Archives for posts with tag: RG3

What do the investment disclaimers say about “past performance does not necessarily guarantee future results”?  They should take a look at the Burgundy and Gold stock (BNG on NYSE):  3-6 in 2011, 3-6 in 2012, 3-6 in 2013 and…3-6 this year!  With the exception of a few outliers, this team has actually started 3-6 in seven of the last eleven seasons:  twice under Joe Gibbs, once under Jim Zorn, three times under Mike Shanahan and now this year in Jay Gruden’s debut.  For some reason both of Steve Spurrier’s teams got off to 4-5 starts…he must have missed the memo.

The Redskins had a chance to capture major momentum entering their bye week with 1-7 Tampa Bay sitting on the other side…instead the winning streak ends at two and they fall to a rookie quarterback and Minnesota 29-26.  A day that began with a bus crash…continued with stadium protests and turned into a media-on-media feeding frenzy saw a team that’s just not good show exactly that.

 

 

RG3VER!– it’s been seven weeks since I could focus on the goings-on of Griffin…and the face of the franchise did not disappoint on multiple levels:  251 yards and a touchdown passing… he also ran for 24 yards on 7 carries and his presence gave Alfred Morris a little more room to maneuver.  Yes, he made an ill-advised throw late in the first half that was intercepted and instead of leading 10-0 or 13-0 at the half the Skins lead was just 10-7.  Yes, he was sacked 5 times–and more than a few could be attributed to RG3 holding the ball too long.  The first drive saw both sides of the “holds the ball too long” coin:  Griffin escaped a collapsing pocket on 3rd and 7 at midfield to complete a 24 yard pass to Roy Helu Jr before getting sacked for an 8 yard loss on 2nd and 13 (effectively killing the drive).  Was it an ideal return?  No…but Griffin’s proved that he’s better than the other options (no offense to Kirk or McCoy).

 

Alfred the Accomplished– it was like reuniting with Kelly Kapowski during the College Years.  Mr. Morris gained a season high 92 yards on 19 carries while scoring two touchdowns.  Don’t discount the return of #10 to the lineup for the resurgence.  In games that Robert Griffin III starts, Morris averages 18 carries for 89 yards while in the other six he averaged 16 runs for 56 yards.  I’ve often compared Roy Helu Jr to Slater and Darrel Young to Lisa Turtle–but Zack was lost without Mr. Belding to play off of…and Robert Griffin III remains Alfred Morris’ principal.

 

DeSean the Dynamic– I can only imagine where this passing game would be without Jacksons field-stretching abilities.  Yes, he jaws with opposing defensive backs and doesn’t have the best reputation as a run-blocker, but once again he produces with 4 catches for 120 yards and a touchdown.  Now if only the Skins can bring Pierre Garcon back into the fold as a downfield option (3 catches for 15 yards against the Vikings).

 

Third and Improving– the Skins converted 6 of 13 third downs…with RG3 completing 4 of 7 passes for 3 conversions while moving the chains once with his feet and getting sacked once.  Three called runs to runningbacks saw Alfred Morris gain 6 yards on a draw (3rd and 20)– Roy Helu gained 3 on a 3rd and 2 while being stuffed for a 2 yard loss on 3rd and 1.  Isn’t Morris your money back?  Yardage breakdown:  2 for 5 on short yardage, 3 for 3 on 3rd and 4-6 yards needed and 1 for 5 on 3rd and long.  What’s encouraging is the 5 of 13 third downs coming by 3 yards or less…

 

Dismal Defense– the Skins after shutting out Minnesota for most of the first half allowed touchdowns four of the last six times the Vikings had the football (and one was a clock-killing drive late in the 4th quarter).  Despite some really, really bad throws by rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (at least a couple wide-open misses) the Skins coughed up 29 points to a team that ranks 27th in the league in scoring.  Just a pair of sacks.  And the Vikes moved the chains on 8 of 15 attempts…often finding running holes where they shouldn’t have been.  Coach Jay Gruden said he could have gained 48 yards against the Skins run defense Sunday–and I think he was selling himself short.

 

Sizing up the Secondary– for whatever reason the back four looked sloppy.  In the first quarter Cordarelle Patterson somehow got wide open (thank you high-throwing Teddy Bridgewater) due either to miscommunication or lack of speed.  It wasn’t the only time there were gaps in the secondary Sunday or this season;  it happened a few times in the Giants loss–notably on a Larry Donnell TD catch.  Is it lack of communication by the safeties to the corners or the inability of the safeties to follow up on “I got this guy”?  When you’re getting just a pair of sacks from your front seven, you can’t have either.

 

Flying Flags– six penalties for 55 yards (and one offsetting)…and as is usually the custom it wasn’t the quantity but the quality of penalties that hurt the Skins.  Two came on special teams (peelback block/blind block on Darrel Young and a player out of bounds on a punt), two came on defense (Ryan Kerrigan’s neutral zone infraction and Keenan Robinson’s roughing the passer) while three were on offense–all in the fourth quarter.  While Logan Paulsen’s false start didn’t stop a touchdown drive, DeSean Jackson’s offensive pass interference turned a 1st and 10 into a 1st and 20 hole they couldn’t climb out of–and Shaun Lauvao’s hold offset a defensive hold to wipe out an automatic first down.  Robinson’s roughing the passer moved the Vikes 17 yards closer to paydirt on a touchdown drive that gave them their first lead of the day.

 

Cobra Kai– a quiet day after the four field goal performance against Tennessee and the Special Teams Player of the Week effort against Dallas.  Two for two from 26 and 36 yards plus a pair of extra points…simply solid with nothing special.  Even Johnny Lawrence had days when he didn’t throw Daniel LaRusso into a garbage can.

 

Dissecting the Division– Philadelphia’s win at Houston propels the Eagles to first place in the NFC East at 6-2 (they’re the 3rd seed in the NFC thanks to Detroit prevailing on the conference record tiebreaker) with Dallas dropping to 2nd (and 5th in the NFC) as the Cowboys lose their second straight.  Three straight losses drop the NY Giants to 13th in the conference while the Redskins are 14th…and on the verge of leaving last place.  Actually, they’d be in third if the Skins had beaten Minnesota–but never mind.

 

Boom and Bust–Division Style– the NFC East is tied for 4th best in the league with an 18-16 mark…one half game behind the NFC North.  The AFC North owns a 21-12-1 composite record and has all four teams boasting winning records.  Both Souths are sorry:  the AFC South is 13-22 while the NFC South is 10-22-1…it’s a shame the Redskins aren’t playing both Souths this year.

 

So the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train?  Somehow the Burgundy and Gold have re-entered the NFC’s middle class orbit with a 20-17 overtime win at Dallas on Monday Night Football.  Colt McCoy is a hero.  And the Cowboys come up short in the national spotlight.  Will this turn out to be simply an isolated incident or part of a larger trend?

McCoy is the Doctor who cures all ills– well, maybe not all ills, but completing 25 of 30 passes (for a team record 83.3%) for 299 yards can go a long way towards masking issues.  Colt used his wheels as well–scoring on a quarterback draw in the third quarter and securing a first down on a bootleg.  All while looking like he’s an extra from Summer Catch (you tell me he doesn’t look 15 years old).  There was an interception in the first half–but for the most part #16 made the necessary plays and also didn’t make any costly ones.  Does this mean playoffs?  “Damnit Jim, I’m a doctor–not a miracle worker”.

Alfred the Upgraded– Mr. Morris ran 18 times for 73 yards in the win…including a 5 yard TD that gave the Skins a 10-7 lead in the third quarter.  The 73 yards are the most he’s gained since week three against Philadelphia–so that’s a start.  The Redskins ran the ball 31 times while passing 30 times (not including 3 sacks)…giving the team the offensive balance it so clearly needs with Colt McCoy at the controls. 

DeSean Dominates…and Disrupts– Jackson tallied 6 catches for 136 yards while continuing to provide the downfield threat that will in theory open things up for the running game.  Still, #11 can’t stay away from jawing with opposing defensive backs–this time drawing an unnecessary roughness penalty that bogged down a 2nd quarter drive.  We get it that he likes to “get into it”–but if he could just focus on blocking for the run game instead of trying to show up the opposition, we might have something.

Third and Getting Better– the team converted 6 of 14 third downs—6 of 10 after halftime.  McCoy completed 8 of 10 passes  (4 conversions) while getting sacked twice, while scoring on a QB draw and moving the chains on the previously mentioned bootleg.  The top target?  Jordan Reed (5 catches, 2 conversions). Yardage breakdown:  3 for 5 on third and short (1 to 3 yards needed), 1 for 2 on third and 4 to 6 yards and 2 for 7 on third and long (7+ yards).

D grades well–  they contained the Cowboys for a big part of the game–only allowing 7 points to Tony Romo (the other 10 came when backup Brandon Weeden was in the game).  Five sacks placed plenty of pressure on Romo and Weeden.  Fumble recoveries by Trent Murphy and Brandon Merriweather set the early tone.  Keenan Robinson led the team in tackles again (10 stops) while also notching a sack.  Bashaud Breeland stepped up with 6 tackles and 4 passes defensed…providing more than a few key plays.  Could the secondary be growing up in front of our eyes?

Flying Flags— the laundry list involves six penalties for 45 yards.  Five offensive (two delays of game on McCoy, a false start on Tom Compton, a hold on Niles Paul plus an unnecessary roughness against DeSean Jackson and an unsportsmanlike conduct against Logan Paulsen) and just one on defense (Brandon Merriweather’s illegal contact).  While Jackson’s unnecessary roughness helped stall a late first half drive, Paulsen’s unsportsmanlike conduct effectively put the team out of field goal range.

Cobra Kai– Mr. Forbath connected on both of his attempts (from 40 and 44 yards)…providing the winning margin for the second straight week.  The Johnny Lawrence of kickers is now 13 of 14–and remember, he didn’t miss after week eight last year.  Sweep the leg, indeed.

Dissecting the Division– Dallas despite the defeat owns a half game lead over Philadelphia for first place in the NFC East;  the Cowboys drop to 3rd place in the conference while the Eagles remain in the 5th spot.  The NY Giants after their bye week are 10th in the NFC…and the Redskins after the win improve to 13th–with games against Minnesota (12th) and Tampa Bay (16th) coming up next (so you’re saying there’s hope?).  The NFC East owns the second best record in the league at 17-13…trailing just the AFC North (18-11-1, all four teams have winning records).  Two divisions have flown south for the winter…the AFC South is 12-20 while the NFC South is 9-20-1.

Nothing beats beginning again in sports.  Yes, championships are fun…and watching great players excel is pretty cool, but a new regime is like that new car.  It’s a smell you can’t recapture no matter how many memorable trips you make.  This month the Redskins will enjoy that new coach smell– just like they did with Marty Schottenheimer (CAMP MARTY!  Finally a coach with backbone!), Steve Spurrier (OSAKA!), Joe Gibbs II (Back to the 80’s!), Mike Shanahan (FINALLY– they’re doing things the right way!) and even Jim Zorn (hey-Gibbs was an unknown assistant TOO!).  Jay Gruden– you will never smell so good as you will this month.  Enjoy.

Week One Thoughts– the first key was no major injuries.  Desean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Phillip Thomas all have dealt with hamstring issues but nothing that would ruin the glow that is the Preseason.  Rob Jackson had his shoulder wrapped.  Jerry Rice Jr’s run at the roster ends with a torn labrum.  Nothing to see…nothing to see…move along.

2013’s Triumvirate splits– last year’s DB version of the receiving firm Davis, Kelly & Thomas is having three different second camps:  CB David Amerson is vastly improved from his rookie campaign, Phillip Thomas has been on the shelf here and there with injuries, and Bacarri Rambo is not living up to the coolest name on the team.  Par for the course when you consider the 2nd rounder is a likely starter in his second season…the 4th rounder is on the backup/special teams track and the 6th rounder is headed to the roster bubble.

Kicking Competition…and Punting Possibilities–  So much for connecting on 35 of 40 attempts over two years.  Kai Forbath hears the footsteps–or at least the instep hitting the football– of 7th round pick Zack Hocker.  The rookie made all three of his kicks Saturday–and with Forbath’s kickoffs less than ideal, Hocker isn’t going away.  Something to focus on in the first preseason game…along with the competition at punter.  Last year the team finished 30th in the NFL in gross punting average…so Robert Malone and Blake Clinigan will begin a four-round bout.  Will they use stroke or match-play?

Speaking of Punters–finally.  Ray Guy takes his rightful place in Canton, Ohio as the first fulltime punter a full five years after I blatantly campaigned for his inclusion.  We know punters and kickers are special teamers who don’t really count in the minds of many–but Guy was the first punter people actually took seriously.  I said five years ago that unlike predecessors Paul McGuire and Bobby Walden, Guy actually resembled someone playing in the Pro Bowl as opposed to a pro bowler.  In the late 70’s an opposing team checked out the Raider footballs for helium–any time the periodic table is in question, the man belongs in the HOF.  Now I have to move on and start drumming up support for the Moody Blues and Marvin Miller.

The Nationals cross the 2/3 of the season threshold in first place of the NL East (one unexpected consequence of Washington’s team being named the “Nationals”– one tries to avoid the redundant feel of “Nationals lead the National League East”)…and when the trading deadline came and went the club made one major move.  Asdrubal Cabrera solidifies the infield as he can play both middle positions–freeing up Anthony Rendon to settle in at third.  Even though he’s hitting .246 with 9 HR and 40 RBI, that’s much better than Danny Espinosa (.221 with 101 strikeouts).  In a lineup that after a solid top 5 drops drastically, Cabrera should give them something.  After a Monday makeup game with the Orioles, the Nats play 9 games in 10 days against division opponents.  Time to create a little breathing room…

There’s always that magical week or weekend when the days get shorter…it gets chillier by the pool and football preview magazines begin to take precedence over the crossword/summer reading. While September 21st is almost two months away, late July marks the end of one season– and the beginning of the onramp to the marathon/sprint that is college and pro football. Is it really time- can’t I get just one more week?

The Redskins are in Richmond with a new regime; Jay Gruden sorts through a pretty decent cupboard left by Mike Shanahan. Say what you will about last year’s 3-13 descent from awesome expectations to awful execution…not all 3-13’s are created alike. And this team is one year removed from winning the NFC East. The major question is, which year was the outlier–2012 or 2013?

Prepare for the Positive– it’s almost fitting that training camp takes place when the skies are sunniest and the temperatures are highest. EVERYBODY is optimistic. Even teams that are in their 3rd “five year plan” since 2010. That’s the beauty of the NFL– worst to first is not an anomaly: you can almost guarantee that we’ll have 4-6 different playoff teams this winter. Last fall saw Kansas City go from 2-14 to the playoffs…so even a Houston that lost 14 straight can have hope. Or a Redskins team that crash-landed with 8 straight losses…

What to Watch For–OFFENSE:
Life begins with RG3–HOW healthy and ready will the face of the franchise be? How will the new Jay Gruden system maximize his strengths and limit his weaknesses? Will we see rookies Spencer Long or Morgan Moses push the starters on the offensive line or be routed into the “rookie year learning laboratory” that’s high on enrichment but low on game-snaps? And what’s the deal with Jerry Rice Junior? Is the undrafted rookie good enough to leapfrog Andre Roberts and Ryan Grant–or is he more Pete Rose Jr than Eduardo Perez? (if he were Griffey Jr he would have been taken first overall by Houston, set the world on fire, before eventually returning to San Francisco where he would’ve never been healthy)

What to Watch For–DEFENSE:
It’s Jim Haslett’s turn to shine. Year five of the 3-4 means execution and not excuses: of the projected week one starters only Kedric Golston and Bryan Orakpo pre-date his arrival– and if they didn’t fit his vision they’d be gone by now. Will Jason Hatcher recover from surgery in time to be a factor in September? Even healthy, Hatcher has to change from being a tackle in a 4-3 to a three-man front. How much will the linebackers miss the leadership of London Fletcher? Even at the end of his career, the John Carroll University product was averaging 7 tackles a game while holding together a unit under siege. The biggest questions aren’t necessarily about the 3-4…it’s the 4 behind them. Can Deangelo Hall, Ryan Clark and Brandon Merriweather still contribute as starters in this league? After losing his rookie season to injury, will Phillip Thomas be more rusty or ready? Can Bacarri Rambo live up to having the coolest name on the team? (sadly,
having an awesome name is almost a curse: Notre Dame’s Hiawatha Francisco, Baylor’s J.J. Joe and Nebraska’s I.M. Hipp never lived up to their names in the pros)

What to Watch For–SPECIAL TEAMS:
The kicking game can’t be the absolute disaster it was last year…right? From coughing up game-changing returns to allowing kicks blocked…2013 was a major nightmare for the Burgundy and Gold. Can they identify the right guys to be put in place on these units? Meanwhile, Saved by the Bell meets Karate Kid. Is there actually a kicking competition between Kai Forbath and seventh round pick Zach Hocker? Despite making 35 of 40 career attempts (numbers that would make Ali with an I swoon), the Johnny Lawrence of accuracy is Daniel LaRusso-like when it comes to kickoffs. Will Zach be accurate enough to make his kickoff length a factor in late August? (never count out a Zach–from fronting a band to a foiling diamond thieves to hitting on homeless girls at the mall)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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