The once-promising Washington Redskins are licking their wounds Monday morning after a 33-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers , a second straight defeat to a one-win team. They also lost more key offensive players to injury.
In a span of two weeks, the Redskins have gone from first place in the NFC East to third. Up next is another tough game – at Toronto against Buffalo. Things could quickly go south for the Redskins, who after that have a game against another surprise team, the San Francisco 49ers.
But before we get to all of that, and before we find out how bad some of these injuries are at Coach Mike Shanahan’s 3 p.m. news conference, here are five observations from yesterday’s defeat.
1.) Defense struggles vs. run, again -- The Panthers do have a very good offensive line - according to Jim Haslett, the best Washington will face this year - so Carolina deserves some credit. But the Redskins continue to struggle against the run. There were far too many missed tackles and resulting big gains. At times defenders seemed out of position; at other times, they appeared guilty of over-pursuit. Just as they did with the Eagles a week earlier, Washington struggled to get stops even on plays that clearly were going to be runs pre-snap. In their three losses this season, the Redskins have given up 125, 192 and 175 yards per game.
2.) ISO turnovers - Jim Haslett said last week that it bothered him that his defense doesn’t have more turnovers, and it was certainly evident that Washington could benefit greatly from more takeaways. DeAngelo Hall narrowly missed an interception, one that could’ve been a pick-six and possible game-changer. And although they forced a goal-line fumble, the Redskins couldn’t recover the ball. In a game in which the defense was gassed by enduring four Panthers scoring drives of 10 or more plays, Washington definitely needed to find ways to get off the field, either through interceptions or more forced fumbles and recoveries. Brian Orakpo came untouched and drilled Cam Newton on a first-half blitz, but he needed to slash with his arm and try to knock the ball out. Players were going for tackles, but there didn’t appear to be a lot of strip attempts on the Redskins’ part. Through six games, the Redskins are -6 in the turnover department.
3.) Beck is serviceable - It’s only one game but John Beck had a decent showing considering he hadn’t played a full game since 2007, and he certainly wasn’t any worse than Rex Grossman. He had a couple of questionable decisions and one near interceptionthat he threw right to a defender (fortunately for Washington, the ball was dropped). But Beck’s mobility is an asset. Kyle Shanahan went to the bootleg often, and Beck excelled running them. During the third-quarter touchdown drive, the quarterback made some great throws to Logan Paulsen and Fred Davis as he rolled out. Beck and Hankerson had a miscommunication on the late-game interception, and a couple of times Beck missed open receivers on one side of the field because he was locked in on another target. But it was a decent first game. That said, he’s no Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees. Could Beck be helped by some more weapons? Yes. Can he get better? Probably. But there was also a clear difference between Beck and Cam Newton on the ‘IT factor’ scale.
4.) Still lacking playmakers – The Redskins continue to come up short against their opponents for a number of reasons, but big one is their lack of playmakers on offense. They have some nice pieces, decent players, and they play hard, but compare the Redskins’ personnel to the Panthers’. Carolina had the advantage at multiple positions. And Washington becomes even more talent deficient now that Tim Hightower and Santana Moss are sidelined along with Chris Cooley. The Redskins have young athletes on their roster, but they are unproven and still learning the ropes. Their receivers and running backs don’t have the pedigree of athletes on many teams that Washington will face this year. That’s not to say they can’t play, but it just means that the going is that much tougher for the Redskins.
5.) Offensive line didn’t do badly - Give props to the patchwork offensive line, which appeared to have a decent showing. The front five opened running lanes for Hightower, who gained 88 yards on 17 carries (5.2 yard average), and likely would’ve had more had he not gotten hurt. I’ve got to look back at the game more closely to see, but the replacements – center Erik Cook, left guard Will Montgomery and left tackle Sean Locklear – seemed to do a commendable job in their first full game at their positions. Obviously, it wasn’t perfect. And there still were struggles on the other side of the line, where Jammal Brown missed badly on one play when the Panthers’ Antwan Applewhite blew past him and got to Beck for a sack/forced fumble. Things as a whole could have been a lot uglier. Now that showing did come against one of the worst defenses in the league, so, take it with a grain of salt.