Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Week 3: Game Balls and Gassers
My recap of the Redskins’ best and worst performances from their 19-14 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
Not many to go around after this one…
WR Santana Moss: It took him three games to consisently get open, but he finally did it. It’s obviously imperative for this offense. His 10 catches and 178 receiving yards will go down as a footnote in this embarrassing loss. His 57-yard touchdown catch from QB Jason Campbell was the perfect start to the second half. He was targeted 14 times. The second-most was Chris Cooley’s five targets. Think Jim Zorn wanted to get Moss involved?
P Hunter Smith: Smith did his best to help out Washington’s maligned defense. Four of his five punts stuck Detroit inside its own 20. He averaged 45.4 net yards per punt–an outstanding clip. What an upgrade from past years. His season net average of 40.3 ranks 14th in the NFL.
SS Reed Doughty: I haven’t tallied the participation stats yet, but Doughty again made the most of his playing time on defense. Two of his four solo tackles resulted in a loss of yards for Detroit. He’s playing aggressively and disciplined in the run game. He gave up a reception to TE Will Heller that resulted in a first down early in the third quarter after looking into the backfield for too long. Still, having him back healthy has been a bright spot so far this season.
RB Rock Cartwright: Boy, I’m reaching with this one. Cartwright was flagged for an illegal block on a punt return, and normally that would prevent someone from receiving such a high honor as my game ball. But Cartwright came in late and caught an important touchdown pass despite getting few reps with the offense in practice. For a guy that’s buried on the depth chart, that was an important contribution. If I had told you before the season that Cartwright and Smith each would have more touchdowns through three games than Clinton Portis, you probably could have predicted Sunday’s loss.
RT Stephon Heyer: We’re seeing why the Redskins believe that Mike Williams, who signed in April as a 450-pounder who hadn’t played an NFL snap in three years, could start at some point. Heyer has been a liability at right tackle in both the run game and pass protection. It seems that Jason Campbell is to the point where he’s getting jittery any time he drops back because he’s expecting the right side of the line to break down. On Campbell’s interception, Heyer slid down the line when Detroit’s LDE and LDT stunted, and that allowed LB Jordon Dizon to come off the left edge unblocked.
TE Chris Cooley: Cooley was quieter in the passing game this week (3 rec, 38 yards) with Moss having a big day. But he gets a gasser for his ineffective block on the fourth-and-goal run from the 1-yard line in the first quarter. I guess if a bad block on that play was the criteria for earning a gasser, I could hand out about five or six more. But I’m using this to point out how Cooley’s run blocking is an area in which he needs to improve. I know he’s in the game on that play to make the defense think pass, but gosh, he got stood up at the point of attack because his man was quicker off the ball than he was. It really hurt Portis’s chances of reaching the end zone.
SS Chris Horton: Horton’s pass interference on third-and-9 with 6:10 to go was one of the decisive plays in the game. And I agreed with the call. He lost sight of WR Bryant Johnson when QB Matthew Stafford started to scramble, and he got himself out of position by moving too close to the line of scrimmage. He was late recovering and it caused him to crash into Johnson before the ball arrived. I thought it was an easy call for the refs. Horton was a hero in crunch time vs. St. Louis, but this was just a bad play at a very inopportune moment.
CB Carlos Rogers: With the Redskins’ secondary devoting most of their attention to Calvin Johnson, Rogers did not do well matched up against Bryant Johnson. He didn’t get his head turned in time to thwart an excellent back-shoulder throw from Matthew Stafford on the Lions’ first TD. B. Johnson had four catches for 73 yards.
DT Kedric Golston: Golston played extensively with Cornelius Griffin and Albert Haynesworth banged up in the game, and he didn’t make much of a positive impact. He jumped offsisdes when the Lions had first-and-10 at their own 1 in the first quarter. He was a non-factor against the run overall, and he generated very little push against the Lions’ interior linemen. Detroit tailback Kevin Smith had 101 yards on only 16 carries.
DE Andre Carter: He lost contain in the run game on a couple of well-designed misdirection plays. He generated some occasional pressure on Stafford, but it wasn’t sufficient or consistent enough to rattle the rookie QB.
Def. Coord. Greg Blache: The Lions were 9-of-12 on third downs in the first half. The Redskins have allowed opponents to convert a league-worst 51 percent of third downs. Something has to change, whether it’s rushing Brian Orakpo around the edge instead of looping him inside (he got his sack Sunday around the edge), or bringing more than just four pass rushers. Part of it is on the players. But if you’re gonna hammer Jim Zorn for the offense’s woes, Blache can’t be immune.
HC Jim Zorn: Sigh. I’ll try not to pile on here, but I have a few thoughts. Forget for a minute the backfired decisions to go for it on fourth down and to accept the offensive pass interference penalty in the first quarter. My biggest question is why Zorn opts not to establish the run before all else. I’m getting this Spurrier vibe with his insistence on passing. I’m not sure if he feels that he has to prove his offensive scheme can be effective, the way Spurrier did. I asked him about this after the Rams game and he said it’s what the defense is giving the Redskins. But the Redskins are never going to win by rushing only five times in the first half of a game.
Against the Rams last week, I believe the first-half run-pass play-call ratio was 8-26. This week it was 5-13. That’s not a winning formula for the way this team is built. It also kills Washington in the time of possession battle. Now, I understand that the offensive line is–how should I put this?–not capable of dominating games. But neither is Jason Campbell or Washington’s receiving corps. You saw what a run-first approach does in the second half. A run for 12 yards sets up play action on a 57-yard TD pass. In my humble opinion, that’s how the Redskins will win going forward.
As for the fourth-and-goal run, I’m wondering why the Redskins haven’t tried any bootlegs or similar misdirection in goal-to-go situations. The decision not to decline the offensive pass interference later in the first quarter was bad in hindsight. But it was not Zorn’s biggest failure in the game. Far from it.
…Did I miss anyone? There were a lot of subpar performances, for sure. Let me know who else deserves a Game Ball or Gasser.