For many, March is all about college hoops. It's always been a month that has been terribly overrated in my eyes, at least if you like high quality offense instead of being 'offended' by the choppy product that swallows up the nation's focus.
For an NFL die-hard, March is just an insane month. For somebody who covers an NFL team that never stops making news, it is pure un-adulterated mayhem.
The Redskins have so many issues and questions heading into free agency, the new league year and the annual draft - so we will cover as many as we can.
1. What impact will London Fletcher's situation have moving forward?
The captain of the defense has been largely un-committal about playing in 2013, since his post game comments following the Seattle playoff loss. He told longtime Redskins reporter David Elfin http://cbsloc.al/ZqUzIa that he was having surgery today on his ankle and later this month on his elbow to try and play this upcoming season, saying to Elfin, "Surgery is the first step towards prepping for next season.”
Fletcher confirmed the news via his own twitter saying " @LFletcher59 Surgery went great...thanks for all the well wishes! Prep begins now for season 16!#Monster216#HTTR."
So you have that cleared up, but unless I am missing something, there is no guarantee that he will be able to play at a high enough level in his mind to go through the rigors of a long season.
The other issue and perhaps the one of greatest significance, is do the Redskins feel he will able to play at a high enough level to keep him on the roster next Tuesday at a cost of about 6.2 million under the team's strapped cap? The decision does not actually have to be made on Tuesday or before, as the Redskins can simply cut or re-structure other contracts to get under the mandated league number by 4 PM Tuesday, but the question has to be asked.
The Redskins are roughly 3 million over, and facing a potential loss of their special teams captain, Lorenzo Alexander, a deadly weapon (when on the field) in tight end, Fred Davis and perhaps 2/5th of their starting offensive line. Not to mention, several key contributors and starters like Logan Paulsen, Darrel Young and Rob Jackson are restricted free agents.
Washington would only save an estimated 3.4 million by letting go of Fletcher before March 12, because of a "dead-money" cap hit of about 2.8 million dollars, as part of the 3.5 million dollar guaranteed bonus Fletcher received last year. Still for a team that is being unfairly punished by the NFL, that 3.4 million might be a saving grace.
Don't get me wrong, they have a lot of other work to do to free up enough space to give them operating room for tendering & signing restricted free agents, and perhaps making a push to bring back some of their unrestricted free agents, but here's the 3.4 million dollar question....How much would that saving help the big picture?
Would it keep Lorenzo Alexander in DC? Is there anyway to cut Fletcher now, under the premise that you will bring him back on a much smaller base salary than his currently scheduled 5.5 million? I think you can try that, but unless Fletcher agrees to that pre-arranged deal, it is a large risk.
Or can you keep Fletcher for now, absorbing the 6.2 million figure while giving his body time to heal and buying more time. That plan would allow you to not only see what your other options are, but also set up a situation that if Fletcher decides to retire after June 1st, the Redskins would save not only the 5.5 million in base salary, but the dead-money hit would only be 700,00 this year and 2.1 million in 2014.
So many questions and clearly not enough answers. My money is on the Redskins holding on to Fletcher through the league year deadline and working other contracts to buy cap room. That's only a guess, as the team is as tight-lipped as any sports organization can get (which makes my life incredibly harder) but I just don't know how you can sacrifice a lot of what you are about, for 3 million dollars worth of space.
2. Will Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall be released or have their contracts slashed instead of re-structuring?
Hall is a relatively easy contract to work with. He is on the books for 7.5 million in base salary with a workout bonus of 50 K. His contract for 2014 calls for a 9 million dollar base salary, with the same workout bonus.
Hall said at the end of the year, that he wanted to stay in Washington and would be willing to essentially take less. However, did that mean a re-structure or an actual pay cut? If the Redskins were to simply re-structure by converting base to bonus, they could save somewhere between 5.5 - 6.5 million. However the guaranteed money would then have to be split in terms of amortization over this year and 2014, which is not something I would want to do on a contract that currently has no dead money.
I would ask Hall to take a pay cut from 7.5 to 2.5 million this year, while worrying about next year when you have to (next year) and save 5.0 million dollars under the 2013 cap. If he doesn't accept that, sorry DeAngelo but goodbye and then the Redskins would save 7.5 million and perhaps the full 8.0 depending on how the actual calculation of the bonus is interpreted.
The problem with that plan, cornerback is a much bigger position of need for the Redskins than wide receiver is and Hall is a valuable member of the unit, despite some of his inconsistency. He's an even more important member of the defense, because Josh Wilson struggled last year, while Cedric Griffin is an unrestricted free agent. Combine that with the uncertainty at safety, and you have a key necessary ingredient in Hall to 2013. Is he even more important to the defense than retaining Fletcher or Alexander? Most would scoff, but I am not asking that question for no reason.
Which brings us to Moss, who led the Redskins in touchdown receptions last year, with 8 along with 41 catches for 573 yards. Certainly those are not numbers that would traditionally blow anybody's socks off, but considering how prolific the Redskins running attack was and how they were able to spread the ball around to Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson and the tight ends, I don't know if it would be feasible to expect anything more.
Moss will be 34 before the season begins, and counts for about 6.167 million on the Redskins salary cap. He is entering the final year of his deal, so it was very likely that this would be his final year in Washington anyway. If the Redskins were to release Moss, they would save between 4.5 and 5 million dollars worth of cap space, after the dead-money pro-ration of about 1.7 million.
It would seem pretty obvious to me that the Redskins have no other choice, but to exercise this option - despite a potential overall loss to the offense - I believe it would be easier to replace Moss than DeAngelo Hall or even Fletcher.
On a personal note, I hope that it doesn't happen as I've always enjoyed talking to Santana and we have built a good, professional relationship.
3. What impact will new "Senior Executive" A.J. Smith have on the Redskins in 2013?
It's hard to know if he will have any significant impact, but my guess is that for the most part, he can't really hurt. Smith is the only true and pure personnel executive that the Redskins have. Bruce Allen, Eric Shaffer and Mike Shanahan are not known for their expertise in that area. Morocco Brown and Scott Campbell have done a very good job procuring talent in free agency and the draft under the new regime, but they haven't done everything like Smith had to do during his long tenure in San Diego. Brown was a finalist for the Arizona job, so perhaps the Redskins are essentially protecting themselves a bit here.
Essentially, Smith gives them another set of eyes to cross-check and focus on certain areas while hoping that a new challenge revitalizes him a bit, and he can discover somebody like an Eric Weddle, Antonio Gates or Michael Turner.
What will be interesting will be to see what Chargers free agents the Redskins pursue. I don't expect them to be heavily involved this off-season because of all the various issues discussed above, but would Smith put in a good word for CB Antoine Cason, who is only 26 (fits age type) and had 12 interceptions in his five seasons with the Chargers? He's known as a high risk, high reward type of defensive back - but as we outlined with the Hall situation, it is pretty much a desperate need.
Longtime veteran CB Quentin Jammer (San Diego) and former Charger CB Drayton Florence are also veteran free agents who might be less expensive and less risky, because they are on the backside of their careers.
Safety Corey Lynch is also an unrestricted free agent, and while he's listed as a strong safety by most outlets, the word is that he's athletic enough to handle either position. Offensive lineman, Louis Vasquez had a nice year last year on a horrible offensive line, but you would have to think the Chargers are going to make a strong push to retain him.
Smith's son Kyle, is a scout for the Redskins so it probably won't take him a long time to get caught up.
4. Will the Redskins bring back Fred Davis, Lorenzo Alexander, Kory Lichtensteiger or Tyler Polumbus?
Because this is already long, I will try and make this short and sweet. I would say no on Davis, although I know the Redskins would like to see what he could be post surgery.
I am going somehow, someway with a yes on Alexander - although considering every part of the decision for both sides - I think it's no better than 60/40 that Alexander gets treated fairly and the Redskins are the choice he and his agents make.
Because I believe they will find a way to keep Alexander, and I believe ultimately they will not release Hall or Fletcher....some difficult choices remain. Kory Lichtensteiger is as mentally tough and hard of a grinder as there is. I want to believe he will stay, and I am not sure how other teams value him - but with the Redskins being so tight with cap space, it's hard right now for me to fathom that Lichtensteiger will get a fair offer from Washington. Now will he choose whatever the team offers, if he has nothing better? Sure. Will that be a likely scenario? Probably not.
The Redskins hold Lichtensteiger in high regard, but his knee injury was a major blow to a guy who was quickly becoming a more than reliable force at left guard in 2011. He was solid in 2012, but struggled every day and every week with knee soreness and some element of discomfort. I know the Redskins know that, and with Josh LeRibeus in the fold, it would make sense that they are ready to get cheaper and healthier at the left guard position.
It sucks to have to write that, because I think highly of Kory and his family - but the bottom line business might get in the way of a future partnership.
Polumbus, was on ESPN 980 on Wednesday, which you can listen to right here, http://bit.ly/WLpFZA - and I will have more on Polumbus later this week - but I believe he is a guy that the Redskins hold in higher regard than the fan base does, which is understandable. Washington does not have an answer right now on the roster, as Maurice Hurt and/or Tom Compton are far from ideal.
Will the recently released Eric Winston (by Kansas City) who was with Kyle Shanahan in Houston, be the answer to Washington's question mark? Only if he is willing to play for a veteran, team friendly deal after making a small fortune by his move to the Chiefs, and while he was with the Texans.
Washington won't be able to afford Andre Smith from the Bengals, Phil Loadholt from the Vikings or Gosder Cherilus from the Lions as some of the top free agent choices that are available - but with Winston now available - you have to think he would be the only thing that could prevent Polumbus from returning.
5. Is there a surprise cut or release that nobody is really focused on?
The Redskins have some tough choices to make and because they are extremely secretive, a lot of this is pure guesswork. They may have to non-tender a few restricted free agents (Chris Baker?, Nick Sundberg?, Darrel Young?) just to be able to squeeze under the cap by Tuesdays' deadline.
Could we add Rob Jackson to that mix? Or will the Redskins try and work out a long term deal with the young veteran outside linebacker who emerged after Brian Orakpo's season ending Week 2 injury last year? A source close to the situation indicated on Wednesday that the team had not yet approached Jackson about his situation, but both sides could be playing poker. If the Redskins chose not to tender Jackson or any other restricted free agent, they simply become unrestricted - but it would also help the team slip under the cap limit.
Speaking of Orakpo - and I have a hard time believing that I am typing this. Could the Redskins consider letting him go, while bringing Jackson and Alexander back? It might not make sense at first thought, but according to salary database Spotrac.com, Orakpo counts for about 5.10 million under the cap. If the Redskins were to part ways with the former first round pick, they would face a dead money hit of about 2.10 million - but a net cap savings of just about 3 million dollars. It doesn't seem like a whole lot, to give up on such a high draft pick - who at times has lived up to his potential.
However, this is why I don't think you can rule it out. Orakpo suffered his original injury on January 1, 2012 and then re-injured his pec muscle in August and then suffered another tear, in a different area in mid-September. Is there any guarantee that he will ever not be at increased risk for something like that happening again?? That's the obvious part.
What isn't so obvious is this. If the Redskins have a plan in mind moving forward - that they will not sign Orakpo to a large deal when he becomes a free agent for the first time at the end of 2013 - why not move on now (possibly via trade) & secure Jackson and possibly Alexander? Again, I admit this is an unconventional thought process but SOMEBODY we are not expecting has to be released.
If it's not Fletcher or Hall - who is it? Adam Carriker would be another alternative but the Redskins just re-invested in him last year as a key part of the defensive line. It's not going to be Stephen Bowen or Barry Cofield. It's obviously not Ryan Kerrigan. Josh Wilson?? Possibly, but that seems highly unlikely given the already tenuous state of the secondary.
There's nobody on offense that seems to be a likely and significant impact on cap savings other than Moss. I don't believe you can re-structure more than 2-3 guys at max per year, which is a lot in my eyes, but you could do this as Rich Tandler suggested http://bit.ly/WS9G1r OR you could manage your franchise for the now and with one eye on the future.
Just my thoughts - What do you think the Redskins should do as the real "March Madness" begins?
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Washington Redskins linebackers London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan will head to the Pro Bowl as replacements for Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith.
The 37-year-old Fletcher is going to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl. Kerrigan, a second-year player, gets his first trip to the exhibition game.
Their additions give the Redskins five Pro Bowl selections for the first time since 1996. They join rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, who will miss the Pro Bowl after knee surgery; left tackle Trent Williams and special teamer Lorenzo Alexander.
Williams and Smith helped the 49ers beat the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 in the NFC championship game Sunday.
I've been accused the last few days of describing Seattle as the best team since the '85 Bears. I don't believe that at all but I do believe they are the best all-around team in the NFL right now. If every playoff game this year were played on a neutral field, I think Seattle would be the favorite to win the whole thing. They have a very good defense, very good offense, and very good special teams. They've won 5 in a row coming into the postseason by an average score of 42-10. They're excellent but....so are the Redskins, and the Skins are playing at home. I like the home team's chances.
The Skins beat Seattle if...
1. they match Seattle's physicality. Seattle tries to be physically intimidating on both sides of the ball. The Redskins are really physical offensively with their run-game in particular and have been much more physical defensively in recent weeks.
2. RG3 is closer to 100%. The Skins can beat weak teams like Dallas and Philly with a less-than 100% RG3 but he needs to be right against Seattle. His explosiveness could be the deciding factor if he has it.
3. they stop the run. Slowing down Marshawn Lynch is a must. Seattle likes to do some of the same things the Redskins do offensively like running the read-option with their quarterback but it all starts with Lynch. If the Redskin defense can't keep him around 4 yards per or less, they're in trouble because they won't get off the field enough.
4. they don't lose the turnover battle. I'm not sure they have to win it, but they can't lose it. Seattle has been as effective as the Skins at taking the ball away (31 total takeaways on the season for both teams) but the Skins have to continue to do what they've done all season long....protect the football. Amazing they have a league-best 14 total turnovers in 16 games.
5. they don't give up the big play. Seattle can strike quickly with any part of their team. Leon Washington is as dangerous as any kick returner in the league. They've scored off of blocked kick returns, interception returns, and fumble returns. Lynch, Wilson, Rice and Tate are all big-play guys on offense. The Redskins were vulnerable to the big play earlier in the season. If they can keep their recent trend of not giving up the big play they'll be in good shape.
LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. – The National Football League announced today that Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher has been named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December. The selection is the first of his career and makes him the fifth defensive player in team history to receive NFC Defensive Player of the Month honors.
Fletcher is the first Redskin on either side of the ball since running back Clinton Portis (October 2008) to win Player of the Month honors. He is the third Redskins linebacker to win the award and the first since Marcus Washington was named NFC Defensive Player of the Month for December during the 2005 season.
In five games in December, Fletcher compiled 61 tackles (37 solo), three interceptions, two sacks and four passes defensed, all according to coaches’ film. In addition, the Redskins went undefeated in December, winning five games during the month for the first time in team history. He was the only NFL player to have at least two sacks and three interceptions during the month.
Fletcher finished the regular season with a team-high 188 tackles (112 solo), a career-high five interceptions, three sacks, three forced fumbles and 14 passes defensed, all according to coaches’ film. His five interceptions were the most among NFL linebackers in 2012. He also extended his consecutive games played streak to 240, tied with Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber for the second-longest among defensive players since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger (Bill Romanowski – 243). 2012 marked the 14th consecutive season in which Fletcher recorded at least 100 stops, dating back to 1999 when he was in his second season with the St. Louis Rams. That is the longest streak current streak among all NFL players. Coaches have credited him with 2,446 tackles for his career, the second-most among active players.
There is no game that has any less significance than the annual Pro Bowl. There is perhaps no individual honor that means more in a given season than a Pro Bowl nod, especially when selected to the original AFC or NFC roster.
For the Washington Redskins, nine wins and a possible NFC East Championship brought with it three Pro Bowl selections to the original roster and two more alternate selections. A possibility of 5 Redskins players could be in Honolulu, a week before the Super Bowl -- unless they are in New Orleans, preparing to play the biggest game of their lives.
Robert Griffin III, Lorenzo Alexander, and Trent Williams all earned Pro Bowl selections for the first time in their career. London Fletcher and Alfred Morris were selected as alternates.
For Griffin III, he joins Dan Marino as the only two rookie quarterbacks to be named to the original Pro Bowl rosters in year number one, according to Randall Liu of the NFL.
Alexander became the first Redskins player as a special teamer to make the Pro Bowl, since the red snapper - Ethan Albright in 2007. Alexander leads the NFL according to STATS, LLC with 19 special teams tackles, but the Redskins coaching staff has him credited with 29. Either way, you get the point. He's a stud.
Williams, who was suspended for the final four games last year, due to a violation of the NFL substance-abuse program was the team's # 4 overall pick in 2010 and the first selection of the Mike Shanahan era.
Only Ryan Kerrigan of the three first round picks the club has made in the Shanahan-Allen regime has not made a Pro Bowl yet, and he just set a career high for sacks with 8.5, and was simply dominant on Sunday in Philadelphia.
Griffin and Williams were chosen by management, but Alexander was retained. He was undrafted and bounced around before finding a home in Washington, and could have been discarded by a new staff that had no allegiance to him, except for one key guy who was retained in special teams coordinator, Danny Smith.
Instead, Alexander, became a part of the foundation poured down by Mike Shanahan when he arrived in Washington. Alexander was an unrestricted free agent in 2010, when the current regime inked him to a three year deal.
"I'm very humbled by everybody voting me in." Alexander thanked Smith, and several of his teammates for helping him get the nod, pointing out "obviously it's not a one man show."
For the "One Man Gang," he understands what it could mean moving forward. Alexander said via tele-conference on Wednesday night, "even more so than Pro Bowls, you want to be able to make it to the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs, and that's our main goal."
As mentioned, Alexander is a free agent once again this year, "hopefully that works out for me. Ultimately, I want to be here. I love this community, and the organization has always supported me."
Williams, is an athletic freak, who plays perhaps the most important position on the field (outside of quarterback) at the left tackle spot. He's the first Redskins offensive lineman to be selected since Chris Samuels was chosen in 2008.
Williams was voted a co-captain this year, despite his suspension to end the 2011 campaign which fortified his value. He is the kingpin to an offensive line group that has helped the Redskins lead the NFL in rushing for much of the year, as they are still number one at 162.3 yards per game and a group that has yielded 32 sacks in 15 games.
"Those guys make me better and likewise. This award that I'm receiving is a unit award, because I couldn't do it without them," Williams said via tele-conference on Wednesday night.
Griffin, was not available to comment via phone to reporters, but tweeted "Players, Coaches, Fans and most of all My Teammates, I could say so much more but will keep it simple & say Thank You."
Griffin becomes the sixth rookie quarterback in NFL history to be named to the Pro Bowl overall, but shares the distinction above with Dan Marino. He's also the first offensive rookie from the Redskins to be selected since Larry Brown in 1969.
The only snubs that you can really make a gripe about are Morris, who has only rushed for 1,413 yards and 10 touchdowns as opposed to San Francisco's Frank Gore who has a combined 1,359 yards and 8 touchdowns. Morris is an alternate selection and might get to play if Adrian Peterson bypasses the event.
Will Montgomery got a hard snub as Jeff Saturday of the Green Bay Packers made it over the Redskins rugged center. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Montgomery grades out as a + 21.0 overall on the year, including a + 2.8 in Philly on Sunday with a grade 2 MCL.
Saturday, who was benched recently, has a negative 5.0 cumulative grade on the season. He led the fan voting, which counts for 33.3% of the vote for the initial rosters. The other offensive center named? Seattle's Max Unger, who graded out just below Montgomery.
According to (@PFF), John Sullivan of the Vikings was an even bigger snub at a +28.0 to lead all centers. Of course, it helps to have Adrian Peterson as your running back.
As for right guard Chris Chester, he fell behind the three offensive guard selections for the NFC (Jahri Evans, Chris Snee, Mike Iupati) according to Pro Football Focus.
Just for the record, I have no issue with London Fletcher only being named an alternate. He clearly did not deserve to be in the same group as Patrick Willis and especially NaVorro Bowman.
Some have tried to make a case for Kai Forbath. Please people - he didn't even play in the first 5 games of the season. No offense, he's been terrific but you can't even make a reasonable argument.
A nice win with a quarterback not completely healthy and against an Eagle team that came to play. The good, bad, and more. Also, their updated playoff situation is listed below.
1. The Defense. Jim Haslett schemed up more pressure on the quarterback than in any game this year. The players also won more matchups than they have in any game this year. Five total sacks with several more hurries. Pressure was a factor all day but most importantly on three key plays. First--the Ryan Kerrigan sack/forced fumble on the final play of the 1st quarter. They were down 7-zip and on the verge of going down more. Second-the 4th and 2 sack at midfield up 20-13 in the 3rd quarter. Again, it was a Kerrigan play pushing the tackle back into Foles for the sack. Third-the final play of the game. Pressure forced the intentional grounding and the 10-second run-off...game over. The two turnovers forced in the first half were huge. I say forced because Kerrigan forced one with the sack and Cofield tipped the ball that Fletcher picked off. By the way, Cofield was very good all day as was Fletcher and Riley.
2. Offensive Playmakers. The Redskins have guys making plays after catches, during catches, and after getting hit. It's as important as anything we've seen during the 6-game win streak. Pierre Garcon makes plays. Joshua Morgan makes plays and was especially effective today. He had an incredible run on a reverse that should've been a loss. His touchdown catch and run was typical of the kinds of plays their receivers are making. Moss's touchdown catch was spectacular. Morris makes plays especially after contact. Royster had a good move on 3rd and short. Niles Paul had a nice catch and run. Attribute it to the scheme, the return of Garcon, or anything you want but the Skins have guys making plays with the ball.
3. Kai Forbath. He's money. 17 for 17 and the new record for most kicks made without a miss to start a career. His two early field goals today were important and gave the Skins some momentum.
4. Kyle Shanahan. He had a quarterback that was clearly less than 100% yet he was able to come up with a gameplan that kept the threat of RG3 as a runner in place without actually running him much. All season long I've felt the talk of him as a runner has been so overrated compared to the biggest benefit which has been the "threat of RG3 running" even when he didn't. There was plenty of pistol and even several read-option plays but he only ran on one read-option. The others were Morris runs or the read-option was used to set up passes. Kyle threw in several wrinkles....two plays stood out. On a completion to Garcon in the first half off the read-option look, Joshua Morgan was in motion than moved into the backfield prior to the snap. They've used that alot on plays where the WR ends up being a decoy on a run play or is used as the pitch back on the option but never on a quick throw off the read-option. The more interesting play was the touchdown run by Morris. That play appeared to be a fake read-option to one side with an old-school counter trey with Trent Williams pulling to the other side. The play broke wide-open for the touchdown.
1. RG3's mobility. It was obvious he wasn't 100% and we saw it early. He seemed uncomfortable on an early read-option run and later on a 4th and 2 bootleg miss.
2. A near-disaster in pass coverage at the end. Madieu Williams did a nice job on a safety blitz but was seemingly out of position (which isn't a first) and very lucky on a pass into the end zone for a wide open Maclin on the final drive.
1. Skins got lucky at the end when #86 dropped a wide-open slant for a touchdown.
2. I think Andy Reid may have gone for 2 and the win if they had scored at the end. He was in a risk-taking mode all day with nothing to lose.
3. The challenge by Shanahan on the RG3 lateral to Moss that lost 17 yards was a bit of a waste.
4. Eagle fans have complained about Reid's clock managment for years and it's easy to see why. He called quick timeouts with still over a minute left in the first half potentially leaving plenty of time for the Skins to score before the end of the half. It didn't hurt him this time but the strategy was wrong.
Skins' Playoff situation:
To Win the NFC East- Beat Dallas. They could also win the NFC East with a tie against Dallas if the Giants lose once. The Skins CAN'T win the NFC East with a loss to Dallas. A 9-7 final record would lose out to either a 10-6 Giants or a 9-7 Cowboys (common opponents).
Wildcard- If they lose to Dallas, they could still qualify for the playoffs as a wildcard but would need 3 of the following 4 things to happen. 1-the Giants to lose once (vs Balt or Philly); 2-the Vikings to lose to the Packers; 3-the Bears to lose once (vs Cards or Lions); 4-Seattle to lose twice (vs SF and STL).
One of the most dramatic wins in recent Skins' history. The good, bad, and more.
1. 2nd-half defense. What a turnaround after a dismal first half. Seven 2nd-half/OT possessions....3 punts, 2 turnovers, 7 total points. They got better pressure on Flacco and did a better job against the run. The two forced-turnovers were really big. Baltimore was moving on both drives. Jackson got the forced fumble with the Ravens at midfield on their first drive of the 3rd quarter. Kerrigan's pressure led to the Fletcher INT with the Ravens at the Skins' 11. After a lights-out first half, Flacco was forced into mistakes in the 2nd half that really impacted the final result. The Kerrigan/Fletcher play in particular was all on Flacco for holding the ball on what was obviously a 5 blocking 6 situation.
2. Kai Forbath's Field Goals. 14-14 for the season, 9 of them over 43 yards and a huge game-winner in OT. Now, with that said, his kickoffs aren't very good and the kick after the game-tying touchdown/2-pt conversion was so close to being a play that cost them the game. Barely into the end zone even though Jacoby Jones protested.
3. Richard Crawford. Not a bad debut. 3 punt returns for an average of 33 per. Still not sure why he didn't outrun the punter for the touchdown but what a huge play.
4. Kirk Cousins. He comes on a 3rd and 6 with the game on the line and makes a throw that draws a P.I. Then, his 2nd entrance into the game comes on a 2nd and 20 with the game on the line and he goes 2 for 2 with a touchdown to Garcon, then ties the game on a 2-pt conversion QB draw. He was a clutch quarterback at Michigan State and what a job he did under pressure today. No panic, totally under control, and a great 3rd and 5 touchdown pass to Garcon. That's why they picked him. You need at least two in the NFL, they got em in the draft.
5. RG3. It wasn't his best game but I thought he was very effective early especially with the read-option (which sliced/diced Baltimore's defense on the first two drives en route to setting an NFL first-quarter best this year with 186 total yards) but he missed a few things too. An early 3rd and 7 to a wide-open Garcon was thrown poorly. The 3rd and short option pitch to Morris was a bad pitch. Morris would've easily gotten the first down. I know this will sound nuts after the injury but I thought he could've run more on the read-option and the same from the pocket. Still, on one leg, he made two big-time throws that got them to within striking range. The 15-yarder to Moss and the 22-yarder to Garcon were monster plays on the final drive and he couldn't step into either throw. Both throws were all arm.
6. Punt team. Sav Rocca had a very good day and the punt coverage team did a very good job on Jones.
1. RG3's injury. Can't wait to hear those complaining about him running the ball blame this one on the Shanahans but as was the case in the Atlanta game, it happened on a pass-play scramble, not a called run.
2. 1st-half defense. It was bad and they were lucky it wasn't worse. They couldn't stop the run, they couldn't rush the passer, they couldn't cover. D-Hall was beaten like a drum and it looked like Madieu Williams was constantly out of position. Flacco was 10-13 and 2 of the misses were his fault. He underthrew an open Torrey Smith that could've been a touchdown. Rice and company rushed 14 times for 91 yards. They only had the ball for 12:32 yet rolled up 218 yards. Not a good half for the Skins at all but not all that unusual either.
3. Drive-killing mistakes on offense. Penalties in the first half hurt. Morris' fumble cost them 7 pts. There were key dropped passes including Moss' catchable deep ball and Garcon's dropped 3rd and 3 in the 4th quarter.
4. Skins drop-back pass protection. We've seen it all season-long but they really struggle when they're in obvious pass situations. They throw it effectively out of the read-option look and first-down play-action, not when pass is obvious and expected.
1. The Garcon spot on that 2nd qtr catch/run was correct. His knee was down short of the marker.
2. Niles Paul's fumble was correctly reviewed and overturned.
3. RG3 took a helmet-to-helmet hit on a scramble run in the 4th qtr that was missed.
4. The 3rd and short option call by Kyle was a good call, bad execution.
5. I was surprised that Baltimore didn't take a shot with 26 seconds left and one timeout in regulation and at the same time didn't understand what they were doing at the end of the first half throwing the ball with clearly no intention of trying to get into FG range.
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Mike Shanahan's players are supporting their coach after he seemingly wrote off the Washington Redskins' season and then said his comments had been misinterpreted.
"I thought he clarified exactly what he meant, how it wasn't portrayed the way it needed to be," said co-captain London Fletcher, a 15-year veteran. "He let us know exactly how he feels about this season, how he feels about the guys in this locker room. Coach Shanahan's a proven winner, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach. He's not a person who gives up on a season."
Fletcher doesn't agree with criticism of Shanahan for his comments.
"To portray him in that light is not fair to him, not fair to this football team. You get a couple of games to go your way, especially in November, you're right in the thick of things."
But no matter what the coach said or meant, Washington faces an uphill challenge to salvage its season. After three straight defeats, the Redskins are 3-6 and back in last place in the NFC East for a fifth straight season heading into a five-day break during their bye week.
"We're frustrated to lose football games, but no one in this locker room would ever quit and there's no coach that would never give up," said ninth-year Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, who was re-signed on Oct. 22 after being out of the league for the first seven weeks. "It will be good (for) our young players, our young quarterback (Robert Griffin III) to have a little bit of time to relax and get away from it and come back and really try to make a run. Hopefully we have a chance to make games important in November and December."
Cooley starred for Washington teams that rallied from records of 5-6 in December 2005 and 5-7 in December 2007 to make the playoffs.
"It's easy to play when you're winning and everything's good," said defensive end Kedric Golston, who also played on the 2007 team. "You find out the true character of a man when things are down. He probably could have said it a lot better, (but) it's not what Coach Shanahan said. It's about how we respond coming out of this bye week. It's going to be hard to come to work now. Do we have the right guys? I think we do, but until we go out and prove it, who knows?"
Defensive end Chris Baker, who rose from the practice squad in 2011 to being in the rotation this year, said Shanahan's comments about evaluating personnel rang true.
"It's an evaluation period all year," Baker said. "That's exactly how it is week to week. If you're not good enough, they're going to find someone to replace you."
The Redskins, who have lost seven starters for a total of 49 games and will be without four of those players the rest of the way, are sixth in yards and seventh in points, but only three teams have allowed more yards and only four have allowed more points. No team has committed more penalties for more yards.
"The coaches put us in the right plays and put us in the right places," said left tackle Trent Williams, another co-captain. "We're just not taking advantage of them."
Fletcher, who has started two Super Bowls and played for three Redskins coaches, maintained that Shanahan's direction is still the correct one despite a 14-27 record over two and a half seasons.
"Regardless of what his record is, we know he's creating a Super Bowl-winning environment," Fletcher said. "The foundation is here. We're a lot more talented football team (than when Shanahan took command in January 2010). We have a great young quarterback. We've added some great youth to our team, more depth. "
Notes: Long snapper Nick Sundberg, who broke his left arm in Week 1, was activated Tuesday from in-season injured reserve next week. ... Cornerback Domonique "D.J." Johnson was signed to the active roster from the practice squad. ... Long snapper Justin Snow and cornerback David Jones were waived. . Right tackle Jammal Brown, on the physically unable to perform list since the eve of training camp, hopes to return to practice next week. . Strong safety Brandon Meriweather, who has injured his left knee three times since Week 2 of preseason, is expected to make his Redskins debut on Nov. 18 against Philadelphia. . Receiver Pierre Garcon said his long-ailing right foot is better but there's no timetable for his return.
1. Kai Forbath. He's 8 for 8 with 6 of the 8 from 43 or longer although his onsides kick attempt sucked.
2. Alfred Morris. Excellent runner.
3. No turnovers. Amazing that the Redskins haven't committed a turnover in 2 weeks. Even more impressive on day like today when they dominated time of possession running 76 plays with a ton of passes in obvious passing situations in the 4th quarter.
1. Defense. It's awful. It is totally incapable of making plays to get off the field and totally reliant on the other team to self-destruct. Carolina was only stopped by its own dropped passes and penalties until the 4th quarter when their urgency to work clock instead of score became a factor. The Panthers rolled up 330 yards on just 50 plays. Can't decide which is worse, pass rush or coverage. Today, it was coverage and throw in the inability to stop the run as well. Can't decide who is worse, D-Hall or Wilson. I'd say Wilson today.
2. The 4th and goal play-call. I mentioned after the Saints game that the QB sweep with no pass or pitch option is just a bad play. It's a play more than the other run-oriented looks that really could get RG3 hurt.
3. Penalties. In a game that the head coach called "must-win", 13 penalties for 97 yards is unacceptable and on him. A team that is disciplined and playing a so-called "must-win" game can't commit false start and illegal formation penalties.
4. Urgency. Where was the desperation in a "must-win" game? It wasn't obvious to see, especially on defense, but the penalties and dropped passes on offense didn't look very desperate either.
5. Pass protection. Too much drop-back passing for this offensive line. RG3 took big shots in the pocket. Surprised he wasn't hurt on an early shot he took.
6. No playmaking pass receivers without Davis and Garcon. The lack of playmakers has killed them the last two weeks. Morgan and Paulson made a few plays but there's nobody on the field that can stretch it. Aldrick Robinson short-armed the first throw of the game and was targeted two more times the rest of the way managing 1 catch for 6 yards.
7. Shanahan's clock mgt. Calling a timeout on offense on the drive that cut the lead to 21-13 cost them 30-35 seconds when they got the ball back. Instead of getting it back with 18 seconds left, they would've had close to a full minute to try and tie the game. Coaches that know how to manage the clock don't use their timeouts on offense in that situation when they have the ability to snap the ball quickly. They use them on defense to prevent the other team from running the clock out. Pretty much anybody that watches a few games a week understands this. Apparently the Shanahans don't.
8. Officiating. The inadvertent whistle was bad, the 15-yarder on Fletcher was awful, but the delay of game penalty called on the Panthers when the ref was standing under center preventing Carolina from snapping the ball was worst of all. The replacement refs weren't any worse than the crew working the game today.
1. RG3's accuracy was off today even though he had some balls dropped. I also thought that he hung on to the ball in the pocket too long on occasion instead of tucking it and making a play with his feet outside of the pocket.
2. Fletcher just isn't good enough in coverage. Teams are throwing to tight ends as quickly as they can when he drops in coverage.
3. The Redskins were effective moving the ball but not effective scoring points. They took 30 snaps on their only two drives of the first half, rolled up 146 yards, but scored just 3 points. They took 44 snaps on 3 of their first 4 real drives of the game, rolled up 227 yards, but managed just 6 points. I hated the 4th and goal call but I'm not sure playcalling was as much the issue for not completing drives as much as mistakes and execution were. The holding penalty on Trent Williams on their first drive of the game derailed that opportunity. The 4th and goal wasn't my favorite playcall but the execution of it wasn't very good either. On the 3rd quarter drive that ended in field goal, Josh Morgan was open on the slant inside the 5 for a first down but the ball was a bit behind him and he couldn't pull it in. Down 14-6 with a little momentum after the only good defensive play made all day on the 3rd and 1 stop on Tolbert, a drive that appeared to be on the move was hurt by the illegal man downfield penalty on Lichtensteiger and a 3rd down drop by Morgan which was the difference between a punt and a potential field goal attempt.
4. The Redskins only had the ball for 9 real drives in the game because they held it when they had it and Carolina held it when they had it. Also, for the 2nd straight week they played in a game that didn't have one turnover.
5. I hate the idea of labeling a pro game a "Homecoming" game. It would seem that the other team could use it as motivation.
The Redskins deserved to lose the game, period. The entire game was an illustration in lack of discipline....both sides. The good, bad, and more.
1. RG3. The Rams clearly came out with the intent to rattle and rookie-ize him. They didn't. Without him, the Skins would've lost the game by three touchdowns. He made a few throws he'll want back but he made plays all day long with his arm and legs. If there's one nitpick, I wish he would've run more.
2. London Fletcher. It's tough to give anyone on the defense credit after it was torched to the tune of 452 yards and 31 points but Fletcher's forced fumble late was as bad-ass as it gets. It came on the play after he was drilled post-whistle without a penalty. Unlike Morgan who got emotional and did something stupid, Fletcher got emotional and made a play to give his team a chance to win.
3. Alfred Morris. He had a much better day running the ball than last week.
1. Defense. Not sure why they played so much zone coverage but it didn't work. Amendola is no Calvin Johnson but the Skins made him look like Megatron today. 452 yards for the Rams and 7 of their first 10 third-down conversions. Bradford was great but they made it easy for him. Unlike last week when everyone was covered, nobody seemed covered today. The Rams ran it well too and they did so without Jackson for most of the game. They lost Carriker early, Orakpo a bit later, and their absences hurt. Still, bottom line, a big step backwards for the defense today.
2. Special Teams. Two punts blocked in two games is a problem.
3. Discipline. Not much of it when it mattered the most. Josh Morgan's play will go down with Westbrook's 15-yarder against the Giants back in '97. No matter what happened to provoke it, the response cost his team a chance to win the game.
4. Officiating. They must have gotten the worst of the replacements to work this game. It was a crew that was lost from the beginning and because of it, the game was out of control. The Rams provoked early and often and got away with it. Here's a short list of the worst of the blown calls. A) Fisher should've been flagged for an illegal challenge on the Jackson non-fumble. B) On the next play, Jackson was ruled short of the goal line (very close call) and because of it, Jackson lost his cool, got penalized incorrectly, and got benched by Fisher. C) Fred Davis was defenseless and defender led to the head-no flag. D) Offsides call on Bowen late in the game was clearly a false start. E) Fletcher was drilled post-whistle, no call. In addition to the blown calls, the officials seemed confused on things like resetting the playclock in certain appropriate situations. And even more than all of the already-mentioned, they just couldn't minimize all of the post-play woofing, chirping, pushing, shoving. It seemed to happen on nearly every play with no ramifications and it led to a feeling of on-the-verge-of-mayhem all game long.
1. So many big plays before the Morgan penalty down the stretch. Here's the list. A) The dropped Aldrick Robinson deep ball could've set them up for a late lead. B) The 66-yard punt by Hekker with a minus-3 return was huge. It totally flipped the field. Instead of potentially starting near midfield or closer, the Skins started that drive from their own 21. C) The hit on Fred Davis would've been flagged by the real refs and given the Skins a big first down. Instead, they punted the ball 2 plays later. D) Fletcher's hit and forced-fumble on Richardson gave them a chance to win the game. Too bad Morgan's play flushed it down the toilet.
2. It was nice to see them score a defensive touchdown. I think it was the first since last year's opener against the Giants.
3. 62-yd field goal decision. I know it was 4th and 16 but Cundiff just hasn't been good from 50+ in his career. He's made just 1 of this last 8 from 50+ and has made just one 50+ yarder in the last six years. The odds of making 4th and 16 may have been better.
4. Despite the FOX announcing team of Myers/Ryan pleading for Fisher to use the challenge flag early on, I think Fisher was for the most part correct. #11 didn't get both feet in on a play ruled out of the end zone. It didn't seem as clear to me that Jackson made a first down on a 3rd and 2 that was marked short. The Jackson 3rd and 1 run that could've been a touchdown wasn't obvious on replay.
5. Garcon was missed but so was Steven Jackson.
6. Who was Orakpo yelling at after getting injured?
7. Bowen was a beast for the 2nd straight game.
8. Shanahan's icing the kicker move backfired. He missed the first kick, made the 2nd.