Robservations: Week 2

NFL: Washington Football Team at Arizona Cardinals
Arizona Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Consider this week a wake-up, people. Though the win over Philly was a great way to start this season off, we saw where this team is truly at against a far superior Arizona Cardinals team. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I mean we knew a game like this was coming eventually, but it does show us that this team absolutely has a long way to go and that we have to adjust expectations accordingly. 

The truth is, I actually really like this Cardinals team. They’ve got an absolute beast of a signal-caller in Kyler Murray, one of the most unstoppable wideouts in the game in DeAndre Hopkins and a young and talented defense led by Vance Joseph. This is a team ready to win now despite being in the absolutely wild NFC West. This was a great litmus test for Washington, who didn’t necessarily play well, but showed the same resilience we saw last week, albeit in a game that was pretty much over by the fourth quarter. 

Let’s jump into the nitty gritty and see what went right and what went wrong in this week’s edition of Robservations. 

Troy Apke is still terrible at his job 

Yeah I’m starting with you, Troy. This guy cannot be the answer at free safety. Brian Mitchell said Apke has “cement in his shoes” and I’d be inclined to agree. The man runs the slowest 4.3 I’ve ever seen. 

The deep ball completed to Andy Isabella has been the main play people have looked to this week to showcase Apke’s lack of field awareness, but this has been a thing his entire career. What’s the point of having elite straight-line speed if you can’t even use it properly as a single-high safety? 

I’d be shocked if he makes it to Week 5 with a starting job on this team. He’s just a total liability, and it makes it hard to use Landon Collins the way Jack Del Rio wants if they can’t trust Apke to handle his role as the last line of defense in the secondary. 

So it begs the question, what are the alternatives? 

Well, Kamren Curl has certainly shown some promise. The seventh-round pick from Arkansas didn’t have the most glowing college tape I’ve ever seen, but from what I can tell in his short time in Washington, the guy is a pretty capable safety. He definitely takes better angles as a tackler, but in coverage I think he’s fared reasonably well so far. 

Another option might even be Kendall Fuller, who has yet to play in his second stint in Washington due to a knee injury. Fuller is a different player from what he was in his first stint. Kansas City had him all over the place during the Super Bowl run, with him having success as both a slot corner and as a safety in Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. Perhaps he can be the man at the position permanently when he returns. 

All I’m saying is there are more intriguing options at the position than Apke, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see Rivera go another route sooner rather than later. 

The holes on offense were on full display all game 

We’ll chalk this up as a generally bad day for the offense. It’s hard to really pinpoint one particular area to blame because it was pretty much a combination of poor quarterback play, a lack of receiving options and a porous offensive line. 

Haskins was really beaten down by the pressure today, getting an average of just 2.38 seconds to throw which is good for the third worst in the league this week. This line has allowed pressure on 35.1% of his dropbacks so far this season. That is outrageous. I’m getting Jason Campbell vibes just thinking about how little help Haskins is getting from this group. 

It doesn’t help that he also struggled on plays where he did have a clean pocket though. Haskins’ footwork is still an issue and he still looks like someone getting used to playing under center. We obviously still have to be patient with his progress, but it’s worrying that he still can’t connect on throws that should be easy for an NFL quarterback. His accuracy is all over the place. 

It’s also obvious that this receiving group we currently have is not helping besides the always dynamic Terry McLaurin, who basically becomes the offense’s lone source of productivity at times. Just looking at the distribution of completions shows how reliant this offense is on McLaurin: 

Scott Turner has been talking up the ability to use Antonio Gibson and J.D. McKissic in the passing game all offseason, but I have yet to see either of them actually really be used at all in that department. I feel straight up lied to! 

We knew this offense would struggle against strong defenses this year, but we need to at least see a little more from them when the game isn’t out of reach. 

There were bright spots to be found in this game 

Yeah I’ve been complaining a lot so far, but there are positives I took away from this game. 

I thought the defense played as well as they could against a quarterback as dynamic as Murray. I had a feeling he’d be too much to handle regardless of how good our defensive line is, and that was mostly the case, but they did have success in at least forcing him to leave the pocket. The team forced pressure on Murray on 33% of his dropbacks which is a positive, and they did pick up three sacks on the day, but it was only a matter of time before Murray broke out on some big runs. His two touchdown scrambles were disheartening, but also the guy is just an incredibly gifted runner, and I’m pretty sure he’ll be doing things like that against every defense he plays this season. 

The secondary as a whole also wasn’t great, but it also wasn’t necessarily bad either. DeAndre Hopkins was going to beat anyone he went up against and that man was mostly Jimmy Moreland, who struggled to contain the All-Pro wide receiver. Landon Collins’ interception was impressive although it didn’t necessarily amount to anything because of Haskins’ fumble in the red zone. I’m just glad we don’t have to play this receiving group again. 

I was generally happy with how the linebackers played as well. I thought Jon Bostic played a nice game and got a solid highlight-reel sack on Murray. Kevin Pierre-Louis was especially impressive, displaying that ranginess and sideline-to-sideline speed that I was excited about when we picked him up. I think he’s someone this fanbase is going to come to like throughout this season. 

I also want to give a quick shout out to the run blocking this week, which was surprisingly solid. Gibson and McKissic both put together a string of nice chunk-yardage runs that reminded me that the running game is one of the more promising aspects of the offense. The blocking on this McKissic run was particularly impressive, with Wes Martin pulling really well to open up a good running lane. Martin did the exact same thing on Gibson’s touchdown run as well. I’m happy with the effort in that department. 

That’s it for me this week. It wasn’t the best time watching this week’s game, but I am excited to see this team’s response in a winnable game next Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, who are fresh off a shootout victory over the Bengals last Thursday. I’ll see you next week for another edition of Robservations.

Robservations: Week 1

Hi I’m Robby Fletcher and welcome to the first edition of Robservations, a new weekly blog where I’ll be talking about the Washington Football Team’s 2020-21 season. 

In this inaugural entry, we’ll be breaking down the team’s epic 17-point comeback victory against the Philadelphia Eagles to start off Ron Rivera’s tenure as head coach. The win was the team’s first Week 1 home victory since 2011 and its first NFC East win since Week 8 of 2018. So, let’s talk a bit about some of the game’s biggest headlines. 

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Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 31–Sept. 6

Brock Holt slides home, adding to what was his most successful week in over a year. (Photo: John Amis/AP Photo)

It was a tale of two series for the Nationals this week. They were swept in four games by the Phillies, but took two out of four from the Braves to end the week. They had a losing streak extend all the way to seven games, but they finished the week winning two of their last three.

Rather than going game-by-game, let’s discuss trends this week.

Continue reading “Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 31–Sept. 6”

Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 25–30

Trea Turner continued a torrent stretch at the plate, solidifying himself as one of the league’s top shortstops. (Photo: Turner’s Instagram account)

The Nationals once again had a slightly abbreviated week. The prior “week” extended into Monday, since the Marlins series was atypically long, and Thursday’s tilt with the Red Sox was postponed – as were most games across the league out of respect towards racial injustice.

The Nats lost their first two games against the Phillies before the postponed match, then dropped two out of three from the Red Sox at Fenway Park, falling further from shouting distance of the other National League playoff contenders.

Continue reading “Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 25–30”

Washington Nationals Series Review: Aug. 21–24

With extra innings needed from the bullpen, Wander Suero reminded Dave Martinez why he trusted the right-hander in 2019. (Photo: MASNSports.com).

After two days off earlier in the week, the Nationals returned to face the Marlins at home for five games. Washington lost the first game and split Saturday’s doubleheader, then continued to trade wins and losses in the next two games. The result: a 3-2 series loss and a missed opportunity to make up significant ground in the – albeit early – playoff race.

Here’s a recap of the series, as well as a preview of this week’s schedule.

Continue reading “Washington Nationals Series Review: Aug. 21–24”

Washington Nationals Midweek Review: Aug. 17–20

20-year-old Luis Garcia had a historic week, including a three-hit Tuesday with a home run. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

Normally this is a weekly installment, but Washington has a couple off-days now before having a loaded schedule in the coming weeks.

The Nationals kicked off a three-game series in Atlanta on Monday. They fell just short in the opener (7-6), but rebounded to win the following night (8-5). Erick Fedde was set to start the rubber match on Wednesday, but the game was postponed due to inclement weather. The Nationals, who could’ve benefited tremendously by taking two out of three from the Braves, had to settle for a two-game split.

Continue reading “Washington Nationals Midweek Review: Aug. 17–20”

Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 10–16

Juan Soto continued to showcase why he is one of the best hitters in the league. (Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

It was a wild week for the Nationals, in more ways than one. They played seven full games, plus the continuation of Sunday’s suspended game against the Orioles. They were in a hole at the resumption of that matchup and fell 6-2, but went 4-3 otherwise, splitting four contests against the Mets and taking two out of three – other than the suspended game – from Baltimore.

The biggest news from the week may have nothing to do with the standings, though. Sam Freeman, Sean Doolittle, Starlin Castro and Stephen Strasburg were each placed on the IL, paving the way for Seth Romero, Dakota Bacus and Luis Garcia to make their big league debuts.

Continue reading “Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 10–16”

Washington Nationals Week in Review: Aug. 3–9

It wasn’t a great week for Sean Doolittle, and he and Dave Martinez had to face some harsh criticism. (Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

At this time a week ago, the Nationals were 3-4 in the midst of a four-day break; Juan Soto, Stephen Strasburg and Wander Suero were approaching their returns; and with five games against the Mets and Orioles on deck, things appeared to be looking up.

It didn’t exactly play out that way.

Washington avoided the top starting pitchers – Jacob deGrom, Alex Cobb, and John Means – yet they only went 1-3 (not including Sunday’s suspended game, in which they trail 5-2), getting outscored 27-11. Most of the lineup stopped hitting, the starting pitchers were fine but far from dominant, and the bullpen imploded on multiple occasions. Worst of all, the team was met by 19-31 level panic from reporters and the fanbase.

The biggest topic of criticism will be revisited shortly, but let’s take a look at player performance first.

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Washington Nationals Week in Review: July 27–Aug. 2

Starlin Castro ended his tumultuous week with a four-hit game on Thursday. (Photo: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

It was a bizarre week across major league baseball, and the Nationals were as affected by it as almost anyone. They were scheduled to play seven games – two at home vs. the Blue Jays, two in Toronto (which later became Buffalo), and three in Miami vs. the Marlins. Instead, they played four straight home games against the Blue Jays and sat at home for the rest of the week due to COVID-19 concerns.

Without delving into the weeds of the disease, it’s safe to say that the Nationals were fortunate to only be affected by it as minimally as they were. Nonetheless, they’re three games behind where they would’ve otherwise been if the Marlins were healthy enough to play.

In terms of on-field play, the Nationals split the four-game series with Toronto, losing the two “home games” (4-1 and 5-1) before rallying to win both “road games” (4-0 and 6-4), bringing them back within one game of .500 (3-4), just like they were when Week 1 ended.

Continue reading “Washington Nationals Week in Review: July 27–Aug. 2”

Washington Nationals Week in Review: July 23–26

Victor Robles was the star of the weekend for the Nationals, including a three-hit, four-RBI game on Saturday. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

We started the “Week in Review” series last season, and we’ve decided to carry it into 2020.

This week was a short one for the Nationals in terms of on-field action, but there’s also plenty that’s happened surrounding the team recently that merits discussion.

The Nationals dropped two out of three games from the Yankees in their opening series of the season. The first loss (4-1) came in a five-plus inning, rain-shortened Game One. Washington rebounded to take the next game (9-2), but lost the finale (3-2) to fall back below .500 to start the year.

Continue reading “Washington Nationals Week in Review: July 23–26”