1. I really like what Running back Alfred Morris did vs. the Colts. But you have to give credit to the line; all the blockers for the most part, including tight end Fred Davis. Morris rarely had to dodge defenders in the backfield and more often than not the first contact he received was past the line of scrimmage. He got extra yards, but the creases were there. Time and again the interior of the line had re-established the line of scrimmage a yard or two downfield. It didn’t always result in a huge run, but it certainly led to positive gains. It must also be said that the Colts have a long way to go to become a good defense. A long way. They were a bad defense in 2011 that changed coaches and schemes this summer. But at least the Redskins did what they should.
2. On the first play of the second quarter, a second and three, Morris wasn’t even touched until he was just about at the first-down marker. Why? The only offensive lineman in the backfield was left tackle Trent Williams, whose job was to let his man come upfield on the play. Morris gained four yards. On his 24-yard run early in the third quarter, Morris was not touched for the first 16 yards. This came on a stretch zone to the right in which seven Colts defenders were outside the numbers when Morris cut back (with Williams sealing the edge). Morris then helped himself with an excellent cut after 12 yards to fool the safety and pick up more yards.
3. Morris is adept at making defenders miss with his first cut. Did it on a run in the second quarter in which his first cut came nearly two yards downfield in the middle; he juked left and made the linebacker miss. Right before that play Morris shook the corner with a hard plant left and cut back inside on his 18-yard run. Morris ran hard, always got extra yards and plowed through on the TD run, as if he were burrowing through a hole. But give the blockers plenty of credit.
4. The one time I wondered about Morris’ cut occurred on a four-yard stretch zone run to the left. Morris cut back inside; had he perhaps cut wider he could have squeezed through for a potential big run. It likely would have required him breaking an arm tackle at the line, but had he done so he could have run a while. Still, he gained three yards after contact.
5. Morris made a difference with his blocking. On the fifth play of the game he crashed hard into Fili Moala after he had just gotten inside right guard Chris Chester. He picked up a linebacker blitz another time. Here’s what he had to say about his blocking.
6. One thing I’d like to see: a Redskins back on a long run. The longest run this preseason (out of 78 carries) by a running back? 24 yards. In fact, they’ve only had two rushes for more than 20 yards (both by Morris). That’s not to pin it all on the backs as in many cases a great run has resulted in only six yards (or one yard for that matter) because of the blocking. The big plays will come in the passing game; the run just has to be consistent. Keep in mind that the Redskins’ backs didn’t manage one run of more than 28 yards in their last 270 carries last season. A lot goes into this so it’s not just on the backs. But it’s also true they could use a little more explosiveness at this spot. Of course, that could be where Griffin eventually helps with his legs from the QB position.
7. Here’s a big difference from last week in Chicago (when they were facing a much better defense): The Redskins’ first offense faced 12 second-down situations and seven were for six yards or less (four were for second and 10). Consequently, they did not face a third down of longer than five yards.
8. Their 16 first-down plays gained 77 yards (35 coming on gains of 18 and 17). They never lost yardage on first down. In fact, the first offense had no plays where they lost yardage (no penalties on this unit). For the game, the Redskins had one play from scrimmage that lost yardage (aside from a Jordan Black hold and a Kirk Cousins kneel down at the end of the game). That’s impressive, but it also speaks to the troubles Indianapolis’ defense will face this season.
9. On the third play of the game, in which Robert Griffin III sprinted for five yards and a first down, the Colts had their first blitzer come free up the middle. By process of elimination, guard Chris Chester was the only one who could have picked him up. These are the sorts of issues that, the coaches hope, are cleaned up through game planning. By the way, on this play the shotgun snap was high and to the right hand, forcing Griffin to take his eyes off the defense for a split second. Also on the play, as Griffin sprinted to the right the defensive back raced up hard in pursuit leaving Santana Moss open about 10 yards downfield.
10. Griffin’s pass to Josh Morgan was impressive last night; it stood out even more upon further review. The snap was good (.28 seconds if you must know) but right tackle Tyler Polumbus allowed pressure from Hughes, but he never allowed him to break completely free. That helped as Griffin stepped up and slid to the right. Defensive coordinators will cringe at this sight. He delivered a perfect strike just over the head of the DB and to Morgan. A gorgeous throw on the move. Griffin was patient on this one, looking left right and back to the middle before sliding. Only 2.78 seconds elapsed; good job.
11. On the deep ball to Leonard Hankerson, Griffin’s play fake completely froze linebacker Jerrell Freeman. Griffin took 3.4 seconds to throw the ball and no one was within two yards of him. There was no one within four yards of him when he threw the first deep ball of the game to Garcon. On that play, one quibble would be that Griffin could have led Garcon more to the middle where there was no help. It might have resulted in him being tackled immediately, but it would have been a long completion.
12. Lastly on Griffin, he helped a bad pocket out with a quick decision on the first drive, throwing out to Garcon in 1.8 seconds as Maurice Hurt and Tyler Polumbus were moved back. But it goes down as a completion. A half-second later and it’s a sack. That’s the difference quick decisions and routes make. Can’t make a living on those, but plays like this add up.
13. Chester made a big difference at right guard. And I’ll also say that Adam Gettis looked more comfortable facing the backups. But more about Chester. On the second play of the game, he hit defensive tackle Moala off the line, moving him back a couple yards and then headed to the linebacker. Polumbus then had a clean cut block attempt of Moala. Polumbus failed to get him on the ground, but Chester had done his part. Later in that same drive Chester’s patience resulted in two blocks. First he stayed on Moala long enough for Polumbus to take over and then went to the linebacker for another block on a five-yard run to the left.
14. Polumbus did not have a bad game last week; he did have a couple bad plays. For the most part Saturday he looked good. He wasn’t perfect, but he was effective and the plays with Chester show why cohesion is so important in this scheme. Polumbus had trouble on one pass set, allowing linebacker Jerry Hughes to get upfield and then inside, but the tackle was able to save the play and allow Griffin to throw the ball. But Polumbus did a nice job vs. Dwight Freeney on one rush (the 18-yard pass to Pierre Garcon). Freeney, who does not look comfortable as an outside ‘backer in a 3-4 yet, tried to speed rush him, but Polumbus rode him upfield and out of trouble. Freeney, rushing from a two-point stance, got too high on the play. On the next play, Polumbus was initially pushed back off the line, but he recovered and drove his man to the ground. One play later he reached the linebacker on Morris’ two-yard touchdown run.
15. Center Will Montgomery’s shotgun snaps are inconsistent. But even with the bad one’s Saturday, they were faster than a year ago. Of course, when the QB is in the pistol formation they’re only four yards off the ball rather than five to seven yards back. Montgomery’s snaps haven’t been a big issue this summer, but they were, uh, off Saturday. Griffin’s athleticism saved the play twice. First, on a snap that took .40 seconds because it was high, Griffin jumped, came down and hit tight end Chris Cooley for a completion (despite all this, Griffin still got the ball off in 1.70 seconds). On Griffin’s four-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss, the ball was not only high but to the left. Griffin, in shotgun formation five yards deep, already was stepping to his right to get out on the sprint rollout. He grabbed the ball (.38 on the snap), sprinted and completed the pass.
16. Tim Hightower showed his veteran savvy on one blitz pickup. He started outside to take a corner blitz, but spotted a linebacker coming inside. The rule of thumb: Take the most dangerous man. And that means picking up anyone in the middle, which Hightower then did. It enabled Griffin to unload a pass in 1.96 seconds to Davis. He made an athletic move to turn inside and get seven yards after the catch.
17. Hightower was in the game on one blitz that resulted in a free path to Griffin (and a hit). But Hightower was outside the right tackle; there’s no way he could have come back to the other side to pick up a linebacker. Rather, there was a miscommunication I guess we’ll say on the left side. Hurt blocked down with Montgomery and Williams was occupied outside. That opened the path.
18. By the way on the 18-yard draw to Hightower, had it been a zone read and Griffin had kept it to run wide right, he would have had everyone fooled. Just saying. Not that it mattered on this play because of Hightower’s cuts.
19. After the first preseason game tight end Niles Paul talked about getting off the snap late. It happened Saturday night and he lacks the strength to recover when this occurs. He was aligned in a three-point stance just off tight end Logan Paulsen on the left. At the snap as Rex Grossman takes the ball, Paul is still in his stance. This enabled linebacker Justin Hickman to shoot inside and help clog the middle on a third-and-1 stop for no gain of Hightower. I do like that Paul can play gunner, returner and tight end. Paul isn’t a burner but especially on special teams he plays fast and physical.
20. Gettis had a better night working against second teamers. It’s where he should be at right now. In the fourth quarter he sold a run fake with an aggressive punch at the snap. A play later he had an excellent base, punch and balance vs. the end. Josh LeRibeus sold the run fake too with an aggressive punch and that slowed the rush, enabling Grossman to hit Dezmon Briscoe on a 38-yard gain downfield. Later, Gettis stayed low and put a good pop onto tackle Drake Nevis (Looove the Drake; you’re welcome fellow Seinfeld fans). But one thing Gettis must work on is making sure his arms don’t get too low at the snap. When that happens it’s easy for the d-linemen to get into his pads and move him back. Got him in trouble a couple times.
21. I didn’t have a good enough appreciation for Terrence Austin’s first catch last night. But after watching it again he does an excellent job setting up the corner with his feet. Austin took the corner two steps outside and cut back inside against a single-high safety look for a nice grab. Austin’s footwork threw off the corner, getting him off-balance at the line. Austin also made a nice diving grab. I’m still trying to figure how he fits here, but I know that the kid is doing whatever he can including coverage.
22. I wrote about Briscoe last night and nothing has changed. His size helps. He needs to show he can play special teams.
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