Monday, December 31, 2012

How Good Are the Seahawks?

The Skins host the Seahawks next Sunday in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.  Like the Skins, the Seahawks are led by a rookie QB (Russell Wilson) and finished the season on an impressive winning streak.  So how good are they?

Some suggest the Seahawks are a mediocre team that has beaten up on weak opponents in the latter half of the season.  However, advanced analytics tell a different story: the Seahawks are the 3rd best team in the league.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

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

The Great
  • NFC East Champions!
  • Alfred Morris.  200 yards rushing, 3 TDs, and sets the team record for rushing yards in a single season.
  • Jim Haslett.  I've been hard on him in the past, but there's no question his schemes, particularly his ability to disguise coverage, has led directly to turnovers time and again.  The key interception by Rob Jackson was a direct result of Jackson faking blitz and dropping back without Romo noticing.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Playoff Scenarios

The Skins have two ways to make the playoffs:

1) They beat the Cowboys, OR
2) Both Minnesota and Chicago lose

More details after the jump... 

Skins vs. Eagles: The Great, The Good, and the Not-So-Good

The Great
  • London Fletcher.  After struggling with injuries London appears to be back. Today he notches 10 solo tackles and a huge INT.
  • Barry Cofield.  He barely shows up in the box score, but his good play allows others to make plays.  Case in point, he tipped the ball that resulted in London Fletcher's INT.  
  • Santana Moss.  Only two receptions, but a beauuutiful TD pass dragging his left foot just in bounds on what was a key 3rd down play.  Fantastic to have Santana contributing like this. 

Why RGIII Is Great

Here's a wonderful story from the first Eagles game, courtesy of the Washington Post:

"Griffin made what could have been a crucial mistake — calling for a pass play out of the wrong formation. But he improvised, and hit Young, the fullback, for a six-yard touchdown pass ... Rather than celebrate on the field as he usually does — with a quick kneel-down, a short prayer and an index finger pointed to the sky — Griffin immediately sprinted to the sideline and apologized to Kyle Shanahan for getting the formation wrong."

Back in March we argued that RGIII was the right QB for the Skins not just because of his physical tools, but because he is "a student and perfects the little things." History is filled with immensely talented QBs who fizzled because they did not have the discipline or desire to perfect the details.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Skins vs. Browns: The Great, The Good, and the Not-So-Good

By virtue of tie-breakers, the Skins occupy 1st place in the NFC East.  A good day.

The Great
  • Kyle Shanahan.  Good game-plan, better adjustments.  The Browns committed to stopping the stretch run play, Shanahan countered by repeatedly faking the stretch run and giving Kirk Cousins time to throw.  
  • Kirk Cousins.  After his poor start, Cousins went 25/31, for 300+ yard, and 2 TDs. Cousins is not just a rookie, he's a rookie who didn't get many practice reps with the first team until this past week.  Yet, he looked poised, successfully threw both touch passes and lasers, and made a number of great reads and throws under pressure. He also distributed the ball to 8 different Skins receivers. Impressive.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Alfred Morris and Fumbling

Alfred Morris has been phenomenal, already accumulating more than 1,200 yards this season at about 5 yards per carry.  But he's almost fumbled in each of the last two games, and 4 times on the season, which raises the question.  Is Alfred Morris fumble-prone?

I know we all want the answer to be 'no', especially given the many wonderfully positive story lines this season.  But let's be adults and take an objective look at the data, focusing on his college football career.

In college, Morris had a tendency to fumble.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Youth Everywhere ... And That's a Good Thing

With so much focus on RGIII, it's easy to miss that no fewer than 12 rookies and 2nd year players are making major contributions up and down this Skins team.  Today's win against the Ravens is a great example.

  • RGIII.  We'll start with the obvious, he's re-writing rookie record books.
  • Kirk Cousins.  Makes several key plays in the comeback win, including a pass for a first down, a TD pass in the final seconds of regulation, and a QB sneak for the game-tying 2-point conversion.
  • Kai Forbath.  14/14 on FGs this season, including two long FGs and the game-winning FG today.

Skins vs. Ravens: The Great, The Good, and the Not-So-Good

Tremendous concern for RGIII's knee, but a tremendous come-from-behind win with key contributions from many.

The Great
  • Ryan Kerrigan. Had two HUGE QB pressures.  One led directly to Flacco's INT, the other prevented Flacco from completing a 2nd quarter TD pass to a wide open Ravens receiver.  Huge impact that won't show up in his stat-line.
  • Kai Forbath.  His kick-offs are a concern, too returnable and occasionally out-of-bounds.  But he's made up for that by being perfect on FGs for the season, including two long FGs plus the game-winner in OT today against the Ravens.  Amazing accuracy, unfazed in the clutch.

RGIII Knee Injury Update: No Major Damage

Looks like we can breathe a sigh of relief. From RGIII's Facebook page 7:40pm Eastern time: "Your positive vibes and prayers worked people!!!! To God be the Glory!"

Monday, December 3, 2012

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

The Skins beat three consecutive NFC East opponents.  I checked my calendar, it's indeed 2012 and not 1991.

The Great
  • Kyle Shanahan.  He wasn't on the field, but his impact loomed large.  Shanahan is a master at designing different plays that begin out of the same formation, and a master at disguising what's coming next.  The Giants' defense was kept off balance for much of the game. 
  • Pierre Garcon.  Just a few weeks ago it seemed Garcon could miss the season. Tonight he had 8 receptions for 106 yards and a TD. 

Alfred Morris Is Not Terrell Davis, But They Sure Look Alike On Paper

Alfred Morris is not the next Terrell Davis, he's the first Alfred Morris.  To my eyes he's distinguished by having elite vision and anticipation.  He doesn't just see the holes, he sees them before they open up, and slashes right through.

But I want to compare Morris to Terrell Davis anyway, because the similarities are uncanny. Obviously both are hand-picked Shanahan backs drafted in the 6th round.  But there's more.

For example, both are really really slow.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

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

Huge win for the Skins as they take down their second consecutive divisional opponent.  And always nice to beat the Cowboys.  In Dallas.  On Thanksgiving.  In front of a national audience.  Sweet.

The Great
  • RGIII.  One bad throw, everything else was superb.  70% completion percentage, 4 TDs, 300+ yards passing.  Forget rookie of the year, his rookie season may become an MVP season.
  • Alfred Morris.  If RGIII gets MVP, maybe Alfred Morris can take rookie of the year.  Another 100-yard game.  He doesn't just have good vision, he has ESP can-see-the-future vision.  His ability to anticipate and then burst through even the smallest of holes is incredible.
  • Pierre Garcon.  He's back!  Technically he was back last week, but he accounted for just 5 yards.  This week he has 93 yards on 5 receptions, including an amazingly acrobatic catch that he followed up by out-running the Cowboys secondary to the endzone.  The Skins are a different team with Garcon at receiver.  
  • Kai Forbath.  The rookie kicker is 10 for 10 on the year, including today's game-sealing FG from 48 yards away.  He doesn't just make FGs, he routinely splits uprights.  And his directional kickoffs are ensuring short returns. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

RGIII: Accuracy Watch

After RGIII was drafted back in March we praised his many amazing attributes, including his passing accuracy which we twice labeled "insane."  His completion percentage and TD-to-INT ratio were among the very best ever in college football.  How has this attribute transferred to the NFL?  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bye-Week Review: Revisiting This Season's Predictions

The Skins are 3-6 at the bye, and it's always fun to revisit predictions made at the season's beginning.  Predictions addressed win-loss record, RGIII, Alfred Morris, the defensive secondary, Billy Cundiff, and the general outlook for this year and beyond.

This blog looks to be batting about 80% so far.

Prediction: "The Skins will go 6-10"
Status: Looks more or less accurate

Prediction: "Alfred Morris will turn out to be a great fit for Shanahan's zone-blocking scheme."
Status: Accurate.  Morris is 4th in the league in rushing yards.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A 3-6 Record: What's Happening?

Skins lose a fairly ugly game to the Panthers, and have looked ugly two weeks in a row. What's going on?  In short: 1) film study by teams against RGIII, 2) very poor receiver play, and 3) a struggling defense.

But there's also hope.

  1. In early September this blog predicted RGIII's production would "drop-off for the second half of the season" once teams had a chance to study film on RGIII's preferences and tendencies.  There's some evidence of this.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Skins vs. Steelers: Ugly

Skins struggle with the basics, and I mean pee wee league football basics:
  • Catching - 12 drops and counting (Fox Sports says 10, I saw 12)
  • Kicking - 12 yard punt and a blocked point-after-touchdown
  • Tackling - missed tackles and more missed tackles (including some bad misses by London Fletcher)
  • Juvenile Behavior - DeAngelo Hall acts like a frustrated12 year-old and gets ejected
Bright spots?
  • RGIII kept his cool and played well 
  • Alfred Morris stays his even-keeled self and shows some decisive, tough running
  • Kai Forbath makes two more FGs, this time in tough field conditions
So the Skins bright spots come from three rookies ... at least there's hope for the future.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

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

Tough loss in a back-and-forth game, but the Skins' future looks bright.

The Great
  • Logan Paulsen.  Has to step up after Fred Davis goes down with an injury, and leads the team in receiving yards (76) including a huge catch on 4th down late in the game.
  • Kai Forbath.  3 for 3 on field goals, and equally as important looked much better on kickoffs this week.

Hard 1st Half for London Fletcher

London Fletcher has had some poor games this year.  Today, in the 1st half alone, he had three bad plays.  He was run over by Ahmad Bradshaw, missed a routine tackle, and then on a 3rd and long he was juked in the open field by Bradshaw who then picked up the first down.  London has had other sub-par games this year.  At the age of 37, after 200+ consecutive games, he might finally be slowing down.

Edit 10/7/12: Apparently London has been suffering from balance issues which have been impacting his performance.  Scary.  Hopefully the issue resolves quickly.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

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

The Great
  • Who else but RGIII.  RGIII accounts for 320 yards of offense and 3 TDs.  He's also leading the league in completion percentage.
  • Lorenzo Alexander.  The special teams ace is now a linebacker ace?  Helping to fill in for Orakpo, Alexander had 1.5 sacks, several QB pressures, and a huge fumble recovery.    

Monday, October 8, 2012

replacing Billy Cundiff

In light of the kicker situation in Washington today, I repost this response to the Skins decision to cut Gano in favor of Cundiff:

I would like to see Gano back in a Skins uniform.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Skins vs. Falcons: The Great, The Good, and the Not-So-Good

The Great
  • Alfred Morris. He keeps improving, this time averaging 6+ yards per carry and once again breaking 100 yards.  Announcers often compare Morris to Terrell Davis because both were 6th round picks by Mike Shanahan, but I also think his running style is reminiscent of former Redskins Stephen Davis -- who like Morris relied not on speed but vision, angles, anticipation, and running through arm tackles.
  • Ryan Kerrigan.  Plays key roles both in pressuring the QB and dropping back into pass coverage, and once again displays game-changing ability with a pass block/INT/TD on one play.  

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Skins vs. Buccaneers: The Great, The Good, and the Not-So-Good

The Great
  • Alfred Morris.  He seems to get better each week.  This week he breaks 100 yards, including an impressive TD run.
The Good
  • RGIII.  His accuracy is jaw-dropping.  It's not just that he completes more than 70% of his passes, but that he hits his receivers in stride, right in between the numbers, allowing them to add yards after the catch.  And several of his incomplete passes could have been caught.  But we can't call him Great given so many failed drives late in the game.  
  • Ryan Kerrigan.  Not a dominant game, but a sack and a huge read and tackle to stop Tampa on 3rd down with 5 minutes remaining in the game.  

Saturday, September 29, 2012

More Defensive Troubles Under Haslett

Another year under Jim Haslett, another year of an underperforming defense.  I'm tired of other teams' offensive coaches outsmarting our defensive coordinator.  And it happened again last week, as explained by Bengals coach Jay Gruden:

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Skins vs. Bengals: The Great, The Good, and The Not-So-Good

The Great
  • Rob Jackson.  With Orakpo out, Jackson gets the start and makes a positive impact with an interception for a TD and several aggressive hits.  

The Good
  • RGIII. He had 1st half struggles, sometimes stayed in the pocket too long, and was credited with 3 fumbles.  Yet, once again RGIII showed amazing throwing accuracy, athleticism, and will to win, avoided INTs, and nearly brought the Skins back.  If his body can withstand the numerous hard hits, he'll eventually be great.
  • Rushing yards.  213 rushing yards, a total that would normally be considered Great; but the way the Skins got these yards involved RGIII being hit hard numerous times as a runner or decoy.
  • Fred Davis.  Some of the catches came while the Bengals played prevent defense late in the game, but nonetheless it's nice to see Davis get involved in the offense after a couple quiet games.  He logged 7 receptions for 90 yards.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

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

The Great
- Not much this week.
- London Fletcher. Last week London had a sub-par game. This week he not only had six tackles, but a huge INT in the endzone and a huge strip to get the Skins the ball late in the 4th quarter with a chance to tie or win.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

RGIII: Forecasting the Rest of the Season

RGIII was phenomenal in his NFL debut. And I have every expectation that RGIII will become a superstar and not a bust. But in this post I want to focus on just this season -- what can we expect from RGIII the rest of the year?

The short answer is that I would expect similar good production for the next 5 games or so, and then a drop-off for the second half of the season for a simple reason: Film study.

Starting around game 5 or 6, teams will have enough film on RGIII to identify his tendencies and favorite plays, and to game-plan accordingly. Two recent examples illustrate this.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Skins vs. Saints: The Great, The Good, and the Not-So-Good

The Great
- RGIII.  Wow.  The poise, the decision-making, the athleticism.  Completions to 8 different receivers.  One of three QBs to pass for 300+ yards in his first NFL game (along with Peyton Manning and Cam Newton).  I've been high on RGIII since the beginning, but wow.
- Pierre Garcon before his injury provided exactly the run-after-the-catch play making Shanahan hoped for.

Skins vs. Saints: 1st Half

Wow. RGIII elicited many "wow"s in the first half. His TD pass under pressure to Garcon, his throw across his body from the left to right side of the field for a first down, his beautiful slant pass for a TD to Robinson.

Saints are now sniffing out the QB hand-off/run options play, and we haven't seen many of the vintage Shanahan stretch-run plays. It will be interesting to see if the Skins change up the running strategy for the second half, especially since Alfred Morris (who I now call Forward Morris) shined on these plays in pre-season.

Defense has been mostly impressive too. Too bad special teams has continued the tradition of allowing blocked kicks. 20-14 Skins at the half.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Saints vs. Skins: Prediction

This will be short and sweet. I love my Skins, but you can't run from the truth.

The Saints haven't lost at home since the 2010 season. The Saints will be playing with a chip on their shoulder after an off-season of BountyGate. The Skins' safety position is a mess this week and Drew Brees will notice. The Saints are a better team, with teammates who have played together awhile and have chemistry on the field.

In contrast, the Skins' offense features young players and new players who have not yet had a chance to develop on-the-field chemistry. And the Skins defense might struggle to stop the pass because of injuries in the secondary. Fast forward two years and I give the Skins an edge in this match-up. But tomorrow: Saints 35 Skins 17.

Happy Anniversary!!

Skins Analysis is 1 year old! A nice little Skins Analysis community has developed since the site's inception in September 2011. The site has been viewed 4,985 times by readers from 10 countries spanning 5 continents -- no one yet from Africa or Antarctica. Interestingly, 5 of the top 7 most-viewed pages were about the QB position.

Thanks to those of you who make Skins Analysis part of your Redskins internet routine. Feel free to keep dropping by, and comments sections are open from the start of the season this year.

New Season, New Predictions

We were a little too optimistic last year, forecasting an 8-8 record for what turned out to be a 5-11 Skins team. However we got some things right, such as:

- Landry not being able to return to form,
- The Skins beating good teams (twice against the Super Bowl champion Giants) while losing to bad teams (3-13 Vikings and the 6-10 Bills and Dolphins),
- Injuries hampering the O-Line (which everyone saw coming),
- Chris Neild getting significant playing time despite being a rookie 7th-round pick (he played in all 16 games), and
- John Beck getting his chance to start (although we also predicted he would finish the season as starter ... ouch).

On to this year!!

1) Quarterback -- No one has gotten more coverage than RGIII, and my take has been made clear (he's got it all mentally as well as physically). So there's not much to add except the obvious: in large part the season will go as RGIII goes. My two main concerns for RGIII are: 1) staying healthy, and 2) learning to avoid the rush, reset, and throw without leaving the pocket.

2) Running Back -- Running back is intriguing. I've been extremely impressed with Alfred Morris since the first pre-season game. His vision and decision-making are exactly what you need to run behind the Shanahan zone-blocking scheme.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cutting Tim Hightower

Tim Hightower was among today's cuts. This was somewhat surprising since some felt Hightower would begin the season as the starter. However it's a sound move for a few reasons.

First, Hightower is coming off an ACL repair. As reliably as the sun rises, running backs lack explosion and speed their first year back from ACL repair. Keeping Hightower would have only made sense as an investment for next year and beyond.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Missing Graham Gano

The Skins let go Graham Gano today in favor of Billy Cundiff. Early comments in the Washington Post discussion threads suggest most are happy to see Gano go. But I'll miss him, and I'm not convinced his release was a good move for several reasons.

First, I'm wary of the past. Before Gano the Skins cut Shaun Suisham, who had missed a key FG. Suisham was promptly picked up by the Steelers, and made 14 of his next 15 FGs on the way to the Steelers Super Bowl. Before Suisham (ok, long before), the Skins had a young kicker named David Akers, who they let go and then had a 10+ all-pro caliber run with the Eagles.

Monday, August 27, 2012

RGIII: The Great, The Good, and The Not-So-Good

All eyes on RGIII. Here's the Great, the Good, and the Not-So-Good through three preseason games.

The Great
- His accuracy is superb, especially on the move. Beautiful touch, beautiful placement, he throws with the right velocity and to the right location.
- His speed and quickness are as advertised. He makes defenders miss, and his bursts of speed are elite.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Alfred Morris vs. Evan Royster

Given the injuries at RB -- Hightower recovering from an ACL tear and Roy Helu missing his second straight game with achilles tendonitis -- the Skins may end up keeping both rookie Alfred Morris and 2nd-year player Evan Royster. But if they keep just one, I think they keep Alfred Morris. Neither has blazing speed, but Morris seems to have the better vision and make the quicker reads, which are essential for running behind Shanahan's zone blocking scheme. Of course Morris could end up on the practice squad.

RGIII's Movement in the Pocket

Skins against the Bears today in pre-season game #2. We're through the 1st quarter and RGIII is showing two consistent tendencies, one good and one bad.

The good is that under pressure he consistently makes the first guy miss. The bad is that after he makes the first guy miss, he doesn't step up into the pocket, reset, and throw. Instead, he starts scrambling around. RGIII needs to learn that sometimes less movement is more. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, even Jason Campbell are good at making the first guy miss, then immediately resetting and throwing. RGIII needs to learn this, but he'll get there.

For a classic example of avoid-reset-throw, here's Jason Campbell in 2008 against the Saints. He avoids tremendous pressure, and instantly resets his feet. RGIII hasn't yet shown the ability to do this. Watch from 3:41 in this clip.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Defending the 4th Round Choice of QB Kirk Cousins

With the 102nd pick in the 2012 NFL draft the Redskins selected Kirk Cousins, QB from Michigan State. In case you haven't heard, the Skins have their QB of the future in RGIII. And the Skins have needs in the secondary and tackle positions that have not yet been addressed in the draft. So why take a QB in round 4?

Here are two reasons.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Mike Shanahan and QBs

There's a narrative going around that, John Elway aside, Mike Shanahan has a poor track record of coaching successful QBs. The argument centers around the fact that Shanahan has not won a Super Bowl without John Elway as his QB. But the argument is incorrect.

It's true that Shanahan has not won a Super Bowl post-Elway, but this is because Denver has had poor defensees (*this* would be a riper area for a critique of Shanahan -- his defenses in Denver were often terrible). An honest look at the data suggests Shanahan's QBs do very well.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Santana Moss?

The Skins signed three wide-receivers today, the opening day of free agency. Given these new signees, the several young receivers drafted last year, and the salary cap problems stemming from NFL discipline, I'm concerned the Skins are poised to release Santana Moss.

Santana Moss has been a bright spot in a decade filled with low-lights. Here is a video to honor Santana Moss; my favorite Santana Moss moment begins at the 1:00 mark:


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Right Price? Not Sure. Right QB? Definitely.

The Skins traded three first-round drafts picks and a second-rounder for the rights to draft Robert Griffin III. Crazy how much we gave up. But I take comfort in the fact that the Skins chose the right QB.

For details, including video analysis, read on.

Friday, February 3, 2012

No No No to Kyle Orton

Michael Lombardi says the Redskins are pursuing Kyle Orton. A cool, calm, rational and advanced stats based analysis suggests this would be a terrible idea, and that in fact Kyle Orton and Rex Grossman are interchangeable in terms of their (questionable) contributions at the QB position.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

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

The Great
- Evan Royster looks good again despite playing injured, with 113 yards rushing and 52 yards receiving
- Orakpo continues to play at an all-pro level, with two sacks and a forced fumble
- because the Skins lost and the Jaguars won, the Skins move up a spot in the draft