes on “America’s Team” for a second (which, by the way, they no longer are.)  Of the six wins Dallas currently owns, here are the current records of those teams: 2-5, 2-4, 2-4, 3-4, 3-3, 3-4.  This equals up to a combined winning percentage of 66%.  The Cowboys have yet to post a victory against a team that is currently above .500.  While this may or may not indicate the direction their franchise will go for the remainder of the year, it does indicate that this team is not the juggernaut that most pundits anoint them as.

The problem here is, the Washington Redskins may not pose much of a threat either to Dallas.  The Redskins are in roster turmoil, starting a quarterback who hasn’t started a game since 2012.  In addition, their “franchise” player is now shelved for the season while the injuries continue to pile up for this already thin roster.  It’s going to take limited mistakes and a lot of heart for the Redskins to steal a victory on Monday night.

 Keys to the game

Stop beating yourselves

It is going to take close to zero mistakes for this Washington team to pull out a victory against a superiorly talented Cowboys squad.  So far this season, the Redskins have been hampered by mental errors in all three phases of the game.  The offense has committed costly penalties, often leading to huge third down distances, which the Redskins are among the worst in the league converting.  On the defensive side of the ball, wrong reads and often players being out of position have resulted in untimely huge plays for the opposition.  And special teams, while at times have looked to improve, are only marginally better than last year’s debacle.

The Cowboys of the past are no more.  This team appears to be a cohesive unit that limits errors.  If the Redskins want to have a chance on Monday night in the house the Jerry built, they will have to play focused.

Stop Murray

Pretty simple.  Murray has been among the best, if not the best, running back in the NFL this season.  He is as locked in as it gets. If the Redskins want to have any hope of containing Dallas’ dynamic receivers and tight ends, it will start with making them one dimensional.  If Demarco Murray can be contained, possibly to 80 yards or less, the Redskins should still be in the game.

Get to Romo

Tony Romo is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when he is under duress.  Most want to proclaim Romo as a “choker”, which may be true at times, but this isn’t because the pass rush is getting to him.  Time and time again, Romo proves that he can extend plays by keeping his eyes down the field.  He rarely gives up on a play.  Meanwhile, defenders will do just that, and someone ends up being wide open downfield.  It’s maddening.  It’s inexplicable at times.  But he does it.

The key here is to produce actual pass rush that will finish the play.  Defensive end Jason Hatcher, in his return to Dallas, needs to feed off of the adrenaline that he will undoubtedly have playing his former team in AT&T Stadium.  Yes, Brian Orakpo is gone, but rookie OLB Trent Murphy is quietly coming along and Ryan Kerrigan is on pace to accumulating career-high sack totals.  He will need to add to them in this matchup.  Additionally, the Redskins secondary needs to be ready and in position in case Romo is forced into one of those mistakes.  They won’t come often.

Our Predictions 

Joe Ziegengeist

While Redskins fans would like to think (and hope) that these matchups are always close, this one will unfortunately be pretty ugly.  Colt McCoy will struggle mightily here, and fans will be calling for Griffin to start before the bye week.  The defense also struggles as the Redskins will fall to 2-6.  There is good news though!  I think the Redskins get it done against a dreadful Minnesota team.  That’s 3-6 headed into the bye.  Anyone else up for an RG3 return and to party like it’s 2012?   Cowboys 35, Redskins 13

Dave Nichols

The Cowboys might have the best offensive line in football and have their running game firing on all cylinders right now. I think despite his success in the second half against Tennessee, Colt McCoy will have trouble moving the offense on Monday night.  Cowboys 31, Redskins 17

Eric Hobeck

Redskins play well but can’t keep up with Cowboys on either side of the ball.  Cowboys 27, Redskins 17

Joe Miller

This prediction is under the assumption that Colt McCoy is the starting quarterback Monday night. The Cowboys’ offense powered by their record-breaking run game has been excellent this season and almost certainly will put up a good amount of points (they’re 5th in points/game). That’s a serious problem for the Redskins as the Washington offense will most likely look to run the ball and be conservative with a third-string quarterback under center. That style of offense is poorly suited for a ‘shootout’ where they’ll be relied upon to keep up with Dallas’ scoring.  Cowboys 31, Redskins 17

Neil Dalal

The Cowboys are clicking on pretty much every cylinder right now, offensively for sure. I personally do not want RG3 to play as this season is more or less lost and there is no reason to risk a player who NEEDS to be ready for many years to come. Only way the Redskins win this game are in a shootout against a team that lacks a pass rush and if the defense is able to slyly cause a few turnovers. Unfortunately, a lot of things would have to bounce the Redskins way to even stay close.  Cowboys 31, Redskins 17

Washington Redskins DE Jason Hatcher Thursday media availability

From a team press release:

On his emotions about returning to play in Dallas:

“I was there eight years of my career, man. I had a great career there but I am approaching this game like any other game. It is a must win for us. So, I am just concentrating on being the best player I can be to help our defense play the best they can. It’s no extra emotions involved, it is just another game.”

On if he has heard from any former teammates this week:

“No, you know, a lot of those guys, man, I was there so long I saw guys come in as rookies, grow up as men, you know, mature. I mean, of course they’ve reached out to me, excited to see me, those guys over there have got a lot of respect for me. So, it is going to be great to see those guys but at the same time we’ve just got to go in there and get a win.”

On if he could sense a change with the Cowboys as he was leaving:

“Yeah, you could see it. The culture there changed, it took a while with me being an [expletive] sometimes, you know, the culture kind of changed. You could kind of see it happening. But I am excited for those guys. I wish the best for them. They are playing well, it is hard to win six games in this league but you know, we’ve got to go and get our third one.”

On the adjustment from leaving Dallas and coming to Washington:

“It was one of those things that I knew was coming, I prepared for it my last year there. So, I knew it was kind of coming. Just getting here, you know, the guys that’s here, they [were] great accepting me as a teammate, so it was an easy transition for us coming and playing for the Redskins.”

On how hard it is to put emotions aside with a game like this:

“I think you’ve just got to be locked in to what is at stake for this football team and I am. And what’s a stake is another win. So, that is what I am focusing on. I am not going out there trying to be no hero or nothing like that. I am just going to continue to be the player I am. I am not going to go do nothing special, try to be no hero, but I am going to go out there and play the best I can.”

On what impact the Cowboys’ success on third down has for their defense:

“I don’t think about it at all. I am a Redskin at heart, this is my team, this is my organization, I love them to death. But they have been able to do some good things. But the key, the key is 29, DeMarco [Murray]. He is a great back, he has been a great back since he came to the Cowboys. It is one of those things – he couldn’t stay healthy, this year he is staying healthy and he is showing the world who he is. So, we’ve just got to contain him, man, he just do a lot of stuff by himself, that I watch on film so he is a great back.”

On what has to be done to contain Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray:

“You’ve just got to be where you are supposed to be at. If you’re supposed to be in the B-gap, be in the B-gap, because if you are not there he is going to go where you are not. He has awesome vision. He is – if not the best back in the league, you know, he is up there in the top five definitely. So, you’ve just got to be sound in your defense and every snap because if you are not he’ll make you pay.”

On if there is extra excitement to now have the opportunity to sack Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo:

“It is exciting for every quarterback, man. I enjoy rushing the passer, man. That is what I do. I love it so it just happens to be my old teammate. It’s going to be great. So, every quarterback – I don’t like quarterbacks, so every quarterback, all quarterbacks are going to get rushed the same by me.”

On how he feels physically going into this week’s game:

“I feel great. I told Coach last week was the best I’ve felt since my hamstring. But, you know, I don’t make excuses. But I feel great going into this game, just have got to continue to take care of my body and do the right things to get ready for Monday night.”

On if he has had to act a certain way to try to create a culture change similar to the one in Dallas:

“You know what, it is slowly but surely coming in. I am just being the guy that I have always been, the leader that they expect me to be. And some things you’re not going to like that I say, but I am here to be that leader and that voice. So, I’ve just got to continue to do it and I think the football team is going in the right direction.”

On if the response to his leadership in the locker room has been received well:

“Absolutely, absolutely. And a win always makes everything better. So we are coming off a win and it feels great. So I am glad we are coming off a win going into Dallas, which is a tough football team to play and it’s going to be very, very exciting challenge for us.”

On if the loss of linebacker Brian Orakpo will change how teams attack him:

“I get attacked every game. I get attacked every game. So that is something – nothing’s going to change, I get double-teamed every game. So, if they don’t double-team me, they know what it’s going to be. So, every game I get double-teamed, so I am not – they are going to attack me regardless. So, they know what kind of player I am.”

On the process of coming to a new team and taking a leadership role:

“Like I said, those guys accepted me in for who I was coming in on this football team. I jumped in right like I’ve been here my whole career, so it’s been great.”

On if he knows how to get to the visitor’s locker room in Dallas:

“I don’t, never been over there. But I am excited to go see it. I know it’s nice. Jerry [Jones] got it all fixed up for us.”

On how to stop the Cowboys’ offense:

“You know, just 29 [Murray], Dez [Bryant], he is a monster, 83 [Terrence Williams]. They’ve got one of the best skill positions in the league. Just playing sound football. Just go out there and play like we know we can play and we will be OK.”

On how he became so close with defensive end Stephen Bowen:

“Well, when you’re in a hotel room with two beds for the whole training camp, OTAs, you have no other choice of getting close to each other. I didn’t like him at first because he was a snorer. I had Bill Parcells as my coach and he would run us in the ground, I would get like two hours of sleep. So after he kind of got out of my room, we got close then.”

On if he has shared any information about the Cowboys’ offensive linemen with his teammates:

“Yeah, everybody’s got weaknesses. I practiced against three of those guys up front. They are really good players man. So, I know a lot of stuff – a way to beat them. I have been sharing it as much as I can to try to go out here and get this victory.”

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden Thursday media availability

From a team press release:

On the injury report:

“Limited today was Ryan Clark, ankle/shoulder, Robert Griffin [III], ankle, [tackle] Trent Williams, knee… [Chris] Baker was full today… [Tracy] Porter, hamstring [was limited]… Full was Alfred Morris and full was Perry Riley [Jr.].”

On if quarterback Robert Griffin III has received clearance for full contact:

“Robert really hasn’t changed. You know, there’s really not a whole lot to say. He’s just steadily progressing in these drills this week and then we’ll make a decision probably later on. I’m not going to announce whether he’s active or inactive until, what, 7:30 Monday night, probably. The big thing for him is to just get back out on the field, get with the guys, break the huddle, do the team stuff, gradually get back in the flow, call the play in the huddle, make his throws. Today was a rough day because it was so windy, but overall just feeling the pocket converge on him and make the throws under duress. It was good for him today.”

On if he is proceeding as if Colt McCoy is the starting quarterback this week:

“Oh, yeah. Yeah.”

On linebacker Trent Murphy balancing his pass rush ability with avoiding penalties:

“Yeah, that’s the case with a lot of defensive players. They get over-anxious and they work so hard to get to the quarterback and they get there a little late but they feel like it’s necessary to go ahead and hit him anyway. You’ve just got to try to rein them in a little bit and coach them up and [help them] understand that they’ve got to play by the rules. He has a huge penalty Sunday against Tennessee on special teams. He jumped offsides on fourth-and-five, which we had coaches in line ready to yell at him coming off the field. But he plays hard. He plays with great effort, man. He’s going to be a good player for a long time around here. He’s just got to continue to grow and develop and just keep playing. He’s going to be a good player.”

On linebacker Will Compton’s role on defense following the return of Perry Riley, Jr.:

“Yeah, they’re both getting reps at the spot this week. You know, I can see them both playing, to be honest with you. Will does have a role on special teams, obviously. He did a great job in Perry’s absence, but Perry is still working to get full-go. He was full participation today, but as far as full mobility and full movement, he’s still coming along. I think there’s going to be a place for both of them to play, but when Perry does come back at 100 percent, it’s his job.”

On how much of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo’s success can be attributed to the effectiveness of their run game:

“Well, it helps, that’s for sure. It helps take the pressure off a quarterback. That’s the intent here also is to really get our running game going so we can take the pressure off our quarterback, but Tony is a great player regardless. He’s had a great career. He can throw it, he can scramble, he can do just about anything you want a quarterback to do so having a running game to help him along the way will make him all the more effective.”

On if he has decided whether Tom Compton or Tyler Polumbus will start at right tackle:

“Not really – not yet. You know, we’re looking at both of them and obviously Morgan [Moses] is still in the mix also, but we feel good about all three of those guys. I think it’s just a matter of who we decide to go with on Monday, but I would imagine it will be close.”

On if a rotation at right tackle is an option:

“We rotated them last week in the second half, so it is an option, yeah.”

On if guard Josh LeRibeus could earn more reps:

“Well, we feel that Shawn [Lauvao] has done pretty good at left guard. And when LeRibeus played, he did OK when Shawn as out, so we don’t really anticipate moving Shawn out of the starting spot at left guard. We feel good about him. We feel good about [left tackle] Trent [Williams]. Obviously, [center] Kory [Lichtensteiger] has done a good job. [Right guard Chris] Chester has done a good job and then Polumbus has been battling a bit of soreness in his knee. He’s been full-go and all that stuff, but we just thought Tom deserved an opportunity to play and we mixed him in there at right tackle also.”

On Griffin III’s mindset as he returns from injury:

“Yeah, he wants to play. There’s no question. He’s a great competitor. He wants to play, but he also knows he has to go through the process and he understand that. He’s a great competitor, like I said, but he still has to feel… He’s still got to get out there and throw these balls, like I said, in the team drills and to the wide receivers to get himself back in game form. It’s not so much the injury now as it is more about getting himself ready from a mental, physical standpoint playing football.”

On if Griffin III took one-on-one reps with the first team today:

“He got a few, yeah.”

On if there is a timing issue with Griffin III:

“Yeah, a little bit. And plus, Colt needs those reps, too. We’re really tinkering here on thin ice as far as who we’re giving the reps to. Every time we take Colt out of the game getting ready for Monday night, we’re taking away from his progression every time. We have to get Colt the reps right now, but we also have to make sure that we’re bringing Robert along at a good rate so when he’s ready to go, he’s ready to go.”

On covering Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant without cornerback DeAngelo Hall:

“Yeah, we’ll find out. D-Hall has always done a very admirable job against Dez Bryant. Dez is a great receiver, no question about it, so [David] Amerson, [Bashaud] Breeland, they’re going to have to step up and I don’t know if they know what they’re in for yet but we’ve covered some good receivers this year also. But Dez is a lot bigger, stronger, more physical than guys that we’ve faced so far and he’s having a great year and we know that come crunch time, if they need a play, somebody’s got to cover him. Hopefully, Breeland and Amerson will be up to the task.”

On when he wants to see Griffin III back on the field as a starter:

“I don’t know when it’s going to happen yet. I’m not going to say it’s not going to happen for Monday, but ideally I want him back when he’s ready. That’s all – when he’s physically and mentally ready to go. I don’t care about anything else. We’ll get a good feel from him and the trainers and all that stuff and when it’s time, it’ll be time.”

On who the starting quarterback will be against the Cowboys:

“We’ll announce that on Monday night. But Colt’s the starter. We’re preparing for Colt to be the starter, you know what I mean? But we’re trying to get Robert some reps, get him ready, but right now it looks like odds are Colt will be the starter, but we’re trying to work Robert into the lineup and trying to get him reps to get him ready to go because I ultimately – when it’s all said and done – when Robert’s healthy, Robert’s the starter. Do we understand that? Robert’s the starter. Colt is not the starter. Colt could be the starter Monday night, but when Robert is healthy, he’ll be the starter… We just don’t know when that ‘healthy’ will be. Mental healthy, physical healthy, we’ve just got to get him ready.”

On when Griffin III will meet with Head Athletic Trainer Larry Hess to evaluate his progress:

“It happens every day. They go through all the rehab process every day and it’s a matter of going out, when you do more, how you feel… He’s been cleared to do just about everything. It’s just a matter of now that’s he’s doing everything, going back to Larry, continuing his rehab, how’s he feeling? How’s it holding up? All that good stuff.”

On Monday Night Football production meetings with his brother, Jon:

“It’s entertaining. They ought to film it. It’s good, man. It’s always good to see him. We don’t get a chance to see each other very much this time of year, obviously, but it’s always good to see him. He’s a pro at what he does. He’s good. He’ll throw out a couple ideas for me every now and then but, you know, it’s always fun to get together with him.”

On showing a video of the history of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry to the team:

“Well, I just think the history, a lot of guys haven’t been in this organization – myself included. This is my first year. It’s always good to see the history of this rivalry and how important it is to the fans, the ex-players – the alumni and the organization in general. This is a huge game for a lot of people and we’re going to make sure it’s known that this is a big rivalry for the new players and coaches.”

OPINION: The Washington Redskins should let Robert Griffin III play

Let me preface this by saying that I would never propose that anyone play injured. If Robert Griffin III is truly unable to play physically, he obviously should be shelved and allowed more time to heal. But if team doctors clear him and deem that physically he’s capable of playing in an NFL football game and everything that entails, the Washington Redskins absolutely should start Griffin against Dallas Monday night.

The reasons why many believe the third-year quarterback, once touted as the savior of this long downtrodden franchise, shouldn’t play Monday night are many. But each is more farfetched than the last, the hysterical ramblings of a fanbase too traumatized to think clearly. A fanbase so accustomed to heartbreak and disappointment when it comes to their favorite football franchise, that Murphy’s Law might as well be Newton’s Law. Absolute. Certain.

Ultimately it’s out of fear that fans suggest he shouldn’t play. Fear of another injury. Fear of more losing. Fear of starting over. And fear has a way of making people irrational. The three most common and erroneous of the objections to RG3 playing are as follows: [Read more...]

Washington Redskins QB Colt McCoy Wednesday media availability

From a team press release:

On if his time away from starting has made him a different quarterback:

“Am I a different quarterback? I would say I’m older, maybe a little bit stronger. I think I’ve learned from a lot of my past experiences, and I’ve watched a lot of good quarterbacks play. Hopefully by doing that, you naturally gain a little bit of confidence even though you’re standing on the sidelines. I think that would be probably accurate.”

On if his shoulder injury from college affected his tenure in Cleveland and if it is still an issue:

“You don’t ever want to make excuses or bring up injuries from the past. I was well enough to play, but with a nerve injury you really have to stay on top of it. Any quarterback who has had one, it’s been a real issue. Mine was a real issue, but I’d like to say I’m over that now.”

On how special it would be to start in Dallas:

“Yeah, it’s really unbelievable. I can’t even sometimes take my mind there. But, I’m really just trying to approach this as a professional and know that this is our next game, this is our next opponent. It’s a game in our division that we really need to win. This week is really important, and I think it’ll be helpful for me to get some reps. I didn’t have any reps last week, so I’ll get some timing down with the receivers, with the O-line, work on our silent counts – a lot of things that I just hadn’t been able to do. So, it’ll be a huge week in practice for me to get more comfortable with the guys, but obviously this is a huge game for us and our season. We need a good, sharp week.”

On the journey from being a successful college quarterback to a backup in the NFL:

“It’s tough, it’s tough, but I wouldn’t change some of my past experiences. I’ve learned a lot from them – a whole lot. I’ve seen a lot. My path in the NFL so far has been a lot different than other guys, but I’m thankful for the things I’ve learned and the experience I’ve gained. I’ve been in some good places with some good coaches, and like I mentioned after the game, I really feel confident with our coaches here, with our players here with this organization. My teammates have welcomed me in. They kind of surrounded me and helped me last week and hopefully they’ll continue to do the same thing for me this week. If we go down there to Dallas this week – and Jay [Gruden] mentioned after practice that this is a huge game for us, but it’s defense, it’s offense, it’s special teams, it’s everybody, you know? I didn’t go in and win the game last week. Our defense played well. They got some nice stops for us. The guys kind of brought me in and they played well around me, and I just distributed the football. Hopefully, we can do the same thing this week.”

On if the uncertainty about whether or not he is starting is distracting:

“My focus is I’m just going to prepare as the starter. There’s nothing else that I can do. The decision is not up to me. What I can control is what I can control. The reps that I get, the time I spend up here preparing for Dallas… They’re obviously 6-1, a great football team. We’re going to have to bring our best game to Dallas on Monday night. My focus is just to take it day-to-day, not look forward to anything but live in the now and approach it just like I would every other week.”

On if he has received encouragement from quarterbacks Kirk Cousins or Robert Griffin III:

“I feel like we have a pretty solid room. There’s always been good communication since I’ve been here, and I don’t think that will change. I don’t think that will change at all. When Kirk was starting, we were both really supportive of Kirk, and when Robert was starting, Kirk and I were both supportive of Robert. It is a competition every day. I’ve had to approach my job that way ever since I’ve been in the NFL. I don’t think that will change me. The only difference is I’m taking the reps this week and I’m preparing to start.”

On if it is a mental challenge to keep from playing outside of himself with this ‘huge opportunity’:

“Yeah, I guess it could be. Like I said, I am really just focused on right now. We are going over first and second down, their base defense. I am really just trying to get a grasp of what they do, how they play. They have beaten a lot of good teams, a lot of good quarterbacks. So, we obviously know that this is a huge task for us as an offense. I just don’t want to get caught up in this ‘huge opportunity’ thing. I just want to go out there and be who I am – that is who I am every day in here – be confident and play the best football I can play.”

On if he agrees with Head Coach Jay Gruden that it is helpful for the team to know its starting quarterback early in the week:

“Yeah, I would agree with that for sure. I think just for your team, that’s accurate.”

On the last time he started a game in Texas:

“I started my rookie year, we played in Houston. I think that would probably be the last time – when I was in Cleveland, we played in Dallas but I was the backup.”

On how it important it would be for him to start in the state of Texas:

“I was going to get a few tickets before I wasn’t playing and now it has turned into a laundry list. I don’t want it to be too big of a distraction though. I am excited about going back to Dallas. It is going to be a lot of fun.”

On receiving his first snaps with the first team today:

“It felt good, it felt good. I think the biggest thing for me is getting on the same page with guys like DeSean [Jackson], Pierre [Garçon], Andre [Roberts], Jordan Reed – working with Alfred [Morris] and Roy [Helu, Jr.]. Those things, you know, naturally as a quarterback, you know where the guys are supposed to be but throwing to them in the rhythm and the timing of the play is – you can’t replace those reps that you get in practice. That is huge for me, that is huge for my confidence and even though we were pretty efficient in the game Sunday, we’ve still got to keep working, spend some time with each other and I think that will be huge this week.”

On what confidence he can carry into this week after the final drive last week:

“Yeah, that was huge for us. We really, really needed to win that game. We didn’t necessarily want to have to win it at the very end of the game, but for our offense to step on the field and put a drive together and go down and get a field goal to win was huge. I think the team and the coaches and our organization will build off of that. You know, I certainly hope so. As an offense, for us as a unit, you know that was big too, doing that at home, something we really wanted to do was win that game and that was big for us. So hopefully there will be some carryover there for sure.”

On if the locker room feels different for Dallas Week after winning last week:

“Yeah, I think that any place that you play or anywhere you are, you know games in your division are obviously – there is more excitement and more focus. So, yeah, you can definitely feel it in the building for sure. Going down there on Monday night, for us as a team, we just have to do what we do best and that’s focus, control what we can control, practice well, in order to prepare ourselves for the challenge we have on Monday night.”

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden Wednesday media availability

From a team press release:

October 22, 2014

Redskins Park

Head Coach Jay Gruden

On what he saw in quarterback Colt McCoy:

“Well, we know that in college he was one of the most successful quarterbacks to play. He’s a winning quarterback. He got drafted and started some games, some meaningful games and record-wise didn’t have a lot of success, but just watching him play quarterback, we know he has got talent. He was on the streets and we needed a third quarterback for training camp – somebody to come in here and compete. He was the perfect fit. I always liked the way he played – his accuracy, his toughness has always been a strong quality of his. We want to give him some opportunities. He knew coming in that we had Robert [Griffin III] and Kirk [Cousins] and he was going to be the No. 3 guy, and he just wanted an opportunity to come in, learn the system, and if his number was called, he’d be ready.”

On what quarterback Robert Griffin III was able to do in practice today:

“Same stuff. He’s just moving around. He did some team drills today. He looked good. 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, we’ll see how he progresses.”

On Griffin III’s role in practice today:

“He was quarterback. He did a little bit of everything. First-team, second-team, third-team, he did it all. So did Kirk [Cousins], and so did Colt [McCoy]. We just alternated. Today was a bonus day for us. We did some stuff against cards and did some stuff ones against ones. It was a good day’s work. Everyone got a little piece of it.”

On if McCoy is still the starter for Monday night:

“Right now, yeah, he is.”

On if Griffin III showed anything different from last week:

“No, he’s progressing along. It’s just a matter of watching him. It’s not so much watching him run. I think he feels OK running right now. It’s just a matter of how he feels tomorrow. There’s certain movements – rolling out to the right, rolling out to the left and cutting back – we’ve just got to see how he handles that. But, the big thing is getting him back comfortable into the pocket and throwing the ball to the receivers, getting his timing down. There’s a lot of that that has to take place also, so he’s coming along at a good clip like we thought he would. We’ll see where he is tomorrow and the next day.”

On if the likelihood Griffin III plays on Monday increased today:

“No, it’s about the same. We’re still going to measure him. It’s up to the trainers and doctors right now. They’ve got to clear him, No. 1. Like I said, No. 2, he has got to feel good. But it’ll be a process of how he feels tomorrow, how he feels the next day, and how he’s throwing and how he’s playing the position.”

On Griffin III’s accuracy during practice:

“He didn’t have a lot of clips. We weren’t out there very long. In routes versus air with the receivers, he missed a couple, threw a couple good ones, and when he did scout team cards, he threw a couple of good ones, and in the team period he did a nice job. All of the quarterbacks did. So, we’re just going to take it day-by-day.”

On how to judge Griffin III’s performance without live game situations:

“That’s the whole thing. It’s not so much about how his leg feels – it is, but it’s about taking plays with the pass rush coming at him and the live reps that he hasn’t had since Houston or since Jacksonville, which is a long time ago it seems like. So, the big part of it is, ‘How do we progress him along and get him the reps in practice?’ There’s only so many you can have. That’s the biggest issue – that and getting the timing with the receivers and just playing the game.”

On linebacker Keenan Robinson winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week and the brace on his arm today:

“Yeah, I think he just has a little strain. He’s OK. Keenan is one of those players, as a young player, you go through some rough patches, but when you play through it, you can see the progression of these guys. [Bashaud] Breeland had a good game the other day against Tennessee also. So, these young players getting these meaningful reps – the ones that continue to get better and better are the ones that are going to be special-type players and I hope that for Keenan. He had a great game. They’re all banged up a little bit right now. It’s a preventative brace right now. He’ll be fine, but we’re happy that he won the award and deservedly so.”

On what Griffin III must do to be ready to play:

“I think he has got to take the reps, he has got to see the routes, deliver some passes accurately and on time under a little bit of duress in the pocket and move around. You know, when he runs he has got to run both directions full-speed. Obviously we can’t simulate any contact – we can’t tackle him, you know, that’s the one thing. The biggest thing is No. 1, the doctors have got to clear him and then he has got to go through a couple good days of practice of actually running, asserting some energy on that thing and then see how it reacts the next day. Is it going to swell up? Is it going to be sore? And then also still evaluate him from the process of getting back into football shape and football form. So, there is a lot of variances to whether or not we think he will be ready for Monday night. Health-wise, No. 1, then obviously, is he ready physically getting back in the flow with the wide receivers with the timing, the accuracy and all that.”

On if he would rather wait another week for Griffin III:

“That could be the case. We will wait and see. Like I said, we will talk to him tomorrow. I am in no rush today to make any crazy decision but I really want to see how he is feeling tomorrow and then we will get another good day of practice tomorrow and go from there. But if we had to wait for another week or another two weeks or after the bye week, then so be it, but that will not be my call initially.”

On how difficult it is to distribute reps in practice:

“That is the hardest part because if Colt [McCoy] is going to be the starter, he hasn’t had a lot of reps himself, he needs them all. You start to throw another quarterback in the mix and then you would like to get Kirk [Cousins] a couple reps. And, you know, that’s rough because then DeSean [Jackson] has got to run another 20 routes down the field and they get tired and crabby at you. You’ve got to try to get your quarterback ready that you are going to play. And we are going to try to make that decision as fast as possible. I’ve already made the decision it’s going to be Colt. I said that Robert [Griffin III] would be the wild card possibly if he is ready to go and that still hasn’t been decided yet.”

On the go-ahead touchdown by the Tennessee Titans:

“I think they had a play-action fake on there and Ryan [Clark] played the run a little bit too aggressively. And I think out of the corner of his eye he saw our defensive back fall down, so he probably picked him up which left [E.J.] Biggers high and dry in the slot. It was an unfortunate play. It was a good play by them. We had the play earlier in the game a couple times and defended it quite well, but that one they got us, made a good play and Charlie Whitehurst saw it and made a hell of a throw.”

On the hierarchy of making the decision on Griffin III:

“Yeah, Larry [Hess] has got to clear him first, you know, say ‘Hey, he is ready for full contact,’ That’s No. 1. And then, No. 2, Robert’s got to feel in his mind that he is ready to go – I know that he is going to say, ‘I’m ready to go.” He was ready to go four weeks ago probably in his mind. After that, it will be a football decision whether or not we think he is ready to go not getting any reps for the last six weeks or whatever how long it has been. And that’s a long time for a quarterback, you know? It’s one thing to play offensive guard maybe, miss five or six weeks and come right back in, but at quarterback with the cadence, the reads, the progressions, the audibles, the timing with the receivers, that’s a little more difficult, especially for a young guy.”

On if he looks to err on the side of caution with Griffin III:

“I try to take this injury itself into its own entity. This is a different type deal. I am not going to assume the fact that he has been injured before that he is going to get injured again. If the doctors say that he has no risk of that thing getting reinjured – if it’s stable, they feel like he can go through a game and get tackled  and one little turn is not going to do a lot of damage, if they feel like it is stable – then we will go from there. But I am not going to take past injuries into account.”

On if guard Shawn Lauvao having shared a huddle with McCoy in Cleveland is helpful:

“Shawn Lauvao? Shawn Lauvao hasn’t talked in the 12 weeks that I have known him [laughter]. I don’t think that matters. Colt’s got – I think everybody is a great fan of Colt’s and all those linemen, they just listen to the play and say ‘Ready, break’ and they go down their own way, man. They don’t know the difference.”

On if he hopes the decision about the starting quarterback would be made by Friday:

“Yeah, I would think so. I’d like to make the decision tomorrow after practice, really. Just because I want A) the team to know who the quarterback is , B) the quarterback to know who the quarterback is, and C) we need to know who it is for game plan purposes. So, we will battle this thing and try to get a better idea tomorrow after practice where we are going.”

On if the options for Griffin III this week are either being the starter or being inactive:

“Yeah that – probably leaning towards that. He is either the starter or inactive, most likely. If he gets cleared, he is cleared. If he doesn’t get cleared, then he will wait another week or two or three after the bye week.”

On linebacker Trent Murphy and what he saw from him in practice:

“He worked in his normal position. He took Brian’s [Orakpo] spot. Yeah, he is outside linebacker and him and Ryan [Kerrigan] are going to be moving around… Yeah, both sides, they are working both sides. They know both sides, they can play both sides, they can go into strength, they can go away from strength, they can go right and left. So, they do a good job moving them around. They want to make sure we get Ryan an opportunity to match on both sides of the line, same with Trent.”

On if he is comfortable with the progress he has seen from Murphy:

“Yeah, you know he has done a good job. He has come in here, he has played behind those two guys, been a good quality backup. When Brian [Orakpo] has been a little bit dinged up before or when he needs to give Ryan [Kerrigan] a break, he has been a good No. 3 for us. Being a No. 3 and being a No. 1 are a little bit different, so he is going to have really to make sure his stamina is in place and make sure his mental toughness is in place because they are going to come after him.”

On why he is confident McCoy is the guy for this big stage and how Kirk Cousins has reacted to the change:

“Well, Kirk is disappointed, no question about it, but he knows the position. Baseball pitchers if they walk a couple guys they get taken out for a reliever every now and then. Kirk, we weren’t very good on third down and we were turning the ball over too much, so I thought it was important to give somebody else a try and not so much I’m blaming Kirk for the third down failures and the turnovers, but it is more so let’s give Colt a shot because he has done his job and done well in the offseason program and training camp and when his number is called out at practice and he had a great second half. So I just thought more so the fact that Colt deserves an opportunity to start based on the production of our offense on third down and the turnovers.”

Washington Redskins Game 7 Review: McCoy and Forbath lift Redskins to first win in five weeks

“I just told the guys, I looked them in the eyes and said, ‘Hey, I’m going to do my job, you do yours and we’re going to win this game.'” –Third-string QB Colt McCoy

Jay Gruden saw enough of Kirk Cousins’ latest effort and decided it was time for Colt McCoy to take the reins of the Washington Redskins offense.

McCoy relieved Cousins at halftime and threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garcon in his first attempt of the game, and Kai Forbath completed the comeback with a 22-yard field goal as time expired to lift Washington to its second win of the year, beating the Tennessee Titans 19-17 on Sunday at FedEx Field.

Cousins had a bad interception and fumble in the first half, prompting Gruden to make the switch at intermission.

“I just through Colt has earned the right to get an opportunity if Kirk struggled in the first half [and] turned the ball over,” Gruden explained. “That’s the basic reason. Had I not thought Colt would’ve been ready, I would’ve stuck with Kirk, but I just thought Colt was ready to go. I know he felt ready. He’s been chomping at the bit to play, but he’s always been a supportive backup. And this time, when his number was called, he produced.”

Life of a third-string quarterback in the NFL can be tough, but McCoy showed preparedness when called upon. “All I know is my responsibility on this team is to always be ready to play,” McCoy said. “I was just thankful for the opportunity and I just wanted to go out there and play to the best of my ability and lead my team – this team – to a victory and we were able to accomplish that.”

In a first half that shared the entertainment value of grass growing, the Redskins (2-5) turned the ball over on two of their six first half drives — Cousins fumbled with 5:20 to go in the first quarter and was intercepted by Wesley Woodyard with less than three minutes to go in the second.

A half-ending intentional grounding by Cousins sent the Redskins off the field to a mild chorus of boos — jeers that might have been greater in number and volume if those in attendance hadn’t grown so accustomed to that degree of ineptitude.

Two Forbath field goals were the Redskins’ first half tallies, while Kendall Wright’s touchdown catch from Charlie Whitehurst helped provide the Titans’ 10-6 advantage.

The long touchdown from McCoy to Garcon early in the second half sparked life into both the Redskins’ players and fans. Garcon stayed in bounds by only a couple of inches sprinting down the left sideline, gathering a short hook pattern, shaking a defender, then outracing two Titans defensive backs on the way to the end zone.

“That was a great play by Pierre and I would love to get him some more touches,” Gruden said. “He is a good receiver, tough guy after the catch. Just hasn’t happened for some reason. We have to do a better job of game planning and getting him some balls where he can get more involved in the game because he is really good after the catch.”

The play even surprised the man that threw the ball. “Yeah, I didn’t know Pierre [Garçon] was that fast, first of all,” McCoy said. “I told him that in the locker room, too. But Pierre is such a good, easy target to throw it to. He has great body control. I threw a little back shoulder hitch to him and he made the play to put us up, so hats off to him.”

Forbath kicked another field goal early in the fourth quarter to make it 16-10, but Derek Hagan made just his third catch of the season, for a touchdown, with 7:41 to play. Forbath’s game-winning kick came after a 10-play, 76-yard drive — including a key pass interference penalty drawn by wide-out Desean Jackson — that gave Gruden a chance to display his clock management skills, and Tennessee’s attempt to ice Forbath was unsuccessful.

Gruden liked how McCoy directed the two-minute offense to get into field goal range.

“Colt had some freedom to check out and we called something in the huddle for us. Overall, we were trying to get some looks that Colt would understand, plays that we want to get to, being very specific with him and he did a very good job.”

McCoy finished the day 11-for-12 with 128 yards and no interceptions.

Asked if he’d made any decisions about next week’s starter against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night football, Gruden replied, “No, not yet. No, but it’s a good sign the way that Colt finished the game, ran the offense – very smart and very efficient, did some good things.”

Five takeaways from Washington Redskins Game 7 win against the Tennessee Titans

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 19-17 win to the Tennessee Titans:

1. Kirk Cousins struggles to inconceivable levels.

 Kirk Cousins has taken a lot of heat this week leading up the game and many thought he would have a chance at redemption against a weak Tennessee Titans team. After an amazing lofted pass with air underneath to Niles Paul for a big 50 yard gain, things took a turn for the worse. The drive stalled in the red zone and the offense had to settle for a field goal.

On the next drive, Cousins held the ball way to long and the pressure stripped him of the ball giving Tennessee great field position. Again Cousins was able to move the ball down the field and again fall short in the red zone by settling for another field goal. The last straw was after the defense came up with an interception where Cousins returned the favor right back by throwing the ball right at Wesley Woodyard in the middle of the field.

2. Colt McCoy takes over at the half, provides an immediate spark.

The move was needed and somewhat obvious. On McCoy’s first pass attempt to start the second half he hit Pierre Garcon on a seven yard curl route. Garcon did the rest by making the initial defensive back miss and speeding away from the safety for a 70 yard house call.

On the next drive McCoy was again able to march the team down the field on an eight minute drive, but again the drive stalled for the team in the red zone. After a three and out, McCoy came back and orchestrated a nearly flawless game winning drive. He was quick and strong on his decisions against heavy blitzing pressure from the Titans, he took what he was given and moved the team down the field for the eventual game winning field goal.

3. Defense and special teams play better than we are accustomed to, but still make mistakes.

There were mistakes made by the defense and special teams by extending the Titans drives but there was only one major lapse in coverage and not many missed tackles that lead to yards after contact. The one blown coverage can be credited to by E.J. Biggers who let Derek Hagan get behind him and Charlie Whitehurst did make him pay by delivering a strike for a touchdown. On the only other touchdown given up by the defense, they were clearly fatigued. They had forced a punt and gotten an interception but after a penalty by special teams and interception by Cousins, the Titans were able to eventually score on their third try.

As a whole the defensive unit played quite well by making solid tackles and breaking up some passes at the same time; however even though they created some pressure they need to start completing the play with a sack. Special teams played well today by turning a poor Tress Way punt into a recovered muff to set up the Redskins’ player of the game Kai Forbath. Forbath was perfect on four field goal attempts including the game winner, he was also better on kickoffs.

4. Penalties galore.

The Redskins had seven penalties for 50 yards, many of which came at key moments of the game to extend drives for the Titans. Trent Murphy offside on punt to give the Titans a first down. Ryan Kerrigan’s sack negated by illegal contact on Baushad Breeland. Jason Hatcher sack’s negated by illegal contact on Will Compton. Tom Compton illegal hands to the face negates Desean Jackson’s potential second amazing catch of the game.

However, in playing an equal bad franchise in the Titans they did their part by returning the favor in bad penalties. Tennessee racked up 96 penalty yards on 11 infractions. The most key foul was a pass interference call against Jason McCourty who grabbed a hold of Desean Jackson’s arm on a deep ball that set up Kai Forbath’s eventual game winning chip shot.

5. We now turn the page onto Dallas week.

The only major injury going into next Monday is to Brian Orakpo who has a possible torn right pectoral muscle, not the same side as in 2011 and 2012. He will receive a MRI tomorrow to figure out the true injury.

Gruden and the coaching staff will now turn their attention to the ever hot Dallas Cowboys. The defense will have to try and contain Demarco Murray who is having a career year thus far. The quarterback situation seems to shape up as if Griffin looks sharp during practice on Wednesday he could get the start; otherwise McCoy has the edge over Cousins.

DSP’s Washington Redskins Postgame Show: Game 7–Tennessee Titans

Dave Nichols and Andy Holmes of District Sports Page discuss the Washington Redskins 19-17 win over the Tennessee Titans and consider the state of the roster and rest of the schedule.

Check Out Football Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with DSPs Redskins Radio Shows on BlogTalkRadio

Washington Redskins Week 7 Preview: Tennessee Titans

If there’s a week that the Washington Redskins need to and can get back on track, it is week seven against the struggling 2-4 Tennessee Titans.  Both teams have issues for different reasons, and it appears that the Redskins woes are self-inflicted at times, or just due to lack of overall talent.  Tennessee, like Washington, has suffered injuries to the quarterback position and will look to get their season back on track once Jake Locker is fully ready to go.  If trends continue, a Jake Locker return to the lineup can only spell disaster for the Redskins defense.

Washington finds themselves in quite a predicament in 2014.  Their rookie head coach has piloted the team to a 1-5 record.  Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been efficient enough, until he makes that first mistake.  That’s when “good Kirk” quickly becomes “bad Kirk”, and the mistakes start to mount.  For those that are comparing Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, regardless of where you stand on that issue, the numbers do not lie.  Griffin, through 30 career games, has amassed 17 interceptions.  Cousins through 13? 18 picks.

Say what you want to about Griffin’s pocket awareness, decision making in said pocket, and overall off field “antics,” but he takes care of the ball.  He does not fold under the pressure of the game.  Robert Griffin III does not hang his head on the sideline.  He is a project, to be sure, as Griffin has a long way to go to keep himself healthy and on the field and performing like 2012 RG3 on a regular basis.  But the potential is still there.  Cousins, meanwhile, is what he is at this point.  He is an outstanding backup that most teams in the league would be lucky to have, but that is about it.

Cousins will need to secure his first ever win as a starter this weekend against Tennessee if the Redskins have any hope of posting a respectable record in 2014.  Jake Locker will be returning to the lineup, and the Redskins linebackers will have a tall task of containing Tennessee’s solid wide receiver corps and breakout fantasy tight end Delanie Walker.  The positive to all of this, though painful to watch now, is that Washington is getting plenty of experience in for their two young but promising corners, David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland.  Young linebacker Will Compton, in place of the injured Perry Riley, will look to get plenty of experience against the talented Tennessee tight end Walker.  These players are not only intriguing to watch for this game, but for the remainder of the season as well.

Keys to the game

Contain Delanie Walker

Walker has had a solid start to his season, amassing over 400 yards and three touchdowns in the first six weeks.  Inconsistent starting and play at quarterback is the only reason why these numbers aren’t even higher.  The Redskins have struggled mightily against the tight end this year, and some of that is due to the wildly inconsistent coverage skills of linebacker Perry Riley.  Last week, in place of the injured Riley, Will Compton stepped in and impressed in this area.  He will need to do it again against the versatile Walker.

Get the ball to Jackson

My goodness.  That’s all you can say about the deep ball connection between Cousins and wide receiver DeSean Jackson over the past two weeks.  Cousins has gone over the top of defenders to Jackson and zipped the ball on the slant route which Jackson took to the house.  This connection needs to continue.  This is why the Redskins brought him here.  Jackson isn’t the presence in the locker room you need.  He isn’t a great blocker (he’s actually pretty terrible).  Bruce Allen, Jay Gruden, and yes, especially Dan Snyder, brought DeSean Jackson here for this.

ESPN 980 personality and former player Chris Cooley was critical of Jackson this week for his lack of blocking, but how is this shocking to anyone?  The Redskins knew what they were signing up for when they quickly snatched up Jackson after he was inexplicably released from Philadelphia.  The good outweighs the bad.  There’s plenty of both, to be sure, but Jackson is one of the most electrifying players in the NFL.  One can only hope that once Griffin returns, they are still able to utilize him.

More Alfred, and even more Helu

The Redskins need to get going on the ground if they want to have any hope of winning another game.  Weapons like Jackson, Garcon, Reed, and Roberts are rendered useless without an effective running game.  As many have suggested since Gruden arrived, the Redskins will eventually move away from the zone blocking scheme.  It is complicated, and without utilizing plays like the read option, it hurts in the pass protection area because linemen that are required for zone blocking are typically smaller and more athletic, which describes the current state of the Redskins offensive line.

When the zone blocking scheme does go away, Alfred Morris will have to adapt or die.  He has largely relied on the scheme and the threat of his quarterback as a runner.  Helu, on the other hand, seems to fit the mold of running backs that made Gruden as successful offensive coordinator in Cincinnati.  He is quick and elusive; the Redskins would be better served to get Helu more touches on Sunday.  This isn’t a knock on Morris, but most successful NFL teams are employing a two back system these days. It’s imperative that the Redskins strive for the same.

Our Predictions

Joe Ziegengeist

Redskins will finally get a win in this one, but the defense will still have us shaking our heads.  What’s the over/under number of weeks until Haslett gets fired?  Redskins 27, Titans 24

Dave Nichols

I think the Redskins could win this game, but it’s going to be up to Kirk Cousins to take care of the ball. Some of his interceptions have simply been inexcusable and he has to protect the ball better. You’d think that Jay Gruden would utilize the running game to a better extent to allow Cousins to get into better passing situations. The Titans aren’t very good either and they’re on the road, so I’ll very tentatively say… Redskins 20, Titans 17.

Joe Miller

This is a game the Redskins should win. Washington, despite being 1-5, still has the 7th best offense in yards/game and 10th best defense in yards allowed/game whereas 2-4 Tennessee ranks 22nd and 20th respectively in those categories. But can anyone really trust the Redskins and their -9 turnover differential (worst in the league)? If they lose this one, somehow an ugly season would become distinctly uglier.  Redskins 24, Titans 20

Neil Dalal

To put it bluntly, Tennessee has little talent on their roster. They struggle to run the ball with their rookie and struggle to execute in the red zone with a veteran QB with less experience than Kirk Cousins. The defense should be able to hold off a team that barely put up enough points to beat the Jaguars last week and Cousins should be able to orchestrate enough drives without mistakes to bring home the victory.  Redskins 20, Titans 13

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