Analysis of the Redskins’ passing game, running game, defense and special teams in the win over the Broncos
Week 16: Redskins improved to 7-8 with a 27-11 win over Denver at FedEx Field on Sunday afternoon (Dec. 24, 2017)
Passing Game: B-
The Redskins remained without their top tight end (Jordan Reed), three starting offensive linemen (Trent Williams, Spencer Long and Shawn Lauvao) and two of their top running backs (Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley). The Redskins were facing a Broncos defense that entered Week 16 no. 11 in the NFL in team sack percentage (6.9), no. 2 in the NFL in opponents’ third-down efficiency (30.8 percent) and no. 1 in the NFL in fewest yards allowed per game (276.8). And yet the Redskins did not allow a single sack, went 5-for-13 on third downs ( which isn’t great but is a lot better than the 3-for-21 the Redskins went on third downs over the previous two games) and generated 386 total net yards of offense.
Kirk Cousins got off to a slow start (1-for-8) but ultimately played well: 19-of-37 for 299 yards, three touchdowns and a pick. He averaged 8.08 yards per pass attempt and registered a Raw QBR of 59.1.
- The Redskins’ 12th offensive drive concluded with Kirk’s fourth-quarter third-and-six 31-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis on an under-center play-action boot, helping to give the Redskins a 27-3 lead with 4:29 left.
- The Redskins’ ninth offensive drive resulted in Kirk’s fourth-quarter second-and-six 48-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Josh Doctson, helping to give the Redskins a 20-3 lead.
- Redskins’ fifth offensive drive…started at the Broncos’ 38 thanks to Preston Smith’s second-quarter third-and-five sack-strip recovered by Zach Vigil…resulted in Kirk’s second-and-10 15-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder, who beat Chris Harris on a great inside-post route…the third play of this drive was a Kirk second-and-three three-yard under-center play-action-boot scramble.
- Redskins’ seventh offensive drive…was the opening drive of the second half…resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter second-and-goal-at-the-9 end-zone pick to Will Parks…Kirk did a great job of creating, scrambling through the A-gap and then firing a third-and-six 36-yard shotgun completion to Ryan Grant.
But there was a good amount of bad from Kirk in this game, especially early.
- Kirk’s third-quarter second-and-goal-at-the-9 end-zone pick to Will Parks was horrendous, as Kirk threw into triple coverage.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in an early-second-quarter punt…Kirk threw to high to Kapri Bibbs (who you could also say was guilty of a drop) on a first-quarter first-and-10 under-center incompletion.
- Redskins’ fifth offensive drive…resulted in Kirk’s second-and-10 15-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder…Kirk overthrew Vernon Davis, who had won on his corner route on Todd Davis, on a first-and-10 shotgun incompletion at the Broncos’ 15.
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out…a Kirk third-and-11 shotgun incompletion came on trying to throw a back-shoulder face to Niles Paul against Aqib Talib; not sure why that would ever be a matchup that you would want.
Ryan Grant had perhaps his best game of the season: four receptions for 85 yards on six targets in playing on 64 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps. He really shined on the Redskins’ fourth offensive drive, which resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ second-quarter 26-yard field goal. The third play of the drive saw Grant make a nice leaping catch on Aqib Talib on a Kirk first-and-10 13-yard under-center play-action completion. The next play was a Kirk first-and-10 32-yard shotgun completion to Grant. And three plays after was a Kirk third-and-three 11-yard shotgun completion to Vernon Davis on which Grant had a subtle pick on Will Parks.
Jamison Crowder played on just 45 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps but had four receptions for 47 yards and a touchdown on four targets.
This was easily the most productive receiving day for Redskins running backs since Chris Thompson suffered his season-ending fractured fibula in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans. Samaje Perine and Kapri Bibbs combined for five receptions for 49 yards on seven targets.
- Redskins’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 29-yard field goal…the second play of the drive was a Kirk second-and-six 21-yard shotgun completion to Bibbs on a screen.
- Redskins’ seventh offensive drive…was the opening drive of the second half…resulted in Kirk’s third-quarter second-and-goal-at-the-9 end-zone pick to Will Parks…the third play of the drive was a Kirk first-and-10 eight-yard shotgun completion to Perine, who refused to go down at the hands of Brandon Marshall.
And then there was Josh Doctson. He played on every Redskins offensive snap in leading all Redskins receivers in offensive snaps for a seventh consecutive game. He was targeted an incredible 13 times but had just two receptions, though they included his fourth-quarter 48-yard touchdown catch on which he was wide open. Here are Doctson’s stats during this seven-game stretch in which he has played far more than any other Redskins receiver: 20 receptions for 276 yards and three touchdowns on 46 targets. He’s playing as much as a no. 1 receiver, but he isn’t producing like one. Doctson and Kirk are just off way too often. Here were some of the misfires in this game:
- Redskins’ fourth offensive drive…resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ second-quarter 26-yard field goal…Doctson had an end-zone drop on a Kirk second-and-goal-at-the-8 incompletion.
- Redskins’ eighth offensive drive…resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 29-yard field goal…Kirk had a second-and-11 13-yard shotgun completion to Doctson on which it appeared as if he just went down while surrounded by three Broncos…later in the drive was a Kirk third-and-four shotgun incompletion on which, yes, Kirk’s throw was off, but Doctson lept toward the ball with just one arm.
- Redskins’ third offensive drive…resulted in an early-second-quarter punt…Kirk under-threw a wide-open Doctson down the field on a second-and-seven shotgun incompletion on the final play of the first quarter.
- Redskins’ second offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out…Kirk had a second-and-11 under-center play-action incompletion intended for Doctson on which Kirk seemingly was expecting Doctson to run the route with more of an angle, but Doctson flattened out the route because that was the only way that he could win.
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins throws the ball during an NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
Running Game: D+
The Broncos entered Week 16 with the no. 2 run defense in the NFL this season per the Football Outsiders DVOA metric. The Redskins entered this game with one of the worst running-back situations I can ever remember: Samaje Perine was nursing a groin injury suffered in practice the previous Thursday; Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley and LeShun Daniels on injured reserve; and a guy named Dare Ogunbowale (DAHR-ay oh-goon-boh-WALL-ay) as one of their active running backs. The Redskins entered this game with three starting offensive linemen (Trent Williams, Spencer Long and Shawn Lauvao) on injured reserve. And while Perine and Kapri Bibbs only totaled 79 yards on 24 carries (3.29 yards per carry), a decent chunk of the bad came in garbage time, and there was enough good given the circumstances that you could live with it.
Samaje Perine had 17 carries for 53 yards. Six of the carries totaled 42 yards. The other 11 carries totaled 11 yards.
- The Redskins’ ninth offensive drive, which resulted in Kirk Cousins’ fourth-quarter second-and-six 48-yard shotgun touchdown pass to a wide-open Josh Doctson, consisted of five plays. Three of the five plays on the drive were Perine runs: a first-and-10 11-yard under-center-handoff run, a second-and-four eight-yard under-center-handoff run and a first-and-10 four-yard under-center-handoff run.
- The Redskins’ 10th offensive drive, which resulted in a fourth-quarter punt, included a Perine second-and-three 10-yard under-center-handoff run, after which Arie Kouandjio committed a 14-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty.
It is worth noting, though, that Samaje Perine also had a lost fumble on a fourth-quarter third-and-10 two-yard under-center-handoff run for no gain during garbage time.
Kapri Bibbs, who was on the Broncos’ practice squad or active roster from 2014-16 before being traded to San Francisco in April 2017, demonstrated a burst that was refreshing for a second consecutive game. He had seven carries for 26 yards and actually played on one more offensive snap than Samaje Perine did in this game (35 versus 34).
- The Redskins’ fifth offensive drive, which resulted in Kirk’s second-quarter second-and-10 15-yard shotgun touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder, began with a Bibbs first-and-10 13-yard under-center-handoff run.
- The Redskins’ eighth offensive drive, which resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ third-quarter 29-yard field goal, included a Bibbs second-and-10 six-yard shotgun-handoff run.
Has there ever been a more high-variance season for a Redskins defense than this season? The same Redskins defense that looked so bad in losses to Philadelphia (twice), Dallas (twice), New Orleans, Minnesota and the Chargers also has looked outstanding in wins over Oakland, Seattle, the Giants, Arizona and now Denver. Yes, the opposition has had something to do with this, but, still, a defense that got worked in those aforementioned losses isn’t supposed to demolish opponents as the Redskins’ defense did in those aforementioned wins.
The Redskins were without Zach Brown for a second consecutive game and yet nearly held their opponent without a touchdown for a second consecutive game, not allowing a touchdown in this game until garbage time (1:18 left in the fourth quarter). The Redskins held the Broncos to just 11 points, 5-for-17 on third downs and just two red-zone possessions.
And the Redskins had their way with Brock Osweiler, who, yes, is terrible, but who also was coming off an NFL-season-high Total QBR of 99.2 in the Broncos’ 25-13 win at Indianapolis in Week15. And yet the Redskins held Osweiler to 5.08 yards per pass attempt, totaled four sacks and nine quarterback hits and forced three takeaways off the Broncos’ passing game.
Ryan Kerrigan had perhaps his best game of the season, finishing with two sacks and four quarterback hits despite playing on just 53 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps.
- Broncos’ sixth offensive drive…resulted in D.J. Swearinger’s late-second-quarter first-and-10 interception…Kerrigan bull-rushed Donald Stephenson and hit Osweiler, helping to force the interception.
- Broncos’ eighth offensive drive…was the drive that immediately followed Kirk Cousins’ third-quarter second-and-goal-at-the-9 end-zone pick to Will Parks…but the drive resulted in a third-quarter three-and-out…Kerrigan abused Garett Bolles on a first-and-10 sack of Osweiler for a 10-yard loss.
- Broncos’ ninth offensive drive…resulted in a punt on the first play of the fourth quarter…Kerrigan again abused Stephenson, this time on a second-and-11 sack of Osweiler for a seven-yard loss on the penultimate play of the third quarter.
Junior Galette continued to impress, finishing with two quarterback hits in playing on a season-high 57 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps.
- Broncos’ second offensive drive…resulted in a first-quarter punt…Galette blew by Garett Bolles and blasted Osweiler on a third-and-five shotgun incompletion.
- Broncos’ 12th offensive drive…resulted in Deshazor Everett’s fourth-quarter third-and-10 forced fumble on Devontae Booker that was recovered by Anthony Lanier…Galette blasted Osweiler on a first-and-10 shotgun play-action incompletion.
Preston Smith had two sacks, including second-quarter third-and-five sack-strip recovered by Zach Vigil to end the Broncos’ fifth offensive drive.
Speaking of Zach Vigil, he had a game-high 14 tackles. Among the best: a nice tackle on Devontae Booker on an Osweiler second-and-17 shotgun completion for minus-four yards on the Broncos’ 10th offensive drive, which resulted in a fourth-quarter punt. Vigil, D.J. Swearinger and Josh Norman were the three Redskins who played on every one of the team’s defensive snaps in this game.
Kendall Fuller had another terrific game this season. He was the highest-rated Redskins player in this game per Pro Football Focus, allowing just one catch on five targets into his coverage to go with two pass breakups.
Terrell McClain returned from a four-game absence caused by a toe injury suffered in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans but played on just 13 defensive snaps.
For a second straight game a very good game for the Redskins’ defense did include some bad run defense. The Redskins allowed C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker to combine for 24 carries for 135 yards (5.63 yards per carry) and a touchdown. But this still was overall another high-level performance by the Redskins’ defense this season.
Special Teams: B-
Dustin Hopkins went 2-for-2 on field goals of 26 yards in the second quarter and 29 yards in the third quarter.
Tress Way had five punts, four of which were good: two 52-yard punts in the first quarter, a 48-yard punt early in the second quarter and a 46-yard punt in the fourth quarter. He did have a mere 37-yard punt that went out of bounds at the Broncos’ 43 late in the second quarter.
But Jamison Crowder continued to struggle on punt returns. He had a mere three-yard punt return on the first play of the fourth quarter. And the Broncos’ second offensive drive resulted in a first-quarter punt that Crowder let bounce around the Redskins’ 10 and then be downed at the 3. Also on that play was a Quinton Dunbar one-yard face-mask penalty, resulting in the ensuing Redskins drive starting at their 2. The drive resulted in a first-quarter three-and-out.
This win clinched the Redskins not having a double-digit-loss season for a third consecutive season. Is that a pathetic stat to even reference? Absolutely. But do you know the last three-season stretch in which the Redskins didn’t have a double-digit-loss season? 1999-2002.
This win concluded a 5-3 season for the Redskins at FedEx Field.
We had multiple reports prior to this game regarding potential or likely Cincinnati interest in Jay Gruden as its head coach. Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, who, remember, hates the Redskins, wrote that “there’s talk in league circles that the Bengals are hoping for a reunion with Hue Jackson or Jay Gruden.” Meantime, NFL insider Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and NFL.com, who, remember, has been wrong on Redskins stories more than anyone maybe ever, tweeted that “Jay Gruden is a top target for the #Bengals – if available.” A few thoughts:
- Anything is possible, but it does seem right now that the Redskins are likely to retain Jay Gruden as their head coach. The team has not tapped out down the stretch. The season, rightfully so, was ruined by multiple factors beyond Jay’s control (injuries and a brutal schedule over the first 10 games). And Jay reportedly has three seasons left on his contract thanks to a two-year extension signed last offseason. Unless the Redskins get utterly embarrassed at the Giants in Week 17 and/or there is more internal strife than any of us know, the smart money right now is on Jay being back next season.
- That said, there is something to keep in mind. What if Bruce Allen isn’t back as Redskins president? What if Dan Snyder, displeased over Bruce’s handling of the Kirk Cousins contract situation (#ChaChaCha) and dismayed at the anger of the fan base toward Bruce for a variety of public-relations debacles, ousts Bruce from his position and hires someone else to run the front office? Then Jay’s job might not be so secure.
- And with that in mind, ask yourself this: where did these reports of Cincinnati interest in Jay as head coach come from? My guess is that they came from the Bengals. But what if the reports came from Jay’s camp? What if Jay sees a writing on the wall, whatever that writing is, that he is unlikely to be back next season or would rather be somewhere else next season and leaked these reports in some way? Again, I don’t believe that this is the case. But you’re being naïve if you’re not at least wondering about this.
- Finally, the Bengals having interest in Jay does say something about him as a coach. Is he Lombardi? No. But Jay is a bright offensive mind whose players seem to genuinely like playing for him. He had the chops to stand up and fight for the quarterback he wanted to be his starter prior to the 2015 season. You can’t call Jay a great head coach, but I do think that he’s a pretty good one.
The Redskins’ offense played this game without:
- Receiver Maurice Harris (inactive due to a back injury)
- Guard Kyle Kalis (inactive for a third consecutive game)
- Center Demetrius Rhaney (inactive for a second consecutive game)
- Running back Kenny Hilliard (inactive; was signed to the 53-man roster on Dec. 23)
- Left tackle Trent Williams (placed on injured reserve on Dec. 22 off having been inactive for four of the previous eight games due to an ailing right kneecap that will require surgery)
- Tight end Jordan Reed (placed on injured reserve on Dec. 12 off having been inactive for six consecutive games due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 8 loss to Dallas)
- Running back Chris Thompson (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21 due to a fractured fibula suffered in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Running back Rob Kelley (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 14 due to an MCL sprain suffered in the Week 10 loss to Minnesota and ailing ankle)
- Running back Byron Marshall (placed on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury suffered in the Week 14 loss at the Chargers)
- Running back LeShun Daniels (placed on injured reserve on Dec. 23 due to a fractured hand suffered in practice on Dec. 22)
- Center Spencer Long (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21 off being inactive for a three of the previous four games due to two knee injuries that emerged in the Week 7 loss at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football)
- Left guard Shawn Lauvao (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21 due to a stinger that was aggravated in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 21 due to an ankle injury)
- Tackle T.J. Clemmings (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 16 due to an ailing ankle)
- 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:
- Linebacker Zach Brown (inactive for a second consecutive game off not practicing for a second consecutive week, this time due to three ailments: Achilles, toe, hamstring)
- Linebacker Ryan Anderson (inactive due to a patella-tendon strain suffered in the Week 15 win over Arizona)
- Safety DeAngelo Hall (inactive off having played on just one defensive snap in the four games since the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- Safety Montae Nicholson (placed on injured reserve on Dec. 19 off having been inactive for the previous four games due to a concussion suffered in the Week 11 overtime loss at New Orleans)
- 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)
- Linebacker Mason Foster (placed on injured reserve on Oct. 28 due to a torn labrum suffered in the Week 2 win at the Rams; he missed the Week 3 win over Oakland but then played the next three games with the injury before going on IR)
- Linebacker Will Compton (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 14 due to a Lisfranc injury suffered in the Week 10 loss to Minnesota)
- Linebacker Chris Carter (placed on injured reserve on Dec. 12 due to a fractured fibula suffered in the Week 14 loss at the Chargers)
- Defensive lineman Arthur Jones (placed on injured reserve on Nov. 11 due to a shoulder dislocation suffered in the Week 9 win at Seattle; the Redskins signed him on Nov. 1)
- 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