5 Things We've Learned from Washington Redskins' 0-2 Start
The Washington Redskins' winless streak to start the 2013 NFL season, through two games, comes from an uncomfortable Robert Griffin III, an offense that has yet to score in the first half, a woeful and rebuilt defensive secondary, and confusion and uncertainty showing in all phases of their game.
To ask who's to blame—the players, coaches or RG3 as a team leader—seems unimportant. The bigger issue is how to assemble the things that do work in preparation for their next opponent, Sunday at home against the Detroit Lions.
Based on the first two weeks and two losses, there will certainly be some assembly required. A more accurate description would be a restructuring or overhaul. Their current system is downright broken.
The Redskins overall—defense, offense and special teams—have not had a standout player. I will give linebacker Ryan Kerrigan his due respect; otherwise, not a receiver or running back, a linebacker or defensive back, or a member of the special teams has stood out.
I will also add Griffin's better-late-than-never passing yards in both games and Alfred Morris' 107-yard rushing game against the Green Bay Packers. Even wide receiver Pierre Garcon had respectable numbers against the Packers, finishing with eight catches for 143 yards.
The problem is—that's it. No one else is deserving of an honorable mention or a team moment worth noting.
In the Redskins' two losses, both games were near blowouts by halftime.
The defense has allowed over 1,023 total yards, nearly breaking the all-time record for the start of the season. In NFL history, only the 1967 Atlanta Falcons (1,025) have allowed more through two games.
And the poor tackling that's been on display is borderline laughable, not to mention embarrassing. The Redskins were beat and picked apart by quarterbacks Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers in back-to-back losses.
The team appears confused, somewhat doubtful and questioning what is going on around them. Excessive penalties, unexpected turnovers from reliable ball-handlers and an inability to convert third-downs have plagued the Redskins thus far.
While much of what happens centers around RG3 and his level of play, the first two games have left me questioning five areas of concern that, unless resolved, will continue to factor in the downward slide that seemed unimaginable less than three weeks ago.
Starters Flat in First Half
Through the first two games of 2013, the Redskins have been outscored 50-7 in the first half, with the lone touchdown coming from their defense, cornerback DeAngelo Hall's 75-yard fumble return against the Eagles.
Week 1 found the Redskins starting flat-footed as the offense had 33 yards at halftime. The team started the game with three drives that resulted in a fumble, an interception and a safety. They trailed 26-7 at halftime.
Against the Packers, the first four drives resulted in punts, followed by an interception and a halftime deficit of 24-0. They totaled 156 offensive yards. RG3 completed six of 13 passes.
Again, their opponent had gotten off to an accelerated start and left the Redskins reeling to play catch-up in a scenario that was already a done deal by the half.
For those who point to the turnaround the Redskins pulled off in the second half of each of these games, that scenario was only made possible because both the Eagles and the Packers let their foot off the gas pedal.
Offense Is Not in Sync
Against the Eagles in the first half, the Redskins' drives ended in turnovers, followed by a safety and three punts. To call their season debut off to a shaky start would have been a compliment.
They would rally for the final 20 points of the game, only to fall short 33-27.
The offense was 2-of-10 in third-down conversions, rushed for only 74 yards and players appeared to be looking over their shoulders for guidance and direction for most of the game. Penalties persisted, and Philadelphia's speed on offense kept for a dizzying pace and befuddlement by the Redskins for a fair portion of the game.
In Week 2 against the Packers, the trouble on third down continued as the Redskins finished the first two games just 5-of-21 on converting third downs.
Penalties totaling 75 yards never allowed any momentum to build on offense, while poor play and inconsistencies overall on offense didn't help matters.
RG3 was fidgety and indecisive while standing in the pocket, and the pace and synchronicity has not developed on offense.
Despite marginal gains resulting in sporadic first downs, the Redskins have yet to find the formula to have all things moving in the proper direction, capitalizing on key plays and getting the gears on offense to sync and move forward consistently.
Low Morale and Mental Mistakes
The Redskins defense was worn out, ragged and tired most of the game against the Eagles. As a unit, they found themselves lost—trying to play catch-up to the Eagles offense—while the division rival was racing and moving the football at a dizzying speed.
The defenders had no idea the pace of Eagles coach Chip Kelly's football was going to be as caffeinated and relentless. Despite warnings, it was too much in the end, and the team walked away from a more serious 33-27 loss than the score indicated.
The team was shell-shocked by the explosiveness of the Eagles offense. The players made mistakes resulting in untimely penalties and allowed drives that otherwise had stalled to continue.
Questions and conversations surrounding RG3 and his full-functionality in the backfield started.
Week 2 and the Packers proved the Redskins defense was not only behind the eight ball but again playing an up-tempo, quick-drop pass attack led by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
After getting sacked three times in the early part of the game, on back-to-back plays by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and later by Brian Orakpo, Rodgers changed his play and no longer stood in the pocket. He improvised and took several steps back then quickly dumped the ball off with pop screens and quick slants over the middle.
Once the receiver had the ball and ventured outside the numbers, the Redskins' lapse in ability to make an open-field tackle or wrap up the ball-carrier reappeared.
Penalties, especially the high number of personal fouls, continue to occur at costly moments during drives. There have been far too many instances of drives kept alive by defensive mistakes, penalties and lackluster effort.
The Redskins defense has come under intense gunfire to start the 2013 season. And that's not the biggest problem.
The Redskins defense is unable to consistently make tackles. It involves effort and willingness to get physical, and it has been caught on the short end of the tackling situations through two games. It comes down to the fundamentals and basics of defensive football.
There are missed tackles and opportunities, along with the Redskins defense allowing 1,023 yards and 71 points. Fifty of those points happened in the first half, when momentum, rhythm and ease of execution need to occur relatively error-free.
Following the beatdown by the Eagles offense, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers' Week 2 performance was more impressive: 34 of 42 completions, 480 yards and four touchdowns. Of his eight incompletions, the Redskins did not defend a single pass in the game. Rodgers' misses were either dropped balls or out of play.
This allowed Rodgers to throw for 335 yards (three TDs) in the first half. Along with Rodgers' lofty numbers, running back James Starks became the first Packers running back to rush for 100-plus yards in 45 games. He would finish with 20 carries for 132 yards.
The defense allowed two Packers wide receivers to surpass the 100-yard mark: James Jones soared with 11 receptions for 178 yards and Randall Cobb pulled down nine catches for 128 yards.
The rookie starters, David Amerson and Bacarri Rambo, are showing their inexperience. London Fletcher looks out of sorts.
RG3 Is Not the Same
In describing the look and comfortability of RG3 on offense, I tossed around terms such as panicky, timid, uncertain, confused, bewildered and unnatural these first two games. They all applied.
He is dropping back in the read-option and taking himself out of the equation. His timing has been rocky; his throws have been coming off his front feet, his accuracy poor.
There's a lot less RG3 as a factor, and teams have proved comfortable having an extra defender when they know Griffin is not coming out of the backfield like last season.
Through the first two games last year, RG3 had 20 running plays for 124 yards and two touchdowns. This year: four runs for one yard this past week and five carries for 24 yards in Week 1.
While RG3 did post NFL career-high passing numbers against the Eagles, the games were practically out of reach. Second-half points on the scoreboard don't mean much when your team is getting handled by three-plus touchdowns.
On sports/talk radio the day following the loss to the Packers, some suggested this rest or "hold" on offense by Griffin may have been part of team doctor James Andrews' concerns heading into the regular-season opener. That RG3 and the Redskins needed to limit his runs outside of the pocket.
That doesn't necessarily place Griffin at the center of the blame for the team's deplorable game play. It shows the team is committed to looking long term with their franchise quarterback and the timing, not the opponents, wasn't right at this time for his full return.
RG3 missed much-needed game time during the preseason, to acclimate his game, pace and abilities once the regular season started. He still does not show signs of a confident, agile, threatening and multifaceted NFL quarterback threat who can get by you through the air or on the ground.
If restraining and retraining RG3 and his playmaking style and technique is part of the master plan, I only wish it didn't have to happen during the regular season against fellow NFC opponents. Regardless of the numbers in the win-loss column, the Redskins have committed to RG3 and appear more patient than most to reap rewards.
Statistical information provided by ESPN.com.