QB Robert Griffin III. So much of what the Redskins do already revolves around the rookie. After two games it’s clear he’ll be carrying a heavier burden than anticipated, thanks to a defense that does not yet appear to be headed for top-10 status. Griffin made a few mistakes (here’s a full report on him) and his passer rating was a modest 86.3. Yes, that stat will never tell the full story of his impact on a game. He carried 11 times for 82 more yards and two touchdowns. Now, he’s going to have to learn when he’s running sometimes to just dump the ball off and let others take the punishment. That’s what he should have done on his five-yard run on a third-and-12; he had Fred Davis there who would have gained at least that amount. And 20 carries in two games is too many for a 217-pound quarterback. He managed an ugly slide after one run, but it still resulted in Cortland Finnegan landing on his head. With replacement refs, who knows if that will be called a penalty so guys will continue to do this.
But Griffin remains the star of this show. He completed a 68-yard touchdown pass to Hankerson (approximately 60 in the air) and should have had another long ball for 57 yards, but it bounced off Aldrick Robinson’s hands. Griffin had some issues in the pocket when under duress — it’s how he threw his pick. He also needs to keep working on his mechanics in the pocket; he’s not getting much room to step into throws so to get zip he needs to use his shoulders more. On the missed slant to Leonard Hankerson, his left foot swung way out. But Griffin also displayed his athleticism, spinning away from a blitzing Cortland Finnegan after a fake end around and gaining nine yards. He extended one series by slipping outside the pocket and hitting Joshua Morgan for nine yards on third and seven. Griffin typically is making good decisions; I like that on third and longs he didn’t just look for the big play. He made the smart one, which often is dumping down to get positive yards and not lose the ball by forcing a tough throw. His first touchdown run featured him juking the corner; that’s the value of a playmaker. And his QB draw for a touchdown was a gimme, gift wrapped by the Rams leaving the middle almost completely free. Griffin made the right call and read. He was mostly poised in the pocket, though a couple times he danced for no reason. But the combination of the scheme and Griffin’s arm enables the wideouts to make plays. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
RB Alfred Morris. He gained 89 yards on 16 carries, though 56 came on two runs alone. So 14 for 33 isn’t that good, but Morris consistently gets yard after contact. I don’t know why linebackers try to hit him high; when they get to him, his pads are in their chest. Ask James Laurinaitis. On Morris’ first run he lowered his shoulder into Laurinaitis and gained four yards after contact (he unofficially had 26 YAC for the game). Morris made good decisive cuts on his long runs, helped by excellent holes. He’s still not a complete back, but he is sturdy and comes across faster than he is (4.68 40-yard dash at the combine).
WR Leonard Hankerson. One big catch, one touchdown, one Stud. Hankerson did a little more than that, but his 68-yard touchdown was the result of a nice hesitation move. It was a subtle move that caused corner Janoris Jenkins to bite; he never recovered. Jenkins is fast, having run a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. But guess what? Hankerson ran a 4.44 and distanced himself. His Stud/Dud inclusion hung on this play as he nearly dropped the ball. But he didn’t and he scored. Hankerson also did a nice job blocking, particularly on Morris’ 29-yard run. Morris picked up another 16 yards after passing Hankerson, who had locked up the corner. Hankerson was open on two other occasions, a slant and a crossing pattern, but Griffin missed him.
LT Trent Williams. He’s held to a higher standard and Sunday he did not reach that level. Williams was called for a holding penalty when he let defensive end Robert Quinn get inside on a fourth quarter pass. Quinn started upfield, then quickly cut back in and Williams was off-balance. In the first quarter Quinn beat Williams around the edge for a sack. Quinn lined up wide and his speed was too much. Williams was inconsistent in the ground game as well. He had a few nice blocks, like on the 29-yard run in which he drove out the end. But on the next play he failed to hold his block on the linebacker. He blocked the end again on Morris’ next run and failed to hit anyone on a 1-yard Morris loss to the left side. Quinn shed his block and helped make a one-yard stop of Morris.
WR Joshua Morgan. I know the Rams were chippy and that the refs should have controlled the game better and that Cortland Finnegan provoked him. But there’s absolutely no excuse for what Morgan did, throwing the ball at Finnegan. The kicker is, Morgan would have had a first down had he turned inside and not outside. But the second bad decision cost the Redskins a chance to tie the game. This loss can’t be pinned on Morgan, but he failed in the clutch. I will say, Morgan adds a toughness that is evident on other plays. He’s getting pounded after some catches, yet goes over the middle with no hesitation. That’s what he did on a third and 9 earlier in the game, when he quickly snatched a high pass from Griffin and tucked the ball as three defenders converged. But a selfish act impacted the outcome.
WR Aldrick Robinson. He had a nice 28-yard catch and run, but you can’t drop passes in the open at the 12-yard line as he did in the fourth quarter. The drop occurred with the Redskins trailing by three and 10 minutes, 44 seconds remaining. Robinson appears to track the ball just fine as he separates from the defensive back, but the ball bounces off him. The Redskins ended up punting on the play. Robinson’s blocking was sporadic; he missed one block on a slip screen to Santana Moss that resulted in a three-yard gain. If he holds his block the play had potential. But in a loss, one play can land you on this list and the drop earned him that dishonor.
RT Tyler Polumbus. He wasn’t strong in the opener and he wasn’t much better vs. the Rams. Polumbus had his moments, like on the 27-yard Morris run when he took out end Chris Long. Polumbus held his own against Long in the first half, though he allowed inside pressure on the second series. Next play he failed to hold his block – not a lot of pop upon arrival — vs. the linebacker or Morris would have had a nice run. Another time a missed block on a linebacker in space resulted in a three-yard run that should have been more. In the fourth quarter, William Hayes pushed him back and made a two-yard stop. Polumbus allowed three pressures on the final two drives, all against Long – twice inside.
…Yes, the Rams did a lot of extracurricular activity after the play. No, I’m not going to point out each one. On the intentional grounding penalty, Jo-Lunn Dunbar pressed on Griffin’s helmet as he was on the ground. I saw Laurinaitis a few times either lay too long on Morris or grab onto his ankle as he stood up (he laid on Santana Moss, too). On the third play of the fourth quarter Finnegan jawed with Morgan after the play, even though the former wasn’t involved in it. On the Redskins’ next series Laurinaitis held Morgan’s foot a little longer than appreciated. Another time in the fourth quarter Finnegan ran up to the play as it was ending and shoved Kory Lichtentsteiger hard in the back. An unnecessary shot as ‘Steiger had slowed and the play had stopped. Finnegan dove at Griffin as he slid – starting his dive after Griffin had started to slide. Point is, it happened all game and a couple times with Morgan. The Rams were baiting the Redskins and eventually they reeled in Morgan.
… After Morgan’s 15-yard penalty, defensive end Eugene Sims stood about five yards away and applauded in his direction. Mike Shanahan was not doing the same.
…The late hit of Griffin out of bounds should not have been called. I’m convinced the speed of the game is too much for these officials on calls like that (same goes for the one on London Fletcher, too). On the Griffin hit, the official who made the call took 3.2 seconds to throw the flag.
…Finnegan is the sort of guy you probably only like if he’s on your team. But he’s a heck of a player. The Rams used him all over the field and he’s excellent at baiting throws, as he did on the interception. That play was well-disguised as Finnegan lined up between the tight end and the slot receiver and dropped about 10 yards deep into a zone. Based on the rush, he knew Griffin could not come back to the right so he broke to the middle for an easy interception. He also spied on Griffin a handful of times (they used a linebacker other times). The Redskins likely would have courted him had they had not the salary cap issue; he would have helped.
…Tight end Fred Davis had a strong day blocking, consistently taking care of his man. He just didn’t do enough to warrant Stud status because of his lack of production otherwise and his, uh, tight end keeper around left end. Still need to talk to him about that play.
…The Rams did a good job containing Griffin largely by using their ends to rush wide and pinch the pocket. The tackles did a good enough job of staying in their lanes to prevent him from running much of the time. Griffin was still productive, but more teams will try to do the same — of course. Later in the game they used their ends on stunts to the middle and kept him bottled up. They often had middle linebacker Laurinaitis lined up seven yards deep, which helped the Redskins when they ran.
…The hard part with defending the zone read is sometimes knowing when to react. In the fourth quarter Griffin picked up six yards on a keeper around right end because the end crashed on Morris, as he should. Laurinaitis was frozen. He hesitated another half-second as Griffin kept the ball around the end on second and 1.
…The fakes froze the Rams on the 68-yard touchdown. Quinn, the right end, started to crash down on the fake to Morris running right. Then Quinn had to stay home on the fake end around to Morgan. That gave Griffin plenty of time to make the pass.