Week 7: Game Balls and Gassers
The bye week came at a good time for me, too. I need to pay some bills and do some serious laundry. But I didn’t forget about Game Balls and Gassers for Washington’s Monday night loss to Philadelphia. Here is my recap of the Redskins’ best and worst performances from the game, in addition to some general observations I made when watching the game on DVR.
* The Redskins’ best offensive play was the bootleg with Campbell rolling right and throwing to the tight end. They ran this play, or a close variation, four times and moved the ball well. Recall the first plays of each half. Fred Davis also dropped a touchdown on it. It fooled Philadelphia’s defenders a couple times and was a change of pace from an offense that is too often predictable.
* I love Philadelphia’s blitzing defense. I think the Redskins-and every team for that matter-should play defense like that. But what do I know? Obviously it looks great when a team is blitzing against a poor offensive line. The Eagles created some big-time protection problems by overloading one side of the line with pass-rushers. That forced the Redskins’ running backs to make tough, split-second decisions about who to block. Philly also was fantastic in staggering its rushers, which caused communication problems that freed the second wave to come unblocked (the Will Witherspoon sack-fumble was a prime example). By my count, the Redskins blitzed six players only once, and Donovan McNabb had to throw the ball away out of his own end zone on the play.
* Philly only blitzed four rushers on Witherspoon’s interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter. They brought seven to the line but dropped three. The Redskins still couldn’t block it.
* How many times did ESPN’s broadcast team note that play-calling wasn’t the Redskins’ problem? 10? …I’m sure that was one of Jon Gruden’s lasting impressions.
* The Redskins have now gone two straight games without forcing a turnover. Their sacks have improved from last season, but it’s not resulting in takeaways. Philly’s pass rush, on the other hand, did.
* I counted two seven-step drops by Jason Campbell that resulted in sacks. Those plays are designed to go deep, but he didn’t have time to get the ball off.
* Jeremy Jarmon played a lot in place of Phillip Daniels in the second half. I’m not sure Daniels even got on the field after halftime. I know Daniels wasn’t happy about his reduced role afterward. It’s worth following up on. Remember that Daniels is playing with a torn biceps, but this might be a sign that the Redskins are going to give Jarmon some playing time to bring him along with the season already lost.
* I was really impressed by Philadelphia’s blocking even though the Redskins defensive line did some damage. The Eagles’ offensive linemen were big, fast and punishing-which is clearly not the case with Washington. The Redskins’ offensive linemen were on their heels the entire game. After five straight weeks of watching terrible offenses, I forgot what it’s like to watch a team regularly pick up its assignments.
* Pass protection was the key to the Redskins’ first touchdown. Jason Campbell had time to pump to Santana Moss short, which drew the defense away from Devin Thomas in the back of the end zone. See what some pass protection can do?
DE Andre Carter: Who are you and what have you done with Andre Carter? He already has 6.5 sacks after recording only four all of last season! Some of this is the benefit of playing alongside Albert Haynesworth, who Philadelphia frequently double-teamed. Carter’s offseason training is also paying dividends. And it’s more than just increased speed. He’s stronger and more agile. He bounces up from cut-blocks with ease, and he is shedding run blockers with greater frequency. He made an awesome tackle of Michael Vick after shoving aside Eagles TE Brent Celek. Carter has been fun to watch.
DT Albert Haynesworth: Haynesworth was a force once again. I saw Philadelphia frequently blocking him with two players. He also managed a sack in the second half, and his hustle in tackling LeSean McCoy on a fourth-quarter draw played erased any questions about his effort on this night.
TE Fred Davis (the receiver): Davis capitalized on increased playing time with Chris Cooley sidelined. He was quick and athletic down the field. On one play late in the third quarter, he turned a 5-yard catch into an 11-yard gain by dragging a pair of tacklers down the field. He caught his first NFL touchdown and redeemed himself for dropping a TD one play earlier. Davis understands the opportunity he now has with Cooley out.
LB Rocky McIntosh: He got significant pressure on Donovan McNabb both times I saw him blitz. He was aggressive and took sound angles in the run game. He made a quality tackle on Michael Vick in the third quarter.
RB Rock Cartwright: I was surprised by Cartwright’s burst on an 11-yard draw play on Washington’s first touchdown drive. I didn’t think he could accelerate like that. (Side note: that was a nicely designed play, with Ladell Betts leading the way out of a shotgun, 2-running back set). Cartwright also had a 42-yard kickoff return and a tremendous tackle on one of Philly’s.
K Shaun Suisham: The guy is still perfect this season. Nine-for-nine on field goals. He hit from 47 yards right before halftime. Whatever problems he had with his holder last season seem to be behind him.
QB Jason Campbell: Campbell was under serious heat for much of the night, and I credit him for gutting it out despite an injured ankle that he suffered on the fourth play of the game. But I saw the same problems that have plagued Campbell all season. He was inaccurate on some throws and left some big plays on the field because of indecisiveness and poor decision-making. Late in the second quarter, he had Santana Moss on a pump-and-go down the left sideline. The pump fake freed Moss, but Campbell went to Antwaan Randle El. Why?!? Stick with the play and that could have been a touchdown. Ball security is also a huge issue. He doesn’t get all the blame because the blocking in front of him was unacceptable, but Campbell dropped a shotgun snap. That can’t happen.
PR Antwaan Randle El: Randle El does not have big-play potential. He’s in this role for his steadiness catching the ball. So if he fumbles, which he did on Monday, he’s worthless. Randle El’s muffed punt was one of the three biggest plays of the game. The Redskins had just scored to cut their deficit to 17-7, and then the defense held Philly to a three-and-out. But instead of getting the ball back to build on that momentum, Randle El fielded the punt off his face. Eagles recover. Bye-bye momentum. …look for Santana Moss and DeAngelo Hall to shoulder more punt return responsibilities during the second half of the season. The Redskins have nothing to lose at this point.
TE Fred Davis (the blocker): Wow, he was bad. He gave up two sacks, including one that pushed the Redskins out of field goal range in the fourth quarter. And how about Jon Gruden’s quote on the ESPN broadcast: "Someone has got to keep him out of the pass protection part of this offense." Ha! That’s not exactly feasible with Chris Cooley sidelined. Davis’s run blocking was just as poor. He gets no push. He has a loooooong way to go to. At least he recognizes it. That’s a start. As the Redskins play out the string, let’s keep an eye on whether Davis improves his blocking, shall we? At this point, it’s about building for the future.
RG Will Montgomery: Everyone up front contributed to the offensive line debacle, but I thought Montgomery, in particular, stood out for his poor play. He rarely, if ever, pushed his man back. At best, he produced a few stalemates. At other times he was dominated and seemed lost. Philadelphia’s linemen really capitalized on their size and strength advantage against him. He and center Casey Rabach allowed too great a surge on Philadelphia’s first-quarter interception return for a touchdown. Montgomery also was flagged for holding.
LT Stephon Heyer: Beating a dead horse here, so I’ll be brief. Trent Cole abused him, as expected. Heyer gets beat too easily inside. He also committed two holding penalties.
RT Mike Williams: His crushing block on a screen pass to Devin Thomas in the fourth quarter was impressive. He showed an ability to move laterally and make a play in space. Beyond that, it was ugly. Williams was off-balance too frequently and he struggled to keep up with the Eagles’ speed rushers. I still think he’s doing a better job at RT than Heyer did.
C Casey Rabach: He didn’t sufficiently block Eagles safety Quintin Mikell in the first quarter when Mikell blitzed and tipped a pass into the air. It was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Rabach also botched a snap on fourth and goal from the 4 in the fourth quarter by snapping it as if Jason Campbell were under center. Campbell was in the shotgun, and the ball never got to him.
CB Carlos Rogers: He didn’t run with Jackson on the 57-yard touchdown pass on third and 23 late in the second quarter. And what was up with his backpedaling on DeSean Jackson’s end-around touchdown run? Jeremy Maclin practically blocked him for 50 yards. Rogers has got to fight around Maclin more aggressively or at least stand Maclin up to block Jackson’s progress and force him back inside or out of bounds.
FS LaRon Landry: Landry, like several other Redskins, appeared to underestimate Jackson’s speed on Jackson’s 67-yard touchdown run on the game’s first series. Landry was fooled by the fake handoff to the running back and got sucked away from the sideline. He lost contain when he came up to the line of scrimmage too hard on a bad angle. Jackson’s speed did the rest.