This seems small, and that he should get more than one chance, but the Redskins simply can’t afford mistakes in this area. Especially considering how the offense looked in that game, every yard of field position is going to count. Thompson had three kickoff returns, all that were fielded inside the end zone, only one made it back past the 20 yard line, and that time it was just barely as he returned a two yard deep kick 23 yards to the 21 yard line. Thompson’s other kick-off returns of 19 and 14 yards, had the Redskins starting drives from their own 13 and 9 yard line. You simply aren’t going to be an effective offense if you are giving up field position like that.
Thompson had some issues returning punts as well. He fair caught a ball inside the 5 yard line, and while if he hadn’t the Eagles would have likely downed it inside the 3, Thompson risked fumbling the ball, on a punt he was catching on the run with Eagles surrounding him. He was saving the Redskins only 2 yards of field position, and risking turning the ball over. In a situation like that, it is best to let the ball land and hopefully it takes a weird bounce or the Eagles mess up and it ends up a touchback. Thompson fielded another punt inside the ten at the 6 yard line and returned it five yards, though a penalty wiped out even that minimal gain. Again this was another bad decision as multiple Eagles were in the area and had he let it go, it very likely would have been a touchback.
Until the Redskins can fix and trust Thompson’s decision making, having him back there to return kicks and punts just doesn’t make sense. Also, that would allow the Redskins to use a roster spot on a player who could play a bigger role on game day.
Mike Shanahan and company have to start holding these players accountable. The Redskins are committing far too many penalties yet again, and it cost them to the tune of 75 yards Monday night. The most troubling thing is that most of them were on offense, which didn’t need any more issues to deal with. The Redskins were able to overcome their penalty issues at times last season, but right now they can’t count on being able to do that. They have to be more disciplined and stop shooting themselves in the foot.
The Redskins game plan Monday night didn’t look all too inventive, and was more or less an extension of their vanilla preseason approach. Yes Robert Griffin might be limited and rusty, but being creative doesn’t just have to be running the read option. There are a lot of things the Redskins could have looked to do that wouldn’t have put too much pressure on Griffin, and kept the Eagles guessing. Coming out in different formations, such as using 4 TE sets, or formations that had both Alfred Morris and Roy Helu out there, could have given the defense some surprise looks. Utilizing some more simple play action could have worked as well, given how the Eagles were so intent on stopping the run. The Redskins need to mix things up if they want to give this offense a chance to succeed.
Yes the Eagles have some dynamic weapons that can make you miss, but the Redskins tackling performance week one was simply pathetic. Now a big part of it was poor positioning and play recognition, which continuously put Redskins in a bad position to make a play. But another part of it was simply missing tackles on guys who are right there. Both areas need to be fixed and they need to be fixed ASAP.
The Redskins need to see where the ball is going quicker and take proper angles to give themselves the best chance of getting the tackle. Once they are there though they have to finish the play as well. Too often the Eagles were able to break a tackle or juke away from a defender and were able to pick up major yards after first contact. That is just unacceptable for this defense. Though not every offense will be as dynamic as the Eagles, the Redskins are facing a number of quality backs and receivers this season, and if these tackling issues aren’t fixed, it will cost them further games.