Analysis of the Redskins’ passing game, running game, defense and special teams in the win over the Giants
Week 12: Redskins improved to 5-6 with a 20-10 win over the Giants at FedEx Field on Thanksgiving night (Nov. 23, 2017)
Passing Game: C+
Kirk Cousins played pretty well, especially when you consider that he was without Trent Williams, Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao and Jordan Reed and that the Redskins had no running game in the first half, during which Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall combined for six carries for five yards. Kirk went 19-of-31 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and a pick-six. He took six sacks, which went a long way toward his Raw QBR being just 32.0. But averaging 7.81 yards per pass attempt given the circumstances was no small feat.
And, oh by the way, Kirk’s fourth-quarter second-and-eight 14-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Josh Doctson gave Kirk his 11th game-winning drive since the start of the 2015 season. That’s 11 game-winning drives in 43 regular-season starts.
Kirk’s third-quarter third-and-goal 15-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was a thing of beauty, as he did a wonderful job of running to his right, extending the play and finding an open Crowder in the end zone. This is precisely the kind of clutch red-zone play the elite quarterbacks make. Also, Kirk made a great shotgun throw on the pass that resulted in Josh Doctson drawing a first-and-10 37-yard pass-interference penalty on Ross Cockrell on the drive that resulted in Nick Rose’s late-second-quarter 28-yard field goal.
But there were some major negatives from Kirk in this game:
- Kirk’s third-quarter third-and-18 53-yard pick-six to Janoris Jenkins was horrendous. He threw high to Byron Marshall, and the ball went off his hands and into the arms of Jenkins. It is worth noting that Kirk’s left foot got stuck in the FedEx Field turf, which was in terrible condition for this game.
- The Redskins’ 12th offensive drive, which resulted in a fourth-quarter three-and-out, was a disaster. First, the Redskins burned a second-half timeout to either discuss or plan for going for it on a fourth-and-one at the Giants’ 40. But then Kirk got hit with a fourth-and-one five-yard delay-of-game penalty. Even if that wasn’t his fault, the quarterback has got to take charge in a spot like that and even call his own play if necessary. That was a debacle.
- The Redskins’ 11th offensive drive, which resulted in an early-fourth-quarter punt, included Kirk being late on his throw on a first-and-10 under-center play-action incompletion intended for Niles Paul. Two plays later was Jamison Crowder stumbling on his route thanks to the woeful FedEx Field turn on a third-and-four Jason Pierre-Paul sack of Kirk for a 10-yard loss.
- The Redskins’ fifth offensive drive, which resulted in a late-second-quarter punt, included a Kirk not eating the ball when he should have on a second-and-10 shotgun near-pick to JPP, who dropped the ball.
- At least three of the sacks of Kirk were avoidable. Kirk had a ton of room with which to run on his right, but he ran right into a sack to his left on a first-quarter Olivier Vernon and Damon Harrison second-and-10 split-sack for a five-yard loss. Kirk had Samaje Perine available in the flat on a late-second-quarter first-and-10 Dalvin Tomlinson sack for a nine-yard loss. And Kirk scrambled left when he should have gone right on a third-quarter second-and-six JPP sack for a four-yard loss.
Jamison Crowder had seven receptions for 141 yards and his first touchdown of the season on 10 targets. He now has 27 receptions for 412 yards (15.26 yards per reception) over his last four games off having 19 receptions for 149 yards (7.84 yards per reception) over his first six games this season. Crowder had a third-and-10 drop on the Redskins’ fifth offensive drive, which resulted in a late-second-quarter punt. But he also had multiple big catches in this game:
- Redskins’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter third-and-goal 15-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Crowder…also on this drive was a Kirk first-and-10 33-yard shotgun play-action-pop completion to Crowder.
- Redskins’ sixth offensive drive…resulted in Nick Rose’s late-second-quarter 28-yard field goal…Crowder had great YAC and then ran out of bounds on a Kirk second-and-19 10-yard shotgun completion to the Giants’ 10.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter turnover on downs…Crowder made a nice one-handed catch with his right hand on a third-and-one thee-yard reception on a Kirk under-center play-action boot.
- Redskins’ fifth offensive drive…resulted in a late-second-quarter punt…Kirk had a third-and-eight 38-yard shotgun completion to an open Crowder.
- Redskins’ ninth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter third-and-18 53-yard pick-six to Janoris Jenkins…Crowder made a nice leaping catch with his arms extended over his head on a Kirk second-and-13 25-yard shotgun completion.
But Redskins pass catchers other than Crowder left a lot to be desired in this game.
- Vernon Davis had zero receptions and was targeted just once the entire game.
- Josh Doctson had two receptions for 28 yards and a touchdown on four targets. He ran a great route on his fourth-quarter second-and-eight 14-yard touchdown reception, and he drew a third-and-three five-yard holding penalty on Ross Cockrell earlier in the drive. But also from Doctson in this game:
- The Redskins’ fifth offensive drive, which resulted in a late-second-quarter punt, included Doctson appearing to quit on an out route on a Kirk first-and-10 shotgun play-action incompletion that was officially ruled a target of Davis.
- The Redskins’ third offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter turnover on downs, included a Kirk third-and-15 14-yard shotgun completion to Doctson, who didn’t seem to know where the first-down marker was and went out of bounds without extending his arm with the ball. The next play was a Kirk fourth-and-one under-center play-action boot incompletion intended for Doctson.
- Doctson committed a third-and-10 five-yard false-start penalty on the Redskins’ second offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter punt.
- Ryan Grant had one reception for three yards on two targets. The Redskins’ sixth offensive drive, which resulted in Nick Rose’s late-second-quarter 28-yard field goal, included Grant doing a bad job of feeling his quarterback scrambling and giving him a window on a Kirk third-and-nine shotgun incompletion in the end zone. Also, Grant went in motion late on a third-and-13 five-yard delay-of-game penalty charged to Kirk. The next snap was the third-quarter third-and-18 53-yard pick-six to Janoris Jenkins.
- The Redskins’ second offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter punt, began with a Kirk first-and-10 under-center incompletion on which he made a back-shoulder throw that Niles Paul seemingly wasn’t looking for. The next play Samaje Perine had a drop on a Kirk second-and-10 shotgun incompletion. Also, Paul committed a first-and-10 five-yard false-start penalty to begin the drive that resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter third-and-goal 15-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder.
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) holds up a turkey leg as outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) eats his after an NFL football game against the New York Giants in Landover, Md., Friday, Nov. 24, 2017. The Redskins defeated the Giants 20-10. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Running Game: B
This was a classic tale of two halves. Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall in the first half: six carries for five yards. Perine and Marshall in the second half: 22 carries for 113 yards.
Now, as Cooley noted on his film breakdown of the offense on the Monday after this game, the Giants’ defensive effort in the second half left a lot to be desired. Fair. But the Redskins’ running game was without Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, Trent Williams, Spencer Long and Shawn Lauvao. No apologies are necessary for what went down in the second half.
Perine had a second-straight 100-yard game, finishing with 24 carries for exactly 100 yards.
- Redskins’ 13th offensive drive…resulted in Kirk Cousins’ fourth-quarter second-and-eight 14-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Josh Doctson…the drive began with a Perine first-and-10 six-yard shotgun-handoff run…three snaps later: a Perine first-and-10 11-yard under-center-handoff run…two plays after that: a Perine second-and-11 five-yard shotgun-handoff run.
- Redskins’ 11th offensive drive…resulted in an early-fourth-quarter punt…the drive began with four Perine third-quarter runs, the last three of which were big: a second-and-seven 11-yard shotgun-handoff run, a first-and-10 nine-yard under-center-handoff run and a second-and-one 16-yard under-center-handoff run…the play after that was a Marshall first-and-10 eight-yard under-center-handoff run…and the third play of the fourth quarter was a Perine second-and-10 six-yard under-center-handoff run.
- Redskins’ seventh offensive drive…was the opening drive of the second half…resulted in a third-quarter punt…the first two plays were Perine under-center-handoff runs: a first-and-10 six-yarder and a second-and-four 10-yarder.
There were, though, some terrible moments from the running game:
- Redskins’ ninth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter third-and-18 53-yard pick-six to Janoris Jenkins…the drive began with a Byron Marshall first-and-10 minus-three-yard under-center-handoff run on which Brandon Scherff whiffed on Landon Collins.
- The Redskins’ fourth offensive drive, which resulted in a second-quarter three-and-out, began with a Samaje Perine one-yard under-center-handoff run on which Ryan Grant, off being in motion, just didn’t block Landon Collins for whatever reason. The play initially was ruled a lost fumble forced by Collins, as Perine’s ball-security problem continued, but the intial ruling was reversed via replay.
- The Redskins’ 13th offensive drive, which resulted in Kirk’s fourth-quarter second-and-eight 14-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Josh Doctson, also included three Perine under-center-handoff runs that went for one yard, minus-one yard and two yards.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter turnover on downs…Perine had first-and-10 under-center-handoff runs for one yard and no gain.
- The Redskins’ seventh offensive drive…was the opening drive of the second half…resulted in a third-quarter punt…Arie Kouandjio committed a first-and-10 10-yard holding penalty on a Perine six-yard shotgun read-option run.
- Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out…Ty Nsekhe had a third-and-one holding penalty that was declined on a Perine under-center-handoff run for no gain.
We must first establish that the Giants are a mess offensively. The majority of their best receivers are on injured reserve. Giants inactives for this game included receiver Sterling Shepard, right tackle Justin Pugh and right guard D.J. Fluker. Rookie tight end Evan Engram had three drops in this game. Eli Manning was horribly inaccurate on multiple throws in this game.
But all of that said, this still was an impressive bounce-back performance for a defense that had been really bad in the losses to Minnesota and at New Orleans and that, like the offense, is missing a number of key players due to injury (Montae Nicholson, Martrell Spaight and Terrelle McClain were inactive for this game; the likes of Jonathan Allen, Mason Foster and Will Compton remain on injured reserve). Heck, the Redskins had a starting inside linebacker named Zach Vigil for this game. And yet…
- The Redskins held the Giants’ offense to just three points, 170 total net yards of offense, seven first downs and 2-of-14 on third downs. The Giants had one first down in the second half.
- The Redskins held Eli to 13-of-27 passing and just 4.19 yards per pass attempt and held him to a Raw QBR of 6.3.
- The Redskins had four sacks.
- The Redskins held Orleans Darkwa to 11 carries for 30 yards.
Among the many big moments from the defense:
- Giants’ 13th offensive drive…Kendall Fuller made a nice leaping catch for a game-sealing pick of an Eli first-and-10 shotgun pass with a little more than a minute left in the fourth quarter. Also on that play was Junior Galette hitting Eli.
- Giants’ 12th offensive drive…resulted in a fourth-quarter turnover on downs…Bashaud Breeland provided good coverage on Roger Lewis on an Eli third-and-three shotgun incompletion…the next play: a fourth-and-three sack-strip by Galette.
- Giants’ 11th offensive drive…resulted in a fourth-quarter three-and-out…Anthony Lanier made a great rip rush on Brett Jones on a third-and-one sack of Eli for an eight-yard loss.
- Giants’ ninth offensive drive…resulted in a third-quarter three-and-out…Deshazor Everett provided good coverage on Evan Engram, who was guilty of his third drop of the game on an Eli third-and-eight shotgun incompletion. Also on this ply was Matt Ioannidis hitting Eli.
- Giants’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in a third-quarter three-and-out…Zach Brown tackled Wayne Gallman on a first-and-10 I-formation-toss run for minus-two yards.
- Ryan Kerrigan abused rookie right tackle Chad Wheeler for two sacks in this game. The first sack was for a two-yard loss on a second-and-seven on the Giants’ second offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter punt. The second sack was for a four-yard loss on a third-and-seven on the first play of the second quarter on a drive that resulted in an early-second quarter punt.
Special Teams: C
Nick Rose went 2-for-2 on field goals of 28 yards in the second quarter and 33 yards late in the fourth quarter and now is 10-for-11 on field goals over six games as a Redskin.
Jamison Crowder had a third-quarter 14-yard punt return. The ensuing Redskins drive started at midfield and resulted in Kirk Cousins’ third-quarter third-and-goal 15-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Crowder. But Crowder’s other three punt returns totaled just six yards.
Tress Way averaged 44.0 yards and 40.0 net yards on seven punts, four of which went inside the Giants’ 20. He had a late-second-quarter 36-yard punt that was downed at the Giants’ 3 by Quinton Dunbar. But Way a fourth-quarter 30-yard punt that was fair-caught at the Giants’ 15.
The Redskins’ roster shuffling due to all of the injuries bit them from a special-teams standpoint in this game. The Redskins’ first offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out, gave us a Tress Way punt that landed inside the Giants’ 10. But Pete Robertson, who was signed from the practice squad to the active roster the previous Tuesday, apparently didn’t know the rule, picked the ball up around the 7 and ran the ball into the end zone for a self-inflicted touchback.
Joshua Holsey committed a 10-yard holding penalty on the Bryon Marshall kickoff return that followed Kirk’s third-quarter third-and-18 53-yard pick-six to Janoris Jenkins.
What happened at the end of the Redskins’ 12th offensive drive, which resulted in a fourth-quarter three-and-out, is a big part of why Jay Gruden still has plenty of critics. I think that he is a good coach but not a great coach, and it is things like this that are the reason why. First, the Redskins burned a second-half timeout to either discuss going for it or plan for going for it on a fourth-and-one at the Giants’ 40. You shouldn’t be wasting a second-half timeout in that spot. But then Kirk Cousins inexplicably got hit with a fourth-and-one five-yard delay-of-game penalty. This was Jay’s explanation after the game: “We had our personnel group out there, and we had to run the play and one of our guys was missing. He had his shoes off on the sideline. We weren’t aware he had something wrong with his foot. We didn’t get the memo that he was not in the huddle so we had to let the clock run out, which was fine. We took a delay of game, punted, backing them up and the defense got a stop.” I get that it’s football and that stuff happens. This is not some unforgivable sin. But this is the kind of amateur-hour screw-up that you don’t see the Patriots making.
- The Redskins’ starting offensive line for this game from left to right was Ty Nsekhe, Arie Kouandjio, Tony Bergstrom, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses. The first four played on every Redskins offensive snap. Moses missed four snaps due to rib and knee injuries but came back into the game and finished it.
- Josh Doctson played on every Redskins offensive snap in leading all Redskins receivers in offensive snaps for a third consecutive game. Ryan Grant was in on 69 percent. Jamison Crowder was in on just 52 percent despite his big game. Maurice Harris was in on just 12 offensive snaps and now has been in on just 21 offensive snaps since the Week 10 Minnesota loss, during which he had that sensational one-armed touchdown catch. Brian Quick was active off having been inactive for two consecutive games due to a concussion suffered in the Week 9 win at Seattle but did not play on a single offensive snap.
- Vernon Davis played on 92 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps but had zero receptions on one target, and the target may not have actually been for him.
- Samaje Perine played on 70 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps. Byron Marshall was in on 30 percent.
- Josh Norman, D.J. Swearinger and Deshazor Everett were the three Redskins who played on every defensive snap for the team.
- DeAngelo Hall, off his woeful performance in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans, did not play on a single snap in this game. Bashaud Breeland played on 91 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. Kendall Fuller was in on 58 percent. Quinton Dunbar, who was inactive for the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans, played on just six defensive snaps.
- The Redskins’ starting inside linebacker with Zach Brown was Zach Vigil. Brown played on 96 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. Vigil was in on 58 percent.
- Ryan Kerrigan played on 81 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. Preston Smith was in on 72 percent. Junior Galette was in on 37 percent.
- Matt Ioannidis led all Redskins defensive linemen in defensive snaps at 72 percent. Ziggy Hood was in on 61 percent. Anthony Lanier II was in on 46 percent. Stacy McGee was at 37 percent.
The Redskins’ offense played this game without:
- Left tackle Trent Williams (inactive for a third time in five games due to an ailing right kneecap that will require surgery)
- Tight end Jordan Reed (inactive for a fourth consecutive game due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 8 loss to Dallas)
- Center Chase Roullier (inactive due to a fractured hand suffered in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Running back Chris Thompson (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21 due to a fractured fibula suffered in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Running back Rob Kelley (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 14 due to an MCL sprain suffered in the Week 10 loss to Minnesota and ailing ankle)
- Center Spencer Long (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21 off being inactive for a three of the previous four games due to two knee injuries that emerged in the Week 7 loss at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football)
- Left guard Shawn Lauvao (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21 due to a stinger that was aggravated in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21 due to an ankle injury)
- Tackle T.J. Clemmings (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 16 due to an ailing ankle)
- Running back Keith Marshall (placed on injured reserve due to a torn right patellar tendon suffered in practice on July 29; the 2016 seventh-round pick out of Georgia spent all of last season on injured reserve due to an elbow injury suffered in the preseason)
- Tackle Kevin Bowen (placed on injured reserve due to a labrum injury suffered during training camp)
The Redskins’ defense played this game without:
- Safety Montae Nicholson (inactive due to a concussion suffered in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Linebacker Martrell Spaight (inactive due to an ankle injury suffered in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Defensive lineman Terrell McClain (inactive due to a toe injury suffered in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Defensive lineman Caraun Reid (inactive for a second consecutive game)
- Linebacker Mason Foster (placed on injured reserve on Oct. 28 due to a torn labrum suffered in the Week 2 win at the Rams; he missed the Week 3 win over Oakland but then played the next three games with the injury before going on IR)
- Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (placed on injured reserve on Oct. 19 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in the Week 6 win over San Francisco)
- Linebacker Will Compton (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 14 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in the Week 10 loss to Minnesota)
- Defensive lineman Arthur Jones (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 11 due to a shoulder dislocation suffered in the Week 9 win at Seattle; the Redskins signed him on Nov. 1)
- Safety Su’a Cravens (placed on the reserve/left-squad list on Sept. 18; this off being placed on the exempt/left-squad list on Sept. 3 due to contemplating retirement; he also suffered a meniscus injury in the preseason-opening loss at Baltimore and underwent surgery on Aug. 15)
- Linebacker Trent Murphy (placed on injured reserve on Aug. 12 due to a torn left ACL and MCL suffered in the preseason-opening loss at Baltimore)
- Defensive lineman Phil Taylor Sr. (placed on injured reserve on Sept. 2 due to a torn left quadriceps tendon suffered in the preseason win over Cincinnati on Aug.27
Redskins special teams remained without Dustin Hopkins, who was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 18 due to a right-hip injury.
NFL Network’s A Football Life documentary on Joe Gibbs aired the night after this game. I was disappointed. Now, I am sympathetic to the challenge of comprehensively telling the Gibbs story in 40 or so minutes when you factor in commercials. And I get that this piece wasn’t necessarily for us hardcore Redskins fans, as you didn’t really learn anything new about Gibbs if you are one. But the piece spent too much time on his NASCAR ownership and way too little time on his second tenure as Redskins head coach. Heck, the 2007 death of Sean Taylor wasn’t even mentioned! Additionally, there were zero comments from legendary assistants like Joe Bugel and Richie Petitbon. Look, we all love that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a huge Redskins fan, but how is he in the piece but Bugel and Petitbon aren’t? We got one little clip of Dan Snyder in the piece. How about a clip of Dan giving the behind-the-scenes details of how he pulled off the impossible in Jan. 2004 in getting Gibbs to come out of retirement? But we got zero insight along those lines. I wonder if part of Gibbs agreeing to cooperate for the documentary was a certain emphasis being put on his NASCAR ownership and family.
Another observation from the A Football Life on Gibbs is the lack of exploration of why he retired after the 1992 season and then again after the 2007 season. This is an NFL-made piece, so you get why there wasn’t a lot of scrutiny. And I do think that Gibbs’ stated reasons for his retirements – his family – is valid. But I also think that there were other factors that led to those retirements. The Redskins’ dynasty was in real danger after the 1992 season due to an aging roster and the start of NFL free agency as we know it today, and I do believe that Gibbs saw the writing on the wall and saw the value in getting out while the getting was still good. And Gibbs saw the opportunity to leave with his head held high after the 2007 season off a second playoff appearance in three seasons. But the four seasons that comprised his second tenure as Redskins head coach were hard and challenging seasons. The Redskins were terrible in 2004 and 2006 and had to author regular-season-ending winning streaks of five games and four games to make the playoffs in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Not a single one of those Gibbs 2.0 teams was what you would call a really good one. And Gibbs, who also officially was Redskins team president, technically presided over the disastrous 2006 offseason (Adam Archuleta, Brandon Lloyd, Antwaan Randle El, T.J. Duckett), although to what extent those moves were Gibbs’ versus Vinny Cerrato’s we’ll likely never know. Gibbs earned the right to leave each time whenever he wanted. But you’re being naïve if you think that the factors I just talked about didn’t play roles in his retirements from the NFL.
The 10-year anniversary of the death of Sean Taylor was on the Monday after this game. The no. 1 sign of how filthy Taylor was is how many safeties to this day say that they looked up to him. He played in the NFL just three and-a-half seasons – 2004, 2005, 2006 and nine games in 2007. And yet so many safeties have talked about him in almost reverent terms over the years: D.J. Swearinger, Su’a Cravens, Kam Chancellor, Landon Collins. That, to me, is the ultimate compliment of Taylor as a football player. And, of course, safety on the Redskins has been the biggest black hole in D.C. sports since Taylor’s death.
The Redskins next play at Dallas on Thursday Night Football in Week 13 as their bizarro 2017 schedule continues. Putting contract situations aside, which quarterback would you rather have for your team over the next five seasons – Kirk Cousins or Dak Prescott? The debate is tricky.
- Kirk enters Week 13 trailing Dak in Total QBR, 66.4 (no. 6 in the NFL) to 60.8 (no. 8). But Kirk is blowing Dak away in…
- Yards per pass attempt – 8.08 (no. 5 in the NFL) to 6.68 (no. 25)
- Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric – 543 (no. 12 in the NFL) to 270 (no. 16)
- Passer rating – 101.1 (no. 7 in the NFL) to 87.6 (no. 19)
- Completion percentage – 66.2 (no. 7 in the NFL) to 63.7 (no.13)
- Kirk was bested by Dak in just about every meaningful statistical category last season save for yards per pass attempt and DYAR, and those rankings were close. Kirk was no. 3 and Dak was no. 4 in both of them.
- Kirk has authored eight game-winning drives since the start of the 2016 season. Dak has six game-winning drives since the start of last season.
- The biggest edge for Dak, obviously, is what he does with his legs. If you look at clutch-weighted expected points added through rushes, Dak was no. 3 among NFL quarterbacks last season (18.8) and is no. 2 this season (19.8). Kirk’s rankings are no. 17 last season and no. 18 this season.
- Kirk is significantly older than Dak. Kirk is in his age-29 season; Dak in his age-24 season.
- Dak has benefited greatly from having a dominant running back in Ezekiel Elliott. Kirk hasn’t had a back close to that, even though Chris Thompson was in the midst of an outstanding 2017 before suffering a fractured fibula in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans.