First Impressions – Redskins @ Colts

| August 20, 2011

It’s often tricky to apportion credit and blame when a half of football is as one-sided as this; a game in which one team gains more yards on each of its first four drives (80, 55, 59 and 79) than the other does on its first four drives combined (41).  Were the Redskins really so good they never let the Colts get into the game or were Indianapolis so poor they made Washington look better than they actually played? Without wishing to denigrate a very professional, competent showing from the visitors I’m going to say this was much closer to the latter of those two options.

Why do I say that? What are the reasons I’m not yet sold on John Beck as the starter? Why isn’t this defense a real upgrade on the 2010 version? Let’s have a look:

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Washington – Three Things of Note

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●   The offensive line, while improved, still had its issues.  My colleague Khaled Elsayed had some real concerns about Trent Williams last week and while I was actually very impressed with his run blocking (his work on Roy Helu’s 51 yarder early in the second quarter being a good example) the way Dwight Freeney bull-rushed him to sack Beck was a concern. Both Kory Lichtensteiger and Will Montgomery balanced off good plays with poor plays in the running game, but it was the way both got pushed backwards from the line of scrimmage on occasions that left me thinking all may not be as the rushing stats indicate.

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●    I don’t want to get down on John Beck because he made some nice throws – my favorite being the play on 3rd-and-4 with 6:30 left in the second to hit a reasonably well covered Terrence Austin on an in route. In the first period it was quick slants on throws with just over two seconds to throw, but as the first string Colts rushers took to the bench in the second, he had more time to work. So what were my concerns? Well first the number of times he took off with no pressure – once running straight into a sack. Secondly, I was a little disappointed with his inability to finish things off; three drives ending in field goals is OK but the pass to close the third drive was very inaccurate and gave Austin no chance to make the first down. The bottom line is he gets a B- grade from me but against the soft coverage and limited pressure the Colts applied I wanted a  bit more.

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●   So was there anything I did get excited by? Yes – I like Brian Orakpo a lot and all the reasons were on display in the first quarter. Released by Dallas Clark on a TE screen he still had enough burst to get to the QB and drive him into the ground (who’s to say that hit wasn’t an influence on Curtis Painter’s lackluster display?). Lining up over the slot he avoided Costanzo’s screen block and made the tackle and finally, as a run defender, even though he had outside contain, he pushed past Dallas Clark to bring down Joseph Addai.

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Indianapolis – Three Things of Note

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●   The Colts are renowned for their speed to the ball but it makes little difference if when you get there, you are brushed aside by the ball carrier. In not quite two quarters of play I counted seven very poor missed tackles including two by cornerback Jerraud Powers. All three linebackers missed a tackle and the only person who looked like they knew how to bring someone down was reserve safety Joe Lefeged who made a nice open field tackle for 5 yards on 3-15. He came in on the third defensive play for Antoine Bethea who was shaken up the play before.

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●   There’s been some talk about Defensive Tackle Drake Nevis being a potential keeper (not least by our own Tyson Langland in his first week preseason review) and I saw little in performance terms to counter that. However he was the fifth DT on the field and when Tommie Harris returns that will be sixth. The rotation here was first string: Fili Moala and Antonio Johnson, second string: Ricardo Matthews and Eric Foster with Nevis and Ollie Ogbu next up.

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●   There really wasn’t a big enough sample size in terms of plays to say much substantive about the OL, so let’s just concentrate on who lined up where and anything of note. Jeff Saturday played two very accomplished series before giving way at center to Mike Pollock who had started at right guard and been flagged for a false start. Pollock was replaced by Kyle DeVan who also moved early and drew yellow. There was talk by the commentators of Ryan Diem being moved to guard but he started at his usual RT position, did nothing of note, and was still there when I stopped watching. There was an all-rookie left side in play with Anthony Costanzo at LT and Joe Reitz at LG. Reitz was another player to false start while Costanzo’s only real contribution of note was being tentative getting out on Orakpo on a screen and missing his man.

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This was a Colts team missing Peyton Manning and Reggie Wayne and I couldn’t help shake the feeling that without them, or truthfully just Manning, they’d struggle to win three games. Is the real measure of a player how many games they win or is it that far more difficult thing to quantify – how many games extra they win because of them?

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  • Invisman52

    A B- for Beck? That seems a bit low. Gaffney and Moss were only out there for about 1 (maybe 2 series), but he was still able to move the ball effectively to rookies and guys still learning how to play in the NFL. Further, he showed good mobility and was decisive in terms of running the ball. I admit that he didn’t look downfield much, and it was a bit bizarre that they didn’t throw the ball into the endzone on any of their redzone plays (except for that playaction to Sellers on 2nd and goal on the first drive). That said, he still managed to move the chains and rack up lots of yards. Honestly, was anyone besides the Shanahans expecting this kind of efficient, chain-moving performance? It seems he is a fit for their offensive and can make accurate enough throws on their quick read plays. (Contrast this ability with McNabb’s utter inability to do this). His throw to Austin, running into the sack, and (perhaps) missing downfield reads were negatives, but they did not negatively affect their ability to move the ball. I give him an A-.

    Also, I think that the two guards and center are going to push around everyone now and again simply because they are the more athletic, running to zone-type blockers that Shanahan likes. Trent Williams, however, needs to stay true to his nickname and use that strength and leverage we all hear about. He remains a concern. (Okung has come along a lot better, but he seems to have caught the injury bug.) That said, the running game will be vastly improved over last year.

    Finally, the defense seems to be poised to make that proverbial 2-year in a new scheme leap. They seemed much better up front, and they will only improve once Landry and OJ Atogwe is back.