The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
Performance versus projection
The First Quarter Review published last month projected limited losses for the second quarter. In that report, it was projected that the Redskins would be able to win three games in a row before dropping the final game of the quarter. The competition in the middle of the quarter ended up being tougher than anticipated, while the loss of key assets adversely affected the team’s performance.
The Redskins won their home game against the Niners, as expected, though the team from San Francisco offered a tougher challenge than many prognosticators had anticipated. The Niners rallied with a mid-game turnaroud sparked by the unexpected replacement of a key executive officer, in a move that surprised punters everywhere. CJ Beathard, grandson of Hall of Fame candidate & Redskin Ring of Honor member, Bobby Beathard showed his bloodlines by coming off the bench and leading a bullish charge that fell just short of the mark.
The following week, the Redskns traveled to Philadelphia where they lost their second game of the season to the recently re-rated AAA+ Eagles, now considered a blue-chip prospect by just about everyone.
The Redskins balance sheet had looked a bit shaky at the end of the first quarter, and it suffered further write downs (addressed in a later section of this report) in each of the first three weeks, with injuries to major components of the team. No sector was hit harder than the offensive line, and the third week game against the Cowboys saw an unprecedented loss of personnel, as starters, pro-bowlers and backups alike limped from the field in a parade of injuries that left the Redskins short of the resources needed to achieve their target.
With a record of 1-2 for the quarter, the Redskins literally limped into Seattle for the final week of the quarter with 6 key players on injured reserve, and an astounding 21 players on the weekly injury report. The team dressed only 43 healthy players for the game. Eighty percent of the starting linemen were unable to play in that Seattle game, leading most experts to predict an end to the team’s hopes of salvaging anything for the season. It looked like the team might be headed for Chapter 13.
Instead, the team recycled some previously scrapped assets like Arie Kouandjiro, recovered a lost asset in Deangelo Hall, and got unexpectedly strong performance from assets that had been under-performing — most notably Brian Quick and Josh Doctson, both of whom will undergo an immediate review for possible re-rating this week.
The Redskins confounded pundits by posting a win in Seattle and managing to break even for the quarter, posting a 2-2 record to match the first quarter performance.
At the midway mark, the Redskins have a 4-4 record, and while they haven’t yet been able to finish a quarter with a positive balance sheet, the team, coaches, executives and fans remain hopeful that they will be able to turn a profit by year’s end.
Valuation of assets
Despite significant first quarter write-downs, some further downward adjustments were required in the second quarter to recognize continued severe and unexpected injuries to key personnel combined with unexpectedly poor on-field performance for certain units.
Most significantly, the Offensive Line unit had to undergo an almost total re-organization, with Right Tackle Morgan Moses as the only member of the team to emerge unscathed and still occupying his previous position. Hopes are high for a third-quarter recovery for this 5-member team, but there are fears that Trent Williams, in particular, may be unable to resume his duties due to poor health. If he is unable to come back, he will be replaced by Ty Nsekhe, who was unavailable throughout the 2nd quarter due to his own health issues, but is expected back in the near future. The value of this group asset has been written down based on second quarter performance, and expectations for the remainder of the year have been tempered.
The tight end group fluctuated a bit during the quarter, but ended up basically about where it was at the start of the quarter. After showing signs of returning to form, Jordan Reed was injured yet again in the Cowboys game, and was unavailable against Seattle. Vernon Davis is now the de facto starting tight end for the franchise, and is demostrating the wisdom of the large off-season contract that he signed with the team -- one that was criticized by a number of experts (see: OverTheCap) and commentators (including myself). Davis is proving that he is a valuable commodity, and perhaps more valuable to the team than the flashier, younger, but oft unavailable Reed. Bottom line, Reed’s value has fallen, while Davis’s value has risen, leaving the position group largely unchanged.
The inside backer position was significantly impacted when Mason Foster — who dislocated his shoulder early in the season but was playing through pain — was finally transferred to the injured reserve list. To everyone’s surprise, Will Compton, whom many people had suggested should have been made redundant at the end of August, stepped up against the Seahawks and showed that he is still a major contributor to the team’s success. With the excellent play of Martrell Spaight, and the promise shown by newcomer, JHC, this group continues to show promise, and overperform based on the outstanding work of its leader, Zach Brown, who still has not been locked up to a long-term contract for service. Overall, this position group continues to enjoy a positive outlook, with optimism for long term upside.
The Cornerback unit suffered early short-term losses, with injuries to both outside players, Breeland and Norman. By the end of the quarter, however, they had seen a complete recovery and led to the shutdown and hostile takeover of the previously highly-touted Seahawk passing game. This remains one of the franchise’s strongest producing and deepest assets, with tremendous positive growth expected in both the short and long term.
The safety position remains largely unchanged from the end of the first quarter, despite volatility demonstrated by DJ Swearinger, who, at times produces in a big way for the team, and at other times makes mistakes that cost the team dearly. The team was able to recover a previously damaged asset by re-activating DHall from injured reserve — a move that paid immediate dividends in the Seattle game where Hall made a critical MMA-style arm-bar tackle on third down, and a game-saving pass breakup with no time left on the clock. His experience and leadership are expected to be valuable to the team in the twilight of his career. After spending most of the past two years as an almost-coach, Hall is nearing retirement and may soon be able to join the ranks of NFL coaches as a full time occupation.
Outside Linebackers, like safeties, remain largely unchanged from the start of the quarter, though there have been some grumblings that the franchise’s investment in Gallette is not paying off. The team’s exposure in both time and money to this contract are limited, so most agree it was worth the risk to find out what he could contribute, but absent a second-half turnaround in production, the contract is unlikely to be renewed in 2018. Ryan Anderson finally showed flashes as a pass rusher and in spot duty as a fullback, but many are questioning whether the team simply squandered resources to acquire him a few months ago. As a team-member hand-picked by Bruce Allen, Anderson is likely to get every opportunity to prove himself, and is in no immediate danger of losing his job, however, he will need to improve his measurable on-field performance before he makes believers of other market-watchers, in particular analyst James Dorsett, who has become well-known for his criticism of the decision that brought the former Alabama linebacker to the Redskins. Mainstays Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith are both exceeding KPI’s weekly against the competition, and proving to be excellent long term investments.
The defensive line has continued to outperform expectations under the tutelage of DL whisperer Jim Tomsula. This has been especially impressive following the long-term loss of Jonathan Allen early in the quarter, followed by the short term loss of Matt Iaonnidis, who has been quietly transforming himself into an under-the-radar top-tier performer, as yet unrecognized by the market in general, but strongly appreciated by Washington insiders. The McTwins took on a significant increase in responsibility as a result of these losses, and have risen to the challenge. Meanwhile, recent acquisition Arthur Jones suffered a shoulder dislocation against the Seahawks, bringing into quesition his value going forward in light of the potential return of “IaonMan”.
Team officials are hoping that the Special Teams unit reached the nadir of their season in the second quarter. There have been muffs, mental mistakes, blocked field goals, partially blocked punts, missed extra points and bad decisions, with very little in the way of positive big plays to offset the negatives. This unit seems ripe for a total top-down reorganization going into 2018. This may be the worst-peforming asset in the Redskins’ portfolio.
After a second quarter that mostly continued the pattern of non-performance that had been established in the first quarter, the wide receiver unit began to show signs in the Seattle game that all is not lost.
With the year-to-date performance leader, Jamison Crowder, sidelined with an injury, Brian Quick made his first significant contribution of the season, coming up with a big time sideline catch on the Redskins final drive, and — most importantly -- hanging on to complete the play even when he was slammed out of bounds by the Seahawk’s hard-hitting safety. He is currently in the concussion protocol, but fans who, a week ago, were calling for the team to cut Quick are now calling for him to get more snaps and targets. That’s an amazing turnaround!
Josh Doctson went a long way toward relieving the market jitters that had surrounded him following his big drops against the Chiefs and Cowboys by making a spectacular highlight-film catch to set the Redskins up for a game winning touchdown inside the final minute against Seattle.
Even Terrelle Pryor managed not to drop any targets, while Ryan Grant added some catches to the unit’s total. This unit is still under scrutiny and a market-watch, but there are signs that the third quarter may see a resurgence in value for Washington’s wideouts.
Washington’s running backs continue to be a sole-proprietor operation, with Chris Thompson accounting for nearly all of this unit’s production, though lead back Rob Kelly did score two short-yardage touchdowns in the final game to contribute strongly to the victory.
The three current players in this position group may have to hold down the fort for 2017, but stakeholders are starting to express concern and dissatisfaction about lack of production, and the franchise may need to make a significant draft or free-agent investment here in 2018 to keep pace with the competition.
The short-term outlook for this position group is fairly bleak outside of “Chris Army Knife”, and without the allocation of significant resources, the long term forecast is for a continuing downward trend in production.
Quarterback continues to be a source of steady production, but long-term uncertainty, as the team is forbidden by the labor agreement to discuss any long-term contract terms with its franchise quarterback this year.
For now, the team and the quarterback are taking advantage of their mutual self-interest, and Kirk Cousins is proving his worth. In the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately environment of the NFL, Cousins most recently drove his team downfield for a score in the most hostile environment imaginable, to win a key game against a favored opponent.
His continued steady production will be the key to any success the team can hope to enjoy in the third quarter.
Let’s look back at the ratings from multiple agencies to see where they stood at the end of the first quarter:
- SB Nation 5
- Bleacher Report 11
- NFL.com 9
- MMBQ 15
- Pro Football Weekly 16
- Pro Football Talk 17
How do agencies have the Redskins rated now, four games later?
- SB Nation 10
- Bleacher Report 12
- NFL.com 13
- MMBQ 10
- Yahoo Sports 14
- Pro Football Talk 11
This mixed bag of analytical opinions reflects the ambiguity of the team’s on-field performance, as well as the difficulty of trying to rate a team that is as affected by as many significant short-term injuries as the Redskins.
The team has played a tough schedule, beating the Rams and Seahawks on the road, and losing narrowly to the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium, but losing at home to the Cowboys.
Further complicating the issue is the question of how to rate the two losses to the Philadelphia Eagles, who now appear to be the most talented team in the league, and the downgrading of the then-astonishing comprehensive beatdown of the Raiders, who are now struggling to stay relevant.
While some ratings have improved, others have slipped, but the range is much tighter now than it was a month ago, with analysts having a more definite view of the franchise than they did earlier in the season.
The average rank at the end of the 1st quarter was 12.16, while the current average rating at the end of the 2nd quarter is 11.66, meaning that the overall perception of the franchise by analysts is — taken on average — largely unchanged.
Analysts continue to see the Redskins as a team on the edge of playoff contention, though some analysts are slightly bullish, while others are a bit more bearish.
Review of the Competition
The Redskins first eight games have featured some of the most intimidating competition in the NFL:
- Eagles (8-1) - The Eagles have the best record in the league and are the consensus #1 pick in the Power Ranking polls. The Redskins played them twice in the first half of the season (the only team to do so) losing both times.
- Rams (6-2) - The Rams are the consensus #2 pick in Power Rankings across the nation, and are leading the NFC West Division. Their only two losses have come against the Redskins and Seahawks.
- Chiefs (6-3) - The Chiefs started out the season looking like the best team in the league, and were undefeated when the Redskins lost on a dropped pass by Josh Doctson with less than a minute remaining. They’ve lost 3 of their last 4 games, and some of the shine is starting to come off the impressiveness of the Redskin performance in that early-season prime-time game.
- Cowboys (5-3) - The Cowboys were 2-3 just three weeks ago. Three consecutive victories (including the Redskins & Chiefs) have analysts and fans alike starting to discuss the potential playoff future for this team. The second half of the season may hold two big pitfalls for the Cowboys: (i) They play the Eagles twice; and (ii) the latest decision in the Zeke Elliott saga is due today, with the potential that Ellott’s on-again, off-again suspension could be on again.
- Seahawks (5-3) - Long known for having the best home field advantage in the NFL, and for being the Kings of November, Seattle saw the Redskins come to visit in November and walk away with one of the great victories in the history of the DC franchise, given the number of injuries, and how deep into the bench (and onto the street) the coaching staff & front office had to reach to field only 43 healthy players.
- Raiders (4-5) - It seems another lifetime ago that the Redskins crushed the 2-0 Raiders in a Sunday night game, announcing to the nation that the ‘Skins were here and ready to play. Similar to the situation with the Chiefs, the Raiders’ recent losses have taken some of the luster off of that particular Redskin jewel, though Oakland has won 2 out of its last 3 games and shows signs of righting the ship.
- 49ers (0-9) - Not much to be said. Like the winless Browns, the Niners are basically a free pass for 13 teams this season. The Redskins cashed in this ticket in Week 5.
Looking ahead to the 3rd quarter competition
The ‘Skins have three really tough games in the 3rd quarter, facing two division leaders, and traveling to Dallas for their second meeting with the resurgent Cowboys.
Week 10 - Home against the Vikings
The Vikings currently sit alone atop the NFC North with a 6-2 record and a 4-game win streak. The Vikings have successfully stared down adversity for the second year in a row. In 2016, they lost their starting quarterback just before the season opener, then their starting running back early in the season. The coaching staff didn’t flinch from losses of Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson; the front office acquired Sam Bradford and the team went on to post an 8-8 record in a tough division. This season’s replay of last season’s injury issues — Bradford has been too injured to play for much of the season, and first round pick Dalvin Cook was lost for the season to a knee injury — has been more successful, as Case Keenum has led the team on a sustained winning streak, though 5 of their 8 games have been at home. The Vikings are likely to prove a tough opponent this week at FedEx Field.
Week 11 - On the road against the Saints
New Orleans is tied for the second-best record, and owns the second-longest winning streak in the NFL, behind the Eagles in both cases. People are beginning to mention the Saints in the same context as the Eagles and the Rams — teams that haven’t commanded much respect in recent years, but who are playing at a level that shouts, “NFC Championship game”. New Orleans boasts the #2 ranked offense and 15th ranked defense, and with the leadership of veteran Drew Brees, may be the toughest game left on the Redskins regular season schedule. Like Philly, Kansas City and Seattle, New Orleans has a reputation as a tough stadium to play in, though the last time the Redskins visited in Week 1 of the 2012 season, the Skins’ rookie quarterback, playing in his first-ever NFL game with a rookie 6th round draft pick starting at running back with a brand-new free agent WR signed from the Colts, Washington did okay.
Week 12 - home against the Giants on Thanksgiving day
You know how a lot of Hollywood movies have a scene where the bad guy goes down in a heap after being shot, or stabbed, or burned, but then, just when it seems like he’s gone for good, he rises up to take revenge? Yeah, that’s how every Skins fan feels about this game against the Giants.
Week 13 - on the road against the Cowboys on Thursday night
Since both the Redskins and Cowboys are playing on Thanksgiving, both of them will be playing on a full week’s rest. The Redskins have gone into Dallas and won quite a lot in recent years.
- In 2015 the ‘Skins won in Week 17 behind three touchdown passes from Kirk Cousins as the division champion Redskins prepared for their playoff game against the Packers.
- In 2014 the ‘Skins won in Week 8 behind Colt McCoy, snapping a Dallas 6-game winning streak.
- In 2012 the ‘Skins won in Week 12 when Robert Griffin threw for 311 yards and 4 TDs, to lead the Redskins to a 38-31 victory. In fact, the Redskins swept both games against the Cowboys that year en route to the division championship, and a playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Three times in the past 5 seasons the Redskins have beaten the Cowboys in Dallas. With the game still three weeks away, there’s evey reason to believe that the Redskins will have enough players back and healthy that they can continue the trend and tradition of road victories against the Cowboys. That would be a great way to end the third quarter of the season!
3rd quarter projected results
While those responsible for analysis and modeling of future performance realize it is frustrating for stakeholders, the fact is that we are projecting a 3rd consecutive quarter of break-even performance in the four upcoming NFC contests.
The model predicts losses in the two non-divisional games (Weeks 10 & 11 versus the Vikings & Saints), followed by wins in the two divisional contests (Weeks 12 & 13 versus the Giants & Cowboys).
We believe that the team will end the third quarter as a .500 team, just as they have ended each of the first two quarters this year. However, we feel that market conditions will be right for the team to see a dramatic increase in performance in the final quarter due to (i) improved injury situation; and (ii) lower levels of competition in December. We are projecting a 6-6 record for the end of the third quarter, but a 9 or 10-win regular season finish, and a spot in the playoffs, when all is said and done.
Confidence remains the watchword.
What will be the Redskins record in the 3rd quarter of the season?
This poll is closed