Redskins’ across-the-roster failure starts in simple spots: With tackling and blocking

The Post’s Jason Reid analyzes what the Redskins will need to avoid another loss when they go up against the Detroit Lions next week. (The Washington Post)
Jason Reid
Columnist September 15, 2013

There’s no shame in losing here to the Green Bay Packers, who are great in their house. But the Washington Redskins didn’t merely lose Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field — they were embarrassed throughout a 38-20 blowout that raised questions about where they’re headed.

A team that entered the season believing it should be listed among the NFC’s best was dominated by a conference rival for the second time in as many weeks. On offense, the Redskins have protection problems along the line and bad timing in the passing game. Once again, the secondary has quickly emerged as the defense’s biggest weakness.

Jason Reid is a sports columnist with the Washington Post. He joined the Post’s Redskins team in 2007 after 15 years covering many beats at the Los Angeles Times. View Archive

The across-the-roster failure (at this point, there’s no other way to describe it) of the group that won the NFC East a season ago is puzzling. It’s not only that the Redskins have experienced breakdowns in key areas. They have appeared unprepared to start the season.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III’s rustiness has been a factor in the Redskins’ season-opening collapse. Griffin hasn’t been sharp, let alone dynamic, in his return from reconstructive knee surgery.

All that ails the Redskins, however, cannot be attributed to Griffin struggling to regain his superstar form. When a team is outscored 50-7 in the opening halves of its first two games, everyone in the football operation should look in the mirror.

Coach Mike Shanahan, offensive play-caller Kyle Shanahan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett have a lot of heavy lifting ahead of them. Let’s take a look at where they’ll begin their work.

Failure up front

Last season, Washington’s interior linemen — center Will Montgomery and guards Kory Lichtensteiger and Chris Chester — helped provide a strong foundation for one of the league’s best offenses. The Redskins led the NFL in rushing, were tied for first in yards per play and ranked third in passer rating. That type of success only occurs when an offensive line is in sync.

The Redskins have the same people as last season on their line — but not the same players. Montgomery, Lichtensteiger and Chester have struggled in pass protection. Griffin often has faced pressure up the middle. Defensive linemen have surrounded him and tipped his passes. Griffin has had to pass before receivers have completed their routes.

It doesn’t matter whether a team utilizes a traditional pro-style offense, a zone-read offense, a hurry-up offense or a hybrid approach. Timing is essential in completing midrange and deep passes. The Redskins’ timing is way off.

Griffin, who is not running as much as he did early last season, piled up cosmetic stats in Week 1 after the Philadelphia Eagles took command — the Eagles had a 26-point, third-quarter lead — in a 33-27 victory at FedEx Field. He had another meaningless stat-stuffer performance (320 yards, three touchdowns) after the Packers raced to a 31-0 third-quarter lead.

For the Redskins, the only good news on offense was that running back Alfred Morris, coming off a confidence-rattling performance in the opener, rushed for 107 yards and had an 8.2-yard average. Fans, though, shouldn’t be fooled: The Redskins’ offense isn’t getting better.

The Eagles and Packers eased up once they were in command. The Redskins must prove they’re capable of producing when outcomes are in doubt. Washington needs to show signs of life in the first half.

Haslett’s headaches

Here’s what is important about the Redskins’ defense: After two games, it’s worse than it was last season.

In 2012, the Redskins ranked 28th out of 32 teams in total defense. They were 30th against the pass. Washington believed its defense would be better with the return of outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and the additions of rookie defensive backs Bacarri Rambo and David Amerson. Instead, the defense has regressed.

The Redskins already have had a season’s worth of missed tackles. Their cornerbacks and safeties appear incapable of staying within shouting distance of receivers. And when opponents use no-huddle plays, the Redskins have seemed lost.

How bad was the defense against Green Bay? In the 94-year history of the Packers, they had never had a 400-yard passer and 100-yard rusher in the same game until quarterback Aaron Rodgers (personal-best 480 yards, four touchdowns) and running back James Starks (132 yards, one touchdown) accomplished the feat Sunday.

Redskins cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and Amerson gave receivers too much cushion, were beaten on deep routes and failed to wrap up effectively after catches. Packers wide receivers James Jones (178 yards) and Randall Cobb (128 yards, one touchdown) ran through gaping holes in the secondary. The Packers had 580 total net yards.

The defense actually performed well in the first quarter. Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (two sacks) and Orakpo (one sack) applied pressure on Rodgers, which helped the secondary. Once the Packers switched to their no-huddle package, though, the Redskins couldn’t keep up.

The Redskins must tackle better. Mike Shanahan and Haslett know that the defense won’t improve until players — especially the defensive backs — shore up their tackling. Bank on the Redskins getting back to basics this week.

The takeaway

After losing their first game, the Redskins faced the Packers, who have 21 victories in their past 22 games at Lambeau. Although an 0-2 start was likely for the Redskins, they didn’t anticipate being dismantled. The Redskins rallied from a 3-6 start last season to win the division title, and now they’re in another hole. It’s still early — but it can get late quickly.

For more columns from Jason Reid, go to washingtonpost.com/reid.

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