Thoughts from the Redskins first preseason game

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1. Injuries prove costly:

-Though it won’t be found out until later today for certain as Silas Redd still needs to get his MRI done, it appears the Redskins lost two players for the season in the first preseason game. Tight End Niles Paul went down with a dislocated ankle and Redd went down with a knee injury that appears that he’s torn his ACL. Paul is a devastating loss to this team in a number of ways. Not only was Paul listed and expected to be the starting everydown TE, but blocking TE Logan Paulsen is already on the shelf and he too may need to miss the season. Even if Paulsen doesn’t need to miss the full year he’s expected to miss time heading into the season. That leaves just Jordan Reed (who is dealing with a hamstring injury) and three guys who have never played a regular season snap on the TE depth chart. If Reed is healthy he can be an effective passing weapon, but he is a liability as a blocker and given where the Redskins want their offensive focus that is problematic.

In addition to Paul’s loss on offense is his loss on special teams. Paul has been one of the Redskins few bright spots on special teams in recent years and his loss won’t be easy for the team to replace.

Redd’s loss isn’t as big as he wasn’t a lock to make the 53 man roster, but he does thin out a position group that wasn’t exactly deep to begin with. Redd also played well on special teams and that could have helped earn him a role. Now Chris Thompson will be the favorite for the 3rd RB role, and he will need to showcase his value on Special teams.

2. Griffin improves, but overall performance is average:

-Compared to what we saw last year in the preseason from Griffin and what carried over during the season, this was an improved performance by Griffin. He did a better job with pressure and didn’t take any sacks, and he seemed to quicken his decision process. His overall numbers would have looked a lot better had Pierre Garcon come up with the deep pass off play-action. It wasn’t a perfect throw, but given how open Garcon was he easily should have hauled in that pass. Griffin also was better on the move than we saw him last year, making a nice play on a bootleg play that didn’t really fool the defense. The throw wasn’t perfect, but given that he was on the move, feeling pressure it’s an acceptable slightly off-target throw. Griffin did a nice job scrambling on another play.

Griffin still missed on some throws, including a couple in crucial situations. Twice in the red zone Griffin had Garcon on a fade route and was unable to get the ball to him in bounds. The first of those was really troubling, because Griffin had the time and Garcon beat his man. There was plenty of room to fit the ball in there for a TD and Griffin just over threw it out of bounds.

3. Starting offensive line looks solid:

-The starting offensive line held up pretty well as the young right side of Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses for the most part played well. Moses was driven back on his first run block, but after that play he pretty much handled his guy both vs the run and pass. Scherff also looked pretty good from what I saw (do want to re-watch some), and I think this is going to be a good Guard/Tackle combo for the Redskins.

4. Running game plays well:

-It’s pretty clear that the Redskins are looking to be a run-oriented team and that should be the focus of this offense. I think what we saw from this game plan is a lot of what we’ll see in the regular season. Heavy usage of running the ball on early downs, and using the run to set up the pass. Overall the Redskins ran the ball extremely well. It took a little while for the first unit to get going, but they got the hang of it and it carried over to the 2nd and 3rd units as well. Both Alfred Morris and Matt Jones ran the ball well and they could be a nice 1-2 punch for the Skins this season.

5. Receivers step up:

-Three receivers really played well in this game as Ryan Grant started for DeSean Jackson and had some really nice catches in the first quarter. Andre Roberts was the 3rd receiver with the first unit, but he didn’t get much work until the 2nd unit came in. With them Roberts shined and was a big part of the Redskins TD scoring drive. Rashad Ross step-up with the 2nd and 3rd units and had a number of nice catches. Ross is going to have to fight Evan Spencer for a roster spot, but he could make it a tough decision for the Redskins to make.

6. Cousins plays well:

-This game isn’t going to start any sort of quarterback controversy as Griffin is firmly entrenched in his starting role, but the Redskins should be pleased that their back-up QB played well. Cousins worked the 2nd and most of the 3rd quarters, moving the ball very effectively. He led the Redskins on three scoring drives, including both of their TD’s. The only drive that Cousins didn’t score on was when Redd got hurt and fumbled. Cousins was 12-14 for 150 yards and a rushing TD on the game. He did a nice job getting the ball out quickly and finding open guys. His ball placement wasn’t perfect as he threw behind his receiver a couple of times, but overall it was a really good day for him. Some will point out that he went vs the Browns number 2’s which is true, but he was also surrounded by lesser talent as well (see below). This of course doesn’t mean that Cousins should vault Griffin on the depth chart, but it does go to show that he has some upside and ability.

7. Back-up OL has some question marks:

-While the starting offensive line did a pretty nice job the back-up OL was far more inconsistent. A lot more missed blocks or poor efforts on their part led to some negative plays. The only sack of the game was due to Josh LeRibeus getting blown up at center and forcing an immediate pressure on Cousins which turned into a sack. LeRibeus had a couple really poor blocks during his part of the game, and the experiment of having him at center is not looking good so far. Other back-ups that showed some initial struggles included Willie Smith and Arie Kouandjio.

8. Starting secondary still needs some work:

-Now Breeland and Amerson weren’t there (though with Amerson he wouldn’t be considered a starter), but the secondary showed some holes early in the game. Chris Culliver got called for a big pass interference penalty, and while some might debate whether it should be a PI penalty, Culliver made contact with a receiver without playing the ball. It’s not an automatic penalty, but that is probably going to be called the majority of the time. DeAngelo Hall is coming off an Achilles injury from last season and a groin strain in camp so we knew we’d see some rust, but it was not a good first showing for the veteran. He looked like he lost a step (particularly in change of direction), and he just didn’t seem sure of himself. Maybe that will be improved, but if not it’s a big problem. Struggling vs a receiver like Brian Hartline doesn’t bode well when he has to face far superior receivers throughout the season.

9. Good day for Preston Smith:

-One of the brightest spots of the day, particularly on defense was the play of rookie 2nd rounder OLB Preston Smith. Smith did a nice job versus the run and even got himself a sack. He lined-up at LOLB and played really well even vs the Browns starting OL (though Joe Thomas was out so perhaps Erving will shift over to RT).

10. Other thoughts:

-The TE depth chart is extremely thin right now. This is going to be a big issue for the Skins this season. TE wasn’t the strongest position to begin with, but now you really have to wonder what the Redskins can expect from their TE’s this year.

-Special teams remain an issue. Andre Roberts fumbled on punt, and Chris Thompson muffed a kick-off. Covering kicks was a struggle as well. Now with Niles Paul lost there are going to be some big question marks on ST. The good news is Jamison Crowder should be the primary returner so the question marks with Roberts and Thompson won’t be a factor this year.

-The defensive line played pretty well throughout the game, both with the starters and back-ups.

-One thing that could be problematic for the Redskins this season is throwing in the Red Zone. They lack big physical receiver who can win jump balls in the end zone, so they are going have to get creative in producing points inside the Red Zone. This is where the losses of Paul and Paulsen could hurt. To make-up for the lack of size among receivers, 2 and 3 TE sets could have given the Redskins more options. While Jordan Reed would be the primary option, Paul would be a good 2nd option, and Paulsen’s size could play-up some as well. This is also why the issue’s with Griffin and the fade route were concerning, since the jump ball route isn’t an option the fade has to be an effective weapon in your arsenal.

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