1. Run defense. One of the best run-stopping games of the year for the defense. Niners never got anything going on the ground. Then again, they didn't have to with the success they had throwing the ball. With that said, only allowing the opposition to score on 5 of its 11 drives is reason to celebrate one of the better defensive games of the season.
2. Santana Moss as a punt returner. Major improvement. His 13-yard return was the most impressive punt return of the year (not sarcasm) and the ball never hit the ground except when it hit in the end zone. A bad decision not to have him back there earlier in the season.
1. The offense. A bad night all-around for the offense. It started with sub-par quarterback play, got brought down even further by zero pass protection, mix in a few drops including Morgan's drop after the team got a short field off a turnover, throw in what looked like a bad route by either Paulson or Garcon when they were both in the same area on a play that may have been a touchdown, add a missed potential touchdown when Aldrick Robinson slowed down on a deep ball where he had a step on his defender and in summary....it was a pitiful night for the offense.
2. O-line. The 49er defense is really good but the O-line didn't put up much of a fight. Polumbus was a turnstile and Trent Williams was abused on a few occasions.
3. Robert Griffin III. 2nd straight rough performance. He played with no confidence and made no plays of note. The interception was brutally bad. He threw poorly on several other occasions. Some of his completions were bad throws. He didn't feel pressure well. He held the ball too long. It also looked like he didn't get a play call correct that led to an unnecessary timeout which hurt the team's chances to score a touchdown at the end of the half (may be wrong on that but Shanahan seemed angry with Griffin). With that said, Aldrick Robinson didn't do him any favors when he slowed down on a deep ball that may have been a touchdown.
4. Josh Wilson & pass defense. Colin Kapernick hadn't thrown well for 2 months but got healthy tonight. The Skins did a very nice job of making the 49er offense one-dimensional by stopping the run but they weren't good enough to stop the Niner air attack. Kapernick had his highest QB rating of the season. The 49ers hadn't had a pass play over 17 yards in 3 games; they had 5 tonight, 3 of them were for 30+ yards. Wilson seemed to be the target for the Niners and he didn't disappoint. Receivers were wide open in his area all night long.
5. Special Teams. Nothing on kickoff returns. Kickoff and punt coverage were lousy. Kickoffs were too short.
6. End of first-half use of timeouts. The use of timeouts killed their touchdown chances. They did a nice job however getting the field goal team on the field to get the 3 pts before the end of half. Garcon had the first-down with forward progress that would've allowed a spike to stop the clock and a few shots at the end zone.
1. Perry Riley had a huge Pick 6 opportunity but didn't pull it in.
2. The Vernon Davis fumble gave the Skins starting field position in opponents' territory for just the 2nd time in 7 games. It wasn't deep in SF territory but just barely at their 49.
3. RG3 got hit close to late on a couple of plays including the INT play but didn't get calls other QBs have been getting all year.
4. The new field was slippery.
5. They should go to the "turbo"/hurry-up more often.
6. Merriweather still leads with helmet on tackles.
7. Kyle called a 3rd and 3 RO run and a 4th and long-1 run. Neither worked so for all of those who say run it on 3rd and 3 and 4th and 1, he did. You happy now?
8. Skins real chance came after the Davis fumble early in the 3rd quarter. Offense didn't deliver. Morgan's drop killed the drive.
9. I wonder if Shanahan would've made a QB change if the Skins didn't get those two drives at the end of the first half.
A painful loss against a team that was hurting, down several starters, and lost its starting quarterback during the game. The good, bad, and more.
1. 1st-half offense. Amazing first half which included 24 points on 4 drives, 288 yards, 18 first downs, 7-8 on 3rd down, and 20:40 of time of possession. Robert went 16-21 for 179 yards and 3 touchdowns. He completed 6 of 7 for first downs on third down. Morris, Garcon, and Reed were outstanding in that first half.
1. Defense. A regression to the first two weeks and this time they can't blame being out there too much because of an ineffective offense. Minnesota scored 34 pts on just 50 plays (not counting kneel downs) and had the ball for just 23:59. The defense didn’t stop Minnesota once on its own. The Vikings scored on 6 of 8 drives and the only two times the Skins' D got off the field was because a receiver fell down on a third down throw and Ponder threw a terrible pass on the first drive of the game. Other than those two drives, the defense got torched.
Now, did Minnesota have some good field position in the 2nd half courtesy of a bad punt and a penalty….yes. And overall, the D did an okay job on Peterson relatively-speaking. But play-action passes off of Peterson's run-threat killed them all night long. Kerrigan was a non-factor as a pass rusher. In fact, other than the sack on the 2nd play of the game by Orakpo, the pass rush overall was non-existent. Just 3 QB hits the entire night. Pathetic. Ponder and Cassel combined to go 21-27. I can barely remember an incompletion.
2. 2nd-half offense. The offense had to be perfect all night long to win with the defense getting zero stops and it wasn’t. They really needed a touchdown on that opening drive of the 2nd half to extend the lead to 2+ scores but didn't get it. The 1st and 10 read-option run by Robert at the Minnesota 22 on that drive should've gone for big yardage but Reed didn't stay on his block thinking Griffin had passed him already.
Drops hurt them too, particularly the Garcon drop on 3rd and 3 up 27-21 in the 3rd quarter. Robert also missed Jordan Reed on a 1st and 10 throw with Minnesota leading 31-27. It should’ve been a fairly easy throw if he had some touch to it. It was a 15-20 yard play that didn’t happen.
There's talk already of Kyle getting away from the run after they took a 27-14 lead but that’s not accurate per usual. There were 19 offensive plays run between the time they took a 27-14 lead and first and goal with no timeouts left with 38 seconds left. Those 19 plays included 11 runs and 8 passes.
For those that want Morris on every play with a one-score lead, why? They built a 27-14 lead with balance, there was no reason to get away from that balance up 27-21 when they got the ball back.
3. Drops. Paulson’s on the first drive was catchable even though it was thrown quickly and hard. Garcon’s drop on 3rd and 3 up 27-21 was one of those turning-point plays. The Skins had scored on every drive of the game up until that point and had gone 9-11 on third downs. The play call was a good one, the execution wasn’t. Garcon doesn’t drop many but that was a big one. Also, Reed could’ve had the touchdown catch at the end even though he was held before it got there.
4. Pass protection. The interior of the O-line really struggled in the 2nd half.
5. Clock Mgt. It was very good at the end of the game but they got lucky at the end of the first half when they wasted a down by spiking the ball on first and goal at the Minnesota 8. The spike came with 24 seconds left. They should’ve called their last timeout with 36 seconds left after Moss’ catch got them to the 8. 36 seconds is plenty of time to run 3 pass plays into the end zone and then kick the field goal if you don’t get in. Just another example of how poorly they handle these situations even though they overcame the loss of a wasted down with a touchdown anyway.
6. Penalties. The Riley 15-yarder in the first half may have been the difference between 7 pts and 3 and the Young 15-yard penalty on Sp teams gave Minnesota great field position which led to another score.
7. Officiating. No sour grapes intended but the officiating seemed one-sided tonight. The late hit on Chris Baker in the first half was a brutal call. There were at least two hits on Robert that were later than the Baker hit and neither one got called. Josh Morgan was clearly interfered with on the punt return that he fumbled and it wasn’t called. There was a fairly obvious false start that wasn’t called on Minnesota on a key third down. And Jordan Reed was held by Erin Henderson on the 2nd and goal at the end and it wasn’t called.
8. Special Teams. Morgan’s decision not to fair catch a first-half punt was a bad decision. Rocca’s 2nd shanked punt in last 3 weeks hurt. The fake punt attempt was obviously badly executed.
9. Final Play. It looked like Robert should've thrown to Reed. He was open.
1. Saw some screen passes in the game…perhaps not enough.
2. Niles Paul did a nice job on kick returns.
3. Griffin’s inability to slide makes him reluctant to turn some of those read-option runs up field when it looks like there’s a ton of room.
4. Kerrigan’s near-pick would’ve been huge.
5. RG3 was near-perfect in the first half but he missed a wide-open Jordan Reed on a 1st and 10 play down 31-27 and he had an opportunity to avoid lost yardage on one of the sacks if he had just thrown it away.
Another season-saving win. Avoiding 0-4 with a win in Oakland was big; avoiding 1-5 with the big win over Chicago was absolutely necessary; today's 30-24 OT win over the Chargers gives them a chance to get back into things over the next few weeks. The good, bad, and more.
1. Goal-line stand. Let's start there because without it, they would've lost the game 28-24. It was a tough situation because the Chargers had 1st and goal at the 6-inch line with 2 timeouts left meaning that they had the option of throwing or running. They chose to throw it twice which seems surprising until you realize that they barely ran it all day long.
2. Offensive game plan and play calling. A great game called by Kyle Shanahan who didn't seem to let any of the criticism about the lack of Morris runs last week deter him from calling the right game for the team rather than for his critics. Six of the first 8 plays of the game were passes when the whole town has been screaming to run Morris on every play. The Shanahans believe in taking what the defense gives you and the Chargers came out with the intent of stopping the run and Kyle called a game that early on used the pass and a couple of triple-option plays to set up easier running lanes for Morris.
Their first 4 first downs of the game included 2 passes and a triple option pitch to Jordan Reed. The Chargers were kept off-balance all day long thanks to excellent play calling and some seldom-used twists like Darrell Young carrying the ball, more triple option, and a few empty backfield sets.
Two specific play calls show that despite recent mishaps in similar situations, Kyle stuck to his aggressive guns. When they got the ball back up 21-14, he went read-option throw to a wide-open Moss over the middle. The ball was poorly thrown and fell incomplete but this was similar to last week when everyone thought he should run Morris over and over. The play was open and should've worked. The other play was the first play after San Diego had cut the lead to 24-21. I'm sure everyone including San Diego was thinking here comes Morris yet he goes play-action and a perfect throw to Garcon for 26.
3. Read-Option. The Redskins ran a ton of it today and Morris, Young, and the passing game totally benefited from it. Robert didn't keep it much except on the triple-option plays but the threat that he would keep it set up the other stuff. The new twists to the read-option game will keep teams guessing in the coming weeks. The blocking scheme looked different and Moss, Morgan, Reed, and Hankerson have all been pitch options on triple-option plays this year. Young as a full-back run-threat in the backfield as part of the "Pistol" formation with Griffin and Morris is a new twist as well. The Skins ran 21 read-option style plays for 180 yards. Morris was 8-55 yds on read-option style runs while RG3 went 7-8 for 84 yards on read-option/play action passes.
4. Offensive execution, especially on 3rd-down. Last week in Denver at 21-21 in the 4th quarter, Josh Morgan and Aldrick Robinson had opportunities to make catches that could've changed the game but they dropped the ball. Today, Garcon made at least 3 brilliant catches while Griffin made very good throws at key moments, especially on 3rd-down. The Redskins went 12 for 17 on 3rd downs for the game. RG3 was 8 for 9 on 3rd-down throws, 7 of them for first downs. He also ran 10 yards for a 1st down on 3rd and 9.
5. Pierre Garcon. Money game for the guy who said last week "we suck at passing". 7 catches for 172 yards and at least 3 of them were incredible grabs. The deep ball on 3rd and 12 early in the 3rd quarter that he caught was amazing. There was P.I. on the play but he didn't need it with an incredible catch.
6. Alfred Morris. He was great today and really benefitted from the read-option success.
7. RG3. For starters, he made great decisions most of the day on read-option plays. I remember just one read that should've stayed with Morris and it would've been a big run but other than that play, he was very good in the read-option game. He missed a few throws but made a ton of good ones including clutch throws on 3rd down. Among the missed throws....1) overthrowing a wide-open Santana Moss early in the 4th quarter and 2) a throw behind Pierre Garcon on 2nd and 19 late in the 4th quarter on a drive that could've ended the game. Garcon made the catch for a 16-yard gain but a good throw would've been a first down.
With that said, Robert made big throws and perhaps the biggest run of the game. He went 8 for 9 on 3rd down, 7 of those for first downs. His 10-yard run on 3rd and 9 with the score tied at 14 was a monster play....he paid for it with a big hit. Some would prefer he run it out of bounds short of the sticks and punt....he's just not wired that way. It was a big drive, a big play, he knew it, he went and made a play even though he took a big hit.
8. Darrell Young. 3 touchdowns and a new option out of the read-option that other teams must now prepare for.
9. Jordan Reed. Big catch and move-the-sticks run in OT on 3rd and 8.
1. Special Teams. 2 blocked field goals in one game are really hard to do but they managed to do it. Josh Morgan on punt and kick returns is a total disaster and if he's back there next week I'd question who he has pictures of. He makes horrible decisions as a punt returner when he doesn't catch punts he should catch. He let two hit the ground and one of them nearly bounced back and hit one of his teammates. Also, on the kickoff at the end of regulation after San Diego tied it, I don't think he knew that he had to go back and down the ball in the end zone. It was laying there and could've been recovered by San Diego until someone yelled at him to go down it.
2. Pass rush. I heard a lot of complaints after the game about Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan getting held all day long but that sounds like excuse-making to me. Both looked like they were handled most of the day. You can tell they play with high energy but they don't get consistent results. Obviously Kerrigan is a major play maker for this team but he needs more consistent pressure. Orakpo just isn't consistent enough. In fact, Rob Jackson still looks like a better play-maker than Orakpo. Jackson had the team's only sack. Bottom line, 1 sack and 4 QB hits aren't enough. They got close a few times but this team doesn't get enough pass rush....period.
1. The Biggers INT was huge. He benefited from a clear mix-up between Rivers and Brown but that play kept the Skins from falling behind by two scores early.
2. Refs were bad all day long...until the end, thankfully. There was on offensive P.I. called on San Diego's Keenan Allen in the first half without any contact. Chris Chester got called for holding on a play early in the 3rd quarter that wasn't close to being correct. The defenseless hit on Garcon in overtime was a bad call. I thought Woodhead fumbled on the play in the 4th quarter that Shanahan challenged. In overtime, Morris had a run that appeared to spotted poorly. It looked like he got 10, they gave him 9. At least they got the Woodhead play at the goal line at the end right.
3. Chargers' DE Lawrence Guy created a 10-point swing by himself. He blocked a short field goal and tipped an RG3 pass that was picked off in the end zone for the first score of the game.
4. Too many close calls on delay of game for Skins' offense. Cooley talks about tempo all the time and it looked like their tempo was too slow at times. They had one delary of game penalty on a big 3rd and 1 late in the 3rd qtr.
5. Niles Paul's 24-yard kickoff return looked better than anything Morgan has had all season long.
6. The 2 early San Diego Scifres punts to the Skins' 1...an example of great special teams play and it led to a 7-nothing Chargers' lead.
7. No "Turbo" offense today.
8. David Amerson can make plays, good and bad. He had a great pick and he got beat on occasion. Typical for a rookie corner with talent.
9. Hankerson stepped up and had a nice game. No drops, that's encouraging.
10. Skins ran 38 snaps from Pistol for 233 yards, 180 of those yards coming on read-option style plays. 2 of those snaps were no plays because of penalties.
According to every statistical measurement, if Alfred Morris carries the ball a lot on Sunday night, the Skins will win. The "run Morris" theme has come from every nook and cranny of Redskin Nation all week long. That's always the default in this town when the team isn't doing well. Get back to the basics; run the ball dammit!
Whether it's been Portis or Morris in recent years, run it down their throats has always been the Redskin way. Going back to the days of Riggo and the Hogs and before that Brown and after that Byner, when in doubt it's back to our roots......NFC East slobber knocker football. Nostalgia is great but bringing it back in the present can be dangerous.
The slobber knocker approach doesn't work anymore. If you can't throw the ball, you can't win in today's NFL. It's not just today's NFL, it's been this way for a long time. Teams throw to get a lead and run to protect it. Nobody lines up and just runs it on every play anymore. Trying to run the ball "down their throats" on first, second, and third downs is a formula for punts, not points. It doesn't work for most teams. Okay, maybe, maybe the 49ers can run it down someone's throat with their o-line and Frank Gore but most teams can't. A balanced offense where run or pass is a legit possibility on any down, particularly first down, is what works for the masses.
Specific to Kyle Shanahan's offense in Washington, play calling that keeps the other team guessing has always been the key to a successful day. They just aren't good enough up front to line it up and play smash mouth football. Smash mouth comes in the 2nd half with a lead and the other team wilting. Getting that lead for this team has required balance and deception in recent years. Yes, the Shanahans love to run the ball and they've been good at it but to do it well requires doing both (running and passing) well.
So for those hoping the game plan on Sunday night should start, continue, and end with Morris, Morris, and more Morris, I would be surprised if you get your wish.
1. they pressure Aaron Rogers. They have little chance on the road at Lambeau if Rogers has time to pick the Skins' secondary apart. The Packers had some injuries along their offensive line in training camp but they protected Rogers with some success in San Francisco last week and that was without much of a running game to help out. This could be a moment for Brian Orakpo. He had a big game in the Skins' 2010 win over the Packers at Fed Ex with 2 sacks. He and Kerrigan must be a factor today as pass rushers.
2. they get into rhythm offensively from the start. They need to make a few first downs on their first drive. I firmly believe that this offense is built around the threat of RG3 as a potential runner out of the Pistol. He doesn't have to run much but the threat of him as a runner made last year's offense roll. I think it's the key to this year's offense. Now, I wouldn't discount the possibility that the Shanahans could come up with something new that could work just as well and I do like RG3 as a quick thrower with the field spread with 4 and 5 wides. However, it just seems finishing as the #1 rush offense is more likely than finishing as the #1 pass offense.
3. they win the turnover battle. Can't win today turning the ball over like they did on Monday night. Plus-1 at least today or it could be a long day.
Lots to digest and suggest after the Skins preseason win over the Bills. The good, bad, and more.
1. The offense. 20 points on 299 yards and 17 first downs in the first half alone. The Redskins didn't need to make many third-down conversions because they were making first downs on 1st and 2nd down.Bottom line, you've seen evidence here in the preseason that the offense has a chance to very good again.Even though Rex Grossman moved the team well, the offense really hums when the QB is a legit threat to run.
2. Quarterback play. If you're a quarterback in the NFL, playing for the Shanahans should be at the top of your wish list. If Donovan McNabb weren't so resistant to change, he might still be playing for this team. Rex wasn't as sharp today as he was in the first two preseason games but he was still good enough to manage a 116.4 QB rating in the first half. Pat White has made a case to be on the final roster. I suggested last year that the Shanahans would search for a “poor man's" version of RG3 and White appears to fit the bill. He couldn’t throw the ball in mini-camp….the improvement since then is remarkable.Keeping 4 QBs seems unrealistic because there are pressing depth needs at other positions but White has made the 3rd QB discussion interesting. Sonny suggested on the pregame show that White is tradeable after performing well in the preseason. Maybe a team like Buffalo with their banged-up QB situation?
3. Roy Helu Jr. He's been impressive this preseason and he's solidified his spot as Morris' back-up. He'll get meaningful carries this year while spelling Morris and plenty of 3rd-down opportunities as a runner and pass receiver.
4. Kai Forbath. He's picked up where he left off. Perfect in the preseason and a 53-yarder today. I would like to see his touchback percentage go up on kickoffs but field-goal percentage is his most important #.
5. EJ Biggers & Jerome Murphy on Sp Teams. They both played with great energy on special teams. Biggers also had a pass-deflection on a corner blitz. Murphy had a nice play in coverage as well.
6. Brandon Jenkins and Darryl Tapp. Both have made their mark in the preseason as edge pass rushers. Overall, defensive speed looks much better than a year ago.
7. Aldrick Robinson. He's running all types of routes this summer and he's doing it successfully.
8. Darrell Young and WRs as blockers. D. Young blocks well and so do the Skins' wide outs. It's a big reason they run the ball so well and is an underrated reason for the read-option's success. In fact, the FB and WRs must be successful blocking not just because it helps the play work but it also protects the QB when he runs to the edge.
1. Crawford on punt returns & the injury. Fielding one of them at his own 2 and running backwards on another and then the news that he's done for the year with a knee injury.
2. Defense against read-option on Bills' 1st-half TD drive. Like most teams, they had a hard time stopping Kolb, Spiller, etc. when the Bills went to an up-tempo spread look with read-option as their primary play.
1. The Redskins first-team D got some work against the spread-read/option attack when Kolb was in there for Buffalo. Before Kolb got hurt, the up-tempo spread look with read-option was a preview of what Philly may run with Vick.
2. The slant or square-in pass works so much better when its run out of the Pistol with a run-threat QB.
3. Another fumble from Thompson even though they got it back....lucky. He sort of redeemed himself with some good runs and a big punt return. I think they like him a lot. It’ll be interesting to see what happens this week, especially considering the Crawford injury opens up the punt returner spot.
4. Nice play by Lance Lewis to rip fumble out of PR's hands.
5. Keiland Williams has run well in the preseason.
The good, bad, and more from the preseason opener in Tennessee.
1. Offensive coaching. More proof tonight that the Shanahans know how to coach offense and quarterbacks in particular. The only absolute about this football team is how prepared they are on offense every time they take the field. The scheme, preparation, and play-calling is top-shelf and it has been since they got here. The running game was in mid-season zone-stretch form with Helu and Royster taking advantage of cut-back lanes all night long. The passing game was sharp from the start. Cousins was great, Rex caught fire after a slow start, and Pat White was impressive as well. The overall passing stats would've been even more impressive if not for several drops. Bottom line, generating 25 first downs, 360 total yards of offense, and 8-14 on third downs is impressive for week 8, let alone for the first preseason game.
2. Kirk Cousins. It would be hard to imagine Kirk Cousins looking any better than he did in two series of the first preseason game. He went 6 for 7 with a touchdown pass before handing it over to Rex. It appeared his reads were decisive and the ball came out quickly.
3. David Amerson. I have no idea how his coaches will grade his performance technically but they'll love how active and aggressive he played in his first pro game. He did a nice job on Kenny Britt and was close to an interception at least once. He played confidently and like he belonged. His length and playmaking ability will be evident this season.
4. Helu and Royster. Both, like Morris, have great athletic vision. The running game went for 164 yards and 4.8 per carry with a hodge-podge of o-linemen on the field. Not bad. The RB position is going to be a difficult when cuts come around. Helu looks like a given but I'd hate to see Royster go.
1. Run defense. The Chris Johnson 58-yard touchdown run was the start of a bad few minutes for the Skins' run defense. It gave up 90 yards on 6 straight carries with players out of position and taking bad angles. It would certainly appear that Brian Orakpo was the man out of position on the Johnson TD run.
2. Dropped passes. Lots of them including some potential big-yardage plays. Robinson dropped an easy 20+ yard pass from Rex while Pat White was on the money a few times but his receivers failed to hold onto the ball.
1. It looked like Orakpo lined up offsides on his sack.
2. Did you notice that Haslett went with Kerrigan as a down lineman on a 3rd and long in the first quarter? He had Orakpo and Brandon Jenkins lined up as outside linebackers with Kerrigan and Bowen up front.
3. At least 6 projected starters didn't play....(RG3, Garcon, Morris, T. Williams on offense.....Wilson, Hall, and Merriweather on defense).
The Redskins are dealing with a somewhat minor shake-up to the coaching staff of Mike Shanahan, as the coaches prepare to go on vacation for a few weeks.
The Buffalo Bills made it official, what Washington Times and ESPN 980 Redskins Insider Rich Campbell wrote about earlier todaywtim.es/V80Ojl, that Redskins wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard is leaving after just one year and joining Doug Marrone's staff in the same position.
Hilliard worked under Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, in Tampa when Hilliard was still playing and Hackett was cutting his teeth in the coaching profession. It's not known what type of deal Hilliard left for, but it would seem odd that the Redskins would let him go for a similar position.
The Redskins benefited from a great group of blocking receivers that helped the NFL's # 1 run offense, and also featured four receivers -- Pierre Garcon (633), Leonard Hankerson (543), Josh Morgan (510) , Santana Moss (573) that each had over 500 yards receiving, and plenty of variety as Moss led in touchdowns (8), Morgan in catches (48) and Garcon in yards.
It's not known who will replace Hilliard on the Redskins coaching staff, but a couple of possibilities are current three-year offensive assistant, Richmond Flowers. Flowers has worked with the receivers group before, while also helping out the offense as a whole.
Current tight-ends coach Sean McVay could be switched over to the position group, as he worked as an assistant unit coach under Keenan McCardell in 2010, before replacing former tight-ends coach, Jon Embree. Speaking of which, Embree is currently out of a job, as he was fired after two seasons as the head coach at Colorado.
Efforts to contact the parties involved and potentially involved were not immediately successful, while all of the wide receivers that played under Hilliard for the 2012 season had not responded via text as of 4:15 PM.
The Redskins could also lose current defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, to the Cleveland Browns. He is interviewing for the Browns defensive coordinator position, under new head coach, Rob Chudzinski. The move was first reported by Rick Stroud in Tampa, who covered Morris for three years when he served as head coach of the Bucs.
The potential loss of Morris - would be a big one in my eyes. While the media was not afforded a lot of opportunity to get to know him really well, I can tell you from every dealing I had with Morris -- he is as genuine as they come. Just a fun, energetic guy to be around. I can tell many stories, but most encounters were behind the scenes and obviously not for publication. Trust me, he made a quality impression.
His absence would also be a big blow for the secondary, as he took over a year ago - and while the defensive backs struggled for the first ten games or so - it was clear they made a pretty dramatic improvement. Most notably, Jim Haslett saluted Morris for his management of the constant shuffle at the safety position for most of the season.
If the Redskins choose to stay in-house, they could promote assistant special teams and defensive backs coach, Richard Hightower to replace him. Hightower has been on staff since Mike Shanahan was hired, and is a part of the defensive and special teams game planning. Off the top of my head, I believe Hightower does the red zone part of the game plan for the upcoming opponent.
This is a list of things about the Skins' 2012 season that I want to remember when we get to free agency, draft, and beyond.
1. RG3's Spectacular Season. The whys and hows of his injury will dominate the offseason discussion but let's not let it totally overshadow the greatest rookie season in franchise history. His debut game in New Orleans was stunning. The final drive in Tampa, the 76-yard game-clinching run against Minnesota, and the go-ahead touchdown drive late in the 4th quarter in East Rutherford were breath-taking early-season moments. The 7-game season-ending win streak featured 8 touchdown passes in back to back wins over Philly and Dallas, a clutch go-ahead touchdown pass against the Giants in a huge Monday night win, and two clutch throws on the final drive against Baltimore on one leg. He threw 20 touchdowns against just 5 picks with a 102.4 QB rating.....as a rookie! Oh and by the way, he rushed for 815 yards while leading the league in yards per carry at 6.8. The list of eye-popping plays he made during the course of the season are too numerous to mention but how's the 88-yarder to Garcon in the opener, the 4th and 10 to Paulson the first Giant game, the 76-yard TD run against Minnesota, the 30-yard go-ahead TD pass to Moss in the first Giant game, and the TD pass to Moss just before the half on Thanksgiving in Dallas for starters.
2. Pierre Garcon's Impact on W's and L's. With Garcon the Redskins were 9-2, without him they were 1-5. He was a difference-maker for sure.
3. Alfred Morris. He was the perfect zone-stretch and zone-read runner. He set the franchise record with 1,613 yards with the perfect combination of vision and power. His 33 carries for 200 yards and 3 touchdowns in the NFC East title game against Dallas in the season-finale is one of the franchise's all-time great individual performances.
4. Santana Moss Wasn't Done. The 33-year old led the team with 8 touchdown catches and was third on the squad with 41 catches.
5. The Offense Was Top 5 and Could've Been Better. They finished 5th overall, 1st in rushing averaging 169.3 per game, 4th overall in scoring at 27.3 points per game, and it could've been better if their defense didn't rank towards the bottom. Imagine that offense with a defense that gave them the ball back quicker.
6. Offensive Innovation. Mike and Kyle Shanahan introduced the NFL to the "Pistol". The "Pistol" was nothing more than a formation that allowed them to more effectively run their traditional zone-stretch offense while also threatening defenses occasionally with the lethal "Read-Option". Once the Shanahans introduced RG3 as a run-threat out of the "Pistol", the offense became nearly unstoppable. The most overrated talk during the season was how many times RG3 ran from the "Pistol" while underrated was what the threat of him running did to defenses. Separating truth from fiction, the "Read-Option" was not only the most effective passing offense the Redskins ran, it was the safest and cleanest pocket for RG3. He barely got hit on throws on the "Read-Option" and his primary receiver was almost always open. By midseason, San Francisco and Seattle were among the teams copying what the Redskins were doing.
7. Turnover Margin. The Skins ranked 3rd in the league at +17 and led the league with just 14 giveaways. A big reason for their 7-game season-ending win streak was 15 takeaways and a plus-10 margin.
8. Defense Got Better. 28th overall isn't good and leaves a ton of room for improvement but after the bye at 3-6, a defense that couldn't stop anybody started to and a team that couldn't generate any pass rush got some. Jim Haslett deserves a lot of credit for figuring out how to take a defense decimated by injuries and suspension early (see Carriker, Orakpo, Merriweather, Jackson) and turning into a competitive group by the final month of the season.
9. Penalties' Good and Bad. The Redskins were penalized an average of 7 times a game (5th most in the league) but just 2.7 times per game in their last 3 games (best in the league).
10. Danny Smith's Comeback. From two blocked punts in the first two games to a very good rest of the year. Fans wanted him fired early but his punt coverage team finished 8th while his kickoff coverage team finished 12th. Brandon Banks was ineffective but the move to Richard Crawford on punt returns worked.
11. Kai Forbath. Nobody can explain the move to Cundiff at the end of the preseason but the final outcome was a good one after Cundiff predictably failed. Forbath set an NFL record by making 17 straight field goals to start his career....he finished 17-18, missing his final attempt of the season into the wind and on the sand at Fed Ex.
12. Fed Ex Turf. A total disaster late in the season and a total embarrassment in the playoff loss to Seattle.
13. Biggest Offseason Needs. Safeties, corners, and another playmaker on offense are my top 3 priorities. Big decisions regarding Fred Davis and Brian Orakpo.
A nice win with a quarterback not completely healthy and against an Eagle team that came to play. The good, bad, and more. Also, their updated playoff situation is listed below.
1. The Defense. Jim Haslett schemed up more pressure on the quarterback than in any game this year. The players also won more matchups than they have in any game this year. Five total sacks with several more hurries. Pressure was a factor all day but most importantly on three key plays. First--the Ryan Kerrigan sack/forced fumble on the final play of the 1st quarter. They were down 7-zip and on the verge of going down more. Second-the 4th and 2 sack at midfield up 20-13 in the 3rd quarter. Again, it was a Kerrigan play pushing the tackle back into Foles for the sack. Third-the final play of the game. Pressure forced the intentional grounding and the 10-second run-off...game over. The two turnovers forced in the first half were huge. I say forced because Kerrigan forced one with the sack and Cofield tipped the ball that Fletcher picked off. By the way, Cofield was very good all day as was Fletcher and Riley.
2. Offensive Playmakers. The Redskins have guys making plays after catches, during catches, and after getting hit. It's as important as anything we've seen during the 6-game win streak. Pierre Garcon makes plays. Joshua Morgan makes plays and was especially effective today. He had an incredible run on a reverse that should've been a loss. His touchdown catch and run was typical of the kinds of plays their receivers are making. Moss's touchdown catch was spectacular. Morris makes plays especially after contact. Royster had a good move on 3rd and short. Niles Paul had a nice catch and run. Attribute it to the scheme, the return of Garcon, or anything you want but the Skins have guys making plays with the ball.
3. Kai Forbath. He's money. 17 for 17 and the new record for most kicks made without a miss to start a career. His two early field goals today were important and gave the Skins some momentum.
4. Kyle Shanahan. He had a quarterback that was clearly less than 100% yet he was able to come up with a gameplan that kept the threat of RG3 as a runner in place without actually running him much. All season long I've felt the talk of him as a runner has been so overrated compared to the biggest benefit which has been the "threat of RG3 running" even when he didn't. There was plenty of pistol and even several read-option plays but he only ran on one read-option. The others were Morris runs or the read-option was used to set up passes. Kyle threw in several wrinkles....two plays stood out. On a completion to Garcon in the first half off the read-option look, Joshua Morgan was in motion than moved into the backfield prior to the snap. They've used that alot on plays where the WR ends up being a decoy on a run play or is used as the pitch back on the option but never on a quick throw off the read-option. The more interesting play was the touchdown run by Morris. That play appeared to be a fake read-option to one side with an old-school counter trey with Trent Williams pulling to the other side. The play broke wide-open for the touchdown.
1. RG3's mobility. It was obvious he wasn't 100% and we saw it early. He seemed uncomfortable on an early read-option run and later on a 4th and 2 bootleg miss.
2. A near-disaster in pass coverage at the end. Madieu Williams did a nice job on a safety blitz but was seemingly out of position (which isn't a first) and very lucky on a pass into the end zone for a wide open Maclin on the final drive.
1. Skins got lucky at the end when #86 dropped a wide-open slant for a touchdown.
2. I think Andy Reid may have gone for 2 and the win if they had scored at the end. He was in a risk-taking mode all day with nothing to lose.
3. The challenge by Shanahan on the RG3 lateral to Moss that lost 17 yards was a bit of a waste.
4. Eagle fans have complained about Reid's clock managment for years and it's easy to see why. He called quick timeouts with still over a minute left in the first half potentially leaving plenty of time for the Skins to score before the end of the half. It didn't hurt him this time but the strategy was wrong.
Skins' Playoff situation:
To Win the NFC East- Beat Dallas. They could also win the NFC East with a tie against Dallas if the Giants lose once. The Skins CAN'T win the NFC East with a loss to Dallas. A 9-7 final record would lose out to either a 10-6 Giants or a 9-7 Cowboys (common opponents).
Wildcard- If they lose to Dallas, they could still qualify for the playoffs as a wildcard but would need 3 of the following 4 things to happen. 1-the Giants to lose once (vs Balt or Philly); 2-the Vikings to lose to the Packers; 3-the Bears to lose once (vs Cards or Lions); 4-Seattle to lose twice (vs SF and STL).