In the end, the game comes down to one thing: man against man. May the best man win.
~ Sam Huff
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The good, bad, and more from the Redskins 23-17 loss at Baltimore.
1. Chris Baker. He wrought havoc along the line of scrimmage. He collapsed the interior of the line of scrimmage multiple times on both run and pass plays alike. He had a sack and created pressure that nearly led to sacks. He had a pass deflection as well. He and Hatcher together have a chance to be major difference-makers in a much-improved team pass rush this year.
2. Outside LBs. Orakpo, Kerrigan, and Murphy all had their moments. Murphy in particular was impressive both with the starters and in the 2nd half. He sniffs out screens just as well as Kerrigan does. He's got great anticipation and feel for what's going on. He also dominated the tackle he went up against in the 3rd quarter.
3. Keenan Robinson's speed. He will make a ton of plays this year that Fletcher could no longer make. He reminds me of some of those Cowboy linebackers of Jimmy Johnson's teams....Jones, Edwards, Myles....sleek and fast.
4. Brandon Merriweather in the box. Merriweather is smart, aggressive, and physical in the run-game. His helmet to helmet hit in coverage was a flashback to last year but despite the penalty/injury risk he brings, he's legit at the line of scrimmage as both a run-stopper and a blitzing pass rusher.
5. Evan Royster. He's a very good runner, he's versatile, he's a keeper.
6. Andre Roberts as a punt returner. He's been impressive as a returner throughout the preseason. He had a nice 24-yd punt return in the first quarter that should've been good enough to set up some pts.
7. Darrell Young. He's going to be on this list every week. He's been the most underrated contributor on the team and may fly under the radar again. He's an excellent all-around fullback.
8. Jordan Reed. He only caught one pass for 7 yards but he had another catch and run on a play brought back because of penalty and he appeared to get open a bunch but wasn't thrown to.
9. Kirk Cousins. He gets an "A" for having a much better feel for the offense and the position for that matter than Griffin right now. However, he still doesn't throw the ball consistently. His accuracy isn't always there and he doesn't have anywhere near the arm strength that Griffin has.
10. Santana Moss. He's played well when he's had the chance thru 3 preseason games. I think he's a lock to make the final roster.
1. Starting offense. Led by a rough outing by Griffin and the O-line, the starting offense did nothing.
2. Griffin. A bad performance across the board against a team that had 3 of its top 4 corners out of the game. He doesn't look confident as a pocket passer unless he's throwing the deep ball which oh by the way, he throws very well. He got picked on a throw early in the 3rd quarter to a covered Alfred Morris. It appeared that Reed was open down the seam on the play. He could've been picked another once or twice. His decision-making was shaky. A scramble to the sideline should've ended with a throw out of bounds to save the lost yardage. Instead, he ran out of bounds for a 5-yard loss.
I still believe his best success for now would come in an offense that includes enough read-option to keep him as a consistent run-threat. They ran a read-option play on their first play from scrimmage and Morris went for 19 yards. They ran it once more in the 2nd quarter and Helu was stopped for a short gain. If Griffin had kept it on that play he may still be running. For now, Griffin plays better when the read-option is part of the gameplan. It's the way he played in college and the way he played in 2012. Enough of it helps pass protection and makes it easier for him to throw off play-action.
3. Aldrick Robinson. I'm not much of a fan. I know he can run fast and beat defenses long but his route running and hands are shaky.
1. I thought Smith's TD pass to give Baltimore a 10-3 lead was not controlled in-bounds.
2. Chris Chester got some work at Center with Long moving into his right guard spot. Gruden said Chester is Lichtensteiger's back-up this year at Center.
3. In talking about his confidence in the defense, Gruden said that they may have to win some "13-10" games...especially early in the season. If we play very good sp teams and really good defense, we'll win some games."
Even after last night's 10-game win streak came to end, the Nats are still one of the top three favorites in major league baseball to win the World Series this year. Currently, they are 3:2 to win the NL Pennant and 4:1 to win the whole thing. The Dodgers are a slightly better bet to win the NL Pennant and the Angels are the only team in the Ameican League with better odds right now to win it all.
If they pulled it off, it would be the first title for one of the four major pro sports teams in this city in nearly a quarter century. The last title came when the '91 Redskins dominated the NFL on the way to the Super Bowl 26 Lombardi Trophy. It's been slim pickings ever since.
Off the excitement of that 10-game win streak which propelled the Nats to 20 games over .500, a 7-game lead in the NL East, and the best record in the National League, it feels like this Nats team is the best threat to win a D.C. title in forever.
In fact, when it comes to Vegas odds, it's nearly true. Only one local team was ever in the same championship odds situation this late in the season as the Nats are in right now.
Here's the short list of the other teams in town since 1991 that had the legit look of a champion at some point during its season.
The '09-'10 Capitals took the Presidents Trophy for the most points in the regular season. Entering the playoffs, they were slight favorites to win the Cup at 4:1. That's exactly where the Nationals are right now. Those Caps were far from prohibitive favorites though. Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Chicago were all 5:1 when the 2010 playoffs began and most experts thought the Penguins would knock off the Caps if they faced each other. Of course, they never met. The Caps were stunned by 8-seed Montreal in the first round.
The '97-'98 Capitals are the only major pro sports team in D.C. to get to a championship final so it would be easy to say that Caps team was the best threat to win a title since the '91 Skins. Yet, even though they made it to that Stanley Cup Final, they were a prohibitive underdog against Detroit. The Red Wings were the defending champs and few if any thought the Caps had much of a chance in the Finals. The oddsmakers got that one right as the Wings swept the Caps in 4 straight.
The 2012 Nationals had the best record in the bigs yet they were the 3rd favorite behind Cincinnati and San Francisco just to get to the World Series.
The 2012 Redskins entered the NFL playoffs as the hot team and were a chic pick to make a deep run. They were on a 7-game win streak entering the postseason and had won the NFC East. RG3 was the Rookie of the Year and nobody in the NFC that year was perceived as unbeatable. Despite being an underdog at home in the Wildcard round against Seattle, the Skins jumped out to a 14-zip lead. They looked like a team that would win that game and move on with legit chances against the rest of the NFC. Then of course, the injury to the starting quarterback.
There were other teams over the last 23 years that you could argue had the look of a team that could make a run but realistically for those teams, a championship was a long shot. Several Caps' teams were expected to make much deeper runs than they did but odds-wise, none of them were as widely considered as Cup-contenders as the two teams mentioned above. And even the '98 team wasn't considered much until they got to the Finals.
The '99 Skins won the NFC East but they weren't nearly as dangerous as the 2012 team that got to the playoffs. That '99 team had an average defense and the Rams were at the beginning of "The Greatest Show on Turf" years.
The Wizards....well let's just say last year's team was the closest threat to go deep into the postseason of any Wizards team in a long time but with the Heat in the East, nobody really gave them much of a chance to go beyond the Eastern Conference Finals.
The good, bad, and more from the Redskins 24-23 win over Cleveland.
1. Tackling. The tackling was again impressive as it was in the preseason opener against the Pats. Baushaud Breeland in particular stood out. He's physical and a very good tackler. Amerson had a nice tackle early as well. This was a major team weakness last year. It's nice to see this area improving even if it is just the preseason.
2. Griffin's athleticsm is back. Even though a few of those first half scrambles ended awkwardly if not dangerously, Griffin's ability to escape and sprint past pass rushers looked much different than it did last year. He struggled to outrun linebackers last year....not so tonight. Whether it was the brace or just the affects of knee surgery, he wasn't anywhere near as athletic last year as he was tonight. It was exciting to see.
3. Evan Royster. I've always been a huge Royster fan and he showed again tonight why he still has a chance to make the final roster. I've thought for 2 years that he's the best pure runner on the team (although Morris' power still makes him the best overall back on the team). I really think he's the type of back that would've produced similarly to Morris if he had gotten the same opportunity the last 2 years. He's a very good runner but can catch it too. He has very good vision and feel as a runner but can also power his way through when needed as he did on his touchdown run.
4. Weapons on offense. I think it's obvious that the Redskins have legit weapons on offense. Jackson looked good. His 11-yard catch and run for the first down to the sideline is an example of what I think we'll see a lot of this year. They can't press cover him so the Skins will take advantage of that by throwing it to him quickly and letting him sprint for 8-12 yards. If they double him then Garcon and Reed will benefit. Reed looks like an elite pass catching tight end in the making. We know how good Garcon can be. Andre Roberts is a threat, Ryan Grant is a solid if not spectacular rout runner and Moss can still be effective in spots. Morris leads a deep backfield of good to very good runners. This offense can be great if Griffin plays well.
1. Turnovers. Too many whether preseason or regular season. Morris has had problems with fumbling including previous issues handling pitches like the one he botched tonight. Griffin's pick was the type that will cost the team games. He can't make that throw....period. Cousins threw a bad pick and so did McCoy.
2. Not enough from the starters on offense. Three series and done early in the 2nd quarter. It seems to me they could use more work. Hopefully we'll see a full half at least in Baltimore on Saturday night.
3. Griffin's risk-taking and awkwardness as a scrambler. He just doesn't seem to have the ability to slide smoothly and he takes unnecessary hits on pass-play scrambles. He didn't like it when the Shanahans talked about the need for him to learn how to slide and protect himself but they were right. It's the same thing Gruden said after the game.
1. I thought the Morris TD run on 4th and goal shouldn't have been overturned by replay. It wasn't conclusive either way but it was called TD on the field so it should've stood.
2. This defensive holding emphasis in the preseason is ridiculous. There's no way the league can enforce this in the regular season the way they've done it in the preseason. Games will take 4 hours to play and teams will need no less than 50 pts to win.
3. Griffin's false start penalties won't be an issue when the season starts. It's another "referree preseason emphasis" that won't be enforced the same way in the regular season.
4. I think it was Hazlett who got the 15-yard unsportsmanlike called on the bench.
5. Offensive plays look identical to the base offense run by the Shanahans.
6. Darrel Young is very important to this team, especially in the run-game but it wouldn't shock me if he caught 20 passes this year too.
The good, bad, and more from the preseason opening win over New England.
1. Running game. Most of the running backs that played ran well. Most of the o-linemen that played blocked well as did Darrell Young. Morris running behind Williams and Lauvao early was impressive. Silas Redd has exceptional vision and is a legit inside runner. Seastrunk showed some explosiveness also.
2. Defensive pressure and tackling. The defense flew around and tackled well. It generated very good pass pressure early as well. It wasn't against Brady but still, Orakpo and Kerrigan both got early pressure. Orakpo drew a hold against Pats' starting LT Nate Solder on the first drive of the game and on the Pats' 2nd drive of the night, Kerrigan's pressure set up a sack for Orakpo.
3. No turnovers/One punt. Preseason or not, it's never a bad night when you punt once and don't turn the ball over.
4. RB and WR depth for sure. It's obvious that the Skins have some good runners and pass catchers on their roster. After Morris and Helu who are givens on the final roster, Redd and Royster are guys that will land on an NFL roster whether it's here or somewhere else. Seastrunk and Thompson are explosive guys. One will likely make it, the other will get a look elsewhere. Meantime, their best WRs Garcon and Jackson didn't play yet the guys that played were productive. 5th-round pick Ryan Grant lived up to his OTA/MiniCamp/Training Camp billing with a solid night. Aldrick Robinson made a case to not only make the team but to play. Rashad Ross was impressive too. Didn't even mention Roberts or Moss.
1. Kai Forbath. In the battle to be the kicker, Forbath had a rough night. He had an out-of-bounds kickoff and missed short and wide on a 46-yard FG.
1. I thought Baushad Breeland looked like he belonged. He played confidently and was very physical.
2. Baccari Rambo looked more capable than last year.
3. Keenan Robinson's speed was impressive. Maybe it's a comparison to London Fletcher's lack of it but Robinson flashes in both coverage and the run-game.
For the 6th time in 13 years, the start of a Redskins season means the start of a new coaching era. Mike Shanahan out, Jay Gruden in. At 46 years old, Gruden is the youngest head coach hire since Bobby Beathard hired Joe Gibbs in 1981. It will be nearly impossible to get a read on Gruden's Skins until the regular season begins but there are a few things we may start to learn tonight.
1. Is Griffin better in the pocket? Even with vanilla game planning, we should get a glimpse as to whether or not Griffin has gotten better in the pocket. In 2012, the pocket was clean because the read-option froze defenses and Griffin faced the fewest # of blitzes in the league that year. Last year was rough. The injury, the brace, whatever the reasons, Griffin was uncomfortable in the pocket. He backed up more then he stepped up. Too often when he made a move out of the pocket, he ran into the pressure instead of away from it. He's had an offseason of football work versus knee rehab. How much more comfortable he is in the pocket is something we should get a feel for starting tonight.
2. Can the defense cover? Brady won't play much but when he's in there, he'll throw it a ton. Again, not much game-planning but the corners, safeties, and linebackers will be tested in a pure "can you cover or not" environment against one of the best ever.
3. Can the young talent play? The Skins are expecting Trent Murphy to be a pass rush contributor. He'll get a chance to do some of that tonight in his first NFL game. Ryan Grant has been impressive in practices. We'll get a glimpse of what he can do in a game against an NFL cornerback jam. Keenan Robinson and Chris Thompson are among the players that missed most of last year but are expected to play a ton this year. The pressure is on both to step up.
I think there's a chance that today's decision by an independent tribunal of the US Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the "Redskins" trademark protection could turn out to be blessing in disguise for the Redskins and the NFL.
Perhaps this view is way too contrarian for my own good but today's ruling sets the stage for a federal court to bring a certain conclusion to this most recent version of the name-change discussion. The Redskins will appeal today's decision. That appeal will eventually be heard and ruled on by a judge in a federal court. What if the Redskins win? What if that judge overturns today's decision?
Furthermore, what if the judge that eventually rules on the Redskins' appeal not only rules in the Redskins' favor but distributes an opinion that reads something like this. "The evidence was insufficient to conclude that during the relevant time periods the trademark at issue disparaged Native Americans. The US Patent and Trademark Office's finding that the marks at issue ‘disparage’ Native Americans is unsupported by substantial evidence."
That quote wasn't made up out of thin air. That was precisely what a federal judge wrote when he overturned a similar ruling on the Redskins name back in 2003. So what if it goes the same way again? Wouldn't that be a huge victory for the Redskins, NFL, and those that support the name?
Wouldn't that silence the non-Native American journalists, broadcasters, and politicians who have recently amped up their very public volunteer fight on behalf of what Native Americans supposedly want? In many cases, without even being asked?
Wouldn't they have to step down, toss in their arms, and move on to the next supposed worthy cause? Probably not, but while many of those would likely continue their fight in the face of a trademark loss, they would proceed without their single biggest weapon to date.....perception.
In this discussion recently, the perception among many, especially those new to this topic, is that the debate over whether the name is offensive was long ago settled. Slam dunk. 'Don't worry about researching that, we've got that one covered, of course it's offensive.' That's what the likes of Bob Costas and others want you to believe.
Despite it being not true, those in favor of a name change have done a masterful job of creating the perception that Native Americans are overwhelmingly offended by the name. They like to move on from this very legitimate debate over whether the name is actually offensive as if it's already been decided. They don't want to spend much time on this because the truth is, they don't have enough substantive data that supports this view. They would rather move on to when and how the name changes rather then have a legitmate debate and conversation about what Native Americans really believe and want. They want you to take their word that the only people in favor of keeping the name are Dan Snyder and a few other crazed outliers.
This quote from NFL Senior VP Adolpho Birch on ESPN's Outside the Lines speaks directly to the notion that this is still a topic worthy of being debated versus a topic that's already been decided. He said, "the team name is the team name as it has been for 80-plus years, and what we need to do is get beyond sort of understanding this as a point-blank situation and understand it more as a variety of perspectives that all need to be addressed, that all need to be given some weight, so that at the end of it we can come to some understanding that is appropriate and reflects the opinions of all.”
This is what the name-changers don't want to consider. They want you to believe it is a "point-blank" situation. They want you to believe that the offensiveness of the name is not up for debate. This is the perception they have created even in the face conflicting data.
To date, the majority of available data out there suggests that a significant majority of Native Americans don't feel the name is offensive yet that has been buried under an avalanche of perception that the opposite is true. The name-changers want you to believe that the 2004 Annenberg Poll that found that 90% of Native Americans didn't believe the name Redskins was offensive is an outdated poll.
The problem is, the name-changers don't have a more recent poll that reflects their "point-blank" view that there has been a massive shift in Native American opinion. So they mask the data with an onlaught of used-car sales tactics......'hey, you don't need to look under the hood, the engine works like a charm.'
Clever sleight of hand magic has created a favorable public perception for the name-changers. A perception which is the backbone of their volunteer fight that might crumble if today's decision is eventually overturned by an actual court rather than a court of perceived public opinion.
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