Chicago Bears vs. Washington Redskins: Full Roster Grades for Washington
After a 45-41 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, it's no surprise that the best grades are reserved for the Washington Redskins offense. There are high marks for quarterback Robert Griffin III and also for the rookie who is becoming his favorite target.
The grades are just as good in the running game, where two talented ball-carriers and the man who leads the way for them all merit strong grades.
Of course, the marks aren't as high for a defense that was exposed too often by a backup quarterback. Also, the special teams unit continues to be a liability.
The list of grades for the key Redskins players on Sunday begins with a look at the players that keyed a 209-yard rushing effort.
Robert Griffin III looked an awful lot like his rookie self in Week 7. He finally produced the dual-threat skills that make him so valuable to the offense and such a threat to opposing defenses.
Griffin scampered for 84 yards on 11 rushes, many of them designed runs off option fakes. With his threat as a runner causing hesitation in the Bears defense, Griffin was also more efficient through the air.
He only completed 19 passes, but two of those went for touchdowns. Were it not a poor throw on an early interception and some wayward delivery in the second half, Griffin would merit an "A."
It was a real show of resilience from Alfred Morris, as he had to battle his way to some tough yards against an initially stout Chicago defense.
The Bears made some good early plays while keying in on Morris, but he eventually wore them down with some punishing second-half runs.
Roy Helu Jr.
He may have gained 54 fewer yards than Morris, but three touchdowns is enough to give Roy Helu Jr. an "A." The speedster showcased his change of pace value with some excellent cutback running in the red zone.
Washington's running game was the strongest it has been all season because of the way Morris and Helu shared the carries. Hopefully, it is a pattern that will continue.
Darrel Young made a series of critical blocks to free both Morris and Helu. He routinely thundered into members of the Bears front seven, which helped to create the extra space needed to turn minimal gains into solid ones.
The only thing that prevents Young from earning an "A" is the fact that he was absent from the receiving game. Coaches should do more to involve him as a playmaker.
Pierre Garcon continues to struggle to convince people that he is a legitimate No. 1 receiver. He dropped a pair of first-half passes that should have been caught, and he was quiet for most of the first two quarters.
To his credit, Garcon did come to life in the second half, particularly late in the fourth. He made a vital catch to convert a third down on the game-winning drive.
Still, more consistency is needed from the former Indianapolis Colt.
He has been anonymous for much of the season, but Aldrick Robinson re-emerged on Sunday to remind everyone that he has not lost his flair for the big play.
Robinson made only two catches, but both of those grabs produced a big impact. A 30-yard reception set up one score, and Robinson followed that by hauling in a 45-yarder for his first touchdown of the year.
Based on this showing, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has to work on getting his one true vertical threat more involved.
Leonard Hankerson's production continues to fall far short of his actual talent. He made only one catch for 26 yards, and was again guilty of some drops.
Santana Moss and Joshua Morgan
Joshua Morgan's only contribution to the game came when he was flagged for holding, which wiped out a big gain on a long run. Santana Moss, meanwhile, dropped a pass that he should have caught on the final drive.
Jordan Reed was the one pass-catcher who routinely outwitted Chicago's coverage schemes. Whether he was lined up as in-line tight end or was split out as a wide receiver, Reed continued to make plays.
He has become the receiver Griffin tends to look to when he gets into trouble. Nine catches for 134 yards and a touchdown provides a good indication why.
The offensive line struggled to gain the advantage in the first half. They allowed too much penetration in the running game and consistently failed to get on linebackers at the second level.
But the front five gradually assumed control as the second half progressed. They were particularly effective in the running game, which is the lone strength of the group.
Left tackle Trent Williams made some important blocks on zone stretch plays in the fourth quarter.
Barry Cofield was credited with the vital sack that ended the game in Washington's favor. He was also in on three stops in the running game.
Overall, he was not a consistent presence behind the line of scrimmage, but Cofield still made his share of plays.
Chris Baker notched the first of the defense's two sacks. He also finished with three combined tackles in a solid all-around effort.
Stephen Bowen left the game with an injury early on, denying him the chance to make more of an impact. Bowen was largely quiet prior to his injury.
Brian Orakpo produced the defensive highlight of the day when he intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown.
In the second half, he was the only member of the defense to get consistent pressure on backup passer Josh McCown.
Ryan Kerrigan made an elementary mistake on Matt Forte's 50-yard touchdown run; he ignored contain on the edge, overran the play and created a cutback lane that was so inviting it should have been signposted.
Kerrigan's best contribution didn't come until the game's final play, when he chased McCown out of the pocket and into the grasp of Cofield.
London Fletcher was unable to distinguish himself against either the run or the pass. The 38-year-old is short of impact plays this season.
Perry Riley Jr.
Perry Riley Jr. led the defense in tackles, registering seven combined stops, and was once again effective on the blitz. He is quickly maturing into an active sideline-to-sideline playmaker.
DeAngelo Hall has to be earning respect for his ability to cope with some of the NFL's premier wide receivers. Just one week after handling Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant, Hall stood up well to Chicago's prolific flanker Brandon Marshall.
The Bears ace still produced six catches for 75 yards, but he never threatened to take over the way he does in many other games, and that was testament to Hall's determined approach.
Josh Wilson proved more useful as a blitzer than he did in coverage. Every time he came off the slot in a fire zone pressure, Wilson came close to getting to the quarterback.
Rookie David Amerson made his share of first-year mistakes against the Bears. He was primarily tasked with covering young wideout Alshon Jeffery.
Amerson allowed his man to produce 105 yards on only four catches. Thirty-five of those yards came on one play in the fourth quarter, when Amerson had taken a bad angle in coverage and then made a terrible attempt to tackle, allowing Jeffery to break free for a big play.
Reed Doughty was caught out covering late over the top of some vertical patterns. Lack of range is always an issue for Doughty, and the Bears tried to go after him whenever they could.
It was a simply shameful performance from a player who should be a veteran leader in Washington's defensive backfield. Instead, Brandon Meriweather appeared more concerned with putting late, helmet-first hits on Bears receivers.
He gave away penalty yards and let his defense down. The Washington Post's Mark Maske believes a suspension could follow.
That would further stretch an already depleted secondary and further emphasize how irresponsible Meriweather's performance was.
Coordinator Keith Burns' group barely managed to avoid costing Washington the game. The unit surrendered another scoring return, as the brilliant Devin Hester took a first-half punt 81 yards for a score.
But there were also some encouraging signs. The kickoffs to Hester were handled smartly, as the Redskins opted for shorter kicks and committed to avoiding Hester.
Coverage on punt returns also improved later in the game.
The head coach endured a tough week, as his future was rightly put under the spotlight, but Mike Shanahan got most things right against the Bears on Sunday.
He knew that Reed would be a matchup nightmare against a injury-stricken set of linebackers. Shanahan also knew his offense could run the ball against Chicago's Cover 2 schemes.
Shanahan still has a lot to fix in order to rescue this season, but Week 7 was not a bad way to start.
Whoever reminded Kyle Shanahan that the strength of his offense is the running game deserves a game ball. The younger Shanahan finally let the run lead the way, and he kept things fresh by rotating the carries.
It has made no sense for the Redskins not to maximize the talents of both Morris and Helu. To his credit, Shanahan split 30 carries between the pair.
The coach who has always been a great designer of plays, rather than a great play-caller, also crafted some beauties to set Reed free.
In many ways, Jim Haslett is unfortunate not to merit a higher grade, as his defense was superb in the first half.
The unit brilliantly executed Haslett's plan to challenge the Bears with a varied onslaught of overload blitzes.
But the group faded in the second half, threatening to let a reserve quarterback win the game. The defense still misses too many assignments.