- While the next month or so is designed to get football players ready for the rigors of the NFL’s regular season, Hogs Haven’s legion of armchair quarterbacks is already in midseason form. I thought I would steal a bunch of primer questions floating around that I have been asked to respond to for a variety of outlets. Let’s get our minds around some of these ideas and then we can expand our thoughts on tomorrow night’s episode of The Audible (on Hogs Haven’s Facebook Live feed starting around 9 PM EST).
- A popular question I am asked is, “Which rookie are you most excited to watch?” I think the easiest and quickest answer that comes to mind is Derrius Guice. This makes sense from the standpoint of expected production and sizzle, but it hasn’t been my answer. Defensive linemen don’t typically sell video games or season tickets, but I feel like Redskins fans have yet to truly wake up to the defensive line we will be watching this season (assuming a fully healthy Jonathan Allen, which we will need to wait to see). When Allen was healthy last year, the Redskins were a top five defense against the run. He was, quite simply, awesome. The Redskins just picked up his battery mate from the Alabama Crimson Tide front, and the nastiness that is about to ensue is going to look nothing like what we have grown accustomed to in recent memory. Da’Ron Payne is a beast, and all accounts so far have indicated that he is a day one plug and play starter in the league. Payne and Allen in the heart of the defense is about to be a show. I will have my popcorn ready when Guice gets that first handoff against the Arizona Cardinals, but let’s not be caught off guard by how fun it is going to be to watch Payne go to work this fall.
- Next on the list of common questions is some version of, “Which returning player needs to improve the most for the Redskins this season?” Again, I feel like there is a kneejerk answer here, in the form of “Josh Doctson.” I get it. Josh needs to prove he is a first round talent, and that he can be a legit number one receiver in the league. I believe we have seen flashes of his ability, but he will need to get a lot more consistent to prove he can be “the guy.” Despite this, my answer has been Jordan Reed. As a player, he doesn’t need to prove much. When he has been on the field, he has performed at an incredibly high level. It is the “when he has been on the field” that has become a thing. Listen, people get hurt in the NFL. Further, physical specimens like Reed—thanks to their amazing athletic ability—regularly find themselves involved in increasingly violent plays on the field. I am not here lamenting that Reed can’t stay healthy because of anything in his power; rather, I am just stating a cold reality of the NFL: if and when a player is repeatedly injured, his unavailability becomes a problem that must be addressed. For Jordan Reed, despite how important he is to the Redskins, this is the last year he has any guaranteed money coming his way. He has two more years left on his contract, and should he perform in 2018, the Redskins would almost certainly be happy to keep him in the fold at about $8-$9 million per year. That said, if this player has another season when he is unable to be in pads on Sundays, the Redskins will be facing a pretty tough decision. This is a big deal to me. The Redskins are a different team depending on whether or not Reed is available. I want him on my squad. Despite the length of his contract, it is getting more and more apparent that Reed is going to have to show up in 2018 for him to stay on this roster.
- I get a constant barrage of, “Is Alex Smith better than Kirk Cousins?” In short, the answer is “YES.” When pressed, I explain that experience becomes the difference-maker when comparing these two quarterbacks. One has more than the other. I think Kirk is a fine quarterback, but his mental calculator simply doesn’t have the same amount of historical data to call up and bring to bear in decisions being made in milliseconds. As you can imagine, this is never a quick conversation once it gets started, so I thought it best to leave the bulk of this particular point to the comments section below. What I have enjoyed most about this argument is watching Kirk-haters become instant Alex-haters, and Kirk-lovers become quick Alex-lovers. It has been quite fun in that regard...I think that is the right word for it.
- How about a fantasy question? I get a lot of those, and the one I have answered most consistently is the one about a “sleeper” or “under-the-radar” fantasy player. To me, I feel like a player that will likely outperform preseason predictions is Paul Richardson. I don’t see Jay Gruden only using this guy to take the top off the defense. I am not sure exactly how Richardson will be most used initially, but it stands to reason that Gruden will get him involved. Didn’t we just find out this guy was the most productive wide receiver in the NFL on end zone targets in 2017? (We did, thanks to my boy Brent over at Burgundy Blog, with a hat tip to Pro Football Focus.) However you viewed the Washington offense with Kirk Cousins at the helm, I am here to tell you that Alex Smith is going to make it feel pretty darned different. Richardson is not a one-trick pony. He can run routes—I think he is actually a very underrated route runner. If that is true (and please don’t take my word for it—check it out), Alex Smith is going to find him. In fact, in order for all these other aspects to work out for the Redskins—Guice, Reed, Jamison Crowder, Doctson, etc.—a guy like Paul Richardson is going to need to be productive. If he is your WR3 or WR4 in a deep 12-team league, I think you might end up looking pretty smart.
- The over/under in Vegas REMAINS 6.5 wins for the Washington Redskins. In some places, you can make $145 on the over with a $100 bet. What...am...I...missing?!?!?!?!? Hahahaha...sometimes I feel like Vegas is actively trolling me, because this one is causing me some serious brain failure. OF COURSE the Redskins are going to win at least SEVEN games...right? I mean, what the what?!?!?!
The players might be just getting ready for training camp, but fans are already in a midseason mindset.