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Redskins need to shake things up

September 29, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

The Redskins are sitting in last place through 4 games at 1-3, and after their embarrassing show Thursday night they need to turn things around quick before this season gets away from them. Washington will have their work cut out for them as through just a quarter off the season they have suffered a number of big injuries, including a number that will continue to affect them for the next few weeks at least. The Redskins though can't just assume that when they start getting some of these players healthy, that it will automatically turn things around for them. Not only may the effectiveness of these players be less than 100% when they return, but if the Redskins wait till week 9 and 10 to "make their move", it could already be too late. If Washington wants to remain relevant this football season, they need to start surprising some people (in a good way) and defy expectations.

Now this is not to suggest that the Redskins shake things up by firing coaches (that can happen in the offseason), but they have to look to change the depth chart and their philosophy if they want to steal some wins going forward. The number one thing is changing their game-plan and strategy both on offense and defense, because right now neither strategy is working.

On offense the Redskins need to become more run oriented in their approach and not get too cute with their play calling. Alfred Morris is a true bell cow back, and needs to be heavily relied upon this season. He's the best player on the offense and who the game-plan needs to flow through. This will remain true when RGIII comes back from injury, as Morris can be the guy to take pressure off of Griffin (who likely won't be 100%). To not be getting Morris the ball 20-25 times a game is basically giving a free pass to the opposing defense, who is going to be the most fearful of Morris beating them each week.

Now the excuse always comes up that the game situation will dictate how much the Redskins are passing. He's the thing if they are running more early in the game, then perhaps they won't be in so many situations where they are behind in the 4th quarter and don't have a choice, but to throw the ball. By admitting that you are letting the game situation dictate your play calling, you are admitting that you are letting the other team dictate how the game goes for you. Which speaks volumes of where this team is overall. Good-to-great offenses rarely have to "change their game plan" or "abandon their strength", butt the Redskins seem to have to do it 75% of the time.

When it comes to the defensive side of the ball the main adjustment needs to come from how the Redskins rush the quarterback. Outside of definite passing downs (2nd and 3rd and long mainly) the Redskins are using a lot of 4 man rushes to try to pressure the QB. The idea is that with a 4 man rush that typically includes Brian Orakpo, Jason Hatcher, Barry Cofield, and Ryan Kerrigan was going to find a lot of success. Unfortunately Cofield has been out since the first quarter of the first game and can't return until week 10. Orakpo and Hatcher have both been slowed by injuries, limiting their effectiveness to some degree. On top of that teams are doing a great job game-planning for the Redskins rush and are doing a nice job of taking them out of the game. It's resulted in very few pressures and sacks (outside of the Jaguars game), and is a troubling trend going forward.

The Redskins coverage unit was questionable even with DeAngelo Hall, and now without him for the rest of the year it is down right scary. Even having 7 guys back there going against 4-5 eligible receivers, it's not giving the Redskins any sort of advantage. The Redskins have to get more aggressive in their blitz packages and be more willing to bring 5 guys or 6 guys. At times it can lead to the defense giving up big plays, but those are happening already and the Redskins don't have the the positives of big defensive plays that blitzing will hopefully bring to balance it out. They have to do something to hurry quarterbacks and force them to make some bad decisions. If the Redskins can't boost their pass rush, they don't have a chance at trying to slow down opposing passing attacks.

It can be hard at times to get away from the game-plan you thought was the right call at the beginning of the season, but the Redskins need to use this long week to change some things, in their weekly approach. It's clear what they've been doing hasn't been working and isn't a strong game-plan for the final 3/4's of the season.

Thoughts and Observations on Redskins Loss to the Giants

September 26, 2014 in Redskins Personnel, Uncategorized

1. The Redskins were out-coached and out gameplanned in this contest:

-The home team in Thursday night game typically wins over 60% of the time and when they are favored that number jumps to 79% of the time. Through the first three weeks of the NFL season the home team on Thursday night games has won by at least 20 points. Leave it to the Redskins to defy that and not only lose as a home favorite, but lose by 31 points.

While the players definitely have their fair share of blame, the coaches need to be held accountable as well. The defensive game plan was basically non-existent. Why Jim Haslett and company thought that rushing just four pass rushers (two of whom are banged up) the majority of time was going to work versus this quick passing attack is shocking. The Redskins didn't do anything to disrupt the Giants offense and they were able to completely pick apart the Redskins secondary. It didn't matter who Eli was throwing to, or who he was throwing against, he was going to win that battle. A lot of that is on player performance, but the coaching staff needs to do things to confuse the quarterback and force mistakes. On offense the Redskins just didn't have an imaginative gameplan and the Giants were able to stop it fairly easily.

2. This loss should not be blamed fully on Kirk Cousins:

-This is not to sugarcoat Kirk Cousins game (see below), but it's tough to really "blame" him for this loss. The score was 24-14 into the 3rd quarter before Cousins threw his first interception. While it's possible that Cousins could have driven them down and gotten some points that drive, the Giants were still going to be in the lead and their offense was clicking on all cylinders. The defense didn't really stop them the rest of the way, so it's tough to assume that they would continuously stop them in this game for the Redskins to win. This was a total team failure, from the coaching to every aspect of this team. Kirk Cousins definitely played his role, and his interceptions eliminated any chance of a comeback. But he would have had to be perfect for the Redskins to even hope to win that game, and if you gameplan relies on your back-up QB being perfect, you've probably already lost. Many will want to hang this loss solely on Cousins shoulders, which is completely unfair, given how the rest of the Redskins played.

3. Yes Kirk Cousins was really bad:

-Cousins clearly wasn't as good as he was vs Jacksonville or Philadelphia in the first half of the game, but he also wasn't bad. He was off target on a couple of passes, but he wasn't throwing the ball away and he helped lead them on two really good drives (the 2nd ending in the Paulsen fumble). Things remained promising at the start of the 3rd quarter as he helped lead them on another scoring drive, after that though he really started forcing things and it came back to haunt him. Cousins began to do all the opposite of things he did well the previous two weeks. Instead of looking off safeties he was telegraphing where he was throwing with his eyes. Instead of leading his receivers with the football and hitting them in stride, he too often was off target and threw behind them. After the 2nd interception, Cousins really started pressing and turned a bad situation even worse.

4. The Redskins defensive coverage is a major issue:

-The Secondary and overall coverage was simply pathetic in this game. The Giants were basically able to do whatever they wanted against the Redskins corners, safeties and linebackers. Now there was definitely going to be some issues at corner with the loss of DeAngelo Hall for the season, but this was far more than a few "issues". It was open season last night in the Redskins secondary and the top three corners, David Amerson, Bashaud Breeland and E.J. Biggers were just picked apart. Amerson is the most troubling, because the reports were that he had turned the corner this year, but last night showed that wasn't the case. It didn't matter what receiver he was on, the Giants seemed to have an advantage. The scary thought is his performance was basically indistinguishable from the rest of the corners. When the corners did actually "cover" their guy, the Giants could rely on breakdowns from the linebackers and safeties as well (overall I think Ryan Clark is absolved of this rant, but need to re-watch to be sure). Perry Riley and Brandon Meriweather were frequent victims in the Redskins coverage unit. Going forward the Redskins will be facing even better quarterbacks and WR/TE groups, which doesn't bode well for the rest of this season.

5. The Redskins lack of a pass rush is pretty concerning:

The Redskins managed just one sack in the game and only a handful of pressures. Now it is easy to point to the reasons for this. The Giants game plan is all about quick passes, so coupled with just a sheer lack of coverage, Eli Manning had the ball out on most plays before the defense had a chance to get pressure. The other reason to consider is the injuries up front. Brian Orakpo and Jason Hatcher are both dealing with serious injuries, which are going to put them at less than 100%. While all of these things are reasons for why the pass rush wasn't as effective, the Redskins (both coaches and players) are still responsible for fixing things to answer these reasons.

If Orakpo's left hand injury makes it tougher for him to face left tackles, perhaps he should get more snaps versus right tackles so the hand won't be as much of an issue. Many teams will flip their top pass rusher to go against weaker right tackles in general for 10-30% of their pass rushes, and it makes even more sense if an injury like this justifies it.

If Hatcher is less than 100%, than perhaps the Redskins should look to use more internal blitzing to force more 1-on-1 match-ups for Hatcher and perhaps have offensive linemen hesitate for a split second. Another thing the Redskins can do in general, particularly versus quick passing teams is to play more press coverage to try to disrupt the quick throws.

6. The  Redskins offensive line is still a major issue:

-While a lot of turnovers in this game can be blamed on Kirk Cousins, perhaps the most important one was the first one by the Redskins as Cousins fumbled as he was being sacked on the first drive. Cousins was hit after RT Tyler Polumbus lost his man, resulting in a fumble. Though it was the most costly mistake of the offensive line, it clearly wasn't the only one. Cousins faced a lot of pressure in the game, and the failures extended even to his stud left tackle Trent Williams. Williams had two costly penalties as well (the offensive line had a total of 4 penalties). The Giants Defense has some good players and they clearly had a strong game plan, but this is not the Giants pass rush of 5 years ago. The Redskins need to do a better job of protecting their quarterback and doing their part. The past two weeks, Cousins did a nice job of making the offensive line look good, but the Giants had Cousins rattled and the OL couldn't step up to offer good protection.

7. The Special Teams remain a major issue going forward:

-The good news is the special teams didn't give up a touchdown in this game. The bad news is they did pretty much everything else wrong. They allowed good returns, weren't able to get their own return game going, and committed too many penalties. These mistakes and errors helped the Redskins lose the field position battle. This is extremely costly when the defense is struggling as it was and the offense was clearly not clicking on all cylinders.

8. Injuries continue to pile up:

The Redskins suffered three injuries to starters last night and two of them appear to be potentially serious. Trent Williams went down late in the game with a knee injury, that has been reported as a possible knee dislocation. Though more will come out today on the prognosis, even optimistic time tables would have Williams missing at least a couple of weeks. Tight end Niles Paul suffered a concussion after taking a serious hit in the 2nd quarter. While the extent of the concussion is unknown, it looked pretty bad and it wouldn't be surprising if it's the type of concussion that will take a couple of weeks to return from. The 3rd injury was a rib injury to Jarvis Jenkins. Initial reports are that it's not a serious injury for Jenkins and it is possible he won't need to miss any time.

The Trent Williams and Niles Paul injuries are pretty serious concerns for an offense that doesn't need to get any weaker right now. Trent Williams has not been having a strong season and had a bad game last night, but he's still far-and-away the Redskins best offensive lineman. Tom Compton was getting abused last night in his place and the idea of him suiting up the next couple of weeks versus the Seahawks and Cardinals is a scary thought. With Shawn Lauvao already out and Kory Lichtensteiger, Chris Chester and Tyler Polumbus all struggling as well the Redskins offensive line is a major concern at the moment.

Niles Paul's absence could also have a major effect on the Redskins passing offense. Paul has filled in brilliantly for starter Jordan Reed, and the Redskins passing game hasn't really missed a beat. He's been the Redskins best weapon arguably through the first four weeks of the season, as he's made big plays in every game. With Reed already considered doubtful for next weeks game with the Seahawks, the Redskins would only have Logan Paulsen at tight end. That will force the Redskins to sign a tight end off the street or their practice squad. Either way whomever they sign won't be the pass catching threat that Reed/Paul are, and they won't be able to create mismatches in coverage. This will also force the Redskins into more 3 wide receiver sets, which can help telegraph the Redskins intent to the opposing defense.

 

 

Redskins vs Giants: Key's to the Game

September 25, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Try to eliminate special teams mistakes:

-I say "Try" because it seems like a nearly impossible task. The special teams have been beleaguered this season with just about everything that could possibly go wrong. From blocked kicks, allowing returns for TD's, and a number of penalties, the Redskins special teams unit has been costing them yards and points. That has to change if the Redskins are to become a contender. The special teams can't keep putting them in a hole and hope to win a lot of football games. In a game like this versus a division rival on a short week, they can't afford any costly errors from the special teams.

2. Get Pressure on Eli:

-It won't be an easy task as two of the Redskins top pass rushers (Brian Orakpo and Jason Hatcher) are less than 100% entering this game and there is a chance that Hatcher won't even play tonight, but the Redskins have to find a way to get to Eli. The Giants due a lot of quick passing which makes it tougher on the pass rush, but it isn't impossible. Manning is finally starting to look comfortable in this offense, and can pick apart a secondary if he's not forced into making some bad throws. Making matters even worse is the fact that the Redskins secondary is probably the weakest unit on this team. If Manning has time against this unit, that is a huge advantage for the Giants. The pass rush has to put some pressure on Manning and force some throws that can hopefully become interceptions.

3. Bottle up Rashard Jennings:

-Jennings had been having a nice season as an all-around back for the Giants, but he just went off last week versus the Texans rushing for 170 yards in the Giants victory. The Redskins have done a nice job slowing the run this year so far, but with some injury question marks along their front seven, it could be a little tougher this week. If Jennings can get going it's going to make the Redskins entire defensive game plan that much tougher. If the Giants can be balanced, and aren't facing a lot of 2nd and 3rd and long situations, Jim Haslett won't be able to dial up blitzes and the pass rushers can't pin their ears back in getting after Eli. If Jennings gets going, he could also wear down the defensive line which looks to be pretty thin on a short week.

4. Try to Control the Clock:

-This is a short week and the Redskins right now represent a MASH unit more than an NFL football team. Though many of the players on their injury report are going to play in this game, many of them won't be at 100%. If this game turns into a shootout where there are 65-70 plays on each side of the ball it could wear down the Redskins and turn into an advantage for the Giants. The Redskins should try to run the football and control the clock. Though it will put a little more pressure on their offensive players dealing with injuries, it protects a defense that has been thinned out considerably by injury. The Redskins need a heavy dose of Alfred Morris and quick safe passes that should help keep the clock moving. Unless they get down in this game, the Redskins should look to take some extra time between snaps to really eat up the clock.

5. Protect Cousins:

-So far Kirk Cousins has done a really nice job handling the pass rush, being sacked just two times in over 80 drop backs. He's done a nice job making quick decisions and getting rid of the ball quickly, before the pass rush can really impact the play. While there was some criticism this week that Cousins at times got rid of the ball too soon, for the most part his reading of pressure and how the pocket is shaping up has been pretty good. Though things have been good so far, you can expect teams to come up with more creative ways to get free rushers attacking Cousins and trying to confuse both him and the offensive line.

This week is potentially troubling for a couple of reasons. First, starting guard Shawn Lauvao is likely to be out tonight as he was unable to practice this week and was still experiencing swelling. In his place will be Josh LeRibeus who hasn't exactly lived up to his 3rd round status. At center Kory Lichtensteiger is nursing a host of injuries and is listed at questionable. Though he might play, it seems very unlikely that he will be at 100%. Even right tackle Tyler Polumbus is a little banged up, and though he is pretty much guaranteed to play, he too might be less than 100%. Having one starting lineman out and two others at less than 100% (especially Lichtensteiger who could be considerably less than 100%) is troubling for the Redskins. The Giants will definitely try to exploit the weak points in the Redskins line. The other factor that comes into play is the fact that it is a short week. They Redskins haven't been having their full practice schedule this week, so it's going to be harder to get LeRibeus on the same page with the rest of the offensive line.

Thoughts and Observations from the Redskins week 3 loss to the Eagles

September 22, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Kirk Cousins can play:

While the RGIII vs Cousins debate will surely rage on, the fact of the matter is Cousins is playing very good football right now and that is what's most important at the moment. Cousins had a brilliant game against an Eagles secondary who just came off a game where they limited Andrew Luck on the road. Cousins though picked apart the Eagles, spreading the ball around to his four big weapons and just exploiting the holes in the Eagles coverage. Cousins did everything you could want him to do. He was quick and accurate with his throws which allowed for some nice pick-ups and limited the pass rush. He felt pressure well and did a nice job not forcing throws for the most part. Cousins wasn't perfect as he did have one interception and the Eagles clamped down on him late in the game, but it probably wasn't all on Cousins as well. On his interception, he was clearly on the wrong page with Niles Paul. Whether that was on Cousins or Paul is unknown, but it's also a case of having a back-up QB and a back-up TE, guys who didn't get near as much work this offseason as the starters. Cousins and Pierre Garcon also looked to be out of sync on a crucial pass at the end of the game. If that pass was completed the Redskins at least would have had a chance to tie the game if not win it out right. Though those types of throws are frustrating, hopefully with Cousins now working as a starter those types of errors can be corrected going forward.

2. The Offensive line held up well:

Through the first two weeks the Redskins had allowed 6 sacks and a good number of pressures and QB hits. They weren't all the fault of the offensive line, but obviously they were a big factor. The offensive line though did an excellent job though in this game protecting Kirk Cousins, as he wasn't sacked a single time and even the pressures were limited. That's impressive considering he dropped back to pass nearly 50 times in this game.  Now the line did have some help in this game, as Cousins once again made smart, quick decisions with the football and didn't give the Eagles pass rush a chance to get to him and impact many of his throws. That makes the offensive line's job quite a bit easier, and was a contributing factor to their success in this game.

3. Running game not effective:

The Eagles focused on stopping the run and for the most part they were effective in doing so, as the Redskins averaged just 3 yards per carry on 28 carries. For as good as the offensive line was in pass blocking, that didn't completely transfer over to run blocking in this game. The offensive line wasn't horrible at run blocking and they were hardly the only reason why the ground game couldn't get going, but they did contribute to it's struggles. The Eagles did a nice job flowing to the football and eliminating cut back lanes. This left the Redskins with just a long run of 12 yards for the game and meant that they couldn't really count on their running game. Another factor may have been the health of Alfred Morris. Though nothing was really talked about, and he didn't miss time, he didn't look 100% out there. He may have been a little hobbled which contributed to the running game woes.

4. Redskins receivers come up big:

This is definitely what the Redskins had in mind when they went out and signed Andre Roberts and DeSean Jackson this offseason. The two new FA additions teamed up with Pierre Garcon and Niles Paul to torch the Eagles secondary for a combined 361 yards on 26 catches. Both Garcon and Jackson went over 100 yards and both had a TD catch. Now this type of performance won't happen each week, but if Cousins continues to show he can run this offense effectively, and the offensive line gives some nice protection, the Redskins could definitely have a few big passing games like this throughout the year.

5. Run Defense Excellent:

One area where the defense did succeed was in stopping the run. LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles are dangerous runners to begin with, but in this offensive system they are put in extremely favorable situations that they typically exploit for big games. The Redskins bottled up the two talented backs for a combined 42 yards on 22 carries. It was a very impressive showing by the Redskins run defense, and could be the strength of this team going forward.

6. Pass Rush Disappeared:

Last week the Redskins pass rush exploded for 10 sacks and a ton of pressures. This week the Redskins didnt' manage a single sack and while they got some pressures, it wasn't enough to really slow down the Eagles offense. Now there were a lot of things contributing to the lack of pressure, from the scheme, Nick Foles getting the ball out of his hand earlier, injuries for the Redskins and the down and distance, but at the end of the day the Redskins can't fall back on excuses and they still have to do a better job at getting after the quarterback.The Eagles went into that game missing their LG and were on their 3rd string RT. By the end of the game their 3rd string RT was having to play LT and they had in their 4th string RT as well as them losing their center Jason Kelce as well. The Eagles ended that game with a single starter (arguably their weakest starter as well) from their projected offensive line and the Redskins just couldn't get to Nick Foles.

7. Pass defense a growing concern:

This is a unit that has had the biggest question marks heading into this week as there have been multiple blown coverages through the first two games and that was against offenses who weren't entirely built to take advantage of those miscues (though they still managed some big plays). The Eagles though were another story as they were able to exploit some of the Redskins coverage woes and convert them into big gains and points. Brandon Meriweather replaced Bacarri Rambo as the starting strong safety, but his play wasn't much different from the recently released Rambo. He missed assignments and the Eagles were able to take full advantage of him. Meriweather wasn't the only defensive back victimized, but he did give up some of the bigger plays. Everyone else in the secondary also had some issues in coverage, and it was definitely a group failure. Now the lack of the pass rush made their job more difficult, but there can't be excuses, some of these break downs happening before the pass rush even would have had a chance to make an impact.

With DeAngelo Hall likely suffering a serious injury, the problems in the secondary could get worse before they get better.

8. Special teams continue to plague Redskins:

The Redskins had a brilliant first drive to go up on the Eagles 7-0 on the road to start this game, but 8 seconds after the ensuing kick-off the Redskins found themselves back to a tied game after Chris Polk returned it 102 yards for the score. Once again the special teams unit allowed another big play (and a TD), something that has been a problem on this team for the past couple of years. Allowing blocked kicks or returns for touchdowns are typically rare occurances in the NFL, but the Redskins seem to allow them almost weekly. The kick maybe didn't have the best hangtime and the Eagles made some great blocks, but the Redskins need to find a way to still make the play. Safety Brandon Meriweather missed a tackle at the start of Polk's return and he ended up being the only one really having a shot at him. Meriweather definitely failed on this play, but he also can't be the only guy getting a shot at the return man.

Unfortunately the touchdown return wasn't the only mistake this unit made. On the next kick-off the Redskins looked like they stopped Polk at the 20 yardline, but an offsides penalty on Meriweather gave the Eagles another shot. They ended up starting at the 38 yardline, giving the Eagles a pretty short field. Later, right before half the Redskins had just gone up 20-14 with just over a minute remaining. Tress Way had a short kick that Polk fielded on the 1 yardline, he was able to return in 35 yards setting up another short field for the Eagles. That is three big miscues just in the return game. The Eagles weren't able to capitalize on the drive where they started on the 38 yardline, due to a Darren Sproles fumble inside the red zone. The Redskins can't keep giving their opponents short fields and hope that their defense will come away with the stop.

In addition to the poor kick return coverage, the Redskins had another special team's miscue later in the game. Kai Forbath who hit from 49 and 44 yards earlier in the game, missed a 33 yard field goal when the game was tied 27-27 early in the 4th quarter. It was just a bad mistake from a kicker who is pretty reliable overall. A 33 yard field goal should be pretty automatic and it definitely came back to bite the Redskins as they lost the game by just 3 points. Was the loss all on Forbath? No of course not, he came up with a nice 49 yard field goal earlier in the game that could have had just as much impact on the final outcome, but he did cost the Redskins easy points in a very close game.

Redskins ground game success is key against the Eagles

September 20, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

The Washington Redskins are sitting at 1-1 in a tie for 2nd place in the NFC East division, as they head up to Philadelphia to take on the first place Eagles. The Redskins can't afford to drop too far behind the Eagles this year, as it looks likely this Eagles team will put up double-digit wins. Despite being a touchdown underdog in this game, the Redskins would love to find a way to steal this game on the road. For the Redskins to upset the Eagles a lot of things need to go their way, but the most important thing is getting their ground game going.

The Redskins offense is better at running the football than it is passing and that is regardless of who is behind center and what receivers/tight ends are on the field. Alfred Morris is one of the best running backs in the league and is a true 20-25 carry a game type of workhorse. In week 1 he ran all over the Texans, and the only thing that limited him from having a great game (and possibly the Redskins getting a win) was the fact that he was limited to just 14 carries. Morris's yards per carry weren't as strong in week 2, but he still ran well versus the Jaguars who were determined to stop Morris. Despite the Jaguars best efforts Morris still came up big with two rushing touchdowns and a number of key runs early in the game before it turned into a route. It's not just Morris who makes the Redskins a better running team than passing team, as the offensive line is clearly superior in this area.

This Redskins line isn't going to make anyone forget about the Hogs from the 80's and early 90's, but they have shown themselves to be okay in the run blocking department. There will be a few mistakes, but all-in-all they do a nice job within their zone blocking scheme. They aren't as effective when asked to power block for short yardage situations, which can be problematic, but most plays they are effective. That definitely isn't the case when they are asked to pass block, when in a number of situations you will see one or more of the OL make a mistake. This of course leads to sacks, incomplete passes and in the past turnovers.

While many pundits considered the Redskins to have an explosive offense at the start of the season, there are some questions about how much that will be true going forward (their 41 point shellacking of Jacksonville notwithstanding). The Redskins will be without starting QB Robert Griffin III for this game, which impacts the Redskins big play ability. Kirk Cousins is a very good quarterback, and has a better feel in the pocket right now than RGIII, but he can't make up for Griffin's big play potential. Griffin's mobility ideally will buy time to allow for things to open up down the field. Cousins is more likely to take the safer throw or get rid of the football, rather than trying to buy time for a receiver to get open deep. Both strategies have their merits, but when it comes to trying to win by being in a shootout, Griffin has the edge.

Griffin isn't the only loss to injury the Redskins have had to suffer so far this year. Tight end Jordan Reed has already been ruled out for this game, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson is listed as questionable. Though the Redskins last week showed they have capable back-ups in Niles Paul, Andre Roberts and Ryan Grant, there is a clear down grade from Reed and Jackson. Even if Jackson is able to play, it's very likely he won't be at 100% or play as much as he would if he was healthy. The Redskins can't hope to try to throw the ball 35-45 times on the Eagles and try to win, with question marks among the Redskins receiving weapons.

The most important reason though for the Redskins to establish a strong ground game is that it's simply the best defense versus the Eagles high powered offense. The Eagles succeed by using their speed and tempo to wear down defenses and exploit inevitable mistakes. Ideally Philadelphia wants to run 70+ plays a game and if they could get that up 85 or more. In that many plays there will definitely be holes in the defense, that the offense will take advantage of. As the plays add up, the defense wears down and those mistakes will become more frequent and more costly. The Eagles do have a quick strike capability, but they really want to wear you down and win that time of possession battle. If TOP is either even or won by the Eagles, that is major advantage for Philadelphia. This is wear the running game needs to step up and carry this team.

Unless the score gets well out of hand, the Redskins need to keep up the pressure on the ground. Not only is it their strongest offensive weapon, and best chance to move the football, but it is absolutely necessary if the Redskins want to limit this Eagles offense at all. The Redskins Defense can't hope to hold up if the Eagles are allowed to dictate this game. The Eagles have shown some holes in the run defense so far, so this could be a good match-up for the Redskins and hopefully can lead to some long drives that eat the clock and end with Redskins points.

 

Thoughts and Observations: Redskins vs Jaguars

September 15, 2014 in Washington Redskins Post Game Recap

Note: I will talk about Robert Griffin III's injury plenty in the coming days, but will just talk about it in general terms here

1. Injuries are piling up:

-It's extremely impressive that the Redskins were able to put up 41 points in this game and their defense was able to dominate as they did. Sure the Jaguars aren't exactly a great team, but the Redskins were dealing with a number of injuries on both sides of the ball, and that can lead to your team having some bad games. The Redskins though responded to the injuries and played their most complete game in years. They won in ever facet of the game and just flat out controlled this game from start to finish.

This game did cost the Redskins though as they saw 5 key offensive players go down with some sort of injury. Third down back Roy Helu Jr. suffered a quad strain, starting LG Shawn Lauvao suffered a mild knee sprain, and fullback Darrel Young suffered a back sprain. All three injuries right now appear to be minor and if they do force the players to miss any time it will be pretty brief. The two more significant injuries were WR DeSean Jackson who suffered an AC joint sprain and QB Robert Griffin III who suffered a dislocated ankle. Those two injuries both are far more serious, not only because the players are more talented, but because they could both miss significant time. Jackson is very likely to miss this next game versus Philly and it's possible that it could be a 2-4 week type of injury, even if it is a lower grade sprain. RGIII's injury is even worse and at the bare minimum looks to be a 6-8 week issue, and at the worse could have Griffin out until next summer. This will be clarified today, but we are talking about an injury that is going to play a significant role on Griffin's future. Even if he can come back this year, his mobility will likely be compromised.

Unfortunately those aren't the only injuries the Redskins are dealing with as they already have starting TE Jordan Reed, starting NT Barry Cofield, 3rd corner Tracy Porter, back-up DE Kedric Golston and back-up LB Akeem Jordan all on the injury report. Some of those players may be back soon (possibly this week), but Cofield won't be able to return until after the bye. The Redskins were a relatively healthy team last year, particularly in the first half of the season, but right now their depth is being seriously tested.

2. The Pass Rush could be very good this year:

-Yes it was against the Jaguars offensive line, which is young, unproven and without a lot of really high ceiling guys, but the Redskins pass rush just dominated the game against the Jaguars. Brian Orakpo, Jason Hatcher, and Ryan Kerrigan all played extremely well and were living in the Jaguars backfield. If they weren't getting the sack they were putting pressure on Chad Henne and forcing some really bad throws. It wasn't just the big three pass rushers that got into the mix, as the Redskins were bringing pressure from everywhere and completely disrupting the Jacksonville game plan.

3. Better offensive and defensive game plan this week:

-Speaking of game plans, the Redskins game plans were close to perfect. On defense Jim Haslett was doing a great job stopping the run early and getting penetration in the backfield on most plays. This led to a number of 2nd and 3rd and long situations that allowed him to dial up blitzes and unleash the hounds on the Jaguars offense. The Redskins Defense dictated the game when they were on the field and it led to them having more sacks (10) than the Jaguars had first downs (8). That also led to the offense having just fantastic field position all game.

The offensive game plan was also much better than it was a week ago. Last week with the run game dominating the Redskins ignored it and tried to throw short passes all game. This week the Redskins were committed to the run early, but when Jacksonville started bottling it up some, it opened up some things down the field that the Redskins were able to take advantage of. After a week where the Redskins more or less avoided challenging down the field and using any read option, it was clear that both of those were in the game plan at the start of the game (though the read option changed significantly with Griffin out). They had the Jaguars on their heels all game, with their offensive game plan, and when Jacksonville stopped one thing the Redskins responded by beating them elsewhere.

4. Redskins depth stepping up:

-Kirk Cousins, Andre Roberts, Niles Paul and Ryan Grant all stepped up in a big way on offense. Cousins came in and was just brilliant for the rest of the first half, and led the Redskins to jump out to a big lead. His play wasn't as good in the 2nd half, but he still played good football and didn't make any costly mistakes. What Cousins did was pick the Jaguars apart by throwing to three somewhat unheralded players. Andre Roberts is the Redskins slot receiver so he's not exactly an unknown, but after the Redskins signed DeSean Jackson this offseason, it appeared that Roberts would be somewhat of an afterthought in this offense, and well behind Pierre Garcon, Reed and Jackson. Roberts came up big though for the Redskins making 4 catches for 57 yards and adding an end around for another 19 yards. Rookie Ryan Grant stepped up as well and added 57 yards on a couple pretty impressive catches. The big unsung hero was TE Niles Paul. After fumbling a week ago inside the 10 yard line, Paul made up for it with an eight catch 99 yard and 1 TD performance. In a game where DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon combined for just 2 catches, the Redskins offense didn't miss a beat because of these guys.

5. Questions in coverage?:

-Overall the defense played great, but there were some question marks on the backend of the defense. The Jaguars lone TD came on a blown coverage from safety Bacarri Rambo, but he wasn't the only defensive back who made some mistakes. On the Jaguars first drive they could have had a TD if rookie Allen Hurns doesn't drop the ball after blowing past DeAngelo Hall. Hall was victimized a couple other times in the game as well. Overall it didn't matter much given how well the rest of the Redskins looked, but this could be an issue to watch going forward. What happens when the Redskins are facing more top end QB's and better receiver corps? Those types of mistakes can be exploited big time, so the coverage really needs to tighten up.

6. Offensive line still a work in progress:

-The biggest concern on the offense (outside of the injuries) was the play of the offensive line. Both Tyler Polumbus and Shawn Lauvao were pushed around and victimized for much of the game. The Redskins again gave up 3 sacks in this game, and saw more penetration in the backfield than they'd like to see. Penalties were also an issue for the offensive line as they committed a combined 5 penalties. This week those things didn't cost the Redskins, but in other games that might not be the case.

7. Penalties an issue:

-The offensive line was a big part of the problem with penalties, but they weren't the only ones at fault. Overall the Redskins committed a combined 12 penalties (3 were either offset or declined), including 5 on offense, 2 on defense and 5 on special teams. That is a really bad number and something that will come back to bite you in closer games. The special teams penalties were perhaps the most troubling, given just how few special teams plays there were to commit so many fouls. Special teams penalties were a big issue last year and it bears watching to see if this becomes a trend.

8. Final Thoughts:

-This was a great game to watch or be at as a Redskins fan as we saw this team come together and dominate from start to finish. That hasn't happened too often in recent years so this was a fun game overall, but obviously the injury issues loom large over this game and the rest of the season. Also for as great as this team looked yesterday, there is still the matter of sample size and the strength of the opponent. There are definitely reasons to temper overall expectations, but this game did show the potential of this team when they get everything clicking.

Redskins vs Jaguars: Keys to the Game

September 13, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

1. Run the Football:

-Last week Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. ran all over the Texans in their 18 combined opportunities. The Redskins need to get them in the 30-35 carry range this week as this is clearly the strength of the Redskins offense right now. This has to be a bigger part of the Redskins game plan this week and if they can keep moving the ball on the ground versus the Jaguars front, it could open up some things in the passing game.

2. Protect RGIII:

-Last week Robert Griffin III was under a fair amount of pressure (some of it self-created), and the Jaguars are a team that likes to get after the QB (and are pretty good at it). The Redskins need to do a better job protecting Griffin and giving him more time in the pocket. For the Jaguars Defense to function they need to get after the quarterback, so this will be a key battle that could determine the outcome of the game.

3. Challenge the Jaguars Secondary:

-The Jaguars have some good solid corners, but their safeties are young and inexperienced. Last week there were some break downs in coverage that can be take advantage of if the Redskins are willing to take some shots down the field. Not only were there some big plays that the coverage broke down for the Jaguars, but there were some opportunities in the intermediate (15-20 yards) area as well. The Redskins need to have more success in this area and need to rely on their talented receivers to make some plays here.

4. Eliminate the Turnovers:

-Not counting the blocked punt, the Redskins had two big turnovers last week. Though much of the focus is on those turnovers being inside the Red Zone, the biggest issues is that they happened in general. The Redskins averaged just over 2 turnovers a game last year, and were among the league's worst teams last season. Turnovers were a big contributing factor to the Redskins 3-13 season a year ago, so they have to eliminate them if they want to start getting in the win column.

5. Sustain Drives and convert on 3rd down:

-Last week the Redskins just couldn't sustain drives and only managed just 2 drives inside the Redzone. Last year the Redskins averaged 3.1 red zone drives a game and that was considered below average. Not only did the Redskins managed only 2 drives inside the Redzone, but they only had one additional drive that got into FG range (note this doesn't count the big Niles Paul catch). The Redskins need to convert more 3rd downs and continue to move the ball down the field. Of course it would be nice to get some big plays, but one of the best measures of an offense is how they can sustain drives and their red zone opportunities.

6. Get Pressure on Chad Henne:

-Last week the Redskins really didn't generate a lot of pressure on the quarterback and it made it harder to get some big plays on defense. Now the Texans did a great job gameplanning for the Redskins, but that can't be an excuse for the defense. The coaches have to come up with a better game plan to generate pressure which will hopefully lead to turnovers and some big plays. The Redskins pass rush took a hit with the loss of Barry Cofield as he would do a nice job pushing the interior pocket, but they still have a good group of Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher that have to get going this week.

7. Eliminate the big plays allowed on defense:

-Last week the Redskins did a nice job on defense overall, but they gave up one big play that resulted in a TD and it put the Redskins in a hole that they couldn't get out of. Now obviously the Offense needed to put more points on the board, but the Redskins Defense can't afford to give up big plays like that TD versus the Texans. The Jaguars will surely take a couple shots down the field, so the Redskins need to be ready on the backend.

8. Eliminate the Special Teams miscues:

-Far too often in recent years special teams mistakes have doomed the Redskins, and that happened once again last week with two major errors. The Redskins aren't a good enough team to overcome those mistakes, so they need to do what it takes to eliminate them. This week it might not be blocked kicks/punts, but it could be giving up a big return or missing a key FG. The Redskins just can't afford errors and need to play a clean game on ST.

Redskins vs Jaguars: Tale of the Tape

September 13, 2014 in Redskins Personnel, Uncategorized

Here's a break down of how the Redskins and Jaguars match-up at each position.

Quarterback:

Redskins: 

-Robert Griffin III didn't have a great opening game versus the Houston Texans, but he didn't exactly have a bad game either. He was very accurate, completing 78% of his passes, but most of the Redskins passing game was limited to short throws which didn't really help sustain drives for the Redskins. Griffin struggled with feeling pressure, but he did make sure he didn't throw any interceptions which was a plus. Overall it was just one game, so the Redskins are hoping that Griffin can perform at a higher level this week and help lead the Redskins to a win.

Jaguars:

-Chad Henne isn't going to finish on any top 20 QB lists (he's probably not on many top 25), but he can still be an average guy in the right circumstances. Henne is a game manager type of quarterback and if he's given a situation where he just needs to protect a lead he can get the job done. He's not a guy who will take over a game though, or win a game late.

Advantage:  Redskins by a moderate amount. RGIII is clearly the more talented QB and his potential is off the charts, but he's also struggled the more the Redskins try to keep him in the pocket. Last week Griffin was a game manager type of quarterback and perhaps the Redskins can get away with that this week, but they could also use some of that Griffin magic from 2012.

Running backs/Fullbacks:

Redskins: 

-Alfred Morris is clearly one of the top 5 runners in the NFL and he proved that again last week, when he ran all over the Texans despite only having 14 carries. Morris has such great vision and he's a guy who typically will make the first defender miss. It allows him to pick up big chunks of yardage, despite not being a speedster. Roy Helu Jr. had a big game last week in a back-up role with over 40 yards on just 4 carries. Helu is overlooked in DC due to Morris, but he's a solid runner and can keep the chains moving when he's in there as well. Helu is the 3rd down back as well and can be a solid receiver out of the backfield though it's not a big part of the Redskins passing game. Finally FB Darrel Young is one of the better lead backs in the game, though he wasn't utilized much versus the Texans.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars went out and brought in Toby Gerhart to be their feature back this year. Gerhart hasn't been a fulltime starter, but he's filled in nicely for Adrian Peterson in Minnesota. Gerhart's first week didn't go so well as he got a little banged up with an ankle injury. He did have a couple nice runs, but for the most part he had to deal with a lot of defenders in the backfield. Gerhart is an above average runner and he can catch the football pretty well also. Behind him the Jaguars have Jordan Todman and Denard Robinson. Neither back-up is great, but Robinson can be an elusive weapon if he gets into open space.

Advantage: Redskins by a good margin. It's not that Toby Gerhart is a bad back, it's just that Morris is so far ahead of him. The fact that Gerhart is a little banged up also doesn't help matters. The Redskins really open up their advantage with their depth and FB talent.

Tight ends:

Redskins: 

-Jordan Reed suffered a hamstring injury in the first game and isn't available to play. In his place will be a combination of Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul. Paulsen is the better inline tight end, while Paul can be more of a receiving threat. While Paul showed some promise as a receiving TE last week, he's not on par with Reed, particularly in terms of being a red zone threat. Paulsen has regressed as a receiver and really isn't going to help out much in that department.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars have Marcedes Lewis as their primary tight end. He's been a solid tight end for them for years. He's not great in any area, but he can contribute both as a blocker and a receiver. He's not a dynamic receiving threat, but the Jaguars do seem to want to feature him more this year.

Advantage: Jaguars by a moderate amount. Obviously if the Redskins had Jordan Reed they would have a sizable advantage here, but without him the experience of Lewis gives the Jags the edge.

Wide Receivers:

Redskins: 

-The Redskins trio of Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, and Andre Roberts showed some nice potential week one, now the Redskins need to find ways to get them open down the field to take advantage of their speed and athleticism. Week one the Redskins mainly used short quick passes, which really limited the damage these guys can do, but we did see a couple times where these receivers were breaking free. The potential is there for these receivers to have a big game, but they need to get on the same page with Griffin fast.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars appear to be without their veteran receiver Cecil Shorts again as he's listed as doubtful on the injury report. What Jacksonville does have area trio of talented rookie receivers in Marqise Lee, Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. Hurns broke out in a big week one with over 100 receiving yards and a pair of TD's. Hurns can be a deep threat and a guy that the Redskins can't make any coverage mistakes with, or he'll make them pay. Lee is the most talented of the bunch and will likely be featured this week, as the Jaguars want to get the ball into his hands.

Advantage: Redskins by a large margin. The Jaguars receivers have some promise and can be dangerous if they are overlooked, but the Redskins trio of receivers are clearly the bigger threat. They've actually all produced at the NFL level and need to be accounted for. 

Offensive Line:

Redskins: 

-The Redskins offensive line was pretty good run blocking week one, but they struggled to pass block and that is what keeps them as a liability for this team. While much of the focus was on the struggles of Tyler Polumbus, even Trent Williams struggled some in that game. At the end of the day this is going to be a unit that holds the Redskins back. They can mitigate some of the issues with the line's ability limitations if they are more run-centric, but at some point they will need to pass and that could lead to some negative plays.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars are a young, inexperienced line and it showed week one versus the Eagles. They made a number of key mistakes both in run and pass blocking. When this unit though get's it together they could potentially be pretty solid. Luke Joeckel has elite potential at LT, while Zane Beadles was one of the top free agent guards on the market.

Advantage: Redskins by a small amount. The Redskins line is far from good, but they do have two things going for them. One, Trent Williams is a top LT (despite some week 1 struggles), and two they are more experienced overall. They might not be super talented, but that experience and familiarity gives them an advantage over a line that is very much a work in progress. 

Defensive Line:

Redskins: 

-The Redskins defensive line suffered two big blows week 1 against the Texans. Starting NT Barry Cofield is not on short term IR with an ankle injury, while Kedric Golston is listed as doubtful due to a groin strain. Without them, the Redskins are going to have to rely heavily on Jason Hatcher (who is still working his way back from injury), Chris Baker and Jarvis Jenkins. That can be a solid group, but their depth is going to be tested.

 

Jaguars:

-This is the strength of the Jaguars team as their defensive line is both talented and deep. They might not have a J.J. Watt type of player, but they have some guys who can play. Sen'Derrick Marks is probably the best interior defensive linemen that you haven't heard of. He's quick off the snap and he can get a lot of penetration. Red Bryant is a wall of a man, who is incredibly stout versus the run. Chris Clemons and Andre Branch both have good edge rushing skills. Behind them are a group of solid guys including Roy Miller, Ziggy Hood and Tyson Alualu. Also former UDFA Ryan Davis flashed in a situational pass rusher role against the Eagles, and is a guy the Redskins have to watch out for when he's on the field. The Jaguars tallied 5 sacks against the Eagles last week and will once again be looking to have a big day rushing the QB.

Advantage: Jaguars by a large margin. It's hard to compare the DL and LB's for these teams because they run different fronts, but any way you cut it the Jaguars have way more talent and depth here. If Cofield and Golston were there it would help the Redskins, but Jacksonville would still have the advantage.

Linebackers:

Redskins: 

-The Redskins have a strong group of linebackers with Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan on the outside and Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley on the interior. Orakpo had a quiet week 1, but the Texans did a good job game planning for him and taking him out of the play. The Redskins need to do a better job of letting him get to rush the QB and face 1-on-1 blocking. Robinson really showed up well week one and it's looking more and more like the Redskins have a solid piece in the middle of their LB corps. Back-up Trent Murphy should help out on passing downs and to give both Orakpo and Kerrigan some breaks from time to time.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars have a solid linebacking corps led by MLB Paul Posluszny. Posluszny is a great run defender and can be solid in coverage as well. He's a smart linebacker who can put his defense in the right place. On the outside Geno Hayes is a solid cover linebacker, but can be exploited in the run game. LaRoy Reynolds is their 3rd starter. He's a young guy, without a lot of hype, but he looked solid week 1.

Advantage: Redskins by a good margin. Like above with the DL it's tough to compare the two, but the Redskins definitely have an advantage at LB. They have arguably their two best defensive players in Orakpo and Kerrigan (and definitely 2 of their top 4) in this group. Also Robinson is looking like a pretty good player in his own right. 

(Note: In comparing front 7's I'd probably give the Jaguars a slight advantage. The big factor would be depth along the DL for the Redskins, which puts them behind the Jaguars. It's a close battle though between the two front 7's.

Cornerbacks:

Redskins: 

-DeAngelo Hall and David Amerson give the Redskins two corners with plenty of talent. Amerson didn't have as strong of a week 1, but he was having to deal with Andre Johnson quite a bit which would cause problems for any CB. He should fare better against the Jaguars young receivers. E.J. Biggers figures to once again be their 3rd corner.

Jaguars:

-Starter Alan Ball is quesitionable, but right now it looks like he's going to play. Ball teams up with Dwayne Gratz on the outside to give the Jaguars a pair of aggressive physical corners on the outside. Will Blackmon comes in to give the Jaguars a 3rd solid corner when teams go three wide. It's not a heralded group, and there isn't a single star amongst them, but these corners are pretty good overall.

Advantage: Redskins by a slim amount. The Redskins corners may have more natural talent (at least their top 2), but the Jaguars group is better than people give them credit for, and have 3 good capable options.

Safeties:

Redskins: 

-Ryan Clark appears to be everything the Redskins hoped for when they signed him this offseason and he offers solid play from the FS position. Unfortunately the SS spot is extremely unsettled right now. Bacarri Rambo once again made a major mistake week 1 that cost the Redskins. They may try to play Duke Inhenacho this week, but he's barely practiced, making it tough to get him up to speed. Either way the SS position is a liability right now.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars will be without their best safety as 2nd year man Jonathan Cyprien will miss the game with a concussion. That will mean they will go with Winston Guy and Josh Evans as their primary safeties. These are two young guys who flash at times, but for the most part are liabilities for the Jaguars.

Advantage: Redskins by a moderate amount. If Cyprien was there it would be closer, but Ryan Clark gives the Redskins the big advantage here as he's the one guy on either team that you can really count on.

Special Teams:

Redskins: 

-On the plus side Tress Way and Andre Roberts looked good week 1. Unfortunately the Redskins made a couple costly mistakes that led to a blocked extra point and a blocked punt. Making matters even worse is that kicker Kai Forbath is dealing with a sore groin. Even if he does suit up, he might not be 100%.

Jaguars:

-The Jaguars don't have much in the way of return men, but they do have a good punter/kicker combination in Bryan Anger and Josh Scobee. Scobee missed two FG's week one but he's typically one of the more accurate kickers in the league, while Anger is one of the better punters in the NFL.

Advantage: Jaguars by a good margin. Given the unknown with Forbath and just the constant miscues from this unit, it is tough to get excited about the Redskins ability to make the ST's be a plus for them.

5 Things the Redskins Need to Fix in Week 2

September 11, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

1. Offensive Play Calling:

-Perhaps nothing is more frustrating than watching the success that running backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. had against the Texans Defense, when they rushed for a combined 7.61 yards per carry, only to see them carry the ball a combined 18 times. That is just inexcusable in a game that until their final drive only had the Redskins down no more than 8 points. The Morris/Helu combo also led the Redskins to their only TD drive, yet it continued to be an after thought in the Redskins offensive game plan. Of those 18 runs, just four were for less than 6 yards. What makes it even worse is that 11 of the 29 completed passes that were for less than 6 yards. That is just completed passes, that doesn't take into account the 8 incompleted passes which obviously gained nothing. It's clear that running the football was the winning strategy for the Redskins, and they simply got away from it. If that wasn't bad enough the passing game plays and route combinations, for the most part were pretty vanilla. They used similar concepts throughout the game, making it easy for the Texans to recognize plays and their responsibilities. It was a pretty disappointing game plan for a highly respected offensive minded coach like Jay Gruden.

If the Redskins don't get more creative with their pass plays and run the football more, they will just be making it too easy for the Jaguars to stop them. The Texans Defense was pretty impressive (mainly D.J. Swearinger and J.J. Watt), but the Jaguars showed versus the Eagles that they can make some plays as well. The Redskins need to be more aggressive in taking some shots down the field, while running it down the Jaguars throats if that is working. Use the run game to set up the play action and hopefully get some favorable coverages to take advantage of.

2. Offensive Line Protection/Pocket Awareness:

-Now obviously most of the pressure and sacks comes from failures along the offensive line (or other blockers as well), but the quarterback is responsible as well for his share. Last week Robert Griffin III was sacked 3 times, hit 14 times and had an intentional grounding penalty. All of those are unacceptable numbers and very problematic if any continue to occur in that frequency. What's even worse is the numbers could have been worse but a sack and two QB hits were negated (only on the stat sheet, Griffin still felt them) due to defensive penalties. The Jaguars might not have J.J. Watt, but they have a good defensive line with a lot of depth, that managed 5 sacks on Nick Foles week 1. Though the Eagles line was missing some players, they are still probably a better line than the Redskins, so the fact that Jacksonville had that level of success is troubling.

The Redskins have to hold up versus this defensive line and give Griffin the time needed to throw the football on more of those intermediate and vertical routes. At the same time Griffin needs to recognize pressure better and do what it takes to minimize it's impact. If it's coming from the edge he has to step up (when the interior has held up), if it's coming up the middle he's got to move his feet to whatever side is more clear (preferably behind Trent). Griffin also needs to know when throwing the ball away is the answer (and do so in such a way to not get an intentional grounding call). There is no doubt due to the weakness of the OL that Griffin will be pressured, but a big part of his development is how he handles that pressure.

3. Turnovers:

-Not even counting the blocked punt returned for the Touchdown, the Redskins had two costly turnovers last Sunday to the Texans one turnover. Now much has been made that the Redskins fumbled twice inside the 10 yard line, and how that swung the game. There is no doubt that turning the ball over twice like that cost the Redskins points (whether it would be 6 or 14 is up for debate), but really two turnovers anywhere can be devastating, particularly when you lose the turnover battle. Last year the Redskins had 34 turnovers in 16 games (2.125 a game), which was 30th in the league, and a big part of their struggles last season. The Redskins can't afford another multi-turnover game if they don't want to get upset by the Jaguars. Unfortunately it looks like the Jaguars could prove to be a tougher test for the Redskins as they forced 3 turnovers against a pretty good Eagles offense. The Redskins have to be smart with the football and simply can't afford to give the Jaguars any extra chances. Jacksonville capitalized on some short fields last week, and they will be looking to do so once again.

4. Getting More Pressure on the QB:

-The Redskins lone sack was apparently taken away by the NFL official statistics, meaning their lackluster pass rush day looks even worse. Now it was clear that the Texans were scheming to prevent the pass rush from being a factor, and they were able to execute this perfectly. Unfortunately the Redskins didn't have a good answer and it meant that far too often the Redskins best pass rusher, Brian Orakpo, was in coverage rather than trying to get after the QB. The Texans achieved this in 3 major ways. First they were up most of the game so they were able to focus on the ground game and they trusted their defense to hold a slim lead. The 2nd thing they did was run the football to limit 3rd and long passing opportunities. Even though the Redskins held up pretty well versus the run, the Texans were in a lot of 3rd and 3-5 yard situations. That made it harder for the Redskins to justify a blitz or have their pass rushers pin their ears back, because they still had to watch the run. The final thing the Texans did is scheme their plays well to avoid pressure. They would run empty back sets or trips on the side of Brian Orakpo basically forcing him into coverage when the Redskins were in their base personnel. The Texans also called a lot of quick passes, especially when they were in longer distance situations. They simply didn't give the Redskins defenders time to get past the offensive line.

This week the Redskins need to game plan this week to find ways to generate more pressure and to free up Brian Orakpo to get after the quarterback more. The Jaguars like the Texans are definitely going to try to do some of the same thing to slow down the rush and neutralize Orakpo. The Redskins need to adjust their assignments to get Orakpo after the QB more this week, or teams will just do this all season to take the Redskins best pass rusher out of the game plan. The Redskins coverage also needs to be tighter if they are expecting a lot of screens and quick passes, otherwise Chad Henne will kill them underneath before the pressure ever has time to reach him.

5. Special Teams Miscues:

-Despite all the emphasis on special teams this offseason the Redskins made two major mistakes on special teams (also Darrel Young running into Andre Roberts didn't bode well either), allowing both a blocked extra point and a blocked punt (that was returned for a TD). It's unlikely that those mistakes will happen again this week given how infrequently they happen around the league, but the Redskins have a history of major special teams mistakes so you can't rule them out. Washington can't afford to even make minor mistakes this week, whether that means not allowing big returns or giving free penalty yardage on special teams. The Redskins have to find a way for the Special Teams to stop being a negative for this team's chances of winning games each week. While it would be great to turn it into a positive, having a neutral special teams unit would be a huge step for the Redskins.

How will the injuries to Barry Cofield and Jordan Reed Impact the Redskins

September 10, 2014 in Redskins Personnel

The Redskins suffered two big injuries in Sunday's game and both could have a major impact on the Redskins performance going forward. Here's how these injuries will affect the Redskins and what can be done to stop the bleeding:

TE Jordan Reed:

Reed suffered a hamstring injury early in the Texans game and was unable to return. While there isn't a full understanding of just how long Reed will be sidelined, 2-3 weeks seems likely at this point, with the possibility of it being longer. Hamstring injuries are also an injury that is ripe for a reoccurance, if a player comes back too soon.

The loss of Reed is a big blow to the passing attack, particularly on 3rd down plays and in the red zone. Overall the Redskins can be fine in their passing game as they can opt for more 3 WR formations to ensure there are three good options for RGIII to find. As we saw week 1 back-up Niles Paul can be an athletic target down the field and can fill some of the mis-match value that Reed brings to the table. Paul though is limited (and not just with his fumbling of the football), in his size and isn't going to be that big target that can outmuscle linebackers and safeties for contested balls. This obviously is really going to impact the Redskins near the goalline as they don't have one wide receiver or tight end that can present that big physical target who defenses have to respect. The Redskins will have to get more creative when they want to throw the ball near the end zone, but otherwise the impact of the Reed loss, hurts but is managable.

NT Barry Cofield:

Cofield's injury has been described as a high ankle sprain, which typically can keep a player out 3-5 weeks depending on the severity of the injury. It is also an injury that can be nagging or re-occur, which is probably why the Redskins opted to place Cofield on the short term IR with the designation to return. It means the Redskins will be without Cofield for at least 8 weeks, which will hopefully give Cofield enough time to get back to 100%.

The Cofield injury will cause a reshuffling of the defensive line as starting end Chris Baker will move into the nose tackle position, while top back-up Jarvis Jenkins will move to the starting role. Baker came into the league as a nose tackle and can play the position at an above average rate. Jenkins should fill in decently for Baker as a starting end, but both positions will see a drop in their production. Cofield isn't a flashy player who makes a ton of plays, and he's certainly not an elite nose tackle, but he's a good consistent player at the center of your defense. That is not something that is easy to replace, even with a solid player like Baker.

Baker has showed a lot of promise, but he hasn't been a consistent player where he is a force and a threat that the offense needs to take into account each and every snap. Baker has also not shown that he can hold up over long stretches. Cofield would play 75% or more of the snaps each week, and while that number was maybe a little high, he gave you production throughout. Baker has not played that much for an extended period of time, so it is unclear if he can hold up that much. With him as a starting end, the Redskins could more easily rotate in his back-ups (namely Jarvis Jenkins and Kedric Golston), to give him a breather. At nose tackle there isn't a natural back-up to Baker right now. Both Kedric Golston and Jarvis Jenkins could play there in a pinch, but neither is ideal and obviously Jenkins is now the starter at the one end position. It could be tough for the Redskins sub out Baker if the concern is with him wearing down over the course of the game/season. Also, with Jenkins now in the starting line-up, that means the 40 odd back-up snaps will fall to either Golston or 3rd string DE's Clifton Geathers and Frank Kearse. For this week though the Redskins might not even be able to rely on Golston as he tweaked his groin in the first game and his status for this week is up in the air.

Not only is the Cofield injury more of a concern for the Redskins due to the extended period of time that he is gone, but his impact was likely greater on the team than Reed's. The Redskins will no doubt miss Jordan Reed, but it will also be easier for them to make up for his loss. Cofield's injury could have a major domino effect that weakens 3 positions (NT, starting DE and top rotational DE). The Redskins can overcome these injuries, but they are both tough losses for a Redskins team that can't afford to lose key players.