To be honest, there was no way for Washington to come out any worse than they did in their outing against the New Orleans Saints. Forget the “Primetime” element of the football game that is secondary to the issue at hand; with a great opportunity that rarely comes for Washington, they flat out wet the bed. Whether or not one thought the Redskins were going to win or lose coming into the game, the last thing that would have been taken into consideration would be the minimal effort by the players and coaches. There are a few things that need to be brought to light and discussed after such a game.
An ugly loss against the Saints exposed a Gruden tenure coaching flaw
Over the five years Washington has been led by Gruden, opportunities such as a chance to take an early two-game lead on the rest of the division, or compile a decent win streak early in the year come very seldom. However, this is what makes these games most memorable; the Gruden-led Redskins came out flat and unprepared. This was one of the worst outings his teams have shown in some time but the point of preparedness, or lack thereof, remains. Post-game Gruden stated that his team played poorly and it was a reflection on himself, and he is absolutely correct. The issue with Gruden acknowledging the lack of preparedness by him and his staff is a flaw that can prove to be fatal. The rate in which he has admitted this post-game after blown opportunities in big spots continues to grow.
The Players have a flaw too - Urgency and Awareness of what is at stake is not present
Gruden has his issues that only he can worry about; however, the players run into issues in big games consistently as well. The Saints offense could do anything they wanted against the Redskins defense, the execution by the Saints along with the Redskins effort, resulted in a brief second-half benching of cornerback Josh Norman. It was terrible; the Redskins had a better team on the field than 2017 heading into this Monday night matchup against the Saints and found a way to lose the game in the first two quarters. The Redskins offensive line could not handle the Saints defensive front or their blitzes, and neither could quarterback Alex Smith, who played poorly, to say the least. The Redskins have time in and time out no matter who was the coach, underperformed in spots to prove they are better than the perceived thoughts of them and Monday Night was no different.
The defense is not ready to shoulder the load for this team yet
Coming into the game the Redskins had the first-ranked defense in the NFL in points and yards, and obviously due to the early bye week, it looked better than what they were. The Redskins defensive line was a staple of this defense, controlling the line of scrimmage and making it difficult on opposing quarterbacks to sit in the pocket with little concern. Their most significant test of the season to date was against the Saints and it was a gauge to see where they truly stood in the ranks of other NFL defensive fronts.
They are not ready yet. Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, and Daron Payne did not have to dominate the entire game to prove how good they were. The trio is young; dominating a good offensive line an entire game should not be an expectation, however making a noticeable difference should be expected. That was not the case; they still have a ways to go before being considered a top defensive front, because there are offensive lines just as good as the Saints the Redskins will face this year.
“Pressure Percentage” ratings are overrated
For those who have made excuses for the edge rushers not being able to get sacks to this point in the season, the Saints game showed why pressure percentage ratings are overrated. All the pressures in the world mean nothing if you are unable to get home to the quarterback, and last night was another example of why many need to see the production of Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith for what it is. Their impact is minimal, and it is a problem.
Playing with leads is essential for the Redskins offense
Alex Smith is a good quarterback, no question about it, but he is also a limited quarterback. Smith is incapable of keeping up in a shootout or getting a team back into games if the lead is too big, and a 20-point first half deficit was proven to be too costly. Smith is a quarterback who works well with a productive running game and balanced offense overall. If the Redskins struggle to run the ball effectively and even protect Alex, which was the case Monday, the Washington offense will struggle.
Overall, it just was not a good game for Alex, even when things were going well during drives, he looked flustered and was off on throws he was not pressured on. It is imperative that Washington continue to emphasize getting ahead early in games moving forward, trailing and getting behind in games will be a great challenge for this team.
Do not overreact too much this week, the Saints are Super Bowl contenders and showed why
Before the start of the season, I firmly believed the Saints would contend and come out of the NFC to play for the Super Bowl in our season prediction article. The Saints showed why they are a force to be reckoned with Monday night, an elite offense with great balance alongside a defense that has the capability of settling down and getting back to their 2017 form. The Redskins did not even face them at full-strength and still experienced how great of a team they are, especially with a leader as great as Brees. Do not overreact as many do after losses, and the Redskins are not as bad as they showed against the Saints.
The bigger question is; wherever you saw them before the start of the game, are they truly as good as you thought they were? One thing is for sure; they are not on the level of New Orleans.