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Fourth Quarter Quandary

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 5:32 pm

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The goal, in any football game, at any level, is to win the game.  In the words of former head coach Herm Edwards: “Hello!  You play to win the game.”

But when things don’t go as planned, it’s the coach’s responsibility to find things that went right, in addition to the things that need work.  The good news for the Redskins–and the silver lining for fans–is that the young players on this team are performing well and earning their playing time.

Here are the highlights from today’s game:

1. The Leonard Hankerson ship has set sail from the port of Miami and is headed north.  Today, he hauled in eight receptions, which accounted for more than one-third of Grossman’s 21 completions.  His 106 yards also accounted for half of the team’s receiving yards today, and last week’s two-point conversion proved that he can be a threat in the red zone.  With his big body and ability to get open, it will be interesting to see how he develops as a red zone threat.  In the mean time, he tripled his career production with today’s performance.

2. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is a stud off the edge, and isn’t a liability in coverage.  His background as a defensive end is going to stunt his development as a coverage linebacker, but he’s shown the ability to get downfield and cover when called upon.  For now, he looks to be developing into the type of bookend edge rusher that that Redskins need to complement Brian Orakpo, and he has the stats to prove it.

3. Even familiar faces like Brian Orakpo, Graham Gano, and Fred Davis performed reasonably well today.  Gano missed two long field goals–which is not unexpected in the Miami breeze and humidity–but also provided the team with it’s only points.  Davis ranked third on the team in yardage, with 28, and caught a long pass of 18 yards.  Orakpo was matched up against a quality left tackle today, but his presence allowed Kerrigan increased opportunities.

These are the types of performances that build winners.

Winning in the NFL is always easier when players have experience together, and unfortunately, that’s just not a luxury that the Redskins have right now.  Of the 11 starters on offense from Week 1, the Redskins have only six still available this week.  On defense, there are only nine playing regularly.  All told, the Redskins have played seven of their 12 rookies selected in April’s draft, and have five players currently on the 53-man roster that weren’t in training camp with the team.

Clearly, this is not the starting lineup that the coaches envisioned running out the tunnel on gameday.  But this is the hand that’s been dealt.

When the team started off 3-1, some people prematurely wondered what it would be like to be in the playoffs.  Now, it’s become clear that this team needs to focus on Sunday night before they even worry about Monday.

Fortunately, that’s the outlook and preparation that’s being reflected in the locker room as well.

The team brought in a lot of players with upstanding character in the offseason.  Good character isn’t reflected on the scoreboard, but it does save a locker room in difficult times like these.  With a rivalry game like the Cowboys on the line, expect this to be a gut-check week.  Whatever this team is capable of will be on display at FedEx next week.

This team is still capable of a second half run, but it may need to walk first, and that starts tomorrow.

That’s all from Miami, as the Redskins fall to the Dolphins: 9-20.

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 4:18 pm

When it comes to former Florida football players, just add sun and watcht them bloom.

Redskins kicker and former Florida State Seminole, Graham Gano, has provided the Redskins with each of the team’s nine points.  If not for the deceptive gusts in the stadium’s home plate endzone, the Redskins would actually be ahead midway through the third quarter, 12-10.

Then again, they might still be behind, 12-13.

Receiver Leonard Hankerson has already matched and exceeded his previous career numbers, with six receptions 75 yards through three quarters of play.  If he can keep up the pace, he’ll be the second Redskins rookie in as many weeks to eclipse 100 yards.

Speaking of amazing rookie performances, outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan has become twins with Brian Orakpo on defense.  Here are the numbers:

Orakpo: 5.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, 6 tackles for a loss.

Kerrigan: 5 sacks, 18 QB hits, 8 tackles for a loss

This is exactly what the Redskins were looking for when they traded down the board and snagged the Boilermaker at No. 16 overall.

Through 45 minutes, this game sports a startling lack of momentum, with neither team seemingly able to execute consistently on offense.  Everything is half a step away from being a big play, but both defenses seem capable of doing just enough to keep both offenses at bay.  This is the type of game that will turn on a sustained drive or big play.

It’s a one-point game with 15 to go: Dolphins 10, Redskins 9.

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Second Quarter Situation Room

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 3:31 pm

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Welcome to Washington, wide receiver David Anderson.  The newbie Washingtonian caught his first pass as a Redskin–a 14-yard reception to convert on third down–in only his fifth day in the Burgundy and Gold.

As he explained it on Wednesday, he knew the Kyle Shanahan scheme except for about “three words that were different.”  But he knows the three words that matter most to Redskins fans right now: “Catch. The. Ball.”

Nothing sensational, but one of the better things that happened for the Redskins in the second quarter.  The Redskins should also reserve a shoutout to the swirling wind in the north end zone, which was no kinder to the Dolphins than it was the Redskins.

So far, the score is: Redskins 6, Dolphins 10, Mother Nature 6.

Rookie receiver has blossomed from a training camp goat into a full-on midseason delight.  Yes, he still has his flaws and room for improvement, but he’s one of the few Redskins that’s been able to get open in recent weeks.  With no Chris Cooley, Santana Moss, or Niles Paul for the foreseeable future, Hankerson has his chance to shine.  Coming into the game, he had five career receptions for 57 yards.  In the first half, he already has three grabs for 38 yards.

In the first half, the Redskins are doing the things that they need to do to win: creating turnover opportunities, limiting penalties, and keeping a balanced offense:

  • So far, the Redskins have run the ball 11 times and thrown 12 times.
  • Both quarterbacks have been intercepted once, but Grossman’s was a product of miscommunication rather than a bad throw.
  • Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan added his fourth career sack and third forced fumble, one that was recovered by the Dolphins.
  • The Redskins have only been penalized three times for 21 yards.

This is the gameplan that the team needs to replicate in the second half in order to break out of this slump.  The difference will be capitalizing on opportunity and being patient on offense.  A lot went wrong to lose four-straight games; one or two big plays can turn it all around this afternoon.

Lots of football left in the Sunshine State: Dolphins 10, Redskins 6.

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First Quarter Fakeouts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 2:46 pm

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The Redskins employed a bit of trickery in their pregame lineups, waiting until the last minute before announcing that Rex Grossman would start at quarterback in place of John Beck, and linebacker Perry Riley would start in place of Rocky McIntosh.

Both surprise starters had a shaky start on their respective first drives, with Grossman going three-and-out with a sack, and Riley getting flagged for a 15-yard horse collar tackle.

But after yielding a Dolphins touchdown, the Redskins responded with their Florida contingent.  Gator Grossman hit his former teammate Jabar Gaffney for a completion and Hurricane (Leonard) Hankerson for two catches.  Unfortunately, the drive stalled on the Dolphins 35, and Gano missed a 50-yard attempt into the swirling wind.

The Redskins finally got their spark on the ensuing defensive campaign, pushing the Dolphins back with two tackles for a loss, before Barry Cofield pressure forced a bad throw and a Kevin Barnes interception.  Barnes followed his blocks and returned the ball 30 yards to the Dolphins 6-yard line.

Right now, the Redskins defense is forcing the turnovers, and the offense is limiting turnovers.  But as a team, they need to capitalize on these opportunities, especially with turnovers in the red zone.  Penalties and swirling winds are no excuse–the Redskins need to capitalize in the second quarter of play and build some momentum.

‘Fins up over the ‘Skins early: Washington 3, Miami 7.

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NFL Experts Picking The Redskins

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 2:05 pm

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In the 1969 Harry Nilson hit “One,” we learn that one is indeed the loneliest number, but two can be as bad as one.  Today, I’m not sure which is worse, but there are only two notable prognosticators calling for the Redskins to win.

Both Shannon Sharpe and Bill Cowher of CBS selected the Redskins as their surprise upset pick:

CBSSports Pete Prisco calls the Dolpins to win 17-13 and writes:

The Redskins seem to be going in the wrong direction. They have no offense with John Beck. I look for the Dolphins defense to shut down the Washington offense while Miami does just enough.

The John Beck comment is ironic… Read more »

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Jason Taylor: A Fiery Class Act

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 1:45 pm

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Former Redskins defensive end Jason Taylor is back with the Dolphins now, in his 15th season.  He is also the cover star of this week’s Dolphins Playbook magazine.

It’s nice to see that the man who once made headlines for his post-career career is totally focused on football, back with the team where he started.  After all, he was once a runner up on Dancing With The Stars:

There was almost a feeling that he might cut his football career short to pursue other opportunities, namely a movie career.  Taylor had appeared in commercials, as well as joining Elmo on Sesame Street.

Where he taught the world about the word “toss”: Read more »

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Warming Up In The South Florida Sun

Posted by Brian Tinsman on November 13, 2011 – 1:02 pm

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Welcome to Miami Dade County, the land of hanging chads and Landshark beer.  As players take the field today, it’s a balmy 80 degrees under partly cloudy skies, with winds out of the east at 20 mph.

The NFC East, that is.

The Redskins are warming up today, looking to beat the streak.  Special teams are locked in, as Graham Gano just kicked a 63-yard field goal that would have been good from 66 or 67.  Here’s the rest of the gang:

The Redskins made a low-risk/high-reward signing this week with former first round pick, defensive end Kentwan Balmer.  Balmer is motivated to latch on with an NFL team and live up to his collegiate pedigree, so the world is his locker room.  And defensive line coach Jacob Burney is the man to make it happen, even on gameday:

Former Florida Gator, quarterback Rex Grossman, has also taken the field to warm up:

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