Steelers 38 - 16 Redskins
For me, real football is played in the biting cold of late fall, when the leaves are down and the first snows are come. That said, it is hard to argue with the weather to start this Washington Redskins football season. Bright sun, mid-80s, and low humidity add up for a spectacular late-summer day outside. And while it may be a little on the warm side, I am sure when the sun sets we will settle into a beautiful night for football.
Hello friends, JimmiJo here and I am joined by my partner of old, Murf. Together we will bring you the sites and sounds of tonight's action.
So what can we say about this matchup? Experience tells us the Steelers come in the more seasoned, accomplished side. From the roster to the coaching staff, Pittsburgh brings a formidable reputation to FedEx Field. Actually there a few reasons to not like this game if you root for the Redskins:
- The time - The Redskins do not do well in nationally televised prime-time games
- The history - Pittsburgh are winners of five on the trot against Washington. In fact, the last time the Redskins beat the Steelers during the regular season was 1991
- The fans - Few teams' fans travel to FedEx Field as well as those of the Steelers (save perhaps Philadelphia). Though the Redskins won the division last year (which should help ticket sales), expect to see more yellow towels than you'd like
Beyond what Pittsburgh bring, Washington has the some question marks coming into the new season:
- Run-game - The Redskins first-team offense struggled last season to run the ball consistently. This preseason did little to reassure it is fixed.
- Defensive pressure - Washington runs a 3-4 defensive front without a bona fide nose tackle. Admittedly, this is less and less important these days when a high number of snaps are nickle and dime packages. Still, the question of whether opponents can exploit Washington's interior line is unanswered.
- Josh Norman - Norman was arguably the best cover-corner in the league last season. And most fans were extremely confident the Redskins had landed a top-tier guy in Norman. But then training camp came and Norman was more than once the victim of a Washington receiver. Tonight we will find out if Norman is the stud the team believed they signed.
- Ring-rust - Washington hasn't taken a snap in anger since January. The body of work from the first team offense was minimal and week 3 preseason showed an offense not exactly clicking on all cylinders.
Given their recent dominance over Washington, Pittsburgh will be coming in expecting to win. I suspect the Redskins will need to have early success to have a real chance to get this one.
My prediction? Who the hell knows... Murf
Hello again, my friends. Seriously, it feels like it's been entirely too long since last we spoke.
While last season's unexpected playoff run ended in disappointment, it's safe to say that the bulk of the headlines coming out of Redskins Park these days are overwhelmingly positive.
Continuity has become the norm with the Washington Redskins, which hasn't really ever been the case since Daniel Snyder bought the franchise. But the roster is no longer in a state of constant turnover, the coaching staff hasn't been radically redone and the foundation of a respectable franchise are evident. In short, the Redskins don't really resemble the punching bag the rest of the NFL lovin' world has come to know and mock.
And I, for one, couldn't be happier.
When the most constant storyline out of camp was how boring this team has become, you've finally reached respectability. When an NFC East team is drastically overpaying free agents (Giants) or blowing up the roster every offseason (Eagles) and it's not the guys in burgundy and gold, it's time to crack open a frosty and refreshing adult beverage.
Welcome to the 2016 Washington Redskins. Know them. Love them. And enjoy the ride, because who knows how long this might last.
Chances are, the Redskins will go as far as Kirk Cousins' arm takes them. While that might have been a terrifying propositions a season or two ago, it's actually kind of comforting now.
Cousins, as you know, made $660,000 last season, which was respectable considering he was a fourth-year veteran who had done little to show he deserved to be paid as anything more than a backup quarterback.
Fast forward to this year and, after putting together an electric second half of the '15 season, there's little doubt of just how important Cousins is to the Redskins. While the team and the player have yet to settle on the terms of a long-term deal, the Michigan State product will play this season on a franchise tag worth a staggering $19.95 million.
That means, by the time the season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers has concluded, Cousins will have easily surpassed his earnings for all of last season. That's what happens when you throw for more passing yards in a single season than any other quarterback in Redskins history. Yeah, you like that.
But questions still remain: Can Cousins prove he's more than just a flash in the pan quarterback? Sure, his second half statistics were fantastic, but can he sustain those kind of numbers over the course of an entire season? And can the Redskins actually defeat a team with a winning record (which is something that didn't happen one year ago)?
That doesn't entirely fall on the shoulder of Cousins, but he'll play a vital role as Washington tries to post back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1991-92. Fortunately for the burgundy and gold, the season opener takes place at FedEx Field -- a place where Cousins shined in 2015.
At home last season, Cousins threw for 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions while averaging 271 yards per game. Conversely, Cousins threw for 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions while averaging 249 yards per game on the road.
Aside from Cousins, I'll be squarely focused on the ground game -- for both teams. Matt Jones, for one reason or another, has essentially been given the starting job, even though most people not currently employed in Ashbury rightly wonder why. With injury and fumble concerns and very little to show in his NFL body of work, it's not crazy to wonder why this guy has been named The Guy. Tonight is his first chance to prove skeptic (like me) wrong.
And on the other side of the ball, can anyone on the Redskins' defensive line other than Chris Baker become a factor in the team's run defense? I would have preferred to see the front office spend a little more time and resources upgrading this particular area of concern, but in Scot we trust, right?
Other than that, I just want to see how Josh Norman handles his first game in burgundy and gold. I'd also like to see Su'a Cravens get some playing time and, most importantly, witness a primetime game involving the Redskins that doesn't end in embarrassing fashion. Is that too much to ask?
ANNOUNCEMENT OF INACTIVES
LANDOVER, Md. – The Washington Redskins have announced the following inactives and lineup changes for tonight’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers:
The Redskins declared the following players as inactive:
o No. 2 QB Nate Sudfeld
o No. 19 WR Rashad Ross
o No. 29 S Duke Ihenacho
o No. 38 CB Kendall Fuller
o No. 62 C Austin Reiter
o No. 72 DE Anthony Lanier II
o No. 74 G Arie Kouandjio
The Steelers declared the following players as inactive:
o No. 11 WR Markus Wheaton
o No. 18 QB Zach Mettenberger
o No. 27 CB Senquez Golson
o No. 45 FB Roosevelt Nix
o No. 51 LB Steven Johnson
o No. 72 C/G Cody Wallace
o No. 96 DE L.T. Walton
KEYS TO VICTORY
So the consensus among the writers I have spoken to in the pressbox is a loss for the good guys. Will the Redskins win tonight? I don't know. But I think they CAN win tonight if they do the following:
- Establish an effective running game early: In Washington, the pass sets up the run more often than not. This is fine, as long as the Redskins can be effective when they do run.
- Make Pittsburgh one-dimensional: The Redskins need to take away one aspect of the Steelers' offense. If Big Ben and company are able to gain yardage on the ground and in the air it is going to be a long night.
- Sudden change: Protect the ball and force turnovers. The team that does so usually wins.
What did I miss?
Twitter - @skinscast & @HomerMcFanboy
Pressbox Menu Alert!
The Redskins' pressbox menu this evening features a carving-station and prime rib with au jus. Without question the best meal I have had in 11-years covering this team at FedEx Field. Same Old Redskins (Half)
Frustrating half. Washington did some good stuff early, but as per usual they failed to take advantage of their chances. Pittsburgh on the other hand showed the one characteristic the Redskins lack: Killer Instinct. When you catch a break you have to make the other guy pay. They did. Washington didn't.
And for the record I am cussing out Chris Thompson from now on for not getting past the first down marker on 4th down. Inecusable.
There is still hope, but not much. And if the Steelers score on this first drive...
2016 Week 1 Steelers at Redskins Post Game
I asked head coach Jay Gruden if the lack of significant playing time adversely affected Kirk Cousins’ play and his timing with the receivers.
“I don’t know how much an extra series against the [New York] Jets, or Buffalo [Bills] would have made a difference. There could be some merit in that and we will look into it for next year.”
Spoken like a coach who has no idea what went wrong. At least, until he sees the tape.
One thing Gruden was sure about was the lack of effective running really hurt the overall cause.
The Redskins managed a total of 55-yards on 12-carries. Matt Jones led all Washington runners with 24-yards on 7-attempts. But half of those came on a single run. Washington’s inability to run allowed Pittsburgh to focus on the pass rush and secondary.
Washington’s heavy emphasis on the passing game was reflected in the stats. The Redskins ran 55-plays; 43 pass attempts and the afore-mentioned 12 rush attempts. Kirk Cousins and the receiving core managed 384 net yards passing, but it should not be construed as success.
Yes, Cousins had some big connections with passing plays of 33, 31, and 20-yards. But Cousins managed no touchdowns for the first time in 17 games. Conversely, he was intercepted twice, ending the night 30/43 for 329-yards and a rating of 72.7.
Washington lost in almost every statistical category:
- total net yards (435 – 384)
- Third Down Efficiency (64% - 30%)
- Rushing (147 – 55)
- Red Zone Efficiency (100% - 25%)
- Time of Possession (33:18 – 26:42)
But the stats alone cannot convey the extent of the miss-match. After the first few series, Pittsburgh’s offense had their way with Washington’s defense. In the trenches they pushed the Redskins around, which was reflected in their success running. Once the run game got going it was just a matter of time before their passing attack awoke.
Antonio Brown had a banner day; going 8-catches for 126-yards and 2 touchdowns. Pittsburgh added two more touchdowns via rushing and another via the air.
Ben Roethlisberger went 27/37 for 300-yards, 3 touchdowns and an interception to finish with a rating of 112.4.
The most disappointing aspect of this game, beyond the score, is the number of unanswered questions that were either not answered, or answered in a way that is not good.
Pregame we said the Redskins had to run the ball, pressure the quarterback, and prevent the big play. They managed exactly none.
Early last year Washington ran the ball very well. But then Shawn Lauvao got hurt and the run game disappeared. There was some hope that with him back, the rushing attack would return. It didn’t.
When Washington parted ways with Terrance Knighton, they decided they could bring pressure without a traditional nose tackle. They also figured they could deal with the run. Neither were true tonight.
I’m not suggesting Knighton is the answer and they should bring him in. But I am suggesting the defensive line is at best a work-in-progress. Watching tonight I wondered how much Junior Galette could have helped.
Offensively, Gruden admitted they abandoned the run too soon. He said they suffer from having too many weapons in the receiving corps. But as good as Cousins can be, he is not so good that this team can excel without a running attack.
I spoke to Chris Baker and Kedric Golston in the locker room. I wanted to get a sense of how this game will affect their psyche. Both said it’s about watching the tape and working on the things they did poorly.
But both seemed to admit they came into this game with high confidence. Golston agreed this is sort of a gut-check. Based on the demeanor of this teams since last year, I think it is safe to say they came into tonight thinking they were a lot better than they showed.
But it is only one game. Against a non-conference opponent at that. How much should Gruden and company be concerned?
For me, because the challenges are in core-areas such as rushing and defending the run – alarm bells should be ringing.
See you next week.