Once again, it's time to hang out with our friends from one of our SB Nation brother sites and exchange a little bit of intel about this coming weekend's game. This week, I got a chance to exchange questions with HogHunter from over at Hogs Haven (which, when I see the URL, I tend to read as "Hog Shaven," but that's here nor there) about the contest between the Minnesota Vikings and the Washington Redskins. Here are his answers to the questions that I sent him, and when he posts my answers to his questions, we will have a link to them on the front page.
1) We'll go with the most obvious question first. In the face of Colt McCoy's performance against the Cowboys, the Redskins have apparently decided to start Robert Griffin III at quarterback this Sunday against the Vikings. Do you think that Jay Gruden and company are making the right decision here?
Colt McCoy led the team to victory in the last two weeks, and performed well above my expectations which were admittedly low. But he is the 3rd string QB for a reason, and I don't believe in "riding the hot hand" when it comes to QBs. When your starting QB is healthy enough to play, he needs to play.
When I watched the ankle injury live and saw the graphic replays, I thought Griffin was done for the year, and that something had to have been broken. But it was a dislocation, not a break, and he didn't require surgery. I personally thought he wouldn't be back until after the bye, and I usually err on the side of caution when it comes to injuries. But I'm not a doctor, I don't have access to Griffin's medical records, and I don't see him practicing every day. I have to trust that Jay Gruden will make the right decision and bring Griffin back when he is ready. He will have more intense practices over the next two days and if there is no pain or setbacks, he will start. Like every Redskins fan, I'm hoping that the ankle is ready and stable.
2) The other major topic surrounding the Redskins, as has been the case for the past few seasons, has been their nickname. There are a bunch of protests planned for TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday. Has all the controversy over the name affected the product on the field at all, in your opinion?
The only thing affecting the product on the field is the players and the coaches in my opinion. Most reporters don't ask players about it, and Coach Gruden said he was asked about the name controversy last month, the first time since being hired as the Head Coach in January. Whether that's true or not who knows. The name will be the name until it changes. We try to let both sides of the debate be represented on Hogs Haven, but we also aren't pushing it on our readers every day like some sites do.
3) Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer were both on the same coaching staff last year in Cincinnati. What do you think of the Gruden hire for the Redskins so far? Do you think he's the sort of guy that can lead the Redskins in the right direction in the long-term?
I was fine with the hire, but Mike Zimmer was one of the top guys I wanted the Redskins to hire. I liked the idea of a Head Coach with a defensive background paired with a strong Offensive Coordinator to work with Griffin. Instead we got an offensive-minded, former QB at head coach, and retained Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett, not the ideal start. As far as Gruden as a coach, I like his style and the way he handles the media. He can be too honest at times, but I'm sure that will change over time dealing with the media.
The season started off poorly, and injuries and losses started adding up to a poor opinion of Gruden within the fanbase. One of the big issues has been the struggles in the running game, which has been a staple of Washington Redskins football. Gruden has admitted that he has gone away from the run after games, and regretted it, but he is working to improve that. The Redskins have a lot of receiving weapons, but the instability at QB should have meant healthy doses of Alfred Morris, but it will get fixed. Griffin's return should also help the run. Gruden's only in his first year, and still needs to fix the offensive line and other areas, but he will be a good coach here going forward. I'll never understand fans that want to fire a coach after one season.
4) The Redskins, like the Vikings, have already played three different quarterbacks this season. Unlike the Vikings, the Redskins' passing offense has been very good (at least in terms of yardage) despite all that change. What has made the Washington pass attack so good thus far this season?
Having DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Jordan Reed, and Niles Paul(did I really just say that) helps any QB get yards. Also Kirk Cousins has a little Rex Grossman in him, and has no problem airing the ball out. This is great when it works, and when it works DeSean Jackson is getting chunks of yardage. But it also lead to his benching for throwing some really poor interceptions at some of the worst possible times. And thanks to the secondaries of the Titans and Cowboys, even Colt McCoy was able to take advantage of our weapons. McCoy was able to throw for 299 yards, and hit some big throws to Jackson, but they could have been even bigger if the balls were not underthrown.
It also helps when your head coach is throwing the ball over 60% of the time. Jay Gruden has been effective at getting WRs and TEs open, and creating packages to help the young QBs. The team has also had to keep up with other teams due to some defensive and special teams lapses. Kirk Cousins had the game put on his arm multiple times this year, and he put up the yards, but not the wins. This offense can be extremely effective, it just needs to a few changes on the offensive line which have been long overdue.
5) Give us one guy on each side of the ball that Vikings fans might not know a whole lot about that you think will play a major role in this weekend's contest.
Before Monday Night I would have said that Bashaud Breeland would be someone who can make an impact, and is an unknown. He's taken over a starting CB spot since DeAngelo Hall was lost for the year with an Achilles injury. I really liked him as the slot CB early in the year, but wasn't sure how well he would do on the outside. Monday, he was one of the best defenders on the field and consistently shut down and frustrated Dez Bryant, holding him to 30 yards with one short TD. Breeland and 2nd year starting CB David Amerson are probably the youngest starting CB duo in the league, and have been performing better than expected recently.
On offense, Tom Compton has replaced Tyler "and the Turnstiles" Polumbus at right tackle. This is something that fans have been hoping would happen for a long time. Polumbus gave up 8 or 9 of the sacks on Redskins QBs this year, and needed to be replaced. Compton had a decent game, but is still a 3rd year player who made his first start so he will make some mistakes. Solid protection on the right side will be important with Griffin likely coming back this week. We'll have to see how Compton does against a very good Vikings defense.
Big thanks to HogHunter for sitting down and taking the time to answer our questions for this week.