Archives for posts with tag: Ryan Kerrigan

Remember last year when the Redskins went to Seattle with an offensive line held together by duct tape and paper clips, only to bring back a victory from Puget Sound?  Well this past weekend the Burgundy and Gold used rubber bands and masking tape to keep the line semi-solid in a 16-3 win by Tampa Bay.  Instead of losing a second straight game to a fellow future wildcard contender, the Skins are two games clear of a muddled NFC East and are off to their best start in ten years (we won’t mention who was coaching the Maroon and Black that autumn).  This has the feel of 2012 and 2015 all over again:  a first-year starting quarterback at Fed Ex Field exceeding expectations amidst a division ripe for the taking.  Enjoy the ascent, because if there’s anything we’ve learned from 2012 and 2015 it’s that 2013 and 2016 are distinct possibilities.

Turnovers Told the Tale- four takeaways helped keep the Buccaneers out of the end zone.  Josh  Norman’s interception at the goal line on the first drive of the day set the tone.  Greg Stroman’s interception led to the team’s final points of the afternoon.  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix’s fumble recovery in the end zone ended another Bucs drive into the red zone.  And Ryan Kerrigan’s fumble recovery inside the ten ended Tampa Bays’ last best chance to rally.  And the Skins did not turn the ball over at all.  The team now ranks third in the league at +11 in turnover margin, and they needed every one Sunday to prevail.

Mr. Smith Goes to Consistency- for the third time in four weeks Alex Smith threw for exactly 178 yards.  The Skins won all three of those games…and are 5-0 when he throws for under 250 yards (1-3 when he crosses the 21st century marker for “productive passer”).  If he throws for exactly 178 yards against Houston, we’ll know the fix is in.

Cousins Comparison- Kirk and company had a bye this past week, but I took my bye last week (writing back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back college basketball previews for WTOP.COM) so let’s revisit how the former Franchise Tagged one fared:  18-22 passing for 164 yards and a touchdown with an interception in the Vikings’ 24-9 win over Detroit.  Minnesota is 5-3-1 and in second place of the NFC North, currently owning the second wildcard.  Cousins for the season owns a passer rating of 102.2 (9th best in the league) while Alex Smith is at 90.7 after nine games (21st in the NFL).

Peterson Provides Production- he didn’t gain 100 yards, but the Skins main threat on the ground rushed for 68 yards–including two first down scampers in third and short situations.  His 672 yards through nine games is already more than his numbers from the last two years (and three teams) combined over 13 games played.

Catching On- Maurice Harris led the team with 5 catches for 52 yards, following up his 10 reception effort against Atlanta.  With 26 catches this fall, the third-year pro has already more than doubled his career numbers.  Not bad for a fringe roster player.

Third and Two Halves- the Skins went 0-for-4 on the money down in the first half and 5-for-9 after intermission.  Alex Smith completed 5-of-8 passes while getting sacked once, moving the chains twice.  The running game moved the marker on 3-of-4 plays (Peterson twice and Kapri Bibbs once).  Smith’s top target?  Maurice Harris and Josh Doctson each notched a pair of catches on two targets–each moving the chains once (Doctson’s grab was for a touchdown).  Yardage breakdown:  2-for-2 on short-yardage, 1-for-5 on intermediate (4 to 6 yards needed) and 2-for-6 on long-yardage.  Almost 50% of the third downs needed seven or more yards-less than ideal.

D gets a pass- so they gave up 501 yards…but when it mattered they stopped the Buccaneers shy of the end zone each time.  Mason Foster led the way with 10 tackles while Preston Smith and Matt Ioannidis notched sacks.  Plenty to be happy with, but also plenty to work on moving forward.

Extra Special Teams- Dustin Hopkins nailed his three field goal attempts (unlike his Tampa Bay counterpart Chandler Catanzaro who missed two of three and was cut) with a long of 43 yards.  Tress Way averaged 49.4 yards per punt, but that merely graces the surface.  Four of his five landed inside the Bucs’ 20 with Way’s three second-half kicks landing at the four-, six- and 13-yard line.

Flying Flags- eight infractions for 52 yards gives the team 64 for 624 yards (9th and 4th most in the NFL). Of the five on the offense, two were false starts while the other three were holds (the Skins 21 holds this year are the most in the league).  Morgan Moses had one of each while recent pickup Jonathan Cooper had a pair of holds.  The two defensive penalties (neutral zone infraction and a hold) came in the fourth quarter and were luckily wiped out by Ryan Fitzpatrick’s third turnover of the day.  The special teams’ flag was an illegal formation on a kickoff.  Costliest penalty?  Those two that kept the Bucs’ late drive alive.

Dissecting the Division- the Skins own a two-game lead in the NFC East and due to conference record would be the fourth seed “if the playoffs began today”, which they obviously do not.  Dallas (4-5) owns the head-to-head tiebreaker with Philadelphia thanks to Sunday night’s win and is in 10th place of the conference–the Eagles holding down 11th.  The New York Giants may be in last place of the division but depart the conference basement with their Monday night victory in San Francisco.

NFC East no Longer Least- despite the worst winning percentage (.444) of the league’s eight quartets, the Skins’ division after a 3-1 week at least moves into lock-step with the NFC West (17-21) and AFC East (18-22).  The NFC South (21-15) continues to be the best bunch, even with a 1-3 week that saw Tampa Bay squander 501 yards of offense, Atlanta lose to Cleveland and Carolina get crushed by Pittsburgh.  The Interconference Contest (that means absolutely nothing) is also tied at 22 wins apiece.

 

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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.

 

So–you’re telling me the Redskins needed two weeks to come up with what we saw Monday night?  Sadly the Skins in their 43-19 loss to New Orleans showed more pretender than contender…2-2 for the seventh time in ten years.  This wasn’t just a loss, this was a dismal defeat and an exposing exhibition.  Instead of taking control of what appears to be a sagging NFC East, the Burgundy and Gold keep the hopes of Cowboys and Eagles fans alive.  Giants fans–2020 is going to be great.  Meanwhile, Drew Brees carved up the defense like a beignet to the tune of a video game on cheat mode 26 of 29 passes while passing Peyton Manning’s career mark for passing yards.

Not Ready For Prime Time Again- the Skins drop to 1-7 on Monday Night Football under coach Jay Gruden, with the only victory coming in 2014 at eventual NFC East Champ Dallas.  With Colt McCoy at the controls.  Perhaps the Redskins should make him their designated MNF starter.

Mr. Smith Goes to .500- Alex completed 23 of 39 passes for 275 yards and an interception while getting sacked three times.  Number 11 did score the team’s first touchdown late in the first half…but looked shaky throughout the night.

Kirk in Exile- Cousins helped lead Minnesota to a 23-21 win at Philadelphia in a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship, albeit with different starting quarterbacks.  Kirk completed 30 of 37 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions.  And unlike the game at the Los Angeles Rams, there were no defeat-sealing fumbles.  Cousins after five games has a passer rating of 105.1 (7th best in the NFL) to Smith’s 92.9 (20th).

Running on Empty- I guess an even-numbered game means the Skins will have trouble on the ground:  a season-low 39 yards on 18 carries.  Adrian Peterson gained 6 yards on 4 tries while injuring his shoulder.  Granted, they trailed from the end of the Saints’ first drive.  It’s tough to establish the run when being forced into playing catch-up.

Third and Longer- the offense converted 4 of 13 third downs…passing on every play.  Alex Smith completed 6 of 12 passes (for 4 conversions) while getting sacked once.  His top target was Jamison Crowder (one catch in 3 attempts) while Chris Thompson tallied 2 receptions (and one conversion).  Yardage breakdown:  1-3 on third and short (1-3 yards needed), 1-2 on third and medium (4-6 yards) and 2-8 on third and long (7+).  It’s tough to move the chains when over 60% of your opportunities are long-distance.

D earns an F- so much for the new look defense that shined in September.  The Skins allowed touchdowns the first four times the Saints had the ball…and New Orleans had possession for the final 10:25 of the night.  The secondary suffered multiple breakdowns, and cornerback Josh Norman was benched for a series in the third quarter made memorable when Drew Brees burned rookie Greg Stroman.  What’s nice is that Ryan Kerrigan posted his first sack of the season.

Flying Flags- six penalties for 38 yards.  Four on the defense and two on special teams.  No multiple offenders this time–although there were a pair of defensive holds and a hold on a punt return.  The most costly flag?  Down 6-3 the Skins got a third down sack of Drew Brees-but Montae Nicholson gets whistled for unnecessary roughness.  Instead of a 4th and 16 from the New Orleans 41, Brees and company get a 1st and 10 from the Washington 44.  They’d score six plays later for the first double-digit lead of the day.

Special Situations- Dustin Hopkins made both of his field goal attempts and Tress Way averaged 36.7 yards over three punts.

Dissecting the Division- even with the loss the Skins remain on top of the NFC East.  Dallas, Philadelphia and the NY Giants each lost one-possession games Sunday.  The 2-3 Cowboys enjoy the division record tiebreaker over the Eagles while the 1-4 Giants currently occupy last place in the East and in the entire NFC.

NFC Least- the Skins are atop the only division that doesn’t have at least one team with a winning record.  the 7-12 mark held by the East is the worst in football–while the AFC North is the best at 11-7-2 (but only 9-5-1 without the help of Cleveland).  The NFL is a snapshot league, but this has the feel of 2015 when a 9-7 record could win it all over again.  Meaning a team that loses a lot of games will win the division–and the Skins could easily be that team.

Just when you thought this year would blow up (after the opening day sleepwalk loss to Philadelphia) or catch fire (after the dominant win over Oakland), the Redskins are back in familiar territory.  Yes, they’re 5-6 for the sixth time in 13 years.  But you know what?  Four of those years saw the Skins somehow surge into the playoffs-with 2010 being the outlier.  There is a path to get to the postseason that involves a 5-0 or 4-1 (with the loss coming to Denver or the LA Chargers) finish.  Just like 2005, 2007, 2012 and 2015 they have the NFC contenders right where they want them.  Unless they lose to Dallas on Thursday night.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One completes 19 of 31 passes for 242 yards and two touchdowns…while tossing an interception and getting sacked six times.  The pick-six brought back memories of last year, but once again despite a depleted receiving corps Cousins delivers.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent:  “The Gallileo Seven”, where Kirk spends most of the hour trying to get Spock, McCoy and Scotty back on board after a shuttle craft mishap.

Running with a Purpose- Samaje Perine ran for 100 yards…meaning that for the first time since Alfred Morris in 2013 a Redskins runningback passed the century mark in consecutive weeks.  In 47 carries over the last two games, he’s lost yardage just three times.  If this can be the new normal– we may have something.

Threes a Crowder- Jamison Crowder led the receiving corps with 7 catches for 141 yards and a touchdown.  On a team where the best receiver is an injured Jordan Reed, the ideal #3 guy is turning into a #1 as of late with double digits in targets three times and 100+ yards through the air twice in the last month.

Third Down Doubts- wouldn’t you know Crowder was on the receiving end of all four Skins third down conversions?  The team moved the chains on 4 of 15 tries, passing 12 times (Cousins went 8-11 with one sack, one touchdown and one interception) and running three times (short each instance, although on 3rd & 27 there aren’t a lot of plays available).  Crowder was the top target with 4 conversions on 4 catches in 5 passes thrown to.  Yardage Breakdown:  1 for 3 on short-yardage, 1 for 4 on 4 to 6 yards needed and 2 for 8 on long-yardage.

Case for the Defense- Zach Brown once again led the team in tackles with nine stops while Ryan Kerrigan tallied two sacks.  They held the Giants to 2 for 14 on third down, sacking Eli Manning twice on the money down while holding him to 2 for 10 passing (and two conversions).  A nice bounce-back for a D that had allowed 30+ points in four of five games.

Special Situations- Nick Rose converted on both of his field goals and extra points while Tress Way averaged 44 yards per punt. The returns weren’t spectacular but not disasters.  Move along…

Flying Flags- EIGHT PENALTIES?!?!  And that was with two declined (both of them holds by Ty Nsekhe that didn’t help Perine gain one yard or Cousins not get sacked).  Six on the offense and two on special teams.  Three false starts and two delays of game.  The most costly infraction?  A delay of game against Cousins that turned a 3rd & 13 into a 3rd & 18 right before Kirk threw his pick-six.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia (10-1) after crushing Chicago are now just a Dallas loss away from wrapping up the NFC East.  They’re also in the driver’s seat for the #1 seed in the NFC–owning a one-game lead over Minnesota.  Dallas’ free-fall minus Ezekiel Elliott continues with their 28-6 turkey of a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.  Their October win at FedEx Field keeps them in second place over the Redskins…although they’re now 10th in the NFC.  The Skins are right where they want to be for their finishing kick–and although they may be in the conference’s 11th spot, they’re gaining ground.  The NY Giants remain in last place at 2-9 and are two losses away from clinching last place…while awaiting the random San Francisco win that moves them into dead last in the conference.

Conference Call- the NFC owns a 28-18 lead over the AFC with Carolina (4-0) and the Los Angeles Rams (3-0) doing their brethren proud…while Chicago is somehow 2-0 against Pittsburgh and Baltimore.  The NFC South owns the best composite record at 27-17, while the AFC West is worst at 19-25.  The NFC East continues its middling 2017 at 22-22, good enough for fourth place.

Sayonara, Season- three teams are now officially done for 2017.  San Francisco was already eliminated from postseason possibilities (trust me, I went through the model where they reach 7-9 and tie Seattle and Arizona for 2nd in the West).  Cleveland and the New York Giants join the Niners with losses.  The Redskins and Chicago are also eliminated from their respective division races.

Sunday’s 27-20 win over Philadelphia may appear to be a one-touchdown affair, but when looking under the scoreboard it feels like the most complete victory during the Jay Gruden era.  The afternoon had more than a few odd twists and turns…from Philly running one play over a 75-minute stretch of real-time to the Skins allowing 2 long returns (one on an interception, the other on a kickoff).  Drink the 4-2 Kool-Aid…OH YEAH! 

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise completed 10 of his first 13 throws… but his biggest play early was his nine-yard scramble on a 3rd & 7 that moved the chains deep in Skins territory and jump started a touchdown drive.  There was the ill-advised throw that resulted in the pick-six…and he did complete just 8 of his final 21 throws.  But for the fourth straight week Cousins led his team to victory…and for the second time in that stretch notched a division win.  Star Trek Episode Equivalent- “The Conscience of the King”- a traveling Shakespeare troupe may be harboring a former dictator who ordered a planetary genocide.  And Kirk is one of two people who can identify him.

Triple Back Attack- the firm of Jones, Thompson & Kelley were open for business again as the team gained a season-high 230 yards on the ground.  Matt Jones led the way with 135 yards…and had two key runs:  his 1-yard TD run left on 3rd & goal from to give the team a lead they’d never relinquish at the end of the first half and his 57-yard scamper in the fourth quarter to effectively end the afternoon.  Chris Thompson (37 yards rushing and 3 catches) helped fill in some of the blanks while Robert Kelley (59 yards rushing including a 45-yard gain) is beginning to find himself as an NFL back.  One doesn’t expect 200+ yards regularly, but if the power trio can generate a consistent threat then Kirk Cousins will have even better looks downfield.

Hold the Line- 230 yards rushing and no sacks allowed.  Sounds like we need to give game balls out to the starting five up front.  Nice job negating a defense that entered the day ranked 2nd in the NFL.

These Jordanaires can Sing, too- minus Jordan Reed the receiving corps responded with solid efforts from Pierre Garcon (6 catches for 77 yards), Jermaine Crowder (17 yards per catch and a TD) and Vernon Davis (one TD catch, one sweet sideline grab and one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty).  DeSean Jackson added 5 catches and with multiple early touches had no complaints about the gameplan.

Third and Encouraging- the Skins moved the chains on 7 of 13 attempts… including 5 of 7 in the first half.  Cousins completed 5 of 10 passes on the money down…with two additional attempts wiped out because of defensive penalties that resulted in first downs for the Skins.  The top target?  Pierre Garcon (5 passes thrown to, two catches and three conversions (a defensive pass interference call moving the chains as well).  Accounting for the Cousins scramble and penalties 13 of the 15 third down calls were passes…with both of Matt Jones’ previously mentioned runs on third down getting the job done.  Yardage breakdown:  1-for-3 on third and short (both misses coming by passing the ball), 2-for-2 on third and medium (4 to 6 yards needed), 4-for-8 on third and long.  The one issue would be that it’s not ideal to have 8 of your 13 third downs (9 of 15 including the two penalties) needing 7+ yards to move the chains.

The Joy of Sacks- two sacks on the first Eagles possession set the tone…as Carson Wentz (11-22-179 yards and no touchdowns) looked less like the rookie that lit up the league in September and more like the kid who locked himself in a gas station bathroom during the offseason.  In addition to a pair of sacks, Ryan Kerrigan tallied four quarterback hurries.  The pass rush put the exclamation point on the afternoon with back-to-back sacks on the 2nd and 3rd downs of Philly’s final possession…forcing a punt on 4th and 24.

D earns an A- the defense also held the Eagles to 4-12 on third down.  After allowing nearly 60% conversions over the first four weeks the Skins have gotten off the field on 20 of 27 money downs the last two games.  During the four game winning streak, they’ve allowed 15 total points (all field goals).

Special Situations- Tress Way flipped the field, averaging 53 yards per punt (40 net) while Dustin Hopkins nailed 2 field goals…including a 50-yarder that made the game a two-possession affair in the fourth quarter.  The kickoff return for a touchdown wasn’t ideal but can be rationalized.  There were no game-changing returns…but there were no return gaffes either. 

Flying Flags- nine penalties for 75 yards wasn’t as bad as the Eagles 13 for 114, but still far from ideal.  Six on offense (two holds, a false start, illegal block to the back, unsportsmanlike conduct and delay of game), two on defense (neutral zone infraction, illegal use of the hands) and one on special teams (illegal block to the back).  Most costly?  Vernon Davis’ unsportsmanlike penalty call for shooting a fadeaway jumper at the crossbar moved the kickoff from the 35-yard line to the 20.  Philly would return the kick 86 yards for a TD.  The ball reaches the endzone for a potential touchback otherwise.  There was also a sequence where the Skins followed up an illegal block penalty on a punt return with a hold on 1st down.  Instead of a 1st and 10 from their 33…they had to dig themselves out of a 1st and 20 from the 13-yard line crater (they’d wind up punting).  Least costly flag?  Cousins’ delay of game that burned time off the clock before his kneeldown in the fourth quarter.  We’ll accept that one…

Dissecting the Division- to have said in August that Dallas would start 5-1 wouldn’t have been much of a stretch.  But to have said the Cowboys would be in that spot atop the NFC East minus Tony Romo would be something completely different.  Five straight wins for Jason Garrett’s team also has Big D in the #2 seed of the NFC…behind unbeaten Minnesota. The Redskins at 4-2 own second place by half a game…and are 5th in the NFC (meaning we can start thinking about printing those Wildcard banners).  Philadelphia’s third in the division and 7th in the conference standings…losing the NFC record tiebreaker to Green Bay.  The New York Giants remain in last place…but their win Sunday means that all four NFC East teams are .500 or better.

SEC of the NFL?- last year the division resembled the Sun Belt Conference a little more…but this year the quartet is off to a 15-8 composite record (easily the best in the league).  Division of depression?  Would you believe the highly-touted AFC North is off to a 9-15 start?  Actually it makes sense because they’re the division lined up with the NFC East for interconference play.  And they have the steaming pile that is the Cleveland Browns among their number.

Previously appearing on WTOP.COM…

 

I’ll say one thing about Scot McCloughan;  the Redskins General Manager has actually helped turn draft day into something to look forward to in this area.  One of the major reasons behind the Redskins run of eight last place finishes from 2004-2014 was its inability to stockpile talent through the draft…thanks to trading many of their picks before doing “creative things” like selecting three receivers in the second round when the crying need was for offensive line depth.  You could say this approach began when Bruce Allen took over in 2010 and brought in coach Mike Shanahan;  the team had ten selections in the top 105 picks from 2005-09 (last four years of Vinny Cerrato’s regime) while boasting 17 such selections in the last five years.

Why the top 105?  Because while it’s nice to talk about all of your picks…once you get past the top 100…the likelihood said player sticks with your team decreases dramatically.  For every Alfred Morris (major hit at 173), there’s a Dennis Morris (174) who doesn’t play a regular season down in the league.  I originally used 100 as the trip-line, but under the Allen administration there have been a slew of picks 102-106 that make more sense when grouped in the top 100.  At that point everybody’s board varies so much these were kids that the Skins’ brain trust had as top 100 guys.

Successful drafts can be somewhat subjective;  in theory bad teams will see more of their picks make the roster that year because, well…they’re a bad team.  Also, a new GM’s players are more likely to make the team just like a new coach’s draftees will get more of a chance to stick than a previous coach or personnel guy’s people.  That’s why the headline “the top seven 2015 draftees made the roster” deserves an “exactly”…just like “the top five players picked in Jay Gruden’s first draft made the team” merits the necessary shrug.

Since 2010 there have been three drafting combinations:  Bruce Allen/Mike Shanahan from 2010-13, Allen/Jay Gruden in 2014 and Scot McGloughan/Gruden last year.  How did each fare?  Time for the avidly awaited year-by-year rundown…a lot less depressing than the Cerrato stumbles.

 

2010-  six picks with two in the top 105.  Trent Williams and Perry Riley became starters with Williams reaching four Pro Bowls.  But from their other picks, only Terrence Austin would play more than 3 games in the NFL.  And this was a last place team.  Still, it’s tough to expect much from a seventh round selection and the Skins had three that year.  Funfact:  the Skins were rumored to be trading up with St. Louis so they could get the #1 overall pick and quarterback Ryan Reynolds Sam Bradford but held at #4 to select a lineman.  Why anyone would send multiple picks to the Rams for a QB when roster depth was a major concern remains beyond me.

2011-  twelve selections with four in the top 105.  And only four seventh rounders!  Seventh rounders are the ultimate scratch ticket–it’s nice when one gets you $20 but stockpiling them is no way to secure a solid retirement.  Ryan Kerrigan (5 seasons a starter with one Pro Bowl), Jarvis Jenkins (3 years a starter before his departure) and Maurice Hurt (9 games started before injuries derailed a nice story) lead the class, while non-starters like Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Leonard Hankerson and DeJon Gomes each contributed during their time in Ashburn.  Funfact:  Maurice Hurt’s given name is “Sparrow Maurice Hurt, Jr.”…in case you were curious.

2012- nine selections with three in the top 105.  It’s tough to look at this draft and not get sucked into a seven-hour conversation about Robert Griffin III:  from what went wrong to the proper price for a franchise QB to which Subway sandwich is the best (my money remains on the Italian BMT with pepper jack cheese, chipotle dressing, lettuce, banana peppers and olives).  Away from the glare of the comet that began with a bang before ending with 16 inactives, the Skins got talent early and often this year.  Kirk Cousins is the quarterback of the future (or until the Skins refuse to give him a long-term deal and he walks) and Josh LeRibeus made 11 starts last season.  Keenan Robinson and Tom Compton were also starters during stretches of their time in burgundy and gold.  Funfact: Sun Chips Garden Salsa is the the proper pairing for the BMT.

2013- seven selections with two in the top 105.  The first rounder went to the Rams and just like Vinny Cerrato made the 2008 second his “receiver round”, this one will go down as the “defensive back draft” for Allen & Shanahan.  Problem was-David Amerson, Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo had even less time with the Skins than the infamous triumvirate of Devin Thomas, Fred Davis and Malcolm Kelly.  A pair of offensive players who each have had their injury issues remain on the roster:  Jordan Reed is a game-changing matchup nightmare beyond everybody’s expectations while Chris Thompson is a decent change of pace runningback.  Funfact:  the Draft stretching to 3 days…with the first round on Thursday really makes life tough when your team has dealt their top selection.

2014- eight selections with four in the top 105.  The first Jay Gruden draft brought an infusion of offensive line help (Morgan Moses and Spencer Long) as well as eventual defensive starters (Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland) with a fifth rounder (Ryan Grant) who’s played in every game over the last two years.  Is there a star in this bunch?  Not likely.  But you need a 53-man roster filled with glue-guys and special teamers.  This class appears to be a solid part of the foundation.  Funfact:  drafting kicker Zach Hocker in the seventh round with Kai Forbath still on the roster gave training camp the ultimate competition between “Saved by the Bell” and “Karate Kid” fans.  NO MERCY!

2015- ten selections with four in the top 105.  Scot McCloughan’s first draft (although he only had four months to prepare with a roster he was getting to know on the fly) yielded one starter in first rounder Brandon Scherff while delivering impact players in Preston Smith (8 sacks as a rookie), Matt Jones (if he stops fumbling this is the running game’s meal ticket) and Jamison Crowder (59 catches and a special teams presence).  It’s only one year, but the quality of last year’s draft already exceeds the 2011 & 2013 hauls from a roster-building standpoint.  The promising career of Kyshoen Jarrett (16 games played, one interception) may be hampered by nerve damage in his shoulder…while Arie Kouandji and Martell Spaight just seem like the kind of guys who stick on a roster for a year or two, maybe play special teams and then the next April you’re wondering where they went.  Funfact:  for the first time since Bruce Allen came on board, the number of seventh round picks did not exceed the first rounders.

 

Verdicts for those scoring at home:  a decidedly mixed bag.  You could say that 2010 brought minimal depth, but if you’re going to get Williams and Riley’s longterm impact you’re more than okay with the late round misses.  Many of the 2011 draftees turned out to be the middle of the roster guys who depart with a coaching change…and one can’t dismiss the player on the field and in the locker room Kerrigan has become.  The enigma that is 2012 could turn from boom to bust to boom if Cousins builds on his breakout season…while 2013’s failure may be somewhat salvaged if Reed remains healthy and productive.  The jury remains out on the last two years, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.  When Bruce Allen took over this team in 2009, they were easily the most mismanaged in the NFC East.  Since then, Draft Day have been more encouraging than infuriating.  

 

Tis the season to be clinching!  December is when some NFL teams lock up playoff berths and division titles…while others are merely securing their spot in the cellar.  The Redskins 49-27 loss to Indianapolis secures the team’s sixth non-playoff season in seven years.  December for this franchise has changed from the “what are the potential postseason matchups?” to “where is the reset button?”.

 

If this team wants to be serious about becoming a contender, they need to get better on offensive line and in the secondary.  It’s great that they have two #1 wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, but if the quarterback of the moment is lying on his back how valuable are they? Keenan Robinson and Ryan Kerrigan are difference-makers at linebacker, but does that matter when opposing receivers either run free through the secondary or are just not tackled after the catch?  This should be an intriguing offseason– one that is in effect already underway.

 

Colt 47–  McCoy threw for 392 yards and 3 TD’s with no interceptions…and was able to keep more than a few plays alive in the pocket while also managing the gameplan better than in his previous outings. He did fumble 4 times (losing 1 that was returned for a Colts TD) and was sacked 6 times (one more than RG3 the week before).  Much like many a Trek Episode, McCoy is neither the key problem nor solution (City on the Edge of Forever an obvious exception) for this franchise.  He’s a quarterback, not a miracle worker.

 

Alfred the Insignificant– Mr. Morris gained 67 yards on 17 carries…but when you trail 21-3 the running game goes into the circular file.  He’s well within striking distance of 1000 yards (only Stephen Davis has reached the millenium mark three straight years for the Skins)…it’s just a shame his play isn’t as impactful as it would be with a better team around him.

 

DeSean and Garcon Show– DeSean Jackson tallies 5 catches for 84 yards and a TD while Pierre Garcon adds 3 grabs for 9 yards…3 for 9?  For a guy who broke Art Monk’s regular season record for receptions last fall?  Does it make sense to keep both alpha-wideouts in Ashburn when the line can’t protect them long enough to get the ball?

 

Third and Really, Freaking, Consistently Ridiculously Long– the Skins converted just 5 of 15 attempts…with 13 passes and 2 runs called (one was a Morris loss on 3rd and goal from the 1, the other a Morris draw on the final play of the game.  McCoy completed 8 of 12 passes for 4 conversions while being sacked once.  Yardage Breakdown:  1-3 on third and short, 2-3 on third and 4-6 yards needed, 2-9 on third and long (7+).  There aren’t many 3rd & 27 plays out there…

 

D earns an F– where to begin?  The defense notched just one sack but tallied two takeaways in the first quarter.  The secondary looked vulnerable while allowing TD passes of 30, 48, 73 and 79 yards.  The defensive backfield had the appearance of playing shorthanded on multiple occasions…while one never thought it would be a strength the fact that it is such a glaring weakness makes one wonder what steps will be made in the offseason regarding the back four.

 

Flying Flags– are you ready for 10 penalties and 68 yards?  Four were offensive (Trent Williams tagged twice–for a false start and a hold), three came against the defense (including two neutral zone infractions) and two came on special teams on an extra point attempt and ensuing kickoff.  The most costly?  DeSean Jackson’s hold wiped out an Alfred Morris TD (although the Skins would score on the next play) and the two special teams miscues truncated the Colts field by 20 yards (they started at their 44).  When you’re allowing 73 and 79 yard TD’s, does shortening the field for the other team really matter?

 

Cobra Kai– a quiet day for Mr. Lawrence– as everybody’s favorite 80’s movie bully connected on 25 and 29 yarders.  Dutch would’ve made those.  Forbath improves to 19 of 22 on the season…but the real story on special teams remains Tress Way: 6 punts for a 46.5 yard average.  This is the role Zabka had to play on “European Vacation” where as Jack he dated Audrey Griswold…and was never seen again after picking up one vote for family president.  Does this make Way Rusty or  Clark?

 

Dissecting the Division– Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day win over Dallas gives the Eagles the NFC East lead as well as the #3 seed in the conference…while the Cowboys drop to 7th in the NFC due to losing the conference record tiebreaker with Seattle and Detroit.  The NY Giants–despite wasting a 21-3 lead in Jacksonville–hang onto third place thanks to their September win over the Skins (they host Washington in week 15).  The Burgundy and Gold remain one spot behind the Giants in 15th place of the NFC– one game ahead of a Tampa Bay team that owns the head to head tiebreaker.  At least they own their pick this year…