Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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.

It was outstanding to see the Redskins offense playing aggressive for the first time in ages. RG3 took 3 deep shots downfield amongst his 17 passes. Sadly, none of the three connected, but just seeing it is good, and knowing it's there keeps the defense on their heels. One of of the three, Hankerson pulled up a little bit mid-route and couldn't get there in time, though the pass might have been a little off anyway. On one, Griffin just went a couple yards too deep, and on one, Griffin threw a beautiful ball that Garcon let slip through his hands. People called it overthrown, but I re-watched it dozens of times in all sorts of slow motion and such, and he put it where only Garcon (who was being covered pretty tightly by Jerraud Powers) could've gotten it. It would have been a difficult play, but it could and should have been caught.

Cousins barely touched the field, but Grossman finally had a good game in relief, going a perfect 8/8 for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns. I'm still pretty ready to forget about him, but have to acknowledge how much sharper he looked after week 1's abomination of a performance.

Josh Morgan had another impressive catch this week, and RG3 seems to really love Garcon as a target. He's going to get thrown at a lot this year.

The front seven looked spectacular for most of this game. In the first half, the Colts were mostly trying short passes and screens around the line, and had trouble generating much offense. Chris Wilson in relief of Brian Orakpo (and Rob Jackson) looked very good rushing the passer. He's one dimensional, but could really help us in that situational role, and he had a nice safety, and some other pressures. I'm hopeful for our pass rush this season; I think we have both good starters and strong depth.

The defensive line was very stout in the run game, and consistently harassed Luck in the pass game, though it didn't translate to sacks for the most part.

Madieu Williams was very weak at free safety. I hope he doesn't stay slated to be the starter. He was completely burnt by TY Hilton for a touchdown.

Tanard Jackson, on the other hand, looked good at strong safety. After being one of the worst tacklers in the league last year in Tampa Bay (granted, he was injured and on the worst tackling team in the league), he seems to know what he needed to work on as I noticed him very deliberately wrapping up and form tackling when he got to guys. He also had a crushing hit on someone at one point. Based on this game, I'd like to see him moving to his natural Free Safety to start and bumping Williams out of the lineup when Merriweather returns.

DeJon Gomes also played well this game. If only someone could've predicted Jackson and Gomes being good options and Williams being awful. Shanahan should really read this blog for ideas.

DeAngelo Hall looked pretty good in the short game, making a nice open-field tackle just short of a first down and one really heads up play on a blitz where he reacted quickly to hit the ball down and was nearly able to snag it.

Speaking of pass defenses, you can really see that there has been an emphasis on rushers getting their hands up this past off-season. Our defensive line consistently gets hands in the air to try and bat down QB balls, and it seems pretty effective. Cofield did this some last year, but everyone is really focusing on it now.

Josh Wilson played well and is still the only corner who seems to know how to really cover guys.

It was nice to see Antwaan Randle El down on the sideline making use of the rich baritone.

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