After watching this particular game and particular plays even more than that just to confirm my observations, I came away with a few thoughts about this game and some of them are rather concerning.
The LB corps was absolutely solid. Perry Riley somewhat surprised me with his playmaking. He's always been a player that did just enough. He covers his guy so the QB looks elsewhere or he fills his gap so the RB bounces outside but he was never the type to go above and beyond what was required and makes a play on his own. I saw that numerous times from him last night. Fletch did a good job of getting the calls in in all that chaos. Communication was excellent defensively. Sure, they got gauged in the running game by McCoy in the 1st half but but that had as much to do with the playcalling as much as anything. We played a lot of zone in the beginning of the game and that opened up holes large enough to drive a truck through. We had no choice, though, early on because without being able to substitute, you can't ask those guys to cover man to man every down. Especially with McCoy and Jackson running around constantly. But I noticed that when we DID play man to man over our blitz packages and forced Vick to look to his 2nd read he made mistakes or there were incomplete passes. (except for the TD pass to Jackson for the 1st score but that was against a very misaligned zone) You have to send a blitz at Vick every time in that offense even if you do play a zone behind it. Once they got accustomed to what the Eagles were doing in the 2nd half the blitzes started coming from the right places and Vick had no time and started taking off and they began to sputter offensively. (Same old Vick) We could really use a healthy Merriweather at SS to plug the run because Biggers was diving at ankles all night along with being slow to recognize run and fill in the gap. The defense did a hell of a job of holding their position despite the turnovers, to be only down 12-7 with 6 minutes left in the half. Hazlett gets a little conservative and relies on the zone a little too much at times and Vick was able to make a snack before he threw the ball.
Offensively, I'm not sure why KShan tried line up and go straight up with their defensive line. Our O line isn't made for that at 305 lbs vs 330 lb defensive linemen... let's just skip to the 2nd half, shall we? The offense started to move once Griff started moving around and the offensive line moved with him. Once that happened, the Eagles couldn't play man coverage constantly because they had to worry about Griff taking off. I know we want to see Griff rely on the pocket for protection but he is much more dangerous/effective when he's on the move. As a defensive coordinator, of course you would want Griff to stay in the pocket because you take away one facet of what makes him successful and that's his legs. So, in effect, in the 1st half they played right into the Eagles' hands and that made their play calling very easy.
I think we got a glimpse of how teams are going to play this pistol formation. Bottle up the run by plugging the gap that fake goes through with a heavy blitz and crash the LB down the line on the mesh point. Also, play man to man behind all that. Once they get you jumpy and anxious by showing blitz (false starts, quick incomplete passes, etc.) then they sit back in a zone and wait for you to throw those same quick passes and they pick it off. As aggressive as that strategy is, I'm not sure why KShan didn't call more screens to take advantage of that. We did do the Bubble Screen a few times but Polumbus just couldn't reach his block on the 2nd level consistently and his guy made the tackle 2 times in the 1st half. This year, since we are probably going to see much more aggressive play calling defensively against us, the RB screen needs to be a vital part of the repertoire just to counter that aggressiveness. I guarantee the Packers are going to defend us the same way they did against the 49ers and Philly defended us (which were very similar BTW) KShan might want to think about some spread-pistol formations because the gaps are getting clogged with all of the bunch-tight formations.
Griff didn't have one single roll out until the 2nd quarter and when he did he connected with Morgan for a nice gain. That's who we are Offensively and when we don't do the playaction roll out stuff with the stretch zone runs we look out of sync and we commit false starts, and holding penalties.
I really hope we get back to who we are against the Packers and utilize the roll outs with play action against the Packers because there is no way we need to go straight up against BJ Raji, Johnny Jolly, and the rest of that DLine.
I think the Eagles had a good idea with their zone read by having Vick read the defensive lineman instead of the defensive end. 2 reasons: first, LB's like Matthews are too quick to crash the mesh point by leaving them unblocked. Second, it changes the gap that the read is going through, thus making teams blitz the wrong places. Pull the guard and let him block the DE/LB so that it looks the same but it's not.
Last, I want to give out a few game grades:
Tyler Polumbus - D- : Conner Barwin was killing him on that right side all night. He really struggles with speed... and power for that matter. His form is decent until he doesn't extend his arms and let's defenders get into his chest and then he's not quick or strong enough to recover. He was missing blocks on the 2nd level constantly. Thank god Clay Matthews plays on the opposite side from him.
Brian Orakpo - D : Very ho-hum performance from him. He can't blame getting double teamed because he didn't see it a lot. His problem is he's so focused on getting the sack that he goes out of control at the snap by running so fast up field that his angles are bad which, as I've been saying for a while now, leads to him whiffing on the QB or RB and he reaches out to grab them. Did that again last night. Flew right past Vick once and Vick stepped up and took off. Rak tried grabbing at him but missed. (can you say PECTORAL INJURY waiting to happen again?) He was very one-dimensional by using only a speed rush up field. He used no counter moves or spins or bull rush all night. He keeps playing like that and I have no qualms about letting him walk in free agency because he won't see the money he wants here.
Jordan Reed - B- : This player could be the weapon we need in the passing game. He is a natural receiver. No matter where the ball placement was (high, low a couple of times) he managed to bring it in and not only that, was able to do something with it once he caught it. They should feature him more because he brings something to that receiving corps that we haven't had consistently in a while, a potential go-to play-maker on 3rd down. He was actually open in the middle of the endzone on that 2 point conversion but Griff forced it a bit to Robinson with a zero blitz up the middle of the line.
RGIII - C- : This was his 1st game back in any capacity and it was obvious. The Eagles were very aware of Griff's favorite route across the middle, the wheel route, off of play action and Cary Williams did a job in man coverage on it. Griff didn't help things by staring Moss down the entire time over the middle. He's got to learn to look off his receivers more this season. Once he started doing what he is best at, which is bootlegs and play action, his passes started connecting. Even the ones in the pocket. KShan needs to not try to change who Griff is by making him stationary because that's exactly what defenses want him to do.
Redskins Offense - D- : Missed blocks, penalties, and dropped passes were the theme all night. Their execution improved once they got back to what they are best at in the 2nd half. They need to spread things out with their formations once in a while instead of so many bunch and tight formations. Especially on 2nd and long situations. Then run that Read Option handoff. It's a concept of the Eagles but highly effective and from the looks of it, it will open up different spaces on the field and force the defense to adjust in zone coverage. Also, I'm not sure why they never run draw plays and hardly ever run screens. It's a good way to take advantage of the defense's aggressiveness, which we will see a lot of when in the Pistol formation. A go-to play maker is sorely needed in this offense. Someone that can get open no matter what. (Ahem, Jordan, ahem Reed...ahem)
Redskins Defense - C - : Heck of a job adjusting and buckling down in the 2nd half against a totally unknown quantity in that Eagle offense. I'm not even sure Vick will be around to start the next time we play them and then they are in trouble. I'm SURE Vick is hurting today after that run to the sideline and Hall falling on his hip during the tackle. Those are the kinds of hits that stack up and lead to sustained injuries. He turned into the same old Vick after the Skins started applying pressure and taking away his 1st read. He started taking off and did not slide even once. He won't last 16 games like that. Bank on it. Anyways, the Defense did pretty well in the 1st half considering the turnovers and being on the field for almost 20 straight plays during that stretch. That open-field tackling was atrocious but I'll give them a pass on that considering the different angles they had to come from vs this unconventional offense.
Skins better execute both offensively and defensively this week because the Packers had a practice game on Sunday against the Niners so they are feeling confident and will be looking to smack them around on Sunday. I would like to see them utilize the seams with Jordan Reed and capitalize on any matchups with him on the field. Jordan Reed can be our Anquan Boldin vs the Packers. Not 208 yards but definitely 13 receptions and half the yardage. The key to this game vs the Packers lies in a playmaker getting open in man coverage and finding holes in the zone. Griff's got to read it pre-snap though because the Packers will be bringing the heat much like the Eagles did.