1. What on earth is going on at quarterback? Can you explain it so it actually makes sense? Is Colt McCoy really a realistic option?
Well, Kirk Cousins is playing and playing pretty poorly. Here's the situation:
In the off-season, Jay Gruden and the Redskins coaching staff made it very clear that RGIII was the starter at QB for the Redskins. Our new GM (Scot McCloughan) signed him to his fifth-year option (to most people's surprise) which would pay him $16M next year if he's on the roster (or if he's hurt by the start of the next league year in March). About halfway into the preseason, RGIII had a rough outing against the Detroit Lions and suffered a concussion. That same week, Jay Gruden came out and said that Kirk Cousins is the starting QB for 2015 and that the Redskins are his team. This surprised many, but a lot of people could easily get on board because they thought Kirk was the better QB, anyway. See, Redskins fans are extremely divided when the QB situation comes up. If you talk about it, you're either anti-RGIII or anti-Kirk. It's terrible.
So, we've been rolling with Kirk this year and he's being given a nice, long leash to see if he can develop. So far... he hasn't. There's still some hope, but his seat is getting mighty hot. This game this week is huge. If he can manage to put up more TDs than picks... hell, even equal TDs to picks, I think the fan base can rally around giving him another couple weeks. If he goes out and throws 2+ picks again and we lose, the pitchforks are going to come out... especially since we'll be going into our bye week and then basically have a guaranteed L the week after @ NE. Enjoy the game knowing that the Buccaneers are going to play a very important role in the future of Kirk Cousins career this week.
2. What happened to Alfred Morris? He seems to be off to the worst start of any of his four NFL seasons.
I don't know why every situation involving the Redskins has to be so complex and stupid. You're just rolling right through them here with your questions. There's more than one force at work here affecting Alfred Morris, but I'd say the largest is probably our HC Jay Gruden. The Redskins talked incessantly this off-season about how they were going to be a power running team this year. After all, we really need to be since we have Kirk Cousins at QB, a young OL, and a Pro Bowl RB. Redskins fans love running the football. It's in our blood. Our favorite positions are the OL and watching them impose their will and open up running lanes is a thing of beauty. nd for the first week of the season, it was outstanding. Morris had a huge day against the Dolphins, the OL looked incredible, and even though the Redskins lost, fans were satisfied by what we were seeing and believed improvement was imminent. Morris was given 25 carries that game. That's the kind of back he is. He gets much better the more carries he gets and the more he can wear down and learn a defense. He had 121 rushing yards that week. He has 176 in the five games since...
A big part of that is thanks to our third-round rookie Matt Jones. Jones is a stud of a rookie RB. Fans like him and know he'll be great. He's got size, strength, and speed. We're very excited to see him... in the future. Here's the thing, though. Jay Gruden has decided that the Redskins will feature a committee of RBs where Morris, Matt Jones, and even Chris Thompson will all receive a decent number of carries. This has taken away from Morris' effectiveness significantly. After that 25-carry game to start the year, the very next week Matt Jones went over 100 yards and Morris was the RB2. Baffling. I mean, Jones had a great game, but he's a third-round rookie and Morris a Pro Bowler. Since week one, Morris' carries have been 18, 6, 17, 8, and 11...
That leads to the next factor, Jay Gruden. For as much as he talks about wanting to be a running team, he sure doesn't seem to want to run a lot. If you want to make sure Morris doesn't get the ball, just get a lead on the Redskins. Any lead will do. As soon as we're down, Jay gets pass-happy. It's incredible looking at our carries by quarter this year. They go down significantly with each passing quarter. Sure, some of that comes from when we're down by multiple scores late in the game and are trying to catch up... but not all of it. It's so simple, when we keep running the ball, we do better. When we stop, Kirk throws INTs and we lose.
3. Suppose you run Tampa Bay's offense, how would you go about attack the Washington defense? What is the weakest link?
The two best ways to attack the Redskins defense are by running the football and relying on a quick, short passing game. The defense is designed to not allow the big pass play and does a pretty good job with that. In the first month of the season, our defense was doing very well stopping the run, too. That's changed over the last two weeks. First it was Devonta Freeman and then Chris Ivory. Both guys absolutely owned our defense and ran all over the place. So I'd bust Doug Martin out there and see if you can't make it three weeks in a row. T
he weakness of the Redskins defense still lies in the secondary and with the ILBs. Our original starting CBs (Chris Culliver and DeAngelo Hall) are out injured. Our starting SS (Duke Ihenacho) is out injured, as well. It's a rag-tag group back there. Bashaud Breeland has been the big bright spot, but I'd take my chances on quick-hitters to your huge, dynamic WRs after softening things up with the run game.
Basically the only area where we're pretty consistently successful is getting pressure on the QB on long-developing deep passing plays. If I were the Bucs HC, I'd avoid them... especially with a rookie QB. Run the ball and quick passes. You'll probably have success.
4. How happy are the fans with Jay Gruden and his staff? Is there any chance he'll be fired at the end of the season, or is he given a pass for the quarterback situation?
Not happy. 4-12 last year followed up by 2-4 so far this year. Hard to be happy about that. The biggest reason people aren't happy with Jay is the fact that he was an OC before joining the 'Skins and yet the offense is the weakest unit on our team right now. The QBs aren't improving and he's not half as committed to the running game as the fans and our GM probably would like. Of course, winning cures all, but if he would just run the football more and stop being so boring and predictable with his play-calls, people would be more content even in a loss.
Whether he'll be fired at the end of the season is a tricky question. He was signed to a five-year deal for a guaranteed $20M. Why? Nobody has any clue, at all. Certainly the fact that he'll be due another $12M after this season whether we're paying him to coach here or paying him to not coach here must factor in at least a little bit. A reason why it's likely is because we hired a new GM in the off-season and new GMs tend to like picking their own HCs. Still, it's so early in this season that we just can't say, yet. Get us closer to 8-8 or 7-9 by the end of the year and show improvement? It'd be kind of hard and unnecessary to fire someone after that. Another 4-5 win season and I think most people would guess he's a goner. Again, this week against the Bucs is probably the biggest of the season and probably our first "must-win." Dropping to 2-5 on a 3-game losing streak going into your bye? Having basically a guaranteed L against New England after your bye that would drop you to 2-6? Yeah... pitchforks. Have to get a win this week to keep the season alive, basically.
5. Can you give me one under-the-radar player who could have a major impact on the game?
Certainly. That player is fourth-round rookie WR Jamison Crowder. Crowder comes from Duke and is only 5'9" (maybe). He's a dynamic rookie slot WR who's already taken the primary slot job from veteran Andre Roberts. Crowder's also our primary punt returner. He's pretty great. He honestly reminds me a bit of Brandin Cooks in New Orleans. He's an incredibly difficult cover being so small and runs really crisp routes getting in and out of breaks with ankle-breaking moves. And he's quick... man is he quick. Through the first two week of the season he only had 2 targets, 2 receptions, and 7 yards... about what you'd expect from a fourth-round rookie in his first two games behind guys like Pierre Garcon. But then Crowder emerged. His targets the last four weeks? 6, 12, 8, and 9. He's averaging 6.25 receptions for 59.25 yards per game over the past month. He's a pretty safe bet for 6-7 targets, 4-6 receptions, and 45-60 yards this week. And once you see him, you'll realize why he was my answer to this question. The whole league doesn't know about him yet, but they will soon. He's a very exciting player.