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 11: Game Balls, Gassers and Observations
Here’s my recap of the best and worst performances from Sunday’s 7-6 loss to Dallas. I didn’t give as many game balls or gassers out this week because fewer players stood out–for better or worse–in this one. I’ve also included some random observations for you at the end.
QB Jason Campbell: I won’t say that this was Campbell’s best game of the season because he didn’t throw a touchdown pass. But he played with a poise and toughness that I had not yet seen from him this season. He stood strong against Dallas’ blitz and delivered some key throws on a couple third downs. He put some touch on a first-quarter floater to Rock Cartwright in the left flat on third-and-2. He also made an impressive checkdown to Malcolm Kelly for a 36-yard gain in the face of a third-down blitz in the third quarter. He was perfect on 11 third-down pass attempts.
RB Rock Cartwright: He’s a consummate pro, and he proved it by how capably he in filled in for Ladell Betts. His 140 yards from scrimmage were a career-high. He showed an ability to make defenders miss when running in the open field. He also had a nice 29-yard catch-and-run to beat a third-quarter blitz. Cartwright knows he can improve his pass protection, but he is setting a good example with his attitude and play during some adverse times.
FS LaRon Landry: Dallas struggled to move the ball through the air for most of the game because QB Tony Romo was woefully inaccurate. But Landry had one of his best games patrolling the secondary. He maintained his responsibilities and doled out some hits in the second quarter. He’s lucky he wasn’t flagged for taunting in the second quarter. But after a couple of bad games against both the run and the pass, he was much better.
WR Devin Thomas: He broke two tackles on his 38-yard kickoff return to start the second half. I’d like to see more of him in this role, and he’ll get the chance with Cartwright serving as the featured back for the time being. For the second straight week, he also showed an ability to gain tough yards after the catch. Now, if he could get back in the end zone…
K Shaun Suisham: He was due for a miss or two after entering the game perfect on field goals for the season. They came at the worst time, though. Did you read Jim Zorn’s lips after Suisham missed from 50 yards in the fourth quarter? First time I’ve ever seen or heard the Z-Man use a cuss word.
LT Levi Jones: Jones had a lot of trouble with Dallas DE DeMarcus Ware. He committed a false start, and Ware beat him to flush Jason Campbell from the pocket on the game-ending interception. This is one of those situations where it’s a bit unfair to blame Jones, though. You have to blame the front office for needing to resort to a guy who was unemployed five weeks ago. This goes back to the failure to draft a quality left tackle to serve as Chris Samuels’ successor. Jones struggled to match Ware’s speed. We spoke to him on Monday, and he knows he must improve before his December rematch against Ware.
RT Stephon Heyer: Perhaps Heyer really is better suited on the left side. He committed two false starts on the same drive and could have been flagged for a third later in the game if the refs didn’t choose to give it to Jones. He struggled in the run game at times, especially sealing off the backside of the play.
LB Rocky McIntosh: He dropped an easy interception in the first quarter. It would have given Washington’s point-starved offense the ball deep in Dallas territory. That was such a crucial missed opportunity. McIntosh had a nice tackle to stuff the Cowboys on a third-and-2 in the second half, but he also surrendered two completions to TE Jason Witten on Dallas’ touchdown drive.
DT Kedric Golston: Golston was overpowered several times by double teams inside. Dallas gashed the Redskins up the middle early in the game. Those double teams are normally meant for Albert Haynesworth, who can withstand them better because of his superior strength and size. Amazingly, Golston started and did not register a defensive statistic.
RG Chad Rinehart: I don’t want to pile on a guy who broke his ankle and is out for the year. I’ll just say that I believe he played poorly. The injury is a huge setback for him because he loses a chance to put himself on game film for the next coaching staff. He’ll enter the offseason with more negative momentum than positive.
TE Fred Davis: He committed a false start in the red zone, which is such a killer with this offense. He also did not make a positive impact with his run- or pass-blocking.
***Several players had such mixed performances that I didn’t want to put them in either category. But they’re worth noting:
-LB London Fletcher: He made a positive impact with a forced fumble and interception. But he also dropped an interception and struggled when Dallas’ offensive linemen got to the second level in the first half. Fletcher also was beaten by WR Patrick Crayton for the winning touchdown.
-CB DeAngelo Hall: Hall played through a sprained knee and helped keep Dallas’ passing game quiet. He recovered a fumble early, the play on which he hurt his knee. He also had a nice tackle of Felix Jones on a run to the outside. Still, he gave up two big completions on Dallas’ touchdown drive.
-DT Cornelius Griffin: Griffin had a nice sack in the fourth quarter after he got inside his man and used his strength to bully his way to Tony Romo. But he, like the rest of the Redskins, struggled against Dallas’ powerful run blockers.
-RG Edwin Williams: He played OK in some emergency fill-in duty. There were some mistakes, though, as you’d expect. He was beaten on a stunt that led to Jason Campbell getting drilled.
…onto some notes and observations:
*Love it or hate it, the Greg Blache’s conservative pass rush was on full display on Dallas’ 9-play touchdown drive. Eight times the Redskins rushed only four. The other play they rushed only three. Romo had plenty of time to pick the Redskins apart.
*It seemed that Washington scrapped its single-back approach in favor of more I-formation. We saw Mike Sellers motioning from tight end to fullback quite a bit, and the Redskins usually ran behind him when he did that. It was quite predictable, but Sellers’ lead blocking was good. The offensive line is what broke down.
*Santana Moss finished with five catches for only 38 yards. He hasn’t scored since the Tampa Bay game in Week 4. Yikes.
*When Dallas had a third-and-6 from the Redskins’ 47 in the second quarter, both Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo dropped from the line of scrimmage after the snap. I understand wanting to show Dallas some varied looks, but I’m not sure why the Redskins would want to prevent their two best pass rushers from, you know, pass rushing.
*After DeAngelo Hall’s solid tackle of Felix Jones, did you hear Troy Aikman praising Hall for fitting the mold of hard-tackling corners? Did you laugh?
*Dallas’ longest play on offense went for only 23 yards. That’s a big improvement from what we saw from the Redskins defense in their previous three games.
*I was so impressed by how well the Cowboys run blocked. Their linemen were powerful. They effectively double-teamed the Redskins’ tackles and got to the linebackers with ease. You hardly ever saw one of their guys just whiff. Why are they in first place, again?
*The Redskins’ woeful offensive line continues to hamstring the Redskins play-callers. Not only did Zorn feel compelled to attempt a field goal on third-and-1 with no timeouts with 15 seconds left in the first half, they had to run a draw on third-and-2 in the fourth quarter to set up Shaun Suisham’s 50-yarder. The Redskins couldn’t risk the possibility of being pushed out of field goal range by a sack. The line simply hampers everything. It all starts there.