The Washington Redskins have a lot of problems. You may have heard something about Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III, who made the news this week for some reason or another. Let's not talk about that, shall we? Let's talk about something totally unrelated to that, and frankly, a bit random. It's not a huge issue, so it's not really worthy of much attention, but it is certainly worth a mention.
In Washington's game against the Baltimore Ravens, the Redskins were called for three offensive holding penalties and one hold on special teams. That's not an egregious amount, but four holding penalties is certainly too many — the NFL averaged a little more than one offensive holding penalty per team per game last year — and it's especially bad when you look at the plays that Washington got flagged on. The offenders were Morgan Moses, Je'Ron Hamm and Spencer Long, and DreQuan Hoskey was flagged for one on a kick return.
For the record, this has not been an issue throughout the preseason; Washington was flagged for one on defense in the game against the Cleveland Browns and two against the Detroit Lions (one was on Arie Kouandjio, the other was never specified by my account).
The first hold came by Hoskey, who was released on Monday, on the Redskins' second drive of the game. It negated a nice return by Chris Thompson, who took a kick from the endzone to the 29-yard line. The hold occurred just shy of the 20-yard line, where Hoskey executed a textbook tackle on an oncoming defender, and ultimately resulted in a loss of about 20 yards. The Redskins began the drive on their own 9-yard line instead of their own 29-yard line.
The next came midway through the second quarter, when Moses got beat and grabbed the back of his man, who was getting awfully close to laying a hit on Kirk Cousins. It was the same play in which Andre Roberts appeared to get hit before the ball arrived and jumped up screaming about a pass interference, but the ball ultimately fell incomplete so all Moses' penalty did was tack on 10 yards to first down.
The second offensive hold, and third overall by Washington, came on the first drive of the second half. Hamm grabbed a hold of an oncoming defender and was perhaps a bit too handsy in his blocking, but it wasn't a particularly bad hold. It seemed to me that Ravens' linebacker Brennen Beyer did a bit of acting to sell the call. Still, it was enough to get flagged and it negated an 11-yard run by Matt Jones. Without the hold, however, the play might very well have gone for a loss, but it took a potential two-yard loss on 2nd-and-4 (though how often does the first guy bring down Matt Jones?) and turned it into a 2nd-and-14.
Finally, Long was flagged for a hold on a short run by Trey Williams that might very well have been a hold, but I didn't see a camera view that showed one. It's preseason and broadcasts don't always show every view, after all. Regardless, it pushed Washington back from its own 23 to its own 10-yard line, and the Skins proceeded to go three-and-out (but not after committing an offensive pass interference, and then another penalty on the ensuing punt).
Preseason penalties don't mean much, and penalties in general aren't necessarily going to lose you a game. After all, the Seattle Seahawks have been among the league leaders in penalties each of the past few seasons, and they seem to be doing alright.
But Washington's offense is not good enough to overcome penalties that negate big plays, or penalties that put them deep in their own territory, and its defense is certainly not good enough to hold opponents to a handful of points each game, like Seattle's defense is. When a team isn't especially good at the big things — such as scoring points, and stopping opponents from scoring points — it has to excel at the little things, like playing clean football.