- Well, spring break is officially coming to an end this week...what with all that springtime weather in the 30’s and 40’s we have been experiencing in the DC-area recently. (I guess I am setting myself up for some comments from those in colder climates. I actually love the colder weather and I very much loathe when things turn muggy and hot around here. A cool spring is pretty much my favorite scenario.) As we gird our loins for yet another NFL Draft and on the heels of the schedule release extravaganza of last week, I give you this week’s Ten Yard Fight of thoughts dedicated to the most action-packed week of NFL action we will see for quite some time. To kick it off, check out this video of Jared Goff pretending to be a transfer at a junior college...I love this kind of thing. I simply can’t believe my immediate thought, which was, “Alex Smith would be way better in this than Kirk Cousins.” I need to get over...everything.
- On the night the schedule was released, I did my obligatory run through of wins and losses, MAGICALLY arriving at 10-6...it’s weird how that always happens. I will have to check the historical stats database, but I am relatively certain I am undefeated against Dallas in April. One of the biggest reveals when the schedule is released is when the Redskins travel to certain cities. We know months ahead of time what cities we will travel to, and if you’re anything like our group of degenerate friends that hang around basement podcast studios on Tuesday nights, you begin planning road trips to certain places before you know the “when” part. The schedule release brings good news or bad news. This time it brought bad news. Nashville has been circled in the basement for quite some time. A road trip to the Music City had us insanely excited—right up until the NFL landed the Redskins there on Christmas weekend. That takes pretty much all of us with families out of that road trip. Was anyone else on the same page as us here? I know a LOT of Redskins fans like to invade Dallas, but with that game on Thanksgiving, I am not sure how many will travel. (I wonder if there will be more Redskins fans in Dallas next Thanksgiving than there were at FedEx Field last Thanksgiving.) What city appeals to you the most for a Redskins road trip, now that we know when the games are (Jacksonville in December...hmmmmm).
- Another of my traditions regarding the schedule is to locate and call out the critical game or two on the page. Last year, it was the back-to-back stretch of Minnesota and New Orleans. The year before it was the Baltimore game. My hypothesis is, “If the Redskins win this game (or games), they should be a playoff team.” You might recall that in the 2016 season, we scraped past Baltimore for a win that was gifted to us by a fumbled interception that turned into a touchback our way. The 8-7-1 record was just good enough to keep us home for the postseason, so I guess I was wrong—though it was pretty dang close. Last year, I hung our season on the back-to-back NFC contests. We hosted the Vikings and then traveled to New Orleans. We entered that two-game stretch with a 4-4 record, on the heels of a road win at Seattle. My preseason logic was that we might not have the juice to win the division, but we would need the NFC wins to boost a wild card resume. After losing 38-30 to Minnesota, the Skins lost in overtime down in New Orleans...because we couldn’t get ONE STUPID FIRST DOWN ON TWO TRIES. Ok...deep breaths...serenity now! I understand you can call it foolish or meaningless to make such designations this far out, but wouldn’t your judgement of this exercise also be a bit premature?
- Is it a cop-out to designate NFC East games as being integral? I think so, but if it wasn’t, I would be all over the weeks seven and eight back-to-back tilts at home against Dallas and then on the road in New York. I think a fair rule is it has to be a non-divisional game. Therefore, I once again look to the subsequent home and away NFC battles in weeks nine and ten. At home against Atlanta and on the road against Tampa Bay...two chances to notch important conference results that at this point seem important in case the Eagles rough up the entire league with their 78 Hall of Fame defensive linemen (seriously, can they keep that many?). The problem with the Falcons game is that is comes right after their bye and right before they play the Browns. They should be both well-prepared and focused on the task at hand. Good news! Haha. The Bucs will have just played in Carolina and they will be traveling to play the Giants the week after they host Washington. In both cases, I am giving Alex Smith a chance to be the best quarterback on the field. Matt Ryan will have something to say about that, but hopefully Jonathan Allen and Vita Vea will neutralize the running game he relies on so much. Either way, how the Redskins fare in these two games, right in the middle of the season, will be my gauge of playoff worthiness.
- How does everyone feel about playing on Thanksgiving? I have to say, I love it—when the Redskins play on the road, that is. Thanksgiving is the perfect marriage of food and football. Three NFL games and enough food to sink a ship is heavenly. Even better is when MY team plays. Even better is when my team plays its archrival. Am I seeing this the wrong way? The Christmas weekend game in Nashville is also helpful in that I am not being called away to FedEx on a religious holiday with family. That tends to get...sticky. All in all, I would say the holidays worked out swimmingly this season.
- Feel free to pepper the comments section with record predictions. I wanted to follow up my 10-6 prediction with a Vegas line on total wins for the Redskins that is set at 5.5 in some places. This...does not bode well for my prognostication business, but it DOES bode well for Redskins fans making a few bucks. The reason why the line is always so low on Washington at this point is because NOBODY believes in them nationally. Gamblers don’t have any faith in Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen, and the two decades of their douchebaggery. Casinos and bookmakers have no faith in the Redskins at this time of year almost every year. I think they are under-appreciating the impact of Alex Smith, and I think they are underestimating the continuity and stability this team is finally enjoying on the sideline. Far be it for me to advise anyone to place any wager on this team—ever—but if you can buy 5.5 wins, you might just thank me when they win that sixth game of the season, which I think will come against the Buccaneers (definitely do not bet on that).
- As for the draft, I am sure I am joined by many of you in excitement over the prospect that an insanely talented player is about to join our roster and be featured on day one. We have talked a lot about the value that exists at #13 in the draft every year, and assuming for a moment that the Redskins will be unable to trade back, Washington is going to get a quality talent. As I consider where Best Player Available and Biggest Need overlap the most, I can’t help but continue to land on defensive line. I have long heralded the beauty of getting stud cornerbacks in the middle of the first round (and that is saying something, as I typically keep my heralding to a court-mandated minimum these days). You aren’t paying through the nose and you are getting a starter at one of the most important positions to be sound at in pro sports (overreach??? nah). That said, if the Redskins can put an athletic monster next to Jonathan Allen on the defensive line, you are going to see the results. Allen was quietly destroying it early in the season last year. If we give him the kind of quality help that a top rookie DT can provide, you will see a whole lot fall into place around them. I think the impact of that would be greater than bringing in someone to compete and possibly beat out Quinton Dunbar or Fabian Moreau at defensive back. (Also...a good place to drop this name off: Montae Nicholson.) In light of all of this, I advocate for Vita Vea.
- In the second round, I continue to light candles in the hopes the Redskins can land one of the top five running backs in this class. We need him, despite the resulting committee approach to our backfield that might drive some people nuts. I feel like if we get one of these guys in that slot, he will take the ball from Alex Smith on our first offensive play from scrimmage in September. I am too far head-over-heels for Sony Michel, which means we ain’t getting him, but he isn’t the only possibility here to contribute. If we don’t go running back in the second round, I am all in on Billy Price, the Center/Guard out of Ohio State. In addition to filling a need on our offensive line, he tore his pectoral muscle at the combine, which means Bruce Allen is destined to draft him.
- Real fast...everyone wants to trade back. It only works if the phone rings and someone is willing to make an honest offer. Unfortunately for the Redskins, the first tier quarterbacks will likely all be gone by the time #13 comes around, and I think this means the opportunity to trade down is going to be pretty hard to find. Maybe Lamar Jackson hangs around long enough to be in play when it is Washington’s turn to pick, but I don’t think so. As much as I am okay with beating up Bruce Allen for being voted the worst general manager and least trusted front office exec in the league, I think it is unfair to beat him up if he is unable to trade back.
- We will be back at Caddie’s on Cordell (downtown Bethesda) this Thursday night covering the first round of the NFL Draft. We are happy to announce we will be joined by the Redskins Alumni Association that evening. We look forward to hanging out with Mike Nelms, Brian Mitchell and Doc Walker—among others—as we welcome the newest Redskin (and future Redskins alum) to the family. Doors open at 6 PM on Thursday evening. We will be doing a couple shows prior to the pick, and then we will certainly hit Hogs Haven’s Facebook Live with a reaction to the selection. We will spell out more details tonight—it is Tuesday, y’all! The Audible starts up shortly after 9 PM EST, and you never know who will stop by the basement to chat with us about our favorite team (Kevin Hogan, Walt Williams most recently). See you tonight!
Ten Yard Fight: Post-Schedule Release/Pre-Draft Party
It doesn’t get much better than this in April for football fans. The schedule release and NFL Draft make for the most meaningful action we will see until the fall.