Early Reaction To The Washington Redskins Preseason Opener

I’ve had the chance to watch the Redskins-Browns preseason game on the NFL Network’s tape-delay and digest some media reaction. Here’s my opening thoughts on the Redskin performance…

*I suppose if we want to put it simplistically, we can say offense pretty good, but defense and special teams very bad, at least as far as the first stringers go. There were some positive building blocks, which we’ll get to, but in looking for reasons to be optimistic in an NFC East where I think Dallas and Philadelphia are each taking a step back, I just didn’t find them.

*The pessimism is regarding the big picture. There were some positives with the offense and they start with the young right side of the line. Alfred Morris consistently found running room. With first-round draft pick Brandon Scherff at guard, and second-year tackle Morgan Moses on this side, it was great to see and this was the biggest positive of the night.

*I thought RG3 looked pretty good. The 4/8 for 36 yards stat line is unimpressive unless you know that Pierre Garcon dropped a perfectly thrown deep blow that would have tacked on 50-60 yards to that total. And two of the incompletions were on simple fade routes to the corner of the end zone. But more on that when we get to the negatives. Most important, was that RG3 took off and ran when he should, hung in the pocket when he should and made a nice across-the-body throw along with it.

*Kirk Cousins looked really good. He threw a beautiful pass off his back foot that found a receiver in traffic perfectly, part of hitting his first eight throws. His entire performance was a reminder that he’s got the skill level to be a good starting quarterback.

The issue here has nothing to do with last night—it’s that we already know that Cousins has a live arm. What we need to know is how he handles adversity. Last year, him throwing an interception was like an alcoholic taking a drink—it led to a binge. So ironically, Cousins can’t really prove anything to me until he first does something wrong. And he didn’t last night.

*Now, let’s go over to the defense, where it’s hard to be as nice. I wanted to see discipline from this unit, and instead I saw multiple penalties in the secondary. One of them, an interference call on Chris Culliver is being labeled a bad call among Redskin bloggers and Twitter fans. They’re probably right, but the bigger issue is that Culliver, on a deep pass, played with his back to the football the entire time. Terrible fundamental play and almost always going to get flagged.

*On third-and-short inside the 10-yard line, the Redskin defense played soft coverage, didn’t blitz and allowed an easy completion for the first down. What the heck is the point of playing soft in that spot? Someone help me out here.

*And the bottom line was ugly. Whether it was Josh McCown or Johnny Manziel, the Browns drove the field with ease in the first half and built a 14-3 lead. I know the ‘Skins won 20-17, but you’ll have to pardon me if I don’t jump for joy that our guys who are about to get cut beat their guys who are about to get cut.

*Now, back to those consecutive fade routes that RG3 threw into the end zone. I am going to write this as calmly as I can—why do you invest heavily in a fast, agile, mobile quarterback if all you’re going to do on third down in the red zone is have him throw a standard fade route that every quarterback on an NFL roster can make? It’s one read and lob, entirely dependent on either the receiver going up and getting the ball or the defensive back blowing it.

These patterns make sense if you have Dez Bryant or a big receiver. But the strength of players like DeSean Jackson is that they’re quick. Have RG3 on the move, with someone like Jackson running underneath. And while I don’t say a ton of nice things about Jay Gruden, he is very good at designing patterns to get people open on short routes. Put it in the hands of either RG3 or the receivers to make plays with their legs. In short, play to your strengths. I anticipate another five months of screaming this to anyone who will listen (which is a remarkably small group of people, though I prefer to use the term “elite”).

Joe Gibbs Washington Redskins

*Finally, Colt McCoy. What does this guy have to do to get in the lineup? He played reasonably well last night, but it was garbage time and the garbage lineups were in on both sides. McCoy played the best of any Redskins quarterback last season, but we (along with the rest of the league) have apparently decided he can’t play in spite of actual evidence to the contrary. He should have put on even footing with RG3 coming into camp, and McCoy deserves more substantive playing time next week against Detroit.