Monday, August 22, 2011

Game Recap: Redskins at Colts Pre-Season Week 2

(Without Peyton Manning, the Colts aren't much. AP Photo via

Before I even start the game recap, I have to add some significant caveats to this article. First, is that the Colts are generally horrible in the pre-season. They are much like  the Joe Gibbs 1.0 Redskins in that they show very little and look very ugly in pre-season games. Then, they go on and win their division in the regular season. Second, is that without Peyton Manning, the Colts are a pretty awful team. It even seems to work that way even for their defense. It's like the Colts are willed to greatness just by the power of Peyton Manning's mind.
(Play well my teammates or I will destroy you with my mind!!!! via)
Third, is that the Colts have been and probably will still be a horrible run defensive team. That's unless Bob Sanders is playing. Since he's now a Charger, expect the Colts to be one of the worst run Ds in the league this year. That said, the Redskins starters had a pretty convincing win against the Colts starters in the 16-3 victory. The Colts defensively are a smaller, faster unit that runs the Cover 2/Tampa 2 zone, so it would offer the Redskins more variation and challenge compared to the Steelers 3-4 (Remember, the Skins now run a 3-4 and if anything it's very similar to the Steelers 3-4 in scheme and philosophy. So, the Skins O has seen this scheme day in, day out since camp started). Let's see how they fared. Obviously, based on the Colts lack of offense, there's not much to talk about on the defensive side of the ball. This article will be mostly focused on John Beck and the Redskins O.

The lone TD in the game came on the 'Skins opening drive. The Skins broke loose with a huge Tim Hightower run of 58yards. That led to a Beck pass to Jabar Gaffney for 19 yards (just a foot shy of a TD) and eventually a run by Hightower for the TD on 3rd and goal. After that, the Redskins were inept in the Red Zone and were forced to kick 3 FGs. The Colts on the other hand never even got into the Red Zone. Their sole score was on a 55 yard FG by future HOFer Adam Vinatieri. Obviously, you don't care about the final score. What you care about is individual play and unit performances. Most importantly, you care about JOhn Beck and how he looked. Well, let's break his performance down.

John Beck Watch
Beck was 14/17 for 140 yards. He had a 101.0 rating and was sacked three times. Look, it's hard to say what Beck will be in the regular season based on one half of a pre-season game. That said, he looked good in certain situations and he needs to work on other elements. Here's what I liked from Beck. He is elusive. He has good mobility and can run a bootleg well (key for this scheme). Beck seems to make good decisions. It's not just that he knows where his receivers will be, but he knows when to get the ball to them. He also knows when not to throw the ball at them and when to just throw the ball away (this is Grossman's main problem). He hit most of his passes in stride (one exception was a 3rd and short pass to Terrence Austin, where he threw behind him. Austin made the catch, but was short of the 1st down.) and had good timing with his receivers (great example was on a 3rd and long and hit Anthony Armstrong on a curl/come back route for the 1st. In previous years, the pass would be short by the QB and the Skins would fail to convert). Beck made some very nice plays in the pocket with his feet to extend the play. In one situation, Beck felt pressure on his blind side. He stepped up into the pocket and then slid to his left (now that the DE was well out of his way) and found an open Donte' Stallworth for a 23 yard catch and run. Beck also had enough speed to roll out on some bootlegs and run for a 1st down when needed. Beck appeared to run through his progressions and did look down field but didn't force the ball into the zone and took what the Colts gave him. The lone time I was convinced that Beck was going to go deep, he was forced to scramble and eventually sacked.

I didn't have that many concerns about other than that he needs to improve upon his play action fakes. On about 3 occasions, Beck faked the hand off to Hightower and Helu and it was clear that the defense read the fake. Thus, the LBs didn't bite on the fake and could drop back into coverage. In one instance LB Gary Brackett read the fake and was able to deflect ball (I believe this was Beck's 4th pass). I also have concerns about Beck overestimating his running ability. Beck is no Mike Vick, Steve Young, John Elway or young Donovan McNabb. He moves well but I think there will be a few times he will get run down by a fast OLB or DE. Just in this brief view, I do believe that Beck is the better option at QB than Grossman. It's solely based on Beck's mobility and decision making. I still think Grossman has a stronger arm, but we didn't see much of Beck's arm. Maybe we'll see it this week. Beck reminds me of a former Redskin's QB but I'll get to that later in the article.

Rookie Watch

Time to look at our 2011 draft picks and a few UDFAs and see how they did.

Ryan Kerrigan-  (1 tackle, 1 sack). Kerrigan looks like he's getting the pass rushing skill at OLB down. Had some good explosion and looked better than the previous week. Got his first NFL sack and in the process, we got to see how fast this kid is. Hard to rate how he is improving in coverage though.

Jarvis Jenkins-  Got his first start and did well. Jenkins needs to improve upon getting low every play. That said, he is very tough to stop when he is the lower man and generated a great deal of pressure in collapsing the pocket. The Skins didn't see much pocket collapses in 2010. Expect to see a great deal more of this in 2011.

Leonard Hankerson- Tied the team for most amount of catches (3) and led the team in total reception yards (46). I see the potential. Still has drop issues. Looks much better at this point of his career than Devin Thomas did. I think he makes the team with no problems. I'm still a major supporter of Hankerson.

Roy Helu- (14 carries, 101 yards; 4 catches, 23 yards) Didn't get to see enough of Helu last week. This week we got to see what this kid can do and man he looks great. I knew about the speed, but his toughness and breaking tackles for extra yards was impressive. Still,  I think he has a long way to go in pass blocking (John Keim of The Examiner notes that he keeps dropping his head) but as a weapon, this kid could be a serious force.

Dejon Gomes- ( 2 tackles, 1 solo). Not as many wow plays as last week, but I didn't see any glaring mistakes either.

Niles Paul-  I saw one pass thrown well behind him. Outside of that, I'm not sure he was thrown at during the game. Good run blocking. Returned some punts but didn't do much with them.

Evan Royster- I don't think he took a single carry. Was out on special teams though.

Aldrick Robinson-  Was he even on the field this week?

Brandyn Thompson-  Granted it was against 2nd and 3rd teamers, but his man coverage looked good. Nice job of getting inside position, making a nice leap and holding on for the INT. Worth developing.

Maurice Hurt- Struggled. Lost his balance at times. He has a long way to go. I assuming he goes the practice squad route to develop.

Markus White- Didn't really see him this week.

Chris Neild- Got a lot of playing time this week. Again, didn't look bad, didn't look spectacular. Another player worth developing probably on the practice squad.

Willie Smith (UDFA)- Still looked pretty good out there. I think he has potential and should be at worst a practice squad addition.

Time for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The Good

John Beck- (See breakdown above). Hasn't proved the doubters wrong yet, but didn't prove them right tonight. Looked good and I want to see more of him. At this point, I think Beck is on the fast track to be the Redskins starter week 1. Also spread the ball to 10 different receivers.

Tim Hightower- (6 carries, 70 yards; 1 TD 1 catch, 7 yards). 2 weeks in a row. 0 fumbles and a exceptional YPC.

The D- Held the Colts to 150 total yards. Less than 100 yards passing (95 yards). Less than 60 yards rushing (55 yards). Yes, the Colts are horrible but that's still an accomplishment.

Lorenzo Alexander- (1 tackle, 1 sack). Looked much more explosive at OLB in this game than he ever did in 2010.

Byron Westbrook- had some nice coverage/deflections. At this point I think he makes the team as the 5th DB/ special teams player.

Darrion Scott- Granted it was against backups, be he was all around the ball and making plays. Can the Redskins find a way to keep him?

Graham Gano- Perfect on FGs and XPs. Every kick wet into the endzone. Pretty sure he'll be the Redskins kicker when all is said and done.

Terrence Austin- (3 catches, 23 yards; 4 punts for 44 yards). Did ok on punt returns but made some nice catches when playing WR. Needs to work on his blocking, but could make this team at this point.

The Bad

Trent Williams- It's one thing to be beaten by Dwight Freeney (still isn't good), but to be beaten by backup John Chick for a sack is unacceptable. Williams really struggled in pass protection in this game. He'll have to improve upon his technique against speed rushers.

Rex Grossman- Didn't have a bad game, but didn't look great. Granted it was with the second team squad. What's worse is that by John Beck having a good game, it's likely he won't be the starter come week one.

O-line- Gave up 4 sacks. Run blocking didn't seem as crisp as the previous week. Also the O-line plays well in lateral stretch plays, but really struggles when it comes to pushing a D-line backwards.

Red Zone Efficiency- 1/4 in this game 2/9 in two games. This could be a serious problem. Obviously the Redskins are working on it.

The Ugly

I hope that the Redskins start using Fred Davis more in the Red Zone- When Cooley was injured in 2009, Davis became a major Red Zone target. Logan Paulsen could also be an option. This is why the Skins hoped that Malcom Kelly could get on the field. But he can't and he's gone.

The O-line still seems to be a concern to me- Will Montgomery is still a better fit than Casey Rabach, but he has good and bad moments. When they are bad, they seem to be really bad. draftees Selvish Capers, Erik Cook and Maurice Hurt haven't done much. The Skins really need to continue the upgrades on the O-line both in depth and possibly at starter.

It was hard to judge how good or bad CBs Kevin Barnes, Byron Westbrook and Reggie Jones truly are- The Colts did nothing to test them or safeties Reed Doughty and Chris Horton. That said, things have to be looking grim for Kareem Moore. I've got to think either he gets put on the IR, gets extended to the season PUP (thus missing the first six games) or getting cut outright. With LaRon Landry still on the PUP it's possible the Skins may keep another safety like Anderson Russell until either can play.

Can Mike Sellers make the final roster- Sellers has a hard time making this roster when the Skins will only keep 3 TEs (probably) and has been replaced at FB by both Darrel Young and Keiland Williams. That said, Sellers is getting a great deal of playing time. Either the Skins are not confident about Chris Cooley's knee or maybe the Skins are giving Sellers time as potential trade bait.

We got to see the Redskins Broadcast Network's 2nd stringers- And man was that bad, Doc Walker's mic failed multiple times. Both Mike Patrick and Doc seemed to be overly homeristic. Doc is a great play by play announcer though. Again, I love Charles Mann and his history with the Skins but that was pretty horrific. Heck, let's bring Dexter Manley to do sideline reporting. It would be entertaining for sure. I miss Kenny Albert/Joe Theisman with Doc doing the sideline reporting.

Is it just me or does John Beck remind you of Mark Brunell- I mean that as a compliment. His decision making and ability to move and find open players is similar. Is Beck an elite QB? Probably not. But he can win games and make plays just like Brunell did.

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