Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Redskins trim the roster/We'll miss you, Cooley

Sadly, Chris Cooley, formerly the longest-tenured Redskin player (9 years), was released. He may have wanted to go somewhere he might find a starting job, but the writing was pretty much on the wall with his 3.8 million dollar price tag this season. Still, as unsurprising as the move is, it's a big disappointment. He was a great Redskin, and I held out hope that we'd hang onto him or he'd accept a pay cut. He'll get picked up by another team, and I wish him the best there. RG3 had a lovely tweet thanking Cooley for his work and helping teach him.

This does make my purely speculative talk of Alfred Morris as a potential HB/FB hybrid more feasible. Cooley was acting as the backup FB, and since I doubt Dorson Boyce makes the roster, it would probably be between a halfback like Morris or presumptive 3rd string (blocking) TE Logan Paulsen to back Darrel Young up.

Preseason game 3: Colts at Redskins

Luck vs. RG3 (sort of). Well, both played pretty well. Here are my thoughts from the game, upon watching and re-watching plays of note.

The game starts off with a surprise as Niles Paul was back there returning the kickoff instead of Brandon Banks. Odd for a tight end, but he did well, bringing it back around 40 yards. It made me wonder whether Banks' spot was either decided, for better or worse, or if he would be playing a lot as a receiver. He didn't get much offensive work, though. I think the Shanahans must like Paul, and are trying hard to find ways for him to contribute, between swtiching his position, all the work he's gotten, and now this. In addition, Chris Cooley's release was (sadly) announced today, pretty much assuring Paul a decent role as the backup tight end.

In addition, to that return surprise, Santana Moss was back on a couple punt returns. As much as I like Banks and want to keep him, Moss has always been an absolutely stellar punt returner, so now that we don't need him as the #1 receiver, I think letting him contribute on returns is a wise move.

With Hightower playing, Alfred Morris was still the starter, and had a great day. He still isn't a special talent or anything, but the offensive line opened holes for him today and he took advantage to the tune of 14 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown. When given opportunities, he'll consistently get a few yards and fall forward. He looked particularly impressive later in the game, though I'm not sure whether that's indicative of his wearing down the Colts' defense, or merely that he was going against less talented backups at that time. I was also pleased to see a good block from Morris at one point. If that's indicative of how he blocks, perhaps the halfback/fullback hybrid role I mentioned could be a good spot.

On that note, the offensive line had a great day in the run game, and was decent in pass protection, marking by far the best outing they've had this pre-season. The only line-up change was Chris Chester back for Josh LaRibeus and Adam Gettis at right guard. After the way he played last season, I can't imagine his presence having such a positive impact, but whatever the cause, it was good to see. Undoubtedly part of their success can be attributed to defensive generosity by the Colts.

The left side of the line blocked much better than the right, though, unsurprisingly. Maurice Hurt has been working hard and is starting to look like a fairly legitimate option. That said, he's not really ready to be a good starter, so if Kory Lichtensteiger is healthy and back to form, he and Trent Williams should be a good left side. Jammal Brown being put in the PUP list means for at least a quarter or third of the season, Tyler Polumbus (unless he loses the job to another backup) is going to be our right tackle; that doesn't bode well at all.

There were still blocking mis-cues, however, as the Colts' Freeman blitzed right through the middle of the line on two separate plays without being picked up, allowing free hits on RG3, one of which was particularly hard. You can't leave a pass rusher unblocked up the middle. Every coach down to Pop Warner teaches that you block inside out, so if you can't handle all the rushers, your quarterback has the maximum time to get rid of the ball or move.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Preseason Week 2 @ Chicago

The team, particularly the starters, looked a bit shakier this game, though there was some good as well. Notes below.

-Offensive line looked slightly better in the run game; it wasn't a great showing, but on certain plays they opened up good holes for Morris or Royster. On the other hand, in pass protection, they looked weaker this game, and RG3 had to do a lot of scrambling, and was still sacked 3 times. The weakest link was clearly Tyler Polombus at RT, who was routinely beaten by Israel Idonije (2.5 sacks, 1 FF).

-On the fumble, Trent Williams and Maurice Hurt doubled Julius Peppers on the weak side. Tight end Niles Paul released up field leaving Major Wright, who was sitting on the line of scrimmage, a free blitz at the quarterback. RG3 scrambled up past him, but Idonije, who was being single-teamed by Fred Davis on the other side, had gotten free by then and hit Griffin from behind. There were a lot of protection issues on that play. I have no idea why an obvious blitzer was allowed to run free. It looked like Chris Cooley was supposed to be helping Davis with Idonije, but barely got a chip on his outside shoulder as he got into Davis. Later in the play, Hurt seemed to switch in and help on a defensive tackle, and Williams let Peppers go, who ended up recovering the fumble. It was a terrible mess coming out of a 3-TE set.

-Brandon Banks did very well as a returner. Chicago has a top-notch coverage unit, but he still had multiple good returns, including a 95-yard punt return for a touchdown. He didn't get used much on offense this game, but I can't see the team cutting him. There was a Post article this past week saying that his showing in game 1 wasn't great, and blaming him for some of the missed opportunities, claiming he didn't get good separation and slipped on a would-be reception. I couldn't disagree with them more, as I said last week, as I think he looked very sharp and was hamstrung by Grossman's inaccurate throws.

-Aldrick Robinson was very elusive on a catch-and-run for a touchdown, but otherwise didn't look very impressive. I'd like to see him on the practice squad for another season. 

-We're going to have secondary problems this season.

-Cedric Griffin was getting beaten quite a lot again. He has been unimpressive at corner from everything I've seen.

-Richard Crawford, on the other hand, had an outstanding game. The 7th round pick was good in coverage and frequently had his name called as he made plays. Almost snatched a great interception but couldn't quite hold on. Based on what I've seen, I wouldn't be against him as our 4th or even 3rd corner; I haven't seen much from Barnes and Griffin has looked bad, which leaves him and Brandyn Thompson.

-Alfred Morris got an extended look with the starters, pretty much confirming my thoughts from last weak. Runs very hard, but a bit of a plodder. Will fall forward, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him get some short-yardage work, but I wouldn't expect significant work running the ball from him without a lot of injuries. Then again, no one knows what's going to happen with a Shanahan running game.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Notes from pre-season game 1

I've only watched the game once so far, excluding a few select plays, but here are the initial notes I jotted down during, cleaned up a bit for intelligibility. I want to re-watch to focus on specific players, like the rookie OLmen and Jarvis Jenkins, but here are my first impressions.

-We looked alright; better than the Bills, but not incredible. Defense looked pretty good, but quite a lot of offensive miscues (for both teams) and our blocking could really hold us back if it doesn't improve.

-Scab refs are atrocious. In addition to the aforementioned call on Garcon, and a number of other missed obvious calls or made ticky tack calls, they had one glorious moment of declaring a Bills' punt a touchback when neither the ball nor player who caught it ever made it within 4 yards of the goalline. The head ref looked furious when the Bills challenged that, and of course the call was overturned.

-Announcers were just as awful. Mis-pronunciations, calling players by the wrong names, and huge biases abounded.   
-RG3 looks good. He didn't blow me away, and it was pretty conservative; mostly short-intermediate throws, and not a ton of moving around. However, his release was lightning-fast, he made good decisions, and a flick of the wrist put a lot of zip on the ball. Pretty good accuracy, especially shining on longer throws. Only two incompletions, one of which was really a completion on a 15 yard sideline throw to Pierre Garcon which the refs ruled out.

-Kirk Cousins really impressed. Very poised, mostly good decision-making, good accuracy, though, unlike Griffin, looked a lot better on shorter throws than deep ones. A few examples of him trying to fit a ball in somewhere he didn't have the ability to, but on the whole pleased.

-Grossman looked downright atrocious. Bad reads, lazy throws, inaccurate; he underthrew Helu on about a 3 yard dumpoff pass. If I were making the call based on this game alone, I would absolutely put Cousins as our primary backup. That said, Rex is more of a known quantity and knows the offense well, so we'll need to see how those two look in the rest of pre-season.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Dawn of the RG3 Era

Thoroughly excited for the Redskins' first pre-season game in 15 minutes. Not thrilled to pay for pre-season, but living in Florida and suffering from severe Skins withdrawal, I of course ponied up, and will be recording for re-watchin and dissection purposes.

It was just announced that, with Chris Chester out, Adam Gettis is drawing the start at RG, which I'm happy to hear. I liked Gettis a lot before the draft, was happy we got him, and want to see how he plays. Of course, with 3 backup OLmen in (and a none-too-sure offensive line in the first place) I expect a fair amount of miscues and failed blocks, but still excited to see how he looks.

Also thrilled to see Leonard Hankerson getting the start opposite Pierre Garรงon, with Moss no doubt manning the slot. I want him to get the opportunity and feel a little vindication at all the beat writers, analysts, and reporters throughout the off-season who have been pencilling Josh Morgan in as a starter and/or claiming Tana gets cut. As I've said all along, the starters should be either Garcon and Moss, with Moss sliding into the slot and Hankerson coming in at the X in 3-wide sets, or, if Hankerson is impressive enough, Garcon and Hankerson with Moss in the slot. Morgan has some talent, but let him sit at the 4th receiver spot, not block Hankerson.

Also, apologies for the nearly postless off-season. I've been busy with other things and the lack of a season going on blunted my motivation, I suppose. I've still been actively (obsessively?) following the Skins and NFL, though, and hopefully will get back into regular updates now that football is starting up again. I may analyze some post-draft off-season moves and reports at some point, but right now am too psyched to watch the Skins.