In the hours following a Redskins game, thoughts and ideas and assumptions run rampant through the mind of a Washington fan, forcing a scattered and cloudy backdrop between the ears.
Here are my initial notes following the Redskins’ 17-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
* * *
— Hats off to Alfred Morris, who entered this game looking noticeably leaner and running with good patience throughout. He finished with 25 carries for 121 yards and the Washington running game was one of the few positives from the game.
— That said, some of the run calls did become pretty predictable come the second half, but that’s a conservative approach in a game you’re within reach of winning.
— There was a lot of good from the Redskins defense, especially in the first half. Jason Hatcher played an awesome game, showing tons of power, strength, and explosiveness off the line. On one 3rd-and-short situation in the first half, Terrance Knighton draws a double-team and Hatcher fights off his block to make the stop and force a punt. That’s the way this line is suppose to work, and it’s a lot of fun to watch when it’s going well.
— Following a bad mistake and interception by Kirk Cousins (more on that later), Dashon Goldson made a nice tackle on third down to force the Dolphins into a tough decision on fourth. Miami didn’t have momentum, but the call was to go for it and the defensive line continues to crush it, led by a strong chase from Ryan Kerrigan. And we saw good stuff from Kerrigan all game, including a batted pass on a critical third down in the second half.
— In fact, the defensive line was playing well enough to where very few blitzes were called in the first half.
— The Dolphins attacked David Amerson a ton just before halftime, clearly chipping away at a weakness for the Redskins. There was a positive from it though where Amerson made a really nice play in the back of the end zone to break up a would-be touchdown catch for Jarvis Landry. If it weren’t for Landry’s own ability to haul in incredible catches, Amerson very well could’ve come down with an interception. He had a full hand on the ball and looked as though he was bringing it down, but Landry simply doesn’t stop fighting for the ball until it hits the ground.
— The good play from Amerson was (extremely) brief. On the next play, Rishard Matthews runs a nice in/out route in the end zone, Amerson bites hard enough to snap his own ankles, and Miami comes away with an easy six points.
— Preston Smith (pictured above in green demonstrating his length and powering into the backfield alongside a stunt with Hatcher) had an awesome strip on Ryan Tannehill, and after a whole lot of bumbling backwards with nearly every player on the field attempting to recover the fumble, Smith is the one who eventually comes away with the ball. It was a wild play indeed, but one that showed lots of hustle and energy from the rookie. Good stuff.
— The offense proceeded to do nothing with the good field position. Typical.
— There was a huge play in the second half in which Chris Culliver let a ball go right through his hands. Had he caught it, it was a foot race with Greg Jennings for a pick-six, and likely a foot race that Culliver would’ve won. Tough break for the Redskins on what could’ve been an honest game-changer.
— Keenan Robinson also had a possible interception hit his hands, although it wasn’t nearly as attainable as Culliver’s. Either way, the Redskins are a team that NEEDS those kinds of plays.
— Overall, the Redskins tackling didn’t strike me as impressive. Watching the film will show us more, but I seem to remember lots of attempted shoulder shrugs and arm tackles. I also think I yelled at least twice regarding Justin Rogers timidness.
— Also, way too many penalties. Everywhere. The Redskins aren’t good enough to commit 11 penalties for 88 yards and still prevail. When you’re working with what the Redskins are working with, you have to play disciplined football. At times, penalties would completely thwart Washington drives.
— Quick note about the special teams — the coverage team play on Jarvis Landry’s return touchdown was beyond inexcusable. Guys shouldn’t run free and go untouched when returning a punt. And, as the game would have it, that touchdown was the one the Redskins would never recover from. Overall, the special teams play was bad, including Kai Forbath missing a 46-yarder early on. One exciting piece I suppose: Jamison Crowder seems like an exciting guy to have back there on punt returns.
— Moving onto the offense, the Redskins were lucky to have Jordan Reed, and we should all pray that he stays healthy all season. He’s the Redskins’ largest receiving target, he’s a hard defensive assignment, and he’s a playmaker. With or without DeSean Jackson (he left very early in the game with a hamstring injury), Reed is a massive part of this offense, health permitting.
— There was a lot of concern heading into this game about the right side of the Redskins offensive line, but and they were actually a pleasant surprise. Nice job by Morgan Moses and the rookie Brandon Scherff.
— Pierre Garcon looked like his normal self — tough, gritty, and fighting for extra yards. If Jackson misses significant time, Garcon becomes even a larger security blanket for Cousins.
— The Redskins worked to get Cousins into a rhythm early and it worked. He wasn’t asked to do much and he was fortunate enough to be able to lean on the success of the running game. They had some Pistol looks early, which still works with a guy like Cousins, and he was moving the offense the way we saw it during the preseason.
— Sure enough, the mistake came. Cousins scrambled around to buy some time and appeared to feel like he had a safe outlet on the right side of the field if nothing opened up down field. The game tape will show us more, but until then I’m comfortable in saying it was a matter of Cousins losing track of Brent Grimes (who was in that general vicinity) and then underestimating his speed. Great break on the ball by Grimes and a bad mistake by Cousins.
— With all the attention on how Cousins rebounds from a bad mistake, he did well in this game, coming back for the next series and leading the team to a 17-play, 88-yard drive and touchdown.
— There were plenty of passes throughout the game where Cousins showed nice accuracy and good touch. A converted 3rd-and-5 to Garcon was thanks to nice touch, and there was a nice ball to Jordan Reed on 2nd-and-13 that looked as if the defender hit the tight end in the head before the ball got to him, but no call.
— There’s sure to be critics out there who scold Cousins for tossing a ball up and into single coverage and letting his receiver make a play, probably referring to it as “careless” and “the reason he’s a turnover machine”. I wouldn’t agree (in most instances). Assuming you’re not throwing into double and triple coverage, it’s not a bad play. It worked sometimes (like on Reed’s corner fade) and didn’t work sometimes (multiple shots to Garcon in tight coverage), but it’s not something that bothers me all that much. The unfortunate part, however, is that Reed is the team’s only sizable target.
— With that in mind, DeSean Jackson does a lot for your offense in terms of demanding attention, stretching the field, and clearing out a defense. Being an actual dimension of the offense, it doesn’t make things any easier when he leaves the game unexpectedly.
— Play calling seemed pretty conservative throughout most of the game. Not necessarily a surprise, but hopefully something that changes over the course of the year.
— Cousins’ second interception was a really nice play by the defender. It was one of those cases where the quarterback was throwing into single coverage and letting his receiver make a play, but it may have been a badly placed ball. Like a lot of Cousins’ long balls, one could make a case that this one had too much loft/float/air under it, and putting the pass more on a line would’ve provided Garcon the best chance to win it. Again, not the worst thing ever, but.
— With 2:22 left in the game and on a critical third down, the play was crap. That was when the doom really set in for me.
— The Redskins’ final play on 4th-and-7 was a bad one. Empty backfield, only five blockers, the defense showing heavy and obvious pressure (Cover 0), and Cousins isn’t about making any checks at this point (diggin’ the one-on-one situations, perhaps?). At first I thought of this as a Gruden AND Cousins problem, but Gruden addressed the play after the game saying that it was Reed’s job (red) to cross the face of the safety, in which case the ball that Cousins throws (green pathway) probably would’ve had a chance. Initially I was thinking that Cousins should’ve gone long (orange area) rather than short because that gave Reed the best chance to make a play on the ball. The two problems with my initial idea, however, are 1.) that wasn’t how the play was designed, so Cousins was doing one thing and Reed was doing another; and 2.) given Miami’s blitz to send one rusher more than Washington had blockers, Cousins had not only limited time to throw, but also limited space, which would have made for a tough off-balance chuck to the end zone. Meh.
— Was it a terrible game for Kirk Cousins? Nah. Was it a good game for Kirk Cousins? No. Bottom line: the Redskins were in a position to win, multiple times.