The Redskins played the Eagles in DC this week and lost, and fan confidence has gone up again.
The Redskins were competitive against the Packers, who have a very good team, and actually held the lead over Philly with less than 30 seconds left to play in the game.
In fact, Redskins fan confidence has risen steadily over recent weeks, going from 2% to 4%, then to 8%, rising to 11% this week.
Clearly, fan confidence is rising steadily, not because of fans looking at the short-term, but because of the long-term future they can imagine. Here are some of the factors at play:
- Dwayne Haskins looked very much like an NFL quarterback against the Eagles. He was not sacked until the final play of the game, a desperation “Hail Mary” situation in which the Jim Schwartz defense rushed aggressively to end the game without Haskins being able to use his strong arm.
- Terry McLaurin had 6 catches for 130 yards and a TD. The rookie receiver has already looks like a finished NFL product, and he’s only 13 games into his NFL career. He now has 51 catches for 833 yards and 7 TDs, with two games left in the season.
- Adrian Peterson doesn’t appear ready to slow down, much less retire, and he is under contract for 2020. All Day has scored touchdowns in three consecutive games, and despite being a healthy scratch in Week 1, and gaining just 108 yards combined in his first four appearances under Jay Gruden early in the season, needs to average 108 yards in each of the final two games to put up another 1,000-yard season, and that doesn’t seem unreasonable given the way he’s been playing, and Bill Callahan’s likely desire to reward Peterson for what he’s done for the team.
- Cole Holcomb had six solo tackles this week. While he hasn’t set the world on fire this season, the rookie linebacker has been spotted making plays in pretty much every game he’s played in this season. Holcomb does one thing very well — he tackles people. Given his ability to get there, then get people down, he looks like he can be a positive contributor to the defense for a long time to come.
- Ryan Anderson may have had his best game as a Redskin this past Sunday. Any time a player’s stat line includes 3 forced fumbles, you figure he’s had an impact. Anderson’s stat line also included a sack and a tackle for loss. As a rookie, many fans labeled the second-round draft pick out of Alabama a “bust”; now some people are more charitably looking at him as a possible “late bloomer”.
- Danny Johnson looked lost in his late-season starts in 2018, but played more competently against the Eagles. He led the team in tackles — not something you want to be able to say about your cornerbacks — but didn’t give up any big plays and looked like he was constantly in the right place, which is a huge improvement from a year ago.
- Tress Way is a pro bowler!! The Redskins have probably the best punter in the NFL, and he’s likely to stay around for a while.
- Dustin Hopkins had a good day against the Eagles, hitting two field goals and three extra points. That stat about “3 extra points” is significant because that’s the first time since Week 2 that the offense has gotten the ball across the goal line three times. With teams across the league struggling to find competent kickers, the Redskins have found a lot of consistency with Hopkins, and appear to have a very settled set of extra team specialists, including their Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, Nick Sundberg.
- Steven Sims is seeing more and more of the field, as a kick returner, punt returner and slot receiver. The undrafted rookie is looking like he belongs in the NFL. He had a few bad plays this week — an ugly drop was one, and on a critical third-down play he tried to go east-west a bit too much instead of just diving forward for a first down — but those are mistakes he can learn from, and the young man has skills.
- As the end of the season nears, it’s hard not to get the sense that there will be significant change in the front office, and, of course, at the head coach position. Rumors about Bruce Allen being gone have been rife, and the body language and optics of the past few weeks give credence to the tea leaf readers. Bill Callahan's odd press conference following the Eagles loss may have been an indication that he has already been told that he will not be taking over the full time head coaching duties at the end of the season (but maybe I’m reading too much into one appearance following a tough loss).
Watch Live: Interim Head Coach Bill Callahan Speaks to the Media https://t.co/zKERg4g3Y7— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) December 16, 2019
The Draft Position Bowl games
With Week 16 upon us, the teams that aren’t fighting for playoffs need to look for motivation in knocking hated division rivals out of the playoffs, extending winning streaks, or — like the Redskins — seeing young players develop for the future.
At the very bottom of the leagu-wide standings, we see teams who have strong draft positions at stake in the final two weeks, and a lot of them are playing each other this weekend.
In fact, the bottom-4 teams in the league standings are playing each other in the two “Toilet Bowl” games of Week 16.
Of primary concern to Redskins fans, of course, is the battle of 3-11 NFC East teams: the Giants vs the Redskins. The loser of the game probably cements themselves in last place in the division, and solidifies 2020 draft position while the winner likely finishes in third place in the division and loses a bit of ground in the ‘20 draft stakes.
The other significant game is the 1-13 Bengals at the 3-11 Dolphins. The Bengals have almost locked up the top pick in the draft, and a win by the Dolphins would leave the loser of the Giants-Redskins game all alone at 2nd spot in the draft order with one game remaining. A win by the Bengals over the Dolphins, on the other hand, would leave the final draft order wide-open going into Week 17.