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Halfway Through Hell Week

It’s unfortunate that we won’t get to revel as long as we should in the sweet delicious win that avenged our playoff loss last year. I can honestly say that if that is what a complete game looks like from this squad, then we can play with anyone anywhere. Not depending on injuries, not depending on the weather, and not depending on other teams helping us by underperforming. ANYONE. ANYWHERE. Our defense made the stops it needed, and our offense finally showed killer instinct by putting our foot on their throat in the 4th quarter. Dropped balls hurt us and there were two defensive delay of games penalties that left you scratching your head, but if that’s the only thing holding us back… then the sky is the limit.

I say again, it’s a shame to not get the full time to reflect on the good that was accomplished on the field this Sunday. However, with playoff implications all over these two games this week in the fact that one win directly affected the wildcard outcome and the other is necessary to repeat as division champs, we simply can’t afford to look back while we’re halfway there. Plenty of time to do that during our 10 day break before Arizona.

Dallas week is always a holy week of ritual and preparation as we ready ourselves against the hell spawn that dwells in that outhouse of a town called Dallas. While most of us are closing shop and winding down for a nice holiday, the Redskins are in a frenzy trying to prepare in what very well may be the most important week of their season. If they don’t get a break, then neither do we. So let’s review some of the elements impacting the skins:

Standouts

The easy ones to identify, and I’m sure every major sports outlet is already reviewing ad nauseam, are named Cousins, Crowder, Kelley. I won’t address the first two here and instead will let their excellence on the field speak for me. As for the latter, I’m already on record for calling for Fat Rob for a while so I’m very pleased with his emergence as our lead back. Something about him reminds me of Morris in how he’s a low profile player that never stops fighting for yards. Granted they are completely different running styles, but the result is the same. The beauty of this being that now with a running game to respect, and a DJax to stretch safeties, then there really is no good answer for our offense. It’s a paper-scissors-rock match of you can put eight men in the box to stop the run, but then we’ll burn you deep. If you pull your secondary back, Fat Rob is punching you in the mouth. Anything in between will suffer from Cousins’ best attribute of executing a quick intermediate passing game.

The player I would like to identify though is Maurice Harris. Something about the man just screams tough competitor every time I see him on the field. He’s had only four catches, but three have been on third downs to move the chains. He was only brought up due to Josh Doctson being put on IR, but at 6’ 3” he’s the tallest WR on the skins roster. With his crucial plays, including a heck of a leaping catch on a necessary third down where we were looking at our second punt with no points on the board, he’s looking like a foreshadow of a future in which the skins boast serious size at the WR position. Don’t be surprised if in a year our WR rotation looks like Garcon, Crowder, Docston, Ross, Grant, Harris.*

*Note, there is no DJax in that rotation and that there is only one WR above 6’… a trend in line with what McCloughan preaches: big men who work hard and are team first.

 

Injuries

DeSean “Glass Cannon” Jackson was yet again dealing with nagging injuries coming into the game this past Sunday. While he without a doubt is a force when healthy and has to be respected by defenses every time he steps onto the field, the Redskins offense is beginning to develop into a creature that doesn’t necessarily HAVE to have the likes of Jackson on the field in order to move the ball and put up points. We did that plenty against the #1 Defense in the league without him, but talent like his is boon when it can make it to the field. It was clear once the game started Sunday that his injuries would be of no issue, in fact he was played incredibly well. I look forward to seeing that again on Thursday.

Nick Sunberg on the other hand is an injury that cannot be dismissed. He has participated ZERO in practice due a back injury. McCloughan brought in a Free Agent, but make no mistake that will have little impact on this week. In fact, this has the potential to be a HUGE impact on our offense. Why do you ask? because of red zone issues. Currently the Skins have redzonaphobia and until that changes anything that endangers our field goal unit endangers our offense as a whole. Ironically, the offense is playing just well enough that our punt unit isn’t affected by this injury (Seriously, the Skins average one punt a game. Our offense is by far the most effective unit at avoiding 3-and-outs in the NFL right now) but is not playing well enough to be able to avoid relying on the field goal unit for salvation. The Long Snapper-Holder-Kicker is a tripod relationship based on timing and accountability and when we lose Nick, you can expect it to suffer. It’s no surprise that Gruden stuck to going for two against the Packers and I argue that’s not due to the wind. A bad snap/hold is a high risk with an unpracticed tripod, and if we’re gonna take a risk it might as well be a 2-point risk instead of a 1-point one. I know that our offense looked like a juggernaut against the Packers and the redzone wasn’t an issue then. One game alone does not break a trend though, and until we consistently walk away with 7 points injures like this will have a greater impact than they should. Taking into account the likelihood of a close game Thursday where every point matters, ask the Steelers how it feels to be down a due to missed 2-point conversions.

….. Other that that though, we’re looking great from a health perspective. Morgan Moses is playing hurt, but not that you could tell the way he he’s holding down the right side. Honestly *knocks violently on wood* our injury report (or lack thereof) is a bright spot for this team right now.

 

Schedule

The NFL schedule-makers — Senior Vice President of Broadcasting Howard Katz, Vice President of Broadcasting Onnie Bose, Senior Manager of Broadcasting Jonathan Payne and Senior Director of Broadcasting Michael North — have effectively stuck a thumb in the eye of the Skins this year in the form of our schedule. I REALLY hate the excuses of a short week, but the fact of the matter is the data doesn’t lie. Teams with short turnarounds generally play very poorly on Thursday. The fact that we played Sunday night as opposed to Sunday afternoon means we are in a direr spot because you can’t call Sunday night a restful one with players not leaving Fedex Field until 1am much less getting home till 2 hours later due to traffic. I was at the game and I can tell you I was dog tired the next day without playing 60 minutes against an NFL caliber team. So the exhaustion is real. Here’s hoping our skins can overcome basic human needs and the fact that they have less than 3 full days to recuperate. If there ever was a time to do it, it’s Dallas week.

Also, figures that four people with “Broadcasting” in their title who have never played a snap in the NFL would make decisions based on dollar signs and not on competitive balance. Thanks Goodell, really glad your crack team is at it again to ensure the best possible product is on the field at all times.

 

Weather

While Jerry World is an enclosed stadium so there is no issue of dealing with the same kind of elements the Skins faced this Sunday, I would be remise if I didn’t at least address Kirk’s play in the bad weather. The wind on Sunday was BAD. How bad? Enough that it impacted field goals, kick offs, punts, and Rogers’ deep ball. You know what wasn’t impacted by it? Captain Kirk’s throws. Maybe it’s a byproduct of growing up in Michigan, but holy cow can Cousins throw accurately into the wind. He explained in interviews after the game that it’s all about how he puts a spiral on the ball to cut the wind. I don’t care if it’s his spiral, arm strength, or magic pixie dust that’s causing it. All I know is that teams with quarterbacks that can play well in winter conditions do well in the post-season.

 

Fans

I was at the game this Sunday and even though the Packers always travel well, it was nice to know that their large numbers meant nothing as the noise levels from the crowds decidedly favored the Skins. That made me very happy. However, there is one area in which the fans have been loud that makes my heart very much the opposite of happy. For whatever reason, there still seems a lack of buy-in on #8 being our field general. You’ve read it in the papers, you see it on twitter, and you can hear it on the radio. For whatever reason, it seems like regardless of what Kirk does he always has detractors. I know you can’t please everyone all of the time, but there comes a point when enough is enough.

Maybe it’s leftovers from the RGIII era. A time when the Skins bandwagon got a lot bigger than it had been due to a media darling taking the reins of this team. Eventually after that historic season (a season that without Cousins’ two wins, including a HUGE clutch game against the Ravens, the playoffs never occur for us) we were left with a battle between Skins fans and RGIII fans. That fight continued to be fought bitterly and openly last season and the echos still reverberate every time a bad throw happens. The echos always sound the same way:

“He’s a game manager”

Yes, he’s a game manager in that he manages to win games.

“His arm strength isn’t elite”

Got three +40 yard passes into 20mph+ winds last Sunday that say otherwise

“He doesn’t show emotion”

Maybe because Kirk saw firsthand what happens when you make noise off the field and the harrowing vulture-like approach media coverage in the Washington area takes. In the land where everything is a controversy and back door conversations make it to the front page of the WaPo regularly, it’s no wonder he’s so guarded. He lost the popularity contest to Griffin, and had been cast as an unwanted stop-gap until a real quarterback comes along. GUESS WHAT FOLKS! A real quarterback isnt’ coming, HE’S HERE. You can’t crush every record not owned by someone named Sammy Baugh and not be the real deal. Saying otherwise is an insult to all of the other great Redskins signal callers who unanimously say Kirk is for real (No, Donovan McNabb isn’t counted in that group).

After the “You Like That” moment which was an outlier in the Cousin’s behavioral displays last year, he’s started to show his true nature with “Ooooouuuuweeee” and “How do you like me now”. Which should take away the last bit of ammo the detractors had.

He can throw, he can read defenses, he can lead this team, and his desire to win is evident. All he has left to do is be successful in the last remaining test for a Redskins Quarterback, what is without question the most important indicator of a GREAT Redskins quarterback…. Winning against the Cowboys.

Finish this week from Hell Kirk, BEAT DALLAS.

 

HTTR,

@BryanK3ys

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