Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Game Recap: Giants/Redskins Week 1

(Remembering 9/11 and celebrating the return of football)
A solemn day in DC as the NFL and its fan bases of both the Redskins and Giants remember the events of 9/11/2001. After the opening ceremonies, including a coin toss with honorary Redskins captain Colin Powell, the Redskins began a game that surprised many who haven't watched the Redskins this pre-season or have known the recent history between the Giants and the Skins (Giants winning last 6 in a row). The game started with the Skins being rather flat (first 2 series) but later started moving the ball in both on the ground and in the air resulting in another Graham Gano missed FG. On the Redskins 4th offensive series, they score on Tim Hightower 1 yard run. Late in the 2nd quarter, the Redskins scored on a fade from Grossman to Anthony Armstrong while running a two minute drill. This was very impressive for a team that has been notorious for not being able to score when they need a score. The half ended with both teams in a dead heat tied 14-14.

The play of the game took place in the 3rd quarter, when Ryan Kerrigan tips an Eli Manning pass, catches it and runs for a score.

Of course the touchdown was cool and a game breaker for the Giants but what I personally enjoyed was how Kerrigan got to the point of being able to tip the ball.

 On the play, the Giants are reading that the Skins are bringing pressure with a blitz. To counter that, Eli Manning audibles to his WR and will throw a short, quick pass. The RT (Kareem Mckenzie) wants to do two things here. First is to prevent the guy he's blocking (Kerrigan) from getting to Manning before he gets the ball off. Second, is that he wants to keep Kerrigan's hands down since the ball is going past (or just above) the defender. It looks like the Skins had a good read on what the Giants were trying to do (note that the corner started to creep up expecting the shorter pass) and Kerrigan also seemed to read what McKenzie was planning. When McKenzie tries to chop block Kerrigan (usually, if successful, the chop at worst keeps a player off balance; thus achieving the above goals), instead of losing his footing Kerrigan uses his long arms to block the chop block and preventing the tackle from taking out his legs. Now Kerrigan can get his hands up to deflect Manning's pass. The rest is just a bonus to a rookie who made a verteran play in his first real pro game.

The 4th quarter for the 'Skins looked like it could be the beginning of the end as Rex Grossman is sacked and fumbles the ball. Redskin teams from previous years would have fallen apart. The defense would have failed to hold the Giants. The G-Men would have scored the tying TD and later go on to score and win the game. 2011 is a different year. The defense held, forcing the Giants to attempt a 38 yard FG. The Giants failed to score at all thanks to the ball being blocked by Brian Orakpo.

With the momentum clearly in the Redskins favor, Rex Grossman led the 'Skins on an almost six minute drive that resulted in a TD pass to Jabar Gaffney. Finally, the Redskins win a game by more than three points and the outcome has been long decided in their favor.

It was a good season opener and quite a feat to beat a team that has had the Redskins number for years, but there is some serious work for the Redskins to do in order for them to continue this success. Points of serious contention include the offensive line (very inconsistent and when they were bad they were really bad) and the secondary (most importantly the safety position).

It's hard to point a finger at one particular lineman because each one of them struggled at times. Chris Chester failed to hold blocks. Jamal Brown got pushed back often on both passing and run plays. Kory Lichtensteiger got owned on a few pass plays and couldn't help create lanes on some run plays. Will Montgomery struggled with his snaps to Grossman at times. Worst of all was Trent Williams. Williams arguably had his worst game as a pro in his short career. Jason Pierre-Paul beat him inside, beat him outside, beat him with speed and beat him with power. Williams was completely outmatched at times and it almost reminded me of recent LTs on the Redskins who didn't have the last name Samuels on their jersey.
There were times that the O-line did have some success keeping rushers off of Grossman and those drives led to Washington TDs. The run blocking must get better and Grossman will have to get sacked, hit and hurried less as the season progresses for the Skins to have any success.

I'll discuss more about the problems of the secondary in my Bad part of the article. Let's just say Reed Doughty didn't have a good day.

Time for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly........ (cue the music)

The Good 

Rex Grossman (21/34, 305 yards, 2 TDs; 110.5 QB rating) - Here's what I really liked about Grossman's performance: He made smart decisions. Better than last year, better than with the Texans. Light years better than what he did with the Bears. Grossman was sacked four times and at least two of them he took because he knew that throwing the ball would have been a mistake. Watching the game a second time showed Grossman seeing the rushers and that the best option was to be sacked. A younger Grossman would have forced a pass and probably thrown an interception. I also liked how Grossman found players wide open late in the 2nd quarter and fourth quarter. Multiple times Grossman found players sitting in a zone or down field wide open......then he made the completion. Was Grossman perfect? No. He threw some of his passes a bit high and was bailed out a few times by his WRs/TEs. But with exception of the lone fumble, Grossman did everything to help the team score and kept his mistakes to a minimal.

Tim Hightower (25 carries, 72 yards; 1 TD; 3 catches, 25 yards) - The numbers don't look that great, but I think it's fair to say that compared to the last few years, 72 yards isn't that bad a rushing performance for the Skins. The main reason Hightower is here is because he saved a touchdown by tackling Michael Boley after he recovered Grossman's fumble. The big run of 22 yards was a sign of hope for the Skins run game.

Santana Moss (6 catches, 76 yards; 22 LNG) - The only starting WR who didn't get a TD, but it doesn't really matter. Moss and Grossman have a good rhythm with each other and Moss seems to be the go to WR to get a key play (just like the 4th and 5 play). Moss is on pace to have another 90+ catch season.

Fred Davis (5 catches, 105 yards; 28 LNG) - Could Fred Davis take over as the Redskins starting TE at some point this season? It's possible. Although with the Skins running more 2 TE sets, it will be hard to differentiate who the starter is from the backup as both Davis and Cooley will see increased time. Davis looked like a different player out there. He did hurdle tacklers, he protected the ball and he made tough catches. I like what I'm seeing here.

Anthony Armstrong (2 catches, 24 yards, 1 TD; 18 LNG) - Made two amazing catches. My only gripe is that there was at least one ball that he didn't hold onto that I think he should of caught.

Jabar Gaffney (3 catches, 54 yards, 1 TD; 39 LNG) -  Two clutch catches that either put the Redskins in scoring position or scored a TD

The D Line - 4 sacks (Neild 2, Bowen 1, Carriker 1), holding the Giants to 75 yards on the ground and putting tons of pressure on Eli Manning is a key to shutting down an offense. Barry Cofield's push on the 4th and 1 stuff of Bradshaw is just a sign of how much better this D line has become. The Giants have constantly beaten the Redskins to death with the run that sets up play action for Manning. They had a hard time doing that on Sunday.

London Fletcher (8 tackles, 3 solo) - was all over the field as usual. Made more of an impact on QB pressure and a few sacks than what the stats are saying.

Sav Rocca (6 punts, net avg: 38.5, 4 inside 20, 56 LNG) - People don't realize how important field position was in this game. Large portion of that field position was due towards solid punts by Rocca. 4 punts inside the 20 and 0 toucbacks are crucial.

Brian Orakpo (3 tackles, 1 solo, blocked FG) - Hurt his ankle early in the game but still was able to make plays and help set up his teammates to get sacks. Still think he gets held way too much.

Ryan Kerrigan (5 tackles, 1 solo; 1 INT, 1TD) - Not a bad start for the rookie. Still needs to improve on pass coverage, but looks like he's adapting to the 3-4 well and possibly having an easier transition than Brian Orakpo.

Also a hat tip to DeAngelo Hall and Rocky McIntosh for some key tackles.

The Bad

O-Line - Inconsistent and spotty play led to sacks and a poor run performance (2.9 yards/carry). Grossman was hit way too much. There is a silver lining to this. At times the pass protection was excellent. When it was Grossman was able to make his passes. Just have to hope the run game improves. Skins are better than this.

Trent Williams - Gets his own spot here for his poor play. Of all the O-linemen, I expect the best from Williams. Yes, he's only in his 2nd year and yes Jason Pierre-Paul is a very talented player but Willaims really struggled out there. The lone fumble by Grossman was a direct result of a blown block by Williams on Pierre-Paul leading to the sack/fumble.

Graham Gano - Another short range FG missed after going 10/10 in the pre-season. It's just very frustrating.

Reed Doughty (10 tackles, 8 solo) - Reed "Is What He Is". He's a good special teamer, a solid core guy. He can play well in the box and usually is a good tackler. He tries to play coverage. He sometimes is okay, sometimes he's a major liability. On Sunday he was a liability.

Ryan Torain - Didn't get a single snap in this game.

The Ugly

- Despite struggling in the run game, the Redskins won the time of possession battle by about 5 minutes. The Redskins tended to move the ball down the field (much like they did in the preseason) and were hard to stop unless there was a key sack or penalty.

- The Skins were 3/4 in Red Zone scoring. A huge factor especially when the Skins have struggled with scoring in 2010 and in the pre-season.

- 3rd down conversions need to be better. Still a problem is that the Redskins were 5/15 (33%) in third down conversions. It was a problem in 2010 and looks like it's still an issue in 2011.

- That said, the Giants were worse. Giants were 1/10 in 3rd down conversions (10%). I'm not sure that the Skins in any 2010 game were that bad.

- FedEx Field was pretty loud despite a large Giant turnout. When we got to FedEx, we were surrounded by Giants fans in the parking lot. I think that there was maybe around 30% Giant faithful in the stands and yet FedEx got loud. Have we reached a new era in Redskins/FedEx Field history?

- Pessimism. Skins also won their opener last year to a rival in the NFCE. They went on to win only one more game at home for the remainder of the 2010 season.

Skins head into week 2: 1-0 (1st NFCE), 1-0 vs. NFC and 1-0 vs. NFCE. Good start so far.

Arizona is Next........

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