Coming off an embarrassing loss against the New Orleans Saints last Monday night the Washington Redskins, from staff to players, were in a big spot heading into Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. They answered in a big way, conquering a task that stumped them the last four attempts; beating the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers. It was not pretty, and the Redskins had to earn this victory the hard way; run the ball, stop the run, force turnovers, and score points. That is what led them to a victory against the Panthers, but what did we learn from their third victory of the season? Let us have at it.
Relax, quit the talks; Josh Norman has a pulse.
Josh Norman was undoubtedly the scapegoat for everyone following Saints game, and as a player, his presence was wearing thin in the eyes of some fans of the team. The momentum of his poor play was becoming a major story in the media as well too; his former teammate DeAngelo Hall publicly criticized him and mentioned a Hollywood mentality Norman is displaying. Good thing for Norman is that he is a corner, a position that does not allow you to think about the last play let alone the past week. Josh may never live up to the contract he most certainly earned in 2016 On Sunday, Norman proved with two turnovers forced and decent coverage, that he is still very much capable of number one corner production. He has an opportunity to redefine what was an ugly start to the season.
Any day now, Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith will make a difference as a pass rusher
The thought heading into the season was that with a better interior pass rush, the Redskins pass rush will be top five if not top three, given the consistent production from the outside linebackers over the previous four seasons. With an underwhelming defensive line, the edge rushers have always been the position group to dominate the sack column for the team. The interior defensive line has improved; however, the edge rushers have not stepped up to the plate and even regressed. Kerrigan has one sack on the year while Preston Smith is still looking for his first. Collectively, the pass rush has been inadequate over the first 5 games, and the edge rushers have been a complete non-factor. This is unfortunate for a player like Preston Smith who is in a contract year and has potentially lost himself some money on the open market the longer he goes without producing in the most significant category for a 3-4 edge rusher. I mean, D.J. Swearinger got a sack before Preston could this season, this is a problem.
Without Adrian Peterson, this offense is in big trouble
The Redskins have been fortunate to be able to sign Adrian Peterson late in the preseason, preventing another disaster at the running back position after Derrius Guice’s injury. Peterson has been the saving grace for the offense in all three of the team’s victories. Averaging 103 yards per game in the three victories and just 13 yards per game in the two losses, he is the stability the offense needs to move the football consistently throughout a game. If the offensive line and Adrian Peterson are having a successful outing, the Redskins are most likely controlling the game. Untimely penalties and execution have killed the offense to this point and cost them chances for points on multiple occasions. Quite frankly, the offense is just not good, ranking 25th in yards and 24th in points; the ground game is the saving grace. It goes back to my introduction to this, running the ball and stopping the run is key to a Washington victory.
The turnover margin has been crucial this year and must continue to be a battle won by Washington
The Redskins left the game against the Carolina Panthers +4 in the turnover margin after forcing three turnovers against them and not turning it over at all. Before the game, they were only +1, so it was not great concerning the margin. However, the Redskins have only turned the ball over five times at this point in the year, which is second in the NFL. Comparing this season’s giveaway total to last year’s, it was turned over nine times heading into week seven. Protecting the football has been proved to be great for this team, not giving the opposing offense extra opportunities to score, but the Redskins are not capitalizing on these themselves. The stagnancy of the offense to this point has created concerns because it will be games in which the defense will need them to continue to produce because it cannot protect every single lead on the season.
The victory against the Panthers has created a major opportunity against the Dallas Cowboys; another opportunity to stack wins on top of each other
The Redskins once again proved they are capable of completely controlling a half of football against the Panthers, but now a more significant test comes into FedEx Field this Sunday. The Cowboys have won in FedEx the last five seasons. The Redskins have knocked two monkeys off their back to this point of the season, showing up on opening days and defeating Cam Newton. This is for the early divisional lead, a battle for first place, there is no better time to make up for last year’s 1-5 divisional record than to make a statement against a team they have beaten once in three seasons. Do not get fooled; it will not be easy, the Redskins will have to earn this victory big time and are very much capable.