Jay Gruden could only joke and say the obvious. Throughout the first half of the 2018 season, the Washington Redskins were a highly predictable inconsistent team. In their five victories, they have taken the lead and have never fallen behind. In their three defeats, they have fallen behind and never made a comeback.
It is misleading to assume that you do not know which Washington team will come. The same group always appears, with a big uppercut and no jabs. The puzzle is whether the opponent will pay Grudens mills for their one-dimensional, down to earth, limited style. Take an early lead and this team is crumbling. Make it a wrestling match and they will slowly declare victory. So far this has been the most uncomplicated season ever.
"Do not lag behind," Gruden quipped as he was asked how his team can play better in trailing. "We just have to dig deep."
It was not humor because the coach is optimistic about his 5-3, NFC East Leader team, but the pattern is bleak if you think about staying first. Over the course of a 16-game season, it's nearly impossible to win enough to reach the NFL playoffs without rallying ability. Still, it's stupid to expect to be a low-scoring team that can hold leads anytime. Something has to be given, and given how much Washington depends on its evolving defense and its aging predecessor, Adrian Peterson's readiness to step back is more likely to be a major improvement in weaknesses.
The 38-14 home loss to Atlanta on Sunday served as a warning. Led by his big, young defensive front, Washington was able to stay among the top 5 defenders most of the first half of the season. But after you've conceded 491 yards to the Falcons, not only should you think about how far the defense has come, but also how likely it is to have some slippery numbers. The device is not as spectacular as its statistics look like. Note that four of the strongest defensive achievements were scored in the lower half of the 32-member NFL: Arizona, Carolina, Dallas, and the New York Giants. On the other hand, the defense has shown major deficiencies in three out of four games against the breaches placed in the top half of the league. Atlanta and New Orleans relocate Washington. Indianapolis burned the Redskins in key situations. The only quality effort came against Green Bay, but this game was in the rain and Aaron Rodgers played on a good leg.
A soft schedule will continue to provide a favorable match for Washington. The next two opponents, Tampa Bay and Houston, are teams with explosive offensive qualities. They can move on and make this offensively challenged team hunt them. The Buccaneers, the coming adversary, are actually leading the NFL in total offense. They are also a mess of turnover and inefficiency, but what if they can make an early 10-0 lead?
Alex Smith threw 306 meters against Atlanta, but it was not a dynamic performance. He tried 46 passes and had a below-average quarterback rating of 82.3. Maurice Harris, who got 10 passes for 124 yards, was the leading recipient of the team. Harris has played a nice game and he has great hands. But you will not scare a defense by attacking him 12 times in a game.
Peterson only had nine stretcher for 17 yards. In three defeats this season he has a total of 43 meters rushed. In five wins he had an average of 112.2 meters and ran in each of them at least 96.
Yes, the absence of Trent Williams' left attack and the injuries sustained by Brandon Scherff, Shawn Lauvao and Morgan Moses in the match have transformed the line of attack from firm to desperate. But even when the offensive line is full, this offensive fights. And Smith, especially with these mediocre weapons, can not throw the team back into play.
"It's hard to play against a good football team if you have several points less," said Smith. "As much as you like to come back and do that, it's rare."
No, that's not uncommon in modern, pass-loving football. That's not a rare thing against Atlanta, which has been blowing for over a year and a half since this epic collapse of the Super Bowl. If there's anything you should miss about the soft old Redskins of the last three seasons, they might come back. You could also give up leads. But at least the result at the end of the first quarter has not always told most of the story.
How did a team trained by an offensive guru come to life? I am glad that you asked.
First, Washington had to invest so many resources to improve its Gruden-era defense. The franchise is finally paying off, and the team is focusing on focusing more on the attack. But for the moment, though the insult is the knowledge of Gruden, this unit is a stain.
Consider the five designs since Gruden was named head coach. During this time, the Redskins have selected 20 offensive players. Fourteen of these picks have come in skill positions (quarterback, returning, wide receiver, or tight end). And how many of these experienced men have become reliable weapons? Jamison Crowder, a fourth-round pickup in 2015, was at the start of his career, but he has retired and suffered injuries. And after that there is no one else. Next up is Josh Doctson, the first round of the 2016 round, who is perhaps the most frustrating starter on the depth chart. On Sunday, Doctson had three receptions and picked up a touchdown. But he also lost two passes and imposed the worst penalty of the season. He was accused of ridicule when his team left three touchdowns behind.
Washington has done a good job both during the Gruden era and before to draft offensive linemen. Williams, Scherff and Moses are indigenous anchors. Center Chase Roullier, a choice for the sixth round of 2017, could be a long-term option. As for the skill gamblers, Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson (third in 2013 before Gruden arrived) are just the only established local playmakers. And both have a history of injury.
There were high-profile Misses, including Doctson, if he did not turn it around, and Matt Jones ran back. Perhaps Derrius Guice, the prestigious but injured second-round pick of the 2018, is a great back cover. Overall, look at the last five designs and see why this team plays as it works. It was so dedicated to improving this team – line play on both sides and toughness in general – which was a good call. However, this led to a crime based on Gruend's clever wager as a talent, and the truth is that no matter how smart the shouts are, it can not overcome enough talent.
The defeat to Atlanta underlined this point. The Falcons are full of weapons they designed and developed, including quarterback Matt Ryan, receivers Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, who hired behind Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith (and Devonta Freeman when they're healthy) and Austin Hooper , Imagine Gruden has some of these pieces.
There is no objection to Washington imposing a premium on defensive purposes such as Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne. But it creates an imbalance that becomes even more apparent if you can not re-sign Kirk Cousins - a passing quarterback that Washington designed and developed – and replace it with Smith, the ultimate game manager that merely reflects the environment ,
Smith will continue to keep sales low and help the defense win games 21-17. However, if Washington returns and has to claim one or two games with a score of 35 to 31, the prayer can be powerful.
There just is not much to this team. It is intended. The Redskins had to get bigger and harder; There is no doubt about that. But in search of what they lacked, they did not fill their powers. In this crazy season in which the roles are reversed, it could catch up with them.
Read more about the Redskins:
Boswell: Beaten and badly beaten, the Redskins are still 5-3, but face tough questions
Snack from the Redskins defeat on Sunday against the Hawks
The winning streak ends with an ugly, injury-related loss to the Hawks (38-14)