Was given the opportunity to speak with Alex Rowsey this week and discuss the upcoming ‘Battle of the Beltway’. My questions and his answers are in this article. If you’d like my answers to their questions, check out this article
1. The Redskins sit at 2-2, is this where you expected the squad after four weeks?
Before the season, yeah, I would have guessed either 3-1 or 2-2. I had hope that we'd beat the Steelers in week one but wouldn't say I fully expected it. I thought we'd beat the Cowboys and Browns at home and wasn't sure about the Giants game in NY. Losing the Cowboys game was very unexpected for me and still stings. Tough to lose to a rookie QB in his second game (first on the road) and have to watch your former beloved Alfred Morris score the game-winning TD in that disgusting jersey and do his patented HR swing. We should have had that one. Oh, well. Yeah, we're pretty close to where/what I expected we'd be at this point.
2. Josh Norman has been the craze all offseason, and in the news constantly with his matchups against AB84 and OBJ. Has he lived up to the contract?
It's my opinion that he has. Some would disagree, but even they would concede that he's been balling and has probably been the best player on our team. He's paid an astronomical amount that some would think no player could really live up to, but I think he has. Our DC misused him for the first game-and-a-half of the season by keeping him on one side of the field and not having him stick with the opponents best receiver. That hurt us dearly against Pittsburgh when Brown went out and destroyed Bashaud Breeland. He very rarely went to Norman's side and when he did he didn't catch a pass. Then, in week two against Dallas, Dez Bryant was having his way with Breeland for the first half until our coach finally adjusted and had Norman go and pretty much shut Bryant down over the second half.
In week three against the Giants, Norman stayed on OBJ for almost every snap. Beckham put up very good stats and that was when some fans really started to question Norman a little bit. Where I think he redeemed himself is with the fact that we still won the game and Norman clearly got under Beckham's skin and kind of made him self-destruct. He was crying on the sidelines, getting beat up by a kicking net, and just being an overall general distraction that ended up hurting his team, in my opinion. Beckham got his stats, but Norman got the win and the best of Beckham mentally. Last week against Cleveland, Pryor caught 4 of his 8 targets being matched-up with Norman the whole game. My thoughts on that are that Pryor is a huge freak of a WR and a guy that there's not a whole lot of film on. He caught a few balls, but just about every great receiver will make a couple catches, even against the best CBs. Here's where Norman earned his money, he adjusted in the second half and didn't allow a single catch to Pryor. All of Pryor's catches came in the first half. What's more, Norman made a beautiful INT to basically seal the win in the fourth quarter. He's balled out all year and has been our best player.
3. May sound silly, but is Jordan Reed the real deal? He's the only tight end I haven't kept enough tabs on and now I see he's the fastest to 200 catches?
It sounds a little silly, but I get why you're asking. Reed had a little bit of an injury history his first couple of years in the league and has only really been consistently incredible for a year and four game. I can tell you he's the real deal because even those first couple of years when he was hurt/concussed a lot, he was outstanding and virtually unguardable when he actually played. It was just a matter of staying on the field. Since the start of last season, he's done that and it's paid huge dividends. He's for real. He's basically a 246-lb. WR with some of the best feet and hands you've ever seen. He's a pretty bad blocker, and that's why he's #2 behind Gronk in most people's eyes, but he catches everything and is always open. He requires a constant double-team. He's the #1 threat in the Washington aerial attack.
4. What are the Redskins biggest strengths and weaknesses? What should Ravens fans watch for?
The Redskins are very strong on offense (both running and passing) and special teams. They boast the #8 overall offense in the league in ypg and are 12th in ppg. Kirk is 6th in passing yards, Matt Jones is in the top half of the league in rushing yards and 10th in ypc for anyone with at least 30 rushing attempts, and Jordan Reed is the #1 TE in the league in receptions, #3 in yards, and tied for #3 in TDs. Their offense had two main issues that were prevalent over the first two weeks of the season and have seemingly been corrected over the past two weeks.
The first issue was not running the ball enough. Over the first two games, the Redskins had absolutely terrible offensive balance. They were calling pass plays 80% of the time. It was terrible and unsustainable and put way to much on the shoulders of Kirk Cousins. When they'd run the ball, it was successful, but for whatever reason, they just wouldn't call runs. I believe they were top 10 in the league in ypc and yet last in the league in rushing attempts. That's ridiculous. Over the past two weeks, that problem has been corrected. They've run it more in each of the past two games then they did in the first two games combined. Of course, they lost their first two games and won their second two. Not a coincidence.
The second issue was red-zone offense. The Redskins were the masters of getting FGs when they should have gotten TDs. Last week against Cleveland, that finally stopped and the Redskins were able to capitalize in the red-zone. We'll see if that continues. They've always been able to put up the yards (#5 in the league in passing yardage) but it's not worth much if you're consistently settling for FGs in the red-zone.
Their other great strength so far has been on special teams. More about that in the next answer.
Where the Redskins really struggle is defensively... especially against the run. They have the 29th defense in the league yardage-wise and 26th in ppg. They're 25th against the pass and 30th against the run. It's bad. They have arguably the worst DL in the league along with sub-optimal ILBs and safeties. Their CB group is damn good and their OLBs are respectable, but the weakness of that defense is right in the middle. Teams have been able to run and pass in the middle of the field all year. They're not getting off of blocks and when they do they're missing tackles right and left. Their DC is squarely on the hot-seat and fans have been calling for his head since before he was hired.
5. The Ravens have been lackluster in both punt & kick return coverage. What do the Redskins bring to the table in their return units? Is this something Washington can use to their advantage?
Special teams has been a major strength for the Redskins so far this year. They have some of the best specialists and return men in the league. Not only has their K, Dustin Hopkins, made the most FGs in the league, he also hasn't missed a single one and almost every single KO has been kicked through the end-zone. They have two KRs in the top 13 in the league. They boast the best PR in the league (Jamison Crowder), who is averaging 21 yards per return on five returns. Their P, Tress Way, is great. 4 of his 8 punts have been downed inside the 20, 0 have been touch-backs, and 1 was fair caught. Really there have only been two gaffes all season and neither counted. They only had 10 guys on the field for a PAT in week one and that was saved by a timeout being taken to get things straightened out and they allowed a punt to be blocked that got negated by a penalty and they had to re-kick it. Other than that, everything has been superb in that area this year. I'd say special teams is definitely an advantage for the Redskins and one they'll try to exploit on Sunday.