With the New York Giants wrapping up the regular season on Sunday against the Washington Redskins, let’s check in with SB Nation’s Hogs Haven for some updates on Washington. Alex Rowsey answers our “Five Questions” this week.
Ed: How healthy is Jordan Reed? How much will he play?
Alex: Jordan Reed's been a limited practice participant this week and at this point he's expected to be available for Sunday. He's done "a lot" more each day in practice this week (according to Gruden) and is looking good. I don't think they'll trot him out there as a decoy this week as they tried that before and it didn't go well and didn't help the team. He'll need to be able to contribute as a receiver and as a run blocker to play. So at this point, I think he'll go. If he can't really play though, I don't think he'll be out there. He won't be out there as a decoy. Better to have a healthy Vernon Davis our there than a Jordan Reed decoy.
Ed: Considering that the Redskins won the division a year ago, how disappointing would it be to fall short of the playoffs this time?
Alex: It'd be disappointing. Of course, anytime a team comes close to making the playoffs and just barely misses out, you're going to be disappointed... regardless of the previous season. I think most fans are realistic about what this team was last year. Sure, they were division champs and certainly had a good team, but they were 9-7 and played in a weak division. I think most people expected they'd be right around the same this season thanks to an improved roster and what was likely to be a more difficult schedule and an improved division. At this point, whether they make the playoffs or not, they've shown to be a team that's about as good as last year, and maybe slightly better, regardless of the postseason. Still, they control their own destiny (basically) and are playing a division rival at home. They need to win and people will be sorely disappointed if they don't... especially considering it's the Giants. Playoffs or not, this team is on the rise, and even if they don't make it, after the initial disappointment wears off, I think most fans are and will be happy with the direction of the franchise at this time.
Don't get all that twisted, though. Fans desperately want to make the playoffs and will be disappointed if the team doesn't. It's been a long time since the 'Skins were consistently good enough to make the playoffs two years in a row. I'm not trying to make it sound like folks are mentally preparing for a loss. Everyone's 100% full-steam ahead wanting and needing a win Sunday to taste the glorious postseason once again.
Ed: I'm guessing you understand that Josh Norman is not a favorite of Giants fans. Your thoughts on Norman? Has he been worth what Washington paid him?
Alex: I think it's pretty safe to say that Josh Norman isn't a favorite of any team that he's not on. But he's definitely a favorite for the fans of his team. 'Skins fans love him. The fact that Giants fans and players (OK ... Beckham) don't like him makes 'Skins fans like him that much more. I think he's incredible. I think he got snubbed for the Pro Bowl and has been one of the top CBs in the league this year. Giants fans might disagree because they saw him first-hand on probably his worst game of the year. Beckham certainly seems to give him more fits than just about anyone else and that's a credit to what a talent Beckham is. That guy is damn near impossible to cover. Still, even though Beckham got his stats and had a big day, the 'Skins got the victory last time and I think Norman may have gotten the best of Beckham mentally (the sideline fit with the kicking net will live in infamy). Football's a mental game and for as unbelievable as Norman is physically, his mental game is what separates him. He has the attitude necessary to be a top CB (CB's have to have particular mindsets, in my opinion). I think he's been worth every dime the 'Skins have paid him and he's been one of the very few bright spots on their defense this year. With a little more help on that side of the ball next year, I expect he'll be back in the Pro Bowl and being talked about as an All-Pro. He really is that good.
Ed: Rob Kelley is a guy who had not emerged yet when the teams played earlier this year. Why has he been successful?
Alex: Largely because of the OL and because Kelley takes especially good care of the football. The Redskins have a truly great OL. They don't get as much credit league-wide as they deserve (probably has something to do with the OL in Dallas). I think a lot of guys could find success behind this OL right now. TW is arguably the best LT in the league and Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses make for one of the best tandems on the right side that you'll find in the league. Williams and Scherff are both Pro Bowlers this year.
The other big thing is ball security. Matt Jones lost his job in the first place largely due to injury and ball security issues. A starting RB in the NFL simply cannot fumble the ball with any type of regularity and that's what Matt Jones did. Robert Kelley simply doesn't cough it up. The passing offense is good enough to carry the load. They just need Kelley to keep defenses honest and not give up the football.
Beyond that, he's great at making the first guy miss and getting the tough yards. He doesn't get a lot of big runs, but they have Chris Thompson for that threat. Kelley does a great job of getting three and four yards consistently. The offense needs consistency from the RB position and Kelley is Mr. Consistent. He takes runs that should go for no gain and gets three yards all the time. That's an underrated skill; the ability to fall forward every time and get a couple yards when you shouldn't.
Finally, his ability as a pass blocker is what keeps him on the field. Let's not kid ourselves, this is a passing offense. For any RB to play here they have to keep Kirk Cousins upright. Kelley does that exceptionally.
Ed: The biggest decision the Redskins face this offseason will be?
Alex: This is tough. I think it's a tie and it revolves around three players: Kirk Cousins, Pierre Garcon, and DeSean Jackson. The obvious decision that they'll face is what to do with Kirk. Personally, I don't think it's going to be that difficult, though. I think they're going to sign him to a long-term contract and pay him a ton of money. So it's a big decision, but I don't think it's one that's going to be that agonizing or difficult to come to a conclusion on.
The more interesting decision is what to do at WR. Both Garcon and Jackson are FAs. Both guys are great and about the same age. The Redskins spent more money on offense (and less on defense) than any other team in the league aside from the Cowboys. They simply can't continue that way and need more balance. A big part of the reason for that discrepancy is due to the fact that the Redskins are paying a ton of money for their WRs. Both Garcon and Jackson are paid a lot and I'm not sure if they can continue that way. They may have to choose to retain only one. It'll be fascinating to see what comes about there. Do they find a way to keep both? If they only keep one, which is it? Would they move on from both? I think that might be the biggest decision for the team.