New York Giants vs. Washington Redskins: Full Roster Grades for Washington
For one of the rare times this season, the quarterback merits the highest grade for the Washington Redskins. Robert Griffin III was the best player on the Washington offense during the team's 24-17 loss to division rivals the New York Giants.
That was despite more struggles from his offensive line and receivers. Griffin was also not aided by a sputtering effort from a usually dominant ground game.
Defensively, the Redskins continue to be undermined by feeble play at the safety position. Struggles in this area wasted a strong performance by the pass rush, led by a revitalized Brian Orakpo.
Here are the full report card grades for Washington after Week 13.
Robert Griffin III began the game in a confident mood thanks to the fast pace of the no-huddle offense. The uptempo attack allowed him to complete some early throws and keep the Giants off guard.
Griffin was accurate and efficient early on, connecting on quick throws and protecting the ball. He was also effective as a runner, eventually compiling 88 yards from 12 rushes.
The only real drawback to Griffin's performance was a stunted second-half display marked by struggles against pressure. Griffin often helped the Giants pass rush by taking too long deciding between throwing the ball away or taking off on the run with his receivers covered.
He was also again left vulnerable by his suspect O-line and a group of receivers who dropped their share of good passes.
Alfred Morris has been in dominant form in recent weeks, but he couldn't get on track against the Giants' stingy run defense. Morris was held to just 26 yards on 11 carries.
Part of that was due to the way Big Blue made stopping him the priority, as ESPN's John Keim highlights:
The Giants knew they could not win if Morris had a strong game. They rotated their safeties and messed up blocking assignments on outside zones. "It affects what the target is," tight end Logan Paulsen said. Their line also slanted in ways the Redskins did not always handle. It's why Morris had a subpar game. Amazingly, he had more yards receiving (27) than rushing (26). Let that sink in.
It also didn't help matters that Morris' role was significantly reduced in the second half, as CSN Washington's JP Finlay noted:
Morris only touched the ball twice in the second half, surprising considering coming into the game he averaged almost five yards per carry. Against the Giants Morris found little room to run, but generally Morris gains more yardage as he gets more carries, wearing the defense down.
Asked after the game why Morris saw so little action, coach Mike Shanahan pointed to the first half struggles in the run game.
"That’s one of the reasons why you probably go away from it a little bit more," Shanahan said.
The focus on Morris might be a credible reason for featuring him less. But with the score tied at halftime, there was little need to as good as abandon him altogether after the break.
Roy Helu Jr. chipped in with four catches for 34 yards but did little as a runner in relief.
Production from the wide receivers was all but limited to Pierre Garcon's nine catches for 61 yards. Aside from Garcon's efforts, only three other wideouts contributed, combining for as many catches.
Garcon was one of many receivers who let plays slip away. He dropped some passes he should have caught and allowed safety Will Hill to snatch the ball away from him with the game on the line.
Garcon was also guilty of a ridiculous drive-stalling penalty after kicking the ball into the stands in a fit of frustration. Fellow flanker Santana Moss also incurred a needless unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to derail another drive.
It was a mixed night for tight ends Logan Paulsen and Fred Davis. The former caught an early touchdown pass but was later guilty of a key drop.
Davis also dropped a pass at a critical time and foolishly incurred a false-start penalty.
Rookie Jordan Reed, ruled out just prior to this game, can't come back soon enough.
It was yet another dismal display from an offensive line that must be overhauled this offseason. The group couldn't keep Griffin clean in the pocket or knock open holes for Morris.
Right tackle Tyler Polumbus was the chief culprit. He allowed veteran defensive end Justin Tuck to notch four sacks.
He also struggled to seal the edge on stretch runs. Those plays weren't helped by the way the inside trio were pushed around by the Giants.
Center Will Montgomery and guards Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger have looked overwhelmed all season. This interior group needs freshening up, along with the right tackle position.
Aside from a solid performance from nose tackle Barry Cofield, the defensive line didn't do enough to disrupt the New York offense.
Playing against his former team, Cofield was a nuisance as an inside pass-rusher. His power along the interior allowed others to win on the edge.
But as has often been the case this season, no other lineman matched Cofield's effort. Jarvis Jenkins was too quiet for a player of his talent, and Kedric Golston again proved a non-factor.
The overall grade for the linebackers is boosted by the performance of outside pass-rusher Brian Orakpo. He dominated the Giants, particularly against left tackle Will Beatty.
Orakpo recorded two sacks and was a consistent presence in the backfield. While he caused problems behind the line, inside 'backer Perry Riley Jr. was disruptive in coverage.
He broke up a pass and showed good range patrolling the middle zones.
London Fletcher and Ryan Kerrigan each tallied four solo tackles, but neither disrupted the Giants the way Orakpo did.
The creditable effort from the linebackers was wasted thanks to a secondary that couldn't impact any phase of the game.
Safeties like Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty were pitiful in run support. They let running backs Andre Brown and Peyton Hillis turn more than one minimal gain into positive yardage.
This secondary has been a liability since the season started and needs to be completely remade in the offseason.
As usual, nothing went right for the special teams. The low point this week was a botched punt, involving a failed snap and a short kick, that positioned the Giants to take the lead.
That kind of decisive error has become common for the Redskins special teams in 2013. Fresh ideas and an infusion of new personnel are needed to avoid a repeat of this season-long nightmare.
Questionable play-calling and a group of players lacking discipline led to a disappointing surrender in prime time. It has all become par for the course with Mike Shanahan in charge of the Redskins.
The coaching staff that has been given an inordinate amount of time and excuses for consistent failure has to be running out of time after a ninth loss of the season.
It condemns Washington to three losing campaigns out of four under Shanahan's stewardship. Those who still believe in the man who won two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos in the late-90s will point to extenuating circumstances.
Yes, Griffin's offseason knee surgery didn't help the team's preparation. Nor did the league-imposed salary cap penalty Shanahan seems to think excuses every wrong turn he has made.
But neither of those things or the late officiating gaffe explain the consistent lack of discipline shown by the players. It is something The Washington Times' Nathan Fenno believes is symptomatic of a franchise in "free-fall:"
The shoddy discipline that’s dogged the Redskins all season returned as they had opportunity to put away the Giants and begin the long process of making this season something less than a unadulterated debacle.
Four meaningless games remain. Soon, answers will emerge. Do the Redskins extend Mike Shanahan’s regime that hasn’t shaken off the franchise’s rich tradition of mediocrity in almost four seasons? Or do they commit to rebuilding with another coach, another personnel czar and further draw out the unending search for a cohesive on-field product?
There isn’t a painless, pretty answer.
But one thing was clear Sunday night: This isn’t working.
Things aren't working, and Shanahan can't keep blaming it all on outside factors. The Redskins need a change, and the time for that change, the end of this harrowing season, can't come soon enough.