Football is back! Following on from my Burgundy and Gold series last season, in 2017 I am going to do a weekly five good and bad takeaways from that weeks Washington Redskins game. Those unfamiliar with my breakdown, after a loss I start with the bad and following a win I start with the good.
Week One was a divisional match up against the Philadelphia Eagles, always a big game. Frustratingly for Redskins fans, for the fourth straight year, Jay Gruden has lost in week. Here are the good and the bad from the Washington Redskins Week 1 match up:
1) Kirk Cousins
Based on the value placed on the position and how experts grade the QBs based off wins and losses, Kirk Cousins would arguably be the first point of call in every loss.
Part of the blame for this loss lames firmly with Cousins as he simply did not perform well. He lost a fumble in the 1st quarter and routinely seemed to overthrow his receivers, one of which was huge lost opportunity. In years past Cousins has struggled in the red zone with quick pressure in his face. He did so again in week 1. After a strong drive in the red zone he had a wide open Jamison Crowder and simply didn’t make the throw. The game in whole was sloppy on offense and simply wasn’t at a level where you can expect to win in this league. Kirk did make some plays with his legs on third down and a lot of Washington fans will be upset with the fumble TD call late in the game. That being said, Philly outplayed the Redskins and one play doesn’t determine a game as the Redskins were sloppy with the football and had a back breaking four turnovers.
Kirk Cousins and the Redskins have been the talk of the off season the past two years. Cousins wants to be paid top 5 QB money or perhaps even more. This Redskins ownership have been largely frugal for the past 8 years or so years and have signaled they aren’t completely sold on Cousins being worth that amount of money. While I understand that statistics are not everything, based of stats alone he should be paid top 3 money. That being said, to date in big moments and in big games Kirk hasn’t mirrored his numbers and consistently seems to make that huge mistake in crucial moments. It’s difficult to hand top 3 money to a quarterback in struggles when the lights are brightest. That’s the type of characteristic that has many QBs looking over their shoulders at top draft picks.
2) Terrelle Pryor
It wasn’t all bad but when your claiming to be a #1 you simply can not allow passes to go through your hands. Pryor saw plenty of volume with 11 targets but only hauled in 6 receptions for 66 yards. Pryor needs to perform better than this given both his ability and immense potential. I know this is only his second year at the receiver position but you have to expect more from your number 1 wide receiver.
Personally I believe second year receiver Josh Doctson is by far the best player at the position on this roster. That said he has had injuries limit him and he has to earn his time on the field. If the Redskins continue to struggle through the air, I believe we will see Josh sooner rather than later.
There’s a very old saying in football – if you win the turnover battle you win the game. Turnovers killed Washington in Week 1. Crowder muffed a punt inside the 30 which was a costly mistake giving Philadelphia a short field. Kirk Cousins himself had a three turnovers on the day. Turnovers simply cannot happen if the Redskins want to contend for the NFC East.
4) Offensive line
Playing against a strong Eagles front seven, the offensive line never dominated the line of scrimmage to open holes in the run game or give Cousins enough protection to stand back and allow his receivers to uncover down field. The amount of money and high draft capital invested in this unit would lead you to expect this to be a strength of the team. Last year this was the case but against a good Eagles front seven, the O-Line was simply outclassed. 34 rushing yards (not including Cousins’ 30) is simply not good enough while surrounding four sacks and allowing Cousins to be hit a further eight times is a recipe for disaster in the NFL. Trent Williams played well but apart from that it is tough to find some positives along the O-Line.
There are other points I could make but this one seems to be a recurring theme over the years. The defense has found a solid base with the likes of Ryan Kerrigan, Josh Norman, D.J. Swearinger, and Zach Brown. There appears to be a good veteran influence on defense who keep guys in check and holds people accountable. On offense this appears to be significantly lacking. Trent Williams and Jordan Reed are lead by example type guys. Outside of that it appears that very few play with that kind of fire or spark on offense. Chris Thompson adds a spark but they need somebody on the field outside of Reed that can consistently go off and lead the way or turn a game round.
1) Pass Rush
The pass rush was getting after Wentz all game, against a very good Eagles offensive line. Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Junior Gallette – all 3 produced consistent pressure off the edge. Yet it was the pressure up the gut which was most encouraging. Rookie Johnathan Allen and co. were consistently pushing the pocket and allowing stunts and blitzes to get home up the middle. After years of neglecting the defensive line in the early rounds of the draft, this year it seemed like the front office made it a focal point in Free agency and the draft.
2) Run defense
After the last 5 years this should have been the first key. But Zach Brown and other additions seemed to make a huge difference this year. After years of being one of the worst tackling teams in the league, It was nice to see this unit stand up against the run. It was especially encouraging to see this performance against a team with a strong O-Line and a back with the size and ability to wear defenses down.
Redskins fans can honestly take their hats off to all 3 starters. Josh Norman did his Josh Norman thing – tight coverage all game and a willingness to get involved in run support. Bashaud Breeland looked like the guy fans and the team thought he was going to be last season. It’s a hard job being a nickle corner in this league but Kendall Fuller performed well and looked good in coverage at multiple points throughout the game.
4) Ryan Kerrigan
A fan favourite, Kerrigan shows up for every game and you know exactly what you’re going to get out of him. The front office have finally surrounded him with talent which I believe will translate into a career year. He had his 3rd career pick 6 and could be an elite edge rusher if the likes of Allen, Smith and Norman can help elevate the play of this defense. Oh, and the offense needs to hold and sustain the ball to keep the defense fresh as well!
5) Inside linebacker play
Mason Foster this year is calling the shots on defense. He and Brown were very active rushing the passer and against the run. The improvements along the D-line gives Washington’s linebackers clear lanes against the run as they swarm to the football. The defense looked much more competent than a 30 point score would suggest. Four turnovers with three short fields can be blamed for this as defense played better than expectations in Week 1.
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