Washington Redskins: Handing out Week 1 Awards for the Redskins
After a terrific performance from rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Redskins dropped 40 points on Sunday and showed the league that this is not the same Redskins team.
From the terrific pressure brought by the front seven to the big plays made by the offense, everyone seemed to be hitting on all cylinders for Washington. Drew Brees was clearly uncomfortable all day, and not even the return of defensive end Will Smith could help the Saints defense find a way to stop Griffin.
There's a lot to take away from this game, but that comes later. For now, here are some awards to hand out for the Redskins' performance in Week 1.
Most Valuable Player: Robert Griffin III
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No surprises here. The rookie phenom was just that against the Saints, lighting them up for 320 yards and two touchdowns. But most impressive was the way he handled pressure brought by New Orleans and how he kept the defense off-balance when he got outside the pocket.
The prime example of this (and in my opinion play of the game) was one play where Griffin was forced out of the pocket and had a defender running free at him. Rather than throw the ball away or take a sack, Griffin sidestep the rusher and threw a bomb to Fred Davis who caught the pass right on the sideline for a 26-yard gain.
That's something you can't teach.
Griffin kept the Washington offense churning, which in turn kept the defense off the field and afforded them the energy to combat a fast-paced Drew Brees offense. Last year the defense was forced on the field too often because of stalling drives or Rex Grossman turnovers.
Having a quarterback who can make those plays and hold an offense on his shoulders changes a team. You can't take your eyes off Griffin whenever he plays because he's such a compelling athlete. It's only one game, but he sure does look the part of a superstar.
Least Valuable Player: Danny Smith
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The best sign of a great game is that it's hard to find who the least valuable player was afterward. No one person really stood out as a bad player for the entire game, but the special teams did have struggles with their protection schemes as we saw on the blocked punt that led to a touchdown.
Last year the Redskins had six kicks blocked. That can't happen. I'm not sure what the protection design is that special teams coach Danny Smith has employed, but it needs work.
There were good things to take from the special teams play. Coverage downfield was good and Billy Cundiff was excellent in his debut, hitting all four field goals and sending eight of nine kickoffs through the end zone. Brandon Banks had a few good returns as well.
But if there's one thing that can change a game, it's a blocked kick. It was a complete momentum change at the end of the first half and put the Saints right back in the game.
Long snapper Nick Sundberg apparently broke his arm on that play trying to make a tackle, but still played through the rest of the game. We'll see how long he's out for and what our other options are if he can't come back anytime soon. Definitely a tough guy, though.
The special teams wasn't terrible at all, but the rest of the team played so well that they come up as the weak link. I expect most of the issues to be resolved with time, but it still could be an issue.
Top Rookie: Alfred Morris
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The obvious pick here is Robert Griffin III, but we can't let him win everything so Alfred Morris gets the nod here. The sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic kept his strong preseason going to the tune of 96 yards and two touchdowns.
Morris has that forward lean coaches love so much that allows him to fall forward and always gain yards. Even when he was hit in the backfield it seemed like he still managed to pick up two or three yards, which makes a huge difference on second and third down.
I counted only three occasions where Morris was stopped in the backfield, one of which came during the end of the game when it was an obvious running down. He fits perfectly into this system and runs like he's out to destroy the entire defense.
Look for Morris to hold on to the starting job next week against St. Louis. He'll share carries again with Roy Helu and Evan Royster, but as of now he is the go-to guy for Mike Shanahan.
Aldrick Robinson gets honorable mention here for his play today in his first NFL game. After spending a year on the practice squad he's not technically a rookie, but it was nice to see him make some big plays when Pierre Garcon went down with a foot injury.
On one play, Robinson got popped going over the middle but still made the catch. Those kind of plays will earn him more time on the field and show the coaches he's ready for the big time. He's definitely got the speed for it.
Biggest Surprise: The Secondary
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Coming into this game there were two areas of the team that looked to be the downfall of the squad: the offensive line and the secondary. While the former did a fair job all-around, the secondary gave one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL fits throughout the game.
Cedric Griffin played extremely well as the nickle corner with a few huge pass breakups and tight coverage. Griffin had plenty of red flags coming into this game, but he held his own when the time came to show what he was worth.
When Tanard Jackson was suspended for the year and Brandon Meriweather was ruled out for the first two to four weeks of the season, it seemed like it was time to go into panic mode. But the tandem of Madieu Williams and DeJon Gomes did well enough to overcome those losses for the majority of the game.
There were a few plays where Williams seemed out of the play––namely the 4th-and-10 touchdown pass to Devery Henderson where Williams didn't even attempt to make a play on the ball––but he was able to hold his own for the most part.
Gomes did very well at strong safety, despite the personal foul he received for a late hit. He's not nearly the bruiser that Meriweather or Landry are, but he still has good closing speed and is solid in coverage.
DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson were their usual selves, but Hall did a lot more damage as a pass-rusher than in years past. Wilson is still the most solid cover corner on the team.
Overall, the secondary played well beyond what anyone could have expected and are a big reason why the Redskins came out of the Superdome with a win. They get the biggest surprise award.