December 22, 2014

Five takeaways from Washington Redskins Game 15 win over Philadelphia Eagles

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 27-24 win to the Philadelphia Eagles, improving their record to 4-11:

1. Robert Griffin III does enough to get the victory.

With Colt McCoy being placed on season ending IR this past week, Robert Griffin was given another opportunity to show why he should be back as the starting quarterback going into training camp next season. Although Griffin didn’t fill up the stat line, throwing for a somewhat mediocre 220 yards on 25 drop backs, he had his best game of the season in terms of executing a game plan. Griffin took three shots to DeSean Jackson deep resulting in two 50+ yard completions and one interception.

Both of the completions ended in Redskins touchdowns. Moreover, the threat of Griffin tucking the ball and taking off not only led Alfred Morris to average four yards per rush, but late in the game it forced the Eagles’ linebackers to creep forward. Griffin took advantage of an open middle of the field by hitting Pierre Garcon on a classic 2012 play that eventually led to the game winning field goal. [Read more…]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 13 loss to St. Louis Rams

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 24-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

1. Will Colt McCoy continue to start for the Washington Redskins?

McCoy opened the game bad just like he did against Indianapolis with a overthrown ball over the middle that resulted in a pick which ended a decent drive. However unlike last week, things did not get any better. McCoy could not even get his team back into plus territory until garbage time started as he was under constant harassment from pressure.

Gruden addressed that he did not want to throw Robert Griffin to “the wolves” when the game was already lost. Griffin did come in after McCoy suffered a “neck sprain”, which Gruden said could play a role in his availability next week. Griffin threw for a first down, took a sack, and failed to convert on the game-ending fourth down. With the recent rumors coming out the ownership will side with RG3 over Gruden it will be an interesting story to watch as the week wears on.

2. Defense continues to play poorly against a weaker opponent.

The Rams clearly watched the Coby Fleener tape against the Redskins last week and used it to their advantage. The Rams were able to get a long touchdown to a wide open Jared Cook on another coverage bust for the Redskins secondary. Later in the game, the defense turned Cook completely loose on the goal line for an easy pitch-and-catch for another touchdown.

Again there were flashes of spark from the defense as Ryan Kerrigan continues to play well as the pressure has been beginning to be a factor. The downside is that the defense has players like Chris Baker dancing after celebrating a sack when the ball was loose on the ground up for grabs. There are few pieces outside of maybe Ryan Kerrigan, Keenan Robinson, and possibly Baushad Breeland that can be part of the future for this defense and the offseason cannot get here soon enough.

3. Special teams take on a 2013 approach.

The special teams for this team have been poor again this year but a definite improvement from last year’s constant debacle, but that did not show today as they got beat on every single special teams play. First, I applaud the Redskins guts to try a fake punt, but think it was poor execution to make a guy rush ten additional yards just to get back to the line of scrimmage before being able to fight for the marker while the other team is given a chance to react. This led to the Rams getting the opportunity to earn back a point from their missed PAT as their punter/holder on their next PAT threw for a two point conversion with ease.

After another three-and-out and Tress Way punt, Tavon Austin danced around east and west before turning up field for a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown. To add insult to injury, Andre Roberts foolishly decided to field a punt inside his own five yard line and got nothing on the return. This was just another bad phase in an entirely poor game.

4. Running game continues to be a non-factor without Griffin under center.

It is no longer a coincidence that Alfred Morris’s best games this season were with Robert Griffin at quarterback. Without that threat, Morris was completely taken out of the equation today rushing for less than one yard per carry (on just eight carries) after having a 12-yard gash to open the game. This in turn made the offense completely one dimensional, which in turn has led to the offense being unable to succeed in anything they do. Alfred Morris clearly has potential in this league but not only is he not a prototypical Jay Gruden back, but also needs a steady threat in the passing game to avoid being keyed on by defenses.

5. Next week a return to division matchups and shakeups could be looming.

The Redskins will get a look at possibly the next big thing in the NFL with Odell Beckham Jr. next week as they head north to face off with the Giants coming off a dismantling of the Tennessee Titans. Luckily there were no major additional injuries, but there will still be drama surrounding the Redskins this week on whether Robert Griffin will return to his role as the starting quarterback.

Either way you look at it, this team is destined for a busy off-season, where they need to evaluating every facet of the roster. The big question remains: Who will be evaluating the talent; Jay Gruden, Bruce Allen or the owner?

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 12 loss to Indianapolis Colts

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 49-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts:

1. Jay Gruden’s decision to start Colt McCoy looks questionable to start, but then shows potential.

More than midway through the second quarter, the Redskins had negative three net passing and only one first down via an Alfred Morris rush. Gruden’s decision to bench Robert Griffin III who put up relatively better numbers against a much better defense was coming into some serious heat. Then similarly to Griffin last week, McCoy generated a scoring drive right before the half. In my opinion this saved McCoy from being benched at halftime similarly to Griffin’s predicament last week as he did not take advantage of great field position.

Coming out of the half, McCoy drove his team down the field once again and capped off the drive with amazing elusiveness to avoid three potential sack attempts before dumping the ball off to Logan Paulsen for a score. On the next offensive possession, McCoy could not find a receiver on fourth and a yard and was subsequently stripped of the football which was then returned for a score. McCoy came back and led a drive that finished in a DeSean Jackson deep touchdown pass after Jackson readjusted to the usual underthrown ball. McCoy finished the game moving the ball but unable to finish off drives with touchdowns. All in all, McCoy played a good latter two and a half quarters, which has assured him of a start next week.

2. Undermanned Redskins defense get obliterated after being opportunistic.

As well as McCoy was able to move the ball after the beginning of the game, he had no chance to lead his team to a comeback as the defense was getting beat every which way for big plays on busted coverages. After producing back to back turnovers to start the game, Andrew Luck settled down and started dissecting the Redskins secondary which was without E.J. Biggers and Brandon Merriweather.

First, Luck hit a wide open Coby Fleener on a seam route along the sidelines where David Amerson was supposed to pick him up after a Trent Murphy jam. To the start the second half, the defense let Daniel Herron gash the defense for a 49-yard touchdown after multiple poor angles were taken on potential tackles. Following a three and out by the offense, Luck methodically marched his team down the field for another touchdown score.

In the second half it was more of the same. The Redskins defense gave up three more long touchdowns. The two to Donte Moncrief were again huge busted coverages by the secondary that caused the final separation. In between those two was a missed tackling clinic on Coby Fleener who avoided at least three potential tacklers. This defense could not get a stop for their lives and as the season wears on the limited depth in the defense will continue to haunt this team.

3. Fundamentals still the biggest problem of this team.

The offensive line still is not protecting McCoy enough as he was harassed constantly and took six sacks on the game, which is not much better than the indecisive Griffin in the last few weeks. Moreover, the offense could not cash in on the amazing field position given to them by the turnovers caused by the defense but similarly to last week they only mustered up three points off of those three turnovers.

Defensively, coverage assignments and tackling are still a struggle for this team and it leads to big plays for the other team week in and week out. Without these fundamentals that are taught in Pee-Wee football, this team will not be able to have success anytime in the near future.

4. More injury concerns.

Ryan Kerrigan, Will Compton, and Keenan Robinson all got banged up in the game and missed a limited amount of plays. The more major concern is for Brandon Merriweather (toe), Chase Minnifield (concussion), and DeSean Jackson (fibula contusion and other leg injury) had to leave the game after getting injured.

Although the x-rays came back negative on Jackson, the injury did not look good as he was again trying to readjust to an underthrown McCoy deep ball. It would be a big blow to this offense if there lone deep threat were to be out for the rest of the year; however, the long term options of Jackson must be taken into account first.

5. Next week against a St. Louis Rams team coming off a perfect game.

The undermanned Washington Redskins will travel to St. Louis who beat the Oakland Raiders 52-0 after a superb all-around performance by their team. Colt McCoy has been informally named the starting quarterback for next week after getting the offense moving through the latter stages of the game. However, he may have to lean on Jordan Reed once again if DeSean Jackson is forced to miss any time. Additionally, Alfred Morris had a significant reduction in production relative to the game with Griffin under center which could play a role in making the offense one-dimensional with McCoy under center.

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

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.

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…]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Week Two victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Here are five big takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 24-17 home opener win over the Jacksonville Jaguars: [Read more…]

Washington Redskins 2014 Season Preview Part VIII: Outside Linebackers

All this week leading up to the Washington Redskins 2014 season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7, District Sports Page is taking an in-depth look at the players that will make up the 53-man roster to start the season in a position-by-position breakdown.

In Part I, Neal Dalal took a look at the Quarterback position.
In Part II, Eric Hobeck examined the situation at running back.
In Part III, Joe Mercer previewed the wide receiver corps.
In Part IV, Joe Ziegengeist evaluated the offensive line.
In Part V, Joe Mercer reviewed Jordan Reed and the tight ends.
In Part VI, Neil previewed the defensive line.
In Part VII, Joe Miller previewed the inside linebackers.

Here is our preview of the outside linebackers.


Ryan Kerrigan sacks Eli Manning in 2011. (photo by Brian Murphy)

Ryan Kerrigan sacks Eli Manning in 2011. (photo by Brian Murphy)

In this day and age, NFL teams must employ an elite pass rush.  The reasons are numerous, but the most important one is that it is becoming more and more difficult for a secondary to defend in this league.  Rules designed to protect receivers and running backs, the essential cash cows of the NFL, are limiting defensive backfields from being physical with receivers and throwing off their timing with the quarterback.  This is where the pass rush comes in, and Jim Haslett’ 3-4 attacking defense could be just what the doctor ordered.

The Washington Redskins defensive theme this offseason was to un-cuff and unleash the pass rush.  This will mostly begin and end with Washington’s Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo.  The sixth year Texas product is playing under the franchise tag this season and will be looking to put up impressive numbers to secure a huge contract that he thinks he deserves.  Last year, Orakpo amassed 10 sacks and combined for 60 tackles, and even added an interception return for a touchdown to his resume.

However, these numbers do not put him into the upper echelon of elite pass rushers in the game and Orakpo needs to improve upon his sack total in 2014 if he wants Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen to invest in a new contract for him.  He has expressed sincere interest to remain a Redskin for life and did not seem to perturbed when the franchise tag was placed on him.  The feeling should be mutual between Orakpo and the front office if he posts another Pro Bowl-type season.

On the other side, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan will be focusing on one thing: being a consistent really, really good pass rusher.  Kerrigan has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his brief career, but he is now a veteran in the league and will also be looking to improve upon his 8.5 sacks a year ago.  Kerrigan does a great job of instinctively knowing what the quarterback is going to do; you will see him get his hands in the air to either tip, spike, or intercept a pass that a quarterback usually tries to throw a quick screen with.  Kerrigan can make him pay and has often done so.

Many Redskins fans scratched their heads when the team traded back in the second round and then selected a player who occupied what was once perceived a position of strength.  However, through mini camps, OTA’s, and training camp and the preseason, fans began to see just what Bruce Allen saw in young Trent Murphy out of Stanford.  He is an opposing presence at 6’6″ and looks explosive, two traits you love to have at a pass rushing position.

The All-American led all of college football with 15 sacks in 2013 and was first team All-Pac 12 two years in a row (’12 and ’13).  Though he is listed as a backup on the depth chart, Murphy will almost certainly get mixed in for different blitz packages throughout the regular season.

The final outside linebacker for Jim Haslett’s defense is third year LB Gabe Miller of Oregon State.  Miller unseated 2012 NFC East division title hero Rob Jackson for the final OLB spot after an impressive performance in the final two preseason games.  Also, and probably most importantly for this coaching staff, he seemed to impress special teams coach Ben Kotwica enough to warrant a roster spot.  Miller doesn’t figure to see much defensive playing time but he is a solid option if Orakpo or Kerrigan go down.

Washington Redskins 2014 Season Preview Part VI: Defensive Line

All this week leading up to the Washington Redskins 2014 season opener against the Houston Texans on Sept. 7, District Sports Page is taking an in-depth look at the players that will make up the 53-man roster to start the season in a position-by-position breakdown.

In Part I, Neil Dalal took a look at the Quarterback position.
In Part II, Eric Hobeck examined the situation at running back.
In Part III, Joe Mercer previewed the wide receiver corps.
In Part IV, Joe Ziegengeist evaluated the offensive line.
In Part V, Joe Mercer reviewed Jordan Reed and the tight ends.

Here is our preview of the defensive line. [Read more…]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens

Here are five big takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 23-17 preseason road loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night:

[Read more…]

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