Thoughts and Observations on Redskins Loss to the Giants
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.