- During the week leading up to the game, the Redskins did not look like a team ready to spring an upset. Their practices, demeanor and locker room atmosphere were the same as what had produced a 3-11 record. Now, could the Redskins be competitive? Sure. I had not sensed players quitting. The hard part was looking at the players who couldn’t play -- Keenan Robinson in particular -- and figuring out how the defense could stop this attack. Then they lost Trent Murphy during the game. It’s not that he’s a great player, but they had to replace him with two guys not on the roster a couple weeks ago.Robinson
- Look at the numbers: The Redskins were bad on third down (2-of-9); were outgained by 190 yards; and were only even in the turnover margin. It helped that the Eagles missed field goals of 36 and 46 yards. But it helped even more that Washington committed only three penalties to the Eagles’ 13. For the season, the Redskins had the daily double no team wants: a team that commits a lot of penalties but also turns the ball over a lot. You can overcome penalties, but you can’t hurdle both problems.
- Four of Philadelphia’s penalties directly affected scoring drives. The Eagles had defensive penalties on third-down incompletions in the red zone on two Redskins touchdown drives, so instead of a potential six points the Redskins scored 14. Washington also drew a pass interference penalty on a second-and-8 from the 11-yard line; again, another touchdown. Maybe the Redskins would have scored a touchdown anyway on that drive (and it was interference to prevent a touchdown). Still, the penalty helped. Finally, there was another roughing penalty on the game-winning drive. That, plus two pivotal turnovers, is how you win when the other numbers don’t add up.
- The Redskins caught the Eagles’ defense in the right look on Alfred Morris' 28-yard touchdown run. The Eagles were in a nickel package and the Redskins had the numbers on the left side, at least enough to make it one-on-one blocking. For tight end Niles Paul, that meant blocking a defensive back, which he does well, rather than a linebacker, which can be spotty. Receiver Pierre Garcon had a good block as well and corner Cary Williams stayed wide, giving a clean cutback lane for Morris. Good call; good execution.
- The Eagles’ front causes problems because they do more movement than most. I saw them run blitz, stunt with their linemen on a run down -- right into the play -- or shift at the last second to the play side. They’d pack their three interior linemen in tight with the outside 'backers shading wide. It’s partly why they’ve done well against the run, but it leaves them susceptible when it doesn’t hit. So Morris had the 28-yard TD run but managed only 55 yards on his other 20 carries.
- While the Redskins had 29 runs to 23 passes, keep in mind that Robert Griffin III kept the ball five times and was sacked twice or the pass attempts would have been higher. The Redskins are best when he’s around 25 pass attempts. I’ll focus more on his game in a later post; there were some things I definitely liked that he showed more of Saturday. There are real things he must fix, of course, to be consistent. But you can’t ignore the good, either.
- Also, it’s up to coach Jay Gruden to make it work. He’s a straight shooter, which is good. But he won’t exactly have the juice after this season to force this issue with owner Dan Snyder, so he’ll have to adapt what he wants vs. what Griffin can do (if Griffin ends up as the 2015 starter; he must earn that distinction). The question is: Will that be good enough? Does Gruden trust Griffin with his future? I doubt one game changes a whole lot. But the other problem has always been: If not Griffin, then who? We can pick to death every one of these quarterbacks. It’s just that only one was the No. 2 pick in the draft and former Rookie of the Year. So the scrutiny of his game always will be more intense. That’s the way it is, folks.Griffin
- Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland does a good job, typically, of adjusting to what’s happening. The Eagles ran a ton of hitches and had just done so with tight end Zach Ertz (18 targets, 15 catches; good lord. Yes, the Redskins missed Robinson). Breeland noticed earlier that the Eagles would then return with a hitch to a receiver. That’s why he played so tight on Jeremy Maclin on the game-changing pick. The throw was bad, but Breeland was in good position because of his anticipation. “That was their bread and butter,” Breeland said. “Send the tight end out and send the receiver on a hitch. As a game goes on, you get a feel for what they’re doing to you. Just about everything they ran, they showed on film.”
- Yes, the Eagles miss DeSean Jackson. Here’s what I loved about Jackson’s two deep receptions: He gave Griffin plenty of room to work with, and that allowed the quarterback to take the safety even more out of the play by throwing to the outside. There was room to the outside on the interception, too; Griffin knows he underthrew Jackson and tossed it too far inside.
LANDOVER, Md. -- The satisfaction leaped from his comments, the once-spurned receiver burning his former team -- first on the field, then with his words.
In two games against Philadelphia this season, Jackson caught nine passes for 243 yards and one touchdown. In Saturday's 27-24 Redskins win over Philadelphia, Jackson caught passes of 51 and 55 yards, setting up touchdowns.
"I think a lot of guys miss me. They tell me that during the game," Jackson said. "I have good relationships with a lot of guys over there. They constantly tell me how much they miss me and they wish I was still there. But that's a decision they chose to make in the front office."
Another decision the Eagles made was to leave Jackson in single coverage by corner Bradley Fletcher on both of the long passes. In both cases Jackson separated and, had he been hit in stride, he could have scored twice.
But Jackson wasn't surprised the Eagles left him single covered. The one deep ball in which the safety was able to help was underthrown and intercepted.
"That's how they play," Jackson said. "They're very naïve and they play how they play, so they [can't] care less who's out there or who's at wide receiver. They don't care. That's the Philadelphia Eagles' defense. I've been there a lot of years and witnessed a lot of players, wide receivers, tight ends get off some huge games on them. I'm just happy to be on that side and send them home with a loss."
LANDOVER, Md. -- The meter shifts every time he takes the field, with every game a proclamation on his career. Sometimes it’s based on every throw. Robert Griffin III makes a pass from the pocket -- see, he’s worth developing. Griffin misses a target -- see, he’ll never get it.
It’s his football life right now, and until he proves over a period of time he’s one way or the other, it will continue. That’s the life the Washington Redskins have now, too. If you’re owner Dan Snyder, why would you unload Griffin after what he’s shown the past two weeks?
Oh, it’s not as if he’s suddenly playing at a Pro Bowl level, but Griffin played well enough in Saturday’s 27-24 upset of Philadelphia. There were plays his cynics can point to as evidence he won’t ever develop; there were plays his fans can point to just as fast.
However, it was a win Griffin needed, and it was a win Washington needed. It’s Griffin’s most significant win since the Redskins beat Dallas to win the NFC East in the 2012 season finale because of what’s now riding on every game for him.
Even coach Jay Gruden, who hasn’t been shy at all when it comes to criticizing Griffin -- publicly or in front of the team -- said Saturday of his starting quarterback, “I thought he did a great job.”
Griffin didn’t throw a touchdown pass, and he badly underthrew DeSean Jackson on a third-down deep ball that was intercepted (serving, in essence, as a 37-yard punt), and a potential pick-six was dropped. However, Griffin also connected with Jackson on deep balls of 51 and 55 yards, both of which led to touchdown drives. Griffin did his part on those plays by maneuvering the safety with his eyes, starting on one side of the field and then turning his attention to Jackson. Jackson gave him plenty of room to throw and created good space. Maybe a better throw results in a touchdown, but Griffin did connect.
The Redskins only needed Griffin to pass 23 times, and he completed 16 for 220 yards. At times, he slid well in the pocket or hung in there more than he has in the past.
“He did an outstanding job of managing the game, not only in the passing game but he did a lot at the line in the running game, which is very, very important,” Gruden said. “We were just trying to get him comfortable, trying to get him an opportunity to get the ball out of his hands and make good, sound decisions like he did.”
Sometimes the difference in his game is two throws. On Saturday, those two throws to Jackson were completed. Against Tampa Bay in Week 11, Griffin failed to connect on two deep balls to Jackson, and the offense struggled; they scored seven points, and Griffin was benched a week later. Those big plays have a way of overshadowing a lot of negatives.
It should be pointed out just how important Jackson is to the offense, regardless of who is at quarterback. He draws attention, makes plays and can make any quarterback look good.
But for Gruden and Griffin, games such as this are why they will be together at least one more year, for better or worse. It’s up to Gruden to make it work with Griffin; they successfully used some zone-read play-action passes, in addition to a few regular play-action throws. That’s Griffin’s game -- and needs to be for a while. There will be more frustration; there will be more moments of head-scratching and more big plays.
It’s up to Griffin to keep making plays and trying to restore his reputation and building on this game. Perfect Saturday? No. Bad? No. A winning effort? Yes.
“A lot of guys in the locker room told me that everything I have personally been through this year, it was big for me to go out and play like I did and help lead this team to a victory,” Griffin said. “I would say to them, 'Without them, I wouldn’t be able to do it.'"
No, he would not, and that’s a change. Griffin needs to rely on others -- the run game, the protection, the wideouts -- more than in his rookie year, though even then a lot of elements helped him. If Griffin wants to keep the job beyond next Sunday’s finale against Dallas, it’s what he’ll have to keep doing.
Saturday was a good team win, and in the end, it was far from just about Griffin. That’s the way it should be. What Saturday did, however, was add another layer to the debate over his future. It’s one that will linger for a while.
“That’s how they play,” Jackson said of the Eagles defense. “They’re very na´ve, and they play how they play, so they can care less who’s out there or who’s at wide receiver. They’re going to play their defense the way they play it. I’m just glad I was able to get the opportunities I got on them.”
Jackson found himself lined up across from cornerback Bradley Fletcher. During the week, Jackson enjoyed watching tape of Fletcher giving up three touchdown passes to Dez Bryant last Sunday.
In the first quarter, Jackson ran past Fletcher and under a pass from Robert Griffin III. Jackson veered to his right and caught the ball for a 51-yard gain.
On the next play, Alfred Morris ran 28 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 Washington lead.
In the third quarter, with Washington holding a 17-14 lead, it happened again. Fletcher was singled up on Jackson. The receiver blew past him, drifted toward his right and caught another Griffin bomb. This one went for 55 yards.
After that play, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis took Fletcher out for a while. Nolan Carroll played cornerback in his place.
“He’s had two bad weeks,” Davis said. “I was hoping he could get out of that slump. He didn’t. They went at him deep. They made the plays on him, so I made the switch. I think Fletch is a good corner. He’s just lacking confidence right now.”
Two plays later, Jackson drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Darrel Young ran for a 1-yard touchdown on the next snap.
“We felt like our corners could stay with him and obviously, they didn’t,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.
That was the second miscalculation the Eagles made regarding Jackson this year. Back in March, Kelly decided Jackson was a poor fit for the kind of team he was trying to build. Jackson was released.
He caught an 81-yard touchdown pass when the teams met in September at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Eagles won that game, though. This time, Jackson didn’t get into the end zone, but his team won.
“As far as my ex-teammates, I think a lot of guys miss me,” Jackson said. “They tell me that during the game. I still have good relationships with a lot of guys over there. They constantly tell me how much they miss me and wish I was still there. But that’s a decision they chose to make in the front office.”
Painful performance: The smile on Trent Williams’ face hid the pain stemming from his right shoulder. Williams thought his day was done when he exited early in the fourth quarter because of the shoulder injury. But Williams later returned against the initial wishes of offensive line coach Chris Foerster. “To see the looks on their faces, to beat a division [rival], it was worth it,” Williams said.
Ouch: Rookie Trent Murphy broke a bone in his right hand in the opening half and was replaced by linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat, who recorded a sack. So, too, did linebacker Trevardo Williams. Murphy was doing a solid job against the run. Eventually, the Redskins’ pass rush was slowed but it’s hard to ask a lot more from the two replacements than combining for two sacks.
LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts and observations after the Redskins' 27-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles:
What it means: The Redskins haven’t given up on the season and improved their win total by one over 2013. It’s a significant win for a team that’s been horrible for most of the second half. They avoided the negative plays that killed them in previous games, such as penalties, and they overcame two turnovers. Of course, two missed field goals by Philadelphia helped. But it was the Eagles who played a more undisciplined game, with three roughing the quarterback penalties and 13 flags overall. The Redskins absolutely needed this sort of game, at home and against a division opponent, after all that has transpired in recent weeks. Also, they might have delivered a death blow to Philadelphia’s playoff hopes. It's not as if the Redskins' defense was great, but holding the Eagles to 24 points was impressive.
Griffin’s day: Robert Griffin III showed enough to whet your appetite and enough to cause you to wonder if he’s just a guy who will be up and down for his career. But he did a good job, for the most part, of hanging in the pocket and delivering the ball as he did on his one completion en route to the game-winning points. Yes, he could have hit some other passes and maybe better throws would have resulted in touchdown passes to DeSean Jackson. But Griffin helped deliver a big win -- whether it was because of a stripped-down game plan or just (mostly) avoiding the big mistake. Another key was that he did not rely on his arm, attempting only 23 passes.
Stock report: Going up: The Redskins’ run game. It wasn’t always a pretty attack, but they could have stuck with it more. But the run game offered enough to keep the Eagles’ defense off-balance at times. The Redskins only gained 100 yards rushing, but Alfred Morris finished with 83 yards on 21 carries. The commitment led to some play-action passes that worked well.
Game balls: Jackson reminded the Eagles of what they once had, with a couple of 50-yard catches. It took a while for the Eagles to realize they should provide safety help against him. Jackson bailed the Redskins out of bad spots, too. His routes gave Griffin room to work on the outside, and Jackson made some nice catches.
What’s next: A 1 p.m. season finale at home against Dallas on Dec. 28 -- and then a lot of work ahead in the offseason.
Helu missed last week with a sprained big toe -- he looked good at times during individual drills Thursday, but it's a tricky injury for any skill position player. The Redskins will use the same rotation as last week, with Silas Redd and Chris Thompson taking turns as the third-down back. They also used fullback Darrel Young at times, though mostly in a blocking role.
Robinson was listed as doubtful so his not playing isn't a big surprise. It's tough to lose a good athletic and speedy inside linebacker against the Eagles' offense, which forces defenses to defend the entire width of the field. Will Compton will take over for Robinson.
Among the other Redskins inactives: cornerback Kenny Okoro, linebacker Gabe Miller, receiver Leonard Hankerson, defensive end Jason Hatcher, and guard Josh LeRibeus.
- A big issue moving forward for Robert Griffin III and the Redskins' offensive staff will be trying to marry what the quarterback does with what coach Jay Gruden does in his offense. Gruden wants a dropback passing game and is convinced, as are many others, that you can’t be a quarterback in the NFL unless you can operate consistently from the pocket. Griffin hasn’t proven he can do so.
- The problem is that Griffin’s game is not at the point where Gruden can trust him as his starter. But he’ll have to decide how much he wants to, and is willing to, change his offense to accommodate Griffin. Also, the Redskins’ offense is still built more with players who run Mike Shanahan’s offense more so than players who can run Gruden’s as far as the offensive line is concerned. It’s not a group that will sit back and protect the way they need to in the dropback passing game. The protection issues have always been more than just the line, but the line is a pretty big component, obviously.
- The coaches and offensive staff know the difficult task ahead if Griffin returns. The one thing that would be almost certain is that if he does come back, he will not be handed the job like he was last season. That was a mistake. Griffin never looked that much better than anyone else in training camp -- or, at least, like a guy ready to have a solid season. There's just too much inconsistency.
- The Redskins will have to manage the noise around Griffin a lot better than in the past. Much of it is out of their control. And that’s the fear of some, that the fatigue already felt in the building over this issue will only intensify.
- One thing that needs to happen, and likely will from what I've heard, is the hiring of a devoted full-time quarterbacks coach. Offensive coordinator Sean McVay also serves as quarterbacks coach, which is supposed to be Gruden’s specialty. But like most first-year coaches, Gruden has been unable to devote the necessary time to working with the quarterbacks. That means more of the burden has fallen on McVay, who doesn’t always have the time post-practice to spend extra time with the quarterbacks.
- The coaching during practice and in film rooms has remained the same as in the past, but it’s the extra work that falls on others. And with McVay and Gruden occupied with other matters, having one person devoted to the quarterbacks would be a wise move. Whether or not that improves the quality of play is debatable, but it takes a burden off others -- and it never hurts to have one person working with the quarterbacks. I know Gruden talked about this a couple weeks ago, but it's become even more apparent now that it needs to happen.
- The Associated Press’ Joseph White tweeted Thursday about the percentage Griffin has been sacked this season and I want to expand on that topic. Griffin has been sacked 28 times out of 190 dropbacks, or 14.7 percent of the time. Since week 10 of last season, he’s been sacked 13.5 percent of the time. Here’s how it breaks down for the other quarterbacks: Kirk Cousins (3.9 percent this season; 3.4 percent of the time including his three starts from 2013); Colt McCoy (11.3 percent of the time this season).
- Both Griffin and McCoy are more mobile quarterbacks than Cousins, which explains part of the reason for the disparity. But it also should make everyone mindful that this is not just an offensive line issue. Yes, they need to find some better blockers who can handle more dropback duties. And Cousins is better here because he’s always known he’s not going to win with his legs. But there’s no doubt Griffin can help the line more by speeding up his decisions.
- As for Gruden, longtime Redskins receiver Santana Moss said, “You’ve got to give him a chance. Who am I? I’ve seen worse things done. But Jay’s a different type of coach. He’s one of those guys who might be misunderstood at times, the way he says things in the media. It’s just being blunt, being real. It’s not holding something back that he won’t say to your face. He’ll say stuff to your face. If you want a coach to lie to you, go find somewhere else to play because he’s not going to lie. I’d rather he be straight up with me.” But there must be real improvement early next season or there's a major risk of losing guys. That's not based on what players say, but what I've seen in other regimes coming off tough first years (Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn, mostly due to a weak finish in his first year).
@john_keim: A.J. Smith has a mixed record so it's not as if this would be a slam-dunk success. He made good moves in San Diego and bad ones, and you heard criticism of how he dealt with others. But, that said, he's at least a legitimate general manager who wouldn't have to worry about the team name, alumni functions and any of the numerous off-field aspects of the organization. So, in that sense it would be a good move. Allen is fine in the role of President and gets things done in that capacity, and he could serve as the go-between with owner Dan Snyder. But the real key is that they would have to let Smith and the football folks do their jobs without pushing moves they want. Hire good people; let them do their jobs.
Keim: In 2015? I can't see any way all three have starting jobs next season. One of them? Perhaps. Morgan Moses is coming off a Lisfranc injury, barely played this season and still has a ways to go as a tackle. If his injury heals well, he should be fine for training camp, but it can be a tricky injury to overcome. I thought Spencer Long would be further ahead this season, based on the coaches optimism after the draft, but he hasn't played. They like Chris Chester, but Shawn Lauvao hasn't exactly been dominant, especially as a run blocker. So maybe there's a chance at left guard. Josh LeRibeus had a chance to show something this season and was mediocre. He's back to where they hoped he would be a year ago. I like that they have drafted five linemen in the last three years, but they need one to develop. That has been an issue here for the past 10 years. In some cases they are just selecting the wrong guy -- two of these three, for example, were considered reaches, and Moses' film at Virginia was spotty. They need a legit talent.
Keim: Kerrigan has 12.5 sacks this season; 1.5 have occurred in the fourth quarter. But it shouldn't be surprising that he doesn't have more sacks in the final 15 minutes considering how often the Redskins are behind in the fourth. In 14 games this season, opposing quarterbacks have attempted 90 passes and dropped back to pass 104 times in the fourth quarter -- the fewest in any quarter, according to ESPN Stats & Information. As for Doug Williams, he helps with pro and college personnel matters. There was some hope he would be a sounding board for Robert Griffin III; that doesn't seem to have occurred.
#jkmailbag Been a fan for 45 years, never seen (or personally felt) this level of disgust. Do you sense the same thing from other fans?— Keith Ward (@VirtReviewKeith) December 18, 2014
Keim: I sense as much disappointment and apathy and disgust as I ever have. Maybe it's that social media has grown so much you get more feedback than ever. It gives more fans a voice to say they are done with the team. I don't blame them, either. So many times they have been sold hope only to have it fail. And the whole situation with Griffin has been terrible; two years ago he was the savior. The problem isn't just that he didn't pan out (or hasn't yet), it's that can you have faith that they can still build a winner? Tough to answer yes.
With the Redskins seemingly so far from competing wouldn't it make sense to trade D. Jackson for draft choices? #jkmailbag— Matty Suzuki (@MattySuzuki) December 17, 2014
Keim: DeSean Jackson is certainly not an untouchable, but I don't think you would get a whole lot for him at this point, though I haven't talked to anyone about this possibility. Can't imagine you'd get more than a fourth-round pick. Yes, he makes big plays, but there are things to consider with him that lessens his value, starting with durability. But if you put him with a top quarterback? Fun to watch.
Keim: There are a lot of things I'd love to do; doesn't make them a possibility. This was just a case of a player saying he'd like to play for a team near his hometown and to be reunited with a receiver he liked. But unless something happens in the offseason at this position, it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense. They are committed to Griffin and Kirk Cousins is under contract, too, and they like Colt McCoy, who can be a free agent. Vick is done as a legit full-time starting option..
Meriweather has missed the last two games because of the injury. He tried to practice Wednesday, but was clearly not right and struggled to plant and turn. He did not practice Thursday. The injury is a difficult one for any player, but especially one that has to push off and change directions like a defensive back. Or even just to plant and drive to the ball.
Phillip Thomas will continue to start in Meriweather's place. Meriweather signed a one-year deal to return to Washington last offseason. While he has always made it known that he likes playing here, the question will be what do the Redskins want. It could depend on whether they make any changes defensively. Improving the secondary should be a priority this offseason.
Meriweather has missed a combined nine games the past two seasons, a combination of injuries and suspensions for illegal hits. He was suspended for the first two games this season after an illegal hit in the preseason.
The Redskins promoted linebacker Steve Beauharnais off the practice squad to take his place.
Meanwhile, defensive end Jason Hatcher (knee) and linebacker Gabe Miller (ankle) both were ruled out for Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee) is doubtfutl while left tackle Trent Williams (shoulder) is questionable. Will Compton would take over for Robinson, who has missed the past two games.
It’s considered home -- and there is a certain player on their roster he has had success with in the past.
The Redskins still appear committed to Griffin, despite a rocky season and an apparent clashing of what he can do vs. what the coaches want to run. So any talk of a Vick stop in Washington is way premature and most likely a stretch.
But Kimberly Martin of New York Newsday reported that Vick beamed "like a child" when during an interview she raised the idea of playing in Washington. Vick is a Virginia Beach native.
"I'm open to playing for anybody that wants to win," Vick said. "But obviously, going back home, I mean, that'll be a dream come true ... But I would hate to get my hopes up for something that wouldn't happen. So I can't even think about it right now."
Part of the lure would be would reuniting with former Philadelphia Eagles teammate DeSean Jackson. According to ESPN Stats & Information, in their 42 games together, they connected for 152 receptions and 13 touchdowns. Vick averaged 10.70 yards per pass attempt to Jackson and had a 101.5 passer rating when throwing to him. They connected for 18 passes of at least 40 yards.
Jackson signed with Washington in the offseason. He has caught 50 passes and averaged 19.1 yards per catch with five touchdowns. Vick said they talked about playing together.
"I know his speed, I know his acceleration path, I know when he's coming out of his breaks," Vick said. "There's nobody that knows DeSean Jackson better than me."