A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins' offense and some observations after rewatching the TV broadcast of their 34-19 loss to the New York Jets.
TE FRED DAVIS: How ironic that Davis and LT Trent Williams finish their suspension-shortened seasons on this list. Sunday's game was a reminder of how invaluable they are to the Redskins' offense, and their absence over the final four games will provide more painful evidence.
The Redskins planned to target Davis because that was their best matchup. In contrast, their receivers didn't match up very well against Jets CBs Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. WR Jabar Gaffney, for example, did not catch a pass.
If this was Davis' last game as a Redskin, he went out strong by contributing to the passing game and the running game. The athleticism that makes him a dynamic pass-catcher truly stood out. His best play was a 12-yard reception on third-and-6 with the game tied, 13-13, early in the fourth quarter. New York blitzed seven defenders, leaving Davis isolated on the left against S Brodney Pool. QB Rex Grossman's throw was high — perhaps intentionally because Davis has two inches on Pool — and Davis jumped and caught it. His arms are strong enough to catch passes away from his body even with defenders draped on him.
On Davis' 30-yard reception in the second-quarter, he separated from CB Donald Strickland with a crisp 'in' cut and broke Strickland's tackle to gain an additional 21 yards. He benefited from a blown coverage on his 42-yarder on the first series. Cromartie and S Eric Smith both ran with WR Santana Moss deep down the left seam, leaving the sideline wide open for Grossman to find Davis.
Davis was OK — and somewhat consistent, actually — on the edge in the running game. He sometimes struggles with big, powerful ends but he held his ground against the Jets' smaller outside linebackers. He ran into the secondary to block S Jim Leonhard on RB Roy Helu's 15-yard run on the Redskins' first play from scrimmage.
LT TRENT WILLIAMS: Williams' speed and athleticism helped RB Roy Helu rush for 100 yards for the second straight week. He moved as well as he has in several weeks, which was to be expected as time distanced him from his left knee sprain.
Williams blocked two defenders to help clear Helu's path to the end zone on a 2-yard touchdown on the opening drive. He helped TE Logan Paulsen push DE Muhammad Wilkerson out to the left, then quickly redirected to the second level to blow up ILB David Harris. On Helu's 8-yard run around the left edge in the third quarter, Williams blocked DL Kenrick Ellis before sprinting out into space and blocking Harris to the ground. That's the athleticism that made him the fourth-overall pick last year.
Williams was sound in pass protection, too. When OLB Jamaal Westerman beat him with an inside move on first-and-10 on the second play of the fourth quarter, Williams recovered to block Westerman into the ground, giving QB Rex Grossman time to check down to Helu in the left flat for 12 yards. The Redskins are going to miss him even more than Davis.
RB ROY HELU: Helu's second-half fumble and his pass protection breakdown almost cost him a spot on this list, but those gaffes don't negate the fact he's a driving force on the offense right now.
The Jets' defense was the latest group to have trouble getting him to the ground. He rushed for 66 yards after contact on 22 rushes and had 13 yards after contact on four receptions. He maintains low pad level, he's fast enough to elude defenders and he doesn't hesitate to initiate the contact himself.
Helu gained 11 after running through OLB Calvin Pace's arm tackle on a rush on the opening drive. He gained eight yards around the left edge on a third-quarter carrying after running through Pace's arm tackle. Helu also is fast and shifty enough to make something out of nothing. He eluded several defenders to gain 8 yards on a screen on the opening drive. He spun back toward the inside behind the line of scrimmage, squared his shoulders and sharply cut upfield.
Helu's fumble in the third quarter didn't cost the Redskins points because New York missed a 40-yard field goal. He missed a blitz pick-up against S Donald Strickland in the second quarter, which led to an intentional grounding penalty. Strickland gave Helu a stutter step in the backfield, and Helu lunged a bit and reached, which allowed Strickland to get by to the inside.
In addition to those mistakes, I don't doubt that coaches occasionally see available cutback lanes Helu failed to run through. However, he's consistently helping to move the offense with his strength and speed.
WR NILES PAUL: Paul made two excellent special teams plays in his return from a sprained big toe. While covering a punt at the end of the second quarter, the rookie plowed through S Jim Leonhard and blew up PR Jeremy Kerley, who had bobbled the ball. Paul's hit ensured a loose ball, which ILB Perry Riley recovered. Paul also had a key block against S Tracy Wilson to spring PR Brandon Banks' 20-yard punt return into Jets' territory in the fourth quarter. Those types of plays will help Paul stick around for a long time.
QB REX GROSSMAN: Grossman moved the offense at times, but mostly he was inaccurate. He completed only 41.3 percent of his passes, his second-worst completion percentage since the 2006 regular-season finale. Sometimes he failed to set his feet — even when the pass rush was not a factor — and it resulted in wild throws.
"I thought Rex probably did not play as good as he has played over the last few games," coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. "I think as he looks at the film, he'll be somewhat disappointed in his play."
Grossman lost a fumble and threw a late interception, and he could have had a few more interceptions. He tried to force a pass into the end zone on second-and-goal from the 5 at the end of the first half, and two Jets defenders got their hands on it. ILB David Harris nearly intercepted a second-half throw over the middle to WR Santana Moss. It was reminiscent of several interceptions earlier this season on which Grossman did not see a linebacker.
Grossman fumbled on third-and-10 in the fourth quarter when OLB Aaron Maybin sacked him 3.3 seconds after the snap. Perhaps he held the ball too long on the play, but the Jets' defense frequently succeeded in limiting open receivers available to him.
TE LOGAN PAULSEN: The Redskins must hope Paulsen got his worst game out of the way before being thrust into the No. 1 tight end role. He successfully opened some holes for RB Roy Helu early, but his breakdowns were costly as the game progressed.
His best block helped create space on the left edge for Helu's 2-yard plunge into the end zone on the opening drive. DE Muhammad Wilkerson stood him up at first, but after LT Trent Williams helped with a combo block, Paulsen kept his legs churning and turned Wilkerson out of the play.
Things deteriorated, though, as the game went on. He whiffed on OLB Jamaal Westerman on the left edge on a rush that lost four yards on second-and-5 early in the third quarter. He surrendered a sack to Westerman on first down on the next series. It put the Redskins in second-and-16 en route to a three-and-out. "I need to be a little bit better with my technique," Paulsen said after the game. "He made a nice little shoulder dip or whatever, but I've got to make that play for the team."
OLB Calvin Pace pressured QB Rex Grossman into an incompletion on third-and-5 in the fourth quarter after beating Paulsen with an outside move. He'll have to be much better during the final four games for the Redskins' offense to be effective.
LG MAURICE HURT: Hurt's growing pains continue, and now he'll have to play the final four games without Trent Williams to his left. Think defenses will try to test the left side of Washington's line with some stunts and other games?
There are plays on which you see Hurt carrying out his assignment, but he's a step or a split-second slow. For example, he didn't disengage from the defensive tackle in time to get outside and block ILB Bart Scott on a fourth-quarter screen pass that lost four yards. DL Marcus Dixon stopped RB Roy Helu for only two yards on a fourth-quarter carry after Hurt's attempted cut block was unsuccessful. Perhaps his timing will improve as he continues to build game experience.
• WR Jabar Gaffney did not have a catch for the first time this season (his previous low was two receptions). Part of that resulted from CB Darrelle Revis covering him. Still, he positively impacted the game with his run blocking. He engaged Revis near the sideline to help RB Roy Helu's 15-yard run on the game's first play. He blocked S Jim Leonhard from the right slot just long enough for Helu to get through on his 22-yard run on the Redskins' second drive.
"I used Jabar as an example of a veteran player that played hard for 60 minutes," Mike Shanahan said Monday. "I mean, he got open, did some things. Then when you take a look at film, even though Revis was covering him, he was open. The way he blocked, the way he played in the running game and on screens, just to see somebody's character playing for a full 60 minutes when he didn't get the ball, that's what you like to see."
• Hey, would you look at that: the Redskins successfully attempted four field goals and an extra point. As you might have expected, the Jets on the first field goal tried the same tactic Seattle used to block two kicks last Sunday. Credit RG Erik Cook, however, for fixing his mistake. DL Ropati Pitoitua lined up over Cook but shifted to the right over LS Nick Sundberg after the snap. But instead of blocking down and opening a gap on the overloaded side of the line, Cook stopped the rush by staying put and making himself wide.
• K Graham Gano also deserves positive marks for making field goals of 33, 23, 46 and 43 yards. He would have gotten a game ball if not for his poorly executed short kickoff in the fourth quarter. After the Redskins took a 16-13 lead with 7:52 remaining, coaches called for a short kickoff designed to keep the ball away from dangerous return man Joe McKnight and disrupt New York's timing. The Jets fumbled on short kickoffs twice earlier in the season.
Gano, however, didn't hit the ball properly, according to Shanahan. The hang time was insufficient, and the Redskins didn't cover it well. FB Josh Baker returned it through a hole created by a successful block against Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong.
• RT Jammal Brown successfully sealed the defensive end on two good runs, but two failed blocks of his resulted in turnovers. DL Marcus Dixon forced RB Roy Helu to fumble in the third quarter after beating Brown. Dixon shed Brown's block with a violent left-handed rip that got him to Brown's play-side shoulder. That enabled him to get down the line and hammer the ball out of Helu's grasp.
OLB Aaron Maybin beat Brown to sack Grossman and force him to fumble in the fourth quarter. With the Redskins trailing 20-16, the play sealed the loss. Maybin set Brown up by rushing wide before cutting him back to the inside. Brown's footwork was poor, and actually crossed his feet in trying to stay with Maybin's wide rush. When Maybin cut back, Brown was horribly off-balance.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.