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.
Game Balls, Gassers and Observations: Ravens 23, Redskins 3
This is my review of the best and worst performances from the Redskins’ 23-3 loss to Baltimore on Saturday, plus some observations from watching the game film.
WR Anthony Armstrong: Armstrong did more than anyone to solidify his roster spot. He proved that he can adjust to throws in midair and make difficult catches. He would have scored a spectacular touchdown if QB Donovan McNabb hadn’t underthrown him deep down the middle in the first quarter. Still, Armstrong adjusted and made a terrific sliding catch. Later, Armstrong reached back to haul in a poorly thrown pass on a slant pattern. In the fourth quarter, he fully extended for a high throw from QB Rex Grossman and held on despite contact. Armstrong showed impressive speed, and his routes were so crisp that he was open all night. It’s probably too early to say he made the team with this performance, but consider how he outperformed his competition.
SS LaRon Landry: If Landry plays this season like he did Saturday, he’ll meet his lofty expectations. He was flying around, taking good angles to the ball and delivering some hard hits. I thought he should have been credited with the forced fumble in the second quarter when he drilled WR Donte Stallworth. He also did well in coverage in the first quarter when he shadowed TE Todd Heap on a crossing route and helped break up the pass.
ILB Rocky McIntosh: The more I watch McIntosh in the 3-4, the more I think he’ll succeed in it. I wondered about his speed, but it hasn’t appeared to be detrimental so far. He forced a fumble and dropped well in coverage to team with SS Laron Landry to break up a pass intended for the tight end. In the second quarter, he brushed off the running back’s pass block and drilled QB Joe Flacco.
QB Donovan McNabb: I’m gonna cast aside McNabb’s passing inaccuracy, which certainly was problematic at times, and give him a game ball for how he held up under pressure. The difference between McNabb and what we saw from Jason Campbell last year was like night and day. McNabb sensed pressure several times and moved fluidly away from it without taking his eyes off his receivers. When the Ravens blitzed from the left in the first quarter, McNabb calmly rolled to the right sideline and threw on the run to hit TE Chris Cooley and convert third-and-14. Another difference: McNabb held onto the ball when LB Terrell Suggs got a clean shot on his blindside in the second quarter. Campbell often fumbled that type of play.
ILB London Fletcher: He tracks ballcarriers like no one else on the defense. The way he fights off blockers, too, is beyond impressive. For example, he shed a fullback on a second-quarter end around and made the tackle near the right sideline. The guy is as close as it gets to a sure thing.
WR Santana Moss: Moss’ four catches for 79 yards should help Redskins coaches breathe at least a little bit easier about their offensive arsenal. Moss consistently got open and looked explosive in generating yards after the catch. Two of his receptions came after he lined up in the slot. The Redskins are going to take advantage of his quickness in there.
LT Trent Williams: Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs made Williams look like a rookie. This was as poor as I’ve seen Williams play since he arrived. He struggled to keep up with Suggs on speed rushes, and Suggs was able to get under Williams’ pads and drive him back in the run game. On one pass rush in the first quarter, Suggs set Williams up with a jab step inside and then beat him to the outside. We’re used to seeing Williams recover from that type of fake, but Williams was no match. He gave up a sack, committed a false start and failed to make a block on a third-and-1 that was stuffed. The bright side? This should help Williams. Now he’s got some film to study. It’ll make him better.
RG Artis Hicks: Hicks struggled in the run game and pass protection. I charted RB Larry Johnson’s eight carries (see the Observations), and Hicks made a negative impact on four of them. He let Ravens LB Ray Lewis get inside him and stop Johnson on the first play of the game, and that set the tone for his night. His footwork was bad at times, and he was simply pushed back on other plays. The Ravens’ defense is one of the best, but this didn’t assuage any concerns about the right side of the line.
NT Albert Haynesworth: Haynesworth should dominate second-teamers, but he actually got pushed around by Ravens C Chris Chester. He also took on a few blocks sideways, which coordinator Jim Haslett said Haynesworth shouldn’t be doing. He registered a sack, but he has OLB Chris Wilson to thank for that. Wilson applied the pressure, and QB Troy Smith stepped right into Haynesworth’s path, even though Haynesworth was the last of the four rushers up the field. The broadcast team noted Haynesworth’s negative body language, and I thought it was a valid point. After hearing his postgame comments, it turns out they were onto something. We need to find out why Haynesworth left the game when the Ravens had first-and-goal at the 4 in the third quarter.
RB Larry Johnson: Upon further review, Johnson’s night wasn’t as bad as it initially appeared. Much of that has to do with how poorly the offensive line blocked for him. I’ll address that below in more detail. Still, Johnson lacked an explosive burst. He wasn’t elusive at all, and we never saw his power. He also dropped a pass when QB Donovan McNabb checked down to him near the Redskins’ goal line. On the bright side, Johnson was OK was a pass blocker. He went low to upend LB Jameel McClain on a blitz, and he stuffed LB Jarret Johnson on a play-action pass play. …Another impressive thing about Johnson, he said after the game that he’d ask the coaches if he could play the fourth quarter in the last two games so he can get more reps. Completely on the opposite end of the spectrum from Haynesworth.
RT Clint Oldenburg: He was pushed back and beaten in pass protection too frequently.
LT Selvish Capers: He played only the last series of the game but still was beaten twice in pass protection. His feet were slow, and he lunged on one failed block. The athleticism that he occasionally has shown in camp was not evident.
*First, let’s go through RB Larry Johnson’s runs, as promised.
1. 4-yard gain: Johnson got around the right edge even though C Casey Rabach and RT Jammal Brown were pushed back and LB Ray Lewis penetrated the backfield through RG Artis Hicks.
2. 4-yard loss: FB Mike Sellers missed the lead block.
3. No gain: Baltimore’s linebackers plugged the gaps, and RG Artis Hicks was beaten.
4. 3-yard gain: RG Artis Hicks was pushed back into the backfield, forcing Johnson to make his cut prematurely.
5. No gain: LT Trent Williams missed his block in space on the left edge.
6. 3-yard loss: LT Trent Williams was driven back by LB Terrell Suggs, blowing up the play in the backfield.
7. 2-yard gain: There wasn’t a significant hole for Johnson to hit. Perhaps he could have done more on this one if he had hit it faster. FB Mike Sellers was injured on this play.
8. 2-yard gain: Johnson tripped over RG Artis Hicks’ legs.
…so as you can see, the offensive line gets a fair share of the blame for Johnson’s poor production.
*Get used to McNabb-to-Cooley. McNabb clearly is comfortable looking to Cooley either as a first option or when he’s under pressure. Cooley did a great job separating from the linebacker on his catch on third-and-14.
*RT Jammal Brown had mixed results in his return to game action for the first time since the 2008 season. He wasn’t a force in the run game, but he was pretty good in pass protection. He’s clearly their best option at right tackle, and he should get better as he continues with the transition to the right side. He was flagged for illegal formation after lining up off the line of scrimmage. He said after the game that he was told referees would warn players once before penalizing them. Not so.
*The first-string offensive line didn’t excel, but it did a great job stopping a pair of stunts on WR Anthony Armstrong’s 45-yard catch. QB Donovan McNabb needed time to let the route develop and, unlike last year, the offensive line gave it to him.
*Really sharp double move by TE Fred Davis to get open in the back of the end zone. And then he dropped the pass.
*LOLB Andre Carter looked much better in pass coverage. It didn’t appear that Baltimore tested him with much play action, but he at least moved better going away from the line of scrimmage. He overpursued on an early end-around, but otherwise Carter was solid.
*RB Clinton Portis clearly has a greater burst than Larry Johnson. He gained nine yards on a first-quarter run even though DL Cory Redding beat RG Artis Hicks because Portis got to the hole before Redding did.
*Long snapper Nick Sundberg was just about perfect on two field goal snaps and six punts. His snap on Graham Gano’s missed 47-yarder was a tad high, but it wasn’t why Gano missed. Sundberg has responded very well to the team’s decision to sign veteran James Dearth. Dearth didn’t play.
*LB H.B. Blades’ missed tackle on the fake punt sure was costly. Not only did the Ravens gain 51 yards on the play, but FS Kareem Moore was injured in pursuit. Perhaps it’s not fair to consider the play like that, but if Blades puts the ball carrier on the ground there, maybe Moore is still playing.
*S Reed Doughty took Moore’s place with the first team.
*In general, the Redskins weren’t effective rushing the passer. Baltimore beat them with quick, timing throws. Buffalo did the same thing last week. Something to keep an eye on.
*Should SS LaRon Landry get some award for his acting job in the second quarter? After he made a hit on the far sideline, it appeared that there was something wrong with his helmet. He couldn’t get it fixed in time, so he fell to the ground grabbing his leg. He quickly got up and got his helmet fixed on the sideline. On the broadcast, Joe Theismann said, “That’s gotta be the quickest recovery from a cramp known to man.”
*CBs Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall were as physical as I’ve ever seen them. Especially for Hall, it was a vast improvement over last week. He tackled well.
*RB Keiland Williams didn’t do much as a kick returner (3 for 71 yards). I got a Rock Cartwright vibe from him. Not a lot of speed and not really a home run threat.
*RB Willie Parker did well to get a first down on a screen pass, but he later whiffed on a pass block. I’m eager to see him get more carries against the New York Jets this week.
*WR Devin Thomas dropped a second-quarter slant pass but a few plays later made a diving catch to set up a field goal attempt. Again, inconsistency. His 36-yard kickoff return helped his cause.
…that’s about it. Let me know what I missed and what you saw. Leave a comment, shoot me an email or hit me on Twitter @Rich_Campbell.