Monday Observations: RG3, Skins out of sync; defense looks lost
The Redskins are a mess. RG3 especially. Washington, blown out in the first half of both games this season, might be wise to rest its out-of-sync quarterback in favor of backup Kirk Cousins until he gets right.
Every season there are teams that do little more than deceive. They rack up yards in garbage time and create the illusion of close scores that belie just how flawed they are.
I can't help wondering if the Redskins will be that team for 2013. It's still very early and Robert Griffin III is clearly not himself. He's not anything close to it. While he very well might get better as the season goes on, you have to wonder how long that takes and if or when he will roam like the uber-confident athlete of old. The Redskins seem to be shunning what they do best -- the pistol -- in order to try to keep Griffin upright, which is noble, but this offense is brutal right now (and don't even get me started on the defense; plenty to come on that).
In fact, if this is the kind of offense they want to run, I would be getting darn close to letting backup Kirk Cousins run it and rest RG3 through the bye week and see if he can regain his spark with rest and rehab. It's really that bad. Don't be fooled by the padded stats and seeing 300-yard days; go with the eye test, the lack of a follow through, the balls off the back foot, the happy feet, the hesitancy to fire through his throws.
The yardage and points are coming well after these games are out of reach, defenses are sitting back and the pressure is off. The first halves of the first two games -- against defenses that have been far from ferocious recently -- have been abject failures. Coordinator Kyle Shanahan hasn't been able to establish the run, which should be their hallmark, with Alfred Morris rushing only 15 times total in the two first halves. While I can't imagine a Mike Shanahan team won't get that zone scheme cranking, there is ample cause for concern here.
Washington has been outscored 50-7 in the first half. The only score was a defensive touchdown (after a backward pass by the Eagles that may not have been a backward pass). They have a total of eight first downs, 230 net yards, 160 passing yards and have converted just two third downs. Balls sail high and wide. No one seems all that certain where they should be. It is a total and complete cluster. Griffin is 11 for 24 for 160 yards and two interceptions for a whopping rating of 33.3. Sans the read-option looks, the Skins suddenly seem pretty predictable, and RG3 clearly isn't healthy enough to be exploding away from defenders. Maybe that changes ... but maybe by that point it's too late.
As for the Redskins defense, um, I'm wondering if coordinator Jim Haslett will make it through the season at this point (secondary coach Raheem Morris, like Haslett a former head coach, is very tight with Kyle Shanahan and could be an in-season replacement if need be). Sure, they have faced some unique offenses in the Eagles and Packers. But when DeAngelo Hall is your best corner, your safeties don't seem NFL caliber and your pass rush might be improved but still has to prove it, well, that could be a combination teams exploit weekly (the Lions surely will seek to do so in Week 3).
So, Washington has surrendered 693 yards and 38 first downs in the first half, with opponents converting 16 of 21 third-down chances. Yeah, you read that correctly. Of those 693 yards, 525 of them have come through the air. Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers have combined to complete 39 of 52 passes and five touchdowns, no interceptions and a 139 rating in their combined first-half performances.
But the Skins are at least OK against the run, no? Um, not so much. After being rushed into action following Eddie Lacy's concussion, James Starks (remember him?) easily went over 100 yards Sunday for the first time in his career. Opposing backs have rushed 35 times for 206 yards (5.9 per carry) in the first half.
So far, in merely the first half of games, the Skins have already allowed a 300-yard passer, a 100-yard rusher and three 100-yard receivers (I'm counting the 96 yards Randall Cobb had Sunday). James Jones had nine catches for 152 yards in the first half Sunday and DeSean Jackson tore them up in the opener, and could have gone for 300 if Chip Kelly didn't stop throwing the ball in the second half.
Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford have to be loving this. It's still early enough, sure, but it might start getting late early if the Redskins don't manage a total reversal on both sides of the ball.
Rams need big plays
The Rams have an elite pass rush, but it hasn't been translating to better pass defense overall, which I didn't expect.
Matt Ryan carved them up Sunday in the first half, and despite getting after Carson Palmer in Week 1, the Cardinals were effective through the air as well. St. Louis doesn't mind gambling and last year it resulted in a series of big plays, pick-sixes and momentum-shifting sequences.
That's something they'll have to get back to, especially at home in that dome, to keep pace in what will be a highly competitive NFC. They need Janoris Jenkins to be a difference maker.
Andrew Luck continues to have to pick up his feet, move around and scramble for key first downs. The Colts offense hasn't been up to 2012 form through two games. Indianapolis is lucky not to be winless and has looked shaky at home, where the Colts had a certain mojo working last season.
I'm starting to wonder if there might be a bit of a sophomore slump going on. There is still tremendous talent but I'm not sure the attempts to beef up the offensive line are going to be effective enough. Owner Jim Irsay has already made it clear they might need to trade for a running back, keeping their tight ends healthy might be a chore and it seems like the Texans, though playing flawed football themselves, just keep finding crazy ways to win.
If the Colts can't win more at the line of scrimmage and sustain a ball-control game, I have some reservations about them being able to ride the kind of wave they did a year ago to creep up on opponents. And this from a guy who picked them to win the division.
Chargers' big victory
Major kudos to Chargerscoach Mike McCoy and GM Tom Telesco on their first win Sunday. The team flew cross country to meet the high-flying Eagles fresh off a devastating Monday night loss at home, giving the game back to the Texans the way the Chargers have done so often in recent years.
Unlike those Chargers teams, this one didn't wallow. Even when the Eagles rallied and weird stuff happened, as it tends to for them -- like Antonio Gates being stripped at the goal line. They kept fighting and won it on a long Nick Novak field goal with time running out.
Philip Rivers seems to have himself back in form, Eddie Royal has emerged as a real weapon in this offense and Gates is healthier than he has been in years. I have concerns about the defense, and we'll see how this team -- older in some key spots -- holds up over 16 weeks, but give it up to the AFC West, at least through two weeks.
If the Colts don't barely hold off the Raiders in Week 1, and the Chargers don't give that one away against Houston, then the West would be undefeated.
• Teams are going to keep attacking Browns right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, particularly all the able pass rushers in the AFC North. That's going to be a problem. And Cleveland's "skill" players have been every bit as poor as I thought they might, dropping balls and failing to connect. Coordinator Norv Turner can only do so much. Maybe I am missing something, but running back Trent Richardson still looks more like a plodder to me than someone truly explosive in the open field.
• Conversely, the Browns defense continues to impress and they may have one of the best run defenses in the NFL. They have totally stuffed Miami and Baltimore on the ground.
• The Eagles defense over the past six quarters has looked an awful lot like the hapless bunch I thought they would be. If they can't get off the field, then ain't no way the Eagles are running 90 plays a game or whatever. They have problems all over that side of the ball.
Grab some turkey and get ready for this NFC North showdown
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