For the second time in as many weeks, Redskins cornerbacks and safeties reinforced doubts about their ability to support the team’s defensive linemen and linebackers. The Bengals repeatedly torched Washington’s secondary for big plays.
In preparation for Sunday’s game, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett emphasized coverage fundamentals, with defensive backs spending additional time working on their man-to-man technique during practice. Judging from the results, Haslett and his staff will have to start all over again.
Although outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and lineman Adam Carriker are out for the season, the Redskins’ defensive problems appear much more significant than the absence of two talented starters. Haslett faces personnel issues that might not be fixable before the offseason.
The news on offense was more encouraging, though still mixed.
Shanahan and his offensive coordinator son Kyle made effective adjustments at halftime, but only after Griffin was hit repeatedly, whether in the pocket or on designed runs, as the Redskins struggled to establish the rhythm essential to the option offense the Shanahans designed to capitalize on Griffin’s athleticism.
The Redskins missed left tackle Trent Williams, who played little after suffering a knee injury in the first quarter. The bigger concern for the coaching staff, though, is that the Bengals were able to attack Griffin with their defensive ends.
One game isn’t enough to tell if the rest of the league has caught on to the Redskins’ plan. The Bengals, however, certainly seemed to have a good idea of what to do against Griffin.
A lot went wrong for the Redskins. Let’s look at why.
Griffin is great at confusing and misleading defensive ends and linebackers, which is the key element of the Redskins’ version of the read option. Depending on the alignment of the defense and how ends and linebackers react after the snap, Griffin has options.
The Bengals’ ends were outstanding at making their reads. On many plays, Cincinnati’s ends followed Griffin instead of pursuing running backs on faked inside handoffs. Washington’s offensive line also lost too many individual battles, resulting in Griffin winding up on his back while he was in the process of pitching the ball.
Williams is one of the league’s most athletic tackles. The Shanahans rely on him to provide big running lanes on option runs. Without Williams, Griffin had more difficulty getting to the edge on designed runs.
Griffin led the Redskins with 85 yards rushing and averaged 7.1 yards per carry. But he was hit way too much, including six sacks. There’s a cumulative effect to the punishment Griffin has received. Don’t expect it to add up well for him or the Redskins.