Redskins Reality Check

Robert Griffin III

Looking good, even in a loss (Photo: Washington Redskins)

Redskins 28
Rams 31

Well after the insane high I was on last week, I knew I was due to come back to earth. I just wish it wasn’t with a thud. I didn’t get to see yesterday’s game—probably for the best, it wouldn’t have been good for my blood pressure—but I followed it online and read some thorough analysis afterwards. With that caveat in mind, here are the five positives and negatives I “saw” in the Redskins Rams game:

Positives.

1) RG3: It wasn’t quite the world-beating performance he had against the Saints—no one can be that good every week—but it was still impressive. The 68 yard TD bomb to Leonard Hankerson and his two rushing touchdowns more than made up for an ill-timed throw at the end of the first half. For the first time in two decades, Redskins fans know their team can score any time they have the ball. It’s a weird and wonderful feeling.

2) Alfred Morris: If he can stay healthy, the Redskins may have their 1,000 yard workhorse running back. He’s not the blow-the-doors-off threat that some runners are, but he finds holes, leans forward for extra yards, and every so often can break one for a big gain. I’m still waiting on his first 100 yard game: hope we see it soon.

3) The O-Line:  They’re not great, but they’re getting the job done for the most part. If they can stay healthy we may have a serviceable unit. Which is good, because it looks like we’re going to need to stock up on defensive backs in next year’s draft.

4) Billy Cundiff: So he missed the potential game-tying field goal—from 62 yards out. Are you kidding me? No way in hell he was hitting that. David Aikers hit a 63 yarder  to tie Tom Dempsey’s 42 year old record last week, and Mike Shanahan thought his kicker—who’s never made one over 56 yards—was going to kick one 62 yards a week later? When asked to do realistic things, like kick sub-50 yard field goals and touchbacks, Cundiff is near-perfect. No way he takes the blame for a bad play-call.

5) RG3 again: I had trouble coming up with a fifth positive on the field, but I saw a very positive sign after the game. Griffin spoke to the media after the loss. he was calm, he made no excuses, but you could tell from his tone and his body language that he hates to lose. That attitude is something all champions share. If he can spread it around, it will mean the differences between losses and losing streaks.

Negatives.

1) The front seven: They’re supposed to be the strength of our defense and yet they couldn’t get any pressure on a quarterback forced to play behind a shaky offensive line. What happened?

2) Play calling: Not just the 62 yard field goal attempt—that was an odd call—but zone coverage against an average receiving corps? The secondary played up to the level of the Saints passing game last week with consistent pressure and man  coverage, so why play down to the level of the Rams with an all-but-prevent defense in the first half? And where were the adjustments? If Danny Amendola goes to the Pro-Bowl this year I may rethink this one. Otherwise: are you kidding me?

3) Special teams: Two blocked punts in two weeks is unacceptable. And Brandon Banks is a game-changing fumble just waiting to happen. If this doesn’t improve, Danny Smith should be looking for work in the offseason, if not sooner.

4) Injuries: Two big ones yesterday. Defensive end Adam Carriker will probably need surgery on his right knee. He could be out for the season. And Brian Orakpo re-injured the same pectoral muscle that he tore at the end of last season. Add Josh Wilson’s concussion and Brandon Meriweather’s pre-season injury and the Redskins may be sitting up to four starters on the defense next week against the Bengals. Not good. (Update: Both Carriker and Orakpo are out for the season. Very bad news.)

5) Stupidity: I’m not going to lay the whole game on Josh Morgan—there were plenty of blown chances yesterday—but he made two big mistakes on a key third down catch yesterday. First, he turned to the sideline one yard short of the marker rather than pushing forward for the first down. Second, he took the bait on a late hit from Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan and threw the ball at him, drawing a personal foul penalty that turned a 47 yard all-but-sure tying field goal into a 62 yard sure miss. Dumb and dumber.

So it was a big letdown after last week. A loss that should have been a win against a team that’s arguably better than they were a year ago. My two takeaways are the obvious ones: the Redskins need to play better on both sides of the ball next week against the Bengals in their home opener, and the NFL needs to get the regular referees back. That’s a topic for a whole other post and this isn’t a sports blog, but the games are getting out of control and player-safety hangs in the balance.

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