Washington Redskins vs. Oakland Raiders: Full Roster Grades for Washington
A poor performance from quarterback Robert Griffin III set the tone for a stuttering display by the Washington Redskins offense. Thankfully, a sterling defensive effort, led by a strong showing from the line, keyed a 24-14 win over the Oakland Raiders.
The consistent pressure up front made the job of a threadbare secondary easier. Meanwhile, the running game, which benefited from more variety, provided the lone bright spot on offense.
Here are the full report card grades for Washington's roster after the team's first win of the season.
Alfred Morris was a marked man in the early stages, as the Raiders defensive front keyed in on last year's surprise package. Morris wasn't helped by the offensive line's struggles to cope with Oakland defensive tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker.
But he did eventually match quick cuts with brute force to plow his way for some key yards in the second half. He finished with 71 yards, but had he not succumbed to a late rib injury, Morris would have topped the 100-yard mark.
Roy Helu Jr.: B
Despite Morris' misfortune, the Redskins were lucky to have Roy Helu Jr. on hand to deputize. He offered greater acceleration through the hole, and that led to some vital gains in the fourth quarter.
Helu scored the game-clinching touchdown on a quick 14-yard dart through the middle and ran the clock down late. He also chipped in with a pair of receptions for 43 yards, including one highlight-reel-worthy hurdle to set up his rushing score.
The league's most underrated fullback continued to quietly impress. Darrel Young made his share of key blocks to free both Morris and Helu.
He should still feature more in the offense, as only one reception for four yards hardly does justice to Young's skills as a runner and pass-catcher.
For the third game in a row, Pierre Garcon proved how invaluable he can be to Griffin's development. He made more than one fine catch to turn an errant throw into a useful pass.
In all, Garcon hauled in six catches for 59 yards, including a five-yard score to give Washington its first lead of the game.
Leonard Hankerson: C
Leonard Hankerson didn't see as much of the ball as Garcon did, but he still showed why he's being trusted with a starting role this season. Hankerson made four decent grabs for 49 yards and always looked like a threat on third down.
Josuha Morgan: D
Joshua Morgan only saw limited action, due largely to an early injury. He tallied just one reception for six yards and was unable to be as big a factor blocking for the run as he was at times in Week 3.
Logan Paulsen: C
Logan Paulsen rebounded from an early fumble that was, in part, caused by his efforts fighting through tacklers for extra yards. He went on to make a pair of catches, including a 33-yarder.
Niles Paul: C
Niles Paul added two catches to Paulsen's efforts, including a gain of 16 yards early on. He helped the team cope with the loss of rookie Jordan Reed and the indifferent form of Fred Davis.
Robert Griffin III was wildly inaccurate for large portions of the game. Many of his passes were high, wide or behind his intended receiver.
To his credit, Griffin did make some key plays in the fourth quarter. He eluded pressure to fire a pass that Helu turned into a 28-yard gain, positioning the offense to score the decisive points.
Still, it would have been nice to see Griffin display more touch and precision with many of his other passes.
While Griffin wasn't particularly accurate, he wasn't helped by an offensive line that couldn't pick up the blitz. The Raiders routinely got free rushers in Griffin's face.
It also took Washington's front five an entire half to begin consistently knocking open holes for the running game.
The special teams continued its woeful start under new coordinator Keith Burns. The blocked punt in the first quarter set the tone for another miserable display, marked by feeble returns and barely adequate coverage.
Burns must find a way to get his unit at least competent. The loss of Lorenzo Alexander, a longtime special teams demon, looks more costly every week.
Barry Cofield: A
Nose tackle Barry Cofield enjoyed his best performance of the season. He notched a pair of sacks, consistently disrupted the pass pocket and recovered a fumble to give Washington the chance to win the game.
This display was reminiscent of Cofield's form during the latter stages of the 2012 season and helped lead the way for an impressive game from the front line.
Kedric Golston: B
Kedric Golston is often seen as a weak link up front, but he was anything but that in Oakland. The rugged veteran created plenty of push inside.
The highlight of his game was being the key figure on a fourth-down stop of Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn that preserved Washington's 10-point lead.
Stephen Bowen: B
Stephen Bowen's value did not show in the statistics, as he was in on only one solo tackle and assisted three others. However, the hulking end was chiefly responsible for rejecting the Raiders' efforts to establish the run.
Chris Baker: C
Chris Baker did not produce much in relief of Cofield, but the mammoth deputy was tough to move inside. The overall performance from the line merits a positive grade for every contributor.
Ryan Kerrigan: A
Ryan Kerrigan again showed why he is the best player on this defense. The 2011 first-round pick added two more sacks to his resume, including forcing the fumble that swung the game in Washington's favor.
Kerrigan is starting to match his knack for the big play with his overall skill as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Brian Orakpo: A
As a rookie in 2009, Brian Orakpo helped himself to four sacks in Oakland. He wasn't quite as destructive this time, but still took down Flynn twice.
Orakpo recovered from dropping a sure interception early on to lead wave after wave of pressure up front. If he and Kerrigan can complement each other as well every week, this pass rush will be unstoppable.
London Fletcher: C
London Fletcher was guilty of a few missed tackles early in the game that sustained drives. But the aging leader of the defense eventually settled and still made 10 combined stops.
Perry Riley Jr.: C
Like Fletcher, Perry Riley Jr. was far from sure with his tackling at times. In all, he tallied nine combined tackles and occasionally looked dangerous on the blitz.
Darryl Tapp: C
Darryl Tapp showed his worth as an able deputy to Orakpo and Kerrigan. He recorded a sack and was in on plenty of pressure.
Nick Barnett: D
Nick Barnett took some snaps away from Fletcher, but he made only one tackle.
Bryan Kehl: Grade D
Like Barnett, Bryan Kehl made little impact on the rare occasions he made it onto the field.
David Amerson: C
Rookie David Amerson was burned for some big gains early, but he quickly rebounded to produce a key play. Amerson undercut a poor pass from Flynn and returned it 45 yards for his first pro touchdown.
It was the kind of opportunistic effort Amerson produced regularly in college. Hopefully, it is a key step in his development with Washington.
Josh Wilson: C
Josh Wilson was the most active of the Redskins corners. He made four total tackles and never let the secondary down in coverage.
E.J. Biggers: C
E.J. Biggers stayed solid whenever he was called upon to supplement the coverage schemes. He was also in on three tackles.
DeAngelo Hall: C
DeAngelo Hall wasn't called into action this week as much as he was against the Detroit Lions a week ago. What he did have to do he did well, though, and never looked a liability.
Brandon Meriweather: B
This was the rare game where Brandon Meriweather's aggression made a positive impact. The big-hitting and often reckless safety made a series of emphatic early tackles.
That fired up the defense and set the mood for the unit.
Reed Doughty: B
Of course, it helped Meriweather to have a more steady presence alongside him.
This author is usually the first to point out Reed Doughty's athletic limitations. But the veteran has always been a savvy defensive back. He and Meriweather may lack speed and range as a pairing, but the Raiders never got behind them.
They complement each other, and their experience could make them Washington's best combination at safety.
Mike Shanahan: B
Washington's head coach played things a lot smarter in Week 4. He kept the direction of play-calling balanced on both sides of the ball.
Penalties and turnovers were also down from last week, and that should please Shanahan.
Kyle Shanahan: B
Kyle Shanahan deserves credit for not deserting the running game. A closer scoreline meant the team could stay patient with the run, and that is just what the younger Shanahan did.
Ideally, he will be able to repeat the run-pass balance shown in Oakland in future games.
Jim Haslett: B
Jim Haslett has eased the pressure on himself after scaling back his schemes and letting his athletes take over.
Haslett played things more cautious in coverage and with the blitz. It proved to be the right approach against a Raiders team missing primary playmakers in quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Darren McFadden.
The weakened state of the Oakland offense prevents Haslett meriting a higher grade for his sensible tactics.
The coaches found the right formula on both sides of the ball. They must craft plans that duplicate a similar balance on offense and more safety-first approaches defensively.