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Washington Redskins Mishandled RGIII Situation Top to Bottom

September 17, 2013 in Redskins Personnel

We are two weeks into the NFL season and "Operation Patience" has taken on a whole new meaning, as the defending division champs are floundering at 0-2. The Redskins franchise quarterback looks nothing like the player who won Offensive Rookie of the Year and helped the Redskins have a top 5 offense in the league last season. It might just be two weeks into the season, but their record is the least of the Redskins worries at this point. The real issue is just how bad they have played, which looks like they are susceptible to lose to anyone on their schedule this year (and at this point losing to everyone is even a concern).

While Griffin and the lack of offense is only one part of the equation for their struggles as a team, it takes away the safety net they had last season. In 2012 due to Griffin's elite level of play, the entire offense performed better and at times they were able to overcome deficiencies on defense and special teams. That is no longer the case, and it shows just how bad the Redskins have handled Robert Griffin's recovery and return to the field.

 

operation patience2

Dr. James Andrews' Role:

The first person one can point to for mishandling this situation is doctor James Andrews, the surgeon who repaired Griffin's ACL and the team orthopedic doctor. Andrews uncharacteristically spoke out about Griffin's recovery early on, calling him "super human". While it is a nice soundbite, it didn't do anyone any favors. For the fan base, they heard that and started booking tickets to the Super Bowl. For the Redskins, it backed them into a corner a little bit.

How could they temper expectations about when RGIII should return, or how effective he would be when he did return, when the most famous sports surgeon in the world basically said he was perfect just two months after surgery? Most importantly I don't think comments like that were good for Griffin to hear. Not only does he then have to face them in interviews with the media or in responding to fans, but they also reinforced Griffin's belief that he could be ready week one and could automatically return to form.

The other concern with Dr. Andrews is this whole clearance timeline and whether or not he had some concerns with Griffin playing early on like was initially rumored. Now this is a tough area to look at, because we are dealing with more rumors and conjectures. But given what we've seen so far, perhaps there is some fire behind that smoke. What we do know is that James Andrews cleared Griffin for the start of camp on a limited basis, as opposed to the PUP route we typically see players with ACL injuries on his timeline. We also know that most players come back to game action in the 9-12 month window after the surgery, and that is for all ACL surgeries not just revisions which are riskier. The Week 1 return date was 8 months after the initial surgery, or a month before the typical best case scenario.

Yes, other players have returned prior to 9 months, but it is not a huge group. Typically clearance in these situations is meeting the bare minimum standard for the strength of the knee. If this was the case with RGIII, should there have been a higher litmus test needed, especially given the fact that this was a revision?

 

Griffin's Role:    rg3willtowin

Though he's not a doctor and not in charge of the team's decisions (though at times that appears debatable), Robert Griffin III definitely is responsible in part for the mess we've seen to start the season. While Griffin's hard work and dedication to getting healthy are extremely commendable, he handled this offseason completely the wrong way. From the "All-in for Week 1" campaign to the "Operation Patience"  saga, Griffin has made this recovery into a spectacle (and also one that he profited on). This set the expectation bar extremely high for the fan base, and forced the team into a corner.

Would the team have perhaps been more cautious if Griffin didn't put this pressure on them? It is tough to say, but it definitely made it harder on them to do anything to temper expectations or even think of holding Griffin out to start the season as he builds up confidence in his knee. Griffin's comments to the media throughout training camp undermined the Redskins and implied there was some sort of secret agreement between the Redskins and RGIII promising him that he could start Week 1. Instead of worrying about whether he should be out there Week 1, Griffin's focus was on himself being out there and not whether he was actually ready to be playing.

In many ways that looks like he put himself before the team, and that is a dangerous precedent to set. The icing on the cake was the documentary/infomercial "RGIII: Will to Win" that Griffin produced and profited on. Given all the promotion that Griffin did for him starting the season, it gave fans no indication that he simply might not be ready and that he will need to suffer through growing pains as he gets back to form. Plenty of other famous athletes come back from as bad if not worse injuries every year, but they don't make the spectacle that RGIII did and they don't set the bar to unreasonable levels.

See my interview from a couple months ago with a leading orthopedic surgeon who saw some issues ahead for Griffin and his recovery/timetable.

 

Redskins Organization's Role:kyleshanahan

For as bad as Dr. Andrews and RGIII handled the recovery, the Redskins as an organization were worse. For one thing, both Dr. Andrews and RGIII are employees of the Redskins. The team could have exerted influence to diffuse the mistakes they made in this situation, particularly when they put the Redskins in a bad spot. The Redskins should have done everything they could to temper expectations this offseason. Both in regards to Griffin starting day one, and how he would perform when he was out there.

Early in the offseason we heard some half-hearted comments from HC Mike Shananan and GM Bruce Allen, but by in large they allowed the expectations to go unchecked. Whether this was just to sell tickets and merchandise or they didn't want to undermine RGIII is unclear. What is known is they didn't reign things in and it has now cost them. The Operation Patience saga became an unnecessary distraction during preseason, away from the question as to whether or not Griffin actually should be out there (unless that was their intention). Griffin's recovery story took over and the actual issues behind it were temporarily forgotten.

The Redskins went with a very advanced timeline for bringing Griffin back from this injury, and did so despite the added risk of it being a revision surgery. Add to that the fact that as a quarterback Griffin couldn't be limited. Other players like star running back Adrian Peterson, who came back early from his ACL last year, are able to be limited in the early going. Last year Peterson was on a carry limit for the first 6 weeks as they got him back to game form, and it only was ended because he repeatedly proved that he didn't have that much rust. That is something that just in general you can't do with a quarterback, and given how poorly the Redskins have played, they actually had to put more on Griffin's plate with more passing attempts. For Griffin to play he should have had to have met a higher standard than a player like Peterson who could be eased back into the position.

 

Game Planning/Coaches' Role:     griffinstruggles

On top of how the Redskins brought him back, they also did a poor job in game planning and supporting him. The Redskins made no effort to upgrade their offensive line, despite their two biggest weak spots (Kory Lichtensteiger and Tyler Polumbus) were free agents. Instead the Redskins brought back the same line that allowed plenty of pressure and sacks on Griffin a year ago when he was fully healthy.

Now with his mobility likely to be somewhat compromised, they weren't going to protect him better. Also, the Redskins did little to improve their defense which was a big problem area a year ago. Unlike last year the Redskins shouldn't have been counting on Griffin to make up for their deficiencies. Though the Redskins didn't have a lot of money to spend, they could have moved some money around to find some moderate upgrades (even some league minimum guys could be considered upgrades).

In addition to not upgrading the personnel, the game plan has just been awful to start the season. Despite an entire offseason to figure something out, the Redskins appear to lack a plan to utilize RGIII without having the threat of the read option. It wasn't going to be easy, but a better contingency plan needed to be in place. And if you couldn't have found a game plan that would protect Griffin as he battles back from the injury, then you shouldn't trot him out there to fail.

 

CONCLUSION:

As you can see, the blame goes top to bottom and there's enough to go around for everybody. Its an unfortunate situation, that if handled better, the hope of the 2013 Redskins season may be in a different place. The question remains, what do the Redskins do now?

Well, there is still 88% of the season to go, but the Redskins need to fix things pretty fast if they want to salvage this season at all. Not just from the sense of making another postseason run, but simply restoring the faith of their fans, which feel lied to.

Mike Shanahan has said there will be no quarterback change and that Griffin does not need more time to heal. Unfortunately, the Redskins as an organization can't do much to bolster their roster currently, but they can come up with a better game plan for using Griffin going forward. As for Griffin he needs to change his attitude as well, and recognize that he's human, that these struggles are normal and that he just own them.

 

 

Point-Counterpoint: Should RGIII Start the Season if He Can't Play in the Preseason?

May 22, 2013 in Redskins Personnel

By Staff Writers John Manuel & Steve Shoup:

If you’re tired of hearing about if Robert Griffin III will be ready to start the season, then the wedding gift talk may have been a much needed break for you.  We have decided to take you back into the will he or won't he be ready discussion and ask if RG3 is unable to go in the preseason should he still start the season opener if he is deemed ready?

JOHN:

Mike Shanahan has been clear that Griffin will not see the field this time until he is 100% healthy.  Question is what was he for l

ast season's Philadelphia game on Shanahan's injury percentage scale as a comparison?

Last preseason many questioned the Shanahans for not giving Robert Griffin many snaps in the three preseason games he saw action but once he got to New Orleans he looked like he had taken 5000 NFL snaps.  But what about 0 snaps in the preseason?  Could this be done?  Ladanian Tomlinson used to do it but he didn't have to get timing down with receivers?

STEVE:

I know there will be a lot of pressure to play RGIII if he's at or close to 100% health that first week. Between the fact that it is a division game, at home and on Monday Night Football, the stage is set for him to make the start that week.

If he hasn't played at all in Preseason though I think it would be a mistake to rush him week one. Presumably if he's not playing in preseason then he's not getting anything close to starters work in camp. In this case I think that is a big concern. Like it or not practice is highly important to a player being able to perform in a game. It's the reason why Mike Shanahan has given in the past for benching players like Albert Haynesworth since they couldn't practice during the week. And the importance of practice is only magnified when it comes to quarterbacks. Working on timing with receivers, getting a feel of the defense, seeing how he feels when the defense closes in are all things are going to be key questions to answer.

Some of that can be done in limited practice work, having him say work with receivers and even against coverages (though it's not as intense as a full practice) and other things you won't know about until you get into a game situation (hello preseason) like how he reacts to hits or real pressure (as opposed to being in practice and knowing they can't hit you).

To me if he's not healthy enough to suit up for even part of the week 3 preseason game, then I don't think he should go week one.

JOHN:

I have to agree that it would be crazy for a quarterback to start week one after getting no preseason game work, but I have a feeling this could be different.  I am not saying I agree with playing him without any preseason snaps but I just think that the Redskins whole organization does see Griffin as a superhuman person.  We know the fans do, but they won't be making the call.

Just like in Cleveland last season we have to expect that Griffin will push to play even after what ended up happening it just in his competitive nature.  And with this kinda awkward off season between Griffin and Shanahan, you know that Big Tan Mike won't want to start any potential clash with RG3.

If I had to make a guess based on no inside info, my call is that he gets work in preseason and plays week one.  My certain lock is that we will find out the final answer via Robert Griffin's twitter account from his new iPad that Superskin got him as a wedding gift.

STEVE:

That is a kinda my worry though that Griffin and Shanahan will force the issue by saying that Griffin can practice, but won't play in the preseason. Not only does Griffin not get fully tested in practice, but I feel that could be the "compromise" similar to last year with Cleveland. Though anyone who saw the way Griffin's knee bent in that Ravens game would say that Griffin should be sitting for at least a week (if not the rest of the season), Griffin took the field in practice that week. Though reports were that he was limited the fact that Mike Shanahan allowed him to practice and called him a game time decision, letting him participate in warm-ups is unbelievable. It's no surprise that Griffin's knee wasn't fully healthy the next week in Philly or that it got tweaked again in Seattle (before the major injury).

Instead of forcing Griffin to sit and rest the knee (which is the recommended first step in the treatment), Griffin stayed on it which set him back and risked further injury. Now maybe the same series of events would have occurred even if they shut down Griffin that week, but maybe not.

I'm worried the same thing could happen this preseason. Where they allow Griffin to test his knee at an advanced rate during practice, and thus risking his knee once the season starts. I think the Redskins have to be very cautious here and recognize that Adrian Peterson was the exception not the rule.

JOHN:      cousins

I hate when everyone brings up Adrian Peterson as a comparison.  And also now Derrick Rose, which is even crazier.  The only knee they should compare it to Griffin's other healthy knee.  And they should be as close to the same when he gets out there.

We haven't really discussed Kirk Cousins in this debate, but I feel most are confident he could take the team for a few weeks.  Especially as you have pointed out how the NFL helped the Redskins early in the schedule with winnable games.  It was good that he did see the field for a bit last season also.  Although if would have been brought in earlier in the Seattle game I still don't think the Redskins win, although we will never know that.

It is probably good that Cousins knows now he could be the man week one instead of late in preseason and has to be fast-tracked into the starting role.  Although maybe he is better on short notice like against Baltimore and Cleveland?  Now can we address the potential of Pat White being the starter by week two?  That is a joke.

STEVE:

Yeah the comparisons don't tell us much. Even comparing Griffin to Griffin with his previous ACL injury is faulty because this was a more serious injury and obviously the second such injury. Also it is worth noting that recovery time was longer from that injury and his production early on that season was more limited.

I think Cousins absolutely affords the Redskins ability to take their time with Griffin and ensure he's healthy. The schedule at the start of the season is pretty favorable and the Redskins could easily be 3-1 or better before their week 5 bye week. That gives Griffin an extra month to recover which I think would be the best move for the Redskins.

Also you bring up a great point. Cousins did some really nice things despite being thrown in bad situations (ATL, BAL) or having to split time in preparing for the Browns. Cousins with a year under his belt and all offseason as the primary QB should be even better.

 

 

Predicting the Redskins Stat Leaders for 2013

May 6, 2013 in Redskins Offseason

In the offseason down time I thought it would be fun to make predictions on who will be the Redskins statistical leaders in the following categories, also I will mention who I see as the runner up. Some will be a bit more obvious, but others could be more interesting.

Passing: Yards, TD's, Completions

Rushing: Yards, TD's, Carries

Receiving: Yards, TD's, Catches

Defense: Sacks, Tackles, Interceptions

Kick-off Return: Yards, Returns

Punt Return: Yards, Returns

Passing: Yards, TD's and Completions: Robert Griffin III leader, Kirk Cousins runner-up

-This doesn't have much mystery given that even if Cousins were to start 4-6 games, Griffin would start the lionshare and trump all of Cousins numbers. Though it would be unthinkable to Redskins fans, if Cousins were to start half and Griffin half, I think we'd likely see Cousins win both in yards and touchdowns as they are likely to throw more with him under quarterback. Griffin would likely still edge him out in completions due to his higher completion percentage.

Rushing: Yards, TD's, Carries: Alfred Morris leader, Jawan Jamison runner-up

-No surprise of course with who the leader is in these categories, but the runner-up will likely surprise. Though I believe that Roy Helu Jr. will initially have the back-up running back job, I think Mike Shanahan will eventually turn to Jamison. He's a really good zone runner, who is really tough to bring down. I think it will be close with Helu and Chris Thompson getting some chances as well, but Jamison will edge them out. One category that could go to someone else as the runner-up could be rushing TD's as FB Darrel Young may be called upon some short yardage situations. The real wild card could be RGIII, last year he was a major rushing threat, but coming back from an injury he's likely to be more limited and not running as much.

Receiving: Yards- leader Pierre Garcon, runner-up Joshua Morgan; TD's-leader Santana Moss, runner-up Garcon; Catches-leader Garcon, runner-up Morgan

-This category has a lot more interesting options. Garcon should definitely be the leader in yards and catches (though catches could be closer), but touchdowns could go in a number of different directions. Garcon will definitely get some TD's after turning a 17 yard pass into a 40+ yard gain for a score, but he typically wasn't targeted as much in or around the end zone. With the primary TE up in the air, and none of them true red zone threats, it wouldn't shock me to see Moss lead in touchdowns again. He's such a great precision route runner, and showed such a great versatility in his scores last year that it is likely he will continue to be a focal point in and around the end zone. The runner's up in all the categories are a lot tougher to figure out. The Redskins really spread the ball around last year, and with both Fred Davis and Garcon dealing with some injury issues, that will likely occur some once again.

Defense: Sacks- leader Brian Orakpo, runner-up Ryan Kerrigan; Tackles- leader Perry Riley, runner-up London Fletcher; Interceptions leader Brandon Meriweather, runner-up DeAngelo Hall

-A lot of interesting choices for me on defense. Sacks I do feel are pretty straight forward as it is pretty likely going to be Orakpo and Kerrigan, or Kerrigan and Orakpo as the leaders and runner-up. I have faith that Orakpo will be back healthy and take the sack lead. Tackles are one that will likely draw some debate, but Riley was just 10 tackles behind Fletcher last year, and it wouldn't shock me if we see Fletcher taking more plays off this year. We saw him take some snaps off last year, and I think we'll likely see a rise in that department, especially if Keenan Robinson shows any promise. Interceptions is very much up in the air (no pun intended), as last season Fletcher led the team with 5 picks, and Rob Jackson tied Hall for the runner up spot. The Redskins added three of the interception leaders in college football over the past two years, in this draft class, but how much they play is up for debate. Brandon Meriweather is a guy who could get a fair amount of opportunities (assuming he is healthy), Hall has always been a guy who goes for INT's so he should be in the mix as well, though it wouldn't surprise me if he doesn't play as many snaps this season, as the Redskins could look to utilize their deeper CB roster to match-up better.

What do you think? Who do you see as the leaders and runner-ups in these categories?

 

Grading the Washington Redskins Draft Class

February 13, 2013 in Washington Redskins

*These grades are based on production, potential, and where the player was drafted

Round 1 QB Robert Griffin III: Grade A

-Griffin was even better than advertised and put the team on his back down the stretch propelling them to their first NFC East Title since 1999. Griffin showcased himself as both a tremendous passer and runner, but injuries keep this from being an A+. Griffin suffered both his 2nd concussion (with in a year) and 2nd ACL injury this season giving at least some pause to the future. While it didn't affect the play this past year that much overall, it's unclear just how effective he can be going forward.

Round 3 OL Josh LeRibeus: Grade C-

-LeRibeus got a little work late in the year with a mixed bag of results. For the most part though he spent his time on the inactive list making him one of the least productive third rounders from last year. He should get first crack at Kory Lichtensteiger's left guard spot, but its far from certainty.

Round 4 QB Kirk Cousins: Grade B+

-Cousins got more work this past year than the Redskins hoped, but on the plus side he was pretty productive when called upon. There were some struggles, but he was put in some poor late game situations and his lone start was on the road. Cousins showed a lot of promise and right now with Robert Griffin's status up in the air, could be the Redskins starter at the beginning of next season.

Round 4 LB Keenan Robinson: Grade C+

-Robinson had a nice year as a special teamer and spot duty linebacker, before missing the final 6 weeks due to injury. He may take over the starting ILB duties when London Fletcher hangs them up (possibly even this season), and could be very valuable given his pass coverage ability. At worst he's a good back-up special teamer going forward.

Round 5 OG Adam Gettis: Grade C

-Gettis made the team out of camp, but was on the inactive list every week. He was a project all along, but it's unclear what the future holds for him.

Round 6 RB Alfred Morris: Grade A+

-Morris had a fantastic rookie year finishing 2nd in the league in rushing. He displayed power and vision, and next to RGIII he was the biggest reason for the Redskins turnaround this past season. He looks to have a bright future ahead of him, and no one gave higher draft value compared to where they were picked than him last season.

Round 6 OT Tom Compton: Grade C-

-Compton was cut out of training camp, and while he was eventually added to the 53 man roster he never saw a single snap. He even didn't get much consideration when Tyler Polumbus was injured and Jordan Black was suspended. He'll be given a shot to earn at least a back-up role this year, but overall he's got a long road up ahead of him.

Round 7 CB Richard Crawford: Grade C+

-Crawford had a big preseason and earned some playing time this past year. While he struggled some, he showed some minor flashes that gives hope that in a year or two he could compete for a top three spot. Crawford also showed nice return ability late in the year.

Round 7 S Jordan Bernstein: Grade C

-Despite the fact that Bernstein was lost for the year with an injury, the fact that he made the team at all as a 7th rounder gives him a C grade. His upside/potential is limited, but he could compete for a back-up spot this year.

Five Early Questions for Redskins Offseason

January 21, 2013 in Redskins Offseason

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Here are my top 5 questions for the Washington Redskins offseason at this point:

1- The most important question has to be the health of Robert Griffin III and when will be able to take field.

Unfortunately at this point we have no answer to this.  Could be the opener or it could be 2014?  We just don't know and won't know anytime soon.  If I had to guess and this is a complete guess, I would say best case in the week 6-8 area of 2013.

Good news is that Kirk Cousins will get plenty of work leading up to training camp and most likely will be the starting once they get to Richmond.  Even if Griffin is close to coming back I am not concerned if he gets limited work with the first teamers as much as Cousins will.  Griffin will just need to get into shape and I am not concerned with that.

Question for the offseason is does Rex come back or does Washington look to go another direction in free agency or the draft?  Knowing that coming here means the bench and a low chance of getting time, I don't see anyone of decent name coming in.

2- The most important outcome of the offseason may be what happens with the $36 million cap penalty that was imposed on the Redskins last season.

Due to be hit with the 2nd $18 million hit this league year the Skins are still challenging the penalty.  Most think this is a no chance situation but I heard Adam Shefter say that some and possibly all the penalty may be overturned by the league.

For the 57th time I still cannot believe the actions of both the commissioner and the NFLPA on this.  Roger Goodell really played this one wrong and the Skins and Cowboys were screwed not only by the ruling but also how and when they decided to impose it.  What makes me more sick is that the NFLPA went along with it and took money from two franchises that actually pay their players and gave it to teams that don't.  Pretty lame move by Demaurice and his crew.

3- Now if they Redskins are able to recoup cap room, will they be active?

There is nothing that tells me they won't be.  The obvious place of need on the offensive side is right tackle.  As for right tackle, Tyler Polumbus has been OK at times but does give you what you need week to week at right tackle.

Good news is there is a boat load of tackles coming up in free agency.  I can't see the Skins missing out on grabbing at least one there.  From top notch tackles like Ryan Clady to solid performers like Sebastian Volmer, there is a lot of talent there.  Many like Clady could be franchised but some will slip through.  It is a good year to have that position as a need.

If they strikeout in free agency, there should be some possibilities in the 2nd round to grab a tackle as well which would be a good question for draft guru Steve Shoup.  Roy Helu's future is very questionable so I would expect Shanahan to look for a better option as a receiver out of the back field in either free agency or more likely in the middle of the draft.  Grabbing backs in the draft is his thing so expect it to be there.

4- As for the defensive side, there is one obvious place to look.

By the numbers you would think this team needs an overhaul of talent but I don't see that happening.  I cannot see any major moves in the front seven based on who is already under contract.  As for the secondary you would have to think any of the four spots could change.

First and foremost the Redskins will have to find a free safety this offseason.  Most seem to peg that second round pick but I would first want to see what happens with Jarius Byrd in Buffalo.  I still wouldn't count out Ed Reed either if he still wants to play after the Super Bowl and if Baltimore can't afford him back.

I am pretty sure Josh Wilson will be one of the starters at corner but as for the other spot it is very questionable.  DeAngelo wants to come back but the Skins no way can pay him what he is slated to get.  He said he is willing to come back for less so the question is do they want to deal with DenAngelo's act anymore?  He could come back as a 3rd corner or as a free safety but I feel the Skins need to upgrade at corner alongside Wilson.

Chase Minnefield is a wildcard coming off injury as well but that is far from a lock.  The team would benefit from the return of healthy Brandon Merriweather but his ability to stay healthy is a concern.

5- Final Question is who we may not see back in 2013.

Crazy I have gotten to #5 and haven't mentioned Fred Davis.  I do think he will be back with this team because they seem to value what he can do very much.  Next up is Santana Moss.  I think they figure out a way to keep him around.  I think there are more questions about the futures of Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson than Moss.  If I had to guess all three are back though unless Washington makes a shocking grab on a guy like Bowe or Wallace.

Sorry but I can't expect Chris Cooley to be back especially if Fred Davis is.  And if Davis isn't then I figure the Skins would look for another tight end before bringing back Cooley.

Big question is what will London Fletcher do?  I was kinda shocked that he even mentioned retirement after the Seattle loss, but hope it’s not true.  Even a year older, he can still help this team.  Working in Keenan Robinson will most likely happen, but I don't want to see Fletcher go out like this.

 

Redskins Post-Game and Post-Season Recap

January 7, 2013 in Washington Redskins Post Game Recap

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

After the playoff loss to Seattle Seahawks, here's the top five postgame observations for Washington Redskins, Robert Griffin and their future:

1. I will get to the "should he have been taken out or not", but first the game itself.

Seattle dominated the Redskins after the first quarter and deserved to win Sunday.  They did to us what we did to Dallas the week before and ran Marshawn Lynch to control the game.  Add to that Russell Wilson's ability to be unfazed and make plays.

It is crazy to think that the Redskins somehow still had a lead in the 4th quarter and an obvious chance to win.  After the first two drives by Washington, the Seattle defense came together and limited what the Redskins could do.  Add to that starting twice inside the 10 in the second half and the Redskins were doomed.

Seattle has a very good chance now to go to Atlanta and knock off the Falcons next.  The Seattle team that the Redskins faced was much different than the Cowboys, Eagles or Browns wins during the streak although we all should be thrilled to win 7 in a row and to be NFC East Champs.

2- Now to the big debate.  Mike Shanahan is getting killed since the game ended Sunday in leaving Robert Griffin III in the game.

What's your feelings on Shanahan's decision to keep RG3 in the game?

What's your feelings on Shanahan's decision to keep RG3 in the game?

I think it’s a lot easier to criticize Shanahan knowing now the Redskins lost the game and RG3 is most likely hurt worse than when the game started.  But during the game he had to go with who he thought could win him the game.  Griffin has electrified DC all season and even at 60/70/80% if Shanahan felt he was the one to win the game, he should be out there.  Big Ben does this all the time and he has 2 rings.

Is it Shanny's or Griffin's fault that Hankerson short armed what would be a huge play?  That Will Montgomery suddenly started to struggle in shotgun and pistol snaps?  It is easy to say Kirk Cousins should have been in there since now we know the Redskins lost.  But I think Griffin seeing all types of defenses all season compared to Cousins was the better option versus a team like Seattle.

If RG3 has a torn ACL (and that may be the case by the time this is up) it is a very tough pill to swallow.  But he will be back and he will be Robert Griffin III still.

3- I think the biggest play of the game was the play when Brandon Browner got called for illegal contact versus Pierre Garcon.

It was 14-3 and Garcon got by Browner causing Browner to foul him and actually fall to the ground.  But as Garcon was going free, Griffin was unable to get the deep ball off because Seattle had pushed the o-line back into Griffin.  An easy touchdown turned into a five yard penalty and the game was never the same.

The other game changer was the two missed turnovers in the first half.  One was when Doug Baldwin was able to break up a would-be interception from Reed Doughty.  Doughty was great Sunday at making plays at the line of scrimmage but really needed to pull that one in.  The other was the mis-hand off between Wilson and Lynch.  The ball went free and Madieu Williams as we have seen all season was a second late in getting to the ball allowing Lynch to get to it eventually and run with it.  Two tough misses for a team that strived the past two months getting turnovers in key spots.

I also should add the huge 3rd down conversion in the first quarter down 14-0 when Wilson was able to avoid pressure and get the ball to Zach Miller who made a nice catch and run to convert.  Would have given the Skins a good chance to grab solid field position with a Crawford return.

4- My player of the game is simple.

Other than Barry Cofield's head knocking the ball out of Lynch's grasp at the goal line, no one protected the lead like Sav Rocca yesterday.  Rocca had his best day of the season and was able with two huge punts keep the Skins in the lead until midway through the fourth.  If Washington pulled this game out, Rocca would be a hero.

I also continue to be impressed with Niles Paul's ability to get down on punt coverage all day.  Leon Washington was someone I was very concerned with and the special teams did a great job controlling him on kickoffs and punts.  I still love what Alfred Morris brought especially in the first half.  And I feel Reed Doughty and London Fletcher came to play.  Other than that unfortunately not many others stood out Sunday.

5- Although losing a home playoff game is tough (crazy thing is I was at the last one versus the Bears in 1984) this success has to be looked at as a success.

No one predicted the team to win the NFC East and that is what they did.  I think the Redskins now are a year ahead of schedule but a lot will obvious hang on the health of their star quarterback.  But we do have a younger nucleus to go with into 2013 and that hasn't happened in years.  Griffin's rise to stardom should be a huge factor in Washington's ability to attract better talent to Washington in the coming seasons.

We also must not forget that this team was unfairly crushed with a huge cap penalty hours before free agency and that the battle over that is not over.

Finally, I hope that London Fletcher has not played his last game and that he will return next season.  Although he hasn't had the winning success of Redskins of the past, he should be up there with the Riggins, Monk, Theismann and Greens’ of Redskins history.

 

 

Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Seahawks in Playoffs

January 4, 2013 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Playoffs are here for the Washington Redskins, so here are my keys to the game and what to watch for in Sunday's Playoff battle against the Seahawks:

1. This matchup brings us the two hottest teams in the NFC.

The Redskins have won seven games in a row while the Seahawks have won their last five.  Both teams win streaks have come against solid opponents as well.

The Skins used their win streak to capture the NFC East crown while the Seahawks just missed out catching the 49ers and are the wildcard.  Seattle has dropped Washington in their last two playoff appearances but those games were in Seattle.  I think this plays a major role Sunday.  Earlier in the season Seattle struggled on the road but their recent play has shown them to be a much better road team.

Good news for the Skins is that both Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have had much better statistical performances on turf than grass this season.  And we all know by now that the FedEx Field surface is far from turf.  This could play a major factor Sunday.

2- The key matchup all of the NFL world will first look at is between the two rookie quarterbacks.

Both Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson deserved Pro Bowl nods as rookies.  RG3 made it and Wilson didn't, but if it went the other way around it would have been hard to argue.  Both quarterbacks have shown poise in big games and have produced in big games.  Much will be made about Griffin's knee, but I think he is better than most feel.  I have confidence in him in the pocket and he showed last week he could still be a running factor as he ran for over 60 yards.

Unlike last week’s game versus Dallas I cannot see quarterback play being such a huge factor in who wins Sunday.  I don't see either Wilson or the Seattle game plan putting him into situations to make mistakes like Tony Romo did.

3- One of the biggest factors why the Redskins have won seven in a row is that they have not faced any top notch defenses during that stretch.

Philly, Dallas, New York, Cleveland and Baltimore were far from stellar on the defensive side of the ball.  Seattle is a different story.  Up front they can get after the quarterback and on the back end they have two corners who can man up on receivers.  "Drip cup" Sherman and Brandon Browner are the best corner pair Washington has faced all season and will challenge Redskins receivers like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to get open.

Griffin will need his mobility in this game to make time for his guys to break open.  Browner and Sherman, as well as Earl Thomas are very opportunistic so RG3 must protect the football as his has done all season.

4- Both teams like to run the football and both teams have shown they can run the football.

Seattle has been successful when they go into "Beastmode" with Marshawn Lynch and the Redskins cannot let him get going Sunday.  It could be a long day for a defense that has played much better recently if Lynch can move the ball down the field.

They have to get Wilson into 3rd and longs and not 3rd and shorts so stopping Lynch will surely benefit.  As for the Redskins, once again it will be key for Alfred Morris to pound an opposing defense.  The Skins ran well against the Seahawks last season without the force that is Alfred Morris.  Sunday they must continue to ride Mo' Diesel like the Gibbs teams did on their first runs.  Morris has not hit any kind of rookie wall and seems to be getting stronger like Riggins did in the past.  We have to like that.

5- Finally special teams have a couple concerns for me.

Cobra Kai finally had a miss last week, but I am still confident in him as our kicker.  I am worried about the Seahawks being able to block a kick especially with Red Bryant in the mix.  He got us last year and it’s a concern for Danny Smith's crew.

Also, as I have mentioned in the past I really wish the team brought in a kickoff specialist and this week one is clearly needed.  Leon Washington is dangerous and I would rather not give him the opportunities to break one.  Forbath's kickoffs will give him the chance to burn the Skins.  And I was very happy with Niles Paul last week on kickoff returns.  When Dallas had the momentum, Paul came up with a great return that put the Redskins at a good starting point.  He and Richard Crawford need to do the same again.

This is the toughest opponent the Redskins will have faced since going on the streak, but I am confident not only our game plan will work but our quarterback and others can win this game.  Good news is that the last draft has put us in great position for years to come, but I still would love to see this team go far this year.  I see it being a battle and the Skins coming out victors, 17-16.

 

 

Dallas Week: Washington Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Cowboys

December 28, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Its Dallas Week.  Here are my keys to the game for the Redskins to beat the Cowboys in the Sunday Night Showdown at FedEx for the NFC East crown.

1 – I will get right into it with first and foremost we need to look at the opponent.  The Dallas Cowboys are an 8-7 football team not a 10-5 or even 9-6.  They are what their record is.  And honestly if Antonio Brown could have protected the football on a punt return this game could have been meaningless for them.  I do think they can be explosive and play like they did week one versus New York but that was week one, not seventeen.

Although the Redskins have not had any games of this magnitude in years, Dallas has had a few and when they have they failed.  The Cowboys have been up and down all season, eking out wins the past two months usually having to come from behind late in games.  The Redskins did the same versus Baltimore but took care of business against teams like Cleveland, in Dallas, New York and last week in Philadelphia over this six game win streak.  Yes, the games ended close but except versus Baltimore, Washington had the lead in all those games down the stretch of the fourth quarter.

2- I could almost copy the same thing I had on the quarterbacks before the Thanksgiving game in Dallas.  Tony Romo did have a big statistical game that day almost all in the second half after the Cowboys fell way behind.  The knock on Romo has been that he can't win these types of games and now to do it on the road gives me confidence he won't be able again.  Before the season I thought Dallas could be a disaster waiting to happen and that Romo could be the fall guy by seasons end.  I will admit that Romo has played very well but let’s see what he does Sunday night.

On the other hand we as Skins fans have full confidence that Robert Griffin III will show up and do what he has done all season.  Yes, the knee will have an effect but all Griffin does is move the ball, don't turn it over and put up 100+ passer rating performances.  And oh yeah, be a true leader as a rookie.  A captain.  That is what he does.

3- Everyone's main concern this week is dealing with Dez Bryant.  And by having to deal with Dez Bryant does that open it up for Jason Witten and Miles Austin.  Bryant last week was as good as anyone other than Calvin Johnson and clearly the weakness of the Redskins is in their secondary.  But will Dez Bryant show up?  Does Dallas add 2 or 3 more chaperones this week to make sure?  I still think that the Cowboys need to watch over a 24 year old is a joke by the way.  Though every time Dez Bryant looks to be on the right path, he does something stupid.  As for on the field, I do think he will be tough to handle.

The return of Demarco Murray also will be a factor in the Washington defense being able to slow down the Dallas offense and force turnovers.  Washington's bend but don't break approach has worked in recent weeks but it has worked because of causing timely turnovers.  Ryan Kerrigan has to do what he did last week.  Rob Jackson has to get back to level of play versus the Ravens as well to help the struggling secondary face the likes of Bryant, Austin and Witten.

4- The first game showed a head to head coaching advantage for the Redskins.  This must happen again.  Mike Shanahan has obviously been in more big games than Jason Garrett and Shanny needs to win the coaching battle.

Can Shanahan win the coaching battle Sunday night?

Can Shanahan win the coaching battle Sunday night?

The obvious battle between the coaches will pit Kyle Shanahan and his offense against Rob Ryan and his defense.  Shanahan worked Ryan in Dallas on Thanksgiving and I would expect no change this week.  Rob Ryan like all the Ryans', is a clown.  Kyle has had his ups and downs but right now has it going and going good.  Ryan will not be helped by Demarcus Ware being far from 100% but Ware is tough and even at 70-80% will give Pro Bowler Trent Williams a handful like always.

On the other side it was turning into a long season for Jim Haslett until the win streak occurred.  His defense is still giving up yards but just holding opponents points down enough to win.  Just holding them down this week may not work so he will need to find holes in a suspect Dallas offensive line.

5- Maybe the most famous Redskins/Cowboys game for Washington fans is 1982 NFC Championship Game.  The game will be mostly remembered for Darryl Grant's touchdown and Dexter Manley knocking out Danny White but what can't be forgotten is how the Redskins were able to run the ball down Dallas' throat with John Riggins all day.  Washington must do the same Sunday night with Alfred Morris.

Morris has proven all season to be this team's Diesel.  And although I doubt Alfred Morris needs any motivation losing out on a Pro Bowl nod to Frank Gore makes for adding motivation.  I expect Griffin to be more of a run threat Sunday night which will open it up more for Morris as well as the receiving core.  Dallas has been torched like the Redskins many times this season so matching big plays with Dallas will be a key as well.  But I would love to see the 2012 Cowboys get pounded into the FedEx turf like 1982 Cowboys were at RFK.  Here is a link to that game.

As for what will happen.  It is crazy to say that we finally have a huge game at FedEx Field after so long.  It is actually embarrassing after the success the team had for many years under Gibbs' first coaching run.  But I have confidence in my quarterback and I have confidence in our leaders like London Fletcher.

Over the past six weeks these guys have yet to fail us on the field and I don't see it happening Sunday night.  I see a win and a division title but not as high scoring as Thanksgiving and more like the Giants Monday night game.  Redskins 23  Dallas 17

 

 

 

Washington Redskins Postgame Thoughts Week 16

December 24, 2012 in Washington Redskins Post Game Recap

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

My postgame thoughts on Washington Redskins must-win over the Eagles:

1- My first thought after the game was that was too close of a win against a bad Eagles team.

But then I thought about it and a win is a win and that makes six in a row.  Now the Redskins have a week to get ready for the Dallas Cowboys and a chance to win the NFC East.  I didn't expect the Eagles to lay down especially in Andy Reid's last home game.  It wasn't spectacular on either offense or defense like we have seen in recent weeks but it was a win and that is what Washington needed.

2- Robert Griffin's return was solid as expected.  By the stats he put up another 100+ QB rating which is what he does every week.

The early one run to the right didn't look like the RG3 we are used to seeing but everyone knows by now that RG3 is a complete quarterback.  We love that he can take off and go for 20, 30, 40 or more at a time but he can also stand in the pocket and make all the throws.  Griffin moved the ball down the field all game and especially in the first half before Alfred Morris got going.  I would expect RG3 to be ready for next Sunday and put on another show.

One coaching call I didn't like.  I think that Shanahan or Shanatan according to Rob Riggle, should have gone 4th and 1 late in the game.  Morris could have gotten that yard.

3- Everyone knows what Pierre Garcon has brought to this team since his return by now Josh Morgan is making a difference also.

Unlike Garcon, Morgan is not putting up bigger numbers but he is becoming a threat to get into the endzone.  A receiving core that looked very shaky after Fred Davis went down has stepped up during the winning streak.  Passes are being caught and I would not put the Griffin interception on Morgan.

I love what Leonard Hankerson is adding in the blocking game.  Actually I like what a lot of the receivers are doing in the blocking game.  And it would be wrong to not mention Santana Moss and what he has done.  I have lost track on how many big touchdowns he has pulled in.

4- I wasn't thrilled with what the defense did today.

The return of Lesean McCoy made it a much tougher day for Haslett's crew.  Madieu Williams always seems to be a second late, especially in the red zone.  We are seeing that way too much and probably why DeAngelo was playing a lot of deep safety today.

Big ups to Ryan Kerrigan today.  Kerrigan has been good, but not great all season, which he needs to be with the injuries.  Today he was great getting after Foles and hopefully he can do the same versus Dallas.  I love the effort by Barry Cofield getting to the outside in stopping screens and quick passes.  I wish the last two drives the Redskins went after Foles like they did earlier in the game.

5- Finally, an easy one.  IT's freakin' DALLAS WEEK!!!

 

 

Preview & Keys to the Game for Redskins vs. the Eagles

December 21, 2012 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Previewing the Redskins @ the Eagles this Sunday with keys to the game and what to watch for.

1 – First Meeting vs. This Game:

Based on the first meeting between the Redskins and Eagles, as well as the Eagles losses at home versus the Bengals and Panthers, I would normally not be that concerned with this game.  The only thing that concerns me is that this will be Andy Reid's final home game as coach of the Eagles.

How will his players react?  I would hope they would show respect and come to play if I was an Eagles fan.  A lot of the Reid mainstays like Michael Vick are either gone or injured, but you have to think Reid is popular still with most of his players and they don't want to send him off with another embarrassing loss.

The Eagles fans have given up on the team and Reid, but could step up this week and give them a home field advantage they haven't had in over a month.  I have been in Philly a lot lately though and listened to WIP and not so sure that will happen.

2- Leadership:

I think last week’s game showed major strides for this team coached by Mike Shanahan.  Even though it was against an opponent that was overall not that good, it was still the kind of game the Redskins teams of the recent past would have no problem dropping.  The Redskins coming back in Cleveland from some early issues to dominate the second half reassured me that this team is not the same we saw in October.

I think the coaching staff deserves a lot credit as do the veteran team leaders like London Fletcher for the fast turnaround.  Fletcher in the end may not rank up there with former Skins like Green, Jurgenson, Riggins, and Monk, but what he meant the past five years to a franchise with little success until now should put him in the conversation.

3- Defense & Adjustments:

I have made it to #3 and have yet to mention Robert Griffin or Kirk Cousins.  I think I have one more important point before I get to them.  The offense has been there all season with the ability to run the ball and turn that into big plays in the passing game.

The defense has not been there all season.  I find it very weird that the defense led by Jim Haslett has quickly transformed from playing two bad halves down to one bad half which has allowed the Redskins to win games in the second half.

A lot was made in the glory days of Joe Gibbs and his staff's ability to access what was going on in the game and make adjustments at the half.  We are seeing that once again.  Add to that the ability to force turnovers in key points in the game and we now have a defense we can have some confidence in.

4- Griffin's Return:

As for who is behind center Sunday I expect it to be Robert Griffin III.  Griffin looks to be on his way to returning to action of missing last week.  If he is cleared to play I completely agree if the team decides for him to be out there.

Kirk Cousins was great last week but RG3 is the one who needs to be out there in another must win.  Griffin had a solid effort on the field in the first meeting and a spectacular one in the stat book.  I would expect him and the offense to be able to move the ball on the Eagles defense.

Injuries to both Will Montgomery and Tyler Polumbus up front worry me even though both should be able to go.  Jordan Black is suspended and is a major blow if Polumbus can't go.  The Eagles even without Jason Babin have guys who can get to the quarterback and that should be the Redskins biggest concern Sunday.

5- Prediction:

Sunday's game could go down as a battle with the worst collection of safeties on one field in NFL history.  Both teams have been marred by horrible play at safety all season and it could be a main factor.

Nick Foles was unimpressive a few weeks back at FedEx but I have to believe he will be better this time around.  Although I feel he is way overrated as a wide receiver not having DeSean Jackson will help the Skins.  I still have bad memories of him flying by Dirty 30 on the first play of that Monday night game after Dirty did his share of talking pregame.  Unlike my buddy Kingston, who still is mad that Laron Landry is gone and even though our secondary has struggled, I still agree with the decision to let him walk.

As for the game.  The Philadelphia Eagles should be up for Andy Reid's final home game but I think this is a different Washington team than year's past.  I am confident that the better team will win and that the Redskins can not only move the ball as normal, but also force Foles and company into turnovers just like the Bengals did last week.  I see this game as a Redskins victory, 30-17.