Friday, October 14, 2011

2011 1st Qtr. Thoughts

("Good Rex" showed up for the Giants game, but we haven't seen as much of him since.)
 I know the pundits are saying that the 'Skins could be 4-0 or 0-4 and I know that many have said that the Skins are one of the worst 3-1 teams in the league. That said, the 'Skins are 3-1. Period. Are they one of the best teams in the league? To be honest, watching teams like Buffalo, New England, Green Bay, Detroit and New Orleans (just to name a few) I'd have to say no. But, at this point in the season, the Redskins are doing enough of the right things to find success and pull off wins.

This is clearly a better Redskins team than it was last year. These four games show this clearly. Last year the Redskins couldn't hang with the Giants. Injuries wouldn't have mattered, the 'Skins couldn't beat them. This year, the 'Skins win by 14. Last year the 'Skins would have blown the lead to Arizona (like they did with Houston) and would have been able to come back. This year, they lost the lead but came back and won the game. Last year the 'Skins would have blown a lead against St. Louis and lost the game badly. This year the 'Skins started to squander a 17 point lead but held on late to win by 7.

Want to know why? Well most Redskins fans (including some guy who writes a blog named after a popular sports catchphrase) will tell you that it starts in the trenches. They are right. The defensive line has radically improved and with a strong line the linebackers can do their jobs and the DBs don't have as much pressure on them to be perfect on every play. The defense is currently ranked 3rd in the league with points allowed (15.8 PPG average), is 6th in the league with yardage per game allowed (296.5 YPG, worth noting they are 2nd best in the NFC behind Dallas) and are tied for 4th in the league with sacks (15). At this point the Skins are on pace to have 60 sacks this season (last season the Redskins couldn't do have of that and finished 2010 with 29.0 sacks). What is worth noting the most is that the Redskins are currently 1st in the league in preventing 3rd down conversions. I know the Dallas 3rd and 21 conversion will be burned in our brains for a long time, but that was only 1 of 13 conversions that has happened out of 50 tries. 26% is pretty impressive compared to last year's number (35%). Against both the run and the pass, the Redskins are about 50 yards better than the 2010 version.

The O-line has also been a major factor in the team's success. I still think they can get better as the season progresses. So far the Skins are averaging 126.8 YPG on the ground compared to 91.2 YPG in 2010. What might be worth noting is that the coaches have been more determined to run the ball this year compared to 2010. The Skins are in the top 10 in sacks allowed (8) but are in the middle of the pack with hits allowed (24). The Redskins tend to be in the middle of the pack with most other categories including 3rd down conversions (37%) and YPG (356.0). What is worth noting is that the 'Skins are 2nd in the league in time of possession which is key for a team that still struggles to score (20.8 PPG, 22nd in the league). What will be key as the season continues will be how much the 'Skins will rely on the run compared to the pass. But most importantly the season may come down to the Redskins biggest wild card: Rex Grossman.

 I'm not convinced that Grossman will be better than what we've seen during his tenure. Grossman at times looks brilliant and at other times looks down right horrible. His play will play a significant outcome in the Redskins final record. Rich Campbell of The Times wrote an article about it and I completely agree with him. Grossman needs to find his targets and to get rid of the ball when he has to. It's the bad decisions and the fumbles that kills the 'Skins. Hopefully we'll see more of the "Good Rex" and less of the "Bad Rex" as the season continues.

News and Notes
- The Redskins are currently 2-0 at home on the season. Last year they went 2-6 at FedEx field. The Redskins can do well if they can take advantage of the home field. If you win the fans will come and many Redskins fans keep showing up to support the team despite a decade of mediocrity.

-Chris Cooley ties Mike Ditka in career catches for a TE despite an ailing knee.

- Could Ryan Kerrigan be the Defensive Rookie of the Year? If he keeps playing at this level, I have to say yes. So far he has 17 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 FFs, 1 INT and a TD. Incredibly impressive.

- Sav Rocca has been a godsend for the Redskins. Not only does the Eagles lose a good punter, but the Skins get a punter that really helps change field position. 12 punts inside the 20 with no touchbacks is very impressive.

-Playcalling has been a bit of an issue both on the O and D sides of the ball. The Redskins have shown that they are willing to be aggressive with the blitz and the pass. Coming from Joe Gibbs' conservative approach, sometimes it's hard to swallow especially with the offense. Most especially when the 'Skins make mistakes or lose. Yes, this is monday morning quarterbacking at it's finest but it's still a nagging point for me.

- The Sporting News and some other outlets are already eating crow as they had the Skins at 2-14. Many draftniks have also been re-arranging their mock drafts as it looks like the 'Skins won't be participating in the "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes. Recent mocks have had the 'Skins targeting either a DE or ILB. I'm still convinced they're targeting a just won't be Luck (barring a Ricky Williams caliber trade).

- I'm still standing pat on my 8-8 record. The Skins have played well and I'm pretty happy by the performance, but I know the way this franchise has played in previous years and until they can beat teams that they should and continue to prove that they can win at home, I'm sticking to 8-8. I'll re-visit this is week 9.

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