Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Redskins offense: What we've learned
By John Keim
After watching the Redskins’ 24-13 win over Pittsburgh, here’s what stood out:
It’s too bad the Redskins’ offense didn’t play more than one quarter against Pittsburgh’s starters. It’s not like it would have provided a better picture -- the Redskins were explosive last year and didn’t do a whole lot versus that defense, except drop passes. But the Steelers force you to execute well because of their discipline. They move fast and at times it was difficult for the Redskins’ linemen to stay on their men or to even get to them. The Redskins managed a combined 23 yards and one first down against Pittsburgh's starters. Quarterback Kirk Cousins completed 2 of 3 passes for 19 yards. Left tackle Trent Williams managed well with his sprained left wrist and never really was in trouble in pass protection, though he did not get to a couple blocks in the run game.
The offensive lineman who really stood out, at least with the second unit, was left tackle Tom Compton. That’s the best I’ve seen him play (granted, the sample size isn’t huge, but I’ll include practices as well). I liked that he was facing rookie Jarvis Jones, who has a thing or two to learn but who is a talented first-round draft pick. The sort of guy Compton needs to do well against. Compton showed excellent balance and technique. On one rush, he was aggressive with his punch but Jones got into him a little. However, Compton was able to reset and anchor. That happened on another occasion as well. Later, Jones beat him off the snap another time, but Compton recovered to shove him off his path. His run-blocking was fine, too. All in all, a solid night.
Receiver Leonard Hankerson was a bright spot for Washington on Monday night, recording a TD catch.
Rookie tight end Jordan Reed had some mistakes that were evident Monday night and therefore didn’t seem to have a good game. It didn’t get better watching the game again. I think you know I like Reed’s athleticism and potential, but his preseason debut was a tough one. Reed didn’t finish his route on a Rex Grossman pass, leading to an interception. He also had a drop. Reed’s blocking was uneven. In some cases it was technique -- his arms were a bit too extended on one block and he lost his man. Next play, he whiffed on his block. He did show good technique on a block on one run and also moved his man out on another. Reed was able to get outside in a pulling action (though he failed to hold his block). The good part for Reed is that he moves well. He just needs to improve.
This is where not having the All-22 available yet hurts because on the first-quarter sack of Cousins, I’d love to see what he was looking at on the right side. Cousins had time to look off and could have dumped the ball over the middle for a first down. But it’s tough to ping him for that without knowing what he saw. I do know he was sacked in 2.8 seconds so there was enough time to find another option (if that was even an issue).
There were a couple runs by running back Alfred Morris, and others, in which one more block would have resulted in a gain of 10 or more yards. That’s football, of course, but it was evident on a handful of plays. Fred Davis was the culprit on one such play, leading to a 4-yard Morris run. The path should have been more outside, but Davis lost his block, forcing a quicker than anticipated cut upfield. He cut just as the hole closed. Morris’ best run, an 11-yard dash, was negated by a Tyler Polumbus hold. But Morris showed some of what was visible at camp: his quick cuts (don’t remember them being this fast last year). On this play, Morris should have been tackled for a short gain at best yet managed a good gain because he cut so sharply in a tight area.
Polumbus worked against a starting defensive player for one quarter and allowed a sack and was called for holding. Not every play was bad; early on he handled LaMarr Woodley; Polumbus’ shoulders were square as he rode out the linebacker to the outside. But Polumbus was beaten for the sack, a result of Woodley’s quick and powerful hands. Later, Polumbus' hands were wider than desired as he was driven back by Woodley. Next play: hold. Polumbus’ run blocking was fine and he did a good job shoving blitzing safety Ryan Clark out wide. He was OK against the Steelers’ second string, but needs to become more consistent.
Receiver Leonard Hankerson did a good job against man coverage. Got open on the touchdown with a hard stem to the outside, selling the corner route, then cutting inside. He got free against the linebacker on the first play from scrimmage with a similar step, selling an out cut. That’s what you call a mismatch. Hankerson could have caught a pass down the right hash -- it was a tougher, but far from impossible catch. The sort a guy makes if he wants to become more than just a fourth receiver with occasional flashes. Like he did on the touchdown, with the one-handed grab. Now, let’s see it again next week.
Saw some good and bad with Josh LeRibeus, getting driven back on a couple occasions where he seemed slow with his hands. But after the past week I anticipated worse. LeRibeus really did himself no favors with his offseason work. At the end of last season he seemed close; that’s not the case right now. Right guard Adam Gettis was fine; there’s definitely something to build on there.
Running back Chris Thompson showed some of his burst on his first carry, a quick cut on an outside zone to the right. He was able to burrow through the opening for seven yards. Obviously his big issue was the fumble, but he also needed to show a little more patience on his next carry. He got within maybe two yards of his linemen before cutting back and never sold the linebackers that he might stay on his original path. So when he cut, there was no room. When the offense works right, and he’s patient, the defense’s movement will be used against them -- and that prevents many clean shots on the petite running back.
Did like Jawan Jamison’s patience. He’s a good fit in this sort of system, though it would be nice if he were a couple inches and 15 pounds heavier. He gained 20 yards on five runs; I liked a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter where he exhibited patience and cutting ability. Jamison looked like he was headed wide and the linebacker flowed that way, creating a cutback lane for a 6-yard gain. It wasn’t some highlight run, but it was an example of a good one. Thompson’s explosiveness still bears watching, but Jamison knows how to run. If only…
Receiver Aldrick Robinson didn’t take a vicious hit after his deep catch near the end of the first half. But it was a tough grab. One thing I’ve been impressed by him this summer is his ability to hold onto the ball after a big hit.