Some notes, quotes and observations from Thursday at Redskins Park:
So how’s LT Trent Williams’ right ankle? “Same as yesterday; not a whole lot of difference,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “He set it back a little bit yesterday, but he felt better today.”
Maybe we should slow this watch down a bit. The most severe high ankle sprains can take up to eight weeks to heal, and Williams is only 18 days removed from his. He was limited in practice.
Backup LT Sean Locklear said he’s capable of playing left guard if Shanahan wanted to move him there (and move Will Montgomery back to center) when Williams returns, but he has never played guard in an NFL game. He played some right guard at North Carolina State early last decade, and he played left guard at the Senior Bowl in 2004.
Until something changes, Will Montgomery is the left guard. His move there from center has not gone as smoothly as the team hoped, but he expects his play there to improve over time.
The six-year veteran was having a fine season at center until LG Kory Lichtensteiger suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6. Mike Shanahan’s backup plan was to shift Montgomery to left guard and plug Erik Cook in at center, essentially using two backups to combat one injury.
“It takes time to get all the little kinks out,” said Montgomery, who started the last five games of 2010 at right guard. “I feel like it wasn’t fluid, necessarily. I feel like it was forced. After doing one thing for three months, it’s not just a quick snap…it’s more of a transition.”
Montgomery was better at center in part because he’s more effective in tight spaces, where defenders can’t use their reach advantage to get into his body.
WR Anthony Armstrong isn’t surprising any teams in his second NFL season. He’s no longer some unknown player from the arena leagues. Opponents noticed his 19.8-yard reception average last season and are defending him accordingly.
“They’re probably saying: He’s out there. Let’s back up a little bit and make sure he doesn’t beat us that way,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong, who missed two and a half games with a hamstring injury, has only five catches for 47 yards this season. That’s well short of the pace he’d need to equal his production last season: 44 receptions for 871 yards. He had zero catches against Buffalo despite starting.
Armstrong ran at least two go routes against the Bills. QB John Beck didn’t throw to him on the first play of the game, on which the Redskins faked an end around. Armstrong split a pair of defenders deep and got behind the defense. Beck overthrew him deep on another play when Armstrong didn’t separate from the corner.
One of his targets was a crossing pattern that Beck underthrew. That at least gave the defense a different look than just running deep.
“You have to have a full package to your game so they can’t predict what you’re going to do and can’t put a bead on what you’re doing every single time you get out there,” he said. “Being able to be versatile and show different routes and abilities definitely will help.”
This week’s game against San Francisco appears to be a bad matchup for the Redskins’ run defense. The 49ers have averaged 189 rushing yards in their last four games. Meanwhile, Washington has allowed an average of 168 rushing yards during its current three-game losing streak.
“Anybody that comes in and has almost 800 yards rushing in four games, that tells you you have to step up and do a great job not just part of the time, you have to do it for 60 minutes,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said.
Haslett’s point was that isolated breakdowns have ruined otherwise solid defensive performances. For example, ILB Keyaron Fox was in the wrong gap for Buffalo RB Fred Jackson’s 43-yard run to the start the second half last Sunday. Fox had practiced all week as the MIKE linebacker but entered the game at the other inside linebacker position. He got his responsibilities mixed up.
“I put it on the coaching because we didn’t give him a lot of reps at dime,” Haslett said.
The Redskins have to be sharper with their assignments, and defensive linemen have to do a better job occupying double teams and keeping linebackers clean. DEs Kedric Golston and Adam Carriker were OK in that area against Buffalo.
The 49ers have thrown 185 passes this season, fewest in the NFL by 28 throws. First-year coach Jim Harbaugh recognized QB Alex Smith’s limitations and made them into a run-first team.
“He’s doing a good job of managing the game,” Haslett said of Smith. “They don’t put him in a bad position to really screw it up.”
Haz got some laughs with that one.
The offense was dreadful on Sunday, no doubt, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan saw chances left on the field.
“First thing we did as a group when we got in there on Monday – I took all the guys and we watched a bunch of plays in the game,” he said. “It was about 25 plays in the game that we had some big opportunities on and we didn’t capitalize on any of them.
“That’s what led to a shutout. It’s one guy here, it’s one guy there [and] everybody had their part. Very rarely is it 11 guys on one play, but you need all 11 and it comes down to one guy. [We] had a bunch of new guys in there [and] the continuity wasn’t quite there. The rhythm wasn’t quite there. Some of them have got to get going.”
In answering a question about whether he’d consider more max protection, Kyle Shanahan offered his analysis of QB John Beck’s play against Buffalo:
“They had a couple of pressures (blitzes) on us that caused sacks. I think two of them were off pressures. Usually when you have max protection, you don’t have any quick throws. Their two all-out blitzes, they got us on. We did have quick throws, we just didn’t get rid of them. John’s got to recognize that and get rid of the ball. He can’t hold onto it when you’re outnumbered.
“The other ones – I think three or four of them were on scrambles, breaking the pocket and he’s got to learn to throw that ball away. When you get sacked outside of the pocket for a one-yard loss, it counts as a sack. And the ones, we had a three-step drop in the game, DBs squatted on the routes so we don’t let it go, and John just held onto it too long. No one was open when they jumped him and he just took a sack there. He’s got to learn to get rid of the ball.”
So in case you didn’t realize it, Beck did not play well.
As for max protection, Kyle’s point is clear: Seven of the Bills’ sacks came on a 4-man rush. The Redskins should be able to block that with five offensive linemen.
FS Oshiomogho Atogwe (knee) did not practice.
TE Fred Davis (ankle) and CB Phillip Buchanon (knee/neck) were limited.
I chatted about John Beck’s immediate future with my guys Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN980. You can listen: here.
I also talked about Beck and a few other topics with my guys Andy Pollin, Steve Czaban and Ryan O’Halloran on The Sports Reporters. You can listen: here.