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: