- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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After watching the Redskins game again versus Philadelphia, here are some thoughts and observations on the offense:
The Eagles went with a seven-man box for most of the game, which is exactly why the Redskins continued to run as much as they did. And the linebackers in certain looks definitely played pass first, or at least were not aggressive against the run. When I timed how long it took for them to get into their drops off a zone read play-action pass, it usually was between 1.6 and 1.9 seconds – same as usual. But the difference was that they weren’t racing up 2 or 3 yards first.
Does that mean they knew the Redskins' plays or just knew their tendencies? Sometimes those plays did work, or at least they got receivers open – and quarterback Robert Griffin III either did not pull the trigger or had too much traffic around him. This game so often is about winning one-on-one battles; the Redskins do not win enough on either side of the ball. I’m not just talking skill players, either.
On the first play of the second drive, for example, the Eagles’ linebackers played for a play-action pass off zone read. But two linemen won matchups against right tackle Tyler Polumbus and right guard Chris Chester to hold Alfred Morris to a 1-yard run.
If you think your defensive linemen can win those battles more often than not, then why not have the linebackers take away the dig routes off the zone read fake by playing pass first, at least in certain situations (like first down)?
Defensive players often know what’s coming based on a read: Teammates rave about London Fletcher’s ability in this area. Doesn’t always matter. Adam Carriker said one reason two years ago that he had a career season for sacks is that he could tell what was coming, off film study and being more comfortable at his position. Sunday was not the first time an opposing team had a handle on the Redskins’ offense. They have a book on them; again, read what Louis Riddick told me before the game – this is knowledge from scouting the Redskins last year and watching them this year. I’m quite sure other teams know this, too. It’s not as if the Eagles had the NFL’s first A-ha! moment when it comes to the Redskins’ offense.
However, you must always self-scout to make sure this isn’t a continuing issue. You must also know: Is it like this because players are tipping plays by their stance, their eyes, their lean? Is it because the quarterback still needs to grow? Is it because the tendencies are too great? Before last season I talked to one NFL defensive coach who pointed to the latter conclusion. Later in the season he had shifted his stance a little bit, but the Redskins were tougher to defend, too.
It’s a shame that receiver Leonard Hankerson hurt his knee. I don’t consider him a solid No. 2 receiver, but he had improved and, in his third season, it would have been interesting to see if he could have posted a big game or two down the stretch. He had elevated his game to moderate productivity, but if you want to be a good No. 2, some big games are necessary.
I did not like when they ran the triple option with Hankerson as the pitch man. He’s a long strider and does not make quick moves with the ball in his hands. No biggie; just not a strength. So even if Griffin had pitched the ball to him on one such play early in the game, I don’t have confidence Hankerson would have made anyone miss.
Alfred Morris gained 9 yards on one carry when he stepped out of bounds near the line of scrimmage. Actually looked like both feet touched out of bounds.
Trent Cole did a good job using his strength against left tackle Trent Williams on some rushes, getting into his pads, including the final one that resulted in pressure against Griffin. I know there are problems elsewhere on the line; we can all see it (Chester is not having the same season as he did in 2012), but Williams is the Pro Bowl talent and will be held to a higher standard.
Griffin is getting knocked for what he said after Sunday’s game. That’s fine. So, too, should Josh Morgan for saying, “Coach says I can’t play football; coach says I can’t talk.” Sounds whiny. Make plays; earn more time. I like Morgan’s toughness, but he hasn’t made many memorable plays in his one-plus years here. It stinks to be inactive, but this is not a case of a coach-done-me-wrong.
Punt returner Nick Williams overplayed the final punt by Philadelphia, leading to him being unable to field a ball and prevent a 15-yard roll to the Redskins’ 4-yard line. Eagles punter Donnie Jones’ first three punts all went to Williams’ left, regardless of the hash mark the ball was placed. The fourth punt, though, went to Williams’ right. Earlier, Williams had to run far to try and field a punt and muffed it; I wonder how much that was in his head on the final punt. Regardless, he overplayed it and it cost the Redskins yards.