Archives for posts with tag: Saved By the Bell

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is an odd one;  it’s almost as though time is suspended because most are off at some point in time during the week.  Does it really matter which day it is?  You could also say the same about the Redskins’ 27-11 rout of Denver.  Does a late December victory over a last place team matter?  Yes it does.  Because .500 remains a possibility…and the players fighting for jobs in 2018 have another game of tape that highlights their upside instead of call out their deficiencies.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged One threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns while tossing one interception and taking one sack.  Kirk stretched the field with TD strikes of 31 and 48 yards while working with a receiving corps that resembles a smokey big bite from 7-11.  If this was his final home game at FedEx Field, then good luck and godspeed to #8.  Episode Equivalent:  “What are Little Girls Made Of?”- where Nurse Chapel meets an ex, Kirk is replicated into an android but plants the necessary red flag for Spock to be suspicious.

Running its Course- Samaje Perine gained 53 yards on 17 carries…his fourth straight week of 10+ attempts resulting in less than 60 yards.  Whether or not Cousins comes back in 2018, the Redskins need a hammer on the ground.  I have the full confidence they won’t draft or sign one.

Give it up to Grant- I’ve often called Ryan Grant “Mr. August”, due to his ability to shine in the preseason before becoming anonymous.  Well he could be angling for “Mr. December”, as he led the team with 4 catches Sunday.  Grant’s tallied 12 grabs since Thanksgiving and has posted 43 receptions for 550 yards this fall– or more than his combined total from the three previous years.

Third and…hey, it’s the holidays- the Skins converted 5 of 13 money downs with Cousins completing 4 of 10 passes for four conversions while scrambling to the marker for the fifth.  He also fumbled (recovered) on one play.  Samaje Perine wasn’t as lucky, losing his fumble on the lone third down rushing attempt.  Ryan Grant was the top target (thrown to three times for one catch and conversion) while Vernon Davis was the most productive (moved the chains twice on two passes thrown to).  Yardage breakdown:  1-for-1 on short-yardage, 3-for-5 on manageable (4 to 6 yards needed) and 1-for-7 on third and long.

Saved by the Zach II- the defense kept the Broncos out of the endzone for most of the day, while holding the visitors to 5 of 17 on third down.  Zach was huge once again–and I’m referring to Zach Vigil instead of Zach Brown.  Fourteen tackles (he’s averaging over 10 stops per game in December) to lead the team.  In Bell terms, it’s as if Mark-Paul Gosselaar was replaced during the Tori episodes by Zach’s cousin and the scriptwriters were too lazy to rename the character.  Elsewhere, Preston Smith notches two sacks to build off the previous week (interception and a fumble recovery) turning this into the best stretch by a Preston since I boarded the Enchantment of the Seas for a five night cruise in April 2006.

Flying Flags- six penalties for 35 yards.  Three on the offense (two false starts and an unnecessary roughness) plus two on the defense (delay of game and a hold) while the other came on special teams (more unnecessary roughness).  Arie Kouandjio was flagged twice (roughness/false start) while Bashaud Breeland’s hold gives the cornerback a near-lock on most penalized Redskin (8 flags) of 2017.  False starts (18) remain the big infraction, with offensive holding (16) checking in at #2.  Both false starts came on third and long–setting up longer fields and shrinking the playbook.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia (13-2) wraps up home field advantage with their underwhelming victory over Oakland.  Dallas (8-7) is out of the playoff hunt after their home loss to Seattle but their sweep over the Redskins mean they have second place secured.  The Skins are in 11th place of the NFC, pretty much where they’ve been all season.  The New York Giants (2-13) broke a team record for losses in a season, and have wrapped up last place in the conference while in line for the second overall pick in the 2018 Draft.

Conference Calls and Division of Depression- with nothing but division games on the slate for week 17, the book is closed.  The NFC won 41 of 64 interconference games this year.  That’s not a victory, nor a mandate.  It’s Reagan over Mondale territory.  The only AFC Division to finish with a composite winning record was the East (31-29), and the best NFC quartet this year was the South (35-25).  The AFC South somehow finished with a worst record at 25-35…and that’s with Cleveland’s 0-15 factored into the AFC North’s final grade.

Elimination Island- the Cowboys weren’t the only team to say goodbye to playoff hopes. Detroit, Miami and Oakland were also bounced from postseason consideration.

So much for “Gotta win five to stay alive”.  So much for going through tiebreakers after week fifteen while hoping Carolina would come back to earth.  The Redskins made December almost meaningless for the sixth time in nine years by losing 38-14 at Dallas.  It wasn’t just a bad loss; it was a defeat that exposed this team and roster.  The 2018 season in theory begins now.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise Tagged one completed 26 of 37 passes for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns while tossing a pair of interceptions (one in the red zone) and losing a fumble.  He was also sacked four times behind an offensive line held together by duct tape and paper clips.  Episode Equivalent:  “Spock’s Brain”- a disaster on the scoreboard despite Kirk’s best efforts.  He didn’t write the script where aliens came on board the Enterprise and hijacked Spock’s brain–only to have Dr. McCoy re-insert said organ later in the hour.

Running Aground- it was bound to happen sooner or later.  The recently resurgent running game managed just 56 yards on 19 carries against the Cowboys-with Samaje Perine being held to 38 yards on 12 tries.  Perine will be the third runningback in four years to lead coach Jay Gruden’s team in rushing.  Meanwhile, the guy who was replaced by the guy who was replaced by the guy Perine replaced as the #1 back fared nicely for the Cowboys.  Alfred Morris ran for 127 yards against his former team.  Ouch.

Ryan the Receiver- it’s something when Ryan Grant is your leading receiver. You cannot make the postseason when Mr. August is your top target in December.

Third Down the Drain- the stat sheet says they converted 6 of 14 third downs…but the offense didn’t move the chains until they were down 17.  Cousins completed 7 of 11 passes for 4 conversions while getting sacked once and scrambling for the marker once.  Ryan Grant was the top target (3 conversions on 3 catches and 4 passes thrown to) while recent pickup Byron Marshall also caught 3 of 4 passes on third down but was short each time.  Marshall also ran for a late first down on 3rd & 1.  Yardage: 3-for-4 on short-yardage, 2-for-4 on 3rd and 4 through 3rd and 6, 1-for-6 on 3rd and long.

Zach Meets Mr. Morris- you don’t mess with Preston’s Perspective’s pop-culture references.  Earlier this year we saw the Vikings come to FedEx Field with former kicker Kai Forbath…and showed no mercy (I’ll let you know when he’s had enough).  This past week we saw Mr. Morris blast through the Redskins defense like it was an ATV race at the Malibu Sands.  Alfred gained 80 of his 127 yards after halftime…and the Cowboys converted 7 of their last 10 third downs (and 4 of 5 in the second half).  Not an ideal day for the defense that now ranks 22nd against the run and allows the third most points in the league.

Kicking and Screaming- NO longer shall we use the term “Special Teams” regarding the kicking game that fumbled a punt and allowed a punt return for a touchdown.  Nick Rose connected on both of his extra points and Tress Way averaged 42.6 yards per punt, so they’ve got that going for them.

Flying Flags- SEVEN penalties for 43 yards.  And if you’re counting that’s 24 over the last three games.  Two infractions were rather costly:  a pass interference on Kendall Fuller turned a 3rd & 1 into a 1st & 10 and the Cowboys would score two plays later…while a pass intereference against Bashaud Breeland (he had another PI declined) set up a 1st and goal at the 1.  Then there was that “12 men on the field” flag where there may have been 14 on the field for the Skins.  Not what you need in the fourth quarter on the road.

Dissecting the Division- Philadelphia’s loss to Seattle means the Eagles won’t clinch the NFC East just yet–but at 10-2 they need only one more victory or a Cowboys loss to wrap up the division.  Philly does slip behind Minnesota into the #2 seed (Vikings have a better common opponents record).  Dallas moves a game ahead of the Skins for second (and owns the head to head tiebreaker) and is in 10th place of the NFC, two games out of the wildcard.  The Burgundy and Gold remain in 11th place thanks to a better conference record than Arizona;  a loss to the Chargers plus victories by Seattle and Carolina make the elimination official.  The NY Giants drop behind San Francisco into dead last of the conference…and are one more loss plus a Redskins win away from securing the NFC East cellar one year after making the playoffs.

Interconference Connection, Dominant Divisions & More- the NFC owns a 28-20 lead, meaning they’d have to go 3-12-1 in order to lose the Conference contest.  Cleveland and Cincinnati are playing five of those remaining 16 games so I’m going to say that might not happen.  The NFC South is a combined 28-20…while the AFC West has withered away to 21-27 over the last month.  The NFC East?  Tied for fifth with 23 wins.

Home for the Holidays- joining previously eliminated Cleveland, San Francisco and the New York Giants this week is Chicago.  The Bears lost 15-14 to the Niners as their former kicker Robbie Gould kicked five field goals before  replacing Dr. Houseman as Chief of Staff and purchasing Kellerman’s where his first act was firing Johnny Castle.  Sweet revenge, indeed.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nineties Night at Nats Park definitely did not go as planned.  Actually, the whole weekend didn’t go as planned.  Friday’s game with San Francisco was postponed and Saturday’s tilt was delayed…forcing the two teams to play three games in a little over 24 hours.  Let’s just say that Luke Perry didn’t throw out the first pitch on the rescheduled 90’s Night.  Not even Joe E. Tata or the guy who played the Winslow kid on “Family Matters”.

Remember the “Saved by the Bell” episode when Zack injured his knee?  Bryce Harper is more important to the Nats’ title hopes than Mark-Paul Gosselaar.  After slipping on first base Saturday night, the outfielder slips onto the disabled list with a significant bone bruise and hyperextended knee.  Thank goodness no ligaments were torn…although Harper’s agent made comments about slippery bases after rain delays.  File this for the 2018-19 offseason.

Dissecting the Division-  the magic number is now 33 as the Nats own a 14-game lead in the NL East.  Miami’s three-game sweep of Colorado keeps the Marlins not on the fringe of playoff contention, but on the “fringe of the fringe.  They’re 8.5 games behind the Rockies and Arizona for the wildcard, and if those two teams go .500 over the rest of the season Miami would need to finish 31-14.  We aren’t yet to the point where we can pinpoint the champagne celebration, but I’m sure somebody at MASN has a range of dates.

O’s Woes- the Birds climbed back to .500 for the first time since late June with their win last week at the Los Angeles Angels…only to lose two straight against their fellow Wildcard contenders.  Over the weekend against AL West cellar-dwelling Oakland, the Orioles plated 26 runs–only to leave the Bay Area with a split.  While manager Buck Showalter’s team remains 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the AL, they still have four teams to pass before they reach the Halos.  The dreaded west coast swing ends with three games against fellow semi-contender (that is…under .500 but still in striking distance of a playoff spot) Seattle.  The Mariners and Angels both come to Camden Yards later this month.

Last Week’s Heroes- Ryan Zimmerman hit .346 with 3 HR and 7 RBI…breaking Tim Wallach’s franchise record of 905 runs batted in.  Brian Goodwin hit .346 with 7 runs scored…and Howie Kendrick hit that grand slam Sunday night.  Gio Gonzalez won his lone start…allowing one run over 7 innings just two days after the birth of his son.  Sean Doolittle notched 3 saves.

Last Week’s Humbled- Matt Wieters hit .176…while Anthony Rendon hit .130.  AJ Cole went 0-2 with an ERA of 5.73 while Joe Blanton recorded another double-digit ERA for the week (13.50).  The way the weekend was handled amidst the weather was less than ideal;  many of the players had already changed into streetclothes and were leaving the stadium by the time the game was called at 9:48 p.m.  Instead of playing Saturday afternoon (where it did not rain in the area), they played Saturday night (and was delayed three hours) and Sundays day-night doubleheader gave the Giants a great lift as they had to leave for a series in Miami.

Game to Watch- the journey of Edwin Jackson resumes Thursday in San Diego against one of the pitcher’s 11 former teams.  The 33-year old is 3-2 over five starts with the Nats…posting an ERA of 3.30 and a strikeout to walk ratio of 25-to-7.  Problem is, Jackson hasn’t won consecutive starts since August of last year.  Which Edwin will we get?

Game to Miss- another tough call.  You don’t want to miss the two home games against the Wildcard contending Los Angeles Angels.  And even though Max Scherzer pitches at 10:10 on Friday night, every one of his outings is a must-see.  And could we be seeing Stephen Strasburg returning Saturday?  Sorry, Gio Gonzalez–your Sunday start against the Padres draws the short straw.

The Nationals came up short in attempting to sweep the New York Mets Sunday.  But they still departed Citi Field with a double-digit lead in the NL East…and won’t face a team that currently has a winning record until after the All Star Break.  Not that home-field advantage is worth the paper it’s printed on (as we’ve learned in 2012, 2014 and 2016), but the team has a great opportunity to make a run at the NL West trio (more on them shortly).

Dissecting the Division- what made the 3-1 weekend on the road against the Mets even more special was that in previous years these were weekends that underachieving Nats teams found ways to go 1-3 or even 0-4.  And the Mets were red-hot with five wins in six games entering the four game set.  Instead of giving their NL East foes hope, Manager Dusty Baker’s team proved over 36 innings that they were the better bunch.  Now the Mets are tied with Atlanta for second place, with Miami half a game back in third.  Philadelphia?  When does 2019 begin?

The Wild, Wild, West- it’s an odd-numbered year, so forget about San Francisco for the moment.  The NL West is giving fans the best race for their money with three of the top five teams in baseball residing in that division.  Colorado, Arizona and the Los Angeles Dodgers are separated by one game and all three could make the postseason as the next Wildcard contender is nine games behind LA (it’s the Cubs, and it’s a long season, but still…).  The Rockies own the best offense of the trio (tied for first in the bigs in runs scored and second in batting average) while the Diamondbacks boast the most consistent pitching (second in team ERA, ninth in quality starts and fifth in bullpen ERA).  LA has the weakest rotation of the three (24th in the majors in quality starts) and is getting the most out of its offense at this time (sixth in runs score despite ranking 19th in batting average and 17th in home runs).  Brace yourself for plenty of late nights as the three jockey for the division, home field and wildcards.

Last Week’s Heroes- Adam Lind hit .462 over five games while providing depth off the bench.  Daniel Murphy batted .429 while scoring 6 runs and driving in 5.  Max Scherzer strikes out 10 over 8 innings in his lone start while reliever Enny Romero (1 save, 2 holds, 5 strikeouts and no earned runs in 4 innings over 3 games) provided some necessary relief.

Last Week’s Humbled- Ryan Zimmerman has enjoyed one incredible comeback season, ranking among the league leaders in all three triple crown categories.  Thus hitting .208 will be viewed as a minor hiccup.  Trea Turner struck out 6 times while walking just once.  Tanner Roark allowed 7 runs over 5 innings in his outing of the week…and the righthander’s ERA in April was 3.64, 4.04 in May and now 6.27 in three June starts.  Joe Blanton, Trevor Gott and Matt Albers each posted ERA’s in the double-digits last week.

Game to Watch- Friday the Nats return from their road trip and start Stephen Strasburg (8-2, 3.28 ERA) against Cincinnati.  The Reds pitch Bronson Arroyo.  Yes, the 40-year old former Red Sox hurler is back in the bigs for the first time since 2014 (a spring training stint with the Nats occurred in 2016).  He’s named after Charles Bronson, making every outing of the righthander’s redemption tour must-see if only to think about Deathwish and The Dirty Dozen.

Game to Miss- Monday Tanner Roark (6-4, 4.39 ERA) takes to the mound in Miami against Justin Nicolino (4.15 ERA) with “Better Call Saul” warming up in the bullpen as the AMC drama airs its season three finale.  Bob Odenkirk is always good and you’ll recognize Michael McKean (Laverne & Shirley, Spinal Tap) as Jimmy McGill’s upstanding brother with jealousy issues and more, but fans of a certain age will recall blue-blood lawyer Howard Hamlin as the former Professor Lasky from “Saved By the Bell: The College Years”.  My sneaky MVP on this show?  Rhea Seehorn as Kim Wexler, the striving attorney who sees Odenkirk’s character’s possibilities and excesses while trying to stay on the road (literally and figuratively).  Check out all three seasons…

The last time the Redskins won the NFC East, they began the following season 0-2 that included a Monday night home loss to a division foe.  This year they just separated the Monday night defeat from the home loss to the division foe.  The 27-23 loss to Dallas leaves the team 0-2 for the third time in 15 years (Martyball 2001 being the other season)… with a few questions you don’t want to ask and more answers you don’t want to hear.

Captain Kirk- the face of the franchise completed 28 of 46 passes for 364 yards and a touchdown…but also tossed an interception in the end zone and was sacked twice.  He missed an open Jermaine Crowder early and forced the ball into an area of the end zone that resembled the Cowboys sideline due to the preponderance of white jerseys in such a small area.  What’s important is that after calling Cousins out on FOX yesterday during his halftime interview segment with Pam Oliver, coach Jay Gruden is behind his QB and has faith in him.  For better or worse, this remains Kirk’s ship.  Trek Episode Equivalent for Sunday?  “All Our Yesterdays”, which features intriguing moments (time travel, Mariette Hartley) but at the end for the most part feels disappointing.

Griffin’s Ghost, aka the Continuing Tragedy of Robert III- the House of Griffin remains inactive in exile.  The shoulder now won’t return for 10 to 12 weeks…if at all.  His backup, Josh McCown, is now on the shelf with a battered left shoulder (what is it with left shoulders and Browns QBs?) meaning that Cody Kessler-aka Prince Hal-is the likely starter for week three at Miami.  If that’s the case then Kessler will be the fifth starting QB in five games for the Faulty Franchise by the Lake.  Will he be the starter in week four at Fed Ex Field?  “Oft expectation fails, and most oft there where most it promises; and oft it hits where hope is coldest, and despair most fits.” (All’s Well That Ends Well:  Act 2, Scene 1).

Saved by the Back, the Next Generation-  Matt Jones ran for 61 yards on 13 carries while tallying the Skins’ first TD of the day on a 14-yard scamper.  Unfortunately despite the game being a one-possession affair for most of the afternoon there were only two other carries by a Skins runningback:  and Chris Thompson gained just one yard on those two attempts.  Meanwhile, back at Bayside to score the game-winning touchdown for the Cowboys was Zack Attack himself, the Mr. Morris who went by Alfred the Great while playing in Burgundy and Gold (before eventually becoming Alfred the Underused and then Alfred the Unwanted).  Much like the “Next Generation” episode that saw Mark-Paul Gosselar and Lark Voorhees return to advance the plot and also underscore how pointless the sequel show was.

Third and Misleading- the offense converted 5 of 12 third downs which in theory is an improvement over the previous week (3-10) but two of those conversions were on the final possession of the game after the Skins seemingly seen their last chance fade away at the two-minute warning.  Both Cousins completions at the end of the 4th quarter were to Chris Thompson-and while he made the first down the runningback was tackled in bounds.  For the day, Cousins completed 6 of 11 passes on the money down…but what will haunt him is that interception in the Cowboys end zone.  His top target?  Thompson three times (three completions and two conversions), Jermaine Crowder twice (one catch and conversion) and Pierre Garcon twice (both incomplete with one an interception).  Garcon was also the target on an incomplete fourth down and 1 pass.  Three of those third downs were in a second-half sequence that saw the Skins have the ball inside the Cowboys’ 30-yard line three times–only to wind up with two field goals and an INT.  Yardage breakdown: 2-3 on short yardage (under 4 needed), 1-4 on medium yardage and 2-5 on long yardage (7+ needed).  The only called run was a 3rd & 1 where Chris Thompson got stuffed for no gain.  His body type doesn’t exactly scream “short yardage”.

D earns another D- lineman Ricky Jean-Francois said after the game that adjustments were not being made…and then said Monday that he was being quoted out of context.  That said, for the second straight week the Skins’ D allowed an opponent to come into Fed Ex Field and convert 50% or more of their third down attempts.  Rookie Dak Prescott moved the chains on 3rd & 8, 3rd &9 and twice on 3rd & 11.  Bashaud Breeland led the team with 10 total tackles…which is nice until you remember that he’s a cornerback and the usual reason a DB has that many stops is there were too many completions allowed in the secondary or the front seven wasn’t great at stopping the run.   The unit that ranked 28th last year is tied for 27th after two weeks…28th against the run and tied for 29th in scoring defense.  I know what you’re thinking- coordinator Joe Barry’s unit is spending way too much time working on a pass defense that ranks 20th.

Flying Flags- eight penalties for 51 yards…giving the Skins 17 infractions for the year (6th most in the NFL).  This week three were on offense (2 false starts and an illegal formation) while the other six were on defense (everything from neutral zone infractions to pass interference).  The only repeat offender this week was Preston Smith with a pair of defensive offsides (one was declined).  Which penalty hurt the most?  A tie on the Cowboys game-winning drive between a Mason Foster roughing the passer that turned a 3rd & 5 from the Skins 44 into a 1st & 10 from the 29…and a Josh Norman illegal use of the hands that turned a 3rd & 8 on the Washington 27 into a 1st  & 10 on the 23.  The winning score came on that drive.  Kory Lichtensteiger’s false start in the final minute of play also cost the team a ten-second runoff, meaning instead of 2 plays to score from the Dallas 36 they had one from the 41.  Almost half of the Redskins flags (7 of 17) have been false starts this fall.

Special Situations- another solid week from the kicking game as Tress Way plants a 32-yard punt at the Cowboy 6 while booming this other kick for 42 yards.  Dustin Hopkins nails all three field goal attempts to stay perfect at 6-6 on the season.  Jermaine Crowder had a decent day returning punts (2 for 30 yards with a long of 21).  The kickoff return team lucked out when a Cowboys onside-kick didn’t travel the necessary 10 yards.

Dissecting the Division- the loss drops the Skins to last place at 0-2.  Far from unfamiliar ground as the team has finished last 8 of the previous 12 seasons.  The New York Giants (next week’s opponent) is in first at 2-0 with two conference wins and one division victory while Philadelphia’s 1-0 NFC mark keeps them out of the top spot despite a 2-0 start.  Dallas at 1-1 is in third…while the Burgundy and Gold hold down the fourth and final position in an NFC East that is off to a 5-3 start (tied with the AFC North and West for the best thus far).

 

Can’t trust that night.  Monday, Monday…gives the Skins a fright.  I’ll give the estate of John Phillips a reprieve by not going through an entire set of lyrics that focuses on the Monday night misery experienced by the Burgundy and Gold over the years.  But let the record show that this team is 2-15 in Monday night games at Fed Ex Field.  Not ideal by any stretch of the imagination…and instead of being able to celebrate the raising of the 2015 NFC East banner (okay, so there wasn’t really a ceremony) the Skins wake up 0-1 with more questions than answers.

Captain Kirk- the Franchise-Tagged one completed 30 of 43 passes…but many were in check-down mode.  Instead of stretching the field or challenging the Steeler secondary, we saw the classic short stuff that pads the stats while infuriating the faithful at the same exact time.  The Original Series episode most resembling Cousins’ week one performance?  “Gamesters of Triskelion”, where they do gladiator stuff and the episode at first glance appears to be better than it actually is.

The Tragedy of Robert III- well, fans of a Stuartesque restoration on the shores of Lake Erie were given a rude awakening.  They saw the former face of the Redskins franchise complete 12 of 26 passes for 190 yards and an interception against a Philadelphia defense that ranked 28th in the league against the pass last year.  Unfortunately as has been the case with the House of Griffin, the phrase “adding injury to insult” isn’t just cute wordplay–it’s reality.  RG3 broke a bone in his non-throwing shoulder taking a hit against the Eagles.  Instead of focusing on if he’d keep his starting job by the time the Browns came to Fed Ex Field, Robert III is headed to IR with no return in sight until Halloween…if then.  “A shoulder! A shoulder!  My kingdom for a shoulder!”

Running aground- Fifty-five yards on just twelve carries!  No runs on third and short or any third down at all!  If Alfred Morris were still here, he’d be like Zack Morris wondering why the latest episode had no scenes at the Max.  Matt Jones gained 24 yards on 7 carries and reportedly made the wrong read on an early 4-yard loss.  The second-year pro has the central casting look of an NFL runningback, but is not proving himself so far this season.  Plan B is the oft-injured Chris Thompson.  Can they bring back Wilbur Jackson?

Rating the Receivers- everybody got fed Monday night, with the firm of Reed, Garcon & Jackson combining for 19 catches.  DeSean Jackson showed why he’s a game-breaker with a 33-yard grab standing out in his 6 reception, 102 yard performance.  Jermaine Crowder even got into the act as a junior associate with 6 catches.  Problem was, Jackson was the only receiver to catch more than one pass and average more than 10 yards per reception. 

Third and Checkdown Time- the good news is Kirk Cousins completed 7 of 10 passes on the money down.  The bad news is that all 7 were of the short variety…and only 3 saw the receiver reach the magic marker.  Jordan Reed was the security blanket, catching all 4 passes thrown his way for 36 yards and one conversion.  All ten third down attempts were pass plays…with Kirk & company converting 1 of 2 short-yardage (1 to 3 yards needed) plays, 0-2 mid-yardage (4 to 6 needed) and 2 of 6 long-yardage (7+) situations.  That over half of your third downs were long yardage says a lot about the offense’s inability to do the right thing on first and second downs.

Getting gashed- last year the Skins ranked 26th in the league in stopping the run and allowed a 2nd-worst in the NFL 4.8 yards per carry.  Monday saw more of the same with DeAngelo Williams ripping off 143 yards on 26 carries.  Much was made on social media of the Steeler runningback leaving a 75-cent tip at Ledo’s Pizza over the weekend.  Let the record show that it is not cool to stiff your waitstaff…but it is also not cool for a server to make a tip (or lack thereof) public.  After further examination, it was revealed that not only was the server fired but that Williams ordered salads and pasta.  At Ledo’s Pizza.  He probably also gets the Western Omelet at IHOP…

Mason Nation- major shout-out to linebacker Mason Foster, who can order the oatmeal at IHOP for all I care after tallying 14 tackles against the Steelers.  Or the Chicken Christopher at Mortons.  Or the hamburger at Union Oyster House.

Situation Norman- thank goodness they brought in Josh Norman to cover the likes of the Antonio Browns of the NFL.  Except for Monday night…when Brown tore through the Redskin secondary like a blowtorch through butter to the tune of 8 catches for 126 yards, two touchdowns and one massive endzone gyration that merited not just a penalty but a spot on “Dancing With the Stars”.  While it was uncomfortable watching Bashaud Breeland get turned inside out (he did make an early interception while tallying 9 tackles), with every catch one thought “where was Josh?”.  Especially when the $75 million dollar price tag and FOX pregame segments are involved.  The team threw out the “scheme” talk of Norman taking one side of the field…much like if the Nationals only had closer Mark Melancon pitch to right-handers.  While it’s not like this is a defense that doesn’t have a slew of potential leaks, but not to make the adjustment seems short-sighted.  One cannot wait to see where Dez Bryant lines up in week two…

Flying Flags- nine penalties for 55 yards…with two on special teams and seven on offense.  Five false starts (wondering what sort of drills we’ll see in Ashburn this week) and two holds.  Kory Lichtensteiger was flagged for two false starts while Trent Williams was tagged for a false start and a hold.  Most costly penalty?  Actually the sequence that saw a Vernon Davis hold wipe out a 10-yard Matt Jones run…turning a 1st & 10 at the Pittsburgh 32 into a 1st & 20 at the Washington 48.  Tack on a Trent Williams false start before the next snap and the Skins were 1st & 25 at their own 43.  They’d wind up turning the ball over on downs…missing the marker by one yard after coughing up 15 via infractions.  Pittsburgh would take the ball 67 yards on 14 plays to score just before halftime and the Skins would never be within a touchdown again.

Dissecting the Division- so Philadelphia and the New York Giants, despite making coaching changes, stand atop the NFC East?  The Giants 20-19 win over Dallas gives them the divisional record (1-0) tiebreaker and first place in the standings this week.  Philadelphia’s win over Division III Cleveland (I still believe they don’t give out scholarships with the Browns) allows the Eagles to embrace all that is Carson Wentz.  Dallas is in last place because of their 0-1 division record.  But that can all change Sunday.

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.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previously appearing on WTOP.COM…

 

I love the NFL.  Pro football was my gateway obsession when I first got into sports.  I loved getting the paper on Sunday with breakdowns off all the matchups…and I would flip between the pregame shows on CBS and NBC.  I did mock drafts when the NFL Draft was still a Tuesday in late April proposition;  I prepared preseason predictions in February, May and August and no matter how talented Dallas was somehow had them finishing 6-10 each time.  Nowadays I enjoy watching the pregame shows side by side by side, no matter how unfunny the “funny picks guy” may actually be. I still get goosebumps nowadays at 3:45pm…knowing that the next 45 minutes could very well resemble the first day of the NCAA Tournament.  I enjoy Thanksgiving games in Detroit and Dallas…even if they’re played in Pontiac or Arlington.  I cherish those weekends in January when legacies are made.  And I still eat way too much buffalo wing dip on Super Bowl Sunday.

I love the league–but I hate the fact that it never goes away.  The Draft was once an oasis in an offseason desert…and now it’s a three-day buffet that is one day too long.  Getting there is an ordeal with the scouting combine in late February and Free Agency in March (first, FA should be held after the Draft as a roster supplement but that’s just me).  After the Draft the slow drip of OTA’s (Organized Team Activities, not Offseason Torture Antagonism) the next two months we’re given what feels like a week before Training Camps open.

Only the news faucet is never shut in the NFL when the league feels it’s better to worm its way into the conversation, no matter how embarrassing the circumstances.  Deflategate felt like a bad “Saved by the Bell” episode (you might ask yourself, were there any GOOD “Saved by the Bell” episodes?  Yes, three.) with Commissioner Roger Goodell playing the part of Mr. Belding (obviously Tom Brady is Zack, Rob Gronkowski is Slater and Julian Edelman is Screech–with Belichick playing the part of their boss at Malibu Sands Beach Club).  We spent the better part of a calendar year discussing in depth the PSI of a football.  And there might still be more…because the Commish despite appearing to have the legal sensibility of Lionel Hutz refuses to punt after being thrown for a loss by a US District Court Judge.

The NFL is like that buddy who comes to your house for a party and makes the event better than you thought imaginable…only to show up the next day when you have laundry and vacuuming to do.  And they come back the day after that to hang out even though you have work or a wife to focus your energies on.  Or maybe you just don’t want to be confronted with the minutae of their non-party existence.  But here’s the league like the British Empire that never lets the sun set…back for more face-time.

Even the season is getting to be exhausting.  Thursday night games have been shoved down our throats for a decade…with overworked and under-prepared teams combining for subpar product.  If they had teams coming off bye weeks playing instead, you’d have 10 days for players to recuperate and over a week for coaches to create a game plan that doesn’t look like it’s been duct taped together with paper clips.

Sundays are now longer with the London regular season games kicking off at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time.  I’m just thankful the league hasn’t realized it could really crush the 25-54 demographic with 6 a.m Sunday starts. We have the last laugh on the Brits, though– they’re getting Jacksonville and their two-tone helmets again this year.  The Jaguars instead of failing to sell out their stadium 8 times in a market that never should have gotten an NFL team are averaging over 83,000 fans at Wembley Stadium.  I think the Monkees sold out Wembley too…

Next to expand?  Try the playoffs.  Talk of expanding the postseason to 14 or even 16 teams has been “gathering momentum” according to the commissioner, just like the demand for more games in London is “gaining traction”.  We’ve had more than a few teams reach the playoffs despite records of .500 or less recently…is it necessary to lower the bar even further?  More importantly, where do you put the extra games in the Wildcard Round?  Saturday or Sunday tripleheader?  Extend the playoff weekend to Monday night?

Earlier this year I joked that the NFL was considering expanding its draft to “one round a week” format during April and May so it could further intrude on the Final Four, Major League Baseball’s opening day, the NHL/NBA Playoffs and the annual showing of “The Ten Commandments”.  Obviously I was being facetious– the league would never show that lack of restraint.  They’d much rather go to “two picks a day” between February 15th and June 23rd (June 22nd on Leap Years).

But I still can’t wait until kickoff…