QB Robert Griffin III. His growing pains would be more evident if the Redskins opted for a more traditional offense – in other words, ditch the zone read and option game. Or only bring it out on occasion. In the first half Sunday, Griffin accounted for only 59 total yards and the Redskins’ offense managed just three points. When hemmed in the pocket and forced to just throw, it’s tougher right now for him. He was still hit after 10 plays during this stretch, four times from a sack. Part of that is on him as he holds the ball a little too long. But the reason Washington rallied in the second half, nearly coming back from a 14-point deficit on two occasions, is Griffin. Eventually the key to slowing this offense is making Griffin one-dimensional. Before the season I thought Griffin would be able to make big plays immediately because of his legs and that’s holding true. And that’s how he rallied the Redskins. Obviously not just from running the ball, but his ability to sucker ends/linebackers with his fakes on the zone read and option game. The Redskins adjusted in the second half, using more triple options and causing more confusion than in the first. Wrote a lot about his game here so I don’t need to go into detail, but the Redskins’ offense is a lot better when he’s a threat to run or throw. That’s a bit unfortunate because it means he’ll get hit more. But the confusion it causes at times creates openings in both the run and pass game. Griffin’s patience in the second half – not trying to force big plays to overcome a big deficit – was critical. Of his 221 passing yards, 128 came on the final two drives, a function of his patience and the Bengals allowing underneath completions. As he improves as a passer, the offense will become more potent. Remember, he still has a ways to go to master this offense. Meanwhile, he’s still a major weapon. He was a Dud in the first half, but he responded and handled the second half well. Without him, the Redskins wouldn’t have rallied.
TE Fred Davis. The majority of his receiving yards (52) came after the Redskins trailed by 14. But because they did put themselves in position to possibly tie the game, those catches ended up helping. Davis was open on one or two other occasions in which Griffin opted to go elsewhere. Still, Davis was targeted seven times and finished with seven catches for 90 yards. That’s a terrific day for a tight end. He was able to exploit a weak middle for solid gains. The one thing that’s been noticeable the past two weeks is his blocking. In the past he’d have one good game followed by a bad one as a blocker. But he’s put together two good games in a row. Davis blocked the end on the first play from scrimmage to help on a 10-yard run and he took care of the corner on Griffin’s seven-yard run. Davis handled linebackers fine, too. He didn’t have any blocks that ended in disaster. His false start wasn’t good, leading to all sorts of confusion. But otherwise he was good. The Redskins will take this game every week.
WR Brandon Banks. Debated this one a while (interesting to have conversations with yourself; dog looks at you funny). But Banks’ impact in the second half was big; a lot had to do with how the coaches used him but he still managed to finish with 133 total yards. His 55-yard return (with good blocking) set up a much-needed field goal drive at the end of the first half. His 29 yards rushing in the second half (on three carries) were enough to keep the Bengals’ off-balance and help Washington get back in the game. Yeah the coaches used him well but no one else has the speed to threaten a D and can play in that pistol look like he can. On his 21-yard run around left end in the third (on a touchdown drive), Banks’ speed made the difference. Safety/corner Nate Clements took a slightly bad angle and that was enough for Banks. Clements might have had a slower runner tackled for about a four-yard gain. And because of that the Bengals had to account for him even when he didn’t get the ball. That opened up lanes for others.
C Will Montgomery. It’s tough for a center to provide a lot of flashy plays that show what a good day he had. Most likely, the more quiet their day is the better they played. In other words, Montgomery did his job and did it well Sunday. He had one or two plays in which he got moved back; they all do. But on the first play he drove a Bengals’ lineman back, helping clear a path on the right side. He consistently got to the linebackers for blocks, as he did on Evan Royster’s 12-yard run in which he cut Rey Maualuga enough to keep him away. On the second play of the third quarter he drove nose tackle Domata Peko to the ground. On Royster’s nine-yard run four plays later Montgomery blocked the weakside linebacker and a play later he turned the tackle inside. Solid day and a solid start to the season for Montgomery.
LG Kory Lichtensteiger. Yeah, on a day where the Redskins allowed six sacks the line has two Studs. Tells you what a mixed bag it was, but the Redskins’ offense did put up 381 yards and 24 points and the interior did do a solid job. ‘Steiger wasn’t perfect, though nobody on this list was. There was one time in which he appeared beaten inside, but recovered and shoved his man to the ground. On the next play he did a good job getting to the linebacker in space on a screen pass. He cleared his man out wide on Royster’s 12-yard run on an inside zone. He did the same on Royster’s nine-yard run in the third. On Griffin’s seven-yard run in the third, ‘Steiger turned Geno Atkins inside, then lunged for the linebacker and basically took out two of them, keeping the edge clean. His quickness was evident in this game.
RT Tyler Polumbus. Not his best afternoon. Have said it before, but at 6-foot-8 it’s naturally difficult for him to stay low in a game where leverage is everything. Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap is two inches shorter and played low. He’ll win against a taller guy most of the time if that happens. One thing that’s tough to know is a lineman’s assignment on the play, so if you see a guy who doesn’t reach a certain player it’s hard to know if he was late or if he was trying to take care of a guy who wasn’t his responsibility. Saw a couple times where I wondered about that with Polumbus, where he blocked down and then went to a linebacker that he ultimately didn’t reach (though he did so on the first play and helped create an opening). On the next play after one of these times, he couldn’t hold off defensive tackle Geno Atkins to create a cutback lane. Atkins is quick, but Chris Chester had done a good job getting on him initially and bumping him back a half yard. Polumbus stayed with him, but Atkins’ strength won out. Next play Dunlap drove him back mainly by getting his hands into him before Polumbus got him and affected the pass. Polumbus opened the second half with a solid series, though end Robert Geathers shed his block inside the 10 and should have tackled Morris for a loss. Polumbus allowed a pressure near the end of the third on a third-and-18, but Griffin also took 3.2 seconds to throw. On the last two drives Polumbus allowed more pressure (but give him credit on the 29-yard pass to Davis he did a good job vs. Dunlap and he helped create an opening on Griffin’s TD sneak). Dunlap got him twice by using one hand to get inside him. On the last sack, Polumbus was beaten inside (where perhaps he knew he had help). The problem on this play is that Chester popped Dunlap right into Griffin’s path on the outside.
LT Jordan Black. He had some tough plays, but in fairness to Black it’s not like he was bad on every play and he had long stretches where nothing went wrong. He can’t do the things Trent Williams can, but neither can most starting tackles in this league. The problem is, when Black struggled it resulted in a big negative play. Sort of to be expected from someone who was out of the league last year and needed to put weight back on to play again and hadn’t faced live action since the final preseason game and is then inserted at the most important (and visible) spot on the line. Tough way to enter. He had some issues in the run game getting moved back a bit too quickly and too far, but he also sealed the end a couple times as on a six-yard Morris run in the third. On the sack Black allowed, you have to give an assist to Morris. After the snap, Morris ran between Black and the end (Michael Johnson). Haven’t seen that happen before. How much did it distract Black? He might have been beaten anyway but it couldn’t have helped; sometimes it just takes a split second hesitation to lose your battle. Black allowed Griffin to get hit on one pass when he set wide vs. Johnson only to have him rush inside. But after that play (first drive, third quarter), it didn’t look like Black had any issues until the next-to-last drive of the fourth quarter when he allowed another pressure. Three plays later he was called for holding and later in that series he allowed more pressure forcing Griffin to leave the pocket after 2.2 seconds. A few plays here or there and he’s not on this list.
…LT Trent Williams deserves praise for how he played with a bone bruise in his right knee. He played — and then —. The second play of the game showed his ability. The end on that side was aligned a yard outside of Williams. With the Redskins running a stretch zone to the left, Williams’ job was to seal the end. Within two steps he was even with the end and after another step he had him sealed inside. An impressive play. You could also see his inability to move well to his right in trying to reach Atkins on the first series of the third quarter. Williams couldn’t get to Atkins, who stopped a stretch zone to the right for no gain. Atkins is quick but Williams had no chance with an ailing right knee.
…I really like how Leonard Hankerson has played the past two weeks, especially as a blocker. Much better than I anticipated in that role – we didn’t have much of a chance to see him do that last year, don’t forget. He’s shown more the past two weeks than he did in training camp and that’s a positive sign moving forward.
…Alfred Morris had some runs that qualified as Stud status, including the touchdown run in which he spun out of Geathers’ tackle and found a seam. He ran hard on the first play of the game in which he lost his helmet. But he continues to make costly rookie mistakes. He raised his arm as he passed by Griffin and knocked the ball loose, causing a fumble and a sack. Then he cut in front of Black as he was about to engage Johnson, appearing to step on Black’s foot and cause enough hesitation that he couldn’t get his hands on him. The result: a sack.
…Want to know why the refs messed up the yardage on the last play of the game, resulting in two penalties for 25 yards instead of two for 20, as it should have been? Because they spotted the ball wrong after the initial flag. Or they had forgotten they already had marched off the yardage. But as the referee is announcing the penalty, another official stands by the ball which is at the 39-yard line. The previous play had started at the 34. Add it to the list.
…Here’s how Griffin’s presence and the ability to run the zone read helps everyone. On Royster’s nine-yard run, an inside run through the right side, the end on that side (Dunlap) freezes while the linebacker (Maualuga) steps wider as if thinking Griffin had the ball. That allowed Polumbus to reach him and bump him enough to clear a hole for nine yards. The action freezes and then puts others in position to help better.
…The Bengals’ ends lined up wide on almost every snap, a tactic I’d expect to continue. They rarely blitzed (there was one seven-man rush in the second half) and they were content to try and stop the run with seven defenders. The plan seemed to be: play good coverage, force a little hesitation by Griffin and allow the rush to get free.