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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins' Blowout of Jacksonville
by Al Galdi
Sep 17, 2014 -- 6:59pm

The Redskins improved to 1-1 with a 41-10 rout of Jacksonville on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 14, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:


1. Quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered a dislocated left ankle in the first quarter and is out indefinitely


Griffin looked good in his brief time in the game.  He had two read-option runs for 22 yards, including a 12-yard run on the first offensive play of the game.  He went 2-of-3 for 38 yards, including a second-and-eight 19-yard shotgun completion to tight end Niles Paul off read-option play-action and a second-and-nine I-formation incompletion intended for receiver DeSean Jackson on a play that should have been ruled a completion (the Skins challenged but were unsuccessful).

Griffin got injured on second-and-four 19-yard completion to Jackson off a play-action boot out of the pistol.  Griffin had both Jackson and receiver Pierre Garcon open and should have thrown the ball earlier, but he instead kept running and, ultimately got injured when his left foot hit the turf awkwardly and bent in a gruesome fashion.  Griffin was trying to get away from linebacker Paul Posluszny on the play.  Griffin suffered no break in the ankle, but head coach Jay Gruden on Monday (Sept. 15) offered no timetable for a return other than saying, “We'll know in a few more weeks as far as how long he'll be out.”        

This was Griffin’s fourth injury over 31 regular-season and postseason games: concussion in the Week 5 loss to Atlanta in 2012, grade-one right LCL sprain in the Week 14 overtime win over Baltimore, torn right ACL in the wild-card-round playoff loss to Seattle in Jan. 2013 and now this injury.

The other negative for Griffin was a third-and-nine sack for a nine-yard loss.  He was in the shotgun and was guilty of standing too still in the pocket.  Griffin now has been sacked 42 times over his last 15 regular-season games off getting sacked just 30 times in 15 regular-season games in 2012.  


2. Receiver DeSean Jackson, like Griffin, exited the game in the first quarter and was one of five Redskins injured

Jackson suffered an AC-joint sprain in his left shoulder on a first-and-10 deep incompletion.      

Fullback Darrel Young suffered a back sprain on a fourth-quarter second-and-nine seven-yard reception that also included a 10-yard unnecessary-roughness penalty on safety Winston Guy Jr.

Running back Roy Helu Jr. exited the game in the fourth quarter due to a left-knee strain.

Left guard Shaun Lauvao exited the game in the fourth quarter due to right-knee inflammation.


3. The Redskins had one of their best offensive games of the last few seasons despite the injuries, a key absence and a surprise underperformer

The Redskins scored 41 points, producing 32 first downs and 449 total net yards of offense and no turnovers.  

The Redskins won the time-of-possession battle by 18:02.  

The Redskins’ 31-point margin of victory was the team’s largest since Oct. 7, 2007 vs. Detroit (34-3).

What was most impressive was the Redskins’ offense in the first half: 21 points, 308 total net yards, 21 first downs.  The second quarter at Dallas in 2012, the first quarter against Baltimore in 2012, the first half at Minnesota in 2013 and the first half of this game stand as the Redskins’ best offensive quarters/halves since the start of the 2012 season.

The most impressive aspect of this offensive performance: the Redskins did it despite Griffin and Jackson exiting the game in the first quarter due to injury, tight end Jordan Reed being inactive due to a hamstring injury and receiver Pierre Garcon totaling just one reception on four targets.

And the offensive numbers could have been even better.  A second-and-nine Grffin I-formation deep incompletion intended for Jackson should have been a catch according to officiating experts Mike Pereira of FOX Sports and Mike Carey of CBS Sports.


4. Kirk Cousins relieved Griffin and was very good, especially in the first half

Cousins completed his first 12 passes, going 14-of-18 for 170 yards and a touchdown in the first half.  He went just 8-of-15 for 80 yards and a touchdown in the second half, but the performance still overall was terrific, especially considering that it was a relief performance.  

Cousins’ two touchdown passes were a first-quarter second-and-10 20-yard shotgun connection with Young on Cousins’ first throw of the game and an early-fourth-quarter second-and-goal two-yard I-formation toss to Paul.

Cousins’ pocket presence and decision making are better than Griffin’s right now without question.  Griffin, of course, is faster and has the stronger arm and overall higher ceiling.  I never liked the idea of trading Cousins last offseason given the bad year that Griffin had in 2013, to say nothing of Griffin’s injury history.  This game was exactly why you keep Cousins on your roster.

And this game also was why spending a fourth-round pick on Cousins in 2012 was a good idea.  He has at this point has proven at the very least to be a capable backup at a bargain price (four-year, $2.57 million deal).  And he may be a quality starter.  On what planet is that poor use of a fourth-round pick?  


5. The Redskins’ defense was dominant

The Redskins tied a team record with 10 sacks, set previously on Oct. 9, 1977. The 10 sacks were the most by the Redskins in a game since the NFL made sacks an official stat in 1982.

The Redskins totaled a ridiculous 18 quarterback hits.

The Redskins held the Jaguars to 148 total net yards of offense, eight first downs and 3-of-13 on third downs.

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan tied a team record with four sacks, matching Phillip Daniels (12/18/2005), Ken Harvey (11/23/1997), Dexter Manley (10/2/1988) and Brian Orakpo (12/13/2009).

Defensive end Jason Hatcher had two quarterback hits, including 1 ½ sacks, but the stats don’t tell the story of his game.  Hatcher was a major disruptive force, earning a perfect 10.0 grade from our own Chris Cooley.  

Linebacker Perry Riley Jr. had three quarterback hits, including 1 ½ sacks.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson had three quarterback hits, including half of a sack.

Linebacker Brian Orakpo had two quarterback hits, including a sack, and was again impressive with his run defense.

Corner David Amerson had two of the Redskins’ six pass defenses.


6. Safety Bacarri Rambo committed another major mistake and is gone

The Redskins waived Rambo on Tuesday (Sept. 16) off allowing tight end Marcedes Lewis to get behind him and taking a bad angle on Lewis’ second-quarter third-and-12 63-yard touchdown reception.  Rambo, of course, also was guilty of a terrible missed tackle on receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ second-quarter 76-yard touchdown reception in the Week 1 loss at Houston.

Rambo played on just 38 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps, as safety Trenton Robinson was in on 48 percent of the Redskins’ defensive snaps.  He had an early-fourth-quarter interception but also was at least partly responsible for rookie receiver Allen Robinson’s fourth-quarter third-and-nine 54-yard reception.

Rambo getting waived means that just two of the Redskins’ seven 2013 draft picks are on the 53-man roster: Amerson and Reed.

Two other defensive negatives had to do with corner DeAngelo Hall.  He got beat badly on a first-quarter second-and-10 deep incompletion intended for rookie receiver Allen Hurns, who dropped the ball.  And Hall committed a second-quarter first-and-10 15-yard personal-foul penalty.  


7. Running back Alfred Morris had a very good first half

Morris had 14 carries for 63 yards in the first half, including two second-quarter one-yard I-formation-handoff touchdown runs.

Morris did have eight carries for just 22 yards in the second half, but bad blocking by Lauvao and right tackle Tyler Polumbus had a lot to do with Morris’ bad second-half.    

Rookie Silas Redd had eight carries for 41 yards, including a late-fourth-quarter fourth-and-seven 14-yard pistol-handoff touchdown run.

Roy Helu Jr. had eight carries for just 25 yards but provided the play of the game from a degree-of-difficulty standpoint: second-quarter first-and-10 nine-yard I-formation run on which Helu accumulated much of the yardage while pushing off the turf with his right arm.


8. Tight end Niles Paul and receiver Ryan Grant took advantage of others’ absences

Tight end Logan Paulsen actually started in place of Reed, but it was Paul who played on 71 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps and finished with eight receptions for 99 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets.  He did have a drop late in the third quarter on a first-and-10 incompletion.  But that drive resulted in Paul’s second-and-goal two-yard touchdown reception.

Grant played on 44 percent of the Redskins’ offensive snaps thanks to Jackson’s injury and finished with five receptions for 57 yards on eight targets.
    

9. Redskins special teams had a second straight uneven game

The good from Redskins special teams included:
     •    kicker Kai Forbath going 2-for-2 on field goals of 36 and 42 yards despite being questionable with a right groin injury

     •    receiver Andre Roberts’ third-quarter 37-yard punt return that helped to set-up Forbath’s third-quarter 36-yard field goal

     •    punter Tress Way blasting two first-quarter 61-yard punts and a 48-yard punt to the Jags’ 14 in the second quarter

But the bad from Redskins special teams included:    
     •    Roberts totaling just 22 yards on his six other punt returns

     •    Way producing a mere 29-yard punt in the third quarter

     •    Five of the Redskins’ 11 penalties being on special teams, including two by special-teams captain and linebacker Adam Hayward


10. Miscellaneous notes:

This victory snapped a nine-game regular-season losing streak for the Redskins.

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    Reed due to the hamstring injury he suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    defensive end Kedric Golston due to a groin injury suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    receiver Santana Moss for a second straight game

     •    corner Tracy Porter (hamstring) for a second straight game

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee) for a second straight game

     •    rookie guard Spencer Long for a second straight game

     •    quarterback Colt McCoy for a second straight game

The Redskins also played this game without:
     •    safety Brandon Meriweather, who is serving a two-game suspension without pay for a sixth violation of player-safety rules

     •    defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a high-ankle sprain in the preseason-opening win over New England on Aug. 7

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28


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Five Takeaways From The Orioles Taking Three Of Four Against The Yankees
by Al Galdi
Sep 15, 2014 -- 11:56am
ESPN 980

Game 1: 2-1 11-inning win on Friday afternoon (Sept. 12)

Game 2: 5-0 win on Friday night (Sept. 12)

Game 3: 3-2 loss on Saturday afternoon (Sept. 13)

Game 4: 3-2 win on Sunday night (Sept. 14)


1. First baseman Chris Davis is done for the regular season


We learned on Friday that Davis had been suspended for 25 games by Major League Baseball for testing positive for amphetamines associated with the drug Adderall.  The suspension was to cost Davis the Orioles’ remaining 17 regular-season games and eight postseason games should the O’s advance that far.

Under the terms of MLB's Joint Drug Prevention And Treatment Program, a first offense for a stimulant violation results in follow-up testing.  A second violation brings a 25-game suspension, and a third offense results in an 80-game suspension.  So Davis, obviously, failed a test for a second time.

Davis released a statement of apology through the Major League Baseball Players Association: "I apologize to my teammates, coaches, the Orioles organization and especially the fans.  I made a mistake by taking Adderall.  I had permission to use it in the past but do not have a therapeutic-use exemption this year.  I accept my punishment and will begin serving my suspension immediately."

One of two things happened here: 1) Davis legitimately needs Adderall, took it without an exemption, and got caught or 2) Davis took Adderall as a performance-enhancer in a frustrating season without an exemption and got caught.  Whatever the case, this was a foolish and completely avoidable misstep.

Davis has an OPS+ of just 97 (100 is average) this season off his incredible 2013: OPS+ of 168, MLB-leading 53 homers, MLB-leading 138 RBI, MLB-leading 370 total bases.  Two bright spots, though, for Davis this season: 1) he’s second on the O’s with 26 homers and 2) his advanced defensive numbers at first base are very good, and he has played some at third base in the absence of Manny Machado.

The O’s have been without Machado since he injured his right knee on Aug. 11.  He underwent season-ending surgery on the medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) in his right knee in late August.  Additionally, catcher Matt Wieters hasn’t played since May 10 and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on June 17.


2. The starting pitching was terrific with the exception of one inning

Kevin Gausman tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 1, recording seven strikeouts.

Bud Norris tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 2, recording 10 strikeouts.

Miguel Gonzalez allowed three runs in six innings in Game 3, though he gave up just three hits and three walks.  All three runs came in the top of the second, which featured a solo homer, a walk, a double, an RBI single and a steal of home.

Chris Tillman allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, recording six strikeouts.  He now has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his 19 starts.  The Orioles’ record for such a streak is 25, which was set by Dave McNally in 1968.  

3. The bullpen was excellent

Orioles relivers combined to allow just two runs in 11 1/3 innings in the series, totaling 13 strikeouts.


4. The offense overall was bad…

The O’s totaled just one homer and batted just .230 (31-for-135) in the series, though they did total 11 walks over Games 1 and 2.


5. …but the theme of unlikely heroes continued for the O’s

Steve Pearce started all four games at first base and went 5-for-14 with two walks in the series.

Jimmy Paredes had a pinch walk-off two-run double in Game 1.

Left fielder Alejandro De Aza had two RBI triples in Game 2, which also included shortstop Ryan Flaherty providing an RBI double, a walk and a run and DH Delmon Young producing a two-run single.

Third baseman Kelly Johnson, a former Yankee whom the O's acquired from Boston on Aug. 30, hit a walk-off double in Game 4.


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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Three Of Four At The Mets
by Al Galdi
Sep 14, 2014 -- 8:20pm
Nationals

Game 1: 6-2 win on Thursday night (Sept. 11)

Game 2: 4-3 loss on Friday night (Sept. 12)

Game 3: 10-3 win on Saturday night (Sept. 13)

Game 4: 3-0 win on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 14)


1. The offense was very good


The Nats batted .292 (42-for-144) in the series, despite going just 9-for-46 with runners in scoring position.

Third baseman Anthony Rendon went a ridiculous 11-for-19 in the series.

Center fielder Denard Span went 5-for-13 with walk and 2-for-2 on stolen bases in the series.

Shortstop Ian Desmond went 6-for-16 with two walks and 3-for-3 on stolen bases in the series.  Desmond exited this series with 22 homers and 21 stolen bases, giving him a 20-20 season for the third straight year.  He joined Hanley Ramirez, Jimmy Rollins and Alex Rodriguez as the only shortstops in major-league history to go 20/20 at least three times.

Right fielder Jayson Werth did not play in Game 2 but went 4-for-12 with a walk in the series.
 

2. The starting pitching was uneven

Tanner Roark allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings in Game 1, during which he did commit a throwing error.  Roark was pulled despite throwing just 87 pitches, but he is at a career-high innings total, so the Nats may simply be looking not to overthrow him at this point.

Gio Gonzalez allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings in Game 2.  He allowed six hits and a hit-by-pitch on 110 pitches but did record seven strikeouts and did issue just one walk.  Gonzalez unwillingly exited the game in the bottom of the seventh, slamming the ball into manager Matt Williams’ hand and then having an animated discussion with him in the dugout.  Both men downplayed the emotion after the game.

Doug Fister allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings in Game 3, getting pulled after just 75 pitches.

Jordan Zimmermann tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 4.  He wasn’t nearly his usual-efficient self (103 pitches), but the run prevention obviously was there.


3. The bullpen was excellent

Nats relievers combined for 9 1/3 scoreless innings in the series.


4. Things got chippy in Game 1

Mets starter Bartolo Colon got rocked, allowing six runs (five earned) in three innings.  The top of the first saw him give up a two-run homer to first baseman Adam LaRoche and then hit Desmond with a pitch.  The top of the fourth saw Colon give up a two-run homer to Rendon and then hit Werth with the next pitch, causing Colon and eventually manager Terry Collins to be ejected.  

Nats reliever Matt Thornton then hit third baseman Daniel Murphy with a pitch in the bottom of the eighth, causing Murphy to leave the game with an injured left wrist.  

The rest of the series featured four hit-by-pitches by Nats starters: one by Gonzalez in Game 2, one by Fister in Game 3 and two by Zimmermann in Game 4.


5. Defense bit the Nats at least a little for the second time in three series

Catcher Wilson Ramos committed a missed-catch error during the Mets’ three-run first in Game 2.

Desmond committed an error during the Mets’ one-run sixth in Game 3.


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Five Takeaways From The Nationals Taking Two Of Three Against Atlanta
by Al Galdi
Sep 11, 2014 -- 2:37pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 2-1 win on Monday night (Sept. 8)

Game 2: 6-4 win on Tuesday night (Sept. 9)

Game 3: 6-2 loss on Wednesday (Sept. 10)


1. Revenge against your biggest rival, despite one Nats killer continuing his tear


The Nats, in taking two of three against the Braves, improved to 6-10 against them this season and exited this series with a magic number of 10 to clinch the National League East.

Nats killer and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman did go 5-for-11 with a walk in the series.  He now has a .476 batting average, .521 on-base percentage and .778 slugging percentage against the Nats this season.

Next up for the Nats is an 11-game road trip, which comprises their final road games of the regular season: four games at the Mets, three games at the Braves and four games at Miami.


2. It certainly appears as if Drew Storen is back as the Nats’ closer

He struck out the side in a perfect ninth in Game 1 and then tossed another perfect ninth in Game 2, giving him three saves in three days despite manager Matt Williams continuing to insist that he’s going closer-by-committee.  Storen exited this series with a 1.29 ERA and 0.96 WHIP this season.  

Former closer Rafael Soriano allowed a double and a single in a scoreless eighth in Game 3, which marked his first outing since giving up three runs on two homers on Sept. 5.

A negative for the bullpen was Jerry Blevins’ outing in Game 3: three runs in one-third of an inning, though two of the runs were plated on a two-run double given up by Ryan Mattheus.


3. The starting pitching was terrific in Game 1 and solid the rest of the series

Doug Fister, off struggling over his previous three starts (11 earned runs in 16 2/3 innings), was back to his usual stellar self in Game 1.  He tossed seven scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and three walks.  The highlight of Fister’s outing came in the top of the seventh, when manager Matt Williams came to the mound but decided to leave Fister in the game with two outs, runners on first and second and shortstop Andrelton Simmons at the plate.  Williams after the game: "I asked him if he wanted this man, and he said, 'Yes,' so I turned around and went back to the dugout.”  Simmons ended up grounding into a fielder’s choice, one of 11 groundball outs recorded by Fister.

Jordan Zimmermann allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings in Game 2, recording seven strikeouts.  He now has a 2.40 ERA over his last nine starts.  

Stephen Strasburg allowed three runs in six innings in Game 3.  He gave up seven hits, a hit-by-pitch and a wild pitch but also recorded eight strikeouts and issued no walks.  Strasburg and Zimmermann are tied for first on the Nats with 21 quality starts apiece this season.  


4. The offense had an off series

The Nats batted just .242 and totaled just eight walks in the series.

The Nats totaled just four runs in Games 1 and 3, during which the Nats went a combined 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

36-year-old Braves starter Aaron Harang allowed one run (unearned) in seven innings in Game 3, recording nine strikeouts.  He now has allowed just two unearned runs in 20 innings over three starts against the Nats this season.  

A bright spot remained first baseman Adam LaRoche, who went 4-for-11 with a walk in the series.  He had two RBI singles in Game 2.


5. Two key absences in Game 3

Third baseman Anthony Rendon (illness) and shortstop Ian Desmond (back) did not play on Wednesday, but neither was expected to be out for long.


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Five Takeaways From The Orioles' Three-Game Sweep At Boston
by Al Galdi
Sep 10, 2014 -- 7:33pm
ESPN 980

Game 1: 4-0 win on Monday night (Sept. 8)

Game 2: 4-1 win on Tuesday night (Sept. 9)

Game 3: 10-6 win on Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 10)


1. 35 years since we’ve seen this


The Game 1 win gave the O’s their first 10-game lead atop the American League East since 1979.

The O’s exited this series 44-20 since June 30.


2. The starting pitching was very good

Miguel Gonzalez tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 1, even though he gave up six hits and three walks.  Nine of Gonzalez’s last 10 starts have been quality starts, with him allowing two runs or fewer in each of those nine outings.

Chris Tillman allowed one run in five innings in Game 2 despite allowing six hits and two walks.  He did record five strikeouts.  He now has allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his 18 starts.  The Orioles’ record for such a streak is 25, which was set by Dave McNally in 1968.  

Wei-Yin Chen allowed one run in seven innings in Game 3, taking a perfect game into the sixth inning.    


3. The offense was good, especially in Game 3

The O’s batted .286 (32-for-112) in the series.  They went 2-for-20 with runners in scoring position over Games 1 and 2 but 9-for-16 with runners in scoring position in Game 3.

Left fielder Alejandro De Aza went 5-for-12 with three walks in the series, blasting two homers in Game 2.  Also, he went 2-for-3 on stolen bases in the series.

First baseman Steve Pearce went 4-for-10 with two walks in the series.

DH Nelson Cruz went 4-for-14 with a walk in the series.


4. Shortstop J.J. Hardy remained out, but his replacement did just fine

Hardy did not play at all in the series due to back spasms and now has missed five consecutive games and six of the last nine games.

Ryan Flaherty started at shortstop in all three games in the series and went 6-for-13, including a four-hit performance in Game 3.


5. One performance marred the bullpen’s numbers

Joe Saunders allowed five runs in just one-third of an inning in Game 3.  Otherwise, Orioles relievers combined to toss 8 1/3 scoreless innings in the series, recording nine strikeouts.

The O’s signed Saunders, a Virginia Tech product, to a minor-league contract on Aug. 1.  His contract was selected from Triple-A Norfolk on Sept. 1.  Saunders had a 117 ERA+ over seven starts in 2012 with the O’s, who acquired him from Arizona on Aug. 26, 2012.


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10 Takeaways From The Redskins' Loss At Houston
by Al Galdi
Sep 09, 2014 -- 7:09pm
ESPN

Redskins begin their regular season with a 17-6 loss at Houston on Sunday afternoon (Sept. 7, 2014)


1. Two third-quarter lost fumbles inside the Texans’ 10 doomed the Redskins


ESPN GalleriesQuarterback Robert Griffin III was credited with a lost fumble on a first-and-goal at the 7.  Center Kory Lichtensteiger got pushed back, Griffin tripped over Lichtensteiger while trying to hand the ball off to running back Alfred Morris and the exchange was never completed.  Defensive end J.J. Watt made the fumble recovery.

The Redskins’ next offensive series featured a terrific third-and-seven shotgun completion by Griffin to tight end Niles Paul for 48 yards.  But Paul lost the ball at the Texans’ 9 while getting hit from behind by safety D.J. Swearinger, though the contact didn’t seem substantial.  Safety Kendrick Lewis made the fumble recovery.


2. The answer to how Griffin did is complicated

He completed 29 of 37 passes and did not throw a pick for a conservative game plan that included a number of short throws.  Credit Griffin for credibly executing what was called, seeing the field well and putting up nice numbers in the second half: 14-of-20 for 193 yards.  

The biggest problem with what Griffin and his passing game did was that it wasn’t at all dynamic.  According to ESPN Stats & Info, Griffin attempted 14 passes at or behind the line of scrimmage, six more than in any other game of his career.  His average completion in this game was thrown 3.7 yards downfield, including a meager 0.8-yard average in the first half.  The Redskins’ best deep threat in years, receiver DeSean Jackson, averaged just 7.8 yards on eight receptions in his regular-season debut with the team.

Was the game plan so conservative because the Texans’ defense is that good?  Or was the game plan so conservative because the coaching staff didn’t trust Griffin with anything more risqué?  Griffin was incredibly dynamic in 2012 and at times in 2013.  He was a game-manager, not a play-maker, in this game.

Also, Griffin wasn’t a run threat at all: three carries for two yards.  The Redskins had four read-option-looking runs, but none was a true read-option play.  The Redskins have yet to have significant offensive success in a game with Griffin without him being a major run threat.  If the offense can thrive at this point in Griffin’s career without the read-option, then great.  But we haven’t seen that yet, and we certainly didn’t see it in this game (six points, 3-for-12 on third downs).

Another issue was the punishment that Griffin took in this game: three sacks, 14 quarterback hits.  The notion that a game plan with read-option puts Griffin at more risk than a game plan without read-option isn’t true, and this game was a classic example of why.  The read-option, especially in 2012, actually served a protection mechanism in that Griffin was rarely blitzed.  He was blitzed a bunch last season.

Both Griffin and his offensive line both were responsible for the punishment he took, but Griffin’s pocket presence continues to leave a lot to be desired.  He almost never slides to his left, and he doesn’t step up in the pocket enough.  These are things Griffin certainly is capable of improving on, but this game verified that he's not there yet.  

     
3. Head coach Jay Gruden admitted on Monday (Sept. 8) that he should have run the ball more

The Redskins finished the game with 40 pass plays (37 pass attempts and three sacks) versus just 23 rushes, despite running backs Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. combining for 137 yards on just 18 carries (7.6 yards per carry).  

The Redskins’ lone touchdown drive, the four-play, 46-yard drive that resulted in fullback Darrel Young’s second-quarter first-and-goal one-yard touchdown run, consisted of four running plays with Griffin under center: 16-yard run by Morris, eight-yard run by Helu, 21-yard run by Morris and then the one-yard touchdown run by Young.

Morris had 14 carries for 91 yards, but ball security has perhaps become an issue.  He nearly fumbled the ball on that second-quarter second-and-two 21-yard run to the Texans’ 1 (the Texans challenged the ruling but were unsuccessful), and he could have caught the ball on the play that was officially ruled a lost fumble on Griffin on the third-quarter first-and-goal at the 7.


4. Three key players, including two Redskins, got injured in the first half and ultimately did not return to the game

Tight end Jordan Reed suffered a hamstring strain on a first-quarter first-and-10 four-yard reception.  His durability, already a major question, now is an even bigger one.  Reed played in just nine games last season due to a concussion and a quadriceps contusion.  Reed entered this game as “questionable” due to a thumb injury.

Nose tackle Barry Cofield suffered a high-ankle sprain in the second quarter and on Tuesday (Sept. 9) was placed on the reserve/injured list with a designation to return.  

Defensive end Kedric Golston suffered a groin injury.

Texans rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney suffered a right meniscus tear in the second quarter.  He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Monday (Sept. 8) and was expected to miss four to six weeks.


5. Redskins special teams got off to a great start…

Three of Tress Way’s first four punts were terrific: first-quarter 61-yard punt, a first-quarter 58-yard punt, second-quarter 38-yard punt that was fair-caught at the Texans’ 8.

Receiver Andre Roberts had a first-quarter 11-yard punt return (on which he ran into Young) and a second-quarter 25-yard punt return.


6. …But then came two second-quarter special-teams gaffes that cost the Redskins eight points

Kai Forbath’s extra-point attempt after Young’s one-yard touchdown run was blocked by Watt.  Gruden said on Monday (Sept. 8) that Forbath’s kick may have been low, but that the protection needed to be better.

The Redskins’ next offensive series concluded with Way’s punt being blocked by rookie running back Alfred Blue, who recovered the ball and returned it five yards for a touchdown.  He ran right through Helu in getting at Way’s punt.  Gruden on Monday (Sept. 8) described Helu as being “out to lunch” on the play.

The Texans recorded a blocked punt and a blocked kick in the same game for the first time since Nov. 23, 2003.

Another special-teams mistake was rookie receiver Ryan Grant’s 10-yard holding penalty on the opening kickoff of the second half.


7. Three major negatives for the Redskins’ defense

Safety Bacarri Rambo was guilty of a terrible missed tackle on receiver DeAndre Hopkins’ second-quarter 76-yard touchdown reception, taking a bad angle and then failing miserably in trying to get at Hopkins.  Rambo appeared to not be the only one at fault for that catch, but his failure to make the tackle was really disappointing, especially after a preseason in which he received considerable praise for supposed improvement.

The Texans went 6-for-8 on third downs in the second half off going just 1-for-6 on third downs in the first half.  The regression for the Redskins’ third-down defense was highlighted on the Texans’ fourth-quarter 13-play, 68-yard drive that ate up 6:32 and resulted in Randy Bullock’s game-icing 42-yard field goal.  The drive also included a third-and-one five-yard neutral-zone-infraction penalty by defensive lineman Chris Baker and a 15-yard (albeit questionable) roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who was fined $16,537 for that penalty.   

The Redskins registered just one sack and four quarterback hits on Ryan Fitzpatrick.  Conversely, the Texans registered three sacks and 14 quarterback hits.  


8. There were, however, a number of positives for the Redskins’ defense

Each of the Texans’ first five drives resulted in a punt.  Seven of the Texans’ nine true drives resulted in a punt or lost fumble.

The Redskins held the Texans to just 3.5 yards per carry on 33 carries.

The Redskins held Fitzpatrick to just 206 passing yards, and 76 of those came on Hopkins’ second-quarter 76-yard touchdown reception.

Ryan Kerrigan had an early-fourth-quarter forced fumble that was recovered by fellow linebacker Keenan Robinson and registered a quarterback hit on a third-quarter third-and-six incompletion on a drive that resulted in a punt.

Defensive end Jason Hatcher had a second-quarter second-and-10 sack for a five-yard loss on a drive that resulted in a punt and registered a quarterback hit on a second-and-three incompletion on the opening drive of the game.


9. Gruden’s clock management at the end of the first half didn’t make much sense

Gruden’s openness and humor during press conferences are refreshing, he appears to be a good people person, and he knows offense.  All of that said, what happened in the final moments of the second quarter was bizarre.  

The Redskins had a first-and-10 at the Texans’ 44 when Griffin was hit with a 15-yard intentional-grounding penalty (which should not have been called according to FOX Sports NFL officiating expert Mike Pereira).  After a multi-minute delay due to play-clock confusion among the officials, Griffin connected with Jackson for a second-and-25 shotgun completion for no gain.  And then, despite still having the ball on their own 41, the Redskins essentially waived the white flag, letting the clock wind down until calling a timeout with four seconds left.  Then, with the first half all but conceded, the Redskins risked unnecessary injury by running Morris for a third-and-25 nine-yard gain.

Why didn’t the Redskins, with the ball on their own 41 and nearly a minute left, try to score?  And then why did they run Morris on a play they didn’t care about?
    

10. Miscellaneous notes:

The Redskins played this game without:
     •    safety Brandon Meriweather, who is serving a two-game suspension without pay for a sixth violation of player-safety rules

     •    defensive end Stephen Bowen, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to microfracture surgery on his right knee last Dec. 3

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    linebacker Darryl Sharpton, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a high-ankle sprain in the preseason-opening win over New England on Aug. 7

     •     nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28

Inactives for the Redskins were:
     •    receiver Santana Moss

     •    corner Tracy Porter (hamstring)

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan (knee)

     •    rookie tackle Morgan Moses

     •    rookie guard Spencer Long

     •    defensive end Frank Kearse

     •    quarterback Colt McCoy

Watt was ridiculously good: sack, five quarterback hits, pass defense, fumble recovery and a blocked extra-point attempt.

Each team got hit with a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty.  Jenkins got called for a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty on the fourth-quarter drive that resulted in Bullock’s 42-yard field goal.  Swearinger got called for an even more ridiculous third-and-six seven-yard roughing-the-passer penalty in the third quarter.  But the next play was Griffin’s first-and-goal-at-the-7 lost fumble, so the Texans actually benefited from the bad penalty call.


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