The Bears host Washington this weekend in a game for the future. Washington still holds onto slim playoff chances after losing to Carolina Monday night and the Bears are just looking to go out on a positive note in a lost season. We sat down with Alex Rowsey of Hogs Haven to gain insight on this week’s opponent.
WCG: 1. Washington won a somewhat weak division in 2015 and lost in the first round to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. What were the expectations coming into the year and what happened along the way to the current 7-6-1 record?
HH: Expectations were mixed. It seemed many national pundits thought the Redskins would suffer this year thanks to a much tougher schedule. I saw a number of predictions expecting below .500. It seems most predictions were right at 8-8 or 9-7. I thought 10-6. People kind of knew/expected that the offense would be very good and weren't really sure what to expect from the defense (other than it'd probably lag behind the offense). The off-season was filled with optimism (as they are) from fans drunk on GM Scot McCloughan. The preseason further fed into that. The Redskins rudely awakened to start the season by getting pounded on national TV at home by the Steelers. They then lost a close one to the Cowboys and were sitting at 0-2. Four straight wins later and fans were riding high at 4-2. It seemed that the team had found it's stride and was really looking like they'd taken the next step after last season and that the first two games of the year were just getting the rust off and figuring out a rhythm. The Lions brought the team back down to reality the next week winning on a last-minute drive where our defense further evidenced its futility. It felt like a game that shouldn't have ended in a loss and fans were treated to a tie against the Bengals the next week in London (another game fans thought should have gone their way... but don't we always...). At that point, there was kind of a sour taste in everyone's mouth feeling like the team let two wins get away (they were now 4-3-1). After the bye week, they came out and got back to business by beating the Vikings and then came the game of the year when the Redskins destroyed the Packers on SNF in front of the whole country. They looked unstoppable and absolutely dominated that game. At 6-3-1, the 'Skins were going to the Super Bowl and had finally put it all together. They had gotten their revenge and beaten Aaron Rodgers. Then they lost in Dallas (0-2 against them). Then they lost in AZ. 6-5-1. The inconsistency is maddening. How could they look so great against GB and then lose two straight? The defense sucked so bad. The offense struggled in the red zone. They came out the next week and beat Philly before giving it right back, losing to Carolina this past Monday. So here the team sits at 7-6-1 having just given up control of their destiny.
WCG: 2. Kirk Cousins sits at 4,360 yards, 23 TD and 10 INT. That puts him within reach of 5,000 yards on the year and a respectable TD:INT ratio. Is this guy going to get a long term deal at the end of the year or what?
HH: Yeah, probably. He's cooled off in December and has as many TDs as INTs over the past three weeks. I think the 'Skins will put a number out there that's great but not top three in the league and say take it or leave it. He'll probably get close to $100M and I think he wants to be in Washington. The Redskins have a really good offense, but it's hard to tell how much of that is Kirk and how much of that is a really great offensive design. Still, what are the odds they could find someone better? The Redskins need Kirk more than Kirk needs them. He's going to get paid one way or another. I think they'll agree on something that makes Kirk very rich and doesn't completely hamstring the roster moving forward. That's me looking at it objectively too (not just being a blatant homer). The offense is built around him and loaded with weapons. It's a great situation for Kirk with a great GM. He really is a team-first guy and a good leader and QB for this team. They'll work something out.
WCG: 3. Washington seems to have an absolute embarrassment of riches on offense with a lot of interesting weapons - and that doesn't even count Josh Doctson who was put on IR early in the year. Who should the Bears fear most coming into this weekend?
HH: Normally I'd say Jordan Reed, but not right now. Reed's shoulder is seriously hurt and he might not play this Sunday. Looking at your wording, the guy I'd really "fear" the most would be DeSean Jackson. He strikes fear into most opponents just because of his sheer speed and the fact that he generates one back-breaking play after the next. The guy is a TD drive by himself. It's terrifying. He simply cannot be allowed to get behind the defense because I've never seen someone come close to his ability to track the deep ball and make the tough catches on those really deep passes. It's beautiful. The Redskins's offense is mostly predicated on shorter plays. It's not that scary. But they're usually setting up DeSean. That threat always being there is scary. Have to keep a guy behind him and not let him catch the bomb.
WCG: 4. Washington's defense ranks near the lower-middle of the league in rushing yards allowed per game. Is that a product of playing Ezekiel Elliot twice or is that a weakness that can be exploited? Will Jordan Howard have a good shot at his 6th 100 yard rushing effort?
HH: That is a major weaknesses that can and almost certainly will be exploited. The Redskins rushing defense (and defense as a whole really) is a joke. They have no DL to speak of (Chris Baker's decent, but that's about it), lost all of their ILBs (not that they had any worth anything to start with aside from the rookie Cravens), and this is a defense that hasn't had a safety in years. There isn't a team in the league that spends more on offense and less on defense (except maybe the Cowboys, they're close). Jordan Howard's going to have a great game. Enjoy it. Run it right up the middle, that's the major weakness of the defense. The DL can't hold up. The ILBs can't tackle. And the safeties can't tackle or cover. The Redskins have some players at OLB and CB. Best to not try to stretch runs out too much and just take the direct path right up the gut.
WCG: 5. What is Jay Gruden's future with this franchise? Dan Snyder has the reputation of liking to make the big splash - is his trigger finger getting itchy after watching the Cowboys and Giants soar to the top of the NFC?
HH: I think Jay's future is pretty secure right now. He inherited an unreal mess when Mike Shanahan was fired and the team was 3-13. In comes a first-time NFL HC who was hired primarily due to nepotism (they didn't even really consider anyone else). The Redskins had no GM. Shanahan was that guy so when he was let go, Bruce Allen became the GM. Bruce Allen is a Presidential guy... not a football guy. It was embarrassing. But Bruce was good buddies with Jay so he hired him and gave him a huge five-year deal. It was dumb. Also, thought they fired Shanahan, Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder didn't fired any of Shanahan's coaches. They're too cheap for that. So they hired Jay Gruden knowing he's good buddies with the guy who was already around as our DC (Jim Haslett). Jay kept Jim on board even though Jim Haslett might be the worst defensive football coach ever (it's close, more on that in a second), which saved Dan some money. So, a rookie HC with no change in the rest of the coaching staff really (though he promoted a 27-year-old kit that he liked and had worked with before ((nepotism)) to be the OC), no GM, and a roster that just went 3-13. He was setup to fail. So he went 4-12 in year one. Jim Haslett was the scapegoat. Jay hired his buddy (the nepotism is real) Joe Barry to be the new DC... over Wade Phillips. Joe Barry is best known for being the DC of the 0-16 Detroit Lions. That's it. That's his resume. Wade Phillips wanted the job. Jay wanted his friend. Huge mistake. Joe's probably going to get fired after this season as the new scapegoat.
Then, by a miracle of God, the Redskins for the first time in years hired an actual General Manager. It was like a holiday. Scot McCloughan is known as the savior. A football guy who knows football who is actually just a regular General Manager of an NFL team was hired by the Redskins. This was a huge deal for us. He got right to work and rather than fire Jay and bring in his own guy (probably couldn't anyway, remember Jay was given a five-year deal for some reason and Dan is as cheap as they come), he started transforming this roster. And he hit his draft out of the park and fixed the cap situation in one off-season. It turns out Jay knows offense a little bit and the team came out of nowhere to go 9-7, win the division, and get to the playoffs. No one's getting fired after that and Jay's leash got a little longer.
This year has been decent though inconsistent. We've now seen that Jay Gruden's offense can be pretty good. He's developed as a HC and is a generally likable guy. He's still in year three of that five year deal and I don't think Dan's in a rush to pay him to not coach. Another amazing benefit of the Scot McCloughan hire is it genuinely seems to have pushed Dan Snyder out of the operations a bit. I think he's really, honestly trying to not sabotage the team and let Scot do his job. And Scot's done well so far. I think the organization is learning a little bit that constant coaching turnover never leads anywhere. Jay Gruden isn't some perfect coach, but the team needs to try sticking with someone for a while and really focus on building the team up to see if the coach can produce or not. They seem to understand that. So I expect Jay to be here for a little while. He's put together two pretty good seasons in a row now and honestly, he's the offensive guy and the offense has been good. I expect DC Joe Barry to be fired as the scapegoat this year and the team will try somebody new there to attempt to fix the defense. Hopefully Scot helps Jay find someone rather than Jay just hiring another friend or past colleague.
Bonus: As an Iowa Hawkeye fan, I’m curious how second year man Brandon Scherff has looked at RG? Was he worth the top 5 pick it took to bring him in?
Scherff's about to go to the Pro Bowl and he deserves it. He was an outstanding rookie last year and improved on that play this year. He's started every single game at RG since being drafted and aside from a brief stretch learning the position (switching from LT in college) at the start of his rookie season, he's been incredible there. Some fans were initially disappointed because a lot of people thought he was drafted to lock down our RT position for the foreseeable future and felt that drafting a guy in the top five to play G may have been a poor use of resources, but Morgan Moses blossomed at RT and the Redskins have been able to get the best combo over there on the right side of the line with Scherff and Moses next to each other. He's destroying guys across from them. It's been beautiful to watch and Redskins fans surely appreciate it since we love our OL play and have been waiting for a real Hog to come along (besides Trent Williams). Scherff is a Hog. He was an excellent, safe, perfect choice as the first draft pick of Scot McCloughan's tenure as the Redskins GM. He's the definition of tough. I think he's missed less than a handful of snaps since joining the team.
Thanks to Alex Rowsey and Hogs Haven for stopping by!