Before the Week 1 opener I put together a list of 12 takes of varying levels on the Washington Redskins. After eight games and a 4-3-1 record, here's a review of those pre-season thoughts while spinning forward to the second half of the season.
* Fine, maybe "go-to" is a touch strong seeing as Jordan Reed exists and leads the Redskins with 17 receptions on 20 third-down targets. Of course, Crowder is second with 13 grabs -- eight for first downs -- on 19 targets for a team-high 187 yards. The 5-foot-8 target has indeed emerged as Washington's best all-around pass-catching threat among the wide receivers. It's clear Cousins looks his way early and often and in clutch spots. The second-year receiver leads Washington in receiving yards (498) and touchdowns (4). Even if Reed is the main man on third down, that doesn't mean Crowder is some mere second banana.
* Ever wake up in the middle of the night, jot down a note, and then read it the next morning with almost no understanding of the message? There's a touch of that going on here. Dunbar plays on the outside while Fuller is the slot corner, having surpassed Dashaun Phillips as the starter during the first month of the season. Last season Dunbar emerged as a key contributor despite negligible experience at the position. The key contributor part remains, but Fuller's impressive work makes him a clearer long-term piece. The third round pick has played on a higher percentage of snaps than Dunbar (43.4 to 34.5).
* We can't claim this is a winner, but maybe we can by the time Washington and Minnesota are finished Sunday at FedEx Field. The undrafted rookie started in the Redskins last game with Jones (shoulder) sidelined -- and impressed with his vision, cutting and production despite suspect run-blocking. Even if Jones faces the Vikings, left tackle Trent Williams won't. The Pro Bowler's absence will further hamper the run blocking while putting a premium on elusivity. Kelley wins that contest over Jones. We'll see if that means he takes over the Redskins backfield.
* Will Compton and Foster came from way off the radar to start for the Redskins last season. If we talking flyers, seeing one of them drop back seemed plausible. After eight games, according to Pro Football Focus, Foster is the highest graded starter (83.2) on the Redskins defense. He played a season-high 57 snaps in Week 8. Garvin was signed as a free agent in part because of his special prowess. For now, that remains his primary role.
5. Bashaud Breeland worked on becoming more of a playmaker. He scores more touchdowns than Chris Thompson
* While a rather silly comparison, the point involved Breeland's development at corner during training camp and the apparent development into a ball hawk. The came struggles in the opening two games against Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant respectively. Then came an ankle injury serious enough to sideline Breeland for a couple of games. Overall, Breeland is Washington's lowest rated defensive starter (38.7) per PFF, though he's one of five players with one interception. Thompson already has a 2-0 TD lead. Again, silly. The Redskins needing a steadier version of Breeland whether he ever finds the end zone or not, so not silly.
6. DeSean Jackson scores at least 10 touchdowns for the first time in his career
* If DJax finds the end zone nine times over the final eight games, winner. That seems unlikely. I was all in when it came to projecting a big year for the upcoming free agent. Instead, Jackson is averaging what would be a career-low 13.9 yards per catch, though he's on pace to catch at least 60 passes for only the fourth time in nine seasons. Defenses have largely taken away the deep ball option with coverages, leaving Jackson to work underneath. That's fine, but the Redskins need to get their big play threat doing what he does best.
7. Preston Smith leads the Redskins sacks and is named to his first Pro Bowl
* Ouch. Smith's 1.5 sacks ranks fourth and well back of fellow linebackers Ryan Kerrigan (7) and Trent Murphy (6). It's not all bad, but Smith certainly hasn't carried any momentum from a strong close to his rookie season.
8. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay becomes the next head coach of the Buffalo Bills
* Sure, why not. The Redskins offensive system impresses and Bills coach Rex Ryan isn't a lock to stick around.
9. Josh Doctson will find the end zone more than any Washington wide out named DeSean Jackson
* Never mind.
10. Josh Norman makes the Pro Bowl...and yet some the perception will end up he wasn't worth the $75 million contract
* We'll see about the Pro Bowl, but Norman ranks 23rd among cornerbacks this year per PFF. Debate their methodology or not, Norman hasn't been pure a shutdown corner, though let's note that term is silly for the offensive-friendly NFL. Is he the best CB on the Redskins? Yes. Has he been lockdown-y at times? No doubt. PFF ranks Norman 12th among corners in "coverage." Has his feisty vibe and willingness to play through benefitted the locker room? Put me down or yes. The positives outweigh the negatives, but that doesn't mean some won't suggest he didn't live live up that massive contract in Year One.
11. The Redskins run defense is actually worse in 2016
2015: 4.8 yards per carry, tied for 30th. 2016: 4.9 yards per carry, 31st.
I love the movie Groundhog Day. I fear we may live it next season. Cousins shows he's legit, but perhaps not quite to the point where the organization wants to make it rain, thus putting the threat of another franchise tag on the table.
I'd say this describes the mood in Cousins-land. Top 10 in completion percentage and yardage has some going John Malkovich's KGB by saying pay dat man his money. Yet the red-zone woes have kept the Redskins out of the end zone. Now Cousins must go the next four games without Trent Williams, a scenario that likely won't help his numbers or the team's success. This debate isn't going all the way and may lead to another franchise tag and perhaps a new debate.
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