Archives for posts with tag: Billy Zabka

Don’t worry.  The Skins’ trip through the NFC Gauntlet is almost complete.  Two games against the sad-sack NY Giants bookend a cakewalk that features three other teams with losing records and the fourth is a Dallas squad minus Ezekiel Elliott.  The 38-30 loss to Minnesota was merely a speedbump on their way to a 10-6 finish.  Yes, they have to play the South-leading Saints next, but after that it’s nothing but smooth sailing for the Burgundy and Gold.  Unless–the Skins are really a pretender that’s on their way to a sub-500 finish for the sixth time in nine years.

Captain Kirk- the Face of the Franchise completed 26 of 45 passes for 327 yards and a touchdown while adding a pair of TD runs.  He did throw an interception that allowed the Vikings to take a double-digit lead late in the first half.  But with receivers slipping and minimal support from his backs, Cousins was still an onside kick away from being in position to tie up NFC North leaders.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “A Piece of the Action”, where Kirk and Spock beam down to a planet that’s mimicked the 1920’s Prohibition Ganster era.  Plenty to like (especially the card game “fizzbin”) but at the end you realize you were looking for a better sixty minutes to spend your time.

Running on Fumes- the ground game was held to under 100 yards for the fifth straight week.  The firm of Perine, Thompson & Kelley resembled Lionel Hutz “I Can’t Believe it’s a Law Firm!” as the trio tallied 71 yards on 22 tries.  Now Kelley goes on injured reserve and the Skins ink Byron Russell from Philadelphia’s practice squad;  the former Oregon Duck was the first player in program history to notch a 1,000-yard rushing season AND a 1,000-yard receiving season in his collegiate career.

Third Down and Out- the Skins converted 5-of-14 money downs, with Cousins completing 7 of 10 passes (and four conversions) while running for a first down and getting sacked (an early incompletion to Vernon Davis was wiped out thanks to a roughing the passer penalty).  Chris Thompson (in addition to making one catch on three targets that moved the marker) carried twice on 3rd & 1…getting stuffed once while getting the yardage once.  Jamison Crowder was the top target- getting four throws, catching three and converting two.  Yardage breakdown:  4-of-5 on short-yardage (including 2-of-3 on the ground), 2-for-2 on medium yardage and 0-for-7 on 3rd & 7+.

Zach Brown Band- sometimes even when the album has ten tracks (or tackles), the product doesn’t work.  The Skins allowed touchdowns on five of the first six times they took to the field…or 35 points on the first 32 plays from scrimmage en route to a season-high 38 points allowed.  The pass rush failed to get a sack.  While DJ Swearinger tallied two interceptions in the second half, Case Keenum completed over 70% of his passes and averaged over ten yards per attempt.

Third Down and Up- the Vikings converted 8-of-12 attempts while only facing three third downs in the first half.  Keenum completed 7-of-10 passes with each completion resulting in a conversion…while also scrambling for a yard on 3rd & 8 late in the game.  Keenum found Adam Thielen for three first downs while connecting with Stefon Diggs twice.  Yardage breakdown:  3-for-3 on short-yardage, 5-for-5 on medium yardage and 0-for-4 on 3rd & 7+ yards neeeded.

Special Situations- Tress way booted his only punt of the day for 52 yards (you mean the Skins punted just once and still lost?).  Nick Rose connected on all three extra point attempts and on field goals of 21, 28 and 55 yards.  And then he attempted that onside kick…that didn’t go ten yards.  Meanwhile, on the other sideline Cobra Kai Forbath did his best “Johnny Lawrence at the 10-year reunion” impression–booting a 53-yarder while making all five extra point attempts.  Didn’t gloat about how he turned okay after attending Duke while Daniel LaRusso surely got popped for sneaking a bonsai tree into the US and did hard time.  I’m sure Johnny even got a wink from Ali at the reunion (she’s now happily married to Bobby, the sensitive Cobra Kai guy).

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia increased its lead without playing a game.  The Eagles had their bye week and at 8-1 own the best mark in the division, conference and league.  Dallas (5-4) stays in second place after their loss to Atlanta, while dropping to 10th place in the NFC.  Third place remains in the 4-5 Redskins grasp;  a better conference record gives them 11th place in the NFC over Arizona.  The Giants are in last place of the NFC East and are the 15th place team in the conference.  The only thing keeping NY out of dead last? San Francisco hasn’t had their bye week yet…and this weekend they will.

Conference Call- the NFC took a 24-16 lead with 24 games remaining in the inter-conference clash.  All four AFC Divisions have losing records against their NFC quartets.  When did it become 1995 again?  The NFC South owns the best record at 22-15 while the AFC North is a Browns-induced 14-22.  The NFC East?  Fourth best at 18-18.

August means many things:  I had better be finishing my summer reading (the Neil Armstrong bio won’t read itself) and the Redskins are back and better than ever!  And I mean better than ever!  Since 2010 they’ve made August their little fiefdom, going 18-6 entering last night’s preseason (don’t you dare call it an exhibition) game in Atlanta.  Thursday’s 23-17 was the team’s second consecutive defeat in “games that do not count towards playoff contention”.

Time for the return of the weekly look back at the game that was…with mind-numbing research, dubious conclusions and snarky thoughts.  First there is some offseason housecleaning as several features that were prominent in previous years no longer fit:

RG3VER- the former face of the franchise is now in Cleveland.  Last year’s best one-liner was that the Skins QB carousel resembled “Star Trek”: Kirk, McCoy and a guy in a red shirt who’s gone by the first commercial.  Good luck with the Browns…

Saved by the Ball- no more Mr. Morris to make the running game bell ding anymore.  One hopes that Matt Jones can at least go to the Max protect, or there will be multiple screeches in the backfield.

Cobra Kai Forbath- we got WAY too much mileage out of this one, from comparing the Skins kicker to everyone’s favorite movie bully.  We ranked the culpability of the other Cobra Kai during Mr. Miyagi’s famed “takedown of the skeletons”.  One likes think that after the disappointment of losing Ali (with an I) to Daniel LaRusso and coming in second during the Valley Tournament, Johnny turned things around (just like he said he was going to at the beach scene) and made us proud.  Dr. John Lawrence has been practicing thoracic surgery with the best of them and is celebrating his 50th birthday this month with his wife and four kids.  Daniel LaRusso still lives in his mother’s basement.  No mercy, indeed…


On to 2016–

The preseason loss to Atlanta?  Doesn’t matter!  The first dress rehearsal tells coaches and fans a few things but the regular season won’t begin for another month.  Please get off the ledge and worry about other things, like the Washington Kastles perilous playoff chances.

Captain Kirk-  beam this guy up after a 5-5 for 39 yard performance.  Number 8 converted 1 of 2 third down opportunities and looked solid in his lone drive with the team.  In his limited time on the field he was able to get passes out to DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.  Best thing-unlike previous first string QB’s there were no injuries or massive miscommunications.

The Real McCoy- he’s a backup, not a miracle worker!  After leading the Skins to a field goal on his first possession, Colt directed three drives that gained 26 yards on 12 plays.  He converted 2 of 6 third down chances, but four of the six were 3rd & 10+.  He likely won’t win a second straight Babe Laufenberg Trophy (his 72% completion and 115.2 passer rating still boggle the mind), but he was able to get some good work in…

The New Guy- do we even have to learn Nate Sudfeld’s name and number?  How did he get #7- was Joe Theismann properly approached?  The rookie from Indiana (where previous preseason hero Babe Laufenberg went as well) completed 10-15 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown.  His 8.9 yards per completion is right in line with Cousins & McCoy.  The three sacks are less than ideal, but for his first NFL game-like experience this was not bad.

Runningback Rotation- Matt Jones gained 1 yard on 2 carries and had a third attempt (12 yard gain) wiped out with a holding penalty.  Will he be the guy this fall?  There are those who are Robert Kelley fans…and he definitely didn’t disappoint with 40 yards and a touchdown rushing plus two receptions.

The Stars of August- receivers Rashad Ross (4 catches for 49 yards) and Ryan Grant (3 grabs for 31 yards) made their impact against Atlanta…setting up the stage for when they’ll be special teamers who get limited looks on offense during the regular season.

Third and…hey, it’s August- the Skins converted 5-15 third downs…with 8 of those 15 attempts coming from 10 yards or more.  Every one of their 15 plays (even the 4 from third and 3 or fewer) was a called pass.  No turnovers and just one sack.  Again, it’s only August.

Grading the D- last year’s unit was ranked in the lower half of the league and many were saying, “once we get Junior Galette back-we’ll be set”.  As many learned in July, Galette’s not coming back thanks to another Achilles injury.  The defense held Atlanta to under 3 yards per carry and under 50% completion percentage…while also getting off the field on 8 of 10 third downs.  But they failed to notch a sack and allowed backbreaking completions of 48 and 68 yards.  It’s August and one thinks they’ll get it all figured out…but the seeds of confidence and concern both show up here.

Flying Flags- 14 penalties for 123 yards!  I give you Exhibit A for why the preseason lasts 4 games.  One looks with a little more concern towards Morgan Moses’ hold in the first half (turned what would have been a 1st & 10 at the 47 into a 1st & 20 at the 25) as well as Preston Smith’s offsides (turned a 4th & goal from the 11 into a 3rd & goal from the 6) at this time…but there’s a lot to be cleaned up in week one of the preseason.  Atlanta had 11 penalties.  And that’s why we watched the Olympics…



What was that Sunday?  A 24-10 thumping of St Louis where the Redskins looked like a contender instead of a pretender?  A game where mistakes were at a minimum?  If this weren’t the 8th win in the team’s last 26 games, there’d  probably be a little more an even keel approach to the aftermath of the club’s first double digit win over a fellow NFC team since the 2012 season finale.  Thank goodness it’s a short week before Thursday night football…

Kirk Beams Up– Cousins completes 23 of 27 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown (Mark Brunell against the Texans, anyone?).  While he did throw a ton of short stuff–he was able to extend the field with 20+ yard tosses to Jordan Reed and Ryan Grant.  Let’s see how he does against the New York Giants Thursday night;  last year he tossed 4 interceptions in a season path defining 45-14 loss.

Saved by the Tandem– remember the episode when Zack realized Slater was his equal?  While Mr. Morris ripped off an early 35-yard run Matt Jones outshone the veteran…tallying 123 yards on 19 carries while scoring two touchdowns.  As the season progresses the two should in a perfect world evolve into a true “thunder and lightning” backfield…able to take advantage of what the opposing defense isn’t best suited to contain.  We just have to figure out how to get Lisa Turtle opportunities.

Life Without Desean– No #11, no problem.  Just no secondary-busting deep threat.  Ryan Grant did average 15 yards a catch…while Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon each caught 6 passes.  Jamison Crowder grabbed a 7 yarder.  Will they need to apply more pressure against opposing secondaries?  Certainly.  Is this a good start?  Of course.

Third and a Glass Half Full– the Skins converted 8 of 16 attempts…6 of 12 on called passes and 2 of 4 on called runs.  Cousins completed 9 of 11 passes (he was sacked once) with his top target being Pierre Garcon (4 targets, 3 catches and 2 conversions including a touchdown).  Matt Jones carried the ball on 3 of 4 run plays (2 conversions).  Distance breakdown: 3 for 5 on short yardage (less than 4 yards needed), 3-3 on intermediate (4-6) yardage and 2-8 on 3rd & long (7+ yards needed).  Just like last week, 50% of their 3rd down plays were long distance.  Not a good long term trend…

Case for the Defense– for the second straight week the D allowed just one touchdown.  They held Nick Foles to under 10 yards per completion and limited the rams to 2 for 12 on third down.  The defense set the tone in the first half, allowing just 3 first downs while forcing three 3 & outs the first five times the Rams had the ball.  Trenton Robinson in making his first start of the season at strong safety tallied 6 tackles…tying for the team lead with Keenan Robinson.  These Rams will never be concerned with the The Greatest Show on Turf, but this is a far cry from the club that gave up the third most points in the NFL last year.

Flying Flags– the Skins were penalized 7 times for 53 yards…down 4 infractions and 35 yards from week one.  Four were on offense (including 3 holds– 2 by Jordan Reed), two were on defense and the other penalty was a holding call on a kick return.  Bashaud Breeland picked up where he left off last year, getting whistled for an illegal use of the hands (Breeland ranked 3rd in the league in penalties last year).  Were they costly?  Reed’s first hold turned a 2nd and 11 from the Rams 21 into a 1st and 20 from the 30 that resulted in a field goal…you could say 4 points were lost on that flag.  The worst penalty could have been Terrance Plummer’s hold on a punt return that forced the offense to start on their own 9…but Kirk Cousins was able to move the offense to midfield before they had to punt.

Adequate Teams–  Tress way averaged 40.7 yards on six punts…none of which were returned by the Rams.  Jamison Crowder returned 5 punts for a total of 12 yards (10 yards his longest return) while Rashad Ross notched a 23 yard kickoff return.  The new kicker whose name in no way references a Billy Zabka movie made his lone field goal attempt from 46 yards while drilling his 3 extra points.  Only one of his five kickoffs was returned…and that one runback reached the 20.  But in the absence of the bully, Daniel LaRusso runs amok and harrasses poor Ali to the point of where she has to drop out.  Thornton Mellon’s kid turns out to be a trust fund jerk.  And Terry never learns the true lesson of whatever the moral to the story was in “Just One of the Guys”.

Dissecting the Division– only two weeks into the season the 1-1 Redskins are in 2nd place of the NFC East.  Dallas has won two games but has lost two players for a big chunk of the season:  while Dez Bryant could be back for game five, Tony Romo is out eight weeks minimum (in Brandon Weeden they trust).  The Giants (0-2) take third due to a better points differential than Philadelphia.  The early small sample size would result in the Skins taking over first place with a win Thursday plus a Dallas loss in week three.  But it’s only September.

Nothing like kicking off the NFL’s regular season in a stadium with more than a few visiting fans.  Now, I believe there are sound reasons why there were more than a few Dolphin fans at Fed Ex Field during the Redskins 17-10 loss to Miami:  they play at Fed Ex once every eight years and thus those who follow Dolphins are apt to pay more for seats than say a Lions or Eagles fan.  But it’s the first game of the year–how do you not show up for that?  It remains to be seen if this year will be more boom (3 postseason berths in last 11 years) or bust (8 last place finishes in 11 seasons)…but week one was not encouraging.

Kirk at the Controls– the new #1 QB threw for 191 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.  The absence of Desean Jackson (hamstring–3 to 4 weeks) limited the downfield game…and thus Cousins averaged under 10 yards per completion.  His two picks could have resulted in much worse:  the first was at the Redskin 21 and Miami turned the ball over on downs while the second at the Dolphins goal line only resulted in 2:35 run off the clock as they got the ball back with 5 minutes left in regulation.  Does he bounce back from this like he did in the Ravens preseason game?  Or does Cousins regress like he did from the Eagles loss to the Giants debacle last fall?

Saved by Mr. Morris– #46 struck oil under the football field…rushing for 121 yards on 25 carries with Matt Jones playing the role of Slater and Chris Thompson making an appearance as Screech.  If there’s one thing this team can do and will be committed to doing, it’s run the football.  Shame this isn’t 1975…

Garcon, Desean & Jordan– Pierre made 6 catches for 74 yards…while Jackson sat with a strained hamstring after a banged up shoulder prevented #11 from playing in the preseason.  They’ve already talked about getting Garcon more touches–and that was after a 2014 season where Garcon was targeted 11 more times than Jackson.  Jordan Reed is healthy– and when he is, the tight end catches 7 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown.  Knock on wood (he missed 12 games over his first two seasons.

Third and a Tale of Two Halves– the Skins converted 6 of 14 attempts…but went 0-5 after halftime.  They moved the chains on 5 of 9 pass plays and on 1 of 5 runs (3 were draw plays on 3rd and double digit yardage).  Cousins completed 3 passes to Jordan Reed and 2 to Pierre Garcon for first downs…while his 3rd quarter completion to Jamison Crowder was stopped after no gain.  Yardage breakdown:  1-2 short, 5-5 intermediate (4 to 6 yards needed) and 0-7 on third and long.  It’s tough to come up for 3rd & 24 or 3rd & 29 plays…but we’ll get into that.

Flying Flags– 11 penalties for 88 yards doesn’t begin to paint the picture.  Last season the Skins were flagged for the 8th most penalties for the 3rd most yardage in the league…and Sunday’s infractions were with Bashaud Breeland suspended (the defensive back ranked 3rd in the NFL in penalties and had the most penalty yards per game in 2014).  Six were against the offense with the other two against the defense…with holding (3) the most popular.  Multiple offenders were Morgan Moses (false start, personal foul) and Jordan Reed (holding, pass interference).  Which ones hurt the most?  In the third quarter the team was at the Miami 23 when a delay of game, pass interference and hold pushed them back to the Dolphin 47 (the aforementioned 3rd &29).  Instead of a 40-yard field goal, they had to punt.  In the fourth quarter a hold and a personal foul moved the Skins from a potential 2nd and 6 on their 24 to a 3rd and 24 from the 6.  Punting away from their own 15– the Skins allowed the go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing return.  That’s 10 points…and the game.

Defending the Defense– the Skins bent but only broke once:  late in the first half.  The pass rush notched 3 sacks and inspired Boots Randolph’s Yakkety Sax in their 3rd quarter fumble recovery.  But do you want a cornerback (DeAngelo Hall) and a safety (Trent Robinson) leading the team in tackles (8 apiece)?  Safety Deshon Goldson’s 6 stops was good enough for third on the team.

Rapidly Shrinking Secondary– thank goodness Breeland is coming back, though.  Duke Ihenacho is done for the year as the safety suffered a dislocated wrist and cornerback Chris Culliver will be suspended one game for violating the personal conduct policy.  DeAngelo Hall missed time as well in the first half after being kicked in the ribs but returned after intermission.  Will Compton…come on down!  You’re the next free agent pickup on the Secondary is Light!

Special Kicking Teams– forgive me for referring to the punt, kickoff and field goal units as special in the preseason.  While Jamison Crowder averaged 11.5 yards per punt return and Chris Thompson tallied a 36 yard kickoff return, the coughing up of a 69-yard runback for a score to the Dolphins is reminiscent of the issues this unit has had the last few years–right or wrong.  One hopes its just an opening day aberration where Tress Way outkicked his coverage with less hang time than desired.  Twice is a trend…and we’ll have our eyes on the kicking game next week.

RIP, Cobra Kai– this is difficult to stomach.  After making a 45-yard field goal and missing a 46-yarder against the Dolphins, Kai Forbath found himself out of a job the next day despite making 87% of his career attempts with the team.  Coach Jay Gruden said that the team is looking for more range and better kickoffs.  Sadly, this ends the 3-plus year dance where one was able to refer to “Karate Kid” and Billy Zabka on a weekly basis.  It was a journey that included breakdowns of how Mr. Miyagi got the drop on the skeleton-costumed pack.  We revisited “Back to School” and “Just One of the Guys” with equal enthusiasm.  This space even imagined a Johnny Lawrence who could’ve turned his life around if he had only listened to Bobby.  Yes, I’ll say that we’ve had enough.  No mercy, indeed…

If there’s one thing about the current Redskins Regime under Team President Bruce Allen, it’s that they don’t just win preseason games–they dominate.  Since taking over for Vinny Cerrato, Allen’s Skins have won 16 of 21 tuneups– and 14 of their last 17.  For the sixth straight year the Burgundy and Gold kicked off the preseason with a victory– as Thursday’s 20-17 win at Cleveland saw the club rally from a double digit deficit to bring home another hard-earned win.  Get those banner designs ready, my friends…

Only the Preseason is not about wins and losses.  It’s about how your team is playing and who is staying healthy.  Looking at that, the victory over the Browns is a decided mixed bag.

Tight End Terrors– Niles Paul’s broken ankle ends #84’s season before it begins.  They’re already minus Logan Paulsen and his sprained big toe…while Jordan Reed’s hamstring issues won’t go away.  That trio combined for 102 catches in 2014 (28% of the team’s receptions)…and although this is a train driven by DeSean and Garcon, the offense needs a viable threat at tight end to move the chains consistently.

Quarterback Carousel– Robert Griffin III completed 4 of 8 passes (despite Garcon’s drop in the end zone) for 36 yards while scrambling for a first down as well.  Backup Kirk Cousins hit 12 of 14 attempts for 154 yards while running for a 4-yard score.  Colt McCoy made 4 of 6 throws for 33 yards while running 3 times for 13 yards.  Not a bad first night for the triumvirate…although one would have like to see RG3 throw his first preseason TD pass since 2012.  Cousins looked the best, but remember he took the bulk of his snaps against 2nd and 3rd stringers.  McCoy was serviceable mopping up in the 4th quarter– and will get the 2nd and 3rd quarter snaps next week.

Running Rivalry– could Mr. Morris finally have his Slater?  Alfred Morris ran 8 times for 42 yards (including an 18 yard scamper on a 3rd and 1) while rookie Matt Jones gained 38 yards on 5 tries.  Chris Thompson and Trey Williams looked sharp as well--while Silas Redd left with a knee injury (MRI Friday).

Third and Encouraging– the Skins went 6-13 at moving the chains:  RG3 converting 2-5, Cousins 3-4, McCoy 1-4.  Griffin advanced the marker with his feet and arm… scrambling for a 3-yard gain on 3rd & 2 while hitting Ryan Grant for a 9-yard pass on 3rd & 5.  The only time Cousins failed to advance the chains was on a 3rd and 25.  One of McCoy’s 3rd downs was a clock-killing run by Mack Brown.  Down by distance:  they converted 3 of 4 short yardage (1-3 yards needed) attempts, 3 of 7 medium range (4-6 yards needed) and 0-2 long range (7+ yards necessary).

Defensive Diagnosis– the unit that ranked 20th last year began August by surrendering touchdown drives two of the first three times they were on the field (the third time made possible by a fumbled punt return).  But after a shaky start, the D settled in and wound up getting off the field on 10 of 13 third downs.  The pass rush generated 5 sacks…(with rookie Preston Smith notched 6 tackles and a sack) and Akeem Davis grabbed a 4th quarter interception.  At least we don’t have to debate the merits of former Coordinator Jim Haslett.

Special Teams at Last?– okay, the fumbled punt return was not ideal, but Chris Thompson tallied a 32 yard kickoff return and a 9 yard punt return.  Kick coverage held the Browns to under 30 yards per return (with a 54-yard scamper by Darius Jennings the outlier)…and no punts were returned.  Tress Way averaged just under 40 yards per punt and nothing blatantly embarrassing happened (blocked kicks, slippery snaps, swinging gates).

Cobra Kai– Everybody’s favorite bully sweeps the leg again in fine fashion– nailing field goals from 33 and 52 yards.  Ty Long handled the extra points.  Or given the new distance, extra extra points.

Coming this season– the new James Bond film, “Spectre”, will be released this fall.  Much like I went on 007 tangents in 2012 with “Skyfall”, I’ll stumble through 50-years worth of J.W. Pepper ramblings this fall.  So we’ve got that going for us…

Now that is how you awaken your fan base!  Or maybe not.  The Redskins 19-17 split decision win over Tennessee was hardly one that instilled confidence–but it’s better than losing to a bad Titans team at home the day Mark Rypien goes into the ring of honor.  A few thoughts about homecoming:  first, do we have to call it that?  I understand the concept–and it’s very cool to have the ex-Skins lined up on the sideline before the game–but homecoming sounds more like a Saturday when Tennessee-Martin is coming to town.  Homecoming brings to mind backbiting fraternities and sororities complaining about inappropriate floats for the parade…or teenage kids wearing ill-fitting crowns and smiling awkwardly.  Call it “Burgundy and Gold Day” or “Honor Day”…”Homecoming” just sounds ill-fitting for the NFL.  Second– can the Fed Ex Fans give all the ex-Skins a little love?  You’re standing up anyways–can’t you shout when they say Otis Wonsley or Brad Edwards just like you do for Darrell Green?  Lastly– Florida State wants their jerseys and pants back.


Public Service Announcement:  Belated Birthday wishes to Billy Zabka/William Zabka, aka “Johnny Lawrence” in the “Karate Kid” (as well as the arrogant bullies in “Just One of the Guys” and “Back to School”)…the inspiration for a big chunk of the weekly analysis of Kai Forbath’s goings-on.  Anybody not in the Griswold household who gets a vote for Family President gets our vote.


Realignment, anyone?  The victory makes the Skins 2-1 against the AFC this year–and 4-3 since the 2013 season which translates to a .571 winning percentage that would prorate to 9 wins over a 16 game season.  The team is 1-15 against the NFC in that time.  Is anybody thinking what I’m thinking? 


Kirk replaced on the Bridge by McCoy– when your offense is falling out of orbit, of course you call the ship’s doctor.  Kirk Cousins played his way to the bench in the first half with a pair of delay of game penalties, a lost fumble and an interception.  Worst thing was–one felt it could have been worse.  Enter Colt McCoy– after throwing one pass in 2013– and on his first pass of 2014 he connects with Pierre Garcon on a simple hitch pattern that #88 takes to the endzone (aided by the Titans inability to tackle).  McCoy completes 11 of 12 passes for 128 yards and that TD–while driving the team the length of the field for the game-winning TD as the 4th quarter was winding down.  More importantly, no turnovers.  Even though he looks 18 years old, McCoy is actually older than both RG3 and Cousins.  Replacing a midwesterner at the controls by a southerner who by all intents an purposes is a third-stringer doesn’t happen often:  DeForrest Kelley rarely got a chance to outshine Shatner…now Colt McCoy gets a chance on the Monday Night stage next week in Dallas.  What does this make RG3?  Spock, of course.  Live long and prosper..


Alfred the Emphasized– So he didn’t get 100 yards.  So Mr. Morris only gained 3 yards a carry.  At least they’re using him now as an option…18 carries for 54 yards on a day where they actually went to him on first down.  Just like another Mr. Morris who’s all about making sure Jessie doesn’t ruin her father’s wedding–#46 provided solid support throughout the day.  One concern- his losing the ball on the first drive (even though it wasn’t ruled a fumble) only enhances his reputation as the guy who can’t hang on to the football (much like Zack earned the rep of using the brick phone in the early days). Roy Helu Jr was held to -9 yards on three catches (including one extremely ill-advised screen that looked like it was intended to hit the O-Lineman’s back) but his 15 yard run on the final drive set up the game-winning march perfectly.  Break out the Buddy Bands.


Wideout Weapons– one benefit of bringing in Colt McCoy in the second half– Pierre Garcon coming to life with 4 catches for 82 yards after intermission.  While DeSean Jackson caught all 3 of his passes for 49 yards before the break–the Skins did take a deep shot with under a minute left to draw a pass interference call that set up the game-winning field goal.  Add in the TE duo of Jordan Reed and Niles Paul, this team isn’t devoid of targets.  They just need the right triggerman…


Third and At Least We’re Not Tennessee– the Skins went 3-of-11 at moving the chains against the only team in the league that’s worse on third down (Titans also went 3-of-11).  Kirk Cousins went 2-of-6 at moving the chains, Colt McCoy 1-for-5 .  While Cousins completed all 4 of his third down attempts for 49 yards, take away the shot to DeSean Jackson and it’s 3-3=16 with a lost fumble.  McCoy’s (1-2=5 with no conversions and a sack for -7) best third down was the pass interference call against the Titans.  Yardage breakdown:  1-for-2 on third and short (3 or less), 1-for-2 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 1-for-7 on third and long (7+).  After 7 weeks, 44% of the team’s third downs are by 7+ yards…and the Skins are converting just 2 of those 36 attempts.  That isn’t a dropoff– it’s a major cliff.


From the Stoppable to the Moveable– yes, the Skins defense allowed just 17 points and held the Titans to 236 total yards.  Keep in mind that Tennessee was minus their first string quarterback and runningback…and the Skins still couldn’t sack the highly immobile Charlie Whitehurst more than once.  But at least they got an interception from Bashaud Breeland–and four of the top six tacklers were linebackers (Breeland and defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins the exceptions.  Nice job by ILB’s Keenan Robinson and Will Compton getting to the ball (the duo combined for 20 of the team’s 49 tackles).  Now if only the secondary can avoid breakdowns– like the help that EJ Biggers never received on Whitehurst’s 38 yard TD pass to Derek Hagan.  Stop smiling, Tony Romo.


Will no BO make the Defense Stink?– Brian Orakpo’s done for the year with pending surgery on an injured right pectoral muscle (an injured left pec wiped out a previous season, so at least now he’s balanced)…likely ending his days in Burgundy and Gold.  The franchise tagged outside linebacker managed 24 tackles (7th on the team) with half of one sack (tied for 6th)…no interceptions and no fumbles forced or recovered this fall.  While he may have underperformed his 11+ million dollar contract, Orakpo’s light years ahead of Trent Murphy–whose 9 tackles this year are overshadowed by his 3 penalties (including a punt return offsides on 4th and 5 Sunday that moved the chains for the Titans).


Flying flags– only 7 penalties for 50 yards…as the team is finally under the 8 penalties per game average (55 for the season).  Sunday’s infractions featured four offensive:  2 delay of games and an intentional grounding on Kirk Cousins plus a holding against Tyler Polumbus, 2 defensive:  illegal contact calls against Bashaud Breeland and Keenan Robinson, and the punt return offsides against Trent Murphy.  Two loom large:  Cousins first delay of game turned a 3rd & 5 into a 3rd &10–and with more pressure he fumbled which led to the Titans first score.  Robinson’s illegal contact turned a 2nd & 15 at the TEN 26 into a 1st & 10 at the 36…and the Titans would wind up scoring on that very possession.  After 7 weeks, the Skins have the 8th most flags and 2nd most penalty yardage in the league.


Cobra Kai– SWEEP THE LEG!  Four field goals for Mr. Forbath.  NO MERCY!  The prized pupil of the Dojo kicks the gamewinner after “being iced”.  I’LL LET YOU KNOW WHEN HE’S HAD ENOUGH!  When you’re kicking for an offense that ranks near the bottom of the league in third down conversions, competence is crucial. GET A BODYBAG!  Defensive End Jason Hatcher joked on Comcast Sports Net that they’d now let Forbath in the locker room after he made the kick.  Really?  That’s like Dutch telling Johnny he can’t hang out at Golf N’ Stuff.  With all the lack of pressure Hatcher and the D-Line generated…he’s lucky Forbath is letting him back in the locker room.


Division Discussion– Pittsburgh’s Monday Night Football win over Houston places the AFC North (15-10) percentage points ahead of the NFC East (16-11)…although Cleveland’s loss to Jacksonville has to crush their RPI.  The NFC South lost all three of its games to fall to 8-17-1 on the season…creating some distance with second sloppiest AFC South (11-17).  Both of the Redskins wins are against AFC South teams…hmm.


Dissecting the Division– Dallas with its win over the NY Giants improves to 6-1 and moves past idle Philadelphia to not only take first place in the division but the top seed in the NFC…as the Eagles remain half a game behind the Cowboys.  The Giants at 3-4 slip to 10th in the conference (losing the conference games tiebreaker to Chicago)…and the Redskins win means the Burgundy and Gold move ahead of Tampa Bay into 15th place in the NFC.  They battle the 1-5 Bucs in their next home game November 16th.  Can they hold another homecoming?

The NFL Draft has been many things over the years.  For a while it was a Tuesday cable curiosity–and those lucky enough to be on spring break that week were blessed.  The selection show on ESPN moved to Saturday-Sunday in the late 80’s before residing in the current Thursday-Friday-Saturday format.  Now there’s talk of stretching it out to four days…PLEASE DON’T.  Although I like bothering my baseball/basketball friends by suggesting the league might just go to a “round a month” format to stretch out the suspense from February to August.  Heaven knows they can also release each week of the regular season schedule …week-by-week from March until the end of June.

The Redskins traded down in the second round to add another selection… and wound up making eight picks.  Will they make an impact?  Conventional wisdom says more than a few will get long looks because whenever there’s a coaching change–there’s more roster turnover.  Team President Bruce Allen last week said he imagined 25 new players this fall…and with free agency the draft isn’t the lynchpin it was in the 1970’s and 80’s when trades was your only alternative.

Under Bruce Allen/Mike Shanahan the Burgundy and Gold had four drafts:

2010– surprisingly not a lot sticking despite the regime change from Vinnyzorn to Bruce & Mike’s Excellent Rebuilding Adventure…but two hits:  OT Tre Williams (4th) and LB Perry Riley (103rd).  Williams has two Pro Bowls to his credit and Riley’s a two-year starter.  Terrance Austin was out of the league after the following season and T Selvish Capers played 3 games with the NY Giants in 2012…while RB Dennis Morris and C Eric Cook didn’t play a regular season down in the league.

2011– highly underrated:  LB Ryan Kerrigan’s played in every game while notching one trip to the Pro Bowl.  DL Jarvis Jenkins and Leonard Hankerson have started one season while Dejon Gomes, Niles Paul, Roy Helu and Aldrick Robinson have all played in more than 60% of the Skins games over the last three years.  Even 7th rounder DL Chris Neild has played in 24 games in his career.

2012– two hits with a couple of possibilities:  QB Robert Griffin III (28 games, 1 Pro Bowl) has paid off in the form of a Division Title and is the face of the franchise.  Alfred Morris (32 games, a Pro Bowl and 2888 yards rushing) has exceeded the expectations of a 6th rounder.  Fourth round pick LB Keenan Robinson, 5h rounder OL Adam Gettis and 6th round choice OL Tom Compton have all played between 34 and 47% of the Skins games…while 3rd round OL Josh LeRibeus has been limited over the last two years.

2013– tough to gage after one year:  DB David Amerson (2nd round) started as a rookie and played in all 16 games…3rd rounder TE Jordan Reed averaged 5 catches a game until a concussion ended his season…Bacarri Rambo played in 11 games after being faked out of his shorts by Tennessee’s Chris Johnson in the Preseason.  RB Chris Thompson and DE Brandon Jenkins combined to play in 10 games…while DB Philip Thomas spent the year on IR.

So all in all not a bad runnow to this year’s picks:

2nd Round (47th pick)– Stanford DE/LB Trent Murphy.  Upside:  you can never have to many pass-rushing linebackers in the 3-4…and didn’t Orakpo miss most of 2012?  Downside:  some experts say he was a reach…and with Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan manning the OLB spots, did they need to make their first pick here?

3rd Round (66th pick)– Virginia OT Morgan Moses.  Upside:  a steal– on many boards he was a low 1st/high 2nd round…I tweeted that he was a possible pick by the Skins at pick #34.  Downside:  some players drop for a reason…the question is can he back up his 6-6, 314lb potential with solid pro play?

3rd Round (78th pick)– Nebraska G Spencer Long.  Upside:  a good football team is like a steak dinner…and the OL/DL is the entrée that can overshadow sub par potatoes lyonnaise, or make awesome creamed spinach worthless.  Another 6-5 lineman who can create depth and competition is huge.  Downside:  he missed a big chunk of his final season with the Cornhuskers thanks to a knee injury…we all know how the Malcolm Kelly worked out.  But Long has had to work his way into a lineup before (from walk-on to starter at Nebraska).

4th Round (102nd pick)– Clemson DB Bashaud Breeland.  Upside:  they gave up the 2nd most points in the league last year…and the last line of defense is the first thing you look at.  Notched 4 interceptions and 10 passes defended last season.  The coaching staff thinks he can also slide over to safety if need be.  Downside:  less than ideal acceleration and high-tackling were two red flags by some of the scouts.  Will he be able to shine in a secondary that’s crowded with young players trying to make their mark?

5th round (142nd pick)– Tulane WR Ryan Grant.  Upside:  he produced (over 1000 yards receiving last fall) and he’s used to adversity (the Green Wave is not a powerhouse). Downside:  he’s not the RB from Notre Dame that’s currently with the Green Bay Packers.  And it’ll be tough for him to make the roster at a position that has plenty of depth.

6th round (186th pick)– Baylor RB Lache Seastrunk.  Upside:  wicked cool name.  Every team that’s any good has to have at least one player whose name leaps off the sheet at you.  He’s fast as well (4.46 speed).  Downside:  Alfred Morris, Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster aren’t going anywhere soon.

7th round (217th pick)– Indiana TE Ted Bolser.  Upside:  a position in transition (Fred Davis departing, Jordan Reed ascending) can use a 6-5 receiver who can make plays in the red zone…and he set school receiving records at his position.  Downside:  his school is Indiana University and this isn’t basketball.  Can he cover kicks?

7th round (228th pick)– Arkansas K Zach Hocker.  Upside:  future Redskins Rehash segments will feature “Mr. Morris” and “Zach Attack” entries.  Perhaps Mr. Hocker and Alfred can be friends forever.  At least until one of them suffers a sprain.  Downside:  if he makes the roster, that means no more “Cobra Kai” Forbath segments.  And although the Billy Zabka tangents have been mined to all extremes, much like Johnny Lawrence wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Ali Mills at the end of the summer (“She broke up–he didn’t”)…I’m not ready to say goodbye to Cobra Kai.  Even if it means going “Double Bell” this fall.

Giving up is not the easiest thing to do…even when it is the necessary thing to do.   It means we admit we’ve either made a mistake or it’s time to try something new. And nobody wants to admit they’ve erred or go away from what they’re used to attempting.  Much like Dr. Evil in “Austin Powers” after unveiling two outside the box schemes proved faulty…”Oh, what the hell– let’s just steal a nuclear weapon like we always do!”  We’re like that with TV shows. And that’s one reason I try to limit my viewing–because just as I was on the hook for the final unwatchable two three four seasons of 90120, I don’t do well departing a series I’m invested in (for the record, “9-0” became unwatchable after Dylan left the show following his new bride’s murder).

That said– I began the season with four shows in my rotation with a fifth joining the club this winter…

Dallas– Yes, I was stuck on the Ewing schemes in the 80’s well after the “Dream Season”.  There was no way I could avoid getting sucked in to this Lone Star State sized sinkhole.  And let the record show, if they ever reboot “Happy Days”, “Cheers” and “Tales of the Gold Monkey” at the same time like they’re doing next summer with “24”, I’m going to be worthless.  How could you resist the 21st century update to JR, Bobby, Sue Ellen & Cliff?  By having the kids be annoying as hell.  JR’s kid is the “schemer”, yet seems like he can’t solve short division problems.  Bobby’s son’s answer to everything is shouting…and Cliff’s daughter went from smart scammer to dumb damsel in one season.  At least Bobby married the woman who played Sue Ellen Michke on “Seinfeld” (although there’s no mention of the Mars family fortune).  Sadly, Larry Hagman’s death brought a narrative dampener midseason.  While the show gave JR a proper sendoff and tied up loose ends nicely, I don’t know if a third season is necessary.

Mad Men– Oh, if only JR met Don Draper.  Bourbon and branch meets the Old Fashioned.–they would have had one heck of a time in Big D or the Big Apple.  While season six is still in progress we’ve seen Don careen through his professional and personal life like a bull in a china shop.  Not only did Draper  napalm the Heinz and Jaguar accounts, he started cheating on his Soap Opera actress wife with a married woman–sneaking over when her cardiac surgeon is saving lives.  All the rest is window dressing alongside Don’s descent:  a merger between SCDP and CGC (couldn’t we have just one vowel?), Pete’s retreating hairline, Peggy’s boss-crush (umm, Peg—Preppy McPrepp isn’t leaving his wife for anyone short of Daisy the Stewardess) and Rookie of the Year Bob Benson (“from accounts!  Wharton!  I’ve got two cups of coffee if you want one!”).  Add Harry Hamlin (“Roger Sterling with bad breath’) and Ted McGinley (SHARK ALERT!) to the mix and you’ve got just enough to make me sit through Sally & Bobby Draper’s scenes.  Kids just don’t fare well on this show– even Roger’s adult daughter was irritating in her limited run.

The Office– Bob Benson would be such a good Regional Manager at Dunder-Mifflin.  At its best this was one incredibly nuanced show of equal parts sweet, sour and sublime.  From Jim and Pam to Jim vs. Dwight to “I’M PRISON MIKE!”.  Ringmaster Steve Carell was the crazy glue that kept what seemed like 20 plot points working like coordinated oars in the water.   Nobody said the wrong thing at the right time better or more often.  After Michael Scott’s departure the rudderless ship foundered over the last two years but finally finds port this week.  It’s time to say goodbye… I have the same regard for “New Jim” and “Dwight Jr” as I did for “Coy & Vance Duke” and am just glad there’s not a “Poor Richard’s Pub After Dark” where today’s hottest artists happen to make tour stops.  But I still dream of a “Threat Level Midnight 2–Electric Boogaloo”.

How I Met Your Mother– And of course I’d have to go see “The Wedding Bride III” the next day.  The consistently uneven season ends–and we actually get a payoff for the third straight finale:  two years ago we learned Barney was going to be the groom at “the wedding” (How crazy!  He’s the ultimate bachelor!)…last year we learned Robin would be the bride (How crazy!  She hates marriage and he’s engaged to a stripper!).  This year we actually see “the mother”–Cristin Milioti shows up to buy one ticket to Farhampton with umbrella and bass in tow (How crazy!  We were used to being stringed along!).  Highlights include Billy Zabka at the bachelor party and Ted’s “45 days” speech.  Lowlights include Marshall’s disappearance,  Robin’s descent from confident career woman to Barney-obsessed and “Who Wants to Be a Godparent”.  Now the show’s final season will be devoted to wrapping things up.  But how will they?  I’ve heard everything from them having Ted meet the mother in the first 1 to 3 episodes…get to know her and then marry her in the finale (which they have to do to line things up for a 15 year old daughter in the 2030 flash-forwards) to all 24 episodes covering “Barney and Robin’s Wedding Weekend” with flashbacks of how each in the gang got to meet the mother– which will become exhausting.   Unless Billy Zabka’s there.  And yes, I refuse to call him William. 

The Americans–  what do I call the husband?  Phillip JenningsClark Herbert Westerfield?  Or whatever Russian name he actually goes by?  In honor of Kevin Costner in “No Way Out”, I’m going with Yuri.  Maybe they can use the same shed at Arlington National Cemetary in season two– and even board the Metro at the Georgetown stop.  Word is the show “Alias” was pitched as “Felicity’s a spy” to ABC– so it’s only fitting Keri Russell a decade and a half after playing Felicity becomes a spy.  And even if she cuts her hair (DONT!) she’ll have a wide assortment of wigs.  Perhaps it’s the spy story motif, the protagonists as KGB sleeper cel agents or the early 80’s outfits and music that makes this work (“Games Without Frontiers” the perfect coda to the season finale).  Maybe it’s because everybody is lying about something to another character at some time or another–and they kind of know it (there hasn’t been this much serial dishonesty in a cast since “Casablanca”).  Perhaps it’s the sense of fear because we know and see how good the KGB couple is at undermining our national security–and we see and know how woefully unlucky and occasionally incompetent our people are.  In a world where one of my shows makes it’s necessary departure, another probably should have taken its final bow and a third is behaving like the college student taking 3 courses a semester to reason the 6 year plan, it’s nice to see it’s “morning” for “The Americans”.  Good to see I’m moving forward with one show set in 1968 and another in 1981.  Phillip/Clark/Yuri,  meet Don Draper/Dick Whitman.