The Preseason is over.
I say again, the preseason is over. While this may seem like an obvious statement, it bears repeating as I hope to make it clear that reality has now set in with regard to who we are and how we’ll fare this season. Sure we looked good in the second halves of every preseason and we had a nice outing during Week 3. We had positive energy, good team building activities, and all the make-up of a Disney story of friendship. Heck, we even go positive predictions from ESPN and FOX during the past few weeks. A quality practice squad doesn’t suit up on game day though, and coaches don’t tip their playbooks during meaningless games. The preseason doesn’t prepare you for 60 minutes of elite offensive and defensive linemen slamming into you with reckless abandon. The preseason doesn’t have coaches pinpoint your weaknesses and exploit them repeatedly for massive gain and momentum. What unfortunately is the worst part, the preseason doesn’t hand out losses that impact how other teams will prepare for you. So make no mistake about it, the pre-season is over and our Skins reminded us all of that fact on national television.
The Redskins last season were near historically bad at stopping the run last season, at 4.7 yards per attempt (YPA) they were second only to 1959 when we allowed 5.48 YPA. How did we address this fact? We let our biggest lineman walk, replaced him with aged veterans, and moved our oldest and longest tenured skin into a more robust role. While we had one of the deepest drafts at defensive line available this year, we instead chose to focus on luxury picks and wait till the back end of the draft to take a total of one (1) new defensive lineman. I know this is heresy to question a McCloughan draft but after last night it’s warranted because where is all that talented lineman at? Why improving the quality of our practice squad, that’s where. Ziggy Hood, with all considerable and earned respect due to the man, starting at defensive end is a wonderful example of why the Skins, regardless of how nice we did last year, are still a far cry from being a contender in the NFL. Ziggy Hood, a former first round pick, played tremendous ball for Pittsburgh when they drafted him. He played an amazing 5 years for them and then was released. Why? Because teams that are contenders are always getting stronger, faster, and younger in the trenches while teams like the Skins are sifting through the discount bin hoping like hell to find something worthwhile. You can’t preach getting bigger (looking at you Scot) and then ignore the gaping holes in your defensive line as well as the talent available to you in the draft. If you truly thought that all that was available to you were projects that need time to develop then take them and start developing. I don’t mind getting gashed in the name of learning and growth, but instead we decided to roll the dice on vets. What did that get us? 4.9 YPA when defending the run against the Steelers. Congratulations! We got a head start at breaking records!
This is the part where I’d mention our running game, but seeing as all they could muster is 55 yards. I’ll cover the subject in its entirety in 55 words:
Five million was the cost to keep our best rusher since Clinton Portis. We added no new offensive linemen and somehow expected better results when adding several did wonders last season. You can’t force a team to stop playing zone coverage when they don’t have to respect the run. The offense was dead on arrival.
And on the offense note, Kirk…. I don’t need to spend $20 million on a quarterback who can’t make throws to open receivers or floats balls to middle linebackers. Everyone gets a bad game and in truth the defensive tactics to stay in zone coverage were phenomenal at ensuring that we had nothing deep and no yards after catch (YAC). Great quarterbacks don’t care about that though, great quarterbacks aren’t beaten without ever even countering the defensive coordinator’s game plan. In the game between Kirk’s Long Term Deal vs Management’s wait and see approach, Management is up 1- 0.
In case you’re wondering, there’s seven (7) ways/route trees to beat zone coverage – Four Verticals, Double Smash, All Post, Double Out, Levels, Corner/Deep Out, and Man Beater. What did we do? Check down to the middle of the field or sideline out where in both cases our receivers were immediately swarmed and stopped. The goal of Cover defense is to allow JUST THAT, small dinks and dunks to midfield or 5 yard sideline mark stopped for minimal YAC. Don’t you just love it when the opposing team’s plan comes together?
Which brings me to my final point in this rant of tough love and sober reality check. Coaching.
We got beat the most not on the field but on the sideline. Joe Barry could NOT get his squad off the field. Third and Fourth down conversions were a dime a dozen and we couldn’t respond to anything they threw at us. The Fourth down conversions are the best example of this seeing as they ran THE SAME PLAY multiple times and punished us with conversions and points on the board. I understand losing a jump ball, I understand losing a tough push in short yardage situations, but when the offensive coordinator can keep churning out the same formation and leaves your players looking like they need a few more weeks at training camp, that’s on YOU. We made NO second half adjustments, and we had ONE three and out…. On the first drive of the game. Do you know why? Because good coaches identify what doesn’t work and they adjust, bad ones leave you watching the same play on repeat with worse results each time. Offensively, we had early opportunities to get up 14-0 with turnovers and a bit of luck. Instead we settle for 0-6 and then regressed as the same play calls got less and less yards each time. Contenders punish teams that allow turnovers, contenders counter everything thrown at them, and losers kick field goals. … Guess which category we fall into?
The preseason is over Redskins, we’ve begun a new one where it’s supposed to no longer be good enough to try our best and take home moral victories. We claimed to be contenders, we claimed to be up to the challenge that our schedule will be this year; from the practice squad to the GM… it’s time to start acting like it.