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Adrian Peterson says Redskins are focused on Giants and dismisses idea of 'trap game'

Adrian Peterson says Redskins are focused on Giants and dismisses idea of 'trap game'

Trap game? For these Washington Redskins? 

Adrian Peterson dismissed the notion out of hand when asked if the Redskins game against the struggling New York Giants on Sunday could lead to a letdown for Washington.

"Trap game? We lost to the Colts earlier this year," the veteran running back said on Wednesday. 

Peterson's indignation aside, the Redskins aren't a team that has handled success particularly well. Fans of the Burgundy and Gold can point to depressing defeats at the hands of the Giants each of the past two seasons as evidence of the organization's recent ineptitude against Big Blue. 

Last year, the 'Skins played an awful game in Week 17 in the Meadowlands, giving the Giants one of their three wins on the year. In 2016, the 'Skins laid another stinker, this time in a home Week 17 game against the Giants with a playoff berth on the line. 

Now, the situation again presents itself. 

The Redskins are 4-2 and in first place in the NFC East. The Giants are 1-6 and just traded away two defensive starters for future draft picks. 

If ever there was a recipe for a trap game, this is it.

"It's the NFL, you have to come prepared no matter what the situation is. No matter what the record is," Peterson said. "We're focused, we're locked in."

That's good because dig a little deeper and the records don't indicate the full story. 

The Redskins won their last two games by the narrowest of margins, and could have lost or tied on the final play of each victory. In New York, the last few losses have been equally close, just the Giants were on the wrong end of the ledger. 

"They're a good football team. I mean, turn on the tape," redskins QB Alex Smith said. "I think the bunch of games they’ve been in, had chances to win versus really good football teams."

Washington head coach Jay Gruden might be trying his best Joe Gibbs impression this week, hyping up a bad team, but the Giants do have plenty of talent. Everyone knows about Odell Beckham and Saquon Barkley, but defensive playmakers like Janoris Jenkins and Landon Collins have made big plays against the Redskins in the past.

"We're getting prepared for the Giants and expect a very hard fought game like it always is with the Giants," Gruden said Wednesday. 

It seems the Redskins players and coaches are all saying the right things leading into the matchup in New York. 

That's great, but it won't matter come Sunday afternoon. Gruden's bunch needs to show up ready to play.

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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With three NFC East games to go, don't tell Bill Callahan that the rest of the Redskins season is meaningless

With three NFC East games to go, don't tell Bill Callahan that the rest of the Redskins season is meaningless

When December ends and a new decade is upon us, the Redskins will be doing something that's become far too familiar for the franchise over the past several years: watching the NFL playoffs from home. 

For all intents and purposes, since Washington has been officially eliminated from playoff contention following their Week 14 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the final three games of their 2019 campaign are meaningless. 

But don't tell that to interim head coach Bill Callahan.

While Callahan is likely on his way out the door after 2019 -- the team will almost certainly hire a new head coach and potentially make changes in the front office -- he still has plenty he wants to prove. And that starts with winning games in the division.

"I want to see us compete in the divisional games. We haven't been good," Callahan said. "I think we're 0-7 in our last divisional games. That hits hard. We're 0-5 against Philly in our last five games. So I'd like to see a competitive effort against the division. This is a chance to redeem ourselves in a lot of ways."

Part of the reason the Redskins have struggled to put together winning seasons over the past few years has been their struggles within the NFC East. Echoing Callahan's comments, the Burgundy and Gold have dropped seven straight divisional contests, including an 0-3 record this season. They finished 2-4 within the division in 2018 and 1-5 in 2017. The last time they finished with a division record above .500 was 2015, which was also the last time they won the division.

That record looks even worse when the NFC East is in the conversation for one of the worst divisions in NFL history. Currently, the 6-7 Dallas Cowboys hold the tiebreaker over the 6-7 Philadelphia Eagles for the top spot. 

During Washington's three divisional losses this season, it's been outscored 87-51, including an embarrassing 24-3 loss in Week 4 to the currently 2-11 New York Giants.

"These three divisional opponents, we didn't do well at the beginning of the year," Callahan said. "We've got a challenge. We have a chance to rectify that and make it right."

In what has turned into a disappointing and lost season for the Redskins, there are still a few bright spots and building blocks for the future. Rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin has emerged as a legit NFL wide receiver. Running back Derrius Guice has struggled to stay on the field but has been a force when playing. Dwayne Haskins has had his fair share of growing pains but also gave few glimpses of what he's capable of down the line.

Callahan wants to use the final three division games as a way to demonstrate to his young core that divisional games are one of the most critical things to succeed in the NFL.

"[I want to] really set the tone for next season. We have a lot of young players, players that are going to be here," Callahan said. "They've got to realize that the divisional games are the most critical games. Just because it does tie into your playoff factor initially. You're going to see these teams twice a year. It gives you a catalyst if you win those games and then begin to compete."

This week poses an opportunity for the Redskins to play the spoiler role. If they beat Philadelphia, the Eagles' playoff chances look bleak. Washington hasn't beaten Philadelphia since 2016.

Many current Redskins remember the image of FedEx Field in Week 17 last year. The stadium was a sea of people sporting Eagles' green and black as they shut out the Redskins, 24-0. While defeating the Eagles would not mean much in terms of the Redskins' 2019 season, a victory over Philadelphia would go a long way moving forward.

"I think our guys are all playing for something: pride," Callahan said. "Division games are always great battles. You never know how those are going to end. They're always tight, close games. This will be a lot of fun, and we're looking forward to the challenge on Sunday."

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