QB Robert Griffin III. Guy gets his own report after that game. Click here to read. Yes, you’d think there might be more Studs, but so much of the success was based off what Griffin did –or the threat of what he could do – as well as the play-calling. Griffin made that big a difference. He’s going to get Kyle Shanahan a head coaching job someday.
RB Alfred Morris. In the last seven games dating to last season, the Redskins have had five 100-yard games from rookie backs and a 96-yard game. That’s impressive. Sunday, it was a commitment to the run that mattered, as did playing with a solid lead in the second half. This stat is worth repeating: only two of his 28 carries lost yards. The line deserves some credit for that because it wasn’t as if the Saints were living in the backfield. But Morris is a good downhill runner. His longest run was only 18 yards so his was a steady, workman-like performance. Funny thing is, he entered the draft with a reputation as a fumbler, but his hands have been very good since camp opened. And Mike Shanahan trusted Morris enough to have him carry the ball 10 times in the fourth quarter while protecting a lead. Says a lot. Morris’ touchdown in the fourth quarter was a big boy run when he crashed into linebacker David Hawthorne at the 1 and bulled in. Morris is so good at getting low on contact that Hawthorne hit his shoulder pads and couldn’t drive him. Morris won. And obviously the 18-yard run was a nice one in which he bounced wide to the left (and received a nice block from Darrel Young on the end). Morris started to the right, bumped into the back of Trent Williams in the middle and bounced outside. You can see his eyes scanning for daylight, yet he wasn’t hesitating at all. Has nice vision.
WR Pierre Garcon. He only played eight snaps so it’s a little much to put him on a Studs list. But look at what he did in those eight plays: four catches, 109 yards and a touchdown. You score on an 88-yard touchdown, you make the Studs list. Look it up; it’s in the Studs and Duds CBA. That touchdown alone would have been worth it as it represented a play the Redskins never had last season. Or the previous one for that matter. Actually, for a long time. It also occurred right after a Saints touchdown and enabled the Redskins to punch back and regain control, establishing a tone for the day. Garcon didn’t do anything special on the play; but he did have to make a slight leap to grab the ball and then used his speed. That was enough.
WR Aldrick Robinson. With Garcon ailing, Robinson stepped in and produced in a big way. He only finished with four catches for 52 yards, but he had two big plays, a 29-yard catch and the pass interference penalty drawn in the end zone. Plus he caught a five-yard touchdown pass. The touchdown wasn’t anything special; rather, it was another well-designed play with Robinson, split wide to the right, almost rubbing off a pick from tight end Fred Davis, who was just off the line. But Robinson’s quickness is legit and it makes a difference. You don’t want him back fielding punts, but you do want this guy in an open-field situation and that’s what those bubble screens do for him. Robinson also had a nice block (as did Santana Moss) on the six-yard gain by Brandon Banks on a bubble screen. Finally, on his 29-yard catch, if Robinson doesn’t run his comeback with precision it’s an incomplete pass because Griffin threw it before he broke.
LT Trent Williams. He was solid more than he was great, but you can see things he does that most tackles can’t do, like how he nearly got the safety on the pass to Roy Helu around the 5-yard line. Had Helu cut inside, it’s a touchdown and we’d be talking about what a great job Williams did to run from tackle to outside the numbers and throw a block. He got to the linebackers and sealed the inside on the bubble screens. Liked how, on Griffin’s five-yard run on third and 6 in the first quarter, Williams was able to not only reach Sedrick Ellis, aligned over the guard, but also move him back. There were a couple times when Williams lost his battle and it’s not as if he was facing a great pass rusher. Will Smith is a good end, but not great. And he didn’t play the whole game. But Williams fared well (on the fourth and 1, he buried Smith inside; had Smith gotten free he would have helped stop Darrel Young for no gain. Williams also got enough of a block to help open a hole for Morris’ first touchdown (Young had a good block, too).
C Will Montgomery. In a loud dome and with a QB in shotgun most of the game, Montgomery handled his role well. Again, like Williams, he wasn’t necessarily great. But he was solid and consistent against a good run front. Time and again Montgomery reached the linebacker and made a solid block. Too often it did not result in the run it should have, but he was doing his job. Remember the trouble he had with shotgun snaps last season? They weren’t an issue Sunday. Now, in this setup Griffin is 4 ½ yards from the center whereas last year in shotgun the QB would be deeper.
LS Nick Sundberg. He’s a special teamer, obviously, but he deserves a mention. Do I need to say more than he snapped for half the game with a broken arm? Didn’t think so. The Redskins coaches were patient with him in his first camp three years ago – he got off to a shaky start – but he improved and they’ve been rewarded with a consistent snapper. He’ll be missed for however long he’s out. But what an exit.
FB Darrel Young. I’ll be honest, this one surprised me and he’s a late inclusion. Glad I watched some more plays. But I kept referring to a block he made for other people when it dawned on me: Despite playing only 19 snaps (according to Football Outsiders), the guy did an excellent job. His second effort resulted in a first-down on a fourth and 1; he had a key block on Morris’ first touchdown run. He blocked the end to clear an opening on the outside for Morris’ 18-yard run and on Roy Helu’s 21-yard catch, it was Young who blocked Hawthorne (after a play-action fake) that enabled Helu to get open in the first place. That’s quite an impact. And if Griffin had thrown him the ball on the swap boot … but I guess it’s tough to argue with the impressive result of that play, huh? Still, Young had a hand in a number of key plays Sunday.
… What did the Redskins coaches want this season? More yards after the catch from their receivers. So here’s what they got: 198 yards after the catch (including grabs by tight ends and backs). The wideouts produced 170 of those yards (or 14 fewer than Jabar Gaffney had all last season; not picking on him, but it was not a strength of his game). One reason for so much YAC? The style of the plays helped as they gained 60 YAC on seven horizontal throws, whether screens or bubble screens. And 72 came on Garcon’s touchdown catch.
The Redskins gained yards after the catch on 14 of their 19 pass completions and eight times they managed at least 10 yards post-reception. Keep in mind that seven of their first nine passes were behind the line of scrimmage and each one gained at least five yards; three gained at least 11.
…I’ve stayed away from coaches being called Studs because this is about the players. But Kyle Shanahan and the offensive staff deserve a lot of praise. They threw the first punches and when the Saints responded, they had their own way to punch back. He’s an aggressive play caller with an aggressive quarterback. That could lead to issues in some games; it led to 40 points in the opener.
…Griffin wasn’t touched often, but a lot of that had to do with the play calling (seven quick passes behind the line) and quick decisions. It’s why you can’t look at a line and panic until you see how they’re being used. And the game plan helped them, which is what it’s supposed to do for every player. They were rarely asked to protect on straight drop-backs a handful of times. It’s not their strength; don’t have them do it often. Of Griffin’s 19 passes that were thrown downfield, he held the ball longer than 2.4 seconds on only six occasions. And he threw it in less than 2.2 seconds on 11 plays. Point is: the line was put in a position to succeed and that’s what they did. A great job by the line? No. A solid one with two players who were more consistent? Yes.
…The Redskins won’t always have to block backside after a few more of these zone read runs. On a five-yard run by Morris late in the third quarter (around right end), both the backside linebacker and end froze for the zone read fake.
…Here’s what you don’t do against Griffin: Rush three defenders and have the right end shoot inside, leaving the outside wide open. That’s what happened on the 27-yard pass play to Santana Moss (dropped to 16 yards because of Roy Helu’s penalty).
…Helu was unimpressive in the times he touched the ball. Maybe it was just a case of not getting enough work. He did have a 21-yard catch and run off a screen, but his other two touches totaled four yards. In both cases, it appeared the play was blocked one way and he tried to go another. On one catch inside the 10, Helu needed to cut inside quicker where he had an easy lane to a touchdown. It was a bang-bang play, but he caught the ball, stepped and hesitated wide and that enabled safety Roman Harper to shoot under a charging Trent Williams and get his legs. Another time Helu on a run had the outside blocked well by Tyler Polumbus and Fred Davis. But he cut inside and gained a yard. A little more patience and vision would have helped. Perhaps that stems from a lack of action. Helu was fine in protection.
…Kory Lichtensteiger had moments where he was excellent in his first game back, but other times where he looked like he was in his first game back. He had two holding penalties. Tyler Polumbus had a tough day at times vs. end Cameron Jordan. Polumbus improved in the preseason, but there were times when he still was too upright in this game and lacked pop. Polumbus must work hard to stay low and when he rises, he loses power. It’s an issue that was evident early in training camp, but had subsided as camp progressed. It’s worth monitoring, especially as the Redskins face stronger defenses (which they will often). The line was working against a good group vs. the run, particularly inside. I’m curious to see how they progress now that all their pieces are back and healthy.
…Tight end Niles Paul got off to an excellent start as a tight end, though in truth what he did on the first series – when his impact was greatest – was the same as he did at the end of last season. The Redskins used him in space and let him use his quickness. He blocked linebacker David Hawthorne on the second play (after lining up in the slot), enabling Garcon to get upfield for 12 yards. Next play: Paul lined up wide and turned the corner out, giving Garcon another lane (for 14 yards after the catch). Next play: Another bubble screen to Garcon and this time Paul takes care of the corner for a nine-yard gain. And, yes, on the next play Paul lined up wide left again and took care of the corner for a Robinson bubble screen (and eight yards after the catch).
…According to Football Outsiders, receiver Leonard Hankerson played nine snaps. He did nothing of note.
…Notice how the Redskins handled the crowd noise with the snaps? Griffin would lower his right arm to the ground, alerting guard Chris Chester, who then tapped center Will Montgomery. In the first half, Montgomery would snap after about two seconds. In the second half, it was closer to one second. I paid attention to it just to see if New Orleans’ linemen would eventually figure it out as well. But the Redskins changed it up later, as they should have.
…*When teams score 40 points, the Dud list takes the week off.