After Redskins’ loss to the Panthers, let’s look on the bright side

WASHINGTON — Covering the Washington Redskins in 2015 is a lot like the weather around here: Just wait and it will change. The Redskins have yet to win consecutive games this season and have inconsistently navigated their way to a 4-6 record.

Despite the Redskins’ less-than-convincing ways, I remain convinced of their progress as a team and an organization, even in the wake of Sunday’s 44-16 loss to the Panthers. As a team, the Redskins have been resilient; as an organization, they’ve shown the courage of their convictions about football decisions, most notably regarding the naming of Kirk Cousins as the starting quarterback.

On the ground, the Redskins are struggling to find their way; they only had 14 yards rushing on Sunday. Still, there has been improvement: On third downs this season, the Redskins are ranked eighth in the NFL, after finishing 30th in third-down efficiency in 2014.

Even with five sacks allowed yesterday, the offensive line is better. In 2015 the Redskins are fifth-best in the NFL in sacks allowed. Last season, only the Jacksonville Jaguars allowed more sacks than the Redskins.

The Redskins were very much in Sunday’s game early. Kirk Cousins bounced back from an interception and delivered a 56-yard touchdown strike to DeSean Jackson. Andre Roberts returned a kickoff for a touchdown and the game was tied at 14.

Chris Culliver thought he had given the Redskins the lead when he wrestled the ball from the Panthers’ Greg Olsen and ran in for a score. Instead, unnecessary roughness was called on Culliver for a high hit on Olsen, and the game changed.

Yes, the Redskins have to become mentally tougher. The team has yet to win on the road and the calling back of Culliver’s touchdown should not have been as big a turning point as it was because the Redskins had plenty of time to recover. The win over the Buccaneers shows the 2015 Redskins are mentally stronger, but Sunday reminded us of the work that still needs to be done.

In the words of former NFL head coach Dennis Green, “they are what we thought they were, and we let them off the hook.” Green was talking in 2006 after his Cardinals lost to the Bears, but his nine-year-old quote applies to Sunday’s game.

The Panthers are what we thought they were, and the Redskins, with five turnovers and nine penalties, let them off the hook. In short, the Redskins are better than they showed on Sunday and have a chance to prove that point next against the Giants in a battle for (believe it or not) first place in the NFC East.

Unlike the Panthers, progress is not always perfect, but it is welcome.

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson is Senior Sports Director and morning sports anchor. He first arrived at WTOP in 1989, left in 1992 and returned in 1995. He is a three-time winner of the A.I.R. award as best radio sportscaster in D.C. In 2008 he won the Edward R. Murrow award for best writing for sports commentaries.

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