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Redskins at Midseason: State of the Team

Redskins at Midseason: State of the Team

At 5-3 at the midway point of the 2005 season, the Redskins aren’t exactly sitting pretty, but they’re not sitting Roseanne Barr either. By virtue of their Week 2 win over Dallas, they would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

The season doesn’t end today and that’s a good thing for the Redskins. At this point in time, most of the national scribes and talking heads out there don’t have the team on their short list of NFC Super Bowl contenders and it’s difficult to make the case that they are among the elite teams in the conference.

They would be up there with the likes of the Panthers, Falcons, and Giants if not for that one black mark on their resume, the 36-0 loss in the Meadowlands. Of course, that’s like saying that the Titanic’s maiden voyage would have been a great success if it hadn’t been for that darn iceberg.

Unlike the Titanic, however, the Redskins are not sunk. They are 5-1 in the NFC and 2-1 in the NFC East. They own the only road win in the division so far, their 14-13 win in Dallas in Week 2. Their only remaining division road contest is in Philadelphia on the last day of the regular season. The toughest part of their schedule is behind them. After having played seven of their first eight games against teams with winning records, the only winning teams the Redskins face in the next five weeks are this Sunday against the Bucaneers, 5-3 but losers for three of their last four, and the 5-4 Chargers at FedEx Field on November 27.

While the Redskins get a break from division play, in the next five weeks there will be four games with the Cowboys, Giants, or Eagles playing each other. Dallas plays its first division road game in Philly this Monday night and still has to go to New York and Washington on top of having to face Denver, Kansas City, and Carolina. The Giants travel to Seattle and host KC in addition to games in Philadelphia and Washington.

It’s pretty easy to see the Redskins going into their final three games of the season, at home against Dallas and the Giants and at Philadelphia, with their playoff fate firmly in their own hands.

What do the Redskins need to do to elevate themselves into the mix of teams with a chance of playing in February? Certainly, continued good health is a must. Improvement in two other areas would go a long way towards getting him there.

First, they have to get some more turnovers, interceptions to be more precise. They have just four this year. You need more than one every two games. Second, they have to kill the clock at the end of games. A holding call that Joe Gibbs said he didn’t see cost the Redskins an opportunity to kill the last six minutes or so last Sunday night, but, still, you can’t let things like that get in the way. You can’t rely on a last-second turnover like they got against the Eagles on Sunday and against the Bears in the season opener to preserve the win.

If they can tighten those areas up, they might not only be using the “p” word, as in playoffs, but the “s” word, as in super.

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Eagles coach's comments on effort create a stir in the locker room

Eagles coach's comments on effort create a stir in the locker room

The day after the Eagles 32-14 loss to the Bengals on Sunday, Philadelphia coach Doug Peterson said that he didn’t think that all his players played hard.

Not everybody, and that’s the accountability that I talk about,” Pederson said, via the Birds 24/7 blog. “I hold coaches accountable for that; I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me. I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go, but at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. This is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league — there are some teams that are better than others, but for the most part anything can happen any weekend.”

This sort of vague shot fired at the team did not sit well with the players. Safety Malcolm Jenkins, one of the most respected voices on the team, said that the comments put players in a bad spot.

“I know the intent of the guys that I practice with and play with every day, and I didn’t see effort being an issue,” Jenkins said. “It puts us in a little bit of a tough position as players because now everybody wants to know, ‘Well, who were you talking about?’”

Some in the media in Philadelphia surmised that two of the players Pederson was talking about were tight end Zach Ertz and safety Rodney McLeod. One on play it looked like Ertz failed to block Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict on a Carson Wentz scramble.

“I’m not going to get into the details of every thought I had on that play,” said Ertz. “I’m focused on giving this city everything I have on each and every play. I promise going forward, I will do that. I think I have done that in the past.”

It didn’t look like McLeod did everything he could to keep Bengals running back Jeremy Hill from scoring a touchdown on a two-yard run in the first quarter.

“I thought the ball was going to hit somewhere else, and then obviously it came through. By the time I could react, Hill already crossed the plane,” said McLeod. “Just got caught flat-footed, tried to react and by the time I did, I feel like if I were to hit him it could possibly be late. Just a tough situation.”

You can see both of the plays in question here.

We don’t know if Ertz and McLeod are among the players that Pederson was talking about when he spoke of issues with effort. Leaving things vague like that doesn’t do much for the coach’s credibility in the locker room. And when that starts to be in doubt the coach gets asked about his job security. Pederson said that owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman have been supportive.

“From both of them, it’s been 100 percent support on everything. I meet with Jeffrey and Howie every week and we discuss a lot of things and go over a lot of things. Every week, it’s very positive,” Pederson said. “I just don’t think you can base a guy’s career on one season. I think you got to give it time to develop.

But the fact that these questions are being asked after he has been in his job for a dozen games is an indication that he is facing at least a minor crisis as his team prepares for four games that are likely to be meaningless in terms of the playoff picture. We will see if he can get the train back on the tracks by Sunday.

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Poll: What is your approval rating for the play of Redskins QB Kirk Cousins?

Poll: What is your approval rating for the play of Redskins QB Kirk Cousins?

As usual, answer the poll and either rely on Twitter or come back here and hit the comments section.