After Sunday night’s 31-16 loss to the despised Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins have put themselves in a situation where there are far more questions than answers coming out of Landover, Maryland. At 1-4, the team is now 2.5 games out of first place in the sub-par NFC East, and has an extremely daunting schedule upcoming. For the truest of Skins fans, last night was a confluence of emotions: flashes of brilliance combined with periods of recognizable ineptitude.
It has not been a secret that Robert Griffin III is not 100%, however last night football fans got a glimpse of the agile, explosive Heisman Trophy winner we remember from last season. The defense, which has struggled all season, played rather admirably last night all things considered. Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett and his troops allowed only 18 completions and 170 yards to Tony Romo, who torched the undefeated Broncos last week for over 500 yards and 5 touchdowns. Down field coverage was rather impressive, but once again the tackling was sub-par and the red-zone defense did not come through.
Outside of those examples, it’s pretty tough to point out any positives for the Redskins last night. Once again, the Skins were unable to really get their running game going, as Alfred Morris was held to 36 yards on 15 carries outside of his 45 yard touchdown run (where Chris Chester actually picked up a second level block). On that note, the offensive line brought up more question marks then it had at any point last year, allowing a defensive line full of guys off the street to pressure RG III early and often. The interior linemen (especially the guards) were consistently being pushed off the ball and into the backfield on stretch plays, effectively eliminating the Shanahan’s main game plan.
When there were definitive passing situations, the team struggled mightily as RG III was unable to handle the pressure, step up in the pocket and throw crisp, accurate passes down the middle of the field. On the other hand, the Cowboys offensive line was able to hold off the vaunted outside pass rush of edge rushers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. This allowed Tony Romo to systematically work his way down the field when necessary and keep the Cowboys an arm’s length away from the Skins at all times.
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None of these things really mattered when you consider the effect special teams had on the game. Going into Sunday night, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said that he truly believed his team had a definitive advantage on special teams, and boy did it show. Cowboys return man Dwayne Harris might as well have won the game by himself, scoring on a punt return and putting the Cowboys at the Redskins 15 yard line on a kick return. These Redskins miscues only magnified other parts of their game that were struggling.
While there are some positives to be taken from this game, the struggles of the offensive line and special teams should be of serious concern for Redskins fans. Without a consistent running game, Kyle Shanahan’s offense is not going to be able to work the ball down field like it did last year. Mr. Griffin III has turned a corner physically, but his in-pocket passing is extremely suspect at this time. Combine this with a sub-par defense and pathetic special teams and it is extremely difficult to see the Skins winning more than 5 games this year. Stay tuned later this week for my next article regarding whether or not the season is already in the books.