LB Rob Jackson. The guy makes his first start a memorable one. What we here at Studs and Duds Inc., look for are playmakers and Jackson qualified as one don’t you think? He made a good read on the diving interception for a touchdown. His job is to drop to the curl/flat area, but he also knew the only outlet Andy Dalton had was the running back, in the left flat. A decisive read and reaction. But Jackson did more than this play. He was sound against the run, making three tackles for a loss, including one for eight yards. He was helped by teammates who plugged holes, but Jackson did a lot of things right on these plays too. On one play, Jackson stepped upfield and lowered his shoulder as tight end Jermaine Gresham attempted to cut him. Jackson stayed on his feet and tackled Benjarvus Green-Ellis for a loss. On the next series, Jackson knew a receiver was split wide to his right. Before the snap he checked back outside and saw the receiver coming in motion. So Jackson widened his stance, knowing a run to his side was coming (anticipating a crackback). Because of this he was too wide for the tackle and made a tackle for another loss. Late in the third he used his hands well against the left tackle, shed him and made another tackle for a loss. There was one play, the end around to A.J. Green in which I wondered if he had lost contain. But he said his job on the play was to play the ballcarrier. Of Jackson’s six rushes, five produced little pressure. But the sixth resulted in a hold. Not a bad first start.
DE Stephen Bowen. He has been the Redskins’ best defensive player through three games. He was a Stud in Week 1, a near-miss in Week 2 and he’s back on the list in Week 3. Bowen makes some plays on his own, but he also sets up teammates for big stops, whether against the run or the pass. Linebackers typically ran clean to the ball on his side. On Jackson’s touchdown, he drove the left guard back for a good rush. On Jackson’s first tackle for a loss, he drove the tackle back and into Green-Ellis’ path, forcing him wider. One of Bowen’s stunts helped result in a sack; another ended in a pressure by him. On a one-yard loss by Green-Ellis, Bowen shed his block and helped on the play. Bowen continues to be much better than I anticipated when they signed him.
LB Ryan Kerrigan. He did not draw the extra attention some thought he might with Brian Orakpo sidelined. But maybe he should have. Kerrigan, as usual, was active much of the game. He spent almost the entire game rushing, which is what he should be doing. He proved to be a mismatch when the Bengals tried to block him with tight end Jermaine Gresham, which happened way too often. Two of his better plays came when he was (foolishly) unblocked, the first a pressure of Dalton on Jackson’s touchdown and the second, by design, on a Dalton pass his way. Kerrigan did a nice job batting the pass down as he ran at Dalton. He should have drawn a holding penalty on another rush, but it was missed (in the open no less) on Dalton’s 14-yard completion to A.J. Green on the run. Kerrigan’s sack was the result of a well-designed and executed rush (see below). But Kerrigan’s power, driving the left tackle back after getting leverage, made it work. Kerrigan got inside Gresham to help on a two-yard stop. He had another pressure in the fourth when he drove Gresham back and two plays later he stopped Green-Ellis for two yards.
LB Perry Riley. The only reason I hesitated on Riley is because Gresham’s six-yard touchdown pass was caught in his area. Once Gresham crossed Riley, he was open. There was help behind them as Madieu Williams raced up and hit Gresham, as did Richard Crawford. Neither stopped him so it turned into a six-yard touchdown catch. It was Riley’s area and responsibility but others could have saved him and didn’t. But overall Riley was excellent. The line kept him clean to run to the ball, but aside from this play he was sound in coverage. He covered speedy slot Andrew Hawkins well twice. The first time he had him covered so the pass went elsewhere. The second time was textbook. He shaded him to the inside off the ball and when Hawkins broke, so did Riley. He then got his eyes back on the quarterback and caused an incompletion. Another time, on the Kerrigan batted pass, the play wouldn’t have worked anyway because of Riley’s quick read. On a slant to Brian Leonard, he drove on the upfield shoulder and caused another incompletion. And on his sack he saw the running back release to the other side, triggering his rush to the right side. Riley finished with 11 tackles; the line did a good job keeping him clean vs. the run.
CB DeAngelo Hall. The first play was a mess-up by many people, but while Hall said he was trying to get DeJon Gomes to switch, he didn’t do so with enough vigor. Gomes, though, did wave him off. But this play wasn’t Hall’s fault by any means. But Hall struggled throughout the day. The Redskins pay him like a top corner so he’ll be judged accordingly. In this game, that’s not how he played. In some cases his coverage was sound, but a good throw to an elite receiver (A.J. Green) beat him. That’s what happened on a 28-yard pass in the second half (see below). Hall was sound in the first half and did a nice job in one instance vs. shifty/speedy Andrew Hawkins. The slot receiver faked inside, but Hall was balanced, stepped with him and cut back out with power leading to an incompletion. Hall had a good tackle in the open field on a dump-off to Arman Binns. But his missed tackle three plays later on tight end Jermaine Gresham really hurt. He missed Gresham at the 37-yard line on a third and 14. If Hall makes the tackle, the Bengals have a 55-yard field goal attempt. Instead, Mike Nugent was good from 47. On the Bengals’ third play of the fourth quarter, Hall allowed a 31-yard pass to Green and was flagged for a facemask penalty for an additional 15 yards (he grabbed it as Green started to go by him). On the play, Green stepped inside, causing Hall to open his hips that way. When Green turned back and up he was immediately open.
S DeJon Gomes. I don’t know if Brandon Meriweather is the answer at safety, but maybe his return can help at least a little bit. Gomes adds value because of his special teams play, but he’s still learning to play all aspects of safety. How much do you ping him for the opening play? He could have lined up deeper or switched to Andy Dalton, lined wide right. Regardless, once the ball was snapped he had no chance but as pointed out in Hall’s write-up, this was more than one players’ failure. Gomes was aligned near the line of scrimmage most of the game and finished with three tackles. Not a lot, but it’s not like the run was hurting them. Gomes wasn’t effective as a blitzer. In the first quarter running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis de-cleated him, leaving a gap open for Dalton to run to his right. The next time Gomes blitzed, he stutter-stepped as he approached Green-Ellis and slowed and was hit. On the first play of the second quarter Gomes missed a tackle in the backfield on Hawkins, a third-and-2 play that resulted in a first down. On the first play of the third quarter, Gomes lost awareness of the ball. He was lined up over Hawkins at the snap and dropped into a zone on the left. As he looked back to Dalton, the ball already had been thrown. About three yards to his left, Hall is wrestling Green to the ground as Gomes is looking for the ball. He never knew it was near him. Fortunately for him, Hall got him to the ground.
CB Josh Wilson. Said this after the game, but from what I’ve heard no one dislikes cover zero more than Wilson. He does well in other coverages because he understands where his help is and plays accordingly. He’s a smart player. But he allowed a couple big plays Sunday. The first one was an eight-yard pass interference penalty. Yeah it looked like he got there early, but the Bengals eventually punted on this series. However, one play is all it takes to land on the Dud list and the 48-yard touchdown to Binns in cover zero did the trick. Wilson rounded his cut on the play, but he also stumbled. Even if his angle was a little off he makes the play with no stumble and the Bengals would have been faced with a third and long situation. But one stumble in a cover zero is all it takes. Beyond this play Wilson was fine. He even recovered a fumble, which should have resulted in his second touchdown in two weeks. But the refs inexplicably blew the play dead; no Bengal came within a couple feet of touching him. On the Andrew Hawkins touchdown catch, Wilson was called for holding (NOTE: incorrectly had London Fletcher as the guilty party on this. I’m a Dud).
CB Richard Crawford. Again, one play. Crawford helped force a fumble, but he was beaten badly by Hawkins on the 59-yard touchdown pass down the middle. Crawford said a double move got him, but all Hawkins did is run at him and then cut to the middle. Crawford was flat-footed and couldn’t recover against a speedy target. With both safeties heading to the numbers off the snap, Crawford was left in a cover zero look of his own. Another time he was beaten off the line by Binns, but Dalton wasn’t looking that way. That’s a tough look for Crawford against Hawkins, but the rookie had played well in limited looks the first two games.
LB London Fletcher. A rare appearance on this side of the ledger. Maybe another player who had the same game doesn’t end up here, but the standard is high for Fletcher. He audibled on the first play of the game, but took away any safety help in doing so. Fletcher gets so many calls right but this one burned the Redskins. Of course, the Redskins defenders said they weren’t aware Mohamed Sanu had thrown from this look 18 times in college. Most times, in at least 90 percent of the cases, the wildcat results in a run anyway so percentages were played. They lost. Fletcher missed a tackle on Gresham on the same third down play Hall did. Fletcher was beaten for a 25-yard catch by Orson Charles on the Bengals’ second play in the fourth quarter. There were a couple times Fletcher didn’t clean up on some outside runs like he normally does. Once Green-Ellis pulled him in a little bit by starting up the middle then cutting wide. I’m not going to say Fletcher lost a step when I saw the same guy cover Darren Sproles two weeks ago. But Fletcher didn’t make these plays.
…Madieu Williams deserves kudos for the stop on the fake field goal. For those bashing Danny Smith – I’m not saying heat isn’t warranted – you need to praise him on this one. Williams said Smith had been getting on him for not playing for the fake at other times. And he warned him the Bengals liked to try fakes. On this one, Williams was lined up in a three-point stance on the line over the left end. At the snap he stepped up and then backpedaled. Nobody went to block him; had one of the linemen on that side done so it’s an easy touchdown. Instead, the one lineman who might have stayed inside even as he blocked no one. Williams made the easy tackle on the holder.
…Lorenzo Alexander had a big tackle in kick coverage and nearly made a good play on the punt that was (correctly) ruled a touchback.
…Want a contrast with what Robert Griffin III endured, thanks to play calls and his running? Griffin was pounded much of the game. Andy Dalton was not. Dalton dropped back to pass 29 times and was only hit five times, including two sacks. Even on his scramble he dove forward and wasn’t really hit. Another time he was hit at his ankles. Dalton avoided hits with quick decisions in the pocket. One of the sacks, by Perry Riley in second and goal, took 3.1 seconds – longer than desired but not as long as some quarterbacks hold the ball.
…The theory was that with Brian Orakpo sidelined, teams would direct more attention at Ryan Kerrigan. That didn’t seem to be the case Sunday. Of Kerrigan’s 26 pass rushes (which include two rushes in which plays were negated by penalties, but this is more about strategy so I’m including them), only three times did the Bengals give him extra attention. Every other time he rushed one-on-one and, in fact, there were two times he rushed untouched. The first time he hit Dalton as he threw the interception to Jackson. And the second time he deflected a pass.
…Kerrigan dropped into coverage only six times. The triumvirate of Jackson, Chris Wilson and Markus White dropped into coverage a combined seven times. Of those seven, Jackson dropped five times and Wilson twice. White rushed all 12 times he was on the field. He’s still learning to rush from a stand-up position and gets himself off-balance. But he was a little more consistent than what I remember from this summer. Then, he often was too upright and had little explosion. Sometimes he gets a little too wide. Once, for example, he tried to use his hands against the left tackle but was too far away and whiffed on the attempt. Sometimes he was a little too bent over and didn’t get the necessary pop; on the Gresham TD, White’s legs aren’t bent and he’s leaning into the tackle, who easily shoves him to the ground. But other times he showed more power and got a little push. Work in progress.
…Kerrigan’s sack occurred as the result of a well-coordinated rush, capped by individuals winning battles. Kerrigan was aligned on the right side, about three yards back and between the guard and tackle. Jarvis Jenkins was aligned over the nose with Bowen over the tackle in a nickel rush. Bowen took a step upfield, then stunted to the middle, drawing attention from the center. The left guard was helping the center vs. Jenkins and was left in one-on-one blocking. The left tackle had set for a wider rush from Bowen. When he stunted inside, and when the left guard had to help on Jenkins, that enabled Kerrigan to get inside for the sack. On the other side, Chris Wilson beat the tight end (Jermaine Grisham did not block well at all this game) to help record the sack.
…Need to find out how exactly Kedric Golston hurt his elbow on the one play he had to come out in the second quarter – as the Bengals were, uh, coincidentally trying to run a no-huddle attack. On the play, Golston goes upfield at right end, with the ball being run the other way. He’s not in the picture again until he’s walking back to the huddle, showing no issue with his elbow. The camera stays elsewhere, then it later shows Golston on the ground clutching his elbow. At one point he points to the elbow, a bit dramatically. Yes, Marvin Lewis was apparently miffed about this play.
…It’s tough enough to cover an A.J. Green. It’s even tougher when the QB unloads the ball a second before he breaks. That’s what happened on a 28-yard gain in which Hall had tight coverage. But Dalton threw long before Green broke, the ball was on his back shoulder. Hall had no chance.
…Second-year end Jarvis Jenkins was OK. He had his usual getting-up-too-high moments, but this kid is talented and the experience will speed his development. There will be growing pains, especially as more teams get film of him as a full-time end rather than just as a nickel rusher. But he did make two nice stops Sunday. On the first series of the third quarter, a third and 2, Jenkins flowed with the ball and stood up about two yards off the ball. But his strength enabled him to plug the hole and allow Riley to help make the stop. Another time he slid inside the tackle and down the line to help make a stop. Didn’t see a whole lot from his pass rush, however.