Monday Morning Water Cooler: Ups and Downs of Youth

11.07.2011 / Blog Posts Redskins

AP Image

Brian Tinsman

When the Redskins announced their youth movement out of training camp, it wasn’t really that profound of a statement. Yes, the team would have a lot of younger players on the roster, but the core group of starters had plenty of experience, especially on offense.

Halfway through the season, injuries and performance have forced changes to the starting lineups, and the result is a much different—much younger—Redskins lineup.

Yesterday marked the first career starts of running back Roy Helu and offensive guard Maurice Hurt. It was the second career start of receiver Leonard Hankerson, and the eighth career start of linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Rookie receiver Niles Paul, nose tackle Chris Neild, and safety DeJon Gomes also appeared in the game.

Overall, the rookies performed well yesterday. Clearly the team’s 12 draft picks are laying a foundation for future success in Washington by developing now.

But with youthful energy also comes youthful mistakes.

The momentum of yesterday’s game swung on a swing pass to Helu, who turned up field with the ball. At the Redskins 26-yard line, he was hit and fumbled the ball, giving the 49ers prime field position with 1:09 left in the first half.

[“Swing pass”: Another term for when a running back “swings” out of the backfield and catches a pass on the outside of the defense. The desired result is for the defense to ignore the player, who is now open to make a play down the sidelines.]

Rather than marching down field for the first points of the half, the Redskins turned the ball over, and the 49ers capitalized with a touchdown. 49ers fullback Bruce Miller ran a deep route and was able to get behind Redskins Rocky McIntosh and Reed Doughty in coverage. Quarterback Alex Smith threw a perfect pass and the ball landed softly into Miller’s hands as he crossed the goal line for the touchdown.

[“Coverage”: This is the responsibility of the defenders that follow receivers down field. Defending a receiver and preventing him from getting the ball, is better known as “covering” him.]

As it turned out, those 13 first-half points were all that the 49ers would need to seal their victory yesterday. Helu would go on to rack up nearly 150 yards of offense for the team, but the game slipped away from the team on that fumble.

Final score: Redskins 11, 49ers 19.

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