Not to belabor this point, but the Redskins' locker room Sunday night was about what it always was, and should be, after a loss. It had the definite feel of a team that can't understand what is going wrong and why it can't win anymore. And it was quiet. It's quite an amazing turnaround from 2012 when the future looked so bright, with a dynamic young quarterback and a head coach with a Super Bowl resume.
Now? It's tough to make any sort of case for a bright future. They have questions at quarterback, a spot that should have no questions whatsoever given the investment they made in one guy and the confidence they expressed in the other. Youth explains some of the issues, but certainly not all. The trick for the organization is to know how to separate all the issues involved. They have holes along the line and a number on defense.
The sad truth is, the season will soon be about determining whether quarterback Robert Griffin III deserves a contract extension after this season. When he returns, he'll obviously go back into the lineup. And when he does he's going to have a lot to prove if he wants that fifth season. Otherwise he'll end up playing out his contract in 2015. The scary part is, what happens to the direction of the franchise if he doesn't show improvement?
Can you trust Kirk Cousins to ever be that guy? Not based on what we've seen. The money downs, and the money time, have not yielded great results for him. That is, third quarter passing and the fourth quarter. There are reasons why mistakes happen, like interceptions. Sometimes it's not on the quarterback. But when they keep happening, there's usually just one. Cousins is not a game manager; he's a more aggressive passer who makes mistakes.
I've said this before, but the Redskins need to quit saying they have a lot of great players. They really don't, especially on defense. Sometimes I think the fact that they'll use words like great to describe what they have holds them back. When you believe that, perhaps you just keep figuring a play will be made. Because, well, you have great players. They could use more of a bulldog mentality; I've seen teams here have that before but it's been a while. But to get there, you have to be willing as an organization to focus on different things than they have. A big reason Dallas is winning? That offensive line. The football people wanted Zach Martin; the owner wanted Johnny Manziel. The football guys won. They're 5-1.
I know the defense gets a lot of blame and what's really the issue there is the inability to make any sort of game-changing play (Brian Orakpo). But they did hold the Cardinals to no touchdowns in the second half, with a secondary that wouldn't scare anyone. They missed tackles, leading to a Larry Fitzgerald touchdown in the second quarter. But after David Amerson went out with a concussion, it left the Redskins with none of their top three projected corners for the season. The money guys up front needed to do more. The secondary played as you would expect.
Left tackle Trent Williams limped around in the locker room. Know why? Because on the interception returned for a touchdown, he had blocked his man and looked like he had fallen to the ground. But he got up, sprinted toward the ball carrier and dove to knock him out of bounds. At that point the game was over, the minute the Cardinals had intercepted the ball. Williams played an excellent game. Heck, on a Pierre Garcon bubble screen, he blocked inside and then sprinted wide to make a block (really more of a screen) that few tackles could make with two good legs.
I wish DeSean Jackson would block a little harder just because it would help others gain a few more yards. The great players will do so. But it's hard to deny Jackson's impact, and he's doing exactly what he was brought here to do. He has never been, and never will be, much of a blocker. But since the second half of the Eagles' game, most of the Redskins' scoring drives involve long pass plays to him.
Give Cousins credit on the 64-yard touchdown because Jackson did not get much separation from corner Patrick Peterson, who clearly wanted to prevent him from getting inside. Cousins threw a dart -- the sort of throw that should get a coach excited. But those mistakes.
Tight end Jordan Reed's impact was noticeable. With him in the game, the Redskins could stay in a two-tight end look, yet be wide open. A couple times they had Reed, tight end Niles Paul and running back Alfred Morris split out. That forced Arizona to stay in base coverage, yet it's a tough matchup for them. Reed can line up in the backfield, too, and sneak out on a route. He just needs to stay healthy, but when he does, he makes a difference.