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 email@example.com.
Week 16: Game Balls, Gassers and Observations
My take on the best and worst performances from the Redskins’ 17-0 loss to Dallas on Sunday night, plus some observations from re-watching the game:
WR Santana Moss: Moss’s eight catches and 92 yards were his second-best totals in both categories this season. He was Washington’s only offensive weapon. He produced the Redskins’ longest play of the night out of nothing, a screen right that he cut back across the field. He broke Dallas CB Terence Newman’s tackle on quick pass in the second half and gained 17 yards. Moss also did a nice job adjusting to a pass that was behind him near the left sideline early in the third quarter. He was able to gain seven yards and set up a manageable third-and-2, which the Redskins converted.
LB H.B. Blades: Blades finished with seven tackles (five solo), one fewer than his career high. And he played almost exclusively in the second half after Rocky McIntosh began suffering from back spasms. Blades wasn’t stellar in pass coverage, but he excelled in short yardage because of his ability to read the play and slip past blocks. He got around humungous G Leonard Davis to stuff RB Tashard Choice on a second-and-2. He also plugged the hole and stuffed RB Marion Barber on a third-quarter fourth-and-1.
RG Will Montgomery: It wasn’t a good night for the right guard spot. In Montgomery’s defense, he came off the bench and he’s best suited to play center. But his struggles contributed to the Redskins’ failure to score. He had difficulty against Jay Ratliff, Dallas’ quick and powerful nose tackle. Ratliff drove Montgomery back into RB Quinton Ganther on a 1-yard run early in the third quarter. Ratliff easily disengaged Montgomery for an easy sack in the final minute.
CB Fred Smoot: Smoot was hardly noticeable on the outside as QB Tony Romo methodically passed for 286 yards. The Redskins’ gameplan was to sacrifice shorter passes and some runs to prevent the big play. That meant playing some off-man coverage. But playing off-man doesn’t give corners a license to surrender 7-yard completions on third-and-3. It requires corners to read receivers’ breaks and get to the ball in time. Smoot didn’t do enough of that.
RG Mike Williams: Williams didn’t fare much better than his replacement. On a second-down pass in the second quarter, DE Marcus Spears punched Williams back, got inside him and forced QB Jason Campbell to throw off-balance on a 3-step drop. On a another 3-step drop in the second-quarter, DE Igor Olshansky whipped past Williams and hit Campbell. Williams doesn’t get all the blame for the NT Jay Ratliff’s first-half sack. Campbell held the ball for 4.2 seconds on the play; Williams, meanwhile, didn’t sustain his block that long. Williams has done OK in the run game since returning to the starting lineup, but he had a few ineffective run blocks on Sunday. Williams will miss the season finale with a muscle tear in his foot, and it’s fair to wonder whether his inspiring comeback will continue into next season.
DT Albert Haynesworth: Haynesworth was a beast in short yardage, a big reason why the Redskins managed two fourth-and-1 stops. He didn’t have a broad impact, though. He was double-teamed for most of the game, but he’s paid millions to beat those double teams. And after publicly blasting the coaches last week, he needed to back it up with a dominant performance. Every Redskins’ fan is justified in wondering why Haynesworth left the game on Dallas’ 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Only two players left after TE Jason Witten’s 69-yard catch on the previous play. The other was DE Phillip Daniels, who was substituted for CB Justin Tryon as part of the nickel package. With Haynesworth out, QB Tony Romo audibled to running play up the middle.
QB Jason Campbell: Campbell was under extreme duress for most of the game. He was inaccurate on some throws that should have been completed (I’m thinking of a first-half screen a couple other short passes). He also held the ball too long on several dropbacks. There’s no questioning Campbell’s toughness, and perhaps he should avoid this category altogether because of it. But it was evident that he was rattled by Dallas’ pass rush, and it negatively effected him when he had enough time to throw.
LG Derrick Dockery: Dockery didn’t play terribly, but his worst play drastically affected the game. He was driven back by DE Stephen Bowen on Jason Campbell’s interception on the Redskins’ first series. Bowen got underneath Dockery’s pads and delivered an initial punch that drove Dockery back on his heels. Campbell was hurried, threw off his back foot, and the ball was off target, tipped and intercepted. It stopped what began as a decent drive and set the tone for the game.
S LaRon Landry: Like Dockery, his whole body of work in this game perhaps doesn’t merit placing him in this category, but his worst play was extremely costly. Landry whiffed on his attempted jam of TE Jason Witten in the second quarter, and Witten raced past him en route to a 69-yard gain that set up a touchdown. Landry has struggled in man coverage since the Redskins began playing him at strong safety against Oakland. Perhaps if they commit to returning him to strong safety full-time, he’ll hone his coverage skills in the offseason. He made some good plays against the run.
*Punt returns continue to be a problem. Washington averaged only 4.3 yards on three returns. It goes beyond the returner, though. The Redskins have several rookies on their return teams. But notice how Antwaan Randle El was not back for any of Dallas’ three punts. DeAngelo Hall muffed one, validating HC Jim Zorn’s concerns about ball security back there.
*Dallas QB Tony Romo totally paralyzed the Redskins’ pass rush with a play-fake on his first-quarter touchdown pass. DT Albert Haynesworth was completely fooled and even followed RB Marion Barber out of the backfield. As a result, Romo had 5.1 seconds to throw. He eluded DT Kedric Golston and used all of that time to find WR Roy Williams in the back corner of the end zone.
*S Reed Doughty did well to hold onto his first career interception despite colliding with CB Justin Tryon. After CB Carlos Rogers broke up QB Tony Romo’s high throw to WR Roy Williams, Doughty made a nice diving catch. Doughty’s an interesting case for GM Bruce Allen going forward. He played his best this season as a strong safety and really impressed in the run game when lined up near the line of scrimmage. However, LaRon Landry could possibly move back to strong safety, and where would that leave Doughty? He’s a restricted free agent, so the organization has some decisions to make. Doughty’s among the nicest guys you’ll find inside that locker room, and he has significantly matured as a player.
*SLB Chris Wilson fulfilled his backside contain responsibilities on Dallas’ second-quarter reverse out of the Wildcat formation. He helped force a 13-yard loss on the play. Wilson made the same transition to linebacker that rookie Pro Bowler Brian Orakpo did this season, and he takes immense pride when he makes a quality play as a linebacker. This was one of them.
*The Redskins couldn’t stretch the field for a variety of reasons, including pass protection issues. NBC reported early in their telecast that an NFL-high 77 percent of QB Jason Campbell’s passes this season have been within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. I’m sure that surprised no one who has followed this team. The short passes are partly a product of the West Coast scheme and partly the result of the coaching staff’s decision to scrap long-developing plays from the game plan.
*Campbell held the ball for 4.2 seconds on NT Jay Ratliff’s first-quarter sack (can you tell my new phone has a stopwatch function?) RG Mike Williams didn’t sustain his block until the whistle, but Campbell should have known he can’t hold the ball that long behind this line and against Dallas’ pass rush.
*Nicely executed quarterback sneak on third-and-1 in the first quarter. LG Derrick Dockery got enough of ILB Keith Brooking to help Jason Campbell get the first down. I don’t recall many QB sneaks by the Redskins this season.
*NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth dropped an interesting tidbit during the replay of WR Santana Moss’ 29-yard catch-and-run on a second-quarter screen pass. He said that Dallas coach Wade Phillips told him that the Redskins don’t have big-play capability beyond Moss, and that if Cowboys stopped Moss they’d be OK. This is what other teams think of the Redskins’ offensive personnel, folks.
*WR Malcolm Kelly threw a quality downfield block on Moss’s 29-yard catch and run.
*Collinsworth criticized Jason Campbell for pump faking and being indecisive after the second-quarter sack on which Campbell was stripped of the ball after his knee hit the ground. That was a designed pump fake, though, that was supposed to confuse the coverage and help open up a deep throw to Moss. Campbell pumped after his three-step drop and then tried to reset, but the pass protection broke down, preventing Campbell from going to his backside progressions. Blame for that one belongs to the pass protection, not Campbell.
*Campbell got blasted in the third quarter when CB Orlando Scandrick came unblocked from the left side on a corner blitz. On the third-and-8 play, the Redskins sent four wide receivers and TE Fred Davis down the field on pass routes, leaving no running back or tight end to help with pass protection. Given the myriad pass protection problems the Redskins have had this year, it’s a beyond troubling that’s the approach they took on this play. Only 1.7 seconds elapsed from the snap until Campbell was hit. The play had no chance, and Campbell was badly shaken up. When he says the punishment he’s taking is "unfair," perhaps this is what he’s referring to.
*DT Cornelius Griffin flashed a bit in the first quarter. He split a double team on Phillip Daniels’ sack, forcing QB Tony Romo to step up where Daniels could haul him down. He also shed G Leonard Davis’ block to tackle RB Felix Jones for a two-yard gain.
…what’d I miss? Shoot me an email, post a comment or hit me up on Twitter @Rich_Campbell.