Game film breakdowns from Rich Campbell - good stuff!

Redskins-Steelers Film Review: Offense
ANALYSIS/OPINION

My observations, analysis and conclusions about the Redskins’ offense after rewatching the TV broadcast of Washington’s 16-7 preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

QB Rex Grossman made the biggest impression on me at the stadium Friday with how efficiently he operated the offense, but RB Tim Hightower‘s performance was the most resounding offensive element upon review. After seeing him for two quarters, it’s clear he has the tools to be highly productive in coach Mike Shanahan‘s outside zone scheme. If Hightower consistently plays as he did Friday, the Redskins’ trade for him is an absolute steal.

Hightower was fast to the edge, properly diagnosed cutback lanes, pressed them effectively and exploded upfield. He was physical in finishing his runs and protected the ball. He also made a few tacklers miss on occasion. Ryan Torain is the only other back who has done anything remotely similar in a Redskins’ uniform in Shanahan’s scheme. It helped that the offensive line’s run blocking was much improved from last season, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Hightower was excellent in pass protection, too. I noted four quality pass blocks, including a blitz pick-up on the 4th-and-1 pass that Grossman converted early in the second quarter. Hightower recognized blitzers, squared them up and initiated contact. At the risk of overreacting to one half of a preseason football game for which there was minimal game planning, I’m sold.

Redskins wide receiver Donte Stallworth (19) tries to haul in a pass while Steelers safety Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith (42) defends him, during the first half of a preseason game between the Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers, at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., Friday, Aug. 12, 2011. (Drew Angerer/The Washington Times)
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Back to Rex. His timing and rhythm are what stood out. He repeatedly dropped back, planted his feet and got rid of the ball on time. It was fluid and smooth. That comes with knowing the offense and being comfortable with your receivers.

Grossman’s efficiency limited the Steelers‘ pass rush because they often didn’t have sufficient time to get to the quarterback. Note that Washington never threw any deep passes from a straight dropback. Anything long came on rollouts. Grossman’s sharp timing also helped cover for offensive line mistakes. Even when linemen were beaten, he consistently got the ball out before it led to further damage.

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One thing I noticed about Grossmanthat has carried over from last season: He doesn’t seem comfortable stepping up in the pocket when pressured. He likes to drift away from pressure and the line of scrimmage, which sometimes leads to throws off his back foot or otherwise off-balance passes. Even on the touchdown pass to WR Santana Moss, Grossman sensed heat after catching the low shotgun snap. He threw it over the middle while falling away. Moss was wide open, so it didn’t make a difference, but that can lead to interceptions. Keep an eye out for that.

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Redskins-Steelers Film Review: Defense
ANALYSIS/OPINION:

My observations, analysis and conclusions about the Redskins’ defense after rewatching the TV broadcast of Washington’s 16-7 preseason victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers:

The first-string front three of RDE Stephen Bowen, NT Barry Cofield and LDE Adam Carriker are a clear upgrade from last year’s group that included NT Ma'ake Kemoeatu and RDE Kedric Golston. The new trio should be better, of course, given the money the Redskins spent to bring in Cofield and Bowen, but that’s the most important point to take away from Friday’s game.

Cofield settled in after getting pushed back by a double team on the first play of the game, a run for 4 yards. Not only did he anchor OK, but he showed a couple of pass rushing moves — a swim move and a spin move — that Kemoeatu simply didn’t have in his repertoire. He helped push the pocket on the Steelers‘ second pass of the game, and QB Ben Roethlisberger checked down to the flat for only a 3-yard gain. Cofield also shed his blocker and helped LOLB Ryan Kerrigan stop the ball carrier for a loss on third-and-1 against Pittsburgh’s second string.

And for those of you wondering where Cofield’s Taser Dance was on Friday, don’t worry, you didn’t miss it. “I’m saving that for the regular season,” he said afterward. “It’ll be there, I promise.”

Bowen’s highlight was third-down sack of QB Byron Leftwich. That the Steelers, ahem, didn’t block him made his job just a tad easier. The center and running back both slid towards blitzing CB Kevin Barnes, which allowed Bowen to come free. Bowen stayed on the field in sub packages and slid inside, while Cofield came out of the game.

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Things were far from perfect up front, though. Take Pittsburgh RB Isaac Redman’s 22-yard touchdown run. LDE Adam Carriker initially was double-teamed, but he failed to sustain his block against C Doug Legursky, who released to the second level and blocked ILB Rocky McIntosh out of the play. Defensive linemen in this scheme have to occupy multiple blockers on running plays and allow the linebackers to flow to the ball. On the touchdown, it didn’t happen.

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While we’re on the subject of the line, second-round rookie DE Jarvis Jenkins flashed potential but also had his rookie moments. Coaches have harped on Jenkins‘ technique and leverage, and we saw both good and bad on consecutive plays during Pittsburgh’s second drive.

Second-and-6 from the Steelers‘ 24: Jenkins‘ first mistake was being slow off the snap. And when he finally went to engage RT Willie Colon, he practically stood straight up. Colon easily got underneath Jenkins‘ pads and pushed him back. Because Jenkins allowed himself to be blocked one-on-one, the tight end on that side released through and blocked ILB London Fletcher. Again, linemen have to keep the linebackers clean, and Jenkins broke down.

However, he was much better on the next play. He anchored at the point of attack, allowing OLB Brian Orakpo time to get around the right edge and chase RB Isaac Redman down from behind. The result: no gain.

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