It’s time for our ‘5 questions’ segment. With the New York Giants facing the Washington Redskins this week, that means we turn to SB Nation’s Hogs Haven to find out more the Redskins. Andrew York answers our questions.
Ed: Jay Gruden is being asked a lot of questions about his job security. Two-fold question: Does he finish the season as Redskins coach? If so, does he get fired once the season ends?
Andrew: I’ve been asked some variant of this question almost every week so far, and my answer has changed over the last few weeks. My answer used to be that I think his future hinges on either making the playoffs OR Dwayne Haskins coming in and looking so good that the FO is convinced Jay is the best person to guide his development. That answer is still technically accurate, Jay could right the ship and get us to the playoffs, but I no longer think that is in the likely range of outcomes. I think it’s more likely that Haskins steps in as starter and looks good, but given Jay’s clear reluctance to start Haskins, I also don’t think Jay is the right person to guide his development. Something that has become clear to me as a Redskins fan over the last few years is that Jay trusts his scheme more than his players, especially when it comes to the QB. He loves game-managing system QBs who will execute his offense exactly as it’s drawn up, which is why he was the perfect OC for Andy Dalton on the Bengals, a good HC to develop Kirk Cousins (the epitome of “system QB”), and why even now, he would probably prefer to start Case Keenum or Colt McCoy (Jay’s perpetual veteran backup QB) over Dwayne Haskins. I think Jay will only start Haskins when either he is forced by management or he is convinced that Haskins can execute the full offense exactly as it’s drawn up, which will probably take the full season. As a result, I think he won’t be our HC next year, nor should he be.
Whether or not he gets fired in-season should depend on whether or not there is another coach on the team they think might do a better job. One such coach might be Kevin O’Connell, our OC whom some have described as a rising star and good offensive mind. If they think O’Connell might make a good HC candidate, they should fire Jay in season and give O’Connell a trial run as HC. If they don’t think O’Connell is ready, they may as well wait until the end of the season to fire Jay. And if the season is a complete disaster, they may as well fire Jay just to shake things up. Honestly, I’ve been getting 2016 Rams vibes from the team recently. We’ve been used to several years of mediocrity with Jay, but the team seems somehow different this year, inexplicably worse than last year in many ways despite the same players and coaches, and Jay has seemed strangely resigned and feckless in a similar manner to Jeff Fisher on that spiraling Rams team (both teams featured Case Keenum as the starting QB as well). I could see our season playing out very similarly, with Jay getting fired late in the season once it’s clear the team is beyond repair.
Ed: Gruden said Monday and Tuesday he will stay with Case Keenum at quarterback. How restless are Redskins fans to see Dwayne Haskins? How good/bad did Haskins look in preseason?
Andrew: We’re somewhat restless to see Haskins, but we also realize there may be good reasons to let him sit. The Redskins have preached patience with him ever since they drafted him. The sense in the organization seemed to be that he was the most talented QB taken in the first round, but also the most raw, having only started one year in college. He still needed a lot refinement with footwork, cadence, calling protections, and going through progressions, not to mention learning a pro offense that Jay Gruden is unwilling to simplify. This was evident in practice and early preseason games. His footwork caused the occasional errant throw, problems with cadence caused false starts by the OL, calling poor protections led to unblocked rushers, and slowness going through progressions caused him to hold onto the ball too long and take hits. However, his arm talent and playmaking ability were equally evident. His first pass in a preseason game was a flick of the wrist that sailed over 30 yards and landed right on his receiver’s hands. He got better with every preseason game, making fewer mistakes and making more frequent big plays. He also has all the intangibles we’d want in a QB, showing intelligence, charisma, poise, work ethic, and fearlessness on the field. Honestly, based on his rate of improvement in the preseason, I would’ve thought he’d be ready to start mid-season, and was targeting our Week 6 matchup with the Dolphins for his first start. If we had a more flexible HC who was willing to simplify the offense and tailor it to Haskins’ big arm and ability to go off script, he’d probably be ready to start earlier, but as it is we may not see Haskins until much later in the season.
Ed: There are many who thought the Giants would select Montez Sweat at No. 17 rather than Dexter Lawrence. What are your thoughts on how Sweat has performed so far, and what kind of player you think he could turn into?
Andrew: We got reports out of training camp about how dominant Sweat looked in practice, but that was against lesser left tackles (no Trent Williams and before we signed Donald Penn) and then Sweat was sidelined by a calf injury for the first two preseason games. He played, but was ineffective in the rest of the preseason, and looked like a better tackler than pass rusher in our first two regular season games (albeit against some very good LTs on the Eagles and Cowboys). He finally seemed to emerge Week 3 against the Bears, finally getting a sack and getting somewhat repeated penetration into the backfield. Maybe his injury was bothering him, but I think from watching him that the game was simply moving too fast for him (causing him to hesitate), and it is finally starting to slow down. Also, I think he was used to winning with speed and power in college, but is finally having to learn more advanced pass rush moves in the NFL, where he can’t out-athlete his competition. That being said, he reportedly has been a hard worker and seems to be getting better every week. In terms of the future, I think Sweat has shown the burst, speed, and strength of a quality starting edge player. He is still raw in his technique, but I have little doubt that he will develop. He is also sneakily good at run stopping. He is relentless at tracking down the ball carrier, and will often penetrate the line and work his way back to the other side for a tackle from behind, using his elite speed to pursue and with his long arms giving him a large tackle radius. He hasn’t been as big a factor at pressuring the QB so far, but I think the pressure he finally caused in Week 3 was a sign of good things to come.
Ed: Landon Collins simply hasn’t been able to shut up when it comes to being critical of Dave Gettleman and the Giants. Another two-fold question: What are your thoughts on Collins inability to stop talking about the Giants? Secondly, what are your thoughts on what Collins the player brings to the Redskins?
Andrew: There was a particularly slow-moving time in the offseason where some Redskins fans paid attention to his comments about Dave Gettleman and the Giants, but I think we mostly stopped caring once games started back up. We certainly are more concerned about other aspects of the team now. I personally think the whole thing is a bit overblown, and is largely driven by the news media in an effort to get clicks (especially during the offseason). For the most part, Collins only brings up the Giants and Dave Gettleman when he is asked about them by a reporter, so in a lot of ways the question should be “what do I think about reporters’ inability to stop asking Collins about Dave Gettleman and the Giants?”, which I do find more annoying. He clearly has some bitterness towards his former team, though I think almost all of it is directed at Dave Gettleman and not the team itself. I don’t know how much merit there is to it, but Gettleman seems to ruffle the feathers of a lot of his star players. If I recall correctly, the reason he was fired as GM of the Panthers was because many of his star players were unhappy with their contracts and unhappy with the way he did business with them, and Jerry Richardson (a former player himself) sided with the players. If anything, Josh Norman has actually been more critical of Gettleman and sent out more unsolicited tweets about him, but that doesn’t seem to get picked up because it doesn’t generate as much interest in the NY news media.
In terms of what he brings to the Redskins, he’s been one of our better players on defense the last three games and has seemed to be a leader in the locker room. He has been tackling everything near the line of scrimmage, even getting several crucial TFLs that would have mattered a lot more if the players around him weren’t performing so badly. He hasn’t played as big a role in coverage statistically (not many INTs or PBUs), but I think the fact that TEs are the one pass catching group that have not had big games against us is largely due to his efforts. He brings a lot of intensity to the secondary, which is needed. I’m not a fan of the contract we offered him as I think we overpaid, but he has been a very good player for us so far.
Ed: If you could take one player NOT NAMED SAQUON BARKLEY off the Giants roster and add him to Washington’s lineup who would it be? Why?
Andrew: Evan Engram. He’s like Jordan Reed without the extreme injury concerns, and TE is one of our position groups most in need of young talent. In addition, our offense needs more playmakers in general, and I think Engram would be a great weapon to give our rookie QB.