Monday, October 20, 2008

Redskins Report Card: Week 7 vs. Cleveland Browns

Redskins 14, Browns 11

Offense: B-

Clinton Portis is obviously some sort of ball-carrying cyborg, because there's no way a human could do this. Seriously, he gets better and better every week; I'm expecting a 400-yard game in mid-December. He did, however, have a late fumble that could've turned him into a goat despite his great day, so they get downgraded for that. Even so, a great day for the running game.

I'm still a little annoyed at the passing game, though. The 'Skins haven't been able to put together a strong aerial attack either of these past two games, which were both against defenses that aren't particularly strong. If anything, Washington moved the ball worse through the air against Cleveland than they had against the Rams, but Portis' rushing attack helped us to forget that.

The offense was also able to generally avoid the turnovers that cost them a win last week, and I'm happy to see that. Most importantly, they scored enough points to win.

Defense: B+

The defense had another very nice game, holding the Browns to 236 total yards. They held the Browns to 11 points, another fine accomplishment. But I have two issues with the way they played, and while neither is really cause for concern, they're both factors that contributed to their grade being a B+ rather than an A-.

First, turnovers. They didn't force any. I like that the Redskins play great defense and are able to force punt after punt, holding the opposition's score way down. But the value of turnovers has been evident specifically for this team, when they had the turnover-free 5-game stretch to start the season. Getting a quick momentum shift or giving your offense great field position is extremely valuable. The Redskins defense needs to afford their offense those kinds of luxuries. A couple weeks ago I praised the Skins for being able to keep the Eagles in check without getting any big plays. But you've got to give your offense a spark from time to time, or you'll get run over when you face an offense less anemic than the Browns'.

Second, and this was something that came up in the Eagles game as well, their pass coverage on Braylon Edwards wasn't stellar. It was usually pretty good, and they prevented him from taking over the game, but Edwards was at least as much the reason for that. I didn't keep an official count, but I think he dropped about six hundred passes on Sunday. Alright, maybe not, but he had at least 4 first-down passes in his hands that he dropped. When Washington plays guys like Randy Moss, Hines Ward, and the terrible twosome in Cincinnati, that's not going to happen. There's still work to be done on defense.

Special Teams: C

I like that they got Santana Moss involved in the return game again, but it's obvious he's out of practice. Antwaan Randle El is doing alright at punt returns, but I still think there's got to be someone else you can use there. Rock Cartwright continues to be the team's most valuable special teamer, and deserves his captain distinction.

Statistically, the punts were worse than the past few games, but they just felt better. He also put a pair of punts inside the 20, and I love that. Hopefully Plackemeier only gets better with more practice, and the punting game can be a strength, rather than the weakness that it's been.

Speaking of Plackemeier and practice, it's probably a good idea to force feed the field goal team with tons of reps to get that settled down. I wouldn't have a problem if they wanted to put Collins in there as the holder either, since he's got years of experience at it. It'd also give them a little more firepower on a potential fake, should they ever decide to run one.

Overall: B

It wasn't a well-played game by the Redskins. They had a good defensive performance against a team that seemed to have reverted to its pre-Giants-game self. They still had trouble generating points and generating turnovers, and they need some obvious work on special teams. Still, a win is a win, and I'm always happy with a win, so the grade gets padded just a little bit.

By the way, in case you didn't watch it, this game was a yawn-fest. Eleven first-half punts will do that.

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