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The Redskins Lost to the Lions, but you still get your Offensive Review

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Old 10-03-2009, 01:01 AM   #1
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The Redskins Lost to the Lions, but you still get your Offensive Review

Even if you had to wait all week for it.

The problems with the Redskins offense through three weeks of the season can be best described as "numerous, but not glaring." The offensive line, which played so well in the opener, has committed a bunch of penalties and has had a few protection breakdowns. The receivers have been generally pretty good this year, but Santana Moss just showed up for the first time this week. It's nice to have him back, of course, one of the side effects is that the most productive wide receiver the Redskins have had this year, Antwaan Randle El, was not targeted in the first three quarters. The play in the offensive backfield has been nothing if not inconsistent.

I think we can conclude at this point that the protection is better than last year for the quarterback, although I don't know if I'd say the offensive line is better. Last year, a lot of the protection issues were missed assignments by Todd Yoder, Ladell Betts, Clinton Portis, and Mike Sellers. You also had your center look completely overmatched at times. But the communication with Derrick Dockery at left guard has been a lot better, specifically to the benefit of C Casey Rabach.

The biggest difference has been the pass blocking ability of TE Fred Davis. Davis has yet to establish himself as a target in the passing game, but he's shown the ability to pick up defensive ends one on one in the protection schemes. Hey, isn't that what they pay those tackles for? Yes, but this has allowed the Redskins to send Chris Cooley out in patterns all but 3 or 4 passing plays a game, and not have to worry about Campbell taking unnecessary hits. Campbell is getting hit a LOT less than last year, even though the protection hasn't been great for him. Davis' increased role is a big reason why.

My thoughts on how Chad Rinehart did in his first career start are forthcoming, but I'll say that Jim Zorn more or less summed it up when he said that Rinehart did well in the running game and did decent in the passing game. Rinehart blew two separate blocks that led to hits on Campbell in this game, and Zorn needs to remember that he isn't Randy Thomas, but what surprised me most is that Stephon Heyer had his best game of the season, while playing next to a guy making his first start. That seems counter-intuitive to everything I know about line play, so we'll have to see how Heyer progresses with Rinehart on his left.

Lineman Yards

Rinehart didn't just do well in the running game, according to Lineman Yards, he had the best single game performance of any lineman in the three games. Only Mike Sellers' crushing effort against the Rams rated higher of any of the 10 players who have accrued at least 5 "blocking plays" this season. The average run behind Chad Rinehart scored 6.75 LY. Stephon Heyer posted an impressive single game score of 6 LY. So it's pretty clear that the Redskins were more effective in this game while running to the right. To say Zorn ran a balanced rushing attack in this one would be an understatement:

4 runs to "left"
5 runs to "middle"
5 runs to "right"

A majority of the left runs came in the first half while the Redskins were busy accruing zero rushing yards against the Detroit Lions. In the second half, Detroit backed out of the eight man fronts, and the Redskins had great success on the ground. I kind of wish Jim Zorn had stayed with the run in the fourth quarter, but a coach desperate for points will do some odd things to try to force the ball in. The Redskins kept launching deep passes into the Detroit cover-two and cover-three schemes that just plain were not there as opposed to pounding it on the ground, which probably was. It's not all Zorn's fault though, because of the job that Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham did with their defensive personnel packages. The Redskins kept trying to throw it deep, and rather than play it safe and opt for the extra defensive back, Detroit kept challenging the Redskins with the same four man secondary and might have won the game because of it. Had the Redskins run it, they would have had to beat the 7-and 8-man boxes (which I think they would have).

While keeping the value of a sample size in mind, here's the LY update for the season to date:

1. Chad Rinehart 6.75 LY (5 attempts)
2. Mike Sellers 5.18 LY (24 attempts)
3. Chris Samuels 4.08 LY (14 attempts)
4. Fred Davis 3.80 LY (5 attempts)
5. Stephon Heyer 3.79 LY (17 attempts)
6. Will Montgomery 3.58 LY (9 attempts)
7. Randy Thomas 3.35 LY (5 attempts)
8. Casey Rabach 2.98 LY (23 attempts)
9. Derrick Dockery 2.78 LY (32 attempts)
10. Chris Cooley 2.21 LY (12 attempts)

Whatever the Redskins got in pass protection when they re-signed Derrick Dockery was probably given back in the run game and then some when they traded in their best run-blocking lineman last year, Pete Kendall, for the guy who currently grades out as their worst.

This would be easier to swallow if Dockery hadn't completely blown the protection that lead to Campbell's INT in the third quarter on Sunday. He just whiffed on the linebacker pickup. Portis went to help him out, but the right side of the line had shifted their protection clearly expecting Portis to be there picking up the blitzing linebacker. Neither Portis nor Heyer/Rinehart did anything wrong, and I know that because it was a blocking scheme that the Redskins had employed successfully three prior times in the game. Either there was a wrong line call or Derrick Dockery counted wrong, because he wasn't blocking a soul while a free LB on the other side popped Campbell. Campbell missed a wide open Antwaan Randle El and threw over the middle to Santana Moss, who was covered, and Ko Simpson intercepted him.

Dockery has helped in the pass protection scheme overall, but film on Monday couldn't have been much fun after that one.

Zorn and the I-Formation

In the past, Zorn has made halftime adjustments in the direction of 3 wide receivers to try to get the defense to put more defensive backs on the field. Against the Lions he did exactly the opposite of that: he tried to make the Lions play their base defense while he threw the ball all over the field.

I'll be frank: I didn't like that.

In the 25 plays between halftime, and when the Redskins found themselves down 12 points with 5:30 to play, Zorn lined up in the I formation 13 times, or just more than half. That is way more than the status quo for this team. The result is a lot of Jason Campbell under center, a lot of play action, a lot of max protect, and throwing the ball down the field. The Redskins are still a good running team from the I formation, and they averaged 6.0 YPA in the second half rushing out of that formation. But in terms of passing, the Lions made an adjustment after the Moss TD and didn't bite on any more play action stuff the rest of the game.

Zorn had every reason to want to line up in the I-formation and pound the rock down the throat of the Lions, which he did successfully, but the play action stuff just didn't work after the Moss TD. If you want to throw the ball on those guys, you need to spread them out and take what they give you.

The Big Picture

It was those 25 plays that separated an ineffective offensive day from an effective one, and all the Redskins really had to show for that period of the game was the 57-yard Mpss TD, an excellently designed play. So why did the rest of the drives fail? Being 0/4 on third down in that timeframe had everything to do with it. In fact, the Redskins only converted one third down in the entire second half. But 0/4 on third downs to begin the second half doesn't even begin to tell the story, considering that the Redskins faced two 3rd & 13s, a 3rd & 18, and a 3rd & 20 in this game. You have to stay out of third and ridiculously long to avoid having a crappy third down percentage.

In fact, on all drives where the Redskins failed to convert a 3rd down (prior to the final 5:00 of the 4th quarter), the Redskins never recorded a single successful play on 1st or 2nd down prior to the 3rd down play. This suggests complete domination at the hands of the Lions. And it's not a 3rd down problem, it's an offensive inconsistency problem.

In fact, the same statement applies to the red zone woes. It's not about the red zone as much as it's just about having an inconsistent running game, and inconsistent pass protection, and inconsistent receiver play (in varying degrees).

  • 6.62 yards per play
  • 43% successful play rate
  • 5 plays for 20+ yards
Like a well-diversified investment portfolio, the Redskins offense performs more consistently on a game to game basis than pretty much any other offense in the league, but the components of this consistency are a bunch of completely unpredictable parts that are just as likely to underperform as they are to completely run over the opponent. The offense has no problem getting the yards, but can only seem to get the points through field goals and big plays, which are sparse.

And the product is an offense that is more slow than steady, and when it avoids the critical errors like it did in the Rams game, gets the team exactly where it wants to go. But it's a completely unspectacular unit that needs to protect the football to have value. And in this league, that's difficult to accomplish with any regularity.

Defensive review tomorrow...hopefully.
according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
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Old 10-03-2009, 08:42 AM   #2
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Re: The Redskins Lost to the Lions, but you still get your Offensive Review

good post. but by reading these each week, it seems like the skins margin for error is ever so small. why do you think that is? other teams make a lot more noticeable errors, but seem to get away with it. do you think it has anything to do with schemes?
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Old 10-03-2009, 12:42 PM   #3
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Re: The Redskins Lost to the Lions, but you still get your Offensive Review

Originally Posted by dmek25 View Post
good post. but by reading these each week, it seems like the skins margin for error is ever so small. why do you think that is? other teams make a lot more noticeable errors, but seem to get away with it. do you think it has anything to do with schemes?
Without a moment of film study, I would suggest to you that the difference between winning and losing on a consistent basis is that teams like NE have players who don't make those consistent little errors.

It's cliche'd but, in this league, the difference between winning and losing is one or two plays - you just don't know which two plays until after the game is over.
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Old 10-03-2009, 01:25 PM   #4
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Re: The Redskins Lost to the Lions, but you still get your Offensive Review

Good read.. I'm glad to hear that Rinehart and Heyer are actually doing better than most of us thought they would do.. Like I said in another thread, Zorn needs to believe in Rinehart and Heyer, and I was right

As for blown assignments; it seems to happen often? Is it just a "curse" on Redskins or is it coaches?
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Old 10-03-2009, 01:31 PM   #5
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Re: The Redskins Lost to the Lions, but you still get your Offensive Review

Another informative review Tripp. Dock's struggles in run-blocking, which are noticeable even w/o a game-breakdown, are really irritating and just shouldn't be happening. Dock is the biggest of the starting 5 and all he needs to do is consistently maul someone when Zorn calls a run play. Buges ought to be chewing Dock's ass like he's a rookie again.

Too many mistakes is the theme not only on offense but across the board for us. I wish we had a hard-ass disciplinarian at the helm because I think we'd instantly become a better team...at least average again whereas I honestly believe Zorn has us drifting toward being one of the worst in league.
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Old 10-04-2009, 08:11 AM   #6
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Re: The Redskins Lost to the Lions, but you still get your Offensive Review

Good Post
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