Archives for posts with tag: Arizona

What was that?  The Redskins won an opening weekend game for the first time since 2012?  This close to their first shutout since 1991?  Forgive me for being skeptical, but this is going to take some time getting used to.  The Redskins’ 24-6 win at Arizona was a clinic we’ve only seen sporadically in recent years:  a dominating running game plus a passing attack that made few mistakes along with a defense that denied.  There’s a new era underway in DC–or at least Landover and Ashburn.

Passing Fancy- Alex Smith threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.  While he didn’t shout “YOU LIKE THAT!?!” at any time he brought home a victory on opening day–something the previous quarterback did not.

Captain Kirk in Exile- much like “The Tragedy of Robert III”, we’re going to keep our eyes on the former Skins signalcaller for a while.  Cousins threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns in Minnesota’s win over San Francisco.  His passer rating of 95.1?  Not even within 20 points of Smith’s 118.3.  So there.

Thunder and Lightning Deliver Rain- the tailback tandem of Adrian Peterson (a thunderous 96 yards on 26 carries) and Chris Thompson (lightning-like 128 yards on 11 touches) provided a backfield balance we haven’t seen for some time.  Does one dare say John Riggins-Joe Washington?  It’s only one week, but the ground game that ranked 28th in the league last year and appeared lost when Derrius Guice went down with a torn ACL looks much improved.

Third and Mixed- the Skins converted on 6-of-13 third downs, with pass to run ratio of 10-to-3.  Alex Smith completed 6-of-9 passes for four conversions while Chris Thompson was the top target:  two conversions on three catches while also notching a seven yard gain on 3rd & 12.  Adrian Peterson moved the chains on both of his third down runs.  Yardage breakdown:  3-for-3 on third and short (1-3 yards needed), 1-for-3 on third and medium (4-6) and 2-for-7 on third and long (7+ yards needed).

D earns an A- so they didn’t get the shutout.  But the defense dominated the first half, holding the Cardinals to 36 yards on 14 plays.  Quinton Dunbar tallied five tackles and three passes defended while notching an interception.  Defense survives the changing of the season and the turning of the leaves…and if this team can continue to play at this level November and December will be something special.

Special Situations- a mixed bag on opening day:  Tress Way averaged 46.5 yards per punt while Dustin Hopkins was perfect on three extra points and a field goal.  Trey Quinn averaged six yards on two punt returns before suffering a high ankle sprain.  The punt coverage team allowed a 44-yarder.

Flying Flags- nine penalties for 63 yards is not the best way to start the season, but week one is always going to be somewhat sloppy.  The nine infractions was tied for 11th most in week one…and the 63 yards was the 18th most.  Six of the flags were on offense (three false starts, two holds and one intentional grounding), two were on special teams (unnecessary roughness and a hold) and one was on defense (illegal contact).  Trent Williams  was flagged twice to take the early lead.  The most costly penalty?  A first quarter sequence where Williams tallied a false start on first down at the Cardinals 30 that stalled the drive and an intentional grounding on third and nine from the 29 that pulled the Skins out of field goal range.

Dissecting the Division- the Skins are tied for first with Philadelphia after the Eagles’ 18-12 win over Atlanta…and it being week one there’s no point in dissecting tiebreakers.  Dallas and the New York Giants both suffered underwhelming week on defeats…so one of those teams (barring a tie) will start the season 0-2 after they meet Sunday night.

Advertisements

Every car needs a jumpstart once in a while.  Last week Nats manager Davey Martinez with three strokes was able to give a banged-up batting order the needed juice to recover from its early season slumber.  Bryce Harper going to the leadoff spot made plenty of sense–as he’s walking more than once per game and almost forgot what a good pitch to hit looked like.  Matt Adams to Bryce’s #3 spot made sense as the veteran has been solid  this spring.  But Wilmer Difo to the 9th spot has created a little electricity at the bottom of the order.  Batting behind the pitcher but before Bryce, Difo’s been a difference maker and wrapped up the week with a walk-off single that helped the Nats win their series with Philadelphia.  There will be more moves (Rendon taking over the #3 spot now that he’s off the DL) regarding this lineup–but in a division that is suddenly coming back to .500, a little juice might be all they need to retake the lead by Memorial Day.

Healthy and Hitting- Anthony Rendon not only returned to the lineup…but the third baseman delivered a two-run single in the eighth inning Sunday that began the rally.  The Nats are still missing Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy…and now that it’s May one wonders when the two will return and how effective they’ll be.

Dissecting the Division- don’t look now, but the New York Mets are in free-fall with eight losses in their last ten games.   Atlanta now leads the NL East with a 19-14 mark (despite getting swept at home by San Francisco) thanks to the #3 offense in the majors led by Nick Markakis (.344 with 6 HR and 25 RBI- on pace for his best season since 2008).  Philadelphia at 18-15 are in second while the Mets are in third at 17-15.  The Nats (18-17)after seven wins in eight games have moved within two of the lead.  They may be in fourth, but the rest of the division is chasing the Nats right now.

O’s Woes- wow.  Yeah.  Did anyone see an 0-6 roadtrip happening with the Birds getting outscored 35-17?  At 8-26 they’re not only 17 games out of first place but also tied for the worst record in the majors.  Manny Machado is having a decent season  (.346 with 9 HR and 27 RBI)–and the watch begins on when or if they send their best player packing for a bunch of prospects.  Right now they’re on pace to lose more than 120 games–and while teams always regress (or progress) to the mean, one wonders if this is the end of the current management structure and core on the field nucleus.  For those scoring at home, the Orioles need to finish 55-73 to avoid a 100-loss campaign…almost double their current winning percentage.

Last Week’s Heroes- Wilmer Difo hit .524 with 2 HR and 5 RBI…culminating in the game-winning hit Sunday.  Matt Adams batted .360 with 5 homers…and Bryce Harper went deep 4 times last week.  Max Scherzer was masterful in his 15-strikeout performance on Sunday–and had 8 in his other start.  Sean Doolittle notched a win and a save while Gio Gonzalez tossed 5 scoreless innings in the series opener with Philly.

Last Week’s Humbled- Trevor Gott coughed up 3 earned runs while getting one out Friday against the Phillies–and twisted his ankle in the process.  Michael A. Taylor hit .087 while Ryan Zimmerman has yet to eclipse the .200 mark for the season and missed two games over the weekend with a “side” injury.  Nobody expected the veteran to duplicate last year’s career resurgence (.303 with 36 HR and 108 RBI) but nobody expected this sort of prolonged start from a guy whose bat figured to be relied upon early and often (especially with the injuries).

Game to Watch- Let’s be honest, every Max Scherzer start is must-watch.  This one more so because Friday night he’ll be facing the team that drafted him in Arizona…while squaring off against Zack Grienke.  The 2009 Cy Young winner may own an ERA of 4.10, but he’s 2-0 at home with a 1.85 ERA.  Did we mention the Diamondbacks lead the NL West?  I’ll be watching after my appearance on News Channel 8’s Sports Talk.

Game to Miss- Wednesday there may very well be a Game Seven at Capital One Arena between the Caps and Penguins.  If there isn’t, The Americans final season continues with the most clueless FBI Agent potentially finally realizing his neighbors in Falls Church are really KGB agents and not just Travel Agents.  So far this season has given us a pair of appearances by the Mail Robot as well as bad country music line dancing.  Sorry, Gio Gonzalez as you pitch against a San Diego team that’s 13-22.

Portions previously appearing on WTOP.COM (apologies to the late Glen Campbell)-

By the time Kirk gets to Arizona, the Redskins will be mourning the loss of a three-time 4,000-yard passer as well as their most stable quarterback situation since Joe Theismann in the mid-80’s.  Don’t blame Cousins for leaving.  He’s done nothing but do the right thing since being drafted in the fourth round in 2012.  He learned the system and competed without complaining, sitting behind the face of the franchise Robert Griffin III.  He even shined as an understudy in spot situations and was likely going to be trade bait after two or three seasons in Ashburn.  But when the Skins brass realized that RG3 was brittle beyond belief and not as good as Cousins, Kirk received a battlefield promotion from lieutenant to captain.  He’s since responded with back-to-back-to-back 4,000 yard seasons.  Previous 4,000-yard passing seasons in team history?  Only two– Jay Schroeder in 1986 and Brad Johnson in 1999.

By the time Kirk gets to Glendale, the Cardinals will be building with a new coach.  One that will be 100% behind getting a quality quarterback to throw to Larry Fitzergald the final years of the future Hall of Famer’s career.  Even with all of the quarterback issues and coaching uncertainty Arizona had this fall, they went 8-8.  He’ll be going to a team that actually plays defense (ranked sixth in the league in 2017) and was only a competent and healthy quarterback away from competing for a playoff berth.  Arizona’s been to a Super Bowl recently with Kurt Warner, and played in an NFC Championship game with Carson Palmer.  Far from being the Zeppo Marx of the NFC East, these Cardinals have won five playoff games over the last ten years.  The Redskins have appeared in a total of five postseason games since the 2000 season started.

By the time Kirk gets to Tempe, the Redskins will be waking up to the fact that the quarterback situation around the league isn’t necessarily feast-or-famine, it’s surviving-or-starving.  Is Cousins a once-in-a-generation Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers?  No.  Not even close.  But he’s worlds better than Brock Osweiller (193 yards passing plus an interception and a fumble Christmas Eve at FedEx Field) and solar systems better than Blaine Gabbert (16-of-41 passing with an interception and three fumbles the week before).  Cousins over the last three years has the sixth-highest passer rating in the NFL, trailing only Brady, Brees, Ryan, Wilson and Rodgers.  He’s proven to be more than a stop-gap measure in DC, but for some reason has not merited long term foundation money.

By the time Kirk gets to Phoenix Stadium, the Skins will realize that he actually overachieved this past fall.  Think about it- Cousins lost top targets Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson to free agency only to see the offseason signing of Terrelle Pryor underwhelmed from day one.  Pryor’s season ended with injury, as did top option Jordan Reed.  Even the best receiver out of the backfield Chris Thompson didn’t make it into December.  I’m not even going to discuss the running back rotation he’s had to rely on over the years.  After the nonsense and shenanigans he’s had to deal with here, it’s nice to see Kirk find a better place and an organization who will build around and with him-as opposed to building in spite of what he brings to the table.  Hopefully the Cardinals will be adding some linemen (52 sacks allowed was the 2nd most in the league last fall) to keep Kirk upright.  Perhaps from Wichita.