Redskins vs. Saints: Final Report Card, Player Grades for Washington
There were a lot of people that referred to the Saints as 'easy money' in today's game against the Redskins. But thanks in large part to rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, an effective rushing attack, and dominant time of possession, the Redskins were able to steal one in New Orleans, defeating the Saints 40-32.
We'll be providing live game grades and updated player analysis during every Redskins game this season. Be sure to refresh the live report card every gameday as we evaluate your Washington Redskins. You can also follow me on Twitter, @BetBigDC
Robert Griffin III -- A
In the first game of his NFL career, Robert Griffin III probably couldn't have drawn it up any better than today's game.
Going into the Superdome and playing against a rabid New Orleans Saints team, the cards were stacked against the rookie passer. Veteran-like poise, pocket presence and confidence essentially eliminated all outside influences and Griffin proved that he belonged.
The offensive play-calling was perfect for Griffin, as screens and dumps worked to build his confidence early. As Griffin gained confidence, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan opened up the playbook more and more. Before you know it, Griffin is leading fantasy categories.
Griffin finished the game with 320 yards on 19-of-26 passing and two touchdowns. He also added 12 carries for 42 yards.
Alfred Morris -- A
Finishing the game with 96 yards on 28 rushes and two scores, rookie Alfred Morris did everything he was asked of today. He ran through holes when the line created them and he fought til the end of every play for extra yards. Impressive vision and cut-back ability for a sixth-rounder. After this performance, I think it's safe to say that Morris is safe atop the depth chart.
Evan Royster -- C
Seemingly falling off a depth chart cliff, Royster went from being the starter at the beginning of the week, to rushing the ball only twice for 10 yards. That's not to say that Royster is solidified as the team's spell back, but practice will be his best shot to increase his role.
Roy Helu -- C+
More effective with his three catches for 25 yards, Helu's two carries were far from productive. With the way Morris played today, it will be interesting to observe Helu's role in this offense moving forward. He remains the team's fastest back and he's a receiving threat out of the backfield.
Pierre Garcon -- A
Despite leaving the game before halftime with an injury, Garcon was able to finish with four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. With face-up pressure, Robert Griffin III reverted back to his go-to man and found Garcon across the middle, who then took the thing 88 yards to the house. The positive relationship between Garcon and his quarterback is blatantly obvious.
The extent of Garcon's injury has not yet been disclosed.
Aldrick Robinson -- B+
The unexpected loss of Garcon increased Robinson's role and he delivered well. Finishing the game with four catches for 52 yards and a score, Robinson demonstrated natural speed and sticky hands today. Effective separation was Robinson's key and his route-running should improve as the season goes on.
Robinson also did a good job of causing a pass interference penalty in one-on-one coverage in the endzone. That heads-up play by Robinson set-up Alfred Morris' one-yard touchdown punch.
Santana Moss -- B
Veteran Santana Moss played the role of security blanket today for Robert Griffin III. Moss hauled in three passes for 47 yards, including a 27-yarder that was eventually called back with a 10-yard penalty.
Griffin's attention to Moss should change from week to week, but there's undoubted confidence between the two.
Josh Morgan -- B-
Before taking a pretty hard lick on a dropped post, Morgan hauled in one pass for 21 yards and generally looked good in his routes today. The hit seemed to have shaken Morgan up a bit, but his targets probably wouldn't have increased anyway.
Brandon Banks -- B
He had just one catch on a screen for six yards, but the simplicity of having Brandon Banks in offensive packages is enjoyable. Whether or not Banks gets the target isn't important. His speed alone is enough to keep the defense on their toes.
Fred Davis -- C+
As the Redskins' top returning playmaker, Fred Davis' two catches for 38 yards is expected to improve. It should be noted, however, that the Saints defense was cued in on Davis today.
On one play, Griffin scampered right and found Davis on the sideline for a gain of 26. But on a play later in the game, as Griffin scrambled left, Davis dropped a first down at the marker.
Logan Paulsen -- B+
Although used sparingly in today's game, Logan Paulsen delivered in the crunch.
With the Redskins working to preserve their lead late in the game, the Saints defense had Griffin and the Washington offense in a tough spot on 2nd-and-long. Paulsen came in motion to the right--disguising the run perfectly--and ran a nice post route that Griffin delivered on. The result was a first down and a running clock. Perfect play in that situation.
Trent Williams -- A
Expected to have a big year in 2012, Trent Williams looked good in the team's opening game. Many were fearful of defensive end Will Smith returning for the Saints, but he was limited by the speed and athleticism of Williams along the left side.
Kory Lichtensteiger -- B
It was good to see 'Steiger take the field again and play as well as he did. The left side of the Redskins' line is the least of their worries, health permitting.
Will Montgomery -- B
I know I've been critical of Montgomery as a starter, but his play today was enough to shut me up for the week. Although not spectacular, Griffin's mobility makes the entire line look better.
Chris Chester -- B
As usual, Chester looked better in pass-pro than run-blocking. He helped to create pockets for Griffin, but he could become more effective at getting to the second-level.
Tyler Polumbus -- C+
Not impressed with Polumbus. I commend his tenacity and attitude on the right side, but he missed on at least two blocks today. I do expect Polumbus to improve as the experience with Griffin in game-time situations increases, but right tackle remains a weak spot.
Stephen Bowen -- A
In addition to consistent pressure on the quarterback, Stephen Bowen was responsible for two pass deflections today, one of which came in the redzone. He was explosive off the line and he did a great job collapsing the right side on run contains.
Barry Cofield -- A
Pressure up the middle was key to the Redskins' pass-rushing success today. Cofield was very quick off the line, he penetrated with brute strength and he forced Brees to move and reestablish his feet.
Adam Carriker -- B+
Handling the left side, Carriker is made for stopping the run as an end in the 3-4 scheme. He played heads-up football today and kept his nose in on every Saints' rushing attempt.
Jarvis Jenkins -- B
Aside from being called for illegal hands to the face, Jenkins was effective in the rotation today. He doesn't appear to have full confidence in his knee quite yet, but don't expect that to last all season.
Brian Orakpo -- B+
Despite consistent pressure, the Redskins defense could only muster one sack today. However, the pass-rush was there and Orakpo displayed quickness on the outside. Even when he's not getting into the backfield, he engages with power and at least threatens.
During a routine drop-back in coverage, Orakpo dropped a sure interception. Following that play, the Saints converted on fourth down and scored a touchdown. That's a play (or lack thereof) that the Redskins can't afford.
Late in the game, with the Saints knocking on the door, Orakpo came through large with two consecutive knockdowns at the line of scrimmage. Orakpo's play recognition was on par today.
Perry Riley -- B
In his first year as a starter, Perry Riley looked good today and plugged holes effectively. He wasn't tested in coverage like London Fletcher, but he put his helmet in every play that he could. Riley finished the game with five tackles.
London Fletcher -- A
Considering he was faced with the battle of containing tight end Jimmy Graham all game, London Fletcher held well. He finished the game with just two tackles, but came through with a nice pass breakup after being leaped by Graham in the first quarter.
Not surprisingly, Fletcher plugged gaps very well today and applied pressure of his own. There was one opportunity for a sack in which Brees side-stepped Fletcher with ease and converted a pass.
Ryan Kerrigan -- A
Finishing the game with one of the team's two sacks, you could see the effort from Kerrigan on every down. The Saints offensive line deserves credit for its play today, but Kerrigan was no easy match. He penetrated and closed the pocket on Brees and missed a potential strip by a hair.
Josh Wilson -- B+
It was surprising to see the Saints attack the Redskins top cover-corner so often, but Wilson held tough. He finished the game with two deflections and three tackles. Based off his improvement towards the end of last season and his showing today, coaches can rest assured with Wilson on the opposition's top receiver.
DeAngelo Hall -- B+
It may have taken him an eternity to finally get Drew Brees down, but DeAngelo Hall was responsible for one of the Redskins' two sacks today. Hall has good pass-rush vision and he's actually a threatening piece off the edge. Both he and the Redskins should benefit from his position adjustment.
Cedric Griffin -- A
After a lackluster preseason, many were skeptical of Griffin going into this game as a starter. To my surprise, Griffin played well and showed solid coverage skills on at least two deep attempts. Griffin also forced a Marques Colston fumble that ultimately stopped the Saints from putting up points late in the first half.
Madieu Williams -- B-
Leading the team with five tackles, Williams played smart football for a majority of the game. He was penalized for an illegal hit today, which resulted in 15 yards for the Saints. He also seemed a tad late on Jimmy Graham's touchdown in the first quarter. Nonetheless, Williams' football IQ is a nice addition.
Reed Doughty -- B+
We're typically critical of Doughty in coverage, but no real complaints today. During the hail mary pass to end the game, Doughty came up with the real game-sealing interception. A nice touch.
DeJon Gomes -- A
In just his second year with an increased role, DeJon Gomes played very well today. He finished the game with a team-leading five tackles and a key interception in the fourth quarter, which he returned 49 yards and set-up a Redskins touchdown.
With starter Brandon Meriweather sidelined for at least the next two weeks, a good performance from Gomes today is reassuring for fans and coaches.
Billy Cundiff -- A
All eyes were on the new kicker in today's game and he delivered as well as he could have. Cundiff converted on all four field goal attempts--including a 45-yarder--and he added plenty of kickoff touchbacks.
Sav Rocca -- C+
Although the blocked punt wasn't necessarily Rocca's fault, he's a part of the unit. That specific play was pitiful and it resulted in seven points for New Orleans.
On another punt attempt, Rocca fumbled the snap and was forced to create a rugby-style kick out of nowhere. Luckily for Rocca and the Redskins, it worked out for Washington and the Saints were pinned inside their own 20-yard line on that play.
Brandon Banks -- B+
Finishing the game with two kick returns for 49 yards and four punt returns for 34 yards, Brandon Banks remained busy and showed some explosiveness in his returns.
The only thing holding back an 'A' grade for Banks today was his muffed punt. Banks seems to be good for at least one jumbled punt every two or three games, but it has to stop. The Redskins could really benefit from solid special teams play this season and muffed punts is a step in the wrong direction.
Niles Paul -- A
Not that Paul really did anything worth talking about, but I love watching this guy as a gunner on punt coverage. Regardless of his position on the field, Paul plays with attitude and he's always looking to get into it with somebody. Whether he's catching passes or not, Niles Paul is an asset to this team.
Mike Shanahan -- A
With so much pressure going into this game, the Redskins' discipline today was impressive. Mike Shanahan seemed to have his players in the right state of mind and there were limited mistakes in today's game.
More notably, Shanahan handled Robert Griffin III very well. Early on, the Redskins offense was very vanilla and Griffin was given only screens and dumps. Once the rookie's confidence was established with a 7-for-7 stat line, the playbook began to open. Griffin's results are a direct result of Shanahan's patience and strategy.
Kyle Shanahan -- A
Great mix of run and pass today, as well as great timing. Perhaps my favorite call of the day was a shallow post to tight end Logan Paulsen on 2nd-and-long in the fourth quarter. With that particular play-call, the coaches screamed about their confidence in the young players on this team.
Jim Haslett -- A
For a defensive coordinator that is typically very aggressive, Jim Haslett displayed great patience today and his front-seven helped him remain that way through four quarters.
Although it appeared like soft zone from time-to-time, Haslett had his corners in man defense for most of the game. Once again, that's a coach believing in his players. The result translated on the field.
Danny Smith -- C+
That blocked punt before the half cannot happen. Before punter Sav Rocca had a chance to place the ball, there were Saints whispering in his ear. I'm not sure what the blocking scheme was all about, but it didn't work. Scrap that and get back to the drawing board.