Washington Redskins Breakdown: Protection Failures Cause Week 13 Loss

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder (right) and head coach Jay Gruden prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins were unable to emerge victorious in their Week 13 affair. Here are the various issues that they dealt with during the contest.

The Washington Redskins really wanted to grab a win in Week 13. The team was 2-1 since the bye week and had the inside edge to become a Wild Card team. Now, they have lost that. They are still a strong team, but their weaknesses definitely showed on Sunday afternoon.

The Arizona Cardinals were able to shut down the Redskins for a good chunk of Sunday’s game. They contained the offense using their pass rush while their own offense operated at relative full strength. Carson Palmer put together a stellar game and that helped the Cardinals cause.

This game was definitely a learning experience for the Redskins, and Jay Gruden is going to have to use it to teach them. With that said, here is an in-depth look at what happened in the game. Here’s a look at the Redskins Breakdown.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) signals to teammates during the first half against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Game: Kirk Cousins Underwhelms Under Pressure

Since the bye week, Kirk Cousins has put up some very impressive numbers. However, this week he was unable to do much in the game. He went 21-of-37 for 271 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, and those numbers demonstrate how he played.

Essentially, Cousins was average in today’s contest. It was expected that he would have a chance to have another strong performance against a weakened Arizona secondary. Tyrann Mathieu was out for the game and that was supposed to be an advantage. Instead, Cousins found himself constantly under pressure.

The Arizona front really gave the Redskins tackles fits. Morgan Moses and Ty Nsekhe had their share of issues. Neither was terrible, but they were each guilty of a couple of mistakes. The Redskins have to be happy that Trent Williams is due to return from suspension starting in Week 14.

Overall, Cousins’ game was just not great. He had some nice throws, but ultimately he was not given enough time to make the accurate throws he had been making in the past. He just needs a little extra time in the pocket. If he gets it, he will avoid underperforming in consecutive weeks.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) drops a pass as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) defends during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) drops a pass as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson (21) defends during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Passing Game: DeSean Jackson Silenced, Pierre Garcon Shines

Heading into this contest, there were some serious questions about how involved DeSean Jackson would be in the game plan. The speedy wide-out had a couple of strong performances in the past two games, but he was about to face a very tough matchup. Patrick Peterson is one of the best corners in the NFL, and he played like it on Sunday.

Peterson was able to bottle up Jackson for almost the entire afternoon. Jackson caught only one pass on the day. Granted, it went for 59 yards, but he was not matched up on Peterson during that play. Having Jackson eliminated forced the Redskins to utilize their other options, and Garcon capitalized.

Once again, Pierre Garcon had a steady performance for yet another game. Garcon caught seven passes for 78 yards and was once again a nice target for Cousins. He worked mostly against the No. 2 cornerbacks and was able to catch quite a few first down balls. He should continue to be a strong option in the passing game, and is quickly establishing himself as the most consistent threat on the team.

Elsewhere, Jamison Crowder caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown. He had a decent performance but had some trouble finding open space over the middle. He should be able to bounce back in a future performance.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) is tackled by Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) and Rodney Gunter (95) in the second quarter at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Running Game: Robert Kelley Average Against Cardinals Tough Front

The Cardinals were only ranked 12th in the league in rush defense coming into the game, but they had played better than the numbers indicated. The team has strong personnel on the defensive front, including stud defensive end Calais Campbell, and they would prove be a tough test for rookie runner Robert Kelley.

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Kelley got 14 carries on the day and turned them into 63 yards. He was able to make some decent runs, but overall he did not show anything more than an average ability to move the ball. Again, against a strong Arizona defense, that was impressive enough.

Moving forward, the Redskins have to make sure that they keep getting Kelley involved in the game. They ran a balanced attack today and that allowed them to fare better overall. The team should also look to mix in Chris Thompson, who had a nice 16 yard burst but only saw two total carries in the game. He should see 5-10 carries moving forward to spice things up a bit on offense.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (24) breaks up a pass intended for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: Josh Norman Featured In All Sorts Of Ways

Though the Washington defense did not have a great day, it was not really the fault of Josh Norman at all. Norman did a little bit of everything for the Redskins on Sunday, and he fared relatively well given his tough matchup.

In coverage, Norman mostly faced Larry Fitzgerald. The veteran receiver did put together a strong game, catching 10 passes for 78 yards, but Norman was able to hold him to a lot of short gains. He put generally solid coverage on Fitzgerald, but Carson Palmer was just on point today. He was able to thread the needle and get the ball to Fitzgerald. Even when he allowed a completion, it seemed like he always made the tackle immediately. He did not allow many yards after the catch.

Also, Norman was featured on a couple of blitzes throughout the game. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry elected to bring Norman off the edge a couple of times, and the corner showed excellent instincts on those plays. He was able to rattle Palmer, and that opened up opportunities for the other edge players.

Overall, it was an impressive day for Norman. It may not have been his best day in coverage, but his ability to be a quality, all-around player is second to none at the cornerback position.

Dec 4, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) runs for a fourth quarter touchdown against the Washington Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Defense: Unit Struggles To Contain David Johnson

Coming into the game, one of the keys for the Redskins was going to be how they dealt with David Johnson. The second year back is arguably the top dual threat running back in the NFL, and the Redskins had a bad rush defense heading into the game.

Unsurprisingly, the team was unable to contain the talented back. In my initial postgame recap, I said the following about Johnson’s performance.

David Johnson gashed the Redskins. He totaled 175 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns and practically no player could keep track of him. Early in the game, Su’a Cravens made some nice plays against Johnson, but as the team got tired, Johnson’s play only improved. It was no surprise that the team had issues with the talented second year back, but it still explains a lot about the loss.

The Redskins absolutely need to focus on their rush defense moving forward. As long as they cannot slow down opposing running backs, they will have defensive issues. Granted, Johnson split his production between the ground game and the pass attack, but they still have to be better. Joe Barry needs to make sure his unit plays disciplined defense. Otherwise, they could fall apart fast.

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