clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

5 Questions with Hogs Haven entering Jets-Redskins

Michael Nania’s Q&A with Hogs Haven

NFL: Washington Redskins-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

To get a look at the opposing side entering the Jets’ second preseason game of 2018, I asked Bill Horgan of Hogs Haven a few questions on the Washington Redskins. He gave some phenomenal answers packed with detail.

1. Obviously the Derrius Guice injury was a major heartbreaker. What was his role poised to be, and who will be taking the touches lost with him out?

Going into the first preseason game, the depth chart released by the team as per league mandate had Guice listed as the #6 running back. That was not the role that anyone envisioned for him.

Jay Gruden has a sense of humor in almost any circumstance. On his Saturday press conference (the first one after the results of the MRI were known) the first question was, of course, about the injury to Derrius Guice and its impact on the team. Gruden joked, “Woah okay, he was sixth string on the depth chart, you know?”

Of course, the expectation was that Guice would be the lead back in 2018, with the explosive and talented – but diminutive -- Chris Thompson playing the same role as last year, as the third-down (receiving) back. The Redskins were widely expected to keep 4 RBs, with one backup for Guice and another backup for Thompson.

You may or may not be aware that the Redskins were considered by most independent observers to be the second-most injured team in 2017. The Team went through players at an alarming rate at many positions, including running back. One of the “benefits” of those injuries is that the ‘Skins came into camp loaded with running backs who had game experience with us last year: Rob Kelley – who started games in ’16 & ’17 – Samaje Perine, drafted in the 4th round in the ’17 draft, Kapri Bibbs, who had some quality games with Denver in previous times, and Byron Marshall, who was signed from the Eagles’ practice squad, but played very well last season. The ‘Skins also brought a UDFA to camp: Martez Carter from Grambling.

Byron Marshall seems to be winning the battle as CT’s backup – a feeling that was bolstered by the game against the Patriots. His primary competition appears to be Kapri Bibbs, who runs well and catches well, but struggles a bit in pass pro.

The big question prior to the Patriots game was: Who would be the odd man out in the battle to back up Guice? Would it be former UDFA Rob Kelley or last year’s draft pick, Samaje Perine?

There was a fair amount of discussion over whether the ‘Skins would be willing to cut Perine just a year after drafting him, so fans were starting to think about trying to trade one of them for a late round pick.

That’s all changed now. It seems as though Kelley and Perine will both be on the roster to start the season, same as last year.

In 2017, Kelley was the starter Week 1 and Perine was his backup. When Kelley got injured, Perine took over.

This offseason, fans are split over which is the better back, though I’d say the consensus seems to be that Perine looked faster, more decisive and more explosive against the Patriots. The concern with him is ball security. While he hasn’t been charged with a lot of fumbles on the stat sheet, that’s been partly luck. He has demonstrated a certain “looseness” with the ball. If he fumbles early, Kelley could get the nod.

So, the only question following Guice’s injury seems to be whether Kelley backs up Perine, or Perine backs up Kelley. The coaches have three more preseason games to figure out the answer to that question.

The wildcard is Kapri Bibbs. He still has the opportunity to either (i) supplant Marshall as Thompson’s backup, or(ii) outplay Kelly, Perine (or both of them) for the role of starting RB, but I’d say he’s a dark horse candidate to accomplish either of those.

Martez Carter, at this point, seems to be on the outside looking in.

2. I thought it was a curious move for the Redskins to not only acquire Alex Smith to kickstart the post-Cousins era, but extend him to a lucrative deal. What was the thought process at making that type of move at the quarterback position rather than starting from scratch?

“Starting from scratch” would mean drafting a rookie quarterback.

Trading for Smith is a strong indication that the franchise feels it has the horses needed to make a strong run in the playoffs.

The team looked poised for a strong season in 2017 prior to the crazy rash of injuries. The team, following free agency and the draft, is deeper in 2018. There are a number of veterans in key positions, who probably only have three great seasons left in them:

CB Josh Norman

OLB Ryan Kerrigan

LT Trent Williams

TE Jordan Reed (due to injury concerns rather than age)

Bringing in a rookie QB would have probably meant missing the playoffs in what remains of these players’ careers. Also, with the Skins picking well outside the top-10 in the ‘18 draft, it would have taken a lot of draft capital to get the guy the franchise wanted, which would have set the franchise back in its attempt to build a strong overall roster.

Instead, for the cost of a 3rd round pick and a slot CB, the Redskins acquired Alex Smith – a QB that fits Jay Gruden perfectly, who plays at a Pro-Bowl level, and who should be able to lead the team for the three years that Norman, Kerrigan, Williams and Reed are all likely to be playing at Pro-Bowl levels.

Also, there’s still a certain amount of PTSD in Washington from the last time we traded up to get a franchise quarterback in the draft. I think the wound is still too fresh to do it again right now.

3. Outside of Guice, how has the rookie class looked so far? Who is poised to make the biggest impact year one?

Well, Guice was our second-round pick. The first round selection was Daron Payne, the interior Defensive Lineman from Alabama. He joins Jonathan Allen, another Alabama D-lineman that the Redskins drafted in the first round in 2017.

The Redskins finished worst in the league in run defense last year, but in the first 4 games of the season, the ‘Skins were among the top-5 in run defense, and that included playing some pretty good running backs & offensive lines. But in the 5th game of the season, Allen was lost for the season to a Lisfranc injury, and an unknown (but extremely talented) defensive tackle, Matt Ioannidis, broke his hand a game or two later, missing several games, then playing several more with a club on his hand.

We’re all excited to see what happens in 2018 with Payne in the middle, and Allen and Ioannidis back healthy.

Interestingly, the ‘Skins took another big interior defensive lineman in the 5th round – Tim Settle from Virginia Tech. Most people expected him to be drafted around the 3rd round, and the Skins said that – despite taking Payne in the 1st, when Settle was still on the board in the 5th, they couldn’t pass on him. He was a BPA pick. It was a little bit like taking RG3 in the first round in 2012, then coming back and selecting Kirk Cousins in the 4th – why draft two guys for the same position? BPA.

Adding Settle to the DL rotation should be a huge bonus in terms of keeping the DL fresh.

Payne and Allen didn’t play against the Patriots. Ioannidis did play, and suffered a leg injury that will keep him out of the Jets game, but Tim Settle played 55 snaps versus New England; he was in from the first quarter to the end of the game. For a first game rookie, he played like a beast against the Pats’ first, second and third stringers. He’s likely to be on a much lighter snap count against the Jets, but look for him and Payne to play hard and well early on Thursday night.

4. The Redskins gave up the most rushing yards in the league last season. How have they worked to address that weakness?

Wow, for the answer to strengthening the interior of the DL to stop the run see Question 3.

Jon Allen back from Lisfranc injury, Matt Ioannidis back from broken hand, Daron Payne drafted in 1st round, Tim Settle drafted in 5th round, all being coached by Jim Tomsula, who we believe to be the best DL coach in the game.

But the run game isn’t all inside; another key area is stopping the outside zone, reverses, misdirection plays, and the like. So, the other big move would be to focus on setting the edge at OLB.

The Redskins signed free agent Pernell McPhee, who had four really good years with the Ravens before going to the Bears 2 seasons ago as a free agent and not living up to his contract.

McPhee is a ‘grown ass man’ who should be able to play very well setting the edge as a backup OLB. I am among the Redskin fans who believe that McPhee will fit well with the Redskins defense because he should be used more like the Ravens used him, and less like the Bears did.

The Redskins also return 2nd year OLB Ryan Anderson (from Alabama) who spent the offseason changing his workouts, his eating habits, and his personal discipline. He comes in stronger and (according to him and several others) more focused and ready to play. McPhee and Anderson are expected to improve the run defense, while the Redskins continue to be able to pressure the passer with Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith as the specialist outside pass rushers at OLB.

5. Are the Redskins a playoff team - and what is the longterm state of the franchise?

Opinions vary.

There is a large chunk of analysts and fans who believe that the Redskins are a 6-win team in 2018.

An equal number of people believe the Redskins are mired in mediocrity, and will be a 7 to 9 win team for as long as Jay Gruden is the Head Coach.

I am in the third group, which is probably the smallest in number. I think the Redskins were a playoff team in 2017 that got derailed by injury. I think that the 2018 iteration is much stronger defensively (except perhaps at CB, which has a number of question marks), has improved at quarterback, and will be generally healthier on offense and as an entire team (just because the team can’t be as injured again as last year, can it?)

Aside from Alex Smith replacing Kirk Cousins, Derrius Guice was the one clear upgrade on offense. So losing him to injury hurts, but basically, the running back situation is no worse than it was at the start of last year, and is arguably better because our young players have more experience this season, and we are likely to carry 4 RBs (with Byron Marshall the likely 4th) instead of the 3 RBs that we began 2017 with.

I think the Redskins are a deep team, with a good mix of veterans and young players. I think the team is hungry for success after two disappointing years in which they stepped backwards. I think that this is a “make or break” year for Gruden and his coaching staff. He has the QB he wanted; he has had a big say in personnel for two consecutive seasons. This is the team that Gruden built. If he can’t win with it, I don’t think he survives in DC.

I think the Redskins will be playing hard this season. Seeing the Eagles go from a team that was expected to finish last in the division in 2017 to winning the Super Bowl, despite losing Wentz, Sproles and Jason Peters to season-ending injuries is part of the motivation to have a great season this year. I also think that settling the ongoing questions at QB by letting Cousins walk and replacing him with a strong leader and proven winner in Alex Smith has solidified the team. Everyone who visited training camp this offseason (at least before the Patriots game and the Guice injury) reported on a different ‘vibe’; a better feeling and a sense of a team with a purpose.

As long as the Guice injury doesn’t somehow rattle the team, the Redskins should be in the NFC playoffs in January, in my opinion, but I’d say that the majority of Redskin fans and analysts expect a 6 to 9 win season.