NFL Redskins 

Washington faces critical three game stretch

Washington heads into their sixth game of the season against the second place Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins trail by just one game after winning their last three. The current three-game winning streak has been impressive, a response to an ugly 0-2 start has put Washington right back in the thick of things. With the Eagles, Lions, and Bengals coming up within the next three weeks before the bye week, Washington has an important stretch remaining in the second quarter of the season.

The Redskins have gotten off to a good start, with a victory against the 3-1, now 3-2 Baltimore Ravens. During this winning streak there has still been major flaws worth pointing out going heading into an important stretch of games.

Offensively, quarterback Kirk Cousins has minimized crucial mistakes that can cost the team victories, however he is still struggling to see a large portion of the field. There have been missed opportunities left and right for this offense in the passing game, resulting in many points left on the field. Kirk has a habit of overthinking situations instead of being an instinctive football player and making plays. This is an issue worth discussing even though the defense has stepped up over the last few weeks, they have still struggled to stop the run as they still rank 30th in the NFL defensively. Also the defense ranks bottom half of the league in stopping the pass, this is important because the team will need Kirk Cousins to become more than an average quarterback at times against good teams. They’ll need him to become a playmaker and possibly a difference maker.

Last week, the Ravens offense had no turnovers, they ran for 118 yards on just 19 carries. For some inexplicable reason, they  stopped running the football early in the game. This allowed Washington’s defense to attack the Ravens in an area they were weak, protecting Joe Flacco in the passing game. They lacked balance and going into these next three games, Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals will provide a major test for this defense. They thrive offensively due to balanced attacks.

Philadelphia is Washington’s next opponent and they own the league’s 10th ranked rushing attack. Washington will be tested for all four quarters and will go up against a young but very efficient quarterback in Carson Wentz. If the defense is not able to create turnovers or force errors by the Eagles offense, it will be a long day. Washington has not proved they can get off the field on third downs yet, struggling in the yards per play category where they give up nearly six yards per play. Until the Redskins defense can prove they can become more consistent in getting off the field, the opportunistic nature of this defense will have to show up week in and week out.

The defense as stated earlier is not the only area of concern for this team. The offense over the last two weeks has sputtered. After three straight games  of producing 380 yards plus of total offense, they have only produced 310 yards or less the last two weeks.

The offense has not been as efficient versus the Browns and Ravens as it was against previous opponents. The next three opponents, especially against bad defenses have not struggled to put up points at all. It is vital for the offense to find a rhythm while maintaining a balanced attack. The offensive line has been outstanding this season so far, however running back Matt Jones has consistently been inconsistent.

A good to great running back has really good vision, this is a thing that really cannot be taught to players. Jones has often times put this offense in a tough situation due to mistakes he has made as a ball carrier. Maybe a change is looming with the subtle emergence of Robert Kelley. The point being, is the ground game has to improve to help this offense be successful in this three game stretch. The passing attack has suffered recently, with indecision and inaccuracy on big play opportunities. Desean Jackson, Jordan Reed, and an emerging Jamison Crowder should be the Redskins most important receivers weekly, and head coach Jay Gruden and Sean McVay should implement weekly schemes that involve that trio heavily.

Special teams has been the most consistent phase of this team all season long. Dustin Hopkins, Tress Way, and the return game have played big roles in the wins this season.. The punt returns of Jamison Crowder have provided sparks and directly contributed to points on the board for Washington. It is important for this unit to continue to play at a high level, because watching the team play, there is no guarantee that the offense will ever reach its full potential.

When you look at this Redskins team as it stands, you can’t really tell what direction they are headed in for this season. Despite the load of inconsistency, team is in the midst of a three game winning streak. The coaching has been inconsistent as well, the play calling and clock management has put the team in situations that are counterproductive.

The current streak is nothing to be ashamed about, but it is how they move forward. In an important stretch of the season coming up, it is vital for the Redskins to own the second quarter of the season. Following their bye week, they have dates with the Vikings, Packers, Cowboys, and Cardinals looming. It is possible that Washington can come out of the bye at 5-3, but anything less can be damaging for any hopes of a playoff season.

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