Mike Shanahan Redskins Press Conference: Thoughts and Observations

Washington Commanders

Here are some of Washington Redskins head coach, Mike Shanahan’s answers from yesterdays press conference and my take on them. Including responses on Robert Griffin, Billy Cundiff, Brandon Meriweather, Aldrick Robinson and the state of the defense.

On quarterback Robert Griffin III:

“First off, I thought he played his best game of the year yesterday – very poised. I thought he handled himself extremely well. [He] made some plays that you always want a quarterback to make. A lot of times, they can’t make those plays this early in their career. I’m talking about the two-minute drive, some play action passes, quarterback keeps that I thought were exceptional.”

My Take: I agree wholeheartedly. In past games I felt like Griffin had good performances, but his numbers were jacked up due to yards after the catch, or facing some soft defenses on 3rd and long. Sunday though was a different story. He threw more intermediate routes and really did a great job throughout the game.Yes it was against a poor Buccaneers pass defense, but Griffin still deserves credit for dissecting them, especially considering that he didn’t turn the ball over.

On wide receiver Aldrick Robinson and safety Brandon Meriweather:

“Aldrick was knocked out for over a minute. Anytime you’re knocked out for that length of time, you go through a procedure, according to the NFL. He’s been with the doctors today. He feels very good right now. It looks good, but he’s going to have to take some tests over the next couple of days. If he looks OK and he passes those tests, he’ll be able to practice and potentially play. If not, he’ll have to wait until his signs are correct. Brandon – MCL, PCL. I think we’ll be able to tell in a week’s time exactly the length it will be, but right now he will be out for the next game.”

My Take: Boy this doesn’t sound good. I know Robinson says he is okay and will be back this week, but given that he was knocked out for over a minute I think it is more likely that he will need to miss at least a week.  I know Pierre Garcon is back, but I think Robinson is a bit of a loss for the Redskins. He probably has the best speed on the team, that if used effectively could be very dangerous in this offense. As for Brandon Meriweather it doesn’t sound too promising. It’s not season ending which is good, but I don’t believe it is just a one week issue, since Mike Shanahan said they need a week to tell exactly what the length will be. At this point I’m thinking it will be a full month and the target will be for him to return after the bye week. Though I’m not a big Brandon Meriweather fan, I will say the secondary is definitely hurt by his absence.

On improvement on defense:

“I thought we played well in the first half. [In the] second half, you can’t give up those big plays. We’ve been talking about those big plays. You give up two big plays like we did – a little over 120 yards – instead giving up 250 yards in a game and holding your opponent to 6-9 points, you give up 370 yards in a game, so we’re going to have to keep on working and eliminate those big plays. If we do, then we’ll improve.”

On the biggest difference in the defense from the first to the second half:

“Like I just told you, I said two plays. You take away those two plays and it’s the same as the first half – same yardage. Those two big plays obviously put them in position for touchdowns. Is it just that simple? Maybe it is. I don’t know, but we can’t give up those plays – for sure if we want to be the type of team we want to be. That’s what we’ll work on.”

My Take: These two quotes obviously went together, and I was really disappointed by the answer’s by Mike Shanahan. Every defense would like to wipe out the two biggest plays against them. If the Buccaneers eliminated Alfred Morris‘s two longest runs (one that went for a TD), their run defense would look a whole lot better (and they would have won the game). Those were big receptions by the Buccaneers, but they are part of the game and something this team has to fix. It’s completely fair to ask the difference between the halves as well. Even without those two long passes, Josh Freeman looked better in the 2nd half. Even when he threw incompletions he was more on target, and the receivers seemed to be more open. The pass rush which didn’t have a great game in general, really disappeared in the 2nd half. All these questions need to be answered.

On what needs to improve in the defense so they don’t give up big plays:

“I think that’s what you have got to look at. You take a look at everything . Why do they make those plays? That’s what we do when we look at film. We talk about the things that we did to give up those big plays. Is it scheme? Is it personnel? Doesn’t matter what it is. You have to take a look at what players do best and you have to adjust your scheme to fit your personnel. That’s always an ongoing process, both offensively and defensively.”

-My Take: I like the mentality here of adjusting your scheme to what your players do best, but it doesn’t always seem to be in practice on this defense. For instance, Ryan Kerrigan is without a doubt the Redskins best pass rusher (now that Brian Orakpo is injured), yet he’s been in coverage about 20% of the time on passing downs. Given how badly they need to put pressure on the quarterback, and how effective Kerrigan is at doing just that, it’s a tough sell to say they are putting their players in the best possible situation. DeAngelo Hall is another one that doesn’t seem to compute. Though he’ll struggle wherever you put him, the experiment of him in the slot did not workout so well. His instincts are poor and he was way too slow to react when the receiver starts making his cut, which is why Danny Amendola had a field day in Week 2.

On struggling in third down conversions:

“That’s a problem I want to have – is to have the yardage that we’re having on the first downs and the time of possession and still not do very well on third down. I don’t think I’ve ever been in this situation before, where you have as many big plays as we’ve had – I think we’ve had 15 plays over 15 yards – and still do very poor in that third down area. We’re going to constantly work in that area to improve and once we do, then we’ll get it rolling.”

My Take: Look I get you want to highlight the positives by the offense, but struggling on 3rd downs is not a problem you want to have. It’s a big part of the reason why this team is 2-2 right now, and had to come from behind to beat Tampa late. If the Redskins were more successful on 3rd downs then they wouldn’t have had to rely so much on kicker Billy Cundiff on Sunday, and their inability on get a couple first downs on their 2nd and 3rd to last drives, prevented them from running out the clock on the Buccaneers. This is becoming a feast or famine offense, and right now everything is good because there are more feasts, but that might not always be the case. The Redskins can’t continue to waste 3rd downs if they want to win.

On if he is looking at other kickers:

“We’re not going to work out any kickers this week.”

My Take: It looks like Billy Cundiff has survived another week, but this is hardly a strong endorsement. I’m guessing Cundiff is on a pretty short leash and another miss inside 50 yards (basically because it is a waste of time to line up for anything longer than that) will probably be the end of the Billy Cundiff experiment. Given how Mike Shanahan signed Billy Cundiff after Graham Gano “won” the kicking competition, this move would be a bit embarrassing


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