The Redskins got a win over a team with a quarterback who has no business being in the NFL. They had to sweat it out through four last-minute plays from the edge of the red zone. Washington also had to survive three bad special teams plays and a sluggish offensive performance.
The state of the team is such that the OK performance represented a major improvement for the Redskins. They had lost their previous two games by a combined score of 68-27, never having a lead in either game. Against the Cardinals, they took the lead on their second offensive play and never relinquished it.
This is where the Redskins are, after going through a horrid rash of injuries (Trent Williams and Zach Brown, perhaps their best players on each side of the ball, were out yesterday) and losing “coulda, shoulda” games against the Chiefs and Saints.
The Redskins got something more out of yesterday’s win. They found a couple of players who might be able to help them out in 2018. Among them are one player who has been around a while and another who just arrived in Ashburn a few weeks ago.
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The relative old timer is defensive end Anthony Lanier. He has been with the team since making the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Lanier has spent more time on the inactive list and on injured reserve than he has playing. Going into yesterday’s game, he had three sacks, one pass defensed and no forced fumbles in 12 career games.
Against the Cardinals, Lanier had two sacks, he batted down three passes and forced a fumble. His first sack and the fumble were important because it set up the Redskins to take an early lead, something they needed after having been non-competitive in their last two games.
“Anthony Lanier showed up in a big way early,” said Jay Gruden. “Made a sack-fumble, had another sack and batted a couple more balls. It was great to hear Anthony Lanier’s name over the intercom a few times and see how far he has come along from a young rookie free agent. He is getting better and better. The sky is the limit for him.”
If you want to throw some cold water on Lanier’s performance, you can argue that the Cardinals had a weak offensive line before losing two starters in their previous game. Go right ahead. Still, it looks like Lanier, Matt Ioannidis, and a healthy Jonathan Allen could be the core of a solid defensive front next year.
You can’t say that the Cardinals’ defense is weak; going into the game they were No. 5 in the NFL according to Football Outsiders. It’s harder to dismiss the performance of running back Kapri Bibbs.
Unlike Lanier, who contributed throughout the game, most of Bibbs’ shining moments came in one drive. He has only been around for a few weeks, having signed to be on the practice squad on November 24 and getting elevated to the 53-man roster on December 12. All he had to do was learn the complex third-down back role, after injuries to Chris Thompson and Byron Marshall left the team scrambling.
Bibbs isn’t new to the league. He played in 13 games for the Broncos in 2015-2016 before they let him go. So he knows his way around a bit and that has helped him.
His big moment came early in the second quarter when he took a screen pass from Kirk Cousins, saw a lot of green grass and large men in burgundy jerseys, and dashed in for a touchdown to give the Redskins a 14-3 lead. At the time, it looked like the rout might be on. As it was, the score gave the Redskins enough of a working margin to hold the Cardinals at bay.
“Kapri [took] advantage of the opportunities that he got,” said Gruden. “He ran a great screen pass, weaved his way through traffic and got a touchdown. Drew another holding call on another screen pass, and had a couple of other catches for us that were quite significant. So happy for Kapri. Glad he got his opportunity and took advantage of it.”
Bibbs could stay around after this year. Thompson will be back from his broken fibula to reclaim the third-down job. But this year showed that it is worth considering keeping a backup to that position on the roster and Bibbs could be the ideal candidate.
So, the Redskins got a win that prevented a potential implosion, gave themselves a chance to finish at .500, and got good performances from two young players who can help them out in the future. For a mid-December game when the team has been eliminated from playoff consideration, that’s not a bad day.