The phrase “winning cures all” might not apply to the Washington Redskins but a win does cover up a lot of things. The Redskins certainly gained some cologne in their gritty and tough 16-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars. For once the Redskins took advantage of a team with a bad offense and handled a top 10 NFL defense to get a win. The Redskins record now is .500 at 7-7 and are only a half game behind the Minnesota Vikings for a wild card spot and a game behind the Dallas Cowboys for first place in the NFC East.
Defensive Line- For a unit that had been slumping over the past month, this group controlled the game from start to finish. Jonathan Allen led the way with five total tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. If you include the outside linebackers in those stats then you add two and a half more sacks from Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. They routinely lived in the Jags backfield and while they over pursued Cody Kessler a few times allowing him to escape, they controlled the Jags offense. Dustin Hopkins- The Redskins are pretty lucky to have Justin Hopkins. I was hard on him and his consistency, but Hopkins has certainly been consistent this season. Hopkins on the season is 23 for 26 and has made every kick inside of 40 yards. If not for the desperation 63 yard kick at the end of the Texans game, Hopkins would be over 90% this season. Hopkins has only missed one extra point and has come through time and again for the Redskins this season. Josh Johnson- Josh Johnson’s stats were not overwhelming yesterday. Johnson completed 16 of 25 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown, and added 49 rushing yards. Those numbers won’t blow you away but they are numbers that can win games. Those numbers are very similar to the numbers Alex Smith was putting up this season. Taking care of the ball, which in turn takes care of the defense, enabled the team to have a chance to win. Johnson will get better week by week and this team has a viable chance to win its last two games.
Punt Coverage- Tress Way was his usual pro bowl caliber self yesterday. However there were several factors that contributed to the break down that led to the only touchdown the Jaguars scored. The first was the new long snapper Andrew West, who played well but it was the time he practiced with the team was warmups. West’s snaps were a tad slow and that led to a punt being blocked. With that happening Way wanted to get his punts off quicker which led to him out kicking his coverage. Add in a good play call from the Jags and that led to a perfect storm. This one play made the game harder than it had to be giving the Jags some momentum that they didn’t earn. Tackling- It is hard to critique a defense that gave up only two field goals in a game. However there was one glaring concern which was tackling. There were several times where runs were extended because defenders either just threw their shoulders and didn’t wrap up or trying to punch the ball out. This game it didn’t hurt them but other times this season it has. The defense needs to wrap up and get off the field. Injuries- Even though they Redskins actually got through this game decently healthy, tackle Ty Nsekhe injured his leg in the 3rd quarter and did not return. Also Joshua Holsey injured his knee after finally be elevated to the active roster and playing fairly well. The Redskins have defensive backs so that isn’t a big deal but the Nsekhe one is. Nsekhe started at left guard and played okay but this hurts an already injured line. The Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles have formidable defensive fronts and they play on a shorter week. This will be something to monitor.
Running Game- The biggest downside of the makeshift offensive line is the continuity of the running game. The Jaguars defense came into the game 6th in total defense but 19th against the run, and had just given up 264 yards rushing to the Titans in their previous game, including 234 to Derrick Henry. The Redskins only ran for 109 yards as a team with Adrian Peterson gaining 51 yards and Josh Johnson 49. Most of Peterson’s yards came in the 4th quarter and for most of the game Johnson was the leading rusher. Coach Gruden is going to have to get creative to run the ball to have a chance to win the team’s final two games. Time Management- Another reason the Redskins gave up a touchdown on the punt return is Gruden not effectively running the clock out at the end of the half. Coach Gruden has had numerous issues with time management over his time as head coach and they keep reoccurring. One of the causes of the loss to the Houston Texans was poor time management that didn’t give the offense enough time to get into field goal range. That game looms large as the Redskins fight for their playoff lives. NFC East- The up and down NFC East continued its wild journey yesterday. The division leading Dallas Cowboys, who looked to have the division locked up, were shutout by the Indianapolis Colts 23-0. The New York Giants were shutout by the Tennessee Titans 17-0, and were officially eliminated from the playoffs in the process. The on Sunday Night Football the Philadelphia Eagles who were a 13.5 point underdogs stunned the 11-2 Los Angeles Rams, 30-23 and moved to 7-7 on the season tied with the Redskins. The Cowboys are in the drivers seat if they win one of their last two games or if the Redskins lose a game, the divisions is theirs. If the Cowboys lose twice and the Redskins win out the Redskins would win the division. And the Eagles need to win out and have the Cowboys lose both their games to win the division. Needless to say the drama will be at a high level for the last two weeks.