When the Redskins beat the Eagles on
Thursday Saturday night football they also won their 600th game, their 15th division title and earned a berth in the playoffs for the 25th time in the 84-year history of the franchise. It also marked just the second time ever that they had jumped from last place to first in the course of a single season (the other was in 2012). They exceeded their win total in their last two seasons combined with just their eight wins in the 2015 campaign alone.
It's amazing to think that the team was able to accomplish this turnaround in just the first year under new general manager Scot McCloughan's watch. In the offseason, I pointed out how these three articles essentially proved that McCloughan was one of the very best drafting general managers in the NFL and that he was more than capable of turning this franchise around. But even knowing that, I am still surprised at just how quickly he has done it.
Some people want to praise him, while others may rip the team for winning the division by default; but what both groups of people probably do not realize is that this is the quickest turnaround for a McCloughan team yet. The 49ers did not win eight games until his fifth and final year in San Francisco and both of his stints with the Seahawks front office started with losing records. In all three of those instances, his teams had won more than the seven total games that the Redskins did in 2013 and 2014 in the two years combined prior to his arrivals.
It also needs to be noted that he didn't just luck into this success either. Sure the Redskins didn't play in a great division, but they also didn't face what was an unusually easy schedule either. Going into last week the Redskins had faced a middle-of-the-road schedule based purely on wins and losses (tied for 17th), but according to some of the more advanced rankings they've had somewhere between the 8th and 10th easiest schedule. However, the Texans, Jets, Patriots and Panthers have all played a bottom third schedule according to those measures as well, and I don't hear many people questioning their success. The Redskins also had to play three of the league's best teams on the road and were tied for the NFL lead for the most 2015 games versus opponents coming off of extra rest (5).
The football gods did not spare the Redskins on the injury front either. They've placed the seventh most players on injured reserve and have lost the fifth most man games due to injury. Starters or presumed starters Shawn Lauvao, Kory Lictensteiger, DeSean Jackson, Niles Paul, Stephen Paea, Junior Galette, Keenan Robinson, Perry Riley, Duke Ihenacho and Chris Culliver were all either lost for extended stretches or for the season altogether.
So it's not as if Scot McCloughan and the 2015 Redskins just tripped and fell into a division title. Things were not always particularly easy for this team and they had to persevere and gel together to get to where they are today. And even if the skeptics are right about the Redskins being a sub-standard playoff team that gets knocked out of the tournament quickly and with ease, then that's okay. The Redskins aren't an elite team and they're not supposed to be yet. This is about Scot McCloughan's rebuilding of the Redskins' roster; and transforming it from the type of one that has embarrassed its city and fan base for the better part of the last 20 years and into one that now sits atop one of the most iconic divisions in sports history.
Things could not have gone much better than they did in the first year of Scot McCloughan's tenure. Don't be surprised when he takes home the Executive of the Year award next month; I know I won't be.
Offensive Snaps and Takeaways:
- The offense totaled 75 snaps in the game, which represents the team's fourth highest offensive snap count of the season and their highest total since the first game against the Eagles in Week 4 (85 snaps). Josh LeRibeus, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Thomas and Alex Smith matched or set a season high in snaps. LeRibeus and Reed played on a career-high 75 and 66 snaps respectively. Chris Thompson's 8 snaps represented his second least amount of playing time this year, while Pierre Thomas' 32 snaps were his most since Week 14 of last season.
- Kirk Cousins lit the Eagles up to the tune of 365 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions on 46 attempts, good for a QB rating of 120.3. In doing so he extended his streak of games with a passing touchdown to 15, which is tied with three other players (Brady, Bortles and Wilson) for the active lead in the NFL and ties the second longest such streak in Redskins history (Joe Theismann (1984-1985). He is nine games away from breaking Sonny Jurgensen's franchise record of 23 straight games with a passing TD. Cousins joined Jurgensen as the only QBs in team history with at least three games with four touchdowns and no interceptions. It took Jurgensen his career to do that, while Cousins accomplished it in his first year as a starter. Cousins also tied the team marks for most games in a season with a passer rating of 100 or higher (8) and the most such consecutive games (5).
- It's hard to argue that Cousins isn't playing at an extremely high level this year when you realize that he currently ranks in the top ten in yards per attempt (10th), adjusted net yards per pass attempt (9th), sack percentage (9th), passing yards (8th), passer rating (7th), QBR (7th), DYAR (7th), game winning drives (7th), DVOA (6th), rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (2nd) and completion percentage (first). And those are virtually all efficiency stats and not ones that he could have compiled on the strength of a high volume of plays or pass attempts.
- Alfred Morris (17-49) and Pierre Thomas (4-22) combined to rush for 71 yards on 21 attempts (3.34 yards per carry). Cousins' five rushes for negative four yards brought the team average down to 2.58 yards per attempt. This was the franchise record-tying eighth game this season in which Washington has rushed for less than three yards per carry. The only other time that this occurred was in the team's brutal one-win 1961 season. It's a good thing that this team has what's becoming a high-powered pass attack. A passing attack that now includes Pierre Thomas, who caught seven balls on Saturday. That is tied for the seventh most receptions by a Redskins running back since 1999.
- I could go in depth about Josh LeRibeus having another bad game (three hurries allowed and the lowest PFF grade on the offense), but we've talked about the team's struggles at the center position to death here. We've also touched on the many good things that have been done by tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses; so I thought this time we'd take at least a quick look at Redskins' young guards Brandon Scherff and Spencer Long. Long is only one of six guards with over 500 snaps to have not allowed a single sack all season. He is also one of just four guards with over 500 snaps that has not been called for an accepted penalty.
- In Weeks 1-9 of the season, Brandon Scherff was Pro Football Focus' 67th rated guard (-7.7 with 25 total pressures allowed. Per PFF's Ben Stockwell, Scherff is a top ten guard in PFF ratings since Week 10 (he's actually number 11 now with a grade of 9.8). Scherff has only allowed ten pressures in that span and improved as a run blocker (grade up to 5.3 from 3.3). Stockwell also pointed out that his play in this stretch is comparable to Zack Martin's performance in the second half of his all-pro rookie season (overall grade of 11.4 in that span). Scherff has a higher grade than Martin since Week 10 of this season (9.8 to 8.2).
- Pierre Garcon had one of his best games since his record-breaking 2013 campaign. Garcon hauled in seven catches for four first downs, 80 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles. He had not exceeded six receptions and 74 yards since last season's Week 14 shutout against the Rams. His seven receptions and 80 yards are tied for his fourth and third most respectively in the last 32 games dating back to Week 16 of the 2013 season. This game also marked the second week in a row that he caught a touchdown and recovered an onside kick. If there was a way to look up to see if that had ever been done in NFL history then I'd check it, because there's a fair chance it hasn't.
- So that Jordan Reed guy is pretty good, huh? Reed now has 83 receptions this season, which ties Chris Cooley's single season franchise record for receptions by a tight end and ranks eighth all time among all Redskins players. Reed broke Cooley's receiving yardage record for a Washington tight end and now sits at 36th in team history with 907 yards. He also scored two more touchdowns and brought his total on the year to 11, which is tied for the fifth most scores ever by a Redskin. With his multiple scores in this game, Reed became just the ninth Redskin since at least 1960 with four or more multi-touchdown games in a single season.
- Here's your update on where Reed currently stands among all tight ends in the NFL this year: fifth in targets (110), fifth in receiving yards (907), third in DYAR (220) second in receptions (83), second in touchdowns (11), first in catch percentage (75.5%), first in first downs (52) and first in yards per route run (2.41). I'll leave you with this statistical nugget on Reed's season: he is one of only 76 players in the entire history of the NFL to catch 83 or more passes for at least 900 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he ranks in the top 32 of the group in receptions and touchdowns per game.
- Reed and Garcon have been a big part of the Redskins' success when it comes to picking up first downs and scoring touchdowns this season (94 combined first downs). Last year the Redskins ranked 30th in third down conversion rate (31.5%) and dead last and historically poorly in third-and-ten or longer situations (7.6%). This year, however, they have rebounded and currently rank sixth (43.1%) and 16th (21.1%) in those categories respectively. This has been especially helpful in the red zone, where the team is now consistently putting up sevens instead of threes on the scoreboard. Washington ranks sixth in red zone TD percentage (64%), fifth in points per red zone appearance (5.34) and second in red zone QB rating (115.3). Last season, they ranked 27th, 24 and 24th in those categories.
Defensive Snaps and Takeaways:
- The Redskin's defense was on the field for a season-high 81 snaps on Saturday. Going into this game the group only averaged 65 snaps per game and hadn't been on the field for 70 or more snaps since the Week 11 matchup against the Panthers. I guess that's what happens when you play the NFL's fastest paced team. As a result of the team snap total, the following players matched or hit a new season-high in defensive snaps in the game: Dashon Goldson, Kyshoen Jarrett, Ryan Kerrigan, Quinton Dunbar, Preston Smith, Mason Foster, DeAngelo Hall and Houston Bates. Will Compton, Bashaud Breeland, Chris Baker and Ricky Jean-Francois saw their second highest snap totals against the Eagles.
- Jean-Francois recorded a sack for the second week in a row and for just the tenth time in his career (10.5). Jason Hatcher did not sack Bradford, but he did lead the team with seven total QB pressures (3 hits and 4 hurries). Chris Baker pitched in with a hit and four hurries of his own. Terrance Knighton only added two tackles, but he played stout run defense throughout the game. Per John Keim and ESPN Stats and Info, the Eagles only gained nine yards on their eight runs with Knighton in the game. He also received the best PFF grade for run defense on the team (1.8). It was the eighth best run D rating among all defensive tackles in Week 16. Kedric Golston did not record a stat of any kind for the 8th time this season.
- Preston Smith, on the other hand, had a line that most players, let alone rookies, only dream of. The first-year outside linebacker absolutely went off on Saturday with three sacks, two hurries, three stops and a forced fumble. He also set a new season-high in snaps and snap percentage, and Trent Murphy played on his lowest percentage of snaps (25.9%) this season. It was also the third lowest percentage of Murphy's career. Smith has out-snapped Murphy by a count of 142-77 in the last three games combined.
- Smith ranks fifth in total quarterback pressures (32), second in forced fumbles (3) and first in sacks (7) among all NFL rookies this season. With one more sack, Smith will surpass Ryan Kerrigan for the second most sacks by a rookie in Redskins' history. He also needs just one more forced fumble to tie Kerrigan's rookie franchise record. Smith is only one of 22 NFL players on record that recorded both seven sacks and three forced fumbles. Here are some of the others: Ryan Kerrigan, Tamba Hali, Julius Peppers, Jevon Kearse, Charles Haley, Dwight Freeney, Terrell Suggs, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller and Derrick Thomas. Okay, so decent pick I guess, Scot.
- Smith and company didn't get to Bradford on the strength of blitz play calls either. Joe Barry only sent the heat five times and on a season-low eight percent of the dropbacks. Whether it was the lack of the blitz or something else entirely, the front seven got it done against the Eagles. Washington pressured Bradford 27 times and on over 43 percent of his dropbacks. That is the second highest pressure percentage of the season, behind only the 44 percent rate when the teams met in earlier in the year.
- Newly minted starting inside backers Mason Foster and Will Compton both finished with seven solo and nine total tackles, tied for second on the team in both categories. Foster had a team-high six stops and Compton picked up the first sack of his career to go along with a QB hit and three stops. It wasn't all roses for this duo though, as Foster and Compton allowed the two highest receiving totals on the team (60 and 79 yards respectively). Nevertheless, the Redskins have not allowed a 100-yard rusher, have not missed ten or more tackles and are 3-1 since Foster and Compton began starting together a month ago. Prior to that, they had allowed five 100-yard rushers, missed ten or more tackles in five games and had a record of 5-6.
- Dashon Goldson led the team in solo (9), total (10) and missed (4) tackle. He also recovered a fumble and allowed all six targets in his coverage to be caught. Those catches produced 41 receiving yards and a touchdown (Matthews) for the Eagles. Kyshoen Jarrett allowed a team-high seven of his ten targets to be caught for 60 yards. Will Blackmon saw three balls be caught for 58 yards in his coverage. Since the Redskins started hitting their stride against the Giants in Week 12, Blackmon has allowed 17 receptions for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Only Will Compton has allowed more receptions and yards in that stretch (20 receptions and 268 yards) among Redskins defenders.
- Bashaud Breeland and DeAngelo Hall, on the other hand, fared quite well in Philadelphia. Breeland had three tackles to go along with his pass deflection and forced a fumble. He also only allowed three catches for 36 yards on six targets. Hall got in on the fumble fun, by forcing and recovering one of his own that he would return for a touchdown. He was given the best overall (2.4) and pass coverage (1.3) rating on the defense by PFF for his efforts, both of which were season-bests.
- With his fumble return touchdown, Hall now ranks second all time in this category behind only Jason Taylor. He is also now the first player ever with five fumble return touchdowns and five interception return touchdowns and has moved into first place all time in fumble return yards. Hall's ten total defensive touchdowns is tied for sixth all time. Here are the players either tied with or ahead of him in this category: Deion Sanders, Ken Houston, Ronde Barber, Darren Sharper, Aeneas WIlliams, Charles Woodson and Rod Woodson. DeAngelo Hall also ranks 63rd, 20th and 12th all time in interceptions (43), interception yards (838) and passes defended (137).
- The 2015 Redskins forcing and recovering a bunch of fumbles is not a new development, but rather a trend that has been going strong all season long. Washington ranks third in forced fumbles (21), first in fumble recoveries (14) and first in fumbles per touch (2.34%).
Special Teams Snaps and Takeaways:
- The 34 total special teams snaps against the Eagles on Saturday were the most special teams plays in a game by the Redskins this season. They were averaging just under 28 snaps per game prior to this contest. Deshazor Everett led the way with 28 specials snaps, which is the most by any Redskin this season. He was followed by usual suspects Darrel Young, Jeron Johnson and Houston Bates, who all played on 25 teams snaps. Trent Murphy played on a season-high 23 snaps, while Preston Smith played on a season-low one. To the victor goes the spoils of increased defensive playing time, and to the loser goes the burden of increased special teams work.
- Deshazor Everett recorded his third multi-solo special teams tackle game of the season. Jeron Johnson and Houston Bates are the only other Redskins players that have tallied multiple specials tackles in a game this year, but both of them were only able to accomplish this feat on only one occasion. Everett still leads the team in total (9), solo (7), assisted (2) and missed (5) tackles this season. Trent Murphy and Deshaun Philips also each added a solo tackle against the Eagles, while Houston Bates and Carlos Fields both chipped in for one assisted tackle each. PFF credited Philips, Jeron Johnson and Kyshoen Jarrett with a missed tackle.
- Houston Bates and Tress Way were flagged for a holding (8 yards) and a delay of game (5 yards) penalty respectively. The Redskins rank 10th in accepted and non-offsetting special teams penalties (16) and 12th in enforced penalty yards (135). They rank 14th and 10th in ST penalties and penalty yards per play. Last season, the team ranked in the bottom five of each of the aforementioned categories.
- Rashad Ross returned one kick for a season-low total of 19 yards. He also had a 28-yarder that was negated by the Houston Bates' holding infraction. Jamison Crowder had three fair catches and returned two punts for a total of just ten yards. If you are a regular reader of this series, then you know how I feel about Crowder's performance as a punt returner this season. Hopefully he can put together one decent showing next week before his first regular season officially ends. Imagine how much this already potent offense would benefit from some consistent improvements in the return game.
- Tress Way's recent success continued with another good outing on Saturday. He had the third most punts (7), the third most punting yards (347) and the second most net punting yards of his career in the game (330). He also had the seventh and fourth highest punting average (49.6) and net average (47.5) of his career. The Eagles' negative three punt return yards in the game is the lowest yardage total returned against Way in his career.
- Dustin Hopkins connected on his chip-shot 28-yard field goal, but missed on an extra point for the first time this season. Five of his seven kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, but the Eagles did return two of them for 65 yards and a 32.5 yard per return average, Hopkins' second worst mark of the year. But on the bright side, the Redskins' yards allowed per kick return average of 19.7 ranks fourth in the NFL this year. That's a major improvement over there 25.8 yard average and 23rd place ranking in 2014.
Redskins Advanced Analytics Rankings:
|2015 Redskins||PFR SRS||ESPN FPI||numberFire nERD||538 ELO Rating||Sagarin Rating||Total PFF||FO DVOA|
- I haven't been tracking these rankings all season, but as far as I know, this is the first time this season that the Redskins have had the highest average ranking (17.7) between these seven measures among NFC East teams.
**All statistics are courtesy of 538, ESPN, Football Outsiders, Man Games Lost, The New York Times, NFL.com, NFL Game Books, NFL Penalty Tracker, numberFire, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Sporting Charts, Spotrac, Team Rankings and USA Today**