Fixing the Little Things


You probably don’t want to believe it yet, but it you go back and look at the tape again (for those who haven’t burned it), the Skins were beaten by the little things last night.  The good thing about this is that a good chunk of them are fixable, coachable errors. Let’s review.

On 3rd and short on the first series of the opening drive, Marcus Washington made a great tackle of Brandon Jacobs one foot beyond the first down marker.  Up to that point, the defense looked ok, even if Jason Taylor was a little off on stopping the run (never his strong suit anyway). One foot the other way and that drive stops in three and out and the Giants maybe never build the momentum that sustained them.

On the first play on offense, Heyer lost his man (I think it was Tuck), but he was picked up either by Randy Thomas or an RB (I could not see the number on the film).  Campbell rolled right into Tuck. Let’s remember that a) Heyer didn’t whiff again even if Tuck did get the better of him and b) Campbell needs to step up in the pocket against a team like this rather than rolling out.

The pressure, combined with Heyer understandably false starting forced Zorn into a shell he never decided to leave.  Two straight (rather successful) draw plays later and we’re punting.

Similarly, on the next drive, we began with a wonderful screen play to Cooley that was called back because Samuels was down the field early.  But part of that was because Cooley was held.  I’d like to think this play would have been huge and perfectly timed otherwise.  I don’t think Samuels can be blamed because he has to go by timing and feel.  If he turns his ahead around to find Cooley, he’s in trouble.

It is at this point when the offense wasn’t doing anything that the tackling got bad.  A slightly disheartened D that had just given up big plays all over the field was less than prepared for the pounding Jacobs was ready to deal out.  It showed a weakness in the defense that coaching and scheming can and will shore up. 

Rocky McIntosh is our least experienced LB and he has a tendency to overplay everything.  Rather than filling his gaps, he rushes them and tries to make big plays.  Jason Taylor is in front of him and is less capable of playing the run than our other linemen.  This combo is scary.  Taylor can get pushed out, McIntosh fills the hole made by Taylor’s exit aggressively, and a good RB makes him pay by either going outside (forcing tiny Fred Smoot to make a tackle) or waiting for McIntosh to over pursue. This happened repeatedly.  Worse yet, the TD Manning had was an embarrassing symptom of the same thing.  In an effort to make a huge play, he whiffed on the least athletic player on the field.  Linebackers dream of the kind of free shot on a QB that he had there.  Manning should have been lying on a stretcher after that play.  Instead, the overagressive youngster looked bad. We need to adjust.  First, by coaching some technique into him (something that seemed to happen as the game went on) and by moving Taylor around more so offenses can’t pick their targets so easily. We can do that.

Next was the two false starts by Antwaan Randle El.  I’d like to say that this was the simply someone anxious to make a big play.  But come on, false starts on the WR position should never happen.  They can see the ball.  If this was anxiousness, we need to fix it.  Now. 

But I think it may be coming from a sense of needing to avoid the jam which is, of course, the best way to stop the West Coast offense. If this is what is happening, we ned more motion (something I don’t remember seeing at all), more formation shifts (again something rarely seen), and more adjustments at the line. It is possible that the Manning brothers gyrations have me spoiled about how easy it is to see an audible, but I felt like the Skins audibled very little for a team that was having so much trouble with the defense.

Another issue is the hands of the defense.  I know Guy disagreed with me, but this team dropped some sure INTs.  I’ll admit the one that Smoot dropped in the endzone came in hot and he wasn’t facing Eli when it was thrown.  But Landry let one go right through his finger tips and Rogers really blew one in the second quarter.  Blache needs to get these guys in more hands drills.  We have to get more takeaways.

The hands were less of an issue for the offense, but Moss dropped a ball late in the 4th quarter which would have lead to a first down in the red zone.  At the very least that would have meant we could have kicked the field goal and made it a one score ball game.  It could have meant we got the TD, too.  He was trying to make a play, and I understand that, but he has to make those catches first.

Finally, there is the play calling and the route running.  I don’t know whether to blame Campbell, Zorn, or the receivers, but on 5 occasions we punted on 4th and less than 2.  The receivers were constantly running hitches inside the first down markers.  Obviously, some of that has to do with what the defense is giving you.  If it is 3rd and 7, the LBs are going to drop 6 yards to keep you in front of them.  At the same time, we have to run routes that are getting us past the markers.  Even if they aren’t open. 

I wish I had the tape for you but the best example was the 4th down play at the end of the game. As Campbell scrambles to buy more time, NBC switched to a camera angle that showed the field from behind him.  He had three receivers, all of whom had run hitches or comebacks.  They were facing Campbell and floating to soft spots in the zone.  Only one of them was beyond the first down marker. Campbell threw to ARE who turned up field with a great move and fell a yard short.  Even if we assume on the left side there was a route stretching the field, how can we bunch three receivers up on roughly the same route at roughly the same depth and have only one of them be useful on 4th down? I’m all for YAC, but on 4th down, counting on it seems like suicide.

Is this failure by the receivers to be aware of the marker?  Is this designed in the play?  Is Campbell failing to recognize who in the pattern he should throw to?  I’m not sure.  I DO know that on 4th down with two minutes left, you throw to the deep receiver and force it in (he was single covered).  What’s the big deal if it is an INT or an incomplete pass?  Either way you turn the ball over.

I’m sure some of Zorn’s conservative streak had to do with the defense and also with it being his frist game.  But what bothered me about it is that JZ was a swashbuckler when he played.  I want that same mentality in the play calling.

Anyway, these are all adjustments that can be made. And if we can make them soon, there’s still plenty of games to win.  Remember, the Giants started last year 0-2 and gave up a bazillion points.  One game does not a season make.  Hail Skins!

-DW

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  • http://thelandryhat.com thelandryhat

    Good post. Not overreacting. Solid review. You are like one of maybe 3 Redskins fans not screaming the sky is falling. Colt Brennan isn’t that bad. 

  • dwagner

    Thanks, Dan.  No need to panic yet.  And some of our other Skins bloggers have similar reactions to mine.  Skin Patrol at Hogs Haven had a reaction that is probably closer to what people are feeling– a mix of fear and optimism. http://www.hogshaven.com/2008/9/4/607905/we-lost-i-m-angry-etc.  He wants to be mad at JC and then next minute he correctly points out that losing on the road to the Super Bowl champs 16-7 really isn’t that bad.

    Next week, we play the Saints and their lousy defense.  If we can’t score on those guys, it is time to worry.

    -DW

  • http://insidetheiggles.com/ Ian | Inside the Iggles

    I saw an offense that looked absolutely pathetic. They only score was set up by a huge kick off return. Every other drive was a disaster. Jason Campbell was terrible, the offensive line was bad, Chris Cooley was the invisible man, Santana Moss made 1 play, Randel El had 2 dumb false starts, and as a unit they looked like dog shit. The only player on offense who even showed up was Clinton Portis, and he can only do so much when his line has inconsistent blocking. The play calling was really bad, and majority of the plays designed were bad. The only time they appeared to call good plays, was when Clinton Portis told Zorn what to call.

    While the defense played much better in the 2nd half, I also think you have to be concerned with the run defense. The Giants often were able to gash the Skins d by just blowing that defensive line away. The interior lineman looked weak and were unable to hold their ground. Both starting ends also seemed like they were easily block-able on run plays. I could have ran through those holes, they were huge.

    It’s not season over, but you can tell the Redskins are just not good enough. They have zero shot of winning a Super Bowl with this team.

  • dwagner

    I love how all of our friends in Dallas and Philly come out to crow when their teams haven’t even played a game.  Not that I think you’ll lose to the Browns or Rams, but so nice of you to crow over us for losing by 9 pts on the road to the defending Super Bowl champs as though we’d been blown out at home to the Dolphins. Just remember folks, your time will come too. One game does not make a season.

    -DW

  • Pingback: Day After the Game: Two Reactions « The Official Blog of The Washington Redskins

  • http://riggosrag.com/ Redskins Guy

    I still think you’re a little too optimistic, but the general gist is correct. Telling yourself over and over again that this was a 9 point game — while technically true — doesn’t mean that the game was nearly as close as the scoreboard might indicate.  Our offense was pwned.

    This is not the time to panic.  The sky isn’t falling.  But we DID got our butts kicked — especially when we were on offense — and it was NOT a close game. 

  • http://riggosrag.com/ Redskins Guy

    For the record, I knew we were in serious trouble the moment that gap-toothed monstrosity jumped out of the giant lombardi trophy and riled up the crowd.  Freaking Strahan.

  • http://ramblinfan.com Stlvinnie

    WOW what a long list of excuses. The game was a blowout. The Redskins are not good. The Redskins will not be good in 08′. They are the worst team in that division I do not see how you do not see that. You ranked them 10th, the starting QB is awful, you have 1 WR, (was that actually James Thrash out there last night WTF), and Portis will run hot and cold when he feels like staying in the game. Wash is a 7-9 team at best don’t fool yourself. It is fine to be a homer but have a grasp on your team. Howard Balzer a Rams beat writer just said the Rams can be 12-4, come on wake up. I am a Rams fan but I know I am staring at 5-11 – 7-9. No excuses just hope for better players and to get better as you go, its called buildimng a team.

  • http://riggosrag.com/ Redskins Guy

    I can’t help but wonder if Stlvinnie said the same thing about the Giants after their week 2 performance last year.  I’m not saying we’ll win the superbowl, because we won’t, but it’s a bit premature to give up on the entire season after one game. 

    Hell, a few years ago the Patriots stunk up the joint and got blown out against a division rival and went on to win the superbowl as well.  I remember thinking that they were screwed. 

    Yes, Dave does sound like he’s making excuses (especially after predicting that we were going to win convincingly) but going to the other extreme is just as silly.  We don’t want to stick our head in the sand and pretend like we had a better game than we did, but we also don’t want to be Chicken Little.   

  • dwagner

    Comments, of course, are always welcome, but you have to chill a bit. I seriously don’t see how dissecting every little mistake we made for an entire game is making excuses. Yes, I believe we will improve. No, I don’t think we were good. But seriously, 9 pts is not a blow out. We were blown out in the first quarter and we outscored them the rest of the game. The lessons to take from this are a) While the Giants may have been lucky to win the Super Bowl they are very good, and right now better than us b) We have a lot of work to get the execution right on offense c) The defense is vulnerable to large, powerful running backs. Even if this team has a good season, we’re going to lose 5 or 6 more games. No big deal.

    That’s football, and homer or no, I’m simply not going to panic about a loss to the Super Bowl Champions.  What good does it do?  If we start 0-4 or 1-5 or something, then you’ll see this site switch to a draft prep site.  But until then, I refuse to say “the Redskins stink, Zorn stinks, Campbell stinks, and I stink for picking such a stinking team.” It simply isn’t the fun way to be a fan.

    Nor, do I plan on going to the sites of the other 16 teams who start 0-1 this season and tell them that they all suck.  It simply isn’t true. 

    -DW

  • theMBIIIeffect

    People so easily forget that the season is 16 games long. Ian is a huge douche and never gets anything right in the first place. I wouldn’t be too concerned yet. There were things that would have worried me as a fan, but the switch from Gibbs to Zorn is a big one. Plus, you hate to see a coach learning on the fly, but that’s what Zorn is doing right now. I think he’ll be a different coach by week 6 after trips to Dallas and Philly.

  • Godsfavoriteteam

    I wanted to wait till the whole week was up before I commented, now its up and here is my opinion. (the only one that counts) Guys I want you to understand that your are going to have another consistant year of pure frustration. To think that Jason Cambell is the best cannon you have is just sad. He is hard to watch…he’s lost. Do you know who is just as lost if not more than your field general? Thats right, I knew it would come to you as soon as you read this. ZORN! I wanted to come on here , be an ass and dig the cowboy win in your face but I think that the entire season for this mess Zorn has assembled is torture enough for my friends known as skin fans.  I think a good name for the team this year is the Washington MESS-skinS. I do think that your better than the raiders which is not saying much but its something right? Alright everybody yell GET YOUR POPCORN READY on three. Ready 1. 2. 3! GET YOUR POPCORN READY!!!! nice!

  • jfriend

    Hey “godsfavoriteteam”, I’m glad you’ll have your popcorn ready.  Tony Ohno will either drop another snap or decide to go to Cancun again so you will be watching movies once again during the Super Bowl.  I seriously forgot – when did gods team last win a freakin playoff game?  Make sure you got the butter ready too!

  • http://riggosrag.com/ Redskins Guy

    Hey, we can beat the Rams too!

  • Godsfavoriteteam

    Hey Retard..I mean “jfriend”, did anyone inform you that a new season has started? Wait a minute, I see what your doing. You being the most original master comeback artist that your are have used what everybody and there dog used all year long…and last year, and somehow turned it around to make it your own and use it against me. You don’t have an original thought in your head so you use tired old stingers to defeat your opponent. That is really amazing how you do that. All I can say is…I beat…I mean I am really stumped. Your GOOOOOD! You are On a whole other level than I am. I’m gonna be watching you, I wanna learn from you. You are my new idol. For now on I will strive to not have an original idea in my head the rest of my life, just like JFRIEND!!! Hey Mess-skins Guy I like you, but I don’t think I would go that far. You guys might be able to tie the Rams. Ok Everybody in….ROMO IS A JEDI on three. 1. 2. 3. ROMO IS A JEDI!!!! NICE!

  • http://riggosrag.com/ Redskins Guy

    GFT, play nice. We’ll see how big you’ll talk after your game on monday night. Until then, you’re just blowing hot air over one single week of football.

  • 53Fan

    Is JEDI some kind of code for CHOKER?

  • Godsfavoriteteam

    Is 53fan some kind of code for splooge guzzeler?