Among Redskins fans, Mark Bullock has gained quite a following for his detailed breakdowns of of Washington’s play, players and schemes. The Insider is excited to add him as our Outsider, where twice a week we’ll feature his insights. We’ll plan to have Mark post a position-by-position review the day after each game. Later in the week, after he’s had a chance to rewatch, he’ll focus on something in particular. Follow Mark on Twitter and find links to more breakdowns at @UkRedskin1.
Here’s his first Outsider post, a review of the Redskins’ play against the Raiders. (It was long, so we broke it into two. The defensive review is here):
Robert Griffin III continued to improve from his slow start to the season. Just like in the first three games, he got better as the game went on. He found himself facing a lot of third and long situations early in the game that he failed to convert. Some were his own doing, such as the intentional grounding penalty when he threw the ball away without a receiver in the area. But others were because the rush had picked up little on the first two downs.
He looked most effective when running the play-action bootlegs, getting out on the edge and throwing on the run. The bootlegs help shorten the field for Griffin and make the reads easier for him. They also enable him to run for positive yards should he need to, but he still appears reluctant to do so. He passed up what would have been an easy three to five yards on a bootleg to his left to throw riskily back across his body to Niles Paul. The pass was completed and picked up a first down, but Griffin made an awkward adjustment to throw quickly back across his body. On another day, a defender could have undercut the throw and intercepted it without Griffin even seeing him.
Griffin also looked comfortable and in control of the offense as they ran uptempo and no-huddle for large spells of the game. Washington did their best to run their normal plays with tempo, rather than switch to their two-minute offense. They kept a good balance of running and passing plays, which they haven’t been able to do in the first three games. Griffin didn’t look troubled communicating plays and getting everyone set without huddling between snaps.
There were flashes of improvement from Griffin in the pocket. On one third down, the Raiders sent a blitz that the offensive line managed to pick up, but were struggling to maintain their blocks. Griffin did a good job stepping up in the pocket past a couple of rushers while keeping his eyes down field on his target. Similarly, on Paulsen’s fumble in the third quarter, Griffin stepped up in the pocket to help Chris Chester pick up a corner blitz and buy himself time to throw. He found Paulsen down field for what would have been a first down conversion on third and nine. On his touchdown pass to Garcon, the Raiders ran ‘Cover 0,’ a blitz designed to sacrifice safety help to send one more blitzer than the offensive line can block. The pressure came quickly from a linebacker through the A gap, forcing Griffin to throw the slant to Pierre Garcon earlier than he would have liked. But Griffin was still able to throw accurately and hit Garcon in stride for the crucial touchdown.
Alfred Morris looked like the Morris we saw last season once the Redskins went no-huddle. He struggled to find any running room early on, but was able to pick up yards after the Raiders were forced to drop back a second safety. We saw him keep his legs pumping and pick up two or three more yards after everyone else thought the play was dead. That was something he was excellent at last season, but hasn’t been able to showcase so far this year.
When Morris went down with a rib contusion, Roy Helu Jr. stepped in and picked up the slack. Helu’s speed and cutting ability allowed him to bounce some runs back outside that Morris couldn’t have. On his 14-yard touchdown run, he did a good job cutting back up the middle, before setting up defenders on the second level. Safety Brandon Ross came down to try and make the stop. Helu took a couple of steps towards him before cutting back behind Chester, who was blocking a linebacker. That made the angle for the safety impossible to make a tackle, taking him out of the play.
Helu did a good job for the most part picking up blitzes. He does a good job using his momentum to stop a blitzing linebacker initially, but he can struggle at times to maintain blocks. But that initial stop can often be enough for Griffin to dump off the ball. Helu also picked up a couple of key receptions for big gains. On his first catch, Griffin was beginning to scramble but spotted Helu, who had a step on his defender. Griffin flicked out the pass and Helu picked up 15 yards on a third and 10. Helu’s second catch came after Griffin looked all but sacked. Griffin dodged the sack and rolled out to his right. Helu mirrored Griffin’s run 10 yards down field and made himself a target as the play broke down. Helu turned a 10-yard catch into a 28-yard gain after a nice hurdle over a defensive back.
Washington’s line struggled to get much push in the running game early on. Oakland played aggressively, bringing a safety down as the eighth defender in the box. The Raiders attacked the running game, ignoring the threat of Griffin’s arm and legs on the first few Redskins drives. They closed off every running lane for Morris, who gained a total of five yards from four carries on the first three Redskins possessions.
But Washington made a key change on their fourth drive, shifting to a no-huddle offense. The versatility of tight ends Logan Paulsen and Paul in the Redskins’ Tiger (two tight ends, one running back) package allowed Washington to show different looks while running uptempo, giving Oakland little time to adjust. The Raiders were forced to adjust by dropping the safety in the box back deep, which opened up the running lanes for Morris. With the Raiders playing less aggressively, Washington’s offensive line was able to win battles along the line of scrimmage, which enabled the Redskins to drive from their own 20 to the Oakland 4 to end the first quarter. Morris took his four carries on this drive for 28 yards.
In pass protection, the offensive line had its ups and downs. Oakland did a good job mixing up blitzes, sending rushers like Charles Woodson from the secondary while alternating which linebackers blitzed. The Redskins picked up a fair amount of the blitzes, but failed to maintain and sustain blocks. Trent Williams had the foot speed to adjust quickly to blitzes off the edge. On one play, Woodson blitzed late from his safety position. Williams initially blocked defensive end Lamarr Houston before handing him off to left guard Kory Lichtensteiger, and sliding across to pick up Woodson. That bought Griffin the time to throw deep to Moss, but the ball was overthrown.
When pressure did find its way to Griffin, it often came up the middle. Center Will Montgomery appeared to be on a different page from guards Lichtensteiger and Chris Chester. Montgomery would let a defender go, believing one of the guards would pick him up, only for the guards to be preoccupied. This was the case on the fourth-down sack. Raiders middle linebacker Nick Roach lined up over Montgomery and blitzed. Montgomery slid to his left, allowing Roach a free rush right up the A gap, forcing Helu to pick up the block. Chester and right tackle Tyler Polumbus managed to block a ‘DEX’ stunt (a crossing stunt by the defense tackle and defensive end), but Washington ran out of blockers on the right side of the line to pick up Woodson, who ran free to sack Griffin and force the turnover on downs.
Tight ends & receivers
With Jordan Reed injured and Fred Davis limited, Paulsen and Paul were the main tight ends for Washington. Their versatility was key to the success of the no-huddle offense the Redskins used. They were able to: line up as in-line tight ends on opposite sides of the line, join together on one side to give a heavy-run look, and even line up at fullback and H-back to give base personnel (two running backs, one tight end) looks. Combining that with the tempo of the no-huddle caused confusion for Oakland, which was forced to play less aggressively to combat the different looks. They were unable to switch personnel off the field because of the no-huddle, which allowed Washington to take full advantage.
But while his versatility caused problems for the Raiders, Paulsen’s play caused problems for the Redskins. He was beaten too often when the ball was run to his side. Paulsen was the Redskins’ best run blocker at tight end last year, but hasn’t managed to play to the same standard this year. Defenders found themselves driving Paulsen into the backfield and forcing Morris to cut back his run earlier than he would have wanted. Paulsen also turned over the ball fighting for extra yards having already converted a third and nine. He fought through a couple of tackles before the Raiders defenders rallied to the ball and stripped it from him. While the Redskins always like their receivers to pick up yards after the catch, they can’t afford to be turning over the ball.
Pierre Garcon had another solid outing, picking up six catches for 59 yards and a touchdown. He’s been Griffin’s most reliable target and go-to man so far this season, with good reason. Some of Griffin’s throws weren’t located exactly where he would have liked, but Garcon went up and caught them. He did a great job holding onto one catch near the goal line as Woodson did his best to break it up. When the Raiders ran Cover 0 on their own 4-yard line, Garcon was really the only receiver Griffin was going to. Griffin was forced to throw the ball quickly, but had enough trust that Garcon would be able to make the play. Garcon repaid that trust with a touchdown.
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.
● Mark’s defensive review, here.
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