Redskins vs Texans: Thoughts and Observations
1. Special Teams are far from fixed:
-There were some positives from the special teams play as Tress Way averaged over 49 yards gross per punt (not counting the block). Andre Roberts also had a couple really nice kick-off and punt returns showing that he can help the field position battle as a returner. Roberts might not be Devin Hester and a threat to score every return, but he should get the Redskins some positive yards. Unfortunately two massive mistakes completely washed out any positives from other areas of the special teams unit. The Redskins both had a blocked extra point and a blocked punt (that was returned for a TD). Either of those things are really bad to have in a season, much less a game. To have both of them together is just inexcusable. A number of teams won’t have that big of special teams miscues over the course of the season and the Redskins managed it in one game. Going back to the 2011 season the Redskins have at least 4 blocked punts, 3 blocked extra points and 6 blocked field goals (it’s possible I’m missing some as well), that is beyond unacceptable.
2. The Passing Game Has some issues:
I know people will point to Robert Griffin‘s 29 of 37 (78.3 completion %) for 267 yards (7.2 yards per attempt) looks good on paper, but it clearly wasn’t an effective part of the offense as the Redskins passing game didn’t get them in the end zone. The Redskins lone TD came on a drive where they ran the ball 4 times to score (after a nice punt return). Sure two turnovers ruined other good chances to score, but that is going to happen. The passing offense was in game manager mode and that is just not going to win a lot of football games. While it’s good that Griffin didn’t force the ball, completing a lot of short passes isn’t going to move this offense, and that is not why the Redskins have one of the highest paid receiving corps in the league.
Now there were two contributing factors to why the Redskins went with this approach, the 1st being the offensive line vs the Texans pass rush (more on this later), but the 2nd did seem to be a lack of faith in RGIII to run a more developed offense and make the right throws down the field. Griffin just didn’t look comfortable in the pocket and it wasn’t always a result of the Texans pass rush. There were opportunities to go down the field more and work the intermediate passing game (10-20 yards down the field) and they just didn’t even try to take them. Griffin also made some key mistakes including the intentional grounding penalty (even if the call was wrong, Griffin ran into that pressure), and taking a 12 yard sack taking the Redskins out of a long FG range.
This loss isn’t on RGIII or the passing game by themselves, but they also didn’t do much to help the Redskins win this football game. Houston might be a good defense, but they had to do more. The Redskins will play other defenses on par or better than Houston this season and if the passing game can’t be more than “game managing” it’s going to cause some issues.
3. What exactly was the Redskins game plan?:
For much of the night the passing game was wholly ineffective (74 yards at half on 17 passing attempts), meanwhile the run game was dominating with 131 yards on 23 carries (5.7 ypc). Why when you are running that well (and Morris and Helu’s numbers were even better) was there such a discrepancy in the play calling? Sure the Redskins drives before the end of the half and the end of the game boosted up the passing attempts, but even outside of that the Redskins were putting the ball in the air too much. In the 2nd half before the Redskins final drive the Redskins dropped back to pass 16 times (1 ended in a sack) and the Redskins had 8 runs (they had an extra one that was nullified due to holding). Why are you passing at a 2-1 rate when you are only down 8 points? That just makes zero sense. How do you have a game plan that only calls for Alfred Morris to get 14 carries and really expect to win? It’s one thing if Morris was being stuffed or if the Texans were up by 3 scores and it made sense to abandon the run, but this wasn’t the case. Overall I’ve been happy with Jay Gruden, but this game plan didn’t make sense.
4. Where is the improvement of the offensive line?:
Now the offensive line and the blocking wasn’t solely to blame, and they did make some really nice run blocks (again if the line is winning in this area, why not keep up the pressure), but the Texans had 3 sacks and 14 QB hits. Another sack was nullified by questionable defensive holding call that probably could have gone either way. Now the line isn’t to blame for everything as some of the issues were the tight ends or backs, or even Griffin running into pressure. But at the end of the day the line just gave up too much penetration. The line also failed at some crucial moments, Morris was tackled for a loss twice in key situations. Griffin getting pressured or sacked on some key 3rd downs. Kory Lichtensteiger getting pushed back and Griffin tripping over him resulting in a fumble. Were all situational things that really killed any offensive momentum. Considering the Redskins game plan involved so many short quick passes, 3 sacks and 14 QB hits is just unacceptable.
5. The Run defense held up:
Considering that Brian Orakpo and Jason Hatcher were less than 100% and Barry Cofield played just about a quarter of the game, the Redskins have to be really pleased about their run defense. Yes Arian Foster went over 100 yards, but they were tough yards and he needed 27 carries to get over 100. The Redskins also came up big stopping the running game on some key 3rd downs getting the ball back and keeping the Texans from extending drives. Considering who they were going against and the issues the Redskins were facing this was a good area for the Redskins to build on.
6. Passing defense improved, but not great:
The thought was that the Redskins might have an advantage here, with a hopefully improved pass rush and facing a QB who has a history of throwing the ball to the other team, the thought was that the Redskins passing defense would come up with some big plays. In the end that didn’t happen. They managed just one sack and only got a handful of pressures. Some of that was Ryan Fitzpatrick making some quick decisions to limit pressure, but some of that was simply the Redskins not being able to get after the quarterback. Now with Hatcher and Orakpo less than 100% and Cofield missing so much much time there was some reasoning for it, but it was not a good game overall for the pass rush. On the back end the Redskins did okay, but they benefited from a limited quarterback in Fitzpatrick. Some of his incomplete passes were to open guys, but he just missed them. Fitzpatrick did hit the big pass to DeAndre Hopkins which was clearly a blown coverage by someone. On top of the blown coverage, safety Baccari Rambo took a bad angle and missed the tackle allowing Hopkins to score. In a game like that it’s just unacceptable to make those kind of errors. The Redskins will obviously be tested by far better passing attacks this year, and with Cofield possibly missing an extended period of time there is some concern going forward.
7. Injuries raise some big questions for the Redskins:
The Redskins suffered 3 injuries that could have lasting impact over the next couple of weeks. Starting NT Barry Cofield went down with a sprained ankle, but some reports said it looked to be a high ankle sprain which can keep a player out for a couple of weeks and limit his effectiveness after that. Even if it isn’t a high ankle sprain, Cofield’s status for this week is probably in doubt. Back-up defensive end Kedric Golston suffered a strained groin, which is another injury that could affect his status for the next couple of weeks. With Hatcher less than 100% and Cofield possibly out, the defensive line suddenly looks pretty thin heading into week 2. The most serious injury though appears to be tight end Jordan Reed who suffered a hamstring injury. Though the full extent isn’t fully known, there appears to be a concern that he could miss significant time. Even if it is only a couple of weeks losing Reed is a body blow to the Redskins passing offense. Reed can be a match-up nightmare for teams, and it was expected that he’d be even more dangerous this year, given that defenses had to account for both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon on the outside. Him being out for anytime will be a huge win for opposing defenses.