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POINT-COUNTERPOINT: Assessing Redskins at the Half Way Point

November 2, 2012 in NFL

By John Manuel & Steve Shoup:

JOHN – POINT:

Not only have we reached the halfway point of the 2012 Redskins season but last week’s game marked the halfway point of Vice President and Coach Mike Shanahan's five year contract.  So let’s debate where the team and coach Shanny stand at this point.  Two weeks ago we looked at a possible split between the Giants and Steelers games, but that didn't happen.

The good news is that NFC playoff spots are still up for grabs.  Is this team a legit playoff contender or are the St. Louis Rams on their way to getting a very nice first round pick?

Let’s start with the status of the team this year.  At 3-5, how do you see the second half going?  Will it be another 2-6 run like we have gotten used to?

STEVE – COUNTERPOINT:

Great question and topic! Well at the beginning of the year I predicted 5-11 so a 2-6 run would make me look smart, but I'm going to say it is most likely that we match our first half record and go 3-5 again. I know that will disappoint the people who think we are playoff bound, but currently 13 of the 15 other teams in the NFC are ahead of us in the playoff race. One of the teams that are behind us is our opponent this week the Carolina Panthers. For the Redskins to not finish in the bottom 5 in the league I believe this is a must win for us this week.

If we do finish 6-10 can we really consider this season progress and what does that mean for the Redskins going forward?

JOHN:

I don't see this team as a playoff team either but I have them getting to 7-9 and not falling into the second half swoons of the past as bad.  My feeling is the defense can't be any worse and the offense should at worst stay the same.  Would 7-9 be progress?  At quarterback, yes but everywhere else would be a no.  Saying that progress at quarterback was a given based on who was under center last season and before.

But the colossal defensive drop from middle of the road to complete joke outweighs the quick development of a young quarterback.  What really makes me think that there is going to be no progress at seasons end is all the holes the team will have come off season.  We know that there are holes when it comes to who lines up on the field but now it gets fun for us.

Does it stop at the players?  Do we look at coaches?  Do we look at Shanahan and Allen?  Most say no but they are nowhere close to even .500 so far.

STEVE:

I'll take it a step further and say we'll see progress both at quarterback and running back, but agree that we've regressed quite a bit, primarily on defense. The Redskins are facing a year without much in the way of cap room (even after releasing the dead weight), and without their first round pick.

As for the coaches I think we will see significant turnover on the defensive staff and with Special Teams Coach Danny Smith, but the question is should it stop there? While I love the offense that is playing up to Robert Griffin's strengths, Mike Shanahan currently has a 14-26 record (a .350 winning percentage). That is a worse winning percentage than Jim Zorn, Steve Spurrier or Norv Turner.  Even if we went 6-2 down the stretch, Mike Shanahan will have a 20-28 record in three years (a .417 winning percentage). That is not what you'd expect from one of the highest paid coaches in the league.

Though Vinny's demons still haunt the Redskins, much of this team was signed or drafted by Mike Shanahan, and it is many of his failures that have the Redskins losing. How much blame should be on Mike Shanahan, and should the Redskins move to bring in a better personnel guy to take some of those responsibilities from him?

JOHN:

Vinny the Demon would be a solid Halloween costume although I still have last year’s Sgt. Antonelli in the closet.  I have been one to put a lot of Shanahan's problems onto the personnel moves of the past but do agree that the current roster does have his mark all over it.  I don't blame him for the penalty because those contracts would be hurting us still anyway unless I am wrong.

If it stays the same, the defensive staff will have to be overhauled led by a dismissal of Jim Haslett.  Raheem Morris has done nothing to show he could be the man even with a bunch of backup-types and as you said before he comes as a 4-3 guy anyway.

We really missed out on Wade Phillips to run this 3-4.  Rex Ryan could be available though I think he runs his mouth worse than D Hall.  Shanahan and Allen won't be going anywhere and I don't think Snyder would remove either.  And if he went to Shanahan and said bring in a new personnel guy then it could get interesting.  Possible Marty situation but doubt it.  RG3 is making Snyder money and I doubt he wants to hurt that by removing the Shanahans as well.  I do think Kyle and Mike have done very well with Griffin and I was afraid to break that up in the past weeks.  Now I am thinking there are a lot of coaches that could do well with Griffin.  Where do you stand on this?

STEVE:

The Capgate would still be affecting the Skins, but the cost would have been spread out over more years, so it would have maybe meant that Shanahan couldn't have re-signed Jammal Brown.

Wade Phillips definitely turned it around in Houston, though it is clear they gave him some tools to work with (is it time we start to regret the Kerrigan trade that we took instead of drafting J.J. Watt?). I don't want to see Rex Ryan either as I think he's too much of a distraction, though would be happy for a more aggressive defense.

I do think Robert Griffin would make it easy for a lot of coaches to be successful with, but I do give Shanahan credit for completely basing his system around his QB's strengths and eliminating a lot of the low percentage throws that get most rookies in trouble. Maybe the Redskins could bring in Chip Kelly to run the offense. That could be scary for other opponents (esp. if we add speed around him).

JOHN:

Chip Kelly, wow.  If he flirted with Tampa I think he would jump at the Redskins job especially if he takes home the crystal football this year.  But that is getting way ahead of ourselves.

As for Kerrigan I have been disappointed in his play this season and losing Orakpo is no excuse.  JJ Watt is rolling towards defensive player of the year and it seemed the Skins liked him a lot.  If Kerrigan can turn it around it would be the makings of third consecutive good first round picks for Shanny since Trent Williams seems to be playing at that level.  I am sure we will be running back this same question in nine weeks, or hopefully eleven or twelve from now.

STEVE:

At the time I was happy with the Kerrigan deal and taking Jarvis Jenkins in the 2nd round, because I thought a rush linebacker was a bigger need and the Skins needed the picks. But now it seems pretty clear that J.J. Watt and Brooks Reed are far superior to Kerrigan and Jenkins. And the fact that the Redskins got Leonard Hankerson, Roy Helu, Aldrick Robinson and Maurice Hurt doesn't seem so special anymore. Hopefully Kerrigan will figure it out and get back on the path of being a dominant player. Still not sure I'm ready to claim Trent Williams a success yet (still pretty up and down), but he's at least improving which is good.

Unfortunately I fear we will continue to have some of these questions about replacing coaches and poor personnel decisions before either the 9-12 week window you are hoping. Hopefully the Redskins can improve on their second half failures from the last couple of years and at least go .500 down the stretch.

 

POINT-COUNTERPOINT: Analyzing the Redskins Roster

October 25, 2012 in NFL

By Staff Writer John Manuel & Steve Shoup:

JOHN – POINT:

Since we are close to mid-season point, I wanted to debate where some individual players on the Redskins stood.  Are there any players who have played at a Pro Bowl level so far?  Are there players who should be off the team or vanished to the bench?

Much of the talk is the play of Robert Griffin III so far.  Does he deserve Pro Bowl honors?  I would say his play on the field, statistics and how he has changed the whole offense has made him worthy.  The only thing that would stop him is the NFC competition at QB with Rodgers, Brees, Ryan and Manning but since the players and fans vote he could sneak in.

Do you think RG3 is pro bowl worthy and are there any others?  Alfred Morris?  Trent Williams?  Lorenzo Alexander for special teams? Jammal Brown?

STEVE – COUNTERPOINT:

Great question! And I absolutely agree Jammal Brown has played at a Pro Bowl level… oh wait it's not 2009.

I think Robert Griffin is certainly in the discussion for a Pro Bowl nod. It's tough to knock any of the quarterbacks you mentioned, but right now I'd probably put Griffin slightly ahead of Brees and Eli Manning in terms of Pro Bowl balloting. They are still more dangerous passers, but Griffin's playmaking ability gives him an edge. Also the fact that he's doing it as a rookie and without the likes of Jimmy Graham and Victor Cruz.

Alfred Morris without a doubt deserves a Pro Bowl nod. He's obviously not a complete back as he's not much of a receiver or pass blocker, but he still deserves a nod. Trent Williams deserves some consideration, but I'm not as bullish on him. He's come up with some big plays, but hasn't been as consistent as I'd like. He is helped by the fact that many of the star left tackles reside in the AFC (Jake Long, Joe Thomas, Duane Brown, etc.).

If a Redskins player deserves a special teams nod, I'd go with Niles Paul over Alexander. Alexander has more total tackles, but Paul has probably made just as many impact tackles as Alexander, and he's downed a number of punts inside the 5 or 10 yard line. What players are you looking to be benched?

JOHN:

Agree with you on Alfred Morris, he has been a consistent force at running back all season.  I do think Trent Williams will make it if he keeps up his play and stays clean.  I think all the offensive players will benefit now and in the future from the exposure of Griffin when it comes to awards.  Good call on Niles Paul as well.  As for the fellas it’s time to pine, I have an obvious one but may keep him for "off the team" as I said on Monday.

The team seriously has to look at options other Madieu Williams at the stay at home safety.  It kills me to go after him as a Maryland alum but last Sunday was a disaster.  I would rather take a chance on Jordan Pugh back there or even chancing a well-known “me-first” starting corner.  Brandon Merriweather is not Rod Woodson but it would sure help if he got back sooner than later.

I may also bench what I would call Leonardua Morgerson in favor of more Moss, Briscoe and Robinson.  I feel like more big plays should come from the receivers and it seems like most now come from Moss on limited snaps.  Not saying completely bench Morgan or Hankerson, just more rotation.  The Hankerson short arm was not good last week.  Where do you go on this one?

STEVE:

I'm definitely with you on giving Moss more snaps, the fact that he only played 17 snaps on Sunday is criminal. As is only getting 4 targets (3 in the last two minutes) out of 28. I am also in favor of giving Briscoe (especially in the red zone) and Robinson more snaps, since Morgan and Hank aren't producing consistent numbers. I don't know how much they want to sub them though, since the Redskins do rely on them on running plays (and you can't telegraph run vs. pass with personnel).

 

On defense my first answer would be all of them, but unfortunately that isn't practical. I know he's out now, but I do think the team has to start subbing in either a better cover LB or another defensive back for Fletcher. He just can't match-up any more and is getting killed out there. Not that he has done anything yet to warrant it, but I'd like to see some snaps for new LB Mario Addison to get some pass rush opportunities to see if he can get some pressure.

As for the secondary I'm with you with sitting Williams more, though I think I'd rather put Cedric Griffin at FS and Hall remaining at CB for the time being. Nothing is really going to fix things back there. I don't even think Merriweather will help that much. So who do you have pink slips in the locker for?

(Speaking of Merriweather have you seen this?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9J4y9p29O8&feature=related - amazing!)

JOHN:

Just as I was willing to calm down and accept DeAngelo Hall back, he opens his mouth again.  Is he really worth having on this team?  The team has been a laugh machine for the rest of league for years and finally when they get some good pub in Griffin, Hall opens his mouth about the 77 yard TD pass and looks like an idiot again….#sameoldskins.  Is he worth it out there?  He should have got his wish after the Dallas game last year but Shanny kept him around.  I have never seen a player with such low talent talk as much since Freddie Mitchell.  Hopefully he can prove me wrong.

I do think Brandon Banks roster spot could be used in better ways as I know you have been saying for months.  He is not giving much on returns and a true speed back would be a better option in those triple option looks.

Other than that not sure who else has played themselves onto a UFL roster because it is a tough question since there is no certainty on our reserves doing better on both lines.  Although Raheem Morris went from up and coming young head coach to now shaky position coach very quickly.  I know you are going to say Banks, but who else should be adding to 7.8% unemployment rate?

STEVE:

Haha, Hall is so frustrating given his natural talent level, but his play and maturity never match-up. Brandon Banks is definitely first on my cut list as he's done nothing so far, and that spot could obviously be used to help out at some positions with depth questions (mainly defensive backs, which has been pretty injury riddled).

Other guys that I'd look at maybe cutting would be Chris Wilson and DeJon Gomes. For all the criticism of Madieu, Gomes I think has been the worst safety we've had playing this season. Maybe they can put him on IR with an injury, but I sure wouldn't mind seeing someone else given a chance. As for Chris Wilson, he's supposed to be a pass rush specialist, but has lost out to Lorenzo Alexander. Wilson has not been effective rushing the passer at all, and is a big liability in coverage. He used to be a better special teams player, but we haven't even seen positive contributions in that realm. With Fletcher banged up, another ILB could be needed, or again more fodder for our secondary.

You mentioned Morris as a disappointing coach, do you see any of the coaching staff getting the ax during the year if they don't turn it around?

JOHN:

I do not see any coaches getting axed but did hear Dan Snyder was scouting bingo halls for retired ex coaches again.  Firing a coach midseason would be a Snyder type move and I think Shanahan seems pretty loyal to his coaches and is in charge.  After the season could be a different story if the defense keeps them out of playoff contention.

Going back to earlier how embarrassing was Snyder, Cerrato, Zorn and Sherm Lewis?  Shanahan and Allen have made some mistakes but all have to agree it’s a whole different organization.  Do you feel all coaches are safe?  And that question is starting from the coach’s box being sent down to Jim Zorn and then sent to you in memory of Sherm.

STEVE:

Haha those were the days…Right now I think the coaches are safe for the season (after the year is a different matter), but if the team were to have a losing streak and was like 3-7 or 4-8 later in this year, Mike Shanahan may feel some pressure to make a change. Obviously the most likely ones to get the ax are ST coach Danny Smith, and DC Jim Haslett and secondary coach Raheem Morris. I also wouldn't count out Bob Slowik the linebacking coach. I know he goes way back with Mike Shanahan, but when even guys like Ryan Kerrigan and London Fletcher are ineffective, perhaps a coaching change needs to be made. Overall no matter how bad it gets, I am really not in favor of in-season coaching changes, but Mike Shanahan may not have the patience if games keep slipping away.

 

POINT/COUNTERPOINT: How to Deal With Orakpo/Carriker Injuries

September 20, 2012 in NFL

By Staff Writer John Manuel & Steve Shoup:

JOHN – POINT:

Last Sunday the Redskins suffered a tough loss to the St. Louis Rams.  The loss got worse on Monday when both Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker were determined to need surgeries that would end their 2012 season.

The losses was tough but were the injuries tougher?  If you had to have two positions lose players, would defensive line and linebacker be the most favorable so early in the season for a team lacking depth?  Was the loss worse or the loss of the Carriker and Orakpo?

COUNTERPOINT – STEVE:

For me the loss of Orakpo and Carriker were far worse than losing the game on Sunday. Of course it would have been great to go to 2-0, especially since both of those games were on the road, but the impact from the injuries is far worse. Carriker will have a minor impact, mainly from a depth perspective, but Brian Orakpo is a big loss. Not having your best pass rusher (and a guy who is borderline elite), against some of the top quarterbacks we face could be the difference in 2-4 games throughout the rest of the season.

JOHN:

I agree that Orakpo is a huge loss and Carriker can be replaced easier.  Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson have been around for years, and now have a chance to prove they are legit NFL'ers.  Kerrigan could be the biggest loser in the Orakpo injury as teams will most likely focus their attention on him.  Maybe the Redskins kick the tires on ole Lights Out Shawne Merriman?  A local player who maybe with some recent rest could help in spot situations.

STEVE:

Bringing in Merriman would be an interesting idea, but I think Mike Shanahan will go with the guys he had in camp. If they don't produce though, I'd expect Merriman to get a phone call. I think Kerrigan and Stephen Bowen are the players hardest hit by these injuries. Kerrigan will probably be double-teamed quite a bit, even when he does line-up over the left tackle. And Bowen will have to face better blocking as teams don't have to worry about Orakpo coming off the edge.

Bowen is also affected by the Carriker injury as there won't be as much depth to give him breathers throughout the game. Last year he had among the highest snap counts for 3-4 DE's (or 4-3 DT's) and it looked to wear on him late in games. Hopefully Jarvis Jenkins can prove himself at Carriker's spot so back-ups Kedric Golston and Chris Baker can spell Bowen some.

JOHN:

Good point on Bowen.  I completely agree with you that it will be tougher for him based on both injuries.  Pressure is going to grow on Jim Haslett also to step up his game.  Having Raheem Morris on staff helps him on the field but can't help him with his job status.  I feel Shanahan is very loyal to Haslett being that he was with him even before he took the Skins job.  When you lose talent on the field it’s the coach’s job to step up preparation.

STEVE:

I know the perception is there, but I'm not sure I really believe that Haslett's job is on the line because of Morris. Morris has never run a 3-4 and I believe still has baggage from Tampa. I'm guessing the fact that he presumably signed off on Tanard Jackson doesn't help his case much either.

I do agree with your point that Haslett will have to get more creative to hope to make up for the loss of a player of Brian Orakpo's caliber. The downside is that more creative blitz packages to hopefully make up for the loss of Orakpo could leave the Redskins exposed elsewhere if the players can't execute them.

JOHN:

Tanard Jackson really hurt this team, hopefully he hasn't been hanging with Trent Williams and Fred Davis. Although Davis has been very quiet so far on the field.  I agree the secondary can't afford any loses like we have had in front seven.  Josh Wilson has become a solid player but seems to get nicked up easy including Sunday.  So we could be looking weekly shootouts in the coming weeks which at least fantasy owners of Robert Griffin III will benefit.

STEVE:

Hopefully we can avoid the shootouts, as I don't like the idea of that offensive line protecting Griffin for any more snaps than they have to. Honestly our best defensive strategy now that Orakpo is out is the one we used in the Saints game: keep their offense off the field. The Redskins fan the ball 63% of the time week one and it led to nearly 40 minutes time of possession, I think we need to keep it on the ground going forward to keep some of these high octane offenses we face off the field.