The Washington Redskins opened up the 2014 season with a new head coach and a new outlook on offense, defense and special teams. That said, it was uncertain what to expect heading into their first game of the year.
Fresh off a new six-year, $100 million contract all eyes were on Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, and for good reason. The fourth-year, two-time Pro Bowler played a big role in Houston’s 17-6 victory. His strong defensive effort included three tackles, five quarterback hits, one pass defended, a blocked extra point and fumble recovery.
Here are some of the positives and negatives the Redskins can take away from today’s game:
- Strong running game
Alfred Morris and Roy Helu were in midseason form. Morris ran for 91 yards and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Helu gained 46 yards on four carries and also caught two passes for 15 yards. Morris was effective, using his good vision and ability to bounce off of defenders. When needed to provide a change of pace, Helu did just that. Even with DeSean Jackson’s -9-yard run, the team still averaged 5.7 yards per carry.
- Andre Roberts’ special teams presence
Brought on this offseason to be the team’s number two wide receiver, Andre Roberts has accepted the role of third wide receiver and primary punt and kickoff returner. He displayed good vision and speed to return two punts for 36 yards and two kickoffs for 56 yards. He also caught one pass for 22 yards.
- Tress Way has a stronger leg than anticipated
Claimed off waivers from the Chicago Bears just one day prior to the Redskins’ final preseason game in Tampa Bay, Way is a relative unknown. Having beat out Robert Malone, Way’s debut Sunday was a solid one, booting five punts for 61, 58, 44, 38, and 45 yards for an average of 49.2 yards per punt.
- Run defense showed signs of life
Washington’s front seven, specifically the line, was the strongest unit on the defensive side of the ball. Barry Cofield and Chris Baker were able to get penetration and Jason Hatcher showed flashes, getting his first sack of the season. Hatcher ended the day with five tackles, two quarterback hits, one sack, one tackle for loss and a pass defended. Arian Foster ran for 103 yards but the Texans averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
Mistakes were the biggest undoing of the Redskins today. Robert Griffin III fumbled twice, losing it once to Watt. With most of the game’s action taking place at the end of the second quarter, three drives resulted in scores for both teams. The Redskins couldn’t fully enjoy fullback Darrel Young’s one-yard touchdown, which put the team up 6-0. The extra point was blocked by none other than the $100 million man, J.J. Watt.
Four plays after the botched extra point attempt, Ryan Fitzpatrick launched a pass to DeAndre Hopkins, who worked his way around Redskins safety Bacarri Rambo for the 76-yard score. With the extra point converted, the Redskins never regained the lead. The Redskins went three-and-out on the next drive, which ended with a punt blocked by Texans rookie Alfred Blue, who returned it five yards for a touchdown to give Houston a 14-6 lead.
Washington’s biggest opportunity at building momentum came when Griffin completed a 48-yard pass to tight end Niles Paul. That, however, resulted in a fumble by Paul at Houston’s nine-yard line. That play changed the offensive outlook for the rest of the game. The Redskins offense also went 3 for 12 on third downs, a stat that will have to improve in order to keep drives alive and their defense fresh.
- No offensive rhythm
With Watt being a big factor, the Redskins were simply outmatched when it came to pass protection. Despite his ability to scramble, Griffin was hit 14 times and sacked three. Some of that was due to holding on to the ball too long but mostly to the line’s inability to contain Watt and this year’s number one overall pick Jadeveon Clowney. The offense also failed to try a deep pass until less than nine minutes in the game when Griffin threw an incompletion to Pierre Garcon near the end zone. While Garcon was consistent and productive catching the ball, his plays were short and did not stretch the field. DeSean Jackson also failed to stretch the defense and tried to gain yardage by running east to west multiple times.
After running wild on Houston’s offensive line, Barry Cofield left the game with ankle injury and didn’t return. Tight end Jordan Reed also left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury after catching a four-yard pass and being flipped in mid-air. Hatcher left with an apparent ankle injury but returned to the game. Baker also left and reportedly said he is fine after getting the wind knocked out of him.
The last two injuries don’t appear to be serious but Jordan Reed’s health is vital to making the offense dynamic. The defensive line also can’t afford to have too many players go down in one game, especially when they’re performing at a high level and creating good pressure.