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