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A Fourth Quarter Farewell To 2011

Posted by Brian Tinsman on January 1, 2012 – 4:43 pm

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Looking strictly at the scoreboard of today’s game, there aren’t a whole lot of positives to take away.  ‘Pride games’ are supposed to end in wins–or at least near misses.  Not 24-point deficits.

But to focus exclusively on the score wouldn’t really be the story of this season.  The story of this season was–and has always been–about development.  And the best way to illustrate the development of this team is to look at how a fully healthy Redskins team fared against the Eagles in Week 6, as compared to the team that took the field today.

In Week 6, the offense managed only 245 yards and turned the ball over four times.  The Redskins had a fully-rested, fully-healthy roster take the field that day, with two playmakers at tight end, a dominant left side of the line, and zero rookies in the starting lineup.  With that team, they managed only 13 points at home.

In Week 17, the offense managed 377 yards and turned the ball over once.  The Redskins were eliminated from the playoffs weeks ago, with a patchwork lineup, including three rookies in the starting lineup.  With this team, they managed 10 points on the road.

In Week 6, the defense yielded 422 yards and had two takeaways.  The Redskins defense had a full-rested, fully-healthy roster take the field that day, with two playmaker safeties, two budding young outside linebackers, and a front seven that was leading the NFC in sacks.  With that team, they yielded 20 points at home.

In Week 17, the defense yielded 390 yards and had two takeaways.  The Redskins defense has also taken hits this season, losing both starting safeties, replacing three defenders altogether due to injury and performance.  They didn’t finish out the fourth quarter that they wanted today, but they still managed to keep the Redskins in the game until late.

The progress that the Redskins achieved on both sides of the ball, despite losing important players during the season, is not something that is reflected in the season record (5-11).  Development isn’t a consolation prize, and it isn’t anything that this team or organization wants to hang their hats on.  But when this team regroups in the coming months for OTA’s and mini camps, it’s something that will be reflected in the elevated play of the young guys on the team.  It’s something that will be reflected in various units, which now have great familiarity with one another. And for a team that isn’t going to the playoffs this year, roster development is something that can pay off for years to come.

Today was an unsung hero sort of day, so here are your unsung heroes of the afternoon:

On defense:

The danger of in-game reporting is in drawing conclusions too hastily.  For example, after the 62-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson, Twitter went crazy with conclusions that Oshiomogho Atogwe’s injuries had reduced his ability to make plays, and that he was, thus far, a disappointment as a free agent.

And perhaps up to that moment, these reports were fair.  Until, on the ensuing drive, Atogwe intercepted Michael Vick for the second time this season, down near the goal line.  He then–with the help of cornerback DeAngelo Hall–returned the ball to the 30-yard line.

All of this is not to say that Atogwe has had his ideal season, but he’s played very well in big games.  Atogwe got all three of his interceptions against division opponents this season, with two against the Eagles and the other against the Giants.  The best part of his contributions to the defense, is that he’s done everything that’s been asked, including accepting and excelling in a reserve role.  His last two interceptions have come in games that he didn’t start.

On offense:

Evan Royster and Roy Helu both gave gritty performances today, with Royster rushing for 113 yards on 20 carries, and Helu catching a touchdown pass for 47 yards.

Both rookie backs had back-to-back 100-yard games to their name this season, a rarity in any organization, and a testament to their ability to step up.  Royster had to be taken to the locker room in the second half for rehydration, while Helu battled leg injuries that visibly hobbled him on his touchdown run.  But both stayed focused and active in the game, supporting each other and keying the offense.

Not bad for two rookie backs taken after the fourth round.

This was a tough day for the 2011 Redskins, but with positives that can allow them to march forward into 2012.  Will this team be able to get healthy and capitalize on the development and maturation of the players in the scheme?  Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait nine months to find that out.  But from the 300 level of Lincoln Financial Field, I think the Redskins will find their stride in 2012.

That’s all from Philadelphia on this New Year’s Day, as the Redskins fall to the Eagles, 10-34.  Here’s wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year.

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Third Quarter Thoughts

Posted by Brian Tinsman on January 1, 2012 – 3:27 pm

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Following a long touchdown pass to Roy Helu–the first receiving score of his career–the Redskins were right back in the game.  However, if they want to stay in it for the fourth quarter, they have to eliminate the big 15-yard penalties that are consistently pushing them backward.  So far, they have three of them on the afternoon.

The first was a penalty on Santana Moss for taking his helmet off after a play. He was understandably frustrated, but that’s a long-standing rule–on the field, helmets stay on.

The second penalty was on Donte’ Stallworth on the Roy Helu touchdown catch and run.  It’s unclear what exactly was going on, but Stallworth took a knee in the end zone and was flagged for excessive celebration, going to the ground in the end zone.

The third penalty was for a hit on a defenseless receiver, on the defense.

You can say what you want about the legitimacy of the rules, the interpretation of said rules, and whether or not the Redskins players violated those rules.  I certainly have my own thoughts on all three facets.  But no amount of angst or debate on the topic will change the fact that the Redskins put themselves in a position to be flagged for three flagrant fouls in a game that they’re losing.

This is a game for pride alone, and this isn’t the type of focused football that’s going to win this afternoon.

On a very positive note, running back Evan Royster is over 100 yards from scrimmage again this week, piling up 73 on the ground and 37 through the air.  It’s hard to project how Royster and Helu will pan out to a 16-game season, but the experience that they’ve gained in their respective rookie campaigns have laid the groundwork for an informed, focused offseason.

Although the Redskins haven’t found their top guy in the passing game today, Grossman has spread the ball around, finding nine different receivers, including Brandon Banks for the time this season.  Receiver Jabar Gaffney was a non-factor in the third quarter and still needs 53 yards to reach 1,000 on the season.

After three quarters in Philadelphia, it’s still in reach for the Burgundy and Gold: Redskins 7, Eagles 13.

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Halftime Report From Philadelphia

Posted by Brian Tinsman on January 1, 2012 – 2:41 pm

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Redskins fullback Darrel Young spent four years of college only 17 miles from Lincoln Financial Field at Villanova University.  Villanova Stadium holds only 12,500 people, each of whom cheered on his defensive prowess

Today, in front of five time as many people, he’s silencing the Philadelphia crowd with his offensive ability, piling up 32 yards from a non-traditional playmaker position.  On top of that, he’s cleared the way for Evan Royster who continues his run of dominance as the Redskins tailback.

Averaging only 1.8 yards per carry in the first quarter, Royster has found his stride with 41 yards in the second quarter, including a 28-yard churn and burn scamper.  On that 28-yard run, he broke four tackles, something that Redskins running backs have struggled to do this season.  Forget the strategy of “one cut and go”– Royster cut four defenders nearly out of their shoes on one play.

At the half, Royster leads the team in both rushing and receiving yards.  Young is second and fourth, respectively.

One player that we should be celebrating in the first half is receiver Anthony Armstrong.  Armstrong has stretched the field deep today, but has been unable to sync up with quarterback Rex Grossman.  On two plays, Grossman was pressured and either checked down or forced the ball deep.  On the other play, he had time but it appeared that he waited half a beat too long, as the corner popped the ball in the air and the safety picked it off.

By trying the deep ball, the Redskins have opened up running plays and short passing routes underneath.  But the offense really needs these plays to work if they expect to keep pace in this game.

The Redskins passed up their best opportunity at points in the second quarter, when a field goal attempt from Graham Gano was blocked up the middle.  It’s been a frustrating year for blocked field goals, something that has been attributed in the past to the injuries and suspensions that the Redskins have weathered along the offensive line.  Whatever it is, it’s something that will need to be addressed in the offseason.

Receiver Jabar Gaffney had a solid first half, surpassing his career high in receptions with 67 this season.  His 25 yards put him within 56 yards of 1,000 on the season, for the first time in his career.  The Redskins need someone to step up big in the passing game in the second half.

After 30 minutes in The Linc, the Redskins still trail: Washington 0, Philadelphia 10.  Redskins will receive first in the second half.

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First Quarter Impressions

Posted by Brian Tinsman on January 1, 2012 – 1:44 pm

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Prior to two weeks ago, Brian Orakpo was the team’s leader in sacks during his tenure with the team, having never registered a full sacked on a division quarterback.  Against the Giants, he brought Eli Manning down for the first of his career.  Against the Eagles, he took care of things early, “Orakpo-ing” Michael Vick on his first third down pressure.

Now that the divisional sack monkey is off his back, Orakpo looks to be flogging it.  Orakpo is also the first Redskins defender with eight or more sacks in three consecutive seasons since Dexter Manley achieved the feat between 1983-89.

The Redskins defense is getting good pressure on Vick today, which could prove to be effective.  Vick has been bothered by various contact related injuries this year, including broken ribs, and looks to prefer passing today.  I’m certain the Redskins will be spying him all afternoon, but it’s nice to know that he has a vested interest in being a passer first.

On offense, running back Evan Royster got the first crack today, continuing his success from last week.  The Redskins initially viewed Roy Helu as a change-of-pace back earlier this season, and the same dynamic could be in place today, with both backs healthy and active.  The Redskins have also continued to pitch the ball on almost all running plays, something that head coach Mike Shanahan attributed to their ability to get the ball, pick their hole, and get a full head of steam going through the line.

The running game hasn’t necessarily been effective in the first quarter, but this is an important facet of the game that the Redskins need to stick with.

With the 20-yard pass from quarterback Rex Grossman to fullback Darrel Young, Grossman passed 10,000 passing yards for his career.  For the Redskins, he passed for 3,779 yards in his first 16 games before today.

Punter Sav Rocca has been a model of consistency in his first season in Washington, but badly missed his first punt this afternoon, kicking it out of bounds for 12 yards.  The play essentially acted like a turnover, but the defense held on a short field, yielding only a field goal.

Rocca bounced back on his next two kicks, downing both inside the 20-yard line, tying a career-high for the season with 28.  Nice recovery from the Down Under Thunder.

At the end of the first quarter, the Eagles lead by a field goal: Washington 0, Philadelphia 3.

After the first quarter in the “2012 Social Showdown,” the Redskins fans have pulled it close, trailing by 40 fans.  #HTTR, #BeatPhilly

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Redskins Ready To Rumble In ‘The Linc’

Posted by Brian Tinsman on January 1, 2012 – 1:02 pm

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Redskins players have taken and exited the field this afternoon, and they look ready to find meaning in this supposedly meaningless Week 17 game.

For Redskins punter Sav Rocca, this is his first return to his first NFL city, to take on a team that wanted to get younger at the punter postion.  In the first game against the Eagles this season, Rocca had a fine game, booting four times for a 42.5 average, a long of 53, and two punts downed inside the 20.

In pregame warmup, he and battery mate Nick Sundberg was rocketing bombs down the field.  Here’s his last effort:

Fellow special teamer Graham Gano was knocking his own missiles through the uprights from distances of 60 yards.  They both look calm and unaffected by the 10-15 mph winds.

On the offense, this is also the return of Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth to Philadelphia.  Gaffney is chasing a career-year, having already matched his touchdown mark and exceeded his yardage output for a season.  With a touchdown and 81 more yards, he’ll finish the season as the team’s top receiver, with his first 1,000 yard season and six touchdowns.

Stallworth wasn’t backing down from heckles during pregame warmup, and seemed especially fired up–even for him.  Here’s footage of the receivers warming up with coach Keenan McCardell:

Gaffney seems to have perfected the one-handed touchdown catch.  Nothing like a little flair to go with his best season ever.

Here are the players’ tweeted thoughts as kickoff approaches:


And in case you were wondering, not even one nationally recognized NFL expert is picking the Redskins to win.  This reminds me of when the Redskins went on the road two weeks ago and knocked off the Giants in decisive fashion.

Don’t count that out from happening again.  And don’t forget to participate in the “2012 Social Showdown” in the next few minutes.

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Happy New Year, Redskins Nation!

Posted by Brian Tinsman on January 1, 2012 – 11:32 am

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Another year has come and gone in Redskins Nation, a special place where the clocks tick down, but there’s always time for one last drive.  In the calendar year of 2011, the team went 5-11 in regular season games, and turned in one of the best preseasons in franchise history.

Between the first and second games of the 2011 calendar year, there was the longest work stoppage in NFL history.  The team that took the field in game No. 2 was remarkably different from the last, both in personnel and direction.

Sure, there were times of adulation and times of disappointment, but there were, and still are lots of reasons for hope and excitement.

I’ll recap all of this in the hours, days and weeks to come, but hey, happy new year to everyone!

On a separate note, I must admit that based on my experience today, the lore of the Philadelphia sports fan took a hit today.  I’ve seen Eagles and Phillies fans in their native habitat before, so I know that their reputation is earned.  But I was disappointed by the ambivalent reception by the team buses today in the parking lot.

In years past, I’ve heard tales of eggs, rocks, snowballs, and batteries being hurled at the visiting buses.  I’ve heard of lovely gestures and verbal pleasantries.  I’ve even heard of full moon sightings in broad daylight.  But not today.   Read more »

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Grossman, Moss Provide ‘Little Smiles’

Posted by Brian Tinsman on January 1, 2012 – 11:03 am

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Yesterday, as the team buses arrived at the hotel, one of the biggest and bravest Redskins fans was there to meet them.

Tyler Litts is a 7-year-old from Strousburg, Pa., and loves to watch the Burgundy and Gold every weekend with his dad.  His favorite Redskins are Santana Moss and Rex Grossman, because those are his dynamic duo on Nintendo DS.  He’s also a big Chris Neild fan, given that he goes to his same elementary school in Strousburg.

Tyler receives oncology treatment at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.  He and his family have been staying at the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House during treatment, and he’s been looking forward to the Redskins-Eagles game in Philadelphia all year.

Through the Little Smiles program, in conjunction with the Redskins and the Eagles, Tyler got his wish to see the Redskins coming into the hotel, as he was visited by two Redskins in particular:

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