Notes from the first Redskins preseason game
What Went Well:
Starters looked pretty good for the most part:
-Despite having some key players sit out the game, the Redskins starting units looked pretty good on both sides of the ball. In the offense’s lone drive, Kirk Cousins was 5-5 for 39 yards making nice decisions and not forcing the ball. It wasn’t a drive for the ages, but from a passing game perspective Cousins executed his assignments and made quality safe throws while avoiding pressure. That’s even more impressive considering that the passing offense was without Trent Williams, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and 1st round rookie Josh Doctson. When this unit is fully healthy and everyone is playing, it could be very dangerous.
The first team defense also showed up well in their two drives forcing a pair of 3 and outs. The pass defense was particularly strong and showcased some real talent now on the back-end of the Redskins defense. The run defense as a whole was strong throughout the game and in the two rushing attempts versus the first unit they allowed 4 yards and -1 yards respectively.
Tress Way can boom it:
– Way unfortunately got a lot of work in this game, but he showcased an impressive leg with an average of 53.7 yards over 7 punt attempts. Four of his seven punts went inside the 20 and none of them ended up as touchbacks. His first punt was perhaps his best as he was kicking from his own 43 yard line and landed a 54 yard punt that was downed at the 3 yard line. Typically when you are punting from your own 40-45 yard line you are just hoping to get it inside the 15-10 yard line range and not get a touchback, here Way hit it perfectly with plenty of hangtime for the coverage unit to get down there. The punt coverage unit was also impressive giving little room for returns throughout the game, which kept Way’s net punting average at an impressive 48.3.
Su’a Cravens has a chance to be a special player:
– Cravens still needs to find a permanent role on this defense, but when he does he could quickly become an impact player for the Redskins. He was all over the field making plays on special teams and both versus the run and pass on defense. He’s probably undersized to be a fulltime ILB for the Redskins as a rookie, but he could be an interesting nickel linebacker who will always be around the ball. It’s just one game and there are bound to be rookie growing pains, but the outlook is very good for Cravens on this team.
What Went Wrong:
Redskins running game:
– Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and rookie Keith Marshall are projected to be the top 3 backs (and possibly the only three backs) on the final 53 man roster, but they managed zero rushing yards on eight combined carries. Rob Kelly had a couple nice runs later in the game, but he didn’t do much in his opportunities in the first half versus the Falcons 2nd/3rd string defense as he got just 5 yards on his two carries. While you can point to some issues with the OL, the running backs didn’t look impressive and didn’t run with particularly good vision or burst. Now this was a limited sample size to be sure, but this is definitely a concern for the Redskins going forward. It can be very hard to contend without a capable running game, and right now this unit looks far from league average.
2nd and 3rd unit pass defense:
-While the first team defense shut the door on Matt Ryan and company in their two drives, the 2nd and 3rd unit coverage units really struggled. Matt Schaub looked like he turned back the clock 5-6 years and appeared to be a Pro Bowl QB teaming up with former Redskins receiver Aldrick Robinson on a pair of big time pass plays. In addition to the big plays the coverage broke down on some shorter routes as well allowing the Falcons to get open when they shouldn’t. Though the Redskins can feel confident in their starters, they need their back-ups to step up when called upon this year as well.
Lack of a pass rush:
-The Redskins failed to get a single sack on the quarterback in 31 dropbacks this game, while managing just 2 QB hits and only a handful of pressures. By comparison the Falcons in 34 dropbacks managed 3 sacks, 7 QB hits and a couple pressures. The Redskins have to generate more sacks and pressures this year, and this was not a good showing for them in the first preseason game. When you have more offsides penalties than QB hits that is a pretty bad day for a pass rush. Of course the Redskins defense was pretty vanilla, but so was the offense they were facing. None of the Skins top defenders were sitting and the Falcons don’t exactly have a deep offensive line. This will be a key area to watch going forward as the Redskins need to find someway to generate good pressure.
– Look you can definitely say that some of these penalties were bad calls or cheap, but 14 penalties for 123 yards is just way too many. A lot were easily preventable false starts, illegal formation or offsides penalties (and it’s not like crowd noise should have been a factor on anything as well), and those are the things that have to get fixed ASAP. This is another area that will be interesting to watch in weeks 2 and 3 of the preseason as the starters take on a larger role.