Two offseason acquisitions helped the Washington Redskins take steps toward forging a new identity. They added offensive line guru Bill Callahan to the coaching staff and they used the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft on offensive lineman Brandon Scherff. With the pass protectors, run blockers and those tasked with overseeing these modern day Hogs, the Redskins under general manager Scot McCloughan weren't content going with the usual suspects.
The new look popped immediately with robust rushing performances in Weeks 1 and 2. Just as quickly, the ground game pulled a Keyser Soze and disappeared.
I watched the Redskins vs. Falcons game focusing specifically on the OL. Center Kory Lichtensteiger began standing out immediately -- for all the wrong reasons. My game notes began fading from the run game and on Lichtensteiger specifically. It was concerning. Let's take a look at the tape:
1. It started early in the game. Redskins are running an outside zone left. Lichtensteiger has blocking responsibility on the 1-Tech.
Spencer Long lends an arm to help give Lichtensteiger leverage before he heads to the second level.
The defensive tackle drives Lichtensteiger so far back Alfred Morris isn't able to read the edge, has to cut it up already. Short gain.
2. Lichtensteiger in pass pro. His responsibility is the 1-Tech.
3. This time, Scherff is going to help chip the DT before he heads to the second level.
Scherff helps Lichtensteiger get good positioning as he and Long head to the 2nd level.
The DT chucks Lichtensteiger aside and helps gang-tackle running back Matt Jones in the backfield.
4. The one thing Lichtensteiger has on the other OL is he is lighter and typically works better in space......most of the time. Here he is on a screen pass. He gives the impression he is pass blocking then bails right to get out in front of Jones.
Lichtensteiger gets out in front and is rolling with good balance.
The turf monster that bit Ryan Grant in overtime had an earlier appearance that not many noticed. Lichtensteiger just falls in space. I tweeted the play below...
5. Lichtensteiger's responsibility in pass protection as you can guess is the 0-Tech lined up right over him.
Straight bull rush. Paul Soliai is around 345 lbs. Lichtensteiger has no chance.
Lichtensteiger, once again, in Cousins' lap as he gets the throw off. He was driven about eight yards back.
6. Lichtensteiger run blocking on that same 0-Tech.
Soliai bascially stiff arms Lichtensteiger as he tries to flow left. Strong hand punch. Matt Jones is already cutting back because edge has already been lost.
When Jones cuts back, he runs right into Soliai who used Lichtensteiger left momentum to just chuck him way left.
7. Redskins are running outside zone to the weak side. Lichtensteiger is going to block the 3-Tech with help again from Scherff to gain leverage before Scherff heads to the 2nd level.
Lichtensteiger is right under the DTs armpit and should be able to drive him backwards. Scherff did a good job helping positioning.
Instead, the exact opposite happens. The DT drives Lichtensteiger back and uses Kory's body to tackle Jones.
8. On this play, the 3-Tech is going to loop inside towards the A-gap on this pass rush.
Lichtensteiger sees it and slides left to protect the left A-gap which opens up a big gap towards his right and the DT takes it. Lichtensteiger not able to re-position in time.
Cousins almost hit on short drop. Luckily, the ball comes out on time.
9. Falcons run a stunt on this pass play. To be honest, Lichtensteiger actually did a good job picking up many of the stunts the Falcons ran this game. Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn is considered a defensive guru and much smarter than I am. That said, I think many of these stunts were unnecessary. Lichtensteiger was clearly a liabilty. A stunt means he doesn't have to block anyone for two or more seconds. I would have had someone rushing over him every down. I would have blitzed over him as well (Expect the New York Jets to attack this way).
Lichtensteiger doesn't do as well on this particular stunt.
Lichtensteiger does a good job feeding a defender to Scherff. The stunt is coming around though.
By the time Lichtensteiger realizes it, he's too late. To be fair, somehow everyone missed late.
Lichtensteiger's guy is at Cousins feet as he lets go of the ball.
10. Redskins are running an outside zone right on this play. This play was a killer for momentum. Lichtensteiger blocking the 1-Tech.
Lichtensteiger can't get across his face or even in front of him. The DT gets his hands on Lichtensteiger and over-powers him.
Lichtensteiger now tries to tackle the DT tackling Matt Jones.
Aftermath. Big loss on the play and momentum killer.
11. Lichtensteiger is suppose to block the 0-Tech on this run play. 3 TE set with Tom Compton.
Lichtensteiger expects the DT to hit the front side A-gap but he goes to the back side A-Gap. Lichtensteiger out of position and DT throws him aside. This is what Alfred Morris sees as soon as he gets the ball.
The DT doesn't make the tackle but forces Morris to juke right into one. Minimal gain.
12. The next two plays help set up the "awful" screen pass on 3rd down. Here is a run play and Lichtensteiger has the 1-Tech. Notice Kory's feet are between the 10-11 yard lines.
By the time Jones gets the hand off, Lichtensteiger has already been driven back to the 13 and is still moving backwards. Jones is forced to cut immediately, the Falcons rally around him and stop him quickly.
13. Lichtensteiger on a run play blocking a 0-Tech.
Lichtensteiger loses leverage immediately. Cousins hasn't even handed off to Jones yet.
Jones gets folded backwards awkwardly on this play. Everything about this play was ugly. The failed 3rd down screen follows.
14. Despite the struggles, the Redskins didn't go away from the run in overtime. Now, this is a much more ideal scenario for Lichtensteiger. It's much easier for him to get into space and block LBs. But, he was either exhausted or this is "just one of those days."
Lichtensteiger gets a piece of him but gets too far outside of him.
As Chris Thompson cuts back inside, the LB goes inside Lichtensteiger's block and down hill.
The LB meets Thompson in the hole. Minimal gain.
15. Redskins are running play-action on this play. Lichtensteiger is blocking the 1-Tech.
Lichtensteiger again doesn't get enough body in front of him. He gives up too much penetration.
Lichtensteiger already lost. Morris tries to chip him after running the play-action but the DT get skinny.
Somehow, Cousins gets the ball to Jamison Crowder with the DT right in his face.
16. Redskins tried a shotgun run in overtime as well. Lichtensteiger blocking the 1-Tech.
Just when Lichtensteiger takes away a gap from a player, he uses a spin move towards the open gap.
Lichtensteiger isn't able to mirror his footwork and the DT gets the tackle.
The general praise for Kory Lichtensteiger centers on his ability at making calls at the line. I don't know how valuable that is if he can't execute the calls he is making. For a team that cut an accurate kicker because he couldn't kick touchbacks, it makes you wonder how long until the Redskins start putting higher value on the job their starting center can't do. Of course, it's much easier findng a quality kicker on the street than a center. Also, it's not like there are better options on the roster.
It was reported that Lichtensteiger faced the Falcons with a broken thumb and a shoulder injury.There is no telling how much of his performance was directly attributed to the injuries. Ironically, if he can't play this week against the New York Jets, the likely suspect play from the replacements we'll reinforce why Lichtensteiger sticks in the lineup despite the struggles.
We can go back and forth blaming Cousins or Grant for the interception that cost the Redskins the game. Instead, I'd rather debate why Cousins has thrown 32, 46, and 49 times in the last three games respectively. No, it's not because Jay Gruden is going away from the run. The Redskins have averaged 3.4 yards per carry in the aforementioned games including 2.1 ypc vs. Falcons.
For a team that wants to impose its will, run first and give Cousins a game he can manage, this is not the blueprint. Kory Lichtensteiger is going to have to get right in order to have any chance of getting back on track.
Paul Conner is the film analyst for Breaking Burgundy. You can follow Paul on Twitter @P_ConnerJr.
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