An in-depth review of another Redskins preseason win and the drama that led up to it.
The Redskins improved to 3-0 this preseason with a 31-13 win at Baltimore on Saturday night (Aug. 29, 2015).
1. Injury/absentee report:
The Redskins’ offense played this game without:
The Redskins’ defense played this game without:
2. The situation with Griffin entering this game was one for the ages
First, the timeline. Jay Gruden announced after the preseason win over Detroit on Aug. 20 that Griffin had left the game due to a concussion after laying on the field for multiple minutes off a sack-strip-lost fumble in a woeful performance. But Gruden on Sunday Aug. 23 couldn’t confirm when in the game Griffin suffered the concussion of even IF Griffin had suffered an actual concussion. Griffin wouldn’t answer either question on Thursday Aug. 27. Then that evening, the Redskins put out a statement saying that in independent neurologist had cleared Griffin for this game at the Ravens. But then 24 hours later, the Redskins put out a statement from the independent neurologist (Robert N. Kurtzke) saying that “upon further scrutiny today of the neuropsychology data, I agree with the neuropsychologist that he should be held from gameplay this weekend and be retested in one-two weeks before a firm conclusion to return to gameplay can be made.”
Now to the conspiracy issue: the idea that there is no concussion and that the Redskins have concocted one to get out of the Griffin business. There is no conspiracy here. A conspiracy would require multiple doctors being in cahoots with the team, and all parties involved risking massive penalty. This was simply clumsy communication both from and within the organization. Read the reporting of NFL Media’s Jeff Darlington, who also reported that Griffin’s camp itself doesn’t believe that this situation is a conspiracy.
Now to some of the fallout, which was as relevant as anything. Consider two other significant reports that came off the chaos of Friday night/Saturday morning:
And now to my conclusion: the last two weeks, starting with the Griffin “best quarterback on this team…best quarterback in this league” comments to WJLA, continuing with the woeful performance in the preseason win over Detroit and now peaking with this concussion confusion, have brought the Griffin situation to a boiling point and potential point of resolution far sooner than anyone could have reasonably expected. That is the bright spot for the Redskins fan. The inevitable is imminent. What was going to maybe take until November is happening now. The Redskins are in the process of getting off the Griffin path and onto one that gives them an actual chance at having a competitive and functional season.
3. A few other random thoughts off everything with Griffin
• Griffin suffering a dislocated left ankle in the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville last season was the first fortuitous Griffin injury development for Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, who did not fully seize the opportunity. Incredibly, less than a year later, another similar circumstance has arisen.
• I hated the Redskins’ decision to pick up the fifth-year option in Griffin’s contract, guaranteeing him $16.1 million for injury only in 2016. The decision looks even worse now. Suppose that he did suffer a concussion, that it is so bad that symptoms linger for months and that he can’t pass a physical by the start of the next league year? The Redskins would be on the hook for the $16.1 million. A quarterback with Griffin’s injury history and who gets hit as much as he does shouldn’t have his fifth-year option picked up unless he is elite.
• The picking up of the option presumably will make it difficult to trade Griffin, as the option would carry over to his new team. I suppose that Griffin could always waive the option, but why would he?
• This should go without saying, but I do hope that Griffin is fine from a health standpoint. No matter what we think of him as a quarterback, he doesn’t deserve to suffer physically.
4. Cousins played for the entire first half, played well for the third time in three games this preseason and is tracking to be the starting quarterback in Week 1
He went 20-of-27 for 190 yards, a touchdown and a pick. Most impressive was that he did all of this with a running game that was virtually non-existent. Alfred Morris and Chris Thompson combined for seven yards on nine carries in the first half. Also impressive was that neither Cousins nor McCoy was sacked once in this game despite combining for 39 pass attempts.
Cousins was at his best on the two-minute drive that resulted in Chris Thompson’s first-and-goal one-yard under-center-handoff touchdown run late in the second quarter, going for 7-for-7 for 67 yards on all shotgun passes and also producing a reception for three yards on a pass that was batted back into his hands.
Cousins also was very good on the Redskins’ second drive of the game, which resulted in a first-quarter turnover on downs. He had a second-and-13 13-yard shotgun completion to Jordan Reed, a second-and-10 13-yard offset-I play-action completion to Ryan Grant and a third-and-five 14-yard shotgun completion to Andre Roberts despite the Ravens blitzing.
The biggest negative from Cousins was a first-quarter second-and-eight shotgun pick to Terrell Suggs. Cousins was trying to throw a slip screed to Pierre Garcon to the right, but Suggs made the play while between Garcon and Morgan Moses. Cousins should not have made the throw. Also, he was credited with a fumble on a botched exchange on the first play of the turnover-on-downs drive in the first quarter.
Gruden after the game was noncommittal about who would start Week 1 against Miami, but at no point did he come close to declaring Griffin the starter if cleared and continuously referenced having to look at the film and make a determination later. I would be stunned at this point if Cousins didn’t start against the Dolphins. I don’t know that Gruden loves Cousins given that we never saw him play again last season after being benched in the win over Tennessee on Oct. 19. But I do believe that Gruden loves what he is seeing from Cousins and thinks he gives the Redskins the best chance to win right now.
5. McCoy played for the entire second half and played well
He went 10-of-12 for 95 and two touchdown passes to Rashad Ross in the third quarter. McCoy went 5-of-6 for 43 yards and a touchdown on his first drive of the game, connecting with Ross on a third-and-goal five-yard shotgun touchdown pass. McCoy capitalized on a short field on his next drive, going 2-for-3 for 20 yards that included a second-and-goal nine-yard under-center play-action touchdown pass to Ross.
McCoy also displayed impressive mobility, evading pass rushers on his first two pass attempts: a second-and-nine 14-yard shotgun completion to Ross and a second-and-seven nine-yard I-formation play-action-boot completion to Jordan Campbell.
6. Two of the Redskins’ biggest pending free agents now have been locked up
Trent Williams tweeted hours before this game that he had agreed on a five-year contract extension. The contract reportedly includes $43.25 million in guaranteed money and will make him the highest-paid offensive tackle in NFL history.
The Redskins on July 29 announced the signing of Kerrigan to a reported five-year contract extension with $24.28 million in guaranteed money. That deal also reportedly will make Kerrigan the third-highest paid linebacker in the NFL. It’s interesting how much more guaranteed money is in Williams’ deal versus Kerrigan’s when both deals are among the most lucrative at their positions.
7. The Redskins’ running game got off to a disturbingly slow start but then picked up
As mentioned, Morris and Thompson combined for seven yards on nine carries in the first half. Of course, not all of this was their fault. Shawn Lauvao got pushed back big time by Brandon Williams on early-second-quarter second-and-10 shotgun-handoff run for minus-three yards on a drive that resulted in a punt.
Matt Jones, though, was impressive again, producing seven carries for 57 yards and a 17-yard reception. He had runs of three, six, 13 and 14 yards on the third quarter’s first drive, which resulted in Ross’ third-and-goal five-yard touchdown reception.
8. The first-team defense had some issues for the third time in three games this preseason
David Amerson and Dashon Goldson missed on tackles on Steve Smith Sr.’s second-and-eight 63-yard touchdown reception on the fourth offensive play of the game.
Flacco had 13-yard completions on two late-first-quarter third-and-10s on the drive that resulted in Justin Tucker’s early-second-quarter 48-yard field goal. The second third-and-10 13-yard completion resulted in a skirmish that led to Smith and Chris Culliver being ejected and John Harbaugh walking nearly all the way across the field and jawing with Jay Gruden.
9. Things were much different once Flacco left the game late in the second quarter
The Redskins defense, facing Matt Schaub and Bryn Renner, had three sacks and two picks and allowed just 38 net yards passing.
Jackson Jeffcoat had a sack-strip and a pick. Preston Smith and Chris Baker had the two other sacks. Kyshoen Jarrett had the other pick.
10. Redskins special teams had four bad moments in the first half but a really good one in the second half
DreQuan Hoskey had a nine-yard holding penalty on a first-quarter Thompson kickoff return.
Tress Way had a mere 32-yard punt early in the second quarter.
Kai Forbath booted the kickoff that followed Jamison Crowder’s second-quarter third-and-nine 22-yard touchdown reception out of bounds.
The Redskins allowed a 103-yard kickoff return to Asa Jackson in the final minute of the second quarter, though he did not score a touchdown and was impressively tackled at the Redskins’ two-yard line by Justin Rogers. Four plays later, Baker forced a fumble on a fourth-and-goal-at-the-one carry by Javorius (juh-VAHR-iss) Allen.
The bright spot: Deshazor Everett had a wicked hit to force a fumble that Derek Carrier recovered on a fourth-quarter punt return for no gain by Jackson.