Observations: Redskins Throttle the Raiders

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Overall

— The Redskins have won back-to-back games and now find themselves an impressive 2-1 with a Monday Night Football showdown against the Kansas City Chiefs upcoming.

— Washington’s defense allowed the seventh-fewest yards in a game it ever has, suffocating a high-octane Raiders offense on national television. The Redskins started quickly and played a complete game. The 27-10 score was not indicative of how dominant the Redskins were.

— The Redskins out-gained the Raiders 472-128 in total yards. They won the time of possession battle [38:06] to [21:54]. Washington was 7-for-15 on third downs with the ball while keeping the Raiders from converting a single third down attempt all night.

— No Jordan Reed. No Rob Kelley. No Mason Foster. National TV. Lots of Raiders fans at FedEx Field. No problem.

Offense

— Kirk Cousins delivered the breakout game the Redskins have been waiting on. He completed 25-of-30 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns in a clinical performance, showcasing textbook accuracy and a calm pocket presence. Three of his five incompletions hit his intended targets in the hand. Cousins had more time to survey Oakland’s defense than he was afforded in the season’s first two weeks, and he made the most of it. You can’t play a sharper game than he played.

— Cousins took a rare deep-shot down the field on a 52-yard hookup with Josh Doctson. He rarely throws 50-50 jump balls, something he told me on my radio show he tries to avoid because of the increased chance at being intercepted, but he lobbed a deep ball toward a well-covered Doctson in the second-half on Sunday night. “Doctson made me right.” Hopefully Cousins will do more that moving forward. Washington has to take more vertical shots in the passing game.

— Chris Thompson has become the Redskins’ best offensive player. I’m not sure when it happened. I don’t know how it happened. But somewhere along the last several weeks the former fifth-round pick became the team’s September MVP. The shifty, elusive back is a matchup nightmare and he makes defenders miss in the open-field. He’s proven to be a game-changer in the team’s two wins. He was targeted seven times and caught six passes for 150 yards on Sunday night.

— Speaking of the Doctson catch, how about No. 18 finally making an appearance? The dude can play. Get off his back for a week or two. It’s time to allow him to impact games more frequently. That means increasing his snap count and force-feeding him the football with designed looks where he is the primary option. He scored on a ball-hawking, acrobatic grab that no other receiver on the team could have executed.

— Samaje Perine ran hard. I liked how physical he was thumping between the tackles. His longest carry on a pedestrian night was for just nine yards and he averaged only 2.6 a pop. Some of that was on him and some of that can be blamed on a lack of running room. His lost fumble in the second half was costly. He can’t allow that to become a habit.

— Mack Brown looked like an NFL back in his limited time on the field. I loved the patience he displayed on his six fourth quarter attempts. He made a couple of nice cuts and pressed holes well en-route to 27 yards as Washington put the game away.

— Vernon Davis is a great safety-valve when he plays. What an asset the 33-year-old second tight end is. He’s got great speed and a propensity to gain yards after the catch. When Jordan Reed misses work — like he did Sunday — Davis is an admirable replacement. He ran a great route on the 19-yard touchdown grab he made down the seam.

— Terrelle Pryor said he was going to inaugurate a dominant final 15 weeks of the season against the Raiders. That did not happen. He did drop another pass, though

— Jamison Crowder was back to his old form in a six-catch, 52-yard performance. He is a fantastic route-runner. There’s nobody on Washington’s roster better at running their routes to the sticks on critical third downs. Crowder is Cousins’ best friend on money downs.

— Jay Gruden called a fantastic game for the second time in as many weeks. He committed to the run (33 total rushes) and stayed balanced (33 runs / 30 passes) while managing to get the ball into the hands of his play-makers. He took a shot to Doctson, he got Thompson involved int he screen game (on a 74-yard reception) and he got Cousins into an early rhythm with some quick, safe throws.

— The offensive line and tight end group did a much better job in pass-protection. Cousins was rarely under duress in the pocket, sacked a couple times and hurried on a couple other occasions. This was by far the Redskins’ best performance at keeping pass-rushers from hindering the passing game.

— I loved Brandon Scherff’s performance. He was dominant on several plays, including on a massive block to spring Thompson on the 74-yard screen.

— Watching Trent Williams get out in space as a puller on tosses to the wide side of the field is fun. He is way too big too be as fast and athletic as he is. What a special player he’s become.

Defense

— This was the best defensive performance the Redskins delivered in years. The Raiders were 0-for-11 on third down and didn’t eclipse the 100-yard mark for the game until the final minute of the contest. Oakland’s got a good defense and boasts a plethora of revered weapons. Washington’s defensive staff came up with a terrific plan and it was flawlessly executed.

— Hey Bruce, or Doug, or Eric, or Alex, or whoever is running the show these days. Sign Zach Brown to an extension right now. What are you waiting for? No seriously, stop reading this blog and sign him right now. He is the best inside-linebacker the Redskins have had roaming the tackle box since London Fletcher’s earliest days in burgundy-and-gold.

— Brown has made 32 tackles through three games. That’s second-most in the NFL. He made another tackle for loss. The speed he’s providing has changed everything about Washington’s defense. He fixes a lot of problems and prevents a lot of bigger gains with sure-tackling.

— Speaking of fast linebackers, Martrell Spaight played a ton with Mason Foster out. He acquitted himself brilliantly, making nine stops and recovering a fumble in a showing that indicated why the Redskins have kept him on the roster despite several injuries over the past few seasons.

— Ryan Kerrigan is 100 percent healthy and he looks like a faster, more explosive version of himself. Kerrigan tallied four tackles, a sack, three tackles for loss and a quarterback hit in the win over the Raiders. The three tackles-for-loss proved pivotal in Washington’s run-stuffing efforts.

— Starting cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland shut down one of the best wide receiver duos in the league. Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree combined for two catches and 13 total receiving yards in one of the quietest games of their careers. You can’t ask for more out of Norman and Breeland.

— Kendall Fuller’s banner September continued with textbook coverage on a first-half interception. He continues to look like the most improved player on the team.

— Montae Nicholson could be a gem of a find in the mid rounds. The former Michigan State speedster intercepted Derek Carr’s first throw of the game and blew up another long pass intended for Crabtree by separating the pro bowl receiver from the football with a clean, violent hit. Nicholson is big and he can run, a combination that has the Redskins salivating.

— I like how smart Nicholson is and I like how well he and DJ Swearinger seem to play off one-another on the back-end. It has only been 12 quarters, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but I think the Redskins may have finally found a safety tandem that can give them above average production this season.

— Swearinger’s monster, youtube-worthy hit on Marshawn Lynch was a tone-setter. Lynch is known as a wrecking ball. To see Swearinger hit him hard enough send Lynch into the air as if he was a 175-pound scat back was impressive, and it inspired the rest of his teammates.

— Preston Smith has a sack in all three of Washington’s games. He’s immensely more effective rushing the passer than he was last season. I’ve loved him against the run as well. He made a phenomenal stop on a 3rd-and-2, shedding a block at the line of scrimmage before burying Lynch in the backfield.

— Jonathan Allen registered his first NFL sack. This was unequivocally his most impactful game. He could have been credit with 1.5 sacks. He did a nice job pushing the pocket from the interior.

— Matt Ioannidis also got consistent penetration. On one play he drove the center right into Carr’s chest, forcing the quarterback to extend his arm as if to shove his offensive lineman, keeping the beefy teammate from falling on top of him. Ioannidis has figured out how to use his strength to put interior-blockers on skates.

Special Teams

— Tress Way was going boot-for-boot with Marquette King, arguably the NFL’s best punter, and matched him punt for punt. He averaged a net of 43.4 yards, pinning three punts inside the 20.

— Crowder put another ball on the carpet, losing a fumble on a muffed punt for the second time in three games. He’s typically sure-handed and reliable as a return man but two is now a trend. He can’t afford to turn the ball over again. If he does, Gruden may have to make a change.

— Dustin Hopkins missed a kick for the second time in as many games. Both were longer than 50-yards and both had plenty of leg but missed wide narrowly. As long as he continues to make all of his kicks inside of 50, he’ll be fine. He connected from 23 and 28 without incident.

— Fabian Moreau is becoming a tremendous gunner on punt coverage. A third-round pick this spring, Moreau was drafted to help replace Breeland when and if he leaves in free agency this offseason. Through three games he hasn’t had the chance to impact games defensively but he has been sterling on teams.

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Grant Paulsen

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