Washington Redskins: Winners and Losers of Week 15

Tom NataliCorrespondent IDecember 16, 2012

Washington Redskins: Winners and Losers of Week 15

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    It’s December 16, 2012...and the Washington Redskins are in first place. You know how long I have waited to say that?

    Go ahead and pinch yourselves Washington Redskins fans, this isn’t a dream.

    Your backup quarterback—who was starting his first career game—threw for 329 yards Sunday, and the team’s best player was on the sidelines in street clothes.

    Mike Shanahan and his coaching staff made the necessary adjustments going into the second half Sunday, and the offense exploded, the defense created turnovers.

    Below are Sunday’s winners and losers.

Winner: Kirk Cousins

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    Halfway through the first quarter, Kirk Cousins looked lost: His passes were inaccurate, he was checking down to Evan Royster and he threw a costly interception.

    Then he threw a "dime" to Leonard Hankerson for a 54-yard touchdown pass. From there, it came easy to the rookie.

    Play-action passes and a lot of targets to Pierre Garcon gave Cousins one of the most impressive rookie performances in Redskins history.

    In addition to that, drafting Kirk Cousins this past April came with much controversy. After selecting Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick, drafting Cousins confused the football world.

    This was Mike Shanahan’s plan B. After leading his team to victory last week and after his performance Sunday, the selection of Kirk Cousins is looking genius.

Loser: D.J. Johnson

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    I really don’t know much about D.J. Johnson; he wouldn’t be receiving much playing time if it wasn’t for Cedric Griffin’s suspension.

    Johnson became another victim of the Redskins secondary Sunday, as he gave up a big play to Travis Benjamin for 69 yards.

    It’s going to be interesting to see what the Redskins do to solve their third cornerback role on the defense without Cedric Griffin. After Johnson’s blunder against Benjamin Sunday he might be going to the Shanahan doghouse.

Winner: Rob Jackson

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    Rob Jackson might be the defense’s best playmaker this season. He had another interception and a sack Sunday.

    With Jackson due to be a free agent this coming offseason, he’s playing for a starting job somewhere next year. I would love for him to remain a Redskin, but if he continues at this rate, it will not happen.

    He’s showing a tremendous amount of progress as a linebacker, especially in coverage. He shifted the momentum to the Redskins side with his interception in the third quarter.

Loser: Kory Lichtensteiger

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    The Redskins have been excessively penalized all season, and Lichtensteiger’s two penalties were crucial to the offense Sunday.

    If the Skins want to go into the playoffs, they are going to need to discipline themselves at a much higher level, and that starts with the offensive line knowing the snap count.

Winner: Alfred Morris

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    It wasn’t his sexiest performance of the year. He averaged less than four yards per carry Sunday. However, he got in the end zone again.

    When the Redskins took a large lead in the second half, Morris kept on grinding. He was deflating the Browns defense in the second half.

    He also snapped out of his fumbling habit too.

    On a side note, Morris was a bit chippy. Normally, Morris always remains levelheaded—I liked his passion this Sunday.

Loser: Tyler Polumbus

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    Polumbus has continued to struggle in pass protection, as he allowed another sack. I don’t mean to be insensitive toward his potential concussion, but I’m interested to see what Jordan Black can do at right tackle.

    While Polumbus has been solid as a run-blocker, his inefficiency as a pass-blocker is worrisome.

Winner: Pierre Garcon

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    Pierre Garcon wasn’t anything special this Sunday, six catches for 65 yards, but he did his job, though not one of his catches stuck out for me.

    The score was 31-21 in the fourth quarter. It was 3rd-and-8 and Santana Moss caught a screen pass in the slot. As he was reaching for the first down, he fumbled toward a Browns defensive back.

    Garcon had the presence of mind to jump on the ball and came out of the scrum with the football in his hands.

    The Redskins eventually scored on that drive and iced the game from there.

    What I love about this particular play is that the Redskins have remained urgent. Despite playing an inferior team, they remained hungry. Even without RGIII, the team rallied around their other quarterback.

    This team has bought in.

Loser: Will Montgomery

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    Montgomery was forced to leave the game due to a knee sprain. He’s only being put in this category due to his injury.

    This offensive line has experienced continuity throughout the year and will take a big step backwards if Montgomery is unable to recover.

    Luckily, Kory Lichtensteiger has experience at playing center and backup Maurice Hurt played last season.

Winner: Leonard Hankerson

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    Hankerson only had two receptions Sunday; he made both of those count, though. That’s what the Redskins have been doing all season—making plays.

    One game, it’s Aldrick Robinson or Richard Crawford, but Sunday, it was Leonard Hankerson. It’s been an up-and-down season for Hankerson, but he found the end zone this Sunday.

Loser: Niles Paul

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    Chris Cooley saw more action Sunday than Niles Paul at tight end. He also was not able to return any kickoffs.

    This has been an on-and-off season for Niles Paul. While being unproductive on the offensive side of the ball, Paul needs to establish his role as a special-teamer too.