The Offensive Line:
Washington Redskins rookie left tackle Trent Williams faced a major challenge Sunday night against linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who often lined up opposite Williams during the Redskins’ 13-7 victory. Ware had six unassisted tackles, sacked quarterback Donovan McNabb for a 10-yard loss, had three tackles for losses and hit McNabb twice. Williams also was called for a false start. After the game Williams gave his week one performance mixed reviews. “He got me a couple plays,” Williams said. “Overall, I think I pretty much held my own. I think I was about two or three plays off from nearly a perfect game.” Williams said he was frustrated about the false start. “That could have cost us,” he said. “I got to talking at the line and didn’t hear the cadence. I just heard, ‘Hut,’ so I went. Rookie mistake.”
Another twist was the fact that the Washington Redskins did not use the same offensive line on back-to-back drives in the season opener. Left guard Derrick Dockery has started 110 straight NFL games and was considered to be one the more consistent performers on the line. Guard Kory Lichtensteiger was a fourth-round draft pick of Denver’s in 2008. He played on special teams and as an H-back and was used in goal-line situations during his rookie season. Shanahan’s replacement, Josh McDaniels, released him at the end of training camp last year. After the game Coach Shanahan said “Derrick Dockery and Kory Lichtensteiger are very close relative to how they played in the preseason, and I want to give both guys a chance and keep them fresh and I will see how they played after the game.” Shanahan also rotated his right tackles, sending in Stephon Heyer to relieve Jammal Brown. Brown missed all of last season after hip and sports hernia surgery, while Heyer spent all of last season in the starting lineup. Shanahan said he didn’t want to pile too much on Brown’s shoulders and that “Brown was in a situation where I didn’t feel he has actually had enough plays to actually go through a full game” so Stephon Heyer switched off with Jammal to keep him from getting re-injured. Depth is obviously not a concern on the offensive line as Shanahan apparently feels comfortable with some of his reserves to open the season with a heavy rotation on the line.
The 3-4 Defense and Albert Haynesworth:
Albert Haynesworth played 16of the Redskins’ 72 defensive snaps at the nose tackle position, He only played one snap in the fourth quarter. This comes after a month-long bombardment by the Washington Post quoting “people familiar with the situation” and reporting Haynesworth was on his way out of Washington or would be inactive for Week One. Haynesworth’s first action came on the game’s sixth offensive play, a 2nd and 8 from the 35-yard line (his only play of the opening drive). He saw the bulk of his playing time during the second quarter when he was in for five consecutive plays at nose tackle but he didn’t record his first tackle of the night until the first snap of the second half, stopping Tashard Choice’s run out of the Wildcat formation after a gain of four. Haynesworth recorded one tackle a one assist for the game. In the locker room following the Redskins’ 13-7 win, Haynesworth responded with a one-word answer, “no,” when asked if the trade talk affected him. When asked if he would like to be traded, Haynesworth said “it’s not my decision. I’m just a player.”
As far as the rest of the defense goes, there were some good things and some bad. It was good to see the team be more aggressive on the defensive side of the ball. New Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett gave Redskins fans more than just a new front seven with the conversion to the 3-4 defense. There were times Sunday night when he played a 2-man front, plays where the defense lined up with six or seven players on the line of scrimmage and they all were in a two point stance (no one had a hand in the dirt). We saw alignments that had converted defensive linemen Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo lining up as outside linebackers but on the same side of the field. The new scheme had trouble stopping the run as the Redskins gave up an average of 4.7 yards per carry, end-to-end they only gave up 103 yards rushing because the offense got “pass happy” running 48 pass plays versus only 22 running plays. Haslett’s defense gave up a total of 380 yards but only one touchdown. The new philosophy doesn’t employ free or strong safeties, but it moved safety Laron Landry closer to the line of scrimmage and he responded with a game-high 17 tackles. Brian Orakpo was the most disruptive player on the field although he was double- and triple-teamed most of the game.
Second year place kicker Graham Gano had only four field goal attempts as a pro heading into Sunday night, so the 49-yard attempt would be the biggest and longest field goal of his professional career. If that weren’t enough pressure on the guy, it came at a time when the Redskins were holding on to a three point lead with less than two minutes left in the game. Gano scored the first points of the Washington Redskins 2010 season by kicking a 29-yard field goal on the team’s opening possession. He also made a 36-yarder in the third quarter but the defense was called for offsides and Coach Mike Shanahan took the first down rather than keeping the points. After the penalty, the Redskins moved the ball to the five-yard line before Gano came back on the field for a 23-yard attempt. Punter Josh Bidwell couldn’t handle the high snap from long snapper Nick Sundberg and Gano never got a chance to kick it. Warming up on the sideline, kicking into a net, Gano didn’t even notice that on third down, rookie tackle Trent Williams was called for a false start penalty, adding five yards to what would have been a 44-yard attempt. He drilled the kick, which meant that on the final drive, the opponents needed a touchdown rather than a field goal to win the game. Gano was 2-for-2 on attempts in Sunday’s win.
Back to Sundberg and Bidwell, before the game was over you could hear the buzz about bringing back “the Red Snapper” in all the years of writing for this site today was the first time I’ve noted a bad snap on special teams, Punter Josh Bidwell couldn’t have expected a bad snap but he has to know Redskins fans will be up in arms when he records 27-yard punts as he did late in the third quarter, forcing the defense to defend a 34-yard field. This led to the only touchdown that the defense gave up all night. All said, Bidwell averaged 41.2 yards on six punts including a net average of 39.3 yards and his longest punt was 51 yards, but Bidwell was the Redskins’ only punter in training camp and the preseason and fans will not be happy with his performance.
The Redskins return specialists have been a hot topic throughout training camp and the pre-season mostly because of names like Brandon Banks, Terrence Austin and Devin Thomas. Thomas got the call in Week One with Austin on the practice squad and Banks listed as inactive prior to kickoff. Devin took full advantage of this opportunity with two kickoff returns for 76 total yards (34 and 42 yards). In both cases it was the kicker David Buehler who brought Thomas down. On punt returns it wasn’t that cut-and-dry. At one point, Santana Moss was sent back to return punts, however the Redskins did not record any yardage on punt returns after forcing five punts, two were downed inside the ten yard line, two went into the end zone and one went out of bounds.
Other odds and ends:
Although wide receiver Anthony Armstrong dropped passes on back-to-back attempts by quarterback Donovan McNabb to hit him in the end zone from five yards out before the Redskins lined up for their botched attempt at a FG, he was the only wide receiver not named Santana Moss to catch a pass in the season opener. McNabb finished the game with 15 completions on 32 attempts for 171 yards. Moss and tight end Chris Cooley both had six catches each.
Running back Clinton Portis gained 63 yards on 18 carries and appeared to be hitting the defensive players harder than they were hitting him as he continued to show why he’s considered one of the best blocking backs in the NFL.
The final play of each half were the turning points of this rivalry. DeAngelo Hall stripped running back Tashard Choice of the ball as Choice battled to pick up yardage as time ran out in the first half. Hall then picked up the loose ball and went 32 yards for the Redskins only touchdown of the game. Cowboys tackle Alex Barron was the second-most penalized player in the NFL last year as the final whistle blew. He was caught applying what looked a lot like a full nelson on Brian Orakpo. This negated a game-tying touchdown and ended the game.
Edit: This blog was archived in May of 2016 from our original articles database.It was originally posted by Bernie Marshall