Archives for posts with tag: Jay Gruden

After a week where the team got blown out by New England and fired head coach Jay Gruden, the Burgundy and Gold bounced back Sunday with their first victory of the year.  In response to questions about the team’s culture Monday, it may not have been “DAMN GOOD” against the tanking Dolphins but it was good enough to eke out a one-point win against the worst team in the NFL.

The Case For Keenum- the starting quarterback of the moment threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns, and wasn’t sacked at all.  That’s what happens when you face the Dolphins defense.

Peterson’s Progress- Adrian tallied his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, a far cry from being inactive in the week one loss.  He also caught a pair of passes.

McLovin McLaurin- the rookie receiver caught 4 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns.  He’s now on a pace to record 69 catches for 1224 yards and 15 scores.  Glad they took a flier on the Ohio State wideout to keep Dwayne Haskins company in camp.

Third and Lost- the Skins converted on 2 of 11 money downs, calling 11 pass plays.  Even on six third and shorts.  Keenum completed four of those throws for two conversions. The top target? Trey Quinn and Paul Richardson each had three.  Yardage breakdown: 2 for 6 on third and short (1-3 yards needed), 0 for 3 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 0 for 2 on third and long (7+).

D earns multiple grades- how do we properly evaluate this unit?  Do we weigh more how they handled Josh Rosen or how badly they defended Ryan Fitzpatrick?  Landon Collins had the game he wished he would have posted against the Giants, notching 12 tackles with a sack.  The D posted five sacks on the afternoon, while also recording a pair of interceptions.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins made both extra points and connected on a 21-yard field goal while missing a 55-yarder.  Tress Way averaged 45 yards per punt.  Trey Quinn had a punt return of 15 yards.

Flying Flags- six penalties for 56 yards feels like an improvement over previous weeks (they averaged nine through the first five games of the season).  After six weeks, the habitual offenders have been 15 offensive holds, 8 false starts and 6 defensive holds. Donald Penn’s five flags leads the team at this time. Sunday’s big penalties?  Back to back plays where Fabian Moreau’s defensive hold and Ryan Anderson’s roughing the passer turned what would have been a fourth down at the Miami 42 into a first down at the Redskins 39.  The Dolphins would get their only first half points on that drive.

Dissecting the Division- losses by Dallas, Philadelphia and the New York Giants tighten things up.  Philadelphia (3-3) owns the NFC East lead and #4 seed in the conference thanks to the common games tiebreaker over Dallas, while the Cowboys have dropped three straight and are now in 10th place of the NFC.  The Giants are in third place of the division and 13th overall, while the Redskins remain in sole possession of the East Cellar and on the NFC’s bottom rung thanks to the conference tiebreaker.

North Stars- the NFC North owns the best record of the eight divisions, carving out a 14-7-1 start that’s one half game better than the NFC West.  The AFC North is at the opposite end of the spectrum at 8-16, while the NFC East is 9-15 at this point.

Interconference Contest- the NFC owns a 19-10 lead over the AFC, and that’s with the Redskins going 1-1.  They still play the Jets and Bills…so beware.

Blame the Nationals playoff run.  Blame the ongoing college football season plus the start of mens’ and womens college basketball, plus the NHL opener and the NBA’s preseason.  Somehow on the way to documenting what went right and wrong in the Redskins’ 24-3 loss to the New York Giants the Skinsanity got lost in the shuffle.  Because how they fared on third down (both offensive and defensive units rank 31st in the NFL) and which penalties hurt them the most (45 flags over five weeks has the team as the third-most whistled unit in the league) is such a micro thing.  Those are fundamental flaws in a team, but those are bad fruits that are the byproduct of poor soil and worse gardening.

So over the last weeks after watching this team play that way I tried to crank out the usual analysis, but each post died amidst busy days at the ballpark and voting for All-Big Ten and Top 25 polls.  The failed flights are below; consider this a “director’s cut”…:

 

“This just in:  the Redskins are going nowhere.  The 0-4 Burgundy and Gold mess are headed to another last place finish in the NFC East, barring disasters elsewhere.  Sunday’s 24-3 loss to the New York Giants extinguished whatever remaining playoff hopes there were, and who knows how bad things will get between now and the end of the season.”

 

“For those hoping for an October surprise Sunday, you should have turned your TV off after Cam Sims’ 65-yard touchdown run. Just like you should have moved on after Vernon Davis’ 48-yard TD catch against Philadelphia and Adrian Peterson’s triumphant one-yard plunge against Dallas.  But in the NFL, they play a full 60 (sometimes more) and once again the Burgundy and Gold glass is far from half-full.  The 33-7 loss to New England results in an 0-5 start as well as a coaching change; Jay Gruden leaves having lost 11 of his last 12 games.”

 

Okay, now we’re past that.  What now?  Bill Callahan takes over on an interim basis; he’s the first to be in that post here since Terry Robiskie took over for Norv Turner.  While you could argue that the 2000 Redskins were close to contention, as all six losses were one-possession affair, this year’s team is nowhere near respectable.  Even the Eagles loss looked closer than it actually was because of a garbage-time touchdown. This team is in meltdown mode, even judged against other meltdowns this century: Jim Zorn’s 4-12 disaster started the year 2-2 and Mike Shanahan’s 3-13 farewell was 3-5 at one point.  This year’s club could have a date with 2-14 or 1-15 destiny.

Meanwhile, the failed Gruden regime gets buried under an avalanche of losses.  If one takes away his period of adustment (a 4-12 rookie season in 2014) and Gruden’s final 16 game stretch (4-12 as well-how symmetrical!), the team went 25-25-1.  And yes, I count the playoff loss to Green Bay- after all, it was the high-water mark of the era.  What was in 2016 the most stable coach-quarterback combination in the NFC East (https://wtop.com/washington-redskins/2016/09/redskins-new-identity-continuity/) didn’t take long to unravel, and the familiar coach & quarterback carousel is back.

But the quarterback & head coach are merely hood ornaments;  one wonders how long the engine of the current Redskins regime stays in Ashburn.  Bruce Allen came to the franchise almost ten years ago with promises of accountability and a rescue from the Vinny Cerrato era/error.  Just like the peasants who cheer the departure of one ruler, Redskins fans had no idea that Allen would oversee a decade where the team would get worse, as in 59-89-1.  As in currently the fourth-worst mark in the NFL this decade (during a decade dominated by Vinny, the Skins were a robust 71-92, good enough for 23rd).  As in the only franchises who have been worse this decade have been Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Cleveland.

Allen is reportedly working on getting a new stadium deal for the franchise;  as the FedEx Field fiasco is one of the factors that has turned this team from one that dominated the district into a squad that regularly plays at home in front of opposing fans-dominated stands, this is the silver bullet (Coors Light reference not intended) just like the return of Joe Gibbs in 2004 was the Burgundy and Gold bullet that undid previous miss-steps.  But he’s also in charge of the football operations, and for the last decade we’ve seen that patient suffer on the operating table.

Will they fix this mess?  The immediate road ahead is a nightmare.  After a trip to Miami their pre-bye week foes are a combined 11-3.  After the hiatus, the Skins face just a pair of teams that currently have losing records (the New York Jets and Giants).  Back to the Dolphins- this 0-4 team isn’t just bad, they’re Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1976 bad.  The team that can’t even wear the right color of aqua or position its dolphin correctly on the helmet ranks 32nd in the NFL in scoring, points and yards allowed, rushing offense and defense, offensive and defensive passing efficiency, sacks for and third down defense.  They rank 31st in total passing and total offense as well as passing defense.  A loss would tempt many to clamor for relegating the Redskins into the CFL or something.  Hail…

 

 

 

Perhaps Monday Night Football isn’t the best showcase for the Redskins.  Once again, the Burgundy and Gold get blasted under the glare of the prime time lights in a 31-15 loss that wasn’t as close as things appeared (this is becoming a trend).  At 0-3 the Skins are sinking faster than you can possibly imagine.  And just when you thought things eased up after an early rough patch (and it was rough with three games against playoff teams from 2018), three of the Skins’ next six games before their November bye are against 3-0 teams (a fourth is against 2-1 Minnesota and Kirk Cousins).  Even with the NFL being a week to week league, things do not look good in Ashburn.  To add to the fun, at halftime the team honored London Fletcher by adding the former linebacker to the Ring of Honor at FedEx Field-only to spell his last name “Flecther” on the scoreboard.  And the beat goes on…

The Case Against Keenum- the Redskins quarterback threw for 332 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears.  That’s the good news; he also threw three interceptions and lost a pair of fumbles.  Nobody was expecting Keenum to  be the QB of the future, but the present is far from ideal.

Running a Little Better- from 28 yards against Philadelphia to 47 against Dallas to 69 against the Bears, the Skins are making progress. In theory.  Adrian Peterson ran 12 times for 37 yards, giving him 62 on 22 tries over two games.  Keep in mind that the veteran had seven games in 2018 where he gained fewer than three yards per carry.

Catching On- Terry McLaurin grabbed six more receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown, giving the rookie 16 for 257 and three scores (prorates to 85-1370-16).  One extremely bright spot in a sad start to the season.

Toppings Update- back in the day Papa John’s would offer free toppings on Monday for touchdowns the Redskins would score, and then double the toppings for a Skins win.  Rick Snider (formerly of the Washington Post Express) and I hash out toppings picks each week, although he doesn’t believe in the doubling part of the exercise (which I think only adds to the intrigue).  We have our own quirks;  for example Rick is not a banana peppers guy.  My quirk is when the Skins get a TD garbage time, you get a garbage topping. So instead of pepperoni and mushrooms, last night’s effort generated beets and summer squash (I used broccoli in week one and cauliflower in week two).  Meaning four of the eight touchdowns tallied this year have come after the game was no longer in doubt.

Third and Long Gone- the Skins moved the chains on 3 of 9 attempts, with seven pass plays and two planned runs.  They went 0 for 2 on the ground. Case Keenum completed 3 of 5 passes (two conversions), was sacked once and scrambled for a first down.  Trey Quinn was the top target (two passes thrown to) while Chris Thompson had a carry and a catch (but no conversions).  Yardage breakdown?  They converted 2 for 5 short yardage (1-3 yards needed), 1-1 medium (4-6 yards) and 0-3 on third and seven yards or longer.  Bright spot:  five of the nine third downs were short yardage.

D earns one- the Bears converted 6 of 8 third downs in the first half, including a 3rd and 17 that put Chicago up 28-0.  While they played better after halftime (a season-low three points allowed after intermission) and generated three sacks (one more than their total through two weeks), they also had two linebackers leading the team in tackles. Baby steps.

Special Situations- Tress Way punted just once for 48 yards.  Dustin Hopkins made a 35-yard field goal but missed a 43-yarder. Steven Sims Jr. averaged 34 yards per kickoff return with a long of 45. Trey Quinn averaged 7.5 yards per punt return.  Punt and kickoff coverage wasn’t disastrous.

Flying Flags- NINE penalties for 61 yards (not including one that was offsetting).  Three on offense (plus the offsetting flag) with six on defense.  Just one hold after eight the first two weeks.  A pair of neutral zone infractions on defense was the only recurring violation.  Donald Penn’s the early leader with three accepted penalties (this week’s hold was added to a chop block and a false start) after three weeks.  The most costly flag?  Actually a sequence where the defense was whistled for a neutral zone infraction, an offsides and an illegal contact that kept alive the Bears’ longest drive of the night.  A drive that would result in a touchdown that would put the visitors ahead 14-0 in the second quarter.

Digesting the Division- Dallas (3-0) leads the NFC East and currently owns the #3 seed due to the strength of victory tiebreaker.  Philadelphia (1-2) is in second place and 13th in the NFC due to their division record (1-0) while the New York Giants (1-2 and 0-1 in the East)  are in third and 14th in the conference.  The Redskins reside in last place and are the only 0-3 team in the NFC (there are five 0-3 teams in the AFC).

North Stars and Stumbles- the NFC North is the early leader in the clubhouse with a 9-2-1 start, while the NFC West has the the second best composite record at 8-3-1.  The AFC North has the worst mark at 3-9.  The NFC East?  Middle of the pack at 5-7.

Interconference Affairs- the NFC is crushing the competition, with 11 wins in 14 games.  The NFC has dominated each of the last four odd-numbered seasons.  Since the merger, the conference with the better record has produced the Super Bowl winner 27 times in 49 years (there were eight seasons where the NFC and AFC finished even).

Somebody has to start 0-2.  Actually, nine NFL teams (over 25% of the league) began the regular season with two straight losses.  The Redskins are one of those teams, and after Sunday’s 31-21 loss to Dallas the faithful find themselves wondering how bad this year might get- or if the sorry start is simply a byproduct of playing two playoff teams from last year.  Once again a strong start fades in the early afternoon sun.  Once again a garbage-time touchdown makes the game seem closer than it actually is.  What will become of this less than ideal beginning to the season?

The Case for Keenum- the quarterback didn’t throw for 380 yards like he did in week one (the biggest opening day for a Skins QB since Brad Johnson in 1999), completing 26 of 37 passes for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns.  A lot of short stuff.

Running Aground- Adrian Peterson was active this week, and gained 25 yards on 10 carries (or seven yards better than Derrius Guice ran for against the Eagles).  Over two games the Skins have managed just 75 yards rushing.  That’s good enough for 30th in the league.

Better to Receive- one of the bright spots of the early season, Terry McLaurin, backed up his dynamic debut by notching 5 catches for 62 yards;  the rookie is now on pace to make 80 receptions for 1496 yards and 16 TD.

Third and Sour- the Skins converted 2-9, and went 0-3 in the second half.  Nine pass plays saw Keenum complete 5 of 8 passes while getting sacked once.  The top target was Trey Quinn (3 targets, one catch & conversion) while every pass was short left (2), right (3) or center (3).  Yardage breakdown: 1-4 on one to three yards needed, 1-2 on four to six yards needed, and 0-3 on seven or more yards needed.

Disappointing Defense- Landon Collins led the team with 12 tackles, and the disturbing trend is that three of the top four tacklers were defensive backs.  The defense once again coughed up more points in the second half than the first, and once again had issues getting off the field to a greater degree after intermission (Dallas went 4-5 after going 3-6 in the first half).  So far this year the Redskins’ foes are 12-15 on third down in the second half after going 6-13 before the break.

Flying Flags- the Skins were whistled 6 times for 44 yards.  Four on offense and two on defense.  Three offensive holds, a false start, a roughing the passer and a defensive hold.  Brandon Scherff had a pair of holds to lead the way.  The most costly flag was the second hold against Scherff, turning a 1st & 10 on the Cowboys’ 35 to a 1st & 15 on the 48.  It pushed the Skins out of field goal range and stalled the drive.

Dissecting the Division- Dallas due to its 2-0 start leads the NFC East, with 1-1 Philadelphia one game back.  The New York Giants own the conference record tiebreaker and are currently in third place, while the Skins occupy the East cellar and are at the bottom of the NFC.

West remains Best- the NFC West is 6-1-1 to start the year, including multiple wins by Pacific time zone teams in games beginning at 10 a.m. EDT.  The NFC East is 3-5 to start the season.

Just when you thought the Skinsanity of Seasons Past was strictly a thing of the past, the Burgundy and Gold go ahead and put their fan base on panic and anxiety mode.  The team’s come-from-ahead 32-27 loss (but they covered the 10.5 point-spread) saw plenty of possibilities before getting smacked in the face with the realities of this team and franchise in 2019.  They went toe to toe with the division’s most recent Super Bowl champ, but find themselves lacking in the end.  All while stirring up a hornet’s nest of locker room ire.  Welcome back…

Running Back Roulette- after years of quarterback controversies, it’s nice to see the team diversify this fall.  Adrian Peterson (1,000+ yards last year) was inactive for a game where Derrius Guice made his regular season debut.  Even Rex Grossman was active when Robert Griffin III made his debut in 2012.  While Peterson sat quietly in sweats, the Skins ran for 28 yards on 13 carries with Guice gaining 18 on 10 tries.  In addition, Guice went to the medical tent during the game-saying that “nature was calling”. Evidently “nature calling” meant “the knee that didn’t suffer a torn ACL last year was bothering him”.  An MRI later puts a dark cloud over the position.   And we’ve only just begun…

The Case for Keenum- this year’s quarterback threw for 380 yards, the most for a Redskin in a season opener since Brad Johnson in 1999.  His ceiling appears to be higher than anything that existed for Alex Smith, and even though many feel the 31-year old is a stop gap until Dwayne Haskins gets up to speed it’s nice to see the passing game in good hands. 

Catching Fire- a lot has been made of Josh Doctson’s inability to stay healthy as a rookie while producing in the years since.  Sunday rookie Terry McLauirin grabbed 5 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, giving him in one game more 100-yard receiving efforts than Doctson did in his entire time here.  Last year’s rookie flash Trey Quinn added 4 catches for 33 yards and a TD, and ageless veteran Vernon Davis notched 4 receptions for 59 yards and the game’s first score.  A big catch for Davis, who recently lost his grandfather.

Hold the Line!- while Trent Williams’ holdout continues, the offensive line allowed one sack while generating a little over two yards per carry.  The combination of Erick Flowers and Donald Penn were also whistled for a combined four penalties in the fourth quarter.  Move along, nothing to see here.

Third and a tale of two halves- the team converted 5 of 9 before intermission, and went 0 for 4 during the Eagles’ comeback.  The team ran on 12 of 13 plays, the other being a direct snap to Chris Thompson that was snuffed out.  Keenum completed 8 of 12 passes with 5 conversions, with the top targets being Vernon Davis (one conversion on three catches on five attempts) and Paul Richardson (two conversions on two attempts).  Yardage breakdown:  2 for 3 on short (1-3 needed) yardage, 1 for 3 on medium, and 2 for 7 on long yardage (7+ yards needed).

Defensive Deficiencies- things began well enough, before the second half saw the Eagles score the first four times they had the football.  The D generated just one sack, while Philly held the ball for over 21 minutes after intermission.  Quinton Dunbar led the team with nine tackles; and I maintain that it’s never good for a cornerback to pace the team in stops.

Special Teams Glass Mostly Full- Dustin Hopkins converted both field goal attempts and went 2-2 in extra points while Tress Way averaged 54 yards per punt.  Trey Quinn returned a punt for 11 yards while Steven Sims averaged 15 yards per kickoff return.  Punt coverage did allow 11.5 yards per return and the Eagles didn’t have a kickoff return.

Flying Flags- the Redskins were whistled 12 times for 96 yards.  Eight on offense, one on defense and three on special teams.  A league-high four holds (plus one more on special teams) and two false starts were the repeat offenses.  Erick Flowers (two holds) and Donald Penn (a chop block and a false start) are the early leaders in the race nobody wants to win.  The worst penalty?

Dissecting the Division-  Dallas’ 35-17 win gives the Cowboys first place after one week, while the Eagles are in second for the moment.  The Skins’ minus-five point differential means they’re in third and avoid the cellar for the moment.

West is Best- I know it’s early, but the NFC West went 3-0-1 while the AFC West is 3-1 after one week.

 

Welcome back!  Who’s ready for another season of Skinsanity?  The only team that plays games in one state, practices in another commonwealth and takes its name from a different district is back for more fun and games!  Will the sixth year of the Jay Gruden regime result in the second double-digit win season this century?  Or will this be the fourth straight third place finish for the Burgundy and Gold?  Say what you will about Gruden; he’s the first coach since Steve Spurrier (a pair of thirds) not to have multiple last-place finishes on his resume.  No matter what happens, the Skins will provide theater from Labor Day to New Year’s on a weekly basis (minus the bye week November 10).

Hot Topics in Richmond- the Redskins close the books on another summer in the commonwealth’s capital.  Entering training camp there were questions about the status of left tackle Trent Williams, the quarterback competition and of course which color pants the team would wear.  For the record, I wish they’d stick with gold pants at home with burgundy jerseys and red pants with white tops on the road.

The first preseason game (don’t you dare call it an exhibition) saw a few answers in the 30-10 defeat at Cleveland.  First, the Skins are wearing white pants with the burgundy jerseys-I’m just thankful they don’t have the team name on their pants like the Browns do. 

Second, Case Keenum emerges as the leading quarterback candidate after completing 4 of 9 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.  The oft-injured Colt McCoy did not play (twisted ankle suffered in practice a few days before) while first round pick Dwayne Haskins completed 8 of 14 passes for 117 yards but was intercepted twice.  Fourth stringer Josh Woodrum?  Already on Injured Reserve with a torn pec.

Lastly, Trent Williams did not practice one snap at Training Camp as the veteran continues his holdout. Reports are that Williams never wants to play another down for the Burgundy and Gold, and even though things can turn on a dime in the NFL this impasse feels Grand Canyonesque.  His absence won’t just affect the left tackle spot, but likely will bleed over into the center of the offensive line.  Prepare for a drawn out finish that will make nobody happy.

Banner Season- last August was the first Preseason in nine years where the Redskins finished with a losing record. If there’s one thing we’ve become accustomed to this decade, it’s dominating the dress rehearsals: now 24-13 (12-9 under Gruden) with a 14-4 (7-3 under Gruden) home mark.  We’ll take last Thursday as an aberration…

Award Season- while the Redskins hopes for an August championship may be dimmed, there is the annual excitement surrounding the “Babe Laufenberg Trophy”- named after the former quarterback who shined in the Preseason during three stints yet never actually appeared in a game for the Skins.  Previous winners under the Gruden regime:

2018- running back Kapri Bibbs: 106 yards rushing plus 119 receiving.  Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton finished a close second with 26 tackles.

2017- linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons: 15 tackles plus an interception returned for a TD.

2016- running back Mack Brown: 39 carries for 227 yards and a touchdown.

2015- wide receiver Rashad Ross: 25 catches for 266 yards and four touchdowns, although LB Jackson Jeffcoat notched 4 sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception.

2014- quarterback Colt McCoy: 73% completion rate for 496 yards and 4 TD (111.6 rating). McCoy came close to winning the first two-time winner of the award in 2017.

This year’s early candidates include cornerback Jimmy Moreland (a team-high six tackles), linebacker Cassanova McKinzy (a fumble recovery and one sweet name) plus wide receivers Darvin Kidsy (5 catches for 86 yards) and Robert Davis (a 46-yard TD reception for the team’s lone score).  Best of luck, gentlemen…

Sunday’s 20-13 win at the New York Giants had “trap game” written all over it in such a manner it was almost disgusting.  If Hollywood cast for “Letdown Games”, this would be the prime candidate.  But instead of a disappointing defeat to cut whatever momentum the Redskins had built, coach Jay Gruden’s team comes home off to their hottest start since 2008 (we won’t go over how that ended, but it involved the Skins wearing burgundy on burgundy in a prime time game).  For a franchise that has missed the postseason in eight of the last ten years, there are no small victories.  Especially in the division.  Especially on the road.

Mr. Smith goes to the Meadowlands- Alex completed 20 of 32 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown while running for 13 yards on three carries and avoiding a sack.  While he’s not winning the Skins games at this time, Smith isn’t losing them.

Country Cousins- Kirk threw for 359 yards and two touchdowns, but also tossed an interception that was run back for a New Orleans touchdown.  While Cousins’ passer rating is over ten points (102.5 to 91.3) higher than Smith’s he also has four interceptions plus four lost fumbles this fall to just a pair of turnovers for Smith.

Yo Adrian- Mr. Peterson rumbled for a season-high 149 yards and a 64-yard touchdown while catching a TD pass that put the Skins on the board.  The offseason pickup is on pace to rush for 1,300 yards- not bad for a 33-year old.

Top Targets- Jordan Reed had arguably his best day of the season, catching seven passes for 38 yards.  Josh Doctson added season highs of five grabs and 49 yards.  While Paul Richardson and Chris Thompson are less than 100% and Jamison Crowder is on the shelf, Doctson’s presence is all the more important.

Third and Just Enough- the offense moved the chains on 6-of-15 attempts…with Alex Smith completing 8-of-12 passes for five conversions.  He also had a scramble for three yards on 3rd & 13.  Jordan Reed was the top target- catching four of seven passes thrown his way for two conversions.  The two runs?  Adrian Peterson gained one yard on 3rd & 1 while Christ Thompson gained a yard on 3rd & 10 in the fourth quarter.   Distance breakdown:  3-for-4 on 3rd & short (1-3 yards needed), 2-for-5 on 3rd and medium (4-6) and 1-for-6 on 3rd & long (7+ yards needed).

D continues to Grade Well- the Skins held the Giants to 37 yards on 14 carries while handcuffing NY to 2-of-14 on third down.  Matt Ioannidis tallied 2.5 of the team’s seven sacks while Mason Foster led the way with 13 tackles.  D.J. Swearinger posted a pair of interceptions to give the safety a league-best four picks on the season.

Special Situations- Tress Way averaged 49.2 yards per punt.  Wow.  Dustin Hopkins made two of three field goal attempts-missing a 41-yarder-while connecting on both extra point tries.  While the punt coverage team allowed a 19-yard return, there were minimal failures.

Flying Flags-  eight penalties for 90 yards–with 46 of coming on a defensive pass interference on Montae Nicholson that set up a Giants field goal (and that was the only flag on the D).  Four penalties were on offense (two false starts, a hold and a PI) while to were on special teams (false start on an extra point and offsides on a free kick).  Seven weeks into the season, over 50% have been either holds (13) or false starts (12).  Sunday’s most costly penalty?  A false start on Morgan Moses turned a 3rd & 1 into a 3rd & 6–resulting in a field goal.

Dissecting the Division- the Skins at 5-2 keep their one and a half game lead over Philadelphia, who beat Jacksonville in London Sunday morning.  There’s heaven, hell, purgatory and 9:30am London games.  Idle Dallas drops two games off the pace at 3-4 and responds by firing their offensive line coach.  The New York Giants at 1-7 continue to make the case for not being as good as their record would lead you to believe.  NFC seed/place:  Redskins are 3rd, Philly is 9th, the Cowboys are 12th and the Giants are 16th.

NFC Least- the division still has the worst composite record at 13-17, one half game behind the AFC South (14-17).  Good news for the Skins who still play Houston, Jacksonville and Tennessee.  The best quartet?  The NFC South is 17-11–bad news for the Burgundy and Gold who still have to play Atlanta and Tampa Bay.

 

Well how about that?  Sunday they turned back the clock and put the Redskins-Cowboys game on CBS…kicked it off in the late-afternoon window and the two teams played in a 20-17 nailbiter decided on the final play.  The only thing missing was promos for “Murder………………She Wrote” coming up after “Sixty Minutes”.  Instead of being in a rugby scrum for the NFC East lead, the Skins find themselves with a rare early season cushion–yes, it’s only one and a half games but it’s their biggest advantage since the end of the 2015 campaign.  And if one looks a the upcoming schedule, the Burgundy and Gold face ONE team currently with a winning record the rest of the year.  That “winning” team is 4-3 Houston.

Mr. Smith Goes Underneath- Alex completed 14 of 25 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.  The 23-yard pass to Kapri Bibbs for the game’s first touchdown was his second-longest completion of the afternoon.  Now his average yards per completion for the season may rank 19th in the league at 11.2, but he’s almost one yard better than Captain Checkdown himself-Kirk Cousins (10.3).

Captain Kirk in Exile- the former franchise tagged threw for 241 yards and two touchdowns against the very team that outbid Minnesota for his services last winter in a 37-17 rout of the New York Jets.  For the season, Cousins has a passer rating of 101.8 to Smith’s 91.9.  But Smith has fewer turnovers (two to Kirk’s four).

Peterson’s Presence- Adrian rushed for 99 yards on 24 carries without a touchdown so the Fantasy Football players will be bummed, but once again the Redskins runningback gave the team exactly what they needed and wanted on the ground.  Can you imagine the offense without the offseason pickup?

Third and Troubling- the Skins went 3-for-12 at moving the chains with 10 of their 12 third downs needing at least seven yards.  Not ideal.  Smith went 5-for-7 with three conversions.  Kapri Bibbs led the team with two catches on two targets (and one conversion).  Smith scrambled twice and fumbled once.  His second scramble was the one he’d like back as Alex failed to stay in bounds and keep the clock moving late in the fourth quarter.   For the season the team ranks 23rd in the NFL at 37.5%, better than last year’s 32.1% that ranked 31st in the league.  Yardage breakdown:  0-for-2 on a pair of third and short (under 4 yards needed) runs and 3-for-10 on third and long (7+).

D earns an A- the Redskins handcuffed the Cowboys’ ground game, allowing 73 yards on 22 carries.  They also held Dallas to 5-of-14 on third down and Ryan Kerrigan’s strip-sack led to Preston Smith’s touchdown that proved to be the difference in the end.  It’s less than two weeks from the debacle at New Orleans, but one has to feel good about this unit-especially up front with Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen.  Kerrigan also notched his first two sacks of the season after being held in check.  Watch out for #91 as he gets untracked.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins drilled both of his field goals and extra points while Tress Way averaged 37.8 yards per punt–landing five of his six kicks inside the Dallas 20.  Nice to know that part of the game is not beating the Skins in a razor-thin margin league at this time.

Flying Flags- “Don’t Beat Yourself”.  It’s an easy mantra to have, but a tougher one to follow.  The Skins had five penalties (plus one that was declined) for 35 yards, keeping the team in the pack of least-penalized clubs (7th fewest infractions, 8th fewest yards).  Three of the five were on the offense (hold, false start and pass interference) while the other two were on the defense (encroachment and holding).  The early leaders in the clubhouse are holds (12) and false starts (9), with Trent Williams team-high five flags (3 holds and 2 false starts) making the tackle the most-whistled Redskin after six games.  Sunday’s most costly penalty?  Josh Harvey-Clemons’ defensive hold in the fourth quarter that turned what would have been a 3rd & 10 from the Skins’ 11 into a 1st & goal from the 6.  Dallas would reach the endzone three plays later.

Dissecting the Division- the win prevented the Redskins from falling out of first place in the NFC East…and they received an additional gift when Philadelphia blew a 17-0 lead to Carolina at home.  The Skins (4-2) are now a game and a half ahead of the Eagles and Dallas (Philly owns the division record tiebreaker) and are three and a half games up on the last-place New York Giants, who have dropped 19 of their last 23 games.  Conference Playoff Rankings:  the Redskins get the #3 seed while Philadelphia is in 11th place and Dallas holds down 13th (both are within two games of the second wildcard at this time).  The Giants are dead last in the NFC because San Francisco has a better conference record.

NFC Least- the 1-3 week meant that the Skins’ division dropped to 11-16…the worst record of the eight divisions.  The NFC South is #1 (Redskins still face Atlanta and Tampa Bay) with a 15-10 mark…while the AFC West and both Norths are above .500 at this time.  After a hot start the AFC East has returned to the “Patriots with three hot messes” and the NFC West has a pair of six-loss clubs in Arizona and San Francisco that look lost in the desert and by the bay.  Will the Eagles wake up from their early-season slumber?  And will the Cowboys’ trade for Amari Cooper be the jolt their sagging offense needs?  The Redskins are the hunted…for now.

 

We just knew the Skins would bounce back from their thrashing in New Orleans, right?  The 23-17 win over Carolina swings the burgundy and gold pendulum back over .500–and in a league where 16 of 32 teams are within a game of breaking even the “every week a new season” mentality is not even halfway over.  Buckle up and prepare for the pendulum to swing again.  And again.

Mr. Smith goes to the Endzone- Alex tossed a pair of first-half touchdowns, and while he only threw for 163 yards on the afternoon didn’t have any back-breaking mistakes.  And that was all minus Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder (a combined 39 catches, or 44% of Smith’s completions this year).   And that was with a banged up Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson.

Captain Kirk in Exile- Cousins threw for 233 yards and a touchdown while running for another score in 3-2-1 Minnesota’s 27-17 win over Arizona.  For the season the former franchised one has a passer rating of 102.7 (10th in the NFL) while the new kid in town has 90.9 (18th).  Not that anyone is keeping track.

Running is Back- Adrian Peterson and the ground game continued their rollercoaster ride.  One week after the Skins rushed for just 39 yards at New Orleans, Peterson (and his banged up shoulder) rumbled for 97 of the team’s 132 yards.  In three wins the team has averaged 160 yards rushing, and in three losses they’ve been held to 52 yards per game.

Best Run of the Day- the biggest run was not by Peterson but by his former Oklahoma teammate Trent Williams.  The left tackle somehow found a fumble in his hands on a third and long…and instead of going to the ground rumbled ahead eight yards.  He didn’t reach the first down marker, but got to the Carolina 38 and Dustin Hopkins’ 56-yard field goal was good.  Instead of the Panthers needing a field goal to tie with under a minute left, they had to go for the endzone.  Perhaps going forward this might be a new wrinkle in the playbook.

Tight End Tandems- Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis received 12 of the 34 targets,  with the duo combining for 8 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.  Reed had one sweet one-handed grab to help keep a first half drive alive and Davis caught the game’s first touchdown.  The TD was set up by a fumble recovery by fellow TE Jeremy Sprinkle on a special teams play.

Third and Reed-  the Skins moved the chains on 7 of 16 money downs…running the ball just once (a sneak by Alex Smith that got the job done).  Smith completed 8 of 13 passes for 6 conversions while getting sacked once.  Jordan Reed was the top target–with four passes thrown his way (two catches for one conversion).  Paul Richardson caught both of the passes thrown his way while generating one first down and one touchdown.  Yardage breakdown:  5-6 on 3rd and short, 1-3 on 3rd and manageable (4-6 yards needed), 2-7 on 3rd and long.

Norman Invasion Leads the Defense- six days after being benched in the loss at New Orleans, Josh Norman tallied his first interception since December of 2016 while also forcing a fumble that would lead to a field goal.  DJ Swearinger paced the team with seven tackles and recorded their only sack.  The D earned an A on third down, holding the Panthers to 3 for 9 while keeping Cam Newton and company out of the end zone on their final drive of the day.

Special Situations-  Dustin Hopkins connected on 29, 49 and (a career-long) 56 yard field goal attempts while Tress Way averaged 41 yards per punt.  But the big play came on a fumbled punt return by Carolina’s DJ Moore.  Jeremy Sprinkle recovered the loose ball and the Skins would convert on the very next play with the previously mentioned 22-yard TD pass from Smith to Davis.

Flying Flags- five penalties for 43 yards gives the team 33 for 300 on the season (seventh fewest infractions and ninth fewest yards in the NFL).  Two holds (Trent Williams and Morgan Moses) plus an intentional grounding on Alex Smith were the offensive flags.  Preston Smith picked up a neutral zone infraction while DJ Swearinger was whistled for taunting after the Panthers went incomplete on fourth down with under a minute to play.  Most costly flag– Smith’s grounding took the team out of field goal range after they had the ball on the Panther 33-yard line.

Dissecting the Division- the victory keeps the Skins ahead by one half game in the NFC East and owns the tiebreaker over Chicago for the #3 seed (common opponents).  Philadelphia owns the common foes tiebreaker over Dallas for second place.  Both the Eagles and Cowboys are a half game out of the Wildcard (Green Bay’s MNF win puts the Packers in the #6 spot).  The New York Giants remain in the cellar and dead last in the conference…and the gap is widening by the week.

NFC Least- well, the 10-13 composite record of the division is the seventh best in the league…only better than the AFC South (good news, the Skins have three more games against the South this year).  The AFC North is tops at 13-9-2 (boosted by 2-3-1 Cleveland) …with the NFC North (11-9-2) and AFC East (13-11) helped by last-second field goals in prime time.

 

The NFL is a week-to-week, snapshot league.  Teams will put forward 16 regular season efforts…and just like nobody is as good as their best, no one is as bad as their worst.  So while one was encouraged but tempered last week after the win in Arizona, one should feel that the Skins can’t possibly be as bad as they were in their 21-9 week two loss at home to Indianapolis.  So in theory they’re somewhere in between.

Burgundy and Gold, I mean White- okay, I’ll say it.  I blame the white pants the Skins wore…what happened to the George Allen-era gear at home?  Almost as unsettling as white jerseys with gold pants on the road.  Again, I’m blaming the pants.

Mr. Smith goes to Checkdown- Alex Smith threw for 292 yards while averaging 8.8 yards per completion.  Not per attempt but per completed pass.  Tough to move the chains and sustain drives that way.

Captain Kirk’s Continuing Voyage- the former franchise tagged one threw for 425 yards and four touchdowns while rallying Minnesota back to tie Green Bay.  So far this season Cousins has thrown for 669 yards with 6 touchdowns and 1 interception (passer rating 108.7) while Smith has 547 yards with 2 touchdowns and no INT’s (passer rating 100.1).

Running Aground- the Skins managed just 65 yards rushing on 22 carries.  And that was with a 25-yard scamper from Jamison Crowder.  The wide receiver actually led the team in rushing…a far cry from last week when the thunder and lightning backfield made it rain.  This week Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson combined for 21 yards on attempts.

Better to Receive- Thompson tallied a team-high 13 catches for 92 yards.  He also took some monster hits in space.  Can his diminutive stature take the pounding over 16 weeks?

Third and one third- the Skins converted on 33% of their money downs, moving the chains on 4 of 13 passes and 1 of 2 runs.   Josh Doctson was the #1 option (4 targets, 2 catches and 2 conversions).  Yardage breakdown:  3-4 on third and short (1-3 yards needed), 0-5 on third and medium (4-6 yards necessary) and 2-6 on third and long (7+).

D earns a C- a mixed bag saw the Skins allow the Colts a game-opening 75 yard march on 11 plays, but then hold the visitors three and out over three of their next five possessions.  A day where D.J. Swearinger tallied a pair of interceptions but the defense was only able to sack Andrew Luck once.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins converted three of four field goal attempts, missing a 49-yarder at the end of the half.  Tress Way put three of his five punts inside the Colts 20 with no touchbacks while averaging 36.4 yards per kick.  Rookie Greg Stroman returned a kickoff for 16 yards and had a six yard punt return.

Flying Flags- seven infractions for 90 yards gives the Skins 16 (tied for ninth in the league) for 153 yards (seventh most in the NFL) after two weeks.  Three on offense, two on defense and two on special teams.  Trent Williams (both false starts) was whistled twice while both kicking game penalties were holds.  The most costly flag?  A second quarter pass interference against Fabian Moreau for 37 yards that moved the Colts from their 36 to the Skins’ 27. They’d score shortly thereafter to take a 14-3 lead.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s loss to Tampa drops the Eagles, Redskins and Dallas into a three-way tie for first. The Cowboys’ win over the New York Giants gives them the temporary divisional tiebreaker…and the Eagles own the common-games edge with the Skins.  The New York Giants at 0-2 own last place for the moment.