The Redskins offense was a tale of two halves on Sunday. Was it more coaching or execution? Really, it may have been the lack of possessions the Redskins had after the Packers took over half of the third quarter marching downfield for their second-half-opening TD. While the play-calling did change slightly, as Gruden alluded to in his interview with JP Findlay, I would blame the players’ execution for much of the offensive stagnation. Below I will outline both the great success of the first half offense and the great struggles of the second half. At the end, as always, I will give one-liners for each offensive player. Let’s dive in!
It’s almost as if Alex Smith heard fans and media questioning his willingness and ability to throw downfield, as he took a deep shot to Paul Richardson Jr. on just the fourth play of the game. The play starts with play-action, but it actually didn’t fool the Packers as the safeties and linebackers didn’t freeze. In actuality, Smith knew he was throwing this ball before the play even began because of the lack of depth from the low safety. The safety covers ground well after being beat by Richardson deep, but he never gets his head around the locate the ball. The willingness of Smith to take shots downfield resulted in key completions and penalties throughout the first half of this game. This trend needs to continue.
The second play I’d like to highlight is a first quarter 13-yard run. Chase Roullier has played well at center but he had his best game as a Redskin at LG this past week. Here, Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses do an outstanding job of getting off the ball quickly and getting movement forward on the line. As the two seal the LE inside, Vernon Davis makes a great seal on the diving outside linebacker, but the mike linebacker is a free-runner to the ball. Roullier, however, does a fantastic job of pulling from his LG spot and moving across the entire backside of the line to block the free LB long before Peterson needs to make his cut. While this may not seem like a great play, the ease with which Roullier executed the pull so quickly stood out to me.
Alex Smith did a great job scrambling in this game, and multiple times he showed his patience before doing so. Many quarterbacks scramble in a panic, just trying to avoid a sack and get out of the pocket, but Smith has a calm about him. On this 3rd and 5 play, Smith decided he was going to run as soon as his first read was covered. When Crowder breaks inside and is passed off to the linebacker, Smith knows he’s going to run.
However, he needs to patiently wait for Reed to clear his man on the deep out and for Richardson to bring his defender into the hash so that Smith has enough space to run for the first down. This type of play happens throughout each game and truly highlights one of the very subtle reasons Alex Smith is such a reliable ‘winner’ at QB.
Most of the offensive struggles in the second half can be attributed to penalties and the Packers’ domination of the clock. Nsekhe struggled at RT, committing two penalties and getting beat by Clay Matthews repeatedly. The Redskins only had two drives in the entire second half that didn’t start with a penalty, and therefore, backed-up in yards, in the first two plays. In the end though, I did see one missed opportunity by Alex Smith. Now, let’s be clear, quarterbacks miss plays all the time, but I wanted to highlight the only opportunity I felt was left on the field in the second half.
Here, it’s 3rd and 20 and Smith probably has a faster timer in his head because he knows pressure is coming. However, he only ever works the left side of the field before he scrambles. If he looked right, he would’ve seen Jordan Reed on a corner route in which he was well behind the corner and too far for the safety to make a play. This could’ve been a touchdown.
Here are one-liners for each offensive player from Week 3:
-Alex Smith had his best day in a Redskins uniform, going 10/15 in the first half to go along with 214 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT.
-Adrian Peterson followed suit, and the difference, as I outlined week 1 against the Colts, is in when Peterson receives the ball; he was receiving the ball mid-stride most of the day and only lost yards on 1 of his 19 carries in week 3 vs 4 of his 11 carries in week 2.
-Chris Thompson has gotten more involved in the running game, and while this pattern will be good for future tendency-breakers, I’d really like to see him motioned out of the backfield or split-out more often. He’s too much of a weapon to only have one target.
-Trent Williams is battling through issues stemming from offseason surgery. This might explain his less-than-godlike performance early in the season. He might still be the best LT in the league anyway.
-Chase Roullier excelled at LG. Roullier credited playing next to ‘the best LT there is’ for his performance, but after Bergstrom and Roullier looked so strong inside, do you leave the two in place when Lauvao is healthy?
-Tony Berstrom played well at center, and the communication seemed stronger overall on the inside of the line. We’ll see if he stays at center for a while.
-Brandon Scherff didn’t have his best game, but he’s battling soreness in his knee and badly needs the bye week. Watching film, you can tell his anchor just isn’t right and he isn’t as powerful as he usually is.
-Morgan Moses had a better game than week 2, but he still isn’t playing as well as he did in 2017. Moses is often caught off-balance, getting pushed into Smith’s lap too often.
-Ty Nsekhe might be the best backup left tackle in the league, but for some reason that doesn’t translate to the right side. Between the penalties he committed and the ease with which Matthews rushed both inside and out, Moses needs to hurry back.
-Jordan Reed is a complete stud. I mean, how infinitely more masculine is he than anyone reading (or writing) this article? The dude was out there in the rain with his bare hands catching tough passes like it was nothing. Quitting on that route was bad though, Smith’s INT is on him.
-Josh Doctson continues to be an almost non-factor beyond drawing penalties. He has to be one of the league-leaders in penalties drawn per target. He doesn’t have the explosion/route-running ability to get open consistently.
-Jamison Crowder is clearly a top-three weapon for the Redskins. This offense should be able to carve-up any team that employs a primarily man defense, as Crowder, Reed, and Thompson will never (and I mean never) all be covered on any given down.
-Paul Richardson certainly scares defenses and had a safety deep shading to his side most of the game. He’s doing his job and he has the right attitude about his limited receptions, as he’s happy to see his teammates’ success.
-Vernon Davis is a weapon that needs to be employed far more often. He sells one of his favorite routes, the wheel-route, perfectly, keeping his body turned towards the sideline along the flat, waiting for the LB covering him to hesitate when the outside receiver crosses face, then he immediately flips his hips and is over-top of the LB along the sideline. Another nearly un-coverable weapon.
That’s it for the offense this week. Feel free to send me questions @Kennedy_Paynter on Twitter and check back tomorrow for the defense!