1. Before the season I was not convinced the Redskins had the makings of a top-10 defense. There were too many issues, from the lack of an elite player in the front seven (though many good ones) to questions at the back end among other problems. But there’s no way this mess could have been anticipated. No way. I remember thinking at times with the offense last year that the Redskins called games for the team they wanted to be, not the one they are. This is not a defense that likes cover zero and I’m not even sure how much the defensive coaches are sold on that tactic. But Mike Shanahan likes it; it’s an aggressive call (and it’s his team) and at times it has worked. But not today. I’m sure plenty of readers can point to other examples when it did not. Not every score was off that, but one of them was, the 48-yard touchdown pass to Armon Binns against Josh Wilson. Know who I heard dislikes the cover zero most? Wilson. It puts tremendous stress on corners. Wilson stumbled out of his break and that’s all it took to enable Binns to race the final 39 yards for the score.
2. That’s why it’s difficult to lay the blame on any one particular coach. Meltdowns like this are a collective effort. Don’t read that as absolving anyone of blame. Jim Haslett is the defensive coordinator and he must fix this unit. Yeah, I’ve talked to people outside the organization who have criticized parts of his strategy (needs to adjust better; lack of sound technique in the back end, etc). Is it fair? I’d have to know a lot more than I do to say it is. But: he’s used to running a 4-3 and was then asked to run a 3-4 and he has none of his “guys” on his staff. It’s a little different. That’s why I say it’s a collective effort, though one guy does have the title. They’re on pace to give up 85.3 pass plays of 20 yards or more (27 more than last season). It also didn’t seem to be related to the loss of Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo. Indeed, Rob Jackson had some huge plays with the diving interception for a touchdown and three tackles for a loss. Just a good read on his part on the touchdown. Maybe Orakpo would have applied a little more pressure, but it’s tough to say his impact Sunday would have been greater considering the points. Jarvis Jenkins was OK. Oh, by the way, two weeks ago everyone was talking about the impact Raheem Morris had made in the coverage. That angle has been toned down a bit.
3. Joshua Morgan might have been justified in losing his cool at the end of the game vs. St. Louis, but it was still wrong. The same is true of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. He went off on the official at the end of the game, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (that is supposed to be 15 yards, but somehow turned into 20). Shanahan, and his father, were right that the Bengals’ bench – coaches and players — should not have been on the field at the end of the game, thinking it was over. It wasn’t. Thing is, some of the officials didn’t know it and thought it was over. That led to major [and deserved] frustration on the Redskins’ side. And the penalty didn’t cost them the game, though it did make the Hail Mary a heck of a lot tougher. Still, the Redskins preached this past week about keeping your cool.
4. I did like how Kyle Shanahan and the offense adjusted in the second half. The Bengals wisely had their ends attack Robert Griffin III. After the first game my belief was to have an end or whoever’s rushing go right at Griffin and let the other 10 defenders worry about Alfred Morris. But take out the playmaker, the guy who can hurt you a lot quicker. It’s not like they completely slowed him – Griffin had 221 yards passing and 85 more rushing. But they did make him pay and more games like this will leave him battered and bruised. Anyway, the Redskins started using Brandon Banks in the backfield and that drew the attention of the defense. The first time I remember it in the second half, on the first drive, the linebacker went with Banks outside, opening a lane for Evan Royster and a nine-yard gain. Plenty of examples that showed how his presence, and the fakes, caused hesitation in the second half – much more so than in the first. Another time later in the half, the corner widened because Banks ran to his side and the end crashed on Morris. A huge hole opened for Griffin.
5. Problem is, I don’t know how many hits Banks can take as well. What they ran today is difficult to sustain because Griffin’s durability will be tested as will Banks’. But both can make plays and it’s fun to watch how they’re being used. But what will happen in the second half of the season when the big boy teams show up on the schedule? By the way, speaking of big boys, Morris had another such run when he spun out of a tackle attempt from Robert Geathers and ran through a hole for a seven yard touchdown. It helps when defenders try to tackle him high; teams will learn that if you go high on him you’re in trouble.
6. Know why the Bengals ran that end around for 11 yards to A.J. Green? Because no one on the Redskins stayed home on a fake end around on the previous series. Nobody went with the player who went wide left (NOTE: It was Arman Binns on first down; Dalton dumped down to him after a few seconds in the pocket). You would have hoped the Redskins had noticed the same thing. Maybe they did and someone still messed up. So they went right back to it the next time they got the ball. Rob Jackson was inside on the play, though he said he did his assignment.
7. Richard Crawford said Andrew Hawkins is quicker than Danny Amendola. Here’s what he said: “Not even close. Faster, quicker, stronger.” Crawford was put in a tough coverage and though he said he fell for a double move it’s not clear from watching the play again that there was much of a fake from Hawkins. The middle was wide open because both safeties covered the deep outside. Again, a tough spot to be in for a rookie.
8. Losing Trent Williams dramatically changes the offensive line. They did have success without him at the end of last season in terms of rushing the ball. So it’s not like if he has to miss games that the Redskins will fold. And they still somehow managed to move the ball without him Sunday. But Williams’ speed is such an advantage, whether it’s blocking in space, sealing the edge or blocking down the line to open a cutback lane. It’s the one spot in this offense where you need a stud. It was clear, too, on the first drive of the third that Williams wouldn’t be able to last. Just couldn’t move to his right quick enough, which he later admitted was an issue. “I could go left,” he said.
9. I think the players need to see some legitimate progress here soon (read: victories). It’s early in the season and if the Redskins win a few games in a row the outlook changes. Every loss feels like the worst; every win feels like the start of something big. Still, here’s what Kedric Golston said after the game about the defensive problems, “It’s my seventh year and it’s frustrating because I know the men we have and how hard we work. It’s just disappointing. I can’t put it into words.” I’ve heard many good things from players about the direction they think this team is headed. But after a while if the same things keep happening (just on a different side of the ball), they’ll start to wonder themselves. It’s natural. It’s not at that point yet, but when you’re in year three of a program and there’s only 11 wins combined in two years, a bad start is not welcomed. A lot has changed at Redskins Park the past three years, but the losing needs to end especially when the rookie quarterback is not the problem. What if Griffin has a good year and the Redskins only win six games? Two weeks ago this was not the scenario I envisioned.
10. Another fourth down decision changed by a time out. Last week the Redskins were going to go for fourth and 16 until the Rams called time, then they opted for a 62-yard field goal. This time, they were going to go for it on fourth down and 1 early in the fourth quarter. The Bengals called time; the Redskins changed their minds and punted. I understand some of the rationale; the Bengals did nothing in the third quarter (42 yards on three series combined). But the offense did have a lot of momentum and had kept the Bengals’ off-balance to that point in the second half. I’m surprised Shanahan changed his mind and I have a feeling the next time he wouldn’t. Nor would I. The Redskins’ defense is too inconsistent right now and Griffin can pick up a yard with his arm or legs – or freeze defenders and allow someone else to get it. Had the Redskins not made it, then yeah the defense is in a terrible spot. But had they made it, perhaps they’re the ones taking a 31-24 lead. I’m going with the rookie QB.
Plus 1: There were no punts blocked.
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