ReFo: Redskins @ Browns, Week 15
The Washington Redskins finally got the chance to shut up the legions of people who lambasted the selection of Kirk Cousins in the same draft as Robert Griffin III, by showing exactly why they made such a selection. With a quarterback like Griffin inevitably likely to miss some time during the season, the Redskins wanted a better Plan B than Rex Grossman, and here they had a chance to be proved right.
Of course, now we have to sit through people saying that they’ll simply flip Cousins for a trade haul in the offseason, rather than people accepting the self-evident truth that the Redskins are simply happy with having a quality backup as long as they have a quarterback likely to risk his own health in action.
Cousins was able to lead his team to the win and rank as yet another rookie quarterback to outshine Brandon Weeden, the one rookie that actually doesn’t have time on his side to make an impact. Weeden again had a bad day at the office, and after almost a full season has shown precious little.
Washington – Three Performances of Note
What Did We See From Cousins?
The Redskins’ quarterback certainly didn’t start particularly strongly, going one of six early and inexplicably throwing himself at the floor on a number of occasions, burying the ball at the feet of various intended receivers. After that his play really picked up and the Redskins were able to kill the Browns using bootlegs, with this offense looking exactly like the version that Mike Shanahan used to such great effect with Jake Plummer in particular. Cousins (+3.0) actually bore a striking resemblance to Plummer at his best in Denver, making a few mistakes, but making some stick throws and demonstrating unmistakable athleticism to get around the corner on runs. Cousins finished with 329 passing yards and a passer rating of 104.4, topping 100 in all areas of play, including the 11 snaps that he faced pressure.
Logan Paulsen Playing Well
The big tight end was efficient if unspectacular in the passing game, catching all four balls thrown his way for 47 yards, 25 of which came after the catch — but it was in the run game that he really stood out in this game. Paulsen (+3.3) was a big part in the success of the Washington running game, sealing in whichever Browns defender lined up over him and allowing his running back to make it to the edge and turn the corner. The Redskins averaged 4.7 yards per carry around the end to the left of the formation, and 9 yards per carry around end to the right with Paulsen taking on linemen, linebackers, and secondary defenders. The Redskins appear to have found themselves a player.
C Will Montgomery has been one of the league’s better centers this season, but he didn’t have the best of games before picking up an injury. To his left, Kory Lichtensteiger also struggled badly, and Jordan Black coming off the bench has just been suspended for an offense involving PEDs. In this game, Black played relatively well from his 44 snaps, keeping a clean sheet in pass protection. However, the mounting injuries will worry Washington going forward as they look to make a playoff run. LT Trent Williams surrendered a sack but no other additional pressure from 42 snaps pass blocking, and RT Tyler Polumbus was similarly stingy on the right side. Washington’s offensive line has been an underrated influence on the season they have been able to have thus far, and the last thing the team needs is it going off the rails now.
Cleveland – Three Performances of Note
Any Positives From Weeden?
If you’re a Browns fan you have to be pretty worried about the lack of development so far from Weeden (-3.7). As a rookie of his advanced years he has been under more pressure than most to succeed quickly, but, if anything, he is struggling more than any of the rest of the rookie class. He isn’t helped by the fact that this rookie class looks like it has the potential to be one for the ages, but nonetheless the throws that he is still making are maddening. He missed receivers by big margins in this game, and failed to spot players dropping under his routes on more than one occasion, leading to a couple of very ugly interceptions, and at least one more that could have been as bad as DeAngelo Hall came off his receiver and jumped a slant route only to fail to bring in the pass. Weeden’s lone ray of light was a slick deep pass for a 69-yard touchdown late in the game which gave the Browns a faint glimmer of light, but it was too little, too late.
DTs Stuffing the Middle
The DT pairing of Ahtyba Rubin (+2.1 run defense) and Phil Taylor (+2.2 run defense) was supposed to be a force all season like they showed today, capable of shedding blocks and making tackles at or around the line of scrimmage and forcing the run elsewhere. Rarely have we seen it, with both or one of the two struggling for much of their time together — but here we finally got a look at what the Browns have been waiting for. Both players were showing especially well against Washington’s stretch runs, throwing down blockers and causing disruption to the plays, and only a pair of missed tackles on Alfred Morris blotted Taylor’s day. That aside, they still combined for five defensive stops, and Taylor chipped in with a hurry from his limited pass rushing.
The starters for the Browns have both been having good seasons, but this game was more of a tale of two players. While Sheldon Brown coughed up 143 yards on the eight catches he allowed, Joe Haden gave up just 23 yards and allowed only three passes to be caught in his coverage. Haden kept Pierre Garcon pretty quiet, limiting him to just two catches from the six targets that he was responsible for, while the Redskin receiver caught three balls from the four covered by Brown. The only downside to Haden’s day came on Hankerson’s second touchdown, when he was caught in traffic on a crossing route down by the goal line and never able to influence the play. Other than that he was markedly better than Brown, and had a far better outing.
– Kirk Cousins wasn’t keen on aiming right, with just six of his 37 attempts going outside the numbers to the right, and none deeper than 9 yards down field.
– Alfred Morris worked hard for his yards, forcing six missed tackles, four of which came right up the middle.
– Trent Richardson gained only 28 yards in this game, but 19 of them came after contact and he forced four missed tackles as the Browns’ blocking did him no favors.
PFF Game Ball
After a rocky start, Kirk Cousins stepped up and led the team to a win, vindicating in an afternoon the decision to draft him after Washington had already selected RGIII.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @PFF_Sam