Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Celebrating London Fletcher: Best Tackler in the NFL

Once again London Fletcher was snubbed for the Pro Bowl. This is unjust, so let's take just a moment to be perfectly clear about how good London Fletcher really is. By a key index, London Fletcher is the best tackler in the NFL. Period.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Redskins vs. Vikings: The Great, the Good, and the Not-So-Good

The Great
- rookie Evan Royster gets the start for injured rookie Helu and ran for 132 yards on 19 carries; looks like Shanahan has found two talented RBs who fit his system well
- Kyle's passing offense continues to click: 9 different receivers have catches for 289 passing yards and 2 receiving TDs

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How the Skins Could Get Matt Schaub

Alternate Title: Why Skins fans should root for TJ Yates and the Houston Texans

The Skins are building an exciting foundation but still need a franchise QB. Many are focused on the QB prospects available in the draft, but ... could the Skins get a franchise QB who is already established? Here's how Matt Schaub might become available and fit beautifully into the Skins offense.

Redskins vs. Giants: The Great, The Good, and the Not-So-Good

The Great
- Gaffney continues to emerge as perhaps the top Redskins receiver, this time hauling in 6 receptions for 86 yards (Gaffney leads the team with 842 receiving yards)
- London Fletcher continues his run as a tackle machine, notching 10 tackles and 2 assists along with a forced fumble

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Signs the Skins Are Building Something

Shanahan/Allen have taken a lot of heat for leading the Skins to a 2nd consecutive losing season. But we have to remember what they are doing: re-building a franchise from the ground up. New management, new coaches, new offensive and defensive systems, new players to fit these systems.

And perhaps most importantly, the Skins are building through the draft and through well-priced free agents who fit the system. We had 10 years of the old way -- trading drafts picks and signing high-priced free agents. It makes sense to give the new way at least 3-4 years before making up our minds.

Fortunately, there are signs that key pieces are falling into place:

1) Kyle Shanahan's passing game is starting to click. No more are the only receiving threats Santana Moss and a tight end. Jabar Gaffney makes big plays. Donte Stallworth makes big plays. Numerous receivers are involved each game.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Rex Grossman's (lack of) pocket presence

Some QBs are experts at sensing pressure and moving just one or two steps within the pocket to buy time. They do this while maintaining balance and continuing to look downfield. Tom Brady is the prototype. Rex Grossman is the opposite.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Jim Haslett and the 0-Blitz

Arguments about why Jim Haslett is a sub-par defensive coordinator have been made previously. This post specifically addresses Haslett's use of the 0-blitz.

Before going further, here's a quote from Brian Orakpo on the 0-blitz after the win against Seattle: "But whatever was called, we had to rise to the occasion and go with what was called." Does that sound like a player excited or confident in the 0-blitz?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Redskins vs. Seahawks: High Highs and Bizarre Lows

- Rookie Roy Helu runs for 108 yards and a TD
- Anthony Armstrong makes a tremendous catch on a long-bomb for a go-ahead TD
- Santana Moss is back
- Dante Hall with the game-clinching INT after a rough game last week

- Grossmans' interception on a ball thrown in the general direction of Santana Moss and not one, not two, but three Seahawks defenders ... Why Rex, Why?

um .... Rex?

Rex just threw his second interception after throwing the ball into triple coverage. I have no words.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

No to Kyle Orton

The Denver Broncos just released Kyle Orton, and many wondered if Orton would represent an improvement at QB for the Skins. I wondered the same thing, and checked out the Advanced Stats. For QBs, I like the statistic Win Probability Added/Game (WPA/G) because it not only captures how often QBs make good plays, but it takes the 'game manager' factor into account -- for example, throwing for 8 yards is worth more on 3rd-and-7 than on 3rd-and-15, and throwing a TD pass in a close game is worth more than in garbage time.

This year, Orton struggled with a lousy -0.09 WPA/G, which ranks him 32nd in the league. But he was in a new offense, so I looked at previous years also.

In 2010, Orton's WPA/G was 0.01, 23rd in the league. Donovan McNabb was slightly better (0.04), and average QBs like Jason Campbell (0.10) and Matt Cassell (0.09) were clearly better.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Bad Call Haslett

Cowboys had the ball 3rd and 15 in OT. The announcers note that Dez Bryant has single-coverage with open space on his side of the field (the same Dez Brant who beat Hall on 3rd and forever the first time the Skins and Cowboys played this season).

Just before the snap of the ball a Skins safety runs from his position near the line of scrimmage towards Dez Bryant. Presumably, the idea is to double-cover Bryant but to disguise this until the last moment.

Redskins vs. Cowboys: Biggest Changes

This game looked much different from the last few, and here's why in order of importance:

1) The patchwork offensive line gave reasonable pass protection. They were not overpowering, and could not produce a consistent rush attack, but they often gave Grossman time to throw.

2) Grossman looks comfortable again running the offense.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

QB Options

The Skins might be just two ingredients away from respectability: a starting-caliber QB and a reliable offensive line. This raises a key question: from where can they get a starting-caliber QB?

Guest Article: Time to Demand Results

Guest Article submitted by: Carlos, from the DC area

As a long-term resident of the DC area I have been an avid Redskins fan my entire life. I am writing in response to the previous post stating there are "reasons to be optimistic". As a long-term fan I am tired of the constant excuses and promises of "next year".

Monday, November 14, 2011

Be Optimistic (really)

The season is crumbling. Actually, it's crumbled. But here's reason to be optimistic that the team needs just two ingredients to become very good: a starting-caliber QB and a reliable offensive line.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Redskins vs. Dolphins: The Great, the Good, and the Not-So-Good

Skins drop their 5th straight and have little hope of salvaging the season. Yet, if you're looking for a bright-side, there are a few talented rookies providing glimmers of long-term hope:

The Great
- rookie Ryan Kerrigan remains a playmaker, producing two sacks and two forced fumbles
- rookie and fast-rising prospect Leonard Hankerson has 8 receptions for 106 yards

Grossman Again: What To Expect

Just a couple hours before game time news broke that Rex Grossman would start, not John Beck. What can we expect from Grossman against Miami?

On the optimistic end, Grossman should have an advantage because Miami was game-planning for Beck all week. Grossman and Beck are different QBs -- Grossman reads defenses more quickly and executes the Shanahans' offense more efficiently, whereas Beck is more mobile in and out of the pocket -- and the Miami defense prepared for Beck's strengths and weaknesses, not Grossman's.

On the pessimistic end, Grossman is the same QB he was before -- turnover prone and immobile -- but now with a battered offensive line and some new receivers in the line-up who have not had time to establish a rapport with Grossman.

On balance, I don't think we can expect a resurgence. Grossman should be a slightly less productive version of who he was during his first run as starter.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Redskins vs. 49ers: The Great, The Good, and the Not-So-good

The Great
- Graham Gano: not counting blocked kicks, Gano has made 12 consecutive field goals, including a 59 yarder (Redskins record) and two from 50 yards

The Good
- Orakpo and Kerrigan each had a sack

Start Next Game in the No-Huddle Offense

Since becoming starting QB, John Beck has been consistent in only one area: the no-huddle offense. He makes good quick decisions, throws accurately, and looks poised. Outside of the no-huddle offense his reads have been poor and his throws herky jerky and often inaccurate.

Obviously Beck's no-huddle success may be due to the game situation: the other team is winning handily, so the defense plays softer. But the Skins offense stinks right now, and as my high-school basketball coach was fond of saying, if something doesn't work, do something different.

So start next game in the no-huddle offense.

One Bright Spot: Graham Gano

Things look bleak for the Skins. Offense is anemic, defense holds its own for awhile but eventually gives up points. But Graham Gano is a bright spot. Not counting blocked kicks, Gano has now made 12 consecutive field goals, including one from 59 yards (longest in Skins franchise history) and two from 50 yards.

Gano faced some criticism early in the year, and it's nice to see him turning into the top-notch kicker some have forecast him to be.

This Time Blame Beck

Beck just threw an interception on a pass intended for Fred Davis. Hard to say exactly what went wrong, because Fred Davis was open and the throw was accurate. However, a hard charging 49er safety had anticipated the throw and beat Davis to the ball.

Perhaps Davis should have broken harder on the ball or sensed the defender and stepped in front to shield the ball with his body. But I'm putting this one on Beck.

Beck's First Three Passes: Good Performance, Poor Results

With 6:34 left in the 1st quarter against the 49ers, Beck's stats are a follows: 1 for 3 for 2 yards. Anemic. But here's why stats don't tell the story.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jim Haslett: A Long History of Producing Defenses that Struggle

Shortly after becoming head coach, Mike Shanahan hired Jim Haslett to be defensive coordinator and install a 3-4 defense. Two weeks ago I expressed frustration at Haslett's performance, and last week Shanahan appeared to do the same thing. This week, the defense looked horrendous against the Bills.

These events have led me to re-visit Hasslett's hiring, and in particular, two concerns -- warning signs, red flags, really obvious problems -- that should have led to heads being scratched and fans asking questions.

Strange Beck Interceptions

Beck has two 4th quarter INTs after protecting the ball well the whole game. Undoubtedly this is in part because Beck is taking more risks. But the INTs are also strange, because both involved Redskins receivers who were completely out of the play by the time the ball arrived.

Beck's Not The Problem

To be clear, Beck is not without flaws. In particular, he's terribly uncomfortable with the long ball. But other than that, he's doing reasonably well given the circumstances, hitting receivers on short- and mid-range throws when they are open, and protecting the ball despite repeated sacks and hurries.

So what is the problem? There are several, but here are four:

1) A rookie center with 0 NFL snaps before October is not only starting but is responsible for calling the blocking-schemes at the line of scrimmage. It's not working. Beck is being pressured virtually every play, and Torrain has no running room.

As Expected, Tebow's Terrible

Since the Skins are so bad on every dimension that matters, perhaps a brief diversion is in order. Today Tim Tebow has thrown for 100 yards and 1 TD. Oh, to be clear, this was to the Detroit Lions defense. To his own offense he has thrown for 84 yards and 0 TDs. (Note. This post was written at the beginning of the 4th quarter; Tebow added some yards in junk time).

Two weeks ago this blog took a stand: "Tebow has no chance this year to be an effective QB."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Does Shanahan think Jim Haslett was out-coached?

Last week I complained that Jim Halett was being out-coached and out-schemed by other team's head coaches and offensive coordinators. After this week's loss to the Carolina Panthers, Mike Shanahan seemed to diplomatically imply the same thing:

First, Shanahan said the following about the defense: "I’ve got to do a better job of getting these guys ready to play."

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Redskins vs. Panthers: The Great, the Good, and the Not-So-Good

- Graham Gano is perfect again kicking field goals, including one from 49 yards
- Fred Davis has 6 receptions and a TD

- Beck played well, although he was often let down by his receivers.

Injuries Badly Affecting Redskins

Where to begin. The game started without two starting offensive linemen (Lichtensteiger and Williams) and a starting safety (Atogwe), not to mention Chris Cooley. Now the Skins have lost their backup safety who was starting today in place of Atogwe (Doughty) and their best receiver (Moss). London Fletcher is reportedly vomiting on the sidelines when not on the field, and backup QB Rex Grossman is in the locker room with flu-like symptoms hooked up to an IV.

Redskins just trying to survive this one.

Updates: Doughty came back in, then got knocked out again, and now back in again. London Fletcher is now out.

Trickery by the Redskins

The announcers didn't catch this. With 1:30 remaining in the 1st half the Skins had 4th and 7. Instead of sending out the kicking team the Redskins offense stayed on the field as if they were going to go for it. But they never broke the huddle, called timeout with 1 second left on the play-clock, and sent out the kicking team.

This was a clever move.

Redskins vs. Panthers: Evaluating Beck's 1st Half

All eyes on John Beck today as he gets his first start for the Skins.

- Pros: Beck is in control of the team, gets the play in quick, clear and confident audibles, and looks real quick on his feet both in the pocket and out of the pocket

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Redskins vs. Eagles: Evaluating Beck

May sound funny, but Beck played very well except for his accuracy. And poor accuracy could be due to rust, because historically Beck is an accurate thrower. Otherwise, Beck did many things well:

- Most importantly, he consistently identified and threw to the open receiver
- Related to the previous point, Beck was able to quickly and accurately read and react to the defensive play call

Skins Offensive Line is Hurting

Lichtensteiger is hurt and has been replaced at Guard by Cook, a former practice squad player who had never played a snap in an NFL game before this season. Also, Trent Williams is hurt and Sean Locklear is in at Left Tackle. Can't say we didn't see it coming. From the pre-season prediction:

Jim Haslett is being out-coached

Jim Haslett seems like a nice guy, but I'm tired of watching him be out-coached by the other team's Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach. The looks he gives the other team are repetitive -- e.g., the 0-blitz either with everyone coming or with some dropping back into coverage -- and other teams have smart players and coaches that figure out what to do.

Last Minute Eagles Injury

The Eagles offensive line has struggled, and now they have more reason to struggle.

Offensive Tackle King Dunlap was supposed to start at Left Tackle in place of injured Jason Peters, but injured his back during warm-ups and will not play. Instead, Todd Herremans will shift from Right to Left Tackle, and Winston Justice will get the start at Right Tackle.

Herremans is a natural Guard, and Justice is getting his first start of the season, so the Skins have a fantastic opportunity to dominate the Eagles offensive line.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Redskins vs. Eagles: Knowns and Unknowns

In just a few short hours the Redskins play the Eagles, and so much is known and unknown.

Eagles Defense
Known: Will use creative blitzes and their Wide-9 formation to keep Rex Grossman uncomfortable
Unknown: Will whiz-kid Kyle Shanahan have pass and run plays that successfully counter the Wide-9?

Michael Vick
Known: He will put up a lot of yards both passing and rushing
Unknown: Will he also put up a lot of interceptions like he did last week?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tim Tebow

This is a rare post, because it has nothing to do with the Redskins. Tim Tebow has been named the Broncos starting QB, many are offering their opinions, and I happen to feel the situation is relatively straightforward.

Is Michael Vick playing poorly?

Next week the Skins host the Eagles. While the Skins rested this week, the Eagles lost to the Buffalo Bills in large part due to 4 Michael Vick interceptions. But Vick also accounted for 400 yards of offense. So what are we to make of this ... is Vick playing poorly, which obviously benefits the Skins? Or is he playing well other than a few fluke plays?

I went to the videotape to watch his 4 interceptions closely, and two things were clear:

The Archive

It was the bye week, so here are links to past posts that remain relevant:

- Keeping Graham Gano
- London Fletcher is even better than we think
- Grossman knows the offense very well
- What to expect from Rex Grossman
- Shanahan's players are high-character, fit his scheme
- Prediction for the Season
- Can 6-10 teams like the 2010 Skins become Super Bowl Champions?

Friday, October 7, 2011

About This Forum

Welcome! This is a forum for those who want to share thoughts and analysis beyond what's found in the Washington Post and Official Redskins Blog. So enjoy, and feel free to contribute, either by emailing me if you would like to submit a post or contributing in the comment sections. We just went live in September 2011. HTTR!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bye-Week Discussion Thread!

Skins are 3-1 at the bye. Grossman has looked great and horrible. The best RB on the Skins might be Torrain, or Helu, or Hightower. Gano seems in great form after a week 1 miss. Sav Rocca may be the best punter the Skins have ever had. Ryan Kerrigan looks to be the real deal and then some. Fred Davis is the star tight-end so far, not Chris Cooley. Landry is back. And so much more ...

Discuss below in the comments section!

Or email me if you would like to submit a post.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Redskins vs. Rams: 5 Closing Observations

1) Rex Grossman is still so-so. He runs the offense well, but completes less than 60% of his passes, and gives the ball to the other team once or twice per game. Sure, the 1st interception wasn't his fault, but the ball he threw directly to a Rams defender at the end of the first half should have been intercepted, so it evens out. And the 2nd interception was his fault.

2) Tim Hightower is the 3rd best rusher on the Skins.

Redskins vs. Rams: 5 First Half Observations

1) Skins look fair, not bad not good, against a very bad team.
2) If it weren't for dropped passes, the Rams would have 3 or 4 more first downs and the game might be more like 7-7.
3) Sav Rocca is the man ... punts high, deep, inside the 20, unreturnable, he does it all.
4) Tim Hightower is the 3rd best RB on the Skins roster; I've been saying for awhile that Helu looks more explosive and decisive than Hightower, now I can say the same thing about Torrain -- Helu and Torrain are quick to hit holes in the zone-blocking scheme, Hightower looks hesitant.
5) Ryan Kerrigan is a difference-maker again and again and again ... 5 tackles, 1 sack, forced fumble.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Redskins vs. Cowboys: The Great, the Good, and the Not-So-Good

Frankly the Redskins didn't deserve to win. They were up against a battered Cowboys offense, had the benefit of several bad Cowboys snaps and clueless Cowboys receivers, but couldn't stop them when it counted. Romo was the picture of poise in the midsts of adversity, and Grossman was the picture of backpedaling and turnovers. I hate to say it .. but Tony Romo earned this win.

The Great
- Laron Landry: He's back ... back on the field, and back making plays including a forced fumble and several tackles

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Don't Forget About the Eagles

The Eagles have started the season 1-2, and for the moment are last place in the NFC East. Some experts speculate that the Eagles's future may be bleak this season and beyond. However, the Eagles are remarkably consistent at two things: starting slow and making the playoffs.

In 2010, they started 2-2 but finished the season with a record of 10-6 and made the playoffs.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Taking Stock of Key Redskins Players

If you think mathematicians have something to contribute to football analysis, read on...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Redskins vs. Cardinals: The Great, the Good, and the Not-So-Good

The Great
- Skins win
- Helu looks great, and frankly like he has more burst than Hightower
- Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo are difference makers
- Redskins are very disciplined with very few penalties
- Fred Davis has 6 receptions and a TD
- Santana Moss has 5 receptions including a key TD catch on a 4th down
- Kyle Shanahan's offense and play-calling: the man is a football genius

The Good
- Rex Grossman: as usual he produces yards and turnovers

Saturday, September 17, 2011

London Fletcher: Best Linebacker in the NFL?

Now entering his 14th season, London Fletcher didn't make his first Pro-Bowl until 2009 and is often referred to as "underrated." So how good is he?

To answer the question we can use the statistic +EPA/G. +EPA/G indicates "a defender’s impact on the outcome of his team’s games" by combining things like tackles, sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, and passes defended into a single computation.

In 2010, London Fletcher had the highest +EPA/G in the NFL among linebackers: 4.53. This was better than Ray Lewis (3.65), Clay Matthews (3.62), Brian Urlacher (3.56), and every other linebacker.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What to Make of Grossman...

There is a clear trend. Positive posts (like the the one about Grossman knowing the offense well) get more hits than negative ones. But what's the use of analysis if it's not honest? So on to an honest analysis of Grossman...

Grossman is not sometimes Good Rex, sometimes Bad Rex: he's both each and every game. This has been evident in Grossman's career, in Grossman's time with the Skins last year, and in this past Sunday's game. Here are the specifics.

Keeping Graham Gano

Graham Gano's strong preseason performance quieted critics, until he missed his first FG try of the season. Here's why the Skins are right to keep him, and will be right to keep him even if he misses another kick or two early in the year.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Redskins vs. Giants Recap: The Great, the Good, and the Not-So-Good

- Contributions by the Rookies Kerrigan (INT returned for a TD) and Neild (1.5 sacks and a forced-fumble)
- Fred Davis has 5 receptions for 105 yards
- Santana Moss has 6 receptions for 76 yards and catches everything thrown to him
- Sav Rocca punts 4 inside the 20, and the other 2 punts were around 50 yards

- Rex Grossman runs the offense well, but fumbles in the 4th quarter for no reason

Redskins vs. Giants 4th quarter: Bad Rex, Good Rex

Sigh ... I mentioned a week ago that Grossman fumbles once every five times he is tackled. That was an ugly and needless 4th quarter fumble.

And then there's good Rex. On 3rd and goal, he looks off the coverage to the left, and comes back right with a perfect pass for the TD.

Redskins vs. Giants: 3rd Quarter Live Blog

Live bloggin it for the 3rd quarter...

1) London Fletcher is still the man. To open the quarter, he has an swesome tackle of Bradshaw on the Giants' first drive of the half ... looked like Bradshaw was about to break it, instead just a 4-yard gain. To close the quarter, a sack [edit: was actually credited with half a sack, shared with Neild].

2) Got to feel good for Kerrigan, great play ... tipped the ball, intercepted the ball, scored the TD.

Redskins vs. Giants: 2nd Quarter

Several observations...

1) Grossman has been much more accurate this quarter, nice.

2) The Skins are getting little penetration from the Nose Tackle position, allowing the Giants to rush up the middle and allowing Eli time to find open receivers.

3) I like Reed Doughty, but he's having a rough game, giving up several completions, and on a blitz he got absolutely stuffed by Brandon Jacobs, which allowed Eli time to complete a 30-yard pass.

4) Hightower's having a solid game, good rushing, good pass-catching, good job picking up the blitz.

5) Redskins offense is over half-way to 400 yards, but so is the Giants offense.

Redskins vs. Giants: 1st Quarter Observation

Bit of a slow start for the Skins, but really only one thing stands out to me: Rex Grossman is throwing high. A lot. Even his best completions -- one to Santana Moss and one to Fred Davis -- were both high and required nice leaping full extension catches. He's also missed several receivers, including a deep ball over the head of an open receiver early in the quarter, and a high throw from Rex caused Anthony Armstrong to take a big hit over the middle.

That said, Grossman is successfully identifying the open receivers, and if he settles down he should pile up the completions.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Redskins Players: High Character, Fit Shanahan's Scheme, Buy Into the System

There's a consensus among Redskins players and sports reporters: Shanahan has filled the Redskins roster with players who have high character, fit Shanahan's scheme, and buy into the Shanahan system:

- Barry Cofield, Redskins Starting Nose Tackle: "Coach Shanahan’s done a great job of getting his guys in that he wants, high-character guys and guys that buy into his system."

- Jamaal Brown, Redskins Starting Right Tackle: "We got the guys that really fit the scheme now."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Redskins Offense Should Dominate Giants Defense

The Redskins have had their share of injury problems in recent years, but nothing like what the Giants' defense currently faces. Against the Redskins this Sunday, the Giants defense is missing key starters at all levels: secondary, linebackers, and defensive line.


The NFL season is about to begin. This is the time of year to make predictions, which makes me realize how much about the Redskins is unpredictable. So much could be really really good or really really bad: QB, RB, defensive secondary, nose tackle, interior offensive line depth. Here are the reasons for uncertainty (with a prediction for the season at the end):

Monday, September 5, 2011

um ... Super Bowl?

We're temporarily putting sanity aside for this post. Last year the Skins were 6-10. Can a team that bad come back the next year and win the Super Bowl? I took a look, and was surprised to see that the answer is "yes". Twice in the last 20 years teams with worse records went on to win the Super Bowl the next year:

- The 1998 Rams were 4-12 the year before they won the Super Bowl.
- The 2000 Patriots were 5-11 the year before they won the Super Bowl.

And if we stretch things just a little bit, there are some other similarities between the 2001 Patriots and the 2011 Redskins.

Grossman Knows The Offense Very Very Well

Lots of coach and player quotes in the hours after Rex Grossman was named the starting QB. One thing that's clear is that Grossman's understanding and execution of the offense is at a very high level:

"He’s familiar with the system. I thought he was pretty automatic with a lot of his reads." - Mike Shanahan

Grossman + Hightower = Lots of Yards, Lots of Turnovers?

It was announced today by former Redskins Insider Jason La Confora that Rex Grossman will open the season as the Skins' starting QB. Grossman has shown both this preseason and at the end of last season that he can run Kyle's offense well and put up a lot of yardage.

At starting RB, the Skins have Tim Hightower, who also has shown both this preseason and last season that he can put up a lot of yardage. So the bright side is obvious: we might routinely see a 400+ yard offense featuring 300+ passing yards from Grossman and 100+ rushing yards from Hightower.

But there's also a scary downside. With Grossman and Hightower starting, the Skins have one of the worst fumbling QBs handing off to one of the worst fumbling RBs.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Tim Hightower: How excited should we be?

Tim Hightower has been explosive, dynamic, productive, and many other wonderful things this pre-season. He's averaging 6+ yards-per-carry, and maybe, just maybe, the combination of a) an explosive one-cut runner like Hightower and b) Shanahan's perennially successful zone-blocking scheme will result in a dominant Redskins rushing attack.

But I'm nervous. Hightower has always been an explosive runner, this is nothing new. Last year, among the 55 RBs with 60 or more carries, Hightower was ranked 8th in Yards Per Carry. The problem is that Hightower has been fumble-prone. And as many statistical analyses have shown, no single statistic predicts wins and losses better than turnovers.

Beck or Grossman?

John Beck and Rex Grossman are competing for the starting QB position. Understandably, the Shanahans have been measured in their comments on the relative performance of the two QBs, offering broad praise for both but not much else. For example, Kyle Shanahan recently said: "I think both of them in their time playing have done a good job ... I’m confident with either one of them to go. Both give us a good chance to win games."

However, I think there are several key points -- unspoken elephants in the room -- that will influence the Shanahans' decision: