What happened last night? A lot. We cover it all in a new weekly feature called “The Morning After.”
On top of the topical columns, I’ll be writing a few regular features on this blog. One of these will be the day after games and it will simply be titled “The Morning After.” It’s as simple as it sounds. What’s the aftermath of the previous night’s game? For all regular features, I’m open to any and all feedback on what you want out of them and how we can make them better, so tweet your suggestions @craighoffman. With that out of the way, let’s dive in.
As much as everyone is sick of hearing about RGIII and the quarterbacks, the story of last night is RGIII and the quarterbacks. If Griffin is hurt and can’t practice or can’t play next week against Baltimore, he’s in deep trouble for week one.
“We’ll have to see,” Jay Gruden said after the game. “I would imagine depending on how long he is out he is still going to be our starter.”
I don’t believe that there will be a competition, no matter how obvious it might be that there should be one. At this point Griffin is horrifically behind on reps. He had eight drop backs last night and completed one ball past the line of scrimmage, although, to be fair, Andre Roberts dropped his most impressive throw of the night on a 3rd down.
The whole reason Griffin played his fourth and final series is because he needs the work. “I wanted to get something going on offense” Gruden said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
As a result, he might wind up getting even less work. That’s not Jay Gruden’s fault. I understand what he was doing, despite the inherent risk of putting Griffin behind an offensive line who bluntly got their behinds whipped.
I’ve heard a lot about the O-Line play this morning and it’s been correctly pointed out that Trent Williams’s absence makes a huge difference. Don’t forget the impact that DeSean Jackson has on the first team offense either. Jackson’s vertical threat creates more space for everyone and would help Robert a ton. That should be at least mentioned when evaluating Griffin and the 1st team.
I asked for topics you wanted covered today last night on Twitter and got this request from Howard:
@CraigHoffman Lack of protection and Robert’s response to it. Will Cousins start next week, and what happens if he excels?
— Howard Copeland (@Pastorc44) August 21, 2015
It’s so hard to evaluate Griffin because the line play was horrid, but he didn’t seem to help himself. Without seeing an endzone angle on tape, it’s hard to know if he had a chance, although many people seem to think he had receivers open when he took hits. Part of a quarterback’s job is to diagnose pressure and find a hot route if necessary. This will be easier to say definitively after watching the tape. As for the other part of Howard’s question…
The Other Quarterbacks
At some point in all of this, results have to matter, and the other two quarterbacks have produced. Kirk Cousins has shown everything we’ve wanted to see. First and foremost he’s thrown the ball to the right color shirt. Second, he’s shown the pocket presence we’ve wanted so desperately to see from Griffin. It’s not about running. It’s about the subtle slide to let a pass rusher fly by. Third, he’s gotten the ball in the endzone. If we’re going on games only, and this was an open competition, even the staunchest RGIII supporter would have to concede that Cousins should start week one. What happens in practice matters too and Cousins reportedly hasn’t been as sharp there, but when the bullets are flying who is producing? The answer, so far this preseason, wears number eight.
Colt McCoy had a good night as well. He was smart with the ball and made some good throws while leading two scoring drives. The fumbled snap at the goal line to end the first half hurts, but in a regular season game that play doesn’t happen. It’s a chip shot field goal and McCoy would have led three scoring drives.
Bottom line – buckle up. As much as you may hate hearing about the quarterbacks, it’s the most important position in pro sports and the Redskins currently have far more questions at it than answers.
The Rashad Ross Dilemma
If results matter, than Rashad Ross makes the roster. He found the end zone again last night and is currently the NFL’s leading receiver in the preseason. The problem for Ross and the Redskins is they have a surplus of undersized receivers. Jackson is probably the smallest number one wideout in the league. Andre Roberts and Jamison Crowder are battling for the slot position at 5-11 and 5-8 respectively. Ryan Grant isn’t that big either.
Kirk Cousins said something about Ross that’s important after the game. He says he has confidence in him. The question was about Ross specifically (I know, I asked it) so in no way was he implying he doesn’t trust any of the other guys, but for an offense predicated on timing and rhythm, trust is imperative.
Thompson’s hustle play
If this was a regular season game where we actually cared about the result, this would get its own blog post with pictures and doodles showing the hustle Chris Thompson showed to save a touchdown at the end of the first half.
Colt McCoy fumbled and after a quick edition of football follies, Travis Lewis had a convoy headed to the endzone. Thompson made his way across the field, through the convoy and made what was likely a touchdown saving tackle.
Thompson’s fighting with Trey Williams for playing time and maybe even a roster spot, and plays like that show the coaches how bad you want it. Coaches love that stuff. Imagine Gruden in the film room giddy as exclaims “that’s the kind of effort we need!” If he goes out and has a horrible week of practice and plays poorly next Sunday, it’s not like that play will override it, but if the race between Thompson and Williams is close that’s something that’s nice to have on the film resume.