Grade vs. Rams: DComment:After jumping from the 31stranked defense to 13thlast season, there was hope that the Redskins unit would take the next step and join the leagues elite. So far, though, it hasnt happened and after Sundays 31-28 loss to the Rams theres legitimate concern whether its even possible.After two games, the unit ranks 28thin yards allowed per game (405.0) and 27thin points yielded (31.5). And now, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett must figure out how to overcome the loss of starters Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker for the remainder of the season.But lets get back to Sundays unsightly performance in St. Louis. The Redskins returned a fumble for a touchdown, recovered another and intercepted a pass. But thats it for good news.Sam Bradford and the youthful Rams had lost eight games in a row, limped in with an injury depleted line and were coming off a season in which they ranked last in points scored per game (12.1). The Redskins, however, made them look like the Greatest Show on Turf Rams of the late 1900s.Bradford and wide receiver Danny Amendola shredded the secondary, particularly in the first half even when everyone at Edward Jones Dome knew what was coming next. Twelve of Amendolas 15 receptions (a record high against the Redskins) came before halftime (on the Rams second drive, Amendola caught passes on six of seven plays). Bradford, meantime, finished with 310 passing yards and three touchdowns. It marked Bradfords third highest passing day of his career, while he equaled his high for touchdowns in a game.Against the run, the Redskins werent much better. The Rams managed to rack up 151 yards, despite losing star running back Steven Jackson in the second quarter to injury. With Jackson sidelined, rookie Daryl Richardson rushed for 83 yards, including a 53-yard scamper in the third quarter, on 15 carries.If the loss of Carriker (torn quadriceps) in the first quarter and Orakpo (torn pectoral muscle) and cornerback Josh Wilson (concussion) in the third were at the root of the Redskins struggles Sunday, watch out. It could be a long season for the D.
When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.
In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.
Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.
What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games.
The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.
As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.
The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.
Let us know what you think in the comments.
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Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.
—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105
Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.
Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016
(originally posted January 28)
As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.
The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.
The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.
The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.
While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.
Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.
The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.