Making Friends With the Enemy: Eagles vs Skins 9/21/14
In this installment of MFWE our good friend and Washington Sports obsessive Pete Curtin returns to answer some questions about the division rival!
1. DeSean Jackson has had a few months in town at this point. Any headaches yet?
There haven’t been headaches, but there hasn’t been anything to be too happy about either. He hasn’t caused any particularly big ripples in the locker room, on the field, off the field, or in front of the media. That may be precisely the problem. DeSean Jackson was Washington’s biggest offseason acquisition and he has yet to make an impact. It’s only been two weeks and he was injured early against the Jags, but you would have thought or at least hoped that we would have seen SOMETHING by now. Apart from a long completion in the 1st quarter against Jacksonville that was incorrectly ruled an incompletion, he has yet to be the game-changer he was brought in to be.
2. The nation seems to be down on the ability of RGIII, is DC not believing in him too?
This is a very contentious issue that brings out the worst in every fan, so let’s all take a moment to compose ourselves … okay … There are many fans of the Washington Football Team who are down on the abilities of Robert Griffin III. Those fans are convinced that Kirk Cousins is a superior option and, potentially, is a franchise QB. These are people I do not understand.
Kirk Cousins has, to this point, done very little as a professional quarterback apart from throw or hand the ball to the other team. He looked good in relief duty against Jacksonville, but it’s Jacksonville. He faced no pass rush whatsoever and a secondary that could not prevent Niles Paul, a tight end in his first career start, from getting wide open all afternoon.
Cousins, when given first-team reps and a full week of practice and preparation, has actually been worse than he has been coming off the bench in relief duty. His career numbers and turnover rate are both beyond abysmal, and the closest statistical comparison is Mark Sanchez in his worst season as a Jet. This is a quarterback who has never faced a good defense.
I believe and I worry that Kirk Cousins is awful. I guess I’ll have to hope I’m wrong.
There is nobody in Washington who remains convinced that Robert Griffin III is a quarterback you can count on being able to build around. Even though this injury is kind of flukey, this is his third major injury in six years. I still think that Robert Griffin III could be a very, very good quarterback IF he can stay healthy. And for him, that is one massive “if”. Health is not completely luck and chance. Health is a skill, and it’s a skill he apparently doesn’t have.
3. The unicycle: Man’s worst means of transportation?
It’s duking it out with those sneakers from the early ‘00s that had tiny, useless wheels that popped out of the bottom. Those were a colossal disappointment. Remember when everyone thought that having those was going to be like having roller blades or sneakers at a given moment? Then one person in your class actually got them and you realized how much they sucked. They are neither sneakers, nor rollerblades. They serve no useful or practical purpose, and they suck. Unicycles are bad too.
4. How has Jay Gruden been in his first two games as a head coach?
I have no idea how to evaluate anything about the Jaguars game. I don’t remember seeing a team that was that bad at everything about professional football. [Editors note: this was written prior to the Atlanta/Tampa Bay game on Thursday night!] Was some of that the Redskins playing well? Okay, yes, but I would posit it’s not hard to play well against a team that cannot block, cover, tackle, or throw.
How was Gruden’s gameplan against the Jaguars? I have no idea. I think a lot of gameplans would look good against that team. I liked his gameplan against Houston. He was very aware of the fact that we would be blocking JJ Watt, the best defensive player in the League by a mile and maybe the only defensive player in the League capable of impacting a game the way quarterbacks do, with Tyler Polumbus. Tyler Polumbus might be the worst starting offensive lineman in the League. It’s very possible. He designed a gameplan based on quick, short reads that got the ball out of the pocket quickly. JJ Watt still ended up eating our offensive line alive, but if you had told me before the game that we would hold the Watt-Clowney led pass rush to three sacks, I probably would have taken it.
Alfred Morris also had a good day, rushing for 91 yards on 14 carries. Two turnovers inside the Houston 10 yard line and poor special teams play, including a blocked extra point and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown, were the difference in the game. I don’t put any of that on Jay Gruden. That’s on the players.
5. What is your expectation of the Skins defense? Are they a good unit?
The early returns are positive, but evaluating the defense is very similar to evaluating Gruden. But based on what I’ve seen the front 7 looks very good. Keenan Robinson, finally given his chance after tearing a pectoral in back-to-back years, looks to be a massive upgrade over London Fletcher’s corpse. Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo have supplied pressure, with Kerrigan recording four of Washington’s ten sacks against Jacksonville.
The problem with Washington’s pass rush for several years has been a lack on interior pressure. Kerrigan and Orakpo would bring the heat from the outside, and opposing QBs would have a perfectly clean pocket to step up into. Jason Hatcher has looked very good to this point. I was critical of that signing at the time – Hatcher faded badly in the second half of last season, too old, too much money, too many years – but he has looked very impressive to this point.
The secondary has still looked bad. They have completely missed assignments and left Wide Receivers running free. Ryan Fitzpatrick and DeAndre Hopkins punished them for it. Chad Henne and Marcedes Lewis would have as well, if Lewis hadn’t dropped a long pass without a defender within 10 yards. The secondary’s tackling issues still remain, but Brandon Merriweather returns this week, which means that the tackling will be better … and then flagged for fifteen yards, followed by a letter from the NFL asking Brandon Merriweather for money and telling him to take a few weeks off.
Eagles win and cover the spread (-7). Cousins throws at least 2 Interceptions and the defense spends the afternoon trying and unsuccessfully to tackle LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles. I’m also placing the Over/Under for the number of replay shots of Redskins defenders clearly thinking “Oh fuck, we’re not trying to tackle Toby Gerhart this week” at 33. Have a blast, Iggles fans. I hate you all.