A week removed from a 27-27 tie to the Bengals in London– the Redskins at 4-3-1, are coming off of a perfectly timed bye week. If for no other reason, because they ended a game in a tie (the first since 1997 vs NYG).
Though the team’s success is undeniably tied to the efforts of those who receive more coverage than a Kardashian, inside the metro area (Jay Gruden, Sean McVay, Kirk Cousins, Joe Barry)– you won’t be reading about them here. Honest.
Instead let’s take a look at the six players/factors that have their fingerprints all over the first eight weeks.
- Trent Murphy – the third year OLB turned DE, turned OLB again, has been the team’s best and most consistent pass rusher. A welcome surprise for a player who had not experienced success in that area before this season. Could be the strength training from when he was bulking up in the offseason or the increased flexibility from incorporating yoga into his workouts. Either way, it’s hard to argue with 6 sacks and 3 FF thru eight games.
- Spencer Long – it’s no secret that the team had been trying to move on from incumbent C Kory Lichtensteiger for some time. Long, rumored to be a potential answer had not logged any real in-game snaps at the position as a professional until week 3 vs the Giants. If you listen to Jay, it sounds like he’s impressing the coaches more each week.
- Coaching staff – So I lied, sue me. Blame it on an inability to have any success on the ground last season, or Jay wanting to run his version of big brother Jon’s QB Camp. But it took the offensive staff two weeks to realize they needed balance. And the same amount of time for the defensive staff to make the back end adjustments to aid the front seven’s gradual improvement vs the run. Prior to adjustments by both sides, 0-2. After, 4 game win streak. Then there’s the matter of Robert Kelly.
- Preston Smith – the second year pass rusher has played solidly in all facets save for the one that counts, QB pressure. His strong close to 2015, raised expectations that so far have not panned out. One can only wonder if and when Murphy’s improvement begins to eat into Smith’s in-game reps.
- Josh Norman – the correlation between the season beginning to trend upward and the big money FA acquisition, “traveling” w/receivers is not steeped in irony. Matchup w/All-Everything wideout AJ Green aside, he’s been stellar.
- Jamison Crowder – the second year playmaker out of Duke has been electric all year on punt returns and out of the slot. Making both timely and big plays with regularity. In just his second season, he is beginning to work his way into opposing defense’s gameplans, right behind Reed.
Continued growth and contributions from everyone mentioned above, as well as those not named, will ultimately determine how well the team plays down the stretch.
Some questions to ponder going forward…
Will Ty Nsekhe be a second half surprise, starting at LT for a suspended Trent Williams (4 gms)?
Is Robert Kelly the answer at Running Back? His second career start comes this week vs a stout defensive front in Minnesota.
Will the defensive performance stand firm, improve or backslide?
Here’s to the second half.