Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

3-and-out: Redskins-Cardinals post game quick hits

September 09, 2018 - 10:17 pm

106.7 The Fan Redskins beat reporter Craig Hoffman was in the press box at State Farm Stadium as the Washington Redskins took on the Arizona Cardinals for Week 1 of the NFL season. He combined his observations with post-game interviews to write his top-three takeaways from this week in football:

The Redskins were thoroughly dominant in Jay Gruden’s first season-opening win as a head coach. They established the run, kept running and were excellent situationally. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more than enough.

1. Players matter – The whole offense changes when Jordan Reed plays. The attention he draws is remarkable. Look at Chris Thompson’s receiving touchdown. Reed lines up tight to the left, the same side where Thompson lines up. As Reed pushes vertically, he takes three defenders with him and Thompson runs a whip route underneath. With all eyes on Reed, no one is outside and Thompson has a footrace to the pylon

Add that to the actual Reed catches and additional confusion he caused and you begin to understand the value he has. Similarly, Thompson’s ability to pick up first downs on third downs is a complete game-changer. He was exceptional, gaining 128 total yards nearly dead evenly split between the ground and the air.

2. Scheme matters – When coaches say “we were vanilla” in the preseason, and you don’t know what they mean just compare today’s offense to the Redskins in August. The variety in personnel and formation variance was stunning, and it’s hellish on a defense. The Redskins broke the huddle multiple times with what looks like “jumbo” personnel. They had three tight ends, one running back and one receiver. Except that running back was Thompson, and he split out wide in a trips set with the receiver (often Trey Quinn) and Jordan Reed. Vernon Davis and Jeremy Sprinkle lined up tight to the other side. They were both jumbo and empty. Trying to figure out what an offense is going to do out of that is a total guessing game.

“I think we have a ton of guys with unique skillsets,” Smith said at the post-game podium. “I think really credit coach for allowing all the guys to use them.” It’s almost an exact inverse of the above Gruden quote. The truth is that good scheme accentuates great players.

The fun part? Gruden and his staff will build on it. Eventually, the exact same looks that got Reed and Thompson open will draw defenses that open up deeper shots to Richardson and Doctson. They’ll open up Davis on some poor linebacker trying to run with him. The first half was dominant, but because the defense was there to match, they never even had to go to their counterpunches.

3. Hello early season defense, again – The Redskins were actually terrific early last season on defense. They were that again today. While a late drive against a mix of starters and backups prevented the team’s first shutout since 1991, the Cardinals looked hopeless all day. Time will tell if that is because the Cardinals are actually hopeless, but the Redskins were all over everything they did.

Mason Foster told me after the game that he felt like he had seen everything Arizona tried, specifically on 3rd down. That’s impressive preparation considering this was offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s first game for the Cardinals. Clearly, the DBs were prepared, too. They jumped routes all day and held Bradford to a piddling 11 yards passing in the first half. Eleven.

It’s no coincidence that the Redskins early season defensive success came in a game where they dominated running the ball. It’s easier to play well when you’re fresh every series. David Johnson took the blame on the Arizona side for not moving the chains and putting his defense in a bad spot. Meanwhile, Ryan Kerrigan said “It was so cool to see us running the ball like that…kudos to our offense for keeping us off the field.”

The Redskins ran 75 plays. The Cardinals ran 51. It mattered.

Stat of the day: Adrian Peterson’s late 52-yard catch put him at 166 yards from scrimmage on the day. Chris Thompson had 65 yards rushing and 63 yards receiving, giving him 128 total yards for the day. The last time two Redskins backs had more than 125 yards from scrimmage was in 2006, when Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis got loose against Houston in 2006. Portis had a 74-yard catch to help him get there while Betts ran for 126 yards on just 16 carries.

Oddly enough, two Redskins, Stephen Davis and Rod Gardner, both went for more than 125 yards from scrimmage against the Cardinals in the 2002 season opener.

Quote of the day: "They didn’t catch the full routine,” Jordan Reed said of his warmup that was caught on camera and has become an instant internet sensation. “It’s actually like a minute long. That’s just firing my body up, betting ready for movement."

I could go into a long diatribe about exactly what Reed is doing and why, but we’ll stick to a short serious point and one less serious point. Reed understands his body like few athletes I've ever covered and that is a new thing. Because he understands, he’ll do anything to make sure it’s in prime condition. That is awesome. However, as I told him, if he doesn’t want it to be on camera he should probably hit that warmup in the tunnel or at least in a group of players instead of in the most open space on the sideline where cameras could easily find him. Considering his day though, Reed certainly got the last laugh.


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