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.

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