LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 11: Tim Hightower #25 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball against the New York Giants during the season-opening game at FedEx Field on September 11, 2011 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
With a big win against the Giants and a game coming up against the Cardinals, there is a lot to cover in this section this week. Instead of focusing on one main topic I want to look back at some positive and negative areas from the Giants game, as well as look ahead for how we match-up against Arizona.
Rex Grossman- After the first two drives Grossman was 0-4 and it looked as though the John Beck era could be starting sooner rather than later (or never). From that point on Grossman went 21-30 for 305 yards 2 TD's and 0 INT's. Any way you cut it, it was an impressive game for Grossman, as his 61.8 completion percentage was higher than all but three of the Redskins games last season (and none of which by Grossman). And his 8.97 yards per attempt ranked 8th best in the league, and was only bettered by a Redskins quarterback once last season (McNabb vs Texans). Grossman's longest pass might have been for just 39 yards (though that did match Donovan McNabb's game total for the Vikings), but he constantly threw 12-20 yard passes. Seventeen of his 34 throws went for 1st downs, which is a very strong. The best part of his game might have been his progressions, as he dealt with a fair amount of pressure throughout the game.
Offensive Line- This was a pretty big area of concern for the Skins last season, and it appears to still be a problem this year as well. The running game managed just 2.8 yards per carry, mainly because the Giants continuously won the battle at the line of scrimmage. There were far too many runs of 2 yards or less, that simply killed drives and forced more 2nd and 3rd downs with 7+ yards to go. The pass blocking wasn't much better either as the Redskins gave up 4 sacks, and a number of other hits and pressures. Fixing this will be an issue as the pressure forced the majority of Grossman's incomplete passes, as well as a number of off target (high or behind the receiver) throws. They were completed this week, but that won't always be the case. The right side of the line in particularly struggled as Jamaal Brown was getting pushed around by Dave Tollefson, and Chris Chester missed a couple key blocks in the ground game.
While people might be sick of hearing it the most troubling thing about the poor offensive line play was it was against a number of the Giants backups, due to their injury issues. While the Giants have some solid depth, that was not a top 16 unit that the Redskins faced. I'm not trying to take anything away from Rex Grossman or the tally in the win column, but if the Offensive line couldn't block against these guys, what will happen when they face higher quality defenses.
Against the Cards:
Redskins Defense vs their Offense-
The Redskins defense came to play in week one, and gave the Giants fits in every aspect of their game. The Giants couldn't run or pass effectively and it was the key to victory. In week two though they may face a tougher challenge.
It is easy for Redskins fans to dismiss Kevin Kolb, since our own recent foray into trading for an Eagles castoff QB didn't work out too well, but I wouldn't chalk this up as a positive for the Skins just yet. Kolb looked very impressive in his game against Panthers, throwing for 309 yards on 18-27 (66.7%) passing. He had two touchdowns to zero interceptions, and led the league with 11.44 yards per attempt.
Now it is easy to say that Kolb's stats are inflated given his two big touchdown passes, against broken coverage, but that isn't entirely true. Yes Kolb got 118 of his yards on the two TD passes (48 yards to Jeff King, 70 yards to Early Doucet), but even if you take away those huge gains, Kolb still averaged 7.64 yards per attempt on his other 25 throws, which would have been 16th best in the league. Also, Kolb would still have a 64% completion rate even if you take away those two passes. While some people might suggest that the drop-off to 7.64 yards is significant, I think that is overblown. No one is taking away Welker's 99 yard TD from Tom Brady or Matt Forte's 56 yarder from Jay Cutler. If you take away the two longest receptions from every quarterback of course their yards per attempt is going to drop. By comparison if you take away Grossman's two longest throws (a 39 and 28 yarder), Grossman's YPA drops to 7.12, a full half of yard less than Kolb. Yes it is true that Kolb didn't throw down the field as much, but he constantly hit his receivers in stride allowing them to pick up significant yards after the catch. On both of his touchdown throws, the Panthers brought one more rusher than there was a blocker, but Kolb made the right right read, and delivered an accurate throw in the face of pressure.
The other thing I'm hearing is the fact that 'it was against the Panthers defense'. Now that statement implies that the Panthers defense isn't that good, but that isn't really the case. Carolina last year had about a middle of the pack defense in most major categories. Their pass defense allowed an 81.0 QB rating (by comparison the Skins allowed 89.6), and was a solid unit overall. What's more impressive is their defense didn't really get much support from their horrible offense which led to favorable field position for their opponents and little rest for their defense. The Panthers though had no answer on Sunday for Kolb, as they mananged just two sacks and allowed 4.76 yards per carry from the running backs.
The Redskins will have to bring their A game again if they hope to stop the Cards offense. Unfortunately it looks like LaRon Landry will miss the game again, and Brian Orakpo might not be 100%. Both of those are huge losses for the Skins, and will force the Redskins line to have a big game. The Cardinals offensive line isn't great, so there will be chances for pressure, the Redskins just have to play a tighter defense on the back-end to ensure that Kolb doesn't turn pressures into TD's. The key match-up to watch will be Ryan Kerrigan and Stephen Bowen against RT Brandon Keith. Keith is the weakest link along their line, and if the Skins can exploit him, it will force the Cards to keep backs and TE's in more, which is something they don't like to do.
Redskins Offense vs Cardinals Defense-
I realize the fact that Cam Newton threw for more than 400 yards against the Cardinals has Redskins fans salivating, but it is very important to remember that it is just one game. And there are a number of different factors going into play in this game. Cam Newton was far more impressive than anyone thought he'd be, but he's a much harder quarterback to game plan for, and was able to buy time despite an impressive Cardinals pass rush. Rex Grossman won't have that mobility advantage and will probably have to check down more.
The real concern is how the Redskins offensive line handles this pass rush and their run blocking. The Cards got pressure on Newton, on 17 of his 46 dropbacks, or 37%, that is roughly the same percentage of dropbacks that Grossman was under pressure (36.8). The difference is of course that the Panthers have a better offensive line, led by Jordan Gross and Ryan Kalil, and the Cardinals are going to have a stronger pass rush than what the Redskins faced against the Giants 2nd string unit. The Cardinals held the Panthers also held DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to 2.5 and 3.7 ypc respectively, so it is pretty clear that they controlled the line of scrimmage.
For the Redskins to win this game and Rex Grossman to be able to take advantage of favorable match-ups in the secondary, they need to establish a running attack, to open up the play action passing. Also, the pass blocking must get better, for this offense to continue to work.
The Redskins offense and defense have looked a lot better so far this season, but their week two match-up isn't the gimme game that some people are predicting. It was only one week, but the Cardinals offense looks to be pretty solid, and will need an aggressive game plan from Jim Haslett to stop (also health for Landry and Orakpo would help as well). The Redskins should try to disguise more blitzes and show more fake blitzes. If they can have some guys drop off into coverage they could be in position to get a turnover or two. On offense, it starts up front with the line. The Redskins will get solid play from Grossman, and now have the weapons to move the ball, but if the line remains a weak point, it will be hard to be consistent. The Redskins have to get Tim Hightower going against his former team, as they could use the run to keep the time of their possession in their favor again. If the Redskins can get an advantage running the ball, I think it will really open up the passing attack as it will force the Cardinals to move their safeties up. If done right the Redskins can win this game, but they will have to execute their plays.
Steve Shoup has been a Redskins fan his entire life and dreams of the day they get back to the glory days of his youth. In addition to his regular piece on Hogs Haven, you can find his daily writings at Fanspeak.com.