Initial observations on Redskins-Saints, Week 1

Apologies on the lateness of getting this up. Let’s just get right to it:

• Here’s what I wrote in the preview of this game, in regard to the Redskins needing to control the football to keep Drew Brees and Co off the field:

To offset the severe mismatch of the Skins secondary vs. the Saints’ passing attack, the Redskins are going to have to move the chains… a lot… because there is no way they are going to win a shootout.  There isn’t one Redskins RB that I would particularly want as my 3-down back, but I like the group as a whole.  Royster and Morris are bangers, with Helu being the fastest of the three.

The Saints, meanwhile, gave up the 2nd most yards per carry in the NFL last season (5.0).  Run early and often, take time off the clock, keep Drew Brees on the sidelines, wear down the Saints D, and try to hit shots down the field on play action.  Offensively, that would be my blueprint for pulling off an upset.  The Skins can wait until Week 2 against the Rams to unleash the golden child.

In a weird way, that’s kind of what happened, except of course for that whole “wait until Week 2 to unleash the golden child” and “no way they are going to win a shootout” parts. On the opening drive, the Skins threw bubble screens right, bubble screens left, mixed in a little run game (which included some designed QB runs), etc.  While it wasn’t the kind of ground and pound I was talking about, the concept was the same.  Low risk, low reward plays, gobble up yardage, run clock, move the chains.  And the Redskins executed.  12 plays, 57 yards.

Then they come out and on the first play of the 2nd drive, with the Saints cheating up, they throw downfield for huge results. 1 play, 88 yards.

Third drive… Right back to the concept of moving the chains. 12 plays (8 runs), 57 yards, TD.  Game on.

• Also, from the preview:

DE Adam Carriker is 6’6.  DE Stephen Bowen is 6’5.  DT Barry Cofield, the shortest of the Skins’ starting defensive linemen, is 6’4, but he had 7 of the Skins’ 15 batted passes at the line last season, per PFF.  Drew Brees is 6’0.  Collapse the pocket, and if you can’t get there, make sure you get hands up, fellas.

Stephen Bowen had 2 batted passes.  The first was on 3rd and 10 on first series. The other was on 1st and G from the 5 that would have been an easy TD to Jimmy Graham.  The Saints settled for 3 on that drive.  Bowen saved 4 points by getting his hands up.

• OK, one more from the preview:

The Skins had 6 FG/PAT attempts blocked last season.  Not a single one of them was the fault of the kicker, Graham Gano.  This preseason, they almost had one blocked by Julius Peppers, which again, would not have been the fault of the kicker.  Gano was cut in favor of Billy Cundiff, a career 76.7% kicker.  I think that was a mistake.

Additionally, Brandon Banks fumbled 7 kick/punt returns.  I’m absolutely stunned that he made the team.

Two things on the Skins’ special teams:

  1. Brandon Banks had two fumbles against the Saints.  That makes 9 fumbles/muffs for him in the Redskins’ last 14 games.  That’s unreal.  I remain stunned that the Skins continue to put him back there.  It’s not even as if Banks was a good returner last year when he wasn’t fumbling.  He averaged 23 yards per return on kickoffs.  There were 25 kick returners last season with at least 15 returns that had a better average.  He averaged 9.1 on punt returns.  There were 14 players with at least 15 returns with a better average.  The reward does not warrant the risk.  Somehow, Banks has not lost a single one of those 9 fumbles, although a number of them were close.  It’s only a matter of time before he costs the Redskins a game if they continue to stick with him.
  2. FG protection team was not an issue today, and Cundiff was perfect on his FG attempts (more on him in a second), but the punt block at the end of the first half could have been devastating. Like Moose Johnston said during the broadcast, I have no idea what the blocking scheme was supposed to be there.  I do know that the gap Martez Wilson shot through was being manned by 2 linebackers, and the Redskins had FGs blocked last year as a result of defensive linemen trying to protect the kicker.  Obviously, linebackers are going to do a much better job of running down the field and making the tackle on the punt returner than an offensive linemen will, but at what cost?

• Regarding Cundiff, 4/4 on FG, 4/4 PAT.  He was also good on kickoffs. Darren Sproles had a nice return out near the 40 in the 4th Q, but otherwise Cundiff was putting the ball out of the end zone.  Nice job neutralizing a bigtime weapon in Sproles.

• DeJon Gomes was involved in a lot of plays.  He just kept showing up on the screen.  There was some good and bad that I saw. First the good:

  1. Nice blitz on the second play of the game, got a hit on Brees.
  2. Had another successful blitz with DeAngelo Hall on a Brees sacks. Hall And Gomes both came free, making the RB pick one or the other to block. The back chose Gomes, and Hall cleaned up. But they both disguised it well.
  3. PBU on Lance Moore.
  4. Nice pop on Moore later in the game caused a drop (play didn’t count because of a penalty).
  5. Took a nasty stiff arm by Jimmy Graham, still was able to grab Graham’s ankle and make the tackle.  I didn’t see this play as good or bad, but noteworthy.  Graham got an extra 2 or 3 yards on the stiff arm, but Gomes didn’t give up.  He stayed with the play and hung onto Graham’s ankles.  Graham is a special player.  If we see more of this kind of play as the season progresses it’s a problem, but for now it was good enough.
  6. Pick to (seemingly) seal it while covering Moore.

And the bad:

  1. Dumb late hit on Sproles.  He came in with an elbow to Sproles’ head/neck area well after Sproles was down.  Senseless.
  2. Beaten by Colston on seam route, but Colston dropped it.
  3. PI on Moore at the 5 yard line.

• On the key 4th and 1 play on the Redskins’ 3rd drive, Trent Williams manhandled Will Smith.  The play call was Darrel Young up the middle, but there was nothing there, so Young had to spin off and try his luck to the left side.  I think Young was surprised to see that nobody was there… at all… because Williams had completely blown Smith off the ball and out of the play.

• Sick play by RG3 on rollout left.  There was nothing there, and he didn’t panic.  He simply came back the other way, threw the ball way across to the other side of the field (but not in a bad way) and hit Fred Davis for 26.

• Two bad calls in this game that had major effects on the game: Atrocious call on the Jimmy Graham non-fumble.  Apparently, if you breath on a guy, you have stopped his forward progress.  Fumble was clear as day. But the Skins benefited from a bad call as well.  I thought the PI call on 4th down in the 3rd quarter was weak. That blown call led to a TD.

• Excellent coverage by Josh Wilson on David Thomas wheel route. The Saints got a mismatch with their TE on a 5’9 CB, but Wilson played it great, got the PBU.

• Cedric Griffin had bad coverage on Colston on a post pattern. Saw some of that in the preseason from Griffin as well.  However, he made a great play in knocking the ball out for the fumble out the back of the end zone.

• London Fletcher was great in coverage. Gave up two passes to Jimmy Graham, and one of those was for a TD, but he was right there on both plays.  Graham and Brees are simply special players who made plays, but you’ll take that kind of coverage from your ILB every single time.  Fletcher also made a great play on Sproles in the flat near the goal line.  Save a TD. London is still chugging along just fine.

• Alfred Morris met David Hawthorne at the goal line on the last TD. Let’s just say Morris won that battle.

• Love the aggressiveness by Shanahan to throw for it on 2nd and 13 to Logan Paulsen when they were trying to run out the clock.  The Saints offense was beginning to click. No way would I want them to get the ball again. Beat their beatable unit (the D), not the scary one.

• OL was excellent in pass protection the entire day. Here was one example that I pointed out earlier today.

• RG3. Just… RG3.  Can we call him that now?  Is that OK with Osi Umenyiora?

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  1. […] “held up.”  For more of me showering praise on the Skins, I invite you to check out my post-game notes.  There are all kinds of reasons for optimism, but let’s take it slow with them for now. […]

  2. We might be seeing the true Shanahan offense, now that he actually has the guys to execute it. I rewatched the game, and nothing was that impressive on its own, save for a couple of RGIII’s scramble-and-throws. It was methodical. Plodding. Effective.

    Morris is a downhill runner. Garcon, Morgan, Moss and Robinson are all pretty speedy. And Griffin is a threat. There were also a few drives where they mixed in Helu and Royster.

    I wasn’t really blown away on rewatch, but I thought they played to their strengths really well. The defense’s performance was far more unexpected, IMO.

    1. horatius says:

      Not all that unexpected really. When you get 8 minutes to rest between drives, every defense will perform to it’s potential. Especially the D-Line which slapped Brees around all day. A less than elite QB and this game is a blowout.

  3. Eric says:

    Nothing against the Redskins and what they did, but this Saints defense, speaking on the players themselves, has never been great. The year they won the Super Bowl, they were exclusively known for causing turnovers but giving up points and yards.

  4. So far two areas on NFC teams you thought would be a serious concern (which I certainly agree with) have held up so far. Them being the secondary of the Skins and the safeties and OLine for the Cowboys. A bit surprising given they went against teams which really should have exploited those perceived weaknesses.

    1. Yep, one of the most prolific offenses… ever.

      And a DL that a lot of people think is the best in the NFL.

      And you’re right… they held up. (I think “held up” is the accurate way to put it, by the way.)

  5. Kben says:

    “RG3. Just… RG3. Can we call him that now? Is that OK with Osi Umenyiora?”

    Brilliant! Definitely brought the LOLz on that one.

    You should tweet that at him….and call him soft, just because.

  6. mjoedgaard says:

    “Then they come out and on the first play of the 2nd drive, with the Saints cheating up, they throw downfield for huge results. 1 play, 88 yards.”

    That bomb travled 25 yards in the air or only 19 from LOS, the rest was sloppy safety play by the Saints

    1. It was still a throw downfield. Not a bomb, but (I believe) it was the first time they had RG3 let it rip. Obviously, Garcon got about 60 or so in RAC, but the sentiment remains the same.

      1. mjoedgaard says:

        Maybe because we are used to the AR offense and Jackson, but a throw 19 yards downfield is not a bomb, thats an avg completion for Jackson

        1. skinsaholic says:

          Who said it was a bomb? He read the blitz, caught the safetys tied up and made them pay with a huge play.

    2. SteveH says:

      Yeah the Saints DB’s looked REALLY bad on that play, guys running into each other and stuff, that really should have been limited to just a good first down play.

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