Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

We are about halfway through the season in college and nearing the midway point in the NFL. October is a wonderful month that includes all 4 major sports going on at different moments throughout the next few weeks. Unfortunately for the NFL, the season has not gone as predicted and Washington, specifically, has been shell-shocked by injuries and failed expectations.

Terps Going B1G-Time

terps10s-1-webStarting with Maryland, the Terps have started relatively well in the B1G. With two very solid quarterbacks with two styles of play, Maryland has been able to fight through a couple of games and earn a handful of wins. While sitting at 4-2 (1-1 B1G) is definitely good, the season has been a little bit of a roller coaster. Not necessarily a surprised for a team that barely made a bowl game last season in the ACC, Maryland is at least on-track to set themselves back up for another bowl game run.

On the positive side, the Terps fought through one of the sloppiest games I have seen at South Florida and managed to get the win. Heading up north to Syracuse, turnovers and strong defense help propel the team to victory. On the road at Indiana, Maryland looked great against the Hoosiers and both CJ Brown and Caleb Rowe racked up touchdowns. The great thing about each of these wins was that they were on the road, an area where the Terps have really struggled in the past.

On the other hand, CJ Brown’s play has been sniffed out and his accuracy has been called into question. Against Ohio State, he lost the starting job to Caleb at the half and did not see the field again. It is unclear if he will get the start against Iowa for homecoming, but both quarterbacks deserve some attention as the team continues to march through the first season of the B1G. That loss to Ohio State was one of two at home, with the other being against West Virginia on a rainy day in College Park. The game ended up being decided by a field goal at the final seconds, but the game was full of controversy. In the first half, CJ went down for a slide on a QB run and was close-lined by the defender. No pass interference penalty was called and he was taken out of the game. Luckily, Caleb threw a touchdown on the next play. In the second half, a no-call on a pass interference penalty led to giving up the ball after punting on 4th down. Finally, the WVU player who intercepted Rowe in the 4th quarter was suspended soon after the game for conduct issues prior to taking the field that Saturday. Spotty ref-calling and poor weather conditions led to a failed opportunity against Maryland’s biggest football rival.

There is still a lot of opportunity left with games against Iowa and Rutgers at home and Penn State and Michigan on the road.

Washington’s Struggles and Missed Opportunities

4533122181-e1407518377725While my Terrapins are in the hunt for some post-season action, Washington is not looking anywhere as good in the NFL. The name controversy has stuck around with a harsh Daily Show critique and episode of South Park, but the attention in the pros is much more centered on the conduct of the players more than anything else.

For DC, the season has tossed in a mix of missed opportunities and costly injuries. As RGIII was looking to get back on-track, he was injured in the second game against Jacksonville (the only win of the season so far). Cousins showed up and looked to be a good solution until Robert was ready to come back, but he has struggled greatly in his time since then. He has managed to throw for 10 touchdowns to RGIII’s 1, but he has also fallen short 11 turnovers (8 INTs and 3 fumbles). With the interceptions, he has failed to look off defenders and even thrown directly at the defensive back without a wideout in play. The way to help a struggling quarterback is to have a great running game, but Jay Gruden has also failed to return to Washington’s bread and butter from last season. Alfred Morris has less than 400 yards in the first 6 games. He is splitting time almost evenly with Roy Helu, neither of which are consistently being given the opportunity to help keep the ball moving. Much of the challenge seems to be with the offensive line and their inability to provide consistent pass and run blocking.

The one victory was over a team that has failed to fine a win so far this season. The run game is big, but so is the defense. Players have regularly been going down with exhaustion or minor injuries, but DeAngelo Hall’s absence with injury is certainly hurting their success with changing the momentum of the game. Washington is regularly playing catchup and is forcing the defense to keep the offense within range. The special teams is also still failing to produce and has regularly missed on managing field position.

The one truly bright spot of the team has been DeSean Jackson. He is the deep threat the team needed and has produced in Washington’s last two games.

Top Performances Around College and the NFL

  • 20141011162956.0The state of Mississippi is gleaming right now. Alabama, LSU, Auburn, and Texas A&M (x2) have all fallen to these surprise teams. While the SEC quite a bit more love than other conferences, this is quite the accomplishment.
  • FSU and Baylor are also continuing to hold strong as undefeated teams. While FSU may be able to complain about losing the #1 spot after maintaining an extended win streak, their conferences have thrown challenges at both of them and they have held strong.
  • Notre Dame is playing with its half in-half out status in the ACC but also managing quite the slate of games and wins. The embarrassment of Michigan (31-0) and¬†a win over Stanford make for a solid start to the season. Wonder if that will hold up against FSU, Arizona State, and USC.
  • Marshall is on pace for a perfect season themselves. Although their strength of schedule is far from being able to compete for a national title, they will be able to potentially earn a shot at a high-level bowl game.
  • In general, the SEC will benefit from the new playoff system when it comes to contenders for the national title. A 2-loss SEC team may be able to outrank a 1-loss team from any other conference based on the projected difficulty level of the SEC. For now, Ole Miss and MSU can take advantage of their position but MSU still has to face Alabama, Ole Miss still has to face Auburn and LSU, and they will finish the season in a potential showdown for a final shot at the SEC championship and playoff run.

 

  • Cowboys Seahawks Football-1After starting out slow, Dallas and San Diego have rattled off 5 straight wins and look ready to take on the talent of their divisions. After adjustments on both the offense and defense, DeMarco Murray is running circles around the rest of the league, while the San Diego defense has become a top-10 stopper of the pass and the run. Both teams have taken down the Superbowl-defending Seahawks.
  • Denver’s matchup in Seattle came down to a end of fourth quarter comeback and subsequent Seahawks¬†touchdown in overtime. Other than that, teams have not really been in contention with the Broncos. Denver has been taking over as “America’s Team” and may be on route for another Superbowl run.
  • With the talent of San Francisco and Seattle in the NFC West, Arizona is currently sitting atop the division. Their single loss was to Denver, but they have succeeded at beating San Diego and San Francisco. Their true test will not come until November and December, when they will be forced to prove their competitiveness against the rest of their division.
  • While they started at 1-2 and continue to own the worst rushing defense in the league, Green Bay has recovered from a slow start and are finding the end zone with more consistency. Blowout wins against two divisional opponents bodes well for their chances against Detriot (also at 4-2).

Not So Top Plays in Football

518462684-Jameis-Winston-Being-Investigated-by-Florida-State-forBefore getting into the discussion of the actual play on the field, the off-the-field issues are getting in the way of enjoying the game. College football is fine overall, but there have been infractions that have affected several keys players. Jameis Winston (FSU) was forced to sit out an entire game for poor judgment making jest of his dodged sexual assault charge. He also was caught for autograph violations. Todd Gurley (UGA) might be missing the rest of his season for breaking policy on earning money for autographs as well. DeVaris Daniels, KeiVarae Russell, Ishaq Williams, Kendall Moore, and Eilar Hardy have all been removed from the team this season for academic violations. None of these violations are super surprising, but the behavior of the former Heisman winner is highly concerning from the standpoint of role-modeling and his future in a professional league that is having its own issues with managing problems much worse than the college level.

goodell-podium-640x400In the pros, the conversations about the offensiveness of the Redskins name has fallen significantly to the background in lieu of other serious, pressing issues. Sexual assault, drug abuse, relationship violence, and abuse have become an all too common issue in the NFL. While Ray Rice was not the first problem, his has brought forth a parade of horrible acts and responses that has tarnished (but not destroyed) the NFL brand. Roger Goodell has performed horribly in response to these issues and is still in danger of eventually being asked or forced out of his position. The league should be ashamed of the player conduct and needs to be more upfront about accepting some of the responsibility for its management of its players. A 2-game suspension for such a blatantly violent act in a hotel elevator was laughable. The hesitation when dealing with child abuse was deplorable. The teams’ decisions to delay suspending players after the allegations arise seems to show a willingness to accept the poor conduct as part of the challenge of “dealing” with these players. Changes are definitely needed.

  • Michigan v Notre DameUMass may have finally gotten a win, but they are also holding on to one of the worst recent records in college football, especially after blundering a potential win during a matchup with also winless Miami (Ohio).
  • Michigan may have beaten Penn State, but they were embarrassed by Notre Dame and sit with a solid losing record halfway through the season. It does not help when the QB gets a clear concussion and the coach decides to leave him in the game.
  • B1G may have great, recognizable schools, but the respect has failed to hold true. Non-conference play has almost eliminated the conference from feeling confident about having a representative in the playoff this season. Michigan State and Ohio State have the best chance, but two losses on either team’s record could spell doom, even if the other taps out.
  • Idaho and Kent State are still searching for a win…maybe…maybe not.

 

  • 140807_HO_LedeWhile I hate to hate on my team, Washington is struggling to figure the game out. Choosing to focus more on the pass over the run, Cousins has not appeared ready to take the led with the talent that surrounds him and Gruden has failed to allow Morris to get a rhythm with the run game. The defense is typically getting overtaxed and eventually is left to give in to each opponent, except for…
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars…As one of two teams struggling to find a win (Oakland being the other), they have given up more than twice the number of points they have scored. Tennessee gave them a chance but they failed to capitalize. Bortles may be the future, but that future may be another season with a better defense and stronger running attack. At least they have pools to distract people from the poor attendance at their games.
  • St. Louis is making the best of a bad situation. Bradford is out again, and they suffered other injuries at the QB position. They have a chance to turn it around, but their one win came against bottom-tier Tampa Bay, who lucked out on a win against the Steelers.
  • The Saints are a mystery. Sitting at 2-3, they have the benefit that the Falcons and Panthers have not run away with a lead yet. Newton has been hampered by injury and Ryan has shown serious inconsistency with his receivers (with Roddy White only catching 50% of the passes thrown his way).
  • Vontaze Burfict will need to watch his behavior on the field a bit closer, as he was caught twisting ankles twice in the game versus Carolina. Penalties are forthcoming.

Maryland is prepping for a homecoming game against 5-1 Iowa, while Washington looks to recover and get a second win of the season against lowly Tennessee. Definitely hoping for a better weekend.

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The 2014 season is already underway and excitement is around every corner. Upsets have already presented themselves and key matchups have been the marquee of the early weeks. Giants have fallen and scandal has risen. It is going to be an exciting fall and I am more than excited to get going. I am going to be reporting on both the NFL and college football, focusing mostly on Washington and the University of Maryland, but I have plenty of love for the rest of the leagues.

Start of the Season

ncaa-football-maryland-south-florida1-590x900For the Maryland Terrapins, the start of the B1G career has begun. While other olympic sports are also engaging in their campaigns in the new conference, the football team has started its slate against an FCS school (JMU) and AAC opponent South Florida. The first game was a bit of a blowout, which is to be expected against a lower conference school. The defense was operating on all cylinders, but the offense still had some work to do. Senior QB CJ Brown was not a accurate as his previous performances have shown. He overthrew his receivers on nearly half of his passes, but he found a way to complete a few necessary and important connections. The running game also looked solid, but competition against an FBS opponent was needed to truly get a sense of the total offense.

The second game was another story. Although it turned out to be another victory, the offense was again rather shaky. When teams turn the ball over, they reduce their chances of winning. One turnover is not impossible to overcome, but each successive one makes it significantly more difficult. Maryland had 6 over the course of the game, including a combination of fumbles and interceptions. Accuracy continues to be a concern for Brown, but the running backs also need to be more prepared for ball control. As for the defense, they produced another impressive showing. The line held South Florida in check for most of the game and reduce the bulk of their offense to relatively short runs for their talented runningback. On the slate for this week is West Virginia in a rivalry game from College Park.

redskins-texans-footballjpeg-0cbd1_c0-321-3000-2069_s561x327In the NFL, Washington has proven nothing through their first entry into the regular season, other than a name change to the Washington Football Club would match their decent soccer score of 6 points against a formerly 2-14 team from 2013. The preseason had left so much to question, with RGIII having a modest and forgetful showing for the now healthy third-year quarterback. The Texans had bombed¬†through the majority of the 2013 season. There was hope for them that they would be able to put the mediocrity of Schaub’s unusual struggles behind them and boast the powerful defense they were know to possess. Against Washington, they did just that in Week 1. JJ Watt and Brooks Reed lived in the Washington backfield, giving RGIII no time to make decision and forcing him to dump the ball off before many of the offensive plays could develop. While he avoided mistakes (except for his costly third quarter fumble), he was unable to do anything spectacular and seemed way too cautious to use his legs to make plays. Morris and Helu continued to represent a strong Washington running game but both failed to put up any points at the end of a couple of solid runs and drives. Garcon, Jackson, and Paul all had respectable numbers (save for Paul’s extremely costly fumble after solid yards after a reception), but the loss of Reed took a more dynamic receiver out of the lineup.

The imbalanced offense was unfortunately matched by the struggling special teams that have received a poor reputation amongst the rest of the league. Extra points are supposed to be automatic, but Kai Forbath was blocked following Young’s 1-yard rushing touchdown by JJ Watt getting his hand up in the middle of the defense. The bad times continued when rookie Tress Way’s punt was blocked and returned by rookie Alfred Blue, accounting for one of Houston’s two scores.

The defense was certainly a much brighter highlight for the team. Fitzpatrick was able to score a huge 76-yard touchdown to Hopkins, but he was kept in check for most of the rest of the game. Andre Johnson and Arian Foster can always be expected to pick up significant yardage but were also held scoreless. Field position was the name of the game for most of the first three quarters, and Washington was winning the battle for the most part. If the offense can catch up to the play of the defense, the team may have a chance to compete in the NFC East. Next up, Washington takes on Jacksonville at home at FedEx Field.

Top Performances Around College and the NFL

  • kenny-hillJohnny who?? Texas A&M picked up where they left off with their high-scoring offense against a highly ranked South Carolina team. Hill surpassed Manziel’s highest yardage college game in his first start. Did I mention this was on the road? Oh, and they won in Week 2 with a score of 73-3.
  • They may have lost the game, but Navy put up a fight that caught a lot of attention. Winning 7-6 at the half, the Buckeyes finally opened up the offense and sent the Midshipmen packing.
  • USC is officially back, holding their Week 1 opponent scoreless and snagging a quality win over conference rival Stanford in the closing moments of the game.
  • LSU may have started their matchup with Wisconsin down by 17, but the Tigers were more than ready to mount an impressive comeback.
  • Baylor continues to outscore opponents by impressively high numbers. 45-0 versus SMU and 70-6 versus Northwestern State.
  • Oregon took advantage of an early-season marquee matchup with Michigan State to prove they are ready for a title run.

 

  • rlhvamjvpiaryqyuls2cSuper Bowl contenders faired well in Week 1 and proved why they are to be feared again. The Seahawks embarrassed the Packers in a complete trashing from Seattle, while the Broncos made the Colts look completely overmatched in the first half (forcing Indy to attempt a comeback in the second half).
  • Megatron may be the strongest and most talented player in the NFL, particularly with 146-yard and 2 touchdown performance.
  • The Florida air was not the only thing on fire on Sunday. The Dolphins surprised the favored Patriots with a rushing attack that reenergized the career for Moreno.

Not So Top Plays in Football

  • ap356029960854South Carolina would like to forget that it played in Week 1, as they are all but eliminated from contention for a national title. Originally ranked 9th, they traded places with Texas A&M and struggled to put away East Carolina with any authority.
  • Michigan would like to forget that they played in Week 2. Their series with Notre Dame is coming to an end and they dropped their final matchup 31-0. The rest of the B1G could have breathed a sigh of relief except that Michigan State and Ohio State joined Michigan in the loss column. Losing to decent opponents, all three schools have opened up the competition in the conference for anyone to step up to take it all.
  • Washington State would like to figure out how to get their running game going, as Mike Leach’s team has failed to break 22 yards per game.
  • UMass is still trying to figure out why they moved from the FCS to the FBS. Sure, a chance for more national attention is great, but amassing only 1 win per season since their league transition has left them struggling to justify their readiness. 0-2 is not a great start for 2014.
  • FAU is¬†back to where they started last season at 0-2. Teams that start with Florida and include a second part that starts with a vowel do not seem to fair well in recent years.

 

  • NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh SteelersNo-no for Romo. While the fantasy-popular QB can put up yardage and points, he also added 3 first half interceptions to his stats on Sunday. Potentially another long season for Cowboys fans.
  • One brother was strong, the other fell far short. Eli struggled all game to connect with his receivers for significant yardage and added a pair of picks to his very poor first 2014 outing.
  • Jacksonville was looking to post the upset of the week with their 17-point lead over the Eagles, and then they collapsed. Failing to score after halftime, they also gave up 34 points and made Foles from looking embarrassing to providing a solid performance with 2 scores and 322 yards.
  • Manziel has been the talk of the preseason and has appeared to be the eventual leader of the Browns, but he was given no snaps in a losing effort to Pittsburgh. Hoyer gave a lackluster performance but never lost his chance to try to finish.
  • The most significant hit of the week was actually delivered by Antonio Brown to the face of Spencer Lanning while trying to hurdle during a return. Brown is now the meme of the week.
  • The Ravens are the team of controversy as their performance left little to be desired, but Ray Rice’s removal from the roster has left Baltimore fans feeling lost, frustrated, and angry.
  • On that same point, the organization has much to answer to for their level of knowledge of Rice’s incident and Roger Goodell is seriously under fire with the continued controversy over league rules for suspensions and degree of awareness of the severity of incidents.

This upcoming weekend boasts a number of solid matchups at both levels of the game, particularly the SEC battle of Georgia vs. South Carolina. I will be watching to see if Maryland can repeat their success over West Virginia from last season in their commemorative military uniforms. Go Terps!

marylanduniforms

This is not my first blog post on this topic and will likely not be my last, but the narrative has officially gone too far. It is time to change the name of the Washington Redskins.

Two posts gained broad attention in the past 24 hours and neither of them are the types of stories that Washington should be promoting or that fans should be dealing with.

The first was what appeared to be a 50-year celebration photo of the Washington Cheerleaders. In poor taste, the costumes ranged from the more common style of cheerleader uniforms we see today to dressing up in stereotypical clothing representing Native Americans. When the cheerleaders were first introduced to the team in the 1960s, the stereotypical costume was something that barely attracted any negative attention. Interestingly when considering that this was during the time of civil rights, Washington ran with the cheerleader uniforms until sometime during the 1970s. There was a fringe element that was maintained over the next couple variations, but this style of uniform would never be accepted by the public with today’s social climate. In comparison to other challenges with the team image, this falls more toward the poor taste side of the continuum compared to the outright offensive.

The second article came straight from the organization’s playbook. With pressures coming from 50 US senators and countless other groups, there was bound to eventually be a more marquee supporter outside of the Washington organization. Enter Democratic Virginia senator Chap Petersen. Leading the charge, he has developed the group Redskins Pride Caucus, aimed at defending the use of the name and images. Claiming the representations as¬†“symbol[s] of unity,” he blasted the recent climate as socialist and the attacks on the team as unjust. The article seemed to be missing one very important element…actual discussion of the name. As much as they talked about wanting to defend it, there was no defense provided for the term’s actual meaning.

Outside of these two recent posts, there are plenty of other discussions, videos, and blogs highlighting the issue. The ones that demand a change are more direct and poignant about why the name is offensive, citing definitions and historical use of the term. There is some flaws with these posts, at the same time. One of the things that Washington has been able to do relatively effectively is craft a narrative where Native American support is strong and a large majority of surveyed Native Americans have supported the continued use of the name. ESPN’s First Take took on this debate, where Stephen A. Smith discussed this challenge and how his resistance¬†to the continued use of the name was fading in light of the strong documented/reported support from Native American representatives and with consideration of the early history of the team. The team was the Boston Braves for the first year and turned into the Boston Redskins, with 4 players identifying as Native American. Because the team has maintained the Redskins name for the vast majority of their history and with Native Americans associated with the organization, there are elements of a¬†case for their name support.

But then you have to think about the definition of the word and the potential true impact of the name publicly. While many supporters of the name abhor the idea of going to the encyclopedia definition, the Oxford English Dictionary defines the term as American Indian (dated or offensive). The definition continues to discuss that there were three variations of the name (redskin, Red Man, and Red Indian), none of which are positive or remained neutral. The first two were originally used to distinguish the native peoples living in North America and their affinity for using face paint, but the terms eventually were used in a disparaging fashion. The final one was more of a British term but quickly turned negative in line with the other challenging terms used in the US. There are records that highlight the use of the term in treaty negotiations during the early centuries of the US and would support a more accepted use of the term, but more examples exist of the negative representation of Native Americans with Redskins¬†as a slur in printed announcements that document the hunting and killing of the population during the 19th and 20th centuries. Some references actually attributed the term to the scalping of Native Americans in the collection of bounties. Persecution and discrimination tend to be intertwined with the narrative of the term’s history.

During the history of the team, the term has more broadly been considered a racial slur but was used to distinguish between the Boston Braves baseball and football teams. When the team moved to Washington, the Redskins label followed it. Throughout the team’s early history, there are few records that highlight public attention to the term, but that started to change around the Civil Rights movement. There have been judicial battles, conflicts between students and school administrators, and discussions in the public forum over the past 40+ years. High schools and colleges have mostly moved away from the use of the name and some courts have banned¬†the use of derogatory terms, including the term Redskins. Meanwhile, Washington has refused to make the same change because of their commitment to the tradition and the blinders-crafted story of the honor and pride behind it.

So there are a few big questions that remain…

  • How many people (or what percentage of the population) of Native American heritage have to be offended for the change to occur?
  • Because the likelihood of the change will be determined by the economic impact during the social and political battle,¬†is this the only way to make change or is there a preponderance of evidence that would overrule the economic impact?
  • Would the NFL owners ever step up the way the NBA did in the Donald Sterling situation to put the issue to a vote?

I do not have the answers, but there is something else that I do believe could be a difference-maker. The news about the team over the past 2 decades has not been that great with regards to the performance. Since 1992, the team has been to the playoffs only 4 times. They have only won the division twice in that timeframe. In addition, there have been 8 different coaches, not including Jay Gruden and 21 different starting quarterbacks. In the past 10 years, the offense and defense has fallen below the league average more than above. RGIII has provided some excitement, but the overall optimism levels have diminished and are tempered until tangible proof reveals itself. Fans are loyal enough, but performance needs to improve soon before…the only narrative about the team is the name controversy.

Washington+Redskins+v+Minnesota+Vikings+9JRZzNcannIl

 

One of the possible consequences of this situation is that regardless of the performance, the team may be hammered in the media about the name from both sides. When the team played against the Minnesota Vikings in 2013, a protest of hundreds of people took place on the Thursday prior to the game. This was not the first and it certainly will not be the last. If the team does well and goes to the playoffs again, more protests like this could continue to sprout up. Many of the protestors are not of Native America heritage, but the vast majority in the protests are. If this is not enough to get attention, the team is in for more and more turmoil for its foreseeable future. Performance will take a backseat, as it has during this offseason, to the continued outrage over the stubbornness of an owner and organization.

I want to finish this post by stating that I am a huge supporter of the team (minus the name) and will continue to support them. The history and the future of this team does not need to be blanketed by a poor decision back when the¬†franchise was formed and we have an opportunity to return the conversation about the team back to football. I am almost to the point that I don’t even care if the name ends up being something off-the-wall ridiculous with no actual ties to the nation’s capital or surrounding area, as long as it abandons the continuation of racists themes.

Change the name, change the narrative. It is that simple.

Hello! It has been a while since I was on here commenting on the broad range of topics on this blog, but I am back and ready to take on the NFL…at least with some draft analysis.

The first thing I will say is that ESPN and the NFL surely have enough money to pay for more than 1 song to represent the draft. While I know that Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” is well-fitting and was used last season with some commercials, it was just too much to use it after every pick, into every commercial break, and any time they had to fill some space. That certainly felt like an attempt to overplay a song so much that peoples’ heads would explode from the insanity. No offense to Aloe, but I hope to not hear that song for quite some time.

nfldraft-1

Now on to the actual draft…

Starting with my home team, the Washington Redskins had some interesting conversation surrounding this draft. Some of this was off-the-field issues that would certainly detract from the actual movement of the team’s front office. The name dispute continues to grow again, this time surrounding the NBA’s reaction to Donald Sterling’s offensive comments. This is a story that will continue to weave itself back into conversation over and over again until the team finally makes a change. My personal belief is that the name is offensive and the organization could do with the change, even just to stop the insanity. Snyder will never have it and the other owners cannot seem to do a thing about it, especially in a league that fails to live up to the same standards as the NBA.

Prior to the draft, the Redskins acquired some serious talent. Jason Hatcher from the Cowboys adds a little more depth to the OLB position. He is a hard hitter who can make an immediate impact on nickel defenses and potentially special teams. DeSean Jackson is likely the bigger name and had a great season with the Eagles last year. He fills in for the loss of Josh Morgan and will provide great balance with Pierre Garcon on the other side and Jordan Reed in the slot or coming off the line. Tracey Porter from Oakland also adds a little more to the CB position that struggled to maintain opposing offenses all last season. Replacing Reed Doughty with Pittsburgh’s Ryan Clark may not be the best move, but the team still made some good decisions with free agency.

Entering the draft, this was to be the last season with the depletion of first round picks off of the RGIII deal. This meant that we were slated to pick 2nd in the 2nd round. We instead decided to trade down and made our most questionable pick of the draft as our first player. With many other needs clearly ahead of us, we went with OLB Trent Murphy out of Stanford. He was projected for 4th round or lower, making this a very questionable call when we needed OL, CB, S, or ILB. Our 2 picks in the 3rd round set up extra support on the O-line, with Morgan Moses from Virginia and Spencer Long from Nebraska filling some big needs. Bashaud Breeland of Clemson was picked up in the 4th round, adding another CB to help the depth at that position, although there were some stronger candidates still available at the time of his selection. Out of the final 4 picks, the best decision was RB Lache Seastrunk from Baylor. His speed, versatility, and experience with RGIII could be great for the team. The other picks included WR Ryan Grant from Tulane, TE Ted Bosler from Indiana, and PK Zach Hocker from Arkansas.

This was a okay draft, but there were some teams that truly made out much better than DC. Here are some of the highlights from the rest of the draft…

  • With the 1st pick of the draft, Houston took¬†Jadeveon Clowney from South Carolina. There was no surprise with this pick but it certainly will make Houston’s defense even scarier with JJ Watt partnering with the rookie.
  • The first QB to be selected was not Johnny Maziel. Instead, Blake Bortles from UCF went to the Jacksonville Jaguars, as they seem to have had enough of Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Jackson continued to sure up their offense with two WRs for their next two picks: Marquise Lee from USC and Allen Robinson from Penn State.
  • WR Sammy Watkins was picked up at #4 by the Buffalo Bills, having sent Stevie Robinson to the San Francisco 49ers and needing to get more talent at receiver. This trade also pushed the Cleveland Browns from 4th to 8th in the draft order, gaining them an additional pick from Buffalo later.
  • Cleveland seemed like they were channeling the move¬†Draft Day¬†with their movement throughout the draft. They shocked everyone when they decided not to select Manziel at #8, going with Justin Gilbert from Oklahoma State.
  • The decision to not draft Manziel immediately hurt the QB’s stock, as he even slipped past the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones later admitted that Manziel was the #1 option on their draft board if he was still available, but the contract extension for Tony Romo immediately changed their decision and Dallas went with OT Zack Martin from Notre Dame. Manziel continued to slip past a couple more potential teams until Cleveland traded back up from 26 to 22 to finally end the drama. Manziel, who should have been humbled by the experience, was a mix of annoying interactions. He flashed money hand gestures when he came out on-stage but proceeded to appear more humble in the interview immediately after leaving center stage. Browns fans are still mixed about this one.
  • After finally moving past Manziel, the draft excitement calmed a bit, but Teddy Bridgewater was surprised to find out that Minnesota traded up to grab the Louisville QB with the final pick of the 1st round.
  • Houston avoided the QB position in this draft, which appeared to be a position that they desperately needed. They eventually picked up Tom Savage in the 4th round, but there is not a lot of hope for him to succeed. Instead, the Texans passed on other options, including Fresno State’s Derek Carr (who went to Oakland), Eastern Illinois’s Jimmy Garoppolo (who went to New England), Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas (who went to Arizona), Georgia’s Aaron Murray (who went in the 5th round to Kansas City), Alabama’s AJ McCarron (who went in the 5th round to Cincinnati), and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger (who went in the 6th round to Tennessee).
  • Teams, like Cleveland and Kansas City, appeared to have a chance to help their offense immensely in this very WR-rich draft, but waited way too long to consider addressing the need. Kansas City never chose to get a WR, but picked up Oregon RB De’Anthony Thomas in the 4th round.
  • Cleveland’s situation with WRs was more complicated, as news broke that both starting WRs may be out for at least part of the season. Breakout star Josh Gordon has been cited for failing 2 drug tests and could be suspended for the entire 2014 season. Nate Burleson, who was brought over from Detroit, injured himself in a mini camp and may not be available to play until the start of preseason. With no WRs picked up in the draft, they may have put either Brian Hoyer or Manziel in some serious trouble to start the season with only Greg Little and Jordan Cameron as legitimate threats.
  • Some strange patterns developed in this draft. There were a record number of WRs selected in the first and second rounds. Twelve WRs were taken across 11 different teams. As far as RBs, the first one did not happen until the 54th pick. This unusual avoidance of RBs led to 1st round prospect Carlos Hyde dropping into the late 2nd round. RBs went flying off the shelf in the 3rd and 4th rounds, but this seemed like an unusual occurrence.
  • The University of Texas was without a single player being selected
  • The NFC West made themselves the division to fear again for this upcoming season, but the Cardinals and Rams were the movers and shakers that may have pulled the division more even than originally projected. The Cardinals balanced their offensive and defensive picks, including Washington State’s S Deone Bucannon, Notre Dame’s TE Troy Nikias, UNC’s DE Kareem Martin, and Pittsburgh State’s WR Josh Brown. The Rams added strength with Auburn OT Greg Robinson, Auburn RB Tre Mason, and Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald.
  • The Rams also made history with selecting Missouri DE Michael Sam in the 7th round. Having openly announced that he is gay prior to the NFL combine, he became the first drafted openly gay NFL player. The moment was shared widely over the media, but there were some unfortunate unfriendly reactions to the news. The reality is that the young man played hard for Missouri and should be individually commended on the combination of his dedication to the game and bravery for coming out in a testosterone-fueled, adrenaline-supported sport that has frowned on sexuality issues throughout its existence. Congratulations, Michael Sam and the the Ram organization!

And now it is over. Time to see if these players hit the field in 2014, warm the benches, or get cut from the team prior to the start of the season. All sorts of speculation is ahead of us, and I am ready for it.

Without going into every detail of the past three weeks, it has been more and more difficult to be a Washington fan. For weeks 12 and 13, the hype was high with two consecutive opportunities to play the night game in Washington. The first was against the 49ers and the second against the Giants. There is nothing to say about the game versus San Francisco. The defense just held RGIII and the run game in check. There was nothing the Skins offense could do to move the ball. Kaepernick and Boldin put on a clinic, while RGIII was sacked 6 times and had not touchdowns but 1 interception. The following week, the team had a chance and seemed to have a rhythm they lacked for the entire season. Getting the first opening drive touchdown of the season, they finished the 1st half with 14 points. Following the halftime break, the team could not get back into the red zone and managed only 1 field goal. The game ended on a strange set of bad calls by the refs, who could not agree on the acquisition of the 1st down. This led to confusion and eventually a loss, after Pierre Garcon had gotten his 1st down catch stripped.

dm_131208_nfl_chiefs_v_redskinsThat leads us to this week: the storm of the Chiefs. Coming off a 3-game losing streak, Washington had a chance to catch a team on the downturn. Instead, the offense looked anemic, the defense continued to fail to tackle, and the special teams gave up 2 return touchdowns. Other than an excellent touchdown catch by Paulsen and an interception by Riley, the team just slipped and slid around the field. Cousins was eventually brought into the game but also ended with only 59 yards on 7-16 passing and a sack.

There is little need to go more into the actual events of the game and only focus on what this means for the team moving forward. There has been a plague that has been feasting on DC area. RGIII looked rusty and underdeveloped coming off of the injury. The defense has been nothing but porous and pathetic. Somehow even worse than the defense has been the special teams, failing on both sides of the kick with poor returns and botched blocking. Meanwhile, the team’s identity has been under the microscope as the name continues to be a growing controversy. There has been nothing drama and failure in DC and there will be implications in the offseason.

197475-650-366Among those changes are going to be a combination of players and coaches. RGIII is the franchise at the moment, so there is no fear that he is going anywhere. He will have a chance to finally heal and develop his mechanics rather than nursing the recovery from the injury specifically. The coaches are another story. The Shanahans are in some real trouble. After their run last year, they could have weathered a mediocre season with the issues of RGIII’s recovery. With the defense giving up at least 24 points in 11 of 13 games leading into December and the offense scoring 20 or less in 7 of 13 games, there are clear questions about their decision making. Timeouts have been questionable. They have abandoned the run when they have produced the best rushing attack in the league. Snyder may decide to keep the Shanahans but they will be under the microscope the entire next season. But there is also a chance that a surprise firing or resignation could come in sometime during the next three weeks.

As for the players, there are a lot of cuts coming in all three phases of the game. The special teams could easily be completely replaced, but the coaching could actually be upgraded to work with some of what is left. The offense will drop players at every position. Kirk Cousins has some upside but has not been able to show it much outside of the WAS-BAL game last season and the 2013 preseason. He will probably be trade bait in the near future. Royster is also on the chopping block because Morris and Helu have produced fairly well. Santana may retire this season, but he has not made much of his opportunities and may be on his way out whether it is on his own power or not. The only receivers that are likely to be safe will be Garcon (who has had a career year) and Robinson, who has shown sparks from time to time. Fred Davis has dealt both with injuries and poor hands when he was touted as a receiving TE. He and Paulsen have dropped some key passes and are both likely out. The offensive line is just offensive. Trent Williams may be safe but Polumbus certainly is not. On defense, Kerrigan, Orakpo, Fletcher (unless he retires), Hall, and Riley are the only players who have been consistently solid. Everyone else, including Josh Wilson, could face serious conversations and be looking for work.

The season has long been over but the conversation about the future is just beginning…

Around the Rest of the League

NFC East

  • Philadelphia has eked out a couple of wins but seems to be the most consistent of the teams to make the playoffs.
  • The Cowboys still have some questions about their defense and Romo’s ability to transition from regular to post season. Could this be his year to put it together.
  • Eli and the Giants have been coming back from their abysmal start but have little chance of catching the other teams in the playoff race.

NFC North

  • The closest division in the league, the Lions have taken the lead but not been able to get away from the rest of the division. Stafford’s turnover woes have kept them from going to the next level.
  • Chicago has not been able to handle the loss of Cutler that well but is still not out of the playoff conversation.
  • Rodgers is clearly the heart of the Packers but his absence has not eliminated their chances to catch the Lions.
  • The Vikings just have not had the steam to compete this year. The quarterback situation will be the biggest decision for the offseason as Ponder, Cassel, and Freeman fail to appear able to lead an offense.

NFC South

  • 111813-NFL-Panthers-Qback-Cam-Newton-PI-CH_20131118225123283_660_320The Saints appeared to be the favorites to compete in a fairly competitive division but have not been able to shake the Panthers. With a primetime match and a followup two weeks following, there is a real chance that the two teams will make for a dramatic finish in the NFC seedings.
  • For Carolina, their 8-game win streak is the current best in the NFL. Their defense is the most menacing and has put Newton in a position to achieve the success he had been predicted to have experienced by now.
  • Tampa Bay started rough with Freeman and a series of losses. It was not until they dumped him and went with Glennon that they finally got to win some games. It is all just confidence at this point, as they are far away from the playoff picture.
  • Atlanta has been the fighter for the past few years but something is poisoning the team this season. Julio Jones has been out for a long time now and Ryan has failed to get the offense going.

NFC West

  • The North may be the closest division but the West is the most competitive. The Seahawks are dominating on all phases of the game. Russell Wilson has established himself as the most successful of last year’s young QBs, but their defense has been close to unstoppable.
  • The 49ers were the Super Bowl team last year but they have struggled a bit this season. Though healthy, Kaepernick had a slump to start the season as he tried to keep pace with Wilson in the West.
  • The Cardinals have been one of the surprises after showing little change since the past couple years. The run game has improved and Carson Palmer has reemerged to keep them in the playoff race.
  • The record does not show it but the Rams are in a good position for their future. Zac Stacy is their RB moving forward and they will be getting a great 1st round draft pick from the Redskins to boost their team.

AFC East

  • New England keeps finding ways to win. First it was without the Gronk, then they got him back, and then they lost him again. The running game has been a rotation that may have finally settled on Shane Vereen, but they have eked out far too many wins to feel comfortable.
  • The Dolphins were predicted for some success this season but are hanging on by a thread in the playoff hunt. A little help could push them into the 6 spot.
  • The Jets are surprisingly still in the hunt and could help themselves with a win at Miami to finish the season.
  • The Bills continue to be the Bills and show no signs of getting better in the near future.

AFC North

  • Predicted to be an early-season favorite, the Bengals have found their competitive instinct and continue to win. They are fairly safe to take the division.
  • The Super Bowl Champion Ravens are struggling their way into a wild card spot this season. The team has lost their run game and their defense is just starting to find themselves in the last few games.
  • Pittsburgh struggled to start, then got better, and then fell flat. They are on the outside of the wild card hunt and are playing more for pride now.
  • Cleveland has had glimmers of hope but to no avail this season. Their recent loss to the Patriots is an example of their inability to finish games.

AFC South

  • hi-res-451825311-quarterback-peyton-manning-of-the-denver-broncos-drops_crop_northLuck has been solid in his sophomore season but the defense has some questions to answer to make a playoff run. They are comfortably in the lead of the division though.
  • Tennessee has had sparks with Chris Johnson and Jake Locker but injuries have held the team back.
  • Jacksonville looked like they would never win a game. Now after getting 4 out of the last 5, they have something to build from to plan for their future.
  • The Houston Texans were a team that was Super Bowl or bust this season. After their first two wins, Schaub threw 3 INTs in his next few games and was eventually benched. They are now on an 11-game losing streak and questioning their future.

AFC West

  • Fighting with the surging Chiefs, Peyton and the Broncos started the season with a bang with their scoring and have not let up. They lost a couple but are the favorites to run the table in the playoffs.
  • The Chiefs are a team that is hot on the Broncos heels. They have an offense that is improving, a defense that is devastating to other teams, and a special teams that can surprise even aware teams.
  • San Diego seemed like they had a chance to compete but fell far below their counterparts in the division. They found a new great receiver in Keenan Allen and could be a challenge for teams next season.
  • Not as confident as the other teams in the division is the Raiders. They have failed to have a winning season for over the past decade, with only 2 years at 8-8 (both ranked 3rd in the division). They have a lot of work to do to catch up to the Broncos and the Chiefs now.

Washington has been a emotional mess this season. It was thought that the Skins failed to play well against Philly in week 1 because no one had seen the offense of Chip Kelly. That was not the case apparently, as Washington just did not really have an answer for a Philly team that has been less than impressive in several weeks on defense and seemed to have been found out quickly with their offense.

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia EaglesThe game started the way so many have for Washington this season, but with one key difference. The offense actually was able to move down the field. The running game seemed like it was poised to eat up the yards against the inconsistent Philly defense. The first quarter was more of the same, though Morris did have a few good runs. The second quarter gave a continued feeling that the run game could be the answer against Philly. Instead, the plays that took center stage included the limited RGIII dropbacks for passes and the fumble near their first opportunity to score with the team already down 14-0. Philly finished the half with a field goal and a 17-0 lead.

The second half started out as much of the same between the run game and limited success passing, but the fourth quarter was another story. Philly had scored on their first drive of the second half, but then the Redskins defense woke up. Down 24 points, they did not allow another point for the remainder of the game. This allowed RGIII to finally get the offense going in the fourth quarter. Though they failed to complete a 4th & 1 at the start of the fourth quarter, the next drive started and finished on a 62-yard pass to Young for the first score and a 2-point conversion. After another defensive stop, the offense was clicking again and scored on a 41-yard pass to Robinson and another 2-point conversion on the legs of RGIII. Down by only 8 points, Washington ended up with 3 minutes and 26 seconds to drive down the field, score again, and get another 2-point conversion. Driving down to the Philly 18 yard line, RGIII threw a horrible pass and was picked off on a third down play with 24 seconds left. There was a chance to throw the ball away (which RGIII said he was trying to do), but the game was over on a Foles kneel down.

The surge in the fourth quarter continued the trend of the offense’s and defense’s failure to start the game in the first half but get a groove too late. The season is essentially over unless the team can pull off a 6-game run and a few other things help them along the way.

Positives

  • Robert Griffin III, Brandon GrahamIf the team focuses more on the run, they have a chance. Teams are struggling to stop Morris for any elongated period of time.
  • When the team is behind, they have a chance to come back from the brink (but maybe not as deep as this game).
  • The defense can pick up the pace when they are forced to.

Negatives

  • The team is just absent through the first three quarters or so. There is no reason whey other teams can play aggressive to start but Washington has to sleep through the first half.
  • The play-calling continues to be abysmal. It is clear that RGIII is getting frustrated with the Shanahans and his blocking and his receivers running the wrong routes.
  • But it is RGIII as well. He has been making odd decisions this season that did not happen in his rookie year. The INT at the end is a great example of this problem.

Around the rest of the league…

  • The Bills rampaged the Jets and ravaged Geno Smith for 3 INTs in their 37-14 win.
  • Baltimore and Chicago were delayed by the rain, but it was the Bears that forced overtime and grabbed the field goal for the victory.
  • In a divisional battle, the Bengals outplayed the Browns to maintain first place in the AFC North.
  • jason-babin-andre-ellington-haircutPittsburgh surprised the Lions with a solid performance by Roethlisberger and his 4 TDs.
  • Atlanta is no longer looking like a possible contender, as rookie Rainey made TB look like they could battle the Saints and Panthers for the NFC South if they did not start the season 0-8.
  • Arizona prevented Jacksonville from pulling another upset but could not prevent Babin from pulling out Ellington’s dreads.
  • Oakland helped to fuel the outrage on the Houston sidelines behind Matt McGloin’s 3 TDs.
  • Miami stunned Rivers and the Chargers with a mostly mediocre effort, pulling back to a .500 record.
  • New Orleans is contending for a playoff run while the 49ers are moving backwards and are now tied for 2nd in the division with the Cardinals.
  • The Giants continued the beating of the Rodgers-less Packers for their 4th win of the season.
  • Seattle is another team that looks like a contender behind their 1-loss record and easy management of the Vikings.
  • The Colts outlasted the Titans behind running game of Donald Brown and game management of Andrew Luck.
  • Denver and Kansas City had their long-awaited matchup, leading the the Chiefs suffering their first loss with only 1 Manning touchdown.
  • Carolina continues their improvement campaign behind their defense and the rising Cam Newton (with 3 TDs). The Patriots continue to suffer from a host of questions about their receivers and uneven rushing game.

This is a season of hopes dashed, tempted, and dashed again. Just when things seem like they are getting back on track, the bottom falls out and the weaknesses of the team are brought back to the forefront.

PHOTO_1_RedskinsEnter the game against the Vikings…At a record of 1-7, it was assumed that Washington would have its best shot to recover from the early season sloth and stay in the hunt in the NFC East. Instead, Washington played the first half like champs and followed that up with a second half that all but eliminated the hopes of making the playoffs. Although the NFC East will likely only get 1 team in, the Redskins are still not necessarily out of the hunt but definitely not in a good position.

The first half looked like the expectations the team had to start the season. The preseason had the team starting off hot but falling flat for the first few games of the season. When we have won games, it has been against teams that had lost something (a QB or a defensive player). While the previous games had touchdowns in the first half being a tough commodity, RGIII passed for 3 over the first two quarters (Garcon, Reed, and Paulsen). The offense was 8 of 9 on 3rd downs, including 2 of the touchdowns. Meanwhile, the defense maintained a 10-point lead going into the half.

Then the bottom fell out…After scoring a field goal on the first drive of the 3rd quarter, Washington’s offense stopped playing. The Redskins ran two 3 and out drives and had only 4 converted first downs compared to Minnesota’s 8. Ponder even went down and left the offense in the hands of Cassel. Minnesota was allowed to score 20 unanswered points. Minnesota appeared to travel up and down the field with much more ease as the Washington defense began to give up the yards and struggle against Ponder’s do-no-wrong play on Thursday night.

Positives

  • sp-skins1108_0151383879432RGIII looked much more confident throughout the first half, but something changed in the second. If he can play like the first half throughout the entire game, the Redskins will be in a much better position.
  • The run game was solid. Alfred Morris ran for 139 yards, with another 44 from RGIII.
  • While the special teams have struggled, Niles Paul seems to be a more consistent return guy than the previous tries.

Negatives

  • The defense is inconsistent again. Played well in the first half and collapsed in the second. Left the running lanes for Peterson to exploit.
  • The play-calling is a real problem. The run game was abandoned during parts of the second half, even when they had the lead.

Around the rest of the league…

  • The Falcons are in some real trouble as their offense has stalled and looks nothing like last season. The Seahawks handled them comfortably, 33-10.
  • The Lions and Bears faced off in a divisional slug match but Stafford and Megatron were able to outpace Cutler and Marshall, 21-19.
  • Without Rodgers, the Packers are not the same team and are in real trouble of falling out of the race in the NFC North. Foles looked great with 3 TDs in the win.
  • tates-career-dayAfter Locker left the game, Fitzpatrick tried to fight off the upset to the Jaguars but fell short and gave Jacksonville their first win of the season.
  • Luck ran out in Indy as Clemens outplayed the Indy sensation and stormed to a 38-8 Rams victory.
  • The Giants seem like they are the Redskins this year after pulling off their 3rd straight win over the Raiders.
  • Levon Bell might be the breakout player of the Steelers, helping them overtake the Bills for a 23-10 victory.
  • The Ravens learned when to play the tip drill and when to let the ball go to the ground. Luckily, it did not prevent their chance to take a win from the Bengals and put the pressure back in the AFC North.
  • The Panthers defense may be the best of the NFL, making the 49ers look unprepared to defend their home turf.
  • Keenum looked solid again for the Texans, but the Cardinals were able to defend their home field and get above .500.
  • The Broncos continue to take care of business behind Manning’s 4 TDs and take down the Chargers before facing the perfect Chiefs. Watch Manning’s ankles though.
  • The Saints pull of a record 40 first downs in a demolition of the Cowboys, 49-17.
  • Getting their first win of the season against the Dolphins, the Bucs may have found a decent running replacement for Martin after Rainey and Leonard replaced the injured Mike James.