Week 1 Film Review: How’d the Offense Look?
Each week after the coaches film is released on NFL Game Pass on Tuesday afternoons, I will review the tape and report my findings.
What stood out most on the offensive side of the ball wasn’t a particular player or set of plays, but the offense itself. It’s quite clear that Jay Gruden feels comfortable throwing anything and everything at his new quarterback. The Redskins used some sort of backfield motion on 22 of their 79 offensive snaps, ran 10 RPOs, accounting for over 40% of their offensive snaps. Gruden’s play-calling was far more diverse in this game than it has been in the past, using inside zone, outside zone, RPO, and power schemes in the run game effectively while also calling screens in perfect situations, taking advantage of the soft zones the Cardinals employed.
The Cardinals defensive game-plan was blitz heavy, sending an extra man on nearly 70% of pass plays and getting pressure on 37% of those snaps. When a team blitzes that often, they are forced to use quarters coverage almost exclusively in the secondary, dropping outside corners and safeties deep and leaving underneath routes exposed. Gruden took advantage, as he ran deep routes with his outside receivers, occupying the boundary corners and allowing for underneath routes to open up.
Obviously, many of you are here to read about the new quarterback, and I’m here to tell you that a) Alex Smith is cool, calm, and collected in the pocket and should lead an efficient offense in 2018 and b) Alex Smith misses on some throws. Let’s start with the positive. Smith was under duress on nearly 40% of his dropbacks on Sunday and still completed 70% of his attempts. It’s clear that Smith understands the timing of the offense, as he patiently waited, with pressure in his face, to deliver multiple balls on Sunday.
On the first touchdown throw to Chris Thompson (clip above), Smith had immediate pressure from Robert Nkemdiche (against Shaun Lauvao), but waited on a slow-developing route from Chris Thompson and delivered a perfect ball, allowing Thompson to scamper in for the TD. In the past, we have seen similarly-schemed plays end up as throw-aways, as quarterbacks in the past were not as comfortable with pressure. This play is also a brilliant play call, as Gruden has Jordan Reed aligned tight, isolated to the left. When Reed runs a deep post, he occupies both the corner and safety to that side, taking away any deep defender over the top and acting the space for Chris Thompson to score easily.
Another example of both great patience and a genius play call was in their own territory on a screen pass in the second quarter to Adrian Peterson. Gruden motioned Richardson through the backfield, then faked the handoff to Peterson, creating two counts of hesitation from the Cardinals linebackers. Smith then allowed the defensive lineman and linebackers to sift through the Redskins offensive line and dumped the screen to Adrian Peterson. Again, Smith had pressure in his face, and again, he was calm and delivered on an 18-yard gain. It’s clear that Jay Gruden trusts Alex Smith to run a wide variety of plays in this offense.
Finally, on a key 3rd-down play on the second TD drive, Smith changes the play, noticing the overloaded defensive-line. He then looks left all the way, perhaps actually looking at his first option on the outside, but to me it looks like he’s looking off defenders in order to complete the shovel-pass to Thompson, whose body was turned and ready to receive the shovel pass (again, making me believe the play was designed that way against a heavy blitz) and run for the first.
Quickly, Smith’s bad decisions came in what appeared to be mistimed routes with his receivers. He through over the head of the receiver on two occasions and nearly threw an interception from his own end zone when Adrian Peterson motioned to the outside and Smith clearly anticipated the RB to stay put. He overthrew Reed on a timing out-route that was nearly picked off in the redzone late in the second quarter.
Some other notable observations for each (non Alex Smith) offensive player:
-Trent Williams did not have his best game. He was whistled for two penalties and was lucky he wasn’t called for a third mugging of Chandler Jones.
-Shaun Lauvao had a mixed game. When he pulls, he pulls very effectively. He gets into space and manipulates defenders. However, the Cardinals left a hole over top of him often in the run game, exposing his weakness of dealing with quicker players (LB/S) in space while he remains in-line.
-Chase Roullier was mostly effective and has gained strength. Have to wonder if the 6 missed assignments that resulted in sacks, busted runs, and a near safety had to do with communication/misidentifying defensive players, though.
-Brandon Scherff is a beast on the move and inline. He struggled with Robert Nkemdiche at times, but that’s honestly nitpicky.
-Morgan Moses was beat only once and was exceptional pulling in the screen game. Those ankles look healthy.
-Vernon Davis blocked better today than he ever has, often coming across the formation to block a backside LB/DE, though he was called for a hold.
-Jordan Reed is special. He is unguardable in one-on-one coverage and he’s gained weight and was more effective in the run game. If he can stay healthy, he might prove to be the best TE in the league.
-Jamison Crowder had a quiet day, but was uncovered underneath on multiple occasions. Gruden seemed to use Crowder to hold LBs underneath as Smith completed multiple balls to Crowder’s opposing hash and/or over top of the slot receiver. I expect Crowder to have much stronger games against man-to-man heavy schemes.
-Chris Thompson is healthy, and any time you average 12 yards per touch as a RB and you didn’t have one big play, you are a truly unbelievable talent. Those are college numbers. AND his stat line doesn’t even tell the whole story-he had a nasty blitz pickup at the end of the second quarter, extending that scoring drive.
-I love what Paul Richardson offers this team. He isn’t DJax running 9-routes all day; he will do the dirty work underneath, as he caught 4 underneath passes and fought for every yard over the middle of the field. He’s a scary threat on crossers with his speed.
-Adrian Peterson was hot and cold. Hot when he received the ball on a toss or in-stride and made one cut or less, cold when he made multiple cuts/hesitated. He clearly isn’t seeing the holes and cutbacks naturally yet. Hopefully that comes with time. That fumble is also not OK.
-Rob Kelley made a couple nice cuts when he got carries, but still too often cuts directly into the backs of his own linemen.
-Jeremy Sprinkle was a force in the run-game and is an underrated reason for the offense’s success in Week 1. He sustained his block on every single running play by my count and did not seem to miss a single assignment. Great game.
-Trey Quinn had a fantastic deep in-route that would’ve been a 25-yard gain if Smith had time.
That’s it for the offense. Check back tomorrow for the defense, and as always, feel free to tweet me @Kennedy_Paynter on Twitter!