ReFo: Bears @ Redskins, Week 7
There were some positive signs that Robert Griffin III is becoming the player he was a season ago. He wasn’t quite there with his passing against the Bears, but he finally showed the burst that made him so dangerous in the open field in 2012. The read option was the most threatening it’s been all year as the Redskins’ athletic offensive line beat up on a Bears’ linebacking corps that is seriously depleted. Already without starting middle linebacker DJ Williams, the Bears lost Lance Briggs forcing Blake Costanzo into the lineup with disastrous results. It wasn’t just the read option that gashed the Bears, as more traditional runs found success as well. Aside from fumbling an exchange Alfred Morris was on fine form, consistently picking up yards after contact.
Chicago, meanwhile, got some really impressive play from backup Josh McCown, which is fortunate seeing as Jay Cutler may be out a while. The Bears didn’t have any standouts on offense, but each of their skill position players contributed in a combined effort to get to 41 points. Of course some credit must go to Devin Hester who had to wait a while to celebrate another return touchdown. This one wasn’t as special as some of his others as only a single Redskin really got near him as the Chicago return team laid some great blocks. The Redskins defense stayed true to form as Barry Cofield, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo all turned in between good and very good performances. The concerns about the secondary simply aren’t likely to go away any time soon though, especially with a safety pairing of Reed Doughty and Brandon Merriweather. Here are some specific performances …
Chicago – Three Performances of Note
The All-Purpose Tight End
Martellus Bennett (+2.5) hadn’t been as good so far this season as he has in the past, but the Redskins’ secondary was exactly what he needed to remedy that. The former Cowboy and Giant was simply lethal on outside runs when he got to the second level to crack-block safeties and when widening the edge against corners. Bennett sat down Doughty on a couple of plays using crack-blocks, the best of which came with 11:37 to play in the third quarter. Widening the hole for runs inside also came naturally to Bennett as he generated some serious movement on Josh Wilson on the very next play. The battle between Orakpo and Bennett in the run game was also a good one to watch. The outside linebacker was able to explode off the ball and make a tackle for a loss on one play, but the tight end had the last laugh as he was able to hook and seal Orakpo inside on another. While it was a quiet day for Bennett in the receiving game (he was targeted just twice in 32 routes) he made what might have been the game clinching touchdown reception if not for the Redskins’ late comeback. He also contributed in the screen game, shielding DeAngelo Hall away from a play in the third quarter. Overall, Bennett contributed in every facet of the game.
Jordan Mills (-5.5) has had a rude awakening to life in the NFL regular season. He’s now grade below -1.5 in each of the last six games, failing to achieve a grade above -2.0 in pass protection in any of them. Facing Ryan Kerrigan was unlikely to help matters. Overall Mills was beaten for a sack (which ended the game) and six hurries, all but one of which came at the hands of the former first round pick. Mills (-6.0 in pass protection) gave up the seven combined hurries on just 36 drop backs. He’s now third-last in Pass Blocking Efficiency among offensive tackles (90.2). Kerrigan also ate his lunch on a screen pass where he shed Mills’ block and made a tackle for a loss (Q4, 6:27). Thankfully there was at least some good in the run game, where Mills did a good job sealing Kedric Gholston inside on a couple of occasions.
Major Wright (-4.8) really struggled against the Redskins, finding it tough going against both the run and pass. In run defense, he made a pair of defensive stops but also missed a tackle. The attempt was pretty pathetic too, as he lunged rather aimlessly at Morris in a pile of bodies who hardly had to do anything to get around him. The stats don’t really tell the whole story though as Wright, tasked with being the eighth man in the box, was consistently taken out of run plays. He ended up on a bench on one run play where Darrel Young simply never stopped driving Wright as he tried to set the edge. It wasn’t just the fullback who had success, as wide receivers and offensive lineman alike had their way with him. There were serious issues in coverage too, where Wright allowed two of three targets to be complete for 64 yards. The only incompletion was actually a drop by Pierre Garcon, while he allowed significant separation on the two catches by Jordan Reed. Wright now ranks last in the NFL among safeties in Yards Per Cover Snap allowed (1.32).
Washington – Three Performances of Note
Reed Breaks Out
After being up and down in his first four games, rookie Jordan Reed (+4.8) had a huge game against the Bears. He was simply uncoverable catching all nine targets for 134 yards and a touchdown (with seven first downs). It didn’t matter whether it was safeties, corners or linebackers; Reed beat them all. Reed consistently generated significant separation and then picked up yards after the catch. He put a simply wicked move on safety Chris Conte after making a reception on a dig route, cutting upfield and gaining extra yardage (Q4, 3:52). It was Reed’s route running that really stood out, as he made subtle moves throwing the coverage defenders off balance before breaking into space. Not known as a blocker, Reed didn’t stand out in that area but did his job on his lone opportunity, sealing Costanzo inside at the second level. It will be interesting to see if Reed can sustain this level of performance against teams with better cover linebackers and safeties.
Washington Read Option
I mentioned the read option in the introduction because the Redskins really made it tick in this one. Robert Griffin III (+2.7 rushing) was the biggest factor as his speed was simply too much for the Bears’ pursuing defenders. Chicago consistently crashed their defensive ends down and they were at times incredibly slow to react (combined -3.6 grade). But it was not predominantly their fault, as the linebackers were expected to cross over and cover the outside. This they consistently failed to do (-6.0 run defending grade) as Washington’s interior offensive line (+2.1 run blocking grade) almost always won at the second level. The Bears’ performance defending the read option was typified by Costanzo completely vacating his gap and charging after the running back long after Griffin had taken off (Q4, 12:25).
After being selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, Brandon Meriweather (-4.4) has done nothing to show he deserves to be starting in this league. Bears’ fans know that all too well, and it won’t be long before Redskins’ fans are also loathe to observe his mistakes. Questionable judgement is a trademark of Meriweather’s play and that reared its ugly head against Chicago as he consistently went to the head of receivers after being his typically step late in coverage. Being physical is one thing, but being dirty is quite another. The penalties (-1.9) weren’t the only issue as his decision making became obvious in other areas. The angles he takes to the ball, for example, are a prime example. It was an issue both in coverage (-2.0) and run defense (-0.3). Check the angle he takes on a Jeffrey crossing route (Q4, 5:01) for example. Meriweather also missed a tackle on Earl Bennett, allowing a first down.
– The Redskins had two sacks, four hits and 11 hurries against the Bears, Cofield, Kerrigan and Orakpo combined for two sacks, three hits and 11 hurries.
– Each team missed numerous tackles; the Redskins missed seven, while the Bears missed 10.
– The Bears’ starting secondary combined for a -9.3 coverage grade
PFF Game Ball
I simply can’t look past Jordan Reed who looks to have a very bright future.
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