Redskins Quarterly Report Cards: Offense
QUARTERBACK: Robert Griffin III didn’t come back from his knee injury in week one in tip-top shape, something even the team and the player are now, for all intents and purposes, finally acknowledging. RG3‘s technique has been poor, his footwork sloppy and his accuracy erratic. He hasn’t been able to complete the long passes he did last year and the read option offense has been a non-starter because teams are no longer afraid of Griffin’s legs. They’ve been forcing Griffin to beat them with his arm and for most of the first quarter of the season he has been unable to do it. Griffin’s worst game, by far, was his first, the season opener against Philadelphia, when Griffin had trouble hitting routine pass patterns and turned the ball over repeatedly. Griffin committed only seven turnovers his rookie season, but he’s already got five this year. His passer rating has fallen from 102.4 to 85.5 and his QBR from 73.2 to 29.1. His yards per pass has declined by over a yard, which is significant statistic.
The good news for Redskins fans is that Griffin’s best game was his last, in week four, and there are signs he’s regaining his old form. To be sure, Griffin’s improvement came against a mediocre team, but Oakland’s defense is fairly good and the game was played on the road, so RG3‘s improvement cannot be discounted. Encouragingly, Griffin’s best plays against Oakland were when he was blitzed or under pressure, a key return to his 2012 form. Even more importantly, week four was Griffin’s first without a turnover — something he was known for in 2012.
POSITION GRADE: C-
RUNNING BACK: Apart from an awful opening game against the Eagles, Alfred Morris has been the same player he was last year — maybe better. Morris had fumble problems against Philly and it cost the team dearly. However, since then, Morris has returned to form. He hasn’t lost a fumble since that week one calamity and his yards per carry has risen from 4.8 last year to 5.3 this year — a half-yard boost. The problem is that Morris hasn’t been getting enough carries. Part of that is attributable to the rib injury that cost him much of the Raiders game, but most of it has been the deep holes the team has dug early with turnovers and bad defense. When down by multiple touchdowns in the first half, the Redskins have had to abandon the run and pass far too much. Consequently, Morris is averaging a mere 14 carries per game, far less than what the Redskins will require. With Morris apparently healed from the rib injury he sustained in Oakland, there is no reason the offense should not turn back to him and use him as the workhorse to win games, as they did last year.
Roy Helu hasn’t run particularly well this year, apart from his beautiful, zig-zag 13-yard touchdown scamper in Oakland, but if given enough chances he will break a run or two. What’s more, he’s the team’s most dangerous option as a receiver out of the backfield. He’s caught seven of the nine passes thrown to him this year, for 91 yards [13.0] and five first downs. Helu has received a fair amount of playing time this year, but the team probably isn’t him as much as it should. Of course, you don’t want to take Alfred Morris off the field too often, but when you do Helu should probably be a bigger part of the offense than he has been.
Darrel Young has not followed up his excellent 2012 season with an equally fine 2013. One of the biggest surprises of the season for me has been the uneven and mediocre performance of Young, who was a top blocking fullback last year. Young has not played more than 19 snaps in any one game this year and with his production lagging as it has been, it’s hard to justify more playing time for the team’s only fullback.
POSITION GRADE: B
RECEIVER: The Redskins finally have a healthy Pierre Garcon and he’s been terrific through the first four games. Though he hasn’t been helped by a very rusty RG3, Garcon has still managed to catch passes  at a pace that would set a franchise record if he could keep going at this pace. Garcon has been so important to the offense that he’s been on the field for all but 41 snaps this season and has 70 more snaps than any other wideout. He’s on pace to catch 116 passes for 1356 yards. Assuming RG3 knocks off the rust and continues to develop as a passer, Garcon may blow well past those numbers.
Josh Morgan has only nine catches on 14 targets and seven first downs. It’s no wonder he’s lost his starting job to Leonard Hankerson, who hasn’t exactly lit it up himself. In fact, Morgan is now really the #4 wideout, since his 100 snaps are far behind both Hankerson and Santana Moss. Hankerson and Morgan are probably also hindered by RG3‘s poor start, but the team needs more production out of its complementary wideouts. The Redskins have been desperately hoping Hankerson would turn into a true #2 receiver this year and it might happen, but has not yet. Veteran Santana Moss was doing a nice job in the slot this year, catching 15 passes in the first three weeks. However, Moss was shut out in Oakland and didn’t appear to be getting open very much at all. Hopefully, that was just a down game for Moss, who should probably snap back nicely against a weak Dallas secondary in game five. Aldrick Robinson has only 51 snaps this season and based on his production that might be 50 too many. Apart from dropping what would have been a game-changing touchdown pass against Detroit, Robinson has caught only one pass for six yards this year. He’s had six passes thrown his way, which is not much, and has done almost nothing with those passes. It may be time for the Redskins to move on.
RECEIVER POSITION GRADE: C+
TIGHT END: This was supposed to be the year Fred Davis stayed healthy, stayed clean and finally lived up this sizable potential to earn the sizable contract he wants. It hasn’t happened. And it very might may not happen at all. Apart from doing a lousy job run blocking, Davis has hardly gotten open at all and was particularly putrid in the first two games against the Eagles and Packers, dropping a pass in each contest. Davis missed the third game, allegedly because of injury, but some have speculated that he was simply benched for performance and for a lack of hard work in practice. Whatever the truth, Davis, who has only three catches for 25 yards, appears to have lost his starting job to veteran Logan Paulsen and rookie Jordan Reed, both of whom have more snaps from scrimmage even though Reed has also missed a game.
It’s not like Paulsen has been lighting the world on fire. He had a nice game against Detroit, but followed it up with a stinker in Oakland, getting dominated when he tried to block for the run or pass. He also didn’t block very well in the opener against Philly. Paulsen has two catches for 46 yards and he fumbled one of those catches away to the opposition. Paulsen has more snaps at this position than anyone else, but he hasn’t done much to earn it. He’s basically been on the field as much as he has because his competition has been so weak.
The rookie Reed leads the position with 13 catches and 15 targets on only 84 snaps, and he’s scored a touchdown. However, he’s averaging just over eight yards per catch, which isn’t good enough. Reed is a superior athlete who seems to get open almost whenever he wants it and has the ability to make big things happen after the catch. Getting Reed into space and making him a bigger part of the offense needs to be a priority for the coaching staff.
Niles Paul is averaging nine offensive snaps per game. He’s basically only on the team for his work on the kicking and punting teams.
TIGHT END POSITION GRADE: D
OFFENSIVE LINE: LG Kory Lichtensteiger would have been the weakest member of the offensive line last year except he plays on the same line as RT Tyler Polumbus. This year, Lichtensteiger has been the best member of that line. He’s been solid every week, committing no penalties — while drawing several — and giving up no sacks or even QB hits. The most defenses have been able to do against Lichtensteiger is get a couple of QB hurries, but that’s it. His run blocking has also been very good, particularly against the Packers in week two. Kory is controlling his man and getting to the second level consistently, doing precisely what the coaches need him to do. Running over Lichtensteiger’s position has been money in the bank so far this year.
The aforementioned Tyler Polumbus was my offensive line whipping boy in 2012 — and for good reason. Things have changed for the better. Although he struggled in the opening week, giving up a sack and four hurries, he has been solid since, yielding no sacks, four hurries and three QB hits the past three games. In fact, Polumbus was terrific in pass protection against Green Bay, where he often made mincemeat of Packers OLB Clay Matthews, and he had another good game against Detroit and its fearsome defensive line. It hasn’t been perfect — Polumbus was pretty lousy run blocking against the Raiders — but there is no doubt he’s made big strides since struggling so frequently last season.
Unfortunately, RG Chris Chester has gone in precisely the other direction. After a very solid 2012 season, Chester has gotten off to a bad start in 2013. Chester hasn’t been killing the team, he hasn’t given up a sack yet. However, he has given up a team-high 11 QB hurries, including five against the Raiders. However, it is in run blocking that Chester has taken a big step back. Chester opened very few holes against the Packers and even fewer against the Lions, when he hurt the team’s running game more than helped.
Center Will Montgomery was a top player at his position last year and while he isn’t playing at that level so far this year, he is improving. He had a bad game against the Packers and allowed four QB hurries against the Eagles, but he bounced back nicely against the Lions, clearing some big holes in the middle of the line of scrimmage. The bulk of Montgomery’s problems this year came in those first two games, when he gave up five of his six QB hurries and all four of his penalties. Since then he’s been clean and playing much better the past two games. If he can continue at that pace the Redskins offense should improve measurably over the rest of the season.
LT Trent Williams is easily the most physically gifted player on the line — maybe the entire offense, apart from RG3 — and he’s coming off the best year of his career. However, Williams has taken a step back this year on run blocking. He was dominated in the running game against Detroit’s defensive line and hasn’t really done much good work for the running backs all year. However, as a pass-blocker Williams is still elite. He has had no bad games as a pass-blocker in 2013 and three of his four games have been superb. He has committed two penalties, but also drawn several and has not yielded a sack in four games. Williams has given up only two QB hits and two QB hurries this year and in two games he kept pass-rushers away from RG3 entirely. There has been some press talk that Williams is having a down year, but that’s too simplistic. His run blocking isn’t up to snuff yet, but his pass-blocking has been as good or better than ever. On the line only Kory Lichtensteiger has played as well or better than Williams.
OFFENSIVE LINE POSITION GRADE: B+
OVERALL OFFENSE GRADE: C-