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Giants 27, Redskins 23: Ten Observations

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

 

  1. Let’s go right to the 77-yard touchdown pass. The knee-jerk reaction, clearly, is to blame defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. If you want to knock his schemes and the lack of pressure, go right ahead. If you want to question adjustments, go ahead. But it’s awfully difficult to blame him for the coverage mishap on this play. In fact, it’s misguided. A coordinator puts defenders in position and then it’s up to a player to do the rest. He assigned two players to stop the most dangerous target on the other team. Not a bad idea. In this case, corner Josh Wilson and safety Madieu Williams failed to execute a double team. Actually, Williams deserves more of the blame. It’s clear based on Wilson’s alignment at the snap he’s expecting – and needs – safety help over the top. Wilson is shaded inside and never looks at the quarterback. Williams, though, perhaps because of a receiver to the outside, was flat-footed. Here’s the thing: based on how Wilson was aligned, it’s easy to deduce there should have been no hesitation.
  2. On this play, it’s an easy read for the receiver. With Wilson inside and Williams shaded to the outside, Victor Cruz runs a straight go-route. As Wilson said, Cruz hadn’t done much of anything before this catch – six catches for 54 yards. It wasn’t just Wilson covering him; Wilson would shadow him for a series but other times Wilson would show up and then drop into deep middle in a cover-3 look. But back to Haslett. Obviously the defense hasn’t produced enough under Haslett. They allow too many big plays. However, this one falls on the players, Williams in particular. If you don’t like Williams starting, that’s another matter. The Redskins did not have the best plan at safety, hoping Tanard Jackson – who had multiple drug suspensions before he signed – would be their starter. But Williams is the guy; the alternatives are few. Williams is a steady guy, but lacks speed. That’s been evident in other games and it impacts the coverage. I just don’t think the corners trust the safeties all that much right now to be where they need to be and at the right time.
  3. Up until this point the defense had probably done better than most had expected or hoped. Eli Manning was not accurate and often hasn’t been vs. Washington. Thought he was behind a lot of guys and overthrew others (it led to Wilson’s gift interception). He badly missed Cruz on a slant for a touchdown – Cruz was a few yards ahead of Wilson. The defense actually was solid; hard to imagine up until that final drive few would have been disappointed in what they had done. Yes, some mistakes were made but considering who they were facing, and what the Redskins had done, 20 points and 316 yards before that final toss is a good day for this unit. But it’s also irrelevant because the Giants did score and for all we know had that pass been defended well, perhaps they still march downfield. This is also why those fourth quarter issues were not just a function of playing a certain defense. It’s more about the fact that they’re not a consistent unit right now. That it’s one big play in this game matters only to a point because that one big play happens in too many games.
  4. We’re about to discover what kind of shape Chris Cooley stayed in since the Redskins cut him. No deal has been signed, but he will be at Redskins Park Monday to take a physical. He knows the offense, he’s in the area and he’s a consistent blocker. I will say, Cooley looked awfully content with his life when we saw him a couple weeks ago in the locker room. And it’s not as if he was trying to latch on with another team so the incentive to stay in tip-top shape wasn’t high.
  5. As for Davis, it’s a shame what happened to him (torn Achilles’ tendon). Davis was playing well and was their most dangerous threat with Pierre Garcon sidelined. Yes, Logan Paulsen can catch tough passes, but when Davis caught the ball in the open field he was a threat to run a long way. Niles Paul just hasn’t transitioned to tight end well enough to be a full-time alternative. He’s fast, but you just haven’t seen his speed at the position yet. He’s also learning to be a blocker along the line. For my email report last week he admitted his athleticism got him through OTAs and the summer. When the games started he realized how important technique was. We saw that on one of the Giants’ sacks, when Robert Griffin III rolled to the right and was going to throw back left to Paul. But Pierre-Paul knew what was coming so when Paul went to cut him, the Giants’ end avoided him, leaving Paul on the ground and Griffin in trouble. “Maybe I should have stayed up and blocked him,” Paul said. “We’re taught if he forces that hard to cut him. He just made a great athletic move.”
  6. Last week nose tackle Barry Cofield called some of his old linemates in New York and told them they were in for a long day. Not just because they were facing Robert Griffin III, but because of the entire offense period. Think about this: the Redskins didn’t have their two best playmaking threats in the passing game in Pierre Garcon and Davis for most of the game. Yet they rolled up 480 yards, averaging 7.0 yards a pop. Yeah, that’s a credit to Griffin. But it’s also due to how many options exist off the Redskins’ zone read game. When Carolina uses that look, it’s a part of their offense. For the Redskins, it is their offense. Maybe I wouldn’t give it to Darrel Young on back to back plays, but handing him the ball on occasion only causes a defense to hesitate even more. You must defend everyone on the field and when you’re using certain packages, that’s huge. The play I wasn’t crazy about from the moment it started was the speed option pitch to Paul. That was one level too cute for me. But overall? This offense is unbelievably tough to defend, especially the way Griffin throws the ball.
  7. It’s hard to imagine many tougher losses than this one. Had the Redskins just lost 27-23 and there was no last-minute drama and Griffin had the sort of game he did, then few would have considered it a bad loss. But the way this unfolded, it was a bad loss. It’s one with many positives, but had they hung on in the end, what would people be talking about? The fact that Washington will be tough to handle and that it was a legitimate contender in the NFC East. When you have Rex Grossman at quarterback and beat the Giants, people take it for what it is. But when you have Griffin and he does what he did and they win on the road? It’s the start of something. But, instead, it’s a crushing loss because of the possibilities that existed. The Giants would have been 0-3 in the division among the reasons it stings. They can still recover, but really what the game did was provide a reminder of what the defense still lacks and still struggles to do. The future clashed with the present and the present won.
  8. Already at No. 8 and still no mention of London Fletcher’s injury? OK, here goes. Part of the problem is that we don’t yet know how bad it is. But when a guy like Fletcher can’t play in the final quarter of a tight game it’s never good. If it’s a mild strain, then players such as Fletcher somehow find their way on the field. Lorenzo Alexander can play the position and few will try harder. But Fletcher has played in 231 consecutive games either in the middle of a 4-3 or inside in a 3-4. He knows everything about everything. Alexander is in his first full season inside. Keenan Robinson is a rookie. I wonder if the screen pass on third and 15 gains 17 yards if Fletcher’s in the game. The Giants set it up well and had multiple blockers out front but when you’re missing a coach on the field, things happen. Having said that, Fletcher has missed tackles each of the past few weeks and gave up 10 yards when he Ahmad Bradshaw juked him in the open field (in fairness, Fletcher got him down earlier in the game in space) on a third and 10. The Giants scored a touchdown on that series. The intangibles are tough, tough, tough to replace with Fletcher. Yes, three toughs. It’s a new grading scale.
  9. Santana Moss did not play until his screen pass for a touchdown, getting good blocks from Will Montgomery and Paulsen among others. Moss remains a reliable target, but it gets tougher in the coming weeks without Davis and Pierre Garcon. It’s hard to imagine the latter being back anytime soon. You don’t take an entire week off from an injury that has bothered you since the opener – after having already returned from it perhaps too soon – and then play a short time later. Doesn’t work that way. Until he gets back the Redskins will rely on an explosive run game and spreading the ball around. Heck, at the end of last season the Redskins moved the ball well with three backup linemen starting and Davis and Cooley sidelined. They now have a better QB and running back. But Davis and Garcon are the best runners after the catch and that added something to the offense. The Redskins will miss that until Garcon returns, whenever that is.
  10. This is when guys like Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson must produce. As a third-round pick, Hankerson is capable and had a solid game with six catches for 70 yards. But after a splash in the preseason, and some moments in the opener, Robinson has been non-existent. Speed isn’t everything, apparently. Joshua Morgan is a tough player, but won’t be running away from guys anytime soon. Early in the season the talk was how much speed Washington had on offense because of guys like Davis and Garcon and Griffin. Now we’re back down to one guy with speed; it just happens to be the most important one. It’s a good thing the Redskins can fool teams because they’re not going to be running past them the way Cruz did to them.

 

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