Thoughts and Observations from Redskins loss to the Vikings

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1. This game is not Robert Griffin III‘s fault:

-There is a lot of blame being thrown around for this loss and while RGIII deserves a share of it, he is not the reason why the Redskins lost. It was Griffin’s first game back and he was going up against one of the better pass rushing units in the NFL on the road. This was not a game where it reasonably could have been expected that he would “carry” the team or lead a comeback. Griffin made some mistakes, and some were pretty costly, but he didn’t lose this game and overall he played above average. The real culprits for this loss lie with the offensive line and secondary play (other facets contributed as well). Both will be talked about further below, but suffice to say that both areas struggled and as a result the Redskins lost a winnable game to fall to 3-6.

2. That being said there are still questions about where Griffin is in his health and development:

-While I don’t think you can put this loss on Griffin’s shoulders, there are some concerns starting to creep up in Griffin’s development and long term future. Griffin’s health also is in question as there were times where he simply didn’t look fully healthy (which probably shouldn’t be that surprising). Griffin started out the game strong and it looked like concerns about rust, health or his development were unfounded. As the game got into the mid-2nd quarter, Griffin started making some questionable throws with the worst one being the interception right before half. Griffin was more of mixed bag in the 2nd half as he didn’t turn the ball over, but he was off on some throws (including a crucial one at the end of the game) and took far too many sacks.

As the game wore on Griffin was limping more and just didn’t seem to be fully healthy. Hopefully with the bye week he can rest up and be relatively healthy, but it is something that bears watching.

The sacks are becoming an issue for Griffin because it was a major negative from his first game+ prior to the injury when he didn’t respond well to pressure and took unneeded sacks. While young and/or running QB’s are more known for taking sacks, you need to see some big plays created by the QB to really make it worth it and there just wasn’t enough of that from Griffin yesterday. Now it is just one game back from a serious injury and he was on the road, but the Redskins need Griffin to pick-up his game coming out of the bye and be a bigger factor in the offense.

3. The offensive line and overall blocking are a major issue with this team:

-The Redskins offensive line hasn’t been that good all season, but they really got exposed in this game as they went up against one of the better defensive fronts in the Vikings. Another factor in this game was Griffin’s tendency to hold on to the ball for too long. It’s a growing pain the Redskins have to live with, but this offensive line just isn’t capable of protecting Griffin for that long. It’s not just the offensive line that is at fault as running back Roy Helu Jr. looked particularly bad in blitz pick-up and it cost the Redskins dearly. Though Alfred Morris had his best game of the year, the line issues were also present in the running game as well as multiple times guys missed blocks leaving Morris to face defenders in the back-field, killing plays before they even had a chance. The most troubling thing for the Redskins is that everyone was really struggling. There wasn’t a single offensive lineman who had a truly good day. Even star LT Trent Williams struggled in this game (and he has been struggling recently due to the knee injury). It’s going to be extremely tough for the offense to get going if these line issues continue. With it being the bye week the coaching staff needs to take a long look at what they can possibly do to fix the line issues.

4. DeSean Jackson keeps making big plays:

-One real bright spot for the Redskins is the play of DeSean Jackson. He came up with two big deep catches and had another nice TD grab on a shorter route. Jackson has had issues with missed blocks and assignments, but he has been a very dangerous weapon for the Redskins. He has made teams pay for not double covering him and it remains one of the few things that is working for the Redskins offense this season.

5. Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed were non-existent:

-On the flip side of DeSean Jackson‘s good game is the question as to where were Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed? Garcon did catch a couple short passes and was targeted on a deep throw, but he just didn’t make much of an impact in this game. As disappointing as Garcon’s game was, it was better than what we saw from Jordan Reed. Reed just had one catch in this game and that was his only target on a play that counted (he did draw two other penalties). Six combined targets for Garcon and Reed is simply not enough for this offense to work. The Redskins have to get these two involved more going forward.

6. Pass Rush can’t get home:

-One week after the Redskins pass rush came up big versus the Cowboys and helped secure the victory, their pass rush disappeared in this game. Early on it started out well with a couple of sacks an some nice pressures. As the game wore on it was less and less effective. Even when a guy did get free Bridgewater was easily able to avoid him and still make the play. The Redskins had just 2 sacks and 5 QB hits in this game, out of 44 dropbacks. That is just simply not enough times getting to the QB (note that doesn’t count pressures). The Vikings on the other hand had 5 sacks and 9 other QB hits out of just 33 dropbacks. That means that the Redskins sacked or hit Bridgewater on less than 1/6 of his dropbacks, while the Vikings were able to sack or hit Griffin on more than 2/5 of every dropback.

7. The coverage in the secondary was a complete joke:

-For as ineffective as the pass rush was, they were world beaters compared to the level of coverage in this secondary. The Redskins looked to be in zone for much of the game and it was simply just too easy to pick it apart. Too many times a guy was wide open in the zone without a defender within 5 yards (sometimes more). There were just far too many breakdowns and mistakes by this group as a whole. Honestly this game could have been a blowout if the Vikings had a better QB and receivers. They had some opportunities that they didn’t take advantage of that would have made this game out of reach fairly early on.

8. Final Thoughts:

-The Redskins head into the bye sitting at 3-6, but things don’t look good for them to have a miraculous turnaround like they did in 2012. Not only is their competition stiffer this year, but the Redskins don’t have the same dynamic offense they relied upon in 2012. What the Redskins can do with this bye week and the rest of the season is build towards the future. They need to start fixing the holes on this team and look to make some changes. Perhaps try some of the other young offensive linemen in the starting unit. Now that they signed Phillip Thomas to the active roster they can give him some looks on defense to see if he could reasonably be counted on for a starting role next season. The biggest test of all will be to see Robert Griffin III over these final 7 games. The Redskins have to make a major decision regarding his future this offseason and they need to see what exactly they have.

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