With a quarter of the season in the books, the Redskins are exactly what the reasonable thought they would be, sort of. And after Sunday’s 31-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns at FedEx, one of the team’s chief concerns may have become even more glaring.
Despite being punched in the mouth to the tune of 163 yards on the ground, 112 to Isaiah Crowell on FIFTEEN carries– the burgundy & gold rode three takeaways (one of which was Josh Norman’s first pick of the season) and a big outing by Matt Jones to the W.
If only for a game, the red zone issues that have plagued Washington the first four weeks were exorcised Sunday. As the Skins scored four touchdowns in the money end of the field. Two of which came on completions to TE Jordan Reed, for his first two scores of the season.
Following a rocky start to 2016, Kirk Cousins had his second straight solid outing in going 21-27 for 183 yards and 3 TDs. But he seasoned his good, going off schedule and extending the play on his second touchdown to Jordan Reed. With a few more of the “huh” plays, he’s served up throughout the early part of the schedule. Throwing a bad pick in the second and taking two momentum killing sacks midway through the fourth, that could have salted the game away much sooner.
Behind a reshuffled line (Arie Kouandjio-1st career start, LG | Spencer Long-1st career start, C) Jones, the second year back out of Florida, had his best game of the young season, 22-117 and a touchdown. Coming on the heels of a 17 att 65 yard outing last week, both his and the team’s ability to produce on the ground appear directly tied to this coaching staff. When given opportunities, the backs have produced and the team has benefitted.
- 0-2 ⇒ team rushing attempts: 12 | 17
- 2-0 ⇒ team rushing attempts: 30 | 26
In no particular order: Kirk year 2, running game, secondary and run defense, were arguably the four biggest questions coming into this season. And one would be hard pressed not to say three of the four have been at the very least, average. Yet the run defense has bordered on rancid. Like the smell of spoiled milk in an elementary school dumpster on a late spring day bad.
The lone concession in the run defense’s performance, they have played two of the top rushing attacks in the league in the first four weeks (CLE, DAL). To which one could counter, Washington’s defense has helped both attain their current levels of success.
In opting to not address a weakness from last season via the draft or free agency, we can’t be surprised right? Before Sunday, they appeared to just be getting beat up front. A combination of scheme plus an inability to get off blocks and beat the man in front of them. But against Cleveland, there were not only gaping holes, but poorly missed tackles at all levels. The latter of which compounds an already existing area of concern.
Defensive coordinator Joe Barry, whose unit leads the league in forced fumbles since the start of the 2015 season with 29 (27 prior to Sunday), has got to find a way to scheme an answer to this problem if they want any shot at contending for the playoffs. Is there too much of a focus being placed on stripping the ball versus tackling? Possibly. But in addressing pure personnel deficiencies up front, he’s going to have to become less predictable and get creative with his gameplan.
With mounting injury woes throughout the defense, Washington will need to lean on an offensive plan that mirrors the last two weeks going forward. If we see more of the same defensively versus the run however, a move from a personnel standpoint will have to be made much sooner than later. And that’s not even taking into account the defense’s inability to get off the field on third down or generate consistent pressure.
.500 football at this point in the season isn’t bad. But only one of those wins coming against a rookie quarterback not expected to start during the preseason, is. Forcing turnovers is great. Living by them…is another story.
featured image: "Matt Jones" by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY 2.0