NFC East: The Puzzle With Missing Pieces part 2

NFC East: The Puzzle With Missing Pieces part 2
Reading Time: 6 minutes.

By The Skin Of Their Teeth

The Washington Redskins are leading the NFC East. Just. Thanks to a Week 4 BYE Week the Redskins are sitting atop the division with a 3-2 record. They barely held on to beat the Carolina Panthers 23-17 in Week 6 thanks to Cam Newton failing to convert on a fourth down in the dying seconds of the game. But if we look back on the Redskins recent, and not so recent run of games, you could argue that they also deserve to be 3-3, matching their division rivals in Dallas and Philadelphia.

What I mean is this. According to Dan Steinberg, Washington Post sports editor, in their last 2 games the Redskins have gone 1-1. In their last 4 games they are 2-2. In their last 6 games they are 3-3. They’re 5-5 in their last 10, 6-6 in their last 12, 7-7 in their last 14… need I go on? In fact if Mr. Steinberg has done the research to show that since 1940 the Redskins are 547-547-20. If that isn’t the definition of average, I don’t know what is. Washington need to rise up out of the muck and the mire of the swamp of D.C. and put together some sort of a winning streak to prove that, even with the addition of Alex Smith, these are not the same ol’ Redskins.

It’s almost maddening how consistently inconsistent Washington can be. They beat the Packers! Then lost to the Saints. They beat the Panthers! But earlier in the season managed to lose to the Colts. “Why? How?!” You can almost hear the clamour from inside the Beltway.

Well the answer isn’t a simple one. On paper this season’s Redskins are better than the Redskins of recent years. They worked on their needs this offseason, drafting Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne with their 1st Round pick to pair with last year’s first rounder, fellow Alabama alum Jonathan Allen in order to combat their previous season’s pathetic run defense. And it has worked. They currently rank 4th in the NFL versus the run compared to dead last (32nd) in 2017. Their defensive backfield has been more than proficient, with Quinton Dunbar developing into a highly capable corner opposite Josh Norman, and the bullish DJ Swearinger channeling his inner Sean Taylor as defensive captain at safety.

On the other side of the ball they moved on from Kirk Cousins, signing veteran Alex Smith, hoping that he could replicate his 2017 success with Kansas City. And why shouldn’t that have worked?

They have almost the same offensive weapons; a Kelce-esque big bodied receiving tight end in Jordan Reed, a Tyreek Hill-esque deep threat in Paul Richardson, and until he tore his ACL in pre-season a dynamic running back in Derrius Guice. Why aren’t we seeing the same results?

Adrian Peterson has been excellent in replacing Guice, and the tight end situation in D.C. is arguably better than it was in KC with both ageless wonder Vernon Davis and Jeremy Sprinkle helping out Reed and, and, well… that’s really where it stops. Let’s be honest, Richardson isn’t Tyreek Hill and hasn’t been utilised by Jay Gruden as Hill was by Andy Reid.

So what is it that’s missing for the Redskins? As it is in their bitterest rivals’ camp in Dallas, the Skins lack a true #1 receiver to occupy opposing defenses with potential double coverage, allowing Hill or Reed/Davis/Sprinkle to get open to make chunk plays for Smith. Josh Doctson is a bust. The former 1st Round pick out of TCU simply hasn’t lived up to expectations, be it through injuries or drops, Doctson just isn’t somebody who would keep an opposition’s secondary up at night. In fact watching his highlights might actually make them fall asleep. It’s time to start looking elsewhere. Amari Cooper is being shopped by the Raiders and I think if Jay Gruden can get to sweet talk his brother Jon into getting their asking price down, he might be one to consider. Heck, why not annoy Dallas fans and just give Dez Bryant a call? At this point I feel like the Washington faithful would welcome even him with open arms.

As you can see by Steinberg’s stats about the Redskins record, they literally have nothing to lose.

Time To Look Tu’a The Future in New York

How can you have two generational talents on offense in the forms of Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie running back Saquon Barkley, and somehow be 1-5? There is a Giant problem in the Meadowlands and that problem is shaped like Eli Manning. Choosing to pass on a quarterback in this year’s draft, and instead believing that Eli Manning could carry them to a third Super Bowl title may be looked back upon as one of the stupidest decisions in moden NFL draft history. That’s including the number of picks the Saints gave up for Ricky Williams, or the smaller but still significant number the Redskins gave up for Robert Griffin III. Both of those players actually had pretty good rookie seasons barring their respective injuries, but so far this year Eli Manning has been nothing short of awful. One could argue that his offensive line hasn’t done their job, but there are worse O-lines in the NFL whose quarterbacks haven’t performed anywhere near as dismally, and those quarterbacks don’t have OBJ or Saquon.

The Giants aren’t a young team relatively speaking. 13 of their starters are 28 years old or over, but Eli tops the lot at 37 years of age. I’m not saying age prohibits a quarterback from excelling, indeed look at Tom Brady, or Aaron Rodgers, or Ben Rothlisberger, or Drew Brees, or Alex Smith, or Philip Rivers… okay, so in fact every single active quarterback around Manning’s age, or in some cases much older, is prolifically better at playing the position than him. In fact if it weren’t for the two rings he owns, I doubt he would even be in the same conversation as the others.

But the long and the short of it is, the Giants need to start to move on from their older players, and they need to start with Manning. Put it this way; Eli Manning is owned in less than half of fantasy football teams, and of those 47% (which I’d hazard a guess consists entirely of die hard Giants fans, or people who are playing fantasy for the first time), he is started by only 15%. Two Super Bowl rings. And he is being started by just over one in ten people. Sadly for the Giants, one of those one in ten happens to be owner David Gettleman. What must really smart for Giants fans, is seeing the quarterback they could have taken in this year’s draft, Sam Darnold looking very, very promising for their city rival the New York Jets. Oh, and did I mention they share a stadium? Talk about an obvious alternative being rubbed in your face.

I’ll be honest, I expected the Giants to do better than this. In fact before the season started I had them tipped to win the division this year. But I was wrong. I think it is all over for them, and sadly one of the (on paper) most successful modern day quarterbacks’ career will end not with a bang, but with a whimper. The Giants need a new signal caller under center next year. They need to look to the 2019 Draft, and as I mentioned in the title of this segment, they need to look “Tu’a the future”…

Alabama quarterback Tu’a Tagovailoa is a statistical sensation. He is everything that Eli never was. In his first 6 games of the season for the Crimson Tide he is completing 75% of his passes at an average of 19.7 yards a completion. By comparison in the last six weeks Manning has completed 69% of his passes at an average of 7.4 yards a completion. That isn’t even a first down. Tagovailoa has thrown for 18 touchdowns and no interceptions. Manning has thrown just 6 touchdowns and four interceptions.

You may be saying right now, “But you are comparing apples and oranges! You can’t compare a college quarterbacks stats with an NFL starter!” Okay then, let’s compare Tu’a with some other college quarterbacks. How about Heisman winners? Would that make you happy? How about every Heisman winner since 2008? Players like Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota? If you pick the six best games from any Heisman winning quarterbacks’ season in the last ten years, and compare them to Tagovailoa’s first six games, he beats them statistically in almost every single category. Simply put, he is a giant slayer. And that is the only thing he and Eli Manning have in common.

To Giants’ fans I say this – hope your season continues as it has begun, and prepare to land the greatest college quarterback there has been in recent years.

Above image courtesy @Redskins.

Chris Milner aka “Proper Football” is co-host of the Same Level Fantasy Football podcast, a former Washington D.C. resident and Redskins fan (for his sins) he is a self styled fantasy football expert having won his league one time. He is also clearly a comedian. Follow him on Twitter @chrismilner or listen to the pod @samelevel #HTTR

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