Live From Training Camp With Washington's Team

Five Observations: Kerrigan, Torain Highlight Win in St. Louis

Offensive Line Also Played Key Role

By Jack Anderson
|  Tuesday, Oct 4, 2011  |  Updated 8:32 AM EDT
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Santana Moss, #89 of the Washington Redskins, catches a touchdown pass against Justin King, #21 of the St. Louis Rams, at the Edward Jones Dome on Oct. 2, 2011 in St. Louis.

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1. The book is still out on just how good the offensive line is this year, but they didn’t give up a sack against the Rams, who entered the game with eight.

The last time the Redskins pitched a shutout up front? Try 2009 in a 33-30 loss to the Saints. Jim Zorn was the head coach, Jason Campbell was the quarterback and the offensive line from left to right consisted of Levi Jones, Derrick Dockery, Casey Rabach, Mike Williams and Stephon Heyer.

Things sure have changed.

 

2. The Rams’ offensive line didn’t fare quite so well,giving up seven sacks on the day as bookend pass rushers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo combined for 3.5 of those. Together on the season, the two have totaled 28 tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles.

Kerrigan won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in September and continued to progress in St. Louis. He’s gotten more comfortable in each game and his instincts have already kicked in to make him an all-around star in the making. He’s a never-say-die pass rusher, a sturdy run defender and can even hold his own in pass coverage.

All that puts him on the initial list of candidates for Defensive Rookie of the Year. It’s early, but Washington’s first-round draft pick looks like he might be the franchise’s best draft acquisition in quite some time.

 

3. Special teams were a mixed bag, with Sav Rocca being the good and Brandon Banks the not-so-good. Rocca is having what Mike Shanahan called one of the most successful starts to a season he’s ever seen from a punter, while Banks has been underwhelming as he tries to adapt to the NFL’s new kickoff rules.

Rocca has pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 12 times -- tops in the league. He’s seventh in net average, and along with his coverage unit, has allowed just 68 yards on 10 returns.

After a breakout rookie season, Banks has come down to earth a bit. He’s ranked third in total kickoff return yards, but he hasn’t had a return longer than 31 yards. As a punt returner he ranks fifth in return yards, but has yet to break one for more than 40 yards.

Banks hasn’t been deplorable, but he was kept on the roster to be a gamebreaker and thus far he hasn’t filled that role. The team needs him to be more of factor in order to tilt the field and help out an offense still working through some growing pains.

 

4. Jabar Gaffney has been a pleasant surprise as the number two wide receiver. More than 80 percent of his receptions have moved the chains, and he’s been the team’s best weapon on third down. Trading Jeremy Jarmon for Gaffney’s services certainly looks like a steal as the Redskins finally have the reliable possession receiver they’ve lacked for years.

 

5. The ground game had its most dominant performance of the season. Never mind that it came against the worst run defense in the league because the Redskins needed Ryan Torain’s 135-yard workmanlike effort to ease the pressure on Rex Grossman.

After spending three games in relative obscurity, Torain brought an explosive, physical tone to the game, scoring on his second touch of the game bowling over a defender en route to the end zone.

The Redskins ran for 196 total yards -- the most in any single game under Mike Shanahan -- and are now ranked sixth in the NFL in rushing offense. Torain made the difference, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll be one throughout the year.

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