Remember when we were all comforting ourselves with ideas like “it’s just the preseason” and “the coaching staff is deliberately keeping things vanilla” and “it’s way too early to hit the panic button?”
Those were fun times, weren’t they?
Yesterday’s 30-17 loss by the Washington Redskins to the Philadelphia Eagles isn’t just about the fact that the Redskins lost their season opener for the fourth year in a row under Jay Gruden. Or that the Redskins snapped a five-game winning streak against the hated Philadelphia Eagles and their filthy, filthy fans.
It’s about the fact that the Redskins started off the season by making costly, stupid mistakes all afternoon, and got thoroughly outplayed — at home — by a division rival that finished dead last in the NFC East. In other words: in a game the Redskins really should have won, they were on the wrong end of the football trifecta: they got outmuscled, outplayed, and outcoached.
I mean, how the hell is that even possible? Didn’t we literally come off of eight straight months of preparing for this one game? How do you come into this game and lay a total egg after that? What in God’s name were you doing the whole time?
There’s plenty of blame to lay all over the team, but two things stood out to me in particular:
This Offensive Line Has No Business Calling Themselves The “Hogs 2.0”
It feels like Déjà vu all over again, but having watched this team for the better part of three decades, and I don’t think i’ve ever seen a team with such a gloried history of running the football look so utterly incompetent at doing so.
You know who the Redskins most effective runner was yesterday? Kirk Cousins, who ran for 30 yards on four carries (and looked like he spent the summer studying the RG3 philosophy of “refusing to slide at the end of scrambles and exponentially increasing the potential for injury”).
This isn’t on Rob Kelley, or clamoring to see Samaje Perine in the game, or demanding more carries for Chris Thompson (who may very well have been the Redskins offensive MVP on Sunday). This is simply on the fact that the offensive line is getting destroyed at the point of attack, and no running back in the world could run effectively behind this blocking (or lack thereof). In fact, it’s getting to the point where, if a Redskins running back actually advances the ball past the line of scrimmage, it’s cause for celebration.
But as bad as the run blocking was, the pass blocking was worse. I think the Eagles are going to have a really good pass rush all season long, but they abused the Redskins offensive line all afternoon.
Morgan Moses might have had his worst game as a starting member of this group; Brandon Graham of the Eagles ate his lunch all afternoon, including the game-sealing hit on Kirk Cousins (which everyone could see was an incomplete pass, given his hand was pushing the ball forward… everyone, except the refs, anyway).
To me this was the definitive angle on the Cousins “fumble.” Just spent 5 minutes watching it and I’ve scored it incomplete every time. pic.twitter.com/IADgcDbUA1
— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) September 10, 2017
But even before that, back in the first quarter, Fletcher Cox ran right through Moses on on a stunt, nailing Cousins and forcing a fumble that the Eagles recovered. That killed a promising drive in response to the Eagles touchdown, starting with screen pass and long run by Ryan Grant.
I’ve been shouting this for years, and i’m not about to stop anytime soon: Shaun Lauvao is absolutely terrible. He’s been the weakest link for this unit since he got here, and he continues to be a problem in both run blocking and pass protection. I’m absolutely sick and tired of watching defensive linemen push him around like he’s wearing roller skates. His “olé!” block on Philadelphia’s Timmy Jernigan (one of the most underrated acquisitions this past offseason) nearly got Kirk Cousins impaled, especially the way Jernigan speared Cousins in a way that would’ve made Bill Goldberg proud.
It is super impressive that Kirk Cousins held on to this football.
Jernigan rocked him.
— Chad Ryan (@ChadwikoRCC) September 10, 2017
I can count at least three drives that were blown, in large part, because the Redskins line was helpless in the face of the Eagles blitzing:
* Late in the first quarter, the Redskins got possession of the football after the backwards-pass fumble by Carson Wentz. The Eagles brought heat up the middle on 3rd-and-6, forcing Cousins to loft up a duck to basically nobody. After getting the ball at midfield, the Redskins went three-and-out.
* The game-changing drive, in which the Redskins were in the red zone, on the 14 yard line of the Eagles. 3rd-and-6 once again. The Eagles brought heat up the middle once again. Cousins to lofts up a duck, once again, forcing a pass to Jamison Crowder into triple coverage, resulting in an interception. That killed what should have been the drive where the Redskins retook the lead (they were down 19-17 at that point).
* And, of course, the the comeback-attempt-that-never-was, when Graham beat Moses and Cox ran right past Brandon Scherff, and both of them obliterated Cousins.
Before the season, I would’ve told you that offensive line coach Bill Callahan might have been the most valuable coach on the Redskins entire staff. With the way this line has played yesterday, this past preseason, and for portions of last year, i’m not sure i’m ready to defend that position anymore.
Kirk Cousins Validated The Redskins Reluctance To Pay Him Big Money (Again)
There were a few stories this offseason about Kirk Cousins taking a more relaxed approach this offseason, and not treating every practice like he has something to prove.
Hey Kurt … I mean Kirk: maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.
Cousins’ fourth quarter interception yesterday perfectly encapsulated why so many people think he isn’t really a franchise quarterback, and doesn’t deserve the massive contract that he’s been seeking for the past two offseasons.
The difference between franchise quarterbacks and game manager quarterbacks is how they respond then their team is down by a touchdown, and it’s late in the football game. Cousins has now ended the Redskins comeback hopes in back-to-back games, both of which were against division rivals: Week 17 against the New York Giants last year (which ended up costing the Redskins a playoff spot), and then yesterday against the Eagles.
Then the INT, looks like cover 0 from Eagles. Crowder open, but Cousins feels the pressure, throws off back foot & ball gets away from him. pic.twitter.com/Da4MhbeEhz
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) September 11, 2017
And for those of you keeping score at home: the Redskins had ONE trip inside the redzone yesterday, and came up with exactly zero points. So, different season, same story, as far as this team’s redzone woes.
Cousins was sailing and shorting passes throughout the preseason, and yesterday wasn’t much different. Sure, he didn’t have a ton of help from his receivers, who sometimes struggled to get open against the Eagles’ depleted secondary (not to mention the slew of maddening drops by Terrelle Pryor). And yes, the Redskins find themselves in third-and-long situations way too often, which isn’t fair to any quarterback, thanks to their totally impotent running game.
But there were receivers that were open, and plays to be made, which Cousins just missed.
On the opening play of the INT drive, Cousins had another poor another throw. Initial throw to flat not open, panicked & threw off back foot pic.twitter.com/syukKf7oWk
— Mark Bullock (@MarkBullockNFL) September 11, 2017
That’s not the type of evidence you want to present to your employer, when you’re asking for a big fat pay raise.
Staring Down The Barrel Of The Rest Of September
The most alarming part of losing yesterday’s game by double-digits is that it might have been the most winnable game on their September slate.
Before you start convincing yourselves that the Los Angeles Rams should be an easy win, don’t over look the fact(s) that: 1) they absolutely humiliated the Indianapolis Colts yesterday, with Todd Gurley and Jared Goff both looking great (albeit against a team without Andrew Luck and with one of the least talented defenses in the NFL); and 2) Their head coach is Sean McVay, who knows our quarterback and our offenses as well as anyone in the NFL.
After that? We have the privilege of hosting the Oakland Raiders (possessing one of the most exciting young offenses in the NFL), and then the Kansas City Chiefs (did you SEE what they did to the New England Patriots?), on a Monday Night game at home, no less (which basically guarantees the Redskins will lose).
The Redskins couldn’t afford to lose yesterday’s game, if they harbored any expectations of competing for a postseason berth. And they still lost. But the bigger issue, and the biggest cause for concern, is the way they looked in the loss.
I’m still not saying you should press the panic button… but you should probably keep it close by. Because if this team picks up another loss next Sunday, it’s time to start pressing said button.