- Happy Victory Monday, y’all! As jubilant as I was after the game, there was an air of “we should be able to beat these guys” that I couldn’t shake all day long. Sure, Dallas had just finished spanking Jacksonville, but the Jaguars looked like a pee-wee squad early yesterday, and so viewing the Cowboys in the light of that last win of theirs was no longer really a thing by the time we kicked off at FedEx. The Vegas line started with the Redskins favored and slowly reversed itself, as the normal amount of Redskins-doubt set in for gamblers everywhere. Still, this game was going to be about Washington’s defense and the big guys up front, and I have been a broken record about that since August.
- God, I hope people are excited about this group of defensive linemen. Our linebackers showed up in a huge way as well, but Preston Smith and Ryan Kerrigan put their hands on the ground yesterday and joined with Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne and Matt Ioannidis to absolutely manhandle the Dallas offense (to name a few of the impact players on that defense yesterday). The manner in which Preston Smith showed up yesterday was beyond meaningful. Presssss-TOOOOONE!! He wasn’t filling up stat sheets early in the season, but he was contributing as part of a very stingy front. When he went down early in the game, it didn’t seem very realistic that we would be very shortly afterward watching an almost Darryl Grant-esque defensive touchdown. (Okay, so it wasn’t the NFC Championship, but it was still an extremely important game and it provided a very easy way of linking what are two of the most impressive defensive lines this fanbase has had the pleasure of watching.) I have been hearing from folks here about me possibly overselling this defensive line all summer long. Can we put that to bed? I think it is safe to say we are all on the same page now, especially after watching these men absolutely shut Ezekiel Elliott down. The story continues to be the dominant way Payne and Allen perform. They are simply impossible to stop without additional help, and even when they seem to be blocked, they still reach out and make plays. (And for God’s sake—did you see the way Ioannidis tossed Zeke when he tried to help with pass protection?) For everything else that went our way, broke our way and bounced our way, the Washington defense stood up and won this game.
- The Washington offense seemed to once again sputter at times, but I am not in agreement with folks who think that Alex Smith is holding this team back. I am not in agreement that Jay Gruden’s offense is a disaster, and I am not in agreement that the Redskins have zero reason to celebrate being one of the toughest outs in the league. How is it possible that people forget so easily how many close games the Redskins have failed to win over the years? I went back and looked up the scoring margins for the Redskins just going back a few years: 2015 was -0.5, 2016 was +0.8, 2017 was -2.9 and so far in 2018 we are +0.8 (which also underscores the insane “0.500ness” of this team over the last few years. It’s hard to win games in the NFL, and when you are rebuilding your organization as the Redskins have been doing under Jay Gruden, you are desperately trying to stay on the right side of this razor-thin margin. I think there are plenty of honest conversations we can have about the offense that address real truths without concluding that the Redskins are a fake 4-2 team leading the NFC East. Let’s raise those conversations and pick them up both below in the comments section and again tomorrow night in the basement for what promises to be a very joyful evening!
- Alex Smith made two extremely terrible mistakes yesterday that the Redskins EXPECT him to be capable of avoiding. A player of his caliber has no business missing Jeremy Sprinkle wide open in the end zone for what would have been a very meaningful score in that game. Alex also has NO BUSINESS running out of bounds late in the fourth quarter when we are playing a clock game holding onto a tight lead. Those two plays are the kinds of plays we have all watched second-rate quarterbacks make in the DECADES of lousy quarterback play here in town. I do not want to be the one that lets Alex off the hook for such plays, and if he continues to make them, I will be forced to migrate from my current position on #11, which is “firmly in support.” I hated those plays and I expect him not to make those errors. The team won despite those miscues, which is at least a slightly different taste in our mouths from the past. Smith also has not been as effective so far this year on the intermediate throws that have made him one of the upper-end signal callers in the league. His accuracy does seem to be a bit off, but we simply must attribute some level of this to the fact we were missing three starting players that are huge targets in the passing game (Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson and Chris Thompson). One thing that keeps me feeling good about Alex is the increased chemistry that seems to be developing with Josh Doctson. The inside slant balls that Josh caught were thrown perfectly into insanely tight windows. This is clearly something these two players have been working on, and it would be foolish to think that Alex has been able to establish that with guys like Maurice Harris and Michael Floyd. Let’s all at least agree that Alex Smith is not playing at the level we expect, and he is absolutely going to need to improve. I thought a solid four or five passes that looked grossly mis-thrown on television were actually balls that Alex threw away. As for Jay Gruden, we talked about this last week a little bit, and I want to be honest when I say that I am going to look at this season at the end and make a decision on him, but I am not firing him midseason nor am I beginning any kind of premature coaching search. I am currently behind the coach, but like Alex Smith, he needs to probably milk just a little bit more out of this offense, and I honestly expect that we are going to see that happen. I promise you all that I won’t let my desire to have a long-term coach for stability reasons muddy the decision to part ways with a coach that is no longer making us better.
- Part of the reason why I am so reticent to jump into the Alex and Jay bashing is because our offense was effective, and it was because of the ground game. We are only six games into the season, but we are seeing the offensive line dictate some things in front of Adrian Peterson, who showed the Dallas Cowboys yesterday that he is still a factor in this league. We always said that Alex Smith would be most able to lead this team to wins if the ground game was working. Jay Gruden has always been an offensive coach that started things around a successful rushing attack. The margin for error has been painfully slim, but so far we are seeing an almost-complete team. Listen—we need to get better. Jay and Alex do need to get better. On this we agree, but there is something to be said for calling a tight game in the second-half. Bringing home a win in the second half of a game where the momentum and energy is on your side is not as easy as it sounds. You are almost looking more to avoid mistakes than you are looking to get aggressive (and I am not here to argue against getting aggressive). Jay Gruden has left a few calls on the field and Alex Smith has DEFINITELY left some throws/reads on the field late in games, and yet here we are: first place in the NFC East with a 1-0 record in the division and a 4-1 record in the conference. More than anything else, the Washington Redskins are not an offensive-minded team. They are led by a nasty, mean, physical, stout defense. The face of this team has really morphed into Jonathan Allen together with Da’Ron Payne. Adrian Peterson’s rushing style plays perfectly into this identity, and the offensive line isn’t exactly winning a bunch of congeniality awards. Maybe a one-sentence thought that sums up the last 1,000 words is simply: I have been praying for a physically dominant team led by its defense/defensive line and I now have one, so I won’t be out there lamenting the ho-humness of its passing game.
- We are heading into roughly the halfway point of the NFL season (week #8), and even though the Redskins are only six games in, they sit firmly atop the division that boasts the most recent Super Bowl champion. The Redskins have defeated the hated Dallas Cowboys on national television with Tony Romo in the house calling the game. The burgundy and gold will get the woeful New York Giants on a short week for the G-men. Aside from that being the biggest trap game I can recall in recent memory (this game will not be easy), the Redskins and the Washington fanbase has to be feeling pretty damned good about the 2018 campaign. I just can’t join any negative chorus. I just can’t bring myself to get animated about firing people or to start planning on when to cut ties with a very savvy veteran quarterback. The story of the 2018 season has already been a bit rocky, but we find ourselves on footing that is firm enough at this point to allow us to start talking about the postseason, and I don’t think many of you would have believed that just seven short weeks ago. HTTR!!
Looks Like Someone Has a Sixpack of the Mondays
Victory Monday after a win over Dallas is the best Victory Monday of all!