Monday, September 16, 2013

Washington Redskins Fall to Green Bay Packers

It was eerily similar to Monday Night Football's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. TheWashington Redskins offense was wildly ineffective and crumbled early. The defense was on the field too much, fatigued, and incapable of tackling. The special teams unit shot itself in the foot over and over again. By the time anything looked right, it was too late in the game to make any difference. The Redskins fell to 0-2 to start the season and there are nothing but questions.

Kyle Shanahan's playcalling didn't come under much fire last week by us, but it seems pretty apparent now that we should focus a bit on the coordinator. Robert Griffin III looked a little more accurate and a little quicker when he went mobile, but the playcalling was very conservative and the Green Bay Packers took advantage of every opportunity. Kyle let drive after drive pass where the Packers were blitzing on 3rd down no matter the distance, and it wasn't until a 2nd and obscenely long play late in the game that he called a screen to halfback Alfred Morris to counter the pressure. There were a ton of WR screens and RGIII will take flack for a few of those plays even though Clay Matthews showed patience and committed to batting the pass instead of letting RGIII get it off cleanly. Sure, Rob might have been able to run in one or two of those situations, but the Packers were content keeping two linebackers in the middle of the field and hitting whatever came through the middle. There were slants galore, and the Packers did everything they could to play physical and take the quick pass away from the Redskins.

Alfred Morris eventually broke off a couple of long runs on course to rush for over 100 yards in the game, but his performance was inconsistent and didn't help change the outcome of the game. Alf again struggled to find running lanes or bounce it outside when the edge was available. He committed too early to many cuts and ran into defenders. He didn't finish his runs by making defenders pay for trying to tackle him.

RGIII's interception today goes on his stat-sheet, but Joshua Morgan should take all the blame. The pass was right at Morgan's chin level, and hit Morgan directly in the hands but bounced straight up and overhead for the interception. Receivers dropped a lot of catchable passes, but Griffin also failed to lead his receivers into receptions at times. He also missed a few open targets at times as he got shaky in the pocket and didn't manage to escape the pocket. Robert also had a few opportunities to move the pocket outside with his legs, or step up inside, but he stayed where the pressure was and forced himself to make difficult passes. Griffin's arm is strong enough to do these things sometimes, but his mind is clearly not all there yet coming back from his knee injury.

Many fans expected it would take time for RGIII to work back into the offense. Fans didn't want to rush him back, but a lot of people are suggesting the Redskins should have gone against doctor's orders and played him in the preseason. Some people want to see him benched in favor of Cousins until Rob is clearly 100% mentally and physically, but these are the same people saying that in-game action is the only thing that will get Griffin ready to play. You literally cannot have it both ways. Again, the problem may very well be Kyle Shanahan's seeming refusal to spread in the first half, which could not only open things up for Morris, but allow receivers to show defenses you have to respect them early.

I was very impressed, however, with the effort of Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger, particularly on a WR screen to Pierre Garcon. Garcon caught the football and took off downfield - following two 300 lb. monsters as they surged full-speed towards the safeties. It didn't spring Garcon for a TD, as his patience to remain behind the two behemoth blockers slowed him up enough for the defense to make a play, but two linemen that big showing off that kind of athleticism and willingness to make a play downfield for their team says a lot about their effort.

The line has not been that impressive, however. Montgomery has appeared slow on snaps several times, and I twice noticed yesterday that the entire offense was moving before Montgomery was getting the snap off, or so it appeared. He also got flagged for a low block which did not help the offense get things going. The right side, again, hasn't been run to much... part of me wonders if this has to do with allowing Rob to turn smoothly back to his natural side to show he doesn't have the ball instead of turning into his blind side with his right leg toward the defense. But if the coaches aren't trusting the run to the right side, could there be reasons with the linemen, or is Morris to blame?

On defense, I'm not confident in the tackling ability of almost anyone. I'm seeing guys flying around and throwing their body at people, but the only wrap up tackles I have seen are from Orakpo, Kerrigan, and David Amerson. I also can't figure out what happened to Haslett's refocusing on the gang-tackle strip. DeAngelo Hall seems to be the only guy getting the memo about stripping at the ball, but he's doing it when ball carriers aren't being gang tackled, and the receivers are breaking off another 3-6 yards every play because of it. I don't believe Hall has looked anywhere near as bad in coverage as a lot of fans still want to believe, but just because he's not playing that horrible doesn't mean he isn't playing bad. I do believe a lot of the defense's struggles come from not being able to sit on the sideline for an extended period of time, as they've been on the field for more drives than almost any other defense. But another major problem is that there is no communication between the corners and the safeties, a problem which plagued as last year, and Bacarri Rambo's development doesn't help those matters because he's still learning how to play the professional game, not just how to react to his assignment and communicate. Once the game becomes instinctive for Rambo, he will undoubtedly become a very solid pro in the NFL, but that will take time, and we need better execution from everyone to help make his transition easier.

To focus a little more on Rambo, I emplore you to have some patience, Redskins Nation. Rambo is a very talented football player, who really does learn well. Yes, the missed tackles, poor angles, and blown assignments are severely frustrating, but I do want to remind you that the late Sean Taylor did his fair share of that in his rookie season as well (a rookie season in which he became a starter a few games later than Rambo). Free Safety is one of the most difficult positions in football just based on the proximity of the player every play. It's even more difficult in the league now with the emphasis on the passing attack. For a rookie to come in as a day-one starter at the position is really incredible. You just have to believe the kid will get better, and give him the chance. Yes, he needs to know he is not doing his job right, but we do not need to talk about getting rid of him already.

Speaking of the Safety position, Meriweather has two regular season starts with the Washington Redskins, and both went pretty much the same way. A big, energetic play got the defense fired up, and then he's out for the game. The league will be investigating both the hit Meriweather placed on Packers' rookie RB Eddie Lacy, as well as the hit he tried to deliver on RB James Starks. One has to believe Redskins coaches are not pleased with Meriweather at this point.

While we're on the subject of possible penalties, perhaps we can focus on arguably the worst special teams units this team has ever fielded. There have been too many drives starting in Washington's own 10-yard line, and several times in both the Eagles game, and 4 times we counted yesterday, where special teams negated a return outside of the opponent's redzone with stupid penalties. Perhaps the most egregious and upsetting was Niles Paul slapping a Packers' player after a return. Replays showed that Paul was dragged down by his collar, but Mike Shanahan has emphasized to this team many times that retaliating with penalties will get you in trouble, not the other team. The only way a division, conference, or league champion retaliates on the field is by playing good football, winning the field position battle, and scoring points to help your team possibly win the game. Making Robert drive 90+ yards every single drive is not the answer to our problems, it may actually be the cause.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez

Everyone who just tuned in to the Floyd Mayweather vs. Canelo Alvarez fight just witnessed a boxing clinic as Floyd Mayweather dominated the 23-year-old Mexican.

Mayweather was fast and agile, moving as well and as quickly in the boxing ring as he expects of himself and as we've come to known. Mayweather looked quicker even than he did in his last 3 fights, which, at 36, is as amazing as his record of 45-0-0.

But before I get into Floyd v Canelo, I want to highlight the bout between Danny Garcia (c) v Lucas Matthysse. Fans witnessed the maturing of Danny Garcia as a boxer, as he fought behind his jab for 12 round and mechanically attacked Matthysse's body for most of the fight. However, an early shot to Matthysse's eye caused serious swelling, inhibiting the favored challenger. Matthysse tried to stay in the fight, even managing to rock Garcia a few times down the stretch, but his power wasn't behind his punches as he was clearly having trouble watching his target.

Matthysse was favored prior to this fight to go to battle with Floyd Mayweather pending a Money victory, but Matthysse couldn't get the job done. Could Garcia be the man to challenge Floyd next?

Whoever is facing Floyd has real tough competition. The Pound-for-Pound king entered the fight with determination. In possibly the best shape of his career, Floyd attacked early and often, leading the offensive most of the fight. Floyd's defense threw Canelo off as punch after punch grazed or missed Floyd completely. Anytime Canelo landed anything of note, Floyd made sure to counter to last punch of Canelo's combo to negate the pace.

Floyd displayed fresh footwork well into the 11th round. He ate a mean right hook against the ropes. He received a number of body shots which were rendered ineffective due to Floyd's ability to shift his weight and roll with the punch. A flustered, frustrated Canelo couldn't muster any offense of note. Floyd was too fresh by the end of the fight for Canelo to throw a punch of worth. Floyd famously danced his way around the ring in the 12th, the tactic of a man confident he has won the fight and can defend a desperation flurry.

Fans also witnessed a comical draw card from one of the ringside judges. Comical because it was a draw, and comical because even the casual fan knew Floyd won at least 9 rounds to 3. I myself had Floyd the victor of 10 rounds to 2 (118-110) after giving Canelo the benefit of the doubt for his activity in the 3rd round.

But being active and being effective are not the same thing. Floyd was both active and effective, and Canelo wasn't able to hit Floyd for most of the fight. For Floyd to make this fight look as easy as he did says an awful lot about how dominant Floyd is, because Canelo is no pushover. The matchup favored Floyd from the get-go, but as the fight carried on, it became even more apparent that Floyd Mayweather is in a class of his own in the boxing world.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Several Standouts in Washington Redskins Loss to Philadelphia Eagles

The Washington Redskins lost an ugly game last night. They started to make strides in the second half, but it was too little – too late as they failed to do enough to regain the lead. There was a lot of sloppy play on both sides of the football, but in a loss, some of the better performances are getting overlooked.

Special Teams:

There was only one guy who stood out for me on the unit, and he didn’t really excel outside of one area last night. Kai Forbath on kickoffs was a different player than last year. In 2012, Forbath couldn’t kick the football across the goal line if he had a backwind helping him. Last night, he drilled the football to the back of the endzone to pin returners deep and forced consistent touchbacks. His missed field goal was a real upset for a guy who has been so good at hitting 3-pointers so far here in Washington. The only positive to take away from that field goal was that it was a 45+ yarder that was coasting even with the top of the upright when it crossed the back of the endzone. If we extrapolate that kick, it may have been good from 60+ yards out.

On offense, three players really stood out last night above the rest for playing well. Those guys are:

Roy Helu, Jr.: A lot of people were ready to give up on the oft-injured Helu. I’ve been outspoken in my support of the kid and believed cutting his workload would make him exceptionally more effective. But Helu exceeded even my expectations of his talent last night as he proved to be a very good pass-protection back. Helu picked up blitzes and bailed at least twice on his routes to stay in the pocket and provide support when a lineman was beaten. Helu didn’t get many handoffs (a byproduct of the large lead the Eagles built) but the few occasions that he carried the rock, he showed patience while still maintaining an edge with his speed and burst.

Jordan Reed: This kid has done nothing in game situations besides play well. Jordan Reed’s biggest question mark coming into the league was his ability to block. His injury also led coaches to question whether he could pick up the offense in time and perform at a level high enough to earn playing time. Well, he has certainly learned enough to play in the offense: he runs very solid routes and shows a good knowledge of how to play vs. the defense (a byproduct of his experience at QB). What Reed also does very well? Block. I’ll even go as far as to say that Jordan Reed is one of the better blockers on this team. Last night he played football and had fun on the field, and his attempted hurdle/dive to get extra yards showed he has heart and is willing to put it all on the line for his team, even when the team is down by a lot.

Leonard Hankerson: I had Hank as an honorable mention on my list on Twitter, but it’s hard to discredit his performance. The only reason I knocked him is because I want to see Hank’s awareness of the field grow. He loses himself at times on the sideline (something he didn’t do in college, at all). He still loses a little effort when he’s short of the 1st down marker, which is something he should take a page from Santana Moss’s playbook to improve on. But Hank showed a determination last night to catch the football before he turned upfield. He also scored twice, the second TD in the back of the endzone on a long ball thrown perfectly by Robert Griffin III.

On defense, four players really stood out. I wanted to add Rambo for his ability to bring down the ball-carrier when he didn’t get shook out of his cleats, but he got shook out of his cleats a lot, and bit up hard on some of the run fakes.. But these are mistakes rookie safeties make; even the late Sean Taylor made his share of playaction bites and took himself out of the play. It happens. Rambo will learn from this game and I’m sure he will make this list several times this season.

Ryan Kerrigan: We all know Kerrigan has a high motor, and he plays his ass off in front of the home crowd at FedEx Field. He showed up last night before leaving the game late with concussion-like symptoms. Kerrigan got consistent pressure on Vick, got a notch in the sack column, got his hands up at the line to force ugly throws from Vick, and batted a lateral pass to force a fumble which DeAngelo Hall eventually scooped up and carried into the endzone for a TD. Kerrigan also helped free up other rushers when the Eagles committed more attention to him.

Perry Riley: Riley was one of those other rushers. Used in multiple blitz packages up the middle and on the edge, Riley really made his name known last night. There was a fire, intensity, and motor we haven’t seen out of Perry before, and if it carries over, we’ll be saying his name for a lot of years… that is, if he earns the contract it looks like he’s playing for here in Washington.

Brian Orakpo: Coming back from a torn pectoral (twice), many fans wanted to know what to expect from Orakpo. Would he be as strong? Would he play with the same intensity? Rak was lined up over Jason Peters almost the entire game, and while the numbers don’t exactly reflect him putting up stats, Rak helped by grabbing the attention of the Eagles and helping make Ryan & Perry’s job a lot easier on the opposite side. In the run game, Rak missed one tackle which stands out (Shady hit a massive spin move on him in the box), but I thought he set the edge very well for the majority of the game against Peters; his teammates just didn’t consistently close the gaps in the inside when Rak helped free those lanes.

And your overall player of the game for the Redskins this week:

David Amerson: I don’t think he played a perfect game, but he damn sure didn’t do anything noticeably bad. His name wasn’t mentioned outside of when he was batting passes or making tackles. He wasn’t a major contributor in stopping the run, but the Eagles ran a lot to the right or up the middle, which meant Amerson wasn’t really the guy to attack. He had one big tipped pass which could have been an interception, but he didn’t let his man get past him with the ball. For a rookie who had concerns with his tendency to peak into the backfield and bite on fakes, Amerson showed poise and patience in sticking with his man or on his assignment in loose zones and he wasn’t targeted much because of his committal to his duties.