NFC East: mohamed sanu

With so many toys at Jay Gruden's disposal in Robert Griffin III, Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts, Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson, how does Alfred Morris fit in offense?

Morris
In his three years as the Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator, Gruden had two 1,000-yard rushers in Cedric Benson (1,067 in 2011) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis (1,094 in 2012). The Bengals ran for 1,788 yards, 1,745 yards and 1,755 yards in Gruden’s three years as coordinator.

But he also had A.J. Green, Marvin Jones, Andrew Hawkins and Mohamed Sanu at receiver. In the playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers, he got pass-happy.

“Jay sees the offense through the eyes of the quarterback, and having played the position, he has a great deal of respect for the position,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said at the NFL owners meetings in this Washington Post story. “He’ll say these guys are the luckiest guys because he would’ve given his right arm – left arm, I guess – to have the opportunity to be an NFL quarterback. So, he really is conscientious of that. He really has things unfold through the eyes of the quarterback."

Because he sees things as a quarterback, will he rely more on the passing game? It has been an argument used against Jason Garrett for his years as the playcaller with the Dallas Cowboys. Sean Payton was a quarterback and he leans more to the pass with the New Orleans Saints.

It’s only natural.

But Morris offers Gruden a better running back than what he had in Cincinnati. He rushed for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie in 2012. He followed that up with 1,275 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013.

Was it a function of Mike Shanahan’s scheme and the coach’s ability to find running backs anywhere and everywhere?

The NFL is a passing league these days, but Gruden can’t get away from Morris and become too pass-happy if the Redskins want to be successful.


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cowboys had a hard time getting much of an advantage at Cowboys Stadium with a 17-15 regular-season record in the $1.2 billion home.

Playing under the AT&T Stadium name for the first time, the Cowboys were able to overcome a tepid start to beat Cincinnati 24-18.

What it means: The Cowboys got what they wanted in their final showing of the preseason from their regulars on offense and defense.

The Cowboys have not played their starters in the last preseason game since 2006, and Jason Garrett will not want to risk the likes of Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Sean Lee and Brandon Carr on Thursday against Houston.

To avoid their first losing preseason since 2001, however, the Cowboys will have to beat the Texans.

First-team offense gets in end zone: In their first five drives of the preseason, the Romo-led offense failed to get in the end zone. They started 0-for-2 on Saturday before Bryant took matters into his own hands with five catches on a 12-play drive that ended with Romo hitting Bryant on a bullet fade over cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.

The Cowboys closed the first half with an eight-play drive that covered 52 yards with Miles Austin being the featured target. Austin had a 23-yard gain on a third-and-6 and closed the drive with a 12-yard score going across the back of the end zone for a Romo throw.

Offensive line moves: For the fourth time in four preseason games, the Cowboys rolled out a different combination on the offensive line with Doug Free playing right guard, Jermey Parnell at right tackle and Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard. Only left tackle Tyron Smith and center Travis Frederick played in their original positions.

Romo was sacked on the first play of the game for an 8-yard loss and the running game averaged only 2.5 yards per carry in the first half. The first-team line played a series into the third quarter before calling it a night.

Will this be the combination the Cowboys roll out for the Sept. 8 opener against the New York Giants? Possibly, if Ronald Leary is unable to return from surgery to his right knee. The Cowboys are confident Leary, who has never played in a game, can return in time, but they might choose to go with this grouping.

Defense continues to take it away: The offseason emphasis continued with two first-half takeaways from a defense that might bend but has yet to break.

For the third time in four preseason games, the Cowboys came up with a takeaway on their first drive of the game. Safety Barry Church poked the ball free from wide receiver Marvin Jones and cornerback Brandon Carr came up with the loose ball at the Dallas 4.

In the second quarter, rookie cornerback B.W. Webb came up with a pick of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on a seam throw to receiver Mohamed Sanu. Undrafted safety Jeff Heath forced a fumble in the third quarter.

The first-team defense did not allow a touchdown in three preseason appearances totaling roughly three quarters.

Digital board gets plunked: In the first football game at AT&T Stadium, on Aug. 21 2009, Tennessee’s A.J. Trapasso hit the center-hung digital board with a punt. It was not hit again by a punt until Saturday, when Cowboys punter Chris Jones hit it in the first quarter.

There have been 274 regular-season punts at AT&T Stadium since its opening that have not hit the board.

It might bear watching this year.

On Jones’ re-kick, Cincinnati’s Brandon Tate scored a 75-yard touchdown for the Bengals’ only first-half points.

Who didn’t play: Cornerback Morris Claiborne (knee) missed his fourth straight preseason game -- and third because of injury -- but the hope is that he can practice some next week and possibly play in Thursday’s finale against Houston. WR Cole Beasley (foot), RB Lance Dunbar (foot), S Matt Johnson (foot), S Eric Frampton (calf), LB Brandon Magee (concussion), LB Ernie Sims (groin), OL Ryan Cook (back), OG Ronald Leary (knee), OG Nate Livings (knee) and DE Anthony Spencer (knee) did not dress for the game.

What’s next?: The Cowboys will have to pare down their roster from 88 to 75 by Tuesday’s deadline, two days before they play their fifth and final preseason game of the summer. Former head coach Wade Phillips (2007-10) makes his return to AT&T Stadium on Thursday as Houston’s defensive coordinator. The final cut to 53 players is Aug. 31.

Rapid Reaction: Bengals 38, Redskins 31

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
4:30
PM ET

LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Washington Redskins' disappointing 38-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in their home opener Sunday at FedEx Field.

What it means: Plenty of excitement but ultimately disappointment for the 80,060 who bought tickets to watch the home debut of Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Redskins got their offense going in the second half with some gimmicky option plays, and Griffin gave them some thrills on the final series as he tried to drive them 99 yards in the final two minutes. But that drive fell short. Overall, Griffin was battered most of the day by the Bengals' aggressive defense, was sacked five times, fumbled twice and, though his final numbers were good, had his most difficult game yet as a pro. The loss was the Redskins' sixth in a row at FedEx Field. That's the longest current home losing streak in the NFL.

Secondary concerns: The Bengals opened the game with a shocker of a play, lining up rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu to take the snap in the shotgun while quarterback Andy Dalton split out wide. Star wide receiver A.J. Green beat the coverage and Sanu hit him in stride for a 73-yard touchdown catch. Now, had that been some sort of fluke, that would have been one thing. But it was the first of three Cincinnati touchdown passes in the game that covered at least 48 yards. The Redskins are playing without projected starting safeties Brandon Meriweather (knee injury, could be back next week) and Tanard Jackson (suspended for the year), and cornerbacks Cedric Griffin and Crezdon Butler both left this game with hamstring injuries. They weren't great in the secondary to begin with, and the injuries have left them short-handed on top of that. They're likely to continue to be beaten deep if they can't generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. And while they pressured Dalton pretty well for the most part, they were remarkably vulnerable on any play on which he had time to throw.

More injury problems: Redskins left tackle Trent Williams left the game in the first quarter with a knee injury. He came back in the second quarter but clearly wasn't right, and he didn't return to the game after halftime. Williams is the best player on the Redskins' offensive line, and his absence helped allow Carlos Dunlap and the rest of that Bengals defensive front to take their shots at Griffin.

Miscellany: Tight end Fred Davis made his return to the game plan, catching seven passes for 90 yards as top wide receiver Pierre Garcon missed his second straight game with a foot injury. ... The Redskins rushed for 182 yards. Griffin led the way with 85 and fellow rookie Alfred Morris once again led the running backs with 78 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. ... Rob Jackson looked good as the replacement for injured linebacker Brian Orakpo, catching an interception for a touchdown and making several nice plays on the edge. Jackson has the speed to play the position, but he likely lacks Orakpo's physical toughness.

History is made: With 3:02 left in the third quarter, something happened in this game that had never happened before. Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis fumbled the ball. Entering the game, Green-Ellis had carried the ball 631 times in his NFL career, postseason included, without fumbling once. But as Green-Ellis got the ball near midfield on a first-down carry, Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson came flying in to strip and recover the ball, and Green-Ellis' amazing streak was over. It appeared to be a big play in the game, too, since two plays earlier the Redskins had scored a touchdown to tie it at 24. But Washington couldn't cash in the historic turnover and had to punt the ball away.

What's next: The Redskins travel to Tampa, Fla., where they will face the Buccaneers next Sunday in a 4:25 p.m. ET game. It'll be the third straight NFC East game for the Bucs, who lost to the New York Giants last week in New Jersey and to the Cowboys on Sunday in Dallas.

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