A late fourth-quarter comeback attempt couldn’t save the Redskins’ season as they fell to their seventh defeat. The Philadelphia Eagles won the divisional matchup 24-16, with most of the damage being done in the first half. This latest loss adds more pressure to Coach Mike Shanahan. The Redskins’ season is now over barring an extremely unlikely run of results, which begs the question just how much longer Shanahan has in charge of the Redskins.
Here is my position-by-position review.
I thought that Robert Griffin III had perhaps his worst performance in a Redskins uniform. He rarely looked like he would complete a pass in the first three quarters. His short-comings as a passer — overthrowing targets and not spotting open receivers — restricted the offense. He said in his postgame press conference that the Eagles knew what was coming, but that’s somewhat because of his play. Kyle Shanahan was forced to run the same concepts they ran last year because Griffin hasn’t progressed to the point that he’s ready to handle more complex concepts.
Griffin, to his credit, began to look better in the fourth quarter. His ability to extend the play by scrambling out of a collapsing pocket and find Darrel Young downfield is what makes Griffin such a special talent. But he then ended the game with a poor decision. If he’s going to throw the ball out the back of the end zone, he can’t do it while backing away from a rush and throwing off his back foot. He wasn’t able to get enough arm on the throw and it ended up floating into the arms of an Eagles defender. Turnovers in the red zone simply cannot happen.
One of the few bright spots for the Redskins was Alfred Morris, who once again had a good game. There isn’t much more I can say about Morris that hasn’t already been said. He’s a terrific zone runner with incredible lower-body strength. His offensive line didn’t always help him out, but Morris was still able to average more than four yards per carry despite seeing a lot of contact in the backfield. Currently, he’s the Redskins biggest threat on offense.
Thanks to Morris’s success, Roy Helu Jr.’s role has become limited. He spends more time blocking than rushing. He missed a key block on Connor Barwin in the red zone. Helu went to cut block him, but Barwin dodged it without much trouble and went on to sack Griffin and force a fumble. As I said, turnovers in the red zone cannot happen. Washington had two yesterday.
Philadelphia did their best to take away Pierre Garcon as Griffin’s first read. They were helped when Garcon missed snaps after leaving the game early on. Garcon appeared to injure his foot or ankle on an end around run that picked up nine yards. He later returned to the game, but saw a lot of attention to his side of the field.
Griffin has been calling for Aldrick Robinson to see the field more. Robinson has the speed to be a deep threat and “take the top off” a defense, but he showed he’s improving other aspects of his game. He ran a nice out route and then eluded a tackle to pick up 19 yards on his first catch. Two plays later, he made a terrific adjustment to the ball as Griffin took a shot off a bootleg. Robinson still has plenty of things to improve on, but his route running is getting better. One thing you can’t teach is speed, which Robinson has in abundance.
Jordan Reed, while improving, still has a way to go with his blocking. One play he lined up outside of left tackle Trent Williams. The ball was run to the opposite side of the line, but Reed failed to cut off the backside defender, allowing him inside to tackle Morris. But Reed’s ability as a receiver is still unquestioned. The Redskins missed his ability to get open across the middle after he left the game with a concussion.
His replacements, Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul, were unable to replicate the threat in the passing game that Reed provides. Neither could consistently separate from their defenders. Paulsen got open on play-action passes a couple of times, but Griffin overthrew him on one and then threw short on the other.
This is clearly a weakness of the Redskins’ offense. The interior offensive line hasn’t been able to withstand any sort of pass rush, even with read-option fakes. Defensive tackles are being set loose and they are winning a high percentage of snaps on the inside. Chris Chester saw himself matched up one-on-one a lot of the time and giving up a lot of quick pressure. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger received help from center Will Montgomery, but those two struggled as well.
Even star left tackle Trent Williams had some poor snaps. He surrendered a sack to Trent Cole. Cole faked an inside move, which forced Williams to stutter. Cole then burst outside and Williams couldn’t recover; even a holding penalty wasn’t enough to stop the sack.
The defensive line was largely taken out of the game. With an uptempo offense, the defensive line can get tired very quickly. The pass rush and run defense from the interior was ineffective. Too often, Foles was allowed time in the pocket to throw and McCoy had multiple gaps to attack and run into the secondary. Chip Kelly loves to attack secondaries and force them to tackle, and the defensive line was unable to stop that happening. McCoy seemed able to pick up five yards on every first down in whichever gap he wanted. McCoy is an extremely good back, and the Eagles offensive line has been very good this year, but they’ve seen much tougher challenges this season than the one they faced yesterday.
Ryan Kerrigan has been fantastic in his conversion from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker. But even so, I can’t imagine ever drawing up a play that sees him covering McCoy out of the backfield. Foles did a good job identifying and taking advantage of matchups like that all day.
Brian Orakpo had a better game defending the edge than Kerrigan did. The read-option attacks the aggressive edge defenders, but Orakpo stood up to the challenge. He was solid in run defense, registering a couple of tackles for losses. He also managed to generate pressure off the edge. But his sack came when he lined up inside. Washington hasn’t been all that creative with moving Orakpo and Kerrigan around. But Orakpo lined up inside and then ran a cross stunt with Kerrigan to get outside the right tackle and sack Foles.
London Fletcher once again had little impact on the game. His one bright spot came on a delayed blitz which saw him run free up the middle and sack Foles. But outside of that, he found himself caught up in traffic inside as McCoy cut back. Fletcher was credited with just two tackles.
As we’ve seen already this season, the opposition went after David Amerson. Amerson played well in the opener against Riley Cooper, but Cooper clearly had the better of Amerson this time around. Amerson appeared hesitant to stay too close to Cooper, in fear of the double move. That allowed Cooper plenty of separation on a lot of his routes. Foles missed Cooper down the sideline at least twice, although Amerson was called for an illegal hands to the face penalty on one of those.
Amerson did come back positively in the fourth quarter. On one play, he actively attacked McCoy and tackled him for a big loss after McCoy had attempted to bounce a run back outside. The next play, he read Cooper’s route the whole way and undercut it, tipping the ball as it fell incomplete. But outside of those two plays, it was a poor game for Amerson.
Reed Doughty had an up and down game. He had some solid plays in the run game and often got in good positions. He was in a great position to make a tackle for loss on McCoy in the second half, but then allowed McCoy to bounce out of the tackle attempt and pick up four yards. It should have been third and long for the Eagles, but it turned into third and one. Brandon Meriweather was forced to save the first down with a good tackle. Meriweather is clearly making an effort to tackle correctly. He displayed much better form in his tackles, wrapping up and bringing the ball-carrier to the ground instead of going for the big hit.
Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions of the Redskins’ play without the benefit of access to the team.
● Mike Shanahan speaks to reporters at 3 p.m.
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