Rams 31, Redskins 28: Ten observations

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Redskins Confidential,Sports,John Keim
  1. Have to get this one out of the way first. I like what Joshua Morgan brings to the Redskins, though I worry about his durability. Still, he and Pierre Garcon add a toughness that is necessary. Both are good blockers, an absolute must in the stretch zone scheme. That said, and you know where this is headed, that was a juvenile act on the penalty. I know Cortland Finnegan baits guys into doing things (though Finnegan said after the game he “didn’t say anything to him.”). The Rams were chippy all day and the Redskins engaged them with extracurricular stuff on occasion. But Morgan needs to know better; heck, any player who has ever played against Finnegan knows what he’ll try to do. As Kramer once said of Woody Woodpecker, “He’s a troublemaker.” Know that and know how to deal. Morgan committed an extremely selfish act. Is it more important to defend your manhood or attempt a makeable kick and not cost your team? That’s an easy question to answer. Thing is, Mike Shanahan has stressed composure, yet this seems to happen more than it should. At least Morgan knows this and faced reporters afterward and continuously said, “I should have kept my calm.”
  2. It was one bad mistake, but this game was not lost on this play. Certainly a legitimate chance to tie the game was blown, but lost? Nope. Too much blame to go around. Actually, had Morgan made the right decision in the first place maybe none of this happens. As he caught the ball, Morgan, sensing pressure inside, turned quickly outside. Problem is, had he turned inside where the ball led him, he would have picked up the first down.
  3. Yes, the officiating was horrendous and you could tell early in the game that the officials had lost control. Blame the NFL, which continues to trot out these sham crews. Even on calls where they might be right, the players and coaches clearly lack confidence in them so frustration builds and it leads to games like Sunday where tempers erupt. That’s not to excuse Morgan, but it’s not surprising that it happened to someone. There were a litany of mistakes and I’d have to really sift through my notes to remember all of them. I just know, like everyone else, that they were bad, the NFL can’t con anyone anymore about it and it’s time to fix the situation. Like when your cable provider tells you a certain station is pulling a power play and they drop them from the service. I don’t give a damn what the issue is, your job is to fix it. So fix it. This game was clearly impacted by the officiating; that’s not to say the Redskins lost because of it as the Rams were on the wrong side too. But it is to say the games are affected. How that hit on Fred Davis wasn’t ruled a defenseless receiver is beyond me. Mike Shanahan said the officials claimed they didn’t see it. Not sure that’s possible.
  4. Man, a lot of angry topics tonight. This one: special teams. Nobody draws more negative tweets on the coaching staff than Danny Smith. It’s the nature of the position; if there’s a hold on offense no one calls for Kyle Shanahan’s job. But with so few plays on special teams in comparison, perfection is demanded. I get it. Smith has a good reputation around the league and has been sought after by other teams. All that being said, he deserves whatever heat comes his way right now because his unit has allowed two punts to be blocked after a season in which five field goals were blocked. Each one is explainable, but this is a bottom line business and the bottom line is that this keeps happening. Based on how the roster is put together I’m not sure how much consideration is truly given to special teams – look at how many receivers don’t play it, for example. That’s how you have DeAngelo Hall ‘volunteering’ for special teams. Yeah, that deserves quote marks. But that’s not to absolve Smith. This is his unit and he’s paid a lot of money to make it work. By the way, on the punt block, Perry Riley appeared to be the guilty party. Last week it was backup linebacker Chris Wilson who made the mistake. That’s the troubling part, it keeps happening to different players.
  5. I’ve never seen a returner get up and slap the ball, as if he were thiiiis close to breaking a long return as Brandon Banks. I admire his confidence but man. It’s almost every time. Need to ask him about this; it’s not a criticism but it is something that’s noticeable. Oh, and you know a game will turn on one of his fumbles, right? It’s happening too much anymore.
  6. Now, the defense. A week ago everyone was praising the defensive staff for the game plan, and execution thereof, against the Saints. Now everyone is shredding Jim Haslett because of his game plan and execution thereof against the Rams. Such is life in the NFL. (Another thing: last week many praised Raheem Morris along with Haslett; Sunday, it was just Haslett who was ripped). One criticism I’ve heard of Haslett is that he’s slow to adjust and likes to stick to what’s on his playcard. Don’t know if that’s fair or not, but that’s what I’ve heard.  My guess is there are a million Redskins fans right now shouting, “It’s fair!” Regardless, the Redskins’ zone did not do anything to slow the Rams and they did stay with it a long time; the players were not aggressive in it or, perhaps, did not seem as comfortable as last week (different team, I know). The gaps were big for the receivers to find (should say, for Danny Amendola to find them). But when they tried man with some pressure – the blitzes didn’t work so well Sunday —  it didn’t exactly work either as the Rams answered more often than not, though Amendola was slowed. A big problem was giving quarterback Sam Bradford too much time in the pocket.  You can’t play zone coverage if you’re unable to pressure.  I thought they’d generate more pressure simply because of the Rams’ weakened front; they finished the game with three backup linemen. I know Brian Orakpo was hurt, as was end Adam Carriker. That makes a difference, but it’s offset by the Rams’ issues. The Redskins boast about their front seven depth; need to see more production then when others go out.
  7. By the way, here’s a troubling stat: In the last 13 games the Redskins have allowed an average of 26.7 points per game (some players last year felt one problem was that the “rules” of the defense changed too often, leading to some confusion. Is that an issue now? Haven’t heard that yet). Now, they’ve played some excellent offenses during this stretch but they also fancy themselves a top-10 unit. They didn’t look anywhere near one Sunday and haven’t for a while. The Rams gained 7.1 yards per offensive play. That’s horrendous.
  8. Losing Adam Carriker is big. Carriker is not a great player, but he is fine. Some say solid; some around the league would consider him average. But he definitely helped the Redskins’ D and seemed to be a good fit in the 3-4. But, again, the depth. Jarvis Jenkins was drafted for a reason. Now he must start playing like the guy coaches raved about last summer (as well as myself; he looked great). But he still plays with inconsistent leverage, particularly when he reaches his second step and gets too low. It was telling that Kedric Golston played a lot more than Jenkins once Carriker was hurt.  Carriker did a good job of collapsing the pocket, working well in tandem with the ends, Ryan Kerrigan in particular. Losing Orakpo would be tough, too. He has not developed into an elite rusher, but it limits the Redskins’ flexibility when he’s sidelined. Being able to flip flop the linebackers is a big plus.
  9. Yes, Pierre Garcon was missed. Aldrick Robinson had a 28-yard catch among his two grabs. But he also dropped a deep ball inside the 15-yard line in which he seemed to have trouble locating the ball. His blocking was OK, but I saw him miss one on the bubble screen to Santana Moss, the primary reason he was tackled for three yards. Garcon is an excellent blocker.
  10. Most people would have taken a 1-1 start, but you’d probably feel a lot better had they lost the opener and won this game simply because that’s what logic dictated. Now, once again, a promising win was followed by a thud, a decade-long pattern it seems. The NFC East is winnable, but not if this defense doesn’t get turned around. What do rookie QBs need? Strong defenses and a running game?  The Redskins don’t have the former just yet. The Rams deserve a lot of credit for their offensive game plan. But they had a banged-up line and benched/lost their starting running back, Steven Jackson, in the first half and had no receiver who was a stud. Yet they hung up 31 points. And the Redskins scored 28 despite getting little help from the defense or return game. Ten of the Redskins’ 11 drives started at their own 21 or worse. But they still had a 15-point lead they couldn’t hold. This season will continue to be an interesting ride. It’s funny, but the coaches wanted to minimize the burden on Griffin. But the way other units have played is only increasing it. If they go anywhere, he will lead them.
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