DIVISION GAME. We know all about Washington, but we haven’t seem them face the Eagles yet this year. So we asked Alex Rowsey of HogsHaven.com to tell us about this year’s squad. Here’s what we talked about!
1. Washington's run defense has been one of the team's weaknesses this season. Has there been a pinpointed reason for the yardage allowed on the ground?
The easiest and most correct answer is poor tackling. However, the problem is much more complex than that. For starters, the Redskins DC Joe Barry has been pretty bad. Our schemes frequently don't make sense and our defense lacks creativity. One area where Barry's improved recently is with halftime adjustments. The Redskins defense has been much better in the second half of games (especially recently) than in the first half of games.
Personnel is also an issue. The Redskins are very weak along the DL and their ILBs hadn't played well all season until last week (last week in Baltimore was the best performance for this Redskin defense by far). The Redskins are also seriously lacking at S and had both of their starters go down for the year. Even when healthy, that group has not been good. So really, right up the middle of the defense has been basically trash all year. The CBs are good in both pass coverage and run support, but all an opponent has to do is run it right up the middle and they'll typically meet very little resistance.
Still, overall, it's been tackling. Guys are missing tackles at an astronomical rate. No idea why.
2. What kind of pass rush is Washington generating? Carson Wentz operates well against the blitz, but obviously a clean pocket is better. What should we expect?
A very mediocre one. The Redskins have guys who are good pass rushers. Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Trent Murphy, Chris Baker. For whatever reason though, the pass rush has been kind of average, though. The Redskins blitz a decent amount, but they're rarely creative/exotic and sometimes they're down right stupid (dropping pass-rushing OLBs in coverage while you blitz your small ILBs). Kerrigan and Smith are both having very down years while Trent Murphy has been somewhat of a revelation as our best pass rusher with 4.5 sacks. He's done very well and is the brightest spot in our pass rush.
From your perspective, I'd expect an average amount of blitzing. I'd be shocked if Barry did something really creative and different to test the rookie QB. They'll probably get home a time or two and it'll be a typical day in the pocket for Wentz. They're good enough that it's not like he'll have some spotlessly clean pocket all game, but it's also not some hugely fearsome pass rush that the Eagles need to pay extra special attention to. I will be interested to see how things go with Lane Johnson out at RT. Theoretically, that should really help the 'Skins pass rush. We'll see.
3. How's the fan base feel about Kirk Cousins? There are reports about locker room unrest. What about fan couch unrest? Is he really the guy of your franchise's future?
Fans are all over the place, man. There are fans that love him and are sold that we should give him a solid-to-big deal and keep him and go with him for the future. There are guys that have never been sold on him and couldn't care any less if he's on the team next year. I'd say the majority realize that he's an average to slightly above average starter who's inconsistent and almost certainly better than any realistic alternative at this point. Most fans are very happy that the 'Skins GM Scot McCloughan didn't give him a huge deal in the off-season and played it smart with the tag to see what he does this year.
He can play so well and yet he consistently does something really dumb most games. You can count on him to throw a pick but you can also expect that most games he'll put up a pretty good stat line. The key really is to keep good balance, run the ball a lot, and take pressure off of Kirk. When he throws it 25-30 times (as opposed to 40+) it ALWAYS works out well for Washington. For some reason that I can't understand, our play-callers have a hard time understanding that and far too often insist on having Kirk throw it every snap and put it all on him. He's helped by a ton of great weapons and a solid OL.
The reports of the locker-room stuff (not Trump related) are overblown and really nothing. Folks were a little unruly after starting 0-2, but the team's won three straight and Kirk's been decent. The only guy people worry about now is DeSean Jackson (you know this) as he hasn't been heavily involved the past couple of weeks and Kirk's been missing him a lot. People always worry how DeSean will react if he's not getting his. Fans lose it when Kirk misses guys who are wide open, throws TERRIBLE picks, or simply overthrows guys (all of these things have happened a lot this year), but in the end, the team is 3-2 and Kirk's done enough. I don't know if he's the guy of the future or not. I don't think anyone does. Not sure what that means.
4. How's old friend of Philadelphia DeSean Jackson faring this season?
DeSean's been up and down, but it's mostly been due to QB play. He's incredible. He really is. A great weapon to have with nearly unmatched speed (still... at 29) who is probably the best in the league at tracking the deep ball. He has an unnatural ability to go up and get balls for a little guy like him. It's something to see (yes, I know you've seen it). He always has to be accounted for and he's had a couple huge games. Even when he doesn't have the stats, he gets deep PI calls, he makes a big catch here or there, or he just catches like two 40-yard passes and that's your drive. Fans love what he brings and he certainly forces defenses to pay attention to him. He's got 18 receptions for 278 yards and 1 TD on the season (contract year).
Something's been happening a lot lately though and that's been DeSean not being involved. He's been mostly invisible for the past couple of weeks and a lot of that has been on Kirk. Kirk's simply not seen him running free a couple of times and then overthrown him (nearly impossible to do) a few times, as well. It seems to be taking a little bit of a toll on DeSean, too. I'd expect big things from him this week. He's a guy who uses grudges and things to his advantage and you know he's not going to allow himself to disappear against the Eagles.
Also, I don't think Kirk is going to risk DeSean getting upset and I think they'll get him involved a lot and early, in a variety of ways. I'd look for a few screens and things like that just to get the ball in his hands and get him involved mentally. They're going to force some throws his way this week. That's just my two cents.
5. This is the Eagles' first NFC East matchup of the year. Can you believe the NFC East has the most wins of any division? What do you think of the division, as it stands today?
The NFL is crazy. Nobody can predict anything with this league. Divisions are up and down from year to year. I am very surprised that the NFCE is doing so well. The 'Skins and Giants are about where I thought they'd be, but the Cowboys and Eagles are both surpassing my expectations. I think it's an awesome division and almost always the most entertaining. I'd love to get back to when this division ran things and was consistently tops in the league.
It's weird because, as a fan of the Redskins, I have a distaste for the rivals in the division, but at the same time, I like having the division do well and have respect from the league. Weird, conflicted feeling. I think the Eagles and Cowboys will both level off some and the Giants will probably play better than they have. I expect the 'Skins to stay around 9-7 or 10-6. I'm shocked by how well Dak and Wentz are playing. I'm shocked the Eagles defense has been as good as it has. I'm surprised by the G-Men having fallen off so bad these past few weeks. It's good stuff. I love the teams that are in this division being in this division and I love watching these rivals battle. It's good football... even in down years for the division.
BONUS! Who wins + score prediction?
I think the Redskins will win. I think it'll be super close. I'm saying 24-22. Yes, 22. No, I don't know why or how. NFCE games are notoriously difficult to predict, but I like that the Redskins are at home and have won three straight. I don't think their offense has really hit the level they're capable of yet, but I think it's just a matter of time. The defense is pretty atrocious, but they played pretty well last week. That's encouraging. Their STs is dominant.
I expect the Eagles will be able to run the ball well. I expect that Wentz is going to come back to Earth at some point. I can't accept a rookie just coming in looking like John Elway and staying that way right from the jump. He's going to struggle at some point and there's good tape out there on him now after a few games. Also, losing Johnson along the OL will hurt. So I'm expecting just an OK day from Wentz. I think the Eagles defense, as good as they have been, is really going to struggle with the Redskins O. Their OL has looked very strong lately and the weapons are some of the tops in the league. It'll probably come down to Kirk. It usually does for the 'Skins...