Redskins-Giants film review: Offense

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The strongest Gassers candidates were TE Logan Paulsen and RT Tyler Polumbus because they both lost enough blocks. Both were pushed back at times and both failed to sustain or finish some blocks. However, the negative plays weren’t enough to prevent a convincing victory. And Polumbus, in particular, opened some running lanes by generating push and sealing off linemen and OLB Mathias Kiwanuka.

OBSERVATIONS

QB Rex Grossman rebounded from a poor start to give the Redskins a chance to win. He wasn’t always sharp with his mechanics or accuracy, but on third down he was 8-of-11 for 110 yards and a touchdown, good for a passer rating of 134.7. Receivers made plays after the catch for him, but he also gave them chances to do so.

His touchdown pass to WR Santana Moss was perfectly placed. He recognized Moss would be open on the corner route because he it would take him away from the single high safety. Moss just had to beat rookie CB Prince Amukamara, which he did easily. The ball was near the sideline away from defenders but gave Moss enough room to get his feet down.

Grossman’s chemistry with WR Jabar Gaffney on play-action has been a major boost in recent weeks. Also, his timing Sunday often was quite good. Grossman converted third-and-11 with a 16-yard throw to Moss on a corner route that was out of his hand before Moss broke. He also hit Gaffney coming out of his break to the sideline to convert fourth-and-1.

Grossman threw two interceptions on his first seven passes. On the first, Moss didn’t hold his fake on the flea-flicker long enough to get significant separation from CB Corey Webster. But Grossman also underthrew the pass. I understand why the Redskins would want to run a flea-flicker to start the game, but deep passes aren’t Grossman’s strong suit. He has struggled at times this season getting the ball out in front of receivers on deep throws. He’s much better with intermediate timing passes to the middle of the field. When the Redskins began calling more of those, they started moving the ball. That wasn’t until after his second pick, though. Grossman threw deep into double coverage with CB Aaron Ross bearing down on him. He had Moss running open on the intermediate level.

Grossman’s footwork was sloppy at times, and that resulted in some errant passes. He overthrew Moss near the left sideline on Washington’s second series when he didn’t step toward the target against the pass rush. He bounced a deep out to Gaffney near the left sideline in the second quarter after falling away from the throw. On the next play, however he bought time by sliding to his left and kept his eyes downfield to find TE Logan Paulsen for a 9-yard gain. Typical Rex: some good, some bad.

RB Roy Helu ran hard, as usual, but he didn’t create a lot of yards on his own like he did against New England. Generally, he got what the offensive line got for him. He didn’t create any long runs by getting around the corner, and he rarely, if ever, was in position to make defenders miss in space. It’s difficult to say how much of that resulted from Helu not hitting the proper cutback lane, but it’s also a product of individual breakdowns along the offensive line.

Helu lost four yards on first-and-10 from New York’s 18 in the second quarter when he tried to bounce a run outside of TE Logan Paulsen, who had been driven back by LB Mathias Kiwanuka. Even though Paulsen was in the backfield, he turned Kiwanuka out. Helu could have run inside him, but S Antrel Rolle had run up to fill the gap. Perhaps Helu would have been better off taking on Rolle than trying to get to the corner. His past success getting around the edge might affect those decisions, though. In this instance, Kiwanuka shed Paulsen and made the stop.

Earlier on that series, Helu gained eight yards — his longest carry — on a toss to the right. He was four yards behind the line of scrimmage when it became obvious that LT Willie Smith and LG Maurice Hurt got enough of a surge to create a lane on the back side, so Helu planted his foot and burst upfield. That’s what Mike Shanahan’s running game is supposed to look like.

The Redskins have tossed the ball to Helu more in the last two weeks than they ever did earlier this season. By my count, 14 of Helu’s 23 carries were tosses, and they accounted for 40 yards; an average of 2.85 yards per carry. By contrast, he averaged only 1.44 yards on the nine handoffs he took.

“When a guy gets a toss, you have a little more separation between the offensive line,” Shanahan said Monday. “You have the option with his speed to go outside, or if they over-pursue he’s a little bit more downhill. He can cut back without pressing the line of scrimmage.

“Sometimes, when you get that handoff, it’s quicker sometimes [and] you have the option to go outside or inside to get that yard or two. To have the combination to do both like he does keeps those defensive ends and outside linebackers a little bit off-balance because you’re not sure if you’re going to pitch it or you’re not sure if you’re going to hand it off. If you hand it off and you start playing the pitch, it’s by you.”

LT Willie Smith was inconsistent in his first career start. The matchup did him no favors — DE Jason Pierre-Paul is the best defensive player the Redskins have faced this season, in my opinion. The Redskins helped Smith with that matchup at times by having RB Roy Helu chip him or by mixing it up and having TE Logan Paulsen block him. Ultimately, though, Smith did not give up a sack, which is an improvement from his NFL debut last week. He also made some effective blocks in the running game, including a combination on Pierre-Paul and MLBChase Blackburn on Helu’s 6-yard run in the first quarter.

Smith’s inconsistent technique is expected from an undrafted rookie. Another shortcoming that stands out at times is a lack of power. For example, he kicked out on a toss left to RB Evan Royster and went to engage OLB Mathias Kiwanuka, but Kiwanuka easily held Smith off, stood his ground and shed the block to make the tackle. Maybe Smith’s power would be more evident once he adjusts to game speed and becomes more sure of his assignments, but it’s a significant dropoff from Trent Williams.

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