Punter Sav Rocca may be Washingtons most valuable offensive player this season. Zumapress/Icon SMI
The defense wasn't bad this week, but the offense was its usual putrid self, and the Redskins lost their 4th in a row to fall to 3-5. The competitive portion of the season is rapidly drawing to a close for Washington. Nothing about this team suggests it's about to figure things out and go on the multi-game winning streak it would take to make a playoff run.
Below are a hodgepodge of observations from yesterday's game:
Those who thought John Beck couldn't possibly be as bad as Rex Grossman -- have you reconsidered? I thought Washington needed to change QBs because I figured the team could get by with a good defense and with fewer mistakes from the offense. Whoops. Beck has been awful -- an epic fail of quarterback play. While Grossman's play was getting progressively worse, Beck's has been bad from the moment he entered the lineup. Consider: Advanced NFL Stats has rankings for 37 QBs this season. On a per play basis, Beck ranks 35th. Grossman: 30th. Jason Campbell, the QB they tossed aside before last season: 14th. Donovan McNabb, who they jettisoned to hand the reins over to Grossman and Beck: 26th.
Add find a new return man to the team's offseason shopping list. Brandon Banks has been terrible this year. He remains a big-play threat -- at least in theory -- but his gaffes continue. He still dances around too much in search of the big opening instead of getting upfield quickly. He too frequently runs the ball out from deep in the end zone only to get brought down before reaching the 20. He still loses track of where he is and attempts to field punts inside the 10. And, he continues to make basic mistakes -- muffing two punts (including one at three yard line) against San Francisco. Given the team's current needs, it might make sense to use that roster spot for someone who can contribute in other phases of the game.
One personnel move that appears headed in the right direction: kicker. Washington chose to keep Graham Gano despite a subpar performance last year. This year he's been solid. Against the 49ers, he was spectacular nailing a 59-yarder.
Another good personnel move: signing punter Sav Rocca. Rocca has arguably been the league's best punter this season. He's probably been among the team's more valuable players. I know that's faint praise, but still.
I listened to a fair amount of the radio broadcast for the first time this season, and while I love and admire Sam Huff, it's time for him to leave the booth. He used to be funny and insightful, but that time has passed. The amiable personality is still there, but the memory isn't. Out of respect for the Hall of Famer, Huff should be replaced before next season.
It was good to see Roy Helu get the start and so much playing time. He set a franchise record for receptions in a game (14), which is nice. But, the main reason he caught so many balls was because the Redskins were unable to throw downfield. Helu also ran 10 times for 41 yards and showcased his outstanding speed. He also committed a critical fumble, which cost Washington 7 points.
Washington needs to do something about their tackling. While the defensive performance was better overall, they're still giving up too many big plays because of an inability to bring the ball carrier to the ground. Rocky McIntosh continues to be a prime offender in over-running or simply whiffing on tackle opportunities.
The reshuffled yet again offensive line actually did a creditable job against an excellent Niners defense. Trent Williams returned from a high ankle sprain and was okay. More importantly, Washington put rookie Maurice Hurt at left guard, which allowed Will Montgomery to move back to center. Pass protection was much improved from the previous week -- no doubt helped along by Beck getting rid of the ball more quickly.
Leonard Hankerson looked like an actual professional receiver, which is a welcome development for Washington's poor receiving corps. His day wasn't spectacular, but he had 4 catches on 6 targets. According to Advanced NFL Stats, he was the team's ONLY offensive skill player with a positive contribution. He also had a nice post-up catch on the 2pt conversion.
With Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, Washington's outside linebacking appears settled for the next several seasons. Both players are productive and at times explosive. This is good considering the team's exhaustive list of needs.
I'm not saying Washington's offensive woes are related to scheme, but...with so little working, their game plan looks staid and conventional. San Francisco confused Washington's defense at times with an array of sets and motion packages that allow them to attack defenses in different ways. I don't know if anything they're doing would work for the Skins, but I do know that little they're doing lately has been effective.
Washington's (and Beck's) overall offensive numbers were inflated by the late-game drive when the 49ers were playing prevent defense. It's nice the Skins actually found the endzone (hint: it's located at the end of the field in every stadium, pinky promise), but it means little.