What to watch for in the Redskins 2nd preseason game
The Redskins have their 2nd preseason game tonight versus the Jets and will hope to iron out some of the concerns from their week 1 loss to the Falcons. There are a number of key areas to watch tonight, but these are the ones I’m mostly focused on as we should see an extended look by both of the first units:
1: Kirk Cousins and the first team passing offense-
Cousins and the first team passing offense (those that were playing) looked solid in week one of the preseason versus the Falcons, but it was just one drive so it was tough to get a feel with just how well they are clicking. This week we are likely to see Cousins and the first team offense for three or four drives and around 15 drop backs (possibly more). That is still well short of what we will see once the season starts, but it should give a more in depth look into how the offense is looking. While this unit didn’t give any cause to worry in week one, the Redskins are going to live and die this season by how well Cousins and the passing offense plays so this is going to be highly important to watch tonight. Key things to watch will be how Cousins handles pressure and how his decision making when his first option is covered.
2: The rushing offense and development of Matt Jones-
This is beginning to be the most worrisome part of the Redskins offense as their rushing game (particularly in the first half) looked woeful versus the Falcons. Now to be clear the issue doesn’t fall solely on the running backs as the offensive line and tight ends missed some key blocks. The line needs to play better tonight and open up some better holes and opportunities for the running backs. That being said, the backs have to do their part as well. Last week they didn’t show decisiveness or burst and it led to some really poor runs. Matt Jones figures to get 5-10 carries tonight and it would be nice to see a couple times where he flashes the potential the Redskins saw when they drafted him in the 3rd round in 2015. While Jones is definitely the focal point tonight for the rushing game, it would be nice to see if some of the back-ups can have some nice runs with either the first or second unit. It sounds like UDFA Rob Kelly could get a couple chances with at least the 2nd unit as he battles Keith Marshall for the top back-up RB job.
3: The defensive pass rush-
Last week the Redskins managed a couple nice pass rushes, but none of them ended in a sack and overall their production per dropback was well below average. This is a key part of their defensive strategy so if they struggle to get pressure on the quarterback it could be a long season for the defense despite the secondary additions. The key to this though is if they can get pressure versus the Jets first unit and even second unit. If they get a bunch of sacks/pressures versus Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg that might look nice on the stat sheet, but will be pretty meaningless overall. The Redskins have to get Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Trent Murphy going from the edge and DL like Chris Baker, Stephen Paea and company to get some quality interior pressure.
4: A cleaner game with fewer penalties-
Last week’s penalty fest was embarrassing for both teams, but the Redskins were called for more infractions. Some might have been poor officiating (hey they need the preseason as well to shake the rust off), but most of the penalties were legitimate calls. The Redskins need to clean that up tonight and limit that penalty number to 4 or 5 at the most. Not only will a cleaner game be a positive sign for the discipline and execution of the team, but it will help allow for a better evaluation of the Redskins players.
5: Development of the young guys-
The Redskins are going to be relying on a number of young promising players in either starting roles or key back-up positions this season so these reps can have a lot of value in developing this team. Last week young linebackers like Su’a Cravens, Martrell Spaight, and Preston Smith made some big plays and it would be nice to see a repeat performance by them while some other key guys step up. One area I’ll really be watching is the offensive line as young guys like Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Spencer Long and Arie Kouandjio are important building blocks for this team. Scherff and Moses are set starters, but they still have work to do in their development. Long may be needed as a starter at LG and he’s also working as the number two center. Kouandjio could push for the LG role and even if he’s a back-up, depth is so crucial along the offensive line.