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Thoughts From Redskins vs. Saints

Robert Griffin III has arrived on the scene, and what a spectacular entrance he made.

But this isn’t all about RGIII and what he was able to do (which we’ll get to momentarily), it was about the Washington Redskins after everyone in the world of analyzing our team from the outside predicted we’d win only 2 or 3 games. Well, now those same analysts are ignoring that the Redskins’ depleted, garbage secondary couldn’t hang with your average offense, let alone the best offense in the league. Those same analysts are maintaining the Redskins are a 2-3 win team, only now, one of the losses has to come against a team they were almost sure we would beat before.

The fact is, the Redskins exploited the Saints’ defense. Sure, there were grumblings that the Saints could stop the Redskins offense, because the offensive line just wasn’t good, and the receivers aren’t a real threat beyond Pierre Garcon, and the running game couldn’t be effective because the backs aren’t able to stay healthy and Morris is a rookie, but the fact of the matter is, when lining up, either the Saints were terrible or the Redskins were just that good. I’ll go with the Redskins being just that good, and I’ll explain why.

This year’s Redskins aren’t the same as years prior. This isn’t a demotivated Donovan McNabb. This isn’t an incapable Rex Grossman. This isn’t an incompetent John Beck. This is Robert Griffin III, who throws his receivers open, plays with poise, makes great decisions, can make every throw accurately, and can beat you with his legs if he has to.

Add in Kyle Shanahan’s gameplan and play-calling in situations where we needed to be conservative or aggressive, and we see exactly what we saw yesterday… a powerhouse of a performance from the Redskins’ offense.

Defensively, the front 7 stifled the Saints all day. An offensive line filled with all-pros were dominated from the first possession onwards. The front 7 made life difficult for the Saints, forcing 3-and-out after 3-and-out against the far and away best team in the league last year at avoiding 3-and-out’s. Passed were batted, Brees was pressured, blitzes were executed, and dropbacks into coverage were disguised well enough to confuse one of the game’s best.

The secondary played their hearts out, limiting yards after the catch and attacking the football every pass. They also blitzed and tackled extremely well.

I’ve got 2 key plays to the game yesterday. 1 from offense, and 1 from defense. On offense, Griffin III’s 28-yard bomb to Fred Davis was the most exciting play. Yes, even more than Griffin III-Garcon for an 88-yard TD. On the play, the Redskins ran a bootleg to the left with RG3 and he got out towards the left sideline. Pressure got to him, he avoided it, turned back to step towards the center of the field, threw all the way across the field dead-on to Davis on the sideline for a huge gain. The play illustrated exactly how athletic, aware, and capable RG3 is. An honorable mention was a long-pass to Santana Moss for a first down, again a bootleg to the left. Griffin had room to run for an easy first down, but he elected to set his feet, take a shot while he was throwing, and hit Moss for more yards. I assure you, he’s not a running quarterback, just a quarterback who can run!

On defense, the play of the game was DeJon Gomes’ interception of Drew Brees which he returned to the 1 to set up Alfred Morris for his second touchdown of the day. Gomes played very well all day long save for a personal foul early on and a pass interference a little later. But when the team needed someone to make a play, Gomes was there to make an impact and help seal the game. On the play, he read the underneath route, recognized the corner had solid coverage, kept in his zone, saw Brees fire the ball, caught it, and then showed off the ability to make a return.

Now for 5 players who played well on each side of the ball.

Offense:

1. Robert Griffin III – Duh. He threw about as well as you could ask, starting the game 8-8 with a touchdown and 100+ yards. His throw to Garcon was a perfect strike after recognizing a breakdown in coverage and leading Garcon into open field. Griffin constantly made timely throws to beat the pressure. He threw two risky passes, one in the endzone trying to force it in, and one down the sideline which was more a better play by the DB to break it up than it was Griffin throwing uncontrollably. The kid looks to be for real.

2. Pierre Garcon – The opening drive, he took catch after catch and chipped away at the Saints’ defense. The long ball, he had to leap to bring it in, and then used his speed on a bad wheel after being put out of for a few plays on the first drive with an injury to his arm. Pierre didn’t return after the long TD, but he did his part to set the tone and showed people he can be worth the money invested.

3. Aldrick Robinson – When Garcon went down, Robinson was called up to play a large role, and he didn’t disappoint. He ran excellent routes, made some very good catches, secured the ball, and got yards after the catch.

4. Alfred Morris – The rookie didn’t do much to really wow people or make highlights, but he chipped away at the Saints defense, made some nifty moves for a power back, and fell forward every play. His two touchdowns were purely effort and there was plenty to be excited about.

5. Trent Williams – I think there was one penalty on Trent, but his play was outstanding. He blocked extremely well on the pass, he got upfield on screens, and he was a mauler in the run game.

Defense:

1. Steven Bowen – Nobody played harder than Bowen yesterday. He got pressure almost non-stop, got his hands up to bat pass after pass, and was a solid tackler all day long. All the people who questioned if he was worth what he got, yesterday supports his case.

2. DeAngelo Hall – It’s almost unbelievable to say, but Hall looked to be one of our best players on the field yesterday. He did an excellent job in coverage, jammed well, made sound tackles, and was excellent on the blitz (got himself a sack).

3. DeJon Gomes – Aside from his penalties, Gomes showed up to play. He was aggressive, and with that being a part of what was missing at times last year, it’s nice to have seen aggression out of him. He played responsibly to his zones, and was excellent in the box when assigned to move up. Made sure tackles most of the game.

4. Cedric Griffin – Now this one, I don’t believe. Griffin seemed like the weak point on this defense to me for the entire preseason. But he stepped on the field yesterday and played tremendously in coverage and found himself in position to break up pass after pass.

5. London Fletcher – I would have given this spot to the entire LB corps if I could have, but I have to give it to Fletcher. He was asked to cover Jimmy Graham most of the day, and for most of the day, he did a good job of making plays. Of course, Graham got his numbers (as he always does) but Fletcher was a beast. He even ran down Darren Sproles from mid-field to the sideline before the ball arrived and made a helluva stop on the goal line.

 

A few things I want to complain about. I do this when we lose, it’s only fair I do it when we win.

Fred Davis seemed a bit too rushed at times, like he was trying to make plays that weren’t there to be made. Davis needs to settle down some, and that will open up the big plays for him.

Kory Lichtensteiger needs to work hard this week, limit his penalties (a couple costly holds) and keep to his assignment. Too often a free rusher barged through the line right through Kory’s spot. Chipping Trent’s blocks is unnecessary because Trent can hold his own.

Madieu Williams might have been the most costly player on the field yesterday. There were a couple late hits that allowed drives to continue and Williams needs to cut back on how aggressive he is.

Special Teams, especially Danny Smith. I’ve seen the Redskins blocking decline year after year under Danny Smith. Banks’ blocking on kick returns and punt returns is virtually non-existent. The line can’t block for punts or field goals. On top of that, adjustments aren’t made. While we may have one of the top punt units and kick coverage units in the league, the Redskins fail in all other aspects of special teams. It’s time for Danny Smith to be held accountable, and kicked out of the door if he can’t get things right fast.

 

One last thing I noticed that I loved is that Jim Haslett has continued where he left off last year playing Orakpo and Kerrigan on the same side of the field at times, usually in a dime package with Kerrigan lined up in the traditional 4-3 DT spot, but also in a prowl package with both standing over the tackle on whichever side they line up. It has produced positive results for the duo every time, leading to pressures, hits, and sacks. Speaking of which, Ryan Kerrigan threw up the Diamond, or Roc, after sacking Drew Breesus, and that was the most awesome pose of the day for the Redskins aside from RG3 Griffining.

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