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5 observations from a dispiriting Redskins loss in Dallas

5 observations from a dispiriting Redskins loss in Dallas

The Redskins fell to the Cowboys 31-23 but the final score doesn't tell the whole truth. Washington kept the game close for about 40 minutes, but then an inability to make simple tackles led to three straight Dallas scores.

The loss means a lot, as Dallas is now tied with Washington for first place in the NFC East.

There's plenty to unpack.

1. Starts on the ground: The Cowboys offense centers on star running back Ezekiel Elliott. In a Redskins victory against Dallas last month, the defense limited Elliott to 33 yards, a true triumph. In this game, Elliott could not be stopped. Through the third quarter, he had rushed for nearly 100 yards and was averaging nearly 6 yards-per-carry. When Elliott gets going, the Cowboys get going. 

2. The Trade Worked: Jerry Jones positioned his team without any real talent at wide receiver to start the season. It was a real problem. Then, before the trade deadline, Dallas traded for Amari Cooper, giving up a first-round pick in the process. The trade got lampooned for Dallas giving up too much, but against the Redskins, Cooper was well worth the heavy price.

The former University of Alabama star proved just too slippery for the Redskins secondary and grabbed eight catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Seriously, look at that stat line: 8/180/2. That's Moss-ian. Cooper opened up the game and forced Washington's defensive game plan to focus on him, which helped Zeke run. 

3. No Turkeys: Coming into the contest, Dallas lost every game they had a turnover. That trend held, as the Cowboys won and didn't have any turnovers. The Redskins, on the other hand, had lots. Colt McCoy threw three interceptions and had a number of other balls that Cowboys players had a chance to grab. More on Colt later.

The Redskins defense has thrived in creating takeaways, and the team could have really used one on Thanksgiving in Dallas. 

4. Higher Highs, Lower Lows: Going from Alex Smith to Colt McCoy was going to be an adjustment for the Redskins offense. Smith was a very reliable, smart player. He rarely made mistakes but he rarely made big plays either. McCoy is very, very different. In just his first start of the year, he connected with Vernon Davis on a 53-yard touchdown.

That play immediately became the Redskins longest pass of the year. But the picks were bad, and if Josh Doctson didn't turn into a safety on one pass, McCoy would have had four INTs. McCoy moves the ball well in the Redskins offense, but at times he also tries things he shouldn't. He also had a fumble on a sack, but the Redskins recovered. 

5. One Piece of Pie: How about a little good news? There was some. Trey Quinn made some big plays and had a really good punt return. Preston Smith had a monster game and the pass rush got good pressure on Dak Prescott. Tress Way just keeps balling. Jordan Reed again went for 60+ yards. For 40 minutes, this looked like a good game for Washington, and plenty of players had a part in it.

Those guys deserve some credit. 

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Snap counts and judgments from Redskins' 40-16 loss to Giants

Snap counts and judgments from Redskins' 40-16 loss to Giants

Time for our weekly review of the Washington Redskins snap counts, plus some big picture thoughts after that brutal 40-16 Week 14 home loss against the New York Giants.

♦ Quarterbacks – Mark Sanchez (33 of 62), Josh Johnson (29 of 62), Alex Smith (0 of 62)

Smith receives a mention because all that’s gone wrong in his absence – on both sides of the ball. Yes, the injury-fueled changes at quarterbacks are playing a factor in the defense’s notable dip.

We know Smith wasn’t posting prodigious statistics, the kind that keeps scoreboard operators busy and fantasy football owners thrilled. He was helping put the defense in advantageous situations by avoiding turnovers.

Washington committed nine turnovers in its opening 10 games, finishing a plus-12 in turnover margin. In the last three games since Smith’s brutal leg injury, seven turnovers and minus-5 differential.

Keeping possession wasn’t the only positive factor with Smith under center. In the nine games Smith started and finished, the Redskins won the time-of-possession statistic five times. In those five games, Washington went 4-1.

In the last three games, the Redskins lost the clock each time, significantly against the Cowboys and Eagles. Considering the heavy usage for Washington's main defensive linemen, having them on the field more isn’t a good thing.

We must note injuries to the offensive line in the previous stat. The run game faded after Washington lost both starting guards for the season. Not coughing the ball help with regularity helped as well.

Let’s circle back to the two available quarterbacks. It remains wild that the team landed on Sanchez when the Redskins searched a Smith replacement. This isn’t about a side by side comparison to Johnson, who was much sharper upon entering in the second half. New York played soft coverages with a 40-point lead and Johnson took advantage. Don’t expect as many clean looks against an aggressive Jaguars defense Sunday.

Drops and numerous penalties didn’t help Sanchez. He also appeared timid especially when Washington started drives deep in its territory.

This Brian Mitchell hot take doesn’t seem that crazy, to be honest.

♦ One look at the wide receiver and running back snap totals show what kind of game unfolded on Sunday:

Wide receivers – Josh Doctson (55 of 62), Jamison Crowder (54), Maurice Harris (35), Michael Floyd (31), Jehu Chesson (1)

Running backs – Chris Thompson (25), Adrian Peterson (19), Byron Marshall (18)

Trailing by a bazillion points in the first half led to lots of passing and subsequently more three and four-receiver sets. That Jordan Reed suffered a toe injury in the first quarter also led to more receiver-heavy looks. Crowder’s blazing 79-yard touchdown reception stood out, obviously, and we all understand the limitations with the current quarterbacks. It’s just hard looking at that unit and feeling inspired even when factoring in a healthy Paul Richardson. The Redskins need more next season. Adding a tough guy wideout, the kind who a QB can target on 3rd-and-8 would help.

Meanwhile, this was only the second game of the season that no running back played in at least half of the offensive snaps. Peterson played 46 percent of snaps in the Week 9 blowout loss to Atlanta.

Marshall’s presence dropped Kapri Bibbs to the inactive list. Bibbs did not take an offensive snap in the Week 13 loss at Philadelphia.

♦ Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix played in 100 percent of the defensive snaps (64) for a fifth consecutive week. The man he replaced, Montae Nicholson, didn’t take the field defensively for the third game in a row. During those five weeks, the second-year safety received four snaps.

This scenario requires a deeper dive, but this exchange doesn’t appear to be working, or at least not to the degree Washington hoped when shipping a fourth-round pick to Green Bay for the veteran.

Don’t consider those numbers all about the safety change or even on Clinton-Dix necessarily. All we know for sure is there haven’t been many personnel changes on defense this season. This was one of them.

"I think he's finding his way,” Jay Gruden said of Clinton-Dix Monday. On whether he’d consider going back to Nicholson, Gruden said, “Yeah, we have to look at Montae again. I think nobody gave up on Montae, we traded for a good player, a Pro-Bowl type player in Ha Ha and we wanted to give him every opportunity to come in and play.”

Stay tuned.

♦ Stacy McGee (28) played more Sunday than rookie Tim Settle (20) did for a second consecutive week.

♦ Zach Brown and Shaun Dion Hamilton each played exactly 28 snaps. Hamilton became the surprise inside linebacker starter over Brown and he likely tops the veteran in snaps if not for a shoulder injury suffered in the game. Gruden claimed the lineup change stemmed from Brown missing practice time during the week due to illness.

“We were just going to start Shaun Dion in base just to get it started. Then as the game went on, we were going to see how Shaun Dion did and then move on from there,” Gruden said.

It’s worth noting this change occurred the week after the Redskins claimed Reuben Foster off waivers. Beyond the controversies surrounding Foster, adding Foster is a sign the Redskins are looking for more at ILB. Then they went with Hamilton over Brown. With three weeks remaining, it will be interesting to see if the coaches want to see more from the rookie in this role -- and how Brown reacts if they do.

♦ Offensive lineman Zac Kerin was the only player not to receive any action Sunday. If unfamiliar with Mr. Kerin, don’t fret. He only arrived last week. I wasn't sure if it was "Zac" or "Zach" initially. 

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DeAngelo Hall is open to taking a spot on the Redskins coaching staff

DeAngelo Hall is open to taking a spot on the Redskins coaching staff

After an abysmal showing on Sunday against the New York Giants, many are questioning the future of the Washington Redskins coaching staff.

Former Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall wants to throw his name into this conversation. He wants to be someone that can contribute to the success of his former team. 

In his weekly appearance with the Sports Junkies, Hall spoke on the performance of the coaching staff and whether he would like to be involved with the Redskins. 

"Who better to help guide young men to even to figure out if a guy is selling you a bunch of crap or if he is telling you the truth. I sat in those seats as a 20-year-old rookie telling coaches exactly what they wanted to hear, I knew how to play that game. I can smell B.S. from a mile away," Hall said.

Hall, 35, is only a year removed from playing with many of those guys in the Redskins locker room. Not only that, he played under Jay Gruden and his staff for several seasons. Hall is a fan favorite and is one of the longest tenured Redskins in recent memory. 

"I'm a pretty young guy, I just came out of that locker room. I know how to relate to players," Hall said. "I know, ultimately, who really is about football and who's about the glamorous things that football gives you, because that's ultimately what you want. You want a locker room full of guys who love football, who want to do what it takes to win each and every single game and watching what we saw on the field yesterday, I don't feel like we had a lot of those guys out there."

With four straight losses, the Redskins are now 6-7 and trending in the wrong direction. Jay Gruden, who knows he is under pressure in these final weeks, is in his fifth season with the team. While Hall does not talk about the head coaching position specifically, one can tell in his voice that he just wants to see this team do well. 

For the full interview, watch the video at the top of the page. 

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