1. Before I get into this week's Ten Yard Fight, I think at least some additional comment is warranted regarding yesterday's story I put out about the defensive playcalling situation. First and foremost--I can't express how much respect and admiration I have for the beat writers who are around the team constantly getting stories. Their opinion matters more than most people's opinions (to me) and so you have to consider that they are digging in places I am unable to dig as well as apply their own common sense to any story that comes out. I would not have run with that story if I wasn't comfortable with the source and the information--it is my name on it after all. I take zero offense to anyone drawing their own conclusions and deciding for themselves what they want to believe. In fact, that's kind of what we're all about here, isn't it? A LOT of people read this site and enjoy our coverage of our favorite team--we understand the responsibility that goes with that...and so do the people we trust that provide us information. Perhaps our motto should be, "Come for the analysis, commentary and inside skinny...stay for the typos and penis jokes."
2. Despite what some would think, there is nothing that is going to keep me from tailgating my guts out this weekend, and cheering my heart out for the burgundy and gold. It's true that we have very obvious deficiencies on defense, but there are reasons to point to already that tell me this team is on its way up. I am beyond encouraged by what I have seen so far, but no, I am not making any Super Bowl travel plans. I thought it would be a good thing to tick off a few of the things that have me excited about the immediate and long-term future of this team. (SPOILER ALERT: Robert Griffin is one of them.)
3. As I said on our podcast last night, you have to tip your hat to Mike and Kyle Shanahan for their willingness to design an offense around the strengths of their players, even if that offense has not necessarily been employed with great success in the NFL. This seems so easy and obvious, but guys with Hall of Fame credentials like Mike Shanahan routinely battle with their own ego on this stuff. Kudos to Shanny for knowing that he will be considered an even greater coach for occasionally changing his own ways instead of only changing the ways of the players he coaches.
4. Is anyone else a little amazed at how fast you have become supremely confident in our rookie quarterback? From the first series against New Orleans, Robert Griffin has not resembled the kind of player on which you reserve judgement. The verdict came in rather fast, which is telling because he had to play well enough to weed through the hype. Our expectations were set so high, there was little chance he could meet or exceed them. So much for that...we got ourselves a "guy." You can win a lot of games with a "guy."
5. We'll keep the offensive adoration going here and move on to the next most obvious player that has not only been a breath of fresh air, but is also a guy that could be contributing to this team for years to come: Alfred Morris. What I love most about Alf is his lack of cuteness with the ball. If he makes a cut at all, it is the "one-cut-and-go" that everyone associates with Shanny's scheme. He goes north and he gets extra yards. I love his energy and determination throughout the game and I appreciate the fact that he had to earn his place coming out of the sixth round. As much as this fanbase obsesses over quarterbacks, we also do love us some running backs. Long live Alf!
6. It is a tough week to single out our free agent wide receivers (Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan) for very obvious reasons--absence due to injury and an untimely penalty. Instead, I would like to talk up two second-year guys. Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson are contributing meaningfully right now. Neither are making Pro Bowl bids, so let's not get too carried away (someone on this site has a nasty man-crush on Hank the Tank), but getting production from young receivers has been...kind of a problem for us. Any time you can see progress, improvement and production from your young players, you are doing great. For the Redskins to be building quality depth at the wide receiver position is a real positive story.
7. Just to build on that last point a bit--Kevin mentioned that Fred Davis is tied for most targets on this team, but Griffin is showing us all that he is not the kind of rookie that is 100% reliant on the tight end security blanket. He is hitting wide receivers with regularity, and at every level of the field (short, intermediate and deep). Imagine that...a passing game built around a solid corps of wide receivers! That's just crazy enough to work.
8. Did you know that Ryan Kerrigan has not missed a snap in 18 regular season games (h/t to Grant Paulsen on that)? It is one thing to be a "high motor" guy, but he is turning into a freaking Honda Civic. I sincerely hope that Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson can do enough on the opposite side of the line to help draw at least some attention away from Ryan. Regardless, Kerrigan is a blindingly bright spot on this defense and on this team. Fans have heavily invested themselves in him--I think if he was a stock, he'd be Apple. The sky's the limit for him, and for our team as long as he is on it.
9. You can't have hope for the future without young players in reserve. Our offense has been largely powered by Robert Griffin and Alfred Morris...so far. There are two players I get excited about when I look at our bench because I believe they strengthen our ability to carry on in the unfortunate event of an injury. I'll start with Roy Helu. Evan Royster deserves some love as well--you would be right to argue with me that he deserves more attention right now than Helu, but today I will suggest that Roy gives us something off the bench that Evan does not. When Helu broke Art Monk's single-game reception record last season, it was rather eye-opening. Granted, Rex Grossman had barely enough time to find Helu in the flat to get him the ball, but it was still an impressive stat line. He has home run potential whenever he touches the ball and he is big enough to break tackles and get crucial yards. The fact that we aren't relying on him to be our workhorse right now bodes well for us since we are inserting a fresh Helu into the game at key moments.
10. You didn't think I was going to wax poetic about the future and our young depth without mentioning Kirk Cousins, did you? While Cousins does provide us potential value on a number of fronts, he is only valuable as trade bait when another team offers us sweet, sweet draft picks and he is only valuable as a starter when he proves it on the field in the regular season. Often, those two go hand-in-hand, so in theory, Griffin would have to get hurt for Cousins to establish his value to anyone. Nobody is rooting for that. In the meantime, we are doing the essential work of developing multiple signal-callers. That's what good teams do. Maybe, just maybe, that is as much of a sign as any that we are turning into a good team.