Some thoughts and observations following the Redskins season-opening win over the New York Giants.
1. The Redskins did little to address the offensive line this offseason, and it showed on Sunday. Rex Grossman was sacked four times and the ground game could only manage 74 yards rushing largely due to the Giants winning many of the individual battles in the trenches.
Trent Williams, in particular, struggled against Jason Pierre-Paul, who had two sacks and spent most of the afternoon manhandling the Redskins 2010 first-round pick. For a player viewed as the cornerstone of the offensive line, Williams’ play is wildly inconsistent -- much like that of the entire unit.
Yet one positive sign was the commitment the offense made to the run game. On their final two drives, the Redskins ran the ball nine times to keep the defense honest, and that was enough for Grossman to get the insurance touchdown in the fourth quarter. That dedication to the run game wasn't there last season, and over time will lead to some late-game success for running back Tim Hightower.
"It is encouraging to see coaches who -- [after I] had a couple bad runs -- have some some faith in me," Hightower said. "They stuck with me and gave me some more opportunities."
2. Santana Moss appears to have established a strong rapport with Grossman, as the 11-year veteran hauled in six passes for 76 yards. All six receptions moved the chains, including a fourth-down conversion in the first half.
And while Moss did get more targets than any other receiver, he had plenty of help from Anthony Armstrong and Jabar Gaffney, who each caught touchdown passes.
“I’ve been waiting for those days, man,” Moss said. “I’ve been here since ’05 and don’t get me wrong I love getting the ball, but I’ve always been a guy that wasn’t selfish. The only way you’re going to be productive in this league is [to] have opportunities and if you’re just a guy that they feed and [there’s] no one else out there to help you…it’s hard.”
3. Playing in his first game against his former team, Barry Cofield had a quiet day with just two tackles. But one of those tackles came behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-1 carry by Ahmad Bradshaw on a fourth-quarter drive that had reached Redskins territory. The tackle forced the Giants to attempt a field goal while trailing 21-14. Brian Orakpo would block it and the Redskins had control of the game from there on out.
Cofield’s heads up play was one of the many decisive moments Sunday afternoon, but it might have been the one that flew under the radar as a potential game-saving tackle.
“It’s like playing your brother. Even though you love him, you want to beat him worse than anybody else in the world,” Cofield said on playing his former teammates. “Obviously I gave a bunch of guys big hugs after the game, but during that game I wanted to beat them. I can even measure the excitement that I have, so it’s a great feeling.”
4. Mike Shanahan utilized two-tight end sets for most of the game, and both Chris Cooley and Fred Davis caught passes. Cooley’s two receptions gave him more catches than other tight end in Redskins history.
Cooley is working his way back into game shape after missing the preseason with a knee injury. However, if the ailment persists, the Redskins won’t have to worry about rushing him back should Fred Davis continue to play like he did this past Sunday. Davis had more than 100 receiving yards for the first time in his career.
“Fred stretches the field vertically as well as any tight end in the league,” Grossman said. “To have, in my opinion, two of the best route-running, pass-catching, all-around good tight ends with Cooley and Fred -- you’ll see us in a lot of two-tight end situations for the rest of the year.”
5. In 2010, Washington only had 63 offensive plays (an average of about four per game) go for 20 yards or more.
Against the Giants, the Redskins had seven plays of 20 yards or more, a blocked field goal and an interception return for a touchdown. On Friday I stressed the importance of making more plays this year, and the Redskins certainly answered the call in Week 1.