The Redskins enter their bye week, and the midpoint of their season, at 4-3-1. Not a bad record for a team many expected to regress after last season’s 9-7 finish, but there are plenty of what ifs after losing a late lead against Detroit and ending up in a tie with the Bengals. While the offense has taken some hits for being historically bad this season, statistically speaking, there are plenty of things that are working well.
Kirk Cousins – Despite a slow start to the season, Cousins’ play has improved and as the team hits the midpoint of the year, he is ahead of the record setting pace he set a year ago. His 12 touchdowns are two more than he had through eight games last season. He also has two more 300-yard passing performances and one more game with a quarterback rating above 100. Cousins is also on pace to throw for 4,908 yards, which would shatter the Redskins single-season record of 4,166 that he set last year.
Pass Protection – When you drop back to pass 321 times (Cousins is on pace to attempt 100 more passes than he did a year ago) you might expect your quarterback to hit the ground more regularly than Cousins has. However, he has only been sacked 11 times, or every 29 times he drops back to pass. A big reason for this, however, is left tackle Trent Williams who is clearly the team’s best lineman and one of their best overall players. His four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy will thrust backup Ty Nsekhe into the starting lineup, but General Manager Scot McCloughan has said Nsekhe could start for most NFL teams. Now he gets the chance to prove it.
Tight End Depth – We all know what Jordan Reed can do and that the passing offense is centered around him. That much was on display when he returned from a two-game absence and caught nine balls for 99 yards and a touchdown. But it is the depth at the position that has been a pleasant surprise.
Jamison Crowder – When your starting receivers are Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson and you use your first round pick to land arguably the best receiver in the draft in Josh Doctson, it’s easy to forget about Crowder, whom the Redskins selected in the fourth round last year. But Crowder leads the Redskins in receptions (40), receiving yards (498) and receiving touchdowns (4) and his 12.5 yards per catch is second among the team’s active wide receivers. He continues to come up with clutch plays when needed and his punt returning ability has earned him a spot on the Sports Illustrated Mid-Season All-Pro Team as the return specialist. His first half highlight was an 85-yard punt return touchdown in the Redskins 16-10 win over the Ravens.
Running Back Depth – While Matt Jones leads the team with 460 yards rushing, Chris Thompson and Robert Kelley have chipped in to give the team a potent 1-2-3 punch. Kelley, much like Jones, is a bruiser who hits the hole with power and has the ability to run through opposing tacklers. Thompson’s elite speed allows him to get around the corner on many stretch plays and pitch outs and he has been solid picking up the blitz. Kelley’s emergence against the Bengals (subbing for an injured Jones) and Thompson’s ability to stay healthy have been key to a successful running game thus far and will be needed down the stretch since Jones still has a tendency to be inconsistent.