Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Torn: 'Skins @ Seahawks Game Recap and Team Analysis

(To win or not to win? That's me being ripped apart by the 'Skins)
You have to understand something before I get into The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of this game. This game (and probably the next five) will be hard for me to watch. It's not just that the Redskins are bad; they're bad enough to put themselves in a spot to draft a potential franchise quarterback in the 2012 draft. So I'm torn on what I want the Redskins to do for the rest of the season. First and foremost, I want the team to win or at least that should be the normal thought of a football fan. Games aren't fun to watch when your team is losing. Where is the fun seeing the team give up a big run or pass play? Where is the fun when they can't make an extra point or make the dumbest penalty that costs the team a score? Where is the fun to see your quarterback get picked off when he throws into triple coverage? I pay to go see the Redskins for eight games a year. Why in the world would I want to pay hundreds of dollars to see my team lose? Maybe because the losses could be more valuable than wins for the remainder of the season.......

Of course I know the season is over. The best thing to do with the 'Skins is to watch some of the rookies develop. Maurice Hurt has been alright in two starts and barring further injury, he should get a chance to start in five more games. Roy Helu has shown his talents including being able to hurdle. Part of me doesn't have a problem with the team losing is the younger players are getting a chance and we're setting ourselves up for future seasons. Matter of fact, I've accepted it in a way. I figured last week that if the 'Skins lost it wouldn't affect me that much. Plus, I picked against them in my pick'em league (the smart choice to be honest). So with a 'Skins loss I get a point in pick'em and the 'Skins get a better hold on a draft pick. But there are no guarantees in drafting a quarterback high. I mean hell, look at the last three 1st round quarterbacks the 'Skins have drafted: Jason Campbell, Patrick Ramsey and Heath Shuler. Shuler was the highest of the three taken and he was horrible. So horrible that he lost his starting job to Gus Frerotte.
(Gus Frerotte: the only QB to knock himself out of a game)
 So, the draft is never a guarantee on what you're getting. The 'Skins may be able to find say the next Jay Cutler or it might be the next JaMarcus Russel, you never know. That said, the higher draft pick means more options. If most of the talented underclassmen QBs enter the draft, then the Redskins have a literal smorgasbord  of options to choose from and that means a better chance of getting their guy (plus better options in future rounds as well). It also give the option for the 'Skins to trade back if it means more 2nd and 3rd round picks but still getting their guy later in the first round. Mike Shanahan has shown through two years of drafts that he does have an eye for talent and how it relates to his scheme. Which brings me to my final thought on this issue: Mike Shanahan isn't going to keep his job by accumulating high draft picks, it'll be by winning games and getting the Redskins into the playoffs.

Dan Snyder has been patient and quiet when it comes to Shanahan's tenure. Obviously this wouldn't have been the case with former Redskin coaches but I think Snyder knows that this may be the last high profile and winning coach that would touch this team with a ten foot pole. But overall I still believe that Shanahan and Bruce Allen are on the right track. Before you jump to conclusions and say I'm a big fan of Mike Shanahan from his Denver days, you'd be more than wrong. When the word was leaked during the Zorn era that it was down to Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden, I wanted Gruden. The team has been in need of continuity and a overhaul in talent for a while and it's taking Shanahan 2-3 solid drafts to get the team where it needs to be to contend. He hasn't been perfect by any stretch. Mistakes with McNabb, Haynesworth and John Beck have been glaring. That said, I see some progression in a team that's little in depth and battered. None of it matters though if Shanahan can't prove that his changes are working and that's done through winning games. If the Redskins finished 3-13 they would be in the top 5 in the draft, but does that help the players that will be here have confidence in their coaches and schemes? Does it convince Dan Snyder that they are a draft/free agency off-season away from getting back to respectability? I don't think so. If anything, Snyder might want to pull the cord again to bring in another coach who would draft his QB but have another amalgam of players that don't fully fit his scheme. That's been the problem with the Redskins since Snyder bought the team and hired/fired his carousel of coaching staffs.

I'm all in with Mike Shanahan. I can't go through another HC change and deal with the false hope, excuses of not having the right players ad having to learn yet another scheme that comes with every coaching change. The team needed the win more than the fans and the franchise this week. It's not like the Redskins are going to win the remaining five games. Matter of fact, they'll be lucky if they win another game this year. Yes, the win set the 'Skins back a back in terms of a draft pick but they should be able to move around with a couple of additional picks that they have. Shanahan will find his QB this year. He really has no choice with Grossman's split personality (Good Rex vs. Bad Rex) and that John Beck really has me missing Todd Collins and Colt Brennan. The 'Skins need to find their franchise in 2012 and it will happen.

The game itself was a sloppy mess and full of mistakes, bad play and errors. It didn't look nearly as good as the game against the Cowboys the week before. But I'd rather take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day. Let's look at the The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and let me get back to writing articles on the upcoming draft.

The Good

Roy Helu (23 carries, 108 yds 1TD; 7 catches, 54 yards)- The most irritating thing for many fans and fantasy players is the simple question: Why hasn't Helu started/given more touches sooner? I know he has struggled with pass blocking and reading blitzes but the guy is dynamic and clearly Ryan Torain is on his way out of DC. You know it to be true when fellow rookie Evan Royster gets carries over Torain.

Trent Williams- Prior to this game ex-Redskin Chris Clemons had eight sacks on the season. After this game, he still had eight sacks and was held to two measly tackles. Williams needs more games like this to prove to the fans that he was worth #4 overall in 2010.

O-line- Gave up 1 sack. Gave Rex Grossman a pocket most of the game with minimal hurries/hits. Helped open enough holes to let Roy Helu do his thing and have the team gain 110 yards on the ground.

Fred Davis (4 catches, 83 yards 1 TD)- Davis had a great opening drive and then just disappeared until the 4th quarter. This has been an issue all season. The blocking has also been inconsistent. That said, he looked good in that lone drive.

Anthony Armstrong (1 catch, 50 yards 1 TD)- Maybe this is a sign of hope for Armstrong. Normally, this ball would have been dropped or Armstrong would have not gotten into position to make the play (jammed by the CB) but this time he caught a perfect throw by Grossman to win the game.

Kyle Shanahan- The playcalling has been good for the past two weeks. It helps that the team is executing but it also has been harder to predict what's coming next. Another good sign.

Jim Haslett- Guy has balls, I'll give him that. He showed the cover zero look at least twice in critical 3rd downs late in the game. In one of those two looks, he sent the zero blitz (more or less anybody not playing man on a WR) and it worked with LaRon Landry getting a sack on Tavaris Jackson. The second time, he faked the blitz and dropped guys into coverage.

DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson- This week the corner play was excellent, so much so that Hall was named NFC defensive player of the week. The funny this is that they could have even played better. Both dropped and INT in the game.

Perry Riley (14 tackles, 6 solo)- Going with London Fletcher's 11 tackles, it looks like the Redskins have finally found their ILBs in the 3-4.

The Bad
Graham Gano- I don't really blame him for the two blocked FG/XP, but there has concern that he doesn't lift the ball high enough which makes it easier to block the ball. Secondly, after having the XP blocked, Gano goes and kicks the ball out of bounds on the ensuing kickoff. Very bad day.

Special Teams O-line- horrific blocking by Will Montgomery and Chris Chester leads to a blocked FG and XP.

Danny Smith- Just no excuse for such poor special teams play. 5 blocked FG/XPs this season. Another costly penalty by Terrence Austin during a PR. Poor blocking on both PR and KR all season. Only good thing going for 'teams is that KO and PR coverage has been excellent in 2011.

Mistakes- An illegal chop block by Helu knocks the 'Skins out of FG range on the 2nd drive. Jabar Gaffney steps out of bounds on what should have been a TD that leads to a blocked FG. Bad Rex interceptions. Illegal block in the back nullifies a Banks punt return. Delay of game penalty puts the 'Skins into 3rd and 9. This is stuff they really need to clean up if they are to succeed.

3rd down conversions- Offense still can't convert on 3rd down going 3/10 on Sunday.

The Refs- horrible and inconsistent calls made again by the league. The Josh Wilson PI call was an utter joke. But then they failed to call a legitimate PI call on Landry later in the game. Games should be won by the teams and not by the refs. This could be the worst year I've seen officiating in the almost 30 years of being a football fan.

The Ugly

Rex Grossman "Is What He Is"- There is no changing that. As a starter he's below where you want him to be in the league. He'll give you this type of game (26/35, 314 2TD 2INT) but he can have the 4 INT game like he did against the Eagles. You just don't know what you're getting with him. He makes some great decisions and some poor ones. But usually the poor ones are really poor. He is the best solution for the Redskins right now and I have to think you re-sign him at the end of the year. He may be starting in 2012 people, you're just going to have to accept that while the 'Skins groom the new kid. The good thing about Grossman is that the players have his back. He gets them the ball and they can live with the mistakes even if the fans can't. It's clear that Grossman can move the ball in this system and do well.

There are veterans that are clearly on the bubble- There are a few guys that will be free agents at the end of this year and I'm not fully convinced that they'll be back. Matter of fact, I'm not sure the 'Skins are willing to spend the money to keep them in DC. The reason is that they just aren't performing to the level you expect them to be playing. Same goes with a few guys who I think are under contract in 2012. I'll let the year play out before I start mentioning names that I'm noticing, but here's a hint: I see three of them mentioned in this article. This is my speculation, but if I'm noticing a lack of performance then I have to think the coaches are noticing it as well.

'Skins need to keep running the ball- Look at the time of possession. Good teams take a lead and run the clock. The 'Skins did this a bit on Sunday and need to keep doing this. Look, the Redskin teams that have succeeded over the years have done so because they can RUN THE BALL. Joe Gibbs won that way and so did Mike Shanahan in Denver. I know you're thinking "But Al, Shanny only won Superbowls in Denver with Elway." True, but he had Davis then and an excellent blocking O-line. Shanahan's scheme is still predicated by the run, everything else works only if the run game works. Look at the Texans, they can start a rookie 3rd string QB because the run game is dominant and can help him set up bootlegs and play action.

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