BLUE CHIP STOCK OF THE WEEK
DeSean Jackson – Two fantastic catches yesterday — a sideline toe-tapper and an “oh-wow-did-he-just-do-that?” over-the-shoulder grab for an 80-yard touchdown that evoked nothing so much as Willie Mays and the great catch in baseball history. Jackson was basically the entire offense back in 2014, but he has struggled with injuries and productivity since then — until recently. In his last three games Jackson has eight catches for 279 yards and 2 TD, with receptions of 80 yards, 67 yards and 59 yards. Even Philly’s notoriously grouchy fans, who used to boo DJax every time they saw him, refrained yesterday — no doubt in hopes that he will soon be lured back to the Eagles. No matter where he ends up next year, DJax is reminding everyone why the Skins wanted him and why the Eagles were so crazy to let him go in the first place.
Josh Norman – He is the one defensive player nobody is complaining about. Eagles QB Carson Wentz wisely stayed away from Norman on Sunday, but when he did finally throw in his direction, on a 2-point conversion attempt, Norman was there to make a great play and knock the pass away. Saving those two points meant the Eagles had to score a TD rather than just kick a short field goal on their final drive. For all the stupid whining about his contract, Norman continues to be an absolutely elite cornerback and easily the best player on Washington’s terrible defense.
Pierre Garcon – Not spectacular numbers on Sunday (5 catches on 6 targets for 59 yards and 1 TD), but the Skins didn’t pass enough for Garcon to have a truly huge game. He threw some nice blocks, though and easily beat his man to actually convert a fade pass in the red zone into a touchdown. And where did the ball go on 4th down on Washington’s final game-winning scoring drive? To Garcon, of course. Where else? Seriously — where else?
Chris Thompson – He had 3 carries for 38 yards and the game-winning touchdown against the Eagles. Should he have slid down in bounds at the two yard line instead of scoring? Maybe, but let’s not complain about a Redskins player actually coming through in the clutch. Thompson is averaging 5.4 yards per carry and even though Coach Jay Gruden wants to limit his touches, it’s tempting to leave Thompson on the field and just see what he can do. His pass-blocking, as usual, is immaculate.
Trent Williams – And who threw the critical block on the Thompson run that scored? Trent, of course. Back after a 4-game suspension, Williams threw a number of critical blocks against the Eagles and reminded everyone why he is one of the best in the NFL. In fact, Pro Football Focus rates Williams as the best offensive lineman in football this season. Sounds right to me. Lay off the weed, Trent, the Skins need you.
Dustin Hopkins – He missed a 38-yard field goal against the Eagles on Sunday, a kick that needs to be automatic. He has now missed seven field goals, tops in the NFL. That’s partly because he has attempted so many field goals due to the team’s red zone troubles, but after hitting his first 12 field goal attempts this season, Hopkins is only 16-23 on those kicks ever since and has missed four of his last eight attempts. His 80% success rate is among the lowest in the NFL. He needs to get it together quickly or Washington will be back to constantly shuffling kickers in and out of Redskins Park, something that has been far too common in the 21st century.
Joe Barry – I hope this cat is renting. Look, I’ve been adamant that it isn’t fair to blame Barry for all the problems on this defense and I hold to that. He has been given very little talent to work with and has, accordingly, accomplished very little. But the defense is getting worse rather than better and the third down defense is literally among the worst in NFL history. Nobody could turn this defense into a good unit, but Barry is failing to even elevate it a tad. Players are often out of position and the secondary seems confused too frequently. Meanwhile, Barry stubbornly refused to use the only great talent he has — Josh Norman — to his fullest extent by moving him around to cover the other team’s best player. Eventually, Barry caved and did just that, but only after much damage was done. And isn’t that the sort of thing Barry should know? Why does he have to be pushed into doing something so obviously correct? His reply, that moving Norman around is too confusing for the other members of the secondary, was dismissed by many former players. The question is often asked about the defense: Is the problem the talent or the coaching? The answer: it’s both.
SELL! SELL!! SELL!!!
Pass Defense – They’re so bad I don’t know where to start. Cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland, Greg Toler, Quinton Dunbar, Kendall Fuller and Dashaun Phillips have all been benched or cut this season due to poor performances. The safeties aren’t much better, if they’re better at all. The entire secondary is a complete mess and the lack of any sort of consistent pass rush isn’t helping either. The Skins yielded 18 passing first downs against the Eagles, a team that had been struggling to move the ball through the air against anyone else. Philadelphia was 9 of 18 on third down and two of three on fourth down — and that one failure on fourth down was due to a botched field goal snap — it had nothing to do with the defense. In addition, the inside linebackers, particularly Mason Foster, are being repeatedly burned by opposing tight ends, who are frequently running free across the field. The entire pass defense is a complete debacle and requires a total rebuilding from the ground up in 2017. Let’s hope GM Scot McCloughan will find a passel of good new defenders and a different coordinator to coach them.