Friday, November 11, 2011

Calling it quits

For now, at least. I could see myself getting the itch again after a hiatus, or doing an occasional post when there's something specific on my mind, but I think I need a break from the weekly analysis. It's hard enough to keep up with in the first place, and midway through my third season I'm honestly a little burned out on it. And the last thing I want to do is to disappoint you guys when I can't keep up with any sort of writing schedule.

I started this before training camp in 2009 thinking that I would probably experiment with it for a month or two, no one but my immediate circle of friends and family would read it, and then I would lose interest and move on. But then it sort of took on a life of its own. The fact that this thing actually got noticed, and that so many of you actually made it a point to read it regularly, is immensely gratifying. And of course it's been an enormous amount of fun.

I'll still be around. I'll certainly still be checking in on Twitter, as it has turned out a great way to keep engaged in the ongoing Redskins conversation. Like a sports bar but cheaper.

So... thanks for reading my ridiculous little football blog, folks.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Redskins underwhelming defensive line

The defensive line was a disaster in 2010 and improving it was a pretty clear offseason priority. The Redskins did not disappoint, signing two free agents (Stephen Bowen and Bary Cofield) and throwing in a second round pick (Jarvis Jenkins, who looked outstanding in preseason before tearing an ACL).

The line is better than last year, but unfortunately that's not saying much. I had some doubts about how the free agent additions would fit into this defense, and so far they are unfortunately looking rather accurate.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Redskins-49ers game review: Will Montgomery's tough day

After Kory Lichtensteiger went down for the year, Will Montgomery struggled so badly after sliding to left guard that he was moved right back to center. Unfortunately, his first day back in his old job was a rough one and he stood out on the screen as the most prominent weakness on the offensive line.

First quarter

1-10-WAS 36 (14:20) R.Helu left tackle to WAS 38 for 2 yards (I.Sopoaga, P.Haralson).

The DT keeps Montgomery from making solid contact and easily sheds him to fill the hole.

2-8-WAS 38 (13:43) R.Helu right guard to WAS 40 for 2 yards (D.Whitner; J.Smith).

Maurice Hurt at LG pulls and Montgomery does not compensate by picking up the RDT, who penetrates and redirects Helu in the backfield.

Redskins add Tyler Polumbus

So the Redskins signed fourth year offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus today. Unfortunately, this says more about the desperate state of the Redskins offensive line than it does about Polumbus.

What this move is: a signing of a warm body by a team whose offensive line has experienced mass casualties in recent weeks.

What this move is not: a meaningful part of some sort of long-term roster building program.

The good news:

- Observers seem to agree that his 2010 season with Seattle was somewhat less bad than his 2009 season with Denver. Granted, the Seahawks still cut him in the middle of this season after playing only three offensive snaps (in the opener) but these things are relative I guess.

- He has played both tackle spots and left guard in his career. Unfortunately he has played all three positions poorly, but there is something to be said for versatility in a backup.

- He was on the Broncos roster (as an undrafted free agent) under Mike Shanahan in 2008, so presumably Mike Shanahan has dug him up both times because he considers his skills to be a match to the offense.

The bad news:

- Bill Barnwell has repeatedly expressed an opinion that Polumbus was the worst starter in the NFL in 2009.

- Football Outsiders' offensive line analyst Ben Muth described Seattle QB's best chance for success this year to be Russell Okung's ability to stay healthy and keep Polumbus off the field.

- Pro Football Focus' grades (paywalled) also do not paint a pretty picture - he scored a -10.1 for 2010.

So the point is that this guy just isn't any good.

None of this means it was wrong for the Redskins to sign him. It's just that he's nothing more than the kind of guy who is unemployed in week 10 and available to a team who's line was weak to begin with and has suffered multiple injuries. 

With Jammal Brown still hurting, there is a good chance that Sean Locklear will have to start at right tackle this week. And there's not much behind him. Rookie Maurice Hurt took some snaps at tackle in the preseason, but even if he wasn't already needed at left guard (after Will Montgomery flamed out there) I wouldn't want to trust him on the outside. The only other option would be the ultra-green Willie Smith.

Trent Williams is already playing hurt, so there is an even greater chance than usual of having to put the third tackle on the field. Polumbus may be a poor player, but at least he has taken NFL snaps before.

There's some small chance that Polumbus could get into a game if Locklear performs poorly, but I doubt it. It is more likely he will make an appearance out of pure necessity. Let's hope we never see him.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I've seen enough of John Beck

After last week's total offensive failure I said that Beck deserves at least one more week. But he's had more than three games nowand he's not just struggling or making mistakes as the result of a learning curve; he's shown absolutely no ability to run a NFL offense. The argument before had been that we already knew Rex was a sub-par quarterback, and Beck at least offered hope as an unknown. He's not anymore.

After 3+ games, this is what we've learned about John Beck:

- He cannot progress through reads - if the first option isn't there he goes straight to the checkdown
- He's inaccurate
- He has a poor deep ball, on the rare occasions when he tries it
- His pocket presence is nonexistent, and this makes his "mobility" useless
- His decision making is painfully slow

The one thing Beck does well is that if his first read is open right as he hits the top of his drop (or as he comes out of his bootleg), he can hit the throw with good timing. That's it, and it's something that any professional quarterback should be able to do.

I am the sort who can be happy with a boring, game manager quarterback, especially given where this team is in it's development. If the offense was simply less than dynamic I could accept that to avoid Rex Grossman's turnovers. And if that means checking down a lot, I could certainly live with it. But this is out of hand.

We all know Rex's weaknesses, and I doubt anyone thinks he would set the world on fire. We can expect at least one or two dumb turnovers per game, and there will always be the possibility of a total meltdown like the one that got him benched against the Eagles. But he will at least give the offense a realistic chance of moving the ball downfield in a meaningful fashion. To resort to cliche, its pretty clear which quarterback gives the Redskins "the best chance to win."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Redskins-Bills game review: A failed running game

After studying how the offensive line and John Beck managed to completely tank in the passing game against Buffalo, it's now time to look at how the Redskins got held to a total of 26 rushing yards.

Yes, blockers did lose their share of battles at the point of attack. But a far bigger problem was guys simply not knowing their assignments on a given play and leaving Bills defenders unblocked. To a degree I suppose that is inevitable with a bunch of guys new to the field or (in the case of Will Montgomery) moving to new positions. But it was clear that Redskins blockers regularly had no idea who they were supposed to be blocking.

Let's look at some examples:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Redskins-Bills game review: Beck under pressure

Hi everyone. As discussed yesterday I'm experimenting with using the tape review to zero in on certain aspects of the game - in this case John Beck getting sacked like it's his job - rather than a straight chronological play by play breakdown.

My reaction while watching the game live was that most of the (now ten) sacks were on John Beck. Even when linemen get beat the quarterback is expected to have an ability to react to pressure and either make plays or at least avoid sacks.

Below are a selection of plays including not only the sacks but also a number of occasions where Beck was hit or pressured. As you will see the responsibility varies - Beck showed simply horrendous pocket presence, but when his blockers weren't busy losing physical matchups they were miscommunicating and blowing assignments. It was quite a mess so... enjoy.

First Quarter

3-3-WAS 27 (13:53) J.Beck pass incomplete deep right to T.Austin [A.Moats]. Thrown behind receiver along sideline at WAS 45.

Montgomery fails to adjust to a tackle-end stunt and allows the inside penetration. Beck takes a seven step drop and is already starting his throwing motion when the DE bursts free, so this one definitely goes on the O-line.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A new approach to game reviews (maybe)

If you're looking for the first quarter or two of the Bills game review, I'm trying a slightly different tack this week to see how it goes.  Basically instead of going through one quarter at a time, I'm considering picking a few themes each week and then highlighting a selection of plays that illustrate it.

Here's what I have in mind this week and we'll see how it goes:

- One post detailing all nine of John Beck's sacks and several more plays on which he was hit or hurried in order to discuss how both the line and Beck himself contributed to the problems.

- Another post on the failure of the run game, with a selection of, I don't know, eight to ten plays or so with which we can pick on linemen for blowing blocks.

- A third post focusing on the defense's failure to stop the run.

- There may or may not be yet another post with miscellaneous observations from the film that I think are worth mentioning but don't really fit into any of the above areas of focus.

Good old indicates that there is a hard core of a few dozen of you who regularly read all four quarters of each game review (which is greatly appreciated) while other readers drop in when something with a more straightforward "message" is available. So my intentions here are two-fold. First is to be able to post something that has a certain completeness earlier in the week, that will leave those without the patience for wading through all four quarter breakdowns with a "takeaway." The second is to have a better option for those weeks where I don't have time to do each quarter in full. Since each individual post will stand alone better, if I only have time for one or two it will still give people something coherent.

I certainly don't want to shortchange those of you who really like to dive into the weeds, so my intention is to still go into a lot of very detailed play breakdowns.  We'll try it this week - the first post won't be til Wednesday night since it took me awhile to think through how I wanted to approach things - and I absolutely want your feedback. If you hate it, by all means let me know. This could turn out to be a one week experiment before we go back old routine, or we could find a way to make the blog a little more readable without sacrificing the more detailed analysis. Let's see how it goes.