ReFo: PHI @ WAS, Week 1
Ben Stockwell breaks down the return of RGIII and the Eagles' unveiling of their new offense in this Week 1 NFC East clash.
ReFo: PHI @ WAS, Week 1
I think they call that starting with a bang.
We had all been prepared for the Eagles’ new up-tempo offense that would rush NFL defenses off their feet and speed to yards, touchdowns, and wins. Even with that preparation, it still took you by surprise to see it actually happen. After the false start of the Redskins’ defensive touchdown, the first half was all about the Eagles’ offense and the Redskins’ inability to live with their tempo between plays and their speed during them.
While Washington mounted something of a laborious comeback over the course of the third and fourth quarters there are still far more negatives for the Redskins to take away from this game than positives. Their quarterback was clearly limited in what he could do at this stage of his recovery and without that running threat the offense looked short of options until late in the game. Combine that with a defense that was blown away by the ground game and you have a team that needs to find a lot of answers and quickly.
Philadelphia – Three Performances of Note
Winning On the Ground
There have long been questions about transitioning a collegiate offense to the pros and whether it would succeed. Well when an offense is as predicated on the running game as this one and aligned with the pairing of offensive line and running back that the Eagles have, you can see the transition working. It was part scheme and part blocking but this opening salvo from the Eagles was a real eye-opener to just how much space there is for teams to use on ground games. Often NFL running attacks feel claustrophobic but this Eagles’ attack created space that you simply wouldn’t believe was there on an NFL field. In the blocking stakes, Jason Kelce (+4.8), Evan Mathis (+4.7), and rookie Lane Johnson (+4.2) led a quintet that dominated the Redskins’ defenders and afforded LeSean McCoy (+3.9) the space to run wild on a career night. The blockers got him space and McCoy was too elusive for the Redskins’ defenders in space breaking nine tackles on 31 carries.
More to Come Through the Air?
The Eagles got what they needed through the air but it was still evident that a lack of accuracy from Michael Vick held them back from winning this game by a more comfortable margin. The ground game and the play action off of it left space for Vick to exploit in the secondary but he didn’t hit his straps first up in the regular season. As ever with Vick there were overthrows but he also missed throws in front, behind, short, and forced into coverage — the whole spectrum. When he pulled the ball out (or down) and ran, Vick showed the threat that makes him a good fit for this offense but to complete the offense Vick must get more accurate with his passing to maximize the offense through the air should a defense get to grips with the ground game.
Tidy Debut for Williams
Highlighted as one of the prime candidates for an undeserving contract off the back of a Super Bowl win, Cary Williams (+3.7) made a very creditable start to his career in Philadelphia. The former Raven highlighted his game with a diving interception of Robert Griffin looking for Pierre Garcon on an out route and for the game let up only one reception for nine yards on five targets. In addition to this, Williams notched a turnover on downs by breaking up a fourth down pass aimed for Aldrick Robinson with 6:53 left in the game. Add in a sack with around five minutes left in the first half and you have a debut built on few but very impactful plays.
Washington – Three Performances of Note
Raw Safety Pairing Exposed
You’ll struggle to see a team defensive performance much worse than what the Redskins put forth against the Eagles last night. They were clearly short of ideas of how to stop this Eagles offense and frequently on the receiving end were the new safety pairing of Bacarri Rambo (-4.3) and E.J. Biggers (-4.0), facing down runners in space and were frequently unable to corral them. The two combined to record six missed tackles with Biggers missing two each in the run and pass game while Rambo missed one in each facet of the game, but was beaten so badly he couldn’t attempt a tackle on at least one other occasion. With both players starting at safety for the first time in the NFL, this was an extremely tough assignment and they were both well short of having the answers to stop a running game that was slicing through the front six at will.
Not Carrying On Where He Left Off
Though he might have racked up 300 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns, this was not the Robert Griffin we saw last season and it seems he will need to be given time to feel his way back in. Though he took off on a scramble three times, Griffin was clearly not a threat to run the ball and his passing wasn’t good enough to cover for that. Though his fourth quarter was better, no downgraded passes compared to more than a half-dozen positively-graded throws, it was largely built around short passing until Patrick Chung did his best Rahim Moore impression to give the Redskins a one-score defeat in the final reckoning. In his first live action on his return from injury, Griffin had accuracy issues like his opposite number in the game both with overthrows and underthrows, never really getting a handle on anything but the short passes that slowly brought the Redskins back to respectability in the fourth quarter. Griffin’s recovery in the off-season was dubbed as “Operation Patience” and was thought to be complete when he returned to start against the Eagles. It may yet have time to run while Griffin finds his form again in the coming weeks.
A Few Bright Spots on Offense
After the start the Redskins made to this game, bright spots were always likely to be thin on the ground but there were a few. Left tackle Trent Williams (+2.5) started the season strongly in pass protection yielding only two pressures (one each to Trent Cole and Brandon Graham) on 58 pass protection snaps. Fellow lineman Will Montgomery (+1.9 run blocking) had a solid start as a run blocker in spite of his two penalties in the game. While starting running back Alfred Morris’ day was ruined by a botched pitch, his backup Roy Helu (+1.4) had a strong opener and ended up notching more snaps than Morris (41 to 37).
– The Redskins’ 14 missed tackles in this game were the most by any defense as a unit in Week 1.
– Aside from his 28-yard TD completion Michael Vick went 0-for-7 on intermediate targets.
– Second-round pick David Amerson was targeted four times in his regular season debut letting up just the one catch for eight yards with a pass defense.
PFF Game Ball
He was set up extremely well by his offensive line but LeSean McCoy showed in front of a national television audience what a devastating runner he is in the open field. Speed kills and McCoy punished the Redskins time after time to help drive the Eagles to victory.
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Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.