Bottom Line: Redskins find their grit from somewhere deep inside
The 3-5 Washington Redskins played a complete game against the visiting Chargers for only the second or third time this season and they did it with season left to save.
The 'Skins won the game when either the players, or the coaches, or both, figured out, finally, that Robert Griffin III was not the only playmaker on the team. They made full use of all the resources available to them.
3rd down conversions, accurate passes, mostly solid execution. That's a recipe for a good day for us Redskins fans. Hail!— RedskinRich (@RedskinsRich) November 3, 2013
They won when Washington's maligned defense denied San Diego 18 inches of turf for the go-ahead touchdown in the closing seconds of regulation.
Then Griffin, the savior of Redskins football, led a cold-blooded overtime touchdown drive that slammed the door on Philip Rivers' hopes to comeback for a win.
You can boil the story of the game into that valiant defensive stand and the OT drive that rewarded the defense for its effort.
The Redskins jammed Chargers RB David Woodhead for no gain inside the one. And then the defense covered passes to Antonio Gates and Keenan Allen. Allen had been doing a credible imitation of Danny Amendola vs. the Redskins v2012. He caught eight of 11 passes thrown to him. One went for a touchdown, but Rivers missed on his second scoring strike to Allen that would have shredded Washington's season.
In overtime, the Shanahans stayed committed to the run as they had all through regulation. Alfred Morris had gains of 3, 19, 1, 9 and 0 yards on the drive. (A two-yard gain was wiped out by a holding call on Will Montgomery).
All of the Redskins touchdowns were on the ground, three by FB Darrel Young.
In the discussion whether to extend Mike Shanahan's contract next season, people should remember that Exec VP Mike signed Garcon to be Washington's No. 1 receiver and it keeps paying off. Shanahan hasn't hit on every signing, but he has done enough that I'd rather see him make those decisions when the Redskins get their cap room back than some new guy installing a new system.
Could it be that Pierre Garcon is the only person who could criticize the Redskins "passing game" without blowback?— Anthony Brown (@SkinsHogHeaven) November 3, 2013
Garcon has been highly critical of the Redskins "passing game" (ahem) all season long. He backs it up with circus catches so nobody says anything.
But this win was on the defense and the running game. Whoda thunk we could use "stalwart defense" and "Redskins" in the same sentence for two weeks in a row? (Liar liar pants on fire.).
A run game is a quarterbacks best friend, especially a young QB with a suspect knee evolving his skills. The Redskins rushed 40 times to 23 pass attempts. The result was 500 yards of offense and 40 minutes of possession.
If only the Shanahans did that in the last 22 minutes of the Broncos game, but that's looking back. In a weekend when every active NFC Least team won, this was a win the Redskins had to have. They found the grit deep inside to pull it out.
Hog Heaven is fond of tracking Redskins performance by three stats worth watching:
1) Passer rating differential
3) Third down stops
Washington won all three phases against San Diego.
Griffin had a higher passer rating that Philip Rivers, 86.9 vs. 81.9.
The Redskins picked Rivers twice. The Chargers fleeced Griffin on a freaky pick-6 in Washington's end zone.
The Chargers converted a mere three of nine third down attempts. The Redskins converted 12 of 17 third downs.
Accomplish any two of those three and a team stands a good chance to win. A hat trick on all three is a near certain win even under the most Trick or Treat circumstances.
That guy Cory Liuget must have accordion arms based on all the passes and field goals he was knocking down.
So, to sum up, 2 FGs blocked; one pass blocked for a TD. Several others batted down. When did Bolts sign Mutombo?— John Keim (@john_keim) November 3, 2013
New NFL rules for 2013 prevented the Redskins from wearing the leather-look helmets with the throwback uniforms. I suppose there's a good reason for that. I wish somebody would explain what it is.
I'd be OK if the Redskins did not bring the stripes back to the helmets, as long as they kept the logo (ahem). #HTTR— Anthony Brown (@SkinsHogHeaven) November 3, 2013
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It's Thursday, of course, but we won't let that stop us from answering this message from one of those handheld thingies. It's too fresh to wait for next Wednesday when we gather them up to answer at once.
HOG HEAVEN RESPONSE
Redskins need more practice tackling and stop playing scared take rg out
I also don't agree with you about Cousins. I've been a Capt. Kirk fan since his days at Michigan State, but Griffin represents the best chance to win.
Injury and defensive adjustments forced the Redskins to use RGIII more conventionally. His skills as a pocket passer are only marginally better than Cousins who came out of a pro set offense in college. Griffin did not. By "skills" I mean progression reads and check downs.
The Redskins are committed to Griffin. He has 18 games more NFL experience that Cousins and he needs go through this to grow as a quarterback. That would be true even if he were not injured.
I get your frustration, but benching Griffin for Cousins would be rolling the clock back to zero.
If RG is healthy, he plays.
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The Bottom Line: Longing for 2012 won't help us in the present
Nothing kills a football blog like the home team losing.
It kills blogs two ways. Readers don't want to read why their team is losing. They want to read how good the team is and why they will win the next game.
Bloggers don't want to write about why the team is losing either. Rants carry only so far. That's why this post will be short.
The Redskins' loss to the Broncos was the third demoralizing loss of the season. Philadelphia and Dallas were the other two. Silver lining? At least this was not a conference loss.
Our own Greg Trippiedi's thoughts and observations about the game is more positive than I would have written. (Thank you, Greg.)
Budding blogger @TattooedScorpio graded the Denver performance on his It Is What It Is blog. We'll throw a link his way because kind bloggers did that for us when Hog Heaven was young. (Just paying it forward, bro'. You do the same someday.)
Hog Heaven laments that we cannot use the cool line we would have tweeted if the Redskins won ‒ Mike Shanahan just knows how to win in Denver. Now we are resisting the tweet "Well no wonder Denver fired him."
That would be small and petty of us.
The Redskins upset a writing angle Hog Heaven would have pursued if they won. We would have looked for an emerging trend. Would Robert Griffin III carry his Chicago Bears performance to Denver and extend it against San Diego this Sunday.
Three weeks of performance is enough to see a trend. Sadly, the trend is persistent inconsistency.
Somebody, I think it was LaDainian Tomlinson, said the only time he felt 100 percent as a football player was at the start of his rookie year. Thereafter, he felt his health was 95 percent of what it was the prior season.
Tomlinson was a running back, but Griffin takes a lot of hits. He's playing football nine months after major knee surgery when you and I would be a few months off crutches.
It dawns on us that RGIII might never be the same even if he were as 100 percent as he thought he was.
Recovery isn't the only issue
He's on a learning curve as he perfects his craft as a professional quarterback. The pro game is more reading coverages than reading options. Kirk Cousins was more practiced at a pro style QB than Griffin when both entered the league. Griffin is ahead of Cousins by the experience of 18 games.
That showed too when Cousins entered the field late in the Broncos game.
Donovan McNabb evolved from a rookie running quarterback to a pocket passer. If Griffin and McNabb ever do speak, I hope it's about how Donovan made that transition and not about managing RG's social media presence.
There are two points about Cousins. First, trade-bait, back-up quarterbacks are at peak value before anyone knows how good or bad they truly are. Matt Flynn is the poster boy example.
Cousins entered the Broncos game cold and was as ineffective as Griffin. Denver's defense may have influenced that, but in a no excuses business, Capt. Kirk's trade value took a hit Sunday.
Second, most teams with a young quarterback starter will back him up with a veteran. There is no appetite for Rex Grossman as the No. 2, but there is no viable 2014 free agent alternative to Cousins.
Jay Cutler won't sign anywhere unless he starts. Chicago will re-sign him anyway. After Cutler, every other candidate would be more costly than Cousins' bargain basement rookie contract.
Griffin and Cousins have to up their game, that is all.
Failing the eyeball test
Put no stock in the notion that Washington left Denver only one and a-half games behind division leader Dallas. The 'Skins don't look like they can run with a playoff team right now. Perhaps they can put together another seven game winning streak like they did last year.
That's not anything an analyst can predict.
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Robert Griffin is right. The Washington Redskins aren't a 2-5 team. That's not what they play like.
Problem is, when you play like a team with no aspirations for the playoffs the first three weeks of the season, you don't get to shrug off those performances when negativity and criticism collide at Redskins park. And the stigma of the beginning of the season: the complete abscence of the offense against Philadelphia in the first half, the defense on paid leave against Green Bay, and the special teams disaster against Dallas, and it's hard to argue the Redskins out of 'bad team' territory.
The good news is that the Redskins are not swooning at this time of year in the way that they were 365 days ago. After spending the morning with coffee and the all-22 tape from the Denver game, I am mostly pleased with where the defense is at after the Denver game. Each of the last two games has served as a reminder that Washington is still a poor tackling football team, and that's going to cost yards and points at times. But after watching the Denver offense appear limited for much of the 60 minutes before overwhelming the Washington defense in the final 8 (at altitude, it must be stated), this is more or less who the Redskins are on defense, and you can win with that.
This game was also a good example of the adjustments the Redskins were able to make on special teams. They don't have the athletes to make plays in space, so they will compensate with directional kicking. Sometimes, that is going to cause your punter to shank one out of bouds, but for the most part, this strategy is optimal.
On Sunday, the offense was a problem. The thing that the all-22 showed is that the gameplan was very similar to the one used against Chicago the prior week: run heavy, and absolutely convinced that the defense could be beat over the top. The biggest difference was that Chicago didn't have Von Miller, although Miller wasn't the only player who was in Robert Griffin's grill on Sunday.
Since the Dallas game, neither of the Redskins opponents have been particularly blitz happy. Griffin was getting blitzed by everyone early in the season, but since the return of his legs as a viable weapon, the big blitzes have subsided. Denver rushed five guys a lot, but the majority of snaps, they rushed just four. This is consistent with how Chicago game planned Griffin last week.
The biggest difference was that while Chicago sold out (ineffectively) against Alfred Morris, Denver was not interested in allowing the zone-boot passing game to define the game in Mike Shanahan's return to Denver. This is understandable. What is a little more frustrating is how muddied the pocket was for Griffin given that Denver's gameplan was to keep him inside the pocket. Denver played with a single high safety most of the game, and eight in the box. The Redskins never seemed to adjust to Denver's preferred defense.'
It's pretty much universal that if your receivers struggle to create any sort of separation and the offensive line is getting manhandled, you're asking for disaster from your quarterback. It is from that start that a number of disturbing trends have emerged in Robert Griffin's game. Griffin is overthrowing the deep ball badly. This is important, because it is a key feature in Griffin's unique skill set. Without that skill, you would struggle to separate his skill set from that of Ryan Tannehill's.
Griffin also isn't getting a clear picture of the defense on every snap. He's working with a partial picture on a lot of snaps. This is usually plenty adeqate to run the Kyle Shanahan offense: he's seeing the defense well enough to know where the ball should go on any given snap. Problem is that Griffin has not taken advantage of missed defensive assignments in three consecutive weeks. Meanwhile, missed assignments absolutely killed the Redskins defense in the first three weeks of the season. That element of the game has now evened out, but the Redskins have been unable to take advantage of it.
Griffin isn't seeing these breakdowns because he hasn't been taught to see them. That is a problem. It is debateable how serious this issue is. Some would say this comes with the territory with young quarterbacks: Jason Campbell moved on to Oakland before he really made full field reads, even though his best seasons came under Jim Zorn. Donovan McNabb and Mark Brunell both would routinely take advantage of defensive breakdowns, and yet, those offenses struggled all the time. It's not a cut and dry issue. The offense is not bound to struggle simply because of the way Griffin has been taught.
It will struggle, however, if the receivers can't separate and the line cannot protect Griffin. Because the consistent issue with this offense since game one is the complete abscence of the deep passing game. This is something I am able to suggest a soution for: the Redskins can create deep throw opportunties by expanding the playbook on some of their more common route combinations.
Denver pretty clearly immersed itself in the Dallas-Washington tape, and noticed how predictable the Redskins passing game has become, particularly (but not exclusively) on third down. At times, the Redskins will give away their combinations based on formation and alignment. This doesn't have to be a negative. If defensive backs are going to bite on the Redskins routes based on a film tendency, the Redskins can show a common look and then use a double move to get behind the coverage. They haven't shown a willingness to do this yet, but it wouldn't shock me if Kyle Shanahan quickly went in this direction soon.
This will be particularly useful on third downs and with the play action passing game. If teams are going to sit on the quick post from the pistol + play action, the Redskins can put in a quick post-out. If the opponent is going to sit on Santana Moss' jerk route to the outside, the Redskins should be able to fake it and go to the inside or up the field on a sluggo (slant + go) route. They do not have to keep doing what is not working the rest of the season.
And of course, they can go right back to the Jordan Reed well as much as they want to, as Reed continues to impress.
In the aggragate, this team does not play like a 2-5 team. The offense performance on Sunday was not indicitive of the ability of this unit. On the positive end, it may be the new normal for the defense and special teams. Tackling issues and athletic issues are going to prevent the defense and special teams from being strong units, but they are playing well within the scheme, and aren't leaving many big play opportunities on the field. Meanwhile, the offense has a lot more opportunites than it is taking advantage of. While the Redskins haven't been good to this point, they are pretty healthy, and they are likely to get better in the second half.no comments
"If one person is offended, we have to listen." ~ Roger Goodell
Representatives of an upstate New York Native American group are to meet this week with the NFL over the manufactured controversy of the Washington Redskins team name.
The only reason I can find for the league to meet with the Oneida Nation and its alleged leader, Ray Halbritter, is that they have a casino. Native American leaders in the DC area where the Redskins operate have said repeatedly that they find no offense in the team name. Like most Redskins fans, they want to keep the name.
Walt "Red Hawk" Brown, chief of the Cheroenhaka Nottoway Tribe, has neither a casino, nor the backing of the national media. I guess that makes him less legitimate. One news outlet called his position "unusual." Say what?
Surveys show Brown's thought conformed to the opinion of the vast majority of Native Americans who don't see how their lives would be made better by the removal of all reference to them in popular culture. The people behind this movement don't want any group to use Native American images, be it symbols, tribal names, or persons. They don't parse words like Bob Costas did.
Catholics have accused Commissioner Goodell of hypocrisy. Hog Heaven suspects the NFL is meeting to pretend concern after an underling committed to meet without Goodell knowing about it.
But lets take Roger at his word. If you are offended by this whole kerfuffle, Roger says he has to listen.
Someone started an online petition to keep the name that will supposedly go to the NFL. I signed it but, there is a concern that you should know.
The petition is on the MoveOn.org web site. Although I doubt Move On itself is behind it, signing the petition places you on Move On's email list. I tend to vote Democratic, but Move On is a bit much for me, so I'll unsubscribe the first time they send me anything.
If that still gives you conniptions, you can contact the commish in one of these ways:
Address-National Football League 280 Park Avenue New York, NY 10017
I have a hunch that the overwhelming majority of opponents of the team name are not fans of the team. By "fans," I mean they don't buy Redskins stuff.
Fans of the team DO spend money on anything that carries the Redskins logo. Keeping or changing the name is very much a business matter. Daniel Snyder will cater to Redskins fans for as long as we keep spending money on the team.
Whether the team name stays of goes is very much in our hands.
The Redskins have struggled through uneven times. In recent times, this is probably best exemplified by the seven game winning streak -- the stretch that fueled optimism for the offseason -- that was bookeneded on both sides by three game losing streaks.
It would seem that any attempt at separating the 2013 Redskins from the 2012 Redskins or 2008 Redskins or 2001 Redskins or 1992 Redskins is probably guilty of some degree of overanalysis. The game of professional football has changed violently over the last twenty years; Washington's place within the game has remained pretty much the same. Neither a top five pick in the draft nor a playoff berth is a good indicator of where this team is.
I think that 2013 3rd round draft pick Jordan Reed may be the first indication that times may be changing. He just may be good enough to save the Redskins 2013 season.
It's going to take a careful (if not painful) look back in order to understand why Jordan Reed's breakout game last Sunday is so important to this team. This franchise has done quite well in the draft with its first round selections, at least when it has held on to it's top selelctions. Allowing for inevitability with Robert Griffin III, the last first round draft pick of the Redskins that failed to become at least a three year starter for the team was Patrick Ramsey back in 2002. Even in the case of Ramsey, injury played some factor in him falling short of starting for the Redskins for three seasons. And while Ramsey proved not to be worthy of a first round selection, you have to go back to 1996 to find the last time the Redskins selected a guy who couldn't play in the first round: the fame-less Andre Johnson.
Given the track record of first round success, you would naturally expect the overall rosters to be stronger than they have been. Problem is: the Redskins have totally given back any value they've created with good drafting in the top round with a large list of busts and non-contributors in the second and third rounds. In order of Approximate Value, the best second or third round (refered to henceforth as "mid-round") selections in this 22-year timeframe: LB Derek Smith, OT Jon Jansen, CB Fred Smoot, G Derrick Dockery, G Tre Johnson, LB Rocky McIntosh, C Cory Raymer, TE Chris Cooley, RB Ladell Betts, and TE Stephen Alexander. That list produced a single pro-bowler (Cooley) and only about half the players on that list went on to enjoy large second contracts. This is inexcusable production when you consider that teams are gifted 2+ mid-round picks by the league every year.
The Mike Shanahan drafts have hardly been immune to this plague. Trent Williams looks to be on path to be the best LT in the history of a franchise that had a borderline hall of famer in Joe Jacoby, and another guy in Chris Samuels who enjoyed a nice, long, pro bowl filled career. But the rest of the 2010 is a wash: Perry Riley hasn't developed into a valuable player, and Selvish Capers is the only member of that draft still on a NFL roster.
Ryan Kerrigan is a very valuable complementary rusher/do-it-all edge player, but Jarvis Jenkins, Leonard Hankerson. Roy Helu, Aldrick Robinson, Chris Neild, and the rest of the class have not been able to separate (although there are three plus members of this class who may be the best options on this team the rest of the year). The quantity of the 2011 draft class looks different, but the quality looks to be about what we have come to expect.
Robert Griffin III was almost more of a targeted acquisiton you might see in a trade or free agent signing rather than a draft pick, but the rest of the 2012 class looks to fall in line in terms of disappointing expectations. It's nice to get a stud in the sixth round any time you can, and for all we know, Alfred Morris is going to have a bunch of pro bowls in his future. But if he settled in with a Stephen Davis-type career, that wouldn't be shocking either.
Jordan Reed may be the rare player who stars as a rookie, without coming from a first round pedigree. Tight ends that have done that in recent seasons include Jimmy Graham (3rd round), Rob Gronkowski (2nd round), and Aaron Hernandez (4th round), all from the 2010 draft. Loosening the standards a bit gives you Dwayne Allen (3rd round, 2012), Jordan Cameron (4th round, 2011), Jermichael Finley (3rd round, 2008), and Brent Celek (5th round, 2007).
I went to the advanced stats to get more context on Reed's start, and those numbers through just five games push him towards the better end of that group of comparables. He ranks 5th in Football Outsiders DYAR, despite having just 30 targets. On a rate stat basis, DVOA says he's more or less been the Jimmy Graham of the Redskins. Advanced NFL Stats uses something called Expected Points added as it's main evaluation tool. Reed ranks second in the NFL, ahead of even Graham, by EPA. Pro Football Focus has Reed graded out as the 7th best TE in football this year, although he has the highest catch rate among any TE. His 9.9 yards per target figure ranks him behind only Graham and Vernon Davis this year.
That's a fantastic start to a rookie season when you can't point as anyone (except Graham, maybe) and say: he's better than our guy. But I was much more interested in looking at historical seasons by guys under the age of 25 and seeing if Reed's start might be historic. To find comparable seasons, I'm going to regrees Reed's rate stats a bit. I'm looking at the same metrics as before, but the baselines I'm looking at are over 170 DYAR, over 50 EPA, or a +14.0 full season grade from Pro Football Focus.
An out-of-nowhere breakout season hasn't been that rare of an occurance since 2009. Jermichael Finley was fantastic as a second year player in 2009, then Rob Gronkowski had the greatest single season ever by a TE in 2011, the same year that Jimmy Graham came from nowhere to lead the league in every category, non-Gronkowski division. This season, Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron have joined the party.
But those players were merely young, developmental prospects. To do what Jordan Reed has done so far as a true rookie, only one player on that list got anywhere close, and that's Gronkowski. And even those marks set by Gronkowski in 2010 are fairly attainable for Reed: 42 catches for 546 yards and 10 TDs, a 71% catch rate, 9.3 yards per target, 243 DYAR, and 42.6 EPA. That's Gronk's rookie year. Reed looks likely to catch him in every category except touchdowns. Even that mark isn't unattainable.
The other historically great TE rookie seasons in NFL history are almost exclusively from first round draft selections: Mike Ditka for the 1961 Bears, Keith Jackson with the 1988 Eagles, and Charley Young with the 1973 Eagles. And while we may not see a TE season as strong as Ditka's '61 from a rookie, Jordan Reed's start puts his season path just a bit shy of some of the better names of all time in their best seasons. Like Gronkowski, the hope is that this start is only the beginning. And more importantly, that Reed is the primary weapon that Robert Griffin III needs to become the quarterback he can be.
The metrics all agree: this is going to work.no comments