The goal, in any football game, at any level, is to win the game. In the words of former head coach Herm Edwards: “Hello! You play to win the game.”
But when things don’t go as planned, it’s the coach’s responsibility to find things that went right, in addition to the things that need work. The good news for the Redskins–and the silver lining for fans–is that the young players on this team are performing well and earning their playing time.
Here are the highlights from today’s game:
1. The Leonard Hankerson ship has set sail from the port of Miami and is headed north. Today, he hauled in eight receptions, which accounted for more than one-third of Grossman’s 21 completions. His 106 yards also accounted for half of the team’s receiving yards today, and last week’s two-point conversion proved that he can be a threat in the red zone. With his big body and ability to get open, it will be interesting to see how he develops as a red zone threat. In the mean time, he tripled his career production with today’s performance.
2. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is a stud off the edge, and isn’t a liability in coverage. His background as a defensive end is going to stunt his development as a coverage linebacker, but he’s shown the ability to get downfield and cover when called upon. For now, he looks to be developing into the type of bookend edge rusher that that Redskins need to complement Brian Orakpo, and he has the stats to prove it.
3. Even familiar faces like Brian Orakpo, Graham Gano, and Fred Davis performed reasonably well today. Gano missed two long field goals–which is not unexpected in the Miami breeze and humidity–but also provided the team with it’s only points. Davis ranked third on the team in yardage, with 28, and caught a long pass of 18 yards. Orakpo was matched up against a quality left tackle today, but his presence allowed Kerrigan increased opportunities.
These are the types of performances that build winners.
Winning in the NFL is always easier when players have experience together, and unfortunately, that’s just not a luxury that the Redskins have right now. Of the 11 starters on offense from Week 1, the Redskins have only six still available this week. On defense, there are only nine playing regularly. All told, the Redskins have played seven of their 12 rookies selected in April’s draft, and have five players currently on the 53-man roster that weren’t in training camp with the team.
Clearly, this is not the starting lineup that the coaches envisioned running out the tunnel on gameday. But this is the hand that’s been dealt.
When the team started off 3-1, some people prematurely wondered what it would be like to be in the playoffs. Now, it’s become clear that this team needs to focus on Sunday night before they even worry about Monday.
Fortunately, that’s the outlook and preparation that’s being reflected in the locker room as well.
The team brought in a lot of players with upstanding character in the offseason. Good character isn’t reflected on the scoreboard, but it does save a locker room in difficult times like these. With a rivalry game like the Cowboys on the line, expect this to be a gut-check week. Whatever this team is capable of will be on display at FedEx next week.
This team is still capable of a second half run, but it may need to walk first, and that starts tomorrow.
That’s all from Miami, as the Redskins fall to the Dolphins: 9-20.