Washington Redskins: Progress Report Headed into Week 16

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistDecember 19, 2012

Dec 16, 2012; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan before a game against the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Redskins won 38-21. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

There's a three-way tie atop the NFC East, and while this is familiar territory for the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants (winners of four of the last five division titles), the Washington Redskins are experiencing it for really the first time.

Santana Moss and Chris Cooley are the only current Redskins who were members of this team the last time they stood a chance at winning the division this late in the season. 

That was in 2005, when Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins were still in high school.

Can they pull it off in 2012? Let's get a better feel for things with our latest state-of-the-union-style look at the boys in burgundy.


What They Should Be Thinking

Glass Half-Empty

We don't know what the hell we're involved in, and we might even be in over our heads. Eventually—and maybe before we complete this thing—we're going to hit a wall. Things might be different in 2013, but we still have far too many injuries to deal with and lack the experience to go toe-to-toe with New York and Dallas right now.

Yes, we've been overcoming major injuries all season, but the latest developments might be too difficult to get past. We lost two offensive linemen last week. And while Will Montgomery (knee) and Tyler Polumbus (concussion) say they'll play this week against the Eagles, nothing's guaranteed. Considering that swing tackle Jordan Black is now suspended, our line could become a problem.

Robert Griffin III is practicing fully again, but he won't return until he's 100 percent. The shape of the line might cause us to raise the bar even higher to determine whether RG3 should suit up in Philly. And while Kirk Cousins did a great job against the Browns, there's no way of knowing if he'll be able to keep it going in his second career start. 


Glass Half-Full

We don't know what the hell we're involved in, and we might even be in over our heads—and that's a good thing. We're clearly one of the best-coached teams in the league, and we've got nothing to lose. We're about to set a franchise record for turnover-free games despite the fact two rookie quarterbacks have started every week for us. 

Black's suspension sucks, but Montgomery and Polumbus are practicing already and should be fine for Sunday. This line has been together all year, and that trend should continue. We're not panicking about Polumbus' injury anyway, because he's been terrible. Pro Football Focus ranks him 71st among 75 qualifying tackles this season. And yet the offense has flourished. 

This team is on the rise. The defense has been getting better and better. We still allow a lot of big plays, but we've been making our share of them, too. We're balanced and we're young and we're exciting, and it looks as though we're about to get our franchise quarterback back, too. 


What I'm Thinking

Stock Rising (Offense): Kirk Cousins

Duh. Cousins was superb in the win over the Browns, leading the Redskins like a veteran, especially in the second half. The future is very bright for this team at the quarterback position—maybe even brighter than originally expected.


Stock Rising (Defense): Rob Jackson

I'm putting him in this spot again after he was again Washington's best defensive player in Week 15. The Redskins have some decisions to make at outside linebacker next year, because Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo are first-round draft picks, but I'm starting to believe Jackson's just as good as either. 


Stock Dropping (Offense): Kory Lichtensteiger

It crushed this team when Lichtensteiger was sent to the IR last season, and I certainly don't want to knock the veteran on the day he was named Washington's recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award, but he played a very bad game against Cleveland.


Stock Dropping (Defense): Ryan Kerrigan

Right after he put up somewhat of a breakout game, the second-year linebacker missed a couple of tackles and failed to get to the quarterback against Cleveland. The sophomore slump continues...



I think they'll beat Philly and the Cowboys and win the division, but it certainly wouldn't shock me if the young, inexperienced Redskins were to lose both games and fall short of the playoffs.

If that happens, the good news is that they're now a lock to enter 2013 as the NFC East favorite. 

View last week's report here