With the second game of the season in the books, I’ll continue my five good and bad takeaways from the week two contest with the Los Angeles Rams hosting the Washington Redskins at the LA Coliseum. For those unfamiliar with my breakdown, after a loss I start with the bad and after a win I start with the good. A few pre game story lines involved first year head coach Sean McVay for the Rams going against his former team. Also offseason holdout Aaron Donald getting his first start of the season. With a solid physical outing the Redskins grinded the ground game for 4 quarters and hold on for the win. Washington Redskins Week 2 Takeaways – the good and the bad:
1) Kirk Cousins
While I will be the first too say this was by no means a lights out performance from a numbers, or game changing standpoint. That said the Quarterback position is judged off wins and losses and making the plays that need to be made. Also they are judged off protecting the football. Today Kirk did those things. From a numbers standpoint he completed 18/27 passes for 179 yards and threw one Touchdown. That is only a 6.6 YPA (yard per attempt) average. Coming from a guy who has broken franchise yardage records in consecutive years those numbers are low for him. But Jay Gruden has stated that they want to run the football and have to put the game completely on Kirks arm. Kirk threw his lone touchdown on a 11 yard out to Ryan Grant on a out route from a bunch formation.
While Kirk continues to try and build chemistry with guys like Terrell Pryor and second year Josh Doctson. It is very obvious that he has more comfort and trust in Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, and Ryan Grant. As most quarterbacks would trust guys they have had years to build trust and timing with that can allow defenses in the coming weeks to game plan and key certain match-ups. Kirk also had a few good decisions on holding the ball and not throwing a bad pass and gaining a few yards with his feet. He has shown comfort and the athleticism to do in years past. Overall not a game you look at Kirk and say wow but he did his job and got a much needed win.
2) Run Blocking
When you pave the way for your running backs to gain 222 yards on the ground that is what I call physical football. The strength of the Rams much like Philadelphia last week, the front seven of their defense is the strength of the team. For the Redskins who seemed to abandon the run game against the Eagles week 1, pounded the ball with all three backs putting up solid numbers for each. The Redskins had success early pulling guards and tackles getting out in front and giving backs five or six yards before contact. For this team to maintain success the offensive line has to continue to be the strength of this team.
3) Josh Norman
This guy in my opinion is the heart and soul of this defense. He is a former all pro cornerback and he has continued that level of play with the Redskins. Today he forced two fumbles one of which was recovered by Terrell McClain inside the 30 yard line. He is very good all around player. He is physical against the run. He is one of the best in the league at closing and tracking passes. He had a diving breakup on a pass today. Personally he is one of my favorites to watch because he is one of those rare guys in the league that when the ball goes his way he tends to disrupt teams game plans. He will shadow a guy or he will do whatever the coaches ask. As I’ve said before if you win the turnover battle you really give yourself the advantage. This guy has a knack for forcing turnovers.
4) Running backs
Much like the offensive line in the running game it was a complete team effort. Rob Kelly was out to a hot start early. He suffered a rib injury in the second quarter. He had a career high 78 yards in a half on 12 carries. Chris Thompson was electric. He turned the game back over for the Redskins with a 61 yard touchdown run. The Rams had seemed to have momentum in the game and that run really seemed to carry the Redskins the rest of the way. That was Thompson’s second rushing touchdown of the day and his third score of the season. He is showing why he is such a versatile weapon for this team in the run and the passing game. Throw in rookie Samaje Perine. He took over the lead duty after Rob Kelly got hurt. as the game went on you could see his comfort and confidence grow. he finished with 67 yards on 21 carries. most importantly coaches trusted him late to protect the ball as we drove for the game winning score late in the game.
5) Pass rush
Preston Smith now has two sacks in two games to start the year. He has also looked very disruptive makin stops in the backfield against the run. Ryan Kerrigan had a sack fumble on a 3rd down which the Rams center recovered. This team is getting pressure on quarterbacks early and often. This team has a lot of guys who can rush from all over the front seven.
The biggest improvement in the pass rush is the inside pressure from the defensive line pushing the pocket. Rookie Jonathan Allen hasn’t logged a sack but I have seen him bull rush lineman into the quarterback disrupting their rhythm and throwing lanes. Junior Galette looks explosive but is still looking for his first sack but he has been close. hopefully this unit can continue to be effective to give the corners more chances at rushed throws.
1) Defending Todd Gurley
While Josh Norman did force Gurley to fumble twice, Gurley recovered one of them himself. But as the teams best offensive player typically you try and take that player out of the game. Gurley only had 88 yards rushing on 16 attempts, Gurley was breaking tackles and really started to look effective at the end of the game. Gurley added three receptions for 48 more yards and a reception touchdown to go with his rushing score. Todd Gurley is a really good player so even when you game plan for a guy, some guys just make plays and Gurley did that. He started the game slow but he carried his team to tie the game up late. The defense has to do a better job at stopping a teams best player. The defense as a whole played a solid game but they appeared to have trouble keeping Gurley down later in the game.
2) Wide Receivers
For this group to almost have 3 guys who went for 1000 yards last year this group has to be light years better then they have been through two games. Clearly Kirk is more comfortable throwing passes to guys like Jamison Crowder and Ryan Grant, instead of throwing to Terrell Prior or Josh Doctson. Pryor had one drop this week which is better but he also didn’t have the volume of passes come his way like week one. Crowder had some huge 3rd down pickups. This guy is slowly turning into one of Kirk’s favorite weapons.
Ryan Grant only had one catch but it was huge, it was the go ahead score and clearly Kirk trust Grant to make that catch in a big moment. Doctson only had one ball thrown his way and it was a bad pass. The second year top pick is still looking for his first catch of the season. The team did run the ball a lot but the passing game was game managed type success at best.
This is football and players will get hurt along with bumps and bruises. First they lost Rob Kelly to a rib injury in the 2nd quarter. Zach Brown and Mason Foster both went out for a moment. Both came back and looked okay. Jordan Reed hurt his chest early in the third and didn’t return to the game either. Josh Norman hurt his shoulder diving for a awesome pass break up but only missed a few plays. Morgan Moses went down with a ankle injury and got it taped and returned. Players will deal with injuries all season long. But the names on this list are key parts to this team and having that many big name scares in one contest could alter a season. The game was physical and injuries happen. we will see what the injury report says going forward for Reed and Kelly.
4) Pass blocking
As nice as the offensive line did in the run game, they weren’t as effective at giving Kirk a clean pocket or time to throw. Again the strength of the Rams is their front seven but you have to let Kirk get into a rhythm. Kirk rarely dropped back and looked comfortable enough to get through all his guys before he was ready to move the pocket because the pressure he felt all day.
Aaron Donald is a stud and he almost made a few more plays then the numbers he logged over the game. This guy was getting behind the offensive line from all sides. We need to continue to improve on the pass blocking moving forward.
5) Dustin Hopkins
He missed a 51 yard field goal later in the game. His first season this guy was automatic. Last season was terrible in the big moments. He is amazing on kickoffs and he can make a field goal from anywhere. But these last game or end of half misses can not continue if Hopkins is going to hope to keep his job. I’m a huge believer in this guy but he has to start making the big moment kicks no matter the distance. While his miss bounced off the right upright, but this team could have still had a lead before Todd Gurley’s game tying touchdown. For Hopkins it’s time to get his head clear and just go back to kicking like he did his first season here.
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Washington Redskins Week 2 Takeaways.