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The Tuesday Take: Is Brunell Back?

The Tuesday Take: Is Brunell Back?

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 09.26.06: The Tuesday Take--While Mark Brunell's performance on Sunday answered some questions, others remain. Plus a look ahead at the Jaguars, who go by the simple philosophy that if the other team doesn't have the ball it's hard for it to win.

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

It was only Houston. They were only dink and dunk passes. So what.

That was the reaction of Mark Brunell’s detractors to his NFL-record 22 consecutive pass completions on Sunday, a performance that wound up with the much-maligned quarterback going 24 of 27 for 261 yards and one touchdown, a quarterback rating for the game of 119.3.

And, to an extent, it’s a justified reaction. Houston has the worst defense in the league statistically. They’re almost 100 yards a game behind the team ranked 31st. While such stats can be misleading early in the season, they seem to be pretty darn accurate in this case. They have no impact players, they have no identity as a unit; they’re just not very good.

But there have been some pretty bad defenses in the history of the NFL and in all the thousands of games played before this one nobody has completed 22 consecutive forward passes in one game. Not Unitas against the pitiful Redskins teams of the early 60’s, not Jurgensen against the expansion Saints, not Montana playing the horrid Bucs teams of the late ‘80’s, not Marino while the Dolphins were regularly beating up on the Bills, not Manning in facing these Texans twice a year. Nobody.

This doesn’t qualify Brunell for the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t mean that his struggles are over. But to brush it off and say that anyone from your little sister to a horrible NFL quarterback could complete 22 straight passes against an NFL defense is going to the other extreme and not giving him enough credit.

Yes, they were short passes. The record would have be exponentially more impressive had even a couple more of the attempts been of the length of the one on which David Patten made that spectacular catch 25 yards downfield. On at least a couple of occasions it looked like Brunell had time to find a receiver downfield but he checked down to Ladell Betts or another receiver roaming a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Redskins will need to go deep in the passing game on occasion if they are going to beat the better teams on their schedule. Brunell needs to develop the confidence to throw the intermediate and deep routes and the patience to wait for those plays to develop when he’s getting time to throw.

But for six games, including the preseason, no facet of the offense was working well. It was a train wreck. Now it appears that a few of the cars have been put back onto the track. We will see if the rest of the mess can be straightened out.

Jaguars a team in possession

In taking an early look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, one number jumps out—23. That’s the average number of possession minutes that the Jags’ three opponents have managed so far this season. And this meager total has been compiled by some quality opponents in Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. There’s nary a stiff among them.

The flip side of that coin is that the Jaguars’ offense has had the ball for 37 minutes a game. There is no secret formula for putting up numbers like this. You run the ball and you stop the run. The Jags defense has allowed just 59 yards a game on the ground, the third-best total in the league. They’re eighth in the league in rushing offense, but they’re third in rushing attempts. Jacksonville is one of just four teams who have run the ball more than 100 times. That’s 33 times a game and even though their average is mediocre at 3.7 yards a crack, they keep at it and they wear their opponents down.

The closer the Redskins come to evening up that time of possession the better their chances will be of pulling the upset (yes, the Redskins are a three-point dog at home). That means showing the same patience with the running game that the Jags have shown. It also means not prolonging Jacksonville’s possessions and shortening their own by creating a bunch of yellow laundry all over the field. They won’t be able to bail out of very many first and 20 or second and 15 situations like they could against Houston.

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Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: 5 things to know with Jordan Reed out

Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: 5 things to know with Jordan Reed out

The Redskins moved the ball well against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but continued red zone woes again sent Washington home with a loss. While the late November schedule proved brutal for the 'Skins, playing two games in five days, now the Redskins come to Arizona for an early December game with fresh legs and ample rest. Played indoors at University of Phoenix Stadium, weather will not be a factor for the 4 p.m. EST kick, but all the action starts on CSN with Redskins Kickoff at 3 p.m. Here are five storylines to watch:

  1. Keep it moving - Kirk Cousins showed he likes to get hot in the second half of the season during 2015. The quarterback's play late last year won the 'Skins the NFC East, and while a division title is out of reach with the Cowboys already at 11 wins, Cousins again looks to be on a heater. In three games since the bye, Cousins has thrown for more than 1,000 yards to go with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. The No. 1 story for the 'Skins is Cousins, and if he keeps his hot streak going, Washington should find itself in position to win in Arizona.
  2. Missing in action - This will be the final game of a four-game suspension for left tackle Trent Williams, and the Washington offensive line has performed admirably in his absence. Arguably more important this week will be the absence of tight end Jordan Reed, who suffered a serious shoulder injury in Dallas. What's wild about Reed - he came back to play in the second half against the Cowboys - and score two touchdowns - while playing with a separated shoulder. Reed did not practice this week, and Jay Gruden said his range of motion in the shoulder is just too limited to go against the Cardinals. 
  3. Consider the source - The Redskins offense might be the most potent group in this game, but Washington would be foolish to sleep on the Cardinals. Arizona was widely considered a Super Bowl contender coming into the season, and though they are in the midst of a disappointing year at 4-6-1, a win against the Skins could get the Cards back on the playoff track. Arizona running back David Johnson is the 3rd leading rusher in the NFL with 921 yards on the ground, not to mention an additional 613 yards receiving. Gruden on Johnson, "He is probably the best all-around back there is in the National Football League right now as far as being able to move outside, be a great route runner but also run between the tackles and run outside with his speed. So it’s going to be a matchup problem." Defensively, the Redskins ranks 25th in the NFL at stopping the run. Watch out for David Johnson.
  4. Problems don't just go away - Look at just about any metric on the Redskins offense, and the results are impressive: No. 2 in yards-per-game, No. 2 in yards-per-play, No. 2 in pass yards-per-game. But for all the yards, the 'Skins don't score at a corresponding clip as they rank 9th in the NFL in points. The culprit? Red zone troubles. "There are so many good things we’re doing on offense to put a damper on what they’re doing offensively with the red zone. It’s hard to do, but it’s something that is a glaring weakness of this football team right now," Gruden said of his team. The best road to wins for the Redskins is by scoring, ideally at least 30 points, and that will require some success inside the 20s.
  5. The harder they fall - If the Arizona offense has an Achilles heel, it's their offensive line. Carson Palmer has been sacked 16 times in the Cards last four games, and the 'Skins need to focus on bringing Palmer down. Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy - who will be playing in his hometown - have been the leaders at getting sacks for Joe Barry's defense, and Preston Smith could be in line for another big game. Getting to Carson Palmer should be among the defense's top priorities, as that can slow Larry Fitzgerald and the Cards pass game.

Numbers & Notes:

  • DeSean Jackson's 67-yard reception in Dallas was a season long and his longest since a 77-yard touchdown vs. Buffalo in Week 15 of the 2015 season.
  • Kirk Cousins' 3,540 passing yards in 2016 now rank 10th-most in a single season in team history, and he still has five games left to play.
  • The Redskins offense ranks first in the NFL in percentage of fewest 3-and-out drives at 9.5 percent.
  • If Pierre Garçon can gain 137 receiving yards on Sunday, he will pass Michael Westbrook for 10th-most career receiving yards in team history.
  • With nine sacks, Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from becoming the fifth member of the Redskins (Dexter Manley, 4; Charles Mann, 4; Andre Carter, 2; Brian Orakpo, 2) to post multiple 10-sack seasons since the NFL adopted sacks as an official statistic in 1982.

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

Enemy Intel: Sunday games have playoff implications galore for Redskins

As the Cowboys take their long week off after consecutive Thursday games the Redskins, Giants, Eagles, and other wild card contenders are in action. Here is Tandler’s weekly Redskins-centric spin around the NFL.

—The Giants are on a six-game winning streak and while that’s not easy to do against any level of competition it needs to be pointed out that their slate was squishy-soft with the last five wins coming against teams that currently have losing records. Now things get real with a trip to play the Steelers and a home date against the Cowboys. I’m not really sure how good the Giants are but if they split these two games I’ll be more impressed with them than I am now.

—The 5-6 Eagles travel to play the Bengals, who are just about out of contention for a sixth straight playoff appearance at 3-7-1. In fact, the Eagles might be just about out of it, too. Their big problem is 3-6 conference record, which puts them behind several other wild card contenders in this tiebreaker. It’s important because that is the second tiebreaker behind head to head. It’s better for the Redskins if the Bengals win but it probably won’t matter much. The consensus in Philadelphia seems to be that the Eagles are a rebuilding team that got off to a hot start, kindling some unrealistic hopes and expectations for the rest of 2016.

—The team is the hottest pursuit of the Redskins is the Buccaneers, who travel to San Diego to play a game that starts at the same time as Washington-Arizona. The Chargers are 5-6 but they are buried in last in the tough AFC West. This game is a coin flip. Redskins fans should root for the Chargers. If the Bucs lose, the Redskins would still hold the second wild card at the end of the day even if they should lose to the Cardinals.

—The 5-6 Saints are on the fringes of the wild card picture. They host the Lions, who are leading the NFC North by a game and a half over the Vikings and two games over the Packers. It’s probably best if the Lions win, which would just about eliminate the Saints. Still, there is a scenario where the Lions go into a minor tailspin, lose the division to either the Packers or Vikings but have a good enough record to take the second wild card. So like with most games within the NFC until the dust settles some more, there is some upside and some downside no matter which team wins.

—That scenario where the Lions fade from the division lead become a whole lot less likely if the Texans can go to Green Bay and beat the Packers. This is an interconference game so it’s an easy call to pull for Houston.

—Seattle, with a three-game lead in the NFC West, hosts the Panthers, who are on the outer fringe of the wild card race at 4-7. Another loss likely would ensure that Carolina won’t be able to defend its NFC title. This isn’t a pivotal game but probably better if the Seahawks win to end it for the wounded but potentially dangerous Panthers.

—My one loss last week was the Seahawks giving 5.5 on the road to the Bucs. I won with the Saints over the Rams and the Falcons over the Cardinals. This week I’m giving the Seahawks another go, giving 7 to the Panthers, and I’m taking the Patriots -13.5 against the Rams (the loss of Gronk doesn’t do much to equalize these teams) and the Saints giving 6 to the Lions.

MORE REDSKINS: Betting on the Redskins' playoff chances