It's time for Five Questions. We need the lowdown on Washington for the upcoming game against Dallas so we're talking to Alex Rowsey at Hogs Haven.
Blogging The Boys: Kirk Cousins - what are your thoughts on him as a long-term solution in Washington? Describe his good and bad as you see it so far.
Hogs Haven: I like Kirk as the long-term solution at QB for the 'Skins. I think he's shown real growth and development this year and is already an average starter in the league. I don't know if he can be a truly great QB, but I'll take average with the potential to improve without hesitation. Part of that is based on the constant change at QB for the Redskins for such a long period of time now. We need stability. Additionally, re-signing Kirk just removes one more hole that needs to be improved in the roster. It allows us to not worry about QB for a change and focus on building up the team around him. An improved roster plus a decent QB with a chance for improvement sounds great to me right now.
His biggest strength is getting rid of the ball lightning fast. He's rarely sacked. His biggest weakness is obviously throwing too many picks... especially on off-schedule/broken plays. There's so much more beyond that, though. For one thing, Kirk is a great leader. He was a three-year captain in college and he has a brilliant work ethic. That's something I want to invest in, especially at the QB spot. He's got all the intangibles. I think his growth as far as really picking his spots and knowing when to throw it and when to not has drastically improved this year and that was/is probably his biggest weakness. When I see a guy who drastically improves his greatest weakness over basically his first year as a starter, I want to invest in that. I also really like (and this is very under-appreciated with Kirk) his athleticism. Kirk can move a little bit and is a sneaky good runner. More so than his athleticism as a runner is just his ability/athleticism moving around within the pocket and being able to make great plays on boots and just on the move in general. I like his mindset.
BTB: Washington's season has been a win, a loss, a win, a loss... So what is the feeling among the fanbase about their chances to win the division? What's the confidence level in this team?
HH: I think the fans feel pretty confident that the Redskins can win the NFCE. I mean, the team is in first after 11 games, so it'd be kind of weird to think they can't/won't, especially looking at their remaining schedule. I think the feeling about winning the division is stronger than the overall confidence in the team. Let's face it, it's a bad division. It'd be naive to have supreme confidence in a team with a losing record after 11 games, but everyone feels good about winning the division largely due to the poor state of the other teams in the division. So basically, fans are pretty confident in the team's chances to win the division but only so-so confidence beyond that. Something of note, the Redskins are undefeated at home this year. Knowing that basically the only way they'll get into the playoffs would be by winning the division and thus securing a home playoff game, fans feel a little more confident knowing that we have a chance at home.
BTB: Evaluate Jay Gruden as a coach. What's he good at, what looks like it needs work?
HH: After a pretty terrible rookie year as a HC, I think Jay is starting to prove himself. He's a "players' coach." He's engaging with the team and always seems to be involved with the players. He's fun to watch during practices. He'll throw balls as the QB on some drills (he's a former QB). He's constantly joking with the players. Sometimes he'll play DB in drills. He's vocal. I think the players really like that stuff.
Something that I really appreciate about Jay is his honesty. He tells the truth. It's just about as far opposite from Mike Shanahan as a coach can get... and sometimes it's brutal. Sometimes he can be too honest and it can be a detriment in the media. This happened last year when he basically ripped RGIII a new one after an absolutely terrible game from the QB. He's toned down on that this year and I see that as growth. I think he has a great ability to joke around and keep things loose while not being afraid to scold and be honest when it's warranted. I think that's underrated in coaching.
The fans are really split on him at this point. In fact, there might even be a majority that would prefer someone else lead the team. It's crazy how much it fluctuates from game to game. When we lose, everyone hates him and calls for him to be fired. Yet here we are... in first place after 11. Hard to want to fire a coach if he wins the division...
There's obviously still a lot of questions with him and he's still a very young, inexperienced HC. People question how strong of a leader he is. We've obviously been abysmal on the road since he's taken over (1-12) and that reflects poorly on him. But something that stands out as a positive is he appears to be holding players accountable, especially this year. It all started with benching RGIII for Cousins. That was huge. I think a lot of players respect him for making that tough choice because it was obvious that Kirk was the better player. I think guys respect a coach who plays the best players, regardless of politics.
Another thing that reflects well on him is how well the team as adjusted to a crazy number of injuries this year. He's not rigid. He is genuine. The most important thing is the players like him, are comfortable with him, and work for him.
BTB: What position group has been the most the most consistently good this season, the unit that has set the tone for the team?
HH: If I would have said this before the season, people would have laughed me right off the internet, but honestly (especially lately) that unit is the secondary. The Redskins defense has been decent against the pass all season and, while the DL has had a huge part in it (could easily be argued as the most consistently good group on the team), the secondary has been able to set the tone despite injuries, lack of experience, and a shuffling of positions all over the place. Joe Barry (our DC) and Perry Fewell (DB Coach) have been really pulling some miracles back there. Dashon Goldson has been a huge leader for this team and does stuff like call players-only meetings and really runs the whole defense on the field. He's been the definition of a tone-setter. Vets like D-Hall play an important role, too. And Bashaud Breeland has been a stud all year and arguably our best player.
BTB: Give us the gameplan for a team that wants to beat Washington.
HH: The game-plan is to get a lead. When the Redskins fall behind, bad things happen. They're very good while leading. If the Cowboys get a lead, they can just run the ball all day. The Redskins run defense has been very bad. Additionally, when the 'Skins fall behind, they tend to pass a lot. When we're one-dimensional and the whole game is in Kirk's hands, that's when mistakes (like INTs) tend to happen. So on offense, you're going to want to run the ball and control the clock. On defense, focus on shutting down the run. The Redskins always look to establish it early, so if you can shut it down from the jump, they'll start throwing all the time and put the ball exclusively in Kirk's hands. The Redskins are way better when they can run the ball. It's basically how we win... if we can run.