Both running games left a lot to be desired, as Justin Forsett and Zenner took their 17 attempts for a whopping 62 yards (3.65 yards per carry). For Washington, Jones’ fumbles (he had two, but lost one) landed him on the bench for large portions of this game, setting up Chris Thompson’s career day. Thompson took his 12 carries for 73 yards (6.1 ypc) while adding 40 yards in the air on seven catches. Jones could be in danger of losing his featured job with nine fumbles (six lost) on 270 career touches. Rookie Rob Kelley also saw some run for Washington, catching Cousins’ lone touchdown pass of the day.
Despite missing multiple key defensive starters in DeAndre Levy and cheap jerseys and Haloti Ngata from the outset and losing Darius Slay (hamstring) in the game, the Lions unearthed a pass rush against one of the league’s better offensive lines. A healthy-ish Ezekiel Ansah certainly helped, but the combination of Armonty Bryant, Khyri Thornton and undrafted rookie Kerry Hyder pushed the pocket all afternoon, contributing to eight quarterback hits and two sacks. The Lions entered this game as Football Outsider’s 25th-ranked pressuring defense, but that should change after this impressive performance.
Cincinnati tried not to linger on the unfortunate offseason injury to Tyler Eifert’s ankle and did its best to construct an offense during his absence. But in his true season debut — Eifert played sparingly last week in an attempt to warm himself back up — we saw glimpses of the oft-dominant offense that helped the Bengals win the division a year ago. Eifert finished with nine catches for 102 yards and a beautiful, leaping 15-yard grab in the red zone. Cincinnati was bottoming out near the goal line this season but now has a massive target for opposing defenses to consider. Arrivals like this also sometimes break up the coordinator equivalent to writer’s block, as evidenced by a slick QB bootleg drawn up by Ken Zampese in the third quarter.
Josh Norman was a definite upgrade at cornerback for this defense, and while A.J. Green’s numbers suggest otherwise — nine catches for 121 yards — it was stunning to see how hard Cincinnati had to work to get Green the ball when Norman was in coverage. The Redskins corner was on and off the field Sunday with a few minor injury scares and in those brief moments, Andy Dalton would not look anywhere else. Norman was over-aggressive at times — three of the five penalties called on him were accepted — but his positioning and instincts were phenomenal. The Fox broadcasting team called it a poor game because he “dropped” a pair of interceptions, but the truth was that only a few corners could have gotten to those balls in the first place.
“We run the damn East,” Ricky Jean Francois said, via the Washington Post. “Not Philly, not Dallas, not all of them. We run the damn East. Better remember we got that damn (title).”
The Redskins won their fourth game in a row to move to 4-2, sliding just behind the 5-1 Dallas Cowboys. Washington’s defensive line was the impetus behind Sunday’s smothering victory, sacking Eagles rookie Carson Wentz five times and holding an opponent to fewer than 100 yards rushing for the first time this season.
Baker is optimistic the defense won’t remain the Redskins’ crutch, noting Norman’s addition as a major boost for the entire defensive unit, including the defensive line.
“It’s gonna help (the defensive line) out a lot. People are gonna have to look away from Josh because they’re going to be scared to throw to him and try to go to the other side with Breeland, and he’s just as good,” Baker explained. “That should give us another second, maybe two to get after the quarterbacks and hopefully we can rack up a lot more sacks this year.”
Inclement weather is something teams grow accustomed to as the regular-season journey proceeds to the autumn and winter months. The Virginia state capital offered the Redskins a head start on Monday.
Matt Jones is getting used to more than just the poor conditions — he’s also adjusting to life as Washington’s starting running back. The 2015 third-round pick bent his fingernail back in Washington’s first practice in the pouring rain, which forced him to take his gloves off and miss a few plays.
Cousins is the rare case when the tag works dramatically to the player’s advantage. More familiar is defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s situation with the Giants. Pierre-Paul, who played last year under a one-year deal while returning from the hand injury he suffered in a fireworks accident, has made it clear he does not want to play under another one-year deal with the tag because he wants the security of a long-term contract. Any threat to sit out seems unrealistic, but the Giants would prefer to get a long-term deal complete to lower a cap hit that will be about $17 million for Pierre-Paul.
The Giants are nowhere near a deal with Pierre-Paul, though, owner John Mara said Wednesday. That ties their hands entering free agency. Currently, with Pierre-Paul counting $17 million, the Giants have just $13.28 million in salary cap space (the cap is set at $167 million per team), the fifth least in the league, according to Over The Cap. That does not leave much room for upgrades elsewhere, although Mara seemed unimpressed with the quality of free agent offensive linemen — the Giants’ most urgent need — and he declined comment on running back Adrian Peterson, who is thought to have interest in playing for the Giants when he hits free agency.