Redskins-Ravens Winners & Losers

Handing out labels following Skins games. This time a 16-10 win at Baltimore to move to 3-2 that was thiiis close from being 17-16 …

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Jamison Crowder — 85-yard punt return to the house?! The Skins’ first PR TD in 125 games, since 2008. Pre-Obama.

Pierre Garcon — Good to see 88 in the end zone. First time this season.

Will Blackmon — Was not expecting a big kick return from 41, but here we are.

Trent Murphy — Picked up a half sack, is still pressuring QBs out there this year.

Jose Lobaton and Daniel Murphy — Loby hit a three-run homer, after hitting just three all season, and Murphy got two RBI basehits, after getting basehits all season long. This was a stressful and ultimately joyous afternoon.


Matt Jones — Fumbled on his own 15 and only got 2.2 yards/carry, bringing his bandwagon to a halt.

DeSean Jackson — Absent from the game plan for most of it. Got his first catch in the fourth quarter.

Jay Gruden and Sean McVay — While we’re on the game plan, and pardon me if I have this wrong, because I was watching a lot of Nats too, but I think they threw on 3rd-and-1 about five times and failed each time.

The run defense — Allowed 6.2 yards per carry. That Baltimore threw it 46 times is a gift.

Dustin Hopkins — Missed an extra point as well as his first FG of 2016, a 56-yarder that fell just short. I still love Dustin Hopkins.


Josh Norman — Banged himself up so badly in the first half he reportedly “could not move his right arm.” Then came back in only to get beaten for the game-winning (losing?) score … that was then overturned. God bless.

Duke Ihenacho — Broke up Baltimore’s fake FG pass attempt, which could not have been more obvious. Also whiffed on a 35-yard Terrance West run. Has a great name.

Kirk Cousins — The TD to Garcon was a beautiful throw. The INT inside his 20 was godawful. The results were just good enough.

Redskins-Browns Winners & Losers

Handing out labels after Skins games. This time a 31-20 win over Cleveland to get to 2-2.

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Josh Norman — Struggled with Terrelle Pryor Sr., but saved the day with a boss interception in the fourth quarter.

Jordan Reed — Good things happen when the ball is thrown to 86. Today those included his first two scores of the year.

Trent Murphy — A few tackles in the backfield plus his fourth sack of the year, a new career high.

Matt Jones — 138 yards and a TD on 24 touches, continuing his progression:

Week 1 — 33 total yards
Week 2 — 65 total yards
Week 3 — 79 total yards
Week 4 — 138 total yards

Arie Kouandjio and Spencer Long — Filled in fine at left guard and center, it seemed.

Dustin Hopkins — Nailed a 49-yarder to maintain perfection for the season. Continues to be a kickoff master.

Tress Way — Penned Cleveland on the 2-yard line when they needed it, averaged 53.5 yards on two punts.

NFC East — The Eagles, Cowboys, Giants and Skins are 7-1 outside of the division, with Skins-Steelers in Week 1 being the only loss.


The defense — Poor tackling. No resistance to the run. Couldn’t get off the field on third down. Allowed 70% completions and got just one sack on a rookie QB who was the backup to RGIII’s backup. Probably would’ve blown this game if not for two forced fumbles/recoveries in the second half.

Injured players — The Skins were already short, then Ryan Kerrigan, Su’a Cravens and others went out.

Jeff Triplette — Called Norman for “shooting a bow and arrow,” which isn’t a real penalty.


DeSean Jackson — Only five yards on two official targets. But also about 70 yards on two PI calls. Maybe throw the ball to 11.

Kirk Cousins — After a good start, this was Shaky Cousins. Threw a gross pick and made some bad decisions with the ball, but threw for three TDs on 78% completions. No longer on pace to threaten the season passing yards record, which is fine.

Redskins-Giants Winners & Losers

Handing out labels following Skins games, this time a 29-27 win at New York …

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Su’a Cravens — Gorgeous game-clinching INT for the rookie safety/LB we all have high hopes for.

Kirk Cousins — This wasn’t Good Kirk, but it wasn’t Bad Kirk either (except for taking that sack at the end of the first half). A step in the right direction. By the way, he’s on pace for 5,275 passing yards, which would be the third-most ever.

Jamison Crowder — Four catches for 78 yards, including a 55-yard TD. Also broke off a 50-yard punt return that featured him dancing on both sidelines.

Quinton Dunbar — I have no idea what he was doing on the punt return he accidentally touched that later turned into a TD for NY. But that high degree of difficulty one-handed red-zone INT made up for it. Also caught a fake-punt downfield pass like he was DeSean.

DeSean Jackson — Five catches for 96 yards and one beautiful score. Continues to look good this (contract) year.

Josh Norman — ODB got some (seven catches, 121 yards), but it took 11 targets to do it, and he never found paydirt. Oh, and Norman made him cry.

Jordan Reed — Unreal one-handed catch-and-run on a long third down for a first.

David Bruton Jr. — Even though it wasn’t ruled as such, that looked like an end-zone INT to me.

Trent Murphy — Another sack. That’s three in two weeks.

Chris Baker — Absolutely crushed Eli, forcing a fumble.

Dustin Hopkins — Five-for-five on field goals, and the only kickoff he didn’t touchback was a short one that was returned shy of the 25 (more on that later).

Tress Way — Who knew Tress Way had an arm on him?

Jay GrudenNot calling timeout at the end of the half was bad clock management, and running it on third-and-three on the final drive was too conservative, but they did have a more balanced offense and got a much-needed win at New York, so here we are.

The raised fists — Nice to see, in light of Gruden’s earlier comments.


Bashaud Breeland, Shaun Lauvao, DeAngelo Hall and Kory Lichtensteiger — All hurt, and Breeland and Lavau better not be for long. Hall’s may be an ACL.

Dashaun Phillips — All I know is he can’t stay with Sterling Shephard.

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Trent Williams — Had to play some left guard, where he’d never played before.

Matt Jones and Chris Thompson — Twenty-three carries for 88 yards. Okay.

Robert Kelley — Between the hair and lack of extra yards, it’s hard to tell the difference between him and Jones.

Orleans Darkwa — What’s an Orleans Darkwa?

Ben Kowitca (special teams coach) — Had a punt blocked (negated by penalty). Pulled off a successful fake punt. And I’m not sure if this is strategy or what, but each of the past two weeks Hopkins has pooched a kickoff high and to the right, and the other team hasn’t gotten it out to the 25. Something to watch.

Redskins-Cowboys Winners & Losers

Handing out labels following Skins games. This time a 27-23 home loss to Dallas …

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Josh NormanHis office remained mostly stationary, set up on the left side of the field. He did shut Dez Bryant down whenever they were matched up, though, and punched a fumble out of Ezekiel Elliott’s breadbasket. As good as advertised so far.

Trent Murphy — One-and-a-half sacks and a forced fumble! Trent Murphy sighting!

Chris ThompsonThis blitz pickup, on a third-and-seven, is a thing of beauty. Nice catch-and-run for 38 on the final drive.

Jamison Crowder — That was a hell of a TD catch. Also caught six balls on eight targets.

Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis — Ten catches and 121 yards on 12 targets for the duo.

Dustin Hopkins — Two shorts FGs and plenty of touchbacks. Did not leave a surprise onside kick well short of the 10-yard mark.

Alfred Morris — Scored an untouched go-ahead TD in his triumphant return. Wish we could cheer for him still.


Kirk Cousins — The missed connection with a wide-open Crowder and the back-breaking end-zone INT were bad enough. But it was the little things, too. He’s not good right now, and the Redskins are bad when he’s not good.

Those calling for Colt McCoy — Start Cousins until he’s hurt.

The defense — Dallas shouldn’t score 27 points when they don’t have Tony Romo. Chalk it up to adjustment issues? Maybe, but also to Norman and Ryan Kerrigan being surrounded by replacement-level talent.

Jay Gruden and Sean McVay — Fifty planned passes versus 15 planned runs in a game that was tight throughout. They were getting 4.1 yards per carry, too. The bloom is coming off of a lot of roses.

Bashaud Breeland — Had trouble with Dez and tackled Cole Beasley for pass interference on the goal line. Tough season for 26.

Kory Lichtensteiger — The much-maligned center somehow messed up the snap on a spike play, forcing a 10-second runoff with 18 to play. You don’t see that much.

David Bruton Jr. — Doesn’t tackle too good.

John WallC’mon, man.


Matt Jones — Thirteen carries for 61 yards and a badly needed TD. Doesn’t seem capable of breaking tackles or getting extra yards.

DeSean Jackson — Three catches for 40 yards. He’d be a monster right now if Cousins was cooking.

Josh Doctson — Caught and ran one for 57 when the whole defense was keyed in on DeSean. Was also targeted on three end-zone fades, none of which were caught.

Redskins-Steelers Winners & Losers

Handing out labels following Skins games, this time a season-opening 38-16 loss to Pittsburgh at home on Monday Night Football …


Matthew McCounaghey — The burgundy-and-gold suit was a nice touch.

Jordan Reed — Impressive on the first drive, at least.

DeSean Jackson — Six catches for 102 yards. Reinforced the opinion that he’s in for a big year.

Chris Thompson — Scored a TD on the day his brother got out of prison.

Sean McDonough — Liked him in his MNF debut, especially when he asked Jon Gruden, “Do you want to blast your brother?” for punting on 4th-and-1 from the Pittsburgh 40.

Arthur Moats — Started at LB for Pittsburgh. Go Dukes!

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Kirk Cousins — So that was terrible. Inaccurate out of the gate, he had one bad INT dropped and another bad INT caught. Rushed throws and failed to scramble — or even move, really — all night. Clear regression from the second half of last year. Showed why you don’t hand out a huge contract based on a 10-game stretch.

Jay Gruden — Chose to kick and punt on two 4th-and-short situations in Pittsburgh territory in the first half. Resulted in three points. Mike Tomlin went for it twice on 4th-and-1 in Washington territory. Resulted in 14 points.

Bashaud Breeland — Had the near-impossible assignment of matching up with Antonio Brown most of the night, one-on-one in many cases, and was burnt for two TDs. Better gear up for more WR1s down the line.

Matt Jones — Seven carries for 24 yards. (Didn’t fumble or get hurt, though.)

Jamison Crowder — Fair caught with no one in his area code. Fumbled after making a first down (Pierre Garcon recovered).

Trent Williams — Penalized twice. That should be his season total.

Greg Toler — Looked real bad in coverage on a 42-yard catch by Sammie Coates.

The defense in general — No pass rush. Couldn’t stop the run. Couldn’t get off the field. May be a long season.

D.C.-area Dancing With the Stars fansSorry, y’all.


Antonio Brown — Penalized for twerking. Is so, so good.

Josh NormanGot into a shouting match with a teammate, and it was downhill from there. Didn’t play bad, and nearly made a couple big plays, but he was on the other side of the field from Brown most of the night. Bummer.

Ryan Kerrigan — Strip-sacked Big Ben and then got stripped himself. Better luck next time.

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Zach Britton Is A Magician

The recent Fangraphs post “Zach Britton’s 2016: An All-Time Great Season?” is as eye-opening as it sounds. The O’s closer hasn’t allowed an earned run since April. It’s August.

If he sustains his current ERA for the rest of the season, then this would be the best year ever for a reliever (min. 60 innings pitched) from a run-prevention standpoint. Not bad!

And not that further proof is needed, but I’m just curious: With Britton on pace for 50 saves, how does he stack up vs. other closers with massive saves?

Well, there have only been 15 50-save seasons in MLB history. Here’s how Britton compares (ranked by ERA):

Zach Britton, 2016 — 50 saves, 0.55 ERA
Eric Gagne, 2003 — 55 saves, 1.20 ERA
Craig Kimbrel, 2013 — 50 saves, 1.21 ERA
Trevor Hoffman, 1998 — 53 saves, 1.48 ERA
Bobby Thigpen, 1990 — 57 saves, 1.83 ERA
Dennis Eckersley, 1992 — 51 saves, 1.91 ERA
Mariano Rivera, 2004 — 53 saves, 1.94 ERA
Eric Gagne, 2002 — 52 saves, 1.97 ERA
Mark Melancon, 2015 — 51 saves, 2.23 ERA
Francisco Rodiguez, 2008 — 62 saves, 2.24 ERA
Mariano Rivera, 2001 — 50 saves, 2.34 ERA
Jim Johnson, 2012 — 51 saves, 2.49 ERA
Jim Johnson, 2013 — 50 saves, 2.94 ERA
Rod Beck, 1998 — 51 saves, 3.02 ERA
Randy Myers, 1993 — 53 saves, 3.11 ERA
John Smoltz, 2002 — 55 saves, 3.25 ERA

That’s not even close. And I know saves don’t really matter as a true measure of effectiveness, but it’s incredible.

Lowering the bar a bit brings in Fernando Rodney’s 2012 campaign and Dennis Eckersley’s 1990. They each amassed 48 saves with ERAs of 0.60 and 0.61, respectively.

Those were good seasons! They’re in the neighborhood of Britton’s 2016, and an earned run or two could knock him off course.

That’s okay, though. Saves aside, let’s close with another stat: Since becoming O’s closer in 2014, Britton’s ERA is 1.46 over 191 innings. Low by any measure.


The Nats Are Still Real Good At Pitching And Just Okay At Hitting

Pretty sure I read somewhere that the Nats had the second-most regular-season wins in MLB from 2012 to 2015. Assuming that’s true, which I think it is, that’s pretty good.

I mean, the whole part about not winning a playoff series over that span is pretty rough, but 91 wins per year is not bad! How’d they do that?

The easy answer is with a) top-shelf pitching and b) upper-middle-tier hitting. Have a look:

Nats batting (as measured by runs per game)

2012: 10th (4.51)
2013: 15th (4.05)
2014: 9th (4.23)
2015: 10th (4.34)
2012-15 average: 11th (4.28)

Nats pitching (as measured by ERA)

2012: 2nd (3.33)
2013: 8th (3.59)
2014: 1st (3.03)
2015: 7th (3.62)
2012-15: 4.5th (3.39)

There you go — 11th in batting and fourth or fifth in pitching over the duration. That’ll do it.

So how’s it going this year? The Nats are 15th in batting (or scoring, whatever) with 4.32 runs/game and second in ERA at 2.86. They’re on pace to win 99 goddamn games.

This year’s lineup figures to improve a bit from the early going, but I’d be surprised if they jumped into the top 10. The pitching may regress, but, barring injury, they look like a top-five fixture.

It’s a familiar formula.


Redskins 2016 Offseason Grade: B?

Old friend of the site Bill Barnwell is handing out offseason grades over at ESPN, and his NFC East batch gives the Skins a B. Solid.

The highlights? Franchising Cousins and swapping Culliver for Norman. The lowlight? Not improving the backfield, unless you think cutting FroMo is addition by subtraction.

I thought it was a good offseason, though so much of it comes down to the draft. And at least Dallas got a C.

Putting Strasburg’s Contract In Context


There’s been a lot said and written about Stephen Strasburg’s seven-year, $175 million extension, and much of it is very good. I recommend Fangraphs, Nats Baseball and SB Nation as goodreads, but I want to add something extra here, which is a quick look at the Strasburg deal relative to the top 10 pitcher contracts ever.

Note: The innings pitched and ERA+ and FIP columns here are averages of the four seasons leading up to the deal in question. So, for Strasburg that’s 2012-15.

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Four thoughts/takeaways that jump out:

1. Accounting for inflation, Strasburg’s $25 million/year isn’t much for this group. Consider Sabathia, who got $23 million/year starting in 2009. That season, only nine teams had $100 million-plus payrolls. In 2016, that number has more than doubled to 21.

2. Strasburg’s much-chronicled injury concerns show up here in the form of 28% fewer innings than the others. Of course, this was an extraordinarily healthy group leading up to their deals. Verlander, Sabathia and Tanaka haven’t held up.

3. Strasburg is slightly younger (28) than the average (29).

4. Stras’ ERA+ (which adjusts for ballpark effects) is slightly worse than the rest of the group (122 vs. 135). His FIP (fielding independent pitching), however, is slightly better (2.96 vs. 3.08). Overall, he’s right in line, effectiveness-wise.

Bottom line: Of course injuries are a concern, but that’s why Washington was able to get him at this price. It’s a reasonable deal, and putting it next to other big-time pitcher contracts confirms that. Scherzer’s is a little troubling, though.