Initial Thoughts on the Redskins’ Week Two Win

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General 

— The Redskins did the types things you have to do to win on the road. They ran the ball effectively, they protected the football and won the turnover margin, they minimized penalties and they got off to a fast start. Jay Gruden had his team motivated and prepared.

— Washington continued to show the resilience that kept them in playoff-contention throughout last season. The Redskins have now managed a 3-1 record after season-opening losses in Jay Gruden’s tenure over the last four years.

— The Redskins committed just 4 penalties on Sunday. That’s six flags through eight quarters of football. You can’t do much better than that.

— Rob Kelley left with a rib injury. Jordan Reed hurt his shoulder. Josh Norman, Zach Brown and Mason Foster all missed time with different ailments on the defensive side of the ball. And the Redskins still won on the road. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, that perseverance can be a morale builder.

Offense 

— 10 total drives, only one three-and-out (which came right before the half).

— A week after Washington’s running backs got just 13 carries, the trio of Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson ran the ball a total of 33 times. The Redskins were way more committed to running the ball and were able to stay ahead of the chains in the first half because of it. How about 36 rushes for 222 yards and a 6.2 average per-carry for the team’s tailbacks? Impressive.

— Brandon Scherff had a pretty dominant day as a pulling-guard. Morgan Moses was visibly impactful out in front of several successful carries to the outside. Shawn Lauvao helped spring Chris Thompson on his 61-yard home run run before the half. Trent Williams was a steady force on many of Washington’s bread-and-butter runs off left tackle. Even the Redskins’ tight ends had some highlight-worthy moments paving the way on the ground. It was a group effort.

— Rob Kelley was in the middle of a potential career day before suffering a rib injury that knocked him out of the game in the second quarter. He was running hard and racking up yards early. He finished the day with 12-carries for 78-yards but was well on his way to a 150-yard performance before the setback.

— Samaje Perine went from not getting a carry in week-one to leading the team with 21-rushes in week-two. Perine looked like a rookie while compiling 67 yards on a little more than three yards-per-carry, but he saved some of his best work for Washington’s game-winning drive. His 7-carries for 38-yards on the 80-yard drive that resulted in a lead-taking touchdown helped win the game. He was able to move the pile even when the Rams knew the run was coming. Good sign.

— Chris Thompson was the best player on the field for the Redskins in the first half. He hit a homer on a draw as the half was winding down, taking a run 61-yards to the house. He had already made an athletic touchdown run, straddling the sideline while reaching for the endzone earlier in the first half as well. All-told he had six touches for 109 yards and two scores. He’s a vital piece to the Redskins’ offense and their most underrated weapon. He did drop what may have been a long touchdown from Kirk Cousins on the opening drive of the third quarter, though.

— Speaking of Cousins, he was asked to play game-manager on Sunday and he did so successfully. He normally throws way more often and for way more yards, but he will take the win. He also typically goes down the field more often and involves his outside wide receivers more. He was okay, avoiding the costly mistake while taking what Los Angeles gave him but it was far from the breakout performance he was looking for. He’ll need to continue to be more aggressive if the Redskins’ passing game is going to flourish.

— Cousins was 3/3 while throwing for 42 yards as the conductor of the Redskins’ game-winning drive in crunch time. He took the field with the game tied and [7:16] to play. The next time the Rams got the ball they were down a touchdown and their was just [1:49] remaining. Cousins completed a first down pass to Terrelle Pryor negated by a hold. Then threw a dart to Jamison Crowder for a critical third-down conversion. The game-winning touchdown toss was a beautiful touch pass on a third-and-goal. Big-time moment for a quarterback who needed it.

— Terrelle Pryor had one vital reception, a 23-yarder that got the Redskins deep into Rams territory on their game-winning drive. But before that moment in the fourth quarter he had one catch for eight-yards. He also had another drop. It doesn’t look like Cousins trusts him enough to force him the ball at this point. And why should he?

— Josh Doctson may or may not have flown to Los Angeles. He may or may not have played. Actually, I’m not even sure if he’s still a member of the orgnaization. (This if facetious. He did play but yet again was utilized. I have no idea what is going on here. But he needs more reps and more chances to impact the game).

— Jamison Crowder needs more work. He is as quality an option in the screen game as I can remember, as evidenced by his 21-yard reception on a 3rd-and-long in the first quarter. He also moved the sticks with a tough catch in traffic in the fourth quarter to set up the Redskins’ game-winning touchdown. His four-catches for 47-yards came on just five targets. But that number should be higher. Especially with Doctson missing in action and Pryor being a 50-50 proposition.

–Jordan Reed has gotten way tougher than he used to be. I remember the last coaching staff complaining about his inability to play through pain. That’s not the case any more. He banged up his shoulder and came back into the game on the last drive. He caught all six of the passes thrown his way for 48 yards. He clearly isn’t the best version of himself (because of the broken bone in his foot), but he was effective Sunday. I liked the quick-hitting throws that got him in the mix early.

— Ryan Grant was only thrown two passes. The second of them was a looping toss he hauled in for the touchdown that won the Redskins the game. He got both of his feet in bounds on the back-end of a splendid route. Way to make a play.

Defense 

— Washington did a nice job stuffing the run for the second time in as many games. The Rams ended up averaging 4.4 per-carry, but the bulk of their success came in the second half. The Redskins have yet to allow a carry of longer than 18 this season. They look markedly better with their run-fits and responsibilities in the trenches.

— Two takeaways proved massive. Josh Norman punched the football out of the arms of Todd Gurley in the first half, allowing Terrell McClain to contribute his first fumble recovery as a Redskin. Mason Foster intercepted Jared Goff to put the game away in the final minutes, telegraphing an underneath pass that Goff stared down. Washington has generated four takeaways in two games. If they can keep that pace up they’ll be in good shape.

— The last time the club had two-plus takeaways in back-to-back games was in weeks three and four last season. The Redskins didn’t do that after September. Productive sign for the defense.

— Third-down defense wasn’t a strength in Sunday’s win, but it was better. The Redskins got off the field on seven of their 12 opportunities against third downs.

— Zach Brown led Washington in tackles again. He was all over the field and rarely misses tackles, making 10 stops. Sign this man to a three-year extension right now. Before the Redskins’ plane lands in Dulles, they should have him sign a new deal. He is faster than the express lane. He is physical.

— Josh Norman’s punch-fumbles are one of my new favorite things. They’ve replaced coca-cola classic since I’m only allowed to drink water and tea now. He punched the ball out two times today. It’s his staple. He took Charles Tillman’s specialty and improved upon it. He also came back in after banging up his shoulder breaking up a pass.

— Mason Foster’s game-winning interception was a brilliant read by a guy who has seen a lot of Los Angeles’ offense. It almost didn’t even happen. He dislocated his shoulder earlier in the afternoon and came back into the game after having it popped back into place. Foster made six tackles. He’s become a consistent contributor since being signed off the street by Scot McCloughan back in 2015.

— I can’t get over how much Kendall Fuller has improved. He blew up another screen and made another very impressive open-field stop to halt a drive on third-down. He has covered well in the slot. One play that won’t be mentioned was a breakup he made on a deep throw to the endzone that would have been negated by a holding call anyway. But he didn’t know that and he made a textbook play on the ball.

–Preston Smith had a sack, a tackle for loss,  two quarterback hits and three tackles. Smith has tallied a sack in both of the Redskins’ games. He didn’t get his second sack until week-ten last season, so he’s eight games ahead of that pace this year. He looks like a more complete pass-rusher. I also loved the play he made on a Tavon Austin jet-sweep, staying home and breaking down to make a stop in the backfield.

— Smith did not have sacks in back-to-back games at any point last season.

— Ryan Kerrigan got home for a sack and stripped Goff. The Rams recovered the fumble but the third-down play ended a drive and forced a punt. Kerrigan has 1.5 sacks to go along with an interception and a touchdown to start the season. He’s a play-maker. He looks healthy and explosive.

— Jonathan Allen got a pressure from the interior, forcing a Goff incompletion. He was mostly quiet on Sunday, registering one tackle and one quarterback hit.

— Terrence McClain’s fumble recovery was the one time I really noticed him. Last week new free agent defensive lineman Stacy McGee had a tip on a pick-six. This week McClain delivered a takeaway of his own.

— Montae Nicholson played a lot more than I anticipated early on. He suffered a shoulder injury. I liked what I saw from him in coverage. He’s big and runs well. For a guy that was widely bashed for being selected when he was on draft day, the Redskins sure do seem comfortable asking a lot from him two weeks into his career. So far, he’s responded well.

Special Teams

— Tress Way was great. He punted four times and averaged 51 yards per-boot. His net was 45 a pop, an elite figure, and he pinned the Rams inside their own 20 twice. He out-punted the best punter in football.

— Dustin Hopkins made two field goals (from 41 and 22 yards) and missed his longest attempt of the day (from 51). Hopkins has a strong leg and had plenty of leg on his miss, but hit the upright for his first miss of the season. As long as he’s hitting his kicks from inside of 50, Washington will remained pleased with the former Seminole.

— The Redskins got nothing positive out of their return game. Crowder returned two punts for 13 yards and Thompson returned one kick for 16 yards. That said, a week after a muffed-punt turnover, nothing negative happened in the return game either, which is a plus.

— Washington allowed the Rams to convert on a fake punt. Johnny Hecker completed a 28-yard pass when rookie special teamer Fabian Moreau gave too big a cushion and seemingly wasn’t ready for the punter to show off his arm. I’m sure the Redskins drilled that play during the week because it’s been used by the Rams in the past. Although it sure looked like they were caught with their pants down.

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Grant Paulsen

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