- Happy Victory Monday, y’all! Three of the first five games this year have resulted in Victory Monday celebrations, which is a perfectly fine clip. If the Redskins were to maintain this pace and get to nine wins heading into the season finale, I think we would all call this season a raging success. That is putting about ten horses in front of the cart, and I really have no prognostication aspect to the Sixpack today—just wanted to point out that for the most part, the start to the 2018 campaign has exceeded a lot of expectations out there. Before we pick yesterday’s game apart for a variety of discussion points—both good and bad—let us remember and celebrate the fact the Redskins were in Victory Formation at the final whistle yesterday. And yes, they/we earned the right to feel very good about it.
- We can’t think about “where we are” without talking about the loss to the Indianapolis Colts earlier in the season. More than the Saints debacle, the Colts game put a spotlight on potential (and real) shortcomings of the offense. On that day, Alex Smith showed the kind of sluggishness that has fueled his critics for years—though Jay Gruden’s play-calling that day has been heavily questioned. Before it is said and done, the Redskins will need to win a game like that. The Panthers game doesn’t count in my mind because I think Carolina is a better team than Indy (which is sort of maddening if you go round-and-round with that thought). As far as the loss to the Saints is concerned, there is no polishing that turd. I do believe that Drew Brees and that offense would have lit up the majority of the league that night, but I am not here to tell you that the Redskins looked good otherwise in that game. As long as we are embracing the reality of our losses, I think what troubled me the most about the New Orleans trip was the inevitability of the loss once the game started. Redskins fans know that feeling—the feeling that the snowball is rolling downhill and gathering both bulk and speed. As mediocre as the Redskins have been in recent seasons, they haven’t regularly been blown out (except in primetime...) and when you think your team is halfway decent, the last thing you want to deal with is a game where the outcome is kind of immediately known after the kickoff. Coming out of a bye, I expected the Redskins to be able to keep things at least a little bit closer. The Montae Nicholson penalty that kept the Saints alive early in that game continues to play in my mind...it is very much a signature moment to me from the first five games, and if the Redskins hope to be a playoff contender, we will need to see that kind of thing cleaned up.
- IT’S DALLAS WEEK!!!!!! Your first-place Redskins host the Cowboys this week in a game that will have immediate ramifications in the division race. Don’t look now, but Dallas is coming off a very impressive victory over what I thought was a decent Jacksonville Jaguars team. The NFC East is all of a sudden looking a lot more solid than it did in the early weeks. Through Sunday’s games, the NFC East is the only division in the conference that boasts three teams at three or more wins. (At 2-2-1 through five games—so only winning two of five—how is that a 0.500 winning percentage for the Packers?) I am not sure I could ask for much more than having a battle for first place in the division at FedEx Field in mid- to late October (the first opportunity). The Redskins have beaten two very good NFC teams thus far, and both of those wins can be helpful in determining a path to Victory Monday this coming week. Dak is no Aaron Rodgers, and if we’re being honest, he is also no Cam Newton, but the manners in which our defense set out to thwart those signal callers should help us defend against him. The key to stopping Dallas lies in bottling up Ezekiel Elliott, which is looking like an impossible task given the plays he has made on the ground and through the air lately. Christian McCaffrey is a different beast than Elliott, but they both get about five yards per carry. The Redskins did well keeping McCaffrey from killing us, but Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Matt Ioannidis will have a much bigger load to bring down on Sunday. If we are going to find any encouragement here at all, it is that the Redskins defensive line has largely been up to the challenge of stuffing the run this season, ranking fourth at the moment in total yards surrendered on the ground. Our d-line against Zeke and Dallas’ o-line will probably be the main determinant of Sunday’s tilt.
- How about some Vernon Davis love? With Jamison Crowder and Chris Thompson out, the Redskins were going to need to find a guy that could take advantage of the defense keying on Jordan Reed. Right away, Davis and Alex Smith connected. Though he ended the game with only three receptions, the first two Davis caught were extremely important ones. We will be hard-pressed to be very dangerous without CT25 on the field, so hopefully we can get him back healthy, but the ageless tight end showed up yesterday in a big way.
- Speaking of ageless wonders, I think we all continue to be very impressed with the manner in which Adrian Peterson violently matriculates the ball upfield. He was listed as questionable for the game yesterday thanks to a separated shoulder suffered in the Saints loss (and probably also because of a hit on the first play of that game that almost cut him in half). The man responded by running for 5.7 yards per carry on 17 carries, coming up just short of the century mark. Watching Alex Smith and the passing game struggle in the second half was frustrating, but there was Adrian Peterson, angrily advancing the ball and extending drives that kept the Carolina offense off the field and led to the 35/24 time of possession disparity. The Washington ground game, along with the defense, has been chiefly responsible for the early season success we have enjoyed. That makes it at least a little bit odd that I am feeling so strongly about this last point.
- I think Washington should make the move and add Le’Veon Bell for the remainder of the 2018 season. According to Spotrac, the Redskins have over $9 million in cap space this season. Of course, the option to roll value forward always exists, but it also affords the team the ability to add a player this season. As the weeks roll by, and as James Conner continues to play at a high level for the Steelers, it seems more and more likely that Bell will be dealt. I hate that this is being seen as some kind of vote against Adrian Peterson. It’s not. Sure, a banged up 33-year old running back in week six is not exactly the most ideal scenario, but the man has earned the right to start as long as he can stand. Though most would agree that if you had Bell and Peterson on your team, Bell would be your lead back, I am suggesting a different approach. Le’veon wants to be paid wide receiver money. He averaged 80 receptions a season over the last two years. There is no getting around the oddness of this situation from the standpoint that people wonder where this player’s head is at if he were to put pads on and take the field. I disagree with those who argue that he would show up to a team that traded for him and sit out with a trumped-up injury. Instead, I argue he has some work to do to be paid the contract he wants to get (though it bears noting that even if he sat out a whole season, he would likely be very well paid in free agency). I think the Redskins should approach this player by telling him they want him as a receiver. That is where Bell wants to shine the brightest (because that is where the offseason money is highest), and that is where the Redskins need the most help right now. This should pull the best out of the player coming into town, and it will put our offensive-minded head coach to the test. Of course, he will take handoffs as well to help spell Peterson, but having him motion out of the backfield and draw attention should allow Alex Smith use his experience and veteran savvy to find holes in the defense. It should make Bell and his agent super happy to have him go to a team that doesn’t need to pound him every week with 30+ carries, and the idea that he would be the recipient of plenty of targets in the passing game should be exactly what it takes to inspire and engage Bell. (Did you see Brian Quick and Michael Floyd blocking yesterday? Can you imagine getting that kind of effort from them on a quick-hitter outside to Bell?) The question comes down to compensation of course, and the Redskins have traditionally not made fans very happy in that department. Here is my thought: Pittsburgh needs at least a third rounder because that is what they are expecting to receive as a compensatory pick when he leaves via free agency. The Redskins are potentially able to send them a conditional pick that could turn into the comp pick we will be getting for Kirk Cousins (widely believed to be #97 overall), or they could just send them a third rounder. Further, if and when Bell departs Washington via free agency this offseason (no pressure to resign him with Guice coming back next season), the Redskins would be in line for that same level of compensation next season. If that is true, the rental for Bell would essentially be the cost of kicking a third round pick one year down the road, understanding that it would certainly be a lower third rounder than the one we would send. (Of course, I am not inside the Pittsburgh front office and they don’t tell me anything, so clearly this could be insanely flawed reasoning if they have no intention of dealing this guy.) I believe Bell wants to and needs to play to maximize his free agency dreams. I believe that his presence in burgundy and gold would tip the scales in the NFC East race and I don’t think a deal like this would mortgage any significant portion of our future. I understand that Redskins fans have grown weary of adding names to the roster despite red flags waving. This would not be a risk-free move, but I have a hard time believing Le’veon Bell would ‘Haynesworth’ us. It wasn’t an easy decision for me to embrace because of prior shenanigans in this front office, but I am 100% in favor of bringing Bell into the fold. No, the Redskins aren’t one player away from being a dominant Super Bowl contender, but we could be one player like Bell away from being the frontrunner in the NFC East, and I think that makes it a worthwhile endeavor.
Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays
The Redskins get another important conference win to stay in front of the NFC East.