With the St. Louis Rams heading to Washington this weekend for game two, I linked up with Alex Rowsey from Hogs Haven to get a bit more info on what's going down in D.C. with a certain quarterback demoted to the sidelines and an 0-1 Washington team eager to avenge last year's 24-0 drubbing.
So the Kirk Cousins Show. How comfortable are you with the results through one week? The running game looked to be well above average. Is there a concern that the passing game will drag down the team despite the cushion of the ground game and the quality of your wide receivers? And how do you square that with the offense throughout the second half on Sunday?
It's hard to ever say you're "comfortable" with a loss, especially at home, but I'm comfortable with Kirk Cousins at QB. It's obviously much easier on him and everyone else in the offense when the running game is clicking like it was last week. Kirk did a good job completing 67.7% of his passes and he's excellent at getting the ball out quickly... as evidenced by him only taking one sack against an excellent Miami Dolphin DL. It really all comes down to the INTs for him. He threw one last week that was absolutely terrible and then threw another one that I don't really blame him too much for. He has the arm. He has the quick release. He's good at getting completions. He can put up big yards and move the offense. He just has to cut down on the turnovers. That's really the only thing.
All that being said, yeah, there's a little concern that our passing game will limit us this year. Fans are still skeptical of Jay Gruden's offense and for however optimistic you want to be about Kirk Cousins, there's zero evidence that he'll be a good starter in this league... yet. He's the best QB on the roster, but who knows what that's worth. Additionally, the right side of our OL is young and inexperienced. They're certainly better in the run game than pass protection and that could limit Kirk's chances.
Finally, penalties are a big problem for our team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They're a huge part of the reason why our offense struggled so mightily in the second half last week. When we can run the ball and have our third downs be less than 10 yards, we're decent at converting and keeping drives alive. But when we have penalties that consistently put us in third and long situations, the drives shut down. It's pretty simple, but in the second half last week penalties really put us in some tough situations that caused multiple drives to stall. I feel we do a great job of shooting ourselves in the foot... so you guys won't have to worry about it.
The bigger surprise last weekend was perhaps the defense keeping the Dolphins in check, especially for the first three quarters. What helped you guys find success in limiting Miami?
Our entire defense is underrated in this league, but especially our front seven. While our secondary is still suspect as hell, the front seven is a definite strength. It all starts against the run. Our front seven is very, very difficult to run against. Ryan Kerrigan is a stud against the pass and the run and Trent Murphy at the other OLB spot is dynamite against the run (though he lacks in the pass rushing department). And then when you have ~400-lb. Terrance Knighton in the middle, there's just not a lot of room for lanes/holes to open up. So Lamar Miller was stifled all day.
After that, our new DC (Joe Barry) seems to have implemented a very good defensive plan that allows us to take advantage of our front and get good pressure even when only rushing four or five. Guys like Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher, and the rookie Preston Smith have a knack for getting after the QB. Chris Baker and Stephen Paea are also dynamic pass rushers who thrive against the pass much more than the run. They're also huge. So when you can stop the run effectively and then find ways to get solid pressure without having to blitz too much, you can really help out a secondary that's banged up, dealing with suspensions, and only average at best. No run game + Tannehill under pressure all day = solid defense.
So Kai Forbath...help a Rams fan understand why you'd cut the kicker with the highest field goal percentage in your franchise's history (...of >1 FGA) after one week. Was Forbath really the issue? Is he just a week 1 scapegoat?
The release of Kobra Kai has been coming for a while now. Last year the team drafted Zach Hocker in the seventh round to compete with Kai. Kai fended him off, but you see the writing on the wall when a team drafts a kicker. This year they brought in yet another K to compete with Kai and Kai came out on top again. Here's the deal, though. The reason Kai was released has nothing to do with his FG kicking abilities. The man is simply bad at KOs. Our special teams unit is basically garbage. We gave up another punt return for a TD last week. We always do. Don't worry, Tavon Austin will have his chances there. But with our coverage units being as bad as they are, we really can't afford to have a K who can't get TBs. Kai barely kicks it off into the end-zone and we're always dealing with opposing returners having a chance to burn our coverage units. Replacing Kai with a guy who can consistently get TBs helps out tremendously.
Another issue with Kai is that his great FG% is misleading. From 40 yards and in, Kai Forbath is money. The guy basically doesn't miss. That's part of the reason his percentage is so high. However, due to his less than stellar leg strength, our team basically doesn't try 50+ yard FGs... like ever. Since Kai got here in 2012, we rarely ever even consider long FGs because his accuracy is sub-par from distance. So while Kai provided a guaranteed three points from 40 and in, the potential to have a K who can consistently get TBs and actually has a chance from 50+ is worth the risk that accuracy from 40 and in goes down a little bit.
What do you know about this team? What do you think you know? And what are you hoping for?
I know this team is headed in the right direction with GM Scot McCloughan. Our past two drafts (though early) seem to be two of the better drafts we've had in the past 25 years. We have good, young potential and a GM with a track record. We have not had those things since Dan Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999. We've always had overpaid, high-priced, aging FAs. Now we seem to be focused on the draft and finding younger FAs who are entering their prime and don't break the bank. It's a great strategy. We entered the draft with seven picks and Scot had a stated goal of getting up to 10... and he did. Our team is building for the future and trying to find young guys who contribute on STs. It's a culture change that this team has desperately needed.
I think I know that Kirk Cousins is a good enough QB that we can move forward with him at that spot and not have to spend another high draft pick (or picks) on one for a while. I think Kirk can be average to above average and that's good enough for me. I'm tired of the wasted picks and constantly chasing the next best QB who will save our franchise. I want to see Scot focus on building up the rest of the team around the QB and reduce the importance of trying to find "the guy" all the time. I think Kirk is good enough to hold down the spot while he does that.
I'm hoping that Jordan Reed can stay healthy and become a Pro Bowl TE. He is definitely one of the best, most talented receiving TEs in the game. He has two major issues, though. First of all, he's made of glass and almost always hurt. It's hard to rely on someone like that. Secondly, he's a poor blocker. In order to be a proper TE and not just some big WR, he really needs to work diligently on his blocking. But as far as a guy who can run routes, absolutely snag everything around him, and then be deadly after the catch, Jordan Reed has all that in spades. I want to see him take the next step and stay healthy for a change. I'm hopeful that he can do just that.
Big picture. Is Jay Gruden the right head coach for you guys? Does that still depend on the long-term outcome of the Kirk Cousins/RGIII issue? Is it all on GM Scot McCloughan to right the ship over a couple of years for the franchise?
This is the toughest question. Our fan-base is split and I don't know that anyone could give a correct answer, yet. I'll say I think he can be but hasn't shown to be, yet. Last year was terrible for the entire team. 4-12 is unacceptable and Jay Gruden was in over his head. He didn't do well. But at the same time, it was his first year as an NFL HC. How many people are excellent at a new job that they've never done before right from the jump? This year he's seemed better and appears to be growing into the role, but it's so early that you really can't say, yet. He's certainly improved in some areas (surrounding himself with the right guys, learning how to handle the media, etc.). It also should be noted that when Jay became our HC last year, he signed a five-year contract for a guaranteed $20M. So he's going to have to really fail for Dan Snyder to can him, pay him all that money, and pay a new coach. Besides, the Redskins HC job is one of the least desirable in the league with Snyder as owner.
The QB situation further confuses this whole scenario. The way the QB situation went last year, and the relationship between Jay and RGIII hasn't been good. RGIII isn't very good right now. He's bad. Jay seems to be over him but also seems to have been pressured to make it work. When he was hired, there were visions of grandeur between he and RGIII and the future of the franchise. After all, he was good with Andy Dalton in Cincy, so everyone thought he'd be able to help RGIII become what we all wanted him to become. Well that didn't happen. So, Jay has decided that Kirk is better. And he's right. So to some extent, he really needs to have this team perform better with Kirk than when he was expected to make it work with RGIII. After all, this is his choice. To take it further though, you have to keep in mind that really neither of these guys was Jay's choice. Both were drafted by Mike Shanahan and both were here with Jay arrived. He's working with what he has. So he must do better with Kirk now that he's clearly chosen him over RGIII, but does it matter that Kirk might still not really be his choice? I guess that's a question for Dan Snyder, President Bruce Allen, and GM Scot McCloughan.
And yes, we're all counting on Scot McCloughan to fix everything. We're naive like that...
Thanks to Alex for the time.