The Dallas Cowboys and their Owner/General Manager/President/Czar/Head Coach/Grand Puba of all things star related, Jerry Jones gave his head coach Jason Garrett a public vote of confidence but not the dreaded kind yesterday.
Garrett apparently will be back as head coach of the Cowboys next year, win or lose this year. Playoffs or not. At least that's what Jones said on Thursday.
Jones simply said "yes" to reporters at practice on Thursday, when asked if Garrett would be the coach next season, before adding "I'm disappointed that we don't have a better record, but he has got us in position to win the division and has got a team here that I firmly believe has the ability to be one of the better-playing teams at the end."
Jones added "we're positioned to get in the playoffs. We see logically how to get in the playoffs. We have that, for all practical purposes, in our control," Jones said. "Now that's a pretty good spot to be in after 10 games. A lot of this story is to be played out, but it does not have a bearing on whether or not he will be our coach next year. It has no bearing on that."
So, assuming that Jerry doesn't go back on his words - essentially that means the Cowboys could theoretically bottom out at (5-11) or (6-10) and Garrett should be safe. However, call me skeptical - I would have to see that to believe that.
It's why Jones is brilliant and maddening all at the same time. On one hand, he removed some or perhaps all of the public scrutiny over Garrett's job status but the bottom line is this - he still very much can be fired.
Jones isn't the only all powerful everything to make a declarative statement and then do completely the opposite when push comes to shove.
It's typical Jerry Jones. It's everything that the Cowboys are about. Garrett reportedly has multiple years remaining on his contract, so maybe that is a part of the thinking. Maybe not. Who knows.
Here's what I know. You aren't going to hear Dan Snyder say anything like that about Mike Shanahan. Good or bad. Right or wrong.
I asked the Redskins on Thursday if Snyder would be willing to sit down with me on ESPN 980, and the request was politely declined for now. I don't expect that to change.
The real question is what does Snyder ultimately decide to do? Mike Shanahan has a 7 million dollar guaranteed contract for next year, along with the perks and incentives he normally receives as the head coach - it would put that figure well north of 10 million dollars in value for Shanahan.
If you fire him, you owe him that and while the perks might go away - you also have to factor in some of the coaching contracts that would have to be extinguished as well. Nobody knows for sure what current assistants have on their deals that are remaining, but it is highly unlikely that Kyle Shanahan is without a guaranteed deal for next year.
The often unfairly criticized Jim Haslett is believed to be up for renewal at the end of this year. Keith Burns just signed a deal so it would be almost inconceivable that he signed only a one year contract.
Then, there is Bobby Turner, Bob Slowik, Jacob Burney. All Mike Shanahan guys. It would be hard (but not impossible) to see them stay if Shanahan is not the head coach, although Turner did stay in Denver for one year after Shanahan was let go. Turner still lives in Denver and commutes back and forth, so that might be the easiest situation to figure out. Slowik is one of Shanahan's closest friends.
The point is you may very well have to absorb several million (3-5?) in guaranteed salaries if you fire the head coach and hire a new coach that those assistants choose not to work for, or that the new coach chooses to dispose of.
If you believe that money is not a major factor in the decision, I would argue that you don't understand pure business. If I had the forum to ask Dan Snyder if he cares about paying 10-12 million dollars to coaches he no longer employs, I would guess that he would be very much opposed.
Not to mention what a new head coach and staff would cost you. Let's just speculate that Jon Gruden could be that guy. Jon Gruden is not taking this job in this insane pressure cooker for less than what Mike Shanahan was making, right?
Now we are somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-20 million for the previous coaching staff and the new head coach. That also might be conservative. In addition, you would need to hire several new coaches. Who exactly? Not sure, because there are a lot of ties to Gruden on this staff that is already in place.
Raheem Morris could stay. Haslett could certainly stay. Perhaps tight ends coach Sean McVay, who was a young assistant in Tampa the last time Gruden was in charge. Who knows, maybe Kyle Shanahan doesn't leave. Highly unlikely, but he also was a part of Gruden's staff for a short time in Tampa.
Does Gruden then totally trust the judgement of his friend and partner in Oakland/Tampa Bay, Bruce Allen to not replace the scouting staff on both sides (college and pro) or does Scott Campbell take the hit?
To me, it would be completely unfair to point the finger at Campbell or Morocco Brown or even Eric Schaffer. However, anything and everything is on the table when you are hiring a new head coach. It would not be the massive regime change that 2010 brought, because Allen is staying and not going anywhere.
I've heard from several people in the building that money would not be a primary factor, winning is. However, is there truly any guarantee that hiring Gruden or any other coach for that matter - guarantees winning?
If they are worried about appeasing the quarterback - the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
What the Redskins should do is either extend Shanahan's deal by one year right now and publicly reveal it so that everybody knows he is still in charge, and his power is not to be challenged OR they should let him choose between coaching the final year of his deal with that enormous pressure. If he chooses to do that, the circus continues.
If he chooses to not do that, perhaps you come to a settlement and it costs the organization less money.
I am much more in favor of stability and patience, but I realize that I am a loner in this area. Before you ask, no I have not been drinking anything other than coffee. I would give Shanahan the extension and if things don't work out next year, you can then still fire him and be saddled with the same decision/circumstances.
The bonus to that would be the stability it would provide and that you would give this regime a chance at a normal off-season. A concept that would be a change from the first four years.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
The Washington Redskins (1-3) are fresh off the bye and visit the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) on Sunday Night Football right here on ESPN 980 AM, 94.3 and 92.7 FM, ESPN980.com and SIRIUSXM Radio.
You've heard the terms "Dallas Week" and "We Want Dallas," and hopefully for the Redskins sake and the realistic hopes of a season, they give the fans something to be happy about on a short night of sleep into Monday morning.
The Redskins beat the Cowboys twice last year after getting swept in somewhat heartbreaking fashion in 2011. In order to win the division this year, I would argue a second straight sweep of the Cowboys is almost mandatory.
With all of that as a backdrop, we go Inside the Numbers for some of the key stats and matchups and things we might be able to see unfold on Sunday night.
I. The Redskins offense must use more deception and stay on the field.
The Redskins offense is based off the premise of deception. It's very simple, yet very essential. Deception works in many ways from read option gives and pulls, along with zone read play action pop passes to wide receiver reverse motion, bootlegs and full house backfields.
Expect to see plenty of it on Sunday night, as the Cowboys secondary (every time I see it) is just awful when defending some sort of play fake or deception. Another way the Redskins can attack the Cowboys defensive backs is on double moves and back shoulder throws. I saw Morris Claiborne get beat badly on both last week, one for a long gain and one for a touchdown. Brandon Carr was in coverage on Santana Moss' back shoulder fade in Dallas last Thanksgiving.
One area Robert Griffin III and the Redskins offense absolutely needs to improve on is third downs. Overall, they are (16-50, 32 %) but as our friend John Keim (@John_Keim) wrote for ESPN.com - Griffin has been sporadic at best on these key down situations. According to Keim, he is only (23- 44) for 252 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Every teams struggles in third-and-long but just to illustrate, the Redskins lead the league in 3rd-and-9 conversion attempts, of which they were shut out on in the four games. They have 26 attempts on 3rd & 7 + according to Redskins PR statistics. They're (5-26) in those situations. They have less attempts on third down and six or less (24) than third and seven plus (26), as I wrote about here http://bit.ly/1bON8FA.
There are many ways to get better. The addition of Jordan Reed will help, after he missed Oakland. He was really coming on strong. Leonard Hankerson is second on the team with 12.3 yards per catch. According to ESPN stats & Info and via Redskins.com; http://bit.ly/18SdB0Y, 10 of Hankerson's 15 receptions have resulted in a first down.
A part of third down success is what you do on first down. The Redskins according to NFL GSIS have run the ball on first-and-ten only 41.67% of the time. That means they have passed it 58.33% of the time. I think they need a little more balance. Of course, part of the issue is that they have passed so much more than ideally they would like because of game situations.
Just to back that up, the Redskins have run 266 offensive plays and Robert Griffin III has attempted 170 passes. That's 63.9 % of their offensive plays that they have attempted to pass. If you add in the seven times that Griffin has been sacked, the percentage jumps to 66.5%.
While I would strongly favor a commitment to run by the Redskins, I also am torn by the fact that I just love the passing matchups in this game for Washington. Morris Claiborne got beat on a long double move by Eric Decker of the Broncos, a move he seems susceptible too. He also got beat for a touchdown on a back shoulder fade.
Remember how the Redskins attacked the Cowboys on Thanksgiving? Plenty of read option, a long bomb to Aldrick Robinson out of a dual split backfield because the safety Danny McCray was caught cheating with his eyes into the backfield. Santana Moss also had a back shoulder fade touchdown to cap off the second quarter onslaught. Not to mention, Pierre Garcon's huge post crosser and run for a long score and Niles Paul tumbling touchdown catch and run on 3rd-and-1 when the Cowboys were selling out for a run.
II. The Cowboys have a ton of weapons and get another one back to add to the party.
Miles Austin has missed the Cowboys last two games but has 15 catches for 125 yards in three games this season. Rookie Terrance Williams caught 11 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown in Austin's absence. Cole Beasley caught seven passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. (Per Todd Archer, ESPN.com Dallas) http://es.pn/1aiBsnQ.
Austin has (32-429-3) in his career against the Redskins.
III. One way for the Redskins to lose the game (or win it) is by allowing/not allowing Tony Romo to dance around the pocket and break down coverage.
Romo had a simply insane 3rd/10 conversion to one of his favorite targets, Jason Witten. The passing play was only good for 13 yards and the first down, but Romo from the time the ball was snapped until the time that he released his pass, had a unofficial time of 9.1 seconds on my first timing and 9.42 on my 2nd timing of the play.
IV. Don't expect this one to be 13-10.
Through 5 weeks of the NFL season, teams have combined to score 3,566 points. That's tied for the most points scored through 5 weeks (2011). That's 713.2 points per week, which based on a full 16-game schedule is 45.57 points per game between the two teams on average. Two weeks ago, the NFL began the bye calender which means their were only 15 games in Week 4 and 14 games in Week 5. If you take away those three games because of byes, you get a per game average of 46.31.
V. One way to level the playing field is of course by creating turnovers.
The Cowboys and Redskins have both been prone at times this year to key turnovers at the worst times. It levels anyone's margin for error and Dallas felt the wrath of the turnover parade against Jim Haslett's guys in the worst way last year. The Cowboys threw three interceptions in the division clincher, leading to seven Redskins points.They had three turnovers in the game at what is now AT & T Stadium. Those three turnover (London Fletcher INT, DeAngelo Hall INT and Josh Wilson/DJ Gomes fumble & recovery) led to 14 points off of Dallas mistakes.
The point is if you can create turnovers, that's awesome. Converting them into points is even better. The Redskins next opponent (Chicago) is really good at this, as according to ESPN Stats & Info, they've recorded 207 points off turnovers since the start of last year. The next closest team is New Orleans at 53 less points (154).
The Redskins this year have created seven turnovers, but have also scored three touchdowns on those plays directly. The defense has generated 21 points on the very same play as the turnover (DeAngelo Hall fumble return, Hall INT, Amerson INT).
Overall, they've scored 34 points off of turnovers this year and 113 last year for a 20 game total of 147. I am not exactly sure where that lands overall in the NFL since last year (various websites list different numbers), but clearly they are not far behind 2nd place, since the start of the 2012 season.
VI. Some Cowboys facts and figures. The Good, The Bad and The ???
Tony Romo is (57-41) as a Cowboys starting quarterback, with a (30-20) record at home. He is 18-17 in his career against the NFC East. His record is (26-14) when he throws one interception in a game. On the flip side, if the Redskins can get him to throw more than one pick, he's (4-14). His record in games that were played in the month of October? (8-13).
The Cowboys overall since moving into AT&T Stadium in 2009 are (2-7) in October games there, and (4-5) in prime time. The stadium should be fully closed by the time kickoff comes because of a high probability of thunderstorms. If that's the case they are (10-8) in this palace.
The Cowboys have played in 15 games since the start of the 2012 season that have been decided by seven points-or-less. That is the most in the NFL during that span. They are (8-7) in that span during that time. Of course last week was one of these games, a 51-48 home defeat to the Denver Broncos.
Since 2005 - the Cowboys and Redskins have played 16 games and have split them, each team winning eight times each.
Final Score Prediction - Washington Redskins - 34 Dallas Cowboys - 31 (Washington + 5)
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
The Redskins are (1-3) and while that was the last thing anybody expected, it is the cold, harsh reality.
The fan driven "Dallas-Week" is here, but the only thing the Redskins need to focus on is getting a win against whoever is in front of them. Sure it would be extra special to beat the Cowboys in Dallas on a primetime stage, but most importantly - it would be a division win to even that record out at (1-1).
There will be a lot of talk about Washington potentially playing for first place in the division. Forget it. Last year, the Redskins played for first place in Week 7 at MetLife Stadium and lost a heartbreaker, before going on to lose the next two games in horrific fashion.
The Redskins just need to focus on doing all of the things that they failed to do in the first month of the season. You know, besides winning.
They need to be more careful with the ball, have more of a commitment to the run game, score in the first half on offense, tackle a lot better, stop the run consistently and get something good out of a (for now) woeful special teams unit.
They also need to fire Jim Haslett, because he runs the worst defense known to man kind and is solely responsible in his spare time for the government shutdown.
Just kidding, Haz. Just a little sarcasm to welcome the boys back from the bye week, and get under the skin of the fickle fan base.
The Redskins probably need to win eight out of 12 games remaining to give themselves a good chance. Nine wins overall might win this division, but if you are counting on nine wins(total) to win a tie-breaker of some sort, you are probably going to be disappointed. Ideally, they need to win 9 of 12. Good luck with that.
So here's the dirty dozen keys that I have identified on what could spur the Redskins to turn their season around.
1. More Read Option, more deception, less drop-backs. (Sorry Robert)
Phil Simms said it on CBS' broadcast of the Cowboys - Broncos shootout, "Deception is the key to everything." He's right, and Robert Griffin III probably knows the premise is right. The question is, will he be truly on board with this or just willing to go along with it because he has to go along with it?
The answer is probably somewhere in between. It doesn't truly matter if he loves it, but the effect is undeniable. He doesn't even have to run with the ball a whole lot on quarterback pulls. The effects have been undeniable. The offense is far from a well oiled machine at this point, but along with read option deception and Griffin's improved mobility around the pocket area - it is getting closer to where it should be.
The Dallas defense might be the perfect combination. They weren't very good (in my opinion) before Sunday's loss to Denver. I'll take my chances on Mike & Kyle Shanahan devising a plan to put 30 + points up.
2. Run Alfred Run
Alfred Morris got banged up at some point early in the win at Oakland, and then had to come out of the game well before the end. He told me on Monday he is fine, and will play Sunday night in Dallas after fully practicing according to him.
Morris has (56-296, 5.3, 2 TD) on the ground so far this year, but it's the first number that concerns me and should concern everyone else. 56 carries in four games is simply not enough. Sure, there are many reasons for it, but the Redskins need Morris to be in the 25 carry range. So far his carries by game are 12, 13, 15, 16. Notice, that it has been a slow and steady uptick even despite the injury shortening his day in the Bay.
Last year, Morris only had 16 attempts (his high mark this year) or less four times, and three of those games (@ STL, @PIT, CAR) were losses. If you throw in a 17 rush effort against Cincinnati and a 18 rush attempt day against Atlanta - you can see what is obvious. As Alfred Morris goes, so go the Redskins.
During Washington's 7-game winning streak - Morris went for 20, 24, 22, 23, 27, 22, and 33. The last time the Redskins played the Cowboys, Morris was unstoppable (33-200, 6.1, 3 TD) to compliment his 113 yard and one score effort on Thanksgiving Day.
3. Leonard Hankerson's continued emergence
Hankerson had two touchdowns in the season opener, but most have put that feat out of sight and out of mind. They still count, and the Redskins actually put together a rally to get within shouting distance of the Eagles. Either way, Hankerson is now the starting 'Z' receiver and that might be for good.
According to receivers coach Mike McDaniel, Hankerson attacked the offseason program and the main problem he had which has made a huge difference. “He has had a mindset since minicamp where he is attacking the football,” McDaniel said last week to reporters. “He has gigantic hands, 10.5-inch hands. When you combine that with an aggressive mentality, he has caught the ball the best since he started here.He has been more focused on attacking the ball and it has paid dividends.”
Hankerson is second on the team with 12.3 yards per catch. According to ESPN stats & Info and via Redskins.com; http://bit.ly/18SdB0Y, 10 of Hankerson's 15 receptions have resulted in a first down.
He only has 15 catches for 185 yards, but there is no doubt that 'Hank Time' is finally showing signs of becomes 'consistent' in time.
Hankerson is in his third year after his rookie season was cut short in his hometown of Miami and then he had to have another procedure in to finally get his hip right in early 2012. What resulted was a lack of an offseason, and that stunted his development.
4. Jordan Reed's continued evolution as a primary weapon on 3rd Down.
Reed is fourth on the team in receptions (13-106, TD) in three games after missing the win in Oakland and last part of the Detroit game. It's pretty clear his arrow is pointing up and he is a target of Robert Griffin's on third down.
Every teams struggles in third-and-long but just to illustrate, the Redskins lead the league in 3rd-and-9 conversion attempts, of which they were shut out on in the four games. They have 23 attempts on 3rd & 7 + according to NFL GSIS. They're (4-23) in those situations. They have less attempts on third down and six or less than third and seven plus.
5. Offensive Line staying healthy for continuity and being a little more nasty.
Redskins fans for some reason think that the offensive line has been sub par or closer to bad this year, when in actuality - they have been pretty good.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Redskins are # 1 (NFC) in their measurements in terms of pass blocking efficiency at 18.5%. They were first overall until Denver's shootout with Dallas which propelled them to the top spot.
The problem for the Redskins (and a line built to excel in the run game) is that they graded out to a MINUS 6.0 (PFF). Plenty of good teams like the Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens rank lower, but still they have to get better in this area.
They would like to run the ball more, and clearly that is how this unit was built. I believe you will see a heavy dose of the varied outside and inside zone attack to try and soften up the Cowboys on Sunday night. It will open up passing lanes and the Cowboys safeties and young corner Morris Claiborne are extremely susceptible to that key word, deception.
As for continuity, the starting five offensive lineman have played every single snap. It goes without saying that the Redskins would be in deep trouble if they lose anybody of significance, but no offensive lineman is more important than LT Trent Williams.
6. Special Teams has been anything but, however there is one move they can make to help right away.
The answer in my eyes to give a jolt to the return game is Niles Paul at kick returner. I would also be extremely tempted to give a shot to Aldrick Robinson at punt returner or as a last resort, even at the kick return position.
Paul has to be frustrated professionally by his lack of opportunity to create plays that help the team and his resume. I can almost guarantee that. He had a couple of big returns late in the regular season last year (@ Philadelphia, Dallas) and was the # 1 primary returner all throughout OTA's. It's kind of mystifying how a big, athletic body would be ignored.
Sav Rocca has to be better than he's been, with the lowest gross punting average in the NFL. Sure, a blocked kick for a touchdown does not exactly help that, but outside of a couple of really good boots against Detroit, Rocca has been sub par.
Kai Forbath should return in Dallas after missing the last three games with a groin injury. He missed a field goal attempt in his only game so far.
7. Turnovers is how you strike back.
The Redskins only have two interceptions, but both have been returned for touchdowns. They also have a third defensive touchdown on a long fumble return by DeAngelo Hall, on a play forced by Ryan Kerrigan. That's 21 points scored by the defense, on a team that has only scored 91 total or 23% of the total team output. Washington's defense has also helped the team score 34 points off turnovers or 37.3%. The Redskins have recovered four fumbles on the year for a total of six takeaways. Clearly not good enough, as the team was credited with 31 last year or an average of 1.93 per game. This year, it is 1.50 per game so far. They're tied for first in the NFC and are 2nd in the NFL in total return touchdowns (3).
Clearly, they have to be better at taking care of the ball on offense as well. They've committed seven turnovers (four interceptions) after 14 all of last year (eight via interception; Griffin (5), Cousins (3)). That's 50% of last years turnover total in 25% of their games. That's a trend heading in the wrong direction.
8. Stop the run first, everything else falls in line after that.
The Redskins were gashed on the ground in their first two games allowing 263 yards (5.4) on 49 attempts by the Eagles, and 139 yards (5.8) on 24 attempts to the Packers six days later. The last two games were much better with a 63-yard (2.4/ATT) allowed effort against Detroit (No Reggie Bush) and a 104-yard (4.0) performance in Oakland.
The numbers are better, but somewhat deceiving as the Raiders lost Darren McFadden in the first half for the rest of the game, and did not have Terrelle Pryor along with Bush's absence at FedExField.
Still, the emphasis is clearly on shutting the run down and making teams one-dimensional. You may not be able to stop that one-dimension all the time (Detroit) but it allows you a much better chance of teeing off in pass rush (Oakland).
Last Monday, Mike Shanahan was pretty clear about the team's philosophy "if you can put a team more in a one-dimensional game, a team that’s counting on the run (Raiders), if you can get them more in a one-dimensional game and have them throwing the ball and we can kind of put our ears back a little bit, get after the quarterback, it gives us an advantage.”
For more on this issue, I invite you to check out an excellent piece from Mark Bullock (@UKRedskin1) who contributes to the Washington Post, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/football-insider/wp/2013/10/08/redskins-moves-in-the-secondary-improved-the-run-defense/.
Also our pal John Keim of ESPN.com and ESPN980 wrote this focus article on the defensive emphasis http://espn.go.com/blog/washington-redskins/post/_/id/1389/redskins-notes-defense-and-special-teams.
9. Get off the field on 3rd Down.
The Redskins have been much better of late on the money down (36.4% overall) after being shaky in the season opener (46.7%) and and then in the first quarter or so of the Detroit and Oakland games. Against Detroit, the Lions did not convert on 3rd down in the 2nd half, and Oakland started out very good before the Redskins defense was able to limit them to (5-17, 29.4 %) for the game.
In the last three games, including Green Bay - Washington's defense has only yielded on defense 13 out of 40 times (13-40,32.5%).
Overall, the Redskins rank 11th in the NFL and 5th in the NFC in terms of defensive third down percentage.
10. Tackling should get better as the season goes along, not worse.
Washington has missed 52 tackles according to ProFootballFocus.com. That's an average of 13.0 per game. Sure, missed tackles like dropped passes are somewhat subject to interpretation but it is clearly an issue.
Against Philadelphia, they had 14 per PFF. They racked up 16 at Lambeau Field. Count 13 more against Detroit in Week 3 before a credited total of nine in Oakland. While they need to improve, that number is trending at least in the right direction.
Mike Shanahan addressed this issue the last time he was made available to reporters, “Well, when you can only have pads on one day of the week, you’re not going to be great at tackling, but you want to get better as the season goes on. I agree, we still did miss some tackles in that game. I like the effort with the amount of guys we had getting to the football, so if somebody does miss a tackle, there’s other guys there to make the tackle. But if you can average 3.5 yards per rushing attempt, good things are going to work out for you.”
11. Get Rob Jackson and Brian Orakpo on the field at same time
The Redskins experienced with a couple of different packages in the preseason, with Ryan Kerrigan as a down lineman, with Brandon Jenkins & Brian Orakpo as outside rushers. We even saw a six linebacker package featuring Kerrigan, Orakpo, Jenkins, Darryl Tapp, Perry Riley and London Fletcher but match ups and suspensions have kind of altered that plan.
This week, Jenkins should be able to play (we'll get an official update on him Wednesday) and the return of Jarvis Jenkins and Rob Jackson should provide an extra boost to a defensive unit that will need all the help they can get against Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Peyton Manning and Phillip Rivers in the next month.
With the Cowboys weapons, and especially if they go away from the run like they tend to do (DeMarco Murry 26 total carries in last two games) I think you need all the help you can in short flat and outside the number zone areas. That's an area that I think Jackson is pretty good at.
My suggestion? A package of Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield, along with Ryan Kerrigan in down positions and trying to attack the guards of the Cowboys offensive line, with Rob Jackson at one OLB spot and Orakpo at the other. You can vary who you drop into coverage, but the hope would be to get a good bull rush inside (Kerrigan) and make Romo get rid of the ball quick to these short areas while Jackson and others work in coverage.
12. Stability at Safety
Brandon Meriweather has actually played two full games in a row for the Redskins. That obviously is a significant achievement for a guy that can bring so much, but had freak injury after freak injury. Clearly he is not as good in coverage as ideally you would like, but he does have speed and athleticism that can help you do some things. The problem is - the Redskins ideally like to play a single high safety defense and Meriweather is a better player near the box area. Meriweather knows he's better in that area as well. That's also symbolic of the Redskins issues elsewhere at safety.
Reed Doughty is better near the line of scrimmage. Jordan Pugh gets some opportunities to play coverage but is inconsistent, and Bacarri Rambo hasn't played anything on defense since Green Bay.
Clearly E.J. Biggers is a guy who figures into the Redskins plans more and more every week. He has the speed and the raw coverage ability that nobody else on the Redskins has.
Chris Russell // SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com // www.twitter.com/russellmania980
Mike Shanahan raised more than a few eyebrows last week at his season ending Monday press conference, for more than just his comments on Robert Griffin III
After the Redskins were dealt what most thought (and probably is) a crippling blow on the eve of free-agency last year, a 36 million dollar league imposed salary cap space penalty(spread over two years), most thought that Washington was doomed for the next several years.
I can’t say that thought, combined with no first round picks in 2013 and 2014 – didn’t cross my mind. However it wasn’t a serious thought in my convoluted brain, because I strongly believe the wrong way to build is through spending boatloads of money.I was and still am much more concerned about missing a few great potential pieces in the first round, especially considering Robert Griffin III’s current injury status.
The Redskins were punished 18.4 million dollars under the 2012 salary cap, and 17.6 million under the 2013 cap, per ESPN 980 sources. So what's the status of that punishment moving forward?
Mike Shanahan repeatedly said last off-season that he would talk about the situation and the Redskins appeal efforts when he was allowed too. Somehow, the question and a follow-up was allowed to expire during the season by the daily Redskins media corps, which I am obviously a member of and nobody from the outside, really made a big deal of it.
There was one exception, ESPN’s Adam Schefter mentionedin early November on ESPN 980 and the “Sports Fix” that the Redskins believed they had a shot at winning the 2013 war and getting some of the cap penalty room back.
During a few conversations I had with executives inside Redskins Park in November and early December, I was told the same thing. I was told by one person, that they felt like they had a really good chance.
It’s one thing to feel that, but what reason do you have for that optimism? That’s the answer that nobody knows. These conversations were informal and obviously not on the record, but I trust those that verified Schefter’s thoughts, and we know where that information is very likely coming from.
Armed with that information, the question had to be asked after all of the Griffin-gate issues were dealt with. In our last availability with Mike Shanahan until April – the head man needed to address this pertinent issue which would directly affect Washington’s free agent plans. Were the Redskins still contesting the penalties, handed down by the NFL and it’s executive council?
“Well, I can’t answer that at this time so that means we’re still involved in it. Yes, we’re still involved in it. When I can speak about it, I will speak. But at this time, I can’t. I think that answers your question," Shanahan told me.
So there you go. Now the question is – how will the NFL deal with this continued protest? Do the Redskins really have a shot, or are they just desperate and fighting just to fight. What’s the strategy the Redskins are using?
One person that is familiar with the matter, doesn’t feel as confident as others I’ve talked with. The person candidly said “They fought the good fight. It’s over.”
This person has not changed their stance since the initial arbitration case was rejected by Stephen Burbank in Philadelphia last May.
He says the only thing the Redskins can really do, is file a lawsuit against the National Football League, a strategy the person said was highly unlikely, “I can’t imagine they would do that.”
The way the Redskins and possibly the Cowboys would go about that, is to file a lawsuit in state or federal court, because the arbitration angle is dead.
The problems associated with a lawsuit of that magnitude is that according to the league’s constitution, the loser of the battle would pay all fees and could be counter-sued for “conduct detrimental to the league.”
The source described a decision to do this as a “thermo-nuclear” choice and strongly suggested that the Redskins avoid that route.
The same person also said that the only way he could think of to make this reversal take place, short of filing a lawsuit – would be to get an amendment to the league’s collective bargaining agreement. How likely is that and getting such a move past key executives like John Mara of the New York Giants? Extremely unlikely in another ESPN 980 sources thought process.
The main source did allow something that I thought was particularly interesting, by saying the NFL “amended the CBA to (bleep) these teams” before, which is why the league’s management committee was able to negotiate a cut throat deal with the NFLPA, in the person’s eyes.
What makes the issue even harder to fathom, is that the NFLPA collusion suit http://bit.ly/U0oyJk was dismissed recently, so the person who has knowledge of the situation, said the only strategy that he could see working is one of “persuasion.”
You might be thinking, Huh? The person said he was aware of the in-house thought by many people close to Commissioner Roger Goodell. He said that many league lieutenants knew how bad the screw-job was, and just how much the NFL had “(bleeped) over” both organizations, but specifically the Redskins.
One possible argument that the Redskins are still fighting was outlined by my friend J.I. Halsell, who is a former salary cap analyst with the Washington Redskins, and now is a player-agent and salary cap analyst with Priority Sports, based out of Chicago.In the interest of full-disclosure, Halsell also served as ESPN 980’s front-office insider for the last few years.
Halsell, long before this was even an issue, was truly a prophet. He wrote this column http://insidethecap.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html in which he detailed the Redskins creative re-structuring ofthe Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall contracts that they were subsequently penalized for.
We all know why the Redskins were penalized, but the most important element of Halsell’s article was that Bruce Allen essentially executed the same exact maneuver in Tampa with offensive lineman, Jeff Faine.
Halsell at the writing of the article, mentioned the dubbed “I-4 Off-Ramp,” as the ‘same device’ as used in the Haynesworth and Hall contracts. Just for clarification, to make sure nothing had changed in Halsell’s understanding of the situation, he confirmed to ESPN 980 on Tuesday that the restructured deals in both Washington and Tampa were “exactly the same.”
The greater point is this. We know that the NFL and the contract division of the league office approved the restructured contracts of both Haynesworth and Hall, as they did with Faine while Allen in charge in Tampa Bay.If they approved all three restructured deals, along with the Cowboys contracts – how is it that ONLY the Redskins and Cowboys were penalized?
Tampa performed such a move while under a salary cap, which has to be the answer from the league – however it was beyond clear that the Bucs were trying to take advantage of the extra room they had under their cap, while also clearing out a ton of space moving forward, in 2009 and in the uncapped year of 2010.
The strategy worked to a large degree, as they had a pirate ship full of money to spend in 2011 and 2012, after performing extremely well with a young, cheap and pared down roster in 2010.
Of course, it would be nice if the league took the time to explain all of this maneuvering, but maybe they don’t – because they always seem to have something to hide.
The person with knowledge said this in parting “It’s really disgusting what the league did to (the Redskins).”
While it may be disgusting, it seems awfully hard to fathom how the Redskins will get some much needed relief.
Chris Russell - SFTheRooster@Yahoo.com - www.twitter.com/russellmania980
It's on....Sunday Night Football for all the whole damn division. Fed Ex Field is the site, ESPN 980 AM, 94.3/92.7 FM, ESPN980.com is your exclusive home for all day and night coverage of the Washington Redskins pursuit of their first NFC East crown since 1999, against the Dallas Cowboys.
Our pregame, wall-to-wall coverage starts at NOON and doesn't end until 3 AM - win or lose. Please crank up your radio on your way to the stadium, or in your tailgate, during the game and of course on your way home.
With that said, let's go "Inside the Numbers" for this do-or-die (for the Cowboys) spectacle. The Redskins as everybody is aware, can clinch a playoff spot before the game, if both Chicago (@ Detroit) and Minnesota (vs. Green Bay) lose, but can only clinch the division and a home playoff game next weekend with a victory.
SERIES SUPERLATIVES (AND FRANCHISE WOES): The Redskins have not swept the Cowboys since 2005, which was also the last time they won six games in a row (five in the regular season, one post-season).
The Redskins have only beaten Dallas in two out of the last eight meetings, including Thanksgiving Day. The last time the Redskins won two in a row over the Cowboys was the regular season finale in DC in 2007 to clinch a playoff spot, and the 2008 matchup in Dallas (Jim Zorn's first year).
This is essentially a playoff game, in any reasonable mind. The Redskins and Cowboys have played twice in the playoffs, and Washington won both times. 1972 and in the 1982 NFC Championship game.
While it's not a true playoff game, it could be the final game either team plays. The Redskins have lost the final game of the year they have played in during the last four years (@Philadelphia, vs New York, @San Diego, @San Francisco) and the Cowboys are a pretty astonishing (2-10) in Week 17 games since 2000, including a 27-6 loss at FedEx in 2007 to wrap up the regular season and a 20-14 loss in Washington to end the 2002 season, and finish (5-11). In other words, the Redskins are partially responsible for that late season misery.
The Cowboys lost on the road to the Giants, 31-14 in a similar battle for the NFC East last year. They wrapped up the 2010 season with a 14-13 win in Philadelphia, to finish (6-10) so in other words, it was a meaningless win. In the 2009 season, they shut-out Philadelphia 24-0 in Arlington to make the playoffs and won the only playoff game of the Tony Romo era, the next week. Before that win, they had lost a hard to figure NINE in a row in regular season conclusion games.
Since 2000, the Cowboys have won by year 5 games (2000), 5, 5, 10, 6, 9, 9, 13, 9, 11, 6, and 8 games in 2011. Since 2000, the Cowboys have lost by year 11 games (2000), 11, 11, 6, 10, 7, 7, 3, 7, 5, 10, and 8 games in 2011. They can finish no better than (9-7) with a win, and the 22nd divisional title in the franchise's history. They can finish no worse than (8-8) and of course would be eliminated from the playoffs for the 9th time since the turn of the century.
On a cumulative basis, the Cowboys are a remarkably average (104-103) since 2000, with four playoff appearances, and two divisional titles with one playoff win during that span. The Redskins of course have been a hot mess as well since the last time they won a divisional championship (1999), with a cumulative (90-117) record, two playoff appearances and only one playoff win.
Since and including the 2000 season, the Cowboys have lost their final two games of the season an alarming 5 times, and with a loss on Sunday night -- would make it six times overall after losing in overtime to the Saints at home last week.
In those final regular season games since 2000, the Cowboys have been outscored (281- 160) and have scored ten or fewer points in six of those games, and have scored 15 or fewer points, in nine of those 12 games.
HOME COOKING? : With a win, the Redskins would win a home game for a 5th time this year, which hasn't happened since 2007. To put that into context, the four wins they already have this year at FedEx, equals the two-year combined mark from 2010 and 2011. The Redskins would also improve to (5-1) against the NFC East, for the best mark against the division since 2005.
The Cowboys are 9-6 at FedEx Field. The opener of the Mike Shanahan era was on Sunday Night Football, a tight Redskins win, 13-7. In 2009, the last home game of the illustrious Jim Zorn era, the Cowboys shut out the Redskins 17-0 on Sunday Night. The year before that (on a Sunday Night Football stage as well), the Cowboys beat the Redskins 14-10 at FedEx.
RUN, RUN, FAKE, RUN, PASS, TD: Seems like most of the Redskins drives this year, doesn't it? Maybe not that easy and in that order, but you get the point. Our Washington Times/ESPN 980 Redskins Insider, Rich Campbell posted these numbers via twitter yesterday (@Rich_Campbell). The Redskins are 2nd in the NFL in terms of most runs vs. passing plays, behind only Seattle - who is a likely wild-card round opponent next weekend. San Francisco (also a possible first round opponent) is 3rd on the list, followed by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Jets who are at a 50/50 rate.
What's that list tell us? The first three teams (Seattle, Washington, San Francisco) all are playing very young/rookie quarterbacks with Colin Kaepernick getting his first starting experience over the last two months. The last two teams (KC & New York Jets) have brutal quarterback situations.
The Redskins' run to pass split is 52.9% - 47.1%, while the Dallas Cowboys are (34.9-65.1, run/pass), per Campbell's research. Dallas is the second-most pass heavy attack in the league. The Associated Press says the Cowboys are passing an NFL-high 66.3 percent of the time; while Redskins opponents throw an NFL-high 64.8 percent of the time against Washington. No doubt, the footballs will be flying around on Sunday night, even with windy conditions expected. One item to note that is a huge difference from the last time these two met on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys did not have RB DeMarco Murray and stud left tackle Tyron Smith did not play as well.
Just because you try to run, doesn't mean that you are good at it. However, the Redskins are clearly doing just fine in that category, as they lead the league in rushing yards per game at 162.3, which helps them rank first in yards per play at 6.2, and first in the NFL in yards per first-down plays at 6.47.
As for Murray, since returning to the lineup on December 2nd, he's run for (23-83, TD) against Philadelphia, (21-53, TD) in Cincinnati, (14-81, TD) vs. Pittsburgh, and (11-40) vs New Orleans, but also caught 4 passes for 51 yards. Since returning, Murray has caught a total of 16 passes for 123 yards, catching 4 balls in each game. One huge problem for Murray the last two weeks? He's fumbled in costly spots, one deep inside Steelers territory going in for a score, and last week, while the Cowboys were backed up deep in their own territory, leading directly to a Saints touchdown. No doubt, Jim Haslett's guys will be focused on stripping the ball in cold weather. The Redskins have recovered 10 of 17 fumbles by opponents this year, and during the streak have been credited with four turnovers via fumble recoveries.
THE GOLDEN ARMS? Per ESPN Stats and Information - " Robert Griffin III has shown the ability to effectively deal with the pass rush and use the deep ball to his advantage this season. Griffin has a Total QBR of 97.7 against five or more pass-rushers this season, the highest in the NFL. Griffin has completed 68.4 percent of his passes against added pressure, the second-highest percentage in the league, and is one of three quarterbacks that have not thrown an interception this season against five or more pass-rushers. Griffin was 6-for-7 for 131 yards and two touchdowns when he faced added pressure against the Cowboys in Week 12. Griffin has also completed 50.0 percent of his passes on throws more than 20 yards downfield this season, the highest rate in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks. Griffin has thrown six of his seven touchdown passes on such throws against NFC East opponents, and threw two touchdowns on throws more than 20 yards downfield against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving."
Also per ESPN Stats and Information: "Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has 14 touchdown passes on throws of at least 15 yards downfield this season, tied for the most in the NFL. Romo has 10 touchdown passes on such throws since the start of Week 9, two more than the next closest quarterback. The Redskins have allowed 13 touchdowns passes on such throw this season, the the most in the league, and 18 plays of 30-plus yards. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant has six touchdown receptions on throws at least 15 yards downfield, the most in the league."
I couldn't decide if these numbers belong in the Cowboys failures in the final game of the season area, or in the Tony Romo section of the blog. I say he deserves his own space. Romo is far from perfect, but...Romo is 2nd (behind Troy Aikman) in every statistical category in Cowboys history - except for two key ones. Super Bowl Championships, and oh yeah, touchdown passes. Romo actually ranks higher in the latter,(175 -165). The problem for him is that most Cowboys fans are complete MORONS, like many irrational sports fans are. He is the highest rated QB in the 4th quarter in NFL history ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Steve Young, Tom Brady, and Kurt Warner. Romo has a 102.4 rating in the final period, and also ranks 2nd in completion percentage at 63.9%, behind Young at 65.2%. Bottom line, Romo has thrown 55 touchdowns to 21 picks in the fourth quarter, and way too many fans and a lot of blithering idiots in the media, think that he can't handle pressure.
Sure, Romo AND the Cowboys are 12-14 in the months of December and January, but Eli Manning has struggled at times during December as well. He's even played a few bad playoff games, but of course the difference is - the Giants are run by a real general manager and have a legitimate football organization and Jerry Jones runs essentially a football brothel down in the Lone Star State.
Romo is (55-37) as a starter, a job he inherited in 2006. We pointed out that the Cowboys could drop to (104-104) since 2000 as a franchise with a loss on Sunday night. Without Romo numbers and leadership, their record would be (49-66) or basically the Redskins pre RG III.
Romo in his final game of the regular season in each year of his career looks like this. He's a total of (109-165) 1,229 passing yards, 7 TD's, 5 Interceptions in parts of six games. His season was cut short in 2010, but his final game against the Giants is included (a brief performance) as is the 2007 loss to the Redskins that meant nothing for the Cowboys, who had the # 1 seed locked up. Romo played for part of that game as well.
His playoff performances are less than fantastic, but nowhere near what his critics blast him for. He's (80-135) 59.3%, 832 yards, 4 TD, 2 INT and a passer rating of 80.8. His TEAM is (1-3) and the Cowboys have a net of minus 16 points in those 4 games. Again, nowhere near bad.
3rd Down is THE DOWN: The Cowboys come to Washington converting on 43.2% of third-down opportunities ((86-199) and yielding 39.8% on the money down (76-191). The Redskins offense is up to a season high 35.2%, while the defense allows opposing offenses to convert 43.6% of the time.
The Redskins actually have more net yards than the Cowboys do (5,770 - 5,698) but to show you how remarkable this season has become, only has 23 more net yards than the Redskins defense has yielded, (5,770-5,747) or a 15-game average of 384.7 -383.1. The Cowboys defense has yielded 5,326 yards or an average of 355.1 per game. They've also been on the field for 925 plays (61.6/game) as opposed to the Redskins defense, which has been on the field for 970 (64.6/game). Those three plays per game average difference could account for the 383.1 - 355.1 per game average difference between the two defenses, and based on the third down percentage breakdown we put up above, could decide the game.
Redskins versus Cowboys. The two names in the same sentence have a distinct ring to it and all credit goes to George Allen. I enjoy all of the stories of the rivalry before Allen arrived in 1971 but the meat of what we still chew on today was cooked in 1971.
Before Allen got here, there was dispute over league inclusion and song rights and there were even some wild and memorable games but the greatest sports rivalries are built on the backs of games with stakes. Starting with his first year as coach in Washington, nearly every game had division and/or playoff ramifications until he left 7 years later. Those games and the hype that surrounded each and every one of them laid the foundation for what became an NFL treasure for over 20 years.
Consider this. During Allen's seven seasons in DC, the Redskins and Cowboys played 15 times and in all 15, both teams played with winning records. In fact, during the Allen-Tom Landry 7-year war, both teams ended each season with a winning record of at least 2 games over .500. Much more impressively is this fact. All 15 games were played with either a) first place in the division on the line, b) wild-card playoff hopes at stake or c) the Super Bowl on the line in the '72 NFC Championship game. That's unprecedented importance. No other division rivalry in the history of the game since the merger has had a run like that one.
Many of the Allen versus Dallas games are of legend and you could easily argue that the majority of the memorable games in the series were played from '71-'77. There was the first one. A rainy Cotton Bowl was the scene in October of '71 for the Skins' shocking 20-16 upset of the heavily favored Cowboys. It was Washington's first win over Dallas in 4 years and it was the jab that started the fight. It was so stunning that thousands of Skins' fans greeted the team when they arrived at Dulles late that night. It was not just the opening salvo in what would become a heated rivalry; it was the true beginning of the love affair between the DC area and the Redskins.
December 31, 1972. NFC Championship Sunday. Redskins 26, Cowboys 3. The Redskins defense dominated and Billy Kilmer's two touchdown passes to Charley Taylor were more than enough. RFK shook like it had never shaken before and DC celebrated New Years Eve with burgundy and gold champaign glasses.
Ken Houston meets Walt Garrison. One of THE moments of the rivalry. The first-ever Monday night game between the Skins and Boys came on October 8th, 1973 and it ended with Houston stopping Garrison at the 1-inch line on 4th and goal with less than 30 seconds left.
Clint Longley on Thanksgiving, 1974. Staubach knocked out and the rookie Longley comes in and throws two touchdowns as Dallas roars back from down 16-3 in what was the first of seven Thanksgiving matchups between the two teams.
In 1975, 5-1 Dallas at 4-2 Washington. A classic back and fourth game that went to overtime, the first OT game in Skins' history. A Ken Houston pick early in the OT sets up a Kilmer sneak from the 1 and a 30-24 Skins win. Later that year, with wildcard hopes on the line for both teams, each sporting 8-4 marks, the Skins jumped out to a 10-zip lead at Texas Stadium before four turnovers helped Dallas to 31 unanswered which put the Cowboys into the playoffs, and the Skins out.
The 1976 season-finale was all about the Redskins needing a win to clinch a playoff berth and Dallas needing a win to clinch home field throughout the NFC playoffs. Former Cowboy Calvin Hill scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the 4th quarter for the Skins en route to a 27-14 playoff-clinching win.
George Allen started this thing in earnest. He targeted the Cowboys and he beat them in big games with stakes. He riled it up with his loathing of everything Dallas from their uniforms, to Tom Landry, to Roger Staubach. His passion for it and the associated results created something that has existed at various levels for the 41 years since. No doubt in my mind that the origins of the emotion that most of us will feel Sunday night started with the Allen era.
As the Washington Redskins install the game plan on an extra long week for their NFC East Monday Night Football showdown with the first place New York Giants, and before we take a look at some of the keys for the recent Redskins resurgence - it's time to look back now that the 5-year anniversary of Sean Taylor's death has passed.
I didn't know Sean Taylor, nor did I cover him on a direct basis. I did know Sean Taylor the football player from TV and from talking to league personnel experts and analysts. The opinions were often mixed, and for good reason. There was no doubt that he was talented, but his maturity, coverage instincts and poise were always in question.
The year he was murdered, those close to him and that knew him best - insisted he changed. I believe them. I have no reason not to believe them. He certainly was having a Pro Bowl type year, before his injury that sadly and ultimately ended his career.
Everybody has their own special way to remember Sean. The Redskins pay tribute to him every year with a painted "21" http://bit.ly/1170Lqt at Fed Ex Field. ESPN 980's Enzo Giovanni put together this tribute page, http://bit.ly/11jdHJX
On Monday Night Live at Velocity 5 on the eve of the 5-year anniversary of Taylor's death, I sat down with the man that replaced him both before his death and then after. Veteran safety Reed Doughty started for Taylor after his injury, at the free position and then had the unenviable task of trying to fill some large, empty shoes down the stretch of the 2007 season.
"He really was irreplaceable. I came in and started two games before his passing because of the knee injury. He was so positive with me. I got to know Sean really well the 2nd year. He's down, I remember we're getting ready to go to Tampa, and he's like man 'you're going to do good things this game' & 'you're going to have a great game' and 'you can do things that I can't do.' I was like Sean, did you just hear what you just said? He said everybody has different strengths and weaknesses. He was so modest about his own abilities. For him to tell me that, as a 2nd year player ...that meant a lot to me, to know that he believed in me. It wasn't just like "Man, I gotta get back quick, so that we have a chance."
Doughty continued, "His passing makes you realize how much you love football, but how small it is sometimes. That was a very emotionally, difficult time. Through my faith, and family and friends, supporting me -- I was able to go out there and try to honor his memory, and also help our team win a football game, and not try to take his place because that wasn't possible -- but to play my role, within the team to go on that playoff run. I hope people look at that and at least respect what we did that year, and what I was able to do within the team."
No matter what Redskins fans say about Doughty, and I've heard it all -- on the field, he is a versatile, savvy leader. Off the field he is a family man who stresses accountability and teamwork to get ahead. He's also a important part of Redskins history -- before, during and after the darkest moment in the franchise's 80 years.
The Redskins two game winning streak and offensive resurgence, is largely due to the next level play of Robert Griffin III. Of course, the return of Pierre Garcon has helped tremendously along with many other factors. Make no mistake, the Redskins scored a combined total of 25 points in their two games before the bye (Pittsburgh, Carolina) and a combined 69 points in their two games out of the break (Philadelphia, Dallas) because they have a dynamic play maker at the position that makes the most difference.
Sure, four passing touchdowns in each of the last two games is and was epic. Clearly, Robert is doing it with his arm - which is what he has stressed from day one about his skill set. He only had six rushing attempts for 29 yards on Thursday, with almost half of that total coming on one play.
Here's the bottom line. Griffin had two designed runs that set up and keyed touchdown drives. Simple, yet effective and kept a flowing Cowboys defense guessing and on their heels. At the end of the first quarter, on the Redskins third drive of the game, which would end with Aldrick Robinson's 68-yard touchdown - Griffin busted off a simple 9-yard gain on 2nd/6 on a designed QB jet to the right, with a read zone fake. The Redskins were in pistol, and they motioned Brandon Banks from the left to behind Alfred Morris, who was set behind Griffin. The execution was brilliant as Griffin carried out the fake, took off and had Banks running on his right wing to pitch if he wanted. The run and the design (getting the Cowboys over aggressive defense to be out of their comfort zone) would set up the touchdown, which we described in full detail in our previous blog, http://redskins.espn980.com/bloggers/chris-russell/item/732-redskins-cowboys-quick-snaps.
On the Niles Paul touchdown series, the Redskins were only up 28-13 after Dez Bryant turned the momentum in favor of the Cowboys just a few plays before. After a small gain on first down, Kyle Shanahan called a designed run/fake that Robert executed perfectly. Griffin took off to the left after the fake out of a 3 wide set, with Logan Paulsen lined up in a pre-snap motion H-back role. He sold it, ripped it out and took off untouched for 14 yards . The ball was placed at the 34 and the threat was on from there, igniting the offense as usual. Five plays later including one more run from Griffin III and the Redskins were back in the end zone again.
Bottom line, with a flowing, over aggressive defense - the Redskins knew they had a major advantage (before the game) and took advantage of it. In talking to a few sources that were involved in the game plan - Washington knew that Dallas was a chaotic, undisciplined disaster waiting to be exploited and they were put in their place.
Here's another question - which throw was better for Griffin III in the last two games? Both Aldrick Robinson touchdowns were spectacular. Santana Moss's touchdown before the half in Dallas to the back shoulder and away from coverage was fantastic. His 3rd & 2 pass to Moss to set up Alfred Morris' touchdown was an absolute bullet. For my money, the Robinson touchdown in Dallas was the best of them all - because of distance and where he placed the ball over Robinson's shoulder on a full run, not having to break stride. Just a brilliant read, call and execution.
It wasn't all perfect, as the defense was under siege in the fourth quarter - despite creating three turnovers and playing about as good for nearly 3 quarters as you can possibly expect. Robert Griffin III did throw one late fourth quarter interception on an overthrow, the first time that Washington had turned the ball over in nearly four games. That mistake led to another quick Dez Bryant touchdown because of where the Cowboys took over on the field (Washington -18).
Anybody that makes the mistake in thinking it was because the Redskins were in prevent defense the entire time or most of the 2nd half, is sadly mistaken. That's just not true. Jim Haslett was blitzing and gambling because he has no choice. Haslett knows the reality of the situation and how stretched for talent and pass rushers the Redskins are. That's also part of the reason why they claimed Jason Babin off waivers, who was awarded to Jacksonville.
Haslett knows that he can't play Cover-3 or Cover 2 or soft prevent defenses, and there were many examples of the aggressive plan being carried out in the 2nd half. I will try to detail that in another blog, but suffice to say - my eyes and the tape were not deceiving me.
Kai Forbath deserves major credit for his money kick from 48-yards out, that essentially iced the win for Washington. Of course, the Cowboys still had a chance to tie after that money kick, but the Skins defense was able to force a 51 yard field goal on a insanely long, late game drive of 13 plays for 46 yards. Forbath is now (10-10) with a perfect (7-7) coming from 40 + yards.
Robert Griffin III won the NFL Offensive Rookie of the month award for November (Surprise!). He was brilliant in the last two games, after a very rough start to the month (Carolina) and a bye week. He was named co-captain of the offense, and it was on from there. I think it's safe to say the Redskins have their quarterback of the future, as long as he can stay healthy. That's always going to be a concern, but even non mobile quarterbacks get hurt (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning).
The Washington Redskins have now done (at least for them) the almost unthinkable. They've actually won two football games in a row (had not happened since Week 1 & 2, 2011) and have done it in impressive motion. This has a much different feel than last year's back-to-back wins over the Giants & Arizona Cardinals - for many reasons.
Just six days ago, Redskins players woke up staring a must-win in the face and the task of avoiding another embarrassing loss at home, and to a rookie quarterback for a 9th consecutive time. The Redskins came out of the bye week with their hair on fire, and blasted Philadelphia into cheese steak hell, 31-6.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving Day in Dallas. A 28-point 2nd quarter ultimately proved to be the difference, along with some brilliant play by Robert Griffin III, clutch kicking by Kai Forbath and a dominating defensive effort in the 1st half. Even in the 2nd half, that Redskins fans are fretting about - Jim Haslett's troops came up with several monster plays to stuff a few turkeys named Romo, Garrett and Jones.
Before I fully watch the TV version & some of the coaching tape that gets posted (whenever they feel like it) on NFL.com -- here are some "Quick Snaps" thoughts and reaction to the Redskins 38-31 win that resembled what your kitchen looks like after Thanksgiving Day. What I mean by that, is a lot of delicious goodies that give you that happy, elated feeling but a lot to clean up afterwards.
***Let's start with Aldrick Robinson's 68 yard bomb touchdown, which was thrown perfectly in stride by Robert Griffin so that the dynamic Robinson could run full speed and catch it over his shoulder and in perfect stride, without the speedster having to slow down for even a half-second. Wow, what a throw and a nice route with similar components as his 49-yard score last Sunday against the Eagles. To me, this was more impressive for many reasons.
Robinson split the corner and safety on a scissor post route from the right side of the formation. The safety (Danny McCray) was caught flat-footed or was frozen for one second, because of one very important component. The Redskins ran this play out of a bunch run look. Washington had a twin H-Back type set, with Darrel Young and Logan Paulsen set behind the offensive line and split slightly in front and on both sides of Robert Griffin III.
The play before, had almost exactly the same formation with Paulsen running a left to right, stop-and-go motion and setting to Griffin's left, with Young to Griffin's right - while Alfred Morris was set behind the QB. Aldrick Robinson (on the play before TD) was lined up to the left of Griffin in a tighter alignment. Robinson tried to get a good start off the snap, and drew a false start.
On the TD, Paulsen ran motion from right to left halfway, before settling off-set right of Griffin. Young was to Griffin's left, with Morris once again lined up as part of the full house backfield look behind Griffin III. Washington ran a zone-read play action, as Robinson (on Griffin's right) got a free release and with the safety frozen - BINGO - for the touchdown and the Redskins SIXTH touchdown play of 60+ yards on the season.
One other interesting element of the play. Because it was the same exact play and formation (just flipped) when Aldrick Robinson broke the huddle - he tried to go back to the left side of the formation, before realizing that he was supposed to be on the right. In a flash, it was 7-3 Redskins and they were off to the races. You can get a better feel for how the Redskins drew this up schematically here, courtesy of Mark Bullock (@UKRedskin1) and by checking out his great timeline - pic.twitter.com/i0d1Lys7 .
**The touchdown eliminated Brandon Banks horrifying decision to catch a punt while back pedaling towards his own goal line. Officially, Banks was 'credited' with fielding the ball at the Washington 0-yard line and was knocked out of bounds at the Washington-7. Clearly, a mind numbing mistake that cost the Redskins 13-yards of field position. Mike Shanahan addressed the issue on Friday with reporters during a tele-conference, saying "we're going to take a hard look at it and make sure he makes the best decisions."
Sounds to me like they would consider putting someone else back in that role, but the question becomes who? Richard Crawford has been inactive the last few games. Santana Moss is too valuable as a receiving threat, with 7 touchdowns already and closing in on his best single season mark here in Washington. DeAngelo Hall has played on kick-off coverage this year, and of-course had the on-sides kick recovery to end the 38-31 win.
Shanahan also pointed out, when I asked him to grade Banks' performance - the key 3rd & 4 conversion he had on a quick pass for a first down. Banks slipped out of his break and still charged ahead for the first down. It was an 8-yard gain that came two plays before Pierre Garcon's 59-yard scoring catch and run.
I also thought it was interesting that on the Aldrick Robinson touchdown drive, which started with Banks' bad decision - he was immediately put back into the game and the offensive sets. On first down, Banks was in the backfield after a shift, on a Alfred Morris 4-yard run. The next play was a 9-yard gain out of the pistol by Robert Griffin III for a first down off the right side because of the threat Banks commands. After a Pierre Garcon catch and a Alfred Morris run of ten yards (the 54th run of 10 + per ESPN 980's Chuck Sapienza to lead the NFL), the Redskins dialed up the formation and scoring play that we wrote about earlier.
***Alfred Morris scored his 6th rushing touchdown of the year, and racked up 113 yards on 24 carries, to move to within 18 yards of the 1,000 mark. He would become the first Redskins RB to achieve that mark since Clinton Portis in 2008. Morris told me on "Monday Night Live" at Velocity 5 Lansdowne - that's the back he wants to be and why he first became a Redskins fan.
Morris racked up his fourth 100-yard rushing performance of the year, and per Redskins public relations - the last ten players (Royster, Helu, Morris, Griffin III) to rush for 100 yards in a game have all been rookies. He also has nine games in 2012 in which he has run for 75 or more yards, which puts him on the same line for that achievement as the great Adrian Peterson and also Marshawn Lynch.
Morris' touchdown was his first since the Minnesota win, and came out of the I-formation with a zone block to the right and a left side kick out block by Darrel Young who had several destructive blocks in the win. The most important play on the drive was a 3rd-and-2 seed to Santana Moss. It may have been Robert's most impressive throw of the day, which is pretty hard when you consider his back shoulder TD to Moss before the half and the Robinson bomb.
***So happy to see Niles Paul get rewarded for his continued improvement as a tight end. His 3rd/1 acrobatic touchdown catch that expanded the Redskins lead was a 29-yard catch and roll into the end zone. The play was so well designed that Paul could have had turkey dinner and leftovers before a Cowboys defender got near him. The play was actually on 3rd & inches, and the Redskins as you would expect gave a heavy run look with two tight ends (including Paul) and an I-stack in the formation
Robert Griffin III gave really a "show-me" fake, meaning it wasn't even a good one, but just more to create illusion and the Cowboys had two defenders including Ernie Sims cover Alfred Morris in the right flat for some unknown reason. Aldrick Robison (out of 1 WR set) and Logan Paulsen ran medium depth routes and Paul was free. He made a tough catch on a far from perfect throw as Robert was about to get popped. We mentioned Darrel Young..he had a huge cut block of DeMarcus Ware that gave Griffin a clear throwing lane.
Can you believe many fans wanted to cut Niles Paul? It's another case of Redskins fans being so passionate and angry, that they can't think with any common sense. I have received so many tweets and have seen/heard so many people talk about Niles. It truly was more ridiculous than even the Jim Haslett situation. Even after the touchdown, I faced that silly wrath. It's just so preposterous, I can't even begin to fathom the idea.
Remember, Niles Paul was far from a polished wide receiver in a option based, quarterback running scheme at Nebraska when he was drafted by the Redskins in 2011. He had no off-season in his first NFL year, then was asked to transform himself from a wide receiver to a tight end. DUH, it's going to take some time. Paul has made a big 37-yard catch in Pittsburgh and had a 22-yard catch against Carolina. It's not a huge statistical improvement but the best is yet to come.
NEW YORK (AP) The Dallas Cowboys are the first American sports franchise worth more than $2 billion, according to Forbes magazine.
The NFL's most valuable team for the sixth consecutive year, the Cowboys saw their overall worth increase 14 percent to $2.1 billion. That's about $1 billion higher than the average NFL team value, $1.11 billion, up 7 percent.
Only Manchester United of the English Premier League, at $2.24 billion, is more valuable than the Cowboys, according to Forbes' surveys. And Man U's owners, the Glazer family, also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are $1.033 billion, 18th in the NFL.
New TV contracts, the collective bargaining agreement signed last year that will last a decade, and higher premium seating revenue contributed to the increases. Every franchise except the Cincinnati Bengals increased in value; the Bengals stayed the same at $871 million, which ranks 26th overall.
With new stadiums in the works for the Vikings and 49ers, their values skyrocketed. Minnesota had a 22 percent increase to $975 million, while San Francisco moved up 19 percent to $1.175 billion.
Jimmy Haslam III bought the Cleveland Browns this summer for $1 billion, $13 million more than the value Forbes placed on the team, which ranks 21st.
Shahid Khan purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars for $770 million in January. Forbes values them at exactly that - the least valuable franchise in the league, $10 million less than the St. Louis Rams.
Rounding out the top five are New England ($1.635 billion), Washington ($1.6 billion), the New York Giants ($1.468 billion) and Houston ($1.305 billion).
The NFL schedule will be released next week. Lots of mock drafts out there, how 'bout a Redskins' mock schedule. It includes a road opener against the Eagles, a Monday nighter home opener against Dallas, and a season-ending home game against the Giants. Here it is.