What we learned: Redskins offense

After rewatching the Redskins' 22-21 win over Tennessee, a few opinions were solidified, some shifted a little and a few discoveries were made:

  1. Initially I wondered if Roy Helu was a little too fast to the hole, not setting up his blockers enough. Not sure that was the case, though his quickness to the hole was noticeable. He had a good night, but against the Titans’ starters he managed only 20 yards on seven carries. He had two runs that totaled 23 of his 57 yards. One area he differs with Alfred Morris is yards after contact. Morris excels in this area for two reasons: He lowers his pads and lets his legs drive him through the defender. Helu too often fails to lower his pads enough to enable him to run through a defender. He did lower his pads in a red zone run, picking up an extra four yards. But, typically, he was picking up the yards that were available.

  2. Helu’s two longest runs occurred in the second quarter. Another one, a 19-yarder, was wiped out because of a Josh LeRibeus penalty. But Helu’s effort was outstanding. Tight end Logan Paulsen got moved back a few yards, taking Helu off his intended path. He had to swerve around Paulsen. Helu bounced wide and picked up 18 yards, including six after contact. Two plays earlier, Helu pressed the hole well, getting a yard behind the line. He chopped his feet on the cut, but because he’s quick it didn’t slow him down en route to 11 yards.

  3. Not a lot more on Kirk Cousins. What I saw re-watching the game is exactly what I saw last night: A young, poised quarterback who is comfortable running this offense. Nothing more to add.

  4. Quarterback Pat White has come a long way from when we first saw him in the spring, when he looked like someone who wouldn’t get an invite to training camp. But he has improved since then and will occasionally make an impressive pass in practice, driving the ball to the receiver. Accuracy has been an issue in camp. But for a guy in his first NFL action (albeit against many players who will get cut) since 2010 it was a nice return. Enough to warrant a roster spot? Not after one good fourth quarter of a preseason game. White made three clutch plays (one of which would have resulted in a touchdown if receiver Lance Lewis hadn’t fumbled the ball into the end zone. White did a nice job rolling to his right and throwing downfield across his body with accuracy. And his ability to extend a play in the red zone always is a bonus.

  5. But the majority of his reads were quick followed by short throws and he has a long way to go before he masters this offense enough to play in a game and read defenses at a necessary level. He has not looked sharp all the time in camp and often holds the ball too long. Still, he has a good outing to build upon and it’s something he should feel good about. It could lead to more action in future games and, perhaps, tempt another team to sign him whenever he comes free.

  6. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus is working on keeping his hands tighter and shoulders more square. At times you see it working. But in camp he struggled when he’d allow Ryan Kerrigan to get his hands into his chest first. Saw it happen against Tennessee, too. He was a bit slow getting his hands in place and Derrick Morgan get into his chest. Not that it mattered: The Redskins gained 10 yards on the play. But this is an area Polumbus must continue to perfect. The Redskins want him to -- need him to -- reduce the amount of pressure he allowed last year.

  7. Aldrick Robinson struggled as a blocker last year and still gets driven back too much, sometimes causing him to unintentionally pinch the hole. But he did hold onto some blocks. This is an area he needs to do well in considering it's a key part of the stretch zone system. Robinson was inconsistent catching the ball, though I liked how he hung onto the ball when safety Bernard Pollard drilled him out of bounds after a catch. But the Redskins lack strong challengers to the top five. One of them, Dez Briscoe, had the trifecta: He dropped a pass, lost his block that led to a tackle, and was called for a false start. Leonard Hankerson had one of his good nights. He’s had those before -- the key is having several of those in a row. I liked how patient he was on his receiver screen, causing the defense to commit outside while he took off inside behind center Kevin Matthews and LeRibeus. Hankerson ran a good in-and-out route as well.

  8. Left tackle Tom Compton isn’t ready to be a starter, but he showed some positive signs. Last season Redskins line coach Chris Foerster talked about the need for him to get stronger, needing to knock rushers off their path so when a counter move occurs, Compton can react quickly and in time. He did just that on one first-quarter block against the defensive end, getting him off-balance on his initial move, which enabled Compton to react in time to the counter. Compton allowed pressure, getting bailed out by Helu on one edge rush and losing his man inside on another. But he had his good moments, too.

  9. Wrote this after the game and will do so again: LeRibeus needs to pick it up. He struggled too much Thursday night for a player picked in the third round a year ago. He also has talent, as he showed in relief during the playoff loss to Seattle -- and on some plays Thursday. But LeRibeus gets himself in trouble by lunging and getting off-balance. It led to a whiff on one attempt and pressure on others. He also had a hold that negated an 18-yard run by Helu. LeRibeus knows he has to play better.

  10. It had to be encouraging for the Redskins when Josh Morgan caught an in-route on third-and-5 and then, because of a quick catch-and-cut, add seven yards after the reception for a total of 13 yards. It wasn’t a huge play but it could be a positive sign. His ankle, which had seven screws in it last year, is healthy now and he said it will result in more explosion. It’s been tough to see it in camp, but he did it last night in a tight window, sandwiched between two defenders. Curious to see how this evolves for him.

  11. I’ll be honest: I don’t always know how right guard Adam Gettis anchors against bigger linemen. The 292-pound Gettis gets stood up a lot, yet doesn’t always get driven back. His college coach, Kirk Ferentz, once told me how freakishly strong Gettis was and he’s right. Still, the Redskins coaches don’t like seeing him get stood up like that. But for the most part he was fine (he did allow a pressure). Really, it wasn’t bad for a guy who missed several days recently with a hamstring strain.

  12. Finally, we learned that, by going for two points late in the game, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan is not a fan of overtime in preseason games. To which we say: Thank you.