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Play of the Day: Redskins’ margin for error likely to be slim

Aug 8, 2016, 12:14 PM EDT

Norman-Jackson RVA camp USAT

RICHMOND—During Sunday’s practice session the Redskins first-team offense was running a play from around the 10 yard line of the defense. On the right side, DeSean Jackson got about a step clear of Josh Norman in the corner of the end zone. Kirk Cousins threw the pass perfectly, just over Norman and the other defenders and into the hands of Jackson.

The receiver dropped the pass.

Before I get started here, the point here is not to rip Jackson, who has had a very good camp and who did not drop a single pass last year. Nor is it to talk about Jackson (again) beating Norman, this time in conditions that are game-like.

No, the point here is to note that the Redskins can’t afford to make such mistakes. They don’t have to be perfect but if they can’t lose many easy opportunities for scores. While they could be improved they face what looks now to be a tougher schedule. Their margin for error will be slim.

They could well have finished out of the playoffs last year. Three of their nine wins were by six points or fewer. A mistake like the one Jackson made, when the play call and execution were right on point, may have been very costly. A loss in any of those games might have had them back to being spectators during the playoffs.

An ill-timed fumble could have the same effect. So far in training camp the running backs have been very good at holding on to the ball despite the defense emphasizing pawing at the ball whenever they are anywhere near it.

To be sure, the Redskins did survive some notable gaffes last year. In their most important game of the season in Week 16 in Philadelphia Cousins took a knee at the Eagles six right before halftime to cost the Redskins an easy three or a possible six points. They won the game anyway although what should have been a 23-10 laugher at the half remained close through the third quarter.

They got away with that one but the Redskins are probably a year or two away from possibly being good enough to drop touchdown passes and not have it put them in jeopardy of losing. Again, I don’t expect to see Jackson drop an important touchdown pass when the games count. But someone could and it could be very costly.

  1. redskins12thman - Aug 8, 2016 at 12:44 PM

    So true. Turnovers and penalties committed, dropped balls on offense and dropped interceptions and missed tackles on defense can be key contributors to wins and losses. Hopefully, the Redskins continue to emphasize these fundamentals.

    Cousins taking a knee at the Eagles six was one of the weirdest moments I ever experiences watching a football game; I couldn’t believe what I saw.

  2. Trey Gregory - Aug 8, 2016 at 12:59 PM

    On the subject of mistakes AND Norman: it’s going to be very important that this secondary plays disciplined. One of the very revealing things about the over reaction to the Norman/DJax camp videos is how many people don’t understand the difference between a zone guy and a press-cover guy. Norman is pretty slow for a CB. He’s never going to be able to cover the league’s best WRs one on one. But he’s an outstanding zone corner. Luckily, we run a lot of zone. Which means Norman needs help to be his all pro self. The other members of the secondary HAVE to know their assignments and pick up their receivers.

    This is true if any zone team, and it’s not specific to Norman. But if you think there was a overblown reaction to Norman getting beat in practice; wait until it’s a real game and he passes off a receiver to a safety, and the safety blows the assignment. Then everyone will say, “OMG Norman got beat so bad on that rout. It’s like he just stopped!”

    So the talent level in the secondary is exciting. But it makes me a little nervous that they mostly haven’t played together and/or are new to their positions. There’s likely to be some growing pains.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Aug 8, 2016 at 1:54 PM

      Luckily, we run a lot of zone.

      Which is why it made sense to sign him, otherwise it would have been horrible. (And to put a finer point on it, we play a lot of the same cover 3 that the Panthers do.)

      Horrible, like when Tampa signed man coverage CB Darrelle Revis for their zone defense.

    • rtcwon - Aug 8, 2016 at 2:21 PM

      I’m a lot less worried about blown assignments. I no longer consider Hall new to the free position. He got a lot snaps there last year without any glaring missed coverages. (And he admitted this spring his area for improvement was run fits so no worries there either.)

      Both Norman & Bruton came from the same scheme, so while new to each other, they are not new to the assignments. In fact Bruton was a play maker that Jarrett was not. Don’t get me wrong, Jarrett was admirable and way better than could be expected for a rookie but Bruton won games with forced turnovers and clutch plays in that same role.

      • winningfootballblog - Aug 8, 2016 at 2:51 PM

        ALL teams are hurt by drops and fumbles. Not just the Redskins.

        But D. JAX is a good example of somebody who is not a REDSKIN…or a FOOTBALL PLAYER. He is self absorbed….only works out year round and attends all the practices during a free agent year. He is not tough and tries to run out of bounds instead of being hit which is why he fell short of the goal line in the Packer game and cost the team 4 points. D. Jax will probably have a great season….but he is not a leader….he does not inspire his teammates….or the fans….he is just a long bomb weapon who happens to be a mercenary for hire. And don’t think that fact escapes Scott McCloughin which is why he drafted a RECEIVER this year.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 8, 2016 at 4:16 PM

          I think McCloughan drafted Doctson for multiple reasons. First and foremost because he’s a good football player, and arguably the best available at the time. But I also think he saw receiver as a big need because our #1 and #2 are going to be free agents and almost 30 in 2017. So he needed to draft a legitimate replacement in case one or both don’t return. It’s very presumptuous and misleading to say McCloughan drafted Doctson because he doesn’t like Jackson’s attitude. At best it’s a fraction of the story.

          Desean has rubbed me the wrong way plenty of times. From where I’m sitting (on the couch) it doesn’t appear that he’s very mature or much of a leader. But we don’t personally know Desean Jackson and we’re not in the locker room. We don’t know how he acts or how his teammates feel about him. There are plenty examples of players who had a negative image among the fans only to have their former teammates come out (usually after retirement) and say that was all nonsense and misconceptions. You never really know man. Unless Im mistaken and you do personally know Desean and his teammates and have talked to them, and McCloughan, about their feeling toward Desean.

          Also, protecting your body isn’t weak. Playing wreckless and taking unnecessary hits is stupid. Good players don’t win games if their injured. RG3 didn’t protect his body and got a torn ACL and cut. Russel Wilsom doesn’t take hits and went to back to back Super Bowls. There’s a difference between being tough and stupid. Jackson is a small guy and will get hurt if linebackers twice his size are constantly mauling hum. You can’t tough out a broken leg or torn ACL. That gaff if the playoffs was maddening. It crushed the team’s momentum and the game was basically over after that. But he easily could have crossed the goal line and still gone out of bounds. It was just a bone headed play, not necessarily him being weak. You’re entitled to your opinion and can criticize him all you want. But be fair and accurate about it.

      • Trey Gregory - Aug 8, 2016 at 4:02 PM

        Bruton has mostly been a special teams guy his whole career. He’s barely had more starts than Jarrett. What exactly are you talking about? What games did Bruton win?

        • winningfootballblog - Aug 8, 2016 at 8:51 PM

          the past doesn’t always equal the future. Bruton will never be Kam Chancellor but I’ll tell you that Scott M is predictable and he has been looking for a secondary like he had in Seattle. That’s why he brought in Norman and he envisions Bruton to be his Kam Chancellor. Scott M is the architect of the Defense and the offense which he is trying to duplicate from Seattle. Matt Jones is his Marshawn Lynch. Scott M has a plan to duplicate his success that he had elsewhere and it will continue on into the future.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 9, 2016 at 1:59 AM

          Ok. Just to be clear, I wasn’t bashing Bruton. I was just asking what rtc was talking about. Because it sounded like he was painting Bruton as an experienced vet and playmaker who will be a big improvement over Jarrett. He’s been in the league 6 years and only had 8 starts. He had two forced fumbles last year. In one year Jarrett had 6 starts and 1 forced fumble. So I was trying to get him to clarify. That’s no knock on Bruton.

          I’m glad Bruton is here, but he isn’t comparable to Kam in any way shape or form. I can almost guarantee you that McCloughan doesn’t see Bruton as that type of player or someone who can fill that kind of role. He sees Bruton as a warm body to fill a role until someone better can come in. And Bruton may not even start. If anything he sees Cravens as a Kam kind of guy. Seriously, that’s what we drafted Cravens for.

          I have a tremendous amount of respect for Scot McCloughan and I’m as satisfied with him being our GM as I could possibly be. But the McCloughan worship is getting a little weird and out of control. He does make mistakes, not all of his draft picks are hits (including some high picks in the past), he has missed on drafting good players, and not every free agent he signs will be a stud. Also, not every player he drafts or signs can be comparable to someone in Seattle or San Fran.

          And Redskins fans like to give McCloughan WAY too much credit for Seattle’s current roster. McCloughan was not the Seahawk’s GM. John Schneider, their current GM, and McCloughan both got there in 2010. Schneider as the GM and McCloughan as the Senior Personnel Executive. McCloughan was only a GM for 2 years in San Fran before Washington. This is only his 4th year as an NFL GM. And Pete Carrol has a lot of input on who gets drafted. He set up a plan to use a modified cover 3 scheme with a 4-3 (under I believe) and using the corners in press instead of zone. Then he told Scot and John what kind of players he needed for that scheme, and they all 3 went out and found/drafted them as a team. Notice Carrol, Schneider, and McCloughan all got there in 2010 then look when their stars started getting drafted. Team effort.

  3. SeanTaylor the GOAT - Aug 9, 2016 at 12:58 AM

    1) D-Jax has been infamous for overzealous, boneheaded mistakes when his confidence is TOO high, however he is the only true speedster in the division. Doctson wasn’t meant to replace him or Garçon necessarily, but Jackson will get the nod over Garçon this offseason because he’s a year younger and 2 steps quicker.
    2) Regardless of all vines and YouTube videos, Norman is an immediate improvement over Culliver/Blackmon and will give Breeland the help to actually shine this year.
    3) Anybody can deep cover better than Dashon Goldson. No disrespect, but the reason he led the team in tackles is because he got targeted by opposing QBs all year Archives

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