April 6, 2020

Washington Redskins Week 2 Analysis: Offensive Notes

The Washington Redskins offense thoroughly dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday en route to the team’s first victory since Nov. 3 of last year. The 41 points scored by the offense was their highest output since their 45-point showing against the Bears in late October last season.

However, in spite of their success, the story of this game will be the ankle injury quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered while making a throw on the run early in the first quarter. Griffin said Monday that the MRI showed no ankle fracture but the timetable for his return is still inconclusive, and he very well could miss a significant amount of time if not the rest of the season.

The injury could not only have a huge impact on the Redskins this season but may even alter the entire future of the franchise for years to come. The biggest question for this season now becomes how well can backup and fellow 2012 draft pick, Kirk Cousins, play as the starter in Griffin’s absence.

If RG3 doesn’t return this year, and Cousins is able to lead the team to a successful winning season, there’ll be a lot of tough questions for the front office in the offseason. The offense under Cousins got off to a good start Sunday.

Offensive Notes

Kirk Cousins against the Browns in one of his only four career starts. (photo by Brian Murphy)

Kirk Cousins against the Browns in one of his only four career starts. (photo by Brian Murphy)

Kirk Cousins: The third-year player shined in relief duty following Griffin’s injury, even throwing a 20-yard touchdown to fullback Darrel Young on his first pass attempt of the game. Ultimately, Cousins went 22-of-33 for 250 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Outside of his 2012 relief appearance late in the game against the Baltimore Ravens when he only had two pass attempts, Cousins’ 109.4 passer rating Sunday was the best of his career. He operated the offense decisively and efficiently, getting the ball out quickly and consistently finding open receivers.

While the Jaguars were clearly a pretty bad football team, Cousins still had a very strong showing and looked like a starting quarterback. There was rampant speculation in the preseason that Cousins was more deserving of the starting job than Griffin and now he’ll get his chance to prove it. He’s been up and down in his four career starts thus far in his career, but three of those starts were at the end of last year amid much organizational turmoil so this season would certainly seem to be a better opportunity.

If he performs well in RG3’s absence, he could make a strong push to be the Redskins starter for years to come or at the very least, prove to other QB-needy teams in the league that he can be a solid starter.

Niles Paul: The 2011 5th round pick out of Nebraska had by far the best game of his career Sunday. Before this year, Paul had a total of 14 catches in his previous three seasons. He had eight receptions against the Jaguars, amassing 99 yards with a touchdown, the big highlight being a jump-ball fade route Paul caught for a TD in the fourth quarter.

When Jordan Reed injured his hamstring early in Week 1 against the Houston Texans, it was initially perceived to be a huge loss for the offense but Paul has filled in valiantly with his athleticism and improved hands.

The converted wide receiver has long been a special teams standout on this team but his play this season has been so good that he may warrant playing time even after Reed comes back. Given Gruden’s use of tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert last year in Cincinnati, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the coach create mismatches using Reed and Paul in two-TE sets this season once Reed returns.

Running Game: Alfred Morris’ strong season continued Sunday as he gained 85 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. While Morris’ 3.9 yards per carry was below his career 4.7 average, the Redskins commitment to Morris and the run really opened up the passing game as it allowed the offense to consistently use play action passes effectively.

In last year’s abysmal 3-13 season, Morris had 22 or more carries in only four games so it’s a good sign for the team that Gruden truly appears committed to the run after some speculation in the offseason that he may be too “pass happy”. With Cousins the starter for the foreseeable future, the offense’s reliance on Morris only stands to increase moving forward.

Andre Roberts & Ryan Grant: RG3 wasn’t the only major offensive starter to suffer an injury in Sunday’s game, as DeSean Jackson, too, left the game in the first quarter after hurting his shoulder going to the ground on a catch attempt. His absence opened the door for No. 3 WR Andre Roberts and rookie Ryan Grant. The two combined for nine catches for 114 yards, with Roberts even adding a 19-yard rush and good punt returns as well.

When Roberts was first signed as a free agent in the offseason, the expectation was that he’d step in immediately and start opposite Pierre Garcon. But when the team signed Jackson after his unexpected release from the Eagles, those plans changed.

Roberts got the opportunity Sunday to show that he’s more than capable as a starting receiver and the Redskins don’t appear to be in bad shape even if Jackson misses time with his shoulder injury. Ryan Grant, meanwhile, continued to display the impressive hands and solid route-running he showed in training camp plus preseason and figures to be a reliable target moving forward if given the opportunity.

About Joe Miller

Joe Miller is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins. Joe is a southern Maryland native and an alumnus of the University of Maryland with a degree in communication. He’s been a passionate follower of D.C. sports, especially the Redskins, his entire life. Joe works for the Bowie Baysox and contributes content for Son of Washington. You can follow Joe on Twitter @JoeCoolMiller.

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