The Redskins Played Like Booty and No One Should Be Surprised

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Being negative is a defense mechanism.

 

There are things to like about the Washington Redskins. Intriguing second year players, the continued growth of their youth, the shiny new free agent acquisitions. That palpable feeling of joy once the air starts to turn crisp and football is being played. It’s hard to stay unhyped and low key, even if you’re the most negative of Nancies. But some fans manage to build that wall, to keep from getting exciting, to use the past experiences to stomp down that indelible hope that creeps into each new season.

 

It’s not that they want the team to lose. That’d be dumb, why root for a team that you want to lose? It’s that they expect to lose, and would rather be pleasantly surprised when they win or exceed expectations. They hope to win, but guard themselves against what they feel is the inevitable. If they win, great. If they lose, well of course they did.

 

The Washington Redskins lost last night, and not one bit of it felt surprising. They didn’t even lose in a new, amusing way. This was a team that looked exactly like the team that got embarrassed by the Green Bay Packers, only a year older and with a ton of new expectations that they promptly went about not living up to.

 

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Thoughts and Observations on the Washington #Redskins 34-20 Loss to the New York Jets

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— There’s a thought among fans that teams are stacking the box against the run and daring Kirk Cousins to beat them with his arm. While it’s one way to look at the Redskins woes and at least part of the reason the run game has struggled, there are other, simpler explanations. A big topic of conversation last week was the Redskins not allowing Alfred Morris to get into the rhythm of the game and wear down defenses to help the run game succeed late. With Matt Jones inactive with a toe injury, one would think that Morris would get more run. But nope. He didn’t.

— Morris has 11 carries for 21 yards, in one of those “his average yards per carry doesn’t tell the whole story of the game” type of games. Morris wasn’t explosive, but he was steady, which has always been his M.O. That’s the nature of running outside zone; you get an ugly 2, and ugly 3, an ugly 1. And then you pop those big 20 yard runs. Running the ZBS requires an offensive coordinator to be patient enough to stick with the run even when it appears to be unproductive.

Instead, Alfred Morris got two carries in the entire second half, including a play on the goal line where neither Morris or Darrel Young was on the field.

I’d like to say I understand the fascination with getting Chris Thompson more touches in the run game, but I don’t. He’s no more productive than any of the other backs, and yet you’ll regularly see him shuffling in and out of the game. When the Redskins needed points the most, the choice was made to give the scat back touches on the goal line.

—- And again, a team that’s struggling desperately to get anything going in the run game just refuses to put Darrel Young in the game for anything more than a few token plays. Darrel Young made a great finger tip catch, and generally sticks out as a positive anytime he hits the field. But he saw only 4 snaps the entire game. Four. I understand that fullbacks aren’t in vogue in the league, but Darrel Young is NOT just an ordinary fullback. Instead of putting him on the field, however, the Redskins have chosen to stick with more two tight end sets…despite not having a blocking TE on the roster, and essentially having two inexperienced back-ups. This goes back to what I was saying about decision making and talent utilization. Jay Gruden is very regimented in his offensive thinking, and that lack of outside the box thinking means leaving talented players on the bench to do things a certain way — a way that isn’t working.

— I commend the Redskins for actually trying some different ways of running the ball yesterday, working in some pistol and toss concepts. But it still highlights just how disjointed the run game and the passing games are when the running backs are constantly shuffled depending on packages and when the play action concepts don’t seem to build off plays that worked before.

Ultimately, Jay Gruden is the decision maker here. He decides whether to run or pass. OL coach Bill Callahan chooses which run plays to call, but still, Gruden is the ultimate decided. Gruden has tried to pass the buck here on running back coach Randy Jordan as to why which running back plays when, but again; he’s the playcaller. If every assistant on offense has hand in who plays when and what play is called, then it’s really no wonder why the offense seems like such a mess; you need one voice and one vision of what the offense should be.

Maybe Kyle Shanahan spoiled Redskins fans with his “run a play to set up another play 10 plays down the road”, but all too often it feels like the Redskins offense operates on the Madden NFL 16 principle of “Eh, screw it, I’ll run this and see if it works”. There doesn’t seem to be a method to the madness; plays that work aren’t gone back to in key situations, plays that don’t work are called in crucial moments, and then there’s wacky plays like the flea flicker with Jamison Crowder to one of the least reliable receivers on the team, in the red zone, off a turnover no less. Stuff like that drives fans nuts, and the excuses are starting to run thin.

— Much was made of the Redskins defensive line this offseason, but after these last two games, wherein they’ve gotten bullied and beaten up in the run game while manufacturing zero pressure, you have to wonder what exactly the point of spending all that money to revamp it really means. Terrance Knighton has been a disappointment, and is regularly outplayed by Ricky Jean-Francois and Chris Baker. He flashes, but he’s anything but consistent. One can’t remember a play that Stephen Paea has made all season.

— Preston Smith had 17 snaps in Sunday’s game. 17 snaps on a team that struggles to get pressure but rarely blitzes. I understand him not starting, but I don’t understand how he hasn’t worked himself into a 3-down pass rush specialist kind of role.

— Bashaud Breeland had himself a day. He recovered a fumble, stripped Brandon Marshall, and produced an INT in the first half, all of which led to points. (Not touchdowns, mind you, but points). Breeland is becoming a cornerstone of this defense, and it makes you wonder why he was ever supposed to just be the third guy on the field. I love D-Hall as much as anyone else, but the fact that Breeland’s only starting because he got injured is kind of baffling. (There goes that “talent utilization” thing again…)

— And now, for the big long part about Kirk Cousins.

1.) I think the biggest turning point of Kirk Cousins’ season as a starter came last week versus the Falcons, when Jay Gruden showed that he had zero faith in Cousins’ ability to lead the team to victory, only a week after Cousins had done just that. I think Cousins played some of his best football of the season in the second half of that game, and deserved a chance to silence critics like me by leading a second potential game-winning-drive to win.

Instead, Jay Gruden called two runs and a terrible screen (note: can we just take all these terrible screen plays Jay has out of his playbook?), the Redskins settled for two field goals, and Kirk threw a pick six to end the game. I think that was effectively the death of Swaggy Kirk, and Fearful Kirk was back again on Sunday.

2.) People will harp and bang on about the interceptions, but the biggest, most persistent problem from Cousins has been his inaccuracy. Cousins has always had a trouble with squirrelly accuracy. But it tends to get worse and worse as the season wears on, and worse as his confidence drops. It’s just bad.

3.) Cousins missed several routine throws. He threw too high on an easy pass to Garcon; he underthrew Chris Thompson on a wheel route — Thompson tried adjusting and nearly injured his back. He put a screen to far out in front of Crowder, then overthrew him up the seam. The second INT was an underthrow where he couldn’t step into it, highlighting his lack of arm strength. The Jets gave up the Redskins crossers all game, but Cousins inability to lead a receiver meant the team couldn’t capitalize. Garcon gains separation from Revis and Kirk throws short into the dirt by 5 yards. Cousins footwork is bad. The first INT was an absolutely horrible throw. Despite it not resulting it sacks (which, according to Redskins fans, are worse than interceptions), Cousins is holding the ball too long. When he does throw, it’s inaccurate and he passes lack zip. You can count on one hand the amount of NFL level throws Cousins made Sunday. He’s not even making the wide open throws.

3.) And you know what? Missing DeSean Jackson and Jordan Reed and a third of his offensive line isn’t the problem. The o-line only gave up one sack all game. The run game is inconsistent, but that’s just as much a function of the bad passing game and the poor playcalling as it is anything. Having his full complement of receivers won’t help, because you don’t magically fix accuracy issues by having better plays on the field. Hard catches aren’t supposed to be routine. If you cant throw to a wide open guy on a crossing route or a slant and allow your guy to get YAC, what does it matter if you have the best offense ever out there?

What does having DeSean Jackson back really mean, if Cousins struggles to hit wide open guys deep? What good is having Jordan Reed in the line-up if he can’t take advantage of YAC because of inaccuracy? This isn’t an issue of talent anymore; it’s a matter of execution, and Kirk just can’t execute.

4.) It’s been six games now, and I don’t see why Kirk Cousins deserves to start. That’s not me advocating that RGIII starts; that’s me wondering why Colt McCoy won’t get a look. Cousins has a handful of good plays in every game, but mostly it’s just bad, bad, bad. He’s not making progress. He progressively gets worse as games and weeks and seasons wear on. The issues he had as a rookie are still issues now.

He’s thrown more INTs in less pass attempts than both the other quarterbacks on the roster, and legendary quarterbacks like Blaine Gabbert and JaMarcus Russell. His INT% is worse than Rex Grossman’s. His accuracy is terrible, and the biggest part is that his fragile confidence — the thing Jay Gruden so desperately tries to protect by refusing to lob anything looking kind of like criticism at him — looks completely shattered.

That last drive versus the Falcons was the death of Swaggy Kirk. The Kirk we have now is just going to get worse from here.

Jay Gruden’s Asinine Decisions Are Costing the Improving Washington #Redskins Wins

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Here’s something that sums up Jay Gruden’s basic competency level as an NFL head coach.

In the middle of the second half, the Redskins faced third and ten on their own 23. The Redskins lined up in an empty shotgun look, then motioned Jamison Crowder from the left slot to the right TRIPS side. The linebacker immediately walked out on Crowder, likely in anticipation of a screen, which is exactly what the Redskins ran.

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Kirk Cousins Self Destructs in the Clutch, Will Doom the Washington Redskins As Long as He Starts

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He is who we thought we was.

There’s something aggravating about the reaction to the Washington Redskins’ 17-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. The talk goes that, sure, the Redskins coughed up a lead in a game they should’ve won. But they played something vaguely resembling okay-ish football for most of the game, and hung in there with a trendy pick for a playoff team. That’s something to be proud of.

To quote one of the greatest movies in cinema history, “Gag me with a spoon.”

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Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins Need To Part Ways. Soon.

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That’s where it’s all going, right?

The Washington Redskins are no strangers to dysfunction. Hell, at this point, their dysfunction is so dysfunctional, teams like the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders would be totally within their rights to point out how out wack they are.

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Bigger, Meaner, and Nastier: Washington Redskins Second Round Analysis and Best Players Available

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GM Scot McCloughan set the tone in round one; he drafted a big, physical offensive linemen with a mean streak. On day two, McCloughan continued to add to his renewed focus on beefing up the trenches, while also adding some needed depth to the running backs.

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The First Round of the 2015 NFL Draft In Three Cynical Sentences (Or Less)

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This is my challenge to myself to analyze every pick in the first round in three sentences or less. Because really, the NFL Draft boils down to hot takes anyway, so why not makes 32 hot takes in one post?

NOTE: I started this the day after the draft, which means some of what I say makes no sense in hindsight. But when has hindsight every stopped some hot takes, amirite?

1.) (TB) Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

Jameis Winston gets drafted first overall like everyone thought he would. His first reaction was to post a picture of himself with crab legs on Instagram. A new era of no self-awareness and endless coverage of a black quarterback has begun.

 

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Kirk Cousins, EJ Manuel, and Why Bad Quarterbacks Keep Getting Starting Jobs

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The Kirk Cousins Error is over as quickly as it started. (Yes, I spelled that correctly). Jay Gruden has confirmed that Robert Griffin III, not Cousins, will re-assume the controls as soon as he is mentally and physically ready.

It has not been a good audition for Captain Kirk. Cousins has thrown 7 picks in his last 3 starts. How he managed to avoid getting picked off versus Seattle is a mystery, but four picks versus the Giants and three versus the Cardinals would kill any talk of him being a better fit for the Redskins offense. No one who has turned the ball over 17 times in 8 starts should be the starter if it can be helped.

And it’s not just that Kirk has thrown a lot of interceptions. It’s when he throws them; in the clutch, when you have to have your best players make plays. It’s been that way since he was a rookie; he threw back to back picks in a winnable game versus Atlanta. Versus Denver in 2013, again in relief of Griffin, he threw two forth quarter picks, including a pick six. He threw 5 picks in 3 games as the starter and had a fumble. His passer rating was a 58.4, which ranked him in the bottom of the league amongst qualifying QBs. His interceptions this season have all come in the second half, and his stats worsen as the game goes on. His passer rating just on third down is an astounding 39.8; that’s 20 points lower than any other qualifying passer. His second half quarterback rating is 63.9, which is worse than everyone but Chad Henne.

Why, oh why, would anyone view Kirk Cousins as a viable starter? Especially any head coach or offensive coordinator?

Because a quarterback like Kirk Cousins gives offensive coordinators what they want. Or what they think they want. The same ole tired cliches about quarterbacks that have been dying slow, painful deaths for at least a decade.

You can check off all the boxes for Kirk Cousins, at least at first glance. Good arm? Check. Quick release? Check. Good footwork? Check. Accurate? Check. Played in a “pro-style” offense in college? Check. Looks great in practice with no pass rush and no pressure to perform? Check.

Someone like Kirk Cousins is a safe option. He’s the definition of what a quarterback is. He is the default player you’d create in a video game. And thus it’s easier to fool a Jay Gruden into thinking Cousins fits his system. On paper he had a similar guy in Andy Dalton.

Someone like Robert Griffin III is rough around the edges and learning. Some days he’s up, some days he’s down. Cousins gives you the illusion of consistency.

Until he steps on the field, and you watch your team go 1-5, and all those check marks require white out. Good arm? Sure, if/when he doesn’t flip out at perceived pressure and he has a good base. Quick release? Almost too quick. So quick he doesn’t let the play develop. Accurate? Not over the middle, and not on third down. Good under pressure? Puh-lease.

It doesn’t matter how many athletes like Steve Young, and Michael Vick, Steve McNair, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton or RGIII come along. The coaches and front offices that make up the NFL have convinced themselves thay a prototype of a quarterback that continues to prove itself antiquated is the way to go. And in a league where patience is low, it provides some quarterbacks opportunity to play even when they’ve failed countless times, and others left in the dark.

Take the Bills second year quarterback EJ Manuel. Manuel had an inconsistent, injury plagued rookie season in Buffalo, but performed no worse than you’d expect any rookie to play. He had an uneven preseason in 2014, but his team was 2-2 when he was benched for veteran back up Kyle Orton.

Orton forced his way out of Dallas, then signed a two year deal that will pay him $5.5 million a year in average salary. With a number like that, it seemed all too obvious Orton would start if EJ struggled.

But again, there was the 2-2 record. The stats and the film don’t back up the idea that Manuel was a boat anchor holding the team back. Manuel posted a completion percentage over 60% in the teams two wins. Outside observers pounded EJ for settling for checkdowns and not trying to stretch the field, but nearly every time Manuel had an opportunity with one on one coverage deep down the field, he took it, often making good throws with good location. Was his accuracy occasionally squirrelly? Damn right it was. But the Bills have also been plagued by drops and lack of separation.

On top of that, Doug Marrone’s offense is predicated on short passes and utilization of their running backs Fred Jackson and C.J Spiller. When afforded the opportunity, Manuel has no problem hitting the intermediate throws.

So what gives? Who pulls a second year quarterback, 14 games into his NFL career for Kyle Orton?

Kyle Orton is the modern day Steve Deberg. He’s just good enough to get you beat. His career as a starter is a perfect 36-36. He’s thrown 86 touchdowns to 61; for every touchdown he throws, he throws 1.4 interceptions. His passer rating is 80.4. In going on ten seasons, he’s never been able to lock down a starting job.

He once lost his starting job to Tim Tebow. He couldn’t keep Rex Grossman on the bench.

You couldn’t grow a more genetically average quarterback in a laboratory.

But Orton is exactly the kind of quarterback that fools coaches. The idea of consistency is better than the idea of a young quarterback learning the position. Coaches still treat the games’ most important position as though they can throw any average guy into their system, and somehow a guy who’s never been able to elevate a team will become something he’s never been.

It’s why Kyle Orton keeps getting a job. It’s why Jay Gruden can entertain the idea that Kirk Cousins is a “better fit” than the more talented but more raw Robert Griffin III. It’s why his brother Jon went through half a dozen quarterbacks, failing to develop any young talent. It’s why Lovie Smith signed career back up Luke McCown to a pricey deal, rather than see what he has in Mike Glennon, who played well in his rookie season in the midst of Greg Schiano lighting the Bucs on fire.

It’s why Bill O’Brien rather hope Ryan Fitzpatrick morphs into a different player than draft a quarterback first overall, and why somehow Brady Quinn was signed to a team this offseason, and why the Jaguars stuck with Chad Henne despite clearly showing less than their first round quarterback in preseason, and why team after team passed up Teddy Bridgewater after a bad pro day for whatever scrap heap quarterback they had laying around.

The idea, or the illusion of consistency trumps the reality that most all of these guys are just guys. Every once in a while a Matt Schaub gives the general appearance of elite ability, only to fall off a cliff.

In today’s NFL, coaches are rarely afforded the benefit of time. All too often, it’s “win now, or get bent”. And so they’d rather play it safe, and try to win now, instead of trying to win in the future.

It shouldn’t take 1-5 with seven picks in three games to know that Griffin is a better long term bet than Cousins. Manuel gains little by sitting on the bench, while Kyle Orton has only improved the amount of yardage the offense puts up, while turning the ball over 3 times against 3 touchdowns. He’s won one (that he could’ve/should’ve lost if the Lions had a half decent kicker) and lost one.

Bad quarterbacks get starting jobs due to a dangerous combination of fear and arrogance. Fear that a younger, or rougher passer may not be consistently good, but they can turn consistently mediocre into great.

Mediocre is as mediocre does. Jay Gruden now awaits Robert Griffin III’s comeback to get to the hard work of developing him into a franchise QB, because Cousins sure as hell isn’t one. The sooner the Bills, and the league in general, learns that development of talent is actually better than casting retreads and guys who look good throwing in practice as potential franchise leaders, the better.