December 20, 2014

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 14 loss to the New York Giants

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 24-13 loss to the New York Giants, dropping the Skins to 3-11:

1. Colt McCoy gets injured after not looking 100% to start.

In the beginning of the week it looked as if Colt McCoy would be unable to be ready for this game, but he recovered enough and was named the starter. After nicely marching the team down the field on the opening offensive possession, McCoy aggravated his neck injury when getting pushed forward by the offensive line after being wrapped up by Jason Pierre-Paul.

After settling for a field goal on the drive, McCoy headed to the locker room with the same neck injury. Although he returned to the sidelines before the next offensive possession, he did not return to the game. [Read more…]

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 13 loss to St. Louis Rams

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 24-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams:

1. Will Colt McCoy continue to start for the Washington Redskins?

McCoy opened the game bad just like he did against Indianapolis with a overthrown ball over the middle that resulted in a pick which ended a decent drive. However unlike last week, things did not get any better. McCoy could not even get his team back into plus territory until garbage time started as he was under constant harassment from pressure.

Gruden addressed that he did not want to throw Robert Griffin to “the wolves” when the game was already lost. Griffin did come in after McCoy suffered a “neck sprain”, which Gruden said could play a role in his availability next week. Griffin threw for a first down, took a sack, and failed to convert on the game-ending fourth down. With the recent rumors coming out the ownership will side with RG3 over Gruden it will be an interesting story to watch as the week wears on.

2. Defense continues to play poorly against a weaker opponent.

The Rams clearly watched the Coby Fleener tape against the Redskins last week and used it to their advantage. The Rams were able to get a long touchdown to a wide open Jared Cook on another coverage bust for the Redskins secondary. Later in the game, the defense turned Cook completely loose on the goal line for an easy pitch-and-catch for another touchdown.

Again there were flashes of spark from the defense as Ryan Kerrigan continues to play well as the pressure has been beginning to be a factor. The downside is that the defense has players like Chris Baker dancing after celebrating a sack when the ball was loose on the ground up for grabs. There are few pieces outside of maybe Ryan Kerrigan, Keenan Robinson, and possibly Baushad Breeland that can be part of the future for this defense and the offseason cannot get here soon enough.

3. Special teams take on a 2013 approach.

The special teams for this team have been poor again this year but a definite improvement from last year’s constant debacle, but that did not show today as they got beat on every single special teams play. First, I applaud the Redskins guts to try a fake punt, but think it was poor execution to make a guy rush ten additional yards just to get back to the line of scrimmage before being able to fight for the marker while the other team is given a chance to react. This led to the Rams getting the opportunity to earn back a point from their missed PAT as their punter/holder on their next PAT threw for a two point conversion with ease.

After another three-and-out and Tress Way punt, Tavon Austin danced around east and west before turning up field for a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown. To add insult to injury, Andre Roberts foolishly decided to field a punt inside his own five yard line and got nothing on the return. This was just another bad phase in an entirely poor game.

4. Running game continues to be a non-factor without Griffin under center.

It is no longer a coincidence that Alfred Morris’s best games this season were with Robert Griffin at quarterback. Without that threat, Morris was completely taken out of the equation today rushing for less than one yard per carry (on just eight carries) after having a 12-yard gash to open the game. This in turn made the offense completely one dimensional, which in turn has led to the offense being unable to succeed in anything they do. Alfred Morris clearly has potential in this league but not only is he not a prototypical Jay Gruden back, but also needs a steady threat in the passing game to avoid being keyed on by defenses.

5. Next week a return to division matchups and shakeups could be looming.

The Redskins will get a look at possibly the next big thing in the NFL with Odell Beckham Jr. next week as they head north to face off with the Giants coming off a dismantling of the Tennessee Titans. Luckily there were no major additional injuries, but there will still be drama surrounding the Redskins this week on whether Robert Griffin will return to his role as the starting quarterback.

Either way you look at it, this team is destined for a busy off-season, where they need to evaluating every facet of the roster. The big question remains: Who will be evaluating the talent; Jay Gruden, Bruce Allen or the owner?

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 12 loss to Indianapolis Colts

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 49-27 loss to the Indianapolis Colts:

1. Jay Gruden’s decision to start Colt McCoy looks questionable to start, but then shows potential.

More than midway through the second quarter, the Redskins had negative three net passing and only one first down via an Alfred Morris rush. Gruden’s decision to bench Robert Griffin III who put up relatively better numbers against a much better defense was coming into some serious heat. Then similarly to Griffin last week, McCoy generated a scoring drive right before the half. In my opinion this saved McCoy from being benched at halftime similarly to Griffin’s predicament last week as he did not take advantage of great field position.

Coming out of the half, McCoy drove his team down the field once again and capped off the drive with amazing elusiveness to avoid three potential sack attempts before dumping the ball off to Logan Paulsen for a score. On the next offensive possession, McCoy could not find a receiver on fourth and a yard and was subsequently stripped of the football which was then returned for a score. McCoy came back and led a drive that finished in a DeSean Jackson deep touchdown pass after Jackson readjusted to the usual underthrown ball. McCoy finished the game moving the ball but unable to finish off drives with touchdowns. All in all, McCoy played a good latter two and a half quarters, which has assured him of a start next week.

2. Undermanned Redskins defense get obliterated after being opportunistic.

As well as McCoy was able to move the ball after the beginning of the game, he had no chance to lead his team to a comeback as the defense was getting beat every which way for big plays on busted coverages. After producing back to back turnovers to start the game, Andrew Luck settled down and started dissecting the Redskins secondary which was without E.J. Biggers and Brandon Merriweather.

First, Luck hit a wide open Coby Fleener on a seam route along the sidelines where David Amerson was supposed to pick him up after a Trent Murphy jam. To the start the second half, the defense let Daniel Herron gash the defense for a 49-yard touchdown after multiple poor angles were taken on potential tackles. Following a three and out by the offense, Luck methodically marched his team down the field for another touchdown score.

In the second half it was more of the same. The Redskins defense gave up three more long touchdowns. The two to Donte Moncrief were again huge busted coverages by the secondary that caused the final separation. In between those two was a missed tackling clinic on Coby Fleener who avoided at least three potential tacklers. This defense could not get a stop for their lives and as the season wears on the limited depth in the defense will continue to haunt this team.

3. Fundamentals still the biggest problem of this team.

The offensive line still is not protecting McCoy enough as he was harassed constantly and took six sacks on the game, which is not much better than the indecisive Griffin in the last few weeks. Moreover, the offense could not cash in on the amazing field position given to them by the turnovers caused by the defense but similarly to last week they only mustered up three points off of those three turnovers.

Defensively, coverage assignments and tackling are still a struggle for this team and it leads to big plays for the other team week in and week out. Without these fundamentals that are taught in Pee-Wee football, this team will not be able to have success anytime in the near future.

4. More injury concerns.

Ryan Kerrigan, Will Compton, and Keenan Robinson all got banged up in the game and missed a limited amount of plays. The more major concern is for Brandon Merriweather (toe), Chase Minnifield (concussion), and DeSean Jackson (fibula contusion and other leg injury) had to leave the game after getting injured.

Although the x-rays came back negative on Jackson, the injury did not look good as he was again trying to readjust to an underthrown McCoy deep ball. It would be a big blow to this offense if there lone deep threat were to be out for the rest of the year; however, the long term options of Jackson must be taken into account first.

5. Next week against a St. Louis Rams team coming off a perfect game.

The undermanned Washington Redskins will travel to St. Louis who beat the Oakland Raiders 52-0 after a superb all-around performance by their team. Colt McCoy has been informally named the starting quarterback for next week after getting the offense moving through the latter stages of the game. However, he may have to lean on Jordan Reed once again if DeSean Jackson is forced to miss any time. Additionally, Alfred Morris had a significant reduction in production relative to the game with Griffin under center which could play a role in making the offense one-dimensional with McCoy under center.

OPINION: Washington Redskins and Jay Gruden drop the ball on Robert Griffin III

“I think as a man and as a competitor, I think Robert does have a future in the NFL, but I’m not going to predict it.” –Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden.

Five games. Five partial games. Five partial, increasingly worsening games. That’s all it took for Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden to decide that Robert Griffin III is incapable of running his offense. It’s hard to debate, as Griffin has looked more and more lost on the field in recent weeks. Presumably healthy, he has stopped running completely, seems oblivious to open receivers, and has alienated teammates with his play on the field and soap opera drama off.

There’s plenty of damning evidence to say Griffin just isn’t getting it and he needs to be replaced. That’s all well and good — if the team was playing for anything other than pride the rest of the way. Funny word, pride. It’s a buzzword around this organization, but very little of it seems to rub off on the actual players.

Gruden isn’t as invested in rehabilitating Griffin as maybe the organization as a whole, and he indicated as much in his press conference on Wednesday.

“No, not really,” Gruden offered. “I came here with a clean slate and I want to play the best players, period, whoever they are. First-round picks, sixth-round picks, free agents, I don’t really care who they are, where they came from. Obviously the history of Robert and the talent that he has at quarterback, very excited to coach him when I first got the job and I still am. I’m not giving up on Robert. It’s just we haven’t been successful. But the past is the past. We’re moving forward and we’re trying to do what’s best for the Redskins this year and for years to come. Right now, today as I stand up here, I feel like this is the best move for us moving forward to Indianapolis.”

Moving forward to Indianapolis. Not 2015. Not “the future.” The next game.

I suppose Gruden can be excused for being focused on wins and losses this season. Anyone that follows this team knows the owner’s box could grow tired or fickle after one season and give the head coach the boot. The idea that Gruden has to make the switch in order to keep the locker room is further damning the infrastructure this organization has implemented over the past 15 years.

But Colt McCoy is no one’s idea of a long-term solution at the position.

Starting McCoy, the 28-year-old journeyman, over RGIII at this point is applying a band-aid to hemorrhage — lipstick on a pig. With everything invested in Griffin, the organization owes it to itself to fix him, not hide him on the bench in the hopes of winning a game or two down the stretch in another lost season.

It’s hard to believe — nee, unbelievable — that Griffin’s talent has completely sapped. Sure, the injuries have taken their toll on his running game. He’ll never be the same in that regard. But this is the same player that has completed 63.5 percent of his passes in his career and threw for 20 touchdowns and just five picks his rookie season, just two years ago.

Has that player just simply disappeared?

The most alarming aspect of Griffin’s deteriorating confidence is the sheer number of sacks he’s taking. That’s not just on the offensive line, though without Trent Williams it’s about as good as an Arena League squad. But Griffin is holding the ball, stepping into sacks, failing to identify open receivers, almost completely unable to run the offense in any manner whatsoever. Last week, he looked utterly and completely lost.

It’s a crisis of confidence. An dramatic and unfortunate collapse of what seemed like such a promising career not that long ago.

The biggest takeaway from the entire episode is the way that ONCE AGAIN the national media had the news BEFORE the players were informed. This organization does everything backwards and wonders why (recent) former players disassociate from the franchise quickly as possible?

They’ll probably trade up to draft another quarterback instead of investing in the lines first, wasting even more time and resources drafting a talent position without the necessary infrastructure.

It’s how this franchise has been run for the last 15 years; the only thing that’s been consistent is the man that signs the checks.

But just as it’s been in those 15 years, it’s time for the Washington Redskins to completely start over again. And a young man’s future hangs in the balance. It’s a shame that the combination of physical injury, poor management and lack of awareness has derailed such a promising career for what was such a charismatic player.

And on this Thanksgiving, Redskins fans have very little to give thanks about with regard to the franchise that continues to be mired in drama and controversy, ripping their hearts out with every news leak.

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 11 loss against the San Francisco 49ers

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 17-13 loss to the San Francisco 49ers:

1. Robert Griffin III bad early, shows a small glimmer of hope, but in the end does not come through.

Griffin came into the game today with a reported short leash and it looked like he could have been benched at half time. He completed just one of his first four attempts for seven yards and took two sacks resulting in four consecutive punts. Then Griffin showed some life with a good ball fake to Alfred Morris and hit Pierre Garcon on a crossing pattern over the linebackers for a classic 2012 play. The drive finished off with a touchdown and the Redskins (3-8) were back in the thick of things with the game tied. Griffin completed another 2012 like pass to DeSean Jackson during the third quarter that led to a Kai Forbath field goal.

That was the good of Griffin. However, he still continued to hold onto the ball too long resulting in sacks. Although he did not make any fatal mistakes with turnovers — until the strip sack at the end of the game — he still needs to work on making reads faster and execute better and quicker. Though I believe Griffin showed growth in Gruden’s system, which was acknowledged by Gruden himself, the clock is still ticking on Griffin for the year and moving forward into next season.

2. Defense plays well overall, but not during beginning, middle, and end.

After a three-and-out from the offense and a couple big passing plays from Colin Kaepernick, this game looked like it was heading for the mercy rule to be implemented. E.J. Biggers got beat by Anquan Boldin on a deep corner route, an assignment that David Amerson would probably have drawn if he was not deactivated for violating a team rule.

At the very end of the first half, John Harbaugh showed guts as he decided to go for a fourth and two just on the plus side of the field. Bashaud Breeland got caught watching the great catch made by Michael Crabtree instead of pushing him out of bounds and ending the half. Instead the 49ers stole three points heading into halftime.

Then at the end of the game, the defense gave up the eventual game winning touchdown. That came after allowing the 49ers to convert a fourth-and-one at their own 34-yard line and then gave up a big play to Boldin preceding a personal foul penalty.

3. The effort from the defense was there.

Even though the defense made their share of mistakes, they played well enough to win this game with an extremely beaten up secondary. The defense caused three turnovers against a team that rarely surrenders the ball and it was not their fault that those opportunities were only cashed in for three points. Moreover, they kept the offense in check nearly all day giving up a mere 66 yards on the ground.

It is shocking that all of this was accomplished while Amerson, Biggers, and Tracy Porter did not play for the duration of the game and Breeland and Ryan Clark also missed plays before returning. This led to Greg Ducre and Phillip Thomas stepping into playing roles, while Merriweather moved to corner. Ducre picked Kaepernick off while San Francisico was trying to pick on him, while Thomas helped stop Vernon Davis short of the first down marker to start the fourth quarter and later recovered a Frank Gore fumble. This loss certainly cannot be put on the defense.

4. Alfred Morris continues to play better with RG3 at the helm.

Alfred Morris again played hard behind a devastated offensive line. Morris finished with 125 yards on 21 carriers. This again is a noticeable improvement over the running game with Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy under center because of defenses leaving one man to account for Griffin’s legs.

Unfortunately for the Redskins, they could not lean on Morris towards the end of the game when time was a factor. However, I question Gruden for not running the ball on the penultimate drive to try and mount momentum when time was not a problem.

5. Another tough task next week against the guy taken before Griffin in 2012.

Next week the Redskins are forced to travel to the house that Andrew Luck is rebuilding. Again more injuries could play a role for the Redskins defensively in the secondary that cannot afford to get torched by the likes of T.Y. Hilton. Moreover, Trent Williams cannot return soon enough as Morgan Moses was beaten up badly all game even, though it was against once of the premier pass rushers in the NFL in Aldon Smith.

If Griffin is given the ball for the duration of the game, he will have to show clear cut strides and production against a lesser defense. This team cannot wait for the off-season to come soon enough, although quarterback controversies will be popping up all over then too.

OPINION: History shows future is cloudy for Redskins’ Griffin

The last three times the Redskins made the playoffs, it was on the back of a second-half surge in 2005, 2007 and 2012. The Redskins entered their bye week at 3-6 much like they did in 2012, but this year, the defense is forcing fewer turnovers. The only game the Redskins were actually out of in the first nine games of 2012 was against Pittsburgh. They had given up a victory with a blown coverage late against the Giants.

Robert Griffin III was fully healthy and playing well back then, after a sensational debut in the first game of the season against New Orleans. With RG3’s health an unknown variable in 2014, the Redskins would be best served trying to find out what kind of quarterback he will be coming off his dislocated ankle. The good news is that this time, no one has made Redskins head coach Jay Gruden backtrack on his comments that he’ll use RG3’s running skills.

Tony Dungy commented that RG3 is no longer the stunning athlete he used to be. He doesn’t have to be. At RG3’s peak, the only quarterback faster than him was Michael Vick, even though many have pointed out that RG3’s speed is more straight-line and not as elusive as Vick’s, even though it doesn’t keep either of them from getting injured. At his best, Mark Brunell ran around a 4.6 40. That’s all you need as an NFL quarterback to make defenses account for you as a running threat, assuming that he was equally good at passing.

It would be best to compare RG3 to other quarterbacks that have suffered knee injuries. Among them, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady are not applicable to RG3’s case because they are primarily pocket passers. Daunte Culpepper was a mobile quarterback, but his case is not applicable because the severity of his knee injury was much greater and catastrophic to the point that it ended his NFL career.

The two closest cases are Randall Cunningham and Brunell. Cunningham suffered a torn ACL and MCL in Week 1 of the 1991 season. Cunningham lost his job to Rodney Peete when the Eagles made a coaching change after the 1994 season. Cunningham didn’t fit Ray Rhodes’s desire for a West Coast-style QB. He was out of football for a year before he resurfaced with Minnesota and led the Vikings offense on a magical run that unfortunately ended in the 1998 NFC Championship Game.

Cunningham never changed his style even after his injury, mostly due to coaching on the part of Rich Kotite, who continued Buddy Ryan’s strategy of having Cunningham make a few plays on offense and then let the vaunted Eagles defense handle the rest. “I remember Buddy used to say to Randall, ‘All I need is for you to make four or five plays a game to make the difference,’ one former teammate told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King. “And Randall used to go out and make these unbelievable plays, plays nobody else could make. Buddy was relying on Randall’s athletic ability and not his ability to read or learn defenses, and that turned out to be Randall’s undoing.” Kotite described Cunningham, “If he wasn`t pressured he didn`t run. If he was, he improvised as he does so well.”

This continued even after Cunningham broke his left fibula in Week 5 of the 1993 season. Cunningham had led the Eagles to a 4-0 record and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month before that untimely injury.

Cunningham never wanted to change. If you go over some of his quotes from 1992: “I`ll be back scramblin’.” “Those who doubt me don`t believe in me. There`s no doubt in my mind I`ll make it back all the way.” “My instincts are still with me. If I lost my instincts, I probably would have retired. I`m not going to try to be somebody I`m not. I`m going to be Randall Cunningham as long as I can perform at that level.” “I`m not going to sit in the pocket like Joe Montana and complete 70 percent of my passes. I`m not going to scramble like Fran Tarkenton and launch bombs. I`m just going to play football the way I want to and the way the coach wants me to.”

Even if someone pointed out that he was becoming more conventional prior to the 1991 injury, Cunningham said, “I did scramble less, because I was dropping back and completing 70 percent of my passes. But I haven`t changed. I still enjoy that style. If something opens up and I have to dip through and get a few yards, it`s OK by me.”

Brunell is a closer comparison. Brunell, like RG3, was still a running quarterback after his first ACL tear in the spring game after his sophomore season at Washington in which he was named Rose Bowl MVP. When Brunell led the NFL in passing yardage in 1996 with 4,367 yards and ran for 396 yards, he still threw 20 interceptions to go along with 19 touchdowns.

Brunell didn’t become a pocket passer until after he led the Jaguars to the 1996 AFC Championship Game and was rewarded with a big contract. That moment came after he missed the preseason and the first two games of the season after suffering a partially torn ACL, MCL, and PCL in the first game of the 1997 preseason.

Brunell, like RG3, displayed a willingness to adapt to being a pocket passer. “It’s very easy, and this will almost sound too basic, but it’s reps,” Brunell told ESPN’s John Keim. “It’s going through OTAs and minicamps and training camp with the mindset of, ‘I’m dropping back and absolutely have to find a receiver.’ There are four or five receivers in each pass route and your job is to find the open guy.”

After the Jaguars had clinched a playoff berth against Buffalo in Week 16 of the 1997 season, then-Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin said, ”He had a great decision-making game. His spontaneity was better, and he made plays on the run. He also took some pretty good hits and still delivered the ball very well. It’s a shame he had the interception, but he still had a solid game.” Jaguars center Dave Widell said, ”He’s improving with every game and gaining the poise he needs to be successful. That includes not throwing the ball away. He’s leading the offense as he should be.”

“I had to sit in the pocket and throw,” after the injury, Brunell told Keim. “I moved a little bit and not nearly as effectively as before. Going into the ‘98 season, I felt better as a pocket passer. It probably took me a year. I never got to the same speed, but it put me in position where I was forced to develop as a passer. In a way it was one of the best things for me.”

Gary Clark said before the season began that this could be the best offense the Redskins have had since 1991. On paper, it compares favorably with the 1999 offense with quarterback Brad Johnson, running back Stephen Davis, receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell along with tight end Stephen Alexander. One place where they don’t compare well is the offensive line, where Trent Williams is by far the best player, as well he should since he was the fourth pick of the 2010 draft. The Redskins have used precious few draft picks on the line dating back to the Mike Shanahan era.

Tight end Jordan Reed is healthy again, while DeSean Jackson leads the NFL in yards per catch. Pierre Garcon is only one year removed from breaking Art Monk’s single season receiving record, and Andre Roberts was brought in from Arizona to be the No. 2 receiver before the signing of Jackson. The running game with Alfred Morris has been coming around since halftime against Dallas.

With the vast array of offensive weapons in the Redskins arsenal, the playcalling has been very conservative thus far. Through Week 8 against the Cowboys, “All three quarterbacks combined have thrown 45.5% of their passes within the 0-9 yard window, with just 12.5 attempts traveling 20 yards or more through the air. The receivers are expected to turn short passes into large gains through their feet, as Pierre Garcon did for his 70 yard touchdown in Week 8,” according to Trey Cunningham at Pro Football Focus.

Washington Redskins Game 9 Review: Defense optional as Vikings top Redskins

The Washington Redskins team bus was involved in an accident on its way to Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, shaking up team members and the coaching staff. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, though third string RB Silas Redd was made inactive due to his back tightening up after the collision.

Unfortunately, the accident was an apt metaphor for the team’s defense today, as the wheels came off early and the previously ineffective Vikings offense, led by rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, carved up the D in large chunks to beat the Redskins 29-26.

The game marked the return of QB Robert Griffin III, and while his arm is as impressive as it has always been — he was obviously rusty from missing so many weeks due to his dislocated ankle — it was apparent he wore down as the day went along and the hits piled up, as he was sacked five times by the Minnesota defense.

Griffin was 18 of 28 for 251 yards, a touchdown and a very costly interception. He looked great on downfield balls — as long as the porous offensive line gave him time to set. He looked less good on sprint passes, especially when asked to move to his left and throw against his body. On those occasions, he looked either physically incapable, or just plain unwilling, to set his feet and make a good hard throw.

The offensive line play, again today, was simply atrocious. On very few occasions, Griffin had enough time to go through his progressions and find the correct receiver. He was much more effective on single-read routes where he didn’t need read the play. Griffin often looked indecisive as well, perhaps a testament to his inactivity over eight weeks.

The running game with Alfred Morris, however, looked very sharp in the first half. Predictably though, once the game got competitive in the second quarter and second half, the team practically abandoned the run and opted to use screens and swing passes to keep the defense honest, with varying degrees of success.

Morris finished with 92 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.

Griffin found Desean Jackson for two long gains and a short touchdown pass, once again showing Jackson’s threat to secondaries across the league. He made four catches for 120 yards, the longest of 56 yards. But his offensive pass interference call in the fourth quarter — a very soft call — ended up putting the Redskins in a second-and-20 spot they could not recover from.

The Redskins (3-6) built a 10-0 lead on a Kai Forbath 36-yard field goal and Morris’ first touchdown of the day, a 14-yard carry. Both drives were impressive; the first went 13 plays and 72 yards, the second went 91 yards on six plays.

The Redskins held the Vikings (4-5) on downs in their territory right before the half, but on the next play — with 1:04 left on their own 39 — Griffin rolled left and threw to Andre Roberts, but the throw was short and Captain Munnerlyn stepped in and scooped it up before it hit the ground. After review, the play stood.

Bridgewater needed just four plays to put it in the end zone, the last was a 20-yard strike to wide open tight end Chase Ford (5 catches, 66 yards) down the left sideline for the score. The Vikings made it 14-10 early in the third — after a Redskins three-and-out — as a 6-play, 56-yard drive ended on Matt Asiata’s 1-yard plunge.

Washington answered though, marching 56 yards on seven plays and Griffin hit Jackson on a slant with a terrific pass to make it 17-14. The team forced a three-and-out, then got in position for Forbath’s second field goal of the day, this time from 26 yards, and the Redskins led 20-14.

That’s when the defense went completely AWOL.

Minnesota took its next possession 76 yards in 10 plays, with Asiata’s 7-yard touchdown as a result, and a Vikings 21-20 lead.

The Redskins responded with another solid drive, 8 plays, 80 yards, and Morris’ second touchdown, a 2-yard run. A failed 2-point conversion made it 26-21 Redskins.

But the defense again laid down. The Vikings, who hadn’t scored more than 14 points in any of their past five games, carved up the defense for 73 yards on 12 plays, culminating with Asiata’s third score of the day, and the dagger in the Redskins hopes.

The offense got the ball back with 3:27 left, needing a field goal to force overtime. But the drive stalled, and Griffin’s fourth down pass to Pierre Garcon, on a sprint left, was low and short and fell incomplete.

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 9 loss against the Minnesota Vikings

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 29-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings:

1. The Return of Robert Griffin III: not bad, but certainly not good either.

Robert Griffin finished the game completing about 65% of his passes for 251 yards, but threw a game changing interception and took five sacks. Griffin also added 24 on the ground, while allowing Morris to rush for 4.8 yards a pop, a full yard improvement over rushes with Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy under center.

As expected there were some bad decisions by Griffin which in the end came back to cost the Redskins the game even though he was not the only reason why. That being said, with a few better plays here or there he could have won this game for his team.

Before the half, Griffin threw an off-balanced flutter ball intended for Andre Roberts but it was picked off, though the review replay couldn’t conclusively say if it hit the ground or not. This led the momentum to change as the Vikings marched through and over the Redskins defense. Griffin also was guilty of holding the ball way too long throughout the game especially when he has an extremely weak offensive line protection him. This led to getting behind in the down and distance constantly and during the last drive costing scoring opportunities.

Finally, on Griffin’s last throw before the failed Hail Mary, he felt rushed even though no one was around him, did not have his feet set, and delivered a fastball in the dirt and feet of Pierre Garcon, effectively ending the game.

2. Defense struggles in all phases against untalented offense.

The defense played well for the first 29 minutes of the game, and then the wheels came off. After Griffin’s interception late in the first half, the defense could not erase the miscue and then the bleeding did not stop. After escaping blown coverages by Teddy Bridgewater misfires earlier, the defense gave up two 20+ yard passes to receivers without a defender in sight.

In the second half, miscues mounted with a roughing the passer penalty called against Keenan Robinson for spearing Bridgewater to the ground. Then the physical domination by a weak Minnesota offensive line started as there was no pass rush and red zone rushing touchdowns became child’s play. Although Griffin had the opportunity to extend and win the game, the defense is the biggest culprit for this loss.

3. Special teams being special, but only one phase of the team playing well does not win games.

After the air was taken out of the Redskins sidelines when they were in the hole 14-10 early in the third quarter, the special teams delivered. Andre Roberts fielded the ensuing kickoff one yard deep in the end zone and returned it for 45 yards giving the Redskins great field position and a boost. The Redskins turned this into a touchdown drive and recapturing the lead.

Then on the ensuing kickoff again Kai Forbath was able to boot the ball deep in the end zone but the over anxious Cordarrelle Patterson unwisely decides to bring it out from seven yards deep just to get tattooed by Adam Hayward at the 10 yard line. Unfortunately they did not have any other opportunities to make an impact with a possible game tying field goal awaiting.

4. I will continue to say it as long as it is true: Desean Jackson for MVP! But then, the dagger.

Desean Jackson continues to leave his mark on games whether it be with the 45-yard catch early in the game to set up the Redskins first touchdown, his own 13-yard touchdown grab, or a 56-yard catch and run on a seam pattern up the sidelines. All of this is great and exactly what we expected from him this season.

However, the play that many are not talking about the offensive pass interference call against Jackson that played a major role in stalling their penultimate drive. The foul was completely unnecessary as the defender’s own momentum would have done the job instead of the extension of the arm. It set up a first down and 20 yards to go which proved to be too much for the Redskins to pick up in the biggest stage of the game.

All in all, Jackson continues to be this team’s best player and hopefully will continue his output for the rest of his time in Washington.

5. Developments into the bye week.

Although this is a disappointing loss and should sit poorly with the team and fans for the next two weeks, there is hope that Griffin will return to the electrifying RG3 after getting more experience in this system. Additionally, players that will see their roles increase include Leonard Hankerson, who may be activated off of the PUP list, Barry Cofield who may be activated off the short term IR list, and Phillip Thomas who has returned to the team after showing promise at the safety position pre-injury.

Moreover, it will be interesting to see if Jay Gruden decides to make any changes to the starting lineup specifically with Josh LeRibeus, Spencer Long, and/or Morgan Moses somewhere on the offensive line, which is currently much maligned.

This team has the slightest sliver of hope that Griffin will continue to grow. Additionally, they were in the same position after nine weeks in 2012, maybe Gruden will “pretend” to throw in the towel too.

Washington Redskins Week 9 Preview: Minnesota Vikings

The Washington Redskins thrilling win over the Dallas Cowboys — on Monday Night Football, no less — is why we all watch sports, especially the NFL.  It can’t be scripted.  Every media pundit, every blog, even this website and writer, expected a Redskins loss.  It was the perfect storm: Dallas was on a six game winning streak. Washington, though they had won the week before, started journeyman quarterback Colt McCoy on Monday night football in Jerry World.  The odds were stacked against this team, and they responded in a big way.

In Monday night’s overtime victory, Washington showed more guts and heart than we have seen since the last time the Redskins bested the Cowboys in the 2012 NFC East division championship game. In addition to McCoy’s heroics, each phase of the game was able to contribute to the victory.  Andre Roberts set the tone on special teams early with a huge punt return.  Brandon Meriweather, Bashaud Breeland, and Keenan Robinson all showed the league that they were forces to be reckoned with.  Even Perry Riley, who has experienced a rough season so far, was able to contribute in a big way to the team victory.

Now it’s the last game before the bye, and the Redskins are anticipating the return this week of their franchise quarterback.  Quarterback Robert Griffin III has healed from his week 2 ankle injury and has been deemed cleared to play against Minnesota.  As we said back in week 2, it will be important for Griffin to utilize his legs as much as his arm in order to be successful.  In addition, though he got going late last week, running back Alfred Morris stands to benefit from Griffin’s return.  Morris has been much more effective when the defense has had to keep an eye on Griffin as a run threat as well.  If utilized correctly, and if he truly is 100%, Griffin can be a powerful addition to an offense that seems to be finding its stride for the 3-5 Redskins.

Minnesota is also 3-5 and coming off an overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, although it seems that the victory was more about what Tampa Bay didn’t do, rather than what Minnesota did.  Minnesota is still without Adrian Peterson and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has struggled early in his NFL career.  The bright spot for Minnesota is that they have been posting solid defensive numbers, keeping the team in the game when the offense has done so little.  If Minnesota is going to beat the Redskins, they will need to take advantage of possible rust with Robert Griffin III.

Keys to the game

RG3, not Robert Griffin

There was a moment early in the week 2 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that ESPN 980 sideline reporter and Redskins legend Rick “Doc” Walker exclaimed the return of RG3 after a read option quarterback keeper.  It is so true. The “RG3″ moniker paints memories of the dynamic Baylor quarterback we became infatuated with and the dynamic Redskins rookie, who carried a team on his back, that we fell in love with. He must return and immediately return to this style of offense.  He is not yet a pocket passer, so they must utilize his speed to their advantage.

Intensity and heart

These are the attributes the Redskins defense and special teams played with on Monday night in Dallas.  It’s important, because the talent isn’t quite there yet.  Minnesota is dreadful on offense, but if the defense comes out stale, Bridgewater could quickly turn on his career against a marginally talented defense.  If the unit comes out motivated for a win, this one could be over early.

Limit mistakes

Minnesota’s defense has been very opportune this year.  Last week, their overtime victory was the result of a defensive touchdown.  Still, Robert Griffin III takes care of the ball for the most part.

Our Predictions

Joe Ziegengeist

Skins will win this one pretty easily, and we’ll be spending the bye week dreaming of playoff scenarios as the team will be 4-5 with Tampa off the bye.  Redskins 28, Vikings 10

Dave Nichols

I expect RGIII to be a bit rusty, yet show enough of the things we want to see from him to inspire confidence in the future. I just don’t think the Redskins rebound on the short week to go on the road again after the hangover from the big win at Dallas. Vikings 24, Redskins 20

Neil Dalal

The Vikings are a struggling team to say the least. They have a rookie quarterback with few weapons around him and an average defense. The Redskins should win this game as long as they do not have too many penalties and/or turnovers. The key matchup in the game will be Murphy/Kerrigan versus Kalil/Loadholt; if we can win that matchup this should be no-contest. Redskins 27, Vikings 13

Eric Hobeck

With Robert Griffin III back, the offense will be rejuvenated and ready to take on a Viking defense that gives up just over 21 points a game. On offense, Minnesota just doesn’t win when they score less than 20 and the Redskin defense will be able to hold rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater at bay.   Redskins 28, Vikings 13

Joe Miller

This game will come down to how well RG3 plays coming back after missing the last 6+ games. The Vikings defense is pretty good but I imagine it’s been tough for them this week to prepare for a Griffin-led offense, seeing as how he’s played in less than five quarters this season; not a lot of film to go off of. Tough to get a clear picture of what this offense will look like with him at the helm since he obviously brings greater mobility and big play ability to the offense than do Cousins and McCoy. Even with Griffin rusty, I think the offense still puts up points and the defense does fairly well coming off their best performance of the year.  Redskins 27, Vikings 17

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s full comments on RGIII starting

In his normal media availability Thursday, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden indicated the team plans to start Robert Griffin III at quarterback Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Below are his full comments about the matter.

From the team press release:

On the quarterback situation:

“We’ve moved Robert [Griffin III] along at a pretty good clip. We started him out in individual drills, monitored him. Last week he got some team drills, obviously. He did very well and the progress that he has made has had us put him in with the ones and prepare to be the starter. He’s coming along great. We wouldn’t put him in with the ones if we didn’t feel like he was 100 percent physically. Now it’s a question of ‘let’s get him some reps with the ones to see where he is mentally, see how he’s throwing the ball with the group, see if his timing is there, if his reads are there, see how comfortable he is back there,’ and he looks fine. So, every intent right now is moving forward we have to prepare him to be the starting quarterback. If there a fallback, if there’s a drawback whatsoever as far as the injury, if he’s sore at all, then we’ll go back to Colt [McCoy]. But right now, he looks pretty good moving forward but we still have another day tomorrow.”

On if quarterback Robert Griffin III will start:

“If everything goes well, he has got a great chance to start. Right now he looks great, his ankle looks great, you know what I mean? Today, he missed a few throws. We’ll get them corrected. Colt had some good throws today obviously. But, we have a good choice of quarterbacks, but Robert’s the starter. We want to make sure when he came back that he did come back – he’s got to be 100 percent, No. 1, physically, and I feel like he’s at 100 percent physically right now. We still have another day left and to make sure that’s the case. All the doctors are onboard, the trainers are onboard. As far as physically, he looks great. He looked great last week. This week he looks fine. Now it’s just a matter of seeing him with the team drills and how he throws and going from there.”

On what he wants to see from Griffin III prior to Friday:

“I’ll see him decisive with the ball, accuracy, decisive, feet in the pocket, very important. Make sure he’s not jittery, make sure he’s not tentative with his reads and decisions. Make sure he’s confident, plays with that confident air that he has that everybody loves moving forward and we’ll make the final decision, but everything looks good so far,”

On the advantages and disadvantages of playing Griffin III:

“There’s no cons of playing him now if he’s healthy, which we think he is. The problem with the bye is everybody thinks you’ve got a bye, you ‘ve got all this extra time to work. The bye week, the players get like five days off. It’s not like we can come out here and have two-a-days and get them ready for next week. If he’s ready physically, then I think he should play, and that’s what it comes down to. Physically, we think he’s ready, and then like I said, after the physical part, I want to make sure he’s comfortable in the pocket with all the throws and all of his reads, the new plays we’ve added since he’s been gone, some of the new concepts we’ve added since he’s been gone, try to get him up-to-date on those, try to get him up to speed. And if he’s up to speed making the right decisions, we have another day tomorrow, then there’s a great chance he’ll be the starter. But there’s really no benefit to if he is healthy to really sitting him and waiting for the bye. It’s not like his leg’s going to get stronger. His leg’s fine. So, what the heck?

On his expectations of Griffin III moving forward:

“We expect a lot from our starting quarterback whoever it is. We expect a lot from Kirk [Cousins], we expect a lot from Colt [McCoy], and that won’t change with Robert. We have high expectations for him because he is our starting quarterback. He’s a very good athlete, very talented, and he’s played five quarters of football as a starting quarterback here for me since I’ve been here. He’s got a lot to prove as we do, but he’s our starter and we feel like he gives us the best chance to win and that’s the bottom line, which quarterback – all three of them are healthy – gives us the best chance to win, and we made the decision back in training camp that it was Robert. He deserves a chance to prove us right.”

On if Griffin III is taking the majority of the reps with the first team:

“Yes.”

On simulating game situations:

“We can’t worry about the simulation of hits because that comes from the doctors as far as him being cleared physically from them. If they feel like his leg is as stable as it was before he got hurt, then he is going to be out there and playing. There’s nothing more he can do to get it better. Now the decision is on me, and that was what I said before was once he gets cleared from the doctors, then I want to make sure he’s ready from a mental standpoint. Out there today, from a mental standpoint he’s fine. It’s just a matter of he was off a little here and there with some of his throws, but we have got another day to get him back comfortable in the pocket and see where he’s at. So, he’s cleared from the doctors. Now, it’s a matter of getting him ready as far as what we talked about from the quarterback’s skillset.”

On how the decision will be made:

“Yeah, it’ll be pretty much my call. I’ll talk about it with the rest of the coaches and Bruce [Allen] and we’ll go from there. Everybody’s on board as far as from a physical standpoint, everyone’s on board. He’s 100 percent. You can see him running around. You saw him running around last week. He was running scout team cards for Tony Romo. He was running around like a banshee, and he’s more healthy than most of the guys we have playing right now. So, from a physical standpoint he is ready, but like I said, for a young quarterback who has missed this much time in a new system, the big thing is getting him back from a mental standpoint. He’s right there. Watching it on film and looking at it on a chalkboard and talking through it in the meeting rooms is a little bit different than doing it live out there in practice. He’s going to have his bumpy times, but hopefully he’ll correct them and do better tomorrow and better Saturday and we’ll be ready to roll.”

On if there is any hesitation to allow Griffin III to run:

“No, if there was any hesitation as far as that is concerned I wouldn’t be thinking about playing him. That is part of my decision going in. He has got to be 100 percent, and by 100 percent I mean able to do everything – run all the plays that we want, the boots, whatever he’s got to do, the quarterback draws, whatever the heck it is outside the pocket. That is what makes Robert, Robert. So, when he is cleared, he is clear to do everything. We can’t hold back because of any past injuries. He has got to play the position the way he plays it.”

On how reliable athletes’ words are when saying they are ready to return:

“Everybody is different. Everybody wants to get back and play. Every great competitor wants to play but you have to really… We do a great job in here with the trainers. Larry [Hess] as much as he bothers me, he does a really good job with rehabbing these guys and the doctors to a good job of monitoring them, watching all his movements out there and the strength tests in there. There is no way they would think about clearing Robert unless they knew for sure he was 100 percent. They feel good about where he is from a structure standpoint as far as not re-injuring that thing, stability standpoint, it’s stable. So there really is nothing holding him back as far as worrying about what might happen if he gets tackled. It’s intact, it’s steady, it’s structurally good, so there is no reason not to play him from a physical standpoint.”

On how the offense has changed since Griffin III was injured and how he has kept up with those changes:

“He’s done a good job. He has been in all the meetings. He prepares like he is playing. That is the responsibility of all quarterbacks and all players when they are not playing. They have to make sure they are ready. But like I said, chalkboard stuff and watching tape is a little bit different than going out there and going through your progressions live. But he has done a good job, man. He is a very, very, very bright guy and I think that is one of his strengths. He picks up everything in the protection adjustments that we’ve had, the route concept changes that we made. He has done a good job with it, he understands them. Made a few mistakes today but, you know, we’ve all done that on Thursdays. We’ve just got to get them corrected before Sunday if he is going to play.”

On how many changes have been made to the offense:

“Quite a few. Every week it’s game plan dependent depending on who we play. Some teams play more man, some teams play more zone, some teams blitz more and every play is game plan dependent upon the concepts we like and who are going to go after, who we are going to target and you just have to be ready to adjust.”

On a scenario in which Griffin III would not start on Sunday:

“I think if something happens where he steps on someone’s foot or something like that or comes up lame for whatever reason, which shouldn’t happen, or if he just comes and tells me, ‘Hey, I might need another week for it to settle in,’ which probably won’t happen. But for me to say he won’t play if he is 100 percent healthy, which we know he is, just his comfort level out there, but he looked fine today. All systems look like they are go. So we will just prepare and watch him again tomorrow and then make a final decision after tomorrow hopefully.”

On if he will name Griffin III the starter now:

“He is taking the starting reps. We have every intent of him starting, you know what I mean? Who knows, he should be fine… If everything goes well tomorrow, he should be the starter, yes. He should be the starter. I might just change my mind now and just start Colt for the first play of the game just to tick everybody off [laughter].”

On the importance of having a quarterback when taking a head coaching job:

“Well, it is important to have a starter in place that you feel good about and try to build your team around. Instead of trying to have two or three of them, you’ve got to compete and figure out who your starter is, that is a tough job. They drafted one, they had a couple in house that they thought are pretty good and that’s a little tougher on them. Here we felt good coming in when I first got the job that Robert would be the guy and we prepared our team for Robert being the quarterback. Unfortunately he got hurt after five quarters and now that he is better, he is going to be the starter. But every team is different, every system is different and you just have to adjust to your personnel.”

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