The Lions host Washington on Sunday afternoon, with the Lions looking to gain a winning record while their opponents hope to extend their win streak to five games. We recently spoke with Alex Rowsey of Hogs Haven about his team and the path that has brought them to Detroit. You can read our answers to their own questions here.
1. After starting the season 0-2, Washington has won four straight, albeit all but one game (vs. Browns) came in one-score games. What's been the key to the team getting back on track, and what's been the difference to eke out the wins in these close games?
Wow. That's tough. There are obviously a number of significant changes in a team that loses two games in a row and then turns around and wins four in a row. Just about everything has been significantly better aside from special teams (they've been consistently pretty good all year). The OL has been playing much better lately, especially in the running game. The RBs have been running well and the play-calling has adjusted significantly from those first two weeks to be far more balanced and committed to the run. Over the first couple of weeks, the 'Skins were throwing it something like 75% of the time. It was ridiculous.
The defense has also had an astronomical turnaround. After two weeks, the Redskins couldn't stop anybody and they couldn't even slow down a running game. Seriously. Just run it right up the middle of the defense and do it every single play. That's all it took to beat the Redskins early in the year. I'd say a good 99% of Redskins fans wanted their DC (Joe Barry... you know him) fired. Most fans never wanted him hired, but that's beside the point now. But somehow, Barry has adjusted. The defense went from missing more tackles than they were making to being somehow solid in that department. The secondary's always been decent (especially vs the pass), but the run defense has been much better lately. The pass rush has been much better. It started a few weeks ago with obvious half-time adjustments. The Redskins would give up a boatload of points/yards in the first half and then somehow shut teams down in the second half. Now it's gotten to the point where the defense has just been overall much better throughout the game. Inexplicable beyond just tackling better really.
Also, Kirk's been better. He hasn't been great, but he's been good. The first two games, he wasn't really very good, at all. He missed tons of throws and his accuracy was terrible. He just looked very hesitant and nervous. He's settled in a little bit over the past few weeks and while he still makes mistakes, he's had a lot more good than bad lately.
2. Who is the biggest contributor to the offense right now? What would you say is this team's identity on offense?
The biggest contributor, in my opinion, has been the OL. The Redskins running game has gotten on track and that's thanks in large part to their OL being dominant. I really mean that, too. The Redskins OL has been dominating teams the past couple of weeks. It's been incredible to watch. I'm not sure that the offense has a real identity yet, but I can say they are at their best (from what we've seen this year) when they remain balanced and run the ball. They've beaten themselves when they just abandon the run and put it all on Kirk's shoulders. It never works. All pass... two losses. Good running game and balance... four wins. That's been the difference. So I hope their identity is a running team with balance from here on out. We'll see.
3. Kirk Cousins had his long offseason battle with the team in regards to his contract, but it was ultimately deferred for the time being. Now in this season he's been rather erratic, veering aimlessly between brilliance and bewildering decisions. Where do you stand on his performance right now?
I've just recently really developed my opinion on this. Kirk Cousins is a good starting QB. He's not great. He's good. We know what he is now and we know what to expect. He makes mistakes. He throws picks. But he does more good than bad and the team can win with him. I honestly expect this off-season to be far less suspenseful with him. I think we're seeing (and I think he's seeing) that his level of play is not worth $20M+/yr. Still, I think the team should move forward with him as their QB for the long term. I expect that he'll want that too and will become a very rich man. I believe the Redskins will want to sign Kirk to a long-term deal this year and I think Kirk will agree. I'd guess something like $16-17M/yr. The team needs Kirk more than he needs the team given the circumstances with the QB market as it stands and I think they'd be foolish to simply move on. Give him enough guaranteed money to make it worth it to sign long-term and not go with the tag again next year (worth something like $24M, I believe). I think the Redskins are becoming a team that guys would want to play for and believe they can win with. Again, we'll see.
4. How do you feel so far about Josh Norman? He's been earning some high ratings in the first few games but his stat line is obviously a little shallow and he spent the Giants game getting beat repeatedly by Odell Beckham Jr. (obviously hard to keep contained but he's done it before). Is Washington getting their money's worth out of him right now?
I feel great about Josh Norman! He's been ballin'! I don't think it's a stretch or unfair to call him the best CB in the game, but honestly, I don't care about that title. He's an incredible football player and has been every bit as good as expected. I don't think you'd find many (if any) people that follow the Redskins that would say he's not been worth the money. He has been. His play has been off the charts. Nobody's done a thing against him outside of OBJ. And I can live with that. OBJ got stats. But Norman got into his head. Everyone saw it and it affected that team. In the end, the Redskins won. I don't think there's a human on Earth that can play CB in the NFL right now without ever giving up some stats to great WRs. It's not possible. But he's been awesome and is sure to be a Pro Bowler again this year (and probably All-Pro).
5: Would you like to start a feud with Stephen A. Smith too? This is totally off the record and will not be published anywhere important, I assure you.
I don't want to start a feud with anyone. I really try not to get into all that. It's all made up. I saw the video and I've seen the responses. I don't think what he said is a big deal and I do not care. The Redskins are the reigning NFCE Champs and have won four games in a row. They're 4-2 and look like a playoff team right now. I'm thrilled with how they've played and the trajectory it looks like they're on based on the past couple of seasons and the makeup of the roster. That's the kind of stuff I care about. Smith is a nobody. He'll do anything for ratings and it works. Good for him. I wouldn't want that to be my job or my life. It's got to be exhausting acting like you care about everything so much. But he got some responses and has now gotten some people talking, so he's done his job. Good on him. I don't care.