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QB Situation: Wait and See

QB Situation: Wait and See

Joe Gibbs’ announcement that Patrick Ramsey would be benched and that Mark Brunell would start at quarterback has created quite a stir among Redskins fans, a development about as predictable as the sun rising. Around the message boards, the water coolers, in barroom debates and in the talk shows and the like, there have been two distinct camps that are bickering with each other and are easily identified. They each have a motto:

In Gibbs We Trust: Whatever Joe Gibbs does is OK with this bunch. Argue with Gibbs and he can punch you in the mouth with his three Super Bowl rings. If he thinks that Mark Brunell is best for the team and gives it be best chance of winning that’s good enough for them. Of course as late a week ago, many of these same people were wondering if Gibbs had lost his mind because he hadn’t yanked Ramsey based on his preseason performance.

Gibbs II is a Bust: This crowd says, “Thanks for the memories, Joe, but you’ve lost it.” According to them, you have to give the guy that you said was your starter for eight months during the offseason more than 20 minutes of playing time before you yank him. Ramsey is the up and comer, Brunell is the has-been and if Gibbs can’t see that, well, maybe it’s time to promote Gregg Williams into Gibbs’ job and put Joe out to pasture.

Here, the position is to keep one foot firmly planted in each camp. Call it Gibbs, Wait and See We Must. This may disappoint some of you who come here looking for a firm stand to tell you what to think about it. Sorry, that’s not going to happen. While I don’t like the move, I have to give Gibbs the benefit of the doubt.

I didn’t like the move because, while Ramsey was struggling some with interceptions and fumbles, he was also making enough plays on the positive side to warrant giving him a chance to work through his problems. And even though many, present company included, think that Mark Brunell has been throwing and playing much better than he did last year you can’t overlook the fact that he could be vastly improved from 2004 and just move from being a horrible QB to one who is sub-mediocre. On top of that, it seemed to me that the Redskins have a defense that could minimize the damage from a higher than average number of turnovers.

On the proverbial other hand, you have to think that Gibbs had had enough of Ramsey. While I remarked here yesterday that Ramsey got only 18:52 to prove himself; in fact he has had much longer than that. He had the last seven games of 2004 plus this year’s OTA’s, minicamp, training camp, and the preseason games to prove himself. In Gibbs’ eyes, he hasn’t done that. This was not a snap judgment by Gibbs but one based on his observations of Ramsey ever since his return as coach of the Redskins.

This is speculation—everyone else is trying to get inside Gibbs’ head, why not me—but I have to think that Gibbs’ patience with Ramsey grew thin over the past eight months because, although Gibbs and Bill Musgrave and a number of other coaches have been telling Ramsey the same things over and over again and they just aren’t sinking in. Implicit in the “you’re the starting QB” deal is that you listen to what the coaches say and adjust what you do accordingly.

It’s one thing for a fourth-year quarterback to make mistakes. It’s another him to repeat the same mistakes. The end zone interception Ramsey threw against Cincinnati in the preseason wasn’t just eerily reminiscent of the game-killing pick that Ramsey threw against the Eagles last year; it was its twin brother down to it being at the same spot on the FedEx Field turf. In 2005 he has twice looked up to find a linebacker who had come through on a blitz in his face. Against the Steelers he threw an interception for a touchdown. Certainly, one would think, the coaches repeatedly went over with Ramsey what he needs to do in that situation and practiced it over and over. But the next time it happened, in the second quarter last Sunday, the result was another turnover (albeit on what appeared to be a dirty hit).

Gibbs probably looked at Ramsey and his gut told him that it wasn’t going to get any better that the turnovers would continue at the rate of one or two a quarter because Ramsey was either unwilling or unable to learn from his mistakes and adjust. He may be right in that assessment and he may be wrong.

One other thing—please don’t talk to me about Ramsey’s psyche or say that Gibbs lied to him. He has not demanded a trade according to Jon Jansen and numerous other sources. Sure, it hurts to be demoted, but he’s a big boy and he’ll get over it. His best bet it to keep his mouth shut, play when the opportunity comes along (few NFL quarterbacks make it through 16 games unscathed) and audition for a shot at a starting job here or elsewhere.

All that being said, I still don’t like the move. The Redskins offense would be more effective and versatile with Ramsey at the helm and, again, the defense is good enough to minimize the effect of mistakes. With Brunell, we’re reduced to “Portis left, Betts right, Pass, Punt, Fight, Fight, Fight!” and waiting for the other team to lose the game.

It’s a strategy that has landed a playoff spot for many teams. We’ll see if it works for this one.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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