NFC East: Washington Redskins

ASHBURN, Va. -- Sometimes the lesson involves patience. Such as on a first-quarter run last week, when Bashaud Breeland got antsy to make a play. Because of it, Arizona running back Andre Ellington bounced to the gap he was supposed to fill, leaving Breeland out of position. An 18-yard run could have been one or two.

Sometimes the lesson involves trust. Such as on a third-and-13 play later in the quarter. Breeland and the coaches anticipated a certain route concept out of this particular look. Breeland noticed something else as the receivers broke, but didn’t adjust.

It’s the life of a rookie learning in the NFL. Breeland was forced into a starting role thanks to DeAngelo Hall’s injury and ever since, there have been lessons and growing pains.

[+] EnlargeBashaud Breeland
AP Photo/Rick ScuteriBashaud Breeland must learn on the fly against Larry Fitzgerald and others.
“I’m a young guy, but I’m playing a big role,” Breeland said. “I have to try my best to fulfill a big role.”

That means learning lessons every week. David Amerson went through these lessons a year ago, but he wasn’t forced into a starting role while doing so.

“[Breeland] gets something new every week,” Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. “A lot of things we probably overcoached him on, to be honest. … Maybe we’re telling him too much. the big thing with him is he’ll be a heck of a player. We’re all fans. We have to keep it as simple as we can. The things he’s not clear on are the things where he’s thinking too much. When he lets it go and plays, he’ll be a heck of a player.”

The two plays above illustrated some of what Haslett is talking about. The first was simple: Fill your gap. The coaches warned their players that Ellington liked to bounce outside; 10 minutes of watching him on film would tell anyone that. Instead, Breeland, who had outside contain, got sucked inside and lost sight of the back. The Redskins forced a punt on this series, so the mistake didn’t hurt; still, a teaching moment for the coaches.

“I have to be more patient,” Breeland said. “If I would have been more patient waiting for him to get into my gap instead of trying to go make a play, I would have been able to make that play for a lesser gain.”

The third-and-13 conversion did hurt, as Arizona scored a touchdown two plays later. All week the coaches harped on a certain route concept out of this look, with the outside receiver to Breeland’s side running a deep fade and some sort of scissors route underneath, where receivers are crossing in some fashion. The only other route, based on alignment, that the outside receiver Michael Floyd could run on this play: a deep comeback. That is what he ran.

Because it was zone coverage, Breeland also could see the inside receiver. Once he didn’t run a particular route, it should have alerted him to something different by Floyd. When the inside receiver runs a dig, or inside route, that’s a clue for Breeland.

“I should trigger back to [Floyd],” he said. “That’s just me having bad eyes. I didn’t trigger until the ball was thrown.”

Yes, he was 10 yards off at the snap. But it was as much bad eyes as it was initial soft cushion.

“My eyes weren’t in the right place,” he said. “I was looking for another route concept and I didn’t play aggressive on that play. I wouldn’t say guessing, just bad eyes. Play what I see.”

Redskins locker room quick takes

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
ASHBURN, Va. -- Highlights from the Washington Redskins' open locker room session Thursday:
  • OK, really it's highlights from post-practice because I also talked to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and coach Jay Gruden. Haslett said the Redskins actually rushed the quarterback better last week but that quarterback Carson Palmer got out of some tough situations. The problem this week is that the Redskins face a mobile quarterback in Jake Locker, who is athletic and has good speed.
  • Haslett said they might be giving rookie corner Bashaud Breeland too much information, leaving him unable to sometimes play as freely as necessary. I'll write a little on this later, but Haslett was referring to the third-and-13 when Breeland allowed a comeback -- because they had hammered home a different route combination all week.
  • There's a sense that end Stephen Bowen will be able to return sooner rather than later, both Haslett and Gruden said. They want to see more as the week progresses, but they feel good about where he's at. Receiver Leonard Hankerson, though, will take a little more time, Gruden said.
  • Haslett called linebacker Will Compton a "reliable player." Haslett said Compton didn't make many mistakes, especially once he calmed down after some early nerves. There's a chance Compton could start again Sunday.
  • I'll have more on the run game Friday (after watching almost all of Alfred Morris' carries thus far), but suffice it to say everyone agrees on this: It's not one thing that's hurting them. One of the areas on the list: communication.
  • Gruden said rookie tackle Morgan Moses is pushing right tackle Tyler Polumbus, but he's not there yet. "He needs more time," Gruden said. "He's still cooking in the oven."

Jay Gruden says RG III 'looked fine'

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
ASHBURN, Va. -- When Robert Griffin III is ready, he’ll return to the starting lineup. Redskins coach Jay Gruden made that clear Wednesday. The tough part for now is knowing when he’ll be back for good.

But the good news for Griffin is that he took yet another step Wednesday, participating in individual drills. He threw passes to wideouts during drills, showing some of his zip but also the rustiness of a guy who hasn’t played since Week 2. That resulted in some passes that were short or off-target.

And Griffin was able to drop back and move without any sort of noticeable effect of his dislocated left ankle.

“He looked fine,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Had a little bounce in his step, but that’s about it. Nothing new. Everything else will be up to the trainers and the doctor. There’s nothing I can do as far as rushing him back. They’re going to let me know when they will allow him to progress into the team drills.”

Griffin, who was not permitted to talk about his participation in practice, still hasn’t been cleared to fully return. When that happens he’ll take over the first-team duties from Kirk Cousins.

“But I don’t know when that will be yet,” Gruden said. “That’s hard for me to project. Could be one week, two weeks. Could be five weeks. I don’t know yet. He looks good so far. He’s making good progress, as we knew he would, the type of worker he is. But making progress in the training room and making progress on the practice field are two entirely different things and we just got to make sure he’s right both mentally and physically before he gets back out on the field.”

Kirk Cousins' INTs remain the issue

October, 13, 2014
Oct 13
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The disaster started when Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins sailed a pass over the middle, always a dangerous sight. The safety was there, the interception was easy and the turnover woes had begun.

When it was over, Cousins had thrown three interceptions in Washington’s 30-20 loss to Arizona. That gives Cousins eight interceptions for the season and is the sixth time in his career he’s thrown more than one pick in a game. That covers 13 appearances and eight starts. He was given a golden opportunity to get what he wanted long term: a starting job.

He does not have the luxury of being a high draft pick with a ton invested in him to warrant anything other than a return to the bench when Robert Griffin III is healthy. Fair or not, Cousins needed to make a strong case in a short time; he’s provided glimpses and sometimes a little bit more. But strong? No. And it’s because of the turnovers.

It’s a constant problem for Washington, which turns the ball over way too often, and it once again cost the Redskins a shot at winning -- especially with a defense that forces few turnovers.

For Cousins, it capped a frustrating day against Arizona. He posted big numbers, completing 24-of-38 passes for 354 yards and two touchdowns. But the biggest involved the number three -- as in interceptions.

“It wasn’t what we wanted,” Cousins said of the fourth quarter. “The turnovers were costly. They just didn’t give us a chance to stay on the field. We’ve got guys who can help us, but when you turn the ball over you won’t give them a chance to show what they can do.”

No, you won’t. The problem for Cousins is that if he can’t get past the turnover issues, he’ll remain what he is: a backup. He’ll make some throws that are outstanding, such as the one to receiver DeSean Jackson for a 64-yard score. Jackson curled behind corner Patrick Peterson, but the opening was narrow and Cousins found him.

But ... the interceptions.

The first occurred with Washington trailing 23-13 but at the Arizona 47-yard line with 8:42 remaining. His pass to Andre Roberts was too high and resulted in a 30-yard return for Rashad Johnson.

“The first one was a poor throw, high over the middle,” Cousins said. “I got off rhythm and just felt rushed and it threw me off where I wanted to be. That one was on me.”

The second one was tougher to assess full blame, which is why coach Jay Gruden spread it around. Still trailing by 10 and with a third-and-3 at the Cardinals’ 42, Cousins wanted to hit Jackson on what appeared to be a slant out of a bunch formation. Roberts, part of the three-man group, went to block a defensive back off the snap. But Cousins and Jackson didn’t connect.

“The play took way too long,” Gruden said. “That play is supposed to be one step and the ball is gone. It took way too long, the flat defender read his eyes and got underneath and made a play. That was not how it was designed and, for whatever reason, we were late. Bad play design and bad execution equals interception.”

“That’s kind of a bang-bang play,” Cousins said. “You’ve got to let the ball go.”

Once more the defense held, the Redskins drove for a quick touchdown and then got the ball back with 29 seconds remaining at their own 14. Clearly, getting into field goal position would be tough. But Cousins made it worse by turning and throwing blindly back to his left.

“I was just trying to get the ball downfield and did not see the defender,” Cousins said. “I basically threw it without seeing him there. When you do that and he’s standing there, he’s going to intercept it and take it back.”

Cardinals-Redskins: 10 observations

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Thoughts and observations after the Washington Redskins' 30-20 loss to Arizona:
  1. Not to belabor this point, but the Redskins' locker room Sunday night was about what it always was, and should be, after a loss. It had the definite feel of a team that can't understand what is going wrong and why it can't win anymore. And it was quiet. It's quite an amazing turnaround from 2012 when the future looked so bright, with a dynamic young quarterback and a head coach with a Super Bowl resume.
  2. Now? It's tough to make any sort of case for a bright future. They have questions at quarterback, a spot that should have no questions whatsoever given the investment they made in one guy and the confidence they expressed in the other. Youth explains some of the issues, but certainly not all. The trick for the organization is to know how to separate all the issues involved. They have holes along the line and a number on defense.
  3. Cousins
    The sad truth is, the season will soon be about determining whether quarterback Robert Griffin III deserves a contract extension after this season. When he returns, he'll obviously go back into the lineup. And when he does he's going to have a lot to prove if he wants that fifth season. Otherwise he'll end up playing out his contract in 2015. The scary part is, what happens to the direction of the franchise if he doesn't show improvement?
  4. Can you trust Kirk Cousins to ever be that guy? Not based on what we've seen. The money downs, and the money time, have not yielded great results for him. That is, third quarter passing and the fourth quarter. There are reasons why mistakes happen, like interceptions. Sometimes it's not on the quarterback. But when they keep happening, there's usually just one. Cousins is not a game manager; he's a more aggressive passer who makes mistakes.
  5. I've said this before, but the Redskins need to quit saying they have a lot of great players. They really don't, especially on defense. Sometimes I think the fact that they'll use words like great to describe what they have holds them back. When you believe that, perhaps you just keep figuring a play will be made. Because, well, you have great players. They could use more of a bulldog mentality; I've seen teams here have that before but it's been a while. But to get there, you have to be willing as an organization to focus on different things than they have. A big reason Dallas is winning? That offensive line. The football people wanted Zach Martin; the owner wanted Johnny Manziel. The football guys won. They're 5-1.
  6. I know the defense gets a lot of blame and what's really the issue there is the inability to make any sort of game-changing play (Brian Orakpo). But they did hold the Cardinals to no touchdowns in the second half, with a secondary that wouldn't scare anyone. They missed tackles, leading to a Larry Fitzgerald touchdown in the second quarter. But after David Amerson went out with a concussion, it left the Redskins with none of their top three projected corners for the season. The money guys up front needed to do more. The secondary played as you would expect.
  7. Left tackle Trent Williams limped around in the locker room. Know why? Because on the interception returned for a touchdown, he had blocked his man and looked like he had fallen to the ground. But he got up, sprinted toward the ball carrier and dove to knock him out of bounds. At that point the game was over, the minute the Cardinals had intercepted the ball. Williams played an excellent game. Heck, on a Pierre Garcon bubble screen, he blocked inside and then sprinted wide to make a block (really more of a screen) that few tackles could make with two good legs.
  8. I wish DeSean Jackson would block a little harder just because it would help others gain a few more yards. The great players will do so. But it's hard to deny Jackson's impact, and he's doing exactly what he was brought here to do. He has never been, and never will be, much of a blocker. But since the second half of the Eagles' game, most of the Redskins' scoring drives involve long pass plays to him.
  9. Give Cousins credit on the 64-yard touchdown because Jackson did not get much separation from corner Patrick Peterson, who clearly wanted to prevent him from getting inside. Cousins threw a dart -- the sort of throw that should get a coach excited. But those mistakes.
  10. Tight end Jordan Reed's impact was noticeable. With him in the game, the Redskins could stay in a two-tight end look, yet be wide open. A couple times they had Reed, tight end Niles Paul and running back Alfred Morris split out. That forced Arizona to stay in base coverage, yet it's a tough matchup for them. Reed can line up in the backfield, too, and sneak out on a route. He just needs to stay healthy, but when he does, he makes a difference.

Brian Orakpo: 'I lost the game for us'

October, 12, 2014
Oct 12

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The ball was where it needed to be, at least for a Washington Redskins defense that had not made a big play in, oh, a few games. This was a chance to bail out the offense, which had just turned it over. This was a chance to possibly do more than just catch a ball.

Maybe it would lead to points. Maybe it would lead to a win.

Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer threw a ball that was headed right at Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo. He’s been criticized for not making game-changing plays. This was a chance to answer critics.

And he dropped it.

The frustration was obvious as he clenched his fists and you could see a face in agony. Six days ago Orakpo was upbeat about his team’s effort in a loss to Seattle. On Sunday, he spoke softly -- for a guy with a deep voice, that is -- and sounded like a player who would be carrying more than just his bags to the plane.

“I should have made that pick,” Orakpo said. “It’s just frustrating. I should have made that pick. ... I feel like I lost the game for us.”

Orakpo didn’t lose the game for Washington, not when the offense turned the ball over four times in the fourth quarter. There’s no way you can pin a defeat on a linebacker when the Redskins do so many things to hurt themselves. But the offense also makes plays. The defense does not. Its highest-paid player was in position to do something about that blemish.

Perhaps he doesn’t score on the play, but he had a lot of room to run. If nothing else, he keeps it a one-score game as the Cardinals led 20-13 at the time and already were in field goal range. Indeed, two plays later they kicked a field goal en route to a 30-20 win that dropped Washington to 1-5.

Here’s the thing: Orakpo is playing hurt, with a sprained left middle finger, an issue with his wrist and also with ankle problems. It’s not an excuse, it’s just a fact. As he said it’s been a “[expletive] frustrating year.” Orakpo made some nice plays in this 30-20 loss so you can’t cherry-pick when you say the injuries bother a guy and when they don’t. So let’s not.

Orakpo acknowledged his hands.

“My hands are tore up, man,” he said. “I just couldn’t make that play.”

But he later said, when asked about his hands, “I just missed it. I just missed it.”

But here’s the other thing: He’s a guy who wants to be viewed a certain way and, after the season, paid accordingly. But in his five-plus seasons, Orakpo has intercepted one pass and forced six fumbles. That’s one or two seasons of work for guys in a certain pay range. Heck, this one wasn’t even about making a play where he had to do something heroic. No one knows this better than Orakpo. This was the sort of harsh glare he would be under this season, after receiving the franchise tag and knowing that the head coach desired more big plays before more big money flowed his way.

The Redskins have become an "almost" team. They almost sacked Palmer a few times. They almost got Russell Wilson down last Monday night. They almost beat the Eagles. They almost took a big step up as a franchise a year or so ago. Yet after six games they’re almost assuredly headed for a sixth last-place finish in seven years.

“We were close many, many times,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Sunday’s game, “but unfortunately close doesn’t get it.”

No, it doesn’t. Orakpo was close to the sort of play he needs to make. And he didn’t get it. No, he did not cost the Redskins a win. But it’s hard not to wonder what it will cost him in the end.

Second thoughts: Redskins-Seahawks

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
Some second thoughts on the Washington Redskins' 27-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Monday night:
  • Cousins
    I didn’t think Kirk Cousins played poorly at all, though he certainly seemed to be pressing early against Seattle. Throws were consistently behind his intended targets, leading to incompletions. Some could have been caught, but too many were offline.
  • I do like that his numbers were much better in the second half. He completed 14-of-19 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown in the second half. Maybe it was the 60-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson that settled him down. Regardless, before that throw, Cousins had passed for only 22 yards.
  • I wrote about this after the game, but the added dimension of Russell Wilson's legs had a massive impact on the game. It’s why the Redskins can’t (and won’t) give up on Robert Griffin III.
  • Also wrote about this in my 10 Observations, but I want to touch on the locker room situation for one more moment. I think it speaks to how much the Redskins’ confidence has been (rightly) damaged over the last 21 games that the fact they weren’t blown out is cause for being upbeat. Sometimes little steps are required. The game did go about as I imagined: The Redskins playing better but losing (I actually had it 28-17 Seahawks).
  • Trent Williams labored at times to get through pre-game warmups, but he played the whole game. It’s a big reason teammates and coaches love him and respect him. He’s a good example for others to follow.
  • Haven’t written a whole lot about DeSean Jackson, though I did give him my game ball in our post-game video. But Jackson is like a home run hitter in baseball; he can look bad for three or four at-bats, then hit a bomb. Jackson looked bad before his 60-yard touchdown catch -- with drops, a miscommunication it appeared on another route and not a whole lot of blocking -- and ended up having a huge night.
  • That’s two games where it appeared Washington was out of it and Jackson sparked hope. The Redskins were down 10 and doing nothing against the Eagles in the second half when he caught his long touchdown in that game, and Monday they were down 17. Jackson has definite flaws as a receiver, but his strength is that with one play you can get right back in the game.
  • Jackson capitalized on Seattle trying to fool the Redskins with corner Richard Sherman dropping to a safety in a Cover 2 look, leaving safety Kam Chancellor corner responsibilities on that side. He played to the flat, perhaps anticipating a quick throw. One little mistake and Jackson made them pay.
  • Credit Cousins with two excellent throws as well. He hit Jackson in stride on the 60-yarder. He also hit him in stride in double coverage on a 57-yarder. That was a beautiful throw and Jackson created an extra yard of separation to make the catch. He does a good job stacking the defender and then pulling away, giving the quarterback a little space to lead him.
  • Of Seattle’s top four biggest gainers Monday, all resulted from Wilson’s legs. Two were passes for 39 and 30 yards and the other two were runs of 29 and 22 yards. And of their top 10 gainers, six stemmed from his legs as he also had a 16-yard run and a 19-yard pass in which he kept the play alive (the one where officials ruled he was not over the line) by moving up and then back in the pocket.
  • Wilson has developed quite nicely. He grew as a quarterback in part because of how well the Seahawks were built around him. Griffin had much more placed on his shoulders initially because he did not have as much around him.
  • That’s why the Redskins are 4-17 since the start of last season. With Griffin not himself or still developing, they aren’t good enough in other areas to compensate.
  • The Redskins allowed 99 yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In other words, nearly 25 percent of the Seahawks’ total yards (403). Yikes. Seventy of those yards after contact came on the ground. The Redskins were 11th in the NFL in the first four weeks for yards allowed after contact on running plays -- a big improvement over 2013, when they ranked 23rd.

Redskins hope to build on outing

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
LANDOVER, Md. – They stopped short of calling it a moral victory. They did like how they responded to an ugly game in their last outing. And that’s something the Redskins hope leads to better outcomes -- real soon.

At 1-4 after Monday’s 27-17 loss to Seattle, the Redskins don’t have any margin for error in the NFC East. They’re three games out of first and two out of third. But, at this point, it’s not about their place in the standings as much as it is re-establishing themselves.

“We’re 1-4 and disappointed, but that was the defending Super Bowl champions, and we went toe-to-toe with these guys, and that’s something to hang our heads high on,” Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “Our guys played great. We just didn’t finish in the end. The effort was there, guys were making plays. There are no moral victories, but it’s something to build on.”

Well, maybe, said safety Ryan Clark. He said losses can’t be built upon, but positives can be drawn.

“It’s effort, it’s will, it’s want-to,” Clark said. “It’s being able to battle adversity, like playing so bad on national TV last week and getting an opportunity against an extremely good team and you go one way or another. You could out and you fight and you scratch and you claw or you get embarrassed again. We didn’t do that. We got beat by a better team and, as far as I’m concerned this weekend, the best player in the NFL. Russell Wilson made every play he had to make for his team to win.”

The offense managed 17 points against arguably the NFL’s best defense. They failed to run the ball well -- 32 yards on 17 carries. Despite that, they entered the fourth quarter down a touchdown. Quarterback Kirk Cousins wasn’t spectacular; he did throw for 283 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions -- 117 of those yards came on two passes to DeSean Jackson.

“There’s no such thing as a moral victory, but in some ways this is,” tight end Logan Paulsen said. “There are a lot of things we can take away from this game.”

They’re trying to stay patient.

“It’s a process, man,” Jackson said. “New coach, new quarterback that’s getting a lot of experience. There’s a lot of new players so we’re trying to find our identity."

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said, “It is frustrating, but if we get that kind of effort and just limit the big plays and limit the mistakes, then we have a chance to be good and start stacking up some wins.”

The Film Don't Lie: Redskins

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
A weekly look at what the Redskins must fix:

The Redskins once again failed in a key area that continues to haunt the offense: third downs. Quarterback Kirk Cousins in particular has struggled in this area. Fortunately for the Redskins, they’re playing a team on Sunday that could help them get better in this department. Or, perhaps, their stats are a little misleading -- and not as inviting as they appear.

Let’s start with Cousins. Quarterbacks earn their money in the red zone and on third down. Too often, though, that’s been a troubling down as Cousins ranks last in the NFL among quarterbacks who have appeared in at least three games with a 49.8 passer rating on this down. Cousins has completed 21-of-37 passes for 204 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

In three starts last season, Cousins had a 64.5 passer rating -- that was 25th in the NFL during that stretch. He completed 24 of 39 passes for 224 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

So it’s been an issue. Some of it is too many third-and-longs: Of their 12 third downs Monday, eight were for 5 yards or more. The problem is that teams will blitz Washington more on third down. Cousins has faced a blitz on 19 of his 37 third-down throws. He’s completed eight of those 19 passes for 55 yards and an interception.

Which brings us to Arizona. The good news for Washington: The Cardinals allow the opposition to convert on 45.5 percent of third downs. The quarterbacks they’ve faced: Philip Rivers, Eli Manning, Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning. A pretty good group.

But it’s the pressure on third down that will be worth watching. The Cardinals have blitzed an NFL-high 33 times on third down. It usually works: Quarterbacks have completed 16 of 30 passes for 242 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions on those plays. The yards per attempt (8.37) ranks 21st in the league, so there’s a potential payoff -- but that means Cousins and the rest of the offense must handle this scenario better than they have in the past.

Seahawks-Redskins: 10 observations

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
Here are 10 observations from the Washington Redskins' 27-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night:
  1. The fact the Redskins did not get blown out at home for a second straight game might not have been a moral victory, but it sure felt like one in their locker room. It was more lively than usual after a loss; in fact, it was tough to tell, if you closed your eyes, whether they had won or lost. Is that bad? Keep in mind this is a team that needed a wake-up call after a 1-2 start -- and 3-13 season last year.
  2. Clark
    I’ve touched on this in other blog posts, but I’m not always sure what to make of the demeanor. Should they be drop-dead quiet after every loss? Safety Ryan Clark, who has been on Super Bowl teams, was pleased with how the team responded on the field after the New York Giants debacle in the previous home game.
  3. Nor was Clark bothered by the atmosphere. It’s not like players were dancing and partying, but they weren't glum, either. And it’s not like they were anything but somber after the New York loss. Clark said, "If you lost it in Pittsburgh, it was a miserable feeling as a whole. Here, we’re in the process of trying to build something and trying to understand how to win. We’ll see how it goes next week." In other words: It’s about how they respond during the week.
  4. Clark and others said everyone handles a loss differently. “When the clock ticks zero, you can be mad all you want but it won’t change the outcome,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “You just recognize your mistakes, get ready to get in the film room and get better. Losing is already miserable in itself, so after a game like this, man, we’re professionals so of course it sucks. It’s going to suck all night. But you wake up and your focus has to be on the next game.”
  5. I’d feel much better about this if the Redskins did not have a history of finishing in last place. You need to be patient while building. You also have to let everyone know losing isn’t acceptable. Culture, you know? They knew Seattle was the much better team and they knew they were in the game in the fourth quarter. The effort was there. Maybe they realized there wasn’t a whole lot more they could do -- and that one special player, quarterback Russell Wilson, beat them. Clearly the Redskins regained some confidence. Maybe that’s the first step. That’s what the Redskins must hope. The alternative is not pretty.
  6. The Redskins clearly did not anticipate Wilson keeping the ball that much. The outside linebackers often appeared fooled, but their job most of the time was to play for the dive play by the running back. It really depended on the defensive call. “You would think, why is the edge so open, but it depends on situations we’re in,” linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “We still have to respect Marshawn Lynch. That’s why guys are still closing down and respecting the tailback and playing the quarterback second.”
  7. Rookie Trent Murphy played the tailback on Wilson’s touchdown run around his side. But what he could have done better: stay square to the line of scrimmage. Eventually, fellow linebacker Ryan Kerrigan did that after some early Wilson runs to his side and it helped. But that’s how Seattle wants the linebackers to play so they can give it more to Lynch inside. They create positive numbers inside, which is the goal. Wilson also took advantage of lots of man coverage and, therefore, open running lanes.
  8. Though Seattle had 403 yards of offense, the Seahawks hurt themselves with penalties. Some were forced; some were just dumb (a lineman falling on a player after they were on the ground, which resulted in unnecessary roughness to wipe out a touchdown). Overall, Seattle committed 13 penalties, its most since Week 17 of the 2012 regular season. It cost Percy Harvin three touchdowns and it cost Seattle another 119 yards of offense. But two of those Harvin “touchdowns” were on one drive (that ended in a field goal). Another occurred on a drive that still ended in seven points.
  9. Give the Redskins’ defense credit for how it responded in the second half. Seattle started its first four drives of the second half at its own 40 or better yet scored just one touchdown (and had three-and-outs three times). For the night, the Seahawks started six drives at their 40 or better and managed 10 points on those drives. The problem with Washington’s defense is that it’s not making any game-changing plays. That needs to change.
  10. Seattle stopped the outside zone game in part by aligning players a little wider outside. At times, tight end Logan Paulsen, for example, had to get off a double team to reach another player. In the past, that player would be aligned over him or a yard off. Last night, at times, he’d be three yards off. Paulsen could still get there, but it was much tougher. Sometimes it was as simple as Seattle winning blocks up front. The Seahawks applied more pressure backside to stop cutbacks. Seattle played for the outside zone and stopped it cold.

Redskins locker room quick takes

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
ASHBURN, Va. -- Highlights from the Washington Redskins open locker room Thursday:
  • Clark
    Ryan Clark once again displayed the wisdom Washington wants to see in the locker room. He was as perplexed as many on the topic of how the Redskins could have taken anything for granted at 1-2, as some coaches and players said they did. Clark's point was, yes, probably the same as yours: This team was 3-13 last season and 1-2 entering last week's game, so no one should ever take anything for granted.
  • Clark also said, "This is the week we find out about ourselves... I'm excited for the challenge. As a leader I'll watch to see how we react."
  • One mental brain cramp on my end: getting Gabe Miller and Will Compton somehow confused during the Giants game. It was Compton who was in the game at middle linebacker when Giants tight end Daniel Fells caught a touchdown pass. It also was not his fault. Ryan Kerrigan made the mistake on that play, anticipating a run that never came.
  • Yes, the players anticipate a tough game against the Seahawks, but that's the case every week. However, with Seattle's defensive reputation, it becomes even more so. "It's a bring-your-lunch-pail-and-hard-hat-and-go-to-work day," tight end Logan Paulsen said.
  • Quarterback Kirk Cousins was really good during his press conference, addressing, among other topics, what he learned from the Giants game. He also laughed a little when asked about how people want to make grand pronouncements on his game after every start or appearance. He was good on this, too. Yes, that story will be posted in a couple hours. I don't know how he'll play Monday, but he is someone capable of putting a night like that in the past.
  • Tackle Tom Compton said he'll prepare as if he'll start in place of left tackle Trent Williams. But Williams expressed optimism Tuesday that he would be available. Compton said, "I hope he's in there. He gives us the best opportunity to win."
  • Receiver Pierre Garcon isn't about to be intimidated by anyone's secondary, including Seattle's. "No matter who's out there, we play our game, run our routes and do what we can," he said. When asked if Seattle safety Earl Thomas takes anything away from an offense because of his skill set, Garcon said, "Nope. Call the plays and make the plays."
  • I talked to corner Bashaud Breeland and others about growing pains and things he learned from the Giants game. There were a couple plays in particular that stood out. Will be talking to Keenan Robinson about this as well. Yes, a story will appear later.

How pressure impacts Kirk Cousins

October, 2, 2014
Oct 2
The New York Giants figured it out watching film, and the players then saw what the coaches were talking about. When Kirk Cousins faced pressure, things changed. That’s true for most quarterbacks, of course, but the Giants said it was even more so for Cousins.

 So said Giants safety Antrel Rolle. So, too, say the stats. First: Rolle’s take.

“You know, it was the pressure,” Rolle said during his weekly radio show on WFAN in New York, courtesy of the Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg.

“It was the pressure up front. When you slow the tape down and you watch how we got after those guys up front, it was phenomenal. … And one thing that our coaches put a point of emphasis on is when this guy doesn’t have pressure, his passer rating is 100-something, but when he has that pressure and he gets pressure in his face, his passing rating went all the way down to like 60-something.”

Now, here are the stats. And I broke it down by the number of rushers Cousins faced. Typically, he’ll face more pressure against a five-man rush, and his numbers are definitely worse against that look. He was pressured by four-man rushes as well so it's not always about the number of rushers.

But I’ll stick with that direction for now. According to ESPN Stats & Information, against five-man rushes this season, Cousins has completed 24-of-43 passes for 293 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions for a 73.1 passer rating.

Contrast that to his numbers vs. a four-man rush: 43-of-65, 537 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions for an 87.8 passer rating. Not spectacular, but solid -- and clearly better.

Last season, Cousins actually fared worse vs. a four-man rush: 42-of-80 for 439 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a 57.2 rating. Against a five-man rush: 22-of-41, 278 yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions and a 79.1 rating.

But those are just the stats. The reality, watching games, is that he struggles against pressure. Many quarterbacks do, but for Cousins, it’s about keeping his poise in those situations and not forcing throws -- something he’s done vs. any sort of look. To beat Seattle, the turnovers must be cut to zero.

For what it’s worth, opposing quarterbacks have a 101.9 passer rating against Seattle when it rushes four. But it drops to 78.0 when the Seahawks rush five (which they’ve done 28 times in three games). They’ve also faced Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning.

“So that was something that we put a point of emphasis on: make sure we put pressure in his face, get him uncomfortable in the pocket,” Rolle said. “Because if he sits in the pocket, it doesn’t matter who you are in the defensive backfield, that guy is very accurate, and he’ll rip you apart. So it all started up front; those guys did a phenomenal job, and we were just able to capitalize in the back end.”

Redskins re-sign Richard Crawford

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
The Washington Redskins' secondary remains an issue, especially with DeAngelo Hall sidelined for the season. So they turned to a former NFL starter and a familiar face.

Richard Crawford said via text message that he had been signed to the Redskins’ 53-man roster, while Pro Football Talk reported Washington had signed safety Jamarca Sanford. The team later announced both moves.

Crawford was released in the final roster cuts and later signed to Washington's practice squad. He was eventually released from the practice squad as the Redskins wanted to find bigger corners. Crawford is listed at 5-foot-11, but his strength long has been his knowledge and the Redskins have consistently had breakdowns on assignments this season, leading to open targets and big plays.

Before hurting his knee last summer, Crawford had shown improvement covering in the slot, an area of concern for Washington. The Redskins had signed Tracy Porter to play there, but he might end up starting now with Hall out. He did not start against the New York Giants, but he did open the second half with the starters after a tough first half for rookie Bashaud Breeland. E.J. Biggers covered in the slot for much of last Thursday's game. Crawford can also return punts, which he handled late in the 2012 season.

Sanford started 44 games in five seasons for Minnesota, mostly at strong safety, but injuries prevented him from getting on the field this season. A groin injury cost him the spring workouts and he suffered more injuries in camp, including back spasms and then a strained quadriceps. The latter injury resulted in him being placed on injured reserve and eventually released with a settlement.

Minnesota had asked him to take a pay cut in the offseason. Sanford also plays special teams.

The Redskins also signed linebacker Gabe Miller and tackle Terren Jones to the practice squad. The Redskins announced the latter move; the former move was announced by Miller's agent, Brett Tessler, on Twitter. The Redskins had cut Miller on Saturday.

Cousins: 'I was killing us here and there'

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
LANDOVER, Md. -- Kirk Cousins couldn’t dodge the truth. Five turnovers have a way of forcing you to accept reality.

“I turned the ball over too much,” he said.

 Nobody would disagree, not after losing one fumble and throwing four interceptions, which the Giants turned into 31 points in their 45-14 victory. Cousins forced passes, failed to adequately fool the defense with his eyes and was inaccurate on throws that needed 100 percent accuracy.

It was only his sixth career start, but his penchant for turnovers has plagued him throughout the early part of his NFL career. Thursday also represented a stark difference from his previous two games -- if you rip him for last night, tough to then ignore what he did in those games. As usual, the truth is somewhere in there about who he is as a quarterback. He’s trying to prove he deserves a starting job somewhere.

The Eagles’ game presented a strong case; the Giants game did not.

Regardless, the result was another ugly showing in a prime-time game. It started with the turnovers, which Cousins said toyed with him.

“I got a little bit of mind play because I was killing us here and there and all the turnovers in the second half,” Cousins said. “So what happened, I turned the ball over too much.”

Cousins had a few killer turnovers. The fumble was bad, though that was a result of bad protection as right tackle Tyler Polumbus was beaten by Mathias Kiwanuka, who sacked Cousins in 2.3 seconds. Cousins pointed to his third-quarter interception as a back-breaker. The Redskins trailed 24-14 but had forced a punt after opening the second half with a touchdown.

It was a bad throw with a corner, Prince Amukamara, playing tight on receiver Ryan Grant. The throw was inside; the pick was easy.

“Had I not turned the ball over, you’d like to think the game would have taken a different tale,” he said.

That led to another interception. And so on. And so on.

“It’s like that cascading effect,” tight end Logan Paulsen said. “You make one mistake and you try to compensate or overcompensate. I felt the same thing after my fumble. I’ve been in games like that where you make a mistake and a couple plays later you make another mistake, and you can’t get out from under it.”

Cousins admitted he then started forcing more throws.

“I was trying to get everything back in one play,” he said. “You can’t do that. I was trying to force things and trying to do too much and didn’t stay true to my reads and stay patient. … It just snowballs, and you put your defense behind the eight ball.”

Cousins now must move forward and prepare to face the NFL’s best defense (Seattle).

“Hopefully, he can put it behind him,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “This is a very tough position. One of the main things I’ve said all along is one of the biggest traits you have to have as a quarterback -- you’ve got to be mentally tough. You’re going to have rock games, rocky throws, rocky performances. The great ones will bounce back.”

Trent Williams to undergo MRI on knee

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
LANDOVER, Md. -- Seen and overheard in the Washington Redskins' locker room after their 45-14 loss to the New York Giants:
  • Left tackle Trent Williams was subdued standing outside the elevators in a lobby area in the bowels of FedEx Field, but he said there was no ligament damage to his right knee. He'll have an MRI Friday. Williams said he thought his kneecap popped out of place but thought it then popped back in. Williams was walking slowly after the game.
  • Ryan Clark was matter-of-fact, standing in the middle of the locker room. "We couldn't have beaten anybody. We wouldn't have beat William & Mary. ... High school team ranked in the top 10, couldn't beat them."
  • The Redskins were picked apart by Eli Manning and their new emphasis on the short passing game. "I've never seen him get rid of the ball so fast," Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo said.