In this week’s film study of this past Sunday’s Browns vs. Redskins game, we look at the opening-drive touchdown that Cleveland gave up, which took nearly half the quarter.
Redskins’ 1st Drive
SUMMARY: The Redskins opened the game with a 12-play, 75-yard drive, taking up 7:20 of clock. It concluded with an 8-yard touchdown pass from QB Kirk Cousins to TE Jordan Reed, giving the Redskins a 7-0 lead.
Play 1 (1st-and-10 @WAS 25): 6-yard pass to Jamison Crowder
With veteran nickelback Tramon Williams out, I wondered before the game if the team would move Jamar Taylor to the inside in nickel situations. They did, and it came into play right off the bat. Slot receiver Jamison Crowder lined up slot right. QB Kirk Cousins is going to playaction fake and then roll to the right. Crowder sells a block inside before cutting to the outside.
Taylor had his eyes on the playaction fake, which allows Crowder to get some separation. Because of the long throw required, Taylor has some time to catch up to limit this to a gain of six yards.
Play 2 (2nd-and-4 @WAS 31): 5-yard run by Matt Jones
Pro Football Focus gave both Christian Kirksey and Demario Davis their worst run defense grades of the season. Looking at just the first drive, you can see the hesitation they often had, which let the Redskins’ patched up offensive line get in position at the second level to take them out of the play.
On this second down play, at the snap, the tight end will come across the formation. I’m not sure if Davis (No. 56) had man coverage on him or not. At the snap, Davis hesitates for a second, as if to wonder whether he should follow the tight end in case of a playaction. By the time he reacts to the actual handoff, a lineman is already engaging him at the second level. Kirksey doesn’t get a very good read on it either
CB Jamar Taylor is able to shed his block on the outside to limit this to a 5-yard gain. OLB Emmanuel Ogbah is credited with assisting on the tackle too.
Play 3 (1st-and-10 @WAS 36): 4-yard run by Matt Jones
With a fresh set of downs, the Redskins put nearly everybody tight in the formation. They will pull the tight end over again at the snap, but this time, RB Matt Jones is going to run a halfback counter to follow the tight end.
OLB Joe Schobert crashes inside, which does the Redskins a favor. ILB Demario Davis shoots up the middle, which basically removes him as a threat of making the outside tackle. Kirksey is the last man standing in the front seven, and the tight end will engage him as he’s pulling.
It’s a well-blocked play by Washington, but CB Joe Haden saves the day by showing himself on the edge. Jones then cuts back inside. The tight end was expecting Jones to continue outside, so Kirksey is able to easily shed the block now and tackles Jones after a gain of four yards.
Play 4 (2nd-and-6 @WAS 40): 10-yard pass to Jordan Reed
The Redskins didn’t face a single third down on their open drive, and here’s an example of where Cleveland’s defense should have forced a third down.
Ray Farmer opts to send S Derrick Kindred on a blitz off the edge (he is running toward the line of scrimmage as the ball is snapped). Kindred takes a very wide angle to his blitz because Washington has a sixth offensive lineman in the game, who acts as an offensive tackle by riding Kindred wide. The other receiver in the formation blocks/sets a pick, and QB Kirk Cousins takes a step back and quickly hits TE Jordan Reed to the right.
ILB Demario Davis follows Reed in man coverage and is in position to limit this to about a three-yard gain. He whiffs on the tackle, though, and Reed scampers for 11 yards and a first down.
Play 5 (1st-and-10 @50): 2-yard run by Matt Jones
At midfield, the Redskins drew up another run play that was well-blocked, but saved thanks to a nice tackle by CB Jamar Taylor.
This time, the tight end (magenta) and right guard (yellow) are going to pull to the left. QB Kirk Cousins gets the snap in Shotgun, delays, and then hands the ball to RB Matt Jones, who again runs a bit of a counter play so he can time up his pulling blockers. OLB Emmanuel Ogbah gets sealed off by the right guard, while the tight end takes care of ILB Demario Davis.
If RB Matt Jones had cut inside, he could’ve used his power to get about five yards and maybe more if he carried a pile. He stumbles as he tried to cut outside, though, and Taylor took advantage to limit this to a two yard gain.
Play 6 (2nd-and-8 @CLE48): 11-yard pass to Chris Thompson
Now in Cleveland territory, the Redskins spread the field and brought in backup RB Chris Thompson. Cleveland drops seven players into zone coverage. At the bottom of the screen, CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun acts like he’s playing man coverage before passing the receiver off to the safety.
The linebackers seem to be taking too deep of a drop in their zone coverage, as both Demario Davis and Christian Kirksey are well beyond the first down marker, leaving the green area wide open.
Thompson catches the pass and Boddy-Calhoun doesn’t contain the outside well enough, allowing the running back to break away for 11 yards and a first down. Had he made the tackle, it might have set up a 3rd-and-2 type of situation.
Play 7 (1st-and-10 @CLE37): 9-yard pass to Pierre Garcon
For this next play, QB Kirk Cousins takes a three-step drop as if he’s going to hand off to the running back before turning and near-blindly throwing the slant to WR Pierre Garcon. CB Jamar Taylor was in coverage. Although I’m sure they didn’t put this much thought in to it, the design of this play seems to play against the aggressiveness of what Taylor showed last week. Garcon runs the slant from the get-go instead of running up and then cutting, so there is no point where Taylor can spot the footwork and cut inside to make a play.
Play 8 (2nd-and-1 @CLE28): 3-yard pass to Pierre Garcon
I didn’t screen grab this one, but QB Kirk Cousins took a quick drop step and threw a simple 3-yard out route to WR Pierre Garcon to pick up the safe first down. CB Jamar Taylor was in coverage again. These aren’t necessarily bad plays for Taylor, as he had a good game overall.
Play 9 (1st-and-10 @CLE25): 5-yard pass to DeSean Jackson
On 1st-and-10, the Redskins spread the field again, this time with no running back next to QB Kirk Cousins. On the far right, WR DeSean Jackson is running a quick hitch route with CB Joe Haden in coverage. TE Jordan Reed is in the slot next to Jackson with FS Jordan Poyer over him in coverage.
It’s possible that this could have been by design, but I don’t think so. When Poyer sees Cousins set his feet for the outside throw to Jackson, I think he abandons Reed in an attempt to jump the route for a pick six. The reason I say this wasn’t by design is that if Cousins had pump faked Jackson, there was nobody on the Browns defense in the vicinity of Reed.
Fortunately for Washington, Cousins makes a strong throw to the outside shoulder of Jackson. It has the right height to ensure Poyer can’t undercut it, even forcing Jackson to leave his feet for just a five yard gain. You can also see Reed running free below.
PENALTY (2nd-and-5 @CLE20): Offensive holding on run play, 10-yard penalty
The Redskins ran the ball with RB Matt Jones. Funny enough, this would have set up the only third-down play of the drive if we had declined the penalty, but it of course makes sense to accept it.
Play 10 (2nd-and-15 @CLE30): 20-yard run by Chris Thompson
This was the back-breaking play of the drive. RB Chris Thompson is beside QB Kirk Cousins in Shotgun. After the penalty, Cleveland is probably expecting a pass. Instead, it’s a handoff with some pulling linemen. The right guard is the lead blocker along the right edge, followed by the center.
The right guard takes on SS Derrick Kindred (not shown), while ILB Christian Kirksey is taken on by the center. This is a play where you’d really like to see ILB Demario Davis be able to be the free man in pursuit, but somehow the tight end on the other side of the formation is able to get up to him right away to remove him from the equation.
Watch the play unfold below as I described it.
Play 11 (1st-and-goal @CLE10): 2-yard run by Chris Thompson
Facing a goal-to-go situation, RB Chris Thompson got the handoff for two yards. I’m surprised we saw so much of Thompson on the first drive of the game.
Play 12 (2nd-and-goal @CLE8): 8-yard TD pass to Jordan Reed
Here is the touchdown-scoring play. TE Jordan Reed lines up wide right, isolated with FS Jordan Poyer in man coverage. I don’t get why a guy plays this close without even attempting to jam the player in front of him. Reed puts a move on Poyer at the line and beats him right off the bat.
With the running back going to the flat, ILB Christian Kirksey runs after him. ILB Demario Davis is moving over to play zone coverage, but he takes so slow getting there that he can’t make a play on QB Kirk Cousins’ pass for the touchdown.
Here is the touchdown as I described:
Conclusion: QB Kirk Cousins was never taken out of his comfort zone. In the run defense, ILB Christian Kirksey and ILB Demario Davis didn’t have very good drives, and Davis was also a liability in coverage a few times. The safeties missed a couple of opportunities too. If it weren’t for CB Jamar Taylor and CB Joe Haden, Washington might have broken a few more bigger runs. The back-breaker was the 20-yard run on 2nd-and-15.