Analysis of the Redskins’ passing game, running game, defense and special teams in the loss at the Eagles on Monday Night Football
Week 7: Redskins fell to 3-3 with a 34-24 loss at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football (Oct. 23, 2017)
Passing Game: C
Kirk Cousins was outplayed by Carson Wentz for the second time in two losses for the Redskins to the Eagles this season. But unlike in the Week 1 loss to the Eagles at FedEx Field, Kirk was mostly good in this game. He went 30-of-40 for 303 yards, three touchdowns and a pick, registering a Raw QBR of 69.4.
But the Redskins lost this game, so let’s first focus on what went wrong. Pass protection was a major issue, as Kirk took a pounding in this game: four sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Kirk is taking sacks this season. His sack percentage is 5.7 off having been 3.7 in 2016 and 4.6 in 2015.
- Kirk’s fourth-quarter third-and-six interception to Corey Graham was a result in part of Brandon Graham hitting Kirk’s arm or the ball or both. Earlier on that drive was Fletcher Cox steamrolling Spencer Long for a first-and-10 sack of Kirk for a six-yard loss.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter punt…Derek Barnett blew by Jordan Reed on a third-and-two sack of Kirk for an eight-yard loss, though Kirk needed to step up in the pocket more.
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out…Nigel Bradham came in unblocked and blasted Kirk on a third-and-nine shotgun incompletion intended for Jordan Reed.
- The drive that resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter first-and-goal five-yard under-center touchdown pass to Reed…Kirk took a second-and-three sack from Malcolm Jenkins for an eight-yard loss out of the shotgun instead of just throwing the ball away.
Additionally, what became crystal clear in this game is that the Redskins have a pass-catcher problem. Their receivers especially are just not getting the job done.
Terrell Pryor Sr. had two receptions for 14 yards on four targets. He barely played in the first half and then had two drops in the fourth quarter. Pryor
- The drive that resulted in Kirk’s fourth-quarter third-and-six interception to Corey Graham included a Pryor drop on a second-and-five Kirk shotgun incompletion. The very next play, at least, was a Kirk third-and-five five-yard under-center completion to Pryor.
- The drive that resulted in Kirk’s fourth-quarter first-and-10 12-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Jordan Reed started with a Pryor drop on a Kirk first-and-10 shotgun incompletion.
Jamison Crowder had two receptions for 28 yards on six targets. The drive that resulted in the Redskins’ second second-quarter three-and-out included Crowder doing a terrible job of winning on his route on a Kirk third-and-one shotgun incompletion. Fans ripped this play-call on Twitter, but this should have been an easy pitch-and-catch. Crowder is averaging 7.8 yards per reception this season off being at 12.6 last season.
Ryan Grant had three receptions for 19 yards on three targets. The Redskins’ third offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter punt, began with Grant not having enough depth on his route on a three-yard reception from Kirk out of the shotgun on a first-and-10.
It was nice to see Jordan Reed have eight receptions, including two for touchdowns, on 10 targets. But his eight catches totaled just 64 yards. Reed is averaging 7.9 yards per reception this season off being at 10.4 last season. The drive that resulted in the Redskins’ first second-quarter three-and-out included a third-and-one Kirk shotgun completion to Reed for no gain. That was on Reed, who was running to the flat and had to establish an angle that allowed him to get a first down.
All of that said, Vernon Davis did have another nice game: four receptions for 67 yards on four targets. He is averaging 19.5 yards per reception on 15 catches in this his age-33 season. And, as I said earlier, Kirk was mostly good.
- The drive that resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter first-and-goal five-yard under-center touchdown pass to Jordan Reed…Kirk also had a terrific third-and-seven eight-yard shotgun scramble through the A-gap, a first-and-10 17-yard shotgun completion to Josh Doctson and a third-and-11 20-yard shotgun completion to Reed.
- The drive that resulted in Kirk’s second-quarter second-and-goal seven-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Chris Thompson, who was wide open thanks to a great play design by Jay Gruden…how about the first three plays of the drive: Kirk had a first-and-10 11-yard under-center play-action-boot scramble, a first-and-10 17-yard under-center completion to Doctson on a quick hitch and a first-and-10 31-yard completion to Davis off shotgun play-action.
- The Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in Nick Rose’s first-quarter 27-yard field goal…Kirk had a second-and-four 31-yard shotgun completion to Davis and a second-and-nine 20-yard I-formation play-action completion to Jamison Crowder, who made Rodney McLeod miss on a tackle.
Running Game: D
For the fifth time in six games this Redskins season, the running game was mediocre-to-poor. The blocking has had a lot to do with this, but the running backs also have left a lot to be desired. The Redskins came out of Week 7 no. 22 in the NFL in rushing offense per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
Rob Kelley returned from a one-game absence caused by a sprained ankle. But he had seven carries for 16 yards. And 20 of those yards came on three carries: first-quarter under-center-handoff runs for eight and six yards and a fourth-quarter second-and-10 six-yard shotgun-draw-play-handoff run. His other four carries totaled minus-four yards.
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out…Kelley had a second-and-seven minus-two-yard under-center-handoff run on which Spencer Long may have snapped the ball early.
- Redskins’ first offensive drive…resulted in Nick Rose’s first-quarter 27-yard field goal…Kelley had a first-and-10 one-yard under-center-handoff run.
- The drive that resulted in Kirk Cousins’ second-quarter second-and-goal seven-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Chris Thompson…Nigel Bradham came in unblocked on a Kelley first-and-goal-at-the-five under-center-handoff run for minus-two yards.
- The drive that resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter first-and-goal five-yard under-center touchdown pass to Jordan Reed…Kelley had a second-and-six pistol-handoff run for minus-one yard.
The results for Chris Thompson were a bit better. He had seven carries for 38 yards. But 15 of those yards came on a garbage-time third-and-25 15-yard run in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Two Thompson runs that did stand out:
- The drive that resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter first-and-goal five-yard under-center touchdown pass to Jordan Reed…Thompson had a first-and-10 seven-yard pistol-handoff run.
- A Redskins drive that resulted in a second-quarter three-and-out…Thompson had a first-and-10 four-yard under-center-handoff run despite Trent Williams whiffing on a block.
The Redskins’ second offensive drive, which resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out, included a Jamison Crowder first-and-10 three-yard under-center-handoff jet-sweep run that he should have taken the run to the outside for a much larger gain.
The Redskins, playing without Josh Norman for a second straight game, got Cason Wentz’d for a second time this season. What’s funny is that they held him in check over the Eagles’ first four drives: 2-for-7 for 24 yards and a pick. But then came the rest of the game, during which he went 15-for-18 for 244 yards and four touchdowns. That’s an average of 13.56 yards per pass attempt after the Eagles’ fourth offensive drive. And he finished the game with eight carries for 63 yards. Wentz’s Raw QBR for this game was an outstanding 93.8.
- Eagles’ ninth offensive drive…resulted in Wentz’s fourth-quarter first-and-goal 10-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor off read-option play-action out of the shotgun…also on that drive was the second play of the fourth quarter: an incredible third-and-eight 17-yard scramble out of the shotgun off the pocket completely collapsing….four plays later: Wentz had a first-and-10 24-yard shotgun completion to Alshon Jeffery, who made a great catch…the play after that: a Wentz first-and-10 12-yard completion to Zach Ertz off read-option play-action out of the shotgun.
- Eagles’ seventh offensive drive…was the opening drive of the third quarter…Wentz had a second-and-eight 14-yard shotgun completion to Agholor, who beat Kendall Fuller (this was the play after which Jason Peters was carted off the field)…four plays later: a Wentz third-and-three 21-yard read-option run out of the shotgun…four plays after that: Wentz did a spectacular job of weaving through pressure and finding Corey Clement on a third-and-goal nine-yard shotgun touchdown pass.
D.J. Swearinger had a rough game. He got beat by rookie and Wooton High School product Mack Hollins on his second-quarter second-and-16 64-yard touchdown bomb from Carson Wentz in the shotgun. And Swearinger had a bad missed tackle on Wentz’s late-second-quarter second-and-goal four-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Zach Ertz, who earlier in the drive just abused Mason Foster (who then missed on a tackle) on a first-and-10 46-yard reception from Wentz out of the shotgun. Swearinger, to his credit, tweeted the following after the game: “Disappointing Loss! I have to be better And I will Be better!! Tonight is Unacceptable On all Levels. I will be better #RedskinsNation #Httr”
Two Eagles scoring drives were aided greatly by Redskins penalties:
- Eagles’ third offensive drive…resulted in Jake Elliott’s second-quarter 50-yard field goal…Quentin Dunbar committed a late-first-quarter 15-yard facemask penalty on a Carson Wentz first-and-10 11-yard under-center play-action scramble; also on this play was a Bashaud Breeland holding penalty that was declined…first play of the second quarter: Junior Galette committed a 15-yard facemask penalty on a Wentz first-and-10 two-yard shotgun scramble.
- Eagles’ sixth offensive drive…resulted in Wentz’s late-second-quarter second-and-goal four-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Zach Ertz…Breeland committed a first-and-10 five-yard holding penalty on a Wentz 11-yard shotgun scramble…Dunbar committed a third-and-three 10-yard pass-interference penalty on a Wentz shotgun incompletion intended for Alshon Jeffery.
A positive for the Redskins’ defense was that it stopped the run. LeGarrette Blount and Wendell Smallwood combined for 22 carries for 54 yards (2.45 yards per carry). And if you subtract Blount’s fourth-quarter second-and-14 21-yard under-center-handoff run that essentially iced the game, he and Smallwood combined for 21 carries for 33 yards.
- The Eagles’ drive that resulted in a third-quarter three-and-out…Zach Brown tackled Blount on a second-and-nine shotgun read-option run for minus-seven yards.
- The drive that resulted in Jake Elliott’s fourth-quarter 42-yard field goal…Ryan Kerrigan tackled Blount on a third-and-three under-center-handoff run for minus-five yards.
- The drive that resulted in Carson Wentz’s late-second-quarter second-and-goal four-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Zach Ertz…Mason Foster tackled Blount on a first-and-goal-at-the-1 I-formation-handoff run for minus-three yards.
Another positive for the Redskins’ defense was pressure. This sounds ridiculous, because Wentz again was exceptional at extending plays. But the Redskins did have three sacks.
- Eagles’ second offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out…the blitz delivered, as Ryan Kerrigan and Junior Galette combined on a third-and-eight sack of Carson Wentz for an eight-yard loss. The first play of this drive featured a terrific pass defense by Quinton Dunbar on a Wentz first-and-10 under-center play-action incompletion intended for Brent Celek.
- The drive that resulted in Jake Elliott’s early-second-quarter 50-yard field goal…the blitz worked to perfection, as Zach Brown and Mason Foster combined on a second-and-10 sack of Carson Wentz for a 10-yard loss. The previous play was a first-and-10 Wentz shotgun play-action incompletion thanks to nice coverage by Bashaud Breeland on Alshon Jeffery.
- The drive that resulted in Carson Wentz’s second-quarter second-and-16 64-yard shotgun touchdown bomb to Mack Hollins…great coverage by Quinton Dunbar helped Zach Brown to a first-and-10 sack-strip of Wentz for a six-yard loss.
And a third positive, as you may have noticed, was Bashaud Breeland. Per Pro Football Focus, Carson Wentz targeted Breeland’s man in coverage four times and completed zero passes, with Breeland breaking up two of them. Breeland now is tied for fourth among cornerbacks with six pass breakups this season per PFF.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) is hit by Washington Redskins inside linebacker Mason Foster (54) and inside linebacker Zach Brown (53) an NFL football game, Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Special Teams: D+
Jamison Crowder committed a fumble on punt returns for the third time this season, as he fumbled on a punt return for the third time in six games this season. His fumble on a first-quarter five-yard return thankfully was recovered by Josh Holsey. Crowder did have a third-quarter 14-yard return. But he exited Week 7 just 24th out of 27 qualified returners in the NFL yards per punt return (5.75).
Nick Sundberg committed a 10-yard holding penalty on a first-quarter Tress Way punt, moving the ball back to the Redskins’ 33. The ensuing redo was the same lengthy as the initial punt (44 yards), but Kenjon Barner had a 22-yard return.
Way averaged 47.8 yards per punt but just 39.4 net on five punts.
Nick Rose, making his NFL regular-season debut, made his only field-goal attempt, a 27-yarder in the first quarter. But his onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter went 15 yards and right to Zach Ertz.
The Redskins came out of Week 7 no. 23 in the NFL in special teams per Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric.
The Redskins fell to 2-13 on Monday Night Football since the start of the 2008 season and 4-18 on Monday Night Football since the start of the 2001 season.
The Redskins now have blown the following leads this season:
- Week 2 win at the Rams – 13-0 second-quarter lead
- Week 4 loss at Kansas City – 10-0 first-quarter lead
- Week 6 win over San Francisco – 17-0 second-quarter lead
- Week 7 loss at Philadelphia – 10-3 second-quarter lead
Jay Gruden had a rough game from a strategy standpoint:
- Jay opted to pass on a first-quarter third-and-two at midfield that resulted in a sack and a second-quarter third-and-one at the Redskins’ 40 that resulted in a Jordan Reed reception for no gain. I’m not against passing on third-and-short, especially when the Redskins are struggling to run the ball as they currently are. But why not a play-action boot? Why not a quarterback sneak?
- The drive that resulted in Carson Wentz’s late-second-quarter second-and-goal four-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Zach Ertz included Jay accepting a second-and-six Jason Kelce five-yard ineligible-downfield-pass penalty, giving the Eagles a second-and-11 at the Redskins’ 19 as opposed to a third-and-six at the Redskins’ 14. You’re better off, especially given the way that things were going in the game at the time, with the third-and-six as opposed to the second-and-11.
- Jay totally tapped out at the end of the first half, opting to have Kirk Cousins take a knee off having the ball at the Redskins’ 25 despite them having two timeouts to work with while trailing 17-10 and staring at the Eagles being set to have the ball to begin the second half. This was such a conservative and submissive way of operating. Be aggressive and get points! Throw deep!
- Jay should have challenged – but did not – a Corey Clement third-and-six six-yard shotgun-handoff run on which it appeared as if he may have gone out of bounds prior to the first-down marker. The drive resulted in Wentz’s fourth-quarter first-and-goal 10-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor off read-option play-action out of the shotgun.
- Jay should have used his last two second-half timeouts prior to the two-minute warning, as doing so conservatively would have resulted in 15-20 more seconds more left on the clock when the Redskins got the ball back trailing 34-24.
Former Redskin Pierre Garcon is well aware of the Redskins’ struggles at receiver so far this season. He tweeted three face-with-tears-of-joy emojis as a response to someone who tweeted, “When the Redskins have 3 TE’s in the game their offense runs more smoothly, WR core super weak.” Keep in mind that this wasn’t tweeted at Garcon; he was either told of the tweet or when out of his way to find it and then responded. Garcon is obviously very bitter about his time with the Redskins ending. They didn’t show much interest in trying to re-sign him after last season. I get wanting to shove their disinterest down their throats, and I get that playing angry is a big part of what has mad Garcon so successful. But the Redskins paid Garcon 42.4 million dollars over his five seasons with the team per Spotrac.com. Calm down, pal. You weren’t done so wrong.
That said, it has become clear that the Redskins made a mistake in not re-signing Garcon. I said last offseason that I was fine with allowing DeSean Jackson to leave via free agency, but I wanted Garcon back. The contract that he signed with San Francisco isn’t nearly as onerous as some have made it out to be. It included just $17 million guaranteed at signing and essentially serves as a two-year deal with three option years. That’s not nearly the mega-money contract that it was initially made out to be. And while I understand the reluctance to spend any money on a receiver entering his age-31 season, the fact is that Garcon has continued to be productive this season. He is tied for ninth in the NFL with 24 receiving first downs, is 10th in the NFL with 483 receiving yards and 11th among receivers in the NFL with 143 yards after catch according to ESPN. Football Outsiders’ DYAR metric isn’t as kind (48, good for just 35th among receivers in the NFL), but don’t tell me that the Redskins couldn’t use Garcon in their receiving corps right now. What do you think happens on a third-and-one throw to Garcon in this game? Third-and-short and third-and-medium hitches to Garcon seemed like they were automatic to him last season. Look, there were things about Garcon that bothered me. I hate that he reportedly requested a trade in the middle of last season. I didn’t like how he would openly pout on the field. I do think that there was something to Kirk Cousins not being able to truly make this offense his with Garcon and DeSean Jackson still on the team. But Garcon is a good receiver, including being a willing blocker. Right now, he is missed.
As for DeSean, his contract with Tampa Bay is a bit more onerous: $20 million guaranteed at signing, cap numbers of $12.5 million, $11 million and $10 million over three seasons. Especially given how he could disappear for lengthy stretches and didn’t block, I was fine with the Redskins not re-signing him, although they tried harder to re-sign him than they did Garcon. It’s worth noting that DeSean is not having a great season so far: 22 receptions on 44 targets, 16.4 yards per reception, two touchdowns.
- The big item from this game was Josh Doctson starting over and playing considerably more than Terrelle Pryor Sr. Doctson’s playing time had gone down in each of the previous two games. Doctson was coming off having played on just 26 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps in the Week 6 win over San Francisco. But he started and played on 84 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps in this game. The thing is, he didn’t do much – just three receptions for 39 yards on five targets. Pryor had led all Redskins receivers in snaps in each of the first five games of the season but played on just 47 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps in this game and had two more drops in the fourth quarter.
- Jamison Crowder played on 91 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps but had just two receptions.
- Brian Quick was active for a second straight game off having been inactive for the Week 4 loss at Kansas City, but he didn’t play on a single offensive snap off playing on just four offensive snaps in the Week 6 win over San Francisco.
- Vernon Davis need to be playing more. He played on just 45 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps, one fewer snap than Pryor (30 vs. 29). Davis has been the best tight end in the NFL this season on a per-play basis, leading all tight ends with a 46.6 percent DVOA per Football Outsiders. The next-best tight end, New Orleans’ Coby Fleener, is at 38.1 percent.
- Four of the Redskins’ starting five offensive linemen didn’t play on every Redskins offensive snap in this game due to injury. Only Shawn Lauvao played on every offensive snap.
- Rob Kelley returned from a one-game absence caused by a sprained ankle suffered in the Week 4 loss at Kansas City on Monday Night Football. He started but played on just 42 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps, totaling just seven carries for 16 yards.
- Chris Thompson played on 58 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps. Neither Samaje Perine nor Mack Brown played on a single offensive snap.
- Zach Brown and Mason Foster again played on every defensive snap for the Redskins. Will Compton did not play on a single defensive snap for a fourth time in six games this season. He has played on seven defensive snaps the entire season off being second on the Redskins in defensive snaps last season (85.25 percent).
- The only other Redskin who played on all of the team’s defensive snaps in this game? Montae Nicholson. The 2017 fourth-round pick out of Michigan State was leaned on quite a bit with Deshazor Everett inactive for a second straight game and Stefan McClure being severely limited by a knee injury (just one defensive snap).
- Josh Norman being inactive for a second straight game due to a rib fracture meant a whole lot of Quinton Dunbar for a second straight game. He played on 98 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps off playing on 89 percent in the Week 6 win over San Francisco.
- Matt Ioannidis led all Redskins defensive ends in snaps for a third straight game at 68 percent. But Jonathan Allen being on injured reserve didn’t mean significantly more of Stacey McGee (45 percent) or Terrell McClain (42 percent). Instead, we saw a lot more of Ziggy Hood. He played on 60 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps off having played on 48.26 percent over the first five games of the season. Anthony Lanier II played on 12 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps off having been inactive for each of the first five games of the season.
- Junior Galette played on a season-high 42 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps. His play-time percentages this season working backwards entering this game: 33, 34, 29, 38, 23.
- Ryan Anderson played on 34 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps off having played on 19.87 percent over the first five games of the season.
The Redskins came out of this game with major injury issues, especially on the offensive line. Four of the team’s five offensive-line starters left the game due to injury. Brandon Scherff suffered a grade-two MCL sprain and a back injury. Trent Williams aggravated his ailing right kneecap that ultimately will need surgery. Morgan Moses sprained both ankles. Spencer Long had knee/quad tendinitis.
The Redskins’ offense played this game without:
- Tackle Ty Nsekhe (inactive for a third straight game off undergoing core-muscle surgery due to an injury suffered in the Week 3 win over Oakland)
- Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle (inactive for a second straight game)
- Guard Tyler Catalina (inactive due to a concussion)
- 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)
Also dealing with injury in this game were Preston Smith (groin), Fabian Moreau (hamstring) and Stefan McClure (hamstring strain).
The Redskins’ defense played this game without:
- Corner Josh Norman (inactive for a second straight game due to a rib fracture suffered in the Week 4 loss at Kansas City on Monday Night Football)
- Safety Deshazor Everett (inactive for a second straight game due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 4 loss at Kansas City on Monday Night Football)
- Defensive lineman Jonathan Allen (placed on injured reserve on Oct. 19 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in the Week 6 win over San Francisco)
- Safety Su’a Cravens (placed on the reserve/left-squad list on Sept. 18; this off being 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 A.J. Francis (inactive)
- Linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (inactive for a fifth time in six games)
Redskins special teams were without Dustin Hopkins, who was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 18 due to a right-hip injury.