October 26, 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 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...]

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.

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 Analysis: Defensive Notes

The Washington Redskins defense had an up-and-down night against the defending Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks Monday Night in the Redskins’ 27-17 loss at home. At times, they looked absolutely porous, allowing the Seahawks offense to move the ball at will, while at other times showing flashes of dominance.

The Redskins were certainly aided by a total of 13 penalties for 90 yards against the Seahawks (the majority of which on the offense), but I don’t quite buy into the notion that this is what kept the Redskins in the game.

More than likely, you’ve heard by now that the Seahawks were ‘robbed of three touchdowns’ negated by penalties. But if you actually examine each instance, you’ll see that two of those cancelled touchdowns occurred on the same drive which ultimately resulted in a successful field goal. The third occurred on a drive where they went on to score a touchdown anyways. So in essence, all in all, instead of scoring a possible 14 points on those two drives, they ended up scoring 10 points. A four-point difference is a lot different than ‘three touchdowns’.

Additionally, penalties are always an issue for the Seahawks. In their Super Bowl winning season last year, they had the most penalties in football.  To imply that if Seattle limited its penalties, Washington would’ve been blown out is an exercise in futility because it ignores reality. It’s part of who they are.

Sorry, rant over. Let’s get to the notes:

[Read more...]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Week Five loss to the Seattle Seahawks

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 27-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

1. That great mobile quarterback, just not ours.
Russell Wilson is the epitome of what all Redskins fans hope Robert Griffin III will become again. He burned the Redskins defense early when contain was not maintained, gashing them for big play runs on the first drive that ended in a touchdown. The read option always had the defense questioning their positioning. Wilson ran for 122 yards, a Monday Night Football record, where many yards were after contact and missed tackles. The Redskins at time did a great job with their base defense but having to account for a quarterback that can extend plays was too tough. [Read more...]

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 coach Jay Gruden discusses quarterback situation

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden discussed how much effort he put into scouting quarterbacks Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson when he was the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals: “I looked at it a little bit, but obviously we had a quarterback in Andy [Dalton]. We weren’t looking at the quarterback market the second and third year.

But all three of them are very talented. You know, Russell has been given a great situation with a great team around him also and took advantage of his reps.

And Kirk and Robert, Robert’s obviously had some issues with his injuries and so much, and Kirk’s been stuck behind him.

But, they’re all three good quarterbacks, they’re all three young quarterbacks, and I think all three of their futures are very bright in the NFL. One has done a little bit more, accomplished more obviously to this point, but that doesn’t mean the other two won’t accomplish great things in their career moving forward.

So, all three of them have a lot to be proud of for what they’ve accomplished so far, but I know that Kirk and Robert both have their sights set higher for what they want to accomplish later on.”

Gruden talked about Wilson’s reputation as a game manager: “Just because he manages the game doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the talent to do whatever – he could throw the ball deep. He can hurt you in a lot of ways.

If they need to score 35 or 40, then he can open it up and they can throw it 50 times. He just hasn’t had to do that because their defense has played so well.

When I say ‘great game manager,’ it means I think he’s not turning the ball over and he’s making great decisions. If it’s time to punt, it’s time to punt. He’ll let his defense get the ball back for him. He does a great job in that regard.

If they ever get in a situation where they’re down, he has the ability to throw the ball in bunches and do a good job.

So I think as a total package quarterback, his numbers may not speak for it, but I think his production does. When it’s all said and done, it’s about production in this league with wins and losses, not so much about stats.

You know, preparing for him, there’s a lot of pass concepts that they have. They have a great running game, obviously, so you’re preparing for him like you prepare for any other quarterback in the NFL, but you have to also add in the fact that he’s unbelievable as far as getting out of the pocket, avoiding the rush and buying time. He’s like Houdini back there avoiding the rushes and the sacks and keeping plays alive.

So that’s the biggest concern is trying to keep him in the pocket as opposed to letting him get out and make big plays with his legs.”

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