RB EVAN ROYSTER: The sixth-round rookie had his second 100-yard game in as many starts. He finished with 113 yards on 20 carries, plus five catches for 52 yards, despite painful body cramps. He and fellow rookie RB Roy Helu (injured left knee) deserve high marks for toughness.
Royster dodged tacklers with deft footwork. He’s good at subtly adjusting his course while keeping his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and continuing to get upfield. That fits his description as a “gliding” runner. His 28-yard run was an extreme example. His instincts took over, and he juked his way through three tackles and around another defender. He kept his shoulders squared for most of that run.
Royster has a knack for finding the hole. To me, he does it better than Helu. However, he lacks the burst to consistently turn those open lanes into gains of 20 or more yards. On Washington’s second run of the game, for example, he took a pitch to the right and almost immediately cut back off of FB Darrel Young, who cut-blocked DE Jason Babin. LG Maurice Hurt got to LB Casey Matthews, and C Will Montgomery drove DT Trevor Laws out. LT Willie Smith cut down DL Cullen Jenkins on the back side, too, so the lane was there. But Royster didn’t accelerate, and that allowed Jenkins to get up off the ground and make the tackle for only a 4-yard gain.
Royster’s balance problems also continued. Ironically, he went down without being touched on his 28-yard run after breaking three tackles. “I just tried to accelerate a little too hard and got a little too much forward lean and just slipped,” he said after the game. It’s another reason why the Redskins consider him to be only a solid reserve.
FB DARREL YOUNG: With the Eagles‘ ends lined up wide and their linebackers deep, Young consistently executed successful lead blocks by identifying defenders and getting to them. The Redskins sometimes used him as an H-back to wham the 3-technique. He helped RB Evan Royster gain 6 yards on a second-quarter run by doing that.
Young also solidified his reputation as a pass-catching threat. When the Redskins faked an end-around in the first quarter, Young slipped behind the linebacker on a corner route and caught a 20-yard pass at the sideline. He’s got good hands, too. QB Rex Grossman‘s throw was out in front of him about thigh-high, and Young had no trouble pulling it in.
Young’s 12-yard run in the second quarter made him a triple threat. When DT Derek Landri penetrated off the snap, Young quickly changed direction to the right and got around the corner. It was an appropriate way for Young to finish a promising first season as the starter.
RG CHRIS CHESTER: Each lineman contributed to the Redskins‘ 5.2-yard average on 25 rushes, but Chester was the most consistent, seeing as how both tackles had loads of trouble in pass protection against the Eagles‘ fast ends.
Chester got to the second level on several first-half runs. Chester and RT Tyler Polumbus also executed a few successful combination blocks. When RB Evan Royster converted third-and-1 on the first series of the third quarter, Chester sealed DE Juqua Parker inside after Polumbus shoved him in and released to LB Brian Rolle. Chester’s block of LB Keenan Clayton in space sprung Royster’s 15-yard reception on a screen pass in the second quarter.
Chester isn’t an overpowering lineman, but in his debut season in Washington he proved he can play in coach Mike Shanahan’s system because he can run and carry out some of the nuances of combination blocks. He should benefit from experience in the scheme and some stability at right tackle, where the Redskins will look to upgrade in the offseason.
RB ROY HELU:Helu didn’t have a major impact on the game, but his 47-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown was impressive because he ran the last 20-or-so yards on one leg. He left knee was killing him all game. The Redskins put Helu in a bad spot last week by cutting RB Ryan Torain, which forced him to play when he obviously wasn’t close to full speed. Helu responded with the team’s only touchdown.
He was patient setting up his blocks on the screen. He drifted toward the sideline to help suck S Nate Allen into LG Maurice Hurt’s path. Helu during his rookie season proved he can be a contributor in the future, although the Redskins would love for him to be their No. 2. That depends on what they do to address the position in free agency.
LT WILLIE SMITH: DE Trent Cole consistently abused Smith with his speed, and it was extremely disruptive to QB Rex Grossman in the pocket. Smith’s feet were too slow and, as a result, his base wasn’t strong enough to always keep up on the edge rushes. Cole sacked Grossman in the fourth quarter by sprinting around Smith and swiping his hands away. That actually happened on several plays on which Grossman was hit and his mechanics affected.
Smith also missed blocking DE Darryl Tapp on a first-quarter screen play on which WR Santana Moss gained only 3 yards. Tapp sprinted out from his end position after Smith kicked out, but Smith never turned to engage him, and Tapp made the tackle.
Smith was OK in the run game. RB Evan Royster gained 7 yards on a late third-quarter run when Smith released to LB Akeem Jordan after helping LG Maurice Hurt on a combo block against DT Derek Landri. Similar flashes have been evident throughout Smith’s three starts. However, he admitted he has a ton of room to improve his feet, his hands and his pad level. If he’s playing extensively next season, either something has gone wrong or he’s improved beyond could reasonably be expected.
RT TYLER POLUMBUS: Just as Smith struggled on the left against DE Trent Cole, so did Polumbus against DE Jason Babin. Polumbus is 6-8, so leverage can be a problem for him. It certainly was against Babin, who repeatedly lined up wide in a low, four-point sprinter’s stance. Polumbus also lacks the foot quickness to kick out wide against a speed rusher such as Babin.
Polumbus was bowled over by DL Derek Landri on the field goal the Eagles blocked in the first half. “I’ve just got to stay low and make sure that guy doesn’t get through,” Polumbus said.
Right tackle is one of the Redskins‘ biggest needs entering the offseason. Jammal Brown wasn’t able to run well this season, and Polumbus was inconsistent filling in. Both the running and passing games would benefit from an upgrade there.
WR SANTANA MOSS: Moss ended a poor season on a sour note. He dropped a potential 43-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Although QB Rex Grossman‘s pass was underthrown, Moss always has been exceptional at adjusting to balls in midair. He slowed to get underneath this one, but the ball slipped through his grasp. Coach Mike Shanahan repeatedly mentioned the drop in his postgame press conference, so you know he was burned up about it.
Moss lost his cool at the end of the first half, incurring a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taking off his helmet to argue a call. How many times this season did a team captain lose his poise? I can think of other instances with DeAngelo Hall and Trent Williams. It’s embarrassing. This incident backed the Redskins up to the 19-yard line, setting up an epic field-goal-attempt blooper reel as time expired.
I wonder about Moss’ future with the Redskins. He signed a three-year, $15 million contract in the summer, but the dropoff in his production this season was stark. He caught only 48 percent of the passes targeted to him. His previous low in seven years with the Redskins was 53 percent. He averaged 3.80 yards after the catch, compared to 5.37 in 2010, according to ESPN Stats. That’s a sharp decline.
• RB Evan Royster benefited from some soft fronts. The Eagles had eight or more defenders in the box on only four of his 20 rushes. He gained a total of seven yards on those four carries. Philadelphia had only six in the box on his 28-yard run.
• QB Rex Grossman was under duress for most of the game, and his mechanics and accuracy suffered as a result. This was one of those games in which his lack of mobility was a major detriment.
On Grossman’s interception, LB Brian Rolle looped around the right side of the offensive line and hit him during his follow-through. I’m not sure how the Redskins should have blocked that. Rolle did well taking advantage of a long-developing play, and the Redskins‘ protection scheme already was established. RB Evan Royster already was blocking to the left as a result of play-action.
Grossman didn’t play well against all the pressure, but he should get credit for standing in and absorbing some punishment. He took a heavy shot on his 22-yard completion over the middle to WR Santana Moss.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Grossman is the Week 1 starter next season, but, gosh, that would be a tough sell to fans and owner Daniel Snyder. If Grossman is the starter, that better be part of a more enticing plan.
• The Eagles realized early they could pressure the quarterback with only four rushers — always a formula for victory in the NFL. They rushed more than four on only eight of 46 dropbacks. The Redskins beat a six-man blitz with a screen pass that RB Roy Helu took 47 yards for a touchdown.