Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, November 14, one day before the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.
Five thoughts on the Redskins at the midway point of the season
—The defense has improved only marginally from last year, a somewhat disappointing result after the big free agent expenditures there during the offseason. They have allowed 24.4 points per game (17th in the NFL) compared to 27.4 last year (29th), so that’s marginally better. But after they started out well giving up just 27 points in their first two games, they have given up 27 or more points in four of their last six.
—Offensively, they are about a wash. Scoring per game has increased by just a tenth of a point (18.8 last year to 18.9 this year). You can argue over which quarterback should be playing (although there seems to be unanimous agreement at Redskins Park), but it’s hard to argue that sticking with one guy has helped. By the time eight games had passed in 2014 there had already been three quarterback changes with more to come. The issue is the rushing game, with the average yards per carry plummeting from a middle of the pack 4.2 last year to a pathetic 3.6 average.
—Special teams got off to a rocky start with a punt return for a touchdown costing them in the season opener and a blocked punt getting Week 3 in the Meadowlands off to a rocky start. But they have turned things around, scoring TDs on a kickoff return and on a blocked punt. And they haven’t allowed any big returns against them since Week 1. Part of the credit goes to Dustin Hopkins, who is taking kickoff returns out of the equation by pounding many of his kickoffs through the end zone.
—How much have injuries hurt the Redskins? Some more than others. Jordan Reed being out of the lineup may have been the difference in the loss to the Falcons. Chris Culliver could have helped against Brandon Marshall and the Jets. If you want to go back to the preseason, maybe Niles Paul on special teams and Junior Galette edge rushing could have turned around the result of the Miami game. I think that they would have lost at the Giants and at the Patriots even if they were fully healthy. And, of course, the opponents have had their share of injuries, too, so perhaps these things would even out.
—The Redskins are 3-5 at the midway point of the season for the fourth year in a row. Only in 2012, when they lost game No. 9 and won their last seven to win the NFC East, have things ended well after that start. I don’t see a magical run to the division title like we saw with RG3 in 2012. But I also don’t see an 0-8 record in the second half like we saw in 2013 or a six-game slide that started off the second half last year. I could see them going 3-5 in the second half, maybe 4-4 if they catch a few breaks.
—Today’s schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park, no media availability
—Days until: Saints @ Redskins 1; Redskins @ Panthers 8; Giants @ Redskins 15
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