The Redskins head into the bye week 3-1 and feeling good about a successful first quarter of the season. If it feels like a while since the team has gone into the bye feeling good, it's because it has. Sunday was the first time the team has won a game just before the break since 2005, when they beat a certain division rival 14-13 on Monday Night Football (you may or may not remember that game).
There have been several developments so far that have gone as most expected - the defense is improved, the running game has caught on at times, and it's clear that the team has more players that fit their respective schemes on each side of the ball.
But there are still some surprising developments so far, most of which being on the positive side of things. Here is a look at some of the surprises that have stood out to me so far through the first quarter of the Redskins season.
4. Rocky McIntosh - Much has been made of the Redskins' linebacking corps, but the forgotten man might be McIntosh, who has had a strong start to his season.
In the offseason, with McIntosh being an unrestricted free agent, most fans were content with letting second year man Perry Riley take a stab at being the starting inside linebacker alongside London Fletcher. But in a mildly surprising move, the team brought McIntosh back on a one-year deal to return as the starter.
McIntosh is making the Redskins brain trust look pretty smart so far, as the strong start to his season is one of the more surprising developments through the season's first quarter. Through four games, McIntosh leads the team with 27 total tackles (17 solo) to go along with a sack, three QB hits and two pressures.
But what's been most surprising so far has been McIntosh's ability to excel in pass coverage. In his second year in the 3-4, he seems to have a better grasp of coverage assignments and is far more decisive when closing in on his man to make an unassisted tackle in space. If Rocky plays like this the rest of the season, it'll be interesting to see if they will sign him to the multiyear contract he's been wanting for the past two offseasons.
3. Sav Rocca – Yes, the punter. It’s been a revolving door at this spot for the better part of a decade for the Redskins, and they may have finally found one who can lock that position down for a while. Rocca’s performance has been so impressive that it begs the question – why did the Eagles let him go? It’s certainly a head scratcher, but the Redskins will take it. And given that the defense is this team’s strength at the moment, he’ll be a huge asset moving forward.
Rocca leads the NFL in punts inside the 20 with twelve. His 63 yarder in the Rams game with three minutes left was one of the pivotal plays of the game, giving a defense who was dominating more breathing room. This team hasn’t found its identity yet, but their two biggest strengths right now are their defense and running game. Should they begin to lean on those two areas as the season goes on, playing the field position game will be all the more critical.
2 . The state of the NFC East: If you were to poll most NFL fans and pundits just before the season started asking what the NFC East standings would look like through four weeks, the consensus would probably be the opposite of what wound up occurring.
As we sit here just prior to Week 5, the Redskins and Giants sit atop the division while the Dallas Cowboys and the "Dream Team" Philadelphia Eagles reside in the lower half. Will this stay the way it is? Who knows. As a whole, the division has big time talent in certain spots, and looks to be topsy-turvy each week. The way things are shaping up so far, it seems like each team will simply beat one another up as the season goes on, and the team that can squeak out a 10-6 record will come out the winner. But it’s very early, of course. Things could certainly change.
1 . Ryan Kerrigan’s development: One thing that stuck with me about the Redskins drafting of Ryan Kerrigan was what NFL Network Draft Expert Mike Mayock, whom I respect a lot, said the moment he was drafted:
"He played with his hand in the dirt his whole life. So you're talking about a transition player with the 16th pick," Mayock said. "That's always risky. But I think you mitigate that risk when you talk about the work-ethic and toughness."
To me, that was the essence of this selection. Granted, Kerrigan flashed enough athletic ability at the combine to convince the Redskins front office that he could make a smooth transition to linebacker. But it's been his intangibles (still hate that buzzword) that have served him as much, if not more than, his athleticism.
With Kerrigan, not only has he shown to be a hard worker, but a quick learner as well. Because of that, he's been able to make plays while learning, which has helped the defense play ahead of schedule, if that makes sense.
One of the biggest things that stood out to NFL teams about Kerrigans tenure at Purdue was the fact that he was a playmaker. With a Big Ten record 14 forced fumbles to go along with 33.5 sacks and 57 tackles for losses, Kerrigan had a knack for making impact plays besides getting to the passer.
Now? As a standup linebacker, he is second among rookies with 2.5 sacks, but leads all first year players with four pass deflections. He's also the only rookie so far to score a defensive touchdown. New position, still a playmaker.
Daniel covers the Redskins for SBNation DC in addition to contributing to Hogs Haven. Follow him on Twitter at @dshif