Washington Redskins vs. Baltimore Ravens: Grades for Each Redskins Unit
For a third consecutive outing, Washington's defense dominated, and the offense, specifically the first-team unit, struggled. Despite the presence of DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed, the Robert Griffin III-led aerial attack remains grounded.
Playing into the third quarter, Griffin completed five of eight passes and only led Washington to a field goal.
Limiting the Ravens to 300 yards of total offense, a Washington defense that made only subtle changes to its lineup from last season kept the team within striking distance.
Led by Kirk Cousins, the Redskins nearly extended their winning streak to nine games in preseason play. Throwing for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the second half, Cousins missed out on an opportunity to engineer a game-winning drive when Baltimore successfully converted a 4th-and-short in the closing minutes.
With this contest likely being the last one we'll see the starters log significant minutes in, the focus in Washington is quickly turning toward the season opener with the Houston Texans.
As for the position grades for this contest, check them out here:
How do you sum up the performance of Washington's two quarterbacks in Week 3?
Well, as Joe Theismann hinted at on Comcast SportsNet's telecast of the game, the team might have a quarterback controversy.
Although head coach Jay Gruden firmly committed to Griffin as his starter in a postgame press conference (h/t JP Finlay of CSN.Washington.com), the contrast in play between Cousins and Griffin was that glaring.
Griffin had 23 yards, not rushing but total in over a half of play. Given good field position by defense and special teams, Washington only managed to score three points under his direction.
Then there's Cousins' stat line. Cousins completed 14 of 20 passes and tossed two touchdowns. While he again went against backups, the same is true of Griffin. Due to injury, the Ravens started this contest without their top three cornerbacks, via Mike Jones of The Washington Post.
His success won't carry that much weight, but because of Cousins' performance and his alone, Washington won't get a failing grade here.
Tallying its lowest rushing output of the preseason, Washington can point to its lack of rushing attempts as the main culprit in its lackluster showing.
On 24 attempts, the team only had 81 rushing yards. Considering that top backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu had 59 of these yards on 13 carries, though, there isn't much to worry about on this front.
With Lache Seastrunk, the team's leading rusher, not playing, it comes as no surprise that Washington gained little traction on the ground once these two exited the game.
Finishing the night with 14 yards on six carries, rookie Silas Redd didn't post the type of performance he'll need to garner a roster spot.
Although he's still sidelined by an ankle injury, Chris Thompson has to feel confident about his chances of making the team. Outside of Evan Royster's impact as a receiver, Thompson's competitors haven't shown enough to take his spot thus far.
Wide Receiver and Tight End
For all the weapons Washington boasts at receiver, ultimately, this unit is only as good as the quarterback delivering the football.
With Griffin a work in progress in Gruden's offense, Washington's first-team wideouts were unable to capitalize on the absence of three Baltimore cornerbacks.
Jackson was held without a catch, while Garcon and Roberts only had three receptions and 10 receiving yards between them. At tight end, Reed didn't fare much better. He had just one reception for seven yards.
Boasting a solid rapport with Cousins, it was once again Washington's backup receivers who did much of the legwork.
Led by Santana Moss, who had three receptions for 27 yards and a touchdown, Washington's second team produced the lone gains eclipsing 10 yards. One surprise performer was Niles Paul. Finishing with 25 yards on two receptions, Paul's showing all but secures his place on the team's roster.
While it's not the production we'll come to expect in the regular season, the mediocre totals of Washington's receivers are no fault of their own.
While it's notable that Washington didn't surrender a sack with Cousins at quarterback, the offensive line struggled against Baltimore. Griffin was sacked three times and was flushed out the pocket on a couple of occasions.
Providing an alleyway for Helu and Morris to rip off big gains, the offensive line didn't get much of a push up front outside of those two rushes. Mustering just 3.4 yards per carry, this much was clear.
As is the case with every preseason game, the biggest takeaway was an injury. As The Washington Post's Mike Jones notes, rookie Morgan Moses suffered a knee injury:
Morgan Moses said he has an MCL sprain, said he'll get treatment tomorrow.— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) August 24, 2014
With the likes of J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney looming in the season opener, this unit has to right itself quickly if Washington's offense is to live up to expectations.
Rare is the occasion in which you can say that owner Daniel Snyder's money was well-spent. But after watching Washington's defensive line dominate for a third straight contest, you can't help but have that feeling.
And it's not just about this unit's play in games; it's about the collection of talent now up front.
Marquee signee Jason Hatcher made his debut and registered a sack. While Jarvis Jenkins didn't follow suit, he too was getting penetration against Baltimore's offensive line. In his fourth season, Jenkins is finally showcasing why he was a second-round pick.
Flanked by Kedric Golston, Barry Cofield and Chris Baker, this group stuffed the Ravens on two fourth-down runs.
All told, the Redskins' defensive line turned in yet another great game. All that's left now is for this unit to carry over this performance to the regular season.
While the pass rush didn't have the desired effect, Washington still managed to tally three sacks, one of which was by rookie linebacker Trent Murphy.
The NFL's top rushing team entering this contest, Baltimore was held to 82 yards. Finishing the night with an average of 2.9 yards per carry, Baltimore's backs were swarmed by the Redskins linebackers the moment they saw daylight.
If not for Tyrod Taylor breaking contain on a couple of scrambles, Baltimore's rushing total would be even bleaker.
It wasn't all positive though. Star linebacker Brian Orakpo left in the second quarter with an ankle injury, as CSN's JP Finlay notes:
Matched up with tight end Dennis Pitta, linebacker Keenan Robinson also impressed in coverage. For the game, Pitta had two receptions for 16 yards on four targets.
With checkdowns to backs the lone slip-up, Washington's linebackers were again on top of their game.
The perceived weakness of the team's defense, Washington's secondary had its moments of ineptitude in this one.
There was a 30-yard gain by Steve Smith—who had six receptions for 80 yards on the night—in which the team's penchant for missing tackles again surfaced. Furthermore, rookie Bashaud Breeland was badly beaten on Deonte Thompson's 21-yard touchdown reception.
Outside of these mishaps, though, the Redskins fared quite well. Both Ryan Clark and Brandon Meriweather made jarring hits from the safety spot, with the latter one drawing a questionable penalty.
For the game, Washington allowed Baltimore's quarterbacks to complete 22 of 32 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
Relegated to short gains, the Ravens failed in their attempt to attack Washington's secondary deep downfield.
If Washington can improve its open-field tackling, the success of this bend-but-don't-break secondary should translate to the regular season.
Washington had one of the league's worst special teams units last season. Surrendering a 49-yard kick return to Anthony Armstrong, we were reminded of this fact in Washington's contest with the Cleveland Browns.
Facing a Baltimore team that had two return touchdowns in 2013, in addition to finishing second and first in kick and punt return average, one would expect for the Redskins to have their hands full.
Be that as it may, Washington had a mixed bag in regard to kick coverage. Where on one end it held Jacoby Jones to 38 yards on three returns, Washington also allowed Michael Campanaro to net a 44-yard kick return.
Returning kicks, Andre Roberts' 25-yard punt return was the lone highlight. Looking at the ongoing competition between Kai Forbath and Zach Hocker, once again, nothing of note occurred. Forbath's 32-yard field goal was the team's only attempt.
All told, it was a relatively average night for this unit.
After getting Griffin into a rhythm with some quick throws in Week 2, Gruden went for broke early in this contest. There was a failed attempt to get Jackson the ball deep down the sideline as well as a few long-developing passing plays that resulted in Griffin scrambling or getting sacked.
Without any screen plays or play-action fakes to speak of, Gruden's play calls did little to stymie Baltimore's pass rush.
Moving to the defensive side of the ball, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett wasn't as aggressive with the blitz as he was against Cleveland. At the same token, he had little reason to be. The Redskins' front produced without the aid of additional rushers.
Although his defense struggled with the mobility of Taylor, Haslett's approach to defense is exactly what Washington needs to maximize its talent on defense.
As was the case in the game, the struggles on offense outweigh the defense's stellar play.
|Positional Unit||Overall Grade|
Registering their first loss in nine preseason games, the Redskins have to hope that their dress rehearsal for the regular season isn't an ominous sign for things to come.
The defense again impressed, but the fact remains that Washington has yet to face a quarterback on par with the quarterbacks it'll see on its 2014 schedule. Against quarterbacks who can expose their secondary quickly, the Redskins pass rush can by stymied.
Looking at an offense that was expected to rank among the NFL's best, you have to hope that chemistry issues and a vanilla offense are to blame for a first-team unit that's still seeking its first touchdown.
While starters typically don't see much playing time in the preseason finale, Gruden may have to play his first-team offense a little longer against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in order to build some confidence prior to the regular-season opener.
All statistical information is via ESPN.com.