3TFO: Redskins @ Falcons, Week 15
In a game that has two three-win teams together, normally it would be about looking toward the offseason and where they can each improve. However, things are never that simple for the Washington Redskins. The Redskins come into this game on the back of a five- game losing streak, and reached new lows this week with the benching of Robert Griffin III.
On the other sideline will be the Atlanta Falcons, after getting so close to the Super Bowl last season much was expected. However, with injury to their star wide receivers, they have shown how much was dependent on the offensive to get them through games. The Falcons know they will be getting Julio Jones back and a high draft pick in return of this disappointing season. The Redskins, however, will need to go back to drawing board, likely with a new head coach, for next season.
With Kirk Cousins getting the start against the Falcons lets have a look at how he has played so far in his career. In Week 15 of 2012 Cousins had his only start of his short career — against Atlanta he will start for the second time under very different circumstances. In 2012 the Redskins where in the middle of their seven-game winning streak when Griffin got hurt and Cousins played the Browns. The Redskins came out with a game plan to feature Alfred Morris on outside zone runs and bootlegs. Cousins had 51.2% of his pass attempts come off of play action. When Cousins threw without play action he went 11 of 17, for 100 yards, 1 INT and a 56.0 QB Rating. When the Redskins went to play action the difference was dramatic — his completion percentage went from 64.7% to 75.0% and 5.5 yards per attempt difference. Part of this was down to the Browns doing all they could to stop Morris and force Cousins to beat them. Cousins had a very good game in his one start, it wasn’t perfect, but he struggled when he was put under pressure grading at -1.5 against the Browns.
Redskins Secondary vs Falcons Passing Attack
The Redskins’ secondary has struggled this season. The unit has become a liability in every area. The best of a bad bunch has been DeAngelo Hall who has ended up playing around the same level to what he has done for many years. He is a player who shows glimpses of his physical talent here and there, but lacks consistency and ends up as a below-average player every year. Hall has a Coverage Snaps per Reception of 9.1, which is 79th best in the league. All three of the Redskins’ cornerbacks are in the bottom 50 of Yards per Coverage snap. The Redskins drafted David Amerson in the second round to be a long, physical corner to play on the outside. However, what they got is a rookie cornerback who has struggled with the pro game — Amerson is the eighth-lowest graded cornerback this season. The most worrying part of the Redskins’ secondary has been the safety play. While the Redskins have tried to mix and match their second safety next to Brandon Meriweather, not a single safety has played well. The Redskins have managed to have four safeties ranked in the bottom 17 players graded. One of the issues all four have had is their tackling, as all of them are in the bottom 20 of Combined Tackle Efficiency.
In 2012 the Falcons had one of the best passing attacks in the league, which was led by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Since coming into the league in 2008, Ryan has had only one season (2009) where he has graded below +15. While Ryan has not had his typical season, he hasn’t struggled this whole year. Between Week 8 to Week 11 Ryan had a four- game stretch where he graded -1.3 or worse in each game, outside of those four games Ryan would have an overall grade of 18.7. In 2012, Ryan attempted passes over 20 yards on only 10.9% of drop-backs, this season he is languishing at 6.5% of the time.
In the past couple of weeks Roddy White is starting to look like a player who can take over games. The previous two games White has had 18 catches and 127 yards, compared to the previous eight games he played where he had 20 catches and 199 yards. If White is back to his full health, the Redskins could have a difficult day with the lack of productive play in the secondary.
Falcons Pass Rush vs Redskins Offensive Line
Once upon a time Osi Umenyoria was a difference-maker, but those days are a long since gone. What has made signing Umenyoria worse is the fact that the Falcons released John Abraham, which at the time saved them $5.25 million, but after Osi’s contract was signed it ultimately saved them only $1.5 million in cap space. What they lost with Abraham was a productive pass rusher — last season Abraham had a 10.3 PRP. Umenyoria this season has a PRP of 7.2. No Falcon defensive lineman has a positive grade in pass rushing this season. In the last three games Umenyoria has only caused three pressures on 78 pass rushing snaps.
The Falcons’ pass rush will be up against a Redskin offensive line that has played better than most people give it credit. While Griffin may have been the fifth-most sacked quarterback this season, the blame should not be solely on the offensive line. Griffin himself has been credited with 10 of those sacks. The offensive line has given up the 146 total pressures, which is 14th in the league. The Redskins’ offensive line itself has been a unit that has had outstanding play from both tackles, however the interior of the line has caused some issues. Chris Chester started the season slowly with his low point coming against the Cowboys when he gave up seven hurries. Things started to turn around for Chester since Week 11, and in the past four games he has graded positive in each time and has allowed three QB hurries, one QB hit, and one QB sack in those games. Where Chester has been improving over the last four games, Kory Lichtensteiger’s play has fallen off. In the past five games Lichtensteiger has a -10.1 grade, which has brought his overall grade into the negative after a really strong start to the season.
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