Archives for posts with tag: Captain Kirk

So this is the team we have.  A 3-4 squad that has more than a few injuries on an offensive line currently being held together by duct tape and paper clips (plus the occasional stapler).  A running game that scares nobody…and a receiving corps where the supporting players are forced to carry the show.  The Redskins are at a crossroads after Sunday’s 33-19 loss to Dallas…because their next three games are against division leading Seattle, New Orleans and Minnesota.  Teams that are a combined 16-6.  Teams that could put the Burgundy and Gold four games under .500 as they enter Thanksgiving week.  They say March enters a lion and exits like a lamb…I’m feeling that November enters for the Redskins like a deer that just stepped on a nail that’s about to cross the GW Parkway.  Brace yourselves…

 

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 26 of 39 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown.  Unfortunately he lost a fumble and tossed an interception–and the Cowboys were able to generate 10 points off of those turnovers.  The pick-six reminded fans real quick about the Giants loss last year.  He was also sacked four times behind a makeshift offensive line and had minimal time to look deep.  The real loss for Kirk though was learning the SS Niners traded for a new captain in Jimmy Garoppolo.  This takes another ship away from Kirk–as Jared Goff is playing well for the Rams.  In the offseason one would have guessed that the Rams and Niners–with former Redskins Offensive Coordinators in charge–would be prime landing spots for Kirk.  Now I’m thinking Jacksonville might be the best place for his next five-year mission.  Episode Equivalent- “Elaan of Troyius”.  As bad as it sounds…with tears being used as a drug.

Running on Empty- the ground game gained a season-low 49 yards on 15 carries…with ten of those coming on the final play from scrimmage.  On a day where the rain and wind was less than ideal, the Skins ran the ball just 15 times.  For comparison, Ezekiel Elliott had 18 carries in the second half alone.

Catch Me if You Can- nine receptions for 123 yards gives Jamison Crowder a major game-ball…while Chris Thompson adds eight grabs for 76 yards.  That’s 65% of the day’s completions and 76% of the receiving yardage made by two guys who in an ideal world are complimentary players.  Jordan Reed, Josh Doctson & Terrelle Pryor combined for two catches for six yards.

Third and Maybe Not- the Skins moved the chains on 4 of 13 attempts.  Cousins completed 7 of 11 passes while getting sacked twice–losing a fumble on the first possession of the second half.  Ryan Grant was the top option with two conversions on three catches and four targets overall.  Distance breakdown:  1-for-1 on short yardage, 2-for-4 on medium (4 to 6 yards needed) and 1-for-8 on long yardage.  So…over 60% of their third downs were long yardage?  The Skins had more third & 20’s than third and shorts.  Not good…

Zach Brown Band- Bayside’s best led the team again with 12 tackles…as the free agent pickup currently leads the NFL with 75 stops.  As in over ten per game.  Unfortunately he’s playing behind a banged up line and in front of a shattered secondary.

Third Down D- the Skins held the Cowboys to 5 of 14 on the money down, forcing four field goals in the second half.  Truth be told there were a few plays wiped out by holding calls that would have resulted in big gains or touchdowns, but the D held its own on a short field.  Dallas twice converted on third and short by using running plays (I know, seriously?) and was 2-for-4 on the ground while 3-for-10 through the air.  Yardage breakdown:  3-for-4 on short yardage, 2-for-6 on medium yardage and 0-for-4 needing 7+ yards.

Special Situations-  well, well.  We’re not going to call the kicking game “special” this week because there were issues.  A blocked field goal that turned a potential nine-point lead into a one-point deficit. A missed extra point.  A penalty on a punt that resulted in 30 yards of field position gained by Dallas.  And Jamison Crowder muffed a punt.  Plenty to chew on this week.

Flying Flags- five penalties for 32 yards…with two contributing to Dallas scoring drives.  Just one on offense (false start-Moses), two on defense (offsides on Galette and unnecessary roughness on Brown) and two on special teams (low block on Way, illegal touch on Holsey).  The Way penalty was actually okay…as his low block prevented a Dallas TD on the blocked kick return.  At least the Skins forced them to run two plays inside the five.  Most costly penalty?  Brown’s flag put the Cowboys within field goal range…and gave them their final points of the day.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia leads the NFC East at 7-1 while also owning the #1 seed in the conference.  Dallas at 4-3 is in second place of the division;  the Cowboys are 9th in the NFC as they lose out on tiebreakers with Atlanta (conference record) and Green Bay (head to head).  The Skins 3-4 mark has them in third of the NFC East and 11th in the conference;  NFC records have them one spot behind Detroit and one slot ahead of Arizona.  The New York Giants after their bye week are 1-6 and in last place of the division;  they’re 15th in the NFC with winless San Francisco not chasing them as much as running in the other direction.

Conference Call- the NFC is 15-13 against the AFC after eight weeks.  The best division is the AFC East at 18-10 while the AFC North is a league-worst 13-18 (the Browns will do that to you).  The NFC East is 15-14 and trending in the right direction…I think.  How many more bye weeks to the Giants get?

 

There was a window that slammed shut Monday night.  It may be for the NFC East, although Philadelphia lost their best offensive lineman as well as a starting middle linebacker.  But up 10-3 in the second quarter the Burgundy and Gold had an opportunity to build off a dominant first quarter.  Instead, the offense sputtered and the defense coughed up touchdowns on three consecutive possessions that spanned intermission.  Instead of coming home one half game behind the Eagles, the Redskins are 3-3 after losing 34-24 to the division leaders.  And Philly owns the head to head tiebreaker, meaning if the Skins want to win the division they have to be three and a half games better than the Eagles the rest of the way.  The Skins’ next four foes are a combined 16-9.  Buckle up…

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One posted another 300-yard passing effort…his third in four games.  He also ran for 18 yards (although he didn’t lead the team on the ground this time).  But when they needed Star Trek Equivalent- “Spectre of the Gun”.  This final-season episode saw Kirk & company face foes from the old west…and amidst production cost issues they had to scrimp on the sets.

Running Aground- the Skins were held to 75 yards rushing…and multiple times turned away from pounding the ball on third and short.  Chris Thompson tallying 38 yards on the ground is one thing…but the runningback leading the Skins with 38 yards rushing is another.

And the Skins’ best wideout is???- I’m voting for Vernon Davis.  The veteran tight end paced the team with 67 yards receiving on 4 catches.  Jordan Reed had his best game of the year (8 catches for 64 yards and 2 touchdowns) although he’s still slowed down by injury.  Last year’s first round pick continues to underwhelm, although Josh Doctson’s 3 grabs almost doubled his total for 2017.  Terrelle Pryor?  Officially entering free agent bust territory as the offseason acquisition caught a pair of passes for 14 yards.  Jamison Crowder (1 catch for 3 yards) remains an afterthought…and now fumbles with alarming regularity.  DeSean & Garcon never looked so good…after combining for 10 catches Sunday for 122 yards with their respective teams.

Hold the Line- they need all the comfort they can get.  Four of the five starers on the Skins’ offensive line are banged up in some way after Monday night’s loss.  Not great as they prepare for Dallas–if they can prepare.  Limited numbers meant a walk-through Wednesday.  The Cowboys’ D is second in the league in sacks-per-game.  Not ideal.

Third and Frustrating-  converting 4 of 12 attempts is never good, especially when one is 0-for-5 in the first half and fails three times to move the chains on 3rd & 1.  They ran the ball once–on a 3rd & 25 in the fourth quarter.  Cousins completed 4 of 9 passes for 2 conversions…while scrambling for a first down and getting sacked once.  The top target?  Jordan Reed caught 2 of 4 passes for a pair of conversions.  Distance breakdown:  0-for-3 on 3rd & short, 2-for-4 on 3rd & manageable (4 to 6 yards needed) and 2-for-5 on 3rd & long.

Zach Brown Band- the linebacker leads the way with 13 tackles and 1.5 sacks.  He’s not the best in pass coverage, but on a defense with injuries up front (no Jonathan Allen) and on the back end (at least until Josh Norman returns).

Getting off the Field- the Eagles were 6 for 12 on third down…actually running the ball four of the five times they faced 3rd & short.  While the Skins’ D denied Philly on 4-of-5 long yardage situations, Carson Wentz turned a near-sack on 3rd & 8 into a 17 yard scamper.  That one still stings.

A Rose is a Kicker by any other name- Nick Rose converted all three extra points and made a 27-yard field goal in his NFL debut.  Welcome to the league, Nick–if you stick with the team through December you’ll give me a great “It’s a Wonderful Life” crutch.  Tress Way averaged over 47 yards per punt.  Jamison Crowder averaged eight yards per punt return but had his customary fumble.

Flying Flags- five penalties for 55 yards.  One came on a punt (Nick Sundberg’s hold) and resulted in the Eagles beginning a possession at their 35-yard line instead of their 13.  The four defensive flags involved a pair of facemasks, a hold and a pass interference.  Quinton Dunbar was whistled twice–for a PI and a facemask while Breeland had one of his two defensive holds declined (because of Dunbar’s facemask on the same play).  Breeland has a team-high 8 penalties this year (although three have been declined).  The most popular penalty remains an offensive hold with nine–although technically this week’s offensive hold came on special teams.  The most costly flag?  Dunbar’s PI that turned what would have been a 4th & 3 into a first and goal at the 1.  The Eagles would take the lead for good shortly thereafter.

Dissecting the Division- Philly’s win not only gives the Eagles a two and a half game lead at 6-1, but they also own the best record in the NFC.  Dallas at 3-3 owns the divisional tiebreaker with the Redskins…so the Cowboys are in 2nd place of the NFC East while holding down the 9th spot in the conference (Atlanta has a better NFC record while Detroit does not).  The Cowboys come to Fed Ex Field Sunday…by the way.  The Skins reside in 3rd place of the NFC East are 11th in the conference standings (strength of victory keeps them behind the Lions).  The New York Giants at 1-6 remain in last place and are in 15th thanks to San Francisco’s rebuild.

Conference Call- the NFC owns a 14-13 edge after seven weeks of interconference competition.  The best quartet?  How about the AFC East at 16-10–I guess they’re more than just the Patriots (for the moment).  The AFC North is a league-worst 10-17…but that’s with the 0-7 Browns in the mix.  The NFC East ranks 5th at 13-13…one half game out of 3rd but one half game better than 6th.

 

So…the Redskins after having a week off almost lost to an 0-5 team.  Despite taking a 17-point first half lead.  And they almost lost the lead in the end after missing an extra point as a rookie quarterback got his team to midfield before short-circuiting. But in a world where just about everybody is 3-2, 3-3 or 2.3 the Redskins are living in the upper crust of the NFL’s middle class thanks to their 26-24 win over San Francisco.  A 3-2 start can just as easily turn into an 11-5 as it can become a 5-11.  But at least they’re not 0-6.

 

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One posted another remarkable episode, throwing for 330 yards and two touchdowns while running for the team’s other score.  His interception keeps this week from being a top-tier show, but at least he didn’t lead the team in rushing again (bad things happen when Kirk ison the ground).  Episode Equivalent:  “I, Mudd”- where Kirk has to deal with familiar face (Kyle Shanahan substituting for Roger Carmel’s Harry Mudd) and chaos ensues, but the crew comes out on top again.

Thompson Twins- Hey, lets give a round of applause for the team’s leading rusher (remember they’re 0-2 when the Captain leads them in rushing)– Chris Thompson.  Let’s also give a round of applause for the team’s leading receiver– Chris Thompson.  The diminutive scatback played big, amassing 138 total yards of offense.  On a team where there is no true #1 ball-carrier and the receiving corps has yet to find itself, Thompson is just what this team needs now.  But how long can he sustain this kind of production and take the pounding?

Third and Subjective- the Skins converted 7 of 14 tries…with 11 pass plays to 3 runs.  Cousins completed 7 of 11 attempts for 6 conversions…with Ryan Grant emerging as the top target (2 catches and conversions in 3 passes).  Yardage breakdown:  3 for 5 on third and short (including 1-2 on the ground), 1 for 4 on third and manageable (0-1 on the ground) and 3 for 5 on third and long.

Zac Brown Band’s new LP “Getting off the Field”– the linebacker led the defense with 8 tackles…and the D held San Francisco short on 11 of 17 third down attempts.  The key was containing on 1st and 2nd down…as the Niners faced 11 third and longs (7+ yards needed).  The Skins did give up a pair of third and short runs…but were able to dial up a last-minute interception by Kendall Fuller.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins made both of his field goal attempts (including a 48-yarder) but missed an extra point.  He then went on short term Injured Reserve with what ESPN.COM is reporting as a “right hip rotator muscle strain”.  They’re signing former Texas kicker Nick Rose to fill the void.  Tress Way averaged 45 yards per punt–again.  The return game yielded just one runback for the Skins–a 6-yarder by Jamison Crowder while the punt coverage team allowed a 39-yard return that set up a missed Niners field goal.

Flying Flags- five infractions for 43 yards.  Three were on the offense (false start, unnecessary roughness and delay of game) while two were on the defense (unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct).  Bashaud Breeland’s defensive hold was declined…so although the cornerback still leads the team with 4 penalties on the season he doesn’t add to his total.  Two still sting:  the first one is a false start on Morgan Moses…that turned a 2nd & 7 into a 2nd  & 12.  Kirk Cousins’ interception came two plays later on 3rd & 12.  DJ Swearinger’s unsportsmanlike conduct turned a 4th & 2 from the 5 into a 1st & goal for the Niners…and would lead to their final TD of the day.  But guess what?  Five games into the season the Skins are the second least penalized team in the NFL.  

Dissecting the Division-  Philadelphia’s Thursday night win keeps the Eagles flying atop the NFC East and after six weeks the #1 seed in the NFC (YES, it’s early–but six weeks should be enough of a sample size to sort things out).  The Redskins are in second place and are one of four teams tied for the #6 seed;  the strength of victory tiebreaker eliminates the Burgundy & Gold.  Dallas is in third place and 12th overall in the conference (thanks to the strength of victory tiebreaker over Tampa Bay), but has to wonder if their defense will continue allow 35 points at home.  In last–for the moment–are those plucky New York Giants who are no longer winless after going into Denver and beating the Broncos.  Welcome to the NFL.

Conference Calls- the NFC owns a 13-11 lead after six weeks…with the AFC East (13-9) sporting the best combined record.  The AFC North is 9-14 thanks to the sinking stone that is the Cleveland Browns.  The NFC East?  A middling 11-11.  We’ve only just begun…

I don’t gamble.  Yes, I circle my picks every Sunday morning (this week I went 8-8 against the spread, reason #246 why I don’t gamble) but I rarely put cash down on an NFL game (plus, it’s illegal in these parts).  Monday night was reason #247 why I don’t put dollars on a sporting event:  with under a minute to play the Redskins were down 20-17 and if you had the Burgundy & Gold +7 or the under of 48.5 you were in great shape.  Even with a Skins field goal at :47 life was okay.  Even with a Chiefs FG at :04 it wasn’t the end of the world.  The world did end when the Redskins ran an offensive play drawn up in my backyard…and instead of being able to run around an oak tree they lost the ball and the Chiefs returned it for a score that covered the spread and scored the over.  As time expired.  THAT IS WHY WE DON’T GAMBLE.  

The 29-20 loss drops the Skins to 2-2 on the season and if they had RPI in the NFL they’d be in great shape:  the combined record of their four foes is 12-4.  Plenty of good and bad to chew on during the bye week.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 14-of-24 passes for 220 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions or sacks.  Many will point to his third down pass that Josh Doctson couldn’t quite hang on to…but I will focus on Kirk making things happen with his feet on multiple occasions.  Much like when Captain Kirk thought he was the chief “KIROK” on the episode “The Paradise Syndrome”, Cousins did his darnedest to save the Burgundy and Gold planet from destruction.

Running in Circles- Cousins was the team’s leading rusher for the second time in four games…and through some sort of coincidence the Skins are 0-2 in those games.  The tailback trio of Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley combined for 73 yards on 3.8 per carry.  Not awful like against the Eagles, but definitely not awesome like the last two weeks.

Receiving Review- Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson combined to catch 5 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, but those watching will remind everyone about the passes they didn’t catch:  Doctson’s grab would’ve resulted in a go-ahead TD and Pryor has developed a rep for not making catches between the numbers.  Jordan Reed returned to the lineup and made 3 receptions for 21 yards:  while his 14 catches on the season are tied for the team lead the TE is averaging 7.5 yards per catch.  On the other end of the spectrum from the young injured player is the healthy veteran-and Vernon Davis made 2 grabs for 89 yards while helping set up the Skins’ lone second half touchdown.

Third and Lost- after converting three of their first four money downs, the Skins failed to move the chains on six of their final seven attempts.  Kirk Cousins completed 3-of-8 passes for two conversions while scrambling for another first down…and his top target was Jordan Reed (completing 1-for-3 passes with one conversion).  Rob Kelley moved the sticks on his lone third down carry of the night.  Yardage Breakdown:  1-for-6 on 3rd & short, 0-for-1 on 3rd & mid-range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 3-for-4 on 3rd & long.

Defensive Dynamics- if it seemed as though the secondary was falling apart, it kind of was.  Josh Norman was just one player to depart due to injury (ribs)…and for a while I was confusing Stefan McClure with Troy McClure (“you might remember me from such situations as “The Shattered Secondary” and “Here Comes the Kickoff Team!”).  Zach Brown led the team with nine tackles while Martell Spaight added eight stops.

Third Down Blues in the Land of Red- the Chiefs converted 8-of-13 money downs…including 4-for-4 on the ground and short-yardage.  The bright spot?  Six of the 13 attempts came from 7+ yards…so at least the D was doing its job on 1st and 2nd down.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins converted both field goal attempts (with a long of 40) while Tress Way averaged 42.3 yards per punt (landing two inside the 20 as opposed to one touchback).  No punt or kickoff returns made for a quiet evening.

Flying Flags- the Skins were whistled for 44 yards on seven penalties.  All on the defense.  Five resulted in first downs for the Chiefs and three came on a last-minute drive that ended in a missed KC field goal.  Most costly?  Second quarter…a Neutral Zone Infraction by Preston Smith (he had two other flags declined Monday night) turned a 3rd & 8 into a 3rd & 3 at midfield the Chiefs would convert.  They’d go on to score their first TD of the game on that drive…and crawl back into the game.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s win at San Diego keeps the Eagles in first place while Dallas takes second thanks to the NFC East tiebreaker (1-0 to 0-1) with Washington.  The Redskins are one of six 2-2 teams in the conference…and currently rank 12th.  The New York Giants continue to find ways to lose…and at 0-4 are 15th due to a better strength of schedule than 0-4 San Francisco.

Conference Call- the NFC owns a 10-7 lead in the early interconference contest.  The NFC South is the early division to beat at 10-5 while the AFC North is a depressing 6-10.  The NFC East?  A 7-9 made possible by the Giants’ rough start.

Remember previous Redskins teams that would start fast only to fade?  We can’t determine whether or not this year’s edition will dissolve in December, but Sunday night’s 27-10 win over Oakland was a game not often…hold on.  Didn’t they beat Green Bay going away last November?  The whole “how do you like me now?” game?  Didn’t Colt McCoy lead the Skins to an upset of Dallas on MNF?  Regardless, the Skins played perhaps their most dominating game on defense since 2007 (when they held Dallas to single-digit rushing yards) and let everybody know that they’re more contender than pretender–at least in September.  It’s actually the first non 1-2 start for coach Jay Gruden… so that is progress.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards and 3 touchdowns…while getting sacked just once.  And he didn’t bring any post-game shouts to the media or a member of the front office.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent:  “City on the Edge of Forever” involves an overdosed McCoy, time travel and Joan Collins.  Easily one of the best and most memorable episodes…with Kirk at his best.

Thompson Time- in a week where Jordan Reed and Rob Kelley were both sidelined iwth injuries, it was a good thing that Cousins had runningback Chris Thompson available.  The flash-back ran for 38 yards on eight carries while catching six passes for 150 yards…and was the top target on third down.  Can his 5-foot-8, 191 pound frame take the pounding that comes from extensive usage?

Third Down- the offense converted 7-of-15 money downs…with Kirk Cousins completing 10-of-12 passes for 7 conversions.  Cousins was sacked once and scrambled twice- he had a 12-yard run wiped out by penalty- while Mack Brown gained one yard on a 3rd & 2.  The top option?  Chris Thompson (5 targets, 4 receptions and conversions) while Vernon Davis and Jamison Crowder each had three catches on three targets.  Distance breakdown was an odd o-for-3 on short-yardage, 4-for-8 when needing 4 to 6 yards and 3-for-4 on long-yardage.  Only four 3rd & longs?  We’ll take that too.

Defensive Difference Makers- minus Mason Foster, the Zach Brown band held the Raiders to under 100 total yards for most of the evening.  Brown led the team with ten tackles while Martrell Spaight added nine stops.  Three of Ryan Kerrigan’s four stops were for a loss (and one was a sack).  It’s always refreshing to have the top three tacklers come from the linebacking corps.

Third Down D earns an A- the defense was perfect in preventing the Raiders from reaching the marker on all 11 opportunities.  That’s 0-1 on the ground and 0-10 on pass plays.  They seeds to the stops was their first and second down performance that meant the Raiders faced 7+ yards on six of the 11 third downs.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins connected on 2-of-3 field goals while missing a 52-yarder…while Tress Way averaged 44.2 yards per punt (leaving three inside the 20 while not having a touchback).  Jamison Crowder notched an 18-yard punt return but fumbled another kick…while the punt coverage teams held the raiders to four total yards.

Flying Flags- ten penalties for 77 yards is more than the team had over the first two weeks combined.  They say “you can call holding on every play” and seemingly they did:  five on the offense and one on the defense.  For those scoring at home, the Skins’ eight offensive holds on the season are the most in the league.  Two of the three penalties that were declined were waved off because they came on failed Redskin third downs…while the third came on the Raiders’ touchdown play.  Repeat offenders:  Bashaud Breeland (a hold and a pass interference) and Trent Williams (a hold and a false start).  Most costly penalties?  A first quarter false start on Morgan Moses turned a 3rd & 9 into a 3rd & 14…while an offensive pass interference on 3rd & 14 would have wiped out the play if they converted.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas’ win over Arizona catapults the Cowboys past the Redskins but below Philadelphia (Eagles own a 1-0 mark amongst the other two teams).  Philly’s 2-0 conference mark gives them the edge for the #2 seed over the Los Angeles Rams.  Dallas is #5 in the NFC ahead of the Skins because of conference record.  The 0-3 NY Giants are securely in the division cellar, thanking their strength of schedule for keeping them ahead of San Francisco for last place in the conference.

September Sample Sizes- the interconference contest has the NFC with an early 6-5 advantage.  Among the eight divisions the NFC South is off to a 7-4 start…while on the other end of the spectrum the AFC North is 4-8 after three weeks.  The NFC East?  A middling 6-6 that suffers thanks to the Giants’ September suffering.

So much for the descent into disaster.  The Redskins never trailed in their 27-20 win at the Los Angeles Rams…and for a while it was cool to see the George Allen-era Skins uniforms go against the George Allen-era Rams uniforms.  Now we have to wonder if week one was the aberration or week two was the mirage.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 18 of 27 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown…the game-winner to Ryan Grant.  While less than ten yards per completion is less than ideal, Cousins was turnover free this time out and was much better on third down.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent: “The Tholian Web”, where Kirk is trapped aboard the USS Defiant as it phases into another dimension.  Perhaps the Skins’ offense is phasing into a different dimension of its own.

Running Wild- I couldn’t see too well without my glasses…was that USC’s old “Student Body Right” on display at the Coliseum?  The Skins ran for 229 yards…their highest total since last October’s win over Philadelphia (ironically also a 27-20 score).  Robert Kelley provided the thunder (until he hurt his ribs) while Chris Thompson added the lightning (106 total yards on six touches) and rookie Samaje Perine provided the rain (67 yards on a team-high 21 carries).  Nobody expects “Hogs 2.0” to sustain a ground attack that regularly surpasses 200 yards, but consistently reaching 100 would help Cousins and the air game hit their stride.

Better to Receive- at least this time Terrelle Pryor didn’t have eleven targets.  Jordan Reed led the way with six catches for 48 yards while Ryan Grant acted like it was August all over again with his 11-yard TD grab.  Jamison Crowder notched three of his four catches on third down.

Third and Something- the Skins converted 5 of 13 attempts, with Kirk Cousins completing 7 of 12 passes (5 conversions) and Perine getting stopped for no gain on their lone run.  His top target?  Chris Thompson (4 targets, 1 catch and conversion) followed by Crowder (3, 3 and 2).  Eight of the 13 passes were thrown to the short right…while three more tossed to the short middle and the touchdown came on a pass to the short left.  Distance breakdown:  2 for 2 on short-yardage, 2 for 7 on medium range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 1 for 4 in long-yardage situations.  Nine of 13 third downs are medium range or better?  I’ll take that.

Case for the Defense- I’m this close to going back to “Saved by the Bell” references as Zach Brown is producing like a powerhouse preppie.  With 10 tackles, the free agent pickup leads the team in stops for the second straight week.  Linebacker Preston Smith added a sack and two quarterback hits.  Cornerback Josh Norman forced another fumble with his well-placed punch.  Two more takeaways by the team give the Skins four on the season…tying the D for third in the NFL.

Third Down and Lockdown- even though the Rams moved the chains on 5 of 12 attempts, at least the defense didn’t get embarrassed on third and long–holding Jared Goff and LA to 0 for 7 on third and 7+ yards needed.  Bending but not breaking:  Goff completed 6 of 8 attempts but only three of those resulted in a first down (they also sacked him once).  While the Skins allowed both Todd Gurley short yardage runs to keep possessions alive, this was much better than the Philadelphia game.

Flying Flags- four penalties for 25 yards?  Who are these people!?  I’m used to Septembers where this team is committing multiple infractions on the same drive and often on the same play.   Instead– the team’s six penalties accepted over two weeks is the lowest in the league.  Two holds, a defensive hold and a neutral zone infraction were accepted Sunday (a facemask was offsetting and an ineligible downfield receiver was declined).  Jordan Reed is the early leader on the season with two flags (holding and pass interference).

Special Situations- Tress Way averaged 51 yards per punt–placing both inside the 20-yard line.  Dustin Hopkins makes two of three field goal attempts, connecting from 22 and 41 yards while missing a 51-yarder.  It would be nice to have more production from the return game, but there were no major embarrassments and the coverage crew didn’t give up the big play.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia leads the NFC East via tiebreaker:  the Eagles and Dallas own 1-0 division marks to the Redskins 0-1 while Philly has the better point-differential.  The Skins are in third while the 0-2 Giants are in last…but take heart as Howie from Hoboken remembers that the 2007 team started 0-2 and won a Super Bowl.

Conference Competition- the AFC holds an early 4-3 edge in the race to 33 wins and interconference supremacy.  The AFC West (6-2) is marginally better than the NFC South (5-2) while each division has at least one 0-2 team.  A different race for #1 is underway…who’s feeling the draft?

SURPRISE!  The Redskins follow another underwhelming August for the starters by losing their regular season opener.  For those who’ve followed this team since coach Jay Gruden took over…did anybody expect anything else?  Backfiring offense?  You got it.  Disappointing defense that made some plays but came up short at the moment you needed them to come through?  Of course.  Special teams stumbles?  Bring on the muffed punt.  The big takeaway from Sunday’s 30-17 loss to Philadelphia was that many saw the seeds of this fruit weeks away.  Now they have to travel cross-country to face a Los Angeles Rams team that is coming off of a 46-9 rout of Indianapolis…and is coached by  Skins’ former offensive coordinator Sean McVay.   Giddy up!

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completed 23 of 40 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown…while tossing an interception and losing two fumbles.  The interception was in the red zone and took points off the board…while the second fumble was returned for the defeat-sealing touchdown.  One year after posting a passer rating of 97.3 in two games against the Eagles, Kirk clocked in Sunday at 72.9.  Episode Equivalent?  I’m feeling this is “The Way to Eden”, where space hippies take over the ship and Spock jams with them in the lounge.  The leader of said hippies has weirder ears than Spock.  It’s not Kirk’s fault 100% this episode has issues, but he doesn’t help it.

Running on Empty- one thing Kirk did do well was make plays with his feet, leading the Skins in rushing with 30 yards on four carries.  Running backs Robert Kelley and Chris Thompson combined for 34 yards on 13 tries.  Anytime the quarterback leads the team in rushing, it better be 1975 and his coach better be Darrell Royal, Barry Switzer or Frank Broyles.

Receiving Roulette– in the first game minus the DeSean & Garcon duo, Terrelle Pryor led the team with six catches for 66 yards.  But none of those grabs came on the team’s last three possessions.  Josh Doctson?  No receptions for the 2016 first-rounder.  Jordan Reed (injured toe that isn’t lingering, they promise) added five grabs for 36 yards and Ryan Grant proved he’s not merely a preseason sensation with four receptions for 61 yards.  And we wonder why Kirk Cousins didn’t sign a long-term deal in the offseason.

DeSean & Garcon- I wish I could quit those guys…but the former Skins receivers will feature prominently here this season.  Pierre caught six passes for 81 yards in the Niners loss to Carolina while Jackson’s regular season debut was pushed back as Tampa Bay’s game in Miami was postponed.

Hold the Line- the Redskins front five didn’t live up to their “Hogs 2.0” moniker, allowing four sacks while breakdowns in the running game forced the offense into more than their share of long-yardage situations.  Hopefully Trent Williams isn’t too banged up– the line needs their best player at 100%.  A legendarily bad offensive line is what helped cause the 4-12 crater of 2009…and the thought was that smart drafting and player acquisition over the last eight offseasons had made this unit a strength instead of a weakness.  Sunday seemed to be a step back after many steps forward.

Third and Less than Ideal- the Skins moved the chains on 3 of 11 opportunities, calling pass plays on each occasion.  Cousins completed 4 of 9 passes for 2 conversions, while scrambling for one first down while getting sacked once.  Three passes to the short middle (two conversions), three to the short left and three to the deep middle.  His top target?  Jermaine Crowder (three passes, three incompletions including the interception in the red zone).  Yardage breakdown:  1-1 in short yardage, 0-3 in mid-range (4 to 6 yards needed) and 2-7 in long yardage.  Needing 7+ yards on 7 of 11 third downs is no way to move the ball.

What Brown can do for you- linebacker Zach Brown led the defense with 12 tackles…with two of those stops for losses.  One is always wary of free agent pickups in the world that gave us Adam Archuleta and Albert Haynesworth, but this move appears to be the right one from the start.

Quality not Quantity- Ryan Kerrigan doesn’t intercept a ton of passes, but he makes his picks count.  Sunday #91 returned a first half INT for a score…his third pick six in three career interceptions.  He also notched half of a sack to go with three tackles.  If the veteran can stay healthy and continue to wreak havoc this fall, the defense that ranked 28th last year will be much improved.

Third Down on D earns one- the inability to get off the field was an issue last year, and Sunday was no different.  The defense allowed the Eagles to move the chains on 8 of 14 attempts, including 5 of 9 on third and 7+ yards needed.  The defense was able to hold the Eagles on both of their third down plays, but was only able to sack Wentz once.

Flying Flags- just a pair of penalties for 15 yards to start the season.  That is marked improvement for a team that in recent years has consistently been near the top of the league in most flags.  The first-on Jordan Reed for holding-turned what would have been a 2nd and 10 into a 1st and 20 at midfield-the offense wound up punting.  The other-on Ryan Anderson for offsides-wiped out a Junior Galette sack and moved the Eagles in position to make a 42-yard field goal.  What did we say about quality verus quantity?

Special Situations- Tress Way averaged 40.5 yards over four punts while Dustin Hopkins made his only field goal attempt (a 33-yarder)…and there were no situations where the Skins eschewed a long field goal for a punt.  The return game?  Jamison Crowders’ muff set up the Eagles second touchdown.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas is the week one leader, edging Philadelphia on point differential (+16 to +13).  The Skins are in third place due to the same tiebreaker over the New York Giants.  Again, it’s only week one…they’ll get things turned around, right???

 

The Burgundy and Gold Glass is overflowing…despite what you may think you are seeing and hearing.  The Redskins’ 23-17 preseason win over Cincinnati proved that this team is even better than they were last year when they tied the Bengals in midseason.  The 0-2 preseason start?  Meant nothing, because we all know that the third preseason game is what matters.  The sluggish start by the offense in all three games?  Merely a mirage as they finished their last two first halves with flourishes.  Don’t even look at the bad from Thursday’s game in Tampa Bay–none of the starters are expected to see time on the field against the Buccaneers.  Quarterback Kirk Cousins says we won’t even see the real team on opening day, as teams don’t “really come together” until October.  So no matter how bad things may get, remember:  this team is much better than their record, statistics or quality of play would lead you to believe.

Captain Kirk–the face of the franchise was less than awesome, completing 10 of 19 passes for 109 yards and an interception.  The INT? Run back for a score.  Unfortunately, slow starts were the rule instead of the exception:  they lost 14 yards on 9 plays from scrimmage in the first quarter against the Bengals.  Over three preseason games the first team offense ran 28 plays from scrimmage, netting just 4 yards.  Once again, Cousins and the offense did come alive late in the first half to produce 10 points on their last two drives–so there’s that.

He’s a backup, not a doctor–Colt McCoy may not win the BABE LAUFENBERG TROPHY like he did last year but he did direct the Skins to a pair of fourth quarter scoring drives.  He does have a better passer rating than Kirk Cousins this month.  And he does look like he could still run a high school paper route.

Running in Place– the team gained a preseason-high 96 yards on 25 carries, with Rob Kelley leading the way by tallying 57 yards on 10 tries.  Even though the Skins still average a tick over three yards per attempt, there’s always going to be the mantra “It’s Only August”.

Better to Receive– is anyone surprised that Matt Hazel is tied for the team lead in receptions this month?  I know– I’m used to seeing Ryan Grant rip it up in August before going into hibernation once the regular season starts.  Josh Doctson remains semi-ready and Terrelle Pryor is still getting used to Kirk Cousins as his quarterback instead of the squadron of Browns QB’s chucking him the ball last fall.  Can we put the bubble wrap back on Jordan Reed until opening day?

Third Down and Dismal– the Skins were 4 for 13 at moving the chains…bringing them to 12 of 43 (27.9%) on the preseason.  Kirk Cousins was 2 for 7 this week…and Colt McCoy was 2 for 6.  The top target?  Our man Matt Hazel (2 second half catches that resulted in first downs).  The top concerns?  Sacks (three plus one intentional grounding penalty), penalties (two moved the chains back) and turnovers (the pick-six and a fumble).  Yardae breakdown: 1-2 on third and short, 1-5 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed), 2-6 on third and long.

In Defense of the Defense– the D coughed up a touchdown to the Bengals on their first drive of the day, just like they allowed a TD to Green Bay the previous week in the first quarter.  Both drives were of 15 plays and 70+ yards.  Bad news for a defense that ranked 28th last season…and worse when another starter is done for 2017 in the form of Phil Taylor.  The veteran nose tackle wasn’t supposed to tear things up this year, but his absence will be apparent on a front seven that already is missing Trent Murphy.  Martrell Spraight (9 tackles) and Will Compton (7 stops) both had solid outings.  Will those translate to regular season production in September?

Special Situations– Dustin Hopkins nailed all three of his field goal attempts, including a 51-yarder.  Tress way averaged over 52 yards per punt.  I think we have our two candidates for the LAUFENBERG TROPHY.

So much for a Preseason banner.  The franchise that has treated us to three straight 3-1 Augusts under coach Jay Gruden is in danger of its first non-winning preseason since 2010.  On the bright side, it’s August.  Many of the players you saw in Thursday’s 23-3 loss at Baltimore will not be around September 10th when Philadelphia drops by Fed Ex Field.  So there’s that.  Also, many of the players expected to be major contributors either saw minimal snaps (Kirk Cousins) or didn’t play at all (Junior Galette) against the Ravens.  Lastly, as it was an interconference loss the Skins would still look pretty good on tiebreakers for an NFC East Preseason title.  As dominant as they’ve been this decade (21-8), the Burgundy and Gold haven’t been the top division team in August since they went 4-0 in 2013.

 

Captain Kirk- the franchise tagged one played just two series, completing 1-2 passes for 5 yards and got sacked once.  He completed no passes to Jordan Reed (who didn’t play) and couldn’t find Josh Doctston downfield (he also sat).  Minus his usual array of weapons and a small sample size, this wasn’t as impressive as last year’s 5-for-5.  But it’s only August.

Backups Back Up- instead of thrilling us like Colt Brennan or the legendary Babe Laufenberg, the Skins backups combined to complete 11 of 25 passes for 108 yards and an interception.  Don’t Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld know that this is August?  That’s when Ryan Grant explodes for 5 catches and 100 yards!  Instead, the perennial preseason star notched just one grab for 17–although it did lead to one of the team’s eight first downs.

First Half Glass Half Empty- if you write off the second half as the back ends of both rosters saw the majority of playing time after intermission, they gained just 48 yards on 24 plays from scrimmage in the first and second quarters.  The Ravens? A robust 155 yards on 39 plays.  So the D wasn’t exactly rock-solid either.  Repeat after me: it’s only August.

Running on Empty- the ground game gained just 39 yards on 18 carries…with Samaje Perine leading the way with 15 yards on 6 tries.  But the rookie from Oklahoma also fumbled, dropped a pass and struggled in pass protection.  Decidedly less than ideal…even if it is only August.

Three &…it’s only August- the Burgundy and Gold converted just 2 of 13 third downs against the Ravens.  QB breakdown:  Cousins was sacked, Colt McCoy went 2-4 with one conversion, and Nate Sudfeld went 0-4 with a punt-inducing sack.  Run-pass comparison:  1 for 2 on runs and 1 for 11 on pass plays.  Yardage:  1-3 on short-yardage, 0-3 on medium yardage (in between 4 and 6 yards needed to move the chains) and 1-7 on long-yardage.

Defensively- they did hold the Ravens to 5-15 on third down.  If there was one achilles last year for this defense that did not involve Junior Galette, it was the team’s inability to get off the field on third down.  Zach Virgil and Josh Harvey-Clemons led the D with six stops apiece…while Nico Marley tallied four tackles and a sack.  Zach Brown also had four stops…and gives me hope that I can use his weekly performances to talk “Saved by the Bell”.

Special Situations- remember just a few years ago when the Skins’ kicking game was a nightmare?  Not so in 2017…as Dustin Hopkins connects from 49 yards in his only field goal attempt.  Tress Way punted nine times for an average of 46 yards per kick…and the return game averaged just under 20 yards on kickoffs and 10 yards on punts.  Kick coverage was solid (10 yards per return)…and despite Keenan Reynolds 46 yard punt return, the punt coverage wasn’t embarrassing.  I like the fact that only 2 of Way’s 9 punts were returned…although the 2 touchbacks were less than ideal.

Flying Flags- 7 penalties for 91 yards.  Again, many of these infractions are by players who will not be here this time next month.  So we move on…unless it gets worse as the regulars play more.

Injuries- the defense took a hit with Trent Murphy and Su’ah Cravens both suffering knee injuries.  No word on the severity of either.  The team was going to miss Murphy anyway with the linebacker serving a suspension for PED’s from weeks one through four of the regular season…but the loss of Cravens hurts as the converted linebacker still has strides to make settling into his new position.

One more weekend in Richmond- the team finishes its stay in the Commonwealth’s capital with workouts Saturday and Sunday.

Did you expect the Redskins season to wrap up any other way?  The Burgundy and Gold are in prime playoff position after their 41-21 win at Chicago…within striking distance of making consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 1990-92.  As in the end of Gibbs I.  As in eight coaching regimes ago.  Special thanks to Tampa Bay and Detroit for losing two straight games as the Skins were able to capitalize this time.

Playoff Picture- Redskins are in with a win plus the Green Bay-Detroit game not ending in a tie.  If that is the case then the Packers win the NFC North and the Lions take the wildcard.  A Skins loss ends the season.  A tie (heaven forbid) means the Burgundy and Gold need a Green Bay loss plus a Tampa Bay loss or tie to play the following weekend.  Take heart…the Buccaneers and Packers if tied for a playoff berth the “strength of victory” tiebreaker would be used to parse two 9-7 teams.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise threw for 270 yards and a touchdown while running for two more scores (shades of RG3! not really).  There’s quite a bit of debate surrounding whether or not to pay #8 what he’ll demand…but Cousins has given the franchise stability at a position that has had eight primary QB’s this century. Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “Journey to Babel”.  Spock’s parents show up and there’s a murder mystery aboard the Enterprise…with Kirk making just the right moves while not upstaging anybody else.

Tragedy of Robert III- the former face of the franchise continues to thrive in exile, throwing for 164 yards while running for 42 more in directing Cleveland to their first win of the season.  Sadly he suffered a concussion in the Browns’ victory, and remains a question mark for the season finale against Pittsburgh.  Heavy is the head that wears the crown…or at least the helmet.

Resurrecting the Run-  from 29 yards on the ground against Carolina to 208 against the Bears!  Sadly, these aren’t the Singletary Bears of the 80’s…or even the Butkus Bears of the 60’s.  Still, Robert Kelley pounded out 76 yards on 19 carries while Mack Brown delivered a 61-yard knockout punch in the fourth quarter.

DeSean & Garcon- the duo delivered again, notching nine catches for 208 yards.  On a week where the Skins were without tight end Jordan Reed, those two secondary-smashers were even more important.  This is going to be one tough offseason…

Third and Solid- after going 2-for-12 on the money down against Carolina, the Skins moved the chains on 8 of 13 attempts against Chicago.  That’s not including two penalties against the Bears that moved the marker on third down after the Redskins were stymied.  Kirk Cousins went 6-for-9 with 4 conversions while scrambling for another first down.  They ran three times…moving the chains all three times.  DeSean Jackson was the top target, catching both passes intended for him and moving the marker once.  Cousins’ safe spot?  Short and to the right (3-4 with one conversion).  Yardage breakdown:  3-for-4 on short yardage (including 2-2 on the ground), 3-for-6 on third and medium (4 to 6 yards needed), and 2-for-3 on third and long.  Stat you don’t see:  10 of the 13 attempts needed six yards or less, meaning the gameplan got things done on 1st and 2nd down.

Defense?  I’m all for it- the Skins rank 15th in the NFC in total defense and Saturday saw a season’s worth of highs and lows.  They tallied five interceptions but still coughed up 458 total yards to a bad offense directed by a quarterback who may be taking his next snaps in Canada.  The Bears converted 7-of-10 third downs and averaged 5.4 yards per carry.  One will take the win…but now one wonders what happens when they face a real offense again.

Flying Flags- seven penalties for 73 yards this time (Skins commit the 11th most infractions in the league).  Two were on offense (illegal substitution plus a hold on Brandon Scherff), three were on defense (Bashaud Breeland’s pass interference,  Duke Ihenacho’s horse-collar tackle and Mason Foster’s illegal use of the hands) and two more were on special teams (illegal block by Terrence Garvin and Ty Nsekhe’s “leverage” penalty on an extra point).  Most costly penalty?  Foster’s illegal hands turned a 2nd & 9 at the Bears’ 28 into a 1st & 10 at the 42…jumpstarting a touchdown drive for Chicago.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas takes their 19th NFC East title at 13-2…but they had already wrapped up the division plus home field advantage when the NY Giants lost to Philadelphia.  The Giants are already assured of the #5 seed in the conference, while Philadelphia had locked up last place the previous week.  So for the first time since the 2007 season the Skins don’t finish first or last.  Ricky Bobby has to be smiling somewhere…

East is the Beast- the NFC East takes top division honors with one week remaining…posting a composite mark of 37-22-1.  The AFC West (36-24) takes second while some last-month maneuvering by the AFC North (24-35-1 but 9-6 in December) puts the NFC West (21-37-2 and 5-11 over the last month) in the lowlight spotlight of the league’s most depressing division.