December 9, 2019

Washington Redskins Game 1 Preview: Miami Dolphins

The Washington Redskins enter their season opener having endured almost a full season’s worth of drama already. The Robert Griffin III-Kirk Cousins-Jay Gruden-front office soap opera was in full gear during training camp, but now it is time to actually play a meaningful game. The Miami Dolphins and Coach Joe Philbin come to FedEx Field to take on the hometown Redskins to kick off the 2015 season.

After 3-13 and 4-12 campaigns, the last couple of seasons have not given the Washington faithful much optimism. However, a new year gives the team a clean slate to work with and a new guy with the keys to the car, Mr. Kirk Cousins. Cousins has been named the official starter, and Robert Griffin III will be relegated to the bench once he returns from a concussion. With the history of this team and its game of musical Quarterbacks, there is no doubt that Kirk knows he must perform in order to keep this job.

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Washington Redskins Week 9 Preview: Minnesota Vikings

The Washington Redskins thrilling win over the Dallas Cowboys — on Monday Night Football, no less — is why we all watch sports, especially the NFL.  It can’t be scripted.  Every media pundit, every blog, even this website and writer, expected a Redskins loss.  It was the perfect storm: Dallas was on a six game winning streak. Washington, though they had won the week before, started journeyman quarterback Colt McCoy on Monday night football in Jerry World.  The odds were stacked against this team, and they responded in a big way.

In Monday night’s overtime victory, Washington showed more guts and heart than we have seen since the last time the Redskins bested the Cowboys in the 2012 NFC East division championship game. In addition to McCoy’s heroics, each phase of the game was able to contribute to the victory.  Andre Roberts set the tone on special teams early with a huge punt return.  Brandon Meriweather, Bashaud Breeland, and Keenan Robinson all showed the league that they were forces to be reckoned with.  Even Perry Riley, who has experienced a rough season so far, was able to contribute in a big way to the team victory.

Now it’s the last game before the bye, and the Redskins are anticipating the return this week of their franchise quarterback.  Quarterback Robert Griffin III has healed from his week 2 ankle injury and has been deemed cleared to play against Minnesota.  As we said back in week 2, it will be important for Griffin to utilize his legs as much as his arm in order to be successful.  In addition, though he got going late last week, running back Alfred Morris stands to benefit from Griffin’s return.  Morris has been much more effective when the defense has had to keep an eye on Griffin as a run threat as well.  If utilized correctly, and if he truly is 100%, Griffin can be a powerful addition to an offense that seems to be finding its stride for the 3-5 Redskins.

Minnesota is also 3-5 and coming off an overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, although it seems that the victory was more about what Tampa Bay didn’t do, rather than what Minnesota did.  Minnesota is still without Adrian Peterson and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has struggled early in his NFL career.  The bright spot for Minnesota is that they have been posting solid defensive numbers, keeping the team in the game when the offense has done so little.  If Minnesota is going to beat the Redskins, they will need to take advantage of possible rust with Robert Griffin III.

Keys to the game

RG3, not Robert Griffin

There was a moment early in the week 2 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that ESPN 980 sideline reporter and Redskins legend Rick “Doc” Walker exclaimed the return of RG3 after a read option quarterback keeper.  It is so true. The “RG3″ moniker paints memories of the dynamic Baylor quarterback we became infatuated with and the dynamic Redskins rookie, who carried a team on his back, that we fell in love with. He must return and immediately return to this style of offense.  He is not yet a pocket passer, so they must utilize his speed to their advantage.

Intensity and heart

These are the attributes the Redskins defense and special teams played with on Monday night in Dallas.  It’s important, because the talent isn’t quite there yet.  Minnesota is dreadful on offense, but if the defense comes out stale, Bridgewater could quickly turn on his career against a marginally talented defense.  If the unit comes out motivated for a win, this one could be over early.

Limit mistakes

Minnesota’s defense has been very opportune this year.  Last week, their overtime victory was the result of a defensive touchdown.  Still, Robert Griffin III takes care of the ball for the most part.

Our Predictions

Joe Ziegengeist

Skins will win this one pretty easily, and we’ll be spending the bye week dreaming of playoff scenarios as the team will be 4-5 with Tampa off the bye.  Redskins 28, Vikings 10

Dave Nichols

I expect RGIII to be a bit rusty, yet show enough of the things we want to see from him to inspire confidence in the future. I just don’t think the Redskins rebound on the short week to go on the road again after the hangover from the big win at Dallas. Vikings 24, Redskins 20

Neil Dalal

The Vikings are a struggling team to say the least. They have a rookie quarterback with few weapons around him and an average defense. The Redskins should win this game as long as they do not have too many penalties and/or turnovers. The key matchup in the game will be Murphy/Kerrigan versus Kalil/Loadholt; if we can win that matchup this should be no-contest. Redskins 27, Vikings 13

Eric Hobeck

With Robert Griffin III back, the offense will be rejuvenated and ready to take on a Viking defense that gives up just over 21 points a game. On offense, Minnesota just doesn’t win when they score less than 20 and the Redskin defense will be able to hold rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater at bay.   Redskins 28, Vikings 13

Joe Miller

This game will come down to how well RG3 plays coming back after missing the last 6+ games. The Vikings defense is pretty good but I imagine it’s been tough for them this week to prepare for a Griffin-led offense, seeing as how he’s played in less than five quarters this season; not a lot of film to go off of. Tough to get a clear picture of what this offense will look like with him at the helm since he obviously brings greater mobility and big play ability to the offense than do Cousins and McCoy. Even with Griffin rusty, I think the offense still puts up points and the defense does fairly well coming off their best performance of the year.  Redskins 27, Vikings 17

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 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

Washington Redskins Week 5 Preview: Seattle Seahawks

It doesn’t get any easier for the 1-3 Washington Redskins this week as the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks make the trip to FedEx Field for Monday Night Football.  This will be the Redskins’ second consecutive primetime game, the first of which was an absolute debacle against the division foe New York Giants.  The Seahawks are coming off of a bye week and find themselves at 2-1 heading into this matchup.

“Debacle” is the only way to describe the last time these two teams met.  The Redskins, after coming off a thrilling seven game winning streak, won the 2012 NFC East division championship in a decisive fashion against the Dallas Cowboys and were hosting their first home playoff game since 1999.  Robert Griffin III, though still feeling the ill-effects from a LCL injury, was flying high and started the game off well against the wild card Seahawks.

Then, disaster struck.  Griffin appeared to re-injure the knee early on in the game, and after the Redskins secured a 14-0 lead, the offense sputtered due to Griffin’s obvious injury aggravation.  Despite this, head coach Mike Shanahan stuck with Griffin until he no longer could.  Griffin would go on to tear his ACL and the Redskins have not recovered since.  While Seattle would ultimately win the Super Bowl the following season, the Redskins have posted a combined 4-16 regular season record since that game.

While the 2014 version of the Seattle Seahawks has lost a game, they do not appear to be showing ill-effects of the infamous “Super Bowl hangover”.  Richard Sherman and the vaunted Seattle defense are still highly physical, Russell Wilson is still making clutch plays at the right time, and Head Coach Pete Carroll seems to never lose the fire to win.  This team is still considered a perennial Super Bowl favorite, and why not?  They have built the team the right way and could quite possibly be better than they were last year.

The Redskins are in turmoil and need a good game and victory against a tough Seattle opponent on Monday night.  Kirk Cousins is coming off a five turnover game and needs to shake it off against the most talented defense in the league.  Our keys to the game will focus on what the Redskins will need to do better in order to secure the upset of the season thus far.  Seattle is favored by seven points and the difference there could come down to the simple things that allow a football team to succeed.

Keys to the game

Limit mistakes 

Penalties and special teams gaffs have plagued Washington so far this season.  In order for the Redskins to secure a victory, the little intricacies that don’t even factor into an overall game plan need to be executed perfectly or this team will continue to struggle.  Mental errors have easily taken what could be a 2-1 or even 3-0 team to 1-3.  For what it’s worth, mistakes can be overcome with sound play.  But that isn’t happening either, and Seattle is a team that will take advantage of mental errors and quickly bury a team.

Have a short memory

Kirk Cousins was clearly rattled in last Thursday’s game against the Giants.  The lasting images of this game will be Kirk with his head hanging down on the sidelines.  This cannot happen again.  The Redskins need a confident Cousins, one who can manage a game and make the throws necessary to move the ball down the field.  He can’t be scared or tentative; Seattle will crush him if he is.  If Cousins wants any chance of starting for Washington or anywhere else, his performance in the next two games is crucial.  It’s the difference between a five or six year multi-million dollar deal or spending his career as a backup.  (and time could be running out.)

Cousins will make mistakes against this defense.  They’re too good and he’s still too green not to.  The key is to shake off the errors and treat each drive as a new opportunity.  Learning from mistakes but also maintaining a forward perception of things is imperative for an NFL Quarterback.  Seattle’s offense is certainly nothing to scoff at, but the performance of the Redskins offense and the utilization of the many weapons it has is the major factor in the outcome of this matchup.

Out-physical the Hawks

Seattle is the most physical team in the NFL, on both sides of the ball.  The Redskins must match this hit for hit and pound for pound.  If Washington comes out on the field as soft as they did Thursday night against New York, it will be a long night.  Percy Harvin will be looking to put up huge numbers in this game so throwing the timing off there is important, though that would mean Haslett would need to bring the corners up closer to the line of scrimmage and that rarely happens.

Our Predictions

Joe Ziegengeist

I expect the Redskins to play better than most think, but will ultimately lose this one.  Seattle has a reputation for being a bad road team, but they will have half the FedEx Field crowd behind them and will win this one in a route.  Seahawks 35, Redskins 13.

Dave Nichols

I don’t envision the Redskins having any easier a time with the best defense in the NFL that they did last week with the Giants. In fact, I expect the Seahawks to have a field day both on offense and defense. The Redskins just seem incapable of getting out of their own way with penalties, making a tough job even more difficult. You just wish the league would stop scheduling the team for national TV games at this point. Seahawks 31, Redskins 10.

Neil Dalal

Cousins completely fell apart when faced with a little adversity against a mediocre defense and the teams problems snowballed. Now they have to face the defending champs. They might be a little healthier and more prepared but I don’t think there is anything that will significantly help this team against an opponent of such a magnitude. The Redskins will be lucky to get out of the first half without the boo birds coming out.  Seahawks 30, Redskins 13.

Eric Hobeck

Seahawks as both teams set new records.  Seahawks 70, Redskins 0.

Joe Miller

Kirk Cousins doesn’t throw as many interceptions this week but the offense still struggles to move the ball against the highly touted Seahawks defense. Coversely, the Redskins defense again struggles to get pressure, as Russell Wilson is able to get the ball out of his hands quickly (like Eli Manning last week) and put up points.  Seahawks 35, Redskins 17.

Joe Mercer

If there was ever a season-saving game, this would be it. After being embarrassed on their home field against division rival New York Giants, the Redskins host the defending champs with hopes of at least putting an end to a mini two-game slide. With backup Kirk Cousins seemingly forgetting how to play quarterback last week, throwing four picks over a span of eight pass attempts, the Redskins are going to need a Monday Night Miracle to keep this week’s match-up remotely competitive.   Seahawks 35, Redskins 17.

Washington Redskins Week 4 Preview: New York Giants

It hasn’t been an easy start to the 2014 Washington Redskins season, although there’s more hope than usually accompanies their current 1-2 record.  Despite debilitating injuries so far, the Redskins offense has managed to impress over the past two weeks while the defense has displayed improvement at times.  The have a short week ahead, however, as the New York Giants will travel to FedEx Field and challenge the Redskins with their second divisional game in four days. Luckily, the Redskins seem to be catching the Giants during a slow start to their season.

The Giants, like Washington, are 1-2 and are in the midst of what could be a transformational year for their franchise.  The Giants no longer boast the dominant defense they were known for just a few short years ago.  Quarterback Eli Manning is coming off a statistically career-worst 2013 campaign and doesn’t look to be changing that trend, thus placing his future with the team in serious question.  Finally, head coach Tom Coughlin, who has two years left on his contract, is thought to be on his shortest leash ever.

There are a few bright spots so far this season for New York.  Last week, the Giants scored a solid 30 points against a strong Houston defense in rout to a win.  Running back Rashad Jennings, now in his sixth NFL season, has been impressive early, amassing 286 yards and averaging 4.2 yards per carry. However, there remains many more questions rather than answers concerning how the Giants will perform in a division where teams may be a lot closer than most predicted during the preseason.

The Washington Redskins are looking to answer some of the numerous questions they are facing on Thursday night.  Is the defense worthy of a top five ranking?  Is Kirk Cousins for real?  What is wrong with the special teams unit?  The matchup against New York may not give us definitive answers, but this is a team that the Redskins, based on the last two weeks, should be able to beat.

Ironically enough, our keys to the game this week vs. New York center around these very questions the Redskins will look to solve.

Keys to the game

Defense: Next man up

The Redskins defense has been decimated by injury in just three short weeks.  When they lineup against the Giants Thursday night, they will already be starting rookie and sophomore corners due to DeAngelo Hall landing on season ending injured reserve.  To add even more insult to injury, many defensive starters and solid depth contributors were limited in practice this week.  The secondary seems exposed, the front seven is banged up, and the unit looked fairly unimpressive at times during the Philadelphia game.

There is hope for this week, however.  The Eagles are a top ten, if not top five offense in the league this year and the defense was still able to hold them just enough to give the Redskins offense a chance to win the game.  This week, they face a much less talented, albeit still dangerous, offensive unit comprised of INT-happy Eli Manning, elusive Victor Cruz, and bruiser Rashad Jennings.  The key to beating this offense is simple, as it is most weeks: force Manning into mistakes.

Over the span of his career, Eli has held his own in the pocket, escaping impossible pass rush situations to find an open receiver downfield.  This cannot happen tonight.  Jason Hatcher, Chris Baker, and the two outside linebackers must get to Manning early and often.  The secondary is in transition and may have a tough time maintaining solid coverage on his receivers throughout the game.  An effective pass rush is the main ingredient to success.

Kirk Cousins: Glory awaits

Despite earlier comments, and even after reaffirming those comments, this is Kirk Cousins’ team until further notice.  The last two games have been nothing short of outstanding for the third year quarterback, but now he must take his game to a new level.  As Robert Griffin III did so many times in his electrifying rookie campaign, the next step for Cousins is to put the team on his back and win the game.  The win was there for the taking late in the fourth quarter last week and Cousins couldn’t capitalize.  It seems as though he starts games strong and steadily declines as time ticks down.  He needs to find a way to re-focus, re-energize, and re-capitalize on just how important he is to the success of this team.

Kirk Cousins will post another outstanding performance against the Giants.  He is a perfect fit for what Jay Gruden wants to install in his weekly offensive game plan.  The key will be ensuring that Kirk’s plethora of talented targets are on the same page.  That, along with a healthy dose of Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr., should be enough to get the Redskins in position to win the game.

We want Danny Smith

Ok, so maybe Redskins fans shouldn’t jump ship on special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica just yet.  We are three weeks into the season after all.  But, and this is putting it lightly, the special teams performance through the intial games of the season have been an unmitigated disaster.  Blocked field goals, missed field goals, returns for touchdowns.  We’ve seen almost every special teams blunder possible and it has been three weeks.  What is wrong with this unit?

The burgundy and gold faithful should take a deep breath and exhale here.  Kotwica has already made a change that is drastically improving the unit already, and that’s putting lefty punter Tress Way on kickoff duties.  Way, in his short time, has proven that he can put the ball in the endzone on kickoffs more consistently than place kicker Kai Forbath.  This is only a start, of course, but you have to begin somewhere and preventing a return altogether is certainly an improvement.

Redskins fans are eager for signs of life from Special Teams tonight.

OUR PREDICTIONS

Dave Nichols

Kirk Cousins follows up his mostly stellar performance against the Eagles with another good outing at home against the Giants. Alfred Morris plays a bigger role as well. The defense will still look bad but the Giants make too many mistakes on offense. Redskins 24 Giants 21

Joe Ziegengeist

Kirk Cousins shines, special teams gets back on track, but the banged up defense falters.  Skins win a close one here.  Redskins 31 Giants 27

Neil Dalal

Kirk Cousins has shown potential to execute Jay Gruden’s offense and hopefully with another week of practice he will have more chemistry with his receivers. Although we are struggling with many injuries hopefully since the Giants have to travel here on a short week hopefully they will have a slight advantage. Hopefully the front seven can continue to stop the run against a hot Rashad Jennings and the depleted secondary can find a way to shut down Victor Cruz, a historic Redskins killer. Unfortunately I do not think our defense is up to the task without Deangelo Hall, but Cousins will give the team an opportunity to win late.  Redskins 30 Giants 27

Joe Miller

The offense under Kirk Cousins isn’t quite as explosive this week as it was against the Eagles, but Alfred Morris has a bigger impact. The defense continues to shut down the run well and are able to take advantage of turnover-prone Eli Manning with a couple interceptions.  Redskins 24 Giants 16

Justin Byram

The Redskins come out Hungry for their first divisional win since 2012, and dominate the Giants. The Redskins front seven puts pressure on Manning forcing two costly turnovers, while Cousins and the offense do their job and the Redskins cruise to a victory at home.  Redskins 28 Giants 17

Eric Hobeck

A fourth-quarter touchdown drive by Cousins gives Washington a big win ahead of the long week before the Seattle game.  Redskins 28 Giants 24

 

 

Washington Redskins Week 2 Preview: Jacksonville Jaguars

The Washington Redskins will look to improve up on their 0-1 start to the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at FedEx Field, 1 pm.  While the Redskins are looking to bounce back from a game where they showed very little, the Jaguars are hoping to build upon a performance where they found themselves up 17-o at halftime to the Philadelphia Eagles.  Things deteriorated quickly for Jacksonville, however, and they surrendered 24 second half points to fall to Philadelphia.

These are not the Jacksonville Jaguars of old.  Over the past decade, the team has been marred by underperforming talent, low attendance and TV ratings, and threats of moving the team to either London or Los Angeles, albeit outside threats.  Owner Shahid Khan has consistently shown renewed commitment to the Jacksonville area and the loyal fan base, and it may start to pay off in the coming year. [Read more…]

Washington Redskins Week 1 Preview: Houston Texans

It’s finally here, ladies and gentleman.  Week one of the regular season is mercifully upon us and the Washington Redskins are ready to unleash the defense, explode on offense, and take on the Houston Texans this Sunday at 1 pm.  It’s a battle of two beleaguered NFL franchises that finished next to last and dead last, respectively. The proverbial “toilet bowl”, if you will.

Well, not really.

Both teams made significant improvements to their roster and coaching staff this past offseason and do not figure to be the “easy W’s” they were just a short ten months ago.  We all know about the Redskins roster improvements: the splash additions of DeSean Jackson, Andre Roberts, and Jason Hatcher; the conservative but conscious special teams-improving signings of such names as Adam Hayward and Akeem Jordan.

What have the Houston Texans done to improve upon their last place finish? Quite a few things, actually.

With three weeks remaining in the season, Houston fired their eight-year head coach Gary Kubiak after a dismal 2-11 start to their season.  While defensive coordinator Wade Phillips took over the head coaching duties for the remainder of the season, it was clear that the Texans would be looking elsewhere to cement their top position for the foreseeable years ahead.

It didn’t take long for Houston to find their man as Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien was introduced on Jan. 2.  O’Brien was a coordinator under Bill Belichick in New England, and after taking the job at Penn State in 2012, found himself in a whirlwind of controversy following the Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno allegations.

The college was sanctioned with a four-year postseason ban and lost 40 scholarships over the same period.  O’Brien stood by the program and committed to rebuilding it, which he did and left the program in a much better place only two years removed from the biggest scandal in college football history.

It also didn’t hurt the Texans’ chances of luring O’Brien knowing they had the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.  Without hesitation, Houston selected Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end from South Carolina.  Clowney brings a combination at a pass rush of size and speed that is rare in the NFL.  The Texans moved him to the 3-4 outside linebacker spot, but will look to have Clowney rushing the passer on almost every down along with J.J. Watt, the NFL’s now most highly paid defensive player ever.

On the other side of the ball, Houston will be starting the season with veteran Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been mostly mediocre throughout his career.  They aren’t without weapons though. Wide receiver Andre Johnson and a finally healthy Arian Foster at running back will still give defenses fits throughout the season.  Houston traded for New England backup Ryan Mallett late last week, but the earliest he figures to be ready to go would be week four, perhaps earlier if Fitzpatrick completely falls on his face.

Now, let’s discuss the factors that need to fall in place in order for the Redskins to secure a win and start the season 1-0:

Keys to the game

2012 RGIII, please

In week one of his rookie season, Robert Griffin III produced “shock and awe” as Redskins fans, and the entire league, witnessed a dynamic player playing in an innovative offense they had never seen in the league before.  Griffin went on to have an historic 2012 rookie campaign, before injuring his knee and suffering from controversies ever since.  The narrative this offseason has been “mold this guy into a pocket passer, and do it now.”  But he just isn’t right now.

Griffin needs to be presented as a run threat in order for the Redskins to move the ball against Houston.  Employing the read-option 10-12 percent of the time will open up throwing lanes for Griffin to get the ball out quickly to his receivers.  It will also open up huge holes for Alfred Morris like it did in 2012, you know, when the offensive line looked like The Hogs again.

If Gruden wants to continue to try and fit a square peg in a round hole with Griffin, it will be a long game and season. Of course, there are other issues that could prevent him from employing this type of offense. But expect Gruden to roll out an offense that was not even hinted at in the first three preseason games. “Operation Possum” indeed.

Stuff the Run

Make Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Houston offense one-dimensional.  If the Redskins can contain Arian Foster early, they will force the Texans throw the ball often, and that is when Washington’s improved pass rush can force Fitzpatrick into mistakes.  The secondary, though facing many question marks still, is a play-making one and will make plays on the ball if underthrown or forced into coverage.  It’s about making the quarterback uncomfortable, but it will not happen if Houston can establish a solid running game.  Look for the Redskins defense to stack the box early as they will look to eliminate this threat.

Oh yeah, and then there’s THOSE guys

We discussed them earlier, but they’re worth mentioning again.  The Redskins offensive line will have their hands full with Clowney and Watt, no matter what the offense looks like on Sunday.  Just like with Arian Foster and the Texans, Alfred Morris and the Redskins need to establish a solid ground game first and foremost. If you get the new RGIII pocket passer into too many third-and-longs, Jadeveon and JJ are going to have a field day and it will not be a pretty sight on the Washington sideline.  Let Morris do what he does, and that’s pound through the defensive line and shed tackles.

OUR PREDICTIONS

Joe Ziegengeist:

I’m going with the Redskins in this one, but in a relatively low scoring affair.  I expect Gruden to employ some short screens, and even some read option, to help Griffin get comfortable while facing the threat of Watt and Clowney.  One touchdown from Griffin to Reed, one goal line rushing touchdown from Morris, and a late FG from Kai Forbath to put the game on ice.  Redskins 17 Texans 13

Dave Nichols:

The first-team offense’s struggles from the preseason will carry over and Houston’s defense dominates. The team made some upgrades at certain positions (I really like the Duke Ihenacho waiver-wire pickup last week), but they failed to address the offensive line in a meaningful way. I expect Watt and Clowney to have a field day.  Texans 24 Redskins 10

Joe Mercer:

The last time Ryan Fitzpatrick faced the Redskins, he was unconscious, going 21-of-27 for 262 yards, including a pair of touchdowns to tight end Scott Chandler in a 23-0 blowout.  He was also a Buffalo Bill then and the Redskins, well, they had John Beck behind center.  With the newly-acquired Ryan Mallett holding the clipboard for a while, the beleaguered Fitzpatrick, whose career has been a horror show since signing that ridiculous $59 million deal in Buffalo, will have to deal with a retooled and hungry Redskins defense.  Although the Redskins showed very little to get excited about this offseason, I expect Robert Griffin to prove the cynics wrong.  Combine a hungry Griffin with Alfred Morris, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jordan Reed and you’re going to see magic in 2014.  Redskins 24 Texans 13

Neil Dalal:

It is almost guaranteed to be a defensive stalemate as the bulk of the Texans talent resides on defense and they are shaky at quarterback.. The Redskins defense should be able to contain Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, the Texans lone offensive threats, for the most part. If Griffin can get time in the pocket to progress through his reads the many weapons around him should be able to beat the Texans above-average secondary. However, if Griffin is getting harassed by the like of Watt and Clowney throughout the game we will be seeing Griffin on his back more than on his feet. I believe Trent Williams will be able to hold his own and Gruden will scheme to give Polumbus help through tight end rubs and chips to give Polumbus a head start, then Griffin should be able to put up more points than a probably lacking Texans offense. Redskins 20 Texans 16

Justin Byram:

The Redskins D is solid and creates a few turnovers, the offense uses Alfred Morris early and often, RGIII gets comfortable and in a rhythm early throwing short easy passes before hitting Jackson on a deep ball.  Redskins 24 Texans 13

Joe Miller:

Washington’s passing offense struggles early thanks to Houston’s talented pass-rushers but the Redskins are eventually able to move the ball effectively, utilizing Alfred Morris and the zone run game. The revamped defense is able to stifle QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Texans’ offense despite their talented skill position players, and are able to force a couple turnovers.  Redskins 24 Texans 17

Eric Hobeck:

RGIII throws for a couple of touchdowns as Redskins fans start planning a February trip to Glendale.  Redskins 28 Texans 10

Washington Redskins Preseason Game 4 Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It may have been a short week for the Washington Redskins, but it certainly was not short on drama.

From a quarterback controversy to a suspension to a “will he or won’t he” scenario that had Coach Jay Gruden playing his starters against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Thursday, the Redskins certainly do not look like a team ready for the start of the regular season.

Many are blaming Redskins great Joe Theismann for at least stirring the quarterback controversy pot with his problematic comments to ESPN, but it’s Robert Griffin III’s production — or lack thereof — that ignited the debate in the first place. Let’s be honest, there is no quarterback controversy in Washington, regardless of what Theismann or the thousands of fans calling for a switch behind center are suggesting. It cannot, however, be what Gruden or Griffin envisioned for the offence after three preseason games, the last of which was RG3’s worst outing.

Even with the offense sputtering, Gruden announced on Tuesday that he had no plans of playing his starters against the Bucs, allowing every Redskins fan to exhale. Then begs the question: was Gruden purposely vanilla this preseason, stunting the offence and Griffin’s efficiency or is Griffin and the starting offense as bad as they appear?

We’ll have to wait until Sept. 9 in Houston to find out.

With the first round of cuts in the books, the dreaded and often ugly fourth preseason game will be the last chance for players on the bubble to put some plays on tape. All NFL teams are required to trim their rosters to 53 players in advance of the 4 p.m. deadline on Saturday, Aug. 30.

There will a number of positions up for grabs when the Redskins travel to Tampa Bay on Thursday, Aug. 28.  Kickoff from Raymond James Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. NBC-4 and Comcast SportsNet will broadcast the game to a local audience. The game can also be heard on the Redskins Radio Network.

Third Running Back: Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. haven’t set the world on fire this preseason but they’re not going anywhere. They are locks for this squad and should be. The question is, who is going to be No. 3, joining Morris, Helu Jr., and fullback Darryl Young on the Redskins roster?

Rookies Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd have been spotty but impressive, while incumbent Evan Royster has done everything he can to outplay fellow veteran Chris Thompson.

It is no secret that fans and coaches love Thompson, thanks to his world-class speed, but the guy can’t stay on the field. Gruden went as far as suggesting on Tuesday that the second-year pro needed to learn how to play through pain; not exactly what you would call a glowing endorsement. With Andre Roberts handling returns, Thompson is going to need a miracle to make this team, and chances are he’s not going to find one in Tampa.

Royster has been quietly doing what he’s done since the Redskins drafted him in 2011 — make plays. Not gifted with tremendous speed, Royster has good hands and can be a hard runner when he wants to be. He has shown in the past that if he’s given a chance, he can reel off a 100-yard game or two. With both Seastrunk and Redd battling Royster for one, perhaps two spots, this is going to come down to a numbers game for Royster.

Right now, those numbers are not stacked in his favor, and he will most likely join Thompson on the unemployment line. If the Redskins decide to carry four running backs on the roster, look for them stash Redd on the practice squad if he’s not snatched up first.

Safety Valve: Thanks to his second suspension in as many years, safety Brandon Merriweather will miss the first two games of the regular season, baring the outcome of an appeal, once again leaving Washington coaches scrambling to find a square peg to stuff in a round hole.

With Philip Thomas sidelined with a foot injury, Bacarri Rambo and EJ Biggers, neither natural strong safeties, will be called upon to fill the void. This may be a blessing in disguise for Rambo, who DeAngelo Hall called the preseason’s best defender.

After what can only be considered a disastrous rookie campaign that saw Rambo miss more tackles than he made, he lost what could have been a starting free safety gig to veteran Ryan Clark. The Redskins are no doubt hoping Rambo can be that square peg in Merriweather’s absence, but if he’s not, Biggers has made a career of filling in where he’s needed, splitting time between corner and safety for the Skins last season, and is capable of being a stopgap for two games.

Merriweather’s suspension, combined with Thomas’s injury, which requires a trip to Dr. James Anderson in North Carolina, could end up being yet another reason for coaches to find a place on the roster for rookie linebacker-turned-safety, Akeem Davis, who is a tremendous athlete and has impressed many this offseason. It will be fun to see if Davis can continue to make an impact on Thursday and find his way onto the team.

All Hands on Deck: It has been a long time since the Redskins have had too many talented wide receivers, a problem Gruden has no trouble accepting.

We know Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and Andre Roberts are 1-2-3 respectively on the depth chart, leaving spots four, five and six up for grabs. For anyone who’s watched a game this preseason, you know Ryan Grant, a 2014 fifth-round pick out of Tulane, has wrapped up one of those remaining spots, meaning veterans Santana Moss, Leonard Hankerson, Nick Williams, and Aldrick Robinson are left fighting for the scraps.

Robinson has been productive this preseason, albeit against second and third stringers, and has, along with Grant, been a favorite of Kirk Cousins. Once a one-trick pony, Robinson has also shown this preseason that he is more than just a burner, flashing good hands and making the tough catches in traffic. Moss has been steady, and has shown he still has some burst, which may be enough to entice Gruden to make him the sixth wideout heading into the regular season. Although coaches love his size, look for the oft-injured Hankerson to join Williams as the odd men out.

Stay Healthy: There’s going to be 22 men cleaning out their lockers on Saturday. Up to 10 can be added to Washington’s practice squad, while the others will be released. Of those, some may find employment with another team.

An injury can change all of that.

Sure coaches will be looking for players to put plays on tape, to impress, to win a job, but what they are really hoping for is an injury-free 60 minutes of football. There will be players on the field Thursday who will end up playing important roles for the 2014 Redskins, whether as a backup or special teams.

With their 22 starters set, the Redskins have one goal: survive Thursday.


Joe Mercer is a Contributor to District Sports Page. A communications specialist with a municipal government north of the border, Joe is an aspiring author with close to 20 years experience in the newspaper business. Starting as a sports reporter covering the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts for a small daily newspaper in Barrie, Ontario, Joe is also a self-taught graphic designer with more than a dozen regional and national newspaper awards to his credit. A Redskins fanatic since the early 80s, Joe has often made the 12-hour journey from his hometown 45 minutes north of Toronto to Washington for both training camp and regular season games. You can follow Joe on Twitter @stylesmcfresh.

Washington Redskins Preseason Game 2 Preview: Cleveland Browns

by Joe Miller, Staff Writer

Robert Griffin III will play up to a quarter in the Washington Redskins second preseason game Monday night against the Browns (photo by Brian Murphy)

Here’s what to look for in the Monday night showdown between Washington and Cleveland:

Normally, Johnny Manziel coming to town for his second ever NFL game would be excitement enough, especially for a preseason game. But Kyle Shanahan will also make his first trip back to FedEx field since he and his father were shown the door following the 2013 season.

While both provide their fair share of drama to an otherwise mundane preseason game between two of 2013’s bottom-dwellers, there are an abundance of other intriguing storylines that have greater implications for the Redskins upcoming season.

Here are a few things to watch for: [Read more…]

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