Grading Washington Redskins' Positional Units at the 1st-Quarter Mark

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistOctober 4, 2013

Grading Washington Redskins' Positional Units at the 1st-Quarter Mark

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    Few positional units for the Washington Redskins merit more than a solid grade at the season's first-quarter mark. That is the inevitable consequence of the team's 1-3 start.

    Many of the ratings have been padded by Week 4's performance against the Oakland Raiders. For instance, the five-sack performance by the outside linebackers has boosted the overall grade for that unit.

    The two groups most shamed by their grades will surprise nobody. The secondary and special team have consistently let the Redskins down during the first four games.

    The full list begins with the one unit to merit a B grade.

    All statistics via

Wide Receiver

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    Grade: B

    The wide receivers have not always benefited from the best delivery from quarterback Robert Griffin III. However, despite that and some early issues gaining separation, the group has produced some solid numbers.

    Pierre Garcon has led the way with 29 receptions for 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns. But others have also contributed.

    Youngster Leonard Hankerson has tallied 15 catches for 185 yards and also has a touchdowns to his credit. Veteran Santana Moss has 15 receptions for 172 yards and a score.

    Those are respectable numbers, and the production should even improve as Hankerson matures as a starter.

Running Back

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    Grade: C

    The overall grade for the running back position is influenced by Alfred Morris not quite dominating the way he was expected to.

    Last year's rushing sensation has made a relatively slow start to this season. He has posted an above-average 5.3 yards per carry but has only managed a single 100-yard game in four.

    Morris has been the victim of inconsistent blocking up front and extra attention from defenses post Griffin's knee surgery.

    Roy Helu Jr. has chipped in but has been used too sparingly. He only has 14 carries after four weeks. Meanwhile, Evan Royster has yet to touch the ball.

    The Redskins need to expand their rotation and take more advantage of the numbers and talent at this position.

Tight End

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    Grade: C

    Tight ends have been effective in Washington's offense but a little underused. Leading the way has been rookie Jordan Reed.

    The third-round pick has made a good early impression with his movement and receiving skills. Reed has caught 13 passes for 106 yards and a single touchdown.

    While Reed leads the position group in every category, Logan Paulsen has still been a solid contributor. Unfortunately, incumbent Fred Davis has not.

    Davis has registered only three catches and displayed none of his trademark ability to stretch the middle of the field.

Offensive Line

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    Grade: D

    The line has often blighted the efforts of every phase of the offense. It has allowed too much penetration against the zone-based running game.

    In general, blocking for the run has been inconsistent. While Morris and Helu have been dropped for losses, they have also benefited from huge holes.

    But those holes have often been created with the aid of supplemental blockers and two-tight end sets.

    In pass protection, the line has only allowed seven sacks, but it has routinely struggled to cope with the blitz. Defenses have gotten free rushers through the middle and off the edges.


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    Grade: C

    Robert Griffin III has stumbled his way through most of the season's first-quarter mark. He has struggled with accuracy and decision-making.

    But despite his issues, Griffin has still posted the sixth-most passing yards in the league. He has thrown for 1,202 yards and six touchdowns.

    But Griffin has also hurled four interceptions, just one shy of his entire total for last season. The general inconsistency of his play can be attributed largely to his recovery from major knee surgery.

    His development as a passer has also clearly been stunted by missing the entire offseason. His offense is unlikely to ever again completely resemble the read-option-led attack that dominated in 2012.

    As Washington's coaches tweak the schemes to match what Griffin can and can't do, his performances should steadily improve.

Defensive Line

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    Grade: D

    The defensive line was a team strength in 2012, but the performances have certainly dipped through four games this season. The unit has struggled to generate consistent pressure and has been particularly soft against the run, being chiefly responsible for the 31st-ranked rush defense.

    The standout performer of the group has been beefy nose tackle Barry Cofield. He is afforded that status mostly due to his two sacks against the Raiders.

    Cofield has not been ably supported by end Stephen Bowen, who can produce so much more. Veteran Kedric Golston has often struggled to fill the void created by Jarvis Jenkins' four-game suspension.



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    Grade: C

    In terms of pass rush, the linebackers would grade even higher. The starting quartet has notched 10 of the team's 15 sacks.

    Ryan Kerrigan leads the way with five, and his overall performances have been outstanding. His flair for the big play is still present, but Kerrigan's overall game has also improved.

    Brian Orakpo has not been as effective but did show signs of life in Oakland. What condemns this unit to only an average grade is its culpability in the number of missed tackles by the defense.

    Inside 'backers London Fletcher and Perry Riley Jr. have been two of the biggest culprits. Both have been active but have not set the right tone for the rest of the defense after missing numerous tackles and failing to bring down ball-carriers.

    Poor tackling is an issue that has blighted the entire defense. But these linebackers are the playmakers of Washington's 3-4 scheme and must set a better example.


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    Grade: F

    The Redskins cornerbacks have not managed to competently cover anybody in the first four games. Rookie David Amerson has been victimized by both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.

    But Amerson has not been alone in surrendering a host of big plays. DeAngelo Hall continues to provide as many lowlights as highlights, while Josh Wilson has struggled to adapt to a role in the slot.

    The corners have not always been helped by some risky coverage concepts implemented by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Things did improve against the Raiders, thanks largely to the decision to pack more numbers into the coverage.

    But the Redskins still need more solid performances and a standout player to emerge from this unit.


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    Grade: F

    If you want one defining reason why Washington's defense surrenders 298.2 passing yards per game, look no further than the safety position.

    The unit has been atrocious during the first quarter of the season. Bad angles in coverage and feeble tackling in run support have defined the play at this position.

    Veteran Brandon Meriweather has tried to lead the group, but his own performances can only aspire to even being average. Rookie Bacarri Rambo seemed overwhelmed at every level of the defense and was soon replaced by Reed Doughty.

    Haslett tweaked things to leave his safeties deep most of the time in Oakland. Keeping them out of harm's way seemed to improve things slightly.

    But this group needs to show much more than slight improvement to be considered anything other than the Achilles' heel of the defense.

Special Teams

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    Grade: F

    The special teams have been a disaster so far this season. Many of the problems are in the return game or rather the lack of one.

    Rookie Chris Thompson showed real potential as a return ace during preseason. But he has failed to carry that form into real action and often runs without imagination.

    Things have barely been any better in the kicking game, where an injury to placekicker Kai Forbath has not helped. But it is punter Sav Rocca who has done the most damage in this area.

    His average of 41.1 yards is the worst in the NFL. Rocca has consistently given opposing teams favorable field position.

    First-year coordinator Keith Burns needs to work fast to address the major flaws in this unit.


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    Grade: D

    Head coach Mike Shanahan is presiding over a team that currently lacks a proper identity on both sides of the ball. Shanahan has struggled to establish what works best for his units.

    Offensively, he has been quick to abandon the run and seems intent on letting Griffin's arm win games. On defense, Shanahan has not adapted to a lack of talent in the secondary.

    The result has been offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan scrambling for ways to get Griffin comfortable with less read-option looks. Meanwhile, Haslett took four games to settle on a formula of safe pressure and deep coverage that should have been obvious from the start.

    Coordinators design the plays, but the direction has to come from the head coach. So far Shanahan has looked like a man without a plan.