The Albert Haynesworth soap opera and the lopsided 23-3 score -- in favor of the Ravens -- have dominated the football headlines in D.C. since Sunday morning. I'll address the Haynesworth mess later in this post, but this is devoted to discussing the actual game on Saturday night.
The score is misleading, the Redskins played much better than 23-3. The first team defense held the Ravens offense in check despite being burdened with bad field position virtually the entire first half of the game. Talented Ravens running backs Ray Rice and Willis McGahee combined for 29 yards on 7 carries in the first half -- not shut down, but they certainly didn't take over the game. Ravens QB Joe Flacco was an undistinguished 9 of 16 for 72 yards. Baltimore's first half offense basically consisted of a 51-yard run off a fake punt that caught the Redskins completely unawares. My view of the fake punt is that it is a good thing for the Redskins because from now on the players will not need to hear Special Teams Coordinator Danny Smith barking at them to watch for fakes -- they'll be watching for fakes on their own.
The first team offense also did some good things, including converting three third downs on their opening drive. The offense showed a knack for making big plays and if they can eliminate some of the drops, they should be able to move the ball and score points.
Unfortunately, the first team offensive line needs to block better and pick up the blitz. Part of the team's problem with the blitz in the first half is that RB Larry Johnson is a terrible pass-blocker and he missed some assignments. However, LT Trent Williams got schooled a couple of times by All Pro pass-rushing linebacker Terrell Suggs, which really shouldn't surprise anyone. Williams has the physical ability to make those plays, he just needs to get smarter about his positioning and footwork.
The team was able to make plays down the field in the passing game, with wideouts Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong catching 8 passes for about 160 yards between them. Armstrong continues to impress, after having a fine training camp and catching a touchdown pass in the first preseason game. He would have had a second touchdown pass against the Ravens if QB Donovan McNabb had not under-thrown him on a deep post pattern.
Speaking up McNabb, he had an up and down game. He would have completed a higher percentage of his passes [11 of 26] if the protection had been better. On the other hand, he just threw some poor passes, including the long bomb completion to Armstrong. He threw one bad interception and could have had another. He also missed on another long pass on third down that should have gone for a touchdown. The points were there to be had, the Redskins just failed to get more of them because of poor pass protection and inaccuracy by McNabb.
In my Redskins-Ravens game preview last Saturday, I laid out the various things the Redskins needed to see on offense, defense and special teams. Let's review how those went.
Jammal Brown -- He didn't play long enough to really assess how healthy he is and how he's adjusting to NFL play [he missed all of 2009 with a hip injury] and the right tackle position. Still, he did get some game time and that's progress. We'll have to keep watching this in game three.
Larry Johnson -- He averaged 0.5 yards on 8 carries and while the blocking wasn't great, Clinton Portis managed to get 14 yards on 2 carries behind the same offensive line. Johnson doesn't look comfortable with the zone blocking scheme and there was too much dancing near the line of scrimmage. Portis was decisive with his cut-and-go. Johnson wasn't. The fact that he can't pass-block and isn't a threat as a receiver means Johnson needs to show something in the final two preseason games or I don't see how the Redskins can keep him.
Wide Receiver -- I wanted to see Devin Thomas build on his momentum and have a good game, but he reverted to form and disappeared. Apart from one very nice catch for 14 yards near the end of the first half, Thomas was a ghost. Speaking of ghosts, what's up with Joey Galloway? He has no receptions in two games? This guy is playing with the first string offense? Anthony Armstrong did take advantage of his opportunity, torching Baltimore's starting secondary for 82 yards on 4 catches in the first half. One of those catches should have been a 50-yard touchdown, but Armstrong had to come back for the ball and make a nice sliding catch inside the 10-yard line. Santana Moss had a bad drop, but otherwise owned the Ravens backfield, catching 4 passes for 79 yards. The Redskins still seem stuck with one or two real NFL wideouts, though. Armstrong does provide some hope.
Albert Haynesworth -- He had one sack in the second half, but that was entirely due to pass-rushing pressure from OLB Chris Wilson. For a guy bitching about having to play in the second half, you'd think Haynesworth would have dominated his inferior competition. He didn't He looked bored, pedestrian, ordinary. It's imperative that the Redskins not cut Haynesworth because that's giving him $31 million for 10 regular season games, but beyond the money, it sends a terrible message that players can whine their way off the team when the coaching staff requires them to do ordinary things like move to another position on the defensive line or pass a conditioning test. There were plenty of other veterans on the field in the second half for both teams, but the only one who complained about it was Haynesworth. Head Coach Mike Shanahan must stand firm. I'd have some respected veterans like London Fletcher, Phillip Daniels and Andre Carter approach Haynesworth and tell him his B.S. will no longer be tolerated by his teammates. After all, Fletcher, Daniels and Carter are all players who might have complained about being forced to learn a new defense this far into their careers, but none of them did so. They just learned the playbook, figured out their new roles and got on with their jobs. Like professionals. Haynesworth needs a tongue-lashing not from another coach, but from his teammates.
Weak-side linebacker -- I don't think we learned much this past weekend. Andre Carter and Lorenzo Alexander, who are battling for the starting job, both looked fine in their roles. Carter still looks better rushing the passer, Alexander looks better against the run and neither really looks comfortable in coverage. Since Carter is running with the starters, an indecisive result favors him.
Secondary -- We saw good performances from starting cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and DeAngelo Hall. Backup Justin Tryon had a nice game, breaking up a touchdown pass in the end zone and causing a fumble on a strip -- though the referees screwed up by taking the fumble away. Tryon needed a big performance to halt the momentum of players like Ramzee Robinson and Kevin Barnes, both of whom are ahead of him on the depth chart. The loss of starting free safety Kareem Moore for up to a month with a sprained MCL, a bad loss for the team. The Redskins have responded by signing Tyrone Carter, a 34-year-old free safety who won 2 Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Carter is familiar with the 3-4 defense Haslett is running and he still has something left in the tank -- he was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week after a victory over Denver last year when he intercepted two passes. Don't be surprised if Carter is starting in the season opener against Dallas. Hopefully, Moore will return not too long after that.
Long snapper -- Nick Sundberg has struggled mightily in practice with accuracy on his snaps, but he's played two good preseason games in a row. James Dearth is still lurking in the wings, but as long as Sundberg plays well in games and steadies himself during the week, he's probably going to hang on to the job.
Kick/Punt Returner -- Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin each returned a punt for minimal yardage, so I don't think anything was learned there. Each had a chance to take that job away from CB Phillip Buchanon, nickel back and presumed veteran leader in the punt returning sweepstakes. Devin Thomas may not have done much as a receiver, but his 36-yard return on a kickoff can only help his case to take over those duties. Keiland Williams and Terrence Austin did little with their opportunities.