Archive for November, 2013

Jordan Reed has been a revelation as a Redskins rookie.

Jordan Reed has been a revelation as a Redskins rookie.

It’s happened again, nine weeks in and the Washington Redskins are in exactly the same position as last year, a 3-6 record and a season that is to all intents and purposes as dead as Richie Incognito being on Jonathan Martin’s Christmas card list.

The 2013 Redskins running game is firing on all cylinders, with some memorable three-touchdown games from two members of the backfield not named Alfred Morris, and despite a reservation at the start of the season to tuck and run Robert Griffin III has had a number of statistically great games in his second NFL season.

The offensive line has again been an under-appreciated but over-achieving unit led by Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams.

The biggest addition since 2012 to the offensive weaponry at RG3’s disposal has been rookie 3rd round selection, tight end Jordan Reed who came from the Florida Gators. Expected to learn his craft under veteran Fred Davis, who was re-signed in the off-season on a one-year deal, Reed has been snapping away to the tune of 44 catches for 487 yards.

It would be a somewhat tough ask, but Reed could gain 1000 yards as a rookie, which would be up there with the achievement of Alfred Morris rushing for over 1600 yards as a rookie in 2012.

Unfortunately the Redskins defense has looked better on paper than it has on the field, getting terrorised to the tune of 388 yards a game and 31.9 points a contest, with only the lowly 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars yielding more points a game (33).

This was a team that somehow managed to send three of its linebackers to the Pro Bowl earlier this year, somewhat ironic when the team’s weakness has been tackling. The teams two star outside linebackers Brian Orakpo, back from an injury filled 2012, and Ryan Kerrigan who has been the Redskins only real source of sacks (6.5 so far in 2013), have flashed their talent but have not shone, and 38-year-old London Fletcher is inevitably slowing down.

Fletcher had a tough time growing up and was always an outside shot at even making an NFL roster, but he has been an absolute rock in the Washington locker room and on the gridiron, but expecting him to shoulder the defense for much longer is not a viable option.

Washington’s secondary has been the biggest weakness, giving up big play after big play. Putting in two rookies David Amerson and Baccari Rambo has been one of the major reasons that teams have been confident to air it out. Rambo has looked more like Dumbo sometimes, and whilst Amerson has picked off two passes (including one for a touchdown) teams are picking on the new guys.

Like chewing gum on the sole of your flip-flops a few career backups have again stuck around to cover for injuries and dips in form. Both safety Reed Doughty and defensive tackle Kenrick Goldston have been living on the periphery of the Redskins roster for many years but they simply are too valuable to release.  If anything these are guys that personify what it is to be a player in the NFL. Not the most talented, rarely on highlights packages, but always ready to step in and sacrifice their body’s for the greater good.

The kicking game has been anonymous in 2013 and the return game has been poor. The Redskins miss having a true return talent and have to rely on backup tight-end Niles Paul to return kicks and plodding wide-receiver Josh Morgan to return punts.

Last season the Redskins were 3-6 and I wouldn’t have bet a single penny that the team would tear off seven consecutive wins en-route to a divisional title and a home playoff game.

Now in the same position with seven games left the Redskins are remarkably still in the hunt for a division title. The Dallas Cowboys top the division at present with 5 wins but the NFC East truly is the NFC least and it is not beyond the realm of possibility that an 8-8 record plus a tiebreaker situation that even Russel Crowe’s beautiful mind could not solve could see the Redskins again punch their ticket to hitch a ride on the post-season express train.

It’s more likely they will bump into Tom Hanks on the Polar Express but if you would have asked me if the playoffs were achievable 12 months ago I would have laughed in your face.

As I write Alfred Morris is leading the NFL in rushing and RG3 is on target to throw for 4355 yards. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon has been living up to his potential at last, and wideout Leonard Hankerson is even starting to show up, but 29 catches in 9 games is not going to turn you into a household name.

NFL FAN IN ENGLAND’S PREDICTION FOR THE REDSKINS FOR THE REST OF THE 2013 SEASON

Week 11 – @ Philadelphia – Win 31-28
Week 12 – Home to 49ers – Loss 17-34
Week 13 – Home to Giants – Win 29-23
Week 14 – Home to Chiefs – Loss 17-27
Week 15 – @ Falcons – Win 33-19
Week 16 – Home to Cowboys Win 30-27
Week 17 – @ Giants Win – 24-19

This would equate to an 8-8 record, which I think unfortunately will not be enough to win the division. Despite an emotional Week 16 victory I have a bad feeling that a Cowboys win over the Eagles in Week 17 will put Dallas at 9-7, enough to scrape a division title. I say all this because my predicting skills are not exactly on a parallel with Nostradamus.

It’s going to be another wild ride, lets hope the burgundy and gold train stays on the track until Christmas, what a present that would make for Redskins fans around the world.

EddieLacy_crop_northThis season marks the first time since I was an undergraduate in the 1990’s that I have not watched the NFL live on Sky Sports on a Sunday, for 1pm and 4.15pm EST kickoffs.

For my birthday I was fortunate enough to get an NFL Gamepass subscription, meaning I would be watching the bulk of my live game experiences in either my iPhone, my wife’s iPad or a laptop computer.

This has been a double win in my household as I have managed to avoid watching the UK Sky Sports NFL presenters Kevin Cadle (former basketball coach) and Neil Reynolds (former player in England and author of an NFL related book) who are not exactly the most dynamic duo. (I have no idea who the guest presenters have been this year, but in previous years they have been the only reason I have stayed with Sky as my viewing platform of choice.

Former British American Football legend Mark Cohen, coach of many different teams Jeff Reinbold and former Philadelphia Eagles fullback Cecil Martin have all been terrific behind the desk.)

The other win has been the brownie points I have won with my wife as she can watch the likes of Strictly and X-Factor on the main tv, instead of an NFL game that has no relevance or interest to her whatsoever.

So how has the coverage been online? Not perfect to be honest. For many of the early Sunday kickoffs the quality of the viewing has not exactly been HD, instead ranging from good to fair, to pixellated, to a black screen saying that video quality not good enough to stream live (but with the audio continuing).

By the time the second batch of Sunday games are on the quality of streaming seems to significantly improve, and I have moved from watching the game on a laptop in the living room to an iPad in the spare bedroom so my wife can get her sleep in the pitch black.

There are some major benefits to having NFL Gamepass which include;

  • Knowing you have an archive of games to view at your leisure, meaning you don’t have to suck the life out of your Sky+ box’s memory. Every NFL fan with Sky+ knows how frustrating it is that an NFL game recorded in HD can take up to a 10th of the box’s memory, especially as you always have to record the show after in case there is overtime or lots of additional time added due to a lengthy injury.
  • The condensed game feature is a revelation. Being able to sneak in a full three and a half hour game in 35-40 minutes, with no advert breaks by 9.00am before I get to work on a Monday and Tuesday is something I am really enjoying. I can get on the train, watch 15-20 minutes of uninterrupted game coverage, get into Birmingham city centre, grab a coffee and watch the second 15-20 minutes and still get into work well before 9 o’clock. This is a real bonus if it is either a game that you have little interest in as a fan, or if you want to see for yourself your fantasy players performances without having to watch a pre-game discussion or a half-time show.
  • Archived Redzone. Now I have to be fair Sky did introduce NFL Redzone as an interactive viewing option a few seasons ago, but this was just a direct feed. When you watch Redzone on tablet or laptop you can keep track of game scores, track stats and even re-live the whole experience whenever you like.
  • Permanent access to NFL Network and archive of NFL Network shows. I have to confess I have not taken full advantage of this feature, as I do not watch NFL Network every day. Being a dad of a two-year old my only man-time is around 9.45pm – 11pm to watch what I want, and after long days I prefer to watch some comedy on Dave or Pawn (that’s P-a-w-n) Stars on History. Sometimes the likes of an ‘in-your-face’ Warren Sapp can be a bit much when you want to relax.

So what are the not so good aspects of being in England and watching NFL Gamepass? Well the positives far outweigh the negatives but there are a few niggles.

  • No live playoffs. This is the biggest downfall. As Sky has the rights to broadcasting the NFL playoffs, these are not accessible on Gamepass. I am going to have to see if I can get a one month trial from Sky as I can’t be without live playoff coverage.
  • Blacked out games. Similar to the playoffs, as Sky broadcast two live games on Sunday these are blacked out as live games on Gamepass. There is a simple way around this though. Sky have not managed to get the NFL to stop the Red Zone coverage of the games they show exclusively live. So as long as you are prepared to watch all red zone opportunities from the games on at a particular time slot you will not miss out watching the team you support from hitting paydirt.
  • Poor live streaming. As I have experienced, and this may not be the case for everyone, I have has some pretty poor live streaming since the season began. All archived footage has always streamed in HD so it’s not all bad.

If you have made it this far you are probably wondering why there is a picture of Green Bay Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy at the top of this post. Well in my eyes he is symbolic of my rookie NFL Gamepass experience to date – so far so good, alongside some dodgy bits (his first few games / my bad streaming experience), but a huge amount of potential to set the world on fire.