Two games, two losses to division rivals...
The 2019 Washington Redskins are pretty much who we thought they were two games into the regular season - not good enough to beat the better teams in the NFL.
So why have fans got their undergarments in a bunch?...because I didn’t see many preseason predictions for us going 10-6.
If I can point to one thing however that has surprised us, it’s that our perceived strengths have become our weaknesses and our perceived weaknesses have been our strengths.
Quarterback: Most will admit, we’ve gotten better play from the quarterback position than many expected. Now, has Case Keenum been “lights out”? Absolutely not. But he’s been much more than serviceable, and has done his job to keep us in games.
Inexperience at wide receiver, the injury to Jordan Reed, and the left side of the line were all big concerns coming into week one, but Case has done his job to mask some of those issues by trusting his young pass catchers, using guys like Vernon Davis and Jeremy Sprinkle, and getting the ball out quickly.
In the young season, against two very good defenses, Case has thrown for 601 yards and five touchdowns against no interceptions (although he had a few that should have been picked by the defense). He’s completed 69% of his passes and has been sacked just twice. He has a rating of 111.2.
Wide Receiver: We heard all training camp how special Terry McLaurin was. Now we get to see that on the field, and so far, the rookie has lived up to the hype! McLaurin leads the team in receiving and touchdowns, with 187 yards and hauling in two scores so far. He’s second on the team to Chris Thompson in catches with 10. Trey Quinn and Paul Richardson have each chipped in nicely as well, combining for 15 receptions and 121 yards. Each has a touchdown as well. Even rookie Kelvin Harmon has gotten in on the action with 2 receptions for 31 yards.
Left Guard and Left Tackle: When All-Pro Trent Williams failed to report for training camp, the team signed veteran Donald Penn to play left tackle. Despite some early struggles in the preseason, Penn has been very good in his first two games.
Perhaps the biggest surprise, and I say this both literally and figuratively, is new left guard Ereck Flowers. The former first round pick out of The U was a massive disappointment at left tackle for the Giants. He got a quick stint with the Jaguars too, but wasn’t brought back. The Redskins signed him this offseason to compete at guard, but due to Trent Williams’ absence, he was forced to play some left tackle early in training camp. Fans were so down on Flowers before he even took a regular season snap at left guard that they wanted him cut. He was the butt of a lot of jokes amongst Redskins fans, as many were calling for his head, while at the same time calling for rookie Wes Martin to get the start. Well, not only did Flowers make this team, but he was named the starter at left guard, and, to this point, has VERY pleasantly surprised with his play. I will even go so far as to say he’s been one of our two best linemen during the first two contests.
Inside Linebacker: Inside linebacker was a huge question mark coming into the season, especially after projected starter Reuben Foster went down in OTA’s with a non-contact injury to his knee requiring season-ending surgery. What wasn’t expected was the play of fifth round rookie Cole Holcomb, who is currently third on the team with 15 tackles. Holcomb is fast, instinctive, and a solid tackler. He still needs some work on coverages, but he has the ability.
Alongside Holcomb, Jon Bostic has done a solid job getting into the mix and making some nice plays inside. He’s not the athlete Holcomb is, but he’s fundamentally sound in his reads, and is a very sure tackler.
Special Teams: Special teams have been very solid so far this season. Kicker Dustin Hopkins is 2 for 2 on field goal attempts and 6 for 6 on extra points. Punter Tress Way has punted nine times with a 52 yard average and has landed five inside the 20 yard line. Even the return game is clicking as rookie steven Sims has almost busted a few, and I believe it’s just a matter of time before he does break one.
Offensive Play Calling: Despite the results of the first two games, the offense has produced. The running game, as mentioned below, has not yet clicked, but the passing game has been efficient and produced big plays.
For as much as Jay Gruden gets criticized by fans for not having his team prepared, he has done a nice job against two potential Super Bowl contenders in the team’s first two games, not only getting them prepared to play, but keeping them competitive in the games.
Running Back: Everyone thought running back was going to be one of the strengths of this team. So far, it’s been a big disappointment. Second round back Derrius Guice injured his knee early in the Eagles game, and will miss some time as his meniscus heals from surgery. The saga around Jay Gruden and Adrian Peterson casts a dark shadow on the team. Although Gruden and Peterson are said to now be on the same page, it didn’t sit well with the future Hall of Famer that he was inactive against the Eagles.
Despite fences being mended with Adrian and Jay, the running game has yet to get on track, gaining a paltry 75 total yards and an average of 2.5 yards per carry on just 30 attempts.
Right Tackle: With Trent Williams being away from the team, Morgan Moses is now the most tenured Redskins offensive lineman. Despite his tenure and familiarity with the offense and coach Bill Callahan, Moses has been anything but good over the first two games. As expected, he leads the team in penalties, and has now started chirping off the field as well, actually criticizing the offensive game plan and play calling when it comes to checking the ball down underneath.
Defensive Line: What was viewed by most coming into the year as the strength of this team, has been one of the biggest weaknesses. It doesn’t help that our best player, Jonathan Allen, has been injured since the second quarter of the Eagles game, but the depth has just not shown up. Daron Payne has played well at times, but the help around him has been inconsistent as best, and the inside pass rush is just not getting home.
Outside Linebacker: Fans are now used to seeing Ryan Kerrigan get off to a slow start. It happened last year, and it’s happening again this year. Despite one sack on the season, he’s just not getting home with any consistency and has not played well against the run. Montez Sweat is not generating much of a pass rush on the opposite side, but in fairness to the rookie, he’s faced two the the league’s best left tackles in his first two games as a professional. He has, however, been stout in setting the edge and making some plays in the run game.
Cornerback: The play at corner this season has been horrible! Josh Norman is a shell of his former self and would be better off dancing and jumping bulls than playing football at this point. Injuries have taken their toll as well, as Fabian Moreau has not seen any action to this point as he works his way back from an ankle injury, and starter Quinton Dunbar has a knee issue that kept him off the field against Dallas. To make matters worse, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was just placed on injured reserve with season-ending ankle surgery.
Rookie Jimmy Moreland has done a solid job so far, and he has a bright future with the team, despite going through some growing pains as he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the NFL game. Outside of Moreland, there really haven’t been any bright spots within this group.
Defensive Play Calling: Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky has been AWFUL!...there is simply no other way to put it. He is a massive liability on this coaching staff, and despite having three solid position coaches around him in Ryan, Horton and Tomsula, he couldn’t dig himself out of a one foot hole with a backhoe. Jay needs to man-up and cut ties with Manusky before he loses his players - that’s if he hasn’t lost them already.
Despite some surprise at positions we thought would be a liability and some disappointments in areas we viewed as strengths, the 2019 Redskins are pretty much we we thought they were going to be early on this season.
While fans are upset and pointing the finger at anyone and everyone, the results of our first two games are pretty much what everyone expected - except maybe for the second half meltdown against the Eagles on the road.
The schedule gets a bit easier over the next four games, as the Skins take on the Bears, Giants and Dolphins - all very winnable games, with the Bills, Jets, Panthers and Giants all coming after the bye.
My prediction for a 7-9 season is still very much in play.
So for me, the 2019 Redskins so far are pretty much who I thought they’d be.