Panthers 21, Redskins 13: Ten Observations

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim

 

  1. Did Mike Shanahan raise the so-called white flag on the season? Sure sounded that way. I get what he was saying: at 3-6, this is no longer about being in the playoff hunt, but about fighting through adversity. Since 1990, only three teams have been 3-6 and made the playoffs – the 1994 Patriots, the ’95 Lions and the ’96 Jaguars. So, yeah, he’s right. At this point it’s not about the playoffs and that’s how many in the locker room took those comments.  However, it still was an unusual comment for a coach. Very unusual.
  2. To a degree, you’re always evaluating your talent to see who you like and don’t like for the future. And perhaps the message was simply: ‘We’re about to find out what we have.’ But having covered many seasons where the Redskins weren’t good at this point, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a coach talk about evaluating players and finding out “who is going to be on your team for years to come,” at this point in the season. That sounds like late December talk once you’re officially out of the playoff hunt. Shanahan was right that the Carolina game was a must-win. He’s also right that their season took a different turn Sunday. But my guess is that a number of coaches around the league were surprised by what he said. I know I heard from one on Sunday who definitely was – as was Tony Dungy, who said as much on NBC. I don’t know that I question the leadership among the players; your most important player on offense works as hard as anyone. Your best leader on defense works as hard as anyone. It should flow from there, right? If not, why is that? You have to question many things at this point: are guys not being used properly? Developed properly? The questions now become bigger than about a particular game.
  3. Shanahan clearly has job security. If you change head coaches after this season then you’re overhauling an offense that so far is good for Robert Griffin III. He’s your most important investment and there’s no way you’re going to do something now to hurt his development. If he weren’t playing well and the Redskins were 3-6, then you could start to wonder. However, Griffin is playing well. But if this doesn’t get turned around, it’ll be tough for players to keep buying in, whether to you or members of your staff or the organization as a whole. It’s just a fact of life. Some players had questions about the defense after last season, you don’t think they’d have them now? Should the Redskins make changes at the bye? Fire Jim Haslett and replace him with who? Raheem Morris? Based on what? Bob Slowik? That’s a tough sell, too.
  4. You can’t pin this loss on the defense, at least not alone. They gave up 21 points, 330 yards and two long drives. Those long drives were bad, and the botched 82-yard pass play was as well. But Sunday was an all-around effort as the offense was three of 15 on third down and one of three in the red zone. Yeah, they were close to getting a couple more touchdowns. Every team that loses is close to something: another score, a win, a momentum changer. When you consistently fail to make those plays…
  5. The Redskins were supposed to be far ahead of Indianapolis, which is why many predicted Griffin would have quicker success than Andrew Luck. But the Colts are 5-3. The Dolphins, playing mostly a rookie QB or a mediocre backup, are 4-4. The Seahawks, with a rookie third-round pick at QB, are 4-4. The Seahawks and Dolphins entered the season with better defenses than Washington and they’re allowing 16.5 points and 18.5 points, respectively. Oh, and the Dolphins and Colts are in the first year of a new regime. And the Colts’ coach is sidelined because he has cancer. Point is, every team has reasons why they could be losing. Heck, Tampa Bay continues its climb to respectability with a new coach and turnover on its roster. Maybe in the long run the Redskins will have better success if you think Griffin will top these other QBs (with seven weeks left, they could still have better success this season; but they’d best start hurrying). Maybe the Redskins’ ceiling is higher than most of these teams just because of Griffin’s talent. Then again, maybe these other teams are built better.
  6. But it’s also clear that one guy can’t do it alone. Griffin does need Pierre Garcon back, just to provide him a legitimate receiver with speed. They offense already misses Fred Davis. Instead, Griffin gets the rotation of Leonard Hankerson and Aldrick Robinson. Neither is ready to produce consistently. Robinson starts Sunday, has the first pass go through his hands and is targeted once more.  Joshua Morgan is as tough as they come; they basically ask him to run into a brick wall on half his routes it seems. But he’s not a game-breaker by any means. They can move the chains with this group, but who threatens a D at receiver/tight end?
  7. This really is an incredible turn of events. Every coach can claim their program is headed in the right direction but results are results. The Redskins are 14-27 overall under Shanahan. They solved the most important position, quarterback, this past offseason.  Injuries explain part of the slide. But they were hurt when they were in New York and leading after a terrific late drive. Did they suddenly think, ‘Wait, Orakpo is out! Oh, no!’ No, they failed to execute. He surely would have impacted games, as would have Adam Carriker (not commenting on the safeties, we never saw them play here to know). Are injuries the reason they committed 13 penalties vs. Carolina? Are injuries the reason why their safety was caught flat-footed vs. New York? No. Again, execute and you can still win. The Redskins are not executing well enough. You can’t just blame talent; these are the players this regime brought in (save for a handful). You can’t blame it on a rookie quarterback; he’s the reason they have turned it around offensively. The defense has struggled for a myriad of reasons: coaching, players losing one-on-one battles, injuries, talent. Take your pick.
  8. I am officially becoming a broken record. There are seven games left.  I do think the locker room has good character players and that matters.
  9. I need to watch the fourth-and-goal from the 2 again, but it looked like the Panthers simply had the numbers on that side, leaving the play perhaps doomed from the start. It didn’t help that running back Evan Royster failed to execute his block (happening too often the past two weeks), which, in turn, prevented right tackle Tyler Polumbus from executing his block. I like going for it on fourth down and Griffin’s legs provide an advantage in the red zone. But it’s tough when the play is strung out and he has no options. A guy like Cam Newton could then burrow through an opening if he had to, but Griffin isn’t going to run over anyone. The problem is, the defense responded by giving up a 98-yard drive. That sequence just about summed up the day.
  10. One of the big plays in the game was the 82-yard pass play to receiver Armanti Edwards. First off, credit Carolina with a terrific look that put stress on corner DeAngelo Hall. Now, Hall did not talk afterward so I really don’t know what he was supposed to do on that play. I know that Josh Wilson handled it right; in a cover-3, the outside corner takes his man if he runs a go or a post route. That’s what happened. And typically Hall would take the No. 2 receiver (Edwards) on that side. The tight end goes to the flat, drawing Hall’s attention. I know in other cases, Hall has to stay on Edwards, knowing Wilson has the outside guy. You can’t expect a linebacker (London Fletcher) to drop to a spot and cover the No. 2 receiver one-on-one. Rather, again speaking generally, the linebacker would be responsible for the flat if the tight end goes that way. What also happened is that Edwards sold it as if he were going to block. It’s yet another big play off a breakdown in a season full of them. By the way, it’s tough to keep saying if this play or that play is taken away then the defense would have done its job. Fact is, they keep giving up those plays.

 

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John Keim

Staff Reporter - Washington Redskins
The Washington Examiner