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This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns are still looking for their first win as they take on the Washington Redskins on the road. To help preview the Week 4 contest, I reached out to Alex Rowsey from Hogs Haven and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: “I know that Kirk Cousins was only signed to a 1-year deal, but my perception was that he was the clear starter. Prior to last week's win, I was stunned to hear about voices in the locker room wanting Colt McCoy to get a shot. Can you compare that to the fan perspective -- are they heavily behind Cousins, McCoy, or neither?”
Alex: “Kirk is and always has been (at least last year and this year) the clear starter. The whole ‘voices in the locker-room’ thing was completely blown-up and really nothing. In fact, there's no real evidence that anything like that is even true. It's reasonable to believe that the players were disappointed getting off to an 0-2 start, but I don't think there was anyone on that team advocating for Colt McCoy to start over Kirk Cousins. Kirk didn't play well in the first two games, and everyone was upset with two losses to start the year, but I don't think any of the guys have turned on Kirk, at all.
As far as fans go, most are pretty heavily behind Kirk, and the ones who aren't still aren't wanting Colt McCoy to play. Most fans are glad the our GM went the franchise tag route this season so Kirk can prove himself further. He was great the second half of last year and then struggled out the gate this year. He did better last week and fans are looking for that consistently good play.”
Chris: “Josh Doctson was a receiver who some Browns fans were interested in before the team selected Corey Coleman. He only has two catches on the year -- where does he fall on the depth chart, and do you anticipate his role increasing any time soon?”
Alex: “Right now, Josh Doctson is hurt and dealing with an Achilles issue. It's something that's plagued him since OTAs. If healthy, it's reasonable to assume he would have been our WR4. Thanks to the injury, he's not likely to even be active right now. It's kind of a wait-and-see situation where the coaches are holding out hope that he can get better, but he hasn't, yet. So right now, he's our WR6 and not dressing. If he gets healthy, I think they'd like to have him active and get him in the game. His role was never going to be more than a red-zone threat this year because we have some great WRs ahead of him right now (DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, and Jamison Crowder). I think they still hope that he'll get right and be able to come in and provide a big, tall target with great leaping ability around the end-zone. That's where they've tried to use him so far, but he's not healthy.”
Chris: “Where are the strengths and weaknesses of the Redskins' offensive line?”
Alex: “Our biggest strength is without a doubt LT Trent Williams. He's one of the greats in the league and is arguably the best player on our roster. Another big strength so far this year has been second-year RG Brandon Scherff. He was the #5 overall pick in last year's draft and he was the top RG in the league last week according to PFF. He's been a stud.
Where our weaknesses lie are at C and LG. C has been a weakness for us for a while now and our starter, Kory Lichtensteiger, just had his season come to end last weak thanks to a variety of injuries. Spencer Long is his replacement and many fans are hopeful that he can actually be an improvement thanks to his larger size and youth. He's been our reserve interior OL all year and cross-trained at both LG and C all off-season. He was originally drafted as a G in 2014, but has done well at C. LG is weak for us right now because our starter there also got injured last weak (Shawn Lauvao). He's been decent but was coming off of an off-season marred by injury and surgeries. He missed most of last year after going down in week three and had many surgeries on his feet and ankles this off-season. He was able to get healthy in time to regain his starting spot, but hurt his ankle once again last week and will miss Sunday's game. Filling in his second-year pro Arie Kouandjio. AK was a fourth-round pick out of Alabama and is a huge man. He showed great promise last year as a rookie but didn't develop in the off-season quite like fans and coaches expected/wanted. He's been inactive all year so far.
Last week when both of those guys went out, we only had two reserve OL. Spencer Long filled in at C, but Trent Williams actually had to slide over from LT to LG when Lauvao went down because we had no other reserve interior OL. Swing OT Ty Nsekhe took Williams' spot at LT. That group played surprisingly well. Ty is a fine OT and Williams, though he'd never taken a snap at G before in his life, dominated at that spot. So the option can't be completely ruled out that they'd go with that group again if Kouandjio really doesn't look good/ready this week.
We also went out and signed former Viking C John Sullivan this week. He's a vet with great experience who's been a really good starting C in this league, but he missed all of last year with a back injury and the Vikings found someone cheaper and decided to part ways. We just signed him a couple of days ago, so he'll probably be nothing more than a reserve C for a couple weeks and most hope Long can just lock-down the starting C spot for the long-term. There's a very minute change that Sullivan gets the start at C which would allow Long to start at LG. Confused yet?”
Chris: “Josh Norman is a highly-touted cornerback, but Washington's pass defense is still among the worst in the league statistically. Who do you blame for the Redskins' struggles to defend the pass? Also, who steps in for the injured DeAngelo Hall at safety, and is that a good thing or a bad thing (not the injury itself, but the upside of whoever is replacing him)?”
Alex: “I primarily blame our DC Joe Barry. He's simply not very good. Overall though, it's really a group effort when your whole defense is that bad. Norman's been excellent, but our S play has really been lacking. In fact, our DL and ILBs have been pretty bad, too. We all knew that we had one of the worst DL groups in the league coming into the season, so that's been expected. The ILB group has been a disappointment though second-round rookie Su'a Cravens has been a bright spot and deserves to start. We lost starting S DeAngelo Hall last week for the season to a torn ACL and our other starting CB, Bashaud Breeland, hurt his ankle and won't be out there Sunday, as well. So our pass defense may get worse.
The scheme issues have been plentiful, though. We decided to have Norman stay on one side of the field with Breeland on the other for the first 1.5 games. That didn't work as Breeland was beaten like a drum by Antonio Brown and to a lesser extent, Dez Bryant. Finally we decided to have Norman shadow the best opposing WR and that's worked better (though Beckham still got his last week). Additionally, our pass rush has been severely lacking. We have a good, young, talented group of OLBs (Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, and Trent Murphy), but losing Junior Galette in the off-season hurt. Kerrigan and Smith haven't been playing up to their standards yet this year and we're not blitzing nearly enough nor creatively enough. We seem content to rush four guys and try to cover. It hasn't been working. So really, our defense is just in a bad way right now all around. Norman has really been the bright spot (along with Cravens and Murphy).”
Chris: “Sadly, we missed out on a chance to see RG III go up against his former team. How did you feel about his attempt at a comeback coming to a halt so quickly? Don't worry -- I won't view it as callous or anything if you say it made you jump for joy.”
Alex: “RGIII... What a subject. So many feelings. So many strong emotions. Every kind, really. For one thing, I'm glad he doesn't have to be the focus of the week. Fans are exhausted by RGIII news these days (Redskins fans, that is) and honestly, his play doesn't deserve that level of attention. On the other hand, I was looking forward to our team playing him and hopefully beating him.
RGIII gave many Redskins fans the greatest joy and hope they've felt as fans back in 2012. It was electric and probably the best year I can remember as a fan. It really was magic and that man was perfect. He could do no wrong. He said the right things and he dominated the field. It really was glorious. But it all went SO sour. The injuries wore on everyone and his inability to adapt or improve were frustrating. He wouldn't even slide and watching him refuse to do so and take so many hits was just difficult. The fan-base was really divided on RGIII and he just dominated all talking points and all the attention. Everything was RGIII. So once he was gone, it's been therapeutic really. After seeing him go to the Browns and then seeing all the personal stuff in the news, I think RGIII is kind of viewed in a negative light around Redskins fans. Such a polarizing topic. This is the most I've thought about him in a while. It's just easier not to. I really loved having him as our QB that first year but at this point, I'm convinced he's done. Honestly, the craziest rise and fall I can remember seeing out of any athlete. I never get hurt when any player on any team gets hurt, but in the long run, I think the Browns will benefit by not having him play. And personally, I think both franchises and fan-bases benefit this week being able to focus on both teams and the game at hand rather than just strictly RGIII.”
Thanks again to Alex for taking the time to answer my questions.