Redskins Defeat Raiders: Postgame Notes for Washington
Although it'd be nice to bask in the Redskins' first win of the season, it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies.
Here's my six-pack of postgame notes and observations.
1. More No-Huddle, Please
Trailing 14-0 late in the first quarter, the Redskins offense went into a no-huddle format. They were quick, they were balanced and, most of all, they were efficient. Perhaps the most efficient we've seen them all year.
The only downside to the Redskins' uptempo drive was the resulting three points. But points are points, and the Redskins needed them. It could've very likely resulted in a touchdown had it not been for a boneheaded decision that I'll touch on next.
My question, however, is why don't we see more of this? Why do the Redskins have to be down double-digits in order to use such a competent offense?
Take a look at the Redskins roster and you'll notice their offense having all the pieces to operate effectively in a hurry-up offense. They have the athletic linemen who tend to have better stamina and more endurance than opposing defensive linemen, they have a number of receivers who can make plays after the catch, they have two running backs with different skill sets, and they have that one quarterback guy who's not too shabby at extending plays and firing strikes.
Not that I expect to see it again anytime soon, but I'll continue to plead my case for more no-huddle offense.
I'm going to sound like I run the RG3 fan club, but I'll take the label for now.
To me, this was another game of improvement for Griffin as a passer. As a quarterback? Well, he needs to continue to polish. But as a passer, from a physical standpoint, I think we're seeing Griffin approach the landing strip in terms of returning to full form, whether it be at his knee or between his ears.
Not only does Griffin look more comfortable in the pocket and planting his feet, but his improvised moves no longer look as rigid as they did through the first two weeks of the season. He's clearly lacking the speed we all grew accustomed to last year, but I'd expect further (physical) strides throughout the season.
As for the routine couch quarterback commentary, I thought Griffin made a few bad decisions, including the intentional grounding he picked up on the Redskins' no-huddle drive that took them from a 2nd-and-goal on the Oakland 4-yard line to a 3rd-and-18. After a 16-yard catch and run from Pierre Garcon on 3rd-and-forever, the Redskins would have to settle for three points.
In addition to the grounding call, Griffin made a few errant throws and seemingly missed guys by way of poor field vision or progression through his reads. For me, though, that's not nearly as big an issue. I think this all comes in time as Griffin continues to work from behind the line and without as many gaping pass lanes resulting from the read-option threat we saw so much of last season.
3. The Defense Showed Up
The Redskins were fortunate in this game. Terrelle Pryor was out with a concussion, Darren McFadden went down early with a strained hammy and Marcel Reece left the game early with an injury as well.
Regardless of circumstance, the Redskins defense played its best game of the year so far, sacking Flynn seven times, forcing a fumble and taking an interception the other way for a touchdown.
The interception was returned early in the second quarter when Flynn threw an ugly pass into the hands of rookie corner David Amerson, who returned it 45 yards for his first career interception and score. Amerson's growth and development is fun to watch and should remain so for the rest of the season.
The back half of the defense was decent in coverage, which really made things difficult for the Raiders in addition to how long Flynn holds the ball. The defensive line was strong, they put constant pressure on the opposition and they shut Oakland out in the second half.
Heading into last weekend, I wrote about the importance of the defense's performance and what it could mean for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's job. The defense played well against the opponent at hand. We'll see how that carries through the bye week.
4. Chris Thompson and the Flat Return Game
Luckily, the return man in the NFL is becoming less and less important. There are far more touchbacks and not nearly as many opportunities. But the Redskins' return game is struggling. It's nerve-racking when the ball is in the air, and it's flat when rookie Chris Thompson attempts a return. His decision-making is still under construction, and he's not considered reliable at this point.
Can the Redskins have a great season without a potent return game? Sure. But as we saw last year, the sparks or scores from big returns can shift a game from a dog fight to a victory in a matter of seconds.
I don't doubt that Thompson has the skills to be an effective return man. The learning process has just been brutal through four weeks.
5. You Wanted Balance! Here's Your Balance!
It seemed to be the main topic of debate following last week's loss to the Lions. And perhaps offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan listened.
Fact is, the Redskins had better balance on offense yesterday, whether it seemed forced at times or not. Before leaving the game in the second half with an injury, Alfred Morris received his fair share of touches, and he was effective running the ball.
When Roy Helu Jr. entered the game in place of the injured Morris, I didn't think he was as effective as Morris, despite his tough, hard-nosed touchdown run. The game tape will show how the blocking was up front, but his average per carry wasn't anything to write home about.
Obviously, with a resulting victory, those who preached about the Redskins needing more offensive balance will take to the airwaves this week and rant about how right they were. And they'd be correct.
But it's not about the number of carries Morris receives. It's his efficiency. Quality over quantity. So long as Morris is getting good yards per carry, continue to use him. But if he's getting a total of three yards on first and second down and putting the offense into a 3rd-and-7, then I'm all about coming out and letting Griffin pass the ball, regardless of down.
6. Be Realistic About This Win
Here's the Debbie Downer coming out in me, looking to downpour on the minute parade that comes by way of the Redskins' first win of the season yesterday.
I'm convinced that had yesterday's opponent been someone different, like a Dallas, Chicago or Denver (the Redskins' next three opponents), we wouldn't be talking about a win right now. We'd be talking about how in the world the Redskins are going to rebound from an 0-4 start.
Point being, the Redskins have a lot of things to work on during the bye week. We're all still in search of an offense with more resemblance to that of last season, the defense is still not good (despite their seven sacks) and tackling is beyond bad.
The Redskins' schedule doesn't get any easier after the bye week. It gets a lot harder. If they want any shot at rattling off some wins to end the season circa last year, they need to get things together during their time off.
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