Here’s what I’m thinking immediately after the Redskins’ 34-19 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday:
Did you think this team could go through a season without some silly off-the-field drama? After all, these are the Redskins.
Now we learn that their two best (or at least most talented) offensive players, LT Trent Williams and TE Fred Davis, are facing a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
It doesn’t bode well for Mike Shanahan’s building project that the core members of his offense are too selfish and careless to follow the rules collectively bargained by the NFL Players Association. Other Redskins, including LB Lorenzo Alexander, said players were fully aware following the lockout that using marijuana would result in disciplinary action by the league. Davis and Williams, however, didn’t care. They weren’t accountable to their teammates. They put themselves ahead of the team. They undermined the long hours and physical work their coaches and teammates put in. And for what? That’s the antithesis of a winning environment.
And Williams is one of the team’s captains!!! Wow. Just wow.
How can Mike Shanahan rely on Williams and Davis moving forward? They’re repeat violators of the league’s drug policy. When a player violates the policy, the league makes very clear the steps it’s going to take regarding future tests and punishments. Davis and Williams still got caught, still disregarded that the Redskins need them – and, boy, do the Redskins need them. If they balked at the sanctions this time, why should Shanahan believe they won’t do it again?
Davis is a free agent after this season. Getting busted in a contract year demonstrates incredibly poor judgment and might indicate some deeper problems. Maybe one team out there will pay him the big contract he desires, and maybe the Redskins still will. However, they stayed away from Santonio Holmes in free agency last summer because he is a repeat violator of the drug policy. Another violation would result in a yearlong suspension for Holmes, and the Redskins were unwilling to risk that. Why would their thinking be any different regarding Davis? Because coaches already know him? Because he knows the offense? Maybe the Redskins re-sign Davis because they’re short on playmakers, but he certainly hasn’t earned the team’s loyalty with his actions.
And remember how confident TE Chris Cooley was when he went on injured reserve that he’ll be back for the Redskins next season? Well, his value to the team just went up. He’s a tight end whose character, commitment and availability the Redskins can rely on. That has to look attractive compared to the mess Davis has created.
Williams is only two years into his rookie contract, so he’s not going anywhere. But you’ll recall the pre-draft red flags about his work ethic and commitment. Williams has fought those perceptions, quite successfully, until now. Now, all the work he did to get in shape during the offseason is irrelevant. This incident casts him as selfish and not committed to helping the team.
What can the Redskins do with Williams? Maybe he suffers from not having a veteran lineman to mentor him. I might buy that to a limited extent. Ultimately, though, that’s an excuse. This incident directly reflects on his personality, inner drive and selflessness. Can a team get a player to change?
And left tackle is such an important position for an offense. The Redskins will always worry that Williams is another slip-up away from a yearlong suspension. That’s not how you want to live if you’re Shanahan.
Most players didn’t say much about the looming suspensions. They shouldn’t have to. They followed the rules. They aren’t the ones who let the team down. Those who did speak expressed disappointment. What other emotion is there, really?
The Redskins kept Davis and Williams away from reporters. They had them dress in the coaches’ locker room away from media, which have access only to the players’ area. And if the suspensions come down Monday, we might not hear from them for a while. They wouldn’t be allowed at Redskins Park during the last four weeks of the season.
So what does this mean for the rest of the season? Provided that the suspension is handed down in time to begin before next Sunday’s game against New England, Davis and Williams are gone for the season. Davis’ Redskins tenure might be over.
For the players who actually have to play in the last four games, we can expect a severely limited running attack. Williams and Davis are essential to the blocking the stretch zone plays and capturing the edge. Can the Redskins consistently do that effectively with LT Sean Locklear and TE Logan Paulsen? If their play from earlier this season is an accurate indicator, the answer is no. That means the Redskins are looking down the barrel at a 4-12 finish.
Paulsen, in particular, struggled throughout Sunday’s game, especially after the first quarter. He whiffed on some blocks and was beaten for a sack.
OK, let’s talk about the game. With the Redskins averaging 5.7 yards per carry in the first half, the Redskins threw nine consecutive passes spanning two series late in the second quarter. Judging from the reaction on Twitter, that did not sit well with many of you.
Overall, I didn’t have a major problem with the play-calling, but I think it’s fair to say the Redskins might have run the ball on two of those nine passes.
One of those two is first-and-10 at midfield with exactly 2:00 left in the half. They called a short pass to TE Fred Davis, who ran his route laterally along the line of scrimmage. That route, in particular, mimics a look on which the Redskins’ tight end comes down the line and blocks the backside defensive end. This was a different wrinkle, and the play lost a yard. Could a run have put the Redskins in second-and-6? Sure. But it also could’ve lost a yard.
The Redskins eventually punted but recovered the muffed catch, setting up the other pass in that sequence open for debate: second-and-goal from the 5 with 34 seconds and one timeout remaining.
Keep in mind, though, that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan isn’t calling a pass on second-and-goal from the 5 on a whim. He spent considerable time during the week studying the Jets’ tendencies inside the red zone and, more specifically, close to the goal line. Should he have ignored his preparation because Helu was averaging 5.7 yards a pop? That’s impulsive thinking.
“You are going to call what you think you saw on the film that’s going to work,” QB Rex Grossman said. “That’s the reason we call the plays we call. Your point is to stay with the running game because it’s hot. We’ve got confidence with every part of our offense that it’s going to work. I’m sure that’s why we called those plays.”
Then again, the Redskins’ passing attack is not a strength because of personnel limitations at several positions. Sometimes it seems the Redskins want to call the offense as if Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson were the quarterback and receiver instead of Grossman and Santana Moss. I’d be interested to know what coaches saw from the Jets on film that led them to believe passing on second-and-goal from the 5 was better than running.
Neither play-calling nor scheme is why the Redskins are 4-8. Their problem on offense is a lack of talent and play-makers.
One play, in particular, reinforced this point for me. Tied 13-13 with 8:03 left in the game; third-and-7 from the Jets’ 28-yard line.
QB Rex Grossman lobbed a pass to WR David Anderson on a deep corner route. Anderson initially was open, but Rex held the ball a little too long. Still, the play had a chance. As two defenders converged on Anderson in the end zone, the ball came down through his hands, hit him in the helmet and bounced away.
Not to take anything away from Anderson – he has played hard and contributed since signing off the street last month – but he’s 5-10 with a vertical leap that’s not going to scare any defensive back. Good teams have receivers that have the physical skills to go up for the ball and the concentration and hands to haul it in.
The Redskins don’t have that. They settled for a field goal instead of a touchdown.
RB Roy Helu took advantage of some quality running lanes again this week. A couple times RT Jammal Brown successfully sealed in the left defensive end, allowing Helu to get upfield at full speed.
Helu still has significant room for improvement, though. He fumbled and broke down in pass protection. Growing pains.
CB Josh Wilson and FS Oshiomogho Atogwe both appeared to bite on WR Santonio Holmes’ double move on the go-ahead touchdown with 4:49 to play. Holmes faked the slant and then ran a corner route. The Jets just executed better than the Redskins.
That was two plays after the Redskins could have gotten off the field on third-and-4 from their 45. CB Kevin Barnes blitzed from the slot but didn’t get home because he hesitated when QB Mark Sanchez pump-faked. Sanchez escaped him and completed a pass to RB Shonn Greene for a first down. Barnes’ little hesitation was, as Mike Shanahan likes to say, one of the differences between winning and losing.
…That’s it for now. We made it through without any tired drug jokes, too. Success.