FEDEX FIELD -- The Mark Sanchez era as the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins has begun. Fine, maybe it’s not an era, but a stretch of games that may only last four regular season games (assuming he avoids the injury curse). If the Redskins, 6-6 entering Sunday, plan on pushing their way into the postseason, they cannot afford to lose a home game.
Well, the Sanchez era did not lost long. In his first start since 2015, Sanchez was benched in the third quarter for Josh Johnson, who was signed by the Redskins just four days ago. It did not matter who was playing quarterback, as Washington fell in a lopsided affair, 40-16.
Here are the highs and lows from the game...
Giants at Redskins: Highs and Lows
HIGHS: Tress Way averaged 48.0 yards on three punts, all of which resulted in the Giants started at or inside their 25-yard line. Yes, it was that kind of offensive quarter where the punter deserves a spotlight acknowledgment. This might be the game, should the Redskins win, where Way locks down Washington’s Player of the Year honors.
Defensively, the Redskins shutout out New York’s Beckham-less offense during the opening 15 minutes. Washington held dynamic rookie runner Saquon Barkley to six yards on three carries. Daron Payne sacked Eli Manning on a 3rd-and-3 play. As long as the Redskins’ offense doesn’t give away the ball, this looks like a defensive struggle (Hold that thought).
Not sure if this is a high, low or just an interesting note, but the Redskins started rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton at inside linebacker next to Mason Foster. Zach Brown missed some work this week with an illness. Remember that beyond all the social aspects of the Reuben Foster signing, Washington claimed a young ILB off waivers despite all the potential heat. That move signals the Redskins are looking for more at the position at least long-term.
LOWS: Immediately after the Payne sack, New York punter Riley Dixon pinned Washington at its own two-yard line. After Adrian Peterson lost a yard on first down, Sanchez dropped back to pass on second down with 2:52 remaining in the period. Gulp. The pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted by safety Curtis Riley, who returned it nine yards for a defensive touchdown.
It’s certainly possible that score is more than Washington’s offense can overcome. The Redskins dropped one, maybe two of Sanchez’s throws, and committed five penalties in the first quarter. They need a clean performance from the other 10 players on the field considering Sanchez’s limitations.
Injury note: Jordan Reed went to the locker room with an ankle injury. He's "questionable" to return. We’ll leave it at that for now.
HIGHS: Way continued his strong outing with three more long punts, two of which pinned the Giants inside the 25. That’s 49.4 yards on seven kicks. Nice, but let’s move on.
LOWS: So much for slowing down Barkley. He wowed with a thrilling 78-yard touchdown run, breaking an inside run to open space down the left side after a block on Foster created a huge lane. Barkley wasn’t done. He finished the half with 159 yards on 10 carries.
Also not done, New York’s offensive onslaught. Manning threw a three-yard TD pass to Sterling Shepard after Sanchez’s second interception of the half, and then tossed a six-yarder to Bennie Fowler.
Aldrick Rosas kicked a 23-yard field goal on the final play of the half for a 34-0 lead. True story.
There is ugly and there is that first half for the Redskins. New York outgained Washington 284 to 51. This wasn’t all on Sanchez, but he finished 5 of 13 for 0 yards with two interceptions. That’s a 7.1 QB-rating. Yikes. Wonder if we see a Josh Johnson sighting in the second half. No, I’m not joshing.
Injury update: Reed downgraded to “doubtful” with that foot injury. Sounds about right.
HIGHS: More punter talk. Way bumped his average to 51.1 on eight punts. This is the “highs” section, options are limited and Way is killing it. Enough said.
So much for the aforementioned Sanchez era. It barely lasted a half of football. After another offensive drive of nothingness, the Redskins sat their new-ish QB midway through the third for a guy who was signed Wednesday. Yes, Josh Johnson took live snaps. What a world. However, he moved the ball thanks to a blend of mobility and completed passes (4 of 6 for 32 yards). But…
LOWS: …The quarter ended with Johnson stopped for one yard on a 4th-and-2 play from New York’s 22. So much for getting on the scoreboard. Based on that drive, Johnson is the clear Week 15 starter.
Speaking of scoring, Manning threw his third touchdown pass, an 11-yarder to Russell Shepard with 5:38 remaining in the quarter. Rosas missed the extra point, so New York only increased its lead to 40-0.
Injury update: Reed goes from “questionable” to “doubtful” to out with that foot injury.
HIGHS: Finally, some honest to goodness positive moments not involving Way, though he finished with an impressive 51.1 average on eight punts.
Josh Johnson did good work, for the most part. Sure, his touchdown run after a Mason Foster interception and 79-yard scoring play to Jamison Crowder along with a pair of two-point conversions came in garbage time. Yes, the Giants’ defense played soft with a massive lead. They also picked off a Johnson pass near their goal line with Washington threatening to score a third touchdown in the quarter.
With all those low bar qualifications, Johnson looked decent. Most of the throws were underneath, including a short dart that Crowder legged out for the longest TD of his career. Johnson finished 11 of 16 for 195 yards, one touchdown and one interception, along with 45 rushing yards and an 8-yard scoring run. Expect Johnson to start Sunday at Jacksonville.
LOWS: This entry is less about the final 15 minutes and more about the game. Washington’s losing streak reached four. This stunk more than the others did, yet was the most predictable considering the QB concerns. Maybe not trailing by 40 points, but the Redskins were a home underdog against a four-win team for a reason.
Neither Sanchez nor Johnson had anything to do with the defense getting gashed on the ground and through the air; Manning had three TD passes and Barkley finished with 197 yards from scrimmage. Call it a scheme issue, or blame effort, or whatever, but the defense collectively hasn’t looked sharp for a month. Maybe if they hold up in the second quarter and enter halftime only down 13-0 the offense finds a way to rally.
That’s just wishful thinking, at least with Sanchez at quarterback. Maybe there’s hope with Johnson going forward. Then again, he was slated to join to the San Diego Fleet of the Alliance of American Football before joining Washington. He’s unlikely the answer to anything more than the question of who was the Redskins’ fourth starting quarterback in 2018. At 6-7, it’s probably time to start focusing on who plays the position in 2019. Anyway, see you in Jacksonville.
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