Who are these Washington Redskins? After beginning the season with two bad performances against the team of the 70’s and the team of the 90’s, the Skins have won three straight. Yet every time we think we have this team figured out we realize we have no clue. They have more personalities than Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne. Here are some declarations I see when scanning Twitter. I will give you some stats to debunk/support those claims and where the truth actually lies.
Declaration: The defense stinks
Facts: The Redskins defense has more holes than the plot of Iron Man 3, yet they haven’t allowed a second half touchdown in three weeks while only allowing nine total points. Since the disastrous opener, the Skins have allowed 21 of their last 50 third downs to be converted (42%). While that certainly isn’t the 1985 Bears, Bill Belichick’s Patriots are allowing 44.6% 3rd down conversions this season. Add into the mix that Joe Barry’s crew are tied for 6th in the NFL in takeaways and Trent Murphy (4.5) has more sacks than the entire New York Giants team (4).
Truth: While this group is nowhere near elite, they are finding themselves and have played well over the last three weeks. They have a huge test over the next three games (Philly, Detroit and Cincinnati) and at the bye we will have a better understanding if this group is good or if they are just mediocre. My sense is this defense is who we think they are and they will have a tough time, especially stopping the run, over the next three weeks.
Declaration: The special teams aren’t special
Facts: Jamison Crowder leads the NFL in punt returns with a ridiculous 27.7 yard per return average. The only two kicks Dustin Hopkins has missed were into a 30 MPH wind. Tress Way has placed 43% (6 of 14) of his punts inside the 20 and they stopped the Ravens on a critical blocked punt.
Truth: Special Teams won the game in Baltimore. Crowder’s punt return touchdown was the play of the game with Will Blackmon’s 45-yard kickoff return a close second. But even when coach Ben Kotwica’s unit does well, they make too many mistakes. Hopkins missed two kicks, albeit into a stiff wind. They were lucky that Baltimore's Crockett Gillmore slipped on the fake field goal or that could have been a touchdown and for the second time in three weeks a punt was nearly blocked (against the Giants a punt was blocked but offsetting penalties negated it). This unit gives me more agita than my nonna’s meat sauce.
Declaration: Kirk Cousins is an average quarterback
Facts: The Redskins are 5th in yards per play and 11th in total offense. Cousins has won five straight road game dating back to last season and has three consecutive road division games. His QB Rating (90.5) is currently higher than Aaron Rodgers (87.7), Carson Palmer (81.9) and Cam Newton (80.2). His completion percentage of 67.2 is higher than Drew Brees (65.9), Ben Roethlisberger (65.6) and Russell Wilson (65.4).
Truth: The biggest difference in Cousins this season is his struggles with deep ball accuracy. If he hits a wide open Jamison Crowder vs Dallas, the Skins could be 4-1. He has also overthrown Desean Jackson on at least two occasions (one would have put the Ravens game away). He is showing girt and toughness. He did win in Baltimore which is more difficult than getting tickets to Hamilton. The bottom line on Cousins is if he wants to lead this team to a second consecutive division championship (in a much improved NFC East), his accuracy, especially on deep throws needs to improve.
Final Thought: While this team will leave us scratching our heads we will learn more about who they are over the next three weeks. First up a divisional home game against Carson Wentz and the Eagles. The Redskins have not won four in a row, before Halloween since 2008. 5-3 at the break should be the goal and it’s within reach. 5-3 at the break will also show is who this team really is.
Chuck Sapienza is the executive producer of the Naval Academy radio network and the former VP of Programming for ESPN980. He was also a part of the Washington Redskins Radio Network from 2009 to 2015, serving as the network's executive producer. He can be reached at SapienzaChuck@gmail.com
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