The last two games had me contemplating a lower grade, but this is about the players, not the play calling, so the homer in me kept it above average. Barely. The offense is not without their struggles, but they have been the only encouraging part of the team this season. Robert Griffin, III is electrifying and is one of the two players who have made this team remotely watchable. The other player turning heads is rookie running back Alfred Morris. No one could’ve predicted the impact the humble sixth round pick has made or just how quickly he has become an indispensable part of the offense. A major concern in the offseason, the offensive line has surprised everyone with a decent performance thus far. Griffin is still hurried too often and taking too many hits, but the line, especially Trent Williams, has exceeded admittedly low expectations. Contributing to the minus in the B- grade is our receiving corps. With injuries sidelining Pierre Garçon and Fred Davis, we are sorely lacking a number one target. Josh Morgan is emerging as a reliable option and Moss has proven he deserves his roster spot, but, so far, no other players seem up to the task.
I realize this is generous, especially after the Steelers game, but the run defense had been decent and injuries have played a big part in killing our pass rush. While the losses of Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo have been devastating, injuries are no excuse for the utterly abysmal effort our defense is making every week. Veteran London Fletcher is having an uncharacteristically bad season, while DeAngelo Hall is having the most DeAngelo Hall-like season of his career. Something has to be done to get this unit back on track so this team can limp through the rest of the season. Unfortunately, I have little hope in Coach Haslett’s ability to do anything to right the sinking ship.
Special Teams: C-
When Danny Smith offered to stand on a table to save Brandon Banks, someone should’ve put Banks on the table with Smith and sent it down the Potomac. Banks has done absolutely nothing positive for our return game and even less for the offense. Furthermore, our special teams unit consistently gives us terrible field position, allowing opponents to regularly down the ball instead the five yard line. On flip side, however, Niles Paul has done it right back to our opponents on numerous occasions. He may be still be working through his transition to TE, but he’s definitely contributing on special teams. And finally, the real reason this team escaped a D grade – Kai Forbath. Ladies and Gentlemen – we have a kicker! Now if only we could take back those weeks with Billy Cund-whiff.
I previously gave Kyle Shanahan props for his play calling earlier this season. I take it all back. Bad Kyle has returned and is calling draws on 3rd and long, trick plays when a simple draw would actually work, and generally doing his best to get Griffin hit far more than he should be. I don’t know whom to blame most for our defensive woes, and Haslett and Morris no doubt share in it. Our defense is just plain atrocious. As for the head tanner in charge, Mike Shanahan, all I can say is that I like his moxie. He is not afraid to go for it on 4th down, to make the unpopular call and put our team in, as he loves to say, “the best position to win.” Unfortunately, we just can’t seem to win and it goes beyond injuries and a lack of star talent. Yes, the players need to perform, but the coaches also need to do everything they can to prepare our players for the game and give them all the tools they need to perform at their best. I’m starting to think our coaches aren’t doing their most fundamental job – coaching the players.
Wild Card: B
We saw a few flashes from him last season, but 2012 is the year of Logan Paulsen. Even if Davis was healthy, Paulsen is still our best blocking TE. He also has good hands and the athletic ability to get separation and push for the yards after the catch. Paulsen does not have the speed of Davis or Paul, but he is our most complete TE right now and has been a crucial part of moving the chains this season – he averages over 14 yards per catch. Unfortunately, Paulsen still shows some signs of in experience in the number of penalties he draws – three this week alone- which is the only reason I didn’t give him the B+ I really wanted to.