4 Downs with Dougherty: Washington hot
Here's an early glimpse at the Packers' matchup Sunday at Washington in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs:
First down: Washington has a key Packers connection in general manager Scot McCloughan, who is a Ron Wolf disciple and was Ted Thompson’s director of college scouting with the Seattle Seahawks. McCloughan was a college area scout for Wolf from 1994 to ’99 before joining the Seahawks and has a reputation as an outstanding evaluator of talent.
Washington hired McCloughan as GM last January. As GM of the San Francisco 49ers, McCloughan drafted many of the players who formed the core of the team that played in the Super Bowl in the 2012 season.
The 49ers let him go in 2010 because of his issues with alcohol, but he has resurrected his career and in his first season helped Washington to its first playoff berth since 2012.
Packers head to Washington after losing North
Second down: Even a couple weeks ago, the Packers still were in the running for a top-two seeding in the NFC.
Now they’re going on the road for the wild-card round, and even though they have a 10-6 record to Washington’s 9-7, the Packers are a one-point underdog, according to several book makers. For good reason: The Packers are 4-6 in their last 10 games, whereas Washington is 7-3 and has won four straight.
Third down: Washington looked like a team in disarray during training camp with the public controversy surrounding the benching of draft bust Robert Griffin III., who only a couple of years ago looked like the quarterback who would turn around the franchise.
But coach Jay Gruden has led the team to the NFC East title, and it’s looking like Kirk Cousins might be the quarterback of the future. Cousins beat out Griffin for the starting job and finished the regular season ranked No. 5 in the NFL in passer rating (101.6). He has the league’s best completion percentage (69.8) and has thrown 29 touchdowns to 11 interceptions.
The fourth-year pro will be a free agent in the offseason, and it’s hard to see Washington letting him walk now.
Packers limp toward early playoff exit
Fourth down: Quick, name Washington’s defensive coordinator. Don’t know? It’s Joe Barry, the former Detroit Lions defensive coordinator and son-in-law of Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Gruden hired Barry last January to replace the fired Jim Haslett after Vic Fangio spurned Washington to go to the Chicago Bears as coordinator. Washington hasn’t had much of a defensive season statistically — it ranks No.17 in points allowed and No. 28 in yards. Barry, who runs a 3-4 scheme, doesn’t have any defensive Pro Bowlers, though outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had 9½ sacks this season, and 2015 second-round pick Preston Smith had 8.
Former Packers defensive back Will Blackmon has started 10 games at cornerback.
email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.