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"First-and-Ten" - Redskins @ Seahawks

November 3, 2017
The Washington Redskins (whatever remains of them) head to Seattle’s Century Link Field on Sunday afternoon, looking for what figures to be, a miracle. Which is exactly what they’ll need in order to win. Or something close.

The Seahawks are starting to feel it at (5-2) but that was after a huge come from behind shootout win over the Houston Texans last week, also at home.

The best thing the Redskins could probably hope for is that the Seahawks are just “off” and have a bad day while Washington punches above its weight class.

With that as a gloomy scene-setter, let’s get to “First-and-Ten” along with our “Monumental Matchup” for Sunday’s game, the eighth on the year for the Redskins who will be 50% of the way home on their 2017 season.

First….

Our “Monumental Matchup” this week has to be the troubled Redskins wide receivers against the talented and aggressive Seahawks defense.

The Seahawks play a lot of zone defense, usually with a single-high “centerfield” safety, but will trail Richard Sherman in man coverage at times. This is a newer wrinkle that they’ve incorporated over the last two seasons.

As we know, the Redskins receivers have been largely missing in action, whether it has been drops, poor routes, balls lost in the sun or a few overthrows by Kirk Cousins.

The Seahawks will probably be without stud free safety Earl Thomas but their pass rush usually allows for them to not have to cover forever. Although, this year, entering the week they’ve been in coverage for longer than you would normally expect, according to Bill Barnwell from ESPN.

The Redskins secondary is actually the third best in the metric. The longer a group has to hold up in coverage, the better, as long as you can avoid the pass rush and live bullets flying around Kirk Cousins.

The Seattle secondary can be picked on as Houston’s high-powered attack proved last Sunday. The problem? If the Redskins do not use effective play-action like the Texans did, along with having crisp routes run by outside receivers and Kirk Cousins being accurate deep while extending plays with his legs, they won’t be able to make the Seahawks pay.

Obviously, the Redskins can hurt Seattle in different ways (Chris Thompson, Vernon Davis and possibly Jamison Crowder) but they are going to need a “big-shot” play or two to win this game.

And Ten....

1 – Deep play action could work for the Redskins on Sunday. Terrelle Pryor would be the most likely target and if they line him or Josh Doctson up on the left side of the offensive formation while running a go-route and a deep post, they might be able to take advantage of a little more suspect than usual Seattle secondary. 

Look at how Houston attacked the Seahawks with Earl Thomas (not likely to play) and Shaquill Griffin, the right cornerback for Seattle in this video below. 


2 –
Here’s the problem: Even with the Seahawks getting lit up by the Texans offense last week, they are still very good. They’ve only allowed 216.0 passing yards per game and are still very good on third down. They only have 17 sacks in seven games and they’ve forced 13 turnovers with eight of those as interceptions.

3 – The Redskins have been much better in the red zone during the last few weeks. Over the last four games, the Redskins are a combined (9 – 13, 69.2%) when converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns. Overall, they are still only at 54.55% on the season, which is above the league average of 52.52%.

Last year, the Redskins were 45.9% in the red zone, with the league average at 55.58%.

On third down, the Redskins are converting at a clip of 38.20%, which Is just below the NFL average of 38.75%.

4 – The Redskins must run effectively enough to stay out of long down & distances. They don’t have a chance in Seattle on the road, if they are constantly in third-and-eight or more. That’s despite ranking first in the NFL in third-and-long conversion percentage (39.5%). The Seahawks nd Century Link Field is just a different animal.

One note via Redskins PR, the Redskins are first in the NFC and fourth overall in the NFL in rushing average on second down situations at 4.92 yards per second-down attempt.

Clearly, the Redskins continue to be inconsistent on first down rushing attempts, as we’ve detailed many times and after it improved quite a bit, it seems like they are struggling again in that area.

5 – The Redskins must control Russell Wilson in the pocket and not get killed on scrambles and when he extends plays, which he does on a frequent basis. We’ve detailed just how bad the Redskins are in this area on a consistent basis but last week, they were very good.

On the final third down stop of the game, with absolutely no margin for error, Zach Brown stepped up and chopped down Dak Prescott to give the offense a chance.


6 – The Redskins were awful on special teams last week and have struggled for much of the year in some key areas. Quite simply, this area of their game has been consistently not good enough for far too long. In addition to the game-changing and potential season changing blocked field goal, Washington missed an extra-point attempt, had a kickoff return turnover and had a costly field position penalty. 

In addition, they are getting absolutely nothing from their returners and Jamison Crowder is probably out this week, so it will be someone else returning punts in Seattle.

7 – DeAngelo Hall’s return could inspire something extra out of the Redskins. I can’t imagine that he starts but perhaps he plays a few snaps and somehow makes an emotional return. With Russell Wilson being turnover friendly at times, I predicted on Wednesday night, during my show on 106.7 The FAN and again on the Junkies, Friday morning, that Hall would have an interception return for a touchdown.

Leadership, emotion and a ball-hawk past could go a long way.

8 – The Redskins are very likely to have T.J. Clemmings at left-tackle, Arie Kouandjio at left guard, Chase Roullier at center, Tyler Catalina at right guard and the only starter left, Morgan Moses, who is gutting out on two injured ankles.

Yikes. Go ahead. False starts are going to be a major issue with so much noise and change. According to the updated version of this note from Seahawks.com, Seattle’s opponents average 2.36 false starts per game and have been called for the most in the NFL among any stadium currently in use.

 The good news? The Redskins rank second in the NFL in average penalty yards per game (41.57).

9 – Kirk Cousins has a perception problem. He’s viewed as a player that lacks a “special gene” and can’t elevate the play of others. He’s viewed as a player that needs everything to be perfect to win or succeed. He’s viewed by some as incapable of winning big games.

Some of that, if not a good amount of that is fair, if not right.

The bag is mixed in my eyes, which is the way it is for many players and quarterbacks. First of all, no quarterbacks win games or lose games on their own. If you judge that way, please go away.

Winning does matter. It’s not the only thing that matters, but it is a big part of the equation. How do we fairly evaluate a QB? I’ll just say it’s a combination of factors for me. I cannot, and I will never, just evaluate Cousins or any quarterback or player, simply by numbers or statistics.

Nor will I hold it solely against Cousins, like many Redskins fans, media critics and possibly powerful people behind the scenes, do, because the Redskins can’t win a huge game that they are supposed to (Giants last year) or lose a game that they should (Seattle).

All of that being said: Cousins has led game-winning (at Rams) or go-ahead (at Detroit) drives this season and in the past and nobody gives him credit. How do you fix the perception that many have?

You win a game in Seattle, with all of the issues that the Redskins face. Seattle is no longer dominant, but they are good and the perception is that they are great. A win in this spot, Sunday, would change a LOT of how Kirk Cousins is viewed and perceived.

That’s not only among fans and media. That’s in the NFL, based on some  people that I speak with, who are very influential.

10 – Turnovers will be huge. The Redskins can’t have ‘em and they have to create them. Washington has an interception rate of only 1.69%, which is seventh best in the NFL.

Seattle is at 1.93% but Wilson is streaky. The Seahawks are + 6 in net turnover differential, which is fifth-best in the NFL. They have seven giveaways with five interceptions and two lost fumbles.

The Seahawks defense has generated 13 take-aways with eight interceptions.

The Redskins defense has generated ten takeaways with six interceptions but are a minus three overall in differential because they’ve lost nine fumbles (along with four interceptions). Cousins has lost three of those nine fumbles on sacks. That’s one turnover per game on average for the Redskins quarterback.

Washington cannot under almost any realistic scenario have more than one turnover on Sunday to have an outside chance of winning. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com).  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN     

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