Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III gets an A for his performance in the first quarter of the season. Zuma Press/Icon SMI
Is it too early in the season to give definitive grades on the Washington Redskins' performance? Yes. Is it going to stop me? No. Definitely no. Positively no! Decidedly no! Uh-uh.
Consider this an interim look at how key Redskins are doing so far this season. There's still time for every player and coach to change the trajectory of the season by playing better (or worse). And there's still time for the team to develop into a winner and make the playoffs or slouch back to their losing ways of the past few years.
Overall, Washington's offense has been surprisingly effective considering the number of rookies and second year men at key positions. The defense has been disastrously bad -- especially in the secondary.
Here are my first quarter grades:
Robert Griffin III -- A -- I don't grade rookies on a curve, so this high a grade tells you something about the kind of start Griffin is having. He leads the league in adjusted yards per passing attempt, the single best measure of a quarterback's passing effectiveness. AYPA adjusts for the value of sacks and interceptions. Griffin is near the top in nearly every key measure of passing effectiveness, and he adds almost 60 yards rushing per game.
Alfred Morris -- B -- Morris has had a nice start to his rookie season, especially for an unheralded late-round pick. His traditional stats are solid -- 298 yards (on pace for 1192 this season) and a 4.6 yards per carry this season -- but he's lagging in the key measures that contribute to winning (available at Advanced NFL Stats). The rushing stat most connected to winning is "success rate" (basically a measure of how often the player increases his team's chances of scoring or gaining a first down). Morris currently ranks 41st out of the 51 running backs rated at Advanced NFL Stats.
Evan Royster -- C -- Royster hasn't had a ton of opportunities with Morris carrying most of the load, but he hasn't exactly blown anyone away with what he's done with those opportunities. He has been nursing various leg and foot injuries, so he may perform better if he can get healty.
Darrell Young -- B+ -- The fullback has done a nice job as a lead blocker and has emerged as at least an "every once in awhile" pass-catcher. He has also had some nice contributions on special teams.
Fred Davis -- C -- He's Washington's leading receiver so far, but his performance has been up and down. The Skins need more consistent production in the passing game from Davis, and much better blocking in their ground attack.
Leonard Hankerson -- C- -- Hankerson has been the team's most targeted pass-catcher (13 catches in 21 targets), but his actual production has been unsteady. His role is likely to diminish a bit now that Pierre Garcon is back in the lineup, but the Skins need more production from the talented second-year man.
Josh Morgan -- C -- Morgan has been productive in the opportunities he's received with 12 catches in just 15 targets. His toughness and physical play has been a welcome addition to the Washington offense. His grade is low because of the catastrophically bad unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he took at the end of the team's loss to the Rams.
Niles Paul -- C- -- Paul is making the transition from wide receiver to tight end, and the results have been spotty. He hasn't done much as a receiver, where he figured to be a threat against slower safeties and linebackers, and his blocking is still subpar.
Pierre Garcon -- Incomplete -- If he'd been healthy, Garcon would have gotten an A. When he's been on the field, he's been an aggressive blocker and a defense-stretching receiving threat. A foot injury kept him out of two games (both losses), however.
Brandon Banks -- C+ -- The diminutive return man hasn't done much on special teams so far, but he has given the team a dimension on offense that defenses must account for. I'm talking, of course, about that triple option set where Banks is the tailback. Unfortunately for Banks, it's a set most Skins fans don't want to see very often because of the hits Griffin has taken on the play. Still, Banks has had a solid start to the season.
Santana Moss -- D -- The Skins moved him to a slot role, but Moss hasn't produced (10 catches in 15 targets). If he can't pick things up, he's likely to end up a cap casualty after the season.
Trent Williams -- B -- The left tackle is Washington's best and most important lineman. When he went out of the lineup with a knee injury, the offensive line virtually imploded. The line hasn't been good even with Williams out there, but when he's missing they're overwhelmed.
Kory Lichtensteiger -- C -- Back from a serious knee injury last season, Lichtensteiger battles on every play. Sometimes he's overpowered and pushed back; other times he wins his matchup. I still think the team would be better served if he moved to center.
Will Montgomery -- D+ -- Like Lichtensteiger, Montgomery plays hard and puts up the best fight he can. Too often, however, Montgomery is overpowered. The center spot was one I identified last offseason as needing an upgrade. While Washington gave Montgomery a new contract, they still need improvement from the center.
Chris Chester -- B- -- Solid play is what Washington has gotten from Chester. He has shown the ability to get to the second level on some plays, and I can't remember the last time he got beat in pass protection.
Tyler Polumbus -- F -- Last season, Polumbus was a great story. The Skins signed him as a mid-season street free agent, and he contributed at several spots along the line. When Jammal Brown was hurt, Polumbus took on the starting role at right tackle, and performed well. That was last season. This year, he's been awful in pass protection -- susceptible to both speed and power rushes. He's been regularly defeated in run blocking as well.
Barry Cofield -- C+ -- Solid, unspectacular play, which is exactly what you'd expect from a nose tackle. Washington could use more push up the middle, especially on pass plays. Cofield has no sacks and just one QB hit.
Stephen Bowen -- C+ -- The other part of the free agent line tandem (with Cofield), Bowen is strong at the point of attack on running plays, and he doesn't miss tackles. He's not a dynamic pass rusher (1 sack and 2 QB hits), which Washington needs considering the weakness in their secondary.
Jarvis Jenkins -- C -- Back from a pre-season injury a year ago, Jenkins still isn't quite to the form that got Skins fans excited. He's been a solid replacement for the injured Adam Carraker, but (like Cofield and Bowen) hasn't been much of a pass rusher.
London Fletcher -- A -- The ageless wonder is leading the team in tackles (again) and continues to play at a high level. He's the unquestioned leader of the team's defense, and he's still running around making plays like a man a decade younger.
Perry Riley -- B+ -- Riley played like a star when he took over the starting inside linebacker halfway through last season. He hasn't been quite as good this year, but he's still having a productive year.
Ryan Kerrigan-- B -- The second year lineman is developing into a major force at outside linebacker. With Brian Orakpo gone for the year, Kerrigan is the team's best pass rusher (3 sacks and 7 QB hits -- both tops on the team). He's solid in run defense and goes hard every play. I expect improvement from him as the season wears on.
Rob Jackson -- C -- He's not Orakpo, but he's still been solid. The Skins will miss Orakpo's dynamic pass rushing, but Jackson is good enough that the defense can still be good...if they can get some improvement from the secondary.
DeAngelo Hall -- D -- Hall has improved his tackling in recent years, but he's slowed enough that Washington's defensive coaches have tried him at safety and covering slot receivers. It hasn't worked out all that well -- Danny Amendola had an all-time great day while being covered man-to-man by Hall. Hall will make plays when he's able to be in position, but he just doesn't cover well anymore.
Josh Wilson -- D -- Washington's other corner hasn't been any better than Hall. He gets burned way too frequently. The Skins need a major upgrade at corner.
Reed Doughty -- C+ -- The Skins have been trying to replace Doughty for years now, but he keeps making the roster and then finding his way into the starting lineup. He's back again, filling in for the injured Brandon Meriweather. Doughty continues to be a steady tackler in the run game, to somehow get in the right spot in pass defense (despite not being fast), and to make plays on special teams.
Madieu Williams -- D -- Signed as one of those dirt cheap free agents, Williams earned a starting job and has been kinda meh as a player. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has praised him, but I think it's one of those "he protests too much" type of things. The Skins need better play at safety.
DeJon Gomes -- F -- Gomes began the season as the starter (because of Meriweather's injury) and couldn't hold the job. The coaching staff wanted him in the lineup ahead of Doughty because Gomes is faster and stronger and terrific against the run. Unfortunately, he's a disaster in coverage.
Mike Shanahan -- B -- The team has personnel deficiencies, which lie partly on Shanahan's shoulders, and partly on the preposterous salary cap penalty levied by the league. I've questioned a few of his decisions, but the team is competitive each week, which says something good about the head coach.
Kyle Shanahan -- A -- The offensive coordinator finally has a dynamic QB to work with, and Washington's offense is top shelf. They've moved the ball and scored against everyone they've faced thus far, and the attack has been creative and varied. Bonus points for getting Griffin -- a spread shotgun QB who's never had a playbook -- ready to excel as a rookie.
Jim Haslett -- D -- This is the coaching grade I'm least confident about. The defense has been bad, but is it Haslett's fault? I don't know. What I do know is that Haslett hasn't figured out how to get a better performance from his unit.
Danny Smith -- F -- He's reputed to be a top special teams coach, but Washington has had 2 punts blocked this season. Plus, the Skins replaced Graham Gano with Billy Cundiff with Smith's support, and Cundiff nearly cost them the win against Tampa Bay.
So there you have it -- my grades on key Redskins. Who's too high? Who's too low? Who'd I overlook? Let me know in the comments.