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Positives and Negatives from the Redskins first 2 preseason games

Steve Shoup

Positives:

The Redskins passing game could be fun to watch this year:

-The Redskins sat their entire starting unit in Kirk Cousins, Jordan Reed, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon (not to mention LT Trent Williams and 1st round rookie Josh Doctson), and they were still able to carve up the Jets 1st and 2nd string units. The depth at receiver and tight end on this team is highly impressive and it should lead to a number of match-up nightmares for opposing defensive coordinators. If Kirk Cousins continues to develop, he has the weapons to have a really big year this season and help lead this team back to the playoffs.

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Tress Way could be one of the best special teams weapons in the NFL:

-Way has been the MVP of these first two preseason games and he’s showcased his ability to flip the field for the Redskins. He’s checked every box as a punter with good distance, hang time, directional kicking, pinning teams inside the 10 yard line, etc. The Redskins could be a huge help to the Redskins defense this season and put them in a lot more favorable positions.

Secondary depth is very impressive:

-The Redskins sat their top two corners in the 2nd preseason game, but that didn’t make much of a difference as the depth of this unit is really showing through. It’s a good mix of veterans and youth and it should give the Redskins one of the stronger secondaries in the NFL this year. They still lack elite talent at the safety position, but it’s the strongest the position has been since Joe Gibbs was the coach in 2007. The corners are very talented and it will allow the Redskins to develop rookie Kendall Fuller at whatever pace he needs.

Starting defense as a whole has played well and could be league average this year:

-I don’t think anyone will confuse this defense with the Denver Broncos anytime soon, but this starting defense is looking pretty good. Even with some key guys sitting, the Jets starting offense wasn’t able to really establish anything while they were out there. Even the Jets 2nd string offense struggled some as well. It’s a small sample overall, but the Redskins coaches have to be pleased with how the Redskins starters and key back-ups have been able to play versus both the Falcons and Jets 1st string units. The Redskins defense could see a nice improvement this year and could crack the top half of the league.

Offensive line showed improvement in run blocking from game one to game two:

-One thing that was definitely noticeable in the 2nd preseason game was the improvement of the run blocking. You saw more well blocked plays from the first unit, and Matt Jones and Chris Thompson were able to capitalize for a couple of really nice runs. That’s a positive development for this unit, which still doesn’t even have it’s best player suiting up in LT Trent Williams. The running game doesn’t have to be a strength for this team to succeed, but they also can’t have it be a major weakness like it was a year ago. While the OL needs to show consistency, it was good to see them improve in the 2nd game and open up some holes.

 

Negatives:

The running game is still a concern, particularly the depth of the unit with Matt Jones getting injured:

-Matt Jones ran better in the 2nd preseason game and he did a nice job taking advantage of the better blocking he saw up front. The bad news is that the injury he suffered showed just how thin the Redskins depth chart is at running back. Both Robert Kelly and Keith Marshall struggled to do anything on the ground throughout the game and neither looks worthy for that back-up role. While Chris Thompson had a couple decent runs, and is the number 2 back on paper, he doesn’t have the skill set/size to be an every down back if Jones misses any time throughout the season.

The pass rush isn’t firing on all cylinders just yet:

-The Redskins did a better job getting pressure in their 2nd game, but a lot of that came from the 2nd half by players who aren’t expected to be factors on defense. Also they were helped by more inexperienced QB play from Geno Smith and Bryce Petty. That’s not to take it away from the defense entirely, but it’s just worth noting that there is a big difference between getting pressure on Bryce Petty and Geno Smith vs getting pressure on Tony Romo and Eli Manning. The Redskins have the makings of a really good secondary, but that could be for naught if the pass rush doesn’t step up and get pressure on the opposing QB. This is such a key area for how the Redskins are built that if they don’t succeed here it’s going to make it tough for the defense to do their part this season.

Penalties are plaguing this team:

-Through two games the Redskins have had just way too many penalties, particularly those that seem pretty avoidable. Now some are bad calls and some are made from guys who probably won’t make the team, but it’s still a concerning trend so far in the preseason. So much of football comes down to situations where a 5 or 10 yard penalty can completely change a drive for either the offense or defense. Limiting penalties as much as possible can go a long way to overcoming other deficiencies on a team.

Health of some key guys:

-This is definitely more minor as outside of the Junior Galette injury right before camp the Redskins haven’t had any major injuries (knock on wood), but there are some concerns. First round pick Josh Doctson remains sidelined and has missed a ton of offseason time and development. Even if he gets clearance for the start of the season he’s unlikely to be able to contribute much. There is still the concern that he might have to start the season on the PUP list which would really limit his first year development. The only saving grace here is the fact that the Redskins receiver corps is so deep that they still have a pretty good unit even without their highly talented rookie. Still it’s an unfortunate loss of value and development time. Trent Williams has missed the first two preseason games and some camp time, and while there isn’t a major concern here just yet, Williams is such an integral part of the team that anytime you hear he has a sore knee it’s worth noting. The final injury that is of note right now is the Matt Jones shoulder injury. As mentioned above it might not prevent him from missing any regular season time, but it’s something that bears watching.



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