Washington Redskins: Studs, Duds and Biggest Surprises at the One-Quarter Mark
The Washington Redskins reach the first-quarter mark of the NFL season with more questions than answers as to what will work best for quarterback Robert Griffin III. So far, he has been a non-story as he leads a team with more losses than wins and a team trying to find its own identity behind a reinvented and ineffective offense that has yet to prove itself this year.
Through four games, the team has one victory. With a bye scheduled for Week 5, the team has the opportunity to focus on their fundamentals and mental aspects of the game—a focus of much of the blame so far this NFL season.
However, coach Mike Shanahan is on a mission to turn things around.
“We evaluate everything we do… . We take a look at what we do defensively, offensively [and on] special teams,” Coach Mike Shanahan said Tuesday, via Mike Maske of The Washington Post.
With an offense that has shown an inability to perform in the first half of any game this young season and a defense still prone to mistakes and big plays and a lackluster performance on special teams, the Redskins remain only a game behind NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys whom they face after their bye week in Week 6.
The Redskins defense, specifically the backfield, is young and inexperienced, and it has shown several times in 2013—committing too many mistakes, including missed tackles and coverage assignments.
The defense is giving up an average of 28 points per game.
With a week to look back at what has worked and not worked, thus far, through four games, the following slideshow will take a look at just a sample of this season's studs, duds and biggest mistakes...beginning with the defense.
Dud: Redskins Defense
With the much-anticipated additions of three rookie defensive backs, players returning from injury and free-agency acquisitions, the Redskins defense has performed dreadfully through the first four games.
To its credit, the defense has made some big plays resulting in points for the offense, but overall, the defense ranks 27th in the NFL in passing completion percentage allowed (67.4) and 25th in passing yards allowed per game (298).
Against the run, the defense is ranked 31st (569 total rushing yards allowed).
Despite all the negative talk surrounding the defense's inability to make tackles, the Redskins defense is ranked fifth overall in number of tackles made on the season with 296. The biggest misnomer with that figure is the number of yards allowed after the catch—a factor in so many big plays allowed so far through the quarter-season mark.
Redskins' opponents are averaging a league-high 13.6 yards per completion against the Redskins, and opposing offenses have had far too easy a time moving the ball against the Redskins defense and scoring.
The defense will have two new faces joining them in practice this week as defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson both return from a league-mandated, four-game suspension for PED use.
Stud: Ryan Kerrigan
Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is the standout defensive player through the first four games. His pressure and presence on defense, along with Brian Orakpo on the other side, have opposing linemen more aware of the Redskins as a dual outside threat on pass defense.
Kerrigan leads the team with five sacks, while also among the top players on defense with 18 solo tackles and two forced fumbles. His big plays have all occurred at key moments in the early season when the defense needed to elevate its game.
His instinct, speed and quickness on and around the line of scrimmage makes Kerrigan a defensive player of the year contender based on his four-game performance in 2013.
Honorable Mention Stud: Barry Cofield
Redskins nose tackle Barry Cofield, with his broken right hand in a cast, combined for two sacks and a fumble recovery in the Week 4 victory over the Oakland Raiders. The man is wearing a cast on his hand.
Cofield broke a bone in his right hand against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason and has a club-like cast to protect the injury. He has not missed any playing time.
Cofield's contributions on defense have steadily increased after a slow start, as opponents focus on containing Kerrigan and Orakpo.
Dud: LB Brian Orakpo
The highly anticipated return of linebacker Brian Orakpo has been nothing like the level of play prior to his injury in Week 2 in 2012. He has moments of "studness," like his first of a two-sack performance against the Raiders in Week 4, followed by a dropped ball for an easy interception.
He has just 17 tackles through four games, 13 of them solo. With so much of Orakpo's reputation preceding him, he has not been able to live up to the high expectations placed upon him and has contributed on a minimum basis thus far.
Biggest Mistake: Haslett Coaching Upstairs
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is no longer on the field with his defense, instead opting this season to call things from the coaches' booth. This is a horrific mistake.
According to Mike Jones of The Washington Post, this is so Haslett, "can get a better view of the field." The coach and his players said that as a result, he has been able to recognize problems and make adjustments more quickly.
Haslett no longer has the direct line of communication with his players as they come on and off the field. He is not there to hear from his players, as to which plays and formations are not working, where they are weak, etc. Sure, he has his headset, but it is just not the same as being on the sideline.
There is a certain detachment, I would think, between a struggling defense and a coach watching from above.
The Redskins defense needs to have the cohesion and comfort playing as a unit under the direction of a coach who is alongside them on the field and right in the action of the game. He needs to build their morale personally when they are down and boost their confidence when they have success.
That connection seems to be missing, thus not helping the team defensively.
Stud: WR Pierre Garcon
Now turning to the offense.
The Redskins offensive scoring has been minimal through the first four games, and wide receiver Pierre Garcon has two of the team's 12 touchdowns. What is behind those two touchdowns is a focused-and-healthy Garcon, who also leads the team in targets (44), receptions (29), first downs (18) and receiving yards (339).
His 29 receptions through four games put him on pace to surpass the team record for receptions in a season currently held by Art Monk with 106 in 1984.
An additional fact to consider at the quarter mark is Garcon's success in yards after catch (YAC) where he's ranked sixth among NFL wide receivers with 144 yards.
To have a healthy Garcon lined up each week is and should be something quarterback RG3 continues to use to the team's advantage as the QB's first look. Garcon has proven, so far, he has the ability and skill to keep drives alive, making solid gains and big plays with his hands and his feet.
Dud: RB Alfred Morris
It would be difficult for Redskins running back Alfred Morris to top his 1,600-plus-yard rushing rookie season. Along with last year's yardage output came 13 touchdowns and only four fumbles.
At the 2013 quarter mark, Morris has 56 carries for 296 yards and two touchdowns. That equates to a 5.3 yard per carry average and a 74 yard per game average, substantially below his rookie numbers.
In addition, much of the conversation surrounding Morris during the preseason centered around his increased role as a receiver out of the backfield. That plan never materialized as Morris has been targeted only four times, making three catches for 22 yards. Of those 22 yards, 17 came on one reception.
There has been little-to-no excitement surrounding Morris at this point in the season, and the fact remains he is not experiencing a "sophomore slump." The Redskins offense has taken a different form in 2013, and for reasons unknown, gotten away from a running game that led the NFL last season in yards per game.
Currently, the Redskins ground attack ranks 17th in the league with a per-game average of 106 yards.
Dud: QB Robert Griffin III
There is no kind way to say that Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has been a dud in the first quarter of the 2013 NFL season. Four games into the season and blah. The excitement from his rookie season is gone.
Sure, he is still an exciting quarterback and can make a play happen at any given moment—but that hasn't happened through four games and a downright disappointing 1-3 start.
The "RG3 factor" of any and every game last season has yet to emerge and become a factor through the first quarter of this season. Take a look at his rushing numbers in 2013.
Four games and a prolific rookie rushing QB has 18 runs for 72 yards.
His longest run, a 21-yard scramble and attempt to slide to avoid getting hit, ended with a fourth-quarter fumble that would have resulted in the offensive line being inside the Detroit Lions red zone and ready to score.
The stats aren't there. The flash and burst of speed hasn't been seen. Running plays are limited, and the formation, adaptation and development of RG3 in the current offensive game plan isn't working.
If you subtract the 21-yard scramble and attempt, RG3 has 17 runs for 51 yards—a three yard per attempt average.