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Redskins vs. Bucs: Studs and Duds (offense)

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

Studs

QB Robert Griffin III. Sort of think this is obvious, right? Griffin threw for 323 yards, rushed for — and two touchdowns. He drove the Redskins into position for the game winner in the final one minute, 42 seconds and never panicked despite the headset going out on the final drive.  Here’s all you need to know about the final drive and more of his day. Griffin rarely forces passes, hence the one interception. There are a few passes he’s gotten away with, but it’s rare when one of his throws should have been picked. He’s averaging a hefty 8.63 yards per pass attempt, though that is helped a lot by the receivers’ yards after the catch. And he excels in the play-action; that’s why the Redskins are so good in the middle of the field. The fakes create such good throwing lanes and Griffin has taken advantage. Griffin is playing much better than I would have imagined through four games. Tougher tests lie ahead, but as long as Griffin proves durable the Redskins will enter those games feeling they have a chance in large part because of him.

RB Alfred Morris. The more he plays the more I like him. Maybe I need to re-watch some of the previous games, but it appeared Morris did his best job of pressing the hole this week. He also gained 70 yards after contact. In fact, he gained positive yards after contact on 18 of his 21 carries (two others resulted in negative yards after contact). I won’t bore you today with talk about body lean, etc.  I did like how he ran with great urgency on the fourth and 1 in the second quarter, starting to his left then cutting back hard the other way (safety Ronde Barber got sucked inside, leaving a gap on the edge). It helped that left end Michael Bennett barely moved after the snap (there was an offsides penalty) and created an opening. But still… Meanwhile Morris pressed the hole well enough to help on several excellent runs. On his 39-yard touchdown run, for example, Morris starts to the right and about a yard from his line, he cuts back to the left. Here’s the effect of his pressing the hole this way: the backside safety got caught inside as did the strongside linebacker, enabling Logan Paulsen and Joshua Morgan to seal that side. Morris made a hard cut inside corner Eric Wright – who had little interest in tackling in this game – and was gone. If Morris is impatient or cuts too soon, this hole isn’t created. One more example: On the Redskins’ first play in the third quarter, Morris takes a pitch to the right, with Paulsen and right tackle Tyler Polumbus leading the way. Morris takes care of linebacker Lavonte David with a slight dip to the inside. Davis bites on the dip slightly and changes his angle; Morris continues around the end for 13 yards. Morris wasn’t perfect and his protection still needs work. The Bucs blitzed two linebackers through the Redskins’ right and Morris failed to get the inside guy and both made their way to Griffin for a sack and near-safety. On the next play he helped pick up the end.

LT Trent Williams. This wasn’t quite Willis Reed territory (Google Reed/leg injury/playoffs if you don’t know I’m talking about – and please don’t let me know if you didn’t; I’ll feel old). But if you saw Williams late last week you would have said there’s no way he plays. And even if he wasn’t at his best, Williams did not do anything horribly wrong – and it’s much better to have him in the game than Jordan Black. That’s not even a shot at Black, just reality. Liked how Williams moved to his right on a stretch zone that way and ended up driving end George Johnson into the ground on a three-yard Morris run inside the 10. There were times I wondered how much it affected him. End Michael Bennett nearly got around him on one rush outside and the inability to drive off his right leg as hard could have played a factor. But Williams also got off the ball slightly late and he still recovered. Another time he didn’t reach the linebacker hitting the hole on a three-yard loss – was it because of his leg? And there was one time in which Williams was in space in the middle of the field against a corner and couldn’t react as well as he normally does in those situations. But he blocked down well on Morris’ touchdown and he did not give up a sack or do anything that called attention to himself in a negative way. He battled, as on this fourth-quarter play in which the end tried to rush him inside and looked to have a path, but Williams was able to keep him away from Griffin. Overall, considering how he walked around the facility last week, Williams was remarkable.

TE Fred Davis. I can’t believe I keep putting Davis on here in part because of his blocking. OK, it’s not really all for that but he is helping more in this area. The Redskins talked a lot last year about how improved he was in this area. But he looked too up-and-down for me. However, he’s had three good games in a row in this area and, again, it makes a huge difference in the run game. On the play in which Griffin fumbled at the goal line, Davis drove into Ronde Barber at the 4-yard line and drove him five yards deep into the end zone. Why is that important? Because Pierre Garcon dove on the ball just before Barber. Davis also turned the linebacker outside on Morris’ 17-yard run. Davis wasn’t perfect, losing his block vs. the end (with Trent Williams) on a three-yard loss. Another time he ran backside and past the end; not sure why. So maybe Davis isn’t a great blocker yet. But he has helped. However, he’s not on this list without his four catches for 70 yards, with 53 coming after the catch (and 35 after contact). Davis’20-yard catch on the final drive was the result of a failed blitz and coverage scheme as he was wide open opposite the blitz.

WR Josh Morgan. When it comes to the stretch zone, the receivers are the difference between big runs and average ones. Yes, the line is doing well, but it’s wrong to give them all the credit for the yards gained just as it is wrong to blame them for every protection issue. Morgan is a good example why: On Morris’ two longest runs, he threw pivotal blocks. His block on a 17-yard run enabled Morris to gain 12 more yards. Morgan lined up about a yard behind the line, between right guard and tackle, and went right at safety Mark Barron. Morris cut off his block as Morgan tossed the safety down at the end. On Morris’ 39-yard touchdown, Morgan seals the safety inside. There were more instances, but you get the picture. Pierre Garcon had a good day here, too, but Morgan was a difference maker. He also caught four passes for 62 yards. What does it say when a guy loses his starting job and responds with this sort of game? It’s not as if the guy who replaced him, Leonard Hankerson, played poorly either. He was fine. You can sometimes question why the Redskins needed to sign two free agent receivers, but watching their all-around game makes you realize why they did.

Duds

PK Billy Cundiff. Yeah I know he made the game-winning kick after missing three field goals earlier in the game. But Cundiff, belatedly, just did his job. My rule of thumb is if people are wondering about your job security on Monday, then something bad happened Sunday. I didn’t expect him to be cut; Mike Shanahan clearly likes him. Missing from 31 and 41 yards earlier in the game put the Redskins in a bad spot and nearly cost them the game. Cundiff was saved by Robert Griffin III and the offense driving into field goal range. Had Cundiff been more accurate with those two misses (not blaming him for the 57-yard miss since it’s out of his range, but that’s another issue and an inability to hit from beyond 50 is troublesome, unless you’re elite from 49 and in), the Redskins would have led 27-13 early in the fourth quarter. Nobody’s perfect so one miss is understandable. The damage from those three kicks will linger for a while. Give Cundiff credit for being tough enough to overcome a bad day. I won’t underestimate what that takes and applaud him for staying tough. But …

Notes

…Here’s a play that I liked because of how it was set up by the Redskins. In the first half there were at least five times in which the Redskins aligned a receiver or tight end about a yard behind the line. They did this twice with Morgan, aligned between the right guard and tackle, twice and ran the ball. They did it with Logan Paulsen (between the center and left guard) and ran the ball as they did when Davis lined up on the right side and they did it with Leonard Hankerson and ran the ball (poorly I might add; Hankerson has improved as a blocker, but this was not one of his better blocks as he turned his shoulder and missed his man). Anyway, the Bucs had one thought when they lined up in a similar set on the first play of the fourth quarter, with Morgan between the right guard and tackle.

But this time Griffin threw a play-action pass over the middle to Morgan for 16 yards. It opened because the linebackers bit hard on the fake. Why? Have to believe the formation played a role.

…Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger has played better games. He had a tough matchup inside, facing Gerald McCoy at times and it showed at times. And there were the two false start penalties. But he had a good block in space, but he also did a good job in protection. The Bucs sent two linebackers through his gap in the first half – after ‘Steiger had blocked down by design. But he got back out in time to bump one off stride and that gave Griffin time to throw. He helped out Williams on another block when the latter allowed his man inside. And on the final drive, Lichtensteiger picked up a blitz and enabled Griffin to hit Davis.

…The Redskins gained 195 yards after the catch Sunday and also managed 131 yards after contact. Of Griffin’s 26 completions, 20 resulted in the receiver gaining extra yards after the catch.

Ronde Barber is not a good safety, at least not yet. His angles were off and he missed tackles. The notion that every aging corner can move to safety is not always an accurate one.

…Right tackle Tyler Polumbus played his best game of the season; he even obstructed the corner when he pulled on a 13-yard Morris run in the third quarter. Did Polumbus have some issues? Of course; the guy he faced – Michael Bennett – is pretty good. Polumbus did get help from the tight ends and backs on occasion, as he should. But Polumbus has been criticized this season and deserves credit for having his best day.

…The impact of Morris cuts continued: On a seven-yard run (on the Griffin QB draw for a touchdown drive) in the red zone, Morris looked like he was going to run wide on a zone to the right. The linebacker on that side played that way, enabling guard Chris Chester to reach him. As he did Morris cut inside and broke an arm-tackle attempt.

…I don’t know how you defend the QB draw consistently in the red zone when a team uses four receivers as the Redskins did in the first half. It was an easy read for Griffin as center Will Montgomery went right to the only person who could stop him: the linebacker. Just in case, Morris was there too. The slot corner on that play, Eric Wright, first looks at Santana Moss running an out route. Another DB picks him up. Wright looks back to Griffin as he starts running. Wright took two steps to his left and never came close to the play. Morris would have blocked him anyway.

…I would mention the third and 19 roughing penalty in the Redskins’ end zone – a moronic play in that situation – but the Bucs still scored on their next possession. So all this impacted was time of possession. And the questionable penalty on Mark Barron for his hit on Griffin ended in a Cundiff missed field goal.

 

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