Detroit Lions vs. Washington Redskins: Takeaways from Redskins' 20-27 Loss
Bad tackling and a secondary that can't cover anybody again undermined a defense that still made its share of big plays. Offensively, there was some noticeable improvement, particularly whenever the Redskins created a moving pocket.
But those improvements were often overshadowed by some poor decision making and costly mistakes. Those are just some issues from the full list of takeaways from another tough loss for the Redskins.
Blitzing Is the One Thing This Defense Can Do
The Redskins were right to attack on defense. Blitzing seems to be the one thing coordinator Jim Haslett's unit can actually do with any degree of competence.
The tone was set when veteran inside linebacker London Fletcher sacked Detroit passer Matthew Stafford on the game's first play. Haslett's blitz schemes consistently harassed Stafford.
Whenever the Lions quarterback was faced with just a straight rush from the line, he was able to complete passes at will.
The Redskins simply are not talented enough to rely on vanilla schemes. They need to force their own big plays, and that means bringing the blitz and taking their chances.
The Redskins Still Cannot Tackle
Just like in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers, the Redskins could not tackle anybody. It was easy to lose count of the number of Lions players who bounced off feeble tackles.
Running back Joique Bell was the main beneficiary of this defense's generous approach to tackling. His first-quarter touchdown was a prime example of the issues that Haslett's group are having.
Both linebackers London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan failed to bring him down. Bell then almost laughed his way through safety Brandon Meriweather's attempts to deny him the end zone.
If this defense cannot master the basics, then it won't matter how much scheming Haslett does, or if he is attack-minded or conservative.
Defensive Backs Appear Confused in Coverage
Be afraid, be very afraid, because this pass defense looks ready to get worse every week. One of the biggest issues is that too many defensive backs often appear confused in coverage.
Corner DeAngelo Hall summed up this issue. The opportunistic veteran made another big play, returning an early interception for the score.
However, for most of the day, Hall looked lost. On one play in the first quarter he actually appeared unsure about what type of coverage he was executing.
Hall was over premier wideout Calvin Johnson. He began the play by pressing the star flanker, before releasing him in what looked like zone coverage.
Yet Hall then turned and saw no help on Johnson and had to try and chase him down in man coverage. Needless to say, Johnson produced another big gain.
There was similar confusion on rookie tight end Joseph Fauria's touchdown reception in the second quarter. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo took Fauria in man coverage.
As they entered the end zone, Orakpo appeared to have help from Meriweather. But the safety then inexplicably drifted away from the play.
Where he was going only he knows, because they were certainly no other Detroit receivers near Meriweather.
These kind of coverage breakdowns have become too familiar already this season.
The Shanahan Offense Showed Real Signs of Life
They may have only scored 20 points, but the Redskins looked better on offense. The improvement was due to some of the basics of the Shanahan system.
Namely, it was the play-action passing game and the use of bootlegs to create moving pockets that really helped the offense. Griffin looked more assured as a passer thanks to these two staples of the scheme.
Whenever he threw from play action, the Redskins seemed to produce a big gain. For all the questions about his mobility, Griffin's faking skills remain intact, and the play action should continue to be the feature of this offense.
Speaking of mobility, Griffin made some encouraging plays off bootlegs. Letting him move the pocket improved the speed of the offense and his accuracy.
Some read-option looks may still have to be scaled back, as Griffin adjusts to his surgically repaired knee. But the Shanahan system can still occasionally put Griffin on the move and in positions to make more plays with his arm.
Rookie Tight End Jordan Reed Is Ready to Play a Bigger Role
The performance of rookie tight end Jordan Reed was a real positive despite the result. This year's third-round pick deputized for injured starter Fred Davis and proved he is ready to play a big role.
Reed caught five passes for 50 yards. He showcased good quickness and the ability to attack a defense from anywhere on a formation.
Reed fits the mold of a Shanahan-style tight end. He possesses a wide receiver-like frame and excellent movement skills.
On this early evidence, he should get more opportunities to challenge defenses.
Roy Helu Jr. Needs More Touches
The Redskins are not using Roy Helu Jr. enough. The speedy and versatile runner tallied three receptions for 35 yards against the Lions, but had no carries in the running game.
That thin workload came just one week after Helu had only one catch against the Packers. The Redskins are not making good use of such a talented offensive weapon.
Helu should be more involved as a pass-catcher. But he should also be allowed to use his quickness to complement the bruising style of Alfred Morris and add versatility to the rushing attack.
By using Helu only sparingly, the Redskins are wasting an opportunity to challenge defenses with different looks and skills.
Discipline Is Becoming a Major Issue
Discipline, or the lack of it, is fast becoming a major issue for the Redskins. Shanahan's team are guilty of too many costly penalties.
They committed six against the Lions, costing themselves 45 yards in the process. Some were examples of downright sloppy play.
Early on, wideout Pierre Garcon nullified a big gain from Morris because he was aligned on the line of scrimmage and covering up a tight end. Basic errors like that are the sign of a careless team.
Shanahan has to make sure his undisciplined bunch can eliminate this litany of mistakes.
Robert Griffin III Has to Make Better Decisions
Griffin showed he is improving as a passer and regaining his confidence as a runner. However, he also proved that his decision-making is suspect.
Griffin made too many bad choices against the Lions. His lone interception was off a terribly thrown ball that should have simply been heaved out of bounds.
He fumbled under pressure just before halftime, a mistake that would have been avoided by throwing the ball away. Griffin is obviously anxious to make plays and revive the fortunes of this team.
But unless he plays a little smarter, his enthusiasm for the cause will soon become a liability.
The Redskins still have a mountain of work to overcome to repair their defense. But there were enough signs of life from the offense to believe a first win of the season is imminent.