Week 13: What We Learned in the Redskins Loss to the New York Giants
Maybe the Redskins should ask to be relocated to the NFC West. Even after another brutal, embarrassing lost, they'd still be in the playoff picture.
Oddly enough, I'm pretty calm right now. I am not raging against the machine, demanding everyone get fired (though I am sure just about everyone else will). I'm not even really upset.
I didn't think the Redskins would beat the Giants, and they didn't. I didn't think the Redskins would make the playoffs, and unless they hire Ezio from Assassin's Creed to take his Brotherhood out and take out the rest of the teams on the 'Skins schedule, they won't.
The same thing that could be said about the Redskins before can be said now—at the very least, they didn't give up and kept fighting. Even with the game lost, they didn't stop hustling, didn't stop playing and kept doing their best.
This team has a LONG way to go before it's a good football team. Over the next week, you will hear much from everyone about "What's wrong with the Redskins?" and they are probably due for another radio rant at this point.
But I am strangely zen and strangely calm about this whole thing. I don't know why. I should be furious. But I'm not. So perhaps that will better allow me to be objective as we take a look at what we learned in week 13.
James Davis Shows Up on Film
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In the limited times James Davis had opportunities to run the ball in this football game, he showed a tiny bit of the promise. He finished the day with nine carries for 40 yards and showed the kind of field vision and speed that the team has been missing with Clinton Portis on IR.
With Ryan Torain healthy enough to make the trip to the New Meadowlands Stadium, the Redskins running back stable will be back to full strength by next week, and the combo of Torain and Davis could be a good one.
People said in my last article that I was being unfair to James Davis, and I'd be the first to admit I was. My reaction to his lack of performance was more due to the amount of people who thought he'd solve everything on a team that has a lot of problem.
But Davis did well with his limited touches and probably could've produced very well against a team that had allowed two straight 100-yard rushers.
Well, until you realize...
Kyle Shanahan Is on a One Man Mission to Prove Running the Ball Is Useless
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I will give Kyle Shanahan some credit for his use of two tight end and three tight end sets to get some extra protection and help out in the running game. He showed some good playcalling, and the calls in this game were a bit more diverse and varied than they have in other games.
The Redskins did have some luck running the ball. Like I said in the slide before this, the Giants defense can be slowed if you run the ball. This is obvious to anyone who watched them get run all over not just in the last two games, but for most of the season.
Despite James Davis and Keiland Williams having success running the ball, Kyle Shanahan seems steadfast in his opinion that running the ball is pointless. Week in and week out, the Redskins get down in games early, and week in and week out Kyle Shanahan panics and just starts throwing the ball.
I feel like a broken friggin' record.
If you choose to do nothing but throw the ball, that works in the defense's advantage. You become one dimensional in your approach, and that plays right into the hands of an opponent's defense.
When you diversify your play calling, you keep the defense guessing, and that opens up the rest of your playbook, the kind of playbook that many thought the Redskins would have. You know, play action passes, bootlegs, that kind of thing.
No one is going to buy that stuff if you DON'T RUN THE BALL.
Despite some good blocking from the offensive line, and despite James Davis either finding holes or displaying some playmaking ability, Kyle tried to throw it.
Instead of trying to run the ball and try to keep the Redskins defense off the field when they were getting gashed on the run, Kyle Shanahan panicked and showed an extremely lack of poise. He threw the ball constantly, which played right into a great defense's hands.
The only other good thing Kyle did was pick up a challenge flag Shanahan wanted to throw. Other than that, he once again made the team one dimensional, and that worked just like the Giants wanted it to.
My patience is wearing thin with Kyle Shanahan, making me hope Gary Kubiak gets fired so we can get a new offensive coordinator, or that Mike Shanahan finally reassumes the play-calling duties.
Devin Thomas Had One Good Game, and It's All I'll Hear About All Week
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Devin Thomas is garbage.
He doesn't study hard, he's a bad route runner, he wasn't good enough to overtake Joey Galloway on the depth chart and we just cut Galloway, so that shows you how worthless Devin Thomas was.
All you will hear this week is about how Devin Thomas got his revenge for the evil Mike Shanahan cutting this lazy bum, and how we finally came to regret it.
Thomas still wasn't good enough to do jack squat on offense. He made some good special teams plays. Great for him. In a game where the offense committed five turnovers, Devin Thomas didn't win or cost us anything.
That could've been ANY GUY making those plays.
If you're going to talk about Devin Thomas this week, please refrain from talking about him to me. Great for the kid to finally show some frakking effort in a game instead of dogging it. I wish him luck in his future endeavors.
Time to move on.
Stephon Heyer Doesn't Have Long in This Redskins World
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Among the weirder decisions in this game was to rotate Trent Williams in and out of the game. Trent Williams has been slowed with a shoulder injury, so the move seemingly was made to keep Williams healthy, as he was quoted after the game as saying he didn't feel 100 percent.
Either because they got help or because I was too busy burying my head in my hands to watch, the offensive line performed somewhat admirably—Donovan McNabb did have time to make his reads and throws for a lot of the day.
However, if there was a sack given up, you can bet it was given up by Stephon Heyer. Heyer saw a lot of snaps in this game, and in those snaps he proved just what everyone has said before—even as a back-up tackle, Heyer is completely useless.
I can't blame anyone else for the three sacks the Redskins gave up but Heyer.
While it seems Heyer was put in the game to keep Williams healthy, I suspect he was also put into the game with his job on the line. Mike Shanahan has begun to make it clear that if you don't do your job, you won't belong on the team.
Joey Galloway was but the first example—Stephon had an opportunity to prove he deserved to be on the team, and he didn't do a good job.
I'll be shocked (and slightly annoyed) if Stephon Heyer makes it through another week with the Redskins. With their playoff hopes effectively dashed, the Redskins will go into evaluation mode and start to see who is worth keeping for next year and who isn't.
The Capers Era of Back-Up Tackles may be coming ever closer.
Era of Accountablity Starts; Phillip Buchanon Benched For Kevin Barnes
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Mike Shanahan minced no words when he was asked why Phillip Buchanon did not finish the game.
"Because he wasn't playing well enough in the first half. He was benched."
And boom, as they say, goes the dynamite.
Phillip Buchanon should've had an easy day, against a second string wide receiver who was forced into the starting role due to injuries. Instead, Eli picked on Buchanon for most of the first half. The gameplan for the Redskins was to lock down Mario Manningham with D-Hall (Manningham finished the day with only two receptions for 32 yards) and stack eight in the box so they couldn't run with Brandon Jacobs.
Instead, Buchanon gave Hagan his best game ever, giving him five receptions in a single half. Hagan had five receptions the entire season before Eli lit him up all day.
In the second half, Buchanon was benched in favor of Kevin Barnes. This week, Jim Haslett sung the praises of Barnes and said several times that he wanted Barnes to get an opportunity to play as he thought he was a smart player that didn't get enough opportunities.
Barnes performed well in his game time, finally locking down Hagan for the most part, and also making some good plays close to the line of scrimmage.
Time will see if Barnes stays out there and Buchanon stays in the Shanahan doghouse, but Coach has sent the message loud and clear—"Perform for me, or I will find someone who can."
This has been a message sorely missed in the organization.
Defense Struggles in the First Half, but Tightens Up in the Second Half
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"THIS 3-4 DEFENSE IS THE WORST THING EVER, HOW DARE SHANAHAN RUIN A GOOD THING, THIS IS WHY HE AND JIM HASLETT SHOULD GET FIRED BECAUSE HE RUINED THE ONE GOOD THING ABOUT THIS TEAM..."
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down.
It's not the scheme. It's the execution.
I'll say it again—It's not the scheme. It's the execution.
It doesn't matter what defense the Redskins are running—the 3-4, the 4-3, the 4-4, the 46, the 3-3-5 or the 5-2. The problem isn't the scheme—it's the execution. Namely, the tackling.
The Redskins D, in the first half, couldn't tackle anyone. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs regularly ran all over people, because the Redskins didn't tackle. Not because they're playing out of position; not because there aren't the right people in the scheme, but because the Redskins couldn't do the most fundamental part of TACKLE football.
Which would be tackle.
It was so bad, that Daryl Johnston had to show Reed Doughty actually tackle someone right as an example.
In the second half, the defense tightened up and actually got the ball back to their offense to try and take advantage (aside from that 28-yard touchdown run by the Giants) and forced some three and outs. It was too little too late, but they did play better in the second half, which is something pretty much no one will be willing to admit.
The Offense Moved the Ball but Squandered Opportunities
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The Redskins have a funny way of making you go "wait, wait, they might get back in the game here" and then consequently fall apart.
For the most part, the offense did well moving the ball, or better than they had been before. They converted 44% of their third downs, had 19 first downs, and the offense still seemed somewhat smoother than it had at other times this season.
It was turnovers that cost the Redskins the game, again.
The Redskins have done relatively well protecting the ball up until this point. They finished the game with five turnovers, including a truly boneheaded McNabb INT.
With the team actually in scoring range, McNabb looked like a rookie as he forced a ball to Santana Moss (who only had two receptions all day), resulting in a red zone INT. McNabb also had a forced fumble when he could've run for the first down. After looking comfortable in the offense, McNabb looked a little too timid at times, and then looked way too aggressive at times.
Anthony Armstrong and Chris Cooley (two of the more consistent members of the offense) both gave up costly fumbles on drives where the Redskins were building momentum. Keiland Williams fumbled again on a shovel pass, and McNabb's interception was the icing on the cake.
It was the best worst offensive showing I've seen the Redskins give.
Some people will say this loss was worse than the Philly game, and that's not true—despite the "okay, we'll give them a few points" scores, the Redskins offense was beyond anemic. The Redskins offense at least showed some signs of life in this game.
The Playoffs End; Evaluation Begins
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It was Artis Hicks first. Then it was Kevin Barnes. Anthony Bryant saw time at nose tackle, as Maake Kemoeatu proved, yet again, that he cannot be the anchor for a defense that needs a nose tackle to operate.
As the season winds down and more people fail to perform to expectations, more and more people will find themselves on the sidelines looking in on the game.
I wasn't joking when I said Shanahan is going to start holding people accountable. Something that has been sorely lacking from the Redskins is the constant looming threat that if you don't perform, you may lose your spot.
Everyone is on notice now. As this season comes to an end, the Redskins will start to look to next season (if there is a season). They will see who they can trade away, who are the guys that they can't let escape and who are the guys they can cut without consequence.
It's go time for the guys who are on the borderline. It's put up or shut up time. With their playoff hopes dashed, every little bit will count when it comes to next season.
Obligatory Haynesworth Slide
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Oh yeah. Albert Haynesworth was inactive due to illness.
When asked about it, Shanahan said Albert didn't practice Thursday, then had a bad practice Friday, which is why he was benched. When asked if Haynesworth missed team meetings, Shanahan said no comment.
Haynesworth said he was ready to play, but there was nothing he can do. "If they chose to sit me, they chose to sit me. It's their organization."
I only bring it up because everyone else will. Haynesworth wouldn't have won the Redskins the game, but I'm just adding this because I'm sure people will think its so controversial. It'll be talked about all this week and blah-blah-blah because we can't go more than three weeks without Haynesworth controversy and I can't wait for this guy to be someone else's problem...