Five Observations: Redskins Offense Growing Up

Grossman and the ground game giving Kyle Shanahan a balanced attack

1. Enough can’t be said about Rex Grossman’s touchdown pass on fourth-and-three to Santana Moss that helped propel the Redskins to a 22-21 win over the Arizona Cardinals. Grossman had options underneath that would have moved the chains, but he went for it all after Mike Shanahan made the gutsy call to go for it when a field goal was an option.

“You’re always hoping that your quarterback can pull you through in the fourth quarter,” Shanahan said. “That’s what he did, especially when you start out a little bit slow and a little bit shaky. You have to keep your poise and you have to keep your composure, especially early when you throw a couple of interceptions and, all of a sudden, the pressure starts to mount. I was pleased with the way he handled himself in the fourth quarter.”

Moss was certainly happy with Grossman’s decision as well. The last time he caught a touchdown pass of that importance was against Tampa Bay. That score would have tied the game, but Graham Gano missed the extra point and the Redskins lost by one.

This time Moss’s touchdown and Gano’s game-winning field goal turned the tables and gave the Redskins the one-point win.

2. Critics will point to the red zone inefficiency and the Redskins' inability to take control of a game they dominated everywhere but the scoreboard. Of course they’re correct. Washington can’t miss so many opportunities against better teams.

However, the offense possessed the ball for 38:30 and 79 plays. The ground game averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 35 attempts, and Roy Helu emerged as the perfect complement to Tim Hightower.

Let’s look back to last year for a minute. The Redskins ran the ball over 30 times just twice all season. They didn’t have much in the way of talent or depth at running back and it made it impossible to develop a balanced offense.

This year with Helu and Hightower, Kyle Shanahan has more tools to work with, and in both games he’s managed to remain committed to the ground, building the foundations for an improved unit.

3. Special teams have been wildly inconsistent thus far. Gano had a field goal attempt blocked and also sent a kickoff out of bounds to open the second half. On the other hand, Brandon Banks had several big punt returns, and the Redskins' coverage contained Patrick Peterson.

The Redskins get passing marks thanks to Sav Rocca, who pinned the Cardinals inside their own 20 on two of his three punts and made a game-ending tackle on his third. Six of Rocca’s nine punts this year have been inside opposing teams’ 20-yard line. No one has more.

4. There’s an enormous amount of pressure on rookie Ryan Kerrigan making the transition from 4-3 end to 3-4 outside linebacker. So far, he’s adapted without a hitch.

Kerrigan recorded his first professional sack a week after his first interception and looked comfortable against the run and pass. Brian Orakpo might be a more dominant pass rusher, but Kerrigan’s football IQ and all-around ability make him just as valuable.

In fact, the linebacker corps as whole just seems to be completely comfortable in its second year under Jim Haslett. Linebackers had all three of the defense’s sacks, and London Fletcher added an interception.

“I know I’m going to bring it. I know Ryan is going to bring it and the rest of the outside linebackers are going to bring it when they rush the passer,” Orakpo said. “That’s the kind of patience we have to have week-in and week-out. I thought we did a phenomenal job bringing pressure.”

5. After Larry Fitzgerald’s 73-yard touchdown, the Redskins have already given up three passes of 40+ yards. Obviously, it isn’t likely they’ll keep up this pace and give up 24 such plays this year, but it is something that should be a concern with the secondary struggling through injuries and a suspension to Phillip Buchanon.

“We gave up some big plays but we’re really growing as a defense,” Orakpo said. “We can only get better. I’m excited to be a part of it. Guys are getting to the quarterback, creating turnovers, you name it, [we’re] getting off the field.”

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