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 Williams’ four-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