Analysis of the Redskins’ passing game, running game, defense and special teams in the season-opening loss to the Eagles
Week 1: Redskins began their season with a 30-17 loss to Philadelphia at FedEx Field on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 10, 2017)
Passing Game: D
This was not good and very disappointing. Kirk Cousins, his pass protection and his pass catchers all left a lot to be desired.
Kirk went just 23-of-40 for 240 yards. He had a killer interception and two lost fumbles on sack-strips in taking four sacks. His Raw QBR was 34.8, which is worse than all but one of his Raw QBRs from last season (16.3 in the season-ending loss to the Giants on New Year’s Day). His yards-per-pass-attempt was a woeful 6.0. He threw high on an alarming number of pass attempts. His lone touchdown pass came thanks in part to incredible YAC from Chris Thompson.
The worst from Kirk:
- Kirk’s early-fourth-quarter red-zone interception to Jalen Mills was a killer. Kirk, operating out of the shotgun on a third-and-six at the Eagles’ 14, threw off his back foot and high to Jamison Crowder. Jay Gruden the day after the game equated this pick to the game-sealing one that Kirk threw to Patrick Peterson in the Week 13 loss at Arizona last season…the play prior to the pick to Mills was Kirk throwing high to Jordan Reed on a second-and-six under-center incompletion off play-action.
- The first of Kirk’s two lost fumbles in this game came on a first-quarter third-and-six Fletcher Cox sack-strip and thanks in part to Kirk not getting rid of the ball…the drive’s first play was Kirk throwing high to Jamison Crowder on a first-and-10 under-center incompletion.
- The play prior to Kirk’s game-sealing lost fumble that was returned by Fletcher Cox for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:29 left off a Brandon Graham sack-strip was Kirk throwing high to Jordan Reed on a first-and-10 seven-yard shotgun completion that should have gone for more of a gain.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter punt…a third-and-six shotgun incompletion intended for Jamison Crowder included Josh Doctson being open in the middle of the field. Kirk did have pressure coming, but a completion to Doctson would have been easier than one to Crowder.
- Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter punt…Kirk threw high to an open Ryan Grant on a second-and-11 shotgun incompletion and threw late and was nearly picked off by Nigel Bradham on a third-and-11 shotgun incompletion intended for Terrelle Pryor Sr.
Speaking of Pryor, he had six receptions for 66 yards on 11 targets. But those numbers should have been much better.
- Redskins’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in a fourth-quarter punt…Pryor had a drop on a first-and-10 Kirk under-center play-action incompletion.
- Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter punt…the Redskins’ first offensive play of the season included Pryor not being able to find the football on a first-and-10 Kirk shotgun play-action deep incompletion.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter punt…the drive began with a first-and-10 no-play due to a 10-yard Jordan Reed holding penalty; that snap included Pryor being wide open in the end zone but dropping a perfectly-placed under-center play-action deep ball from Kirk.
- Redskins’ sixth offensive drive…resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 33-yard field goal…Pryor jumped late in trying to get at the ball in the end zone on a second-and-nine Kirk shotgun incompletion; in fairness to Pryor, he might have been interfered with by Jalen Mills.
Reed, who has actually been dealing with a fractured – and not sprained – left big toe per a report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and NFL.com, had five receptions for just 36 yards on eight targets. His longest reception went for just nine yards. Nothing was more telling than him short-arming a Kirk second-and-10 shotgun incompletion on the Redskins’ sixth offensive drive, which resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 33-yard field goal. Also on that drive, though, was Reed drawing a third-and-11 five-yard holding penalty on Nigel Bradham for a first down.
Also not helping out was the pass protection. Hogs 2.0 had a rough game.
- Kirk’s game-sealing lost fumble that was returned by Fletcher Cox for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:29 left featured Brandon Scherff literally getting thrown aside by Cox and Morgan Moses getting steamrolled by Brandon Graham, who had the sack-strip.
- Moses got plowed by Cox on his first-quarter third-and-six sack-strip of Kirk that was recovered by Jordan Hicks.
- Shawn Lauvao got abused by Tim Jernigan on his first-and-10 sack of Kirk for a six-yard loss to begin the drive that resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 33-yard field goal.
All of that said, there was some good from the passing game.
Chris Thompson was sensational on his late-second-quarter 29-yard touchdown reception, forcing perhaps as many as six missed tackles.
For all of the bad that Kirk authored, he did do one thing very well: use his legs.
- The Redskins’ sixth offensive drive, which resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 33-yard field goal, included a Kirk second-and-six seven-yard shotgun scramble under-center play-action scramble and a third-and-10 11-yard shotgun completion on which Kirk did a great job of extending the play, dodging Chris Long, moving to the left and finding Brian Quick for the completion.
- The Redskins’ third offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter punt, included a Kirk second-and-16 10-yard shotgun scramble.
One of Kirk’s best completions came on that drive that resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 33-yard field goal. Kirk got the Redskins out of a run and into a pass in the seconds prior to a second-and-four six-yard under-center completion to Terrelle Pryor Sr.
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, center, is tackled by Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Chris Long, left, and strong safety Malcolm Jenkins as he rushes the ball in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Running Game: F+
For the third time in four games going back to last season, the Redskins’ running game gets some version of an F. It was basically nonexistent in this game.
Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson combined for 13 caries for 34 yards.
- Kelley and Thompson each had a minus-one-yard under-center-handoff run on the Redskins’ first offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter punt.
- The Redskins’ fourth offensive drive, which resulted in a second-quarter punt, included a Kelley second-and-four under-center-toss run for just two yards, a Kelley first-and-10 offset-I-handoff run for minus-one yard and a Thompson second-and-11 one-yard shotgun-handoff run on which it appeared as if like half of the Redskins on the field weren’t ready for the snap.
Kirk Cousins actually tied with Kelley for a team high with 30 rushing yards.
The lone drive on which the running game got going to any true extent was the Redskins’ sixth offensive drive, which resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 33-yard field goal and consumed 8:32 off the clock. Kelley had a first-and-10 four-yard under-center-handoff run and a first-and-10 six-yard under-center-handoff run. Kirk had a nice first-and-five nine-yard read-option run out of the shotgun.
I actually liked a lot of what I saw from the Redskins’ defense. But there was one thing that I – and every Redskins fan – despised. The biggest problem for the Redskins’ defense in this game was the biggest problem from last season – third downs, especially third-and-longs. The Redskins allowed the Eagles to go 8-for-14 on third downs, including giving up four third-and-10s or longer..
- Eagles’ first offensive drive…three Redskins missed on attempts at bringing down Wentz, who did a spectacular job of extending the play out of the shotgun and then found a wide-open Nelson Agholor, who made D.J. Swearinger miss on a tackle on a first-quarter third-and-12 58-yard touchdown reception; Swearinger had some shaky moments in this game, as he also got turned around and lost on a Wentz fourth-quarter second-and-10 24-yard under-center play-action completion to Alshon Jeffery on the drive that resulted in Caleb Sturgis’ 37-yard field goal that gave the Eagles a 22-17 lead.
- Eagles’ seventh offensive drive…resulted in Caleb Sturgis’ 50-yard field goal on the final play of the first half…Wentz had a third-and-10 12-yard shotgun completion to Zach Ertz and a third-and-six 10-yard shotgun completion to Nelson Agholor off soft coverage by Mason Foster.
- Eagles’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Caleb Sturgis’ third-quarter 42-yard field goal…Torrey Smith was wide open due to Bashaud Breeland getting turned around on a third-and-10 Wentz 30-yard shotgun completion…also on this drive was a second-and-three five-yard offside penalty by Ryan Anderson, negating a sack by Junior Galette.
- Eagles’ 10th offensive drive…resulted in a fourth-quarter punt…Zach Brown got beat in coverage on a Wentz third-and-four five-yard shotgun completion to Wendell Smallwood…Wentz was Tony Romo-like on a third-and-10 23-yard completion to Zach Ertz, pivoting to spin out of pressure from Brown and then making the completion on the run.
- LeGarrette Blount’s early-second-quarter one-yard shotgun read-option touchdown run came on a third-and-goal…also on that drive was Mason Foster totally whiffing on a sack on a Wentz first-quarter first-and-10 seven-yard under-center completion to Zach Ertz and Foster missing on an attempted tackle on a Blount first-and-10 six-yard under-center-handoff run on the final play of the first quarter.
But there was quite a bit to like from the Redskins’ defense. It held the Eagles to 2.4 yards per carry on 24 attempts and generated nine quarterback hits, eight pass defenses and two takeaways.
- Stacy McGee, who got push on Lane Johnson, deflected a Wentz second-and-10 shotgun pass that fell into the arms of Ryan Kerrigan for a second-quarter 24-yard pick-six.
- Kendall Fuller impacted Nelson Agholor trying to make the catch of a Wentz second-and-nine shotgun backwards pass that was high, resulting in a Wentz fumble that was recovered by Mason Foster in the first quarter. The play prior to this was Terrell McClain tackling Wendell Smallwood on a first-and-10 under-center-handoff carry for just one yard.
- The Eagles’ 10th offensive drive, which resulted in a fourth-quarter punt, included Zach Brown tackling Wendell Smallwood for a two-yard loss on a second-and-seven pistol-handoff run and on the next play Kendall Fuller tackling Nelson Agholor on a Wentz third-and-nine shotgun completion for minus-one yard.
- The Eagles’ ninth offensive drive, which resulted in a punt on the first play of the fourth quarter, included a third-quarter first-and-10 16-yard intentional-grounding penalty on Wentz thanks to pressure from Zach Brown, Terrell McClain and Preston Smith…also on the drive were Bashaud Breeland and D.J. Swearinger helping to force an incompletion on a third-and-21 Wentz shotgun deep incompletion intended for Alshon Jeffery on a jump ball on the final play of the third quarter.
- The Eagles’ sixth offensive drive, which resulted in a second-quarter punt, included Ryan Kerrigan and Matt Ioannidis splitting a third-and-eight sack of Wentz for a seven-yard loss.
- The Eagles’ third offensive drive, which resulted in first-quarter three-and-out, included Zach Brown exploding through the line to tackle LeGarrette Blount on a third-and-one shotgun read-option run for minus-two yards.
Additionally, the Redskins, in playing more man coverage, had a number of near-picks in totaling the eight pass defenses.
- The Redskins had three near picks on the Eagles’ seventh offensive drive, which resulted in Caleb Sturgis’ 50-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. D.J. Swearinger got beat, but Kendall Fuller nearly made a pick on a Wentz first-and-10 shotgun deep incompletion intended for Nelson Agholor. Josh Norman had a pass defense that could have been caught on a Wentz first-and-10 shotgun deep incompletion intended for Alshon Jeffery. And Bashaud Breeland provided great coverage and a near-pick on a Wentz first-and-10 shotgun deep incompletion intended for Jeffery.
- The Eagles’ first offensive drive, which resulted in Nelson Agholor’s first-quarter third-and-12 58-yard touchdown reception, included Josh Norman doing a great job of under-cutting the route and nearly picking the ball off on a Wentz first-and-10 deep under-center play-action incompletion intended for Torrey Smith. Also on this drive was good man coverage helping to lead to Preston Smith’s second-and-10 sack of Wentz for a two-yard loss.
Special Teams: C
Jamison Crowder had a lost fumble on late-first-quarter muff of a catch of a punt. The ensuing Eagles drive resulted in LeGarrette Blount’s third-and-goal one-yard shot read-option touchdown run early in the second quarter.
Bashaud Breeland, who had three kickoff returns as the Eagles apparently kicked away from Chris Thompson, inexplicably ran the ball out of the end zone on a 21-yard return to the Redskins’ 19. The drive did result in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 33-yard field goal.
Breeland and Thompson averaged just 19.3 yards on four kickoff returns. Jay Gruden the day after the game was critical of the Redskins’ blocking on kickoff returns in this game.
Tress Way had a terrible first-quarter 30-yard punt that gave the Eagles the ball at their 44 on their first offensive drive, which resulted in Nelson Agholor’s first-quarter third-and-12 58-yard touchdown reception. But Way also had a second-quarter 49-yard punt and a fourth-quarter 50-yard punt from the Redskins’ 3 to the Eagles’ 47. He finished with the same average on his yards-per-punt and net-yards-per-punt – 40.5
Dustin Hopkins made his lone field-goal attempt, a 33-yarder in the third quarter.
This loss dropped Jay Gruden to 0-4 in season openers as Redskins head coach. And while you can (if you’re generous) write-off the 2014 loss at Houston to still being held hostage by the RGII era and can (if you’re generous) write-off the 2015 loss to Miami as being due to Kirk Cousins making his first start as the Redskins’ new starting quarterback, you can’t write-off 38-16 to Pittsburgh last season and now this game. The Steelers and Eagles looked polished, professional and prepared in those games. The Redskins too often did not. I don’t know what the answer is. Maybe Jay does need to play his starters for longer in these preseason games. Maybe practices do need to be harder. Maybe the Redskins need to do a better job of scheduling joint training-camp practices (something made harder by the team’s arrangement with Richmond). Whatever the case, the Redskins remain without a Week 1 win since 2012, and four of the five losses have been at FedEx Field.
The pregame report from Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and NFL.com that the sprained left big toe that had Reed on the physically-unable-to-perform list to begin training camp was actually a fractured toe was notable. It was always curious to me why the Redskins placed Reed on the PUP list when doing so only seemed necessary if the injury might cost Reed the first six weeks of the season. Well, now we perhaps a clearer understanding of why that was done.
There was another pregame report from Rapoport regarding the Redskins, and it had to do with the #ChaChaCha. He said that the now-infamous May 2 Bruce Allen offer that included $53 million fully guaranteed and $72 million in injury guarantees was actually made twice. Rapport wrote: “Washington made this offer to Cousins in May. Then, Allen met with Cousins’ agent, Mike McCartney, for drinks in Chicago. Later, Allen flew out to meet with Cousins and his father in a very positive meeting that lasted more than four hours. Following the meeting, Allen said the team would be making another offer to Cousins before the July 17 deadline. What did Cousins receive in July? Literally an identical offer as the team made him in May. Nothing changed and that’s why talks went nowhere.” Now, Rapoport is the same guy who in early March tweeted of a potential three-way trade that would send Tony Romo to the Redskins. But this #ChaChaCha report, if true, only makes the Redskins look worse. The May 2 offer was not a chump offer, but it also was far from a good-enough offer given that Kirk is essentially already guaranteed $52 million this season and next via the exclusive-franchise-tag tender ($24 million) and a potential transition tag next season ($28 million). Kirk not formally responding to the May 2 offer told you what he thought of it. If you truly wanted to get a deal done, why in the world did you go back to him with the same offer in the days leading up to the July 17 deadline?
Speaking of pregame and the #ChaChaCha, the following was an actual topic on FOX’s pregame show: mistake for Kirk Cousins to play under franchise tag? That kind of question shows such a lack of understanding of the situation and is another example of how the national media just don’t get this ordeal. The mistake is the Redskins not making more of an effort to sign Kirk to a long-term deal after each of the last two seasons, especially 2015. Kirk and his agent, Mike McCartney, likely would ultimately have sacrificed tens of millions of dollars in not playing under the terms of the exclusive franchise tag this season.
One more #ChaChaCha note: a topic on ESPN Radio’s The Ryen Russillo Show the day after this game was whether the Redskins were happy to see Kirk struggle in this game. That kind of question is so sick. And yet it is understandable given how the situation has played out. That said, the Redskins would be complete imbeciles to be happy that their starting quarterback who they’re paying $24 million this season played poorly. If the team doesn’t do well this season, that doesn’t make Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen or Eric Schaffer look good at all. Period. And, for the record, I do not think that they were happy to see Kirk struggle in this game.
One of the things that NFL analytics have shown is that takeaways are heavily based on luck. Not entirely, as a great pass rush and great coverage can lead to more forced fumbles and interceptions, but teams’ takeaway totals vary year-to-year. Well, look at the Redskins. They went all of 2016 without a single defensive touchdown. And yet they got a defensive touchdown in their very first game of 2017 thanks to Ryan Kerrigan’s second-quarter 24-yard pick-six, which was the result of a tip by Stacy McGee.
Some play-time-percentage observations:
- Josh Doctson played on just 32 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps; Ryan Grant played on 59 percent. Jay Gruden the day after the game has some very telling comments on Doctson: “I don’t think it is ‘readiness issues.’ I think he is ready to go. I think it is something more that he has to perform, and he has to play well to earn more playing time.” Grant had four receptions for 61 yards on six targets, including a second-and-10 34-yard catch-and-run off a Kirk pistol play-action screen on the drive that resulted in Kirk’s first-quarter lost fumble on a third-and-six sack-strip by Fletcher Cox. That play, by the way, could have been a touchdown had Grant cut inside of Trent Williams during the YAC portion of the run.
- Samaje Perine did not play on a single offensive snap.
- So much for Niles Paul getting more run on offense; he played on just eight percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps.
- Preston Smith and not Junior Galette was the Redskins’ starting outside linebacker opposite Ryan Kerrigan. Smith played on 76 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps; Galette just 24 percent.
- The Redskins’ starting defensive line consisted of Jonathan Allen, Ziggy Hood and Stacy McGee. Allen played on 62 percent of the defensive snaps, the most of any Redskins defensive lineman. But second among Redskins defensive linemen in playing time was Matt Ioannidis (49 percent).
- Fabian Moreau did not play on a single defensive snap.
The Redskins used their first second-half timeout on offense to avoid a delay-of-game penalty on a third-and-nine at the Eagles’ 15 with 2:18 left in the third quarter. This is a no-no. Second-half timeouts are precious and should almost always be saved for when you’re on defense late in games and can’t control the clock. You could argue that that timeout was worth spending given that you didn’t want a third-and-nine in the red zone to become a third-and-14, but the dozens of seconds you could save late in a close game (which this was) are worth more than the five yards. There is, of course, the additional topic of what the heck were you doing running low on play-clock time to begin with.
The Redskins’ offense played this game without:
- Running back Mack Brown (inactive)
- Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (inactive)
- Guard Tyler Catalina (inactive)
- Offensive tackle T.J. Clemings (inactive)
- Running back Keith Marshall (placed on injured reserve due to a torn right patellar tendon suffered in practice on July 29; the 2016 seventh-round pick out of Georgia spent all of last season on injured reserve due to an elbow injury suffered in the preseason)
- Tackle Kevin Bowen (placed on injured reserve due to a labrum injury suffered during training camp)
The Redskins’ defense played this game without:
- Safety Su’a Cravens (placed on the exempt/left-squad list on Sept. 3 due to contemplating retirement; he also suffered a meniscus injury in the preseason-opening loss at Baltimore and underwent surgery on Aug. 15)
- Linebacker Trent Murphy (placed on injured reserve on Aug. 12 due to a torn left ACL and MCL suffered in the preseason-opening loss at Baltimore)
- Defensive lineman Phil Taylor Sr. (placed on injured reserve on Sept. 2 due to a torn left quadriceps tendon suffered in the preseason win over Cincinnati on Aug.27
- Defensive back DeAngelo Hall (placed on the regular-season physically-unable-to-perform list on Sept. 2 off spending all of training camp and the preseason on the preseason PUP list due to a torn right ACL suffered in the Week 3 win at the Giants last season)
- Defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II (inactive)
- Linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (inactive)
- Corner Joshua Holsey (inactive)
The day prior to this game came the release of a story on Scot McCloughan from The Washington Post. The piece confirmed that he has filed a grievance with the NFL over the Redskins’ decision to fire him “for cause” and, as a result, not pay the balance due on his contract. A few thoughts on that and other items in the story:
- The ultimate result of what is a private grievance process will say a lot. The NFL conducts this. If the league sides with McCloughan, then those who have defended him, ripped the team and said that the firing was primarily rooted in Bruce Allen’s jealousy will be made to look right. But what if the league sides with the team? Will those who have painted this as such a one-sided saga take back what they’ve said? I have always felt that this is a highly-nuanced situation in which both sides are to blame and there is no “good guy.” If McCloughan gets all of his money, I’ll gladly come off that. Will others do the same with their positions if proven wrong?
- McCloughan is quoted in the piece as saying, “I know who I am and what I did there. Did I build a Super Bowl champion? No. But I did a good job, along with other people there, of making the roster better.” He is right about that. And I do wish that he was still the Redskins’ general manager. But the truth is that most of his free-agent signings (Chris Culliver, Jeron Johnson, Stephen Paea, David Bruton Jr., Kendall Reyes) were busts. And his two drafts don’t exactly look great right now. Did you see what happened with Matt Jones, who McCloughan has backed even through his total freefall with the Redskins? Indianapolis waived Jones on Saturday (Sept. 9), six days after claiming him off waivers from the Redskins.
- This is a personal observation, but I gotta say it. The article refers to our station, ESPN 980 Redskins Radio, as being “team-owned.” I get a kick out of the Post. It never doesn’t refer to our station as being “team-owned.” It is as if we are state-controlled radio doing little more than regurgitating the opinions of Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen. Anyone with half of a brain should know that this isn’t true. But I think what bothers me the most is that other media outlets aren’t treated the same. Ted Leonsis has an ownership stake in CSN Mid-Atlantic – not a controlling ownership like Snyder does in our station but an ownership stake. Do you ever read or hear of CSN Mid-Atlantic as being partially owned by the Wizards or Capitals? Did you even know that this was the case prior to me saying this? The Post hates the Redskins, this has been the case for years and that’s fine (even though, ironically enough, the Post has been a sponsor on radio broadcasts of Redskins games for years and a number of Post writers come on our station all of the time). The team has deserved plenty of criticism for a number of things. But it bothers me that this spills over into the coverage of our station. There – now I feel better.