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Archive for November, 2016

Washington Redskins: Cousins Deal would be Smart

In the not-so-recent past, the Washington Redskins were a franchise in search for consistency at the quarterback position. However, with the way current quarterback Kirk Cousins has been playing, those days are over. Unless it has a better option, it would be smart for the Burgundy and Gold front office to think seriously about a long-term deal for the the former Spartan.

As with most quarterbacks, Cousins is heavily scrutinized for his mistakes in the passing game. Even with the occasional miscue however, he controls the offense and makes accurate throws. More importantly, he is a solid leader of men and has the respect of his teammates.

During the team’s last game against the Minnesota Vikings, he led a go-ahead fourth-quarter drive for the third straight game. This he accomplished without his Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and one of the team’s more lethal weapons in WR DeSean Jackson.

This was the sixth time in Washington’s nine games this season that he has orchestrated comeback drives, slinging the rock at a high level.

The Michigan State product completed 22 of 33 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the 26-20 win over the Vikings.

At the beginning of this season, Cousins appeared to be playing with a heavy weight on his shoulders, looking uncomfortable in the pocket and afraid of making a mistake. But as the year has progressed, he has looked better and better.

“I had high expectations for myself and sometimes they were a bit unrealistic,” the QB said in a postgame interview with Hall of Fame DB/WR Deion Sanders of the NFL Network. “You can’t be a perfectionist. The game is imperfect and you’re not going to play perfect[ly]. Giving myself some grace and allowing myself to make mistakes, I think, has helped.”

Since last season’s October game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cousins’ numbers have been solid; completing 487 passes out of 702 attempts (a respectable 69 percent completion rate), 39 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, a QB rating of 106.4 and a 12-6-1 record.

The tape and the numbers don’t lie. The Redskins have asked him to throw more this year than he has in the past and he has answered the call. Cousins certainly has things that he can improve upon but the signal-caller has more than proven that he is the leader that the Washington Redskins need. Only time will tell if the entire organization agrees.

Grading the Redskins at the Half-way Mark: Defense

The 4-3-1 Washington Redskins go into their bye at the perfect time — Week 8. Everyone on the team needs to get away from football for a while to heal physically and mentally. This is a good time to look back on the first half of the season and grade the team’s offense, defense and special teams. Today is a look at the defense.

CB: Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Quinton Dunbar, Kendall Fuller, Greg Toler, Desean Phillips.
S: Will Blackmon, Duke Ihenacho, Donte Whitner, Su’a Cravens*, Deshazor Everett
DL: Chris Baker, Ricky Jean Francois, Cullen Jenkins, Ziggy Hood, Matt Ioannidis, Anthony Lanier
OLB: Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy, Preston Smith, Houston Bates
ILB: Will Compton, Mason Foster, Martrell Spaight, Su’a Cravens*, Terence Garvin

The addition of cornerback Norman in the offseason was a boon for the Redskins.

Tied for third in numbers of passes defended this year (11), the former Carolina Panther has played as advertised. But he and Breeland as a duo haven’t been as impactful as many thought they would be. Breeland hasn’t been assigned to opponent’s top receivers so this has made a difference in how much he is targeted but he also hasn’t played as well as he can.

The safety position was in flux early on but, even with the injuries, has begun to come together.

Whitner, a 10-year veteran signed in the first week of October, has stepped in and played well. It has been a source of discussion that, even though Ihenacho is listed as starter on the team’s depth chart, the newcomer plays more snaps. But the way defensive coordinator Joe Barry rotates guys in and out; Ihenacho will get on the field. Ihenacho has 21 tackles and two passes defended so far. Whitner has 16 tackles.

Blackmon is a guy who has played a lot of football. His transition this season so safety might have taken a while but his experience and leadership will only help the unit once he is completely comfortable.

Cravens, around whom there was much optimism because of his amazing skill set, has been impactful when on the field, especially against the Cincinnati Bengals. This was a game during which the DC called some creative — and effective — blitzes that catered to the rookie’s talents.

Given that general manager Scot McCloughan seemed to ignore the defensive line during the offseason, (when the team thought OLB Junior Galette would be available for the season), the expectation was that the unit would not be very good. While it certainly has had issues stopping the run, it has gotten better since Week 1, going from allowing an average of 133 yards on the ground in the first four weeks to an average of 114 in the last four. This is still too many but the reduction is a sign of improvement

If it does nothing else, the defensive line perseveres, playing hard up until the whistle, whether successful or not. While the players along the line don’t get their name called much, when there’s a push into the backfield or an OLB gets a sack; it’s usually because Baker, Francois or Hood have done their jobs.

The light bulb has gone on for Murphy, who many thought would be “just a guy” when the season started.

It’s hard to know if he has just matured into his position or if adding the weight and muscle he was going to need to play the defensive line before Galette got hurt helped in some way. Regardless of why, he has recorded six sacks so far; two of them against the Dallas Cowboys young star, Dak Prescott in Week 2 (who was actually sacked four times that day).

Kerrigan has recorded seven sacks, getting to his own rookie QB, Carson Wentz, 2.5 times when the Philadelphia Eagles came to town.

The linebacking unit has a lot of guys that the average NFL fan would not know, but who, as a unit, play pretty well together at times. Compton recorded his first INT against the Cincinnati Bengals on a nickel/corner blitz that was called at the perfect time.

Just after the first quarter of the season, there were calls from fans to fire Barry but the defense has shown steady improvement since Week 1. There are two new starters on the squad and nine more that rotate in. This is only his second year running the defense and players say all the time that cohesiveness and communication take time.

Washington’s defense ranks second in number of tackles (496). The unit is tied for seventh in passes defended (39) and tied for 17th in interceptions (five). It is fifth in fumbles (six) and 19th in both points and touchdowns against. The team ranks 25th in team opponent red zone scoring percentage.

The defense has a number of areas in which it needs to improve, no doubt about it. The Redskins need to learn how to stop opponents’ running backs and Breeland needs to regain his confidence and play to his potential.

Tackling has improved but can always be better. Smith needs to get back to last season’s second-half form.

Barry has been heavily criticized but, again, he has dialed up creative, effective blitzes and stunts against opponents at times. Young players, like the rookies Cravens and Fuller, have a lot of potential and show an upward trend for the unit. This squad has a lot of work to do but, as the players continue to work together, the upward movement could continue. Washington’s defense ranks 22nd overall.

Overall grade for defense at the midway point: C+


Redskins Mid-Season Grades: Offense

The 4-3-1 Washington Redskins go into their bye at the perfect time — Week 8. Everyone on the team needs to get away from football for a while to heal physically and mentally. This is a good time to look back on the first half of the season and grade the team’s offense, defense and special teams. Today is a look at the offense.

QB: Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, Nate Sudfeld
OL: Spencer Long, John Sullivan, Shawn Lauvao, Brandon Scherff, Arie Kouandjio, Trent Williams*, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe
RB: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, Robert Kelley, Mack Brown
WR: DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Rashad Ross, Maurice Harris
TE: Jordan Reed, Vernon, Davis, Niles Paul

Quarterback Kirk Cousins had a career season last year and continues to progress. Things like extending plays, making good decisions with the ball and continuing to distribute it to his weapons are all things in which he has improved since he became the starting QB.

So far in 2016 he is has completed 215 passes of 321 attempts for 2,454 yards, 12 TDs and seven INTs. He has a 67.0 completion percentage, 306.8 yards per game average and a 93.1 QB rating.

Last week against the Cincinnati Bengals, Cousins completed 38 of 56 throws for 458 yards and in doing so, recorded his 16th contest in which he exceeded 300 passing yards (he is now tied with former Redskins and Hall of Fame QB Sonny Jurgensen for the highest number of games with 300+ yards in franchise history).

By the same token, there are still things upon which Cousins can improve. Letting plays develop to the extent possible before letting go of the ball must be balanced with not holding onto it too long. For instance, there are times when Cousins appears to throw to his third progression while his first and second receivers are open and further up the field.

Some decision-making acumen will simply come with time and experience. As long as he doesn’t regress, Cousins can be considered a successful QB.

The running game has improved as the season has progressed and certainly since last year. In eight games, RB Matt Jones has a 4.6 ypc average. Regrettably, he still has problems holding onto the ball.

Fortunately, rookie Rob Kelley has finally gotten onto the field and has shown he is a very good RB. Owning a 5.0 ypc average, Kelley displays vision, speed and finesse when he runs.

Chris Thompson is a huge asset for the Redskins. Speedy, shifty and strong for his size, Thompson also has great hands and catches well out of the backfield. As well he blocks like a man much larger than his 5-8, 195 lbs. frame. He carries a 4.6 ypc average.

Rookie Mack Brown was promoted from the practice squad but has not seen the field during the regular season.

The Redskins pass-catchers consist of WRs DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon, Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Maurice Harris, Rashad Ross (rookie Josh Doctson is on IR right now); and TEs Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Niles Paul.

Jackson, Garçon, Crowder, Reed — and now Davis — all have unique talents they bring to the offense.

Jackson can track any ball thrown his way when he wants to and is as fast as any receiver in the league. Garçon plays with a nasty attitude and serious physicality… any defender that tackles him feels it. Crowder is one of Cousins’ go-to guys with a 70.2 percent completion rate. He has an elusiveness and route-running ability not often seen in second-year players.

Reed continues to confirm what a matchup nightmare he is for linebackers and safeties. That he is not double-teamed more is a mystery. Davis has enjoyed a resurgence in his career since coming to Washington and is not just a decoy for Reed. He has become a valuable asset in catching as well as blocking.

Notwithstanding All-Pro left tackle Trent Williamsfour-game suspension for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse (he missed a drug test), the Redskins offensive line has played well this season.

Williams, left guard Shawn Lauvao, center Spencer Long, right guard Brandon Scherff and right tackle Morgan Moses have been together for eight games now and their cohesiveness is showing in the better run game and the fact that Cousins has been sacked only 11 times. This works out to be 1.38 times per game which is the second-least in the league. Only the Oakland Raiders’ Derek Carr has been sacked less with nine. This is a testament to Cousins’ fit within the system and good pass protection.

This offense as a unit still has red zone issues. Until this can be fixed, the team won’t get the respect they want as games continue to be close, nail-biting contests.

Overall Grade for offense at the midway point: B+

*Suspended four games

Redskins All-Pro LT Trent Williams Suspended

Fans of the Washington Redskins were dealt a shock today when they found out that fan-favorite and All-Pro offensive tackle, Trent Williams has been suspended for four games — without pay — for violating the NFL’s Policy and Program for Substances of Abuse. The suspension goes into effect immediately.

The team released a statement not long after the first report went viral and it read:

“Today, Trent Williams was suspended by the NFL under the terms of the Policy and Program on Substances of Abuse for the next four games. We met with Trent today to discuss this unfortunate news. Per the terms of the Policy, Trent will be permitted to participate in team meetings and work out at the Redskins’ facilities throughout this time. The Redskins are counting on Trent to help our team when he returns from suspension. Our focus will now turn to the Minnesota Vikings after our bye this upcoming weekend. Any questions related to this matter should be directed to the NFL or NFLPA.”

Williams will be eligible to return to the field Dec. 5, the day after team travels to Arizona to play the Cardinals.

The strange twist on the suspension is that it may not be a positive test result but rather a missed test that has caused the penalty to Williams.


Some slightly good news for the team is that the 2010 first-round draft pick will be allowed to both work out and attend meetings at the facility during the deferment from game play so he will, at least, will be involved with his coaches and teammates throughout the ordeal.

The loss of the team captain is terrible news for the organization.

Recently given a top grade of 87.8 by Pro Football Focus for his play against the Philadelphia Eagles really good defense, the analytic website wrote: “Rarely does a tackle inflict fear in opposing defenses, but Williams is a special player.”

While the four-time Pro Bowler is suspended, second-year player Ty Nsekhe could take his spot along the offensive line. Nsekhe is highly regarded by Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan and the coaching staff. It will be interesting to see if the offensive production drops off at all.

“Ty, in my personal opinion, he would start on over half the teams in the league at left or right tackle,” McCloughan said back in August during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview. “And he’s our third right now. And he started two games last year, and one was Dallas, and he locked [former Dallas Cowboys DE Greg] Hardy down bigger than life. Threw him out there, it was like ‘OK, wow, what’s going to happen?’ But no… he’s a football player.”

Last August Williams signed a five-year, $66 million contract extension with the Redskins. According to OverTheCap.com, this is the highest average annual salary among offensive linemen in the NFL ($13.2 million).