by Patrick CannonBy Patrick Cannon

WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — The second quarter of the Redskins season began with a cosmetic improvement, playing a tight game against Seattle, and it concluded with an emotional win for the ages at Dallas. While the Cowboys were getting sized for Super Bowl rings before the game, the Redskins were trotting out their third quarterback of the year and seemingly on their way to irrelevance. Gruden and his patchwork band of castaways and underdogs had other plans.

Stringing back-to-back wins together for the first time in two years is nothing to take lightly. Going 2-2 over a tough four-game stretch has given the 2014 season new life. A healing RG3, an improving defense, and a bye sandwiched between winnable games has folks in the DMV thinking about a 5-5 Redskins team in November, a record that would make meaningful football after Thanksgiving a real possibility.

As we did after the first quarter of the season, let’s hand out some grades through the second four games. I know it’s tempting to shower the entire team in praise after Monday’s performance but we’ll try to stay even-keeled by reflecting on the first quarter grade (in parenthesis) and what has changed.

Owner: (D-) GRADE: D. Nothing makes me appreciate Dan Snyder like watching Jerry Jones. They are both running an eternal race for worst human being on the planet and Jones is about to lap Snyder.

Sure, Snyder has virtually crippled a storied franchise and ruined the hopes and dreams of men, women and children across our entire fan base but at least he isn’t a leather-skinned pervert marauding the sidelines for face time, threatening the head coach to follow his geriatric impulses. Jones thinks he is a football genius; Snyder realizes he is not. One day Jerry Jones will insert himself as the Cowboys quarterback and satisfy Jason Garrett, and every other former Cowboys coach’s secret wish to see him ripped limb from limb.

Management: (C-) GRADE: B-. The impact of cap penalties of year’s past and the haul given up for RG3 are still evident on our roster. Though we aren’t loaded with Pro-Bowl talent, the team shows promise in that most of our production is coming from young bucks. The Jackson signing is looking like a steal and Hatcher, Roberts, Breeland and Murphy continue to impress. Let’s use our franchise tag more wisely next season.

Coaches:  (C-) GRADE: B. I’ll admit, for a while there it seemed like Gruden and the Redskins were about as good a match for each other as sleeping pills and laxatives, but finding a way to win on your third quarterback of the year has been impressive. He deserves credit for the Cousins benching. That could have excusably lingered on through the bye and we could be sitting at 1-7 rather than 3-5.

The clock management errors need to be eliminated but hopefully that will come with the return of the first-string QB. Thus far, Gruden has said all the right things and shown an ability to make tough decisions, an attribute he will need if his tenure in D.C. is to last.

I murdered Jim Haslett in the quarterly report card. The improvement of his defense this quarter has been the single most impressive change for this team. Give Haslett his due, he realized what he is working with and has made the best of it. Bend but don’t break. There will be ups and downs the rest of the way but I’d rather see this defense continue to take risks and play with their hair on fire than sitting back only to miss tackles and get burned.

Ben Kotwica, the importance of Special Teams in this league cannot be overemphasized. Just look at last year’s game at Dallas. We haven’t made any crippling errors the past four weeks and wouldn’t you know it, we have been in each game until the final drive.

Quarterbacks: (C) GRADE: D. Kirk Cousins’ audition at QB went about as well as a NASA rocket launch. Rarely in this town does the coach beat the fans to clamoring for the backup but Cousins was so bad that Gruden wasn’t going to watch another game given away by his signal-caller. Welcome to irrelevance, Kurt Kirk.

Colt McCoy on the other hand just played in the penultimate game of his career, barring another RG3 injury. Tears at his post-game pressure were justifiable. The journeyman returned to his home state and cemented his name in Skins folklore by slaying a Cowboys team that ESPN had fast-tracked for the Super Bowl. Don’t bask in your glory too long, Colt, we need one more favor before you are free to pursue high-school coaching in Texarkana.

Running Backs: (A-) GRADE: B. If you haven’t already figured it out, Alfred Morris is not the natural fit for Gruden’s offense. With that said, he is still our best running back by a wide margin. Until Monday night we were sabotaging Morris by running him in obvious situations and quitting on him by halftime. It was very encouraging to see Helu mixed in the Cowboys game early on while Morris carried the rock late, against a more weary and flatfooted defense. If this trend continues the running game can be effective even without the read-option.

Receivers: (B) GRADE: A-. The deepest and strongest unit on our team is our receivers. Jackson’s knack for catching deep balls is unworldly. A healthy Reed gives our QB options at every level of the defense. Pierre Garcon might be my favorite Redskin. He’s as angry on the football field as a dad with a carload of screaming children trying to leave FedEx parking lot after a loss.

Offensive line: (D). GRADE: C. Tyler Polumbus, I heard Bentley’s is hiring bouncers. We won’t miss you playing matador on the right side of our line. While the entire unit is still weak and ugly they have shown improvement. Soon they will be tasked with once again protecting the face of the franchise. God help us.

Defensive line: (C-) GRADE: C. Our run defense is still putrid. Rookie Trent Murphy has done more in five quarters of football than Orakpo could muster in seven games. Hatcher seems to have slowed a bit but he is still a force.

Linebackers: (C-). GRADE B-. D-line and LBs are almost indistinguishable in this defense so the poor rushing defense falls evenly on both units. Kerrigan needs to a Redskin for life. No quit in that kid. We still don’t cover tight ends but the more this unit is allowed to blitz the more effective it seems to become.

Secondary: (F) GRADE: C. The Dallas game bumped this unit up a full grade. Breeland was your defensive player of the game. Merriwether was involved on three fumbles. Clark channeled his inner-Sean Taylor and a unit filled with scrapheap finds performed like they are tired of seeing the back of other team’s jerseys. It’s a hodgepodge squad and thin as Arthur Blank’s mustache, but the future could be bright if Amerson and company are up to the task.

Special Teams: (C) GRADE: A. Tress Way still leads the league in punt average. He is not Sav Rocca.

Also starting to believe that any kicker who plays half his games at FedEx Field is at a distinct disadvantage due to our bran-muffin-textured turf. I would love another explanation for kickoffs flying out of the back of the end zone and field goals through the uprights when old Forbath gets to kick indoors. The theory only grows stronger when you look at former Skins kickers succeeding elsewhere in the league (Gano, Suisham, Novak, etc.).

Thank goodness we aren’t a team built for speed, with an injury-plagued franchise quarterback, or that crappy turf could really hurt us.

NEW TURF NOW DANNNNNNY BOY!

———————————

If you think these grades are too harsh or perhaps there is something I missed, feel free to join the conversation at 106.7 The Fan all season long. The Skins are my team. They always will be. I hope we find a way to turn this thing around the rest of the year. I hope RG3 rises like a Phoenix from the ashes. I hope someday this franchise proves me wrong.

Follow Patrick on Twitter @RubGun and send your e-mail, questions and topic suggestions to cannon1067@gmail.com.

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