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Five Fearless Predictions For The Nationals In 2015
by Al Galdi
Apr 01, 2015 -- 7:19pm

1. Max Scherzer will post the best ERA of his career

In each of the last four seasons, Scherzer’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) has been better than his ERA.  What does this mean?  He’s been even better than his ERAs suggest.  

FIP is an ERA-like number that is based on that which a pitcher can control: home runs allowed, walks allowed, hit-by-pitches allowed and strikeouts.  A pitcher whose FIP is consistently lower than his ERA is often the victim of bad defense behind him (groundballs that should turn into outs instead become singles, line drives that could be caught become doubles, etc.).  

Scherzer's previous team, Detroit, has been terrible defensively over the last three seasons, totaling -163 Defensive Runs Saved (only Cleveland has been worse).  The Nats should at least be a middle-of-the-pack team defensively, and Scherzer should see his ERA benefit.  Case in point is Doug Fister, whose 2014 ERA (2.41) was much better than his FIP (3.93) off the opposite being the case the previous two seasons with the Tigers.


2. Tanner Roark will make at least 15 starts

Who led Nats pitchers in bWAR in 2014?  Not Fister or Jordan Zimmermann.  It was Roark, who, believe it or not, had a better ERA+ (ERA that's adjusted for a pitcher's league and home ballpark) than Scherzer.  The fact that Roark is beginning the season in the bullpen is the type of sports injustice you rarely see, but he has handled his 2015 role like a total pro.

But I don’t see Roark spending all or even most of 2015 in the bullpen. 
     1.    There doesn’t seem to be a defined role for Roark, and I would hope that manager Matt Williams learned some lessons from what happened with Ross Detwiler in 2014 (him never having a defined role seemed to really work against him, though it’s not like he pitched well in the opportunities he received).  Roark isn’t a strikeout pitcher, which has become a virtual must for late-inning relievers in MLB.

     2.    While Nats starting pitchers have mostly stayed healthy the last few seasons, it is not a stretch to envision one or more missing time due to injury in 2015.  Fister, remember, missed the Nats’ first 34 games in 2014 due to a right lat strain.

     3.    Gio Gonzalez is coming off a down year by his standards, registering an ERA+ of 105 (100 is league average).  His peripheral numbers (FIP, strikeout rate, walk rate) suggest that he should be back to his 2010-13 self in 2015, but what if he isn’t?  If the Nats find themselves in a tighter-than-expected National League East race and Gonzalez is again up and down, Williams shouldn’t resist summoning Roark to the rotation.


3. Bryce Harper will slug .500

Harper, who is making the switch from left field to right field, is one of the few Nats regulars who hasn’t battled injury or dealt with recovery during spring training.  He’s coming off a terrific postseason (three homers, a double and two walks in the four-game NLDS loss to San Francisco).  And oh yeah, he’s entering just his age-22 season.

Harper’s biggest problem has been staying healthy.  His regular-season batting, base-running and defensive numbers did all decline in 2014, but I’m willing to blame a lot of that on health (he missed 57 games due to a torn ligament in his left thumb).  He was very good in winning National League Rookie of the Year in 2012, and his rate stats (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) were even better in 2013.  While it’s hard to feel confident that he won’t miss at least some time in 2015 due to injury, it isn’t hard to believe that what we saw against the Giants last October was a sign of things to come.

Only 13 qualified MLB players slugged .500 or better in 2014.  Harper will join that elite company this year.

   
4. Michael Taylor will lead the Nats in stolen bases

Taylor figures to be the Nats’ regular center fielder for at least the first month of the season thanks to Denard Span coming off surgery on March 9 to repair a right core-muscle injury (he underwent sports-hernia surgery in December).  Additionally, outfielders Jayson Werth (arthroscopic surgery on his right AC joint in January) and Nate McLouth (season-ending surgery to repair a torn right labrum last August) are expected to begin the season on the D.L.  So the opportunity will be there.

Taylor, a sixth-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, is rated as the Nats’ second-best overall prospect by MLBPipeline.com.  He was one of the best defensive center fielders in the minors last season and is plus base-runner.  President of baseball operations and general manager Mike Rizzo wasn’t shy about putting the pressure on Taylor, telling MASNSports.com in March, “It's time for Michael Taylor to emerge.”

Striking out has been a problem for Taylor.  Playing time will not be.  And he will prove to be the Nats' biggest base-stealing threat in 2015, espcecially given that Span and third baseman Anthony Rendon (sprained left MCL) are grappling with their health.


5. The battle for the N.L. East will be tighter than expected

The Nats’ injury problem is legit.  Rendon, Werth, Span, McLouth and reliever Casey Janssen (right rotator-cuff tendinitis) are all expected to begin the season on the D.L.  Additionally, Harper, first baseman Ryan Zimmerman and catcher Wilson Ramos all have significant injury histories.  And Yunel Escobar, who was signed to be the regular second baseman but is expected to begin the season at third base, dealt with a Grade 1 left oblique strain during spring training.

Additionally, while the division doesn’t appear to be strong, it is not a stretch to think that the Miami Marlins or New York Mets contend.  The Marlins have the best young outfield in MLB (Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton), have arguably the best starting pitcher in the division (Jose Fernandez, who is coming off Tommy John surgery) and made a number of offseason acquisitions (starter Mat Latos, infielder Dee Gordon, infielder/outfielder and former Nat Michael Morse).  The Mets are loaded with young starting pitching, even with Zach Wheeler done for the season due to Tommy John surgery.

I believe that the Nats will win the N.L. East.  But I also believe that the race will be closer than many think.


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Top 3 Misleading Things You'll Hear/Read Regarding The Redskins As Free Agency Begins
by Al Galdi
Mar 09, 2015 -- 7:41pm
ESPN 980

The NFL’s new league year, which includes free agency, begins on March 10 at 4 p.m. eastern.  Here are three misleading things you’ll likely hear and/or read regarding the Redskins:


1)    Wow, they're not spending like crazy this year!


Actually, the Redskins haven’t “spent like crazy” since 2009, when they signed defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth to a contract that included a then-NFL-record $41 million in guarantees.  Every major signing since then (defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen in 2011; receiver Pierre Garcon in 2012; receiver DeSean Jackson and defensive end Jason Hatcher in 2014) has either been for reasonable financial terms and/or has worked out more than it hasn’t.  No, they haven’t all been home runs.  But the point to remember is that the Redskins’ problems since Bruce Allen’s arrival in Dec. 2009 have not included reckless free-agent spending, which, of course, was a problem previously, most notably in 2000 and 2006.


2)    They need to fix the offensive line!

No doubt it needs improving, but it's far from the Redskins' top area of need.  I would put safety, defensive line and corner all ahead of the offensive line in terms of areas of need.  

Robert Griffin III was sacked 33 times in 2014 while throwing only 214 passes.  Not since Hugh Millen of the 1992 New England Patriots had a quarterback been sacked so many times while throwing so few passes.  Kirk Cousins was sacked eight times while throwing 208 passes in 2014.  Colt McCoy was sacked 17 times while throwing 128 passes in 2014.  The sacks were an RGIII problem more than they were an offensive-line problem.

Blocking in the running game was a problem last season, too, but a good bit of that fell on the tight ends.


3)    Why did they sign ______ (fill-in name)?!  The Redskins don’t need help at _____ (fill-in position group)!

The Redskins have finished with the worst point differential in the NFC each of the last two seasons and have finished with at least 10 losses in five of the last six seasons.  Help is needed everywhere, including positions at which you might think the Redskins are “set,” like running back, receiver and tight end. 


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Lessons In Winning
by Al Galdi
Feb 02, 2015 -- 3:51pm
ESPN 980

There are many reasons for us as Redskins fans to be jealous of the New England Patriots, who just won their fourth Super Bowl title and sixth AFC title in 14 seasons.  But don't let the envy cloud your mind.  Instead, let's learn from the NFL's premier franchise.  Here are four lessons we as Redskins fans should take from the 2014 Pats:


Lesson no. 1: Find the hidden gems


This is obvious but needs to be said, and it is precisely why the Redskins hired Scot McCloughan as their general manager.  

Super Bowl 49’s game-sealing pick was made by an undrafted rookie safety out of West Alabama (Malcolm Butler).  

The Pats’ leading receiver in Super Bowl 49, Julian Edelman, was taken by the team in the seventh round of the 2009 NFL Draft.  

And consider how the interior of the Pats’ starting offensive line in Super Bowl 49 was put together: right guard Ryan Wendell (2008 undrafted free agent who has been waived by the Pats multiple times), rookie center Bryan Stork (2014 fourth-round pick) and left guard Dan Connolly (promoted to the Pats’ active roster from their practice squad in Dec. 2008 off being waived by the team nearly two months earlier).


Lesson no. 2: As Jackie Chiles famously said on Seinfeld, “You don’t HAVE to do anything!”

A criticism about the Redskins’ 2014 offense was that it had no identity.  Well, the Pats’ identity is that it has no identity.  Head coach Bill Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels find where the opposing defense is potentially exploitable and then attack that.  

The Pats’ rushing attack is a perfect example.  Their Week 11 win at Indianapolis featured Jonas Gray rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns.  But the Pats’ divisional-round win over Baltimore featured quarterback Tom Brady not handing the ball off once in the second half.  How many times have Redskins fans complained about a “lack of commitment” to the run in recent years, even when the numbers disputed that (to be fair, there have been times, including the Week 1 loss at Houston, when that complaint was legit)?  The Pats aren’t committed to anything beyond whatever works in a given game.


Lesson no. 3: Experience can be helpful but is not a prerequisite for success

The 2014 Pats are the youngest Super Bowl-winning team in NFL history in terms of average age (25.2).  The previous record was held by the 2013 Seattle Seahawks (26.5).  

Having veterans is good.  But having guys not set in their ways and low on wear and tear can be even better.


Lesson no. 4: It’s okay to use of free agency

Previous Redskins failures have made some fans gun shy about the team trying to plug starting holes via free agency.  I get that to a point.  And, in general, free agency is dangerous, because you’re paying a player with mileage based on what he has done as opposed to what he will do.

But that doesn’t mean that the Redskins should dismiss the notion of spending decent money on someone they believe in.  Corners Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner and receiver Brandon LaFell were veteran free agents signed by the Pats during the 2014 offseason, and each was a major contributor this season.  The key, of course, is to spend money on the right players and not get locked into onerous long-term contracts. 


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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Loss To Dallas In Week 17
by Al Galdi
Dec 29, 2014 -- 1:55pm
ESPN 980

The Redskins concluded a 4-12 season with a 44-17 loss to Dallas on Sunday afternoon (Dec. 28, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:


1. Bad football


ESPN 980The Redskins’ seven combined wins over the last two seasons mark the franchise’s worst two-season stretch since 1993-94, which also featured seven combined wins.  The second-most recent stretch of such futility was 1961-62.

The Redskins also…
    •    did not make the playoffs for the 18th time in 22 seasons

    •    finished with at least 10 losses for the fifth time in six seasons

    •    finished with a losing record for the ninth time in 13 seasons

    •    finished last in the NFC East for the sixth time in seven seasons

    •    finished with the worst point differential in the NFC for a second straight season (minus-137 in 2014 off minus-144 in 2013)


2. The Redskins’ defense was bad, especially in the first quarter

The first quarter featured:
    •    The Cowboys accumulating 17 points and 213 total net yards of offense

    •    Quarterback Tony Romo going 8-of-9 for 155 yards and two touchdowns

    •    Receiver Dez Bryant totaling three receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns on three targets

The Redskins’ tackling was terrible for much of the game.  Among the examples:
    •    Corner David Amerson missing on an attempted tackle of Bryant on a hitch on his first-quarter second-and-nine 65-yard touchdown reception

    •    Safety Ryan Clark missing on an attempted tackle of running back Joseph Randle on his late-fourth-quarter first-and-10 65-yard touchdown run, which helped to give the Cowboys 17 fourth-quarter points

    •    Clark and defensive lineman Chris Baker missing on attempted tackles on running back DeMarco Murray’s second-quarter second-and-five nine-yard touchdown run

    •    Safety Phillip Thomas missing on an attempted tackle of Murray on his first-and-10 eight-yard run on the early-second-quarter drive that resulted in Dan Bailey’s 32-yard field goal

Amerson, a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, had a really bad game.  His regression is one of the most disturbing aspects of this season.  Among Amerson’s mistakes:
    •    Missing on the attempted tackle of Bryant on a hitch on his first-quarter second-and-nine 65-yard touchdown reception

    •    Getting beat by Bryant on his late-first-quarter first-and-10 23-yard touchdown reception

    •    Committing a first-and-10 26-yard pass-interference penalty on the early-second-quarter drive that resulted in Bailey’s 32-yard field goal

    •    Getting beat by receiver Terrance Williams on his late-fourth-quarter third-and-16 51-yard reception on the drive that resulted in Bailey’s 23-yard field goal

The Redskins finished the season:
    •    Tied for 29th in the NFL in points allowed per game (27.4)

    •    Tied for 25th in the NFL in takeaways (19)

    •    Tied for 24th in the NFL in opponents’ third-down efficiency (43.0 percent)

    •    23rd in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game (248.4)

    •    Tied for 20th in the NFL in sacks (37.0)

    •    12th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (107.6)

    •    Tied for 12th in the NFL in yards allowed per rush (4.1)


3. Don’t be mad at the Cowboys for Randle’s touchdown run

Randle’s late-fourth-quarter first-and-10 65-yard touchdown run comprised a one-play drive that started with 1:49 left and the Cowboys with a 37-17 lead.  

Could the Cowboys have had Romo take a series of knees?  Yes.  But should the Redskins fan be mad at the Cowboys for trying to score?  No.  Be mad at the Redskins for being unable to stop the Cowboys from scoring.

A potential explanation for the Cowboys not conceding the drive may be the brawl that followed quarterback Robert Griffin III’s fourth-quarter second-and-goal two-yard touchdown run off an offset-I play-action scramble.  Receiver Pierre Garcon decked linebacker Kyle Wilber, sparking the melee.


4. Fitting end to a bad season for the Redskins’ offense

The Redskins scored just 17 points, marking the 11th time this season that the Redskins scored 20 or fewer points.  The Redskins finished the season 26th in the NFL in points per game (18.8).

The Redskins went 4-for-12 on third downs and finished the season 30th in the NFL in third-down efficiency (31.5 percent).

The Redskins went 0-for-2 on fourth downs and finished the season last in the NFL in fourth-down efficiency (4-for-16).

The Redskins went 1-for-4 in the red zone and finished the season 26th in the NFL in red-zone efficiency (47.92 percent).

The Redskins allowed three sacks and finished the season 31st in the NFL in sacks allowed (58).


5. Griffin was mediocre at best

The bad from Griffin included:
    •    Three second-half turnovers, including two red-zone picks to linebacker Bruce Carter.  
        o    The first pick came on a late-third-quarter fourth-and-one on which Griffin operated out of the shotgun and seemed to predetermine the throw, causing him to target Garcon despite a completion requiring the ball make its way by three Cowboys defenders.  

        o    The second pick came on an early-fourth-quarter third-and-10 on which Griffin, operating out of the shotgun, threw ball to receiver Andre Roberts too late.  The ball was tipped by corner Orland Scandrick and caught by Carter.

    •    Getting sacked by defensive end George Selvie for a second-and-nine six-yard loss despite having receiver DeSean Jackson open on a third-quarter drive that resulted in a turnover on downs, which came on a fourth-and-four three-yard shotgun completion to tight end Jordan Reed on a play on which Griffin should have thrown the ball to Jackson

    •    Throwing to Reed instead of Roberts on a second-and-six pistol incompletion on a late-third-quarter drive that resulted in a punt

Griffin, who was listed as probable for this game with a right shoulder injury, did throw for a career-best 336 yards and did have his first rushing touchdown since the NFC East-clinching win over the Cowboys in Week 17 of 2012.

Griffin finished the season with a career-worst Total QBR of 30.8 and a career-worst 4.6 yards per carry.  He did have a career-best completion percentage of 68.7, but much of that had to do with throwing short so often.  Not counting his throw-aways, Griffin threw only one pass aimed over ten yards in the air in this game.


6. Jackson cemented himself as the Redskins’ 2014 offensive MVP

Jackson had two receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown on three targets.  His first-quarter first-and-10 69-yard touchdown reception saw him turn a short pass into a score, giving him an NFL-best eight receptions of at least 50 yards this season and an NFL-best 30 receptions of at least 50 yards since entering the NFL in 2008.  

Jackson finished the season first in the NFL in yards per reception with 20.9, three full yards better than the next best player’s average (17.9 by Arizona receiver Michael Floyd).


7. The Redskins’ running game wrapped up an uneven season

The Redskins totaled 24 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown, but at no point did you ever feel like the running game was in a groove.  The Redskins finished the season 19th in the NFL in rushing yards per game (105.7) and tied for 14th in the NFL in yards per carry (4.2).

Running back Alfred Morris had 12 carries for 43 yards.  If you remove his third-and-one 22-yard pistol-handoff run on the second-quarter drive that resulted in Kai Forbath’s 25-yard field goal, Morris had 11 carries for 21 yards.  He finished the season tied for third in the NFL in rushes of at least 20 yards (nine)  and 11th in the NFL in rushing yards (1,074) but tied for just 22nd in the NFL in yards per carry (4.1).

Running back Roy Helu Jr. returned off missing two straight games due to a big-toe sprain suffered in the Week 14 loss to St. Louis.  He had six carries for 42 yards and four receptions for 41 yards on five targets.  Helu had major problems in pass protection this season, but he finished it with career-best 5.4 yards per carry (on 40 rushes) and a career-best 11.4 yards per reception (on 42 catches).  Helu actually finished tied for 15th in the NFL in YAC (449).


8. Redskins special teams had another major gaffe and another penalty

The Redskins appeared totally unprepared for and saw the Cowboys recover an onside kick off Bailey’s early-second-quarter 32-yard field goal.  The ensuing Cowboys drive resulted in Murray’s second-and-five nine-yard touchdown run.

Tight end Logan Paulsen committed two fourth-quarter penalties, including a 10-yard illegal-block-above-the-waist penalty on a punt return by Roberts.  The Redskins finished the season 31st in the NFL with 25 accepted special-teams penalties.  The Redskins had 21 accepted special-teams penalties all of last season.  Paulsen finished the season with eight accepted penalties and nine total penalties.


9. Forbath and punter Tress Way did cap impressive seasons

Forbath connected on his only field-goal attempt, a late-second-quarter 25-yarder.  He went 24-for-27 on field goals this season, finishing tied for eighth in the NFL in field-goal percentage (88.9).  Forbath now is 59-for-67 (88.1 percent) on field goals over his three seasons with the Redskins.

Way had mixed game but finished the season tied for first in the NFL in yards per punt (47.5) and tied for 10th in the NFL in net yards per punt (40.0).


10. Absentee report:

Inactives for the Redskins were:
    •    receiver Leonard Hankerson for the fifth time in six games

    •    running back Chris Thompson

    •    guard Josh LeRibeus, who was a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft but played in just seven games this season off being inactive for all 16 games in 2013

    •    corner Kenny Okoro, who was signed from the Redskins’ practice squad to their active roster on Dec. 6

    •    linebacker Steve Beauharnais, who was signed from the Redskins’ practice squad to their active roster on Dec. 19

    •    offensive lineman Rishaw Johnson, who was signed off the Giants’ practice squad on Dec. 23

    •    defensive lineman Travian Robertson, who was claimed off waivers from Seattle on Dec. 27

The Redskins also played this game without:    
    •    linebacker Brian Orakpo, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 21 due to a torn right pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 7 win over Tennessee

    •    defensive end Jason Hatcher, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Dec. 27 off missing the previous two games due to inflammation in his right knee.  He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this past June

    •    rookie linebacker Trent Murphy, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Dec. 23 due to a broken right hand suffered in the Week 16 win over Philadelphia

    •    corner DeAngelo Hall, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a torn left Achilles injury suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia.  We learned on Oct. 31 that he had torn the Achilles again.

    •    safety Brandon Meriweather, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Dec. 19 due to a big-toe sprain suffered in the Week 13 loss at Indianapolis

    •    corner Tracy Porter, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 26 due to a right AC-joint separation suffered in the Week 12 loss at San Francisco

    •    safety Duke Ihenacho, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a fractured heal bone suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

    •    linebacker Adam Heyward, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 24 due to a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg suffered in the Week 12 loss at San Francisco

    •    linebacker Akeem Jordan, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 18 due to a sprained left MCL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28 and then re-aggravated in the Week 6 loss at Arizona

    •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28

    •    rookie offensive tackle Morgan Moses, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Dec. 11 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in practice on Dec. 10


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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Win Over Philadelphia In Week 16
by Al Galdi
Dec 22, 2014 -- 2:35pm
ESPN 980

The Redskins improved to 4-11 with a 27-24 win over Philadelphia on Saturday (Dec. 20, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:


1. It’s alright to enjoy this


ESPN 980Does this victory fundamentally change the way you should look at this season or the state of the organization?  Of course not.  Would the Redskins from a long-term standpoint have been better off losing this game in order to help their draft position?  Yes.  

But I still wanted the win.  Snapping a six-game losing streak felt good.  Guaranteeing that the team wouldn't lose each of its final eight games and finish 3-13 for a second straight season felt good.  Beating an NFC-East rival five days before Christmas felt good.  Sometimes it’s OK to go with your heart and not your head.  

The loss helped to doom the Eagles, who were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday (Dec. 21) with Dallas’ NFC East-clinching 42-7 rout of Indianapolis.


2. The Redskins’ defense was good enough

No way should you call this a good game for the Redskins’ defense, as the Eagles produced 495 total net yards of offense and 30 first downs on 84 total offensive plays (including 45 in the first half) and went 9-for-16 on third downs.  Additionally, tight end Zach Ertz had a single-game franchise-record 15 receptions for 115 yards on 18 targets.    

But the Redskins generated two big takeaways and finished with three sacks:
     •    Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland made perhaps the defensive play of the Redskins' season, a late-fourth-quarter third-and-four diving-forward interception of a pass intended for receiver Jeremy Maclin with the score tied at 24 and the Eagles with the ball at the Redskins’ 48.  The ensuing Redskins drive resulted in Kai Forbath’s go-ahead 26-yard field goal with five seconds left.  The Redskins blitzed on only nine of quarterback Mark Sanchez's 56 dropbacks in this game, but the Redskins blitzed on his last three dropbacks, including the one that resulted in Breeland’s pick.   

     •    Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had a third-and-14 sack-strip-recovery that concluded the game’s opening drive.  The ensuing Redskins drive resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 25-yard field goal.  Kerrigan now has a career-best 13 ½ sacks, including six over the last five games.  And he now 15 career forced fumbles.   

     •    The Redskins’ other two sacks came from linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat (who was signed by the Redskins off their practice squad on Dec. 16) and linebacker Trevardo Williams (who was signed by the Redskins off their practice squad on Dec. 9).

Rookie linebacker Trent Murphy left the game in the first half with a broken right hand.


3. Quarterback Robert Griffin III played well

Griffin registered a Total QBR of 76.2, his best in a game with at least 10 pass attempts since the overtime win over San Diego on Nov. 3, 2013.  That was also the last time that Griffin started and finished a Redskins victory.

The biggest positive was that he was sacked just twice, and each sack was the fault of the offensive line.  Griffin entered this game having been at fault on at least 18 of his 28 sacks this season.  The Redskins entered this game having allowed five or more sacks in six consecutive games.

Griffin also made plays.
     •    Second-and-14 55-yard under-center completion to receiver DeSean Jackson on the drive that resulted in fullback Darrel Young’s second first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff touchdown run of the third quarter

     •    Second-and-nine 51-yard shotgun play-action completion to Jackson on the late-first-quarter drive that resulted in running back Alfred Morris’ first-and-10 28-yard pistol-handoff touchdown run

     •    Second-and-seven 17-yard shotgun read-option play-action completion to receiver Pierre Garcon on a “drift” route and a first-and-10 13-yard I-formation play-action completion to Jackson on the drive that resulted in Young’s first first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff touchdown run of the third quarter

     •    Third-and-seven 14-yard shotgun completion to receiver Andre Roberts on the Redskins’ first offensive drive, which resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 25-yard field goal

Also, the Redskins’ offense operated with a nice tempo for most of the game.  One instance in which this was not the case, though, was Griffin receiving a first-and-goal-at-the-8 five-yard delay-of-game penalty coming out of an injury timeout on the drive that resulted in Young’s first first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff touchdown run of the third quarter.  

The negatives for Griffin:
     •    Griffin was not impactful as a runner, totaling five carries for 11 yards, all on scrambles

     •    Griffin’s fourth-quarter third-and-10 shotgun pick to safety Nate Allen came as a result of a bad decision by Griffin, who threw the ball to Jackson despite Allen being in the vicinity

     •    Griffin had a near-pick on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 25-yard field goal, making a risky throw on a third-and-goal-at-the-7 shotgun incompletion intended for Garcon

     •    Griffin threw behind tight end Jordan Reed (who made a rather nonchalant attempt to catch the ball) on a third-and-three shotgun incompletion on a late-second-quarter three-and-out


4. Jackson’s excellent season continued

Jackson had four receptions for 126 yards on six targets.  The 100-yard receiving game was his sixth of the season, and he now has registered the 28th 1,000-yard receiving season in Redskins history.  Jackson exited Week 16 first in the NFL in yards per reception (20.1).  

Jackson’s ball-tracking skills were on full display on his third-quarter second-and-14 55-yard and first-quarter second-and-nine 51-yard receptions.  He now has recorded seven receptions of 50-plus yards this season, the most by any member of the Redskins in records dating back to 2000.  Jackson exited this game tied with Maclin for the most receptions of 50-plus yards this season (seven) and now has 29 receptions of 50-plus yards since entering the NFL in 2008, the most in the league in that time frame.

The drive that resulted in Young’s second first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff touchdown run of the third quarter included Jackson drawing a second-and-eight 10-yard pass-interference penalty on Allen in addition to the second-and-14 55-yard reception.


5. The Eagles were co-conspirators

The Eagles had 13 accepted penalties for 102 yards.  The Redskins had three accepted penalties for 15 yards.
     •    The Redskins’ game-winning drive, which resulted in Forbath’s 26-yard field goal with five seconds left, included a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive end Vinny Curry and a five-yard offside penalty on linebacker Connor Barwin

     •    The drive that resulted in Young’s first first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff touchdown run of the third quarter included an eight-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on linebacker Brandon Graham and a two-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on Curry

     •    The drive that resulted in Young’s second first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff touchdown run of the third quarter included Jackson drawing the second-and-eight 10-yard pass-interference penalty on Allen

Rookie Cody Parkey missed two field goals in the third quarter: a 34-yard attempt and a 46-yard attempt.


6. Two special-teams mistakes could have been very costly

Forbath’s kickoff that followed his go-ahead 26-yard field goal with five seconds left was a squib kick gone wrong, and the Eagles got the ball at midfield with three seconds left.  Corner David Amerson, though, knocked the ball down on a deep shotgun incompletion by Sanchez.

Roberts had a lost fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half.  The ensuing Eagles drive, though, resulted in Parkey’s third-quarter missed 34-yard field-goal attempt.

Roberts did have a 42-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, though the ensuing Redskins drive resulted in a punt.


7. But Forbath and punter Tress Way continued their quality seasons

Forbath went 2-for-2 on field goals: the first-quarter 25-yarder and the go-ahead 26-yard field goal with five seconds left .  He now is 23-for-26 on field goals this season and 58-for-66 on field goals over his three seasons with the Redskins.

All three of Way’s punts landed inside the Eagles’ 20. 


8. The Redskins’ running game produced three touchdowns but modest overall numbers

The Redskins totaled 29 carries for 100 yards and three touchdowns.

Morris had 21 carries for 83 yards but was magnificent on his first-and-10 28-yard pistol-handoff touchdown run, literally tossing linebacker Mychal Kendricks aside en route to the end zone.  Morris surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the season, joining Stephen Davis (1999-2001) as the only players in Redskins history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

Young’s two third-quarter first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff touchdown runs were his only two carries of the game.  He became just the third NFL player since the 1970 merger to finish a game with two touchdowns on two carries with only two rushing yards, joining Cleveland’s Brian Sipe (Nov. 3, 1974) and Philadelphia’s Norm Snead (Nov. 23, 1970).


9. Gutsy performances by the Redskins’ top two offensive linemen

Left tackle Trent Williams, who was listed as questionable for this game with a right shoulder injury, exited the game during the fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Griffin’s pick but soon returned to the game.

The drive that resulted in Young’s second first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff touchdown run of the third quarter included center Korey Lichtensteiger suffering a stinger but then returning to the game and providing a key block on Young’s touchdown run.


10. Absentee report:

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    defensive end Jason Hatcher for a second straight game due to inflammation in his right knee.  He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this past June.

     •    linebacker Keenan Robinson for a third straight game due to an MCL sprain suffered in the Week 13 loss at Indianapolis

     •    running back Roy Helu Jr. for a second straight game due to a big-toe sprain suffered in the Week 14 loss to St. Louis

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson for the fourth time in five games

     •    guard Josh LeRibeus

     •    linebacker Gabe Miller, who was signed from the Redskins’ practice squad to their active roster on Dec. 6

     •    corner Kenny Okoro, who was signed from the Redskins’ practice squad to their active roster on Dec. 6

The Redskins also played this game without:    
     •    linebacker Brian Orakpo, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 21 due to a torn right pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 7 win over Tennessee

     •    corner DeAngelo Hall, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a torn left Achilles injury suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia.  We learned on Oct. 31 that he had torn the Achilles again.

     •    safety Brandon Meriweather, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Dec. 19 due to a big-toe sprain suffered in the Week 13 loss at Indianapolis

     •    corner Tracy Porter, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 26 due to a right AC-joint separation suffered in the Week 12 loss at San Francisco

     •    safety Duke Ihenacho, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a fractured heal bone suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

     •    linebacker Adam Heyward, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 24 due to a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg suffered in the Week 12 loss at San Francisco

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 18 due to a sprained left MCL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28 and then re-aggravated in the Week 6 loss at Arizona

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28

     •    rookie offensive tackle Morgan Moses, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Dec. 11 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in practice on Dec. 10


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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Loss At The Giants In Week 15
by Al Galdi
Dec 17, 2014 -- 7:15pm
ESPN 980

The Redskins fell to 3-11 with a 24-13 loss at the Giants on Sunday afternoon (Dec. 14, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:


1. Familiar spots


ESPN 980This loss clinched the Redskins finishing last in the NFC East for the sixth time in seasons.  The loss also clinched the Redskins finishing with a 1-7 road record for a second consecutive season.    


2. Bad offense

There are many reasons for this, but the bottom line is that the Redskins are a bad offensive team and have been for a while.  Since the 37-34 loss at Philadelphia in Week 3, they are averaging 16.0 points per game (176 points over 11 games).

The Redskins allowed seven sacks, marking the sixth consecutive game in which they gave up five or more sacks.  The Redskins exited Week 15 31st out of 32 NFL teams in fewest sacks allowed with 53.  The single-season franchise record for sacks allowed is 61 in 1998. 

The Redskins went 4-for-14 on third downs and exited Week 15 30th out of 32 NFL teams in third-down efficiency (31.8 percent).

The Redskins went 1-for-4 in the red zone and exited Week 15 tied for 21st out of 32 NFL teams in red-zone efficiency (50 percent).

The Redskins had 107 total net yards of offense in the second half, though they exited Week 15 12th in the NFL in yards per game (358.6).


3. Bizarre ending to the game

The Redskins essentially tapped out with more than two minutes left and an 11-point deficit, basically giving up on trying to score.  

The Redskins got the ball back with 2:28 left in the fourth quarter and trailing, 24-13.  And yet they didn’t display nearly enough tempo and did not throw the ball downfield on a five-play drive that included the following four-snap sequence:   
     •    A first-and-10 shotgun six-yard completion by quarterback Robert Griffin III to receiver DeSean Jackson

     •    A second-and-four shotgun sack of Griffin, who literally lay on the field for multiple seconds after the play despite not being injured

     •    A third-and-eight minus-one-yard draw-play run by running back Chris Thompson out of the shotgun, presumably because head coach Jay Gruden thought that Griffin was hurting

     •    A fourth-and-nine five-yard delay-of-game penalty on Griffin 45 seconds after the previous play had began

The Redskins punted at the end of the drive, becoming according to Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post the first NFL team since 2011 to punt after getting the ball back with less than three minutes remaining while trailing by two possessions. (i.e., trailing by between nine and 16 points).  Rookie receiver Odell Beckham Jr. actually muffed the catch of the punt, and safety Trenton Robinson recovered the ball.

And yet what did the Redskins do on the ensuing drive’s first play, which turned out to be the last play of the game?  A first-and-10 Griffin shotgun three-yard completion to Jackson.  Very strange, very odd, and Gruden did not provide a quality or acceptable explanation during his postgame press conference, his day-after-the-game press conference on Monday (Dec. 15) or his post-practice press conference on Tuesday (Dec. 16).


4. Bizarre ending to the first half

The final play of the second quarter was a third-and-goal-at-the-8 under-center scramble by Griffin, who dove head-first into the front-right corner of the end zone in a play that brought back memories of his historic 2012 rookie season.  The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but replay officials then reversed the call, ruling that Griffin was guilty of a lost fumble for a touchback off a seven-yard scramble.  The play was odd, as he lost control of the ball while in mid-air, then re-possessed it while crossing the goal-line, but then lost control of the ball upon crashing back down on the field.  

As much as the reversal stung, and as bad of a reputation as referee Jeff Triplette has, the correct call was made.  As FOX Sports NFL-officiating insider Mike Pereira tweeted, "RGIII needs to repossess it after the ball comes loose.  It's like catching a pass."

But the correct call being made didn’t stop receivers Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon from going off on the officials.  Moss ended up getting ejected, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty and a 15-yard disqualification penalty.  The 30 yards in penalties meant that the second half’s opening kickoff occurred at the Redskins’ 35.  The Giants’ Josh Brown booted an onside kick that was recovered at the Redskins’ 17, and the ensuing drive resulted in Brown’s early-third-quarter 32-yard field goal that tied the score at 10.  So the Redskins, instead of potentially having a 24-7 lead off touchdowns at the end of the second quarter and early in the third quarter, instead found themselves tied at 10.


5. Quarterback Colt McCoy lasted for just one drive and then was done for the season

McCoy started off suffering a neck injury in the Week 14 loss to St. Louis, but he left this game after just one drive due to an aggravation of the injury.  He was placed on the reserve/injured list on Tuesday (Dec. 16).

Griffin played for the rest of the game, but had he gotten injured, the Redskins would have gone to either fullback Darrel Young or receiver Andre Roberts as their emergency quarterback.  Gruden made a major mistake in not having three quarterbacks active.  

McCoy’s lone drive was a 13-play, 79-yard drive that resulted in Kai Forbath’s first-quarter 35-yard field goal.  McCoy had a first-and-10 20-yard read-option shotgun run and a first-and-15 I-formation play-action 17-yard completion to rookie running back Silas Redd.  But McCoy also got wacked around on a second-and-10 four-yard shotgun scramble and threw short on several incompletions, including a third-and-six shotgun incompletion intended for Garcon.


6. Griffin was very mixed in his first extended action in three games

Given Griffin’s disastrous performances in the Week 11 loss to Tampa Bay and the Week 12 loss at San Francisco, this game was a step forward and, to me, his best game of the season from a play-making standpoint.  But Griffin also was guilty of taking too many sacks and not throwing to open receivers.

Griffin went 18-of-27 for 236 yards and a touchdown and was truly impactful as a runner for the first time this season: five carries for 46 yards.  But he registered a Total QBR of just 21.3. 

Griffin’s second drive of the game, a seven-play, 77-yard second-quarter drive that resulted in his third-and-four nine-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Thompson, also included:
     •    A first-and-10 under-center play-action 22-yard completion to Garcon

     •    A first-and-10 offset-I play-action 17-yard completion to tight end Niles Paul

     •    A first-and-10 under-center play-action-boot 18-yard completion to Moss

The late-second-quarter drive that resulted in Griffin’s third-and-goal-at-the-8 seven-yard under-center scramble and then lost-fumble also included:
     •    A second-and-10 shotgun 37-yard completion to Redd on a short pass

     •    A first-and-10 shotgun 20-yard completion to Roberts

     •    A third-and-three shotgun eight-yard completion to Redd

The Redskins’ eight-play, 73-yard drive that resulted in Forbath’s third-quarter 38-yard field goal, included:
     •    A third-and-six shotgun 61-yard completion to Roberts

     •    A first-and-10 under-center play-action-boot 11-yard scramble and then a nine-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on safety Antrel Rolle

The Redskins’ early-third-quarter drive that resulted in a fourth-and-two sack-strip of Griffin included a second-and-six 23-yard I-formation play-action scramble on which he provided a beautiful stiff-arm on Rolle.  The unfortunate part of this play, though, was that Griffin could have thrown deep to either Jackson or Garcon.

And there was still too much bad from Griffin:
     •    Griffin got sacked seven times and was at fault on at least five and perhaps as many as six of the seven sacks.  The protection certainly wasn’t perfect, but he repeatedly failed to see or throw to open pass catchers on plays that resulted in sacks.

     •    Griffin was guilty of three fumbles, including the lost fumble on the final play of the first half.

     •    Griffin’s laying on the field for multiple seconds on the Redskins’ penultimate drive was “Robert being Robert” according to Gruden on Tuesday (Dec. 16), and that apparent overly-dramatic reaction to being sacked may have been the cause of Gruden essentially tapping out (though the Griffin reaction doesn’t excuse that; Gruden and the Redskins were still wrong to give up offensively as they did).


7. This was a typical game for the 2014 Redskins defense

Good yardage numbers, especially against the run, but not enough play-making and not enough quality defense late in the game.  That could be said of many games this season, including this one.

The Redskins held the Giants to 287 total net yards of offense, 2.2 yards per rush on 22 carries and 4-of-13 on third downs.

But the Redskins got scorched by Beckham: 12 receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns on 15 targets.

Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland had quite a battle with Beckham, committing four penalties while dealing with breathing/bronchial issues:
     •    First-and-10 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on the first offensive play of the game for shoving Beckham

     •    Second-quarter first-and-10 15-yard taunting penalty off a 16-yard reception by Beckham that came despite a defensive-holding penalty by Breeland.  The drive, though, resulted in a punt.  

     •    Third-quarter first-and-10 17-yard pass-interference penalty while covering Beckham.  That drive, though, resulted in a punt.

     •    Late-third-quarter first-and-10 23-yard pass-interference penalty while covering Beckham.  The drive resulted in Beckham’s late-third-quarter second-and-five 35-yard touchdown reception.

     •    It is worth noting that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said on Wednesday (Dec. 17) that the NFL had acknowledged that the taunting penalty and one of the two pass-interference penalties were bad calls

The Redskins’ defense totaled zero takeaways, though the Redskins did recover the late-fourth-quarter muffed catch of a punt by Beckham for a takeaway.  The Redskins exited Week 15 tied for 26th out of 32 NFL teams with 16 takeaways.

The Redskins totaled just one sack, a third-quarter second-and-sack by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan for a 12-yard loss.  He now has a career-high 12 ½ sacks this season, including five over the last four games.  The Redskins exited Week 15 tied for 16th out of 32 NFL teams with 33 sacks.


8. Redskins special teams had another bad game

Redd was in position to recover Brown’s onside kick at the start of the third quarter but wasn’t aggressive enough, and the recovery was made by corner Chandler Fenner.

The Redskins allowed a 45-yard kickoff return by receiver Preston Parker.  The ensuing Giants drive resulted in Beckham’s late-first-quarter third-and-eight 10-yard touchdown reception.  The Redskins exited Week 15 26th out of 32 NFL teams in fewest yards allowed per kickoff return (26.1).

The Redskins committed two more special-teams penalties and exited Week 15 21st out of 32 NFL teams with 24 accepted special-teams penalties this season.  The Redskins had 21 accepted special-teams penalties all of last season.
     •    Linebacker Trevardo Williams, whom the Redskins signed off their practice squad on Dec. 9, committed a 10-yard illegal-block-above-the-waist penalty on an early-second-quarter punt return by Roberts.

     •    Long snapper Nick Sundberg committed a 15-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 13-yard punt return by Beckham.

The Giants downed two punts inside the Redskins’ 10, catching each punt on the fly.  

Tress Way was credited with a fumble on a dropped snap in the second quarter.  But the resulting punt went 51 yards and yielded a return of just one yard by Beckham.  Way averaged 45.2 yards per punt and 42.0 net yards per punt on six punts.  He did exit Week 15 first in the NFL in yards per punt (47.9) and tied for 10th in the NFL in net yards per punt (39.9).  

Forbath went 2-for-2 on field goals: a first-quarter 35-yarder and a third-quarter 38-yarder.  He now is 21-for-24 on field goals this season, ranking tied for 11th in the NFL in field-goal percentage (87.5).  Forbath is 56-for-64 on field goals over his three seasons with the Redskins.


9. Redskins running backs were impactful in the first half but then mostly silent in the second half

The Redskins had 27 carries for 144 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.  But if you remove Griffin’s early-third-quarter second-and-six 23-yard I-formation play-action scramble on which he provided the beautiful stiff-arm on Rolle, the Redskins had just 10 carries for 23 yards in the second half.

Running back Alfred Morris had nine carries for 47 yards in the first half but five carries for two yards in the second half.

Thompson, whom the Redskins signed off their practice squad on Dec. 11, had the second-quarter third-and-four nine-yard touchdown reception and three carries for 12 yards, including a late-second-quarter first-and-10 seven-yard shotgun read-option run on the drive that resulted in Griffin’s lost fumble and an early-fourth-quarter second-and-10 six-yard shotgun read-option run on a drive that resulted in a three-and-out.

Redd had three receptions for 62 yards on three targets.  He had a first-and-15 17-yard reception on the drive that resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 35-yard field goal and two receptions for 45 yards on the late-second-quarter drive that resulted in Griffin’s lost fumble.


10. Absentee report:

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    defensive end Jason Hatcher due to inflammation in his right knee.  He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee this past June.

     •    linebacker Keenan Robinson for a second straight game due to an MCL sprain suffered in the Week 13 loss at Indianapolis

     •    safety Brandon Meriweather for a second straight game due to a big-toe sprain suffered in the Week 13 loss at Indianapolis

     •    running back Roy Helu Jr. due to a big-toe sprain suffered in the Week 14 loss to St. Louis

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson for the third time in four games

     •    quarterback Kirk Cousins for a sixth straight game

     •    guard Josh LeRibeus

The Redskins also played this game without:    
     •    linebacker Brian Orakpo, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 21 due to a torn right pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 7 win over Tennessee

     •    corner DeAngelo Hall, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a torn left Achilles injury suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia.  We learned on Oct. 31 that he had torn the Achilles again.

     •    corner Tracy Porter, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 26 due to a right AC-joint separation suffered in the Week 12 loss at San Francisco

     •    safety Duke Ihenacho, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a fractured heal bone suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

     •    linebacker Adam Heyward, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 24 due to a tibial plateau fracture in his right leg suffered in the Week 12 loss at San Francisco

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 18 due to a sprained left MCL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28 and then re-aggravated in the Week 6 loss at Arizona

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28

     •    rookie offensive tackle Morgan Moses, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Dec. 11 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in practice on Dec. 10


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