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Ways the Redskins Can Beat Dallas Monday Night

October 24, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

1.  Dez Bryant breaks his ankle on the first play from scrimmage.

Seriously, I don't think the Redskins can win against Dallas on Monday.  And it is not because I think the Cowboys are invincible I just don't like this matchup since DeAngelo Hall will not be there.  Dez should destroy the Skins secondary without Hall.  For any chance the Redskins have, both Breeland and Amerson will need to lock down Bryant one on one.  I don't expect this at all mainly because the Washington safeties will be no help.  So back to my main point, Bryant must get hurt early for them to have a chance.

2. Simple.  Control the clock with the run and keep the Dallas offense and Washington defense watching.         alfredmorris

The run offense has dipped this season over the past few.  I really think Bobby Turner was a huge loss to the coaching staff.  It is sad he didn't have a Tampa connection like some of loser coaches the Redskins decided to keep.  I don't care if it is Morris, Helu, Redd, Jackson on a reverse or zone read with McCoy or Griffin.  Have to move the sticks so they don't end up trounced by 9:30pm.

3.  Still Talking Offense.

Maybe the Dallas defense has been getting lucky and is due to go back to 2013 form starting this week.  The sad part that scares me is that even how bad the Cowboys 2013 defense was they really shut down the Washington offense in both meetings last season.  Everyone else tore the Cowboys up a year ago except the Skins, Griffin and Cousins.

Maybe Colt McCoy is the difference?  I doubt it but you never know.  Carr and Scandrick do not scare me at all.  Garcon and DeSean should own them but they need to get the ball to do that.  Can Gruden, McVeigh and whoever is behind center get them the ball is the question?

4. Unfortunately I don't see any new additions making a huge impact on Monday.

Trent Murphy is in for Brian Orakpo.  And even though Rak pulled only a solid 1/2 sack, I don't think the rookie Murphy is any kind of upgrade right now.  Good thing is with this team he needs to play and get experience.  Maybe Stephen Bowen can add something to the d line depth and help some but I don’t expect any true impact.

If it’s McCoy I am not convinced much will change and the 11/12 versus Tennessee wasn't really what McCoy is.  Tom Compton at right tackle?  OK it could be an upgrade over the Swinging Door Polumbus but are we really convinced Compton won't get a QB killed?  I guess this one wasn't really a reason how they can win in the end.






Thoughts and Observations from the Redskins vs Titans Game

October 20, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. What the Redskins win means:

-The number one thing this win means for the Redskins is in terms of confidence boosting for this team. They had lost four straight games and were embarrassed they last time they were on their home field, so the Redskins were desperate for something positive to come out of this game. The fact that the Redskins were able to come from behind in this game is big for this team which had struggled throughout the season to play from behind. Also there were a couple of instances where it would have been very easy for this team to give up and let the Titans take over the game, but instead they held their ground and kept it close.

While the Redskins got their 2nd win, it wasn't exactly pretty as they struggled in a number of areas. Once again they were really bad on 3rd downs, converting just 3 of 11. The Redskins were 0-4 in the red zone and couldn't get their run game established, in a game where they had to turn to their 3rd QB. This is not a recipe for continued success, and a lot of what happened in this game needs to be fixed as the Redskins look to build upon it in their final 9 games. While they did get the win, and kept playoff hopes alive, it is still a major long shot that they could get to the post season. The Redskins would probably need 10 wins to get even a wild card berth in the NFC this year, and it is very tough to find 8 more wins on their schedule. What's most important though is to try to fix what went wrong and build upon it for the future. If that leads to the playoffs that is great, but what's most important is figuring out who can be apart of this team going forward.

2. Colt replacing Kirk:

-The Redskins made the decision at halftime to bench Kirk Cousins and go with the more veteran Colt McCoy at quarterback. McCoy sparked the offense and the crowd, with good safe throws and composure when the game was on the line. Until Robert Griffin III returns from injury, it appears that Colt McCoy will be the starting quarterback on this team. McCoy is not a savior for this team, but he likely won't make some of the same mistakes we've seen in recent weeks with Kirk Cousins. McCoy will hopefully put the Redskins in position to win some games while RGIII remains sidelined and will be a capable back-up when Griffin returns.

3. Tyler Polumbus or Tom Compton:

-The Redskins began rotating their right tackle position in the 2nd half, using both Tyler Polumbus and Tom Compton in that role. Polumbus has struggled mightily this season and he gave up some big pressures early in the game. Compton came in as the only active back-up tackle and though he was maybe slightly better, he struggled as well to maintain his blocks. It's a positive that the team is showing signs of being willing to move on from Polumbus, but Tom Compton is clearly not the answer either. Hopefully the Redskins can look to turn to their rookie 3rd rounder Morgan Moses shortly to handle the position. Though he might make some mistakes as well, Moses has the size, strength and potential to handle the position long term. His mistakes will be more due to his inexperience, rather than simply just not being able to get the job done like Polumbus/Compton.

4. Injury to Brian Orakpo:

-Brian Orakpo suffered his third injury of the year and unfortunately it is the most serious, as he tore a muscle in his right pectoral that will sideline him for the rest of the year. While Orakpo had only gotten .5 a sack this season, he's still been pretty solid, especially considering he was dealing with a broken finger and sprained ankle. Orakpo was definitely a disappointment in terms of being the Redskins' franchise player, but his play wasn't as bad as some make it out to be. He had gotten a decent number of pressures this season, maybe they weren't at his typical pace, but they were at an above average clip. Orakpo had also made some big plays in the running game and was decent in pass coverage.

Now taking his place will be 2nd round pick Trent Murphy. Murphy hasn't really ever projected as a right side pass rusher, so it will be a tough assignment for the rookie to fill Orakpo's shoes. In limited work this year, Murphy hasn't done much to show that he was ready for a starting role, and unless he really picks it up it could end up being a major hole in this defense.

5. Running game woes continue:

-The Redskins tried to be more committed to the run in this game, but it didn't change the outcome for the running unit. While the final number of 100 yards is okay, it took 26 carries to get to that mark for a below average 3.8 yards per carry. What's even worse is that number is inflated due to a couple draw plays that Roy Helu had some nice gains on to boost the overall number. When the Redskins tried to actually run in normal situations they weren't that successful. Alfred Morris managed just 54 yards on 18 carries for a very poor 3.0 ypc. The Titans had an average run defense coming in, that looks considerably better now after shutting down Morris.

Morris had a couple nice runs, but there were other times where he went down too easily or didn't seem to get to the hole quick enough. Other factors were the run blocking, which was once again pretty bad and the play selection. The good news was the Redskins didn't abandon the run like they had in the past, but they also weren't creative in their run play calling in terms of down and distance and out of particular formations. It led to a fairly predictable run game that the Titans were able to key in on.

This is something the Redskins need to fix ASAP, as they can't afford to not have a strong running game. Despite all the receiver/Tight end talent, this team needs to succeed on the ground to win football games. They aren't a team that is going to sustain drives, and that is what is going to hurt them going forward.

6. Pass Blocking struggles continue:

-While this was mentioned in the Polumbus vs Compton item above, the struggles in pass blocking go well beyond the RT position. In fact it even goes beyond the OL position group as we've seen backs and tight ends miss crucial blocks as well. The end result is that a team that is very weak at rushing the passer, was able to get a couple of sacks, a couple of penalties and some key pressures as well. This has been a problem all season and it's only going to get more exposed when RGIII returns. Griffin might be more mobile, but he also holds on to the ball longer, so the protection must even be better for him than the other QB's. Another thing to worry about with the return of Griffin is that you probably don't want him running around trying to escape pressure on that ankle. The Redskins have to improve their blocking this season and it won't be an easy thing to accomplish.



5 Changes I Want to See the Redskins Make This Week

October 16, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Run the football at least 25 times a game:

-Honestly I'd love to see this number be more like 35 or 40, but I'll take baby steps here with at least getting up to 25 rushing attempts. The Redskins are a better running team than a passing team, and that is even with the influx of receiver talent this year. The Redskins theoretically haven't invested heavily in the offensive line for the reason that in a zone scheme it's more about type of lineman and working together than getting 3-4 really good OL out there (I'd still love to try that approach). These linemen are all better at run blocking than pass blocking, and that even includes the Redskins one elite talent Trent Williams. Yet overall the Redskins have 239 dropbacks (pass attempts + sacks) and 144 rushing attempts. That means the Redskins are running the ball only 38% of the time which is pretty low.

Now part of the problem can be attributed to a lack of success in the ground game or even the score, but really that is a bit of a cop out. In the four games this season where the Redskins had less than 25 carries a game (all four ended up in losses), the Redskins weren't really "out of the game" in any of them until at least mid-way through the 3rd quarter. Even among those only the Giants game really was ever out of hand. It is true that with the exception of the Texans game, the rushing attack hasn't been too effective in the losses, but some of that is on the coaching for the play calls and the abandonment of the run game. Calling running plays without imagination, or in heavy packages are going to tip off the defense when a run is coming so they can stack the box. The Redskins have to do a better job of mixing up their play calls and running out of formations and situations that they typically don't run from. It will lead to some plays and drives that get stalled, but that is happening as it is so why not try it to see if it can help break the running game out of it's rut. Asking any quarterback in this offense, much less your back-up to throw the ball 30 times a game, is a recipe for disaster, so it is time to put the ground attack to work.

2. Live and die by the Blitz:

-I know the Redskins envisioned that they could get a lot of pressure with 4 man fronts this year with some combination of Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher, Barry Cofield, Chris Baker and Trent Murphy rushing the passer, but it's just not happening on a consistent enough level to keep sticking with it. Whether it is a result of the players under-performing, injuries mounting or just coaches not getting their guys free (most likely it is a combination of everything), the end result is opposing teams have far too clean of a pocket in which to throw from and are picking apart the Redskins weak secondary. It doesn't matter if there are 7 or 8 guys in coverage, there will be a breakdown which opposing QB's can exploit. The Redskins have to ramp up the pressure in the hopes of getting more big plays on defense, and the best way to do that is more blitzing and having 5-6 guys attacking on every play.

Yes there can be a downside there as some teams will be able to pick up the blitz and it can leave you exposed on the backend, but the backend is getting exposed as it is so why not risk it for the chance of more big plays on defense? The frustrating thing is the Redskins have already seen the positive impact of blitzing as when they have done it this year they've gotten some big sacks or some pressures that led to bad throws.

I know situationally it can be risky to blitz on 3rd and short or a 2nd and 5 type of play, but at this point the Redskins need to take these risks. Playing it safe just isn't working right now.

3. Keep Will Compton in at ILB:

-Last week Will Compton took over for Perry Riley on defense as Riley was dealing with a knee injury. Riley had been victimized all season, and has been a big liability on defense for the Redskins. Compton showed some improvement (though the same size is definitely limited at this point), and it would be good to see more out off him this year. The Redskins need to figure out if Compton can be more than just a stop gap option for this year, or if his future is to be just a back-up/special teamer. I know that there will be some loyalty to Riley, but to go back to him fulltime when he's healthy just doesn't make much sense.

4. Give Moses, LeRibeus, and Long a shot:

-Speaking about figuring out what the Redskins have for next year, it's time to see what the back-up offensive linemen can do. Now Tom Compton could also be considered, but nothing in his profile or preseason work has really suggested he's anything more than a back-up. He's gotten about 50 snaps this year, and he's struggled in that time, giving up some really bad pressures. From a physical standpoint and a potential standpoint he's not on the same level as the other younger back-ups. Josh LeRibeus has actually played over 90 snaps this year, getting extensive work in both the Eagles and Giants games and it hasn't been too pretty so far, he still deserves a more expanded opportunity to see if there is any future there. Moses and Long have 10 snaps between them, and are the most inexperienced of the bunch, but also have the best upside.

Of the young offensive linemen, Moses is the one who should be given the largest opportunity to shine. Not only does Moses have the best size and potential mix of the three offensive linemen in question, he also would fill in at the Redskins weakest offensive line position. That's not to suggest that Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lichtensteiger, or Chris Chester should be buying new Hawaiian shirts or are a part of the future for the Redskins, but they bring good with the bad. There is a real chance that the growing pains suffered by LeRibeus or Long will weaken the performance of the line. Moses on the other hand would be replacing Tyler Polumbus, who has been down right awful this year. He's been a liability pretty much every week and it has led to a number of big negative plays for the Redskins. Moses will surely have rookie mistakes and will probably cost the Redskins on some plays, but at this point he would almost have to be actively trying to have a worse performance than Polumbus. Moses has the best chance of being part of the future of the Redskins line, so he deserves to have the largest opportunity to see if he can reach his potential.

Now I realize that a number of people may harp on Moses' poor performance against Seattle (in all of 5 plays), as he gave up a big QB hit that simply shouldn't have happened. While that was an ugly play, that is an unfair play to judge Moses' potential on. He got beat because he either didn't know the snap count or believed that he wasn't responsible for the defensive end. Either way he messed up, but that is what happens when you throw a rookie into a game without him practicing with the starters all week. That wasn't a play that happened because Moses lacked talent. Each week Bashaud Breeland makes multiple rookie mistakes that costs the defense, but most Redskins fans understand that he's a 4th round rookie being thrown into a bad situation and those mistakes are going to happen. The same is true for Moses, and he should be held to a similar standard.

5. Limit DeSean Jackson's presence on running plays or on screen plays to his side:

-There is no doubt that DeSean Jackson is an explosive playmaker, who has made some HUGE plays for the Redskins offensively this season. If not for Jackson's big plays the Redskins probably wouldn't have been as close in some of their losses. At the same time though, it's also pretty apparent that DeSean Jackson hurts this team when he's not getting the ball in his hands. It's tough to obviously assess a player's mindset, but from a close observer standpoint, Jackson just isn't caring enough on a per snap basis. At times he's running lazy routes or has had some drops, which shows a lack of concentration, but what's most troubling is his inability to make any sort of effort blocking either in the run, the screen game, or even down field when another guy catches the ball.

Albert Haynesworth gave more of an effort on that play where he fell down and took a nap versus the Eagles in the Monday Night Massacre in 2010, than Jackson does on a typical run or screen play. Yes that play from Hayensworth was awful in the end, but he was the first guy off the ball on the snap and pushed his guy back 3 or 4 yards before he fell and took the rest of the play off. At least he tried (and had success) initially before he cared more about himself than the success of the play. Jackson doesn't even seem to try on these blocks. That is pretty troubling and has to at some point spill over into the lockerroom.

Yes Jackson is a smaller receiver and shouldn't be known for his blocking ability, but at least try and make an effort. There are a number of small receivers who are successful blockers (Santana Moss being one of them), and do their best to impede their guy from making the play. Jackson on the other hand is just flat out giving up, which is causing some real negative plays for the Redskins.

It's at the point now where the Redskins have to start limiting when and where Jackson can be on the field. If the Redskins are running a screen pass and the ball isn't going to Jackson, he either needs to be on the other side of the field or better yet on the sideline. The same is true on rushing plays. If it's a running play to either side, Jackson can't be asked to be involved in the play or there's a chance he ends up costing the Redskins. Unfortunately just by having to scheme around Jackson it costs the Redskins because it begins to telegraph things to the opposing defense and makes their job far easier.

Five Mistakes That Hurt the Redskins (not including Griffin trade), Yet

October 15, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Drafting Josh LeRibeus in the third round and still being a backup in year three.

I am not a draft expert but it happens often that teams miss in round three of the draft.  The problem I have is I don't think you can afford to miss in round three on interior offensive line positions.  And obviously the Redskins missed here.  Steve Shoup said it on draft day and I hoped he was wrong but it is looking like LeRibeus will never be a legit starter for Washington.

2. Not truly addressing safety concerns in the past 5 years?

I like Ryan Clark and his leadership but he was far from helping improve a horrible secondary unit.  The Redskins had a chance to add a legit safety in Mike Mitchell and failed to pay up.  Really, the Redskins failed to pay up.  Mitchell isn't Ronnie Lott but he would have been a huge upgrade over what they put out there.  Maybe Mitchell saw the Redskins as a disaster and would have never signed here but again we still haven't seen them do anything.  Waiting on another suspension to end for Tanard Jackson won't do it.

3. The Daryl Sharpton mess.

You sign him to help at a weak inside linebacker position and with a pathetic special teams?  Only to IR him before the season, then cut him a few weeks in.  Well, he is on the Bears right now and guess what the inside linebacker and special teams crews are still a mess.  Maybe Akeem Jordan can prove us wrong.  I am joking.  Should have been patient with Sharpton and understand this team was not a true contender that had to rush things.

4. Easy one.  Not addressing right tackle just like the safety position.     tylerpolumbus

Tyler Polumbus has been killed for three years now but I give him credit for going out there and playing every week.  Problem is he has to because they have no other answer.  Everyone was excited about Morgan Moses sliding to the Skins in round three.  But maybe we have already seen why he slid as he was inactive last week.  Moses did give ESPN the C'mon Man of the year against the Seahawks though.  There have been slim pickings for an impact safety in free agency but there has been plenty of serviceable tackles.  Inexcusable by Allen.  Maybe he will see a talented one while he is making decisions on replays.


5. This one really hasn't hurt yet but I think it will.  Putting too much money into one position, wide receiver.

Garcon and Jackson are paid like pro bowlers and Roberts is paid like a solid number two.  I like all three but again the Redskins like putting money and time into fantasy type spots.  Garcon still seems to not be as explosive as before the foot injury.  Which I think I could hinder him being around long term if the cap becomes an issue in the next two seasons.  Maybe the team will add a fourth high priced receiver in March though.



Thoughts and Observations from the Redskins vs Cardinals

October 13, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. The Redskins are a bad football team:

-If the 1-5 record with the only win against a hapless Jaguars team wasn't proof enough. Watching the Redskins week-in-week-out it is very clear that this team just lacks talent and their coaching staff isn't getting the most out of the talent that they do have. The Redskins on offense have serious questions at QB (and that does include RGIII), 4 positions along the OL, RB (see below), and TE (can Reed stay healthy). On defense there are question marks surrounding just about every player with the possible exceptions of Ryan Kerrigan and Keenan Robinson. Now that is not to say that there isn't talent at some of these positions. Guys like Alfred Morris, Brian Orakpo and Jason Hatcher have talent, they just aren't producing like they should. Other positions have been weakened by injuries, but even then some of those positions still weren't going to be that strong. The Redskins once again were beaten in every phase of the game versus the Cardinals and nothing looks like it is going to improve anytime soon. The scary thought is things could get worse before they get better. The Redskins are naturally talent deficient, have numerous players underperforming, appear to be getting out-coached/schemed, and are dealing with a number of injuries. This is a recipe for a disaster and if they don't turn it around in the next three weeks it could get really ugly.

2. Kirk Cousins struggles when the pressure is on:

-For three quarters Kirk Cousins did a nice job taking what the Cardinals gave him and making some really good throws. He was off target on some throws and maybe missed a couple open receivers, but typically those were on plays where the defense got some pressure and they were more excusable. You wouldn't have said it was a great day for Cousins, but he was doing his job and making good throws. Unfortunately there is a 4th quarter for football and that is where the wheels came off the wagon. Cousins just started making really questionable decisions in the 4th quarter and was forcing throws at a time when he really didn't have to. The Cardinals were up 10 points, before Cousins first INT, but the Redskins still had 10 minutes left to overcome that deficit or at least play for overtime. In the end it might not have mattered as the Cardinals may have still won the game, but the first two Cousins interceptions were just back breakers (the 3rd was from a fantasy football perspective), for a team trying to stay competitive in a game and find positive things to build upon for the future.

3. Where has Alfred Morris gone:

-Alfred Morris was a stud for the Redskins his first two years, and looked to be a top 5 pure rusher in the league (his lack of skills in the passing game have held him back), but this season he has all but disappeared. Morris has yet to break 100 yards this year (though it wasn't his fault versus the Texans), and has rushed for an average of less than 4.0 yards per carry in 4 of the 6 games this season. Now part of his issue can be attributed to a lack of carries, particularly the past three weeks where he's seen just a total of 38 carries, but that isn't the only reason for his running woes. Morris just hasn't been as productive when running the football as he was the past two years. While Jay Gruden needs to find ways of using Morris more often (and effectively), some of it is on Morris as well. If Morris is only getting 1-3 yards on a first down carry, it's tough to go back to the run on 2nd down. Now it isn't all on Morris as of course the run blocking has been somewhat ineffective this year, and in this game in particularly not having Darrel Young fully healthy was going to limit his rushing ability. Morris these past two years did a better job of breaking tackles and making yards after initial contact. That isn't happening as much this year and it's been a noticeable difference.

4. Lack of a pass rush is extremely troubling:

-The Redskins were facing off versus a weaker offensive line yesterday and a quarterback who isn't exactly known for his mobility. The end result was the Redskins got one sack on a play where there was a bad snap that Carson Palmer tried to pick-up and didn't immediately throw it away. The Redskins were able to manage some decent pressure and generated a few holding calls, but it wasn't good enough in a pretty favorable match-up. They have to find a way to get sacks and even more pressure on the QB in general and that has to happen given how bad/injured this secondary is. Schematically the Redskins need to do more as a defense to get their guys home, but the individual effort needs to be more as well. The Redskins have a number of picks and contracts invested in these guys, and they need to expect more out of them.

5. Where do the Redskins go from here?

-It's sad to say but in the 2nd week of October the Redskins season is all but over right now. We are 6 games into the season (10 teams have only played 5 games), after tonight's MNF game and the Redskins sit tied with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the worst record in the NFC at 1-5 (even if the Rams lose tonight they will be only 1-4). The Buccaneers haven't looked great overall, but they've arguably played better than the Redskins. Both teams are pretty bad, but the Buccaneers did get their win on the road against a Steelers team that is definitely better than the Jaguars. So through nearly 40% of our season the Redskins are possibly the worst team in our conference. The chances of the Redskins righting this ship are slim-to-none at this point as, there isn't much the Redskins can look at as a success this season.

With the Eagles and Cowboys both sitting at 5-1 it would be nearly impossible to beat out both of them for the division at this point and the wild card race isn't any more promising. With their playoff window basically closed, the Redskins need to start figuring out who can play for next year, and try to build something to prevent this losing from continuing.

Redskins versus Cardinals: Keys to the Game

October 12, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Bottle up Andre Ellington:

-The Redskins run defense has been pretty good this year, but we've seen some signs of cracks. Ellington presents a fast back who the Cardinals will probably look to rely on given their QB situation right now. If they can get Ellington going and stay in 3rd and short situations it is really going to make it tough for the Redskins Defense to find success stopping the pass today. Ellington isn't just a threat as a runner though as he presents a pretty significant as a receiver out of the back-field as well. The Cardinals love to get the ball to Ellington in space and they figure to throw to him 4-7 times a game. If he is unaccounted for he will definitely make the Redskins pay through the air as well.

2. Blitz early and often:

-Now if it was Logan Thomas playing QB, the game plan should be to blitz every single play and let the rookie try to beat you. With Carson Palmer there is a bit more concern of him being able to exploit the blitz, but at the same time it is clearly what the Redskins have to do to win this game. If Carson Palmer gets 2.5-4 seconds in a clean pocket, one of his receivers are going to come open. It doesn't matter if the Redskins have 7 or 8 guys in coverage, someone is going to mess up, and Palmer is smart enough to figure out this defense. Palmer is coming back from a nerve issue so it is likely he doesn't have his full velocity as it is, the Redskins can compound that as an issue if Palmer is forced to throw on the run or can't step into his throws in the pocket, given extra pressure. The Redskins need to challenge Palmer who is sure to have some rust if he does actually play.

3. Limit Penalties:

-Last week the Redskins did a great job limiting their penalties, and it is something they need to be disciplined again this week as well. Penalties were a major issue for the Skins the first 4 weeks, so they can't get sloppy again and start committing penalties. This is not a team that can afford to give up free yardage. It's definitely going to be harder to stay focused on the road, but it is something the Redskins have to do if they want to win.

4. Use your passing weapons as decoys in the run game:

-Darrel Young is questionable for this game and that is going to make Alfred Morris's job that much more difficult. One thing the Redskins can do to make Morris's job easier in this game is to spread the field and take defenders out of the box. The Cardinals have been a really good run defense so far, but if the Redskins can force their linebackers and safeties to line up outside of the box it could free up some room for Morris to work with. No matter what it is going to be tough sledding for Morris against this defense, particularly if he's without his lead blocker, so the Redskins should try to take defenders out of the play schematically.

5. Use the Tight ends as safety valves:

-The Cardinals love to blitz so on a number of drop backs Kirk Cousins may need to unload the ball quickly, this is where Jordan Reed and NIles Paul need to come up big. There will be natural holes in the defense where the Cardinals are blitzing from and the Redskins need their tight ends to exploit those holes and present a quick, safe target for Cousins when he is in trouble.

6. Try to get the running backs involved in the passing game:

-The past couple of weeks the Redskins have gotten some big plays from Roy Helu and even Alfred Morris in the passing game, and that would be a good trend to continue this week. The Cardinals love to blitz and one of the best ways to combat that blitz is to throw screens to take advantage of that aggressiveness by the defense. If the Cardinals blitz and they don't recognize a screen is coming they could be out of position and give up some big chunks of yards on some safe throws. Sometimes the Redskins will be forced to keep the backs in to pick-up the blitz, but they should look to leak the back out if the line can handle the blitz on their own. This can be another quick safety valve for Cousins, so he doesn't have to sit in the pocket to wait for his downfield routes to develop, an their will be likely holes to exploit with the defense blitzing.

7. Make positive plays on special teams:

-Another week another special teams miscue. Last week the Redskins allowed a key 4th down conversion on a fake punt and made a poor attempt at an onside kick. In addition to those big plays the Redskins saw their typical short kick-offs and good returns allowed (both Punt and Kick). What they continued to lack was positive plays from their special teams unit. Even Tress Way's booming punts were called into question as he often out-kicked his coverage. Week in, week out the Redskins continue to give up yards and points on special teams and it is absolutely killing both their offense and defense. Now it would be nice of course if the Redskins could have some big special teams plays of their own, but at this point they should just be happy if they can be above average. They need to get a couple solid returns to set up good field position and conversely they have to limit that from the Cardinals.

Redskins need their young corners to step up

October 11, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

The Redskins knew their secondary was going to be a work in progress this season, but the hope was they would be able to cobble together a unit that was at least average on the back-end. At corner the Redskins hoped to mix veterans DeAngelo Hall and Tracy Porter with youngsters David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland, to give the Redskins a combination of corners who could hopefully improve on the unit from last season. At safety the Redskins employed a similar strategy, bringing in veteran Ryan Clark to go along with Brandon Meriweather, to compete with 2nd year players Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo. Safety was considered to be more of an issue, as there were more question marks and a less upside. The corner position though had a healthy case of optimism entering the season with their top 4 guys in place.

DeAngelo Hall was coming off easily his best year as a Redskin, and arguably his best season in the league last year. Hall had always been a big play corner, but his problem was inconsistency where he would disappear for games on end. Last year, he still had a couple bad games, and bad portions of games, overall he was much more consistent and limited or shut down a number of the top receivers in the league. The hope was that while Hall was getting older he still had a couple good years left in him and this promised to be set up for a good season for the veteran. Moving into the starting line-up opposite Hall, would be 2013 2nd round pick David Amerson, who played in a 3rd corner role last season. Amerson teased big play ability as a rookie, but had a number of struggles facing off versus 2nd and 3rd receivers last year. He had the physical tools though and just about every offseason report praised him for the steps that he was taking and it appeared he was ready to play up to his draft status. The team had such confidence in him that they said that they wouldn't have Hall trail team's opposing top receiver, so Amerson would be challenged some by the best in the NFL.

To fill out the corner depth chart the Redskins signed veteran Tracy Porter to handle slot corner duties and drafted Bashaud Breeland in the 4th round to fill in as needed. Porter has had an up-and-down career, which has been filled with injuries that limited him. He was coming off a healthy year in Oakland, though his results were mixed. Breeland similar to Amerson was a bigger corner who has the size/speed combo that teams love to add. He was a bit of a raw corner, but he displayed plenty of potential and looked to be able to contribute in at least a limited role as a rookie. The Redskins also had veteran corner E.J. Biggers as a 5th corner and another guy with some starting experience.

Unfortunately for the Redskins their corner depth has been tested as DeAngelo Hall tore his Achilles in the 3rd game of the season and Tracy Porter has played only a handful of snaps this year due to a hamstring injury (he's already been ruled out for tomorrow). That has forced David Amerson to become the de facto number 1 corner (though he's still facing a lot of 2nd and 3rd WR's), and made Breeland into a starter and Biggers into the slot corner role. The results have not been pretty. The Redskins are allowing teams to throw on them at will these last couple of weeks, and there seems to be at least one blown assignment in the secondary (not always the fault of the corners) on just about every play. This is just making it too easy for opposing offenses to move the ball through the air, and play basically mistake free football.

One big issue facing the Redskins young corners is their inflexibility. Both Breeland and Amerson are better on the outside and have very limited ability to play in the slot (Breeland has more ability here than Amerson). This allows teams to move their best option into the slot role to match him up versus a safety or E.J. Biggers, which is going to be a win in most situations for the opposing offense. Another area where the Redskins young corners are struggling is their inability to play press coverage. Both Amerson and Breeland are bigger corners, and by looking at them you would think that press coverage would be a strength of their's. Neither corner though really did this in college and when asked to do it in the NFL they have really struggled. This inflexibility really limits what the Redskins can do defensively and allows for offenses to come up with a game plan that exposes these weaknesses.

The Redskins young corners face an uncertain match-up this week, as the Cardinals quarterback situation is considered murky at this point. One thing they do know for sure is they will face a pair of talented receivers in Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Fitzgerald and Floyd have been limited due to injuries at the quarterback position this year, but both pose a legitimate threat. From a pure talent perspective they are probably the best two receivers the Redskins have faced this year (a case could be made for Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins), and both are big physical receivers with a large catch radius and good speed. Amerson and Breeland need to find away to maintain their coverage and hopefully be in a position to take advantage of any mistakes the Cardinals QB might make. If the two young corners can't step up this week, and not have the blown assignments that we've seen each week, then it won't matter what QB the Cardinals are starting as they will find one of their top receivers open.

While injuries have obviously shaken up the Redskins corner back depth chart, Washington needs to see more from their two young corners this year. It is unclear when Porter can return to the line-up full time and even then he will be working some in the slot, leaving the outside corner duties to the young guys. They need to play better or they will continue to be exposed, particularly as the Redskins face better receivers and quarterbacks throughout the season. They obviously aren't going to turn into a great unit overnight, but they can't be a liability if the Redskins have any hopes of turning their season around.

Thoughts and Observations On Redskins Loss to the Seahawks

October 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

1. The Redskins fought hard to the end:

-I know people don't like to hear the term "moral victory", but the Redskins did get something out of their loss to the Seahawks Monday night. Yes it's still a loss on their record, but they didn't give up, which they so easily could have done. Most people were expecting the Redskins to lose by 20-30 points to the defending champs and there were definitely times where it looked like it would be a blowout, but the Redskins fought and kept the game close. Hopefully that is something the Redskins can build upon and it can start leading to some wins, but at the very least they saved themselves an embarrassment in primetime. It of course wasn't all the Redskins doing as the Seahawks played sloppy and shot themselves in the foot multiple times, but the Redskins could have easily made the same kind of mistakes and they didn't.

2. Kirk Cousins had a good game:

-The game started out ugly versus the Seahawks Defense as Cousins managed just 93 yards on 7 for 17 passing in the first half. And his numbers were only that good due to a 60 yard TD strike to DeSean Jackson (though that was a great throw). Cousins was much better in the 2nd half where he was 14 of 19 for 192 yards and another TD. Those numbers are even more impressive considering that the Redskins were forced to start three straight drives inside the 10 yardline, which made it very tough on the Redskins offense. Cousins overall numbers would have been better if not for 4 drops by his receivers throughout the game. Though this wasn't a perfect game or even a great game, it was without a doubt a good game for Cousins versus one of the best defenses in the league. The Seahawks Defense has already made Aaron Rodgers look ordinary this season and held Peyton Manning in check for 58 minutes. The fact that Cousins was able to find some effectiveness and make some big throws was impressive. Some may knock the Redskins having 5 three and out drives and 8 total drives (not counting the last one) that gained less than 20 yards as some knock on Cousins, but the Broncos vaunted offense had 4 three and out drives and 8 drives of less than 20 yards when they faced off.

This is not to suggest that Kirk Cousins deserves a ticker tape parade for his performance, but it should be taken as a good sign that Cousins was able to put up good numbers versus such a relentless defense. Cousins played well enough for the Redskins to win this game and that is what they needed from him.

3. DeSean Jackson came up big:

-Outside of Jackson's  revenge game versus the Eagles, he's been very quiet for the Redskins this season. And early on it looked like he would have another forgettable game for the Redskins as he dropped two early passes. Jackson made up for his early mistakes and came up big in the game with 5 catches for 157 yards and a TD. Jackson proved himself to be a real threat to the Seahawks secondary and he was able to get open a couple of times allowing Kirk Cousins to get some big chunk plays. If Jackson can play like this most weeks it will be a big boost to the Redskins passing game and make him worth the contract they gave him.

4. The Offensive line is a growing concern:

Everyone knew the offensive line was an issue heading into the season, but now it is even worse than expected. Not only are a number of starters dealing with nagging injuries, but they are now struggling in the one area where they were considered semi-good; run blocking. It was obviously going to be tough to run on the Seahawks Defense and the Redskins didn't do themselves any favors in their schemes, but the biggest issue was just that the line got beat. On almost every rushing down at least one offensive lineman was missing a block (sometimes it was more than one) leaving little room for Alfred Morris to run. This is the 3rd straight game where the line has struggled to consistently open running lanes and Morris has paid the price.

5. Too many defensive breakdowns:

-The defense played better as the game wore on and at the end the Seahawks needed some incredible plays to beat them, but early on there were just too many defensive breakdowns for the Redskins to overcome. Whether it was containment on Russell Wilson, coverage lapses or bad angles in the open field, the Redskins Defense continued to show their weaknesses. The Seahawks exploited these weaknesses (just like other teams have this year) and were able to convert them into points a couple of times. While some of this is scheme related, it's pretty clear that the Redskins just lack talent overall on the defense. This is particularly true in the secondary, where their continue to be major defensive lapses in coverage.

6. The onside kick was a mistake:

-While I thought the Redskins should take some chances in this game, I thought the onside kick was a major mistake. In general trying a "surprise" on-side kick isn't a bad idea in a game like this, but the Redskins tried it right after they passed up a 4th and 1 situation for a FG. If you want to take a risk, going for it on 4th and 1 would have been the much better call. The game was 17-7 at that point and you had 4th and 1 from the 9 yard line. If you get that and can get a TD, you turn it into a 3 point game and really get momentum on your side. If you fail on the 4th down, then the Seahawks are 91 yards away from the TD and if the defense holds you could get some good field position. Instead the Redskins kicked the FG, and then tried an on-side kick. The Seahawks weren't surprised and they had excellent field position. Though the Redskins Defense forced 3 straight 3 and outs, it meant the Seahawks could pin the Redskins deep and they did so three straight times inside the 10 yard line. When the Seahawks got the ball for the 4th straight time in excellent field position they were able to finally move it and score a back-breaking TD.

7. Field position was a major issue in this game:

-As mentioned above field position was a deciding factor in this game. The Redskins only started one of their 12 drives beyond the 20 yard line, and it was their final drive where they had all of 21 seconds to score 10 points. The Seahawks pinned  the Redskins inside their 10 yard line 4 times in this game including one time at the 1 yard line. Even if the Redskins had a top 5 offense they weren't going to continuously move the ball 80-90 yards on this defense. The Redskins average starting field position for the game was their own 17 yard line, meanwhile the Seahawks were starting on their own 35 yard line. They started just one of their drives inside the 20 yard line and just a total of 4 drives inside the 30. You aren't going to beat the Seahawks when they have that sort of yardage advantage on drives.

8. Final Thoughts:

-At the end of the day it's a loss and the Redskins are now 1-4, and in a division where everyone else has at least 3 wins. If the Redskins don't want to get knocked out of the playoffs before November they have to start winning and hope that their NFC East foes come back to earth.

Keys to the Game: Redskins vs Seahawks

October 6, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

1. Protect Kirk Cousins:

-The Seahawks lack a true "sackmaster", but still generate a good pass rush with two proven threats in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Bennett and Avril do a lot of damage by just getting hits and pressure on the QB which forces rushed throws which have a way of becoming interceptions with this Seattle secondary. The Seahawks Defense works extremely well in concert together, using a strong run defense to force a lot of passing situations and a physical secondary that will press receivers and delay the time it takes for them to get open, forcing the QB to hold on to the ball. It makes it very tough to have a quick passing game to neutralize the pass rush, and will force Kirk Cousins to hold on to the ball for longer than some of his other games.

That means the offensive line has to step up and maintain their blocks for longer if the Redskins are to move the football. It won't be an easy task if the Redskins were at full strength, and it is much tougher with both LT Trent Williams and LG Shawn Lauvao listed as Questionable (Lauvao probably won't play and Williams will be less than 100%). Excuses though don't matter as the Redskins have get the job done and give Cousins a clean pocket.

2. Find Balance on Offense:

-Logically the Redskins are going to want to run the ball and let their star back Alfred Morris control this game, but practically it seems like the Redskins will need to throw the ball more, given the Seahawks tough run defense and the likelihood they will be up early in this game. The reality of the situation is that the Redskins need to find balance if they are to threaten the Seahawks and steal the game. They aren't going to be able to run the ball against this defense if there isn't even the threat of a passing offense, and the Seahawks will easily crush the Redskins Defense if the Redskins can't sustain drives and use the clock. The Redskins aren't going to win a shoot out versus Seattle so they have to limit the possessions they allow the Seahawks.

3. Limit Penalties and Turnovers:

-In 4 games the Redskins have committed 45 penalties (9 have been either declined or offsetting), and committed 9 turnovers, both are unacceptable trends to continue throughout the season and a major concern facing off versus a good team like the Seahawks. The Redskins can't hope to beat Seattle if they lose the turnover battle and give up a number of free yards and first downs. They don't have the offense and defense to overcome those types of mistakes and if they continue to make them they will keep losing.

4. Blitz Often:

-It would be great if the Redskins could get consistent pressure on the quarterback with a four man rush, but that hasn't been the case thus far this season. The Redskins need to adapt and have to start blitz and being more creative in their pass rushing. It can leave some openings in the back-end, but those openings are already there when the Redskins are in max coverage anyways so it's really not going to hurt their defense.  Russell Wilson is a smart quarterback overall who limits turnovers, so blitzing might not lead to interceptions, but it could lead to some more incomplete passes and maybe a few sacks.

5. Bottle up Lynch:

-One thing that will help put the Redskins in favorable blitzing conditions is if they can limit Marshawn Lynch on the ground. Not only could this force the Seahawks to be more one dimensional, but it should help put them behind the chains in a lot of favorable 3rd and long blitzing situations. The Redskins have done a good job versus the run so far this season, but the Giants had some more success last week than backs had in the previous games. Lynch will prove to be a tough test and the Redskins defensive line still might not be 100%. For them to win this game though, this has to be a battle they win.

6. Maintain Coverage Responsibilities:

-A big issue facing the Redskins this season is the continued blown coverages they've allowed throughout the season. Weeks 1 and 2 it wasn't as noticeable given the lack of talent at QB facing this defense, but as the QB's got better these past two weeks they've been exploited quite a bit in coverage. Though he was struggling as well, the loss of corner back DeAngelo Hall, has really exposed just how weak this unit is. Between the inside linebackers, corners and safeties, the only guys who can really be trusted to maintain consistent coverage are ILB Keenan Robinson and FS Ryan Clark. Everyone has been a pretty major liability these past two weeks, and if things don't get better soon it's going to be a very long season. While some of it is just a sheer lack of talent in this group, a lot of it is just poor execution of their assignments and just outright mistakes. Now some of that will occur in even the best defenses in the league, but this is happening just far too often. It's a big reason why the pass rush hasn't been able to get home and cause pressure or generate sacks this year. Far too often at least one (and many times multiple) major coverage mistake is happening on a given play. This gives a capable quarterback a quick, simple and safe outlet to get rid of the ball. That is just making it too easy for the opposing offense, and has to end ASAP.

7. Limit Special Teams mistakes:

-The Redskins special teams remains a major issue going forward, and something that needs to be fixed. Whether it is a missed block, a long return allowed, a key penalty or simply a bad decision mistakes are happening multiple times each and every game. The Seahawks in three games have 19 total accepted penalties, the Redskins special teams in 4 games has 10 all by themselves. That is horrendous for a unit that only has maybe 15 plays a game (if that). The Redskins just can't afford these types of mistakes on special teams as it is killing them in the field position battle far too often. The Seahawks have a dangerous kick returner in Percy Harvin, so the Redskins must be extra cautious when they kick-off.

Redskins have to take chances versus Seahawks

October 5, 2014 in Washington Redskins

A quarter of the way into the season the Redskins are at a crossroads. They sit at 1-3 overall, and 0-2 in the division. They are coming off an embarrassing loss at home against their division rivals the New York Giants and now face the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks Monday night. If the Redskins are to try and salvage their season, they need to make a statement and find a way to either beat the Seahawks or at least surprise everyone and keep it close.

Now conventional wisdom says there are no "moral victories" in the NFL, but the reality is there can be positives taken from a loss in certain situations. If the Redskins go out Monday night and get blown out and look awful like everyone expects, it's going to have a lasting impact on this team. Not only would it put the Redskins to 1-4, but it would be two big losses back-to-back which has a way of starting a long trend of losing. Not only can it cause infighting and questions lingering in the locker room, but it can also impact the fan base, and turn home games into more hostile environments. A close loss on the other hand in a game that the Redskins were supposed to get crushed in, can build some confidence in certain areas (both with the team and fan base).  It still hurts in the overall standings, but it maybe could energize the team for the next week.

The moral victory though is definitely secondary to the actual victory and that is why the Redskins need to do whatever they can to try to knock off Seattle. Everything needs to be on the table this week as they try to find a way to move the ball against the Seahawks vaunted defense. The same is true when the Redskins are on defense and trying to defend against the Seattle triple threat of Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Percy Harvin.

Offensively, the Redskins should try to show different formations and tendencies from those formations, than they have in the past. You don't have a chance of beating the Seahawks on physical ability so you really have to out scheme them. One thing they can look to do is to stack two receivers on the side with Richard Sherman and run a route combination with one receiver running deep or on a post route, that will hopefully draw Sherman's coverage. On the opposite side have that receiver or tight end get vertical in hopes of drawing safety coverage. That would leave your other receiver that was stacked on Sherman's side in 1-on-1 coverage against either the Seahawks 2nd or 3rd corner, which should give you a favorable match-up.

Another way to try to get to Sherman is to continuously attack him vertically and alternate your receivers that are doing it. Since Sherman stays on one side, you can keep using different receivers to attack him vertically, in the hopes of tiring him out. Early on in the game this will mostly be used as a decoy, but as the game wears on, it's possible an open shot or two become available and you can get behind Sherman for a big play.

Something that could help the ground game is running Morris out of different formations. Alfred Morris typically runs from 2 wide receiver sets or less, as 54 of his 71 runs have come in those formations. Morris also has just 2 carries on 3rd down so far this season. While Morris obviously isn't as strong of a pass catching back, it becomes a tip off when it's a 3 or 4 WR set and/or 3rd down and Morris is in there that is' more likely to be a pass. The Redskins need to be less predictable and possibly catch the Seahawks napping, by mixing things up this week. Spread the receivers out wide and force the Seahawks to spread their safeties and corners (or linebackers if the Seahawks aren't out of their base package) out as well. Morris is a between the tackles runner anyways, so taking guys away from the middle should be a win for the Redskins. Also, by rushing more on third downs the Seahawks may take some of their best run stoppers off the field in those situations. It's not going to suddenly expose the Seahawks Defense and allow Morris to put up 200 yards, but it could help him find some more holes and get a couple nice runs.

Defensively the Redskins need to take chances by forcing their secondary to win 1-on-1 battles and not drop everyone into coverage. That is no doubt a dangerous proposition considering how bad in coverage the Redskins have looked this year, but they need to find a way to get pressure on the QB, and blitzing can definitely help. It doesn't matter how many people the Redskins drop into coverage if there isn't pressure on Wilson in this game. Another thing to generate pressure the Redskins could look to do is at times mix things up with their pass rush. A number of teams (particularly 3-4 teams) will allow their right side rusher get some rushes versus the RT each game. Typically the Redskins avoid this, but it can be a good way to jump-start a pass rush. The Redskins can also look to have both Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan rush from the same side at times, putting a lot of pressure on the offensive line. Similar to the offense these aren't be-all-end-all answers, but they can hopefully create some opportunities for this Redskins Defense to find some success.

The Redskins all around desperately need to create opportunities for success in this game, and they need to be willing to risk some mistakes as well. This is not the type of game the Redskins can win by trying to play safe. They have to be aggressive (on both sides of the ball) and keep the Seahawks guessing. That is going to be the only way they can hope to knock off the defending Champs and change the story of the Redskins season thus far.