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Inconsistent Redskins suffer from lost opportunities, blown coverage

Inconsistent Redskins suffer from lost opportunities, blown coverage

Last week, the Redskins played pretty well defensively but couldn’t generate enough offense to beat the 49ers.

Today in Indianapolis they moved the ball pretty well but they let Andrew Luck throw five touchdown passes, most of them to receivers who were wide open as the result of apparent blown coverages.

The bottom line was the same as it was in San Francisco, another notch in the loss column for the Redskins, this one by a score of 49-27. The Redskins are now 3-9 and assured of their fifth losing season in the last six years.

Quarterback Colt McCoy, who started in place of a healthy Robert Griffin III, did his part, particularly in the second half. He completed 31 of 47 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns. The fifth-year pro was sacked six times for 51 yards in losses.

But there were moments when McCoy and the offense could have helped the cause and couldn’t do so. The Redskins defense forced two turnovers in Indy territory on the first two Colts series of the game but all Washington could muster was six plays, no first downs, and three points.

“It looked like we were sleepwalking out of the huddle,” said Redskins coach Jay Gruden. “Just not a very spirited performance on offense in my opinion.”

This is on the heels of their game last week when they managed to turn three 49ers turnovers into just three points. When your defense is struggling and gives you a golden opportunity to put points on the board, you have to punch it in.

It may not have mattered. Once Andrew Luck got going it appeared the Colts could score at will. The Redskins helped him out considerably by leaving his receivers wide open on several occasions.

“I don’t know,” said Gruden when asked why the issues, which have been happening during games to varying degrees much of the season, kept recurring. “We addressed that in the locker room. One’s a basic three-deep call and we didn’t have anybody in the deep third. One’s a cover two call and we don’t have a safety playing a half. Players have to step up and start taking some accountability at some point and we have to do a better job coaching, that’s all I can say. To have guys wide open on plays like that is unheard of on simple, basic calls.”

Luck threw touchdown passes of 30, 48, 73, and 79 yards.

Compounding the issues with coverage was the Redskins inability to get any consistent pass pressure on Luck. On the first play from scrimmage Ryan Kerrigan sacked Luck, stripped the ball, and Jason Hatcher recovered to set up a field goal. After that Luck dropped back 27 times, was not sacked again, and usually had all the time he needed to do the damage he needed to do.

How bad was it? Luck averaged 13.7 yards per pass attempt today. That’s the highest ever against the Redskins for a game where the quarterback threw 25 or more passes.

It should be noted that the Redskins were working short handed, with nickel back E. J. Biggers out with a concussion and safety Brandon Meriweather missing some time with an injury as well.

But injuries happen in the NFL and you are only as good as your depth. And it appears that at least some of the blown coverage issues were on starters and more experienced players and not on kids.

The Redskins have four games between now and an offseason where many needs will need to be addressed and many questions will need to be answered. All they can do now is try to fix the coverage issues, figure out how to punch the ball into the end zone after takeaways, and try to steal a win or two.

“Consistency is a big part of football,” said Gruden. “Teams can look good for a quarter, a drive, or a half or a coupe of game, even. The really good teams can do it week in and week out.”

Right now instead of consistency the Redskins have an offense that is broken one week and works the next and a defense that displays the same patter on the opposite schedule.

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

The Redskins aren’t in the quarterback business, so it’s highly unlikely that they will look to trade up in the first round of the draft on Thursday. But their phones will be open for business to move down. 

Speaking at the team’s pre-draft press conference, Doug Williams didn’t rule out trading up from the team’s first-round spot at 13thoverall but he doesn’t think it’s likely. 

“The chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down,” he said. 

Williams said that the phones in the room will be ringing and that they will listen to any offers. But usually the team that wants to move up initiates the call and because the Redskins are set at one particular position they probably won’t pick up the phone. 

“If we were in the quarterback business, which is what this league is about, if we were in the heavy quarterback business we’d talk about moving up,” he said. “At this time, we can sit back and see what comes up if we stay at 13.”

The Redskins are set at quarterback after they traded their third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller for veteran Alex Smith to replace the departed Kirk Cousins. Williams thinks that the Redskins already got good value from the pick. 

“When I think about Alex Smith, I say we got the best third-round pick in the draft,” he said. “I don't care what nobody says. You can't get a better third-round pick.”

Because they think they got a good player, albeit an older one, with that pick, the Redskins are not necessarily looking to make a deal to move back and recoup that pick on draft day. 

Williams emphasized that in order to move back, you have to have a team that wants to trade up. Often that is easier said than done. 

“They don’t just call you to ask you, they have to get a player that they want,” said Williams. “At that particular time, they’re afraid that somebody else might pick him. They might call you to ask you if you want to move back . . . If we move back, that’s because somebody called us to see if we want to move back.”

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.